Plastic is Killing the Planet and Our Health


“EVERY single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century is still SOMEWHERE on our planet. So if it never goes away, where does it go?” — this is the startling idea behind the eye-opening documentary, Plastic Paradise.

Plastic is difficult to escape. Simply walk through your local supermarket and take in the sheer number of products housed in plastic. We feel we do our part for the planet by recycling. But do we?

According to the documentary, recycling is a bit of a misnomer because only two types of plastic are widely recyclable — and even then, it’s downgraded into other products which cannot be recycled further. It’s a one time deal. The next step for these items is the landfill — or worse, the ocean, where plastic seriously harms wildlife, the ecosystem and eventually, our health.

A disturbing account of how plastic invades our lives

The documentary opens with a shot of dead birds on a plastic-laden beach. The point is graphically driven home that we are in terrible danger of completely destroying the ocean and life within. The beach in question belongs to Midway Atoll, an island halfway between the west coast of the U.S. and the eastern side of Japan. What makes the island special is that a good portion of marine debris (consisting of 90% plastic) accumulates on Midway due to the whirlpool effect of Pacific currents. It’s similar to a canary in the coal mine, alerting us to grave ecological imbalance.

On this single island, adult albatross birds bring in five tons of plastic each year to unwittingly feed to their chicks, believing it to be food. Midway is home to 70% of the world’s Laysan Albatross population and a major breeding ground. Needless to say, the birds are in serious trouble with a high death rate due to their diet of plastic.

Birds aren’t the only animals harmed by the material, all marine life is affected — including the coral reefs, which are destroyed by tumbleweed-like discarded nylon fishing nets that become entangled in the coral, breaking off pieces as the mass is pulled along by the current. Fish, seals, dolphins, whales, sea turtles — you name it and plastic has killed any number. It’s slowly killing us too.

Human casualties

By now, most of us are aware of bisphenol A (BPA) and the devastating effects this plastic additive has on the human endocrine system. It has been linked to a number of disorders, from cancer to diabetes, infertility and obesity. It was developed in 1936 as a form of birth control due to its estrogenic activity, but BPA wasn’t strong enough for the job. As industry can never let a synthetic chemical go to waste, a new purpose for BPA was found by adding it to polycarbonate plastics beginning in the early 1950s. It took nearly sixty years before the dangers of BPA were known to the public. It’s estimated that 93% of Americans have BPA within their bodies.

But plastic also contains DDT and PCB — two extremely toxic chemicals. The health effects of DDT include cancer, male infertility, miscarriages and low birth weight, developmental delay, nervous system and liver damage. PCBs also contribute to cancer and cause disorders of the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

All three toxins leach into the ocean as the plastic breaks down. Fish also eat these irresistible plastic bits and the toxins eventually lodge in their tissues. Invariably, these poisons end up on our dinner plates.

We might ask how we arrived at this point, with plastics such an unavoidable — and dangerous — material in our lives?

History of a modern day ‘miracle’

During World War II, raw materials were in short supply and we needed a resilient, economical and easily manufactured substitute. Plastic to the rescue! Made from readily available petroleum, plastic was the go-to material for the war machine. It was also a boon for oil companies as they had an entirely new market to tap — from 20 million pounds in 1927 to 650 million pounds by 1943. That’s a 3,000% increase in just a few short years. Today, the U.S. is expected to produce a staggering 115 billion pounds this year alone.

Here’s the catch: every piece of plastic that was ever made is still with us today as it was designed to last — and it does, for hundreds of years. The ecosystem and our health are choked by it. What will the planet look like in the not so distant future with the ever increasing influx of this hardwearing material? It’s a sobering thought and one that doesn’t have an easy answer.

Keeping the plastic tide at bay

Although it might appear otherwise, we are not powerless against the rising wave of plastic. But we do need to take responsibility. Below are ideas on how to curb plastic overload:

Watch Plastic Paradise and take action.

Spread the word about the dangers of plastic to family and friends, the community at large and your government officials. Local library screenings of the film are a great way to reach the public. Or hand out reusable grocery bags with a card explaining the dangers of plastic. Ask the recipient to pay it forward by educating others and giving away bags of their own.

Reject single use plastic bags, food containers and bottles.

It’s easy to keep reusable bags for groceries and produce stashed in your purse, pocket or car for shopping trips. Stainless steel or glass water bottles and mugs are also a simple alternative to plastic and styrofoam disposables, as are stainless steel food containers.

Rethink shampoo, dish and laundry soap.

