Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Prince of Wales wants to use his position to sway public opinion on the environment.  Yay! This is just a trailer. I'll see if I can find the entire movie.

Harmony Movie Trailer from Balcony Films on Vimeo.

EXPOSED: Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products

Third in the series of book reviews by my Urban Environmental Policy students at UMKC, "EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products" is reviewed here by Wesley Fahsenfeld.  This book is not what you'd think.  It's more of an expose on the international politics of safe chemistry rather than an expose about what's in all your household products.  If you're looking for politics, read on.  If you want to read about toxins in your household products, click here and here instead.   

The book that I chose to review is titled, “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday products and What’s at Stake for American Power”, by Mark Shapiro.  This book is essentially a ‘wake up call’ for US consumers regarding the dramatic shift that has taken place in the legislation and regulation of toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Traditionally, as in the 1960’s-1980’s, the US has been the leader in global environmental standards, however, today this power has shifted drastically towards the new and improved European Union.  Shapiro provides a contrasting comparison between EU standards and the US’s standards regarding chemicals found in everyday consumer products in relation to greater environmental policy.  Shapiro makes the case that US is falling far behind in regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products, and we as consumers will face the consequences.  Building upon this risk, Shapiro shows how not only does this shift in environmental leadership put our citizens at risk, it also will undermine the US’s ability to remain on top of the commercialized global economy. 


The EU’s rising power is known as “soft power.”  This refers to Europe’s newfound collective influence that is derived from its large market and aspiring characteristics of moral leadership.

The EU is now the largest and most influential marketplace in the world and its combined economic output from its membership countries now outpaces that of the US.

The EU follows a close application of the Precautionary Principle, and the US seeks for firm evidence before legislating certain ingredients out of consumer products.

The EU has removed all potential toxins (CMR’s: carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins) from cosmetic products, whereas the US has not done so. 

The EU removed all Phthalates from toy products in 1999 because of research that indicated a potential for harming the development of the hormonal and sexual development process of young boys.  The US has chosen not to eliminate these chemicals because research has not proven a direct connection to developmental problems in young children.

The differences in the approaches to environmental regulation puts EU manufacturers in a better position to service the global marketplace as compared to US manufacturers.

The US is now officially following the EU on environmental regulation.  A perfect example of this is the POPS treaty (Persistent Organic Pollutants; ex; DDT) in which the US followed the EU and many other developing countries to ratify the treaty. 

The US needs stricter government intervention in order to keep pace with the EU.  Even after George W. Bush signed the POPS treaty the justice department immediately suspended the legislation because it violated the separation of powers act of the constitution.

China, the new leader in global manufacturing is following the EU on environmental legislation not the US.

China has chosen to mirror their chemical review laws based off of the EU’s legislation known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), and not the US’s outdated version known as TSCA (Toxic Substances Control ACT of 1976). 

The consequence of the US’s lost leadership role on environmental regulation puts the US economy at the mercy of legislation that it has no role in determining.

Overall I think that this book is valuable because it shows how the global environmental leadership position of the US has drastically changed and is now spearheaded by the EU.  What makes this interesting for readers is that Shapiro uses examples from all over the consumer products industries to show which chemicals are regulated out of products in the EU and not the US.  Shapiro does a good job of showing how the US is no longer leading environmental regulations while simultaneously praising the EU for their efforts.  What this book fails to mention is the critically important differences that the two governing bodies possess.  Shapiro routinely compares the EU against the US as if they are “apples to apples” comparables.  I would contend that they are not. 

One example of this that sticks out to me is on pages 70-71.  Here Shapiro uses the example of the POPS treaty to show how the US has lost touch with EU on environmental leadership.  After President Bush signed the treaty in 2001, Shapiro says, “Assistant Attorney General William Moschella issued an opinion that ratifying the POPS would create an international process for restricting chemicals, to which the United States would be bound, compelling action by the executive branch (Via the EPA) and by congress (via the legal changes required by congress to keep the United States in compliance) that would violate the separation of powers clause of the Constitution” (69).  This is an example among many where the differences in the governing bodies of the EU and the US are far different.  The US is far less centrally controlled, by design, and the EU is a political union that by its existence has been formed by severing nations giving up independent power to a central body that creates rules and regulations that apply to 27 + member nations.  The fact that US legally cannot sign treaty that would create a process where further chemicals or additives could later be restricted without congressional approval is contrary to the governing process for which the United States was designed.  This should not be considered a black eye, but only a stark difference for which our country goes about regulation versus the EU. 

