Aug 19 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 19

Chemicals in Plastic Food Containers Could be Adding to Childhood Obesity Problem
Unhealthy foods kept in plastic food wraps and containers may be even more unhealthy for kids because of the chemicals in the plastic, according to two new studies in the journal Pediatrics. The studies linked phthalates to increased insulin resistance in children and bisphenol A (BPA) with high body-mass index (BMI). Leonardo Trasande, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and author of the phthalates study, said certain chemicals can affect how the body reacts to glucose influence the release of insulin. "There is increasing concern that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to childhood diseases related to the obesity epidemic," he said. "Our research adds to these growing concerns." He recommends against using certain types of plastic containers and against microwaving any plastic containers. He also says parents should wash plastic containers by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher, and should throw them out when they’ve been damaged. Hugh Taylor, MD, chair of the Yale School of Medicine's department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said that while the two studies "point out the vulnerability of children to environmental chemicals,” parents should also be working to move their kids’ diets to healthier and natural food. Read more on obesity.

CDC: As Many as 300,000 Infected with Lyme Disease Annually
The actual number of U.S. cases of Lyme disease is as much as ten times higher than the reported figure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three ongoing CDC studies put the number of cases of the tick-borne illness at around 300,000 annually. This major difference between reported and actual cases emphasizes the need for greater and more diverse prevention efforts. Traditional preventive measures at the personal level include wearing repellent, checking for ticks daily, showering soon after being outdoors and alerting a doctor if you get a fever or rash. “We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks. Although these measures are effective, they aren’t fail-proof and people don’t always use them,” said Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.” Read more on infectious disease.

Study Links Kids’ Trouble Sleeping, Poor School Performance
Trouble sleeping is tied to trouble in the classroom for kids, according to a new study in the journal Sleep Medicine. Researchers analyzed kids age seven to 10 in Sao Paulo, Brazil schools, finding that 13 percent with difficulty sleeping were failing Portuguese, compared to 9 percent for kids who did not have sleep problems. They also found that 25 percent of kids with trouble sleeping were failing math, compared to eight percent for kids who have no trouble sleeping. U.S. experts estimate that approximately 25 percent of U.S. kids have trouble sleeping, either due to sleep disorders such as insomnia and nightmares, or from other factors such as erratic bedtime hours and anxiety. While noting that the study was "far from perfect," Carl Bazil, MD, a neurologist and director of the division of epilepsy and sleep at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said “It's a first step in emphasizing that sleep in children is something that's important, not only to prevent them from being sleepy but to make sure that they learn. I think this study will help raise awareness that sleep is particularly important in children." Read more on pediatrics.

Tags: Infectious disease, News roundups, Obesity, Pediatrics, Public health