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Category Archives: Call to Action

Don’t Grope Me, Bro!

I support Ron Paul’s recent legislation to stop the TSA from taking draconian measures to treat all boarding passengers as criminals, including body scanners using health-damaging radiation and, if you opt-out of those body scans, a full-body groping.  This is absurd.  To show my support, I’ll be making T-shirts with the following logo I designed, itself a parody of the TSA logo.  This is a rough draft, but shows the long, groping arm of the government accosting the symbol of our nation, the bald eagle, and featuring an upside-down flag symbolizing our nation in peril!

Don't Grope Me, Bro!

 

On the backside:

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,

against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,

supported by Oath or affirmation,

and particularly describing the place to be searched,

and the persons or things to be seized.

.

Yes, the Fourth Amendment applies directly to the actions of government.  Yes, TSA is a government agency.  It doesn’t matter if the search is done on private property – such as in airports.  It is being done by a government agency without due process.

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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Revisited

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote an entry regarding the discovery of trace amounts of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup.  Since that time, I’ve seen an increasing number of products switching back to good old-fashioned sugar.  That is encouraging.

Personally, I do not drink soft drinks because soft drink companies are among the largest producers of HFCS-laden products.  Recently, however, I saw a 20 oz. bottle of Limited Edition Pepsi-Cola while standing at the checkout.  I picked it up and read the ingredients, which included sugar, but NOT high-fructose corn syrup!  Also, there was no sodium benzoate (which, through digestion, produces benzene, a known carcinogen).  I bought it.  I know, I know!  Sugar is not good for you in any form, but let’s face it, I have a sweet tooth.  The soda was delicious and I immediately noticed that it didn’t have the weird metallic aftertaste I’ve noticed before when drinking colas.

Because I would rather see soda companies make the switch from HFCS to sugar, and because certain restaurants like Jason’s Deli are being met with resistance from soft drink companies to make this switch, I thought I would go to Pepsi.com and put my $.02 in.  Here was my short and sugar-sweet comment:

Several years ago, I stopped consuming colas and soft drinks because the use of high-fructose corn syrup was ubiquitous.  The other day, standing in the checkout lane of our neighborhood grocery store, I saw a “Limited Edition” Pepsi-Cola sweetened with good old-fashioned sugar.  I purchased it and it was delicious.  I thought I should tell you that I would purchase Pepsi products if they contained sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.  Until then, like your promotional Pepsi-Cola, I will be a “Limited Edition” customer.

Sincerely,

Joseph

On 9/24/10, the Pepsi team responded:

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at Pepsi-Cola to tell us that you are enjoying Pepsi Throwback. It means so much to us when we receive such positive feedback from those whose opinion matters the most—our customers!

Your feedback is important to us. Even though there are no current plans to reintroduce this product, I’ll be sure to share your comments with our beverage team for future consideration.

Thanks again for your message. We appreciate your interest in our company and our products.

Julieann Benes
Consumer Relations Representative

As consumers, we can help steer this change.  Feel free to stop by Pepsi.com or any of your favorite manufacturers and urge them to remove this unnatural ingredient from their products.   If you read your labels like any good, health-conscious consumer should, you’ll find that it is everywhere.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Call to Action, Current Health News, Food, Health & Wellness

 

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Bittersweet Study Discovers Mercury in Foods Containing High- Fructose Corn Syrup

mercury-warning2

According a new report, fish and other seafood aren't the only dietary sources of toxic mercury.

[Mercury] damages the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs, and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth.  Exposure over long periods of time … can result in brain damage and ultimately death.  Mercury and its compounds are particularly toxic to fetuses and infants … Mercury exposure in young children can have severe neurological consequences, preventing nerve sheaths from forming properly.

Wikipedia, mercury poisoning

Consumers should take heed of a recent study, which discovered the presence of low doses of the toxic heavy metal, mercury (Hg), in foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP – http://www.iatp.org/) have released the findings of a study performed on 55 foods containing HFCS, which discovered that 31% of the foods tested – 1 out of every 3 samples – contained traces of mercury “several times higher than the lowest detectable limits”.

Mercury was found in minute quantities up to 350 ppt (parts per trillion), a level that food manufacturers and the Corn Syrup Refiners Association say is far below any threshold set by Federal Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Such exposure is safe, they argue, and to inflate these findings and cause public alarm is “irresponsible” – at least, according to Tom Forsythe, spokesman for General Mills, maker of Yoplait® yogurt.  The FDA seems to share this opinion.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration was alerted of the presence of mercury in HFCS-containing foods four years earlier, but chose to ignore the information.  In 2005, Renee Dufault, then researcher for the FDA and lead author for Environmental Health journal, conducted tests similar to the IATP’s and highlighted her findings of mercury in 9 of 20 samples in a report given to the agency.   They apparently did nothing to address this toxic threat. Her results were cited in the Environmental Health journal in January 2009 (abstract available).

