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Health Highlights: Oct. 29, 2006

Air Pollution Study Shows Link Between Asthma Incidence and Diesel EmissionsWho is Grumpiest After Arising in the Morning? Hospitalization May Create Memory, Disorientation Problems for Older Patients Skin Piercing Results in Removal of Teenager's BreastSmoke in Cars Threatens Kids' Health U.S. Trial Focuses Attention on Female Circumcision

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

Air Pollution Study Shows Link Between Asthma Incidence and Diesel Emissions

A New York University study that had school children in the South Bronx -- a high density urban area -- carry air pollution monitors in their backpacks has found a link between motor vehicle exhaust fumes and increased incidence of asthma and other respiratory ailments.

The New York Times reports that average daily exposure to fine particle pollution exceeded U.S. government standards on 18 days of the 69 days the measurements were taken over a three year period.

"I think it's an indicator that these kids are being exposed to very high fine-particle concentrations on a fairly regular basis," the Times quotes NYU researcher Dr. George Thurston as saying. Particularly damaging appears to be diesel exhaust fumes. The children in the study live and go to school near a number of expressways in the South Bronx.

About 5-to-10 percent of the fine particle pollution was from diesel exhaust, but Thurston told the newspaper that its effect on the children caused doubling of symptoms like wheezing on days with heavy truck traffic.

Officials hope to use the study findings to help create new vehicle pollution standards in new York State.

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Who is Grumpiest After Arising in the Morning?

In the United Kingdom, "the wrong side of the bed" is more often indicative of a woman's mood than a man's, according to a study done by the Sleep Council, an organization in the UK promoting better sleep habits. The study was timed to be released as Daylight Saving Time ended and most people had an extra hour's sleep over the weekend.

British women have a 10 per cent edge in saying they're more likely to wake up in a bad mood than men, the Sleep Council says in a news release. The survey found that 24 percent of the men said they never wake up in a bad mood as opposed to 14 percent of the women.

And women say they remain grumpy longer than men. Thirteen percent said it took them between two and four hours to get over their bad mood compared to 10 percent of the men.

Not getting a good night's sleep appears to be the key, according to Sleep Council spokesperson Jessica Alexander, with 24 percent of the respondents citing stress as a major factor.

But it wasn't either men or women who fell in the largest group that woke up in the worst mood, the survey found. It was teenagers.

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Hospitalization May Create Memory, Disorientation Problems for Older Patients

Older patients hospitalized for acute illnesses may undergo a subtle change that affects their ability to reason or remember.

These findings by a Harvard/ Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center study also concluded that the lack of immediate recognition of cognitive decline by either medical professionals or family members could allow the patient to make the wrong decision about his or her medical treatment.

Dr. Sharon Inouye, director of the Aging Brain Center at Hebrew SeniorLife who led the study, which will appear in the December issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, said in a Harvard news release, "Acute illness can represent a life-altering event for an older person, yet the impact of acute illness on cognitive functioning has not been systematically examined."

Inouye and her team have developed an examination procedure that could detect the cognitive loss often missed through routine exams. Using the test, Inouye said that researchers had discovered 39 percent of the patients surveyed as having congnitive difficulties.

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Skin Piercing Results in Removal of Teenager's Breast

What might be considered the ultimate bad result from the popular procedure of skin piercing has happened to an 18-year-old Indiana woman.

According to the Associated Press, Stephanie Edington decided to have her breasts pierced for her 18th birthday, and the resulting infection was so severe that doctors had to remove her left breast.

The wire service quotes Dr. Robert Goulet Jr., a professor at the Indiana University Cancer Center, as saying that the piercing created an entry point for necrotizing fasciitis, sometimes known as "flesh-eating bacteria," which can destroy tissue in a very short period of time. Compounding the young woman's condition, Goulet said, was that she was is diabetic, which left her susceptible to infection.

Edington's condition worsened after she had the piercings Aug. 29, the A.P reported, until she was taken to the hospital Oct. 14. "By the time she got here, the skin tissue was all pretty much completely dead," the wire service quotes Goulet as saying. "She was a very sick kid when she got here." She is on an aggressive antibiotic regimen, and Goulet said she was making good progess.

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Smoke in Cars Threatens Kids' Health

The amount of secondhand smoke created when someone puffs on a cigarette in a car -- even with the windows rolled down -- is equivalent to being in a smoky bar and poses a serious health risk to children, New Zealand researchers say.

When the car windows are rolled up, the pollution is twice as bad as being in the smokiest bar, the Associated Press reported of the study's findings.

Researchers measured the amount of particulate released when a person smoked in the car. Particulate refers to tiny airborne particles that can get into the lungs. Air pollution studies have linked particulate to health problems.

Particulate levels were 199 micrograms per cubic yard when the windows were rolled down and 2,926 micrograms per cubic yard when the windows were rolled up. Researcher Richard Edwards noted that on a very smoggy day in a New Zealand city, particulate levels are between 35-40 micrograms per cubic yard, the AP reported.

The findings were published Friday as a letter in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Edwards and his colleagues said smoking in a car poses a serious threat to children's health. They called for the New Zealand government to ban smoking in vehicles where children are passengers.

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U.S. Trial Focuses Attention on Female Circumcision

An Atlanta court case is focusing attention on the growing practice in the United States of circumcising girls, the Associated Press reported.

With an influx of immigrants from certain parts of Africa, the ancient practice is slowly becoming more common in the United States, experts say.

The Atlanta case involves Khalid Adem, a 31-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia. He's charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children for allegedly using scissors to circumcise his daughter, who was 2 years old at the time of the incident in 2001, the AP reported.

It's believed to be the first U.S. criminal case involving the practice, say human rights observers. If convicted, Adem faces up to 40 years in prison.

As many as 130 million women worldwide had undergone circumcision as of 2001, according to the U.S. State Department. The procedure is often done using knives, razors, or sharp stones that, in many cases, have not been sterilized.

Female circumcision is most common in 28 African countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, and Somalia, experts told the AP.

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