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May 25, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- DIRTY AIR MAY BRING TWINS

Researchers say high levels of environmental pollution may increase the rates of twin births. The study, reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, investigated the rates of twin births of mothers living in the vicinity of a toxic waste incinerator in the Hesse region of Germany. The rates were compared with those of two other areas without obvious environmental pollution in Hesse and compared to regional birth records from 1994 to 1997. Twin-birth rates in areas near the toxic waste incinerator were more than twice as high as those in the two comparison areas, the scientists found. Analysis of birth records showed in areas where people lived close to the toxic waste incinerator, or other heavy industries in the region, the twin birth rate was up to twice that of other areas.


Scientists say artificial food coloring and preservatives affect the level of hyperactivity in very young children. The study, reported in Archives of Disease in Childhood, shows removal of the substances could benefit public health. In the study of 1,800 3-year-olds, the scientists had the youngsters eating additive-free food the first week. During the second and fourth weeks, the children were assigned to a daily dose of fruit juice, with or without colorings and preservatives. Parents' reports showed children became significantly less hyperactive during the period when the additives were removed from the diet, and much more hyperactive when they were put back in.


Researchers have developed a special harness and vest to protect bone-fragile adults in car crashes. The scientists say people with osteoporosis and other brittle bone disorders often suffer more serious injuries in accidents. The Johns Hopkins University engineering students said their harness and vest system significantly reduced the force of impact in crash tests with a dummy. They developed the system to meet a challenge from the Center for Injury Research and Policy in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We estimate that as many as 13 million people with osteoporosis, osteogenesis impefecta (brittle bone disorder) and hemophilia need some additional protection from forces applied to the torso during a car crash," said Gary Sorock, associate professor at the center. The system especially protects the motorist's ribs and sternum. The vest also might have applications in helping to prevent injuries in sports like football or snowboarding, Sorock said.


Here's what you should do when your children are out of school and bored stiff: give them a mix of planned activities and free time, experts say. Dr. Ken Haller, assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says, "The secret to having a summer everyone will remember is finding the right balance between irresistible activities and free time." Start by sitting down as a family to help your children brainstorm the top three things they want to do, he advised. He says parents should encourage their offspring to select a long-term program or activity, such as weekly swimming lessons, baseball or softball team, bowling league, special-interest camp, rock-climbing excursions or summer theater or music lessons. "Think of summer as a time when children get to do the stuff they want to do but don't have to do," Haller said. "They continue learning and exploring, but not in a structured school classroom."

(Editors: For more information about TWIN, contact Emma Dickinson at +44 (0)20 7383 6529 or For FOOD, Emma Dickinson at +44 (0)20 7383 6529 or For FRAGILE, Phil Sneiderman at (443) 287-9960 or For BORED, Nancy Solomon at (314) 977-8017 or

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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