Review Category : Health

Billboard Pushes Clean Air with Poetry, Pollution-Eating Particles

iStock/Thinkstock(SHEFFIELD, England) — A poet and a scientist have teamed up to fight air pollution with what they call the world’s first “air-cleansing” billboard.

Poetry professor Simon Armitage and chemistry professor Tony Ryan of the University of Sheffield in England joined forces to create the giant poster, which features a poem by Armitage entitled “In Praise of Air” printed with pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide.

“I wanted to write a poem that was approachable, that might catch the attention of the passer-by and the wandering mind,” Armitage said in a statement. ”I’ve enjoyed working with the scientists and the science, trying to weave the message into the words.”

Titanium dioxide particles purify the air by using sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants, according to Ryan, who said the sign will help scrub the surroundings of pollution caused by cars.

“This is a fun collaboration between science and the arts to highlight a very serious issue of poor air quality in our towns and cities,” Ryan said. “The science behind this is an additive which delivers a real environmental benefit that could actually help cut disease and save lives.”

The sign will hang in Sheffield for a year, according to the duo, where it will help clean the air of nitrogen oxide pollution created by an estimated 7,300 cars.

ABC US News | International News

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Americans Overestimate Swimming Skills

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Think you can swim? Before you say “yes,” better think about whether you’re capable of saving your own life in the water.

The American Red Cross reports that of the 80 percent of Americans who believe they can swim, only 56 percent can perform five skills necessary to avoid drowning.

So before diving in this summer, the Red Cross recommends reviewing whether you’re capable of entering water over your head and subsequently returning to the surface; floating or treading in water for a full minute; able to turn into a full circle to find a way out of the water; swimming at least 25 yards to find an exit; and actually able to get out of the water, even if there’s no ladder nearby.

While that all sounds pretty basic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s important to remember that almost 4,000 people die by drowning in the U.S. every year, many of them under age 14.

What’s more, the Red Cross has found that more than half of parents admit their kids don’t know the basic skills needed to avoid drowning.

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Stress Is Another Part of the Teen Experience

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Relax, kids: school will be out soon, if it hasn’t already let out for the summer.

The long break is apparently needed, judging by an American Psychological Association survey that says teens are as least as stressed as adults but that their anxieties aren’t taken as seriously.

It should be no surprise that adolescents feels most stressed during the school year, which might explain why teens appear to be so irritable, or often on the verge of tears.

The “Stress in America” survey finds that more than a third of stressed teens report sleeping problems, while a quarter treat their worries by overindulging in food.

More girls report feeling stressed than boys, although males may not want to admit feeling overwhelmed, thinking it might make them seem weak.

Another problem: many teens don’t realize that stress could be affecting them both physically and mentally.

While there are no easy answers, Norman Anderson, APA executive vice president, recommends parents talk more often to their youngsters. Some ways of relieving anxieties include exercise and more bed rest.

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Tough Mudder Rescue Diver’s Heart Stops, in Critical Condition

Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(MANSFIELD, Ohio) — Tough Mudder, races that have acquired a reputation for dangerous obstacles and bizarre injuries, experienced another setback recently when a rescue diver’s heart stopped in the middle of a race in Ohio.

The diver, whose name has not been released, was stationed in the water at the Walk-the-Plank obstacle in Mansfield, Ohio, where racers are required to jump off a 15-foot platform into cold, muddy water, according to Tough Mudder spokesman Ben Johnson. Johnson could not confirm details of what happened to the diver, but race participant Bret Buike said he was the one to notice the diver and helped save his life.

“We just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Buike told ABC News. “We were able to act quickly enough that it seems like we potentially saved this man’s life.”

This was the same type of obstacle where 28-year-old Avishek Sengupta drowned after another racer jumped into the water on top of him in April 2012 during a Tough Mudder race in West Virginia, Sengupta’s family claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Tough Mudder earlier this month.

The race promises to be “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet,” and has obstacles with names like “Fire in Your Hole,” “Electric Eel” and “Arctic Enema.”

Researchers examined emergency room visits following a Tough Mudder in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in a study published by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2013, and reported that they encountered one Tough Mudder racer who received 13 electric shocks on the course, which caused heart inflammation. Another racer had a stroke and suffered temporary paralysis, according to the study.

Read about the other potential risks associated with obstacle races here.

Buike, a former paramedic who was participating in the Ohio race last weekend, told ABC News he was about to jump off the platform, when he noticed a rescue diver below who didn’t look right.

“I yelled down to see if he was OK,” Buike said, adding that a few other people followed suit. But the diver didn’t answer.

When another lifeguard bumped the rescue diver with a flotation device and the diver still didn’t move, Buike said he sprang into action. He jumped off the platform, swam to the diver, and helped pull the man out of the water with help from three other people, he said.

“I wasn’t sure what was wrong with him at first,” he said. “As soon as we got him out of the water, the first thing you do is check for a pulse, and there wasn’t one.”

They started CPR, and cut the man’s wet suit off, Buike said. Soon, someone rushed over with a defibrillator, and another person began breathing for the diver with a mask attached to a squeezable bag called an AMBU bag, he said.

Once Tough Mudder personnel seemed to have the situation under control, Buike said he moved on and finished the race. That night, he learned that the man survived but was in critical condition. The rescue diver’s family passed on their gratitude through the Tough Mudder organization, he said.

Johnson said what happened at the Walk-the-Plank Obstacle was the result of a “personal health issue,” and “not an accident or injury on site.” The diver also wore a “buoyancy compensator device,” which kept his head above water the entire time, Johnson said.

“This type of medical incident could have occurred anywhere on course,” Johnson said. “Tough Mudder is conducting an investigation, as is our protocol, and we remain deeply confident in the response from our expert medical staff on-site.”

At the time of Sengupta’s death, Tough Mudder said Sengupta’s was “the first fatality in the three-year history of the company,” and that the event “was staffed with more than 75 ALS, EMT, paramedics, water rescue technicians and emergency personnel.”
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Rent-A-Gent Allows Women to Hire Hunks for Dates, Chores

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Marina has it all. She has the job, she has the looks, and, depending on her mood, she has her choice of Frankie the acrobatic dancer, Harrison the revolutionary or Eric the actor.

Marina is using a service called Rent-A-Gent. Starting at $200 an hour, users can pick from a list of handsome, intelligent men listed on the service’s website to be their companion, and either book online or call to reserve a “gent.” The men can serve as a date to an event, cook meals or even repair a sink.

But what they are not allowed to do is hook up — no kissing, and definitely no sex, while on the job.

Marina ended up choosing Eric, whose Rent-A-Gent profile described him as someone who “loves the outdoors, culture and also active and social causes,” for a rock-climbing date — something she had never done before but always wanted to try.

“It’s very hard to find a man…that has good qualities, and then you have to get to know them, and go through the whole dating process, while this [website] is just a click away,” said Marina.

“You just hang out for two hours, and then you say goodbye, you go your ways, it’s amazing,” she continued. “You have all different types of men that you could choose and you choose how to spend your time with them.”

While this one-and-done date seems like a fun solution to typical dating, relationship expert Donna Barnes said hiring a companion could hurt women’s chances at finding real love.

“It’s really dangerous when you start putting too much emphasis on the package of who someone is,” Barnes said. “I think commonality is what makes relationships work…By hiring someone who is attractive, you start holding up this standard. You might overlook someone who is really wonderful and could make you happy.”

Rent-A-Gent offers services in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Sara Shikhman, the co-founder and CEO of, and a panel of judges carefully select each gent in casting sessions, weeding out many of those who audition and selecting the best of the best.

“The process is very rigorous, because men think they can do it all, and all kinds of men show up,” Shikhman said. “They say to us, ‘Yeah, I’m qualified to be a gent, even though I’m 5-foot-4, bald and I’m 65 years old….That’s not going to happen.”

And the interview process is extensive. Shikhman said they will do “80 to 100” interviews before they find one man acceptable for hire.

