January 2006

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Gathered from the Organic Consumers Association and
Environmental Working Group. Reprinted with permission.

Home antibacterials raise FDA concerns

An FDA panel is examining possible health concerns associated with antibacterial soaps, wipes and other household products. The market is booming for these germ-killers, but home use might be creating strains resistant to both antibacterials and antibiotics. This is of particular concern to families with children, as it presents the double-edged sword of exposing children to surviving super-germs, or, on the other hand, overprotecting them in a squeaky-clean environment that prevents them from building immunity, which can lead to asthma or allergies later in life.

More information on triclosan, the active ingredient in antibacterials, can be found at EWG’s “Skin Deep” site, a consumer guide ranking safety concerns for 14,000 health and beauty products.

-Environmental Working Group

Six in Northern Minnesota embark on one-year local food challenge

Before you take another bite of food, think about where your food comes from. That is the message from the Local Food Challenge (LFC), a group of six people who have committed to eating foods grown within 250 miles of where they live for one year beginning Sept. 1, 2005. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that food now travels between 1500-2500 miles between the farm and our plates.

A recent report from the Crossroads Resource Center shows that residents of Minnesota’s northwest region, where LFC participants reside, spend $300 million annually on food from outside the region, while 40% of the region’s farmers lost money in 2002. Stephanie Williams, Extension Coordinator at the White Earth Tribal and Community College and LFC participant, urged, “If everyone joined the local food challenge for even a day, together we could revitalize our local food economy, and if people joined for a week, they would see their health start to change, and if people did this for a year, the impacts would be astounding.”

-Organic Consumers Association

Shanghai embarks on 100,000 Solar Roofs Initiative

The municipal government of Shanghai, China recently launched an initiative to install photovoltaic (PV) systems on 100,000 of the city’s 6 million rooftops, reported Xinhua News Agency. The program signals a new stage in the wider adoption of solar power in China’s energy-thirsty urban areas.

The solar roofs, which convert sunlight into electricity, are expected to generate at least 430 million kilowatt-hours of power annually, enough to supply the city for nearly two days. Their use will save roughly 20,000 tons of coal for power generation and reduce 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

-Worldwatch Institute

Artificial sweetener aspartame causes cancer in rats at levels currently approved for humans

A statistically significant increase in the incidence of malignant tumors, lymphomas and leukemias in rats exposed to varying doses of aspartame appears to link the artificial sweetener to a high carcinogenicity rate. The authors of the study called for an “urgent reevaluation” of the current guidelines for the use and consumption of this compound.

“Our study has shown that aspartame is a multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are also evident at a daily dose of 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg), notably less than the current acceptable daily intake for humans,” the authors write. Currently, the acceptable daily intake for humans is set at 50 mg/kg in the United States and 40 mg/kg in Europe.

Aspartame is the second most widely used artificial sweetener in the world. It is found in more than 6,000 products including carbonated and powdered soft drinks, hot chocolate, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, and tabletop sweeteners, as well as some pharmaceutical products like vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. More than 200 million people worldwide consume it. The sweetener has been used for more than 30 years, having first been approved by the FDA in 1974. Studies of the carcinogenicity of aspartame performed by its producers have been negative.

-Organic Consumers Association