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Coffee lovers? Read this…

Coffee is my only drug. Thank God it’s cheap. I’ve tried going off and generally have felt like half a person when doing so. Or, by way of analogy, a house with the top floor missing.

However, this article got me thinking. Maybe I’ll intersperse a little more water among cups.


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Human beings raised in plastic bags?

It’s hard to imagine the psychological impact if this extends to human beings. Imagine being conceived in a test tube and then raised in a plastic bag. No human warmth. No sound of a heartbeat. Not a real one, anyhow. Innovators might pipe that in to make the fetus feel more at home.

My guess is that a person raised this way would be lacking something essential. But who knows, maybe the future is just cold, cold, cold.

MC


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Link between fracking and newborn deaths?


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There’s a new generation of water pollutants in your medicine cabinet

Lee Blaney, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Every day we each use a variety of personal care products. We wash our hands with antibacterial soaps and clean our faces with specialty cleansers. We wash and maintain our hair with shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products. We use deodorant and perfume or cologne to smell nice. Depending on the day, we may apply sunscreen or insect repellent. The Conversation

All of these products contribute to our quality of life. But where do they go after we use them?

When we bathe, personal care products wash off of our bodies and into sewer systems that carry them to regional wastewater treatment plants. However, these plants are not designed to treat the thousands of specialty chemicals in pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Many of the active and inactive ingredients present in these products pass through our wastewater treatment plants and ultimately end up in rivers, streams or oceans.

Once in the environment, these chemicals may cause hormonal effects and toxicity in aquatic animals. In my laboratory we are studying these emerging water pollutants, which are turning up in surface water, groundwater and even treated drinking water. Although they are typically found at low concentrations, they may still threaten human and ecological health.

New pollutants, present worldwide

Personal care products and their ingredients are widely distributed throughout our environment. In one recent study, our lab aggregated over 5,000 measurements of active ingredients from a variety of personal care products that were found in untreated wastewater, treated wastewater and surface waters such as rivers and streams. They included N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, or DEET, an insect repellent; galaxolide, a fragrance; oxybenzone, a sunscreen; and triclosan, an antibacterial compound.

Other studies conducted near the Mario Zucchelli and McMurdo & Scott research bases confirmed that chemicals in personal care products were even present in Antarctic seawater. Those reports identified the presence of plasticizers, antibacterials, preservatives, sunscreens and fragrances in the Antarctic marine environment. Together, these studies suggest that the active ingredients in personal care products can be found in any water body influenced by human activity.

These substances are typically present in the aquatic environment at concentrations of 10 to 100 nanograms per liter, which is equivalent to 1 to 2 drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. But even at these low levels, some still pose a risk.

Moving up the food chain

Depending on their chemical properties, we can classify some of these products as hydrophilic (“water-loving”) or lipophilic (“lipid-loving”). The fat layers in our bodies are comprised of lipids, so lipophilic personal care products can accumulate in the tissue and organs of aquatic animals like fish, birds and even dolphins.

Our group has recently detected a suite of sunscreen agents and 17α-ethinylestradiol, a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen that is the active ingredient in birth control pills, in crayfish from urban streams near Baltimore, Maryland. We have also measured sunscreens in oysters and mussels collected from the Chesapeake Bay. The uptake of these chemicals by aquatic animals raises environmental concerns.

Specifically, as lipophilic chemicals from personal care products accumulate in animals at higher concentrations, there is a greater potential for them to cause toxic effects. For instance, many personal care products disrupt hormone systems in the body. Some chemicals used in personal care products affect reproductive systems and function, causing the feminization of male fish.

These reproductive effects can have important consequences for aquatic animals in the environment, and they may even represent a potential health risk for humans. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of triclosan and a number of other antibacterial agents in antiseptic wash products due, in part, to health risks associated with hormonal effects.

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists sampling shallow groundwater near septic systems on New York’s Fire Island in 2011. The scientists found hormones, detergent degradation products, fragrances, insect repellent, sunscreen additives, a floor cleaner and pharmaceuticals, indicating that contaminants were moving from the septic systems into groundwater.
Chris Schubert, USGS

Recent research has shown that oxybenzone, a sunscreen agent used in many personal care products, is toxic to corals. For many coastal communities, coral reefs are critical to local economies. For example, the net value of Hawaii’s coral reefs is estimated to be US$34 billion.

Earlier this year Hawaii introduced legislation to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in order to protect coral reefs. While research and policymaking are still ongoing in this area, it is important to note that a number of new consumer products have started using labels like “coral safe” and “reef safe.”

Multiple solutions

Typical wastewater treatment plants are designed to treat multiple pollutants, including organic carbon from human and food waste; nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus; and pathogenic bacteria and viruses that cause disease. However, they are not equipped to handle the many ingredients of concern that are present in personal care products.

