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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PART XI: Toxic Gases from Plastics in Clothes, Food Containers, Construction Materials, with Green Tips

IT’S TWICE OR MORE POLLUTED IN HOMES
PART XI:  Toxic Gases from Plastics in Clothes, Food Containers, Construction Materials, with Green Tips

Images from: http://inikweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/t473kellygreen.jpg
and
http://www.chatelaine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Three-pairs-boyfriend-jeans-denim-Jan-13-p45.jpg


Plastic has dominated homes and daily living because of its convenience. Natural fibers from cotton, rayon, hemp and silk are now being completely replaced, or mixed with synthetic resins to make textile and clothes affordable and fashionable.

This, however, is an environmentalist’s nightmare because plastic releases toxic gases called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Organochlorines and Phenols are the chemicals that make up plastic. These are also the same materials responsible for the emission of VOCs.

Organochlorines, as explained in Part X of this series, are chemicals originally used as disinfectants, herbicides and agricultural pesticides. It was also used to control malaria and typhus. Through research, this chemical together with petroleum, were formed into commercial products such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chloroform and chloramines, which are all volatile organic compounds.

Phenols, on the other hand, are chemicals used to manufacture paint, paint and varnish removers, lacquer, rubber, ink, perfume, soap, toys and more. Phenolic resins are used in construction and the appliance industries. It also works as plywood adhesive, while Bisphenol A is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins and more.

Although there are natural phenols that can be extracted from willow barks like salicylic acid (a component of aspirin), both organochlorines and phenols are chemicals produced in laboratories.

CLASSIFICATIONS OF PLASTIC

Manufactured plastic have two types: thermoplastics and thermosets.

I.                    THERMOPLASTICS are soft plastics which comprise 80% of manufactured plastic products available in the market.

a.       POLYVINYLCHLORIDE (PVC)

This is a synthetic resin composed of 57% chlorine, and 43% carbon or gas with ethylene. This is used in producing vinyl flooring, decorative sheets, artificial leathers, drain piping, conduits for wiring, rainwear, garden hoses, sliding flooring, and more.

b.      POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBs)

This plastic material is manufactured into electrical equipment, fluorescent lights, surface coatings, inks, adhesives, flame retardants, paints, etc. 

It is estimated that 10% of PCBs produced in 1929 are still in landfills today. When heated at high temperatures, these generate toxic dioxin. PCBs coming from electrical devices and fluorescent lights, which were carelessly thrown in waterways and channelled to bodies of water continue to cause contamination and fish kill.  This synthetic resin can also accumulate in plants, animals and poultry because of its ability to mix with air and bind strongly with soil.  Contamination from PCBs can cause acne, rashes, liver and biliary cancer.

In 1977, the USA stopped the use of PCB fluorescent lights and electrical devices. That same year, Canada regulated PCBs to be used only at the end of its service life.  In 1988, they also began regulating the handling, transport and destruction of PCB equipment.


c.       POLYPROPYLENES

Polypropylene is manufactured from propylene gas with a catalyst called titanium chloride. Polyprolylene is a by-product of an oil refining process. In 1954, it was converted into a light, flexible, inexpensive, and non-absorbent fiber material that was easy to customize and dye.

Polypropylenes are found in toys, automobile products, carpets, upholstery, paper stationery coatings, food containers, microwave containers, dishwashers, textiles, labelling papers, containers, housewares, housing materials, packaging fibers, yogurt containers, syrup bottles, straw, drainage pipes, and pumps. 

Polypropylene is reusable and have been used in recycling. However, this plastic has environmental issues. At a high temperature, polypropylene releases irritating vapors which harm the eyes and the respiratory system.  It melts at 130°C.

d.      NYLON

This is a synthetic polymer used as a substitute for silk after World War II.  Nylon is now manufactured into female stockings, parachutes, vehicle tires, tents, ropes, carpets, food packaging, meat wraps, sausage sheaths, hair combs, guitar strings, rackets, petticoats, fake fur coats, and drip dry suits.

When nylon is burned, it releases Hydrogen Cyanide, which is used for the production of synthetic fibers, plastic dyes and pesticides. This toxic substance, however, may constrict the air passages and deter the normal distribution of oxygen to the brain, heart and blood vessels. It also smells like old sneakers.


e.      ACRYLICS

Acrylic fiber is manufactured into acrylic paint, shower doors and windows. This material produces toxic fumes when exposed to direct flame.

f.        POLYTHENE or POLYETHELENE

This is the most common of all the thermoplastics. This material is commonly used in packaging materials like plastic bags, films, containers, plastic bottles, ice and frozen food bags. Polyethelene burns slowly. As it is burned, it emits an odor similar to paraffin, because of its petrochemical components. It is not readily biodegradable.

II.                  THERMOSETS, in turn, are hard plastics which can no longer be softened.  Among its products are the following:

a.       POLYESTER

Polyester or polyethylene teraphthalate comes from ethylene glycol and teraphthalic acid. (Phthalates are endocrine disrupters as seen on Part X of this series). This synthetic polymer can be found in synthetic carpets. It is also sewn into fashionable pants, blazers, skirts, non-iron and dry-clean-only clothes, underwear, tee-shirts, etc.

