Disaster Prep and Free CPR iOS Apps now on the iTunes Store!

Posted in Environmental Health, global warming, healthcare with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2011 by theseep

While working on my Master’s of Public Health through Walden University, part of my practicum was with the Office of Emergency Preparedness in San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health (SLODPH). All Public Health Departments and FEMA recommend that families have a disaster kit prepared that will provide 72 hours worth of food and water along with basic supplies in the event of an evacuation, a local disaster, or the need to “shelter in place” if supply chains are cut off. While there is a great deal of information available on these recommendations, I could not find an iOS-based application that provided me with all of the resources that are necessary in an emergency situation. So, I utilized some of the SLODPH materials, FEMA resources, and other research to build the Disaster Prep App.

Disasters can happen at any time, at any place and without warning. In a natural disaster, disease outbreak, terrorist attack or other major emergency, a network of local, regional, stateand federal systems will initiate pre-planned and practiced responses. Beyond the municipal and public health responses, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend that you and your family prepare to take care of yourselves as much as possible in a disaster.

Downloading the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Checklist and Guide and filling in your local emergency information is an excellent start. Collecting some basic supplies (not much more than you’d put together for a camping trip) will also provide the basics for you and your family if and when a disaster occurs. Planning for medium and long-term supply chain disruptions that prohibit your ability to access foodand other necessities is also a good strategy in major disasters. Finally, it is important to be able to “shelter in place” – or stay at home or another protected area away from the impacts of the disaster until it is safe to leave.

The Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Guide provides you a means to collect necessary and information in the one piece of equipment you always have on you – your phone.

Disaster Prep Features:

Disaster Kit Checklists
Personal Medical Record Database with export to email function.
Reminders every 6 months to check/rotate kit supplies
Family Emergency Plan
Insurance and vehicle information
General information on disaster basics
Basic CPR and First Aid information
U.S. Military Survival Manual included!
Ability to import photos and PDF files of EKGs, X-rays, lab results, discharge summaries, and other medical information, or other disaster-related diagrams and information.Planned future updates:
Sync Medical Information with Google Health!
Export Medical Information to PDF
Regular additions of disaster preparedness information
Port to Android
Check out screenshots, more information, and the Free CPR app on evolvingmonkeys.com!

The S.E.E.P.’s Favorite Gardening Links

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2011 by theseep

One of my long-lost high school facebook friends, knowing from my regular ecovangelistic posts that I might have some gardening information to share, asked me the following:

Heather wrote:
“Hi Clint…So my little guy and I want to plant a home garden this year. Any suggestions for where I can get help with preparing???”

Hey Heather, thanks for asking!  I used your question as an excuse to go through all of the links that I’ve been saving over the past couple of years so I can start planning our garden for this year as well.  Although I still wouldn’t say that I have a green thumb, I’ve been getting better over the last 3 years of having a garden, and some of our fruit trees are doing great!  It’s definitely a dynamic process and we’ve experimented with a traditional garden, container and raised bed gardening, drip irrigation with computerized timers, seed collecting, and other techniques and most importantly, tried to enjoy the process.   Hopefully the links will get you guys started on some fun projects!    – Clint

Orion Eating Tomatoes in the Garden

Lifehacker.com:

Learn to Grow Plants and Food With Beginner Garden Projects

How to Keep Your Yard and Garden Pest-Free Without Harsh Chemicals

Grow 100 lbs. of Potatoes in 4 Square Feet

Stock Your Garden With Foods Cheaper to Grow than to Buy

Turn Old Silverware into Beautiful Garden Markers

SproutRobot Tells You When to Plant for a Bountiful Garden

Build a Self-Watering Garden with Recycled Water

Gutter Gardens Grow Produce Without Taking Up Space

Treehugger.com:

5 Super Simple Ways to Get Your Urban Garden Going

Top 10 Most Nutritious Vegetables and How to Grow Them in Your Garden

Beyond Salads:  Planting a Garden to Feed a Family

Gardening for Geeks is Called Domestic Terraforming

Mother Earth News:

Vegetable Garden Planner Utility

4 Simple Garden Designs to Grow the 12 Best Kitchen Herbs

Instructables.com:

Garden Contest Winners

Grow Organic Food Without Spending $

Natural Wood Raised Garden

How to Install Drip Irrigation

DIY Compost Tumbler

Worm Bin Bag Plans

Self-Sufficient Home:  Rain Water Harvesting

DIY Rain Barrels

Gravity Feed Hydroponic Garden

Solar Food Dehydrator

Make a Fruit Picker from PVC pipe

Other:

The Vegetable Garden Planting Schedules

Bargaineering’s How to Dry Fresh Herbs

My Conscious Consumer Birthday Present: A Made in the U.S., Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified, 97% Recyclable, SteelCase Think! Desk Chair

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, recycling, sustainability on January 4, 2011 by theseep

Whenever holidays and birthdays come up, we all get the “what do you want?” question from family and friends, to which we respond with the obligatory, “you don’t need to get me anything”, whether we mean it or not.  As a soapbox-mounting and somewhat garrelous ecovangelist, most people I know understand that I don’t want “stuff” just for the sake of giving a gift, and while making efforts to be a conscious consumer, I now have a hard time receiving a gift without judging it from an environmental, economic, and social standpoint.  I am, of course, very grateful for any gift as it truly is “the thought that counts”, but as I’ve held my own purchases to a higher standard, I’m always even more grateful and even flattered when others recognize this and put a little more thought into a gift than that initial one.  So, I have my Amazon wishlist of some gadgets (admittedly an eco-weakness), a wind turbine, a few books and blu-ray movies for some focused shopping for things that I definitely want, and then there have been a few larger items that I’ve developed a need for.

