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Out of Bug Spray? Try Victoria’s Secret Perfume

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Summer may be long gone in the Western Hemisphere, but that’s no reason to let your guard down. Before you know it, the mosquitoes will be back, but this time, you can be prepared. Scientists tested the mosquito-repelling powers of 10 substances. Most of the results confirmed what we already know, but there was one big surprise: Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume makes a pretty decent bug spray.

The mosquito is more than just a pest. With its syringe-like proboscis and taste for blood, it’s the perfect carrier for deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. Some researchers are working fast to find cures for these conditions while others are trying to figure out how to keep the mosquitoes from biting in the first place.

That group includes Stacy Rodriguez, a research assistant at New Mexico State University’s Vector Physiology Lab. “Not all repellents are created equal—unfortunately they’re advertised as such,” Rodriguez said in a press release this week. “It’s important to let consumers know what’s actually effective.”

Rodriguez and her colleagues dropped mosquitoes into the tail of a Y-shaped tube to give them a choice between a naked human hand and a hand sprayed with a chemical compound. The study included two mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and 10 compounds, eight of which were commercially available mosquito repellents. The other two substances were fragrances: Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil and Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume. 

Unsurprisingly, the bug sprays with DEET were the most successful in keeping mosquitoes away. Sorry, moms: Avon's Skin So Soft Bug Guard was pretty much useless. A vitamin B1 patch, marketed as a “natural” alternative to bug spray, was not just ineffective—it actually attracted the little bloodsuckers.

And then there was Bombshell. Historically, studies have shown that floral and fruity scents attract mosquitoes, and bite-prone people were cautioned to stay away from perfume. But this perfume has both floral and fruity notes, and it kept mosquitoes away for more than two hours.

The two mosquito species responded differently to some of the compounds. A bug spray called EcoSmart stopped repelling Ae. aegypti after a half hour, but kept Ae. albopictus away for more than four hours. Both species, however, hated the Bombshell.

The research was published in the Journal of Insect Research. 

Be forewarned if you’re going to attempt the perfume-as-bug-spray route: the researchers used a lot of perfume in this experiment. “Lower concentrations of the same fragrance might have different effects,” they wrote. So though the perfume will work as mosquito repellent, you may also run the risk of repelling everyone else around you with your fruity perfume cloud. 

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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