A third of the most popular children’s toys in the United States this year contain harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, a US consumer group said Wednesday.
The Ecology Center, which published its findings on the website HealthyStuff.org, tested nearly 700 toys ahead of the Christmas shopping season and found that 32 percent contained one or more toxic chemical.
The number of products exceeding current federal limits for lead in toys has dropped by 67 percent since 2007, though the chemical, which can affect the nervous system, was still present in 18 percent of toys, according to the centre.
Lead levels in toys varied, with seven percent containing more than 40 parts per million (ppm), the highest level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007.
Another three percent of the products tested had levels exceeding 300 ppm, the federally-mandated limit, the study said.
Among the toys with detectable lead levels were the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, the Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and the Kid’s Poncho sold by Wal-Mart stores, the Michigan-based Ecology Centre said.
The study, which used a portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer, also found cadmium levels greater than 100 ppm in 3.3 percent or 22 of the products tested and arsenic levels over 100 ppm in 1.3 percent or nine of the toys.
The authors said they were also concerned after finding that 42 percent of the toys tested contained PVC.
“PVC is the worst plastic from an environmental health perspective because it creates major hazards in its manufacture, product life and disposal, and can contain additives that are dangerous to human health,” the study said.
The center, which has tested some 4,000 children’s products over the past three years, has created an online database where consumers can check whether the toys they have purchased contain toxic chemicals.
Higher Fiber Intake May Interfere With Ovulation
Women who get the recommended amount of fiber in their diets may have lower estrogen levels and ovulates less often than women who eat less fiber, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among 250 women ages 18 to 44, those who reported eating the recommended amounts of fiber had the lowest blood levels of estrogen ad other reproductive hormones.
Higher fiber intake, particularly from fruit, was also linked to a higher risk of having anovulatory menstrual cycles — where the ovaries fail to release an egg.
The findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, do not mean that eating fiber-rich foods is a bad thing.
High-fiber diets are associated with numerous health benefits, including lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. Experts generally recommend that adults get 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, depending on their calorie intake.
However, the current results do “call into question” whether those recommendations are best for women who are trying to become pregnant, write the researchers, led by Audrey 1. Gaskins of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Maryland.
Anovulation can have various causes, including excessive exercise, having either too little or too much body fat, thyroid gland dysfunction and polycystic ovarian syndrome — a hormone disorder that is a common cause of infertility.
Women who are not ovulating regularly often have irregular menstrual periods or none at all. However, some women do continue to have periods.
All of the women in the current study were healthy and having regular menstrual periods. Still, those who reported the highest fiber intake — 22 grams per day or more, in line with general recommendations were more likely to have at least one anovulatory cycle over two months. The researchers gauged anovulation by measuring the women’s reproductive-hormone levels over two menstrual periods.
Of the total menstrual cycles in this group, 22 percent were anovulatory, compared with 7 percent among women with lower fiber intakes.
When the researchers accounted for other factors that could affect ovulation — including body weight, race, exercise levels and calorie intake — high fiber intake itself was linked to a roughly 10-times higher risk of anovulation.
Looking at specific sources of fiber, the researchers also found that fiber from fruit, specifically, was most clearly associated with an ovulation.
The results do not prove that fiber, per se, disrupts some women’s ovulation. However, it is biologically plausible, Gaskins and her colleagues point out.
High-fiber diets, they explain, decrease activity in certain intestinal enzymes, leading to less estrogen re absorption in the colon. Fiber can also cause more estrogen to be excreted from the body in feces.
In line with that, the researchers found that women with the highest fiber intakes generally had the lowest estrogen levels over the course of their menstrual periods. They also had lower levels of other reproductive hormones, including progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.
The findings, according to Gaskins and her colleagues, raise the possibility that women who are trying to conceive should lower their fiber intake. However, they write, more studies are needed before any recommendations can be made.
Benefits Of Rinsing Sinuses
Rinsing sinuses with a saline solution might have soothing short-term benefits, but it could actually make you more prone to infections in the long run by stripping your nose of critical immune soldiers.
