Short-Term Ozone Exposure Linked to Premature Death
Even short-term exposure to ozone at current levels could lead to premature death, according to a new report from the National Academy of Sciences. The authors suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency should include ozone-related mortality as a factor when setting ozone standards. Short-term exposure to ozone, defined as lasting less than 24 hours, can cause respiratory problems and other health concerns. The report says that those with pre-existing diseases, or other factors that might make them more susceptible, are more likely to die after ozone exposure. But the risk isn't limited to that group, the authors note.
A study published in December in the New England Journal of Medicine described the risks of automotive air pollution, which explains why living near a highway or exercising in traffic may be bad for your health. And U.S. News's Adam Voiland recently outlined the risks of invisible airborne particles and described how to avoid them.
Study: Mothers Who Skip Breakfast Conceive Fewer Baby Boys
Women who skip breakfasts or are eating a low-calorie diet around the time of conception are less likely to have male children, according to new research. It's preliminary evidence that a woman's diet is linked to a baby's sex, Reuters reports. "This research may help to explain why in developed countries, where many young women choose to have low-calorie diets, the proportion of boys born is falling," Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter told Reuters.
More information on pregnancy and women's health, including a detailed critique of the new study, can be found on the U.S. News On Women blog. Blogger Deborah Kotz also describes how to maximize your fertility odds, and how diet can help. Dad's habits also make a difference, Kotz reports.
Drug Costs Under Medicare Part D Makes Some Patients Skip Treatment
Having Medicare makes someone less likely to go without food to pay for medicine, but the sickest patients are still skipping medications because of costs, a new report says. The three-year-old Medicare Part D benefit, which provides drug benefits to seniors, has led to some improvements but nothing revolutionary, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "This study reveals that the federal government has more work to do to assure that the Medicare Part D program meets the needs of the most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries," Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at Consumers Union, told HealthDay. "It is unacceptable that the sickest beneficiaries may not be filling prescriptions or taking the full doses or courses of their medicines because they simply can't afford to."
If you find Medicare Part D bewildering, take a look at U.S. News's guide to navigating it.
FDA Feels the Heat Over Tainted-Heparin Controversy
The Chinese government and drug manufacturing firms placed the blame for contaminated supplies of the blood thinner heparin on processing facilities in the United States, U.S. News's Matthew Shulman reports. But lawmakers called on the Food and Drug Administration to account for the lapses. FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach appeared before a congressional panel yesterday to explain what his agency is doing to ensure the safety and security of the growing number of drugs produced overseas.
Although FDA representatives assured the public that U.S. stocks of heparin now appear to be contaminant free, the lawmakers chastised the agency for not doing enough to thoroughly inspect imported drugs. Some of the legislators advocate an overhaul of the inspection system, including more inspections of overseas facilities.
A recent special report in U.S. News explained how to tell if your drugs are safe (and why they might not be). And consider these tips for avoiding dangerous drug errors.
Turn Off of the TV? Not All Programming Is Bad
We're in the midst of the 14th annual Turnoff Week, when we're told to renounce television and computer screens in favor of wholesome activities like family dinners, reading, and sex, Nancy Shute blogs.
The tube certainly has its drawbacks: The wrong kinds of television shows slow acquisition of critical skills, including reading. Still, when done right, TV not only keeps children out of parents' hair, it also helps toddlers and preschoolers with language acquisition and other skills. The U.S. News On Parenting blog discusses how to tell good programming from bad and how to find alternatives to TV.
--January W. Payne