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Cancer: how it’s caused by food and water contamination

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Contamination of food and water is a global public health concern – researchers are studying how it causes cancer. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth’s crust. Exposure to arsenic, often through contaminated food and water, is associated with various negative health effects, including cancer. Arsenic exposure is a global public health issue. A 2020 study estimated that up to 200 million people worldwide are exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water at levels above the legal limit of 10 parts per billion set by the U.S. ALSO READ: Cough syrup can harm children: Contamination risks ALSO READ: Unsafe foods and food contamination: Understanding the risks Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization. More than 70 countries are affected, including the United States, Spain, Mexico, Japan, India, China, Canada, Chile, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Argentina. Since many countries are still affected by high levels of arsenic, we believe arsenic exposure is a global public health issue that requires urgent action. We study how exposure to toxic metals like arsenic can lead to cancer through the formation of cancer stem cells. Arsenic water contamination predominantly affects communities of colour in the U.S. ARSENIC CONTAMINATION OF FOOD AND WATER Your body can absorb arsenic through several routes, such as inhalation and skin contact. However, the most common source of arsenic exposure is through contaminated drinking water or food. People who live in areas with naturally high levels of arsenic in the soil and water are at particular risk. In the U.S., for example, that includes regions in the Southwest such as Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Additionally, human activities such as mining and agriculture can also increase arsenic in food and water sources. ALSO READ: R430 million ‘decontamination’: Gauteng Education contracts NULLIFIED ALSO READ: EThekwini Municipality disputes contamination and poor quality claims High levels of arsenic can also be found in food and drink products, particularly rice and rice-based products like rice cereals and crackers. A 2019 Consumer Reports investigation even found that some brands of bottled water sold in the U.S. contained levels of arsenic that exceeded the legal limit. Alarmingly, multiple studies have also found that several popular baby food brands contained arsenic at concentrations much higher than the legal limit. ARSENIC AND CANCER STEM CELLS Chronic exposure to arsenic increases the risk of developing multiple types of cancer. The mechanisms by which arsenic causes cancer are complex and not yet fully understood. However, research suggests that arsenic can damage DNA, disrupt cell signalling pathways and impair the immune system, all of which can contribute to cancer development. The image on the left shows ovarian epithelial cells under normal conditions. The image on the right shows the cells after three weeks of chronic arsenic exposure at 75 parts per billion.  Scientists have also linked chronic arsenic exposure to the development of cancer stem cells. These are cells within tumours thought to be responsible for cancer growth and spread. Like normal stem cells in the body, cancer stem cells can develop into many different types of cells. At what stage of cellular development a stem cell acquires the genetic mutation that turns it into a cancer stem cell remains unknown. Our research aims to identify what type of cell arsenic targets to form a cancer stem cell. We are currently using cell cultures obtained from the same organ at different stages of cellular development to examine how the origins of cells affect the formation of cancer stem cells. Preventing chronic arsenic exposure is critical to reducing the burden of arsenic-related health effects. Further research is needed to understand arsenic-induced cancer stem cell formation and develop effective strategies to prevent it. In the meantime, continued monitoring and regulation of this toxic metal in food and water sources could help improve the health of affected communities. The post Cancer: how it’s caused by food and water contamination appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Contamination of food and water is a global public health concern – researchers are studying how it causes cancer. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth’s crust. Exposure to arsenic, often through contaminated food and water, is associated with various negative health effects, including cancer. Arsenic exposure is a global public health […] The post Cancer: how it’s caused by food and water contamination appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Contamination of food and water is a global public health concern – researchers are studying how it causes cancer.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth’s crust. Exposure to arsenic, often through contaminated food and water, is associated with various negative health effects, including cancer. Arsenic exposure is a global public health issue. A 2020 study estimated that up to 200 million people worldwide are exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water at levels above the legal limit of 10 parts per billion set by the U.S.

