Helping consumers snack mindfully

Can Buharali, senior director global public affairs at Mondelēz International

Every day, people seeking a healthier lifestyle can encounter different recommendations about what foods and beverages they should have or avoid. However, little guidance may be seen on why and how to eat or drink to get the most out of the eating experience. One approach is shifting the thinking from the what, to the why and how — this approach is called mindful eating.

Rimi Obra-Ratwatte, European lead nutrition strategy at Mondelēz International

As one of the largest snacking companies in the world, we at Mondelēz International embrace the important role we have to play in empowering consumers to snack more mindfully. This is integral to our purpose of ‘helping people to snack right’. 

Snacking is part of everyday living. It can provide fuel for energy or a boost to jump-start your day. It can also simply be a treat. People are looking for snacks that fit their busy lifestyles. They want convenient and delicious snacks they feel good about eating, while also seeking balance when making their snack choices.

Our own extensive consumer data shows that 74 percent of consumers want snacking tips and visual indicators of portion size on pack. Indeed, we believe consumer information needs to be meaningful, actionable, consistent across markets and provide clear portion guidance at the point of purchase and consumption.

Our own extensive consumer data shows that 74 percent of consumers want snacking tips and visual indicators of portion size on pack.

So, what does mindful snacking really mean? 

Over the past eight years we’ve worked with mindful eating experts to develop and validate our global Mindful Snacking program. 

Mindful Snacking is the application of mindfulness to eating and can be practised by anyone, anywhere and by all ages. It can help people to manage their relationship with all food and to do so in moderation.

It is about paying attention to why you want to eat before you choose what to eat.

It is about paying attention to why you want to eat before you choose what to eat. Are you hungry? Are you simply bored, distracted or seeking a break from what you are doing?  

Thinking through your reasons can help you to be more deliberate about what you eat and more conscious about the reason why you want a snack. And it’s also about how you snack, taking your time to taste the flavors and textures, leaving distractions aside, and slowing the pace of eating so that you really enjoy what you’re eating and know when you’re full or satisfied. Tasting the subtlety of the flavors for example in chocolate will allow you to get the most satisfaction out of even a small portion.

It’s also about how you snack, taking your time to taste the flavors and textures, leaving distractions aside.

Moreover, mindful snacking has been shown to lead to a more positive relationship with food (1) by making more deliberate and conscious food choices, more satisfaction and pleasure from food by savoring with all your senses (2) and being less likely to overeat (3) by paying attention to feelings of satisfaction. 

In fact in some countries such as Germany, Australia and Brazil practices regarding mindful eating are included in national dietary guidelines — that by eating slowly and consciously, there is a greater enjoyment and promotion of the sense of satiation.  

Tasting the subtlety of the flavors for example in chocolate will allow you to get the most satisfaction out of even a small portion.

This approach is also supported by the British Nutrition Foundation, which emphasizes that healthy eating is not only about what we eat, but also how we eat it. Time of day, speed, portion size, our emotional state and the food environment may all influence our relationship with food and healthy eating.

via Mondelēz

Mind your portion?

Scientific research shows that eating mindfully leads to better management of food portions and less tendency to overeat by paying attention to feelings of hunger and satiety (4).  It is about being intentional when choosing a portion according to the emotional and hunger needs in the moment.

Providing visual indicators of portion sizes on packaging can help consumers, especially for products like snacks. Snacks are often consumed in much smaller amounts than per 100g, which is what many food labelling regulations are based on,  so portion size indicators can be used to help educate and guide consumers on appropriate servings. Portion control packaging formats can also be helpful, as individually packaged portions can help support more mindful eating and control calorie consumption.

Providing visual indicators of portion sizes on packaging can help consumers, especially for products like snacks.

What is Mondelēz International doing on mindful snacking?  

At Mondelēz International, we want to educate consumers about how to snack mindfully and inspire satisfying snacking experiences. Satisfying portion sizes and detailed labeling help consumers understand that snacks like chocolate can fit into balanced and mindful lifestyles.

We’re helping people to snack mindfully in many ways.

via Mondelēz
via Mondelēz

We aim to add information on pack across all of our European brands by 2025 and our Snack Mindfully website provides resources, tips and information on mindful snacking. This will empower our consumers by making them more aware of portion sizes through visual images of a portion along with the calories it provides, alongside tips on how to snack mindfully. We have also partnered with renowned mindful eating experts to provide consumer-friendly videos that explain mindful snacking and how to practice it, which are also available on the website. 

And in the U.K., we have piloted QR codes on pack, to provide consumers with further information.  By scanning the QR code on the outer packaging, consumers can access our new online platform https://www.snackingright.com/ which provides information about the company’s global Snacking Made Right programs, including its cocoa sourcing program Cocoa Life, tips on mindful snacking and recycling information. 

How to practice mindful snacking?  

Mindful Snacking is based on six, practical and accessible behaviors that anyone can practice, anytime and anywhere. Taking these behaviors and bringing them to life in the right occasion through our brands is what makes it authentic and real with consumers. Learn more on our website and find out how to practice mindful snacking.   

Sources:
(1) Alberts et al., 2012; Katterman et al., 2014; Hendrickson et al., 2017; Camillieri et al., 2015; Gravel et al., 2014 

(2) Hong et al., 2014; Arch et al., 2016; Cornil & Chandon, 2015; Hetherington et al., 2018 

(3) Oldham-Cooper et al., 2011; Higgs et al., 2011; Mittal et al., 2011; Robinson et al., 2014; Daubenmier et al., 2016 

(4) Gravel et al., 2014; Hong et al., 2014; Arch et al., 2016; Cornil & Chandon, 2015; Oldham-Cooper et al., 2011; Higgs, 2015; Mittal et al., 2011; Higgs et al., 2011, Robinson et al., 2014



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One month later, people living near a toxic train derailment wonder if their lives will ever be back on track | CNN


East Palestine, Ohio
CNN
 — 

This had been a quiet little town of about 4,700 people nestled in the rolling hills of Northeast Ohio. A sign posted on State Road 14 welcomes visitors to East Palestine, “the place to be.”

But for the past month, ever since a freight train derailed and caught fire, the town has been bustling with responders and reporters. Residents say they’re grateful for the help, but the attention and uncertainty have begun to strain the town’s hospitality.

Town halls and news conferences have taken over the school auditoriums and municipal buildings and shut down its main street. A clinic opened to address worrisome health questions and symptoms, and government workers have been going door-to-door to survey residents about health impacts.

Gov. Mike DeWine has traveled to East Palestine four times since the derailment and US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan three times, each with entourages of aides and press wranglers. Some business owners near the downtown area are so tired of answering questions, they posted signs asking reporters to stay out.

The streets are busy with utility trucks for environmental clean-up companies TetraTech, Arcadis and AEComm. Plastic hoses snake into Leslie Run and Sulphur Run, two creeks that run through town that were contaminated by the accident. Large pieces of equipment that look like showerheads churn and bubble the water in these streams, hoping to speed the breakdown of chemicals in them.

Still, the floral, fruity odor of the chemical butyl acrylate still wafts up from the streams.

Many residents say they are angry.

Donna Reidy, 62, lives about a mile and a half away from the site in a white house on a hill that overlooks Leslie Run, one of the area waterways contaminated by the spill. On Thursday, she answered questions for a government health study that’s being conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reidy said that neither she or her husband – who has lung problems and requires supplemental oxygen – experienced any new or worsening physical symptoms since the derailment. However, her daughter, who also lives in East Palestine, had, she told investigators.

Reidy said her daughter had to gone to the hospital after vomiting and developing a rash. Donna said the stress of trying to protect her husband and worry for her daughter had worsened some anxiety she already struggled with, and she’s afraid of health problems that could arise later on.

“I’ve already had cancer, I don’t want to get it again,” she told Dr. Dallas Shi, an officer in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, as they stood in the front yard outside her home.

