Living

Umbilical Cords Strike an Off Note

More than 200 toxic chemicals were found in the blood of umbilical cords sampled from racial and ethnic minority babies in a report coming out Wednesday. The analysis discovered for the first time in cord blood bisphenol A (or BPA), a perfluorocarbon used in non-stick and weather-proofing products, as well as certain forms of PCBs and synthetic fragrances.  Yuck. Remember this is measuring exposure to fetuses, the most vulnerable time for most stages of human development. The study comes from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that’s made a name for itself by testing people for pollutants, and was …

Boobs, Boobs, Nothing but boobs

PETA on one side, FOX on the other … now that’s a conundrum

In this corner, we have PETA, a shameless animal-rights organization that uses boobies to make its point at least — what, once or twice a minute? To wit: this latest, uh, holiday-themed ad featuring Polish Playboy model Joanna Krupa. In the other corner, we have FOX News and angry Christians: For a higher purpose?PETA.org “It’s totally inappropriate,” said Deal Hudson, publisher of InsideCatholic.com, an online magazine. “It’s another instance of disrespect toward Christianity and another example of the kind of abuse that would never occur with any other major religion, because the outcry would be so immediate and so loud …

I Learned of Misfit Toys

Toxic toys and BPA-exposed babies, just in time for the holidays

Dearests, in this season of love and laughter, when we all become young at heart and so forth, I’m going to point out two new child-related studies that might just make you — well, choke on your egg nog. Luckily, I’ve also found some handy resources that will keep your holidays happy. Cute — but toxic, according to new tests.Courtesy HealthyStuff.orgShop smart for your kids, or not at all: A test of 700 toys spearheaded by HealthyStuff.org found toxic chemicals in a third of them, including lead, cadmium, and mercury. The word you’re looking for is: Yikes! There’s some good …

BPA Babies and Cash Registers

We’ve known for a long time that bisphenol-A (BPA) is bad for us. Study after study shows the ill-effects of this widely-used industrial chemical on our bodies–and in particular, on developing babies’ bodies. The list is pretty sobering: BPA’s been linked to breast cancer in women, brain damage in children, obesity, heart disease, diabetes… Two new studies add to the litany: One study suggests that BPA, may cause sexual dysfunction in men. Another study, reported in Science News, links BPA exposures in early pregnancy to more aggressive behavior in 2-year old girls and more anxious and withdrawn 2-year old boys. …

I'm only human, of flesh and blood I'm made

Making buildings more efficient: It helps to understand human behavior

If I told you how much energy your neighbors use on average, and whether you fell above or below that average, would that induce you to save more energy? What if, depending on whether you came in above or below average, you got an emoticon on your energy bill? Say, a smiley face if you save more energy than they do, a frowny face if less. Sounds silly, right? We’re all rational people here. We do things for considered reasons, not some cartoon face! Except not so much. In a 2007 experiment in California, homeowners given an emoticon on their …

36 years and countless converts later....

More power, less roadkill: How one professor’s landscape has shifted

I took Environmental Studies 101 during my first college semester 20 years ago with Dick Andrus, a professor who has just marked 36 years of teaching at Binghamton University. I thought it’d be good to check back with him and see what he’s talking about in that class now. Q. What are your new Envi 101 students like? They coming to the class more ‘eco-savvy’ than my class did? Andrus at work: still planting seeds of wisdom after thirty-six years.Vic LamoreuxA. I don’t think so. They don’t seem to connect much with environmental issues. They’ve done a lot of computer …

Pet Poop, "Clean" Coal, and Old Mattresses

Ask Umbra on ditching dirty things

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, What is the greenest way to dispose of pet waste? Scoop and flush, or bag and throw in the trash? Jenifer M.Vienna A. Dearest Jenifer, Flush or toss?The greenest way to dispose of pet waste is to dispose of your pet, I suppose. No pet, no waste! But barring that revolutionary scheme, a few other options present themselves. You have not said what kind of pet you have, but judging by your reference to scooping, I am going to assume it is a cat. The time-tested advice for felines is to bag …

GoodGuide scanner makes healthy food shopping point and click

Last year, a colleague suggested I check out a startup with the intriguing, and so-very-California, name of Tao It. Founded by Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke, Tao It aimed to tap a multiplicity of databases to rank consumer products according to their health and environmental attributes. The idea: If people could instantly learn online whether there are bad chemicals in their food and other goods, they would start buying green, putting pressure on companies to make more environmentally friendly and healthier products. When Tao It emerged from stealth mode, it was rebranded with the blander but apparently more marketable moniker GoodGuide. …

Citizen Martha

Martha Stewart blisters meat industry in Thanksgiving show

Martha Stewart is easy to caricature. But the sister values good ingredients–and has realized that industrial agriculture churns out flavorless crap. That has caused her to ask second-order questions about the food system–and use her immense popular appeal to shed light on the horrors of factory meat farming. She has devoted her latest episode to the topic of “vegetarian Thanksgiving.” She delivers a powerhouse lineup of interviews: Food Inc. director Robert Kenner, pasture-based meat farmer Joel Salatin, celebrated vegetable chef Jeremy Fox, and novelist/anti-meat pamphleteer Jonathan Safran Foer, who helps Stewart whip up a little casserole. They don’t allow the …