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Fracking may Worsen Asthma for Nearby Residents, Study Says

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that fracking may worsen the condition of asthma in residents living near oil and gas drilling sites. Asthma treatments were nearly four times more common in patients living near sites with more or larger active wells.

Fracking is actually hydraulic fracturing, “a technique for extracting oil and gas by injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack rock.” This leads to environmental effects, such as, “exhaust, dust and noise from heavy truck traffic transporting water and other materials, and from drilling rigs and compressors.” Multiple U.S. states have benefited from the high amounts of oil and gas produced this process.

oct2016_006The study’s lead author and researcher at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Sara Rasmussen, claims that the results stem from the, “said pollution and stress from the noise caused by fracking.”

Over 25 million individuals in the U.S. have asthma, which causes symptoms including, “wheezing, breathing difficulties and chest tightness.” Symptoms may flare up if an individual is exposed to air pollution, dust, and/or stress. Research has shown increased air pollution in areas with high levels of oil and gas drilling.

Over 6,200 fracking wells were drilled in Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012. Researchers retrieved nearly 36,000 asthma patients’ electronic health records (EHRs) throughout that time. The EHRs were accessed from the Geisinger Health System that incorporates over 40 counties in the state of Pennsylvania. “Evidence of asthma attacks included new prescriptions for steroid medicines, emergency-room treatment for asthma and asthma hospitalizations.”

Throughout the study, over 20,000 oral steroid prescriptions were ordered, nearly “5,000 asthma hospitalizations and almost 2,000 ER asthma visits.” The results revealed that these outcomes were, “50 percent to four times more common,” in patients with asthma that lived closer to an area with an increased rate or larger wells.

Those living approximately 12 miles from the wells experienced the highest risk for asthma attacks, while those living 40 miles away experienced the lowest risk.

"Asthma is a huge problem," Dr. Norman H. Edelman, senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association, said. "Anything we can do to elucidate the causes will be very useful."

Click Here to Access the Full Article on U.S. News

Breathing Southern California’s Air can be Deadly, Researchers Say

oct2016_004A study released in August revealed information on the implications of air quality in Southern California. The study was conducted by the American Thoracic Society, “a group of health-care professionals that focuses on understanding pulmonary diseases, critical illnesses and sleep-related breathing disorders”, and New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management.

It is believed that Southern California’s poor air quality results in hundreds of deaths each year. This is due to the fact that pollution levels in this area surpass safety levels.

Areas with high mortality rates related to air pollution include:

  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area: 808 deaths per year (highest in nation)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area: 619 deaths per year
  • Santa Ana-Irvine: 64 deaths per year

Throughout the United States, air pollution-related deaths reach nearly 9,330 per year. This rate is, “comparable to the number of lives lost annually to drunken driving.”

The data that was used for the study was based on air pollution rates, “for both fine particle and ozone levels in U.S. metropolitan areas recorded in 2011, 2012 and 2013.”

An electronic analysis was used to estimate the rates of deaths and illnesses that considered the link between epidemiological studies and the health effects related to air pollution exposure. The researchers claimed that the results found are conservative as they did not include cancer-related deaths or deaths related to chronic illnesses in their study.

The website, www.HealthoftheAir.org, was also created by the researchers. The site provides individuals with the opportunity to enter their zip code to receive information on the, “estimated number of deaths and illness in regions throughout the nation.”

“Dr. Ahmet Baydur, a pulmonary expert and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine,” claimed that those who have the highest risk are individuals with lungs that have been damaged by smoking and those with conditions such as, “emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and severe asthma.” People who use portable oxygen tanks for treatment are also at risk.

Badyur explains that air pollution results in inflammation, which causes, “mucus and swelling that blocks internal air passageways.” This inflammation has the potential to trigger heart attacks. He also claims that cost of reducing air pollution, “is less than the cost for health care and lost productivity associated with bad air.”

Click Here to Access the Full Article on Emergency Management

Mobile App May Help Chronic Lung Disease Patients Avoid Risky Environments

Mobile devices, coupled with wearable or environmental sensors, may provide chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients with the timely and valuable information they need to avoid high-pollution environments. That is according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Computational Intelligence Studies, “Identifying risky environments for COPD patients using smartphones and internet of things objects.”


The study, which was conducted by researchers at the National Technical University of Athens, tested a system architecture that pulled together data from sensors linked to wireless networks, weather forecasts and the smart phone itself. The data collected was then incorporated in a framework that evaluates and alerts the COPD patient for potentially risky environmental conditions in the area.


While this system has not been developed for widespread use, systems like the one tested may help to limit exposure to air pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, which can lead to exacerbations and worsening of the chronic lung conditions. Researchers note that once developed this type of mobile application could be effective for both COPD and emphysema patients, as well as those who suffer from asthma.


Armed with the results of the study, researchers are now in the process of creating software that could allow users to collect data from specific sensors that are relevant to them and their current disease state. In addition, they are exploring the possibility of a system that collects data from other users and pushes information to others when they enter a high-risk environment.


Click Here to Access the Full Story from the International Journal of Computational Intelligence Studies.

Dust Storms Increase Emergency Hospital Admissions for COPD Patients

Dust storms have an adverse effect on emergency hospital admissions for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study out of China.

The study, which was published in the journal Respirology, was lead by professor T.W. Wong, MBBS, MSc, FFPH, of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Wong and his colleagues studied data on daily emergency admissions to major hospitals in Hong Kong for respiratory diseases, as well as indices of air pollutants and meteorological variables from January 1998 to December 2002.

The researchers identified five dust storms during the period and made comparisons to the daily emergency admissions for respiratory diseases using independent analysis. Results showed that significant increases in emergency hospital admissions due to COPD were found two days after an identified dust storm.

The researchers believe that this suggests that the coarse particles encountered during dust storms have an adverse affect on lung health, particularly in patients with COPD.

Dust storms in East Asia and South China are caused by wind-blown dust that travels long distances from North China. The concentrations of coarse particles — those with a diameter ranging from 2.5 micrometers to 10 micrometers — can reach very high levels.

“Our findings show a need for timely warning for patients with chronic lung diseases to avoid exposure to air pollution when a dust storm is imminent,” said researcher Wilson W.S. Tam.

Click Here to Access the Full Study from the journal Respirology.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Early Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Increase Risk for Emphysema

New research from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke face a higher risk of developing early emphysema as they mature into nonsmoking adults.

Researchers came to this conclusion after conducting CT scans on 1,781 non-smokers from six United States communities, approximately half of whom grew up in homes with at least one smoker. The scans detected a difference between the lungs of participants who lived with a smoker and those who did not, particularly in the number of emphysema-like lung pixels.

For participants who lived with two or more smokers as a child, an average of 20% of scan pixels were emphysema-like, compared with 18% for those who lived with one regular smoker and 17% for those who said that they did not live with a regular smoker as a child.

Previous studies have found that childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) affects perinatal and childhood health outcomes. That exposure is believed to also affect adult respiratory health outcomes, including lung function and respiratory symptoms. However, the results of this study suggest that children’s lungs may never fully recover from the early-life exposure to ETS.

“Some known harmful effects of tobacco smoke are short term, and this new research suggests that effects of tobacco smoke on the lungs may also persist for decades,” said Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and lead author. “However, emphysema may be a more sensitive measure of damage compared with lung function in this relatively healthy cohort.”

The study does not provide information on the time of the ETS exposure during childhood, making it difficult to distinguish whether exposure was in utero. However, the association between childhood ETS and early emphysema among participants whose mothers did not smoke suggests that the effects detected are due to smoke exposure in the home rather than in utero alone. Full Story

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