Thursday, October 27, 2022

Ignored places in your home can be 'hotbeds of germs, mold, yeast, pathogens,' newspaper says

Some often ignored germ-filled spots in your home desperately need cleaning.

That's the conclusion of a report by Susannah Herrada in editions of The Washington Post this week. In her story, she notes that those often-overlooked places "can be hotbeds of germs, mold, yeast and pathogens."

Chrysan Cronin
Herrada's article quotes Chrysan Cronin, PhD and an infection disease epidemiologist and director of public health at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, as warning that although we coexist with microbes, "there are some that are more harmful to humans than others. We need to be a little more vigilant in making sure we don't come in contact with those."

The Post piece cites the following, beyond the expected toilets, phone and doorknobs, as danger points where perilous bacterial colonies often lurk (not necessarily in order):
• Sponges and dish towels.
• Knobs and buttons on kitchen appliances.
• Pet bowls.
• Toothbrush holders. 

The story cites research from NSF International, a "go-to global organization for establishing public health standards and certifications," to the effect that "the sink sponge is a veritable Noah's ark in the diversity of microorganisms it contains."

The average sponge, it continues, supports mold and yeast, and is a "perfect habitat" for bacteria that may include E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, all pathogens that can cause fever and stomach upset."

You can eliminate the problem, Herrada says, by running a sponge through the dishwasher. Even so, "you should toss it after a week."

Cronin, meanwhile, suggests changing dish towels daily (at worst).

The Post story also contends that "contrary to popular myth, a dog's mouth is not cleaner than a human's. Wash pet bowls regularly with hot, soapy water — and reserve a separate sponge for pet items. While you're at it, toss hard pet toys in the sink suds and run soft toys through the washing machine." 

Knobs and buttons on kitchen appliances, the story reports, are also "germ magnets, because we touch them so frequently."

Cronin recommends "a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar to water or a 5:100 ratio of bleach to water to disinfect high-contamination zones like these."

To avoid trouble from "high-touch items that travel into the world with us" (such as a cellphone, purse, wallet, and keys), Herrada urges keeping them "in a designated spot by the door or in a closet, and avoid placing these items on kitchen tables or other eating surfaces." 

The toothbrush holder, the story says, "might be a microbiologist's worst nightmare — "because it tends to be close to the toilet." 

Since the holder's "often in the blast radius of the fecal bacteria that aerosolizes whenever you flush," the piece continues, you should "close the lid before flushing and keep the bowl clean." You might further consider storing your toothbrush in a closed drawer or medicine cabinet "where it can dry  out between uses" and not be exposed.

The toilet-flushing issue, through which the microorganisms once airborne can settle on anything nearby according to a 2021 University of Arizona study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, can also turn faucet handles and other personal-care items left on the counter into toxic problems.

Harrada's story also mentions as potential risks the disposal's black rubber drain range, the coffee maker's reservoir, and soft-sided lunchboxes.

Other ways to avoid disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

California stoves and pipes are leaking benzene, a cancer-causing gas, according to new study

Researchers say more study is needed to understand how and why many California homes are subject to leaks of cancer-causing benzene.

That conclusion came from a study that found benzene was leaking in many homes equipped with gas stoves, according to an Associated Press story this week by Drew Costley.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, also estimated that more than four tons of benzene — the equivalent to the benzene emissions from nearly 60,000 vehicles — are also leaking each year "into the atmosphere from outdoor pipes that deliver gas to buildings" around the state.

Measurements, which came from gas samples from 159 homes in different regions of the state, detailed "what types of gases were being emitted into homes when stoves were off." 

Also found were other hazardous air pollutants, like toluene and xylene, which can have "adverse health effects in humans with chronic exposure or acute exposure in larger amounts."

Benzene was of most concern because it's "a known carcinogen that can lead to leukemia and other cancers and blood disorders, according to the National Cancer Institute," the story reports.

California has the second highest level of residential natural gas use in the United States.

Drew Michanowicz
Costley's article quotes Drew Michanowicz, a study co-author and senior scientist at PSE Health Energy, an energy and research policy institute, to the effect that he hopes "policymakers will consider this data when they are making policy, to ensure current and future policies are health-protective."

The Greater Los Angeles, North San Fernando Valley, and San Clarita areas, according to the study, had the highest benzene in gas levels. 

