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Is Too Clean Carcinogenic?

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Author: the Inkslinger

The more we learn, the more we learn we’ve really learned nothing at all, at least when compared to all the secrets that still lie hidden.

For example, there’s this absolutely fascinating article in today’s L.A. Times, which reports that some scientists think humanity’s ongoing obsession with hyper-cleanliness and its ever increasing microbiophobia (fear of germs), as evidenced by exploding sales of anti-bacterial products, may be contributing to the increases in some kinds of cancer we’ve been seeing lately.

Simply put, several studies have found that people regularly exposed to large amounts of bacteria, like farm workers who work amidst lots of manure, have much lower rates of certain cancers than people who aren’t exposed to large amounts of bacteria, like farm workers who spend most of their time outside the barn.

It’s an intriguing idea and one that deserves a lot of scrutiny. If you’ve read the Non-Toxic Times or Naturally Clean, you know about the Hygiene Hypothesis, which essentially says that it’s most likely not such a great idea to live in a sterile environment because it could make your immune system fat and lazy. If there are no germs around to fight, our immune systems become sedentary, deactivated in a sense. When they finally do encounter something to fight they’ve become so soft and out-of-shape that they can’t respond effectively. Because they evolved in a dirty world, our immune systems need a certain amount of that world preserved in order to remain fit and trim.

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Snooze Desk

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Author: the Inkslinger

Been a sleepy news week here at the Enviro Desk. Not a lot going on. I suspect all eco-eyes have been on the climate crisis talks in Bali, where at last report a few hours ago, talks had extended past the deadline and hope remained for some kind of meaningful carbon reduction agreement. That and as we draw closer to Christmas things really start to quiet down. So the combination has created a perfect storm of nothingness on the wires

Still there are a couple of things worth noting as we close out the week….

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Keeping Abreast of Cancer News

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As the father of two young girls and the son of a mother who had breast cancer along with her aunt, back in the days when a radical mastectomy was the only option, breast cancer is a topic of great interest to me. This thoughtful article from New Jersey's Bergen County Record combines new information with practical steps we can take to minimize risk. Information we all need to put into action.

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Heavy Breathing

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If you’ve ever sat at a restaurant while someone cleaned the table next to you, and you experienced an unpleasant sensation in your throat, nose and eyes, that was likely your body telling you that the contents of the spray cleaner were bad for your health. Studies over the past several years have documented that the VOC’s like those found in conventional cleaners are asthma triggers for children. Now, the evidence that spray cleaners are linked to asthma in adults is back in the news.

VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds. They’re carbon-based chemicals that form vapors at room temperature, and these vapors are very easily inhaled by anyone nearby. Cleaning product manufacturers like to use VOCs because their tendency to evaporate quickly means they help the surfaces being cleaned dry quickly. The VOCs evaporate and carry away much of the rest of the moisture in a given cleaning product with them.

We can’t tell from this new study whether or not it’s the VOCs in cleaners or something else they contain that’s triggering asthma in adults. The study only says that the more you use conventional cleaning products, the greater your chance of contracting the disease. It could be another compound or family of chemicals that’s responsible. There’s also evidence, for example, that phthalates contribute to asthma risk, and just a week or so ago I was talking about how aerosols can carry all kinds of chemicals deep into our lungs.

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USA Yesterday

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Author: the Inkslinger

We got some good ink in yesterday's edition of USA Today. More to the point, we got a nice photo and the issue of unhealthy chemicals in consumer products got some much needed mainstream media coverage, which I think we can all agree is even better.

Following the paper's sound-bite tradition of never printing more in any given article than can be digested between subway stops, the article doesn't t dive into the deep end of the subject by any means, but what really matters is that USA Today gave any ink to this issue at all . They did, and that's a good thing no matter what. Even more impressive, the piece generally falls on the precautionary side of things and rather than give manufacturers a soap box to spin the damning PR their way, it instead chooses to cite independent sources like the Environmental Working Group and Consumers Union. That's a positive development. Let's hope for the sake of public health that it's the beginning and not the end of paper's coverage of the subject.

