by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
If you are the cook in your family, you know how it feels to be in someone else’s kitchen or at a motel with a kitchenette and not have, those essential utensils to cook with that you are accustomed to. While in sin city, we were fortunate to stay in a hotel that was not a casino and did have a kitchen in our room. While this made our stay more bearable, the kitchenette was filled with Teflon coated pans and plastic serving utensils.
For home cooks like me, it was a visit to the haunted kitchen – the Spector’s of Teflon poisoning, radiation from the microwave, poisons in the water, the noise, smoke and lights…eeehhhhhh For those who are informed or nuts depending on how you look at it – it is scary what consumers are ingesting, and exposing themselves, pets and children to, not to mention the poor canaries.
Yup, the canary in your kitchen works just like those sent into a mine. When toxic chemicals are released from Teflon/non-stick cookware, bird lovers all over the country have reported their tweeties face planting in the bottom of the cage – dead as a door nail.
“The federal government announced in 2006, enough health concerns have been raised to virtually eliminate continued exposure to the key chemical used to make Teflon.” Evidence is piling up that emissions from the production of synthetic compounds in non-stick cookware, cleaning products, and a host of other common products may cause cancer and other health problems.
“Better things for better living — through chemistry.” From the 1940s to the 1980s, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. wooed customers with that slogan, one of the most memorable in American advertising. But today, two groups of DuPont products developed during that era — fluorotelomers and fluoropolymers — are showing how chemical-dependent “better living” can come at a high price.
DuPont and other companies use those synthetic compounds to make an extraordinarily wide range of products, including nonstick cookware (e.g, Teflon), grease-resistant food packaging (e.g., microwave popcorn and pizza boxes), stain-resistant fabrics and carpets (e.g., Stainmaster), shampoos, conditioners, cleaning products, electronic components, paints, firefighting foams, and a host of other artifacts of modern life.
Teflon is a $2 billion-a-year business and one of the country’s best-known products. DuPont once called it the housewife’s best friend. However, like many “better things” produced by industrial chemistry, these products can have disastrous side effects.
In 2006, the federal government said DuPont had voluntarily agreed to eliminate by the year 2010 any new emissions of the key Teflon chemical from its factories.
Really did you hear about this in the news, get a recall postcard or see any warning labels?
Non-stick surfaces are metal pans (such as aluminum) coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon, a DuPont brand trademark.
Toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms (called “Teflon Flu” or, as scientists describe it, “Polymer fume fever”). Some early studies have suggested that higher PFOA blood levels in humans may be linked with higher than normal cholesterol levels, thyroid disease, and reduced fertility.
Readers this is a real horror story, not a modern myth – how many Teflon pans do you own or coated product do you use, your kids and grand children? All for the sake of convenience, we have taken into our homes monsters.
Manufacturers’ labels often warn consumers to avoid high heat when cooking on Teflon. But EWG-commissioned tests conducted in 2003 showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases.
When reading through cancer risk information on the American Cancer Society’s website the following information caught my attention: Teflon itself is not suspected to cause cancer. PFOA may be more of a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. It seems to be present at very low levels in just about everyone’s blood. It’s not clear how people are exposed to it, although it has been detected at low levels in some foods and drinking water systems and in household dust.
The possible effects of PFOA on cancer risk in humans are not completely understood. Studies in lab rodents have found exposure to PFOA increases the risk of certain tumors of the liver, testicles, mammary glands, and pancreas in these animals.
Although DuPont has never conceded that PFCs might cause health or environmental problems, the company has bowed to relentless and rising public pressure in recent years and moved to rein in its emissions. But whatever action is taken at this point, a class of molecules that did not exist on the planet before the 20th century is now here to stay.
What are my choices?
Stainless steel is a terrific alternative to a non-stick cooking surface. Most chefs agree that stainless steel browns foods better than non-stick surfaces.
Cast iron remains a great alternative to non-stick cooking surfaces. Lodge, America’s oldest family-owned cookware manufacturer refers to its cookware as “natural non-stick.” Cast iron is extremely durable and can be pre-heated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick pans.
Glass pans and baking dishes conduct heat efficiently and are easy to clean.
Stoneware is also very popular for backing on to achieve that perfect crust on breads and pizzas.
Beware of the scary monsters in your kitchen.
Minefield Out There
By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin
Published: March 23. 2008 4:00AM PST
What are the risks?
