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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Delighting In Addiction

Quite way our humanoid species is so prone to delusions of one sort or another is a great puzzle. It is one of the reasons I suspect that our species wasn’t the best or brightest of the various humanoids in Earth history, just the most aggressive and predatory. One major weakness is the vulnerability to addictions of one kind or another.

Why do I sit at a computer gazing at pictures of old steam engines? At least this is relatively harmless and the damage is limited to the time I waste and the lost opportunities. It is when we become attached to substances that get into our heads and bring about changes and mood and behaviour.

One real problem is that we suffer pain and none of escape it. So anything that stops or reduces pain is welcome. Also, as we have inherited aggression we get into fights.

There is a literature about what warlike caste or group hyped itself up with what substance to overcome the fear that should be natural to us. Additional to the prevention of pain is the gaining of pleasure, good feeling and being seen to be good or desirable.

This is a feature that has been exploited down the ages by many people for many reasons. It is also the characteristic most targeted by the modern media and marketing businesses. The history of this is a long one. But to take a couple of examples, in the late 18th and 19th Opium and its derivatives became wanted for all the reasons above.

Not long after it became available at cheap prices it began to be put into all sorts of products made and sold on the basis making life better and easier. Notably, it went into products like laudanum. It was said at one stage anyone who could afford it would dose their children when teething or suffering illnesses as well as themselves.

Eventually, the side effects and potential long term damage caused by using it in quantity became evident and the search was on for a substitute. Cocaine arrived after it became known that the leaves of South American coca plant could have a strong effect on “well being” if chewed.

The chemists soon worked on this to produce the variations amongst which cocaine became the most popular. It soon became present in all sorts of products, medical, personal and household.

It was also highly regarded by many; Sigmund Freud apparently was a great fan writing learned articles praising its benefits. Celebrities and famous people made full use of it. I think in 1911 the USA National Bureau of Chemistry tried to use their legal powers to force the Coca Cola company to put the cocaine back into cola on consumer protection grounds.

So what products do we have today that are composed almost entirely of synthetic chemicals, largely uncontrolled, being pushed into almost everything you buy and whose marketing features happy children, lovely mothers and ladies and strong men who are Alpha A dominant?

Oh yes, and they are “healthy” and make you better. And they are engineered to be addictive with the “come again” chemicals.

Any ideas?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Blow The Wind Southerly

The article which is linked below is a long five page one. But it is does give support to the notion that increasingly we live on a stinking planet where contamination cannot be avoided and poisons are often in the air we breathe.

At present there is the excited debate over global warming or not. Also, there are those who worry about potential geophysical events or others from outer space.

It may be that it is simply the stuff we are putting in the air of inner space that is going to be the one that gets us.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Silver Threads Amongst The Gold

Reports recently that many women of much younger ages are finding grey strands occurring in their hair have excited some of the media almost as much as the loss of hair in certain prominent males.

The reasons suggested are various. The stress of modern living is a favourite theme. That grannie’s experience of raising eleven children and losing three, in a world that did not have central heating, fast food, or modern appliances on her husbands wage of £3 a week, about good average, did not have it’s stresses is an interesting implication. And she had her widowed mother to take care of as well.

Another theory is dietary, somehow there is a lack of a particular vitamin in the modern diet. But in previous generations with seasonal limitations on many foods and often a limited choice of cheap options must have been the norm.

Also, science at the time was pointing to major vitamin and diet deficiencies amongst the population. These were caused by poverty on the one hand and eating the wrong foods on the other. It might be strange to suggest this, but those who could afford the white breads, tinned foods and manufactured products could have diets that were not healthy.

The answer may in fact be complex, with several interacting factors. One thing that has changed is that many women in the past covered their heads as the norm. This was because workplaces were dirty, housework was dirty in the age of coal and in towns the air was dirty as well. Moreover, in the countryside it was usual for all those working outdoors to have their heads covered.

Also, in that period hair was washed far less often, typically only weekly, and with a small range of products that were of limited strength and capability. To dye the hair was an expensive business and high maintenance. All in all, the hair took a lot less punishment and had much less exposure.

Contrast that with today. The air in towns and workplaces is no less polluted, although very much by petro-chemical particulates and their derivatives. Very few women work in the fields. In the home the effects of coal and ordinary dust have been replaced by a wide range of other substances that fill the air.

In addition, the range of cosmetic and personal products now even in the poorest homes would have staggered the women even of the upper middle class in the past. Moreover, daily washing and the application of strong colours, fixatives, other treatments and brighteners is almost the norm.

Add to that the strong chemicals embodied in clothing, detergents and fabric conditioners and the hair now has a daily battering of strong substances that much affect the natural pigmentation of the hair and the ability of the body to keep the feeding of the hair in balance.

Another consideration is that today a much higher proportion of women have access to and use the services of hairdressers who themselves function essentially by applying cocktails of chemicals. Yet they have limited knowledge or training in chemistry and in particular biochemistry.

As grannie used to say, you get what you pay for and if you cover yourself with muck then you become muck. With eleven children to wash down by the kitchen sink, she would have known.

But to modern eyes this would not be as stressful as catching up with the twitters.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Running For Life

In the complex bundle of chemistry that composes a human being there is a dependence on intakes and outputs that have to be carefully balanced to enable what we call “good health”.

