Editor in Chief Dr KK Aggarwal, Padma Shri Awardee

Dated: 7 th April, 2019

Pollution Shorten Lives by 20 Months

The life expectancy of a child born today could be reduced by an average of 20 months due to health damage caused by air pollution.

In South Asia, where air pollution levels are the highest, the life expectancy for children born in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh falls by more than 30 months, according to the annual State of Global Air report, published by the Health Effects Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit research group.

Of all risks to health around the world, air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death, killing more people each year than road accidents and malaria.

In much of the world, just breathing in an average city is the health equivalent to being a heavy smoker.

Long-term exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths globally in 2017, with fatalities resulting from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and chronic lung disease.

For household air pollution, the research - co-produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington - determined the main causes included the burning of smoky fuels such as wood or coal for cooking. Among the primary sources of outdoor pollution were vehicle and industrial emissions, as well as coal-burning power plants.

About half of the total deaths in 2017 occurred in China and India together. More than 1.2 million early deaths were caused by air pollution in each country that year.

The effects were particularly severe for the most vulnerable groups including children. Some of the risks for children from exposure to air pollution are potential damage to brain development, limited lung capacity and the onset of problems like asthma. (Excerpts from Reuter Storey)

Moving in reverse for short-term memory.

A study published in the January issue of Cognition found that people who walked backward, imagined they were walking backward, or even watched a video simulating backward motion had better recall of past events than those who walked forward or sat still.

Dr. Daniel Schacter, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University says that it is possible that people associate going backward with the past and this somehow triggers a memory response.

Researchers decided to test the effect of backward movement on memory because numerous past studies have found links between motion and memory. They recruited 114 people to take part in six different memory experiments. In the experiments, they showed participants a video of a staged crime, a word list, or a group of images. They then asked the participants to walk forward, walk backward, sit still, watch a video that simulated forward or backward motion, or imagine walking forward or backward. The participants then answered questions related to the information they saw earlier.

In all cases, people who were moving backward, thought about moving backward, or saw a video depicting reverse motion were better able to recall the information they had been shown earlier, compared with those sitting still. In five of the six experiments, memory was better when people moved backward than when they moved forward. On average, the boost in memory lasted for 10 minutes after people stopped moving.

In cognitive interview technique helps people to recall details of a recent event, for example, if they witnessed a crime. They do this by metaphorically walking the person through the event forward and backward. It's possible that literally walking backward may do something similar in the brain. [excerts from Harvard newsletter]

Lead exposure and heart disease ( Excerpts from harvard newsletter)

Growing evidence suggests that low levels of lead in the blood may also raise the risk of heart disease in adults.

Last year, a study in Lancet Public Health found a link between lead exposure and a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The data came from more than 14,000 people in the United States who were adults in the late 1980s. The association persisted after researchers controlled for many confounding factors, and was evident even among people with blood lead levels of less than 5 micrograms per deciliter (g/dL). Until 2013, only levels higher than 10 g/dL were considered worrisome, and mainly for children.

There is no safe blood level of lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even though the body eliminates about half of the blood lead in the urine after one to two months, a portion of it goes into the bones, where it can stay for decades.

Bone tissue constantly remodels itself, and that stored lead can be released back into the bloodstream in response to different conditions, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, hyperthyroidism, and aging.

Lead remains an insidious presence in daily life. Because even low levels of lead can be dangerous, people should take steps to minimize their lead exposure throughout life.

Lead paint is still found in buildings and steel bridges constructed earlier. Following natural disasters such as hurricanes, lead from these structures can enter the environment and raise soil lead levels.

Lead can also contaminate drinking water due to erosion from lead pipes, mainly in old homes. Consider testing your water, especially if young children live in your home.

Other possible sources of lead exposure include:

  • The FDAs recommended limit for lead in lipstick (which may be ingested when a woman licks her lips) is 10 parts per billion, but some brands contain much higher amounts. Consider seeking out lead-free brands.
  • In October 2018, the FDA banned lead acetate from hair coloring products. But companies still have a year to comply with the ruling, so check labels if you use these products, which are mainly drugstore brands that gradually cover gray.
  • Indoor and outdoor firing ranges can expose people to dust from lead bullets. Wild game shot with leaded bullets may also be contaminated with lead.
  • Cooking or eating off lead-glazed ceramics (usually decorative traditional pottery, not commercially made products) has caused lead poisoning. Hardware stores carry lead testing kits you can use to check such products.

  • World Health Day calls for "Universal health: Everyone, Everywhere"

    Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. However, UHC does not mean free coverage for all possible health interventions, regardless of the cost, as no country can provide all services free of charge on a sustainable basis. UHC enables everyone to access the services that address the most significant causes of disease and death,....read more


    2nd Chaitra Navratri (Maa Brahmacharini)