Protecting the environment and human health from these substances will require progress in several areas. They include improving technologies for wastewater treatment plants; conducting more testing and regulation of personal care products to avoid unintended toxicity to aquatic animals; and designing “green chemicals” that do not pose toxicity concerns. This multi-pronged approach will help us to ensure that personal care products continue to improve our quality of life without harming the environment.

Lee Blaney, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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EP Today – Does Psychiatry reinforce people playing “good patient”?

Today’s Top Tweet (above) points to an issue that demands mature reflection. Instead of the often extreme views presented at web sites like Mad in America or, at the other end of the spectrum, the baffling ideological hegemony of the APA, there is a third stance positioned somewhere between those polarized perspectives.

With regard to today’s tweet, just because someone has a delusion or perception that a drug effectively blocks, it does not necessarily follow that the thing the person was deluded about or perceiving does not exist.

For example, say a person thinks that terrorists, the CIA or perhaps the mafia are after them. Then a drug calms the person down and, so it turns out, she or he is never murdered as previously feared.

Does it logically follow that terrorists, the CIA or the mafia do not exist? No, it means that these entities do exist but that they were probably not after that person.

Same thing with spiritual entities, good and bad, one could argue.

I applaud this man for writing about his experience but, with all due respect, it seems he is relieved to feel better and playing the role of “good patient”—and I’m sure many in the psychiatric community would approve of that.

Problem is, that kind of thing can lead to and reinforce superficial claims about the nature of reality. And THAT, in my opinion, can hurt people who actually do sense demons, angels and, who knows, maybe ETs.

Life is rarely as simple as either/or. Although some psychiatrists and members of the general public might like us to think so. I think the wisest thing the author of the tweeted story says is, “I don’t know for sure.”

MC

 Apple totally dissed WikiLeaks this week – here’s why (AAPL) (businessinsider.com)

 Federal Investigation into WikiLeaks ‘Vault 7’ CIA Hacking Intel Dump ‘Rapidly Unfolding’ (libertynews.com)

 Ex-CIA chief: No, the government is not spying on you through your microwave (stripes.com)

 Analysis: Forget spies, public should worry about scammers (bostonherald.com)

 Tech sector scrambles after CIA hacking allegations (rappler.com)


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Rigid, fundamentalist thinking goes in all directions

This is a good article (tweeted) but it overlooks the oft unspoken corollary: Too much faith in a mechanistic psychological worldview might keep some people unhappy. So many of us are impressed by the achievements of science and especially technology. And rightly so. No wonder many believe that feeling good is largely dependent on a healthy brain. Obviously brain functioning plays a huge role in our sense of well being.

But there’s more. A lot more.

Some people might be chronically unhappy because they’re stuck in a mechanistic worldview that ignores the primacy of the spiritual life. It’s almost as if we have everything upside down in the modern world. Spirituality is often seen as the icing on the cake. You can get by without it, but it’s a nice, tasty add-on.

Image via Tumblr

For me, it’s the opposite. Spirituality is top shelf and therefore my master command. Everything else is necessary and enjoyable but secondary.

By way of analogy, a society exists in its own right but needs an executive assembly and usually a national leader. Without a leader, society would become a confused, mass jumble. And so it is with spirituality and all the other aspects of life.

It’s hard for some people to appreciate this view. But I’m glad it’s mine.

The way I see it, fundamentalism is not just about religion. Fundamentalism can go in any direction. Ironically, sometimes we encounter people who are both religious and scientific fundamentalists. Instead of integrating their outlook into a mature, comprehensive whole, they compartmentalize their thinking according to religious teachings and the latest psychology studies to hit the news.

If people want to fashion their lives under the dictates of a high profile religious leader, on the one hand, and someone like John Tesh, on the other hand, that’s fine by me. But it’s certainly not my style! — MC

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Today’s Top Tweet x3 – Plastic bags, pollution and creepy peeps

garbage-bag-1256041_640There are a lot of problems out there. So I like to rotate among them. Focusing too much on just one issue gets boring after awhile. And creepy or just facile people tend to peg you as a particular kind of sh** disturber, flake or loony if you harp on one topic too much—even if you are right.

I shouldn’t really care about people like that. But part of running a successful blog is reading public perception. So I rotate. And I actually like doing that. It keeps things fresh.

Today’s pressing problem is about plastic bags and pollution. Plastic bags can be used for many good and not so good purposes. In Toronto we recycle some of them so I don’t really understand why other places don’t follow suit… if they haven’t, that is. We also have a special garbage pickup for toxic waste. It’s a bit of a hassle having four different types of garbage pickup (garbage, green, recycle and toxic). But globally, it makes sense.

When I was a kid garbage was just garbage. One thing to put out. But times have changed. And so should we.