In The News

Ottawa Citizen: Groundbreaking research shows Ottawa firefighters absorb harmful chemicals through skin

October 20, 2017

Like most firefighters, Ottawa Fire Capt. David Matschke has watched colleagues, including close friends, die from cancer. It is a common story among firefighters, who are exposed to harmful toxins on the job. Most know all too well the price some of their colleagues pay for that exposure. A growing body of evidence has shown firefighters have an increased risk of cancer and other serious illnesses compared to the general population, partly due to their exposure to hazardous chemicals from the smoke. Ontario introduced so-called presumptive legislation in 2007 to address the reality of firefighters and cancer — the onus was no longer on firefighters and investigators to prove their cancer was work related, but assumed to be. The province initially included eight forms of cancer on that list and has since expanded it. That reality and the need to understand more clearly what and how firefighters are exposed is what drove Matschke and Ottawa fire officials to seek better information with which to protect themselves. Read the full article here.

The Conversation: Sugar in the diet may increase risks of opioid addiction

October 17, 2017

Could a diet high in refined sugars make children and adults more susceptible to opioid addiction and overdose? New research, from our laboratory of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Guelph, suggests it could. Approximately 20,000 people died of fentanyl-related overdoses in the United States last year and in Canada there were at least 2,816 opioid-related deaths. During 2017 so far, over 1,000 people have died of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia. High schools are stocking up on the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and universities are training staff to administer the drug. Nobody is talking about sugar. And yet there is substantial experimental evidence that refined sugar can promote addictive behaviours by activating the brain’s rewards centres in much the same way as addictive drugs. Opioid abuse is also associated with poor dietary habits, including preferences for sugar-rich foods, as well as malnutrition. These connections have led to questions of whether excessive consumption of refined sugar may affect vulnerability to opioid addiction. Read the full article here.

CBC: Exercise is key during recovery stage for breast cancer survivors, says doctor

October 13, 2017

A recent study shows exercise can play a significant role in the recovery stage for breast cancer survivors. Though the road to recovery is long, there is hope for the many survivors, Dr. Blair Bigam, a doctor in emergency medicine at McMaster University, explained to CBC's Island Morning. "Breast cancer treatment really takes a toll on the human body. Whether that's from surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy, it can really knock you out a bit," Bigham said. "We know that afterwards, if you survive you have many years of cognitive dysfunction." The dysfunction comes in the form of memory loss, difficulty paying attention to things, sleep deprivation and generally feeling like your brain processing time is a bit slower, Bigham explained. Read the full article here.

CBC: At Three Little Pigs Lab, Western researchers break buildings to save them from hurricanes

September 13, 2017

How do you beat a hurricane? You could start by creating one of your own. As Hurricane Irma lashes the northern Caribbean with 295 km/h winds, a group of Western University engineers are replicating high-wind conditions to learn how to build structures that can withstand the worst windstorms. The research happens at what's officially called the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes. Those who work there call it the Three Little Pigs research lab (think Big Bad Wolf). A tall steel building placed among the aircraft hangars near London's airport, the research facility is big enough to accommodate a typical two-storey building. To recreate hurricane-force winds in the lab, the researchers use a complicated system of fans that simulate the same suction forces that can peel roofs off buildings during severe storms. Read the full article here.

The Spectator: Collision Course: A report on concussions and football

September 7, 2017

Football can be a dangerous, brutal sport. It’s particularly bad for brains. So far, most of the supporting evidence for that has come from studying the brains of dead players. Today, we’re going to change that. For more than two years, The Spectator has been involved in a unique collaboration with a team of McMaster University researchers. We’ve been conducting sophisticated brain scanning experiments on nearly two dozen retired CFL football players to measure the long-term impacts of concussions and repeated hits to the head. We believe this is the first study anywhere to report findings from living former football players using such a wide array of tests. The results are “shocking,” one of our experts said. Read the full article, and the four-part series here.

CBC: How to safely watch the solar eclipse

August 18, 2017

With excitement leading up to the August 21 solar eclipse, people across North America are preparing to watch the event. But while tempting, there are a number of safety precautions one has to take before trying to catch a glimpse of the eclipse. "We just happen to live in this crazy geometric way that the earth, the moon and the sun are at just the right distance," he said. "It's very unique in our solar system and maybe unique in our galaxy." The last time there was a total solar eclipse in Canada was 1979, said Frank Seglenieks, and he remembers it well. "They made everybody sit in the gymnasium," the coordinator for the University of Waterloo's Weather Centre told CBC. Read the full article here.