Next year, The United Kingdom will implement a ban on microbeads, a form of micro plastic found in face washes, body scrubs and other products. The US already has a partial ban on microbeads in place.

Glitter, used often in crafts, makeup and clothing, seems harmless, but its environmental impact has led many scientists to call for it to be banned.

Anyone who has used glitter knows that a small amount can easily and quickly spread everywhere and stay everywhere. Glitter’s eternal permanence is why someone started a prank company to ship glitter to people you do not like. It’s seemingly impossible to get rid of on land and can also cause problems in water, scientists say. In fact, a group of daycare centers in the U.K. decided to ban the use of glitter for that reason earlier this month, according to The Guardian.

Most glitters are made from shiny microplastics, pieces of plastic that are less than 5 millimeters in length or about one-fifth of an inch. Some are specifically produced to be this small; others can become that small if they’re broken down once reaching an environment. The small size of its particles makes it a potential ecological hazard, particularly in water bodies, including the ocean.

Microplastics pollute marine environments, leech chemicals into water and pose harm to marine life when ingested. Their size makes them a dangerously appealing food item for many animals.

Not only have marine animals from plankton to whales been documented eating plastic, often with fatal consequences, but microplastics can also end up inside us, when we consume seafood. One study led by Professor Richard Thompson reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish.

Some estimates place the number of microplastics in the world’s ocean at up to 51 trillion fragments in total.

While many microplastics result from plastic debris breaking down into ever-smaller pieces, tiny particles called microbeads are manufactured specifically for addition to cosmetic and health products.

A ban on microbeads will go into effect next year in the UK, after scientists and campaigners made the devastating impact clear.

Glitter used in a wide range of products, like greeting cards, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, lotions, creams, cleansers, nail polish, party decorations, etc., has been an overlooked component in the wider problem of marine plastic pollution. With attention fixed on microbeads, other forms of plastic like glitter are being ignored. No one knows that glitter is made of plastic! We also don’t know exactly what happens when plastics enter our body.

Most cosmetic glitter is made by bonding aluminium with a plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which can break down to release chemicals that disrupt hormones in the bodies of animals and humans. PETs attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants and pathogens, adding an extra layer of contamination. When marine organisms at the bottom of the ladder, like molluscs, sea snails, marine worms, and plankton, eat pathogen- or pollutant-carrying particles of glitter, these tiny poison pills concentrate in toxicity, as they move up the food chain, all the way to our dinner plates.

When we eat seafood, we ingest these toxins. When they enter the gut, the toxins and pathogens are very easily taken up. Such chemicals have been linked with the onset of cancers and neurological diseases.

It’s hard to say exactly how much glitter is polluting our oceans—scientists who study these kinds of problems generally look at microplastics as a whole, not at specific types. The impacts of microplastics on human health is still an area of active research, said Sherri Mason, a chemist who researches plastic pollution at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Mason has had her own personal experience with glitter’s longevity. “When my daughter was eight, she had a New Year’s Eve party. I was finding glitter in our carpet three years later from that one party,” Mason said.

Microplastics are almost everywhere, Mason noted, and though the plastics themselves may cause problems, what they bring with them is also concerning. “Plastics are really good at absorbing chemicals,” she stated, which can bring some potentially dangerous ones into a fish’s body as they eat other organisms that have been contaminated with microplastics. These chemicals may include endocrine disruptors linked with sperm count issues and cancer risk.

Glitter can be found on its own, but is also in some makeup or lotions. Washing your hands to get it off your skin may take care of the problem temporarily, but it can end up back in your home or body, because the particles are often so small that they can’t be filtered by water treatment plants. “You could have glitter in the glass of water you’re drinking right now,” Mason said.

Microplastics have been found in 83 percent of tap water samples from more than a dozen countries, including India, Lebanon, France and Germany, according to an investigation by Orb Media. The U.S., at the bottom of the pile, had plastic fibers appearing in 94 percent of samples.

But microplastics comprise only a fraction of the global plastic pollution problem. The world’s oceans contain massive clusters of marine debris and plastics—the Great Pacific Garbage Patch found in the North Pacific Ocean is the largest such gyre. According to the U.N., more than 8 million tons of plastic makes its way into the ocean each year—equal to a garbage truck of plastic dumped every minute.

Data shows that rapidly developing economies, where population growth and consumption are outpacing waste collection and recycling capacity, are responsible for the largest amounts of plastic wastes entering the oceans, said Nick Mallos. He warned that, without intervention, growing economies would likely exacerbate these “unintended consequences of development spread.” He hopes that, “By raising awareness of the issue of ocean plastic, we can curb the flow through reduced consumption, improved waste management and innovative product and material solutions.”

Biodegradable glitter, by definition, does not pose the same problem, since it is designed to not remain for so long in the environment. One company, Bioglitz, markets plant-based glitter, which, according to a Racked article featuring the company’s founder, doesn’t have the same ingredients as traditional glitter and won’t linger in your home.

Whether the solution may be using eco-friendly glitter or banning it entirely, we must more seriously consider our use of such materials.

Avoiding cosmetic glitter and microbeads is imperative, but change really needs to come from the top down. Consumers cannot always be held responsible for trying to avoid such contaminants. It’s literally impossible to do that. Producers must be more responsible and use safer, non-toxic alternatives.

