Continual exposure to air pollution, even at levels permitted by U.S. regulations, may be associated with thousands of early deaths, according to a new study published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.
Researchers tracked people enrolled in Medicare from 2000 through 2016, mapping pollution where they lived to health outcomes. Unlike other studies, it focused on lower levels of pollution generally deemed “safe” or “safer.”
It found that very old people and people with lower incomes who were exposed to long-term air pollution had a greater risk of dying than others.
“Our finding that people living in lower income areas are more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution means they are suffering a double whammy — more exposure, and greater risk from that exposure,” study co-author Joel Schwartz said in a statement to STAT.
Body of Knowledge
The color of the human brain is variable. By and large, it’s shades of white and gray. The white color comes from a type of fat called myelin, which envelopes and insulates the axons connecting neurons, helping speed signals between them. The cellular bodies of neurons and non-neuron support cells called glia are gray. The pinkish hue of a healthy, living brain is due to blood infusing the organ.
Interestingly, a few regions of the brain appear black, such as the substantia nigra pars compacta and the locus coeruleus. These structures deep within the brain contain a dark pigment called neuromelanin, which makes them appear black in contrast to surrounding tissues. Neuromelanin is thought to help prevent oxidative damage to neurons, in part by absorbing toxins.
Get Me That, Stat!
According to the sole study conducted on the topic, vending machines kill four times more people each year than fatal shark attacks, mostly by falling on consumers who are rocking or tilting them. Presumably, the mortality ratio is even greater when you take into account the number of people who die (eventually) due to eating the contents of vending machines.
5 million: Confirmed deaths around the world due to COVID-19, including more than 745,000 in the United States (the world leader)
Source: Associated Press
Mark Your Calendar
December is a light month for official health awareness notes, though appropriately, it’s national safe toys and gifts month. Tucked into December, however, are awareness weeks for hand-washing and influenza vaccination.
Stories for the Waiting Room
A vomitorium is not what it sounds like: a place to vomit. The word, derived from the Latin vomere, meaning “to spew forth,” isn’t much used anymore because, well, the word “exit” does the same job with six fewer letters. A vomitorium back in the days of ancient Rome referred to the exits (and sometimes entrances) of public amphitheaters.
That’s not to say ancient Romans (or modern versions, for that matter) didn’t vomit — sometimes on purpose. The orator Cicero in his “Pro Rege Deitaro” (45 B.C.) says Julius Caesar “expressed a desire to vomit after dinner.”
Where Caesar rendered, however, is not known.
By the way, the medical term for vomiting is emesis.
Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia: a condition affecting males in which sperm are either low in number, move poorly or are abnormally shaped. Known as OAT, it’s the most common cause of male subfertility.
Phobia of the Week
Nomophobia: a fear of being detached from cellphone connectivity, as in, NO MObile texts or calls
Thank you for calling the Weight Loss Hotline.
If you’d like to lose half a pound right now, press “1” 18,000 times.
“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” — Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a psychiatric condition involving distressing and repetitive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to actions (compulsions). The condition varies by individual, but there are five common types:
No. 1: Organization. The obsession with making sure things are precisely in the right place or symmetrical.
No. 2: Contamination. The obsession that people can spread nonviral illnesses through touch or proximity or that everyday things, thoughts or words can “contaminate” a person, making them feel unclean.
No. 3: Intrusive thoughts. Sufferers experience disturbing or abhorrent ideas that pop into their heads seemingly at random.
No. 4: Ruminations. Similar to intrusive thoughts, though they may not be disturbing or abhorrent. They just don’t go away.
No. 5: Checking. An obsession about causing damage or being harmed by carelessness, resulting in checking and rechecking of items or conditions.
Marlon Pistol was a children’s entertainer whose act famously included a giant blow-up elephant called Colonel Jumbo. In 2005, while driving along a California highway on his way to a gig, the 20-foot Jumbo suddenly began to inflate, filling the cab almost instantly and causing Pistol to crash, killing him.
To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: catazul at Pixabay