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Archive for May, 2009

I’ve been saying this for a long time, to work colleagues, to client, at home – it’s not good to keep using the same plastic bottle over and over as it can have negative effects on your health.

plastic-bottleLo and behold it was in the press this week with a study by Harvard School of Public Health showing a high degree of bisphenol A (BPA) showing up in urine.

In the food industry, BPA is a chemical used in plastic drinks bottles, food containers and clear plastic baby bottles and over time this chemical breaks down and leaches into the contents. BPA as been found to mimic ostreogen – no wonder that half the male fish population are turning female with the amount of BPA making it’s way into our rivers! The study showed that participants who had drunk out of the same bottle for 7 consecutive days had a 69% increase of BPA in their urine.

If it’s disrupting our hormones, then what else is it doing to us. Indeed, BPA has also been linked to other health problems including diabetes, heart disease and birth defects. It’s banned in many US states and totally in Canada although elsewhere in the world there is disagreement as to it’s negative effects. The European Food Safety Authority currently believes the body changes the chemical into a less harmful substance (which of course puts pressure on our liver and kidneys to work harder).

BPA is also found in products througout the home as it helps to harden plastic and many toys have contained BPA. As such, in the US, Walmart Stores and Toys ‘R’ Us are making plans to make all their products BPA-free.

So, to minimise health risks, don’t keep a plastic bottle on your desk all week and keep filling it up with water every day. Water is great but use a china cup, large glass or stainless steel container (and walking to the water cooler more often will do you good – you’ll have a break from your desk, rest your eyes from the screen and stretch your muscles!). Or invest in a BPA-free bottles from TreeHugger.com

Try not to keep food in plastic containers too long. I’m not entirely innocent here – I do worry that I am using my tupperware over and over and am looking into alternatives. I don’t put that much into containers and usually things like cheese wrapped up in paper in the fridge. But using containers made of glass or earthenware must be better for us. I shall investigate and blog with my findings.

Meanwhile, for mothers worried about the baby bottles they are using, BabyBornFree sell BPA-free plastic bottles.

BPA-free bottles from Baby Born Free

BPA-free bottles from Baby Born Free

Do let me know about any alternative you use, or companies that also sell BPA-free products.

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According to today’s news, Gwyneth Paltrow is turning to organic shampoos, believing that many shampoos cause cancer. She said on her website: ‘Foetuses, infants and toddlers are unable to metabolise toxins the way that adults are, and we are constantly filling our environments with chemicals that may or may not be safe. The research is troubling; the incidence of diseases in children such as asthma, cancer and autism have shot up exponentially.’

Whilst there is no substantial evidence that shampoo does indeed cause cancer, there are some unpleasant chemicals in many supermarket shampoos and it’s not really known how these chemicals react when thrown together.

The main culprits are the parabens such as methylparaben, propylparaben, and ethyl paraben. Parabens are a chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and are actually found naturally in various foods. Synthetic parabens are found in many cosmetic beauty products and are used to protect from bacteria and spoiling. As far as I understand, whilst parabens are generally non-toxic, there is more research that needs to be done on the effects of parabens continually being absorbed through the skin into the blood from cosmetics and other bodycare products. It’s thought that methylparaben drys out the skin and brings about pre-mature aging, whilst other parabens are thought to affect levels of ostreogen in both males and femals, which could cause fertilty problems. Whilst there is no direct link yet with cancer, traces of parabens have been shown in tissue of men with testicular cancer and the breast tissue of women with breast cancer.

Sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) was originally used as industrial cleaners and car de-greasers! And now we’re putting it on our bodies. Yuck. It is a very harsh detergent and has the effect of stripping the oil from the hair and skin. Whilst not linked with cancer, it’s harshness is not ideal for our hair and skins, particularly young skins. Getting shampoo in the eyes that contains sodium laurel sulphate can irritate the eye linings. SLS can damage the hair follicles and badly irritate the scalp. Its low molecular weight means that it is also easily absorbed through the skin and into the blood, which will then circulate around the body and who knows what it could be doing to our insides.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) is similar to SLS and used in shampoos as a foaming agent. Like SLS, it can irritate skin, hair follicles and eyes and can be particularly damaging to young skins. It can also enter our bloodstream and the liver finds it hard to breakdown. It also mimics the effects of ostreogen which, as mentioned above, can have an effect on fertility and other reproductive female problems.

So, all in all, many shampoos are not pleasant.

And don’t just think that because a shampoo says it is ‘natural’ or gives the impression of being full of fruit and lovely stuff, that it is safe. It’s probably not so check the ingredients.

The problem is we like to feel that soap and shampoo is really doing the job but creating a huge lather. We actually don’t need this at all.

There are plenty of alternatives to be found in health and organic shops like Revital, Holland & Barrett and online shops like So Organic. Yes, you’ll possibly pay a little bit more but surely your health has got to be worth it. I’m using Jason Organic Shampoo at the moment but there are lots of other brands to chose from. I’ve noticed that my hair isn’t as dry and looks healthier and shinier and the shampoo (and conditioner) doesn’t smell so chemically.

