Category Archives: Cancer

Jul 28 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: July 28

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Study: EHRs Don’t Increase the Risk for Medicare Fraud
The use of electronic health records (EHRs) does not increase the risk of Medicare fraud, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Schools of Information and Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health. In the study, scheduled to be published in the journal Health Affairs, researchers analyzed longitudinal data to determine whether U.S. hospitals that recently adopted EHRs also saw increases in the severity of patients’ conditions and payments from Medicare; they determined that adopters and non-adopters saw rates increase approximately equally. "There have been a lot of anecdotes and individual cases of hospitals using electronic health records in fraudulent ways. Therefore there was an assumption that this was happening systematically, but we find that it isn't," said Julia Adler-Milstein, U-M assistant professor of information, as well as an assistant professor of health management and policy in the U-M School of Public Health. Read more on technology.

Fist Bumps May Be the Best Greeting for Reducing Germ Transmission
Want to meet society’s hand-to-hand greeting expectation while also reducing the transmission of germs? Try a fist bump. Researchers from the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom used a germ-covered glove test to determine that handshakes transmit nearly twice as many bacteria as high-fives, which in turn transmit more bacteria than fist bumps. The study in the American Journal of Infection Control determined that duration and grip of a physical greeting also increased the number of bacteria transmitted. “Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” said author, David Whitworth, PhD. “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free, and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.” Read more on infectious disease.

Fear a Greater Motivator than Data When it Comes to Using Sunscreen
Fear over developing skin cancer is a larger motivator for people’s usesof sunscreen than actual data that quantifies their risk, according to a new study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers analyzed data on approximately 1,500 people with no history of skin cancer, finding that for people who reported “never” using it and those who reported “always” using it, worry was a greater factor than education about risk, and the greater the worry, the more likely the use. “Most health behavior studies don’t account for the more visceral, emotional reactions that lead people to do risky behaviors, like eat junk food or ignore the protective benefits of sunscreen,” says Marc Kiviniemi, MD, lead researcher and assistant professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. “This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information. By not addressing emotions, we are potentially missing a rich influence on behavior when interventions do not address feelings.” Read more on cancer.

Jun 25 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 25

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HHS’ Million Hearts Initiative Launches Health Eating Resource Center
The Million Hearts initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new online resource center to promote healthier eating by individuals and families. The Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Resource Center features lower-sodium, heart-healthy recipes and family-friendly meal plans, and emphasizes managing sodium intake. The searchable recipes include nutritional facts and use everyday ingredients. “This resource helps people see that it’s not about giving up the food you love, but choosing lower sodium options that taste great," said Tom Frieden, MD, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Small changes can make a big difference.  We can prevent 11 million cases of high blood pressure each year if everyone reduced their daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg.” The Million Hearts initiative was launched with the goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Read more on nutrition.

3-D Mammograms Improve Breast Cancer Detection Rate, Reduce Recall Rate
Tomosynthesis—also known as 3-D mammography—can increase the detection rate of breast cancer while also decreasing false positives that can lead to multiple and unnecessary re-tests, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers analyzed the results of 454,850 examinations, finding that when 3-D mammography was combined with traditional digital mammograms the detection rate for breast cancer climbed 40 percent while there was a 15 percent decrease in the recall rate, or the percentage of women who needed additional screening due to inconclusive results. The findings come as more and more hospitals and physicians are turning to 3-D mammography. The researchers cautioned that more study was needed into the relatively new technology. Read more on cancer.

AAP: Reading to Young Kids Starting in Infancy Improves Literacy Later in Life
Read to your kids—aloud and every day—starting as early as their infancy. That’s the latest recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Council on Early Childhood. The policy statement is set to appear in the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics. "This is the first time the AAP has called out literacy promotion as being an essential component of primary care pediatric practice," said statement author Pamela High, MD, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I., and a professor at Brown University. "Fewer than half of children are being read to every day by their families, and that number hasn't really changed since 2003. It's a public health message to parents of all income groups, that this early shared reading is both fun and rewarding." According to the AAP, reading proficiency in the third grade is the most important predictor of eventual high school graduation, but approximately two-thirds of all U.S. children and 80 percent of kids living in poverty finish third grade lacking in reading proficiency. Reading aloud to a young child can promote literacy while also strengthening family ties. Read more on pediatrics.