For the study, called an assessment of chemical exposure, or ACE, Shi is working with a mapping specialist Ian Dunn, a geospatial health scientist and CDC contractor, to interview residents in some of the areas believed to be most impacted by the contamination.

After Reidy answered pages of required questions, Shi and Dunn ask her if there was anything else she wanted them to know.

“Yeah,” she said. “This stuff sucks.”

“We got roots here,” she told them. Five generations of her family lived in East Palestine. Her husband’s father saved money during World War II and sent it home to his wife so they could buy the home they live in today. Her children and grandchildren have gone to the local schools.

“They just ruined everything,” Reidy says, speaking of Norfolk Southern.

“My kids are moving, my grandkids are moving away. They just ruined everything,” she said as she started to cry.

“I’m so sorry,” Shi said, “Can I give you a hug?”

Shi, who was dressed in her dark blue public health service uniform and black work boots, put her arms around Reidy. “I can’t imagine,” she said.

“I’m so mad at them because they’re so cheap and all they cared about was money for themselves,” Reidy went on, speaking through tears. “They should have huge fines against them.”

Then Reidy apologized for getting upset.

On Thursday night, some area residents came to the local high school auditorium for a town hall meeting – their first chance to confront Norfolk Southern since the spill – and expressed similar anger and frustration.

The company was ordered to appear at the town hall by the EPA after declining to participate in earlier events.

“One thing I would like to say … is that we are sorry. We’re very sorry. We feel horrible about it,” said Darrell Wilson, who was representing the company.

The room erupted with shouts of “Buy us out!”

“Do the right thing,” one man shouted. “Tell Alan to buy us out,” referring to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw.

Several people said they believed staying in their homes was making them ill, but they couldn’t afford to go anywhere else. They want the railroad to buy their homes, which they feel have lost value since the spill.

“Get us out!” some yelled.

“We are going to do the right thing,” Wilson said, responding to the shouts.

Wilson said the company had leased office space in town and “and we signed a long lease. So we’re gonna be here for a long time,” he said..

But when asked whether there had been talk of the company relocating residents, he said there had not.

Some said they had experienced health problems since returning to their homes after the derailment. Others said they had lost their jobs or stopped going to work at jobs they felt were too close to the site. They are worried about their children or grandchildren potentially being exposed to toxins and having health problems down the road.

Some people say they continue to experience symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, dizziness and persistent coughs, and they feel puzzled by ongoing tests of the town’s air and water that have not detected chemicals at levels that are known to pose health risks.

“Why are people getting sick if there are no toxins?” East Palestine resident Jamie Cozza asked the panel answering questions at Thursday’s town hall.

“We do have a team here that is trying to collect health information so that we have a better understanding of the potential exposures and health effects,” said Capt. Jill Shugart, who is an associate director of emergency management at CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR.

The agency is conducting a total of three Assessment of Chemical Exposure, or ACE, investigations – one for Ohio residents, one for people in Pennsylvania, and another for first responders to the accident scene.

Shugart said it would take about three weeks to collect enough information to get an understanding of the full picture, then the agency has to work with Pennsylvania and Ohio to present their findings to residents.

Data from some surveys are starting to come available. On Friday, the Ohio Department of Health released preliminary data from its ACE survey, and out of 168 completed, 74% of people said they experienced headaches, 64% reported anxiety, 61% reported coughing, 58% listed fatigue, and 52% said they had irritation, pain or burning of their skin. The health department is still collecting surveys through its health assessment clinic, which will be open again next week.

Many at the town hall said they felt that the evacuation order had been lifted too soon – less than a week after the derailment – and may have put them in harm’s way, before any potential dangers were fully assessed.

On Thursday, the EPA capitulated to demands from residents and said it would require Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins, cancer-causing chemicals that form during combustion. The EPA had previously declined to require testing for dioxins, saying that these chemicals are already present in the environment, so it’s hard to interpret what their levels mean. The EPA said it would require the railroad company to study background levels of dioxins in comparable areas in order to give some context to the test results.

Authorities have focused much of their concern on a 2-mile radius around the spill, but residents that live farther away, including some farmers in nearby Pennsylvania, say they’ve been impacted, too.

Dave Anderson raises grass fed beef 4 miles downwind of East Palestine, in nearby Darlington Township, Pennsylvania. After the derailment, fire and controlled burn of toxic chemicals, the thick black smoke drifted over his Echo Valley Farm.

“As far as the smoke, you could probably see 100 yards,” Anderson told CNN’s Miguel Marquez.

Anderson said his eyes, throat and mouth burned.

The cloud from the spill settled on his pastures and ponds. Anderson said now he’s not sure whether the grassfed cattle he’s raised for years are safe for human consumption.

So far, there’s been no testing of his water, soil or air on his farm.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection, or DEP, just visited Anderson’s farm for the first time this week, nearly four weeks after the event.

In a written statement provided to CNN, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said it launched a hotline encouraging those impacted to reach out if they have concerns about livestock or crops.

Also this week, Pennsylvania opened a community resource center in Darlington to help people who want to get their soil or wells tested. The center is also conducting medical exams for residents with health concerns. Adam Ortiz, regional administrator for EPA’s region 3 office, which includes Pennsylvania, said the center has seen about 100 people a day since it opened.

The crash occurred just feet from the Pennsylvania border. The winds typically blow east, toward Pennsylvania. The state is going house to house, testing soil and water in areas closest to the derailment. Anderson said officials are still trying to figure out if they should extend that testing to other areas.

Samuel Wenger and his wife Joyce had their fourth child, Jackson Hayes, a week ago. Wenger said the state’s response has been too slow and lacking in information to know whether Darlington is still a safe place to raise a family.

They only recently were able to get their well tested, and they were told it would take another three weeks to get the results of that testing. They said it was agonizing to bring their newborn son back to their house when they don’t have answers about contamination.

“I feel like I possibly regret the decision every day but here we live paycheck to paycheck, we live within our means, and we don’t have the financial luxury to pack up and move,” Samuel said. “It’s scary.”

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Eli Lilly to cut insulin prices, cap costs at $35 for many people with diabetes | CNN



CNN
 — 

Eli Lilly announced Wednesday a series of price cuts that would lower the price of the most commonly used forms of its insulin 70% and said it will automatically cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 for people who have private insurance and use participating pharmacies.

Lilly says it will also expand its Insulin Value Program, which caps out-of-pocket costs at $35 or less per month for people who are uninsured.

President Joe Biden heralded the announcement as “a big deal.”

“For far too long, American families have been crushed by drug costs many times higher than what people in other countries are charged for the same prescriptions. Insulin costs less than $10 to make, but Americans are sometimes forced to pay over $300 for it. It’s flat wrong,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.

The President also urged other pharmaceutical companies to cut insulin prices.

“Last year, I signed a law to cap insulin at $35 for seniors and I called on pharma companies to bring prices down for everyone on their own. Today, Eli Lilly did that. It’s a big deal, and it’s time for other manufacturers to follow,” Biden said.

Eli Lilly says it will cut the list price of its nonbranded insulin to $25 a vial as of May 1, making it the lowest list-priced mealtime insulin available. Its current list price is $82.41 for a vial.

Lilly will also lower the list price of Humulin and its most commonly prescribed insulin, Humalog, in the fourth quarter of 2023. The current list price of a Humalog vial is $274.70, and the new list price will be $66.40. For people with commercial insurance who use participating pharmacies, the out-of-pocket costs will now be capped at $35.

Although insulin is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, the cost has been a problem for many Americans for years. At least 16.5% of people in the US who use it report rationing it because of cost.

The average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, the American Diabetes Association says. GoodRx research shows that the trend has continued, with the average retail price of insulin rising 54% between 2014 and 2019.

Demand for insulin has grown significantly as diabetes has become the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world, a 2022 study found.

In the US alone, the number of adults with diabetes has doubled over the past 20 years, and more than 37.3 million people now have it, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 96 million Americans – 38% of the population – have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This can often lead to diabetes.

People with diabetes rely on insulin because their bodies have stopped producing enough of this hormone or aren’t using it efficiently to convert food into energy.

When a person eats, their body breaks down food, mostly into sugar. This sugar enters the bloodstream, and that signals the pancreas to release insulin, which works like a key that allows the sugar to energize cells. But if diabetes keeps sugar in the bloodstream for too long, it can lead to serious problems like kidney disease, heart problems and blindness. In 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the US, according to the American Diabetes Association.

This year’s Inflation Reduction Act capped insulin costs for seniors who get their health coverage through Medicare Part D at $35 a month. Congressional Democrats pushed to extend that price cap to people covered by private insurance, but Republicans stripped that measure from the bill.

The US Food and Drug Administration’s approvals of generic insulin and biosimilars – drugs similar to original versions that can be made differently or with slightly different substances – have driven down the price at least somewhat, according to GoodRx.

Some states have taken matters into their own hands. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have price caps ranging from $25 to $100 for insulin as well as diabetes supplies and devices – but that’s only for people covered by insurance plans regulated by those states.

“While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change,” David A. Ricks, Lilly’s chair and CEO, said in a statement. “The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes. Because these price cuts will take time for the insurance and pharmacy system to implement, we are taking the additional step to immediately cap out-of-pocket costs for patients who use Lilly insulin and are not covered by the recent Medicare Part D cap.”

Lilly has been one of the biggest players in the US insulin market since it became the first company to commercialize the lifesaving drug 100 years ago. The company said that its price changes should make a difference, but more is needed to help all Americans with diabetes – 7 out of 10 don’t use the company’s insulin.

The Medicare Part D cap “should be the new standard in America,” Ricks said on CNN This Morning on Wednesday.

He called on the insurance industry, policymakers and other manufacturers to join them in making insulin more affordable.

“We call on everyone to meet us at this point and take this issue away from a disease that’s stressful and difficult to manage already – to take away the affordability challenges,” Ricks told CNN’s Don Lemon.

Other companies have cut insulin costs over the years.

In 2019, Sanofi created the Insulin Valyou Savings Program, which charged patients $99 a month for insulin, regardless of income. In 2021, Novo Nordisk created a similar program called My$99Insulin.

Also that year, Novo Nordisk collaborated with Walmart to sell private-label analog insulin at a deep discount. Walmart said its ReliOn NovoLog vials and FlexPens save customers 58% to 75% off the cash price for branded insulin.

For Eli Lilly insulin, the new price cap will automatically apply at most pharmacies with no additional action from the patient. Otherwise, a coupon will be available for patients to use at the remaining 15% of pharmacies where the electronic system does not allow for the automatic price drop, Ricks said.

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Saving water can help us deal with the climate crisis. Here’s how to reduce your use | CNN

Editor’s Note: Sign up for CNN’s Life, But Greener newsletter. Our limited newsletter series guides you on how to minimize your personal role in the climate crisis — and reduce your eco-anxiety.



CNN
 — 

The reliability of our faucets providing water every time we turn them on can make water seem like a magical, never-ending resource.

But abusing the availability of this finite resource can contribute to water scarcity and harm our capacity to deal with the impact of the climate crisis.

“Four billion people today already live in places that are affected by water scarcity at least part of the year,” said Rick Hogeboom, executive director of the Water Footprint Network, an international knowledge center based in the Netherlands. “Climate change will have a worsening influence on the demand-supply balance,” he said.

“If all people were to conserve water in some way, that would help ease some of the immediate impacts seen from the climate crisis,” said Shanika Whitehurst, associate director of sustainability for Consumer Reports’ research and testing. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit that helps consumers evaluate goods and services.

“Unfortunately, there has been a great toll taken on our surface and groundwater sources, so conservation efforts would more than likely have to be employed long term for there to be a more substantial effect.”

Yes, businesses and governments should play a part in water conservation by, respectively, producing goods “water efficiently” and allocating water in a sustainable, equitable way, Hogeboom said.

But “addressing the multifaceted water crises is a shared responsibility. No one actor can solve it, nor is there a silver bullet,” he added. “We need all actors to play their part.”

Contrary to what you might think, the water used directly in and around the home makes up a minor portion of the total water footprint of a consumer, Hogeboom said.

“The bulk — typically at least 95% — is indirect water use, water use that is hidden in the products we buy, the clothes we wear and the food we eat,” Hogeboom said. “Cotton, for instance, is a very thirsty crop.”

Of the 300-plus gallons of water the average American family uses every day at home, however, roughly 70% of this use occurs indoors, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency — making the home another important place to start cutting your use.

Here are some ways to reduce your water footprint as you move from room to room and outdoors.

Since the kitchen involves dishwashing, cooking and one of the biggest water guzzlers — your diet — it’s a good place to start.

An old kitchen faucet can release 1 to 3 gallons of water per minute when running at full blast, according to Consumer Reports. Instead of rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, scrape food into your trash or compost bin. Make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded so you only do as many wash cycles as necessary and make the most use of the water.

With some activities you can save water by not only using less but also upgrading the appliances that deliver the water. Dishwashers certified by Energy Star, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, are about 15% more water-efficient than standard models, according to Consumer Reports.

If you do wash dishes by hand, plug up the sink or use a wash basin so you can use a limited amount of water instead of letting the tap run.

If you plan on eating frozen foods, thaw them in the fridge overnight instead of running water over them. For drinking, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the faucet until the water’s cool — and if you need to do that to get hot water, collect the cold water and use it to water plants.

Cook foods in as little water as possible, which can also retain flavor, according to the University of Toronto Scarborough’s department of physical and environmental sciences.

When it comes to saving water via what you eat, generally animal products are more water-intensive than plant-based alternatives, Hogeboom said.

“Go vegetarian or even better vegan,” he added. “If you insist on meat, replace red meat by pig or chicken, which has a lower water footprint than beef.”

It takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, Consumer Reports’ Whitehurst said.

The bathroom is the largest consumer of indoor water, as the toilet alone can use 27% of household water, according to the EPA. You can cut use here by following this adage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

“Limiting the amount of toilet flushes — as long as it is urine — is not problematic for hygiene,” Whitehurst said. “However, you do have to watch the amount of toilet paper to avoid clogging your pipes. If there is solid waste or feces, then flush the toilet immediately to avoid unsanitary conditions.”

Older toilets use between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water per flush, but WaterSense-labeled toilets use up to 60% less. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the EPA.

“There’s probably more to gain by having dual flush systems so you don’t waste gallons for small flushes,” Hogeboom said.

By turning off the sink tap when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your face, you can save more than 200 gallons of water monthly, according to the EPA.

Cut water use further by limiting showers to five minutes and eliminating baths. Shower with your partner when you can. Save even more water by turning it off when you’re shampooing, shaving or lathering up, Consumer Reports suggests.

Replacing old sink faucets or showerheads with WaterSense models can save hundreds of gallons of water per year.

Laundry rooms account for nearly a fourth of household water use, according to the EPA. Traditional washing machines can use 50 gallons of water or more per load, but newer energy- and water-conserving machines use less than 27 gallons per load.

You can also cut back by doing full loads (but not overstuffing) and choosing the appropriate water level and soil settings. Doing the latter two can help high-efficiency machines use only the water that’s needed. If you have a high-efficiency machine, use HE detergent or measure out regular detergent, which is more sudsy and, if too much is used, can cause the machine to use more water, according to Consumer Reports.

Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30% of household use, according to the EPA. This percentage can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes, particularly in the West.

If you prefer to have a landscape, reduce your outdoor use by planting only plants appropriate for your climate or ones that are low-water and drought-resistant.

“If maintained properly, climate-appropriate landscaping can use less than one-half the water of a traditional landscape,” the EPA says.

The biggest water consumers outside are automatic irrigation systems, according to the EPA. To use only what’s necessary, adjust irrigation controllers at least once per month to account for weather changes. WaterSense irrigation controllers monitor weather and landscape conditions to water plants only when needed.

