Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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Microplastics Found In 93% Of Bottled Water Tested In Global Study

Researchers examined 11 different brands of water purchased in 9 countries

The bottled water industry is estimated to be worth nearly $200 billion a year, surpassing sugary sodas as the most popular beverage in many countries. But its perceived image of cleanliness and purity is being challenged by a global investigation that found the water tested is often contaminated with tiny particles of plastic.

“Our love affair with making single-use disposable plastics out of a material that lasts for literally centuries — that’s a disconnect, and I think we need to rethink our relationship with that,” says Prof. Sherri Mason, a microplastics researcher who carried out the laboratory work at the State University of New York (SUNY).

The research was conducted on behalf of Orb Media, a U.S-based non-profit journalism organization with which CBC News has partnered.

Mason’s team tested 259 bottles of water purchased in nine countries (none were bought in Canada). Though many brands are sold internationally, the water source, manufacturing and bottling process for the same brand can differ by country.

The 11 brands tested include the world’s dominant players — Nestle Pure Life, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, San Pellegrino and Gerolsteiner — as well as major national brands across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Researchers found 93 per cent of all bottles tested contained some sort of microplastic, including polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

10.4 particles/litre on average

Microplastics are the result of the breakdown of all the plastic waste that makes its way into landfills and oceans. They are also manufactured intentionally, as microbeads used in skin care products. Microbeads are now being phased out in Canada, after significant numbers began to appear in the Great Lakes and the tiny particles were found filling the stomachs of fish.

Anything smaller than five millimetres in size (5,000 microns) is considered microplastic.

Orb found on average there were 10.4 particles of plastic per litre that were 100 microns (0.10 mm) or bigger. This is double the level of microplastics in the tap water tested from more than a dozen countries across five continents, examined in a 2017 study by Orb that looked at similar-sized plastics.

Other, smaller particles were also discovered — 314 of them per litre, on average — which some of the experts consulted about the Orb study believe are plastics but cannot definitively identify.

The amount of particles varied from bottle to bottle: while some contained one, others contained thousands.

The purpose of the study was to establish the presence of the plastics in bottled water.

It’s unclear what the effect of microplastics is on human health, and no previous work has established a maximum safe level of consumption. There are no rules or standards for allowable limits of microplastics in bottled water in Canada, the United States and Europe. Rules and standards for other countries from the study are not known.

Two brands — Nestle and Gerolsteiner — confirmed their own testing showed their water contained microplastics, albeit at much lower levels than what Orb Media is reporting.

Emerging science

Plastics are present nearly everywhere and can take hundreds of years to degrade, if at all. Many types only continue to break down into smaller and smaller particles, until they are not visible to the naked eye.

Plastics have also been known to act like a sponge, and can absorb and release chemicals that could be harmful if consumed by mammals and fish.

“It’s not straightforward,” said Prof. Max Liboiron of Memorial University in St John’s.
“If you’ve ever had chili or spaghetti and you put it in Tupperware, and you can’t scrub the orange colour out, that’s a manifestation of how plastics absorb oily chemicals,” says Liboiron, director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), which monitors plastic pollution.

The European Food Safety Authority suggests most microplastics will be excreted by the body. But the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has raised concerns about the possibility some particles could be small enough to pass into the bloodstream and organs.

It’s not clear how the plastic is getting into the bottled water — whether it’s the water source itself or the air or the manufacturing and bottling process.

“Even the simple act of opening the cap could cause plastic to be chipping off the cap,” Mason said.

The science behind the test

The water tested was purchased in the U.S., Kenya, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mexico and Thailand, and represented a range of brands across several continents. It was shipped to the specialized lab at SUNY in Fredonia, N.Y.

Scientists used Nile Red fluorescent tagging, an emerging method for the rapid identification of microplastics, as the dye binds to plastic. Scientists put the dyed water through a filter and then viewed samples under a microscope.

Mason’s team was able to identify specific plastics over 100 microns (0.10 mm) in size but not smaller particles. According to experts contacted by CBC News, there is a chance the Nile Red dye is adhering to another unknown substance other than plastic.

Mason leaves open that possibility but leans strongly to the smaller particles being plastic.

The developer of the Nile Red method agrees.

Fluorescing particles that were too small to be analyzed should be called “probable microplastic,” said Andrew Mayes, senior lecturer in chemistry at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.

Orb consulted several toxicologists and microplastics experts throughout the entire process who also reviewed the findings.