In this there is the interaction between the foods and liquids we have and other substances that impact internally and externally.

In the case of that special part of humanity that has great success in sport this balance is not just necessary it is critical to that higher function.

The case of Paula Radcliffe is especially interesting. Because she was unable to complete the Olympic Marathon course in 2004 there was some snide criticism, largely from people unable to run for a bus, about her collapse.

In the light an article today those who have major food intolerance problems along with those with significant chemical reactions, and the two overlap, will know exactly how she felt.

In The Sunday Mail “You” section today in the part on Health here is the article by Sarah Stacey.

As a leading athlete, Paula was lucky enough to have a good deal of access to medical people who wanted to know and wanted to give immediate help to find out what the key problems were.

It took and good deal of testing and analysis but at the end of it she did have an awareness and advice to give her the chance of being able to cope and live a life that was near normal.

Just how many people out there haven’t a chance or a hope in the present day NHS?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Particulates And Pollution

The link below is serious material. It does take some reading but it can be worth it.

For those affected by many forms of pollution it sets a good deal out. For those of us who can remember when large scale industrial pollution was the norm it brings back the memories.

But now we have other forms, not only is their traffic pollution but in the developed world we have largely replaced industrial with household pollution with products produced in cheap labour regimes.

It is a pity that synthetic fragrances etc. do not figure in the diagram above. I would put them along with synthetic dyes and then some into the Ionic and Molecular regions.

As some might say, your perfume is my particulate.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Hearts Taking A Beating

Another recent Science Daily link, this one referring to research published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” on the basis of official groups in the USA.

It is entitled “Pinpointing Air Pollution’s Effects On The Heart” and examines what happens when the tiniest pollution particles aggravate the heart.

At one point the article suggests that it might be better to stay indoors when air pollution is bad.

The scientists may not be entirely aware that it is often inside that can be the worst for many people given what is the situation now in many homes and premises.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ancient Learning Curve

In AD 256 during a siege at the Syrian city of Dura-Europos a number of Roman soldiers in a tunnel under the walls died a terrible death. The theory is that the opposing Persian soldiers killed them by toxic fumes. The story is:

This sets out the information and what is known fully. It seems the ancients knew about the toxic properties of certain petro-chemical substances in confined spaces and subject to chemical reactions.

As yet, it seems either we have forgotten or are just beginning the process of relearning.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bounce The Gnats

Scratching round again for issues that seem on the stranger side, I came upon this one below.

It looks at Bounce fabric conditioner and the effects on fungus gnats who it seems prefer to avoid it.

At one time to suggest that someone had the intelligence of a gnat could be taken as an insult.

Now, I wonder if it should be a compliment?

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Chemistry In The Cot

Another item listed in Science Daily about the number and extent of chemicals in both the environment and within humans. In this case it cites a well know one about which some action has been taken.

But the issue isn’t just Americans or a few better known and tested chemicals, as too many of us know to our cost.


Science Daily, 3rd March 2011

Risks of Chemical Exposure: Scientists Call for 'Swifter and Sounder' Testing of Chemicals

Scientific societies representing 40,000 researchers and clinicians are asking that federal regulators tap a broader range of expertise when evaluating the risks of chemicals to which Americans are being increasingly exposed

Writing in a letter in the journal Science, eight societies from the fields of genetics, reproductive medicine, endocrinology, developmental biology and others note that some 12,000 new substances are being registered with the American Chemical Society daily.

Few make it into the environment, but the top federal regulators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, often lack information about the hazards of chemicals produced in high volumes.

"The need for swifter and sounder testing and review procedures cannot be overstated," the letter states.

Patricia Hunt, a professor in the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences and corresponding author of the letter, said the FDA and EPA need to look beyond the toxicology of substances to the other ways chemicals can affect us.

"One of the problems they have is they look at some of the science and don't know how to interpret it because it's not done using the traditional toxicology testing paradigm," she said.

"We need geneticists, we need developmental and reproductive biologists and we need the clinical people on board to actually help interpret and evaluate some of the science."

"As things stand now," she added, "things get rapidly into the marketplace and the testing of them is tending to lag behind."

Hunt said the letter was driven in particular by growing concerns about chemicals like the plasticizer bisphenol A, or BPA, subject of more than 300 studies finding adverse health effects in animals.

Because such chemicals look like hormones to our body, they're like strangers getting behind the wheels of our cars, Hunt said
"Hormones control everything, our basic metabolism, our reproduction," she said. "We call them endocrine disruptors. They're like endocrine bombs to a certain extent because they can disrupt all these normal functions."

Hunt's testimony last year helped make Washington the fifth state to outlaw BPA in children's food containers and drinking cups.


On a practical note, if a species begins to fail to reproduce then it may not be long before it does not exist.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Scratching An Itch

For a while now we have been rigorously checking out anything physical that seems to have happened after encountering fragrances. Already I have commented on the scale of the contamination on clothing after a day out.

One aspect that is worrying is that after wearing clothing affected or after a couple of days when this has happened are the skin flare ups that seem to follow and the inevitable itching.

This article provides a possible answer:

Sometimes it take days of avoiding contamination to overcome and get the skin back under control.