SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

August 31, 2010

Gary Null & vit D Toxicity


Gary Null and Vitamin D Toxicity

Warning: If you intend to take massive doses of vitamin D based on this newsletter, which I highly recommend you do not, read the entire newsletter. In addition, accurate determination of side effects of massive doses of vitamin D was not available in the early 1930s, nor was accurate determination of the true amount in each pill possible.

Is 2,000,000 IU/day of vitamin D toxic?

Ask Gary Null, alternative medicine guru and entrepreneur. He took his own supplement, Ultimate Power Meal, for a month and became extremely ill; one batch of Power Meal apparently contained 1,000 times more vitamin D than it should. That is, it contained 2,000,000 IU of vitamin D3 per serving instead of 2,000 IU per serving. Mr. Null became sicker and sicker as he gulped it down.

After suing his own supplier for permanent physical damage, Mr. Null then reported it took 3 months to get the extra vitamin D out of his system and that he is now alive and well.

New York Post: ‘Death’ is now Null and void

If Mr. Null took it for the full month that he claims, and if his Power Meal contained 2,000,000 IU per dose, Mr. Null consumed 60,000,000 IU in one month. Could he really be fine now with no lasting injuries?

In an attempt to answer that question, I went back to the 1930s and 40s.

Massive doses in the 1930s

The earliest references I could find to enormous doses of vitamin D were in the 1930s. In 1935, Drs. Dreyer and Reed, of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, published their observations on 700 patients treated with “massive” doses of vitamin D for up to two years.

Dreyer I, Reed CI. The treatment of arthritis with massive doses of vitamin D. Archives of Physical Therapy. 1935;16:537–43.

First, the authors report that vitamin D had remarkable treatment effects on all kinds of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis. They report on 67 arthritic patients so treated, with 75% of the patients responding most dramatically.

The dose used? Drs. Dreyer and Reed started all patients on 200,000 IU per day! They started some patients on 200,000 IU/day of D2 and others on 200,000 IU/day of D3, noticing no difference in efficacy. They used vitamin D preparations made by Mead Johnson, Glaxo, and Abbott.

“If there was no improvement and no evidence of sensitivity, the daily dose was increased by 50,000 units each week until there was some improvement or evidence of overdosage. In some stubborn cases, it was found necessary to increase to 600,000 or even 1,000,000 units for a few days and then reduce to 200,000 to 500,000 units. Most of our results have been obtained with daily doses of 300,000 to 500,000 units.”

The authors report that 63 of the 700 patients on this dosage became clinically toxic. That is, about 10% of the patients on these doses became sick (toxic) from the vitamin D. Today, we usually think of vitamin D toxicity as asymptomatic high blood calcium but these were old time doctors; toxic meant sick.

How did they treat the 63 patients who became sick from massive doses of vitamin D? Hospitalize them in the ICU? No, they simply stopped the vitamin D, told them to drink plenty of fluids, waited for the symptoms of toxicity to dissipate, and then restarted them on a lower dose, such as 150,000 IU per day.

The authors do mention that many of the patients had high blood calcium, one in the 20s, but if the patients were not sick, the doctors didn’t care about the calcium. As the authors did not draw serum calcium on all of the 700 patients, we don’t know what percentage of patients on these doses became hypercalcemic.

Symptoms of Toxicity

The authors report that the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity began with persistent nausea, which the doctors instructed their patients to be on the lookout for, as well as increased frequency of urination without increased volume of urine. Weakness and increased thirst were common, and “if the treatment is continued, diarrhea, gripping pain in the gastrointestinal tract, and vomiting.” The authors bragged that they could not report on pathological findings in toxicity, because none of their 700 patients had died and “come to autopsy.”

In 1934, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on vitamin D overdose:

Reed CI. Symptoms of Viosterol overdosage in human subjects. JAMA. 1934;102:1745–1748.

They reported on 300 patients given high doses of vitamin D2 for asthma and hay fever. The author reported that each cc contained 900,000 IU of vitamin D2. The good doctor gave one patient 3 cc per day for five days (that would be a total dose of 13.5 million units) “without the slightest evidence of injury.”

However, in his conclusion, Dr. Reed was much more conservative:

“There need be little apprehension about the administration of amounts ranging up to 150,000 international units daily for indefinite periods. Larger amounts had better be limited to periods of a few months at most, depending on the therapeutic effects desired.”

Dr. Rappaport and colleagues at the University of Illinois studied the effects of Viosterol (vitamin D2) on asthma and hay fever in 212 patients, giving placebo to a control group. The authors reported that 82% of the hay fever patients and 96% of the asthma patients “experienced definitive significant relief.” The authors concluded that the “optimum dose” of vitamin D was 60,000 to 300,000 IU per day.

Rappaprt BZ, et al. The treatment of hay fever and asthma with Viosterol of high potency. J. of Allergy. 1934;5:541–553.

Why these doctors did not try 5,000 or 10,000 IU/day, instead of 200,000 IU/day, I could not ascertain.

Death in the 1940s

Things began to change in the 1940s. In 1946, two case reports of fatal vitamin D toxicity in adults (the authors report five previous fatal cases in children) appeared in the medical literature.

Mulligan RM. Metastatic Calcification Associated with Hypervitaminosis D and Haliphagia. Am J Pathol. 1946 Nov;22(6):1293–1305. (PDF download)

Bauer JM and Freyberg RH. Vitamin D intoxication with metastatic calcification. JAMA 1946;130:1208–1215.

Another case report of a fatal dose of vitamin D in adults appeared in 1947. This death was from Ertron, vitamin D2, at a dose of 150,000 IU daily for 18 months, and it included a description of foot lesions similar to what Gary Null reported. This paper is free to download and I suggest everyone who is flirting with the idea of using massive doses of vitamin D obtain it and read it. It is chilling to read the detailed autopsy report.

Bevans M, Taylor HK. Lesions Following the Use of Ertron in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Am J Pathol. 1947 May;23(3):367–387. (PDF download)

By 1948, the medical community began condemning the use of such massive doses of vitamin D as evidenced by a paper from Johns Hopkins University:

Howard JE and Meyer RJ. Intoxication with vitamin D. J. Clin. Endocrinology. 1948;8(11);895–910.

The authors reference 12 earlier papers on vitamin D intoxication with calcification of everything from the kidneys to the sclera of the eyes. The first symptoms of vitamin D toxicity in their series of 11 patients were weight loss and fatigue, which occurred before the anorexia (poor appetite) and vomiting. All of their patients suffered from kidney damage and anemia. Virtually all of the patients had a characteristic eye lesion, which are calcium deposits in the sclera and cornea, just beneath the conjunctival basement membrane.

All patients had high blood calcium, ranging from 12.4 to 15.1 mg per 100 cc. Dosages of vitamin D ranged from the lowest at 150,000 IU/day for 4 months (serum calcium 13.9) to the highest at 500,000 IU/day for 18 months (serum calcium 14.3). They reported on another patient who developed hypercalcemia after she reported taking 300,000 IU of vitamin D2 for only 2 weeks; she also had eye lesions evident on slit lamp exam. Although accurate follow up was not possible due to the fact the patients came from around the country, no patients died but some suffered permanent renal damage from the excessive doses of vitamin D.

The treatment the authors used for vitamin D toxicity was discontinuing the vitamin D, drinking 4,000 cc of fluid per day, and a low calcium diet. Improvement occurred within 2–8 weeks when nausea, vomiting, and lassitude disappeared. Blood calcium fell in all patients by one month but continued to be elevated for as long as a year in one patient.

These reports of toxicity were all the medical profession needed to condemn vitamin D as dangerous, as I learned in medical school in the early 1970s. The dark ages of vitamin D meant that for several generations of doctors, vitamin D was toxic at all but the most meaningless doses. Its use to treat asthma and arthritis became verboten. For fifty years, doctors forgot about vitamin D — other than vitamin D deficient rickets — because of fear of toxicity. During these dark ages, the Food and Nutrition Board periodically reviewed vitamin D and repeatedly distributed toxicity alarms, along with their recommendations that we only take insignificant doses.

Out of the dark ages

Then, at the turn of the century, Professor Reinhold Vieth of the University of Toronto showed us the way out of the dark ages with an objective review of the toxicity literature. The paper is free to download:

Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):842–56.