The ideal is to find a store where you can bring your own glass or metal containers to refill with dish and laundry soap, along with shampoo. You can also make your own by using raw materials that come in biodegradable packaging. Not only will you help save the environment and your health, but also hard earned cash too.

Petition your favorite brands to favor biodegradable packaging.

An excellent alternative to petroleum based plastic is hemp plastic. It’s exceptionally strong, versatile and biodegradable. In fact, many automotive companies already utilize hemp plastic panels in their cars because of its strength and durability.

Contact your local stores and educate them about the damaging effects of plastic.

Ask that they adopt a zero waste model like this market in Germany. Alternatively, encourage grocery stores to use biodegradable food packaging and bags.

Avoid synthetic fabrics and opt for hemp, wool, cotton or silk instead.

If you must have that polar fleece jacket (or whatever synthetic fabric it may be), participate in the North Face “Clothes the Loop” up-cycling program when the article of clothing has run its course.

Swap out plastic wrap and bags.

Beeswax coated fabric is a fun and natural plastic alternative. It clings to bowls and dishes and can be folded around sandwiches and the like for portability. My Green Family  offers an easy tutorial on how to make your own beeswax and cotton wrap.

Consider your supplements.

If you’re anything like me, you have a good amount of vitamins and herbs squirreled away in your cabinet. Look for brands that aren’t housed in plastic. Udo’s Choice is one company that comes to mind that uses biodegradable glass with metal caps.

Don’t purchase or eat canned food.

While the outer can is generally eco-friendly, the inside is most likely lined with plastic. Many companies have adopted BPA-free liners, which is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.

If you have children, choose natural toys.

There’s a great selection of wooden, fabric and cardboard toys available which won’t harm the environment or your child. Better yet, tap into your creativity and create unique playthings from your recyclables. Sites like Pinterest have many wonderful ideas on how to make eco-friendly, waste-free toys.

Lastly, one of the best methods for reducing plastic consumption is to be mindful that plastic never really disappears and creates tremendous damage to ourselves and the environement. Voting with our dollars and avoiding plastic products sends a strong message to industry that we won’t tolerate the trashing of the planet, wildlife or our health.

This new metal box could help take physics beyond the Standard Model


Researchers in Germany have created a shield that can cut magnetic fields more than a million-fold, and they’ve used it to create one of the most exciting metal boxes on the planet right now.

The 4.1-cubic-metre space has the weakest magnetic field in our Solar System, and it will allow scientists to finally conduct the high-precision experiments that could reveal physics beyond the Standard Model.

The Standard Model of particle physics, also known as ‘The Theory of Almost Everything’, is the best set of equations we have to explain the behaviour and interactions of the fundamental particles in the Universe.

But although the model has served us well, there are a whole lot of gaps, such as the fact that the Standard Model doesn’t explain gravity, or why matter and antimatter from the Big Bang didn’t annihilate each other completely. It also can’t predict the behaviour of particles at very high energies.

Large-scale experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider are helping to improve our understanding in these areas, but are limited by the natural and artificial magnetic fields on Earth, which have the unfortunate habit of easily penetrating all kinds of matter.

But now, researchers from Technische Universität Müchen (TUM) in Germany have managed to eliminate magnetic fields to previously unheard-of levels, opening up a whole new world of experiments. In fact, their box’s magnetic field is even weaker than the average ambient magnetic field experienced in the interstellar medium between galaxies.

“Precision experiments are able to probe nature up to energy scales which might not be accessible by current and next generation collider experiments,” Tobias Lins, a doctoral student who worked on the magnetic shield, said in a press release. This is because the existence of exotic new particles could be detected by tiny alterations in the properties of already known particles, but we currently can’t track those changes because of the background ‘noise’ from magnetic fields.

The shield, which involves several layers of a specially made, highly magnetic nickel-and-iron alloy, acts like a sponge that absorbs and redirects a magnetic field. The researchers describe its design and performance in the Journal of Applied Physics.

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“The apparatus might be compared to cuboid Russian nesting dolls,” said Lins. “Like the dolls, most layers can be used individually and with an increasing number of layers the inside is more and more protected.”

They’re already planning to use their shield to determine the charge distribution in neutrons – referred to by physicists as the electric dipole moment. Essentially what they’re looking for is the brief moment when a neutron has a tiny magnetic charge – generally a neutron is electrically neutral because its three quarks cancel each other out. If they find that this moment lasts for longer than predicted by the Standard Model, it could suggest the existence of a new particle.

“This kind of measurement would be of fundamental significance in particle physics and swing wide open the door to physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics,” explained the team leader, Peter Fierlinger, in a statement.

The team also wants to use the shield to search for the long-theorised, but never detected, magnetic monopoles using a SQUID detector, which can detect extremely subtle magnetic fields.

Both of these experiments, as well as the many others that can now be conducted inside this small, metal box, could take us into a brave new world of physics, and we can’t wait to see some results. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: what an incredible time to be alive.

probingthese

Ways Fast Food & Its Packaging Harms Your Health | Wake Up World


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4th July 2015

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

A number of common chemicals are potent endocrine disruptors, meaning, they disrupt your hormone function. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are similar in structure to your natural sex hormones, such as estrogen.

These chemicals can potentially interfere with normal physiology, even in extremely small amounts. Your endocrine glands regulate vital physiological processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and development.

A hormone’s job is to help regulate your cell’s function, sending signals that instruct them to perform certain tasks, but EDCs interfere with proper hormone signaling.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), can mimic your natural hormones, tricking your body into increasing or decreasing hormone production or blocking hormone signals by binding to cell receptors. Therefore, compounds that interfere with these vital processes can produce profound effects.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is one well-known endocrine disruptor, and according to recent research, a chain of events that occur probably millions of times each day across the US actually maximizes the harm done by these chemicals. As reported by Time Magazine:[1]

“According to a new study[2]… people who used hand sanitizer, touched a cash register receipt and then ate French fries were quickly exposed to high levels of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used to coat receipt paper.” [Emphasis mine]

Triclosan, Receipts, and Greasy Fingers Maximizes Chemical Exposure

All of these things: triclosan (the active ingredient in many hand sanitizers), bisphenols (both BPA and BPS), and vegetable oils are harmful to your health in isolation.

The featured research now shows that when combined, you create a situation in which your body absorbs the greatest amounts of toxin possible… First of all, absorption of BPA via your skin promotes higher levels of biologically active BPA in your body, compared to ingesting it via contaminated food.

“When scientists added in two other factors—scrubbing hands with hand sanitizer and eating greasy food—the evidence points to a super-sized dose of BPA,” Time Magazine notes.

’The chemicals used to make hand sanitizers, soaps, lotions, and sunscreen degrade the skin’s ability to act as a barrier and so act as skin penetration enhancers,’ says [study author] vom Saal.

So BPA enters the body more efficiently than it would otherwise. Food grease and other oils can act similarly because BPA itself is fat-soluble…”

Remarkably, absorption of BPA occurred in people holding a receipt for as little as TWO SECONDS! According to the author of the study, the amounts of BPA absorption found in his research “are in a zone where effects associated with obesity, diabetes, and neurological effects can result.”

Past research also suggests caution is warranted when handling receipts, even if you only hold them long enough to put them in your wallet. A 2010 study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry[3] found that of 13 thermal printing papers analyzed, 11 contained BPA.

In that study, holding the paper for five seconds was enough to transfer BPA to a person’s skin, and the amount of BPA transferred increased by about 10 times if their fingers were wet or greasy (such as if you’ve just applied lotion or eaten greasy food).

So far, laws have been passed in a dozen US states banning BPA from a variety of products, primarily products intended for children, such as baby bottles and sippy cups. Connecticut is the only state that has banned BPA in cash receipts.

Other Hazardous Chemicals in Fast Food Packaging

Another hazard associated with fast food relates to the packaging used. While American manufacturers have ceased using perchlorate and perfluorocarboxylates (PFCs) in non-stick food wrappers and take-out boxes, many restaurants are using imported boxes and wrappers.

These may still contain these hazardous chemicals. Research has shown that PFC’s can cause:[4][5]

  • Infertility — PFOA and PFOS have been shown to dramatically increase the odds of infertility. In one 2009 study, PFOS increased the risk of infertility anywhere from 70 to 134 percent, while PFOA was linked to a 60 to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility.
  • Thyroid disease — Another study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that PFOA can damage your thyroid function. Individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease, compared to those with the lowest PFOA concentrations.
  • Cancer — PFOA has been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests (liver, pancreas, testicles, and mammary glands in rats), and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers. The EPA has ruled PFCs as “likely carcinogens,” and has stated that PFOA “poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans.”
  • Immune system problems — Several studies by scientists in Sweden indicate that PFCs have an adverse effect on your immune system. As described in the EWG report on PFCs, PFOA was found to decrease all immune cell subpopulations studied, in the thymus and spleen, and caused immunosupression.
  • Increased LDL cholesterol levels – A study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that children and teens with higher PFOA levels had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, while PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, including both LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.

For more information on the studies linking PFCs with various health problems, please review the Environmental Working Groups extensive report[6] on this topic.

In response to concerns that PFCs are still reaching consumers via imported fast food packaging, a petition created by consumer and health groups was recently filed[7] with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requesting the agency pass regulations to “close this loophole and clearly ban the chemicals in food production.”

Soda Ages You as Much as Smoking, Researchers Claim

In related news, research published in the American Journal of Public Health[8] claims that drinking soda on a daily basis ages your immune cells to a degree similar to that of a daily smoking habit. To reach this conclusion, the researchers studied the effect of sugary sodas on human telomeres.

Every cell in your body contains a nucleus, and inside the nucleus are the chromosomes that contain your genes. The chromosome is made up of two “arms,” and each arm contains a single molecule DNA. A typical DNA molecule is about 100 million bases long. It’s curled up like a slinky, extending from one end of the chromosome to the other.

At the very tip of each arm of the chromosome is where you’ll find the telomere. Your telomeres shorten with time because they cannot replicate completely each time the cell divides. Hence, as you get older, your telomeres get shorter and shorter. As noted by Time Magazine:[9]

“Shorter telomeres have been linked to health detriments like shorter lifespans and more stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer…  [Study author Elissa Epel, PhD] and her team analyzed data from 5,309 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from about 14 years ago.

They found that people who drank more sugary soda tended to have shorter telomeres. Drinking an 8-ounce daily serving of soda corresponded to 1.9 years of additional aging, and drinking a daily 20-ounce serving was linked to 4.6 more years of aging.

The latter, the authors point out, is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking… ‘The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,’ she says.”

The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

Another toxic hazard inherent with processed foods is artificial sweeteners,[10] which I’ve discussed in many previous articles. Most recently, a study published in the journalNature[11]  concluded that artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the microbial balance in your gut. This in turn raises your risk for diabetes. Other studies have found similar results, raising serious questions about the wisdom of recommending artificial sweeteners for diabetics.

One 2012 study published in PLOS One[12] found that chronic lifetime exposure toaspartame, commencing in utero, produces changes in blood glucose parameters in mice. The researchers used a dosage of aspartame that approximates the allowable daily intake (ADI) for aspartame in the US (approx. 50 mg/kg body weight). Not only was aspartame found to decrease insulin sensitivity compared to controls, it also wrought havoc on brain function.

As I’ve mentioned on countless occasions, optimizing your insulin sensitivity is key for optimal health, as insulin resistance is a hallmark of virtually every chronic disease you can think of, but especially type 2 diabetes. Now, contrary to popular belief, aspartame is being revealed as a substance that actually decreases or worsens insulin sensitivity, which is the complete opposite of what you want—especially if you’re already pre-diabetic or diabetic!

Male mice fed aspartame also experienced significantly higher weight gain compared to the control group, whereas female weight gain was unaffected by the aspartame diet compared to controls. Still, deposits of visceral fat—those dangerous fat deposits around internal organs, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease in humans—increased in aspartame-fed mice of both sexes. Aspartame-fed mice of both sexes also had elevated fasting blood glucose levels compared to non-consumers of aspartame. Another study published in 2007 in the journal Diabetes Care[13] reported similar results.

The fact that aspartame can alter your microbial balance has also been demonstrated in previous studies. One such study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology[14] revealed a potential link between aspartame and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Sucralose (Splenda), which is associated with many of the same adverse effects as aspartame, has also been found to decimate your gut flora. In fact, research published in theJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health[15] in 2008 found that Splenda reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent!

This is what your body is busy doing while you’re asleep


This infographic breaks down everything your body does while you’re not awake. It’s making us tired just looking at it.

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In our increasingly busy lives, sleep can feel pretty unproductive. But just because you’re not awake, doesn’t mean stuff isn’t happening. To make you really appreciate all the complex things your body during those eight (or, more realistically, six) hours you’re out each night, artist Jan Diehm from the Huffington Post has created this fascinating infographic.

You can see a much larger version of the image here, which breaks down each sleep stage by what happens during it and how much of your night it takes up on average.

And while it makes me appreciate my body and all of its involuntary behaviours, it also makes tired just by looking at it. Is 8:36 am too early for a power nap?

Laura Schocker over at Huffington Post has also given us a run-down of the different sleep stages in more detail. So what’s going on?

Stage one is that time between wake and slumber when it’s super easy for someone (or something) to wake you up. If you do wake up during stage on, you’re going to feel like you haven’t slept at all.

