activism, Eco-Conscious, Green Living, In the News

Fishy, Froggy and Frightening

I just read a brochure outlining Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish and Shellfish in Maine. It’s put out by the state of Maine, where sport fishing is a big part of the economy. In it, Maine environmental officials urge that pregnant women and children under 8 limit their intake of some fish to two meals a month.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a warning like that, it doesn’t make me run right over to the calendar and circle the two days I’m going to put PCB‘s, Dioxin, Mercury and DDT on the dinner table.

Nope, freshwater fish caught in Maine have been off our menu for years. Ditto for fish caught offshore near the estuaries where toxins accumulate in shellfish, lobsters and fish.  We do eat wild-caught salmon, chunk light tuna on occasion and shellfish from unpolluted waters.

You might want to check your state’s advisories on fish and anything else you might eat that comes from fresh or saltwater. Also, none of these advisories take into account any of the other toxins our bodies imbibe from water, air and food. This stuff is cumulative and also most likely has a synergistic effect when combined.

And while we’re floundering around in murky waters, let’s not forget to help out our froggy little friends who are sinking fast. Fish and shellfish aren’t the only species that are facing extinction. Take a minute and hop over to Save the Frogs where you can learn more about why we can’t wait to do something about the threat that hangs over the future of whole species of frogs and toads.

Kids will like Cool Facts About Frogs and you can print out posters, donate to the non-profit organization or surf the links to other amphibian resources. Or just revel in the many beautiful pictures of these amazing little creatures and find out what a Caecilian is when it’s at home. Hey, my spell-check dictionary didn’t know what it was, do you?

Authors Bio: Patricia from Stephaniereinhardt.com. Bornand raised in the Saginaw Bay Region of Michigan, I have always been the generally curious sort (sometimes too curious – sorry Mom and Dad!). When applying for jobs in high school, I begged my parents not to make me turn in any more applications until I’d heard back from the public library about a page position. Fortunately they called me back, and it set me upon the path toward librarianship…

Eco-Conscious, Great Green Sites, Green Consumer, Health Alert, In the News

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Into The Water – 1,4-dioxane

Sometimes I feel like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, running just to keep up with developments in Green products. Bisphenol-A is discovered, then it’s banished, then we find out it didn’t really go completely away.

We learn which companies to trust – then find out that some of them have been lying on their labels or just leaving ingredients out of their label list. What’s a concerned consumer to do?

Take 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen and petrochemical. Now, wouldn’t you think that companies like Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Nature’s Gate and Aura Cacia – to name just a few – would do the right thing and list it on their products that contain it? And how can they get away with NOT listing it if it’s in their products?

Well, there’s a little loophole in the labeling laws – one that I wouldn’t expect ethical companies to take advantage of – but they do. 1,4-dioxane is considered a “contaminant”, not an ingredient. So, it doesn’t have to be listed as an ingredient. It’s produced as a by-product when a process called “ethoxylation” is used to cheaply make products milder when they contain harsh ingredients.

So, it’s in the product, but they don’t tell you it’s in the product, so you don’t KNOW that it’s in the product and that makes everything all right. Right? After all, consumers won’t mind when they find out that they’ve been putting this carcinogen in their dishpan, in their washer, on their kids, on their pets and on themselves.  And, so what if a little bit of it gets into the environment and filters through to the water table and into the soil. It’s not on the label, therefore, it’s not really there and it can’t hurt anyone, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty burned up about this. If you can’t trust supposedly ethical, Greener than thou companies like Seventh Generation and Ecover, who can you trust? I’ve been paying more for their products over Clorox and other mega-companies who’ve just jumped on the Green bandwagon, because I wanted to support the companies who were Green before it was popular. Now, I’m rethinking that whole idea.

Do they really deserve my loyalty if they’re willing to lie by omission about a known carcinogen? I expect this kind of thing from mainstream manufacturers who have been doing it for years and getting away with it. It’s not a shock when I find that Dial, Lever, Johnson and Johnson, Ajax, Palmolive and Olay, for instance, also sell products with 1,4-dioxane in them and don’t list it on the label.

I need to hear from these companies that they’re not going to do this kind of thing again. I want to be assured that they’ll tell me everything – and I do mean everything – that’s in their products, no matter if it’s an ingredient, a contaminant or something that leeches out of the container into the product.

In the meantime, if you’d like to make sure that your personal care and cleaning products don’t contain 1,4-dioxane, The Organic Consumers Association, where I got most of this information, has a really nice Pocket Safety Guide to Personal Care and Cleaning Products that you can print out and take with you when you shop.They also have a lot of information on this and other subjects of interest to Green consumers.

Or, if you’d like to read about alternatives to products with carcinogens and hidden ingredients, you can stop by “Best of Mother Earth” where my friend, Karen recommends and sells several. I’d like to thank her for her post which alerted me to the 1,4-dioxane scandal in products from “natural” companies and for all the posts she writes about something she’s passionate about – the earth and all who live on it.

Health Alert, In the News

Health Care is Neither, Here’s Why

Everyone is weighing in on what type of health care plan we should have. Some people think it should be universal – a government funded and run system that covers everyone from cradle to grave. Other people think that’s too radical and prefer a system that more closely resembles what many people have now – privately run, for-profit health care insurance companies funded by employers and employees. My opinion is that it doesn’t much matter which of the current versions of health care plans eventually gets through Congress and into circulation. None of them will help very much because they don’t address the real health problems in America.

They’ll work for the pharmaceutical and food companies, who are the real cause of our health care crisis. They’ll work for the lobbyists who make sure that the drugging of America and the sorry state of our food supply aren’t even mentioned as a contributing factor in why so many people are sick in America or not as healthy as they could be. They’ll work for the Cancer Society and the Heart Association and the other organizations that have people wearing pink and donating money to “cure” the big diseases that kill so many of us. But they won’t help most of us get cured or – more importantly – prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the conditions that are so intimately connected with the “Big Three”: Obesity and Poor Nutrition. Nor will they do anything to address the fact that almost half of the population takes at least one prescription drug and almost all of us eat way too much sugar, empty calories and food with pesticide, fungicide and herbicide residue in it.

How in the world can we expect to be healthy when we eat crap? Sometimes, in the case of animals that have eaten feed made from other animals – literally. Does no one else think that it’s ironic that so many people take prescription medicine for heartburn, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes rather than make better food choices, eat less or exercise so that they’d lose enough weight to reduce or eliminate these problems?

And, even if everyone of us gets a health care plan, where are the doctors who will care for us? There aren’t enough general practice physicians now to see everyone who can afford to go to them. So, if all of a sudden there are millions more people able to go to a doctor, how will this work? It’s obvious that the educational system we have for producing doctors needs an overhaul immediately and that should be part of any health care plan. However, there are still quotas for how many doctors can be trained and it still costs way too much for that training. How about if doctors could get subsidies if they “gave back” to communities that need physicians? That would allow them to start their professional lives without the burden of huge loans to pay back.

And, how about if we go back to billing for doctor’s visits and not for procedures? That all started when insurance companies got involved, because the bean counters needed to have a code for every little thing that happened during a doctor/patient visit. It’s also how visits went from around a half hour to between ten and fifteen minutes. And, back to increasing the number of doctors again, that also would help with the time factor. A doctor just can’t get to know a patient in fifteen minutes. A patient can’t cover everything they need to say in that amount of time. Maybe if doctors had more time to talk to patients about eating healthier, losing weight and exercising, more people would get the message.

Unfortunately, because most people spend a lot more time watching TV than they do in their doctor’s office, it’s the drug companies with their endless commercials that are listened to and taken to heart. When did we accept the completely irrational idea that most of us need a prescription drug every day? Think back to as recently as twenty years ago. How many prescriptions did it take to keep you alive then? How many pills did our parents and their parents take? My grandfather lived to be 89 and never took so much as an aspirin. My mother lived to be 87 and, until the last few years of her life, never took anything except for two prescriptions for antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. When I heard about it, I told her about how cranberry juice can prevent them and she started drinking a small glass daily and never had any more problems.

And this leads to my last concern about how health care is viewed in this and other industrialized nations. Natural is bad and unreliable and only doctors and pharmaceutical companies know what’s good for us. Now, I’m not advocating that we completely avoid allopathic drugs. There’s a place for them in modern medicine and it would be foolish to say that they’re bad or worthless. On the other hand, I’m really tired of reading about how dangerous it is to rely on natural methods, because they’re unproven, don’t work and are outright dangerous. Dismissing all naturopathic treatments, herbs and home remedies as worthless is just wrong. There are many time-proven natural remedies that work as well – or better – than anything. I’m thinking of a recent study I just read about that found that dark honey worked better than dextromethorphan for coughs in children and another study on Manuka honey’s ability to cure MRSA infections – even ones that are resistant to Vancomycin.

I know from personal experience that drinking vinegar and honey helps my digestion and lowers my blood pressure. I also know that ginger helped my friend’s morning sickness and that cinnamon lowers blood sugar. Not all natural treatments are worthwhile, but then again, neither are all allopathic drugs and treatments. We need to use common sense for health care, which brings me back to why our nation’s brand of “health care” doesn’t care for our health. It focuses on fixing what’s wrong with us, instead of preventing what goes wrong if we don’t eat and live the way we should. Until we understand that, we’ll just keep getting sicker and no amount of drugs or money will be able to save us.

activism, In the News

Does Santa Deliver To Rwanda? Are There Even Chimneys There?

Pumpkins are melting into sodden orange lumps on doorsteps. Womens’ magazines feature yet another recipe spread for a low-fat Thanksgiving dinner, which seems terribly surreal to me. No matter what anyone may say to the contrary, eating real food instead of the processed fast food we eat the rest of the year is the whole point of Thanksgiving for most of us. Well, that and waiting for Santa to arrive and open the official Christmas shopping season after we’re entertained by huge, inflated creatures bopping each other and threatening to injure spectators. (This could be a description of either the Macy’s Parade or a football game. Take your pick.)

Yes, once again, the season of goodwill and peace on earth is upon us, which means it’s time to get out our skinny little wallets and shop for America. Unfortunately for the retailers, this year things may be a tad less remunerative both online and off. I’m not buying the hype that online sales will be higher than last year, because people can’t afford mall prices. I think online and offline sales will both be smaller than last year.

I know my budget is having a hard time stretching to cover oil and gas and food and I assume I’m not alone. I know this because of the posts in parenting forums where mothers are trying to figure out how to have the Christmas they always have on a third of the money they usually spend. We don’t overdo on Christmas. As a matter of fact, we celebrate more of a Solstice-y, Winter Holiday as an excuse for celebrating sort of thing and presents aren’t a big part of it. But we’re still cutting back.

Perhaps as we all tighten our belts around our bulging American bellies, it might help us to feel a little less deprived if we consider the families around the world who aren’t having a problem figuring out how to fit toys into their December budget. I’ve been doing that a lot lately and it really gives me a different perspective on the holidays and our whole way of life.

Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s impossible to ignore what’s happening in Darfur, Rwanda, DR Congo, Iraq and so many other places. That the brunt of this falls onto the already overburdened shoulders of women and children is what bothers me. As Slaid Cleaves sings,

” Women cry as the men kill
Always have and always will
You know we’re never gonna run out of blood to spill”

But while the men fight the wars, women are left behind to try to feed and shelter their children. You see them digging up roots in Africa, even though the roots make their children sicken and die. There’s just flat out nothing else to put into their bellies, and the roots do keep them alive a little longer. I know without being told that I’d do the same thing, hoping that the war would end and food would come from relief organizations in time to save my child.

They’re starving to death in tiny rooms in Iraq, because if they go out without a male family member, they’ll be beaten and maybe raped. We’re texting in our cars and IM’ing our friends about the latest surprise on Survivor. Their orphan sons are foraging in gangs and getting kidnapped by rebel armies where they’re taught to kill by the people who killed their parents. We worry that our sons spend too much time online playing World Of Warcraft.

Their toddlers are watching their mothers starve while ours are watching their mothers try to stick with the latest diet. We obsess about picking the best pre-K for our daughters. Their mothers gave up on school for their girls when the teacher was gunned down by militant fundamentalists in front of the class for teaching their daughters how to read.

We have so much stuff that we need books to help us figure out where to put it all. They cling to a battered pan, scraps of cloth to cover their children at night, a cracked cup just in case they find something to put into it. Their husbands, sons and brothers are lost to them, whether or not they’re killed in the war or missing or prisoners, or just too tired and dispirited to come home. Ours are in the living room watching sports, stealing marshmallows off the sweet potatoes in the kitchen and cuddling with kids on the couch watching the parades.

But what can we do, eh? We didn’t start the wars. Well, maybe the one in Iraq, but really it was Saddam’s fault for saying he had weapons of mass destruction. Besides, the people are a lot better off now than they were then, just like we’re better off now than we were before the Iraq War. Or not.

Maybe, though, we’re a little less smug and a little more able to sympathize with what’s been happening in so much of the rest of the world all this time. As we slide back on the scale towards where so many women and children are trapped in poverty, war and disease, maybe we can understand a little better a tiny portion of what they feel when they can’t give their kids what they need.

In their case, of course, it’s food, shelter and health care. In our case – this year – for most of us – it’s toys and luxuries and the standard of living we and our kids are used to. Next year? Who knows. Maybe things will turn around and we’ll be back to “normal”, if normal means consuming over a quarter of the world’s oil and ruining the environment in the name of jobs.

But maybe, just maybe, things won’t turn around. Maybe things will get worse and next year we’ll be even closer to a Rwandan or Congolese mother, unable to afford medical care for a sick baby or heat for our house. Worse, maybe we won’t be able to afford a house at all. If we’re forced to go into an apartment or even a homeless shelter, where will we put our stuff?

Is that why we turn away from the despair and hopelessness on the faces of women who cradle babies who are so still that even their mothers can’t tell if they’re still alive? Is it because we know that it’s only a fluke of fate that keeps us from what they’re going through, and fate is very fickle?

They could be us. She could be me. I could wake up some morning and find that my world is gone, taken by war, taken by losing all my wealth, taken by disease. You could too. That’s why I’m doing what I can now to help the women who can’t help themselves. My first present this holiday season was to the Women’s Commission For Refugee Women and Children. Quick, affordable and I didn’t even have to wrap it.

I would be so chuffed if this post got one other person to donate or to write a post in aid of aid to women and children who are displaced by war, threatened with starvation, subjected to gender-based violence or forced to live without food, shelter and peace for any reason. I know how lucky I am no matter how bad things get for me financially. I hope that the small gifts I make will give another woman a little bit of what I’m so fortunate to have.

Author: Tasha Chavez.  I am providing you great ideas to materialise the magic of Christmas the best way you can. As an author, I know girls and also know the importance of a great gift. On our site www.whattogetagirlforchristmas.com you can find the inspiration that you need! Girls are easy to please if you find the right present. And we gathered all the great ideas in one place. We provide you perfect ideas for little girls and women! And when it comes to pleasing a woman’s taste, we know just what you need to do! Check our site and make the women in your life happy this Christmas!

activism, Eco-Conscious, Health Alert, In the News

Some Companies Will Do Anything to Keep BPA in Their Products

Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown,Del Monte, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council… These are the companies that met recently to come up with strategies to keep BPA from being banned in CA. According to an article at the Environmental Working Group’s web site, they also put up $500,00 to implement their plans.

One of their ideas is having a young pregnant woman giving speeches around the country in support of BPA’s good points. I’m not exactly sure what good things she could say about something that’s a proven endocrine system disruptor, but I’m sure they’d come up with something. They’re good at marketing slogans. Maybe, “Without BPA, What Would You Have to Worry About?”

At any rate, prepare yourself for whatever  the BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy comes up with to keep making money from something that poisons baby formula, soda and canned fruits and vegetables. While you’re waiting, you might want to totter on over to the EWG site and sign up to do some campaigning of your own against Big Business and its slimy tactics. Oh yes, and an email to the companies who think BPA is just ducky wouldn’t go amiss either. Tell them Lill – the DES Daughter – sent you.

In the News, Plants and Gardening

I Always Knew Clean Living Was Bad For Us

If, like most people nowadays, you’re terribly concerned with keeping yourself and your kids completely germ-free at all times, you may want to reconsider. I’ve just read about some recent scientific discoveries that shore up my belief that cleanliness isn’t next to godliness, after all.

Here are some of the interesting stories I came across as I ankled across the internet doing research on the relationship between how healthy we are and how clean we are.

Helminthic therapy, or treatment with worms that are usually considered parasitic, is not something most of us would want to contemplate. However, it’s already being tried on autoimmune diseases, autism, MS, IBS and asthma.

Researchers are also interested in how it might affect inflammation in the body, even when there’s no obvious disease causing it. Patients are injected with worm ova at intervals, depending on the type of helminth involved and its lifespan. Reportedly, there is a high rate of improvement in some diseases, compared to conventional therapies, although there are side effects, sometimes severe ones.

I would think that the biggest hurdle would be just getting people to consider the idea of being injected with parasites that mankind has spent most of its history trying to eradicate, but I suppose if you’re sick enough, you can endure anything that promises a chance at a normal life. That is, if you can call hosting parasites for a few months to a few years normal.

Not quite as radical as the worm therapy,  getting dirty is looking like the way to go if you want to be healthy. Scientists have discovered that there’s a bacteria in the soil that encourages the human body to make serotonin. This little Prozac mimic also seems to be connected to a bacteria that causes tuberculosis, but further research is needed to determine the connection.

For now, researchers are working on whether the organism will be of use in fighting Depression. I’d say it might explain why those of us who garden always feel better after we dig around in the dirt for awhile, wouldn’t you?

And now, unfortunately, I have to report that although leech therapy is still hanging in there,  maggot therapy turns out to be slightly less successful than it first appeared to be. I know I was pretty chuffed about it, but we’ll all have to ramp down our expectations a little. While it does help somewhat at debriding, it’s not all that great at the healing part. Still, what can you expect from the larval stage of a fly anyhow?

Eco-Conscious, In the News

Colony Collapse: This Could “Bee” Good News

According to an article in Science Daily, scientists have developed a weapon to fight Colony Collapse. The really neat part of this is that the weapon is bees. That’s right. The mite-fighting bees have been specially bred to search out Varroa mites and remove them from the nest.

Varroa mites, aka  “vampire mites” are thought to be a significant contributing factor in Colony Collapse, which threatens bee populations around the world – and thus the human food supply also. The tiny mite establishes itself in the cells that nourish bee pupa, then reproduces inside the sealed cell, so it’s hard for the bees to find it and remove it.

The little blood-suckers then feed on the bees’ lymph fluid and blood and, once established, are very hard to get rid of. The sealed chambers, which are designed to protect the baby bees, also protect the baby mites until they’re large enough to do a lot of damage. One-fifth of Britain’s bee population was wiped out by this little invader last year. Around the world, bees died by the millions and science seemed unable to do anything about it.

Now, though, with the discovery that bees have a gene for hygiene which is more strongly expressed in some bees than others – a clean gene, if you will – they can be bred to be more aggressive about mite-removal. The new breed of bee actually chews through the wax seal and removes the mite-infested pupa, thus killing the baby mites before they can reproduce. And when Mama Mite makes more mini-mites, the cleaner bees come back and wipe them out also.

This can cut down on the mites enough to let the colony survive. While the mites aren’t the only factor in Colony Collapse – pesticides, fungicides and other pathogens may be be factors also – reducing their damage should go a long way toward helping bee populations survive while researchers work to find an answer to the problem.

Source: Science Daily-Bees Fight Back Against Colony Collapse Disorder: Some Honey Bees Toss Out Varroa Mites