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How Clean Are Your Contact Lenses?

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At any given time, more than 30 million Americans are sporting prescription contact lenses. Wearers are typically given rigid instructions for keeping them sterile and preventing contamination during insertion or removal, but new research suggests users may be harboring more bacteria in the eye than previously believed.

The Human Microbiome Program at New York University School of Medicine recently published a study involving 58 adults in the journal mBio that found an increased level of bacteria on the eye surface of contact-lens wearers compared to subjects who do not wear contacts. The bacterial profile was found to be similar to the surface of the skin surrounding the eye: skin bacteria such as Pseudomonas, Lactobacillus, and Acinetobacter were among the bacteria strains found, none of which are typically seen in high concentrations on the ocular surface. Meanwhile, the eyes of contact-lens wearers were lower in bacteria such as Haemophilus and Streptococcus than those of non-lens wearers. 

The study authors say it’s too premature to implicate the lenses directly: It’s possible an insufficient hygiene regimen is at fault. The Centers for Disease Control estimates anywhere from 40 to 90 percent of users don’t follow proper protocol for handling. To minimize the chances for infection, the CDC says it’s important to wash your hands before touching the lenses and to keep them cleaned after wearing and before storage with a sanitizing solution (not water). You should also pay attention to the lens case, wiping it down with solution and replacing it every three months. Failure to do so has been linked to serious eye infections. 

Additionally, you never want to shower, jump into a hot tub, swim, or sleep in them. Irritation, pain, or redness should be reported to your eye doctor.

[h/t ScienceDaily

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Live Smarter
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 baked in an older kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. Historically, lead has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red. The chemical is avoided by potters today, but it can still show up in handmade dishware baked in older kilns that contain lead residue. Antique products from the era when lead was a common crafting material may also be unsafe to eat or drink from. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

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. Independent artisans have also moved away from working with the ingredient, but there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

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]

This piece was updated to clarify that while lead may be present in antique ceramics and old kilns, it's no longer a common ingredient in ceramic glazes.

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