health

These are some of the topics (among others) that I hope to publish posts on over the next year or so:

  • Organizations for Women’s Rights, Health, Liberty, and Equality
  • COVID and Long COVID: Important Information and Findings
  • Making the Shift from Climate Worrier to Climate Warrior, Fueled by Love and Rage
  • (Anti) Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Info.  (a resource listing)
  • PFAS / PFOA: “Forever Chemicals”
  • Flood Prevention / Stormwater Management Strategies
  • Ecological and Equitable Economic Prosperity
  • If I Had Millions of $$…This is How I’d Use (Redistribute) the Money

Check back soon to see some of these posts!  In the meantime, please check out our current and past posts. Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight and sharing the information with others.

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January 25, 2023
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More than two dozen of The Green Spotlight’s previous posts have covered or touched on green products (and green companies). Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from gifts to clothing to home/building-related products and equipment, as well as other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

The following are just a few of my favorite companies that make or sell products: Patagonia, EarthKind, W.S. Badger Co., Host Defense/Fungi Perfecti, and Booda Organics. Some places where you can fairly readily find green(er) products include: local food coops and farmer’s/crafts markets, organic nurseries and farm stands, thrift/consignment and antique stores and used bookstores (reused products), Natural Grocers, Sprouts, ThriveMarket.com, and RealGoods.com. Also take a look at some of the “zero-waste” stores online.

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December 5, 2022
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Studies have shown that exposure to various environmental toxins—which people can be exposed to via the air, water, soil, or the use of certain products—seem very likely to contribute to the development of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders and diseases (including Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS) and can also harm neurological development (e.g., intelligence) in children and babies’ developing brains.

My father died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, after enduring the myriad physical and cognitive indignities of that disease for many years. So this issue is very personal for me. But everyone should take it very personally that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from neurological or other diseases (such as cancers) that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. My dad was definitely exposed to some of the chemicals and air pollutants that have recently been associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. That makes me angry. It should make everyone angry and motivated to push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Some alarming facts and statistics to consider:

  • At least one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. (It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.) Deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • COVID-19 is causing an increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2020, COVID contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths! (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation)
  • Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder. The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years. PD is the most common movement disorder. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Air pollution is associated with approximately 7 million premature deaths every year, worldwide. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants. (Source: World Health Organization)

While many neurological and other diseases can have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses, or by lifestyle (e.g. diet, exercise) choices, many diseases are more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also factors. Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. Prevention of these diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should focus on protecting all of us by banning the environmental toxins that anyone can be exposed to.

Neurotoxins (toxins that studies have linked to neurological disorders/damage) include, but are not limited to:

  • certain types of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides (e.g. paraquat, glyphosate/Roundup, maneb, etc.);
  • chemical solvents (e.g., trichloroethylene: TCE);
  • mercury (exposure primarily comes from coal power plant pollution, but it can also come from silver/amalgam dental fillings and from the cremation of those fillings, and from the ingestion of some types of seafood, as well as other sources) as well as lead and other heavy metals;
  • particulate air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, via power plants and via vehicles and other forms of transport (as well as particulates from wildfire smoke, which is increasing each year due to climate-driven heat and drought).

These are some recent Parkinson’s-specific articles and resources:

And these are a few articles on environmental risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and various other types of neurological disorders/brain damage:

Beyond Pesticides has compiled summaries of many recent studies and findings on the various neurological (and other health) effects associated with exposure to various chemical pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, and related toxins):


ACTIONS

Please sign this petition:
Tell the EPA: Ban Paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease

And you can sign these other petitions from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and from Beyond Pesticides.

You could also join the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study (whether you have Parkinson’s or not) to help further the research.

At the very least, please share the information provided in this post. And buy only organically grown food (and plants/seeds); avoid the use (and unsafe disposal) of toxic chemicals and hazardous products whenever possible; do what you can to reduce air pollution (e.g. minimize how much you fly or drive; and reduce material consumption/purchases); and support policies, public officials, candidates, and companies that promote non-toxic alternatives to the many chemical-intensive and polluting products and industries that are killing so many people and damaging our brains.

______

For additional information on the connection between environmental toxins and public health (and organizations that are focused on these issues and trying to prevent or reduce these problems), please see our past post on:

Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

Here’s a small selection of the organizations focused on these issues:

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September 29, 2022
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We’re all going to need to muster up as much resilience, generosity, patience, kindness, empathy, courage, adaptability, resourcefulness, and creativity as we can, to get through the tough times our families, communities, country, and world are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Things may continue to get worse in many places for a while, and it’s going to be a long haul with multiple waves and no known end date. We’re not only facing a pandemic (a global infectious disease and public health crisis), but also an economic crisis of poverty, disability, food insecurity (hunger), eviction, and homelessness (issues made much worse by the United States’ existing health care/insurance crisis, and by economic inequality, exploitative corporate practices, environmental and institutional racism and injustice, corruption), all of which have left many people in desperate need of assistance, in every community. (And tragically, the climate crisis will exacerbate all of these problems, and create disasters on top of disasters.) Our society is entering an extended period of great loss, disruption, hardship, and suffering.

Soon, all of us will know people who have been sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus (and many of us will know people who have died from it or who suffer from chronic Long Covid symptoms or post-COVID organ/brain damage) as well as numerous people who are suffering financially and emotionally from it. Millions of people are struggling to pay their rent (or mortgage) and utilities, exorbitant medical bills, and/or burial costs. Healthcare workers and other essential workers are having to work overly long and extremely stressful hours and risking their lives to do so, and they are short-staffed due to co-workers who are ill. Most people don’t want to ask friends or family for help, even when they desperately need it (and not everyone has family members or close friends who are in a position to help). So reach out to find out what people you know are going through and what they might need. And if you need help, do reach out to others and to groups that can offer assistance (see below). You are not alone, and there will be people who are able and willing to help you, even if your family and friends are not able to.

If you’re not in dire straits (e.g., if you and your family have your health, an adequate income, health insurance, and/or you still have some savings to get you and your family through an emergency or an extended rough patch), please consider using at least some of your “stimulus” payment money (or your tax refund or savings, if any) to help others who are in need, whether they are friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, friends of friends, strangers, or small local businesses that are struggling. Ask whether people need help with paying rent or buying food, etc.

Alternatively, if you have extra time or skills, services, assistance, or resources to offer, offer those—e.g., food, meals, good masks (ideally NIOSH-approved N95), test kits, plants or seeds, housing (e.g., guest units), babysitting, online schooling, tutoring, or homework help, etc.

If you can help people directly, do that. Otherwise or in addition, try to support (donate to or volunteer for) some of the established groups that are actively helping people in need, such as these:

What other national groups would you recommend that people support? Please add them in the Comments. Also see the links to additional resources at the end of this post.

Also support (donate to or volunteer for):

  • local Mutual Aid and disaster/emergency response groups and any local relief funds set up by community orgs/foundations or community banks and credit unions
  • local food banks/pantries
  • your area’s Meals on Wheels
  • Legal Aid groups (and lawyers providing free, pro bono assistance)
  • your region’s United Way
  • your region’s Red Cross
  • domestic violence shelters and groups
  • child abuse and fostering groups
  • homeless and affordable housing groups; shelters
  • refugee, detainee, and undocumented immigrant protection groups
  • small farmers; farmer’s markets and CSAs
  • reproductive rights/care groups and funds
  • mental health advocacy groups
  • senior centers and support orgs, e.g. AARP Advocates
  • prisoners’ rights groups
  • animal shelters (consider fostering an animal if you have the time, health, and resources)
  • small businesses, and people out of work (including independent/freelance/gig workers and undocumented workers, who pay taxes but can’t collect unemployment)
  • independent bookstores (see IndieBound.org to find stores near you; order books from them online when their stores have to be closed); please do not buy from Amazon, which has put many bookstores and small businesses out of business

And here are additional actions you can take to make a difference:

