In today’s On the News segment: The United States is not prepared for a major Zika virus outbreak; Greenland’s ice sheet is in a red alert meltdown; using some heartburn drugs could increase your risk of serious kidney problems; and more.
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The United States is not prepared for a major Zika virus outbreak. Writing in a JAMA Viewpoint published online, Lawrence O. Gostin of Georgetown University and James G. Hodge Jr., of Arizona State University, say much of the blame for the “failure to act decisively” lies with the US Congress. Earlier this year, President Obama ask for $1.86 billion for surveillance, mosquito control, research and health services, but Congress has not approved the funding. Gostin says. “We know that Zika is coming, and yet Congress stubbornly refuses to appropriate funding to ensure we are ready. That is shameful and there will be a political price to pay.” Without Congressional action, the president reallocated $589 million of designated Ebola funds to Zika preparedness, research and the creation of response teams. Gostin and Hodge write, “Beyond cost, Zika has deep moral dimensions, with impoverished women and their newborns at greatest risk. Imagine if nine months after clusters of Zika cases emerge in the United States, babies are born with abnormalities. It will cause a moral outrage.” They conclude, “The nation’s state of preparedness is compromised by Congress’ inaction on supplemental funding and the weak capacities and powers of states and localities. If preventable cases of Zika-related infant abnormalities emerge, there will be a high political price for the failure to act decisively.” Republicans who control Congress: Are you listening? Hello?
Greenland’s ice sheet is in a red alert meltdown. According to data released by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), Greenland’s ice sheet has melted 12 percent over last year — an alarming rate. This is not only unusual, but is happening a month before usual. According to the DMI report, warm air that came in off the Atlantic, was driving the ice melt. DMI climate scientist, Martin Stendel, said, “It is a very unusual situation, especially so early in the year, with very cold air and a deep low pressures system to the west and east of Greenland, and very warm air forming a ‘cap’ over the island. This helped to force a frontal system with very warm air up the west coast bringing rain over the ice sheet.” Even a small $10-per-ton US carbon tax would help cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 28 percent of 2005 levels. We need representatives and leaders who will promote a national carbon tax now.
Yup, there is a consensus on consensus over human-caused climate change. A research team sponsored by Michigan Technological University, confirms that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans. The group includes Sarah Green, a chemistry professor at Michigan Technological University, who said, “What’s important is that this is not just one study — it’s the consensus of multiple studies,” Green says. This consistency across studies contrasts with the language used by climate change deniers. Their perspective stems from, as the authors write, “conflating the opinions of non-experts with experts and assuming that lack of affirmation equals dissent.” According to this report, the key factor comes down to expertise. The more expertise in climate science the scientists have, the more they agree on human-caused climate change.
Be careful — using some heartburn drugs could increase your risk of serious — and I mean serious — kidney problems. The drugs are called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, and you may have one or two in your medicine cabinet. They are both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. According to a new study in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), long-term use of some medications commonly used to treat heartburn, acid reflux and ulcers damage your kidneys. The investigators surveyed 173,321 new users of PPIs and 20,270 new users of histamine H2 receptor blockers, an alternative class of drugs also used to suppress stomach acid. Over five years of follow-up, those taking PPIs were more likely to have kidney problems than those taking H2 receptor blockers. PPI users had a 28 percent increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 96 percent increased risk of developing kidney failure. Furthermore, this study showed that the longer people took PPIs, the more likely they were to develop kidney issues. The findings show long-term use of PPIs may be harmful to the kidneys and should be avoided. Soon we can expect the lawsuits to begin.
It now appears plants do much more than add color to a room. According to a number of studies, having plants around could benefit your health. A 15-year longitudinal study found that women who lived in greener spaces live longer than their plantless counterparts: Those who live in the greenest neighborhoods were 34 percent less likely to die of respiratory disease and 13 percent less likely to die of cancer. Researchers believe that, beyond the air filtration plants provide, their existence offers people a reason to get out and exercise and socialize, two habits that contribute to healthy living. Other research has discovered that the greener your neighborhood, the more attractive your home is. A study conducted in Philadelphia made it clear — increasing urban vegetation will a boost a home’s property value by 2 percent. Also important — some studies have looked at the impact of greenery on crime. It appears adding vegetation to vacant lots was associated with reductions in certain crime as well as gun violence. Go green — it works.
And that’s the way it is for the week of April 18, 2016. I’m Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.