Photo by Chris Jordan. Project "Running the Numbers".

While idly watching tv on a leisurely Sunday afternoon I happened upon a PBS documentary called “Bag It”.  I’m sure you can guess what it’s about.  Plastic!  Plastic and its environmental and health effects.  It’s an interesting documentary if you’d like to gain more information on this topic.  However, I’m sure under certain circumstances this documentary can be considered controversial and even political, so for now I’ll focus on plastic and BPA.  I actually hadn’t heard of it until fairly recently when doing some shopping for a baby shower.  I noticed a lot of bottles and pacifiers claiming to be BPA-Free.  At the time I shrugged it off as another marketing ploy.  But just like most things that you are introduced to, once I found out about it the more I saw it everywhere.  Suddenly I was seeing articles about BPA, studies and news entries.

Bisphenol A or BPA is a compound used in some plastic manufacturing.  From the research I’ve found online it appears that recyclable plastics # 1, 2, 4 and 5 usually do not contain BPA.  However # 7 does contain BPA, while # 3 and 6 sometimes do.  Most exposure to BPA occurs in one’s daily diet.  Some studies find that BPA exposure can occur through one’s skin or even the air.  BPA is found in many daily items such as: water bottles, CD’s, DVD’s, sales receipts, the lining of food and beverage cans, baby bottles and formula.

Newborn infants and children up to the age of six appear to be the most sensitive to BPA.  Exposure to BPA in children seems to affect the brain and the prostate gland; it can also cause behavioral disorders.  There have been some very controversial studies that link exposure to BPA to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Of course it doesn’t stop there; BPA in our environment seems to cause adverse effects in most animals.  It seems to primarily affect the endocrine system in aquatic invertebrates and the reproduction systems in amphibians and reptiles.

To be quite honest, though there have been many studies conducted on BPA it’s difficult to find a reputable source to back them up.  Even the FDA’s stance is weak.  They seem to say that it may cause harm but they do not recommend adjusting your daily routine.  As always we suggest that you inform and decide for yourself.  The Wikipedia page on Bisphenol A was particularly interesting.  A brief summary on each country’s stance on BPA is included.

While researching BPA I found myself wondering if there is anything one can do to limit exposure since it appears to be everywhere.  But there are a few things you can do now:

1.       Check your recyclable plastics for storage.  REMOVE any that are # 7’s.  (Also, you might want to consider switching to glass)

2.       Do NOT heat food in any plastic material

3.       Do NOT wash plastic in the dishwasher

4.       Do NOT wash plastic with harsh detergents

5.       Avoid canned and packaged foods as much as possible

Something to think about…..

A satellite image of the Fukushima plant. Via AFP.

The news from Japan during the past month has been tragic:  the terrible loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami, and then the damage to the nuclear plant and the subsequent spread of radiation.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese as they struggle to recover.

When tragedies occur, we usually wonder how we would react, what would we do?  The disaster in Japan has triggered a great deal of speculation around the world, particularly in regards to the safety of nuclear plants.

Since we at Clean-All Heavy Metals®Hand & Body Soap are constantly thinking about safety and health, we realize that a lot of people just take their safety and health for granted, until a terrible event happens.  But we think we should all be paying more attention to our environment and the hazards that are dangerous to our health and safety in our everyday lives.

Unlike smoke, which is a sign to take action to protect yourself, you often have no warning that you are being exposed to toxic heavy metals.  You can’t see, smell or touch anything that seems dangerous.  And because the process of contamination is slow, symptoms are hard to detect or are similar to other less dangerous ailments, so are overlooked.

So it’s best to take a good look at your home, work activities and hobbies and determine whether you and your family are in fact being exposed unknowingly to toxic heavy metals.

Do you solder when remodeling your house?

Are you an artist?

Do you work with stained glass?

Are you a plumber?

Love to make ceramics?

Is your hobby photography?

Do you check to see if your children’s toy’s are made in China?

Are you a fisherman, making your own sinkers?

Are you a member of a shooting club?

Do you work in an auto body shop?

Do you paint highway bridges?

A Sticky Situation

Zinc is not something we pay much attention to, unless you are a sun worshiper who uses a lot of zinc oxide to protect lips and nose from getting too much sun.  But it is one of the heavy metals that our soap, Clean-All Heavy Metals Hand & Body Soap, will remove from your hands or your body, especially if you have been exposed to too much of it.  So we are always interested in any articles that appear about it.  And a few days ago, an article in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye with this headline: “Zinc in denture creams poses risk”.  Essentially the Food and Drug Administration is suggesting that manufactures take zinc out of denture cream (which adds to it’s adhesion), because of reported neurological problems associated with zinc poisoning.  Not exactly something you would worry about ordinarily.  Almost one year ago to the day, The New York Times (March 31, 2010) had an article about the same problem.  Once again the use of denture creams was associated with nerve damage because of excess zinc.

Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to heavy metals.  It all sounds too complicated and besides, what’s “heavy” about those metals?  But more and more warnings are appearing in the media these days, to inform the public of the dangers that surround them.  And we think this is good because being aware of what you are exposed to is the first step to staying safe.

And just for your general information, zinc is found in many places:  it occurs naturally, and therefore many foodstuffs contain zinc, such as fish, cattle and plants.  Drinking water also contains zinc and higher levels of zinc can occur from storage in metal tanks, industrial sources or toxic waste sites.  In industry, zinc is used in mining, coal, waste combustion and steel processing.  Soils heavily contaminated with zinc can be found in industrial areas and where sewage sludge has been used as fertilizer.  Since the world’s zinc production is still rising, we can expect more and more zinc in our environment.  So be forewarned.

To eat, or not to eat

Sharon brought up a good point in last week’s post.  She mentioned that her banker had to limit her intake of canned tuna to avoid debilitating headaches.  In fact, I’ve read so many articles on mercury poisoning recently that I’m currently off seafood.  What struck me initially while researching this topic was how grey this area can be?  Firstly, most tests conducted were done by an independent party and what they considered to be a “high” level of mercury would be considered to be a “normal” level by the FDA or another established organization.

According to the EPA fish tested contain an unsafe amount of mercury. Illustration by John Blanchard/The Chronicle

One article in particular included both parties’ possible intentions about the high levels of mercury in consumer fish.  Ms. Zito of the Chronicle allows both representatives of GotMercury.org and the seafood industry to plead their cases.  According to an independent study, tuna and swordfish taken from grocery stores and restaurants in California “contained mercury levels as much as three times the threshold that authorizes federal food regulators to pull seafood from shelves”.  However, representatives of the seafood industry felt that these results were “misleading” due to GotMercury.org being incorporated with the Turtle Island Restoration Network.  It’s an interesting article and it’s very recent if you have a moment, I encourage you to read it.  Especially, if you are in the San Francisco area.

How does mercury poisoning occur?  As the aforementioned article explains, it starts on the bottom – literally.  Actually it becomes more toxic at the bottom of the ocean floor, when it becomes methylmercury.  Mercury in its natural form is deposited into the ocean from the air (the burning of natural compounds can release mercury into the environment) and small microorganisms ingest it.  A larger organism then ingests the microorganisms and thus begins a chain of events that causes the mercury to become more toxic.  The higher the organism is on the food chain the more toxic methylmercury will become.

We’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to know what information is reliable, so in this case we recommend as always stay informed.  And as always that’s a lot easier said than done.  But we felt that finding your local health advocacy groups to get more information is a great way to start.  If you are suffering from fatigue, headaches or intestinal cramps often you may want to take a look at your “healthy” diet.

Upon closer inspection…

Calomel (contains high levels of mercury) was used as a teething powder for infants.

We just got an e-mail request for our soap from a fashion designer who works with unfinished garments imported from China.  It turns out that these garments could be contaminated with heavy metals:  arsenic, cadmium and lead and as a result, she is undergoing chelation therapy to remove heavy metals from her body.

This is a clear example of how easily we all take our environment for granted:  “I don’t work in an industrial plant where I could be contaminated.  So obviously, I don’t need to worry!”  Wrong!!

Another recent example:  my banker loves tuna and was eating it everyday, until her headaches became so bad, she began to connect her symptoms to her daily tuna consumption.  There have been numerous reports about the unsafe levels of mercury and heavy metals in tuna.  We hope to include a more detailed post on this very shortly.

Your good health is your own business and you should take it very seriously.  Don’t expect other people, such as your mother, your boss, or the government to watch out for you.  And don’t wait until you have a health issue.  Protect yourself through education and awareness of your working and living environment.  For instance, we all take certain precautions in our homes or apartments:  we have fire alarms, and often carbon monoxide detectors.  But there are much more serious risks around us, and they don’t advertise their presence.

We all know about lead, the second most hazardous element behind arsenic.  The media has covered this dangerous toxic metal extensively.  It is found everywhere:  in the air, in our water and in our food.  And its acute effects on the body include damage to the brain and central nervous system or in chronic form low reflexes, anemia, high blood pressure as well as reproductive, kidney and liver disorders.  For a more detailed list of symptoms see our recent post.

