Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Find the Icerbergs Here

These images are from Iceberg Finder. It lists satellite detected bergs and sightings in the last nine days.

If you live on, or are visiting the coast of Labrador, the Northern Peninsula, on the tip or eastern side, then it looks like you're in for a treat. As well, down along the northern coast, iceberg alley continues. Locally in the St. John's area, we get some leftover bergs from time to time. There was a small one just outside the Quidi Vidi recently.

To find out more about where icebergs are the number given on the Finder site is 1-800-563-6353. To view pictures of various shape bergs click here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Overview of Pesticide Use

(a shorter version of this post was published earlier this year in the local health magazine, The Wellness Guide)

Ridding society and the environment of harmful chemicals and toxins is going to be a generations-long process. At least there are signs of progress - banning BPA in baby bottles, Ontario banning pesticide use. Summer is coming, I think, and there is sure to be pesticide use. Below are some facts and tips on pesticide use.

Pesticides used in foods and lawn care can make you very sick. It may be through direct contact with them in the garden, or in the kitchen. The more you avoid them the more you lower the risk of developing an illness caused by them.

What is a pesticide? (source: EPA)
A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended prevent, destroy, repel, or reduce pests like bugs, bacteria or rodents.

The term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other sustances used to control pests. (source)

Many household products contain pesticides. For instance, Insect repellents for personal use, Rodent poisons, kitchen, laundry, bath disinfectants and sanitizers, and lawn and garden products like week killers.

In order to affect a pest, a pesticide must act upon some vital system or chemical process within that organism.

How Can Pesticides Harm You?

The harmful effects of a pesticide can be either acute - an immediate response to short term exposure to a high dosage - or chronic - a response to long term exposure to a low dosage. They pose the greatest risk to the people who handle them. Insecticides are particularly dangerous, especially when a person directly handles it.

Many insecticides attack the nervous system of the target insects and therefore are toxic, to some degree, to other species with a nervous system (i.e., humans and many other members of the animal kingdom).">Chronic Health Effects
It is no easy task to associate a particular health problem with a specific chemical, but there is plenty of research that points out the long-term effects or potential effects of exposure to pesticides. Here are some:
Chronic health effects typically include cancer, interference with the development of the fetus and child, and disruption of the reproductive, endocrine, immune and/or central nervous systems (neurotoxic effects).

A particularly big problem is the effect pesticides have as Endocrine Disruptors. The endocrine system is made up of glands, which secrete hormones.

Research on pesticides suspected of acting as endocrine disruptors appear to be linked to the development of breast, prostate and testicular cancers, endometriosis, abnormal sexual development, lowered male fertility, damage to the thyroid and pituitary glands, lowered immunity, and behavioural problems

What Happens to a Pesticide After Application?

Some pesticides are strongly attracted to soil particles and are held tightly by them. They endanger the environment either by affecting non target species or by contaminating water.

After pesticides are applied there are other dangers
• they can convert from a solid or liquid into a gas and move into the atmosphere.
• they can move from a field or lawn in runoff water
• they can leach materials down through the soil with water
• they can cause plant uptake - movement into plants through either the leaves or roots

Infants and children may be more vulnerable to pesticide exposure (source: Consumer Information Center)

Since their internal organs are still developing and maturing, infants and children may be more vulnerable to health risks posed by pesticides.
  • In relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, which may increase their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
  • Certain behaviors - such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths - increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in the homes and yards.

    Sensible Food Practices

    Organic foods have the lowest risk of containing pesticides. However, if you are buying regular fruits and vegetables, then you will want to follow these helpful tips:


    Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under runny water. Running water has an abrasive effect that soaking that not have. This will help remove bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits, vegetables and dirt from crevices. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing.

    Peeling and Trimming:

    Peel fruits and vegetables when possible to reduce dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry and fish because some pesticides residues collect in fat.

    Selecting a Variety of Foods:

    Eat a variety of foods, from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your liklihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

    Although Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency evaluates, and monitors domestic and foreign products and foods, the fact remains that food we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals. With 85,000 chemicals used in growing food, consumers are wise to take every precaution to reduce the risk of consuming these chemical residues.

    Reading the pesticide label is the quickest way to obtain information regarding the relative risk posed by a pesticide.

    Buying or growing organic food is your best option to reduce your intake of pesticides. For lawn care look for more natural ways to maintain it. This will allow the kids to play on the grass without being exposed to harmful pesticides.

    Here are a couple of links with alternatives to chemical pesticides:
  • Friday, April 25, 2008

    Just Walk On By

    As I walked past a couple of gas stations yesterday, a song title came to mind, a title which could represent a modern day attitude for combating high fuel prices. It was sung by Leroy Van Dyke in 1961, and was named the biggest country single of all time by Billboard Magazine in 1994. Just Walk On By has a catchy melody, a memorable guitar lick, a clear strong voice, and is about a man, a woman and their secret affair.

    While our high octane love affair with this old flame is by necessity, it is fueling anger in many people. Money is getting in the way of this relationship. We can cool the unhealthy connection by walking to the corner store, the pharmacies, the gym, the park, to visit friends, and so on. Sure, we're no strangers to gas pumps, but the relationship can be slowed down to put everything into perspective. The song suggests to act as if you don't know the "other woman".

    Just walk on by,
    wait on the corner
    I love you but we're strangers when we meet

    Love affairs can be hard to break, but sometimes in relationships, the financial issue becomes a source of trouble, an incompatibility issue. Sometimes one party changes, and the other has to adjust. Until some other attractive, more compatible alternative comes along, we'll probably always have an ongoing association with petrol, however, estranged we become with it. As a matter of fact, the last part of the song expresses a similar point of view.

    In a dimly lit corner in a place outside of town
    Tonight we'll try to say goodbye again (goodbye)
    But I know it's not over, I'll call tomorrow night
    I can't let you go, so why pretend.

    With warmer weather coming it's a good time to be petrolling alternate modes of mobility. It might not be a total good-bye from our fuelish love affair, but merely allowing ourselves more personal freedom to pursue other interests.
    Here are some gas saving tips.

    The tips were put together exactly two years ago, and $74 a barrel of oil was considered very high - now's it's over $120. Fuel inflation will keep inflating if demand remains high.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Walking to Better Health and Greater Wealth

    Walking, the leisurely all-in-one problem solving activity. All you need is yourself - well, with some footwear and enough clothes to not get arrested, or catch pneumonia, or cause accidents.

    There are so many positives about walking. You build endurance, a stronger heart, help lower any high cholesterol or triglycerides levels, save money on gas, and wear and tear on the vehicle, and avoid the risk of some Indy 500 driver causing an accident. One more, you get to walk past gas stations that would be emptying your pockets. As a matter of fact, as time passes you save more all the time. In the overall scheme of things, you are lowering the demand for fuel. Each individual has that power. Finally, healthier individuals mean less stress on the health care system. If you disagree, here's some advice: relax, take it easy, relieve stress, take a walk.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Canada has Weapons of Mass Destruction - Montreal Hockey Fans

    Note to self: Do not visit Montreal during hockey playoff season.

    Rioters burned 16 police cars, vandalized 10 businesses, threw rocks and bottles, and were violent. Certain terrorist groups would love to hire you. What a way to celebrate a series win over the Boston Bruins. Perhaps the hockey "fans" are trying to raise the bar for soccer hoodlums in Europe.

    It's not like Montreal has never won a Cup, they are the most winningest team to do so. They won in the last decade, '93. As well, they are not Toronto's hockey team, the make believes, that, you could almost understand happening after a playoff win for that city. The last time they won the Stanley Cup was around the time the Titanic sunk, or motion pictures were invented, something like that. But Montreal, pourquoi? The city better get the fire trucks and riot squads ready if they win the Cup.

    Water Cooler Topic: Water Cooler Bottles with Bisphenol A

    They have been around for decades - with very clean looking, and vital fresh water. Not all of these containers have the # 7 recycling symbol - but unfortunately many do. Check to see what number is on the bottom of your office water cooler.

    Bisphenol A leaches from plastics into fluid and food. It has been linked to prostate cancer and breast cancer. More here.

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    Bisphenol A Named Dangerous Substance today

    Health Canada and Environment Canada have scheduled a news conference for 12:30 p.m. Friday to make an "important announcement." (source)

    There has been a notable increase in web searches for information on BPA this week. For anyone who is just learning about the chemical, here are reasons why it is very dangerous:

    Studies in peer-reviewed journals have indicated that even at low doses, the chemical can increase breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals.

    It is going to have a huge impact on how container manufacturers make bottles and cans. Keep in mind, not all types of bottles, plastic containers or cans have Bisphenol A in them. It is often indicated by a # 7 in the recycling symbol at the bottom of bottles. It is used in plastic linings of cans like the one above.

    It is funny to hear the industry defence of products with BPA in them.
    But the plastics industry has vigorously defended the chemical, noting that it's been widely used for 50 years.

    Right, so that makes it safe! Whew, what a relief!

    Sorry, bottling and can industry, but your bottom line doesn't compare to the bottom line of people, health and life. You will have to make containers without BPA - others do.

    People are definitely more interested in this chemical, a real water cooler topic. Speaking of water coolers, have a look at the bottom of that big plastic bottle, and see if it indicates BPA in the plastic. If you're concerned, contact the company who makes them.

    Click here for more posts on Bisphenol A.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Bisphenol A Containers Will Not Necessarily be Taken Off Shelves

    Just because there is a great deal of hoopla in the news about Bisphenol A to be listed as a "dangerous" substance, does not mean you should take it for granted that from now on, plastic bottles, containers and some cans will be free of the chemical.

    This is why.

    Even if BPA is labeled "toxic", it won't force governments to ban or restrict its use in consumer products. Apparently, if it is listed as toxic it falls under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), and governments still have the option to restrict BPA's use or not.
    Even if it's listed as "toxic" under the CEPA law, bisphenol-A will could remain legal to use in baby bottles, liners of food and drink cans, and water bottles.(source: National Post)

    According to Kathleen Cooper of CEPA,
    And it's been a chronic problem. Lead has been 'CEPA-toxic' since 1988, but that hasn't stopped the flow of lead into thousands of consumer products ever since.

    So while it not illegal to put BPA products on the shelves, you'll have to keep checking for the unlucky # 7 on the bottom of bottles. Again, it's used in the plastic liner of cans, including pop cans. At this time I am not sure how it is indicated, what particular cans have BPA in them. If anyone has information on this please post a comment, or email.

    There is more information on Bisphenol A, baby bottles, and plastic containers, in previous posts on Bisphenol A.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Bisphenol A to be named a Dangerous Substance

    It's about time that Health Canada made some moves to get this chemical out of plastic containers. This source says that it could pave the way for Bisphenol A to be listed as "toxic" under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The new dangerous chemical substance ( indicated by # 7 in the recycling logo at the bottom of bottles) is in a type of plastic called polycarbonates. Many plastic containers, not just bottles, have this kind of plastic. It leeches into the fluid or food particularly once it is heated, as in microwaving, and is linked to breast cancer, to attention deficit disorder, to obesity and a whole host of developmental problems. Now what other chemicals in plastic container should we be concerned with? This blog has posted more detailed information on Bisphenol A in the past year.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Obama can be Eloquent but Phraseologically Careless

    In just 10 days from now, Pennsylvania voters will mark their "X's" or "O's" for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. In the latest polls Obama is closing the gap with Clinton in that state. She now leads with just a 6% margin. That trend is not good news for Hillary, but Obama's choice of words yesterday was.

    At a private fundraiser in San Francisco he was speaking about hard hit working class voters in Pennsylvania and said,
    It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

    Clinton, needing all the ammunition she can get, attacked like Operation Iraqi Freedom, blasting Obama with
    The people of faith I know don't 'cling to' religion because they're bitter. ... I also disagree with Sen. Obama's assertion that people in this country 'cling to guns' and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration. People of all walks of life hunt — and they enjoy doing so because it's an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.

    Clinton is hoping her words will hit a nerve with not just the Pennsylvania electorate, but also those in Indiana and North Carolina - the next two primaries.

    For his part, Obama admitted that he "didn't say it as well as I should have". He may have nore explaining to do. His words were careless, and dangerous for him, especially just before the upcoming nomination-determining primary of Pennsylvania - at least that's how important that vote is purported to be.

