Weather and Arthritis: Is There Really a Connection?

It’s long been conventional wisdom that weather makes arthritis pain worse.

The issue has been studied through the years, with conflicting findings. But three recent studies found weather does have some impact, said Dr. Robert Shmerling, writing for the Harvard Health Blog.

In one study with 222 participants who had arthritis of the hip, researchers from The Netherlands found that patients reported slightly worse pain and stiffness as barometric pressure and humidity rose, but the weather effect was small.

Another study looked at weather-related symptoms among 800 European adults with arthritis of the hip, knee or hands. They reported increasing pain and stiffness with higher humidity, especially in cold weather. In general, changes in weather didn’t affect their symptoms, though.

Participants of a third study reported their chronic pain symptoms. Most of the 2,600 individuals had some type of arthritis. This study found “modest relationships” between pain and higher humidity, lower atmospheric pressure and higher wind speed.

Past studies have looked at the impact of rain, humidity and rising or falling barometric pressure. Humidity, temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure may all be involved, Shmerling said.

“Having reviewed the studies, I find myself not knowing how to answer my patients who ask me why their symptoms reliably worsen when the weather is damp or rain is coming, or when some other weather event happens,” Shmerling said in a Harvard Health news release. “I usually tell them that, first, I believe there is a connection between weather and joint symptoms, and second, researchers have been unable to figure out just what matters most about the weather and arthritis symptoms or why there should be a connection.”

Whether it’s helpful to know the impact of weather is also not clear. The new studies will probably not have an impact on individual arthritis sufferers until weather or internal environments can be precisely controlled.

Still, identifying a link may help with understanding the causes and mechanisms of arthritis symptoms, which could lead to better treatments or preventive strategies, Shmerling said.

“In addition, figuring out why some people seem to feel worse in certain circumstances while others notice no change [or even feel better] in those same environments could help us understand subtle differences between types of arthritis or the ways individuals respond to them,” he said.

Source: HealthDay

 

 

 

 

Scientists Warn of Links Between Soil Pollution and Heart Disease

Pesticides and heavy metals in soil may have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system, according to a review paper published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

“Soil contamination is a less visible danger to human health than dirty air,” said author Professor Thomas Münzel of the University Medical Center Mainz, Germany. “But evidence is mounting that pollutants in soil may damage cardiovascular health through a number of mechanisms including inflammation and disrupting the body’s natural clock.”

Pollution of air, water and soil is responsible for at least nine million deaths each year. More than 60% of pollution-related disease and death is due to cardiovascular disease such as chronic ischaemic heart disease, heart attack, stroke and heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias).

This paper highlights the relationships between soil pollution and human health, with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease. Soil pollutants include heavy metals, pesticides, and plastics. The authors state that contaminated soil may lead to cardiovascular disease by increasing oxidative stress in the blood vessels (with more “bad” free radicals and fewer “good” antioxidants), by causing inflammation, and by disturbing the body clock (circadian rhythm).

Dirty soil may enter the body by inhaling desert dust, fertilizer crystals, or plastic particles. Heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, plastics, and organic toxicants (for example in pesticides) can also be consumed orally. Soil pollutants wash into rivers and create dirty water which may be consumed.

Pesticides have been linked with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. While employees in the agricultural and chemical industries face the greatest exposure, the general public may ingest pesticides from contaminated food, soil and water.

Cadmium is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in small amounts in air, water, soil and food, and also comes from industrial and agricultural sources. Food is the main source of cadmium in non-smokers. The paper states that population studies have shown mixed results on the relationship between cadmium and cardiovascular disease and cites a Korean study showing that middle aged Koreans with high blood cadmium had elevated risks of stroke and hypertension.

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal with environmental contamination through mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling. Studies have found associations between high blood lead levels and cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke, in women and in people with diabetes. Further studies have indicated a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease associated with exposure to arsenic, a naturally occurring metalloid whose levels can increase due to industrial processes and using contaminated water to irrigate crops.

The paper states: “Although soil pollution with heavy metals and its association with cardiovascular diseases is especially a problem low- and middle-income countries since their populations are disproportionately exposed to these environmental pollutants, it becomes a problem for any country in the world due to the increasing globalisation of food supply chains and uptake of these heavy metals with fruits, vegetables and meat.”

The potential hazards of contaminated airborne dust are noted. Desert dust can travel long distances, and research has shown that particles from soil in China and Mongolia were related to an increased odds of heart attacks in Japan. The number of cardiovascular emergency department visits in Japan was 21% higher on days with heavy exposure to Asian dust.

While there are no population studies on the cardiovascular health effects of nano- and microplastics in humans, research has shown that these particles can reach the bloodstream, making it plausible that they could travel to the organs and cause systemic inflammation and cardiometabolic disease.

Professor Münzel said: “More studies are needed on the combined effect of multiple soil pollutants on cardiovascular disease since we are rarely exposed to one toxic agent alone. Research is urgently required on how nano- and microplastic might initiate and exacerbate cardiovascular disease. Until we know more, it seems sensible to wear a face mask to limit exposure to windblown dust, filter water to remove contaminants, and buy food grown in healthy soil.”

Source: Europeean Society of Cardiology

 

Scientists Make Paper Durable Like Plastic, Without the Pollution

Audrey Carleton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to waterproof paper with biodegradable materials that also destroy bacteria. They’re calling it Choetsu, and they think it could make a dent in the global plastics crisis.

Detailed in a paper published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the researchers developed a silica-resin coating that can “compensate for paper’s weaknesses,” turning paper products, like single-use straws or forks, into viable alternatives to plastic by making them waterproof and durable.

“Using coated paper instead of plastic products can help to cut down on harmful waste,” Dr. Zenji Hiroi, professor in solid state chemistry at the University of Tokyo and co-author on the study, told Motherboard in an email.

“We can change the liquid composition to accommodate most materials,” he added. “The Choetsu coating will keep these materials safe for a long time.”

Choetsu is made out of titanium dioxide nanoparticles that, when dispersed in a silica-based film with a thickness of a few micrometers, can be coated on paper and degrade environmental pollutants like certain bacteria when exposed to light.

The exact ingredients that went into it were the result of countless trials by the paper’s first author, Yoko Iwamiya, who worked on it independently before Hiroi came by her side. “She has been working on it for a long time, but society’s recognition was low” due to a “lack of scientific evidence,” he told Motherboard. The team published a paper last year about the silica-resin coating, but without the addition of titanium dioxide and its associated antimicrobial effects.

Besides titanium dioxide, the liquid coating agent is composed of a cocktail of chemicals, like methyltrimethoxysilane, isopropyl alcohol, and tetraisopropyl alcohol, that harden when applied to paper and left to dry. Once dry, a layer of silica forms atop the paper, protecting it. The coating is porous, and has absorptive properties, so it captures pollutants and decomposes them via photocatalysis—a reaction that occurs when an object absorbs light—protecting them from the elements better than a paper product would on its own.

“Paper cutlery may be the most straightforward application,” Hiroi said. “We have already created some prototypes in collaboration with industry. The paper package can be reinforced and used even in the rain. Agricultural mulch for weed control can be made from coated paper and degrade in nature without harming the environment. Any paper product will gain more application options.”

He added that the substance shouldn’t just be used for paper. Should Choetsu prove scalable, it can be applied to ceramic, glass, and even plastic, he said.

“Once the coating liquid’s ingredients are determined, simply brush it on the materials and allow it to dry,” Hiroi told Motherboard. “Because the process is so simple, it can be applied to a wide range of products.”

Source: VICE

Johnnie Walker Debuts Paper-Based Bottle Made From Sustainably Sourced Wood

Rashaun Hall wrote . . . . . . . . .

Here’s a toast to sustainability… literally. Diageo, the maker of brands like Ciroc and Don Julio, recently announced the creation of the world’s first ever 100% plastic free paper-based spirits bottle.

Made entirely from sustainably sourced wood, the bottle debuted with Johnnie Walker earlier this year.

Created through a new partnership with Pilot Lite, Pulpex Limited is a new sustainable packaging technology company. To ensure that the technology can be used in every area of life, Pulpex Limited has established a partner consortium of world leading consumer goods companies in categories including Unilever and PepsiCo. The consortium partners are each expecting to launch their own branded paper bottles, based on Pulpex Limited’s design and technology, this year.