Jun 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 17

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NIH Releases Tools to Help Older Adults Quit Smoking
While overall U.S. smoking rates are dropping, approximately 10 percent of adults over the age of 65 still smoke. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a new online resource with videos, worksheets, interactive tools, strategies, quizzes and more to help older smokers who are thinking about quitting. “Most older adults know that smoking is harmful, and many have tried unsuccessfully to quit, often a number of times. But stopping smoking is a difficult goal that still eludes many older smokers,” said Erik Augustson, program director of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which developed the topic for NIHSeniorHealth. “This new topic, which offers a mix of tips and tools geared to the needs and experiences of older smokers, is an important, easy-to-use resource that can benefit those trying to quit for the first time as well as those who have tried before.” Read more on tobacco.

AHA: Only One-third of Cancer Patients with Heart Problems Seek Proper Treatment
Approximately 12 percent of older breast cancer patients go on to develop heart failure within three years—often as a result of their cancer treatment—but only one-third of those patients sought the help of a cardiologist within 90 days of experiencing heart problems, according to the American Heart Association. Patients who do not see a cardiologist are less likely to receive the standard therapy for heart failure, putting them at risk of lower quality of care and demonstrating an important area where oncologists and cardiologists can collaborate, according to Jersey Chen, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and a research scientist and cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente. “The bottom line is, if you have breast cancer and you’re treated with anthracyclines or trastuzumab, you should know they have side effects,” said Chen in a release. “And if you have symptoms of heart problems like shortness of breath or swelling in the feet or legs, seek attention quickly, preferably with doctors familiar and comfortable with treating heart failure after cancer therapy.” Read more on heart health.

Long Hours Spent Sitting Linked to Higher Risk for Colon, Endometrial Cancers
Previous studies have linked extended time spent sitting to health problems such as heart disease, blood clots, higher blood sugar and even early death. According to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, you can now add increased risk for colon and endometrial cancers to the list. Researchers analyzed the findings of 43 studies covering 70,000 cases of cancer, determining that:

  • People who spent the most time sitting during the day had a 24 percent increased risk of getting colon cancer
  • People who spent the most time sitting in front of a television has a 54 percent increased risk for colon cancer
  • There was a 32 percent increased risk for endometrial—or uterine—cancer for women who spent the most time seated and a 66 percent increased risk for those who watched the most television
  • Every two-hour increase in sitting time was linked to an 8 percent increased risk of colon cancer and a 10 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer

Read more on cancer.

Jun 13 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 13

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Older Hispanics Taking their Medicines Because of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans
Hispanics have reduced the gap with whites in taking prescribed heart medicines since the 2006 launch of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit—Medicare Part D. The findings were reported in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2014 Scientific Sessions earlier this month. Researchers reviewed prescription drug data from Medicare’s national Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for white, African-American and Hispanic Medicare seniors for the years 2007-10. After Part D, adherence rates increased among all racial groups, with the highest increase in whites and Hispanics, but increased only slightly among African-Americans.

  • Hispanics’ total group adherence rate improved about 60 percent.
  • Whites’ adherence rate improved 47 percent.
  • African-Americans’ adherence rate improved about 9 percent.

Read more on heart health.

USDA Announces Grants to Help Repair Houses in Rural Areas
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it is seeking applications for grants of about $4 million to preserve and repair housing for very-low- and low-income families living in rural areas. The funds are being made available by the USDA Rural Development's Housing Preservation Grant program. Eligible applicants include town or county governments; public agencies; federally recognized Indian Tribes; and non-profit and faith-based organizations. Applications are due July 28. Examples of previous grants include a 2012 award to Habitat for Humanity Lake County (Calif.), which received a $55,000 Housing Preservation Grant to help 12 low-income homeowners repair their homes. One person helped was a Vietnam veteran who used a wheelchair and could not leave his home without assistance. Habitat for Humanity widened his doorway and installed a wheelchair lift. Read more on housing.

