The Pulse – August 8, 2014

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    A couple decades ago, women going through menopause were prescribed hormone replacement, but questions over the safety of that therapy have healthcare professionals and researchers divided on the topic. Our host Maiken Scott takes a look at the conundrum that is menopause treatment, and asks, “Hormone replacement—yay or nay?”

    Six years into the shale boom, transparency about the chemicals used in fracking remains elusive. The website FracFocus.org has become a national clearinghouse for data on the chemicals used in extracting energy in this way, but as StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Katie Colaneri reports, some groups are raising serious questions about how exactly FracFocus puts that information out to the public—one well at a time.

    As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to spread, and talk of the need for a vaccine to inoculate people against the disease has risen in volume. The Ebola virus is amongst the most deadly known to man, killing some 90 percent of the people afflicted, but, according to Dr. Hildegund Ertl, M.D. at The Wistar Institute’s Vaccine Center, it’s highly unlikely that an Ebola vaccine could or would be ready in time to help with this outbreak. Why? It’s a numbers game.

    All of Philadelphia’s major birthing hospitals have stopped giving out discharge bags filled with formula to new moms. The city joins nearly a quarter of all hospitals in the country which have gone “bag free” in recent years. As Pulse reporter Elana Gordon discovered, the recent announcement is part of a broader push to stop sending mixed signals and start strongly encouraging breastfeeding.

    On November 30, 2012, a cloud of toxic gas caused by a train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey sent 28 people to the hospital with a variety of symptoms. Last week, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board pointed to a string of mistakes following the derailment. Taunya English spoke with a Mantua Township resident who ended up in the emergency room—twice—that Friday.

    If even just hearing the word “ragweed” makes your eyes water, you might be one of the nearly 45 million Americans with seasonal allergies, and allergists say the number of people with sensitivities to all kinds of plants is growing. Reporter Julie Grant looks at how climate change is fueling the rise in allergies and asthma.

    Have you ever wondered why some people are able to shake off stress more than others? Regular contributor to The Pulse, Dr. Bethany Brookshire (a.k.a. Scicurious) joined us to talk about a recent study that could provide some clues as to why some are more successful at managing their stress.

    And finally, we got word this week that The Penn Museum discovered a 6,500-year old skeleton in its basement. A slight oversight, for sure, which begged the obvious question: How did they lose it in the first place? And what do they do with it now that they’ve found it? We sent Carolyn Beeler to West Philly to check it out.

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