You and I Live Here

You can change the terms, you can change the allowable limits, you can do the risk assessment — all these things — but in the end, the fact is that you and I drink that water. You and I breathe that air. You and I live here.– Winona LaDuke

Meditations in Motion

I am old enough to remember the time before the Environmental Protection Agency was created. Before environmental regulations had enough teeth to force industries to stop polluting and clean up the environment.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River fire. Yes, you read that correctly. The river was on fire.

The Cuyahoga was so polluted, it could not support life of any kind. It was brown, murky and devoid of even the slugworms and leeches that can tolerate significant amounts of pollution.

In 1969 the river, which contained a mixture of combustible hydrocarbons in extremely high concentrations, actually caught on fire and burned with enough gusto to nearly obliterate two railroad bridges which spanned it.

The Great Lakes were dead or dying, the Chesapeake Bay was filling with silt and contained several hypoxic zones, where there was not enough oxygen to support life, New York City dumped its sewage directly into the sea, and the notorious Love Canal, near Niagra Falls, was the repository of 21,000 tons of discarded toxic chemicals, including several known carcinogens.

Meditations in Motion

Smog enveloped many cities, none more famously than Los Angeles, with a deadly haze of hydrocarbons and other pollutants. The air pollution in New York City was so bad, its iconic bridges were often invisible, and the toxic atmosphere in Donora, Pennsylvania actually caused the asphyxiation of 20 people. Thousands more were made ill, just from breathing.

Meditations in Motion

Since the passage of the Clean Air and Water Acts, the six most common air pollutants have been reduced by 50%. The number of waterways deemed suitable for fishing has risen by 12% and most of the 25 tests done to assess water quality have shown increases in the majority of locations tested.

Obviously, there has been an improvement over the last nearly 50 years, but there is a lot more work to be done to clean up God’s green earth. Simply put, we put a lot of bad stuff into our own nest.

Meditations in Motion

The widespread implications of the need for environmental clean up hit home several years ago when a young man in my Honors Chemistry class wanted to do a science fair project concerning food allergies.

Now, this young man suffered severe life-threatening allergies to many different types of foods, including, but not limited to, dairy products and nuts. I agreed to allow him to do the project he wanted with the stipulation that he did not test any food he was allergic to, for safety reasons. He chose to test eggs. This is what he found.

Meditations in Motion

Many times, the component of foods that causes an allergic reaction in humans is the protein. This is the case with eggs; there are proteins in the egg whites that can cause allergic reactions. Basically, proteins can come in two forms – an oxidized form and a reduced form.

Now it is known that many processed foods contain preservatives. Often those preservatives are antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent the oxidation of foods, which causes discoloration and spoilage. This allows foods to stay fresh longer, which is good.

Antioxidants are not only added to foods. They are also added to the packaging that food comes in. And to the food that our food (chickens) eat.

Antioxidants, in small quantities, can be a good thing. One reason fruits and vegetables are so beneficial is because they contain antioxidants, which protect our cells. The problem arises when, because antioxidants are added to so many things, they become ubiquitous. They are everywhere in our environment in much higher concentrations than normal.

Meditations in Motion

Proteins that would normally be in the oxidized form can’t oxidize, due to all the antioxidant preservatives in the environment. More proteins everywhere, but specifically in egg whites, are in the reduced form now, than a generation or two ago.

This is not a problem for most people. The only ones for whom it is a problem are those with a genetically inherited sensitivity to proteins in the reduced form since more and more proteins are found in the reduced form.

Meditations in Motion

Some people have an immune system that goes into panic mode whenever it encounters a reduced-form protein. “Aaaah!” The immune system screams,  “Red alert! Red alert!

The immune system goes into hyperdrive, attacking the body it is supposed to protect. This is an allergic reaction.

In the past, these individuals would not encounter enough reduced-form proteins to cause the immune system to go into a frenzied assault on the perceived invader, but now the reduced-form proteins are in a high enough ratio to trigger the onslaught, causing the allergic reaction.

