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  1. Dana Loomis, Deputy Editor

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    HEALTH AND THE LIFE CYCLE OF SHIPS

    Workers exposed to asbestos in shipyards have high rates of lung cancer and mesothelioma, but a new study by Krstev et al1 suggests that the hazards of ship building and repair extend beyond the workers exposed directly to asbestos. The authors found excess mortality from all causes and from asbestos-related cancers among 4700 workers in a US government shipyard. Excess lung cancer was seen among men in almost every occupation, and also among women. The authors conclude that asbestos was at least partly responsible. In a commentary, Beckett2 points out that the health hazards associated with shipbuilding may be recycled around the world when ships are dismantled.

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    ENVIRONMENT, GENES AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE

    Both environmental and genetic factors are suspected in the aetiology of Parkinson’s disease. Here, Dick and the Geoparkinson Study Group report results from a five-centre case-control study of Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes. The authors investigated exposures to pesticides, solvents and metals3 and their interactions with an array of genetic polymorphisms.4 Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonian syndromes had an exposure-response relationship with pesticides. Most gene-exposure interactions were non-significant, but the relationship of the GSTM1 null genotype and solvents was suggestive. The authors conclude that that the role of gene-environment interactions in Parkinson’s disease is probably small.

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    ACCOUNTING FOR PRECISION IN INTERPRETING DECLINES IN LUNG FUNCTION

    Declines in lung function can signal a need for intervention, but the amount of decline that is significant can be difficult to gauge when measurements are highly variable. Hznido et al5 take on this problem by proposing a statistical method of accounting for precision of measurement in the definition of reference limits for the annual decline in FEV1. Use of their method with a large spirometric database suggests that a 10% annual decline can be considered significant if the observation is based on data from a well-conducted programme monitoring largely healthy individuals, but a 15% decline consistent with ATS recommendations is a more appropriate limit when the variability of measurements is large.

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    ELSEWHERE IN THE JOURNAL

    In other original papers, Kivamaki et al6 explore the separate and combined effects of two psychosocial constructs; Applemaum et al7 propose a simple method of reducing healthy worker bias; Chia et al8 investigate a possible link between lead and cardiovascular effects; Telle-Lamberton et al9 report on mortality among French nuclear workers, and Anderson et al10 investigate xeno-oestrogenic activity as a biomarker for pesticides. Dawson and colleagues11 also review interventions to prevent back pain and injury in nurses.

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    References

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