Ecology

Toxic material is strewn about wooded areas where animals roam freely and can end up on the wrong side of some potentially poisonous unused medicine or bloody gauze. Regulated medical waste is flushed into rivers and oceans where it is unwillingly ingested by fish and other sea life.

Safe and Effective Sunscreens

What are some safe and effective sunscreens?

It’s time to replenish sunscreen supplies for those upcoming beach junkets, mountain hikes, and lazy days by the pool. Each summer, doctors and public service announcements remind us about the importance of slathering on the sunscreen before heading outdoors. The biggest benefits of course are that sunscreen helps absorb and/or reflect harmful UVA and UVB rays, which can cause premature aging and skin cancer.

This year I’m greening up my medicine cabinet, which means my beach bag will be including healthier sun products. The chemicals used to make sunscreen may not always be great for our bodies or for delicate marine ecosystems. While sunscreen is an absolute must, there are things you can do to choose one that is better for you and the environment.

Go Mineral

Sunscreens containing zinc dioxide or titanium dioxide are great alternatives to those with chemicals such as oxybenzone. Zinc and titanium are minerals that provide broad-spectrum coverage, reflecting both UVA and UVB rays. An added benefit is that many zinc and titanium sunscreens these days are micronized to avoid the white, painted-on look. Carefully read the list of active ingredients before purchasing as some sunscreens contain zinc and titanium in combination with other chemicals.

Pick Healthier Ingredients

Not all sunscreens claiming to be natural are equal. Many cosmetics and sunscreens, even those with natural and organic labels, contain preservatives to insure products remain as fresh as possible. When shopping for a sunscreen, consider avoiding ones with harsher chemical preservatives such as parabens (including butylparaben and methylparaben), which have had mixed health reviews. Instead, look for sun products without preservatives or those with milder preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Also, steer clear of sunscreens with petroleum-based ingredients such as mineral oil.

Look for natural emollients such as olive, sunflower and jojoba oils, and shea and cocoa butter, to name a few.

Think prevention!

While you are greening up your sun products, don’t forget about all of the other advice you have heard over the years. With more than 1 million cases of skin cancer being diagnosed in the U.S. each year, it is important to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days and while indoors since UVA rays can penetrate glass. Look for a sunscreen that is waterproof and has at least an SPF of 15. Additionally, consider avoiding direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm.

For yourself, and especially for your kids, buy sun protective clothing you can wear in the water and on the beach. One of my sun-averse friends has never let her fair-haired, 4-year-old daughter onto the beach or in a pool without a full-body swimsuit that completely covers her arms and legs. And ya know what? She hasn’t burned yet! For adults, you might want to check out fun “surfer-wear” board shorts and rashguard shirts for more coverage in the water. Look for fabrics with a 50 UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Like most things, think moderation! A little bit of sun can be a good thing – just don’t overdo it!

The Environmental Working Group’s Top 5 choices for safe effective sunscreens are these:

1. Keys Soap Solar Rx Therapeutic Sunblock
2. Rukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum
3. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance
4. Badger Sunscreen
5. Marie Veronique Skin Therapy Sun Serum

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - February 10, 2015 at 10:31 am

Categories: Chemicals, Ecology, Health and Wellness   Tags:

Lighting Efficiency Tips

Reduce Light Levels

You can often reduce light levels without reducing light quality by the following procedure:

  • Redesign visual tasks. For example, begin using a better printer with darker lettering, or install light filtering shades to reduce glare.
  • Reduce light levels where there are no visual tasks. Provide minimum light necessary for safety, security, and aesthetics.
  • Reduce light levels for visual tasks where those levels are currently excessive.

If you want to cut lighting energy consumption, while enhancing light quality, consider the following:

  • Paint and decorate using light colors.
  • Establish ambient illumination at minimum acceptable levels.
  • Provide task lighting at optimal level, depending on the difficulty of visual tasks-for example, sewing requires more light than cooking.
  • Replace lamps, ballasts, and fixtures with more efficient models.
  • Buy and use CFLs.
  • Improve light quality by reducing glare and brightness contrast.
  • Use daylight.