At the early stages of its use in the garment industry, clothes were manufactured with 100% polyester. This, however, caused skin irritation. As a solution, it was blended with cotton, and other natural materials to minimize this skin reaction.   

Polyester is also made into plastic bottles, hoses, food trays, upholstery, and fiberglass reinforced plastics used in restaurants, kitchens and restrooms.  Soft drink, juice, beer, detergent and household chemical bottles, for example, are recycled and processed into fibers that can produce clothing, hoses, power belting, ropes, nets, auto upholstery, and more.

Polyester is popular because it is mold and mildew-resistant, quick to wash and dry, holds forms well, and can add more stretch to clothes. However, it is highly flammable and can cause irritation.

b.       FORMALDEHYDE 

Formaldehyde has two types that are widely used in many industries. 
Urea-formaldehyde resins, commonly known as formalin in the Philippines, is a volatile organic compound that produces toxic vapor at room temperature. It is colorless, flammable and has a strong odor that irritates the mucous membrane. The presence of its strong odor is evident in textile stores because textile are treated with formalin to remove wrinkles and be shrink-resistant. This explains why textile store customers usually experience sneezing or teary eyes.  

Apart from textile, urea-formaldehyde is also used in bonding plywood and decorative panel together. It is used for this purpose because it is lighter in color compared to phenol-formaldehyde. It is also less durable and has no sufficient resistance for external use. It is also a component of wallboards, tableware, cosmetic and cosmetic jars, adhesives, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes, paper products, fabric softeners, dishwashing liquid, medical laboratories, mortuaries for embalming, cigarettes, fertilizers and pesticides.

Phenol-formaldehyde resins, in contrast, make an excellent adhesive for plywood and particle boards.  It is darker in color compared to urea-formaldehyde, and its resistance to moisture makes it good for exterior use on plywood.  Phenolic resins when reinforced with fibers or flakes are also molded into insulating and heat-resistant objects such as appliance handles, distributor caps and brake linings.
Because of these, the highest level of formaldehyde can be detected indoors. 

Building materials, insulations, furniture and furnishings emit formalin for years, not counting the housewares, cosmetics and home cleaning products that we use daily.  Air contaminated with formaldehyde can cause illnesses like bronchitis and chest pains, and eye and throat irritation.

c.       SILICONES

Sealants contain silicone which is used for rubber, plastic surgery and in grease products. This chemical is water-resistant and heat-resistant. The scientific name of silicone is organopolysiloxanes.

d.      MELAMINE

This is a hard thermosetting plastic which has cyanuric acid and formaldehyde. It is a component used in adhesives, countertops, dishware, white covered work surfaces, furniture like Formica, laminated floors, wall panels used as whiteboards, ready-to-assemble-furniture and kitchen cabinets, and saturated decorative papers laminated on particle boards.  

Melamine dishware like cups and plates are easily scratched and stained, which caused its sales to decline.  These scratches in melamine dishware are hazardous to health. It may cause an irritable bladder, blood in the urine, kidney infection, and high blood pressure. When highly acidic food is heated in a melamine microwave-safe dishware at 160°F or higher, toxic materials can start contaminating food. Thus, it would be good to check the instructions enclosed in the dishware before using it in the microwave.  Aside from dishware, it is also used as camping and nursery products.
               
GREEN TIPS

These are alarming information, but we can exercise caution to protect our families and           our homes. Here are some green tips which you can easily adapt to your lifestyle.

1.       Plastic wrappers and containers should be used with care.

It is advised to avoid using cling wraps. Fatty foods absorb plastic components that are harmful when eaten. Thus, the use of cellophane or grease-proof waxed paper are recommended.  Stainless food containers and paper bags are also very good options.

Avoid exposing plastic containers at high temperatures. If it is inevitable, make sure that these plastic food containers have no scratches, breakage or any damage to avoid the leak of VOCs. 

Reading the instructions on how to clean plastic containers should also be a top priority. Choose a good sponge to wash plastic containers. Remember, using scouring pads would cause scratches to plastic.

2.       Paint and varnish


3.       Furniture

Wood and natural materials gives a safer and far more comfortable home atmosphere.  

4.       Wallpaper

Vinyl-based paper with paste contain solvents that do not allow the wall to breathe. This might cause structural problems eventually. Chlorine-free wallpapers with water-based inks are suggested and available in the market.

5.       Flooring

            There are many ways to design natural flooring.

First, one can opt for a wooden flooring. Wooden floors are cool in summer and warm during cold weather. Natural floorboards from wood may be painted with vegetable-based wood stains, polishes, or water-based varnish for an aesthetic touch.

Second, natural linoleum is available and may be made from any of the following: linseed oil, pine tree, cork, chalk, and jute backing. Natural linoleum is typically used in the kitchen for easy clean-up.  

Third, coco coir made of 100% coconut husk fibers may be made into doormats. Flooring using coco coir is long lasting and eco-friendly.  Because of its durability, it has been used in making rope and twine. Coco coir also prevents bacteria and eliminate the chances of allergy, asthma and eczema, a common occurrence in synthetic carpets. 

6.       Fabrics

Fabrics are closest to our skin, the biggest organ of the body. Thus, we need to be more cautious about our clothing choices.

