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73% uptick in overdose deaths in 2020 so far in Ohio county: Coroner’s report

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An Ohio county’s coroner’s office on Wednesday reported that it saw a disturbing 73.4% increase in overdose deaths during the first six months of 2020.

The Franklin County Coroner’s Office report states that it saw 437 individuals die from overdoses during the first half of this year, a 73.4% increase from last year. The Coroner’s office published the numbers in a press release as part of its preliminary report on 2020 overdose statistics.

The press release also detailed the numbers tied to various kinds of narcotics.

Most startling were the fentanyl figures. Fentanyl comprised the lion’s share of overdose deaths, making up 85.5% of all those so far in 2020, compared to 79% from the same six-month period in 2019. Heroin-related deaths increased to 5% of total drug fatalities this year compared to 2.5% last year.

The remaining data on drug-related fatalities shows that the victims were mostly males, 71% of them, while females made up only 29%.

Additionally, the 25-44 age group had the highest numbers of drug-related deaths and the victims were disproportionally African American, amounting to 27.4% of deaths. The group represents roughly 24% of the county’s population, according to June 2019 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This Franklin County report reflects the broader, ongoing opioid epidemic that has wreaked havoc in many communities across the nation. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in drug use and overdoses, since millions of Americans have been confined to their homes for months on end. More than 40 states saw a jump in opioid fatalities this year, according to an October report by the American Medical Association.

It should be noted, however, that cannabis saw the largest portion of the increase in drug usage during the pandemic whereas party drug usage fell, according to a more internationally focused study by The Economist. While two out of five people they surveyed reported an increase in consuming cannabis, they found that the use of ecstasy, cocaine, and ketamine plummeted by 41%, 38%, and 34% respectively.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Study finds harmful levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in popular bandage brands

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A new consumer study tested several brands of bandages and found higher levels of fluorine in bandages from Band-Aid, CVS Health, Walmart, Rite Aid, Target and Curad, which contain harmful levels of “forever chemicals,” also known as PFAS.

The study by Mamavation and Environmental Health News revealed that out of 40 bandages from 18 different brands, 26 contained organic fluorine, an indicator of PFAS.

“Because bandages are placed upon open wounds, it’s troubling to learn that they may be also exposing children and adults to PFAS,” said Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, the study’s co-author and the former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program.

News Nation reports that the study found the chemicals present in the adhesive part of the bandages. Mamavation said some brands likely used the PFAS in bandages “for their waterproof qualities.”

“It’s obvious from the data that PFAS are not needed for wound care, so it’s important that the industry remove their presence to protect the public from PFAS and opt instead for PFAS-free materials,” Birnbaum said.

According to the study, the chemicals are linked to several health effects, including “reduced immune system, vaccine response, developmental and learning problems for infants and children, certain cancers, lowered fertility, and endocrine disruption.”

While the exposure risk to PFAS through the skin isn’t clear, skin exposure “poses similar health risks” as eating or drinking food contaminated with PFAS, according to a previous study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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