Is exposure to chemicals making you gain weight?

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Jarmoluk

Since we were kids, we have been told to eat certain foods even if we’ve found them kind of icky. This is because it’s good for us. Out of fear, we’ve gulped it down, hid it, avoided it, cried over it. As we’ve grown older, some of those things have grown on us. Some, let’s just say – we never got over. We’ve always had a love and hate relationship with our food. Most importantly, we’ve grown to understand the effects of the food we eat on us.

There may be certain kinds of food that might affect you in a way that you don’t want them to – for example, rice. People who are conscious about weight gain tend to avoid rice. But, have you ever wondered, why after all the trials and tribulations, you can’t win over weight gain. It can be because of your genetic makeup or your physical activities. There might be something else lurking around you that you may be missing, that nobody is really telling you or talking about, not even the doctor. It is so because we’ve not yet fully understood the adverse effect of all the chemicals on human health.

With changing times and lifestyles, what we eat and the way we eat it has changed. Even healthy food comes sprayed with pesticides and packaged in plastic that if you heat in a microwave or run through a dishwasher with hot water, can leach out chemicals into the meal. If you are wondering if there is any evidence that microwaving food alters its composition or has any detrimental effects on humans or animals. No, there is not, but yes it does if you heat it in plastic containers – clear, styrofoam, any kind of plastic for that matter.

A recent study links fluorinated chemicals to more weight gain and slower metabolism in people dieting. Weight gain is only one of the many health problems that certain chemicals are causing – other issues include cancer and hormone disruption. Another research links obesity to cancer, the point being weight gain can trigger other health issues, which is why people hold obesity so dearly in their daily worries., besides the stigma of looking fat.

It can be hard for a layman to really keep up with this kind of information. Fortunately, there are non-governmental organisations out there who look into it, who keep things in check, although there are governmental entities that do it too. You can follow both – governmental as well as the non-governmental organisations, to keep yourself abreast of findings and reports.

Examples of non-governmental organisations:

Examples of governmental organisations:

Want to start protecting yourself? Don’t want to wait until you read those reports? Let’s not freak out. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stop microwaving food in plastic containers
  2. Stop storing warm or hot food in plastic containers
  3. Do not drink out of plastic bottles that have been baking in the sun

Alternatives:

  • Microwave safe ceramic containers and silverware
  • Microwave-safe glass containers and silverware
  • Steel containers for non-microwave heating

Easy-peasy? If yes, you can take it up a notch and grow your own food – start with herbs or spring onions. There are also things other than food that can introduce toxic chemicals into your body, but we will stop this blog post with food. Until next time!

Who is phasing out what

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Volunteer Image Author TheDigitalArtist

The world is phasing out fossil-fuels, old polluting vehicles, plastic products, toxic substances, nuclear power, biofuel, incandescent light bulbs, ozone depleting substances, waste imports, second hand clothes, food waste, and ivory trade. These are either gradual phase outs or immediate bans. So, who exactly is phasing out what? Read ahead to find out.

Who is phasing out fossil-fuels?

Who is phasing out old polluting vehicles?

Who is phasing out plastic products?

Who is phasing out toxic substances?

Who is phasing out nuclear power?

Who is phasing out biofuel?

Who is phasing out incandescent light bulbs?

Who is phasing out ozone depleting substances?

Who is phasing out waste imports?

Who is phasing out second hand clothes?

Who is phasing out ivory trade?

 Who is banning food waste?

Who is banning deforestation?

Last Edited: April 4 2018

Can bioplastics take over the world?

Plastics have most commonly and in large quantities been derived from petrochemicals. We call them ‘petroplastics’ or ‘fossil fuel plastics’. Bioplastics on the other hand are plastics made from renewable biomass sources, such as cellulose.

Did you know? The first man-made plastic was manufactured from cellulose. It was called Parkesine.

Not all bioplastics are degradable though. Some are designed to be durable. Durability often translates into less biodegradability. But any plastic on this planet right now is biodegradable, it will eventually breakdown into CO2, water and energy. Just not in the way that helps us and our environment.