Below are some reminders for the next time you go shopping.
                                                                                       
a.       Read the material composition of a clothing article before buying it. Look for the label indicating if it is made of pure cotton, rayon, hemp or if it has a mixture of synthetic fibers. This label will also show the percentage of mixtures as well (e.g. 65% polyester, 35% cotton).

According to a saleslady of a popular department store here in Manila, the difference between pure cotton and polyester is evident. If a piece of clothing has polyester, shiny fibers are exposed against close lighting. This does not happen with articles using 100% cotton.

It is best to choose organic fabrics, but, as of now, it is not readily available in many parts of the world yet. So far, the options are limited to cotton, rayon and hemp fabrics. As a rule of thumb, the higher the cotton, rayon and hemp fabric content, the better. 

Lucky for us in the Philippines, fashionable garments showcasing our Philippine indigenous materials will soon make way in malls. We hope these will be welcomed and supported.

b.       ‘Non-iron, dry-clean only’ clothes contain polyester and acetate. These synthetic fabrics usually cause skin irritation in the armpit and other delicate areas. The sap from aloe vera and katakataka will help relieve the itch and inflammation. Boiled guava leaves can also be applied for faster healing.

But if you completely want to do away with your fabrics with thermoplastics, just donate or creatively recycle these into household objects. Japan has recycling plants that creatively repurpose fabrics into useful and sellable products. Remember, throwing non-biodegradable clothing in landfills will just pollute the soil and water.

c.       Fabric dye

If available at your locality, buy clothes that use vegetable-based inks.                  

7.        Cosmetics and Detergents

There are organic dishwashing and laundry soaps, and cosmetic products already available in the market. These are a little pricier than commercial detergents but weighing the benefits can prove more economical. 

The organic laundry soap comes from natural ingredients like coconut oil. Clothes washed with it smell good whether it is sun-dried or not, and it even drives away mosquitoes while it’s in the clothes line. It does not need fabric softener and it is not harmful to the skin. Even the remaining soapy water can be safely used to water plants. (Vinegar may also be used to soften the towels. Visit Part 5: HomeCleaners for more laundry green tips.)

8.       Air Fresheners

Instead of using commercial air fresheners that cause respiratory diseases, just decorate your home with fresh flowers or fresh herbs. Fragrant herbs can also be dried to make homemade herbal oil and potpourri. (Learn how to make Homemade Citronella Oil here.)

9.       Disinfectants

Who needs to buy commercial cleaning agents when you have them in your pantry? Vinegar, lemon, kalamansi, regular soap and hot water are environment-friendly ways to clean your entire home at a fraction of the cost.  (Check out Part 5: Home Cleaners of this series to find out how you can make a simple and safe disinfectant for your home.)

It is overwhelming to know that Volatile Organic Compounds from plastics have invaded and contaminated our homes and our beautiful world for years.

This is a toxic reality! But there are many diligent ways that we can do make our home and the world happy and green.

GOOD NEWS

Luckily, there are green products now available in the market worldwide.  In the Philippines, eco-friendly products are labelled with a ‘Green Choice Philippines’ seal. This seal is eco-labelled on products like sugar, electrical appliances, machines and equipment, construction materials, disinfectants, and many more. This signifies that these products were manufactured in a more environmental manner.
 
The Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI), the non-government organization which acts as administrator to the National Ecolabelling Program, is based on ISO 14024. PCEPSDI is part of a worldwide organization that ecolabels green products. It aims to encourage clean manufacturing practices and environmentally preferred products. 

This Ecolabelling Program is under the auspices of the Department of Trade Industry (DTI), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and an affiliate of Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP). These agencies have technical experts from the government and independent bodies alike, who evaluate the performance and design of products based on a multi-level criteria in a life cycle assessment, and environmental considerations on energy efficiency, retrieval of wastes generated and environmental health and safety.  
It is very encouraging, indeed, that Pope Francis has affirmed our environmental advocacy in his Encyclical entitled Laudato Si’. In the encyclical, the Pope said, “The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded and promoted by market forces.” (190) [Thus, we need] “Education in environmental responsibility by avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights. Reuse instead of immediately discarding when done for the right reasons can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.”  (213)
We need a change of heart to be able to consciously care. Surely, we will do everything to provide the best life and ventilation for our family and home. Happy searching for the unfriendly VOCs! Good luck!
Coming Soon:
Part XII : Metals: Appliances - Refrigerator, Washing Machine, Oven, etc.

EM-EM TINASAS, MBA


Sources:

