Hospitals Are Unprepared for Mass Casualties
U.S. hospitals are not prepared for a "predictable surprise" such as a terrorist bombing, according to a new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The survey of Level I trauma centers--chosen because they can provide the highest levels of emergency care--in seven major U.S. cities was intended to figure out if the hospitals have the capacity to respond to a level of casualties similar to that seen in the March 2004 bombing of Madrid commuter trains, which killed 177 people and injured more than 2,000. The survey included hospitals in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, Denver, and Minneapolis. The House committee also held hearings on this issue on Monday and Wednesday.
None of the hospitals had sufficient capacity to respond to an attack with casualties similar to the number that occurred in Madrid. They had no room in their emergency rooms to treat a sudden large group of victims. They also had no free intensive care beds, the report says, and they didn't have enough regular beds to handle less severely injured victims. The worst capacity issues were in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Your Keyboard Is Dirty--Should You Worry?
First, it was germ-hording purses and cellphones. This week, you may have seen news reports warning that your keyboard could be making you sick. A group called Which? swabbed more than 30 keyboards in its own office and found that four keyboards were "potential health hazards" because of high levels of bacteria. A microbiologist hired by Which? suggested the group get rid of one keyboard because it had 150 times as many bacteria as the stated target--and it was five times dirtier than a toilet seat the group swabbed for comparison.
U.S. News explains why you shouldn't compulsively clean your keyboard and lists steps to take if you're worried about germs.
More Problems With Plastics
You've probably heard the news about the potentially harmful effects of bisphenol A, or BPA--but that's not the only chemical that may be a problem. Phthalates are used widely as softening agents in certain plastics, notably PVC, and are also found in some cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and a wide range of other products, Adam Voiland reports. Scientists classify these chemicals among the "endocrine disruptors," so known for their ability to alter the proper balance of hormones, which play a central role during development.
Video-Game Addiction: Where Does Play Become Obsession?
Concern is spreading among parents and mental-health professionals that the exploding popularity of computer and video games has a deeper dark side than simple couch- potatohood, U.S. News reports. Studies show that 92 percent of children under age 18 play these games regularly. According to the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University, about 8.5 percent of 8-to-18-year-old gamers can be considered pathologically addicted, and nearly one quarter of young people--more males than females--admit they've felt addicted. Little wonder: In February, a team at Stanford University School of Medicine showed that areas of the brain responsible for generating feelings of addiction and reward are activated during game play. "We are seeing it over and over again," says Liz Woolley, founder of On-Line Gamers Anonymous, a virtual 12-step program for gaming addicts. "We're losing [kids] into the games, and it's turning their brains to mush."
U.S. News provides a list of resources that worried families can look to for guidance on dealing with video game addiction, as well as information about behavioral and substance addiction.
--January W. Payne