[High-Fructose Corn Syrup] now appears to be a significant additional source of mercury, one never before considered … [but is a] completely avoidable problem.

IATP January 2009 release

The news caused an immediate stir in the online community, especially among health proponents who have monitored the presence of mercury in vaccines and seafood for the past several years.  Many health advocates warn of the presence of mercury in common products such as canned tuna, vaccine preservatives, and fluorescent light bulbs, as well as the associated risks and negative health effects this particular element has on the human body and the environment.

Mercury, they argue, is a known toxin even at minute quantities – indeed, it is the most toxic naturally occurring, non-radioactive metal on Earth.  It is particularly damaging to developing infants and small children, and, coincidentally or not, children represent the largest consumers of HFCS’s, second to teenagers.

Undoubtedly, this study has enormous implications because it is well-known by the scientific community that mercury – in any form – is extremely toxic and bioaccumulative, meaning that trace amounts of this element accumulate in the tissues and organs of living beings.  Over time, the presence of this toxin wreaks havoc on all bodily systems and can manifest in many different ways.

In this regard, and in my opinion, it is somewhat a moot point to argue that the mercury levels in the sampled foods are safe because they contain only a miniscule quantity of mercury, a position obviously taken by General Mills.  Poisons that accumulate in our bodies simply have no business being in our foods, especially if their presence is completely avoidable.

Why Mercury?

The inevitable question presents itself, “How did mercury get there?”

The answer is simple: certain producers of high fructose corn syrup use “mercury-grade caustic soda” (lye) to separate corn kernels from corn starch, thereby contaminating the corn starch with toxic mercury vapors, which is then further processed into HFCS – a very common sweetener in many processed foods.

Caustic soda can be produced in three ways: by utilizing mercury cells, membrane cells, or diaphragm cells.  These cells are basically vats of aqueous solution containing salt (NaCl).  These vats are electrically charged through a process called electrolysis, which chemically breaks apart the sodium molecules to produce chlorine and caustic soda (NaOH).  As NaOH is produced, it will chemically react with the chlorine unless one of the three cell methods is utilized.

Using the mercury cell process, the sodium ions (Na) are further reduced to a sodium amalgam through the introduction of liquid mercury.  This sodium amalgam is then reacted with water to produce caustic soda.   Lye produced utilizing this method is considered to be the highest-grade available, while the membrane cell method utilizes less electricity.

hgnaohelectrolysis1

This diagram shows the mercury cell process, which is far more technical than the simplified explanation above.

A somewhat dated fact sheet (2002) stated that “approximately 13% of electrolytically produced Caustic Soda in North America is produced” using the mercury cell method.

According to the EH abstract cited above, mercury-grade caustic lye is used to produce sodium benzoate and citric acid – two other potentially contaminated food sources.  One may assume that since corn starch is produced using lye, corn starch itself may also be cotaminated.

What has not been publicly recognized is that mercury cell technology can also contaminate all the food grade chemicals made from it, including caustic soda.

IATP January 2009 Release

The Study

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy obtained 55 samples of foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, manufactured by brand name companies such as Kraft, Hunt’s, Hershey’s and Quaker, as well as one private label store brand, Market Pantry.  The foods sampled included typical foods snacked on by average consumers: soft drinks, snack bars, barbecue sauces, yogurt, chocolate milk, jelly, toaster treats and ketchup, among others.

According to the results of the study, published directly by the IATP in January 2009, 17 of the sampled items contained “elevated mercury levels”, and at least 9 of them had mercury levels between 100 and 350 ppt.   The sampled foods with levels of mercury detected included (mercury amounts expressed in parts per trillion*):

Quaker Oatmeal to Go, manufactured by PepsiCo (350 ppt)

Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce, manufactured by Heinz (300 ppt)

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (257 ppt)

Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce (200 ppt)

Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, manufactured by Kellogg Company (180 ppt)

Manwich Bold Sloppy Joe (canned sauce), manufactured by ConAgra Foods (150 ppt)

Market Pantry Grape Jelly, manufactured by Target Corporation (130 ppt)

Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly, manufactured by J. M. Smuckers Company (100 ppt)

Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry, manufactured by Kellogg Company (100 ppt)

Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup, manufactured by ConAgra Foods (87 ppt)

Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth, manufactured by Unilever (72 ppt)

Coca-Cola Classic (62 ppt)

Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt, manufactured by General Mills (60 ppt)

Minute Maid Berry Punch, manufactured by Coco-Cola (40 ppt)

Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink, manufactured by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (30 ppt)

Nesquik Chocolate Milk, manufactured by Nestle (30 ppt)

Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk (30 ppt)

