Sunday, October 25, 2009

From EWG

Something is amiss with our children

By Lisa Frack

OCTOBER 22, 2009

Written by Alice Shabecoff, co-author with her husband Philip of Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on our Children

As we watched each of our five grandchildren and their friends enter this world and begin their life's journey, it became more and more clear that something is amiss with this generation. How are your children and your friends' children doing?

Most likely, one in three of the children you know in this generation suffers from a chronic illness. Perhaps it's cancer, or birth defects, perhaps asthma, or a problem that affects the child's mind and behavior, such as Downs Syndrome, learning disorders, ADHD or autism. Though one in three may sound exaggerated, unbelievable, the figures are there amidst various government files.

This generation is different.
Childhood cancer, once a medical rarity, has grown 67 percent since 1950. Asthma has increased 140 percent in the last twenty years and autism rates without a doubt have increased at least 200 percent. Miscarriages and premature births are also on the rise, while the ratio of male babies dwindles and teenage girls face endometriosis.

The generations born from 1970 on are the first to be raised in a truly toxified world. Even before conception and on into adulthood, the assault is everywhere: heavy metals and carcinogenic particles in air pollution; industrial solvents, household detergents, prozac and radioactive wastes in drinking water; pesticides in flea collars; artificial growth hormones in beef, arsenic in chicken; synthetic hormones in bottles, teething rings and medical devices; formaldehyde in cribs and nail polish, and even rocket fuel in lettuce. Pacifiers are now manufactured with nanoparticles from silver, to be sold as 'antibacterial.'

What's wrong with rinsing a pacifier in soapy water?

Despite naysayers (who pays them to say nay?--that's a whole story in itself), it's clear there is both an association and a causative connection between the vast explosion of poisons in our everyday lives and our childrens' "issues."

Over 80,000 industrial chemicals (tested only by the manufacturer) are in commerce in this country, produced or imported at 15 trillion pounds a year. Pesticide use has leaped from the troubling 400 million pounds Rachel Carson wrote about in the 1960s to the mind-boggling 4.4 billion pounds in use today. Nuclear power plants, aging and under-maintained, increasingly leak wastes, often without notifying their community.

What could be more elemental than our desire to protect our children? Children and fetuses, because of their undeveloped defense systems, are ten to sixty-five times more susceptible to specific toxics than adults. These toxics diminish the capacities of our children...the future of our families, our communities, our nation.

Illness does not necessarily show up in childhood. Environmental exposures, from conception to early life, can set a person´s cellular code for life and can cause disease at any time, through old age. This accounts for the rise in Parkinson´s and Alzheimer´s diseases, prostate and breast cancer.

A message of hope and optimism
Yet this is not the dispiriting 'Bad News' it might seem. It is, actually, a message of hope and optimism. We are fearful only when we are ignorant and powerless. Now that we know what is happening, we can determine not to let it happen further.

These poisons are manmade; manufacturers can take them out of our children´s lives and make profits from safe products. 'Green chemistry' can replace toxic molecules with harmless ones. We can connect global climate change actions to environmental health strategies. If we replace coal-fired power, in the process we reduce not only carbon but also emissions of the tons of lead, mercury, hydrochloric acid, chromium, arsenic, sulfur and nitrogen oxides that cause autism, Alzheimer's and other public health menaces.

In a riff on Pogo, let's say, "We have met the heroes and it is us." We cannot bury our heads and hope it will all go away. We cannot leave the job to someone else. Some may feel the problem is so massive, it's best to pretend it doesn't exist. But it isn't more massive than we allow it to be. It's totally within our reach.

We can make each other smarter and stronger. It is in our power to learn about what harms our children and to share our knowledge. It is in our power as a community of citizens and parents to demand action against the current harmful policies and practices and against the indiscriminate use of processes and practices that destroy and degrade all life on our planet.