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - January 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Categories: Ecology, Global Warming Effects, Save Energy   Tags:

Lighting Efficiency

Energy Efficiency Lighting

Lighting accounts for 20% to 25% of all American energy consumption. An average household dedicates 5% to 10% of its energy budget for lighting, or commercial establishments consume 20% to 30% of their total energy use for lighting.

Electricity is usually converted into light (in residential buildings) in incandescent or fluorescent lamps.

 

Illumination

A lumen measures light output from a lamp. All lamps are rated in lumens. For example, 100-Watt  incandescent lamp produces about 1750 lumens. Dividing a lamp’s number of lumens by its watts gives efficacy-a measurement of lighting efficiency.

The distribution of light on a horizontal surface is called its illumination. Illumination is measured in footcandles. A footcandle of illumination is a lumen of light distributed over one square foot of area.

The amount of light required, measured in footcandles, varies according to the difficulty of a visual task. Ideal illumination is the minimum footcandles necessary to comfortably perform a task at the maximum practical rate of speed without eyestrain.

In the past, illumination of 100 footcandles was thought to be minimum for visual tasks in the workplace. Now, the Illuminating Engineering Society says that 30 to 50 footcandles is adequate for most home and office work. Difficult and lengthy visual task, like sewing for extended periods of time, requires 200 to 500 Footcandles. When no seeing task are performed, the lighting system needs to provide only security, safety, of visual pleasure – from 5 to 20 footcandles.

Lighting uses

Three categories of lighting by faction are ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.

Ambient lighting provide security and safety, as well as lighting the tasks that occur throughout the lighted space.

Task lighting provides light at the work area. Illumination levels should be high enough for accurate task execution in task areas – not throughout the entire lighted space.

Accent lighting illuminates walls so that their brightness contrasts less with brighter areas, like ceilings and windows. Accent lighting is also used to make the space more visually comfortable.

Lighting Color

Lamps are assigned a color temperature depending on their “Coolness” or “warmness.” people perceive color of the blue-green end of the color spectrum is cool and those of the spectrum’s red end as warm. Morning light from the North is a more bluish then Southwest evening light.

Cool light sources are preferred for visual task, since they produce better contrast at the printed page, workbench, or other tasks. Warm light sources are preferred for living space, because they are more flattering to people’s skin and clothing.

Incandescent Lamps

Incandescent lamps are the oldest, most common, and most inexpensive lamps. Incandescent lights is produced by a white-hot coil of tungsten wire that glows when heated by electrical current. The type of glass enclosures surrounding this tungsten filament determines its light beam’s characteristics. Only 10% of the electricity is converted into light, the other 90% becoming heat.

Incandescent lamps have the shortest service life of the common lighting types. All incandescents are relatively inefficient compared to other lighting types. However, significant savings are possible – if you select the right incandescent lamp for his purpose.

Referred to by lighting experts as the A-type light bulb, these lamps are the most common and the most inefficient light source available. Larger wattage bulbs are more efficient than smaller wattage bulbs. Long-life bulbs, with thicker filaments and lower efficacy, are a common variant.

Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent lamps produce light by passing electric current through a metallic gas. The flow of electricity through the gas excites special chemicals called phosphors, causing them to glow or “fluoresce.” Fluorescent lighting is used mainly for indoor lighting. Fluorescent lighting needs controlling devices, called ballasts, the starting the circuit protection. Ballasts also consume energy.

Fluorescent lights for approximately three to four times as efficient as incandescents, and their lamp life is about ten times greater. Fluorescent lamps convert 80% of the electricity they use into light.

Compact fluorescent (CFLs) the most significant recent lighting advance for homes. They combined their efficacy of fluorescent lighting with the convenience and universality of incandescent fixtures. Recent advances in CFL designs also provide more natural color rendition and less flicker than older designs.

Recessed Fixture Issues 

Recessed light fixtures, especially cylindrical ones called “cans,”are often direct leak through the air barrier. These fixtures, when they contain incandescent bulbs, must be ventilated by holes in their shell to purge heat to from the fixture.

Installed in soffits, cathedral ceiling, and suspended ceiling, recessed light fixtures connect the conditioned space to attics or roof cavities. Not only do they exchange air between conditioned spaces and building cavities, recessed light fixtures also allow warm, moist indoor air to reach cold roof decking, causing condensation.

One remedy is to replace the fixture with a similar fluorescent fixture, which produces only a quarter of the heat and doesn’t need venting.

LIGHTING EFFICIENCY TIPS

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - January 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Categories: Ecology, Global Warming Effects, Save Energy   Tags:

Treatments for Cancer

Research Note regarding the President’s Cancer Panel.

The President’s Cancer Panel dedicated the last two years to examining the impact of environmental factors on cancer risk. The Panel has just released an extensive report on their findings, which include eye-opening recommendations for individuals, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic. Although many of us have read similar recommendations and warnings, it is important to highlight that this report emerges from mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel, a panel of three experts who review the U.S. cancer program and report directly to the President.

“Most of what we know about cancer is based on studies of non-Hispanic white people, but by the middle of the century that group will be only 38 percent of the population,” said panel member Margaret L. Kripke, a professor emerita of immunology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “We need more data on cancer among minority populations so that we can begin to implement specific preventive measures.”

The report recommends more research into sociological factors that may explain disparities in cancer mortality among minorities.

Detoxify Your Body

“There have been a lot of studies in recent years trying to understand genetic differences associated with cancer susceptibility, but there are also cultural factors that can affect cancer mortality,” said Kripke. “In some cultures, people are so afraid of a cancer diagnosis that they don’t seek treatment until it’s very late.”

Current cancer screening guidelines should be evaluated, the panel noted, “to determine their accuracy in assessing disease burden in diverse populations.”

“One-size-fits-all screening guidelines don’t work,” Kripke said. “For example, the breast cancer screening guidelines have been loosened up so that women can start having mammograms later and may be screened less often, but we know that there is an early age of onset of breast cancer among Latino populations, and so if you change the guidelines based on the majority of people, these women will be left out.”

Another recommendation is that “cultural competency” become an integral part of medical school as well as continuing education for all health-care providers and administrative staff.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, praised the report, and said it “hit all the right points.”

Another statistic that I found staggering and scary is that approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent of us will die from cancer. The Presidential Panel noted cancers are becoming more common, particularly in children, and the proliferation of chemicals in water, foods, air and household products is widely suspected as a factor according to the Panel. I’m glad to see that the Panel recognizes that there is a link between cancers and chemicals – I intuitively knew that there had to be a connection as I’ve witnessed friends and family having to deal with childhood and young adult cancers. Thirty or forty years ago, you rarely heard of a child with cancer (or severe food allergies for that matter). With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented.

What Individuals Can Do: Excerpts from the Presidential Panel’s Recommendations.

Individuals can take important steps in their own lives to reduce their exposure to environmental elements that increase risk for cancer and other diseases. And collectively, individual small actions can drastically reduce the number and levels of environmental contaminants.

Children

·    It is vitally important to recognize that children are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults. To the extent possible, parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxics. Particularly when pregnant and when children are small, choose foods, toys and garden products with fewer endocrine disruptors or other toxins. (Information about products is at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com or www.healthystuff.org)

Chemical Exposures
Individuals and families have many opportunities to reduce or eliminate chemical exposures. For example…

·    Removing shoes before entering the home and washing work clothes separately from the other family laundry.

·    Filtering home tap or well water… Unless the home water source is known to be contaminated, it is preferable to use filtered tap water instead of commercially bottled water.