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I’ve just come back from a run. Unfortunately it was not a good one. I feel lethargic and heavy.

I started running 5 years ago with the aim of running the London Marathon, which I did in 2005 and again in 2008. When I began, I had no idea that there was such a vast running community, with races from 5k to marathons taking place every weekend of the year. But that all changed when I logged on to Runnersworld.co.uk. Races every week, hundreds of runners around the country pounding the streets, a huge community of runners! There are two great websites which house much of this community – Fetcheveryone.com and aforementioned Runnersworld.co.uk. If you need any advice, be it what to eat before a run, what to wear when it’s raining, how to increase your mileage, how to stop knees hurting or just want to meet other runners, then these are the places to be. The forums on these websites are a good basis for a whole new social life, not just online but offline too. These forums actually cross over to the real world when forum members meet at races (taking part or just supporting) or at social events arranged online. Fetcheveryone also has some great training tools where you can record evey detail about your run, from how far you have run to what shoes you were wearing and the weather. You can also note your personal bests. It’s a great online diary for running.

Motivation and inspiration are two things the forums on these websites are good for. You can guarantee that you are not the only runner who feels slow, who has had a poor run, who can’t find the motivation to run or hates being seen in lycra. So I know that I can log on and have a good moan about my run tonight and I know that I will receive back some great encouragement from fellow runners who are/have been in the same position.

Of course, I’ve given up running so many times. Yet actually I always consider myself a runner, just a resting runner. However, I know that running is good for me. Exercise of any kind is good for our health – circulation is improved, weight is lost, muscle is toned, it’s great for releasing stress and reducing effects of depression and our immune systems are boosted. So I shall stick with it – in fact I’m going to sign up for a half marathon in September where I WILL go sub 2 hours!

Apart from a decent, correct pair of shoes to suit your feet (very important), running is a relatively cheap way to exercise – no gym fees, no memberships, no subscriptions (unless of course you belong to a running club but they have huge benefits too) and it’s wonderful being outside in the fresh air. You actually get used to and even start to enjoy running in the rain! One of my most favourite runs ever was a 10 miler into central London in heavy show.

Running can also be green. Check out this great article from Runnersworld about making your run green and money saving.

And for those of you reading who think they are too old to start runnnig – rubbish! My Mum started running aged 75 and completed her first 5k in 43 minutes. Two years later we’re doing another 5k this summer.

So, back to my run. If I look at the positives – I got out there, I ran 2.5 miles, I’ve started my half marathon training. Not all bad then.

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If they made a new ‘green’ kiddies programme, I reckon they’d have Windy Miller running a wind farm these days.

Anyway, the reason I’m blogging about wind farms is because I spent the bank holiday weekend in Portugal and saw countless wind turbines high up on the hills. I’ve only ever seen one in the UK and that’s by the M25 near Watford!

For those not completley au fait with wind turbines, they convert wind power to wind energy which can be used as electricity.

wind-farmLarge wind farms are connected to the national electricity networks in each country and are a green source of energy since they are clean and renewable (the energy is naturally replenished). Every unit of wind electricity produced from a turbine can displace a unit produced from a conventional power station.

Whilst the UK is apparently the windiest country in Europe, and we could actually power the country several times over using wind, the last available figures from 2007 showed that only 2.3% of the UK’s electricity came from wind energy. There are no figures yet for 2008 but at first glance 2007 figures suggest we may be quite a way behind some other European countries including Portugal where last year 11% of the country’s electricity came from wind power, 7% in Germany and in Denmark it was an impressive 19%.

However, in terms of the number of turbines, the UK in 2009 now has 2434 operational turbines with a wind power nameplate capacity (normal maximum output of a generating source) of 3390 megawatts* (2500mw in 2007) whilst Portugal is operating at 2862 megawatts including the output from Europe’s largest wind farm at Alto Minho. These figures suggest that the percentage output in the UK is definitely increasing and by 2020 a report from the Committe for Climate Change says that the UK can produce 30% of it’s electricity supply from wind from onshore and offshore farms. I’m guessing that most wind farms in the UK are in the north, rather than dotted around London hence the reason I haven’t seen any!

Incidentally, only 1.5% of the world’s electricity supply comes from wind but this has trebled between 2005 and 2008.

Ah, just googled the M25 turbine and found out that it’s at the site of Renewal Energy Systems Ltd in Kings Langley, one of the world’s leading renewable energy producers. That figures.

There’s some debate about whether these wind farms destroy the visual impact of the environment. I actually find pictures I’ve seen of them in very remote areas quite mesmerising and feel they add a graceful but quirky beauty to the area. But then ask me again if I ever find a large farm constructed in the middle of the Lake District or on the Chiltern Hills and my feelings might have changed. I do think, however, that we are going to have to get used to the increasing sight of these turbines and find some compromise if it means reducing our carbon emmissions and saving the planet.

* figure obtained from British Wind Energy Association

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