Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

    Our government won’t protect us from these harmful chemicals, so we have to protect ourselves.

    The endocrine system is the system of glands, hormones and hormone targets that is responsible for almost everything our bodies do. Hormones are chemical messengers that control blood sugar, infant and child development, sexual function, growth, energy production and much more. Tiny amounts of them have profound effects on our health and wellbeing.

    Synthetic chemicals, used in industry and agriculture, can disrupt the way this finely tuned system works. We call these chemicals—including compounds made from lead, mercury and arsenic, DDT, BPA and phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals.

    These chemicals are known to cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, reduced fertility, premature birth, reduced sperm quality and cancer. Exposures before birth, during childhood and the teenage years are important because of the rapid growth and development during those periods. New research indicates that some EDCs cause problems that are passed along for generations.

    A study released by Healthy Babies Bright Futures highlights the pervasiveness of the endocrine-disrupting chemical, arsenic. The study found that levels of arsenic in infant rice cereal are six times higher than in infant cereals made from other ingredients.

    Arsenic can kill and it also causes cancer, damages developing brains in babies and children, reducing IQ test scores, and disrupts important hormones in our bodies, and increases the risk of diabetes.

    Children’s exposures to arsenic in infant rice cereal and other rice-based foods accounts for an estimated loss of up to 9.2 million IQ points among U.S. children ages 0-6.  The FDA has not taken action, and this administration will let this travesty continue.

     Almost none of us escape exposure to EDCs. BPA is so ubiquitous that government studies found it in over 90 percent of the people studied, representing a potentially huge liability for the companies that make BPA.

    For the last century, the foundation of chemical regulation has been that small exposures are not a problem— a little won’t hurt you. Endocrine disruption turns that concept on its head, because hormones are active in such small amounts.  Some endocrine disruptors are more potent in tiny amounts than in larger amounts. Fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.

    Weak regulations mean we really have no idea how many chemicals are endocrine disruptors. The EPA says there are about 85,000 chemicals used by industry, and most of them have never been tested to find out if they can disrupt our hormones. There is evidence that over 1,400 hormone-disrupting chemicals are endocrine disruptors.

    About 25 years ago, Congress passed a law stating that the EPA should begin testing for endocrine disruption in a subset of those 85,000 chemicals. It hasn’t happened, and in today’s political climate it’s not likely to happen. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to EDCs:

  • Eat organic food when it’s available and affordable.
  • If you’re feeding a baby cereal, stay away from rice. Buy oat, wheat or multigrain cereal instead.
  • Avoid household bug sprays.
  • Use cosmetics, shampoos and soaps with simple, pronounceable ingredients.
  • Use cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, or products with the Safer Choice logo.
  • Keep rooms well aired and vacuum, clean and dust regularly to remove chemicals that can be found indoors.
  • Minimize unnecessary use of plastics.

Add your name to the growing movement to stop EDCs.It’s time companies like Monsanto, Dow-DuPont and ExxonMobil take responsibility for gambling with your family’s health and the health of future generations and stop making these silent killer chemicals. We deserve nothing less.

Caroline Cox is the Senior Scientist at the Center for Environmental Health.

Giant Geode

Giant Geode

   One of the largest geodes in the world, the Pulpí geode, was discovered in 1999. It is deep within a mine in Spain. It is a hollow, egg-shaped object, like those in rock shops. But it’s 36 feet wide, like a room with crystal-paneled walls. Individual crystals are up to two meters in size, and are so transparent they look like ice crystals.  A study published October 15, 2019, in the peer-reviewed journal Geology proposed that a slow and steady process involving temperature fluctuations grew the giant gypsum crystals inside. Juan Manuel García Ruiz is a professor at the Universidad de Granada in Spain and a study coauthor. He said at Phys.org:

    Unlike the giant crystals of Naica in Mexico where the hydrothermal system is still active, the large geode of Pulpí is a fossilized environment.

    The large crystals trapped a few fluid inclusions, which gave scientists information about conditions at the time the crystals formed. The team measured the sulfur and oxygen isotope ratios of the inclusions and found that the gypsum likely stabilized at a temperature of about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Most areas that have grown giant gypsum crystals are attached to inactive hydrothermal systems.  The fact that the crystals stabilized at 68 F degrees suggested they may have formed closer to Earth’s surface, where climate fluctuations may have played a role. T

    Scientists suggested that the crystals had grown over a long period of time from a slow, steady drip of a concentrated calcium sulfate solution. An article in EOS explained: With a relatively stable temperature, many smaller gypsum crystals dissolved to form fewer, larger ones in a process called Ostwald ripening.

