August 30th, 2016


 Idling at intersections raises pollution levels in our cars
Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

The  results of a  study published in the August 26, 2016 issue of Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts showed that air pollution at an intersection with traffic lights is 29 times higher than on the open road and results in a 40% increase in the amount of pollution inside the car.

Summary of this study is at:

The complete journal article is at:

Use this news

While we may occasionally think about air pollution,  rarely or ever do we think about air pollution in our cars (unless we’re driving behind a bus through a tunnel !) But, we should because air pollution, no matter where we encounter it,  is serious given its contribution to lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and stroke.

Air pollution encompasses the following:

  • Particulate matter -  These are particles of dust, dirt, soot, smoke and metals some 30 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. They pose the most serious threat to our health because they can penetrate deep into lungs. 

  • Nitrogen oxides . These gases irritate lung tissue and increase the risk of pneumonia and influenza.

  • Hydrocarbons -  In the presence of sunlight, hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides and form ground level ozone. While ozone high in the upper atmosphere is beneficial, at ground level it causes respiratory problems including coughing, choking, reduced lung capacity, and can trigger asthma.

  •  Carbon monoxide. This odorless, colorless gas is produced when fossil fuels, like gasoline, are burned . When inhaled, it interferes with the ability of red blood cells to release the oxygen they carry, which can ultimately damage the brain, heart, and other vital organs.

  • Sulfur dioxide. This pollutant is formed when sulfur containing fuels are burned, such as diesel fuel. It forms fine particles in the atmosphere and poses a health risk to young children and people with asthma.

  • Hazardous air pollutants These are chemical compounds that have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and other serious illnesses. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that benzene, acetaldehyde, and 1,3-butadiene
    — account for half of all cancers caused by air pollution.

  • Greenhouse gases. Motor vehicles release carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change. Cars and trucks account for over one-fifth of the United States' total global warming pollution.


So, what can we do to reduce our exposure to air pollution in our cars?  As the study authors suggest, when we are at intersections stopped for red lights or in slow moving traffic we can:

1.       Keep our windows up

2.      Turn the ventilation fan off or put it on recirculate to allow            for air flow but prevent outside air from being drawn into            the car.

Other suggestions:

  • reduce idling. Shut the motor off if idling for more than 30 seconds.
  • avoid hard accelerations
  • get regular tune-ups and follow car manufacturer’s maintenance schedule
  • use roads/routes with fewer traffic lights, if possible
  • if possible, travel at off peak hours when roads are less congested.

For more information:

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality – Reducing Vehicle Emissions

Environmental Protection Agency –

Actions to Reduce Air pollution

What you can do to reduce pollution

Strollers and carriers can be hazardous to your child's health.
Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

According to research published last week in the journal Academic Pediatrics, more than 17,000 children under the age of 5 are injured each year in stroller and carrier accidents. The majority are boys younger than one year. Most of the injuries are bumps, cuts and bruises to the head and face, but many (25% and 35% respectively), are traumatic brain injury/concussions from falls from strollers and carriers. Falls are the leading cause of injury, following by stroller or carrier tip-overs.

The complete article is at:

A summary of the article is at:

Use this news

Although the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (  has mandatory standards for child transportation devices and the American Society for Testing and Materials ( has voluntary standards,  parents and caregivers play a large role in the prevention of stroller and child carrier injuries.

To this end, the study authors suggest we do the following:

·         Properly secure children in strollers or carriers using the safety restraints as recommended.

·         Place carriers and strollers on a non-elevated surface to minimize impact if there is a tip-over or fall.

·         Follow all manufacturers’ instructions for assembly and use of the stroller or carrier.

·         Always put the stroller breaks on when stopped to prevent rolling.

·         Be cautious when using a stroller near a curb or in high traffic areas without sidewalks

·         Never leave a child unattended.

To prevent stroller tip-over:

Keep children seated at all times.

Do not hang heavy purses or bags from the handle of strollers.

Locked the wheels when stopped to prevent movement.

Tips for keeping kids happy in the stroller or carrier:

-          Have special stroller/carrier toys

-          Pack snacks and dole them out slowly

-          Bring books for him/her to look at

-          Schedule outings when the child is well rested

-          Plan on being out no more than an hour

For more information:

Consumer Reports: Buying a stroller

Mayo Clinic:  Stroller safety tips


August 15th, 2016


Do you drive drowsy?
Drowsy driving may cause up to 1 in 5 fatal accidents.
Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

A report released last week from the Governors Highway Safety Association (an organization of state and territorial highway safety offices) estimates that up to 20% of fatal traffic accidents result from drowsy driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has added drowsy driving to its definition of impaired driving along with drunk, drugged and distracted driving.

