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Blue light from digital devices could accelerate blindness

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Washington, Aug 13 : Blue light from digital devices including smartphones could accelerate blindness, researchers have found.

According to a research by the University of Toledo in the US, exposure to blue light continuously might cause poisonous molecules to be generated in the eye’s light-sensitive cells and lead to macular degeneration, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

As one of the leading causes of blindness in the US, macular degeneration does not lead to total blindness, but can make daily activities difficult.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop,” said Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor in the university’s department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Macular degeneration is caused by the death of photoreceptors, a kind of light-sensitive cells.

Photoreceptor cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger signalling to the brain, enabling us to see.

“If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student at the university who was involved in the study.

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” Ratnayake added.

To protect eyes from blue light, researchers advise people to wear sunglasses which filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid using smartphones or tablets in the dark.

IANS

Analysis

Air pollution cuts average Indian’s life expectancy by over 4 years: Study

Concentrations in Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi are substantially higher, and the impact on life expectancy exceeds six years.

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New Delhi, Nov 19 : India is the world’s second most polluted country, slightly trailing only Nepal, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) said on Monday.

Particulate pollution is so severe that it shortens the average Indian’s life expectancy by more than four years relative to what it would be if World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines were met.

This is up from about two years in the late 1990s due to a 69 per cent increase in particulate pollution, it said.

Concentrations in Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi are substantially higher, and the impact on life expectancy exceeds six years.

Its new air pollution index, known as the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), finds that air pollution reduces global life expectancy by nearly two years, making it the single greatest threat to human health.

The tool gives figures like — for an average resident of Delhi, gain in life expectancy if the WHO guidelines are met, could be up to 10.2 years.

Likewise, it gives numbers of years lost to pollution for every district of India for a span of 18 years between 1998 and 2016.

What makes AQLI unique is that it converts pollution into perhaps the most important metric that exists — life expectancy. It does so at a hyper-local level throughout the world.

Further, it illustrates how air pollution policies can increase life expectancy when they meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline, existing national air quality standards, or user-defined air quality levels.

This information helps informing local communities and policymakers about the importance of air pollution policies in very concrete terms.

Loss of life expectancy is highest in Asia, exceeding six years in many parts of India and China; some residents of the US still lose up to a year of life from pollution.

Fossil fuel-driven particulate air pollution cuts global average life expectancy by 1.8 years per person, according to the pollution index and accompanying report produced by the EPIC.

“Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colors, like red, brown, orange, and green. What those colors mean for people’s wellbeing has always been unclear,” Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and Director of the EPIC, said.

Greenstone also noted: “My colleagues and I developed the AQLI, where the ‘L’ stands for ‘life’ to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists, life expectancy.”

The AQLI is based on a pair of peer-reviewed studies co-authored by Greenstone that quantify the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to particulate pollution and life expectancy.

The results from these studies are then combined with hyper-localised, global particulate matter measurements, yielding unprecedented insight into the true cost of air pollution in communities around the world.

Seventy-five per cent of the global population, or 5.5 billion people, live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds the WHO guideline.

The AQLI reveals that India and China, which make up 36 per cent of the world’s population, account for 73 per cent of all years of life lost due to particulate pollution.

On average, people in India would live 4.3 years longer if their country met the WHO guideline, expanding the average life expectancy at birth there from 69 to 73 years.

In the US, about a third of the population lives in areas not in compliance with the WHO guideline.

Those living in the country’s most polluted counties could expect to live up to one year longer if pollution met the WHO guideline.

Globally, the AQLI reveals that particulate pollution reduces average life expectancy by 1.8 years, making it the greatest global threat to human health.

By comparison, first-hand cigarette smoke leads to a reduction in global average life expectancy of about 1.6 years.

Other risks to human health have even smaller effects: alcohol and drugs reduce life expectancy by 11 months; unsafe water and sanitation take off seven months; and HIV/AIDS four months.

