ALZHEIMER’S, DEMENTIA & CHEMICALS

If you have followed this blog, you know that I have serious concerns about pesticides in our food.  I am an aggressive cheerleader for organic produce.  Recently I came across a review of an article published in the journal Neurology.

The article discussed:  “A large-scale observational study that found a potential link between exposure to pesticides and cognitive decline.  Three thousand participants were followed over a ten-year period.  They found a correlation between people with high pesticide exposure, like people who work in agriculture, and an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.”  (text by Sally Wadyka)

Of course, there may be many causes for these diseases, but the consumption of pesticides on our produce over a lifetime cannot be a good thing.  It may, in fact, be a factor in many other diseases as well.  The truth is we simply don’t know, but I don’t think it is wise to ignore studies like the one noted above.  You can limit exposure to pesticides by buying organic produce.  The Environmental Working Group, a research nonprofit, lists those fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue.  Go to:  ewg.org/foodnews/summary

Just my thoughts…..   We’re Boomers, we’re getting older, and it’s time to think about potential risks.

 

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Toys – NOT MADE IN CHINA

Have you started Christmas shopping for those beautiful grandchildren?  Have you tried to purchase a toy not made in China?  Many of us have serious concerns these days about the safety of toys, and other baby/childhood products, especially those manufactured in China. We hear about recalls and potential health risks, yet the imports continue.  In 2010 Fisher-Price recalled 10 millions kids products – 10 MILLION! Mattel recalled 11 million!  I have accepted that we are on our own (must do our own research) and purchase accordingly.

This process is time-consuming, and frustrating, but I believe we have the longterm health of our grandchildren to consider. In this post I am sharing what I have discovered, in an effort to help others understand the risks of childhood products from China, and alternative resources where we can find manufacturers in the US, or other responsible countries.

Listed below are links to recent news (2010 – 2011) on toy recalls, and articles about hazardous and toxic toys:

Latest Toxic Toy Recalls, Lead and Cadmium

Toy Safety 2011  On this site you can research any toy by name or brand.

2011 Toy Recalls, Complete List

26th Annual “Trouble in Toyland” Report

The lists go on and on, and the farther you read the scarier it becomes!  You can type in keywords related to this issue and find hundreds of websites.  My personal concern is directed toward the chemical dangers.  We can obviously look at a toy and determine if it is inappropriate for age on many levels, but the chemical content is a hidden danger.  And, the damage does not even show up immediately.  Exposure to PVCs, (in plastics) lead, cadmium and other chemicals poses longterm, cumulative danger, in the form of learning and developmental disorders, cancer, and asthma, among myriad others.  Lead poisoning can affect children’s IQ levels.

Fortunately, there are alternatives, and the sources are dramatically improved from my research this time last year.  Look at these sites for safe toys:

Healthy Stuff Website

China Free Christmas  This is a great site that  lists hundreds of age appropriate toys, brands you can trust, and brands to watch carefully.

Top Ten Green Toys For Toddlers

There is no going back to the time when our parents knew that if a product was on the shelf in a retail store then it was safe.  We have to be vigilant. I will admit that I am not a purist.  In the past I have purchased toys from China, but the more research I do, the more determined I am to find safe  alternatives.  I understand the financial issue.  Toys made in China are usually much more affordable, but take a look at the volume of toys children receive at Christmas.  Perhaps it would be safer for the child, if Grandma and Grandpa purchased just one or two really healthy toys.

When you’re shopping, let the retailers in your city know your concerns.  It is working, by the way.  I’ve noticed that there are more alternative choices than ever this year.

Enjoy your holidays and happy shopping!

JOIN A CO-OP / CREATE A CO-OP

Let's Cooperate

Communities are facing economic hardship everywhere, but in the midst of these difficult times the cooperative business model is thriving.   The National Cooperative Business Association provides these statistics:  “Worldwide, roughly 750,000 cooperatives serve 730 million members.  Here in the U.S. some 72,000 co-op establishments operate, providing more than 2 million jobs and serving 120 million members, that’s 4 in 10 Americans.” The significance of supporting and using this model in our culture today cannot be overstated.  Who among us is not “fed up” with giant corporations who care only about their bottom line.  Obviously, every business needs to profit, but the co-op business model is about so much more.

Three main types of cooperatives exist: retail, marketing, and worker, but they all function primarily by the Rochdale Principles. To summarize, cooperatives are formed to meet their members’ needs, and are focused more on service than investment.  In our rapidly changing world, I believe we need to take a step back, and review some of the principles that were working for communities in the past.  I’ve stated several times on this blog, that I do not want to give up our innovations and technology; we are living in an awesome age, this 21st Century.  But, sometimes I believe we move too fast, and perhaps discard systems that are working.   The co-op model is one that we need to keep alive.

I’ve been a member of a retail food co-op for many years, but I’m becoming aware of myriad other options to be involved as a consumer.  I’ve detailed some of them below:

FIND A RETAIL FOOD CO-OP NEAR YOU:  Go to this website – Local Harvest
BABYSITTING CO-OPS:  Grandparents are babysitting ever more these days, sometimes full time.  Find a babysitting co-op near you, or learn how to set up one:  babycenter.com 
ARTIST CO-OPS:  Art Chain or The Sketchbook Project
CAMPING GEAR:   Mountain Equipment Co-op
BANKING CO-OPS:  Cobank  and National Cooperative Bank
Grameen America  You must read about the Grameen Bank.  It has made a tremendous difference in lives, internationally, and it is now in America.
COOPERATIVE HOUSING:  National Assoc. of Housing Cooperatives

The  list above is very brief, but will give you a sample of the opportunities available to get involved with co-ops.  If you are interested, the links below will provide more information about starting a co-op:

For a detailed definition of types of cooperatives download:  The Structure of Cooperatives.  Also visit the Cooperative Development Institute. (A great resource)  Or, download a Co-op Start-up kit.

We’re all feeling a little uneasy these days.  My thoughts often wonder to the future, and what it holds for our grandchildren.  A lot of things in life have gone awry since we (The Boomers) were growing up.  But, as always it’s a balance, the yin and the yang.  We still have the power to affect positive change in our remaining years, to influence the world toward better options.  I believe one of those options involves huddling closer, holding onto things like the co-op model,  and remembering the value of our local communities.  Let’s make sure these options are still viable for those who come after us.

WE ARE THE ANCESTORS

A few days ago I randomly overheard a conversation, that included this well-worn phrase, (and I paraphrase here) “If you’re not familiar with history, you’re destined to repeat it.”   Of course, I’ve heard it before, but this time it rang a different bell in my ears.  I have grandchildren now, and to their grandchildren I will be the ancestor…..the one who lived a long time ago.  This thought made me realize that I have some writing and teaching to do.  My descendants need to know who I was, what were my values, what did I embrace or disdain. This is history, our personal history.

I don’t expect, or even want, my descendants to be a carbon copy of me, but I believe we have pieces missing in our culture today.  Those pieces are the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents.  A few very lucky people have stayed tightly connected, but it’s much more difficult  today.  Throughout most of our history, and in much of the world today, elders were respected.  They provided life lessons, learned by living alongside the elders, and the youth accepted their wisdom. This was tradition.  That’s not so easy today, we live in a different world, but we need not give up.  We can still write, or call.   Oh, excuse me, I’m showing my age here……we can still “text” our grandchildren.

There are so many ways to inform them about our priorities, i.e. books that we love, movies we’ve enjoyed, video game choices (don’t get me started on that one).   Maybe in our conversations with grandchildren we are sometimes too involved only with their lives and what they are doing, which is VERY important, of course.  But let’s not leave out our lives, and our priorities.  They need to know who we are.

Time is the greatest gift.  I know it’s a cliché, but I’m coming around to believing it more and more.  I know we live in a material society, and it’s unavoidable on some levels, but when I visit a toy store, I’m overwhelmed.  Choices, choices, choices.  I had to laugh out loud when I read a description recently of our culture today, “chaotic abundance.”  That says it all.

The next time you purchase a toy, pay attention to how it’s made, recycled materials?  Does it have family significance?  Can you tell a story that goes with it?  Use this opportunity and any other that you can find to let them know what’s important to you, what your traditions are, and why it is so special that they are part of your family.

Stories were once the only way that information was passed from one generation to the next, and I believe it still holds a vital place in our culture.  In fact, I suppose this idea will make me seem very old-fashioned, but I have serious concerns about the longevity of much of what we write down these days.  I’ve often thought about the notes that I found in my grandmother’s dresser when she passed away.  They were there after many, many years, a tangible record of friends’ thoughts.  I could read them and grasp a bit of the culture of the time, a piece of history, a morsel of the past in my hand.

I don’t believe we will have a lot of that in the future, we read and delete e-mails daily, and we consume newspapers and magazines in the same way.  Stories!  We need to tell our grandchildren stories, over and over, until they are so familiar that they will pass on, to their children and grandchildren.

Be proud of your traditions, don’t let them slip into anonymity.  Let’s take back our position as elders, and close that gap, if we have one, with our grandchildren.
Let’s be sure that our great-great grandchildren will know their ancestors.

KNOW YOUR BEEF

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Ahhhh summer!  Hopefully, we are all out there gathering produce from our gardens, or farmers’ markets and eating those luscious vegetables.  However, most of us aren’t vegetarians, and I’m increasingly concerned about the handling of cattle, and the potential for related health problems in humans.

Most of us are now familiar with the term “grass-fed beef,” and I’ve been buying it for years, but I wanted to know more.  Why is it better than grain fed?  Wow, did I get an education, almost more than I wanted to know.  To begin, steers are supposed to eat grass.  Well, I knew this, but anatomically, their systems are structured to process grass, not grains.  When we were kids (Baby Boomers) all cattle were grass-fed. On this site:  What About Grass-Fed Beef?  I learned that years ago steers were 4 – 5 years old when they were slaughtered.  Today they are 14 – 16 months old, and this is not possible without enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and hormones.  Of course, the reason for this is obvious, and we all aware.  It’s about the bottom line in the industry.

During my research I read about myriad health problems for the animal, associated with this process of rearing steers, as well as many that are passed on to humans.  In summary, the animals become sick on grain.  As noted above, they are supposed to eat grass. Their problems range from bloating, to diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system. Right now I’m thinking – oh yeah, this is a steak that I want to eat?  The article referenced above notes that the animals would die “…..if it weren’t for the routine and continual feeding of antibiotics….”  There are those who believe that this process is contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Read how resistant bacteria can be transferred from animals to humans:  This article noted that “Seventy percent of all U.S antibiotics and related drugs are used non-therapeutically in animal agriculture.”  And also stated that the low-level exposure in feed over long periods of time is an ideal way to encourage bacteria to develop resistance.

Another problem associated with grain fed cattle is the E. coli issue.  Again, in this article: What About Grass-Fed Beef? the author notes that E. coli recently appeared.  “First isolated in the 1980s, this pathogen is now found in the intestines of most U.S. feedlot cattle. The practice of feeding corn and other grains to cattle has created the perfect conditions for microbes to come into being that can harm and kill us.”

A few more statistics from the article above:
*  “Grass-fed beef not only is lower in overall fat and in saturated fat, but it has the added advantage of providing more omega-3 fats.”
*  “Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil.”

There are multiple additional issues related to the world’s consumption of beef, i.e. methane gas production, “Methane is actually 24 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide……..and, the primary reason that concentrations of atmospheric methane are now triple what they were when they began rising a century ago is beef production.”  There are slaughterhouse issues (I’ve had a first-hand description), and the troubling statistics with regard to energy consumption required to raise cattle, “Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil…….. a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime.”

It’s all about education and choices.  As noted in the first paragraph, I’m not a vegetarian, but my consumption of meats in general is very low.  Today there are multiple sources for foods that contain the nutrients found in red meat.  Their names may sound strange to our American ears, i.e. Tempeh, Seitan, Tofu, etc. The following site lists alternatives to red meat, as well as chicken and fish, along with recipes:  Vegetarian Substitutes  I have the opinion that I’ll try anything once (well, almost anything – I haven’t eaten escargot)  Change is always difficult, but times are changing around us.  As I’ve written before on this blog, we can no longer assume that anything on the supermarket shelf is ok, just because it’s there.  It isn’t the 50’s – we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We have to do our own research, keep an open mind about food, and make careful choices.

Find Local Grass-Fed Beef In Your State   (Eatwild’s State-By-State directory of farms).

WHY ORGANIC?

Coming into the organic loop was a slow process for me.  A number of years ago I started reading labels on foods, and about the same time we began to hear that processed foods were probably not all that good for us.  So, I started to pay attention.  Not all at once, but gradually I stopped buying items that listed chemicals in their ingredients.  If I wasn’t sure what a word with eighteen (exaggerating) letters in it was, then I simply wouldn’t buy the product.  In today’s world, with our technology, smart phones, etc. we can simply check immediately while shopping in the store.

Putting this much effort into shopping may seem cumbersome or impractical, but let’s take a serious look at our priorities.  We’re talking about what goes into our bodies, our health!  And gone are the days, unfortunately, when we can just trust that if it’s on the shelf in the supermarket then it’s safe to buy.

Fortunately, over time and during the years when I grappled with whether to buy this product or that one, and which one had fewer chemicals, the organic revolution was coming on the scene.  And now, organic products seem to be everywhere, even in the mainstream supermarkets.  Along this path, I also discovered our local Farmers’ Markets, and my husband and I have now evolved into growing our own produce.   It may seem like a huge task, and there will be initial effort and a little expense, but once you’re set up, it’s easy, really!  Listed below are some websites that will help you get started.

GETTING STARTED – QUESTIONS TO ASK

GARDENING 101 – BASICS FOR BEGINNERS

ORGANIC GARDENING ON A BUDGET

COMPOSTING MADE EASY

I’ve chosen the sites above for their simplicity, especially for beginners. There is some work involved, but the process of growing your own food is another wonderful opportunity to get the grandchildren involved, and a great chance to see them more often.  Once the plants start to appear, they will be anxious to follow the whole process through the summer.  On the sidebar, you will see that I’ve listed several sites that relate specifically to gardening with kids.

We all know that gardening is fun and we benefit from getting our hands in the dirt and eating organic, but there is a much more serious side to “Why Organic?”
It’s the issue of pesticides.  They are still there – in our produce.  Back in the day, when I was unaware and trusting, I heard that DDT had been banned, and I some how translated that into the concept that all our produce was safe.  NOT!

On this website HELLO LIFE it is stated, “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S.”  One billion pounds! Of course it’s sticking to our produce, but where else is it going, into storm drains, water systems?  This site also states that,  “Approximately 100 percent of all fungicides, more than 50 percent of all herbicides and about 30 percent of all insecticides are known carcinogens and toxic to humans.”  I have also read from more than one source that pesticides are extremely dangerous to children.  

This is not happy news, but we can’t stick our heads in the sand.  I know that everyone of you wants to protect your family, and we can do something about this problem.  We don’t have to try and tackle the giant corporations making these chemicals, we can succeed, once again, by our behavior.  Choose to buy organic and grow your own food, and hopefully, in time the decisions we make will create change.

We’re the Boomers, we’re still here, and we still wield a lot of power by the consumer choices we make! 


YOUR BEHAVIOR CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Earth Day was, as always, a mixed bag for me.  It is a wonderful opportunity to engage more of us in recognition and active participation, but it also brings on angst for the really big issues where we seem powerless.  Our country doesn’t have an energy policy; large corporations are still polluting; is there any kind of national proposal to limit our use of oil – no.  The list is endless.

Last week I was reading yet another horrific story of an issue that seemed out of our (civilian/citizen) control, and then I thought about it for awhile.  We could have tremendous influence, and even control over many issues that face our planet, but we have not exercised our power.  We could change things dramatically by our behavior.  In the U.S. our economy thrives or dives on the ability of the average (you and me) citizen to consume products and services.  We have tremendous untapped power in this arena, that could be enabled by the choices we make.  The statement that “we’re all in this together” has become a cliche by now, but it is very true!

I believe that we can no longer afford to think that what we do individually doesn’t matter.  Everything is connected.  Native peoples around the globe have lived with this principal forever, and in recent times it has been verified by scientists.

I recently read that if a 100 watt light bulb is on for half a day, every day, for a year, it can use enough electricity to burn  400 pounds of coal.  It may seem a small thing for you, as an individual, to have only one lamp on in the evening, only in the room where you are spending your time.   But, when we look at the affect of multiple actions compounded, it becomes obvious that every individual does make a difference. And, please think about replacing all your old incandescent bulbs with the newer alternatives:

MANY OF THESE ITEMS ARE JUST BAD HABITS, BUT WE CAN CHANGE:
Use dish towels instead of paper towels.
The Paperless Kitchen

Take reusable bags to the grocery store, or for any shopping.
Waste Less Bags

Try to do most of your laundry in cold water (obviously not possible every time)
Ninety percent of the energy consumed while running a load is used to heat the water.  The average household opting for cold can eliminate as much as 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. 

 Unplug your appliances when not in use.
 Eliminate “Standby” Electricity

So many of our habits are engrained, and change requires rethinking myriad ways in which we live our lives.  Pay attention to your habits and see where you can make changes.  Involve your grandchildren in these decisions.

The larger issues of how to affect change in our society have to do with our behavior as well.  It seems almost impossible that we could wield power over large corporations simply by the choices we make, but it’s entirely possible.  We are “consumers,” and can chose who we support, and where we deny that support.  We need to stop buying just what is advertised to us, and become aware of companies operating with “green” policies.  
Green Rankings – U.S. Companies 

The above website provides a start, but these days you can go online for any company that you purchase products or services from, and see how they measure up.  Today there are more choices than ever for green alternatives, and I believe that it is our responsibility to make ourselves aware, and purchase accordingly.  

It seems that we need to rethink almost everything we do these days, and it’s no small task.  We (Baby Boomers) were raised in the “convenience” age, where everything new was accepted and hailed as a breakthrough, but now we are beginning to realize that all is not well.  Read the labels, research, investigate, and don’t settle until you know that your consumer action is a “green” one.