Your Health This Week

Nancy Heppwritten by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

CHE has been publishing a news feed for several years. We also take a subset of those news stories, journal articles, and announcements that specifically address Your Health — information that you might find useful in safeguarding or improving your own health or that of your family — and publish those as a separate feed. Readers can subscribe to either feed via RSS, but this post initiates a regular series that summarizes and highlights recent Your Health items and trends.

Bringing attention to specific resources and findings does not mean CHE endorses or validates them. We highlight the emerging science and its implications for Your Health, knowing that the science will continue to evolve.

New video: Reducing EDC exposures

link to the videoEDCs, which have been associated with diabetes, some cancers, learning disorders, and harm to reproduction, have been in the news increasingly in the last few years. A short video from Women in Europe for a Common Future provides an overview of the issues and information for pregnant women on how to protect themselves and their children from EDCs.

Labeling foods regarding GMO contents

Several states have seen movements or initiatives in the last several years to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), although none have been implemented to date. Connecticut and Maine have passed laws, but both await similar laws in neighboring states before they are enacted.

While there is no general scientific consensus that GMO foods are harmful to human health, there are several studies that raise concerns. Undeniable, however, is that many GMO crops are engineered to be resistant to certain herbicides, leading to large doses of these pesticides applied to these crops. There is ample evidence that many pesticides harm human health. Many pesticides are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, relating to the item above.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has now developed government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients. The labels would be voluntary, and companies would have to pay for use, but this is a new approach to providing information that many consumers have expressed an interest in having. An article from the Washington Post provides the story.

Indoor air quality: 3 pieces

link to the infographicBoth because we typically spend most of our time indoors and because indoor air can be substantially more polluted than outdoor air, the quality of our indoor air is a concern. Three items this week give us information about air quality and its impacts on our health. First is a study from France that investigated how building design and residents’ lifestyle choices affect indoor air quality. New buildings tend to have higher concentrations of formaldehyde, and having an attached garage or many occupants tends to raise the levels of the BTEX chemicals: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. Not surprising, smoking raises the concentrations of acetaldehyde and particulates, but smoking also raises the incidence of fungal growth, as does high levels of moisture in the home. The study was published in Environmental Health.

The second item from US News & World Report tells us that vapors, dust, gas and fumes at the workplace can increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a combined term for emphysema, bronchitis and some forms of asthma. The article states: “About 15 percent of COPD cases can be attributed to a person’s occupation, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Coal mine and silica dust are known risks. Rubber, plastics, leather manufacturing, construction utilities and textile manufacturing industries raise disease risk, according to NIOSH.” Smoke, diesel exhaust, some cleaning solutions, and products often used in nail salons can also irritate or aggravate respiratory problems. While CHE appreciates that it’s not easy to change the workplace environment or change jobs, workers in these occupations can take steps to minimize respiratory irritants outside the workplace—such as tobacco smoke, cooking or recreational fires, or hobbies that use the processes mentioned above—to avoid adding to the overall burden on the lungs.

The third item, an infographic from Environmental News Network lays out what’s in our indoor air, the impacts on our health, and which common houseplants have been shown to reduce the concentrations of the target pollutants in indoor air.

New cell phone study: impacts of EMFs on brain function

A new study from China supports earlier research from Sweden that found that exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from mobile phones for 4 weeks causes leakage of the blood-brain barrier and impairs cognition. The blood-brain barrier is a crucial structure that prevents many neurotoxins from passing from our blood into our brains. Leaks in this barrier are definitely a problem. Reduced spatial memory function, also found in the study with rats, is similarly not in our best interest. An article on the Between a Rock and a Hard Place blog summarizes the findings.


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