WTF Fun Fact 13239 – Indoor Air is More Polluted

More and more people are worried about air quality. But hiding indoors doesn’t appear to be an option for some people if their indoor air is more polluted. And that appears to be the case for a lot of people.

How can you know if your indoor air is more polluted than outdoors?

You can typically get readings for outdoor air quality with the weather report these days. Air pollution can come from natural sources like pollen or unnatural sources like factories, cars, and other machinery.

Testing your indoor air is another matter. But there are a few ways to get a clue about your indoor air quality. For example, if you experience frequent allergies or asthma indoors, you may have compromised air quality. If you can see or smell mold, mildew, or chemicals from cleaning supplies, your air is compromised.

If you walk into your home and experience irritation of the nose, eyes, or throat, experience skin rashes even when staying home for extended periods, or tend to experience dry skin, unexplained coughing, fatigue, dizziness, or headaches, it may be time to check your indoor air quality. (Of course, these can be symptoms of other issues as well.)

Sources of “bad air”

Indoor air pollution can come from some unlikely places. Obviously, bad air can seep into your home from outside or be tracked in on your clothing, hands, or shoes.

Other sources of indoor air pollution are:

  • Consumer products (like TVs, furniture, or things made of plastic) that tend to emit the chemicals Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) or Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
  • Wood cleaners or sealants and mattresses that contain polyurethane.
  • Carpeting, plywood, and upholstery that can emit formaldehyde.
  • Cigarette smoke.
  • Mold and mildew growing in damp areas of your home.
  • Scent diffusers and candles.
  • Pesticide residue or pollen from your shoes.
  • Dust mites and roach droppings.
  • Fireplaces that emit combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide.
  • Pets (And there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic, dander-free pet!)

The list goes on, but these are major sources that can sometimes be remediated with air purifiers. If your house has poor ventilation, you may feel the effects of indoor air pollutants more acutely.

Getting rid of your floors and furniture certainly isn’t an option for most people. However, you can prohibit smoking indoors and cut down on your use of chemical cleaners. This is especially important if someone in your home has asthma or allergies.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Indoor Air Quality” — Environmental Protection Agency

WTF Fun Fact 13236 – Health Benefits of Holding Hands

Studies have shown the health benefits of holding hands with someone you love. This can reduce stress and anxiety. That’s because the physical act of holding hands releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love, trust, and comfort.

The other health benefits of holding hands

In addition, holding hands with someone you love can also lower blood pressure and reduce physical pain, making it an effective way to promote overall well-being and improve mental and physical health.

Holding hands can also boost self-esteem and confidence, making it a helpful tool for managing feelings of insecurity or low self-worth. It can even encourage communication, which helps to facilitate deeper connections and understanding between individuals.

Studies have also shown that holding hands can help to improve memory recall and enhance cognitive function.

Oxytocin: The “love drug”

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” for its positive effects on physical and mental health. For example, studies have shown that the release of oxytocin can help to lower blood pressure. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

It can also have pain-relieving effects that can help treat a variety of painful conditions like migraines, menstrual cramps, and arthritis.

The “love hormone” is also a mood booster. Oxytocin can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in some people.

Finally, doing things that release oxytocin can help you strengthen your relationships. It helps promote feelings of love, trust, and comfort. This helps you form both personal and social bonds with those around you.

Reach out and touch…

There are many studies that demonstrate the cognitive benefits of touch. Yet it’s a sense that we don’t fully appreciate. Nevertheless, it helps us form both bonds and memories.

So, next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try reaching for your loved one’s hand.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Holding Hands May Reduce Stress” — WebMD

WTF Fun Fact 13216 – There’s Enough Iron in the Body to Make a Nail

The average human body contains enough iron to make a 3-inch nail. Well, a healthy body anyway. Some of us probably don’t get enough iron.

Is there really enough iron in the body to make a nail?

Humans require iron for many essential bodily functions. Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body and is found in many foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, and beans. It is also found in food additives and dietary supplements, and is added to infant formula as well.

It’s important to note that iron deficiency is a common problem and can lead to anemia, fatigue, and impaired cognitive functioning. The World Health Organization recommends that people consume 10-20 milligrams of iron per day to maintain optimal health.

The average male body contains approximately 4.5 grams of iron, while the average female body contains approximately 3.5 grams. This means that the total amount of iron found in the human body is enough to make a 3-inch nail. Note: nails generally weigh between 2 to 3 grams.

Of course, no one is going to siphon the iron of your body and smelt it into a nail – hopefully.

What’s the significance of this concept?

Nails are often used as a metaphor for hard work. In that sense, it’s no surprise that the idea of making a 3-inch nail from the iron in the human body is a concept that fascinates people.

Iron can also be used to represent the ability to persevere and overcome difficult challenges. It conjures up images of fortitude and determination, courage, ad the will to succeed. Additionally, iron can also be used as a metaphor for protection. often a symbol of armor or a shield.

The metaphor of making a 3-inch nail from the iron stored in the body also speaks to our strength and resilience of the human body. It emphasizes the importance of how the iron in our bodies is used to help us do hard work.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “There Is Enough of This Metal in the Body To Make a Nail” — Soma Blog

WTF Fun Facts 13172 – Drinking Water and Aging

We’ve been given a lot of contradictory advice about drinking water over the decades. Drink eight glasses of water. Don’t drink eight glasses of water. Drink only when you’re thirsty. Drink as much water as possible. However, too much water can kill you. Well, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, it turns out drinking water and aging are related.

The “anti-aging” benefits of drinking water

There’s nothing wrong with aging, of course. We should all be so lucky to be able to do it. But in this case, we’re referring to the diseases and bodily degeneration that accompany age. According to CBS News, the study shows that drinking enough water is “associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, dying early, or being biologically older than your chronological age…”

Study author Natalia Dmitrieva from the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said in a news release.”The results suggest proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life.”

You might be skeptical about that. But when you look at all of the studies on (clean) water consumption, it’s pretty obvious that it can help deliver some health benefits under the right circumstances.

How was the study performed?

Dmitrieva and her lab gathered an impressive amount of data from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period. They compared the subjects’ serum sodium levels (something that reliably goes up when a person doesn’t drink adequate water to meet their body’s needs) to 15 health indicators. These included things like blood pressure, respiratory and immune functioning, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.

And you can imagine what they found. Adults with high serum sodium levels were more likely to develop chronic diseases. They were also more likely to die younger than those with low serum sodium levels (and therefore, higher water intake).

This helps strengthen the results of a 2022 study that linked poor water intake to heart disease.

How does water affect aging?

Data was gathered from the subjects during five medical visits, two when they were in their 50s and 60s and the last between the age of 70 and 90. They also used relatively healthy subjects who did not already have chronic high serum sodium levels or other factors that could affect results, like obesity. They also adjusted for things like race, sex, and smoking status, since those can affect someone’s overall lifespan.

According to the NIH, they found:

“They found that adults with higher levels of normal serum sodium – with normal ranges falling between 135-146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) – were more likely to show signs of faster biological aging. This was based on indicators like metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function, and inflammation...Adults with serum sodium levels between 138-140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.”

Correlation and causation

Water intake, health, and aging are correlated in these studies. There appears to be a relationship between them. But you know what they say – correlation does not equal causation. That means there can be other factors involved, and that water intake does not immediately affect any of these disease or aging outcomes.

Of course, maybe water intake is the key. But that’s not something the study can prove. For that, we’ll need a lot more evidence and research into how our bodies develop or stave off specific diseases.

But in the meantime, this information can help guide our choices. Since more than half of adults in the U.S. don’t drink enough water, maybe it’s time to incorporate more into your day.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Drinking lots of water can help reduce the effects of aging” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 13165 – The Power of Trees

Behold the power of trees! In 2015, a study found that having more than 10 trees on their block made people feel as healthy as if they were seven years younger or made an additional $10,000 a year.

The healing power of trees

According to the Washington Post (cited below): “After analyzing two sets of data from Toronto, researchers report that adding just 10 trees to a single city block could improve how healthy a person feels as much as if that person made an additional $10,000 a year or were seven years younger.”

The study also found that people who lived in neighborhoods with more trees were less likely to have hypertension, be obese, or have diabetes. This was true across all demographic and socioeconomic groups, so even trees in a less affluent neighborhood seemed to work their magic on residents.

Of course, this doesn’t mean there’s a causal link between trees and health. This could just be a correlation. But trees not only affected people’s objective health measures but their perceptions of their well-being as well. We feel better around trees.

Perhaps this is why the Japanese art of “forest bathing” is being explored in relation to cancer treatment.

The study looked at 30,000 people in Toronto, which has universal healthcare. That’s important because access to healthcare is not as reliant on one’s socioeconomic status, so it controls for that factor.

Why are trees good for us?

While the correlation found in the study was strong, the researchers still don’t know why trees make us healthier. One possibility is their ability to remove pollutants from the air.

And the more we learn about the effects of air pollution on our overall health, the more sense that makes. However, there are other studies that show even a short time spent among trees can have beneficial effects on our health.  WTF fun facts

Source: “10 more trees on your street could make you feel 7 years younger, study shows” — Washington Post

WTF Fun Fact 13142 – Use of Telemedicine in the U.S.

Telemedicine use skyrocketed during the pandemic, and now it seems poised to become a regular part of the healthcare landscape. A CDC report from October 2022 revealed just how much Americans relied on telemedicine in the previous year.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of electronic means (telephones, text messages, voice and video chats, etc.) to deliver healthcare to patients remotely. While it may occasionally involve in-office testing, most of the doctor-patient relationship takes place over a device like a phone or a computer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic State of Emergency, the U.S. expanded legislation to allow more providers to deliver a broader range of care options via telemedicine. Healthcare providers had been relatively limited in what they could do for patients without seeing them in person before this.

A CDC report using 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data to assess the use of telemedicine provided interesting insight into just how many Americans over age 18 took advantage of what it had to offer in the second year of the pandemic.

The rise of telemedicine use

In 2021, 37% of American adults reported using telemedicine in the previous 12 months.

The report also found that the older people were, the more likely they were to use it. On some level, that makes sense since older people are more vulnerable to severe cases of COVID. However, it hasn’t often been the case that technology use increases with age in the past.

Women were also more likely to use telemedicine. 42% of women said they used it in 2021, compared to 31.7% of men. (However, women are more likely to see doctors than men.)

Other statistics

Adults in the U.S. West were the most likely to use telemedicine, and those in the Midwest were the least likely.

Telemedicine use increased with patients’ urbanization level – those living in large metropolitan areas were more likely to use it. This is interesting because the technology was initially used to reach those who lived far from hospitals and clinics. However, during the pandemic, people in urban areas may have been more reluctant to head to hospitals and seek care due to crowded public transportation and waiting rooms.

Those with a GED or higher education level were also more likely to get on the phone or computer to “visit” their doctor. As education levels go up, so does the use of this technology.

And while those with a below-average or average income are equally likely to engage with healthcare providers electronically, its use increases among those with higher incomes.

It appears that if telemedicine is going to be part of the future of medicine, it will be important to ensure a broader range of people have access to it and knowledge about its benefits.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Telemedicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2021” —

WTF Fun Fact 13022 – The World’s Fresh Water

Seventy-one percent of the Earth is covered in water, but that doesn’t mean we can use it all. But what percent of the world’s water is fresh (and therefore useable for humans to ingest)? Just 2.55 – and much of that is trapped in glaciers. Only 0.007% is available to us for use. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Interestingly, that’s roughly the same amount of freshwater that has always existed on Earth.

The world’s freshwater

Water is a valuable resource. If you’ve ever been without fresh water, even for a short time, you probably know exactly how panic-inducing a lack of fresh water can be. But for many people, fresh water is something we’ve always had and never really questioned. Those are the lucky minority.

It’s a bit startling to realize that the Earth’s freshwater resources have been around for hundreds of millions of years. What we drink has been recycled many, many times, whether it’s via the atmosphere or through our drinking water cups (and we’ll leave you to figure out how that works and then appreciate your local water treatment facility on your own).

Because we have very limited means of creating potable water out of saltwater through desalinization technology, it’s very hard to make enough new freshwater to sustain more humans. And that’s bad news when you think about how much water goes into things we enjoy – NatGeo says “the average hamburger takes 2,400 liters, or 630 gallons, of water to produce.

Fresh water keeps us alive

An increasingly large human population means we will need more water for hygiene, cooking, and drinking.

According to National Geographic (cited below): “Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces.” It has always been this way – people have fought wars over access to freshwater supplies for thousands of years.

