An Iowa farm county seeks answers amid cancer rates 50% higher than national average




Palo Alto’s [County, Iowa] 2022 tally of 842 farms generates nearly $800 million in annual market value. But nearly 400 small farms have been absorbed into bigger operations or otherwise stopped operating over recent decades, and Palo Alto’s population has dropped by 4,200 people since 1970.

Today’s Iowa farms are largely focused on raising hogs and growing corn, both of which are linked to numerous environmental problems. Farmers growing corn, for example, often rely heavily on applications of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, while livestock operations generate millions of tons of manure annually. The chemicals and manure pollute food and water consumed by people even far from farm fields.

When nitrogen from fertilizer and manure combine with oxygen they create nitrates, which routinely drain from farm fields into groundwater, streams, and rivers, contaminating water sources. Babies can suffer severe health problems when consuming nitrates in drinking water, and a growing body of literature indicates potential associations that include an increased risk of cancer. Exposure to elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water has been linked by researchers to cancers of the blood, brain, breast, bladder and ovaries.

As well, there are years of research showing that many herbicides and other pesticides applied to farm fields are linked to cancers and other diseases. The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have been funding research to investigate the links between disease and farming for more than 30 years, focusing their work on people in Iowa and North Carolina. Among the findings are links between pesticides and malignant brain tumors, multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer and certain breast cancers.

Concerns about connections between the farm pollutants and cancer have been mounting, particularly in Palo Alto County, which had the highest incidence of cancer of any county in the state and the second-highest incidence of cancer among all US counties, with 83 new cases of cancer on average each year, in a population of 8,996, according to a 2023 report by US News.

Author(s): Keith Schneider

Publication Date: 7 May 2024

Publication Site: The New Lede

Drug Overdose Mortality by Usual Occupation and Industry: 46 U.S. States and New York City, 2020




Objective—This report describes deaths from drug overdoses in 2020 in U.S. residents in 46 states and New York City by usual occupation and industry. August 22, 2023

Conclusions—Variation in drug overdose death rates and PMRs by usual occupation and industry in 2020 demonstrates the disproportionate burden of the ongoing drug overdose crisis on certain sectors of the U.S. workforce.

Methods—Frequencies, death rates, and proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) are presented using the 2020 National Vital Statistics System mortality data file. Data were restricted to decedents aged 16–64 for rates and 15–64 for PMRs with usual occupations and industries in the paid civilian workforce. Age-standardized drug overdose death rates were estimated for usual occupation and industry groups overall, and age-adjusted drug overdose PMRs were estimated for each usual occupation and industry group overall and by sex, race and Hispanic-origin group, type of drug, and drug overdose intent. Age-adjusted drug overdose PMRs were also estimated for individual occupations and industries.

Results—Drug overdose mortality varied by usual occupation and industry. Workers in the construction and extraction occupation group (162.6 deaths per 100,000 workers, 95% confidence interval: 155.8–169.4) and construction industry group (130.9, 126.0–135.8) had the highest drug overdose death rates. The highest group-level drug overdose PMRs were observed in decedents in the construction and extraction occupation group and the construction industry group (145.4, 143.6–147.1 and 144.9, 143.2–146.5, respectively). Differences in drug overdose PMRs by usual occupation and industry group were observed within each sex, within each race and Hispanicorigin group, by drug type, and by drug overdose intent. Among individual occupations and industries, the highest drug overdose PMRs were observed in decedents who worked as fishers and related fishing occupations and in fishing, hunting, and trapping industries (193.1, 166.8–222.4 and 186.5, 161.7–214.1, respectively).

Author(s): Billock RM, Steege AL, Miniño A.

Publication Date: August 22, 2023

Publication Site: CDC, National Vital Statistics System

CDC Downplayed News of Vax Myocarditis




With the recent discovery that the CDC drafted — but never sent — a Health Alert in May 2021 about myocarditis after mRNA vaccination, I put together this timeline about vaccine myocarditis news and updates from government officials. I include a combination of documents from CDC and FDA, as well as what was covered in the mainstream media.

I think this timeline shows a pattern in which CDC & FDA failed to adequately investigate and inform the public about the risks of myocarditis early in the vaccine rollout. However, there was public acknowledgement by the CDC, as early as May 20, 2021, about a potential pattern of myocarditis after the 2nd dose of mRNA vaccines, particularly in young men.

On June 1, 2021, the CDC confirmed that they had identified a higher than expected signal of myocarditis for young men after mRNA vaccination, but that they still recommended Covid vaccination for everyone in this age group. Despite a lot more analysis and discussion of myocarditis after that, and a changing landscape with widespread natural immunity, the CDC & FDA position has changed very little since that time.

