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  • This Spice May Protect Your Brain From Fluoride Damage

    A new study that was recently published online in Pharmacognosy Magazine highlights the brain-damaging capabilities of fluoride, and reveals that the curcumin found in Turmeric may combat the harmful effects that fluoride has on the brain.

    The authors concluded;

    “Our study thus demonstrate that daily single dose of 120 ppm F (Fluoride) result in highly significant increases in the LPO [lipid peroxidation, i.e. brain rancidity] as well as neurodegenerative changes in neuron cell bodies of selected hippocampal regions. Supplementation with curcumin significantly reduce the toxic effect of F to near normal level by augmenting the antioxidant defense through its scavenging property and provide an evidence of having therapeutic role against oxidative stress mediated neurodegeneration.”

    Turmeric

    Fluoride is added to many common products that we consume every day, including toothpaste and drinking water and is virtually impossible to avoid being exposed to. There is an ongoing controversy surrounding Fluoride and it stems from the harmful effects that overexposure to fluoride can cause, which include fluorosis, neurotoxicity and even cancer. The fact that it is routinely added to drinking water, which some believe amounts to being force-medicated without consent, is currently one of the the most hotly debated topics.

    According to the authors, who have been studying the neurodegenerative effects that fluoride has on the mammalian brain for many years:

    “Fluoride (F) is probably the first inorganic ion which drew attention of the scientific world for its toxic effects and now the F toxicity through drinking water is well-recognized as a global problem. Health effect reports on F exposure also include various cancers, adverse reproductive activities, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases.”

    This particular study, which examined fluoride induced neurotoxicity, identified oxidative stress and over-stimulation of the neuron (referred to as excitoxicity) as two of the main causes of neurodegeneration in the brain. Previous observations of people suffering from fluorosis – a condition where the tooth enamel becomes discolored or mottled due to over-exposure to fluoride during the early developmental stages – also exhibit neurodegenerative changes that are associated with oxidative stress in the brain.

    Previous studies conducted on the health benefits of curcumin have shown that it is a powerful antioxidant, that is able to protect the body against damage from singlet oxygen, hydroxyl radicals and superoxide radicals, and also boosts antioxidant defense mechanisms within the brain. The research team tested the neuro-protective properties of curcumin – a polyphenol agent present in turmeric – on mice, to see if it could potentially combat neurodegeneration and neurotoxicity associated with fluoride exposure.

    The research team used a group of mice to both assess the neurotoxicity of fluoride and the protective benefits of curcumin in reducing these neurotoxicity effects. They divided the mice into four groups, which were kept separate for thirty days, as follows:

    Group 1: no exposure to fluoride (control group).

    Group 2: exposed to 120ppm fluoride in distilled drinking water that was freely available.

    Group 3: exposed to 120ppm fluoride per 30mg/kg body weight in drinking water together with curcumin mixed with olive oil – dosage was administered orally.

    Group 4: dosed with curcumin 30mg/kg body weight

    After thirty days, the researchers measured oxidative stress levels in the brains of the mice. They found that mice in Group 2 that were exposed to fluoride only exhibited significantly higher levels of oxidative stress compared to mice in the Group 1 (control) who were not exposed to fluoride. The mice in Group 3 that were exposed to fluoride and curcumin exhibited lower levels of oxidative stress compared to the mice in Group two (fluoride only), which demonstrated the neuroprotective properties of curcumin against neurotoxity associated with fluoride exposure.

    This is not the first study to highlight the health benefits of turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian dishes. The paper cites over two hundred references to published scientific studies on the neuro-protective benefits of curcumin – an ingredient in turmeric – and there are thousands of articles on the GreenMedInfo database related to around 600 health benefits of curcumin and turmeric. Perhaps it's time to spice up your life.

