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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Race

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Experts are calling for stricter regulation of these endocrine disruptors

If you’ve ever explored the world of so-called clean beauty products, you’ve probably heard about phthalates, a family of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These “plasticizing” agents were historically added to nail polish to prevent cracking and to hairspray to add flexibility, but now they’re in a variety of personal care products — shampoo, perfume, sanitary pads, and so on — as well as household items like vinyl flooring and food packaging. Research has linked them to learning, behavioral, and attention disorders in kids.

For these reasons, some scientists have called for tighter regulation of these chemicals, but to limited success: As Dana…


A myriad of systematic and social factors fueled the lack of vaccines in Black and Latino communities

Elizabeth Griffin, 86, is given her first dose of the Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine by Anya Harris at Red Hook Neighborhood Senior Center in the Red Hood neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough on February 22, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Covid-19 vaccines emerged as a medical breakthrough, but like many other innovations, they have been disproportionately helping white Americans as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

As of February 2021, a stark Covid-19 vaccine disparity remains. In Delaware, Black people account for 24% of statewide Covid-19 cases, yet only 9% have received the vaccine. Similarly in Colorado, Hispanic people account for 36% of Covid-19 cases, but only 6% have been vaccinated.

“I’ve heard from [Black and Latino] patients that they want the vaccine, but there is a supply issue and that will continue to be an issue over the…


One of the biggest stories to emerge about the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has been that it has been wildly inequitable, just like the pandemic itself. In some states, vaccination rates among White residents are two- to threefold higher than they are for Black and Brown residents. Last week, I wrote about this disparity and what’s behind it for our sister publication, Momentum, which is dedicated to fighting anti-Black racism.

In another piece this week, I wrote that one way to close this gap and make vaccination distribution more equitable would be to include asthma as a prioritized condition.

Black…


Illustrations: Moya Garrison-Msingwana

Six Months In

From grocery store clerks to mental health counselors to mail carriers, Black essential workers describe living during the pandemic

This story is part of “Six Months In,” a special weeklong Elemental series reflecting on where we’ve been, what we’ve learned, and what the future holds for the Covid-19 pandemic.

After working a long day, loading trucks at an HVAC company in East Point, Georgia, J. Waters quickly peruses her local grocery store’s shelves for food and cleaning supplies. In her area, the poverty rate is over 20%. Health conditions are highly prevalent. Hospitalizations are up. As Covid-19 consumes the public consciousness, so do the nearby killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks.

The global pandemic is creating a devastating…


A physician checks herself and her profession

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

I have always been a humanist. I was raised Buddhist, don’t typically buy into bipartisan politics, and work hard to resist the reflex of “othering” those who have different opinions. I have been challenged recently, however, to understand how peacefulness can be a slippery slope to complacency.

As many sectors of society show humility during a global call for racial justice, the field of medicine (my domain) is frustratingly vain. The health care industry as a whole could stand to take a page from this moment in history. The following list of lessons is by no means exhaustive. …


A Black scientist’s plea to lean into the data, even as an unjust health care shadow persists in the U.S.

Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images

I believe vaccinations are an important part of health maintenance. Every year, I get a flu vaccine and encourage my adult children to do the same. So, I was surprised when some of my friends and family members shared with me that they had no plans to take the vaccine for Covid-19 when and if it becomes available.

At least, they specified, they would not be the first in line.

Though my initial reaction was one of surprise, I realized this reluctance is part of a larger conversation — especially in the Black community. Initially, I was puzzled as to…


Americans who bear the most chronic stress — predominantly people of color — are at an especially high risk for the severe outcomes of Covid-19

Illustration: Inkee Wang

The pandemic is a stressful and traumatic experience for millions of people around the world. There’s constant feelings of lack of control, isolation, and fear of contracting Covid-19 and dying from it. Science has shown for decades that high levels of stress like this can put people’s immune systems at risk. And new data is showing that Americans who bear the most chronic stress seem to be at an especially high risk for the severe outcomes of Covid-19.

An alarmingly disproportionate number of people of color are dying from Covid-19, with Black people dying at 2.5 times the rate of…


Suppressing the anger and pain can actively damage what psychology researchers call ‘psychological fortitude’

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I bottled up my rage and despair for the first few days after George Floyd’s death.

It wasn’t because I wasn’t full of rage and despair — I was. My brain was slowly frying. The video of Floyd’s last moments was unavoidable; my mom, who I live with, kept the news on 24/7. But I was concerned that anything I could say out loud had already been said. There were so many activists, writers, and thought leaders speaking out about being Black in America. I wasn’t sure how to add to the conversation.

Finally, at my teletherapy session the Tuesday…


They’re in higher demand than ever — and dealing with many of the same stressors as their patients

Photo: SDI Productions/Getty Images

During a recent therapy session, Boston-based psychiatrist Cecil Webster, Jr., MD, had to answer a seemingly impossible question. His patient, a 9-year-old Black boy, asked him: “Will white people be afraid of me when I grow up?”

“As a therapist and as a Black man, how are you supposed to answer that?” Webster asks. He’s been providing therapy and medication management to adults, adolescents, and children — most of them Black — for eight years. But over the past few weeks, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the resulting protests have led to a noteworthy…


Black people are more likely to suffer from severe Covid-19 and commonly have lower levels of vitamin D. Is there a connection?

Photo: Grace Cary/Getty Images

Writer and producer Tyler Perry is by no means a health expert. But when he posted a video on Instagram in April discussing Black people, their likelihood of having low vitamin D levels, and the possible connection to Covid-19, it caught my attention. In the video, he said, “a lot of people who have died of Covid-19 were low in vitamin D.” And it turns out, one preliminary study from Northwestern University found a link between severe vitamin D deficiency and higher mortality rates.

I’ve always known that Black people were more likely to have low vitamin D levels, but…

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