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Finding Furniture

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Author: the Inkslinger

As someone who recently moved to a “new” house and is doing a bit of furnishing, I’ve been concerned about what those furnishings might do to our new home’s air quality. This excellent article from yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle shows why.

It’s something not a lot of people realize: home furnishings can be a prime source unhealthy formaldehyde, flame retardants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other chemical bugaboos that get loose and pollute indoor environments. Things to watch out for range from out-gassing formaldehyde from pressed wood products to stain and fire-retardant treatments. Here’s a quick list of ways that my wife and I are trying to keep these things down to a minimum as we try to find a place to sit around here:

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Now THIS Is Scary…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Checking in for a quick second to forward this creepy article
from Seattle’s KOMO-TV about the spooky stuff lurking in Halloween costumery. Talk about things things that go boo in your body… Parents and everyone else be warned about these untreat-like tricks being played on our little boys and ghouls. We gotta think for ourselves and be precautionarily proactive on stuff like this so it doesn’t haunt us later. Don’t think just because it’s for sale that it’s safe. These deregulated days there are absolutely no guarantees. Caveat emptor.

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Making Ourselves Sick

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Over the weekend, the Times of London reported on a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine by the American Thoracic Society. The results are not surprising and speak for themselves.

“The relative risk rates of developing adult asthma in relation to exposure to cleaning products could account for as much as 15 per cent, or one in seven, of adult asthma cases.”

In fact, the study found that subjects who used household spray cleaners at least once a week increased their risk of developing asthma symptoms by an incredible 30 to 50 percent.

Singled out as particularly likely to trigger asthma were conventional glass cleaners, furniture sprays, and air fresheners, which typically contain chemicals like ammonia, chlorine-releasing agents and sodium hydroxide. Researchers suggested that it's significantly easier to get exposed to these and other chemicals when they're released into the air in spray form. This, of course, is something we've been concerned about for years. When we spray a cleaning product, a certain amount never makes it to the surface we're cleaning. Instead, it goes out into the air in the form of something called aerosols, super-tiny microscopic particles that are so lightweight they can stay suspended in the air for hours--the same air we then breathe.

Let's wake up before too many more people smell the spray cleaners.

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Pure Know How

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Author: the Inkslinger

Non-Toxic Times reader Patti Murphy wrote in about our recent article on parabens and we wanted to share what she had to say with y'all

We wholeheartedly endorse your concerns about parabens in everyday products. My own experience with breast cancer last year opened my eyes to the impact of this endocrine disrupter chemicals in the products I used everyday. This awareness started a process that has resulted in a new venture, Pure Know How. We publish a weekly on-line bulletin on the toxins in everyday cosmetic, personal care and household products. We also have an extensive Web site with resources, product reviews, a blog and archives. Our “fresh and friendly approach” to this important issue has been resonating with our subscribers - as indicated by the number of people who have signed up to receive the weekly e-bulletin and the feedback we’ve received. Check us out.

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All I Wanted Was Some “Fresh” Air

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A new study by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported in last week’s issue of Time Magazine found that 12 out of 14 air freshners purchased at a local Walgreens contained chemicals called phthalates. Time reports:

“Studies involving rat and human subjects have suggested that high exposures to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities (including decreased testosterone and sperm levels and malformed sex organs) in infants, and can affect fertility. In 2004, the European Union banned two types of phthalates in cosmetics and also bans the chemical in children's toys, as do 14 other countries. The first state bill to ban phthalates in children's toys in the U.S. is currently sitting on California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk, and he is expected to sign it this week.”

The fall out for the study so far: Managers at 111 Walgreens stores in Minnesota and thousands more nationwide removed three different varieties of air fresheners from their shelves over the weekend.

Study details here.

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