A friend of mine sent me an email today that got me ranting. The email was in regards to California being on the verge of approving the use of a carcinogenic gas, methyl iodide, for use on strawberry fields and other food crops. Methyl idodide causes the following symptoms with acute exposure: nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, and other problems; massive exposure can lead to pulmonary edema; and
MAY cause fetal loss to women who live near farms where it’s used. They’re not exactly sure yet.

This makes me so angry. How about agriculture/farmers/corporations just STOP POISONING OUR FOOD?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On further thought, I realized that this ties in with my pro-insect eating movement. If our culture wasn’t so squeamish about eating insects, insects in our fruits and veggies would provide the protein that meat-eaters are always complaining is deficient in vegetarian’s diets! WITHOUT the cancer-causing fat from meat!

Think about it! No pesticides = bugs in fruits & veggies (where they naturally occur) = a complete food of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein! If you can separate yourself from our cultural biases/beliefs/assumptions about eating insects being “gross,” you can see that from an evolutionary standpoint the consumption of insects with vegetable matter makes TOTAL SENSE.

Anyways, back to chemicals.

I went to this website & saw the following article about a report CNN did about chemicals:

“On June 2nd and 3rd, CNN aired “Toxic America,” a special investigative report detailing the prevalence and invisibility of hazardous chemicals we are all exposed to in our homes, air, water and food. “For 80 percent of the common chemicals in everyday use in this country we know almost nothing about whether or not they can damage the brains of children, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the other developing organs,” noted Dr. Phil Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The first hour of the CNN report presented the struggle by residents of Mossville, Louisiana to regain their right to live in a healthy environment despite being surrounded by 14 chemical plants. Mossville has an astounding cancer cluster, clearly linked to the contamination of the air, water and ground beneath residents’ homes. The investigation was aided by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a DC-based public interest law firm and Pesticide Action Network ally working with groups particularly in the Gulf states.

The second hour of the CNN report focuses on food contamination. By eating any one of the 12 most contaminated fruits or vegetables featured on the program, consumers risk ingesting between 47 and 67 different pesticides; and this result is after the produce has been washed with a high power pressure water system by USDA analysts. According to PAN’s pesticide residue database, What’sOnMyFood.org, a single serving apple may contain carcinogens, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and developmental and reproductive toxins. CNN points out that consumers can avoid up to 80 percent of dietary pesticide exposures simply by buying organic versions of what the Environmental Working Group calls the “Dirty Dozen” produce items. Not covered in the story were dangers posed to farmers, farmworkers and their families who remain exposed to pesticides applied during the full production cycle of even those foods that retain the least residues. Also not covered was the fact that pesticides used on fields often make their way into drinking water. Thus purchasing produce with fewer pesticides on the final product will not necessarily reduce our exposure from drinking water. Sweet corn, for example, typically retains minimal pesticide residue. Yet atrazine, a known hormone disruptor and ubiquitous herbicide used predominately on corn, is found in 94% of tested U.S. drinking water.”

Now, I understand that these claims may be skewed. You MIGHT have to drink a gallon of these poisons for it to cause cancer; I don’t know. But these chemicals are in our water, our food, and our air, and they usually end up being stored in our fat. After 10 years of eating/drinking/breathing poison, I’m gonna guess that the buildup in our bodies is enough to have SOME kind of carcinogenic/neurotoxic/reproductive/developmental effect.

And if you think about it, our planet is like our bodies, on a larger scale. We keep inventing, producing and pumping out these non-naturally-occurring poisonous chemicals, and eventually the toxic buildup will just be too much for the system to continue functioning – whether that’s the body system or the entire planet.

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The oil spill. Er, gush.

I think it’s great!!!

Obviously we, as humans, often need to be smacked upside the head, and out of our comfort zones, to figure out what’s best for us, or what’s most important in life, or where we need to make changes (and all three are usually related).

So, I think the oil spill is a wonderful thing. Of course it’s horrible too, and there’s going to be huge and long-lasting side effects to this. Every positive thing (gas = convenience, cars, plastics etc etc) has its equal and opposite negative (pollution, wars, environmental destruction). We’ve had other massive oil spills that destroyed tons of wildlife; did that change our consumption habits? Maybe it started to, a little. But obviously, we still needed another shove. Prior to this our government had started opening up the possibility of new drilling, not just in the ocean but in other areas of our country. That’s all been shut down for now. And with this catastrophe, let’s hope that going forward, the government has a closer watch on what these companies are doing (or aren’t doing) to protect humans from the fallout of these disasters.

Another thought I’ve been pondering about this: I heard about finger pointing, passing the buck, Obama getting mad at the executives & officials for not stepping up and taking responsibility.

But it’s pretty obvious to me who’s responsible.

I am.

You are.

Every person who drives a car in this country is responsible. Every person who uses plastic bags and water bottles. Every person who uses shampoo with parabens in them. We’re all responsible for this icky sludgy tarry oily mess. But I don’t think I’ve heard anyone point that out.

On a lighter and completely unrelated note, I read that thousands of tiny frogs have shut down highways in Greece.

Frogs Freeze Freeways

Millions of frogs formed a “carpet” that covered the roadways and caused a few cars to skid out of control (noooo don’t smush the froggies!!!) before the Greek gov’t closed the roads.

Was it an organized protest? Maybe these amphibians were mobilizing in support of their maritime cousins, to voice their froggy discontent at how aqueous creatures are being slaughtered while BP thinks about throwing golf balls and tires into the geyser of death.

Bottle bummers.

May 17, 2010

I haven’t blogged much about science or politics or society… yet. Mostly because I have strong opinions on certain topics, and it takes a long time to properly flesh them out. I’ve got about 10 passionate, unfinished blog drafts lying around. But today I came across an NPR article that caught my eye – on bottled water. We all know that bottled water is horrible. But do you know all of the reasons why? I’m not going to tell you ALL of them, cuz that would take me a year. But Peter Gleick, a fresh water expert, details a few of them (ok, probably more like a hundred) in his book “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.”

First off, the bottles.

60 MILLION water bottles are thrown away EVERY DAY in the US (this is just thrown away – not recycled). Most bottles are made out of PET plastic (Polyethylene terephthalate, #1 on the bottom of the bottle). Not only does PET last, effectively, forever, there are also concerns that this kind of plastic might leach endocrine disrupters, like phthalates, into the water. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about phthalates in the last few months, and am planning to write a W’NB –Whole ‘Nuther Blog – about it, but I’ll go into it a bit here.

Pthalates are an endocrine disruptor, which means that they mess with our hormones.
Effects of phthalates, per Wiki:
“Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include a range of reproductive problems (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems); changes in hormone levels; early puberty; brain and behavior problems; impaired immune functions; and various cancers.”

Cancer…Autism…Infertility…ADHD…Depression…effects of phthalates? Possibly.

Phthalates are made out of petroleum. Guess who’s the largest producer of phthalates in the country? Exxon.

The European Union is already beginning to ban phthalates, and Canada has plans to. Exxon is against this. They say phthalates are harmless. The US is, as usual, lagging waaaay behind the EU and Canada in implementing protective laws…perhaps because big oil has such a huge influence on our government?

Exxon makes trillions making phthalates, pharmaceutical companies make trillions medicating the problems they cause? Something to think about…

Anyways, back to the bottles.

Over 75% of plastic bottles don’t get recycled, ever. Just because something is recyclABLE doesn’t mean it IS recyclED.

When we DO recycle plastic, instead of using it to make more bottles HERE, we burn up more gas to ship that recycled plastic to China, where they turn the plastics into other things, and then they burn more gas shipping those products back to us. This doesn’t even make sense.

Now, on to the water part.

The stupid thing is that most bottled water comes from tap water. Not from Fiji, not from mountains, not from springs. The bottles aren’t required to tell you where the water actually comes from. Water that’s called “Glacier Springs” could actually be from…the New Jersey Municipal Water Plant.

Another stupid thing is that bottled water is actually LESS regulated than tap water is. The rules are completely different.

60-70% of bottled water IS NOT REGULATED!!! No one’s paying attention to what’s put in the bottles!

Bottled water is considered a “Food Product,” which means it’s not regulated by the federal government unless it’s sold across state lines. 60 to 70% of bottled water is bottled and sold within state lines.

60-70%.

What about the other 30-40% of bottled water that’s sold across state lines?
That’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
But guess who tests the water?
The company who’s selling it to you.

Since bottled water is classified as a “Food Product” (unlike tap water), it’s not required to be tested by an independent organization; the company that’s selling you the water tests its own water itself, a few times a year, and is supposed to report it to the FDA. Conflict of interest much?

Tap water is tested multiple times PER DAY. It has to stand up to federal standards, and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a law called the Safe Water Drinking Act.
If there’s an issue with tap water quality, federal law requires that people be notified the same day.

Bottled water MIGHT be tested once a week, once a month, or once a year, measured by laboratories that are run by the companies that are selling the water to you. When there’s a problem, recalls often aren’t issued for months.

There have been a number of bottled water recalls – more than 100, some of which aren’t publicly available. (Why wouldn’t a recall be publicly available? That doesn’t even make sense).

Things that were in the bottles of these recalls: Mold, kerosene, algae, yeast, fecal coliforms, fungi, glass particles, crickets (probably not entire crickets, just cricket parts…).

We’ve been sold a concept. Companies have spent billions to influence our beliefs about cheap tap water, and to create the perception that bottled water is better. Bottled water costs more than GASOLINE when you compare the price per gallon.

Are you comfortable with this?

I’m not.

So what can you do? It’s easy. Stop buying bottled water. You can also get a filter in your house. I bought a pretty stainless steel bottle (make sure it’s not aluminum, as aluminum has been related to Alzheimer’s). It takes a tiny bit more effort to plan ahead and clean and fill up a non-disposable water bottle, but at least you don’t have to worry about hormone disrupters and cricket parts in your water. You save money. And every time you make the choice not to purchase a plastic bottle of water, that’s one less bottle going into a landfill for the rest of time.

Here’s the link for that Peter Gleik interview on NPR. He doesn’t talk about Exxon or phthalates, those were my connections:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126833795&ft=1&f=1007