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Showing posts from June, 2012

Why Corn Syrup is Worse than Sugar

Why is it important to choose natural sugars instead of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)? Dr. Vanessa
Bundy, a pediatric resident at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University, remarks, “Fructose is metabolized differently than other sugars and has some byproducts [that are] believed to be bad for us.”


Children and adolescents that consume many foods containing pure fructose, such as sodas and energy drinks, kids’ cereals and sugary snacks, are at special risk. The researchers’ analysis of 559 adolescents, ages 14 to 18, correlated high-fructose diets with higher blood pressure, fasting glucose
levels, insulin resistance and inflammatory factors that contribute to heart and vascular disease. Heavy consumers of the mega-sweetener also tended to have lower levels of cardiovascular protectors such as HDL (good) cholesterol and adiponectin, a protein hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism of lipids (fats and oils) and glucose (a simple sugar and universal s…

Bad Air: Smog Pollution Threatens National Parks

The nonprofit Sierra Club is waging a fundraising campaign to protect U.S. national parks from the effects of power plants burning dirty coal.  Executive Director Michael Brune reports, “Nearly one-third of all national parks exceed pollution safety levels.” To date, the club has been successful in stopping construction of 160 coal-fired plants.

Natural Resources Defense Council (nrdc.org) analyses show that not only cities, but seaside suburbs and rural areas as well, are reporting health-threatening “bad air days” during the summer due to smog pollution. Some 250 communities and parks in nearly 40 states, led by California, routinely experience one or more “code orange” dangerous air days, deemed unsafe for children, older adults and those with breathing problems to be outside. More than 2,000 air quality alerts occurred nationwide in the first seven months of 2011, with many areas having long periods of days marred by elevated smog levels.

The push for cleaner air comes amid ongoi…

Beauty Detox Put Your Best Face Forward Safely

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that the average woman uses at least 12 personal care products—including soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and lotions— every day, many of which contain potentially toxic ingredients. The David Suzuki Foundation states, “U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins or hormone disruptors.” Stacy Malkan, of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, advises, “Beware of bogus claims like ‘certified hypoallergenic’, meaningless marketing terms like ‘clean and simple’, and companies that do not list the product ingredients on their website.”

One of the most troublesome additives is paraben, a chemical preservative found in numerous products that mimics estrogen and may disrupt normal hormone function. Others include diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), hormone disrupters that can form cancer-causing nitrates and are common ingredients of shampoos…

Go Rio: Natural Wealth Spreadsheet Proposal

The British government is setting up a Natural Capital Committee that will describe the country’s wealth in terms of the quality of its air, water, wildlife and other natural resources. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman intends to propose that all countries begin “green accounting” to audit the state of their rivers, forests and other landscapes.

The United Nations Rio+20 Conference in Brazil this June is expected to unite the participating nations in protecting the world’s environment. Sustainable development goals under consideration include ensuring that all agriculture is sustainable, protecting oceans, setting up an international court on environmental crime, and appointing an ombudsperson to speak on behalf of future generations.

The summit, to be attended by 190 nations, will also look at cutting subsidies for fossil fuels and low carbon energy for all. Spelman observes that businesses in Great Britain are already measuring the impact they are having on the environment. S…

Sky Scrapers ‘Living’ Buildings Might Inhale Urban Carbon Emissions

Dr. Rachel Armstrong, a senior TED fellow and co-director of Avatar, a research group exploring advanced technologies in architecture, is promoting the development of buildings with “lungs” that could absorb carbon emissions and convert them into something useful and “skin” that could control interior temperatures without radiators or air-conditioning. She projects that, “Over the next 40 years, these ‘living’ buildings, biologically programmed to extract carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, could fill our cities.”

It’s an application of synthetic biology, a new science devoted to the manufacture of lifelike matter from synthesized chemicals that engineers create tobehave like organic microorganisms, with the added benefit that they can be manipulated to do things nature can’t. Armstrong calls them protocells.

She explains, “A protocell could be mixed with wall paint and programmed to produce limestone when exposed to carbon [emissions] on the surface of a building. Then you’ve got …

Auto Immune Toxicity Report on New Car Interiors

The consumer watchdog Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org, a product test results website, points out that
there is more to green vehicles than fuel economy. That new-car smell can include a toxic mix of chemicals carried over from the manufacturing of seats, steering wheels, dashboards and armrests. The group’s fourth annual report on more than 200 model year 2011 and 2012 vehicles gave the Honda Civic and CR-Z and the Toyota Prius top marks for the least interior pollution, while the Kia Soul, Chrysler 200 SC and Mitsubishi Outlander ranked as the worst.

The researchers tested for toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and cancer-causing chemicals like benzene and brominated flame retardants. “Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in,” says Jeff Gearhart, research director of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based nonprofit.

No mandatory testing or regulation of the chemicals used in vehicle manufacturing exists, so cons…

Spuds Lower Blood Pressure

The potato’s rep as a fattening food is getting a much-deserved revision. In a recent report in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists note that two small servings of purple potatoes a day reduce blood pressure by about 4 percent—nearly as much as oatmeal—without causing weight gain. The researchers say that decrease may potentially reduce the risk of some forms of heart disease.
In the study, 18 volunteers that were overweight or obese with high blood pressure ate six to eight golf ball-sized purple majesty potatoes, with skins, twice a day for a month. The researchers used purple potatoes because the pigment in darker fruits and vegetables is especially rich in beneficial phytochemicals. They monitored participants’ blood pressure, both systolic (the first number in a blood pressure reading, such as 120/80) and diastolic, and found that the average diastolic pressure dropped by 4.3 percent, while the systolic pressure decreased by 3.5…