References:

  1. Gabbatiss, Josh. Glitter Should Be Banned Over Environmental Impact, Scientists Warn. With a microbead ban coming into force in the UK next year, attention is turning to other potential hazards. (Source: www.independent.co.uk/environment/glitter-ban-environment-microbead-impact-mic), 11/16/17.
  2. Joyce, Kathleen. Scientists call for global glitter ban to save environment | Fox News. (Source: www.foxnews.com/…/11/…/scientists-call-for-global-glitter-ban-to-save-environment.ht), 11/29/17.
  3. Ross, Daniel. Why Glitter Must Be Banned – EcoWatch. (Source: https://www.ecowatch.com/glitter-banned-2507482052.html), 11/07/17.
  4. Ross, Daniel. Glitter may be fun for a party, but it’s a nightmare for human and animal health. Why Glitter Must Be Banned | Alternet. (Source: www.alternet.org/environment/why-glitter-must-be-banned), 11/03/17.
  5. Sheridan, Kate. Glitter is an Environmental Scourge That is Wrecking the Oceans. Should it be Banned?  (Source: www.newsweek.com/glitter-environmental-scourge-wrecking-oceans-should-it-be-ba), 11/29/17.

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Easy ways to enjoy the holidays while minimizing harm to the environment:

  1. Use natural decorations. Rather than fill the inside and outside of your home with plastic items that may be thrown out by the end of the year, use decorations made of wood and other natural substances. Add fruit, nuts, and pine cones to your holiday centerpiece, fireplace mantle, outdoor planters or urns for rich color and an organic touch. Use a needle and thread to string dried citrus, apples, pine cones and cinnamon sticks into a colorful garland for your Christmas tree.
  2. Simplify your decorations.
  3. Only purchase items that you know will be put to good use and not end up in the trash. Not only will this be more eco-friendly, but recipients of your gifts will appreciate the fact that you gave them things that they will treasure.
  4. Purchase eco-friendly gifts made from sustainable materials, manufactured in environmentally friendly ways, easily recycled and having low carbon footprints when used.
  5. Choose gifts and products that come with minimal packaging.
  6. Shop for locally manufactured items that do not have to be shipped across the country, to minimize vehicular pollution.
  7. Use wrapping paper alternatives. Wrapping paper often gets ripped off and thrown out, causing excess waste. Instead of wrapping paper, place gifts in bags that can be reused several times. Not only will the recipient have the gift, but they will have an easy, eco-friendly way of wrapping gifts the following year.
  8. Avoid mass-produced, glossy wrapping paper. It’s not recyclable and ends up in landfills.
  9. Recycle wrapping paper.
  10. Follow a one gift rule for all family members, to reduce excess waste. Some family members may go all out and buy many gifts for children. This rule helps to ensure that gifts are chosen more thoughtfully.
  11. For fun and to save money, have your children make wreaths, garlands, ornaments and gifts for friends and family, rather than buy them. Celebrate with a handmade gift exchange, in which all participants have to either make gifts themselves or purchase them from someone who did.
  12. Choose the right tree. Fake trees that don’t last will not help the environment. A real tree can be mulched after the holidays, which will ultimately use less energy than what was used to create a fake tree. The best option is a potted tree, which can be used for more than one year and then planted after being used in your home.
  13. Use LED lights. LED lighting is far more efficient than older bulbs. If you haven’t changed the lights you decorate with for a long time, upgrade to LED lighting to save energy, as well as, money on your electric bill.
  14. Replace bulbs that have burned out. When a string of lights no longer works, it’s usually a single bulb that is the problem. Replacing the burned out bulb will keep you from tossing the whole thing. The best way to do this is with bulb tester.
  15. Use timers for your lights. Setting a timer so that your lights turn on at dusk and off at dawn or earlier is more efficient than having lights on 24/7.
  16. Avoid disposable dishes and silverware. When many guests visit, a host finds it easier to use paper plates and plastic ware. Unfortunately, this leads to much waste. Use real dishes instead. It will make clean up more difficult, but it will be far more eco-friendly.
  17. Compost or feed leftovers to animals, instead of throwing them out, to reduce waste. 
  18. Clean using all natural cleaners and avoid harmful chemicals.
  19. Celebrate the holidays together under one roof, to save time, money and materials.
  20. Do all your shopping in one trip, to save time, gas and your carbon footprint.
  21. Shop online for convenience and to reduce fuel consumption.
  22. Carpool to holiday events to reduce your commuting carbon footprint. Traveling together is more social, affordable, and environmentally-friendly than traveling alone.
  23. Save energy by turning down the thermostat at night.
  24. Buy locally grown, organic food and do not purchase meat from industrial farms.
  25. Buy holiday cards made from recycled paper.
  26. Send inexpensive, electronic holiday cards, instead of mailing cards.
  27. Send digital gift cards over the internet, allowing the recipient to place orders at online stores. A great way to reduce waste and fuel consumption!
  28. Make purchases online, instead of subscribing to gift catalogs. 
  29. Cook food from scratch (gravy, pie crust, pie, cranberry sauce, etc.). It’s more environmentally-friendly than buying food already prepared at a store.
  30. Purchase organic wines and local microbrews to benefit the environment and local economy.
  31. Use natural candles. Holiday candles are often made with petroleum-based wax and artificial fragrance and release unhealthy soot. Use candles made with natural beeswax wax, instead.
  32. Use organic spices when cooking holiday meals. Purchasing organic spices helps the environment, just like purchasing organic fruits, vegetables, and locally raised, free range meats.
  33. Minimize waste and garbage. Not all plastic can be recycled and most lasts indefinitely in landfills. Use everyday, borrowed, rental or biodegradable plates, cloth instead of paper napkins, reusable cups and flatware.
  34. Indoor/outdoor plants and seeds make wonderful, long lasting gifts for loved ones.
  35. Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles to help reduce the millions of plastic bottles thrown away every year in our waterways and ocean.
  36. Donate to a reputable environmental group: If you don’t have time or the will to change your lifestyle, donate to an environmental group to make a difference.
  37. Ask close friends and family members to join you for an eco-friendly holiday.

