Tag Archives: Health

What Kodak knew about atomic tests the American public didn’t

We know the US government did a lot of testing of atomic bombs in the years after WWII and that many of these tests were done above ground. That these tests were pumping dangerous levels of fallout into the environment was less well-known, except to Eastman Kodak and other photographic film companies.

Kodak was first made aware of the fallout issue in 1946 when customers complained of fogged film. Investigation showed that Indiana corn husks used as packing materials were contaminated with the radioactive isotope iodine-131 (I-131). They told no one.

Then in January of 1951, following a test in Nevada, Kodak scientists detected spiked radiation levels in a snowfall that measured 25 times the norm (Kodak measured 10,000 counts per minute of radiation, compared to recent unaffected snowfalls that registered only 400). Note, this was 1,600 miles away from the test site. This time they quietly informed the Atomic Energy Commission and an industry group of their findings. The AEC did basically nothing until Kodak threatened to sue them, at which time they promised to keep Kodak and other photographic film companies aware of when they were testing along with sending meteorological information to help predict when fallout might reach them. The AEC told no one else.

Prestigious medical journals rejected stunning study on deaths among middle-aged whites

The government’s statistics show that the mortality rate for whites between the ages of 45 and 54 with a high school education or less rose dramatically between 1999 and 2013, after falling even more sharply for two decades before that. But when researchers attempted to publish a study on it in the Journal of the AMA and the New England Journal of Medicine both of them rejected the study.

Yes, by its very nature this is potentially a political issue but to ignore it for that reason denies a significant part of the population the chance for help.

What You Can Learn From Hunter-Gatherers’ Sleeping Patterns

Here’s the story that people like to tell about the way we sleep: Back in the day, we got more of it. Our eyes would shut when it got dark. We’d wake up for a few hours during the night instead of snoozing for a single long block. And we’d nap during the day.

Then—minor key!—modernity ruined everything. Our busy working lives put an end to afternoon naps, while lightbulbs, TV screens, and smartphones shortened our natural slumber and made it more continuous.

All of this is wrong, according to Jerome Siegel at the University of California, Los Angeles. Much like the Paleo diet, it’s based on unsubstantiated assumptions about how humans used to live.

Nano Robots Are The New Health Plan

Like all comics, Dilbert has shown a marked decline in quality over its lifetime. Still, there are the occasional gems. Nano Robots Are The New Health Plan follows Adams’ usual method of exaggerating something to the point it becomes totally relatable but it’s perhaps not as far-fetched as you might think.

Nanotech might still be in its toddler phase but the ability of electronic devices to detect levels of chemicals in our bodies exists today. It’s not hard to imagine such sensors being scaled down to the point where we could have them inserted into us to monitor in realtime. When that happens, what will stop employers from mandating them?

Keep in mind many employers require you to have health insurance now. And those requirements often include mandatory yearly physicals. If these health monitors end up cheap enough they may be cost-effective compared to physicals. Why wouldn’t your company require you to have them? A violation of your personal liberty you say? The response to that is “you have the personal liberty to get a job somewhere else.”

Perhaps they’ll allow you to access some of the data on your phone (or watch). Then you’ll get messages like “Your stress level is elevated, stop drinking coffee” or “Blood pressure above maximum allowable level, 15 minute meditation required to continue”. Think of it as your company-sponsored personal trainer (who rats you out when you don’t follow orders).

Outdated OSHA regulations of silica and other substances are killing workers

Nothing gets “conservatives”* riled up more than government regulations on businesses and that’s done a lot to keep funding away from agencies like OSHA. Long-standing lack of funding has resulted in regulations of silica and other toxic substances being out of date and almost impossible to fix. So workers are dying thanks to 40 year-old limits that everyone knows are way too high.

Near the end of my father’s life a chest x-ray showed he had what appeared to be lesions on his lungs. The doctors wondered if he was a smoker. He was, but had quit some 40 years earlier (when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer). The more likely culprit was exposure to hazards on the job as a telephone company worker, especially in one building that had burned extensively in a fire. A number of FDNY firefighters on that incident had developed cancers later and my dad was convinced it was from the arsenic they used to coat wires to keep the rats from gnawing on them. Between that and the construction dust kicked up during the recovery I can only imagine what he was exposed to.

 

*Should anyone be fighting for the right to kill workers because it’s cheaper than not killing them? Asking for a friend.

Dr. Oz and the Pathology of ‘Open-Mindedness’

Unlike “Dr. Phil”, Dr. Oz is a real, practicing physician who is on the faculty of Columbia University. But you’d have a hard time guessing that based on his The Dr. Oz Show which has featured séances, energy healing, and a never-ending parade of miracle diet products. Some of his colleagues wrote a letter to Columbia, accusing him of (among other things) promoting “quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain”. He responded with ad-hominem attacks against his accusers.

But is Dr. Oz all that different from other doctors, outside of having his own show? As the article points out, he isn’t. There’s a thin line between what constitutes alternative therapies and outright quackery and many doctors skate that line all the time. They’re quietly hoping Dr. Oz prevails.

What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

As we get older, we start to notice changes in our bodies and minds that we associate with aging. And we just accept them because that’s what happens when you get older. But what if we change our expectations? Can that have real effects on us? Ellen Langer has been running experiments for over thirty years that suggests it can.

Number of 9/11-related cancer cases is growing

It should probably come as a surprise to no one, but the number of cancer cases among 9/11 first responders and rescue workers is growing. Yes, it may not be statistically significant yet, but given that the WTC was built in the early 1970s and was full of materials known to be carcinogenic, this trend seems likely to continue.

Luckily, the government set up the World Trade Center Health Program to help these folks and they will continue to monitor and treat those affected. It’s the least we can, really.