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It truly is a warming world. Scientists normally label hurricanes according to their strength from Category 1 to Category 5 (wind speeds 158 mph or greater). Some climate scientists are now proposing adding a Category 6 due to the increased strength of recent hurricanes.

The new Category 6 would be storms with wind speeds greater than 192 mph. When the researchers examined wind speeds from past storms, they found 5 storms that would have been reclassified as Category 6. And they all occurred in the past decade.

The researchers expect that as the world warms, the number of Category 6 storms will increase. Stronger storms = more destruction. Yikes!

By the way, hurricanes, tropical storms, and typhoons are essentially the same kind of storm. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.

From Science Daily: In a warming world, climate scientists consider category 6 hurricanes

For more than 50 years, the National Hurricane Center has used the Saffir-Simpson Windscale to communicate the risk of property damage; it labels a hurricane on a scale from Category 1 (wind speeds between 74 -- 95 mph) to Category 5 (wind speeds of 158 mph or greater). ...continue reading "Hurricanes Are Getting Stronger"

It has long been known that dogs get cancers, from similar chemical exposures as humans (e.g., lymphoma from exposure to weed-killer 2,4-D on lawns). A recent study found that Scottish terriers exposed to cigarette smoke develop bladder cancer about 6 times more than terriers not exposed to cigarette smoke.

Dogs can be viewed as "sentinel species" or early warning systems for harmful chemical exposures. This is because they show risks or dangers due to chemical exposures in the environment earlier than humans. They live alongside humans and so are exposed to the same things as humans.

By the way, smoking is also considered a major risk factor in human urinary bladder cancers.

From Futurity (site that publishes research news from universities): CIGARETTE SMOKE MAY SPIKE DOGS’ BLADDER CANCER RISK

By assessing individual dogs and studying their medical history, scientists are beginning to untangle the question of who gets cancer and why, and how best to detect, treat, and prevent it. ...continue reading "Cigarette Smoke and Bladder Cancer In Dogs"

A recent large Swedish study found that men who increased their cardiorespiratory fitness had a  significantly lower prostate cancer risk (when compared to men whose cardiorespiratory fitness stayed the same or declined) .

Men who increased their fitness by more than 3% over the course of a year had a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer during the 7 year follow-up. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured two times (baseline and a year later) by peddling on a stationary cycle and measuring absolute and relative VO2 max - the amount (volume) of oxygen the body uses while exercising as hard as possible.

By the way, other studies also find that cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with the risk of some cancers, as well as dying from certain cancer types. This study did not find an increase in cancer deaths, but it also only followed the men 7 years.

Bottom line: Increase your activity levels! Walking, hiking, bicycling gardening, sports, exercises - it all counts. You can do it!

From Medical Xpress: Increase in annual cardiorespiratory fitness by more than 3% linked to 35% lower prostate cancer risk

An increase in annual cardiorespiratory fitness by 3% or more is linked to a 35% lower risk of developing, although not dying from, prostate cancer, suggests research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. ...continue reading "Improve Fitness To Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer"

Waterproof jacket From Wikipedia

Finally.... the EPA is proposing that 9 PFAS chemicals called "forever chemicals" be labelled as "hazardous to human health" or "hazardous constituents". This means that the chemicals are toxic or cause cancer, genetic mutations, or malformations of an embryo (developing baby). There actually are thousands of PFAS chemicals, but the FDA is only focusing on 9 of them.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are called forever chemicals because they break down very slowly and they tend to accumulate, both in the environment and in humans. They are endocrine disruptors (disrupt hormones).

In humans and animals these harmful chemicals cause numerous health effects, including cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Nonstick pan Credit: Wikipedia

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. Unfortunately, these chemicals are in all sorts of consumer products that we are exposed to frequently or daily. For example: non-stick cookware, firefighting foam, synthetic turf, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Don't use nonstick cookware. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

Excerpts from NPR: The EPA is proposing that 'forever chemicals' be considered hazardous substances

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that nine PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," be categorized as hazardous to human health.

The EPA signed a proposal Wednesday that would deem the chemicals "hazardous constituents" under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. ...continue reading "EPA Finally Proposing Some Forever Chemicals As Hazardous"

There is much concern with the amount of highly or ultra-processed foods the typical American eats - over 50% of the calories eaten daily! Ultra-processed foods are linked to all sorts of health issues (e.g., diabetes, heart disease). One reason is because these foods are not good for the gut microbiome - they feed microbes linked to poor health and not the microbes linked to good health.

So how does one know if a food is ultra-processed? An easy way is to look at the ingredients list on the package or container and look for one or more ingredients not normally found in our kitchens at home. Instead, these ingredients will have chemical sounding names.

What ingredients indicate a food is ultra-processed? Some examples indicating a food is ultra-processed: soy lecithin, carrageenan, high-fructose corn syrup,  hydrogenated oils, interesterified oils, hydrolysed proteins, invert sugar, dextrose, lactose, gluten, whey protein, nitrates, flavors, colors, titanium dioxide, caramel color, and emulsifiers. The list goes on and on. Even the innocent sounding "natural flavors" is a laboratory concoction.

These ingredients have typically been added to extend shelf-life or manipulate the taste, flavor, or appearance. Ultra-processed foods are "formulations of ingredients" that result from a series of industrial processes (thus "ultra-processed"). Researchers of the following article say that "ultra-processed foods are not real food" due to all the modifications and alterations.

Note that ultra-processed foods can be on the grocery shelf right next to similar foods with all natural ingredients. Examples are breads, cereals, and maple syrup (is it real maple syrup or an ultra-processed concoction?). This is why you should read ingredient lists.

Also, these foods are generally ultra-processed: soda, candy, margarines, cake mixes, hot dogs and processed meats (e.g., cold cuts), instant soups, mass-produced breads and cookies, frozen meals, fast food meals, energy bars and drinks, and protein bars.

By the way, most foods that we buy or cook at home are processed to some extent, for example pasteurization of milk, freezing or boiling foods, fermentation, seasoning foods, cooking food, or even baking bread. Using real foods to prepare (process) food is OK for our health. It's totally fine.

Foods can be unprocessed (e.g., raw fruits and vegetables), minimally processed, processed, and finally ultra-processed. The ingredients will tell you if it's just processed food (contains only normal foods or culinary ingredients - e.g., flour, sugar, salt, eggs) or whether it's ultra-processed (contains one or more chemical sounding ingredients).

These foods are NOT ultra-processed: pasteurized milk, raw fruits and vegetables, starchy roots and tubers (e.g., potatoes, yams), chilled meat and fish, plant oils (e.g., olive oil), sugar, oats, and salt.

A big problem is that ultra-processed foods are replacing unprocessed or minimally processed foods in our diet. This is also why we are getting less and less fiber in our diet, which is linked to health problems. Simple way to think about it: fiber from foods feeds beneficial gut microbes.

Excerpts from an April 2019 article in Public Health Nutrition: Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them

Ultra-processed foods are defined within the NOVA classification system, which groups foods according to the extent and purpose of industrial processing.

...continue reading "How to Identify An Ultra-Processed Food"

There has been medical debate over whether taking a daily multivitamin supplement has any benefits. Well, a third large study says YES - taking a daily multivitamin slows age-related memory loss and cognitive aging in older adults (60 years and older).

The researchers estimate that a daily multivitamin slowed cognitive aging the equivalent of 2 years when compared to persons not taking a multivitamin.

From Science Daily: Third major study finds evidence that daily multivitamin supplements improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults

By 2060, according to the Alzheimer's Association, nearly one in four Americans will be in an age bracket at elevated risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease unless interventions can help preserve cognitive function before deficits begin. ...continue reading "Study Finds Multivitamins May Slow Memory Loss In Older Adults"

There is tremendous concern about microplastics and what effects they have on humans when ingested (yes, they are found in our bodies). Microplastics are the tiny plastic particles that occur as plastic breaks down over time. They have been found in foods that we eat, water that we drink, and basically everywhere.

A new study confirms that bottled water is a huge source of microplastics in our diet. The researchers counted the microplastics in 3 brands of bottled water (without revealing the brands) and found that a liter contained an average of 240,000 plastic fragments. This is 10 to 100 times more than previous estimates, which had been based on larger plastic particle sizes.