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The Environmental Working Group’s 2017 edition of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is based on analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program report. While eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown, try to buy USDA organic when shopping for items with the heaviest pesticide loads.

“Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides!

More than 98 % of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.

Spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

“Clean 15” produce with the least likelihood to contain pesticide residue:

  1. Sweet corn*
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas*
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

* A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.

How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables:

Whether the produce you buy is organic or not, it’s important to always wash it. While The Clean Fifteen has less pesticide residue than The Dirty Dozen, washing produce ensures that you’re consuming the least amount possible. Avoid washing fruits and veggies with soap or detergent. Do:

  • Wash your hands ahead of preparing fruit and veggies.
  • Place fruits and veggies in a bowl in your sink and fill with cold distilled water,* or very clean, cold tap water, for 2-3 minutes.
  • For fruits and veggies with more ridges and angles (like broccoli and cauliflower), let them soak a few minutes longer.
  • For produce with thick skin, use a use a gentle vegetable brush to help rinse away additional pesticides and microbes.
  • Drain your sink and dry your fruits and veggies.

*Distilled water is purified and filtered to remove contaminants.

Reference: Environmental Working Group (EWG). https://www.ewg.org, 03/09/17 and https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php.

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Winter and the holiday season are almost here, along with possibly harsh winter weather. When temperatures drop to single digits, it’s easy to just turn the thermostat up. While that will keep you cozy during the cold months, it’s not the greenest way to warm up. Here are tips for staying comfortable, while minimizing your impact on the environment.

  • Lock windows to ensure that they’re tightly sealed.
  • Open blinds and curtains during bright, sunny days: When it’s cold and dark, closing curtains can help keep your home warm. When the sun is shining, though, you can warm your home by opening your curtains. Even when it’s freezing outside, solar energy can cause the inside temperature to rise. Similar to the way closing the blinds in the summer can keep your house cooler, opening blinds and curtains on sunny winter days can add indoor warmth, especially in rooms getting direct sunlight. This can be an inexpensive, yet effective, way to warm your home.
  • Use the oven strategically: There’s a reason so many winter comfort foods are dishes that require long, slow cooking. They not only satisfy the stomach, but are also a good way to warm your house. If you plan to prepare a pot of soup or slow-baked casserole, try to make it during the coldest part of the day. If you know the weather’s going to be especially bad, consider making a meal that requires a longer cooking time.
  • Cook more often: When turned on, your oven can add some nice heat to your environment. While cooking requires energy, it is necessary, and energy-efficient appliances make it more eco-friendly.
  • Stay warm by eating warming foods: Soups, stews, curries and other hot meals can all help. Try to add more herbs and spices, such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger, to your diet. These spices increase circulation, making it easier for your body to keep warm.
  • Drink warm beverages: Hot beverages, like hot foods, can warm your body. Stay comfortable and healthy by drinking more tea or warm water, treat yourself to an occasional hot cocoa, or prepare a hot toddy, rather than a cocktail with ice.
  • Reverse ceiling fans: Ceiling fans provide a great way for changing the temperature without adjusting the thermostat. While most people only think of them for cooling, most ceiling fans have a switch that lets you reverse the blades’ direction. Ceiling fans that operate in a clockwise direction circulate and push down rising heat that would otherwise be trapped near the ceiling.
  • Choose the right window treatment: The right window treatment can help to keep cold out and heat in, and heavy drapes can add an extra layer of insulation between you and the outdoors. This is especially true in older homes with single-
    pane windows. Uncovered windows can let in cold when the sun isn’t shining, but heavy drapes keep the cold trapped against the window.
  • Use area rugs and floor mats: Bare floors, like unclad windows, allow the cold to get in. If you don’t have carpet, area rugs can provide insulation between your feet and frigid floors. From large area rugs that cover half of a room to small throw rugs at the bedside, all rugs have their place. Heated floor mats can offer the benefit of radiant heating in some cold areas.
  • Block drafts with caulk or insulation: Look around your home for gaps and cracks where cold air can enter. Seal these areas, apply weather stripping and re-caulk any doors and windows that might need it. Cold drafts can occur in many places, areas around electrical outlets, switches and ceiling fans which let cold air in around their bases. Every bit of cold air makes a difference when the weather is frigid, so caulking or insulating around outlets and fan bases may help.
  • Turn the thermostat down: Turning a thermostat down by even a couple of degrees can greatly reduce energy use. Keep your home a bit cooler at night, while you stay warm under blankets and comforters.
  • Get a programmable thermostat: This will spare you from having to remember to turn the temperature down before leaving for work and the discomfort of waiting for your home to heat up when you get home. It is also easy to override. If your apartment has one, use it. If it doesn’t, ask your property manager if one can be installed. Using a programmable thermostat helps to ensure you’re not wasting heat when you’re away from home and will automatically adjust the temperature for nighttime and daytime.
  • If you’re not using a room often, reduce heat flow through it’s vents and keep the door shut.
  • Exercise! Working up a sweat, whether by going for a brisk walk, taking part in a yoga class, or even doing exercises at home, helps to naturally raise your body temperature.
  • Wear a warm pair of socks and slippers when home.
  • Dress with layers using thermal underwear, sweaters, sweatshirts, leggings, warm pants, a scarf, hat and mittens.
  • Use throw blankets when you sit, lay around and are less likely to be active, in order to stay warm and cozy.
  • Use a hot water bottle, a simple heating device, when on the couch or in bed with a good book and a cup of warm tea.