My desk chair came with the house when I bought it 7 years ago, and is an old, overstuffed armchair-style executive chair, with cracking maroon leather, mounted atop mismatched casters and massive, squeaky springs that allow it to recline and bounce around in a seemingly random pattern which I’ve mastered over the time I’ve spent in it’s worn-out seat.  I loved the style, but could no longer stand the numb legs from the front edge of the chair, now painfully apparent from the sagging and pokey springs and flattened cushioning.  So, for my 36th birthday, I collaborated with my wife, my parents, my in-laws, and saved 2 months of my own “gadget allowance” to choose a shiny new desk chair where I will spend many future hours in front of my iMac.  I looked at the options:  Used chairs, many of them grungy or beat up, begging the question – what was the former owner’s hygiene like?  Did they ever sit in it naked?  This branch alone in the thought experiment essentially ruled out used chairs.  There are sturdy, almost regal-looking chairs to be had at Staples, Office Max, and even Ikea for less than $200, but what are they made of?  Foam and plastic.  Where and how are they made?  China and who knows.  Then I went in search of sustainable office furniture worthy of Cradle to Cradle certification and was able to find a few models that fit the bill, particularly those from Herman Miller and SteelCase.

After trying to be cheap and looking at the refurbished options for these high-end engineering marvels, I sucked it up and decided on the Think! chair from SteelCase, made in Michigan out of 97% recyclable parts, with a Cradle to Cradle Gold certification.  This chair not only is designed to be much more ergonomic, comfortable, and durable than all of the chairs found in Staples, but purchasing it makes a statement that I value good craftsmanship, that I would rather pay more to buy a quality, well-designed piece of furniture that supports our nation’s economy rather than shipping more jobs overseas (I’ll admit that I felt a slight pang of eco-guilt as well as more of a sting to my bank account as I checked the $250 leather option when ordering, both of which were immediately soothed as I slid into the comfortable, more durable, easily cleaned, and supple seat).  While the $1000 cost for this chair may seem unreasonable to some, this chair to me is an investment.  This high-quality piece of home furnishing is better built, has more adjustments and ergonomic features than the vast majority of chairs, so not only do I plan to use it for years and hopefully decades to come, it also supports the once mighty and now anemic American manufacturing industry.  This concept, in case you haven’t heard of it, is called conscious consumerism.

Over the last half century or so, our culture has developed a conditioned obliviousness that has decoupled us from the production chain, allowing the quest for corporate profit and consumer bargains to transform what was once lovingly crafted by an artisan in a neighboring town into a stamped piece of toxic plastic made by a worker making $100 a month on the other side of the world. We have been trained by psychologically based advertising and the illusion of adequate safety standards to be unconcerned with the origins or underlying costs of the products we see on the store shelves.  Say you need to buy shoes, you go to WalMart or Target, or Amazon or whatever, and you see a label that tells you where those shoes came from, who made them, how their job’s healthcare program was, if their families had enough to eat every day, and if their towns had clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.  If you looked at the $10 pair of shoes and saw a label that described the poor working conditions, the meager wages, the environmental degradation, and other negative impacts of the production of those shoes, and you saw a $20 pair of shoes with a label that shows a healthy, American worker with healthcare coverage for his/her family, and sustainably and safely produced materials that support other domestic jobs, which one would you pick?  When you buy something cheap, with throat-burning VOCs offgassing from the packaging, that’s made overseas by a less expensive and likely oppressed workforce with less regulations on toxic materials and manufacturing processes, you support that system and you discourage companies from using responsible methods and give them no reason to bring manufacturing jobs back into the U.S., why should they?  Unfortunately because of this learned and reinforced obliviousness, people will happily and obliviously buy the cheaper items while they’re complaining about the economic recession and the lack of jobs.

Conscious consumerism is the solution to this problem, a way to slow down the depletion of our resources, the pollution of our lands and waterways, and the oppression of people around the world.  Conscious consumerism means we understand that in buying something, we directly support the way in which it was made, from resource utilization, to labor practices, to toxic byproducts, packaging, transport, and each step in the chain that brings a product to us.  It means that we choose to pay for coffee or chocolate from farmers that are paid enough to feed their families instead of those who are barely paid enough to survive.  It means that we choose to a pay a little more for vegetables and meat that was grown through healthy, humane, and sustainable practices instead of cruel and antibiotic laden concentrated animal feed lots or pesticide-soaked and petroleum-based fertilized monocrops.  It means that we save up enough money to buy a quality, responsibly made piece of furniture instead of the cheap, quick, and toxic solutions offered in most stores.  This entire concept is based on personal responsibility and the simple feat of considering the impact of our individual decisions.  It is a concept that should resonate across political lines, across cultures, creeds, and languages.  Conscious consumerism means that as individuals, we recognize that each choice we make has an effect not only on our own present and well-being, but also has a definable effect on others, including our friends, our families, our community members, our country, as well as the global community.  This tenant is based on the aforementioned principle of making logical decisions utilizing as much knowledge of the problem as possible.  Avoid basing judgements and actions on unproven dogma or previous prejudices.  Use best practices, the communal knowledge base and wisdom to solve problems.  Consider the health, prosperity, and happiness of all people and the world when making even small choices.

Update:  As a bonus, I used the box to make a free and recyclable indoor play house for our son, who continues to use it after 4 months!

A Response to FWD: Pray

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by theseep

A copy of this FWD came to my wife’s inbox today and, as I’ve been in a period of philosophical, religious, and non-theist study and reflection, I did a quick google search and decided to write a reply. Interestingly, this has been going around the interwebs since 1999 and although it has been attributed to Andy Rooney, was mostly the work of Nick Gholson, a sports writer from Wichita Falls, TX. Read the full forward on snopes.com (here) or below first for full effect. While the s.e.e.p. has generally discussed environmental and some political issues, we will in the future also be discussing religion, it’s place in regard to scientific pursuits, it’s effect on our civilization, social justice and other aspects.

