A SOUND APPROACH In more than 14,000 pregnancies each year, mother and fetus have incompatible blood types. In these cases, the mother's immune system may attack the fetus' red blood cells, causing potentially fatal anemia in the unborn baby. Now doctors report a painless way to screen for the problem. A special Doppler ultrasound placed over a mother's belly was shown to be 100% effective in detecting moderate to severe fetal anemia. That sure beats today's invasive screening procedures like cordocentesis, in which a blood sample is taken from the umbilical cord, with an attendant risk of miscarriage.
VITAMIN POWER Chalk up another victory for vitamin C. Researchers now think the versatile vitamin may help lower moderately elevated blood pressure. A small but well-controlled trial found that patients who take 500 mg of vitamin C daily for a month have a 9% drop in both systolic (upper) and diastolic (lower) readings. As for folks with normal blood pressure, the supplements don't alter a thing.
BURNING ISSUE No wonder the practice was banned in urban areas 30 years ago. A federal report shows that backyard burning of trash--still a common practice in the countryside--from just one household dumps the same amount of dioxins, furans and other chlorine-containing pollutants into the air as the burning of trash by a state-of-the-art municipal waste incinerator serving tens of thousands of homes. Just about all types of garbage--paper, plastics, food--emit the toxic pollutants. And toxic they are; even tiny amounts of dioxins and related burning by-products may increase cancer risk.
DIXIELAND DOWNER A nationwide study finds Southerners are more likely to have high blood pressure than folks living elsewhere in the country. The worst off: those in the rural South. Limited access to health care may be partly to blame, but the Southern diet--rich in salty, fried foods--no doubt plays a role too.
--By Janice M. Horowitz
Sources: Good News--New England Journal of Medicine (1/6/00); The Lancet (12/11/99). Bad News--Environmental Science & Technology (2/1/00); Stroke (1/7/00)