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What everyone seeks

Alex Grey's "Seraphic Transport Docking on the Third Eye"

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People are searching for something sacred.  Every day, each and every one of us yearns for something to fill our souls.   We seek out any number of things to quiet our hearts and occupy our minds, but the Sacred constantly evades us.  As much as we consume to feel better or perform good works to alleviate the angst of this world, we are left with a feeling of emptiness and desperation.

The Sacred cannot be found in things or causes.   It cannot be found in relationships.  It cannot be found in abstractions of love, beauty or truth.  And it cannot be found in the world of nature or in a life of abstention.  The moment we make anything “sacred” in this world, time reveals it to be a farce.  Sacred oaths are broken, sacred rights are infringed, sacred places are desecrated, and sacred things are stolen from us or discarded when their apparent sacredness wears off.

Some would say that the Sacred can only be found in God, and they will be very quick to tell you Who and What God is.  Yet religious ideals, dogma and orthodoxy ebb and flow with the current of time and no religious system of belief is sacred in and of itself.  They attempt to point the mind and heart in a general direction, but it is doubtful that any one person has walked the Path of the Sacred.

No one in this world has a clear understanding of the Sacred and no one ever has, not Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Joseph Smith, Ron Hubbard or any one of the Popes.    Sacredness is not created or maintained by attaching labels, directions and warnings to one particular understanding.   In fact, it can be argued that the very essence of the Sacred precludes any one thing from being sacred.  As soon as one says, “this is sacred”, you might as well move on.  It is not.

The Sacred will never be found.  It is the Mystery we seek to uncover but cannot discover, the Riddle we seek to solve but cannot compute, the Goal we aim to achieve but never will reach.  The search keeps the entire Universe moving forward and drives the actions of men.  This search is itself the reason for the machinations of time.  The Sacred is life unfolding.  We are inextricably caught up in that unfolding, and although we may point to “this” and “that” as sacred, we fail to recognize the Sacred.

The Sacred is nowhere and everywhere.  It is the breath we breathe, and the life we claim to draw that breath.  The Sacred is what we are all seeking but fail to see with every beat of our hearts.

The Sacred has always been ours and we have always been a part of the Sacred.  There is no search to undertake, no obstacle to overcome, no new experience to reveal it to you.   It is always and forever the fulfillment we deny in our own hearts – not by some divine act of punishment or cruelty, but by our own assertions.

We have a list of assertions we make every day that are sacred to us.  We protect those assertions, build upon them, accumulate more of them and attempt to create more sacredness.  We fail, time and time again.  And we will continue to fail until we lay down our assertions.

The Sacred reveals itself to the mind that is free of assertions.  Therefore, seek not to find the Sacred.  Seek to illuminate your own assertions, challenge them, and remove their sacredness from your mind.  Perhaps then the Sacred will impress Itself upon your heart and mind and you will know that the search is over – itself a construct to keep the Sacred away from our mind.

Perhaps then you will realize how sacred you are.   This is the supreme realization we all must make eventually.   We won’t until we are unwilling to NOT see the sacredness in everything.

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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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Have scientists located religion’s “G-spot”?

Scientists believe they have found the "God spot" in the human brain.  They say religion is an adaptive part of our evolution.

Scientists believe they have found the "God spot" in the human brain, the part that "controls" religious experience. They say religion is an adaptive part of our evolution.

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“When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations,” said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. “Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge.”

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Some scientists believe they have pinpointed the brain’s “G-spots” – the pleasure centers relating  to religious experience and those that “control religious faith”.   They argue that these biological foundations for religious tendencies in humans are a product of human evolution – a necessary part of our survival.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

The article below highlights the results of a study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   According to this study volunteers were asked to think about religious and moral issues, while scientists observed areas of the brain for neural activity associated with those thoughts.  What they discovered is that religious and moral beliefs activate the same areas of the brain.   These areas include portions of the frontal lobe (which is unique to humans among animals), as well as the temporal and parietal lobes.

No one knows exactly why these areas of the brain show increased activity with regard to religious and ethical issues, nor the reason why these same areas are active during moments of intense religious experience and perceived absorption into the Divine.  One scientist, Professor Grafman, points out:

“There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday”.

Indeed, our moral and ethical beliefs influence a wide-range of other core, fundamental beliefs that we hold, and consideration of the effects (both in this world and the next) of choices and actions undoubtedly has an affect, to some degree or another, on many interrelated belief systems.  This may explain why several areas of the brain are active upon such considerations and not just one.