    Journal Reference:

    Chhavi Sharma, Pooja Suhalka, Piyu Sukhwal, Neha Jaiswal and Maheep Bhatnagar. Curcumin attenuates neurotoxicity induced by fluoride: An in vivo evidence. Pharmacogn Mag. 2014 Jan-Mar; 10(37): 61–65. doi:  10.4103/0973-1296.126663

  • Water Testing Made Simple Using Pills

    A research team from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, has come up with an ingenious solution that allows water to be tested on-site rather than having samples collected and sent to a lab for analysis, which is not only a painfully slow process but also laborious and expensive. So instead of collecting and sending water samples to a lab, the lab can in effect be taken to the water source, empowering people from all walks of life to literally test the waters before they drink, which could potentially save lives.

    water testing

    By adapting the technology used in dissolving breath strips, the researchers have condensed the complex chemistry that is required to test water quality into a pill form. Now, if you need to know whether the water in your well is safe to drink, simply pop a pill into a vial filled with water from your well, give it a good shake; if the water changes color you have your answer – instantly, on the spot.

    This development could potentially provide access to a quick, simple and cost affective method of testing water quality to people all over the world. The technology could have significant public health benefits by offering a simple solution for testing drinking water in remote areas and in developing countries where water testing infrastructure is lacking.

    “We got the inspiration from the supermarket,” says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project. Fellow team member, Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering, got his 'Eureka!' moment when he came across some dissolving breath strips whilst shopping at his local store, realizing that the material used in the breath strips could be used in other applications.

    The scientists have created a method of storing precise amounts of active ingredients and enzymes into pills consisting of the same natural substance used in dissolving breath strips, which now makes lab-quality water testing technology easily accessible to people who need to know whether their drinking water source is contaminated or safe to drink.

    “This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form,” says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the technology was developed. “The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water.”

    The substance, known as pullulan, turns into a solid form when dry, protecting sensitive chemical agents from exposure to oxygen and changes in temperature that can destroy them within hours. Previously, these sensitive agents had to preserved by keeping them in cold storage and shipping them in vials surrounded by large blocks of dry ice, which was not only costly, but also very inconvenient.

    This newly developed method, which is described in a paper published online in the European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also has the potential to be used in other applications, such as food packaging that could change color if the contents become spoiled.

    “Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?” Brennan asks. “The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough.”

    This newly developed method allow us to store the same substances practically anywhere in pill form for long periods of time without the need for complex refrigeration and cooling. The pills are cheap to produce and can be used by anyone who needs to test the water in their well for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals or e.coli, for example. With this simple water testing solution, people will be empowered to test their drinking water themselves and if contaminants are detected, they can implement measures such as using a water filter to remove the contaminants to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

    Journal Reference:

    Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, Kevin Pennings, Vincent Leung, Meng Liu, Carmen Carrasquilla, Balamurali Kannan, Yingfu Li, Robert Pelton, John D. Brennan, Carlos D. M. Filipe. Pullulan Encapsulation of Labile Biomolecules to Give Stable Bioassay Tablets. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403222

  • Scientists Question Guidelines for Treating Water in Emergencies

    In the event of a natural disaster or any other type of emergency, clean drinking water may not be available, so it may be necessary to treat water to kill any pathogens that may be lurking in order to prevent yourself or your family from becoming ill. The EPA's current guidelines for treating drinking water in emergencies recommend that chlorine bleach should be added to the water to kill any pathogens that may be contaminating the water. However, a new study has revealed that the recommended doses are not only much higher than necessary, they are also not very practical to carry out. The authors of the study, which was published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that the EPA needs to review their current guidelines for treating water in emergency situations, and revise them accordingly.