What Vieth’s paper showed was that there is a difference between 5,000 IU per day and 50,000 IU per day, the first being a physiological dose and the second being a pharmacological dose, a drug. However, in 1999 the world was using neither dose properly, in that no doctors were prescribing 5,000 IU per day and no scientists were studying 50,000 IU per day.

After Vieth’s paper, in the first few years of this century, a steady stream of vitamin D papers began flowing out of research labs, with the number of publications increasing every year. For example, scientists published 1,582 new papers on vitamin D in the first six months of 2010. Very few are about toxicity, instead they cover a breathtaking variety of diseases. These papers raise the possibility that many of the diseases that we take as being part of the human condition are not part of the human condition, instead they are simply the result of the toxicity scare: vitamin D deficiency. That is, these diseases are simply different presentations of the same deficiency. In that way, vitamin D deficiency is similar to syphilis.

Sir William Osler said, “Know syphilis in all its manifestations and relations and all other things clinical will be added unto you. Know syphilis and the whole of medicine is opened to you.” He called it the “Great Imitator,” because late stages of syphilis simulate almost every disease known to man. Smoking is similar, some smokers get emphysema, some lung cancer, some heart disease, some bladder cancer, some pancreatic cancer, and some live to be 100. Increasingly, vitamin D deficiency looks as if it may do the same thing. Some vitamin D deficient people will get asthma, others cancer, others heart disease, others autoimmune illness, and some will live to be 100.

Let’s look at one rare disease, childhood multiple sclerosis, a nightmare for any parent to face. The child will have problems with vision, co-ordination, or balance, with relapses and remissions, that is the disease seems to come and go. Recently, Dr. Ellen Mowry and her colleagues discovered that these relapses, these periods of active autoimmune illness, are associated with low levels of vitamin D. The disease comes and goes as vitamin D levels come and go. Dr. Mowrey speculated that a 15 ng/mL increase in vitamin D levels would cut the relapse rate in half.

Mowry EM, et al. Vitamin D status is associated with relapse rate in pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2010 May;67(5):618–24.

Dr. Mowry did not raise the fundamental question: would these children have become ill in the first place if they had adequate amounts of vitamin D during their growth and development? The average vitamin D level of these 110 children was 22 ng/mL, so Dr. Morey could not say what an increase to 50 ng/mL would do, nor could she say if low vitamin D levels were what allowed the disease to appear in the first place.

That is, is juvenile multiple sclerosis simply one of many possible presentations of childhood vitamin D deficiency? Some vitamin D deficient children will get multiple sclerosis, some asthma, some diabetes, some rickets, and others autism. That is, is vitamin D deficiency the modern day syphilis?

Unlike syphilis, vitamin D deficiency is largely an iatrogenic disease, caused by the medical profession’s near hysterical fear of vitamin D toxicity. Physicians simply forgot what Paracelsus said many years ago, “All things are poison and nothing is without poison, the dose alone permits something to be poisonous.” We went from intemperance in the 1930s to hysteria in the 1950s and we are only now coming to our senses.

We look around at the diseases debilitating our children, the triple A epidemics of autoimmune disorders, asthma, and autism. All are truly epidemic, all are debilitating or worse, and vitamin D is involved in all three. We failed to make sure our children had enough vitamin D throughout their growth and development and now our children suffer, in large part because of the hysteria over vitamin D toxicity.

What dose is toxic? I don’t know but I’d guess for some adults it is around 50,000 IU/day. However, it will vary widely and some people may get asymptomatic side effects on lower doses, such as kidney damage, without getting clinical signs of toxicity. Just because you feel fine, that does not mean your kidneys are fine.

Getting back to Mr. Gary Null and his ingestion of 60,000,000 IU over one month, could he have survived that dose? Apparently, the answer is yes, although I doubt he took it every day, especially as he got sicker and sicker. Could he have survived that dose without permanent kidney damage? I doubt it.

Remember, we are a non-profit and rely on your donations to publish our newsletter, maintain our website, and pursue our objectives. Send your tax-deductible contributions to:

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  • 1241 Johnson Ave. #134
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John Jacob Cannell MD Executive Director

GARY NULL Supplements guru sues over his own product

April 29, 2010 |

The world of dietary supplements is unpredictable and sometimes, well, zany. But here’s a story that should give pause to anyone lured by the extravagant claims of many supplements makers.

Gary Null, a nutrition and fitness guru, critic of conventional medicine and hawker of dietary supplements on his website, filed a suit Monday with the Supreme Court of New York County against one of his own herbal supplements — or more specifically, a company that provided some of its nutrient ingredients. The suit alleges that after taking two daily doses of the product, Ultimate Power Meal, for a month, Null fell ill with “excruciating fatigue along with bodily pain” and bleeding “from within his feet.”

A visit to his physician revealed extremely elevated levels of Vitamin D in Null’s body, which led Null to investigate the contents of the Ultimate Power Meal. Null’s complaint charges that the defendant in the civil case, Triarco Industries Inc., had erred in preparing the Vitamin D source for the product, making it 1,000 times more potent than the product’s content label claimed. The suit seeks damages of $10 million.

As The New York Post, which broke the story, observes, “not exactly a ringing endorsement” of his own product.

Null consumed his power meals after his symptoms appeared, believing the product “would help him and relieve his condition.”

“Fortunately, only one lot of Power Meal was defective and none of the product reached the retail market,” says Null on his website’s “store.” But the New York Post, citing papers filed in the suit, reports that “six consumers were hospitalized with severe kidney damage” and that Null, while ill, “had dozens of his customers calling him, as well as threatening and condemning him.”

It’s not at all uncommon for the content of dietary supplements to contain doses wildly different than those indicated on their labels–and that’s when nutritional contents are listed on labels, which is not always. (At least one commercial lab regularly issues reports documenting the mislabeled and unlabeled contents of dietary supplements.)

New federal rules make the manufacturers of dietary supplements subject to inspections to ensure “good manufacturing procedures.” Those rules aim to improve quality problems that have long plagued the supplements industry. But for the smallest manufacturers, those regulations are just now coming into force. Otherwise, the Food and Drug Administration’s role in regulating dietary supplements is very limited: Dietary supplements are allowed onto the market without prior approval from the FDA. So, unless the agency has reports that indicate a product may be harmful, it can stay in broad circulation indefinitely.

So, buyer beware — and apparently that goes for Gary Null, whose “Ultimate Power Meal,” fortunately for him, didn’t quite live up to its name.

As for Vitamin D toxicity — this is controversial. Most of us do not get enough of this vitamin, which our bodies produce in response to sunlight as well as take in from dietary sources, and evidence is mounting that adequate Vitamin D levels are important for staying healthy. But the National Institutes of Health have said that 50 micrograms, or 2,000 international units, is the safe daily limit for anyone over a year old. The Vitamin D Council, headed by Dr. John J. Cannell, counters that adults can tolerate more than 10,000 IU daily safely.

–Melissa Healy

August 28, 2010

Helpful GI (Glycemic Index) tips

Filed under: Glycemic index — Jan Turner @ 11:16 am

Sorry friends, My intent was to run this last month, but it seems to have become buried and overlooked.   Still relevant, and always will be, I wanted to get it out anyway because I keep seeing all these TV commercials hyping the relevance of the GI index as if it was a mainstay of their diet plans, or at least an integral part of it – – but then showing how delightful their plan is and easy to find success on while showcasing “spaghetti”,  breads,  pasta and so on.  This is Flagrant Distortion! pure and simple.

