Friday, March 28th, 2014
Cases of premature births and asthma-related hospital visits dropped 10 percent since the introduction of public smoking bans across North American and Europe. Data of 11 recent studies where compiled to determine the overall impact of smoke-free legislation. The studies included more than 2.5 million births and about 250,000 hospital visits for asthma attacks. According to the study, 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. More from Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from University of Edinburgh collaborated with researchers from Maastricht University, Hasselt University, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health. They found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings are published on March 28, 2014 in The Lancet.
Researchers analyzed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe that included more than 2.5 million births and approximately 250,000 asthma-related hospital visits. They report that while the impact of anti-smoking laws varies between countries, the overall impact on child health is very positive. Specifically, the data show that rates of both preterm birth and hospital admissions for asthma were reduced by 10 percent following the implementation of laws that prohibited smoking in public places.
“This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks. The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question,” said Aziz Sheikh, senior author and a physician-researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, visiting professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at The University of Edinburgh.
According to information in the article, 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by smoke-free laws, while 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants and work places, are already proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking, but research to date has not systematically evaluated the impact of smoking bans on children.
Passive smoking can cause babies to be stillborn or born prematurely and is linked to certain birth defects, asthma and lung infections. Studies have also suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes in later life.
Lead researcher, Dr Jasper Been of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences said, “Our research shows that smoking bans are an effective way to protect the health of our children.
These findings should help to accelerate the introduction of anti-smoking legislation in areas not currently protected.”
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Image: Smoking endangers the health of the child via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Many parents breathed a sigh of relief when the FDA banned the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from plastics that are used in infant feeding vessels including bottles and sippy cups in 2012. Studies have linked the chemical, which is known to disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking the hormone estrogen, to health problems including miscarriage risk, and childhood obesity, asthma, and behavioral issues. Many parents were disappointed, though, when the FDA, shortly before making its BPA ban in infant materials, stopped short of banning it from all food containers, especially canned foods and even infant formula packages.
But the debate over the safety of plastics is far from over–and it is larger than the BPA question–according to a new report from Mother Jones magazine that chronicles the work of research organizations that claims that even “safe” plastics leach estrogenic, hormone-disrupting compounds. More from the Mother Jones article:
Each night at dinnertime, a familiar ritual played out in Michael Green’s home: He’d slide a stainless steel sippy cup across the table to his two-year-old daughter, Juliette, and she’d howl for the pink plastic one. Often, Green gave in. But he had a nagging feeling. As an environmental-health advocate, he had fought to rid sippy cups and baby bottles of the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. Juliette’s sippy cup was made from a new generation of BPA-free plastics, but Green, who runs the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health, had come across research suggesting some of these contained synthetic estrogens, too.
He pondered these findings as the center prepared for its anniversary celebration in October 2011. That evening, Green, a slight man with scruffy blond hair and pale-blue eyes, took the stage and set Juliette’s sippy cups on the podium. He recounted their nightly standoffs. “When she wins…every time I worry about what are the health impacts of the chemicals leaching out of that sippy cup,” he said, before listing some of the problems linked to those chemicals—cancer, diabetes, obesity. To help solve the riddle, he said, his organization planned to test BPA-free sippy cups for estrogenlike chemicals.
The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.
Estrogen plays a key role in everything from bone growth to ovulation to heart function. Too much or too little, particularly in utero or during early childhood, can alter brain and organ development, leading to disease later in life. Elevated estrogen levels generally increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer….
Today many plastic products, from sippy cups and blenders to Tupperware containers, are marketed as BPA-free. But Bittner’s findings—some of which have been confirmed by other scientists—suggest that many of these alternatives share the qualities that make BPA so potentially harmful.
Those startling results set off a bitter fight with the $375-billion-a-year plastics industry. The American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for plastics makers and has sought to refute the science linking BPA to health problems, has teamed up with Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical—the maker of Tritan, a widely used plastic marketed as being free of estrogenic activity—in a campaign to discredit Bittner and his research. The company has gone so far as to tell corporate customers that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected Bittner’s testing methods. (It hasn’t.) Eastman also sued CertiChem and its sister company, PlastiPure, to prevent them from publicizing their findings that Tritan is estrogenic, convincing a jury that its product displayed no estrogenic activity. And it launched a PR blitz touting Tritan’s safety, targeting the group most vulnerable to synthetic estrogens: families with young children. “It can be difficult for consumers to tell what is really safe,” the vice president of Eastman’s specialty plastics division, Lucian Boldea, said in one web video, before an image of a pregnant woman flickered across the screen. With Tritan, he added, “consumers can feel confident that the material used in their products is free of estrogenic activity.”
