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Public Health

Cutting coal power will save many lives, EPA says

While opponents say the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will cost jobs and bring higher electric bills, supporters of the proposal have a counter-argument: beneficial health effects.

Dr. LeRoy Graham

Dr. LeRoy Graham

The EPA is holding hearings in Atlanta and three other cities this week on its plan for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.

Those in favor of the changes say that as coal plants shut down or are replaced with cleaner natural gas, there will be fewer conventional pollutants in the air. Specifically, that means fewer lung-damaging particulates and less ground-level ozone, or smog.

The EPA expects that the resulting cleaner air will mean fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations, and 2,700 to 6,600 fewer premature deaths per year by 2030.

Dr. LeRoy Graham, a pediatric pulmonologist who practices in the Atlanta area, said Tuesday in a GHN interview that as the carbon “footprint” in the air increases, “people with lung problems are suffering more. The health threats are increasing.’’ full story

How will broader gun-carry law affect hospitals?

Now that Georgia’s controversial gun-carry legislation has taken effect, hospitals across the state are trying to figure out how to respond to it.

The new law means different things for different hospitals. Generally speaking, hospitals that are considered government buildings have to comply with it, while those that are privately owned do not.

Glock17And there are other exceptions, including one that pertains to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Yet the ultimate effect of House Bill 60 on hospitals and even some nursing homes may not be clear until it plays out in practice – perhaps until someone with a weapon enters a facility and is confronted about his or her right to carry it.

It’s possible that some facilities may even choose to ignore the law or test its limits.

“As is often the case with newly enacted laws, there are many unanswered questions regarding HB 60, and ultimately courts will interpret the law and apply it to specific facts,’’ said a July 1 memo from Georgia Hospital Association attorney Temple Sellers to association members, which was obtained by GHN. full story

Chikungunya virus strikes in Georgia

A mosquito-borne disease that causes fever and severe joint pain has arrived in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Thursday confirmed the state’s first human case of chikungunya this year. The patient was infected during a recent trip to a Caribbean nation, state officials said.

Aedes mosquitoes transmit chikungunya virus to people.


The state did not identify the name or location of the patient due to privacy concerns.

It’s not the first Georgia case of chikungunya, which is spread through mosquito bites. But it’s the first associated with a widespread Caribbean outbreak that began in December, said Cherie Drenzek, the state epidemiologist for Public Health.

Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but its symptoms can be severe and disabling, officials said. full story

A dangerous habit that still haunts baseball

Baseball cards in the 1950s and ’60s featured many players with lumps in their cheeks, as though they were holding marbles in their mouths.

Guys like Rocky Bridges and Nellie Fox were pictured in uniform chewing tobacco, year after year.

Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn

Baseball has been plagued by the smokeless stuff since well before Babe Ruth’s time. The Babe himself, a smokeless tobacco user, died of throat cancer at age 53.

So it wasn’t all that surprising when a more recent baseball legend, Tony Gwynn, died Monday of salivary gland cancer, which he attributed to years of chewing tobacco. He was 54.

The Hall of Famer’s death has brought increased attention to the problems associated with the addictive product. And it’s not just baseball players using it.

A recently released CDC-sponsored survey of high school students found that while their cigarette smoking had dropped, 8.8 percent of these teenagers were using smokeless tobacco products – a higher percentage than adults.

In Georgia, 9.5 percent of high schoolers said they currently use it. full story

Transplant ‘fairness’ at issue for panel, Georgians

A committee on liver transplants said Monday that reducing the nation’s number of transplant regions — from the current 11 to four — could save hundreds of lives.

The United Network for Organ Sharing panel said its aim in the initiative is to reduce the current geographic variation in patient access to transplants.

UNOS is the organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.

Current liver transplant districts

Its liver committee’s “concept paper,” released Monday, estimates that changing the number of regions to four would lead to a reduction of 581 deaths of people on a liver transplant waiting list.

Having eight regions, another possibility, would cause a reduction of 342 deaths.

But the idea of such a change has already been drawing fire in Georgia. Transplant surgeons here contend that redrawing the districts would hurt the state. Right now, the region that includes Georgia works efficiently in terms of organ donations and distribution, Emory and Piedmont transplant chiefs point out. full story

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