Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Pharma - Sleep Apnea

image via

Some of us in FS have been told that we snore...we won't name names. I will out myself, I, Ed, snore. After several years of prodding, I went in for a sleep study (We will write about that later). The results: I have moderate Sleep Apnea. The most startling part for me was to discover that I don't get to sleep in REM. Which would explain why I can't remember my dreams.

We will explore Sleep apnea on our Little Pharma Blog, what it is, why it needs to be addressed, and compare some of the traditional and alternative remedies, using Ed as the Guinea pig. Stay Tuned!

quote below via wikipedia

"Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode, called an apnea (Greek: άπνοια (ápnoia), from α- (a-), privative, πνέειν (pnéein), to breathe), lasts long enough so that one or more breaths are missed, and such episodes occur repeatedly throughout sleep. The standard definition of any apneic event includes a minimum 10 second interval between breaths, with either a neurological arousal (a 3-second or greater shift in EEG frequency, measured at C3, C4, O1, or O2), a blood oxygen desaturation of 3-4% or greater, or both arousal and desaturation. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram.

Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined as five or more episodes per hour of any type of apnea (from the polysomnogram). There are three distinct forms of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex (i.e., a combination of central and obstructive) constituting 0.4%, 84% and 15% of cases respectively.[1] Breathing is interrupted by the lack of respiratory effort in central sleep apnea; in obstructive sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort. In complex (or "mixed") sleep apnea, there is a transition from central to obstructive features during the events themselves.

Regardless of type, the individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bio-Tag: Killer Cribs

Use organic!

"56% of all infant carriers, 44% of all car seats, 40% of all strollers and 19% of all portable cribs were found to have high levels of halogenated fire retardants." FOE

The data just keeps coming in...The good folks of Friends of the Earth wrote a great report here.

California Uses More Gas Than China!

image via ABC

Check this article out on the Wired Blog! We use more gas in CA than China does as an entire nation! We are currently gearing-up for a gas action to be deployed on Labor Day. Stay tuned.

PIO: pass / detect, Documentation Video

Here is some documentation video of our pass / detect performance at Emergence on Governors Island in NYC. We modified the original PIO concept by adding the "active" guard. This performance was in collaboration with the Triangle Project (Denemark, New York, Istanbul).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Gone Gallery

Check out the Gone Gallery, a flickr set by David Silver. While you're at it, check Fail also. Old sites never fail.

Come biking with us on Friday nights...

via dershegoes2nite

Friday, July 25, 2008

Todd's Gear Wall

via susan joyce

Image from Scott Beale @

go to for photo of todd's gear wall, scroll down to see video of dave calkins cranking gears. over $40 thousand was raised on sunday. todd is going home soon, he is getting better each and every day.

Bio-Tag: Lead - Part 2, Toxic Toys

There are so many stories like this one. If you are interested in home testing, check the consumer report for kit ranking.

"What have I learned from my ordeal?" - Steve Kurtz

"What have I learned from my ordeal? I’ve learned that with tens of thousands of supporters, with hundreds of thousands of dollars, with one of the best legal teams in the US, with a crack media team, with a group of experienced fundraisers, with four years of one’s life, and with total innocence, sometimes one can slice off a piece of American justice. Which in the end means: The overwhelming majority of people ain’t gettin’ justice, and we have to keep fighting until they do."

Steve Kurtz

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bio-Tag: Bisphenol A

"Experts fear "Bisphenol A," a chemical in everyday plastics, could harm people."

quote via youtube

Shock & Awe

"Gifts must affect the receiver to the point of shock. "
Walter Benjamin

What's the gift GW?

Bio-Tag: Benzene

We'll take lawyers over Benzene any day.

"Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to AML, MDS, Leukemia and other forms of cancer. Working with petroleum products and solvents can lead to exposure both from fumes and absorption through the skin."


We will be participating in SoundWalk 2008 this year. More to come...


Kamran Assadi (562) 858-9846
Marco Schindelmann (562) 413-5868
Shea M Gauer (562) 277-4746
Frauke Von Der Horst (562) 437-1550
Shelley RuggThorp (562) 235-1846

ARTISTS CONTACT: Marco Schindelmann (562) 413-5868
Visit to learn more about SoundWalk2008
LONG BEACH, CA- On September 20 th 2008, the Long Beach artist group, FLOOD, will present SoundWalk2008, the fifth annual SoundWalk event that will feature returning participants as well as new artists from the Southland and the international scene. The evening operates under the concept of a one-night aural/visual experience as provided by sound installations located in various indoor and outdoor spaces situated throughout the East Village Arts District in Downtown Long Beach. The artwork combines, in multiple ways, a wide range of visual and audio components. There will be sculptures, environments, installations, and performances. It is the variety of work that makes the event memorable for all who visit. Furthermore, performances will be scheduled during the course of the evening for sound artists with timed performances.

In collaboration with SoundWalk 2008, Long Beach Museum of Art is hosting several works by sound artist Gary Raymond during the month of September, for more information please contact LBMA at (562) 439-2119.
WHAT: Sound Art Event "SoundWalk 2008", a one-night event of sound installations by over 50 local and international sound artists.

WHERE: Throughout the area encompassed by Broadway, Atlantic Avenue, Ocean Boulevard, and Elm Street in the East Village Arts District of Downtown Long Beach. The art is exhibited in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces.

WHEN: Saturday, September 20th, 2008 from 5 - 10 pm

PARKING: Metered parking is available on the street; additional parking is also available in the parking lot at the NE corner of Broadway and Elm Ave.


Celebrating its fifth year, SoundWalk is an annual art event produced by the Long Beach artist group, FLOOD. The inaugural program, with 30 participating artists, was enthusiastically received by artists and auditors alike with close to a thousand people in attendance. Many visitors had no prior encounter with sound art, and their responses to the event were overwhelmingly positive.

This year, we again offer another environmental experience with new and returning artists participating in the alteration of a familiar urban space. Outdoor sound installations add a layer to and perform in concert with the sounds of the city, thus altering and intermingling with the ambient environment(s) of their locations. Unlikely juxtapositions of the ordinary and the extraordinary present themselves through chance encounters with the attending public. Galleries and stores within the Arts District will accommodate a variety of indoor installations in uncommon intersections of art and commerce. The evening of sound installations will not only offer exciting moments of transformed perception, but will provide a chance to rethink our sensory engagement with the spaces in which we function. Site maps will be available on the night of the event, posting the locations of the more than 60 artists exhibiting in a variety of venues.

