TIME Environment

Pollutants Created by Climate Change Are Making Airborne Allergens More Potent

Smog arrives at the banks of Songhua River on January 22, 2015 in Jilin, Jilin province of China.
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images Smog arrives at the banks of Songhua River on Jan. 22, 2015, in Jilin, China

It could explain why more people are suffering from year to year

If you think your seasonal sneezing, wheezing and sniffling is getting worse, you aren’t simply imagining it.

Currently, some 50 million or so Americans suffer from nasal allergies, but the number is going up, and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany say a pair of pollutants linked to climate change could be to blame. That’s according to a report in Science Daily.

The two gases are nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, which appear to set off chemical changes in some airborne allergens, increasing their potency.

“Scientists have long suspected that air pollution and climate change are involved in the increasing prevalence of allergies worldwide,” said the institute’s Ulrich Pöschl. “Our research is just a starting point, but it does begin to suggest how chemical modifications in allergenic proteins occur and how they may affect allergenicity.”

Pöschl’s team found that ozone (a major component of smog) oxidizes an amino acid that sets off chemical reactions that ultimately alter an allergenic protein’s structure. Meanwhile, nitrogen dioxide (found in car exhausts) appears to alter the separation and binding capabilities of certain allergens.

Researchers believe that together, the two gases make allergens more likely to trigger the body’s immune response, especially in wet, humid and smoggy conditions.

The team hopes to identify other allergenic proteins that are modified in the environment and examine how these affect the human immune system.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

There’s New Evidence About How Life on Earth Began

Getty Images
Getty Images Conceptual artwork of ribonucleic acid.

Some support for the primordial ooze theory

How did life on Earth start? Did it emerge from the primordial ooze as is popularly believed, or did it land here from a comet or some other celestial body?

A new study in the journal Nature Chemistry provides strong evidence that the ingredients necessary to concoct the first life forms did indeed exist on earth. The scientists say that they used hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide and ultraviolet light—three basic elements that were available pre-life as we know it—to create the building blocks of compounds that eventually led to the genetic material that all life on earth holds in common, DNA.

The process also likely got some extraterrestrial help. They speculate that meteorites might have reacted with nitrogen in the atmosphere to create hydrogen cyanide, and that in water, that chemical could have interacted with both hydrogen sulfide and the sun’s UV light.

MONEY Entrepreneurs

Here’s a New Theory About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

mother and daughter shopkeepers
Ariel Skelley—Getty Images

Nurture beats nature when it comes to small business ambitions, according to a new study.

It’s long been known that children with entrepreneurial parents are more likely to become entrepreneurs themselves. But new research quantifies that effect—and goes a step further by suggesting why exactly that might be.

The study, published in the latest Journal of Labor Economics, found that upbringing, rather than genetics, seems to have the biggest effect on the offspring of self-started business owners. The researchers did something prior studies (which mainly focused on twins) hadn’t: They examined the career choices of thousands of Swedish children raised by either adoptive or biological parents to compare the relative effects of nature and nurture on the entrepreneurial impulse.

Adopted children, they found, were 20% more likely to become entrepreneurs if their biological parents were also entrepreneurs. But if it was their adoptive parents who were entrepreneurs, it was 45% more likely children would follow suit.

“The importance of adoptive parents is twice as large as the influence of biological parents,” wrote authors Joeri Sol and Mirjam Van Praag of the University of Amsterdam, and Matthew Lindquist of Stockholm University.

The authors controlled for the possibility that kids might just be inheriting the family business (or money to start a new business) and continued to find the same effect—which suggests that kids were simply seeing their parents as role models. That would also explain why gender had a big impact on children: Daughters in the study were most likely to become entrepreneurs if their mothers were—and sons if their fathers were.

These findings may also have implications for educators and policymakers who care about growing small businesses. The greater the effect of nurture on career choices, the authors wrote, “the larger the potential benefit of programs aimed at fostering entrepreneurship.”

The biggest takeaway for parents? If you want your kids to become start-up success stories, you should first try to become one yourself.