“Women are paying $200 an hour….I want to give them something like a fine French restaurant, where it’s going to be amazing,” she said. “We have satisfaction guarantee so I need to stand by it. I can’t give them something crappy where they’re going to be like, ‘I could have met that guy at the bar.’”

Shikhman said she and the other Rent-A-Gent casting ladies are looking for their men to meet three criteria.

“They have to be handsome, they have to be intelligent and educated, and they have to have some kind of talent,” she said.

During the audition, Shikhman has the men show off their bodies, sometimes asking them to take off their shirt, and demonstrate their talent, whether it’s plumbing or dancing.

Again, this is not a sex service, Shikhman said, though she admits that some of the calls to Rent-A-Gent are from clients looking to be promiscuous.

“Some of the calls are like this: ‘Hey, I want to hire a guy and my wife is going to go to dinner with him. … But I want to meet them after,’” Shikhman said. “And we’re like, ‘Well, what do you want to do? And they’re like, ‘Well, I want to watch my wife have sex with this guy.’ And we say, ‘Sorry, this is not that kind of service.’”

Shikhman said the Rent-A-Gent standard draws the line at making the men do something naked. But install a ceiling fan wearing only their underwear? “That’s fine,” she said.

While it may seem like harmless fun, the service can come off to some as simply objectifying men, but Shikhman disagrees, saying, “It’s the modern world and we have lots of different options.”

Eric, who was selected for Marina’s date, said that he doesn’t get that feeling of being used when he works for Rent-A-Gent.

“I don’t feel used, because I think it’s a different thing than that,” he said. “We’re going there to have fun, and I think so far the people that I’ve encountered have been very fun women.”

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Teen to Carry Little Brother 40 Miles for Cerebral Palsy Awareness

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Hunter Gandee, 14, big man on campus and big brother to Braden, 7, will piggyback his brother for 40 miles to raise awareness about cerebral palsy.

Hunter, the president of his junior high’s student council and captain of his school’s wrestling team, wants to raise awareness of the challenges his little brother faces in everyday life.

Braden was born with cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that causes physical disability.

Hunter has been carrying Braden around on his back since the two were young. It’s Braden’s favorite form of transportation. “It’s how he gets around,” mom Danielle told ABC News. But this 40-mile hike won’t be like a trip to the grocery store.

Hunter will carry nearly 60-pound Braden from the Bedford Junior High wrestling room to the University of Michigan wrestling room. The duo will leave 8 a.m. June 7, walk for about 25 miles, stay overnight in Milan and finish the last 15 miles the next day.

Community members, wrestlers from all over, and veterans of the Disabled Veterans of America are expected to join the cause. Hunter wanted to make clear that this walk was strictly to raise awareness. Those who have wanted to donate have been pointed to the University of Michigan’s Cerebral Palsy Research Consortium.

Hunter told ABC News he is “very protective” of his little brother. “If he has any problems, I’m right there by his side,” Hunter said.

Braden told ABC News he was “very, very excited” for the walk.

Through “Cerebral Palsy Swagger,” the Gandee family hopes research and technology will follow so new equipment to aid Braden and others with cerebral palsy will help them, rather than hold them back. “You can’t go on the baseball field with a walker,” Danielle Gandee said.

Mrs. Gandee and her husband hold their children to the same standard, modifying expectations when necessary, but “we’re pretty strict,” the mom said. “They are expected to do well in school, get good grades.”

“We don’t treat him any different. We push him like we push our other kids,” Danielle Gandee said. “Only motor challenges hold him back. We don’t let cerebral palsy be an excuse.”

The mom attributes Braden’s happy life, despite his physical struggle, to the strong community they are surrounded with and the closeness of their family.

“He’s kind of like everybody’s little brother,” she said. “Everyone looks out for him and plays with him, I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation where a kid has been mean to him.”

Braden is also Hunter’s number-one cheerleader and Hunter’s greatest inspiration. Braden is always front row and center at his big brother’s wrestling matches.

“It gives me that extra boost, whenever I’m in the middle of a match, it just makes me want to try harder to pull out the win. It’s a confidence thing for me,” Hunter said.

“Whenever there is a real emotional, close match, Hunter jumps up, slaps the mat, and says, ‘I did that for you buddy!’” Mrs. Gandee said.

