Monday, August 31, 2009

Want Inexpensive Natural Housing Material? Try Cob!

I love things that are made from natural, organic products; and, am slowly converting my apartment into a space as natural is possible for an indoor environment. Besides using environmentally-friendly paint, I am removing my carpet and replacing it with cork tiles. I could easily move into a cob house. I would want just a tad more floor space; but, cob would work for me.

In Old English, cob was a root word that meant lump or rounded mass. Cob houses are made of clay-like lumps of soil, sand, and straw. Unlike adobe and straw bale construction, cob does not use bricks or blocks. Instead, wall surfaces can be sculpted into smooth, sinuous forms. A cob home may have sloping walls, arches and lots of wall niches.

Cob homes are one of the most durable types of earth architecture. Because the mud mixture is porous, cob can withstand long periods of rain without weakening. A plaster made of lime and sand may be used to windproof the exterior walls from wind damage.

Cob houses are also suitable for the desert or for very cold climates.

Kent at Tiny House Blog notes that "you can build your own cob house with little money, but with lots of time and enthusiasm." He shows us 24 year-old Brian's (or Ziggy's as his friends call him) cob (a mixture of straw, clay, and sand similar to adobe) with a footprint of 360 square feet built for under three thousand bucks. (Yes, that is $ 8.33 per square foot.)

Ziggy (shown above) calls it the GOBCOBATRON and built it at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri. I just love that name "Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage" - it sets my imagination on fire.

He provides a materials list:
* sand (just over 30 tons total) – $507
* gravel (about 13 tons total) – $177
* straw (16 bales) – $36 (most straw I used was free)
* black walnut scrap lumber – $100
* misc. lumber – $20
* windows – $220 (two casement, one double hung window)
* electrical – $28
* galvanized wire – $30
* nails – $100 (I couldn’t believe how expensive nails are)
* raw linseed oil (for floor) – $72
* EPDM pond liner $622
* polycarbonate for skylight $400

Of course there is a price: Time.

Ziggy notes that:
I started digging a foundation on April 19, 2008, and moved into GOBCOBATRON on July 11, 2009. I effectively worked from April to November of 2008, and then April to June of this year. In total, I estimate that I spent nine months working on my house, full time.
To build a cob house, you have to stomp cob, a lot of it.

Ziggy says: "I stomped 219 batches of cob (one batch of cob is equal to three 5 gallon buckets of sand, and 2.5 worth of clay, nearly 30 gallons of material) for the walls of my house by foot, with the help of over 75 work exchangers, visitors, and friends throughout the year."

The cob bed and bench took nearly 20 more batches of cob, almost 1/10 of the material it took to build the house itself!

Ziggy documents it all at The Year of Mud.

The following videos show more elaborate cob homes. Cob homes can be absolutely lovely.

Helping Our Winged Pollinators

I have mentioned before that I try to make my balcony an attraction for various winged pollinators. I found these additional hints for a backyard recently and thought I would share. Unfortunately, my belief is that winged pollinators will only return when enough people (just like you and I) take it upon themselves to turn whatever resources they have into havens of respite for our winged friends.

There are a number of ways in which you can make your yard more hospitable to wildlife, and many of them require very little effort or maintenance:

1. Build a brush pile. Start with some larger logs, then pile on smaller branches.

2. Make or buy a toad house. Place a chipped ceramic flower pot upside-down (with a hole large enough for a toad to enter), or prop the edge of the flowerpot up on a stone.

3. Place dog fur, cat fur, bunny fur, and even your own hair clippings outside for birds to use in their nests. You can place the hair/fur in a net bag, or lay it out on bushes.

4. Lay off the pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Look into natural and organic remedies for lawn and garden problems.

5. Install a birdbath. Change the water every two to three days in warm weather, and use a heater in cold months to keep the water from freezing. Don’t warm up the water too much, however; birds might be tempted to bathe and then end up freezing to death.

6. Put up a bat house to encourage the presence of these shy animals. Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour. Plus they’re just really cute.

7. Plant native species that produce yummy edibles for wildlife. Consult a local garden center for plants native to your area.

8. Reduce the size of your lawn. Grass lawns do very little for wildlife; try groundcovers or wildflowers instead.

9. Keep dead trees around. Resist the urge to remove them for aesthetic reasons—they make good animal habitats and bird perches!

10. Grow native flowering plants to encourage butterflies, and place flat basking stones in sunny locations for them to warm their wings on.

Some of these hints can be adapted to balconies. I grow native flowering plants in containers - it requires a tiny amount of work; but, the rewards are definitely worth it. I planted vines against a trellis on one wall. The birds love to come and perch on it (they seek shelter there when it's really hot or really stormy.) The fruits it produces are a bonus for my winged friends. If your condo committee is forward-thinking, you could add a small birdbath, a feeding station and possibly a bat or bird house. Most stratas have restrictions about feeding the birds. Most, like mine, don't allow it.

I have two pairs of birds that love my balcony. They shelter in it all the time. I wish the video was better quality; but, it shows that you can attract birds, butterflies, bees etc. by planting native species on your balcony.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

India Loses A Generation of Children to Uranium Waste

The children of some states in India are paying the price for India’s need for energy. Health care workers in the Punjabi cities of Bathinda and Faridkot knew there was a problem when they saw a sharp increase in the number of birth defects; physical and mental abnormalities; and, cancers. The suspicion was that the children were being slowly poisoned.

The problems include; but, are not limited to: heads that are either too large or too small; limbs that are either too short or too bent; some brains never grew; others can’t speak; some sit mutely staring into space locked away in their own minds; other cry out and rock backwards and forwards; and, many seem doomed to an early death. As a mother, I cannot even imagine the anguish the parents feel as they watch their children’s health deteriorate every year. Even more soul destroy would be my inability to do anything for them.

It wasn’t until a visiting scientist arranged for tests to be done at a German laboratory that the real depth of the nightmare was revealed. The test results were undeniable – the children had massive levels of uranium in the bodies. One child had more than 60 times the maximum safe level. Uranium occurs naturally worldwide; but, is normally only present in levels that pose no health risk to humans. There is no obvious source for these high levels of contamination; so, how are these children being exposed to this toxic substance?

Turns out the Indian authorities are deliberately withholding information about the cause of these health disasters. Staff at the clinics say they were visited and threatened with closure if they spoke out. The South African scientist whose curiosity exposed the scandal says she has been warned by the authorities that she may not be allowed back into the country. However, an Observer investigation has discovered evidence that suggests a link between the contamination and the region’s coal-fired power stations.

It is well known that burning coal produces fine fly ash that contains concentrated levels of uranium. Russia’s leading nuclear research institute released a new report warning of an increased radiation hazard to people living near coal-fired thermal power stations.

Test results for children born and living in areas around the Punjab state’s power station already show a high level of uranium in their cells. Now test results on the ground water shows levels of uranium up to 15 times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) maximum safe levels. The tests further show the pollution extends across large parts of the state – home to 24 million people.

Gurpreet Singh, 7, who has cerebral palsy and microcephaly, and is from Sirsar, 50km from the Punjabi town of Bathinda. He is being treated at the Baba Farid centre for Special Children in Bathinda Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain

The victims are being treated at the Baba Farid centres for special children in Bathinda – where there are two coal-fired thermal plants – and in nearby Faridkot. It was staff at those clinics who first voiced concerns about the increasing numbers of admissions involving severely handicapped children several of whom have already passed on.

Dr Pritpal Singh, who runs the Faridkot clinic, said that while the number of affected children has increased dramatically over the last 6 or 7 years, the Indian authorities are actively trying to bury the scandal.

"They can't just detoxify these kids; they have to detoxify the whole Punjab. That is the reason for their reluctance," he said. "They threatened us and said if we didn't stop commenting on what's happening, they would close our clinic. But I decided that if I kept silent it would go on for years and no one would do anything about it. If I keep silent then the next day it will be my child. The children are dying in front of me."

Dr Carin Smit, the South African clinical metal toxicologist who arranged for the tests to be carried out in Germany, said that the situation could no longer be ignored. "There is evidence of harm for these children in my care and... it is an imperative that their bodies be cleaned up and their metabolisms be supported to deal with such a devastating presence of radioactive material," she explained.

