Watching the World
Pollution and Childhood Cancer
After analyzing a 27-year study of 22,400 British children, a team of epidemiologists found that youngsters that were born within three miles [5 km] of a source of pollution were 20 percent more at risk of dying of leukemia and other childhood cancers than others were. Exposure to airborne pollutants is “the most likely mechanism” by which increased cases of childhood cancer were caused, reports The Times of London. The pollutants responsible appear to be gasoline fumes or other volatile organic chemicals spewed forth by industrial plants such as oil refineries, automobile factories, nonnuclear power stations, steelworks, and cement works. The study also reports that among children born within two and a half miles [4 km] of motorways and railways, there were increased deaths due to cancer. Gasoline and diesel fuels are likely to blame, claim the authors of the report.
Religion in Brazil
A recent survey shows that “99 per cent of Brazilians believe in God,” reports the ENI Bulletin. According to the survey of nearly 2,000 people, 72 percent professed Catholicism, 11 percent said they were Protestants, and 9 percent did not profess any particular religion. The rest followed Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian religions. “When asked if they had been to a church or religious building during the previous weekend, 57 per cent said they had not,” says ENI. Only 44 percent believe in eternal punishment. While 69 percent of Brazilians believe in heaven, only 32 percent expect to go there.
Who Holds the Remote Control?
Researchers at EURISPES (Institute for Political, Economic and Social Studies), in Italy, recently published the results of a study on TV-watching habits. Almost 2,000 Italian families were interviewed. They were asked, among other questions, who in the family is more likely to hold and operate the TV remote control, dubbed by a newspaper article the modern-day rod of power in the family. In most cases the father was mentioned as the one in control. Children came in second as the decision makers when it comes to switching channels. The mother came in last in the power struggle to hold the remote control in the family.
According to the Nigerian newspaper Weekend Concord, a recent study found that “Nigerian adolescents are among the most sexually active in the world.” Some 68 percent of boys and 43 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 19 admitted to having had intercourse “shortly after the onset of puberty.” This has led to many unwanted pregnancies. A separate study shows that “71 per cent of all deaths of young women under 19 years [of age] in Nigeria were related to abortion complications,” says the Concord.
A recent article in the French medical newspaper Le Quotidien du Médecin highlighted a worrisome trend that seems to be increasing—not washing one’s hands before eating or after using the toilet. According to Dr. Frédéric Saldmann, this simple lack of personal hygiene is a major dietary risk and would seem to be a widespread problem. The article cites one study in which bowls of peanuts in English pubs were found to contain traces of urine from 12 different sources. Another study in an American school revealed that regular hand-washing supervised by a teacher reduced the number of children absent from school with digestive problems by 51 percent and those absent with respiratory problems by 23 percent. The article concludes by stressing the importance of teaching children such basic rules of hygiene from infancy.
Growing Economy and Poverty
Although the global economy grew by 40 percent from 1975 to 1985, “the number of poor people worldwide increased by 17%,” notes HCHR News, a bulletin of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Today, in 89 countries people are worse off economically than they were ten or more years ago. In 70 developing countries, the levels of income are even lower than they were 20, and in some cases 30, years ago. Economic growth, concludes HCHR News, has only benefited “a minority of countries.”
Unsafe Structures in Italy
During the last century, earthquakes have claimed more than 120,000 victims in Italy. Yet, about 25 million Italians live in areas where “64 percent of the buildings are not earthquake safe,” reports Corriere della Sera. Among the unsafe structures are hospitals, fire stations, and other buildings that would become emergency centers should a calamity occur. An average of 7,000 billion lire ($4 billion, U.S.) is spent every year in Italy to repair damage caused by geologic and industrial calamities. One expert explains that “often those enormous amounts spent after catastrophes . . . have been used to reconstruct [buildings] in the same incorrect way and in the same high-risk locations.”
Blood and HIV Infection
Of the nearly 22 million people infected with HIV⁄AIDS worldwide, over 90 percent live in developing countries. “Up to 10 percent of new HIV infections in developing countries are caused by blood transfusions,” reports Panos, a London-based information organization. In many countries, blood supplies are not safe because laboratory tests for HIV are not fully reliable. In Pakistan, for instance, fewer than half of all blood banks have HIV-screening equipment. As a result, 12 percent of all new HIV infections there are caused by blood transfusions. Since the first cases of AIDS were reported over 15 years ago, nearly 30 million people worldwide have contracted HIV, the virus that causes the disease.
An Exaggerated Fear of God
In a recent study, interviews were conducted with Brazilian children suffering from stress. It was found, according to the ENI Bulletin, that a large percentage of children experience anguish related to an exaggerated fear of God. While 25 percent of the children were experiencing tension related to family problems or the death of a relative, 75 percent showed signs of anguish because they see God as a vengeful figure intent on punishing. The study “urged parents to teach their children that God would help them and could understand them,” reports ENI.
An elephant’s vocal cords are so huge that the basic frequency of the sounds they produce is 20 cycles per second or less—well below the range of human hearing. Such deep rumblings carry well, and elephants can recognize them from a mile [1.5 km] away. They can also identify as many as 150 different calls, responding positively to the signals of family members and those bonded to their group. Usually elephants ignore the calls of strangers or become agitated at hearing them. After research studies in the Amboseli National Park, in Kenya, animal behaviorist Dr. Karen McComb, of Britain’s University of Sussex, explained that “such extensive networks of vocal communication have not been demonstrated in any other mammal,” reports The Times of London.