Environmental Health

Hospitals Confront Climate Change as Patients Sick From Floods and Fires Crowd ERs

When triple-digit temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest this summer, the emergency room at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center was ill prepared. Doctors raced to treat heat-aggravated illness in homeless people, elderly patients with chronic ailments, and overdosing narcotics users. “The magnitude of the exposure, this was so far off the charts in terms of our historical …

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The ‘Burn Scars’ of Wildfires Threaten the West’s Drinking Water

Colorado saw its worst fire season last year, with the three largest fires in state history and more than 600,000 acres burned. But some of the effects didn’t appear until this July, when heavy rain pushed sediment from damaged forests down mountainsides, causing mudslides that shut down sections of Interstate 70 for almost two weeks. …

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Wildfire Smoke Is Here to Stay. Here’s How to Clean the Air Inside Your Home.

The fierce wildfires that broke out across much of the western United States this summer, spreading smoke across hundreds of miles, continue to pose a serious health hazard to millions. More are expected this fall. That’s a major health concern because microscopic particles in wildfire smoke, carried by the wind, can penetrate deep into your …

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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: The Future of Public Health

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud. You can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Click here for a transcript of the episode. The covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on public health, a key part of the health care system that …

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As Temperatures Rise, So Do the Health Risks for California’s Farmworkers

COACHELLA, Calif. — Leoncio Antonio Trejo Galdamez, 58, died in his son’s arms on June 29 after spending the day laying irrigation pipes in California’s Coachella Valley. News of his death reverberated through the largely Latino community near the Mexican and Arizona borders — another casualty in a dangerous business. “Farmworkers are at the front …

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Wildfire Smoke Drives People in Low-Vaccinated Areas Indoors, Raising Outbreak Fears

MISSOULA, Mont. — Missoula’s new downtown library was teeming with people who might typically spend a Saturday afternoon hiking, biking or otherwise making the most of Montana’s abundant outdoor recreation. One look at the soupy haze blanketing the city and it was clear why. “We’re definitely trying to stay out of the smoke,” Charlie Booher …

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A Chilling Cure: Facing Killer Heat, ERs Use Body Bags to Save Lives

As a deadly heat wave scorched the Pacific Northwest last month, overwhelming hospital emergency rooms in a region unaccustomed to triple-digit temperatures, doctors resorted to a grim but practical tool to save lives: human body bags filled with ice and water. Officials at hospitals in Seattle and Renton, Washington, said that as more people arrived …

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Can Biden’s Plan to Remove Urban Highways Improve the Health of American Cities?

Mandela Parkway, a four-lane boulevard enhanced by a median with trees and a curving footpath, stretches along a 24-block section of West Oakland. It’s the fruit of a grassroots neighborhood campaign to block reconstruction of an elevated freeway leveled by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and reimagine the thoroughfare to replace it. Since the …

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From Racial Justice to Dirty Air, California’s New AG Plots a Progressive Health Care Agenda

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a longtime Democratic state lawmaker, comes to his new role well known for pursuing an unabashedly progressive agenda on criminal justice issues. He has pushed for legislation to eliminate cash bail and to ban for-profit prisons and detention centers. But Bonta also has a distinctive record on health care, successfully …

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Lady Gaga and J.Lo Sell ‘Well’ Building Seal, But It’s a Payday, Not a PSA

Viewers could be excused for thinking Robert De Niro was just being a good fella in an ad promoting safe buildings amid the covid pandemic, along with the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and Michael B. Jordan. This story also ran on The Daily Beast. It can be republished for free. They would be …

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As Schools Spend Millions on Air Purifiers, Experts Warn of Overblown Claims and Harm to Children

Last summer, Global Plasma Solutions wanted to test whether the company’s air-purifying devices could kill covid-19 virus particles but could find only a lab using a chamber the size of a shoebox for its trials. In the company-funded study, the virus was blasted with 27,000 ions per cubic centimeter. This story also ran on CNN. …

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Bay Area Cities Go to War Over Gas Stoves in Homes and Restaurants

This story also ran on U.S. News & World Report. It can be republished for free. San Francisco restaurant owners, already simmering over covid-19 restrictions, are ready to boil over because of a city ban on natural gas stoves in new buildings that takes effect in June. The ban, which also affects other gas appliances, …

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At Risk of Extinction, Black-Footed Ferrets Get Experimental COVID Vaccine

In late summer, as researchers accelerated the first clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines for humans, a group of scientists in Colorado worked to inoculate a far more fragile species. About 120 black-footed ferrets, among the most endangered mammals in North America, were injected with an experimental COVID vaccine aimed at protecting the small, weasel-like creatures …

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California Law Banning Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics Will Transform Industry

A toxic chemical ban signed into law in California will change the composition of cosmetics, shampoos, hair straighteners and other personal care products used by consumers across the country, industry officials and activists say. The ban, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom at the end of September, covers 24 chemicals, including mercury, formaldehyde and several types …

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How to Weigh Evacuation Options With Both Wildfires and COVID at Your Door

As the smoke thickened near her home in Santa Cruz, California, last week, Amanda Smith kept asking herself the same questions: Should we leave? And where would we go? The wildfire evacuation zone, at the time, ended a few blocks from her house. But she worried about what the air quality — which had reached …

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Wildfires Provide Another Reason to Mask Up

If you have declined to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 crisis, you might want to reconsider, as the smoke from over 300 wildfires chokes people across central and Northern California. But you are going to have to think a little more about what kind of mask is best. The fires have spewed toxic …

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