Im told that, despite improvements in recent years, pesticides in flea collars are still harmful to pets and humans. Are there ways to minimize fleas without resorting to chemical concoctions? And is anything being done to ban these dangerous products from store shelves? — Nancy Trouffant, Lancaster, PA
Americans spend some $1 billion each year on products designed to combat fleas. Many of these products do their jobs handsomely, but two of the most egregious chemicals widely used in flea collars, tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur, have been shown to cause damage to our brains and nervous systems, and are known human carcinogens. Residues containing these chemicals can stay on a pets fur-and whatever he or she rubs up against, including your rugs, furniture and children-for weeks on end.
I am very concerned about the amount of chlorine in my tap water. I called my water company and they said it is safe just let the tap run for awhile to rid the smell of the chlorine. But that just gets rid of the smell, perhaps, not the chlorine? – Anita Frigo, Milford, CT
Thousands of American municipalities add chlorine to their drinking water to get rid of contaminants like nitrates, arsenic and pesticides. But this inexpensive and highly effective disinfectant has a dark side. “Chlorine, added as an inexpensive and effective drinking water disinfectant, is also a known poison to the body,” says Vanessa Lausch of filter manufacturer Aquasana. “It is certainly no coincidence that chlorine gas was used with deadly effectiveness as a weapon in the First World War.” The gas would severely burn the lungs and other body tissues when inhaled, and is no less powerful when ingested by mouth.
Lausch adds that researchers have now linked chlorine in drinking water to higher incidences of bladder, rectal and breast cancers. Reportedly chlorine, once in water, interacts with organic compounds to create trihalomethanes (THMs)-which when ingested encourage the growth of free radicals that can destroy or damage vital cells in the body. “Because so much of the water we drink ends up in the bladder and/or rectum, ingestions of THMs in drinking water are particularly damaging to these organs,” says Lausch.
The link between chlorine and bladder and rectal cancers has long been known, but only recently have researchers found a link between common chlorine disinfectant and breast cancer, which affects one out of every eight American women. A recent study conducted in Hartford, Connecticut found that women with breast cancer have 50-60 percent higher levels of organochlorines (chlorine by-products) in their breast tissue than cancer-free women.
But don’t think that buying bottled water is any solution. Much of the bottled water for sale in the U.S. comes from public municipal water sources that are often treated with, you guessed it, chlorine. A few cities have switched over to other means of disinfecting their water supplies. Las Vegas, for example, has followed the lead of many European and Canadian cities in switching over to harmless ozone instead of chlorine to disinfect its municipal water supply.
As for getting rid of the chlorine that your city or town adds to its drinking water on your own, theories abound. Some swear by the method of letting their water sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine in the glass or pitcher will off-gas. Letting the tap run for a while is not likely to remove any sizable portion of chlorine, unless one were to then let the water sit overnight before consuming it. Another option is a product called WaterYouWant, which looks like sugar but actually is composed of tasteless antioxidants and plant extracts. The manufacturer claims that a quick shake of the stuff removes 100 percent of the chlorine (and its odor) from a glass a tap water. A years supply of WaterYouWant retails for under $30.
Of course, an easier way to get rid of chlorine from your tap water is by installing a carbon-based filter, which absorbs chlorine and other contaminants before they get into your glass or body. Tap-based filters from the likes of Paragon, Aquasana, Kenmore, Seagul and others remove most if not all of the chlorine in tap water, and are relatively inexpensive to boot.
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Eating out of a can has never appealed to me. Besides the fact that the food inside is dead, it has always seemed just not quite right on some level. Perhaps great if youre stranded in the desert (hopefully with a can opener in your pocket), but for every day living I just dont do it.
I know there has been some talk over the years of aluminium leaching into the foods inside the cans. Whether thats true, I cant say. However, new research is suggesting its the plastic that lines cans these days thats doing the harm.
