News briefs on the huge numbers associated with lost property on Japanese trains, a lost radioactive tritium cylinder that fell off the back of a truck and facts about the human foot.
ABSENT-MINDED UPDATE: Last year, we published a list of lost property on trains left behind by forgetful travelers in Japan's National Railway trains and depots. Well, a new tally is in, and a record amount of cash—$11 million—was found . . . not to mention a diamond worth over $400,000 (it was reunited with its rightful owner), 525,000 umbrellas and 144 sets of false teeth (both categories are down from last year), a live raccoon, and the cremated remains of ten people.
UP ON THE ROOF: A Swedish study of 2,495 chimney sweeps—all of whom had been actively employed in the profession for at least ten years—indicated that there might be a variety of health problems associated with the occupation. Sweeps seem to be five times as likely as the average population to develop cancer of the liver and the esophagus and three times as likely to develop lung cancer . . . have an "excess" (or early) mortality rate of 24% . . . and experience 20% more cardiovascular disease.
OOPS! A cylinder containing radioactive tritium, a component of nuclear weapons, went unrecovered after it fell off the back of a truck en route from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to an airport. Officials speculate that the person who found the tritium decided to keep it because its white, fiberglass-paneled footlocker-style container would make a nice storage chest . . . despite (or maybe because of?) the fact that it's labeled "radioactive".
IS AN ACCIDENT AN ACCIDENT IF YOU'RE DRUNK? The Center for Disease Control recently released statistics on drownings, which are the second leading cause (the first is motor vehicle accidents) of unintentional death among people aged 5 to 44. Surprisingly, in one study, approximately 47% of adults who drowned were found to have evidence of alcohol in their blood.
HUNTING FOR LAND: Instead of a lottery or an essay contest, an Oregon landowner has come up with a unique way to sell his family's property during these times of tight money: a treasure hunt (scheduled for October 1982). For a $100 entry fee, each participant receives a list of clues to the where-abouts of a facsimile deed to the property. The first person to locate the document wins the $100,000 organic farm . . . which includes a greenhouse, 100 peach trees, and four acres planted in cherries.
SMOKELESS TOBACCO: Nicotine from chewing tobacco can be absorbed into the bloodstream and will affect the body elsewhere, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine. The study involved 20 male athletes, who placed measured wads of tobacco in their mouths while their heart rates and blood pressures were monitored. Within 20 minutes, the heart rates increased from an average of 69 to 88 beats per minute . . . while systolic blood pressures rose from an average of 118 to 126.
LONG-LIVED JAPANESE: A United Nations study shows that the life expectancy of Japanese men has lengthened by 16.5 years, and that of the nation's women by 18.4 years, since 1950 . . . the largest such increases recorded among U.N. member nations. Furthermore, a Japanese study predicts that the country will have the highest proportion of elderly of any nation in the world by the year 2025 . . . when 23.8% of the population will be 65 or older.
FEET FACTS: Two intriguing reports came out of the annual meeting of the American Podiatry Association this past summer. One study concluded that flat feet are advantageous to basketball players, since athletes with normal or high arches often feel strain and pain from running up and down on hard surfaces. The other identified a new podiatric ill, "video foot", which is affecting devotees of electronic games. The symptoms-considerable foot pain and lower-back strain-can be avoided if marathon video gamesters walk around occasionally and wear shoes with thick crepe or rubber soles.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE ON MOSQUITOES: Scientists at the University of California at Riverside have developed a biological insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI), that has proved effective against mosquitoes (the insects—as you likely know—carry malaria, encephalitis, and canine heartworm). The species-specific bacteria will not kill most other insects, fish, spiders, or birds . . . and are effective on mosquitoes only during their larval stage.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees reports that THE WORLDWIDE TOTAL OF PERSONS RECOGNIZED AS REFUGEES ROSE to around 10,000,000 during 1982, an increase of almost 800,000 from the 1981 total . . . A new public health study contradicts existing research on the link between BIRTH CONTROL PILLS AND CANCER IN WOMEN , indicating that women who have used oral contraceptives are approximately half as likely to develop ovarian and endometrial cancer as are women who have never used them. The report also said contraceptive use does not appear to increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer . . . The John Muir Institute of Napa, California—which includes the Center for the Integration of Applied Science headed by Bill and Helga Olkowski (see their article on controlling garden pests in MOTHER EARTH NEWS issue NO. 76, page 166)—has been awarded a $131,500 grant from the Mott Foundation for third-year support of A PROGRAM TO DEMONSTRATE URBAN USE OF INTEGRATED PEST- AND WASTE-MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS . . . A new National Academy of Sciences report suggests that (surprise!) there is a LINK BETWEEN WHAT PEOPLE EAT AND THEIR CHANCES OF GETTING CANCER. The study contradicts a 1980 version by the agency, which concluded that "healthy people" need not worry about fat and cholesterol.