If someone is exposed to too much mercury, it can case a variety of neurological problems, including cognitive defects, inflammation of the nerves and tremors, as well as neurological damage to a developing fetus . If people hold it in their hand, however, it’s not very likely to be absorbed through the skin unless the skin is wet. The biggest danger, said Christopher DiGiulio, a doctor with Cascade Occupational Medicine, is inhaling it in gas form or drinking water from a contaminated supply. “If it’s not in gaseous form, and you’re just walking on it with boots, it’d be very hard to get poisoned,” he said.
Mercury mines and the DEQ
The DEQ is eyeing some of the mines in its database for cleanup. Of those are four major ones:
1 – HORSE HEAVEN MINE
Horse Heaven Mine, which operated between 1934 and 1958, produced 17,216 flasks of mercury. (A flask is 76 pounds of mercury. ) At its peak, the mine employed so many people that it had its own post office east of Madras. A mercury-removal project is under way at the mine.
2 – INDEPENDENT MINE
About 30 miles east of Prineville, the Independent Mine extracted cinnabar — the main ore of mercury.
3 – MOTHER LODE MINE
About four miles from the Independent Mine, the Mother Lode operated on and off between 1906 and 1972. Canyon Creek runs by the site, and sediments in the stream were contaminated with mercury when they were tested in the 1990s.
4 – BLUE RIDGE MINE
Blue Ridge Mine was first developed in 1930, and over the next several decades, miners produced between 271 and 301 flasks, according to the DEQ.
Though not a hazard to hikers or campers anymore, mercury deposits left along the Ochocos pose a serious threat to nearby waterways. And for the DEQ, cleanup often is a matter of funding.
The mercury miners dug into the slopes of the Ochoco Mountains in the early 1900s, searching for ore rich in the heavy metal.
Once they got a hold of the mineral-rich rock, they heated it in special ovens, extracting and then cooling the vapor to get drops of liquid mercury.
Although the mining stopped decades ago, some mercury traces remain at sites scattered across private and federal lands.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Forest Service and others have done cleanup work at the worst spots that posed an immediate threat. For people hiking or riding in the Ochoco National Forest, the amount of the metal, a neurotoxin, in the dirt surrounding most of the old mines shouldn’t pose a health concern.
Still, there are about a dozen sites where officials would like to see potentially contaminated soil tested and removed so the mercury hasn’t spread into nearby waterways, harming aquatic ecosystems.
But in many cases, getting the work done is a matter of funding.
“There’s mines everywhere, and it’s very competitive on what people want to spend their money on,” said David Anderson, eastern region mine coordinator with the DEQ. “Our goal is to reduce the human health issues, and primarily it’s been on fencing signs, closing the adits (mine shafts) and physical hazards rather than chemical hazards.”
The DEQ is working on a report about how the mining history in the region could impact the ecosystem, though, and could use those results to get funding for additional projects.
The mother lode
Mercury mining picked up in Central Oregon in the 1930s, said Steve Lent, an assistant director at the Bowman Museum in Prineville.
“Prior to that, everyone was looking for gold and silver,” Lent said. “But in the process, they did find a lot of cinnabar deposits, which is where they got mercury deposits from.”
The big mines were in the Ochoco Mountains, like the Mother Lode Mine and the Horse Heaven Mine east of Madras. Horse Heaven even had a post office because there were so many miners working there, he said.
The mercury was collected, drop by drop, in a flask — the unit of measurement for the liquid metal, each one weighing 76 pounds — and was used in the gold- and silver-mining process, he said.
“A lot of those guys didn’t take much precautions — they were probably breathing in a lot of mercury fumes,” Lent said. “It definitely left contaminants as a result of those operations.”
The mining operations started slowing down around the 1950s, he said, as alternatives to the metal were found.
And in the mid-1980s, the Forest Service started looking into abandoned mines, and their potential for chemical contamination, said Bob Fujimoto, group leader for minerals and geology with Region 6 of the Forest Service, which includes Oregon. With the state geology department’s help, the Forest Service located about 500 mines.
“Since there are so many, and since there are limited funds, we thought, ‘How can we prioritize?’” he said.
In the Ochocos, the mercury mine that got first priority was the Mother Lode, where the Forest Service did cleanup work in the late 1990s.
“We knew there was mercury in concentrations in the soils that is potentially harmful to humans if they were recreating in the area,” he said, noting that there was a popular trail that went by the mouth of the mine.
But “the sites that are left, you would have to be living in that dirt, and not washing your hands and eating” to get sick, he said.
In addition, there was mercury in the water nearby, which eventually drained into a reservoir.
Sampling at the site found up to 22,000 milligrams of mercury per kilogram of soil, Fujimoto said. The standard for what it should be to protect campers at the site is 500 mg/kg, and the standard for folks just walking through is 11,000 mg/kg.
The agency cleaned up the site so there wasn’t more than 2,000 mg/kg, he said, and also removed some of the old equipment that had been used to mine the mercury.
More work needed
DEQ also looked at what was left behind from numerous historical mine sites, starting its testing with the mines that produced the most mercury or were closest to people or sensitive fish populations.
In the areas where miners had processed the ore — heating and then cooling and then collecting the metal — samplers found the highest concentrations, Anderson said. And that’s where the cleanups were focused.
“Those primarily have been addressed,” he said, noting that two in Southeast Oregon are scheduled to be cleaned in the next couple of years. “The level of risk is reduced by 90 percent.”
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management conducted several of the Central Oregon mine cleanups, and a company is working on a mercury-removal project at the Horse Heaven Mine as well, he said.
The Forest Service actually got lucky, said Carrie Gordon, a geologist with the agency, because there aren’t many sites where ore was actually processed in the Ochoco National Forest, compared with other areas.
Cleaning up the concentrated mercury is an important thing to do, said Tim Lillebo, with the conservation group Oregon Wild, because if the chemical makes its way into small streams it can really play havoc with the ecosystems there. Still, he said he did not know of any instances in the Ochoco Mountains where mercury contamination from mining activities had caused significant damage to the watersheds.
The agency is now working on a project to clean up an old gold mine in the area, Gordon said, and is considering taking another look at the Mother Lode Mine as well to make sure the original work got the job done.
There are 10 to 15 sites that could either use more sampling to identify potential trouble spots or more cleanup, Anderson said, and some are on private land. In those places, the problem is often that water passes through the site, potentially spreading mercury contamination into aquatic habitats.
At the Maury Mountain Mine, for example, where 181 flasks of mercury were produced, mercury-contaminated soil could be eroding into surface water, and the area is next to redband trout habitat, according to a report in a DEQ database.
Or at the Byram Oscar Mine, some of the soil had mercury at 3,600 parts per million, and there was a pathway between the site and a creek, according to the DEQ database.
“It does have a problem and needs more work; we just don’t have the money,” Anderson said of the Byram Oscar Mine.
There’s also an old mercury mine on Barnes Butte, he said, but a voluntary cleanup program agreed to by developers interested in building near the site has been put on hold until the housing market picks up.
The cost for testing or cleaning up a mine varies, he said. Sampling can cost a couple thousand dollars or $50,000, and the cleanup can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to several million dollars for major efforts, he said.
The DEQ is currently working on a study that will take a look at the overall effect of mercury mines in the Ochoco Mountains.
It’s hard to tease out whether mercury is present because miners dug it up and concentrated it on the surface, he said. And if the watersheds are damaged, it’s hard to tell what might be from mercury and what might be from other environmental problems, he said.
But Anderson said he hopes the report will help bring funding to projects that would do things like measure the mercury levels in the Ochoco Reservoir.
And the return of salmon and steelhead to the Crooked River, planned as part of the relicensing of the Pelton Round Butte dam complex, could help with funding to clean up the sites as well, he said. There are groups that are focused on improving habitat for those fish species, which might be able to help with the projects.
“In my mind, I hope we would get to them,” he said of the remaining mines and prospecting sites. “I think we’ll eventually get to them. What eventually means in years, I don’t know … There’s always going to be something that needs money.”
Kate Ramsayer can be reached at 617-7811 or email@example.com.
Study: Contaminant Levels High in Parks
ASSOCIATED PRESS, February 26, 2008
BILLINGS, Mont. — Pesticides, heavy metals and other airborne contaminants are raining down on national parks across the West and Alaska, turning up at sometimes dangerously high levels in lakes, plants and fish.
A sweeping, six-year federal study released Tuesday found evidence of 70 contaminants in 20 national parks and monuments – from Denali in Alaska and Glacier in Montana, to Big Bend in Texas and Yosemite in California.
The findings revealed that some of the Earth’s most pristine wilderness is still within reach of the toxic byproducts of the industrial age.
“Contaminants are everywhere. You can’t get more remote than these northern parts of Alaska and the high Rockies,” said Michael Kent, a fish researcher with Oregon State University who co-authored the study.
The substances detected ranged from mercury produced by power plants and industrial chemicals such as PCBs to the banned insecticides dieldrin and DDT. Those can cause health problems in humans including nervous system damage, dampened immune system responses and lowered reproductive success.