"If the contamination is as widespread as it would appear to be – as far west as Muktsar on the Pakistani border, and as far east as the foothills of Himachal Pradesh – then millions are at high risk and every new baby born to a contaminated mother is at risk."

"The government should investigate it because if our child is affected it will also affect future generations," he said. "What are they waiting for? How many children do they want to be affected? Another generation? I can leave the house for work, but my wife is always with him. Sometimes she cries and asks why God is playing with our luck. Every morning he sends a new trouble."

India's reluctance to acknowledge the problem is hardly unexpected: the country is heavily committed to an expansion of thermal plants in Punjab and other states. To no one’s amazement, scientists from the Department of Atomic Energy concluded that while the uranium concentration was “slightly high” there was “nothing to worry” about. Has anyone ever seen these people actually drink this water to prove the accuracy of their claims?

Some tests recorded level of uranium the ground water as high as 224mcg/l (micrograms per litre) – 15 times higher than the safe level set by WHO. While WHO sets the safe level at 15mcg/l; my American friends might be interested to know that the US Environmental Protection Agency sets their maximum safe level as 20mcg/l. I’d rather go with WHO personally.

Meanwhile, smoke continues to pour from the power station chimneys and lorries shuttle backwards and forwards, taking away the fly ash to be mixed into cement at the neighbouring Ambuja factory. Inside the plant last week, there was ash everywhere, forming drifts, clinging to the skin, getting into the throat.

Ravindra Singh, the plant's security officer, said that most of the ash went to the cement works, while the rest was dumped in ash ponds. Every day the plant burns 6,000 tons of coal; and, while Singh says he no idea how much ash this produces – he does admit the lorries needed it to take it to the factory is continuous.

Tests on ground water in villages in Bathinda district found the highest average concentration of uranium – 56.95mcg/l – in the town of Bucho Mandi, a short distance from the Lehra Mohabat ash pond. Exposure to this high level of uranium means that everyone in the village is at a risk 135 times greater than that of the average population.

Tests on ground water in the village of Jai Singh Wala, close to the Bathinda ash pond, showed an average level of 52.79mcg/l. People living there said they used the ash to spread on the roads and even on the floors of their homes.

Punjabi scientists knowledgeable in the effects of uranium in the state have dismissed the government denials as a whitewash. "If the government says there is a high level of uranium in an area that would create havoc – they don't want to openly say something like that," said Dr Chander Parkash, a wetland ecologist working at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Another scientist, Dr GS Dhillon, a former chief engineer with the irrigation department, accuses the authorities of failing to control the ash ponds which he believes have contaminated the ground water.

A previous report in the magazine Scientific American, citing various sources, claimed that fly ash emitted by power plants "carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy", adding: "When coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels."

India is already a beleaguered country which will probably be unable to properly care for these children and those that follow if they don’t stop using these coal-powered power stations. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with the problem, India has plans to install more coal-powered power stations.

Ireland Calls For Complete Ban on Brazilian Beef

IRELAND - The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has written to the EU Commission calling for an immediate and complete halt on Brazilian beef imports.

According to, IFA president Padriag Walshe wrote to EU Commissioner for Health & Consumer Protection, Androulla Vassiliou, asking him to take action to halt what he described as the “failed Brazilian process” of clearing farms for export to the EU.

Mr Walshe also wrote to Ireland’s 12 new recently elected MEPs requesting that the pursue the matter with the Commission so that action is taken to impose a ban on Brazilian beef into the EU.

In his letter to Commissioner Vasilliou, the IFA president said that the most recent Food and Veterinary Office report revealed a “litany of failures” made by Brazil. He said that half of the holdings inspected by the FVO failed to meet EU standards on registration, traceability and movement controls and repeated accusations that unapproved beef from Brazil has entered the EU.

Mr Walsh also raised the fact that the Brazilian beef industry has come under pressure over the alleged deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. He said if the Commission fails to act on this occasion, it will be guilty of "making a mockery" of EU standards and turning a blind eye to the huge environmental damage caused by illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Via TheCattleSite News Desk

Watermelons: An Alternate Fuel Source?

Watermelon juice can be a valuable source of biofuel. Researchers have shown that the juice of reject watermelons can be efficiently fermented into ethanol. (Credit: iStockphoto/Klaudia Steiner)

Several weeks ago, I posted a blog on the health benefits of watermelon. It seems that watermelon is not only good for our bodies; but, could be good for our environment as well.

Watermelon juice can be a valuable source of biofuel. Researchers have shown that the juice of reject watermelons can be efficiently fermented into ethanol.

Wayne Fish worked with a team of researchers at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Oklahoma, US, to evaluate the biofuel potential of juice from ‘cull’ watermelons – those not sold due to cosmetic imperfections, and currently ploughed back into the field. He said, “About 20% of each annual watermelon crop is left in the field because of surface blemishes or because they are misshapen. We’ve shown that the juice of these melons is a source of readily fermentable sugars, representing a heretofore untapped feedstock for ethanol biofuel production”.

As well as using the juice for ethanol production, either directly or as a diluent for other biofuel crops, Fish suggests that it can be a source of lycopene and L-citrulline, two ‘nutraeuticals’ for which enough demand currently exists to make extraction economically worthwhile. After these compounds have been removed from the ‘cull’ juice, it can still be fermented into ethanol.

The researchers conclude, “At a production ratio of ~0.4 g ethanol/g sugar, as measured in this study, approximately 220 L/ha of ethanol would be produced from cull watermelons”.

Via ScienceDaily

Hormone-Disrupting Pesticide Found In US Drinking Water

US Drinking Water and Watersheds Widely Contaminated by Hormone Disrupting Pesticide, Atrazine
Press Release
Analysis of Water Data Reveals Broad Contamination Ignored by EPA Monitoring
Natural Resources Defense Council, Aug 24, 2009
Straight to the Source

CHICAGO - August 24 - A widely used pesticide known to impact wildlife development and, potentially, human health has contaminated watersheds and drinking water throughout much of the United States, according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Banned by the European Union, atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S. waters and is a known endocrine disruptor, which means that it affects human and animal hormones. It has been tied to poor sperm quality in humans and hermaphroditic amphibians.

"Evidence shows Atrazine contamination to be a widespread and dangerous problem that has not been communicated to the people most at risk," said Jennifer Sass, PhD, NRDC Senior Scientist and an author of the report. "U.S. EPA is ignoring some very high concentrations of this pesticide in water that people are drinking and using every day. This exposure could have a considerable impact on reproductive health. Scientific research has tied this chemical to some ghastly impacts on wildlife and raises red flags for possible human impacts."

"People living in contaminated areas need to be made aware -- and the regulators need to get this product off the market," said Sass.

The report, " Poisoning the Well: How the EPA is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in Surface and Drinking Water in the Central United States" creates a ground breaking analysis of atrazine pollution by bringing together data from watershed monitoring and drinking water compliance programs for the first time.

The report reveals that all of the watersheds monitored by EPA and 90% of the drinking water sampled tested positive for atrazine. Contamination was most severe in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Nebraska. An extensive U.S. Geological Survey study found that approximately 75 percent of stream water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas contained atrazine, and according to the New York Times, an estimated 33 million Americans have been exposed to atrazine through their drinking water systems.

"The extent of contamination we found in the data was breathtaking and alarming," said Andrew Wetzler, Director of NRDC's Wildlife Conservation Program and Deputy Director of NRDC's Midwest Program, as well as one of the report's authors. "The EPA found atrazine almost everywhere they looked. I think that the public will find this hard to swallow and I hope it will help force the EPA to address the situation more aggressively."

Click here for the full report, including detailed maps of affected areas and Google Earth applications.

The contamination data in the report was obtained as the result of a legal settlement and Freedom of Information Act requests. " Poisoning the Well" highlights watersheds and municipal water treatment systems most affected by the chemical contamination, offers policy solutions, and describes actions that people can take to protect themselves from exposure to this dangerous chemical in their water.

Atrazine is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA has determined that an annual average of no more than 3 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine may be present in drinking water. One of the chief findings of the report was that this reliance on a "running annual average" allows levels of atrazine in drinking water to peak at extremely high concentrations.

