Archive for January 2011

Sitting Quiet   Leave a comment

Sitting quiet is most essential. Don’t waste your time by not doing this.

Papaji (Sri H.W.L. Poonja)

Posted January 5, 2011 by mayakey in centering, quotes

From BPA to BPS   Leave a comment

This past November news came out that the BPA-free receipt paper currently being marketed may be no better or only slightly better than the receipt paper containing BPA (bisphenyl A). The new receipt paper is made using bisphenyl S, which is a slightly less potent hormone mimicking compound that is more persistent and less studied.

I’ve been waiting for this shoe to fall on the whole BPA thing. From the very beginning the conversation has been very frustrating to me and I’ve tried to stay out of it because it has been almost entirely focussed on one chemical, and not the class of chemicals. It’s been frustrating seeing “BPA-free” plastic hailed as green with no regard for the fact that plastics contain other problematic chemicals as well. It’s been frustrating seeing environmental organizations talk only about the concerns with BPA without also educating the public about estrogenic activity in general. There were a few refreshing bits of fresh air (like the Sigg water bottle issue, where one of the concerns voiced online was that they are only testing or releasing results for the new lining for BPA, not estrogenic activity), but it has been a very focussed campaign.

So when I read the news about the new receipt paper, I had a bittersweet laugh. Laughter because that’s my response to everything (I’m one of those people who can’t suppress the giggles at funerals, or in response to uncomfortable statements), and this inevitable news deserved it. Bittersweet because it is a big deal and something needs to be done, but really, are we going to take a couple of years to make grassroots campaigns to eliminate all of the thousands of harmful chemicals ONE AT A TIME? That’s why we need to incorporate the Precautionary Principle into our systems. That’s why we need to pass the Safe Chemicals Act (It was introduced in the Senate in April 2010 and currently is in committee).

This is not the first time in our history that we’ve replaced something with a more “environmentally-friendly” alternative to later find that the replacement is very environmentally unfriendly. One great example is MTBE, which was added to gasoline when lead was removed. Unfortunately, MTBE is very mobile in the subsurface and now large plumes of MTBE contamination in groundwater are common around fueling facilities with leaking tanks or spill histories. In the BPA/BPS issue, the thing that stands out the most to me is that BPS is more persistent. Persistency is just what it sounds like. It means that the chemical will be around in the environment for along time because, for whatever reason, it is difficult or slow to degrade/denature it. For example: pesticides that were banned in the US decades ago but that are still detected in some places in soil and animal tissue.

Posted January 3, 2011 by mayakey in advocacy, environment

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To Gas Up Or Not To Gas Up   2 comments

I grew up seeing a warning on gas pumps that pregnant women should not pump gas. And I took a human exposures class in grad school where I learned how significant the benzene exposure can be at a gas station. (For all intents and purposes, benzene is the primary constituent of concern in the soup that is gasoline.) So now that I’m looking at possible pregnancy, I have a decision to make regarding whether I pump gas or have my husband do it.

During the last few years, knowing that this question would come I looked for that warning again and didn’t find it. The state of California does require vapor recovery systems that apparently do a good job since I rarely detect a petroleum hydrocarbon odor when gassing up any more. I thought maybe the warning disappeared in this state because the vapor recovery systems are considered good enough. But on our trip back to New Mexico, I looked at the pumps in Arizona and New Mexico (neither of which require vapor recovery systems) and did not see the warning for pregnant women. On the internet the issue appears to be very mixed with some medical websites not mentioning the issue or saying it’s fine and others advising that pregnant women not pump gas.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think I’ve worked out something that I can live with. But there has been one big looming question: does the vapor recovery system reduce the concentration of benzene (and other constituents of concern) to a level that makes the risk vs. benefits spectrum tilt towards benefits? In other words, do these systems reduce the exposure to a point where the increased risk to the fetus is overtaken by the difficulty/inconvenience of not being able to refuel when needed? Just because I can no longer detect petroleum odor with my nose does not mean that it is not there. This is the kind of question that should elicit a trip to a university library to search the medical journals, but I’m lazy and just looking for what I can access on my computer at home. I found a few references, including a study published in EHP. Interestingly that study did not find a difference in the exposure with or without EVR, however the percent non-detect was higher with EVR. The study was also an occupational study looking at service station workers and not customers.

So what to do? I think that I will continue to gas up my own car unless it is convenient for my husband to do it. I’m not going to make him come to my office after work, drive my car to the gas station, and fuel it up for me; but if we are in the car together I’ll ask him to do the actual pumping while I wait in the car. I have always breathed as shallow as possible while pumping, but I’ll try to also pay attention to wind direction and stand upwind of the pumps. And even when it is cold or raining, I’ll make a more concerted effort to open my windows and ventilate the car after leaving a service station (and having a particularly smoggy car drive by me).

Posted January 1, 2011 by mayakey in environment, health, pregnancy

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