Dr Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, who is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri, specialises in studying the effects of bisphenol-A (BPA), the toxic chemical that comes from plastics that wrap just about everything we buy in supermarkets. He says the number one canned food to steer clear of is tomatoes. The following info may well make you re-think your mothers famous spaghetti sauce.
Dr vom Saal says bisphenol-A is a synthetic estrogen that is linked to all sorts of dis-eases from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Its the acidity in the tomatoes that reacts with the BPA that causes the chemical to leach into the food. Appetising huh?
Whats the solution? Learning to live like your great grandmother perhaps, and only eating organic food that looks how its supposed to. Freshly picked. Oh and speak to your local grocer about supplying more organic, non-packaged foods. The greater demand, the more supply.
While Im on the subject of stuff to avoid, here are some other foods, as published in a story on Shine.com, that you may want to re-think.
Microwave popcorn ~ Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize – and migrate into your popcorn.
Non-organic potatoes ~ Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes theyre treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After theyre dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.
Conventional apples ~ If fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. An increasing number of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides with Parkinsons disease.
A Good Reason to Can the Can by Vegan Girl at www.diaryofavegan.com
As Christmas day nears, I’ve been thinking about jolly ol’ Santa and his love for milk and cookies … how his turning vegan could be the biggest gift to vegan activists everywhere.
By Adria Vasil
Maybe it’s the half-Greek in me, but there’s nothing that makes me giddier then the sight of a table full of food (well, other than actually eating the food). Trouble is most of what we stack onto our plates isn’t just weighing on our hips, hearts and cells, it’s also bloating the planet with packaging, pesticides and climate-changing gases. How can you get your fill without, er, tipping the ecological scales?
What effects do fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used on residential lawns or on farms have on nearby water bodies like rivers, streams-or even the ocean for those of us who live near the shore? — Linda Reddington, Manahawkin, NJ
With the advent of the so-called Green Revolution in the second half of the 20th century-when farmers began to use technological advances to boost yields-synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides became commonplace around the world not only on farms, but in backyard gardens and on front lawns as well.
These chemicals, many of which were developed in the lab and are petroleum-based, have allowed farmers and gardeners of every stripe to exercise greater control over the plants they want to grow by enriching the immediate environment and warding off pests. But such benefits havent come without environmental costs-namely the wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and even coastal areas, as these synthetic chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.
When the excess nutrients from all the fertilizer we use runs off into our waterways, they cause algae blooms sometimes big enough to make waterways impassable. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic species cant survive in these so-called “dead zones” and so they die or move on to greener underwater pastures.
A related issue is the poisoning of aquatic life. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans alone churn through 75 million pounds of pesticides each year to keep the bugs off their peapods and petunias. When those chemicals get into waterways, fish ingest them and become diseased. Humans who eat diseased fish can themselves become ill, completing the circle wrought by pollution.
A 2007 study of pollution in rivers around Portland, Oregon found that wild salmon there are swimming around with dozens of synthetic chemicals in their systems. Another recent study from Indiana found that a variety of corn genetically engineered to produce the insecticide Bt is having toxic effects on non-target aquatic insects, including caddis flies, a major food source for fish and frogs.
The solution, of course, is to go organic, both at home and on the farm. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farmers and gardeners use composted manure and other natural materials, as well as crop rotation, to help improve soil fertility, rather than synthetic fertilizers that can result in an overabundance of nutrients. As a result, these practices protect ground water supplies and avoid runoff of chemicals that can cause dead zones and poisoned aquatic life.
There is now a large variety of organic fertilizer available commercially, as well as many ways to keep pests at bay without resorting to harsh synthetic chemicals. A wealth of information on growing greener can be found online: Check out OrganicGardeningGuru.com and the U.S. Department of Agricultures Alternative Farming System Information Center, for starters. Those interested in face-to-face advice should consult with a master gardener at a local nursery that specializes in organic gardening.
How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? Though our food appears the same-a tomato still looks like a tomato-it has been radically transformed.