A message to Nick Gholson/Paul Harvey/Andy Rooney/The “Christian Nation”:
You may not agree with Darwin, but you must accede that he is based on reason and solid scientific data. Which is, of course, what we teach in science class in public schools. If you hired a lawyer to prevent this, it would demonstrate your complete lack of understanding of what science is and why it has been so important to the development of our civilization and technology.

While religion also has been important to the development of our civilization, you are wrong when you assert that a 30-second prayer does not endager our liberty. While you say that the United States was founded on Christian principles, you are partially correct in that it was indeed Christians who came here, seeking freedom from religious persecution. But from whom? For the most part, other Christians. The nation was indeed started by Christians, but anyone who says that we are a “Christian Nation” does not truly understand freedom, nor do they understand the principles upon which it was founded. People of this mindset often misinterpret “freedom of religion” as “freedom to live in a Christian Nation”, when what it really means, is that everyone has the right to practice their own religion, or lack thereof, without being harassed or their freedoms imposed upon by members of other religions. In order for us to achieve real freedom for all, this concept needs to apply to any government-related activity, in this case, public schools. Just as you have a right to say a PERSONAL prayer before a football game, I have the right to not have what I consider superstition and mythology preached at my child’s publicly-sponsored activities. If you want to have a group prayer before a game, send your child to a Christian school, not a public school where everyone must be free of religious indoctrination or coercion. How does the son or daughter of Muslim, Jewish, or non-theist parents feel when many of their classmates are chanting a prayer from a different religion that they do not believe in? They feel at best segregated, and at worst demeaned or oppressed, and is not much better than good-old fashioned school bullying.

Using the argument of numbers, where Christian churches outnumber others 200-1 is a horrible logical fallacy. I hate to play the incessant Glen Beck Hitler card, but the although the numbers were to his advantage when he conquered Greece, Libya, and other countries during their advancement in WWII, this most certainly did not make it the right thing to do. This is clearly exaggeration of the issue at hand, but I’m sure you get my point. Our country was founded from a minority, feeling that the majority was wrong and oppressing their freedoms. By calling for a Christian ceremony to take precedence over the practices of non-theists and non-Christians, simply because they are a minority, you imply that they do not have the same rights as Christians, and in doing so you miss the entire point of what freedom really is, threatening to become the same type of despots that led to the founding of our great country.

Regarding prayers before sports in other countries, you are correct that you would hear Muslim prayers in Baghdad, mostly because if you said a different type of prayer you could be shot. China as well, has killed or incarcerated people for practicing their own religions.

I find your interpretation of an atheist’s response amusing and hypocritical, as Christians have a longer and more violent history of the same, with many lawyers being called to take scientifically supported evolution out of science in exchange for non-scientific and religiously-based “intelligent design”, as well as banning books, taking away people’s rights by not allowing them to marry, and other impositions on our civil liberties. Contrary to your opinion, others have more of a right NOT to hear your prayers in public schools than you have to say them. And to clarify, this does not infringe on your liberties at all, as you are still welcome to practice your religion in whatever way you please in your home, your 200-1 churches, or other non-taxpayer supported venue.

And while a short prayer before a football game will most certainly not “shake the world’s foundations,” it is simply not the right thing to do at a public school function in our modern-day secular society. We’ve made incredible progress in social justice over the last century. It used to be that women would stand to the side while men voted. Blacks had separate schools, water fountains, and couldn’t vote. Now all you’re asking is for those who do not believe in the same religious text as you do to stand aside and wait, and be put in an inferior and less respected position, while you practice your ritual in front of them. This is, to those of no or different faiths, rude to say the least. And while we could just roll our eyes at the futile yet endearing chanting, waiting patiently for you to finish YOUR sacred rites but leaving no time or consideration for any of our traditions, we simply will not stand for it. We WILL call our lawyers. We WILL raise our voices. And we will continue to do this until you keep your religion out of our schools. While we appreciate your blessings, they are not necessary. Just like you, we also hope and work for an improved world for our children, our families, our citizens, and the global community. We also hope for the safe return of our troops and the spread of true freedom and prosperity. We just don’t ask or rely on any supernatural deities to do it, we know that we need to do it ourselves. We recognize that your prayers, however earnest they may be, won’t fix the problems of the world . . . we will.
Respectfully,
Clint Slaughter, M.D.
Forward:
Pray if you want to! 


CBS and Katie Couric et al must be in a panic and rushing to reassure the White House that this is not network policy. (Andy Rooney's segment on 60 Minutes program on CBS Sundays is below.)

Folks, this is the year that  we RE-TAKE AMERICA & CANADA
********* Get  Ready *********

Keep this going around the  globe. Read it and forward every time you receive it. We  can't give up on this issue.

Andy Rooney and Prayer


Andy Rooney says:

I don't believe in Santa Claus but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December.  I don't agree with Darwinbut I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school  teacher taught his Theory of Evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a  30-second prayer before a football game. So what's the big deal?  It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire Book of Acts.  They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game.

But it's a Christian prayersome will argue.

Yes, and this is the United States of America and Canada , countries founded on Christian principles.  According to our very own phone book Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1.  So what would you expect -- somebody chanting Hare Krishna?

If I went to a football game in JerusalemI would expect to hear a Jewish prayer.

If I went to a soccer game inBaghdad I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer.

If I went to a ping pong match in China I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha.

And I wouldn't be offended.It wouldn't bother me one bit.

When in Rome .....

But what about the atheists? Is another argument.

What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized. We're not going to pass the collection plate. Just humour us for 30 seconds.If that's asking too much bring a Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer!

Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do. I don't think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world's  foundations.

Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of  all our rights. Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to pray before we go to sleep.Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying.

God, help us. And if that last sentence offends you, well, just sue me.

The silent majority has been silent too long. It's time we tell that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard that the vast majority doesn't care what they want. It is time that the majority rules! It's time we tell them, "You don't have to pray; you don't have to say the Pledge of Allegiance; you don't have to believe in God or attend services that honour Him. That is your right and we will honour your right; but by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away.  We are fighting back and we WILL WIN!"

God bless us one and all...Especially those who denounce Him,God bless America and Canada , despite all our faults we are still the greatest nations of all. God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray and worship God.

Let's make 2010the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions. And our military forces come home from all the wars.

Keep looking up.


If you agree with this please pass it on.=

------ End of Forwarded Message

Why Religion Needs to Accept Science, or “Religion Needs a Modern Upgrade.”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 by theseep

I’ll depart from the standard environmental/health/political content and present an essay on religion and why literal claims of theology have essentially been debunked and made obsolete by modern science and our current wealth of knowledge about our species, our world, and the universe. In order to move forward to a peaceful and cooperative planet, those who believe in religion need to understand what science means and how it changes the way they interpret their religious doctrines.

Religion Needs a Modern Upgrade
C. Slaughter 9/10
Mythology and religion have been around for thousands of years in attempts to explain how and why the earth began, how our world functions, how and why we exist here as humans, what our purpose is, and what happens to us when we die, each mythos developing within the cultural confines of their own time and place. The newest of the major religions, Mormonism, began in the early 1800’s, the Muslim religion began in the 600’s AD, Christianity 2000 years ago, Buddhism and the Greek Gods date back about 2600 years, Judaism 3000 years, and the roots of Hinduism can be traced back over 3700 years of human history. Regardless of how old, the origins of all major religions came before we had any meaningful scientific knowledge of the world around us. Even when we began to discover things like the shape of the earth, the paths of the planets around the sun, and natural selection, these ideas were initially (and sometimes still) dismissed as heresy, overcome or suppressed by the ancient and dogmatic ways of religion. Today, we have discovered many more facts about our universe, how basic chemicals and energy types are formed and interact, the bases for our biological function and evolution, and we have logically constructed theories supported by significant data and reproducible testing that explain the vast majority of the observable physical world. For someone who understands the scientific method, what is called “theory” is generally considered to be the truth, or at least, the most accurate truth that we can divine. Much like our scientific breakthroughs, our civilization has advanced, making great strides in religious freedom, freedom of speech, and equal rights for minorities and women, and essentially developing a secular moral code that is far more just, far more compassionate and fair than many religious moral teachings. Realistically, if we take our explanations of the world around us from religious teachings like the Bible and the Koran, magical things should be happening with fair frequency, we would find statistically significant evidence that prayer or laying hands actually heals people, the earth would be the center of the universe and was created 6000 years ago in 6 days, etc. If we take our moral teachings from the leading Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious texts, we would stone people to death for adultery, working on the sabbath, or heresy, women would be subservient to men and second-class citizens, slavery would still be acceptable, as would be killing apostates and heretics believing in other gods. Interestingly, if you take even the most diabolical of modern Public Health teachings, they will lead to global cooperation and incredible improvements in sanitation, poverty, hunger, health disparities, and other social issues. Today, many believers in religion take at least a portion if not all of their religious texts and doctrines literally, as if they are the word of God himself, with every sub-cult picking and choosing what messages they feel meld with their particular view of the current social moral structure. This self-delusion permeates our society so much, that many mainstream believers still hold fast to religious doctrine even if it means ignoring incontrovertible scientific data and facts, imposing ancient myths over reality, and in the case of many Muslim and 3rd-world Christian countries, doing away with the advances in social justice and personal freedoms that we have made over the last century.

If there is a god, there is no reasonable evidence to think that he/she has been concerned with the day-to-day machinations of human kind on this planet for about two thousand earth years. The absolute horrors which have befallen humanity over the last few centuries, including wars, natural disasters, disease, famine, cancer, etc., attest to either an elaborate and sick inter-deity chess game or a complete abandonment of the civilizations that He/She ignited. If the standard, “God works in mysterious ways” argument is used to counter these observations, this means that if there is a cosmic purpose to the wholesale slaughter of civilizations in the name of religious fidelity/decree/war/etc, then God must be a sadistic and cruel bastard from the perspective of a lowly human. While God may be dabbling in other galaxies, experimenting with evolving goo oceans, silicon-based thermal lifeforms, or pan-dimensional color wars, he’s left our planet on autopilot. In fact, the only explanation that will satisfy the possibility of a kind and loving God (as opposed to the most despotic, hyper-genius, omnipotent criminal mastermind the world has ever known) is that He/She has been off doing more important things for the last 2000 years. Have they been frantically trying to find a way to keep the multiverse he created from collapsing? Have they been busy holding off an encroaching, resource-consuming, inter-dimensional army? I hope for Christ’s sake (literally?) so. Maybe one day He/She/It will return and resume command or begin intervening on earth once again, but until that time, we have no reliable evidence that there is any supernatural power affecting our planet and only anecdotal evidence from multiple differing and incongruent sources that there ever was any such power. Believe these sources or not, there is unquestionable science that tells us that our universe is 3.75 billion years old and in about 5 billion years, our sun will explode. There are observations that bring concern of an asteroid hitting the earth and blocking out the sun, and less well supported theories of magnetic field shifts or system-consuming black holes in store for our planet’s future. There is scientific evidence with heavy consensus that the earth is changing its living conditions, likely for the worse. We know that petroleum, the main energy source for our global agriculture and transportation infrastructures is a dwindling and finite resource. Despite all of our differences on this measly planet, be they religious, political, or otherwise, the least we can do for our children’s, children, or our children’s children’s, children, ad nauseam, is to make an effort to work together to make sure the human race makes it out alive, right?

