Category Archives: Human behavior

And now for something completely different


Alternate title: Chart of the day II: The long and the short of it. . .

From CBC News, the answer to a question everybody wants answered:

Study reveals average penis size for men

  • Graphs will help doctors reassure men that the size of their penis is in the normal range

Doctors searched through 17 published studies on more than 15,000 men who had their penis size measured by a health professional and graphed the averages in Tuesday’s issue of BJU International, formerly the British Journal of Urology.

The graphs will help doctors reassure the large majority of men that their penis size is in the normal range, said study author Dr. David Veale, of King’s College London.

The researchers say measuring penis size is important in assessing men who complain of a small penis and to investigate the relationship between condom failure and penile dimensions.

The average measurements were:

  • Flaccid length 9.16 cm (3.61 in.).
  • Flaccid stretched length 13.24 cm (5.21 in.).
  • Erect length 13.12 cm (5.17 in.).
  • Flaccid girth or circumference 9.31 cm (3.67 in.).
  • Erect circumference 11.66 cm (4.59 in.).

And from the paper [PDF], the key not-so-graphic graphic, And click on it to engorge:

Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms f

EbolaWatch: Numbers, warnings, cases, money


We begin with the latest numbers, via the World Health Organization [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola

Next, a warning from the U.N. News Center:

Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.

“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent update Nearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.

From the Guardian, excoriation:

US quarantine for Ebola health workers ‘morally wrong’

  • Bioethics commission blasts 21-day confinement for medical staff and says government must prepare better for health emergencies

Quarantine restrictions imposed in the US on healthcare workers returning from saving lives in the Ebola epidemic in west Africa were morally wrong and counterproductive, according to Barack Obama’s bioethics commission.

A comprehensive report on the US response to Ebola at home and in Africa found there was no good scientific evidence for the mandatory 21-day quarantine imposed in states including Maine, which tried to confine nurse Kaci Hickox to her home on her return from Sierra Leone. Hickox defied the order and went for a bike ride, later challenging the restrictions in court and winning permission to move freely while regularly monitoring her temperature.

The presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues said the US must be better prepared for a future emergency, arguing that the federal government has a moral and prudential responsibility to get involved in the global response.

From the Guardian again, a notable example:

New York Ebola doctor criticises ‘vilification’ by politicians and media

  • Dr Craig Spencer says his case was ‘caught up in election season’
  • Controversy included quarantine rules imposed by Christie and Cuomo

Craig Spencer, the doctor who was found to have Ebola days after returning to New York City from Guinea, wrote in an essay published on Wednesday that he was mistakenly cast as a “fraud, a hipster, and a hero” by the media as he fought for his life from a hospital bed.

“The truth is I am none of those things,” Spencer wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.”

In the essay, Spencer details how his diagnosis and illness affected him physically and psychologically during the 19 days he spent recovering at New York’s Bellevue hospital.

“Though I didn’t know it then – I had no television and was too weak to read the news – during the first few days of my hospitalization, I was being vilified in the media even as my liver was failing and my fiancée was quarantined in our apartment,” he wrote.

GlobalPost covers strategy:

EU, African countries to convene on Ebola recovery

The European Union (EU) has invited African countries for a high level conference in Brussels to review current efforts of fighting Ebola and place a plan to help Liberia and the other African countries to recover from the hit of the disease.

An emailed EU statement reaching Xinhua on Thursday said the presidents and ministers of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo as well as representatives of the African Union Commission, the UN, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the European Union will all be attending at the very highest level.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf will co-chair the conference on Ebola and she will be speaking as spokesperson for the Mano River Union (MRU).

During this High Level Conference, the 11th European Development Fund National Indicative Program for Liberia 2014-2020 will be signed between Liberia and the EU.

From the New York Times, some notably good news:

Fatality Rate in West Africa Ebola Clinics Is Dropping

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa wanes, physicians from Doctors Without Borders are confronting a mystery: More of their patients are surviving. They do not know why.

“The reasons are really unclear,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, who helped run the agency’s response in Liberia and gave a presentation describing its experience at an AIDS conference here.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières — has cared for more Ebola patients in West Africa than any other organization. At its peak, it was running 22 centers; it now runs eight.

Since last March, the average death rate at those remaining centers has dropped to 52 percent, from about 62 percent.

On to Liberia, first with a withdrawal from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: U.S. military ends mission in Liberia months early

  • More than 4,000 Liberians have been killed by the virus

The U.S. military officially ended a mission to build treatment facilities to combat an Ebola outbreak in Liberia on Thursday, months earlier than expected, in the latest indication that a year-long epidemic in West Africa is waning.

Washington launched the mission five months ago and the force peaked at over 2,800 troops at a time when Liberia was at the epicentre of the worst Ebola epidemic on record.

“While our large scale military mission is ending…the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought that will be sustained in the future,” said U.S. Army Maj.- Gen. Gary Volesky.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers some numerical good news:

Only 2 Ebola Confirmed Cases Now…Mont. Goes 7 Days Without New Outbreak

It has been announced in Monrovia that of the nineteen Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) spread through the country, only two confirmed Ebola cases are being treated as of February 14, 2015.