Contaminants that accumulated in fish exceeded human consumption thresholds at the eight parks that researchers focussed on most: Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Gates of the Arctic and Denali national parks and Alaska’s Noatak National Preserve.
Also, mercury levels at the eight parks and DDT levels at Glacier and Sequoia and Kings Canyon exceeded health thresholds for fish-eating wildlife. said he found airborne contaminants are causing male fish to develop female organs in some parks.
Dentists Alerted to Fluoride’s Health Damage in Journal of American Dental Association
Dentists Rarely Admit Fluoride’s Adverse Effects
New York (PRWEB) February 12, 2005 — “The combination of gastric problems, difficulty in swallowing, leg muscle pain, and pain in the knee and hip joints is a key indicator of fluoride toxicity, and patients using high-concentration home fluoride treatments should be monitored for these symptoms,” is reported in the January 2005 Journal of the American Dental Association. (1)
After ruling out other causes, a physician theorized his mouth-cancer patient’s unrelated ailments were caused by his dentist-prescribed high-dose daily fluoride regimen. The dentist contacted the American Dental Association’s (ADA) research center which confirmed fluoride toxicity, reports the study’s authors, F.C. Eichmiller, DDS, Director, American Dental Association Foundation’s Paffenbarger Research Center and colleagues.
“The patient visited his physician with complaints of gastric distress, dysphagia, difficulty in swallowing when eating or drinking, soreness of the leg muscles and knee joints, and general malaise,” Eichmiller and colleagues write.
Tests by the physician showed thickening of the esophagus walls and other irregularities of this muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. “Many of these symptoms might have been considered normal sequelae of the head-and-neck cancer treatment if not for the latent onset of joint and muscle pains,” they report.
Eichmiller’s team monitored the patient’s urinary fluoride levels while fluoride treatments were lowered until his symptoms disappeared. When fluoride treatments were stopped completely and brushing just once a day with fluoridated toothpaste, this patient’s symptoms disappeared without any increase in tooth decay, the researchers report.
Eichmiller’s team advises dentists that “When prescribing fluoride for compromised patients, clinicians should keep in mind both the dosage and method of administration. Lack of saliva could lead to less dilution of the gel or dentifrice, less ability to expectorate efficiently, longer retention in the mouth and a greater proportion of ingested material. Patients also may apply too much fluoride or use it too often in an effort to prevent the development of caries. In addition, the symptoms of fluoride toxicity can be fairly subtle and easily masked by other local and systemic problems in these patients,” they write.
Clinicians who prescribe these high-concentration fluoride products even to non-cancer patients “must closely monitor the patient’s compliance with the treatment regimen, minimize the dosage by using well-fitting custom trays and small quantities of gel or dentifrice, instruct patients to expectorate as much fluoride as possible and advise them to promptly report any gastric problems or joint and muscle pain,” the researchers write.
Recently a woman’s bone pain and stiffness was diagnosed as fluoride toxicity from drinking two gallons daily of instant tea.(2) Tea is naturally fluoridated.
The cancer patient in this article was prescribed a 2% fluoride treatment (possibly containing 12,300 ppm fluoride) He was instructed to put 1 milliliter to 2mL of the gel into each of two custom-made trays, apply for three minutes, then expectorate the excess and to avoid rinsing or drinking for 30 minutes after removal of trays. However, the patient did it twice a day for four months before he was diagnosed with fluoride toxicity.
Fluoridated toothpaste contains 1,000 ppm and artificially fluoridated water has approximately 1 ppm.
Painful and sometimes crippling skeletal fluorosis is common in countries where water and/or food supplies contain naturally high levels of fluoride such as in Nalgonda, .
“Since so many dentists and physicians still need to be taught fluoride’s side effects, we wonder how many arthritic patients really are manifesting fluoride toxicity,” says Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation. “Drinking fluoridated water will exacerbate their disease since fluoride accumulates in the bones even at the low levels injected into our water supplies.”
(1) Journal of the American Dental Association, “Controlling the fluoride dosage in a patient with compromised salivary function,” Frederick C. Eichmiller, D.D.S.; Naomi Eidelman, Ph.D.; Clifton M. Carey, PhD., Vol. 136, page 67 -70, January 2005 e-mail protected from spam bots
(2) “Potentially Harmful Fluoride Levels Found In Some Instant Teas,” 2/9/05 Science Daily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050205124905.htm
(3b) “Indian villagers crippled by fluoride,” April 2003, BBC article: http://www.nalgonda.org/BBC.htm
Reported by the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation
Contact: Paul S. Beeber, President and General Counsel New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc PO Box 263 Old Bethpage, NY 11803
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