Why Everyone Should Watch “Toxic Beauty” Documentary

white and brown plastic bottles on white textile

Brief summary of Toxic Beauty

Toxic beauty is a documentary feature film following a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, a renown household brand. We follow personal stories of whistle blowers, survivors and women in a race against time revealing a series of ugly cover ups in the beauty & cosmetic industry. Besides that, the film weaves in a human experiment conducted by Mymy Nguyen, a Boston University Masters student who measures her chemical body burden when using different cosmetic products.

“The cosmetic industry is destroying women’s cells.”

This powerful statement mentioned by an ex formulator of one of the biggest cosmetic brands hooked me on immediately. I’ve had sensitive skin and eczema when I was a child, and the prolonged periods of itchiness and rash were not fun. Since then, I’ve always been wary of chemicals I apply on my skin, always fearful of a reaction. Even though I outgrew the sensitive skin phase, my sense of wariness about products I apply on my skin never left me. While my peers were playing with make up and slathering themselves in an assortment of cosmetic products, I stuck to the most routine: washing my face with water and applying sunscreen. After the unpleasant realization that I end up consuming the wax like substance, lipstick on my lips, I resulted to eyeliner as the only form of make up I use.

three makeup brushes on top of compact powders

Granted, some of the times, the lack of available scientific information in the present results in health issues in the future and cannot be avoided. However, what shocked me was that renown household companies like Johnsons & Johnsons which specialize in a range of baby products was engaged in a lawsuit that unveiled a series of cover ups that spanned across decades. Bear in mind this isn’t a direct hit on Johnson & Johnson as talc is used rampantly in other products. However, a link between talc and ovarian cancer was discovered all the way in early 1980s by world renowned epidemiologist Dr Daniel Cramer. However, nothing was done. No warning label was placed on talc even after the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared Talc as a possible carcinogen. The cosmetic industry has had little change since 1936, and the way we regulate personal care products need to improve.

I’d like to believe I’m an over cautious person, however, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that point that conglomerates often use harmful chemicals and ingredients in products and sell them to unwitting buyers. Labels such as “fragrance“, “parfum” and “aroma” do not show the ingredients used and can conceal a range of potentially hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, the fact that we live in a world operated by a post- market regulatory system is hazardous as a product goes into the market and a regulatory system kicks in only when there are incidents. The fact that we are slathering ourselves with potentially harmful chemicals every day of our lives doesn’t sit well with me. In 2004, Dr Phillipa Darbre, a scientist from the UK found parabens in breast tissue. In 2018, a study by the National Institute of Health linked breast cancer to the use of personal care products. Furthermore, the use of certain products high in oestrogen were found to link to hormonal disruption in baby boys causing a myriad of side effects such as developmental delays, low sperm count, infertility, cancer, diabetes, obesity and skin disease. The idea that a lot of these “bodily malfunctions” are essentially self induced is worrisome. How do we make informed decisions? How do we know which product is okay to use?

black makeup brush, lipstick, and blush on powder

It is scary that our physical and mental health risks can be self induced through using products containing harmful chemicals. The documentary follows Mymy Nguyen who conducts a self experiment to measure chemicals in her body when she doesn’t use any self care products at all, when she uses all of her usual routine, and when she uses natural and clean products. It was shocking that when she used her products she’s been using for years eg shampoos, toothpaste, make up, the parabens and phthalates (toxic chemicals) found in her urine samples were higher than the 95th percentile of Americans. It is close to impossible to not use any personal care products as tasks like washing your hair or brushing your teeth cannot be avoided. She expressed her fear of not being able to have children and like the women we follow in the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson expressed the guilt that the health risks were almost like it was self induced. I disagree with the statement, as I feel the chemists and R&D part of companies should be more stringent and responsible about the types of ingredients they choose to use. But how do we make sure that the products we use aren’t harmful to us?

Regulatory bodies such as the FDA should aim to be more stringent with regulating cosmetic products instead of buckling under the pressure of conglomerates who promise to self regulate. Furthermore, consumers should take one step further and use ingredient analyzer platforms such as 1Source, EWG, and Incidecoder to make sure that the products they use do not contain harmful ingredients / chemicals. It is really simple to use, especially if your ingredient label is filled with long chemistry names we are unfamiliar with. Simply type the name of the product into the platform. A rating of the products will be shown and toxic ingredients will be flagged. By making smarter purchasing decisions, consumers can support clean businesses and put pressure on other companies to use cleaner ingredients. For starters, here are some toxic ingredients and chemicals to look out for in your personal products.

Different types of harmful chemicals

woman in gray sweater holding lipstick

Endocrine disruptors:

  • Mimic hormone activity with links to birth defects, reproductive harm and cancer
  • Found in hair, nail, sunscreen and baby products, makeup, lotions, toothpaste, soap, fragrance

Phthalates:

  • Endocrine disruptors linked to developmental disorders, reproductive harm & cancer
  • Found in fragranced lotions, body wash, hair, skin, baby products, nail polish, perfume, color cosmetics.

Parabens:

  • Endocrine disruptors linked to reproductive harm, developmental disorders, cancer
  • A preservative found in deodorants, antiperspirants, soaps, hair, shaving, fragranced products.

Toxic ingredients and Chemicals to look out for

  • Shampoos containing formaldehyde have a high risk of serving as an endocrine disruptor, and bring about side effects such as allergies, depression, and cancer
  • Deodorants contain endocrine disruptors such as formaldehyde which causes hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and tumors
  • Skin cream containing mercury, coal and tar may serve as endocrine disruptors that causes tremors, insomnia, and/ or cognitive dysfunction
  • Soap containing coal, tar and 1,4 dioxane may serve as endocrine disruptors that causes allergies, infertility and heart disease
  • Fragrance often contain toxic chemicals that are not disclosed and may cause allergies, reproductive disorders, and cancer
  • Skin lighteners containing chemicals hydroquinone and mercury may cause skin disease, organ damage or cancer

References:

“Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide, and Talc – IARC Publications Website.” https://publications.iarc.fr/Book-And-Report-Series/Iarc-Monographs-On-The-Identification-Of-Carcinogenic-Hazards-To-Humans/Carbon-Black-Titanium-Dioxide-And-Talc-2010. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

“The Film — TOXIC BEAUTY.” https://www.toxicbeautydoc.com/the-film. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

“TOXIC BEAUTY.” https://www.toxicbeautydoc.com/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

4 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Food is medicine, and the consumption of the right foods can lead us to boost our immune system and protect us against unwanted diseases and colds. Having a good immune system is essential these days as more virulent strains of Covid-19 are appearing all across the globe. As well as taking preventative measures and precautions, take care to add the following foods to your cart during your next trip to the supermarket.

aerial view of people walking on raod

Ginger

white and brown dog paw on red textile

This spicy, yellow, stem is a popular medicinal plant in various cultures and is traditionally used to treat a myriad of conditions such as colds, digestive maladies, fevers, and nausea. Adding slices of fresh or dried ginger in your food to give dishes a lovely aroma. You can also obtain ginger powder and add hot water/ tea to turn it into a comforting drink.