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Most Americans are uncomfortable with artificial intelligence in health care, survey finds | CNN



CNN
 — 

Most Americans feel “significant discomfort” about the idea of their doctors using artificial intelligence to help manage their health, a new survey finds, but they generally acknowledge AI’s potential to reduce medical mistakes and to eliminate some of the problems doctors may have with racial bias.

Artificial intelligence is the theory and development of computer programs that can solve problems and perform tasks that typically would require human intelligence – machines that can essentially learn like humans can, based on the input they have been given.

You probably already use technology that relies on artificial intelligence every day without even thinking about it.

When you shop on Amazon, for example, it’s artificial intelligence that guides the site to recommend cat toys if you’ve previously shopped for cat food. AI can also help unlock your iPhone, drive your Tesla, answer customer service questions at your bank and recommend the next show to binge on Netflix.

Americans may like these individualized services, but when it comes to AI and their health care, it may be a digital step too far for many.

Sixty percent of Americans who took part in a new survey by the Pew Research Center said that they would be uncomfortable with a health care provider who relied on artificial intelligence to do something like diagnose their disease or recommend a treatment. About 57% said that the use of artificial intelligence would make their relationship with their provider worse.

Only 38% felt that using AI to diagnose disease or recommend treatment would lead to better health outcomes; 33% said it would lead to worse outcomes; and 27% said it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

About 6 in 10 Americans said they would not want AI-driven robots to perform parts of their surgery. Nor do they like the idea of a chatbot working with them on their mental health; 79% said they wouldn’t want AI involved in their mental health care. There’s also concern about security when it comes to AI and health care records.

“Awareness of AI is still developing. So one dynamic here is, the public isn’t deeply familiar with all of these technologies. And so when you consider their use in a context that’s very personal, something that’s kind of high-stakes as your own health, I think that the notion that folks are still getting to know this technology is certainly one dynamic at play,” said Alec Tyson, Pew’s associate director of research.

The findings, released Wednesday, are based on a survey of 11,004 US adults conducted from December 12-18 using the center’s American Trends Panel, an online survey group recruited through random sampling of residential addresses across the country. Pew weights the survey to reflect US demographics including race, gender, ethnicity, education and political party affiliation.

The respondents expressed concern over the speed of the adoption of AI in health and medicine. Americans generally would prefer that health care providers move with caution and carefully consider the consequences of AI adoption, Tyson said.

But they’re not totally anti-AI when it comes to health care. They’re comfortable with using it to detect skin cancer, for instance; 65% thought it could improve the accuracy of a diagnosis. Some dermatologists are already exploring the use of AI technology in skin cancer diagnosis, with some limited success.

Four in 10 Americans think AI could also help providers make fewer mistakes, which are a serious problem in health care. A 2022 study found that medical errors cost about $20 billion a year and result in about 100,000 deaths each year.

Some Americans also think AI may be able to build more equity into the health care system.

Studies have shown that most providers have some form of implicit bias, with more positive attitudes toward White patients and negative attitudes toward people of color, and that could affect their decision-making.

Among the survey participants who understand that this kind of bias exists, the predominant view was that AI could help when it came to diagnosing a disease or recommending treatments, making those decisions more data-driven.

Tyson said that when people were asked to describe in their own words how they thought AI would help fight bias, one participant cited class bias: They believed that, unlike a human provider, an AI program wouldn’t make assumptions about a person’s health based on the way they dressed for the appointment.

“So this is a sense that AI is more neutral or at least less biased than humans,” Tyson said. However, AI is developed with human input, so experts caution that it may not always be entirely without bias.

Pew’s earlier surveys about artificial intelligence have found a general openness to AI, he said, particularly when it’s used to augment, rather than replace, human decision-making.

“AI as just a piece of the process in helping a human make a judgment, there is a good amount of support for that,” Tyson said. “Less so for AI to be the final decision-maker.”

For years, radiologists have used AI to analyze x-rays and CT scans to look for cancer and improve diagnostic capacity. About 30% of radiologists use AI as a part of their practice, and that number is growing, a survey found – but more than 90% in that survey said they wouldn’t trust these tools for autonomous use.

Dr. Victor Tseng, a pulmonologist and medical director of California-based Ansible Health, said that his practice is one of many that have been exploring the AI program ChatGPT. His group has set up a committee to look into its uses and to discuss the ethics around using it so the practice could set up guardrails before putting it into clinical practice.

Tseng’s group published a study this month that showed that ChatGPT could correctly answer enough practice questions that it would have passed the US Medical Licensing Examination.

Tseng said he doesn’t believe that AI will ever replace doctors, but he thinks technology like ChatGPT could make the medical profession more accessible. For example, a doctor could ask ChatGPT to simplify complicated medical jargon so that someone with a seventh-grade education could understand.

“AI is here. The doors are open,” Tseng said.

The Pew survey findings suggest that attitudes could shift as more Americans become more familiar with artificial intelligence. Survey respondents who were more familiar with a technology were more supportive of it, but they still shared caution that doctors could move too quickly in adopting it.

“Whether you’ve heard a lot about AI, just a little or maybe even nothing at all, all of those segments of the public are really in the same space,” Tyson said. “They echo this sentiment of caution of wanting to move carefully in AI adoption in health care.”

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A childbirth myth is spreading on TikTok. Doctors say the truth is different | CNN



CNN
 — 

Ashley Martinez has four sons and is pregnant with the daughter she’s wanted for years.

Last month, she posted a video online imploring doctors to prioritize her life, not the life of her unborn baby, if complications arise when she is in labor and it comes down to that choice.

The San Antonio, Texas, resident is due in May and is one of a number of pregnant people who have recently posted “living will” videos on TikTok.

Martinez had an emergency C-section during her last pregnancy after her umbilical cord came out before her baby, a rare but dangerous condition known as an umbilical cord prolapse that can deprive a baby of vital blood flow and oxygen.

Martinez described her last delivery as terrifying. Eight months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, ending a constitutional right to abortion, she said she worries about what would happen if she faced similar challenges again.

Since the ruling in June, a number of US states have criminalized abortions, leading to some fears that doctors would prioritize the life of the unborn child during a medical emergency.

Martinez lost her mother to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at a young age, and the thought of her children going through a similar tragedy terrifies her.

“Having to go into another delivery where I’m going to have a C-section, it’s scary for me,” said the 29-year-old. “My fourth pregnancy was my only C-section. I’ve always thought about not being here for my kids just because of what I went through growing up without my mom.”

More than a dozen US states have banned or severely restricted access to abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision eight months ago. The abortion bans have led to legal chaos as advocates take the fight to courtrooms.

Even so, several ob/gyns told CNN that a hard choice between saving a mother and baby’s lives at childbirth, like the one outlined in the TikTok videos, is highly unlikely.

This trend on TikTok has sparked a flurry of dueling videos among pregnant women and other people. Some have posted videos telling doctors in such situations to prioritize their unborn babies first, and criticizing those who expressed a different view.

Martinez concedes that her mother, who died at 25, would likely have chosen to save her child first if she could.

“My mother, she didn’t have a choice, you know?” Martinez said. “The message that I want to send is just basically nobody is wrong or right in this situation. In both situations, it is a hard decision to pick your children over your unborn baby.”

In Texas, where Martinez lives, abortions are banned at all stages of pregnancy – unless there’s a life-threatening medical emergency.

Dr. Franziska Haydanek, an ob/gyn in Rochester, New York, who shares medical advice on TikTok, said she’s noticed many “living will” videos in recent months.

In most of the videos, a woman appears alongside a written message saying something like, “If there are complications during childbirth, save me before the baby.” Some people, including Martinez, reference their children in their decision and even show them in the video.

One was posted by Tuscany Gunter, 22, a woman whose baby is due in April. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is illegal in her home state of North Carolina, and Gunter told CNN she filmed her message in solidarity with others who said they would choose themselves first.

