Scientific American


“Today in Science:  A success against long COVID” and the state of our national bridges.

Views expressed in this science and technology update are those of the reporters and correspondents.  Accessed on 23 June 2023, 2018 UTC.

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June 23, 2023: The most dangerous bridges in America, a success in preventing long COVID and the state of reproductive care. Enjoy and happy Friday!
Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor

State of Bridges

On June 11, a bridge on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia collapsed when a tanker truck carrying gasoline exploded. Though not caused by a defect in the bridge itself, it’s a good time to examine the condition of bridges throughout the country. A Scientific American analysis of a database for all 50 states reveals that more than 42,000 bridges across the country have been classified as being in “poor” condition, accounting for nearly 7 percent of all bridges monitored.
How it works: The Federal Highway Administration, under the Department of Transportation, maintains a comprehensive record of these inspections and categorizes conditions of bridges into three levels: “good,” “fair” and “poor.” A bridge’s rating is determined by the condition of its various structural components.
Major highlights: Alaska has by far the highest percentage of bridges rated as “poor.” Seven of the top 10 U.S. counties with the worst-rated bridges are in Iowa. The state’s high bridge-to-person ratio, combined with limited funding, make bridges in its rural areas prone to neglect.
Credit: June Kim; Source: Bridge Condition by County 2022, Federal Highway Administration (data)

Long COVID Breakthrough?

Millions in the U.S. are grappling with the effects of long COVID–a combination of persistent symptoms like severe brain fog and fatigue. A recent study found that a widely used, inexpensive diabetes drug called metformin reduced the risk of developing long COVID by 41 percent among people who are overweight and those with obesity.
Why this matters:  In August 2022, the Brookings Institution estimated that long COVID is keeping the equivalent of two million to four million full-time workers out of the American labor force, resulting in about $170 billion of lost earnings per year. So far, we have no treatment for it.
What the experts say: “I don’t throw around the term ‘breakthrough,’ but it applies here. These findings offer the first concrete hope for preventing long COVID” from a randomized trial, says Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
• One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a spate of abortion bans are harming reproductive care, say ob-gyns. | 4 min read
• Japan is planning to release water contaminated by the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. The water has been treated, but some experts are unsure it’s truly safe. | 6 min read
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Another week in the books! I hope you’ve enjoyed Today in Science and that it brought some helpful insight and (maybe) some awe into your life. Thank you to all the readers who have been sending me such nice notes (and catching the occasional typo). Oh, and if you’d like to read more about long COVID, one of our most-read articles of the YEAR so far is this excellent one by Stephani Sutherland: Long COVID Now Looks like a Neurological Disease, Helping Doctors to Focus Treatments.
Email me anytime at Have a wonderful weekend!
—Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor
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