In Brief: Health

Updated: 2010-12-15 09:37

(China Daily)

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No safe exposure to cigarette smoke

Even limited exposure to tobacco or secondhand smoke can lead to cardiovascular and other health problems, a new United States public health report says.

The US Surgeon General's report, the latest update to its first study in 1964 highlighting the dangers of tobacco, says that even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful.

The latest report "substantiates the evidence that there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke," says Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who serves as the top public health adviser to the White House.

"You don't have to be a heavy smoker or a long-time smoker to get a smoking-related disease or have a heart attack or asthma attack that is triggered by tobacco smoke," the report says.

"Low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke.

"Evidence in this report provides additional understanding that the risk does not increase in a linear fashion with increasing exposure, and even low levels of exposure to tobacco are sufficient to substantially increase risk of cardiac events," the report says.

"Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds. Hundreds are toxic and more than 70 cause cancer ... the chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale. Your blood then carries the toxicants to every organ in your body."

Breaks necessary for workers in winter

Now that winter weather has gripped the northern hemisphere, people who work outdoors should regularly take breaks to prevent hypothermia, advises Kersten Bux, a climate expert for Germany's Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

When temperatures fall below -5 C, workers such as letter carriers, trash collectors, police foot patrol officers, cycle couriers and forest laborers should be outside no longer than 90 minutes at a time and take 15-minute breaks to warm up, Bux says.

At cold temperatures above -5 C, the maximum recommended duration of work outdoors is 150 minutes at a time, followed by 10-minute warm-up breaks, Bux says. Below -18 C, 30-minute breaks every 90 minutes are recommended.

Precipitation and wind can intensify the subjective sensation of cold air. Wind chill can cause the body to cool down much more quickly than windless cold.

To protect themselves from the cold, outdoor workers should dress in layers. Wearing several thin garments on top of each other is better than wearing one thick one, Bux says. The face, hands and feet should be especially protected.

When choosing shoes, outdoor workers should make sure that the soles are sufficiently thick to keep out the cold, Bux remarks.

She also says it is important not to sweat outdoors in cold weather. "Sweaty clothing is very bad," she warns, noting that it causes someone standing in the cold after strenuous activity to cool down faster.

Allergic reactions to kiwi fruit emerge

With kiwi fruit ubiquitous in grocery stores worldwide, reports of allergic reactions have also increased. But some varieties may be less likely to trigger allergies than others, a study says.

In fact, in Sweden, France and Finland, kiwi has become one of the top 10 sources of food allergies, says Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber at the Medical University of Vienna, who led the study reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

In tests of 37 adults with kiwi allergies, Hoffmann-Sommergruber and her colleagues found that certain varieties of the fruit - including the "gold" variety - tend to be less allergenic than the common deep-green variety known as Hayward.

Six varieties were assessed, including the most commonly available Hayward, with bright green flesh and medium-brown skin, and Summer 3373, a variety in the same kiwi "species" as Hayward but with light green flesh. Summer 3373 came to the market later but its availability is growing.

The other tested kiwi fruits included "Hort 16A," marketed as "Zespri Gold" and the most widely available golden-fleshed variety, Jintao, a newer golden variety, and two varieties of a species called Eriantha.

In general, the Hayward kiwi triggered the most significant skin reactions, while the lighter-green Summer and gold Hort 16A led to the mildest reactions.

DPA - Reuters


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