Health Advice



Air on the Side of Caution

Scott LaFee on

Continual exposure to air pollution, even at levels permitted by U.S. regulations, may be associated with thousands of early deaths, according to a new study published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Researchers tracked people enrolled in Medicare from 2000 through 2016, mapping pollution where they lived to health outcomes. Unlike other studies, it focused on lower levels of pollution generally deemed "safe" or "safer."

It found that very old people and people with lower incomes who were exposed to long-term air pollution had a greater risk of dying than others.

"Our finding that people living in lower income areas are more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution means they are suffering a double whammy -- more exposure, and greater risk from that exposure," study co-author Joel Schwartz said in a statement to STAT.

Body of Knowledge

The color of the human brain is variable. By and large, it's shades of white and gray. The white color comes from a type of fat called myelin, which envelopes and insulates the axons connecting neurons, helping speed signals between them. The cellular bodies of neurons and non-neuron support cells called glia are gray. The pinkish hue of a healthy, living brain is due to blood infusing the organ.


Interestingly, a few regions of the brain appear black, such as the substantia nigra pars compacta and the locus coeruleus. These structures deep within the brain contain a dark pigment called neuromelanin, which makes them appear black in contrast to surrounding tissues. Neuromelanin is thought to help prevent oxidative damage to neurons, in part by absorbing toxins.

Get Me That, Stat!

According to the sole study conducted on the topic, vending machines kill four times more people each year than fatal shark attacks, mostly by falling on consumers who are rocking or tilting them. Presumably, the mortality ratio is even greater when you take into account the number of people who die (eventually) due to eating the contents of vending machines.



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