Easing a cold or flu: A study done in 2013 shows fresh ginger is effective against a respiratory virus in human cells. In a separate study, researchers aimed to investigate the popularity of herbal medicine as a treatment for cold or a flu. 69% of the public used herbal medicine out of a total of 300 pharmacies and most found it as effective.

Reducing inflammation: A 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that phytochemical properties in ginger leads it to have anti inflammatory properties.

Lowering cancer risk: Ginger is packed with antioxidants and multiple studies have shown that ginger can reduce oxidative stress which occurs when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors, according to Medical News Today, and antioxidants are needed to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage as it can lead to a range of diseases such as cancer.

Relieving nausea: Research shows ginger is able to alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea from cancer treatments. A study in 2010 observed that ginger was able to reduce nausea in most of 60 children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. Furthermore, a 2011 review of studies reported that a daily dosage of 1,500mg of ginger extract was able to alleviate symptoms of nausea.

Raspberries

black berry fruit

One cup of these ruby jewels contain over 50% of the minimum daily target for vitamin C which supports immunity, according to Health Magazine. Furthermore, raspberries are packed with other minerals and vitamins such as manganese, vitamin K, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium. Besides that, they are associated with cancer protection as research shows that phytonutrients in raspberries may signal apoptosis, programming cell death in cancer cells. Another major attraction to raspberries is that they are easy to add to our diet as it can be served as sweet desserts or incorporated into savory dishes.

Cocoa

open cacao fruit lot

Nope, this is not a justification for you to stock up on chocolate bars! Rich in polyphenols, cocoa is a potent antioxidant and is reported to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, brain functions and cancer prevention. More importantly, cocoa influences the immune system, in particularly the inflammatory innate response and the systemic and intestinal adaptive immune response. Look out for cocoa powder (without added sugar) and go wild on different desserts!

Poultry

roasted chicken

When we’re sick, getting a bowl of chicken soup is almost a reflex action. However, there is more to this scenario then we let on. Properties of chicken in the soup may help lower inflammation, thus improve symptoms of a cold. Furthermore, poultry are high in vitamin B-6, which is crucial to the formation of red blood cells. The stock made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin and other nutrients that are beneficial to improving immunity.


References:

 “Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of ….” 5 Nov. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20842754/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “Ginger: Health benefits and dietary tips – Medical News Today.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Getting to the Root of Chronic Inflammation: Ginger’s ….” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128051863000059. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “7 Health Benefits of Raspberries | Health.com – Health Magazine.” 20 Mar. 2019, https://www.health.com/food/raspberries-nutrition. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “The effects of cocoa on the immune system – NCBI – NIH.” 4 Jun. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671179/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “15 Foods That Boost the Immune System: Citrus, Bell Peppers ….” https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.

What You Didn’t Know About Tea

Tea is one of the most popular beverages, aside from coffee. If you need a daily caffeine fix, read our article discussing how much caffeine we should consume. From weight loss benefits, heart healthy benefits and cancer fighting properties, drinking a cup of tea a day can be a beneficial to the human body. However, is there a limit to drinking too much tea? Here is a compilation of positive and negative effects of drinking tea every day. But before we jump into it, here is a brief history on the origins of tea as we know it today.

The origins of tea

Tea drinking has been present in China several centuries before reaching the west. Tea originated from China in 2737 B.C when leaves blew from a tree Chinese emperor Shuen Neng was sitting under, into his cup of boiling water. This tree was Camellia sinensis, and is now more commonly known as tea. Since then, containers of tea can be found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty but it was only during the Tang dynasty where tea was formally declared as the national drink of China.

clear glass cup with tea near brown ceramic teapot

How did tea reach other countries?

  • Japanese Buddhist monks who studied in China brought tea back to Japan. Tea drinking soon became a huge part of Japanese culture.
  • In the 16th century, the Dutch utilized Portuguese trading routes to the east to bring back tea to Holland where it spread around Europe.
  • Despite the popularity of English tea, the English were one of the last to hop on this continental trend. It was only the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess with a tea addiction who spread her love for tea around England.

Effects of drinking tea

Tea may cure insomnia

Traditional East Asian Medicine prescribes certain herbal teas to cure insomnia. A study published by PMC tested a group of 40 patients with mild to moderate insomnia and split them into two groups, with one serving as a control group. The test group consumed a type of herbal tea, (Christina Loosestrife Tea) twice a day for a period of 4 weeks. Outcomes assessed using Insomnia Severity Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and 12 – item Short Form Health Survey concluded that a 4 week treatment with HT002 herbal tea may reduce the severity of insomnia.

white and brown ceramic mug

Tea can aid your weight loss

Instead of getting a sugary cup of coffee topped with whipped cream and caramel, opting for a cup of regular tea can help save up to 450 calories. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that catechins in green tea is able to enhance exercise and boost abdominal fat loss in overweight adults. However, make sure that you aren’t adding condiments such as sugar, honey, or milk as an overconsumption of those condiments can lead to a weight gain.

woman using body tape measure while measuring her waist

Tea could protect you from certain cancers

According to 1Source, Epigallocatechin Gallate is a phenolic antioxidant found in a number of plants such as green and black tea. It inhibits cellular oxidation and prevents free radical damage to cells and is currently under study as a potential cancer chemopreventive agent.

Breast cancer: A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NIH) aimed to find out the correlation between drinking green tea and breast cancer malignancy. Their results showed that an increased consumption of green tea (below four cups or more than five cups a day) correlated to a decrease in stage one and two breast cancer.