Article summary:

Governors Association News Release:-

Complete Report:

Use this news

Have you ever driven drowsy? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), about 60% of us have and 37% of us (that’s more than 100,000 million people) have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.

So, who among us is more likely to drive drowsy?

  • Younger drivers (18-29) are much more likely to drive while drowsy (71% vs. 30-64, 52% vs. 65+, 19%).
  • Men are more likely to drive drowsy than are women (56% vs. 45%) a
  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving (22% vs. 12%).
  • Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children (59% vs. 45%).
  • Shift workers are more likely to drive drowsy than are those who work a regular daytime schedule (36% vs. 25%).
  • People who sleep less than 5 hours are at up to 5 times more likely to drive drowsy as those sleeping 8 hours or more.
                               being awake for 18 hours produces an 
                               impairment equal to a blood alcohol
                               concentration (BAC) of .05.
                               being awake for 24 hours produces an
                               impairment equal to a BAC of.10, .08 is
                               considered legally drunk.
  • Commercial drivers, those with insomnia and undiagnosed sleep disorders are also more likely to drive drowsy or fall asleep.

Here’s what you can do to prevent a fall-asleep crash:

Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road.
      Be sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep the night before.

Use the buddy system.
      Avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who stays
      awake for the trip can take a turn behind the wheel and help
      identify the warning signs of fatigue.

Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours.
      Do something to recharge yourself  -  take a walk, stretch,
      jog a little, get a healthy snack (fruit, nuts, cheese, are
      good choices, avoid sugary drinks and foods like
      cookies and donuts).  

Take a nap.
      Find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap.

Consume caffeine.
      Have two cups of coffee. It can increase alertness for few

Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
These include:

     high blood pressure medications
     anti-emetics - medications for nausea and vomiting
     anxiety medication
     muscle relaxants
     medications for Parkinson’s Disease.

Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.

The NSF offers these warning signs that you are too tired to be driving:

  • Difficulty focusing on the road or driving
  • Frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming or trance-like feelings
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive.

If you have any of the above:

            STOP DRIVING!
            Pull over and take a nap.
            Drink a caffeinated beverage.

More information:

FDA – Medications and driving impairment

UCLA Sleep Center – Drowsy Driving

Although afraid of vision loss, many not aware of eye disease risks.
Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

The results of a multi-ethnic national study of more than 2000 people published online this week in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology found that although vision loss was among the most feared health outcome, half didn’t know that smoking affects vision, almost two-thirds (63%) didn’t know that diabetes can lead to vision loss, and 25% didn’t know about anything that affects eye sight. 

The complete journal article is at:


Loss of vision has a tremendous impact on quality of life and as the results of this research show, it is among the health issues we most fear. Yet, many of us are not aware of how our other health issues and lifestyle habits affect our risk of vision loss.

Hypertensive retinopathy
(retina damage from high blood pressure)

Consistently elevated blood pressure (140/90 or greater) damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina which causes bleeding and impairs vision.

Hypertensive retinopathy and the vision loss it causes can be prevented by controlling high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association offers information on how to control high blood pressure:

Diabetic retinopathy
(retina damage from diabetes)

Diabetes (high blood sugar) causes the tiny blood vessels in the retina to swell, leak fluid or grow in places where they shouldn’t causing vision loss that cannot be reversed.

To better understand how diabetes causes loss of vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers a number of short videos and other information on the topic:

The key to decreasing the risk of diabetic retinopathy and its related vision loss is controlling blood sugar.

The American Diabetes Association offers information on controlling blood sugar:

Bacterial Keratitis 
(corneal infection most commonly from contact lens wear)

The cornea is the outer clear covering over the eye. Contact lenses sit on the cornea. Improper cleaning, contaminated disinfecting solution, or extended wearing, especially sleeping with them in, increases infection risk. In older adults who wear contact lenses, dry eye contributes to increase infection risk.

Proper use and care of contact lenses can reduce the risk of bacterial keratitis.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers information on how to properly use and care for your contact lenses:

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) 
(breakdown of the macula)

The macula is a small area at the back of the retina that is responsible for us  being able to clearly see small details directly in front of us. With age, this area can become thinner and stop functioning or in some cases, grow new  blood vessels which then leak fluid.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers a video and information on what happens in AMD:

While the exact cause of AMD isn’t known, the Mayo Clinic ( suggests that age, heredity, Caucasian race, obesity, smoking and cardiovascular disease increase risk.

