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lavender-fragrance-pic6A few years ago, when I started my personal care company, BeeCeuticals Organics, I contacted several manufacturers to produce products according to my specs. I was interested in using only natural and organic ingredients. Our discussions about the ingredients were going well until the subject of scent came up. Scents play an important role in skin care products by working together with the other ingredients. As I learned later on, scents can be harmful too; it all depends on the source.

When one of these manufacturers began to explain what he did to enhance the aroma of his products I almost jumped out of my organic skin! Let’s call him Dirty Larry. I wanted the aroma of Lavender in one of my facial creams. Dirty Larry was happy, he said that Lavender, which he called Lavender Type Fragrance, was readily available and cheap to use in manufacturing. But, wait a second, I said to myself: what did he mean by Lavender Type Fragrance?

He described to me how the practice of using Fragrances is accepted in the cosmetic industry.  And then he specifically defined what he meant by Lavender Type Fragrance by showing me the list of chemicals that, when mixed together smell like Lavender. Following you can read it for yourself:

Ingredients: 4-(40Hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanone, 3-hodroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone, 4-hydroxy-3-methylbenzaldehyde, a-Ionone, Methyl Sulfide, 2,5-Dimethyl-N(2-pyrazinyl)pyrrole

 

I was stunned!! What happened to using the essence of Lavender flowers? For two decades I owned Natural Food stores and was aware of Essential Oils being used for their scents and therapeutic qualities.  As it turns out, Essential Oils are a lot more costly than cheap Fragrances and not the scent of choice for most personal care companies. Of course I did not do business with Dirty Larry, but I did learn a lot about how most cosmetic companies operate. Here are some of the facts I learned about the stench of Fragrance:

Many companies including so-called “natural” companies use synthetic Fragrances, especially some of the biggest names and widely used brands. Many even put “natural Fragrance ” in their ingredient list. THER IS NO SUCH THING as a “natural Fragrance “! This is a lie. A natural scent is imparted to a product only by essential oils and would read on the label as “essential oil of…” If you see the word “Fragrance”, you know that product contains nasty chemicals as shown in the above example of Lavender.

Fragrance oils and perfumes are blends of synthetic chemicals that give a distinct aroma to a product. These chemicals do not have to be accounted for in the ingredients list individually. A perfume can consist of a hundred different synthetic chemicals and be listed as “Fragrance” even on a so-called “natural” product. This is so deceptive. One little “F” word can actually represent a hundred different synthetic chemicals!

A few things you should know about “Fragrance”:

·        A fragrance can contain upwards of 150 undisclosed chemicals and yet only be labeled as “fragrance” in the ingredient listing. Companies are allowed to keep the ingredients in a fragrance a secret and claim it is proprietary information.

·        Recent studies have found nearly 100 Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC’s) at high levels in products containing fragrance. Some of those VOC’s include acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4 dioxane which has been linked to cancer!

·        One of the most alarming and most common chemicals found were phthalates, which have been scientifically linked to a number of degenerative diseases

·        Fragrances are unregulated

·        According to the American Academy of Dermatologists most allergic reactions from skin care products are due to synthetic fragrances. I remember customers coming to my stores with masks on their face or calling in orders that they would pick up outside the store so they did not come in contact with people wearing perfume.

 

In a laboratory analysis, one popular perfume was found to contain more than forty chemicals classified as hazardous to the liver, and yet the FDA still does not require perfume manufacturers to warn consumers about the toxic chemicals found in these products.

Epp-BEE-Log: This is such a stinky subject. Remember when you see the word FRAGRANCE on a label it can be hiding many unlisted synthetic and toxic chemicals. We must all say NO to personal care products that say FRAGRANCE.

 

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sheep-lanolinBy Richie Gerber

 

There’s a dirty little secret lurking in your “all-natural” lip balm as well as other balms. It’s called Lanolin. Touted for its moisturizing properties, lanolin has been included in a number of body and skin care products over the years. Some companies even go far enough to brag about it on the front of the bottle. However, while lanolin is considered to be a “natural” product since it is not technically a petrochemical, there is controversy as to exactly how it is gathered.

 

So What is Lanolin?

Lanolin is a wax from a sebaceous gland in sheepskin. In ancient times they discovered that this wax is moisturizing on the skin and good for softening leather as well. It really is a very effective moisturizer, which is absorbed efficiently on the skin. The ancients knew this and we old time health foodies know it as well. Another great quality of Lanolin is it is a wonderful transporter of other materials, which are mixed with it. So if you add some Calendula to it you would see the Lanolin and Calendula absorbed rapidly.

 

Sounds Great So What’s The Problem?

Currently, Lanolin is removed from the wool with chemical scouring. In conventional wool production, the wool is dipped in pesticides to kill any mites and parasites, and then it is chemically scoured to remove the lanolin. It is then put through a centrifuge, and then it undergoes a distillation process, which yields the finished lanolin. Conventional lanolin that you would find in your “all-natural” lip and body balm has been through this chemical cocktail processing. Current regulations call for it to contain less than 40 parts per million (ppm) of pesticide residue in order to be applied topically, but who is watching? The Organic Monitoring Research institute admits that it is not clear who is monitoring this 40 ppm of pesticide residue for compliance. You and I both know the answer: NOBODY!!! As of today, there are no International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) standards for lanolin production.  It is a free-for-all and nobody is paying attention to the safety of the finished product.

 

Lanolin is exposed to a number of pesticides when the wool is dipped. A few of them are: Organochlorine, organophosphate, pyrethroid. Residues of these toxic pesticides in lanolin are well documented. Sheep also ingest low levels of dieldrin. Studies show that the pesticides bind to the lanolin due to its waxy consistency rather than to the wool fiber itself. The pesticides become concentrated in the lanolin. As I said before Lanolin is a great and effective transporter of other materials. So you can be sure that the pesticide laden Lanolin transports all the pesticides into your body in a most efficient way. This is really scary stuff. Imagine finding an excellent carrier of pesticides and adding it to your body and lip balms. Not only do you absorb these toxic substances through your skin you also ingest them in your lip balm.

Because lanolin is a wax it degrades slowly and the pesticides residues are slow to degrade as well. So it is like a time-release dose of toxins. To extract the lanolin from the wool, processers use Methyl chloride as a solvent. There are numerous studies to the toxic effects of this chemical.  Who wants any of that in their body or lip balm?

 

A strange but true fact, lanolin is currently allowed in Organic Agriculture and has been at the center of some heated debates. Should lanolin be allowed to be used on the teats of organically raised cows?  This would introduce pesticide residue on milking cows and cows feeding calves. This pesticide residue would contaminate the organic milk and milk products. How can you call the milk organic after it has been exposed to these toxic substances? Beats me.

Ep-BEE-Log: Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes? The debate is still ongoing, but for me it is a no brainer. The use of pesticide laced Lanolin should be outlawed and they should stop trying to fool us by putting this Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing!!!

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 By Richie Gerber

Me in my No Nukes Shirt...1979
Me in my No Nukes Shirt…1979. Copyright Richie Gerber

I can’t believe it was 30 years ago today that there was a meltdown in the core of the Three Mile Island Nuclear-Power Plant. March 28, 1979 will go down as a day of infamy for all time. The nations worst commercial nuclear accident and not such a good day for Julie and Richie either.

At the time we were living peacefully on our organic farm in rural Maine far away from any dense population centers. Julie and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to get away from all the problems that city life presents and live close to the land in an unpolluted idyllic environment. We moved to rural Maine to grow our own organic vegetables and live the good life.

On March 28, 1979 a partial meltdown of the core of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Generating Station occurred and a large plume of this toxic material traveled north over Maine. We did not know about the toxic plume at the time so there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves. Luckily it happened early in the morning so we were in the house at the time. It shows that we are all interconnected and that pollution somewhere hundreds or even thousands of miles away can seriously affect us innocents downstream.

I was so angry. I wrote a song, Radiation, in 1979 to vent this anger and frustration. You can listen to my song below. It is a protest song expressing my anger. I wrote the words and music right after the incident. I got a few musician friends together and went into a small recording studio in Waterville, Maine. The song’s message is still right on target even after 30 years.

Ep-Bee-Log: The cause of the meltdown was attributed to both technical malfunctions and human error. Here we were away from it all  on our organic farm in rural Maine and yet the toxic plumes found us. It goes to show that you can’t run or hide from nuclear contamination, even if it is not in your backyard. 

 

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Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

By Richie Gerber

Just when you think things can’t get worse…the esteemed Congresswoman from Connecticut, Democrat Rosa DeLauro introduced H.R. 875 in February. H.R. 875 is called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, but a more accurate name is THE END OF MOM AND POP FARMING IN AMERICA 2009 aka DEATH TO ORGANIC FARMING.

As you can see I am fuming mad. Julie and I have been involved in the organic movement since the early 70’s with our organic farm in Maine.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s we sold huge amounts of organic produce in our Bread of Life Natural Foods Stores & Restaurants. We help pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) by educating our customers of its importance. DSHEA has been instrumental in giving people access to supplements.

So what’s the problem with H.R. 875 you may ask? It establishes a “Food Safety Administration” within the Department of Health and Human Services. This new department would “protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”

The bill defines a “food production facility” this way:

The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

So that would include…

*All organic farms

*All small farms

*All family farms

*Even small family gardens if you sell any produce to your neighbor

The effect of this bill is to make it extremely difficult if not impossible for small family farmers to comply with the new bureaucratic set of laws. Mountains of paperwork as well as new fees put a huge burden on these Mom and Pops farmers. Even if they just want to sell some tomatoes at their roadside stand or in the local farmers market. The legislation favors the large agro-industrial complex since they have the people to file the paperwork as well as the money needed for the additional fees.

Who is Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and why would she introduce HR 875? Her husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto, one of the giant multi-national agro-industrial complex corporations who are in favor of this bill. Is this starting to smell like manure yet? Some of the other giant players like ADM, Sodexo and Tyson are for the bill as well. Here is what Wikepedia says about Monsanto, “The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup”. Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 18,800 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of USD$11.365 billion reported for 2008.[2]”

This stinking legislation would add additional costs and headaches to every farm, some fishing boats, slaughterhouses, processing plants, CO-OPs and anyone else associated with growing, storing, transporting or processing plants to name a few. Violators can face multi-million dollar fines. It’s true. I am not kidding.

In Maine Julie and I used to buy our eggs from a small farmer with a couple dozen hens. We bought our milk from a farmer with a handful of cows. Our honey and maple syrup came from some small farmer as well. Now all these small Mom and Pops will have to fill out piles of paperwork online and pay the fees. You and I know it is virtually impossible for the small guy to survive in this environment. Only the large corporations can fully comply with these unusually high and unfair extra burdens.

Ep-BEE-Log: We all need to yell and scream to our congressmen and elected officials. We need to let everyone know that we disapprove of this horrible legislation. Please make your voice heard before it is too late. Now is the time: Let’s Panic-Or No More Organic!!!

 

 

 

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Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

By Richie Gerber

Fort Lauderdale: Venice of America. What a beautiful slogan for this wonderful city in paradise. Over three hundred miles of waterways connect all parts of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Restaurants, hotels, homes and more can be reached by boat in this city of lovely canals.

 

About a mile or so north of Port Everglades, we stumble on what some call “the worst disaster to the Florida Reefs in history”. As you will soon see it was a recipe for ruin. A stupid idea, supported by stupid science and stupid scientific experts, combined with stupid local and national governmental agencies with stupid leaders, created devastation of immense proportions. Stupid businesses donated stupid money to get publicity and then the stupid media made sure everyone knew about this “wonderful project”. This horrible “reef building” experiment was lauded as a grand step forward for artificial reef building. What were they smoking?

In the spring of 1972, over two million tires were strapped together in bundles of 10 and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean in order to form an artificial reef.

Starting to sound fishy already, right?

The idea was twofold. Create an artificial reef where fish can thrive as well as increase the coral population. Snorkelers, divers, fishermen and more from around the world will come to Fort Lauderdale and frolic around in this man made underwater marvel. It also solves the problem of what to do with 2 million mosquito-infested tires in landfills while creating a man made underwater wonder. Win-win.  The old adage, out of sight out of mind, played a part in all this as well. I would edit the adage to fit into this reality, out of sight out of your freaking mind.

So, on a beautiful spring day in 1972 a Goodyear blimp dropped a gold painted tire into the ocean to “christen” the site. Goodyear also helped bind and compress the tires. In their press release at the time they said the reef would “provide a haven for fish and other species”, as well as lauding “the excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material.”  Over 100 private boats loaded with tires and volunteers set out in a flotilla to dump the first load of what would eventually end up as over 2 million tires off Fort Lauderdale’s pristine beach. Even to this day, over 35 years later, plants and coral refuse to grow on the tires. Fish refuse to swim and frolic near the tires in what was supposed to be a haven for them. It is considered by many to be a “dead zone”. Nothing. Nada. It is a desolate and eerie moonscape of a tire dump at the bottom of the ocean. A disaster.

Many of the nylon or steel straps used to belt together the tires into bundles of 10 have broken so now we have lots and lots of loose tires shifting with the currents. When the seas are rough as well as during storms and hurricanes the tires shift and travel far and wide. So the disaster is growing. Tire sprawl. Over the years the disaster site has grown. Tires are shifting in all directions spreading destruction and devastation to the neighboring reefs. The problem keeps expanding doing more and more harm to the reefs as well as leaching toxic chemicals from the breakdown of the tires. No fish, no divers, no snorkelers, no fauna can be found at this constantly expanding “Dead Zone”. It is our own underwater Chernobyl.

Ep-Bee-Log: Some efforts have been made to collect the tires but no real headway is in sight. The reason is that they might gather up a few thousand tires. Then we get a storm or rough seas and many of the remaining millions of tires just fill back in as if nothing has happened. The State of Florida along with the Army Corps of Engineers has implemented a full-scale salvage project to run through 2010 at a cost of $3.4 million. It is a very time consuming job and will produce in my opinion questionable results. I for one think they are just spinning their tires in the sand.

 

 Photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
 
 
 
 

 

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2233726895_7675aa00afBy Richie Gerber

I haven’t seen Bob and his wife Sally for over 38 years. These are not their real names since I promised to protect their identities. You will see why shortly. Bob and I taught at Newport Junior High School in Newport, Maine back in the 70’s. It was a six-class schoolhouse. Bob was the science teacher. He always teased me about my bean sprout sandwiches back then and even now. I have been a vegetarian since 1970 so Bob and I had lots of lunches together in the teacher’s room. Trust me; nobody else in the school was eating bean sprout sandwiches on my wife Julie’s homemade bread.

After recently finding me online, Bob and I scheduled a lunch at the Whole Foods Market in Plantation, Florida. I love this store. I built it back in the 1990’s and sold it to Whole Foods in 1997. I always like to visit this very special store. Bob arrived with his wife and after a few minutes of small talk we loaded up at the salad bar and sat in the café for lunch and some catching up. We talked about what everyone was doing. Some of the old names were not doing much since they passed away. We had a great deal of fun remembering and catching up.

I decided that these two old teacher friends could help me with an unscientific survey. Bob and Sally have more education than the majority of Mainers so I thought they were the perfect candidates. That morning I had posted the first entry on my blog– “Compact Florescent Lights, a dim-witted idea”, the prequel to this post, and I wanted to get some sense of reality from these very kind and sincere folks.

Here we are eating lunch like the old days when I bring up the subject of garbage in Newport, Maine. An unusual question indeed, but they remembered that I was always different. I explained that I had recently posted my first blog and wanted some information from them. They were very kind to put up with talking trash at lunch.

We had a general conversation on how this small New England town deals with its trash. I then started to focus on my specific objective: Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs). I asked Bob about his experience with these bulbs. I use his story because I think it is very universal. Here is Bob’s experience with CFLs.

About two years ago Mainers were flooded with discount coupons and rebates to purchase as many CFLs as they want for twenty-five cents each. It came as a form of a partial discount and a mail in rebate, however, a quarter is a quarter. They considered it a sort of free give away. He counted out loud and told me he bought over 30 CFLs at this reduced price. He had two reasons for the purchase: they were almost free and he would save money on energy. Being a retired science teacher he was able to figure out the estimated dollars he would save while doing a good deed for the country and planet. That is how Bob thought. It was a noble win-win scenario.

I then asked Bob about the results of his switch to CFLs. He and his wife both shook their heads and seemed a little apprehensive to answer any more questions, but I kept on drilling. In the less than two years that he had the new bulbs, three of them “blew”. Not in the sense of exploding but rather they failed. That is a 30% failure rate in less than two years. These three twenty-five cent bulbs had to be replaced with nine-dollar bulbs since there were no more discounts coupons or rebates. So now Bob is starting to feel some economic pain after spending almost thirty dollars on three bulbs.

Here is where the fun begins. I requested an honest answer. I asked Bob and Sally how they disposed of the three defective bulbs. They became so quiet that you could hear my tofu salad wilt. As I said in the opening of this piece this is a true story but the names have been changed and here is why. They threw each of the three defective bulbs in the trash! What? You heard right. They threw all three mercury filled bulbs in the trash! No separate bagging. No special stop at the proper recycling area. Nothing. Just threw them in the trash.

Bob and Sally were so embarrassed. Bob being an ex-science teacher understood the negative impact on the environment these mercury filled bulbs have. The US government called mercury “the world’s gravest chemical problem.” I could see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. They knew it was wrong. They are both educated, retired teachers. Bob was always a role model, coach and mentor to lots of kids. He donated his time to charities and to kids in need. They are both noble folks trying to do the right thing. They told me how they participate in a communal organic garden and use only recycled plastic bags when grocery shopping. Bob and Sally are people of high moral character and should not be judged on this, but they do teach us a lesson and, in fact, add strength to my point that these CFLs are an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. People are not disposing of these bulbs properly and probably never will. It’s like trying to un-pop popcorn–once the toxic mercury is released into the environment it is too late.

Americans have very low participation rates for recycling. Even my eco-conscious friends missed an important opportunity–three times. We need to face up to reality and realize that huge amounts of the mercury containing bulbs will be released on our over stressed Spaceship Earth.

Ep-BEE-Log: And where is our government? In Newsday’s article, “U.S. calls for treaty on mercury reduction” the government describes mercury as the, “world’s gravest chemical problem.” Yet in the article there is not one mention of mercury filled light bulbs. Not one word on the impending silent spring we are unleashing on ourselves in the guise of protecting our environment. It seems like there is a huge disconnect. Someone needs to complete the circuit. Connect the dots and stop supporting bad ideas. We all need to say no to bad ideas, even when they are the most popular ideas of the time. Even all the King’s horses and all the King’s men will not be able to put this together again. Lights out!!!

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Good for the Environment?
Good for the Environment?

By Richie Gerber

In a story today in Newsday by the AP entitled, “U.S. calls for treaty on mercury reduction” it cited the Obama administration’s reversal of past policy. Our government now desires a treaty to curb mercury use calling it “the world’s gravest chemical problem.”

 Now take the world’s gravest chemical and have the government vigorously endorse the production of billions of light bulbs that use small amounts of the world’s gravest chemical. Then create programs to distribute these bulbs as quickly and widespread as possible. Tens of millions of homes with many of these bulbs used throughout the homes and apartments.

These Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs), as these bulbs are called, contain small amounts of mercury. So now the government promotes the use of mercury containing bulbs on a mass scale while calling for a treaty to curb the use of mercury. It looks like playing both sides to me, or maybe just plain dumb.

True CFLs use less energy, produce less heat and generally operate more efficiently then regular incandescent bulbs. Coal fueled power plants produce over 50% of mercury emissions. So it makes sense that using CFLs, which consume less power will reduce our dependency on power generated by coal. This is starting to look like a no-brainer in the anti mercury proliferation scenario.

But wait. There is a dark side to this travesty. It takes more energy to produce a CFL than an incandescent bulb. So we have a frontloaded increase of mercury production. One might say that it is not our problem since these CFLs are made in China, but R. Buckminster Fuller had it right when he call this our planet Spaceship Earth. We are all in this together. China uses more coal energy to produce these bulbs which means their power plants spew out more mercury into the environment. The pollution goes into the atmosphere and rains down on our oceans, river, farm etc. Hence we have high mercury in global tuna populations as well as other seafood.

Besides the increase to global mercury proliferation in our environment there is also a long term ticking time bomb. Each and every one of these billions of CFLs  contains small amounts of mercury. These bulbs must be disposed of properly in order to prevent toxic mercury release into our environment. No problem here. Everyone, or least most people will dispose of spent or broken CFLs following simple governmental guidelines. Double bag the bulb or bringing it to a recycling center. Please note that these plastic bags have a negative environmental impact as well.

Unfortunately the number of people who regularly recycle is dismally low. For the US Government to think that people will properly dispose of these CFLs is beyond belief. According to earth911.com, in 2006, Americans only recycled an average of 23 percent of drinking water bottles. Let’s say people are more concerned about these bulbs and we get a whopping 60% of people properly disposing of these bulbs. So here is a possible scenario. Retailers and government sponsored programs sell one billion bulbs in 2010, which have a five-year lifecycle. In 2015 25% of these bulbs fail. This represents 250,000,000 bulbs. 60% of these bulbs are properly disposed of which equals 150,000,000 bulbs. This means that the other 40% or 100,000,000 bulbs are not disposed of correctly. Each year as more of these CFLs hit the home front the numbers increase so it is in fact a compounding problem.

Several countries do not think that double bagging is effective in containing the toxic mercury as a disposal technique. They feel the only effective way to contain the mercury is to dispose the bulbs in glass containers. If this becomes the accepted method than compliance will surely decrease as well. By using a glass bottle and metal cap we have increased the environmental impact of the lifecycle of these CFLs because of the energy and resources used in their production.

I have no doubt that in several years all CFLs will be banned. The ban will probably start in Europe and then spread to the US. Mark my words; the US will ban CFLs someday. So if you are looking for a bright idea to light your home or office, don’t make it Compact Florescent Bulbs because the government has already labeled it’s contents, “the world’s gravest chemical problem.” The bright idea here is to say “no”.

 

 

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