This example is a well supported theme throughout the book and while it does point to strict differences, the differences are in the design of the government and not necessarily a lack of desire to improve and protect our environment.  In Shapiro’s favor, it is clear that he sides with a European approach where the Precautionary Principle is strictly adhered to.  In this circumstance, Shapiro is correct to conclude that the US is lagging behind based off of the information that he presented in the book.  The US is more hesitant to restrict chemicals because of their toxicity at certain levels.  In the eye’s of the US, just because one chemical can be dangerous at higher levels does not mean it is dangerous in minute levels.  This difference is evident in an analogy presented by a representative from Proctor and Gamble that Shapiro shares on P. 30, “’imagine, he said, ‘you encounter a tiger in the wild, and then you encounter another tiger behind its protective enclosure in a zoo.’  The wild tiger, he said, ‘is inherently dangerous.’  Get close enough, and it can kill you.’  Put that tiger behind bars in a zoo, however, and that tiger ‘is not dangerous at all.’…’it’s the same thing in [cosmetic] products,’ he said, ‘there may be inherent toxicity to a particular chemical, but if you use it under certain conditions the exposure is minimal and they present no risk.’  This distinction lies at the core of the disagreement between the two continents in determining chemical safety.” 30).  When Shaprio points to these distinctions between the US and EU he does a poor job of describing why the EU’s approach is better than the US’s.  He simply uses these examples to show that the US is not as quick to regulate out chemicals, and because of that, he determines that the US is failing in environmental regulation.  I wish he would provide more evidence as to why the EU’s approach is better suited than the US’s.

Another area that Shapiro could have done a better job supporting, is when he claims that the US’ less strict regulations put companies and manufacturers at a disability to serve the European markets.  Shapiro claims that because the US’ regulations do not include chemicals that are banned in the EU, US manufacturers can’t serve the EU’s vast marketplace.  This assumption is short sighted and assumes that just because US manufacturers don’t have to produce a product in a certain way doesn’t mean that they will.  US manufacturers who wish to serve the EU market can produce to the EU standards just the same. 

In the end, Shapiro does a good job of showing how the leadership position of the US has dissolved and paved the way for the EU to spearhead global environmental regulation.  I think that there are a few areas that Shapiro could have done a better job but overall his narrative is well supported.  I think that the main thing that I take away from this book, is not a fear of the toxicity of products that I can buy in US, but rather the risk that is inherent to the US’ lack of leadership on environmental regulation and how it can ultimately subject our nation to a variety of initiatives that we have no role in developing.  This essentially equates a lack of leadership on environmental standards to a loss of control in the global marketplace which is a threat worth mitigating in my opinion. 

  • The comparison between the US and EU is an extremely important aspect of this book and Shapiro’s narrative.  Without an introduction, Shapiro uses the first chapter, titled “Soft Power, Hard Edge,” to introduce the position that the EU has on the global environmental policy front.  It is important to understand this first paragraph’s title to get a feel for the way the Shapiro views the EU in his comparisons to the US:

    • “Political Scientists call Europe’s form of influence “soft power,” exerted not through military might but through the lure of its vast market and from less tangible qualities of moral leadership.  But there’s a hard edge the EU’s soft power.  That edge was discovered with a jolt by Microsoft, which was fined close to a billion dollars for violating European principles of fair competition in its marketing of computer software; by General Electric, which had its proposed merger with Honeywell blocked because of similar anti-competitiveness concerns; and by Philip Morris, which agreed to a one billion dollar fine to settle allegations of tobacco smuggling and evading taxes.  These were warning shots, showing that changing European standards of competition and corporate fraud were no longer a matter of quaint differences of perspective, but had the teeth of enforcement behind them.  Now some of those teeth are being put behind environmental protection.” (16).

  • It is important to know the significance of the EU in the global economy. It is also helpful to understand the implications of the European marketplace for US companies participating in the global economy:

    • “Forty to sixty percent of Procter & Gamble’s $56 billion in yearly sales is to overseas markets, according to Long, the largest of which is Europe.  The major cosmetic companies—Revlon, Estee Lauder, and other brand-name enterprises—also rely on the European and other overseas markets for a significant portion of their yearly sales.  For the cosmetics industry overall, much of their product line is not subject to U.S. regulations at all.” (31).