Author(s): Kelley in Georgia

Publication Date: 19 Jan 2024

Publication Site: Check your Work on substack

The Shady Statistics Behind the War on Painkillers




The attack on opioid prescriptions for non-cancer chronic pain began to advance around 2010, and intensified thereafter. The crackdown coincided with—and perhaps caused—a rapid growth in heroin overdose deaths, and later, an explosion in illegal synthetic opioid deaths, primarily fentanyl, an illicitly manufactured substance added to or substituted for heroin to meet the increasing demand for illegal opiates. This pattern of events is illustrated in a graphic put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Indeed, overdose deaths from commonly prescribed opiates increased rapidly from 1999 to 2010, but the chart doesn’t tell us how many of the victims legally obtained the opiates. The chosen scale also omits the fact that drug overdose deaths have been increasing at a fairly steady rate since 1979, with no obvious changes associated with the rise and fall of opioid prescriptions for chronic pain. The chart does show how overdose death rates from commonly prescribed opiates did not decline much after 2010, although legal prescriptions went down dramatically. This suggests that these deaths may have involved individuals who bought illegally manufactured opiates, or that the people who lost pain medication as a result of official actions were not the ones liable to overdose.

The increase in deaths of despair obviously merits some policy attention, but labeling it an “opioid crisis,” as is common nowadays, profoundly misstates its nature, timing, and likely causes and solutions. To justify restricting opioids for non-cancer chronic pain patients requires specific evidence that people prescribed opioids for pain are the ones dying of overdoses. There’s quite a bit of negative evidence on this score, but public health officials have seized on a few positive studies to support their claims.

One influential and heavily cited 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Association Between Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths,” uses a classic prohibitionist tactic. The authors use a sample of 750 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients who received opioid prescriptions for pain and later died of opioid overdoses, and compare them to a random sample of 155,000 other VHA patients who received opioid prescriptions and did not die of overdoses.

Author(s): Aaron Brown

Publication Date: 11 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Reason

U.S. Suicide Deaths Rose in 2022, C.D.C. Estimates Say



The estimated number of suicide deaths in the United States rose to nearly 50,000 in 2022, according to provisional data released on Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total would be an increase of approximately 2.6 percent since 2021.

The C.D.C. estimates the overall number of deaths to be 49,449 but has not yet calculated the suicide rates for 2022. Given that the U.S. population grew by about 0.4 percent in 2022, a 2.6 percent increase in deaths indicates that suicide rates are continuing to rise, although not universally among all groups.

Suicide deaths have fluctuated somewhat over the years and declined in 2019 and 2020. But the overall suicide rate, or the number of suicides per 100,000 people, has increased by about 35 percent over the last two decades. People 65 and older had the highest increase in the number of deaths by suicide in 2022 among the various age groups.

Author(s):Christina Caron

Publication Date: 11 Aug 2023

Publication Site: NY Times

Suicide Mortality in the United States, 2001–2021




  • The total age-adjusted suicide rate increased from 10.7 deaths per 100,000 standard population in 2001 to a recent peak of 14.2 in 2018, and then declined to 13.5 in 2020. In 2021, the rate increased 4% to 14.1, the largest 1-year increase during the period (Figure 1).
  • The suicide rate for males did not change significantly from 2001 (18.2) through 2006 (18.1), and then increased to 22.8 in 2018. Rates declined in 2019 (22.4) and 2020 (22.0) but then increased 4% in 2021 (22.8).
  • The suicide rate for females increased from 2001 (4.1) through 2015 (6.0) and then did not change significantly through 2018 (6.2). Following a 2-year decline to 5.5 in 2020, the rate increased 4% in 2021 (5.7).
  • The suicide rate for males was three to four and one-half times the rate for females during the 2001–2021 period.

Author(s): Matthew F. Garnett, M.P.H., and Sally C. Curtin, M.A.

Publication Date: April 2023

Publication Site: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC

The economic impact of the opioid epidemic




While the opioid epidemic has had significant impacts across the labor market, its effects have been particularly pronounced in specific occupations and industries. A CDC analysis of mortality data from 21 states concluded that unintentional and undetermined overdose deaths accounted for a disproportionate share of all deaths in the following six occupational groups: construction, extraction (e.g., mining), food preparation and serving, health care practitioners, health care support, and personal care and service. These fatalities are particularly concentrated in construction and extraction: an analysis by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that individuals employed in construction and extraction accounted for over 24% of all overdose deaths in the state’s working population.

Notably, the jobs with the highest rates of opioid overdose fatalities generally have high occupational injury rates and low access to paid sick leave. Figure 1 demonstrates that the industries with the highest rates of overdose fatalities in the workplace have elevated occupational injury rates for fractures and musculoskeletal disorders, both of which are significant risk factors for long-term opioid use.

Author(s): Julia Paris, Caitlin Rowley, and Richard G. Frank

Publication Date: 17 April 2023

Publication Site: Brookings

Guidance for Certifying Deaths Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)




Certifying deaths due to post-acute sequelae of
In the acute phase, clinical manifestations and complications
of COVID-19 of varying degrees have been documented,
including death. However, patients who recover from the acute
phase of the infection can still suffer long-term effects (8).
Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), commonly referred
to as “long COVID,” refers to the long-term symptoms, signs,
and complications experienced by some patients who have
recovered from the acute phase of COVID-19 (8–10). Emerging
evidence suggests that severe acute respiratory syndrome
coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19,
can have lasting effects on nearly every organ and organ system
of the body weeks, months, and potentially years after infection
(11,12). Documented serious post-COVID-19 conditions include
cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, renal, endocrine,
hematological, and gastrointestinal complications (8), as well as
death (13).

Consequently, when completing the death certificate, certifiers
should carefully review and consider the decedent’s medical
history and records, laboratory test results, and autopsy report,
if one is available. For decedents who had a previous SARSCoV-2 infection and were diagnosed with a post-COVID-19
condition, the certifier may consider the possibility that the death
was due to long-term complications of COVID-19, even if the
original infection occurred months or years before death. If it is
determined that PASC was the UCOD, it should be reported on
the lowest line used in Part I with the condition(s) it led to on the
line(s) above in a logical sequence in terms of time and etiology.
If it is determined that PASC was not the UCOD but was still a
significant condition that contributed to death, then it should be
reported in Part II. Certifiers should use standard terminology,
that is, “Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19.” See Scenario IV in
the Appendix for an example certification. In accordance with
all death certification guidance, if the certifier determines that
PASC did not cause or contribute to death, then they should not
report it anywhere on the death certificate.

Author(s): National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics

Publication Date: updated 27 Feb 2023

Publication Site: CDC

12 States Where Working-Age Death Counts Are Still High




Death finally seemed to ease up on U.S. residents ages 25 through 64 in February.

The total number of deaths of working-age people in that age group, from all causes, was 5.5% lower than the February average for the period from 2015 through 2019, according to the very earliest mortality data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But all-cause death counts for working-age people were more than 4.5% higher than the 2015-2019 baseline in 12 states and New York City, and up by almost 40% in one state.

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that increased the death rate for a large group of people by more than 2% was considered a major news story.



One concern is whether the apparent drop in working-age mortality is due partly to state data submission delays.

At press time, for example, Louisiana had sent the CDC only four days of mortality data for February. Other states might also be slower to send the CDC their numbers.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 28 March 2023

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Masks Make ‘Little or No Difference’ on COVID-19, Flu Rates: New Study



The wearing of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses had almost no effect at the societal level, according to a rigorous new review of the available research.

“Interestingly, 12 trials in the review, ten in the community and two among healthcare workers, found that wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to influenza-like or COVID-19-like illness transmission,” writes Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist and co-author of the Cochrane Library’s new report on masking trials. “Equally, the review found that masks had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza or SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Five other trials showed no difference between one type of mask over another.”

That finding is significant, given how comprehensive Cochrane’s review was. The randomized control trials had hundreds of thousands of participants, and made useful comparisons: people who received masks—and, according to self-reporting, actually wore them—versus people who did not. Other studies that have tried to uncover the efficacy of mask requirements have tended to compare one municipality with another, without taking into account relevant differences between the groups. This was true of an infamous study of masking in Arizona schools conducted at the county level; the findings were cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as reason to keep mask mandates in place.

Author(s): Robby Soave

Publication Date: 7 Feb 2023

Publication Site: Reason

Total 2022 U.S. Deaths Up About 15% Over Pre-Pandemic Level



U.S. public health agencies recorded a total of about 3.2 million deaths in 2022, according to full-year mortality figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The total number of deaths was down 7% from the preliminary total for 2021 that the CDC reported a year earlier, but it was 15% higher than the preliminary, full-year average — about 2.8 million per year — for the period from 2015 through 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 24 Jan 2023

Publication Site: ThinkAdvisor

Public Health Agencies Try to Restore Trust as They Fight Misinformation



Across the country, health officials have been trying to combat misinformation and restore trust within their communities these past few years, a period when many people haven’t put full faith in their state and local health departments. Agencies are using Twitter, for example, to appeal to niche audiences, such as NFL fans in Kansas City and Star Wars enthusiasts in Alabama. They’re collaborating with influencers and celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Akbar Gbajabiamila to extend their reach.

Some of these efforts have paid off. By now, more than 80% of U.S. residents have received at least one shot of a covid vaccine.

But data suggests that the skepticism and misinformation surrounding covid vaccines now threatens other public health priorities. Flu vaccine coverage among children in mid-December was about the same as December 2021, but it was 3.7 percentage points lower compared with late 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decrease in flu vaccination coverage among pregnant women was even more dramatic over the last two years: 18 percentage points lower.

Other common childhood vaccination rates are down, too, compared with pre-pandemic levels. Nationally, 35% of all American parents oppose requiring children to be vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella before entering school, up from 23% in 2019, according to a KFF survey released Dec. 16. Suspicion swirling around once-trusted vaccines, as well as fatigue from so many shots, is likely to blame.

Author(s): Laurie Sausser

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News