Health-Points: Friday 4.24.09

  • Onto a better food, presented at this year’s Experimental Biology Conference, blueberries were found to help combat abdominal fat. In the study, rats eating a lot of blueberries lost belly fat. Excess abdominal fat has been closely associated to heart disease and diabetes. The rats also experienced lower cholesterol and better glucose control, even if their diet wasn’t heart-healthy; via WebMD Health News.

Image credit: Vermin Inc

Pollution Linked to Arrhythmia and Scientists Get the Lead Out

A new study in the European Heart Journal claims patients with implantable heart defibrillators are at greater risk of ventricular arrhythmia, a potentially fatal heart rhythm, when exposed to air pollution. Of the 211 participants observed for 33 months, researchers determined 73 patients had rapid abnormal heart rhythm due to pollution; Reuters investigates.

In related in news, researchers from South Korea may have figured out how to remove dangerous metals, like lead, from people’s blood. Appearing in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, scientists claim magnetic fields can fish out harmful metals from the bloodstream. High lead levels can cause anemia and brain damage; via Reuters.

And chemical contaminants, specifically pesticides, are actually causing fewer male births in both animals and humans.

Image credit: Simone Ramella

Green-News: Tuesday 1.6.09

  • Every year tourists flock to New York City’s Times Square to ring in the New Year. But this year, after the 1 million guests went home and a ton of confetti was released, the city was stuck with 40 tons of garbage to clean up, sanitation crews worked until 8AM; the Associated Press reports.
  • Following the massive coal ash spill in East Tennessee, nearby water supplies have tested high for arsenic, lead, chromium and other toxic metals, ranging 2 to 300 times higher than acceptable drinking water standards, even as far as 2 miles downstream; The New York Times investigates.
  • A Swedish town is set to recycle heat from a local crematorium. Cremating human remains releases toxins, such as mercury from dental fillings, and in order to clean this gas it must first be cooled. So recovering this heat can be used to feed the public heating system; from TreeHugger.
  • Scientists have invented cement that absorbs earth-warming carbon dioxide. Traditional cement actually produces 5% of the world’s total carbon emissions. But this new formulation uses magnesium silicates and eats large amounts of carbon dioxide as it hardens; via The Guardian.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is dying. At the current pace, researchers fear all new growth will stop by 2050. Since 1990, robust corals have slowed in growth by 14%. Scientists cite warming sea temperatures and ocean acidification for the decline; The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Lead in the Lights...

Here’s good reason not to leave those holiday lights up until spring. A new study in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health reveals many types of Christmas lights contain dangerous levels of lead. The plastic coating on the cord sheds lead dust, especially when exposed to sunlight. Although scientists believe the risk is negligible, they are quick to point out, that no amount of lead is safe for children; Discovery News investigates.

And last year, a New Jersey-based research center tested 4 varieties of holiday lights and determined brands like Wal-Mart, GE, Sylvania and Philips, all had lead levels above the 15 microgram limit set by Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, some Philips test samples came back as low as 3.2 micrograms, but Wal-Mart brand lights clocked in as high as 132.7 micrograms of lead. Eek!

Lead lurks in a lot of places. Recently, it was discovered that 1 in 3 toys contain lead. And other things, like fishing tackle, sports turf and garden hoses, also pose a lead risk. To make matter worse, lead exposure has been linked anti-social behavior and criminal acts.

So, for next year, I found these 90% energy-efficient LED lights, the manufacturer claims they’re lead-free, with the exception of the cord; via the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition.

Buying Toys, 1 in 3 Toxic...

Santa better be careful this year! The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan reveals 1 in 3 toys contain toxins like lead, arsenic and flame retardants. Researchers tested more than 1,500 popular toys and found one-third have medium or high levels of harmful chemicals; CNN reports.

And last year, Curious George dolls with high lead-levels were discovered, as well as bedroom slippers and bath toys. So, if you’re not shopping for toxic toys, some safe toy buying tips would be not buying toys with rigid points or parts that shoot off and avoid toys that break easily.