Category Archives: Uncategorized

PBS Nature: My Garden Of A Thousand Bees

My Garden of a Thousand Bees, PBS Nature, Premiere: 20 October 2021

A story of surprise and revelation. A wildlife cameraman spends his time during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown filming the bees in his urban garden and discovers the many diverse species and personalities that exist in this insect family.

It’s about an hour-long program. You may be able to watch the whole thing here:
https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/my-garden-thousand-bees-about/26263/

Clips:

A female bee’s self-made fortress of a shell and sticks. Unbelievable.

Bee mating ritual caught on camera. Bees are tender? Bees are tender.

Large male Wool Carder bee defends his territory. Bees are also fighty.

Completely changed my perspective of bees. I dream of the day we stop using pesticides.

EPA To Address Contamination Across US By Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” – Tomorrow

The Guardian was given a list (acquired through a Freedom of Information Act) of more than 120,000 sites across the US where the EPA found people are being exposed to toxic “forever chemicals,” a.k.a. polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The list is 4 times larger than previously reported. EPA to address it tomorrow.

Revealed: More Than 120,000 US Sites Feared To Handle Harmful PFAS ‘Forever’ Chemicals, The Guardian, 17 October 2021

The EPA recently identified more than 120,000 facilities that may expose people to PFAS. Clusters appear along the I-95 corridor in the Northeast, and in Colorado, California, and Oklahoma.

Excerpts:

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified more than 120,000 locations around the US where people may be exposed to a class of toxic “forever chemicals” associated with various cancers and other health problems that is a frightening tally four times larger than previously reported, according to data obtained by the Guardian.

The list of facilities makes it clear that virtually no part of America appears free from the potential risk of air and water contamination with the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The tally far exceeds a previous analysis that showed 29,900 industrial sites known or suspected of making or using the toxic chemicals.

People living near such facilities “are certain to be exposed, some at very high levels” to PFAS chemicals, said David Brown, a public health toxicologist and former director of environmental epidemiology at the Connecticut department of health.

Brown said he suspects there are far more sites than even those on the EPA list, posing long-term health risks for unsuspecting people who live near them.

“Once it’s in the environment it almost never breaks down,” Brown said of PFAS. “This is such a potent compound in terms of its toxicity and it tends to bioaccumulate … This is one of the compounds that persists forever.”

In July, a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility presented evidence that oil and gas companies have been using PFAS, or substances that can degrade into PFAS, in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a technique used to extract natural gas or oil.

PFAS chemicals are a group of more than 5,000 man-made compounds used by a variety of industries since the 1940s for such things as electronics manufacturing, oil recovery, paints, fire-fighting foams, cleaning products and non-stick cookware. People can be exposed through contaminated drinking water, food and air, as well as contact with commercial products made with PFAS.

The EPA acknowledges there is “evidence that exposure to PFAS can cause adverse health outcomes in humans”.

EPA officials have started taking steps to get a grasp on the extent of PFAS use and existing and potential environmental contamination, as independent researchers say their own studies are finding reason for alarm. Last year, for instance, scientists at the non-profit Environmental Working Group issued a report finding that more than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at worrisome levels.

The EPA is expected to announce a broad new “action plan” addressing PFAS issues on Monday.

How is it possible that the contamination became so widespread and at such hazardous concentrations in such a short period of time? Especially when we have an agency tasked SPECIFICALLY for protecting our environment against just this kind of assault (Environmental Protection Agency)?

Could it be that the EPA itself is “ignoring or covering up the risks of certain dangerous chemicals” that four whistleblowers contend? (EPA is falsifying risk assessments for dangerous chemicals, say whistleblowers)

I’m glad the EPA is finally on it.

Big Food Likes Selling Salty Stuff. FDA Trying To Look Like They Care (With New Preposterous Targets)

US Regulators Set New Target To Reduce Salt In Dozens Of Everyday Foods, The Guardian, 13 October 2021

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday updated its guidelines for 163 foods, including those that are commercially processed, packaged and prepared.

Over the next two and a half years, the FDA’s target sodium levels aim to cut average intake from 3,400 to 3,000 milligrams a day.

Our target should be half that … 1,500. The Dietary Guidelines say 2,300 just to appease people.

It’s not enough. It will never be enough. You know why?

In a statement on Wednesday, the American Heart Association said the FDA’s targets … did not go far enough.

“Lowering sodium levels in the food supply would reduce risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, heart attack and death in addition to saving billions of dollars in health-care costs over the next decade,” the association said.

“Lowering sodium intake to 3,000mg per day is not enough. Lowering sodium further to 2,300mg could prevent an estimated 450,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, gain 2 million quality-adjusted life years and save approximately $40bn in healthcare costs over a 20-year period,” it added.

