WATER SAFETY

Broken system traps rural Americans with poisoned or untested water: The leaders of this former oil boomtown never gave 2-year-old Adam Walton a chance to avoid the poison. It came in city water, delivered to his family’s tap through pipes nearly a century old. For almost a year, the little boy bathed in lead-tainted water and ate food cooked in it. As he grew into a toddler — when he should have been learning to talk — he drank tap water containing a toxin known to ravage a child’s developing brain. Millions of Americans face similar risks because the nation’s drinking-water enforcement system doesn’t make small utilities play by the same safety rules as everyone else, a USA TODAY Network investigation has found. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Anthropogenic factors affecting mosquito populations: People are worried that climate change is causing mosquitos to expand their range into more temperate zones, spreading diseases such as Zika, chikungunya, and dengue. In fact, other human-caused (“anthropogenic”) factors are having a much bigger effect on mosquito populations, says a study just published in the journal Nature. The authors say that use of chemicals such as DDT combined with increasing urbanization were the strongest drivers of changes in mosquito populations over the last eight decades in areas on both coasts of North America. Mosquito populations have increased as much as tenfold, and mosquito communities have become two- to fourfold richer over the last five decades, the authors say. READ MORE

Avian influenza continues to spread: France has widened “high risk” restrictions to the entire country after the detection of several cases of the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu strain in farms in southwest France and in wild ducks in northern France, the farm ministry said. The decision was also motivated by the “rapid change in the …situation in France and in several European countries.” French poultry farmers have been told to keep their flocks indoors or apply safety nets preventing contact with wild birds. Those who may not use confinement or safety nets because of animal welfare or quality requirements can ask to be exempted if they can prove sufficient biosecurity measures. The H5N8 variant of bird flu is infectious for poultry but poses little danger to humans. The H5N1 strain, however, has killed more than 420 people, mainly in south-east Asia, since first appearing in 2003. Promedmail.org reports that HPAI has already been reported from 14 European countries and continues its spread in the Middle East. READ MORE

America’s vital statistics updated with 2015 data:  The effects of America’s Silver Tsunami (the Baby Boom generation) continue to be seen in the latest news release about American vital statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics. Average life expectancy for American babies born in 2015 is 78.8 years, with an average of 76.3 years for males and 81.2 years for females. Total numbers of deaths increased by slightly more than 86,000 and can be expected to keep increasing for the next decade, consistent with the disproportionate number of seniors in our population. There was no change in the top 10 causes of death, which accounted for 74.2 percent of all deaths in the U.S. These were mostly chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases, Alzheimers, diabetes, and kidney disease), unintentional injuries, influenza and pneumonia, and stroke—consistent with a predominantly aging population. A slight decrease (1.7 percent) in cancer-related deaths was noted, consistent with progress in early treatment of cancers. The infant mortality rate was not significantly different, with nearly 70 percent (68.6 percent) attributable to the same top 10 causes reported in 2014—congenital malformations, low birthweight, sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications, unintentional injuries, cord and placental complications, newborns’ bacterial sepsis, newborns’ respiratory distress, circulatory diseases, and neonatal hemorrhage. Read more HERE and HERE. (Reported by Stephanie Ostrowski)