“The relative ease with which petroleum hydrocarbons will degrade as a result of biological metabolism. Although virtually all petroleum hydrocarbons are biodegradable, biodegradability is highly variable and dependent somewhat on the type of hydrocarbon. In general, biodegradability increases with increasing solubility; solubility is inversely proportional to molecular weight.” – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009

You may ask: ‘What do you mean by ‘Just not in the way that helps us and our environment.’?’ I’ll give you three words: degradable; biodegradable; and compostable. Confused? Don’t worry. Read on.

Biodegradable plastics are decomposed by bacteria or living organisms converting it into CO2, water and energy. A compostable plastic can be defined the same way but a biodegradable material may not always turn into beneficial humus that composting provides. Plants should be able to grow in this humus. Only then can a biodegradable plastic can be called compostable. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable plastic that comes from corn. The bad news here is that in a landfill, it will sit alongside a petroplastic as long as this petroplastic wants to. In short, it behaves just like a petroplastic. This also means that PLA releases methane as it degrades without oxygen. It breaks down only in a particular set of conditions i.e. commercial composting facilities, where the emissions can be taken better care of too.

Degradable or Oxo-degradable are those that require us humans to design a process that can degrade a plastic. Do you know what happens to the plastic that lies in the ocean? It is naturally shredded into little pieces via photodegradation. This is not a good news though, since these pieces end up in the guts of creatures living in the ocean. A similar process can be adopted on industrial level for degradation. If not photodegradation, biodegradable additives can help. These additives catalyze the biodegradation of the polymers by allowing microorganisms to utilize the carbon within the polymer chain itself.

Are bioplastics the ultimate solution?

Bioplastics seem to have their fair share of twists in their story. A life cycle assessment can tell us about this twist. When considering energy returned on energy invested, the production of bioplastics can lose its dependence on oil for energy as companies embrace renewable energy resources such as wind and solar or bagasse.

With huge production of bioplastics and a consequent elimination of regular plastic, we can achieve 100 percent recyclability. Although this seems like a far fetched fantasy. The industry has been buzzing over concerns of bioplastics contaminating existing recycling streams and huge capital investment over bioplastic recycling projects. But recent studies have shown that this is not the case. Doris de Guzman explains these studies in her blog post ‘Study on compostables in recycling‘.

While the future of bioplastics is seeking a strong foothold in the market, discoveries such as that of a bacteria that can decompose regular plastic, found by a high school boy can offer some solace or plastic made from banana peels can help. Isolation of useful bacteria through trial and error may sound like a long process but it may be worth its wait.

Then there are bioplastics derived from GM crops because like anything prefixed ‘-bio’ this too wants the food we eat: food vs plastic debate. With GM crops still amidst a hot ongoing debate, I wonder what shape this will take.

I’m a little less confused with all the bioplastic lexicon floating around. I hope you are too.

So, what do you think? Can bioplastics take over the world?

Edit (03/06/2013)

Further reading:

A helpful reader (requested anonymity) suggested these articles:

Chowdhury, T., Ghosh, A., & Gupta, S. B. (2010). Isolation and selection of stress tolerant plastic loving bacteria isolates from old plastic wastesWorld Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 2, 138-140.

Revista de Biología Tropical – Polythene and Plastics-degrading microbes from the mangrove soil

Is the earth adapting to climate change?

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dimitrisvetsikas1969

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H. G. Wells

Species adapting to their environment is not new to scientists. When a species fails to do so, it is doomed towards extinction is an accepted fact. In one of my blog posts called ‘Global warming? Think again.‘, I mentioned that a type of corals called the Gorgonian corals were flourishing with rise in ocean temperature.

Can the newly discovered life growing on plastic waste be considered another proof of adaptation? A whole new group of microscopic creatures has been found growing of the vast amount of discarded plastic floating in the world’s oceans, according to ABC.net.au. While that is no excuse for us to continue dumping plastic waste in oceans, it offers a fresh perspective on climate change.

It is possible that there might be many more species out there trying to adapt to climate change. As for humans, technology is on their side to help them sustain in such climatic conditions for now. It won’t be too long until we have to struggle for adaptation as well. Current technologies are under scrutiny as to whether they are sustainable to help us to sustain on this planet. Perhaps a rather unconventional route towards adaptation might lie in learning more about the ability of a Dutch world record holder, Wim Hof, commonly nicknamed the Iceman for his ability to withstand extreme cold.