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Dr Herbert Needleman: A crusader’s lifelong battle to save children from lead poisoning

Lead levels found in children have dropped by over 90 percent since Needleman first published his findings in the 1970s

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Dr. Herbert Needleman. Thanks to his work, we now know that even in small amounts, lead can cause children long-term learning disabilities and IQ deficits. Image source: www.wbur.org
  • In the 1950s, lead was used everywhere- paint, pipes, toys, and gasoline
  • Dr. Needleman used children’s baby teeth to explore the lead levels
  • He now has Alzheimer’s and is not able to speak on his own behalf

Back in 1957, Dr. Herbert Needleman went to see was on his way to see a 3-year-old patient at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, when he first came across a case of lead poisoning. In Pipes, paint, gasoline and toys- lead was everywhere and options to escape it were too little.

The girl child he treated was probably poisoned by lead paint or dust at home, making it difficult for her and her mother to go back there. The girl’s mother was a single parent and therefore, it was difficult for her to afford another place.

Thus, Herbert decided to devoted his time and career to fight against odds and find a solution to lead poisoning that affected many during his time. His son, Josh Needleman, referenced a time when he was in a boat with his father. They passed some teenagers who were smoking and throwing rocks at a duck. Dr. Needleman immediately yelled at the teens to cease throwing rocks at the defenseless creature. Josh says the teenagers stopped, most likely because they were so startled. Dr. Needleman defended a duck, now you can only imagine how passionately he felt about standing up for children.

Dr. Alan Leviton (L), Dr. Herbert Needleman, and Dr. David Bellinger (R) at the Charles A. Dana Foundation Award ceremony in 1989. Needleman won an award for his research on lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of David Bellinger). Image source: newsworks.org
Dr. Alan Leviton (L), Dr. Herbert Needleman, and Dr. David Bellinger (R) at the Charles A. Dana Foundation Award ceremony in 1989. Needleman won an award for his research on lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of David Bellinger). Image source: newsworks.org

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The children who suffered with lead poisoning were treated as best as they could be. They were advised by the doctors to simply move out of the houses they were living in due to the lead levels found in paint at the time. The children suffered from many symptoms including abdominal pain and cramps, aggressive behavior, constipation, mental impairment, and many more.

Symptoms of lead poisoning. Wikimedia Commons.
Symptoms of lead poisoning. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Needleman conducted a study examining the effects that lead had on children. He used children’s baby teeth to explore the lead levels. In 1979, the study was published, and the results caused an international debate. In an interview with with Bill Moyers which aired on PBS, Needleman said, “[children] who had lead in their teeth, but who had never been identified as having any problems with lead, had lower IQ scores, poorer language function, and poorer attention.” These findings were controversial because companies who made lead products did not want to take the blame for unintentionally poisoning children. These companies claimed that those results are due to family life and education.

In the 1980’s, the government was working hard to wean lead out of gasoline and Needleman’s findings sped the process up. In 1991 Dr. Needleman testified in support of the bill to remove lead from households, “There is a broad consensus on the part of everybody except the lead industry and its spokesmen that lead is extremely toxic at extremely low doses.” This did not go over well with landlords or realtors, and the bill was not passed.

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As a follow up, in 1992, Congress passed that Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. The act required landlords and others to disclose to customers any information regarding lead paint in the home, apartment or building they were viewing.

On the other end, scientists were working feverishly to prove that Needleman was guilty of scientific misconduct. The University of Pittsburgh, where Dr. Needleman worked, investigated for a year and found no proof of scientific misconduct.

Although lead levels found in children have dropped by over 90 percent since Needleman first published his findings in the 1970s, the government has stopped trying to eliminate lead completely. Meaning, there are still children who go to the doctor’s office with lead in their blood. These doctors are still left with little to help the children as any amount of lead found in the blood is extremely dangerous.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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60% Decrease in Pediatric Fractures During Pandemic: Study

There is a significant decline in sports-related fractures among kids during lockdown

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fractures
Children are reporting less sports fractures and injuries during the lockdown, says a recent study. Pixabay

By Siddhi Jain

COVID-19 social distancing measures, including the closure of schools and parks and the indefinite cancellation of team sports, has led to nearly 60 percent decrease in overall in pediatric fractures, according to a new study?.

The study also revealed an increase in the proportion of fractures sustained by children at home. Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that although the overall rate of fractures is down significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion due to bicycle and trampoline injuries has gone up substantially?

