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June 27, 2013

Microbeads in body washes are filling the Great Lakes with plastic

Microbeads could ruin the Greak Lakes' ecosystem
Nothing says "good morning" like a nice healthy scrub with an exfoliant-loaded loofa, however the plastic microbeads found in body washes are accumulating in the Great Lakes and could potentially destroy their ecosystem. Being less than a millimeter in diameter, the microbeads are passing through the filters in water treatment plants and are draining into the Great Lakes, where they are being consumed by fish, turtles and seagulls. The beads then deprive the animals of nutrients or can get lodged and block their digestive systems. So it looks like we have to add microbeads to our "Do Not Buy" list.

June 22, 2013

This is a plant that eats sheep

A "Sheep-Eating" Plant Just Bloomed for the First Time in the UK
“Sheep-eating” plants are not only a thing that exist; they've crossed the Atlantic from their native South America and are growing in the United Kingdom, where the first one bloomed on Thursday. The plant, called the Puya chilensis, is covered with razor-sharp spines and has a 10-foot tall flower spike. It's been growing in the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley for 15 years now. But about the sheep-eating. From the BBC: In the Andes it uses its sharp spines to snare and trap sheep and other animals, which slowly starve to death. The animals then decay at the base of the plant, acting as a fertiliser. As you might expect, the plant grown in the UK was not fertilized with the rotting flesh of a sheep, or any other animals. "We keep it well fed with liquid fertiliser as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic,” horticulturalist Cara Smith told the BBC.

June 21, 2013

Fertility guidelines are based on a two hundred year old study

How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby? - Jean Twenge - The Atlantic
The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations. In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?” Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women. It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. (The fertility of women in their late 20s and early 30s was almost identical—news in and of itself.) Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me.

June 15, 2013

Leprosy used to be a huge problem in Europe, but then we evolved

Within the last 400 years humans, especially Europeans, have evolved a resistance to the leprosy bacteria while leprosy hasn't evolved at all. Scientists Go Medieval To Solve Ancient Leprosy Puzzle : Shots - Health News : NPR
Look through a series of 15th century woodcuts, and you'll find that the leper is as much an icon of medieval art as the crown or the cross. Leprosy was so common in Europe during the Middle Ages that it's estimated 1 in 30 people was infected with the bacteria. But by the turn of the 16th century, after the crusades has swept across Europe, the disease mysteriously disappeared. And it never returned. . . . Indeed, that a certain gene that make them highly resistant to leprosy. This particular gene, Cole says, is very prevalent in Europeans. . . .