References:

  1. Brady, Scott. 10 Eco-Friendly Ways to Stay Warm in the Fall and Winter. Home Bamboo Benefits Cariloha 
 Reviews Green. 09/11/15. (Source: blog.cariloha.com/10-eco-friendly-ways-to-stay-warm-in-the-fall-and-winter/).
  2. Carter, Ashley. Green Technology – 6 Eco-Friendly Ways Keep Warm This Winter. 10/18/16. (Source: https:// usgreentechnology.com/6-eco-friendly-ways-keep-warm/).
  3. Denikin, Paul. Add Value To Your Home With Eco-Friendly DIY Projects. 08/01/16.

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Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Our food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Cars, phones, TVs and computers are made from it. You might even chew on it, in the form of gum! While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they are “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton. It can be made into a lower-quality item, like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled.

Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling. Plastic waste ends up in landfills and the stomachs of sea turtles, birds and other animals, it litters our cities, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. Plus, most plastic is made from oil!

Here are some tips to decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate:

  • Use reusable shopping bags and avoid plastic produce bags: Although free to shoppers, plastic bags are one of the most ubiquitous forms of garbage. About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If possible, use cotton bags, instead of bags made from nylon or polyester which are also made from plastic.
  • Stop buying bottled water, unless there’s a contamination crisis: About 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash each year! Carry a reusable bottle filled with water, in your bag or car. If you’re concerned about the quality of local tap water, use a reusable bottle with a built-in filter, or bring filtered water from home.
  • Bring your own thermos for coffee to-go: Disposable coffee cups might look like paper but they’re usually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. While these can be recycled, most places lack the infrastructure to do so. Lids, stirrers, and coffee vendors who still use polystyrene foam cups create plastic waste which can all be avoided, if you use your own mug.
  • Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags: Cardboard is more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic, plus paper products tend to biodegrade more easily, without adding much weight to a product. If you have a choice, buy pasta in a box, instead of in a bag, or detergent in a box, instead of a bottle. Look for companies that source their cardboard sustainably.
  • Avoid using plastic straws when home or when ordering a drink at a bar, drive-thru or restaurant: Purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one, if they see that you’ve brought your own.
  • Avoid using disposable plastic razors: Use a razor that lets you replace just the blade, instead.
  • Use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers: According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Also, 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year are used to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone. Switch to cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.
  • Minimize food storage using plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers: Use a bento box, jar or glass container with a lid for your lunch, storing food in the fridge, and carryout foods, if your local restaurants permit it.
  • Buy in bulk: Consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you buy often, and buy a bigger container, instead of several smaller ones over time.
  • When buying from bulk bins, bring your own bags, containers or jars, to reduce packaging waste: Many stores, such as Whole Foods, sell bulk food like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and granola, and bringing a reusable bag or container for these items will save both money and unnecessary packaging. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight so check with customer service before filling your container. Many cotton bags have their weights printed on their tags, which can be deducted at the checkout.
  • Avoid disposable plastics: Ninety percent of plastic items are used once and then thrown out: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. After a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks, this will become an easy habit.
  • Boycott microbeads: Much plastic polluting the oceans consists of microplastics, tiny chunks that are almost impossible to filter out. Microplastics can come from the breakdown of larger items, but they are also commonly added to consumer products. Plastic microbeads which function as exfoliators are found in many beauty products: facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes. While they appear harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. They also resemble food to some marine animals. Choose products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt or biodegradable alternatives. Avoid items with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” on the ingredients list.
  • Make meals at home, to improve your health, as well as, to avoid takeout containers or doggy bags: When you do order in or eat out, tell the restaurant that you don’t need plastic cutlery or ask if you can bring your own food-storage containers for leftovers.
  • Purchase items secondhand at thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online, to save money and avoid the plastic packaging of new products.
  • Recycle: It seems obvious, but we’re not recycling enough. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. If you’re confused about what can and can’t be recycled, check the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles are #1 (PET) which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
  • Support a bag tax or ban: Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties, by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
  • Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner: Invest in a zippered fabric bag and ask that your cleaned items be returned in it, instead of in a plastic bag. Also make sure you’re using a dry cleaner that avoids perchlorate (PERC), a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.
  • Give up gum: When you chew gum, you’re actually chewing on plastic. Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. Not only are you chewing on plastic, but you may also be chewing on toxic plastic, since polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats.
  • Reuse glass and plastic containers: Instead of throwing away or recycling glass jars emptied of their spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa or applesauce, reuse them to store food or take them with you when you’re buying bulk foods. If you have plastic containers left over from yogurt, butter or other food, don’t throw them out. Simply wash them and use them to store food.
  • Bring your own container: Whether you’re picking up takeout or bringing home your restaurant leftovers, be prepared with your own reusable containers. When you place your order, ask if you can have the food placed in your own container.
  • Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters, if you must light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire. Such cheap plastic devices remain in landfills for years and have been found in dead birds’ stomachs. If you can’t bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.
  • Don’t use plasticware: Avoid disposable chopsticks, knives, spoons, forks and even sporks. If you often forget to pack silverware in your lunch, or if you know your favorite restaurant only has plasticware, start keeping a set of utensils.
  • Return reusable containers to your local market: Since berry. grape and tomato containers are refillable, ask your local grocer to take the containers back and reuse them. If you buy berries or cherry tomatoes at a farmers market, bring the plastic containers to the market when you need a refill.
  • Make your own fresh-squeezed juice or eat fresh fruit, instead of buying juice in plastic bottles: You’ll get more vitamins and antioxidants and reduce plastic waste.
  • For house cleaning, use baking soda and vinegar or make your own cleaning products, instead of many plastic bottles of toxic products like tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner:
  • Pack snacks and sandwiches in reusable containers, instead of disposable bags or saran wrap.