40 billion dollars. Cha-ching! The healthcare industry makes money from our being sick. It says it right there. I’m being factual, not cynical. And Big Food makes money from selling us the salty food we want. And Big Health and Big Food have effectively infiltrated our regulating bodies.

This was the last sentence of that article:

… whether the targets are effective in pushing the industry to reduce sodium levels will depend on how the FDA monitors progress and publicly communicates about it.

Appearances are everything.

Low-Sodium Salt … For The Iodine

I’m a vegan. I don’t eat seaweed. So I have an iodine-poor diet. Robert mentioned iodized salt that’s lower in sodium. I just bought some. It’s not bad.

Contains 60 mcg iodine in 1/4 teaspoon. The RDA is 150 mcg.

It reduces the sodium by cutting it with potassium chloride. I could do with lowering the sodium. I just love crunchy salt on things. The potassium I don’t need because my diet is essentially plant food. (Beans are a plant. Plants are high in potassium. See here for potassium-rich foods.) But according to the CDC, “Most Americans do not consume enough potassium.” So this is a win-win for many people.

There’s an interplay between sodium and potassium in the body: sodium tends to increase blood pressure, potassium decreases it. Ideally, we should eat sodium and potassium in a 1:3 ratio … three times more potassium than sodium, roughly 1500 mg sodium to 4700 mg potassium. That ratio is everything when talking about blood pressure. It’s not just about sodium.

I liked how this article explained it, by Rose Carr:
Ask the experts: The sodium-potassium balancing act, Healthy Food Guide, July 2013

The CDC’s explanation: The Role of Potassium and Sodium in Your Diet

I can also bake with this. It totally slipped my mind. Thanks again, Robert.

We Don’t Take Air Pollution Seriously

A couple recent stories about air pollution…

This one, which affects me personally because I live on the east coast, and illustrates the far-reaching effects of point-source pollution:
Western Wildfires Are Making Easterners Sick: U.S. Study, US News, 7 October 2021

What’s inside that smoke is part of the problem. Besides toxic gases, smoke contains tiny particles called PM2.5 that enter the lungs and contribute to multiple health problems. The study also looked at 18 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) present in smoke, such as formaldehyde and benzene.

And this one which underscores the global problem of pollution:

The authors of a study published in PLOS Medicine* estimated that exposure to PM2.5 — pollutant particles with widths 30 times smaller than a human hair — was linked to almost 6 million premature births and 3 million underweight babies across the world in 2019.

* Ambient and household PM2.5 pollution and adverse perinatal outcomes: A meta-regression and analysis of attributable global burden for 204 countries and territories, PLoS Medicine, 28 September 2021

Both of those mentioned particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5). Here’s a good map for assessing PM2.5 at any time of the day, anywhere in the world:
windy.com
Click “Air Quality” on the right side bar and pick PM2.5

This is PM2.5 across the US this morning, 8:00 am. eastern time:

What Happens To Your Body When You Cut Back On Salt?

One thing that happens when you cut back on salt … you lose the water associated with that salt. Water that causes bloating, that raises blood pressure. Photo source: Mayo Clinic

I was going to write this up but I saw someone already did it so for the sake of expedience (because we’re all probably eating too much salt and could benefit, like, now), here…

When You Stop Eating Salt, This Is What Really Happens To Your Body, Cat Lafuente, The List, Updated October 2020

When you stop eating salt:

Your blood pressure drops
Your kidneys function better
Your risk of kidney stones drops
You’ll feel less bloated
You’ll feel more energetic
Your palate will change (you’ll stop craving salt)
You’ll be less thirsty
You’ll get fewer headaches
You’ll have a decreased risk of stroke and heart attack
Your chances of getting stomach cancer decrease
Your mortality risk decreases all around
You might lose weight
You won’t use the bathroom as much
Your bones will thank you

She backs up with references.

120 Countries Fortify All Food-Grade Salt With Iodine. The US Does Not.

History of U.S. Iodine Fortification and Supplementation, Nutrients, November 2012

Approximately 120 countries, including Canada and some parts of Mexico, have adopted mandatory iodization of all food-grade salt [5], although the extent of implementation efforts in individual countries is unknown.

In contrast, fortification of salt with iodine in the U.S. is voluntary, and the FDA does not mandate the listing of iodine content on food packaging. Furthermore, it is assumed that the majority of salt consumption in the U.S. comes from processed foods, in which primarily non-iodized salt is used during production [19].

Although iodized salt in the U.S. is fortified at 45 mg iodide/kg, 47 of 88 table salt brands recently sampled contained less than the FDA’s recommended range of 46–76 mg iodide/kg

So, in the US, our diets are awash in sodium and salt, and not much of it contains iodine.