The findings, published in the ‘Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics’, suggest a need for increased awareness of at-home safety measures.

“It is important to remind parents about the importance of basic safety precautions with bicycles and trampolines, as many children are substituting these activities in place of organised sports and school activities,” said Apurva Shah, MD, MBA, an orthopaedic surgeon in CHOP’s Division of Orthopaedics and senior author of the study.

fractures
Researchers found a nearly 2.5-fold decrease in the daily incidence of fractures during the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic period. Pixabay

The research team gathered data on 1,735 patients who presented at CHOP with acute fractures between March 15 and April 15 and compared that information with patients who presented with fractures during the same timeframe in 2018 and 2019. The researchers found a nearly 2.5-fold decrease in the daily incidence of fracture cases during the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Sports-related fractures saw a particularly dramatic decline, accounting for only 7.2 percent of fracture cases during the pandemic versus 26 percent of all fracture cases in the same month in 2018 and 2019.

Despite these significant declines, the researchers found an increase of more than 25 percent in fractures occurring at home, which was accompanied by a 12 percent increase in fractures caused by high-energy falls, like those resulting from trampoline injuries, and bicycle injuries. With families spending more time at home due to social distancing guidelines, the researchers suggest this shift in injury location is a natural result of families finding alternative recreational activities for their children.

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fractures
Patients aged 12 and over saw a five-fold reduction in the monthly number of fractures. Pixabay

The decline in fracture incidence was bigger for some age groups than others. Patients aged 12 and over saw a five-fold reduction in the monthly number of fracture cases, whereas children aged 5 and under saw only a 1.5-fold decrease.

The researchers surmise this is due to younger children substituting other active pursuits for pre-pandemic activities, like playground outings and other outdoor activities, whereas adolescents, who are more likely to play team sports, are making fewer of those substitutions. (IANS)

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AirAsia India Provides 50K Free Domestic Flight Tickets to Doctors as Tribute

Doctors need to submit some essential details to avail the free tickets

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AirAsia India
AirAsia India to give away 50,000 free domestic flight tickets to doctors as a tribute to their contribution in the fight against COVID-19. Wikimedia Commons

Budget airline AirAsia India will give afway 50,000 free domestic flight tickets to doctors under the ‘AirAsia RedPass’ initiative which acknowledges their contribution in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Doctors have been at the forefront of the nation’s fight against the pandemic, working tirelessly to save lives without fearing for their own,” the airline said in a statement.

“As part of this initiative to pay a tribute to doctors, AirAsia India will give away 50,000 free seats on flights across its domestic sectors to doctors as a gesture of gratitude for their commendable efforts in support of the nation.”

Under the initiative, doctors have to submit their contact details and desired sector and date of travel between July 1, 2020, to Sep 30, 2020, with their registration number or ID to the airline (https://air.asia/GCs2R).

AirAsia India
“Applications are open till 12 June 2020 with up to 50,000 AirAsia RedPasses available for doctors across the country.”, AirAsia India said in a statement. Pixabay

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“Applications are open till 12 June 2020 with up to 50,000 AirAsia RedPasses available for doctors across the country who would also be given special privileges like priority boarding at the airport,” the statement said

“The RedPass would be valid for a one way flight for the successful applicant doctors on the AirAsia India domestic network.” (IANS)

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Odisha Govt to Hold Rath Yatra Without Devotees this Year

Rath Yatra is said to be held in the absence of devotees this year

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Rath Yatra devotees
Odisha government has ensured non-arrival of devotees to Puri. Wikimedia Commons

The annual Rath Yatra of Odisha government and his siblings could be performed provided the Odisha government ensured non-arrival of devotees to Puri, said Puri Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb, here on Saturday.

The Ratha Yatra could be organised with minimum servitors and without devotees if the Odisha government granted permission for the 9-day sojourn of deities, said the Puri Gajapati after a meeting of Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee during the day.

As part of Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra, three chariots would be pulled on the Badadanda (grand road) in presence of servitors, officials and policemen. Snana Yatra, scheduled on June 5, could be performed inside temple premises, he said.

The Ratha Yatra
The Ratha Yatra could be organised with minimum servitors and without devotees. Wikiimedia Commons

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He said the temple would remain closed till Niladribije in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

The Information and Public Relations Department will make arrangements for live telecast of Snana Yatra and Rath Yatra rituals. “I request devotees to stay safe at home and watch the telecast on television,” the Puri Gajapati said. (IANS)