    Flooding pic3

    When the study was conducted, lead author, Daniele Lantagne, who is now based at Tufts University, was working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who funded the research. Lantagne and his co-authors note that following a natural disaster, such as earthquakes, floods or tsunamis, clean water can be hard to come by. Yet people still need to drink water in order to survive. Currently, the EPA recommends that people use the “bottle, boil, bleach” approach to treat water in the event of an emergency if they wish to protect themselves from water-born diseases. This approach implies that people should use bottled water as the first option where possible. If bottled water is not available, they should boil whatever water is available to kill any pathogens. And as a final resort when the first two options are not available (i.e. there is no bottled water, and no electricity or other means of boiling water), people should disinfect water by adding “1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water.” However, the scientists have pointed out that 8 drops does not equate to 1/8 of a teaspoon, and both these amounts are higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In order to assess the guidelines for water treatment, the researchers tested different concentrations of bleach treatment at six homes across the country, using various sources of water.  Their results showed that the range of bleach doses recommended by the EPA (ranging between 8 drops to 1/8 of a teaspoon) were higher than what was needed to kill disease-causing pathogens in the water samples. The authors also note that even if the recommended dosage were lowered, for many of the households they surveyed it would still be impractical to carry out, as none had the type of bleach necessary for safely disinfecting water in the house, and/or they lacked the necessary measuring devices. The scientist thus recommend that the EPA revises it water treatment guidelines and conducts further research into alternative water treatment methods and products that are more practical to carry out in the average household.

    To prepare your home in the event of an emergency, we recommend a high quality gravity-fed drinking water filter that does not require electricity and is capable of removing bacteria and viruses, as well as other contaminants that can readily pollute drinking water and pose a risk to your health. This provides a simple, yet effective method of ensuring that you have access to safe drinking water in the event of an emergency.

    Journal Reference:

    Daniele Lantagne, Bobbie Person, Natalie Smith, Ally Mayer, Kelsey Preston, Elizabeth Blanton, Kristen Jellison. Emergency Water Treatment with Bleach in the United States: The Need to Revise EPA Recommendations. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 140409120313005 DOI: 10.1021/es405357y

  • High Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water Lowers IQ in Children

    The results of a recent study conducted by researchers from Columbia University, which was published online in the scientific journal Environmental Health, shows that school children attending schools in Maine who are exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water exhibit a decline in child intelligence. This study builds on previous studies that looked at the impact of arsenic exposure on child intelligence conducted in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.

    child learning

    Jospeh Graziano, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, together with his team of research associates, assessed the intelligence of 272 children between grades 3 to 5. The children, whose average age was 10, attended schools within three Maine school districts where water used for drinking and cooking originated from private water wells that are known to contain high levels of arsenic.

    The researchers assessed the intelligence of the children with a commonly used intelligence assessment tool – the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) – and found that children exposed to arsenic in their drinking water had lower scores across most of the WISC-IV indices.  After controlling for external factors such as parental intelligence and education, size of the family, school district and other characteristics related to the home environment, children who had high levels of exposure to arsenic (> 5ppb) in their drinking water exhibited a decline of 5-6 points in Full Scale, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores. According to Gail Wasserman, professor of Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and lead author of the paper, this decline in intelligence is significant and could translate into learning problems and problems with schoolwork.

    The researchers took water samples from an external point of entry as well as from the kitchen faucet. They also analyzed drinking habits, how long the family had lived in their home, together with how the water well was constructed and if any water filters were used.

    Water arsenic levels recorded in water samples taken from the kitchen faucet measured 9.88 ppb on average, with over 30% exceeding the standard of 10 ppb recommended by the EPA and WHO. The highest level of arsenic measured was 115.3 ppb – more than 10 times higher than the EPA standard.

    “The strength of associations found in this study is comparable to the modest increases that have been found in blood lead, an established risk factor for diminished IQ,” said Dr. Graziano.

    “Our findings of adverse impact in a U.S. sample, particularly in performance-related functioning, gives confidence to the generalizability of findings from our work in Bangladesh, where we also observed a steep drop in intelligence scores in the very low range of water arsenic concentrations,” said Dr. Graziano.

    “Collectively, our work in Bangladesh and in Maine suggests that aspects of performance intelligence, particularly perceptual reasoning and working memory, are impacted by exposure to arsenic in drinking water.”

    How to Protect Your Kids

    There is currently an outreach program underway tasked at educating families who are at risk of arsenic exposure in the region. Dr Graziano points out that a standard filter available at hardware stores in inadequate for removing arsenic from drinking water. However, affected households can take measures to address the situation. Dr Graziano and his fellow experts recommend that those exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water should filter their drinking water with a high quality filter that is capable of removing arsenic.

    Start drinking arsenic-free water today – purchase a Berkey Filter water filter and get 50% off the price of an arsenic filter when added to your order.

    Journal Reference:

    Gail A Wasserman, Xinhua Liu, Nancy J LoIacono, Jennie Kline, Pam Factor-Litvak, Alexander van Geen, Jacob L Mey, Diane Levy, Richard Abramson, Amy Schwartz, Joseph H Graziano. A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren. Environmental Health, 2014; 13 (1): 23 DOI: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-23

  • Benefits of Drinking Filtered Water for Effective Weight Loss when Dieting

    Any weight loss plan should include exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient liquids to keep the body hydrated and healthy. When a low calorie diet is being followed in order to lose weight, sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices, as well as caffeine-rich beverages such as coffee, tea and alcohol, should be avoided.

    bellypic

    To burn off fat, follow an exercise regime high in aerobic exercises, such as an aerobic gym class, running, swimming or cycling, which will get the heart rate up and burn off fat. To tone muscle, physical exercises with weights targeting certain muscles will get you in shape. Cardiovascular sports that involve some form of resistance, such as swimming and cycling, are a great way to get a full body workout, burning off fat and toning muscle at the same time. It is essential to replace fluids lost in perspiration to prevent dehydration. Dehydration will lead to cramping, which will cut your exercise session short, and will be counter productive to losing weight. Drinking pure water is the healthiest option when exercising, as caffeine-rich beverages such as sodas, can in fact be dehydrating, and do not rehydrate the body effectively.

    In many cases, weight gain is a result of water retention, and while one may assume that drinking lots of water would result in the body retaining more water, the opposite is in fact true. When your body is deprived of water, it stores water as a natural defense against dehydration. If you supply your body with a regular supply of fresh water, this will cause excess water to be eliminated from the body, flushing out toxins at the same time.

    Toxins are stored in the liver and fatty tissue, and can only be eliminated from the body if flushed out with plenty of pure water. The liver is responsible for regulating how fat is metabolized in the body, and thus for burning fat. For your liver to fulfill the job of fat metabolism effectively, your liver must be in a healthy condition. By flushing your system with plenty of healthy fresh water, you will aid the elimination of toxins from your liver and fatty tissue – this is essential for a healthy weight loss program to prevent toxins from becoming concentrated in fatty tissue.

    Water also aids digestion, transport of nutrients throughout the body, and elimination of wastes from the body. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially about half an hour before and after meals, will assist with healthy digestion and prevent weight gain.

    Drinking plenty of water can suppress the appetite, making it less tempting to snack in-between meals. If you feel hungry between meals, snack on healthy foods with a high water content, such a fresh fruit and vegetables. Another option would be to juice the fruit and veggies for a healthy drink, high in water and nutrients, but low in calories. This will leave you feeling full, while at the same time providing a high nutritional value in terms of vitamins and minerals, but because it is low in calories, it will not pack on the pounds.

    Water is an essential component of any weight loss program. While tap water will suffice, to avoid toxins that may be present in unfiltered tap water, rather try to include copious amounts of pure filtered water as a regular part of your diet.

  • Preventing Asthma Attacks with a Shower Filter

    Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects millions of people, including young children. There are various environmental stimulants that can cause allergies and bring on an asthma attack, including dust, mold, pet hair, pollen, cigarette smoke, chemicals and other air pollutants. While there is currently no known cure for asthma, the disease can be managed with home products and controlled with medication to reduce both the frequency and severity of attacks.

    Pollutants That Can Trigger an Asthma Attack

    While airborne pollutants are commonly known to trigger asthma, a lesser known fact is that chemical pollutants present in tap water can also bring on an asthma attack. Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect drinking water to kill bacteria and other parasites. However, when vaporized, chlorine converts to chloroform gas, which is a potent irritant that causes the air passages to constrict. This can cause respiratory problems, including asthma, when vapor or steam from a hot shower or bath is inhaled by sensitive people prone to allergic reactions.

    Asthma_inhaler_use

    Removing Chlorine from Water

    To protect your family from exposure to chlorine in shower water, a Berkey shower head filter is recommended to removed chlorine from the water. This will not only reduce the risk of allergic reactions in sensitive members of your family, but it will also protect their skin, hair and eyes from being damaged by chlorine and its associated by-products. If you are overworked or suffer from stress and tension, a Berkey shower filter with massage head may be just what you need to help you relax while enjoying a shower free from pollutants.

    Chlorine in swimming pools is also known to affect swimmers suffering from asthma. If a member of your family is asthmatic, consider switching to a non-chemical method of pool sanitation, that removes the need for chlorine treatment.

    Purify the Air you Breathe

    Now that the water in your home has had irritants removed, you need to focus on the air that your family breathes. If you have an asthmatic member of the family, try to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and aerosols in the home, and make the home environment a smoke-free area. Consider fitting your home with an air-purifier to remove air pollutants that can irritate the lungs and respiratory passages, bringing on asthma in sensitive individuals. In addition, make sure carpets are vacuumed regularly to remove dust and pet hair that can cause allergies, and that showers, baths and  basins are free from mold, which can release spores that can cause respiratory irritation.

    Find the Trigger

    If you or a member of your family suffers from asthma, try to take note of environmental conditions or factors that can bring on an attack. Try to single out factors that may trigger an asthma attack by recording, and removing, certain stimulants that could be responsible.

  • World Water Day 2014 Highlights Water and Energy Issues

    Last week the world celebrated our most precious resource – water – culminating on World Water Day on March 22nd. This year the focus was on the connection between water and energy, and how saving one, in effect saves the other.

    “Water and energy are among the world's most pre-eminent challenges. This year's focus of World Water Day brings these issues to the attention of the world,” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization and Chair of UN-Water, which coordinates World Water Day and freshwater-related efforts across all United Nations projects and systems.

    world water day

    UN-water foresees that over the next two decades the ever increasing global population's food, water and energy requirements will increase by at least 35%, 40% and 50% respectively. Currently nearly 800 million people around the world don't have access to safe drinking water, 2½ billion people lack adequate sanitation, and 1.3 billion do not have access to electricity. 

    “These issues need urgent attention - both now and in the post-2015 development discussions. The situation is unacceptable. It is often the same people who lack access to water and sanitation who also lack access to energy, “ said Mr. Jarraud.

    2014 World Water Development Report

    The 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR) - a report published and coordinated by the World Water Assessment Program under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – was released on March 22nd to celebrate World Water Day. The report provides a status report on the current state of the world's freshwater resources, and stresses the need for countries to work together to protect these resources by putting forward policies and regulatory measures that address both water and energy issues through an integrated approach.

    Water-Energy Link

    The 2014 WWDR emphasizes how water and energy are inextricably intertwined and that issues related to one also relate to the other – this interdependency is often referred to as the 'water-energy nexus'. For instance: drought reduces the amount of energy that can be produced; while people who do not have access to electrical power to run irrigation pumps face limitations in terms of irrigating their crops, which hampers their ability to produce food.