Callard, S, Millis D. 2009, The Eco-living Handbook, A Complete Green Guide for your Home and Life, pp. 54-56, 59-60, London, UK, Carlton Books, Ltd.
Plastic does not biodegrade. Retrieved from http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/facts/#affects-health
Plastic never goes away. Retrieved from http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/#factsdoesnotbiodegrade
What is PVC: Retrieved from www.PVC.org/en/p/what-is-PVC
PCBs Polychlorinated biphenyls. Retrieved from www.greenfacts.org/en/pcbs
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Retrieved from: www.ec-gc-ca/bpc-pcb
Polypropelene. Retrieved from: www.lennntech.com/polypropylene
Polypropylene. Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/polypropylene
Nylon. Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/nylon
What is acrylic. Retrieved from: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-acrylic.htm
Polyethelene. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene
Polyester. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyester
Formaldehyde. (1992). In Encyclopedia Britannica (15th ed., p. 883). USA.
Formaldehyde. (1992). In Encyclopedia Britannica (15th Edition, p. 345). USA.
What is polyester. Retrieved from: www.wisegeek.org/what-is-polyester
Silicone resins. Retrieved from: http://www.wacker.com/cms/en/products/product_groups/silicone_resins.jsp
Questions and answers on melamine. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/csr/media/faq/QAmelamine/en/
Melamine in tableware: Questions and answers. Retrieved from: www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm199525.htm
Barlow, J., & Johnson, J. A. P. (2007, November 7). Early life exposure to phenols and breast cancer risk in the later years. Retrieved from: www.bcerc.org/COTCpubs/BCERC.FactSheet_Phenols.pdf
Hydrogen cyanide (AC): Systematic agent. www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750038.html
Polyester fiber. Retrieved from: http://www.fibersource.com/f-tutor/polyester.htm
Polyethylene terephthalate. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene_terephthalate
Phenol-formaldehyde. Retrieved from: www.britannica.com/science/phenol-formaldehyde-resin

Urea-formaldehyde. Retrieved from: www.britannica.com/science/urea-formaldehyde-resin

Friday, June 12, 2015

Part X: Male Infertility, Miscarriage, Food Toxicity, Cancer - Paint, Ink, Detergent, Canned Food, Plastics, and Green Tips

Image from: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pixies/2011/10/27/1319709142013/Man-painting-a-wall-007.jpg

There are many useful things around the house that may look harmless but pose significant effect on the human well-being because of their chemical content. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters.  They contain hormone disrupting compounds (HDCs) which mimic estrogen, the female hormone, which cause low sperm count, male infertility, miscarriage, and toxicity in food and diseases.

These chemicals started as solutions for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants such as:

1. DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane 

DDT is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline containing organochloride.  This was used during World War II to control malaria and typhus. After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural pesticide but was banned in the USA in 1972. Eventually, it was also prohibited worldwide. Later on, it was allowed for use as an ‘indoor residual spray’ to control malaria in poor nations where it remains a continuing health problem. The use of DDT remains controversial because of its adverse effects on the human health and environment.  

2. Lindane 

Lindane was used worldwide as a pesticide.  It contains an organochlorine chemical which was banned for agricultural use. Now, it is being used in shampoos and lotions in the USA to control head lice and scabies. A study shows that 62% of people tested reveal lindane components in the blood.  

Infants are also exposed to lindane through the placenta and breastmilk.  Lindane residues contaminate common foods like rice and potatoes when it is used as agricultural pesticide. It has damaging effects on the nervous system, causes cancer and liver toxicity.  Lindane interferes with the hormone levels of men causing a lowering sperm count. A high level of this substance in pregnant women may also cause miscarriage or premature birth.

A report from International POPS Elimination Network showed there are alternatives to lindane.  Since California banned lindane in 2001, their water has been cleaner. There was significantly lesser risk and exposure to chemicals according to Environmental Health Perspectives.

3. Dioxin

Dioxin is the undesirable by-product of manufacturing herbicide and disinfectant, which are clearly two of the most toxic man-made substances. 

Dioxin is scientifically called dibenzo-p-dioxin, a compound of benzene, chlorine, etc. which enter  fatty tissues of the body causing chronic cancer, skin disease, muscular dysfunction, impotence, birth defects, genetic mutation and nervous system disorder. 

In 1976, there was an overheating of Dioxin in Seveso, Italy. This caused the evacuation of 700 residents because of its explosive reaction. This incident contaminated plants and animals around the area. 

Dioxin was also used in Vietnam as an herbicide to destroy the grass where railways and highways were being constructed. 

There is also dioxin contamination when plastics are being burned in incinerators. After burning, more residues of this toxic waste remain.

After decades, these Hormone Disrupting Compounds (HDCs) are now in commercial products which invade our homes through the practical products we enjoy.  

1. Phthalates is a component of plastic vinyl flooring, paint, and ink.

2. Alkyphenols compounds are ingredients of detergents, paints, and shampoos.

3. Bisphenol A are in food cans, metal bottle tops, and toys.

4. Organochlorines produce compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB); polyvinylchloride (PVC), chloroform and chloramine compounds.

These hormone benders are found in vegetables and food that are treated with pesticide, and in synthetic products such as food packaging materials, children’s toys, detergents, cosmetics, household cleaners, air fresheners and more. These synthetic compounds build up in the fats of fish, poultry and livestock which can contaminate even breastmilk of nursing mothers.  Since organochlorines were formulated originally for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants, its compounds have the ability to exist as vapor, oil or in solid form.  

This is reality. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid or minimize the adverse effects of these harmful compounds in our homes.

1. PAINTS 

Take note of the following when choosing paint for your home.

a. Use paints from natural resins.
b. For low odor paint use hospital paint.
c. Dry excess paint first if you plan on throwing it out.
d. Look for limewash mineral- based or plant-based paint for walls and ceilings.
e. Choose solvent-free products.
f. Choose natural unpainted finishes.

2. VARNISH

Choose plant-based resins and plant-based solvents which allow wood to breath. Wood reacts to oil and resins. 

Pure beeswax or linseed oil is good for finishing wood surfaces. It gives a beautiful shine, scent and prevents static.

