Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

Exclusive: Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agencys headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.

The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood.

We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that its having on wildlife, to be concerned, said Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb. If its impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that its not going to somehow impact us?

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A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent. One study found that a fleece jacket can shed as many as 250,000 fibres per wash. Photograph: Courtesy of Rozalia Project

A separate small study in the Republic of Ireland released in June also found microplastic contamination in a handful of tap water and well samples. We dont know what the [health] impact is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put enough effort into it now, immediately, so we can find out what the real risks are, said Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted the research.

Mahon said there were two principal concerns: very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens that microplastics can harbour. If the fibres are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we cant measure, she said. Once they are in the nanometre range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying. The Orb analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size, 2,500 times bigger than a nanometre.

Microplastics can attract bacteria found in sewage, Mahon said: Some studies have shown there are more harmful pathogens on microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants.

Plastic fibres found in tap water across the world

Microplastics are also known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals and research on wild animals shows they are released in the body. Prof Richard Thompson, at Plymouth University, UK, told Orb: It became clear very early on that the plastic would release those chemicals and that actually, the conditions in the gut would facilitate really quite rapid release. His research has shown microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK.

The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fibres and fragments in all of the 24 beer brands they tested, as well as in honey and sugar. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling from the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city each year, and that it was also present in the air in peoples homes.

This research led Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at Kings College London, to tell a UK parliamentary inquiry in 2016: If we breathe them in they could potentially deliver chemicals to the lower parts of our lungs and maybe even across into our circulation. Having seen the Orb data, Kelly told the Guardian that research is urgently needed to determine whether ingesting plastic particles is a health risk.

The new research tested 159 samples using a standard technique to eliminate contamination from other sources and was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world, including from Uganda, Ecuador and Indonesia.

How microplastics end up in drinking water is for now a mystery, but the atmosphere is one obvious source, with fibres shed by the everyday wear and tear of clothes and carpets. Tumble dryers are another potential source, with almost 80% of US households having dryers that usually vent to the open air.

We really think that the lakes [and other water bodies] can be contaminated by cumulative atmospheric inputs, said Johnny Gasperi, at the University Paris-Est Creteil, who did the Paris studies. What we observed in Paris tends to demonstrate that a huge amount of fibres are present in atmospheric fallout.

Plastic fibres may also be flushed into water systems, with a recent study finding that each cycle of a washing machine could release 700,000 fibres into the environment. Rains could also sweep up microplastic pollution, which could explain why the household wells used in Indonesia were found to be contaminated.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the water supply comes from natural springs but 94% of the samples were contaminated. This research only scratches the surface, but it seems to be a very itchy one, said Hussam Hawwa, at the environmental consultancy Difaf, which collected samples for Orb.

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This planktonic arrow worm, Sagitta setosa, has eaten a blue plastic fibre about 3mm long. Plankton support the entire marine food chain. Photograph: Richard Kirby/Courtesy of Orb Media

Current standard water treatment systems do not filter out all of the microplastics, Mahon said: There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.

Bottled water may not provide a microplastic-free alternative to tapwater, as the they were also found in a few samples of commercial bottled water tested in the US for Orb.

Almost 300m tonnes of plastic is produced each year and, with just 20% recycled or incinerated, much of it ends up littering the air, land and sea. A report in July found 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, with the researchers warning that plastic waste has become ubiquitous in the environment.

We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late, said Prof Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who led the study.

Mahon said the new tap water analyses raise a red flag, but that more work is needed to replicate the results, find the sources of contamination and evaluate the possible health impacts.

She said plastics are very useful, but that management of the waste must be drastically improved: We need plastics in our lives, but it is us that is doing the damage by discarding them in very careless ways.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals

Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller

Unpublished works are lost for ever with crushing of computer hard drive as the late fantasy novelist had instructed

The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelists wishes.

Pratchetts hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the authors life and work.

Pratchett, famous for his colourful and satirical Discworld series, died in March 2015 after a long battle with Alzheimers disease.

After his death, fellow fantasy author Neil Gaiman, Pratchetts close friend and collaborator , told the Times that Pratchett had wanted whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all.

On Friday, Rob Wilkins, who manages the Pratchett estate, tweeted from an official Twitter account that he was about to fulfil my obligation to Terry along with a picture of an intact computer hard drive following up with a tweet that showed the hard drive in pieces.

The symbolism of the moment, which captured something of Pratchetts unique sense of humour, was not lost on fans, who responded on Twitter with a wry melancholy, though some people expressed surprise that the author who had previously discussed churning through computer hardware at a rapid rate would have stored his unfinished work on an apparently older model of hard drive.

The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the authors life and work, Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury museum in September.

The author of over 70 novels, Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease in 2007.

He became an advocate for assisted dying, giving a moving lecture on the subject, Shaking Hands With Death, in 2010, and presenting a documentary for the BBC called Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die.

He continued to write and publish, increasingly with the assistance of others, until his death in 2015. Two novels were published posthumously: The Long Utopia (a collaboration with Stephen Baxter) and The Shepherds Crown, the final Discworld novel.

The Salisbury museum exhibition will run from 16 September until 13 January 2018.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/30/terry-pratchett-unfinished-novels-destroyed-streamroller

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Intercourse isn’t everything for most women, says study — try ‘outercourse’

(CNN)Many of us equate “sex” with “intercourse” and use those words interchangeably. Yet highly satisfying sex doesn’t have to be limited to penetration — and doesn’t even have to include it at all.

According to a recent study, many women report that they require clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm.
For the study, Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and a research fellow and sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute, and her colleagues assessed data from 1,055 women ages 18 to 94 who answered a detailed online survey about their sex lives. “Our purpose was to understand more about women’s experiences with … the kinds of touch they find pleasurable and how clitoral and vaginal stimulation contribute to their orgasms,” she explained.
    In reading cher results, I’m struck by the idea that the majority of women report that they often don’t reach orgasm through intercourse alone. This flies in the face of the stereotype of intercourse as the be-all and end-all of sexual activity — and suggests that couples should explore the whole range of pleasurable options for achieving climax. The study contained a few compelling findings worth enumerating.

    Intercourse isn’t everything

    This study found that only about 18% of women reported being able to climax during intercourse from vaginal penetration alone. About 36% said they needed clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm during intercourse, and another 36% said it enhanced the experience. Yet, many women still fake orgasm during intercourse, according to therapist Laurie Mintz, author of the new book “Becoming Cliterate.”
    “The main reasons they give for faking is that they want to appear ‘normal’ and want to make their male partners feel good,” she said.
    “This is one of the saddest and most common problems I deal with in my clinical practice,” added Anita Hoffer, a sexuality counselor and educator. “Women who either are uninformed or insecure and therefore easily intimidated by ignorant partners bear a great deal of shame and guilt at being unable to climax from intercourse alone. Many are greatly relieved when they learn that they are among the majority of women who engage in sexual intercourse.”

    Orgasms vary

    Do some orgasms feel better than others? According to 78% of the survey respondents, the answer is yes. These so-called better orgasms aren’t necessarily dependent on the length of an encounter. In fact, fewer than one in five women surveyed believed that longer sex contributed to better orgasms.
    Instead, the most common contributors to orgasmic bliss included spending time to build arousal, having a partner who knows that they like, emotional intimacy and clitoral stimulation during intercourse, said Herbenick. “A woman’s general mood and stress level — including the degree to which she is able to mindfully immerse in the sexual encounter — can have an impact on orgasm quality too,” Mintz explained.

    ‘Outercourse’ matters

    This term “outercourse” refers to sex that isn’t intercourse and doesn’t involve penetration. It can include kissing, touching, erotic massage and using sex toys, just to name a few options.
    “When we equate intercourse and sex and call everything that comes before intercourse ‘foreplay,’ we are buying into the cultural script that sex should proceed as follows: foreplay (just enough to get her ready for intercourse), intercourse (during which both women and men orgasm), and game over,” Mintz said. But sex doesn’t have to involve intercourse at all. Even when it does, other forms of stimulation can add to the experience and may improve the odds of reaching orgasm.
    Herbenick suggested that couples take a lesson from the early days of their relationship. “Sometimes, when people are first getting together, they spend time making out and touching each other’s genitals long before they start having oral sex or intercourse with each other,” she explained. “All too often, once oral sex and intercourse become part of their routine, the rest fades away — which is too bad, considering how powerful genital touching can be.”

