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Living near freeways and smog

July 21, 2014

Scientific studies seem pretty conclusive that smog causes higher asthma rates and reduced lung function, even heart disease, bronchitis and lung cancer. Particulates are the deadliest, because they penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered. Some organizations regard it as carcinogenic.

In other words, living within several hundred yards of a freeway is bad for your health, especially for children. Smog = hydrocarbons + nitrogen oxides from cars and factories. Along the 101 and 405 this means a toxic soup of ground level ozone, Nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and Carbon monoxide with some Peroxyacetyl nitrate (from Ethanol fuels) mixed in. The EPA has a good summary (here) and they are actively pushing cleaner air:

Under EPA rules to be phased in over three years, starting in January (2014), the largest metropolitan areas must put four monitors within about 160 feet of major roadways to measure nitrogen oxides, fine particulates and carbon monoxide (source).

Weather forecasts also now routinely include the information. As I write this, Encino is rated Moderate for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and Good for Ozone.

Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called “fine” particles. These particles are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.(source)

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What fruit and veggies should not go in the refrigerator?

July 07, 2014

Tomatoes, avocados, peaches, plums, nectarines, bananas, melons… These are all fruits that continue to ripen after they are picked and they should not go in the fridge right away.

They lose their flavor – indeed many never ripen – if you do chill them right away. Let them ripen together in a bowl and, when you worry they may rot, pop them in the fridge.

I put eggplants, cucumbers and peppers in the fridge.

Now, eggs? That’s a whole debate in itself.


Do you suffer from heartburn, asthma or allergies?

May 19, 2014

A new book has some interesting things to say about heartburn, asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes and C-sections. It’s not another self-help book. It’s Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser, MD (Amazon link).

The basic argument when it comes to many diseases like heartburn and esophagus pain (GERD = gastroesophageal reflux disease), for example, is that excessive use of antibiotics, especially when young, will eliminate many vital microbes that would otherwise protect you and this may increase acidification as you age. Even H. pylori, while it has an ability to make stomach ulcers, it also has a protective ability when it comes to the esophagus. They found an inverse relationship – the more GERD, the less H. Pylori. The more H. Pylori, the less GERD. “As H. Pylori is disappearing, stomach cancer is falling, but esophageal adenocarcinoma is rising.” The book then argues that everyone is different – some people need H. Pylori restored, some need it eliminated and some need it kept as is. There is no simple answer for all.

The author takes a similar approach to the other diseases mentioned. Indeed many are linked. They further found that if you take antibiotics now, or if you have taken them in recent years, your condition may return.

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Can LA City enforce the ban on leaf blowers?

May 14, 2014

I hate leaf blowers. Gasoline powered leaf blowers were banned in LA City back in 1998. But the ordinance has never been enforced. It is difficult to see how it could be, unless neighbors complain to each other. The LAPD has primary enforcement responsibility but they have better things to do.

To complicate things, gas powered vacuum devices and electric leaf blowers are legal. I have one that I almost never use. They are not much better than the illegal gas powered ones.

Why is this even an issue? I can give you 4 reasons.

The worst thing about leaf blowers is that they throw up vast amounts of dust, pollens and fungi into the air. I’m surprised more people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory ailments aren’t complaining loudly.

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Encino411 is a website for residents of Encino, California, with information on recycling, edible gardening, environmentally friendly housekeeping, tips on volunteering in the community, disaster preparedness, elder care, markets and other green products.

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