UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Jan. 26, 2007 at 7:13 PM
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Hormone replacement helps young women

CLEVELAND, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The benefits of short-term hormone replacement therapy likely outweigh the risks for younger women, the North American Menopause Society said in Ohio.

The society issued a new position statement on hormone therapy that will be published in its journal, Menopause. The society said the risks and benefits of hormone therapy change as a woman ages.

In an example cited in Friday's Wall Street Journal, women 20 years past menopause and taking hormones had a 71 percent higher risk of a heart attack, while women closer to menopause had an 11 percent lower risk, the newspaper said.

Hormones are still only recommended for short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms, the Journal reported.

Nearly five years ago, the Women's Health Initiative study was stopped early because older participants suffered a high rate of heart attacks.

"I think these guidelines help to put the recent evidence and the new studies into perspective for women," said Harvard researcher JoAnn Manson, who worked on both that study and the new guidelines. "I think the statement is likely to be reassuring to them that with short-term use the benefits of hormones are likely to outweigh the risks."

California phases out dry-cleaning solvent

SACRAMENTO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- California is the first state to enact a gradual ban on a dry-cleaning solvent that has been linked to several cancers.

The California Air Resources Board voted 9-0 to ban the purchase of new machines that use the chemical perchloroethylene, or perc, as of 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

All perc machines are to be phased out by 2023.

"It's very important to public health to move in the direction of eliminating perc from dry-cleaning facilities in California. ... But a lot of people are going to be affected by what we do today. There has to be a sense of fairness," said board member Barbara Riordan, one of four board members who voted Thursday against a quicker ban supported by environmental groups, the Times said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected a ban on perc machines, instead phasing them out only at dry cleaners in residential buildings.

"Tightening the rules for dry cleaners is an important step in the agency's comprehensive strategy to protect public health. EPA remains committed to the phase-out in residential buildings," spokeswoman Jessica Emond told the Times.

Impotence rumors threaten polio vaccines

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Health officials in Pakistan say a drive to immunize more than 160,000 children against polio is being jeopardized by rumors the vaccine causes impotence.

Rumors spread by local clerics via FM radio allege that the vaccines are an "American conspiracy" to reduce the population of Pakistan, the BBC reported.

Immunization teams have been beaten up in some areas, and some parents refuse to allow their children to be immunized.

A lab tested samples of the vaccine last year after allegations were made in the Peshawar High Court that the vaccine contained the hormone estrogen. Health official Waheed Khan said the vaccine did not contain any estrogen, the BBC said.

The World Health Organization has undertaken a $196 million annual campaign to control polio in Pakistan. Polio viruses that originated in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria spread to 1,902 people worldwide last year, WHO said.

Living near highway bad for kids' lungs

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A California study concludes living near a busy highway causes lifelong damage to children's lungs.

The study, which followed thousands of California school children for 13 years, compared the lung function of children who lived within 500 yards of a highway to those who lived a mile or more from a highway, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lung damage among those who lived near a highway was comparable to that for people living in a community with the highest air pollution levels, said the study published in the online version of the medical journal Lancet.

"If you live in a high-pollution area and live near a busy road, you get a doubling" of the damage, said W. James Gauderman, an epidemiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California.

By the time they were 18, the children who lived within 500 yards of a highway had a 3 percent deficit in the amount of air they could exhale, compared to children who lived farther away from a highway.

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