Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lead is Very Dangerous

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Lead is a heavy metal that plays havoc with the human nervous system. Over time lead can build up in the body. For children under age 6, lead is devastating to mental and physical health. Most small children get lead poisoning from chewing on things covered with lead paint. (i.e. toys, plates or windowsills in older homes [paint chips].)

Lead contaminated plate

Many years ago, I worked with a family whose child started having lots of problems in school. The 3rd grader went from top marks to failing grades over a 6 month period. It turned out that the family had taken a trip to Mexico over the Christmas holiday. The boy got a cup and bowl from a bazaar. He loved his cup and bowl and used it at almost every meal. You have probably guessed it, the cup and bowl were not made safely and contained a high level of lead. After treatment, all was well... but, it does go to show that lead is very dangerous.

Learn more about the symptoms of lead poisoning from the Mayo Clinic.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the regulations concerning lead in the body. The CDC will no longer state a particular level is safe in children.  It now states that no level of lead in the blood stream is safe. The goal is to focus on eliminating exposure to lead.

Read the CDC report, a free PDF download.

The lead contaminated plate pictured above was part of a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's physician Gerald O'Malley, DO, a toxicologist and the director of clinical research and emergency medicine. More information on how to check items like toys or plates.

Plates that are sold as "decorative" are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means that these may have lead in them, and outside the state of California they are not required to let you know. If you handle a decorative plate, even just to dust it, it is advisable that you wash your hands before eating or touching your face.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who is better with numbers, college students or guppies?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

He we have an adorable Blue Grass Guppy. Atractive and not lacking is some math skills.

Many animals seem to understand small and large numbers. Dogs and chimps seem to understand what is 1, 2 or 3. Many animals seem to understand the concept of many: 1 versus 50. So scientists wanted to know how far back in the evolution of vertebrates (animals with a back bone) did this number ability start. Is estimating large numbers new, and therefore required a big brain? Or older, needing only a smaller brain.

Researchers from the University of Padova, Italy and the University College of London, United Kingdom devised an ingenious way to find out. As it turns out, guppies seem to like being in larger groups with others of their own type. So when a single guppy is put in the middle between two groups of guppies, say 3 guppies and 30 guppies,  the single guppy quickly swims and joins the larger group. To test their estimating skills the scientists had multiple trials with different ratios of group sizes. Did the guppies count? In other words, could they tell the difference between 20 or 23 in a group? Or did they estimate small group verses bigger group. "That group is way larger than the other group so I'm joining the larger group... you know it is safer in numbers."

The researches also tested college students.  How do big brained college students do compared to little brained guppies?

Both guppies and students counted when the group was under 4 and estimated when the groups were larger.

Researchers came to the following conclusions concerning when math skills first developed:

...the building blocks of uniquely human mathematical abilities may be evolutionarily ancient, dating back to before the divergence of bony fish and tetrapod lineages.

The question posed on the TV program was "Are you smarter that a 5th grader?" But maybe it should be "are you smarter than a guppy?"

Read this study:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Learn About Real Money by Playing a Game

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Adults can learn about real money and homeowner issues by playing a game.

The U.S. Treasury Department recently gave money to five states to help set up programs to educate adults about real money issues. The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority used their grant money to develop an interactive money game to teach finance and homeownership money skills. It's not restricted to New Hampshire residents, it is open for everyone to play.

Financial Freedom Island Cruise

You start the game by "winning" $400 in a bingo game. From this meager amount you get to practice sound money management skills in a fun way. By making the money lessons fun, the game helps keep you interested while you learn real money skills.

It is all free! And the site has no advertising. Yeah!

At the end of the game you will have in your real world:
  • One or more financial savings goals
  • A family budget
  • A plan for reducing your debt and reaching your goals
  • Three credit reports
  • A series of credit scores and a plan to improve them
  • Strategies for protecting your identity

We are not born with any money sense. All money knowledge is learned. Knowledge is power. 

Learn more or sign up to play at: