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Some clarifications on red meat and cancer

The evaluation on the carcinogenicity of red meat by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – and not by WHO as many media reported – has given rise to a range of misunderstandings and is an example of how scientific communication on topics with a major public impact may prove extremely difficult.  As coordinator of the epidemiology Working Group that classified the consumption of red meat, I followed the process from

Using communication to fight epidemics

During epidemics, pandemics, natural or environmental disasters, the problem of communication is one of the primary issues to deal with, and scientists and stakeholders know this well. It is a two-sided issue: communicating risk without creating any alarms, and an effective communication between persons who manage emergencies.

Pathogens and fear: the double epidemics

From bats to horses, from insects to chimpanzees, a lot of deadly viruses originated in an animal host. In his last book, Spillover, the American science writer David Quammen tells the stories of some of these viruses. We reached him at the Festival della Scienza in Genoa, where he was going to present the book, and asked him some questions.

The (un)health that surrounds Ebola

It is known that a virus like Ebola finds an ideal breeding ground of infection in weak healthcare systems. However, the fear of a large-scale European contagion is spreading. Although it is true that Ebola is really frightening, it is equally true that a comparison between a country such as Italy and countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is at least difficult to maintain. Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV, low rates of vaccinations: the African ecosystem in which Ebola has developed is crippled, and the majority of its inhabitants are

Close encounters of the third kind

In the globalised environment, the interconnection and interdependence of economies enable pathogens to spread in unprecedented ways and extents. Human to human transmission (close encounters of the first kind) occur with pathogens that are well adapted to the human host, and spread between countries and continents. In a similar way, pathogens spreading between animals (close encounters of the second kind) spread not only within a farm, but also between different farms, due to trade, or live animals or vector movement, in a transboundary manner.

What Ebola taught us about risk communication

Each outbreak has some lessons to teach to those involved in health crisis management, especially in terms of risk communication. In fact, any infectious disease can become much more dangerous when supported by wrong or missing information. On the one hand, misinformation can spread far and fast, especially online, often crossing geographic borders before local organisations have ramped up their response to an outbreak. On the other hand, the lack of proper information about, for instance, how people get infected, may slow down efforts to contain the diffusion of the disease.

IARC: air pollution is carcinogenic

Does outdoor air pollution cause lung cancer deaths? IARC says it does. It is an historical day for epidemiology, toxicology and public health – this 17th of October – since the greatest world authority on carcinogenic agents presented in Paris the results of monograph n. 109 about outdoor air pollution. Classified as Group 1, i.e. carcinogenic for humans, outdoor air pollution is now considered as dangerous as vinyl chloride, asbestos, formaldehyde or ionizing radiations.

The "exposome" revolution arrives

Imagine about one thousand people equipped with smartphones which, in addition to the standard functions, serve to reveal using special sensors, pollutants, and which, thanks to GPS, correlate the findings whilst on the move. Now imagine that these same persons are monitored as part of an experiment where their blood and other bodily liquids are taken, dosing them with the main metabolites; the medical sphere monitors them and conducts surveys relying on questionnaires on primary lifestyle habits.

The Taranto disaster is confirmed

The death toll in Taranto shows a dramatic increase according to the updated data of the Sentieri Study- for the 2003-2009 period - on the "causes of death, the biomonitoring and health risk related to air quality." The study was presented this week by Minister Renato Balduzzi, with the participation of the authors and the attendance of environmental associations' representatives.The first Sentieri study contained data up to 2002 and now we know that, in the Puglia capital only, overall death cases due to pollution increased by 1% compared to previous statistics, against the wh

The cost of pollution

On March 2, in Paris, the European Aphekom project, coordinated by the French Institute for public health surveillance (InVS), presented the results of a three-year study on air pollution and its impact on health, conducted by 60 researchers in 25 cities across Europe. Sorry for the sceptics, but the data are once again worrying, with the important new information that health impact is now associated with a monetary impact.