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.

| July/August 1981

  • 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.

  • 070 second hand smoke dangers - Fotolia - Kristin Lincoln

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.

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