Can mushrooms improve your health? Eastern medicine has used the reishi mushroom for years because it is common in hot and humid areas of Asia. Reishi mushrooms include triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, each of them contributing certain health benefits when they are eaten fresh or in powders and extracts added to other foods and drinks.
More studies are needed to prove the efficacy of these benefits, but reishi mushrooms have some solid science behind them when it comes to body health. So, how can they help you?
1. Boost Immune System
The triterpenes in the mushrooms might help lower blood pressure and anti-allergy effects, and their sterols can help the development of hormones, all of which boost immune system function.
Some studies show that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells to boost immune function. Those genes and their pathways also contribute to anti-inflammatory effects. Some cultures go so far as to treat HIV patients with reishi mushrooms, as an immunostimulant through their beta glucans, which are complex sugars.
The beta-glucans mentioned above have been shown in studies to stop the growth and spread of cancer cells. Polysaccharides and triterpenes also have cancer-preventing effects, according to multiple studies. Tumors shrunk in cancer patients taking reishi mushrooms in one small study published in the Journal of Oncology. In addition to cancer prevention, the reishi mushroom may even alleviate chemotherapy-related nausea and improve radiation therapy.
Larger studies have shown that the mushroom can lead to the death of cancer cells, and other cancer-fighting measures. Keep in mind that most of these studies have been done in test tubes and have not been measured in terms of human or even animal success.
Reishi may have better effects on certain types of cancer than others. Prostate and colorectal cancers can respond to reishi mushrooms' effects on testosterone, but more studies are needed for conclusive evidence.
3. Fatigue and Depression Reduction
As adaptogens, reishi mushrooms help the body fight off stress. Studies have shown the mushrooms have reduced pain, body aches and mental irritability.
After taking supplements for two months, a small cohort of 132 people with neurasthenia improved in terms of headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Breast cancer survivors reported improved quality of life after one month of taking the mushroom powder, in addition to lower levels of anxiety and depression.
4. Helps Heart Health
Reishi mushrooms could increase good cholesterol and decrease triglycerides, according to a small 12-week study. Important to note that another study showed no change in those risk factors, which means more research is needed.
5. Regulates Blood Sugar
Though mostly animal studies, many have shown the reishi mushroom can decrease blood sugar, and preliminary research in humans has confirmed the findings, possibly through a glucose-producing enzyme inhibition. Other research noted that the mushrooms could reduce kidney stress, which could help complications in diabetes patients. Again, there are other studies that show no benefits here, so more research is needed.
6. Antioxidant Benefits
Antioxidants have been shown to protect cells from damage, decreasing cell mutation and carcinogenesis, while protecting immune cells. Reishi mushrooms have exhibited antioxidant activity in vitro, in many studies. Eating them in supplemental form could increase those antioxidant benefits.
Keep in mind that reishi mushrooms may have some drawbacks, as well. They can cause toxicity in some immune cells, and they could cause toxicity in the liver. The reishi could have side effects like upset stomach or digestive trouble, too. With the limited information available, use caution when deciding if reishi is for you, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have low blood pressure or other blood disorders.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
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By Andrea Germanos
A public health watchdog on Wednesday praised California's proposal to add the so-called "forever chemical" PFOA to the state's list of chemicals known to cause cancer.
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was formerly used to make DuPont's Teflon and other products. It's part of a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Dubbed forever chemicals because they don't break down and can accumulate in the human body, PFAS contamination is widespread. Humans can be exposed through workplace environments, groundwater contamination, or household products.
The U.S. EPA says there's evidence PFOA can cause adverse health effects including reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological harm.
The proposed listing decision was announced last Friday by the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). It said products with PFOA should carry a warning label that the chemical is known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, or Proposition 65. That determination, said OEHHA, is based on findings from the National Toxicology Program.
PFOA has been phased out of production in the U.S., but public health watchdogs says there remain concerns about ongoing contamination, existing stockpiles, imported products, and the fact that some replacement chemicals present health dangers of their own.
PFOA is already on the Proposition 65 list, but for reproductive toxicity.
The public comment period on the new proposed listing ends May 3.
Adding the cancer warning to PFOA would be good news for public health, says the Environmental Working Group (EWG), because such labeling "historically has pushed manufacturers to remove listed chemicals from their products."
EWG President Ken Cook, in a statement Wednesday, welcomed the California regulator's move as a "landmark decision" that "underscores the state's longstanding commitment to protecting its citizens from cancer-causing chemicals like PFOA."
"The damage to communities nationwide from PFOA-contaminated drinking water and exposure through everyday consumer products is almost unimaginable," said Cook, "but California's action underscores the urgency of addressing the crisis."
The proposal also drew praise from environmental attorney and Right Livelihood laureate Robert Bilott, who, following a two-decade legal battle, helped reach a $671 million settlement in class-action lawsuit against DuPont on behalf of thousands of people who said their drinking water was contaminated by the corporation.
Bilott said in a statement that the "more information and scientific data that is uncovered and revealed, the more concerned scientists and regulators all over the planet become."
"The current action in California is just the latest within the scientific and regulatory community to reject the manufacturers' claims that these forever chemicals present 'no risk' to humans," said Bilott.
Public health experts and legal observers say PFAS-making companies knew of the chemicals' harm for decades but continued their production, leaving some affected residents to feel they "collateral damage" while companies try to dodge accountability.
PFOA has been phased out of production in the U.S., but public health watchdogs say there remain concerns about ongoing contamination, existing stockpiles, imported products, and the fact that some replacement chemicals present health dangers of their own.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
As people rushed to buy hand sanitizer during the first months of the pandemic, new brands emerged to fill the gap left by more well-known labels. But in the frenzy, some manufacturers appear to have cut corners.
Last year, several hand sanitizer brands were recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing toxic methanol, or wood alcohol. Now, tests from independent pharmacy and lab Valisure have found high concentrations of benzene in hand sanitizers, an industrial chemical known to cause cancer in humans.
"I was shocked that we were finding benzene at all," Valisure CEO David Light told CBS News. "It might very well be the most well known... compound that is dangerous to humans."
Valisure tested 260 hand sanitizer products from 168 brands, and found that 44 of them tested positive for some amount of benzene. The FDA typically bans benzene in drug manufacturing. However, due to the high demand for hand sanitizer prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, it allowed an interim limit of two parts per million in liquid hand sanitizers. Twenty one products that Valisure tested had benzene levels above this limit.
The most contaminated hand sanitizer is from artnaturals and contains 16 parts per million of benzene, Bloomberg reported. Other highly contaminated batches include products from Scentsational Soaps and Candles Inc., The Creme Shop and a Best Brands Consumer Products sanitizer sold in a Baby Yoda-themed bottle. The full list of contaminated products can be found here.
What's particularly concerning is how benzene is absorbed and how hand sanitizer is used, Valisure noted. For example, benzene is known to cause blood cancers such as leukemia. This makes the possibility that it could be absorbed through the skin especially worrisome, as FDA studies have determined that chemicals with a similar structure, such as sunscreen, can appear in the bloodstream after being applied to the skin.
Further, there are no recommended guidelines for how often a person should use hand sanitizer, raising the alarm that people could be exposed to high concentrations of benzene.
"As an example, when you're on a diet you may need to keep track of the total amount of sugar that you consume in a day," Light explained. "Having one small slice of cake with a high 'concentration' of sugar might be fine. Eating the whole cake would amount to a very different total 'exposure' of sugar, even though each individual serving would have the same 'concentration' of sugar. Hand sanitizer products are typically used in many times greater volume than standard drug products like tablets or capsules, so even a relatively low concentration limit can result in very high total exposure. This strongly underscores the need for a daily limit in addition to a concentration limit."
Valisure filed a petition with the FDA on Wednesday asking them to recall the contaminated products and set exposure limit guidance for benzene.
Another issue is that several of the products that tested positive also violated FDA guidelines against adding ingredients to make their products taste, smell or look better, since these added factors might make children more likely to ingest them. Hand sanitizers, such as Baby Yoda, appear to be marketed to children.
The Walt Disney Company has asked Best Brands to withdraw this hand sanitizer while it conducts its own testing, CBS reported.
Meanwhile, the FDA said that it tests hand sanitizers and works with companies on recalls. However, manufacturers were ultimately responsible for the products they sold.
"The agency reminds manufacturers, distributors, repackagers and importers they are responsible for the quality of their products and urges manufacturers to test their ingredients to ensure they meet specifications and are free from harmful contamination," FDA spokesman Jeremy Kahn told Bloomberg in an email.
However, watchdog group Public Citizen said the FDA should not be allowing any benzene in hand sanitizers.
"It has been taken out of most products, and for it not to be taken out of a product that is here to prevent people from getting exposed to coronavirus is inexcusable," Sidney Wolfe, the group's founder, told Bloomberg. "Most of these don't have any detectable levels. If it is possible to have hand sanitizers that don't have any detectable levels, it is inexcusable that the FDA doesn't ban any hand sanitizer that contains any detectable level."
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St. James Parish Activists Win 'Important Victory for Environmental Justice' vs. Petrochemical Plant
A massive and controversial petrochemical plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana, must complete a rigorous environmental impact statement if it is to obtain a key permit, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.
The Formosa Plastics plant had been on hold since the fall of last year when the Army Corps suspended an earlier permit in response to a lawsuit brought by local activists. The EIS could take years to complete and its requirement is a major win for activists fighting to protect their community from the major polluter.
"I had to touch myself to see if I'm real," Sharon Lavigne, who founded the group Rise St. James to fight the plant and was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts, told the AP.
"Nobody took it upon themselves to speak for St. James Parish until we started working to stop Formosa Plastics," Lavigne said in a statement. "Now the world is watching this important victory for environmental justice."
Sharon Lavigne, 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, United States youtu.be
For a deeper dive:
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U.S. Military Ordered 'Clandestine Burning' of Toxic Chemicals in Low-Income Neighborhoods, Study Finds
By Kenny Stancil
New research conducted by environmental justice scholars at Vermont's Bennington College reveals that between 2016 and 2020, the U.S. military oversaw the "clandestine burning" of more than 20 million pounds of Aqueous Fire Fighting Foam in low-income communities around the country — even though there is no evidence that incineration destroys the toxic "forever chemicals" that make up the foam and are linked to a range of cancers, developmental disorders, immune dysfunction, and infertility.
"In defiance of common sense and environmental expertise, the Department of Defense (DOD) has enlisted poor communities across the U.S. as unwilling test subjects in its toxic experiment with burning AFFF," David Bond, associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, said in a statement earlier this week.
Noting that scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and even Pentagon officials have warned that "burning AFFF is an unproven method and dangerous mix that threatens the health of millions of Americans," Bond characterized the decision of the military to dump huge stockpiles of AFFF and AFFF wastewater into "a handful of habitually negligent incinerators" as a "harebrained" operation as well as a manifestation of environmental injustice.
"In effect," he added, "the Pentagon redistributed its AFFF problem into poor and working-class neighborhoods."
After months of compiling and analyzing data — obtained last year from the Pentagon and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation — the team from Vermont launched an interactive website this week that publicizes for the first time the results of their investigation into all known shipments of AFFF to hazardous waste incinerators in the U.S.
The Bennington College researchers summarized their findings as follows:
- Over 20 million pounds of the toxic firefighting foam AFFF and AFFF wastewater was incinerated between 2016-2020;
- The U.S. military, the EPA, and state regulators all expressed serious concern about the ability of incineration to destroy the toxic chemicals in AFFF during this time;
- Six incinerators were contracted to burn AFFF. Each is a habitual violator of environmental law. Since 2017, three of the incinerators were out of compliance with environmental law 100% of the time while the other incinerators were out of compliance with environmental law about 50% of the time;
- 35% of known shipments of AFFF (7.7 million pounds) was burned at the Norlite Hazardous Waste Incinerator in Cohoes, New York, located within a densely populated urban area and less than 400 feet from a public housing complex. Norlite burned 2.47 million pounds of AFFF and 5.3 million pounds of AFFF wastewater, which likely was burned in violation of its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permit;
- 40% of the national stockpile of AFFF (5.5 million pounds) was sent to "fuel-blending" facilities where it was mixed into fuels for industrial use. It is not clear where the AFFF-laden fuel went next, although the DOD contract stipulates incineration should be the endpoint; and
- 970,000 pounds of AFFF was burned overseas.
AFFF contains contaminants known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); exposure to trace amounts of these synthetic chemicals is associated with a variety of detrimental health effects, and some have argued that PFAS are so risky that they not only endanger public health but threaten to undermine human reproduction writ large.
Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club's National Clean Air team stressed: "We simply must stop burning PFAS compounds."
"Attempting to burn these forever chemicals can generate highly toxic emissions which endanger the health of nearby communities," she said. "Burning also releases gases which are powerful climate forcing chemicals."
According to Williams, "EPA and DOD are both pursuing advanced technologies that can more effectively destroy these compounds without causing these unacceptable impacts."
The pursuit of alternative disposal methods raises the question, posed by the researchers on their website: "If incineration is an unproven means of destroying these toxins, is burning AFFF solving the problem or simply emitting it into the poor communities that so often surround incinerators in the U.S.?"
