Arab inbreeding socially acceptable [pg. 6]

Consanguinity - marriage between first and second cousins - in the Arab sector has caused a significant increase in congenital defects and diseases among their children, but has not discouraged such marriages, according to a study carried out at the local branch of the University of Derby. Atir Isa, a student working under the direction of psychologist Efrat Asher, found that 22 percent of Israeli Muslim Arab couples are first cousins, and an additional 13% are second cousins. Among the disorders that result are diabetes, hypertension, thalassemia, retardation, blindness, deafness, kidney disease and muscular dystrophy. When two healthy cousins bear the same defective gene, the likelihood that their children will suffer from the disease is very high. The defective gene becomes dominant and takes control of the healthy genes, said Isa, who studied 70 Muslim couples. Most of the women who wed a relative think such marriages are "beneficial" even though they were aware of the health risks to their children. The higher their level of education, Isa found, the more aware they are of the health problems that can result. Islam does not endorse inbreeding, but the phenomenon has persisted for hundreds of years and has become rooted, especially in rural areas. From there, it spread to more urban areas. Isa said the inbreeding rate is even higher among Beduin (who live mostly in rural settlements) than it is among Muslim Arabs in Israel When she interviewed Arab leaders and doctors, she found enthusiasm for an educational campaign to discourage consanguinity. They also encouraged those related couples who do marry to undergo genetic tests to identify health risks to their offspring. BREATHE FREE A dynamic list of cafes, pubs and restaurants throughout Israel that allow no smoking at all has been collected by the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) and posted on a Web site in Hebrew. This is the first such database in the world, according to the ICA. Located at, the listing is updated daily and provides the names and addresses of smokefree eating places with wheelchair access, parking and Internet connections. People who know of eating places that enforce no-smoking laws may inform the Web site by e-mailing or sending a fax to the ICA at (03) 732-2780. ICA public relations director Nava Inbar said she was pleased that all the arrangements had been made for the site. "Even though there is an improvement in the smoking situation in eating places, there is still much to be done. Owners of establishments should have an incentive for barring smoking, and this listing does it. It also makes it easier for customers who want to eat and drink in a place that is smoke free." TV RELIEF FOR KIDS' PAIN While TV watching has been shown to promote obesity in children, it can also act as a painkiller, according to a small but interesting study just published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. A research team assessed 69 children between the ages of seven and 12 who were randomly divided into three groups to have a blood sample taken. One group was given no distraction while the sample was being taken. In the second group, mothers attempted to distract their children by talking to them, soothing and/or caressing them. In the third group, the children were allowed to watch cartoons while the procedure was carried out. None of the children was given any form of anesthesia, and after the samples had been taken, all the children and their mothers rated their pain scores. The children recording the highest pain were in the group for whom no distraction had been provided. These scores were around three times as high as those recorded by children allowed to watch TV. Moderate scores were recorded by those children whose mothers had attempted to distract them while the sample was taken. Although on average, the mothers rated pain scores higher than their children had, and particularly for their own attempts at distracting their offspring, they nevertheless recorded the lowest pain scores for children who had been allowed to watch TV. Pain is stressful for children, even when relatively minor procedures are involved, say the authors, who conclude that the passive distraction of TV is a more effective analgesic than active distraction. Watching TV also seems to increase children's pain tolerance, they add.