“This is pretty substantial,” Mayes said. “I’ve looked in some detail at the finer points of the way the work was done, and I’m satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.”

CBC News also asked multiple experts to review Orb’s study; while similar questions came up with the Nile Red dye, they were convinced there was some level of microplastics in the water and further research was warranted.

Big brands respond

Nestle said in a response that it had tested six bottles of water from two of its brands — Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino — and found between two and 12 microplastics per litre, much lower than what Orb found in its study. The company suggested that Nile Red dye is known to “generate false positives.”

Gerolsteiner also said its tests showed a “significantly lower quantity of microplastics per litre” in its products.

“We still cannot understand how the study reached the conclusions it did,” the company said. “The research results do not correspond to the internal analyses that we conduct on a regular basis,” the company said in a response.

Danone, the company behind Evian and Indonesian brand Aqua, told Orb it is “not in a position to comment as the testing methodology used is unclear. There is still limited data on the topic, and conclusions differ dramatically from one study to another.”

Brazilian brand Minalba told Orb that it abides by all quality and security standards required by Brazilian legislation.

The American Beverage Association, which represents many of the biggest brands across North America, including Nestle, Evian, Dasani and Aquafina, told Orb that “the science on microplastics and microfibres is nascent and an emerging field…. We stand by the safety of our bottled water products and we are interested in contributing to serious scientific research that will … help us all understand the scope, impact and appropriate next steps.”

Brands Biserli and Wahaha did not respond to Orb’s request for comment.

Plastics, plastics everywhere

Within three decades, there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish. They are having a profound effect on the environment. In the oceans, vast quantities float on the surface, trapping sea life and blocking the sun’s rays from entering the waters.

Mason points out people can choose to not buy water in a plastic bottle, and to carry a refillable bottle instead. But for other products, there is no choice. The majority of products on grocery and retail store shelves are contained in plastic.

“It’s portable, it’s lightweight, it’s convenient, it’s cheap — that just makes it easy,” Mason says. “It’s so difficult to get people to care about things they can’t see.”

By David Common, Eric Szeto, CBC News      Mar 14, 2018 
source: www.cbc.ca

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Everyday Items That May Be Hindering Your Health

Everyday items could be causing everything from mood swings to infertility and even cancer.

Chemicals found in plastic water bottles, lipsticks, tampons, receipts and even tap water are wreaking havoc on people’s hormones, which is linked to a growing number of health problems.

Research published earlier this week reveals more than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and its ‘healthier alternative’ Bisphenol S (BPS), which are associated with autism, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty, reports the Daily Mail.

Researchers from the Michigan-based non-profit organisation The Ecology Center analyzed 207 paper receipts from a variety of businesses collected between January and April 2017.

However despite their health concerns, such chemicals are frequently added to day-to-day products to provide scent and extend their shelf life.

In a piece for Healthista, editor Anna Magee speaks to reproductive experts, nutritional therapists and dentists on how to avoid such chemicals and detox your life.

Most of us take the mood swings, grumpiness and weight gain of fluctuating hormones for granted.

Yet toxic chemicals in our everyday lives could be making things worse.

Known as ‘xenoestrogens’, these substances, which are found in plastics, cosmetics, sanitary products, receipts and even tap water can mimic the hormone oestrogen and are linked not only to middle-aged spread but also reproductive problems, learning difficulties and even cancer.

Dr Channa Jayasena, a clinical senior lecturer and consultant in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, said: ‘We know little about such hormone altering chemicals but our increasing exposure to them is a cause for concern.

“The risk of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals is enormous and we’re just at the start of learning what they do.
“My concern is that by the time we work out what they actually do, they might be causing diseases we don’t know about.”

So, what can you do? Start by identifying the sources of fake oestrogens in your life and take simple steps to detox them.

Water bottles and other plastics

Dr Jayasena said: “Chemicals in plastics behave like oestrogen in our systems when they reach our bloodstream.”

Chief offender is BPA found in plastic containers, water bottles and linings for tinned foods and drinks. A 2016 study revealed that two out of three canned foods tested positive for BPA.

A survey by the US Centers for Disease Control found that 93 per cent of the population had measurable amounts of BPA in their systems.

According to the Food Standards Agency, there is European legislation in place which sets a maximum limit on BPA from plastics, however, such risks are being re-evaluated by European authorities due to new scientific information emerging on the dangers of such exposure.

