Watching the World

Antiviral Tea

Preliminary lab studies show that “a wide variety of commercial teas appear to either inactivate or kill viruses,” reports Reuters Health Information. Several types of green and black teas, regular and iced, were tested on animal tissues infected with such viruses as herpes simplex 1 and 2 and the T1 (bacterial) virus. According to researcher Dr. Milton Schiffenbauer of Pace University in New York, “iced tea or regular tea does destroy or inactivate the [herpes] virus within a few minutes.” Similar results were obtained with the T1 virus. While it is not yet clear how tea interferes with the survival of these viruses, researchers found that even after substantially diluting the tea, it was still effective. Black tea was found to have a somewhat more potent antiviral effect than green tea.

 Dialing Into Debt

Australian youths “as young as 18 are declaring themselves bankrupt because of soaring mobile phone bills,” according to The Sunday Telegraph newspaper. Influenced by aggressive advertising, and with easy access to credit, some youths have amassed mobile phone bills for thousands of dollars. Commenting on this rising trend among young people, Australian Fair Trading Minister John Watkins said: “Some young people are now leaving school in debt, with a bad credit rating. That is just a tragic way to start out in life.” The paper makes the following suggestions to help young ones avoid this debt trap: Make sure that you understand fully what your calls will cost. Consider using a prepaid mobile phone so that you cannot build up a bill. Try to use your phone in off-peak times to reduce charges.

Hidden Dangers in France

An estimated 1.3 million tons of lethal devices from World Wars I and II remain buried in France, reports Le Figaro. The former front line is littered with old bombs and chemical shells that continue to pose a threat to people and the environment. Since many formerly vacant lots are now residential or industrial areas, bomb-removal squads receive thousands of calls each year. Still, hundreds of accidents have occurred, and over 600 experts have been killed in the line of duty between 1945 and 1985. At the present rate, according to specialists, it could take 700 years to dispose of this arsenal!

Water for Tourists?

“Many of the world’s resorts are struggling to cope with relentless waves of tourists, whose demands for ever more swimming pools and golf courses are sucking them dry,” reports The Guardian of London. “The issue is massive and global,” says Tricia Barnett of Tourism Concern. “Sometimes you’ll see a village [in Africa] with a single tap, when each hotel has taps and showers in every room.” A global conservation organization calculates that a tourist in Spain uses 230 gallons [880 l] of water a day, while a local resident uses only 70 gallons [250 l]. An 18-hole golf course in a dry country can take as much water as a town of 10,000 people. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the water that 100 tourists use in 55 days would grow enough rice to feed 100 villagers for 15 years.

Smoking Hazards

“One in every eight lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers was caused by passive smoking,” asserts Naohito Yamaguchi of the National Cancer Center Research Institute of Japan. Scientists based their findings on a study of 52,000 people who died from lung cancer. Additionally, “long-standing research shows that toxic carbon monoxide and carcinogens are more prevalent in secondary smoke than smoke directly inhaled by smokers,” says the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. In 1999 a government study in Japan involving 14,000 people found that 35 percent of those at work or at school and 28 percent at home were exposed to secondary smoke. “Smokers should be aware they are harming nonsmokers to such an extent a conscious effort should be made to separate the two groups,” says Yamaguchi.

Modern Slave Trade

At present, “slavery is more common around the world than at any time in human history, according to the latest research by a British-based academic,” reports The Independent of London. Sociology professor Kevin Bales, of the University of Surrey in Roehampton, “has calculated that 27 million people now live as slaves, more than in the Roman Empire or at the height of the transatlantic slave trade,” says the paper. Although today’s methods of slavery may differ from 150 years ago, millions of people are “controlled by another person using violence or the threat of violence and are paid absolutely nothing,” Bales says. The most common form of slavery today is contract slavery, where for a price, organized gangs arrange passage to another country with promise of a high-paying job. Once smuggled into a country, however, the workers are exploited by being forced to pay off their debt by performing menial work.

Exercise Can Reduce Depression

“For some patients, physical exercise may be more effective than a standard drug treatment for depression,” says The Harvard Mental Health Letter, commenting on research done at Duke University Medical Center in the United States. Three groups of 50 people with major depression were given a different therapy for four months. One group took an antidepressant drug, another did exercise alone, and a third did both. After four months, between 60 and 70 percent of the patients in all three groups “were no longer clinically depressed,” said the Health Letter. However, during a six-month follow-up, the patients assigned to exercise therapy “were in better shape emotionally as well as physically; their relapse rate was only eight percent.” This compared with 38 percent for those who took the drug and 31 percent for those who exercised and took the drug.

Jamaican Reefs Rebounding?

Sea urchins off Jamaica’s north coast appear to be making a comeback, states an article in The Dallas Morning News. Furthermore, “scientists discovered many young corals, including hardy and reef-forming types, thriving along with the sea urchins.” The reefs have been struggling ever since a sea urchin species called Diadema antillarum died off dramatically in 1983 and 1984. Some species of sea urchins control the growth of seaweeds, which if left unchecked can devastate coral reefs. However, “new studies show that Diadema has sprung back, and corals may be doing the same,” the paper reports. Marine biologist Nancy Knowlton says that the recovery is “the best news to emerge from Caribbean reefs in decades.”

Sea Creatures Poisoned by Plastic Pellets

“Sea creatures across the globe are being poisoned by tiny plastic pellets floating in the ocean,” reports New Scientist magazine. Chemical companies ship polymers in the shape of small pellets to manufacturers around the world that melt them and then mold them into plastic products. However, thousands of tons of these pellets pass into the sea from factory or city waste as well as from cargo that ships lose or jettison. Researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan found that the pellets contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals that they absorb from the seawater—chemicals that damage animals’ immunity, fertility, and hormonal systems. Birds, fish, and turtles eat the pellets, mistaking them for fish eggs or other food, so there are worrisome repercussions for the extended food chain.