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NEWS BLOG

Archive for October, 2012

U.S. Census and American FactFinder Workshop

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The Alaska Native Epidemiology Center and the Alaska Division of Public Health are hosting a U.S. Census and American Factfinder Workshop. This is a two-day workshop featuring beginner and intermediate/advanced training sessions for the American FactFinder. Mark your calendars and register early for this event! Session topics will include American Factfinder basics, Margin of Error, PUMS files, Alaskan exercises, and more. Space is limited and registration is required. Conference will be held in Anchorage, AK. Specific location details will be available upon completed registration.

Completed registration forms are due before 5:00 pm on November 1, 2012. Applications may be submitted via email to anepicenter@anthc.org, or by fax at: (907) 729-4569.

Native Voices IPad App

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The Native Voices site by NLM now has an iPad app. The app presents video interviews with tribal elders, healers and other prominent people who practice traditional medicine, Western medicine or a combination of both. From their unique experiences and perspectives, they weave a tapestry of stories of the vibrant and diverse cultures and medicine ways of Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. Other video clips provide an exhibition overview and highlights of the 4,400-mile journey of the totem pole specially created for the exhibition. The Native Voices app works on all iPads with iOS4.2 and higher. To download the free app, go to the Apple iTunes store and type in “NLM Native Voices.”

LiverTox: NIH launches free database of drugs associated with liver injury

Monday, October 29th, 2012

LiverTox

A free source of evidence-based information for health care professionals and for researchers studying liver injury associated with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbals, and dietary supplements is now available from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers and health care professionals can use the LiverTox database to identify basic and clinical research questions to be answered and to chart optimal ways to diagnose and control drug-induced liver injury.

Drug-induced liver injury is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, accounting for at least half of cases. It occurs at all ages, in men and women, and in all races and ethnic groups. Drug-induced liver disease is more likely to occur among older adults because they tend to take more medications than younger people. Some drugs directly damage the liver, while others cause damage indirectly or by an allergic reaction. The most important element to managing drug-induced liver injury is to identify the drug that’s causing the problem and appropriate steps to eliminate or reduce damage to the liver.  The site: www.livertox.nih.gov/

An Arctic Mercury Meltdown

Friday, October 19th, 2012

At high levels, mercury is a toxin that can impair neurological development in children and affect the adult nervous system.Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering, has been studying the movement of atmospheric mercury for the last decade or so, and has been particularly interested in how and why it shows up at elevated levels in the Arctic—in both the atmosphere and the food cycle. Conventional wisdom, he says, was that emissions from coal combustion and mining in North America, Europe, and—increasingly—Asia were drifting over the Arctic and depositing the mercury via precipitation.

A few years ago, he began testing that theory using a complex 3-D computer model called the Geos-CHEM, which measures atmospheric transportation. “What I was expecting was to find that atmospheric deposition was the dominant source of mercury to the Arctic,” says Jacob. With that finding, he could then examine how that deposition was affected by changes in global emissions patterns—rising levels in Asia, falling levels in the United States and Europe—and by the melting of the Arctic sea ice, which receives and re-emits the mercury into the atmosphere, keeping it from further dissemination in the water. “But, as often occurs in science,” Jacob says, “serendipity took over.”

When he and research teams from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard School of Public Health started analyzing their data, they found something the emissions theory could not explain: mercury levels in the Arctic peaked in the summer, when the transportation of emissions pollution was low, but fell off during the winter, despite a concurrent annual emissions-pollution peak.

The hidden element? Their study, published in a recent issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the major Arctic mercury source wasn’t the atmosphere, but the Arctic Ocean itself.

That body of water, Jacob says, receives 10 percent of all global river discharge, thanks in large part to three massive Siberian rivers: the Lena, the Yenisei, and the Ob. Jacob’s team theorizes that the rivers carry mercury to the Arctic Ocean from myriad sources, including Siberian mines and the erosion of other polluted land masses—and because the ocean is relatively shallow, the mercury-laden river waters have a greater influence on its smaller volume of water.

Climate change is another culprit. An unfrozen Arctic Ocean lashing at the coast and eroding mercury-rich land masses means more of the element entering the water, especially in summer. The effect of rising temperatures in Siberia eventually affects the Arctic, as well: “As the permafrost thaws, mercury in the soil gets released into the river system,” Jacob explains. “From a policy standpoint,” he adds, “the message is that the mercury accumulation is not necessarily a recent phenomenon, and we can’t really blame increasing pollution from China—which is what people wanted to do. It seems to be really old mercury, and it’s coming from really old human activity”—such as mining—“that is a century old, maybe older.” Dan Morrell, Harvard Magazine

Climate change could cause some fish species to shrink by nearly 25%

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

A new study that modeled the impact of climate change on more than 600 fish species says that most of those species could shrink by between 14 and 24 percent by the year 2050. Additionally, as the concentration of oxygen in the Earth’s waters decreases, some species may move away from equatorial waters toward the Arctic. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has broad implications — not only for the Earth’s ecosystems, but for the seafood industry as well as sport fishermen. If that doesn’t get you excited, take this theoretical figure: in 2011, Alaska brought home 5.4 billion pounds of seafood worth $1.9 billion, by far the most among U.S. states. If that catch were reduced by 25 percent, it would mean a loss of 1.35 billion pounds and $475 million from state fisheries. Alaska Dispatch

2012 Elders & Youth Conference: Native Knowledge: Respecting and Owning our Living Culture

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

October 15th to 17th,. Anchorage, AK
The purpose of the gathering is to develop leadership in Native youth, strengthened with the experience and wisdom of Native Elders. For many participants (ages 13-18), the conference is their first opportunity to attend a statewide gathering and to engage in serious dialogue on issues relevant to Alaska Natives.

As Arctic Melts, Inuit Face Tensions with Outside World

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Sakiasiq Qanaq has seen a lot of changes on the north coast of Baffin Island in recent years as the retreat of summer sea ice has continued unabated. But the Inuit hunter has never seen anything quite like this year, when sea ice loss in the Arctic hit a record low.

First, the community’s spring narwhal hunt, which usually yields roughly 60 of the tusked whales, produced only three. The sea ice was so thin that the Inuit couldn’t safely stand on it and shoot the narwhal as they migrated into Arctic Bay from Greenland through channels in the ice. Then an unprecedented number of killer whales, or orcas — rarely seen in heavy ice — showed up in the largely ice-free water, with Inuit hunters in nearby Pond Inlet observing three pods of orcas that reportedly killed some of the narwhals and scared off the others.

But the final, and most startling, change was the one Qanaq found in his fishing nets. In addition to the Arctic char that he routinely catches, he and other fishermen were pulling in Pacific salmon — a fish not normally seen in the Arctic east of Alaska, and one that is known to dominate and sometimes drive out char in circumstances when the two overlap. “I don’t know what to think,” he told me. “I really don’t. This is all very strange.”   Ed Struzik, Environment 360