  • This is a good example from the book where Shapiro uses the POPS treaty and countries in which have ratified the treaty to show how the US is not only behind the EU but also other countries that were typically seen to be far behind the US.  In this example, Mexico proposed to add a chemical, Lindane, to the banned chemicals list in the POPS treaty:

    • “Mexico’s move on lindane revealed how dramatically the global politics around chemicals have changed.  When Weir and I wrote our book, we described Mexico as one of the primary markets for pesticides like chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, and indeed, lindane.  Today, it is the United States that is the market for a chemical that is banned in Mexico.  The ironies around lindane abound, and offer a snapshot into how profoundly the United States has lost its former position of environmental leadership.” (75)

  • Something that is also important to know is a brief discussion by Shapiro regarding chemicals and their effect on the human body.  This is important in the discussion between the EU’s precautionary approach versus the US ‘smoking gun,’ or evidence based approach:

    • “The fears now, of scientists like Caserta and others, are the effects that may be seen over time from extremely low doses, measured in parts per million or even parts per billion.  This signifies a dramatic shift in the science of toxicology, which has traditionally assessed chemical risk on the basis of volume: the higher the quantity of potentially dangerous chemical, the higher the risk.  Recent evidence suggests an unexpected twist in this assessment: some chemicals may have an effect only at low doses, while higher doses may trigger receptors to shut down, or trigger an immune reaction that is not triggered by the far more common low-dose exposures.” (130)

  • In Shapiro’s discussion on the implications of the US’s lack of leadership, this is a good example that shows the power of the global economy and how the US is potentially missing out:

    • “While the United States retreats, the EU’s tougher approach to environmental protection is rippling into the supply chains of the global economy.  ‘The ground is changing,’ commented Daryl Ditz of the Center for International Environmental Law, which works globally on behalf of environmental reform.  ‘It’s happening through all these micro-decisions made by companies in countries most American’s don’t pay attention to.’  At the same time, new axis of power are emerging, independent of any of the superpowers.  As I researched this book, a major trade deal was struck between India, Brazil, and South Africa that sent billions of dollars in commerce into motion across the hemispheres that detours the EU, U.S., and China.” (177).

Shapiro, Mark, “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products, Who’s at Risk and What’s at Stake for American Power,” Chelsea Green, 2007

Monday, July 25, 2011

Icy Ocean

A recent Scientific American article says long buried pollutants are being re-mobilized as arctic ice melts.  Apparently, cold has kept pollutants generated by our grandparents' generation and later banned for their toxicity under water.  

According to scientists at the Barcelona, Spain-based Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research and at Environment Canada's Air Quality Division, arctic warming is causing the release.   Warmer temperatures cause chemicals to partially evaporate, and become airborne.  

Monitors at three locations around the globe demonstrate recent increases of these chemicals, despite the fact that they are no longer manufactured, and the remaining existing stores are minimal and accounted for.  To read more - the exact chemicals, where it's showing up, at what concentrations, click here.

This just adds to the wealth of warming evidence.  

I wish I understood why certain people are so adamant that climate change isn't happening, in the face of more and more mounting evidence like this rolling in.  My excellent facebook friend, Cathy Wiken, is one such person.   I'd like to see inside these nay-sayers' minds.  Really.

If you're a doubting Thomas, here are some other links you might want to check out.

Climate Change: Real or Hoax?

Won't Temperatures be Warmer Ever

Climate Chorus


Boston - 3rd on the Walkable Cities List
WalkScore.com has released its annual ranking of the country's most walkable cities.  Two rankings are available - Walk Score's rankings based on a proximity inventory of walkable amenities - and a second reader ranking.  The reader ranking changes as readers vote, so get your two cents' worth in.

Walk Score ranks New York and San Francisco first and second respectively, while readers put Seattle at the top of the list.   Below are the top ten for both Walk Score and Readers Score.  However, it's a lot of fun to go directly to the site, click here.  At the website, click on any city for a walking map and discussion of the community, or plug in your own home or work address to the search bar at the top of the page to find near by walkable amenities.  To see Walk Score's ranking methodology, click here.

Click this picture to enlarge.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's an Urban Food Desert?

My friend, teacher and mentor, Robyne Stevenson Turner, is committed to improving the urban inner city at every level - with her research and through her personal lifestyle choices.  She recently wrote a piece about lack of access to food markets.   Although she's focused on Kansas City, this is a problem in urban Phoenix and probably every other city in the country.   Obviously, groceries are a necessity for all of us who don't raise our own vittles.  Yet the grocery business is just that - a business - and grocers, like other businesses, tend to site their stores where they like the demographics, where the streets are safer.  Inner city doesn't get its share, and that means residents have less availability, fewer food choices,  more hunger and health issues, more travel cost involved in pursuing food, etc.

Here is the opening:

"A food desert is more than just the absence of grocery stores.  Like a sand desert, there are oasis of food in urban places if you know where to look.  But is the oasis real or a mirage?  Peeling back the layers, you begin to see that a desert that at first looks like a liability is in fact an economic opportunity that can change the health and well-being of residents of the urban core."

Link here to read Robyne's piece.

Dumping In Dixie

"Dumping in Dixie" is the second in a series of book reviews by the students in my summer Urban Environmental Policy class.  This book is an older book, but an important contribution to our understanding of environmental justice issues.  Reviewed by Ty'lsha Moore.


The author Robert Bullard of Dumping in Dixie studied five communities: Houston’s Northwood Manor (Texas), West Dallas (Texas), Institute (West Virginia), Emelle – Sumter County (Alabama), and Alsen (Louisiana) each community is located in America’s southern states. The study examines how community attitudes and socioeconomic characteristics influence activism and mobilization strategies of black residents who are confronted with the threat of environmental stressors (Bullard, 2000). He documented the cause for stress which dealt with hazardous dumping in the five communities. The problems included risks from a secondary lead smelter, chemical manufacturing plant, hazardous waste disposal facilities (landfill and incinerator), and a municipal landfill (Bullard, 2000).

Mr. Bullard examined the population of blacks and other minorities with hazardous waste in their communities compared to communities with predominantly white populations. He found that in each state that he conducted the survey the population of blacks hovered close to 30% but the communities that hosted the hazardous dump sites consisted of at least 90% of the black or minority population in the state. The book further describes the efforts of the black communities to fight against the hazardous dumping sites. In most cases he was able to trace the environmental movement in these communities to the civil rights movement. He further illustrates that the churches in the community were catalyst in getting people organized to fight against environmental injustice.

The penalties inflicted on these communities included failing health, mistrust in government leaders, unanswered promises of good paying jobs and a decline in overall well being. It must be stated that although the book focuses on race and class disparity many of the heroes were community leaders who stood up for their rights despite lacking adequate means to advance their cause. Environmental action groups that were fully established often aided the community action groups in pursuing opportunities to remove the dumps from their communities.

The book confronts America’s historical and present racial and class injustice. At the same time the book advocates that although the communities were not always capable of acting alone – the significant point is that they organized themselves to evoke change in their communities.


Civil Rights movement shaped the environmental justice movement in the black community

All of the communities adopted an action strategy that involved protests, government and private legal action, petitions and press lobbying (Bullard, 2000)

Identifies how companies framed their presence as an economic opportunity but in fact most of the residents within the community did not work for the company that posed the environmental threat

Many of the action strategies alerted the government and other nationally recognized environmental groups about the injustice occurring in the communities

Hazardous dumping does not pose the question of whether it will affect residents within a community rather the question is when it will affect residents within a community

Relaxed legislation and government’s neglect to enforce policy halts ability to obtain justice in matters affecting environmental concerns

Although the statistics showed that the dumping caused major health concerns and affected the natural landscape surrounding the companies, residents and even government leaders did not see the injustice as environmental injustice

Environmental racism is real; it is not merely an invention of wild eyed sociologists or radical environmental activists. It is just as real as the racism found in the housing industry, educational institutions, the employment arena and judicial system (Bullard, 2000)

A national environmental justice framework is needed to begin addressing environmental inequities that result from procedural, geographic, and social imbalances (Bullard, 2000)


I think the book is useful and its strength lies in the design implemented by the author. He did not just write a book that whined about environmental injustice. He presented a delicately composed piece of literature that provides evidence about what is occurring in the poorest communities in America. The author presented a thoughtful analysis of what is occurring in black and minority communities related to environmental injustice. He carefully guided the reader through the successful contributions that black organizations and minority groups have made to create a better social climate for minorities. He defines the problem and the terms that he uses throughout the book so the readers is capable of digesting the horrible truth that he is presenting. He moves the reader to his study by defining his hypothesis and explaining the tools he used to gather data. Finally, the author presents his findings regarding data collection and presents his conclusion. He allows the statistics and survey data to reinforce his position that there is a disproportionate effect of environmental injustice in the minority community.

