is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Bob Doughty. This week, we will tell about a call to limit
a widely used pain medicine. We will also
tell about obesity -- a growing health problem in the United States. And, we will tell about plans for an unusual laboratory
in the state of South Dakota.
The United States government might order new
restrictions on a commonly used painkiller. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage and even death.
a group of experts advised the Food and Drug Administration that the drug needs
more controls and better directions for use. Acetaminophen, also called paracetamol, is found in Tylenol, Excedrin
and other products that do not require a doctor's order or prescription. These products are used for pain, high body
temperature, colds and sleeplessness.
Their easy availability is part of the problem. People can accidentally take too much
acetaminophen if they take several medicines that all contain it.
group proposed reducing the largest non-prescription dose of acetaminophen from
one thousand milligrams. The experts
said that is too much. They said adults
should not take more than six hundred fifty milligrams at a time. They also said people should take less than
four thousand milligrams of acetaminophen in a single day.
Acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of liver
damage in the United States. Researchers
say it resulted in fifty-six thousand hospital emergency room visits a year
during the nineteen nineties. There were
almost four hundred sixty deaths a year from liver failure.
The group was especially concerned about prescription
drugs that combine acetaminophen with stronger painkillers. The experts proposed banning combination drugs
like Percocet and Vicodin. Still, the
experts were divided in their votes. The
Food and Drug Administration is not required to follow the advice of its
committees, but generally does.
is used as a pain and fever reducer for adults and children. It does not cause stomach problems or bleeding
like aspirin, ibuprofen and some other drugs can.
But experts say taking even small amounts over the
suggested dose can cause liver damage. Some
people suffer harm from smaller amounts than others. Mixing alcoholic drinks with acetaminophen is
especially bad for the liver.
should ask a health expert about drug combinations that could be harmful. And they should make sure they know what is in
the medicines they take and how much of each one is safe to take.
United States is facing a growing concern: rising obesity rates.
new report says adult obesity rates rose last year in twenty-three of the fifty
states. No states showed a rate
decrease. And, the percentage of obese
or overweight children was at or above thirty percent in thirty states.
Two groups -- the Trust for America's Health and the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- released the report earlier this month. They used a system of measurement called the
Body Mass Index to define words like obese and overweight.
find your B-M-I, divide your weight in kilograms by height in meters
squared. A normal B-M-I is between
eighteen point five and twenty-four point nine. The B-M-I of someone overweight is between twenty-five and twenty-nine
point five. And, an obese person has a
B-M-I above thirty.
new report says widespread obesity is increasing the rates of chronic, or long-lasting, disease. It says obesity is responsible for an
increasing part of health care costs in the United States.
Jeff Levi is head of the Trust for America's Health. He says health care costs have grown while
many Americans are getting fatter.
has been linked to health problems like heart disease, stroke and type-two
diabetes. The report says the current
recession could worsen obesity rates by increasing food prices. It says this would make healthy foods cost
more. The report blames the recession
for rising rates of depression, anxiety and stress. It says the three conditions have been linked
to obesity in many individuals.
had the highest rate of adult obesity in the new study. Thirty-two point five percent of the state's
adults were obese. In fact, Mississippi
has had the highest rate of obese adults in each of the past five years. Three other states have rates above thirty
percent last year. They were West
Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee. Colorado was the only state with an adult obesity rate below twenty
Mississippi also had the
highest rate of obese and overweight children. Forty-four point four percent of all children between the ages of ten
and seventeen years were obese or overweight. Minnesota and Utah had the lowest rate -- twenty-three point one
The report offers some
ideas for dealing with obesity within government health care reforms. They include making sure that every adult and
child has a right to preventive medical services. The report also calls for creation of a
national program to fight obesity.
a former gold mine seems like an unlikely place to study the universe. But that is just what scientists are planning
to do deep below the Black Hills in South Dakota. That is where the Homestake Gold Mine is
being prepared to become the world's deepest underground science laboratory.
say the old mine is the perfect place to study dark matter. Scientists
have wondered about mysterious dark matter particles for more than seventy
years. The idea is that the matter we
see does not have enough gravitational pull to keep galaxies together. Dark matter is believed to represent nearly
one fourth of the universe's total mass. Scientists
can observe what they believe to be dark matter only through its gravity.
The Homestake Gold Mine was
chosen to study dark matter because it is largely protected from the radiation
that could interfere with the project. The deepest part of the mine is nearly two thousand five hundred meters
below ground. Some experiments are
already taking place in the mine at a depth of about one thousand five hundred meters.
Homestake operated as a gold mine for
one hundred twenty-five years before closing about nine years ago. However, this is not the first time the mine
has been used for science. In the
nineteen sixties, Ray Davis Junior used the mine for his work showing the
existence of solar neutrinos. He and another
scientist, John Bahcall, received the Nobel Prize for physics for their work.
Pumps that were used to
keep the mine dry have not been in operation since its closure. So today, before the new research can begin,
water must be removed from the mine. Workers must also build new structural supports
in the mine to ensure its safety.
Two experiments are already
planned for the mine. The first is the
Large Underground Xenon detector experiment, or LUX. It will include a three hundred kilogram tank
of liquid xenon. That container will be
inside an even larger one filled with extremely pure water. If dark matter particles exist, scientists
say, they should be able to observe a small amount of light given off when they
hit the nucleus of a xenon atom.
States Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation approved more
than one million dollars to pay for the experiment. The scientists plan to begin work on the
project later this year. They are hoping
to learn more about dark matter in an effort to better understand how the
universe expands and shrinks.
planned experiment is called Majorana. In this project, scientists hope to prove that neutrinos have mass. They hope to begin this experiment later this
are awaiting approval of additional money from Congress so that two deeper laboratories
can be built. The researchers want to
begin building those laboratories by two thousand twelve. They hope to have them open by two thousand
sixteen. The projects are expected to
cost five hundred fifty million dollars.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Mario Ritter, Marisel Salazar and Brianna
Blake, who was also our producer. I'm
I'm Bob Doughty. Read and listen to our
programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join
us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice