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Health Highlights: June 21, 2019


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

High Arsenic Levels in Two Brands of Bottle Water Sold at Major Chains

High levels of arsenic were found in two brands of bottled water sold at Whole Foods, Target and Walmart, the Center for Environmental Health in California says.

The nonprofit group found that the brands Penafiel, owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper, and Starkey, owned by Whole Foods, contain levels of arsenic that are higher than tap water and violate California guidelines, USA Today reported.

High levels of arsenic can cause reproductive damage and cancer, and products that violate recommended state levels of arsenic must carry a warning, according to California law.

Research also shows that arsenic can cause hormone disruption and organ damage, especially in children.

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports released findings that the same brands of bottle water contained nearly double the federal limit of arsenic in water, USA Today reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not recalled either brand of bottled water.

Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper did not respond to requests for comment from USA Today.

"Customers typically purchase bottled water at exorbitantly high costs with the assumption that it is safer and healthier to drink than tap water, unaware that they are ingesting an extremely toxic metal linked to birth defects and cancer," Michael Green, CEO of the Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement.

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2018 Busiest Year Ever for U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline

The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline had its busiest year ever in 2018, receiving 573,670 calls, texts and online chats, a 36% increase from 2017.

Factors in the rise include increased awareness due to the #MeToo movement that began 2017, and allegations of domestic violence against high-profile people such as R&B singer R. Kelly and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones told NBC News.

Both men have denied the allegations.

"I wouldn't necessarily say that there's more domestic violence happening," Ray-Jones told NBC News. "I think what is happening is, there's a lot of discourse around the complexities around domestic violence now."

Since 1996, the hotline has provided 24-hour, year-round support for people affected by domestic violence.

In 2018, 88% of people who contacted the hotline reported some form of emotional and verbal abuse, 60% said they were victims of physical abuse, 24% said they were experiencing financial abuse, 15% reported digital abuse such as constant texting, GPS stalking, and unauthorized home surveillance, and 11% said they were victims of sexual abuse, NBC News reported.

One caller was Laura White, 60, of Austin, Texas. She contacted the hotline in September 2010, a year after her husband shot her in the abdomen. Even though her husband was in jail and eventually sentenced to life in prison, White lived in constant fear for her safety.

When she called the hotline, the person who answered let her talk for "two hours totally uninterrupted" and then provided a range of resources, including counseling services through a local women's center and a therapist who could help prepare White to testify against her husband, White said.

"They told me: 'Hey, if you try these and they don't work, call us back. If you try these and they do work, call us back. We are here for you,'" she told NBC News. "Just to have somebody to listen who kept saying 'I know how you feel, I understand,' that was amazing -- worth so much."

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Ruling Backs Airline Passengers With Food Allergies

Airlines must permit passengers to preboard in order to wipe down seats as a precaution against food allergies, the U.S. Department of Transportation says.

The rule includes adults who have food allergies and parents of children with food allergies, The New York Times reported.

The decision stems from a case in September 2016, when gate agents for American Airlines denied Nicole Mackenzie's request to preboard a flight to clean the area around the seat assigned to her seven-year-old daughter, who has life-threatening nut and seed allergies.

After the family filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation, officials ruled that American Airlines had violated the Air Carrier Access Act, an airline-applicable equivalent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, The Times reported.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, severe allergies are considered a disability if they affect a passenger's ability to breathe or "substantially impact another major life activity."

"This changes the entire landscape for the food-allergy flier," Lianne Mandelbaum, who has a son with a severe food allergy, told The Times.

"Until now, food-allergy passengers' safety was beholden to the mood of a particular flight crew," said Mandelbaum, who writes a blog about food allergies and travel. "When the decision came down, I sat in my car and cried for an hour."

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Woodstock Frozen Organic Grilled Red Peppers Recalled

Possible listeria contamination has triggered the recall of 10-ounce packages of Woodstock frozen Organic Grilled Red Peppers, maker UNFI says.

The peppers are in plastic packages with UPC code 4256301714, lot #60B, and have an expiration date of April 2020 on the back of the package. They were distributed to retail stores across the U.S.

Consumers who bought the peppers should throw them away.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with the recalled peppers, according to the company.

Listeria can cause short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea in healthy people. But it can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

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Young Adults Growing 'Horns' Due to Smartphone Use: Researchers

Young adults are developing "horns" at the back of their skulls due to excessive use of mobile devices, researchers say.

The horns are actually bone spurs caused by forward tilting of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head. This leads to bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments, the Washington Post reported.

The bone spurs develop in the skull, just above the neck, said the researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

The bone spurs are a sign of serious posture issues that can cause chronic headaches and pain in the upper back and neck, study first author David Shahar, a chiropractor who recently completed a Ph.D. in biomechanics, told the Post.

One significant finding was the size of the bone spurs. Typically, bone spurs are considered large if they're 3 or 5 millimeters in length, he explained. This research included only bone spurs that were 10 millimeters, about two-fifths of an inch.

The bone spurs themselves aren't a threat, but rather a "portent of something nasty going on elsewhere, a sign that the head and neck are not in the proper configuration," study co-author Mark Sayers, an associate professor of biomechanics, told the Post.

The study was published last year in the journal Scientific Reports but only recently attracted significant attention.

"An important question is what the future holds for the young adult populations in our study, when development of a degenerative process is evident in such an early stage of their lives?" the authors wrote.

Previous studies have linked smartphone use to neck and hand problems, but this is the first study to connect such use to bone changes, the Post reported.

"These formations take a long time to develop, so that means that those individuals who suffer from them probably have been stressing that area since early childhood," Shahar told the Post.

He suggested that heavy users of mobile devices pay closer attention to their posture. If they need motivation to do so, they should feel the lower rear of their skull to check for bone spurs.

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