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Chemicals in sunscreen may cause birth defects, infertility

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Hong Kong, Oct 6: Scientists have detected chemicals in sunscreen that can cause birth defects and infertility.

In the study, the team from the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), found that the chemicals in sunscreen caused abnormalities in Zebrafish and killed their offspring.

After human use, the organic or chemical ultra-violet (UV) filters in sunscreens are discharged into the sea, either directly by being washed off with sea water or indirectly through discharge of wastewater.

Eventually, they enter the sea, thereby posing a threat to marine organisms and the ecosystem.

These UV filters could possibly pass up the food chain to humans and affect our health, the researchers said.

“UV light increases the risk of premature skin ageing, freckles and triggers skin cancer. Organic or chemical UV filters that can absorb or block UV radiation, are extensively applied in personal care products including sunscreens,” said Kelvin Leung Sze-yin, Associate Professor at the HKBU.

“Since more than 70 per cent of the genetic structure of zebrafish resembles that of humans, the effect of these contaminants passing along the food chain to humans and the long-term impact on human fertility cannot be neglected,” Sze-yin added.

In the study, reported in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the team simulated the real aquatic environment in a laboratory where contaminated artemia were fed to zebrafish for 47 days. The contaminated water contained three commonly used UV filters, namely benzophenone-3 (BP-3), ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (EHMC) and octocrylene (OC).

After 47 days, none of the adult zebrafish appeared to be damaged but several of their embryos were found to have malformations or abnormalities.

The embryos’ 24-hour mortality rate increased dramatically, from 10 per cent to nearly 60 per cent, while the 72-hour hatching rate decreased significantly, from 80 per cent to less than 30 per cent.

Sze-yin said the combined presence of BP-3, EHMC and OC creates “a mixture effect” that increases their accumulation compared with the case when only one chemical is present.

Sze-yin called for regulations to cover the use of chemicals in personal care products and said more research should be done on the long-term impact of these contaminants. He recommended the usage of natural, mineral-based sunscreens.

IANS

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Cycling, walking in nature may improve your mental health

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London, Oct 20: People who commute — walking or cycling — through natural environments are more likely to develop better mental health than those who commute less, according to a new study.

Natural environments included all public and private outdoor spaces that contain ‘green’ and/or ‘blue’ natural elements such as street trees, forests, city parks and natural parks/reserves and all types of water bodies.

“Mental health and physical inactivity are two of the main public health problems associated with the life in urban environments. Urban design could be a powerful tool to confront these challenges and create healthier cities. One way of doing so would be investing in natural commuting routes for cycling and walking,” said Mark Nieuwenhuijsen from the University of Barcelona.

For the study, published in the journal, Environment International, the research team examined nearly 3,600 participants who answered a questionnaire about their commuting habits and their mental health.

The findings showed that respondents commuting through natural environments on a daily basis had on average a 2.74 point higher mental health score compared to those who commuted through natural environments less frequently.

This association was even stronger among people who reported active commuting, the team said.

“From previous experimental studies we knew that physical activity in natural environments can reduce stress, improve mood and mental restoration when compared to the equivalent activity in urban environments,” said first author Wilma Zijlema from the varsity.

“Although this study is the first of its kind to our knowledge and, therefore, more research will be needed, our data show that commuting through these natural spaces alone may also have a positive effect on mental health.”

IANS

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Number of Zika virus cases reaches 100 in Jaipur

A total of 1,11,825 houses have been screened. Special precautions are being taken in the Zika-affected areas.

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Zika virus

Jaipur, Oct 18 : The number of people infected with the Zika virus has gone up to 100 in Jaipur, officials said on Thursday.

State Chief Secretary D.B. Gupta held a review meeting and directed the officials to carry out anti-larvae activities in educational institutions and administrative buildings in Jaipur.

Veenu Gupta, Chief Secretary (Medicine and Health) said, “Medical teams in Jaipur are carrying out screening and fogging activities. A total of 1,11,825 houses have been screened. Special precautions are being taken in the Zika-affected areas.”

She said that there was no shortage of medicines at health centres. She also directed district officials to monitor the regular availability of medicines and testing equipment in hospitals.

Gupta directed officials to take measures to prevent breeding of mosquitoes in the Rajasthan Police Academy, Police Line and the RAC Battalion.

She asked the Army officials to check the spread of mosquitoes and larvae in their area.

Gupta instructed officials to pay special attention to tourist places such as Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Albert Hall.

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Zika virus cases reach 72 in Jaipur

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Zika Virus

Jaipur, Oct 15 : The number of people infected with the Zika virus rose to 72 in Jaipur, officials from the health department said on Monday.

The number of people carrying the virus was put out after a review meeting chaired by Additional Chief secretary (Health) Veenu Gupta.

The officials informed that 280 teams were surveying the affected areas by visiting each and every house. Around 96,000 houses had been surveyed till date.

Since Sunday, the health department has started issuing challans against owners of houses where larvae of the mosquito that transmits the virus were found.

The virus is transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito. It causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, and muscle and joint pain. It is particularly harmful to pregnant women, as it can lead to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected upon birth.

Till Monday evening, 68 such challans were issued and penalties of Rs 44,000 were imposed.

Screening and anti-larvae measures are continuing in the capital city. The samples are also being collected from those suffering from fever, the officials said.

The people in the affected areas are being advised to temporarily suspend water storage, and the same is being supplied via tankers.

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