  1. Buy NIOSH-approved N95 masks (or at least KN95 masks) and at-home tests, and give them away (or sell them at cost if need be) to friends, neighbors, healthcare workers, other essential workers (e.g., grocery/delivery workers, domestic workers, etc.), and homeless outreach centers. Find out if your area has a local group that is collecting/donating masks or equipment. (See ProjectN95.org for info on vetted masks and tests.)
  2. Offer to pick up groceries (or prescriptions or other essential supplies) for a near-by senior, someone with health conditions or immune system issues (including people undergoing cancer treatment or who have an auto-immune disorder), or someone who’s sick.
  3. Reach out to at least one friend, neighbor, or relative each day or each week (by phone, email, FaceTime/Duo, or mail) to see how they’re doing.
  4. Join an existing Mutual Aid group in your area (or consider creating one if there isn’t one already).
  5. Think of any skills, services, items, assets, or resources you can offer (or barter/trade/exchange or lend) to others, e.g., surplus food items, meals, or plants/seeds; babysitting, homeschooling/education, petsitting or fostering, professional services; guest units or quarantine spaces (including vacation rentals, trailers, studios, etc.).
  6. If you’re healthy, donate blood. You can do so through Red Cross blood drives. And if you’ve recovered from COVID, you can donate your plasma to help COVID patients.
  7. If you see or hear questionable or potentially dangerous information (misinformation or disinformation) being spread, check fact-checking sites (e.g., Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, Snopes.com; or reputable medical/health/infectious disease sources and experts) and send/post their links or findings, to share facts and to counter disinformation.
  8. Thank essential workers (e.g., healthcare, grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers/drivers, your mail carrier and post office workers, cashiers, etc.), with verbal thanks, thank-you cards, tips or gift cards, or gifts (e.g., masks, tests, soap, hand sanitizer, food, seeds, tea, flowers, etc.). For example, I left a thank-you note, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a box of tea in our mail box for our mail carrier.
  9. Think about and prepare your official Advance Health Care Directive (AKA Living Will), DNR (if applicable), Power of Attorney and Medical/Health Care Proxy/Surrogate documents, and your last will & testament, as well as burial/funeral preferences or arrangements. Make sure all of your official documents are made legal and official through witness signatures, and notarized when required, and give copies to your loved ones and your doctor (also post a copy on your fridge, and have someone bring a copy to the hospital if you go to the ER or are hospitalized). Organize other important papers and instructions for your next of kin, and let them know where to find them.
  10. Make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address. Fill out your state’s application to get an absentee/mail-in ballot ASAP (if you live in a state where you don’t currently need an “excuse” or if you have one of their valid excuses to vote by mail; more states will soon make absentee voting easier or even the default), or see if your state allows Early Voting (to avoid crowds and lines). Click here for links to your state’s Secretary of State site and other voting resources. Help young or first-time voters get registered (and make sure they know how to fill out the forms and ballots.)
  11. Plant some food (even if you don’t have any garden/yard space and it’s just a couple of pots on a window sill; start where you are; do what you can). If your area doesn’t have a nursery that sells organic plants and seeds, you can order organic seeds online. Or plant a fruit or nut tree, if you can. If you have extra seeds or a surplus harvest, share them with neighbors and friends.
  12. Build a Little Free Pantry/Library (or just put a “Free Stuff” Box) in front of your house or somewhere in your neighborhood, where people can leave or take non-perishable foods, toiletries, books, or other items. Or if there’s already a Little Free Pantry/Library in your neighborhood, you could leave items in it. You can also donate food to local food banks/drives, and donate needed items to homeless shelters.
  13. Buy stamps or other supplies from (or send packages through) the U.S. Postal Service via USPS.com, to help keep them afloat until adequate federal funding comes through. The economic/pandemic shutdown (and employees out sick) aren’t the only reason the USPS is in trouble; this article explains another reason: an absurd law that was passed in 2006 that “requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to pre-fund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit.”

Doing these types of useful and helpful things can also help you feel better during this time of stress, worry, uncertainty, and upheaval, which is putting a strain on everyone’s physicalmental, and emotional health. You need to take good care of yourself to be able to take care of and support others. So also try to establish some self-care practices and healthy coping mechanisms to maintain some resilience and sanity. Here are a few suggestions of things you could try to do for a least a few minutes each day:

  • Go outside. Walk, or at least sit in the sun. When possible, go be in nature, and when that isn’t possible, at least go on a walk down your street or to a local park.
  • Stretch and breathe deeply. Or meditate.
  • Garden (e.g., plant things or pull weeds).
  • Make/eat a good meal. Try something new. (Eat nourishing and nutritious things that will give you strength and help keep your immune system strong.)
  • Spend time with animals, when possible.
  • Look for, recognize, create, and share beauty.
  • Watch something comedic, or read something funny.
  • Listen to some music. (You can dance if you want to!)
  • Read helpful advice from wise and calming people (e.g., Pema Chodron).
  • Seek out a therapist for online sessions.
  • Do productive stuff, like cleaning the house or organizing and purging stuff in your house (going through mail piles; organizing your desk, files, closets, drawers/cabinets, garage, shed, etc.). Recycle old papers. Give away items you don’t need or want.
  • Have a cup of tea.
  • And get lots of good, deep sleep. If you aren’t able to get enough sleep at night, take a nap if you’re able to.