Red Spider Lily

Red Spider Lily

    The red spider lily, red magic lily, or equinox flower, is in the amaryllis family. It is originally from China, Korea, and Nepal. It flowers in late summer or autumn, often in response to heavy rainfall. The common name hurricane lily refers to this characteristic, as do other names, such as resurrection lily.

    It is a bulbous perennial. It normally flowers before the leaves appear, on stems 12–28 inches tall. The leaves are narrow parallel-sided with a paler central stripe. The flowers are arranged in umbels. Individual flowers are irregular, with narrow segments curving backwards, and long projecting stamens.

     Plants flower in late summer or early fall and leaves follow remaining through winter and disappearing in early summer. Flowers fade after a week from brilliant fluorescent red to a deep pink. Bulbs of are very poisonous and are used in Japan to surround rice paddies and houses to keep pests and mice away.  In Japan the red spider lily signals the arrival of fall.  Buddhists use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They are planted on graves to show tribute to the dead. People believe since the red spider lily is mostly associated with death, one should never give a bouquet of these flowers.

    They were associated with Japanese Christian martyrs in medieval times. These scarlet flowers usually bloom near cemeteries around the autumnal equinox and are described in Chinese and Japanese translations of the Lotus Sutra as ominous flowers that guide the dead into the next reincarnation. Legends say that when you see someone that you may never meet again, these flowers would bloom along the path. Japanese people often used the flowers in funerals, hence the name flower of the afterlife.

Milkweed

    Milkweeds are perennial plants growing each spring from rootstock and seeds rather than seeds alone. Habitat destruction has reduced their range and numbers. Monarch butterfly larvae appear to feed exclusively on milkweeds.

    There are approximately 110 species of milkweed in North America known for their milky sap. Most species are toxic to vertebrate herbivores if ingested. When Monarch larvae ingest milkweed, they ingest the plants’ toxins and sequester these compounds in their wings and exoskeletons, making the larvae and adults toxic to many potential predators. There is considerable variation in the amount of toxins in different species of plants.

    Milkweeds have floral whorls of sepals (the calyx) and petals (the corolla). Their lowers are interesting since they have a third whorl of five hoods each enclosing a horn (modified filaments of the anthers). Together, hoods and horns are referred to as the corona. Horns of some species are long, while horns of others are reduced such that they cannot be seen.

     Milkweeds rely on butterflies, moths, bees, ants, and wasps for pollination. 

Seed Pod and Seeds of Milkweed

The Tussock Moth Caterpillar and the Milkweed Bug

Monarch Caterpillar and Chrysalis

Box Turtles

Box Turtles

    The eastern box turtle has a high-domed, rounded, hard upper shell, the carapace. Orange and yellow markings on the dark brown shell distinguish it from other box turtles, and also the four toes on its hind feet. Its coloring camouflages it among leaves and debris on the floor of moist forests.

    The underside of the shell, the plastron, is dark brown and hinged. All box turtles have a bilobed plastron, allowing them to close their shell. Its shell is unique because it can regenerate. In one report, the carapace of a badly burned box turtle completely regenerated.

    Box turtles have a hooked upper jaw, and usually a significant overbite. Feet are slightly webbed.  Males are larger with shorter, thicker tails than females. Males have short, thick, curved hind claws, while females’ hind claws are long, straight and thin.

    Eastern box turtles walk with their heads upright.  They can travel about 50 -55 yards in one day. A homing instinct helps this turtle find its way home. They typically grow to 4 inches by 6 inches.  The largest box turtle is the Gulf Coast box turtle found along the northern region of the Gulf of Mexico.

   The subspecies Terrapene c. carolina, commonly referred to as the eastern box turtle, is found along the eastern United States from Maine to Florida, and west to the Great Lakes region and Texas.

   Eastern box turtles are predominantly terrestrial and live in a variety of vegetative areas. They are often found near streams or ponds, or areas of heavy rainfall.

    Box turtles are omnivores. Younger box turtles grow rapidly and tend to be preferentially carnivorous. Therefore, they spend more time in the water where it is easier to hunt.  After five to six years, they move onto the land and shift to a more herbivorous diet. At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, eastern box turtles eat salad, earthworms, pellets and occasionally mealworms.

    These turtles usually have a home range with a diameter of 750 feet or less in which they normally stay. Home ranges of different individuals overlap frequently regardless of age or sex.  Aggression between individuals is not common, competing males will spar each other. This involves biting at each other’s shells.

   Box turtles reach sexual maturity around the age of 5. Mating season generally starts in the spring and continues through fall. After a rainfall, males become especially active in their search for a female. Males may mate with more than one female or the same female several times. Females can store sperm for up to four years and do not mate every year. In fact, a female could lay fertile eggs up to four years after a successful mating!

   Nesting season is May to June. Females usually lay four or five eggs. The female uses her hind legs to dig a nest in sandy soil. She then covers the eggs, which incubate and hatch on their own. Box turtles exhibit temperature dependent sex determination; eggs incubated at 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit are more likely to be males, and those incubated above 82 degrees Fahrenheit are more likely to be females.

   Eastern box turtles adjust their activity in order to maintain their optimal body temperature. In the summer, they are most active early in the morning or after it rains. When it gets too hot, they find cool areas to rest, such as under logs, leaf piles, mud or abandoned mammal burrows.  During the spring and fall, they are active throughout the day and enjoy lying in the sun to get warm.

   Eastern box turtles that live in southern regions remain active throughout the winter. In northern regions where it is too cold, they find a place where they can be insulated, a hibernaculum, and become lethargic, entering a hibernation-like state called brumation. This starts in October or November and ends in April when they emerge again.

   Box turtles usually live for 25-35 years but have been known to survive to over 100 years old!

    The eastern box turtle has a high-domed, rounded, hard upper shell, the carapace. Orange and yellow markings on the dark brown shell distinguish it from other box turtles, and also the four toes on its hind feet. Its coloring camouflages it among leaves and debris on the floor of moist forests.

    The underside of the shell, the plastron, is dark brown and hinged. All box turtles have a bilobed plastron, allowing them to close their shell. Its shell is unique because it can regenerate. In one report, the carapace of a badly burned box turtle completely regenerated.

    Box turtles have a hooked upper jaw, and usually a significant overbite. Feet are slightly webbed.  Males are larger with shorter, thicker tails than females. Males have short, thick, curved hind claws, while females’ hind claws are long, straight and thin.

    Eastern box turtles walk with their heads upright.  They can travel about 50 -55 yards in one day. A homing instinct helps this turtle find its way home. They typically grow to 4 inches by 6 inches.  The largest box turtle is the Gulf Coast box turtle found along the northern region of the Gulf of Mexico.

   The subspecies Terrapene c. carolina, commonly referred to as the eastern box turtle, is found along the eastern United States from Maine to Florida, and west to the Great Lakes region and Texas.

   Eastern box turtles are predominantly terrestrial and live in a variety of vegetative areas. They are often found near streams or ponds, or areas of heavy rainfall.

    Box turtles are omnivores. Younger box turtles grow rapidly and tend to be preferentially carnivorous. Therefore, they spend more time in the water where it is easier to hunt.  After five to six years, they move onto the land and shift to a more herbivorous diet. At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, eastern box turtles eat salad, earthworms, pellets and occasionally mealworms.

    These turtles usually have a home range with a diameter of 750 feet or less in which they normally stay. Home ranges of different individuals overlap frequently regardless of age or sex.  Aggression between individuals is not common, competing males will spar each other. This involves biting at each other’s shells.

   Box turtles reach sexual maturity around the age of 5. Mating season generally starts in the spring and continues through fall. After a rainfall, males become especially active in their search for a female. Males may mate with more than one female or the same female several times. Females can store sperm for up to four years and do not mate every year. In fact, a female could lay fertile eggs up to four years after a successful mating!

   Nesting season is May to June. Females usually lay four or five eggs. The female uses her hind legs to dig a nest in sandy soil. She then covers the eggs, which incubate and hatch on their own. Box turtles exhibit temperature dependent sex determination; eggs incubated at 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit are more likely to be males, and those incubated above 82 degrees Fahrenheit are more likely to be females.

   Eastern box turtles adjust their activity in order to maintain their optimal body temperature. In the summer, they are most active early in the morning or after it rains. When it gets too hot, they find cool areas to rest, such as under logs, leaf piles, mud or abandoned mammal burrows.  During the spring and fall, they are active throughout the day and enjoy lying in the sun to get warm.

   Eastern box turtles that live in southern regions remain active throughout the winter. In northern regions where it is too cold, they find a place where they can be insulated, a hibernaculum, and become lethargic, entering a hibernation-like state called brumation. This starts in October or November and ends in April when they emerge again.

   Box turtles usually live for 25-35 years but have been known to survive to over 100 years old!