BPA and other xenoestrogens not only effect our waistlines but also our reproductive systems.

Dr Jayasena said: “Men’s sperm counts have decreased dramatically in the last decade and we’re now looking at the part hormone disrupting chemicals in our packaging, food and water play in this.”

Dr Sara Gottfried, a US gynaecologist and author of “The Hormone Cure” and new book, “Younger: The Breakthrough Programme to Reset our Genes and Reverse Ageing”, added: “Many problems are co-related with BPA from weight gain to endometriosis and breast cancer.

“This and other xenoestrogen chemicals build up in the body, accelerating ageing and hindering weight loss.”

While some companies market plastic products as “BPA-free”, substitute chemicals, known as BPS and BPF, may be just as dangerous.

A study in April this year by the Endocrine Society in the US found that exposure to BPS could increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer, while a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2015 reviewed 32 studies on the subject and found that all three chemicals are hormone disruptors linked to problems such as weight gain and reproductive issues.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried said: “Heat, microwave use, dishwasher use or leaving a plastic water bottle in the sun can all release such chemicals.

“Avoid microwaving your food with cling film over it or while it’s in plastic containers.
“Use stainless steel water bottles where you can, cook and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel, and use glass or microwave-safe ceramics for microwaving.
“If you must use plastic containers, don’t heat them up”.

She also recommends people try and avoid tinned food or rinse their contents carefully before eating.

BPA is found in plastic water bottles, containers, and linings for tinned food and drinks.

Tap water, fruit and vegetables

Dr Jayasena said: “Xenoestrogen chemicals are in our water supply, fruit and vegetables thanks to their use in farming.”

For example, while DDT, a pesticide with proven hormone-disrupting effects, has been banned, glyphosate, a similar xenostrogen chemical linked to breast cancer and obesity, which is found in the common garden weedkiller Round Up, is still commonly available.

Round Up is one of many pesticides used in Britain that is made from chemicals with endocrine-disrupting effects, the residues of which leech into our tap water and rivers, and remains on the skin of fruit and vegetables.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried recommends people drink filtered water, using carbon to absorb impurities and contaminants. Reverse osmosis filters can remove more chemicals but require fitting to taps at home and can be expensive.

Nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shannessy, who is also director of Bodhimaya Health Centre, says people can remove pesticides from the skin of fruit and vegetables by soaking them in water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before cooking.

They can also check websites such as the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) for their “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen”; lists of the most and least contaminated produce.

More than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical BP.

Receipts, sanitary products and napkins

Dr Gottfried said: “The shiny coating on receipts is giving you a dose of BPA every time you touch it and we know the skin absorbs such chemicals almost as well as when we ingest them.”
France is seeking an EU-wide ban on till receipts containing BPA, with most of its receipts being marked “sans BPA”.

Such sources of synthetic oestrogens contribute to your overall toxic load, increasing your risk of oestrogen dominance.

Other paper sources of synthetic oestrogens include sanitary towels and tampons, which contains xenoestrogens called dioxins – and are linked to fertility, immune issues and endometriosis – as well as table napkins, which may be coated in BPA.

• How to detox

Try and go receipt free, and look for organic or dioxin-free sanitary products that have not been bleached or dyed. Also opt for unbleached, uncoated napkins.

Dental fillings

BPA is used in plastics, with the resins making composite fillings.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene found that BPA was found in the saliva of all 30 dental patients surveyed, while further research in 2012, published in the journal Paediatrics, found that children fitted with fillings made from a substance containing BPA show more behavioural problems compared to their peers.

• How to detox

Dentist James Goolnik of Bow Lane Dental Group, said: “Composite fillings are the least expensive [around £200 a tooth (NZD $380)] of all fillings after mercury and, as mercury has so many confirmed dangers, many people opt for composite.

“But while many contain synthetic oestrogen chemicals such as BPA, it’s now possible to ask for BPA-free composite fillings”.
“Alternatively, porcelain won’t contain toxic chemicals, is tooth coloured, more durable than composite and is about £500 (NZD $952) a tooth.
“If the filling isn’t visible, the best option is gold as it virtually lasts forever, is kinder to your tooth and also contains no toxic chemicals but at around £800 (NZD $1,523) a filling, it’s pricey.
“I still wouldn’t recommend having plastic fillings removed because of the BPA effect as the removal process not only leads to more tooth tissue being damaged it can aggravate the release of more chemicals into the system.”