3. PLASTIC

When using plastic, remember the following:

a. As much as possible, use paper bags. After use, these paper bags may be donated or sold to the Bote Dyaryo man (recyclable collector) who buys bottles and newspapers from households, and resells them at Php1 per kilo for paper and Php2 per kilo for cartons.
b. Avoid using damaged soft or hard plastics for food.  Any scratch or breakage in plastic containers releases toxic synthetic chemicals and preservatives that cause food contamination.

4. DETERGENT 

Use organic or natural detergent because clothes are closest to the skin.  (Read more on Home Cleaners.)

5. SHAMPOO

Use organic shampoo or natural shampoo like Gugo bark.  You can make your own shampoo. (Read more about Hair Care.)

6. FOOD

Organic chicken, beef, eggs, vegetables and other food are recommended for good health since these are naturally grown.  The natural taste of vegetables are mild and sweet. Chicken, beef, and other meats are tastier. A little of it is enough to give flavour to dishes. 

Try simple gardening and harvest the best benefits. (Read more on Make Herbal Gardening Your Workout.)

7. PESTICIDES 

Use herbs as natural pesticides. Oregano leaves or any minty herb may be crushed in water. The solution can poured or sprayed on the leaves and the stems of plants to drive away pests. 

The bitter leaves of Neem Tree and Serpentina, and the fragrant leaves Citronella and Lemon Grass are effective pesticides. (Read more about Serpentina and Citronella and Neem Tree.)

8. CANS

Minimize eating canned goods altogether. Should you buy canned goods, remember to check the expiration date and make sure there are no dents or damage on the cans.  Do not eat the content if it does not taste good. 

If you are recycling, donating or selling the cans make sure they are cleaned properly to prevent bacteria, especially salmonella bacteria, from spreading around the community.

9. BOTTLES

Glass bottles are preferred to plastic bottles because glass bottles may be reused. Plastic bottle covers are better than metal ones though because these rust in time.

10. FURNITURE

Choose natural products that use wood, rattan etc. as furniture. 

Some chemical solutions produce more problems than solutions.  May your awareness of these ‘endocrine disrupters’ be your guide in the next purchases for your family and your home. Remember, your choices affect your loved ones’ present and future. 

Up Next: 
Part XI: Toxic Gases from Plastics: Clothes, Food Containers, Construction Materials, etc.

EM-EM TINASAS, MBA
The Gardener
www.herbalandherbs.com
http://enchantingrivuet.blogspot.com

Sources:

Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 7, p. 371 

Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 4, p. 113

Callard, S., Millis, D. (2009) The eco-living handbook: A complete guide for your home and life, pp. 40-43, 52-61, 72, London, UK: Carlton Books Ltd.

Lindane. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.panna.org/resources/specific-pesticides/lindane 

Sadasivaiah, S., Tozan, Y., & Breman, J. (n.d.). Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for Indoor Residual Spraying in Africa: How Can It Be Used for Malaria Control? Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1724/ 

DDT. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT

PCBs Polychlorinated biphenyls. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from 
http://www.greenfacts.org/en/pcbs/

Basic Information. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/about.htm

Monday, April 20, 2015

IT’S TWICE OR MORE POLLUTED INSIDE HOMES: Electromagnetic Radiation

PART IX: Electromagnetic Radiation - Television, Computer, Appliances, Cell Phone and Green Tips


Image from: https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSe6hiyX0fFiBthxcupg0dlfNx4LnK3_U7uZCKzBygMZsSxmMeRBg


Every modern home is loaded with modern technology.  As we enjoy man-made inventions, we should also be aware of our responsibility to human well-being and the world we live in, even if we can easily afford the costly power bills. There is reason for alarm since every electronic equipment in our homes produces electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in our atmosphere.

EMR can be classified in three categories.

1. ELECTROMAGNETIC FREQUENCIES

This differ in intensity as follows:

a. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are produced by power cables, radio, television,
computers and IT Equipment, nautical and maritime navigation equipment and more.  EMFs emit intense frequencies. To communicate, the telephone produces radio waves at 10,000 hertz while the high fidelity sound produces 20,000 hertz.

b. Extremely low electromagnetic frequencies (ELFs) are produced by LED lights (light emitting diodes), food warmers in restaurants, microwave oven for food and more.  ELFs have a range of 1 to 100 hertz cycle per second and a wavelength of 1 to 100 meters long wavelength. The microwave oven produces a 100 hertz cycle per second with a 100-meter long wavelength.  These less intense frequency can affect the electrochemical balance of the brain and development of the fetus if the waves are modulated at a low frequency between 5 and 100 hertz per second, because these has the same magnitude as brain wave frequencies according to Encyclopedia Brittanica. The proximity to extremely low electromagnetic frequencies like power transmissions or directly using gadgets like heating blankets has adverse effect on the health and balance of the brain.

The widely used mobile phone or handheld cellular phone and tower-based antennas expose the users to radio frequencies or radio waves. The cell phone has 1,800 to 2,200 megahertz. It has the same frequency as the cordless telephone except that the cordless gadget has limited range and has less power.  This non-ionizing radiation is easily absorbed by the body tissues closest to the handset, tower-based antenna equipment or cordless telephone.  Using these for about 30 minutes a day is a cause of concern for risk of illnesses like brain tumour, salivary gland tumour and genetic damage.
Also, working with a computer exposes the user to two radio frequencies - strong electromagnetic frequencies and extremely low electromagnetic frequencies. The result is eye strain, headache, high blood pressure and stress.

