How living near a landfill can be harmful to health, especially for children

Strong link found between exposure to hydrogen sulphide gas from living within 5km of a dump and higher rates of lung cancer and respiratory illness

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 May, 2016, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 1:39pm

How living near a landfill could damange our health

Living within 5km of a landfill site could put your health at risk, according to a study by researchers in Italy published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The scientists evaluated the potential health effects of living near nine different landfills in the Lazio region, and therefore being exposed to air pollutants emitted by the waste treatment plants. More than 242,400 people were enrolled in the study cohort from 1996 to 2008. The results showed a strong association between hydrogen sulphide (one of the gases emitted by landfills) and deaths caused by lung cancer, as well as deaths and hospitalisations for respiratory diseases. The results were especially prominent in children.

Consistent with other studies, respiratory symptoms were detected among residents living close to waste sites. These were linked to inhalation exposure to endotoxins, microorganisms, and aerosols from waste collection and land filling. People living close to large landfills in Rome had average annual exposure to hydrogen sulphide of 45 nanograms per cubic metre, compared with annual average exposure levels among the general population of 6.3 nanograms per cubic metre.

Women may be able to reduce breast cancer risk predicted by their genes

Your genes don’t dictate everything: women with a high risk of developing breast cancer based on family history and genetic risk can still reduce the chance they will develop the disease in their lifetime by following a healthy lifestyle, new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US suggests.

White women who were at high risk but who had a low body mass index (a marker for obesity), who did not drink or smoke and who did not use hormone replacement therapy, had roughly the same risk as an average white woman in the US, according to the study in JAMA Oncology. The average chance that a 30-year-old, white woman will develop breast cancer before she is 80 is about 11 per cent.

The researchers found that roughly 30 per cent of breast cancer cases could be prevented by modifying known risk factors – say, by drinking less alcohol, losing weight and not undergoing hormone replacement therapy. More importantly, the study found that a larger fraction of total preventable cases occured among women at higher risk because of genetic factors, family history and a few other non-modifiable factors.

“Everyone should be doing the right things to stay healthy but motivating people is often hard,” says the study’s senior author, Nilanjan Chatterjee. “These findings may be able to help people better understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle at a more individualised level.”

However, the researchers say the findings are currently applicable only to white women because further studies are needed to understand the association of the genetic variants with risk of breast cancer for other ethnic groups.

Babies fed directly from breast may be at less risk for ear infections

Feeding at the breast may be better than feeding pumped milk from a bottle for reducing the risk of ear infection, according to a recent study by researchers at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, US. Regardless of whether fed through bottle or breast, feeding breast milk compared with formula may also reduce the risk of diarrhoea.

Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study surveyed 491 mothers. Those who stated their intent to bottle-feed exclusively were not included in the study. In the remaining surveys, three out of four women used some combination of feeding from the breast, pumped milk and formula in the first 12 months of their children’s lives. After accounting for demographic and other related factors, researchers found that one month of feeding at the breast was associated with a 4 per cent reduction in the odds of ear infection, and a 17 per cent reduction in the odds for infants fed at the breast for six months of infancy.

“While it is not completely clear why ear infections may be related to bottle feeding, it could be because bottles can create a negative pressure during feeding. This negative pressure is then transferred from the bottle to the middle ear of the infant during feedings, which may precipitate ear infections,” explains senior author Sarah Keim.