Anyone using the GI index is doing so to make better choices, trying to ascertain which veggie or fruit is lower on the GI index.  One is after dense nutrient which is not found in pasta, breads and rich sauces and so on.  One is steaming, broiling, baking or roasting the foods and trying to ingest with each meal, perhaps sauteing, some (your choice of) lean animal protein and a whole bunch of veggies such as mushrooms, onions, garlic and other growing vegetables – then maybe mixing up a gorgeous salad with mounds of fresh tomatoes (grape), avocado and any of a wide variety of gorgeous green-leafy topped with some olive oil and lemon or vinegar and maybe a range of fragrant spices such as Tarragon, Sweet basil and oh my God, I’m getting hungry.     There are so many choices that will get you there, but they are all fresh, hopefully organic and coming out of your own kitchen, luscious and anxious to become a part of you.  Give it a go, but do it yourself and get richer for it. Jan

GI News—July 2010


  • 7 steps to better blood glucose
  • Rice: it’s not the colour or size, it’s the GI that counts
  • Why you should check your vitamin B12
  • The scoop on chromium
  • Does sugar cause diabetes?
  • Starchy vegetables – 10 things you need to know
  • Prof Jennie Brand-Miller on carbs and blood glucose
  • In Food for Thought in this issue, we outline 7 steps to better blood glucose. You have probably never given your blood glucose a second thought unless you have diabetes. But out-of-control blood glucose is emerging as a major health crisis around the world. Our love affair with soft white bread, French fries, crispy breakfast flakes, sugary baked goods (all high GI foods) has led to an outbreak of insulin resistance – essentially, what happens when the body’s system for handling blood glucose spikes gets worn out from overwork. In Australia for example, one in four people now has some impairment in glucose tolerance or insulin secretion. (The chances are nearly one in two for the overweight, over 45s.) Left unchecked, the result is metabolic syndrome – a precursor to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor to measure your blood glucose levels next time you visit.

    Good eating, good health and good reading.


    Editor: Philippa Sandall
    Web management and design: Alan Barclay, PhD

    Posted by GI Group

    Food for Thought

    7 steps to better blood glucose

    1. Eat more regularly whether you have three meals a day or have three smaller meals plus snacks. If you use insulin or take medication that stimulates insulin production from your pancreas, it is helpful if you can maintain some consistency in the times you eat your meals. Make meals a time to relax and enjoy food – you are more likely to feel satisfied if you do. Just remember to put your knife and fork down when you are full (not stuffed).

    2.Switch to low GI foods – the ‘smart’ carbs (‘tricklers’) that are slowly digested and absorbed when you eat them producing only gentle rises and falls in your blood glucose and insulin levels. A Cochrane review that analysed 11 randomised controlled trials found that following a low GI diet significantly helps people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes improve their blood glucose levels. In fact, the researchers found that HbA1c (A1c) levels decreased by 0.5% with a low GI diet, and point out that the findings are significant both statistically and clinically. (HbA1c gives a picture of a person’s average blood glucose levels over several months.) You can check out our 10 tips to reduce the overall GI of your diet HERE.

    3. Keep carb portions moderate – 50–60g of carbohydrate at any one sitting is a good average. On your dinner plate, that’s the equivalent of 1¼ cups of cooked (al dente) pasta – measure it out and see what it looks like. And in this super-sized world, eat smaller portions for your meals and snacks overall. Using smaller plates and bowls is a help.

    4. Eat more fruits and vegetables. You see, it isn’t all about cutting back. Most people don’t eat anywhere near enough of them. Fresh, frozen, dried and canned (in juice not syrup) fruits are all suitable. And when it comes to non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, etc), you can eat as much as you like. As bonus, toss your salad in a vinaigrette dressing – adding acid to your meals can help reduce your blood glucose response. In GI Symbol News in this issue, Alan Barclay talks about serve sizes for starchy veggies.

    5. Favour the good fats. The type of fat can make a big difference to your health and waistline. Cut back on saturated fat and focus on the good fats – monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil, nuts and avocados), omega-3 fatty acids (fish is the best source) and polyunsaturated fats (in vegetable oils). Fat doesn’t raise your blood glucose and it doesn’t require insulin in order to be metabolised so it doesn’t raise insulin levels either. And because it slows the rate at which food leaves your stomach it can blunt the blood glucose effect of a whole meal.

    6. Eat more protein at every meal. It won’t increase your blood glucose levels and keeps hunger pangs at bay as it helps you feel fuller for longer. There’s no need to go overboard – a small (100g/3½oz) piece of lean chicken or steak, a little can of fish, a side dish of legumes, an egg, a tub of skinny yoghurt or a handful of nuts will do it.

    7. Get regular physical activity. Exercising muscles need fuel and the fuel they prefer is glucose. So as soon as you start moving your muscles they’ll start burning up glucose. First they’ll use their own stores of glucose (that’s glycogen); then they’ll call on the liver for some of its stores, all the time drawing the glucose out of the blood and lowering your blood glucose levels.

    ‘My aim is a calm pancreas – avoiding the highs and lows.’ – Dianne

    ‘I was devastated when I discovered that my fasting blood glucose levels were higher than normal and that I was on the path to type 2 diabetes. I did some research and was delighted to read that I could delay the onset of diabetes by changing my lifestyle and my eating habits. It’s early days yet, but I have lost 6 kilos and I am walking for an hour 5–6 days a week. The Low GI Handbook has helped. I have changed my diet and am feeling so great – no more acid reflux, no more feeling sluggish after lunch. I have so much more energy and feel on top of world. My husband has joined me in support and he speaks volumes for changes he is feeling too. We are eating more fish and I can’t believe how many fresh vegetables we get through in a week. We’ve not eaten white bread, biscuits, cake or sweet desserts now for 103 days! (I keep a diary of my food intake.) Instead, we’ve replaced these with grainy breads, nuts and berries. I can’t wait for that follow up blood test my doctor said I should have a year after the last. I’m expecting a big change. Here’s to a low GI diet for life!

    Nixing Fat Fostering

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Jan Turner @ 1:11 am

    “New York Times”

    Fixing a World That Fosters Fat

    By NATASHA SINGER                                                         Published: August 21, 2010

    WHY are Americans getting fatter and fatter? The simple explanation is that we eat too much junk food and spend too much time in front of screens — be they television, phone or computer — to burn off all those empty calories.

    One handy prescription for healthier lives is behavior modification. If people only ate more fresh produce. (Thank you, Michael Pollan.) If only children exercised more. (Ditto, Michelle Obama.)

    Unfortunately, behavior changes won’t work on their own without seismic societal shifts, health experts say, because eating too much and exercising too little are merely symptoms of a much larger malady. The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.

    In other words: it’s the environment, stupid.

    “Everyone knows that you shouldn’t eat junk food and you should exercise,” says Kelly D. Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. “But the environment makes it so difficult that fewer people can do these things, and then you have a public health catastrophe.”

    Dr. Brownell, who has a doctorate in psychology, is among a number of leading researchers who are proposing large-scale changes to food pricing, advertising and availability, all in the hope of creating an environment conducive to healthier diet and exercise choices.

    To that end, health researchers are grappling with how to fix systems that are the root causes of obesity, says Dee W. Edington, the director of the Health Management Research Center at the University of Michigan.

    • “If you take a changed person and put them in the same environment, they are going to go back to the old behaviors,” says Dr. Edington, who has a doctorate in physical education. “If you change the culture and the environment first, then you can go back into a healthy environment and, when you get change, it sticks.”

    Indeed, despite individual efforts by some states to tax soda pop, promote farm stands, require healthier school lunches or mandate calorie information in chain restaurants, obesity rates in the United States are growing. An estimated 72.5 million adults in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, about 27 percent of adults said they were obese, compared with about 20 percent in 2000, as reported in a C.D.C. study published this month. And, the report said, obesity may cost the medical system as much as $147 billion annually.

    So what kind of disruptive changes might help nudge Americans into healthier routines?

    • Equalizing food pricing, for one.

    Fast-food restaurants can charge lower prices for value meals of hamburgers and French fries than for salad. . .

    “We have made it more expensive to eat healthy in a very big way,” says Dr. Popkin, who has a doctorate in agricultural economics and is the author of a book called “The World Is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies and Products That Are Fattening the Human Race.”

    • But the inflation-adjusted price of fruit and vegetables, which are not subject to federal largess, rose 17 percent just from 1997 to 2003, the study said.

    Cutting agricultural subsidies would have a big impact on people’s eating habits, says Dr. Popkin.“If we cut the subsidy on whole milk and made it cheaper only to drink low-fat milk,” he says, “people would switch to it and it would save a lot of calories.”

    Health experts are also looking to the private sector. On-site fitness centers and vending machines that sell good-for-you snacks are practical workplace innovations that many companies have instituted.

    On a more philosophical level, innovative companies are training managers not to burn out employees by overworking them, says Dr. Edington of the University of Michigan.

    “Stress comes up. It can lead to overeating and obesity,” Dr. Edington says. At companies that see employee health as a renewable resource, he adds, managers encourage employees to go home on time so they can spend more time with their families, communities or favorite activities. “Instead of going home with an empty tank, you can go home with the energy that we gave you by the way we run our business,” he says.

    CORPORATE-SECTOR efforts aren’t entirely altruistic. It’s less expensive for businesses to keep healthy workers healthy than to cover the medical costs of obesity and related problems like diabetes. For employees at I.B.M. and their families, for example, the annual medical claim for an obese adult or child costs about double that of a non-obese adult or child, says Martin J. Sepulveda, I.B.M.’s vice president for integrated health services.

    I.B.M. has been promoting wellness for employees since the 1980s. But in 2008, it began offering a new program, the Children’s Health Rebate, to encourage employees to increase their at-home family dinners, their servings of fruits and vegetables, and their physical activities, as well as to reduce their children’s television and computer time.

    In addition to helping prevent obesity in children, Mr. Sepulveda says, the program is aimed at employees who might neglect to exercise on their own but would willingly participate as part of a family project. Each family that completes the program receives $150.

    All of these ideas sound promising. But the architecture of obesity is so entrenched that policy makers, companies, communities, families and individuals will need to undertake a variety of efforts to displace and replace it, says Alan Lyles, a professor at the School of Health and Human Services at the University of Baltimore.

    And American efforts can seem piecemeal compared with those in Britain, where the government has undertaken a multi-pronged national attack, requiring changes in schools, health services and the food industry.

    Britain now places restrictions on advertising fatty, sugary and salty foods during children’s shows, for example. And by 2011, cooking classes will be mandatory for all 11- to 14-year-old students in the nation. The hope is to teach a generation of children who grew up on prepared foods how to cook healthy meals, and perhaps to make eating at home — instead of at the local fried fish-and-chips shop — the default option.

    August 27, 2010

    President’s Cancer Panel

    Filed under: organic foods — Jan Turner @ 12:03 pm

    Rodale News

    President’s Cancer Panel

    President’s Cancer Panel: Eat Organic, Avoid Plastics

    A landmark report says the government has been grossly underestimating the effect of environmental toxins on our cancer risk.

    By Leah Zerbe

    Topics: organic food, cancer, bpa and plastic

    Eat pesticide-free organic food, drink from stainless steel or glass containers, and never heat plastic in the microwave or dishwasher.

    Eating food grown without pesticides and toxic chemicals is an important cancer-preventing strategy, says a government report.

    RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Finally, the U.S. government’s talking prevention. Real prevention. Not a scan to detect a disease already growing in your body, but rather, the idea of reducing exposure to environmental toxins—like chemicals used in farming and in plastics—to reduce the risk of cancer. The newly released Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, What We Can Do Now report from the President’s Cancer Panel urges the public to eat foods grown without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics, while suggesting practical advice such as not heating plastic in the microwave and not using water bottles that may contain BPA, or bisphenol A, a chemical linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and heart disease.

    It’s likely industrial foodmakers, plastic makers, and biotech companies aren’t happy about the report. In fact, there were rumors flying just last week that the food industry threatened to block legislation that would ban BPA from food packaging. But with this report, for the first time in a long time, observers say it feels like human health may come before corporate interests. “This is an enormously important document from a highly credible source. For the past 30 years, there has been systematic effort in the U.S. to downplay the importance of environmental factors in carcinogenesis,” says internationally recognized public and preventive health expert Phil Landrigan, MD, professor and chair of the department of community and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “There has been disproportionate emphasis on lifestyle factors and on cancer screening, and not enough attention paid to discovering and controlling environmental exposures.”

    THE DETAILS: The landmark report, issued by LaSalle Leffall, Jr., MD, an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Margaret L. Kripke, MD, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston (both of these doctors were appointed by former President George W. Bush, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof points out), states that the U.S. government has grossly underestimated the number of cancers caused by environmental toxins. “This is a groundbreaking report—and it’s about time,” says Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families and “It’s time to focus as much effort on preventing cancer as we do on trying to find a cure.”

    The report also discussed the effect of exposure on unborn children, who are “pre-polluted” with hundreds of chemicals before they even leave the womb. Many scientists say exposure to harmful chemicals during this period can set a child up for lifelong hormone disruption and other health problems. In a letter to President Obama, the panel stated, “The American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures. The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

    The report points out that research on environmental causes of cancer has been “a low priority” and had “inadequate funding,” resulting in not enough scientists devoted to finding ways to prevent cancer by reducing toxic exposures in our daily lives. “We are surrounded by uncertainty—thousands of chemicals that are in our air, in our kids’ toys, in our lawn-care products, on the fresh fruit we eat—that have never been tested for safety,” says Zuckerman. “And the report points out that technology can hurt our health us as well as help us, as recent warnings about the radiation from CT scans have shown.”

    As it stands, only a tiny fraction of the 80,000 chemicals used today are regulated and tested for safety in humans.

    WHAT IT MEANS: Eating organic food is named as a strategy to reduce cancer risk. Though the “O” word itself is scarce, the authors referenced organic food in everything but name. “Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers… Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic runoff from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications,” the report states. Food produced without antibiotics, hormones, or toxic agrichemicals is, by definition, organic. “Organic production and processing is the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that these chemicals are not used on the farm all the way to our dinner tables,” says Christine Bushway, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, a business association for the organic industry in North America. Certified organic farms are inspected at least once a year and subject to surprise visits to make sure the harmful chemicals and drugs referred to in the President’s Cancer Panel report are not being used. has been telling you all this since we launched; we’re glad the government is catching on. To recap, here are some strategies mentioned in the report that you can use to lower your cancer risk:

    • Eat organic whole foods. If you’re in the grocery store and don’t know your grower personally, choosing the USDA-certified seal ensures your food is grown without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and human sewage sludge that is often contaminated with heavy metals and pharmaceutical drugs. Organic dairy and meat are raised without the antibiotic and hormone use that are prevalent in the factory-farm conditions that supply most of the food in this country. These types of operations are linked to a rise in sometimes fatal MRSA infections and virulent E. coli outbreaks. (Runoff from the lots can get into irrigation water used on produce crops.)

    • Don’t heat plastic…ever. Heating plastic in the microwave or dishwasher causes it to break down and leach chemicals into our food and drink. Some of these chemicals are tied to cancer, sexual development problems, and infertility. Start phasing out your plastics and instead use ceramic, glass, and stainless steel food and water containers and bottles.

    • Phase out phthalates. Phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals, are used in a huge variety of everyday consumer products, from artificial fragrances in candles to hairspray, and in vinyl products like flooring and even rubber duck toys. When used in personal-care products, phthalates are often hidden in the “fragrance” or “parfum” concoction mentioned in the ingredients list. Avoid fragranced products and products made from soft plastics when you can, especially vinyl and PVC. See our healthy home series for more suggestions.

    • Take off your shoes when you come home, and have the rest of your family do likewise. It’s a smart habit that will keep you from tracking in pesticides and other chemicals from outdoors.

    • Reduce your exposure to radiation from unneeded medical tests. A report released in 2008 found that exposure to radiation from medical testing has increased by seven times since the 1980s.

    • Filter your tap water. See our story about filters for advice on choosing the right filter for your needs.

    None of use can live in a bubble or create an environment completely free of questionable chemicals. But we can change the way we think about the chemicals we come into contact with every day and let that guide our decisions. “Don’t think of our environment only as our air and water,” says Zuckerman. “Think of it in terms of our kitchen cabinets, our baby’s toys, the microwavable containers that contain our instant meals, the box our pizza comes in.” All—yes, even the pizza box—have chemicals. “I’m glad that the oil doesn’t soak through the pizza box, but not if it means the chemicals from the box get into the pizza that we eat,” says Zuckerman.

    Among other things, the report recommends a precautionary approach in which the burden of proving a chemical’s safety is shifted to its manufacturers, before it’s approved for use. “We have to test chemicals before we allow them to surround us, not wait until it’s too late. That will probably mean living with fewer chemicals, and hopefully it will mean living longer and healthier lives,” Zuckerman adds.