·    Storing and carrying water in stainless steel, glass, or BPA- and phthalate-free containers.

·    Microwaving food and beverages in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers.

·    Choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues…

·    Exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications if it is available. Avoiding or minimizing consumption of processed, charred, and well-done meats.

·    Properly disposing of pharmaceuticals, household chemicals, paints, and other materials.

·    Choose products made with non-toxic substances or environmentally safe chemicals.

·    Reducing or ceasing landscaping pesticide and fertilizer use will help keep these chemicals from contaminating drinking water supplies.

·    Turning off lights and electrical devices when not in use reduces exposure to petroleum combustion by-products because doing so reduces the need for electricity, much of which is generated using fossil fuels.

·    Driving a fuel-efficient car, biking or walking when possible, or using public transportation also cuts the amount of toxic auto exhaust in the air.

·    Reduce or eliminate exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in the home, auto, and public places.

Radiation

·    Adults and children can reduce their exposure to electromagnetic energy by wearing a headset when using a cell phone, texting instead of calling, and keeping calls brief.

·    It is advisable to periodically check home radon levels. Home buyers should conduct a radon test in any home they are considering purchasing.

·    Patients should discuss with their health care providers the need for medical tests or procedures that involve radiation exposure.

·    Adults and children can avoid overexposure to ultraviolet light by wearing protective clothing and sunscreens when outdoors and avoiding exposure when the sunlight is most intense.

Self-Advocacy

·    Each person can become an active voice in his or her community… letting policymakers know that they strongly support environmental cancer research and measures that will reduce or remove from the environment toxics that are known or suspected carcinogens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Individuals also can influence industry by selecting non-toxic products and, where these do not exist, communicating with manufacturers and trade organizations about their desire for safer products.

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - December 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Categories: Chemicals, Ecology, Green Life, Living Green   Tags:

Eco-Parenting

8 Steps to Eco-Parenting:

How do I eco-parent?

Eco Parenting

Raising children is hard enough without worrying about the environmental consequences of your parenting choices. Don’t sweat it. You already care about your child’s well-being and green choices make it easier. When it comes to eco-parenting, here are eight fundamentals:

1. Lead by example. You are the greatest role model your child will have. She will look up to you, learn from you, and embrace your habits. If you teach when you talk, you avoid many of the “why” questions that inevitably come when she sees you separating food scraps from glass from cardboard or turning the lights off when you leave a room.

2. Instill fundamental human needs. In addition to love, he or she needs to know that clean air, clean water, and clean soil are essential to human life. He can live without video games, but he cannot live without these precious commodities.

3. Share “green” experiences. Start a composting project or visit the aquarium to learn about the importance of the marine world to our lives. What happens when we take too many fish out of the sea or dump too much garbage into it? How does it affect the family? Come up with other “green” experiences.

4. Seriously consider breastfeeding. In a perfect world, no food is better (or greener) for an infant than mother’s milk. It is the ultimate in nutritious, local food production. Don’t take my word for it – check out the American Medical Association position on breastfeeding at www.ama-assn.org.

Healthy Food

5. Healthy food is usually green food. Your child will benefit from local fruits and vegetables at home. Take him to the local market or, if possible, a farm to learn about fresh food. Encourage him to start a garden in the backyard or grow some herbs in a pot at home. He is less likely to develop food allergies or sensitivities if he is not eating processed, packaged, or fast foods.

6. Green food makes you smarter. Diet is critical for learning. Parents can pitch a green school lunch partnership plan that is both healthy and financially responsible. If schools and school boards know that healthy cafeteria options don’t inflate the budget, it is hard to argue against them. For example, a school garden is a great education tool and a source of nutritious food for students.

7. Travel green.Don’t let your child develop an automobile addiction. Seek out destinations that you can reach together safely on foot or by bicycle. It is a great way to share time together and get fit. When the car cannot be avoided, try to combine errands or carpool with other families. Carpooling is a great, green way for parents to share the travel load.