Stage two is what Philip Gehrman, a psychiatry assistant professor from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, tells Schocker is the “average sleep”, where we spend half of our night. As Schocker explains, during this stage:

“Brain waves are slow (with some rapid bursts) and your heart rate and blood pressure slow down and regulate. That means, for much of the night, your heart and vascular system are getting a much-needed rest, which might help to explain the many cardiovascular benefits of shuteye.”

Stage three is our deepest sleep, and it’s when our brain waves transform into restorative, slow, high-amplitude waves. Pretty much most of our bodily functions slow down during this time and our bodies begin to repair. It’s also the phase when people will sleep walk, talk, or eat, if they’re so inclined.

REM sleep is where we experience vivid dreams. According to Gehrman, experts often call this the “paradoxical sleep” because the body is out for the count while the brain lights up like you’re awake. And, yes, during this time you also experience rapid eye movement (which gives the stage its name). Your muscles are paralysed so you don’t physically live out your dreams, and your breathing and heart rate can vary greatly.

Researchers also know that at some point during sleep, although they’re not sure exactly when just yet, our bodies regulate the hormones that control how hungry we are, and our brains also lock in memories and learn the information we absorbed the day before.

So, while it’s not always possible to get the seven to 10 hours of sleep a nightrecommended by experts, at least you can now appreciate what happens when you do.

Watch the video. URL: https://youtu.be/SVQlcxiQlzI

Brains of Introverts Reveal Why They Prefer Being Alone


Human faces may hold more meaning for socially outgoing individuals than for their more introverted counterparts, a new study suggests.

The results show the brains of extroverts pay more attention to human faces than do introverts. In fact, introverts’ brains didn’t seem to distinguish between inanimate objects and human faces.

The findings might partly explain why extroverts are more motivated to seek the company of others than are introverts, or why a particularly shy person might rather hang out with a good book than a group of friends.

The study also adds weight to idea that underlying neural differences in people’s brains contribute to their personality.

“This is just one more piece of evidence to support the assertion that personality is not merely a psychology concept,” said study researcher Inna Fishman, of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, Calif. “There’s some broader foundation for the behavior that you see … implicating that there are neural bases for different personality types.”

Personality in the brain

There are many ways to describe someone’s character — from talkative to anxious to hardworking and organized. Psychologists have found that many traits often go together and have grouped these traits into five overarching categories — extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness/intellect.

Extroversion deals with the way people interact with others. Extroverts like to be around other people and generally enjoy social situations while introverts are the opposite. Previous studies have shown that people who are extroverted also tend to be more assertive, experience more positive feelings and get more out of rewards in general.

However, no one had looked to see whether extroverts are more sensitive to stimuli specifically related to social situations, such as faces.

To find out, Fishman and her colleagues recruited 28 participants ages 18 to 40 that ranged in personality from introverted to somewhat extroverted to very extroverted. Electrodes placed on the subjects’ scalps recorded the electrical activity in their brains, a technique known as electroencephalography, or EEG.

The researchers studied a particular change in the brain’s electrical activity known as P300. The change, which shows up as a deflection on a person’s EEG, can be elicited by certain tasks or by a change in the environment, such as when the room is very quiet and you all of a sudden hear a loud nose. The brains’ reaction occurs within 300 milliseconds, before the person is aware of the change.

To evoke P300, Fishman used a method known as the “oddball task” in which subjects see a series of very similar images, such as a bunch of blue cars, and then all of a sudden, a slightly different image appears, such as a red car.

In the current experiment, subjects saw a series of male faces and every so often a female face appeared. They were also shown pictures of purple flowers interspersed with pictures of yellow ones.

Faces or flowers?

The higher subjects had scored on a test for extroversion, the greater their P300 response was to human faces. In other words, extroverts pay more attention to human faces (P300 can be seen as an indicator of human attention, or how fast their brains’ noticed that something has changed.)

There was no link between scores on extroversion and the P300 response to flowers.

Introverts had very similar P300 responses to both human faces and to flowers.

“They just didn’t place a larger weight on social stimuli than they did on any other stimuli, of which flowers are one example,” Fishman said.

“[This] supports the claim that introverts, or their brains, might be indifferent to people — they can take them or leave them, so to speak. The introvert’s brain treats interactions with people the same way it treats encounters with other, non-human information, such as inanimate objects for example,” Fishman told LiveScience.

The results strongly suggest that human faces, or people in general, hold more significance for extroverts, or are more meaningful for them, Fishman said.