That lipstick you cannot live without could be adding to your ostrogen load.

In the 1990s, chemicals known as parabens in body creams, lipsticks, scrubs, shampoos and more were identified as xenoestrogens, while in 2004, British researcher Philippa Darbre found them in breast cancer cells.

Likewise, a family of chemicals known as sulphates also have an oestrogen-like effect on the body and are responsible for create lathers in shampoos, body washes, detergents and soaps.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried said: “Ignore labels such as chemical-free, ‘natural’ or ‘for sensitive skin’ as these have no regulated meaning.

Instead, opt for organic skincare and make-up, or products that are sulphate- and paraben-free.

Perfumes and scented candles

Dr Gottfried said: “Many commercial perfumes and scented candles contain phthalates, a class of chemicals found in a surprising number of common household products such as shampoos, deodorants, body washes, hair gels and nail polishes.
“There’s little doubt phthalate chemicals are a key contributor to the inability to lose weight caused by oestrogen dominance.
“Research into the effects of phthalate is ongoing but we know they cause birth defects in male foetuses, are associated with poor egg quality and early menopause in women, and may also be linked to breast cancer and type-2 diabetes”.

• How to detox

Look for phthalate-free cosmetics and unscented candles, ideally made from soya wax.

High-grade essential oils in water used with an oil burner are also a great alternative to scented candles.

Three ways to detox excess oestrogen

Simple lifestyle measures can help, according Daniel O’Shaunnessy, a nutritional therapist at the Bodhimaya Health Centre.

• Eat flaxseeds

Constipation can lead to hormonal imbalances by slowing down the passing of hormones from food and water through the gut. Flaxseeds contain fibre that helps ease this.

Try a tablespoon soaked overnight in a glass of water and then added to smoothies, porridge or taken neat.

• Eat broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, help detoxify fake oestrogen from the liver.

• Take a probiotic

This will help balance the beneficial microflora in your gut, which can help increase motility, meaning you eliminate toxins faster.

By: Anna Magee, Alexandra Thompson       Daily Mail      21 Jan, 2018 


We Have To Roll Back The Tide of Pesticide Use Before It’s Too Late

An anthropogenic mass extinction is underway that will affect all life on the planet and humans will struggle to survive the phenomenon. So says Rosemary Mason in a 2015 paper in the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry. Loss of biodiversity is the most urgent of the environmental problems because this type of diversity is critical to ecosystem services and human health. Mason argues that the modern chemical-intensive industrialized system of food and agriculture is the main culprit.

New research conducted in Germany supports the contention that we are heading for an “ecological Armageddon” — similar to the situation described by Mason. The study shows the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The research data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany and has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture as it seems likely that the widespread use of pesticides is an important factor.

Cited in The Guardian, Sussex University professor Dave Goulson, who is part of the team behind the new study, says, “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life… If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

In the same piece, it is noted that flying insects are vital because they pollinate flowers. Moreover, many, not least bees, are important for pollinating key food crops. Most fruit crops are insect-pollinated and insects also provide food for many animals, including birds, bats, some mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Flies, beetles and wasps are also predators and important decomposers, breaking down dead plants and animals, and insects form the base of thousands of food chains.

The blatant disregard over the use of these substances by regulatory agencies around the world is apparent.

Rosemary Mason has been providing detailed accounts of massive insect declines on her own nature reserve in South Wales for some time. She has published first-hand accounts of the destruction of biodiversity on the reserve in various books and documents that have been submitted to relevant officials and pesticide regulation authorities in the U.K. and beyond. The research from Germany validates her findings.

Mason has written numerous open letters to officials citing reams of statistical data to support the contention that agrochemicals, especially Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, have devastated the natural environment and have also led to spiralling rates of illness and disease, especially among children.

She indicates how the widespread use on agricultural crops of neonicotinoid insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate, both of which cause immune suppression, make species vulnerable to emerging infectious pathogens, driving large-scale wildlife extinctions, including essential pollinators.

Providing evidence to show how human disease patterns correlate remarkably well with the rate of glyphosate usage on corn, soy and wheat crops, which has increased due to ‘Roundup Ready’ crops, Mason indicates how our over-reliance on chemicals in agriculture is causing irreparable harm to all beings on this planet.

