At the end of the tunnel...darkness. No sooner is one modern scourge eliminated than two more takes its place.

By Robert Sarner, Canadian Weekend magazine, Feb. 2, 1980

Every year about this time, we feel it our duty to bring you some cool new facts of life. This year, in the usual optimism that oozes forth to greet a new decade, we note that some people are already being foolish enough to predict that the '80s may even be an improvement on the '70s.

Don't believe a word of it. Things aren't as bad as they seem, they're worse. Much worse. We speak not of such concerns as galloping inflation, nuclear reactors gone amok, ayatollah's revenge or sovereignty association for Quebec. They're nothing next to the real perils of everyday existence, as proved over the last year by those scientists, psychologists, researchers and other partypoopers who make it their business to uncover new dangers to complicate our lives.

Alas, most of their findings - buried in the far reaches of newspapers and professional journals - go unnoticed. But not to worry. We have been patrolling the pages on your behalf, and so it is that we can introduce you to your enemies. Read on - and draw what solace you may, if any.


SAN DIEGO - Milk, traditionally considered above reproach, may have a sinister side to it after all. Alexander Schauss, a behavioral researcher at the Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, says drinking too much milk can cause juvenile delinquency. Excessive amounts of the vitamin D and calcium found in milk can interrupt the growth of vital body tissue when coupled with malnutrition and poor eating habits. Chronic juvenile offenders, according to Schauss, shun fruits, nuts and vegetables and consume excessive amounts of milk.

"Some of these youngsters drink 120 ounces of milk a day," says Schauss. "And they suffer from malnutrition from overconsuming foods that do not contain enough nutrients."


TORONTO - To court contentment can be a trip through angst alley, since happiness can be the root of all kinds of problems. "Happiness is a source of terrible anxiety for some people," says Nathaniel Branden, an author and lecturer at the University of Southern California School of Philosophy. "People get this weird feeling when they're happy: 'Oh, oh! It can't last. This isn't the way things usually go for me.' Then they do what they can to get rid of it."

Speaking before a Toronto audience, he said some people can't leave their happiness alone. "People think they don't deserve happiness, that it can't last, and that if it does something will happen as a punishment. People always say they want to be happy, but how can you have a successful relationship if happiness makes you nervous?"


WASHINGTON - You may be getting into trouble when getting into bed. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, beds are dangerous and getting more so every year. In its annual listing of the 10 most dangerous consumer products in the United States, the commission says that beds jumped from 10th spot in 1977 to seventh in 1978, the last year for which figures are available.

Meanwhile, chairs and sofas lurched from 11th position to eighth. (Bicycles were the Number 1 threat, stairs Number 2) Most of the 100,000 injuries related to chairs and sofas in 1978 involved people - mostly small children - bumping into them or falling from them. For no given reason, the number was 24,000 higher than the previous year. There was also no explanation as to why beds are more dangerous.


CHICAGO - There may be something dastardly about the toilet seat after all. Two American doctors say the old myth that you can contract venereal disease from a toilet seat is more rooted in reality than most people realize. Drs. James Gilbaugh Jr. and Peter Fuchs report in the New England Journal of Medicine that gonorrhea can survive for several hours on a toilet seat or toilet tissue if the bacteria are not allowed to dry.


TORONTO - Being redheaded can be hazardous to your health. According to a study by a University of Western Ontario nursing professor, red-haired children fall ill more often, more seriously and for longer periods than other children.

Professor Brigid Peer compared the health histories of 30 red-haired children and 30 children with other hair colours. She found that, as a group, red-haired children also take longer to heal from cuts, scrapes and bruises, as well as to recover from illnesses.

"Mothers should make sure that their redheaded children have their immunization shots," says Professor Peer. "These illnesses should be taken seriously since these children are more liable to develop complications and their infections may be more serious."


LONDON, Ont. - Allowing a husband into the delivery room while his wife gives birth could spell curtains for their love life. According to a sex therapist, Dr. Avinoam Chernick, the less a certain type of man sees of his child's birth, the better off the marriage will be.

"A man unprepared for the sight, sound, pain and blood could sour on sex with his wife," says the obstetrician/gynecologist. "Men who are turned on by the thought of a madonna-type wife might have real problems after they see their wives grunting and pushing."


PORTLAND, Ore. - Everyone knows that sniffing airplane glue can blow your mind. Now comes word that sniffing typewriter correction fluid can blow your mind forever. Medical authorities in Oregon say a 14-year-old girl collapsed after sniffing Liquid Paper - a correction fluid commonly used by typists - and died shortly afterward.

Dr. William Brady, Oregon's state medical examiner, says the heart ceases to beat soon after the fluid is sniffed, resulting in a brief hyperexcitement followed by "dropping in your tracks." Numerous reports of Liquid Paper sniffing deaths in Dallas, Texas, where the solvent is made, have prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate.


NEW YORK - For millions of North Americans, the inhaling of nitrous oxide has long been considered a quick, risk-free high. Now a University of California professor has come along to show the unamusing side of laughing gas.

In treating his patients, Robert Layzer found that habitual use of nitrous oxide can cause nerve disorders, damage to the spinal cord and other negative effects. Laughing gas, he notes, is a "probable cause of neurological disorder." His patients, all of them heavy and longtime users of nitrous oxide, suffered a variety of ill effects, including numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, a loss of balance, an inability to hold objects and "an electric shock sensation when they bend their necks." In more than one case, a patient was "totally unable to walk or stand." Concludes Layzer: "Nitrous oxide does not deserve its reputation for being a safe and harmless drug for recreational purposes."


NEW YORK - You may be asking for trouble - and a hearing aid - if you travel by airplane. When a plane makes its descent to land, it turns out, the changes in the cabin's air pressure can cause permanent damage to your ears.

"Awareness is relatively new that pressure changes can cause inner-ear problems," says Dr. Maurice Miller, professor of audiology at New York University. If your ear malfunctions and doesn't compensate for the air pressure changes in the cabin, the resultant pressure on the delicate bones and tissues may bring on inner-ear barotraumas or aerotitis. In its mildest form, aerotitis causes a feeling of pressure in the ear and some pain and hearing loss, which usually stops shortly after the plane, has landed.

In many cases, according to Miller, the symptoms can be more serious. "The passenger will have severe pain in the ear, experience a noticeable hearing loss or a ringing sensation in the ear, have the disturbing sensation of hearing his own voice amplified and distorted, and suffer vertigo." Barotrauma is even more serious. "This problem is normally not reversible," says Miller. "Ruptures of the inner-ear membranes are often untreatable and can result in a total hearing loss."


LOS ANGELES - Grouchy doctors are bad for your health. So says Norman Cousins, a former editor and literary critic who teaches a course on laughter at the University of California's medical school.

"Any medical student can give you a horrendous catalogue of all the terrible things that happen to your body under the impact of negative emotions like fear and hate," notes Cousins, who maintains that laughter will help cure disease. "But we haven't yet sufficiently recognized that the body also responds to positive emotions." Cousins, who a few years ago suffered from a cell disease that baffled doctors, cured it with the help of old Marx Brothers movies and Candid Camera reruns. "So while illness is not a laughing matter," says Cousins, who has applied the same principle successfully to others, "perhaps it ought to be."


LOS ANGELES - Sitting still stunts the performance of your brain. After 40 years of observing college students while they write exams, a University of California physiologist says those who squirm and fidget earn better grades than their more passive peers.

"Wiggling makes the brain work better," says Lawrence Morehouse. "Students who just sit have a tendency to do badly, even stupidly, on the final exam questions. We tell children to sit still and be quiet when in fact we should be encouraging all manner of squirming, wriggling and stretching, even yawning. A good physiological child wiggles a lot."


BOSTON - Making love can make your memory go blank. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the disorder - called transient global amnesia - is caused by a lack of blood in the brain. It is usually noticed after physical exertion and is only temporary.

In the report, Dr. Richard Mayeux of the Neurological Institute describes a 64-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man who lost their memories after sex with their spouses. "After sexual intercourse with her husband," Mayeux wrote of the woman, "she suddenly experienced confusion and disorientation and could not recognize her surroundings." About the second case he said, "His wife found him in a state of confusion wandering around the house just after completing sexual intercourse."


OTTAWA - The beer you drink may be spiked with a substance that can leave you with more than a big belly. According to the federal health protection branch, certain Canadian beers - it won't say which - contain traces of a cancer-causing chemical. Nitrosamine, a chemical naturally produced during the malting process, has been found to exist in some Canadian brands. The chemical has proven to be cancer-causing in animals, but according to a report by the federal health branch, it has not yet proven dangerous to humans. "There's no reason, however," the report emphasizes, "to believe that it doesn't hurt humans."


CHICAGO - Doctors are no friends of yours if you want to stay healthy, says a medical man of 28 years' experience. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a Chicago professor of medicine, says doctors are dangerous to your health, hospitals can kill you, and baby formula is "the granddaddy of junk foods."

In a recent book, Mendelsohn says he has become a "medical heretic" - he no longer believes in modern medicine, which he likens to a church with its priests and acolytes, rituals, liturgies and sacrifices. He describes it as a church whose god is death and whose religion is based on faith, not scientific facts. He urged readers to stop trusting doctors and start asking questions.


TORONTO - Shed a tear for the lonely for they are cavity-prone. Dr. Sam Green, director of the dental division of a suburban health department, maintains that kissing stimulates the mouth's saliva flow; if you're not kissing, you're not doing all you can to fight cavities. The more saliva that showers the teeth, the less acid that stays there to start the process of tooth decay.

"Kissing, or anything like sex that psychologically stimulates the secretion of saliva," says Green "is good for fighting tooth decay."


ADELAIDE, Australia - On the other hand, Dr. Tony Rogers, an Adelaide University scientist, says kissing may promote tooth decay. In the university newsletter, he says experiments on the spread of tooth decay indicate that the cavity-producing organisms can be transmitted from person to person via the saliva, as can happen during kissing.


SAN FRANCISCO - Certain foods served at sporting events can cause fans to become violent. A nutritionist, Dr. H.L. Newbold, says that the hot dogs, hot dog and hamburger buns, beer and soft drinks dispensed by many stadium concessionaires contain additives that can make people more aggressive and violence-prone. He advocates that stadiums serve fruit juices, hamburgers without buns and vitamin pills instead.


NEW YORK - The artist's studio, long envied and romanticized in the popular imagination, is fraught with occupational hazards. A New York Times report says millions of professional artists and hobbyists can be endangered by inadequate labeling on art materials and the widespread use of toxic substances instead of safer substitutes. Art supplies may pose a special risk to children, who are more susceptible than adults to such substances as lead (widely used in pigments, pottery glazes and stained glass solders) and such carcinogens as asbestos (a frequent contaminant in artists' talc and sculpting stones) and nickel, cadmium, chromium and uranium oxide (which are used in pigments and pottery glazes). It also cites the presence of arsenic and three dangerous solvents. "After working 18 to 30 hours at a stretch, an artist is so tired he can't walk straight," Albert Elsen, a Stanford University professor, told the Times. "If he happens to experience double vision, a pain in his chest or blood in his urine, he attributes it to the long stint in the studio. Few artists-or, for that matter, doctors-are well enough informed to link health problems to artwork." Depending on the poison the artist is exposed to, the product may rupture his or her red blood cells, reduce oxygen reaching the heart, cause respiratory irritations, or lead to asbestosis, liver damage, digestive and menstrual problems, and worrisome skin ulcers.


MINNEAPOLIS - Children who participate in sports and do lots of exercise may be punishing themselves. So says Lela Stoner, assistant professor of physical education at the University of Minnesota, who claims a growing child who exercises too much or concentrates on one sport exclusively can damage his or her bone growth. Prolonged exercise, particularly repetitive drills and sports using only one part of the body, should not be practiced by children until the age of 13 or 14, Stoner warns. She maintains that a sport that exercises one side of a child's body more than the other, such as tennis, can cause a difference in bone development between the two sides.


GUELPH, Ont. - All this time you thought drinking coffee and other caffeine beverages was merely keeping you up at night. Now comes word that such drinks can also cause increases in your weight. Trevor Smith, a University of Guelph nutrition professor, says drinking coffee, tea and cola beverages can lead to obesity because caffeine causes the stomach to contract, resulting in a feeling of hunger. Consequently, drinkers of caffeine beverages are likely to have something to eat along with their drink.


AUSTELL, Ga. - Swearing can be the death of you, says the local police chief. After announcing that pronouncing profanities is now against the law thanks to a new city ordinance, Clyde Hardin said swearing can lead to murder. When police are called to quell domestic battles, Hardin explained, "Before it's over, one way or the other, one of them will turn on the officer, telling him to 'get the h-e-double-l out of here, this ain't none of your business! That usually sparks a contest to see who can outcuss each other," says the chief. "It's like a loaded shotgun."


Every year we try desperately to end this roundup on a hopeful note. It's not always easy...but here goes:

MIAMI BEACH - Mama wasn't just upholding tradition when she served you chicken soup as soon as you got the sniffles. There's now scientific proof that it helps cure colds. A study at the Mt. Sinai Medical Centre in Miami Beach found that fresh chicken soup cleared mucus from nasal passages at the rate of 9.2 millimetres per minute, compared to 8.4 for hot water and 4.5 for cold water. Dr. Marvin Sackner measured the progress with x-rays. His findings, published in Chest, a journal of pulmonary disease, were subjected to peer review and pronounced "statistically significant." Cheer up!

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