Five Reasons to Pee in Your Garden

October 18, 2014

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared: Surf City Voice, 26 Oct, 2014

Photo: Laura Silverstein

Photo: Laura Silverstein

I confess, my husband and I both pee in our backyard garden, waiting until nightfall so as not to surprise neighbors.

We’ve always been comfortable relieving ourselves alongside lonely highways, even in daylight when waiting for the next bathroom seems unreasonable. But peeing in our own garden started as something of a lark, a combo of enjoying feeling a little naughty while also stealing a moment to take in the stillness of the night.

However, after a little research into the contents of urine and the ecological footprint of toilet flushing, I’m approaching my nightly garden visitations with a renewed sense of purpose, armed with sound reasons to continue the habit.

#1 Urine is a good fertilizer, organic and free
C
ontrary to popular belief, urine is usually germ-free unless contaminated with feces. It’s also about 95 percent water. The chief dissolved nutrient is urea, a nitrogen (N)-rich waste metabolite of the liver. Consequently, urine is high in N. Synthesized urea, identical to urea in urine, is also the number one ingredient of manufactured urea fertilizers which now dominate farming industry. Furthermore, urine contains lower amounts of the other two main macronutrients needed for healthy plant growth, phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).

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Diasappearing ocean plastics is nothing to celebrate

August 1, 2014

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Plastics in the food chain

Plastics in the food chain

Appeared:
San Diego Free Press, 02 Aug, 2014
Surf City Voice, 04 Aug, 2014
Algalita Marine Research Blog, 21 Aug, 2014

You’d think that finding far less plastic pollution on the ocean’s surface than scientists expected would be something to cheer about. The reality, however, is that this is likely bad news, for both the ocean food web and humans eating at the top. Ingestion of tiny plastic debris by sea creatures likely explains the plastics’ disappearance and exposes a worrisome entry point for risky chemicals into the food web.

Except for a transient slowdown during the recent economic recession, global plastics consumption has risen steadily since plastic materials were introduced in the 1950s and subsequently incorporated into nearly every facet of modern life. Annual global consumption is already about 300 million tons with no foreseeable leveling off as markets expand in the Asia-Pacific region and new applications are conceived every day.

Land-based sources are responsible for the lion’s share of plastic waste entering the oceans: littering, wind-blown trash escaping from trash cans and landfills, and storm drain runoff when the capacity of water treatment plants is exceeded. Furthermore, recent studies reveal an alarming worldwide marine buildup of microplastics (defined as a millimeter or less) from two other previously unrecognized sources. Spherical plastic microbeads, no more than a half millimeter, are manufactured into skin care products and designed to be washed down the drain but escape water treatment plants not equipped to capture them. Plastic microfibers from laundering polyester fabrics find their way to the ocean via the same route.

Given that plastics do not biodegrade within any meaningful human time-scale, it’s been assumed that the quantity of plastic pollution measured over time on the surface waters of the ocean will mirror global plastics production and hence should be rising. However, regional sampling over time indicates that plastic debris in surface waters has been rather static since the 1980s.

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Youthful skin comes at cost to ocean food web

May 29, 2014

Time to eliminate plastic micro-bead exfoliants

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:
Surf City Voice, 29-May, 2014
E-Magazine Blog, 29-May, 2014
Fullerton Observer, Early June, 2014, p. 9
Algalita Marine Research Blog, 04-June, 2014
Southern Sierran, 18-June, 2014
San Diego Free Press,
25-June, 2014
Natural Life Magazine, July/August, 2014

Biodegradable alternatives to plastic micro-beads

Biodegradable alternatives to plastic micro-beads (Wikimedia Commons)

The beauty industry hits hard on the importance of frequent exfoliation to keep skin looking younger and healthy. Spherical plastic micro-bead scrubbers, no larger than a half millimeter, have been introduced into hundreds of skin care products in recent decades, but scientists are discovering that the ocean food web, and maybe human health, could be imperiled as a result.

As babies, skin cells are replaced every two weeks, but by age 50 the turnover rate has slowed to six weeks or longer, fostering wrinkles and other unwelcome signs of aging. Products containing plastic micro-beads profess to speed up cell rejuvenation, and their popularity signals that consumers have bought into the promise of exfoliating your way to a more youthful look. Whether or not such products deliver on this promise, scientists have discovered that these innocent-looking plastic micro-beads are insidious little transporters of chemical pollutants into lakes, streams and oceans and maybe onto our dinner plates.

Micro-beads are usually made of polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), and like other plastics, they’re thought to persist in the environment for a hundred years or more. They’re added to facial scrubs, body washes, soap bars, toothpastes and even sunscreens and designed to be washed down the drain. However, micro-beads commonly escape waste treatment plants and pollute bodies of water, because the plants aren’t designed to eliminate them or because wastewater is diverted directly to local waterways in heavier rains.

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What are We Feeding Fido, and Why?

February 26, 2014

Food for Thought

Dog Food Bowl 2By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:

  • San Diego Free Press, 20 Sept, 2014
  • Natural Life Magazine, May/June, 2014

My journey into the world of dog food ingredients began when my two-year-old mutts, Olive and Dexi, embarked on a hunger strike of sorts. They’d circle around their food bowls a foot away, sniffing all the while, only to walk away in protest before getting close enough to really get a good look. It felt as though they thought I might be trying to poison them, or at least pull a fast one of some sort.