Given the pesticide's limited economic value and the fact that safer agricultural methods can be substituted to achieve similar results, NRDC recommends phasing out the use of atrazine, more effective atrazine monitoring, the adoption of farming techniques that can help minimize the use of atrazine to prevent it from running into waterways. The report also underscores the importance of using home filtration systems.

The effects associated with atrazine have been documented extensively. Reproductive effects have been seen in amphibians even at low levels of exposure. Concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb, for example, have been shown to alter the development of sex characteristics in male frogs, resulting in male frogs with female sex characteristics and the presence of eggs in male frog testes. Some scientists are concerned about exposure for children and pregnant women, as small doses could impact development of the brain and reproductive organs. Research has also raised concerns about atrazine's "synergistic" affects, showing potential for the chemical having a multiplier affect to increase toxic affects of other chemical co-contaminants in the environment.

The report includes information on actions people can take to protect themselves from Atrazine and other dangerous contaminants. NRDC recommends that consumers concerned about atrazine contamination in their water use a simple and economical household water filter, such as one that fits on the tap. Consumers should make sure that the filter they choose is certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compounds) reduction and therefore capable of significantly reducing many health-related contaminants, including atrazine and other pesticides.

Additionally, NRDC's SimpleSteps Web site includes an online form to allow people to take on a watchdog role by collecting information on how their public water systems are treating these issues. Visit for more information.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quotable Quotes...

"How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days."

-John Burroughs

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wildlife on Southern Coast of England in Danger From Algal Blooms

Seaweed is spreading at such an extraordinary rate that it is threatening to choke wildlife along the south coast of England. Photograph: Solent News & Photo Agency/Solent News & Photo Agency

The Solent is a stretch of sea separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England. It is a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels. It is also an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting the Cowes Week sailing event annually.

The area is of great ecological and landscape importance, particularly because of the coastal and estuarine habitats along the edge of the Solent. Much of its coastline is designated as a Special Area of Conservation. It is bordered by and forms a part of the character of a number of nationally important protected landscapes including the New Forest National Park, and the Isle of Wight AONB.

Blooms of seaweed choking the waterways of the Solent have been caused by large amounts of untreated sewage and farm fertilizers dumped into the sea, according to the Environment Agency.

Extra nutrients in the pollutants combined with sunny weather have enabled the seaweed to grow out of control around Worthing in West Sussex, Ventnor in the Isle of Wight and at Langstone harbour. The excessive growth has cut off not only access to food for local birds, fish and crustaceans; but, has depleted the oxygen in the water.

Large stretches of the mudflats and saltmarshes around the Solent are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). They are home to more than 7,500 migratory Brent geese and tens of thousands of other local birds that visit the area throughout the year to feed on the plants and marine invertebrates such as crustaceans and molluscs.

But the biodiversity in the area's waterways and harbours is under threat from sewage and agriculture. "[Seaweed] growth is promoted by excess nutrients, mainly nitrogen, nitrates and ammonia," said Dave Lowthion, marine team leader at the Environment Agency. "We know that the two key sources to this are nitrogen in sewage discharges and nitrates runoff from agriculture into rivers and harbours."

Each year between April and November, thick mats of seaweed can grow preventing migratory birds from getting at their invertebrate meals concealed in the sediment. As the seaweed decomposes, it produces hydrogen sulphide while depleting the surrounding oxygen supply. Hydrogen sulphide can be toxic to marine life and; people, if the amount is sufficient.

Parts of the UK under threat from algae blooms caused by agriculture and sewage pollution, according to the Environment Agency.

Seaweed build-up has also affected the northern coast of France, with excess blooms covering beaches all over Brittany. Release of hydrogen sulphide on the beaches there allegedly caused the recent death of a horse, which became overwhelmed by fumes on a beach in Saint Michel de Greve. The rider, Vincent Petit, a 27-year-old vet, had to be dragged unconscious from a patch of rotting algae a metre deep. In another incident last year, two dogs died while walking near piles of algae on a beach close by.

Mounds of rotting seaweed have appeared at more than 80 locations on the coast this summer. They have a dry crust that can trap large concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, which builds up until the mound is disturbed.

Recent warm weather is also to blame for the death of thousands of fish along the coast of Cornwall. Around St. Austell Bay and Tregantle beach at Antony, near Torpoint, the Food Standards Agency closed down shellfisheries this week as blooms of microscopic red algae appeared off the shore and dead fish washed up on the beaches.

The so-called "red tide" produces toxins that are lethal to fish and shellfish and the sudden growth in the algae depletes oxygen in the water. The algae can cause skin irritation and harm pets — local authorities have warned people to avoid going into the water wherever any red algae might be present.

"When it's eaten by shellfish, the toxin can persist in the flesh and can poison people if they eat the shellfish. They can be big blooms, half the size of the English Channel, but not very often do they go right up to the shore," said Lowthion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dog With Nose For Sewage Garners Media Attention

I believe we all benefit when techniques used to improve and/or safeguard our lives are natural and/or low-tech. In my mind, the more bells and whistles an item or procedure has the more chances there are that things can wrong – and they usually do. I’ll take the no-frills options every time.

Many coastal communities worldwide struggle with the high cost of keeping public beaches and fishing areas clean and pollution free. Three Michigan US counties have already used this low-tech, inexpensive, natural sewage detector so far and are very pleased with both the results and the financial savings as compared to traditional methods. What is causing all the excitement in the field of environmental consulting?

The furor is over a 3.5 year-old German Shepherd mix and former shelter dog from Lansing, Michigan named Sable. Sable's trainer, Scott Reynolds, who worked for an environmental consulting firm, Tetra Tech when he started training Sable said the dog is the only canine known to reliably detect raw sewage or detergents flowing into sewers from illegal or bungled pipe connections.

Sable has already sniffed out illegal connections in three Michigan counties. Field tests in 2007 and 2008 showed Sable was 87% accurate compared with traditional laboratory water tests, Reynolds claims. He went on to say that he feels that some of Sable’s errors can be attributed to animal waste in the water.

Word of Sable's exploits are spreading. Communities in Maine and New Hampshire struggling to protect their swimming beaches and shellfish beds from bacterial pollution are considering bringing the dog to New England.

Forrest Bell of consulting firm FB Environmental is coordinating the Maine and New Hampshire cleanups. He says that Sable can save money by reducing the number of dye tests -- where dye is dropped into toilets so investigators can see where it goes -- and follow-up lab work. "We can take it from 200 houses to maybe we only need to do dyed-water testing for 10," Reynolds said.

The price for trainer and dog to travel and work for a week ranges between $5,000 and $10,000; but, this is much more inexpensive than using other specialized tests that could cost more than $100,000, Bell said. "We think that Sable is going to be a good, cost-effective and accurate way to try to do some of these detections," he said.

Sue Kubic, senior engineer with Michigan's Genesee County Drain Commission, which has used Sable’s services, said the dog provides quick results. "Instead of sending a sample to a lab and finding out two weeks or two months later and having to go back and take three or four or five more samples, you can narrow it down and eliminate some of the tests you have to take," she said.

Said Kubic: "Sending that crew out day after day, going and spending an hour or two at each house, doing dye testing to find out if the sanitary is hooked up to the storm system -- if you start adding up the people time and travel time, that's where the real money is."

Reynolds is now training two more sewage-sniffing canines and has started his own company, Environmental Canine Services LLC. He offers detection services, as well as training for agencies that want their own scent-trained dogs.

The point, Reynolds said, is to make the service affordable for small communities and nonprofit organizations.

Word has it that Sable is enthusiastic about his job despite the smell.

Via Greenwire

Quotable Quotes...

"Sometimes I think the surest sign of intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us."

- Bill Watterson

Did You Know That...

In Palmero, Sicily roof jumping rats are common; but, if you plan to travel here soon, bring an umbrella. The rats are getting too fat to jump and land on the streets below.

Did You Know That...

In Atlanta, Georgia it is illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Australian Town Ends Sister-City Relationship with Japanese Village of Taiji

Every year in Japan, there is a dolphin slaughter close to the small village of Taiji. Animal activists accuse Japan of slaughtering some 2,000 dolphins every year in the waters near Taiji. The dolphins are driven close to the shore then hacked to death by waiting villagers. This particular cull is the subject of the recently-released US documentary called “The Cove”. The filmmakers covertly recorded dolphins being killed near the village.