ALSO READ: Cough syrup can harm children: Contamination risks

ALSO READ: Unsafe foods and food contamination: Understanding the risks

Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization. More than 70 countries are affected, including the United States, Spain, Mexico, Japan, India, China, Canada, Chile, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Argentina. Since many countries are still affected by high levels of arsenic, we believe arsenic exposure is a global public health issue that requires urgent action. We study how exposure to toxic metals like arsenic can lead to cancer through the formation of cancer stem cells. Arsenic water contamination predominantly affects communities of colour in the U.S.

ARSENIC CONTAMINATION OF FOOD AND WATER

Your body can absorb arsenic through several routes, such as inhalation and skin contact. However, the most common source of arsenic exposure is through contaminated drinking water or food. People who live in areas with naturally high levels of arsenic in the soil and water are at particular risk. In the U.S., for example, that includes regions in the Southwest such as Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Additionally, human activities such as mining and agriculture can also increase arsenic in food and water sources.

ALSO READ: R430 million ‘decontamination’: Gauteng Education contracts NULLIFIED

ALSO READ: EThekwini Municipality disputes contamination and poor quality claims

High levels of arsenic can also be found in food and drink products, particularly rice and rice-based products like rice cereals and crackers. A 2019 Consumer Reports investigation even found that some brands of bottled water sold in the U.S. contained levels of arsenic that exceeded the legal limit. Alarmingly, multiple studies have also found that several popular baby food brands contained arsenic at concentrations much higher than the legal limit.

ARSENIC AND CANCER STEM CELLS

Chronic exposure to arsenic increases the risk of developing multiple types of cancer. The mechanisms by which arsenic causes cancer are complex and not yet fully understood. However, research suggests that arsenic can damage DNA, disrupt cell signalling pathways and impair the immune system, all of which can contribute to cancer development. The image on the left shows ovarian epithelial cells under normal conditions. The image on the right shows the cells after three weeks of chronic arsenic exposure at 75 parts per billion. 

Scientists have also linked chronic arsenic exposure to the development of cancer stem cells. These are cells within tumours thought to be responsible for cancer growth and spread. Like normal stem cells in the body, cancer stem cells can develop into many different types of cells. At what stage of cellular development a stem cell acquires the genetic mutation that turns it into a cancer stem cell remains unknown. Our research aims to identify what type of cell arsenic targets to form a cancer stem cell.

We are currently using cell cultures obtained from the same organ at different stages of cellular development to examine how the origins of cells affect the formation of cancer stem cells. Preventing chronic arsenic exposure is critical to reducing the burden of arsenic-related health effects. Further research is needed to understand arsenic-induced cancer stem cell formation and develop effective strategies to prevent it. In the meantime, continued monitoring and regulation of this toxic metal in food and water sources could help improve the health of affected communities.

The post Cancer: how it’s caused by food and water contamination appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

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People who grow their own fruit and veg waste less food and eat more healthily, says research

Those who grow their own food in gardens and allotments waste less and eat more healthily – but not everyone has the chance to do so.The post People who grow their own fruit and veg waste less food and eat more healthily, says research appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

