Monday, April 25, 2011

How You Can Help Bees

Bees are disappearing. This phenomenon isn't a debate anymore, bees are disappearing in record numbers and we are on the verge of losing one of the single most important pollinators in the world. Bee pollination is responsible for about 1/3 of the food humans eat and over 10 billion dollars of US agriculture.

There are many theories as to why bee numbers have been in such high decline. The term "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD) is used to describe this increasing phenomenon, but what causes it is still a mystery. The long list of possible suspects has included pests, mites, viruses, fungi, destruction of natural habitat, and also pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that kills insects by attacking their nervous systems. The big problem with colony collapse that makes determining the cause even more difficult is that the bees don't just die — they fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed. The truth is probably that all of these things contribute to a loss of bee population, if not specifically through CCD.

We need to help the apians of our planet and there are several easy ways we can...

Friday, April 22, 2011


In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Maximum PC has a writeup titled "E-Waste - What happens to tech once its trash." This is a fascinating and terrifying look at what happens to the electronics that we throw away. Even if you take electronics to be "recycled," it is frightening to see what might actually happen.

Something as small as a cell phone can contain dozens of hazardous materials. "Stuff like copper, gold, lead, nickel, antimony, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, mercury, arsenic, and coltan" are common, and can easily leech into soil and groundwater in landfills. Cell phones are just the beginning; add to that computers, printers, monitors, televisions, gps systems, telephones, fax machines, scanners, and all the other electronics that make our lives more productive, and you have a serious accumulation of hazardous waste.

"Ghana, along with regions of India, Nigeria, China, and several other locations, have become the world's electronic dumping ground. There, old, unused, unloved, and outmoded electronics arrive by the boatload, often under the guise of recycling. Sadly, the word "recycle" means something very different there than it does here."

Courtesy of Greenpeace

"In this unregulated and often unmonitored environment where the average annual wage is expressed in the hundreds of dollars, tech products are burned over open flames to separate the plastic from the more valuable metals. Products with little or no value are dumped in nearby pits. Needless to say, the threat of escaping toxins is not a threat at all – it's a reality."

So what can we do?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BPA, a widely used chemical I try to avoid.

I first became aware about Bisphenol-A (BPA) some time ago when I heard recommendations to avoid plastic baby bottles made with BPA. Then, I noticed that companies like Nalgene started offering clear plastic drinking bottles BPA free. Recently, I became aware that some food companies have been choosing to eliminate BPA from their aluminum can liners. I started wondering about BPA and whether I should be concerned.

It turns out that BPA is found in many products we use everyday, including aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, and even cash register receipts (where it is used to coat the thermal paper used for printing). It is used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. These products are meant to harden plastic and coat things, but the BPA content may be of concern.

BPA is a synthetic estrogen and even trace amounts have been shown to disrupt hormones in the endocrine system. The body's balance of hormones is delicate and any external disruption can cause a wide variety of problems. BPA has been linked to chromosomal damage, reproductive system abnormalities (erectile disfunction and severely reduced sex drive, among others), impaired brain and neurological functions, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity, asthma, cancer, and even resistance to chemotherapy. Those last two are a terrible combination -- gives you a disease (cancer) and prevents a potential treatment from working at the same time.