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Interesting, yet disturbing, research found microplastics in human placentas and also that the microplastic contamination of placentas has been rising steadily since 2006. During this time global plastic production has also increased.

Microplastics are the teeny, tiny plastic particles (less than 5mm or .20 inches in length) that are a result of plastics breaking up over time. The big question now is: Are microplastics also getting into the fetus? 

University of Hawaii researchers examined 10 healthy human placentas in each of these years: 2006, 2013, and 2021. Microplastics were found in six of the 10 (60%) in 2006, 9 out of the 10 (90%) in 2013, and in all placentas (100%) in 2021. Only a sample (50 grams) was taken from each placenta, but it was clear that the number of microplastics found also increased over time:  22 particles from 2006, 38 particles in 2013, and 82 particles in 2021.

Microplastics Credit: Wikipedia

Another concern is that microplastic particles leach chemicals, and also that some of the particles found in the placentas had endocrine disrupting properties. It is unknown at this time what the effects are from microplastic accumulation in our bodies. Perhaps they have no effect, but absolutely no one thinks they are beneficial. So far other research has found microplastics in the human gut, lungs, bloodstream, and reproductive organs (male testes, female breasts).

Microplastics are of concern to all of us because we are ingesting them in our foods and beverages (especially bottled water), absorbing them through our skin, and breathing them in. Think of all the plastic products we use (e.g., toothpaste, bottled water, computers, cell phones, plastic bags) and wear (synthetic fabrics) daily.

From Science Daily: Rise of microplastics discovered in placentas of Hawaii mothers

A placenta (commonly known as the "afterbirth" or "ʻiewe" in Hawaiian) is a temporary organ which connects the mother to the fetus via the umbilical cord. Its purpose is to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the fetus while serving as a barrier to prevent infections or viruses from entering the developing fetus. ...continue reading "Microplastics Found In Placentas"

For years research has linked some pesticides and toxic chemicals with the development of Parkinson's disease. Recent research from the military base Camp Lejeune strongly suggests that one possible cause of PD is the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE). The drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with high levels of TCE and perchloroethylene (PCE) for 35 years at 280 times safety standards.

In the past century, TCE (and the similar chemical PCE) has had numerous industrial, consumer, military, and medical applications. For example, it is used in dry cleaning clothes, removing paint, as a degreaser, carpet cleaner, and engine cleaner. It even was used to produce  decaffeinated coffee in the past! It's still used today - much less in the US, but increasing in China.

The problem is that TCE is environmentally persistent, and contaminates soil, air, and water. Vapors from underground water and soil contamination seep out into homes, schools, and workplaces. It is known to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) and associated with numerous cancers and other health harms, including birth defects.

The neurologist Ray Dorsey (at Univ. of Rochester), who was part of a team looking at TCE and Parkinson's disease (see post), was recently interviewed about the research linking TCE and PD. One finding: there has been a major increase in Parkinson's disease in the past decades, making it the "world's fastest-growing brain disease".

What you can do: Dr. Ray Dorsey (and fellow researchers) feel that PD is preventable. (their book). He recommends that everyone, but especially all persons with Parkinson's disease, try to avoid pesticides as much as possible. For example, use a carbon filter for drinking water, eat organic foods, don't put pesticides on the lawn, etc.

Excerpts from Dr. Subramanian (Professor at UCLA) interview with Dr. Ray Dorsey, from the medical site Medscape: Is Most Parkinson's Disease Man-Made and Therefore Preventable?

Subramanian: I wanted to first highlight some of the work that has come out and gotten a large amount of media attention around Camp Lejeune and specifically trichloroethylene (TCE) as a cause of Parkinson's, and one of the environmental toxins that we talk about as something that is in pretty much everywhere. This paper came out, and you wrote a commentary in JAMA Neurology as well. Perhaps we can summarize the paper and its findings. ...continue reading "The Case For Some Toxic Chemicals Causing Parkinson’s Disease"

Once again a study looked at pesticide exposure in humans and found health problems. This time a study by Univ. Of California researchers looked at exposures to the commonly used pesticides 2,4-D and glyphosate, and found that they are associated with neurobehavioral effects in teenagers.