Thank you to all of the helpers, of all stripes, everywhere. Let’s all help each other get through this. Be well.

 

Other useful tips, information, and resources:

 

Related posts:

 

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April 27, 2020
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Here are a few TED Talks that I’d recommend watching, in addition to the talks that I posted in the past (see Part I and Part II).

A Healthy Economy Should Be Designed to Thrive, Not Grow / Kate Raworth

 

How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Action / Renee Lertzman

 

The Shocking Danger of Mountaintop Removal (Coal Mining)—and Why It Must End / Michael Hendryx

 

A Climate Change Solution that’s Right Under Our Feet (Soil) / Asmeret Asefa Berhe

 

How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming / Katherine Wilkinson

 

This Could Be Why You’re Depressed or Anxious / Johann Hari (author of Lost Connections)

 

More:

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March 30, 2020
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We post daily morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and Share the page with your friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. We hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of some topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so, including both good news and bad:

  • Ireland is completely divesting from fossil fuels (and has also banned fracking)
  • TransMountain pipeline approvals revoked by court
  • Protect the Protest: a new alliance of environmental and civil liberties groups
  • In 40 states, electricity from renewable sources is cheaper than the existing power supply
  • Air pollution causes lower IQ and other neurological deficits and diseases
  • Climate grief and depression
  • Traverse City, Michigan and Denver, Colorado set 100% renewable energy goals
  • Mexican President plans to ban fracking
  • Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million as jury rules Roundup caused man’s cancer
  • Poisonous red tides and toxic algae blooms worse than ever in Florida this summer
  • Teenagers’ climate lawsuit moves forward
  • Administration proposes weakening the Endangered Species Act
  • PFAS contamination in Michigan
  • Wildfires and heat waves around the world, including at the Arctic Circle
  • Quotations, photos, videos, cartoons, etc.

 

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August 31, 2018
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We post daily morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. If you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and Share the page with your friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. We hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of some topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so:

  • Scientists running for office
  • Voting / voter registration resources
  • How to reduce your exposure to BPA and other toxic plastics
  • The connection between climate change, the warming Arctic, loss of polar ice, the jet stream, the “polar vortex,” unprecedented temperature fluctuations, and extreme storms
  • Anti-nuclear petitions and organizations (Ploughshares, Global Zero, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, etc.)
  • Center for Climate Protection
  • Films: Atomic Homefront; The Devil We Know; What Lies Upstream
  • Quotations, photos, graphics, videos, etc.

 

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February 22, 2018
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With the 2016 spread of the Zika virus and its link to microcephaly, proper mosquito control became something that people wanted and needed to understand more than ever. [The Aedes mosquito can carry Zika; this CDC map shows the areas that have reported active transmission of Zika.] Some types of mosquitoes can also transmit malaria, West Nile virus, equine encephalitis, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other serious diseases in various regions of the world. (Other types of mosquitoes are also responsible for infecting dogs with heartworm.)

Climate change is almost certainly contributing to the increase in some tropical diseases, due to higher temperatures and more precipitation in many areas, in the tropics and beyond.  [Source: The Guardian]

mosquitoUnfortunately, conventional tactics for killing mosquitoes are not always effective, and they tend to be toxic. Zika can harm the development of fetuses and can harm some adults; meanwhile, exposure to toxic insecticides can harm everyone (including fetuses). It doesn’t make sense for society to accept that we should have to suffer from the long-term effects of slow poisoning (e.g., chronic and fatal illnesses) from insecticides and pesticides when less-toxic, effective alternatives exist. We cannot just “fog” the world in a cloud of insecticides to try to avoid Zika or other mosquito-borne viruses. Furthermore, the use of insecticides often backfires and has unintended consequences, such as killing other insects and animals that eat mosquitoes.

header-logoHere are some key excerpts from a very helpful article from Beyond Pesticides, which references information from an article in The Guardian:

“Aerial and ground applications of pesticides have long been used for mosquito control, but many believe that these methods fail to sufficiently control mosquito populations, [and that they] promote resistance and kill other species that would have acted as a natural predator to mosquitoes.

Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist, in an interview with The Guardian said that while pesticides can reduce the population of flying adult mosquitoes that transmit the virus, they will fail to deal with the epidemic that threatens to become a global pandemic, and warns that spraying landscapes is extremely dangerous.  ‘It is a quick fix but you pay for it. You kill other species that would have predated on the mosquitoes. You also create a mosaic of sprayed and unsprayed low densities of chemicals that fosters the rapid evolution of resistance.’

Already there is emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes. Additionally it is impossible to fumigate every corner of habitat where mosquitoes might breed.

According to Dr. Martins, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

The efficacy of adulticidal pesticide applications (aerial or ground spraying) has been called into question over the years. Further, the drifting spray impacts other non-target organisms like pollinators, birds, fish and amphibians. Commonly used mosquito pesticides like permethrin, resmethrin, naled and malathion are all associated with some measure of human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

…Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt). Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

  • Clean-Up–Eliminate pooled or stagnant waters from debris, containers, drains, and anywhere that pools water. Watch out for [and fix] leaky faucets. Mosquitoes can breed in puddles the size of dimes, so keep a keen eye out for stagnant water!
  • Natural Predators– Use indigenous fish populations, like bluegills or minnows, to eat mosquito larvae in shallow waters and ornamental pools. Copepod crustaceans can also be used to eat mosquito larvae in ditches, pools and other areas of stagnant water. Don’t forget about bats either! One bat can consume 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and many bats are in trouble from a disease wiping out their population. Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house!
  • Behavior Modification–Wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, and use least-toxic mosquito repellent when outdoors. Try to avoid being outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Attentive Monitoring– Check sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae often.
  • Least-toxic Pesticide Options– Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), a biological larvicide (“mosquito dunk”) that prevents mosquitoes from developing into breeding, biting adults in standing waters that cannot be drained.
  • Take Action–Let your local council members, mayor, or state delegates know that safer, more sustainable options exist. [Click here and scroll to the bottom of the article to] download our sample letter to send to public health officials in your area.

Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.”

In addition to the behavior suggestions mentioned above, these are some other useful suggestions for keeping mosquitoes (and other bugs) away:

  • Make sure any windows that get opened have window screens, and repair/tape any tears in the screens.
  • Turn on a fan. Mosquitoes avoid strong wind.
  • Remove all standing and stagnant water from your yard. Don’t let excess water sit in plant pot dishes. Clear out debris from gutters. Remove water from birdbaths, any discarded tires, unused water troughs, etc. If you use rain barrels, make sure they have screens and that the screens are on tightly. If you have a compost pile, make sure it has drainage, is not soggy, is covered with a thick layer of leaves or grass clippings, and is not located right next to your living quarters. Running/moving water is generally OK, as mosquitoes larvae cannot grow there.
  • Cover up with loose, light-colored clothing. Wear shoes and socks instead of sandals. Change and wash your socks and clothing regularly, as mosquitoes are attracted to stinky feet and sweat.
  • Use mosquito netting over baby carriers, strollers, beds, etc.
  • Avoid drinking beer or eating/drinking dairy products when in a mosquito-prone environment. They seem to be attracted to beer and possibly also to lactic acid.
  • Methods and products that don’t work or don’t work well include: 1.) Ultrasonic devices. 2) Vitamin B patches. 2.) Repellent candles (e.g., citronella candles): They don’t work nearly as well as clothing or skin treatments, and 3) Bug zappers: They may actually attract more mosquitoes and other bugs to the area, and they can kill beneficial bugs.