Many U.S. Cancer Survivors Face Serious Financial Burdens
Many U.S. cancer survivors face significant economic burdens due to growing medical costs, missed work and reduced productivity, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Cancer survivors face physical, emotional, psychosocial, employment and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Donatus U. Ekwueme, PhD, a senior health economist at CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next decade—to 18 million Americans. Researchers analyzed data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s 2008-2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to estimate annual medical costs and productivity losses among cancer survivors  aged 18 years and older, and among persons without a cancer diagnosis. Among those employed, more than 42 percent had to make changes to their work hours and duties. The report also found that about 10 percent of survivors aged 65 years and younger were uninsured and likely to have a larger financial burden compared to survivors with some source of payment for medical services. Read more on cancer

Jun 11 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 11

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Teens in Foster Care Are Less Likely to Talk to Parents or Guardians about Substance Abuse

Adolescents ages 12-17 in foster care are significantly less likely to talk to a parent or guardian about the dangers of substance use compared to other adolescents, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report found that while 58.9 percent of adolescents living with biological parents have these discussions and 57.6 percent of adolescents living with adoptive parent have the talks, that percentage drops to 51.1 for adolescents in foster care. “Youth in foster care may face special challenges that make it essential that they, like other youth, get effective substance use prevention messaging,” said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “We need to explore innovative approaches to providing this prevention messaging to them—especially in ways that also engage parents and guardians. That’s why we’re very excited about our new national public service campaign, Talk. They Hear You....[which] empowers parents and caregivers to talk to their children as young as nine years old about the dangers of underage drinking.” Read more about substance abuse.

DOT Announces Grants to Improve Transportation that Gets People to Job Training and Other Services
The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced about $100 million in competitive grant funds through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Ladders of Opportunity Initiative. The funds can be used to modernize and expand transit bus service specifically for the purpose of connecting disadvantaged and low-income individuals, veterans, seniors, youths and others with local workforce training, employment centers, health care and other vital services.

Proposals from organizations seeking grants must directly address ladders of opportunity for riders, including:

  • Enhancing access to work for individuals lacking ready access to transportation, especially in low-income communities
  • Supporting economic opportunities by offering transit access to employment centers, educational and training opportunities, and other basic needs
  • Supporting partnerships and coordinated planning among state and local governments and social, human service and transportation providers to improve coordinated planning and delivery of workforce development, training, education and basic services to veterans, seniors, youths and other disadvantaged populations

“Over half of the roughly 10 billion transit trips taken each year in the United States are by bus—and nearly half the buses people depend on are in marginal or poor condition,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan. “This new initiative will help ensure that millions of riders can count on safe, efficient, reliable bus service that connects them with opportunities and services so and services so essential to daily life.” Read more on transportation.

Study Finds Link Between Risk of Breast Cancer and Number of Moles
In the future, physicians may be able to improve early breast cancer screening and treatment with a quick count of the number of moles on a patient’s arm, according to a two new studies in the journal PLOS Medicine. American and French researchers, in two separate studies, found a link between the number of moles on a woman’s arm and their risk of breast cancer—one study found that women with 15 or more moles on a single arm were 35 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than were women with no moles. The scientists said one plausible reason for the link is that these women have higher estrogen levels; estrogen can feed the growth and spread of many breast tumors, and research also connects the hormone to moles. However, researchers also noted that more study was needed to reach a definitive conclusion. "Don't panic,” said Barbara Fuhrman, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, in an editorial accompanying the studies. “This is very interesting biologically, but it probably doesn't tell us a lot about an individual woman's risk of breast cancer. It probably tells us more about the general etiology [causes] of breast cancer." Read more on cancer.

Jun 9 2014
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Public Heath Campaign of the Month: ‘Know: BRCA’

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched three very pink infographics aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer among young women who may not realize they can be at risk for the disease—usually because of a gene mutation inherited from their mother or father.

The campaign, called “Know:BRCA” uses pink for all three of the new infographics because that color is widely identified with breast cancer awareness campaigns. The graphics focus on:

  • Knowing about BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Knowing that everyone has BRCA genes
  • Knowing your genetic risk factors
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According to the CDC, most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. However, each year in the United States about 9,000 women younger than 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. In this younger group the cancer is generally more aggressive, found at a later stage, has lower survival rates and can often be linked to a mutation in one or two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Usually the BRCA genes protect people from cancer, but mutations to the genes can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in general and especially in younger women. Discussions with physicians and genetics counselors about family history of breast and ovarian cancer can determine the need to test for the gene mutations. And if the tests are positive, health care experts may advise preventive treatment to help avoid breast and ovarian cancer, such as long-term medication or prophylactic mastectomy—the surgery actress Angelina Jolie chose last year because of her family history of breast cancer.

