Archive for April 2010

Have you made any changes in recognition of Earth Day?

Earth Day happened on April 22nd, as it has since 1970. I was happy to hear from many about their regular contributions and commitments to making choices that benefit or minimize the detriment on our environment. But I was surprised about how many people forgot about Earth Day and also forgot about Earth Hour (when we were supposed to turn off all unnecessary power for just one hour on March 27th).

Of course it’s never too late and it’s really not about that one hour or that one day. It’s about making big or small changes that collectively make a difference in lessening each of our negative impacts on our one and only planet Earth.

This year I thought about what I have done so far:
– the 3 Rs: reducing, reusing, recycling
– donations to the David Suzuki Foundation and the World Wildlife Foundation
– having meat-free meal days at least a few times a week
– choosing organic foods and products as much as possible
– choosing local foods as much as possible
– turning off lights and other powered items when not in use
– carry a reusable bag with me, always
– walk to work most days
– I opted out of receiving the Yellow Pages in paper format. I never use it. You can do the same by going to: http://delivery.ypg.com/delivery/

But I have room for improvement. I compiled a list of items that I could do.
– I’m minimizing the printing that I do at the office by emailing receipts as much as possible (many patients find that easier anyway as they can keep their receipts organized more easily and find that they don’t need them all printed) and double-siding my printing. I’m also using scrap paper my husband collects from his office to print much of my stuff.
– carry a “Care bag” for my veggies and fruit when I go grocery shopping, so I don’t have to use a plastic bag for them
– ask for a mug when I get a hot drink at a cafe (they usually assume I want a paper cup, so I have to remember to tell them) or remember to bring my own
– I already use biodegradable bags to pick up after my dogs, but now I use whatever other plastic bags I get as well, e.g. from bread; might as well reuse them at least
– talked to my strata council about making some small changes to the building that can help
There’s more, but…you get the picture.

The point here is, that I’d love for you to join me in my attempt to make as big a difference as possible by working together and inspiring each other. Join the team I started to make your changes and be entered to win a prize! I’ll enter everyone who joins for one prize and a prize to the top contributor as well (I will only mail prizes within Canada though). Go to http://calculator.ecoactionteams.ca. Sign up. Click on Join a Team. Join “Active Life”.

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What are you putting on your body?

This article from the David Suzuki Foundation is a great one. We’re polluting our bodies and our environment when we use so many chemicals in our cosmetics, our lotions, our toothpastes, our sunscreens, our shaving lotions, our perfumes, etc.

What are you putting on your body?
By David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

Every day, we slather ourselves with liquids, lotions, and potions – from shampoo and soap to deodorant and makeup. After all, most of us want to look and feel clean and to smell nice. It’s not uncommon for a single person to use 10 or more personal-care products daily.

We don’t usually think of our cosmetics as a source of pollution. But U.S. researchers found that one eighth of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal-care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, plasticizers, and degreasers.

Take a look at the ingredient list on your bottle of shampoo or hand lotion. Most of us would have a hard time identifying which chemicals in the typically long list of ingredients may be harmful to human health or the environment.

Chances are your personal-care products contain “fragrance” or “parfum” – often the last item on the ingredient list. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets so manufacturers don’t have to disclose the chemicals they include. More than 3,000 chemicals are used to create “fragrances”, usually in complex mixtures. Up to 80 per cent of these have never been tested to see whether they are toxic to humans. These fragrances are not just found in perfumes and deodorants but are also in almost every type of personal-care product, as well as laundry detergents and cleaning products. Even products labelled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” can contain fragrance, usually with a masking agent to prevent the brain from perceiving odour.

The negative effects of some fragrance ingredients can be immediately apparent, especially for the growing number of people with chemical sensitivities. For example, fragrance chemicals can trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and migraines. Researchers have even found evidence suggesting that exposure to some of these chemicals can exacerbate or even contribute to the development of asthma in children.

Other chemicals may have harmful effects that don’t show up right away. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a cheap and versatile chemical widely used in cosmetic fragrances to make the scent last longer. But it is associated with a range of problems. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has listed it as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function. Phthalates have been linked to early puberty in girls, reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus (when the mother is exposed during pregnancy).

Some research has also suggested that phthalate metabolites may contribute to obesity and insulin resistance in men. Health Canada has moved to ban six phthalates in children’s toys, after evidence showed that prolonged exposure can cause liver or kidney failure, but it has no plans to regulate the chemicals in cosmetics. DEP is also listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, based on evidence that it can be toxic to wildlife and the environment.

Fragrance chemicals often harm the environment. Some compounds in synthetic “musk”, which wash off our bodies and find their way into nature, remain in the environment for a long time and can build up in the fatty tissues of aquatic animals. Researchers have found measureable levels of synthetic musks in fish in the Great Lakes (PDF), and they’ve found that levels in sediment are increasing.

In response to the sensitivity many people have to airborne chemicals, a growing number of offices and public spaces are becoming “fragrance-free”. This is a great initiative, but what are these and other harmful chemicals doing in our cosmetics in the first place?

Canada’s regulations don’t measure up to standards in other parts of the world. The European Union restricts many fragrance ingredients (PDF) and requires warning labels on products if they contain any of 26 allergens commonly used as cosmetic fragrances. Europe also prohibits or restricts the use of chemicals classified as carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins in personal-care products.

The David Suzuki Foundation and other organizations are working for safer products. We’re conducting a survey to raise awareness and to find out what’s in the products people use every day. We plan to present the results in September, along with recommendations for strengthening laws to protect Canadians and our environment from harmful chemicals in personal-care products.

You can help out by becoming more aware of what’s in the products you use and switching to products that don’t contain harmful ingredients.

Ready to make a change? Ask me for options.

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Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

Every now and then I’m asked if acupuncture works only if you believe it will work. I won’t refute that the mind is powerful and will influence the body. In fact, I hope that people will use their minds to help their healing.

But, acupuncture works even despite your beliefs. It has been shown to increase the release of endorphins (your feel good hormones), your body’s own morphine (painkillers), and a variety of other chemicals that help in symptom relief and healing.

It has also been shown to increase blood circulation.

And, even change the way that the brain signals. In fact, when the brain has been scanned using a functional MRI during acupuncture, the same point used traditionally to help the eyes lights up the part of the brain that relates to vision. When a different point is stimulated, a different part of the brain lights up.

Western Medicine has about 200 year of scientific methods of observation and testing of hypotheses to prove its effectiveness. Chinese medicine has about 5000 years.

So, to borrow an Olympic phrase, “Do you believe?”

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Cannabis linked to schizophrenia?

Basically, this article writes of a link between marijuana use and (mostly) schizophrenia. Not that pot use will cause psychosis in all users. The study suggests that if you have a tendency for psychosis, then marijuana use could potentiate the illness, e.g. cause it to start at an earlier age. For those who wonder if cannabis use might not cause psychosis, and might instead just be because those with psychoses are more likely to smoke pot to manage their illness symptoms, that may not be the case. Or, at least not the only factor. That’s because cannabis use preceded the onset of psychosis by several years. Here’s the article:

Evidence Accumulates for Links Between Marijuana and Psychosis
Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/719139

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My dog loves lettuce!

Yes, my dog eats (and loves) lettuce. She holds it between her paws and pulls it apart to chew bit by bit, just as she would a treat. Since I had never seen a dog do that before I wondered if it’s ok to give her lettuce…or cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. I never thought to feed her a whole salad, but didn’t want to be poisoning her with the bits I did give. After all, I remembered we used to feed grapes to our old dog Pebbles (the people who had her before us named her). I now know that grapes are poisonous to many dogs. Luckily Pebbles was ok and lived for nearly 16 years, but better safe than sorry!

I found this site for what not to feed your dog: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/slideshow-foods-your-dog-should-never-eat

And, if you have a cat, here’s one for your cat: http://pets.webmd.com/cats/slideshow-foods-your-cat-should-never-eat

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Oats for your immune system

Have you eaten your oats today? These grains are immune boosters, rich in B vitamins (stress reliever), E, folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and more. They contain flavonoids that help break down cholesterol and are thought to prevent cancer, particularly colon cancer. They are well-known for their high fiber content, but did you know that the silica in them is anti-inflammatory and can help soothe the digestive tract? And, as a bonus, they can help in weight loss as their energy is slowly released, keeping you full longer and staving off hunger pangs.
And, if you are suffering from the itchiness of eczema, psoriasis, Chicken Pox, bug bites, or other, you can tie a muslin bag of oats over the tap when you run a bath. Soaking in that bath will bring you relief.

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