Yet, if religious thinking is “embedded in a whole range of other belief systems” it would seem that there is some underlying cause or reason for that.   The first quote above suggests that the reason for this is that of ignorance seeking understanding, a  search for a scientific or even “supernatural” explanation for things we experience but can make no rational sense of.   This appears to be false on the face of it.

Often, science offers up a rational, methodical, observable answer for a phenomena, but those of religious inclinations may disregard the findings of science altogether.  For example, science posits the notion of evolution, which is, in part, based upon observable data.  Yet there is a large body of theologians who discount such theories because their religion tells them differently.  For them, it is a “matter of faith” that God created the world and the universe.   If religious inclinations are based upon biological processes attempting to make sense of and order the world rationally, then it begs the question, “Why do religious people, in the face of compelling, rational, observable, scientific data, reject those theories for something abstract, unobservable and non-empirical?”

I believe the reason for this lies in the nature of the religious experience – an important issue that the article below does not address.  One of the best texts regarding religious experiences is William James’, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.   Mr. James took an empirical look at the many types of religious experiences, observed the similarities among them, then showed the four characteristics these experiences share:

1.  Ineffability

2.  Noetic quality

3.  Transience

4.  Passivity

According to James, all truly religious experience are ineffable: they cannot or should not be put into written words.  This is because the experience is one of “other-worldliness” or “greater reality”, such that normal words and concepts cannot accurately portray what the experience was.   Religious experiences also contain a noetic quality, which means they impart some sort of wisdom or knowledge to the individual.  Although the experience itself is beyond words, the person believes they have gained some insight into themselves, the world, or society as a whole.  This knowledge is not empirical, but subjective.  Such experiences are also short-lived, but, nevertheless, so profound that the individual seeks to recapture the experience again and again.  In so doing, James adds that most realize the passivity of the experience – one cannot make it happen whenever desired.   The individual has no control over the experience.   It cannot be recreated in a lab, to be studied, monitored and recorded.

All this study below shows is that certain parts of the brain are active at certain times under certain conditions.  This does not point to a “God spot” or any such area of the brain, which is responsible for – that is, causative of – human beings’ inclination towards the Divine.   Since 95% of the world believes in one form of God or another, we are still left with the begging question, “Why?”  If this is merely a result of evolution or neural activity, why is the “God impulse” so widespread?  It strains reason to think that such beliefs are simply a result of physical processes in the brain – that religion and morality is simply a bi-product of thought – or that such profound, life-changing experiences are merely physical, chemical actions of our brain.

Furthermore, if religion is an adaptive belief system designed for survival, why does religious history abound with stories of individuals who died or were martyred because of their faith?

While I love science, sometimes scientists are a little short-sighted and have a hard time accepting data that cannot be empirically measured, quantified, recorded and cataloged.   The scientific method itself demands such qualities of a verifiable experience, which precludes non-empirical data such as that purported by spiritual people.   With respect to the Being of God and that of religious experiences, scientists almost always miss the mark in attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God according to such empirical methods.  Even scientists who believe in God and who seek to use science to find a physical connection between humans and God always fail to provide the proof they seek to show.

Proof for the existence or nonexistence of God is impossible and misses the point.

For the religious follower, one should seek the experience of God first, then all proofs are meaningless because the mind then knows God.   They argue that God can only be known directly, not through concepts and theorems, but through an open heart and mind.

I believe that the reason for this is that Spirit comes first, then the mind, … then the physical – of which the brain is part.  The physical world and perceptual sensation is an end-result of Spirit and Mind.  Perception is a product, not a source.

As such, pointing to the result/product itself (the physical world and perception) for substantiation of the cause (Spirit and Mind)  or in hope to understand the processes that gave rise to the result, is based upon error.    Utilizing a purely empirical scientific method to study the physical brain, thinking this will give us insight into the mind and Spirit, will not tell us anything beyond the constraints of physically perceivable phenomena and the range of “acceptable” answers we allow.  We have already framed the answer and results with our expectations, which themselves arise from the beliefs we hold.   Quantum physicists call this the “observer effect.”

Scientists do the same when they study physical phenomena to try to gain insight into the spiritual.   Their results are framed by the fundamental beliefs they hold.  These beliefs give rise to the accepted means of measurement, which further frames the results.

The limits of the scientific method are built in to frame the results in terms of what is accepted FIRST to be true.    For empirical scientists and atheists, the fundamental reality is the physical world of sense experience and perception, and it is taken as truth that studying physical phenomena can give greater understanding of our reality.  Religious believers, on the other hand, may believe that the spiritual world is ultimate reality, while the physical world is illusion.  This leads to entirely different schools of thought, which have been attempting to reconcile their opposing views for ages.