Without treatment, women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before age 70 than other women.

The goal of the new infographics is to encourage women to learn their family history of cancer and then talk to their doctor if they have:

  • Multiple relatives with breast cancer
  • Any relatives with ovarian cancer
  • Relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50

The CDC also recently released a new physician tool to help doctors advise young patients about BRCA testing and prophylactic treatment.

>>Bonus Link: Read a new New York Times story on the evolution of breast cancer treatment 

Jun 3 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: June 4

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Study: Medicaid Patients Receive Poorer Cancer Care
People on Medicaid receive poorer cancer care than people with private insurance, according to three new studies presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. Researchers determined that Medicaid patients are less likely to have their cancer caught at an earlier, more treatable phase, as well as far more likely to die from cancer. One of the factors contributing to this disparity is the fact that Medicaid patients have less experience navigating the health care system. "Research has shown that we can screen more patients, but that they get dropped along the way to treatment. We don't give them full access into curative therapy," said Jyoti Patel, MD, an oncologist at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, who's also a spokeswoman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology. "We need to do a better job to make sure that people who aren't savvy or can't advocate for themselves have that helping hand." Read more on health disparities.

CDC: Norovirus is the Leading Cause of Disease Outbreaks from Contaminated Food
Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 20 million people in the United States are sickened by norovirus annually. According to the CDC, because infected workers are often the source of these outbreaks, the food service industry can help prevent outbreaks by enforcing safety practices, including:

  • Making sure food service workers practice proper hand washing and use utensils and single-use disposable gloves to avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands
  • Certifying kitchen managers and training food service workers in food safety practices
  • Establishing policies that require food service workers to stay home when sick with vomiting and diarrhea and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop

Read more on food safety.

N.C. Program Successful in Expanding Dental Care to Young, Low-income Children
A North Carolina program to reduce cavities in young, low-income children, has significantly increased the number of children under the age of four receiving preventive dental care  since the program began in 2000, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The program works to train physicians in basic dental screening and preventive techniques that can be provided quickly and effectively during regular office visits. “Evaluation studies conducted since the initiation of the program in 2000 have found it to substantially increase access to preventive dental services for young, high-risk children who otherwise would be unlikely to use these services in dental offices, reduce caries-related treatments and costs, avert hospitalizations and improve oral health status,” said study was co-author R. Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH, professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, in a release. Read more on pediatrics.

May 30 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 30

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FDA: Sunlamps to Require Health Warnings
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final order that requires sunlamp products and ultraviolent (UV) lamps for use in sunlamp products to carry warnings stating that they should not be used by people under the age of 18. The order reclassifies the products from low-risk (class I) to moderate-risk (II). “The FDA has taken an important step today to address the risk to public health from sunlamp products,” said Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a release. “Repeated UV exposure from sunlamp products poses a risk of skin cancer for all users—but the highest risk for skin cancer is in young persons under the age of 18 and people with a family history of skin cancer.” People who are exposed to UV radiation as a result of indoor tanning increase their risk of melanoma by 59 percent, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Read more on cancer.

CDC: U.S. Measles Cases at a 20-year High
Cases of measles in the United States are at a 20-year high, with international travel by unvaccinated people a major contributor, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that there were 288 U.S. cases between January 1 and May 23 this year—and 97 percent were associated with importation by travelers from at least 18 countries. Approximately 90 percent of the cases were in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, in a release. “Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.” Read more on vaccines.

Type of Increased Heart Risk Depends on Which Blood Pressure Number is High
The type of increased heart risk a person with high blood pressure faces depends on which number in their blood pressure—the top, which is systolic, or the bottom, which is diastolic—is high, according to a new study in The Lancet. Researchers analyzed health care date on more than 1 million people ages 30 and older in England, finding that people with higher systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of bleeding strokes and stable angina, while people with higher diastolic blood pressure were more likely to be diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In addition, they found that a 30-year-old with high blood pressure has a 63 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, compared with 46 percent for a person with normal blood pressure. "With lifetime risks this high, the need for new blood pressure-lowering strategies is paramount," said lead investigator Eleni Rapsomaniki, MD, from The Farr Institute for Health Informatics Research in London, England, in release. Read more on heart health.

May 12 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 12

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U.S. Cervical Cancer Rates Higher than Previously Reported
Cervical cancer rates in the United States are higher than previously reported, especially among women ages 65-69 and African-American women, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. Previous research showed about 12 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women in the United States, with the incidence reaching a peak at age 40-44 and then leveling off. However, those estimates included women who had hysterectomies in which the cervix had been removed and the authors of the new study say excluding these women—who are no longer at risk of developing this cancer—from their analysis, changes the rate to 18.6 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women. The new study also found that incidence increased steadily with age and peaked at a higher rate and at an older age—in women 65-69. Read more on cancer.

ADHD Treatment Linked to Lower Smoking Rates
Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with stimulant medication may reduce smoking risk, especially when the medication is taken consistently, according to an analysis of 14 studies published in Pediatrics. The studies evaluated by the researchers were longitudinal studies of cigarette smoking and ADHD treatment which included 2,360 individuals with ADHD; this is the largest meta-analysis on the issue to date, according to the study authors. The researchers looked at data on nicotine dependence, smoking frequency and whether study participants smoked at the time of the study, and found a significant association between stimulant treatment and lower smoking rates. The effect was larger in those with more severe ADHD and when participants took stimulant medications continuously. The researchers say more studies are needed to determine the recommended timing and duration of stimulant treatment to help lower smoking risk. Read more on tobacco.

Number of Nurse Practitioners Working in Primary Care Increases
Almost half of recently licensed U.S. nurse practitioners (NPs) have become part of the U.S. primary care workforce, according to a report released today by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners shows that in 1992 approximately 59 percent of graduating NPs worked in primary care, decreasing to 42 percent between 2003 and 2007. However, the new survey shows that 47 percent of NPs graduating since 2008 have entered primary care. According to the report, 76 percent of the NP workforce has certification in a primary care specialty, including family, adult, pediatric, or gerontology care, and nearly half have a family NP certification. More than half of the NP workforce works in ambulatory care settings, while nearly a third work in hospitals. Read more on prevention.

Apr 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 22

Study: False-Positive Mammograms Have Minimal Effect on Anxiety
Women whose mammograms suggest the presence of breast cancer that is eventually ruled out by further testing experience slightly increased anxiety that does not affect their overall health, according to a new study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College compared 534 cancer-free women whose mammograms initially suggested breast cancer to 494 women whose screenings were negative. The women were interviewed after the first mammogram but before they were cleared of a cancer diagnosis and again a year later. Immediately after their first mammogram, the women who received false-positive results had more anxiety than those who received a clean bill of health but the anxiety leveled off after one year. There was no difference in overall health between the two groups of women. Read more on cancer.

Bullying Victims Feel Psychological Effects into Middle Age
Children who are bullied suffer the psychological affects for years to come, leading to increased risk of depression and other mental health issues, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. British researchers have found that children bullied at the ages of 7 and 11 experienced feelings of poor general health at ages 23 and 50 and poor cognitive functioning at 50. The study used surveys that were conducted over 50 years, looking at children who said they were bullied occasionally or frequently at 7 and 11, and comparing the impact at ages 23, 45 and 50. Read more on mental health.

Earth Day: The Impact of the Environment on Health
April 22 is Earth Day and people across the country are taking action to protect and improve our environment. The quality of our environmental has significant effects on our overall health. Air pollution, such as ground-level ozone and airborne particles, can irritate the respiratory system, induce asthma and even lead to lung disease. In addition, UV exposure due to ozone layer depletion can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the immune system. Below are tips to help create a healthier planet today:

  • Conserve energy and improve air quality by turning off appliances and lights when you leave a room.
  • Keep stoves and fireplaces well maintained to reduce air pollution.
  • Plant deciduous trees near your home to provide shade from UV rays in the summer.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances produced by low- or zero-pollution facilities. 

Read more on environment.