Monday, February 18, 2008

Musings: Raising a Stink

It was chilly when Koko and I headed out this morning, so we walked fast to warm up in the pre-dawn chill. The moon — full and eclipsing on Wednesday — had already set, but both Jupiter and Venus were still shining bright, and fairly close together, in the southeast sky.

All the mountains, both mauka and makai, were clear, and the only clouds I spotted were a fluffy pile in the east that the rising sun transformed into a crimson fireball.

When I got home and looked at the star charts to determine if that bright orb above Venus was, indeed, Jupiter, I was surprised to learn that another name for the morning-rising Venus is Lucifer. I wonder how the planet of love picked up that moniker?

Speaking of picking stuff up, was reading an article in the very mainstream The Week magazine about how a new study has shown that babies pick up phthalates — hormone-altering chemicals that can effect a baby’s developing reproductive system — from all the scented lotions, powders, shampoos and other products smeared on them.

It seems that phthalates are used to hold in fragrance and color, but are one of many things — like genetically-engineered ingredients — that are not required on labels.

They’re also found in laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Every time my neighbors on either side do laundry, I’m inundated with that fake perfume smell. Yuck. Not only does it stink, it’s harmful, too.

It’s not surprising that babies, and anyone else who uses products with added fragrances, are absorbing these chemicals. After all, the skin is the largest organ.

But we humans, of course, aren’t the only ones getting dosed. Some time ago, I wrote a piece for Sierra Magazine about how these and other chemicals in our personal and cleaning products, as well as pharmaceuticals, are showing up in ground and surface waters.

In some instances, these products are causing sex organ mutations and dysfunction in fish and other aquatic species.

As Don Wilkison, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist, told me: "We don’t make the connection between what we do on a day-to-day basis in our homes and the health of the nation’s rivers. Red flags should be going up."

The toxicological and biological effects of these compounds are not well understood, he said. "And when you think of aquatic organisms constantly being bathed in a pharmacopoeia of unknown and changing concentrations," he adds, "I think we should have some concerns."

In the previous issue of The Week, they reported on studies that showed bisphenol A (BPA) a chemical found in numerous household plastics, like baby and water bottles, is released much more quickly when exposed to boiling liquids. BPA also can mimic female hormones, and may heighten the risk of cancer.

So next time you’re tempted to put some plastic in the microwave or use perfumed products (other than the all-natural kind), you might just want to stop and think twice — for all our sakes.

1 comment:

irk said...

kinda old news, but where da missing link?