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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

Health

Diabetes could contribute to infertility, warn experts

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Diabetes

New Delhi, Feb 16: Diabetes, commonly described as a “lifestyle disease”, can contribute to infertility in both women and men, warn health experts.

“Diabetes can cause infertility in both men and women. Both sexes are at equal risk of infertility,” S.K. Wangnoo, endocrinologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, told IANS.

Infertility affects up to 15 per cent of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), the overall prevalence of primary infertility in India is between 3.9 per cent to 16.8 per cent.

“Diabetes in men damages DNA of the sperm and leads to reduced number of sperms and reduced motility of sperms which leads to infertility. Although having diabetes does not necessarily make men infertile, it could make them less fertile,” added Roopak Wadhwa, Consultant at Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

On the other hand, diabetes in women is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other autoimmune diseases that can lead to infertility.

“Diabetes causes a lack of glucose control in the body which, in turn, can make the implantation of the fertile egg in the uterus difficult. Therefore, the chances of miscarriage in diabetic women increase between 30-60 per cent,” Wadhwa explained.

Another WHO report had stated that India had 69.2 million people living with diabetes in 2015.

By 2030, nearly 98 million people in India may have Type-2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal last year.

While diabetic patients can always try parenthood, the risk of passing on the sugar disease to the child is approximately 50 per cent high, Wangnoo stated.

“It can also cause intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) and congenital anomalies. IUGR is a condition where an unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb,” Wadhwa added.

Furthermore, he noted that diabetic mothers are at high risk of premature deliveries, abortions and perinatal (during birth) complications.

High diabetes can be risky for both mother and child. The experts suggest that maintaining a good lifestyle, an ideal body weight, keeping sugars within target range, avoiding smoking and alcohol and excessive work related stress are some of the preventive measures.

Besides infertility, diabetes can also raise the risk of cardiovascular and lung disease, arthritis, osteoporosis. An estimated 3.4 million deaths are caused due to high blood sugar, according to the WHO.

The global health body also estimates that 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle-income countries and projects that such deaths will double between 2016 and 2030.

IANS

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Birth control pills could impair women’s ability to recognise emotion

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The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users. (Representative Photo)

London, Feb 12: Despite the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCPs) by women, many are not aware that it may impair their ability to recognise others’ emotional expressions, which may have serious consequences in interpersonal contexts, suggests a new study.

The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users.

“More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about their effects on emotion, cognition and behaviour,” said senior author Alexander Lischke from the University of Greifswald in Germany.

“However, coincidental findings suggest that oral contraceptives impair the ability to recognise emotional expressions of others which could affect the way users initiate and maintain intimate relationships,” said Lischke.

To investigate the effects of OCPs on women’s emotion recognition, the researchers administered a special emotion recognition task to two similar groups of healthy women: 42 OCP users and 53 non-users.

The findings, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, showed that OCP users were nearly 10 per cent less accurate on average than non-users in deciphering the most enigmatic emotional expressions.

Though the groups were equally good at recognising easy expressions, the OCP users were less likely to correctly identify difficult expressions, results showed.

The effect held for both positive and negative expressions, and regardless of the type of OCP or the menstrual cycle phase of non-users.

“Cyclic variations of estrogen and progesterone levels are known to affect women’s emotion recognition and influence activity and connections in associated brain regions. Since oral contraceptives work by suppressing estrogen and progesterone levels, it makes sense that oral contraceptives also affect women’s emotion recognition,” said Lischke.

There is a need for further studies that replicate and extend the findings of the present study before thinking about changing current guidelines regarding the prescription of OCPs, the study noted.

IANS

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The Delhi High Court seeks Delhi government response over bike ambulance controversy

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the state government to file response to a plea alleging that trained paramedics are not deployed in bike ambulance service.

On February 7, the Central Accident and Trauma Services (CATS), an entity of the state government, launched a scheme of First Responder Vehicle, popularly known as bike ambulance service, to provide timely health assistance in traffic-congested areas and small lanes.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao asked the Delhi government and CATS to file response on the plea seeking direction to deploy trained, young and energetic paramedics with requisite qualification and valid licence to drive two-wheelers.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.

The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Satakashi Verma and Kamlesh Kumar. In the plea, the advocates said that the scheme has been launched without doing due diligence with the help of untrained manpower, who are unfit to manage existing ambulance system due to lack of technical qualification.

The scheme was launched without deploying adequately qualified and trained paramedics, they added.

In their petition, they claimed that the existing staff of Assistant Ambulance Officer was found to be unfit for operation and maintenance of the bike ambulance service.

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