Health Highlights: June 4, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Apple Watch Adding Menstrual Cycle Tracker

Among the new Apple Watch apps announced on Monday is one to track a women’s menstrual cycle, CNN reported.

The app will predict the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can help tell when she is likely to be fertile.

“Knowing more about your menstrual cycle gives you a window into your health, from simply insuring you are prepared to understanding your personal patterns and regularities,” Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of health, said during the Worldwide Developers Conference, CNN said.

According to Apple, women can add information related to their menstrual cycle, including current period, flow, symptoms, results from ovulation prediction kits and other elements of fertility tracking.

The app will be available with the release of iOS 13.

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Climate Change Threatens Human Health

Climate change is already taking a toll on human health, the 29 experts of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) said Tuesday.

Threats already being being seen include the spreading infectious diseases and mental health problems, CNN, reports.

Temperatures are rising causing extreme weather worldwide. Heat and floods are increasing rates of disease and injury, the experts say.

“Climate change is already contributing to the burden of disease and premature mortality. Without prompt and effective action, the problems are forecast to worsen considerably,” the council said in its report, according to CNN.

According to the EASAC changes already underway include:

  • Warmer temperatures, wildfires and air pollution are causing PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse and depression.
  • Rising temperatures are upping health problems such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  • Rising temps are causing the Aedes Albopictus mosquito, which carries dengue fever, to expand across Europe.

According to UN scientists the planet has until 2030 to avert the catastrophe caused by global warming, CNN reported.

“Several hundred thousand premature deaths annually in the EU could be averted by a zero-carbon economy through reduced air pollution,” Dr Robin Fears, program director of EASAC Biosciences told CNN.

The top priority of governments should be to stop greenhouse gas emissions and cut fossil fuel use, Fears said.

Governments can also “promote healthier, more sustainable diets which will lower agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

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California Ends Warning Over Coffee and Cancer

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has ruled that coffee does not pose a significant cancer risk, so customers don’t have to be warned that their favorite drink is dangerous.

The decision overturns a judge’s order that companies like Starbucks have to add a cancer warning to its coffee, the Associated Press, reports.

“Coffee is a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals that includes both carcinogens and anti-carcinogens,” Sam Delson, a spokesman for the agency told the AP. “The overall effect of coffee consumption is not associated with any significant cancer risk.”

A California law mandates that consumers be warned of chemicals that can cause cancer, one such chemical is acrylamide, which is found in coffee.

A Los Angeles judge ruled that because coffee contains the chemical it must be listed as a possible carcinogen.

“This is a great day for science and coffee lovers,” William Murray, president and chief executive of the National Coffee Association USA, told the AP. “With this news, coffee drinkers around the world can wake up and enjoy the smell and taste of their coffee without hesitation.”

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FDA Finds Toxic Nonstick Compounds in Grocery Store Foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found high levels of toxic nonstick, stain-resistant compounds in some meats, seafood and even chocolate cake, the Associated Press reported.

High levels of these manmade compounds — called per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances, or PFAS — were found in almost half of the meat and fish the agency tested. The levels were two to three times higher than recommended.

In the chocolate cake, levels were more than 250 times higher than the federal guidelines for some PFAS in drinking water, the report found.

Still, FDA spokeswoman Tara Rabin told the AP that the contamination was “not likely to be a human health concern.”

Nearly 5,000 types of PFAS, created in 1938 by chemicals giant DuPont exist. They were first used in nonstick cookware. Today they are found in many products including food packaging, carpets, couches and dental floss, and are used to shed grease, water and stains. PFAS are also in firefighting foam.

A federal review last year found that these compounds are more dangerous than thought, and may be linked some cancers, liver problems and low birth weight.

PFAS are called “forever chemicals.” It takes thousands of years for them to breakdown, and many of them buildup and stay in your body.

“What this calls for is additional research to determine how widespread this contamination is and how high the levels are,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, told the AP.

“We have to look at total human exposure — not just what’s in the water or what’s in the food … or not just dust. We need to look at the sum totals of what the exposures are,” she said.

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Label Error Forces Recall of Cough Syrup

The major drug company Novis PR LLC has voluntarily recalled 16-ounce bottles of its liquid cough syrup Pecgen DMX, due to typos on the label, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The label incorrectly says children “6 to under 1” should take one teaspoon every four hours but no more than four teaspoons in 24 hours.

However, the correct dosage is one teaspoon every four hours for children ages 6 to under 12, not to exceed four teaspoons in 24 hours or as directed by a doctor.

Also, the label doesn’t tell parents to check with their doctor before giving the cough syrup to children under 2.

The FDA want parents to know that no evidence exists that cough and cold medicines are safe or effective for young children.

There is evidence, however, that children have been harmed by overdoses of such remedies. In fact, overdoses can cause seizures, coma and death, the FDA says.

Furthermore, the active ingredient in the cough syrup, dextromethorphan, can interact with Tylenol or other cough and cold medicines and become even more toxic than the cough syrup taken alone, the agency notes.

So far, no harmful effects related to the mislabeling have been reported, the manufacturer says.

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12 Million Patient Files May Have Been Stolen From Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics says millions of patient files may have been stolen in a data breach.

The giant clinical laboratory company said an unauthorized person gained access via the American Collection Agency, a billing company used by Optum360, which is contracted by Quest, CNN Business reports.

The breached data may include Social Security numbers and medical information, but not test results, the company said.

Since Quest was notified of the theft on May 14 it has stopped using the American Collection Agency and has engaged investigators to get to the bottom of the hacking problem.

“We are committed to keeping our patients, health care providers, and all relevant parties informed as we learn more,” Quest said in a press release.

HealthDay