This event is free to the public and is being sponsored in part by the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), The Arts Council for Long Beach, The East Village Association (EVA), Koo’s, and The City of Long Beach. A DVD catalog/soundtrack of this years event will be available for sale at "Momentum" on October 5, 2008 during the “University by the Sea“ event. More information about FLOOD and the participating artists is available upon request.


The artist group, FLOOD has been working on installation projects for the last six years. FLOOD is interested in testing the limits of artistic expression through collaboration and experimentation within a variety of artistic genres. Current members of FLOOD are Kamran Assadi, Frauke von der Horst, Shelley RuggThorp, Shea M Gauer, Scott A Peterson, and Marco Schindelmann.

SoundWalk2008 Participants:

Aaron Drake / Adam Fong / Amy Ling Huynh / Andrew Johnson / Bekkah Walker / Betsy Lohrer Hall / Braden Diotte / c.t. Anderson / Carlin Wing / Clay Chaplin / D. Jean Hester / David P. Earle / Divine Brick Research / Double Blind / Eric Lindley, Dave Mickey, He Yin, Dan Rae Wilson & Carlo Vogele / Eric Strauss / Finishing School / FLOOD / Francene Kaplan / G. Douglas Barrett / Gintas K / Hans Tammen / inLimen / j.frede / James Orsher / Jeff Foye and Gordon Winiemko / Joe Cantrell / Joe Newlin / Joe Tepperman / John Kannenberg / John P. Hastings / Julia Holter / Karen Crews & Carl Off / Madelyn Byrne, Randy Hoffman & Ellen Weller / Mark Trayle / Megan Madzoeff / Metal Rouge / MLuM / N_DREW (aka Andrew Bucksbarg) / Object Control / Ori Barel/OTONOMIYAKI / Phil Curtis / phog masheeen / Robert Martin & John M. Kennedy / Robot Repair Projects / Sander Roscoe Wolff & Matthew O'Donnell / S.S. “SEATBELT” McLean / Small Drone Orchestra / smgsap / Steve Craig / Stuart Sperling / SUBLAMP / Super Minerals / The Hop-Frog Kollectiv & Friends / The Carolyn Duo/ Vincent Olivieri

Buns and Guns!

Yum. Thanks Adam!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bio-Tag: Greenhouse Gases

image via epa

NPR: EPA Won't Regulate Greenhouse Gases

"All Things Considered, July 11, 2008 · The Environmental Protection Agency in a report Friday says it won't regulate greenhouse gases. The authors of the report could not agree on the effects of greenhouse gases on health. Any new regulation will have to wait for the next administration." Listen here.

Oh wait, there is more...

NPR: Did The White House Manipulate Climate Documents?

"Day to Day, July 8, 2008 · A former EPA official claims the White House pushed for major deletions in congressional testimony about the health consequences of climate change. Madeleine Brand talks with NPR's John Nielsen about the claims and the alleged attempt to avoid regulating greenhouse gases." Listen here.


July 17, 2008
3:12 PM

CONTACT: Government Accountability Project
Rick Piltz, Climate Science Watch Director
Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
202.408.0034 ext. 137, 202.236.3733 cell

EPA Quietly Releases Climate Change Health Effects Report

WASHINGTON - July 17 - Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a major study by the US Climate Change Science Program synthesizing current scientific knowledge of climate change-induced threats to human health. This information should be critical to the EPA’s previous “endangerment finding” for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. However, the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, the branch assigned rulemaking responsibility, evidently did not rely on and did not cite the CCSP report.

Stalled for release since spring (the final draft of the report was ready in April), the report released today is one of several that are transmitted to Congress and the President under a requirement of the Global Change Research Act. The report, Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems, is an interagency effort led by EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

“There is an apparent disconnect between the Climate Change Science Program’s purported ‘decision support’ assessment of climate change and human health released today, on the one hand, and EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory analysis, on the other,” said Rick Piltz, Director of Climate Science Watch, a program of the Government Accountability Project. “I believe the White House and EPA would prefer that the report released today not receive significant public and congressional attention.”

A draft version of the endangerment finding – “Draft Technical Support Document: Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act” [ ] – assessing threats to public health and welfare of greenhouse gases was finally released by the EPA last week, after the finding was withheld from Congress and the public by the White House for seven months.

The EPA was required by law to prepare a public health and welfare endangerment finding for carbon dioxide after the Supreme Court in Massachusetts vs. EPA ruled last year that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The purpose of the endangerment finding is to guide the EPA’s decision about whether and how to curtail greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of mechanisms available under the Clean Air Act.

Last week, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson essentially snubbed the Supreme Court, Congress, and the public by dismissing the Clean Air Act as a tool ill-suited for achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and opened a comment period that will end after the November election.

“The EPA is trying to release today’s major findings on the public health threats associated with climate change with little effort to attract public attention – as they did with another recent assessment report on climate change impacts on federal lands,” Piltz said.

EPA whistleblower Jason Burnett recently identified Vice President Cheney as the culprit behind the heavy-handed censorship last year of CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s congressional testimony that was to describe a host of climate change-induced threats to public health. Stated Piltz, “An active ‘global warming disinformation campaign’ operates at the top levels of government, and has now progressed from attempts to deny the science to active meddling intended to dismiss, downplay, and disguise the harmful, negative impacts of climate change.”

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing next week to investigate the questionable activities behind the EPA's actions. Committee Chair Barbara Boxer recently observed, "These two things - the CDC censorship and the stonewall on the endangerment finding – are obviously related."

The report released by EPA today, Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems, can be accessed at the following URL:

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bio-Tag: Sunscreens

Are sunscreens bad for you? I ponder that everytime I lather up. We are told that the UV rays have become more intense over the years and need to screen it with hats, clothing and the dreaded chemical-infused goopy white liquid. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Scientific America posted an article a short while back. We will look for more and post them. Here is the link.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bio-Tag: e-waste

"E-waste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones, often in violation of the international law. This practice is legal because the US has not ratified the Basel Convention." via Greenpeace

"Recycling old electronics keeps toxic components from contaminating the environment. Recycled improperly, however, they could end up polluting not only your area but also other countries." via PC World

"A container of electronic waste (e-waste) from Port of Oakland in the US was intercepted in Hong Kong by Greenpeace activists. After months of research, we determined that the container was destined for Sanshui district in mainland China meaning that - under Chinese law - the import was illegal. Activists boarded the YM Success, pitched a tent on top of the containers and prevented the illegal e-waste from being offloaded." via Greenpeace

Friday, July 18, 2008

Conflux 2008 - Sept. 11-14, 2008

Just heard, we will be presenting Open House at Conflux this year! Details to follow.

From the Conflux Site:

"Conflux is the annual New York festival for contemporary psychogeography, the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice. At Conflux, visual and sound artists, writers, urban adventurers and the public gather for four days to explore their urban environment.

People from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures come together at the festival to re-imagine the city as a playground, a space for positive change and an opportunity for civic engagement. The Village Voice describes Conflux as a "network of maverick artists and unorthodox urban investigators… making fresh, if underground, contributions to pedestrian life in New York City, and upping the ante on today’s fight for the soul of high-density metropolises."

From architects to skateboarders, Conflux participants have an enthusiasm for the city that's contagious. Over the course of the long weekend the sidewalks are literally transformed into a mobile laboratory for creative action. With tools ranging from traditional paper maps to high-tech mobile devices, artists present walking tours, public installations and interactive performance, as well as bike and subway expeditions, workshops, a lecture series, a film program and live music performances at night.

Since 2003, when we had 30 mostly local artists and a small audience, the festival has grown to include over 100 artists from across the US, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan and many European countries. As our annual call for artists becomes more and more competitive and we receive hundreds of entries, the quality of projects increases and we are now proud to present what we feel is the most innovative work being produced in the field of public-space arts.

Conflux is produced by Glowlab, a Brooklyn-based organization supporting emerging art and technology inspired by the everyday life of cities. Glowlab operates as a nomadic initiative, collaborating and consulting with host galleries, arts groups and individual artists around the world. We've worked with arts organizations including Eyebeam, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Van Alen Institute and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as well as local universities such as New York University, Hunter College and Parsons. Conflux has been reviewed in publications including the New York Times, the Village Voice Flash Art and Art Review Magazine and covered on numerous arts blogs and cultural websites such as Flavorpill, Nylon, Rhizome and Gothamist.

Conflux is attended by people of differing backgrounds who share a common desire to understand, explore, and ultimately heighten their enjoyment of the urban environment while learning how to sustain and improve it. Conflux visitors are introduced to the ways cutting-edge artists utilize performance, visual art and music to address topics including the environment, sustainable development, the increased presence of technology in cities, emerging trends in social/local networking and ways we can humanize the urban experience by encouraging dialogue amongst communities.

As a fiscally-sponsored project of the Brooklyn Arts Council, Conflux has received support from the New York State Council on the Arts, Artists Space, the Puffin Foundation and the Independence Community Foundation."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bio-Tag Short-list for NL

Here is the Bio-Tag short list for the NL installment. The following data comes from the's website, translated with Google. We need to now verify this list.

"Dutch companies contribute to that chemical pollution. It makes Broomchemie in Terneuzen brominated flame retardants, produces PFW Chemicals (Barneveld) and synthetic muskverbindingen makes Exxon phthalates in the Rijnmond....

[Here is their broader list]

1. In many of our electronic household appliances are brominated flame retardants, which prevent the products quickly and ignites uitbranden.

2. In vinyl, electricity cables and cosmetics are phthalates (plasticizers). These are among others used to make soft PVC.

3. The most commonly used organotin in consumer products are in products such as PVC pipes, panels, wall coverings, linoleum and toys.

4. Synthetic Muskverbindingen be used for cosmetics and cleaning products in their odours.

5. Alkylphenols are in plastics, industrial cleaning agents and pesticides. But also in cosmetics, shampoos and grooming products.

6. Perfluorverbindingen sit in anti-aanbakpannen (Teflon) and water repellent coatings for carpets, textiles, leather, paper and cardboard.

7. Bisphenol-A is in CDs, reusable bottles (as waterkoelers and babyflessen), mobile phones, safety glass, windshields for motors, medical devices and roof elements.

8. Antimoonverbindingen are widely used for fireproofing their properties. They are in electronics, children's clothing, toys and upholstery of car seats.

9. Beryllium is a lot of electronics, both in consumer and industrial applications (space and aeronautics, defense industry).

10. PVC is widely used in building materials such as cables, window frames, doors, walls, wainscoting, water and afvalwaterpijpen. In house is often in the PVC flooring, wall coverings, window blinds and shower curtains. PVC is widely used in consumer products such as computers, TVs, credit cards, imitatieleer, plates, furniture and toys."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Todd Blair Benefit

Via Susan Joyce of Fringe Exhibitions:

heres an image of the gear for todds wall benefit at rythmix in alameda. this sunday is the assembly of the 25 gear wall, a tribute and fundraiser for todd. for more info go to special thanks to mark pauline for gear fabrication, dorsey dunn for design, and casey hanrahan for anodizing and laser etching.

if you are in chinatown this weekend be sure to stop by fringe for the MVM Disembody red carpet reception and film premier on saturday nite. gallery open everyday next week for 3 screenings a day. check out the gallery website media project for daily video footage and other info. thanks for your support! have a great summer, sj

Bio-Tag goes to the NL

We are absolutely stunned with our ass-backward policies and attitude here in the U.S. toward toxins. It is scary. Hence, the motivation for this project. The average person in the U.S. doesn't seem to be aware of the toxic landscape all around us, let alone care when they are confronted with the data.

We are slated to take our Bio-Tag project to the Netherlands this coming August for an exhibition called De Zone. The challenge for us is the EU is light years ahead of the U.S. in ridding toxins from the region. Here is a quick read that explains a new law in the EU.

Let us quote:

"The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce -- the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market. Manufacturers say that complying with the European laws will add billions to their costs, possibly driving up prices of some products. "

Stay tuned.