But there are ways to minimize the risk of these illnesses when using these equipment and gadgets.

Here are some green tips:

a. Reduce exposure to cell phone by having shorter conversations or using landline phones.
b. Use a hand-free device to have a distance between user and cell phone.
c. Switch off and unplug all electrical equipment when not in use.
d. Position workplace near the window preferably near the garden which is stimulating.  Eco-research showed people work more productively in natural lighting.
e. Do not leave appliance or equipment on standby. Plugged appliances when not being used account for 20 to 40% of the power bill because power keeps running and being registered in the electric meter.
f. If the computer, lights or appliances will not be used within 15 minutes, better switch or plug them off.  
g. Screen savers are not energy savers.
h. Recycle personal computers by donating to charity instead of throwing into landfills, because computers are toxic and will surely pollute the earth.

2. IONIZATION

Ionization produces radiation as classified below:

a. Non-ionizing radiation.  These are sound waves, microwave for communication and food, infrared radiation lamps (ex. LED lights), radio, television, cell phone and tower-based antenna, and more.  Non- ionizing radiation has enough energy to move a molecule around to cause them to vibrate but not enough to remove the electrons from molecules.

The side effects of using these are hay fever, migraine and stress.  To minimize health inconvenience, here are some green tips:

1. Limit the number of electrical and electronic devices at home.
2. Use natural materials for furniture and walls.
3. Bring in plants as natural ionizer. (Make sure it gets sunlight first and to take it out at night.)
4. Use electric ionizer.
5. Make sure your home has adequate ventilation.

b. Ionizing radiation. These are x-ray machines, CT scans, and other medical equipment. Ionizing radiation have enough energy to break chemical bonds between 2 carbon atoms. Ionizing radiation is capable of removing directly or indirectly electrons from most molecules. These medical equipment are managed by professionals for safety purposes.

3. STATIC

These are emissions that have weak charges of electricity which cannot be unearthed due to the presence of insulating materials such as rubber and synthetic carpets. But when these static build up, metals near the computer can be charged since metals are good conductors of electricity.

To reduce the risk of static, here are some green tips:

a. Use materials like wood and leather which will allow static to disperse.
b. Metals conduct electricity thus, avoid metal furniture, beds with frame or springs near the computer.
c. Use anti- glare screens for computers.
d. The use of pure beeswax or linseed oil for finishing surfaces combat static.

As we use technology, let us remember the needs of our natural beings.  Using computers cause health-related injuries called Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI.

Here are some precautionary measures:
a. Stop for 10 min. for every 40 to 50 min. using computers. Do some stretching.
b. Adjust depth vision by focusing eyes in far objects every 30 minutes, because eyes become tired after focusing at short range for a long time.
c. Blink and look away from computer regularly.
d. Keep mouse clean since grease and dirt build- up makes it slow down.  It is harder to use because there is increased effort and there is a tendency to develop RSI. Using key board connects more.
e. Position mouse at the same height with keyboard to avoid shoulder strain.
f. Buy a wrist rest to support your hands
g. Relieve yourself from stress by means of exercise or listening to music.
h. There are also herbs that remove stress like holy basil or tulsi. Tarragon is also relaxing. Just check out www.herbalandherbs.com for more of these herbs.
i. Sit well back from the screen but not to one side because it is at the sides that radiation is leaked.
j. The desk should have enough space to sit properly. Your distance from the screen is preferably 20 inches or 50 cm.
k. Supportive chair should be adjustable to prevent slouching.
l. Choose a light bulb that will serve one’s specific needs. There two kinds of light bulbs that are widely used to suit one’s needs:
        1. LED or light emission diodes gives directional light with minimum emission and saves energy cost.
        2. Incandescent light bulbs produce 90% energy that is only converted to heat, while it only produces 10% light.

Aside from different waves that we receive from technological pollution, the power plants produce a large amount of greenhouse gases to be able to serve our power demands.  Electricity produced from fossil fuel emit sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide, while those produced from coal emit carbon dioxide.

Our Creator has provided all our needs out of nothing - the air to breathe, space to move around, eyes to see, plants and herbs to feed and relieve us, and many more. Man created something out of nature we call necessities. Let us evaluate our ‘real needs’ and mere wants. Wants arise from a “propaganda of false needs” that push us to excessive use which conflict with our human nature and ecology.

Let us exercise discernment! The benefit of limiting our use of technology to moderation or even a minimum will manifest not only in our health but in our lower power bills at home. Our return to the simple life is our recourse to protect the world we live in.

The human heart emits two Hertz cycle per second which adversely reacts to electromagnetic fields emitted outside.  We are living witnesses to technological advancements that have caused serious illnesses and man-made calamities. Let us heed Mother Nature’s call for prudence while enjoying modern privileges!

Em-em Tinasas, MBA 
The Gardener
www.herbalandherbs.com
http://enchantingrivulet.blogspot.com

Sources:  
Callard, S. and Millis, D. (2009) Eco-living handbook: A complete green guide for your home and life. London: Carlton Books Ltd.

Radiation: Non-Ionizing and Ionizing. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.epa.gov/radiation/understand

Ionization. (1992). In Encyclopedia Brittanica (15th ed., pp. 200-202).

Mobile phone radiation and health. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_radiation_and_health

Cell Phones and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2015, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet

The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lef.org/magazine/2007/8/report_cellphone_radiation/Page-01

Friday, April 10, 2015

Part VIII: Baby Care Products - Diapers, Skin Care, Toys and Green Tips

IT’S TWICE OR MORE POLLUTED INSIDE HOMES

Image from: http://healthydebates.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/baby-picture-tips-med.jpg


The trend nowadays is convenience. Gone are the days of washing diapers, carrying along thermo bottles for hot water and canned milk.  Everything is available in manufactured and processed form. But time and convenience must not be an excuse for the good health and safety of babies for they are the hope of the future.

Here are some green tips to give extra care to our bundle of joy:

I. Disposable diapers are composed of chemicals like bleach, perfume, plastics and additives.  According to the Eco-Living Handbook, these take hundreds of years to decompose and these also emit methane gas.  Even bio-disposable diapers contain absorbent gelling materials which raise the temperature of the baby’s delicate part.  This may affect their development, especially of male babies.

Here are some green tips for disposable diapers:

1. Use washable diapers.
2. Use disposable inner liners and washable outer cloth.
3. Avoid using fabric softener and sanitizers. According to the Women’s Environmental Network, you can use the following instead:

a. Add small cup of white vinegar in the last rinsing.  This keeps nappies soft.
b. Add a few drops of lavender oil.

In the Philippines, young mothers have started the trend of using fashionable washable diapers. And they are happy to use these because they can help care for the environment as well.

II. Skin Care

What is bad for the environment is bad for babies.  There are so many manufacturers offering the gentlest products.  But it is important to read the ingredients.

Here are more baby care green tips:

1. Baby oil contains mineral oil content which is a petroleum product.
2. Avoid using detergents and strong cleaning agents on the baby’s room and the home. (Check our blog post on Home Cleaners.)
3. Use organic laundry soap and cleaning agents.
4. There is no need to used powder and lotion on the baby unless his or her skin is dry, or has skin problems.
5. Clean baby’s bottom with warm water and organic cotton instead of processed wipes.
6. Make your own organic wipes using undyed cotton.

Also, diaper rash may be caused by acidity.  Here are tips to remove diaper rash:

1. Give baby plenty of water.
2. Cranberry juice in the bottle helps neutralize acids in the urine.
3. Try organic laundry soap for washing baby’s clothes and washable diapers.
4. Make your homemade lotion for diaper rash. See the recipe below.
a. Put 1 tablespoon of chamomile in 1 cup of hot water.
b. Keep it covered while steeping until it cools.
c. Strain and add 2 tablespoons of cod liver oil to the chamomile water.
d. Shake well and apply to diaper rash. Make sure you wash the area first.

III. Toys

Once baby starts teething, he or she would start biting and toys.  It is preferable to avoid buying toys that are made of polyvinyl plastic toys because this is a toxic material.

A contented baby will be enjoyed more by his or her doting parents. And, when the little one is nurtured with a true love and care for nature, he will grow up with a delicate appreciation of God’s creations. Thus, he will be a good and able steward of Mother Earth in the future.

Em-em Tinasas, MBA
The Gardener
www.herbalandherbs.com
http://enchantingrivulet.blogspot.com

Sources:

Callard, S. and Millard D. (2009) The eco-living handbook, A complete green guide for your home and life. London: Carlton Books, Ltd.

Todd, J. Herbal. Home remedies. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishing (P) Ltd.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

PART VII: HAIR PRODUCTS – SHAMPOO, CONDITIONERS, DYE AND GREEN TIPS

PART VII: HAIR PRODUCTS – SHAMPOO, CONDITIONERS, DYE AND GREEN TIPS
IT’S TWICE OR MORE POLLUTED INSIDE HOMES Series

Image from: http://www.onlywig.com/images/l/201305/wwa316-04.jpg


Hair is man’s crowning glory, and that’s why many hair products promise beautiful, shiny hair. Yet many users end up with falling or damaged hair due to toxic chemicals. The toxic chemicals in shampoo also contribute to the pollution at home, which eventually flows to the sewerage system.  It is not really easy reading the ingredients of personal care products, while burdened with a long grocery shopping list.  As mentioned previously in Body Care, there are many ways to get educated like perusing over websites that expose carcinogens in personal care products.

Hair is not just the attractive locks and curls, or the shiny, straight d├ęcor that people see.  Its appearance manifests a person’s health.  Hair is attached to the skin, that’s why it hurts when its strands are pulled.  It has a specialized protein called keratin that serves as its protection from harsh wind, different seasons, rough handling, strong heat and the sun. On the other hand, the hair color depends on the natural pigment of the cortical cell called melanin.  The hair, skin, nails, sweat and oil glands comprise the Integumentary System of the body.

The Integumentary System regulates body temperature, eliminates waste and functions as pressure and pain receptors. To function well, it needs the following:

1.       Vitamins A, B Complex, C, E, D, biotin, folic acid, bioflavonoids, and pantothenic acid;
2.       Minerals like silicon, calcium, fluorine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iodine, copper, manganese, magnesium, and zinc;
3.       Food - avocados, sea vegetables, cucumber, rice polish, sprouts;
4.       Drinks – carrot/celery/lemon juice and cucumber/endive/pineapple juice;
5.       Herbs – aloe vera juice taken orally or topical hair application.

