Friday, April 27, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention...

Woman in hospital
Many of us grew up hearing this common expression:  "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Yet how many of us practice this when it comes to health?  This expression came to me as I heard about yet another friend who will be going through the brutal process that is the treatment for cancer.  Time and time again I hear friends and family bemoaning the devastation that cancer wreaks on their loved ones.  Yet very few think about the products that we use that contain carcinogens.  I'm not blaming the victim here because we're all in this together.  But how can be be surprised by the results of using cancer-causing agents?  What don't we understand about that word?  We're quick to point out the connection when a smoker gets lung cancer, but what about the effects of carcinogenic ingredients in other products?  I'm often looked at like the crazy aunt who lives in the attic when I try to talk about the dangerous chemicals in our lives - in our personal care products, in our cleaning supplies, in our yards, and even in our food and water systems.

There is a saying attributed to Albert Einstein:  "Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  Isn't that what most of us do?  Whenever someone is struck with cancer, I hear about the treatments and the fundraisers, with everyone shaking their heads about how awful it all is.  Yet the very same people, even the victims, tend to continue life as usual.  They spray pesticides and herbicides in their yards; they purchase toxic chemicals to clean their homes; they have their homes treated with chemicals to kill pests; they fill their swimming pools with chlorine and other chemicals; they use chemical cocktails called "air fresheners" in their homes; and they bleach and dye their hair and slather their bodies with dangerous products.

Why is there no discussion of prevention?  This week I learned that a family member uses coffee "creamer."  When I began reading the ingredients, I was amazed because many of the ingredients don't appear to be actual food products and those that are have been genetically manipulated.  At the bottom of the list was the warning "contains milk," for those who are allergic or lactose intolerant.   All l could think was, if you don't have a milk sensitivity issue, why not use real milk? or cream? or half-n-half?  Looking at the prices at the grocery story, I saw that there isn't a significant price difference.  However, instead of purchasing a natural product, they're ingesting chemicals that were not meant for human or animal consumption.  And then they're surprised when our bodies break down from the unnatural treatment.

Is it just me, or is there something terribly amiss?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

I recently stumbled upon an article about toxins in costume jewelry.  According to this article, researchers tested jewelry sold to adults and children through retail outlets such as Target, Walmart, Claire's, H&M, and Hot Topic.  Turns out 59% of the jewelry tested had high levels of chemicals, such as led, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury, which are  linked to serious health problems like cancer and even birth defects.  While it is bad for adults to be exposed to these chemicals, the researchers pointed out that children tend to put things in their mouth so the danger is especially serious for them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quote for the Day

"There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society, where bigger is not necessarily better, where slower can be faster, and where less can be more." 
~Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

A few things to think about before reaching for that soda:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April Musings

blue flowers
April was the beginning of a new quarter, but I didn't make any goals as I usually do.  I've been tied up with a lot of projects and this routine of mine has fallen by the wayside.  The good news is I've had a lot of good things happen this month.  Remember the cookbook project I blogged about a while back?  We got approved for a grant to fund it!  So now the timer is ticking and I've got to pull it off within 3 months.  

In addition, our inner-city ministry, Grace and Main, put together a  party in a park in a neglected corner of the downtown/Main Street area and we had about 300 people attend.  The entire event was great, but one thing I'm especially proud of is that we made it a green event.  Although it wasn't important to the attendees or for the event itself, it was important to a number of us organizers.  So we purchased compostable forks, knives, spoons, plates, and trash bags.  And we set up separate trash receptacles for 1) compost; 2) recyclables (drink cans and bottles); and trash.  Although most people didn't notice the signs and just put their discards in the closest can, I tried to monitor everything and ended up sorting through some of the bags.  In the end, we only had three medium-sized trash bags going to landfill - and if we had been brave and obsessive, we could have sorted through that and it probably would have only been one bag.  Not bad for a party for 300!  The recyclables went to the city recycling bins and the compost our compost pile where it will have to bake for at least a year.  And then we'll have lovely new compost to add to our gardens.

I continue to focus on a more vegan lifestyle.  I've stopped buying cheese and dairy for myself and can say I don't really miss it anymore.  I do indulge when I go out to restaurants but that is fairly rare.  

My quest to eliminate plastic has hit a wall.  I cannot see how I can reduce any more.  Our trash now consists mainly of plastic bags from various food products that I purchase.  As we don't have a store with bulk bins nearby, I sometimes have to buy items in plastic.  After I finish school, I'll rethink some of the items I purchase in plastic bags and see if I can eliminate them by 1) making some of the items myself from scratch or 2) excluding those items from our diets altogether.  It's all a journey.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Religion Around the World

In follow up to my post last week, here's an infographic that includes the vast majority of religions around the world.  For a better look click on this link.  Obviously, I love infographics!  They really help put a lot of things in perspective.  Also, since I'm busy on my final project for grad school, they make great (and informative) filler when I don't have time to write much.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quote for the Day

"We won't have a society if we destroy the environment."
~Margaret Mead

Friday, April 13, 2012

Farm Friday

A view of our pond on my typical morning walk.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sustainable Living 22

I haven't done a Sustainable Living post in a while.  Not because I've stopped trying to live sustainably, but because I've been doing some experimenting and have not  yet perfected some of the things I'm trying.  