“Due to geography, climate, engineering, regulation, and competition for resources, some regions seem relatively flush with freshwater, while others face drought and debilitating pollution. In much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain,” they note.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Freshwater Crisis” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12892 – McDonald’s Bubblegum-Flavored Broccoli

People long looked for ways to make broccoli easier to eat, but we’re stumped by McDonald’s attempt to make bubblegum flavored broccoli.

I suppose it’s better than broccoli-flavored bubblegum though.

When and why did McDonald’s make bubblegum broccoli?

In light of ever-more-disturbing news about the effects of the American obesity crisis, McDonald’s has long been asked how they’re trying to help. In 2014, McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson revealed the fast-food chain had tried out some interesting options to help children eat healthier.

The attempt to sneak veggies into children’s diets came to light in 2014 when, according to Mental Floss (cited below), “Thompson was asked what the fast food giant was doing to provide healthier food options for children.”

As it turns out, “Three years earlier, the chain had already revamped its Happy Meal by cutting the amount of French fries in half and offering fruit as a side option. But Thompson said they had also experimented with some unconventional methods of enticing children to eat healthier.”

One of those possibilities was bubble gum-flavored broccoli. They made it, but they never sold it.

What happened to this culinary curiosity?

It probably comes as no surprise that it never quite made it past the company’s focus groups. Kids were confused and not delighted enough to make up for any skepticism.

Mental Floss notes that “the vegetable creation didn’t exactly surprise or delight its intended audience…And even the powers-that-be were unimpressed.”

“It wasn’t all that,” Thompson said.

It appears that the item may have been planned as a Happy Meal option (one that was eventually replaced by fruit slices and yogurt).

Franky, we’re surprised no one revived the idea during the era when “Millennial pink” was the color of the moment. Sure, it would have gotten some bad press, but it certainly would have been a big seller for those Instagram food photos!  WTF fun facts

Source: “When McDonald’s Invented Bubble Gum-Flavored Broccoli” — Mental Floss

WTF Fun Fact 12764 – Mindfulness Meditation Changes the Brain

We need more large-scale studies to make definitive claims, but mindfulness meditation seems to have some cool cognitive benefits. In fact, we can see on brain scans that people who practice mindfulness meditation experience changes in their brains.

Minding your thoughts

Mindfulness practice encourages people to stop and spend time noticing their thoughts and then letting go of the ones that are negative, disorganized, or aren’t serving a positive purpose. It’s designed to help us notice and control our thinking. (As opposed to most meditation practices, which center around emptying the mind of thoughts.)

The part of the brain affected by mindfulness practice is called the amygdala. This is also called the “fight or flight” center because it is linked to fear and emotional responses. Brain scans have shown that mindfulness practice helps shrink the amygdala. While that may sound like a bad thing, an overactive amygdala can be bad for concentration, mood, and emotional regulation.

Regulating the amygdala

However, mindfulness has been shown to help increase the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. That’s a good thing because those connections help us regulate our emotional responses.

We need our amygdala, we just don’t want it to be hyperactive. And when we practice mindfulness, our bodies get better at regulating those emotional responses.

While some of the effects of mindfulness have been overstated in the press, there is evidence that it can modestly increase physical health and compassion and even reduce bias in addition to negative thought patterns.

The popularity of mindfulness meditation

A U.S. survey found that the percentage of adults practicing some type of mantra-based meditation, mindfulness meditation, or spiritual meditation in the previous year tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1% to 14.2%). Even among children (4 to 17 years of age), the percentage increased from less than 1% to over 5%. These emotional regulation techniques continue to grow in popularity.

Of course, there’s a lot we still don’t know about mindfulness and meditation in general, and they’re not always the best practices for everyone.

There are also different types of mindfulness meditation to practice, each with slightly different outcomes. For example, body scanning can help reduce negative thoughts. But practices in which participants are asked to observe their thoughts can sometimes lead to more negative thinking, especially among those who have just started practicing the skill and can’t let go of those thoughts easily.

In the end, it may be best for those who are new to mindfulness and observing their thoughts to do so with guidance from a teacher or tool so that they can stay on the right track and get the most out of their mindfulness practices.  WTF fun facts

Source: “10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation” — Mindful