Prostate cancer: A study conducted among men in three geographical areas of Canada aimed to find out risk of prostate cancer from alcohol and other beverage use. Results showed that coffee and cola intake had no effect on prostate cancer, however a decrease in risk can be observed from men who consumed more than 500g of tea per day.

Lung cancer: A study published in the National Library of Medicine investigated the correlation between the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smoking men and the consumption of tea and coffee. The study concluded that those who drank coffee had no effect on lung cancer where else those who drank two or more cups of black tea per day reduced the risk of cancer.

Pancreatic and colorectal cancers: A study published on PubMed discussed aimed to investigate how the consumption of green tea affects the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Numerous animal studies and epidemiologic investigations have supported this theory and a recent study in Shanghai concluded that consuming green tea may lower the risk of these cancers.

person with pink band on her left hand

Tea reduces inflammation

Green tea contains catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) has anti- inflammatory effects. Studies involving animals and humans provide evidence that EHCH “surpresses gene and / or protein expression of inflammatory cytokines and inflammation related enzymes,” according to a study published by Pub Med. This function is “beneficial against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases”, according to popular health and wellness magazine, Eat This, Not That!

photo of teacup with coffees

Tea can give you yellow teeth

Acid and tannins in tea can give teeth a yellow hue if drank daily. Tannin is a plant based compound that makes it easier for stains to stick to teeth, hence causing discoloration. Acids on the other hand, make tooth enamel softer and rougher, hence easier for stains to set in. Black teas in particular are the biggest culprits for tooth discoloration.

clear drinking glass with brown liquid

Tea may help us develop stronger bones

Tea is found to contain nutrients that stimulates bone formation and slow its breakdown, hence serving as protection against osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that catechin EGC or epigallocatechin has positive effects on bone growth.

white and brown ceramic teapot on wooden tray

Teas may contain traces of heavy metal

News alert! Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury may be found in brewed teas. According to a study, tea leaves originating from China contained traces of heavy metals. Contaminants in the tea could be related to being grown and harvested in close proximity of coal fired power plants, according to researchers in the Journal of Toxicity aiming to explain the presence of heavy metal in tea leaves.

green grasses

References:

Chun, Hay Ko, et al. “Effects of Tea Catechins, Epigallocatechin, Gallocatechin, and Gallocatechin Gallate, on Bone Metabolism.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf901545u. Accessed 29 December 2020.

Eat This, Not That! Side effects of drinking tea, 14 December 2020, https://www.eatthis.com/side-effects-drinking-tea/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

“Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 139, no. 2, 2008, pp. 264-270, https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/139/2/264/4750912. Accessed 29 12 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol and other beverage use and prostate cancer risk among Canadian men.” 1998. Alcohol and other beverage use and prostate cancer risk among Canadian men, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9833763/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea.” Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea, vol. Pub Med, 2016, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27634207/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Consumption of tea and coffee and the risk of lung cancer in cigarette-smoking men: a case-control study in Uruguay.” Pub Med, 1998. Consumption of tea and coffee and the risk of lung cancer in cigarette-smoking men: a case-control study in Uruguay, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9567246/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Green tea consumption and the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers.” Pub Med, 1997. Green tea consumption and the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9033623/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

National Library of Medicine. “Influence of drinking green tea on breast cancer malignancy among Japanese patients.” 1998, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9600118/. Accessed 29 December 2020.

1Source. “Caffeine: How much should you drink.” Caffeine: How much should you drink, 30 September 2020, https://1source.com/holistic/caffeine-how-much-should-you-be-drinking. Accessed 29 12 2020.

1Source. “Camellia Sinensis.” Camellia Sinensis, https://1source.com/ingredients/camellia-sinensis. Accessed 29 December 2020.1Source. “Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate.” https://1source.com/ingredients/epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Accessed 29 December 2020.

1Source. “Tannin.” Tannin, https://1source.com/ingredients/tannins. Accessed 29 December 2020.UK Tea & Infusion Association. “The History of Tea.” The History of Tea, https://www.tea.co.uk/history-of-tea. Accessed 29 December 2020.

US National Library of Medicine. “Effect of Traditional East Asian Medicinal herbal tea (HT002) on insomnia: a randomized controlled pilot study.” Integrative Medical Research, 2018. Accessed 29 December 2020.

Web MD. “Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth.” https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/foods-stain-teeth-feature#1. Accessed 29 December 2020.

The Ultimate 2020 Climate Update

Climate change, what 2020 taught us

A few days ago, an Instagram environmental activist page hopped on the bandwagon of a popular meme and pop culture trend which originated from ‘Spotify 2020 wrapped’ which consists of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter users sharing their Spotify user summary listing their most listened songs and artists throughout 2020. Meme creators have used the same format and spun it off with their own twist, such as depreciating humor, or simply just sharing funny music. And in the case of @everythingclimatechange on Instagram, their twist was a 2020 update on the climate.

So let’s explore the 2020 Climate Wrapped

The average global temperature is 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels

What does ‘above pre-industrial levels’ mean? It means that average temperature (January 2020 to October 2020) is 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), scientists used a baseline to measure global temperatures – a time when fossil-fuel burning had yet to change the climate at such a high noticeable rate. At the moment the period between 1850 and 1900 is used which means that 1.5°C is the baseline. WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas stresses that as “There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.

Just because the average temperature hasn’t reached 1.5°C, it doesn’t mean that the effects are not serious or that we still have time. According to NASA, even if the temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, sea level will continue to rise, as heat already stored in the oceans from human-produced warming causes them to expand.


The top corporate plastic polluters:

1. Coca-Cola

2. PepsiCo

3. Nestlé

According to the Guardian, these 3 brands were accused of “zero-progress” for the year 2020. Coca-Cola in particular turns out to pollute the earth with more plastic than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined. Coca-Cola produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year, an equivalent to 200,000 bottles per minute.

In 2020, the company is still stern on producing single-use plastic bottled cola. Bea Perez, the Senior Vice President reasoned their decision, ‘Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight’. The firm tried to compromise by making a pledge to recycle as many Coca-Cola bottles as possible. However, this does not appease environmental activists, as pledging ‘as much as possible’ means that there will still be tremendous amounts of plastic Coca-Cola bottles that end up in landfills and the sea.