This absence of evidence for the presence of a deity and the conflicting scientific evidence that we have discovered should not be a reason to argue about interpretations of religious texts, it should be a call modernize religion. From an empirical and logical standpoint, we need to base our paradigms of reality and the world on what we can reliably see and evaluate first, and generally assume that any gaps in our knowledge will be one day filled by scientific advances. Alongside this technological and rigorously conducted scientific search for answers, if people choose, they can fill in the unknown portions like the origin of consciousness, the existence and fate of the human spirit, a greater purpose for humanity, and the force behind the Big Bang, with supernatural theories of deities and miracles, but only if their belief system fits within our modern collective morality. This means that it is absolutely unacceptable to kill or maim someone, initiate wars, or oppress others in the name of religion. This means that despite the teachings of ancient religious texts, women have equal rights to men and slavery is not tolerated. This means that literal translations of religious doctrines are not taken as fact, but as allegory and metaphor that if used properly can teach us much philosophically and can help guide our planet to peace, cooperation, and sustainability into the next century. Clinging to religious dogma has held back the advancement of human society for centuries, after all Copernicus was nearly burned at the stake for heresy, his only crimes were revolutionary breakthroughs in the understanding of our solar system. However, in modern times we see that often our technology has outgrown our wisdom to use it responsibly, which is where moral teachings, like those of the Dalai Lama or James T. Kirk, can help guide our path for the benefit of all.

 

The flippant and less serious digression:
The Case for Science Fiction as the New Religious Movement.

But how could we accomplish this peaceful and civilization-improving utopia? If we could somehow find peace and form some sort of cooperative federation like an expanded U.N., then develop technology to reach out to other civilizations in the universe, find common political and economic ground and form, say, the United Federation of Planets! Holy Vulcan Science Academy, Batman! Science fiction as a genre has much better allegories than the Bible or the Koran. Have you seen season one of the original William Shatner Star Trek? Jesus was a great man and all, but did he have the charisma of Captain Kirk, or the commanding presence and unwavering calm of Captain Jean-Luc Picard? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Star Wars had some of the best battles and monsters in the history of storytelling! Yoda was akin to an alien Buddha with a lightsaber! And although he lacked that hippie vibe and was a bit uglier, Yoda had much more enigmatic charm and was just as much of a mentor as Jesus. Plus, when did you find monsters in the Bible like the Saarlac that takes 10,000 years to digest you, or the hammerhead guy in the cantina, or the abominable snowman on Hoth the ice planet!?! If Jesus ever fought a yeti, I would definitely watch it. Luke did, and it was awesome! We haven’t even touched the question of why didn’t God set up some fantastic crystal Fortress of Solitude like Superman had? Was God not as creative as D.C. comics writers? Could he not have omnipotently known we’d have computers and time-travel/teleport/god-power down a thumb drive with some cancer cures or something? If I pray really hard for an incredible healing factor and an adamantium skeleton and claws, will I ever be Wolverine? No matter how awesome it would be and how much I dream that I could help humanity as a superhuman force for good, I’m absolutely, yet regrettingly sure that it’s not going to happen. But I digress.

Evidence-based Review of Cancer Due to Household and Occupational Chemical Exposure.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 by theseep

Clint Slaughter, M.D

February 15, 2008

Walden University Master’s of Public Health Program


INTRODUCTION

Cancer of all types is a major public health problem that despite public health campaigns, is still growing in new  and concerning ways.  In our modern industrialized society, on a daily basis we are exposed to countless chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens in the form of fumes, preservatives, pesticides, fertilizers, waste runoff, and residues. Some of these substances have been proven to be harmful, some of them are speculated to be harmful, and for many of them, we have no idea as to their potential impact on our health. Even though we are certain of many of these health effects, the offending chemicals are still in our everyday foods, packaging, toys, household cleaners, household pesticides, building materials, and many other products.

Media attention has been increasingly drawn to human disease as a result of these types of chemical exposure, seen recently with Melamine tainted milk and eggs from China, lead in children’s toys, and the FEMA trailer debacle where hundreds of people became ill due to high levels of formaldehyde in the trailers used for disaster victims (Final Report on Formaldehyde, 2008). It is frightening to note that the very same building materials used in these types of trailers, which off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as formaldehyde, are used in a wide array of home furniture products and home construction and have been for years (Tox Town, 2008). Recently, the safety of Bisphenol A, a chemical found in many plastic water bottles, food containers, and the lining of many tin cans, has finally been brought to the public’s attention. More and more of these issues will arise as the environmental concentration of these chemicals increase and more health problems are seen as a result. Some of these exposures cause vague symptoms, others cause identifiable toxidromes, and others have been shown to be carcinogenic. There are a number of studies that demonstrate cancer directly attributable to preventable exposures, most notably lung cancer from smoking and second hand smoke exposure (Centers for Disease Control, 2007). There is direct evidence for childhood leukemia caused by exposure to household solvents and pesticides (Freedman, Stewart, Kleinerman, Wacholder, Hatch, Tarone, et al, 2001), (Buckley, Robison, Swotinsky, Garabrant, LeBeau, Manchester, et al, 1989), and increased incidence of breast cancer has been linked to a variety of exposures, including hormonally active chemicals (Davis, Bradlow, 1995).  A new report in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health that focuses on breast cancer discusses the many proven and likely environmental contributors to developing the disease, such as ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, chemical exposure from air contaminants, pesticides, plastics, household cleaning products, hormones in meat and milk, cosmetics, personal care products, as well as occupational exposures (Nudelman, et al., 2009).  What seems to be an emerging theme in modern chemical exposure is the hormonally active and endocrine disrupting nature of many ubiquitous chemicals, such as Bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, many types of pesticides,VOCs, perchorates, diethystilbestrol (DES) , and many others.  Because so many of these chemicals, which are present throughout our homes, foods, personal care products, work in a similar fashion on the body’s endocrine and hormonal systems, there is undoubtedly an additive effect which is very difficult to quantify(Nudelman, et al., 2009).  Since correlations have been made individually between these many chemicals and cancer or other illnesses, this has set the stage for the next generation of studies to further investigate and find stronger causal relationships as well as look at the additive and temporal effects of these exposures.