Eastman’s offensive is just the latest in a wide-ranging industry campaign to cast doubt on the potential dangers of plastics in food containers, packaging, and toys—a campaign that closely resembles the methods Big Tobacco used to stifle scientific evidence about the dangers of smoking.
The article goes on to report that CertiChem and PlastiPure are appealing the 2013 court ruling that alleged the companies were trying to discredit Eastman in order to market their own “safe” plastics, and the groups are working on new research.
Mother Jones also published a timeline that shows the history of the fight against BPA, and how the industry and even government regulators have apparently ignored concerning research about the safety of BPA-free plastics.
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Image: Child with plastic sippy cup, via Shutterstock
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BPA, childhood asthma, childhood obesity, endocrine disruptors, estrogen, fertility, hormones, miscarriage, Mother Jones, plastics | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Parenting News, Safety
Friday, December 20th, 2013
Research has long shown that children who grow up with family pets have a lower incidence of pet allergies and asthma, but a new study is closer to identifying the reason why. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco discovered that homes with dogs have higher levels of certain beneficial bacteria that help kids’ developing immune systems be in balance and less likely to “overreact” to pet dander and other airborne allergens. More from Boston.com:
Previous research suggests that the establishment of certain gut bacteria in the intestinal tracts of newborns could affect their development of asthma later in childhood. Certain harmful bacteria associated with the use of antibiotics, for example, were found by European researchers to increase a child’s risk of asthma, while living with a dog or cat in the house was found in other studies to decrease the risk.
“We wanted to see which organisms were protective,” said study co-author Susan Lynch, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. She and her colleagues exposed some young mice to both dust from a dog owner’s home as well as dust from a dog-free home. Then, they exposed the mice to common allergens. The researchers found that those exposed to dog dust were less likely to have allergic reactions and inflammation in their breathing passages (a sign of asthma) than those exposed to the regular dust. The results were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers identified a particular bacteria in the dog dust—Lactobacillus johnsonii—and found that giving it to the mice protected them against respiratory virus infections, though not as well as the dog dust itself.
Likely, other beneficial bacteria also exist in this dust, and Lynch said future studies will try to determine what those are. “Lactobacillus could play an important role in structuring a healthy bacteria biome in the gut early in life,” Lynch said, “but we have no actual evidence of that yet.”
Image: Child and dog, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
In spite of repeated public health messages warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke, too many children with asthma are still exposed to it. Secondhand smoke is known to exacerbate their symptoms and raise their risk of serious complications, according to new research published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Reuters has more:
According to national data from 2003 to 2010, half of all children ages 6 to 19, even those with asthma, have been exposed to secondhand smoke.
For kids ages 6 to 11, even low levels of second hand smoke were linked to more missed school days, trouble sleeping, less physical activity and more wheezing, the authors write in Academic Pediatrics.
The fact that kids with asthma are still inhaling others’ smoke is a real problem, said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, who studies children’s’ exposure to secondhand smoke at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
“Secondhand smoke consists of particulate matter, and chemicals, both of which induce an inflammatory response in the airways, which can cause an asthma attack,” said Wilson, who was not involved in the study.
Limiting physical activity is also dangerous because it increases the chances a child will become obese, which worsens asthma, she told Reuters Health.
For older children, secondhand smoke was not linked to those negative symptoms.
Image: Asthmatic child with a smoker, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Though many children grow out of asthma they have at a young age, a new study has found that children who have severe pet allergies may have to live with their asthma well into young adulthood. More from Reuters:
Swedish researchers followed seven- and eight-year-olds with asthma through their teens and among those with the combination of severe asthma and animal allergies as kids, 82 percent still had asthma at age 19.
“Asthma is a dynamic condition which often remits but also frequently relapses,” said lead author Dr. Martin Andersson of The OLIN Studies, Norrbotten County Council in Luleå, Sweden.
Risk factors for asthma are complex and make it hard to predict which kids with wheezing or shortness of breath will still have those problems years later, Andersson told Reuters Health. As with previous research, the new study found that girls were less likely to “grow out of” asthma.
However, the link between childhood allergies to furred animals like cats, dogs and horses and persistent asthma later in life had not been seen in previous studies, Andersson said.
Image: Boy with asthma, via Shutterstock
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