More information on cancer-causing agents can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

National study finds frequent use of hair straighteners may pose risk for uterine cancer

Can frequent use of hair straighteners pose a small risk for uterine cancer?

According to a story by Roni Caryn Rabin in today's editions of The New York Times, the answer is yes. 

Rabin's article says the risk is higher than for women who have never used the products.

The study, which was published yesterday in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed nearly 34,000 U.S. women for more than a decade.

Hair straightener use has previously been tied in studies to a higher risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

"While the increased risk [for uterine cancer] was found among women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds," the story continues, "Black women might be disproportionately affected: Sixty percent of participants who reported using hair straighteners self-identified as Black women, according to the study."

A March report from an expert panel indicated that over all Black women die of uterine cancer at twice the rate that White women do.

Frequent use is defined as more than four times in the previous year, and includes "any personal use, whether women applied products themselves or had the straighteners applied by others."

Alexandra White, PhD
Alexandra White, PhD head of the environmental and cancer epidemiology group of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (HIEHS) and the study's lead author, is quoted as saying that "there is a lot of pressure on women, especially Black women, to have straight hair. It's not an easy decision to not do this."

Researchers have cautioned that the study's findings need to be confirmed by other studies.

The uterine cancer study, Rabin's piece says, shows that some chemicals found in straighteners — such as parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde — could week "play a role in the increased" risk.

Uterine cancer, the story maintains, "is increasing rapidly. The number of cases diagnosed each year has rises to 65,950 this year from 39,000 just 15 years ago." 

When detected early, overall survival rates are high.

More information about risk factors, including those for minority groups, can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Docs hopeful about developing cancer vaccines despite some giving up on them a decade ago

Physicians have begun to feel optimistic about developing immunizations against pancreatic, colon, and breast cancers. 

According to an article by Gina Kolata in today's editions of The New York Times, that report comes from early research with animals despite many doctors having given up a decade ago on the notion of finding cancer vaccines.

Dr. Sachet Shukla
The story quotes Dr. Sachet A. Shukla, who directs a cancer vaccine program at MC Anderson Cancer Center, as saying "cancer vaccines are an idea whose time has come…There is no reason why [they] would not work if given at the earliest stage."

Dr. Susan Domchek, principal investigator of a breast cancer vaccine study at the University of Pennsylvania, foresees "a time when anyone with a pre-cancerous condition or a genetic predisposition to cancer could be vaccinated and protected," the piece continues.

"People would have said this is insane," she's quoted as saying. Now, "it's super-aspirational, but you've got to think big."

Kolata's story asserts that "the search for cancer vaccines started with Olivera Finn, PhD, a distinguished professor in the departments of immunology and surgery at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine" in 1993. She began with a trial of 63 patients with Stage 4 cancer. It quickly became clear, however, "that the cancers were too far advanced for immunizations to work."

Olivera Finn, PhD

After all, Finn notes, with the exception of rabies, no one vaccinates against an infectious disease in people who are already infected."

Now, she and a colleague at Pittsburgh, Dr. Robert Schoen, a gastroenterologist, are trying to prevent pre-cancerous colon polyps with a vaccine that worked in mice.

More information about research on diseases can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Master artist Joe Marciniak strikes again — with whimsical cover for new book, “The Roving I”

Joe Marciniak, master artist who designed cover and inside illustrations for "Grampy and His Fairyzona Playmates,” has followed up with an incredibly lighthearted front cover for “The Roving I.”

Marciniak self-portrait
The cover features a walking cartoon body of the author, Woody Weingarten, replete with an à-propos pot belly — and uses a real photo for the head, replete with elongated, cartoonish nose. The whimsical illustration represents the tone of many of the 70 favorite columns the writer has selected for the anthology (which he, for fun, refers to as florilegium, a word he admits he’d never heard of until a few weeks ago).

BAIPA, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, voted Marciniak’s “Grampy” cover best in the 2021 children’s book category. The fantasy, not incidentally, was co-authored by Weingarten’s granddaughter, who was eight at the time it was written, 70 years different in age.

“The Roving I” contains scores of the writer’s memories — including his partner earning a slot in his Little Black Book, a woman carrying her sister’s “miracle baby” inside her for nine months, and Robin Williams transforming himself into a talking vagina.

Weingarten also wrote a third book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer." Details of all three are available on his website,