The population affected by this issue is broad, essentially any consumer that purchases products for their home, those purchasing processed and packaged food products and containers, as well as those working in industry with chemical exposures. Household chemicals in some way affect every person. There may not be overt symptomatology, but physiologic changes take place on a low level, increasing the risk for various types of cancers and disease processes. In certain professions, such as refining and farming, exposures to carcinogens are the norm.

This problem effects us all in varying levels, but can disproportionally effect those living in areas with concentrated levels of certain chemicals, those that regularly utilize potentially hazardous products, and especially those in developing nations where many modern potentially hazardous substances and products are produced or disposed of.  Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are also at greater risk for developing disease from lower levels of exposure (Freedman, et al, 2001).  Shifts in exposure can occur quickly as well, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where thousands of people were displaced from their homes and many were provided trailers to live in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  It was found later that these trailers, made from standard off-the-shelf building materials, were off-gassing enough volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde to cause significant health problems in many of those living in them (Final Report on Formaldehyde, 2008). Although it was dismissed by some, offering that these types of trailers were not meant to live in for prolonged periods, these very same materials such as pressboard, melamine, paints and sealants, are used in regular home construction as well and can affect any homeowner given the proper concentrations and conditions.

The true prevalence of illness as a result of low-level chemical exposure in the home or at work is unknown and is anticipated to be highly variable depending on socioeconomic status, location, and profession.  Some of the more obvious and longstanding exposures such as cigarette smoke exposure have excellent data to support a strong causal relation.  From extensive studies, we know that smoking can be blamed for 80% of lung cancers in women and 90% of lung cancers in men (Centers for Disease Control, 2007).  Even though the prevalence and risk of chronic low-level exposures is unknown, the significance is great. In recent years, we are seeing more and more evidence of illness as a result of exposure to chemicals that are either unregulated or are approved by our government to be used without proper testing.

DIMENSIONS OF HEALTH

This ubiquitous public health issue is similar to many in that not only can individual education and change play a large role, but enacting policy and political change is also an imperative part of the process towards better safety.  In order to make changes in an individual’s behavior, many facets must be addressed and using behavioral theories to analyze actions and tailor education and programs is essential.  Because long-term exposures do not have much, if any, short-term feedback to the individual, some models such as the stages of change theory or the social learning theory are less applicable.  Because it is important to emphasize the perceived dangers of long-term exposures as well as generate a shift in acceptable industry standards, the Health Belief model, Consumer Information Processing model, or Theory of Reasoned Action could all be applied to the problem (Schneiderman, N., et al, 2001).

First, however, we must explore what it is that most effects a consumer’s decision making process to buy one product over another.  Again, because of the insidious and largely unknown long-term effects of exposures to toxic chemicals, it is more challenging to convince an individual of direct risk.  When a person feels the negative effects of an action directly, it is easier to change behaviors to avoid these effects. However, for long-term and low-level chronic effects, it is much more difficult to motivate a change.  An example is daily caloric consumption.  Because weight gain is a slow process, eating a small amount of excess calories a day may cause a 10 pound weight gain over a year or more. It is difficult to make meaningful alterations in our diet when we do not see the immediate effects of the behavior.  Another very strong behavioral factor in the reluctance to move from the current potentially toxic consumption to healthier alternatives is cost.  Over the last century as manufacturing techniques have evolved and we have seen globalization of markets and production, there has been strong corporate pressure to decrease costs to be more competitive.  This pressure commonly causes something important to be cut from the process, be it proper waste disposal leading to environmental contamination, dangerous or oppressive working conditions, inferior materials used that are potentially toxic, and other money-saving tactics that tend to increase the risk to consumers but at the same time bringing the cost to consumers down and increase the profit margins for the manufacturer.  In a 2008 Gallup poll, it was found that with the economic downturn, 81% of those asked made more of an effort to find the cheapest price of a product and 49% switched to lower quality products due to cost (gallup.com, 2008).  This confounds efforts further in that if the perceived danger of an exposure to a product is low, and true environmental and societal costs of a product are not considered, most consumers will choose based on cost.  When faced with the gluttony of products available, often with confusing or inadequate labeling and unintelligible chemical names, and no warnings of potential hazards, it is no wonder that consumers often ignore the content, manufacturing techniques, or origin of products, instead looking for function and low cost.

From a psychosocial aspect, many factors play a role in consumer behaviors aside from the effects on the individual and their wallets, people are products to a significant extent of their environment and are influenced greatly by social perceptions and social norms.  Our status quo places a great deal of trust in our retail system despite the fact that it is so poorly regulated.  Consumers assume that if a product is on the shelves to be purchased, it is safe to use, and because many exposure-related illness cannot be traced back to a single product, there is little motivation to pursue a social change for many.  Our consumerism has become so ingrained in our society through psychological advertising of products and the immersion of our culture in media, that a mistrust of everyday products, manufacturing methods, and “traditional” farming methods with pesticide, is often looked upon with disdain and dismissed as odd or irrational.  Since it is the norm to use toxic household cleaners, pesticides, and building materials, there is no social motivation to make a change.  Also, within a person or family’s social support groups, there is often little or no knowledge of issues with household chemicals aside from single-incident poisoning risks and therefore no impetus to seek out information on the dangers of chronic exposures. This disconnect between each individual consumer purchase and the trail of toxins, societal and environmental costs, and potential health threats that lie behind that purchase have reached a dangerous tipping point.  In order to counteract the unfounded consumer trust and the obliviousness to these true costs, consumer education and community action are needed.

