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News to Live By - Fall 2007

By Christine Grillo


Infant Mortality Gap

The mortality gap between white infants and black infants can be attributed in part to the fact that black infants are four times as likely to be born extremely preterm (earlier than 28 weeks' gestation) than white infants, according to an article published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Author Ashley H. Schempf, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Population, Family and Reproductive Health, recommends further study into the social, environmental and intergenerational factors that may contribute to the disparity.


Swimmers Beware

Weekend water play may bring greater exposure to pathogens such as the parasite Giardia lamblia, according to Thaddeus Graczyk, PhD, associate professor in Environmental Health Sciences. His studies of Maryland's Gunpowder River indicate that crowded swimming conditions are accompanied by a higher number of pathogens in recreational waters. In the studies, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology and in Water Research, Graczyk suggests that health officials should test for waterborne protozoan pathogens on high-activity days.


PFCs in Newborns

Ubiquitous chemicals found in products such as stain repellents and food packaging—known as polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs)—were linked to lower body weight and size in infants born vaginally, in a study in the July 31 online Environmental Health Perspectives. Lead author Benjamin Apelberg, PhD, an Epidemiology research associate, contends that fetal exposure to PFCs, which were detected in the infants' cord blood serum, warrants further research. Previous studies have linked PFCs to tumors and developmental toxicity in lab animals.


Degrees of Cocaine Use

Over the last 20 years, persistent cocaine use has dropped among highly educated Americans, while it has remained steady among Americans without high school diplomas, according to a study published in the October 2007 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Lead author and PhD candidate in Mental Health, Valerie S. Harder, MHS, attributes the disparity to the wider range of resources and treatments available to those with more formal education.