Bits and Pieces: Sodium, Chronic Illnesses and Kudzu

Short news bits on dirty air, drinking water and llamas.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1984


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Screening Out VDT Risks: The flood of computers in the workplace has been followed by an almost equally large wave of medical complaints from the users of video display terminals. While the debate over health hazards from such equipment still rages, one company has stepped forward with Somashield, a transparent screen that fits onto a computer (or television) and reportedly blocks up to 99% of the low-level radiation. The device costs from $50 to $150 depending on the size.

Llama Prices Soar: A few years back, when MOTHER EARTH NEWS first advocated llama raising as a profitable enterprise, the male animals cost between $400 and $1,000, and the she-llamas could be had for $2,500 to $3,000. It looks now, though, as if profitable was an understatement. A recent economic newsletter informed investors that the woolly creatures are now fetching up to $10,000 each!

Global Fare: The World Development Forum has found that most of humanity's nourishment is provided by a mere dozen kinds of plants: corn, rice, wheat, sugar beet, sugar cane, cassava, potato, sweet potato, common bean, soybean, coconut, and banana.

Hot Tub Caution: A major medical journal reports that contaminated water in improperly maintained hot tubs and whirlpools can cause urinary infections or even life-threatening pneumonia among bathers. Although the number of reported cases of such illnesses remains small, doctors emphasize the importance of checking chlorine levels and filtering systems in the baths.

A-Peeling Insecticide: University of Georgia scientists have discovered that oil from citrus rinds can be used as a potent bug-killer. The researchers say that if further testing of the fruit skins goes well, "wastes" that the juice industry usually discards by the ton could be turned into an insecticide that's safe for pets, livestock, and even humans.

Nuclear Frieze: Justine Merritt of Denver, Colorado is hoping that her frieze (a richly ornamented banner, often used to decorate buildings) will contribute to the nuclear armistice . . . "peace by peace". She's inviting people across the country to help put together a giant ribbon—decorated with expressions of concern and hope-to be draped around the Pentagon building in August 1985 (40 years after the bombings of Japan).

Sodium Down the Drain: If you are trying to cut your sodium intake but find that commercially available "low salt" products are prohibitively expensive, you'll be interested in this piece of scientific common sense from researchers at Duke University Medical Center. The scientists found that a one-minute rinsing with regular tap water washes almost 80% of the sodium from the water-packed tuna . . . and renders cottage cheese more than 50% salt-free. Although a bit of the food's flavor and calcium is also lost through this process, its protein content remains the same.

Radioactive Bugs: According to the Chicago Sun-Times , the Energy Department found that the gnats, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and honeybees living around ponds at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory were contaminated with radiation. Despite the fact that even the bees' honey is slightly radioactive, the department maintains that the insects are not harmful to humans.

Acid Rain Makes the News: Maine TV-viewers can tune into weekly reports on acid rain along with the local weather forecast . . . thanks to a National Wildlife Federation affiliate that developed an index used to measure rainfall acidity. The NWF is hoping that the television reports will spread to other states, and help increase public awareness of the problem.

Kudzu Compost: Once the stubborn kudzu vine takes hold, it's close to impossible to get id of. But Charles Wilber of Crane Hill, Alabama simply harvests the prolific plant on a regular basis . . . so he can turn it into an organic fertilizer with which he grows 18-pound radishes and 9-3/4"-round strawberries. Charles says it takes the kudzu about three months in a wire bin—he turns it over every few days—to turn into the magical fertilizer.

Cleaning Up: Here's more evidence that a healthful environment and a healthy economy can go hand in hand. As reported in the Audubon Leader , the Environmental Protection Agency assessed the time and wages lost because of chronic illnesses brought on by dirty air, and discovered that if air pollution levels were reduced by 60%, the U.S. would benefit to the tune of $36 billion a year!

More Bits:  

The U.S. has the second highest teenage-pregnancy rate in the developed world.

12 million gallons of used crankcase oil were collected in Maryland in 1982 through the state's Used Oil Recycling Program. That's no trivial feat when you consider that-as found in a Virginia study—one quart of improperly discarded oil can contaminate 2 million gallons of water.

According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of all disease is caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation.


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