    Water is essential to produce or extract energy in all its forms, as well as to transport and use it, and all these activities impact our water resources to some degree. The water report points out that approximately 75% of all water withdrawn for industrial purposes is used to produce energy. Water tariffs also reflect the interdependence of water and energy: when water subsidies are introduced making water available to industries at below cost, the most water-hungry consumers – energy producers – have no incentive to use it sparingly and are more likely to waste it. Similarly, when energy is subsidized it reduces the incentive to conserve it, which in turn drives up the rate of water consumption. The report highlights the need for governments to take action to ensure that prices of both water and energy are a true reflection of the cost and environmental impacts associated with their use.

    Take Home Messages for World Water Day 2014

    • We need energy to access water and we need water to access energy
    • Demand for these resources are increasing, yet there is limited supply
    • When we save energy we save water: when we save water we save energy
    • The 'bottom billion' require access to water, sanitation, and electricity, as a matter of urgency
    • It is imperative that we improve both energy and water efficiency across all sectors, together with implementing well coordinated integrated policies that take the bigger picture into account
  • Water Conservation: Perceptions of Water Use

    Many Americans wish to save water, but typically are not sure what options are the most effective, according to an online survey of over 1000 participants conducted countrywide by researcher Shahzeen Attari from Indiana University.

    When it comes to water conservation, the most effective strategy is to focus on factors that improve efficiency, such as retrofitting water-hungry toilets and washing machines to make them more water-wise. Results from the survey, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the majority of people interviewed suggested reducing time in the shower would be the best strategy to save water, yet relatively few suggested retrofitting toilets or reducing flush rates, which is surprising considering that toilets use the highest amount of water per day. While taking a shorter shower will reduce water consumption, it is not necessarily the most effective method of saving water.

    toilet

    “People may be focusing on curtailment or cutting back rather than efficiency improvements because of the upfront costs involved,” said author Shahzeen Attari, an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “It is also surprising how few participants mentioned retrofitting their toilets. Even though toilets use less water volumetrically than washers and showers per use, the frequency of use results in the highest water use overall.”

    Participants were also asked to estimate water consumption of various activities, such as taking a 10 minute shower, washing their vehicle in a car wash, flushing the toilet with a standard flush mechanism, as well as other activities. The results showed that in general, participants underestimate the rate of water consumption – typically twice as much water is used than participants estimated, and water consumption of activities that used excessive amounts of water were severely underestimated.

    Attari has previously published research she conducted on people's perceptions of energy use, which she also found to be underestimated – energy consumption was in fact three times higher than generally estimated.

    Several factors determine the accuracy of a person's perceptions of energy and water consumption. For example, participants who have strong pro-environmental convictions tend to be more accurate in their perception to energy consumption, but not of water consumption. Being male and being older led to better accuracy in terms of perceptions of water consumption but not energy consumption. Numerical literacy of participants played an important role in the accuracy of perceptions of both energy and water consumption.

    Furthermore, the survey showed that people have no idea how much water was used to produce the following food items: rice, sugar, coffee and cheese, and while this is not surprising as water is not consumed directly when eating or drinking these food items, it does illustrate how ignorant we tend to be in terms of water needs of common foodstuffs that we take for granted.

    “Given that we will need to adapt to more uncertain fresh water supplies, a problem that the state of California is currently grappling with, we need to find ways to correct misperceptions to help people adapt to temporary or long-term decreases in freshwater supply,” Attari said.

    Journal Reference:

    Attari, S.Z. 2014. Perceptions of water use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316402111

  • Study Reveals Elevated Mercury Levels in Groundwater due to Wastewater Disposal

    As Cape Cod towns wrestle with problems associated with septic systems, a study that was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology (Nov 2013) shows that treated wastewater disposed in-ground can result in higher levels of mercury in groundwater.

    The study, conducted by Carl Lamborg, a biogeochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), shows that when wastewater is broken down by microbes, mercury is transformed into a more toxic and more mobile form.

    biofish

    Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal that is present in trace amounts in wastewater; however, Lamborg discovered that the mercury concentrations in both the soil and the water increase as a result of chemical processes that take place during as the waste is decomposed.

