Dirty secrets about clean laundry They may make linens smell great, but scented liquid laundry detergent and drier sheets might be bad for you. New research from the University of Washington in the US shows that the air vented from machines using top-selling laundry products contains hazardous chemicals, including two carcinogens - acetaldehyde and benzene. 'These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies,' says lead author Anne Steinemann, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. She recommends using unscented laundry products. Eat these for lower cholesterol Adding three types of foods - margarine enhanced with plant sterols; viscous fibre-rich oats and barley; and soya bean protein and nuts - to your diet can lower cholesterol more than a low-fat diet alone, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the study, foods with plant sterols, in particular, when combined with a low-fat diet, lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol by more than 13 per cent. A low-fat diet alone produced only a 3 per cent LDL reduction. However, lead author, Dr David Jenkins of St Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, warned that eating cholesterol-lowering foods doesn't mean you can eat high-fat foods without consequence. Moderation is still the key. Lather up with a latte It sounds like a wacky idea, but caffeine applied directly to the skin might act as a sunscreen and help prevent damaging ultraviolet light from causing skin cancer, according to Rutgers University researchers. It's known that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting ATR, a protein enzyme in the skin. In the new study, a group of mice were genetically modified to have diminished ATR, and this resulted in 69 per cent fewer tumours than in regular mice. They also developed tumours more slowly and had four times fewer invasive tumours compared with unmodified mice. To find out more beneficial properties of caffeine, and hazards, turn to page 9. Think pink for charity Here's a race in which style, rather than speed, makes a winner. The Pink Walk Against Breast Cancer on Sunday, October 9, offers fabulous prizes (think hotel stays and movie vouchers) for the best dressed participants and top fund-raisers. Held on The Peak, the event will have a 3.5-kilometre and a seven-kilometre route. A HK$350 'minimum donation' per walker will be required. The funds will support the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation's work on breast health education, patient support services, local research and advocacy. Don't forget to dress in pink! Sign up at www.hkbcf.org/pinkwalk by September 30.