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Ask Maxim: Black lungs, pigeon toes, & deaf ears

128askMaxim_article.jpgIf I quit smoking now, how long will it take my lungs to recover?
Calin Bates, Wahiawa, HI
Good news, Smokey! If you go cold turkey today, those blackened air bags you call lungs will recover faster than your grandfather after a Viagra smoothie. “Within a few weeks of quitting, your sinus congestion improves, the body better handles infection, and levels of poisonous carbon monoxide start to normalize,” says Robert Ashton, M.D., chief of thoracic surgery
at the Hackensack University Medical Center. Go a whole year without sucking down your precious cancer sticks and there’s a substantially decreased chance of cardiovascular disease. Ten years without a puff and your chances of dying from lung cancer are cut in half. The only drawback to quitting? Without a creepy voice box or gangrenous limbs, your dream of acting in depressing antismoking PSAs is kaput.

Are Mp3 players and earbuds making us deaf?
Randy Svrcek, Nashua, NH
Depending how you use them, yes! According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other
Communication Disorders, any noise above 85 decibels—like a loud vacuum cleaner—can cause permanent damage if listened to for a sustained period of time. Earbuds increase volume by shortening the distance from the noise source to your eardrum, adding six to nine decibels over traditional headphones. All while longer battery life and bigger portable libraries have encouraged you crazy kids to rock out for longer than ever. Increased average listening time and higher volume could be the recipe for early deafness—12.5 percent of children ages six to 19 (about 5.2 million kiddies) have noise-induced hearing loss. So if you’ve been cranking R. Kelly’s opus “Trapped in the Closet” on endless repeat (freak!), we hope you learn to love sign language!

What happens to all the junk we toss in the ocean?
Fredo Norman, Milford, MA
Your discarded love doll is probably stuck (along with all other nonbiodegradable garbage) in a gyre. What the hell is that, you ask? “An oceanic gyre is a swirling vortex of currents that creates
a whirlpool effect,” says Anna Cummins, an advis­or for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The biggest (and scariest) one? “We describe the North Pacific Gyre as a huge toilet bowl that
never flushes,” Cummins says. Estimated at twice the size of Texas and roaming from Hawaii to Alaska, this putrid stretch can contain up to 330,000 bits of plastic per square kilometer (the
ocean average, according to the UN, is 13,000). Broken down into its fundamental parts, the plastic is mistaken for grub by sea animals, ends up in the food chain, and, finally, in your lobster bisque. Mmm, tastes like a plastic six-pack ring!

Does being slightly pigeon-toed really make you a better athlete?
Shawn Breen, Columbus, OH
It’s true—freaky feet may lead to faster stopwatch times. “There’s quite a bit of anecdotal
evidence to support the notion,” says Mike Young, director of sports performance at Hu­-man Performance Consulting. The key to foot speed is efficient use of energy. “When pigeon-toed people contact the ground, their feet and ankle joints have less give,” Young explains. This may have allowed an athlete like the slant-footed Jackie Robinson to apply greater propulsive force to the ground quicker, reducing his energy loss and making him the bane of fly balls and segregationists alike.