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March 3, 2017

Weekend reads: Why someone paid $15,000 for this dish of mold

Daily Briefing

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Rachel Schulze's reads

Health food meets candy. When it comes to vitamins, millions of people are opting for chewable gummies in place of chalky pills. While gummy vitamins and supplements were initially geared toward children, companies are increasingly marketing them to adults—last year, gummy multivitamins made up 7.5 percent of the $6 billion multivitamin market in the United States, according to estimates from the Nutrition Business Journal and projections from IBISWorld. But the gummies can come at a cost. According to the New York Times, gummy vitamins typically have a gram or two of sugar, and their sweet taste can tempt people to eat too many.

What do you mean there's no such thing as 'Presidents Day'? Your office might have been closed last week in observance of "Presidents Day"—a holiday that technically doesn't actually exist. Well, at least not by that name. The official name for the holiday observed on the third Monday of February is "Washington's Birthday." For decades, the federal holiday was observed on Feb. 22, which is recognized as George Washington's date of birth. In 1968, Congress passed a law that set the third Monday of February as the date to celebrate the first president. However, according to the Center for Legislative Archives, Congress has never officially dubbed the day "Presidents Day"—though some states have opted to officially rename the holiday.

Sam Bernstein's reads

Very expensive mold. A tiny patch of mold was sold at auction recently for nearly $15,000. If that seems pricey to you, it helps to know some background: The mold in question was a dish of the original Penicillium chrysogenum that Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered penicillin. Fleming kept some of the mold and packaged it in so-called "mold medallions," according to NPR. He would occasionally give them as gifts—some famous recipients included Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich, and the Queen Elizabeth.

How much pee is there in the pool? A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology tested 31 pools and hot tubs in Canada and found urine in every single one. It gets worse: On average, there was 18.5 gallons of urine in a 220,000-gallon pool and eight gallons in a 110,000-gallon pool. To determine urine levels, the researchers measured levels of acesulfame potassium, an artificial sweetener found in soup, yogurt, and other foods that doesn't occur in nature and 95 percent of which passes through the body unchanged—making it a good indicator for overall urine levels. 

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