Read EWG's review of the book and learn more about the Shabecoffs and Poisoned Profits here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Still sick

The occ health doctor listened to my lungs and refused to let me go back to work.  He was actually very rude about it; said my lungs were full of junk and to go see my doctor.  Since it was nearly 5 PM on a Friday, I asked if he could write me a prescription himself, but he said no, to go to Urgent Care if I couldn't go to my own doctor.  One of those people who has never heard of anyone NOT having health insurance to pay the bills with, I guess.
In retrospective, I realize that he was just tired, overworked, and afraid of catching something from me, probably, but he is the first person I have encountered working for my new employer that has been anything but nice.
I was lucky.  I did drive straight to my doctor's office and he agreed to see me right then.  I was the very last person in the door.  My own doctor also said my lungs are terrible, but he gave me a week's supply of a very pricey antibiotic and a script for a cheap steroid to get me started healing.  So at least I didn't have to go another 2 or 3 days before getting on the road to health again.
My boss did say on the phone that another one of us has been out for 3 weeks already.  I hope to be back at work by the middle of next week.

read this

Blog for Rural America

Spaghetti Feeds Emphasize Broken System


When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at the Community Food Security Coalition conference in Des Moines on Tuesday, one of the things he spoke about was the sense of community one gets from living in a small town. An example he used was the phenomenon of holding a fundraiser such as a spaghetti feed for someone who gets sick and has high medical bills to pay.

It's true, in some communities this is a regular occurrrence. In the year I've lived in Lyons, I can think of several such events both here and in neighboring communities. One was for a newborn with a large numberof birth defects, another was for a man with cancer. 

While it is a good example of how people come together in a crisis, it is the blaring evidence of how broken our rural health care system is. If we had affordable, accessible, and equitable health care in rural areas, no one would have to ask their community to hold a fundraiser so they could pay for medical treatments. 

Unfortunately, this might become an even more common occurrence - there is evidence to suggest thatmortality is more common rural America compared to urban areas. According to the Economic Research Service, the rate of death has been decreasing for both urban and rural residents, but around 1989 the rate for rural areas decreased less than urban areas, and the trend has continued since then. 

The most startling thing is that no one can put a finger on exactly why:

Nobody has determined why the difference in mortality rates is widening. "A possible explanation for the emergence of the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty is based on the observation that access to health care is the most pervasive health disparity in the nonmetropolitan United States," Cosby wrote in 2008. "If healthcare is becoming significantly more effective in prolonging life, then limited access to healthcare is becoming profoundly harmful to the nonmetropolitan US population, hence, the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty."

 What is the health care access like in your community? If something minor were to happen to you or your family, how far would you have to travel? What about something major?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

6 Disgusting Facts About Hamburgers (and 10 Other Frequently Contaminated Foods)

6 Disgusting Facts About Hamburgers (and 10 Other Frequently Contaminated Foods)

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Bloglines - Hey! MSN Money Picked Up My Article!

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

Dub, think of the concept. Only have what you can keep in the house you already have.

Miss Moneybags
Facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, one woman decides her bank account needs a bailout. The Solution: Save $100,000 by the end of the year.
The Problem: That's more than her yearly salary.

Hey! MSN Money Picked Up My Article!

By Miss Moneybags

Self-storage is not a savvy solution

After $48,000 in rent, she's finally selling her stuff.

Posted by Karen Datko on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:32 AM

This post comes from Max Wong at partner blog Wise Bread.

Recently I did an intervention on Sarah, one of my dearest friends. It wasn't the first time. Over the last few years I have unsuccessfully attempted to get her to seek help for a problem that has cost her conservatively $48,000 and put financial and emotional stress on her family.

Recently, after more than five years of trying to manage her problem, she finally hit rock bottom. She once again had to borrow money from her family -- this time to pay for her daughter's health care. Sarah had $800 of the $900 doctor bill in the bank, but she'd already earmarked that money for the horrible monkey on her back. Sarah has a substance abuse problem -- but not with drugs. Sarah has a problem with self-storage.

Sarah used to have financial stability. But five years ago she made a major life change when she decided, at age 40, to adopt a child and become a single parent. Sarah sold her beautiful 3,000-square-foot home so she could afford to quit her high-powered job and be a stay-at-home mom until her daughter could start preschool. She moved into a 1,200-square-foot apartment in a good school district.

This was all part of a good, long-term plan.

