Friday, September 26, 2008
First the people in white coats tell us that regular cell phones will fry our brains so everybody needs to use those ridiculous hands-free things (making it much harder for people to distinguish between certified crazy people who talk to themselves in the street and regular crazy people talking on invisible phones).
Now a new study by some white coat types in Cleveland are warning that men who use hands-free phones may be frying their sperm. That's because guys keep their phones in their pockets when they're yakking on the headset.
The researchers collected um, ounces and ounces of man juice and then held phones up to half the group. Then they counted how many little guys were still swimming around. (Why do I get the feeling that this was more fun for the sperm donors than for the researchers?)
The result was that the zapped samples had lower motility (movement) and viability (live spermies). Fortunately, there was no DNA damage to the ones that did survive, so if one of the guys survives the nuclear holocaust, the critter will be OK.
In the end, though, keeping your phone in your pocket might still be a more appealing path to male infertility than the one that Mike at Unraveling Life's Mysteries describes.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I'm beginning to think that this whole financial meltdown and recovery plan is due to a couple of guys on Wall Street having a bad drug experience.
Here's how the conversation probably went:
CEO #1: "Hey man, I just thought of something."
CEO #2: "What?"
CEO #1: "All this money."
CEO #2: "Yeah?"
CEO #1: "None of it is real, man!"
CEO #2: "Whoa. Wait, what do you mean?"
CEO #1: "It's just like blips or something. We spend all of our time trying to kill each other over electronic blips and stuff."
CEO #2: "Zeroes and ones, man."
CEO #1: "Exactly! I mean, like, one day a computer says that a house is worth $200,000 and the next day it says it's worth $100,000, even though the same person is living in it!"
CEO #2: "They sell houses for $100,000??"
CEO #1: "Whatever, man. The point is, it's not even paper losses, it's just blips in some giant computer or something!"
CEO #2: "Zeroes and ones, man."
CEO #1: "Exactly! Now, what if everybody had this same realization at the same time? What if, just by us thinking this out loud, everybody's going to wake up tomorrow and have this same thought??"
CEO #2: "Then we'd be totally hosed."
CEO #2: "WAKE UP MAN!! It happened exactly like you said!"
CEO #1: "What?"
CEO #2: "The zeroes and ones! They're all gone!!!!"
CEO #1: "Uh oh."
CEO #2: "What are we going to do, man? What are we going to do?! We messed everything up!! People are freaking out all over the place!! We've got to get the blips back!!"
CEO #1: "Wait man, just wait. Don't freak out. Remember Ben and Hank in DC? They have this crazy machine that prints money."
CEO #2: "A machine that prints money? But we need billions! Maybe trillions! Can they do that???"
CEO #1: "Don't worry, man! I just dosed their coffee."
CEO #2: "Whoa."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Plastics were the future, but they sucked. Okay, Bakelite was cool, but now you can only find it on stuff in yard sales and Ebay.
Now of course, thanks to the Internet, we know that plastics are truly evil and will destroy us all. Or something like that.
Honestly, I'd been trying to avoid thinking about this too hard because Cinderella uses plastic cups, eats with plastic utensils, and we wrap her up in Saran Wrap when she's naughty. I thought I'd wait until the people in white coats had figured out if this was something I really needed to worry about or not.
Turns out I do (and you should too).
As you've probably heard, the problem is with plastics that have bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. Some people in white coats did a really big study on humans and found that people with high levels of BPA had higher levels of heart disease, diabetes, and liver abnormalities.
Of course, like all scientific debates, there are two sides to this. On one side are researchers like the authors of the study and Frederick vom Saal, a reproductive scientist at the University of Missouri at Columbia who commented that the findings of the study were "the nail in the coffin" (hopefully he was referring to plastics and not us). Also on this side are people like Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Washington State University who is researching possible links between BPA and birth defects, miscarriages, and other nasty stuff.
On the other side are chemical industry funded scientists who claim that there's absolutely nothing to worry about. The FDA apparently rests its claims that BPA-laden plastics pose no danger based on two chemical industry funded reports.
As worried consumers we can stop using BPA-laden plastic baby bottles, eyeglasses, DVD's, water bottles, and food containers. Or we could bug our government (or elect a new one) to force companies to get rid of this stuff.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I don't know how I got started on this whole exploding toy helicopter thing. Since starting the blog I've documented more than two recalls per month, generally because they burst into flames, causing property damage, injury from burns, and widespread panic.
On Thursday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (official motto: we don't want any more money, unless it's given to us by the people we regulate) recalled another one.
The "Protocol" remote-control mini helicopter has the nasty habit of overheating and burning people's fingertips. The copter is made by Ashley Collection, Inc., and is made in China.
I'm starting to develop a theory. China is trying to destroy us all. I'll elaborate in later posts.
In the meantime, if you're jonesing for a toy helicopter, I suggest something along these lines:
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We've previously discussed how granite counter tops are radioactive. But as one astute commenter pointed out, you don't want to outfit your fallout shelter in Formica.
The danger isn't in the Formica, but rather what the Formica is covering up: particle board. Turns out, particle board is made with formaldehyde, that fun stuff they use to soak brains and FEMA trailer in. While formaldehyde is good for preserving brains of dead people, it isn't such a good thing to breath in if you plan on staying alive.
According to National Geographic, the stuff can cause nausea, allergic reactions and a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and mouth. The EPA considers it a possible carcinogen. The National Cancer Institute has conducted studies linking exposure to increased risk of leukemia and brain cancer.