Acting Information Minister, Isaac W. Jackson told the daily Ebola press briefing yesterday that this is an indication that Liberia is making significant progress in the fight against the Ebola demon.

Minister Jackson used the occasion to dispel rumors that there is a new outbreak of Ebola in Margibi County but noted that there were only two cases which have since been dealt with.

Minister Jackson also disclosed that for the past seven days there has been no new case of Ebola in Montserrado while Lofa County which was the epicenter for the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has had no new case in more than forty days.

More numbers, first from the New Dawn:

Liberian households return to work

-as Ebola wanes

The World Bank Group says nearly 20 percent of Liberians, who had stopped working since the Ebola crisis, have returned to work in the last month.

The Bank’s report is contained in its most recent round of cell-phone surveys, signaling both important progress and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

The report, released Tuesday, described this improvement as an encouraging sign of a shift toward economic normalization, mainly driven by a large increase in wage work in urban areas.

According to the World Bank Group, a substantial percentage of those working pre-crisis remain out of work, however; those in self-employment continue to be the hardest hit by the Ebola crisis, pointing to a lack of working capital and a lack of customers as the main barriers to their operation.

More from AllAfrica:

Liberia: World Bank Spots Food Insecurity in Liberia

The World Bank says food insecurity will persists nationwide in Liberia as nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.

The World Bank in a release noted that despite improvement in the outlook of Ebola cases in the country, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed believe that their harvest would be smaller than the previous year.

However, the 65 percent fear is a decrease from the 80 percent in the previous survey in December 2014.

The survey noted labor shortages and households inability to work in groups.

After the jump, giving the press a vaccination briefing, finds for assessing psychological impacts, on to Guinea and a debunking of deadly Ebola myths, on to Sierra Leone and a call for a corruption purge and a case of missing connections. . .   Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Maladies, toxins, climate, nukes


We begin with the maladies, including a new one from Kansas, via Medical Daily:

New Tick-Borne Disease Identified In Kansas Man, Kills Him In 11 Days

Experts have been warning us for years about the dangers of tick bites; they’re the primary cause of Lyme disease, a terrible infectious disease characterized by cognitive impairments, arthritis, and flu-like symptoms that can linger even after treatment. But a new tick-borne disease to emerge recently has given Americans more of a reason to avoid ticks, as it has killed the man who first developed it.

It’s called Bourbon virus, and was named after Bourbon County, Kansas, where the man who became ill with the disease lived. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the man, who was previously healthy in his 50s, sought medical attention after a series of tick bites and symptoms like fatigue and fever. However, he quickly developed thrombocytopenia and leukopenia, which are an absence of blood platelets — used to clot blood and prevent internal bleeding — and white blood cells, respectively. Within 11 days, his organs had failed, and he died of cardiac arrest.

This chain of events occurred despite the man undergoing antibiotic treatment. Moreover, he underwent a battery of tests for tick-borne viruses, which came back negative. Unsure of what was happening to him, doctors sent a blood sample to the CDC’s headquarters, where more sophisticated testing could determine what the cause of the man’s illness was. There, they found it belonged to a family of viruses known as thogotoviruses, which can be found all over the world.

Another outbreak, via the Associated Press:

Deaths in Saudi Arabia from MERS virus climb to 385

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says two more people have died after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, pushing the total number of deaths from the virus in the kingdom to 385.

The ministry’s statement on Saturday says that 902 cases of MERS have been discovered in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012, though 490 people who contracted it have recovered.

Some 57 people have contracted MERS in the kingdom since the start of February.

From the New York Times, troubling resistance:

Malaria in Widening Area Resists Drug, Study Finds

The world’s best drug for treating malaria, a medicine that is the key to saving millions of lives in Africa and beyond, is losing its efficacy in a much larger swath of territory than was previously known, according to research that was released Friday.

The study, in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a medical journal, raises the troubling prospect that resistance to the drug, artemisinin, might one day severely hamper treatment of a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.

“This should focus minds,” said Charles Woodrow, one of the authors of the study. “We have to eliminate these very resistant parasites. The fear is that if we don’t, we would reverse all the gains that have been made.”

For several decades, artemisinin has been considered an anti-malaria wonder drug, rapidly ridding the body of the parasite that is introduced into the body by a mosquito and infects the blood.

Running the numbers with BBC News:

Malaria on Myanmar-India border is ‘huge threat’

Deaths from malaria have nearly halved since 2000, and the infection now kills about 584,000 people each year.

But resistance to artemisinin threatens to undo all that hard work, and it has been detected in:

  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Myanmar, also known as Burma

Blood samples from 940 people with malaria from 55 sites across Myanmar showed this resistance was widespread across the country.

From GNN Liberia, the witchcraft of Big Agra’s food products:

LIBERIA: Diabetes Symptoms Not Witchcraft Says Pervocate Manager

The Administrative Manager of Pervocate, a diabetes testing and awareness center located on Front Street in Monrovia has called on Liberians to be familiar with the symptoms of diabetes which is often associated to witch craft in Liberia.

