Thursday, May 31, 2012

BPA and Its Effects on In Vitro Fertilization

Because of its flexible but strong properties, Bisphenol A (or BPA) is a chemical commonly used in a huge array of plastic products. Just how common is it? According to one study, as of 2009, 3.6 million tons of BPA are used by manufacturers yearly. You will find BPA in everything from plastic food containers and baby bottles, to household electronics. This wouldn’t be so bad if BPA didn’t have the nasty habit of leaching into things it comes in contact with. For example, food kept in plastic containers with BPA will absorb the BPA and it doesn’t stop there.  When we consume the food, BPA enters into our bodies and can act as an endocrine disruptor, which behaves like or even blocks hormones. These actions mess with our normal body functions and can result in several different health issues, including (but not limited to) various cancers, thyroid issues, and difficulty conceiving.

Recent research has shed more light on the effects of BPA on one specific health concern: women’s reproductive health. In particular, this new research suggests that higher levels of BPA can reduce women’s chances of conceiving while undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments.  The study followed 137 women seeking fertility treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center.   BPA concentration levels were measured in each woman’s urine sample.  Background information was collected on each participant, such as race, age, medical history and lifestyle factors.

The researchers followed each woman’s progress as she underwent fertility treatment, recording successful embryo implantations and failures.  After analyzing all of the data they had collected, the researchers saw a clear correlation between increased BPA levels and decreased rates of pregnancy.  Women with the higher levels of BPA in their urine were less likely to be able to conceive, and this trend persisted when the researchers controlled for the background factors, such as age, that they had collected.

This is the first study to look at the role BPA plays in women seeking fertility treatment, and furthermore, it supports the finding of past studies that have looked at the effects of BPA in animals.  For more information on this study and the effects of BPA explore the links below.

~ Jessica


Friday, May 18, 2012

Tips for a Chemical Free Summer!

Summer is just around the corner, and in some parts of the country it’s already here (especially due to the abnormal heat index)!  And to help keep you safe and smiling this summer, we’ve put together 7 of our favorite tips:
1.      All up in your grill.  While barbequing on a grill this summer, be sure to use propane rather than wood or charcoal since propane burns cleaner.  When it’s time to clean the grill use an organic cleaning product and avoid the chemical residue other products leave behind.

2.      Picking picnic plates. Use reusable dishes rather than plastic or Styrofoam when eating outside.  This will cut down on the waste and save you money in the long run!

3.      Lawn days. Do not spray your lawn!  Such sprays are unnecessary and contain chemicals that are bad for our health.  Check out this article for tips on maintaining a healthy lawn without the spray.

4.      Bugs, bite! To keep the mosquitoes at bay this summer, reach for a natural repellent.  A variety of herbal and essential oils, such as citronella oil, are highly effective.  Check out this article for a recipe!

5.      Local motion. Buy your summer veggies locally.  Visiting your local farmers’ markets is a great way not only to get active, but also to avoid foods grown with pesticides.

6.      Garden greens. Better yet, start your own garden!  This is a fun outdoor activity for the whole family, and it will supply you with those fresh greens you are after.

7.      Screen the sun. And before running outside, remember to grab that organic sunscreen!
With these tips in mind, you will be ready to start your summer of the healthy way!

~ Jessica

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Germy Public Places

Although the vast majority of germs are benign and will not get us sick, there are about 100 different bacterial species that aren’t so “friendly.”  So what are these germs and where are they found? Read on, you may find this information pretty useful!
Researchers from Kimberly-Clark analyzed over 350 swabs from cities across the country for levels of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.  ATPs signal the presence of vegetable, animal, yeast, bacteria or mold cells.  If an object has a reading over 300, it is considered to have a high risk for illness transmission.  Out of the objects tested, here is the over 300 ATP reading breakdown they found:
·         71% of gas pump handles
·         68% of mailbox handles
·         43% of escalator rails
·         41% of ATM buttons
·         40% of parking meters
·         35% of crosswalk buttons
·         35% of vending machine buttons
Once these germs reach a person’s hand, it can easily transfer to other objects up to seven times before leaving the skin!
One of the best things we can do to prevent illness and the spread of germs is to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently!  Here is Hand Washing 101 from the CDC:
1.       Apply soap (the foam soaps are great for kids!)
2.       Lather up the soap and scrub all surfaces
3.       Continue for 20 seconds!  It is longer than you think…
4.       Rinse your hands well and dirty them with an air dryer or paper towels.
When you can’t get to a sink, use a hand sanitizer free from harmful chemicals.  Avoid antibacterials with triclosan, a chemical that is harmful to the environment and believed to be an endocrine disruptor.  For more information on other germy public places in America, check out the links below!
~ Jess

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Balancing Act of Organic Foods

One of the great things about eating organically grown vegetables is that we are treating our bodies well while we are treating the earth well.  Organic vegetables are grown without the use of pesticides.  When pesticides are used to grow vegetables, as humans we are risk of developing a range of health issues. As for the earth, run off water from farms contaminates rivers and streams, impacting the wildlife and their habitats.  As mentioned, organic farms help alleviate these issues…but not without some consequences.

One such possibility in farming is outbreaks of E.Coli, is a bacterium responsible for many illnesses and several deaths in the U.S. over the last decade.  E. Coli is often transmitted through the fecal matter of animals.  The problem can occur on organic farms because of the practice of encouraging ecological diversity.  Avoiding the use of pesticides allows naturally occurring plants to grow alongside crops, and this diversity is better able to support wildlife such as mice, rabbits and even larger animals, which may carry E. Coli.

In 2006 a deadly E. Coli break out lead to changes on such farms that would prevent mice and other small animals from contaminating crops.  This included such actions as weeding out all plants on a farm other than the crop, removing any grassy areas surrounding a field, building fences, and even destroying nearby lakes.  There have not been any large out breaks of E. Coli poisoning since such action were taken, however, some think that these actions go too far and think some of them may even be unnecessary.  One good example is the food safety policy that encourages farmers to take steps to eliminate all wildlife in their fields.  Eliminating wildlife may reduce the chances for E. Coli, but without animals, the presence of mice can infiltrate a farm.

We do not have all of the answers we want now, but the government and several private companies are currently conducting research to determine which policies are best for food safety.  The ultimate goal is to find a way to balance our health with the safety of the environment.

~ Jessica

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