skip to Main Content
A blue image of 5 people who are holding on their laps clipboards, printouts, laptops and a tablet, surmounted by a semi-opaque white box containing the words "Weekly Health Digest"

Why is there so much lead in American food?

By Dylan Scott, VOX

Whether it be in cookware, ground cinnamon, turmeric, paint, water pipes, or even applesauce, lead is a neurotoxin that remains in our daily lives. However, given that most countries eliminated leaded gasoline use by the 1990s, seeing increased lead in other products is quite alarming.

What is more alarming is the consequences that continued lead exposure has on children. Those with elevated lead in the bloodstream were reported to experience speech and hearing problems, learning and behavioral issues, and slower physical and mental development in general. 

With today’s globalized economy, lead-based products from lower-income countries have found their way into the mouths of American children. For example, a 2021 study revealed that applesauce that incorporated cinnamon harvested in Sri Lanka and then shipped to Ecuador was contaminated, and mothers and children in Ecuador showed lead blood levels above public health guidelines. With these same products being sold in the United States, even more mothers and children are put at risk. 

American efforts to reduce lead use appear to have pushed lead-based contamination to other parts of the world. Policy makers will have to tackle companies’ negligence, overdependence on lead-based materials, enforcement, and environmental advocacy.

by  Manju Karthikeyan

An Ozempic Relative Slowed Parkinson’s Disease in a Small Study

By Gina Kolata,  The New York Times

A group of French researchers discovered the potential of using Glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists (GLP-1) drugs — initially prescribed to treat obesity or diabetes but are gaining recognition for their capacity to aid in weight loss — as a treatment to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder characterized by movement impairments, such as tremors, slowness, stiffness, and difficulty with balance. It may also lead to the development of dementia. While current medications can help reduce symptoms, they do not stop or slow the progression of the disease. 

The decision to investigate the use of GLP-1 drugs for Parkinson’s Disease stemmed from the observation that individuals with Type 2 diabetes face an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. However, the risk appears to decline when they take a GLP-1 drug to treat their diabetes. Thus, a trial involving lixisenatide, a Type 2 diabetes medication, was initiated. Over the course of a year, 156 patients received either the drug or a placebo, and results indicated that Parkinson’s symptoms worsened among the placebo patients but not among the medicated patients. 

This is a remarkable finding; however, it is important to note that it is not definitive, as a Phase 2 study is designed to test a hypothesis in a small population for a short period of time. Hyun Joo Cho at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke cautioned: “There are many many examples of very promising Phase 2 trials. People get very excited, and then it doesn’t pan out.” Nevertheless, hopefully, a larger study will be conducted in the future to gather further insights and validate this discovery.

by Julia Roth

Sickened by U.S. Nuclear Program, Communities Turn to Congress for Aid

By Catie Edmondson, The New York Times

A new bill in Congress will offer financial aid to a wide range of communities affected by the harmful production of nuclear-related components. Previously, a 1990 statute provided some compensation to uranium mineworkers in St.Louis and a few other affected communities, but this bill would offer expanded financial compensation across the Southwest, including states such as Arizona, New Mexico, and Tennessee. 

The bill has been a contentious topic in Congress, with different senators cutting out components such as financial provisions covering patient medical care in exchange for an expansion of communities that fit other Senators’ political goals. If it is not passed, this will permanently end the fight for compensation for victims and their family members, while also threatening pre-existing services such as federal funding for cancer screening in many of these neighborhoods. 

The effects of nuclear fallout, ranging from uranium production in mines to waste fallout in water sources have resulted in countless genetic abnormalities and cancer diagnoses spanning generations. Even with the potential for financial compensation amongst those affected, there is much debate about the government’s original neglect of the health of marginalized communities – low-income blue-collar neighborhoods and the Navajo reservation alike.

by Saanvi Nayar

Items contributed by: Manju Karthikeyan, Julia Roth, Saanvi Nayar