So much for the butterfly kiss.
As it turns out, that gentle brush of wings could leave an itchy rash or swelling in its wake.
And even worse may be the touch of certain caterpillars.
Take the gypsy moth, for example. Scales from the newborn moth may produce an allergic reaction, if you happen to be there when it pops out of its cocoon. The gypsy moth caterpillars can swing on the wind for miles on the silky strands they've spun; if they happen to waft into a person, and the person happens to be sensitive, well, you can have an allergic reaction as nasty as anything produced by a poison-ivy leaf.
Some entomologists at the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Insect and Disease Laboratory in Hamden, Conn., have discovered that caterpillar-its is a lot more widespread than they had believed. The scientsts, who handle the moths and their caterpillars as part of their work, have known for years that a protein-like substance secreted in the caterpillar hairs can cause reactions in sensitive people.
A particularly large recent hatching, however, of gypsy-moth larvae in Connecticut -- coupled with strong winds -- "assured an increase in the number of chance encounters with people," the scientists report, and a large outbreak of rashes, welts and itching, some quite severe.
Other caterpillars, too, may be responsible for similar allergic reactions which may not be recognized (by either victims or doctors) as being caterpillar-provoked. And still other caterpillars, like the Io Moth, are quite poisonous. (Forest Service entomologist Dr. Michael Montgomery notes that the poisonous varieties usually are more brightly colored. The Io, for example is greenish with a white and red stripe on the side. The gypsy, on the other hand, is grayish black with small yellow dots on the front and red on the back.)
The allergic reaction usually doesn't last very long, but still, it might be smart to add pretty caterpillars to the list of things not to bump into this summer.
Dolomite again: Dr. Richard Jacobs of the FDA's Nutrient Toxicity Section, reports that tests of dolomite samples have not turned up toxic metals in significant quantities to cause concern.
The question of the safety of the popular calcium supplement was raised by Dr. H. J. Roberts, a Florida physician who warned colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine to be on the lookout for patients on large doses of dolomite presenting bizarre neurological symptoms.
The FDA, testing samples it believes represent about 80 percent of the dolomite food supplement market, found that lead, for example, ranged from .75 parts per million to 2.9 parts per million.
N a second letter, however, in the May 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Roberts quotes results of new analyses showing 8 to 13 parts of lead per million. He also cites arsenic levels of 6.5 to 8 parts per million. FDA's Jacobs said, however, that the tests conducted by the FDA would have destroyed arsenic before it could be measured.
In his new letter, Roberts expresses concern "over the high concentrations of lead in widely used hair dyes, in citrus juices from soldered cans and in plumbing. Since any substantial exposure to lead may be harmful, I believe it is prudent to avoid dolomite . . . until (further) data . . . are available."
Have you seen Larry King lately?
Was he smoking?
Mutual Broadcasting's reigning monarch of the insomniac set it working hard to beat a 25-year, 3-packs-a-day (or more) habit.
Is he doing it? Well, he isn't sure, and he could use a little help from his radio friends.
King went through the American Lung Association's 20-day Freedom from Smoking program and, although he couldn't quite take that final step, he did manage to cut down his smoking by about two-thirds.
Maybe even to 16 cigarettes a day.
"I know you're not supposed to be able to do it this way, little by little, but I think 'm doing it this way," he says, and glances at his watch to see if it is time yet for his 4 o'clock smoke. (It isn't.)
King has done public with the angst of giving up those beloved and deadly little paper cylinders of nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and who-knows-what-all. Some of those late-night listeners went through the 20-day program while he was doing it and a lot of them have stopped altogether. 2Others are measuring themselves against King, and he feels the responsibility heavily. One called in recently to tell the talk show host that he'd spent $17,000 on cigarettes over the years.
It befuddles my mind," he says in that familiar resonant voice. "If I could cut from three to one, why can't I CUT cut? Why do I still hand on to that last pack?"
Nevertheless, he's optimistic: "I have discovered that I don't have to smoke on the phone. I don't have to pick up the phone and light a cigarette. This counting thing has really worked.
I'll do little games with myself like, "Well, I'm going to skip my 4 o'clock cigarette. I'll have it at 20 to 5. . .'" (A big part of the Lung Association program involves writing down every cigarette you smoke.)
"I'm looking forward to my cigarette at 4 o'clock," he says. "I might play a willpower game and say I'll do it at 4:15. Or I might not." Another sigh.
"You know," he says, and grins, "I call myself the Lung Association's 'Poster Boy.' How would it look if I slipped back?"
It is 4 o'clock.
Larry King does not play a little willpower game. He lights up. He takes two drags.
He enjoys them.
But he feels something. Guilty maybe? He takes another drag: the last. He smashes the cigarette out and sighs again.
"Three months ago I couldn't have done that."
Hang in there, Larry.