Unfortunately, she then made what became possibly the worst financial

of her entire life: She put the 1,800 square feet worth of possessions that didn't fit into the apartment into self-storage.

Similar to a technique drug dealers use to reel in future customers, the storage company offered Sarah, a first-time user, free product to ensure her loyalty. Convinced that she would be able to sell, donate or otherwise dispose of her extra stuff during the "first 30 days free rent" period that her storage company offers to all new customers, Sarah moved her designer guest-room furniture, her Christmas decorations, her art collection, etc., into four of the cheapest storage units available.

"I'm just going to use this as a staging area to get organized," she told me at that point in time. "That way, I'll have four weeks to figure stuff out and won't have to make any financial decisions about what to get rid of under duress."

She never moved out.

Although she has plenty of very valuable things in storage, as we surveyed the contents of one of Sarah's units earlier this week she finally did the math. Even if she pulled everything out of the unit and set it on fire in the parking lot, it would still be a better financial decision than keeping it in storage for another month. Five years x $200 a month per unit x four units = $48,000.

And that total doesn't even account for the money spent on gasoline to get her to and from her storage or all the late fees she's paid on other bills because she chose to pay her storage bill on time so her stuff wouldn't be seized for nonpayment. The phone company can turn off your service, but the storage company can auction off your dream diary, fake IDs, and herpes medication to the highest bidder.

Although Sarah's situation may be the worst that I know of personally, she's hardly alone. According to the Self Storage Association, 50% of storage unit renters are storing what won't fit into their homes. One out of every 11 Americans rents storage.

Watching Sarah's horrible journey has made me realize that although self-storage (like easy credit) can be beneficial to a percentage of the population, it's a pact with Satan for many folks who don't have an iron fist over their finances or excellent time-management skills. Quite simply, it's bad on several fronts.

Self-storage is a bad investment. I called four different storage companies with units in my area of Los Angeles. The cheapest price for the smallest storage space, a 5-by-5-foot unit, in my neighborhood is $67 per month. The first month costs just a mere $1, but that's not counting the one-time-only $22 "administration fee" that they'll also tack on to the first 30 days.

Although all those numbers sound doable financially, if I rented this space, I'd be out a whopping $760 in the first 12 months, all to rent a space that's the size of my laundry room. In other words, stuff that isn't functional enough to put in my house and use every day would become more and more expensive with each passing year.

(On a side note, I had to hang up on three out of the four storage sales reps because I was getting such a hard sell. They continued to demand my personal information even after I'd told them that their rental prices were beyond my budget.)

Self-storage can lead to overconsumption. Self-storage is like diet food. It fools the mind by fooling the eye. If your clutter isn't visible in your house, do you really have a spending problem?

The first self-storage facilities were built in Texas in the late 1960s. It took 25 years to build the first 1 billion square feet of storage. But it took just eight years (1998-2005) to add the second billion. According to theNational Association of Home

, the average 1960s home was 1,200 square feet. In 2004 the average home had ballooned to almost twice that size to 2,330 square feet.

Bigger houses are harder to fill up, which may explain why Americans buy twice the number of consumer goods than the citizens of any other First World nation. (OK, so we're a geographically huge country, but if we've got such big homes, why do we need an additional billion square feet of storage space?) The environmental cost of creating, transporting and finally housing 2 billion square feet of unused possessions is mindboggling.

Self-storage can waste time as well as money. Self-storage companies count on the basic physics of human laziness, that is: Objects at rest remain at rest ... in storage. After all, who wants to spend their precious free time digging through boxes looking for stuff? Sarah, in her efforts to deal with her storage problems, has spent hundreds of hours "organizing" her stuff in storage, attempting to repack it more efficiently so she can scale down to smaller, cheaper units.

Self-storage is urban blight. In all fairness, one of the storage companies in my area is housed in the hollowed-out facade of an Art Deco office building, so that's quite pretty. But for the most part, self-storage facilities are architectural monsters. In addition to being ugly as sin, they bring in few jobs or sales tax benefits to the community, compared with other structures of similarly huge proportions.

