Green tips and shoots 1

The first in our new EnviroHealth series of fresh tips and trends, plucked from the latest research.

Choose well-lit greens. When picking out fruit and veg in the supermarket, choose whatever looks freshest from the top of the pile and front of the row. Research on spinach leaves suggests that exposure to continuous light, even artificial supermarket lights, allows photosynthesis to continue and bumps up the nutrient content of plant foods. Read more: Market lighting affects nutrients.

Pregnant? Banish smokers. The latest addition to evidence that even environmental tobacco smoke harms unborn babies: second-hand smoke triples the risk of stillbirth. Also, babies born to passive-smoking mothers tend to weigh less and have slightly smaller heads. Read more: Stillbirths tied to second-hand smoke    

And if you're trying to kick the habit, you need to banish yourself from other smokers' company: the nicotine in second-hand smoke is enough to trigger serious cravings. Read more: Second-hand smoke affects brain.

Turn down that MP3 player. Better yet: turn it off! MP3 players are OK for your ears at 50% of their maximum volume or lower. But set higher than that – beware:

  • At 60% volume: you can listen to music for 5 hrs before your hearing is damaged.

  • At 90% volume: your ears can only stand 10-15 minutes and they’ll need a rest period after to recover.

It makes one wonder: why aren’t MP3 players rather made to play at only 50% of their current ear-blasting maximum? 

Generally speaking, your ears can withstand about 8 hours listening to music at 90 decibels (equivalent to the noise level of a lawnmower or a busy highway) before cells in the inner ear start to be damaged and definite hearing loss occurs. For every five decibels above this, safe listening time is halved, i.e. you can only tolerate four hours exposure at 95 decibels and two hours at 100 decibels. At 120 decibels and above: instant, irreversible damage. Read more: Listening to MP3 for too long is bad

Shave off a few km, shave off a few kg. Driving is a big sedentary activity, and it's fuelling the obesity epidemic, not to mention carbon emissions. Researchers reckon there's a 99% correlation between America's rising obesity stats and the rise in car use. If each American motorist reduced their daily driving distance by a third (about 19km), they'd likely eliminate their obesity problem. But every km less helps. Try this for starters: when looking for a parking place, don't spend ages driving around getting stressed out seeking the perfect one closest to your destination. Make it a habit to rather park sooner, a little way off, and walk the remaining distance. Read more: Are cars fuelling the obesity epidemic?

 - Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, May 2011

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