ISLAMABAD – Pollution from factories and mines is putting the health of 125 million people at risk worldwide and is as dangerous in the developing world as malaria or tuberculosis, according to a report.

The researchers behind the “2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems” report say theirs is the first substantial attempt to estimate the number of people sickened or killed worldwide because they work in or live near tanneries, recycling plants, chemical factories or mines, among other toxic industries, Science news reported.

“Appropriately, large amounts of time and resources are devoted to addressing the burden of diseases like tuberculosis and malaria,” said Stephan Robinson, a researcher at Green Cross Switzerland, which produced the report with the Blacksmith Group, a New York-based non-profit environmental organization.

“The striking fact is that international and local government action on these diseases greatly outpaces the attention given to toxic sites, which as demonstrated in this report, contribute greatly to the global burden of disease,” he said.

Researchers examined more than 2,900 active or shuttered industrial sites in 49 low and middle-income countries and estimated the health impact of pollutants such as lead, mercury or chromium - on the people who live nearby or work at the sites, often producing goods or providing services for people in richer countries.

The advocacy groups noted that their numbers “are by no means conclusive, but can be taken as indicative of the potential scale of the problem,” adding that they expected the figures to be underestimates of the full scale of the problems.

Researchers analyzed data from their own field studies at toxic sites and combined that with census data as well as epidemiological studies to extrapolate an estimate of the health problems involved. The report cautioned that in many cases the data were “very limited.”

Smaller companies, often producing for local markets, tended to have the biggest negative health impact. No specific companies were named in the report. Researchers used the notion of a disability-adjusted life year, or DALY, which is a measure of the number of years an individual loses from a healthy lifespan because of sickness, disability or early death.

In those 49 countries, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, they estimated more than 17 million years of healthy life were lost because of pollutants caused by the 10 industries examined, compared to 14 million for malaria, 25 million for tuberculosis and nearly 29 million for HIV.

Overweight kids much more likely to have Asthma

Over the last few decades, the prevalence of asthma has increased and it is also one of the main causes for children being absent from schools.

It has been revealed that children who are overweight are twice as likely to have asthma compared to children of a healthy weight, Medical News Reported. Unhealthy diet and not enough physical exercise are connected with a range of cardiovascular risks as well as other chronic diseases, however, some investigations highlight that asthma could be included in that list because the connection between obesity and asthma come from common factors.

“Does asthma lead to obesity, or are they related to other common factors? A recent explanation that is being investigated is the over production of cytokines (substances with inflammatory effect) due to a variety of stimuli that may lead to the development of asthma. Thanks to these findings, physicians calculate that the frequency of asthma in obese children can be up-to-double that of non-obese kids.”

The professionals say that nutritional status demonstrates a positive influence in the fight against asthma. Antonella Muraro, PAAM 2011 Co-Chair and EAACI Treasurer said:Asthma and allergy are usually closely associated with allergy having a double role in the development of asthma.

One of the clearest causes for asthmatic attacks results from when a child is exposed to large amounts of allergen, for example, when placing in grass fields, in dust or with a cat.

Another trigger which is not as clear but most likely more important, is the induction of chronic inflammation in the child’s airway when exposed to less amounts of allergen.

For example, acute clear symptoms will not develop with a normal amount of dust at home, however, it will cause chronic inflammation, making the child more vulnerable to the effects of all kinds of asthma triggers. Contrary to popular belief, children with asthma should be encouraged to participant in sports due it is beneficial effects. “Sports have very beneficial effects on the cardiopulmonary system, and an enhanced respiratory capacity will be of much help in the case of asthmatic attacks.

Indeed, the lack of exercise leads to lesser respiratory capacity and this to less exercise, creating a vicious cycle.” Since the influence of these triggers have been detected, clinical efforts are now concentrating on creating personalized treatments, as between patients response to treatment varies. “The available treatments for asthma show a slow progress, as every new therapy must be thoroughly assessed before wider availability.   

All of them have advantages and limitations regarding efficacy and potential adverse effects.”

Sunshine vitamin ‘may help treat tuberculosis’

Vitamin D can help the body fight infections like deadly tuberculosis, according to researchers. Nearly 1.5 million people are killed by the infection every year and there are concerns some cases are becoming untreatable,BBC health reported. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed patients recovered more quickly when given both the vitamin and antibiotics.

The idea of using vitamin D to treat tuberculosis (TB) harks back to some of the earliest treatments for the lung infection.

Before antibiotics were discovered, TB patients were prescribed “forced sunbathing”, known as heliotherapy, which increased vitamin D production. However, the treatment disappeared when antibiotics proved successful at treating the disease. There is widespread concern about tuberculosis becoming resistant to antibiotics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3.4 per cent of new cases of TB are resistant to the two main drug treatments - known as multiple drug resistant tuberculosis. That figure rises to nearly 20 per cent for people who have been infected multiple times in their lives.

One analysis said that in some countries about half of all cases were resistant. There is also concern about extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, which is resistant to the back-up drugs as well. The WHO says 9.4 per cent of all drug-resistant TB is extensively drug resistant.

In this study, all patients had non-resistant TB. The researchers said adding vitamin D to treatments may be even more valuable for patients when the drugs do not work as well. It showed that recovery was almost two weeks faster when vitamin D was added. Patients who stuck to the regimen cleared the infection in 23 days on average, while it took patients 36 days if they were given antibiotics and a dummy sugar pill.

Vitamin D appears to work by calming inflammation during the infection. An inflammatory response is an important part of the body’s response to infection.

During TB infection, it breaks down some of the scaffolding in the lungs letting more infection-fighting white blood cells in. The doctors suggested this might also help in other lung diseases such as pneumonia and sepsis.