TIME Aging

Old People Should Be Part of NYC Workforce: Report

'Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work'

A skilled-labor shortage has left small businesses across the country scrambling to fill positions and New York City health organizations say there’s a simple solution: hire older workers.

“Hiring, retaining and using older workers strategically can solve a variety of pressing problems that employers in our city face,” said Shauneequa Owusu, a health policy expert at the New York Academy of Medicine, which co-produced a new report with the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University and the Mayor’s office’s Age-Friendly New York City.

Read more: The New Age of Much Older Age

The report, published Wednesday, suggests that workers 55 or older can bring skill and expertise while only requiring minimal adjustment on the part of small businesses (technology training can get older workers up to speed quickly, the report found). At the same time, research suggests the workplace can benefit from age diversity, too. “There is evidence that mixed age teams in the workplace are more productive than teams of workers of the same age,” the authors write.

“Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work. Furthermore, there’s growing evidence that it’s helpful to their healthy aging and wellbeing to continue working,” said report author Ruth Finkelstein at Columbia’s aging center. Recent research points to a clear association between being employed and improved mental, physical and emotional health, she said.

The finding comes as more and more Americans want to avoid a traditional work-free retirement. According to the new research, 700,000 workers are older than 55 in New York City alone, and many say they do not plan to retire conventionally.

TIME Research

Men Are Totally Hardwired by Evolution to Prefer Curvy Women, Study Finds

Human Spine
Getty Images

And it's one curve in particular

A new University of Texas study has found that men express a clear preference for women who have a pronounced back-to-buttock curve.

After asking around 100 men to rank the attractiveness of images of various females, researchers found that men strongly preferred women with a back-to-buttock curve of 45.5 degrees, which they described as the “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature.”

They theorized that, in ancient times, such an angle meant that women were more likely to carry out successful pregnancies.

“This spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight over the hips,” said researcher David Lewis.

“These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury.”

Researchers conducted a second study to rule out if the spinal curvature preference was due to the buttock size rather than the spinal curvature angle itself. But they discovered that men repeatedly exhibited a preference for women with spinal-curvature angles closer to the optimum, even if the women had smaller buttocks.

“Beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or ‘in the eyes of the beholder’ as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic,” Lewis added.

Read next: This App Alerts You When You’re Near a Spot Where a Woman Made History

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

Women Who Sleep More Also Have More Sex, a New Study Finds

Each additional hour of sleep is found to increase the next day's possibility of sex by 14%

Women who get more shut-eye generally have more sex, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, who spent over two weeks tracking the sleep and sexual patterns of 171 young women.

The study discovered that not only did more sleep for women lead to more sex, it often led to better sex. Good sleep hygiene, which refreshes a person’s mood, energy and concentration, is linked to increased sexual desire and arousal. In the study, women reported higher physical arousal after a longer average period of sleep, with the average sleep duration clocking in at seven hours, 22 minutes. More impressively, each additional hour of sleep increased the next day’s possibility of sex by 14%.

“If there’s anything women or their partners can do to help promote good sleep for one another, whether it’s helping out around the house to reduce workload, planning romantic getaways, or just practicing good sleep hygiene, it could help protect against having problems in the bedroom,” the study’s author David Kalmbach told CBS.

Read next: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Transportation

The Percentage Increase in Traffic Deaths During Spring Break Will Shock You

Most fatalities occur among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state

Spring break can be a time of hedonism for many college students, but it’s also a dangerous one, with the holiday leading to a sharp jump in traffic fatalities. That’s according to a new study published in Economic Inquiry, cited by Science Daily.

“We found that between the last week of February and the first week of April, a significantly greater number of traffic fatalities occurred in spring break hot spots compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year,” said researcher Michael T. French.

French and his team looked at traffic fatalities in 14 popular spring break destinations from Florida to California. They discovered that death tolls were 9.1% higher during spring break in these destinations, with a higher fatality incidence among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state.

During spring break, the authors also noted that there was no increase in traffic fatalities in non-spring break destinations, confirming that the spike is attributable to the holiday period itself.

To reduce traffic fatalities, researchers recommend that destinations offer transportation incentives to persuade students to leave cars behind. Travel vouchers for rideshares, taxis and other programs might go a long way in saving a life this spring break, researchers say.

[Science Daily]

TIME 2016 Election

Old Tweets Prove Dangerous for 2016 Campaign Staffers

Governor Scott Walker Speaks at CPAC
Ron Sachs—Corbis Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

Tweet at your own risk

Old tweets are the new paper trail. As the 2016 presidential race gets underway, a number of newly hired staffers have lost their jobs for things they once wrote on Twitter.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential effort announced Monday the hiring of Liz Mair, a veteran digital operative and Walker alumnus. Barely 36 hours later, she was out of a job, resigning amid a firestorm over old tweets critical of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Jim Dornan, an operative backing neurosurgeon Ben Carson was caught by BuzzFeed Tuesday using a pseudonymous Twitter account to make crude attacks on Democrats and some Republicans. And last month Ethan Czahor resigned within days of being hired as Jeb Bush’s chief technology officer after reporters and Democratic operatives dug up old racist tweets and blog posts.

The Mair and Czahor cases are little more than political malpractice: the campaigns didn’t fully vet their new hires, leaving them surprised when past comments surfaced.

But they are part of a pattern bound to be repeated this cycle and for years to come, as opposition researchers retrace staffers’ social media trail to turn inartful comments against their bosses. In the past, the personal thoughts of mid-level campaign staff rarely raised an eyebrow, but then that was back in the days when people didn’t record those thoughts on a public forum like Twitter.

Now the danger, and opportunity, of turning up embarrassing details on operatives is reshaping how campaigns approach their jobs. Campaign research is largely divided into two spheres: offensive—digging up dirt on the opposition—and defensive, making sure your own house is in order. The former has gotten easier, and, according to operatives in both parties, the latter is now far more difficult.

“Unfortunately due to social media, there has been a proliferation in red flags on potential hires,” said one prominent Republican researcher. “Old opinions expressed on social media become important in a new context. The challenge is then do you hire that person or not. All of it is subjective.”

In the Mair and Czahor cases, veteran operatives believe the Bush and Walker campaigns fell into a familiar trap: assuming their senior hires didn’t need to be vetted. Democratic opposition researchers first surfaced Czahor’s tweets, and were also behind Mair’s downfall, flagging her comments to the Des Moines Register.

“When you’re considering an operative who has a long media trail, whether that means extended Twitter-fights or some controversial commentary that has earned them some prominent enemies, well then you should do a thorough vet,” said one senior veteran of GOP campaigns. “You and your candidate have to know what you’re getting into. Some operatives are worth that battle. Some aren’t.”

“It just shows a basic lack of due diligence,” said Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, the Director of Research for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. “An even cursory review of the Twitter feeds of one’s potential CTO or digital strategist should be standard operating procedure.”

But in 2016, the same traits that can make staffers attractive—such as a knack for fighting partisan battles on social media—are the very ones that can make them liabilities. Operatives who grew up in the age of social media often think nothing of tossing off a snarky remark or two, and that reputation can help them foster relationships with reporters and fellow operatives. But those same comments can later be held against their bosses.

In Mair’s case, her outspoken support for immigration reform and same-sex marriage put her at odds with Walker on issues sensitive with the GOP base, such as the value of the Iowa cacauses and need for immigration reform, where the candidate has acknowledged changing his position. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann called on Walker to fire Mair. (Iowa is a critical state for Walker, as he is depending on a win there next year to vault him to the Republican nomination.)

But Mair is unlikely to be the last operative to face a career stumble because of social media. The open question is how far down the campaign pecking order the social media threat will travel. Democratic researcher Greg Scanlon described checking public available social media posts and public records on Nexis for senior staff and consultant hires, but not lower-level employees. “Generally it’s way too time-consuming to run the traps on anyone more junior than that—at a certain point I think you just have to rely on the good judgment you’re hopefully hiring them for in the first place and make it clear they’ll be held accountable for anything that crosses a line,” he said.

“From an opposition standpoint, of course, it’s also tough to get much traction when a 22-year-old field organizer tweets something stupid unless it’s particularly egregious and/or a slow news day, so it’s usually much lower-risk anyway,” he added.

Privately, some Democratic operatives regret furthering placing staffers in the crosshairs. “We try to be careful, but sometimes we say things we wish we hadn’t, too.”

Eventually as more staffers—and candidates—grow up in the social media generation, there may be a tipping point where it’s no longer a firing offense. Until then, starry-eyed young political operatives should post a note on their iPhones: Tweet at your own risk.

TIME Research

Prolonged Breastfeeding Linked to Higher IQ and Wealth in Adulthood

107908267
Getty Images

New research suggests that breastfeeding newborns longer helps enhance brain development

Children that breastfeed for longer periods end up smarter, more educated and wealthier in adulthood, according to a new study.

According to research published in the Lancet Global Health journal, children who breastfeed for at least 12 months scored almost four points higher on IQ tests, attended school for a year longer and made 15% more money at 30 years old, when compared with their peers who suckled for less than a month.

Researchers in Brazil surveyed almost 3,500 individuals born in the state of Pelotas in 1982 about their breastfeeding habits.

The study’s authors say the uptick in intelligence is likely tied to the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids present in breast milk that are essential for brain development.

“Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role,” said lead author Bernardo Lessa Horta, a professor at Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.

[Science Daily]

TIME toxins

Why ‘BPA-Free’ May Be Meaningless

After years of campaigning, health advocates finally convinced many household product manufacturers to remove the chemical Bisphenol A, known as BPA, from items like receipts, plastic bottles and the lining of tin cans. And as a result, it’s not hard to find products labeled “BPA-free.” But it turns out the chemicals used to replace BPA may have nearly the exact impact on the human body — hormone disruption — as BPA, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

“According to pretty much all the literature there is on these two substitutes, they are hormonally active in ways similar to BPA – similar mechanisms, similar potencies,” said study author Johanna Rochester, a researcher at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

The study evaluated existing research on two BPA replacement chemicals: Bisphenol S and F, known as BPS and BPF. The similarity between the compounds may extend beyond the name, the study suggests. For one, the compounds’ structures are remarkably similar. The compounds also behave like BPA, part of the reason why they make a good replacement for manufacturers — if not for consumers looking to oust hormone-disrupting chemicals from their products.

Research on the health effects of BPF and BPS is still in its early stages — just because a chemical has the ability to behave a certain way in the body doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous. Still, the researchers say based on what we do know, the average consumer has reason to be a little concerned. BPA has been shown to cause problems with human reproduction, metabolism, neurological function and a whole host of other problems.

“We’ve got to do something about putting brand new compounds in products without having consulted with biologists about what they do,” said Cheryl S. Watson, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who was not involved in this research.

But beyond researchers sounding the alarm, what should you do as a consumer if you’re concerned about BPS and BPF?

Here’s a good place to start:

Know that BPA-free products can still have unhealthy chemicals.
This is the most important thing to know and it’s pretty straightforward: a BPA-free label doesn’t mean a product is free from other harmful chemical compounds that are slightly different but have a different name. Indeed, the BPA-Free Package program, a third-party group that verifies that products don’t have BPA, is halting operations because the certification creates a “false halo of health” given growing evidence of the dangers of BPS and BPF. Still, because products with BPS and BPF behave similarly to products with BPA, you can follow the same rules to avoid the associated hazards that you would use for BPA.

Avoid handling receipts.
Receipts at many grocery stores and retailers are printed on a product known as “thermal” paper. These receipts, once heavy in BPA, are often made with BPS or BPF these days. In some ways, exposure to these compounds in receipts may be riskier than exposure to containers made with the compound. In receipts, BPS and BPF are “free” and can easily migrate from the product to your skin and other surfaces. “If it’s a receipt that I do need, I’ll hold out my bag and ask the person to drop into the bag so I don’t have to touch it,” Watson says.

Drink from steel or glass containers, not plastic ones.
Steel and glass drinking containers are widely available. It makes sense to purchase a few for the house and a few for the office.

Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers.
The heat from the microwave can separate BPA-like compounds from plastic containers, making them easier for the consumer to ingest. If you must use plastic containers, you should avoid the microwave. Ideally, you just store food in ceramic or glass containers in the first place.

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