“By washing the nose, we are removing the bad mucus but, unfortunately, we are also removing the good mucus that contains the antimicrobial agents as well,” said Dr. Talal Nsouli, lead author of new research on the issue. “And, by depleting the nose of its immune elements, we expose the patient to more sinus infections.”
Nsouli’s advice is to avoid using nasal saline irrigation on a long-term basis, limiting its use only to when an infection is present. The research was to be presented Sunday in Miami Beach at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Dr. Michael 1. Bergstein, senior attending physician at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., agreed with Nsouli.
“There’s a blanket of little, hair-like projections called cilia in the nose, and those cilia can be stunned if they’re chronically bathed in hypertonic, which is excess salt, or hypo, which is too-little salt, rinses,” he said. “Do not use nasal saline irrigation as a maintenance because you’ll be altering the natural immune benefit that the sinuses have.”
But Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, a sinus specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of Sinus Relief Now, offered a different view. “I totally, wholeheartedly disagree with the article,” he said. “I think irrigation is a marvelous thing.”
Though it’s possible for irrigation to wash away protective cells along with the infection, the protective “mucous blanket” of the sinus packages re-forms and goes back to work, he said.
Legions of people, according to the researchers, use nasal saline irrigation to treat sinus infections, despite lack of robust evidence to support its use.
For the study, 68 people irrigated at least twice a day for one year, then discontinued the practice and were followed for the next year.
The rate of sinus infections decreased 62 percent once irrigation was stopped, the study found.
“People who were using nasal sinus irrigation were having an average of eight sinus infections a year,” said Nsouli. “They dropped to three per year.” Nsouli is a clinical professor of pediatrics and allergy/immunology at Georgetown University, School of Medicine and director of Watergate & Burke Allergy & Asthma Centers, in Washington D.C.
“The nasal secretions do contain immune elements that protect patients against infection,” he explained. “Our first-line protection is the mucus that we have.”
What Your Photos Say About You
Those photos you post on Facebook could paint an accurate picture of your personality, new research on first impressions suggests.
And perhaps as expected, the more candid a shot the more nuances of your personality show through.
“In an age dominated by social media where personal photographs are ubiquitous, it becomes important to understand the ways personality is communicated via our appearance,” said study researcher Laura Naumann of Sonoma State University. “The appearance one portrays in his or her photographs has important implications for their professional and social life.”
With this information, there’s always the option of tweaking your image, and thus your personality to the outside world. “If you want potential employers or romantic suitors to see you as a warm and friendly individual, you should post pictures where you smile or are standing in a relaxed pose,” Naumann said.
Scientists have known physical appearance is important for first impressions and that such initial impressionscan be hard to undo, particularly negative ones. Studies have shown judgments made at first glance of a CEOcan predict his or her success. But until now little was known about how well people judged personality based on appearance and what physical factors are most important.
In the new study, 12 observers looked at full-body photos of 123 undergraduate students who they had never met before. Six observers viewed the students in a neutral pose and six saw the same students in a spontaneous pose.
The participants rated each photo on 10 personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness (open to experience), likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity and political orientation.
To figure out accuracy of the judgments, the researchers compared the results with the posers’ self-ratings and ratings from three close friends.
For the controlled poses, the observers accurately judged extraversion and self-esteem. When participants looked at the naturally expressive shots, which revealed dynamic non-verbal cues, they were nearly spot-on, getting nine out ofthe 10 traits correct (everything but political orientation).
“Extraversion is one of those things that’s probably the easiest trait to judge,” Naumann told LiveScience. “Even without seeing whether someone is smiling or not people can pick that up.”
But when judging likeability, observers got it right on average for 55 percent of the photos with neutral poses and 64 percent of the expressive photos. Similar results were found for agreeableness, with participants judging correctly 45 percent of the time for neutral poses compared with 60 percent in the expressive images.
Women who get the recommended amount of fiber in their diets may have lower estrogen levels and ovulate less often than women who eat less fiber, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among 250 women ages 18 to 44, those who reported eating the recommended amounts of fiber had the lowest blood levels of estrogen and other reproductive hormones.
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