I served what I thought were top-tier kibble and wet foods, never skimping on price and offering plenty of variety to avert boredom. I changed commercial foods numerous times, trying every ilk of so-called natural lines marketed as organic, grain-free and the like, yet still my offerings were snubbed. I’ll never know if they actually conspired to get my attention, but get my attention they did when they’d go two days without eating a bite, ostensibly giving in only when hunger forced them to.

I became convinced Olive and Dexi were rejecting the meals based on odor, inspiring my 3-part investigation into dog foods: first, to understand the canine sense of smell; second, to master commercial dog food labeling; and third, to discern what canine diet might really be best. I’ve concluded that the answer to the latter might not be as simple as one would wish.

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BPA Regulatory Reform Moves Glacially Slow

November 15, 2013

Pregnant women should not wait to protect fetuses

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:

512px-Pregnant_woman_(4977966488)

Pregnant women and their fetuses still exposed to BPA.
Photo: © Milan Nykodym, Czech Republic

Mothers of infants and toddlers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that BPA (bisphenol-A), an estrogen hormone-mimicking endocrine disruptor, was banned nationwide from baby bottles and sippy cups last year and from infant formula containers just months ago.

For decades, BPA has been a key component of both polycarbonate baby bottles & cups and the resin lining of most canned goods, including infant formula. BPA can migrate from the packaging into the contents. Literally hundreds of studies in lab animals and humans have linked BPA to such diverse medical problems as breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, miscarriage, low birth weight, reproductive and sexual dysfunction, and altered cognitive and behavioral development.

However, fetal exposure to BPA is far from a thing of the past, as pregnant women – and hence their fetuses – are still routinely exposed to BPA from canned foods & beverages and reusable plastic bottles, as well as thermal cash register receipts. Unfortunately, there seems little chance the federal government will step in any time soon to limit pregnant women’s exposure, even though scientists who study the health effects of BPA say there is more than enough scientific evidence to warrant it.

The Breast Cancer Fund (BCF), a non-profit dedicated to eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer, agrees. In a Sept. 2013 report titled “Disrupted Development: the Dangers of Prenatal BPA Exposure,” BCF summarized the latest research showing that exposure to BPA early in development sets the stage for diseases in adulthood. The organization’s “Cans, Not Cancer” campaign is focused on protecting pregnant women by pressuring manufacturers and policy makers to eliminate BPA from all food cans: Dietary intake is thought to be the greatest source of human exposure.

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Beyond Counting Sheep: Dos and Don’ts of Natural Sleep

August 30, 2013

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko, PhD

Appeared:

  • Natural Life Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2013
  • E-The Environmental Magazine, May/Jun, 2013

Counting Sheep2Humans spend roughly a third of their lifetimes in slumber.  Studies abound showing that a good night’s sleep (usually 7-9 hours) promotes a sense of well-being and that sleep loss leaves us feeling exhausted, irritable and easily overwhelmed by the day’s challenges.  Not surprisingly, sleep consistently ranks in surveys as one of life’s most pleasurable activities.  However, the percentage of both U.S. men and women in all age groups who are chronically sleep-deprived, averaging six hours sleep or less, has risen significantly in recent decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Among the likely causes are societal shifts, like longer work hours, shift work, greater emphasis on getting ahead, and technologies that lure people into staying up late.  This trend toward shorter sleep is particularly worrisome given the conclusions from sleep experts in a report titled “Sleep: A Health Imperative” that insufficient or mistimed sleep can contribute to serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and cancer, as well as auto accidents.

Because sleep is right up there with eating as a fundamental biological drive, you’d think that sleeping would be as easy as falling off a log, especially where people are increasingly short on sleep.  Yet, the incidence of insomnia – loosely defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep – is about 30 percent of the adult population, and in a recent national survey, one in three adults reported difficulties related to sleep loss, such as trouble concentrating or remembering.

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How smart was that lambchop? And do his friends miss him?

August 15, 2013

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared:

  • San Diego Free Press, 13 Sept, 2014
  • Natural Life Magazine, Jan/Feb 2014 (p. 14)
  • The Abolitionist Magazine, 20 Oct, 2013
  • The Animals Voice Magazine, Oct, 2013
  • Fullerton Observer, Mid Sept, 2013 (p. 8)

lambchop“Sheepish,” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “resembling a sheep in meekness, stupidity, or timidity.” Society as a whole seems to agree that sheep are none too bright, given the familiar insult that someone is dumb as a sheep.

But what do we really know about what goes on inside a sheep’s brain? And, if they aren’t as dumb as we’ve believed, should attitudes change about eating them, using them for experimentation, or their treatment by the wool industry?

Monkeys are both intelligent and evolutionarily close relatives of humans, the obvious choice perhaps for researching neurological human diseases marked by cognitive decline, like Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia and schizophrenia. However, many people question the morality of using primates for research expressly because of their intelligence, plus primates exhibit complex behaviors which make them difficult to manage in research settings.

Because sheep are docile and easily handled, but also have large mammalian brains with a human-like convoluted cortex, scientists have taken interest recently in their intelligence, considering them a possible model for studying neurological diseases. What they have discovered might surprise you.

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