Checking Up On Health: September 1, 2015

September 2nd, 2015 by 3 Comments

Health Care News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd


It may be a generational thing, but for those of us who walked to school in the snow (uphill both ways), the list of #Firstworldproblems gets really tedious. Today, attention is directed, among other issues, at global warming (aka climate change), carbon pollution (aka carbon emissions), gun violence (once called criminal behavior), plastic versus paper, “endangered” species and Cecil the Lion.

Granted, it’s wonderful that our children don’t have to protest the things we did. Still, how nice it would be to see the same level of passionate outrage about young girls being kidnapped in Nigeria, entire villages being slaughtered by ISIS; the sale of baby parts by Planned Parenthood and the vampiric cost of government intervention that sucks taxpayers dry, costing businesses more and hampering economic opportunity that can provide upward mobility.

Warning: The above rant is inspired by my list of today’s overhyped topics.

Yucky toothbrushes: I used to complain about the evolution of toothbrushes. No, not the evolution from sticks of wood but that, as electric and battery-operated toothbrushes appeared, plain old toothbrushes are being advertised as “manual” toothbrushes. Then a Business Insider article last week grossed out everyone by reporting on a “recent” study that found toothbrushes house “over 10 million bacteria.” Streptococcus mutans, Staphyloccusareus, Pseudomonas, Lactobacillus, Klebsiella and Candida species were found on toothbrushes that spent one month and three months in a bathroom that had no toilet attached. Additionally, it found even e.coli on the toothbrushes kept in bathrooms with attached toilets.

The incomplete information in this tweet from Business Insider is enough to turn anyone off brushing their teeth.
The incomplete information in this tweet from Business Insider is enough to turn anyone off brushing their teeth.

The study was out of India, where – to be perfectly honest – bathroom/powder room/restroom/toilet setups are rarely as elaborate as in this country. Also, the study was from 2010, which goes to show that everything old is new again if you can provide it in video form.

The 2010 study concluded that there is hard deposit on the toothbrush head between bristle tufts that is ideal for growth of micro-organisms, “which not only affects the oral health but also affects the general health of an individual.” It recommended moving the toothbrush from the bathroom or keeping it in an anti-microbial solution to prevent contamination.

All of this sounds bad, doesn’t it? But it’s relative:

  1. The typical mouth has BILLIONS of bacteria, according to WebMD, and if you haven’t brushed your teeth lately, you might well have more living there right now than there are people on Earth. According to RDH magazine, “There are 20 billion bacteria in your mouth and they reproduce every five hours. If you go 24 hours without brushing, those 20 billion become 100 billion!”
  2. Mouth-to-mouth kisses transfer up to 80 million bacteria.
  3. Scientists have identified more than 700 different species of microbes  ultra-tiny living things such as bacteria that are in people’s mouths.

One clarification: A dog’s mouth is NOT cleaner than a human’s. So teach your dog new tricks and stop letting it lick your face. Ewww.

Take the WebMD quiz on mouth bacteria here.

Did you know? In 1844, the first toothbrush was manufactured by hand and patented as a three-row brush of serrated bristles with large tufts by Dr. Meyer. L. Rhein. It’s another reason to be glad we live in modern times.

Stadium falls: Some in the media have called for more protection at baseball stadiums after a metro Atlanta Braves fan fell to his death over the upper deck rails at Turner Stadium over the weekend. It was a tragedy, but is it a crisis? One writer in USA Today declared, “It’s time for a drastic change to ballpark safety. Before another fan dies, or is hospitalized with head injuries, or even bruised. … It’s time to make it mandatory in all ballparks that safety netting is expanded at least to the dugouts.” The man had held the same seats for over 23 years, according to his son. Three people have died at the stadium since 2008, and one of them was ruled a suicide. Fewer than 30 people have died in falls from stadium stands since 1969. Major League Baseball can’t protect everyone, but overreacting with zero-tolerance safety measures after isolated tragedies will hurt everyone by raising the cost of tickets and hindering fans’ views.

govGovernment accidents: Governments had more workplace injuries than other sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and construction, according to a report from the National Safety Council. Does that mean government work is the most dangerous? No! The high numbers are no surprise if you consider how many people actually work for governments. (See graphs.) A total of 365 work-related deaths in government occurred in 2013, which is 12 percent more than occurred in 2012, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts 2015 report. A total of 960,000 medically consulted injuries took place in the government workplace. In terms of death rates by industry, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector topped the death rates chart in 2013 with 21.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers, higher than mining (12.2), transportation and warehousing (11.9), and construction (9.1). In the government workplace, there were two fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2013 (latest gov2year of data available). Source: American City and County