Microplastics are 1 µm to 5 mm in length, while nanoplastic particles are even smaller plastic pieces - less than 1 µm or micrometer. (In contrast: human hair is generally about 70 micrometers thick). Nanoparticles are thought to be more toxic because they can more easily get into the body (into the lungs, blood, and organs) due to their small size.

Currently it is unknown what or if there are any effects from all these plastic particles in our bodies, but scientists are worried.

From Science Daily: Bottled water can contain hundreds of thousands of previously uncounted tiny plastic bits

In recent years, there has been rising concern that tiny particles known as microplastics are showing up basically everywhere on Earth, from polar ice to soil, drinking water and food. Formed when plastics break down into progressively smaller bits, these particles are being consumed by humans and other creatures, with unknown potential health and ecosystem effects. One big focus of research: bottled water, which has been shown to contain tens of thousands of identifiable fragments in each container. ...continue reading "Large Numbers of Plastic Particles Are In Bottled Water"

One topic of concern is chronic wasting disease and its slow spread throughout the US and Canada. Now found in 30 states! Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that has no cure and is always fatal. It is similar to mad cow disease, but this fatal neurological disease occurs in cervids, such as deer, elk, and moose.

Recently, The Atlantic had an article about the spread of chronic wasting disease, and how it could ultimately result in the extinction of deer in the US. Some estimates already have the deer population down several million (for several reasons, not just CWD). Or perhaps deer populations will get decimated, with only some deer living and reproducing until the age of 2, and then dying.

This is because the disease can be transmitted before symptoms appear. It takes a while (more than a year) for a deer to show symptoms and die, and it can be passed to newborn fawns from the mother deer when she uses her tongue to groom the newborn.

Incredibly, the disease particles are shed into the environment (e.g., from deer feces) and stay in the soil for at least a decade. It can even be taken up by plants (thus it's in the leaves that deer eat) from the soil.

And yes, if you're wondering, scientists are very concerned that some day this incurable prion disease can make the jump to humans. So far it hasn't, but this is one reason why hunters are told to bring in deer heads for testing (and definitely to not eat deer meat until results come back negative).  Unfortunately, many people resist believing that there is a problem, and testing efforts vary from state to state.

Excerpts from The Atlantic: An Incurable Disease Is Coming for Deer

Jorge is leading a multiyear study at the University of Georgia on chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal neurological illness. Ubiquitous deer may be, but in CWD, they face a serious threat. From its first appearance in Colorado in the late 1960s, CWD has crawled steadily across the country. It is now found in more than 30 states and multiple Canadian provinces. ...continue reading "Deer Population Could Decline From Chronic Wasting Disease"

People worry about breast cancer and whether exposure to chemicals "in the environment" can lead to breast cancer. According to many studies the answer is: YES, absolutely - and this is why they are called carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer). What are the chemicals?

A recent study found that 921 chemicals are likely "breast carcinogens" and thus increase the risk of breast cancer. Many of these are commonly used in everyday products, including personal care products. The authors also pointed out that this list of chemicals is incomplete because information is not publicly available on many additional chemicals . (Unfortunately, the EPA is not asking for more information and testing to be done on many chemicals.)

The authors of the study point out  that breast cancer is "both the most commonly diagnosed cancer type and leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide". So knowing which chemicals could potentially cause breast cancer is important. Some examples: phthalates, parabens, many pesticides, endocrine disruptors.

Bottom line: Read ingredient lists in order to avoid many problematic chemicals. For example; if you see parabens or phthalates listed (e.g., in lotion) - avoid those products. Avoid fragrances, stain repellents, antimicrobials. Eat as many organic foods as possible (to avoid pesticide residues in non-organic foods). [See more tips on avoiding toxic chemicals.]

Also, avoid using pesticides as much as possible, and instead use least toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or organic methods, both inside the home and outside.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: More than 900 common chemicals linked to breast cancer risk: Study

More than 900 chemicals commonly found in consumer products and the environment have been linked to breast cancer risk in a new study. ...continue reading "Hundreds Of Common Chemicals Are Linked to Breast Cancer Risk"