According to the researchers, the military rushed to burn more than 20 million pounds of AFFF over the past four years because they feared the substance "would be classified as a toxic chemical (and with that designation, would require new safeguards and introduce new liability)."
In a column published Thursday in The Guardian, Bond explained:
While some states file suit against the manufactures of AFFF, the fingerprints of the U.S. Armed Forces are all over the scene of the crime. When federal scientists moved to publish a comprehensive review of the toxic chemistry of AFFF in 2018, DOD officials called that science "a public relations nightmare" and tried to suppress the findings.
Beyond damning internal emails, the military is still in possession of a tremendous amount of AFFF. As the EPA and states around the U.S. begin to designate AFFF a hazardous substance, the military's stockpiles of AFFF are starting to add up to an astronomical liability on the military's balance sheet. Perhaps thinking the Trump administration presented an opportune moment, the Pentagon decided to torch their AFFF problem in 2016.
Despite AFFF's extraordinary resistance to fire, incineration quietly became the military's preferred method to handle AFFF. "We knew that this would be a costly endeavor, since it meant we'd be burning something that was engineered to put out fires," Steve Schneider, chief of Hazardous Disposal for the logistics wing of DOD, said in 2017 as the operation got underway.
As the military was sending AFFF to incinerators around the country, the EPA, state regulators, and university scientists all warned that subjecting AFFF to extremely high temperatures would likely conjure up a witches brew of fluorinated toxins, that existing smokestack technologies would be insufficient to monitor poisonous emissions let alone capture them, and that dangerous chemicals might rain down on surrounding neighborhoods. Weighing out its own liability against the health of these communities, the Pentagon struck the match.
Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator, said the data compiled by the Bennington College team demonstrate that "we have a national problem on our hands."
"Congress needs to throw cold water on the Pentagon's mad dash to burn toxic firefighting foam. There is no evidence that incineration destroys AFFF," she added, calling for "a national ban on burning these forever chemicals."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Recently, the most comprehensive study of its kind linked exposure to air pollution to increased severity of mental illness, The Guardian reported.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, tested 13,000 people in London, England and used frequency of admission to hospitals or visits to community doctors and nurses as a measure of severity, the news report said. The researchers found that relatively small increases in exposure to nitrogen dioxide had negative effects on mental health, including a 32% increase in the risk of needing community-based treatment and an 18% increase in the risk of being admitted to a hospital.
Lead researcher Ioannis Bakolis of King's College London said there is no safe level of air pollution.
"Even at low levels of air pollution, you can observe this kind of very important effect," Bakolis told The Guardian.
Importantly, the researchers also found that even a small reduction in a single pollutant could reduce illness and save the UK national healthcare system tens of millions a year.
The scientists noted that their findings likely would apply to most cities in developed nations around the world. According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of the world's population breathes air that exceeds safe levels. The study showed that millions would be harmed by incremental increases in air pollution, and, conversely, reducing air pollution could therefore benefit millions of people.
Crucially, the findings indicate that growing up in polluted places increases the risk of mental disorders. Because many cities and developing nations are crowded and polluted, this raises questions of environmental justice.
The Guardian previously reported that even small increases in air pollutants lead to significant rises in depression and anxiety. Dirty air was also linked to increased suicides. Unrelated studies have linked air pollution to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke.
According to IQ Air, a similar 2019 study of mental health data from 151 million people in the United States and 1.4 million in Denmark found that long periods of increased air pollution could be linked to a 17 percent increase in bipolar disorder, 6 percent in depression diagnoses and a 20 percent increase in personality disorder diagnoses. Those scientists likened the level of air pollution measured to what could typically be found in major urban areas.
In other parts of the body, dirty air can cause everything from blindness to heart disease to increased cholesterol to cancer. A 2019 global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body.
For the new study, the link between increased chemicals in polluted air and mental health issues was strongest for NO2, which is largely emitted by diesel vehicles, The Guardian reported. Small particle pollution, which is produced by burning all fossil fuels, also ranked high.
The scientists followed up seven years after the first treatment and found the link to air pollution was still apparent. The findings were not explained by a range of other possible factors including age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation or population density, although unidentified factors might still play an important role, the researchers noted.
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Looking for a natural way to help protect your body from serious diseases, including certain types of cancer risks and heart disease? One important step is to ensure you get plenty of antioxidants. These nutrients can offer crucial protection against free radicals, which are produced any time your body breaks down food or is exposed to things like radiation or cigarette smoke. Free radicals can increase your risk of disease due to cell damage from oxidative stress. Antioxidants can help protect your cells and boost your immune system to promote overall wellness.
While you can get antioxidants from food sources, you might also consider the health benefits of antioxidant vitamins and supplements. The question is, what are the best antioxidant vitamin subscriptions and supplement options available today?
Our Picks for the Top Antioxidant Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Overall - Goli Nutrition Superfruits Gummies
- Best Resveratrol Supplement - Vital Plan Prevention Plus
- Best Vitamin C Supplement - Care/of Superberry Boost
- Best Superfood Suppplement - Your Super Organic Super Green Mix
- Best Coenzyme Q10 Supplement - Global Healing CoQ10 & BioPQQ with Shilajit
- Best Veggie Supplement - Sunwarrior Clean Greens and Protein
Which Foods Contain Antioxidant Vitamins?
One way to increase your body's production of antioxidants is through consuming the right foods. Vegetarian meals and vegan snacks allow you enjoy antioxidant-rich fruits andSome of the most common dietary antioxidant sources include:
- Vitamin A - This vitamin is commonly found in eggs, milk, and butter.
- Vitamin C - Most fruits and vegetables will boost your supply of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin E - Find this vitamin in nuts and seeds, including almonds and peanuts, as well as leafy green vegetables.
- Beta-carotene - You can find this important nutrient in carrots, peas, peaches, sweet potatoes, and mangoes.
- Lutein - Seek lutein in green, leafy vegetables, including spinach and collards.
- Selenium - You can often find selenium in different grains and pastas, including rice and corn.
- Lycopene - This carotenoid is most commonly found in red fruits including tomatoes, grapefruits, and watermelons.
By fortifying your diet with any of the above fruits, veggies, and vitamins, you can help boost your antioxidant levels. If you want an additional way to gain the beneficial effects of antioxidants, consider these antioxidant dietary supplements.
The 6 Best Antioxidant Supplements
Best Overall: Goli Nutrition Superfruits Gummies
- Includes antioxidant-producing vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and E.
- Made with bamboo shoot extract and a blend of superfruits.
- Gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, gelatin-free.
Goli Nutrition makes it easy to increase your vitamin intake with flavorful gummies. Their Superfruits blend is packed with natural antioxidants from acai berries, pomegranates, bananas, apples, and strawberries. These gummies can also provide benefits like improved collagen formation for healthier skin.
Best Resveratrol Supplement: Vital Plan Prevention Plus
- Includes a number of antioxidant vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin A and Selenium.
- Gluten-free, non-GMO, peanut-free, egg- and dairy-free.
Not only is this one of the best vitamin supplements for antioxidants, but it also includes vitamin D to boost your immune system, as well as vitamins C, B, A, and E. These capsules also include trans-resveratrol from Japanese Knotweed which can help your body defend against cardiovascular disease by promoting heart health.
Best Vitamin C Supplement: Care/of Superberry Boost
- A great natural source of vitamin C.
- Made with 11 superfruits, including organic acai, goji, and cherries.
- Non-GMO, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free.
Care/of Superberry Boost is made from 11 different superfruits, making it a natural antioxidant powerhouse. It's also an easy way to get natural daily servings of organic fruit and fruit juice by mixing it in with smoothies or shakes.
Best Superfood Supplement: Your Super Organic Super Green Mix
- Includes important vitamins like A, C, and K.
- Made with six green superfoods, including wheatgrass.
- Vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free.
Looking for a quick and simple way to increase your consumption of green superfoods? This is the perfect mix for you, allowing you to add plenty of natural antioxidants from wheatgrass, barley grass, chlorella, spirulina, moringa, and baobab.
Best CoQ10 Supplement: Global Healing CoQ10 & BioPQQ with Shilajit
- Made to promote energy production and heart health.
- Includes CoQ10, a vital enzyme for converting food to energy.
- Vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO.
These capsules are designed for mitochondrial health and natural energy production. They include coenzyme Q10, which provides antioxidant activity and helps boost metabolism. The organic Himalayan shilajit is meant to help increase CoQ10 absorption in the body.
Best Veggie Supplement: Sunwarrior Clean Green & Protein
- A great source of protein, calcium, and iron.
- Includes organic fermented pea protein.
- Soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, vegan.
This Sunwarrior blend includes natural plant-based proteins to help you build lean muscle, and a blend of vegetables with broccoli, onion extract, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts. Ingredients like goji berries, yellow peas, and coconut add even more natural antioxidants.
What are Antioxidants?
As you shop for the best antioxidant supplements, it may also be helpful to learn more about antioxidants overall.
Essentially, antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals within your body. Free radicals are the byproducts of the process your body uses to turn food into energy. They are very unstable molecules and can lead to real harm if they become too concentrated; for example, free radical damage can increase your risk of certain cancers and heart disease, and they may also lead to macular degeneration and premature aging of your skin. Making sure you get plenty of antioxidants is a great way to help maintain healthy skin.
Since free radicals are constantly being produced within your body, it's crucial to maintain balance with regular antioxidant production. Antioxidants help protect your cells by counteracting the oxidation caused by free radicals. If you don't get enough antioxidants from your diet, antioxidant supplementation can help.
How Do Antioxidant Supplements Work?
You can get antioxidants by eating the right foods, including foods that feature the vitamins and nutrients we listed above. However, dietary nutrition may not be enough to ensure you have the antioxidant levels you need. Antioxidant supplements give you super-concentrated doses of antioxidants or the nutrients your body needs to produce its own antioxidants.
How to Choose the Best Antioxidant Supplements
As you look for the best vitamin supplements for antioxidants, there are a few factors to consider.
- Vitamins and nutrients. Exactly which nutrients are you getting from your antioxidant supplement?
- Additives and other ingredients. Does your supplement include only natural ingredients, or is it made with a lot of unnecessary sweeteners, preservatives, etc.?
- Evidence and research. Many of the best antioxidant supplements will include scientific data to demonstrate their effectiveness. Always look for independent lab test results on the packaging or the brand's website.
- Value. Take into consideration not only the price point, but also any warranties or money-back guarantees that are offered.
Antioxidant Supplement Safety & Side Effects
Though it is certainly beneficial to have robust antioxidant production, there is definitely such a thing as overdoing it. In fact, there are a number of risks associated with taking high doses of antioxidant supplements. Overuse of antioxidant supplements may:
- Decrease your performance when you exercise.
- Increase the risk of lung cancer for smokers due to high levels of beta-carotene.
- Increase the risk of prostate cancer if they cause high levels of vitamin E.
- Pregnant women are advised against taking Vitamin A supplements, which can increase the risk of birth defects.
- Interact with certain prescription medications.
When choosing to take any type of dietary supplement, it's important to do your research so that you understand the potential benefits and the potential risks. Talk with your doctor to determine whether antioxidant supplements are right for you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The research, published in Nature Geoscience Monday, looked at the use and spread of 92 active pesticide ingredients in 168 countries. They considered an area at risk if the concentration of a chemical exceeded the limit at which it would have no effect, and at high risk if that concentration exceeded the limit by a factor of 1,000.
"Our study has revealed 64 percent of the world's arable land is at risk of pesticide pollution," University of Sydney Research Associate and the study's lead author, Dr Fiona Tang said in a University of Sydney press release. "This is important because the wider scientific literature has found that pesticide pollution can have adverse impacts on human health and the environment."
Further, a total of 31 percent of land was at high risk, the study authors wrote.
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are widely used to boost productivity in farming, the press release noted. However, they have unintended consequences for human and environmental health. They can enter bodies of water through runoff or by entering the groundwater, contaminating drinking water. Pesticides like chlorpyrifos have been shown to harm the cognitive development of children, while others have been linked to cancer. They also pose a threat to wildlife such as bees and birds.
These threats are why the research is important, Tang told AFP.
"It is significant because the potential pollution is widespread and some regions at risk also bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity," she said in an AFP article published by Phys.org.
Specifically, 34 percent of the high risk areas were in regions with high biodiversity while five percent were in water-scarce areas, the study found. Nineteen percent of the high risk areas were in low or middle income countries.
Regionally, Asia had the most high-risk land, with China, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines especially impacted, the press release said. In Europe, almost 62 percent of agricultural land was at high risk, AFP reported. This was largely due to high concentrations in Russia, Ukraine and Spain.
The researchers looked at 59 herbicides, 21 insecticides and 19 fungicides and based their calculations on application rate data from the U.S. Geological Survey and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. They then used a model to estimate how much of the pesticides would remain in the soil, atmosphere, groundwater and surface water.
The researchers pointed out that pesticide use is only expected to increase in the future because of the climate crisis and population growth.
