More Heat And Ozone Affecting Health

The environmental impacts on health are examined: ozone in Western U.S. cities and heat worldwide. And the impact of covid on the environment. Also news on flu, food and dying vets.

The Washington Post:
Exposure To Extreme Urban Heat Has Tripled Worldwide Since The 1980s, Study Finds

Over the past 40 years, as climate change leaped into global awareness, exposure to extreme heat jumped by close to 200 percent in more than 10,000 of the world’s biggest urban areas, according to a study published in October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Increases in dangerously high temperature and humidity were responsible for roughly a third of the global boost in exposure, while increased population accounted for the rest. The study adds vivid context to the threats posed by a human-warmed planet, and to the challenges facing delegates at the United Nations climate summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. (Henson, 11/9)

Western Boom Cities See Spike In Harmful Ozone

The reduction of harmful ground-level ozone across most of the U.S. over the past several decades has been an air pollution success story. But in some parts of the country, especially in the heavily populated mountain valleys of the West, the odorless, colorless gas has remained stubbornly difficult to reduce to safe levels. Meanwhile, a growing body of research shows that the levels considered safe may still be too high and should be substantially lowered. (Robbins, 11/10)

CBS News:
More Than 57 Million Pounds Of PPE And Other COVID-Related Plastic Waste Have Polluted The Oceans Since Pandemic Began, Study Finds

The world has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year and a half, and a new study shows that in the process, Earth’s oceans have become far more polluted with waste from discarded masks, gloves and other protective items. “The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastic, intensifying pressure on this already out-of-control problem,” the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says. (Cohen, 11/9)

On the flu —

World Flu Activity Remains Low, But Plenty Of Sporadic Detections

Flu activity across the world remained at lower than expected levels, though sporadic detections and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity continue in many regions, according to an update from the World Health Organization (WHO) that covers the middle 2 weeks of October. Levels are still classified as interseasonal in temperate regions of both hemispheres. In Southern Asia, the pace of flu activity is similar to past seasons, with both influenza A and B circulating. Flu levels in China are still low, with influenza B detections rising in the country’s north while declining in the south. (11/9)

Also —

US Food Banks Struggle To Feed Hungry Amid Surging Prices

U.S. food banks already dealing with increased demand from families sidelined by the pandemic now face a new challenge — surging food prices and supply chain issues walloping the nation. The higher costs and limited availability mean some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples such as peanut butter, which costs nearly double what it did a year ago. As holidays approach, some food banks worry they won’t have enough stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Har, 11/10)

Veterans Died At Lower Rates In 2020 Compared To The General Population 

More U.S. veterans died in 2020 than in previous years, but the increase was less than among the general population during the pandemic, according to a new study published in The Lancet Regional Health. Veterans tend to have higher risks of severe health outcomes from COVID-19 due to their age, and other conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity. (Fernandez, 11/10)

Facebook Places New Restrictions On Ad Targeting

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced on Tuesday that it would place further limits on ad targeting on its platform, eliminating the ability to target based on users’ interactions with content related to health, race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religion and sexual orientation. The changes will go into effect on Jan. 19, 2022, when it will no longer allow new ads to use those additional targeting tools. The change will be fully implemented by March 17, 2022, at which point ads that were already running using those targets will no longer be allowed. (Schneider, 11/9)

From Alabama —

DOJ Announces Environmental Justice Probe In Alabama County

The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that it has embarked on a historic environmental justice investigation into an impoverished Alabama county’s longstanding wastewater problems, which have left some residents with sewage in their yards. Federal prosecutors in the department’s civil rights division will examine whether state and local health departments have discriminated against Black residents of Lowndes County and have caused them to unjustifiably bear the risk of hookworm infections and other adverse health effects associated with inadequate wastewater treatment, officials said. (Chandler, 11/9)

The Hill:
DOJ Investigating Alabama Over Wastewater In Majority-Black County

The Justice Department (DOJ) will investigate allegations that the state of Alabama’s wastewater management program discriminates against Black residents of a rural county. In a press call Tuesday morning, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the department’s Civil Rights Division said the department has received allegations that state and county officials have “failed to carry out their responsibilities to abate raw sewage conditions, thereby placing black residents of Lowndes County at higher risk for disease.” Lowndes County, located in the so-called Black Belt, is largely low-income and home to many residents who do not have access to municipal sewer systems. (Budryk, 11/9)

And —

Hormone Blocker Sticker Shock — Again — As Patients Lose Cheaper Drug Option

Sudeep Taksali thought he’d won his battle to avoid a steep price tag on a medicine for his daughter. He was wrong. In 2020, he’d fought to get insurance to cover a lower-priced version of a drug his then-8-year-old needed. She’d been diagnosed with central precocious puberty, a rare condition marked by early onset of sexual development — often years earlier than one’s peers. KHN and NPR wrote about Taksali and his family as part of the Bill of the Month series. (Lupkin, 11/10)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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