Tag archives for health

No new mercury in Swedish teeth (but the sweet craze goes on)

Only too revealing... Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Since Easter is a time when Swedes eat even more candy than normally (6.000 tons! For 9 million persons, in something like four days! And then I suppose there are a few babies and others who don’t eat a single piece…) it’s not a wild assumption that our dentists will have a peak in their workload some time during the spring.

One thing they won’t fill teeth cavities with in any case, is amalgam, since Sweden totally prohibited this in 2009 because of its mercury content, which is bad for both humans and the rest of nature. In the mid 1970:s about 17 tons of mercury were used by Swedish dentists, but was then gradually phased out.

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Time for greener medicines

pills

Photo: e-Magine Art/Flickr.

We have gotten used to talking about environmental effects of car or clothes manufacturing, but I think there are many of us who haven’t given much though about how our medicines are made.
Recently the Swedish Radio News published an investigation showing that Swedish imports of medicine are contributing to a growing environmental disaster in southern India, where many of the active substances for our medicines are made.

Joakim Larsson, a medical researcher from Sahlgrenska Akademi in Gothenburg, went to Hyderabad in India to study the effects that the medical factories have on the local drinking water and says that “you don’t need to be a scientist to notice that something is wrong in the city”. The water of the nearby lake was  smelling so bad he got chest pains for the rest of the day.

The inhabitants of Hyderabad suffer from many diseases and cancer cases are 11 times more common there than in the rest of India. Studies also show that bacterias that are resistant to antibiotics are found in the water.

The Swedish Medical Association has earlier urged for some sort of environmental cerification for medicines, since subventions in Sweden are only paid for the cheapest variety of a medicine, with no regards to environmental impacts.

Now the radio reports that after these revelations there are actually plans of how to start scrutinizing medicines that are bought byt the county council (landsting). So hopefully in the future Swedes getting well won’t mean Indians getting ill.

A universe in one park

flamingo
A flamingo spreads its wings in Slottsskogen, August 27 2009. Photo: Eva Obenius.

In Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg a 137 hectare big park extends over the southwestern parts. Slottsskogen, “the forest of the castle” has been a green lung for Gothenburg and its inhabitants during more than 100 years.
During the eight years I lived there I spent much time in this park, having picnics, taking walks or just passing through it on my way to work. Watching the seasons change the colours of the leaves or just hearing some bird song could make all the difference on a bad day. And it is actually proved that these “green lungs” have a significant health impact on city dwellers.

Closing health gaps

A few years ago the medical journal the Lancet actually had an article on how parks improve health and cut stress in cities. Two Scottish researchers had found that even small parks in the heart of our cities has a good effect on strokes and heart disease, and that the existence of parks is a good way of fighting health inequalities between different social groups.

A photo homage to the park

The other day I heard about a great project, which is in itself a homage to Slottsskogen and the lungs of our cities. Eva Obenius, who is a Gothenburg photographer, spends one year taking photos of this park every single day.
Until April, she publishes one of them daily on her blog. Birds flying, a ladybug on a blade of grass, the edges of a pair of skates. Watching them makes me long back to Slottsskogen.

A local adventure

After 300 days of continuous photographing, she tells me that there are of course days of grey weather when finding a subject can be a real challenge. But this project has also trained her eye, teaching her to see details she did not notice before.
And while many photographers are attracted to great expeditions in the Antarctic or Borneo, Eva Obenius shows that exploring what is close to you can also be an adventure. 

In the autumn, her work will be exhibited at the Gothenburg Museum of Natural History.

Swedish invention cleans water with help of the sun


Solvatten demonstration in Nepal.

In many places of the world clean water is a scarce resource, which makes life hard for around one billion of people and causes a lot of diseases.
Now a Swedish idea can help people who lack access to clean water to purify the water themselves. The Solvatten (“Sunwater” in English) system works as a 10 liter container, which uses UV light and heat from the sun to kill microorganisms. Here is an animation that describes how it works.

Helps stopping deforestation

Where people do not have access to electricity water is often purified through boiling on a fire, which contributes to deforestation. Using the light and heat from the sun could save a lot of firewood.
Right now Solvatten is being tested in Nepal with money from the United Nations.
In an article the inventor, Petra Lundström, says that her invention has received interest from Unicef as well as from the government of Sri Lanka.

Putting a price tag on climate-related illness

One could expect that human suffering and depletion of biodiversity would be reasons enough to take climate change seriously and do something about it. But, as in many cases, economic arguments seem to be the ones that work best. The British Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, which in 2006 made world leaders start thinking of climate change as an economic and political issue instead of just a scientific phenomenon, is a good example of that. Now the Swedish National Institute of Economic Research has made a study on the economic costs of climate-related effects on health.

Climate change will have far more severe health consequences in other parts of the world, but effects will also affect Sweden. For example long heath waves, water and diseases transmitted by mosquitos and other insects will be a growing problem.

By calculating value of less mortality and sickness as a consequence of rising temperatures, the report wants to make it clear to decision makers that considerable amounts of money can be saved by taking action to prevent what we can and adapt to what we cannot prevent. The conclusion is that 24 hours of climate-related illness can be valued to between 8 000 and 10 000 Swedish kronor, about 1 000–1 260  dollars.

The research is conducted by the institute’s environmental economic research division.