Agnes Johnson made the statement during an interview at her front street offices . She said diabetes which is simply an increased of sugar level in the body has become a global health crises that is affecting about 3.3 million people in west Africa according to the World Health Organization estimate.

She said since the opening of the diabetes testing and awareness center in Liberia data collected indicates, that diabetes is becoming a major health crises in the country adding that everyone visiting the center and getting tested is either pre-diabetic or suffering from type 2 diabetes.

From teleSUR, riverine toxic maladies?:

Illnesses Spike 6 Months after Mine Spill into Mexico River

  • One of Mexico’s worst mine disasters continues to affect residents, 6 months after spill.

Farmworkers and rural residents from several communities around the Sonora State capital, Hermosillo, have started a sit-in protest in front of the state capital building, declaring that they have been affected by toxins from a mine spill that occurred in August of 2014.

According to a report in the Mexican weekly, Proceso, residents from the communities of Molino de Camou, Fructuoso Méndez, El Oregano, Jacinto Lopez, San Juan San Bartolo and Mesa del Seri have reported at least 20 new cases of illness due to contact with water from Hermosillo’s reservoir. The water source is fed directly by the Sonora River, which was contaminated in the massive mine spill.

“Everyday more people get sick…a few days ago we had 17 and now we have 20; they were attended to superficially in November by the state’s medical unit…but they never came back,” said Jose Lopez, a resident of Molino de Camou, in the Proceso report.

From the New York Times, India’s killer air:

Polluted Air Cuts Years Off Lives of Millions in India, Study Finds

More than half of India’s population lives in places with such polluted air that each person loses an average of 3.2 years in life expectancy, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Chicago, Yale and Harvard.

Altogether, 660 million Indians could lose 2.1 billion years as a result of air pollution at enormous cost to the country’s economy, the researchers found.

“This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Indian prepares for a major GMO push, via Reuters:

Modi bets on GM crops for India’s second green revolution

On a fenced plot not far from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home, a field of mustard is in full yellow bloom, representing his government’s reversal of an effective ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops.

The GM mustard planted in the half-acre field in the grounds of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi is in the final stage of trials before the variety is allowed to be sold commercially, and that could come within two years, scientists associated with the project say.

India placed a moratorium on GM aubergine in 2010 fearing the effect on food safety and biodiversity. Field trials of other GM crops were not formally halted, but the regulatory system was brought to a deadlock.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, another  tar sands threat:

Cut costs or face ‘death spiral,’ CNRL warns oil sands

The president of one of Canada’s biggest oil and gas producers delivered a stern warning to the oil sands industry, telling a room full of Fort McMurray business people that they need to start cutting costs or the industry will fall into a “death spiral.”

The “made in Fort McMurray cost” of doing business has risen too quickly and must end, Steve Laut of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. told members of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Laut said oil sands producers were making three times the profit in 2004 when a barrel of oil cost about $40 (U.S.) than it did when the price hit close to $100 in 2013.

He said rising costs from suppliers, and not world oil prices, were the reason that CNRL and others could no longer produce the profits it once did.

After the jump, concerns mount over fracking-caused quakes, Montana farmers sue for fracking protection, fuel train warnings sounded, Texas to release fuel train data, fireworks send Chinese air pollution soaring, scientist who denies anthropogenic climate change sucks at Big Oil’s teat, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a radiation levels spiking, a Strontium 90 leak cited, a Fukushima highway straight out of Sartre, and a Sport Illustrated cover sparks a surgical boomlet. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, pollution, climate. . .


And more. . .

We begin with the Thomson Reuters Foundation and a call worthy of heeding:

Diseases affecting the poorest can be eliminated, scientists say

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged developing countries to invest more in tackling so-called neglected tropical diseases such as yaws, saying more investment would alleviate human misery and free people trapped in poverty.

Yaws affects mainly children and causes unsightly skin ulcers and painful bone infections that can make walking difficult. In some rare cases it can eat away people’s noses.

At least 50 million people were affected by the bacterial infection in the 1950s. When the WHO launched mass treatment campaigns with penicillin vaccines, the number of cases plummeted by 95 percent by the end of the 1960s, according to David Mabey, an expert in yaws and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“But then it fell off the agenda. And we’re trying to put it back on,” Mabey said in an interview.

A video report from Agence France-Presse:

WHO urges billions to fight neglected tropical diseases

Program notes:

The World Health Organization urges countries to invest billions of dollars to tackle 17 neglected tropical diseases – including dengue fever, leprosy and sleeping sickness – which kill 500,000 people globally each year.

From Medical Daily, a measles update:

California Confirms 119 Cases Of Measles In State

Public health officials said on Wednesday that six more cases of measles had been confirmed in California, bringing to 119 the total number of people infected by a strain of the virus that has also been linked to a large outbreak in the Philippines.

More than 150 people across the United States have been diagnosed with measles, many of them linked to the wave of illness that authorities believe began when an infected person from out of the country visited Disneyland in late December.

California Department of Public Health researchers, in a report to federal officials released on Friday, said that specimens from 30 of the state’s measles patients had been genotyped and that all were of the same strain that has caused an outbreak in the Philippines.

A serious outbreak at a renowned hospital via the Los Angeles Times:

Superbug outbreak at UCLA: FDA warns medical scopes may spread deadly bacteria

The Food and Drug Administration warned hospitals and medical providers Thursday morning that a commonly used medical scope may have facilitated the deadly outbreak of a superbug at UCLA.

The warning posted by the federal agency comes after a Los Angeles Times report that two people who died at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center were among seven patients there infected by a drug-resistant superbug. Hundreds of patients at medical centers around the country, including Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center, may have been exposed to the bacteria after physicians used the scopes in their treatment.

The FDA cautioned that the design of the scopes may make them more difficult to effectively clean. And the agency called on medical providers to meticulously wash the devices.

But even washing the scopes may not be adequate, the FDA warned. “Meticulously cleaning duodenoscopes prior to high-level disinfection should reduce the risk of transmitting infection, but may not entirely eliminate it,” the warning noted.

More from BBC News:

Nearly 180 people at a Los Angeles hospital may have been exposed to a deadly strain of bacteria from contaminated medical equipment. Two deaths at UCLA Medical Center have been linked to the case and seven others are being treated.

The patients were exposed to Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) during endoscopic procedures between October and January. A similar outbreak was reported last month in Seattle. Eleven patients died.

The infections are difficult to treat because many strains are resistant to antibiotics.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that CRE can lead to death in up to half of seriously infected patients.

An infectious disease abated, via StarAfrica:

Somalia being polio free for six months-UN

Somalia is marking six months since the last polio case was recorded in the country following an outbreak that affected 199 people, mostly children, reports said on Thursday.Polio was detected in Somalia in May 2013, for the first time in six years, after parents of a two-year-old girl in Mogadishu found she was unable to walk.

The virus, which can cause paralysis or even death, spread quickly affecting 194 people in 2013.

However, the number was contained to just five cases in 2014, one of them an adult who died, all in the remote Mudug region of Puntland, north-eastern Somalia. The last case was reported in Hobyo district, Mudug on 11 August 2014.

Since the outbreak began, the authorities, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have targeted more than 2 million children under the age of five for vaccinations as well as children aged from five to 10 and adults in some areas.

A notable vaccine trial in Africa, via Outbreak News Today:

HIV vaccine trial, HVTN 100, launches in South Africa

A clinical trial called HVTN 100 has been launched in South Africa to study an investigational HIV vaccine regimen for safety and the immune responses it generates in study participants. This experimental vaccine regimen is based on the one tested in the U.S. Military HIV Research Program-led

RV144 clinical trial in Thailand—the first study to demonstrate that a vaccine can protect people from HIV infection. The HVTN 100 vaccine regimen was designed to provide greater protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa. The results of the HVTN 100 trial, expected in two years, will help determine whether or not this vaccine regimen will be tested for efficacy in a large future study in South Africa.

“A safe and effective HIV vaccine is essential to reach a timely, sustained end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. “The launch of HVTN 100 marks an important step forward in building upon the promising results of the RV144 trial to produce an HIV vaccine that could have a significant public health impact in southern Africa, where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is most pervasive.”

A Florida GMO fight takes wing, via New York Times:

Battle Rises in Florida Keys Over Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes

In this bite-size community near Key West, like so many other mosquito-plagued spots up and down the Florida Keys, residents long ago made peace with insecticides dropped into town by planes or rumbling by on trucks. Cans of Off are offered at outdoor parties. Patio screens are greeted with relief.

But Keys residents are far less enamored of another approach to mosquito control — a proposal to release the nation’s first genetically modified mosquitoes, hatched in a lab and pumped with synthetic DNA to try to combat two painful, mosquito-borne viral diseases, dengue and chikungunya.

If the federal Food and Drug Administration gives the go-ahead for the trial, Key Haven, with 444 houses built on a tiny peninsula, would become the focal point of the first American release of several million mosquitoes genetically altered by Oxitec, a British biotechnology company.

For denizens of a chain of islands notorious for their renegade spirit — Key West once jokingly broke away from the United States as the Conch Republic — this possibility is fraught with suspicion and indignation.

More flame retardant toxic concerns, via Newswise:

Flame Retardants Found to Cause Metabolic, Liver Problems

  • Findings Suggest Strong Link to Insulin Resistance, Obesity

Chemicals used as synthetic flame retardants that are found in common household items such as couches, carpet padding, and electronics have been found to cause metabolic and liver problems that can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major cause of obesity, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

“Being obese or overweight increases one’s risk of many diseases including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain cancers,” said Gale Carey, professor of nutrition and the lead researcher. In 2003, overweight and obesity-related medical expenses were 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenses at about $80 billion. New Hampshire’s portion of this expense was $302 million.

Carey and her team of researchers found that laboratory rats exposed to polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, experienced a disruption in their metabolism that resulted in the development of metabolic obesity and enlarged livers.