References:

  1. Badore, Margaret. “11 easy ways to reduce your plastic waste today.” Living/Green Home, 03/02/15.
  2. Sarah Engler. “10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution.” The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 01/05/16.

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Convenient plastic products can be harmful to your family’s health. Plastics commonly used to make food storage containers can often leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into food and drinks. If you are a parent of a young child or are expecting a baby, then you need to know about the dangers of such chemicals.”
Bisphenol-A (commonly known as BPA) and phthalates (called “everywhere chemicals” because they are so common) are used in making countless plastic products that we see and use everyday. This includes children’s items, such as baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, teethers and toys.

BPA is used in hard, clear plastic, whereas phthalates help make plastic flexible. It is believed that both BPA and phthalates can leach from plastic into food, liquid, and directly into the mouths of children while sucking on pacifiers or teethers.
Growing scientific evidence suggests that BPA and phthalates may be associated with a various health issues, including hormonal and developmental problems. Infants and young children, who are vulnerable during early developmental years, are likely to be at the greatest risk from exposure to these chemicals.

What is BPA?

BPA is a chemical often used to make polycarbonate plastic, a shatter-resistant and clear material used in products ranging from hard plastic bottles, eyeglasses, and sports safety equipment. BPA is also found in baby bottles, sippy cups, teethers, water bottles, food storage containers, and the epoxy lining of many food and beverage cans. It has been associated with effects on the developing brain, and breast and prostate cancer in laboratory studies.

What are Phthalates?

Pronounced “THAL-ates,” phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic soft and flexible. They are often found in plastic wrap, car interiors, shower curtains, deodorant, cosmetics, medical devices, children’s products like toys, rattles, teethers, rubber ducks, bath books, baby shampoo, soap and lotion. There are many types of phthalates, among them DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate), and DMP (dimethyl phthalate), terms usually not listed on most labels. DEHP has been shown to affect male reproductive development, sperm quality, and male hormone levels in laboratory and human studies.

Where Are Phthalates Used?

Phthalates are commonly found in plastic food and beverage containers, but their presence extends far beyond that. About a billion pounds of phthalates are produced every year, and their use is so widespread that they are nearly impossible to avoid entirely. About 95 percent of us have detectable levels of phthalates in our urine. Phthalates are found in perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. Even the smell of a new car is usually due to phthalates. Medical devices often contain phthalates, in order to make IV drip bags and tubes soft, thus enabling some DEHP to be pumped directly into the bloodstream of patients. Most plastic sex toys are softened with phthalates.

Phthalates are found in our food and water, too. They are in dairy products, possibly from the plastic tubing used to milk cows. They are in meats and cheeses since some phthalates are attracted to fat, although it’s not entirely clear how they are getting in to begin with. Phthalates have been found in tap water tainted by industrial waste, as well as, pesticides sprayed on conventional fruits and vegetables.

Why worry about BPA and Phthalates?

BPA can leach from plastic containers into foods and beverages, especially when they are heated, or used for long periods of time. Also, when kids put toys, teethers, and other products that contain phthalates in their mouths, the chemical may leach from the product to the child.
Animal studies have shown that exposure to BPA can have developmental effects. There are no studies that prove that BPA is associated with adverse effects in human development. However, because developmental effects in animals occur at BPA exposures close to those experienced by some people, the possibility that BPA may alter human development cannot be dismissed. In laboratory animals, exposure to high levels of BPA has been associated with adverse effects on reproduction. Some human studies suggest a possible effect of BPA on reproductive hormones, especially in men exposed to high levels in the workplace, but human data are not sufficient to determine if BPA adversely affects reproduction.

Animal studies have associated phthalate exposure with adverse effects on the liver, kidney, male and female reproductive system, especially when exposures occur to the developing organism. Animals exposed to phthalates in the mother’s womb have shown decreased sperm activity and concentration, early puberty in females, and testicular cancer. Possible reproductive, developmental and other effects of phthalates in humans are the subject of much ongoing research. Phthalates have been detected in humans, but associations between the levels of phthalates found and effects in humans is currently inconclusive.

To minimize exposure to BPA and Phthalates:

