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Time to avoid raw milk and raw milk cheeses. The bird flu virus (H5N1) has been spreading among dairy cows for months, and now scientists are finding extremely high amounts of the bird flu virus in cows' milk. The good news is that pasteurization will kill the virus.

The big concern is that somehow the virus will mutate and start infecting humans on a large scale. Besides cattle, there have been outbreaks of the virus in over 200 species of mammals since 2022. Millions of wild birds have died from the virus.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that: 1) The H5N1 bird flu virus survived in raw dairy milk kept under refrigerated conditions for at least 5 weeks (they didn't test beyond that point). 2) When mice consumed infected raw milk, they showed signs of illness. This suggests that drinking raw milk may pose a risk of transmission to people. 3) Pasteurization "neutralized" the virus

The CDC says it's not just raw milk, but also any raw milk dairy products - cheeses, yogurt, ice cream can be contaminated by the virus and to avoid eating them.

The following article reports that as of June 5, H5N1 infections have been confirmed in more than 80 dairy herds in 9 states and in 3 dairy farm workers, who had mild symptoms (first 2 had conjunctivitis type eye symptoms, the 3rd had respiratory symptoms). A number of cats have died from the virus after ingesting raw milk.

Excerpts from Nature: Huge amounts of bird-flu virus found in raw milk of infected cows

Milk from cows infected with bird flu contains astronomical numbers of viral particles, which can survive for hours in splattered milk, new data shows1,2. The research adds to growing evidence that the act of milking has probably been driving viral transmission among cows, other animals and potentially humans. ...continue reading "Raw Milk and Raw Milk Products May Contain the Bird Flu Virus"

Sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Pesticides stick around in the environment and in humans. Thus, it shouldn't be a surprise that a recent study found the pesticide glyphosate in men's sperm.

Glyphosate (also known as Roundup) is the most commonly used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world. It is used on both genetically modified crops (Roundup Ready crops), as well as conventional crops. [It is not allowed to be used on organic crops.] This means we ingest glyphosate when we eat nonorganic foods, when we breathe air that is contaminated with glyphosate (from applying the product or from nearby applications), or we get it on our skin.

In the study, 128 men with fertility problems had their blood and seminal fluid analyzed. Glyphosate was detected in the blood of 72 of the men, and in these men glyphosate was also detected in the seminal fluid (semen). Surprisingly, glyphosate levels were 4 times higher in the seminal fluid than in the blood!

Smokers had blood and seminal plasma concentrations twice as high as non-smokers, and workers on farms had higher levels than non-farm jobs (e.g., transport, communication, finance). The person with the highest glyphosate concentration was a farmer. They also found that in this study there was no difference in the sperm concentration, movement, or shape/abnormal forms between men with or without glyphosate in the blood.

However, oxidative stress was shown to be higher in men with glyphosate in the blood and seminal fluid. Oxidative stress is known to have harmful effects on sperm (e.g., injures mitochondria, sperm dysfunction). Thus, the researchers concluded that glyphosate has a negative effect on male reproductive health.

To lower your glyphosate levels: Your levels can be reduced within days by switching to an organic diet. Also, don't use Roundup for weed control. If possible, use non-toxic alternatives in your yard (e.g, vinegar, boiling water, burn weeds with a Dragon torch, hand weed, or accept weeds as "wildflowers").

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides: Presence Of Weed Killer Glyphosate In Human Sperm Elevates Debate On Pesticide Threats To Human Survival

study published in the most recent edition of the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety documents for the first time the presence of the herbicide glyphosate in human sperm. The study looked at 128 French men with an average age of 36 years who tested positive for glyphosate in their blood. ...continue reading "Common Pesticide Found In Human Semen"

Azalea blossoms and bee 

A few weeks ago I watched many bees buzzing around a large azalea bush. They were loud! This was in a rural wooded area, where there are no outdoor pesticide applications on lawns and bushes.

Meanwhile, in my suburban yard, it is now rare to see bees and butterflies. This started ever since neighbors started hiring a company to do "mosquito and tick" pesticide applications. Synthetic pyrethroids are applied with a large "leaf blower" type device at waist height. Unfortunately, pyrethroids are highly toxic to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

As you can imagine, this type of application - high volume application at waist height, means that the pesticides go everywhere, including into neighboring hedges and yards. This means that even though I have an organic yard, the bees and butterflies are now gone. I miss them!

Tattoo Credit: Wikipedia

There has always been some concern about whether there are health effects from tattoos, especially ones that cover a large area of skin. Tattoo inks contain heavy metals, colors, nanoparticles, and all sorts of other chemicals, including carcinogens. A recent study conducted in Sweden found an increased risk of malignant lymphoma in persons with tattoos, specifically a 21% higher risk.

It has been known for years that tattoos cause chronic inflammation, and that nanoparticles from the inks travel throughout the body, including lymph nodes. It is thought that perhaps the low grade chronic inflammation from the tattoo is causing an increased risk for cancer in the lymphatic system, such as malignant lymphoma. Interestingly, in the study, the size of the tattoo did not increase the risk - it didn't seem to matter.

By the way, in this large study, 21% of individuals with malignant lymphoma had tattoos, but18% of persons who did not get malignant lymphoma also had tattoos. So... if you have a tattoo, it does not mean you'll definitely get lymphoma - it just increases the risk.

From Medical Xpress: Possible association between tattoos and lymphoma revealed

Our knowledge regarding the long-term health effects of tattoos is currently poor, and there is not a lot of research within this area. Now a research group at Lund University has investigated the association between tattoos and lymphoma. ...continue reading "Tattoos and Increased Risk of Cancer?"

Basil plant in a pot Credit: Wikipedia

There is a simple and easy way to improve your skin microbiome and immune system, even if you live in the city - it's indoor gardening. A new study found that just 1 month of urban indoor gardening improves the skin microbiome (community of bacteria, viruses, fungi) and boosts the immune system.

What appeared to be critical for the skin and immune system health benefits was using a good quality soil, one with lots of microbes in it, such as a compost based soil.  Avoid peat based soil, which is commonly available, because it is not rich microbially. The researchers found that growing plants in the peat based soil did not have any health benefits.

The study used flower or planter boxes filled with soil, and 7 kinds of plants (lettuce, white mustard, radish, garlic, ginger, pea, and fava bean) were planted into them. A grow lightbulb was used in a lamp because the study started in winter. Fertilizer sticks were used in the peat based soil group, while nutrients came from the compost in the rich soil group.

The participants in the study were instructed to monitor, water, harvest, and then consume the produce. That's it.

Bottom line: Set some plants on a sunny windowsill or buy grow lights for some indoor plants. Make sure the soil is a rich soil (compost based) and not peat-based. Enjoy!

From Science Daily: Urban gardening may improve human health: Microbial exposure boosts immune system

A one-month indoor gardening period increased the bacterial diversity of the skin and was associated with higher levels of anti-inflammatory molecules in the blood demonstrated a collaborative study between the University of Helsinki, Natural Resources Institute Finland and Tampere University. ...continue reading "Growing Some Plants Indoors Benefits Skin and Immune System"

Microplastics Credit: Wikipedia

Scientists have been finding microplastics (tiny plastic particles) in our bodies - in our lungs, our blood, even our stools. The latest is a study finding microplastics in both human and dog testicles (in the testicular tissue).  The small microplastics get into our bodies through inhalation and by ingestion (in the food and water), and from there they travel to different organs of the body.

They found 12 types of microplastics in all 23 human and 47 dog testicles that were studied. [NOTE: testicles = testes] In all of them! Human testicular tissue had 3 times the amount found in dogs.

They also found that higher numbers of PVC microplastics in the dog testicular tissue was correlated with a lower sperm count. (They were unable to test for this in the human samples.)

Human sperm Credit: Wikipedia

These concerning results may be part of the reason human sperm count is dropping rapidly worldwide over the past few decades. (These are thought to be contributors to the decline: pesticides, endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, plastics.) Microplastics, occur as a result of plastics breaking down, and are now found everywhere that researchers look.

From Science Daily: Researchers find microplastics in canine and human testicular tissue

University of New Mexico researchers have detected significant concentrations of microplastics in the testicular tissue of both humans and dogs, adding to growing concern about their possible effect on human reproductive health. ...continue reading "Microplastics Found In Human and Dog Testicles"

Brains age as a person ages. Brains shrink a little over time, and thinking may not be a good as it was years ago. So you absolutely want to delay brain aging and cognitive decline. A recent study found that specific foods and nutrients promote healthy brain aging (delayed brain aging).

The Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln and Univ. of Illinois researchers looked at a group of 100 healthy individuals (aged 65 to 75 years) and found that they fell into 2 groups: one group with accelerated brain aging and another group with delayed or slower than expected brain aging. They took blood tests and looked for specific nutritional biomarkers, they took MRI scans of the brain, gave questionnaires, and gave cognitive tests.

They found that certain nutrients, food groups, and foods are associated with healthier brains (delayed brain aging). One should eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, as well as dairy and choline rich foods (e.g., eggs). The beneficial combination of nutrients fall into 3 main groups, with especially good sources given:

1) Fatty acids (vaccenic, gondoic, alpha linolenic, elcosapentaenoic, eicosadienoic and lignoceric acids - found in different foods) a) Fish and shellfish, flaxseed, hemp seed, olive oil, soya oil, canola oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts. b) Peanuts, macadamia nuts, and certain seed oils. c) Dairy products, such as milk, butter, and yogurt.

2) Carotenoids - Spinach, kale, corn, bell peppers (red, green, or yellow), tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, cantaloupe, broccoli, and carrots.

3) Vitamins (especially vitamin E and choline) Vitamin E - Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, but also significant amounts come from green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. Choline - Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, as well as cruciferous vegetables and certain beans.

