Health Highlights: Aug. 28, 2007
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
NYC Tuna Sushi Laden With Mercury: Report
Enough mercury was found in samples of sushi tuna sold in New York City that if the average 150-pound New Yorker ate 8 oz. of tuna sushi each week, blood levels would reach 300 percent of the amount recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a new report finds.
More than 20 percent of samples exceeded the FDA "action" level of 1.0 parts per million (ppm), according to the report from the consumer group GotMercury.org. The FDA has the power to order the removal from retail markets of any fish with mercury levels above the warning threshold, according to a prepared statement from the organization.
"Eating tuna in New York has moved from fashionable dining to a high risk sport," said Caryn Mandlebaum, the report's author. "Consumers need to know the risks of eating tuna sushi and know about healthier alternatives when it comes to dining out."
Recent research has shown that adults who regularly consume mercury-laden seafood are at 15 percent greater risk of heart attack, the group's statement said. Higher levels of mercury in pregnant women may increase the risk of cognitive problems in their children, who are at greatest risk of mercury's most toxic effects, the statement added.
GotMercury.org urged restaurants and markets that sell tuna sushi to post signs warning of the risks of mercury-laden fish consumption, and identifying fish that contained the highest mercury levels.
Blood Banks Urging Latinos to Donate
Blood banks across the United States are seeking to boost donations from Latinos, who are more likely than others to have type O blood, the Associated Press reports.
Type O is the most common blood type, and there's concern of a significant imbalance as demand for type O blood grows without a corresponding increase in giving, the wire service said.
People who have type O blood can only accept a type O transfusion. Blood of other types contain antigens, a marker on blood cells that triggers an immune system response. If type O people were accidentally given blood of another type, the body's immune system would spot the blood's antigens and attack.
Blood of type O doesn't have those antigens, which means that people of other blood types can accept type O in an emergency. That's why people who have type O blood are sometimes called universal donors. About 45 percent of the U.S. population is type O, the AP reported.
While type O is often most sought after, blood of all types is scarce in many places. More than 34,000 pints of blood are needed nationwide each day. And while more than 60 percent of the U.S. population are eligible to donate, only 5 percent actually do, the AP said.
Toy Watering Cans Made in China Recalled
Some 6,000 "Robbie Duckie" toy watering cans made in China are being recalled because the yellow paint contains excess lead, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.
Lead can be toxic if ingested by young children, increasing their risk of health problems including neurological disorders and kidney damage. Earlier this month, Mattel and other companies announced recalls of millions of toys that contained lead-based paint.
The "Robby Ducky" toys were sold at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores nationwide from February 2007 through August 2007 for about $10. No injuries have been reported.
The toy is about 10 inches high and 6 inches wide, and includes a sticker on the bottom that says "Robby Ducky Garden Collection Duck Watering Can."
Consumers should immediately take the toy away from children and return it to any Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store for a refund. To learn more, contact the company toll-free at 888-739-4120, extension 7.
Blood Clotting Protein Approved for Surgery
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the blood-clotting protein Evithrom (human thrombin) to help stem bleeding during surgery, the agency said Tuesday.
Evithrom is the first form of human thrombin approved since 1954, and is the only form of the human protein currently licensed. Derived from human blood plasma, it is obtained from "carefully screened and tested U.S. donors and has undergone steps to further reduce the risk for transfusion-transmitted diseases," the FDA said in a statement.
The product, applied to the surface of bleeding tissue, is used to stop minor bleeding from small blood vessels when standard surgical techniques are impractical or ineffective.
Forms of thrombin currently used are obtained from cattle. In clinical trials, Evithrom was found "comparable" to the cattle-derived equivalents, the FDA said.
Evithrom is made by the Israeli firm Omrix Biopharmaceuticals and will be distributed domestically by Johnson & Johnson Wound Management of Somerville, N.J.
Asthma Rates Elevated Among Ground Zero Recovery Workers
Recovery workers who responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center have contracted asthma at 12 times the normal rate of the general population, the New York City Department of Health said Monday.
Some 3.6 percent of the 25,000 workers enrolled in World Trade Center Health Registry have developed the lung disease, the department said in a prepared statement. Workers who arrived at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, and worked on the site more than 90 days had the highest rate of asthma, at 7 percent.
The data were published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Workers who did not wear masks or respirators were two to three times more likely to develop asthma than those who did wear the protective equipment, the department added. However, asthma rates were above average even among workers who did wear the masks.
"The events of 9/11 were unprecedented," New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said in a prepared statement. "With the urgency of rescue operations and the difficulty of prolonged physical exertion with most types of respirators, there are no easy answers."
The study found no differences among rescue workers of different occupations, but found that asthma rates were significantly higher among those who worked on dust-laden debris piles, versus those who worked elsewhere on the Ground Zero site, the department said.
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