Health Highlights: Nov. 16, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Ban Coal-Tar-Based Pavement Sealcoats: AMA

Coal-tar-based sealcoats used on pavement and playgrounds across the United States should be banned, a new American Medical Association policy says.

The products contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been proven to pose a cancer threat to people, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

If not banned, then the use of these sealcoats should be restricted to products with low PAH levels, the AMA said.

“Whether they are sending their children to a playground or repairing a driveway, Americans are potentially being exposed to harmful carcinogens in coal-tar-based sealcoats,” AMA Board member Dr. Albert Osbahr III said in a news release from the group.

“Even if one’s exposure is limited, as sealcoats erode over time, PAHs leach into the water, soil, and air, finding their way into sediment and eventually into aquatic wildlife. We must take action to either eliminate the use of PAH altogether or dramatically reduce its concentration in coal-tar sealcoats,” he said.

Research shows that people with lifelong exposure to coal-tar sealcoat-treated pavements and playgrounds have a 38-fold higher risk of cancer, according to the AMA.

Washington, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., and counties, townships and municipalities in many other states, including Michigan, have banned coal-tar sealcoats.


First Use of Gene Editing Technique in Humans Reported by Chinese Scientists

The first use of a new gene-editing technique in humans has been reported by Chinese scientists.

According to the journal Nature, Lu You of Sichuan University and colleagues injected genetically modified immune cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer, CNN reported.

The immune cells had been extracted from the patient and altered using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique. The modified cells were then multiplied and injected into the patient’s bloodstream in the hope they would target and destroy cancer cells.

A spokesperson for the team told CNN that “everything is going as planned,” and that the study results would be released when they are ready.

A U.S. clinical trial using CRISPR-edited genes to treat various cancers is due to start in early 2017.

“I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0’, a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product,” Carl June, an immunotherapy specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, and scientific adviser to the U.S. trial, told Nature, according to CNN.

And early next year, Beijing University scientists hope to begin three clinical trials using gene-editing to fight bladder, prostate and renal-cell cancers.

“One of the most important elements of CRISPR development in China is scale,” Christina Larson, a contributing correspondent for Science magazine, told CNN earlier this year. “It’s being deployed in many different ways, in many different labs.”


Marijuana Use Allowed at Denver Bars and Restaurants

The first law in the United States that allows people to use marijuana in bars and restaurants was approved by Denver voters.

Customers can use marijuana in those locations as long as it isn’t smoked, and have to bring their own pot, CBS News/Associated Press reported. There remains the possibility of outside areas for smoked pot.

Colorado does not currently permit or forbid public marijuana use.

Supporters of the measure said it protects people who do not want to be exposed to marijuana and provides those who live in public housing or in places where smoking is prohibited to use marijuana socially, CBS/AP reported.

Alaska is the only marijuana-legal state that permits on-site consumption of the drug at dispensaries, but the state does not allow marijuana use in bars or restaurants.


3 Washington State Children May Have Rare Neurological Disorder

Three children believed to have a rare neurological disorder were hospitalized in Washington State.

The children in Tacoma, Seattle and Spokane were thought to have acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which can cause the spinal cord to become inflamed and putting patients at risk for temporary or permanent paralysis, ABC News reported.

Two of the children remain in hospital, while the third was treated and released, according to a state health department spokesperson, who also said the cases are being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this month, eight children in five counties across Washington state were diagnosed with AFM. Federal and state health officials are still trying to determine the cause in those cases, ABC News reported.

AFM can be caused by a number of infections, including the polio virus.

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