Bio-Tag: Dioxin - "The Darth Vader of chemicals"

Dioxin, Duplicity & Dupont - Sierra Club Chronicles

"The DuPont plant in DeLisle, Mississippi has been releasing large amounts of dioxin and heavy metals for nearly 20 years. This film explores health problems being experienced by residents and former workers, and evidence that oysters in the area exported for sale around the U.S. have been contaminated by DuPont's poisonous discharges. About 2,000 people have filed lawsuits against DuPont alleging pollution from this facility has harmed their health."

The following was sourced from the Dioxin Homepage:

What is dioxin?

Dioxins and furans are some of the most toxic chemicals known to science. A draft report released for public comment in September 1994 by the US Environmental Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a serious public health threat. The public health impact of dioxin may rival the impact that DDT had on public health in the 1960's. According to the EPA report, not only does there appear to be no "safe" level of exposure to dioxin, but levels of dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals have been found in the general US population that are "at or near levels associated with adverse health effects." .

Dioxin is a general term that describes a group of hundreds of chemicals that are highly persistent in the environment. The most toxic compound is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. The toxicity of other dioxins and chemicals like PCBs that act like dioxin are measured in relation to TCDD. Dioxin is formed as an unintentional by-product of many industrial processes involving chlorine such as waste incineration, chemical and pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper bleaching. Dioxin was the primary toxic component of Agent Orange, was found at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY and was the basis for evacuations at Times Beach, MO and Seveso, Italy.

Dioxin is formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons. The major source of dioxin in the environment comes from waste-burning incinerators of various sorts and also from backyard burn-barrels. Dioxin pollution is also affiliated with paper mills which use chlorine bleaching in their process and with the production of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics and with the production of certain chlorinated chemicals (like many pesticides).

Does dioxin cause cancer?

Yes. The EPA report confirmed that dioxin is a cancer hazard to people. In 1997, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) -- part of the World Health Organization -- published their research into dioxins and furans and announced on February 14, 1997, that the most potent dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, is a now considered a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning a "known human carcinogen."

Also, in January 2001, the U.S. National Toxicology Program upgraded 2,3,7,8-TCDD from "Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen" to "Known to be a Human Carcinogen." See their reports on dioxins and furans from their most recent 11th Report on Carcinogens. Finally, a 2003 re-analysis of the cancer risk from dioxin reaffirmed that there is no known "safe dose" or "threshold" below which dioxin will not cause cancer.

A July 2002 study shows dioxin to be related to increased incidence of breast cancer.

What other health problems are linked to dioxin exposure?

In addition to cancer, exposure to dioxin can also cause severe reproductive and developmental problems (at levels 100 times lower than those associated with its cancer causing effects). Dioxin is well-known for its ability to damage the immune system and interfere with hormonal systems.

Dioxin exposure has been linked to birth defects, inability to maintain pregnancy, decreased fertility, reduced sperm counts, endometriosis, diabetes, learning disabilities, immune system suppression, lung problems, skin disorders, lowered testosterone levels and much more. For an detailed list of health problems related to dioxin, read the People's Report on Dioxin.

How are we exposed to dioxin?

The major sources of dioxin are in our diet. Since dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates, climbing up the food chain. A North American eating a typical North American diet will receive 93% of their dioxin exposure from meat and dairy products (23% is from milk and dairy alone; the other large sources of exposure are beef, fish, pork, poultry and eggs). In fish, these toxins bioaccumulate up the food chain so that dioxin levels in fish are 100,000 times that of the surrounding environment. The best way to avoid dioxin exposure is to reduce or eliminate your consumption of meat and dairy products by adopting a vegan diet. According to a May 2001 study of dioxin in foods, "The category with the lowest [dioxin] level was a simulated vegan diet, with 0.09 ppt.... Blood dioxin levels in pure vegans have also been found to be very low in comparison with the general population, indicating a lower contribution of these foods to human dioxin body burden."

In EPA's dioxin report, they refer to dioxin as hydrophobic (water-fearing) and lipophilic (fat-loving). This means that dioxin, when it settles on water bodies, will rapidly accumulate in fish rather than remain in the water. The same goes for other wildlife. Dioxin works its way to the top of the food chain.

Men have no ways to get rid of dioxin other than letting it break down according to its chemical half-lives. Women, on the other hand, have two ways which it can exit their bodies:

It crosses the placenta... into the growing infant; It is present in the fatty breast milk, which is also a route of exposure which doses the infant, making breast-feeding for non-vegan/vegetarian mothers quite hazardous. If you're eating the typical North American diet, this is where you are getting your dioxin from:

Chart from EPA Dioxin Reassessment Summary 4/94 - Vol. 1, p. 37
(Figure II-5. Background TEQ exposures for North America by pathway)

[A TEQ is a dioxin Toxic EQuivalent, calculated by looking at all toxic dioxins and furans and measuring them in terms of the most toxic form of dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD. This means that some dioxins/furans might only count as half a TEQ if it's half as toxic as 2,3,7,8-TCDD.]

[Chart from May 2001 study by Arnold Schecter et. al., Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 63:1–18]

Note: freshwater fish were farm-raised on a diet of meat, which is why they show the highest dioxin levels in this study.

Bio-Tag: Phthalates / Anderson Cooper gets tested for PBDE Phalates Polychlorinate

Learn about Body Burden Testing here.

And here is the counter position:

Dr. Harry Fisch, an MD and director of Columbia University's Male Reproductive Center, tells questioners that there is no reason to support a bill to ban some phthalates from toys. The evidence is not there, he says. There are "tons of studies" on the phthalate used in toys, but nothing to suggest it should be banned. For more info check

Activity: No Free Lunch

We will be posting DIY activities as we find them. We are cross posting this on Little Pharma. Enjoy:

"Spend some time exploring the website of No Free Lunch ( Then interview your doctor about the organization: Has he or she heard of it? Do they know what its goals are? What do they think about its mission? Have they signed the pledge? If not, why not? Would they in the future? Make some calls to other doctor’s offices and try to find out how many have heard of the organization and/or signed the pledge. Post your findings here in the comments section."

assignment via Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs Study Guide Written by Bill Yousman

Interview - The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products

Interview with investigative journalist Mark Schapiro author of "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bio-Tag: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

The following text was sourced from here.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are a broad group of plants, animals, and bacteria that are engineered for a wide variety of applications ranging from agricultural production to scientific research. The types of potential hazards posed by GMO’s vary according to the type of organism being modified and its intended application. Most of the concern surrounding GMO’s relates to their potential for negative effects on the environment and human health. Because GMO’s that could directly effect human health are primarily products that can enter the human food supply, this website focuses on genetically modified food. To date, the only types of products that have been approved for human consumption in the U.S. are genetically modified plants (FDA website).
All genetically modified foods that have been approved are considered by the government to be as safe as their traditional counterparts and are generally unregulated (FDA website). However, there are several types of potential health effects that could result from the insertion of a novel gene into an organism. Health effects of primary concern to safety assessors are production of new allergens, increased toxicity, decreased nutrition, and antibiotic resistance (Bernstein et al., 2003).

Food Allergy
Food Allergy affects approximately 5% of children and 2% of adults in the U.S. and is a significant public health threat (Bakshi, 2003). Allergic reactions in humans occur when a normally harmless protein enters the body and stimulates an immune response (Bernstein et al., 2003). If the novel protein in a GM food comes from a source that is know to cause allergies in humans or a source that has never been consumed as human food, the concern that the protein could elicit an immune response in humans increases. Although no allergic reactions to GM food by consumers have been confirmed, in vitro evidence suggesting that some GM products could cause an allergic reaction has motivated biotechnology companies to discontinue their development (Bakshi, 2003).

Increased Toxicity
Most plants produce substances that are toxic to humans. Most of the plants that humans consume produce toxins at levels low enough that they do not produce any adverse health effects. There is concern that inserting an exotic gene into a plant could cause it to produce toxins at higher levels that could be dangerous to humans. This could happen through the process of inserting the gene into the plant. If other genes in the plant become damaged during the insertion process it could cause the plant to alter its production of toxins. Alternatively, the new gene could interfere with a metabolic pathway causing a stressed plant to produce more toxins in response. Although these effects have not been observed in GM plants, they have been observed through conventional breeding methods creating a safety concern for GM plants. For example, potatoes conventionally bred for increased diseased resistance have produced higher levels of glycoalkaloids (GEO-PIE website).

Decreased Nutritional Value
A genetically modified plant could theoretically have lower nutritional quality than its traditional counterpart by making nutrients unavailable or indigestible to humans. For example, phytate is a compound common in seeds and grains that binds with minerals and makes them unavailable to humans. An inserted gene could cause a plant to produce higher levels of phytate decreasing the mineral nutritional value of the plant (GEO-PIE). Another example comes from a study showing that a strain of genetically modified soybean produced lower levels of phytoestrogen compounds, believed to protect against heart disease and cancer, than traditional soybeans (Bakshi, 2003).

Antibiotic resistance
In recent years health professionals have become alarmed by the increasing number of bacterial strains that are showing resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics by creating antibiotic resistance genes through natural mutation. Biotechnologists use antibiotic resistance genes as selectable markers when inserting new genes into plants. In the early stages of the process scientists do not know if the target plant will incorporate the new gene into its genome. By attaching the desired gene to an antibiotic resistance gene the new GM plant can be tested by growing it in a solution containing the corresponding antibiotic. If the plant survives scientists know that it has taken up the antibiotic resistance gene along with the desired gene. There is concern that bacteria living in the guts of humans and animals could pick up an antibiotic resistance gene from a GM plant before the DNA becomes completely digested (GEO-PIE website).
It is not clear what sort of risk the possibility of conferring antibiotic resistance to bacteria presents. No one has ever observed bacteria incorporating new DNA from the digestive system under controlled laboratory conditions. The two types of antibiotic resistance genes used by biotechnologists are ones that already exist in bacteria in nature so the process would not introduce new antibiotic resistance to bacteria. Never the less it is a concern and the FDA is encouraging biotechnologists to phase out the practice of using antibiotic resistance genes (GEO-PIE website).


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bush bans oil drilling...just kidding

Bush lifts oil drilling ban, wants Congress to act.

Totally frustrating when there are so many alternatives right in front of us.

Bio-Tag: Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)

"Brominated flame retardants cause health problems. CBS News investigates."

It needs to be said that there is significant controversy regarding the true dangers of BFRs. Here are a few links sharing different view points:

Greenpeace’s campaign against brominated flame retardants continues to ignore fire safety
Brominated Flame Retardants: Cause for Concern?
Brominated Flame Retardants Rising Levels of Concern
CBS Disparages Flame-Retardant Chemicals; Vague About Dangers


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project.


©2007 COX Washington News Bureau. Story about how using antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers are actually bad for you and can lead to you being more prone to get sick.

Click here to watch video.

Wikipedia states:

Resistance concerns: An article coauthored by Dr. Stuart Levy in the August 6, 1998 issue of Nature[12] warned that triclosan's overuse could cause resistant strains of bacteria to develop, in much the same way that antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains are emerging, based on speculation that triclosan behaved like an antibiotic. Based on this speculation, in 2003, the Sunday Herald newspaper reported that some UK supermarkets and other retailers were considering phasing out products containing triclosan.

It has since been shown that the laboratory method used by Dr. Levy was not effective in predicting bacterial resistance for biocides like triclosan, based on work by Dr. Peter Gilbert in the UK, whose research is supported by Procter & Gamble [1].[13] At least seven peer-reviewed and published studies have been conducted demonstrating that triclosan is not significantly associated with bacterial resistance over the short term, including one study coauthored by Dr. Levy, published in August of 2004 in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.[14]
Some level of triclosan resistance can occur in some microorganisms, but the larger concern is with the potential for cross-resistance or co-resistance to other antimicrobials. Studies investigating this possibility have been limited.[15]

Health concerns:Reports have suggested that triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform gas,[16] which the United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable human carcinogen. As a result, triclosan was the target of a UK cancer alert, even though the study showed that the amount of chloroform generated was less than amounts often present in chlorinated drinking waters.

Triclosan reacts with the free chlorine in tap water to also produce lesser amounts of other compounds, like 2,4-dichlorophenol.[16] Most of these intermediates convert into dioxins upon exposure to UV radiation (from the sun or other sources). Although small amounts of dioxins are produced, there is a great deal of concern over this effect because dioxins are extremely toxic and are very potent endocrine disruptors. They are also chemically very stable, so that they are eliminated from the body very slowly (they can bioaccumulate to dangerous levels), and they persist in the environment for a very long time.
Triclosan is chemically somewhat similar to the dioxin class of compounds. Its production leads to small amounts of residual polychlorinated dioxins, and polychlorinated furans which are contained in small amounts, in the products that are using it.
A 2006 study concluded that low doses of triclosan act as an endocrine disruptor in the North American bullfrog.[17] The hypothesis proposed is that triclosan blocks the metabolism of thyroid hormone, because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that normal hormones cannot be utilized. Triclosan has also been found in both the bile of fish living downstream from waste water processing plants and in human breast milk.[18] The negative effects of Triclosan on the environment and its questionable benefits in toothpastes[19] has led to the Swedish Naturskyddsföreningen to recommend not using triclosan in toothpaste.[20]

Triclosan is used in many common household products including Clearasil Daily Face Wash, Dentyl mouthwash, Dawn, the Colgate Total range, Crest Cavity Protection, Softsoap, Dial, Right Guard deodorant, Sensodyne Total Care, Old Spice and Mentadent.

At this time, in the United States, manufacturers of products containing triclosan must say so somewhere on the label.
The ADA (American Dental Association) published a response to the concerns stemming from the Virginia Tech study stating that Triclosan in toothpaste is not relevant.

In one study, recently accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and made available online, Isaac Pessah, PhD, director of the U.C. Davis Children's Center for Environmental Health, looked at how triclosan may affect the brain. Pessah's test-tube study found that the chemical attached itself to special "receptor" molecules on the surface of cells. This raises calcium levels inside the cell. Cells overloaded with calcium get overexcited. In the brain, these overexcited cells may burn out neural circuits, which could lead to an imbalance that affects mental development. Some people may carry a mutated gene that makes it easier for triclosan to attach to their cells. That could make them more vulnerable to any effects triclosan may cause.[21]


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project

Bio-Tag: Fluoride

The Senior Vice President of the EPA Headquarters Union discusses the dangers of fluoride in our drinking water. For more information about fluoride go to:

Here is the site conclusion:

"When it comes to controversies surrounding toxic chemicals, invested interests traditionally do their very best to discount animal studies and quibble with epidemiological findings. In the past, political pressures have led government agencies to drag their feet on regulating asbestos, benzene, DDT, PCBs, tetraethyl lead, tobacco and dioxins. With fluoridation we have had a fifty year delay. Unfortunately, because government officials have put so much of their credibility on the line defending fluoridation, and because of the huge liabilities waiting in the wings if they admit that fluoridation has caused an increase in hip fracture, arthritis, bone cancer, brain disorders or thyroid problems, it will be very difficult for them to speak honestly and openly about the issue. But they must, not only to protect millions of people from unnecessary harm, but to protect the notion that, at its core, public health policy must be based on sound science not political expediency. They have a tool with which to do this: it's called the Precautionary Principle. Simply put, this says: if in doubt leave it out. This is what most European countries have done and their children's teeth have not suffered, while their public's trust has been strengthened.

It is like a question from a Kafka play. Just how much doubt is needed on just one of the health concerns identified above, to override a benefit, which when quantified in the largest survey ever conducted in the US, amounts to less than one tooth surface (out of 128) in a child's mouth?

For those who would call for further studies, I say fine. Take the fluoride out of the water first and then conduct all the studies you want. This folly must end without further delay."


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project.

Bio-Tag: VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

EPA's Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Additional TEAM studies indicate that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed....Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.

The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.

source EPA


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project.

Bio-Tag: Lead

via youtube

Recently covered in the news, massive recalls of toys and baby products have raised the concerns of parents everywhere. Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of Mount Sinai's Children's Environmental Health Center talks on lead in toys from China giving parents practical advice on how they can protect their children and themselves.

Lead in toys has become a major problem in the USA. Lead-painted trains, lead-painted dolls and lead-contaminated plastic lunch boxes imported from China and other nations have become a major new threat to the health of American children. This is a very serious issue. Tens of thousands of children have been placed at risk of lead exposure this year because of contaminated imports. Millions of toys have been recalled. This situation reflects the grave weakness of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the lack of federal controls on imported toys.

What can parents do? Most importantly, parents should avoid all painted toys this holiday season. Also they should avoid brightly colored plastic toys, because some of them have been shown to contain high levels of lead. Our recommended toys this year are:
• unpainted wooden toys
• sports equipment such as balls and gloves
• books
Parents should consider writing letters or sending emails to their Senators, Congressional representatives, state and local officials, and the White House to complain about the current situation. It is simply not right that this country should allow the entry of millions of dangerous toys in the weeks before the holidays.


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project

Bio-Tag: Radon

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Breathing Easy: What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Radon. EPA 402-C-03-002. The video satisfies a long-standing need for a short visual educational tool on how to best include radon in residential real estate transactions. With a bit of light humor, the video covers the basics, including radon science, the lung cancer risk, home inspection, building a new home radon-resistant, testing and fixing a home, disclosure, state radon offices, hotline and web resources, and key radon numbers, e.g., EPA's action level and the U.S. indoor and outdoor averages. The primary audiences are home buyers and sellers, and real estate sales agents and brokers. Home inspectors, mortgage lenders, other real estate practitioners, and radon services providers will also find the video helpful. Single copies of the video are in VHS, CD, and DVD formats [ask for (EPA 402-V-02-003) (TRT 13.10)]. Producer: Environmental Protection Agency. Creative Commons license: Public Domain.


Bio-Tag raises awareness of dangerous toxins present in the physical environment through the deployment of searchable word “markers” made from natural materials. Hopefully, these typographic deployments will solicit a curiosity that will draw people into personal research and action. The motivation for these actions is to address the lack of public knowledge and the hopeful elimination of toxins that are present in food, the body, the home, and the environment. The scope of the project includes these toxin categories: Agricultural Toxins, Air Pollutants, Biological Contaminants, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Extremely Hazardous Substances, Microorganisms, Multimedia Pollutants, Ozone, Radiation, Soil Contaminants, Toxic Substances, and Water Pollutants. This is an ongoing project

Are we really surprised?

FOOD, SEX, AND SALMONELLA: David Waltner-Toews explores the global patterns of foodborne disease, from toxins in fish to pandemics of Salmonella, and the changes in climate, culture, agriculture, and trade that have led to the emergence of new diseases and epidemics. It can be a nasty business, but just as sexaul, intimate relationships can be a source of comfort and pleasure when you know what you're getting into, so too can our relationship with healthy, whole foods from a transparent food system.

Shannon Tompkins reported in the Houston Chronicle yesterday about toxin levels increasing in the fish of Galveston Bay.

"The surprising thing is that anyone was surprised when state health officials announced this past week that some fish in the Galveston Bay system contain levels of toxic chemicals that can be potentially harmful to human health."

Why are we soooo paralysed as a culture?

Midnight Ridazz: The tie-dyed ride

More fun than an art opening. We are hooked...

Bunny Gunner 1st Birthday Party

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Happy Birthday Susie and Juan!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

King Corn

Fantastic film. We will be trying to fast fom corn today. Definetly should flix it. Here is the King Corn site.

From their press kit:

King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.

In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet. Ready for an adventure and alarmed by signs of their generation’s bulging waistlines, college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis know where to go to investigate. Eighty years ago, Ian and Curt’s great-grandfathers lived just a few miles apart, in the same rural county in northern Iowa. Now their great-grandsons are returning with a mission: they will plant an acre of corn, follow their harvest into the world, and attempt to understand what they—and all of us—are really made of.

Ian and Curt arrive in the Midwest enthusiastic about their new endeavor. Iowa’s newest farmers lease an acre of land from a skeptical landlord and fill out a pile of paperwork to sign up for subsidies. The government will pay them $28 to grow their acre of corn—the first of many steps that reinforce the idea that more corn is what America needs.

Ian and Curt start the spring by injecting ammonia fertilizer. The chemical promises to increase yields fourfold, fueling the mission of abundance laid out for them. Then it’s planting time, and with a rented tractor, Ian and Curt set 31,000 seeds in the ground in 18 minutes. Their seed has been genetically modified for high yields and herbicide tolerance, and when the seedlings sprout, Ian and Curt apply a powerful spray to ensure that only their corn will thrive on their acre.

But where will all that corn go? Ian and Curt leave Iowa to find out, first considering their crop’s future as feed. In Colorado, rancher Sue Jarrett says her cattle should be eating grass. But with a surplus of corn, it costs less to raise cattle in confinement than to let them roam free: “The mass production of corn drives the mass production of protein in confinement.” Animal nutritionists confirm that corn makes cows sick and beef fatty, but it also lets consumers eat a $1 hamburger. Feedlot owner Bob Bledsoe defends America’s cheap food, but as Ian and Curt see in Colorado, the world behind it can be stomach turning. At one feedlot, 100,000 cows stand shoulder-to-shoulder, doing their part to transform Iowa corn into millions of pounds of fat-streaked beef.

Following the trail of high fructose corn syrup, Ian and Curt hop attempt to make a home-cooked batch of the sweetener in their kitchen. But their investigation of America’s most ubiquitous ingredient turns serious when they follow soda to its consumption in Brooklyn. Here, Type II diabetes is ravaging the community, and America’s addiction to corny sweets is to blame.

The breadth of the problem is now clear: the American food system is built on the abundance of corn, an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production. In a nursing home in the Indiana suburbs, Ian and Curt come face-to-face with Earl Butz, the Nixon-era Agriculture Secretary who invented subsidies. The elderly Butz champions the modern food system as an “Age of plenty” Ian and Curt’s great-grandfathers only dreamed of.

November pulls Ian and Curt back to Iowa. Their 10,000-pound harvest seems as grotesque as it is abundant. They haul their corn to the elevator and look on as it makes its way into a food system they have grown disgusted by. At a somber farm auction, Ian and Curt decide to tell their landlord they want to buy the acre. The next spring their cornfield has been pulled from production and planted in a prairie, a wild square surrounded by a sea of head-high corn.

Production Notes

King Corn was shot over the course of 2004 and 2005. The narrative is rooted in the rural town of Greene, Iowa (pop. 1015), where Ian and Curt grew their acre of corn. Director and Producer Aaron Woolf lived in Iowa with Curt and Ian throughout that time, and the team traveled to 30 states and Mexico on the trail of corn. King Corn was shot in 24p on the Panasonic SDX900 and edited in Iowa, New York and Boston on FinalCut Pro. Additional footage was assembled from the National Archives, Ellis and Cheney home movies, and ample amounts of Super8. Funding for the film came from foundations, individuals, and the ITVS Open Call fund of the CPB. King Corn will be broadcast nationally in the 2007-2008 season of the PBS series Independent Lens.

Director’s Statement, by Aaron Woolf

If there had been reason to suspect that over-production of sorghum or rice lay behind our national health crisis, I don’t think I would have been as excited about making this film or as somehow conflicted about bringing it out into America. But the thought that corn could be implicated—this hit where it hurts.

I first found corn when, like the plant itself, I moved from my home in Mexico to Iowa sixteen years ago, to study film. I loved the Iowa landscape, and would ride my motorcycle through the fields, implausibly comforted by the notion that if I crashed, I would somehow be safe in those green rows. During those long rides, it never occurred to me that those plants would someday be the focus of a film that I would make, or that there was trouble in the garden.

But long before I studied in Iowa, fundamental alterations had been made to the corn plant, and to the role it would play in our food system. Even if I had thought to look more deeply into the effects this evolving corn culture had on our society, it would have been too soon to see. Many of the consequences of what we had done to corn and to corn policy were as yet unknown.

The first corn hybrids were crafted by farmers in humble awe of the possibilities of the plant, and when corn subsidies were altered in the early seventies, the nation still struggled with widespread hunger. But bad outcomes can come from well-intentioned actions. In reality, those efforts laid the groundwork for the current problems that come from having too much food, at too low a quality. Yes, food is cheaper now, but we are only beginning to understand the full cost that cheapness demands from our environment, our health, and our social fabric.