    Zuckerman warns that there will be a lot of critics of this report. “Some will be nonprofit organizations that receive lots of money from companies that sell the products that may be harming us,” she says. “So, keep that in mind as you hear people debate this report.” But a robust debate is better than the status quo, she adds. “There are a lot of unanswered questions, but it’s time to take those questions seriously instead of pretending that cancer is caused only by genes and other things we can’t control.”

    August 25, 2010

    Mega Agribusiness vs Family Farmers

    Dupont, Monsanto, and Obama Versus the World’s Family Farmers

    By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.

    Organic Consumers Association,

    July,  2010

    Straight to the Source

    TAKE ACTION: Stop Ramona Emilia Romero! Get Monsanto and Dupont Out of the Obama Administration!
    The Obama administration has indicated a shift in US development policy from “food aid” (dumping our excess production overseas) with “food security” (improving food production in foreign countries). This would be great for world’s family farmers if Obama’s plan were to ensure their access to clean water, arable land and diverse, locally adapted plants and animals. Unfortunately, President Obama seems set on replacing the bags of wheat, rice and corn with bags of pesticides, fertilizers and genetically engineered seeds.

    Most of the world’s food is not produced on industrial mega-farms. 1.5 billion family farmers produce 75 percent of the world’s food.

    The hunger problem is not caused by low yields. The world has 6 billion people and produces enough food for 9 billion people.

    There are now 1.02 billion hungry people in the world (nearly 50 million in the US). At the same time, there are 1 billion people who are overweight, many of whom are obese and suffer from diet-related diseases that can be as deadly as starvation. Hunger and obesity are not the result of low yields, they stem from the overproduction of toxic junk food, the scarcity of healthy organic food, and injustice in the way farmland and food are distributed.

    While many of the world’s leaders discussed the food crisis at a UN Food Summit in Rome (November 13-17, 2009), farmers, who were not part of the official delegations, took part in demonstrations outside the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters and met at an alternative forum, People’s Food Sovereignty Now! The 642 participants (more than half women) from 93 countries represent the more than 1.5 billion family farmers who produce 75 per cent of the world’s food. Here’s what they had to say:

    • We reaffirm that our ecological food provision actually feeds the large majority of people all over the world in both rural and urban areas (more than 75%). Our practices focus on food for people not profit for corporations. It is healthy, diverse, localized and cools the planet.
    • …Our practices, because they prioritize feeding people locally, minimize waste and losses of food and do not create the damage caused by industrial production systems. Peasant agriculture is resilient and can adapt to and mitigate climate change…
    • We call for a reframing of research, using participatory methods, that will support our ecological model of food provision. We are the innovators building on our knowledge and skills. We rehabilitate local seeds systems and livestock breeds and fish/aquatic species for a changing climate…
    • We commit to shorten distances between food provider and consumer. We will strengthen urban food movements and advance urban and peri-urban agriculture. We will reclaim the language of food emphasizing nutrition and diversity in diets that exclude meat provided from industrial systems.

    – From the People’s Food Sovereignty Now! Declaration, November 2009

    Are rich countries hearing the world’s family farmers? Last summer, President Obama announced a dramatic shift in the way the United States, the world’s largest provider of food aid, would address hunger and food shortages in foreign countries. The focus will now be on “sustainable agricultural development” that will “empower smallholder farmers.” As a member of the G8, the United States is committed to contribute $3.5 billion toward:

    • $20 billion over three years through [a] coordinated, comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable agriculture development, while keeping a strong commitment to ensure adequate emergency food aid assistance. … [This includes] country-owned strategies, in particular to increase food production, improve access to food and empower smallholder farmers to gain access to enhanced inputs, technologies, credit and markets.

    It’s about time that the US and other rich countries that subsidize overproduction stopped dumping food aid on countries in a way that drives local producers out of the market and off their land. But, what do rich countries mean when they say, “enhanced inputs” and “technologies”?

    “Enhanced inputs” and “technologies” is the language of the Green Revolution and the Gene Revolution that has come to see the world’s family farmers as a captive market for Monsanto and Dupont’s patented, genetically engineered crops, the pesticides these crops are modified to produce or withstand, and the synthetic fertilizers needed to spur their growth.

    President Obama has stacked his administration with people who are tied to multinationals like Monsanto (of Agent Orange infamy) and Dupont (the company that earned the largest civil administrative penalty ever for concealing the cancer risks of one of its products), to push expensive inputs that threaten family farmers’ access to clean water, arable land and the biodiversity cultivated by previous generations.

    Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, is in charge of food safety. Taylor is responsible for the decision to treat GMOs as “substantially equivalent” to the natural plants they are derived from. This removed the government’s responsibility to determine whether GMOs were safe for human consumption.
    Roger Beachy, director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is in charge of USDA research.
    Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, is the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative. (Opposition to Siddiqui’s nomination, including a New York Times editorial, forced Obama to use a recess appointment to block a Senate vote. Senate confirmation was not required for the posts Taylor and Beachy fill.)

    Rajiv Shah leads USAID and also served as Obama’s USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist.

    Shah, a 37-year-old medical doctor with a business degree and no previous government experience, was the agricultural programs director for the explicitly pro-biotech Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is on the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA and the Gates Foundation have been criticized for working closely with Monsanto and its non-profit research arm, the Danforth Center, and promoting GMOs. Links and collaborations include project partnerships, hiring one another’s employees and making donations to one another’s projects. At the Gates Foundation, Shah supervised Lawrence Kent, who had been the director of international programs at the Danforth Center, and Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the seed giant.

    The Gates Foundation partners with Monsanto and the Danforth Center on projects that seek to find technological solutions to the problems of hunger in poor countries. These projects have generated a lot of publicity for the idea that genetic engineering could be the solution to world hunger, but they have not produced even a single genetically engineered plant that is proven to offer stress-resistance, increased yields or improved nutrition.

    Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Gimenez and Annie Shattuck, writing for the Nation (Ending Africa’s Hunger, September 2, 2009) report that:

    • The foundation’s $1.3 billion in agricultural development grants have been invested in science and technology, with almost 30 percent of the 2008 grants promoting and developing seed biotechnologies.
    • Travis English and Paige Miller, researchers with the Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, have uncovered some striking trends in Gates Foundation funding. By following the money, English told us that “AGRA used funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to write twenty-three grants for projects in Kenya. Twelve of those recipients are involved in research in genetically modified agriculture, development or advocacy. About 79 percent of funding in Kenya involves biotech in one way or another.” And, English says, “so far, we have found over $100 million in grants to organizations connected to Monsanto.”

    In his short tenure at the USDA, he has used connections made at the Gates Foundation to fill the USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area with biotech scientists and advocates. These include Beachy of the Danforth Center, Maura O’Neill who ran a public-private venture dedicated to drawing biotech companies to the Seattle area where the Gates Foundation is based, and Rachel Goldfarb, another former Gates employee.

    Shah has used his USDA post to champion genetic engineering and other controversial technologies. In a report to Congress earlier this year on programs delivered by his mission area, Shah emphasized technology over ecology, saying, “We can build on tremendous recent scientific discoveries – incredible advances in sequencing plant and animal genomes, and the beginnings of being able to understand what those sequences actually mean. We have new and powerful tools in biotechnology and nanotechnology.”

    He has also directed millions of dollars toward GMO research. Shah has already awarded approximately $64 million in grants for genetic engineering.

    These include $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. (This money may not go exclusively to GMO research projects, but “science-based tools,” “genetics and genomics,” and “innovations and technologies,” describe the initiative, while there is no mention of organic practices, conventional breeding or integrated pest management.)

    Another $7 million goes to several universities for research to develop stress-resistant crops, a research topic that Monsanto promotes as their raison d’etre, despite the fact that they have never commercialized a single stress-resistant GMO plant, while hundreds of thousands of stress-resistant varieties are utilized by traditional fa… around the world who have saved seed and bred their plants conventionally for centuries.

    The GMO research grants also include $11 million in Coordinated Agricultural Project grants to four research universities to study “plant genomics and ways to improve the nutrition and health values of important crops.” Expect more GMO tomatoes, potatoes, barley, soybean, and trees. And be on the lookout for new, GMO legumes embedded with cholesterol and diabetes drugs.