Repellents

There’s no need to coat your skin or clothes with highly toxic chemicals to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Studies are finding that mosquito repellents that use oil of lemon-eucalyptus (with some PMD) are just about as effective as DEET, and they last longer. Picaridin (or icaridin, or KBR 3020) is a less-toxic synthetic repellent than DEET and it works almost as well. The EcoSmart organic insect repellent (which uses a variety of botanical ingredients) was also found to work well, but it needs to be reapplied frequently (every 2-3 hours).  [Sources: NPR and EWG]

Consumer Reports gave these three DEET-free repellents their top ratings: Sawyer—Fishermen’s Formula Picaridin;  Repel—Lemon Eucalyptus; and Natrapel 8-hour. [For more information on those three products, see this article.] A friend of mine, who runs a summer farm camp and has tried many repellents, swears by All Terrain’s Herbal Armor repellent (which is also DEET-free).

Avoid using permethrin-based repellents, even those used to treat clothing and not applied to skin. Also avoid products with more than 30% DEET. And don’t use “foggers.” Those are all very toxic. Also, don’t use any aerosol sprays (use lotions or pumps instead). Don’t use repellents on babies under 6 months, and don’t use lemon-eucaluptus/PMD on children under 3 years old.  [Source: EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika: Top Choices, and Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Bug Bites]

Other than lemon-eucalyptus oil, most botanical/plant-based repellents have not been found to be as effective as DEET or Picaridin-based repellents (especially for repelling the types of mosquitoes that can carry Zika). However, you could still experiment with rubbing a few of these bug-repelling plants on your skin or clothes (try a small area first, to make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction). Better yet, planting some of these herbs and plants in your yard could help reduce the mosquitoes (and also fleas and ticks) in the area around your house. (Always be sure to buy organic—or non-treated—plants or seeds, so that they don’t kill off pollinators and other beneficial bugs and creatures.)  Turning your yard into a thriving garden will also help create more much-needed habitat for beneficial bugs, birds, and other species that help keep the mosquito population under control.

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Bayberry (shrub)
  • Calendula
  • Catnip and catmint
  • Chives
  • Cloves
  • Feverfew
  • Garlic
  • Geranium (especially citronella geranium)
  • Hyssop
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon eucalyptus
  • Marigold
  • Mint, peppermint
  • Mugwort
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Southernwood
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Tansy
  • Thyme (especially lemon thyme)
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow

[Sources: Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016; and “Repel Mosquitos with These Plants,” by Julie Fryer, Mother Earth News]

 

A company is currently working on developing Kite Patch and Kite Shield, technologies intended to prevent mosquitoes from detecting the CO2 that we emit, to make us virtually invisible to mosquitoes. Time will tell whether these technologies are effective. If they are, they are likely to become quite popular.

 

Unfortunately, many women who know that they got Zika during their pregnancy, or who live in areas where there are many Zika-carrying moquitoes, also happen to live in countries where contraception is not readily available or affordable, and/or where abortion is illegal and therefore unsafe.  Many such women are contacting organizations like Women on Waves for help.

 

Resources and references:

EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika (including tip sheets that you can print out), from Environmental Working Group

How to Repel Mosquitoes Safely, Beyond Pesticides

Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases, Beyond Pesticides

With Zika Virus, Widespread Pesticide Spraying Not the Long-Term Solution, says Entomologist,” Beyond Pesticides

Zika Virus: Pesticides are not a long-term solution says leading entomologist,” The Guardian

What’s the Best Way to Keep Mosquitoes from Biting?,” NPR

Three top-rated insect repellents that don’t contain DEET,” TreeHugger.com

Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016

Repel Mosquitoes with These Plants,” Mother Earth News

Mosquito Deterrents: The Good, The Bad, and the Potentially Effective,” Smithsonian Magazine

 

Related post:

Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pets

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June 29, 2016
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Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, nail and hair salon staff, housekeepers, auto mechanics, and some factory workers)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP, PFAS/PFOA/PFOS), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even worse) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:

Center for Environmental Health 

Collaborative on Health and the Environment

IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network): For a Toxics-Free Futurelogo-ewc2

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Toxic-Free Future

Silent Spring Institute

Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN)

Coming Clean

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

EPA’s Green Chemistry information

HealthyStuff.org

Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that many people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include: power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals/waste); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides (including atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furnishings, and furniture; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); cleaning products and solvents; and everyday personal care products (e.g., shampoo and other hair products, sunscreen, toothpaste, nail polish, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials and electronics):

Electronics / tech:

Healthcare:

Cosmetics:

 

Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:

 

Other health-related posts:

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March 16, 2015
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