“Their connection, they really are that close,” Danielle Gandee explained. “It’s not an act. Hunter knows that Braden’s got to work very hard, he’s the kind of person that is always thinking about other people.”

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Experts Warn of Summer Home-Fire Hazards

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — While much attention has been placed on recent wildfires in the West, experts Tuesday warned there could be a grave danger right in your own neighborhood this summer, stemming from barbecue grills, overloaded electrical cords, and backyard fireworks.

Nationwide, home fires cause on average more than 2,500 deaths a year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. The rise in temperatures only adds to the slew of concerns.

“It’s scary,” said Captain Philip Hershey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. “As a captain, the last thing we want to be doing is pulling bodies out of these houses.”

Los Angeles is responding to a record spike in fatal house fires this year with a door-to-door campaign that looks for homes without smoke detectors.

Firefighters say that in seven of the city’s nine recent fatal cases, there was not a single functioning smoke detector inside the home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 5 million households don’t have smoke detectors.

Firefighters advised that in addition to a smoke detector on every floor, households with elderly relatives or children should also have a carefully rehearsed escape plan.

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The Lasting Fallout of Fake Vaccination Programs

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. government will no longer use vaccinations as a front to obtain intelligence, according to a newly released letter from the White House to 13 concerned public health school deans. But some experts say that the damage from high-profile ploys — like the one used to help find Osama bin Laden — is already done.

“When it was discovered that the CIA had used vaccine workers as part of their undercover activities, it had a chilling effect,” said ABC News’ chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, referring to a hepatitis vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan, aimed at getting DNA from bin Laden’s relatives.

In March 2012, Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor involved in the operation, was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison. By that time, at least 16 Pakistani aid workers had been killed in attacks blamed on vaccine suspicion.

“We’ll never know for sure if that is why workers in Pakistan have lost their lives, but anything that compromises the trust in local vaccine workers can have a devastating impact on health,” Besser said.

At the times of the workers’ deaths, an American senior counter-terrorism official defended the vaccination program and stressed that the vaccinations were “real” and “conducted by genuine medical professionals.”

“The idea that these were in any way ‘fake’ is simply mistaken,” the official told ABC News. “Many Pakistani children received vaccinations, and if the effort had not been interrupted by the arrest of the doctor, they would have been fully immunized.”

“The plan was for everyone to get the full course of treatments,” the official added.

A later attack on eight United Nations health workers vaccinating Pakistani children against polio prompted deans from 13 U.S. public health schools to write an impassioned letter pleading for the government to abandon “sham vaccination” programs in the name of intelligence.

“While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as an open society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those boundaries,” the deans wrote in their letter, dated Jan. 8, 2013. “As public health academic leaders, we hereby urge you to assure the public that this type of practice will not be repeated.”

In a response to the deans dated May 16, 2014, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism said the CIA had been directed in August 2013 to “make no operational use of use vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers.” The letter also thanked the deans for the “tireless work to improve global health.”

In a statement to ABC News, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd acknowledged that “long-standing extremist claims that foreign vaccination programs are spy operations run by Western governments” stood in the way of successful vaccination programs abroad, but said that other obstacles like “myths that vaccinations cause sterility or HIV” persist. Boyd also said that attacks on aid workers preceded the Abbottabad operation.

“It is important to note that militant groups have a long history of attacking humanitarian aid workers in Pakistan and those attacks began years before the raid against the bin Laden compound and years before any press reports claiming a CIA-sponsored vaccination program,” he said.

Besser said he hopes news of the decision will help bolster efforts to eradicate polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that is still endemic in Pakistan.

“It will take time to see if this restores any of the trust that was lost,” he said.

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Are Airplane Seats a Ticket to Infection?

iStock/Thinkstock(AUBURN, Ala.) — The sneezing passenger in seat 5B. The coughing, hacking child seated between you and the aisle.

Catching something during a flight in one of these situations is something that many of us have worried about. But a new study suggests that there are other ways to catch nasty bugs from planes.

The study found that certain types of bacteria can survive for up to a week on the inside surfaces of aircraft cabins — including your armrest, your plastic tray table, the metal toilet button, the window shade and your seat pocket.

To determine this, researchers at Auburn University took samples of all of these materials and contaminated them with two disease-causing germs — the superbug MRSA, which causes nasty wound and soft-tissue infections, and E.Coli O157:H7, which can lead to diarrhea and other more dangerous illnesses.

MRSA, the researchers found, survived a week on the seat-back pocket, while E.Coli survived four days on the armrest.

“Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins,” study author Kiril Vaglenov said in a statement. He added that the study is “our first step in investigating this potential problem.”

Others have found nasty bacteria on board.

“We have detected MRSA on aircrafts — usually the tray that comes down in front of you,” said Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at Arizona University, who was not involved with the study. “I tested trays on four flights and found it on at least one tray on each flight.

“We also detected influenza virus and norovirus once each on these flights. The restrooms on planes also get fairly contaminated with E. coli. … Fifty people per toilet on a plane is a lot of use during a long flight,” he added.

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends that airlines merely tidy up during transit stops. However, every 24 hours a more intensive cleaning should take place, the organization recommends.

Aircraft crew are “probably trying to do the best they can,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest University, who was also not involved with the study. “Public places are going to have bacteria from other people. If research shows certain fabrics are easier to clean than others, that is what they should use.”

“Cleanliness is important, but they can’t sterilize their cabins,” Ohl added.

But what can airlines do? Vaglenov said his study’s findings should prompt them to explore new ways to clean and disinfect these surfaces more effectively — perhaps even incorporating fabrics with antimicrobial properties into the interiors of aircraft.

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NFL Star Who Wanted Another Child Faces Drug Suspension

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — One of the NFL’s leading defenders, Robert Mathis, is defending himself following a performance-enhancing drug controversy.

The six-time Pro Bowl member, and Super Bowl champion with the Colts, was suspended for four games, costing him $705,000, for testing positive for the fertility drug Clomid. Clomid is banned by the NFL because it can be used to help improve a player’s performance.

Hadley Englehard, Mathis’s agent, says Mathis was taking clomid for fertility purposes.

“Robert is not a cheater. There is not one bit of evidence that Robert used this for anything but fertility,” Englehard said.

Mathis and his wife already have twin boys and a daughter, but they wanted to give Mathis’ ailing mother, diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, a fourth grandchild. Mathis’ wife is now pregnant.

Dr. Steven Morganstern, the Atlanta doctor who treated Mathis for infertility, told ABC News that he didn’t realize Mathis was an NFL player when he prescribed Clomid. Morganstern is proud that the couple was able to conceive.

“Robert was using it, he had an increased sperm count, his wife got pregnant and he was off it,” Morganstern said.

Mathis has said that he specifically asked the doctor if the medication would present a problem for NFL drug testing, but Morganstern denies that he gave Mathis any such assurance.

“That would not be something I would know,” Morganstern told ABC News. But he believes the differing accounts are not important. “He is an upstanding man,” Morganstern said. “The whole situation was honorable.”

The NFL says Mathis should have checked with the league or the player’s union before beginning the treatment.

“A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body,” the NFL said in a statement. “Consistent application of the policy’s procedures is critical to the integrity of the program.”

ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton said Clomid is often used by men who have low sperm count, but that it could help a player on the field.

“It has been used to enhance athletic performance because it can raise testosterone levels,” she said.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the NFL had no choice in the matter.

“They had to draw a firm line — if you take a banned substance without clearing it with us, and you get caught, then you’re going to get punished even if you took it for some other reason than enhancing your athletic performance,” Abrams said.

After the NFL announced its decision, Mathis took responsibility in a statement posted online.

“I am deeply saddened that this situation will prevent me from contributing to my team for four games, and I regret that I didn’t cross check what my doctor told me before I took the medication,” Mathis wrote. “I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance enhancing substance policy agreed to by the NFL and my union.”

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is standing behind his player.

“He’s a horseshoe guy. He’s a pillar guy. We’ve got his back,” Pagano said.

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