The rising cost of living is making it harder for people, especially those on lower incomes (who often have poorer diets), to afford to eat healthily. Despite this, households in the UK continue to waste a shocking amount of food – including around 68kg of fruit and vegetables each year.Food waste is not only damaging to your pocket, it’s also bad for the environment too. Globally, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year, generating about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions arise from unused food at all stages of the food supply chain, from production to decomposition.However, our recent study revealed that those who grow their own food in gardens and allotments waste an average of just 3.4kg of fruits and vegetables – 95% less than the UK average. These households adopted various practices to minimise food waste, including preserving or giving away their excess produce.There has been renewed interest in growing fresh produce in gardens, community gardens and allotments in the UK and elsewhere in recent years. But the available supply of allotments is not enough to meet increasing demand.Allocating more land for household fruit and vegetable production could make a significant contribution to the availability of fresh produce for urban residents.Research has shown that using a mere 10% of the available space in the English city of Sheffield for food cultivation could supply enough fruit and vegetables to meet the needs of 15% of the city’s population. And more people growing their own food could also reduce waste.Food waste generates about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Joaquin Corbalan P/ShutterstockFood diariesOur study involved 197 households in the UK that grow their own food. We asked them to maintain a food diary, where they recorded the amounts of fruits and vegetables they acquired each week. We received complete records from 85 separate households.They specified whether each item was cultivated in their garden or allotment, bought from shops or markets, sourced from other growers, or foraged in the wild. The households also recorded the quantity of the produce they gave away to family and friends and the amounts they had to throw out.Our findings suggest that individuals who grow their own food may be more inclined to avoid food wastage than the average person in the UK. This is possibly because they place a higher value on the produce they had grown themselves.The results align with earlier research that was conducted in Germany and Italy. This study found that the amount of discarded food was greatest among people who shopped exclusively in large supermarkets. People who purchased items from various small stores tended to waste less food, while those who grew their own food wasted the least.Our findings also suggest that the households we studied can produce roughly half of all the vegetables, and 20% of the fruit, they consume annually. These households consumed 70% more fruits and vegetables (slightly more than six portions per day) than the national average.Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced and nutritious diet is key to maintaining good health. This kind of diet can help prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.Yet, in the UK, less than one-third of adults and only about 8% of teenagers eat their “five-a-day”. This target, which is based on advice from the World Health Organization, recommends eating at least five 80g portions of fruit and veg every day.Grow-your-own households adopted various practices to minimise food waste. Alan Goodwin Photo/ShutterstockGrow your own food securityGrowing your own food can improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables, promote good health and reduce food waste. However, several obstacles hinder involvement in household food production. These obstacles include limited access to the land, skills and time needed to grow your own fruit and veg.Approximately one in eight UK households lack access to a garden. And, since the 1950s, the availability of allotments throughout the UK has declined by 60%. This decline has been particularly evident in more deprived areas of the country, where people could benefit most from better availability of nutritious foods.We also found that those who grew their own food dedicated approximately four hours each week to working on their allotment or garden. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of having the time to do so.Nonetheless, raising awareness about the benefits of home food production, beyond just food security and reducing waste, to include its positive impacts on social cohesion, overall well-being and biodiversity could encourage more people to participate. Increasing demand for growing space may also encourage local authorities to allocate more land for this purpose.Whether you grow your own food or not, everyone can adopt mindful practices when purchasing or growing food. Planning ahead and freezing or sharing excess food with others to prevent it from going to waste are good options.ALSO READ: Five healthy foods that will save you money at the tillBut some food waste is inevitable. Composting it instead of sending it to a landfill will substantially lower its impact on the planet.Boglarka Zilla Gulyas, Postdoctoral Research Associate in SCHARR, University of Sheffield and Jill Edmondson, Research Fellow in Environmental Change, University of SheffieldThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The post People who grow their own fruit and veg waste less food and eat more healthily, says research appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Lead poisoning could be killing more people than HIV, malaria, and car accidents combined

A mother and child at a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in Anka, Nigeria, the site of a major lead poisoning outbreak in 2019. | Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images However bad you think lead poisoning is for the world, it’s worse. Everyone knows lead is bad for you. We’ve known this for a very long time: in the first century BCE, the Roman architect Vitruvius warned against using lead in pipes, observing the “pallid color” of plumbers forced to work with it. We know leaded gasoline leads to premature death in the elderly, that high lead exposure can substantially reduce IQ, and that there is likely a relationship between lead exposure in children and high rates of crime later on.Yet lead is still everywhere — especially in poorer countries. Pure Earth, the largest nonprofit working on lead contamination internationally, recently conducted a massive survey of products in 25 low and middle-income countries, from Peru to Nigeria to India to the Philippines, to test for lead levels in household goods. In their sample they found high levels of lead in 52 percent of metal and 45 percent of ceramic foodware (a category including dishes, utensils, pots and pans), as well as 41 percent of house paints and 13 percent of toys.This has major consequences. A new paper in Lancet Planetary Health, authored by economist Bjorn Larsen and Ernesto Sánchez-Triana, World Bank’s global lead for pollution management, tries to quantify the scale of the lead problem globally. The authors estimate that some 5.5 million people die prematurely due to lead exposure every year, and that the problem as a whole imposes a social cost of $6 trillion a year. That equals 6.9 percent of total world GDP.These are massive numbers, and it’s worth putting them into context: 5.5 million deaths from lead in 2019 exceeds the number of people who died that year from car accidents (1.2 million), tuberculosis (1.18 million), HIV/AIDS (863,837), suicide (759,028), and malaria (643,381) combined. If accurate, the figure means that a little under one in 10 deaths globally can be traced to lead. Meanwhile, a social cost of 6.9 percent of global GDP exceeds a recent World Bank estimate of the social cost of air pollution, which added up to 6.1 percent of GDP.Digging into the cost of leadThese massive numbers may seem more plausible when you consider just how prevalent serious lead exposure is in developing countries.A 2021 evidence review led by environmental scientist Bret Ericson reviewed blood lead surveys in 34 nations, which together account for over two-thirds of the world’s population. Overall, those studies estimated that 48.5 percent of children had high lead levels (defined as above 5 micrograms per deciliter, or µg/dL). Levels of exposure varied greatly, with surveys in a few countries (like Tanzania) not finding any children with blood lead levels above 5 µg/dL, and other countries (like Pakistan) showing huge majorities with levels that high. (Of course, it’s possible that limitations in these surveys underestimate lead exposure in some countries.) We can identify a number of possible sources of these high lead levels. Historically, the major driver was lead in gasoline, but in 2021 the last country on Earth still using lead for that purpose (Algeria) phased it out. Lead is widely used in car batteries, plane fuel, and the consumer goods that Pure Earth surveyed in its report, but which source is most important in contributing to poisoning in children is still unclear.For one thing, we know surprisingly little about how lead in, say, a plate translates into lead in the system of a human eating off that plate. The Pure Earth study included a test of some aluminum cookware, wherein it boiled acetic acid (the main ingredient in vinegar) in them for two hours, and then tested the liquid for lead. Fifty-two percent of the pots had leached an amount of lead above the World Health Organization guideline level for drinking water. That suggests that food cooked in such pots would contain lead, which would then poison children who drink it. But much more research is needed.Indeed, “more research is needed” is a decent summary for the whole state of lead research. The Lancet Planetary Health study finding that lead kills 5.5 million people a year relied on lead poisoning estimates from the Global Burden of Disease study, which sometimes produces its numbers not based on surveys of actual people, but on other data (like the share of population in urban areas, and the year that leaded gasoline was phased out) that is in turn predictive of lead exposure.Further, the Lancet study estimates deaths caused by lead-induced cardiovascular disease based on studies of the US, estimating the effect of lead on cardiovascular disease rates. Air pollution expert Roy Harrison told the news agency AFP that applying such findings to the whole world is “a huge jump of faith.”That said, any errors could go in both directions. The actual surveys that Ericson and coauthors compiled of blood lead levels showed that the problem was worse than the Global Burden of Disease data suggested. It might be that lead is a greater risk factor for cardiovascular disease in poor countries than in the US, because there are more medical resources to counter the negative effects of lead in the US. All of that could mean the new study actually underestimates the damage lead is doing.The only way to have a stronger sense of the scale of the problem is to invest more in understanding it. A 2021 report found that nonprofits spend, at most, $10 million a year addressing lead exposure in developing countries, with much of that money coming from governments. For comparison, global efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, which, if this new report is to be believed, kills about one-fifth as many people globally as lead does, got $8.2 billion in government funding in 2022 alone. The point here is not that we’re spending too much on HIV/AIDS — we may still be spending too little there too. But we’re spending far too little on understanding and tackling lead exposure, when it could be a problem of similar or greater magnitude. It’s among the most neglected problems in global health, and one where a substantial investment could go a long way.

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