PREVENTION

There are already a number of public health initiatives designed to educate about poisoning episodes, where a child or family member accidentally drinks or is exposed to a hazardous substance in the home. The CDC has National Poisoning Prevention Week (Center for Disease, 2008), and the National Department of Health Services has “Poison Help”, a program to educate consumers on poisonings, hazardous chemicals, and how to seek proper treatment.  However, education on how toxic many of the substances in our own homes and suitable, safe alternatives is lacking.  We have also seen extensive and successful campaigns for breast cancer awareness that educate on the many environmental contributors to breast cancer.  These types of grass-roots campaigns can very effective in engaging the public to take action that can then spur political and policy change.

At present there are multiple government agencies that have responsibilities in recognizing disease patterns and regulating exposures, including the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  It seems that all of these departments have educational materials on hazardous products, but aside from the acute poisoning programs mentioned above, there are as of yet no major public health programs to educate consumers on product and exposure safety.  These agencies are still operating on a “damage control” philosophy, where action is taken on an individual product or health concern when people actually start to become ill.  Even with the proven problems from VOCs like formaldehyde with the Katrina trailers and the multiple cases of lead exposure and melamine contamination over this past year, we have yet to see any meaningful legislation to prevent this from happening in the future.  Many of the aforementioned grass-roots organizations do seek to educate the public and instigate change, but many offer anecdotal evidence and supposition rather than peer-reviewed literature to support claims.  Unfortunately there is a paucity of adequate research on the additive effects and long-term exposure risks of most of what we are exposed to today, and by making some untrue or sensationalist claims, even in the midst of legitimate data, these types of grass-roots efforts tend to undermine their own credibility.  This is why it is imperative for these governmental agencies to take a more active and organized role to prevent cancer and other human health problems as a result of environmental exposures.

PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY IMPLICATIONS

In order for government agencies to begin the necessary regulation, essentially a revamping of our entire screening and approval processes for consumer goods and industrial safety exposures is required.  We are already years behind European countries in outlawing various hazardous chemicals, and the integrity of our process needs to be reviewed, removing influence from companies and lobbyists that purposely present biased data or hide known hazards.  The major paradigm shift will be that rather than approve until proven harmful, our system should disallow until proven safe.

The current system utilizes the quantitative risk assessment model, meaning that chemicals can be produced and products brought to market without any safety assessments. If any human health problems result from use or exposure to these substances, the onus is on the consumer or regulatory bodies to “scientifically” prove that harm is present before a product is discontinued (Cohen, Chavez, Chehimi, 2007). This system puts the advantage squarely in the hands of industry, making it very easy to produce and sell untested goods, but making it very difficult to have a product removed from store shelves or taken out of production. What makes the process even more difficult and less safe for consumers is that the health effects of low-level, long-term exposure to many chemicals is insidious and often nearly impossible to determine a definite cause.  This is further confounded by the ubiquitous nature of our current industrial chemical exposure, with additive exposures from multiple sources or from chemicals with similar physiologic effects as we see with the many hormonally active substances discussed previously.  To make matters worse, those with lower socio-economic status are often exposed to higher concentrations of toxic substances and although they are disproportionally affected, they have less access to healthcare as well as less of a voice to initiate change in the status quo (Cohen, et al, 2007).

One of the most effective policy changes that can be made to protect consumers over industry is to shift from the quantitative risk assessment model to the precautionary principle when dealing with chemicals and consumer goods. The precautionary principle basically means that products should be shown to be safe prior to exposing the public to them, rather than proving harm once effects are seen. It also places the financial and legal burden on the manufacturer rather than the public. Interestingly, the 1999 White House Policy Declaration on Environment and Trade “acknowledges that a precautionary approach is an essential element of the U.S. regulatory system (Cohen, et al, 2007) yet there has not been any meaningful change in policy or approach to the rising reports of exposure-related illness.  The other major policy change needed is to initiate mandatory labeling requirements of products to include warnings of potential toxic effects, similar to cigarette packages.  By requiring the labeling of all products with potentially hazardous substances, consumers will have more data on hand to make informed decisions when purchasing products.

Many industry advocates complain that by increasing testing and regulation of products and changing labeling requirements will drive up costs to consumers.  Although this is true to some extent, from a public health perspective there would be significant resultant savings in healthcare costs from reduced illness secondary to exposure.  Unfortunately, as with many public health issues, these types of healthcare cost savings are impossible to accurately predict and therefore are often not given serious consideration.  Unfortunately, the costs of many of the products we buy and consume are artificially and underhandedly lowered by cutting corners with labor laws, waste disposal and the raw materials used, and it is natural for costs to go up when social justice, health, and environmental sustainability are brought into play.

By engaging and educating the public on the toxic nature of many of the everyday chemicals we are exposed to, and by forcing manufacturers to properly test and label their products, we will see a shift in consumer habits and a decrease in related disease states that we see today as well as those that we will uncover in the future.  Much more research and monitoring is needed to generate the proper data to fully support many of these correlations, but more studies are coming out every month that show increasing human health concerns from environmental exposures, demonstrating that policy based on the precautionary principle wise.


