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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.

 
1 Comment

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

 

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Report: Baby Magic (and others) Contain Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

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A new report released regarding a study of 48 different baby bath products revealed that 28 of them contained the contaminants formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are known carcinogens.   The report stresses that these substances are not intentionally added and so do not show up on an ingredient list.  They are contaminants in the true sense of the word, a byproduct of the manufacturing and production of certain ingredients, but certainly avoidable.

Among the worst was Baby Magic, which contained the highest levels of formaldehyde, and American Girl products, which were found to contain the highest levels of dioxane.  Consumers beware!  For more information about harmful products may be in your personal hygiene products, visit the Cosmetics Database at EWG.org.

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U.S. News: Children’s Bath Products Contain Contaminants

U.S. News and World Report, By Amanda Gardner
Published March 12, 2009

THURSDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) — Many baby and child-care products contain the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which have been linked to cancer and various skin conditions, a new report contends.

But the chemicals aren’t listed on the labels of bubble bath, shampoo and other common products, according to the report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use.

“Companies can obviously do better, and we need to demand that they do better,” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use and co-author of the report, released Thursday. “Many companies are already making great products that don’t have any of these chemicals [and] many companies in the natural products industry have reformulated to get rid of that problem. We also know many companies are using preservatives that don’t use formaldehyde.”

According to the authors, the report, called No More Toxic Tub, is the first to document contamination of children’s products with these chemicals. The Environmental Working Group was involved in the analyses.

Both formaldehyde and dioxane are considered “contaminants,” Malkan said.

A contaminant “is a chemical that is not intentionally added to the product but is a byproduct,” she said. “Those are all exempt from labeling laws … Companies don’t even have to know themselves.”

Dioxane is a byproduct of chemical processing and formaldehyde is released from some of the chemicals that are used as preservatives, Malkan said.

John Bailey is chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association for the cosmetic and personal care products industry. Responding to the report, he said, “These are issues that have been around for many, many years, so it’s not new news. The thing that impressed me was the low levels of dioxane that were found in these products, which indicates to me that the industry is doing its job in keeping this potential contaminant down to a low level.”

Bailey also said there were wasn’t enough information in the report to gauge how accurate the determinations of formaldehyde levels were.

Malkan and her co-authors tested 48 bubble baths, shampoos and other baby and children’s products for dioxane and 28 of those products for formaldehyde.

Among their findings:

* Almost two-thirds of the 28 products contained both chemicals, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.
* Eighty-two percent of products tested contained formaldehyde; the highest levels were found in Baby Magic Baby Lotion.
* American Girl shower products had the highest levels of dioxane among products tested.

“The good news is that there are great products without any of these chemicals,” Malkan said. “The challenge is you have to do some research to find them. It’s not a simple matter of looking at the label.”

According to Malkan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture “organic seal” indicates that none of these chemicals are present.

“The best advice for consumers is that simple is better, products with fewer ingredients overall,” she said. “There are things consumers can do to make better choices at the store but we also need to change regulations and require companies to list all ingredients in the products and to make the safest products they can, especially products for babies.”

Harmful chemicals and contaminants in children’s products is a subject of continuing controversy. Earlier this week, it was announced that baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) will no longer be sold in the United States by the six largest manufacturers of the products.

BPA, which is found in a wide range of products, mimics the hormone estrogen and may disrupt the body’s endocrine system. The chemical poses a particular threat to fetuses, infants and children because it can interfere with cell function when their bodies are still developing, public health experts say. The chemical has been linked with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and developmental delays in children.

 
 

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Produce Consumer’s Best Friend

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

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For those of you who may not already know, one of my areas of interest include the problem of human body pollution, also called the human body burden (* see also the Human Toxome Project).  One of the ways that consumers can help minimize the number of harmful chemicals our bodies are exposed to is by choosing organic products.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)  has done outstanding work over the past few years raising the awareness of this problem, which I believe is even more pressing than Global Warming.  For example, they have developed a database of consumer hygiene products, which consumers can use free of charge to discover just how toxic or Earth-friendly the product it.

They also have a Produce Shopper’s Guide, listing the dirty dozen of produce – that is, those types of produce that were tested and found to contain high levels of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.  The list also provides a list of 15 of the “cleanest” produce varieties, in a downloadable and printable business card format for ease in shopping.   I call this the produce shopper’s best friend.   If you can’t afford to buy all organic, or not all varieties are available at your local store, use this guide to help shop for the varieties that are “cleaner” for you and your family.

Stop by and download the newest version, updated this week at EWG.org.

 

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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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EPA to Eliminate Regulation of Neurotoxin in Drinking Water

Nothing is more plentiful in the world, nor more vital for our existence than water. Water is essential for all functions within the body, but especially for transferring nutrients and eliminating wastes. When drinking water is contaminated, the body is especially vulnerable to accumulated toxins, so it makes sense to have the cleanest drinking water obtainable for optimum health. In my opinion, the decision by the EPA and the Bush Administration to exempt the ubiquitous neurotoxin, perchlorate, from federal regulation and oversight is a step in the wrong direction. Just like earlier decisions to fluoridate public drinking water, putting a known toxin IN the water, this decision just stinks. For those of you who are not familiar with perchlorate or its associated health effects, it is worth your time to check out the information at ewg.org.

Perchlorate is a common additive in rocket fuel, which has known neurotoxic effects on humans.

Perchlorate is a common additive in rocket fuel, which has known neurotoxic effects on humans.

Feds Set to Eliminate Water Regulations for Neurotoxin

Wired, Brandon Keim
Published December 3, 2008

Among the Bush administration’s final environmental legacies will be a decision to exempt perchlorate, a known neurotoxin found at unsafe levels in the drinking water of millions of Americans, from federal regulation.

The ruling, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in October, was supposed to be formalized on Monday. That deadline passed, but the agency expects to announce its decision by the year’s end, before president-elect Barack Obama takes office. It could take years to reverse.

Critics accuse the EPA of ignoring expert advice and basing their decision on an abstract model of perchlorate exposure, rather than existing human data.

“We know that breast milk is widely contaminated with perchlorate, and we know that young children are especially vulnerable. We have really good human data. So why are they putting a model front-and-center?” said Anila Jacobs at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “And they used a model that hasn’t yet gone through the peer-review process.”

The ruling is one of dozens planned for the final days of the Bush administration. Others include a relaxing of air pollution standards for aging power plants, and a reduction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s traditional role in evaluating the impact of federal projects on endangered species.

These have received more attention than the status of perchlorate, a chemical found mostly in jet rocket fuel and detected in 35 states and 153 water public water systems. It is known to lower thyroid hormone levels in women; it poses a particular threat to pregnant women and breast-feeding children, whose long-term neurological development can be stunted by youthful hormone imbalances.

As many as 40 million Americans may now be exposed to unsafe levels of perchlorate, and the EPA’s own analysis puts the number at 16 million. The most comprehensive human exposure study, which measured unexpectedly high perchlorate levels and correlated them with thyroid hormone drops, was concluded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007.

Environmental health advocates saw the study as supporting tightened restrictions on perchlorate levels in drinking water — something the EPA had been loathe to do under the Bush administration. The study was not considered in the anticipated ruling, which could effectively end federal monitoring of perchlorate in drinking water.

“If you used the human studies from the CDC, then you would be forced to regulate it, because we know there are health effects at current levels of exposure,” said Jacobs.

Benjamin Blount, co-author of the CDC’s study, would not comment on the EPA’s decision, but said that infants — who consume, proportional to their body weight, about six times more water than adults — “are thought to have a higher dose than at any other life stage.”

The EPA declined to comment on why they used a model rather than the CDC’s data in deciding that regulating perchlorate would not provide “a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems.”

In a November letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board questioned the model. “Its soundness will not be publicly vetted,” they wrote. Only one of two peer reviews invited by the agency has been received, and that was announced only today on the EPA’s website.

“The Science Advisory Board believes that more time is needed for the decision process and for scientific input,” said Joan Rose, a Michigan State University water researcher and chair of the Board’s Drinking Water Committee.

Even Michael Dourson, a researcher at the nonprofit Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment project who accepts the EPA’s model, doesn’t understand why the EPA favored it over human studies.

“The data is on pregnant women and babies, and these studies are quite powerful,” he said. “If they could spend more time to make their decision, I’d recommend looking at it.”

According to EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones, the agency expects to announce a decision “by the end of the year.” There is little reason to think the ruling will change from its current form.

“This administration has been adamant about not regulating perchlorate,” said Mae Wu, an attorney at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

If the rulings go through, Congress may still take action. California congresswomen Barbara Boxer and Hilda Solis, both Democrats, have each drafted legislation that would force the EPA to regulate perchlorate, though it could take years to go into effect.

States still have the option of regulating perchlorate on their own — but this is not easy, said Charles DeSaillan, New Mexico’s assistant attorney general for natural resources.

“We have fairly limited resources. Historically we’ve relied on the federal drinking water standards, and adopted those,” he said. “In order for us to adopt our own, we’d have to do all the science, all of the research, hire the experts, and go through a regulatory process which would be opposed by the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.”

New Mexico is home to several prominent military testing facilities, and has the highest average perchlorate exposures in the country.

“It’d be long and difficult. Eventually we may do it. But it’s easier for us to rely on the EPA. This is their job. And in the case of perchlorate, they don’t seem to be doing it,” said DeSaillan.

 

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Ten Thanksgiving Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning (and Ward Off the Flu)

Although it looks delicious, your food may be food of harmful bacteria that can make you sick.
Although it looks delicious, your food may be full of harmful bacteria that can make you sick.

The holiday season is typically celebrated by overindulgence of food and sweets and also coincides with the flu season. Contrary to popular belief, the number one cause of the common influenza bug is not the spread of germs from person to person, but poor gastrointestinal health, which creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and viruses to flourish in your gut. This makes you more susceptible to illness.

Americans generally overeat on many different types of foods during the holidays, many of which – let’s face it – are full of sugars and fats, and sit on the table for hours at a time while we go back for seconds and thirds, and a few more nibbles. By doing so, we disrupt the balance of good bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems and allow bad bacteria to create further disruptions that allow infection to set in.

Throughout the flu season (and also throughout the year), many experience what is called the “twenty-four hour flu”, which really is not influenza at all. In actuality, the 24-hour bug is usually a case of mild food poisoning, the symptoms of which are similar to influenza (chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness). Food poisoning is caused by the toxins present in the waste products of bacteria as they consume food and leave their droppings on the food you eat.

Bacterial growth occurs very rapidly between 41 degrees and 160 degrees, which is known as the Danger-Zone. Any perishable item kept in the Danger-Zone for more than 4 hours can develop enough toxins to make a person sick.

danger-zone

Unfortunately, while slaughterhouses, warehouses, shipping trucks and grocery stores have strict guidelines to maintain “the cold chain” and keep foods out of the Danger-Zone (whether or not they maintain this cold chain is something you have to take for granted, but is not always the case), once that food is in your grocery cart, maintaining “the cold chain” is up to you.

Follow these tips to ensure that your food is kept out of the Danger-Zone, thereby reducing your susceptibility to the flu this season. These steps will not prevent the flu, especially if you consume large amounts of sugars. Sugar is particularly harmful because bad bacteria and yeasts thrive on sugar in the gut. Try to reduce the amount of sugar you consume this holiday as well as eating lowfat yogurt every day to reestablish healthy bacteria like acidophilus, bifidobacterium, and lactobacillus or boosting your probiotic intake in other ways.

1. Buy your perishable items last while grocery shopping. With the extra-long shopping list, long checkout lanes and crowded aisles, you are going to be in the store for awhile. If you get your perishable items at the beginning, chances are it will be an hour or more until they are placed under refrigeration again. The four-hour time window starts the moment you pick up the item and it warms up over 41 degrees.

2. If you are buying a turkey or ham, be careful of which one you pick out. During the holidays, stores typically load their freezers full of meat, piling it higher than the case can actually refrigerate. If you pay attention to these cases, there is generally a “load line” clearly marked on the front and rear of the case. That load line indicates the invisible “curtain” of cold air that is produced by the refrigeration unit. Any birds or hams that are higher than the load line are actually out of refrigeration and, although they may be frozen, they can still produce “hot-spots” where bacteria will flourish. Dig for ones on the bottom, or below the “load line.”

3. The safest place to thaw a turkey is in a refrigerator, but this process takes several days. Buy your turkey early and place it on a large plate in the bottom of the fridge. This will prevent any drippings from contaminated good food, especially any raw food you may not cook before eating. DO NOT THAW the turkey on the countertop. Doing so puts the turkey in the Danger-Zone for a considerable amount of time. ONLY thaw a turkey by water if needed in the final stages, and only if the turkey will not be out of refrigeration over a half an hour to do so.

4. Proper storage in your refrigerator is critical as well. An overloaded fridge can create a great growing conditions for bacteria as the fridge struggles to maintain the correct temperature. If you have a second refrigerator, split the food between the two.

5. Injecting your meat can contaminate it by bringing surface bacteria into the center of the meat where cooking temperatures may not reach as high. Always rinse the bird thoroughly, inside and out before stuffing or injecting to prevent this from happening.

6. If stuffing your bird, be sure not to contaminate the stuffing from juices from the raw turkey. First, rinse the inside cavity well. Then use a separate bowl for spooning the dressing, and make sure to throw the leftover dressing (for the bird) away. Also, always use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat products or wash thoroughly before using with any other foods.

7. All poultry should be cooked to an interior temperature of 165 degrees or higher. Use a long meat thermometer and be sure to get to the center of the bird (if stuffed, the center of the stuffing) to get the right reading. Remember that the four-hour window applies to all leftovers as well, so constantly taking the foods in and out of the refrigerator and reheating will take time off the life of the food as well. Be sure to reheat all foods thoroughly.

***Note: No amount of cooking will prevent foodborne illness from food that has been in the danger zone for too long. Foodborne illness is not caused by bacteria, rather, from the toxins present in its waste. You get sick from bacteria’s poop.

8. Be wary of the food on the table or the hors d’oeuvre platter if it has been out more than a couple of hours. Refrigerate all foods as soon as possible or, better yet, make sure they are on ice while they are displayed.

9. If preparing casseroles or dishes to be warmed-up later, always cool down as quickly as possible. Do not simply let it sit on the counter “until it cools” as this will place the food in the Danger Zone for a long period of time.

10. If serving warm foods over a period of time, place it in a warmer or chafing dish to maintain its temperature at least above 150 degrees.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2008 in Food, Health & Wellness, Informational

 

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