Insight News

Wednesday
Oct 22nd

Health

(Earth Talk) Atrazine in drinking water

(Earth Talk) Atrazine in drinking waterDear EarthTalk: I understand there’s an issue with the herbicide atrazine showing up in dangerous quantities in drinking water, mostly throughout the central U.S. Why is this happening and what’s being done about it? -- Marcus Gerde, Spokane, WA

Atrazine is an herbicide that is widely used across the U.S. and elsewhere to control both broadleaf and grassy weeds in large-scale agricultural operations growing corn, sorghum, sugar cane and other foods. While its use is credited with increasing agricultural yields by as much as six percent, there is a dark side. The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that atrazine exposure has been shown to impair the reproductive systems of amphibians and mammals, and has been linked to cancer in both laboratory animals and humans. Male frogs exposed to minute doses of atrazine can develop female sex characteristics, including hermaphroditism and the presence of eggs in the testes. Researchers suspect that these effects are amplified when atrazine and other harmful agricultural chemicals are employed together.

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Childhood Obesity task force unveils action plan:

Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation
Cabinet Members and Administration Officials Address Childhood Obesity

Report available at www.LetsMove.gov

First Lady Michelle Obama Tuesday joined Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and members of the Childhood Obesity Task Force to unveil the Task Force action plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation.  In conjunction with the release of the action plan, Cabinet Members and Administration Officials announced events across the country to highlight the importance of addressing childhood obesity. 

“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measureable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Obama said.  “We want to marshal every resource – public and private sector, mayors and governors, parents and educators, business owners and health care providers, coaches and athletes – to ensure that we are providing each and every child the happy, healthy future they deserve.”
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The importance of pre-natal care

In the United States, prematurity/low birth weight is the second leading cause of all infant deaths during the first year of life.

According to the Office of Minority Health, during 2000-2002 in the United States, African American mothers were nearly 2.5 times as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the third trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.

As a result, preterm birth rates were highest for Black infants (17.6 percent) than other minorities. African American infants were over four times as likely to die from causes related to low birth weight, compared to non-Hispanic white infants.

Prenatal care is important in making sure you and your baby stay healthy throughout pregnancy and the birth of your child.

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(Earth Talk) Where can I find household cleaners that were not animal tested?

(Earth Talk) Where can I find household cleaners that were not animal tested?Dear EarthTalk: I am very interested in purchasing household cleaners whose ingredients and final product are not tested on animals. Where do I look? --- Debbie Reek, via e-mail

According to most animal advocates, the fact that manufacturers of household cleaners still use animals to test the toxicity of their products is not only inhumane—why should innocent animals have to suffer and die so we can get our floors a little cleaner?—but also illogical, as modern lab tests not involving living creatures can discern more practical information faster and for less money. Another problem with animal testing is that its findings don’t always successfully predict real-world human outcomes.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), for instance, animal tests on rats and rabbits over several decades “failed to predict the birth defect-causing properties of PCBs, industrial solvents and many drugs, while cancer tests in rats and mice failed to detect the hazards of asbestos, benzene, cigarette smoke, and many other substances.” The group blames these shortcomings of animal testing for “delaying consumer and worker protection measures by decades in some cases.”
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(Earth Talk) Isn’t it high time the government put a stop to offshore oil drilling once and for all?

(Earth Talk) Isn’t it high time the government put a stop to offshore oil drilling once and for all? Dear EarthTalk: Given the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last month, isn’t it high time the government put a stop to offshore oil drilling once and for all? Short of banning it altogether, what can be done to prevent explosions, leaks and spills moving forward? -- P. Greanville, Brewster, NY

The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig on April 20 and the resultant oil spill now consuming coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico could not have come at a worse time for President Obama, who only recently renewed a push to expand drilling off the coast of Virginia and other regions of the U.S.

The debate over whether or not to tap offshore oil reserves with dangerous drilling equipment has been raging since extraction methods became feasible in the 1950s. It heated up in 2008 when George W. Bush convinced Congress to lift a 27-year-old moratorium on offshore drilling outside of the already developed western Gulf of Mexico and some areas off Alaska. Despite public protests, cash-strapped governments of several coastal states wanted the moratorium lifted given the potential for earning windfall revenues.
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(Earth Talk) What is "smart growth?"

(Earth Talk) What is Dear EarthTalk: What is “smart growth” and how does it benefit the environment? And what are the downsides, if any? -- Frank Quinn, Missoula, MT

Originating in the early 1970s when city planners began renovating crumbling inner cities in the face of widespread suburbanization and sprawl, smart growth is now a top buzzword in both municipal policy and environmental circles. Some form of smart growth has likely been implemented where you live or somewhere nearby.

Urban planners subscribing to a smart growth philosophy work to concentrate growth in the center of existing cities and towns to avoid sprawling development in areas otherwise prized for open space. Part of a smart growth effort attempts to minimize automobile traffic and its pollution in urban centers by including stores, residences and schools in neighborhoods, resulting in more walking, bicycle riding and mass transit usage than in a typical suburban environment. Advocates maintain that smart growth initiatives create a unique sense of community and place, give people more transportation, employment and housing choices, and equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development while preserving and enhancing natural beauty, cultural resources and public health.
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(Earth Talk) Setting the record straight on what came out of "COP 15"

(Earth Talk) Setting the record straight on what came out of Dear EarthTalk: There have been many contradictory reports (“it was good; it was bad”) about what came out of “COP 15,” the December 2009 international Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen. Can you set the record straight? -- Jay Killian, Brookline, MA

Indeed hopes were high that international negotiators in Copenhagen last December at the 15th Annual Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be able to hammer out a strong agreement to once and for all take the climate beast by the horns and begin to reign in carbon emissions worldwide. But a new binding formal agreement was not to be, mostly because of conflicting priorities among participating countries.
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