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Chemicals found in over 1,200 foods linked to immune damage

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Chemicals found in over 1,200 foods linked to immune damage

Junk food fiends have more to worry about than a ballooning waistline.

Chemical preservatives and other additives found in many popular processed foods may be undermining snackers’ immune systems, according to a new study.

Two compounds, tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and per- or poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been identified in more than 1,200 foods sold in the US.

TBHQ, a preservative, can be found in well-known brand foods, including Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats and Cheez-Its; PFAS — also known as “forever chemicals” because they survive indefinitely — are often used to create a non-stick lining in packaging, such as aluminum cans, pizza boxes and popcorn bags, and may leach into food contained within the package, according to the Environmental Working Group, whose findings were published in Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on March 24.

Researchers for the EWG based their assessment on data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxicity Forecaster, a k a ToxCast. The data showed that TBHQ, which has been used to extend the shelf life of processed foods for decades, may impair the immune system, based on animal as well as in vitro (non-animal) testing.

In a statement, Dr. Olga Naidenko, EWG’s vice president for science investigations, suggested that poor diets may have contributed to the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system,” said Naidenko, who led the study. “Before the pandemic, chemicals that may harm the immune system’s defense against infection or cancer did not receive sufficient attention from public health agencies. To protect public health, this must change.”

Previous studies have indicated that TBHQ could diminish the efficacy of flu vaccines, and may also promote food allergies. This could help explain why food allergy prevalence has increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have also been studies to suggest that PFAS suppresses immune function, including a report, published in Plos One last December, that found an association between people with high levels of these substances in the blood and increased COVID-19 severity. The results reflect that of a similar study in 2013, which determined that children who were exposed to high levels of PFAS in-utero produce fewer disease antibodies following pediatric vaccinations.

Of the more than 4,700 unique PFAS identified in manufacturing, very few have been studied for long-term health effects. In 2019, the EPA announced a research initiative to better understand PFAS following studies that linked them to cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, decreased fertility and low birth weight.

Study authors point out that animal and in vitro studies are not always consistent with human studies — as was the case with ToxCast’s data — and called for further research to learn more about how these chemicals interact with our immune system.

These findings are not yet evidence enough for the Food and Drug Administration to enact stricter limits; instead, the FDA continues to allow companies to self-determine whether the additives and preservatives used in their manufacturing are safe for long-term human health.

“Food manufacturers have no incentive to change their formulas,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at EWG. “Too often, the FDA allows the food and chemical industry to determine which ingredients are safe for consumption. Our research shows how important it is that the FDA take a second look at these ingredients and test all food chemicals for safety.”

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School raising funds for beloved service dog’s surgeries

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School raising funds for beloved service dog's surgeries

A Maine elementary school is rallying to give a beloved service dog a new leash on life.

Ory, a 16-month-old professional pup who works in the Willard School’s special education department, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, degenerative hips, and torn ACLs in both knees, according to WMTW.

Ory works with special needs students at the school, helping to calm them during moments of emotional turmoil.

Now the Sanford community is pitching in to help fund the three surgeries that are needed to get her back in the classroom.

“Ory has had a rough go of it as she has already had ectopic ureter surgery in the fall and has recovered well from it,” a GoFundMe page aiming to raise $20,000 for the dog reads.

“The [hip] surgery] will ensure Ory [lives] a long, healthy and fulfilling life free from pain,” Jess Jones, an Ed Tech at the Willard School, wrote.

By Thursday night, more than three quarters of the funds had been raised, and a paw-fect ending was in sight.

“Ory will be meeting with her surgeon on Monday for a consultation,” an update from the grateful organizer read.

“She’s only 16 months and she deserves that opportunity to have a great life. The vet said her life will be amazing once this is done and dealt with,” Christen Suratt, a teacher who works with Ory, told the local station.

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all US airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear face masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kansas State University estimated how far airborne virus particles travel inside a plane. They used mannequins that emitted aerosol to measure the flow of virus particles through airline cabin mock-ups.

The study, however, did not take into account the wearing of face masks because it was based on a previous study done in 2017, before the pandemic.

Nor did it consider whether passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC says vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, although the agency still recommends against nonessential travel.

Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest US carriers, said airlines use several layers of measures to prevent the spread of the virus on planes, including face masks, asking passengers about their health and stepped-up cleaning of cabins. The group cited a Harvard University report funded by the airline industry as showing that the risk of transmitting the coronavirus on planes is very low.

Airlines were divided last year over filling middle seats. While Delta, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue limited seating on planes, United Airlines never did and American Airlines only blocked seats for a short time. It was mostly an academic question, because relatively few flights last year were crowded. That is changing.

More than 1 million travelers have gone through US airports each day for the past month. While that is still down more than one-third from the same period in 2019, more flights now are crowded. Around Easter weekend, Delta temporarily filled middle seats to accommodate passengers whose original flights were canceled because of staffing shortages.

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

So close, and yet so far. 

As various factors finally make homeownership attainable for frequently maligned millennials, a new hurdle has appeared: Not enough houses to go around. 

According to recent findings by investment bank Jefferies, younger millennials between ages 25 and 29 are increasingly buying their first pads, and 30- to 34-year-olds are doing so at even higher rates, Insider reported. 

The only problem is there aren’t enough starter homes available, an issue that’s existed since before the coronavirus pandemic and is a result of profit-seeking real-estate investors buying the pads, increasingly expensive construction costs and more restrictive zoning rules. 

Despite being much less economically well-off than previous generations were at their age, millennials in fact led home-buying in 2020, significantly motivated by the pandemic. According to an Apartment List’s Homeownership report, 40 percent of the age group now own homes, while a Clever Real Estate survey notes that 30 percent started house-hunting earlier than planned due to COVID-19. 

But unless contractors can somehow quickly construct 2.5 million homes — the amount America is short on, according to Jefferies — in the next year, millennials may be left holding yet another form of unfortunate financial cards. 

In another recent real estate boom significantly inspired by the pandemic, sales of homes built more than 100 years ago rose by 16 percent in 2020 in the tri-state area compared to last year, with a median sale price of $236,000, The Post reported earlier this month. 

Not booming during that same period, however, were New York City pads, which saw a 6 percent overall sales decline. That trend has a few notable exceptions, however, including Brooklyn townhouses — for which demand is relatively sky-high.

“I have seen more demand for brownstones, too, especially in Brooklyn, where the market seems to be on fire. There is more demand for properties with outdoor space, and bigger apartments where buyers can carve out home office space as well,” Melissa Cohn, an executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage, told The Post this month.

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