Archived Articles - November 2012

Drying laundry indoors may cause ill health

Researchers from The Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit (MEARU) in Scotland working together with Caledonian and Strathclyde universities have found that drying laundry indoors is hazardous for health, as it promotes dust mites and moulds having adverse effects on individuals susceptible to asthma.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), this three-year study is titled 'Environmental Assessment of Domestic Laundering', whose findings were published on November 2, 2012.

The study found that continued damp weather conditions and a penchant for not using tumble dryers to reduce fuel bills often lead people to dry their clothes indoors. The purpose of doing so may be reduced energy expenses; but, in reality, people increase the heating by drying two liters of water dispensed into the air by washing a usual load. According to the researchers, drying clothes containing fabric conditioners indoors may augment the cancer-causing chemicals in the air, besides an increased energy use and aggravated fuel poverty, a major problem in the West of Scotland already.

According to Colin Porteous, MEARU professor and research co-author, owing to growing consciousness regarding energy consumption by tumble dryers several people opt to dry their clothes indoors, which not only results in serious energy price due to enhanced heating requirements, but also a probable health hazard owing to elevated levels of moisture. Therefore, researchers have recommended a strong connection between indoor drying of laundry and augmented growth of dormant bacterium that may worsen the symptoms for individuals having hay fever, asthma and different allergies.

Researchers observed the laundry habits of residents of social housing complexes in West of Scotland and undertook a thorough investigation of energy consumption and air quality. In conclusion, they stated that drying laundry indoors caused ecological, financial and fitness problems, which deteriorated further because of the inclination of people in the UK to build smaller and air tight homes.

The researchers suggest that whenever feasible people should dry laundry outdoors, or make use of energy-efficient tumble dryers. Provided one has to dry clothes indoors, he should place them by a south facing window utilizing natural heat and light. In addition, while developing new housings, care should be taken to ensure the designs make provision for drying laundry means without adding to the existing poor quality of air.

They have already brought out a design guide that suggests upgrading and sunspaces, building new homes having drying space and individual heating plus ventilation, community laundries and drying provisions, and installation of economical appliances that save energy. Currently, they are discussing their findings with authorities of social housing with an eye to the Housing Associations adopting their proposals.

While asserting the need for further comprehensive changes, Porteous says that their research provides a forceful explanation for undertaking changes vis-à-vis health and comfort plus related economic consequences. He says they expect that existing statutory as well as advisory standards would be changed to accommodate them on board to guarantee a living environment that is healthy and fiscally viable.

Math anxiety may trigger physical pain sensation

A research undertaken by the University of Chicago scientists has discovered that anxiety over solving mathematics problems may stimulate brain areas involved with experiencing physical pain and natural risk detection. The findings of the study have been reported in PLOS ONE.

The researchers led by Ian Lyons found that people who are extremely worried while waiting for maths assignments experience augmented activities in the brain regions related to sensations of physical pain when they actually try to solve the math problems. An individual's anxiety over maths is directly proportional to neural activity.

The scientists studied 14 adults experiencing math-anxiety on the basis of their answers to a survey regarding maths. These questions evaluated their worry by trying to know their reactions when they received a math book, entering a math class and the necessity of math for graduating. It was found that though these participants were not usually nervous, they became very sensitive in math-specific conditions.

Subsequently, the subjects were evaluated using an fMRI machine that gauged their mental activities, especially in relation to maths. Scans using fMRI revealed that anxiety of ensuing events related to maths activated a brain reaction very akin to physical pain. The more the worry regarding math, the greater math anticipation triggered posterior insula - a small brain tissue just on top of the ear.

The participants were also required to prove equations and answer word puzzles. According to the researchers, they have just provided the initial neural proof that hints at the type of the subjective understanding of math-anxiety.

In fact, earlier studies had suggested that the performance of children having greater math-anxiety is poor in maths. They are actually uneasy when solving math assignments.

Findings of another study by researchers at the Stanford University School show that children experiencing math-anxiety demonstrate an transformed brain functioning, which means that such anxious and scared reactions have the ability to lessen the activities in the brain areas dealing with math. In addition, previous studies have also hinted that different types of psychological strains, such as social rejection or a painful break-up may also result in sensations of physical pain.

Nevertheless, the study at the University of Chicago examines the pain reaction related to expecting an event caused by anxiety, rather than pain related to the traumatic event itself. This study only hints that expecting a worrying incident might be related to triggering neural areas adding to the process of physical pain.

In conclusion, the authors state that their findings hint at the fact that instead of the act of carrying out math assignments, the anticipation of solving a math problem stimulates this reaction. The findings are significant, as they provide a potential neural platform for studying that individuals having elevated math-anxiety may most possibly keep away from situations related to math, for instance, math classes and also careers associated with math. Such avoidance results from the sensation of this painful anxiety.

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