  • Fresh is best: BPA and phthalates can migrate from the linings of cans and plastic packaging into food and drinks. While it’s not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, opt for fresh or frozen, instead of canned food, as much as possible.
  • Prepare your meals at home: Studies have shown that people who eat more meals prepared outside the home have higher levels of BPA. To reduce your exposure, consider cooking more meals at home with fresh ingredients. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.
  • Eat organic produce, meat, and dairy. Phthalates are used in pesticides and also found in sewage sludge that is used in conventional agriculture. Neither is permitted on certified organic produce, and pesticide- treated animal feeds are not allowed in organic meat and dairy production.
  • Store it safe: Food and drinks stored in plastic can collect chemicals from the containers, especially if the foods are fatty or acidic. Try to store leftovers in glass or stainless steel, instead of plastic.
  • Don’t microwave in plastic: Warmer temperatures increase the rate of chemicals leaching into food anddrinks. So use heat-resistant glass or ceramic containers when you microwave, or heat your food on the stove. The label “microwave safe” means safety for the container, not your health.
  • Brew the old-fashioned way: Automatic coffee makers may have BPA and phthalates in their plastic containers and tubing. When you brew coffee, consider using a stainless steel percolator or French press to avoid BPA.
  • Use refillable glass, porcelain and stainless-steel containers: for all food and beverages, particularly for hot foods and liquids.
  • When you have something plastic, look at the little triangle on the bottom of the container: Avoid plastic containers marked with a 1 or a 7. Instead choose those marked with a 2, 4, or 5 will reduce the likelihood of exposure to BPA and phthalates.
  • Glass baby bottles are recommended for babies who don’t yet feed themselves.
  • For bottle feeding, since latex rubber nipples may contain phthalates, use of silicone nipples may reducephthalate exposure.
  • Do not use plastic containers in microwaves.
  • Avoid vinyl toys, perfumed shampoo and lotion: Choose fragrance-free products whenever possible.
  • Use baby bottles, food containers, teethers, shampoo, lotions, and other children’s items that are “BPA-free” and/or “phthalate-free.” Always read the package label or check with the manufacturer to know what you are bringing into your home.
  • Avoid fragrance and scented products: Unfortunately, you will very rarely see phthalates listed on a product label. Luckily, there are clues. When it comes to cosmetics, the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a label almost always means phthalates. What you want to see are claims like “no synthetic fragrance” or “scented with only essential oils” or “phthalate-free.” And always use only natural air fresheners.
  • Plastic products with recycling codes 3 and 7 may contain phthalates or BPA. Look for plastic with recycling codes 1, 2, or 5.
  • Avoid hand-me-down plastic toys. Although several types of phthalates are now banned from children’s toys, teethers, bottles, and feeding products, these laws only took place in 2009, so anything made of soft plastic that was manufactured before that probably contains phthalates (think rubber duckies, not Legos).
  • Avoid plastic whenever possible, and never heat your food in plastic: Foods that are higher in fat — meats and cheeses, for instance — are particularly prone to chemical leaching. Even BPA or phthalate-free plastic may contain harmful chemicals. Opt for glass food storage containers, and choose bottles and sippy and snack cups that are mostly stainless steel, silicone, or glass.
  • Invest in a water filter. Granular activated carbon filters should remove DEHP, which is the type of phthalate used in water pipes. Unfortunately, some sources claim that a percentage of water may pass through the carbon without filtration. A nano-filtration system is more expensive but possibly more reliable way to filter out phthalates.
  • Take action: While we can take steps to reduce our own exposure, it’s important to join with others to demand healthier food packaging and products for everyone.

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Meatless Protein Sources

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

You don’t need as much protein as you think. 

It’s easy to get what you need from beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy, and greens!

How much protein do we need?

  • The U.S. recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (0.36 grams per pound) for the general population.
  • Athletes need more than that, mostly due to greater tissue-repair needs.
  • Endurance athletes benefit most from 1.2 to 1.4 daily grams per kilogram of bodyweight, while strength athletes do best with 1.4 to 1.8 grams per kilogram. In pounds, that’s 0.54 to 0.63 grams per pound for endurance athletes, 0.63 to 0.81 grams per pound for strength athletes.
  • Our bodies are made up of many kinds of protein that include varying combinations of 20 amino acids. Only half of these amino acids can be manufactured by the human body. The other half, known as “essential amino acids,” can easily be obtained by eating a balanced vegan diet.
  • While almost all vegan foods contain some protein, soybeans are super sources. Soybeans contain all the essential amino acids and surpass all other plant foods in the amount of protein they provide to humans. Other excellent sources of non-animal protein include legumes, nuts, seeds, food yeasts, and freshwater algae

Include 2 to 3 servings of protein each day:

  1. Beans and lentils: Protein: 12 grams per 1 cup (black beans). One cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein. Dried black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and pinto beans are all delicious choices for low-fat, fiber-filled protein. Using dried beans allows you to control the sodium and additives that go into the dish. Soak dried beans overnight in a large bowl of water, rinse until the water runs clean, then simmer for 2 hours on medium/low heat to enjoy. Spice with cumin, garlic, red pepper, or other spices. Lentils and split peas do not require soaking. Cooked, dry beans and no- or low-sodium canned beans are a quick, easy protein source, providing 8 grams protein per ½ cup. Beans are also a good source of iron, a nutrient needed if you avoid meat. Add them to a salad, soup, or pasta dish.
  2. Edamame: These pale green soybeans encased in fuzzy pods are protein powerhouses, offering 17 grams protein per cup. Store them in your freezer for an easy-to-prepare snack. Cook them according to directions and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Add shelled edamame to soups, stir-fried vegetables or blend them to create a dip with this hummus recipe.
  3. Eggs: One large egg provides 6 grams of protein. Most of that is from the white albumin. To boost the amount of protein in scrambled eggs without adding a lot of extra calories and saturated fat, add an extra egg white or two to a whole egg or blend with non-fat milk.
  4. Low-fat cottage cheese: One cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 28 grams of protein (13 grams per ½-cup), half the amount many people need in a day! Since cottage cheese can be high in sodium, try to select low-sodium varieties. Top it with berries and sliced almonds for a healthy breakfast or snack.
  5. Nonfat Greek yogurt: Ultra-thick Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt (15 grams of protein per 6-oz container or 23 grams per cup, compared to 13 grams per cup in regular yogurt). Top plain yogurt with a spoonful of honey, fresh sliced fruit and nuts.  Make your own Greek yogurt at home with this recipe.
  6. Nuts and seeds: Provide about 7 grams of protein per 1 ounce (almonds provide 6g protein per 1 oz). Choose unsalted, unflavored nuts and seeds when possible. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a perfect snack or topping for salads and soups.
  7. Peanut butter: Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 8 grams of protein. Choose natural peanut butter to avoid added sugars and partially hydrogenated oils. Whether you choose chunky or smooth, both have the same nutritional profile. Try a tablespoon of peanut butter on a slice of apple, banana or a celery stalk for a snack with staying power.
  8. Quinoa: A very popular whole grain which offers more protein per serving than other grains. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of “complete” protein, i.e., all the essential amino acids necessary for good health.
  9. Seafood, herring, sardines: High in protein and vitamin D.
  10. Tempeh: A nutty-flavored, nubbly-textured vegan ingredient with 15 grams of protein per ½ cup. It’s made from fermented soybeans, making it a slightly more nutritious alternative to tofu with more fiber and vitamins. Tempeh lends itself to moist heat preparation, such as braising.
  11. Seitan: Often used in Asian cuisines as a meat replacement (on menus as mock duck or mock chicken), seitan has a chewy texture. It’s pure gluten — the protein component of wheat — so if you’re allergic or sensitive to gluten, avoid seitan. With 18 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving (or 21 grams of protein per 1/3 cup), seitan is a protein-dense meat alternative that also provides some iron.
  12. Tofu: Probably the best-known vegetarian protein, providing about 20 grams of protein per ½ cup. Tofu is a versatile ingredient, since it’s mild flavor adapts well to a variety of seasonings, and it comes in several different textures, from soft and creamy to firm and extra-firm.

The following table shows the amount of protein in various vegan foods and also the number of grams of protein per 100 calories. To meet protein recommendations, the typical moderately active adult male vegan needs only 2.2 to 2.6 grams of protein per 100 calories and the typical moderately active adult female vegan needs only 2.3 to 2.8 grams of protein per 100 calories. These recommendations can be easily met from vegan sources.

Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods
FOOD AMOUNT PROTEIN PROTEIN
(gm) (gm/100 cal)

Tempeh 1 cup 31 9.6
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 29 9.6
Seitan 3 ounces 21 17.5
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 18 7.8
Black beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.7
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.8
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 15 5.4
Pinto beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.3
Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.8
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1 cup 13 6.7
Veggie burger 1 patty 13 18.6
Veggie baked beans 1 cup 12 5.0
Tofu, firm 4 ounces 11 10.6
Tofu, regular 4 ounces 10 10.7
Bagel 1 med. (3.5 oz) 10 3.9
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 8 3.7
Peas, cooked 1 cup 8 6.6
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked 1/2 cup 8 15.0
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp 8 4.1
Veggie dog 1 link 8 13.3
Spaghetti, cooked 1 cup 8 3.7
Almonds 1/4 cup 8 3.7
Soy milk, commercial, plain 1 cup 7 7.0
Whole wheat bread 2 slices 7 5.2
Almond butter 2 Tbsp 7 3.4
Soy yogurt, plain 8 ounces 6 4.0
Bulgur, cooked 1 cup 6 3.7
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 6 3.3
Cashews 1/4 cup 5 2.7
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 5 13.0
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 4 6.7
Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24, 2011 and manufacturers’ information.
The recommendation for protein for adult male vegans is around 63 grams per day; for adult female vegans it is around 52 grams per day.

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Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Dancing is a wonderful physical and social activity that can improve your fitness and health, lift your spirits, reduce stress, and offer a fun experience, all at the same time! Ballroom dancing, in particular, is a perfect combination of physical and low-impact aerobic activity, range of motion exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation.

Regardless of your age and ability level, dancing will help you to improve your health, flexibility, muscle tone, mental outlook, social life, and enjoyment of leisure.

Dancing:

  1. Is fun
  2. Helps to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular (heart) and cerebrovascular (brain) disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression
  3. Helps to slow the progression of osteoporosis and reduce the risk of falls and fractures, by increasing muscle strength which supports your bones and improves your coordination and balance.
  4. Enhances blood circulation throughout your body
  5. Strengthens your immune system and ability to resist colds, illness, and infections
  6. Can help you lose weight
  7. Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  8. Raises your metabolic rate, which helps you burn calories faster and lose unnecessary pounds
  9. Keeps you fit and flexible
  10. Improves your muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  11. Improves your coordination and balance, which can prevent accidents and falls
  12. Improves your posture
  13. Helps you to meet new people
  14. Builds self confidence
  15. Increases self esteem
  16. Improves your spatial awareness
  17. Improves your concentration and ability to focus
  18. Improves poise and gracefulness
  19. Improves your social skills
  20. Enhances an overall sense of well-being, promotes a positive outlook, and makes you happy to be alive
  21. Is a moderate physical activity that is generally healthy and safe for your joints and body (According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s [USDA] physical activity guidelines, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.)
  22. Provides mental stimulation and improved oxygenated blood flow for a healthy brain, especially when you take classes to improve your technique, memorize steps, or work with a partner
  23. Improves your memory and may help to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  24. Is a “sport” you can engage in throughout your life, with beautiful music, moderate aerobic activity, and social interaction
  25. Provides a temporary escape from normal daily activities, a chance to relax, relieve stress, reduce loneliness, and have a great time
  26. Helps you to feel young and energetic, no matter what age you are

For those of you in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or the Delaware Valley, a wonderful place for dance instruction and social dancing is:

Dance Haddonfield

USA Dance Delaware Valley Chapter 3012 

Grace Episcopal Church, 19 East Kings Highway, Haddonfield, New Jersey, 08033

Dancing every Sunday from 6pm-10:30pm

Intermediate lessons (6pm-7pm)

Beginner lessons (7pm-8pm)

Social dancing (8pm-10:30pm)

www.dancehaddonfield.org

References:

  1. “Dance Haddonfield- The Cure for 2 Left Feet.” (Source: www.dancehaddonfield.org/2leftfeet.html).
  2. “Dancing: Fitness the Fun Way!” Public Health Category: www.dianesays.com. 02/17/12.
  3. “Exercise for Your Bone Health.” National Institutes of Health (NIH) Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. NIH Publication No. 15–7879–E. May 2015. (Source: www.niams.nih.gov/health…/)
  4. “How Does Physical Activity Help Build Strong Bones?” National Institutes of Health (NIH). 05/06/14. (Source: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/bonehealth/conditioninfo/Pages/activity.aspx)
  5. “USA Dance Chapters-Find a Local Chapter.” USA Dance, Inc. (Source: www.usadance.org>chapters. Office: (800) 447-9047; Fax: (239) 573-0946).

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Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, eggs provide an inexpensive, nutritious, and filling meal. Any ingredients that can be added to scrambled eggs are wonderful for frittatas, as well.

The following recipe includes quinoa and is delicious, satisfying, high in protein, portable, and freezable. Quinoa is a super grain, providing all 8 essential amino acids (complete protein). It gets baked in the oven, so it doesn’t need to be precooked. Instead, it settles to the bottom of the pan and creates a moist crust.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup lowfat or nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, shallot or onion
  • 1+ teaspoon chopped fresh or dried thyme, rosemary, parsley or other herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cups chopped vegetables (red and/or green bell peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, minced parsley, cubed butternut squash, shredded broccoli, etc.)
  • 1 cup finely shredded Cheddar, Parmesan, Romano, or Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter,  spray or lightly oil an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
  2. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa with cold running water until water runs clear, to remove bitter saponins. Drain well.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, garlic/shallot/onion, thyme, pepper and quinoa. Stir in spinach.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Jiggle dish gently from side to side, so quinoa can settle on bottom in an even layer.
  5. Cover dish with foil and bake until set, about 45 minutes. (I forgot to do this once and the casserole was still excellent!)
  6. Remove foil and sprinkle top evenly with cheese. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, until golden brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes more.
  7. Set aside to cool briefly, then slice and serve.

Variations:

  1. Pour the above mixture into a 12-cup muffin tin to create mini frittatas. First spray or lightly oil the muffin tin, or insert cupcake papers. Fill muffin tin cups just below the rim with mixture. Do not cover with foil. Bake until set, approximately 25 minutes. Carefully add cheese, return to oven and bake until golden brown and crisp.
  2. Layer frittata serving or mini frittata between bagel or English muffin halves, or slices of whole grain bread for an on-the-go sandwich.

Nutrition per serving: 

260 calories (130 from fat), 14g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 300mg cholesterol, 14g carbohydrates (2g dietary fiber, 3g sugar), 18g protein.

Freezing frittatas:

Individual frittatas make convenient, portion-controlled meals that can be prepared in advance. Wrap each serving tightly to prevent freezer burn, and store in freezer for up to one month. When ready to eat, remove desired portions, defrost overnight in refrigerator, and rewarm the next day in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

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A report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service on Feb. 20, 2014 states that the vast majority of corn and soybean crops grown in America are genetically-engineered variants made to withstand certain conditions and chemicals. The consensus: no one is certain about the longterm effect GMOs will have on the environment!
GMO seeds have been sowed on US soil for 15 years now. However, Americans still have concerns about consuming custom-made, laboratory-created products, although not as much as in Europe and elsewhere where such crops have been banned.
Between 1984-2002, the number of GMO varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) grew exponentially. Today GMO crops are found in most of America’s biggest farms, and scientists have in the last several years discovered new ways to make situation-specific GE (genetically engineered) seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, and other crops that have traits more desirable than traditional crops. In 2013, GMO crops were planted on about 169 million acres of land in the US, or about half of all farmland from coast-to-coast.
Around 93% of all soybean crops planted in the US last year involved GMO, herbicide-tolerant (HT) variants, while HT corn and HT cotton constituted about 85% and 82% of total acreage, respectively. HT crops are able to tolerate certain highly effective herbicides, such as glyphosate, allowing adopters of these varieties to better control pervasive weeds.
As herbicides are applied to more and more fields containing HT crops, USDA experts warn that they could have major, as-yet-uncertain impacts on the environment:

“Because glyphosate is significantly less toxic and less persistent than traditional herbicides…the net impact of HT crop adoption is an improvement in environmental quality and a reduction in the health risks associated with herbicide use (even if there are slight increases in the total pounds of herbicide applied). However, glyphosate resistance among weed populations in recent years may have induced farmers to raise application rates. Thus, weed resistance may be offsetting some of the economic and environmental advantages of HT crop adoption regarding herbicide use. Moreover, herbicide toxicity may soon be negatively affected (compared to glyphosate) by the introduction (estimated for 2014) of crops tolerant to the herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D.”

The chemical 2,4-D is a component in Agent Orange, a herbicide that had been widely used during the Vietnam war. This chemical is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life, considered a possible carcinogen according to the World Health Organization, and increases the risk of abnormally shaped sperm and fertility problems in humans.

If the USDA allows GMO companies to manufacture 2,4-D-resistant crops, then that agent could appear in alarming numbers across America’s farmland. But while anti-GMO advocates consider that just one of the reasons they oppose the influx of man-made crops being grown in exponentially large numbers across the county, the USDA said activism along those lines has been comparatively small in the US.

Over 60 countries including members of the European Union, Japan and China, already label genetically engineered foods. Many consumers in the European Union, Middle East, and South America have indicated a reluctance to consume GE products. In other countries, including the United States, expression of consumer concern is less widespread.

Despite the rapid increase in adoption rates for GE corn, soybean, and cotton varieties by US farmers, some continue to raise questions regarding the potential benefits and risks of GE crops.

According to the USDA report, GE crops are being grown in record numbers, causing herbicide manufacturers to experience a surge as well. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from about 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010.

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