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Earth Day: Coronavirus clears the air in Rochester and beyond

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Across the planet, COVID-19 is doing one thing to help people breathe easier: it’s curbing driving. People have been ordered to stay at home as much as possible and many of the places they’d drive to or take buses to have been temporarily shut down.

The dramatic decline in traffic has led to an equally dramatic decrease in nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant linked almost exclusively to fossil fuel combustion. Researchers have documented the likely link in China, Italy, and parts of the United States.

The trend is also playing out in greater Rochester, where state stay-at-home orders have thinned out traffic on area roads.

Lee Murray, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester, said the area’s nitrogen dioxide emissions in March were 40 percent lower than they were in March 2019, based on measurements taken by the European Space Agency’s TROPOMI satellite.

Nitrogen dioxide is “a really good local indicator of fossil fuel combustion and most of that is from gasoline burning,” Murray said. “The reason that we're seeing so much NO2 plummeting is because people are pretty much just not driving anywhere."

The satellite data aligns with nitrogen dioxide measurements from a pair of state Department of Environmental Conservation air quality monitoring stations in Rochester, one of which is located along the westbound side of Route I-490, just before the Culver Road on-ramp. Murray tracks those measurements and said the March average measurement of 6 parts per billion was roughly 30 percent lower than the March 2019 average measurement of 9 parts per billion.

Read More: Earth Day: Coronavirus clears the air in Rochester and beyond

As Vaping-Related Illnesses Rise, Researchers Search for Answers

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Electronic cigarettes have been around for over a decade, but that’s a relatively short time in the world of science and medicine. So very little is known about the long term health effects, like what the flavors and propellants may be doing to the respiratory system. 

But as research picks up on that, what’s even more pressing right now, is understanding the vaping products people are getting on the streets that is making them sick and even causing deaths. 

Pulmonary scientist Irfan Rahman has been studying the impact of electronic cigarettes on the lungs. We followed him to a vape shop in Rochester, NY. He often visits many of the stores surrounding his lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Rahman’s team has found and published research that shows the combination of nicotine, flavors and propellants in e-juices changes cells in the lungs. “Anything [that] goes in the lung, it has to be pure. It has to be fresh,” said Rahman, “[the] lung is not meant for these chemicals.”

There is a growing body of research like this, showing that while vaping may be less harmful to the body than smoking, it’s not exactly safe because it may affect the lungs’ ability to protect against foreign agents.

Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of Genetics at Weill Cornell Medicine did a small study with non-smokers, who have never vaped, and gave them electronic cigarettes with a very small amount of nicotine.

“There were biologic changes. And what's clear is that if you vape, then you are going to change the biology of the cells lining your airways. Of course, the important question is, does that lead to this disease?” said Crystal. “Nicotine itself probably changes the biology of the airway cells. But probably more concerning are the contaminants and that is the flavoring that goes into [the vaping liquid], the propellants that go into it.”

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/exploring-your-health/2019/12/20/as-vaping-related-illnesses-rise--researchers-search-for-answers

Read More: As Vaping-Related Illnesses Rise, Researchers Search for Answers

Researchers at URMC applaud federal vape ban, hope for further restrictions

Friday, January 3, 2020

As the federal Food and Drug Administration announced an impending ban on certain types of e-cigarettes, researchers at the University of Rochester applauded the move, but they also said it should only be the start of more regulations.

“It’s a great decision,” said Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab at URMC that studies the liquids used in e-cigarettes to figure out exactly what they contain.

“It should be a gateway to banning other products,” he continued.

The ban will cover only certain types of e-cigarettes. Starting next month, companies will not be allowed to sell flavored vaping cartridges that contain nicotine -- with exceptions for tobacco and menthol flavors.

The rules also carve out an exception for larger “open-tank” e-cigarettes where customers fill the reservoirs with vaping liquid themselves.

The FDA, which funds much of Rahman’s research, said the ban is targeting the vaping products most often used by teenagers and young adults. Rahman agreed, noting that the ban covers the flavors he encounters regularly in his analysis of the substances young people are vaping, such as bubble gum, candy or mango. “There are so many of them,” he said.

“They look like they are fruit juices, but they are not. They are chemicals which look they are safe, but they are not safe.”

Read More: Researchers at URMC applaud federal vape ban, hope for further restrictions

Vaping Linked to Higher Risk of Self-Reported COPD Diagnosis

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A new study reveals an elevated risk of self-reported chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — the third leading cause of death associated with smoking — among people using e-cigarettes. People who vaped were at increased risk even if they had never smoked tobacco, which casts doubt on e-cigarette companies’ claims that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. 

According to the study, people who vaped were at a 47-percent greater risk of self-reported COPD diagnosis as compared to people in the study who did not use tobacco products. Compared to ex-smokers, people who had quit smoking and switched to e-cigarettes were 27 percent more likely to report a COPD diagnosis.

The study, published by Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is based on 2016 and 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) national survey data of nearly one million adults. Survey participants were asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with COPD by their health-care provider.

Authors of the study, which was funded in part by the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI), the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration, are Zidian Xie, Ph.D., Deborah J Ossip, Ph.D.Irfan Rahman, Ph.D. and Dongmei Li, Ph.D.

“It is clear, based on the large sample size of this study, that there is a significant link between vaping and self-reported COPD diagnosis in adults, even among vapers who never smoked before,” said lead study author Zidian Xie.

Senior study author Dongmei Li, an associate professor in the UR CTSI, added, “More long-term clinical research is needed to determine how e-cigarette use is related to COPD, but our findings are consistent with other recent studies showing that e-cigarette use is associated with respiratory issues.”

“This study provides further evidence that vaping simply isn’t safe,” said Deborah Ossip, a tobacco research expert and professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “We hope that people begin to heed this message, especially young people who think vaping is cool and who are enticed by the thousands of available flavors.”

Recent statistics from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey demonstrated the popularity of vaping among young people in the U.S. About one of every 10 middle school students and one out of four high school students reported in 2019 that they used electronic cigarettes.

Read More: Vaping Linked to Higher Risk of Self-Reported COPD Diagnosis

Irfan Rahman Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award at NCSCA 2019

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Dean's Professor of Environmental Medicine, Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the executive committee of the NCSCA-2019 at the 11th National Conference On Solid State Chemistry And Allied Areas (NCSCA-2019), December 20, 2019. Congratulations Dr. Rahman!

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