Colds, Bronchitis Cases Resurged After Texas Eased COVID Rules

After Texas relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, other respiratory illnesses — such as colds, bronchitis and pneumonia — made rapid rebounds.

Pathologists from Houston Methodist Hospital found that the rhinovirus and enterovirus infections that can trigger these illnesses started rebounding in the fall of last year after Texas eased capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

More recently, they found that seasonal colds, as well as parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) had strong increases in two months after Texas ended its mask mandate in early March and allowed businesses to operate at full capacity.

“This sharp resurgence we’re seeing of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston is not surprising now that mask mandates have been lifted in Texas, and other precautions, such as social distancing and occupancy limits in stores, restaurants and events, have been removed.” said corresponding author Dr. S. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist.

In mid-May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines allowing people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume activities without masks or social distancing.

“Reports of non-COVID respiratory viral illnesses surging after COVID restrictions are lifted has been reported in Australia and elsewhere, and we’re now starting to see it happen in the U.S.,” Long said in a hospital news release.

The findings were posted on the preprint server medRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed.

Parainfluenza — a common virus that can cause respiratory illnesses, such as colds, bronchitis, croup and pneumonia — rose 424% in Houston from March to April, the study found. It also increased 189% from April through May 25.

Seasonal non-COVID coronaviruses, which usually appear in winter and decline in March, increased 211% from March to April and continued to increase in May, the study found.

Rhinovirus and enterovirus cases increased 85% from March to April. RSV cases increased 166% by May 25 when compared to April.

“For more than a year, COVID-19 was the primary cause of respiratory illness in the U.S., but now as we relax restrictions, it is important for clinicians to consider other respiratory pathogens may be causing spikes in disease outside of their usual seasonal peaks,” Long said.

“The study clearly demonstrates the utility of masks and social distancing and the effect these non-pharmacologic precautions had on suppressing all respiratory viruses, not just COVID-19,” he added.

Source: HealthDay

Study: Half of US Cosmetics Contain Toxic Chemicals

Matthew Daly wrote . . . . . . . . .

More than half the cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada are awash with a toxic industrial compound associated with serious health conditions, including cancer and reduced birth weight, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained fluorine — an indicator of PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals” that are used in nonstick frying pans, rugs and countless other consumer products.

Some of the highest PFAS levels were found in waterproof mascara (82%) and long-lasting lipstick (62%), according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Twenty-nine products with higher fluorine concentrations were tested further and found to contain between four and 13 specific PFAS chemicals, the study found. Only one item listed PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as an ingredient on the label.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, said the agency does not comment on specific studies. The FDA said on its website that there have been few studies of the presence of the chemicals in cosmetics, and the ones published generally found the concentration is at very low levels not likely to harm people, in the parts per billion level to the 100s of parts per million.

A fact sheet posted on the agency’s website says that, “As the science on PFAS in cosmetics continues to advance, the FDA will continue to monitor″ voluntary data submitted by industry as well as published research.

But PFAS chemicals are an issue of increasing concern for lawmakers who are working to regulate their use in consumer products. The study results were announced as a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to ban the use of PFAS in cosmetics and other beauty products.

The move to ban PFAS comes as Congress considers wide-ranging legislation to set a national drinking water standard for certain PFAS chemicals and clean up contaminated sites across the country, including military bases where high rates of PFAS have been discovered.

“There is nothing safe and nothing good about PFAS,″ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who introduced the cosmetics bill with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “These chemicals are a menace hidden in plain sight that people literally display on their faces every day.″

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who has sponsored several PFAS-related bills in the House, said she has looked for PFAS in her own makeup and lipstick, but could not see if they were present because the products were not properly labeled.

“How do I know it doesn’t have PFAS?” she asked at a news conference Tuesday, referring to the eye makeup, foundation and lipstick she was wearing.

The Environmental Protection Agency also is moving to collect industry data on PFAS chemical uses and health risks as it considers regulations to reduce potential risks caused by the chemicals.

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade association representing the cosmetics industry, said in a statement that a small number of PFAS chemicals may be found as ingredients or at trace levels in products such as lotion, nail polish, eye makeup and foundation. The chemicals are used for product consistency and texture and are subject to safety requirements by the FDA, said Alexandra Kowcz, the council’s chief scientist.

“Our member companies take their responsibility for product safety and the trust families put in those products very seriously,″ she said, adding that the group supports prohibition of certain PFAS from use in cosmetics. “Science and safety are the foundation for everything we do.”

But Graham Peaslee, a physics professor at Notre Dame and the principal investigator of the study, said the cosmetics poses an immediate and long-term risk. “PFAS is a persistent chemical. When it gets into the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates,″ Peaslee said.

No specific companies were named in the study, although supporting material indicates that researchers tested dozens of brands, including many household names.

The study did not seek to link any health effects to cosmetics use, but Peaslee said researchers found PFAS levels that ranged from a few parts to billion to thousands of parts per billion. He called the latter totals “worrisome.″

The chemicals also pose the risk of environmental contamination associated with manufacturing and disposal, he said.

The man-made compounds are used in countless products, including nonstick cookware, water-repellent sports gear, cosmetics and grease-resistant food packaging, along with firefighting foams.

Public health studies on exposed populations have associated the chemicals with an array of health problems, including some cancers, weakened immunity and low birth weight. Widespread testing in recent years has found high levels of PFAS in many public water systems and military bases.

Blumenthal, a former state attorney general and self-described “crusader” on behalf of consumers, said he does not use cosmetics. But speaking on behalf of millions of cosmetics users, he said they have a message for the industry: “We’ve trusted you and you betrayed us.″

Brands that want to avoid likely government regulation should voluntarily go PFAS-free, Blumenthal said. “Aware and angry consumers are the most effective advocate” for change, he said.

Source: AP

In Pictures: Vegan Donuts in the U.S.

Fewer Than 1 in 10 American Adults Get Enough Dietary Fiber


Enlarge image . . . . .

Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re like most American adults, it might be time to reach for a piece of fruit, a plate of vegetables or a bowl of whole grains.

Only 7% of adults get enough fiber, a type of carbohydrate that passes through the body undigested and supports not only regular bowel movements, but also offers important health benefits. Too little fiber is associated with a higher risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

An analysis of data from more than 14,600 U.S. adults who participated in a national health survey between 2013 and 2018 showed that 9% of women and 5% of men were getting the recommended daily amount of fiber.

“These findings should remind people to choose fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk for heart disease,” said lead author Derek Miketinas, an assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, adding: “For those with diabetes, it is especially important to eat enough fiber since they are at a greater risk for heart disease.”

Fiber intake was assessed using dietary questionnaires. Participants self-reported on their diabetes status, which was also assessed with hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels. Researchers analyzed fiber intake from dietary sources only, not from supplements.

Health guidelines recommend eating 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed daily. Women should typically aim for 25 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet; men, for 38 grams in a 2,500-calorie diet. Those over age 50 can have lower targets.

But both men and women fell far short in this study: On average, women consumed 9.9 grams per 1,000 calories; men, 8.7 grams. Both men and women with diabetes did slightly better, but still fell short of recommendations.

Getting enough fiber can be a matter of making different food choices, such as choosing a one cup serving of pearl barley with 6 grams of fiber instead of white rice with 2 grams.

Miketinas said the new findings can help inform future research into chronic disease prevention. Past studies have suggested that dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation and help prevent diabetes, as well as improve blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

“The results of this study can be used to identify relationships between dietary fiber intake and outcomes of interest like risk factors for heart disease,” said Miketinas. “In fact, our preliminary analysis suggests that higher dietary fiber intake in adults with diabetes is strongly associated with reductions in markers for heart and kidney disease.”

Miketinas was scheduled to present the findings Monday at an online meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: HealthDay

U.S. Candy Company Now Selling Chocolate-covered Cicadas

David Williams wrote . . . . . . . . .

A Maryland candy company is selling chocolate covered cicadas to celebrate the emergence of the noisy insects that have spent the last 17 years underground.

Chouquette Chocolates is selling the cicadas – dipped in either milk or dark chocolate – online, but it also posted the recipe on its Facebook page for brave chefs looking for something to do with the bugs.

Billions of cicadas from Brood X are emerging from their subterranean homes as temperatures warm up in the eastern United States. They’ll spend the final days of their lives mating and making a tremendous racket as males work to attract females.

It’s is expected to be the largest emergence event since 2004.

Source: CNN