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Health & Spirit

Bad News, Guys

Scott LaFee on

Medical History

This week in 1888, a baby incubator was first used in the U.S. to care for an infant at State Emigrant Hospital on Ward's Island, New York. Dubbed a "hatching cradle," it was occupied by Edith Eleanor McLean, who was born weighing just 2 pounds and 7 ounces.

Sum Body

Five things they put in food you probably don't want to know about.

1. Castoreum, which is a secretion of the beaver anal gland. It's used to add sweet flavoring to some drinks and foods, also in perfume.

2. Silicon dioxide or sand. It's an effective anti-caking agent that resists humidity, found in dry soups, shredded cheeses, salts and powered creamers.

3. Shellac, a secretion of the female lac bug, a beetle-like native of Southeast Asia. Mostly used as a varnish, but also as a finishing glaze on jelly beans, hard candies and sprinkles under the label "confectioner's glaze."

4. Titanium dioxide, used in sunscreens and as a white coloring in skim milk, candies and vitamins.

5. Carmine or cochineal extract, a centuries-old reddish food coloring extracted from crushed cochineal, a cactus-dwelling insect native to Central and South America.

Med School

Q: From where does the word "lung" derive?

A: From the German word lungen, meaning light. Together, a pair of adult human lungs weigh just 2.5 pounds.

Curtain Calls

Pope Adrian IV (c.1100-1159), the first and so far only Englishman to head the Roman Catholic Church, reputedly choked to death on a fly floating in his wine. More likely, the cause of death was choking due to quinsy or peritonsillar abscess, a complication of acute tonsillitis in which the throat becomes constricted by over-sized, pus-filled abscesses.

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