"In a warmer climate, as the global population grows, the use of pesticides is expected to increase to combat the possible rise in pest invasions and to feed more people," coauthor and University of Sydney associate professor Federico Maggi said in the press release.
However, the researchers advised a different path.
"We urgently recommend that a global strategy is established to transition towards sustainable agriculture and sustainable living with low pesticide inputs and reduced food loss and food waste to achieve responsible production and consumption in an acceptable, profitable system," they wrote.
- New Pesticides Will Modify Insect Genes: What Could Go Wrong ... ›
- EPA Allowing Widespread Use of Unapproved Pesticides, Study ... ›
- The Netherlands Can Feed the World. Here's Why It Shouldn't ... ›
Natural deodorant has recently made its way into the mainstream marketplace. As people are looking for natural shampoos and soaps, they're also seeking out sustainable, aluminum-free alternatives to traditional antiperspirants and deodorants. But do they really work as well as their chemical-filled counterparts?
Aluminum is the ingredient in conventional antiperspirants that blocks your sweat glands. While this element was thought to be linked to breast cancer and other diseases, the American Cancer Society has stated there's very little scientific evidence to support the claim.
Even so, natural deodorants are another great option for those who are looking for a product that won't clog their pores or leave chemicals on their skin. Natural deodorants often use fewer ingredients and can even come in more sustainable packaging, making them a better choice for the environment.
Finding the best natural deodorant for you might take trial and error, but we have compiled a list of our favorites.
Our Picks for the Best Natural Deodorants of 2021
If you think of applying deodorant as part of your skincare routine, you'll understand why it's important to consider what products you use under your arms. The following eight products are our top recommendations for the best natural deodorants to get you through the day.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: Native Natural Deodorant
- Best for Men: Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Deodorant
- Best for Women: Megababe Rosy Pits Daily Deodorant
- Best Scent: Schmidt's Jasmine Tea Sensitive Skin Deodorant
- Best Eco-Friendly Packaging: Each & Every Natural Aluminum-Free Deodorant
- Best Fragrance-Free Deodorant: Kopari Fragrance-Free Deodorant
- Best Spray Deodorant: Ursa Major Sublime Sage Deodorant
- Best for the Environment: Ethique Rustic Solid Deodorant
Best Overall: Native Natural Deodorant
Native deodorant is great-smelling, long-lasting and all-natural. This deodorant stick feels fresh and light but rolls easily onto the underarms because of its solid formula. Although it contains no aluminum and is not an antiperspirant, a few reviewers say it did leave them feeling dryer than other brands.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 52,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vegan deodorant is gluten-free, paraben-free and aluminum-free. It includes natural ingredients including coconut oil, tapioca starch and soothing shea butter. As a brand, Native never tests on animals, is cruelty-free and supports 1% for the Planet.
Best Men's Deodorant: Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Deodorant
If you can't spend more time outdoors, at least you can smell like the wilderness. Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Deodorant comes in scents like Deep Forest, Mountain Spring and North Woods, and its formula is just as eco-friendly as you'd expect, with ingredients like aloe and sunflower seed oil. A perk of buying Tom's of Maine deodorants is that 10% of all proceeds go to charities supporting children's health, education and the environment.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 4,400 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: This great-smelling product is aluminum-free and offers 24-hour protection. It doesn't use any artificial colors, flavors, fragrances or preservatives. Tom's does not test on animals, making this deodorant cruelty-free. The company is also a certified B Corp.
Best Women's Deodorant: Megababe Rosy Pits Daily Deodorant
The Megababe Rosy Pits Daily Deodorant is made using cornstarch instead of baking soda. It glides on smoothly compared to some other natural deodorants that use a sticky-textured application. Its vegan formula goes on clear, preventing clothing stains, and the scent leaves your pits smelling like fresh roses. (If you're not a floral fan, there are also beach and soap scents.)
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 300 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: This deodorant is free of aluminum, baking soda, alcohol and parabens. Megababe's deodorant is made from a blend of natural ingredients including sage and green tea and is not tested on animals.
Best Scent: Schmidt's Jasmine Tea Sensitive Skin Deodorant
Made with 100% natural, certified fragrances and essential oils, Schmidt's Jasmine Tea Sensitive Skin Deodorant both smells beautiful and keeps you fresh all day long. The scent — a blend of jasmine tea and green tea — is formulated with essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances, and the product as a whole is made for those with sensitive skin, so you don't have to worry about irritants.
Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: Schmidt's natural deodorant is Leaping Bunny and Ecocert-certified natural. It's not only free from aluminum, phthalates, baking soda and synthetic fragrances, but it's also vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Eco-Friendly Packaging: Each & Every Natural Aluminum-Free Deodorant
Each & Every's Natural Aluminum-Free Deodorant uses Dead Sea minerals instead to keep you fresh all day. The plant-based packaging is made from 100% renewable sugarcane, which is a net carbon-negative plant. Although sugarcane packaging isn't accepted by most municipal recycling facilities, Each & Every has set up its own program through which you can recycle your used deodorant sticks.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 12,800 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: This vegan deodorant stick is made from only six ingredients and is free of toxins, baking soda, aluminum and parabens. It's also a cruelty-free product, as Each & Every doesn't test on animals. It offers body odor protection with its synthetic-free lavender and lemon scent.
Best Fragrance-Free Deodorant: Kopari Fragrance-Free Deodorant
For those trying to avoid fragrances, Kopari's deodorant is non-toxic and aluminum-free, using natural-based ingredients like soothing coconut oil and sage oil. The company sources its coconuts from family farms in Davao, Philippines, and uses a portion of its proceeds to fund community projects such as building homes, donating school supplies and setting up clean water access.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 with over 140 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: Kopari's unscented deodorant is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial, soothing and hydrating. It goes on clear, so you avoid stains on your clothing, and its formula is free from aluminum, parabens, toxins, phthalates and gluten.
Best Spray Deodorant: Ursa Major Sublime Sage Deodorant
For those who want their armpits smelling great without a roll-on formula, Ursa Major's spray deodorant is an excellent option. It's important to note that while making the switch from stick deodorant to spray, you may experience a two- to three-week detox period; a spray will reach its full potential after three weeks.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with 145 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: This vegan and cruelty-free deodorant is non-staining and non-toxic, absorbing excess moisture and soothing sensitive skin. It uses 23 natural ingredients including sandalwood, lemon myrtle and sage. Ursa Major is also a certified B Corp, so you can feel good about supporting this company.
Best for the Environment: Ethique Rustic Solid Deodorant
Using natural scents of lime, cedarwood and eucalyptus, this deodorant smells rustic and lasts all day. The Ethique Rustic Solid Deodorant formula also includes jojoba and sweet almond oil, which make for a smooth application, as well as bamboo, which can absorb up to 200% of its weight in sweat. Although this product is not an antiperspirant, the bamboo can help you stay drier, according to customers.
Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 2,400 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: Ethique is a zero-waste, sustainable beauty brand. This vegan deodorant is certified Climate Pledge Friendly, using biodegradable ingredients and compostable packaging to create a minimal environmental impact. It is also free of baking soda, aluminum, plastic and palm oil.
Why Should You Switch to Natural Deodorant?
With natural ingredients, you can manage your sweat and body odor in an organic, eco-friendly way. Many natural deodorants also use sustainable packaging, ensuring a lesser impact on the environment. Natural deodorants don't clog the pores of your skin, allowing good bacteria to do their job and help you to naturally be less smelly and sweaty over time.
Tips on How to Make the Switch
Before switching to a natural deodorant, it's recommended to go au naturel for a few days. This allows your body to push out the chemicals from your previous deodorant or antiperspirant and minimizes the irritation that can come from changing products.
As you begin to use natural deodorant, you can expect an adjustment period of up to a month as your body regulates itself. (For some people, this detox stage can be shorter.) If the idea of walking around without protection makes you uncomfortable, try dabbing your armpits with tea tree oil, lavender or thyme essential oils that will help mask any unwanted smells.
After the initial transition, your natural deodorant will start to work as well as your previous product.
What Are GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have been modified in a laboratory in order to produce a specific result. For example, many types of food sources, especially corn and soybean crops, are genetically modified in order to withstand herbicides and insects. This method stems from the concept of selective breeding and dates back to at least 8000 BCE, although genetically altering DNA didn't happen until 1973.
Austrian monk Gregor Mendel is credited with identifying the founding principles of genetics when he crossbred two pea breeds in 1866. In 1922, hybrid corn made its commercial debut, while plant breeders discovered how to alter DNA with radiation and chemicals in 1940. After 1973, the FDA approved insulin in 1982 as the first genetically engineered product for human use. However, genetically modified food didn't get FDA approval until 1994, when a GMO tomato became the first to go commercial. While on the surface it appears that GMOs are 100 percent positive, they have been surrounded by controversy for decades.
How Are GMOs Made?
Creating GMO plants first involves identifying and isolating a desired trait, from the aforementioned herbicide resistance to drought resistance to disease tolerance. That trait is then copied and inserted into the plant DNA that's being modified, with the final result initially grown in a lab. The seeds from successful modifications are then sold to farmers.
Current Use of GMOs
Besides corn and soybeans, other commonly grown GMO crops in the U.S. include cotton, canola, potatoes and sugar beets. The latter are used to make granulated (or white) sugar; in fact, more than half of this type of commercially sold sugar comes from GMO sugar beets. GMO-derived ingredients are also prevalent in processed foods, such as lecithin and emulsifiers from soybeans; canola and cottonseed oil used in packaged goods; and high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in everything from soft drinks and salad dressing to bread and sweetened yogurt. While it's often thought that GMOs are only found in processed food and drink, genetically modified produce exists as well: apples, summer squash and papaya are among the ones grown in the U.S.
GMO grains are also fed to the majority of livestock (cows, chickens) used in the meat and dairy industry, with corn, soybeans and alfalfa ranking as the most popular choices. The FDA claims that livestock fed a GMO diet pose no greater risk to human health than ones that aren't, and so far there haven't been any conclusive studies that prove otherwise.
In the meantime, the benefits appear to outweigh any possible risks, although these might be more apparent to farmers and the agricultural industry than to consumers, since GMO crops can be altered to better withstand drought conditions and pests, require less pesticide, cost less money to grow and even increase nutritional value.
Are GMOs Safe?
Though unproven, GMOs have been tied to everything from reduced fertility to cancer. GMOs are considered safe by the FDA, but long-term effects are still being studied, and these studies have only been performed on animals.
Although correlations exist, there are currently no definitive studies that GMOs cause cancer, and this is the stance of cancer organizations in the U.S., UK and Australia. A 2013 study raised concerns when it studied the effect of glyphosate, the active ingredient used in most herbicides on GMO crops, in human breast cancer cells. The results suggested that glyphosate could cause breast cancer, but the lab study also used breast cell tissue that was already cancerous. Another study, this time from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015, reported that glyphosate doubled the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. It connected the highest risk to farmers and farm workers, and California has since added glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals. It should be noted that glyphosate is the main ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup, which has been linked to thousands of cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite this, the EPA has declared glyphosate isn't likely to pose a cancer risk in people.
The question remains whether or not GMO crops require more pesticides (including herbicides and insecticides) than non-GMO crops. A 2016 study examined this issue. On the one hand, GMO crops altered to resist insects technically don't require additional insecticide. On the other hand, it turns out that farmers sprayed more weedkillers on glyphosate-tolerant corn after 2007. The same goes for glyphosate-tolerant soybeans. As to why, a co-author of that study suggested it was due to weeds becoming more resistant to glyphosate over time.
In 2011, the journal Environmental Sciences Europe reviewed 19 studies involving animals that were fed GMO diets of corn and soybeans. It concluded possible links between this diet and kidney and liver disorders, as well as altered body weight and genital cancer in second-generation females, but that further research was needed. A more recent 2019 study published in GMO Science also suggested a link between liver and kidney damage in rats fed a GMO corn diet. However, this particular diet involved Monsanto-engineered corn for the Egyptian market containing a pest-deterring insecticide. The earlier study also fed rats an insecticide variant.
A 2014 study possibly linked fertility issues to GMO-heavy diets, while a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that pesticide-tainted food, often associated with herbicide-tolerant GMO crops, might have been the cause behind 100,000 unsuccessful pregnancies at fertility clinics. While the study recommended that pregnant women and those trying to conceive should avoid pesticides and GMOs where possible, it didn't measure how much of participants' pesticide consumption came from GMO foods that were pesticide resistant.
According to a 2015 Harvard University article, various studies haven't proven any causation between GMO consumption and negative impacts on offspring. The article cites a South Dakota State University study that tracked rats eating GMO corn for four generations, including pregnant rats, and did not find any changes in offspring size or organ damage. It should be noted that GMOs can be found in non-organic baby food, and just like other food studies, the long-term effects are unknown at this time.
An early study in the '90s found a possible allergic reaction to GMO soybeans, but that was only upon adding a nut protein, and only affected people with specific nut allergies. The FDA states that people are only apt to be allergic to a GM food if they're already allergic to the non-GM version, such as soy.