Hair is important because it protects the head, in the same way the head shields the brain. According to Dr. Shiv Dua, writer of the book Hair Care, there are factors that affect hair health. Below are some factors that affect hair health:

1.        Food has a direct effect on the mind and body.  In Ayurveda, food is classified as:
a.        Satvik food – These are food which give peace, calm, and purity of mind. These are cereals, butter, milk, cheese, curds, wheat, tomatoes, fruits and vegetables;
b.       Tamsik food – These are food which induce darkness, and anger in the mind. These food include meat, onions, garlic, wine and tobacco;
c.       Rajasvic food are food luxuriously mixed with masala, oil, and servings of different food varieties.  Masala is an Indian black tea made with Assam and mixed with warming spices such as ginger and green cardamom pods. Spices like peppercorn, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and fennel seeds are also added to enhance its flavor.  (Read: Tea Break Time for more information on Black, Oolong and Green Tea.)
2.       Sleep and rest are very much needed to form new cells.  Hair needs rest from all the combing, harsh winds, rain, storm, heat and cold;
3.       Good blood circulation strengthens the hair. Water is necessary for blood circulation, digestion, healthy hair and body temperature regulation. Since the body consists of about 75% water, it is important to drink 10 to 12 glasses of water every day. (Read: Do you Drink Water Sip by Sip for more information.)

Hair care is not limited to the shampoo and conditioner one uses. It takes much more discipline to have beautiful hair. Below are some tips to name a few.  

1.       Do not drink carbonated drinks excessively because these makes the blood acidic. Acidity starves the hair from minerals.
2.       A cold shower improves blood circulation and strengthens hair.
3.       Tying hair too tightly causes breakage.
4.       Brush and comb gently. Do not lend or borrow personal things like combs.
5.       Massage hair before or after a bath.  Use the tips of the fingers to separate hair when applying oil.
6.       Apply oil when hair is dry.
7.       When a strand of grey hair is pulled, 10 more strands will come out.  It is suggested to just cut these grey strands near the roots.
8.       Anxiety causes scalp muscle tension. This prevents nutrients from reaching hair follicles and is one of the leading causes of falling hair.
9.       Using a hair dryer is harmful because of the hot air it emits.  It is healthier to air-dry hair.

Now, here are some simple and natural preparations to enhance the crowning glory. 

1.        Aloe Vera can be:
a.       Used directly on the scalp before taking a bath;
b.       Made into a simple bottled mixture used for rinsing. It is composed of aloe gel, water and half a teaspoon of white natural vinegar. This mixture makes the hair soft and manageable. (Check out Aloe Vera for more information.)
 
2.       Gugo is the traditional Philippine shampoo made of Gogo bark, which was used by our ancestors for soap, shampoo and laundry.  Aside from having healthy hair, it removes dandruff and stops falling hair. There are 2 ways of using the bark. One may opt to;
a.       Squeeze the Gugo in a dipper with water. When it makes suds, it means it is ready for application;
b.       Make a simple bottled mixture with procedure like that of Aloe Vera. (Check Gugo for more information.)
 
3.       Apple Cider Vinegar can remove dandruff.  Just dilute it with warm water and apply on the scalp. Lemon can replace vinegar.

4.       There are plenty of shampoo substitutes. Just beat an egg and massage the scalp.
After rinsing with vinegar, rinse with plain water.  This makes the hair healthy and shiny.

5.       Herbs can also be added in ordinary shampoo.  Rosemary and lavender can be added for normal hair, while mint can be added for greasy hair as follows:
a.       Infuse 6 tsp. of fresh (or 3 tsp. of dried) herbs of your choice in 1/2 cup of boiling water. 
b.      Cool and keep in the refrigerator. 
c.       Add 1 tablespoon to shampoo before every bath.

6.       Mayonnaise can be used as shampoo since it has olive oil and egg.  It can be left in an hour on hair before rinsing.  Apple cider vinegar may be used for the rinse.

As natural beings, our hair needs natural solutions. There are many ways to enhance the crowning glory using the least or, preferably, with no synthetic chemicals at all.  This will surely benefit people as a direct user, and their home, too, where chemical pollution moves around for some time because of the enclosed house walls.  These natural and eco-friendly hair DIYs will be a welcome to our sewerage systems that will eventually flow into the creeks, rivers, seas and oceans of Mother Earth.

Watch out for the next installment of the It’s Twice or More Polluted Inside Homes series, Part VIII – Baby Care – Diapers, Baby Skin Product, Toys and Green Tips!


EM-EM TINASAS, MBA
The Gardener

Sources:
Callard, S. and Millis, D., 2009. The eco-living handbook: A complete guide to your home and life. London, UK. Carlton Books, Ltd.

Retrieved from http://d-i-y-love.blogspot.com

Dua, S. 2009. Hair care: A complete solution to your hair problems. New Delhi, India, B. Jain Publisher (P) Ltd.

Handa, P. 1998. Speaking of skin care. New Delhi, India. Sterling Publishers Pvt., Ltd.

Todd, J. 2012. Herbal home remedies. New Delhi, India. B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.