    According to a USDA press release on the awards, “Because humans consume more legumes than any other crop, this research has the potential to reduce cholesterol and sugar levels, which in turn can prevent or alleviate certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

    The irony is that there’s a GMO legume already on the market, soy, that has found its way into just about all processed and fried foods in the form of partially hydrogenated soybean oil (a.k.a. trans fat). Will the result of this research be a new GMO legume that treats diet-related diseases caused by other GMO legumes?

    It would certainly be a first for the field of genetic engineering. In fact, any new GMO crop that actually improved the nutrition, health value, or stress-resistance of any crop would be a first. Contrary to popular belief, to date, there is not one consumer benefit associated with any GMO crop. They’re all genetically modified to either withstand or produce pesticides (usually manufactured by the chemical company that genetically engineered the crop).

    The frightening thing is that the plan to create a genetically engineered legume that could reduce cholesterol and sugar levels would most likely be a pharma crop, a plant genetically engineered to produce a pharmaceutical. This is one of the most dangerous forms of genetic engineering. When grown outdoors on farmland, where most pharma crop trials have occurred, pharma crops can easily contaminate conventional and organic crops. In one chilling example from 2002, a corn crop engineered by ProdiGene to produce a vaccine for pigs contaminated 500,000 bushels of soybeans that were grown in the Nebraska field the next season. Before this incident, a similar thing had happened in Iowa where the USDA ordered ProdiGene to pay for the burning of 155 acres of conventional corn that may have cross-pollinated with some of the firm’s biotech plants.

    ProdiGene eventually went out of business, but not before it received a $6 million investment from the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, chaired by Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack, currently Shah’s boss at the USDA. Vilsack didn’t want any restrictions placed on experimental pharma crops. In reaction to suggestions that pharma crops should be kept away from food crops, Vilsack argued that “we should not overreact and hamstring this industry.”

    Beachy, currently working under Shah as the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture director, joined Vilsack in support of ProdiGene and against regulation of pharma crops when he was still the director of the Danforth Center. He said in 2004 that scientists must be free to experiment in open fields:

    A ban would significantly halt the technology of producing drugs more cheaply in plants” than through current methods, Beachy said. And if work on biopharming to grow industrial chemicals were halted, “then you have stopped another kind of advance that we’re looking for to give an economic advantage to our farmers.

    In other news, the USDA announced on November 2, 2009, that an international team of scientists funded with a $10 million USDA grant has completed its first draft of the genome of a domesticated pig.

    “Understanding the swine genome will lead to health advancements in the swine population and accelerate the development of vaccinations for pigs,” said Roger Beachy, NIFA director.  “This new insight into the genetic makeup of the swine population can help reduce disease and enable medical advancements in both pigs and humans.”

    And, it would aid Monsanto in their effort to patent pigs.

    For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

    (Comment:  There are a great many marvelous  references in this article.  If you would like to check them out, it would be a good idea to just go to Organic Consumer’s Assoc  –   –  there should be a link in the blog roll.  Jan)

    August 22, 2010

    Conscious Capitalism

    Filed under: Container Store,Whole Foods Market — Jan Turner @ 2:11 am
    Tags: ,

    “R E S P O N S I B L E”   RETAIL

    Businesses champion concept of ‘conscious capitalism’ over profit


    DALLAS — The first couple of times Rob Holmes met with Kip Tindell about putting the Container Store on the market in 2007, Holmes couldn’t get away fast enough from the co-founder of the chain of 50 organization stores. That’s not how you might expect an investment banker to react to the prospect of offering what was considered an industry jewel to more than 100 interested   buyers, an unusually high level of suitors.

    But Tindell wanted Holmes, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. managing director and co-head of the firm’s retail industry investment banking, to enlighten experienced investors about the quirky Coppell, Texas-based retailer, including “conscious capitalism and how Gumby is their mascot.”    It was Tindell’s way of telling would-be suitors they had to promise to preserve the corporate culture, keep the current management in control, offer stock to employees and pay a premium value without burdening the company with too much debt.

    It was a tall order, Holmes said. And after four, five, six lunch meetings, he finally got the conscious capitalism part.    As a state that tops most best-places-for-business lists, Texas might seem an unlikely place to birth a movement that challenges capitalism’s most basic tenet of putting profit first.      Yet that’s what co-founders of two of Texas’ most successful retail companies — Container Store and Austin-based Whole Foods Market — are pushing to their peers. They offer it as an approach that can mend today’s rampant mistrust of business.

    Perhaps there was something in Austin’s drinking water in the 1970s. That’s when Tindell and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey   shared a house with three roommates for a year while attending the University of Texas.    Decades later, the two reconnected and discovered they were using similar core values and foundation principles to lead companies that had developed and conquered two retail categories: organic groceries and organization and storage products.

    Simply put, they believe profit comes from balancing the needs of all stakeholders — employees, suppliers, customers, community and investors. A business has to have a purpose other than profit in order to achieve profitability. Under conscious capitalism, the shareholder isn’t No. 1.    In the case of the Container Store, the employee comes first. At Whole Foods, it’s the customer. “Paradoxically, the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal of the business,” Mackey said.

    Tindell quotes industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie: “Fill the other guy’s basket to the   brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.” The phrase conscious capitalism was coined by Muhammad Yunus, recipient of a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his creation in 1983 of Bangladesh’s pioneering microlender, Grameen Bank.    Tindell and Mackey cofounded a nonprofit organization called Conscious Capitalism Alliance, which will hold its third annual summit in October in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. The first two were in Austin.      Tindell is an unabashed evangelist of the concept.    For example, he called on Holmes and the Container Store’s management, employees and suppliers to spread the word during a conference at the company’s headquarters last month. It attracted about 50 top officials from local companies such as GameStop, Brookshire’s Grocery, Sleep Experts and Studio Movie Grill.    With each testimonial about the concept of filling the other guy’s basket, a unique corporate culture took shape.

    LOUIS DELUCA MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS                                                                                                                          Whole Foods stores, such as this one in Dallas, Texas, operate under the idea that the customer comes first — a policy contrary to capitalism’s profit-first mentality. However, despite the fact the shareholder isn’t No. 1, Whole Foods is one of the most successful retail companies in Texas.

    Paradoxically, the best way to maximize profits over the          long term is to not make them the primary goal of the business”
    John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO,  who also co-founded a “Conscious capitalism” nonprofit alliance.

    August 21, 2010

    SHREDDING. .new identity?



    Is shredding a thing of past? Not necessarily


    Shredded Converse sneakers from Free People   FREE PEOPLE

    At a glance, there is not much glamour in a coat or T-shirt that appears to have been run through a Cuisinart.  But to Joie Reinstein, that diced and shredded look, which she first glimpsed two years ago in a Rodarte show, represented the tatty quintessence of chic.    The collection “featured those crazy clothes with holes in them,” she recalled. “It felt different from everything else.”

    Earlier this year, Reinstein and her classmates in a fashion history course at Parsons the New School for Design in New York revisited that theme for an assignment that had them searching for signposts that point to fashion’s next frontier.      Their mission, as outlined by their teacher Kathryn Simon, was to identify a macro trend, one with the staying power to shape the future of design. “We were trying to ask, ‘What does the new horizon look like?’ ” said Geetanjali Rastogi, one of 25 students in Simon’s class.    Rastogi’s findings and those of her classmates were posted on

    In the process, they shed light on the ways in which a trend wends its way into the marketplace.    Jeans and leggings, shirts and even shoes that seem to bear the marks of Freddy Krueger’s hand are the elements of a phenomenon that, it turns out, has a darkly subversive cast.

    Shredding, one of several trends the class explored, can be a form of rebellion.    For as Sarah Cassar, a student, put it, “Your mom wouldn’t want you wearing those clothes.”    It can also be read as an act of provocation with prurient and, at times, violent undertones.    “As if,” Cassar’s classmate Alexis Acevedo suggested, “you were in a frenzy to get at what’s just under all those clothes.”    Their class work revealed that the trend, which tends to surface in periods of social upheaval, first reared its head during the punk movement of the 1970s, in the shape of threadbare clothes precariously fastened by safety pins.

    It resurfaced in the late ’80s and early ’90s as part of the grunge movement and later as an element of fashion deconstruction, a macro trend in which vanguard designers including Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons made a near-fetish of displaying raw seams and hems. More recently, shredding gained a toehold at Alexander Wang, who showed laddered leggings for fall in 2008. It would be another year before Christophe Decarnin translated his broody vision on the catwalk, unveiling ripped officer’s coats alongside T-shirts and jackets embellished with slashed holes. His cheeky call to arms was soon taken up by alternative labels such as Obesity and Speed and Raquel Allegra, whose spring lines incorporated frayed-looking, cobwebby knits, and ultimately by the mainstream.

    But trends are ephemeral.    “Girls who once dressed for their inner rocker,” Mark Holgate wrote in the July issue of Vogue, “don’t want to hum that tune anymore.”    Not so fast, Simon’s class would argue, having made a case for shredding as a trend with plenty of steam in it, one that is likely to survive as part of what Reinstein described as “a new, less glamorous approach to dress,” something akin to “wearing combat boots with   an evening dress.” Today, ripped jeans, fraying shirts and laddered stockings stand in metaphorically for a disintegrating social climate, Katie Fleming, another student,   noted. It is a trend, she said, that transcends mere clothing to become a metaphor for changing times and “a statement of personality.”    Shredding, her classmate Christine Kim added, represents an intentional casting-off of outworn selves. “People are losing their jobs and abandoning old habits,” she said, and, in consequence, “opening themselves up to areas they haven’t explored.” They are trying, Fleming said, “to disengage, shredding their identities and searching for new ones.”    Today’s sliced and razor-chopped clothes attest to much the same mood of unease that spawned the music and fashions of   grunge movement.    In an era marked by “oil spills and strange volcanic eruptions,” Reinstein observed, shredding can be “about taking control of our world and refashioning it — but in our own terms.”

    August 20, 2010

    Take Soc. Sec. off table

    Social Security should be taken off the table

    Paul Krugman writes for The New York Times.

    Social Security turned 75 last week. It should have been a joyous occasion, a time to celebrate a program that has brought dignity and decency to the lives of older Americans.

    But the program   is under attack, with some Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans joining the assault. Rumor has it that President Barack Obama’s deficit commission may call for deep benefit cuts, in particular a sharp rise in the retirement age.      Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.

    About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget.   This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.    But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger.

    Social Security has been running surpluses for the past quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come. Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of gross domestic product to about 6 percent of GDP. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

    So where do claims of crisis come from?

    To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own. And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. OK.

    What’s really going on here? Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution. But they receive crucial support from Washington insiders, for whom a declared willingness to cut Social Security has long served as a badge of fiscal seriousness, never mind the arithmetic.    And neither wing of the anti-Social-Security coalition seems to know or care about the hardship its favorite proposals would cause.    The currently fashionable idea of raising the retirement age even more than it will rise under existing law — it has already gone from 65 to 66, it’s scheduled to rise to 67, but now some are proposing that it go to 70 — is usually justified with assertions that life expectancy has risen, so people can easily work later into life. But that’s true only for affluent, white-collar workers — the people who need Social Security least.      I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s a lot easier to imagine working until you’re 70 if you have a comfortable office job than if you’re engaged in manual labor.

    America is becoming an increasingly unequal society — and the growing disparities extend to matters of life and death. Life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot at the top of the income distribution, but much less for lower-income workers. And remember, the retirement age is already scheduled to rise under current law.    So let’s beat back this unnecessary, unfair and — let’s not mince words — cruel attack on working Americans. Big cuts in Social Security should not be on the table.

    (Comment: Bless Paul Krugman for laying out the truth of the matter – – that Social Security is not out of money, is not in dire jeopardy of running out of money any time soon.  .  .  .  and in fact, should never face this prospect with just a modicum of intelligent planning and supervision.  (so many people under age 50 believe they will never have these benefits when they in turn need them and this kind of thinking reduces confidence in government and even hope for themselves.)

    I have heard this idle chatter for many years and it always finds its origins in the “starve the beast” crowd.   Anything goes in order to shrink government so that our taxes can then shrink as well so that those who have can have “more”.  Frankly, its been working pretty well (beginning with President Reagan). . . until hearing the hopeful message of Barack Obama on the campaign trail.  For the first time in decades, here was a man who understood the ordinary struggle of our masses who are not by and large playing on a level field  in that effort to achieve their dreams and goals.  Just look at the sorry state we are in now.    With unemployment rising,  jobs picture bleak;   income down or stagnant;  costs of everything rising including food, especially – healthy food.  .  .  .  How on earth does this fit in with the corporate picture of rising incomes (net)?  Just one way folks – – cheap, overseas labor of $0.20 an hour is hard to beat!. . . . .   .   .   being a debtor nation to CHINA who has all this cheap labor puts us in an untenable situation.  And yet, we keep borrowing.

    They say we have this war thing going on. I say “let’s get real, and grow up.  Just stop it!”. . . we can’t afford it.   Sure would solve this borrowing thing.

    As to our SOLVENT Social Security, let’s keep it that way – straighten out our way of doing the accounting thing – its  not so hard to do.  I happen to know a few accountants who could help you.  There are a few places in the scheme of things which could go a long way toward ensuring that Social Security remains that and not a romanticized “wish list”.

    It was designed to keep retired people from having to scrounge on the streets once their”productive” lives of earning an income was over. Never meant to be a fountain of youth or guaranteeing octogenarian sexual satisfaction, or living in the lap of  luxury.    Since the majority of financial abuses and the greatest outlay of resources occurs in that final chapter in the last year or two of life – –  this is where the focus must rest if sanity is to be ruling the way we do things.  With this in mind:

    • How about mandatory training for physicians in ethical and compassionate care.  There are guidelines now but not being addressed in counseling terminally ill people.   Help them die with dignity amid pleasant surroundings.  There should never be one possible treatment after another – it is so wrong!  It is costly, futile and cruel.
    • Retirement age should not be raised.  I brought my mom to live with me 18 years before she died.  Most people will not do that, especially, sons because of the responsibility which they already shoulder.  Independence is highly prized and should be encouraged where-ever possible as “nursing home” life is so lacking.  Care in one’s home is preferable and much cheaper.
    • There should be some form of “means testing” with regard to WHO receives “Medicare”  The wealthiest individuals do not NEED to accept this service from government – – they are well positioned to do this for themselves. This would save a bundle, I’m sure.
    • Finally,  health-care treatment should not be dictated by the Federal government or the FDA or the AMA, but chosen at will by the individual.  Whatever works for him/her is permitted.  Integrated and Alternative medicine is far more preferred by so many of us.  Pharmaceuticals and/or surgery is definitely “last resort.”    We are now living in an age when “Energy Healing” of every description is moving in, big time and people are getting dramatic results without drugs and surgery and for so little c0st.  It’s time to use OPEN EYES to really look at this picture.  And let people have CHOICE.
    • President Obama was on the right track when he was speaking of results- oriented rather than procedure oriented.  Don’t know what all he had in mind, but I like it.

    Sorry my friends,  you know by now how long winded I can be. .   .    .    .  Jan)

    Fem hygiene (products) options


    March/April 2001
    Vol. XII, no. 2

    The Hidden Price of Feminine Hygiene Products

    The feminine hygiene industry has made revolutionary innovations since the original maxi-pad–which was nearly three feet long. And no doubt we have come a long way from surreptitiously paying for purchases in a box on the counter of drug stores. Discussion of the products’ impact, however, is still very much under wraps.  Deceptively Pure

    GAP-white jeans in full-page ads and televised commercials of confident strolls down the beach don’t tell the whole story. In fact, the sterile whiteness of the products themselves can be deceptively reassuring. Although the original cost of chlorine bleaching–the release of some 250 different organochlorines and a product laden with dioxin–was traded in during the mid-1990s for “elemental chlorine-free bleaching,” is it really now risk-free?

    Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges that chlorine dioxide, though elementally chlorine free, can still “theoretically generate dioxins at extremely low levels,” and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), no safe level for dioxin exposure exists. The compound is 10 times more likely to cause cancer than was believed in 1994, says the agency, and even average background levels may lead to non-cancer health effects, including developmental delays, birth defects, hormone disruption and immune cell suppression. The toxin accumulates in humans, particularly women’s body fat and breast milk, with repeated exposures, and 16,800 tampons over the course of a lifetime certainly qualifies.