Neurobehavioral effects means there are effects on the relationship between the brain and nervous system and behavior. The study found that 2,4-D had significant effects on brain function - with lower performance on tests measuring attention and inhibition control, language, memory/learning, and visual-spatial processing, while glyphosate had effects on social perception.

Studies finding harmful health effects from both of these pesticides (e.g., cancer, neurological effects, endocrine disrupting effects) are increasing each year.

By the way, almost all of us have the herbicide glyphosate (found in Roundup) in our bodies. Most of us also have 2,4-D residues in our bodies because of its common use as a weed-killer, especially in Feed and Weed products (used on lawns) and in crops.

We get pesticides into our bodies through the foods we eat and drink, air we breathe, and skin contact. Pesticide exposure to glyphosate and 2,4-D is actually increasing due to the increased use in genetically modified (e.g., Roundup Ready) crops and "preharvest" use in conventional crops.

Bottom line: Try to lower your exposure to pesticides. Eat organic foods as much as possible. (Glyphosate and 2,4-D are not allowed in organic food production.) Avoid using pesticides on your lawn. Use least toxic Integrated Pest Management for control of pests indoors and outdoors. Leave your shoes at the door.

From Medical Xpress: Research suggests commonly-used herbicide is harmful to adolescent brain function

Herbicides are the most used class of pesticides worldwide, with uses in agriculture, homes and industry. Exposures to two of the most popular herbicides were associated with worse brain function among adolescents, according to a study led by researchers at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at University of California San Diego. ...continue reading "Commonly Used Pesticides and the Adolescent Brain"

Human male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Male reproductive health is a big deal, whether it's erectile dysfunction or sperm count and quality. A huge problem is that sperm count in men has been dropping rapidly over the past few decades, and studies find that this 50% drop is occurring globally. Two recent studies found that pesticides are playing a role in these problems.

The first study found that pesticides commonly used in our homes, gardens and lawns, as well as in our foods, are contributing to the huge sperm decline. The researchers reviewed studies looking at levels of 2 types of pesticides in men. They found that men with higher levels of organophosphates insecticides or carbamates (N-methyl carbamates) had lower sperm counts (sperm concentration).

The second study found that exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides was associated with the development of erectile dysfunction (ED). The higher the exposure levels (as measured in the person's urine), the greater the risk of ED. Erectile dysfunction is the difficulty of getting or keeping an erection.

Bottom line: Lower your pesticide exposures (and thus the amount of pesticides in your body) by not using pesticides routinely in your garden, lawn, or home. Instead, use least-toxic Integrated Pest Management in the home and garden, and avoid use of pesticides on lawns (view "weeds" and clover as wildflowers and a bee habitat). Also, eat as much organic food as possible.

1) From CNN: Common pesticides in food reducing sperm count worldwide, study says

 Pesticides used in our homes, gardens and lawns and sprayed on foods we eat are contributing to a dramatic decline in sperm count among men worldwide, according to a new analysis of studies over the last 50 years.

“Over the course of 50 years, sperm concentration has fallen about 50% around the world,” said senior study author Melissa Perry, dean of the College of Public Health at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. ...continue reading "Pesticides and Male Reproductive Health"

Recently the NFL Players Association called for all 30 NFL stadiums to use natural grass rather than synthetic or artificial turf. The reason given is that artificial turf causes "unnecessary injuries" in football players.

It's true. For years, including the 2022 NFL season, there were significantly more non-contact injuries to the lower extremities (e.g., ACL tears) on synthetic turf than on natural grass. By the way, the FIFA World Cup soccer association always requires a grass playing field.

But there are also other compelling reasons to not use synthetic turf - all the toxic chemicals in it. Carcinogens (e.g., cancer-causing chemicals), endocrine disruptors, "forever chemicals" (e.g., PAHs), neurotoxicants. Study after study shows that these chemicals leach out into the environment, as well as on the people playing on the turf. And yes, it is thought they cause harmful health effects, such as cancer - but the studies have not been done.

Children playing on these synthetic fields are at highest risk - they inhale the chemicals being released from the tur, get it on their skin, and ingest tiny particles. The synthetic turf also heats up excessively in hot sunny weather - from 140 to 170 degrees F. (Grass rarely heats up more than 100 degrees F.)

The following are some good articles on this topic:

Moms Clean Air Force (non-profit group working on air quality issues): Artificial Grass Isn’t Always Greener: Toxic Chemicals in Synthetic Turf

For health information about the chemicals, and tips to reduce risks if you or your child plays on synthetic turf. From The Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai: Artificial Turf Health Risks

Great (and easy to read) reports on artificial turf from the non-profit research group Environment and Human Health. Main page (scroll down) on artificial turf articles.  Good article: Synthetic Turf Report: Industry's Claims Versus the Science (Hint: they explain how the synthetic turf industry lies and distorts)

From Beyond Pesticides: Sports World Rejects Synthetic Turf, Favors Natural Grass as Organic Offers Safe Alternatives

Over the years I've received many questions about vegan versus kimchi that contains seafood. Are the microbes in the kimchi the same?

One reason this is an important question is because at certain stages of kimchi fermentation the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei (which treat sinusitis in many people) appears for a time. And during that time when L.sakei is present, dabbing a little kimchi juice in the nostrils helps and treats many individuals with sinusitis. Amazing, yes?

Many people prefer to treat sinusitis with vegan kimchi - which is also my personal preference. I don't want to worry about what is in the seafood used in kimchi. Therefore, it's vegan kimchi for me.

Earlier studies have suggested that even though kimchi is made with cabbage, the L. sakei grows from the surface of raw garlic used in making  the kimchi. From the M.A. Zabat et al (2018) study:

"Because kimchi is made without the use of a starter culture, the raw ingredients play a key role in establishing the bacterial community that is responsible for fermenting kimchi (Jung et al., 2011; Lee et al., 2015)".

"Large amounts of garlic are associated with more kimchi-associated LAB [lactic acid bacteria] in the final product (Lee et al., 2015)." [Note: L. sakei is one of the lactic acid bacteria in kimchi]

This is why the 2018 study, which I just read, is so interesting. The researchers found that both vegan (no seafood)and kimchi made with seafood (e.g., fish sauce) contain the same microbes after fermentation. They may have started out with different populations of microbes, but during fermentation the microbes become similar.

"We found that, despite initial differences in microbial composition between vegan and non-vegan kimchi, there was no notable difference in the final products. Ultimately, the microbial community of both vegan and non-vegan kimchi is dominated by Lactobacillaceae and Leuconostocaceae, and lacks the Enterobacteriaceae found in the fish sauce or miso paste."

Well... that's a relief. What kimchi you choose to eat and use as a sinusitis treatment is personal preference. It's all good. And yes, fermented foods such as kimchi are great for the gut microbiome. They increase gut microbial diversity (good!) and reduce inflammation.

From Physics News: Vegan and traditional kimchi have same microbes, study finds

Good news, vegans: A new study finds that kimchi made without fish products has the same type of bacteria as more traditionally made kimchi. That finding suggests that any "probiotic" benefits associated with traditional kimchi could be present in vegan versions as well. ...continue reading "Kimchi Made With Seafood and Vegan Kimchi Contain the Same Microbes"

Erectile dysfunction is a serious problem for many men, especially as they get older. A review and analysis of 11 well-done studies  looking at whether exercise helps with erectile dysfunction found that YES, it does.

They found that exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week can be just as effective as Viagra and Cialis at improving erectile dysfunction (ED). Also, the worse the ED at the start of a study, the more exercise helped.

What were the exercises? Any aerobic activities that got the heart pumping, such as cycling, tennis, or brisk walking. In the studies looked at, the exercise sessions were typically 30 to 60 minutes, and occurred 3 to 5 times a week. Some studies had the men exercise on their own, while other studies had the men attend supervised exercise sessions.

Bottom line: Exercise improved ED in all men! It didn't matter what the men weighed, their medication use - it helped them all. (Examples of earlier studies looking at exercise and physical activity helping improve ED.)

This could be because ED is considered a measure of a man's overall heart health. When there is heart disease, inflammation, and narrowing or hardening of the arteries - then ED increases. Physical activity, on the other hand, improves health, including heart disease.

Excerpts from Medscape: Exercise as Good as Viagra for ED: Study

Exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week can be just as effective as Viagra and similar medications at improving erectile function, according to a new analysis of the best research to date on aerobic exercise and erectile function. ...continue reading "Try Exercise First For Erectile Dysfunction"

We have microbiomes all over our bodies. Millions of microbes in communities - for example, the ear, the sinuses, the skin, the gut, and on and on. Women also have a vaginal microbiome. When the microbiome of the vagina gets disrupted, health effects such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) can occur.