4. Unilever

Unilever, one of the biggest multinational consumer goods companies which owns brands like Lipton, Rexona and Cif, have been revealed to produce 70,000 tonnes pollution footprint per year! Along with the brands mentioned above, the public claim that these companies lack a sense of morality for contributing such amounts of plastic pollution today. In response to this, Unilever has made a statement about their awareness and mentioned the commitments they want to partake in to reshape plastic use by 2025, such as halving their use of virgin plastic and and a reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use.

5. Mondelēz International

Out of the 5 companies, Mondelēz International seems to have made a lasting impression that they have become progressive and all in to reduce plastic pollution. Just by searching on Google “Mondelēz International’s plastic pollution” , the first two pages are filled with articles that are leaving positive and optimistic remarks. The American multinational food company, who owns companies like Cadbury, Oreo and Sour Patch Kids, have announced to collaborate across the industry to work on the policy, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). According to Britannica: EPR is a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers. Responsibility for disposal may be fiscal, physical, or a combination of the two.

Tadashi Kawamata’s artistic monument, Over Flow, to raise awareness about pollution in the ocean

Atmospheric CO2 levels reached a record high of 418.32 ppm (parts-per-million)

Even with the reduced carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate has not decreased and has stayed higher than 2019’s atmospheric CO2 level (414.7 ppm). This begs the question, how much higher would the rate be today if there was no Covid-19?

The pandemic has been great to force a steep decrease on carbon emissions. In 2020, the global carbon emission rate has dropped to 7% as less people are traveling in transportation and factories had to go through a shut down as people isolate themselves. However, this jarring decrease is only temporary and is not as effective as it sounds. The secretary general of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that: “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve”

What we should take from this is that for the environment to get better again, it has to be a global effort. And perhaps, it would take some sacrifices. click this for some blogs that could suggest you ways how to help!

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef experiences its 3rd mass coral bleaching in 5 years

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that 25 percent of the overall reef was severely bleached. Worse, the bleaching reached the coastal sides. Just as related to the carbon emissions mentioned above, bleaching of the coral reef happens because of rapid warming of the planet.

According to EcoWorld, the Great Barrier Reef indeed bleaches from time to time due to natural seasonal warming of the planet. However, in the case of 2002 and 2017, it was definitely our fault, just like for this year’s mass coral bleaching too. 2020’s coral mass bleaching was not the largest in terms of the span of corals bleaching, but rather was the second most severe on record. According to CNN, scientists found the damages are likely to be lasting and irreparable.

Apart from carbon emissions, other factors such as cosmetic chemicals also contribute to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, especially sunscreen (read more about how sunscreens damage the corals)


This is the hottest decade on record, with the hottest six years occurring since 2015

According to the Guardian, the past decade was the hottest, and 2019 comes in top three for the hottest year. It is no news that the world gets hotter by each decade since the pre-industrial era. However The average rise in temperature per decade is 0.7°C, and for this decade, the average had increased to a whopping of 0.39°C.

Because of 2019’s rising temperature and an expected lack of progress, Karin Gleason, a NOAA climatologist said 2020 was suspected to become hotter and beat 2016 by 75%, 2016’s record – global temperature mean (0.99°C / 1.78°F), the hottest temperature recorded in 2016 was 51.0°C / 123.8°F in India. However, due to the pandemic, the percentage had decreased to 50%


California’s record-breaking wildfire season

The 2020 California Wildfire Season is currently an ongoing fire crisis.

In mid September, no one expected a gender-reveal party would be the cause of one of the top biggest wildfires of California, ever. As gender-reveal parties have become more trendy and a ‘once in a lifetime’, this family wanted to make sure they hold one that would become memorable by using a ‘pyrotechnic device’, starting the El Dorado Fire. Before that, California’s forests have been burning as well as normal, the common hot and dry weather of California plays a part.

The ongoing fire is not only life-threatening to the residents of California, but it was extremely detrimental to the environment. Especially in Covid-19, firefighters are not only under risk of extinguishing fires but also of contracting the virus. California will always have wildfires in 2020. It has started since May in Kings, the named fire, Interstate 5 has burned 2,060 acres. In August, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state was burning from 367 known fires, many of which were sparked by intense thunderstorms. According to Cal Fire over 9,639 fires have burned 4,359,517 acres

What scientists concluded was that “fire seasons like this one will be more common as drier, hotter conditions wrought by climate change continue to result in larger, more intense fires” the last recorded wildfire was in December 13 at Riverside


The top polluting countries are

China

China’s growth has been powered by the cheap and extremely polluting fossil fuel, coal, which is the power source to people’s homes and also industries and factories that sell lots of exports. The use of coal has contributed to the worst case of air pollution in China. According to Environment-Ecology, 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

United States

According to Active Sustainability, The US is “the biggest industrial and commercial power”. Even with active commitment and effort to reduce pollution, the US still ranks in second place as big cities are still producing emissions and recently, rural area are beginning to be affected.

India

Same as China, India’s industrialization main energy source is burning of the fossil fuels. According to the World Health Organization, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities are part of India. The Indian Express shows the pollution in India is caused by industrial pollution (51%), vehicles (27%), crop burning (17%) and fireworks (5%).

Russia

Corrosion Doctors says that power-plants in Russia “lack modern pollution control equipment, resulting in large amounts of toxic emissions and waste” As being another country with huge industrial demands, Russia is dependent on cheap and polluting fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

Japan

Japan has a reputation of modern and progressive urban development and industrialization. According to AZO Cleantech, Japan’s rapid growth has been beginning since the 19th century, therefore the dependence on coal, wood and gas produces a lot of emissions and waste.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world, yet you can only see so much due to the air pollution

Conclusion:

#2020climatewrapped

@everythingclimatechange was very direct with their conclusion. Essentially, the planet is not getting better and to prevent an irreversible consequence, we have to give effort now.

Reversing of climate change and reducing of pollution is no new topic. We are/were taught about it in schools and are encouraged to make better choices for the environment by people around us and in the media.

The pandemic has let us isolate ourselves and reflect on what is a necessity and creative ways we can introduce into our new life schedule that could help with the issue.


References:

 “2020 on track to be one of three warmest years on record ….” 2 Dec. 2020, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-track-be-one-of-three-warmest-years-record. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

 “A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter ….” 19 Jun. 2019, https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for ….” 7 Dec. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/coca-cola-pepsi-and-nestle-named-top-plastic-polluters-for-third-year-in-a-row. Accessed 13 Dec. 2020.

 “People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola – BBC News.” 21 Jan. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51197463. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Rethinking plastic packaging – towards a circular … – Unilever.” https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/reducing-environmental-impact/waste-and-packaging/rethinking-plastic-packaging/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Mondelēz International Supports Global Harmonization on ….” 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/11/04/2120162/0/en/Mondel%C4%93z-International-Supports-Global-Harmonization-on-Plastics-Recycling-Calls-for-Collaborative-Action-on-Flexible-Films.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“extended producer responsibility | Definition … – Britannica.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/extended-producer-responsibility. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Global carbon emissions down by record 7% in 2020 – DW.” 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/global-carbon-emissions-down-by-record-7-in-2020/a-55900887. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Carbon dioxide levels hit new record; COVID impact ‘a tiny ….” 23 Nov. 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078322. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most … – EcoWatch.” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.ecowatch.com/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-2645655957.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass bleaching event in five ….” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/australia/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis ….” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/hottest-decade-climate-crisis-2019. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through ….” 18 Jun. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/climate/summer-weather-prediction.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“What started California’s largest wildfires of 2020?.” 1 Oct. 2020, https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2020/10/01/california-wildfires-2020-causes-august-complex-fire-lightning/5881552002/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Gender-Reveal Party Is Blamed in California Wildfire – The ….” 18 Sept. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/gender-reveal-party-wildfire.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Fires In California Burn On As Firefighters Risk COVID To ….” 21 Aug. 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/08/21/904552759/wildfires-rage-on-in-california-as-fire-crews-and-evacuees-grapple-with-covid-ri. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Interstate 5 Fire – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” 3 May. 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/5/3/interstate-5-fire/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“National Large Incident Year-to-Date Report – GACC-NIFC.” 20 Aug. 2020, https://gacc.nifc.gov/sacc/predictive/intelligence/NationalLargeIncidentYTDReport.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “The science of how climate change impacts fires in the West.” 17 Sept. 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/09/climate-change-increases-risk-fires-western-us/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Welcome to Incident – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” https://www.fire.ca.gov/incident/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Air Pollution in China – Environment – Ecology.” http://www.environment.gen.tr/pollution/766-air-pollution-in-china.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Top 5 most polluting countries – Active Sustainability.” https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-5-most-polluting-countries/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Want govt to build 1,600 km green wall along Aravalli, says ….” 24 Dec. 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/want-govt-to-build-1600-km-green-wall-along-aravalli-says-activist-vijaypal-baghel-6182069/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Corrosion and pollution in Russia – Corrosion Doctors.” https://corrosion-doctors.org/AtmCorros/mapRussia.htm. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“How Japan is Tackling Pollution – AZoCleantech.com.” 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=918. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

World Soil Day: How cosmetics and fast fashion destroy the soil

World Soil Day is an international event hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), they aim to “Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity” by addressing the cause and alleviate soil biodiversity loss.

Before we get into how cosmetic products harm the environment. We should first understand why our soil is dying.

Soil Degradation

According to the NSW, soil degradation ‘is the decline in soil condition caused by its improper use or poor management, usually for agricultural, industrial or urban purposes’. Soil degradation is certainly a natural regressive evolution process which can be caused by wind or water erosion. However, according to Pimentel et. al.’s study on soil erosion, the damages has increased by 17 times in the USA just because of modern cultivation alone. They added that it would take an investment of 6.4 billion USD to reduce this rate of increase.

The European Environmental Agency has referenced The Tutzing Project of 1998 mentioning that in humid climates, it takes up to 500 years on average for the formation of only 2.5 cm of soil. Therefore at this rate, this important finite source cannot beat the damages in time.

How cosmetics and fast fashion contributes to the damage?

According to the BBC, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, by 2030, it is expected that more than 134 million tonnes of textiles a year will be discarded. Aside from non-environmental friendly packaging and production. When cosmetics and fast fashion items get improperly dumped, it becomes toxic and damages the soil underneath. In addition, the production for these industries also has a high demand of raw materials to be extracted from the soil. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Aside from the toxic product, synthetic cotton which can slowly cause organ damages in the long-term. The production of synthetic cotton is damaging to the soil. Using these synthetic fertilizers is not the big problem, the problem is the combination of this use and high demands. In these synthetic N-P-K (nitrogenphosphoruspotassium) fertilizers, it harms the water under the soil by producing more and grows algae at a faster rate in which the ecosystem cannot handle. In addition, production of synthetic cotton harms the surrounding land too, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are sprayed on the crop travels through air to the surrounding area, when pesticides go through the ground, eroding the soil.

Polyester is non-biodegradable, meaning discarded polyester fabrics and clothes will not break down easily in landfills, which could become a hazard to land and soil animals. A research was done specifically studying the effects of polyester fibers on the important soil decomposers food web animals. The results show a negative effect on the animal’s energy reserves, ingestion and a decrease of 30% in reproduction rate. Although the conclusion was that the effect is slight, polyester still creates a long-term effect on these soil invertebrates by disrupting the decomposition process. In addition, when polyester clothing is washed, the fabric sheds and the micro plastics are washed down the drain, ending up in aquatic habitats.

According to the American Chemical Society, traces of Siloxanes are found in soil and aquatic life. Siloxanes are simply a class of liquid silicon that is found in skincare products, hair products and makeup. Environment Canada reported that the chemical compounds of siloxanes are toxic to the environment, found as to bioaccumulate in the environment.

Extraction of Mica is not only a real issue of illicit child labour use but it is also an environmental issue. Natural Mica that are used to make shiny pigments to create makeup products like eyeshadows and highlighters goes through a process of mining. Mining does not only pollute air, but it scars habitats and creates an irreversible soil structure damage. Companies like Lush have now converted to only using Synthetic Mica – Lush Creative Buyer Gabbi Loedolff says “Even though it is synthesised in a lab, it is constructed of natural minerals, so you don’t end up with the problem of microplastics which can end up in the oceans and water supplies.”

Triclosan which are found in hand sanitizers and household products are not only harmful to aquatic life but also damages the soil. This FDA banned chemical has been found to disrupt the nitrogen cycle in soil. This means that the affected soil has fertility damage, causing plants to go yellow and die. When Triclosan reaches to a waterway, it accumulates and reacts with other chemicals to make dioxins which are toxic.