This is one small example of how, by employing chemistry to perform a valuable task (keeping foods fresh longer), but not paying attention to the downstream effects of that chemical, we have caused a great deal of suffering. Many chemicals stay in the environment for a long time, long after their intended use is over.

The young man* who did the project taught me a lot, as was often the case during my years in education. He taught me not only about food allergies but more importantly, the need to pay attention; to clean up our environment for reasons we may not fully understand right now; to prevent suffering whenever possible.

All of this, and more, we are called to do.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16 – 17.

*J.J. Volupas has written a children’s book called The Land of Not, which is meant to inspire kids with food allergies and to give them a voice. His voice is focused on teaching children with food allergies to focus on what they can do, rather than their limitations. He blogs at The Land of Can. Check it out, especially if someone you love has a food allergy.

I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, The Blended Blog for Friday Loves, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday,  Just a Second for Scripture and a Snapshot, Peabea Photography for Sunday Scripture Blessings, A Spirit of Simplicity for Selah, and Counting My Blessings for Faith ‘n Friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

58 comments

  1. Fascinating post, Laurie, and I so appreciate how well you articulate how science and faith can and should inform one another rather than being at odds.Plus, you help me to understand why I encounter so many more food sensitive or allergic people than I did in my earlier decades.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In 1969, I was 14 and I got to go on my first youth trip with 30 other youth. We traveled across the US from Atlanta Ga, to LA-specifically Disneyland, then down to Dallas and flew back to Atlanta. I remember think how dreary the weather was in California when all of a sudden we crested a hill and we realized what air pollution was. A lasting impression.

    Liked by 1 person

      • When my kids were old enough to do mission trips and we went to Mexico City it was the same. We visited the pyramids on the outskirts of town and the air was clear. When you climbed to the top you could see the city surrounded in a gray cloud. It reminded me of the cartoon on Charlie Brown when pig pen came around.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yes. I remember that, too. We had an exchange student from Mexico who lived with us for a year. Her parents invited us to visit the family in Mexico after the year was over, and we went to Mexico City and the pyramids. I had the same memory of the smog there. Thanks for the reminder!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, this was extremely informative. I am a Celiac & also have a dairy intolerance, I also suffer from several autoimmune conditions so your post has given me an education on where proteins & antioxidants fit into the bigger picture. 😀

    You’re most welcome to drop by for a cuppa,
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree, we have had the same here in our country over the years but thankfully things have turned around dramatically over the last two decades. Our EPA had a fair bit of power.
        I often wonder about all the BPA exposure in the plastics that are constantly surrounding us too.
        What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think you have good reason to be concerned. They are known carcinogens. They are suspected to contribute to breast, prostate and testicular cancer. I worry about them too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mmmm…We have plastics in everything these days too. Cars, furniture/furnishings, floorcoverings… We used to have BPAs in food packaging too but that has changed here now with all food products & packaging, storage must be BPA free.
        Do BPAs stay in the body Laurie or does the body expel them? Ie. Do they have half lives?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I read somewhere that virtually everyone has detectable levels of BPA in their body! I don’t know how long it stays there, but you are right – it’s in everything!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Very scary about everything these days — if it isn’t salmonella, or some other food recall, it is poisons threatening our food and water. Here in Michigan, the Flint residents deal with the Flint water crises – they say it is over now, but we’ll never know what damage was done or will turn up in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right! Lead in the drinking water is a problem that will not go away quickly (or ever). Children and adults who have high levels of lead in their bodies will have high levels for the rest of their lives!