    Communication is key

    The study found that 41% of women prefer just one style of touch. “This underscores how important it is to have conversations about sex and pleasure or even to show your partner what you like, since otherwise, the chances of just stumbling upon that one preference are pretty low,” Herbenick said. “Couples should be having conversations about what they like, what they don’t like, what feels good and leads to orgasm, as well as what feels good but doesn’t necessarily lead to orgasm.”

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    One good source of information about women’s sexual pleasure that can help you get the conversation started is the website for OMGYES, which sponsored the study. The site, which states it’s for 18-year-olds and older, contains a series of videos that demonstrate different types of touch that real women find pleasurable, including techniques labeled “edging,” “layering” and “orbiting.” There is a free preview but a cost to access all of them.
    I’ve found this site very helpful to my female patients and their partners who want to learn more about female pleasure. “It tastefully and unselfconsciously names, describes and normalizes behaviors that are universal and, by example, invites the viewer to experiment and learn,” Hoffer said. “As Leonore Tiefer (sex researcher, therapist and activist) has said, ‘Sex is not a natural act,’ and good lovemaking is an art that must be learned and practiced.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/28/health/intercourse-outercourse-sex-kerner/index.html

    Pelvic mesh victims disgusted at suggestion of anal sex as solution

    Only a misogynist could think this way, says Australian woman in response to her doctors solution to painful intercourse

    Australian victims of faulty pelvic mesh implants have expressed disgust at doctors suggestions of anal intercourse as a solution to their ruined sex lives.

    A disturbing email exchange between doctors emerged earlier this month as part of a federal court class action in Australia, which was launched by hundreds of women who had the devices implanted to treat common childbirth complications.

    The devices, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, caused chronic and debilitating pain, including during intercourse.

    The emails reflected a callous attitude towards women among French gynaecologists involved with the company.

    In the emails, doctors talk about alternatives to sex for women suffering painful intercourse. It is no less true that sodomy could be a good alternative! one doctor wrote. Another discussed the difficulty of raising sexual matters with his patients.

    I said to myself, there you go, for your next prolapse [patient], you talk to her about orgasms. OK! But also about fellatio, sodomy, the clitoris with or without G-spot etc, he wrote. I am sure of one thing: that I would very quickly be treated like some kind of sex maniac (which, perhaps, I am) or a pervert, or an unhealthily curious person.

    The attitudes accord with evidence before the current Senate inquiry into the devices, which has heard women were advised to consider anal intercourse as a solution to the extreme pain caused by intercourse.

    The comments outraged members of the Australian Pelvic Mesh Support Group, which sent Guardian Australia a collection of anonymised responses from women to the revelations.

    Many of the women said they had encountered similar attitudes from their own doctors.

    My husband and I were given advice [about] sexual activity, one woman said. We were gobsmacked. The whole sexual deviation thing is supposed to make the pain and complications from mesh go away. I find this type of advice disgusting.

    Another woman said the comments were demoralising and devalued women. She said they represented another form of abuse.

    Our vaginas have been abused by mesh and now doctors are suggesting our anus be abused. Despicable! Only a misogynist could think this way, she said.

    A third woman wrote that the appalling comments showed a complete lack of respect to the women involved. Another wrote that they suggested women were nothing more than a receptacle to satisfy men.

    The suggestion that women who are unable to have vaginal intercourse should practise anal instead completely devalues a womans right to a full and healthy sex life as an active, empowered and fulfilled participant, she said.

    It suggests that a woman is nothing more than a receptacle to satisfy men and that any hole will do. Im appalled that anyone, particularly a womans treating medical practitioner, would be so thoughtless and arrogant as to suggest that anal sex is an adequate solution to sexual dysfunction.

    Greens senator Rachel Siewert is chairing the senate inquiry into the devices. Siewert described the treatment of many of the women as appalling.

    The way many women have been treated when trying to get treatment and support when they have had bad outcomes from mesh implants is appalling, including suggestions by medical professionals that anal intercourse is an alternative to vaginal intercourse after mesh implants have gone terribly wrong, she said.

    We have heard a lot of harrowing evidence during the inquiry so many women have been horribly impacted by mesh implants. There is a clear pattern emerging of poor processes and advice which is leading to women having their lives severely impacted.

