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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The problem with antimicrobials

Diatoms: eukaryotic algae.Image via WikipediaWhen things go wrong...

Antimicrobials murderous in nature. 

Antimicrobial compounds that are washed down the drain make it into the environment where they can interfere with the algae and bacteria needed for healthy ecosystem function.

When released into waterways from wastewater treatment plants, the antimicrobial triclosan continues to do what it was designed to do – kill bacteria – and starts doing what it was not designed to do – interfere with photosynthesis in algae.

The results from a study in Spain suggest that triclosan carries a high environmental risk and warrants concern about its presence in waterways. The findings agree with prior studies that find the antimicrobial is toxic to bacteria at levels measured in water.

However, this is one of just a few published studies to report that triclosan can reduce photosynthesis in a type of algae known as diatoms. Through photosynthesis, diatoms produce oxygen and food that other aquatic organisms rely upon. It is estimated that 80 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from diatoms, making these microscopic organisms essential for life on earth.

Triclosan is an anti-microbial chemical widely used in personal care products, like toothpaste and anti-bacterial hand soap. It is added to cleaning products and is applied to many items, including clothing, toys, shower curtains and kitchenware.

Triclosan is washed down sinks and showers and into wastewater treatment facilities. Because treatment plants are not designed to eliminate organic compounds – like pharmaceuticals, detergents or personal care products – triclosan can remain intact and enter rivers and lakes with the treated wastewater. Triclosan is found in wastewater effluent at concentrations ranging from 0.027 - 2.7 micrograms per liter.

After release into water bodies, it can affect aquatic organisms and contaminate drinking water. Triclosan also breaks down in sunlight to release dioxins, which are powerfully toxic compounds known to cause reproductive and developmental damage to wildlife and humans.

The new study tested the effects of various levels of triclosan on naturally-occurring microbial communities gathered from a river in northeast Spain. The microbes were constantly exposed for 48 hours to a range of triclosan concentrations (0, 0.5, 5, 25, 125, 250 and 500 micrograms per liter) that included levels previously measured in wastewater effluent.

They found that their lowest concentration (0.5 micrograms/liter) reduced bacterial concentrations. The higher doses killed up to 85 percent of the bacterial population.

Triclosan was also toxic to diatoms and reduced photosynthesis at concentrations above 5 micrograms per liter.

The results suggest that triclosan is a risk to aquatic microorganisms and may change the numbers and types of bacteria and diatoms in a microbial community. These changes could lead to alterations in the balance of an ecosystem.

Taken from below article:

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More younger people suffer hearing loss

Hearing problems in youth? Could it be due to the iPhone illness?

Hearing-impaired children undergoing a music therapy session. More younger people, especially men, are being affected by hearing loss. TODAY file photo.
SINGAPORE - Being hard of hearing is no longer only an affliction of the elderly. More younger people, particularly men, are also being affected by the problem these days.
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Statistics from the Changi General Hospital (CGH) show that 40 per cent of those diagnosed with hearing loss are younger than 40 years old.

This figure is a two-fold jump from what CGH was seeing five to eight years ago.

Dr Yuen Heng Wai, a consultant otolaryngologist at CGH, explaining this trend, said males - more so than females - are more frequently exposed to noise such as that at night outlets and from audio devices.

Acknowledging that higher awareness of the issue could contribute to the figures, Dr Yuen is, however, more concerned about getting youth to seek treatment.

"To them it is a big blow ... as hearing loss has always been associated with old age ... they feel they have become less complete (and stigmatised)," said Dr Yuen.

To make matters worse, these hearing-impaired youths are resisting the use of hearing aids.

At Raffles Hospital, one to two young men - between the ages of 15 and 30 - are seen every week for the treatment of hearing difficulties.

The hospital's specialist in ENT surgery, Dr Stephen Lee, noted that "there has been a perceptible increase" over the past two years. He recommends that those who use audio devices go for a test at least once to check if their hearing ability has been affected.

Engaging in water sports is another emerging cause.

Bacteria in dirty water stays in the ear and causes discomfort, said Dr Yuen of CGH. When patients try to ease the discomfort by "sticking all sorts of things" into their ears, the situation worsens.

In the past year alone, he has seen more than 10 patients who have experienced hearing problems after swimming in places like the Kallang River and the sea off Batam Island.

There is also the need for regulation of working conditions in sectors such as the construction industry, suggested Dr Raymond Ngo, consultant at the National University Hospital's Department of Otolaryngology. He cited his concern over young construction workers and their constant exposure to excessive levels of loud noise.

But, fortunately, only a few of the afflicted have suffered total irreversible hearing loss as most recover partial or full hearing capacity after treatment.

One safety guideline for those who could suffer impaired hearing would be to seek treatment if they experience difficulty in understanding what others are saying or having to ask them to repeat themselves, said Associate Professor Low Wong Kein, director of the Centre for Hearing and Ear Implants at Singapore General Hospital.

- TODAY/rl

From; source article is below:
More younger people suffer hearing loss

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Young and diabetic

Sickness doesn't choose the age of the afflicted...

Vivir con Diabetis (Spanish Edition)Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 DaysDiabetes ForecastDiabeton Herbal TeaDiabetes Para Dummies (Spanish Edition)DiabetiDerm Heel & Toe Cream, 4-Ounce Jars (Pack of 2)Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal BarnardDossier - Diabetis MellitusSome Kind of NormalDiabetes For Dummies (For Dummies (Health & Fitness))DiabetiDerm Foot Rejuvenating Cream, 4-Ounce Jars (Pack of 2)The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes: An Essential Guide for the Newly DiagnosedSINGAPORE - Like many diabetics, Ms Wong Wai Shi, who has Type 2 diabetes, has to take medication twice daily to control her blood sugar levels. Unlike most of them, however, Wai Shi is only in her teens.

Three years ago, Wai Shi was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She was 15, and did not know in detail what the condition was.

"I was very scared. I didn't dare to eat properly for a few days," said the ITE student, recounting her initial reaction upon learning that she had diabetes. "My parents were very upset when they found out. They thought only adults get it."

Type 2 diabetes was once associated with grown-ups, but not anymore.

According to doctors TODAY spoke to, this form of diabetes, which is often linked to obesity, is becoming increasingly common among kids and teenagers in Singapore.

Traditionally, the young ones were much more likely to have Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the child's immune system attacks and destroys the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.

Kids get it, too

Two decades ago, Type 2 diabetes formed only five to 10 per cent of childhood diabetes. Today, that number has increased to more than 30 per cent, said paediatric endocrinologist Associate Professor Lee Yung Seng, senior consultant at National University Hospital's University Children's Medical Institute.

KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) has seen a similar trend of where the number of children with newly-diagnosed Type 2 diabetes is rising.

In 2004, there were only 10 newly-diagnosed cases. By last year, the number had tripled to 30. Presently, KKH sees 136 Type 2 diabetic children.

Assoc Prof Lee put it down to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits. Genes can also up a child's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

He added that if the mother had diabetes during her pregnancy, the child also faces a higher risk of developing the disease during childhood.

Children undergoing puberty are the most vulnerable because hormonal changes can cause them to be more insulin resistant, explained Associate Professor Fabian Yap, senior consultant and head of endocrinology service, department of paediatrics at KKH.

However, the disease can also hit those who are younger.

At KKH, the youngest patient was only six years old when he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, noted Assoc Prof Yap.

Warning signs of Type 2 diabetes include persistent thirst, frequent urination and ants being attracted to the urine.

However, like adults sufferers, the symptoms for diabetic children aren't always obvious.

For Wai Shi, her condition only came to light after she visited her family doctor, who urged her to get blood sugar levels checked.

Coming to terms with the illness

Psychologically, living with the lifelong condition can be tough for young diabetics.

Said Assoc Prof Yap: "It disrupts their lives and imposes lifestyle changes that they are usually not mentally prepared to make or emotionally ready to accept."

Having to turn around their lifestyles and diet can be especially difficult for diabetics in this age group.

"I really love desserts and fried food. It was hard for me to cut down on carbs and sweets," said Wai Shi. Although she is aware of the risks, Wai Shi let on that she would still occasionally "break the rule and just eat" her favourite snacks, especially during celebrations or family gatherings.

"Teenagers, especially, undergo a lot of changes both physically, emotionally and within their social circle. They may have more risk-taking behaviour and may omit insulin injections, medications or forgo their dietary control," said Assoc Prof Lee.

Long-term poor sugar control can be catastrophic for diabetics.

According to the experts, diabetic children are at risk of diabetes-related complications such as nerve problems, renal failure, eye disease and heart disease, if not worse.

"Having diabetes in their childhood or teens means they are more likely to develop these chronic complications in young adulthood, which is the prime of their life. The impact on their lives and the associated healthcare burden is expected to be severe," said Assoc Prof Lee.

Living with diabetes can be challenging, but medication, good dietary control, exercise and weight loss can help. For more serious cases, insulin injections may also be required.

Assoc Prof Yap said in some instances, mild cases of glucose intolerance can be reversed by managing weight and increasing physical activity, without medication.

"Those who choose to adopt lifestyles to reduce excess body weight and improve muscle strength and activity ought to be able to reverse glucose intolerance," he said.

Worried that she might be ostracised from her friends, Wai Shi recounted how she had initially kept her condition from them. She has now come to terms with her illness.

"I sometimes worry about other complications of my illness. It was also tough for me to control my diet but I've gotten over that. Right now, I am happy I feel normal and can still do what other people do," she said.

- TODAY/rl

From; source article is below:
Young and diabetic

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