The documentary turned out to be so disturbing to so many people that the remote Australian town of Broome and all the councillors were deluged with mail – electronic mail, snail mail, local mail, national mail and international mail. The mayor, Graeme Campbell, says one day they received 5,000 emails.

Japanese fishermen ride a boat loaded with slaughtered dolphins in the harbour of Japanese village, Taiji.

The decision to end the sister-city relationship wasn’t taken lightly. Broome and Taiji have historical ties to one another. The link between the two of them dates back to the late 1800s when Japanese migrants came to Australia to pioneer Broome’s pearl diving industry.

"It's a sad day for Broome, given the historical and cultural contribution made by many people from Japan to the town and the number of people living here who still have relatives in Taiji," he told AFP.

"It's very disheartening and sad for those people. It was a unanimous decision by council; none of us can condone the slaughter."

He said with the outpouring of protest letters after the documentary aired there were concerns the links to Taiji could lead to visitors avoiding Broome.

"That was a consideration that was taken in when councillors were examining the issue," Campbell said.

He went on to say that if Taiji discontinued the dolphin hunt, Broome would be delighted to re-establish the sister-city relationship. "I have no doubt that they (Taiji) will be extremely saddened and disappointed by the decision," he said. "Whether or not it has any effect is up to themselves," he added.

Video of radio interview with Louie Psihoyos, the film's director. Interesting stuff, secrets revealed and eyes opened.

Fonterra, Palm Oil and New Zealand

A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the iconic New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is implicated in Indonesian and Malaysian rainforest destruction, dead orangutans and driving global greenhouse gas emissions. By encouraging the use of palm-based animal feed from cleared rainforests; and, by pushing an intensive industrial farming model in New Zealand, Fonterra is actively contributing to one of the world's largest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenpeace New Zealand shows that through Fonterra's half-ownership of RD1, a major importer of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) for animal feed; and, ties to Wilmar International along with their industry model is driving New Zealand farmers to an ever-increasing use of animal feeds such as PKE. Fonterra is destroying rainforest and driving up New Zealand's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

While Fonterra farmers (95% of New Zealand farms are part of the Fonterra cooperative) are using this feed to boost production, the cooperative is also involved in the PKE supply chain through its half-owned RD1 subsidiary. Remember RD1 has close links with Wilmar International - one of the world's biggest rainforest destroyers. The palm-based animal feed that RD1 imports comes exclusively from Wilmar.

Wilmar has been the at centre of much attention for its part in illegal forest destruction, illegal fires on carbon-rich peatlands, destruction of endangered animal habitat and creating social conflict by illegally taking community lands. Wilmar International has been at the center of palm oil criticism of late, with a recent internal audit by the World Bank's International Finance Corporation showing that Wilmar's practices were so socially and environmentally destructive that it should never have been eligible for financing.

Indigenous leader Raji Anis stands on his land once owned by three neighbouring villages. The land was taken from them by a palm company then cleared and burnt to plant palm. (C) GREENPEACE / Oka Budhi

Indonesia's rainforests are being destroyed faster than any other country in the world. It has already lost 72 per cent of its large intact ancient forests. Forest destruction, fires lit for clearing land for palm plantations and the conversion of carbon rich peatlands are major contributors to climate change.

Want to watch a scary movie? Well, watch this full screen and prepare to be terrified!

Via Greenpeace

Stephen Cherniske on Sweeteners

My friend, K, was one of the people who responded to my blog on aspartame. She sent me two articles detailing the other side. In the interests of fairness, here is her first article submitted. Stephen Cherniske is involved with Univera.

Poison in the Well
Stephen Cherniske, M.Sc.

What if you just purchased a luxury car - investing some $80,000 - and as you leave, the salesman mentions one caveat: half of the information in the owner’s manual is wrong. I expect you’d be outraged. After all, not being able to discern which 50% was accurate, the entire manual would be useless. You would not be able to care for your expensive car. The same thing is happening today on internet health sites, only the issue is more serious because we’re dealing with your body, not your car.

I believe it’s conservative to say that half of the health information on the internet is entirely wrong. Some is outright lies, but most is what I call unintentional error; people passing on (and thereby proliferating) misinformation or half-truth. This goes way beyond the ever-increasing number of hoaxes and scams. It concerns vast amounts of web site information that people are using to make decisions about their health and their lives. Bottom line, the extraordinary potential of the internet to disseminate knowledge is about to collapse. To prevent this, we as a community will have to develop a much higher degree of discrimination and critical thinking than is presently evident on the net.


I love science. My life changed the day I learned and understood the scientific method, because it represents (for those skilled in its use) a reliable touchstone in the pursuit of truth. And this pursuit is incredibly important. Life is short. At best, misinformation wastes precious time. More often than you might imagine, it causes significant harm. I take science and especially health science very seriously. And please, don’t talk to me about breakthrough technology that is beyond the scientific method. This itself is a common misunderstanding, in that the scientific method does not have to explain a phenomena. It is simply an instrument to test the validity of an observation or hypothesis.

You could, for example, present me with a purported cancer cure from Mars and I would allow for the possibility that it was in fact of extraterrestrial origin. I would then design an experiment (using the scientific method) to see if it did indeed cure cancer. THIS is how remarkable and valuable advances are made... Not by speculation, hearsay, anecdotes or unfounded claims.

The World Wide Web was originally designed to be used by scientists to facilitate the sharing of research data. I started participating in pre-internet activity as part of Stanford University’s Dialog project in 1983. After a few years, it was apparent to most of us that this entity - and the network that was being created, could usher in a new age of accelerated knowledge that would alter human history in unimaginable ways.

I still believe this because I’ve seen glimpses of it. As a research member of Physicians Online (a worldwide network of more than 100,000 physicians) I saw how the availability of conference and shared data meant the difference between life and death. And because I have seen the promise, the misuse of that remarkable tool affects me deeper than it might otherwise. I cannot ignore misinformation. For me, it’s poisoning the well.

What is Truth?

In a very real sense, ideas compete for our attention. And because our lives are guided (and in many ways determined) by what we pay attention to and what we ignore, this competition is of critical importance.

When lies compete with truth, lies usually win simply because they are more exciting. We tend to give exciting ideas more thought, and we tend to repeat exciting ideas more often; it’s just human nature. And this is the basis for what has been called “thought contagion”; the proliferation of lies and error through society. We see it everywhere. Remember Y2K? Wild speculation got more press, more air-time and thus more credibility than documented truth. Why? it was more interesting and exciting to think that civilization as we know it might come to an end than it was to picture being inconvenienced because one’s favorite brand of breakfast cereal was not delivered to the grocery store.

Yet another important force behind misinformation stems from the basic human dynamic of authority; the intriguing realm of psychology which deals with secrets and intrigue. If I can convince you that I have information that you do not have, and especially if I can convince you that you need this information, I have power over you. Lies are basically about power.

So if you’d like to strike a blow for truth and valid science, give some thought to the traps the we all fall into now and then, and spread the word. For every scam or urban legend that does not get forwarded (but instead the sender is gently challenged to provide reliable proof) we will have done a great service to protect a technology that has the potential to accelerate knowledge and greatly enhance quality of life.

Regarding Sweeteners

Many of you have read (and probably forwarded) an article credited to Nancy Markle who was supposed to have lectured at a World Environmental Conference about aspartame. This prime example of webaloney is filled with outrageous misinformation and outright lies. I posted a debunk of the Nancy Markle aspartame letter in 1997, but it resurfaced the following year under a different author; Betty Martini.

If you are still holding this utter nonsense as truth, I urge you to consider the following:

1. No one named Nancy Markle has ever shown up, even though thousands of posts on hundreds of web sites were asking her to defend her statements.
2. Virtually every organization mentioned in this “report,” including the EPA, FDA, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the American Dietetic Association has denounced the article as fabrication.
3. Every internet filter has concluded that the article is at best “unreliable.” An excellent analysis has been published by Media Awareness and is available at:
the pdf version is available at:

Another excellent review is available from

Please understand that I am no fan of aspartame. In my debunk article, I take great pains to describe the known and potential dangers of that sweetener. I don’t like aspartame, but the proliferation of fraud as science is just as bad for your health.

Now comes a similar attack on sucralose; not by Nancy Markle or Betty Martini, but there are interesting parallels:

1. The anti-sucralose articles use unreliable references. The two major web sites simply reference each other in an effort to appear credible.
2. Legitimate scientific literature is misrepresented.
3. Exaggeration and innuendo take the place of balanced investigation.

I would like to state once again my reasons for this rather long monograph. I take my role as Chief Scientific Officer for Oasis very seriously, and that includes guarding the scientific integrity of discourse in the Oasis community. I welcome discussion and debate, but will not allow opinions to take the place of facts, no matter how earnestly these opinions are stated. In this regard, I would like to examine objections that have been raised to the use of sucralose in AgelessXtra.

The sweetener matrix in AgelessXtra includes:

1. Grape juice.
2. Sorbitol: a natural sugar alcohol found in a variety of fruits and berries.
3. Lo Han Guo: derived from a Chinese fruit, also known as momordica fruit. `
4. Sucralose: is considered an artificial sweetener, even though it is derived from table sugar. What makes it artificial is the modification of the sucrose molecule that makes it 600 times as sweet as sugar. And that is the advantage. No other sweetener could mask the bitter taste of the Ageless herbal ingredients. Just 27 milligrams per one ounce serving of concentrate or 3.3 oz mini makes all the difference. It contributes no calories, does not stimulate insulin and does not promote tooth decay. Sucralose has been in use in the food industry for more than 25 years and has a long and impressive safety record, even when consumed in amounts ten times greater than that contained in AgelessXtra.

Now, what about health and safety issues raised on the internet by Dr. Joseph Mercola and the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center (STIC)?

First, it is important to understand that the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, as impressive as the name sounds, is not a research institute or a recognized scientific organization. No author is listed for their “information.” Interestingly, STIC references Dr. Mercola and Dr. Mercola references STIC, but neither provide any reliable scientific evidence for their assertions. Dr. Mercola provides anecdotes from people who believe they have had adverse reactions to sucralose, but this is scientifically irresponsible. None of these people actually consumed sucralose under controlled conditions. They merely consumed foods containing sucralose and assumed that the adverse reaction was caused by that one ingredient. Importantly, neither web site differentiates between pure sucralose and the popular commercially-available sweetener trade named Splenda.™ They assume that Splenda and sucralose are interchangeable, when in fact, Splenda contains more maltodextrin (a bulking agent derived from corn starch) than sucralose.

The issues raised by Mercola and STIC are pure speculation. In some cases, it goes beyond speculation to absurdity. Consider the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center likening sucralose to a chlorinated pesticide because they both contain chlorine. In reality, chlorine is a naturally-occurring element found in many foods including lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, melons and peanut butter. Parrot web sites (that reference Mercola or STIC) state with horror that sucralose is chlorinated sucrose, without even realizing that table salt is chlorinated sodium.

Mercola also goes on about a study that showed thymus involution in mice, but does not provide the citation and carefully avoids disclosing the dose used. When I found the study, I learned not only that the mice were administered an astronomical dose (3% of the diet, or more than 40,000 mg for a human) but also that Mercola was very selective [one might say misleading] in his reporting. The authors of the study actually report that:

“Subsequent studies specifically designed to investigate the potential for adverse immune system effects of sucralose showed no adverse effects.”

REF: J. W. Killea, W. C. L. Fordb, P. McAnultyc, J. M. Teshc, F. W. Rossc and C. R.
Willoughby CR. Sucralose: lack of effects on sperm glycolysis and reproduction in the rat. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 38, Supplement 2, July 2000, Pages 19-29.

STIC also claims that the studies conducted over the course of 25 years of research are “inadequate.” Says who? The FDA and USDA have both reviewed on multiple occasions the entirety of available data and conclude in the Federal Register that “Regarding use as a general purpose sweetener, the agency reevaluated the currently established acceptable daily intake (ADI) for sucralose, 5 mg per kg per day and determined that this ADI is still appropriate. REF: Federal Register Vol 64 No 155, 1999

Excellent studies with human volunteers have been conducted with increasing daily doses of sucralose up to 10 mg/kg. That would translate to 640 mg per day for a 140 pound adult, or 320 mg sucralose for a 70 pound child. These studies evaluated comprehensive blood chemistry, urinalysis and EKG tests, as well as careful ophthalmological examination, and found “no adverse experiences or clinically detectable effects in either study.” The authors conclude: “Based on these studies and the extensive animal safety database, there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term use of sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.” REF: Baird IM, Shepherd NW, Merritt RJ, Hildick-Smith G. Repeated dose study of sucralose in human subjects. Food Chem Toxicol 2000; 38:Suppl 2:S123-9.

With the safety of a 640 mg daily dose clearly established, the inclusion of 27 mg of sucralose in a serving of AgelessXtra becomes a non-issue.

Mercola and STIC also wring their hands about possible by-products of sucralose metabolism, but ignore the fact that hardly any ingested sucralose is even absorbed by the human gut. The alteration of the sucrose molecule renders the compound nearly inert, and numerous animal and human studies document that it passes rapidly through the body virtually unchanged. What’s more, it does not affect or disrupt normal intestinal flora, and does not contribute in any way to the growth of yeast or intestinal pathogens.

Studies also show that there is no active transport of sucralose across the blood-brain barrier, across the placental barrier, or from the mammary gland into breast milk. Because of this, the FDA has approved the use of sucralose for everyone without conditions, limitations or warnings.

Regarding possible by-products, the FDA reports:

“The agency established a no effect level (NOEL) for the hydrolysis products of sucralose at 30 mg/kg.” This is 6000% higher than the amount provided in AgelessXtra

REF: Federal Register Vol 64 No 155, 1999

Sucralose and glycation

It would be hard to imagine how Joseph Mercola supports his statement that sucralose is a glycating agent when only 2% of the substance is absorbed and studies with diabetic subjects found no effect on carbohydrate metabolism even after intakes of as much as 1,000 mg of sucralose.

REF: Mezitis NH, Maggio CA, Koch P, Quddoos A, Allison DB, Pi-Sunyer FX. Glycemic effect of a high oral dose of the novel sweetener sucralose in patients with diabetes.
Diabetes Care 1996 Sep;19(9):1004-5

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of a high oral dose of the novel noncaloric sweetener sucralose on short-term glucose homeostasis in patients with IDDM or NIDDM. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: A total of 13 IDDM and 13 NIDDM patients with glycosylated hemoglobin levels < 10% completed this double-blind cross-over study. After an overnight fast, patients were administered opaque capsules containing either 1,000 mg sucralose or cellulose placebo, followed by a standardized 360-kcal liquid breakfast. Plasma glucose and serum C-peptide levels were measured over the next 4 h. RESULTS: Regardless of the type of diabetes, areas under the curves for changes of plasma glucose and serum C-peptide levels after sucralose
administration were not significantly different from those after placebo. CONCLUSIONS: The present results support the conclusion that sucralose consumption does not adversely affect blood glucose control in patients with diabetes.

Amazingly, the STIC report includes a list of “Healthy” sweeteners which includes honey, barley malt, Sucanat™, rice syrup, fruit concentrates and evaporated cane juice. What’s common to all of these so-called healthy sweeteners? They can all raise glucose and insulin levels and are all glycating agents. Evaporated cane juice is another name for ... table sugar. Sucanat is a trade name for “raw” sugar, which is metabolized exactly like table sugar.

It gets Worse:

As additional web sites picked up the misinformation from Mercola and STIC, error was magnified to ridiculous proportions. A web site article by By Dr. Ted Showalter states, “There are only 19 studies that have been performed [on sucralose].”
FACT: At last count, there were more than 100.

Dr. Showalter: “Many of the studies on sucralose so far have been reported by the FDA to have "inconclusive" results.”
FACT: After two lengthy reviews, the FDA approved sucralose with no limitations or warnings. No FDA document has ever referred to sucralose safety research as “inconclusive.”

