Thursday, May 19, 2005

Advertising without footprints

Advertising is a means of communicating information.

One of the biggest complaints about advertising, however, is the wastefulness of it.

It uses paper products, and scatters them to the wind, using up resources and contributing to the waste in landfills.

But this is not really necessary in today's world.

There are plenty of ways to advertise without using paper. Radio, transit, television and outdoor signage, just to name a few.

But what about the ways that advertising can have a beneficial impact with its message?

Advertising can be used, much like the nobility in the Rennaissance, to support the arts, provide entertainment, create events, sensations and amusement in the name of a product or brand.

It can make movies, create exciting interactive experiences and put on shows and theatre, concerts and fesitvals.

It can be the driving force behind supporting culture.

A few brands have started to do so, Absolut Vodka puts on art nights, Cigarette companies and banks host firework shows, Indy Races and Concerts, and this is just the tip of the iceburg.

It can go toward building schools, hospitals, universities, parks and national treasures.

Relax, and enjoy it, just because it is there doesn't mean you have to buy it - but you can certainly enjoy the fringe benefits of fireworks and art - even if you don't smoke, drink, or buy a bunch of stuff you don't need.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Carbon monoxide, noise tied to hearing loss

A new study says people who are exposed to consistently high levels of noise and carbon monoxide could suffer a hearing loss up to 50 per cent worse than if they were exposed to just the noise alone.

And that, say the researchers who conducted the study, should be of real concern to garage mechanics, welders, construction workers, servers in noisy, smoky bars and teenagers who listen to iPods while riding the bus.

Tony Leroux and Adriana Lacerda, both audiologists at the University of Montreal, will present their findings today to the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Leroux says suffering a hearing loss of the kind he describes in his study could result in a person being unable to hear birdsong, the ring of cellphones, or conversation in a crowded, noisy place.

"If an affected couple has a one-to-one conversation in a living room, there's no problem," he said Tuesday in an interview. "But put that same couple in a restaurant with noise in the background and it's almost impossible for them to communicate."

Leroux and Lacerda made their conclusions after studying health reports of more than 8,600 Quebec workers who were exposed to both noise and carbon monoxide in the workplace, or just noise alone.

They found that workers who were exposed to carbon monoxide and noise levels over 90 decibels (comparable to the noise produced by a chainsaw) displayed significantly poorer hearing thresholds at high frequencies than workers who were exposed to noise levels alone.

The reason, Leroux said, is that the human ear needs oxygen to translate sounds into electrical impulses, which are then transmitted to the brain. Cells in the blood carry the oxygen to the ears, and the louder the noise, the more oxygen is required.

But the presence of carbon monoxide, he said, results in decreased levels of oxygen, which means blood cells carrying oxygen to the ear have to work that much harder if the person is going to hear properly.

"If you reduce the amount of oxygen available, you bring those cells to the edge of exhaustion -- metabolic exhaustion," Leroux said. Do it every day, year after year, he added, and your hearing is going to suffer.

"In our study we saw that it took at least 15 years to start showing this increase in hearing loss. The effect increases with the number of years of exposure."

To safeguard themselves, Leroux said, workers should wear effective hearing protectors and ensure here is proper ventilation at all times.

He and Leroux will now work with Quebec public health officials to make sure warnings about carbon monoxide and hearing loss are issued to all workers at risk. He reckons they number about 500,000 in that province alone.

Bill Lane, owner of the Ted Dash Car Clinic in Marpole, hadn't heard of the link between carbon monoxide and hearing loss until The Vancouver Sun phoned him Tuesday.

He said the clinic is always careful to ensure proper ventilation and hearing protection for its workers, but added that Leroux and Lacerda's findings were another "concern for anyone working in the trades."

Ran with fact box "Workers Most at Risk for Greater Loss ofHearing", which has been appended to the end of the story

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New herb can cut down on drinking

BOSTON - The hardy, invasive kudzu vine, introduced to this country decades ago to control soil erosion, could have what it takes to curb binge drinking, new research suggests.

Kudzu, an ever-expanding plant considered a pest in much of the South, appears to contain a compound that can be effective in reducing alcohol intake among humans.

Researcher Scott Lukas did not have any trouble rounding up volunteers for his study, published in this month’s issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Lukas’ team at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital set up a makeshift “apartment” in a laboratory, complete with a television, reclining chair and a refrigerator stocked with beer.

Findings show that subjects who took kudzu drank an average of 1.8 beers per session, compared with the 3.5 beers consumed by those who took a placebo.

Lukas was not certain why but speculated that kudzu increases blood alcohol levels and speeds up its effects. More simply put, the subjects needed fewer beers to feel drunk.

“That rapid infusion of alcohol is satisfying them and taking away their desire for more drinks,” Lukas said. “That’s only a theory. It’s the best we’ve got so far.”

'Perfectly safe'
In 2003, David Overstreet and other scientists found the herb to be effective in reducing alcohol intake on rats.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from China that kudzu could be useful, but this is the first documented evidence that it could reduce drinking in humans,” said Overstreet, who described Lukas’ work “groundbreaking.”

  Interactive content
Do you have a drinking problem?

Lukas recruited 14 men and women in their 20s to spend four 90-minute sessions consuming beer and watching TV. Researchers selected people who said they regularly consumed three to four drinks per day.

After the first session, some subjects received capsules of kudzu, others a placebo.

“Unbeknownst to them, I was weighing that mug of beer every time they took a sip,” Lukas said. “We actually got a sip-by-sip analysis of their drinking behavior.”

None of the subjects had any side effects from mixing kudzu with beer.

“It’s perfectly safe, from what we can tell,” Lukas said. “Individuals reported feeling a little more tipsy or lightheaded, but not enough to make them walk into walls or stumble and fall.”

Reduce alcohol cravings
Though kudzu won’t turn drinkers into teetotalers, Lukas said, he hopes it can help heavy drinkers to cut back.

“That way, they’re a lot closer to being able to cut down completely,” he said.

Lukas’ study was inspired by Dr. Wing Ming Keung, a pathology professor at Harvard Medical School who has studied kudzu’s potential medical applications.

Keung, not directly involved in Lukas’ study, said he has extracted a compound from kudzu root that he hopes to turn into a drug for reducing alcoholics’ cravings.

“The most urgent need is helping people who cannot help themselves, who need a drug to help them stop drinking,” Keung said.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Vaccinations for Nicotine

Scientists have discovered a vaccination for smokers.

The results so far have been promising, with 60% of the smokers quitting smoking completely for at least 6 months.

As further trials proceed, it will be possible to increase the level of antibodies so that they can achieve more effective results.

1 in 2 smokers will die before their time from cardiovascular heart disease or cancer.