Public Health News Roundup: March 7
According to the Food and Drug Administration, skin products containing mercury have been found in at least seven states. They are manufactured outside the United States and marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes and wrinkles. Health consequences of mercury include kidney damage and an impact on the brain development of fetuses and very young children. Even breathing the vapors of the products can cause health problems, according to the FDA. Read more on safety.
Infections from Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a bacteria that causes diarrhea and other health problems, has become an issue in all types of medical facilities, not just hospitals as traditionally thought, according to the March Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While many health care-associated infections declined in prevalence in the past decade, C. difficile infection rates and deaths climbed to record highs.
C. difficile is linked to about 14,000 U.S. deaths every year. Those most at risk are people who take antibiotics and also receive care in any medical setting. Almost half of infections occur in people younger than 65, but more than 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 and older. Get more infectious disease news.
A new study in the journal PLos Medicine finds that a smoking ban in Scotland has been associated with decreases in preterm deliveries and underweight babies. The nationwide ban on smoking in public places took effect in March 2006. The researchers analyzed data on preterm delivery and small-for-gestational-age babies born between January 1996 and December 2009.
The number of mothers who smoked dropped from more than 25 percent before the smoking ban to about 19 percent after the ban; during that time, preterm deliveries fell by more than 10 percent, and researchers found a nearly 5 percent decrease in the number of infants born small and a nearly 8 percent decrease in the number of infants born very small. Significantly, the decreases in preterm deliveries and underweight babies occurred both in mothers who smoked and in those who had never smoked—an indication of the impact of second hand smoke, according to the authors. Read up on the latest in tobacco news.