Today the process of questioning our culture and agriculture is underway in many forms. If you ride a motorcycle through Iowa now, you will pass an increasing number of fields planted in organic corn, or grazed on by free-ranging cattle or buffalo, using farming practices that are safer for all of us. You will pass homes and greenhouses where heirloom varieties of vegetables are being preserved with great urgency and diligence. Maybe even you will get that feeling that Columbus had when he first set eyes on the New World, and wrote to Queen Isabela in Spain that he had found something more valuable than gold, a crop that could feed a continent.
About the Filmmakers

Director and Producer Aaron Woolf received a Master’s in film at the University of Iowa, but got the bulk of his education in the field in Lima, Mexico City, and Los Angeles. In 2000, Aaron directed Greener Grass: Cuba, Baseball, and The United States, a WNET-ITVS co-production that won a Rockie Award and aired on PBS. In 2003, Aaron directed Dying to Leave: The Global Face of Human Trafficking and Smuggling, which won a Logie Award and aired on the PBS series Wide Angle. Aaron is the founder of Mosaic Films and an avid mountaineer.

Co-Producers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis became best friends at Yale. In college, Ian and Curt tried in various ways to reconnect students to their food, releasing sheep on the central campus, working to bring local foods into the dining halls, and taking incoming freshmen on orientation trips to organic farms. After graduation, Ian and Curt took a cross-country trip, and learned how little they really knew about the centerpiece of the American diet, corn. With Curt’s cousin Aaron on board as director, the team moved to Iowa and started farming and filming in 2004.

Editor Jeffrey K. Miller has directed and edited numerous short films, comedy sketches, and commercials, including recent spots for Converse and the US Government. He was an assistant director on the IFC film The Baxter and is a member of the New York comedy troupe Trophy Dad. Jeff attended Yale with Ian and Curt, and is currently enrolled in film school at Columbia.

The New York anti-folk band The WoWz is a collaboration between Simon Beins, Sam Grossman and Johnny Dydo. Their releases include Brudders, Long Grain Rights and Cool Dump. Iowa sessions for King Corn were produced by two-time Grammy nominee Bo Ramsey.

Subsidizing Obesity

Corn is the nation’s most-planted, most-processed, most-subsidized crop. More than 80 million acres of the heartland are planted in corn each year, and delivered to our tables:

“If you take a McDonald’s meal, you don’t realize it when you eat it, but you’re eating corn. Beef has been corn-fed. Soda is corn. Even the French fries. Half the calories in the French fries come from the fat they’re fried in, which is liable to be either corn oil or soy oil. So when you’re at McDonald’s, you’re eating Iowa food. Everything on your plate is corn.” -- Michael Pollan, UC Berkeley, in King Corn

There is legislative logic to the flood of cheap corn-based foods. In 2005, federal subsidies spent $9.4 billion in taxpayer money to promote corn production. For Iowa farmers, these payments often mean the difference between profit and loss on a given acre. With subsidies promoting production beyond market demand, the raw materials for an obesity epidemic are readily at hand.

King Corn brings these issues to light just as Congress is set to debate the 2007 Farm Bill, a once-in-seven-years opportunity to change what our tax dollars subsidize and how we eat.

For further reading on corn, consult Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the Farm Subsidies Database at, or
Corn by the Numbers

On the farm…

Number of acres planted in corn in the U.S. in 1970 : 66.9 million
Number of acres planted in 2004 : 80.9 million
Number in 2007 : 92.9 million
Percent change since 1970: +39

Number of acres planted in corn in Iowa in 1970 : 10.8 million
Number of acres planted in 2007 : 14.3 million

Iowa’s average yield, in bushels per acre, of corn in 1970: 86
Iowa’s average yield, in bushels per acre, in 2007: 180
Percent change since 1970: +109

Number of acres planted in vegetables in the U.S. last year : 2 million
Number of acres planted in vegetables in Iowa last year : 2,800

Number if acres planted in sweet corn—for corn in the cob—in the U.S. last year : 253,500
Percentage of those acres that are in Florida, the number-one sweet-corn-growing state : 13
Rank of New York among top sweet-corn-growing states : 3

Last year in which a record was set in the U.S. for corn production, in bushels : 2004
Percentage points by which 2007 corn production is projected to exceed that record : +10.6
Number of bushels to be harvested in 2007 : 13.1 billion

In your body:

Rank of refined sugar, or sucrose, among most-used sweeteners in the U.S. in 1966 : 1
Rank in 2007: 2
Rank of high-fructose corn syrup in 2007: 1

Estimated percentage of high-fructose corn syrup consumed from beverages : 66
Rank of soft drinks among top beverages consumed by Americans : 1

Minimum percentage of a soda that is made up of high-fructose corn syrup : 7
Maximum percentage: 14
Percentage by which high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar : 60

Average, in pounds, of high-fructose corn syrup consumed by an American in 1970 : 0.6
Average, in pounds, consumed in 2000 : 73.5

Size, in ounces, of McDonald’s Supersize soda, discontinued in 2004: 42
Size, in ouces, of McDonald’s new extra-large soda, Hugo, introduced in 2007 : 42

Percentage of Americans categorized as overweight or obese in 1971 : 47.7
Percentage in 2004 : 66
Percentage of American children categorized as overweight or obese in 1971 : 4
Percentage in 2004 : 17.5

In our Wallets:

Rank of Iowa among states receiving the most money in corn subsidies: 1
Rank of New York: 16

Rank of corn growers among farmers receiving the most farm subsidies in Iowa: 1
Rank of corn growers among farmers receiving the most farm subsidies in New York: 1

Amount, in dollars, that Iowa corn farmers received in subsidies, 2003-2005: 3.4 billion
Amount that New York corn farmers received: 173 million
Amount, in dollars, received by Floyd County, IA corn farmers, 2003-2005: 37.5 million
Amount, in dollars, received by Greene, IA’s top recipient of subsidies: 364,693

Number of farm subsidy recipients in Greene, Iowa: 317
Population of Greene, Iowa: 1,015

Amount, in dollars, that the top 20% of subsidy recipients received, 2003-2005: 29.1 billion
Amount, in dollars, that the remaining 80% of recipients received: 5.6 billion
Amount, in dollars, received by the subsidy program’s single top recipient: 7.9 million

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iran re-imaging

image via boingboing

Iran re-imaging. Come on...We all do it!

Found the following on The Huffington Post:

LA Times: Did The US Photoshop Syrian Nuke Photos?
LA Times, Borzou Daragahi, April 28, 2008 07:26 PM

Professor William Beeman at the University of Minnesota passed along a note today from "a colleague with a U.S. security clearance" about the mysterious Syrian site targeted in a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike.

The note raises more questions about the evidence shown last week by U.S. intelligence officials to lawmakers in the House and Senate.

Read it here.