Sunday, September 9, 2007

Toxins on the WTC Pile - Did Rudy Call OSHA?

It is possible that more people were injured by work on the World Trade Center disaster pile, than in the attacks themselves, all because of toxic dust they inhaled. The pulverized building materials, including asbestos, PCBs, concrete dust and a great "soup" of other materials floated in the air where people worked. Thousands working on that pile inhaled these toxins, and pay for it now, years later; some have already died. Thousands of workers and volunteers entered the clouds of toxic dust without respirators, dust masks or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of any kind. Others got by with inadequate protection and suffered damaging toxic exposure as well. Why weren't we smarter about conditions on the pile, when we are the nation with the most sophisticated understanding of worker safety and protection?

On CBS 60 minutes, blame was discussed, as regards the EPA, and Christine Todd Whitman who was EPA director at the time. If they were discussing exposure of average New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan, Whitman was the one to explain, but the EPA doesn't regulate worker exposure. The federal agency with that responsibility is OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, headed by then Assistant Secretary of Labor John L. Henshaw. The question I pose is, did those in New York handling the project request OSHA help, and did Henshaw respond. Given the political atmosphere of the time, one would expect Rudy Giuliani to seek the best help available, and get it easily. How could anyone in the US government refuse such a request just after 9/11? It would have been political suicide.

In order to learn from the failures of our 9/11 response, we better look to those in a position to protect the volunteers and workers on the pile for answers. OSHA regulators ensure safety in construction, mining, manufacture of building materials, demolition of buildings and all other industrial and construction work in the US; clearly, they had the expertise to know what protection was appropriate. So tell us, Mr. Gullianni and Mr. Henshaw, What was done to harness the formidable resources of OSHA and use their knowledge to protect the people on the pile? Why was their protection so poor that we have a secondary disaster?

Mr. Giuliani, Did you ask for advice from OSHA on how to protect workers on the pile? If so, when? Why were so many exposed to toxic injury?

Mr. Henshaw, did OSHA provide (or offer) assistance or advice on worker protection for those working to save or recover victims of the WTC disaster? Did OSHA inspectors monitor conditions in which people on the pile worked?

If any of you can shed light on this question, please post a comment. If we don't learn from such disastrous mistakes in our past, we condemn ourselves to repeat them in the future.

Beware of the Bugs That Love You- Insect Borne Diseases

Especially, the ones that find you tasty. You are great food for ticks, mosquitos, lice, fleas and some other bugs that can cause real trouble. It's not the blood they take; you can probably spare it. Rather it's the little gifts they leave... gifts like lyme disease, encephalitis, west nile virus, plague, dengue fever, and others that can leave you ill, weak, disabled or dead. A list of these diseases carried by insects, arthropods and their relatives is available from the CDC. The bottom line is... dangerous as repellants, insecticides and similar toxins are, the little creatures they are designed to control are also very hazardous to your health - hazardous enough that millions of people die every year due to infection from their bites.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Have Some Toxic Mineral Water?

Don't drink it from a can or a metal canteen, or you'll get a dose. I'm not talking about heavy metals, but about Aluminum, the third most prevalent element in the earths crust - and very toxic. When you go to the wilderness to escape from the toxins of civilization, you won't make much progress if you pack an aluminum mess kit, aluminum canteen or aluminum cans of soda or food. Check out this discussion of the neurotoxicity, bone disease and other toxic damage related to Aluminum: Al = Aluminum - a Toxic Element

I consumed too much of this stuff when I cooked in it, stored in foil and drank from aluminum cans. A former FDA director and proponent of Pure Food Law promoted eliminating it from the food supply, but it is exempted from testing by law, due to classification as GRAS (Generally Accepted As Safe). That's why the FDA applies no restrictions and requires no testing. Given how common it is in our natural and commercial environment, aluminum may be the most difficult toxic material to avoid.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ahhh the Great Toxic Smell of a New Car

That new car smell punches our buttons! It summons up memories and reminds us of our freedom and power... we love that smell of a new car! But watch out: it's the smell of VOCs - Volatile Organic Compounds, the airborne chemicals that are heavily regulated by the EPA since they help to generate ozone and photochemical smog. Want to know more? Check out this article about the adhesives, plastics and toxic paint solvents that make the new car smell we know and love.