Formica, and the laminate stuff over your particle board (or press board) desk, chair, table, etc., acts as a partial barrier between you and the nasty stuff, except for all the exposed parts. Anyway, it's probably lurking behind your house walls.
That pretty much leaves us with solid hardwood from tropical forests and plastics, which were designed by Satan.
Monday, September 8, 2008
The Wife is a philosophy professor. Her Dad is a more down-to-earth kind of guy. Of my wife's chosen career, he once said "Philosophy?! The cave men figured out all the philosophy we'll ever need: Fire good. No fire bad."
Turns out it's actually a little more complicated than that.
According to the Internet (actually, the National Fire Protection Association) in 2002 (the year with the lowest incidents ever recorded, mind you), children started almost 14,000 "structure fires" resulting in 210 deaths, 1,250 injuries, and $339 million in property damage ("that's coming out of your allowance!").
On the other side of the equation, companies have been dousing everything from clothing to couches to electronics with chemical fire retardants called PBDEs. The white coat activists at the Environmental Working Group conducted a study of 19 US families showing that in 19 of them, concentrations of the PBDEs were three times higher in the children and toddlers than in the mothers. The EWG had conducted an earlier study in 2003 and found that concentrations of PBDEs in US mothers' breast milk were 75 times higher than in breast milk from European mothers (the compounds are under much higher regulation in Europe). Although the studies are small, they are enough to cause great amounts of worry.
What's so bad about PBDEs? Apparently, when given to mice, they cause hyperactivity (and nobody wants hyperactive mice). The EWG recommends that until Congress enacts tough new regulations, children should really stay off the couch and stop using Daddy's computer.
With the NFPA's warnings in mind, I recently cautioned Cinderella not to play with matches. The conversation went exactly like this:
Cinderella: Daddy I need some matches.
Me: You shouldn't play with matches dear.
Cinderella: I'm not going to play with them! I need them to start a fire.
Today was Cinderella's first day of Pre-K. She's been going to all-day preschool since forever, so it was probably more of a big deal for me than for her. When the teacher was about to lead her away to the classroom Cinderella asked me if I could stay with her. I said no. Instead of crying, she just kissed my cheek and told me to have a good day at work (cue "Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon..."). I could tell she liked it because she didn't want to leave when I came to pick her up.
The building is only a few years old, and only a couple of the people working at the school look like scary people who will try to boil my child into stew and eat her. Plus, since it's public, it's about half the cost of the private preschool we were sending her too.
My real relief is that we don't send her to this wonderful Methodist Church preschool in Fayetteville, Arkansas where two teachers recently lost their jobs because they were forcing 3 and 4-year olds to fight each other during "circle time."
Julie Munsell, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, said the fighting is said to have involved punching, kicking and pushing as part of “a game,” and that the department is investigating under terms of the church’s child-care license.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I thought I was getting ahead of the curve for once, but The Wife one-upped me.
It seems that a triclosan and triclocarban, common additives to hand soap, dish washing liquid, toothpaste and hundreds of other common household cleaners, has been linked to all sorts of scary stuff, including dermatitis, affect sex hormones (and not in a good way), interfere with the nervous system, possibly be a cause of autism, toxify your liver and inhalation system, and poses a danger to fetal and childhood development.
According to Dan Chang, PhD, "a professor of environmental engineering at U.C. Davis and one of the researchers involved, says he doesn't want to cause a panic, but ""the public should be aware of some of the concerns.""
Gee, that's reassuring.
Triclocarban and triclosan were initially used as antiseptic cleaners in hospitals in the 1950s and 60s. Freaked out germaphobes, helped along by articles like this, turned antibacterial soaps into multibillion dollar businesses starting in the 1990s. The claim by the EPA and the soap industry (what I like to call "Big Bubble") that the products are safe are based on testing done on animals in the 1960s and 70s, when testing standards were quite looser than they are today. But the old products got grandfathered in.
According to an article on WebMD, the UC Davis researchers suspect that any harmful effects from these agents are most likely to occur during pregnancy, in early childhood, and adolescence. You know, the times when everyone is always freaked about about washing hands and stuff.
The stuff also has a nasty habit of sticking around. White coat-types at Johns Hopkins have reported that 75% of triclocarban survives wastewater treatment plants and ends up in water used on food crops. found triclosan in the urine of 75% of people aged 6 and older.
In addition to all this, it's been widely reported that common use of antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soap, and are likely contributing to more drug resistant bacteria.
Okay. No antibacterial soap (although purell and the like are a different story).
The Environmental Working Group provides a handy mouse-over map of your home showing where triclosan may be lurking. Basically, it's in everything from soap to shoes to shower curtains. They suggest running naked through a hidden grotto drinking naturally purified rainwater and eating free range spores.
So, all of this had convinced me to start looking in horror at my bottle of cheapo dishsoap. It seemed like such a bargain at 98 cents! Okay, off to Trader Joe's to buy some human and earth friendly crap. Hey, here's a nice one: lavender scented. We used to calm Cinderella with lavender oil when she was a restless babe.
This is when the wife one-upped me.
Her: "Lavender? Are you out of your mind? Haven't you read about lavender????"
Me: "Ha ha! No. Is orange okay?"
Her: "Of course. What could be bad about orange?"
Me: "I'll be right back."
Turns out, some white coat types have discovered that lavender and tea tree oil have been found to cause young boys to develop breasts. Spurs estrogen growth or something. In a culture obsessed with boobs, pretty much everyone can agree that nobody wants them on prepubescent boys. Not sure what it does do 4 year old girls like mine, but we're not about to find out.