The Scientist recently published a good article on the vaginal microbiome, as well as the microbes in the vagina associated with health and those associated with health problems. [Note: All these microbes live together in a healthy vaginal microbiome - it's just that sometimes the balance gets disrupted.] Much has been learned since they first wrote about the microbiome of the healthy vagina in 2014 - but much is still unknown.

Some good news is that the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus crispatus, which is very important for a healthy vagina, is now easily available as a probiotic supplement (to be taken when needed) in the US. Back in 2016 it was only available in Europe for BV and urinary tract infections (UTIs). This bacteria has been referred to as the "golden child of all the lactobacilli" in the vaginal microbiome.

Excerpts from The Scientist: The Vaginal Microbiome is Finally Getting Recognized

Vaginal dysbiosis has long been a taboo subject, but studying and optimizing the vaginal microbiome could be a game changer for women's health. ...continue reading "The Vaginal Microbiome"

Many consumers don't realize it, but some (many?) of the countries that flood the US market with "organic" foods are actually committing fraud. The so-called organic foods are not organic, but are conventionally grown and the documents saying they are organic have been purchased for a price.

The investigative group Organic Eye that monitors the organic industry, including looking for fraud, has filed a lawsuit about this issue.

Many organic imported foods from places like China, Brazil, and Turkey are actually not organic, and this is why their "organic" foods are so inexpensive compared to foods grown by legitimate organic farmers here in the US. The Washington Post and others have written about the fraud. Buyer beware!

Yes, buy organic foods as much as possible, but try to buy organic foods grown and produced in the US, Canada, the European Union - and also from local farmers.

Excerpts from Organic Eye: Lawsuit Alleges Violation of Federal Law and a Green Light for Fraud - US Family Farmers Competitively Damaged, Consumers Deceived

Eugene, Ore. — When Oregon organic hazelnut grower Bruce Kaser started looking into why organic hazelnut imports from Turkey were priced so low, close to conventional hazelnuts, he found he was pulling on a thread that had the USDA certification of foreign commodities unraveling. His research exposed a systemic, conflict-ridden scandal, and led to the filing of a federal lawsuit on October 17 against the USDA, alleging a breach in the intent of Congress’ Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). ...continue reading "Organic Foods From Other Countries May Not Be Organic"

It turns out that the fabric used to make clothing is doused with all sorts of chemicals. Synthetic fabrics, fabrics dyed with azo dyes, and all fabrics treated to be stain repellant, anti-mold, anti-odor, wrinkle free, easy care, water resistant, flame retardant are the worst. Alden Wicker's book To Dye For: How Toxic Fashion Is Making Us Sick - And How We Can Fight Back discusses this topic in depth.

To give fabric performance qualities, lots of toxic chemicals have to be used, including endocrine disruptors and PFAS. There is no regulation of all the chemicals used on fabrics, which means we are exposed to them when we wear clothing. And yes, people are getting sick from the fabrics, especially if they have to wear them as part of their job. For example, flight attendants and firefighters.

The book is both fascinating and horrifying. I started it one morning and found myself neglecting everything else that day - just reading and reading till I was done that evening. Interesting stories (especially what flight attendants went through with new toxic uniforms), very thorough, things you can do to protect yourself, and lots of references at the end if you want to pursue the topic further.

What you can do: Try to wear natural fabrics (cotton, linen, hemp, wool). Avoid clothes that are stain repellent, anti-mold, anti-odor, wrinkle resistant, and flame retardant. Look for Oeko-Tex and GOTS organic certification, if possible - even though only a limited number of the many toxic chemicals are tested for.

NPR interviewed the author. Some excerpts from NPR: Is 'Toxic Fashion' making us sick? A look  at the chemicals lurking in our clothes

In 2018, Delta airlines unveiled new uniforms made of a synthetic-blend fabric. Soon after, flight attendants began to get sick. Alden Wicker explains how toxic chemicals get in clothes in To Dye For. ...continue reading "Toxic Chemicals Are On Many Of the Clothes We Wear"