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Finally, finally...  the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. This is important because we get exposed to the pesticide various ways, but especially from pesticide residues on food. This pesticide should have been banned years ago for the reason that it is dangerous for children - has neurological effects and lowers IQ.

Why did the EPA finally ban it? Back in 1999 the EPA banned “residential” uses of chlorpyrifos, of course with lots of exceptions. Finally, in 2017 the EPA was going to ban it for food use (e.g. crops)  - this was recommended by EPA's own scientists due to huge amounts of research showing harm.

But that decision was reversed by the incoming Trump administration (business interests first!). Of course, that business interests of the pesticide industry come first is not surprising and has been going on for years - it only got worse during the Trump administration.

This year the EPA was forced into the decision banning chlorpyrifos by a court order. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco in its ruling in May, 2021said, “The EPA has had nearly 14 years to publish a legally sufficient response to the 2007 Petition [filed by environmental and farmworker groups].” The court continued, “During that time, the EPA’s egregious delay exposed a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos.”

What exactly is chlorpyrifos? It is an organophosphate insecticide that is currently registered for use on a range of food crops, golf courses, and for public health mosquito control (in cases of mosquito-borne diseases). It is highly acutely toxic.

It is chronic low level exposure (typically through residues on food) that is especially harmful - especially to pregnant women, the developing fetus, and children. In utero exposures to chlorpyrifos can impair a child’s learning ability and increase risk of developmental delays, ADHD, and is associated with IQs that are up to 7 points lower than those with little or no chlorpyrifos exposure.

How to avoid toxic pesticides in foods: Eat organic foods as much as possible. Many pesticide levels (e.g. glyphosate and chlorpyrifos) will rapidly decrease - within a week. Pesticide residues can be measured in the blood and urine.

From AP news: EPA bans pesticide linked to health problems in children

The Biden administration said Wednesday it was banning use of chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide long targeted by environmentalists, on food crops because it poses risks to children and farm workers. ...continue reading "A Dangerous Pesticide Will Finally Be Banned On Food Crops"

Some mental abilities actually improve with age! This is great news, because the general view is that our brain volume shrinks and mental abilities decline with age (especially after age 70).

A large Georgetown Univ. Medical Center study of 702 participants (58 to 98 years old) found that two important brain functions actually improve with age, probably due to lifelong experience using them. They were attention and executive functions - which allow us to attend to new information and to focus on what's important in a situation. They underlie  memory, decision making, self-control, navigation, language, and reading.

Is this why there is a saying that wisdom comes with age?

From Science Daily: Key mental abilities can actually improve during aging

It's long been believed that advancing age leads to broad declines in our mental abilities. Now new research from Georgetown University Medical Center offers surprisingly good news by countering this view.  ...continue reading "Some Thought Processes Improve With Age"

More bad news regarding climate change. Scientists have been warning for years that it appears that the Gulf Stream is weakening or slowing down. But now, a report has been released saying that the ocean current (and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is in danger of collapsing. Which would mean catastrophic climate changes. Uh-oh.

The Gulf Stream and Florida Current are part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) which transports warm, salty water from the tropics to northern Europe and then south along the ocean floor towards Antarctica.. This is why the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and other European countries have relatively mild temperatures, even though they are so far north.

What would a collapse mean? It could result in extremely cold temperatures in Europe (as well as parts of North America), sea level rise in feet (not inches) among the North American coast, change in rain and monsoons, and on and on. In other words, a catastrophic effect.

What to do? Greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide) need to be reduced. Pronto. Some articles to read:

Washington Post: A critical ocean system may be heading for collapse due to climate change, study finds

Human-caused warming has led to an “almost complete loss of stability” in the system that drives Atlantic Ocean currents, a new study has found — raising the worrying prospect that this critical aquatic “conveyor belt” could be close to collapse.  ...continue reading "Gulf Stream Is Slowing Down And May Be On Verge Of Collapse"

Something protective that we all can do! A large study of patients found that getting an annual flu shot appears to provide some protection from severe COVID-19 effects.

The study suggested that the annual flu vaccine reduces the risks of stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in persons with COVID-19. These patients are also less likely to visit the emergency department and to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in persons with COVID-19.

The Univ. of Miami researchers looked at medical records of 74,754 persons throughout the world with COVID-19. Patients either received a flu shot within the 6 months to 2 weeks before receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis, or no flu shot.

Why is this occurring? The researchers propose a number of reasons for the protective effect, including that perhaps the flu vaccine stimulates the activation of natural killer cells (these cells are decreased in moderate and severe COVID-19 cases).

From Science Daily: Flu shot protects against severe effects of COVID-19, study finds

In a newly published study, physician-scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have shown that the flu vaccine may provide vital protection against COVID-19. ...continue reading "Annual Flu Vaccine Reduces Risk of Severe COVID-19 Effects"

Recently there have been studies with conflicting results about the health benefits or harms from coffee consumption. Overall, it seems like moderate intake is OK and beneficial for adults, but too much may cause harm. And avoid caffeinated coffee if pregnant. Yesterday I posted about several recent studies finding health benefits from daily coffee consumption.

Coffee has anti-inflammatory effects, and contains more than a thousand chemical compounds. Over the years many studies found health benefits with regular and decaffeinated coffee, especially when a filter is used in the brewing process (e.g. drip coffee). But when the coffee is made by methods that don't filter the coffee (e.g. French press) the results may show harm, especially if large quantities are consumed daily.

The following are two recent studies finding that coffee consumption is associated with health benefits, and two studies finding potential harm from coffee consumption of over 6 cups a day. Note that whether the coffee is filtered or not may make a difference in results (the last 2 studies).

From (Jan. 11, 2021) Science Daily: Higher coffee intake may be linked to lower prostate cancer risk ...continue reading "Coffee Can Have Health Benefits, But Perhaps Harmful In Large Amounts"

Recently there have been studies finding health benefits from daily coffee consumption, and some finding possible harm. Overall, it seems like moderate intake is OK and beneficial for adults, but too much (over 6 cups daily) may cause harm. And avoid drinking caffeinated coffee if pregnant.

Coffee has anti-inflammatory effects, and contains more than a thousand chemical compounds.

Many studies do not separate out the different preparation methods (drip, percolated, French press), but just look at the amount consumed daily, and whether it was regular or decaffeinated. When the preparation methods are looked at, some studies find health benefits when a filter is used in the brewing process, but not with French press or other methods that don't filter the coffee.

The following are three recent studies finding that coffee consumption is associated with a surprising variety of health benefits.

Researchers looked at UK Biobank data on 495,585 participants. Coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of developing chronic liver disease and related liver conditions. From (June 21, 2021) Medical Xpress: Drinking any type of coffee associated with reduced risk of chronic liver disease ...continue reading "Drinking Moderate Amounts of Coffee Has Health Benefits"

Finally, some good news (perhaps) regarding the damaging,  unregulated, and widely used PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals. PFAS are man-made chemicals commonly called "forever chemicals" because of how they stick around, persist, and contaminate both humans and the environment. Including our communities, our drinking water (at least 2411 drinking water systems), and military installations.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill (PFAS Action Act, H.R. 2467) that would finally designate certain PFAS compounds as hazardous substances, would regulate PFAS  in drinking water, and would issue grants to help community water systems treat PFAS contaminated water. It would make clean-up of PFAS contamination of groundwater at military installations a priority (PFAS was in the firefighting foams used by the military).

These chemicals have been used for years in many industrial and consumer products, such as food packaging, non-stick cookware, cosmetics,  and products containing stain and water-repellents (e.g. fabrics, carpeting). Even dental floss!

Why the concern? PFAS are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors associated with all sorts of harmful health problems, including cancers, reproductive harm (e.g. poorer semen quality), lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, they are already found in the bodies of almost all Americans (at varying levels), so we should try to reduce our exposure.

Of course industry opposes the legislation and called it a ban. No, it's not a ban, but a first step in regulating the chemicals and cleaning up contamination. We'll see what happens in the Senate. Will they also pass legislation?

Excerpts from The Beacon: U.S. House passes PFAS bill regulating ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

The U.S. House on July 21 passed bipartisan legislation that would regulate toxic chemicals found in drinking water, as well as designate two types of those toxic chemicals as hazardous substances that would spark federal cleanup standards.   ...continue reading "Legislation That Would Regulate “Forever Chemicals”"

It has been known for a while that eating fermented foods and high fiber foods is healthy for us. A recent study confirms this view. Researchers at the Stanford Univ. of Medicine found that eating fermented foods actually reduces inflammation and increases the diversity of gut microbes (gut microbiome).

Researchers randomly assigned volunteers to one of 2 groups for 10 weeks: the fermentation foods group, and the high fiber group. Surprisingly, the group eating the high fiber diet for 10 weeks did not have changes in microbial diversity or changes in the 19 inflammatory markers studied. Instead, the researchers reported that the high-fiber diet "changes microbiome function and elicits personalized immune responses".

The fermented foods group ate a diet rich in yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi and other fermented vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, traditional dill pickles), vegetable brine drinks, and kombucha tea. Each day they ate 6 servings (1/2 cup = 1 serving generally). The high fiber diet was rich in legumes, seeds, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits (increased their fiber intake from about 22 grams per day to 45 grams).

The fermented foods group ate six servings daily (e.g. 1/2 cup yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, traditional dill pickles, and kombucha tea). The high fiber group increased their fiber intake from about 22 grams per day to 45 grams, by eating a diet rich in legumes, seeds, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits.

High-fiber diets are associated with numerous health benefits such as lower rates of numerous chronic diseases and mortality. The consumption of fermented foods can help with weight maintenance and may decrease the risk of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

From Futurity: Fermented Food Diet Boosts Microbiome and Cuts Inflammation

In a clinical trial, 36 healthy adults were randomly assigned to a 10-week diet that included either fermented or high-fiber foods. The two diets resulted in different effects on the gut microbiome and the immune system. 
...continue reading "Fermented Foods Are Good For Your Gut Microbiome"

There are microbial differences (microbiome) in babies who are born by cesarean vs vaginal deliveries. Research shows that bacterial differences can be minimized by a simple procedure - swabbing the newborn infant with the mother's vaginal fluids (using a gauze pad).

An infant normally picks up bacteria during birth as it passes through the birth canal, and these bacteria "seed" (colonize) the baby's skin and gut microbial community. On the other hand, babies born by C-section are colonized by microbes floating around in the operating room (from doctors, nurses) and these are predominantly skin bacteria. These bacterial differences between babies born by vaginal birth or C-section persist and are thought to explain some health differences between babies born vaginally or by C-section.

Dr. Dominguez-Bello has been doing a long-term study in which babies born by cesarean section are immediately swabbed with a gauze cloth soaked with the mother's vaginal fluids (which contain the mother's microbes). This resulted in the infants' skin and gut microbial community being more like vaginally born babies. These microbial changes persisted during the first year of life.

Such big changes from such a small procedure!

From The Scientist: Maternal Vaginal Fluids Mimic Microbe Transfer of Vaginal Birth

Babies born by C-section carry an increased risk of immune and metabolic disorders later in life, which studies have suggested may be associated with the communities of microbes on and in their bodies at the time of birth.  ...continue reading "Missing Birth Canal Bacteria Can Be Restored to Cesarean Birth Babies"