Electronic cigarettes contain a number of chemicals known to be harmful, most notably nicotine, heavy metals and compounds such as diacetyl, a flavorant linked to serious lung disease.
A new study out of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found a few other worrisome ingredients: bacterial and fungal toxins. Researchers examined 75 popular e-cigarette products and found almost one-quarter contained traces of endotoxin, a microbial agent found on Gram-negative bacteria, and 81% contained traces of glucan, a cellular component of most fungi. Exposure to these microbial substances is associated with numerous human health issues such as asthma, reduced lung function and inflammation.
Contamination could have occurred at any point during production of the ingredients or of the finished e-cigarette products, said the scientists. They hypothesized that cotton wicks used in e-cigarette cartridges may be a potential source of contamination, as both endotoxin and glucan are known contaminants of cotton fibers.
Body of Knowledge
The pupil of the human eye responds to more than just changing light stimuli. It dilates to unexpected sounds, emotional stress and mental exertion. In the last case, researchers found that the pupils of more intelligent people (based on SAT scores) dilated less in response to cognitive tasks than those of lower-scoring participants, indicating more efficient use of brainpower.
Get Me That, Stat!
When people die, they leave lots of things behind, from old diaries and photos to, well, their modern-day version: the Facebook page. These pages live on. In fact, Oxford University researchers recently estimated that by 2070, the number of deceased Facebook "users" will outnumber the living. By 2100, it might number 1.4 billion computerized corpses.
5,564: Number of registered hospitals in the United States
2,845: Number that are nonprofit community hospitals
1,034: Number that are for-profit
Source: American Hospital Association
Stories for the Waiting Room
According to The Wall Street Journal, hospital insurance codes contain nine different ways you can be injured by turtles and three different ways by lampposts.
Orthostatic hypotension: That dizzy head rush resulting from standing up too fast. It's caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. Also known as postural hypotension, it can result in fainting if the drop is severe enough.
Phobia of the Week
Atelophobia: Fear of inperfection (or maybe you're just a copy editor).
Q: Why do they call it proctology?
A: Because analogy was already taken.
"General anesthesia is so weird. You go to sleep in one room, then wake up four hours later in a totally different room. Just like in college." — Ross Shafer
This week in 1993, a woman in Paris was surgically given two new lungs, both of which were cut from the single lung of a large man. Only previously attempted in animal trials, the woman was the first human to receive such a surgery. The procedure is of particular interest for children, for whom finding donor lungs of the correct size is an issue.
Ig Nobel Apprised
The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.
In 2013, the Ig Nobel Prize in psychology went to a team of American and European researchers for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. The title of the paper was "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beer Holder."
Q: What percentage of the human brain is comprised of fats?
A: The human brain is 60% fat. It's the fattiest organ in the body. Fatty acids like omega-3 are essential to brain function, both in terms of maintaining structural integrity and the ability to perform. They cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources.
Thirty-two-year-old Edward Archbold of West Paul Beach, Florida, choked to death in 2012 after eating dozens of live cockroaches in a contest to win a python, a promotional event at a local pet store.
The Broward County medical examiner determined that Archbold died of "asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents." His airway had become obstructed with "arthropod body parts."
None of the other 30 or so contestants suffered any ill effects. The python's whereabouts are unknown.
To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.