Mar 24, 2022

COVID-19 drove the largest death spike in a century, with 535,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau data.

By the numbers: There was a 19% jump in the number of U.S. deaths between 2019 and 2020. Before then, the largest increase of the decade had been just 3.3% in 2015.
  • The U.S. death toll remained high in 2021, according to the latest provisional data for the year, and the pandemic has disrupted what were once predictable, seasonal mortality trends.

The overall rise in mortality contributed to deaths outpacing births in more than 73% of U.S. counties between mid-2020 and mid-2021 — a record high and up from 56% the year before and 46% in 2019.

  • Half of states saw more deaths than births, a phenomenon called "natural decrease." The trend was particularly clear in the Northeast and the South, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Every county in Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island experienced a natural decrease.

Yes, but: Counterintuitively, nearly three out of five (58%) U.S. counties experienced population growth between the start of July 2020 and the end of June 2021

  • This was in large part due to people avoiding more crowded, urban areas and instead staying in or heading for less populous parts of the country.
  • In many counties, those decisions helped offset the broader demographic trends that point toward population decline, such as the spike in deaths, slowing birth rates and declining international immigration to the U.S.

Between the lines: Two-thirds of U.S. counties experienced positive net domestic migration between mid-2020 and mid-2021 — meaning they saw more people staying or moving in than leaving.

  • That percentage was up from just 46% the year before.
U.S. Census Bureau data via AXIOS

Mar 21, 2022

​Federal Probe Of Contaminated Baby Food, study finding that 95% of baby food products tested contained lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium.

Huffington Post - The Senate's top Democrat is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to examine a study that found dozens of baby food products contaminated with lead and other metals.

The study found 95% of the food tested contained lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium. It found one in four baby foods that were tested contained all four metals.

The New York senator says consumers "rightfully expect those foods to be undeniably safe, appropriately regulated and nutritiously sustaining."

He says federal regulators should examine the study and release a public statement of their findings.

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Air pollution may be linked to heightened autoimmune disease risk, scientists say

Exposure to traffic and industrial pollutants associated with 40% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and 20% higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease

Independent: Researchers in Italy warned the most common forms of environmental air pollution, such as vehicle exhaust fumes and industrial emissions can trigger adaptive immunity, a process in which the body reacts to a specific disease-causing entity, but in cases where this adaptive response "misfires", it can prompt systemic inflammation, tissue damage, and ultimately autoimmune disease.

The number of people suffering from these conditions, which also include connective tissue diseases such as osteoarthritis, have steadily increased over the past decade.

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Mar 8, 2022

​Half of US adults exposed to harmful lead levels as kids

"The more tragic part is that we keep making the same ... mistakes again," Lanphear said. "First it was lead, then it was air pollution. ... Now it's PFAS chemicals and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics more durable). And it keeps going on and on.

"And we can't stop long enough to ask ourselves should we be regulating chemicals differently," he said.

From Article:
Over 170 million U.S.-born people who were adults in 2015 were exposed to harmful levels of lead as children, a new study estimates.

Researchers used blood-lead level, census and leaded gasoline consumption data to examine how widespread early childhood lead exposure was in the country between 1940 and 2015.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, they estimated that half the U.S. adult population in 2015 had been exposed to lead levels surpassing five micrograms per deciliter — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention threshold for harmful lead exposure at the time.

The scientists from Florida State University and Duke University also found that 90% of children born in the U.S. between 1950 and 1981 had blood-lead levels higher than the CDC threshold. And the researchers found significant impact on cognitive development: on average, early childhood exposure to lead resulted in a 2.6-point drop in IQ.

The researchers only examined lead exposure caused by leaded gasoline, the dominant form of exposure from the 1940s to the late 1980s, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Leaded gasoline for on-road vehicles was phased out starting in the 1970s, then finally banned in 1996.

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DOE Projects Zero Emissions Medium- and Heavy-Duty Electric Trucks Will Be Cheaper than Diesel-Powered Trucks by 2035

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a study showing that by 2030, nearly half of medium- and heavy-duty trucks will be cheaper to buy, operate, and maintain as zero emissions vehicles than traditional diesel-powered combustion engine vehicles. Published by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the study finds that continued improvements with zero emission vehicle and fuel technologies will enable clean trucks to become cheaper and more readily available over the next decade. Increased use of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) within the trucking industry will support the decarbonization of America's transportation sector and advance President Biden's goals to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, address the climate crisis, and bolster domestic manufacturing.  

"DOE is showing a clear pathway for trucking companies to make the switch from diesel to electric that will help them cut costs and pollution for their customers, while combatting climate change," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "The Biden Administration's comprehensive approach is working to make clean transportation a reality—by reducing exposure to volatile fuel prices, investing in American manufacturing and creating a national charging network to support more electric vehicles on the road."

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Mar 3, 2022

What's a burn pit? And why it matters

Newsweek - President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address on Tuesday to highlight the risks of burn pits and the effect they have had on the health of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan...Materials burned in these pits included chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions, and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food.

Some of the waste burned in these pits could give rise to toxic smoke-containing substances with potential to cause long and short-term health effects. The VA says that the burning of waste in such pits gives rise to more hazards than the burning of waste in controlled conditions such as commercial incinerators.

Short terms effects of exposure to burn pit smoke include nose, skin, and eye irritation, coughing and soreness in the throat, and breathing difficulties...

The VA uses the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which it launched in 2014, to track and monitor vets exposed to burn pits during service. According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) it is estimated that 3.5 million service members and veterans were exposed to burn pits.

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