Theologians and scientists are still grappling with that conundrum, attempting to look to the brain for insight into the Spirit.  They will exhaust themselves, for they will find only what they expect to find, again and again, framed by the questions they ask and the expectations they have.   If they’re searching for the physical processes that “give rise to” religious belief, they’ll find the processes which appear to do so.  If they search for the source of physical processes to begin with, then an entirely different answer emerges.

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Belief and the brain’s ‘God spot’

Scientists say they have located the parts of the brain that control religious faith. And the research proves, they contend, that belief in a higher power is an evolutionary asset that helps human survival. Steve Connor reports

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a study that analyses why religion is a universal human feature that has encompassed all cultures throughout history.

Scientists searching for the neural “God spot”, which is supposed to control religious belief, believe that there is not just one but several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

“Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures,” said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington. “Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions.”

Scientists are divided on whether religious belief has a biological basis. Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that Darwinian natural selection may have put a premium on individuals if they were able to use religious belief to survive hardships that may have overwhelmed those with no religious convictions. Others have suggested that religious belief is a side effect of a wider trait in the human brain to search for coherent beliefs about the outside world. Religion and the belief in God, they argue, are just a manifestation of this intrinsic, biological phenomenon that makes the human brain so intelligent and adaptable.

The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved analysing the brains of volunteers, who had been asked to think about religious and moral problems and questions. For the analysis, the researchers used a functional magnetic-resonance imaging machine, which can identify the most energetically-active regions of the brain.

They found that people of different religious persuasions and beliefs, as well as atheists, all tended to use the same electrical circuits in the brain to solve a perceived moral conundrum – and the same circuits were used when religiously-inclined people dealt with issues related to God.

The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief, one within the frontal lobes of the cortex – which are unique to humans – and another in the more evolutionary-ancient regions deeper inside the brain, which humans share with apes and other primates, Professor Grafman said.

“There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday,” Professor Grafman said.

The search for the God spot has in the past led scientists to many different regions of the brain. An early contender was the brain’s temporal lobe, a large section of the brain that sits over each ear, because temporal-lobe epileptics suffering seizures in these regions frequently report having intense religious experiences. One of the principal exponents of this idea was Vilayanur Ramachandran, from the University of California, San Diego, who asked several of his patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy to listen to a mixture of religious, sexual and neutral words while measuring their levels of arousal and emotional reactions. Religious words elicited an unusually high response in these patients.

This work was followed by a study where scientists tried to stimulate the temporal lobes with a rotating magnetic field produced by a “God helmet”. Michael Persinger, from Laurentian University in Ontario, found that he could artificially create the experience of religious feelings – the helmet’s wearer reports being in the presence of a spirit or having a profound feeling of cosmic bliss.

Dr Persinger said that about eight in every 10 volunteers report quasi-religious feelings when wearing his helmet. However, when Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionist and renowned atheist, wore it during the making of a BBC documentary, he famously failed to find God, saying that the helmet only affected his breathing and his limbs.

Other studies of people taking part in Buddhist meditation suggested the parietal lobes at the upper back region of the brain were involved in controlling religious belief, in particular the mystical elements that gave people a feeling of being on a higher plane during prayer.

Andrew Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania, injected radioactive isotope into Buddhists at the point at which they achieved meditative nirvana. Using a special camera, he captured the distribution of the tracer in the brain, which led the researchers to identify the parietal lobes as playing a key role during this transcendental state.

Professor Grafman was more interested in how people coped with everyday moral and religious questions. He said that the latest study, published today, suggests the brain is inherently sensitive to believing in almost anything if there are grounds for doing so, but when there is a mystery about something, the same neural machinery is co-opted in the formulation of religious belief.

“When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations,” said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. “Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains–god-spot-1641022.html

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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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To Coin a New Term: Thought-Charade

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During the course of my brainstorming for a book I am working on, I had a phrase come to mind that seems to sum up a lot of what I see occuring in the world. I looked it up on Google and wasn’t successful finding any pre-existence of the word, so I’ll be happy to coin the word myself:

Thought-charade: 1. noun, empty or deceptive thoughts (The consciousness of humanity suffers from continual, compounded thought-charades.); 2. noun, plural, the game of defending known empty or deceptive thoughts to make them seem plausible, real, accepted by others (I switched on the television to find the talking heads playing thought-charades, attempting to make the case that the country is not in a recession.); 3. noun, the process of supporting empty or deceptive thoughts (George W. Bush’s thought-charade seemed to fool the attendees of the reception, but Alice and I knew his assertions were baseless.)

