Entries in Contamination (4)


Bread That Lasts Months?

Hemera/Thinkstock(LUBBOCK, Texas) -- The company Microzap says it has found a way to keep bread free of mold for two months, according to the BBC.

The company zaps the bread using a microwave array that kills the spores that create mold. While it all sounds a bit technical, the company also claims the patent-pending process can be completed without damaging the quality of the food.

The hope is that the technology, which can also be used on other foods and even pet treats, will dramatically reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Additionally, Microzap researchers say the technology can be used in food processing plants to reduce the occurrence of salmonella contamination.

As for the future, Microzap is currently working on developing a process to treat homes and hotels infested with bed bugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sewage, Bacteria, Gasoline Found in NYC Floodwater

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Water is everywhere in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – in basements, on the streets and in transit systems – but the one place it could be most dangerous is in your body.

ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser collected floodwater and drinking water in some of the areas hit hardest by Sandy and had them tested at The Ambient Group lab. The floodwater collected in Lower Manhattan tested positive for gasoline and two types of bacteria found in sewage: E. coli and coliform.

“Very dangerous,” Besser said. “Make sure you wear protective gear if you are coming into contact with flood water.”

Looking at the testing containers filled with Manhattan floodwater, Besser said that the yellow in one container meant bacteria was present and the purple in another meant “sky-high levels of sewage contamination.”

Wednesday, he went to Piermont, N.Y., an area hit so hard by the hurricane that it’s under a boil water advisory, meaning residents are instructed not to drink tap water without purifying it with several drops of bleach.

When a power outage knocked out one of Piermont’s water pumps, officials were concerned about tap water contamination. The water company tested water from a hydrant, which initially ran brown, but eventually cleared.

Besser tested the hydrant water as well and saw that it had chlorine in it, which protects it from germs.

He also collected tap water from a family’s home faucet, but the lab results won’t be ready until Thursday. The family is already boiling its water as a precaution.

Water companies are responsible for alerting residents if their water is unsafe to drink. Alerts can also come from town or city officials.

Click here for a list of areas under boil water advisory.

In New York City, for instance, the Department of Environmental Protection announced that its water was safe to drink. Water in reservoirs 125 miles north of the city continue to be monitored closely with extra testing in the wake of the storm.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CDC Reports Eighth Fungal Meningitis Death

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Health officials estimate that 13,000 people may have been exposed to contaminated lots of an epidural steroid that has been linked to a rare fungal meningitis that has infected 105 people across nine states, killing eight of them. Fourteen new cases and one new death have been reported since Sunday.

Although the number of cases has increased, the outbreak does not include any new states. The number of people with fungal meningitis, which is not spread person-to-person, has grown by 64 percent since Friday.

The outbreak of aspergillus meningitis has been linked to spinal steroid injections, a common treatment for back pain. A sealed vial of the steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, was found to contain fungus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The states with reported cases include Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. Tennessee has the most cases, with 35, including four deaths.

"FDA is in the process of further identifying the fungal contaminate," said Dr. Ilisa Bernstein, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. "Our investigation into the source of this outbreak is still ongoing."

The steroid came from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., a specialty pharmacy that has recalled three lots of the drug and shut down operations. Calls to the pharmacy were not immediately returned and its website is down.

Roughly 75 clinics in 23 states that received the recalled lots have been instructed to notify all affected patients.

"If patients are concerned, they should contact their physician to find out if they received a medicine from one of these lots," said Dr. Benjamin Park of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding that most of the cases occurred in older adults who were healthy aside from back pain.

Meningitis affects the membranous lining of the brain and spinal cord. Early symptoms of fungal meningitis, such as headache, fever, dizziness, nausea and slurred speech, are subtler than those of bacterial meningitis and can take nearly a month to appear. Left untreated, the inflammatory disease can cause permanent neurological damage and death.

"Fungal meningitis in general is rare. But aspergillus meningitis -- the kind we're talking about here -- is super rare and very serious," said Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "There's no such thing as mild aspergillus meningitis."

The disease is diagnosed with a lumbar puncture, which draws cerebrospinal fluid from the spine that can be inspected for signs of the disease. Once detected, it can be treated with high doses of intravenous antifungal medications.

"Treatment could be prolonged, possibly on the order of months," said Park, adding that the IV treatment would require a hospital stay.

Unlike bacterial and viral meningitis, fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person and only people who received the steroid injections are thought to be at risk.

The FDA has, however, advised health providers to stop using any product made by the New England Compounding Center during the investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Declares Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- A bit more than a year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, a University of Alabama review of multiple studies affirms that Gulf seafood contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, is "well below levels that would be of concern for human health." 

However, given that PAH levels can remain elevated in fish and shellfish for weeks to years after contamination, the authors recommend continued testing.  Additionally, they point out that testing for metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead should also continue, particularly since some are known to accumulate in seafood.

The report is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio