TIME medicine

5 Things to Know on World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day 2014 Celebrated in Indonesia
Robertus Pudyanto—Getty Images A girl with Down syndrome takes part in planting a tree during World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 2014 in Surabaya, Indonesia.

From how it happens to what it does

Saturday is World Down Syndrome Day, a day recognized each year by the United Nations to raise awareness about the genetic disease. Here are five things you need to know about Down syndrome.

1. Down syndrome is caused by an extra set of chromosome 21. Every cell in the body has 23 pairs of chromosomes, one from each parent, but Down occurs when one parent contributes extra genetic material. Older mothers have a higher chance of having a Down baby.

2. More than 400,000 people live with Down in the U.S.

3. The most common symptoms of Down include cognitive delays, low muscle tone and a small stature.

4. People with Down can lead full, independent lives. They are, however, at higher risk of developing heart, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

5. People with Down are living much longer than in the past, thanks to treatments for their health issues. While the average life expectancy in 1983 was 25 years, today it is 60 years.

TIME public health

5 Ways to Celebrate World Water Day

water
Getty Images

A holiday for H2O

Sunday is World Water Day, a United Nations initiative to celebrate clean water and bring attention to those who don’t have enough of it. A new report released ahead of World Water Day warns about a looming shortage, and centers on this year’s theme: water and sustainable development.

Here are five ways to celebrate World Water Day

Learn about poop water

First charcoal juice becomes a thing, and now poop water? Hey, Bill Gates drinks it—thanks to a new machine called the Omniprocessor that literally transforms waste into water through a steam engine. On his blog, Gates writes about drinking a “delicious” fresh glass of it and marvels at the possibilities to improve sanitation in low-income countries. “The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace,” Gates writes.

Take a break from meat

Showering and hydration are hardly your main uses of water—but food is. The average American uses 7,500 liters of water each day, according to the U.N. If you’re eating meat, your water usage shoots way up; a steak dinner for two requires 15,000 liters of water for the meat alone. Eating more meat and dairy has been the single greatest factor for water consumption in the past 30 years, says the group—so going vegetarian, even temporarily, can make a difference.

Wash your hands the right way

Only 5% of Americans do, according to a study of men using public restrooms. (If you need a refresher on proper technique, you should use soap and water and wash for at least 15 seconds.) Sounds gross—and it is a public health hazard, according to UNICEF, organizers of Global Handwashing Day, another water-related holiday worth celebrating. “Handwashing with soap prevents disease in a more straightforward and cost-effective way than any single vaccine,” supporter UNICEF writes.

Support a future female farmer

Most of the world’s hungry are women, says the U.N.’s new report, and most don’t own land—or even have time to make an income, since 25% of their day is spent collecting drinking water. “With equal access to resources and knowledge, female farmers, who account for the majority of all subsistence farmers, could produce enough additional food to reduce the number of the world’s hungry by 150 million,” the report says. Investing in water and sanitation actually helps improve equality, which helps stimulate the economy—every dollar invested yields between $5-28, the UN estimates.

Give better water to the world

A new report from WaterAid America found that one in five babies born in the developing world dies during its first month of life because of a lack of clean water. And 35% of facilities in middle- and lower-income countries didn’t have water and soap for hand-washing, another report from the World Health Organization found.

John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, recently teamed up with Bill Gates to raise money for clean, safe water in Ethiopia. You can donate to water.org here.

TIME Environment

The World’s Water Supply Could Dip Sharply in 15 Years

A warning ahead of World Water Day

Global water resources may soon meet only 60% of the world’s water demands, the United Nations warned in a dire new report.

The World Water Development Report, issued ahead of World Water Day on Sunday, says demand for water around the world will increase by 55% over the next 15 years. With current supplies, that means only 60% of the world’s water needs will be met in 2030.

The reason for the shortfall include climate change, which causes irregular rainfall and dwindling underwater reserves. The results of the shortage could be devastating to agriculture, ecosystems and economies. With less water, health could also be compromised.

New policies that focus on water conservation, and more optimal treatment of wastewater, could alleviate some of the shortfall.

“Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” the report says.

TIME Cancer

Pesticides Used in Pet Collars and Home Sprays Connected to Cancer

A World Health Organization group says five pesticides may be cancer-causing

Five pesticides used in pet collars and home insect sprays could cause cancer in humans, health officials said in a new report.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), evaluates studies on chemical compounds and ranks them by the strength of evidence of their cancer-causing effects. The new report, appearing in the journal Lancet Oncology, classifies glyphosate, malathion and diazinon as probable carcinogens. For these, there is only limited evidence that the compounds can cause cancer in animals or people.

Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide around the world, and its use has increased since crops have been genetically modified to resist the spray. It has been detected in low amounts in water, air and food. Malathion is used to control insects in both agriculture and in homes, and people can be exposed via sprayings and through food. Diazinon is used in more limited quantities in agriculture and homes, after regulations restricted spraying in the U.S. and Europe.

The pesticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion received a slightly stronger designation as possible carcinogens because there is more evidence for their cancer-causing effects in animals, but still little information on their effect on people. Both of these possible carcinogens are already restricted; tetrachlorvinphos is banned in the European Union while still allowed for use in livestock and pet collars in the U.S. Parathion was banned in both the U.S. and Europe in 2003.

The classifications won’t appear on the labels for these products, but serve as the latest review of scientific evidence that governments and international organizations can rely on to create their own regulations.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

yellow-measuring-tape
Getty Images

The choices you make every day can supercharge your ability to burn belly fat

A little bit of belly fat is actually good for you: it protects your stomach, intestines, and other delicate organs. But too much fat is anything but healthy. Extra fat cells deep in your abdomen (aka visceral fat) generate adipose hormones and adipokines—chemical troublemakers that travel to your blood vessels and organs, where they cause inflammation that can contribute to problems like heart disease and diabetes. The good news? Every pound you shed can help reduce your girth. “Once women start losing weight, they typically lose 30% more abdominal fat compared with total fat,” says Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, an endocrinologist at the Rush University Prevention Center in Chicago. Even better, the choices you make every day can supercharge your ability to burn belly fat. Here are 10 common pitfalls—and ways to undo each one.

Read more: 20 Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

You’re on a low-fat diet

To shed belly fat, it’s good to eat fat—specifically monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). When researchers in one study asked women to switch to a 1,600-calorie, high-MUFA diet, they lost a third of their belly fat in a month. “MUFAs are satiating, so they help you eat fewer poor-quality foods,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

Belly blaster: Have a serving of MUFAs—like a handful of nuts, a tablespoon of olive oil, or a quarter of an avocado—with every meal and snack.

Read more: 9 Low-Fat foods You Should Never Eat

You’ve been feeling blue for a while

Women with depressive symptoms were far more likely to have extra belly fat, found a recent Rush University Medical Center study. That may be because depression is linked to reduced physical activity and poor eating habits.

Belly blaster: Exercise! “It improves levels of brain chemicals that regulate metabolism of fat, as well as your mood,” Dr. Kazlauskaite says. This enhances your motivation to do other things that help ward off depression, like seeing friends. But if you’re so bummed out that you don’t want to do things you used to enjoy, it’s time to seek the help of a therapist.

Your food comes from a box

Simple carbs (like chips) and added sugar (in items like sweetened drinks) cause your blood sugar to spike, which triggers a flood of insulin—a hormone that encourages your liver to store fat in your middle.

Belly blaster: Instead of focusing on cutting out junk, center your efforts on adding in healthy fare (think extra servings of vegetables at each meal). As Dr. Katz says, “Filling your tank with high-quality fuel thwarts hunger.”

You’re skimping on the miracle mineral

Magnesium regulates more than 300 functions in the body. No surprise, then, that a 2013 study found that people who consumed more of it had lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Belly blaster: At least twice a day, reach for magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens, bananas, and soybeans.

You’re hooked on diet soda

A study in Obesity found that diet soda drinkers were more likely to have a high percentage of fat in their bellies. The researchers think that diet drinkers may overestimate the calories they’re “saving,” and then overeat.

Belly blaster: If you’re not ready to kick your habit, the researchers suggest reducing the number of food calories in your diet.

Read more: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

You love burgers

When Swedish researchers gave one group of adults 750 extra daily calories, mainly from saturated fat, and another group the same amount of calories but mostly from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for seven weeks, the saturated fat group accumulated two times as much visceral fat.

Belly blaster: Dine on fatty fish like salmon or trout once a week to get a good dose of PUFAs. The rest of the time, reduce your intake of red meat and opt instead for protein low in saturated fat, such as legumes and chicken.

You think girls don’t get beer guts

According to a 2013 Danish study, beer may indeed be linked with abdominal obesity. And though beer appears to have the greatest impact, wine won’t save you from a spare tire: One study found that the amount of alcohol of any type that women drank contributed to weight gain.

Belly blaster: Stick with seven or fewer alcoholic beverages a week. Light to moderate drinkers are the least likely to carry excess weight anywhere, shows a recent Archives of Internal Medicine study.

You can’t recall when you last said “om”

Menopause-related hormonal changes (which typically begin in your 40s) make it harder to shed stomach pudge—but vigorous yoga can help offset the effects. A 2012 study found that postmenopausal women who did an hour-long yoga session three times a week for 16 weeks lost more than 1/2 inch around their waists.

Belly blaster: Not a fan of Sun Salutations? “Take an hour to do something nice for yourself,” which could help control your stress hormones, advises Sheila Dugan, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Chicago.

Read more: Try This Flat-Belly Yoga Pose

Your meals are beige

Brightly colored fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamin C, which reduces cortisol. What’s more, a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition showed that people who ate more of the nutrients in red, orange, and yellow produce had smaller waists as a result.

Belly blaster: Add color to your plate by topping fish with a mango salsa, or throw diced red pepper into your turkey meatballs.

Your sweat sessions don’t involve sweat

Research has shown that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT—bursts of vigorous activity followed by short periods of gentle activity or rest—boasts belly-shrinking benefits. “High-intensity exercise seems to be more effective at reducing insulin, triglycerides, and cortisol, and it burns more calories in less time, too,” notes Shawn Talbot, PhD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Belly blaster: If you enjoy biking or running, for example, accelerate to a pace that makes it hard to talk for two minutes; then slow down for a minute, and repeat until you’re done. Like resistance training? Try a series of moves like squats or push-ups for two minutes each with a 60-second break between them.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME

Liberia Officials: New Patient Tests Positive for Ebola

Liberia Ebola Crematorium
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers prepare to collect the ashes of people that died from the Ebola virus at a crematorium on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, March 7, 2015.

(MONROVIA, Liberia) — A patient has tested positive for Ebola in Liberia’s capital, officials said Friday, deflating hopes that the West African nation had beaten the disease after weeks with no new cases.

Liberia has seen the most deaths in the West African Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 10,000 people. But since it discharged its last case on March 5, it was counting down to being declared Ebola-free. Countries must wait 42 days from when the last patient tests negative before an outbreak is declared over.

Now, a new patient has tested positive, said Dr. Francis Kateh, the acting head of the country’s Ebola Incident Management Team. A second test is generally done to confirm the diagnosis.

Tolbert Nyenswah, who runs Liberia’s Ebola response, also said he had been told the test result was positive.

The woman went to the emergency room of Monrovia’s Redemption Hospital on Thursday night, according to Elizabeth Hamann of the International Rescue Committee, which is helping the hospital safely reopen amid the outbreak. She was identified as a suspected Ebola case and transferred to the hospital’s transit unit, where she could be isolated while awaiting test results. She is now at a treatment center.

In a worrying sign, it is not clear where the woman became infected. She doesn’t seem to be linked to any of the people on an Ebola contacts list, Kateh said.

“We have to investigate where the person came from,” he said. “Did they travel out of the country?”

An emergency meeting will be held Saturday to discuss the case.

Although hopes were high that Liberia had beaten Ebola, officials knew that until two neighboring countries — Sierra Leone and Guinea — also beat the disease, Liberia would remain at risk.

“We knew very well that we were not out of the woods yet,” said Nyenswah.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Genetically Engineered Apples and Potatoes Are Safe, FDA Says

FDA Potatoes and Apples
Simplot Corporation/AP Genetically modified potatoes from the Simplot Corporation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the genetically engineered foods as safe, saying they are as nutritious as their conventional counterparts.

The produce is modified so that it doesn't brown

Genetically modified apples and potatoes that are engineered not to brown or bruise are safe to eat, federal officials announced Friday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated the safety and nutrition of two varieties of apples genetically engineered by the company Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. and six varieties of potatoes from J. R. Simplot Company and concluded that they are no different from traditional apples and potatoes

Scientists had lowered enzymes in the produce, engineering the “Arctic Apples” to not brown and the “Innate” potatoes to not produce black spot bruises.

“The FDA has no additional food safety questions at this time concerning food from these plant varieties,” the FDA wrote in its announcement.

The agency says it reviewed information provided by the companies about the changes made and the nutrition of the apples and potatoes compared to traditional varieties. “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution,” said Dennis Keefe, director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety in a statement.

The FDA says it encourages the companies to consult with the FDA about labeling.

TIME public health

Scathing Report Calls Lab Safety at CDC ‘Insufficient’

The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.
Tami Chappell – Reuters The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.

A new public report from outside experts assessing laboratory safety at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes down severely on the government agency.

In 2014 and early 2015, the CDC was the site of a series of mishaps, from a lab technician the agency thought was potentially exposed to live Ebola virus through an accidental tube swap to the possible release of anthrax. In response, the agency formed an external laboratory safety workgroup to assess the CDC’s internal protocols and provide advice and recommendations. The CDC just publically posted the report, which describes the CDC’s commitment to safety as “inconsistent and insufficient at multiple levels,” to its website.

“Safety is not integrated into strategic planning and is not currently part of the CDC culture, enterprise-wide,” the report says. “Interviews and surveys demonstrated that many employees neither understand the agency’s response to accidents nor how that information is communicated to the larger agency community outside immediately affected labs.”

The authors write that “disturbingly” many of these responses were among people who work in the CDC’s highest biosafety level labs. “Laboratory safety training is inadequate,” the report authors write, adding that across the CDC, workers say they fear negative repercussions for reporting instances where there may have been an exposure to hazardous material. Staff at the CDC view the Environment, Safety, and Health Compliance Office (ESHCO)—the office meant to protect CDC workers and create a safe working environment—as having “inadequate expertise” in lab safety, the report says.

The report makes recommendations, like “staffing [ESHCO] with scientists with professional qualifications in research and/or laboratory safety” and establishing consistent safety practices across the agency.

“CDC concurs with these recommendations, has made progress towards implementing them, and will soon report on that progress,” the CDC says in a statement on its website. “CDC’s aim is to improve the culture of laboratory safety across the agency and minimize the risks associated with laboratory work.”

“It should be noted that although the [workgroup] presented its findings to the full committee in January, it began its review of CDC’s laboratories last August and did the bulk of its assessment at CDC in August and September,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told TIME. “So the said report reflects observations of the workgroup made several months ago.”

Skinner the CDC has made progress, and is implementing actions to “address the root causes of recent incidents and to provide redundant safeguards across the agency.” Some of these changes include establishing new positions for lab safety oversight and implementing new training procedures and safety protocols.

TIME ebola

U.N. Health Agency Resisted Calling Ebola an Emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .
Raphael Satter — AP The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .

Internal documents reveal top WHO officials stalled on calling Ebola an emergency

Top officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) dragged their feet in declaring the Ebola outbreak an emergency, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Internal documents from the U.N’s health agency revealed that officials at its Geneva headquarters were aware of how serious the Ebola outbreak was, but continued to put off calling it an emergency due to a number of concerns, including the effect on the economies of the affected countries, and the impact on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

By the time the WHO did call the outbreak an emergency nearly 1,000 people had already died, the AP reports. The WHO is the only group that can declare a health emergency of international concern.

Declaring the epidemic an emergency might have spurred international attention and resources much earlier, possibly saving lives. In an emailed comment to the Associated Press, the WHO said: “People often confuse the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern with our operational response. It is very different. WHO mounted a strong operational response a year ago when we were notified the outbreak was Ebola.”

Read the entire report at the Associated Press.

TIME public health

WHO Urges Mass Measles Vaccinations in Ebola Regions

Guinea Ebola Vaccine
Youssouf Bah—AP A health worker, right, cleans a man's arm before injecting him with a Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea, March 7, 2015.

The risk for diseases like measles has risen amid Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging mass vaccination for preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough in Ebola-affected countries.

The organization says the risk for additional outbreaks is high due to interrupted immunization practices in the area. The agency is calling for an “intensification” in routine vaccinations, and a measles vaccination push in countries that no longer have Ebola cases.

In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia resources and personnel shifted away from usual immunizations to tackling the Ebola outbreak which has infected more than 24,700 people and killed more than 10,190.

MORE: Why West Africa Might Soon Have 100,000 More Measles Cases

“Any disruption of immunization services, even for short periods, will result in an increase in the number of susceptible individuals, and will increase the likelihood of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks,” the WHO said in a recent letter to officials in susceptible West African countries.

The announcement comes after researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study earlier in March in the journal Science predicting that there could be an outbreak of up to 100,000 measles cases over the next 18 months in Ebola-affected areas if nothing is done to amend disrupted vaccine programs.

“When there’s a disruption of medical services, measles is always one of the first ones in the door,” study author Justin Lessler told TIME.

Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone are rolling out immunizations for several preventable diseases in regions of the countries that are Ebola-free. Liberia and Guinea have targeted children under the age of five for measles vaccinations since they are at a high risk for infection.

Read more about the risk for measles amid Ebola here.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com