One of my arguments regarding perception is that it is always limited and provides only a very small window into reality. For example, the sense of smell in bloodhounds is far more developed than in humans. As humans, our perception of the “universe of odors” is only a small portion of reality, in terms of available sense data, yet we act and respond to our limited perception of sound as if it is all that is real. We take for granted that perception seeks to limit and define reality based upon selective data.

To take this idea further, humans build huge structures of belief based upon thoughts they form through the auspices of the physical senses. For example, the entire discipline of science, in general, is one such set of belief structures, which orders thoughts and experience (perception) based upon empirical data. The scientific method has been a long-standing measure of reality and functions in each and every one of our lives through our belief in its ability to provide an accurate understanding of observable phenomena (perception). Usually, if a thing cannot be observed or perceived in one way or another, then it is not known to be real.

We are beings who construct a picture of “reality” through the medium of perception, and yet on the other hand, we form beliefs about reality based upon the perceptions we experience. This is the definition of providing a circular definition.

When my daughter was small, she used to play make-believe a lot. She would play with her dolls and her doll house in very realistic ways. Understanding psychology, I recognized that she projected her own beliefs and experiences onto the imagined experiences of her dolls and she played out many of the same scenarios she had learned (through perception) through her dolls. She constructed a picture of reality for those dolls, generated through her own experiences and beliefs. While she asserted this reality in play, she was also asserting a lot more. She was reinforcing her perceptions as reality.

If we take for granted that our perception gives us access to reality, then this process seems self-fulfilling and is, no doubt, true unto itself. If we question whether or not perception gives us access to reality, however, then basing beliefs and claims to reality upon perception is just plain silly – especially when accompanied by the fervency with which so many people hold beliefs.

Think about it – people live by, die by, kill by and love according to beliefs they hold. If our thoughts are based upon only a small sliver of reality, how can we believe so blindly in what may be our own private illusions? How can we know that what we perceive is true, without pointing to perception itself?

This brings me to the point of the word: thought-charade. While many have asserted through the ages that life is a dream or an illusion (as in Hinduism, maya), the term thought-charade seems more appropriate. An illusion or dream suggests passivity on the part of the person who suffers them. Like a motion picture, the images appear as one merely sits by and observes. In my view, however, thoughts shape and mold “reality” and form experience. This is hardly a passive process!

Although, as a species, we are not very evolved in controlling our thoughts and directing belief in a conscious way, our thoughts and beliefs constantly and continually create our individual realities. We may not recognize the seemingly magical process by which our beliefs pull out of the universe that which we believe; nevertheless, it is still a process of consciousness that occurs all of the time, in every one of our lives by our active imagination and participation, whether we recognize it or not.

These thoughts and beliefs are chosen repeatedly through our lives. These choices generate experience. In turn, we form beliefs based upon these perceptions. Furthermore, beliefs shape perception so that experiences, viewed through the filter of belief, tend to validate the beliefs we hold. The person who goes around proclaiming, “People are assholes!” will, no doubt, find innumerable experiences that justify this position, thereby solidifying the person’s perception and “reality.” In this circularly-defined construction of “reality”, we find ourselves utterly lost and cut off from the Source – Ultimate Reality, asserting that all we are and All That Is is the world served upon the platter of perception. How wrong we have been.

In this way, each of our lives is a thought-charade. Until human beings recognize the importance of thoughts and beliefs in determining experience, they will continue to search for reality in perception – in experience itself, which is a product of thoughts and beliefs that are assertions of reality. Your reality is not found in sense experience. Take comfort in that because the picture of yourself which your physical senses tell you IS you, is not and never will be the fullness of what YOU are.

Reality exists and can be recalled when the thought-charade is seen for what it is, and the game is no longer played.

Collectively, the human race still has a long way to go to this realization. The game is “real”, it is the only game being played. And we’ve got a whole bunch of people with a whole lot of money being spent on manipulating your perceptions into believing their thought-charade.

They’re exceedingly good at it. If you do not recognize this fact, then I’m sorry to say, you’re living a thought-charade.

It’s a good thing there is one reality of our existence that we cannot change, which will bring an end to the thought-charade eventually … I only hope that each of us doesn’t choose to wait until then to begin the process of unraveling our tangled perception of reality.

 

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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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