Health and Safety

Ragweed will begin blooming this month, setting off allergic reactions in millions of Americans. Increasing their misery in many cases will be cross-reactions -- discomfort from substances that cause particular problems in the presence of ragweed pollen. Cross-reactions occur when proteins that are similar to those in some common allergens are found in other substances; sensitized by the primary allergen, the immune system may release antibodies to the second, otherwise relatively innocuous, substance as well. Cross-reactions can range from mild itching of the tongue, mouth, or throat to congestion and a runny nose to hives, wheezing, and even anaphylactic shock. Foods that may cause cross-reactions in people allergic to ragweed include, in order of decreasing severity, chamomile, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon; for those allergic to birch pollen, another common allergen, cross-reactors include hazelnuts and wintergreen.


Another element of the sweeping Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 falls into place today, as the Food and Drug Administration's revised guidelines for voluntary labeling of raw fruits, vegetables, and fish go into effect. The act, which established the uniform nutrition labeling now found on most packaged foods, charged the FDA with identifying the 20 most frequently consumed items in each of these three categories, providing retailers with labeling values and practices, and ensuring "substantial compliance" (unless at least 60 percent of all stores adopt this labeling voluntarily, it will be required by law). This month's regulation is aimed at making the content and presentation of this information consistent with the nutrition labeling on packaged foods. However, because the foods in question are often wet or dirty and may be sold unpackaged, stores can use brochures, notebooks, or posters, rather than actual labels, to provide the information.


Food Coupon Flag

August 22: Most of the nation's legal immigrants who have not become U.S. citizens lose their eligibility for food stamps today, because of a provision in last year's welfare-reform bill. Exceptions will be made for veterans, for those who have been granted political asylum, and for those who have worked in the United States for at least 10 years. As many as one million immigrants may be affected. Noncitizens were also slated to lose eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (payments to the elderly, blind, and disabled) and Medicaid today. However, if Congress approves the present budget agreement, SSI and Medicaid will be continued for all those who resided here by last August 22, when the welfare-reform bill was signed; those who are currently disabled; and those now living here who become disabled in the future. President Clinton lobbied for these restorations amid widespread protests over the cuts.


Shaving Surfer

More razors are sold in August than in any other month, owing to more-revealing summer clothing, which prompts women to shave more often than usual. Gillette, which controls about two thirds of the U.S. razor market, expects to sell at least 800,000 razors to women this month, as compared with an average of 600,000 in other months. Sales to men remain relatively constant year-round. The market for women's shaving products has been booming in recent years, sparked by the introduction, in 1992, of a Gillette razor designed specifically for women's legs (previously, most "women's razors" were simply pink versions of the razors sold to men). Perhaps not surprisingly, with the boom has come a great deal of research into shaving differences between the sexes. Some findings to date: although men tend to view shaving as a skill, women -- who shave about nine times as much surface area as men do -- see it as merely a chore. And most men blame the razor for cuts, whereas women generally blame themselves.

Expiring Patent

Disposable Apron Roll

No. 4,215,432. Roll of Disposable Aprons. "A roll of plastic film aprons . . . wound on a core support, [with] perforations extending transversely thereof at predetermined spaced intervals to enable tearing discrete [aprons] from the roll."

The Skies

August 3: Mars lies very near the bright star Spica low in the southwestern sky just after sunset tonight. 9: Jupiter, which dominates the sky all month, is at opposition today -- it is on the side of Earth opposite the Sun -- and so rises as the Sun sets. 12: The Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight; viewing will be best after the Moon sets, around midnight. 18: Full Moon, also known this month as the Corn and Grain Moon and, among the Sioux, the Moon When the Cherries Turn Black.

100 Years Ago

W.E.B. DuBois, writing in the August, 1897, issue of The Atlantic Monthly: "The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, -- a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others.... One ever feels his two-ness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings.... The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, -- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost.... He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without losing the opportunity of self-development."

Illustrations by Robin Ghelerter O'Connell

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