Public Health News Roundup: November 21
Airport Secondhand Smoke Puts Travelers, Employees at Risk
Just as many Americans are about to board flights for Thanksgiving travel, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding the public that secondhand smoke inside airports puts air travelers and employees at risk. The new study, which looked at air quality at five large U.S. airports, including Dulles International in Washington, D.C., found that the air pollution from secondhand smoke is five times higher outside smoking rooms and other designated smoking areas than in smoke-free airports. And pollution levels inside smoking rooms were 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports.
The study also found that five of the 29 largest airports in the United States allow smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public, including restaurants and bars. "Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger acute cardiac events such as heart attack, according to the CDC. Read more on tobacco.
Family Seat Belt Use at Record High
Close to 90 percent of families traveling by car during Thanksgiving will buckle their seatbelts, according to a new survey from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to NHTSA's annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey, seat belt use has steadily increased since 1994. The record high of 86 percent in 2012 is a two percent increase over the previous year. Among the most dramatic increases in seat belt use were in the southern region of the United States, which rose to 85 percent in 2012—up from 80 percent in 2011. Seat belt use continues to be higher in states that have primary belt laws, which permit law enforcement officers to issue citations to motorists solely for not using a seat belt, rather than requiring additional traffic violations in order to stop a car.
Nationwide, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed primary laws requiring seat belt use, and another 17 states have passed secondary laws. New Hampshire is the only state that has not enacted either a primary or secondary seat belt law, though the state's primary child passenger safety law applies to all drivers and passengers under the age of 18. Read more on injury prevention.
FDA Approves First Flu Vaccine Using Cell Culture Technology
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Flucelvax, the first seasonal flu vaccine licensed in the United States that is manufactured using cultured animal cells instead of fertilized chicken eggs. A key advantage of the cell-based method is that it takes about half the time to manufacture the cell-based vaccine than it does to grow the vaccine in eggs, which is especially important if a vaccine is needed quickly for a pandemic. In clinical trials, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine were very similar to egg-based ones. Read more on vaccines.