Self-storage can keep you from living in the moment. There are certain groups of people -- like those who live on sail boats or the newly moved -- who can follow their dreams because they can temporarily stash their possessions in storage. Storage gives them the wiggle room to experience life without being connected to personal belongings. For more than half the storage renters, however, this is simply not the case.

Once a month, one of the storage companies in my neighborhood holds an "estate sale" where the owner of the company sells off the contents of units that were seized for nonpayment of rent. What odd, desperate or lazy story is behind this lapse of judgment? Why the renters failed to move their possessions out of storage before the rent was due is always a mystery. What tales of woe are behind the abandoned photograph albums, bronzed baby shoe ashtrays or the hand-embroidered vintage napkins? Why weren't these items, so obviously full of sentimental value, kept in the home where they could be used and admired?

A clearer narrative about why items were acquired is visible from a lot of the sale merchandise, however. You can almost hear the nagging spouses behind the half dozen exercise bikes and ThighMasters for sale each month or the siren call of Martha Stewart behind the hundreds of half-finished craft items.

Whether they are nostalgic artifacts from the past or wishful self-help tools for the future, none of these objects relate to the present-day lives of their former owners, which is probably why they were put in storage to begin with. These monthly sales are sad museums, a collection of failed ventures and unfulfilled dreams of what could be.

As with every successful product, self-storage provides a powerful storyline for the consumer to buy into: that preserving memories of the past or the potential of the future through material goods is valuable. For the past five years, Sarah has denied the chaos that keeping so much stuff in storage brings to her daily life. Her dream of returning to her former standard of

in the future has cost her the very security she wants for her daughter and their quality of life today. That $48,000 could have gone toward her daughter's college fund. It could have paid for a lifetime of vacations. It could have been a down payment on a house.

Up until she hit rock bottom, I think Sarah actually believed that she would one day find her way back into a big house in the hills, even though she's a self-employed single parent facing a global financial downturn. As I photographed her possessions to list on Craigslist, she fretted about selling her formal dining room set, because she wanted to pass it on to her daughter as a family heirloom. That her daughter, who is in kindergarten, might not like the style of the set as an adult and would have no emotional connection to an object that she'd only ever seen in storage, never crossed her mind.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New job, out sick

I started my new job in the ER on the 28th, and it was like coming home. It took me a while to gain some proficiency on the computer software, but the patient interviewing skills were still there, and the whole ER atmosphere is the same. I always loved it and I love it still. The job is much more varied in some ways than it was in the old West Valley ER, and less so in other ways. After all there, are 7 different zones in this ER, each mostly with its own registrar at any particular time, and you mostly just do what is wanted in that zone. In some you only do bedside registration, in a couple the nurses bring the patient to you to register before they are discharged. There is even one zone called Quick Reg that I haven't worked yet where you only put in demographics and what the reason is for coming to the ER, and not allowed to ask anything else. Other zones then follow up on the info you got AFTER the patient is seen by a doctor.
After 2 full weeks, I was finally beginning to feel like I was actually contributing instead of just lowering other peoples' productivity, and then boom, Sunday morning I woke up so sick I could barely raise my head. Cough, fever, congested lungs, etc. I had worked a 12 hours shift on Saturday with what I thought was a steadily worsening cold, but this is much worse than a cold. Chances are pretty good that I am now recovering from the swine flu, since I got a seasonal flu shot the second day after I started. I wasn't scheduled to work Sunday, but I WAS supposed to work Mon, Tues, and today, and I have had to call in sick every day. You can't go back until your temp has been normal for 24 hours or 7 days have passed since your first symptoms, whichever comes later. I am not scheduled to work tomorrow either, but will have to go to Occ Health at work before I can go back to the ER on Friday at 4 PM.
It has been a truly miserable 4 days so far, but I really am on the mend. I even climbed the hill and watched DH feed the chickens tonight, after not leaving the house since Saturday. I bet I have slept 3/4 of the entire hours since I first got sick.
DH is becoming a little sick, but his immune system is much better than mine, and he should be fine. I expected to get sick about 2 weeks into the ER; everybody does, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. Oh well, I'm alive.
Look at the good side; now I don't have to worry about lining up to get one of the precious vaccinations when they finally become available.