The global pesticides industry has created chemicals of mass destruction and succeeded in getting many of their poisons on the commercial market by highly questionable means:

“The EPA has been routinely lying about the safety of pesticides since it took over pesticide registrations in 1970,” writes Carol Van Strum.

Van Strum highlights the faked data and fraudulent tests that led to many highly toxic agrochemicals reaching the market — and they still remain in use, regardless of the devastating impacts on wildlife and human health.

The blatant disregard over the use of these substances by regulatory agencies around the world is apparent.

The research from Germany follows a warning by a chief scientific adviser to the U.K. government who claimed that regulators around the world have falsely assumed that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes and the “effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored.”

And prior to that particular warning, there was a report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council saying that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole. Authored by Hilal Elver, special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, special rapporteur on toxics, the report states, “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.”

Elver says:

“The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies.”

The report recommends a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and (like many other official reports) a shift to sustainable practice based on natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation and organically produced food.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring (1962) raised the red flag about the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, yet, despite the warnings, the agrochemical giants have ever since been conning us with snake oil under the pretense of “feeding the world.” When you drench soil with proprietary synthetic chemicals, introduce company-patented genetically tampered crops or continuously monocrop as part of a corporate-controlled industrial farming system, you kill essential microbes, upset soil balance and end up feeding soil a limited “doughnut diet” of unhealthy inputs.

In their arrogance (and ignorance), these companies claim to know what they are doing and attempt to get the public and various agencies to bow before the altar of corporate ‘science’ and its scientific priesthood.

Modern farming is in effect a principal source of global toxification and soil degradation.

Chemical-intensive Green Revolution technology and ideology has effectively uprooted indigenous/traditional agriculture across the planet and has recast farming according to the needs of global agribusiness and its supply chains. This has had devastating effects on regions, rural communities, diets, soils, health and water pollution. However, this financially lucrative venture for transnational corporations continues apace, spearheaded by the Gates Foundation in Africa and the World Bank’s “enabling the business of agriculture.”

It took a long time to curtail the activities of big tobacco. Tackling big agribusiness and its entrenchment within the heart of governments and international institutions is urgent. Unfortunately, given the scale of the problem and what is at stake, time is not on our side.

10/26/2017    Colin Todhunter    Independent Writer/Analyst

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What’s Killing Us: Study Finds Pollution Deadlier Than War, Disaster, Hunger

Pollution was responsible for nine million deaths around the world in 2015, and although many were in industrializing countries, Canada has not been immune to the harm, a newly released study says.

It’s a toll that’s three times higher than deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined and 15 times higher than from wars and other violence, according to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, whose findings were released on Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The commission is a pollution research effort uniting Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution and the Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

Tensions rising as Chinese no longer willing to hold their breath on pollution problems

The deaths from illnesses and diseases linked to the pollutants are considered premature, the report says, because they would otherwise not have occurred without exposure to the various forms of pollution.

“Nearly 92 per cent of pollution-related deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries and, in countries at every income level, disease caused by pollution is most prevalent among minorities and the marginalized,” the study said.

India, many countries in Africa and some South American countries have been hit particularly hard, said Bruce Lanphear, a health-sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, one of 40 commissioners involved in the two-year research project.

“This is the first global estimate of the total burden of disease due to pollution, and we’re not just talking about air pollution,” Mr. Lanphear said.

The researchers refer to air pollution from such sources as fossil-fuel combustion and the burning of biomass. They also refer to water and soil pollution and toxic-chemical pollution at work sites.

“It’s very likely, if not certain, that we have underestimated the impact of pollution because in some countries, it’s very hard to get data. In other cases, the evidence on the increase in death, disability and disease is still coming out,” Mr. Lanphear said.

Mr. Lanphear said that while air pollution and other pollutants are more problematic in industrializing countries, they are still a sizable burden in a country such as Canada.

“We regulate toxic chemicals in Canada as though there are safe levels or thresholds, but what we’re finding is that is not true for some of the most well-studied toxic chemicals,” he said, citing asbestos, fine airborne particulates and benzene.

He said Canada is “absolutely not” in the clear on the issue. For example, he said heart disease can result from air pollution, including second-hand tobacco smoke, and malignant mesotheiloma can result from past exposures to asbestos.

Mr. Lanphear said pending plans to reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, first enacted in 1988 and revised in 1999, might provide the opportunity to bolster measures for dealing with pollution. The act governs toxic substances, vehicle and engine emissions, among other factors affecting the environment.

The research also says pollution-related diseases are annually responsible for $4.6-trillion (U.S.) in “welfare losses,” defined as economic costs beyond disease and treatment such as loss of productivity. Pollution, says the research, is also responsible for 1.7 per cent of annual health-care spending in high-income countries.

Over all, the Lancet study calls for measures to quantify and then curb pollution, which it describes as an “unintended consequence of unhealthy and unsustainable development.”

“If we want to substantially reduce the global environmental burden of disease, we need to act further upstream and address the drivers and sources of pollution to ensure that development policies and investments are healthy and sustainable by design.”

Pollution, say the authors, can “no longer be viewed as an isolated environmental issue, but is a transcendent problem that affects the health and well-being of entire societies.”



13 Ways to Keep Plastics Out of Your Food

Take action to protect your food—and your family—from BPA.

Our exploding use of plastics may be causing population decline in the industrial world. The possible cause? “Chemicals in commerce.” Namely plastics.

Our bodies have receptor sites for hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. These sites fulfill various important bodily functions. Imagine if instead of real hormones the receptors receive chemicals that mimic hormones, such as are found in plasticizers. This fools the body into thinking it has the real thing until, oops, the plasticizer or other hormone disrupting chemical derails the system. Called endocrine disruption, this phenomenon was brought to worldwide attention in 1996 with the seminal book Our Stolen Future.

There are a number of before-and-after reports of people eating food that had been stored in plastic packaging who then have their blood drawn to see horrifying spikes of the plasticizer bisphenol a (BPA). The discussion about the experiment in the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck is the most famous. Many plastic items are made with BPA, and parents especially have put pressure on companies to drop it. Unfortunately, the common “BPA-Free” substitute, BPS, may cause hyperactivity.

A 2014 NIH study reports that “Growing evidence from research on laboratory animals, wildlife, and humans supports the view that BPA produces an endocrine disrupting effect and adversely affects male reproductive function.”

Phthalates such as DEHP are designed to make plastic soft, such as for plastic food wrap. DEHP has been reported in an NIH study to affect male reproductive development, sperm quality and male hormone levels in general. The problems can go beyond low sperm quality, to include low libido, cancer and erectile dysfunction.

Worse, experimental results actually suggested that multiple generations of exposure may have increased male sensitivity to the chemical. Niels Erik Skakkebaek, an adjunct professor in endocrine disrupters, has for years advocated the concept that poor semen quality is part of a bigger phenomenon, called testicular dysgenesis syndrome.

One real challenge with the research is that scientists have only measured plasticizers in urine since 2000. Skeptics will say there isn’t nearly enough research to prove that plastic exposure is causing low sperm count. Industry is fighting hard to keep BPA on the market and FDA is changing course due to that pressure.

BPA isn’t just bad for men. Research has shown that BPA exposure can impact pregnant women’s thyroids and has been linked to cell damage in post-menopausal women.

The mandate of the precautionary principle is to take preventive action in the face of scientific uncertainty in order to prevent harm. Carolyn Raffensperger is the founding executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. She says the precautionary principle “has three building blocks. One is scientific uncertainty. The second is the likelihood or the plausibility of harm. The third element is precautionary action….the Precautionary Principle invites action: it says you’ve got to take action.”

Here are ways to take action to protect your food from BPA.

1. Smell and taste test.

Can you smell or taste plastic? If you can smell plastic, track down the source and remove it. If you can taste plastic, don’t eat that type or source of food again.

2. Use glass or stainless steel.

Avoid drinking from plastic bottles and choose glass or stainless steel instead. Make a special point to avoid polycarbonate, the “hard” plastic with a recycling code of #7 (more about this in #5, below). And be sure to use glass baby bottles for infants.

3. Avoid processed food.

If there was ever a reason to stop eating processed foods, this is it. The plasticizer adipate (DEHA) is used as an additive in all sorts of foods, including ones you wouldn’t expect, such as fat, dairy and egg-based deserts, frozen fish, processed fruit and breakfast cereals. It is a chemical that helps material resist high temperatures and is also used in foods as a bulking agent, stabilizer and thickener.

4. Skip plastic food wraps.

DEHP (phthalates) are found in food wrap and many kinds are made of PVC, #3 on the recycling code. It’s especially important to refrain from storing hot, fatty food in plastic as the plastics easily migrate into the food. So skip the cling wrap and go for glass food storage containers. Never heat food in plastic in a microwave.