“I wanted to make it known where I stand and to stand up with other women who are getting bashed online for saying they would rather be saved first over their baby,” said Gunter, who lives in Fayetteville.

“As a mother to three young children, I cannot dump the emotional trauma of losing their mother on them as children and expect them to cope. While I would be crushed to lose a baby, I need to think of my other living children as well … And I know the baby that passed would be safe without ever having to experience any pain or sadness.”

Another woman, Leslie Tovar of Portland, Oregon, said that even though her state has no legal restrictions on abortion, she posted her video because she feared doctors would prioritize saving her unborn child to avoid legal ramifications in the post-Roe v. Wade era.

“I have two other kids at home who need mom. I can’t bear the thought of my two young boys ages 6 and 4 without their mom,” she said.

All three women said they’ve had these conversations with their partners, who agreed they should be saved first.

Of her husband, Tovar said, “His exact words were, ‘We could always have another baby later in life but there is never replacing the mother of my boys, I couldn’t do this without you.’”

It’s true that complications occasionally come up during a pregnancy that lead doctors to recommend delivery to save the mother’s life, medical experts said.

If this is done before a fetus is viable – under 24 weeks – the chances of the baby’s survival are low, said Dr. Elizabeth Langen, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

Roe v. Wade’s reversal did make terminating such pregnancies more complicated, Langen and Haydanek say.

In cases involving a baby that’s not viable, it could mean that even when the baby is unlikely to survive and the mom’s health is at risk, the priority will be on saving the baby due to fear of legal ramifications, Langen said.

But both doctors say these scenarios don’t occur during the birth of a viable baby. In that instance, Roe v. Wade is “less involved,” Haydanek said.

“We do everything in our efforts to save both (mother and baby),” she said. “I can’t think of a time where the medical team has had to make a decision about who to save in a viable laboring patient. It’s just not a real scenario in modern medicine – just one we are seeing played out on TV.”

Hospitals have enough resources – obstetrics and neonatal intensive care unit teams, for example – to meet the needs of both the mother and the baby, Haydanek and Langen said.

“We’re usually doing our best to take care of both the mom and the baby. And there’s very rarely a circumstance where we will do something to harm the mom in order to have the benefit of the baby,” added Langen.

“If mom’s health is deteriorating, ultimately, she’s not going to be able to support baby’s wellbeing,” Langen said. “And so generally, what we encourage folks to do is really support mom’s health, because that’s in the best interest of both mother and baby.”

Abortion rights demonstrators hold signs outside the US Supreme Court in Washington after the court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

Both doctors said it’s important for patients to talk to their health care providers about their medical concerns and share their “living will” wishes with loved ones in case there are complications during labor that require partners to make medical decisions.

However, those decisions will not involve doctors asking your partner whose life should come first, they said.

“Before getting in a fight with your partner about who they choose to save, know that there isn’t a situation where we will ask them that,” said Haydanek, who has called the TikTok trend “horribly anxiety inducing.”

She said it’s come up so many times in recent months that she made her own TikTok video to reassure expectant parents.

“Please don’t feel like you have to make this choice,” she says in the video. “I know firsthand how much anxiety there can be in pregnancy … but it’s just not a situation that you’re gonna find yourself in.”

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Thousands of people can’t get full treatments of a lifesaving cancer drug | CNN



CNN
 — 

Dino Carlone was frightened when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer three years ago, but his spirits were buoyed when he learned that he could get help from a highly effective drug with a great track record.

“You’re telling yourself, ‘OK, I have cancer, and it’s a very aggressive cancer, but I’ve got great therapy. There’s great numbers,’ ” said Carlone, 65.

Carlone was supposed to receive treatment for several years, but he says he only got it for only a few months because his urologist told him there was a shortage of the drug, called Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, or BCG.

Carlone said he was shocked and angry that in a country as wealthy as the United States, there’s a shortage of an important cancer drug.

A new report estimates that more than 8,300 US patients a year are not receiving full BCG treatments for their bladder cancer. BCG is an older drug – it has been around for more than 40 years – and relatively inexpensive. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t clamoring to make it.

“This is a terrible crisis. We should be doing everything we can to give every single one of these patients the best chance of survival,” said Laura Bray, a board member of the End Drug Shortages Alliance, one of the sponsors of the report. “It’s heartbreaking, and we must do better.”

A spokesperson for Merck, the sole maker worldwide of BCG, wrote in an emailed statement that the company increased production of the drug by 200% between 2012 and 2019 and has been producing it “to the full extent of manufacturing capacity over the past several years.”

Merck is building a facility to expand production of BCG. The company expects the facility to be completed sometime between late 2025 and late 2026, which includes time for necessary regulatory approvals, according to the statement.

“Our company will continue to work to complete this project and meet patient needs in as timely a manner as possible. Our commitment to [BCG] is at the core of Merck’s mission to save and improve lives. We continue to recognize the impact supply shortages can have on patients when they cannot receive the medicines they need,” the statement says.

A number of factors are contributing to the shortage, which began in 2019. BCG is a biologic drug – which uses bacteria – and so is more complicated to make than many other types of drugs and especially prone to quality control issues.

Sanofi, the other company that once made BCG, started having production problems in 2012. In 2016, it announced that it would stop making the drug the next year.

Also, while cases of bladder cancer are slowly increasing, it’s still a relatively small market, and making the drug requires a significant investment.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for the US Food and Drug Administration said that “whenever a shortage occurs, FDA actively works with manufacturers and other U.S. federal agencies to try to address supply issues for the drug product in shortage.”

When BCG became available in 1976, it was considered a breakthrough strategy. First used as a tuberculosis vaccine, it contains a weakened bacteria that triggers the immune system to fight the cancer.

“It’s an absolutely fabulous drug,” said Dr. Benjamin Davies, a spokesperson for the American Urological Association.

Bladder cancer patients receive six rounds of BCG after surgery and then more treatments every few months for a year or two, depending on the person, according to Davies. The treatment is done in the doctor’s office, using a catheter that delivers the drug directly to the bladder.

Carlone, of Vero Beach, Florida, said he was supposed to receive BCG doses over a period of about two years. But he said after receiving doses for a few months in early 2020, his urologist told him he wouldn’t be able to get his remaining doses because of the shortage.

“It’s a very, very frightening circumstance to realize that at that point, what they deem to be an aggressive cancer could in fact come right back,” he said.

Bladder cancer has a 30% to 40% recurrence rate, said Davies, a professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“That’s a very high recurrence rate,” he said. “It’s a nasty disease.”

There are about 82,920 new cases of bladder cancer in the US a year and 16,710 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

For the new report, 20 health care systems and physician practices responded to a survey from Vizient, a health care performance improvement company.

All of them said they had to use at least one strategy to deal with the BCG shortage, and four of the centers said they couldn’t give BCG at all, according to the report.

Because of the shortage, the American Urological Association recommends prioritizing doses for higher-risk patients.

Some medical centers in the survey said they are splitting doses. A vial is supposed to be used for one dose for one patient, but instead, they use it for more than one patient. That could lead to waste, though, because the entire vial needs to used within six hours of opening, said Erin Fox, an adjunct professor at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy and specialist in drug shortages.

Other drugs can be used instead of BCG, but they are more expensive and don’t work as well, Davies said.

“So not only can’t we give the right drug because of the shortage, but we have to spend more money,” he said.

BCG is just one of many drugs in shortage, including other cancer drugs for adults and for children.

Carlone wonders why the FDA can’t do more to persuade companies to make drugs that aren’t necessarily very lucrative.

“To me, this is a failure,” he said. “As Americans, you rely on [government] institutions, and the institutions are failing as far as I’m concerned.”

According to the FDA statement, the agency “cannot require a pharmaceutical company to make a drug – or make more of a drug – even if it is medically necessary. In addition, we cannot control how much of a drug is distributed – or which purchasers will be given priority.”

