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Health Highlights: June 26, 2002

Officials Urge Firework Safety Women Exposed to Sperm Are Happier: Study Gas Masks Arrive on Capitol Hill Spanking Does More Harm Than Good: Research Can Roller Coasters Cause Brain Trauma? Females Suffer Attention Deficit Disorder, Too

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:

Officials Urge Firework Safety

In the wake of Sept. 11, Americans are expected to go to greater extremes than usual in expressing their patriotism this Fourth of July, but government officials are warning that firework accidents can ruin any celebration, reports the Associated Press.

Sales of fireworks are expected to reach about $700 million this year, up $50 million from 2001, but the improper use of such products could cause burns, eye injuries and even death, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warned today.

Illegal fireworks can be among the most dangerous, say officials, with M-80s, cherry bombs and quarter sticks all having been banned since 1966.

The CPSC reports that fireworks caused at least 9,500 people to be injured and treated in emergency rooms last year.

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Women Exposed to Sperm Are Happier: Study

They may not be practicing safe sex, but women who are exposed to their partner's sperm during sex may actually feel a greater sense of happiness than those who use a condom, asserts a new study.

In a study described in New Scientist, researchers with the State University of New York divided 293 female students into groups according to frequency in which their partners wore condoms.

After administering standard psychological tests to assess the women's overall mood and state of happiness, the researchers found that those whose partners never used condoms were happiest.

Those whose partners always or usually used condoms were less happy, and a lack of sexual intercourse made some women depressed, reports the BBC.

The researchers theorize that mood-altering hormones in semen, including testosterone and estrogen, are absorbed through the vagina and help boost women's moods. They stress, however, that the findings should not discourage people from practicing safe sex.

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Gas Masks Arrive on Capitol Hill

The first shipments of 20,000 gas masks ordered for the U.S. Capitol started arriving on Capitol Hill this week, just months after the several congressional offices were the targets of anthrax mailings.

The masks include a yellow hood with filtered nose and mouthpiece attachments that are designed to stop chemical gases and biological agents. They are said to protect against anthrax spores or toxic gases for anywhere from two minutes to an hour, depending on such conditions as how hard someone is breathing or the temperature, reports the Associated Press.

The masks are not protective against radiological agents. They will be stored in each congressional office and at all entrances to the Capitol and its office buildings.

Police officers will be trained to help visitors and tourists use the masks.

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Spanking Does More Harm Than Good: Researcher

While spanking may make children more compliant, it can also lead to very negative behaviors including aggression, defiance and isolationism, a Columbia University researcher says.

Elizabeth Gershoff, in a study done for the Columbia National Center for Children in Poverty, also says spanking can lead to delinquency and a failure to learn right from wrong, reports the Washington Post.

Surveys indicate that 94 percent of Americans spank their children by the time the kids are 4 years old. But critics say Gershoff's findings hide great variability in the regularity, context and severity of the punishment.

So argues Robert Larzelere, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He says some of the behaviors Gershoff cited may have been present before spanking began, and that in the absence of spanking, these problems may actually have become worse.

Gershoff's research and Larzelere's response are both published this week in the American Psychological Association's journal, Psychological Bulletin.

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Can Roller Coasters Cause Brain Trauma?

A growing number of injuries on amusement park rides are not being caused by accidents, but by rides that function exactly as intended, reports The New York Times. This suggests that the increasing intensity of the rides plays a role.

A decade ago, no roller coaster in the United States rose more than 200 feet. Now, the record is 400 feet. And no longer do the coasters depend on gravity alone; some rides propel passengers from 0 to 70 miles an hour in less than four seconds. Their motors were originally designed to launch rockets, the newspaper says.

In October, New Jersey will become the first state to limit the gravitational force (G-force) on rides, which is the force imposed on the body by acceleration, deceleration and general speed. For example, it's what pins you to your seat as the ride hurls forward.

While G-force gives riders the thrill they experience, it also can cause injuries including bleeding in the brain and stroke, some researchers have documented.

Space shuttle astronauts experience less than 4 G's during lanch and re-entry. By contrast, a roller coaster in Houston has been measured at 6.5 G's, the Times reports.

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Females Suffer Attention Disorder, Too

Counter to the common cultural stereotype, unruly little boys aren't the only ones who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Increasing numbers of girls -- and women in their 30s and 40s -- are now being diagnosed in what ABC News calls "alarming numbers."

ABC cites experts who say ADHD affects as many as 11 million Americans, half of whom may be women who don't even know they have it. And although 6,000 studies have been done on males with ADHD, fewer than 50 have been done on females, the ABC report says.

The effects of ADHD among females are often more subtle, which explains why many cases go undiagnosed. Common symptoms among girls and women include feeling over-stimulated, overloaded and overwhelmed. Among older women, common traits could include strong PMS symptoms, anxiety and/or depression, and disorganization.

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