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Baby Powder: Killing You Softly?

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The Greeks used it to construct building materials. The Romans used it to clean up blood after gladiator contests. King Charlemagne is said to have sprinkled it in with egg whites to keep his hair stiff and glistening on the battlefield, a sort of ancient-school mousse. Yes, talc has been used in one way or another for centuries. Besides being the main ingredient in baby powder, these days talc can be found in everything from flea and tick powders to deodorants, chalk and crayons, soap, and circuit boards. It's used in home insulation material and as filler in paper. Ceramic tiles contain talc, as do paints and even some of that dust you find on certain sticks of chewing gum.

baby powderFor a mineral (pure talc is hydrous magnesium silicate) found in so many products, you'd think it would be as safe as salt. And generally it is. But guess what? Not only is the talc silicate related to deadly asbestos, some talcum powders are sometimes contaminated with asbestos. The result? Lots and lots of studies. The result of all the studies? Mixed.

However, in 1982, Johnson & Johnson admitted that they knew of some of these studies that concluded that woman who frequently applied talc products to their genitals had a three-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer.

(from August 12, 1982 New York Times article).

Talc2Other studies show that, since the 1980s, several thousand infants have died each year, or became seriously ill after accidentally inhaling baby powder. Many scientists have asked the Food and Drug Administration to require talc products to carry warning labels, something the FDA has yet to agree to. While other studies have not proven a link between talc and cancer, to play it safe, many people recommend using a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda as an alternative. Or get your hands on some natural baby powder in a health food store, usually made with things like green clay, tea tree oil and lavender or chamomile.

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Google Can Warn You When Your Allergies Are About to Go Haywire
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How much allergy medication are you going to need today? Google can tell you. Well, it can give you a forecast, at least, as The Verge reports.

Google announced on August 16 that the search engine will now auto-populate search results for pollen and allergy information with allergy forecasts from The Weather Channel. The integration will include the most recent pollen index and allergy forecast data, showing a 5-day forecast detailing whether you’re likely to feel seasonal allergy symptoms throughout the week.

An animation shows a scroll of Google’s search results for pollen with allergy forecasts.
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If you have the Google app, you can set it to send push notifications when the pollen count is notably high that day, so you know to sequester yourself safely indoors. Hopefully you don't live in a city like Jackson, Mississippi, which in 2016 was named the worst city in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. There, your phone may be pinging every day.

While you can already find this information on sites like Pollen.com, having it show up immediately in search results saves you a few extra clicks, and frankly, it’s far more readable than most allergy and weather forecast sites.

Too bad a search engine can't cure our sneezes and watery eyes, though. Time to stock up on Kleenex, get a jumbo bottle of allergy meds, and maybe buy yourself a robot vacuum.

[h/t The Verge]

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Supermarket Introduces 'Quiet Hour' to Help Customers With Autism Feel at Ease
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For some people on the autism spectrum, a routine trip to the supermarket can quickly morph into a nightmare. It’s not just the crowds and commotion that trigger feelings of panic—sounds that many shoppers have learned to tune out, like intercom announcements or beeps from the checkout scanner, can all add up to cause sensory overload. But grocery stores don’t have to be a source of dread for people with such sensitivities. By turning down the volume for one hour each day, one supermarket is making itself more inclusive to a greater number of customers.

As Mashable reports, Australian grocery store chain Coles is partnering with the Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) organization to roll out "quiet hour" in two of its stores. From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., the lights will be dimmed by 50 percent, the radio and register sounds will be turned down to their lowest volumes, and cart collection and non-emergency PA announcements will be put on hold. The changes are meant to accommodate shoppers with autism and their families, but all shoppers are welcome.

The initiative is based on research conducted by Aspect on people on the autism spectrum and those who care for them. In addition to modifying the atmosphere, Coles has taken steps to educate its staff. If someone does start to feel overwhelmed in a Coles stores, employees trained in understanding and dealing with autism symptoms will be on hand to assist them.

Coles is following the lead of several chains that have made themselves more inviting to shoppers on the spectrum. Last year, British supermarket chain Asda introduced its own quiet hour, and Toys "R" US implemented something similar in its UK stores for the holiday season.

The Coles initiative is just a trial run for now, but if the customer reaction is positive enough it may be here to stay. Visitors to their Ringwood and Balwyn East stores in Victoria will have a chance to experience it now through the end of October.

[h/t Mashable]

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