None of these chemicals are likely to kill in concentrations present when the car gets to you, but they aren't the best compounds to breathe. If you aren't eager to lose more brain cells or stress your organs more than they are, consider driving with a window open a bit, at least for the first few weeks. Some suggest that you keep that window open for the first 6 months.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What IS that Stuff ... Checking Suspicious Chemicals

There are tons of strange chemicals, drugs and other suspicious materials around you; how do you find out if they are hazardous? I'm a great advocate for looking up health effects of the food additives listed on packaging labels, your prescription drugs and other chemicals around you, but you may not know where to start. Here are a few clues:
  • Check out the Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS. Any chemical used in manufacturing must have an MSDS so workers and employers know how to handle it safely. A quick google search for 'chemname' MSDS will usually get a few hits with material data safety sheets for the chemical. If not, dig deeper and expect to find problems.
  • Contact the manufacturer and ask about published information and health studies.
  • Search on-line, or better still, get help from a librarian. (Yes, there really are still librarians out there)

If you find WAY too much contradictory information to draw a conclusion, dig deeper; you may find books on the stuff, and you may be inspired to do some serious reading. I promise you this- research a few food additives or household chemicals this way, and you'll learn far more than just the answers than you were looking for. You will start to understand the stuff you put in your body. There's a powerful education waiting for you, and it can change your life!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Poison Pills ... Feel better??

Modern medicine does some great things... but there is a cost. No, I don't mean the rising cost of health care, I mean the cost to your body in damage from toxic drugs. We all know about the powerful toxins, Chemo and Botox, but drugs we take routinely can do lots of damage, too. Too often, we try to 'get better' by taking poison pills.

It's a good idea to consider any drug you use, as a toxic, hazardous material unless proven otherwise. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and natural supplements will often be toxic to the liver at some dosage. The kidneys also can be damaged or destroyed by drug toxicity.

Given the purpose of these strong chemicals, it's hardly surprising that hundreds of FDA approved medications have potential to do serious damage to internal organs. Generally, most drugs are poisonous if you take too much, take it too long, or take them in the wrong combinations. Health care professionals are busy, goal directed and sometimes they don't ask enough questions. In the US, a new organ failure victim is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. If you want to be a survivor, don't wait for the doctor or pharmacist; ask lots of your own questions about chemicals you put in your mouth, unless you're prepared to add your name to that growing transplant list.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

mmmm, A Slice of Toxic Pie

My wife bought me a piece of pie, yesterday. It looked good, and it was a nice gesture. After dinner I dug right into it.

It was ok, but the taste was just a little off. She asked me how it was, and I said " Good, but it has a little too much propylene glycol in it" ... I was half kidding, as I recalled the early concerns about propylene glycol in pet food from China; still, I did think I tasted something a little like antifreeze smells. "Is there something wrong with it?" she asked. I said it was fine, and continued to eat.

Later, out of curiosity, I checked the label to see what WAS in it, in the off chance there was some glycol or something. I was surprised to find propylene glycol right on the ingredients list. While I was concerned, I decided the toxic effects of one slice of pie were not as risky as the potential toxic impact on my marriage, so I finished eating it.
Afterward, I studied the label more closely, then did some research. Here is what I found out about propylene glycol:
Propylene glycol – toxic by ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption (neurotoxin); it is approved for use in foods in the EU up to 0.1%, but approved for general use in foods in the US (except cat food), even though it is known to cause multiple organ failure if used above a “safe level”
In addition I found many more chemicals in my slice of berry pie, including:
Sodium benzoate – decomposes and produces benzene, a known carcinogen
Calcium propionate – Toxic preservative, too many known health effects to list
Xanthan gum – Viscosity additive – fermentation product – allergy risk, possible irritant
Red 40 (2-Naphthalenesulfonic acid) – Dye, not considered toxic in small quantities, but known to cause adverse behavioral effects in children, acute allergic reactions in some adults and other problems
Sodium caseinate – considered hazardous in case of ingestion – biodegrades into more toxic products, generally a problem for people with dairy allergies
Methylparabenpreservative, hazardous ingested in quantity, suspected carcinogen
Propylparaben - preservative, hazardous ingested in quantity, lethal toxin <1%>
Sodium hexametaphosphate – emulsifier, toxic below 0.5% ingested – organ failure, neurotoxic
Carrageenan – thickener from seaweed – suspected carcinogen, toxic inhaled, slightly hazardous ingested
Beta carotene – for color, non-toxic, but implicated as a carcinogen at high doses in smokers
Amazing how hard they work to keep my pie pretty and fresh for me, even after it spends time on the shelf ... seems a shame to eat it quickly, before all the toxins have done their thing on fungi, bacteria and other bugs.
It's all legal, and I didn't get sick. At least, not so far. A diet full of this stuff DOES damage some people, though, and eating it regularly could easily take a toll on sensitive or weak organs. Many of the ingredients could be lethal with a slip up in production, and they might not change the taste or look enough to tip me off. I'll check closer next time.
A good lesson, though. If you eat prepared foods, expect lots of toxic stuff in them, unless you go to some trouble to get brands that leave it out. I was particularly interested in the education I got on Red dye 40. Check it out, especially if you have kids.