    The class action is continuing in the federal court.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/aug/28/pelvic-mesh-victims-disgusted-at-suggestion-of-sodomy-as-solution

    Is coconut oil healthy?

    (CNN)According to a recent survey, 72% of Americans think coconut oil is a healthy food.

    But despite popular health claims about coconut oil, a report from the American Heart Association recently advised against its use, stating that it increases LDL cholesterol (a cause of cardiovascular disease) and has no known offsetting effects.
    “There are many claims being made about coconut oil being wonderful for lots of different things, but we really don’t have any evidence of long-term health benefits,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
      How exactly, then, does coconut oil rank among oils?
      “Coconut oil is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in terms of types of fats. It’s probably better than partially hydrogenated oils (which are) high in trans fats but not as good as the more unsaturated plant oils that have proven health benefits, like olive and canola oil,” Willett said.
      “It’s probably not quite as ‘bad’ as butter but not as good as extra virgin olive oil,” agreed Kevin Klatt, a molecular nutrition researcher at Cornell University who is studying the metabolic effects of coconut oil.
      Klatt cautions that we should not develop too strong of an opinion about coconut oil without more data. “But at the same time, you have to be evidence-based … and (currently), the evidence reflects benefits for olive oil, fish, nuts and seeds — so that should be the focus in the diet.”

      What’s in coconut oil?

      Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the fruit. It contains mostly saturated fat, which is also found in large quantities in butter and red meat. Like other saturated fats, coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol associated with increased risk of heart disease. In fact, coconut oil has more saturated fat and raises LDL more than butter, according to Willett.
      But coconut oil does a particularly nice job of raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol, especially when replacing carbohydrates in the diet. This may be due to its high content of a fatty acid known as lauric acid.
      “Coconut oil is half lauric acid, which is a little bit unique,” Klatt said, as the acid seems to raise HDL more than other saturated fats and is rarely found in such high amounts in foods.
      Still, though the increase in HDL seen with consumption of coconut oil may offset some of the disease risk, it’s still not as good as consuming unsaturated oils, which not only raise HDL but lower LDL, according to Willett.
      Complicating matters is the fact that we still don’t know for sure what exactly a high HDL translates to in terms of health risk. “There’s been debate about the role of HDL,” Willett cautioned. “Partly because there are many forms of HDL which have different health consequences … which has made the water murky.”
      For example, there are different forms of HDL that do different things. One role is to help take LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream. “But some forms of HDL don’t do that,” Willett said, “so we don’t know for sure that higher HDL is better.”
      And while it’s true that an elevated LDL level is only a risk factor for heart disease and doesn’t always translate to heart attacks, it’s still cause for concern. “High LDL is a risk factor, but it strongly predicts negative health events,” Willett said.
      There is extremely preliminary evidence that the increase in LDL may not be as pronounced if one consumes extra virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil, according to Klatt. For example, polyphenols present in unrefined oils may help to blunt the effects on LDL. But “the effects of extra virgin compared to refined coconut oil and other common oils require further study,” he cautioned.

      Coconut oil and weight loss

      Some research suggests that coconut oil may be helpful in reducing belly fat, at least in the short term. One study found that coconut oil was associated with reduced waist circumference (belly fat) compared with soybean oil. Participants also consumed a lot more fiber, followed a low-calorie diet and walked for about an hour each day.
      “Even if coconut oil does help reduce belly fat, it doesn’t necessarily outweigh the concern about its effect on lipids, specifically LDL,” Klatt said.
      Other research has touted benefits such as increased metabolism, reduced appetite or improved cognitive function associated with fats known as MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides, which are present in coconut oil.
      “You can’t infer from … studies what coconut oil will and will not do. We need better controlled trials,” Klatt said. “Right now, the internet is jumping the gun and going way beyond the evidence.”

      Coco-calories

      Like other oils, coconut oil is calorie-dense, which means consuming large amounts without reducing other calorie sources can lead to weight gain. Just one tablespoon has 120 calories, about the same as a large apple or four cups of air-popped popcorn.
      “Oil is a really easy way to increase the energy density of a food. Things like almonds have a lot of fat, but it’s easier to overeat pure oil than overeat pure almonds,” Klatt said.
      In small amounts, however, coconut oil can have a place in one’s diet.
      “It’s not that you have to absolutely avoid coconut oil but rather limit coconut oil to where you really need that special flavor, like for Thai food or for baking a special dessert,” Willett said.

