Tag Archives: Health

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Outdated OSHA regulations of silica and other substances are killing workers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 Long-standing lack of funding has resulted in regulations of silica and other toxic substances being out of date and almost impossible to fix.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.

Dr. House, cobalt and beer

No, it’s not one of those “name three things that don’t go together” deals, it’s a strange but true story that started with a German patient with strange symptoms that no one could figure out. But a doctor at the Centre for Undiagnosed Diseases in Marburg, Dr. Juergen Schaefer, a ‘House’ fan, recognized the symptoms from an episode featuring a patient with a deteriorating artificial joint  and was able to determine he was suffering from cobalt poisoning as a result of an old pair of hip replacements. Once the metal joints were replaced with ceramic he made a partial recovery (some of the damage was permanent).

But, you ask, what about the beer? It turns out that cobalt poisoning is extremely rare, mostly confined to steelworkers (cobalt is used as an additive). But there was also another group that was affected, beer drinkers in 1960s Quebec. That’s because a brewery, Dow, added cobalt sulfate to its beer to help foam stability. Although most drinkers had no problems with the beer, very heavy drinkers ingested enough cobalt to come down with symptoms. Dow went out of business in 1997, sales never having recovered from the incident.

One diabetic’s take on Google’s Smart Contact Lenses

Om Malik, himself a diabetic, looks at Google’s Smart Contact Lenses.

While I was aware that diabetics must be aware of a number of health issues (in addition to their blood sugar levels) the recommendation against contact lenses is new to me. Diabetic health is definitely an area that could use some automation, obviously, but smart contacts aren’t the answer.

23andMe Is Terrifying, But Not for the Reasons the FDA Thinks

After bailing out of the approval process, 23andMe’s DNA testing kit was (technically) banned from sale by the FDA. But it’s still for sale.

Charles Seife in Scientific American says that’s not the reason you should be concerned. That’s because 23andMe’s real business isn’t medical research, it’s data collection.