One of the latest steps I've taken towards sustainable living is to locate makeup that doesn't create plastic and is free of chemicals.  I read a post on My Plastic-free Life about t.w.i.n.k beauty, an Etsy vendor that makes an all natural cake mascara, or "lash paint," that comes in a metal tin.  It reminded me of the mascara that was used by professional makeup artists back in the day.  (My cousin had some - along with some old-fashioned pan-cake makeup.)  So I was ready to give it a try.  Right after I ordered it, I read that blogger Eco Yogini had also ordered some.  I knew I was onto something good!  

So this is what arrived at my house (along with an application brush):

I'm thrilled that I now have a plastic- and chemical-free way of darkening my lashes.  It's not as thick as some of the commercial mascaras (but that's because it's lash paint and not chemical goop) and it took a little time to get used to applying.  But I'm now sold on this alternative to mascara.  One more baby step in the adventure of sustainable living.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Teflon (scientific name:  polytetrafluoroethylene) was considered a miracle product when I was growing up.  I always thought it was a byproduct of the space program but turns out it was discovered in 1938 and was in use in industrial settings as a coating for metal bearings and gears.  In the 1960s it was approved for use on cookware.  Fast forward to 2012 and it is now found in the blood of 95% of all Americans.  Plastic in our blood; that can't be good for us.  Especially since an EPA advisory board has labeled this product as "likely carcinogenic"; and Dupont paid a settlement in a lawsuit for failure to disclose their knowledge of the "harm this chemical could cause."  Sounds like a roundabout way of saying this stuff is bad.  It does have the ability to kill birds that are in the room when Teflon pans are heated and it can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.  That doesn't sound like it's harmless.

Here's some technical information from a 1998 issue of The ASA Newsletter (Applied Science and Analysis, Inc.):

Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB, 1,1,1,3,3-penta fluoro-2-trifluoro methylpropene, CAS No. 3812-21-8) is a fluoro-olefin produced by thermal decomposition of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), e.g., Teflon [emphasis added].  Overheating of PTFE generates fumes of highly toxic PFIB and poses a serious health hazard to the human respiratory tract. PFIB is approximately ten times as toxic as phosgene [a nerve gas].  (Source)
Teflon offgasses at 446°F; a Teflon pan on an electric burner can reach over 700°F in three to five minutes.  So, it appears that a Teflon pan on a typical electric stove can offgass highly toxic PFIB, which is about 10 times more toxic than a nerve gas.  Here's an infographic on cooking temperatures and effects from the Environmental Working Group:
Once again, I expose my ignorance by sharing the fact that I thought this chemical had been banned.  Not true.  The EPA has asked Dupont to "phase out" Teflon; Dupont has said they'll reduce the amount produced by the year 2015.  So, it's not banned - and the EPA asking nicely to phase it out probably won't make a difference.  Besides, with 95% of us having it in our bodies already, it might be too little too late.

My recommendation:  avoid all use of pans with Teflon-like coatings.  Accept the fact that food can and will stick to pans but use natural oils and butters to help prevent this problem.  Much better than inhaling Teflon fumes or having it in your blood.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why the Idea of Church Doctrine/Theology Bothers Me

Glendalough  - Celtic cross

As my readers know, I'm a Christian and my views on Christianity are greatly influenced by my Quaker beliefs.  Living in what I consider the buckle of the Bible belt (we produced both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson), I'm often looked at as a "heretic" because my views don't line up with those taught in the numerous conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical churches in this part of the world.

I'm not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination but I have a hard time with accepting "church" teachings by professional theologians.  Why?  Because it's almost like rooting for your "team" rather than seeking truth.  And because those who consider my views heretical, don't see their team as being a small drop in the bucket compared with Christendom; that is, the entire body of Christ worldwide.  There are almost too many Christian denominations to count, and most (but not all) recognize a "head" or expert theologian(s) that they are to follow.  Here's an example by denomination and the numbers of adherents (data from Wikipedia):

  • Catholic Church (includes more than just the Roman Catholic Church) - 1,666 million
  • Breakaway Catholic churches - 25 million
  • Baptist churches (includes at least 40 types) - 100 million
  • Lutheranism - 75 million
  • Methodism - 75 million
  • Reformed churches (includes Presbyterianism) - 75 million
  • Anabaptism and free churches (includes Amish and Minnonite churches) - 5 million
  • Quakers - .4 million [we're a very small group]
  • Waldensians - .05 million
  • Modern Protestantism -includes Pentecostalism and non-denominational evangelicalism) - 274 million
  • Eastern Orthodox churches - 230 million 
  • Anglican churches (includes Episcopal churches) - 85 million
  • Oriental Orthodox churches - 82 million
As you can see from the Wikipedia listing, many of these groups are further broken down into subgroups, other denominations that have their own leaders and teachings.  In addition, I would venture to guess that most American Christians have never heard of the vast majority of these denominations, especially those in other parts of the world.  The teachings of these churches/Christian leaders are often diametrically opposed.  (Just look at the different opinions about correct baptism between the Southern Baptists and the Episcopalians.)  Sometimes pastors/priests even choose to disregard the teachings and doctrine of their own leaders/denomination.  Additionally, usually (but not always) the person who is considered the head of the denomination is well educated.  Now you see why I have a hard time understanding theology.  After all, I assume all of the leaders are sincere individuals, spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, studying Greek and Hebrew, and reading commentaries by scholars.  Yet all of the experts have vastly different answers.

I recently had someone mention the concept of interpreting scripture "incorrectly."  When you consider all the independent bodies of Christendom, I note that it is often the case that one small group believes all the others are wrong in scriptural interpretation.  So the question is, how does one determine who is right?  For most people, it is the group that you were raised that has all the right answers.  And all the others are wrong.  "Team" mentality.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Farm Monday

Our friend Jen learning to drive the tractor
My new plan to do Farm Friday already got derailed - but for a very good reason.  We learned that Jen, a missionary friend of ours [you can visit her website and blog], was visiting someone within striking distance of our home so we couldn't resist inviting her to come see us, as well.  Fortunately, she was able to come visit us the very next day; unfortunately, the visit was only a little longer than 24 hours.  But we took what we could get.  Jen's minisitry involves teaching people to grow and prepare good, healthy food so we knew she'd love our farm.  She's also an amazing photographer so I'm borrowing some of the photos she took while on our farm to introduce some of the animals on our farm:

Dee Dee

Nellie, our alpha goat

Spot, our friendliest male kid

Jen will be returning to Haiti later this month with plans to begin developing her new agricultural program to teach the people of Ouanminthe how to make their own gardens to help feed their families.  It will be exciting to watch her grow this much-needed project.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Wishing my readers a happy and blessed Easter.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Candy Infographic

My thoughts as I read this infographic:  Christians celebrate Easter by purchasing chocolate harvested by child slaves.  And I worry about the approximately one-third of American children who are classified as obese.  With such serious problems, should I be criticized for spoiling everyone's "fun"?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Laboratory glassware
The day has gotten away from me and I'm late getting up a Wellness Wednesday post.  I was out of town, shopping at our closest natural food grocery store - and then I got the fantastic news that a grant proposal that I submitted was approved!  So I'm sharing a story a friend linked on facebook about the dangers of the toxin bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, which is found in food packaging.  BPA is a know endocrine disruptor which can mimic natural hormones and cause health problems.  Read the article here.  According to Wikipedia, BPA has been in use  since the 1940s and is used to line food and beverage containers.  Approximately 8 billion pounds of it is produced annually.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


"My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power
reconstitute the world."

Adrienne Rich (American Poet; 1929-2012)

Monday, April 2, 2012


For a long time now, I've been aware of the dangers of chemicals in our environment and the links to cancer and other serious diseases.  When I try to spread the message, I'm usually met with indifference - or I realize that I'm viewed as an extremist.  

So many women I know have either been a victim of cancer (and other diseases) or have loved ones who have suffered and often died from these environmentally-linked diseases.  And they work hard to raise "awareness" and find a "cure."  They enter races, wear ribbons, and purchase products that sport the same ribbons, all in the hope that someday we will find relief from these horrible diseases.  However, people seldom stop to think about what all this really means.  What good is "awareness"?  Is it really a "cure" the pharmaceutical companies are searching for, or is it new treatments?  (Not the same thing.)  How do ribbons help?  And in purchasing products with the ribbons on them, do they realize there is a cap on the donations and that the monies above the cap are pure profit for the company?  Do they realize that many of these products either contain (or create in their manufacture) chemicals that are carcinogenic?

This morning I read a blog that really conveys the message that I try to spread:  that the very products that we use in our daily lives are the ones that are creating the cancers and other diseases that we're fighting.  Go to The Quiet Home to read the post about one woman's ordinary day.

Of course, my avoiding personal care and cleaning products that have nasty chemicals is no guarantee that I and my family will escape from one of those deadly diseases.  For decades, I've been exposed to known (and unknown) carcinogens.  They may have already started cell mutation that we won't be aware of for some time.  The April/May 2012 issue of Mother Earth News has an article about atrazine, the world's second most widely used pesticide.  The article says there is "suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential" for this chemical.  And it points out this chemical is in our water supply.  In the December 2011/January 2012 issue of the same magazine, an article points out that the chemical tricosan, which is an antibacterial chemical found mainly in hand soap (but in other personal care products, as well), is in the urine of 75 percent of Americans ages 6 and up.  The FDA is now reviewing this chemical's safety.  This is one of those things that should make you go "hmmmm...."

Somehow I think that having chemicals in your body and in your drinking water is much more extreme than making your own deodorant and window cleaner.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quote for the Day

tulips 1
“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”
-  W. Clement Stone