There have been some concerns that eating genetically altered food would alter human DNA. Bruce Ames, a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California in Berkeley, developed a test to track mutations from food, and this test has been used on GMO corn and tomatoes without any findings to suggest a connection. The Royal Society, one of the world's oldest scientific organizations, asserts that one doesn't affect the other, and that the DNA in GM food is no different from the DNA in non-GM foods.
Pros and Cons of GMOs
Pros of GMOs
As touched upon earlier, GMO crops are meant to provide benefits. For example, certain GMO crops technically require less pesticide, while other GMO crops can achieve higher yields or withstand droughts.
Added Nutritional Value
Some GMOs can also boost a food's nutritional value, although this area has been mired in controversy. Take Golden Rice, which is just white rice that's been modified with Vitamin A to help prevent blindness and other Vitamin A deficiencies, especially in children, in developing countries. While a good idea in theory, Golden Rice has been caught in a 20-plus-year battle due to opponents who question the rice's safety and effectiveness. Although the Philippines approved Golden Rice for the commercial market in 2020, it has yet to reach consumers.
Increased Food Supply
Besides the potential to add nutritional value, GMOs are another way to possibly reduce world hunger. Food demand is expected to grow 70 percent by 2050, and that requires even more deforestation going forward. However, GMO crops could prevent that in a number of ways, such as employing modifications that would double production yields without requiring additional land. That's already the case with cotton crops in developing countries, where GMO cotton has increased yields in India and China. Although GMO food crops are currently banned in India and other nations that could benefit from an increased food supply.
Combat Climate Change
Then there are climate crisis considerations. There are studies indicating that GMO crops have reduced pesticide spraying by 8.7 percent, while less soil tillage and fuel dependence have decreased greenhouse gas emissions that are the equivalent to 15 million fewer cars on the road. Additionally, larger GMO crop yields resulting from drought resistance, among other reasons, have reduced the need for farmers to acquire more land. Scientists are also researching ways that GMOs can actively fight climate change, such as altering plants that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, require less sunlight or convert nitrogen for growth purposes. GMO crops could even reduce methane emissions from livestock by employing plants that create less methane from consumption.
Cons of GMOs
Besides the negative health implications and increased herbicide usage already covered, there are additional drawbacks for the environment and farmers.
There have been claims connecting GMO crops to superweeds, where, instead of reducing a reliance on pesticides, certain crops have become more herbicide resistant, thus requiring greater usage of weedkillers such as Monsanto's Roundup. The elephant in the room is the fact that until recently Monsanto owned the majority of the country's GMO seeds. Roundup has been linked to thousands of cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leading to a $10 billion settlement from Bayer, who acquired Monsanto in 2018. A 2018 study stated that 38 global weed species have become resistant to glyphosate.
Decreased Pest Resistance
Insects, similar to weeds, are becoming increasingly tolerant of pest-resistant GMO crops, particularly cotton and corn. Known as Bt crops (Bacillus thuringiensis), due to the type of bacteria that makes them pest-resistant, they initially worked to resist common threats such as bollworms and rootworms, and reduced the need for insecticides. However, new strains of these pests are no longer deterred by GMO crops modified to resist them, re-upping the need for insecticides.
Increased Roundup and herbicide usage has also been tied to dwindling monarch butterfly populations, one of many biodiversity issues. That's because the toxin also kills milkweed, the main diet for monarchs and commonly found in crop fields.
In recent decades, India has attracted attention for its farmer suicide rate, which some have attributed to the GMO industry. There have been about 300,000 farmer suicides in the past twenty years, and biotech opponents blame these on the GMO cotton sector, which is the only industry allowed to use GM crops. The majority of the country's cotton comes from modified Bt cotton seeds. The supposed problem is the rising cost of these seeds, which many farmers can't afford and often go into debt for in order to buy them; bad crops and fluctuating global cotton prices often create a debt spiral that's hard to recover from. Yet there are studies that dispute a connection between Bt cotton and farmer suicide rates, instead suggesting that the reverse is true due to higher crop yields.
Besides the theory that Bt cotton is sending growers into debt, there's the other issue of bollworms becoming resistant to GMO cotton, requiring heavier doses of pesticides. Due to different regulations, it's not uncommon for fieldworkers to apply toxic chemicals without the proper protection, or even shoes and masks.
Adding another layer, a different paper found that small farms were at a higher risk for suicide rates than large ones since they depend more on rainwater for successful crops than large operations, which use irrigation pumps. If anything, the study authors found the bigger problem is the threat of groundwater shortages for large farms, since groundwater usage is unregulated.
Not least is the matter of seed sovereignty, giving farmers the freedom to use whatever seeds they wish, thereby decreasing reliance on major seed companies who favor patented GM seeds. Seed sovereignty is an ongoing issue that's been ceding control to large corporations concerning which seeds farmers can plant.
Which Foods Might Contain GMOs?
Though GMOs appear prevalent, there are only a small number of GMO crops grown in the U.S. The most common are corn, soybeans, sugar beets, canola and cotton. However, about 90 percent of these crops use GMO seeds. There are also GMO alfalfa crops, used mostly for livestock feed. GMO versions exist for some produce, including apples, summer squash and papaya. Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes all have GMO versions, and are sold under the White Russet label.
While it appears easy to avoid some GMO foods, such as produce sold under a particular label, others, including GMO corn, soybeans and canola oil, can turn up in unexpected places. For example, corn can pop up in anything containing high fructose corn syrup, dextrose or glucose, and encompass bread, cereal, soda, frozen meals and even Vitamin C supplements. GMO soy can be found in infant formula, protein drinks, tofu, edamame, canned tuna and salad dressing. It's a safe assumption that unless an item is sold under an organic label or is considered a whole food, it likely contains GMOs.
Then there are GMO foods which are marketed as healthy vegan alternatives to meat, such as the popular brand of Impossible Burgers. Sold by major chains, from White Castle to Bareburger, the plant-based burgers contain GMO soy protein and heme, the molecule responsible for replicating the realistic beef-like taste and appearance. This molecule is genetically engineered by combining soybean DNA with yeast.
In 2015 the FDA approved AquAdvantage Salmon, a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon. This new salmon grows faster than non-GE Atlantic salmon due to a hormone from Chinook salmon. The FDA asserts that this GE salmon will be labeled as bioengineered. AquaBounty, the company behind the new salmon, plans to sell it to consumers sometime in 2021. So far many entities, from Aramark and Walmart to supermarkets and restaurants, have refused to carry the salmon.
It's worth noting that GMOs aren't limited to food. Most cotton, whether produced in the U.S. or abroad, actually comes from the aforementioned Bt cotton seeds. So unless organic cotton was used, most clothes, bedding and towels are GMO goods. Although GM cotton also enters the food supply via cottonseed oil derived from cotton seeds, and the oil can be found in potato chips, baked goods and pasta sauce.
What Is Being Done About GMOs?
Due to the unknown long-term health effects from GMOs, along with environmental protestors and preliminary studies linking them to health risks such as cancer, they're banned, or partially banned, in 19 out of 27 EU countries, including France, Greece, Italy, Germany and much of the UK. Additionally, GMOs are currently banned in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Venezuela and most African countries.
The EU also requires GMO labeling, something the U.S. has resisted, but will start adding in January 2022. At that point foods containing certain types of GMO ingredients will be required to display a "bioengineered" label.
CRISPR is a type of gene editing technology that can precisely alter cells; a new technique allows for plant alteration without introducing foreign DNA, hence the end result is not a GMO. While this new technology could positively alter the current GMO landscape, it's still in the rudimentary phase.
There are some organizations such as the Non-GMO Project that independently monitor products for GMOs and verify whether or not certain standards are met. The site also facilitates checking specific food items for their GMO status and provides guidance for identifying potential GMO foods.
In the meantime, the FDA continues to monitor and regulate GMOs, which involves working with other government agencies to ensure that the same safety standards are met as non-GMO foods. This includes monitoring pesticide usage.
Otherwise, beyond ongoing independent studies, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Health Organization, among others, have all deemed GMOs safe and as such no further action is being taken at this time in the U.S beyond GMO labeling.
What Can You Do?
Consumers can err on the side of caution by choosing organic food and goods whenever possible, buying from local farms, looking for non-GMO certification labels and reading ingredient lists. The Non-GMO project also breaks down which crops are deemed most likely to be genetically modified, along with listing high-risk, animal-derived ingredients. Some of the items might be surprising, including honey and eggs, due to the amount of GMOs used in crops and livestock feed.
At of time of publication there is no conclusive evidence that GMOs as a whole are more harmful than non-GMOs, whether to one's health, the environment or farmers, so it appears that avoiding GMOs entirely would have a negligible impact based on the current facts available.
Meredith Rosenberg is a senior editor at EcoWatch. She holds a Master's from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in NYC and a B.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia.
The research, published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters on Tuesday, developed a new technique for measuring the presence of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in indoor air, and found them in several locations including kindergarten classrooms, offices, laboratories and a home.
"Food and water are known to be major sources of PFAS exposure," study senior author and University of Rhode Island oceanography professor Rainer Lohmann said in a Green Science Policy Institute press release. "Our study shows that indoor air, including dust, is another source of exposure to potentially harmful forever chemicals."
PFAS are a class of around 9,000 chemicals used to improve stain, water or heat resistance in products, The Guardian explained. They are a public health concern because they do not break down in the environment, and accumulate in animals and humans. They have also been linked to a number of health impacts including cancer, birth defects and immune suppression.
The study authors wanted to see if these chemicals were present in the air and dust of the indoor spaces where humans spent 90 percent of their time. To accomplish this, they affixed polyethylene sheet samplers to the ceilings of nine carpeted kindergarten classrooms, one home, an outdoor clothing store storage room, two laboratories, five offices, one classroom, one university storage room, one elevator, and two carpet stores, the Green Science Policy Institute explained. They found PFAS in the air of almost every location they tested. Further, some of the kindergarten and university classrooms had greater concentrations of airborne PFAS than the clothing store storage room, even though its products were actually treated with PFAS.
The researchers think the PFAS end up in the air when compounds break off of treated products like coats or carpets and attach to dust or simply enter the air, The Guardian explained.
"It's an underestimated and potentially important source of exposure to PFAS," co-author and Green Science Policy Institute senior scientist Tom Bruton told The Guardian.
The researchers found that the indoor environments were especially contaminated with a kind of PFAS called fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs). In the kindergarten classrooms, there were concentrations of 6:2 FTOH ranging from 9 to 600 nanograms per cubic meter. Industry sources had previously claimed this compound was safe, but The Guardian reported in May that internal studies showed the chemical was toxic to lab animals and stayed in their systems for longer than previously believed.
The Green Science Policy Institute noted that schools and workplaces can protect students and employees by replacing carpeting. However, this won't prevent PFAS from entering the building on other products like coats or shoes.
"As long as they continue to be used in products, we'll all be eating, drinking, and breathing PFAS," Bruton said in the press release. "We need to turn off the tap and stop all unnecessary uses of PFAS as soon as possible."
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of products containing the weedkiller dicamba for use on cotton and soybeans Tuesday. The EPA announcement means that two products that contain the herbicide found to cause cancer can be registered for five years. It also extended the use of a third product that also has dicamba in it, according to The Hill.
The EPA said that two canceled dicamba herbicides — XtendiMax and Engenia — will now have a five-year registration. The same five-year extension was granted to the herbicide Tavium. The EPA argued that it provides relief to farmers who were unsure how they would treat their dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean crops.
"With today's decision, farmers now have the certainty they need to make plans for their 2021 growing season," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. "After reviewing substantial amounts of new information, conducting scientific assessments based on the best available science, and carefully considering input from stakeholders we have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment."
The new rules around the three products are meant to address the concerns of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a 2018 registration of dicamba products, stating that the EPA "substantially understated" some of the risks associated with the chemical's use, as The Hill reported.
The EPA's new rules seek to mitigate the risk by increasing the required downwind buffer from 110 feet to 240 feet, and up to 310 feet in areas where endangered species are located. States can still impose their own restrictions on the herbicide, but they will have to work with the EPA and file the appropriate requests, according to the EPA's statement.
Lobbying groups for big agriculture and industry insiders welcomed the decision.
"The economic damage that would result from not being able to use dicamba herbicides would be tremendous," said Ken Fountain, National Cotton Council chairman, as Ag Web reported. "We greatly appreciate EPA's timely issuance of a new five-year label for the critical crop protection product for cotton farmers."
Environmentalists and consumer advocacy organizations were predictably appalled by the decision that seems to be an end-run around the court's decision.
"Rather than evaluating the significant costs of dicamba drift as the 9th Circuit told them the law required, EPA rushed re-approval as a political prop just before the election, sentencing farmers and the environment to another five years of unacceptable damage," said George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, according to Ag Web. "Center for Food Safety will most certainly challenge these unlawful approvals."
Other critics noted the damage already caused by dicamba use.
"Given EPA-approved versions of dicamba have already damaged millions of U.S. acres of crops and natural areas there's no reason to trust that the agency got it right this time," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement, as The Hill reported.
"At this point, the EPA has shown such callous indifference to the damage dicamba has caused to farmers and wildlife alike, and has been so desperate to appease the pesticide industry, it has zero credibility when it comes to pesticide safety," Donley added.
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