By the way, this study was part of an emerging field called Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience. Other studies also find that choline and elements of a Mediterranean style diet appear to be best for healthy brain aging.

From Science Daily: Food for thought: Study links key nutrients with slower brain aging

Scientists have long been studying the brain with a goal of aiding healthier aging. While much is known about risk factors for accelerated brain aging, less has been uncovered to identify ways to prevent cognitive decline. ...continue reading "Foods That Promote Healthy Brain Aging"

3M Company Credit: Wikipedia

Forever chemicals are in the news all the time now. A very interesting and well-researched article was recently published by the investigative journalism site ProPublica about Kris Hansen, a chemistry PhD who worked at 3M company. Initially, as part of her job in 1997, she documented that forever chemicals (PFOS, PFAS) were showing up in everyone's blood - both workers at the company, as well as people outside the company. Animals also. But then her work was suppressed, her bosses at 3M convinced her the chemicals were safe, and she continued working there for years.

Also... she was sidelined by her bosses after her initial findings, her job became more limited at the company, and finally she moved to a different area of the company (medical devices). Yet for years she told her husband and herself that the chemicals were safe. Only in 2021, after watching a John Oliver segment on TV about forever chemicals, she finally googled PFOS. But she only left the company in 2022 (after 26 years) when her job was eliminated.

One interesting part to me was - How did she rationalize doing nothing and continue working there for decades? She knew it was appearing in everyone's blood, there was research (animal and human) available showing it caused harms, and yet.... she chose to believe what management was saying (it's safe), stayed silent, and basically buried her head in the sand. Didn't want to know...

Yes, I've seen this elsewhere - when interacting with people in higher level white collar jobs in the pesticide industry. Their salaries are good, their jobs depend on denialism and ignoring scientific research, and so they spout the industry line of "it's safe"..."nothing is proven". So it continues...

A few excerpts from ProPublica: Toxic Gaslighting: How 3M Executives Convinced a Scientist the Forever Chemicals She Found in Human Blood Were Safe

The next morning, anxious to see the results, Hansen arrived at the lab before anyone else. For the first time since she had begun testing blood, some of the samples showed no trace of PFOS. She was so struck that she called her husband. There was nothing wrong with her equipment or methodology; PFOS, a man-made chemical produced by her employer, really was in human blood, practically everywhere. ...continue reading "Denialism and Cover-up At Manufacturer Of Forever Chemicals"

Dupont Chemical facility in Delaware Credit: Wikipedia

Reading studies or news reports is not the only way to get information about the dangerous "forever chemicals" (PFAS chemicals) that are found in basically all of us. Some films and videos are also excellent sources of information.

There is a very good legal thriller film called Dark Waters (released in 2019, official trailer, now on Netflix), an investigative documentary The Devil We Know (official trailer, now on Amazon), as well as short videos such as that produced by NRDC (PFAS: The Toxic Forever Chemicals Crisis) and PBS News Hour (Why PFAS are so impervious, and who is at most risk from the forever chemicals).

Attorney Rob Billot

The film Dark Waters is based on a true story. In it, attorney Robert Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo) jeopardizes his career to expose Dupont's toxic chemical waste dumping scheme (of forever chemicals used in Teflon), the harms they caused (including deaths), and of corporate greed and corruption.

In 2019, Robert Billot's book (Exposure) about his battle with Dupont Exposure was also published.

Harmful PFOS chemicals, are commonly referred to as forever chemicals because they persist in the environment and accumulate in all of us, where they cause all sorts of health harms, including cancers, decreased fertility, liver damage, thyroid disease, impaired immune system, abnormal fetal development. They even go to the brain! The chemicals are found in many products that we are exposed to daily (e.g., non-stick pots and pans, grease-proof packaging).

The toxic chemicals PFAS, commonly referred to as "forever chemicals" (due to their buildup and persistence in people and the environment) are in the news again. Once again, it's bad news. This time, researchers found that PFAS chemicals travel through the blood, and enter and accumulate in the human brain.

And not just the original PFAS chemicals (e.g., used in Teflon, Scotchgard), but even their replacements accumulate in the brain.

PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are called forever chemicals due to their buildup and persistence in people and the environment. They are in all of us at varying levels, and they have harmful health effects. Effects include 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. They are endocrine disruptors.

The chemical industry would have you think that the newer PFAS chemicals that replace the older ones are "safer", but guess what? They're not. They're very similar chemically, so it shouldn't be surprising that they don't appear to be safer.

Bottom line: You can't totally avoid PFAS chemicals, but you can lower your exposure to them. If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. Don't use nonstick cookware, stain resistant carpeting and fabrics, clothing treated to be water-proof, and synthetic turf. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

From Environmental Health News: PFAS can enter and accumulate in the brain, study confirms

A new study published in Environment International examines the ability of PFAS - a class of hazardous chemicals with known neurotoxic effects - to bypass the body’s protective barriers and enter into brain tissue. ...continue reading "Forever Chemicals Can Enter and Accumulate In the Brain"