Showdown over GM foods looms in Congress

What's on your plate? @bberwyn photo.

What’s on your plate? @bberwyn photo.

GOP-sponsoroed House bill would preempt state and local restrictions on genetically modified products

Staff Report

FRISCO — Food activists say a possible House vote on HR 1599 — called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 by its sponsors — could mark a huge turning point in the battle of genetically modified food. Some of the best coverage of the GMO debate is at Continue reading

Study tracks spike in fracking zone health problems


Study shows fracking health risks. @bberwyn photo.

Hydraulic fracturing linked to increases in hospitalization rates in  Marcellus Shale

Staff Report

FRISCO — People living near active fracking sites in northeastern Pennsylvania are much more likely to be hospitalized for heart conditions and neurological illness, according to a new study.

Hospitalizations for skin conditions, cancer, and urologic problems were also associated with the proximity of dwellings to active wells, as well as to the density of wells.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within the counties with higher well densities,” said senior author Dr. Reynold Panettieri, Jr., a professor of medicine and deputy director of the  Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Continue reading

Will global warming increase salmonella outbreaks?


Global warming may increase risk of salmonella outbreaks.

Coastal areas at highest risk

Staff Report

FRISCO — Public health researchers at the University of Maryland say a 10-year study shows a clear link between salmonella outbreaks and episodes of extreme heat and precipitation events.

With those conditions expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, the researchers say their findings can help guide public health strategies.

The study is the first to provide empirical evidence that Salmonella infections related to extreme weather events are disproportionately impacting those living in the coastal areas of Maryland. Continue reading

Environment: Independence Day fireworks cause short-term spike in harmful air pollution

July 4 fireworks.

July 4 fireworks can result in short-term spikes of fine particulate pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Research tracks surge in PM2.5 pollution around the Fourth of July

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fallout from Independence Day fireworks can cause air pollution to spike by as much as 370 percent for a few hours, scientists said this week after studying several years worth of data from more than 300 air quality monitors around the country.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the surge in fine particulate matter — particles that are two and one half microns in diameter (PM2.5) on July 4. The data came from 315 measuring sites spanning 15 years, for the first time quantifying the increase in pollution. Continue reading

Study: Global warming won’t cut winter-related deaths


Winter deaths are unlikely to decline substantially because of global warming, a new study says. @bberwyn photo.

Professor Patrick Kinney of Columbia University

Hot summer temps more of a problem

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though winters may become warmer as climate change ramps up, it probably won’t result in a big reduction of winter deaths, says a new study that contradicts the conventional wisdom on health impacts of climate change.

“For years I’ve been hearing people say that global warming will reduce winter deaths but I wanted to check this claim out for myself,” said Columbia University Professor Patrick Kinney.

Kinney and his colleagues used statistical methods to pick apart the possible factors contributing to deaths of older people during the winter; they found that cities with warmer winters have similar amounts of winter deaths as do cities with colder winters. The new research was published this week in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters journal. Continue reading

Study: Cleaning the air would save millions of lives worldwide


Thick smog along the east coast of China. Satellite image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘With no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 percent during the next 15 years in India and China …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Numerous public health studies have shown how cleaning up air pollution in the U.S. could prevent thousands of premature deaths. On a global scale, the benefits of cleaner air are staggering, according to scientists and engineers.

The researchers developed a global model showing how reductions in outdoor air pollution could lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer, potentially saving millions of lives every year. Continue reading

Study shows need for tighter air pollution standards


Particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants is harmful to public health at levels far below current standards.

‘No evidence of a safe threshold …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Power plant operators and their Republican allies in Congress may protest every time public health experts propose tighter pollution rules, but a new study shows that tiny soot particles are harmful to human health at concentrations far below the current standards.

After tracking particulate air pollution from satellite data and matching it against regional health data sorted by zip codes, Harvard researchers found a clear link between higher levels of pollution and death rates among people older than 65. The harmful effects from the particles were observed even in areas where concentrations were less than a third of the current standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Continue reading


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