REFERENCES

Abnet, C. (2007) Carcinogenic Food Contaminants. Cancer Investigation. 25:189-196

Buckley, J.D., Robison, L.L., Swotinsky, R., Garabrant, D.H., LeBeau, M., Manchester, P., Nesbit, M.E., Odom, L., Peters, J.M., and W.G. Woods. (1989). Occupational exposure of parents of children with acute nonlymphocytic leukemia: a report from the Children’s Cancer Study Group. Cancer Research. 49:4030-4037.

Centers for Disease Control (2008). Final Report on Formaldehyde Levels in FEMA-Supplied Travel Trailers, Park Models, and Mobile Homes. Retrieved on December 28, 2008 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehhe/trailerstudy/

Centers for Disease Control (2007). Lung Cancer Risk Factors. Retrieved on January 118, 2009 from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm

Cohen L., Chavez V., Chehimi, S. (2007). Prevention is primary: Strategies for community well-being. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.

Davis, A. (2007) Home Environmental Health Risks. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. 12:2. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database

Davis, D. (1981). Cancer in the Workplace. A Case for Prevention. Environment. 23:6

Davis, D., Bradlow, L. (1995). Can Environmental Estrogens Cause Breast Cancer? Scientific American. 273:4. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database

Davis, D., Muir, C. (1995). Estimating Avoidable Causes of Cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives Supplements. 8:103. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database

Freedman, D., Stewart, P., Kleinerman, R., Wacholder, S., Hatch, E., Tarone, R., Robison, L., Linet, M. (2001). Household Solvent Exposures and Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. American Journal of Public Health. 91:4

Gallup.com (2007) Surging Prices Change U.S. Consumers Behavior.  Retrieved on February 15, 2009 from:  http://www.gallup.com/poll/108892/Surging-Prices-Changing-US-Consumer-Behavior.aspx

National Institute of Health, National Library of Medicine (n.d.) Tox Town: Volatile Organic Compounds. Retrieved on October 19, 2008 from: http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=31

Nudelman, J., Taylor, B, Evans, N., Rizzo, J., Gray, J., Engel, C., Walker, M. (2009) Policy and Research Recommendations Emerging from the Scientific Evidence Conneting Environmental Factors and Breast Cancer.  International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.  15:1

Sanborn, M., Cole, D., Kerr, K., Vakil, C., Sanin, L., Bassil, K. (2004) Systematic Review of Pesticide Human Health Effects.

Schneiderman, N et al (2001). Integrating Behavioral and Social Sciences With Public Health. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Sexton, K., Hattis, D. (2007) Assessing Cumultive Health Risks from Exposure to Environmental Mixtures – Three Fundamental Questions. Environmental Health Perspectives. 115:5

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). NTP-CERHR Monograph on the Potential Human Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Bisphenol-A. retrieved on September 5, 2008 from: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/chemicals/bisphenol/bisphenol.pdf

In Defense of the iPhone 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 by theseep

Cracked screens.  Hard to predict crazy antenna design/ human interface signal problem.  Barely usable videoconferencing.  Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be defending it.  Defending that beautifully industrial, quirky and delicate shiny slab of glass.  That highly focused and seemingly infinite portal into communication.  I love how clear the screen is, how slim and sleek it feels in my hands. Modern, machined with precision and care.  An alluring victim of it’s own striking utility.  It mesmerizes me with it’s form, yet I know it’s only a matter of time before my slightly sweaty fingers slip and it tumbles in slow motion from my fumbling hands.  Despite the fear that makes me overgrip it’s steel edges, I marvel at it.  It can tell me anything.  I have access to so much information in a near-perfect form (aside from the almost deal-breaking and glaringly obvious oversights – I can’t videoconference anywhere except my house and effing Starbucks?  Holy crap, I’ve been wanting to videoconference on a mobile device for over a decade since I had my apple Newton!  Now it seems almost stupid idea!  Why can’t I videoconference with an iMac and why isn’t there already a Skype program?  That might start to make it useful!  I can’t even send video to an iPhone 3GS!  Are you kidding me?!  Bush league tech rollout, Steve.  Oh, wait .  . . kidding!.   . Right, I was kidding!   Seriously, those Apple videos almost made me cry.  And bringing in the deaf “I love you” at the end?  Brilliant, Mr. Jobs.  Simply Brilliant!).  The smooth, glossy glass sides absolutely terrify me.  I cradle it gently but firmly so I don’t slip and drop it, fearing that I’ll have to watch that gorgeous information portal smash, with horrific, wallet plundering, lightning bolt cracks flickering up from the pavement across that beautiful and attention-sucking Retina Display.  Destroying it forever (or until tomorrow when I blow an extra $20 for overnight shipping on a replacement screen.  Crap!  I had 8 million other things to do besides Googling “how to replace an iPhone 4 screen” and setting up my temporary amateur electronics repair shop on my messy-assed desk!).

I just checked, my bumpers won’t be here for 4 more, anxiety-provoking days.   Hrmmm. .

Right now, I usually hold  my iPhone 4 with my left thumb firmly 1/2 way down the left side, and 3 firm but deft fingers spread evenly along the right side.  Holding it this way, partly because of my terror and partly because of the reception problems, I find that I’m paying more attention to it.  The delicate yet purposeful way that my fingertips grasp the device leads me to be more conscious of my interactions with it.  Unfortunately I also almost feel like I should stick my pinky out when I’m holding it to my ear, like when pretentiously sipping tea.

I must say however, that despite the flaws, the iPhone 4 is a gloriously cool and well designed piece of genius.  Between the recharged iOS 4, the drool-inducing facade, and specifications of the device itself, it is one of the most useful pieces of communication hardware ever made.  Strong work guys.  Now get FaceTime over 3G and on iChat and Skype before I change my mind!

When are those bumpers coming in again?   I preordered an awesome bamboo case made in Oregon, but that will be a month or more and I can’t wait that long!

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