Aquatic pollution is also Soil pollution

As much more research on cosmetics and textile toxic chemicals leads to a greater amount of aquatic pollution results. It is important to note that water and soil are dependent on each other as an ecosystem. Observably, chemicals that leak into waterways come from the soil and polluted toxic water goes back to soil, ending up in our crops, killing vulnerable animals and microorganisms. Hence, becoming another statistic that contributes to the rapid increase of soil degradation.

Make smarter choices to protect our environment!

References:

“Why clothes are so hard to recycle I BBC Future” https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “World Soil Day | Food and Agriculture Organization of the ….” http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/en/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Soil degradation – Environment.Nsw.Gov.Au – NSW Government.” 25 Jul. 2019, https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/land-and-soil/soil-degradation. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Why Soil Matters – YouTube.” 3 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kZXulLobA8. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and ….” 11 Apr. 2004, http://www.rachel.org/files/document/Environmental_and_Economic_Costs_of_Soil_Erosi.pdf. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “3.6. Soil degradation – European Environment Agency.” https://www.eea.europa.eu/ds_resolveuid/KPU6HFDMO1. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost … – UN News.” 25 Mar. 2019, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Why Is Cotton Harmful to the Soil? | Hunker.” https://www.hunker.com/12505119/why-is-cotton-harmful-to-the-soil. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Is Too Much Fertilizer a Problem? · Frontiers for Young Minds.” 20 May. 2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/486326. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Exploring the impacts of plastics in soil – The effects of ….” 15 Jan. 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719344420. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Siloxane D4 (Cyclotetrasiloxane, octamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclotetrasiloxane-octamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Siloxane D5 (Cyclopentasiloxane, decamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclopentasiloxane-decamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “FAQ on Lush and mica – Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics UK.” https://uk.lush.com/article/faq-lush-and-mica. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Triclosan: its occurrence, fate and effects in the … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21330702/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

Should You Go Organic?

Whether it’s for health purposes, a personal revelation, or a new years revelation, you’ve decided to adopt a healthier way of eating. You’ve swapped potato chips and burgers for vegetables and lean protein. But as you look through supermarket shelves another question comes to mind: what are organic labels and…should you choose them?

assorted vegetables on white ceramic plate

What does an organic label mean?

According to Harvard Health, the purpose of organic agriculture is to preserve natural resources, support animal health and welfare, and to avoid synthetic materials or chemicals in produce. The USDA is a strict regulator for the organic industry and only provides a “USDA Organic” seal for foods that are 95% organic.

sliced apples and bananas on white surface

Produce and livestock is considered organic when:

  • Soil is free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Crops cannot be genetically modified
  • Animals cannot receive antibiotics or growth hormones
  • Animal feed has to be grown organically
  • Animals must be able to roam around outside
  • Processed organic foods must not contain synthetic additives

Is organic food safer?

Man made pesticides in non organic foods

sliced meat on brown wooden chopping board

In an interview with WebMD, John Reganold, a professor of soil science at Washington State University described the chances of getting pesticide residues as “much less with organic food”. He used a case study conducted by Consumer Union to show that organically grown crops had one third of the pesticide residue compared to non organic produce.

Even so, the amount of pesticide and synthetic chemicals in non organic produce is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. Hence, the real potential health risk is whether the accumulation of small doses over decades may harm us.

Natural toxins in organic food

brown round fruit on gray metal rack

If you helped out in the kitchen, you’d instinctively know to cut off the green spots on potatoes. Solanine is a substance produced by potatoes and is identified by its green spots. This is an example of natural toxins in plants where an over consumption of this substance can make you physically ill. As organic plants lack synthetic chemicals and pesticides to protect them, they have to resort to creating their own toxins to contend with pests and insects. Some say this this natural toxins may be as harmful or even more so then synthetic pesticides used in the production of non organic foods.

As a rule of thumb, rinse all fruits and vegetable thoroughly under running water even if you are going to cook it after. Take special care to wash fruit skins such as oranges or melons as cutting unwashed fruit skins may bring pesticides from the blade into the flesh.

Is organic foods more nutritious?

sliced fruit on white surface

A few studies have reported a higher level of antitoxins, Vitamin C and minerals in organic foods, however, the differences compared to non organic produce is too small to have a significant impact.

However, there is one certainty. Eating food while its fresh is the only way to get the most nutrients out of it. Nutrients oxidize over time. So, even if there is a higher content of nutrients in organic foods, it would oxidize and disappear sitting in the refrigerator.

Is it worth the cost?

vegetable salad

Toxic and pesticides accumulate in the soil, water, our bodies and we end up consuming it. Although there is insufficient data surrounding this topic, the potential health risks are always there. Choose what works for your lifestyle. Organic foods tend to be up to 47% more expensive than non organic foods. If you are able the luxury of choosing all organic produce and like the idea of a more environmentally friendly production system, organic is the way to go! However, choosing certain products as organic works too!

3 Reasons You Should Use Sunscreen in Winter

We are particular about applying sunscreen during summer, however most of us stop using sunscreen as the seasons change and winter rolls by. Contrary to popular belief, even as we swap tank tops and shorts for long coats and mitten, it is still crucial that we use sunscreen during the winter.

Always apply sunscreen!

Winter intensifies suns’ rays

Snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of the UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wears sunscreens daily as Ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays from the sun often result in damage and mutations in our DNA. In fact, there is a strong positive relation between UV exposure from the sun and the increase of non melanoma skin cancers. Besides that UV rays are also the main cause of wrinkles according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even though we hardly notice the sun during winter, don’t forget that the reflective rays are still harmful!

Sunscreen has anti aging properties

Sunscreen stops you from aging!

Do you feel your skin get drier during winter? Are there fine lines appearing out of the blue? Fine lines appear due to the UV rays that penetrate and damage collagen and elastin in your skin. Sunscreen acts as a barrier that moisturizes and protects your skin against the dry, harsh, winter weather, as well as provide a protective film that reflects UV rays from penetrating your skin. Furthermore, the ozone layer which traps most UV rays is the thinnest during winter, according to Beaumont Organization. It is important to protect ourselves with sunscreen especially from 10am to 4pm as that is when sunrays are at its strongest. A 4 year study conducted in Australia compared skin aging in 900 men and women. The results found that those who used sunscreen had no detectable increase and even 24% less skin aging compared to those who did not. This study shows concrete evidence that sunscreen does have anti aging properties.

Winter conditions remove sunscreen faster

Sweating off sunscreen is a tell tale sign you need to reapply sunscreen. However, we don’t sweat during winter, making it hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. Some people even think that because we don’t sweat, the sunscreen is still there and applying it once in the morning is more than enough. Shockingly, the harsh winds wear sunscreens faster and makes them lose its effectiveness according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. We are recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after sweating for sunscreen to protect your skin.

How do we choose sunscreens?

With the variety of the types of sunscreens on supermarket shelves, how do we choose the right sunscreens for us? What do the SPF numbers mean?

What does the SPF numbers mean?

What do SPF numbers mean?

SPF numbers, or sun protection factor, don’t show the strength of the sunscreen. Instead, it is the duration you can go before reapplying. There’s a little math involved. If you were to get a sunburn after 10 minutes without sunscreen, after applying SPF 30, you can stay 30x longer (300 minutes / 5 hours) before getting sunburnt.

There are 2 major types of sunscreens

two teal and yellow labeled containers
  • Physical sunscreens

Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens that function like a mirror and reflects the suns rays. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are what gives sunscreens the white sheen we see on our skin and if physical sunscreens don’t appear white, it means that the the ingredients in the sunscreen isn’t high enough to protect you from the sun.

  • Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens absorb suns’ rays and dissipate it away as heat. The pros of sunscreens is that it stays on the skin for a longer duration of time. However, chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as it forms byproducts that are harmful to the environment and marine life, leading some organizations to ban the use of certain ingredients in sunscreens.

Ingredients you should avoid in you chemical sunscreens:

Check out our in depth discussion of physical and chemical sunscreens here!

All in all

Sunscreen should be used all year round, especially during winter. When choosing sunscreen for you, it is important to calculate SPF and constantly reapply sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin against the harsh winds and invisible UV rays. While physical sunscreens are au natural, they tend to wash off easily. While chemical sunscreens last longer, certain ingredients are harmful for the environment and marine life. Hence, if you want to use chemical sunscreens, make sure to avoid ingredients that may potentially harm the environment.

Masks: Crucial Tips You Can’t Forget in Covid Times

With up to 55.1 million cases and 1.33 million deaths, the surging demand for surgical masks have created a global shortage for masks and spiked anxiety among the public to stock up masks. Masks have since become a necessity for people when venturing outdoors as some shops may even bar a person’s entry if they do not don on masks. Here are some things to keep in mind to protect yourself and you’re loved ones!

Never reuse surgical masks

Given its shortage and short term usability, people have been trying to find ways and means to maximize its use. There have been rumors popping all over the internet that bacteria can be killed after steaming, boiling or poaching masks at high temperatures. However, none of these are true.

A study was conducted by the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, Hong Kong Consumer Council, Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, Hong Kong Science Park, and the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering of the City University of Hong Kong to find out the level of filtration of both surgical and DIY masks after the above attempts of sterilizing and cleaning.

Masks were sterilized using two approaches:

  • The outer layer of surgical masks was sprayed with 75% alcohol- based hand rub.
  • Surgical masks were washed with soap water at 60 degrees.

The results were analyzed using a scanning electron microscope.

Test 1- Observation of the water resistant layer:

  • After the outer layer was sprayed with alcohol, the structure of water resistant layer was recorded to have been damaged.
  • After a 60 degree wash, the water resistant layer was recorded to have shrunk.

Test 2- Observation of the filtration layer:

  • The middle layer for filtration was observed to be damaged after sterilized with alcohol.
  • After the soap wash, the middle layer was observed to have shrunk and was deformed.

Moral of the story, don’t reuse masks. Using a contaminated mask is as bad as not using one.

How to dispose surgical masks properly

As the pandemic surged, masks have been used and incorrectly disposed. In March 2020, groups of environmentalists in Hong Kong raised awareness about the increasing number of masks appearing on beaches. Not only are surgical masks a threat to marine life and wild life habitats, incorrect disposal of masks may lead to bacteria and or other viruses to multiply and spread.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends discarding masks into its designated bin directly after use. Masks or other protective gear used in the pandemic should not be thrown away in your general household rubbish as to prevent the virus from multiplying.

According to Iberdrola, the Brazilian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association has compiled the ideal way to dispose used masks and gloves. The items you want to dispose should be placed in two small plastic bags, one after another, then tied and thrown with your usual household waste. Take the initiative to write “risk of contamination”, should you have been in contact with an infected person.

How to dispose of masks correctly.
How to dispose of masks correctly. Credits to IBERDROLA

Cloth masks can save the environment

The 3 ply design in surgical masks is comprised of 3 layers, the water resistant layer, middle layer, and inner layer to absorb moisture, and is crucial to protect one’s self and the people around them. However, surgical masks is made of plastic, which is harmful to the environment and can only be used once. Check out our article on how plastic can end up harming us. Hence, many people opt for cloth masks as a more sustainable option. But, just how effective are cloth masks? Do they protect us enough?

Cloth masks and surgical masks are both considered contaminated after use, but surgical masks are meant to be disposed off while cloth masks can be washed and reused. A study conducted among Vietnam health care workers in 2011 showed that if cloth masks were washed in hospital laundry, it can be as effective as surgical masks. The study also showed that health care workers who hand washed their own masks had up to double the risk of infection compared to masks washed in hospital laundry.

The World Health Organization recommends washing masks with laundry detergent in a washing machine at 60 degrees Celsius for the wash to be effective.

Some are worried that some fabrics, structure and design of certain cloth masks may not be enough to ward of pathogens, however, experts say that unless you’re a frontline worker, there isn’t much to worry about. The primary function of the cloth mask is to protect other people by containing respiratory droplets before they are expelled into the air.

A laboratory study used laser light scattering methodology to visualize respiratory droplets of different sizes. The research found that blocking the person’s mouth with a damp cloth blocked out nearly all of the “particles”. A real case scenario involved an infected man in Wuhan who flew to Toronto. Although he was tested positive for Covid, no other passengers contracted the illness as he wore a mask throughout the flight. A more recent case involved two hairstylist in Missouri who worked for a total of 140 clients while infected with Covid, however, due no clients tested positive for the illness as the hairstylists wore masks.

