Ovarian cancer risk influenced by occupation

Women who work in hairstyling, cosmetology and construction jobs are at higher risk for ovarian cancer, a new study finds.

Published in July in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, the study found that people who worked for 10 or more years in hairdressing and cosmetology had a threefold higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than their peers in the overall workforce, as did those who were employed in the construction industry. Women who worked in sales, retail, fashion and accounting also showed elevated risks, though not as high. Previous studies have suggested that high levels of sedentary work in white-collar jobs such as accounting may add to cancer risks.

Significantly increased ovarian cancer risks were found for workers with long-term exposure to 18 chemicals, which included ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, formaldehyde, propellant gases and bleaches. Hairdressers were most commonly exposed to the chemicals during their jobs, according to the study, which involved women in Montreal.

Rural health access poorer in U.S. than in peer nations

Rural residents of the U.S. experience poorer access to health care than rural people in comparable countries, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at health status, affordability of care and access to care in the U.S. and 10 other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Across rural residents for all countries, those in the U.S. had the highest rates for skipped medical and dental care, according to the study, which was published July 7 in JAMA Network Open. Rural residents in the U.S., Canada and Sweden were more likely to have trouble accessing after-hours care and to have an avoidable emergency department visit than in the other nations. They were also less likely to have a regular doctor or place of care. Among the 11 nations, the U.S. had the highest rate of rural to urban health disparities, the researchers said.

Three countries — Canada, Norway and the Netherlands — lacked disparities in access to care between urban and rural areas. The best access to care overall was found in the Netherlands, where almost 98% of rural residents had a regular doctor or place of care.

People who live in rural areas of the U.S. have higher rates of chronic diseases and suicide and worse maternal health, among other issues, previous research has found.

PFAS chemicals common in U.S. tap water

Almost half of tap water sources in the United States contain some level of “forever chemicals,” new research by the U.S. Geological Survey finds, raising concerns for human health.

Researchers tested tap water from more than 700 locations across the U.S. from 2016 to 2021, finding one or more types of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, also known as PFAS, in 45% of samples.

Exposure to PFAS in drinking water was more common in urban areas and near PFAS sources, such as industry or waste locations, said the study, which was published in the August issue of Environment International. Small public water supplies and private wells also showed disproportionate risks.

PFAS chemicals are used in a range of consumer and industrial products, including non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, fast-food packaging and firefighting foam. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the human body or the environment. PFAS have been linked to a wide range of health risks, including cancer, thyroid problems and dangers to fetal development.

While there are more than 12,000 types of PFAS, Geological Survey researchers focused on 32 that were common and could be detected via testing. At least two of the types exceeded safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency in every sample.

Study researchers called for expanded monitoring of U.S. water supplies and mapping to identify vulnerable populations and regions.

Texas gas facilities vented pollution during June heat wave

Gas facilities straining during last month’s heat wave in Texas released almost 400 tons of pollution into the state’s air, a new analysis by Public Citizen finds.

From June 15-29, record-breaking heat blanketed most of Texas, reaching heat indices above 120 degrees on some days. The heat increased pressure at the state’s gas plants, compressor stations and related facilities, leading companies to ease the strain by venting pollutants.

Most of the emissions were natural gas, but carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were also released during the 19 pollution events, according to data that was self-reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The majority of facilities were natural gas extractors located in West Texas, though a chemical plant in the Houston region also released pollutants.

The pollution events occurred in seven counties, with Reagan County — home to more than 3,000 people — experiencing nine incidents that released more than 350 tons of emissions.

More than 5.2 million Texans live within a half mile of gas or oil facilities in the state, according to FracTracker Alliance. Emissions from the facilities have been linked to cancer, respiratory illnesses, preterm births and other health issues. In November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new performance standards designed to lower harmful emissions from gas and oil facilities.

EPA proposes risk update to chemical found in soaps

A chemical found in commercial dish soaps, detergents and other products could harm the health of the public, according to a new draft analysis from the EPA.

On July 7, the EPA released a proposed risk evaluation update for 1,4-dioxane, a solvent used to manufacture adhesives, sealants and other products that is also a byproduct in dish soaps and detergents. The EPA has classified 1,4-dioxane as a likely human carcinogen.

In 2020, the EPA released an occupational risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane exposure, but did not include a range of possible routes of exposure for the general public. A scientific advisory committee said that oversight “may leave substantial portions of the population at risk.”

The proposed new update would address the concern, examining public 1,4-dioxane exposures via air and drinking water, exposures to fence line communities and multiple exposures to more than one source of the chemical.

Public comments on the update are now being accepted.

The Watch is written by Michele Late, who has more than two decades of experience as a public-health journalist.

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