      Like

      • Yes and it was out Governor trying to save money by changing their drinking water source. They were using bottled water only for a long time until they could redirect the water source to how they had it before, put in new pipes (the big infrastructure) plus put water filters on all residential taps. People used bottled water for everything – the pictures of a drinking glass of water were unbelievable – brown and murky! And full of contaminated properties to boot!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was a good thing that he was term limited as he would not have come back again … that is for sure. And he maintains all along, that he did this to save money and knew nothing that getting water from this new source could cause contamination. Right.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am not sure, Ruth. My guess would be that they would be less likely because they are eating less processed food, but I am not sure. That would have been a good extension to the science fair project!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi – i’m no expert, but it would have to come down to what the hens are being fed by the rancher. I doubt the pasture has enough natural feed to support thousands of chickens and some farmers might find it a temptation to make more profit by feeding animals ‘supplemented’ products?
      Like anything else – it pays to do your research. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • My question largely stemmed from the fact that we raise a flock of 20-30 chickens on just over 7 acres. They free range and their diet largely comes from pasture. In the warmer months we give very little commercial feed. During the winter we do use commercial feed.
        I am also curious about the process of washing the eggs which is required in the US for commercial egg producers. Is there antioxidants in the products used to wash the eggs? I guess maybe I will have to do some more research.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I am not sure about that, Ruth. My oldest son raises a few chickens too. When we visit, I am struck by the difference in color of the egg yolks of his chickens’ eggs and those I buy in the grocery store.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not only the color – we find that the yolks have a thicker/creamier consistency and the eggs, especially in seasons when there is lots of forage available, have a wonderful flavor.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You have your own flock? GREAT! 🙂

        Your feed supplier should be able to tell you what is in/added to his product he/they sells, unless it’s from a ‘middleman’ not the wholesaler?

        I’d doubt the washing products would use antioxidants per se, but probably may use anti-biotic/disinfectant substances which might raise other issues.

        Life can get so complicated these days and we all should do our research and not take anything for ‘granted’. 😉

        The EPA may have advice/warnings on their website for food producers? ( if not -they Should!)

        Good Luck. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree it is important to do our own research about the products we consume As much as possible we like to produce our own.
        In addition to chickens we also keep honey bees and grow much of our own fruits and vegetables. We don’t raise our own beef yet but purchase from a local farmer who we know and trust. I also make all of our skin care products.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m officially envious now. 😉
        So far i’m a flower gardener with just the odd foray into vege’s. I have a couple of 1 year old apple trees, a sweet potato plant and have just set some red pepper seeds. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love flower and herb gardening too. It can be quite addicting and I tend to get carried away. I now try to select flowers that our honey bees will forage.
        I am envious that you are now planting seeds. We will have several long months of winter before we start planting again.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting post, and learned some new things today about the river and allergies. As with many things, we do often forget about the long term impact with the hurrah of a breakthrough. Enjoyed reading because unawares. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, that goes a long way to explaining my gut feeling that more people have food allergies now than in years past. Another wonderful insight into how our growing understanding of science continually points us back (or should, anyway!) to God’s good designs in creation. And sadly, how our often well-intentioned attempts to improve something have unintended consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s true. There are more people with food allergies today than a generation ago. I absolutely agree. Many times we try to solve a problem without considering all possible consequences.

      Like

  7. Bless you for thinking about this stuff! (and for just thinking!) 🙂

    I had my first autoimmune attack in the 90’s when i was 35 or so. Woke up one morning and could not raise my arms above my shoulders, could hardly put on my shirt to go to work. Could drive but only because my arms raised to the max just rested on the steering wheel.

    Turns out it was a sudden attack of a form of Rheumatoid Arthritis – been on medication ever since and it is mostly pretty good now, just my finger tendons have been stretched and fingers are out of whack – so my guitar playing days are long gone. 😦

    That was followed by kidney and Pancreatic failure, in part due to the Arthritis medication, part due to immune deficiency and then they discovered my spleen is 60% larger than normal because of all the extra white blood cells it needs to clear from my body because of an overloaded immune response.

    While doctors do pretty good at ‘fixing’ me, not one has identified the actual cause. Your story on the oxidised proteins and excess anti-oxidants ( amongst so many other things in excess) in our diet opens a new line of thinking for me.

    All the ‘careful’ research that goes into the decisions being made on what is a ‘safe’ level ( ie that at which 95% of a population sample suffers little to no ill effects ( and to hell with the other 5%!!)) of human consumption only ever takes account of the one or two ‘active’ constituents being considered or added to our diet/environment.