These studies are convincing cases to emphasize and encourage the use of masks. A recent study used publicly available data to observe the correlation between the growth rate of Covid-19 after mask mandates in 15 states and the district of Columbia between March and late May 2020. Researchers found a strong positive co relation between mask mandates and the decline in Covid cases. Researchers estimated that mask mandates may have prevented up to 450,000 cases of Covid. Although masks can never be 100% effective, in combination with other prevention methods such as social distancing and sanitizing regularly, we can keep each other safe and get through this together. As perfectly summarized in an article by MIT Medical:

 “Your mask protects other people; their masks protect you.”

Holi powder: The Rainbow Killer

Famously known as the festival of color, Holi is the most vibrant Hindu festival. Celebrated around early March, people come together to celebrate spring, nature in all its finery, love and new life in a flurry of dancing, singing, and throwing colored powder and water. However, despite this lighthearted and colorful celebration, Holi powder has had a bad rep for containing toxic compounds that could harm the human body and the environment. With roots in Hindu culture, Holi is celebrated around the world spreading as far as North America, South America and Europe. However, other celebratory events such as color runs also feature colored powders with a toxic formula similar to Holi powder.

Synthetic Holi powder is an irritant

According to India’s National Council of Science Muse, Holi color powders were derived from natural ingredients such as berries, flowers, spices. Tumeric powder was used to get the color yellow, red was derived from the hibiscus flower while Heena was used to obtained green color, according to Alive Wellness Clinic.

Holi powder that was once derived from all natural ingredients have now been swapped for commercial products laden with harmful industrial dyes. These synthetic powders offer brighter and more vibrant colors, and are cheaper to produce compared to the ones derived from plant dyes. The lack of manufacture regulations for Holi powders have since turned this fun celebration into a recipe for disaster.

Even though some powders are labeled “organic” and / or “natural”, it is misleading as they only refer to one part of the color. One part of the color may be derived from an all natural source but mixed in silica or other substances, which is carcinogenic

Unregulated ingredient compounds such as lead oxide, cobalt nitrate, indigo, zinc salts, copper sulphate, mercury sulfate, and aluminum bromide, malachite green, rhodamine and gentian violet are used to make darker shades such as black blue, green, red, and silver Holi colors. Sometimes, mica dust and glass powder are added to give the colors an extra shine. These contaminants, some of which are carcinogens, can cause potential complications such as dermatitis and eczema through contact with sensitive parts of our body such as skin and our eyes, and through inhalation.

According to the Baby Center, here are some health effects of some specific ingredients.

  • Chromium: Can cause bronchial asthma, allergies.
  • Nickel: Can cause dermatitis pneumonia.
  • Cadmium: Can cause weak and brittle bones (Itai Itai disease).
  • Zinc: Can lead to fever.
  • Iron: Can cause skin sensitivity to light.
  • Mica (abeer): This is a shiny powder used to give colours a metallic look. It can cause skin allergies and irritation.

Holi powder harms the environment

A study conducted by the University of Rajasthan and Jaipur National University researched the effects of colored powder on water and soil, and found that the complex structure of polymers in artificial colors makes it almost impossible to decompose biologically. Furthermore, other substances such as acids, mica, glass powder and alkalis aren’t degradable under natural conditions as well, hence it will seep into waste water for a while. Besides that, bacteria is found to “decolorize, transform and mineralize colored soil and water in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions,” according to Daily Mail.

Safety

  • Experts advise people participating in this activity to wear sunglasses, swim goggles and/ or a hat to protect their eyes.
  • Applying petroleum jelly, oil or moisturizer can help reduce absorption of color on skin and hair as well as make it easier for the color to come off later
  • Refrain from using detergent, kerosene, spirit, nail polish remover, alcohol or acetone to remove the colors as these are strong irritants that could break down the protective skin barrier. Instead, use normal bathing soap and moisturize skin after.
  • Governments around the world should impose bans to prohibit manufacturing and tighten regulations regarding chemicals used in Holi powder.

You Can Save the Environment by Going Vegan

We are facing an ecological crisis, with climate change labeled as the “world’s gravest environmental threat”, according to PETA. Naturally, we feel the duty to do our part in solving the issue, however, that feeling of helplessness lead us to the million dollar question: where do we start? This crisis of consciousness has led to people opting for energy making slight changes in their life, however, it is not enough. According to a study conducted by Oxford researchers, going vegan is a lifestyle change that can provide a significant help to this environmental catastrophe.

“If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products”. – PETA

Vegan pancakes!

How do animals contribute to the environmental crisis?

Greenhouse gas emissions

Products of agricultural farming include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases that are the primary culprits behind global warming. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) has also backed up the claim that vegan diets have the most potential to reduce greenhouse emissions as meat and dairy contribute up to 60% of agriculture’s green house emissions on their own.

vegan noodles

Carbon dioxide: According to PETA, it takes about “11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of grain protein”. It is a no brainer, that it is more climate efficient to obtain products produced from plant based sources. Ruminant animal pastures for meat and diary accounted for 72% of carbon while croplands that serve as animal feed contributed to another 28%.

Methane: Methane is 25% as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, hence it is in our interest to reduce the production of methane any chance we have. Ruminants produce gas while they digest their food and is also found in their feces.

Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. According to a report by the UN, meat, egg and dairy industries are responsible for up to 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Land

If everyone stopped eating meat, global farmland use could be “reduced by 75%, equivalent to the size of US, Europe and China combined,” according to Independent. Besides drastically reducing greenhouse emissions, it would lessen the rate of deforestation, in turn allowing ecosystems to thrive and prevent the gradual extinction of species resulting from their loss of habitats.

Pollution

According to a study conducted by PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Hog and dairy farms spray their fields with waste produced by the animals. This is a health hazard as air particles filled with bacteria are blown into commercial homes, potentially infecting families and causing a stench. Furthermore, waste sprayed on the field leak into rivers and streams, potentially messing with the balance of the ecosystem and poisoning aquatic life, which is pretty ironic considering that same poisoned seafood end up on our plates.

Statistical models showed that cutting meat and diary products from one’s diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint up to 73%, which is better than cutting down flights, buying electric cars, or opting for sustainable meat and dairy, according to a source from Independent. A study from Oxford shows that meat eaters were responsible for up to more than half as many dietary greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarians and up to 102% more than vegans. A global shift is vital to turn the clock around. Try to make altercations in your diet, such as choosing to go meatless or vegan on one or two designated days per week. Every little effort counts!