TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Which Produce Has the Most Pesticides

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Getty Images Plane spraying pesticide

Nearly two-thirds of produce tested contained pesticide

Apples tops the list of produce with the most pesticides, according to a new report, followed by peaches and nectarines.

Overall, nearly two-thirds of produce tested contained pesticides, but the prevalence varied greatly between types, according to the report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). More than 95% of the apples, peaches and nectarines tested contained pesticides.

“We see consistent differences between foods,” said EWG senior analyst Sonya Lunder. “This is an important piece of information for people who want to eat zero pesticides, people who are concerned about eating pesticides who maybe live in an area where they don’t get organic food or can’t afford it.”

A number of factors determine which produce farmers spray with pesticides. Farmers tend to use pesticides for fruit with sensitive skin like peaches and nectarines, she said. On the other hand, the skin or peel on produce like avocados, pineapples and bananas largely prevents pesticides from affecting consumers who eat them.

Avocados, sweet corn and pineapples topped the list of produce with fewest pesticides.

The report looked at a number of factors in United States Department of Agriculture data to develop the rankings including the percentage of a type of produce that tested positive for pesticides, the weight of the pesticides and the average number of pesticides. Consuming produce with multiple pesticides may have “synergistic effects” on the human body, said Lunder.

The report is not meant to discourage consumers from eating fruits and vegetables, Lunder said. In fact, the EWG’s database of 80,000 food items finds that produce rates among the healthiest items in the supermarket.

“We know everyone needs to eat fruits and vegetables and we would never say this is a reason to choose something else instead,” she said. “This is important tool for understanding and making informed choices about the food you purchase.”

TIME Innovation

See the Men Who Got Their Hands Cut Off and Replaced With Bionic Ones

Milorad Marinkovic holds an egg with his bionic arm with his bionic arm in Vienna, Austria on Feb. 24, 2015.
Ronald Zak—AP Milorad Marinkovic holds an egg with his bionic arm in Vienna, Austria on Feb. 24, 2015.

"I can do almost everything with it. I just don't have any feeling in it."

Three Austrian men who lost motor control over their hands volunteered for a breakthrough surgical procedure to amputate their lifeless appendages and replace them with bionic hands.

Doctors hailed the operations as the first cases of “bionic reconstruction,” in which the mechanical hand is hardwired directly into the patient’s arm, enabling the patient to open and close the fingers without external controls, the Associated Press reports.

Milorad Marinkovic demonstrates writing with his bionic hand as he poses for a photograph at his home in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs. The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as “bionic reconstruction,” which includes voluntary amputation, transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Ronald Zak—AP

Nerves and muscles transplanted from the patient’s legs run signals from the brain directly into the prosthetic arm. “I can do almost everything with it,” one patient, Milorad Marinkovic, 30, told the Associated Press. “I just don’t have any feeling in it.”

Milorad Marinkovic shows his bionic arm as he poses for a photograph at his home in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs. The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as “bionic reconstruction,” which includes voluntary amputation, transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Ronald Zak—AP

TIME public health

Here’s What Foods Are Most Likely To Have E. Coli or Salmonella

'For more than a decade, our fragmented federal food safety system has been in need of dramatic reform'

More than 80% of the reported E. Coli illnesses were traced to beef and vegetables, according to a new report on foodborne illness. Salmonella, meanwhile, is transmitted in many different kinds of foods, including seeded vegetables, eggs, fruits, chicken, sprouts, beef and pork.

The report, the result of collaboration between three federal agencies that handle food safety, examined nearly 1,000 instances of patient infection with foodborne illness to provide a reliable understanding of how pathogens spread. Researchers hope the findings will “enhance efforts to inform and engage stakeholders, including industry and consumers, about food safety strategies,” the report says.

The news comes as members of Congress push for new federal laws to strengthen food safety. More than 9 million people are infected with foodborne illness every year, and more 50,000 people are hospitalized, according to the report.

“For more than a decade, our fragmented federal food safety system has been in need of dramatic reform,” wrote Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut in an op-ed in The Hill last month. “This leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to foodborne illness and contamination, whether intentional or unintentional.”

The pair noted that 15 federal agencies are responsible for monitoring the food supply, diminishing their effectiveness. (Among them are the three organizations behind the report—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service).

DeLauro and Durbin have proposed legislation to consolidate the food safety organizations into one agency. Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York has proposed requiring grocery stores to contact customers individually who have purchased recalled items.

TIME Research

You Asked: Why Is My Scalp So Itchy?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

It’s probably dandruff. But everything you’ve heard about dandruff is wrong.

Itches are inscrutable. They arrive unannounced and recede at the rake of a fingernail. But the stubborn kind—the type that skittle across your scalp with terrible regularity—tend to have an easily identifiable cause: Dandruff.

“People think dandruff has to do with dry skin, but it’s actually a problem with how the skin cells on your scalp turn over or replace themselves,” says Dr. Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Your skin is constantly shedding layers of cells while manufacturing new ones, and Friedman says this process can be touchy. “Producing too many cells too quickly can lead to a build-up of dead skin, and this build-up itches and flakes off,” he explains. “That’s dandruff.”

What causes this over-production of skin cells? Anything that puts stress on your immune system—from cold winter temperatures to a crazy week at the office—can switch on certain genetic proteins that speed up the production of skin cells, Friedman says. (Other skin conditions—acne, eczema—also flare up when you’re stressed.)

Yeast microorganisms living on your scalp can also mess with your skin’s cell reproduction, says Dr. Anthony Rossi, a dermatologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While usually harmless, these organisms—which live on everyone’s skin—can cause a reaction in some that leads to cell overabundance.

How do you stop the itching and flaking? Dandruff shampoo is a good start. Friedman says these shampoos work by killing scalp microorganisms and turning off the proteins that cause your skin cells to go nuts. That said, shampoos only help if you use them properly. “You’re trying to treat your scalp, so working these into your hair doesn’t do much good,” Friedman says. “You need to massage these products onto your scalp skin and leave them there for a couple minutes before rinsing.” (They aren’t usually very kind to your hair, though.)

He says dandruff shampoos typically include any one of a small number of chemicals that are all pretty much equally effective. While you could wash with them every day without over-drying your scalp, Friedman says this isn’t necessary. “Two or three times a week is plenty,” he says. “And if you don’t see improvement after a few weeks, switching to another product or using them more probably won’t do any good.”

There are many more explanations for an itchy dome. If your scalp is inflamed, red, and itchy, that may be seborrheic dermatitis—a more severe form of dandruff. “Scalp psoriasis is probably the next most common,” Friedman says. It can be hard to tell the difference between the two. But usually the flakes or “plates” of silvery gray plaques associated with scalp psoriasis are larger than dandruff flakes and tougher to brush from your clothing, he says. Scalp psoriasis could also cause some ear or face flaking.

Friedman mentions a few less-common issues: a skin disease called discoid lupus, or an allergic reaction. Rossi says an irritation to hair products like sprays or pomades is another possible itch-instigators. But trying to distinguish between those things and dandruff is really tough, Friedman says.

A good rule of thumb: If you have a red, itchy head and dandruff shampoos aren’t working after a month, see a doctor, he advises. He also cautions against waiting too long if dandruff shampoos don’t get the job done. “If you don’t treat inflammation of the scalp, there’s a chance of skin damage or hair loss,” Friedman says. “There’s often no coming back from that once it happens.”

TIME Addiction

America’s Pain Killer Problem is Growing, Federal Data Shows

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New data shows America's use of opioids hasn't declined

New federal data released Wednesday reveals the state of America’s pain killer use.

According to the numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the percentage of adults age 20 and over using prescription pain killers remains significantly higher than in the past, with people also taking stronger painkillers than before. Between 2011–2012, nearly 7% of adults reported using a prescription opioid analgesic in the past 30 days, compared to 5% in 2003-2006.

MORE: The Problem With Treating Pain in America

The report also shows that when comparing data from 1999–2002 with 2011–2012, the number of prescription pain killer users who took a medication stronger than morphine increased from 17.0% to 37%. Given the growth of pain killer addiction and related deaths, high usage makes many public health experts uneasy. Prior data from the CDC has also shown that nearly 50 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers every day.

In 2014, the CDC found that doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain killers in a single year, which is enough for every U.S. adult to have a bottle of pills.

The new data shows that women are more likely than men to be using prescription pain killers. Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to use opioid analgesics than Hispanic adults. There was no difference between non-Hispanic white adults and non-Hispanic black adults.

MORE: Why You’ve Never Heard of the Vaccine For Heroin Addiction

As TIME has recently reported, the growing opioid addiction problem is seeding a heroin problem. Since both drugs come from the opioid poppy, they offer similar highs, but heroin, while illegal, is cheaper and doesn’t require a prescription. As states across the nation face opioid issues, the CDC will continue to recommend states step up to the task of keeping an eye on prescribing practices. Some strategies recommended by the CDC are implementing state-run databases that track prescriptions in order to determine any over-prescribing problems as well as introducing policies that discourage risky prescribing among pain clinics.

TIME Drugs

Police Arrest Four Wesleyan Students Tied to Mass ‘Molly’ Overdose

Undated handout of ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical
Reuters Ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical, are pictured in this undated handout from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Two students remain in the hospital

Police in Middletown, Conn., have arrested four Wesleyan students in connection with a mass MDMA overdose over the weekend involving a bad batch of “molly” that left 12 people hospitalized.

The four students are reportedly in police custody and authorities are collecting evidence related to the incident.

“We take very seriously allegations concerning the distribution of dangerous drugs, and the university will continue to cooperate with state and local officials,” said Michael Roth, Wesleyan’s president, in a statement released Tuesday night.

School officials also announced that only two Wesleyan students are still being treated at a hospital in nearby Hartford.

Molly is the street name for MDMA, colloquially known as ecstasy, that is thought to be unusually pure and normally consumed in capsule form.

TIME neuroscience

Three Guys in Austria Have Basically Become Cyborgs After Getting Robotic Hands

The bionic hand allows the patients to perform everyday activities

Robotic hands have been successfully attached to three amputees in Austria, using a new technique that allows the users to control their electronic limbs with their minds.

The operations were completed by using an innovative procedure called bionic reconstruction, which connects prostheses directly to a patient’s nerves, according to a study in British medical journal The Lancet.

The procedure first involves intense cognitive training to prepare the body and mind for the advanced robotic prosthesis, followed by elective amputation and replacement. Once attached, the bionic hand allows all three patients to perform everyday activities, like using kitchen utensils and opening doors.

“So far, bionic reconstruction has only been done in our center in Vienna,” said Professor Oskar Aszmann from the Medical University of Vienna. “However, there are no technical or surgical limitations that would prevent this procedure from being done in centers with similar expertise and resources.”

[Science Daily]

TIME neuroscience

A Simple Skin Test May Detect Alzheimer’s

There’s new hope that the first signs of these brain disorders may lie in the skin

Detecting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as early as possible is critical. But while doctors know that the conditions can start 15 to 20 years before the symptoms appear, there aren’t many reliable ways of pinpointing exactly when that occurs. Now, scientists led by Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva at Central Hospital in University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico report that the skin may hold the clue to such early detection.

MORE Early Warning: Detecting Alzheimer’s in the Blood and Brain Before Memory Loss

In a study that will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Rodriguez-Leyva found that compared to healthy patients and those with age-related dementia, patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases had seven times higher levels of an altered form of a protein called tau in skin biopsies, and Parkinson’s patients also showed seven to eight times greater levels of a harmful version of another protein known as alpha-synuclein. Researchers aren’t sure what alpha-synuclein’s role is in the brain, but in Parkinson’s patients, it tends to clump into harmful aggregates that interrupt normal nerve function. Tau is involved in the brain decline associated with Alzheimer’s; as nerve cells die, the normally aligned molecules of tau, which function like railroad tracks to transport nutrients, collapse, twisting into unorganized masses of tangled protein.

“This skin test opens the possibility to see abnormal proteins in the skin before central nervous system symptoms — cognitive or motor deficits — appear,” Rodriguez-Leyva says.

MORE New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s

Rodriguez-Leyva turned to the skin to look for signs of the altered brain proteins since the skin and brain share a common embryonic origin; while everyone makes the two proteins, those who go on to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s seem to be especially vulnerable to having them fold in abnormal ways and stick together in damaging masses in the brain. If there were genetic signals dictating these sticky forms of the proteins, he speculated, then those signals might be detectable in the skin as well. “The ectoderm originates the nervous tissue and the skin,” he writes in an email to TIME discussing the study. “Our idea is that they have a similar program of protein expression. Therefore the skin could reflect events taking place in the nervous system.”

MORE New Test May Predict Alzheimer’s 10 Years Before Diagnosis

The study involved only a few dozen patients — 20 with Alzheimer’s, 16 Parkinson’s patients and 17 with age-related dementia, who were compared to 12 healthy controls — so more work needs to be done to confirm the findings. But the results hint that it may be possible to detect these neurodegenerative conditions sooner, and it also provides drug developers with more confidence that targeting abnormal forms of tau and alpha-synuclein may lead to effective treatments.

Read next: America’s Pain Killer Problem is Growing, Federal Data Shows

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TIME

Here’s How Drugs and Screening Can Stop HIV’s Spread

Getting someone diagnosed reduced the chance of transmission by 19%

The vast majority of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who are not receiving care for their condition, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that of the 1.1 million people with HIV in 2009, 700,000 were not receiving care, and accounted for 91.5 percent of new HIV infections.

The following interactive shows the study’s findings. Click or tap the arrows to explore.

*Viral suppression indicates a very low level of HIV remains in the blood.

TIME Heart Disease

This Makes Your Heart Attack Risk 8 Times Higher

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A new study links high levels of anger to an increased risk for heart attack

Getting very angry isn’t just off-putting to the people around you, it may also significantly increase your short-term risk for a heart attack, according to new findings.

Having an episode of intense anger was associated with an 8.5 times greater risk of having a heart attack during the following two hours, a new study published in The European Heart Journal Acute Cardiovascular Care showed. The new findings add to prior research that has suggested high levels of anger may spur a heart attack.

The study looked at 313 people who were being treated in a hospital for a heart attack. The men and women were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the level of anger they experienced in the last 48 hours based on a number scale:

  1. Calm.

  2. Busy, but not hassled.

  3. Mildly angry, irritated and hassled, but it does not show.

  4. Moderately angry, so hassled it shows in your voice.

  5. Very angry, body tense, maybe fists clenched, ready to burst.

  6. Furious, forced to show it physically, almost out of control.

  7. Enraged, out of control, throwing objects, hurting yourself or others.

An anger level greater than five was reported among seven of the people in the study in the two hours prior to their heart attack, and up to four hours prior for one person. An anger level of four was reported among two people within the the two hours before heart attack symptoms, and among four hours before for three people. According to the researchers, the results come to a 8.5-fold increase in relative risk of a heart attack in the two hours following severe anger. People who reported high levels of anxiety, also had a higher risk.

The study is small and therefore it’s still too early to know how great of a factor intense anger is in predicting heart attack onset. The anger levels are also self-reported and could differ person to person. But the study does provide experts with information about what emotional factors could trigger a heart attack. For instance, the researchers found that some of the greatest reported anger was due to arguments with family members followed by arguments with non-family members, work anger and driving anger. “Our findings highlight the need to consider strategies to protect individuals most at risk during times of acute anger,” the authors conclude.

Exactly how anger could trigger a heart attack still remains unknown, but the researchers speculate that the stress may stimulate activity in the heart like increased heart rate and blood pressure, blood vessel constriction, a plaque rupture, and clotting which could eventually lead to a heart attack.

“I think this study is very helpful in many ways because it’s validating to what we already know. Anger is not what we would call a traditional risk factor because it’s so hard to measure,” says Dr. Curtis Rimmerman a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study. “It highlights the importance of paying attention to a patient’s wellbeing.”

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