Dawn Helps Save Wildlife?

If you can remember the ecological tragedy that was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps you remember the onslaught of Dawn Dish Soap commercials. These commercials had images of adorable ducklings, pelicans, and sea lions all being washed with Dawn dish soap after being exposed to the oil slick covering much of the gulf. The tagline was “Dawn Helps Save Wildlife”.

How true is that, really? At the time I remember switching over from my cheap, store-brand dish soap and picking up a couple bottles of Dawn. After all, the bottle claimed to donate soap to bird rescues in the Gulf area to clean the bird’s feathers of spilled oil.

Recently I found out that you actually had to go online and register the bottle you bought for Dawn to actually donate everything – a point Dawn made sure not to make evident to their thousands of consumers. I’m sure that legally the details of their promotion was somewhere on the bottle, probably underneath the ingredient list and teeny, tiny print. But most people, including myself, never looked farther than the baby ducks on the front of the bottle.

Annoyed at this, I decided to do a bit more research into Dawn’s claims of ‘saving the world’. And, actually, Dawn contains a chemical called Tricoslan, which according to the Environmental Working Group is toxic to some aquatic wildlife. The soap that claims to help these animals may be doing more harm than good.

Plus, many volunteers wonder what difference washing and releasing these birds and other animals will make in the long run. In 1971 two oil tankers collided in the San Francisco Bay, resulting in 7,000 birds covered in oil. After volunteers cleaned these birds, all but 300 died anyway.

Jay Holcomb, the executive director of the bird rescue research center, says “It is impossible to estimate how many of the birds will survive when returned to the wild”.

Plus, every bottle of dawn is sold in plastic bottles which are horrible for the environment. If the solution was more concentrated then less bottles could be sold – but that would be a bad business decision for Dawn. Or, a bad business decision for Proctor and Gamble, Dawn’s parent company. Oh, and did you know that P&G practices animal testing on their products?

When you look at the evidence, “Dawn Saves Wildlife” is little more than a slogan, and not a fact.

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  • Jennifer Brees

 

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Green Peace and Golden Rice

An estimated 2.5 million children in the world suffer from iron and vitamin A deficiencies caused by malnutrition. Unicef estimates that more than 25% of all global children deaths are caused by vitamin A deficiency, which is essential for eyesight and the immune system.

Researchers have proposed a solution in the form of Golden Rice. Many of these children in poverty stricken areas have access to little food, and the most common food available is rice. Unfortunately, rice has very little nutrients. Golden rice is a GMO modified with extra genes for beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. In the Philippines where the rice has been implemented, vitamin-A deficiency has fallen from 47% to 15%.

By adding nutrients to the most common food source, researchers hoped to bring down the number of deficiencies and save the lives of children worldwide.

Unfortunately, the organization Green Peace opposes these claims. They have fought researchers and legislation that supports the development of GMOs. They are behind much of the anti-GMO propaganda out there today. They have gone so far as to tear up research crops in the Philippines, costing the programs thousands of dollars. Green Peace says that “it is irresponsible to impose GE ‘Golden’ rice on people if it is contrary to their religious beliefs, cultural heritage, and sense of identity”. They oppose the rice because of the possibility of cross-contamination of non-GE rice.

The actions of Green Peace has delayed Golden rice research by years. Dr. Moore, who used to be a supporter of Green Peace but now vehemently opposes the group, says that “Two million children a year are dying, and every year it is delayed, another two million kids are dying. The blood of that is on the hands of the people who have made it impossible to make an exception for Golden rice”.

Green peace masquerades itself as a protector of the environment. Originally they were against the use of nuclear testing and nuclear war. But now, Dr. Moore believes that “[Green Peace] has drifted into a state where humans were depicted as the enemies of the Earth”.

As we learn more about the Environment in class, hopefully many will be motivated to make changes in their habits and possibly get involved in groups that are designed to help protect our world. But I urge you to do your research before donating or volunteering at any organization. Sometimes these radical groups can do far more harm than good.

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  • Jennifer Brees

A Zero Waste Life

An estimated 60-80 percent of the impact we have on our environment stem from household consumption – or, rather, over-consumption. (Science Daily).

Like the video in class showed, our never-ending cycle of ‘buying, consuming, tossing’ has an immense impact on our world. And, frankly, it’s completely unsustainable.

A 23-year old Environmental Studies major at NYU has found a way to live a completely waste-free lifestyle. Her “zero waste” life starts by learning to make all of her packaged products – toothpaste, cleaning products, etc. – by herself. She buys clothes second-hand, and brings her own containers and jar to fill with bulk products at the supermarket. Farmers markets are also package-free and come with the added benefit of buying local.

Even when she is out in the community she cuts down on waste whenever possible – no straws in her drinks, no plastic or paper bags at stores, and no receipts.

Since she has made these lifestyle changes, she says that she saves money, eats better, and is happier. Everything is recycled, reused, or used as compost. Her yearly trash production – the things that absolutely have to be thrown away – is but a fraction of the national average.

Consider purchasing something online. I have Amazon Prime, and use it frequently. When the item I purchased shows up two days later on my porch, it’s in a cardboard box. Inside the box is packing material – literally just pounds of plastic or foam designed to take up space. The item is typically in a clam-shell packaging, wrapped in plastic, or inside yet another box. The majority of the package simply ends up in the trash!

Simple changes can cut down immensely on our consumption. Ordering digital content instead of hard copies, buying more items second-hand, or simply just asking ourselves if we really need that new bobble.

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  • Jennifer Brees

 

Putting the Lid On Population Growth

Hans Rosling gave a TED talk in 2010 that addresses the rising (soaring) global population. In 1960 our population was at 3 billion. In 2010, we hit 7 billion. By 2050 most statisticians believe that we will hit a global population of over 9 billion people. Barring nuclear war, extreme drought or famine, or a new plague our population will have increased 300% in just over a century.

This sort of exponential growth is staggering, and completely nonviable. We simply cannot sustain a population of that size – we do not have enough resources, especially if we continue to consume resources at our current rate. We are like bacteria growing in a petri dish: the bacteria grow and grow, forming colonies and consuming food and nutrients from the world around us. However, eventually the environment can no longer support the sheer numbers of bacteria and they begin to die off, smothered by their own waste.

Rosling argues that the only way of reducing our population growth is by increasing global child survival rates to at least 90%. It sounds backwards when you first hear it, but he does provide the data to back his claim. As childhood survival gets better, families will have less children. Education, family planning, healthcare, and access to basic necessities (food, clean water, shelter, etc.) are all aspects that influence if a person will live past childhood. As of right now the countries with the quickest expanding populations are not the affluent ‘western world’, but poor, underdeveloped countries. We have to first elevate these countries so that their children survive infancy. As child survival rates go up, the number of children had per woman goes down, and the population growth will slow or stagnate.

He ends his talk with a quote about our role in the global future: “The role of the old west (western countries) in the new world is to become the foundation of the new world. Nothing more, nothing less.” We need to be the base for these burgeoning countries to meet our standard of living, instead of simply leading the globe in consumption.

The largest impact we have on our environment is population growth. As more people are born, every other influence on the environment (global warming, deforestation, over-fishing, etc.) is simply compounded. Ethically we must stem the never-ending tide of humans first and foremost if we ever want to truly preserve our environment and our world.

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  • Jennifer Brees

The Worst Inventor in History: Thomas Midgley, JR.

Science can catapult humanity forwards by leaps and bounds. Other times, it can be the worst thing that can happen to us. The invention of nuclear fission can power entire countries, but nuclear bombs can flatten cities.

Thomas Midgley JR was a scientist that worked in Charles Kettering’s Lab in Dayton, Ohio. He searched for years to find an additive to fuel to prevent engine knocking. After working his way through the periodic table, he settled on using tetraethyl lead.

Now, one hundred years later, there’s a reason we don’t add lead to gasoline – lead poisoning kills people. It took sixty years before leaded gasoline was outlawed in America. Sixty years of pollution and poisonings before we realized the health hazards that came with no-knocking engines.

Midgley didn’t stop there. Early refrigeration units used bad-smelling chemicals like sulfur dioxide and ammonia. After heading back to the periodic table, Midgley invented dichloroflouromethane – the first of the Freons.

Freons, unlike leaded gas, aren’t toxic – at least to humans. We used them for years in refrigeration, air conditions, even aerosols. Dichloroflouromethane – or CFC’s, as they came to be known as – seemed to be a great invention. Then we discovered that CFC’s destroy our Ozone layer. The health of our globe depended upon a global ban of CFC’s. Now they’ve been replaced by chlorine-free additives.

Unfortunately, Midgley’s last invention was a bit more personal. After contracting polio at the age of 51, he lost the use of his legs. He invented a contraption that helped him get himself out of bed.

It strangled him.

Science and innovation are utterly indifferent to good intentions. Midgley only wanted to invent things that made life easier and more comfortable for everyday Americans, yet he single-handedly caused more harm to our health and environment than possibly any other scientist. Modern scientists must be aware of possible side-effects of their research. Agent Orange was meant to be a harmless defoliant, and instead caused thousands of cases of cancer, birth defects, and other diseases. We are not immune from the cost of our hubris.

  • Jennifer Brees

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Is your doctor Republican or Democrat?

In a new study published in the journal of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”, Yale researchers have linked physician’s choices regarding patient care to publicly available information regarding their personal political views.

The study, using 233 physicians who did not know that the survey was about their politics, presented hypothetical scenarios involving politically charged issues. They found a significant difference between democrat or republican leaning physicians in how concerned they would be about an issue, or how likely they’d be to engage in potential treatment options.

For example, republicans were most concerned about issues pertaining to marijuana use or multiple prior abortions. They were twice as likely as democrats to discourage future abortions, and 35 percent more likely to discuss mental health in connection with abortions.

Democratic physicians also altered their care according to their political beliefs. Democrats were most concerned with firearm access and patients who had sexual relationships with sex workers. They were more likely to discuss firearm storage with patients who had young children in the household.

As discussed in ‘Unscientific America’, politics can help or harm scientific advancement, but they should not have a place in a hospital. Doctors and other care-givers should be aware of their own personal prejudiced, but should also be capable of administering proper care without being influenced by them. On the other hand, it is important for the patients to be aware of how a doctor’s ideological biases might affect their judgment and advice.  For example, a highly religious, right-leaning doctor may be hesitant to suggest an abortion even in high risk pregnancies.

The fact that physicians can be swayed by personal beliefs in providing objective care could have high reaching consequences. Could it potentially stop people from seeking care at religious hospitals? How could a doctor’s opinions change the care of LGBTQA+ individuals? As a society it is our duty to seek out and rid ourselves of these biases.

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-Jennifer Brees

Kissing Chickens is bad for Your Health, CDC Warns.

The CDC has issued a warning against kissing chickens. No, seriously. Don’t kiss your chickens.

Many people have taken to owning chickens in their backyard, mainly to harvest fresh eggs. However, this trend is also causing an “emerging public health trend” via increased reports of salmonella outbreaks.

Owning chickens is fine, but the problem arises from people treating these backyard farm animals as pets, and allowing them into their house and home. Chicken intestines can contain the bacteria salmonella, which is passed through feces and can be transmitted to humans through water or direct contact. Chickens allowed indoors can track the bacteria through the house, or humans can pick it up when holding, touching, handling, or kissing their chickens.

When the CDC surveyed chicken owning salmonella patients, 49% admitted to snuggling chicks, and 13% reported kissing baby birds. Nearly half (46%) of patients said that they allowed live chickens in their house, including 10% who allowed them in the bedroom.

“No word, unfortunately, on whether cuddling and kissing took place in the bedroom” the Washington Post says.

The CDC warns that hands should always be washed immediately after contact with these birds, and that poultry should never be allowed inside the house.

Some may think it would be common sense not to cuddle up to an animal that subsists on a diet of bugs and grubs, and stalks around in its own feces. However, as we talked about in class, there could be several reasons why people are susceptible to salmonella infections.

First is the individual choice not only to own chickens, but the choices to let them into the house and to interact far more closely with these animals than advised. A structural source of the issue could be lack of education; most of the owners with birds in the house reported having owned chickens for less than a year. Inexperience with appropriate husbandry practices – as well as ignorance of the link of poultry and salmonella – could have helped lead to the larger number of salmonella cases. The CDC is urging health-care workers, veterinarians, pediatricians, hatcheries, and feed stores to educate potential chicken owners about the risks involved in owning and raising chickens.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/09/14/kissing-chickens-is-bad-for-your-health-cdc-warns/

-Jennifer Brees