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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Science Scene

“Third-hand smoke” is also a threa

Experts have identified a new health threat from cigarettes: an invisible and toxic combination of gasses and particles labeled as “third-hand smoke” that persist long after second-hand smoke has cleared.

The toxins cling on smokers’ hair and clothes, as well as in carpeting and furniture.

The study, published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, especially focuses on the toxins’ effects on child and infant health. Researchers say children can possibly ingest the toxins, especially while crawling on the floor.

Researchers say the study has new implications for behavior, as it shows simply shutting a door does not shield kids from the harmful effects of the smoke.

Third-hand smoke includes materials such as hydrogen cyanide which is used in chemical weapons, butane which is used in lighter fluid, arsenic and lead. Eleven of the compounds in third-hand smoke are highly carcinogenic and are cancer risks for people of any age.

(Source: nytimes.com)

Bedbugs bite in Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio has seen an alarming rise in the pest Cimex lectularius, commonly known as bedbugs.

Although the bugs were thought to have vanished in the 1950s because of the use of DDT and other pesticides, a recent public survey found that one in six residents of Cincinnati have had an encounter with bedbugs within the last year.

Reports of bedbugs in the city started about three years ago, but officials thought it was an abnormality, not a trend.

City officials say they expect the problem to get worse. If the occurrence of the pests increases, city officials say they won’t be able to keep up with inspections.

The complaints don’t stop in Ohio. Reports of the bugs are coming from college campuses, high-end hotels and movie theaters nationwide.

Adult bedbugs are reddish brown in color and about a quarter of an inch long. They tend to be mostly active at night, and hide in mattresses or behind furniture during the day. Their bites leave itchy marks on the skin.

Killing the bugs can be a challenge, and in many cases numerous treatments by a professional exterminator are needed to eliminate the problem.

Entomologists say it is difficult to figure out the extent of the problem nationwide. What adds to the problem is that many cities suffering from current financial difficulties don’t see the bugs as a public health priority, as they don’t carry disease such as mosquitoes or cockroaches.

Reasons cited for an increase in the bugs include the ban of DDT and an increase in international travel.

(Source: latimes.com)

Study links control of blood sugar and memory decline

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center say rises in blood sugar (glucose) can negatively impact memory by affecting the dentate gyrus, an area of the hippocampus that helps form memories.

The effects can be seen, researchers say, even when glucose rates are just moderately raised. This may explain the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging, as glucose regulation worsens with age.

The researchers used MRIs to map out brain regions in 240 elderly test subjects. A correlation was found between spiked glucose rates and reduced blood flow in the dentate gyrus, an indicator of reduced functions and activity in that area of the brain.

If decline in memory is the result of glucose regulation, then the issue affects everyone, researchers say. Exercise is recommended to help combat the issue, as glucose regulation is improved with physical activity.

(Source: nytimes.com)

SCIENCE SCENE was compiled by ANNA OPALKA. She can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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