    Lamborg monitored mercury concentrations and forms over a two year period between 2010-1012 at U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sampling wells set up around a wastewater treatment site in Cape Cod that disposed wastewater into the ground over a 60 year period between 1936-1995. This wastewater disposal resulted in a contamination plume that stretches nearly two miles downstream from the disposal site, and which travels through the underground aquifer at a rate of approximately 650 feet a year, ending up in a saltwater pond on the coast.

    According to Lamborg, who conducted the chemical analysis of the water samples at his WHOI laboratory: “The amount of mercury flowing out of the watershed and into the ocean and these ponds is something like twice as much as it would be if wastewater was not being put into the ground.”

    To get a clearer picture of why this was happening Lamborg focused on two sites situated within the contaminant plume where carbon and nitrogen within the waste had been broken down by microbes, who had used up all the available oxygen in the groundwater and sediments in the process, resulting in anoxic conditions at these sites.

    At the first sample site, which was closer to the point of wastewater disposal, Lamborg found that microbes were utilizing iron in the breakdown process – a process referred to as iron reduction –  and that the more commonly found form of mercury (Hg2+), which is less mobile, was transformed into a more mobile form of elemental mercury (Hg0) that leaches into the groundwater more readily and gets transported further downstream.

    At the second site, which was situated further downstream, Lamborg found higher concentrations of yet another form of mercury, monomethylmercury (MMHg), which in some instances accounted for 100% of the mercury present in the sample. Monomethylmercury readily moves through water, and can accumulate in freshwater and marine systems, where it is absorbed and bioaccumulates into the body tissues of fish, shellfish and other wildlife at levels that pose a health risk to humans that consume these toxins.

    While Lamborg states that the MMHg levels are much higher than they would be had wastewater not been disposed of into the ground, he does not consider them to be high enough to pose a risk in drinking water. However, considering that monomethylmercury is a neurotoxin that is able to penetrate the skin, and which at high doses can affect muscle and brain tissue that can lead to brain damage or paralysis; combined with its ability to bioaccumulate in the tissue of organisms (including humans), it could potentially pose a severe health risk over time.

    “This should make us all think twice about what we dump into the ground. Adding more nitrogen into the ground through wastewater, and even fertilizers for our agricultural fields and golf courses, offers a potential for mercury to accumulate and move through the aquifer to our ponds, lakes, and the ocean. That's something I don't think people are really thinking about,” said Lamborg.

    When Lamborg took a closer look at the chemical processes taking place at the second site, he discovered something that intrigued him even.

    His observations of the denitrification process – the process whereby the microbes utilize organic carbon and nitrogen to decompose organic matter – revealed high levels of MMHg were occurring as a result of the denitrification process, while previous research has shown low levels of MMHg following decomposition by denitrification.

    According to Lamborg: “This kind of thing where you see denitrification resulting in the methylation of mercury has never been observed before.”

    Mercury Accumulation

    Even more puzzling is the fact that the contaminant plume contains even higher levels of mercury than the original wastewater sources or produced by microbes during the decomposition process. So where does this mercury come from?

    “What it looks like is, the mercury that was already there in the aquifer or sand is being mined out when the groundwater goes anoxic,” explains Lamborg. Mercury that has up until now been stored within the ground for thousands of years is being drawn out and is now on the move.

    Lamborg notes that this is a community-wide problem at Cape Cod, because the sandy soils characteristic of the area allow wastewater that is disposed into the ground to disappear rapidly through the soil. While it may appear to be 'out of sight and out of mind', toxins like mercury accumulate and reappear in downstream ponds and the ocean.

    “This is just one really big example, but it's happening in a small way through everybody's backyard septic system, which leaches a little bit of mercury out of the aquifer and accumulates. You don't need a really big industrial scale thing for this to happen. It's happening everywhere,” Lamborg said.

