Noise and Health, James G Watt, Filthy Five, and Other News Items

The connection between noise and health, the confirmation hearings of James G. Watt as Interior Secretary, and the most polluting "filthy five" corporations were among the short news items covering in this installment of a regular feature.

| September/October 1981

  • 071 noise and health - Gatopancho - Fotolia
    Researchers at the Miami School of Medicine who exposed rhesus monkeys to modern forms of noise pollution found a definite connection between noise and health problems. 

  • 071 noise and health - Gatopancho - Fotolia

NOISE AND HEALTH: Rhesus monkeys exposed to a daily ration of such "civilized" sounds as an alarm clock, running water, construction noise, a radio, and 50 minutes of TV's Today Show displayed an average rise of 87% in their blood pressure over a nine-month period, according to researchers at the Miami School of Medicine. What's more, a month after the noise treatment ended, the primates' blood pressure was still elevated, suggesting that many of the sounds most humans take for granted may be capable of causing long-lasting health problems.

WATT'S GOING ON HERE? During questioning at a Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt—known for his aggressive stance in favor of developing the nation's natural resources—was asked whether he was concerned that such action would leave little unspoiled nature for future generations to enjoy. It's reported that Watt replied: "I don't think we can count on too many more generations before the Lord returns."

THE FILTHY FIVE: Environmental Action has named the new "filthy five," companies that have repeatedly violated environmental laws and have made heavy campaign contributions, through their political action committees, to congressional candidates with poor environmental voting records. The organization reports that the five corporations—Weyerhaeuser, Dow Chemical, Occidental Petroleum, Amoco Oil, and Republic Steel—spent in excess of $1 million during 1980 to assist their "friends."

ECOLOGY ETYMOLOGY: The word "ecology" was, it's said, coined in 1892 by Ellen Swallow, the first woman to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ms. Swallow—a chemistry instructor who championed women's studies—developed a science of environmental quality, which she dubbed "ecology". Although she envisioned the field as encompassing industrial health, water and air quality, transportation, and nutrition, the science soon became known as "home ecology" ... and, eventually, "home economics."

WATERFOWL POISONING: During the winter of 1980, 3,000 Canada geese died at Lake Puckaway, Wisconsin—a popular hunting spot—after they swallowed large amounts of lead shotgun pellets during feeding. Hunters can alleviate the danger by switching to steel, or soft-iron, shot.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST? The U.S. Department of the Interior is, in effect, adopting a controversial system called "triage" to determine which endangered animals and plants will survive. Triage is a wartime practice whereby medical officers rank the wounded according to their chances for survival and administer treatment only to those whose prospects are best. In a similar manner, the federal government will be channeling funds, care, and research to those species that are deemed most important ...on the basis of both economic and political considerations!

GOOD NEWS FOR TWEETY PIE: The firm Biowarfarin has developed a safe, herb-derived substance known as "SCATCAT," which is purported to keep felines away from birds. The product, its manufacturers say, is added to seed in a feeder. When birds eat the food, they acquire a lemony odor that seems to disgust cats.

THE LONELIEST JOB: In response to the plight of sheep ranchers in the West—who are finding a shortage of American workers to tend their flocks—the University of Wyoming has started the nation's only school for sheepherders. One Wyoming official estimated that half of the state's 300 year-round shepherds are immigrants, primarily from the Basque region of Spain. A typical shepherd receives about $890 a month, room and board, and medical benefits a lot of solitude.

ABSENT-MINDED COMMUTERS: Travelers on Japan's National Railway Lines left the equivalent of $18.8 million plus 187 sets of false teeth, 81 small animals, and 844,000 umbrellas on passenger trains and in stations during 1980. Railroad officials said the largest sum of money found was almost $240,000. They attributed the unusually high yield of umbrellas (up 1,100% over 1979) to 1980's extended rainy spells.

In the People's Republic of China—where Coca-Cola recently opened a bottling plant—citizens pronounce the drink's name as "Ke Kou Ke Le", which roughly translated means TASTY HAPPINESS ... SALMON RETURNING TO SPAWN in the watershed around Mount St. Helens are trying to avoid ash-laden water, researchers say, even if it means moving into an area that is not the fish's natural territory ... During the last decade, the Swedes have been subjected, on the average, to a NEW LAW OR ORDINANCE ENACTED EVERY EIGHT HOURS causing them to be the most legislated-against nationality in modern history ... A NEW SURVEY BY ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS shows that among new members since 1977, about 34% are women and 25% are 30 years of age or less ... In Cambridge, Maryland last year SEAGULLS EXACTED REVENGE AGAINST HUMANS: The birds, seemingly angered when a parking lot was built over their nesting grounds, pelted cars with oyster shells ... According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, many people can—with the aid of hypnosis—RECALL THEIR BIRTHS IN DETAIL, and the memories are surprisingly accurate when compared with the mothers' recollections ... Dentists and dental assistants who are HEAVY DISPENSERS OF NITROUS OXIDE (commonly called laughing gas) are said to be four times more likely than nonusers to experience neurological disorders such as numbness, muscle weakness, or tingling jitters.

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