Marta Wosińska, a former senior FDA official, said the federal government could offer financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to make drugs that are in shortage, similar to the way the government has paid them to make Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

Wosińska, an economist at the Brookings Institution, said it would be “a little bit of a tall order” to expect pharmaceutical companies to make drugs, or increase production of drugs, that aren’t particularly profitable.

“They have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders, so you can only ask them to do so much,” said Wosińska, who worked on drug shortages as director of the economics staff at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research before she left the agency in 2016.

Dr. Yoram Unguru, a member of the core faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said that “pharmaceutical companies can continue to generate profits while ensuring access to essential medicines.”

He added that the government has an obligation to fix these shortages.

“The federal government must take a more hands-on approach and maintain a critical stockpile of essential lifesaving medicines and set prices for medications, akin to existing rate-setting bodies that oversee public utilities,” he said.

The BCG shortage is expected to continue for years.

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After a train derailment, Ohio residents are living the plot of a movie they helped make | CNN



CNN
 — 

When Ben Ratner’s family signed up in 2021 to be extras in the movie “White Noise,” they thought it would be a fun distraction from their day-to-day life in blue-collar East Palestine, Ohio.

Ratner, 37, is in a traffic jam scene, sitting in a line of cars trying to evacuate after a freight train collided with a tanker truck, triggering an explosion that fills the air with dangerous toxins. In another scene, his father wears a trench coat and hat while people walk across an overpass to get out of town. Directors told the group they wanted them to look “forlorn and downtrodden” as they escape the environmental disaster.

The 2022 movie was shot around Ohio and is based on a novel by Don DeLillo. The book was published in 1985, shortly after a chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, that killed nearly 4,000 people. The book and film follow the fictional Gladney family – a couple and their four kids – as they flee an “airborne toxic event” and then return home and try to resume their normal lives.

Ratner tried to rewatch the movie a few days ago and found that he couldn’t finish it.

“All of a sudden, it hit too close to home,” he said.

Ratner and his family – his wife, Lindsay, and their kids, Lilly, Izzy, Simon and Brodie – are living the fiction they helped bring to the screen.

Officials ordered them to evacuate their home last week, a day after a Norfolk Southern train carrying 20 cars of hazardous materials slid off the rails and caught fire, threatening to explode. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the incident.

“The first half of the movie is all almost exactly what’s going on here,” Ratner said Wednesday, four days into their evacuation.

In a way, the movie has provided a point of grim humor about the situation facing the residents of East Palestine – the joke no one wanted to make.

“Everybody’s been talking about that,” Ratner said of his friends and neighbors who are keeping in close touch through the crisis. “I actually made a meme where I superimposed my face on the poster and sent it to my friends.”

In the 2022 film

Scholars who study DeLillo’s work say they are not surprised by the collision of life and art. His work is often described as prescient, said Jesse Kavadlo, an English professor at Maryville University in St. Louis and president of the Don DeLillo Society.

“The terrible spill now is, of course, a coincidence. But it plays in our minds like life imitating art, which was imitating life, and on and on, because, as DeLillo suggests in ‘White Noise’ as well, we have unfortunately become too acquainted with the mediated language and enactment of disaster,” Kavadlo said.

The night of February 3, Ratner was watching his daughter’s basketball game at the local high school when the crash happened. He didn’t hear it over the noise of the game, but when they walked out of the building, he could see the massive blaze. He shot a few seconds of video on his cell phone.

His family returned to their house, which sits less than a mile from the crash site. Throughout the night, he said, they heard sirens but got little information. “We weren’t sure exactly what the danger was.”

While his family slept, he stayed up, nervously watching the fire and the news.

The next morning, activity around the site had picked up. “There was a lot of commotion, helicopters and people hightailing it out of town, and it was it was a little intense,” he said.

His wife and kids headed to stay with his wife’s parents, who live about 2 miles from the crash site. Ratner went to work running the coffee shop he and his wife own, LiB’s Market, in nearby Salem.

By that afternoon, an official alert warned that people needed to move even farther, beyond a 2-mile radius. Roughly half of the town’s 4,800 residents had to evacuate.

A friend offered to let them stay in their pool house. They later moved to another friend’s house next to their café.

School was canceled for the week. They got their dog out of the house, but they had to leave the pet turtle behind.

For now, they’re keeping their distance. But even after they go back, they have to decide whether they’ll stay.

East Palestine is in an economically depressed area, Ratner said, but it had been on a rebound. He and his wife had been considering opening another café there, but now they’re worried that plan is in jeopardy.

“That’s where we’ve been raising our kids, finishing college, buying a business, and that’s been our place,” he said. “In the future, are we going to have to sell the house? Is it worth any money at this point?”

Five of the tankers on the train that overturned last week were carrying liquid vinyl chloride, which is extremely combustible. Last Sunday, they became unstable and threatened to explode. First responders and emergency workers had to vent the tankers, spill the vinyl chloride into a trench, and then burn it off before it turned the train into a bomb. Authorities feared that an explosion could send shrapnel up to a mile away.

But that didn’t happen. The controlled burn worked and the evacuation order for East Palestine residents was officially lifted Wednesday after real-time air and water monitoring did not find any contaminant levels above screening limits.

“All of the readings we’ve been recording in the community have been at normal concentrations, normal backgrounds, which you find in almost any community,” James Justice, a representative of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Support team members prepared to assess remaining hazards in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 7.

Although authorities have assured the residents that any immediate danger has passed, some residents have yet to return home. Ratner said they’re worried about longer-term risks that environmental officials are only beginning to assess.

Real-time air readings, which use handheld instruments to broadly screen for classes of contaminants like volatile organic compounds, showed that the air quality near the site was within normal limits.

The decision to lift the evacuation order was based on analysis of air monitoring data, according to Charles Rodriguez, community involvement coordinator for the EPA’s Region 5 office.

Up to this point, officials have been looking for large immediate threats: explosions or chemical levels that could make someone acutely ill.

“Under this phase, it’s been the emergency response,” Kurt Kohler of the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response said Wednesday. “As you see the emergency services go back home, off-site, Ohio EPA is going to remain involved through our other divisions that oversee the long-term cleanup of these kinds of spills.”

The cleanup and monitoring of the site, he said, could take years.

Although the explosion risk is past, Ratner said, people who live in East Palestine want to know about the chemical threats that might linger.

Fish and frogs have died in local streams. People have reported dead chickens and shared photos of dead dogs and foxes on social media. They say they smell chemical odors around town.

When asked at Wednesday’s briefing about exactly what spilled, representatives from Norfolk Southern listed butyl acrylate, vinyl chloride and a small amount of non-hazardous lube oil.

“Butyl acrylate is a lot of what we’re gathering information on,” said Scott Deutsch, a regional manager of hazardous materials at Norfolk Southern.

Butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid with a strong, fruity odor that’s used to make plastics and paint. It’s possible to inhale it, ingest it or absorb it through the skin. It irritates the eyes, skin and lungs and may cause shortness of breath, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Repeated exposure can lead to lung damage.

Vinyl chloride, which is used to make PVC pipes, can cause dizziness, sleepiness and headaches. It has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer in the liver, brain, lungs and blood.

Although butyl acrylate easily mixes with water and will move quickly through the environment, it isn’t especially toxic to humans, said Richard Peltier, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“Vinyl chloride, however, has a specific and important risk in that is contains a bunch of chlorine molecules, which can form some really awful combustion byproducts,” Peltier said. “These are often very toxic and often very persistent in the environment.”

Portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed February 3 were still on fire the next day.

A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern acknowledged but did not respond to CNN’s request for more information on how much of these chemicals spilled into the soil and water.

The Ohio EPA says it’s not sure yet, either.

“Initially, with most environmental spills, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of material that has been released into the air, water, and soil. The assessment phase that will occur after the emergency is over will help to determine that information,” James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA, wrote in an email to CNN.

Lee said that after his agency has assessed the site, it will work on a remediation plan.

Vinyl chloride is unstable and boils and evaporates at room temperature, giving it a very short lifespan in the environment, said Dana Barr, a professor of environmental health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

“If you had a very small amount of vinyl chloride that was present in an area, it would evaporate within minutes to hours at the longest,” she said.

“But the problem they’re facing here is that it’s not just a small amount, and so if they can’t contain what gets into the water or what gets into the soil, they may have this continuous off-gassing of vinyl chloride that has gotten into these areas,” Barr said.

“I probably would be more concerned about the chemicals in the air over the course of the next month.”

State officials said they would continue to monitor the site for exactly that reason. They are also continuing to try to dig and remove contaminated soil.

“Right now, we have a system set up. As the data comes, it is distributed to a network of people to look at both on an immediate-phase – ‘Hey, is there anything really alarming to look at’ – and those smaller numbers that really matter to long-term health,” Kohler said at Wednesday’s briefing.

He said the local health department would test residents’ wells to make sure their drinking water is safe. Officials are also offering to test the air in residents’ homes before they come back.

Norfolk Southern is funding a phone line for residents to speak to a toxicologist with the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, an environmental consulting firm.

No one is quite sure whether to trust the help, though, since it’s coming mostly from the company behind the spill. Some residents have already filed a class-action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern.

“We’re definitely signing up for the air testing of the home before we get in there,” Ratner said.

The first trains to pass since the accident started rolling through again midweek, Ratner said. The roar of the trains, a sound he used to tune out, is now jarring.

Even the sounds of loud trucks are “off-putting,” he said.

Don Cheadle, left, and Adam Driver star in

Ratner said it was fun to be part of a disaster movie – a stylized, darkly comedic Netflix streamer starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle.

In real life, the situation has been gutting.

“Those are great actors, but it was hard to see it as a put-on,” Ratner said.

He shares the sentiments of Lenny Glavan, a local tattoo artist, who wrote a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Tuesday to express the town’s anger and frustration over the accident.

“You just ripped from us our small-town motto ‘A place you want to be,’ ” Glavan wrote.

“It may not be beach-front property, it may not even have the highest paying jobs, or much else to offer, but in my experiences in life, the place I and most people want to be is when you need a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to pray with, or a place to call home East Palestine has always been that place to want to be,” he said in his note, which was publicly posted on Facebook.

“With the events in which have occurred, the railroad that gave this small town life has now taken the life, the heartbeat, the unity and that security that families or individuals long for in this wild world away … possibly indefinitely.”

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Paging Dr. AI? What ChatGPT and artificial intelligence could mean for the future of medicine | CNN



CNN
 — 

Without cracking a single textbook, without spending a day in medical school, the co-author of a preprint study correctly answered enough practice questions that it would have passed the real US Medical Licensing Examination.

But the test-taker wasn’t a member of Mensa or a medical savant; it was the artificial intelligence ChatGPT.

The tool, which was created to answer user questions in a conversational manner, has generated so much buzz that doctors and scientists are trying to determine what its limitations are – and what it could do for health and medicine.

ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a natural language-processing tool driven by artificial intelligence.

The technology, created by San Francisco-based OpenAI and launched in November, is not like a well-spoken search engine. It isn’t even connected to the internet. Rather, a human programmer feeds it a vast amount of online data that’s kept on a server.

It can answer questions even if it has never seen a particular sequence of words before, because ChatGPT’s algorithm is trained to predict what word will come up in a sentence based on the context of what comes before it. It draws on knowledge stored on its server to generate its response.

ChatGPT can also answer followup questions, admit mistakes and reject inappropriate questions, the company says. It’s free to try while its makers are testing it.

Artificial intelligence programs have been around for a while, but this one generated so much interest that medical practices, professional associations and medical journals have created task forces to see how it might be useful and to understand what limitations and ethical concerns it may bring.

Dr. Victor Tseng’s practice, Ansible Health, has set up a task force on the issue. The pulmonologist is a medical director of the California-based group and a co-author of the study in which ChatGPT demonstrated that it could probably pass the medical licensing exam.

Tseng said his colleagues started playing around with ChatGPT last year and were intrigued when it accurately diagnosed pretend patients in hypothetical scenarios.

“We were just so impressed and truly flabbergasted by the eloquence and sort of fluidity of its response that we decided that we should actually bring this into our formal evaluation process and start testing it against the benchmark for medical knowledge,” he said.

That benchmark was the three-part test that US med school graduates have to pass to be licensed to practice medicine. It’s generally considered one of the toughest of any profession because it doesn’t ask straightforward questions with answers that can easily found on the internet.

The exam tests basic science and medical knowledge and case management, but it also assesses clinical reasoning, ethics, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The study team used 305 publicly available test questions from the June 2022 sample exam. None of the answers or related context was indexed on Google before January 1, 2022, so they would not be a part of the information on which ChatGPT trained. The study authors removed sample questions that had visuals and graphs, and they started a new chat session for each question they asked.

Students often spend hundreds of hours preparing, and medical schools typically give them time away from class just for that purpose. ChatGPT had to do none of that prep work.

The AI performed at or near passing for all the parts of the exam without any specialized training, showing “a high level of concordance and insight in its explanations,” the study says.

Tseng was impressed.

“There’s a lot of red herrings,” he said. “Googling or trying to even intuitively figure out with an open-book approach is very difficult. It might take hours to answer one question that way. But ChatGPT was able to give an accurate answer about 60% of the time with cogent explanations within five seconds.”

Dr. Alex Mechaber, vice president of the US Medical Licensing Examination at the National Board of Medical Examiners, said ChatGPT’s passing results didn’t surprise him.

“The input material is really largely representative of medical knowledge and the type of multiple-choice questions which AI is most likely to be successful with,” he said.

Mechaber said the board is also testing ChatGPT with the exam. The members are especially interested in the answers the technology got wrong, and they want to understand why.

“I think this technology is really exciting,” he said. “We were also pretty aware and vigilant about the risks that large language models bring in terms of the potential for misinformation, and also potentially having harmful stereotypes and bias.”

He believes that there is potential with the technology.

“I think it’s going to get better and better, and we are excited and want to figure out how do we embrace it and use it in the right ways,” he said.

Already, ChatGPT has entered the discussion around research and publishing.

The results of the medical licensing exam study were even written up with the help of ChatGPT. The technology was originally listed as a co-author of the draft, but Tseng says that when the study is published, ChatGPT will not be listed as an author because it would be a distraction.

Last month, the journal Nature created guidelines that said no such program could be credited as an author because “any attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, and AI tools cannot take such responsibility.”

But an article published Thursday in the journal Radiology was written almost entirely by ChatGPT. It was asked whether it could replace a human medical writer, and the program listed many of its possible uses, including writing study reports, creating documents that patients will read and translating medical information into a variety of languages.

Still, it does have some limitations.

“I think it definitely is going to help, but everything in AI needs guardrails,” said Dr. Linda Moy, the editor of Radiology and a professor of radiology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

She said ChatGPT’s article was pretty accurate, but it made up some references.

One of Moy’s other concerns is that the AI could fabricate data. It’s only as good as the information it’s fed, and with so much inaccurate information available online about things like Covid-19 vaccines, it could use that to generate inaccurate results.

Moy’s colleague Artie Shen, a graduating Ph.D. candidate at NYU’s Center for Data Science, is exploring ChatGPT’s potential as a kind of translator for other AI programs for medical imaging analysis. For years, scientists have studied AI programs from startups and larger operations, like Google, that can recognize complex patterns in imaging data. The hope is that these could provide quantitative assessments that could potentially uncover diseases, possibly more effectively than the human eye.

“AI can give you a very accurate diagnosis, but they will never tell you how they reach this diagnosis,” Shen said. He believes that ChatGPT could work with the other programs to capture its rationale and observations.

“If they can talk, it has the potential to enable those systems to convey their knowledge in the same way as an experienced radiologist,” he said.