Prostate cancer: My son the part-time biker dude is proudly raising funds for prostate cancer research through a fun event called The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride. The event on Sunday, September 27, involves a motorcycle ride all decked out in formal finery, “Because over 1,300 men a day die of prostate cancer worldwide, and that’s something we aim to stop. Your donation will help The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride reach its goal of $3 million to fund research into a cure for a disease that claims far too many gentlemen each and every year.” (A friend once commented that his ex-wife had wondered why women didn’t get prostate cancer …) Anyway, the good news about prostate cancer from the American Cancer Society is that while it’s the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), it can often be treated successfully. More than 2 million men in the United States are prostate cancer survivors. Even better news: The mortality rate is declining, thanks to early detection and treatment through PSA testing for men. The five-year net survival rate is more than 90 percent in some countries (Eastern Cape, South Africa; Israel; Canada; United States; Brazil; Ecuador; Austria; Belgium; Finland; Germany). About 56 percent of all prostate cancer cases in the United States are diagnosed in men 65 years of age and older, and 97 percent occur in men 50 and older. Men of African descent in Northern America and the Caribbean have the highest documented prostate cancer incidence rates in the world.

Mosquito nets: I was invited to an event in Atlanta last week by an organization called Nothing But Nets, “Honoring Georgia’s Leadership in the Fight Against Malaria.” I’m from South Africa,  so I was intrigued. It was a pleasant event, with the organization celebrating the (Ted Turner-funded) U.N. Foundation and the millions of insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets that Nothing But Nets has delivered to African countries to help people avoid malaria. Each net costs $10; something like $4 to make and $6 to ship. Thanks to the U.N. Foundation managing the campaign, the total amount of individuals’ donations goes toward the mosquito nets, according to this grassroots organization. The Web site points out:

The Nothing But Nets organization set up photo opps in front of one of the insecticide-laced mosquito bed nets it sends to Africa
The Nothing But Nets organization set up photo opps in front of one of the insecticide-laced mosquito bed nets it sends to Africa

“Every 60 seconds, a child dies from malaria. For a family in Africa, a net can mean the difference between life and death. For just $10, you can protect a family and save a life.” It was inspiring to see the group honoring soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo (Congo-born Atlanta Braves’ basketball great and philanthropist in his native land), representatives of the North Georgia United Methodists and Georgia Congressman Doug Collins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In 2013 an estimated 198 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 500,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region.” Nothing But Nets reported in August that it has sent 9 million nets to Africa. While so many are grieving over one dead lion (Cecil) in Africa, the cynic in me wonders:

  1. Whether anyone considers the job creation and cost-effectiveness if these nets were actually manufactured in Africa.
  2. How many lives could have been saved if DDT had not been banned because of Rachel Carson’s flawed 1962 melodrama, “Silent Spring.”

As for Carson, according to a 2012 Forbes magazine article marking the 50th anniversary of “Silent Spring:”

In 1992, San Jose State University entomologist J. Gordon Edwards, a long-time member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, offered a persuasive and comprehensive rebuttal of “Silent Spring.” As he explained in “The Lies of Rachel Carson,” a stunning, point by point refutation, “it simply dawned on me that that Rachel Carson was not interested in the truth about [pesticides] and that I was being duped along with millions of other Americans.”  He demolished Carson’s arguments and assertions, calling attention to critical omissions, faulty assumptions, and outright fabrications.

According to The New American, “The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1965 that “in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million [human] deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable.” WHO issued a statement in 1969: “DDT has been the main agent in eradicating malaria … and [has] saved at least 2 billion people in the world without causing the loss of a single life by poisoning from DDT alone.” It went on to state, “It is so safe that no symptoms have been observed among the spraymen or among the inhabitants of the spray areas which numbered 130,000 and 535 million (respectively) at the peak of the campaign.”

So, as a native of sub-Saharan Africa, please pardon me for praising the kind people who contribute to this campaign while admitting that I consider it akin to charging at elephants with fly swatters.

P.S.: If you care about health care in Georgia, don’t forget to register for the upcoming 6th Annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on October 15. The Early Bird Discount ends Friday, September 4!

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