What about some of the other heavy metals, like mercury, one of the oldest and deadliest of poisons.  In the 19th century, mercury was used as a cleaning agent, thereby giving rise to the term “mad hatter”.  Up until the  1940’s, mercury salts, or calomel, were used as teething powders for infants.  Then there are organic mercury compounds, (used in fungicides and herbicides) that can readily be absorbed by the body.  However, the signs of mercury poisoning take an exceptionally long time to appear.  And by now, everyone knows about the harmful effects of methyl mercury in fish (damage to kidneys, reproductive failure and DNA alteration).

Germs? And Microbes? And Lead? Oh my!

We’re in the middle of developing an online marketing campaign for Clean-All Heavy Metals®Hand & Body Soap.  While going over some updates for our instructions we started a dialogue about hygiene.  It got us thinking, is there a right way and or a wrong way to wash your hands?  TurnsAccording to the CDC, "Washing Hands Saves Lives". out, there is.  You won’t be surprised to find out that most of the literature found on hand washing is in the medical profession.

The CDC has plenty of information on hand washing.  One report in particular, The MMWR (Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report), dated Oct. 25th 2002 gives the historical perspective on hand washing.  A simple observation in the 19th century comparing births conducted by a physicians and  midwives lead to chlorides being used to disinfect hands.  Apparently the infant mortality rate was significantly higher with physicians who did not wash their hands from one patient to another.  In some cases their hands were not washed from a cadaver to a live birth.

Today, the modern world is aware of how important hygiene is.  Yet many people aren’t washing their  hands when it is necessary.  It is important to wash your hands before and after a certain activity such as preparing or consuming food, or when treating a wound or person who is ill.  However, most activities like using the restroom or blowing your nose require washing afterward.

I have to share some statistics with you I came upon while researching the art that is hand washing.  Some I found surprising.  Did you know that almost half of most men and nearly a quarter of women do not wash their hands after they use the restroom.  I’m sure many of you out there are not surprised by this; otherwise eating nuts at your local watering hole wouldn’t be so taboo.  Lefties end up washing their right hand more thoroughly than their left hand.  The same is true for folks who are right-handed.  So, I suggest a technique.  According to the WHO (World Health Organization) by following eleven steps (it’s not as labor intensive as it looks) you can be sure to clean the entire surface area of your hands.  They also recommend you wash your hands for at least 40-60 seconds before rinsing.

What the heck does this have to do with heavy metals?  Well, we feel that if more people treated lead as if it were a germ or an infected area there would be less contamination.  I know we sound like a broken record, but it’s important to make sure you are lead-free before eating, drinking, or smoking.  We also, want to emphasize how important it is to not bring home lead or any heavy metal contaminates.  Just like you wouldn’t want to bring home a flu or cold.  Follow the WHO’s advice when washing with Clean-All, and definitely wash or scrub for at least 10-15 seconds and we always recommend this process be repeated.

By the way, did you know that millions of germs live under jewelry?  “There could be as many germs under your ring as there are people in Europe”.

A blood test to remember

Don's blood test showed he had high levels of heavy metals.

Sometime ago, a Vietnam vet called to ask us some questions about heavy metals and our soap.  He had been subjected to Agent Orange, which resulted in a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.  In addition, he had recently undergone a quadruple bypass and was therefore being monitored carefully by his doctors.  After being told that he had a high level of heavy metals in his blood, he contacted us for more information on what exactly our soap could do.

Turns out, Don was a very active member of a shooting club.  He and his friends met often to shoot and many of them were reloaders.  He spoke to his friends about the soap, and they were all skeptical.  So after another phone call from Don, we sent him some samples of our soap along with with some lead checks and they agreed to run a test.  At their next shoot, half of the men washed with the usual soap stocked in their club while the other half washed with Clean-All Soap.  The test strips showed bright red on the men who had washed with the regular soap while those who had washed with Clean-All Soap had no reaction.

Although all of the members of the shooting club were very knowledgeable about safety and the handling of guns, most were completely unaware about the dangers to their personal health of lead residue from practicing their favorite hobby.  And as active shooters, they were especially surprised to find out that hair loss is one of the first symptoms of lead poisoning – almost all Don’s friends were bald!  Somehow, seeing the reaction of the test strips convinced them all to start taking precautions while shooting.

Don was lucky because he was being carefully monitored by the VA doctors after his heart bypass.  So his blood tests included a check on heavy metals.  Most medical exams do not include testing for heavy metals so many of the members of the club were completely unaware that they had high blood levels until the lead check strips confirmed there was lead on their skin AFTER they had washed.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and safe hobbying.  Our last post was very serious and we daresay, sterile so we thought we’d start this year with a more uplifting and informational post.  As mentioned previously lead poisoning is a very serious issue, so where can you get more information?

Here's to a safe New Year!