(see full chart)

Surprisingly, while the typical soda contains 17 teaspoons of HFCS’s (page 6), mercury was not found in the large majority of soft drinks tested besides Coca-Cola Classic.  Among those that fared favorably were: Dr. Pepper, A & W Root Beer, Kool-Aid, Sunny-D, Powerade, Lipton Green Tea, Pepsi Cola, 7-Up, and Hi-C.  Regardless, the IATP’s study reports that teenagers (ages 13-18) consume an average of 85 gallons of soda per year, which translates into 9,180 teaspoons of HFCS just by drinking soda alone!  In fact, the average person consumes about 12 teaspoons of HFCS each and every day – an amount that can significantly increase one’s exposure to mercury if eating typical items like those found in the list above.

How Much Mercury Are We Talking About, And How Much Is Considered Safe?

The FDA has set maximum exposure amounts for mercury in regard to public drinking water and seafood.  The maximum mercury concentration in water is set at 2 parts per billion (ppb), while the maximum concentration in seafood cannot exceed 1 part per million (ppm). The FDA states that the 1 ppm threshold is set at 10 times less than “the lowest levels associated with adverse effects”.

To help visualize the amount of mercury concentration expressed in ppm: the legal limit (1 ppm) is merely one drop in a standard bathtub filled to the overflow.  At that level, the FDA warns that consumers should not eat more than seven ounces of fish per week – approximately two and a half small cans of tuna.  On the other hand, the 2 ppb level set for drinking water is approximately 2 drops in 500 barrels of water.

Finally, to put the above discovered mercury concentrations in perspective, try to visualize 20 Olympic-size pools, each 2 meters deep, stacked on top of one another with one drop of mercury in them.  That represents 1 ppt.  That is an incredibly small amount, for sure, but still a potentially bioaccumulative source of toxic mercury – a source that, according to IATP and health advocates, is entirely avoidable.

Once it’s in the body, mercury can limit normal brain activity and nervous system functions … It is especially dangerous for developing infants and small children and can cause decreased motor skills and learning disabilities at even low levels of exposure.

Linda E. Greer, Ph.D., Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health Program

Adverse Effects of Mercury Poisoning:

Because of mercury’s bioaccumulative nature, excess mercury can collect in the brain, tissues and organs of the affected individual, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms, including psychological disturbances, digestive problems, cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, loss of speech and neurological problems resulting in mood swings and aggressive behavior.

It has long been established that mercury is destructive to the brain, which gave rise to the phrase, “mad as a hatter” – an accurate label for hatters who used to use mercury to cure the felt in their hats.   Most of these “mad hatters” went insane and/or died at an early age because of mercury poisoning.  This has led many to believe that there is a connection between vaccinations containing the mercury-laden preservative, Thimerosal, and the onset and rising prevalence of autism.  Still others speculate that mercury is a leading cause for such disorders as attention deficit and possibly alzheimer’s.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG – http://www.ewg.org) states that mercury toxicity causes “damage to the brain and nervous system, immune system, enzyme system and genetic system.”  EWG adds that developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to the destructive effects of mercury.  Scientists have shown that mercury destroys the dendrites and axons of neurons, leaving only an empty “nerve sheath” (see video below).

According to research performed by EWG in 2004, ten babies were found to have mercury present in their umbilical cord blood.   Another study in 2006 showed that 72 of 73 individuals tested positive for traces of methylmercury.

Wikipedia lists the effects of mercury poisoning as “excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive”.  These characteristics also mirror  the destruction of personality often present in children at the onset of autism.

Consumers can be sure that the debate over mercury’s presence in our lives will only be ignited by this new study.

Main study conducted by IATP:

http://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=105026

For more information on HFCS:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_fructose_corn_syrup

http://www.hfcsfacts.com/ High Fructose Corn Syrup Refiners

Related articles:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/health/chi-mercury-corn-syrupjan27,0,2801323.story

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/1/26/132619/467/?source=most_popular

More information on mercury toxicity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)#Safety

http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/470

Videos:

http://commons.ucalgary.ca/mercury/ – This video shows how damaging the presence of mercury is to neurons.  Watch as the dendrites wither, leaving only an empty nerve sheaths.  Scientists have already established that mercury is bioaccumulative, a good portion of which concentrates in organs and in the brain.  What sort of damage are we doing to our delicate nervous systems?

http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2945_5105_47868-181553–,00.html – This is an outstanding video showing how exposed mercury quickly dissipates into the air, wreaking havoc as an environmental toxin.  This video also shows how difficult mercury is to remove, without causing it to become even more volatile.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ylnQ-T7oi – I found this a couple of years ago regarding silver amalgam fillings.  Thankfully, I don’t have any silver amalgam fillings.  Perhaps this will convince some readers to have theirs removed.  If you do, be sure that all necessary precautions are taken to avoid exposing yourself further or your dentists.

http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/imerc/video.cfm – This is a short five-minute video showing the cycle of mercury pollution and contamination.

