ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Winter Is Tough on Feet
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
CANCER
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Meditation May Reduce Stress in Breast Cancer Patients
CAREGIVING
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Flu Strikes a Milder Blow This Season
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Many Kids Don't Need the Vitamins They're Taking
Breakfast Eggs Keep Folks on Diet
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Cleaning House May Be Risky for Women With Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Contact Lens Cases Often Contaminated
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
FITNESS
Simple Steps Get Walkers Moving
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu Fatality Rate a 'Little Bit' Higher Than That of Seasonal Flu
Biomarkers May Help Measure Rate of Decline in Dementia
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Babies Cared For In Others Homes Might Become Heavy Toddlers
Protect Your Kids From Swine Flu While at Camp
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Add your Article

Are Medical Meetings Environmentally Unfriendly?

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Anyone who has arrived at Chicago O'Hare, Orlando or Dallas airports during one of the dozens of huge medical meetings held every year will no doubt encounter tens of thousands of specialists from all over world thronging the hallways, the Starbucks, the luggage claim area.

Of course, the attendees use jet fuel to get to the meeting and gas to get from the airport to the hotel where, once they're checked in, they'll have the option or reusing or not reusing their towels.

But an expert writing in the June 28 issue of the British Medical Journal argues that medical meetings should be a thing of the past.

The author, Dr. Malcolm Green, a professor emeritus of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, confesses to having attended such meetings himself throughout an illustrious career going back 30 years.

"This is not a matter of whether, but when," Green said. "The adaptations to climate change over the next few decades will be massive. This will be an inevitable part of that change. Canute was unable to hold back the tide, and we will be unable to hold back the consequences of climate change. The current 'crisis' of oil prices is here to stay and will intensify."

Green makes the point that the relatively cozy meeting of the American Thoracic Society draws more than 15,000 respiratory doctors and scientists each year, some 3,500 of whom are from Europe. The 2006 conference in San Diego, by one estimate, resulted in 100 million person air miles and produced a carbon burden of 10,800 tons.

The American Cardiac Society meeting, with about 45,000 attendees, represents 300 million person air miles. Add to that the American Heart Association last year, which had almost 26,000 attendees, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology's meeting, which drew crowds of 34,000 or more.

Green estimates that the overall impact of travel to and from conferences is at least 6 billion person air miles a year, or 600,000 tons of carbon, equivalent to the sustainable carbon emissions for 500,000 people in India. And this doesn't include the impact from the use of hotels, conference centers and more.

So, Green argues, virtual networks and virtual meetings should be the order of the day.

"Teenagers and others get to know each other and conduct all manner of relationships over the Internet," Green said. "It is just as possible for researchers and doctors to establish professional relationships and exchange information, ideas and discussions. It will require learning new ways of working, indeed, but this should not be unattainable."

And curbing air travel has another advantage not mentioned by Green.

"Close contact is a factor in the spread of respiratory diseases," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "[There was] a reduction and delay of the spread of influenza in 2002 due to the curb on flying and the reduction in air travel after 9/11."

However, another doctor countered in the same issue of the journal that giving up all medical conferences will have little effect on global warming, since the majority of international travel is recreational in nature.

James Owen Drife, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology from Leeds General Infirmary in England, wrote that conferences are essential for stimulating global initiatives in the medical community. Cutting back on conferences that duplicate each other is a reasonable option, he acknowledged.

However, "hiding behind our computer screens and pretending that this is helping the planet" isn't the answer, Drife added.

Adding to that point was yet another American expert. "I absolutely agree that we all should do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint, but does somebody really think if physicians stopped traveling to international conferences that all planes would be grounded?" said Dr. Kirby Donnelly, department head of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

"There are a lot of things we can do other than stop flying," he added. "We could do a lot more with conferences and video conferences. But, still, the face-to-face contact is extremely important and the opportunity to make connections."

More information

Calculate your own carbon footprint at carbonfootprint.com.



SOURCES: Malcolm Green, professor emeritus, respiratory medicine, Imperial College, London; Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Kirby Donnelly, Ph.D., department head, environmental and occupational health, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, College Station; June 28, 2008, British Medical Journal

Last Updated: June 27, 2008

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