Boston Building Collapse Puts Two Workers in the Hospital

On Tuesday, a residential building being constructed in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood collapsed under the weight of construction materials. Fortunately, nobody was killed, but two workers were seriously injured when seven floors of the residential building partially collapsed. Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were part of the investigative team.

“The crane takes building material and it’s hoisted up to the floor at a place where the floor can support it,” said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve Macdonald. “It was just a material load and that’s what OSHA will investigate. Where were loads placed? Were things strong enough?”

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calobrisi said a “dead load” caused the collapsing floors to “pancake.” He said, “(It was) just going like a roller coaster at the top, going straight down.”

Two remain in the hospital — one with serious injuries — and a third, who checked in on their own with a hand injury, has been released. Thankfully, according to MacDonald, the injuries are not life-threatening. All 120 laborers, iron workers, and carpenters who were in the building as it collapsed have been accounted for.

Even those that were inside are unsure of what happened.

“We couldn’t see anything,” Scott Snow said. “We just heard a loud rumble and we got out.”

“The flooring came down on him, that’s all I know,” added James Parson.

The investigation will take time since the process itself requires a few days and, before authorities get started, they need to wait for the building’s structure to be strengthened before debris is cleared.

MacDonald said the investigation will move forward cautiously, despite the fact that answers are wanted now, because, “Right now there’s no life hazard. You don’t want to create one.”

“Everyone’s shaken up,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a former union laborer, said. “You know, it could be anybody. Construction is a dangerous, dangerous job.”

Stats from OSHA say that the number of workplace injuries and illnesses has dropped from a staggering rate of nearly 11 incidents per 100 workers in the 1970’s, to roughly 3.5 per 100 today. Newer, safer tools and safety regulations have made work environments much safer than they were in the past.

However, that doesn’t mean that accidents will not happen and, unfortunately, that seems to have been the case on Tuesday.

Evidence of Link Between Oral and Heart Health Increases

Your mouth is more than just where you put your food — it’s a also a gateway to your body’s health.

The evidence is piling up. Oral health has been linked to everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s to diabetes to stroke to arthritis to low birth weight.

But which causes which?

A link between cardiovascular health and periodontal disease was discovered in the early 2000s. And even though that link is not yet fully understood, in the past three years, cardiologists’ offices have begun to offer oral care pamphlets to their waiting patients.

“The risk factors for gingivitis are risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Gopinath Upamaka, a ProMedica cardiologist in Toledo, Ohio. He cites poor bone health and infection (usually as a result of poor diet) as key factors in both conditions.

“Is it a matter of coincidence or does one cause the other?” wonders Dr. Upamaka. “That is where the debate is going. But for sure the following is certain: If you have gingivitis, you have double the risk of heart disease than someone who does not.”

Further evidence for the connection is the fact that people who are healthy in one aspect of their lives generally tend to be healthy in other aspects of their lives. Are these people genetically predisposed to good health? Or might not the coincidence be better explained by an oral-health/overall-health connection?

Regardless of the quality of your at-home care regimen or of how good your teeth “feel”, seeing a dentist on a regular basis is essential to your oral health and, presumably, your overall health as well. Jayne Klett, of the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio, says “Periodontal disease is silent; a dental hygienist and dentist can help with that evaluation. You don’t know until you have it checked.”

Klett also advises that our at-home care may not always be as good as we think it is, noting that not nearly enough people follow their dentist’s advice about brushing for a full two minutes.

“I think the average American brushes from 15 to 20 seconds,” says Klett.

California’s Early Warning System Has First Small Success

Just before the ground beneath Los Angeles shook from a 4.4 earthquake, California’s early warning system worked as seismologists thought it would, but residents failed to get the warning since the state has yet to identify a source of funding to finish and maintain the system.

Such a system is crucial, as the souther segment of the San Andreas fault passes a mere 35 miles from Los Angeles, resulting in about 10,000 Californian earthquakes each year. This system could allow downtown L.A. to have 40 or 50 seconds of warning that a big quake was coming, which gives elevators enough time to stop at the next floor, for teachers to get students to a secure place, for high speed trains to avoid derailment, and for the general population to quickly prepare.

According to CalTech seismologist Lucy Jones, earthquakes travel at the speed of sound, but the early warning system’s sensors at the epicenter of the quake, which initially detect the shaking, send messages at the speed of light to warn residents farther away that the earthquake is coming.

