Letters from the June 2, 2007, issue of Science News

Where there’s fire

Regarding “Risky Flames: Firefighter coronaries spike during blazes” (SN: 3/24/07, p. 180), was the increased death rate due to firefighters having a higher rate of heart disease than people do in other jobs? An analysis of eating habits may reveal more insight.

Jim Schmitz
St. Louis, Mo.

The study looked only at what the firefighters were doing at the time of death. It didn’t compare their heart-disease rates with those in other groups. However, the study authors suggest that the work life of firefighters, which includes significant downtime interspersed with extreme exertion, may contribute to heart disease.—B. Vastag

Sore gripes

The study on canker sores (“Patches take sting out of canker sores,” SN: 4/7/07, p. 222) compared an “untreated” group with a group using licorice patches. A more valid comparison would be for the control group to be treated with patches that contained no licorice.

Janet McClure
Cardiff, Calif.

Not so fast

“Asian Trek: Fossil puts ancient humans in Far East” (SN: 4/7/07, p. 211) “underscores the vast distances” humans moved from Africa to northern China in 20,000 years. However, if one stops to consider the time frames, it’s extremely unremarkable. At three generations every 100 years and roughly 6,000 miles from Africa to China, people would need to move only an average of 10 miles per generation. Wow, what travelers!

Alex Sherer
Escondido, Calif.

Pick your poison

The fact that more people are overdosing on niacin to cover up relatively benign marijuana use (“Not-So-Artful Dodgers: Countering drug tests with niacin proves dangerous,” SN: 4/7/07, p. 212) exemplifies what’s wrong with the failed “War on Drugs” approach.

Chris Maj
Denver, Colo.

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