Biomagnification:

http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/community/classroom/millennium/m3-science-assign2-e.html – This simple exercise allows one to see how quickly minute quantities of toxic chemicals like mercury can build up in animals higher up the food chain.  As humans are at the top of the food chain, it would be wise for us to be prudent in our exposure to mercury, especially when it is avoidable.

See also: Bioaccumulation

 

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An Environmental Issue More Pressing Than Global Warming

Gas masks: freakish fashion trend of the future? The body burden our children are inheriting might make this an unavoidable accessory.

One of the main issues this blog addresses and one which I regularly speak to friends and family about is the human body burden. The phrase “body burden” refers to the condition of body toxicity that has resulted from the use of largely synthetic chemicals since the early 1900’s. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and wreak havoc on many systems within the body. The health effects range from common to severe, from headaches and mild gastrointestinal problems to cancer, permanent syndromes and even death.

Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

Because the previous statement is so important, I’ll repeat it again: Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

While I do not want people running around scared and paranoid about toxic chemicals in their body, I also do not encourage ignorance of real problems that confront us because of our collective actions as the human species. Body pollution is one of those serious concerns that should not be ignored. While many people suffer from unexplainable illnesses, the prevalence of cancer is rising, the development of new illnesses and syndromes is on the rise, and many are suffering from hormone imbalances, reproductive problems and mental disturbances, it behooves us as a species to understand that there are explainable causes to all of these.

One major contributor to our deterioration in health and the rise in preventable diseases (yes, preventable) is the presence of up to 700 toxic chemicals in our body and bloodstream.

According to studies released by the Environmental Working Group and the EPA, blood and tissue samples of several random American citizens revealed the shocking truth: all of us, whether or not we work around hazardous chemicals or live near facilities that handle toxins or release them into the atmosphere, are plagued by the presence of these toxins, many of which are bioaccumulative. This means that trace amounts, over time, build up within our bones, our organs and our tissues and produce significant systemic results, including cancer and death.

These chemicals are in the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the toys we play with, the personal hygiene products we smear on our bodies, the cleaning products we use, the fragrances we douse ourselves with, and the items we use at our workplace. We live in a toxic atmosphere created by the technologies, manufacturing, and industrial endeavors of our species.

Most of this has occurred within the past 100 years and is reversible at this stage. The longer we wait, the more we pollute ourselves and our environment, the more difficult it becomes to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Future generations will, therefore, have to suffer an even greater burden.

In fact, recent studies of umbilical cord blood in newborns revealed a shocking discovery: our babies are being born with this burden as well!

Research shows that many of these chemicals easily pass through the placenta and concentrate in the developing fetus. Can you imagine what these chemicals can do to such a vulnerable body and brain? While scientists and doctors remain baffled regarding the rise in autism, developmental disorders, mental conditions and other problems, the culprit could very well be the chemical cocktail we serve up on a daily basis in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches and workplaces.

Currently, there is a movie in production called 287, which tackles these important issues and will present them to the larger viewing audience. The producers want 287 to be “for your internal environment” what Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was for the external environment. I have many reservations about Al Gore’s movie and his conclusions, but after spending much time researching the “body burden”, I believe this issue to be even more important than global warming.

According to the Environmental Working Group in 2005, children are born into this world with an average of 287 toxic chemicals in their system. 287 reasons for Americans and citizens of the world to take pause and grapple with this problem. It is not going away, it will not get better if we continue staying the course we are on to our own destruction. Fixing the problem means a radical, personal change on a collective level.

I encourage everyone to read more about our Body Burden at ewg.org. I ask that you help the producers of 287 with any support or assistance you can provide. Frequent the 287 The Movie blog here at WordPress. Find out your own personal Body Burden (this site may take a few moments to load). Use the personal hygiene products database to clean out your medicine cabinet and replace the products with healthier versions. Check back with Toxin Free Now as they develop their website to help you live healthier. Research the common chemical culprits that are widespread in our society. Stand up and fight the bureaucracies that are maintaining our current course. Talk to others about the burden we all share.

Many of these toxins can be removed by our personal and collective choices. As a consumer, you can make a large impact as many of the largest offenders are manufacturers of household cleaning products and personal hygiene products.

What are some things that have I done? It’s not much, but it’s what anyone can do:

Switched to an organic diet. My animals, too.

Eliminated all toxins from the foods I eat (mostly present in processed foods).

Changed and stopped using many personal hygiene products.

Stopped wearing fragrance.

Purify all of my water for drinking and cooking.

Switched household cleaners to “green” versions.

Educate others around me.

 

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