    The comment does cast some additional doubt over him. On the one hand, after the Rev. Wright controversy, he claimed that his church and faith were important to him, yet he uses words like "cling" in reference to religion. That word evokes a sense of desperation, and it can, and is used in a way that is dismissive of its subject.

    Today, April 13th, all the major U.S. news networks have made this story their top headline. Some question whether or not it will negate his gains in Penn. Hillary is hoping so, and will likely continue to use it often over the next 10 days till the April 22 vote.

    If Obama's comments hurts in the immediate days ahead, there are a couple of things on his side - a well worded apology or explanation of some sort, which he has attempted already, and time. In politics time may not heal all wounds but give the candidate a chance to buffer the sting with hopeful messages that will become the focus.

    In politics and in life, whether it is real or not, people do cling to hope.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Our Health, and Future Health Care

    Our health care system healthiness is to a degree approached from a number of angles - government, community groups, fundraisers, individuals, health ads, and in schools. That degree is going to have to increase if we want to sustain and improve health care in this province.

    Right now there's not nearly enough nutrition education being communicated to youth and adults. The idea that society needs the best nutrition and health information should be the foundation for people to make the best choices in food and lifestyle.

    The Cameron Inquiry into the botched hormone receptor testing is starting to highlight some of the problem areas in our health care system - investment in staff training and reliable equipment. This is everyone's concern, and as baby boomers age, there will be more challenges to an already burdened health system. Challenging yes, and it can improve. Here are some ideas to consider for improving future health care and personal health.

  • Disseminating more health information via schools, hospitals, public service announcements.
  • Enforcing policies for the food industry to make nutrition guides more readily available. Last year Marketplace covered this very topic and found that it was difficult to get nutrition information at many restaurants. People were shocked to see how high calorie and sodium levels were in many of the food items.
  • Industrial companies which have negligent safety practices should be inspected to ensure they strictly adhere to safety guidelines; to make work environments more conducive to employees to wear proper safety apparel like masks where there are toxic fumes, or materials like asbestos. There are companies here in St. John's and probably everywhere else where employee safety is secondary. When many cancers alone are caused by environmental factors, more stringent safety regulations needs enforcing.

  • Whether it's started in elementary school, or in public service announcements, there needs to be more of an emphasis on taking more personal responsibility for one's health, i.e., seeking out nutrition information, healthier habits, hence, staying away from hospitals and doctors to a greater degree, and therefore, taking some stress away from health workers. Bad habits don't easily change overnight but self-inflicted good health is a goal worthy of a reminder anytime!

  • It's often said that religion should be kept out of politics. How about keeping business out of real health discussions. Their interests are in profit not some altruistic hope for individual's well being. The closest they come to that is in advertising - their concern is how well it works to make it appear that food products are beneficial to your health.

  • Much more can be done by the food industry to help. As we have seen, the food industry is in the pocket of influential agencies like Canada's Food Guide, and programs like the Health Check Symbol. They sit on boards that define criteria for determining what is healthy. It's been said here previously that the Heart and Stroke Foundation actually promotes food products that contribute to heart attacks and strokes.

  • Ban junk food advertising to children under 13. In fact, that is currently being considered in Ontario, after a private member's bill was introduced April 8.

    With a few words you can put a positive tone on anything. It's easy, especially when you're talking about the Ooey-gooey and chewy FanTaste-ic Goodness of the Chocolate Chippers, and other "fun" foods. There are people who like to sarcastically joke about the "corporate bogeyman". Well, there are thousands of reasons to be weary of insidious advertisers.

  • Completely wipe out the use of trans fats. Again, the bottom line of industry is to make profit, which includes cutting expenses, and making a product as cheaply as possible. That's a big reason for using trans fat. It kills people, but it's a cheap way to preserve products for a longer shelf life.

    Here's a nice example. The innocence of young girls is used to sell Girl Guide cookies. Who can resist! Unfortunately, 3 of these innocent cookies are laced with 1.5 grams of trans fat. It could have been removed but isn't. And why not? Voortman's can remove all trans fat from their cookies, so ..?

  • One more suggestion: Hospitals ought to set a better example for healthy eating by not allowing cafeterias to serve stuff like poutine, or allowing junk food giants like Tim Horton's set up in cafeterias.

    Many patients are in the hospital because they have had heart attacks, strokes and other coronary problems. Often, they are advised to stay away from salt, not to mention foods high in sugar. Check out the Tim Horton's nutrition guide here. Notice that their sandwiches are very high in sodium. Three (the Turkey Bacon Club, the Deli Trio, and the beloved Ham & Swiss) have sodium levels that are above the daily recommended limit of 1500 mg per day - and that's just one food item, not including the "meal deals" which include donut and beverage.

    The St. John's Health Sciences Centre has a Tim Hortons. After hours it's the only place to eat. The irony is obvious, a hospital with a "fun food" vender, and the cycle continues.

  • A general health care Telethon. The Janeway Telethons have been very successful, and we have a brand new hospital for kids. However, one suggestion is to have a telethon this year and/or the next, for the ER, or for the elderly care, for example.

    These are one observer's assessment of current health care and where it needs to go in the future. At the very least more discussion and analysis of societal health practices is a place to begin nursing our overall health and health care system to a better level.
  • Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    New Video Backs up Clinton's Claim of Coming Under Sniper Fire

    Clinton's lead over Obama in the vital state of Pennsylvania has narrowed to just 6 points, 50-44 points in a new poll. He is slowly gaining ground on her, and her final bid to be the Democratic nominee. Time has been on his side, he survived the Rev. Wright controversy, and as one commentator described his campaign, continues to run a quiet non-dramatic race. Things are not looking very promising for Hillary Clinton, but this clip should put a smile on even her face.    Warning - a couple of graphic graphics

    Saturday, April 05, 2008

    Paul Watson: The Icy Death of Sealers is not as Tragic as an Animal's death

    Watson described sealers as "sadistic baby killers" and "vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity."

    It's just another headline grabbing opportunity for Canada's King of Hate, Paul Watson, to say that it's more tragic for seals to die than it was for these men.

    Why this person has not been convicted of hate crimes is a wonder. Since the 1970's this people-hating fundraiser has spewed the kinds of statements that have sent others to prison on charges of hate crimes. Paul is in the same class as two other well known Canadian hatemongers, Jim Keegstra and Ernst Zundel.

    In 1990, the supreme court convicted anti-Jew, and teacher, Jim Keegstra for going beyond freedom of expression and promoting hate to his students. Ernst Zundel, author of a book called The Hitler We Love and Why, denied the killing of 6 million Jews, was put in a Canadian prison, and deported. Unfortunately, the freedom of speech argument gives these hate-loving people years of publicity, though always negative, to shine a light on their distorted and malicious viewpoints. It's the same for Paul Watson. He's been spitting venom for decades at Eastern Canadians, but yet the low-life is allowed to express his hate year after year.

    Some of Watson's greatest hits of attention getting vitriol include:

    There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist as long as you win. Then you write the history. (this blog, March 2006)

    There are 30-million plus species on this planet. They’re all earthlings. They’re all equal. Some are more “equal” than others, I admit: earthworms are far more valuable than people. (source)

    In his travelling sideshow business of hate-based fundraising, his usual laser guided target this time of year is East Coast Sealers. And it's predictable, maybe just a variation of past hate ..

    I can't think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can't swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club. (source)

    Watson's level of hate for a people in at least four provinces, is ghoulish. His antics and lies have been well known for many years. What may not have been known is that Green Party leader, Elizabeth May had a close association with Watson. Now, after his comments following sealers having died, does she say she does not want to be associated with him.

    Elizabeth May told the Halifax Chronicle Herald yesterday that she will resign from the advisory board of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Well congratulations Ms May! What guts, what representation, and what a statement from you, and it only took the lives of four sealers for you to dissociate yourself from bottom feeders like Watson.

    You should have done long ago, what the fishermen in St. Pierre did, cut the ties with the extremist jerk. They deserve congratulations for not putting up with his remarks, an example for any decent person.

    This time of year is the Christmas season for animal rights fundraising. They depend on continued false images and information to harvest millions of dollars for their organizations. There are surely many rational and decent people who do care for animals, but Paul Watson is not one of of them.

    For anyone interested in an objective report on the humaneness of the seal hunt, here is a summary of the Royal Commission Report on Sealing, and this is a response to a protestor.