    They rarely, if ever consider the cumulative effects on a particular human who may be consuming a hundred or more other ‘active’ ingredients daily – even if they are not on any ‘medication’ for unusual medical conditions.

    Hope the hip’s getting better? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry to read about your autoimmune disorder. I don’t even know if it’s necessarily ingesting the extra antioxidants that is the problem (although we do take in more than we can use).

      Preservatives can survive the trip through the human body pretty much intact. That means they come out in solid and liquid waste. They are not removed from the waste at sewage treatment facilities, so the part in the liquid waste gets put back into a body of water. The portion in the solid waste gets spread on farm fields. Now it’s in the soil. It just gets to be everywhere!

      When I was researching for this article, I read that virtually all humans have measurable levels of BPAs in their bodies. BPAs were banned (at least in the US) for use as drinking containers, but they are in a lot of plastics. They get into the environment, then into our bodies. It’s unavoidable. BPAs cause cancer and all kinds of other diseases.

      We just put a lot of bad stuff into our air, soil, and water.

      Hip got worse. I am going to shut down the running for a week or 2. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry to hear that….. ALL of that! 😉

        And then there is the plastics…

        And the synthetic microfibres from our washing machines and our clothes we wash daily…

        And the weedkillers, and the fertilizers, and the parabens….

        and the list just grows, accumulating, in every increasing quantities.

        The smog from LA has not disappeared – it’s just moved to Beijing and Shanghai, and Delhi, and Mumbai. in a couple of decades it will move to Nairobi and other African cities as their turn for ‘civilisation’ comes about.

        It’s not looking good?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m lucky – i have three green lawns (plus a green verge) that are watered by reticulation using the local groundwater, which is relatively clean and has all the minerals the lawn needs! 🙂 ( plus the worms help out quite a bit!) 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice. I am trying to convince hubby to stop putting poison on our lawn. We (and all of our neighbors) have wells. What do you think happens to all the bad stuff we put on the grass?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sinks down to the water table! 😦

        Our Government just lifted a moratorium on CSG fracking in ‘remote’ areas of our State (Starting 100Km’s from our capital city!) with the ‘restriction it cannot be done within 2km ( 1.4 miles) from a (surface) water source. Our city uses groundwater to supplement it’s drinking water that has part of a catchment area in the region that has been approved!???

        It’s a mad world sometimes!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I believe there is quite a lot of science involved and ‘considered’ by our Government… but when it comes to science vs business and self-interest…. I’m sure you get the picture. 😉

        Economics ‘Trumps’ Environment.
        Short term beats the Long view in politics. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for linking up with Grace & Truth Laurie. I do believe that we ought to be good stewards of the gift God gave to us – the Earth – and I don’t believe that humans have always been good stewards. However, I also do believe that the deterioration of our planet is evidence of the Fall – of sin. It is a sign of the promise of Christ’s return. We don’t have to live in fear that Earth will come to an end in some sort of terrifying environmental apocalypse. Instead, we have the Hope of Jesus Christ. And for that, I am thankful.

    It is a good thing to do what we can to stay healthy and to keep our planet healthy. To educate ourselves on ways to maintain health in all ways. But also to understand that we can’t possibly “Save the Earth”. There is only One who can do that – and He did that on the Cross over 2,000 years ago – that was His promise. To save the world. The people. And that truth can get muddled with our human efforts in the name of environmentalism.

    Thanks again for linking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. While it is true that we’ve made some progress in cleaning up the environment, we have a long way to go, as you pointed out. I believe the environment and climate change are the number one issues we are facing today. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak has taken our eye off this ball. As a side note, I read that carbon dioxide levels in the air only fell by 5% since the outbreak. It isn’t the emissions from cars that is creating the problem. It is mostly caused by fossil fuel burning electric power generating and industrial companies. I had thought the problem was caused mostly by car emissions.

    Liked by 1 person

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