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Miscellaneous Green Files


Smog Causes Heart Problems A new meta-analysis by Los Angeles researchers suggests that even moderate smog may pose a death threat to people with cardiac problems. Doctors at the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center reviewed more than a dozen animal and human studies.

Smog Causes Heart Problems
A new meta-analysis by Los Angeles researchers suggests that even moderate smog may pose a death threat to people with cardiac problems. Doctors at the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center reviewed more than a dozen animal and human studies. They postulated that tiny, airborne particular matter enters the lungs and causes the nervous system to trigger an irregular heartbeat, an involuntary action which may prove fatal for people with diseased or weak hearts.
--CBS News Online, June 7, 2000

Food Safety And Who?
The federal goverment’s latest attempt to pacify Canadians concerned with food safety arrived on doorsteps in April of this year. Titled "Food Safety and You," this unassuming booklet possesses a soft, muted quality intended for easy digestion.

Amidst a comfy regurgitation of general food facts, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) assures us they do a "rigorous and thorough review" of new food products through a series of health and environmental assessments. But Ann Clark, an associate professor at the University of Guelph and an expert in crop production and physiology, calls the pamphet "very carefully worded."

"The phrase that they ‘conduct assessments’ is probably true," she says. "But it’s not research."

In fact, according to Clark, the CFIA doesn’t do any independent research into food safety at all. What literature the government does review--including that on genetically engineered foods--is provided by the biotech companies themselves. Inspectors base their conclusions on assumptions and inferences rather than real evidence.

What the CFIA lacks are the resources and motivation to ensure ultimate food safety in this country. As part of the federal agriculture department, the agency is responsible for both regulation and promotion of the industry: two incompatible goals.
--Montreal Gazette, April 2, 2000

Chemical Conviction
A Winnipeg corporate official was fined $6,000 in December 1999 for illegally dumping agri-chemicals. Nearly 100,000 litres of a Monsanto herbicide was poured onto a field near Harris, Saskatchewan. At the time, a conservation officer found herbicide concentrations from 10,000 to 15,000 times the recommended levels. This is the first time a corporate official has been convicted of polluting in this province.
--Western Producer, May 18, 2000

Salmonella Scare
Antibiotic use in cattle farming has resulted in salmonella bacteria resistant to yet another antibiotic: cefriaxone. A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine examined the case of a 12-year-old boy who picked up salmonella from the family’s cefriaxone-treated cattle. Most bacteria have not developed a resistance to cefrixone, but researchers fear this is changing due to continued antibiotic overuse. Cefriaxone is sold in Canada under the brand name Rocephin to treat people, but not cattle.
--Western Producer, May 11, 2000

Wrangling For Rainforest
An international agency, the Global Environmental Facility, has raised $30 million to help convert 10 per cent of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest into a wildlife reserve. The Brazilian government and the Worldwide Fund for Nature have pledged an additional $23 million. If the plan goes through, the new Amazon reserve will become one of the most strictly preserved regions in conservation history.
--BBC News Online, May 11, 2000

Emission Standards Up, Ozone Down
Canadian federal and provincial governments have agreed to reduce ozone emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Current emission levels of 82 particles per billion (ppb) will shrink to 65 ppb. The greatest polluters include the transportation industry, power plants and iron and steel mills. At a meeting last June, Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson estimated that air pollution causes 5,000 premature deaths a year in Canada.
--Reuters Online, June 7, 2000

A Pox on Pesticides
The Los Angeles Unified School District has taken a progressive stance on chemicals and schoolchildren safety. Operating the largest US public school system, the city of Los Angeles vowed last year not to use pesticides for esthetic reasons alone. Instead, it considers non-chemical methods first with the goal of eventually eliminating all chemical controls.

Here in Canada, a federal private members bill intending to ban cosmetic pesticide use has not gained ground with the Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association (LANTA). While Bill C-388 recognizes the vulnerability of certain groups--especially children--to pesticide exposure, in a recent communication with its members, LANTA executive director Nigel Bowles called it "unreasonable" and said the bill makes "broad claims" about the serious health consequences of pesticides.

Nevertheless, the federal government has decided that the current pesticide regulatory process needs revision. In its controversial May report, the same Commons environmental committee that criticized cosmetic pesticide use also proposed mandatory screening of the 7,000 pesticides now in use. They further called for an outright ban on those pesticides known or strongly suspected of endangering health or environment. A tougher update of Canada’s 31-year-old pesticide act is expected to be tabled in the Commons this month.

Organic Survives Doubt And Drought
Still have doubts about organic farming? A comparison of organic and conventional farming systems during 1999’s East Coast drought in the United States revealed that organic test plots were bigger producers. The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial in Kutztown, Pennsylvania found that organic soybean systems had yields of 30 bushels per acre compared to only 16 bushels per acre of conventionally grown crops.
--Acres USA, May 2000

Phasing Out Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde’s multi-purpose nature has made it a widely used industrial tool, but at what hidden cost to health? Since its discovery in 1867, the use of this pungent chemical gas has grown to almost epic proportions--despite being labelled a probable carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Formaldehyde is a disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, defoamer and preservative. It’s typically found in plastics, paper, adhesives, textile products, carpets, cosmetics and, alarmingly, vaccines. Until the early 1980s, it was also a common component of building insulation. Although gaseous emissions do decrease over time, many older houses and schools still omit unhealthy levels, posing a particular threat to developing immune systems and chemically sensitive individuals.

Even in minute quantities, formaldehyde gas is toxic. In one 1996 study, schoolchildren exposed to formaldehyde concentrations above 0.043 parts per million (ppm) in the classroom during the day for an extended period of time had greater fatigue, poor health and headaches. Other symptoms of exposure include asthma, eye and nose irritation, nausea or skin rash.

If you suspect that your home may be putting your family at risk, contact the BC office of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to purchase their healthy housing kit at (604) 731-5733.



Innovation for Good

Innovation for Good

Neil ZevnikNeil Zevnik