Conflict and terrorism take off 22 days. So, the impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice that of alcohol and drug use, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and more than 25 times that of conflict and terrorism.

“While people can stop smoking and take steps to protect themselves from diseases, there is little they can individually do to protect themselves from the air they breathe,” Greenstone said.

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AIIMS launches research project on air pollution’s impact on health

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New Delhi, Nov 19: As the National Capital Region (NCR) battles poor air quality during winter, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has started a research project to study the effects of air pollution on public health.

“Delhi’s air quality deteriorates every year during Diwali owing to multiple reasons like stubble burning and bursting of crackers. However, last year, when the air pollution level escalated, we noticed a surge in patients visiting AIIMS,” Dr Karan Madan, Associate Professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders, AIIMS, who is part of this research programme, told IANS.

So the country’s premier medical research and referral hospital decided to conduct empirical research on the impact of air pollution on health.

For the study, titled “DAPHNE” (Delhi Air Pollution Health And Effects), AIIMS researchers have developed an air pollution sensor technology.

“This sort of study has not been earlier conducted in India. The device has been developed in a belt format which is very light and it gives clear continuous pollution data. The belt can be wrapped around the waist or on the arms,” Madan said.

He explained that the device is wireless and directly sends data to a monitoring system through a Global Positioning System (GPS). AIIMS is primarily focusing on children suffering from pulmonary diseases like asthma, bronchitis and other breathing troubles — as well as pregnant women.

The device, which is to be worn by children suffering from asthma or bronchitis, will give an idea of the exposure level of air pollution when one is travelling in the school bus, at home, when in school, or outdoors while playing.

“On pregnant women, we are trying to see how pollution might affect the unborn child. We are also trying to figure out the birth rate issue from this study owing to poor air quality,” Madan noted.

Funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, and Medical Research Council, Britain, the project is a collaborative effort of the the two nations.

In India, apart from AIIMS, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, IIT Delhi and GTB Hospital are also associated with the research.

“While the data on asthma in children will be compiled at AIIMS, GTB Hospital will be following the cases of pregnant women,” Madan said.

The research process, initiated last year, began on a pilot basis two months ago. Dr Madan stated that around 10 children have been given this belt across Delhi NCR.

“So far, the project is going good and the readings have come accurate. The study will conclude next year and the report will be released,” he added.

Talking about the rise in health hazards among residents in the National Capital Region and its surrounding areas, Madan said that AIIMS has witnessed an increase of 15-20 per cent in the number of patients with cases of respiratory problems like coughing, heavy breathing, asthma symptoms, and burning sensation in throat and nose.

“People with respiratory problems are increasing. Apart from asthma patients, there were fresh cases who visited AIIMS owing to pollution,” he stated.

IANS

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Slow reading speed linked to dry eyes: Study

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New York, Nov 17: People suffering from chronic dry eye disease are likely to have a slow reading rate, according to researchers.

The chronic dry eye is a common disease in which natural tears fail to adequately lubricate the eyes, thus drastically affecting its functioning.

The study found that the condition can slow a person’s reading speed by as much as 10 per cent and can make it difficult to read for more than an average of 30 minutes.

Those with clinically significant dry eye could read fewer words per minute — 32 words per minute less — than those without the condition, who read at the same rate of 272 words per minute.

“We suspected that people with dry eye were mostly unable to sustain good reading performance because their tears cannot re-lubricate their eye surfaces fast enough,” said Esen Akpek, from the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, the team included 186 adults aged 50 or older.

The participants had not used prescription or over the counter eyedrops in the 24 hours before testing.

Importantly, all participants responded to eye discomfort vision quality and environmental contributors to eye complaints, such as wind or smoke.

People who experience frequent dry eye symptoms such as stinging, fluctuating vision and dryness can try over the counter eyedrops, but will do best if they undergo professional testing and diagnosis, said Akpek.

IANS

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