Camp Gyno

2 08 2013

I don’t have a TV, I don’t even watch TV shows in my computer, so I am quite out of the commercial loop, but this ad came to my attention linked by a friend. It is the Camp Gyno commercial, it basically sells tampons to pre teen girls. Everybody loves it, I watched it and made my skin crawl.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. The commercial itself is awesome (albeit too long at almost two minutes!), the creative team did a great job, the actress is darling, and they portray periods as something positive and normal (about time!), I love how she calls her period “the red badge of courage” and how they use anatomically correct terms with no shame or challenge. So, what is the problem, you might ask. I have an aversion to anything unhealthy being put in direct contact with a mucous membrane (repeatedly day after day for years), especially at a young age, when the reproductive system is going through its development.

Prolonged retention of menstrual blood in tampons has been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Think about it, blood is full of iron, and bacteria thrive on iron! Not to mention that tampons are made with fibers that, if they are non organic, have absorbed tonnes of chemicals as insecticides, have been bleached with chlorine. Traces of dioxin have been found in tampons, according to the FDA these levels are of no concern, but according to EPA there are no levels of dioxin that are safe. Furthermore, dioxins have been found to be associated to endometriosis, a problem that is also linked to infertility, in studies performed in monkeys. Endometriosis in on the raise too. Given that I have not studied the topic, I would not blame it on tampons, but it might be one more factor that is contributing to this problem.

And have you heard of the moldy tampons? Apparently it is not so out of the ordinary to have mold growing in them, and think about this, you are about to pop that thing in a dark, moist environment, the paradise of fungi. Sure, this time it was “just” bread mold, but are other fungi growing and thriving in tampons? It horrifies me!

Of course, I maybe am too hippie for tampons, but if I had daughters I would suggest them not to use them, after all there are better alternatives out there. Menstrual pads might be a less invasive option, you can see if they are moldy right away (never found a moldy one!), they are not inserted into you and they are not related to TSS. Menstrual cups and cloth pads are also available, and more and more women are using them unapologetically, even though some people might think them weird or gross. I just know I would not want to expose my daughters’ young developing systems to harmful chemicals and potential TSS.
Do you use an alternative to tampons? If so, which one and how do you like it?

If you believed in a drug free life, you would smoke marihuana.

24 07 2012

Wait. What!?

OK, so this was not exactly what she told me, but it was the jest of it. A friend and I were having a conversation via Facebook about marihuana with recreational uses being legal or not, about mothers that smoke dope at the end of the day to relax and how it has a more negative press than a glass of wine. She was cool with marihuana, and I am not. I am a super legal person so even if it was not a drug, only because it’s illegal I would have a problem with it. Enters the third person, who felt very attacked by me (I don’t know this person, so nothing I said was personal and nothing I said was disrespectful to anybody) because she does smoke pot. She thought she would be very clever by challenging me to disclose what is in my drug cabinet and my cleaning closet because you know… of course legal drugs are much worse by default than marihuana, to what my father laughed and said “Of all people she calls *you* off!” because, as I told her, she would only find ibuprofen for me and then I make my own cleaning products out of baking soda, tea tree oil, vinegar and Castile soap. So yes, she really didn’t have a point. To what she answered:

Because, of course, that makes a lot of sense.

Now, I think that besides her obvious interest in legalization of marihuana for recreational uses, I think this is an issue rooted in a deeper problem. We tend to see everything natural as good just because Mother Nature gave it to us. Let me remind you that the worse and more toxic poisons known to humans are actually of natural origin (Hemlock, anybody?). Some mushrooms contain alkaloids that will dissolve your liver within 48 hours, snakes can kill you within minutes, spiders can necrotize large areas of tissue and even cause death, and many plants will give you nasty side effects and even cause death if ingested (except grasses, grasses are the only family of plants known not to have toxic members). Furthermore, most drugs are of natural origin, such as marihuana, cocaine, etc.

Cannabis leaf.

I would also like to point out that just because something is of natural origin we should not think of it as ‘not drug’ because by definition a drug is a substance that, when ingested or otherwise incorporated into the body, has a physiological effect on the organism. But because plants carry different substances according to where they have been grown, under what conditions and in what kind of soils, it is oftentimes impossible to know exactly what is going into your body.

Now, I am not saying that we should not look into herbal teas, I actually support the use of herbal teas in replacement of certain pharmacological drugs for minor ailments. However, it is also wise to acknowledge that just because something is natural does not mean it is good and just because it is generated in a lab it is bad by default. The key is balance and informing oneself with reputable sources.



***Corrigendum: The person with which I had this argument informed me that she is not a marihuana user. I deeply apologize for the misunderstanding, I frankly understood from the conversation that she was. It was not my intention to defame her***

updates: teflon in your body

14 11 2011

My dad is a chemical engineer and he offered help with the Teflon issue. We emailed back and forth for a couple of days, me asking questions, him answering them, but if we would have been talking over a coffee the conversation would have gone something like this:

-So, I found some information about that Teflon issue you were worried about.

-Oh, great! What did you find?

-It does not harm you.

-Yes, but the studies are done with new cookware utensils, not a few years old.

-The way those studies are made simulate aging of the utensils too. So they still show that Teflon aged for 20 years would not be degraded… but consider that Teflon coated utensils would be done at about 5 years!

-Hum… fine. So, there is no degradation of Teflon in the lab. But what about when you eat it? What about pH changes?

-It is inert at low pH.

-Aha! At low pH, that would be your stomach, but whatever happens at neutral or slightly basic? Like your mouth and intestines?

-Still inert.

So, apparently, according to these studies Teflon would be non-reactive through heat, at least the kind of heat that we use in our kitchens and even if you ate it because, you know, scraping the pans and that, it would still not hurt you at any pH.

We still like our stainless steel pots better, remember the production of Teflon does cause health problems to the workers and environment.

Organic farming is a profitable alternative.

21 10 2011

While we hear news that Monsanto will be allowed to sell GM corn in the aisles of the supermarkets for human consumption, even though some studies point to the fact that direct consumption can cause health problems, a new study published by the Rodale Institute supports organic farming as a sustainable and economically profitable alternative to traditional farming.

stock photo provided by

The study was performed over 30 years, observing both traditional and organic fields, the organic crops have shown to yield comparable volume, plus they replenish the soils because of rotations. Former studies claiming that organic farming is not profitable nor produces enough to support the demands of a growing world population. These studies have analyzed short term data, however in the current Rodale’s study, this conclusion is not supported. Organic farming not only would yield similar amounts, but because of the price of organic foods the farmers break even sooner than their traditional counterparts.

Additional benefits are the health of the ecosystems, through the replenishing of the soils, the lack of insecticides damaging the watershed, protection from erosion and creation of buffer areas. Economic benefits also arise through the potential need of labor to tend for the farms.  And let’s not forget, human health, after all it is not good to be eating poisons in your food every day.


High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Sugar, Corn Syrup… what…?

17 09 2011

The corn industry is a big one in US and corn is so cheap because  is subsidized, there is basically too much corn. Because of this, obviously, corn based products are too cheap.

One of said byproducts is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Lately, after years of being under the radar, HFCS has been getting some negative attention because it has been linked to obesity and type two diabetes among other problems. The corn industry says those studies are inconclusive because there are other studies showing nothing… guess who is behind many of the studies that show nothing? Yes, you got it, the corn industry. Other studies that “show nothing” basically say that HFCS is not good, but they don’t compare it to other sugars, so the HFCS lobby takes it as “there is no info about other sugars, it is as good as other sugars… therefore it’s good”. They maintain that sugar is sugar and that HFCS consumed at the same levels that white sugar will cause the same effects. They have also launched some quite naive campaigns in which happy pretty people say things as “You are giving that to your kids, it has HFCS! You know what they say!” “What do they say” uncomfortable silence… “That it is natural, that it comes from corn?” These commercials were promptly parodied by several videos as the one we see below:

They are not just a bunch of impersonal conspiracy theory  loonies. They are the scientists that work hard in producing objective science. There are several studies that show that consumption of HFCS is bad for lab rats, but my favourite is this one, in which an equivalent of HFCS and sucrose (white sugar) was given to two groups of rats, besides two other groups, one that had a diet of rat food only. Of course this one group presented no health problems, but the interesting results are that sugar and HFCS do not have the same effects on the organism. The rats that were exposed to HFCS showed a higher increase in fat around the waist, the fat that has been linked with heart disease and type two diabetes. Basically sugar from HFCS is not the same than cane or beet sugar and it causes worse health problems.

The problem also arises in defining what is natural, which can be defined however you want in the food industry. The corn lobby wants us all to believe that HFCS is all natural, after all, it comes from corn, right? Corn starch (a complex carbohydrate) is treated with diverse enzymes to degrade it to smaller carbohydrates: glucose and fructose. Those enzymes come from transgenic bacteria, so if you do have a problem with transgenics, you will have to add that to your list (of course, the corn is already transgenic). Now, HFCS lobbyist say that fructose and glucose are found in nature together, in fruits precisely, and then it is OK. The problem is that the ratio of fructose to glucose is different in HFCS (*high fructose*), and this triggers a different metabolic pathway than other sugars, leading to more a different regulation of insulin in your body. Notice that when the corn people advocate that the percentage of fructose is similar to other sugars they are not talking about fruits, but about sweeteners.

Now there are also other problems. The corn industry repeats once and again that there is no problem with HFCS if it is consumed in reasonable limits. But if you do not make a conscious effort in keeping HFCS out of your pantry, it is impossible to consume it in reasonable limits. HFCS is everywhere: in your soda (not a surprise), potato chips, cereal bars, yogurts, bread, honey (bet you didn’t know that one!), dressings, ice creams, basically anything you can think of; and this makes really impossible to consume moderately, especially since you don’t know how much you are consuming per serving and what are those “reasonable limits”. By the way, one can of soda has an equivalent of HFCS to 12 teaspoons of sugar… is that reasonable?

This is how I make it: I just do not buy anything with HFCS (incidentally, look for “pure honey” in the supermarket), then if every once in a while I must eat out something I cannot control or I am dying for something sweet as a soda drink, the amount of HFCS that I will have taken will be minimal through the year. It took us some time to find the brands that had no HFCS, but once you find them shopping in the supermarket becomes fast and easy.

But wait… there is more!

Because of its bad name the corn industry is lobbying to change the name from HFCS to corn sugar in the hopes that no one will notice and they will buy the same crap if it has a different name (They already tried to change it to corn syrup unsuccessfully). They have not yet been approved but they are already using that name for advertising. The FDA is not happy about this and they have warned them to not use such a name until they are approved. Unfortunately, they cannot do more than warn. One of the problems is that “corn sugar” is already  being used for dextrose, which is just a form of glucose. And be careful, there are some products that have not HFCS but High Maltose Corn Syrup instead, another fabricated sugar from corn.

Updates: PFOA

14 09 2011

Remember the post about Teflon?

Two 2007 studies in Food Additives and Contaminants analyzed the transference of material from non-stick cookware and containers with non-stick surfaces, such as popcorn bags. One of the studies subjected 26 different pieces of non-stick cookware to 30 minutes of 250 degrees Celsius (~450 Fahrenheit)  and found that no significant dose of materials were transferred. The studies were made to simulate regular use under the worse case scenario.

While I am glad to see these results my question still remains unanswered, what happens through the repeated heating and scratching of these surfaces over years? Does it start degrading or not? If any of you has an answer let me know!

Sergeant’s Green. The day I learned to read reviews first.

11 08 2011

Sebastian was an outdoors cat that adopted us very willingly and soon became outdoors/indoors. One time, having been in the house next door’s yard, which counted with an unkempt shed full of wood and rats, he came back full of fleas. And since I’ve always tried to go for the non chemical approach, I started to look for alternatives to the well known flea control treatments, as Advantage or Frontline. Because, you know, the cat ends up licking his fur, and the chemicals are on the fur… and though the toxins do not kill the cat nor make them sick at the moment, well, who knows what the cumulative effects can be?

Sebastian, in Lafayette, wearing a flea control collar that he lost promptly, one of may things we tried on him.

So off we went to browse for less aggressive alternatives and we found Sergeant’s Green, natural flea and tick control. The idea was interesting, the liquid was made of natural herb oils, including peppermint, cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass and thyme oil. Herbs are well known to carry their oils in order to prevent herbivory, and though fleas are not herbivores, many times what works against one insect will also work against the others. And if it did not work great… at least the cat would smell like heaven! 🙂

So we cam home, talked to Sebastian and applied the liquid in the little tube. Yes, Sebas did not like it much, but I cannot blame him, for the smell was quite strong. He ran away and left the house smelling wonderfully, peppermint, thyme, it was a wonderful smell all around! And I was happy. That is until a few hours later, when I went see him. His hair was greasy, but that was expected since the product is based on oils, but I saw that his neck was getting bright red. By the evening his hair was falling! And the irritation was worse. So I brought Sebastian in the bathroom and shampooed his neck to remove the oils. Suffice to say that I still feel terrible about that. His neck kept loosing hair for some days after that.

I was also quite unimpressed with the costumer support of Sergeant’s, since when I communicated with them about the problem we have had… I don’t know, expecting to give some feedback on their product… I was told that obviously my cat was very sensitive and I should have read that the box said some cat could be allergic to it. Wow. Thank you Sergeant, you were helpful. I went to our trusty internet and I found dozens of bad reviews telling horror stories of screaming cats, hair loss and irritated skin. That was the day I learned to read reviews before buying a product.

So, how did the story end? I went ahead and bought some Frontline. After all, it is an uncertainty if the accumulation of chemicals will ever hurt my cat’s health, but it was very evident that Sergeant’s All Natural was causing a damage in that moment.