            To reduce the risk of AMD, adopt a healthy lifestyle that                 includes:

                Maintaining a healthy weight.
                Eating  green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit,                         fish, and whole grains.
                Maintaining normal blood pressure and controlling                             other medical conditions.
                 Exercising regularly.
                Wearing sunglasses and hats outdoors.
                 Not smoking


Smoking is the single most important changeable risk factor for AMD. The nicotine in cigarettes affects the retina and macula because it constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing the amount of blood flow, reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and increases the chances of clots forming along the walls of the blood vessels, which narrow the vessels even more. Bottom line…smoking is just bad for your eyes and the rest of your body.  (

The American Lung Association and the Centers for Disease Control offer information on how to quit smoking at these links respectively: ,


Ultraviolet radiation damages the macula which increases the risk of AMD,   
damages the cornea which can lead to non-cancerous growths, and the lens which can lead to cataracts, and photokeratitis or “corneal sunburn.”

To reduce the risk of eye damage from the sun, the American Optometric Association offers recommendations:

                      For more information about eye health

                         American Academy of Ophthalmology

                     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

                    National Eye Institute - Institutes of Health

Want to live longer? Start exercising!
  by Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

Three studies this week once again confirm the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle, risk of disease and early death. In the first study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a group of nearly 800 middle aged men were followed for 45 years to determine how useful physical fitness level at middle age is for predicting risk of early death.  As it turns out, it’s a good predictor. The results showed that poor physical fitness at middle age was related to risk of early death. Said another way, the men most physically fit at middle age lived longer.

A summary of this research is at:

Complete journal article is at:

The second study, published in the journal Circulation, looked at the risk of heart disease in almost 100,000 women over a 20 year period of time.  The results of this study showed that the most physically active women had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease than did the least physically active women.

A summary of this research is at:

The third study, published in The Lancet, looked at the relationship between physical inactivity (sitting) and early death in more than one million people. The more hours a day people sat and the less active they were the rest of the time, the greater their risk of early death. Risk increase ranged from 12 – 59 percent with the greatest risk among people who sat the most and exercised the least. The increase risk of early death from sitting for many hours was offset in people who exercised for 60-75 minutes a day.

 A summary of this research is at:

Use this news

The take away from these studies should be clear – to decrease our risk of disease and early death, we need to get up and exercise!  But, exercising doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym or running a marathon. Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes five days a week is a good start.

Here’s some help for getting started from Shape Up America

If you have any concerns about your joints (ankles, knees or hips) or other health issues, discuss your exercise plans with your health care provider.

  • Get a good pair of sneakers. A running shoe with plenty of cushion us best.
  •  Buy a pedometer, use your smart phone or get a step tracking device.
  • Track your baseline. Track you steps for a week to find out how many steps you usually take each day, before you make any changes. In general, most people take between 900 to3000 steps a day. It’s pretty difficult to get in 10,000 steps a day without intentionally going out for a walk (or getting on a treadmill).
  • Set your first goal. Use the highest number of steps you walked on any given day during your baseline week as your daily step goal. Use a lesser number of steps as your goal if you prefer. To avoid injury, do not select a higher number. Aim for your step goal each day for the next two weeks. If the most steps you walked on any given day your first week was 2500, this becomes your daily goal for the next two week. At bedtime, write down how many steps you took that day.
  • Adjust your goal. At the end of the two week period, decide if you are ready to add another 500 steps to your goal. Your new step goal will be 3000 steps a day for the next two-week period. Continue in this manner, working up as slowly as you wish, until you finally reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day.

If you experience any pain or discomfort that concerns you, check with your health care provider.  Pain is a warning sign that something may be wrong. Take it slow. Take it easy.

Ways to get more steps into your daily routine:

Walk and talk while on the phone. Pace back and forth, walk around the room, your office or house.

Park as far from the entrance to a store, your place of employment or your front door, as possible.

Use the bathroom farthest from where you are, whether in your house or at work.

Set your computer or phone to signal every 30-60 minutes to remind you to get up and walk around.

Walk around the room while watching a TV show.

Carry one grocery bag into the house at a time.

Walk up and down every aisle in the grocery store, even if you don’t need anything.

Use the steps instead of an elevator or escalator.

Walk in and out of every room in your house once or twice a day.

Walk to the mailbox.

If you use mass transportation, get off a stop early and walk to your destination.

Walk your children to and from school, if possible, or at least to and from the bus stop.


Mow your own lawn.

Clean your own house.

Park at the opposite end of the mall from where you want to shop.

Instead of talking with a friend over coffee, take a walk and talk.

Walk the dog. (No dog? Maybe it’s time to adopt one!)

For more information:

Shape up America

American Heart Association
            Get moving!

        No time for exercise?