8. Seek out green products for your kids. When you buy her toys, clothes and bath products, take some time to find eco-friendly, safe options. Green products for babies and children are growing in popularity.

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - December 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Categories: Ecology, Green Education, Green Life, Health and Wellness, Living Green   Tags:

Methane Gas Exposure

Giant plumes of Methane bubbling to surface of Arctic Ocean

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen in the Arctic Ocean.

Antarctic oceanic and tropospheric studies focus on the structure and processes of the ocean-atmosphere environment and their relationships with the global ocean, the atmosphere, and the marine biosphere. As part of the global heat engine, the Antarctic has a major role in the world’s transfer of energy. Its ocean/atmosphere system is known to be both an indicator and a component of climate change.

Russian scientists discovered the methane gas, some 1,000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented levels of gas released could greatly accelerate global climate change.

The sheer scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Dr Semiletov’s team published a study in 2010 estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about eight million tons a year, but the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon.

Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences tells the UK’s Independent that the plumes of methane, a gas 20 times as harmful as carbon dioxide, have shocked scientists who have been studying the region for decades. “Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of meters in diameter,” he said. “This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 meters in diameter. It’s astounding.”

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tones of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

“In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr Semiletov said. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.”

Dr Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. December 2011.

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - December 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Categories: Ecology, Global Warming Effects, Green Education   Tags:

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer caused by the presence of a pressurized fluid. Hydraulic fractures may form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, or may be man-made in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction, where the technique is often called fracking or hydrofracking.

This type of fracturing, known colloquially as a frack job (or frac job), is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations. The energy from the injection of a highly-pressurized fracking fluid, creates new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels.

The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.

The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.

The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists.

The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that would normally be used.

“This is an important first indication there are potential problems with fracking that can impact domestic water wells. It’s I think a clarion call to industry to make sure they take a great deal of care in their drilling practices,” said Steve Jones with the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

Wyoming last year became one of the first states to require oil and gas companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking. Colorado regulators are considering doing the same.

The public and industry representatives packed an 11-hour hearing on the issue in Denver on Monday. They all generally supported the proposal but the sticking point is whether trade secrets would have to be disclosed and how quickly the information would have to be turned over.

And while the EPA emphasized the Wyoming findings we’re highly localized, the report is likely to reverberate.

The issue has been highly contentious in New York, where some upstate residents and politicians argue that the gas industry will bring desperately needed jobs while others demand a ban on fracking to protect water supplies. New York regulators haven’t issued permits for gas drilling with high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale since they began an extensive environmental review in 2008.

The EPA began sampling water from Pavilion’s aquifer to find out how troublesome the water contamination was. Although the EPA has not put together an official interpretation of the raw data, the samples from about forty-two homes found concentrations of pollutants—some known carcinogens—at levels much higher than safe for public consumption. Here are the results as reported by Abraham Lustgarten of ProPublica:

  1. Sampling showed the presence of a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol, which is commonly used in the fracking process. The samples did not turn up “contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.”
  2. The presence of cancer-causing benzene was found “at 50 times that level that is considered safe for people, as well as phenols—another dangerous human carcinogen—acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.”
  3. Well “samples were saturated with methane gas that matched the deep layers of natural gas being drilled for energy. The gas did not match the shallower methane that the gas industry says is naturally occurring in water, a signal that the contamination was related to drilling and was less likely to have come from drilling waste spilled above ground.”

Kate Sinding, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City, said in an e-mail Thursday that the EPA in Wyoming is now recognizing what other experts and families in fracking communities have known for some time: “Fracking poses serious threats to safe drinking water.”

The practice of hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny internationally due to apparent concerns about the environmenthealth and safety, and has been suspended or banned in some countries.

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Posted by Fay B. Castro - December 13, 2011 at 3:51 am

Categories: Ecology   Tags: