Health Highlights: Nov. 7, 2007

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

Breastfeeding Doesn't Cause Saggy Breasts: Study

Contrary to what many women believe, breastfeeding does not cause saggy breasts, says a University of Kentucky study that included 132 women who sought breast lifts or augmentation. Most of the women had been pregnant at least once and nearly 60 percent had breastfed at least once.

Researchers analyzed each woman's medical history, height and weight, smoking habits, and pre-pregnancy bra cup size. They found no difference in extent of breast sagginess between women who'd breastfed and those who hadn't, BBC News reported.

    • Breastfeeding Doesn't Cause Saggy Breasts: Study
    • Air Pollution From Ships Kills 60,000 People a Year: Study
    • 'Skippy' Pool Toys Pose Cut Risk
    • Elevated Levels of Pollutants Found in Store-Bought Bass
    • More U.S. Children Taking Drugs to Treat Chronic Conditions
    • Toys Contain Chemical That Converts to 'Date Rape' Drug

However, the study authors did conclude that pregnancy itself was a factor. The degree of sagginess increased each time a woman was pregnant. Smoking was another factor that contributed to breast sagginess.

"Smoking breaks down a protein in the skin called elastin, which gives youthful skin its elastic appearance and supports the breast," said study author Dr. Brian Rinker, BBC News reported.

The study was presented an American Society of Plastic Surgeons meeting.


Air Pollution From Ships Kills 60,000 People a Year: Study

Air pollution belched from ocean ship smokestacks causes 60,000 premature deaths worldwide each year. And that toll could increase to 84,000 a year within five years if nothing is done to clean up those emissions, says a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

In North America, ship-spewed air pollution causes about 9,000 premature deaths a year, most of them on the West Coast, according to the study.

The dangerous pollution is created by the Bunker C fuel that powers ship engines. The researchers noted that this fuel contains nearly 2,000 times as much sulfur as the diesel fuel used in trucks in North America and Europe, the Toronto Star reported. The high levels of sulfur, along with nitrates and particles, in ship emissions can cause fatal heart and respiratory problems, including lung cancer. People who live along coasts near busy shipping lanes are at greatest risk.

While pollution controls are common in many industries, international shipping is unregulated, said David Marshall, of the Clean Air Task Force, one of the groups that commissioned the study.

The shipping industry "has gotten away Scot-free to this point, partly due to the feeling that since the emissions are out of sight they can't harm anyone," Marshall told the Star.


'Skippy' Pool Toys Pose Cut Risk

About 31,000 Chinese-made pool toys that pose a laceration hazard are being recalled by Swimways Corp. of Virginia Beach, Va., the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The elastic tongue of the "Skippy" fish pool toys can break, forcefully come out, and cut the user's hand while launching the toy. The company has received 24 reports of breakage during use of the toy. There have been five reports of injuries to children, including one who required stitches to the hand and another whose thumb nail was ripped back from the nail bed.

The rubber pool toys are designed to be launched across the pool surface. They were sold across the United States from February 2007 through September 2007. Consumers should immediately take the toy away from children and contact Swimway for a free replacement toy, the CPSC said.

For more information, phone Swimways toll-free at 888-559-4653 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Elevated Levels of Pollutants Found in Store-Bought Bass

White bass caught in Lake Erie and sold in stores contained higher levels of mercury, arsenic and selenium than white bass caught near former iron and steel mills on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in Pittsburgh.

That's the conclusion of a study presented Wednesday at the American Public Health Association annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

University of Pittsburgh researchers compared 45 white bass caught by local anglers in the two rivers and 10 white bass caught on the Canadian side of Lake Erie and sold in Pittsburgh-area stores. Compared to the river fish, the lake fish had 2.2 to 4.8 times higher mercury levels, 1.9 times higher selenium levels, and 1.7 times higher arsenic levels.

"We were surprised by our results since we had hypothesized that levels of contaminants in fish would be higher in specimens caught near once heavily polluted sites," principal investigator Conrad D. Volz, of the department of environmental and occupational health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

"These results indicate to us that purchasing fish from a local market cannot guarantee food safety. We recommend a more rigorous testing program for commercial freshwater fish with particular attention to fish entering the U.S. from other countries," he said.


More U.S. Children Taking Drugs to Treat Chronic Conditions

Between 2002 and 2005, the use of type 2 diabetes drugs by American children ages 10 to 14 more than doubled, and there was a 166 percent increase in the use of the drugs by girls in that age group. The likely reason is obesity, which is closely associated with type 2 diabetes, say the authors of a study that looked at chronic medication use in children ages 5 to 19.

The researchers, from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and School of Public Health and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, also found increases in children's use of drugs to treat blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma and depression.

Among the findings:

  • Use of blood pressure drugs by males ages 15 to 19 increased 15.4 percent.
  • Use of antidepressants by females ages 15 to 19 increased 6.8 percent.
  • Use of asthma controller medication increased 67.3 percent among children ages 5 to 9; 38.8 percent among children ages 10 to 14; and 34.7 percent among those ages 15 to 19.

"Overall, these patterns could reflect changing prescribing behaviors by physicians (anti-hypertensives), increases in the risk factors for chronic diseases (type 2 antidiabetics, antihyperlipimedics), increased office visit rates and therefore screening rates -- particularly for females -- or trends toward greater use of drug therapy as the preferred mode of treating children with chronic conditions," Sharon M. Homan, professor of community health at Saint Louis University School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

The study was presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, in Washington, D.C.


Toys Contain Chemical That Converts to 'Date Rape' Drug

A popular Chinese-made toy was ordered off store shelves in Australia after tests showed that it contained a chemical that converts into the "date rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) when ingested, the Associated Press reported.

Over the past 10 days, three children in Australia had to be hospitalized after they swallowed beads from Bindeez, which had been declared the country's toy of the year by industry members.

Bindeez, sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises, has beads that can be arranged into designs and then fused together by spraying water on them. The beads were supposed to contain a nontoxic compound used in glue, the AP reported. However, scientists found that the beads contain a chemical that humans metabolize into GHB, which can cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, seizures, coma and death.

Moose Enterprises said some batches of the toy did not match its approved formula and is investigating how unauthorized materials ended up in the beads, The New York Times reported.