After World War II, cotton, wool and linen fell out of favor as wash and wear, stain-resistant, permanent-press polyester arrived. Annual production of the synthetic fiber, consuming petroleum, coal, air and water resources, today exceeds 22 billion tons. Americans alone discard 14 million tons of clothing each year—80 pounds per person—with 80 percent going to landfills, where polyester takes 20 to 200 years to biodegrade.
A wide range of activities, including exercising and engaging in sports, can help us break a sweat. A low-impact option is spending time in a sauna. Notably, in a focused study, the sweat from an infrared sauna expelled more bismuth, cadmium, chromium, mercury and uranium than that produced by a steam sauna. The steam sauna caused higher levels of arsenic, aluminum, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, lead, tin, thallium and zinc to be excreted (Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology).
All three pesticides are organophosphates widely used on crops such as corn, watermelon and wheat. Last year, the World Health Organization announced that malathion and diazinon are probable carcinogens.
Seed libraries and banks are critically important because the seeds are adapted to the local environment. Seed libraries have multiplied from only a handful a few years ago to as many as 300 located in towns across America today. Public libraries check out seeds to plant in your garden, asking only that you return harvested seeds for others to enjoy. Farmers can now “back up” their seeds in local seed banks, which are also becoming important educational resources to teach students about these issues.
The 2016 annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count in February and a report compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative show that more than a third of all North American bird species are at risk of becoming extinct unless significant action is taken, especially ocean and tropical birds. The governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico created the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in 1999.
During the holiday gift buying season, it’s good to recall the days of old-fashioned toys. Simple, wooden toys made with non-toxic paints are far safer than those sprayed with varnishes and paints containing lead and volatile organic compounds. Plastics can emit unhealthy chemicals used during manufacturing, which also produces environmental pollution.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is a new federal law that restricts animal testing and requires regulators to develop technology-based alternatives.
The dangerous practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing), which combines volumes of toxic chemicals and fresh water to bore for natural gas, has spread to 21 states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, as well as Colorado, Texas and California. A particularly intensive drilling area is the Marcellus Shale region, a 600-mile-long bedrock layer up to a mile below the Earth’s surface that includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Citizens in these and surrounding states are sounding alarms.
Warding off summertime mosquitoes and flies to maintain outdoor fun is especially important given the new disease potential of the mosquito-borne Zika and West Nile viruses. Here are some naturally protective measures.
Amidst the growing pollinator crisis and due to public pressure, Aldi Süd, the German supermarket chain with stores in the U.S., has become the first major European retailer to ban pesticides toxic to bees, including the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, from fruits and vegetables produced for their stores. Starting in January, Aldi produce suppliers have had to ensure their cultivation practices exclude eight pesticides identified as toxic to bees. Other retailers in the U.S. and Europe are also beginning to shun bee-toxic pesticides.