“Despite the plethora of resources devoted to understanding the roles of diet and exercise in the obesity epidemic, this epidemic continues to escalate, suggesting that other environmental factors may be involved. At the biochemical level there is a growing body of experimental evidence suggesting certain environmental chemicals, or ‘obesogens’, could disrupt the body’s metabolism and contribute to the obesity epidemic,” she said.

Mashable covers a notable African health win:

How Guinea worm disease went from 3 million cases to 126

Program notes:

In the late 1980s, Guinea worm disease — a nasty, parasitic infection caused from drinking contaminated water — affected more than 3 million people in Africa. Now, only 126 cases remain.

From Newswise, toxic concerns in the laundry room:

Laundry Detergent Pods: What You Need to Know

Laundry detergent pods became available on the US market in 2010 and are easy to use. They are a single detergent packet that can be easily dropped into a load of laundry. These pods contain highly concentrated detergents wrapped in a thin film that easily dissolves in water. They may resemble a small, brightly colored piece of candy which may be easily mistaken by children. These pods can also break when light pressure is applied to them. The appeal and design of laundry detergent pods has already resulted in many reported poisonings among children.

What do laundry detergent pods contain that is so toxic and what are the symptoms of exposure?

The film that surrounds the pod is often made of polyvinyl alcohol. It acts as a poor barrier between the person handling the pod and the detergents inside. The film dissolves easily and is safe for washing clothes. The detergents inside the pod are actually a cocktail of harsh chemicals. Ingredients are frequently disclosed on manufacturer websites.

These chemicals may include surfactants, bleaches, solvents, optical brighteners, enzymes, and preservatives. Relative to conventional laundry detergents, pods contain higher concentrations of surfactants which are often ethoxylated alcohols, of which 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogenic byproduct. Other common ingredients include but are not limited to propylene glycol, ethanolamine, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, and fragrances which are often volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

California takes on Big Soda, via the Guardian:

California takes fight to soft drink industry with plan for warning labels

  • State Democrats introduce bill that would require labels with warnings about obesity and tooth decay but admit industry is ‘formidable lobbying force’

Campaigners against sugary drinks have opened a new front in California with a proposal to label the drinks with warnings about obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Bill Monning, the state’s senate majority leader, and an influential Democrat, has introduced a bill which would require labels be placed on the front of containers or at the point of purchase.

If passed, it will set a precedent in the US and potentially transform public health policy, according to supporters.

“The root motivation for this is the continued epidemic of preventable diabetes and obesity in young people in California,” Monning told the Guardian. The problem was not just sodas, but sweet teas, sports drinks and energy drinks, he said.

Agence France-Presse covers a toxic holiday traditional fruit:

Toxic ‘Tet’ kumquats highlight Vietnam’s pesticide problem

Program notes:

Come the Lunar New Year, most Vietnamese families buy a kumquat tree — a symbol of prosperity whose candied fruits were once a delicacy but are now left uneaten as food safety scandals batter consumer confidence in Vietnam’s produce.

Agrochemical health fears in the Argentine, via VICE News:

Argentina’s Soybeans Help Feed the World But Might Be Making Locals Sick

Silvina Bettini is a bubbly young woman with purple makeup and matching earrings who lives six blocks from a soybean field in central Argentina. Already the mother of one child, she had hoped for another until a medical survey by a German NGO in April 2013 suggested her blood is contaminated with agrochemical residue from pesticides, including a toxic insecticide that is banned in most countries. Now she’s worried about what could happen to her baby.

Like many residents of Argentina’s farming communities, Bettini is concerned by a growing list of cases of birth defects, cancers, and other health problems that locals and some experts attribute to the ubiquitous use of agrochemicals in Argentina’s agriculture industry, the country’s economic engine. Argentine officials and Monsanto, the American agribusiness giant that manufactures the most common type of the herbicide, deny that the health problems are linked to the chemicals.

The agrochemical issue is most evident in Argentina’s soybean industry. The country is the world’s third-largest producer of soybeans. The crop is a staple ingredient of livestock feed, and therefore plays a part in almost every bite of commercially produced meat in the world. At the same time, most of Argentina’s soybeans — 98 percent — are genetically modified.

Because Argentina is the world’s biggest soybean exporter, selling significantly more soybean to foreign markets than Brazil or the United States, the soy sent from Argentina to the rest of world may pose a threat to global food security if levels of agrochemicals in exported products are not properly monitored, experts told VICE News.

After the jump, how the sun keeps burning even after you’ve escaped its rays, rising seas endanger millions of Bangladeshi islanders, climate change claims lemurian land, climate change suspected in a California sea lion crisis, evacuation by drought feared in Brazil, Chinese profits from Myanmar conflict logging, foreigners grab land in malnourished Mozambique, China takes a first in oceanic plastic dumping, Washington sets up air monitors in overseas missions, renewed hopes for a European tar sands oil ban, petro layoffs and a slowdown in Mexico, on to Fukushimapocalype Now!, with a stark declaration about lost fuel and a fear of regulatory collapse, plus dreamas of Liberian environmental banking. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, water, nukes


And more.

A new U.S. exporter to Germany, via the Associated Press:

Berlin measles traced to refugees, but 2 cases linked to US

Berlin has recorded 347 cases of measles since the start of the year, more than twice the number it had during all of 2014.

Officials believe the outbreak started with a child asylum seeker from Bosnia, because many subsequent infections among refugees were genetically linked.

“We consider this child to be the index case, because the measles virus this child had is identical to the ones that followed,” said Dr. Dirk Werber of Berlin’s state health office.

Werber said at least two cases in Berlin have been linked to the United States. One involved a woman who developed symptoms in the United States before traveling to Berlin; a second involved a child who developed the infection after returning from the U.S.

A kingdom fearing loss of magic, via CBC News:

Disney offers measles advice to California health officials

  • No evidence anyone downplayed seriousness of the outbreak or misled the public

As the measles outbreak spread last month, Disneyland executives sent a series of emails to California health officials asking them to emphasize that the theme park was not responsible for the illnesses and was safe to visit, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

There is no evidence Disneyland — or health officials, who incorporated at least some of the theme park’s suggestions — tried to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak or mislead the public. Nor is it unusual for companies to try to get public officials’ ear during a crisis.

But the email exchange pulls back the curtain on what can be a delicate process. And it shows Disneyland’s concern about the disease’s potential harm to “The Happiest Place on Earth” even as the theme park worked with health authorities to alert the public to the danger.

Another African viral outbreak ebbs, via the Guardian:

Africa close to wiping out wild polio after six months free of disease

  • Hopes high that virus beaten as Somalia and Nigeria reach milestone, but experts counsel caution amid fears Ebola has undermined healthcare systems

Africa has gone six months without any new cases of wild polio for the first time, experts say, raising hopes that the disease could be wiped out on the continent sooner than expected.

Wednesday marked half a year since the last polio case in Somalia. Nigeria achieved the same landmark on 24 January, though it has suffered some cases of vaccine-derived polio, a rare mutation from the oral polio vaccine in areas of poor sanitation.

“This is incredible progress,” said the Global Health Strategies, a New York-based health consultancy. “This is the first time ever that Africa has gone a full six months without a single case of wild polio virus. Combined with the recent successes in Nigeria, today’s milestone is a strong sign that Africa may soon be polio-free.”

From Newswise, veterinary vaccine advocacy:

Wildlife at Risk around the Globe – Scientists Say Vaccinating Endangered Carnivores of Increasing Importance

  • International Experts Agree on “Top 5″ Actions Needed

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and its Feline Health Center, and the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine have just co-convened the first “Vaccines for Conservation” international meeting at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo in New York City. Experts from around the world focused on the threat that canine distemper virus poses to the conservation of increasingly fragmented populations of threatened carnivores. While canine distemper has been known for many years as a problem affecting domestic dogs, the virus has been appearing in new areas and causing disease and mortality in a wide range of wildlife species, including tigers and lions. In fact, many experts agree that the virus should not be called “canine distemper” virus at all, given the diversity of species it infects.

The forum brought together many of the world’s top disease ecologists, wildlife biologists, immunologists, virologists, vaccinologists, epidemiologists, wildlife veterinarians and pathologists, and policy experts to explore whether it would be appropriate and feasible to develop approaches to canine distemper vaccination to protect at-risk wild carnivore populations. The group looked at examples of distemper outbreaks around the world, including the recent case study offered by the Amur tiger population in the Russian Far East. In 2010 canine distemper virus was diagnosed in tigers that died in widely separated locations across the Amur tiger range. While it is challenging to assess the overall impact on the population of such a wide ranging and elusive big cat, the virus contributed to the decline of one well-studied sub-population, which went from 38 individuals to 9 between the years 2007 and 2012.

WCS Russia Program Director Dale Miquelle stated that “Like many large carnivores, tigers face an array of serious threats throughout their range, including poaching (of tigers themselves and of their prey), habitat loss, and conflict with local people. Addressing these very clear threats remains the top priority for the allocation of scarce tiger conservation resources. Importantly, these threats have led to tiger populations becoming smaller and more fragmented, making them much more susceptible to sudden population declines and even extinction due to disease. I therefore welcome the technical help and resources of the veterinary community to enhance our preparedness for addressing pathogens such as canine distemper virus.” In fact, additional analysis by WCS and international colleagues has shown that smaller populations of Amur tigers are more vulnerable than larger populations to extinction from distemper. Populations consisting of 25 individuals are 1.65 times more likely to disappear in the next 50 years if the virus is present. That finding is profoundly disturbing for wild tigers, given that in most sites where wild tigers persist they are limited to populations of less than 25 breeding adults.

Another lethal impact of air pollution, via Newswise:

Middle-Aged Men at Highest Risk of Suicide After Breathing Poor Air

  • Study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found increased risk of suicide associated with short-term air pollution exposure

A new study from the University of Utah is adding to the small, but growing body of research that links air pollution exposure to suicide.

In research published today in The American Journal of Epidemiology, investigator Amanda Bakian, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, and her colleagues outline chemical and meteorological variables that are risk factors for suicide. Their study, titled “Risk assessment of air pollution and suicide,” examines how those factors play out among different genders and age groups. The findings build on other research by Bakian released in April 2014, when she found that fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide in air pollution are linked with an increased risk for suicide.

In the latest study, Bakian and researchers found an increased risk of suicide associated with short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter among Salt Lake City residents who died by suicide between 2000 to 2010. In particular, men and Salt Lake City residents between 36 to 64 years of age experienced the highest risk of suicide following short-term air pollution exposure.

“We are not exactly sure why risk of suicide was higher in these two groups but suspect that it might be because these two groups were either exposed to higher levels of air pollution or that other additional factors make these two groups more susceptible to the effects of air pollution,” said Bakian.

And just the place to breathe that bad air, via Environmental News Network:

When you stop at a red light you are exposed to higher levels of air pollution

UK commuters spend an average of about 1.5 hours a day at the wheel. Road vehicles in particular are known to emit polluting nanoparticles which contribute to respiratory and heart diseases. Now, researchers at the University of Surrey have found that where drivers spend just 2% of their journey time passing through traffic intersections managed by lights, this short duration contributes to about 25% of total exposure to these harmful particles.

The team monitored drivers’ exposure to air pollutants at various points of a journey. Signalised traffic intersections were found to be high pollution hot-spots due to the frequent changes in driving conditions. With drivers decelerating and stopping at lights, then revving up to move quickly when lights go green, peak particle concentration was found to be 29 times higher than that during free flowing traffic conditions. As well as concentration, researchers found that as cars tend to be close together at lights, the likelihood of exposure to vehicle emissions is also significantly increased.

“Air pollution was recently placed in the top ten health risks faced by human beings globally, with the World Health Organization linking air pollution to seven million premature deaths every year,” said lead author, Dr Prashant Kumar, from the University of Surrey.

Another kind of deadly traffic, via TheLocal.it:

Baby dies in ambulance as hospitals are full

A newborn baby in Sicily died in an ambulance on Thursday because there were no bed spaces in three local hospitals, prompting Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin to launch an investigation.

Baby Nicole died in an ambulance en route to a hospital in Ragusa, south-east Sicily, hours after being born in Catania where three emergency rooms allegedly refused to admit the sick newborn.

She was born with breathing problems in a private clinic in Catania, leading staff to phone nearby paediatric intensive care units. All three said there was no space for the baby, La Stampa reported.

Medics at the clinic then decided to drive Nicole to Ragusa, a journey of around 100km, but the baby’s condition worsened and she died on the way to hospital.

After the jump, GMO apples approved in the U.S., a water crisis in Pakistan, a major water crisis in Brazil — with video, a global draft climate deal readied, a stunning Chinese pollution admission, a major California fracking policy hearing, fracking the Gulf of Mexico, an indigenous Latin American win over a Peruvian petro project, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, with rateful restart expectations in Japan, and new nuclear power corporateer Bill Gates seeks Chinese partnership. . . Continue reading

And now for something completely different


That would be the impact of digital media on the brain, via Agence France-Presse:

The digital age and its effects on the brain

Program notes:

They’re known as digital natives; a generation of children who’ve grown up with video games, computers, touch-screen tablets, mobile phones and virtual reality. While their brains have adapted to this ultra-high-tech environment, they find it harder to resist impulsive behaviour and to engage in free and independent thinking.

EbolaWatch: Rising numbers, angst, withdrawal


First the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

The major revelation, via Reuters:

West Africa sees spike in Ebola cases as decline stalls – WHO

The number of new Ebola cases rose for the second week in a row in West Africa, nearly doubling in Guinea, suggesting declines in the disease seen earlier this year had stalled, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

Efforts to wipe out the deadly virus were being hampered by people’s mistrust of health workers, and the number of people continuing to hide sick friends and relatives from authorities, particularly in Guinea’s capital Conakry, officials said.

West Africa recorded 144 new confirmed cases of Ebola in the week to Feb. 8 compared with 124 the previous week, the WHO said in a report.

“Despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices, and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled,” the U.N. agency said.

More from the latest World Health Organization Situation Report:

  • Total weekly case incidence increased for the second consecutive week, with 144 new confirmed cases reported in the week to 8 February. Guinea reported a sharp increase in incidence, with 65 new confirmed cases compared with 39 the week before. Transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, which reported 76 new confirmed cases, while the resurgence in cases in the western district of Port Loko continued for a second week. Liberia continues to report a low number of new confirmed cases.
  • Despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices, and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled. The spike in cases in Guinea and continued widespread transmission in Sierra Leone underline the considerable challenges that must still be overcome to get to zero cases. The infrastructure, systems, and people needed to end the epidemic are now in place; response measures must now be fully implemented.
  • The surge of new confirmed cases reported by Guinea was driven primarily by transmission in the capital, Conakry (21 confirmed cases) and the western prefecture of Forecariah (26 confirmed cases). Community engagement continues to be a challenge in Conakry and Forecariah, and in Guinea more widely. Almost one-third of the country’s EVD-affected prefectures reported at least one security incident in the week to 8 February. Effective contact tracing, which relies on the cooperation of communities, has also proved challenging. In the week to 1 February, just 7 of 42 cases arose among registered contacts. A total of 34 unsafe burials were reported, with 21 EVD-positive deaths reported in the community.
  • Seven new confirmed cases were reported in the east-Guinean prefecture of Lola. A field team is currently deployed to Côte d’Ivoire to assess the state of preparedness in western areas of the country that border Lola.

More from CCTV Africa:

Margaret Harris Interview on new Ebola Cases in 2015

Program notes:

World Health Organisation spokesperson Margaret Harris, joined us live in our studios from Geneva.

The Associated Press covers another number:

UN: 10,000 US-supported civilians needed to fight Ebola

The U.N. Ebola chief says U.S. troops being withdrawn from Liberia have done their job of building desperately needed treatment centers but that more than 10,000 civilians working in West Africa and supported by the United States are still essential to combating the deadly disease.

Dr. David Nabarro warned in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that the battle against Ebola is far from over, pointing to a disappointing rise in new cases last week in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

He said civilians from the U.S., Britain, France and elsewhere are still needed to help with tracing Ebola victims’ contacts, re-establishing health services and changing behavior in communities.

More from USA Today:

Ebola fight shifts from military to civilian effort

President Obama said Wednesday he’s shifting the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa from a military to a civilian effort, and he lauded American “exceptionalism” in responding to international crises.

“We have risen to the challenge,” Obama said, citing declines in Ebola infection rates.

He said that after ordering troops and aid workers to Liberia last year when the epidemic was at its worst, the international community “looked around and said, ‘All right, America’s got our back. So we’ll come, too.’ “

A judgment, via BBC News:

Ebola crisis: Government response ‘far too slow’

The government’s response to the Ebola outbreak was “far too slow” and may have contributed to the loss of lives, a committee of MPs has said.

The Public Accounts Committee said the government did not release funds quickly enough to deal with the crisis. It also said the decision to suspend flights to areas affected by the disease had been “political”.

The government said its actions in Sierra Leone had saved rather than cost lives.

A call, via the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

UK should resume flights to Ebola-hit nations-parliamentary watchdog

Britain’s decision to stop direct flights to Ebola-hit countries had “no scientific justification”, probably increased the cost of dealing with the outbreak and should be reversed, a parliamentary watchdog said on Wednesday.

Several airlines including British Airways and Emirates stopped flights last year to countries in West Africa affected by the worst outbreak of Ebola since the deadly virus was identified in 1976.

In September, independent health advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that there should be no general ban on travel or trade with Ebola-affected areas

On to Liberia and back-to-school preparations, via the New Dawn:

Govt. renovates 500 schools

Authorities at the Ministry of Education have disclosed here that over 500 schools have been renovated across the country in preparation for the reopening of schools next Monday, as officially announced.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, 9 February at a daily press briefing hosted by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, a senior policy advisor at the Ministry of Education, Albert Coleman, said though there has been lot of misconceptions about the reopening of schools, normal academic activities will officially commence on Monday, February 16th. .

He said during the peak of the Ebola virus outbreak many school facilities were used as treatment centers for suspected patients.

Mr. Coleman said the renovation process was intended to provide conducive learning environment for students

From the Associated Press, a presidential call:

Liberia president calls for zero Ebola cases, vigilance

Liberia’s president vowed Wednesday that the country would get to zero Ebola cases soon as the U.S. military announced it will be withdrawing most of its troops who have spent the last several months helping to battle the disease.

Only 100 U.S. troops will remain in West Africa after April 30, down from 2,800 initially deployed. Those staying in West Africa will work with Liberia’s military, regional partners and U.S. civilians to continue fighting Ebola.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf noted the significant gains, as the country had just four confirmed cases a week ago. It’s a dramatic reduction from August and September, when some 300 cases a week were being registered.

Across the border to Freetown and this introduction to a story from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

U.S. – Sierra Leone Ebola Intervention – A Chronology

“Ebola is the biggest crisis to hit Sierra Leone since the civil war. Let’s all do what we can to Kick Ebola Out of Town!”President Barak Obama, 2014

Ebola virus that started in Sierra Leone late May, 2014 after 14 people returned from a funeral of a traditional healer – who had been trying to cure other patients in Guinea, as at 5 February killed 3,276 Sierra Leoneans, infected 10,740, with 8,059 confirmed cases. The official first case of death was recorded after a tribal healer, who had treated an infected person died on 26 May, 2014, in Kailahun – Eastern Sierra Leone.

According to tradition, her body was washed for burial and this appeared to have led to a geometric spread of the virus because corpses of Ebola victims are most contagious immediately after death. Little wonder two US doctors who followed the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) protocols to the letter still got infected. It is still not clear how they got infected.

And to close, via CCTV Africa, getting ready for the next time:

Ebola Insurance Cover: Africa Risk Capacity Product to Be Ready In 2017

Program notes:

The African Union’s African Risk Capacity – the continent’s sovereign disaster risk insurer – is developing an insurance cover product for disease outbreaks and epidemics. AU member states affected by the Ebola virus, asked for the product to be developed at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa at the end of January. Angelo Coppola reports.