Public health

  • Radiation problems on San Francisco’s Treasure Island persist

    The Army Corps of Engineers created San Francisco’s Treasure Island for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, with plans to turn the island into a civilian airport after the exposition. When the United States entered the Second World War in 1941, the Navy used the island for the Treasure Island Naval Station, where nuclear war training exercises were conducted. The Naval Station was decommissioned in 1993, and parts of the island were transferred to SF for civilian use. Radiation levels on the island are still high, however, and critics charge that the Navy did not do enough to clean the island while downplaying the risks of radiation that still remain.

  • Employees exposed to radiation at nuclear waste disposal site

    Thirteen employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP),a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico, have been exposed to  radioactive radiation after a leak in one of WIPP’s underground tunnels. Energy Department officials say it is too soon to determine the scope of health risks the employees will deal with. The employees inhaled plutonium and americium, both of which can irradiate the body’s internal organs with subatomic particles for a lifetime.

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  • Islanders’ radiation worries 60 years after Bikini Atoll atomic test

    Sixty years ago, On 1 March 1954 the United States tested a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb – a thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hsroshima —- at Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. The explosion vaporized one island, and exposed inhabitants on neighboring islands to radioactive fallout. The United States relocated many of the islanders and spent years – and more than $45 million – to clean up and decontaminate the islands, before allowing the relocated inhabitants to return. Many were forced to leave again, however, after they were found to be exposed to residual radiation. From 30 June 1946 to 18 August 1958, the United States conducted 67 atmospheric nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.

  • Operator of Hanford nuclear disposal site fires scientists who voice safety concerns

    The Hanford project in Washington State is the Department of Energy’s (DoE) largest nuclear cleanup project. DoE plans to transform fifty-six million gallons of radioactive sludge, currently stored in underground tanks, into solid glass. Scientists and engineers who work at Hanford have questioned the effectiveness of the required technology, and have voiced serious concerns about safety issues. Two of those who were the most persistent in voicing their concerns about safety have been fired, and a third one has left his job voluntarily.

  • Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

    The fall 2011 anthrax attacks cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

  • Positive safety results Marburg drug candidate announced

    Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and potentially fatal disease in humans first recognized in 1967. It is caused by an RNA virus of the Filoviridae family and is understood to be endemic to Africa. The Marburg virus is classified as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2006 was determined by DHS to be a material threat to national security and public health. There are currently no treatments for Marburg virus infection beyond supportive care. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics, a developer of innovative RNA-based therapeutics, announced positive safety results from a Phase I multiple ascending dose study of AVI-7288 in healthy volunteers. AVI-7288 is the company’s lead drug candidate for the treatment of Marburg virus infection.

  • Exposure to IED blasts increases risk of long-term health consequences

    Blasts are the leading cause of death and injury on the battlefield, accounting for about 75 percent of all combat-related injuries in U.S. military personnel. U.S. soldiers exposed to blasts while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have an increased risk of developing adverse health outcomes over the long term, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, in certain cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI), growth hormone deficiency, and persistent post-concussive symptoms including headaches, says a new report.

  • 25 children in California stricken with polio-like illness

    Twenty-five children in California have been exhibiting a “polio-like syndrome,” leading to paralysis in one or more of their limbs. “What’s we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It’s like the old polio,” say a a pediatric neurologist. Scientists say that samples from two of the children tested positive for enterovirus 68, a rare virus linked in the past to severe respiratory illness.

  • Improving livestock diets to bolster food security, combat climate change

    Livestock production is responsible for 12 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from land use change and deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture, as well as methane released by the animals themselves, with a lesser amount coming from manure management and feed production. A new study shows that within the current systems, farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems — where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher quality feed — rather than in pure grass-based systems. This development, would lead to a 23 percent reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy.

  • Not much is known about long-term health effects of chemical leaked in W.Va.

    In January, 10,000 gallons an obscure chemical called 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or MCHM, used in processing coal, leaked from storage tanks into the nearby Elk River in the Charleston, West Virginia area, contaminating the water of more than 300,000 residents for days. To what degree MCHM affects long-term human and fetal health is a major concern for residents because of the lack of complete toxicology and other studies on the chemical.

  • Aircraft used in Vietnam source of postwar Agent Orange contamination in U.S.

    During the Vietnam War, in an operation called Operation Ranch Hand, approximately twenty million gallons of herbicides, including around 10.5 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, were sprayed by about thirty-four C-123 aircraft. These aircraft were subsequently returned to the United States and were used by Air Force reserve units between 1971 and 1982 for transport operations. Air Force reservists who flew these planes were exposed greater levels of dioxin than previously acknowledged.

  • Visually displayed early warning system for epidemics

    Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. In an EU-funded project, scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda, and have developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically, allowing for the creation of visually displayed early warnings of epidemic breakouts.

  • Uncovering drug resistance mechanism to help development of antibiotic drug candidates

    The use of antibiotics is often considered among the most important advances in the treatment of human disease. Unfortunately, though, bacteria are finding ways to make a comeback. More than two million people in the United States come down with antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and at least 23,000 die because their treatment cannot stop the infection. A new study has uncovered a mechanism of drug resistance. This knowledge could have a major impact on the development of a pair of highly potent new antibiotic drug candidates.

  • Superbugs presence increases during annual pilgrimage to India’s sacred sites

    The spread of antibiotic-resistance to one of the most pristine locations in Asia is linked to the annual human pilgrimages to the region, new research has shown. The researchers have found that in May and June, when hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to Rishikesh and Haridwar to visit sacred sites, levels of resistance genes that lead to “superbugs” were found to be about sixty times greater than other times of the year. They argue that preventing the spread of resistance genes that promote life-threating bacteria could be achieved by improving waste management at key pilgrimage sites.

  • Solution to drug resistance problem receives U.S. patent

    Before the development of penicillin, people dropped like flies in response to minor infections. Even pimples could grow to boils that killed. One of the main killers prior to the discovery of antibiotics was tuberculosis. The deadly infectious disease that typically affects the lungs has returned – and has developed a resistance to the majority of antibiotics that would otherwise kill the tuberculosis bacteria. A Danish chemistry researcher has taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics.