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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Holiday Tips

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Kathy Lutz reports on the health implications of two items normally associated with this holiday season.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: White House hopeful Dennis Kucinich on the environment. First, this environmental health note from Kathy Lutz.


LUTZ: To a lot of people, nothing says “holiday season” more than a cup of hot cocoa and a poinsettia plant on the table. New studies suggest some people may want to keep the cocoa, but skip the poinsettia this year. Poinsettias belong to the same family as the rubber tree. Some people have severe allergic reactions to natural rubber, or latex.

So a Georgia researcher thought latex sensitive patients could also be allergic to poinsettias. To see, he mixed blood from a few of these patients with poinsettia extract. 40 percent of the blood samples reacted to the plant compound, indicating an allergy. So the researcher is warning people allergic to latex to be careful when handling the plants.

On a warmer note, a hot cup of cocoa may now be considered a health drink. Cocoa teems with antioxidants – chemicals like flavonoids known to protect against cancer and heart disease. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know how plentiful these compounds were in different drinks. They tested red wine, green tea, and cocoa. Cocoa beat out its competitors, hands down. It contained 564 milligrams of one flavonoid compared to just 163 milligrams in red wine and a mere 47 milligrams in green tea. That’s this week's health note, I'm Kathy Lutz.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Air “Dead Bodies” THE VIRGIN SUICIDES [SOUNDTRACK] (Astralwerks - 2000)]



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