    It stands to reason then that if this is happening everywhere, groundwater sources may be contaminated with high levels of mercury. To prevent exposure to this highly toxic contaminant in drinking water, you would be well advised to take precautionary measures to filter out any potential toxins that may be lurking. A Berkey Filter fitted with Black Berkey purification elements can remove a wide range of contaminants commonly found in drinking water, including mercury.

  • Research Links BPA to Prostate Cancer in Men

    Researchers at the Cincinnati Cancer Center have discovered that concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) in the urine of adult males could indicate prostate cancer, and that exposure to BPA, even at relatively low levels can bring about changes in the cellular structure of both malignant and non-malignant prostate cellular tissue.

    Results of the study, which were published in  PLOS ONE, 3rd March 2014,  provide the first indication that BPA concentrations in urine can be used as a marker for prostrate cancer and may assist with detecting prostrate cancer in men. It further shows that exposure to BPA at low doses can disrupt cellular duplication cycles causing prostrate cancer to develop.

    water bottles

     

    BPA is an environmental contaminant that is a known hormone disruptor which is used in the manufacture of rigid clear plastics commonly used in food and beverage containers, including plastic bottles that hold bottled mineral water. BPA has been associated with several health issues, including: neurological disorders; diabetes; as well as breast-, prostrate-, and other forms of cancer.

    According to chief researcher Shuk-mei Ho, director of the Cincinnati Cancer Center, and a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, studies conducted on animals show that BPA can cause prostrate cancer to develop, and while data on human subjects is scarce, humans are commonly exposed to this known toxin.

    “Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in North America, and one in six men will develop it over their lifetime,” says Ho. “However, the cancer is rarely diagnosed in men under the age of 40 with almost two-thirds of cases reported in men at age 65.”

    According to Ho, more than 90% of US citizens are exposed to BPA, often on a daily basis. BPA is absorbed into the body via the skin, through inhalation, or from ingesting food or water contaminated with BPA toxins.

    BPA is a hormone disrupter that copies thyroid and estrogen hormones, and also disrupts the immune and metabolic systems in the body. Consequently the impact on health is extensive, as has been proven in animals.

    However, studies that link BPA exposure to increased cancer risk in humans are limited, says Ho. “Our study examined the association between urinary BPA levels and prostate cancer and assessed the effects of BPA on the initiation of centrosome abnormalities as an underlying mechanism promoting prostate cancer formation.”

    Abnormalities of the centrosome – an organelle that plays an essential role in cell division – are often seen in various forms of cancer.

    The researchers examined urine samples from sixty urology patients and found that BPA levels were four times higher in patients diagnosed with prostrate cancer than in patients that did not have prostrate cancer, and that this difference was higher still in patients under 65 years old.

    The researchers also examined prostrate cellular tissue visually by the process of immunofluorescence, which allowed them to observe abnormalities of the centrosome or any abnormal growth patterns.

    “Exposure to low doses of BPA increased the percentage of cells with centrosome amplification two- to eight-fold,” Ho says. “BPA is not a recognized carcinogen, and questions surrounding the mechanism behind the positive correlation of BPA exposure with prostate cancer have arisen.”

    “Several studies have shown that centrosome amplification is a major contributing factor to chromosomal mutation in human tumors. We examined the centrosome profile of prostate cancer cells treated with BPA and found that treatment with BPA increased the number of cells with abnormal centrosomes.”

    This research reveals a link between exposure to BPA and prostrate cancer that was unknown until now, and suggests that BPA could play a key role in cellular mutation and cancer progression.

    Bottled water is one of the potential sources of BPA as this chemical can leach from the plastic bottles into the water, especially when transported long distances or stored for long periods of time. Home water filters provide a healthier alternative to bottled water, as they remove contaminants that are present in the water, yet do not contain BPA that can leach into the water inside the canister.

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