      See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

      “If you love using butter and need a hard fat, coconut oil may be a better choice and is certainly fine to consume occasionally, when a recipe calls for it,” Klatt added.
      But for day-to-day use, vegetable oils such as olive, canola or soybean oil, along with nuts and seeds, should be your primary fats. “These have better effects on blood cholesterol and long-term studies showing reduced risk of heart disease,” Willett said.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/health/coconut-oil-healthy-food-drayer/index.html

      Australian bodybuilder with rare disorder dies eating high-protein diet

      (CNN)Meegan Hefford, a 25-year-old bodybuilder, was found unconscious on June 19 in her Mandurah, Western Australia, apartment, according to CNN affiliate Australia News 7.

      Days later, Hefford was pronounced dead. Only after her death did her family learn that Hefford, the mother of a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, had a rare genetic disorder that prevented her body from properly metabolizing her high-protein diet.
      Urea cycle disorder, which causes a deficiency of one enzyme in the urea cycle, stops the body from breaking down protein, according to the nonprofit National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation.
        Normally, the body can remove nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism, from the blood. However, a urea cycle disorder would prohibit this.
        Therefore, nitrogen, in the form of toxic ammonia, would accumulate in the blood and eventually reach the brain, where it can cause irreversible damage, coma and death.
        “The enzyme deficiency can be mild enough so that the person is able to detoxify ammonia adequately — until there’s a trigger,” said Cynthia Le Mons, executive director of the foundation. The trigger could be a viral illness, stress or a high-protein diet, she added.
        “There was just no way of knowing she had it because they don’t routinely test for it,” said Michelle White, Hefford’s mother and a resident of Perth. “She started to feel unwell, and she collapsed.”
        White blames protein shakes for her daughter’s death.

        ‘Nuanced symptoms’

        Since 2014, Hefford, who worked at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and studied paramedicine, had been competing as a bodybuilder.
        It was only after Hefford’s death that White discovered containers of protein supplements in her daughter’s kitchen, along with a strict food plan. White understood then that her daughter, who had been preparing for another bodybuilding competition, had also been consuming an unbalanced diet.
        Hefford was eating “way too much protein,” said White, which triggered her daughter’s unknown urea cycle condition. (For most healthy people, a high-protein diet, when followed for a short time, generally isn’t harmful, according to the Mayo Clinic.)
        Hefford’s diet included protein-rich foods, such as lean meat and egg white, in addition to protein shakes and supplements, her mother said.
        “There’s medical advice on the back of all the supplements to seek out a doctor, but how many young people actually do?” White asked.
        Le Mons said, “typically, there are nuanced symptoms that just go unrecognized” with mild cases of urea cycle disorder. Symptoms include episodes of a lack of concentration, being very tired and vomiting.
        “Sometimes, people think it’s the flu and might even go to the ER thinking they have a really bad flu,” Le Mons said, adding that a simple serum ammonia level test, which can detect the condition, is not routinely done in ERs.
        It’s unclear whether Hefford suffered symptoms of her condition. White, who hopes her daughter’s story will serve as a warning to help save lives, believes protein supplements need more regulation.
        The Australian Medical Association says there’s no real health benefit to such supplements. And, while they may not be necessary for most people, they’re not dangerous to most, either.

        Treatment

        The estimated incidence of urea cycle disorders is 1 in 8,500 births. Since many cases remain undiagnosed, the exact incidence is unknown and believed to be underestimated.
        “There’s a myth that this disorder only affects children,” Le Mons said, noting that one patient reached age 85 before diagnosis.
        Regarding Hefford, Le Mons said that “this is not the first time this has happened.” Other athletes, who like Hefford were unaware of their condition, have died when a high-protein diet triggered their condition.

        See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

        Though there is no cure for urea cycle disorder, a balanced diet is all that is needed for some patients, according to the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation.
        Treatment may include supplementation with special amino acid formulas, while in some more severe cases, one of two forms of an FDA-approved drug may be prescribed. When these therapies fail, liver transplant may become necessary.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/health/australian-body-builder-death-protein-shakes/index.html

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