    Nor is the environment off the hook. The Worldwatch Institute calls elemental chlorine free bleaching a “‘low-tar cigarette’ approach to the problem of organochlorine pollution,” reducing (not eliminating) pollution, but not addressing the fundamental problem–the continued use of chlorine. Hydrogen peroxide, oxygen or ozone work just as well, though any bleaching, the organization points out, still uses energy, water and materials unnecessarily.

    Shock to the System

    Another improvement that falls short came with the phase-out of all synthetic fibers but one from tampons, says Dr. Philip Tierno, director of microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center. Independent studies he conducted revealed that synthetic fibers, incorporated in the 1970s to increase absorbency, amplified toxins of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). By 1980, the potentially life-threatening bacterial illness had reached its peak, and carboxymethylcellulose, polyacrylate rayon and polyester were pulled from the market. The fourth fiber, viscous rayon, remains in use today.

    “Viscous rayon does amplify toxins less than the others,” says Tierno. “But manufacturers are still saying nothing’s wrong with it, and that’s not the case. The lowest risk [for TSS] would be had by using all cotton.”

    • The FDA, which regulates feminine hygiene products as medical devices, disagrees, maintaining that rayon tampons are as safe as cotton ones, and that the exact link between tampons and TSS remains unclear.

    Such government reassurance is little comfort to many women’s health advocates:

    • “FDA doesn’t do independent testing, it relies on testing by manufacturers,” says Amy Allina, program and policy director for the National Women’s Health Network. “People may legitimately raise questions about reliability.”

    Get Out the Vote

    Enter the proposed Tampon Safety & Research Act (H.R. 890), which would direct the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the risks dioxin, synthetic fibers and other additives may pose for the 73 million U.S. women who regularly use tampons, and who may be at disproportionate risk for endometriosis, breast and reproductive cancers.

    House representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) plans to introduce the bill for the third time in 2001, along with the Robin Danielson Act (H.R.889), which would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a program to collect data on TSS. (Although only three cases were reported in 1998, down from 813 in 1980, according to the CDC reporting has so far been optional and uneven.)

    “We need to find out what the healthiest feminine hygiene product is,” says Susan Alderson, vice president of Organic Essentials. “And whatever that turns out to be, women will then have a choice.” Organic Essentials, by growing its own certified organic cotton through 27 farm families, ensures none of the 35 different chemicals typically applied to conventional cotton are introduced to its tampons, which are then whitened using hydrogen peroxide, a totally chlorine-free method.

    Jay Gooch, a toxicologist with Procter & Gamble, insists the difference between elemental chlorine-free and totally chlorine-free bleaching is “not discernible,” however, and the difference between rayon and cotton fibers, both cellulose, “not consequential.” “The research we’ve done and others have done for us is rigorous and we stand behind it 100 percent,” says Gooch. Tampax Naturals, Procter & Gamble’s own all-cotton tampon, was pulled from the market after not proving a big seller.

    Environmental Burden

    To further complicate an extremely convoluted, personal and emotional subject, there is yet another aspect to feminine hygiene often overlooked. According to waste consultant Franklin Associates, 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads, plus their packaging, ended up in landfills or sewer systems in 1998. And according to the Center for Marine Conservation, over 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.

    But it’s not just a landfill issue, says Brenda Mallory, founder of Glad Rags, which produces colored and organic cotton pads with washable liners. “People forget about the production end of disposable items,” she says. “Constant production creates pollution, too.”

    Ironically, lack of exposure (no magazine would accept advertising) halted the introduction of the first disposable menstrual pad in the U.S. in 1896. Today, as sales of disposables surpass $1 billion (with $700 million more from sales of tampons), reusable menstrual pads face a like challenge, with the added hurdle of educating women on why reusables are even important. Not to mention that the very concept of reusables bars repeat consumers, at least for the five- to 10-year lifespan of the product.

    “We will never be a box of tampons,” admits Mallory. “We don’t have that built-in obsolescence. It has limited how we can grow as company,” she says, “but you know what? That’s not what it’s all about.”

    Knowledge is Power

    • As the FDA does not require companies to print ingredients or bleaching processes on the packaging of tampons or pads, here’s the information you won’t find on the box: According to company spokespeople, Johnson & Johnson (manufacturer of OB, Carefree and Stayfree) and Kimberly Clark (Kotex) use cotton/rayon blends in their products, Playtex uses only rayon and Proctor and Gamble (Tampax and Always) uses both cotton-rayon blends and rayon alone. All use elemental chlorine-free bleaching.

    If those answers don’t satisfy you, here are a few more alternatives:

    • Natracare carries all-cotton certified organic tampons and non-chlorine, hydrogen peroxide bleached pads (now with wings). Three more washable pads are Lunapads and Many Moons, each with prints and organic versions, and certified organic Pandora Pads. They each use only totally chlorine-free bleaching, and no bleach at all on organic items.
    • “Women should have a drawerful of options,” says Lou Crawford, founder of The Keeper, which makes natural gum rubber cups inserted to catch menstrual flow. One Keeper lasts up to 10 years, breaking down to an investment of 29 cents a month. Another softcup, Instead, is made of a polyethylene and synthetic plastic blend, and like the Keeper will not breed staph toxins and is approved by both Health Canada and the FDA. (However, it is disposable.) Jade and Pearl shapes natural sea sponges, yet another option, to fit a woman’s body, absorbing flow and likewise averting the dilemma of throwaways, synthetic fibers and bleaching.

    “For hundreds of decisions that women make everyday, we are balancing health, safety, convenience and efficacy,” says Allina. “And we certainly don’t always choose the risk-free option.” But we should at least be aware of the risks.

    Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to E/The Environmental Magazine!


    Pandora Pads
    Phone: (888) 558-PADS

    Phone: (303) 320-1510

    Many Moons
    Phone: (800) 916-4444

    Luna Pads
    Phone: (888) 590-2299

    The Keeper
    Phone: (877) AKEEPER

    Jade and Pearl
    Phone: (800) 219-9765

    Glad Rags
    Phone: (800) 799-4523

    Organic Essentials
    Route 1
    Box 120
    O’Donnell, TX 79351
    Phone: (800) 765-6491

    August 19, 2010

    CFL’s require care in disposal

    Compact fluorescent bulbs require care in disposal

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    By Dana Hull

    San Jose Mercury News

    For years, consumers have been urged to switch to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, which use about one-quarter of the electricity of incandescent bulbs.

    But unknown to many, the bulbs come with a health risk if they’re broken: They contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin that can be particularly harmful to pregnant women and children.

    With sales of compact fluorescent lights now reaching about 400 million a year in the United States, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, concerns over the mercury has grown because many of the lights end up in landfills.

    “It’s a public health issue and an environmental mess if they are not disposed of properly,” said Rob D’Arcy, the hazardous materials program manager for Santa Clara County, Calif.

    • California and several other states ban disposal of such bulbs in the trash, but there’s little enforcement.

    Some local governments in California encourage consumers to recycle the bulbs on household hazardous waste collection days or through “take back” programs at hardware stores. But no one monitors how successful those voluntary efforts have been.

    The bulbs contain an average of 5 milligrams of mercury sealed within the tubing.

    That’s far less than watch batteries, dental filings and older thermometers but still enough to warrant special handling.

    • If a fluorescent bulb breaks in your house, the EPA advises consumers to have all people and pets vacate the room, open windows for at least 15 minutes, and carefully scoop up any broken fragments into a glass jar with a metal lid.

    Any heating or air conditioning should be turned off before cleanup.

    But no one has called for the bulbs to be banned because, on balance, they offer a wealth of environmental and energy-saving benefits.

    Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the air, so using compact fluorescent lights, which use less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last longer, is still a better alternative. *

    * (Comment:  While this last statement is undoubtedly true – – how is it that so little is known about it?  It should be in large print on the packaging about the dangers of proper disposal.   Ecology is important, but so is the health of families in their homes.  Even though I do not like these bulbs and would prefer not to use them, they are nevertheless all over my abode, as like most other people – I do try to do my share.

    I am worried now because I have replaced some of these bulbs and know that I was unaware of these dangers, ergo, they have landed up in some landfill somewhere.  Why am I using these bulbs – – what have I accomplished?  Trying to do my share is lame if in the end of it, I am contributing to further pollution!  Damned if I do and damned if I don’t!. . .  .   Jan)

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