5. Check recyling codes.

Check for #3 and #7 recycling codes, and use plastic-free alternatives for the products. #3 is commonly used for packaging of salad dressing, ketchup, mineral water, cooking oil, mouthwash, shampoo, etc. #7 is commonly found in aseptic packaging and baby bottles. It is also found in some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food storage containers, most canned foods, and hard plastic water bottles. Read more about toxic plastics in “The 10 Most Contaminated Foods in Your Fridge.”

6. Don’t burn plastic.

Don’t burn plastic, whatever you do. Don’t start a fire using any food packaging in the fireplace or wood stove, don’t clean up a campsite before you leave by burning packaging, and don’t burn food packaging in the backyard burn barrels. Breathing these chemicals is not a good idea!

7. Make food essentials at home.

Buy products packaged in glass or learn to make your own: 10 Healthy Food Essentials You Can Make at Home.

8. Skip canned foods and soda.

Just skip canned food and soda until the industry finds plastic-free alternatives. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans. Note that aseptic packaging, such as Tetra Pak, is BPA-free, but does contain low-density polyethylene (LDPE).

9. Check your wine and beer containers.

Wine that has been fermented in BPA-resin lined vats will contain BPA, as will wine that touches synthetic corks that are made with BPA. Happily, it is extremely rare for wine to be fermented in BPA-resin lined vats to begin with. Most wine is fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks. Wines that have BPA are fermented in concrete fermentation vats, but check your vineyard to make sure, if local. Also, beer cans are lined with BPA, so choose glass bottles instead.

10. Avoid plastic food containers.

Polycarbonate is a hard plastic, so those hard plastic food storage containers are out. Instead of storing food in plastic, use glass.

11. Store filtered water in glass containers.

You need filtered water. Most counter-top water filters have a polycarbonate receptacle. You can manage a few workarounds for this. Place the top of the filter on top of a big glass or stainless steel jug so the water will pass through the filter and be stored in a clean container.

12. Swap out plastic kitchen appliances for glass.

The receptacles of many kitchen appliances, like coffee makers, blenders and food processors are plastic. Most coffee makers have a plastic reservoir to hold the water. Most blenders, food processords and popcorn makers are made entirely of polycarbonate. For coffee, you can use a glass French press. Make sure you don’t put hot fatty food into kitchen appliances as they suck up plastic the most.

13. Avoid handling receipts.

The thermal paper for cash register receipts carries large amounts of BPA. When you shop for food, try not to handle the receipt with your exposed hand.

Find more plastic alternatives at LifeWithoutPlastic.com
By Annie B. Bond      AlterNet        September 13, 2017

Annie B. Bond is the author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999). She is the co-author of True Food: Eight Simple Steps to a Healthier You, winner of the Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World.

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Scented Laundry Products Release Carcinogens, Study Finds

Scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets make laundry smell great – but do they cause cancer?

A small study suggests scented laundry items contain carcinogens that waft through vents, potentially raising cancer risk.

“This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated,” said lead author Dr. Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs at the University of Washington, said in a written statement. “If they’re coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they’re regulated, but if they’re coming out of a dryer vent, they’re not.”

Previous studies have looked at what chemicals are released by laundry products, since manufacturers don’t have to disclose ingredients used in fragrances or laundry products.

Needless to say, these researchers weren’t thrilled with what they found.

For the study – published in the August issue of Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health – researchers enlisted two homeowners to volunteer their washers and dryers, which the team scrubbed clean beforehand. The researchers ran a regular laundry cycle for three scenarios in each home: once without any detergent, once with a scented liquid laundry detergent, and the last with both scented detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets.

Their analysis found more than 25 “volatile” air pollutants – including the carcinogens acetaldehyde and benzene.

Benzene causes leukemia and other blood cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Acetaldehyde has been shown to cause nasal and throat cancer in animal studies.

Steinemann thinks agencies focus too much on limiting other pollution sources when they should look closer to home.

“We focus a lot of attention on how to reduce emissions of pollutants from automobiles,” she said. “And here’s one source of pollutants that could be reduced.”

The American Cleaning Institute, however, Steinemann’s study, calling the findings “shoddy science” that didn’t take into account many factors like washing machine brands, different load cycles, and non-scented products.

“Consumers should not be swayed by the sensationalist headlines that may come across the Internet related to this so-called research,” the Institute emailed CBS News.

Ryan Jaslow   CBSNews.com’s health editor.     CBS NEWS      August 26, 2011      CBS Interactive Inc.

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Should I Be Concerned About Pesticides in My Coffee?

Why you should check your coffee label twice.

For most North Americans, waking up with a fresh cup of coffee is the only way to get out of bed. But next to organic strawberries and organic cereal, you might be forgetting about pesticide-free coffee.

Recently, coffee has appeared on a number of lists for containing pesticides. Some groups and articles suggest agrochemicals used on stems and leaves could affect coffee beans, “in which case coffee beans could be carrying their residues.” Meanwhile other studies find the high roasting temperatures eliminate most pesticide residues, although in one study “green, roasted and instant coffee samples” treated with insecticide directly on the leaves contained residues.

While the health risks on the consumer are likely minimal and still a matter of debate, there’s no question about the impacts of pesticides on the environment and farm workers. Coffee is one of the largest and most important crops in the world, worth roughly $16.5 billion in the United States alone. The International Coffee Organization estimatesthere are nearly 26 million people employed in the coffee business across 52 countries. Next to Brazil and the European Union, the United States is one of the largest consumers of coffee and the largestmarket for organic coffee. Still, you might think organic coffee (farmed without the use of pesticides) would be close to conventional coffee in numbers. But organic coffee only accounts for 6.6 percentof the world’s harvested coffee.

It’s no wonder organic coffee hasn’t taken the coffee world over. In “Organic coffee: Why Latin America’s farmers are abandoning it” Ezra Fieser reports that farmers can get roughly 485 pounds more coffee from one acre, applying 250 pounds of chemical fertilizer per acre. Compare this to 285 pounds on an organic farm. He adds, Latin American farmers had made the switch to organic crops but they couldn’t sell their coffee at the higher price. “From Mexico to Costa Rica, at least 10 percent of growers [defected] in the past three years.”

Growing conventional coffee will also be affected by climate change. According to the International Trade Centre, climate change will mean an increase in pests and diseases. This could mean a greater dependence on pesticides and possibly even more coffee grown under irrigation, which would mean water supplies would also suffer.


The use of pesticides continues to add to soil erosion and polluted waters from soil runoff. And there’s still another problem with pesticides. According to the IFC, it’s estimated that in Africa alone, “there could be as much as 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides” stored in hazardous stockpiles. The problem with disposal of pesticide is difficult because it can cost $3,000 to $5,000 per ton to remove. But, because the materials are not all the same, there’s “no blanket solution.”

Although studies have been conflicted on pesticide residues in drinking coffee, there’s a bigger consensus when it comes to farmer safety. In a recent study, scientists surveyed a random sample of 81 coffee farmers in eastern Jamaica where coffee production employs “more than 50,000 people and contributes 7 percent of the island’s agricultural earnings.”

In the study 78 percent of the farmers experienced symptoms related to pesticide handling, including “dizziness, headaches, difficult breathing and tightness in the chest.” Much of this could be attributed to improper handling and little to no training on pesticide handling — a common problem in countries with no oversight or regulation. In four of the observation sessions, not a single farmer used protection like a facemask or rubber gloves. Battling pests like the coffee cherry borer and coffee rust is much easier if you have a toxic pesticide to kill them. Unfortunately a number of pesticides being used have been linked to animal and wildlife deaths and in some cases human deaths.

For millions of coffee aficionados, the coffee of choice comes from Starbucks. It’s true Starbucks is one of the largest purchasers of coffee. They have made it their mission to provide fairtrade coffee and report that 95.3 percent of their coffee is ethically sourced. Still, organic coffee is harder to come at a Starbucks because only 1.1 percent of Starbucks’ coffee is organic.

All the types of coffee labels could make your head spin more than a quadruple shot espresso. There’s organic, fairtrade, shade-grown (which mean the coffee is grown under shade, signifying its commitment to the rainforest). Utz-certified coffee provides traceability programs and fair labor for farm workers and an “appropriate and modest use of fertilizers, pesticides, water and energy. Almost half of all fairtrade is certified organic as well. But on the issue of pesticides, if you want organic you’ll still want to verify the USDA organic label, as there are strict rules for any imports being labeled organic.

Clarissa A. Leon is AlterNet’s food editor. She formerly served as an investigative research assistant at The Daily Beast and The Nation Institute. 

By Clarissa A. León / AlterNet July 30, 2014