ASLET – We dedicate a fair amount of time researching good resources for accurate information.  So today, we’d like to share our findings with you.  We’ve already mentioned Mr. Anthony M. Gregory’s article in our last post but we felt it important to emphasize how effectively he presents his information.  His article was written for the ASLET Journal (American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers), which in its prime was one of the most trustworthy resources for law enforcement trainees.  Though this community is no longer producing new material a simple internet search will yield many worthy articles that have been scanned and published online.

Local Resources – It comes as no surprise that while some states in North America are less concerned about the safety of it’s residents, others are incredibly proactive.  For instance, the official website of the Executive Office of Labor and Workplace Development (EOLWD) is part of the Massachusetts government’s website.  There are many great posts on workplace safety, particularly on firing ranges.  In this article we are given not only health effects but also instructions on keeping a safe range.  We encourage all of you out there to check your local resources for good information on safety.

NIOSH – We’ve mentioned OSHA numerous times in our previous posts but the CDC (Center of Disease Control) is almost limitless in the amount of information it has on health and safety.  Going a step further NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is part of the CDC’s official website.  NIOSH contains specific information on specific situations, equipment, materials, occupations…. the list goes on.  If you have a specific question NIOSH will probably have an answer.

Health Effects of Recreational Shooting

We come to the most undesirable part of our blog today…. health risks.  There are so many different symptoms of lead poisoning  that it is actually quite difficult to diagnose.  It’s most general symptoms in adults include irritability/aggressiveness, insomnia, memory loss along with the inability to concentrate.  The last two symptoms are usually the first signs of poisoning.  However, as contamination continues so does the list of symptoms.  This would make sense as to why lead poisoning is often misdiagnosed.  Below is a more detailed list of symptoms:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Loss of sexual interest, impotence
  3. Insomnia
  4. Depression
  5. Headaches
  6. Neurological symptoms, such as hand twitching, poor coordination or even seizures
  7. Encephalopathy
  8. Elevated blood pressure
  9. Digestive difficulties and abdominal pains
  10. Weight loss
  11. Joint pains
  12. Anemia
  13. Menstrual irregularity
  14. Decreased fertility
  15. Kidney or liver damage
  16. Sore or bleeding gums
  17. Slowed intellectual development in children
  18. Behavioral problems in children

If a person suffering from lead poisoning were to have two or three symptoms listed above, it would most likely be diagnosed as a psychological disorder such as depression or, as Mr. Gregory mentions in his article, acute stress.  Because symptoms often go unnoticed many feel lead poisoning is not an issue.  Mr. Gregory puts the risks of lead poisoning in perspective with this helpful tidbit:

“Make no mistake, LEAD IS EXTREMELY TOXIC.  To get some idea of just how toxic, let’s take a familiar object, the .38 caliber 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet, and divide it into 1000 parts.  Just one of those parts – 1/1000th of a bullet – dissolved and circulating in the blood stream, represents enough lead to constitute serious lead poisoning.”

We found Anthony M. Gregory’s article title “Risks of Lead Poisoning in Firearms Instructors and their Students” very helpful.  Though the article may be dated, his information is relevant and easy to understand.  He gives numerous examples of how lead contamination occurs (breathing lead dust at firing ranges, eating and/or smoking after shooting) and ultimately, the consequences, which not only affect the shooter but also his/her household.  His point throughout the entire article is simple: lead poisoning is very dangerous and should be taken very seriously, especially among avid shooters.

Who do we think we are?

I think all novice bloggers realize immediately that maintaining a blog is hard work.  So, it’s easy to understand how some information just slips through the cracks.  While discussing future posts we realized you, our audience, have no idea who we are.  It’s a good question.  Why do we think we are qualified to give you any advice?

Sasha’s International began nearly twenty years ago.  We are an export company and we specialize in battery spare parts.  As mentioned in one of our first posts, battery plant workers are exposed to lead on a daily basis by breathing in lead dust fumes, by eating, drinking or smoking in work areas or by handling contaminated objects.  We’ve mentioned numerous times that lead dust can be absorbed into the body through the skin.

Because lead builds up in the body over time, workers in battery plants who are exposed to lead, must have their blood tested regularly.  A normal or average level of lead can vary in an adult from 5 to 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (5-20 mcg/dl).  A high blood lead level (usually 40 mcg/dl) will lead to medical leave until blood levels return to normal.  It is in the battery manufacturer’s best interest to ensure that all workers are healthy and able to perform all necessary tasks.  So among other safety precautions, such as filtering the air, wearing safety masks and gloves, workers must wash with Clean-All Soap, before every break, and shower after every shift.

Suffice to say, we know there is a need to keep you safe because it’s our business to know.