“We’re proud to have created this world first. We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be truly ground-breaking,” said Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “It feels fitting that we should launch it with Johnnie Walker, a brand that has often led the way in innovation throughout its 200 years existence.”

Pulpex Limited has developed a scalable paper-based bottle designed and developed to be 100% plastic free and expected to be fully recyclable. The bottle is made from sustainably sourced pulp to meet food-safe standards and will be fully recyclable in standard waste streams. The technology will allow brands to rethink their packaging designs, or move existing designs into paper, whilst not compromising on the existing quality of the product.

Pulpex Limited’s technology allows it to produce a variety of plastic-free, single mold bottles that can be used across a range of consumer goods. The packaging has been designed to contain a variety of liquid products and will form part of Diageo’s commitment towards Goal 12 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’.

Source: Food Beast

Air Pollution Exposure May Cause Heart Attack Within an Hour

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Exposure to air pollutants – even at levels below World Health Organization air quality guidelines – may trigger a heart attack within the hour, according to a new study from China that found the risks were highest among older people and when the weather was colder.

The study found exposure to any level of four common air pollutants could quickly trigger the onset of acute coronary syndrome. ACS is an umbrella term describing any situation in which blood supplied to the heart muscle is blocked, such as in a heart attack or unstable angina, chest pain caused by blood clots that temporarily block an artery. The strongest risk occurred within the first hour of exposure and diminished over the course of the day.

“The adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution have been well documented. But we were still surprised at the very prompt effects,” said Haidong Kan, a professor in the School of Public Health at Fudan University in Shanghai. He led the study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

“Another surprise was the non-threshold effects of air pollution,” he said. “In other words, any concentrations of air pollutants (such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide) recorded in the present study may have the potential to trigger the onset of a heart attack.”

Exposure to fine particulate matter – microscopic solids or liquid droplets that come from automobile emissions, power plants, construction sites and other sources of pollution – has been unequivocally linked to heart disease, stroke and other health issues, as well as 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide. These particles can be so small that when inhaled, they may go deep into the lungs or even the bloodstream.

In the new study, researchers analyzed medical data for nearly 1.3 million people treated for heart attacks and unstable angina at 2,239 hospitals in 318 Chinese cities between 2015 and 2020. They compared hourly onset times of heart events with concentrations of fine particulate matter, coarse particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone.

Short-term exposure to any level of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide was associated with the onset of all types of acute coronary syndrome.

As levels of the studied pollutants rose, so did the risk for heart attacks. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide was most strongly associated, followed by fine particulate matter, and was most dangerous during the first hour following exposure. The link was strongest among adults age 65 and older with no history of smoking or other respiratory illnesses and for people exposed during the colder months.

“The cardiovascular effects of air pollution should be a serious concern for all, including policymakers, clinicians and individuals,” Kan said. “For policymakers, our findings underline the need of further tightening air quality standards, more stringent air pollution control and prompt public health response.”

The study is the first to establish a link between pollution exposure and heart attacks on an hourly basis, said Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Rajagopalan was not involved in the study.

“The authors were able to show with a fair degree of certainty that air pollution levels at the hour of heart attack occurrence were strongly correlated with air pollution levels during that same hour,” he said. “This suggests that taking protective measures when air pollution levels are high could help prevent heart attacks.”

Rajagopalan co-authored an AHA scientific statement in 2020 about how to reduce exposure to air pollution. Strategies include closing windows and using portable air cleaners and built-in air conditioning filters, as well as personal air-purifying respirators that cover the nose and mouth for people at high risk.

Properly fitted masks, such as those used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, also can help, Rajagopalan said.

“One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is the widespread use of N95 masks,” he said. “These are very good at reducing particulate exposures. They will stop you from inhaling them.”

Though this study was done in China, which has some of the worst air quality in the world, the findings still are meaningful for other countries, Kan said.

The fact there was no threshold of pollution – no minimum that was safe – suggests the findings can be applied to countries with lower levels of air pollution, such as the U.S., he said. “However, the effects of specific air pollutants on ACS need to be replicated given the apparent differences of air pollution characteristics and population vulnerability.”

Source: American Heart Association