And now, the worst error, demonstrating how damaging webaloney can be. This statement was made by Dr. Mercola and repeated by Dr. Showalter: Drs. Mercola and Showalter: “One claim of sucralose is that it won't affect your sugar levels. One small study using diabetic patients showed a statistically significant increase in glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C), which is a marker of your average blood sugars over a 3-4 month period and is used to assess sugar regulation in diabetic patients according to the FDA.”
FACT: Many studies have been performed with diabetics given short term and long term
administration of sucralose at doses from a whopping 500 mg per day to an astronomical 1,000 mg dose. NONE of these studies found any deleterious effect on blood sugar, insulin or glycosylated hemoglobin. In FACT, sucralose REDUCED glycosylated hemoglobin in studies where this value was measured. Moreover, sucralose contributed to additional benefits for diabetics, including increased HDL (good) cholesterol and decreased weight and body mass index.


1. Mezitis NH, Maggio CA, Koch P, Quddoos A, Allison DB, Pi-Sunyer FX. Glycemic effect of a single high oral dose of the novel sweetener sucralose in patients with diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1996 Sep;19(9):1004-5.
2. Reyna NY, Cano C, Bermudez VJ, Medina MT, Souki AJ, Ambard M, Nunez M, Ferrer MA,
Inglett GE.Sweeteners and beta-glucans improve metabolic and anthropometrics variables in well controlled type 2 diabetic patients. Am J Ther. 2003 Nov-Dec;10(6):438-43.
3. Grotz VL, Henry RR, McGill JB, Prince MJ, Shamoon H, Trout JR, Pi-Sunyer FX.
Lack of effect of sucralose on glucose homeostasis in subjects with type 2 diabetes. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Dec;103(12):1607-12. Sucralose Part II Q and A

1. Why didn’t you use a natural sweetener like stevia?
Answer: The amount of stevia required to mask the bitter taste of Ageless ingredients would be unacceptable on every count, including taste, after-taste and stability. In terms of product satisfaction, stevia was rated rather poorly in both taste and after-taste perception. These ratings improved dramatically when we added a fraction of a gram of sucralose

2. Why not fructose?
Answer: While fructose is classified as a “natural” sweetener, I would argue that the enormous amount of fructose contained in many “health” products would be impossible to get from nature. Importantly, fructose accelerates aging in well-defined ways.

A. Current data suggests that while it may not raise serum glucose as rapidly as sucrose, it promotes glycation (cross-linking) at nearly seven times the rate of glucose.
REF: Dills WL. Protein fructosylation: Fructose and the Maillard reaction. Am J Clin Nutr 1993; 58(suppl):779S-787S.

B. Controlled studies have documented that fructose contributes to an increase in serum cholesterol and LDL in people with normal blood sugar, and even more so in those with poor glucose tolerance.
REFS: Hollenbeck CB. Dietary fructose effects on lipoprotein metabolism and risk for coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1993; 58(suppl):800S-807S.

Hallfrisch J, et al. The effects of fructose on blood lipid levels. Am J Clin Nutr 1983; 37(3):740-748.

C. Compared to sucrose, administration of fructose disrupted mineral metabolism and led to depletion of iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
REF: Ivaturi R, Kies C. Mineral balances in humans as affected by fructose, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 1992; 42(2): 143-151.

3. Why not fruit juice concentrates?
Answer: These are far from “natural.” Unlike the whole grape juice and Lo han Guo used in AgelessXtra, fruit juice concentrates commonly used in “health” foods are highly refined, simple sugars from white grapes or pears (fruits with the highest concentration of glucose and sucrose). The effect of these sweeteners on the body is almost identical to table sugar.

Criticism of sucralose in favor of “natural” sweeteners ignores the most important aspect of carbohydrates and health, which is the rate at which an ingested food will raise blood sugar and insulin levels. We now know that this Glycemic Index contributes directly to a food’s promotion of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Table sugar has a glycemic index of 100. Excellent scientific studies show that sucralose essentially has a glycemic index of zero, giving AgelessXtra a tremendous advantage as a truly healthful tonic.

4. What about sucralose causing the thymus to shrink?
Answer: In scores of toxicology studies, sucralose was tested at doses ranging from 5 mg/kg body weight all the way to an astronomic 16,000 mg/kg. In one mouse study, adverse effects on the thymus were observed, but the administered dose was 3% of the diet by weight, which is roughly the human adult equivalent of 41,000 mg per day. When follow-up studies were conducted at 0.5% and 1% of diet (the equivalent of 7,000 to 14,000 mg for a human) no such effects were found. In the absence of a dose response, the only reasonable conclusion is that the observed effect on the thymus at 3% of the diet was not caused by sucralose, but was more likely the result of the stress on the animals from consuming such a massive amount of sweetener.

REF: Gary A. Miller. Sucralose. In: LO Nabors and RC Gelardi. Alternative Sweeteners, second ed. Mercel Dekker, NY. 2000.

5. But the Mercola and STIC web sites refer to an article (New Scientist, Nov 23, 1991, p 13.) in which a researcher questions the safety of sucralose because of this issue.
Answer: That article appeared 13 years ago. The issue was raised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a legitimate science and nutrition think tank. As soon as studies were conducted showing no deleterious effect at at 0.5% and 1% of diet (the equivalent of 7,000 to 14,000 mg for a human), CSPI withdrew their objection. CSPI’s position – since 2000 – is that sucralose is safe; yet apparently neither Dr. Mercola nor STIC bothered to obtain that information. FOUR YEARS after the issue was resolved, these “authorities” continue to use the New Scientist article to support their sky-is-falling diatribe. This is beyond carelessness.

6. Still, isn’t it true that many chemicals are much more toxic in humans than in rodents?
For example, I read that the breakdown products of aspartame are 5 to 50 times more toxic for humans.

Answer: This claim is made on a number of web sites in an effort to discredit sucralose safety research, but it is entirely wrong. I am no fan of aspartame. I do not consume it myself and would never use it in an Oasis product. But I also want to actively oppose scientific fraud, especially when it is forwarded and reinforced via e-mail. I have reviewed reams of toxicology reports on aspartame conducted with rodents and humans for nearly two decades. The breakdown products of aspartame, including methanol, formaldehyde and formic acid are all a great deal more toxic to rodents than humans. The conversion of methyl ester to methanol, for example is pH dependent, taking place more readily at higher pH levels. Since the pH of the human GI tract is much lower than rodents, mice and rats will tend to create more methanol from a given dose of aspartame. Then there’s the metabolic fate of that methanol. We humans have a variety of microorganisms in our GI tracts which use methanol as a carbon source. Thus methanol in human systems appears to be metabolized (via the one-carbon biochemical cycle) to other organic acids.

Again, I am not saying that aspartame is good for you. But the information that you are basing your objections upon is flat out wrong. It is also comparing apples and oranges, as the demonstrated safety of sucralose is due precisely to the fact that it does not have significant breakdown products.

7. I have also read that sucralose might accumulate in the body.
Answer: Another red herring. Metabolism studies with the dog, rat, mouse, rabbit and man all demonstrate that only about 2% of an oral dose is absorbed. This small amount of sucralose is metabolized into toxicologically insignificant compounds that are rapidly excreted in the urine. In animal studies with radiolabeled sucralose, recovery of sucralose and its metabolites from urine and feces has consistently been greater than 99.9%.

REF: Food and Chemical Toxicology. Sucralose Safety Assessment. 2000; 38(suppl2):S1-S129.

8. Does sucralose stress the liver or kidneys in any way?
ANSWER: No. Unlike fructose, which in large amounts may tax liver function, studies show that sucralose does not stress the liver or kidneys. It does not alter glucose metabolism in any way. It does not hydrolyze or dechlorinate in foods or following digestion. Toxicology studies evaluating high dose sucralose from conception throughout normal life span show absolutely no adverse effects on blood chemistry, organ function, fertility, reproduction or brain function. An independent panel of 16 internationally recognized scientific experts was asked to review the entire sucralose toxicological data base. The panel included leaders in the fields of biochemistry, physiology, clinical, genetic and reproductive toxicology, hematology, pediatrics, risk assessment, neurology and immunology. This panel concluded that sucralose is remarkably safe.

REF: Food Additive Petition 7A3987, 1987, pp.A-000755- A-000783. Office of the Federal

9. I’ve heard that the Japanese Health Ministry won’t approve sucralose.
Answer: the Japanese Joint Subcommittee on Toxicity and Food Additives has conducted a careful research review and concluded that sucralose is safe. Like the US Food and Drug administration, they will require no warnings or limitations on the use of sucralose.

10. Well, isn’t sucralose banned in Europe?
Answer: No. Sucralose has NEVER been banned by any nation. In fact, it’s been approved and used in a number of EU countries since 1994. Recently however, the EU commission approved sucralose for all 25 member nations. This clears the way for sucralose to be used by manufacturers throughout the European Union. In the US, sucralose is used in more than 3,500 food and beverage products, and this will now effectively double. Importantly, the Japanese and European research organizations are not mere rubber stamps for the FDA. Each independently evaluated the existing scientific studies, and performed additional studies to evaluate sucralose and all of its metabolites in human clinical trials.


I am convinced that sucralose is safe and provides a remarkable advantage in the AgelessXtra formulation. At the same time, I am always looking to improve Oasis products and am currently investigating a natural compound that blocks bitter taste receptors on the tongue. Such an ingredient would obviate the need for most of the sweeteners in AgelessXtra, and sucralose could be reduced or eliminated.

In the meantime, there is a simple solution for individuals who will not ingest an artificial ingredient, no matter how safe and beneficial it may be. They can obtain most of the benefits from Ageless capsules which have been shown to significantly improve executive cognitive skills in a double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial. This includes reaction time, decision-making and information processing speed. People using Ageless capsules also report improved stress management, improved mobility and range of motion, as well as greater and more consistent energy.

Stephen Cherniske

A Reader Says...

Two readers have left well-informed comments regarding the possible health problems surrounding the use of aspartame.

First, let me say, I think it's wonderful that people feel free to leave their comments when they disagree with me. Second, what incredibly well-written comments - kudos to both. Hopefully, this is only the beginning to great environmental conversations.

My only comment regarding aspartame is that I prefer my food unaltered. I will stick with real sugar; and, just use it wisely. Of course, it's 2009 and my thoughts on unaltered food prevent me from owning a microwave - nor will I eat microwaved food.

Everyone must make their own decisions based on the information they have and how it rings true for them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

3,000 Year Old Butter Found In Irish Bog by Farmer

John FitzHarris and Martin Lane, the Bord na Mona workers who found the oak barrell in Gilltown Bog, with Carol Smith and Padraig Clancy of the National Museum of Ireland

An oak barrel, full of butter, estimated to be roughly 3,000 years old has been found in Gilltown bog, between Timahoe and Staplestown. The barrel is being described by archaeology experts in the National Museum as a "really fine example".

Two Bord na Mona workers, John Fitzharris and Martin Lane, were harrowing the bog one day in late May when they noticed a distinctive white streak in the peat.

"We got down to have a look. We knelt down and felt something hard and started to dig it out with out bare hands," John explained. "We could smell it. And it was attracting crows," he added. "We couldn't believe it," said Mr. Lane.

They found an oak barrel about 3’ long, almost 1’ wide and weighing almost 35 kg. (77 lb). It was cut from the trunk of a tree, filled with butter and stored in the bog. It was found head down and had a lid. The lid has caused great excitement among scientists. Over time the barrel had split along the middle which is common for utensils filled with butter and stored in the bogs. It now also had a gash towards the bottom of it caused by the harrow. The butter has changed to white and is now adipocere, which is essentially animal fat, the same sort of substance that is found on well-preserved bodies of people or animals found in the bog.

The two men put the barrel in the cab of their tractor and brought it back to their base. "We put it in a black plastic bag," Mr. Fitzharris explained.

"It's rare to find a barrel as intact as that," Mr. Clancy explained, "especially with the lid intact and attached. It's a really fine example."

He estimates that the barrel is approximately 3,000 years old, from the Iron Age. Once the barrel is dried out it will be preserved with a wax-like solution.

It is thought that the butter was put in the bog for practical reasons, rather than ritual.

"There are accounts dating back to the 1850's with people used to wash their cattle once a year in the bog and then put some butter back into the bog. It was piseogary," Mr. Clancy explained, adding that the butter was usually “stolen” by the following week! "It's open to interpretation; but, we're inclined to think that 3,000 years ago they were just storing it."

Via The Leinster Leader

Mother Nature Stuns Horticultural World

William Underwood found the vibrant flower on Monday amongst his other yellow chrysanthemums Photo: MASONS

William Underwood, 73, of Cavendish, Suffolk, UK found this bi-coloured chyrsanthemums among the other ones in his garden.

Experts say the split in colour directly down the middle is caused by a very rare genetic mutation. The plant has only one stems and one head.

The retired long-distance lorry driver bought the flower seeds from a nursery near Chichester, West Sussex. His comment: "I was amazed.

"I have been growing flowers and vegetables in my garden for years; but, have never seen anything as strange as this. I've seen two different coloured flowers growing on one stem but have never seen one flower head that is split exactly down the middle. My wife was a flower arranger before she died of cancer and I think she would have been pretty impressed with this flower – although I don't know how I've grown it."

James Armitage, a botanist from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said the flower was a mutation only ever seen about five times a year in Britain.

He said: "Bi-coloured flowers are an abnormality and while we take tens of thousands of calls here every year we don't hear of very many.

"The phenomenon probably occurs at a very early stage of the flower's development, probably when it consists of just two cells.

"At this stage, one cell suffers a mutation in its flower colour genes that leads a different colour to be expressed.

"As the cells divide, half are of the new colour and half are the standard colour. This results in a very odd-looking flower with a definite demarcation line down the middle.

"We only hear of a handful every year and they are rare."

There are about 650 different types of chrysanthemum spread across the Europe and Asia and they were first cultivated in China almost 2500 years ago.

They famously bring a splash of colour to gardens in late summer and autumn and are often outlast almost every other flower in cold, wet conditions.

Call For Ban on Aspartame


An Overdue Ban On A Dangerous Sweetener

CHICAGO, IL, August 15, 2009 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- The artificial sweetener aspartame has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats, and should be banned for human consumption, warns the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

Under the explicit provisions of the 1958 Delaney Law, which requires an automatic ban on carcinogenic food additives, the Coalition is calling on Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the newly appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and public health advocate, to promptly ban the continued use of aspartame.

First discovered in 1965 by the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle, aspartame is an artificial sweetener marketed by Ajinomoto Sweeteners under trademark names including Nutrasweet, Equal and Canderel.

Aspartame is the second most widely used artificial sweetener in the world. It is found in more than 6,000 products including carbonated and powdered soft drinks, hot chocolate, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, and tabletop sweeteners, as well as some pharmaceutical products like vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. More than 200 million people worldwide consume it.

The sweetener has been used for more than 30 years, having first been approved by the FDA in 1974.

After saccharin, aspartame is the commonest sweetener, consumed by over 200 million people worldwide, and represents about 60% of the artificial sweetener market.

Aspartame provides food, soft drinks, candy and chewing gum manufacturers with substantial cost savings compared to sugar, which is 200 times less sweet. Aspartame is a sweetener without calories, which helps people control their weight.

Studies of the carcinogenicity of aspartame performed by producers of the sweetener have been negative.

But Cancer Prevention Coalition Chairman Samuel S. Epstein, MD warns that the use of aspartame in foods, vitamins and pharmaceuticals is based on false safety information and political maneuvering going back more than 30 years.

In January 1976, then Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Alexander M. Schmidt, MD testified before Congress that Hazleton Laboratories, under contract to Searle, had been charged with falsifying toxicological data on aspartame.

The FDA convened a Public Board of Inquiry to review concerns about the sweetener’s carcinogenic effects in experimental animals. In 1980, the Board concluded that aspartame could “contribute to the development brain tumors.”

Dr. Epstein points out that FDA then recommended that, pending confirmation of these findings, the sweetener should no longer be used.

However, then Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld, later Secretary of Defense in the Bush Administration, vowed to "call in his markers," to get the sweetener approved.

On January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan's inauguration, Searle re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame as a food sweetener, and Reagan's new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the Board of Inquiry's decision.

It soon became clear that the panel would uphold the ban by a 3-2 decision, but Hull then installed a sixth member on the commission, and the vote became deadlocked. He then personally broke the tie in aspartame's favor.

Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, then took a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for Searle and for Monsanto, which purchased Searle in 1985.

Dr. Epstein is not alone among doctors in his concern about the sweetener.

In a July 25, 2009 letter to the new FDA commissioner, H.J. Roberts, M.D., a Florida internist and diabetes expert, drew her attention to the dangerous health effects of aspartame in foods and other products.

"My own data base encompasses over 1400 individuals who have suffered major disorders that could be directly ascribed to the use of these products, including gum," wrote Dr. Roberts, who authored the books "Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic," and "Aspartame Disease: an FDA Approved Epidemic."

There have been other calls to ban the sweetener, including one in the UK earlier this year, when Member of Parliament Roger Williams cited "compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market altogether."

Dr. Epstein says the evidence on the carcinogenicity of aspartame was strongly reinforced in a unique feeding test conducted on rats in an Italian laboratory.

In 2005, based on highly sensitive and life-long feeding tests in groups of about 200 rats and at doses less than usual human dietary levels, the prestigious Italian Ramazzini Foundation confirmed that aspartame is unequivocally carcinogenic. A high incidence of cancers was induced in multiple organs of the lab rats fed the sweetener, including lymph glands, brain and kidney.

Dr. Epstein says rats were fed aspartame beginning in the early fetal stage of life, resulting in their lifelong exposure to aspartame.

"This resulted in a still higher increase in the incidence of cancers at sites, including those previously reported," he says.

The Ramazzini study was reported in the November 2005 issue of "Environmental Health Perspectives," the peer-reviewed journal of the United States' National nstitute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"Our study has shown that aspartame is a multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are also evident at a daily dose of 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg), notably less than the current acceptable daily intake for humans," the Ramazzini authors wrote.

Currently, the acceptable daily intake for humans is set at 50 mg/kg in the United States and 40 mg/kg in Europe.

In April 2007, the results of this study were presented by Ramazzini scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

Not surprisingly, says Dr. Epstein, these findings have been sharply challenged by the sweetener industry, major sweetener users, such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Monsanto, and also by the industry-oriented scientific journal "Critical Reviews in Toxicology."

In view of the new scientific evidence of aspartame's carcinogenicity and the political gamesmanship that led to its original approval by the FDA, Dr. Epstein is urging the new FDA Commissioner, Dr. Hamburg, to impose an immediate ban on the use of aspartame for human consumption.


Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Chicago, Illinois

Apologies Friends

I must aplogize for being away for so long. My ISP (internet service provider) let me down. It took several days to fix; but, I am back on line now. Sorry to everyone who checked in expecting to find new blogs. Not having internet, I was unable to post anything letting anyone of my problems.

Well, it's all fixed now and I will be happily blogging away regularly as usual.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

9 Million Salmon Disappear Mysteriously From Fraser River

I live very close to the Fraser River on Canada's West Coast. In fact, I am only a 4 min. sky train ride from part of the estuary. The Fraser River used to serve as a spawning ground to about 10.6 million sockeye salmon every summer. It was known as the world's most fertile spawning grounds for salmon.

As a child, salmon was a fairly regular item on everyone's menu. I used to know an Aboriginal lady who smoked salmon according to the old ways. She produced the most delicious cold-smoked salmon I ever tasted in my life. Somehow, she managed to infuse all the flavourings into the fish while still leaving it moist and succulent.

At outdoor festivals, barbecued salmon, smoked salmon, salmon jerky, salmon teriyaki, and many other salmon dishes were sold to willing buyers. Children sucked delightedly on salmon candy - sweetened smoked salmon.

Shockingly, the latest estimate of salmon returning to spawn puts the number of salmon at fewer than 1 million this year. This is a massive drop, despite the fact that the river has been closed to commercial and recreational fishing for three years in a row hitting the Native population hard. Many BC Natives still depend on salmon as an integral part of their aboriginal diets.

The Fraser River. Photo: Wikipedia, GFDL/CC

"It's quite the shocking drop," said Stan Proboszcz, fisheries biologist at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. "No one's exactly sure what happened to these fish."

Reuters reports on a few theories:
* Climate change may have reduced food supply for salmon in the ocean.
* The commercial fish farms that the young Fraser River salmon pass en route to the ocean may have infected them with sea lice, a marine parasite.
* The rising temperature of the river may have weakened the fish.

Jeff Grout, regional resource manager of salmon for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, feels that the salmon may actually disappearing in the ocean rather than in fresh water. He bases this on the healthy salmon migrations out to sea.

"It's too soon to know yet how widespread salmon losses are in the Pacific salmon fishery; but, British Columbia's northern Skeena River has also seen lower-than-expected returns this year", Grout said.

Grout went on to add that signs are more positive for other salmon species such as chinook, pink and coho.

Image: Wikipedia, Public domain

In the US, the populations of sockeye salmon in Snake River (Idaho, Oregon and Washington area) and in Lake Ozette, Washington, are listed under the Endangered Species Act as endangered and threatened (respectively).

The decline in the salmon returns affects the estuary on many, many levels. After spawning, the adult salmon die - every last one of them. They then become food for the bears looking to fatten up for hibernation; eagles get some easy meals; and the body parts that don't get eaten decay and provide nutrients to the plant life. The lack of salmon will impact not only these areas profoundly; but, will start impinging on the health of other areas and/or species.

Food companies that rely on the Fraser for some of their salmon supply will have to look to other areas of British Columbia or Alaska, Grout warned. This is a real kick in the pants to an area that is known for the quality of their seafood and sells tins of "smoked BC salmon" worldwide to discerning gourmets.

Via: Reuters, TreeHugger

UK Zoo Tries Vertical Farming

VertiCrop images courtesy of Valcent Products.

A zoo in the United Kingdom has come up with a novel approach to locally sourcing some of its food for animals and dealing with the challenge of limited space: vertical farming.

The Paignton Zoo in South Devon joined forces with Valcent Products (Eu) Limited to employ its VertiCrop farming system to grow some of their own produce for the animals. They have just finished planting the first crop of lettuce.

Valcent Products (Eu) states that the Paignton VertiCrop project is capable of producing 11,000 heads of lettuce every four weeks or so. That works out to over 120,000 heads a year. That’s a lot of lettuce grown and saved. The idea behind this project is to plant the greens so that the zoo can harvest fresh vegetables daily for the animals that eat them.

What a treat for the animals – fresh produce directly from the vine. Eventually the farm will have vertical plots of red chard, mizuna, mixed leaves, various herbs, edible flowers, wheat grass and barley.

The grow area at the zoo sits in a specially-constructed polytunnel using computerized controls that automate water supply, irrigation and the environment around the VertiCrops. There’s also a conveyor belt for loading and unloading plant trays.

The system is intended to be low maintenance as well as low cost. Three zoo workers were trained to look after the farm. They are expected to do so on a rotating basis; but, Valcent Products says the site can be maintained by a single team member working two hours each day.

The farming system is expected to help the zoo cut its feed bill by about £100,000 (almost US $165,440) a year.

Valcent says other benefits of VertiCrop farming include:

• Crop yields that are as much as 20 times greater than those from traditional farming.
• A 5% to 10% reduction in the water and nutrients required for growth.
• The ability to produce crops year-round in a controlled environment that can be customized for climatic regions.
• Enables farming regardless of soil conditions in almost any location.

The VertiCrop system also is to serve as a learning lab for the zoo, its visitors -- and prospective Valcent customers. The company says more than 50 of them will be touring the site in the next three months.

More information on vertical farming concepts and designs that include farming highrises is available at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Steven Harper Gaffe

A bumble by the Prime Minister's Office has residents of Nunavut alternately chuckling and cringing.

A news release sent out Monday outlined Prime Minister Stephen Harper's itinerary as he began a five-day Arctic tour.

The release repeatedly spelled the capital of Nunavut as Iqualuit - rather than Iqaluit, which means "many fish" in the Inuktitut language.

The extra "u" makes a world of difference.

"It means people with unwiped bums," said Sandra Inutiq of the office of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut.

"It's not exactly a nice term."

Whoops! How embarassing. Back to Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic for Mr. Harper. He must have been home sick the day the importance of correct spelling was discussed in the classroom.