Tseng said he ultimately thinks ChatGPT can enhance medical practice in much the same way online medical information has both empowered patients and forced doctors to become better communicators, because they now have to provide insight around what patients read online.

ChatGPT won’t replace doctors. Tseng’s group will continue to test it to learn why it creates certain errors and what other ethical parameters need to be put in place before using it for real. But Tseng thinks it could make the medical profession more accessible. For example, a doctor could ask ChatGPT to simplify complicated medical jargon into language that someone with a seventh-grade education could understand.

“AI is here. The doors are open,” Tseng said. “My fundamental hope is, it will actually make me and make us as physicians and providers better.”

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I’m a parent with an active social media brand: Here’s what you need to check on your child’s social media right now | CNN

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If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know I wear a lot of hats: romance author, parent of funny tweenagers, part-time teacher, amateur homesteader, grumbling celiac and the wife of a seriously outdoorsy guy.

Because I’m an author with a major publisher in today’s competitive market, I’ve been tasked with stepping up my social media brand: participation, creation and all. The more transparent and likable I am online, the better my books sell. Therefore, to social media I go.

It’s rare to find someone with no social media presence these days, but there’s a marked difference between posting a few pictures for family and friends and actively creating social media content as part of your daily life.

With a whopping 95% of teens polled having access to smartphones (and 98% of teens over 15), according to an August Pew Research Center survey on teens, social media and technology, it doesn’t look like social media platforms are going away anytime soon.

Not only are they key social tools, but they also allow teens to feel more a part of things in their communities. Many teens like being online, according to a November Pew Research Center survey on teen life on social media. Eighty percent of the teens surveyed felt more connected to what is happening in their friends’ lives, while 71% felt social media allows them to showcase their creativity.

So, while posting online is work for me, it’s a way of life for the tweens and teens I see creating and publishing content online. As a parent of two middle schoolers, I know how important social media is to them, and I also know what’s out there. I see the good, the bad and the viral, and I’ve have put together some guidelines, based on what I’ve seen, for my fellow parents to watch for.

Here are eight questions to ask yourself as you check out your children’s social media accounts.

If you don’t, it’s time to start. It’s like when I had to look up the term “situationship,” I saw that ignorance is not bliss in this case. Or really any case when it comes to your children. Both of my children have smartphones, but even if your children don’t have smartphones, if they have any sort of device — phone, tablet, school laptop — it’s likely they have some sort of social media account out there. Every app our children wish to add to their smart devices comes through my husband’s and my phone notifications for approval. Before I approve any apps, I’ll read the reviews, run an internet search and text my mom friends for their experience.

Most tweens and teens use social media for socializing with local friends.

If I’m still uncertain about an app, I’ll hold off on approving it until I can sit down with my children and ask them why they want it. Sometimes just waiting and forcing a short discussion is enough to convince them they no longer want it. In our household, I avoid any apps that run social surveys, allow anonymous feedback or require the individual to use location services.

If you don’t have your family phone plan all hooked together with parental controls, I’d advise setting that up ASAP. Because different devices and apps have different ways to monitor and set up parental controls, it’s impossible to link all the options here. However, a quick search will give you exactly the coverage you are comfortable with, including apps that track your child’s text messages and changing the settings on your child’s phone to lock down at a certain time every night.

The top social media platforms teens use today are YouTube (95% of teens polled), TikTok (67%), Instagram (62%) and Snapchat (59%), according to the Pew Research Center survey on teens and social media tech. Other social media platforms teens use less frequently are Twitter, Reddit, WhatsApp and Facebook. Most notably, Facebook is seeing a significant downturn in teen users. This list isn’t exhaustive, however. I would check out your children’s devices for group chat apps (such as Slack or Discord) and also scroll through their sport or activity apps where group chat capabilities exist.

I’ve seen preteens and teens using their real names, birthdate, home address, pets’ names, locker numbers or their school baseball team. Any of that information could be used to identify your child and location in real life or using a quick Google search. All of that is an absolute “no” in our house.

I also tell my kids not to answer the fun surveys and quizzes that invite children to share their unique information and repost it for others to see. These can be useful tools for predators and people trying to steal your children’s identity.

What I do: I made the choice a long ago to withhold the names of my children and partner. It’s not an exact science, and I know some clever digging could find them. For my husband, it’s for the sake of his privacy and also the protection of his professionalism. Just because he’s married to a romance author doesn’t mean he should have to answer for my online antics, whatever they may be. For my children, I want to avoid anything embarrassing that could be traced back to them during their college application season.

Even if your children keep their social media profiles private (more on that later), their biographical information, screen name and avatar or profile picture are public information.

Do an internet search of your child’s name to see what’s out there and scroll through images to make sure there isn’t anything you wouldn’t want to be made public. In our household, I’ve asked my children to use generic items or illustrated avatars in their social media bios.

What I do: Parents who do have active social media accounts may want to do a search of their own names. When my first book was published in 2019, I did a search of my name and images and found many photos of my children that came directly from my social media pages. I hadn’t posted pictures of them, but I did use a family photo as my profile photo and those are public record. Once I deleted them, the photos disappeared.

Another “no” in our household is posting videos or photos of our home or bedrooms. Something that feels innocent and innocuous to your middle schooler may not feel that way to an adult seeking out inappropriate content.

I learned this from one of my children’s Pinterest accounts. My kid loves to create themed videos using her own photos and stock pictures, and she’s gained over 500 followers in a short period of time. She has completely followed our rules and I know, because I check and follow her myself — but it hasn’t stopped the influx of adult men following her content.

What we do: Over the holidays, I sat with her and went through each follower one by one and blocked anyone we decided was there for the wrong reasons. In the end, we blocked close to 30 adult men on her account. (I also know that some predators cleverly disguise themselves as children or teens, and we may not catch them all, but this is still a worthy exercise.)

We also talk to our children about how to protect themselves. They wouldn’t want those strangers standing in their bedroom; therefore, they don’t want to post videos of their bedroom or bathroom or classroom for strangers to view.

This is a tricky one for lots of reasons. For content creators to build their following, they need to remain public on social media. If your child is an entrepreneur or artist hoping to grab attention, locking down their account will prevent that from happening.

That said, a way around this is to have two accounts. First, a private one, locked down and only used for family and close friends, and second, a public one that lacks identifiers but showcases whatever branding the child is hoping to grow. I’ve come across some well-managed public accounts for children who have giant followings and noticed they are usually run by parents, who state that right in the profile. I like this. If your children want public profiles because they are hoping to catch the attention of a talent scout, having the accounts monitored by a responsible adult who has their best interest in mind is a healthy compromise.

This is the exception, however. Most tweens and teens today use their social media for socializing with local friends. The benefit of keeping their account as private (or as private as can be) is threefold. It allows them to screen who follows their content, thus preventing our Pinterest fiasco. It prevents strangers from accessing their content and making it viral without their permission. And it protects them from unsolicited contact with strangers.

Not all social media platforms have the option to make your account “private.” For example, YouTube has parental controls that can be adjusted at any time. TikTok and Instagram can be made private (which means users must approve followers) by making the change in the account settings. Once the account is private, a little padlock will show next to the username.

Snapchat allows users to approve followers on a case-by-case basis as well as turn off features that disclose a user’s location. Notably, Snapchat also informs users when another user takes a screenshot of their story, which is a feature other social media platforms don’t have yet.

Most group chat apps don’t have the ability to go private so much as they ask users to approve of follower requests. Take time to discuss with your children who they allow to follow them and what personal information they allow those followers to know. It’s also a great time to teach them the art of “blocking” those individuals who are unsafe or unkind.

My suggestion is to log in, scroll around and even ask your children to teach you about the platforms they use. Then, when they roll their eyes at you, go ahead and tell them about your first Hotmail email address and the way you picked the perfect emo playlist on your Myspace page … and when they’re bent over laughing, sneak a peek at their follower list. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

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