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Rural Roads May Lead to Risk-taking

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Americans are willing to take more risks on U.S. rural highways than on urban freeways, leading to a higher death toll on such roads, researchers say.

In a survey by University of Minnesota researchers, drivers said they were more relaxed on rural roads and more prone to risk-taking there, a university release said Wednesday.

“Americans are taking unnecessary risks on rural roads,” Lee Munnich of UM’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety said. “They’re more relaxed and comfortable with risk-taking on the roads where they are most likely to be killed. We have a lot of education to do.”

While U.S. Census figures show one out of five Americans live in rural areas, the Federal Highway Administration says about six out of 10 highway deaths occur on roads that it considers rural.

“Logic would dictate that drivers would be most cautious and alert on the most dangerous roads, but Americans seem to be lulled into a false sense of security on our tranquil rural highways,” said Munnich. “It’s a less chaotic experience, so it apparently feels like a safer experience. This is a myth we have to bust.”

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Rural Roads May Lead to Risk-taking

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 4 (UPI) — American are willing to take more risks on U.S. rural highways than on urban freeways, leading to a higher death toll on such roads, researchers say.

In a survey by University of Minnesota researchers, drivers said they were more relaxed on rural roads and more prone to risk-taking there, a university release said Wednesday.

“Americans are taking unnecessary risks on rural roads,” Lee Munnich of UM’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety said. “They’re more relaxed and comfortable with risk-taking on the roads where they are most likely to be killed. We have a lot of education to do.”

While U.S. Census figures show one out of five Americans live in rural areas, the Federal Highway Administration says about six out of 10 highway deaths occur on roads that it considers rural.

“Logic would dictate that drivers would be most cautious and alert on the most dangerous roads, but Americans seem to be lulled into a false sense of security on our tranquil rural highways,” said Munnich. “It’s a less chaotic experience, so it apparently feels like a safer experience. This is a myth we have to bust.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Student-designed Experiments to Go to ISS

WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) — Some experiments designed by space-minded U.S. school kids are going to go far — all the way to the International Space Station, NASA has announced.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected nine experiments from 132 submitted by elementary and junior high school students in a contest to find experiments uniquely suited to the microgravity environment of the ISS, SPACE.com reported Friday.

Astronauts on the space station will perform the experiments, which will be launched this summer, NASA said.

“What a wonderful experience for these kids to have their experiments carried out in space and by astronauts,” Mark Severance, ISS National Laboratory Education projects manager in Houston, said. “This gives students the chance to see what happens differently, other than in the classroom, when their experiment is performed in an environment that is not on Earth.”

Competing students were instructed to design experiments that take no longer than 30 minutes to set up, run and take down.

Representatives at NASA’s 10 field centers selected the student experiments after evaluating each of the 132 entries, NASA said.

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Child Financial Strain, Cognition Linked

BALTIMORE, July 20 (UPI) — U.S. researchers have linked cognitive difficulties in middle-aged and older adults to financial stress that began in childhood.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing found the greater health threat associated with childhood financial strain was caused by income not meeting needs — whatever the economic status and education level.

The study, published in Social Science & Medicine, found those with lifelong financial strain much more prone to add cognitive difficulties to depression and physical problems also being experienced by those whose financial strain begun in adulthood.

“Even in adulthood, these problems can be prevented if we can help change the equation between financial strain and need, for example by making social supports more readily available — from healthcare to food stamps to an improved minimum wage,” study leader Sarah Szanton said in a statement.

More research is needed, she said, to determine whether cognitive deficits associated with childhood financial strain were from the cumulative effect of poverty, environmental factors like the quality of education, or a combination of these or other factors.

Szanton and colleagues looked at finances and health among 699 mid- to late-life African-Americans.

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Salsa, Guacamole a Key Source of Illness

ATLANTA, July 16 (UPI) — Fresh salsa and guacamole, especially served in retail food establishments, may be an increasing source of food-borne illness, U.S. health officials suggest.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta finds nearly 1 out of every 25 restaurant-associated food-borne outbreaks from 1998-2008 can be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole — more than double the rate during the previous decade.

“Salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce, including hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro, each of which has been implicated in past outbreaks,” Magdalena Kendall, an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education researcher who collaborated on the CDC study, said in a statement.

Although, the CDC first began food-borne disease surveillance in 1973, yet no salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks were reported before 1984, the report says. However, from 1984-1997, salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks accounted for 1.5 percent of all food establishment food-borne illness and from 1998-2008 it rose to 3.9 percent. Thirty percent of the salsa- or guacamole-associated outbreaks in restaurants or delis were due to inappropriate storage times or temperatures, while food workers were reported as the source of contamination in 20 percent of the restaurant outbreaks.

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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Mental Health Issues, 1 in 5 Preschoolers

BOSTON, July 10 (UPI) — More than 20 percent of U.S. kindergartners and first-graders demonstrate mental health issues, researchers found.

Dr. Alice S. Carter of the University of Massachusetts in Boston and colleagues said the study involved 1,329 healthy children born from July 1995 and September 1997 in the New Haven–Meriden Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The researchers used birth records, parent and teacher interviews.

Carter said as children transition to formal schooling, 21.6 percent will have a psychiatric disorder with impairment. In addition, the risk of co-morbidity — the risk of two or more disorders of any type — was 5.8 percent.

Sociodemographic and psychosocial correlates included persistent poverty beginning in early childhood, limited parental education, low family expressiveness, stressful life events and exposure to violence exposure.

The findings are scheduled to be published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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U.N. Food Panel Issues New Standards

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 7 (UPI) — The U.N. food standards panel set new limits for the presence of melamine in food, baby formula and animal feed during its conference in Switzerland.

The maximum amount of toxic chemical allowed in baby formula was set at 1 milligram per kilogram, and 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of other food and animal feed, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday in a joint statement.

Melamine is a chemical used many industrial processes, including the manufacture of plastics used for dishes, kitchenware and can coatings. Traces of it ending up unavoidably in food don’t cause health problems, but the substance is toxic at high concentrations, health officials said.

“Establishment of maximum levels will help governments differentiate between low levels of unavoidable melamine occurrence that do not cause health problems, and deliberate adulteration — thereby protecting public health without unnecessary impediments to international trade,” said Martijn Weijtens, chairman of the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission’s committee on contaminants in foods.

While not legally binding, the new levels give countries the authority to refuse to allow importation of products with high levels of melamine, the WHO and FAO said.

The U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission, meeting in Geneva, also developed new hygienic measures for safer fresh salads and seafood, offering guidance in areas such as production, harvesting, packing, processing, storage, distribution, marketing and consumer education.

The commission also published specific advice on controlling bacteria in seafood throughout the food chain, which commission officials said will help to minimize risks.

The Codex Alimentarius (Latin for “food code”) Commission also adopted measures on sampling food for inspection and control analysis.

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Restaurants Nearby Linked to Higher Weight

BUFFALO, N.Y., July 6 (UPI) — Women are more apt to have a higher body mass index if they live within a 5-minute walk from restaurants, U.S. researchers found.

However, the study, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, also found that, on average, women who lived close to supermarkets and grocery stores — as opposed to convenience stores — tend to have lower BMI.

Samina Raja, a University at Buffalo (N.Y.) professor of urban and regional planning, and colleagues, said the study has limitations. For example, the researchers did not know where the study subjects shopped for food, only which outlets were closest geographically.

The researchers were not able to classify restaurants based on their quality — fast-food and sit-down restaurants were treated as a single category.

“The prevalence of obesity is a significant public health concern because it places individuals at a risk for a variety of diseases and the role of environmental factors in contributing to obesity has received a lot of attention,” Raja said in a statement. “We have attempted here to explain the paradox of high BMI rates among women living in highly walkable inner city neighborhoods.”

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Reasons for Women Freezing Eggs Differ

ROME, June 30 (UPI) — Young women preparing for intense careers are more apt than others to consider freezing their eggs to reduce later infertility risk, British researchers found.

Dr. Srilatha Gorthi of the Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine in England said she surveyed 98 female medical school students and 97 students of education and sports studies.

Optimal fertility in women occurs at ages 16-30, decreased fertility occurs from 31 to 40 and end of fertility occurs at age 41. The cost of freezing eggs in England is about $3,500 per attempt and women are expected to pay for it themselves.

Gorthi said eight out of 10 of the medical school students said they would undergo egg collection and freezing, compared with four out of 10 of the education students. In addition, 85.3 percent said they were prepared to undergo up to three cycles of egg collection to bank enough eggs to give them a realistic chance of pregnancy, compared with 79 percent of the education students.

“Career considerations were given as the commonest reason to delay starting a family for the medical school students, followed by financial stability and marriage or a stable relationship,” Gorthi said in a statement. “However, for the education students, financial stability came first, followed by a stable relationship and then career reasons.”

The findings were presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.

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U.S. Farmers Need Help with Challenges

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) — New challenges and expanding needs mean pressure on U.S. farmers who will need new agricultural policies and research to sustain them, a report says.

Asked to produce more, pollute less, predict consumer preference and still make a living, farmers will need help from national agricultural policies that look beyond just low costs and high production, a National Research Council report released Tuesday said.

“If farmers are going to meet future demands, the U.S. agriculture system has to evolve to become sustainable and think broadly — past the bottom line of producing the most possible,” says Julia Kornegay, chairwoman of the committee that wrote the report and professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

The report identified four goals considered necessary for sustainable agriculture: satisfying human food, fiber and feed requirements; enhancing environmental quality; maintaining the economic viability of agriculture; and improving the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole.

Reaching those goals will mean long-term research, education, outreach and experimentation by the public and private sectors in partnership with farmers, the report said.

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