“We need to come up with the annual expenses of maintaining the stations, running the software, and getting the telemetry,” said Jones. “And, you know a big earthquake tomorrow, the funding might show up the next day,”

The system’s been in development for the past 15 years, and got the big boost last Spring, when about $5 million had been given to earthquake scientists to help expedite the process.

This was a far cry from the estimated $80 million necessary to properly maintain and operate such a system. The money allowed scientists to buy 100 new sensor stations that’ll get deployed throughout the region to complete the seismic sensor network. However, without the total amount of funding, officials said it’s like buying a car, but not having enough money to afford gas.

However, the success on Monday has buoyed many professionals’ hopes.

“It’s very exciting to be in a place where we can access this kind of information,” said the director of CalTech’s earthquake lab, Thomas Heaton. “It’s kind of astonishing.”

Gold Prices Decline as Tensions Between Russia and the West Ease

As the expectations of a dispute between Russia and Western countries eased, the price of gold slid on Tuesday. Falling by $13.90 or one percent, the actively traded April contract for gold settled at $1,359 per ounce.

The price of gold rose over a dispute with Crimea, as traders shifted money out of other markets. On Sunday, a majority of voters in Ukraine’s region of Crimea voted to join Russia, breaking away. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Russian Parliament not to believe in the speculation that Russia was looking to take over other areas of Ukraine.

The price of gold has always been a tricky thing, and the Crimean situation is only one of the many factors. One of the issues at hand is that most countries require some kind of stamping that states the gold karat, but few enforce and hold jewelers accountable.

Another issue is the simple effect of supply and demand. According to the Business Insider, “The price of gold, therefore, depends on how much of the accumulated supply owners are willing to part with at any given moment.” This means that if people were to start selling off their gold in favor of other goods, the price of gold sinks, whereas if they were to hoard it, the price rises.

In the past 10 years, gold hit a peak value of $1,889.70 in 2011, rising slowly from a low of $375.00 in 2004. Though this indicates a steady climb, examining the past two years of gold prices shows that it’s falling.

If this fact scares investors into selling, just as the Crimean situation did, it could cause gold’s price to plunge.

“The Ukraine situation hit gold today,” said senior commodity consultant at INTL FCStone Edward Meir. “Putin said he’s not going to stir anything up, and gold fell on the back of those remarks.”

Pharmaceutical Costs Expected to Rise in 2014, Says Report

Struggling to afford pharmaceuticals and medications is a problem for many Americans. This year, the cost of medications is expected to rise, according to a report published by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. The National Trends in Prescription Drug Expenditures Report for 2014, written by a team led by Dr. Glen T. Schumock, projects costs to increase by three to five percent. While this is smaller than the average 12% increase that typically reported each year, the increase in cost still makes it difficult for many people to afford the medications they need.

“Our projections for 2014 indicate a clear reversal of the downward growth in prescription drug expenditures we have seen over the last several years,” said Schumock.

More than 10% of U.S. health care expenditures are accounted for by prescription drugs, and recent trends have shown a decrease in spending. In fact, last year, spending grew just .7% in the 12-month period that concluded at the end of September. But this year, that trend is expected to change.

“Drug expenditure trends will remain dynamic, and so health systems will need to carefully monitor local drug use patterns,” Schumock added.

Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system could play a major role in the shift. The ban on discriminatory health insurance practices that work against the sick have not stopped insurance companies from increasing up-front charges on the expensive drugs needed for chronic conditions. Some insurance marketplaces require consumers to pay up to half the cost of their specialty drugs, which can cost a staggering $8,000 a month.

“Research shows that spending on specialty drugs is expected to significantly increase. Therefore, any discussion of prescription drug coverage must also include a focus on the direct link between rising prescription drug prices and consumer cost sharing,” said Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

The reality of the American health care system is that it is competitive and run like a business. With profit-sharing and investors to worry about, insurance companies have to stay profitable, which means high costs for unhealthy individuals, even if they are not able to receive health care.

“The Affordable Care Act is great,” said Dr. Patience White, a rheumatologist and vice president for public health policy and advocacy at the Arthritis Foundation. “Insurance companies now have to take people with chronic illness. But they have investors and can’t lose money. That’s the way American healthcare is.”

Not every American consumer with a preexisting condition has suffered as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which was introduced in 2010. As David Morgan notes in Reutersthere have been both “winners” and “losers.” Hopefully, even if prices do continue to go up, the majority of Americans will come out on the winning side.