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September 2, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Loud music can cause lung collapse

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The current issue of the medical journal Thorax details four cases in which fans of loud music experienced a collapsed lung, known in the business (mine, not rock) as a pneumothorax.

In one case, doctors linked a man's sudden chest pain and breathlessness while driving to a 1,000 watt bass box fitted into his car.

I guess heavy metal really can make you sick, even if you don't eat or drink it.

Read the excellent BBC News report. [via KK]
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Loud music lung collapse warning


It's not just damage to hearing that clubbers should worry about

Loud music can do more than damage your hearing - it can also cause your lungs to collapse.

Experts writing in the Thorax detail four cases where loud music fans experienced the condition, known as a pneumothorax.

One man was driving when he experienced a pneumothorax, characterised by breathlessness and chest pain.

Doctors linked it to a 1,000 watt "bass box" fitted to his car to boost the power of his stereo.

A pneumothorax occurs when air gets into the space between the lung and the membrane that covers it when small breaks occur in the lung wall.

It is thought the intense pulses of low-frequency, high-energy sound causes the lung to rupture because air and tissue respond differently to sound.

The usual risk factors for collapsed lungs are smoking, illness that has weakened the patient, chronic obstructive lung disease or use of drugs that depress alertness or consciousness, such as sedatives, barbiturates, tranquilizers, or alcohol.

In a minority of cases, the oxygen supply to the vital organs is seriously diminished and the patient's life can be put at risk.

A pneumothorax is treated by inserting a tube called a chest drain to allow air to escape from the chest cavity.

In a second case detailed in Thorax, a 25-year-old smoker saw doctors after experiencing a sudden severe pain in the left side of this chest while standing next to a loud speaker in a club.

A third man, a 23-year-old non-smoker, experienced a collapsed lung while attending a pop concert, where he was standing quietly near to several large loud speakers.

In the final case outlined in the journal, a 23-year-old regular smoker had suffered pneumothorax on several occasions.

During a follow-up consultation, where doctors were talking to him about what could have led up to each incident, he revealed that on two of the four occasions, he had been attending a heavy metal concert when he became ill.

Dr John Harvey, of Southmead Hospital in Bristol, who wrote the Thorax report, with colleagues from Belgium, told BBC News Online: "I don't think we'll stop people going to clubs, but we may be able to advise them not to stand next to loud speakers or put a bass box into their car."

Dr Harvey added: "A typical district hospital might see about 50 patients a year in casualty.

"We can't estimate how common loud music is as a cause, but it is probably quite significant.

"The condition is three times commoner in men than in women, and a proportion of sufferers may have been clubbing or standing next to a bass box at a pop concert."

Dr Harvey added: "Both my Belgian colleagues and I have seen cases and the more we mention it, the more people say 'I had a case like that'.

"So we're flagging it up so that doctors can ask the right questions."

September 2, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Take the A Frame

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New from A Frame, a plastic golf club transporter for $78 including shipping.

It weighs 12 ounces (a golf bag weighs eight pounds and up), and measures 8.25" x 13".

Holds 14 clubs in nonscratch clips, 20 tees, 12 balls and an umbrella.

Comes with a pouch for sunscreen, water and the like.

The carrier's double strap distributes weight evenly across the shoulders and, should you want to, lets you play with the clubs still on your back.

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Try that with your golf bag, duffer.

September 2, 2004 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'L'intime, Behind Closed Doors: the Private World of Collectors'

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Title of the new show at La Maison Rouge Fondation Antoine de Galbert in Paris. (10 Boulevard de la Bastille, 75012; Tel. +33 1 40 01 08 81)

The work of some 200 contemporary artists is displayed in 15 rooms, exact replicas of those in the collectors' homes.

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The artworks are shown complete with furniture, rugs, lamps, books and magazines lent for the show.

The rooms include one bedroom, two dining rooms, an office, a narrow hall with stairs leading up, a foyer, a lounge, an attic and four bathrooms.

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The names of the lenders are not given.

Visitors can enter some rooms, such as the Attic.

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For others, you look in through a doorway or a paneless window.

[via Claire Frankel in The Financial Times]

September 2, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mummy: The Inside Story

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This new exhibit at the British Museum uses advanced 3-D computerized tomography along with laser scanning to virtually unwrap an unopened, 3,000-year-old mummy from the museum's collection.

Leather seals, charms and emblems pinning together various layers of the mummy's wrapping, unseen by earlier, less detailed scans, appeared immediately.

Even mistakes made by the embalmers,

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such as a glue pot that dried while resting on the mummy's head and was buried that way, were visible.

September 2, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Should your cellphone number be available in a directory?

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Only 26% of Americans would participate in a such a directory if it were available, according to a survey published Monday by the Pierz Group, which researches phone directories and people's attitudes toward them.

The first mobile phone directory currently is being compiled, with access scheduled for next year at the earliest.

The cellphone number list will essentially be folded into the current 411 directory assistance service, and people seeking information will pay a fixed fee.

The numbers will not be published in a book or made available over the internet.

Of the six major national mobile phone carriers, five have agreed to participate.

Only Verizon, the largest of the companies, with over 40 million customers, refuses to allow any of them to be listed.

Verizon believes it would be jeopardizing customers' privacy by participating.

The company also points out that customers will be charged for incoming calls, including those from unwanted callers.

Experts say that if Verizon holds to its position, the directory will never get off the ground.

Not only will people be unable to find the number of a Verizon customer, but they will be charged a fee for their fruitless request.

"Without Verizon, you don't have a mobile phone directory," said Seamus McAteer, an analyst with the Zelos Group, a market research firm.

Prediction: Verizon will gain a ton of customers by sticking to their guns.

I'll be right there in line.

As currently envisioned in pending federal legislation, cellphone subscribers would have to actively opt in: companies could not list customers who failed to to request being left out.

The legislation would also make it illegal to charge a fee for keeping a number unlisted.

Once upon a time, everyone was listed except Liz Taylor and Cary Grant and suchlike.

Then the privacy/fear thing started and gained traction; by 2002, only 72% of wired phones were still listed in the white pages.

This year, it's down to 65%, and the number's only gonna keep decreasing.

[via Matt Richtel in the New York Times]

September 2, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deep-slime diving in the sewers of Mexico City - for Carlos Barrios Orta, it's not a job, it's an adventure

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Periodically the Washington Post features a story on strange jobs around the world.

This past Monday Mary Jordan wrote about one Carlos Barrios Orta, one of four "deep-slime divers" who keep the 600 miles of sewers and pipes below Mexico City (population 20 million and rising) working.

Barrios was an accountant for 24 years, but chucked his vest and calculator for a red rubber suit and helmet connected to the surface by a breathing hose.

He spends his days in cold, pitch-black, foul water that's so polluted he doesn't even bother to bring a light down with him, because he can't see a thing with one.

He works by feel, clearing obstructions as he goes.

So far he's found two human bodies, but never learned whose they were because they were carried off in the rushing currents.

The police were not called.

The divers periodically encounter bodies because sewers are popular spots for dumping murder victims.

The only time police are called is when a body is brought to the surface.

Here's Mary Jordan's fascinating story.
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Deep-Slime Divers Keep Vast and Smelly Sewers Flowing


Carlos Barrios Orta squeezed himself into his rubber diving suit, pulled on an 18-pound helmet that made him look like an astronaut, then lowered himself into the sewer.

He disappeared into the filthy water, which looked like some cauldron of rancid beef stew, until the only sign of him was air bubbles breaking the surface.

"It's very, very cold," Barrios, 48, said into the radio microphone in his diving helmet.

Above ground his partner, Julio Cesar Cu, monitored his radio transmissions and urged him to keep talking.

As long as Barrios was still chattering away, it meant that he was okay, that his air hose was working properly and that he hadn't been swept away to his death by an unexpected rush of waste - as happened to another diver some years ago.

It was 11 a.m. in a massive drain underneath Mexico City, where the smell of human waste and rotting trash was so strong it was hard for a visitor not to vomit.

But it didn't seem to bother Barrios, one of four divers who maintain the 600 miles of sewers and pipes beneath the biggest city in North America.

He was just doing his job: keeping pumps and sewers clear.

"I feel plastic bottles, wires, glass," said Barrios, his every breath exaggerated on the radio.

In the darkness of the sewer, Barrios could see nothing.

He doesn't bother to carry a light, because it would be of no use in the thick waters.

He inched forward in his bright red suit, an airtight model that sealed away the disease all around him, feeling his way with his rubber gloves, listening in the darkness.

He could hear the powerful, whirring pump that pushed the flow through a six-foot-wide pipe.

His mission was to clear away the debris around it so it wouldn't back up into city streets.

Thousands of homes have been flooded in the past by dammed-up wastewater.

"I've got it!" Barrios said as he pushed away bottles, plastic bags and other junk he could not identify by touch.

At least there were no human bodies today, like the two he found floating by recently.

Now Barrios was singing.

"I live in the water, lah-deh-dah-dum."

It was a popular children's song, "The Pretty Little Fish," and Barrios sang it like he couldn't possibly have been happier.

He loves his job.

Two years ago, he gave up a career in accounting for this - which, he noted, says something about accounting.

Barrios, a happy-go-lucky father of three, said none of it bothers him - not the smell, not the dangerous spinning pump blades, not even the two cadavers.

He never found out who they were, because they were carried off in the flowing waters.

The police were not called.

The divers, who periodically encounter bodies because sewers are popular spots for dumping murder victims, only call police when they bring a body to the surface.

The radio crackled again.

Barrios was still working to clear the big pump.

"I am not sure what this is," he said. "Maybe glass bottles?"

"Stay alert. Don't get cut," Cu told him.

"Okay," Barrios said. He'd been underwater 10 minutes, and Barrios said his body had adjusted to the cold about 24 feet deep in the 60-degree water.

"I'm comfortable. It's great. I feel the adrenaline."

Barrios was pumped up.

No office, no pencils, no spreadsheets, no routine.

He did that for 24 years.

He said he's had more fun as a "wastewater diver" than he did in a quarter century of totaling up stacks of numbers.

And he's proud that he's providing a service for his city, which has few resources for a more modern sewage system and must rely on divers to keep the aging equipment humming.

His adventure, as he calls it, was at this moment leading him to large pieces of wood floating dangerously close to the pump pushing the waste of a city of 20 million to treatment plants.

Who knows how the lumber - or for that matter, the plastic bags, toothpaste tubes, shoes and other discards - ended up here?

Perhaps some poor family's shack was washed away by heavy rains and flowed into the sewers.

Barrios snagged one beam, then another, with a hooked crowbar, putting them in a steel cage that hauled them to the surface.

The scariest thing, Barrios said, was when his gloves felt what he thought was a human arm.

He radioed that he feared he was bringing up a dead child.

"But it turned out to be a teddy bear," he said. "It was such a relief."

For this, Barrios earns about $480 a month.

It's not much, certainly - his diving helmet alone cost the city $3,500 - but it's more than he ever made as an accountant.

He has never been sick, but his wife and children love to kid him when he comes home from a day in the sewers, shouting, "Don't come near me!"

Barrios is a compact man, not quite 5-feet-6, with an easy smile.

He swims competitively, and dreams that when his young children finish school, he can move to the sea, perhaps on the Gulf of Mexico, to swim and dive in crystal-clear waters.

But for the moment, he said, he's happy to know that while there are millions of divers in the oceans, only four have the privilege of diving in the Mexico City sewer system.

About a half hour after he lowered himself into the water, Barrios broke the surface.

Cu and some others raised him to street level in a steel basket.

Barrios said he felt great as Cu tossed buckets of soapy water on him to get the gunk off his diving suit.

Barrios then peeled himself out of it, and he and Cu stowed their equipment for the next dive.

Lunchtime. Barrios said he had sure worked up an appetite down there.

He was ready for a taco.

September 2, 2004 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Waiter, why does my fish taste like Prozac?

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Because your fish was on Prozac, is why.

Juliet Eilperin, writing in Monday's Washington Post, reported that antidepressants, birth control drugs, and other medications are increasingly showing up in fish.

Read the story.
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Washpost

Drugs Found in Fish Samples

Antidepressants, birth control drugs and other medications are surfacing in fish tissue and are in some cases causing neurological, biochemical and physiological changes, according to Baylor University researchers.

Bryan Brooks, assistant professor of environmental studies at Baylor University's Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research, said his findings mark the first time researchers have documented drugs building up in organisms that reside in streams that receive large amounts of wastewater from municipal sources.

Brooks focused on effluent-dominated streams and rivers in Texas, where he and his researchers performed forensic tests on fish and invertebrates.

In Waco alone, he said in a statement, about 12 million gallons of treated water a day are pumped into the Brazos River, which pours into the Gulf of Mexico.

"When male fish are exposed to critical levels of estrogen, they can be feminized and their secondary sexual characteristics become suppressed," he said. "We're also seeing antidepressants building up in fish tissue at high enough levels that may trigger behavioral changes" in the fish.

But he cautioned that more study is needed to determine whether the fish are suffering adverse consequences.

A buildup of antidepressants can modulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in fish, Brooks said.

No Environmental Protection Agency regulations govern the level of pharmaceuticals in discharged water.

September 2, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Status Symbols: Identity and Belief in Modern Badges'

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New exhibit in room 69a of the British Museum, up through next January 16.

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Buttons (badges in British parlance) are a quintessentially 20th-century phenomenon.

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The technological breakthrough that enabled them to be mass-marketed came in 1896 in the U.S., and soon thousands of small buttons were imported to Britain, bearing the old and young faces of Queen Victoria, in honor of her diamond jubilee a year later.

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The show's curator, Amanda Gregory, talking to The Financial Times' Peter Aspden about badges and buttons, said, "They tell us about the subversive side of what a society is thinking."

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Gregory says that ever since she organized the show, she can't help but notice what buttons people are wearing.

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She says, "There seem to be a lot of cryptic slogans out there."

[via Peter Aspden and The Financial Times]

September 2, 2004 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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