Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Being safer in the sun

In my ongoing efforts to live as healthily as possible, I just threw out at least $100 worth of sunscreens in my drawer -- after writing an article for Examiner on the latest report by the Environmental Working Group on the safest sunscreens to use.

Turns out, there are two really bad ingredients in the majority of sunscreen products on the market: retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A compound) and oxybenzone. How bad are they? Well, both are suspected carcinogens.

... Hmmm. So, maybe this explains the explosion of skin cancer cases during the years in which we've been using these products that supposedly protect us? That may not be so crazy a theory, given the fact that the good old FDA has failed -- since 1978 -- to come up regulations for sunscreens. Says the EWG site:

Until the agency formally issues its rule, companies are not required to verify that their sunscreens work, including testing for SPF levels, checking waterproof claims or providing UVA protection. Nearly 1 in 8 sunscreens does not block UVA rays.

So, I took a look at the labels for all of the bottles of lotions and sprays that I have collected in the past couple of years. And guess what? Nearly every single one contained either -- or both -- of these nasty chemicals. This included inexpensive brands such as my go-to No Ad sunblock lotion, major brands including Coppertone Oil Free for Faces and Banana Boat Tear-Free Baby lotion, as well as supposedly quality products such as Neutrogena Age Shield Face sunblock.

So, down the drain they went, with the bottles destined for the recycling bin. And tomorrow, I'll be heading to the drugstore or health-food store on the hunt for the few products (only 8 percent of the 500 or so products on the market!) that are deemed the best beach and sport sunscreens by the EWG.

It's going to cost me ... but money is a much easier thing to pay with than my health!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Update: The BPA answer

Well, the Tervis Tumbler company is nothing if not responsive.

I already received a reply to my e-mail yesterday inquiring about whether their insulated plastic products contain bisphenol-A, or BPA. That's because I've decided to eliminate my exposure to this toxic chemical as much as possible, by stopping my use of food (or beverage) containers made of plastic that has BPA in it.

I suspected that these wonderful tumblers, which I've been using at home for years, might contain bisphenol-A, for they are super-sturdy and very clear (two big characteristics of BPA). Plus, there is no recycling number on the glasses, another indicator that it's probably a polycarbonite/BPA product.

The answer from the company was a form letter written in January 2010 -- so, obviously, other customers have expressed concern over the BPA issue. Here is the pertinent text:

Dear Customer:
Thank you for your inquiry concerning recent developments on the safety and use of bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate plastic. Recent media coverage and reports of legislatures considering bills to ban BPA have created questions about this topic.
Our polycarbonate tumblers are made of 100% virgin polycarbonate. BPA is a compound used to make polycarbonate plastic. Tervis Tumbler hired AXYS Analytical Services Ltd. to test water that we stored in a selection of our tumblers for up to 48 hours. Our conclusion from the AXYS results is that our tumblers may have the potential for miniscule levels of BPA estimated to be 0.5 parts per billion or less, to migrate into water. On that basis, one would need to drink 17,000 16 oz glasses or 2,100 gallons of water from our tumblers daily to exceed the recognized safety threshold.

Hmmm ... so, they're admitting there is BPA in the tumblers, but saying it's not enough to be harmful. That leave me in a quandary: Should I resume using them, or leave them on the shelf and keep on drinking out of glass glasses.

For now, I'll stick to the glass, and leave the BPAs on the shelf.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dumping the BPAs: Goodbye, dear double-walled glasses!

So, I just wrote a blog for Examiner on how to avoid consuming bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical additive in plastics and resins that has been linked to or a suspect in health problems ranging from cancer to obesity to birth defects.

I've been hearing the rumblings about the dangers of ingesting BPAs for a couple of years now, especially from the leaching of bisphenol-A into your food when microwaving it in plastic storage containers. So, I switched to glass (Pyrex) containers, especially when reheating my leftovers. I do use plastic containers to store food in the fridge, but never use them in the microwave.

I also bought a metal water bottle and fill it with filtered water from the fridge on a regular basis.

But these measures, it seems, were only the first steps. After researching "good" vs. "bad" plastics for the Examiner article, I found out that I must avoid using anything with the numbers 3, 6, 7 -- or no number. Also, containers that are scratched, stained or worn from use should not be kept. So, I'm going through my cabinets as I write this (well, OK, not exactly as I write this: my arms can't reach that far!) and clearing out all the "bad" containers.

This also forced me to take a look at my beloved double-walled plastic glasses. I've been using these insulated tumblers for years, because they are designed to avoid "sweating," a pesky problem here in hot and humid South Florida. I keep a tumbler filled with water by my side pretty much 24/7. But these plastics have no number on them -- meaning there's a very good likelihood that they were produced using BPA, which is known to make plastics very sturdy without making them cloudy.

Gulp! As I've been doing the "healthy" thing, eschewing sodas and other harmful beverages in favor of good old H2O, have I been ingesting BPAs this whole time? To find out for sure, I just wrote to the company that made these products, Tervis.

In the meantime, it's goodbye, double-walled tumblers made of plastic; hello, glasses made of ... glass. Guess it's time to start using coasters again!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

White midde-aged men can't dance ...

... or, more accurately: They don't like to dance.

This has been a frustration of mine for many years now. Baby Boomer men just don't feel comfortable on the dance floor. It's apparent every time you go out to any nightclub or dance hall -- and see the packs of ladies shakin' it up while the guys stand on the sidelines, not quite knowing what to do with themselves.

The few brave male souls who do venture onto the dance floor are usually quite rewarded for their efforts, either by the grateful reaction of their date/dance partner, or by the groups of gals who happily welcome them into their little gyrating entourage.

It's a phenomenon that seems to only have affected men ages about 45 to 60-ish. The younger generations of men, raised to be more self-assured and comfortable in their bodies, all really seem to be into the modern moves such as hip-hop and the like. And older gentlemen, who were raised on dance classes and ballroom action, really enjoy dancing, too. This was evident recently, when I went to a local nightclub that caters to the senior set. The men -- all mid-60s, 70s and even 80s -- were having a blast, twirling and swirling the women around in steps such as the cha-cha, swing, two-step, etc. I looked on, a bit enviously.

Where did the Baby Boomers' fear of the foxtrot, hatred of hip-hop, scorn of salsa and disdain of disco come from?

Here's my theory: Blame it all on rock 'n' roll. We grew up in this era when ballroom fell out of favor -- and couples separated into individuals, dancing together but apart. Not only did this remove the "benefit" for guys of being able to hold a babe in your arms and control her every move, but it also shone a spotlight on the men -- as dancers. Let's face it: Many men do seem to be rhythm-, grace-, or coordination-challenged. Ballroom dancing, even though it is complicated in other ways, really just requires learning to move your feet in prescribed sets of steps, and keep somewhat to the music as you lead your partner.

But, in rock 'n' roll dancing, you've got to move your entire body -- in time to the music, and in sync with your partner -- and look good (or at least not like a total dork) while you do it! And most men my age are just too self-conscious to try to pull that off.

But, guys, here's a secret: Women LOVE men who dance! Even men who aren't that great at it but try anyway. And, with the renewed popularity of ballroom dancing (thanks to shows like Dancing With the Stars), there are many more opportunities these days to get a babe in your arms, twirl her around, and control her every move.

So, it would behoove you to learn some moves!

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