Health Highlights: April 22, 2008
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Smog Causes Premature Death: Report
There's a clear link between short-term exposure (up to 24 hours) to smog (ozone) and premature deaths, says a study released Tuesday by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
"The committee has concluded from its review of health-based evidence that short-term exposure to ambient ozone is likely to contribute to premature deaths," said the 13-member panel, the Associated Press reported.
They said more research is needed on long-term chronic smog exposure, where the risk of premature death "may be larger than those observed in acute effects studies alone."
The findings challenge the White House stance on the issue.
"The report is a rebuke of the Bush administration which has consistently tried to downplay the connection between smog and premature death," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based advocacy organization, told the AP.
The Academy's findings "refutes the White House skepticism and denial" of a proven link between acute ozone exposure and premature deaths, said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. She noted that the Bush administration has used such arguments to question the health benefits of reducing air pollution.
KFC Cakes Recalled
Double Chocolate Chip Cakes sold by KFC Corporation are being recalled because certain ingredients -- eggs, milk, wheat, soy and possibly traces of tree nuts -- aren't individually listed on the packaging.
People with allergies to these ingredients could suffer a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they eat the cake. There has been one reported incident of an allergic reaction, according to a news release on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site.
The cakes, distributed nationwide at KFC restaurants, come in a round 16-ounce package with a black or clear plastic bottom and a clear plastic dome. Customers with allergies who've purchased the cakes should return them to KFC for a full refund.
There is no health risk for consumers who are not allergic to any ingredients in the cakes.
Lifestyle Factors Affect Sleep
Gender, jobs and marital/family status all affect how much sleep people get, suggests a new Statistics Canada report. It found that those who commute, work longer hours and have more children get less sleep than the rest of Canadians, CBC News reported.
Among the findings from the analysis of national survey data:
- People who make more than $60,000 a year sleep 40 minutes less than those who make $20,000 a year.
- People with commutes of an hour or more sleep an average of seven hours and 41 minutes, while those with a commute of between one and 30 minutes sleep an average of 22 minutes longer.
- Men get less sleep than women -- an average of eight hours and seven minutes versus eight hours and 18 minutes. But 35 percent of women have trouble falling asleep, compared with 25 percent of men.
- Men with full-time jobs sleep 14 minutes less than women with full-time jobs.
- Single people get more sleep than couples -- eight hours and 29 minutes versus eight hours and five minutes.
- People with children younger than age 15 sleep less than those with no children.
Viagra Ad Failed to Mention Risks: FDA
Pfizer Inc. was told by U.S. officials to discontinue a 30-second online video ad for Viagra that doesn't mention the risks associated with the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letter was issued last week and posted online Monday.
The FDA letter said the ad "raises public health and safety concerns through its complete omission of risk information for Viagra," the Associated Press reported. Federal law requires negative side effects to be mentioned in any ad that highlights a drug's benefits.
The video ad on CNN.com featured a group of Nashville musicians singing the refrain "Viva Viagra." In a statement, Pfizer said a technical issue with CNN's Web site prevented the risk information from appearing on a banner accompanying the video. The company has pulled the ad, the AP reported.
Viagra's label warns users of potential risks to patients with existing heart conditions, and possible side effects including headaches and abnormal vision.
Beco Baby Carriers Recalled Due to Fall Hazard
About 2,000 "Beco Baby Carrier Butterfly" infant carriers are being recalled because the buckles on the shoulder straps can suddenly release tension, causing the strap to slip through and posing a fall hazard to the infant.
The manufacturer, Beco Baby Carrier Inc., of Newport Beach, Calif., has received eight reports of straps slipping through the shoulder buckles, but there have been no reports of injures, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The following styles are included in the recall: Mia, Pony Express, Carnival, Addison, Ethan, Sophia, Cameron, Ava and Joshua.
The carriers were sold at specialty retail stores and through the Internet from January 2008 through February 2008 for about $140.
Consumers should stop using the carriers and contact Beco at 888-943-8232 for information on how to return them for repair.
Mundane Tasks Numb the Brain
Monotonous tasks really do numb the brain, according to researchers who used MRI scans to monitor blood flow in the brains of volunteers. The results showed that the brain will shift to an at-rest mode when a person is doing something mundane, even if the person doesn't want it to, Agence France-Presse reported.
"There's this thing that's probably intrinsic where your brain says I do need to take a little break here and there's nothing you can do about it," said study author Tom Eichele of the University of Bergen in Norway. "Probably everyone knows that feeling that sometimes your brain is not as receptive or as well performing and you didn't do anything to actually induce that."
Eichele and his colleagues also found that this shift to at-rest mode begins about 30 seconds before a person makes a mistake. This finding suggests it may be possible to develop an early warning system to keep people more focused and careful in order to improve workplace safety and performance in certain jobs, such as airport security screening.
"We might be able to build a device (that could be placed) on the heads of people that make these easy decisions," Eichele told AFP.
The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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