Friday, August 31, 2007

House Recycling

This is such a cool video of the moving of an entire building/old house on campus to a new location (it's possible one of the buglike dots you see moving may be Yours Truly):

Click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Did my House make my kitty hyperthyroid?

This is such an eeeek! My New York City street kitty became suddenly hyperthyroid when we moved to Providence...and we did buy some new furniture, mattresses, sofa, etc. I can't help but wonder...

From Mary Shomon, the Thyroid goddess:

Chemical-Laden Household Dust May Pose Thyroid Danger to Cats

Flame-retardant chemicals that are added to everything from carpeting to furniture may be responsible for a dramatic increase in hyperthyroidism in cats, according to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study published August 15, 2007.

The chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, were introduced around 30 years ago****, for use in households as a flame retardant. This coincides with the increasing incidence of overactive thyroid disease in cats. Hyperthyroidism was rare several decades ago, and is now one of the leading causes of death in pet cats. It’s known that key risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism are for indoor cats and those who eat canned foods....

They're in our homes. They're sleeping on our mattresses and furniture." Dye believes that house cats are ingesting the PBDEs, which are present in household dust, as they carefully groom themselves.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the Experimental Toxicology Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told HealthDay news, "Cats are very highly exposed to these chemicals, and the levels in cats are higher than the levels in people. But cats may be a good indicator of indoor exposure to humans.”

In the study, researchers compared levels of PBDE in healthy cats and cats with hyperthyroidism, and found that the cats with an overactive thyroid had PBDE levels 20 to 100 times higher than the average adult human in the United States. All the cats had detectable levels of PBDEs, but the highest levels were seen in cats with hyperthyroidism.

The researchers also found that the PBDE content of certain canned cat foods –- in particular, seafood flavors like salmon and whitefish –- is substantially higher than dry or non-seafood canned cat food.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include hunger, increased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, and vocalizing.

According to Dye, “Our results showed that cats are being consistently exposed to PBDE. Because they are endocrine-disrupting agents, cats may well be at increased risk for developing thyroid effects.”

According to Dye, cats and humans are the only mammals with high incidences of hyperthyroidism. The paper suggests that cats are, in a way, the canaries in the coal mine, suggesting a possible thyroid risk of PBDEs to humans. While a causal link between the PBDEs and feline thyroid problems has not been proven, more research will be done to investigate. If the relationship is proven, then similar research on the effects of PBDEs on humans will be conducted.

Read more here.

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*** These chemicals--ahem--have been banned in Europe for quite a while, BTW. Since we've gotten wise to this, when we do purchasae furniture, we go to IKEA because it's made to those European standards. WHY do we keep insisting on poisoning ourselves????


Friday, August 24, 2007

Treehugger Favourite Greens!


Yippee-doo, we're a TreeHugger Favourite Green again this week. Check out some great new sites/posts--e.g., good recipe for a health bars on Freshtopia.net.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

3M chemicals may cause low birthweight babies

Tom Elko sent me this post from Skybluewaters.com, a great regional Minnesota environmental site. I *do* have a friend who killed her birds by heating (NOT overheating, even) Teflon. Here's what it may do to babies:

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Chemicals produced by 3M that have been discovered in east metro drinking water, metro lakes, the Mississippi River, and elsewhere have been linked to low birthweight in newborns according to two new studies.

Liz Szabo of USA Today reports.

Babies exposed in the womb to chemicals used in non-stick cookware and other products may be born slightly smaller than other infants, two new studies report.

Earlier tests on animals have linked two chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), to cancer and developmental problems.

Studies also show that the chemicals can remain in the environment — and in the body — for many years.

Scientists say the studies, both of which are published in Environmental Health Perspectives, are significant because they measure the effects of lower levels in humans.

In an article published online Aug. 16, researchers tested blood from 1,400 pregnant women in a Danish birth registry. Babies of women with high PFOA levels were on average 4 ounces lighter than those born to mothers with low levels, the study reports. The study was paid for by the International Epidemiology Institute, which receives support from chemical manufacturer 3M.

On Wednesday, a public records disclosure form revealed that 3M hired lobbying firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP. The Associated Press reported that the “firm will lobby on health-related issues and policies at the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The latest U.S. health safety distraction ploy: Blame China!

From Mike Adams, the Health Ranger:

U.S. health and safety officials have found yet another brilliant way to distract the public from realizing just how dangerous U.S.-made food and drug products are: Blame China! Lately, we've seen China blamed for everything from toxic toothpaste, deadly dog food, contaminated ginger and now lead-based paints in Mattel toys.

Of course, all the accusations are true. China's food and herbal products are so routinely contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals that high-quality supplement formulators in the United States refuse to buy products from China anymore. But the really clever part in all this is that blaming China prevents people from paying attention to the dangerous ingredients openly allowed in the U.S. food supply by the FDA.

Specifically, the FDA currently allows known cancer-causing chemicals to be widely used in both foods and drugs. Sodium nitrite, for example, has been irrefutably shown to cause pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and brain tumors in children, and yet the FDA looks the other way while processed meat manufacturers continue to add sodium nitrite to meat products sold throughout the country....

The USDA, meanwhile, openly allows U.S. farmers to inject cattle with hormones and antibiotics that are banned in most other countries, and the agency even has an open policy of allowing U.S. cattle to be fed chicken poop, roadkill, euthanized pets, and until recently, brain and spinal fluids from other dead, diseased cows. So what happens when consumers eating this stuff suffer bizarre neurological disorders like the human form of mad cow disease? Blame China!

See more here.

McDonald’s marketing tricks tots’ taste buds

To continue our improptu Kiddie Health Week, if you have kids or are planning to have them (hello, Ali!), watch out! Even if you keep your kiddies away from McDonald's, they can still develop a "taste" for it:
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In test of identical foods, kids said even carrots labeled by chain were best


(AP) CHICAGO - Anything made by McDonald’s tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

“You see a McDonald’s label and kids start salivating,” said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids. She had no role in the research. Levin said it was “the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what’s going on with (marketing to) young children.”

Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids’ perception of taste was “physically altered by the branding.” The Stanford University researcher said it was remarkable how children so young were already so influenced by advertising.

The study involved 63 low-income children ages 3 to 5 from Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.

The research, appearing in August’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study will likely stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald’s, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.

McDonald’s says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories and less fat.

“This is an important subject and McDonald’s has been actively addressing it for quite some time,” said company spokesman Walt Riker. “We’ve always wanted to be part of the solution and we are providing solutions.”

But Dr. Victor Strasburger, an author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children, said the study shows too little is being done.

“It’s an amazing study and it’s very sad,” Strasburger said.

“Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about ­ to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product,” he said.

Just two of the 63 children studied said they’d never eaten at McDonald’s, and about one-third ate there at least weekly. Most recognized the McDonald’s logo but it was mentioned to those who didn’t.

The study included three McDonald’s menu items ­ hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries ­ and store-bought milk or juice and carrots. Children got two identical samples of each food on a tray, one in McDonald’s wrappers or cups and the other in plain, unmarked packaging. The kids were asked if they tasted the same or if one was better. (Some children didn’t taste all the foods.)

French fries were favorites
McDonald’s-labeled samples were the clear favorites. French fries were the biggest winner; almost 77 percent said the labeled fries tasted best while only 13 percent preferred the others.

Fifty-four percent preferred McDonald’s-wrapped carrots versus 23 percent who liked the plain-wrapped sample.

The only results not statistically clear-cut involved the hamburgers, with 29 kids choosing McDonald’s-wrapped burgers and 22 choosing the unmarked ones.

Fewer than one-fourth of the children said both samples of all foods tasted the same.

Pradeep Chintagunta, a University of Chicago marketing professor, said a fairer comparison might have gauged kids’ preferences for the McDonald’s label versus another familiar brand, such as Mickey Mouse.

“I don’t think you can necessarily hold this against” McDonald’s, he said, since the goal of marketing is to build familiarity and sell products.

He noted that parents play a strong role in controlling food choices for children so young.

But Robinson argued that because young children are unaware of the persuasive intent of marketing, “it is an unfair playing field.”

© 2007 The Associated Press.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

80% Schools Use Neurotoxic Pesticides--Whether Needed Or Not

While we're at it...just in case the kids somehow escaped getting neurotoxins everywhere else, they can get them at school!
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From Treehugger (via Newswise)

Picture an FBI agent on the trail of poisons in America’s schools, and that’s what you’ve got when you take a look at Marc Lane, an entomologist and professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He says that pesticides in schools are a “pervasive, unnecessary health hazard”. He goes on to point out that “Over 80 percent of schools in America are applying pesticides on a regular basis, whether they have a pest problem or not," he said. "This is tragic not only because of the well-documented link between pesticides and health problems in children, such as asthma and neurological disorders, but also because pesticides generally do not work in a preventive manner in the school environment. Applying pesticides does not prevent pests from coming in, so using them when pests are not present does nothing other than expose children and staff to toxic chemicals."

Now according to Lame the most widely used insecticides are nerve poisons, which cause nerves to fire in an uncontrolled manner and disrupt endocrine systems. And it’s well documented that prolonged exposure can result in similar effects on humans, with results ranging from vomiting to severe breathing problems… But some further research indicates these insecticides may also play a role in causing issues such as ADHD, autism, and even infertility. ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

4 Million Children Die Each Year from Enviro-Hazards

They always say you can tell everything about a society by how it treats its children:

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by Matthew Sparkes, London, UK on 08. 1.07

Environmental hazards are killing four million children every year. The World Health Organisation claims that problems such as polluted air and water are causing poisonings, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea diseases and malaria due to thriving mosquito populations in dirty water.

Up to 30% of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors. "This is something that intuitively we have always recognized, but we never put a number to it," said WHO expert, Jenny Pronczuk.

Children don't even have to come into contact with harmful chemicals during their life for them to have an impact on their health. Any exposure that the mother recieves whilst pregnant can also be passed on, and the effects of that exposure may only emerge in adolescence. Pronczuk said, "For example if you look at lead exposure, the effect will be different if the child was exposed in utero because the lead of the mother goes into the bones of the child."

The fact that this report talks about the effects on children obviously makes for a more emotionally affecting story, and the vastness of the number affected is hard to comprehend. It’s important though, that the WHO look into these issues, because we could be walking into huge medical problems in the future. Our generation may be the first in history that becomes less healthy than the previous. The negative effects of our environment have increased faster than medical science.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A First Pregnancy May Be Difficult to Achieve After Long-Term Use of an IUD

From the Guttmacher Institute on IUDs (intrauterine devices--they're put in the uterine lining to "irritate" it to prevent implantation of an embryo):

A First Pregnancy May Be Difficult to Achieve After Long-Term Use of an IUD

Women who have never given birth and have used an IUD for an extended period of time face decreased fertility when they try to conceive, according to a prospective study conducted in England and Scotland.1 Thirty-nine percent of nulliparous women who discontinued IUD use to become pregnant gave birth within 12 months, compared with 54% of those who stopped using a barrier method; the proportion was significantly lower among women who had used an IUD for 78 months or more (28%) than for those who had used one for a shorter period (45%). The association between extended IUD use and decreased fertility remained after other factors that affect fertility were taken into account.
Read more here. One might want to consider the long-term effects of birth control before choosing. Hormones, uterine irritation...even spermicides like Nonoxyl-9 may have weird biological effects.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Korean Hostages in Afghanistan: Please help


Here's a petition about the Korean hostages that I just received from my buddy Max Han at NYseoul.com. I'm appalled at how quickly this issue has been dropped in the American media when all these people's lives are at stake at least in part because of the mess we made in the Middle East (don't forget that our involvement there against the Soviets helped allow the Taliban to become ascendant in the first place!). Please consider signing it:

Taliban leaders: free the hostages

The Afghanistan hostage situation involving the South Korean aid workers being held by the Taliban, is spiralling out of control. If any more are killed, it could force aid agencies to pull out of Afghanistan -- denying millions of Afghanis the help they need after years of war.

The Taliban are guided by the Afghan Pashtunwali code, a principle that requires “hospitality to all, especially guests and strangers” – and this kidnapping is a clear violation of the code, offending te weary people of Afghanistan on whom they depend. So it’s time for the global community to stand with Afghanis and South Koreans, demand that the Taliban to honour their code and release the rest of the hostages. Sign the petition NOW --

To the Taliban leaders,

Please honour the code of the Pashtun people, respect aid workers as guests in Afghanistan and release all hostages unharmed.

Sign the petition

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Slippery Business: The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil

Is this what the "free market" (i.e, profit at all costs) has wrought? That you're getting tons of cheap, inflammatory Omega 6s ( and God knows what else) in what you thought was olive oil?? From the New Yorker:

On August 10, 1991, a rusty tanker called the Mazal II docked at the industrial port of Ordu, in Turkey, and pumped twenty-two hundred tons of hazelnut oil into its hold. The ship then embarked on a meandering voyage through the Mediterranean and the North Sea. By September 21st, when the Mazal II reached Barletta, a port in Puglia, in southern Italy, its cargo had become, on the ship’s official documents, Greek olive oil. It slipped through customs, possibly with the connivance of an official, was piped into tanker trucks, and was delivered to the refinery of Riolio, an Italian olive-oil producer based in Barletta. There it was sold—in some instances blended with real olive oil—to Riolio customers...

The investigators also discovered where Ribatti’s adulterated oil had gone: to some of the largest producers of Italian olive oil, among them NestlĂ©, Unilever, Bertolli, and Oleifici Fasanesi, who sold it to consumers as olive oil, and collected about twelve million dollars in E.U. subsidies intended to support the olive-oil industry. (These companies claimed that they had been swindled by Ribatti, and prosecutors were unable to prove complicity on their part.)

In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” one investigator told me.)...

Read more here.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Thai cops punished by Hello Kitty

I got this from MAN Fertility. I still don't get why it's punishment.

From the BBC:

Hello Kitty, in handbag form (file image)
The Hello Kitty cartoon character is known across Asia
Police chiefs in the Thai capital, Bangkok, have come up with a new way of punishing officers who break the rules - an eye-catching Hello Kitty armband.

The armband is large, bright pink and has a Hello Kitty motif with two hearts embroidered on it.

From today, officers who are late, park in the wrong place or commit other minor transgressions will have to wear it for several days.

The armband is designed to shame the wearer, police officials said.

"This is to help build discipline. We should not let small offences go unnoticed," Police Colonel Pongpat Chayapan told Reuters news agency.

"Guilty officers will be made to wear the armbands in the office for a few days, with instructions not to disclose their offences. Let people guess what they have done," he said.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

GM foods not served in Monsanto cafeteria

This is so ironic I don't know where to begin...
"The fight to ban genetically modified foods has won more converts -- some employees of Monsanto the company that is doing the most to promote GM products.

The Independent newspaper reports that there is a notice in the cafeteria of the Monsanto pharmaceutical factory is High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, advising customers 'as far as practicable, GM soya and maize (has been removed) from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.'

The notice was posted by the Sutcliffe Catering Group.

Monsanto confirms the authenticity of the notice, but company spokesman Tony Coombes says the only reason for the GM-free foods is because the company 'believes in choice.'
So why is it lobbying so hard (and so far successfully) that GMO products must not be labeled as such? We like choice, too!

FYI: the only way the avoid is to go ORGANIC.

Read more (once you stop barfing) here.

Most recent shenanigans from Monsanto: bribes for GMO. Read the Treehugger story here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

5 operations you don't want to get

(photo: CNN.com)

Surgery is one of the major advances in modern medical technology. And, like with any new technology, it has a tendency to be over- and mis-used.

I know someone who had one of those benign cysts on her fingers (one on each hand), and I tried to get her to either leave 'em alone (annoying but not terribly painful or obstrusive) or smash 'em with a large book like a family Bible, as it's even called a "Bible cyst" in honor of this age-old folk remedy. But her surgeon talked her into surgery; her one concession to me was that although he wanted to do both cysts at the same time, she had him only do one.

The conclusion? The pain, swelling, and weird scar tissue far exceeds what she had originally, and she had to get therapy so her finger doesn't freeze in a weird position. She's regretful of the time lost/pain and suffering but sooooo glad she didn't have the other one done. From CNN.com/Health Mag:

"The fact is, no matter how talented the surgeon, the body doesn't much care about the doc's credentials. Surgery is a trauma, and the body responds as such -- with major blood loss and swelling, and all manner of nerve and pain signals that can stick around sometimes for months."

What are the 5? Read it here: