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High levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in anti-fogging sprays and wipes | US news

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Anti-fogging sprays and cloths often used to prevent condensation on eyeglasses from wearing a mask or on face shields may contain high levels of potentially toxic PFAS “forever chemicals”, according to a new study led by Duke University.

Researchers tested four of the top-rated anti-fogging sprays as well as five top-rated anti-fogging cloths sold by Amazon. In all nine products, experts found fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) and fluorotelomer ethoxylates (FTEOs), two types of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS have been dubbed as forever chemicals due to their longevity in the environment.

“Our tests show the sprays contain up to 20.7 milligrams of PFAS per milliliter of solution, which is a pretty high concentration,” said study lead Nicholas Herkert, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Exposure to some PFAs – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in particular – have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, fertility complications and other health problems.

Herkert noted that FTOHs and FTEOs have not been studied extensively, so scientists do not know what health risks they could pose, but research currently suggests that FTOHs inhaled or absorbed through the skin could break down in the body and become toxic, long-lasting PFAs.

The FTEOs used in all four anti-fogging sprays were also analyzed in the new study and exhibited substantial cell-altering toxicity and conversion to fat cells during lab tests, said Herkert.

“It’s disturbing to think that products people have been using on a daily basis to help keep themselves safe during the Covid pandemic may be exposing them to a different risk,” said Heather Stapleton, a distinguished professor of environmental chemistry and health at Duke.

Stapleton initiated the study after reviewing the ingredients in a bottle of anti-fogging spray she bought for her 9-year-old daughter.

Stapleton noted that the other eight products did not have their ingredients listed, making it virtually impossible to tell if they contained toxic chemicals until they were analyzed using equipment from her research laboratory.

This study, conducted by Herkert and Stapleton with researchers from Duke University, Wayne State University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is only the second ever to focus on FTEOS. The researchers published their peer-reviewed study on 5 January in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Herkert and Stapleton said that more research would be needed to expand on initial findings, with larger studies involving tests on living organisms being the next step. Studies that include a larger sample size of sprays and cloths could also help identify other unknown chemicals being used in these products.

“Because of Covid, more people than ever, including many medical professionals and other first-responders, are using these sprays and cloths to keep their glasses from fogging up when they wear masks or face shields,” said Stapleton. “They deserve to know what’s in the products they’re using.”

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year

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In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart



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17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus

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Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer

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Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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