Underground Condos, Second Hand Smoke Dangers, and Other News Items

Underground condos in Utah and a Japanese study outlining second hand smoke dangers were among the news items covered in this installment of a regular feature.

070 second hand smoke dangers - Fotolia - Kristin Lincoln

Second hand smoke dangers include a higher risk of lung cancer, according to a 15 year Japanese study.


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UNDERGROUND CONDOS: The first underground condominiums—266 windowless residences buried beneath 8 inches of reinforced concrete and 3 1/2 feet of earth—have gone on the market in La Verkin, Utah. The survival condos range in price from $39,000 to $78,000. The dwellings "extra" features include a four-year supply of dried food per home, air and water filtration systems, water storage facilities, and emergency generators.

SECOND HAND SMOKE DANGERS: A 15-year Japanese study has concluded that the spouses of heavy smokers (defined as people who smoke a pack a day) are more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer—even though they themselves do not use tobacco—as are nonsmoking partners of nonsmokers.

  FAIR WARNING ... In 1950, the U.S. population used 30 billion gallons of ground water daily. Now the figure has increased to 100 billion gallons a day .... Last fall—for the first time ever—690,000 residents of Tidewater Virginia were subject to water rationing because the region had received only half of its average rainfall .... It requires an estimated 50,000 pounds of water to produce one pound of beef .... The Tennessee Valley Authority termed the prospects for bringing its reservoirs to full capacity this summer "extremely poor" unless there is a dramatic change in the weather patterns that have prevailed since June of 1980.

... AND THEN SOME! Arable farm soil in the U.S. is currently being paved over at the rate of one-half square mile per hour .... About 225 million acres of American land—making up an area roughly the size of the original 13 colonies—are undergoing severe desertification .... Nearly 4.2 million acres of wheat, cotton, and summer fallow lands were damaged during the 1980-81 wind season (to put it graphically, two bushels of farm soil are blown or washed away for every bushel of corn grown in Iowa) .... Between five and seven million hectares of agricultural land worldwide are being completely lost to production, through soil deterioration, every year.

EAT YOUR FIREWOOD: Scientists say that products of the "shmoo tree" (named after Al Capp's amorphous cartoon characters) can be used as cocktail snacks, fertilizer, timber for building, coffee substitutes, flour surrogates, candy, and cattle forage. The fast-growing relative of the mimosa—it's commonly called the leucaena, leadtree, or jumbie bean—will flourish on marginal land, as well!

HOPE FOR HERPES: A protein found in pokeweed—a plant that grows wild throughout the southeastern U.S.—may be a cure for herpes. Texas researchers report that the plant extract inhibits the growth of herpes viruses, yet is not toxic to surrounding cell tissue.

EARTHSHAKING FACTS: The number of significant earthquakes—that is, those that registered 6.5 or above on the Richter Scale—increased to 71 during 1980 (1979's total was 56). Of the 11 quakes that occurred in the U.S. during that spell, seven hit California.

THE RADIOACTIVE FLUSH: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed new standards that would permit a wide variety of garbage containing "small" amounts of radioactive material to be burned, placed in landfills or dumps, flushed down toilets, or—in the case of metals—sold as scrap!

RARE EARTH: MOTHER EARTH NEWS' staffers have discovered the ultimate wish book: Rare Earth Report, a publication featuring exotic real estate properties around the world ... some of which cost less than $20,000! One-year, six-issue subscriptions are available—at $36—from Rare Earth Report.

AS SAFE AS MOTHER'S MILK: PCB's—extremely stable, carcinogenic chemicals—have been found in every sample of breast milk taken from 1,000 nursing mothers in Michigan. Health officials say that the amounts ranged from a trace to 5 parts per million, with the average being 1.5 PPM. Ironically, if cow's milk contained a level of PCB's as high as 1.5 PPM, it could not be sold!

Secretary of the Interior James Watt has stopped all further expenditures to acquire land to protect the APPALACHIAN TRAIL, bringing to a halt negotiations that would have provided critical links in the wilderness path way .... Experts now believe that hyperkinesis—a disruptive behavior disorder once believed to be largely confined to children—probably afflicts about ONE IN EVERY 20 ADULTS .... The Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded ten HOT TUB DROWNINGS in 1979, and attributed the deaths to excessively high water temperatures. Three of the accidents were linked with alcohol consumption .... Although all of the rivers in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo have been declared biologically dead, the nation's president has postponed the enforcement of a law BANNING THE USE OF NONBIODEGRADABLE DETERGENTS for two years .... A Pasadena, Texas landowner and state wildlife officials are locking horns over the fate of a pond on the Lone Star Stater's property that is alleged to contain some WHITE AMUR, A FISH PROHIBITED IN TEXAS . Biologists want to destroy the pond's inhabitants because they fear that flood waters could carry the grass carp's roe to a body of moving water, where the eggs could hatch .... SNAIL DARTERS HAVE BEEN FOUND 80 miles from the controversial Tellico Dam in Tennessee, an area thought to be the darters' only natural habitat. Biologists are questioning whether the fish have migrated from the Tellico site or always lived at the "new" spot.