Health Highlights: May 2, 2002

Tree Resin Helps Lower Cholesterol: Study Virginia Gov. Apologizes for State's Forced Sterilization Program Faulty Boilers Recalled NYC Kids Still Grappling With 9/11 Attacks Trains Trap Cell Phone Radiation: Japanese Study Soccer Injuries Come to a Head

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:

Tree Resin Helps Lower Cholesterol: Study

A tree sap that has been the focus of folk remedies for thousands of year is now being recognized by mainstream scientists as a potentially effective means of controlling high cholesterol.

A study published in tomorrow's edition of Science Express, the electronic version of the journal Science indicates that resin from a tree known as guggul contains a compound called guggulsterone that can help regulate cholesterol levels by blocking the action of a cell receptor called FXR.

Researchers with the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston say the resin may contain other compounds that also could help control high cholesterol, reports HealthDay.

Significantly, the resin could help the many people who cannot take cholesterol-reducing drugs called statins because the mechanism in the resin works in an entirely different way, say the researchers.

The guggul tree is found in dry areas of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. While guggulsterone is available in many health food stores, experts warn against taking it for lowering cholesterol until more is known because there is some evidence the compound could cause adverse interactions with other drugs.


Virginia Gov. Apologizes for State's Forced Sterilization Program

The governor of Virginia issued a formal apology today on behalf of the state for a policy practiced from 1924 to 1979 in which thousands of people were forced to be sterilized.

The nearly 7,500 sterilizations were carried out in the name of eugenics, a failed attempt at social engineering that advocated sterilization for a wide variety of human conditions and behaviors, ranging from mental illness or retardation, to epilepsy, alcoholism and criminal behavior, reports the Associated Press.

Virginia was one of 30 states to practice the policy. In his apology, Gov. Mark R. Warner called the forced sterilization "a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved."


Faulty Gas Boilers Recalled

About 8,000 gas boilers sold under a variety of names are being recalled due to a potential for producing levels of carbon monoxide that could be poisonous to consumers.

The problem was detected during routine testing by manufacturer ECR International. No injuries have been reported.

The boilers are sold under the names Dunkirk, Sears Kenmore, Bryant, Carrier, Payne, Lennox and Pennco. They were sold and installed nationwide by independent heating contractors between August, 2001 and March, 2002.

The following models and serial numbers are included in the recall:

--Dunkirk/Sears Kenmore models PVWB-4 through PVWB-9, PWB4 through PWB9, PWB-4 through PWB-9 and PWX-4 through PWX-9 with serial numbers 320100007S through 520100299S and 010200098S through 090200182S.

--Lennox models GWB8-105E through GWB8-280E and GWB8-105S through GWB8-280S with serial numbers 340100148S through 500100600S and 010200199S through 050200279S.

--Carrier/Bryant/ Payne models BW1AAN000105 through BW1AAN000280, BW1AAP000105 through BW1AAP000280 and BW2AAP000105 through BW2AAP000280 with serial numbers 3601V04044S through 5201V08708S and 0102V000015S through 0902V01118S.

--Pennco natural gas models 1504HWID, 1509HWID, 1504HWD and 1509HWD and propane models 1502HWID through 1509HWID and 1502HWD through 1509HWD. The boilers have serial numbers 90131-0924 through 90152-0424 and 90201-0421 through 90208-0424.


NYC Kids Still Grappling With 9/11 Attacks

Tens of thousands of New York City kids are suffering bouts with severe anxiety, fear of public places and other post-9/11 psychological problems, The New York Times reports of a new Columbia University study conducted for the city's Board of Education.

An estimated 75,000 kids in grades 4 - 12, or 10.5 percent of kids in those grades, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the survey finds. About 15 percent experience agoraphobia, a fear of public places.

Girls are more likely than boys to have psychological problems, which seem to affect 4th and 5th graders more than older children. Symptoms include obessive thinking, trouble sleeping and frequent nightmares.

Board officials tell the newspaper that the poll represents the most comprehensive psychological survey ever done about the effects of a disaster on schoolchildren.

The study, involving 8,300 of the 1.1 million New York City students, included a disproportionate number of kids living near Ground Zero. But the results were weighted to include every other city neighborhood, the newspaper says.


Trains Trap Cell Phone Radiation: Japanese Study

If a fellow train passenger bothers you by using his cell phone on board, you may now have a real reason to gripe.

Radiation emitted by cellphones inside a train has nowhere to go and simply bounces off the train's metal carriage, a Japanese researcher finds. Tohuku University's Tsuyoshi Hondou says electromagnetic radiation levels inside trains can top international safety limits if about 20 percent of the passengers are using their phones, BBC News Online reports.

According to Hondou's findings, if 30 people inside a standard train car carrying 150 passengers were using their phones, the radiation levels exceeded limits recommended by the International Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation. He says the limits could be exceeded by even fewer passengers, since the reflected radiation levels could build up over time. Hondou's findings are published in the Journal of the Physician Society of Japan.

An independent mobile phone expert quoted by the BBC disputes the notion that the cell phone emissions pose a considerable health risk, however, saying the radiation signals degrade rapidly the further they travel away from the phone.


Soccer Injuries Come to a Head

When it comes to serious head injuries, soccer is no safer than football, a new Institute of Medicine report concludes.

Collegiate players are at risk of concussions from heading the ball, colliding with other players, running into goal posts or hitting their heads on the ground, reports the Associated Press. Players who sustain multiple concussions are at risk of brain damage and even death, the report concludes.

Young people's brains are still developing, putting them at great risk of head injury than adults, the Institute says, warning that concussions often go undiagnosed.

Some 19 million Americans competed on the soccer field last year, making it one of the fastest growing sports in this country, the AP says.

The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, a private group chartered by Congress to advise it on scientific matters.


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