My only involvement in environmental policy has been during this summer semester. The issues presented this summer are very new to me. This book further highlighted the material presented in class and basically I didn’t find a shortcoming while reading the book. The information was evidence based; the data was in the book. He showed how he came to his conclusions about environmental injustice in minority communities. He also took it a step further by engaging the reader in steps that should and could be taken to further the cause for environmental justice.


More than 15 years ago, a wealthy white property owner next to Rollins (hazardous waste dumping site in Alsen, LA) received a half million dollar settlement from the company for the death of his cattle after water spilled onto his pasture. Yet Rollins has failed to recognize it is harming people, not cows, in Alsen (black population 98.9%) (Bullard, 2000)

It is time for people to stop asking the question, “Do minorities care about their environment?” The evidence is clear and irrefutable that white middle class communities do not have a monopoly on environmental concern (Bullard, 2000)

It is ironic that many of the residents who were fighting the construction of the waste facility had moved to Northwood Manor in an effort to escape landfills in their former Houston neighborhoods (Bullard, 2000)

Growing empirical evidence shows that toxic waste dumps, municipal landfills, garbage incinerators, and similar noxious facilities are not randomly scattered across the American landscape. The siting process has resulted in minority neighborhoods (regardless of class) carrying a greater burden of localized costs than either affluent or poor white neighborhoods (Bullard, 2000)

Work Cited:  Bullard, Robert D. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. Boulder, CO. Westview Press, 2000 (234).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Climate Change Begins At Home

This summer I'm teaching Urban Environmental Policy at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.    Some of my students gave me permission to share book reviews they've produced.  I'm excited to offer you an easy-to-consume digest of some of the latest environmental books.  The first review is by Hishashi Kunimoto on David Reay's "Climate Change Begins at Home."


This book discusses what life will be like in 2050 if we don't start reducing carbon emissions and gives a lot of practical ways that each and every person can put into practice with small lifestyle changes to reduce the C02 emission by looking at the life of the fictional Carbone Family living in England.  The average family, like the Carbone family, puts an average of 39 tons of green house gas into the atmosphere per year. The Kyoto Protocol set a reduction of participating countries of 5.2 % but scientists recommend a 60% cut to prevent the disasters that are going to occur if we don't do something. 


The following are cuts that we, as individuals can make, and how much would be cut in emissions if we took these simple steps. Starting from the largest area to the smallest.

Transport (20.5 tons/yr)
          * Smaller engine (75% savings of 20.5 tons/yr)                               
          * Dual fuel car (20 - 30% savings)                                     
          * Hybrid car (20 -40% savings)                            
          * Biofuel cars (100 % savings)                           
          * Driving habits including driving 5 miles/hr slower, keep your tires at optimal inflation, drive with your windows open, take local holidays and walk or ride your bicycle if you have to go less than 2 miles.  (50% savings)                      

Household (13 tons/yr)
          * Eating habits (30% savings of 13 tons/yr)
          * Efficiency appliances  (10 - 20% savings)
          * Standby power    (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Efficient lighting   (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Better insulation  (40% savings)

Food   (4.5 Tons/yr)
          * Buy locally (90% savings of the 4.5 tons/yr)
          * Less meat and dairy  (30% savings)
          * Fewer shopping trips (5 -10 % savings)
          * Food delivery (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Home grown (100% savings)

Waste  (1 ton/yr)
          * Reduce  (70% savings of the 1 ton/yr)
          * Reuse    (30% savings)
          * Recycle  (30% savings)
          * Compost (50% savings)
          * Home grown (100% savings)

Office electricity (100 tons/yr) Specific savings are not given as each office varies in size, office equipment,etc.
          * Lights
          * Office equipment - stand by lights
          * Cooling, heating and ventilation


This is a very well written book with many practical ways to cut down on CO2 emissions.  It is written at the level that anyone could understand and I would recommend that it becomes required reading in High Schools.  It is not all doom and gloom.  But It is very matter of fact and comes to the point that if we don't reduce our CO2 emissions the earth will still be around but it gives many examples of what life will be like if we don't do these things in 2050.  In fact, my family and I have started putting many of his suggestions into practice.  We turned the temperature up 2 degrees in our house.  We are unplugging the standby lights when not needed, driving 5 miles/hr slower and are eating less beef as it is good for lowering cholesterol too.  My wife says she is buying foods with less energy costs attached and has started composting.

Where this book falls short is the fact that it is not out there on everyone's reader list.  This is the first time I have heard about it and yet I think it is one of the most comprehensive books on what people should be doing.  I think if it was out there more we really would be able to reach the 60% cut backs that scientists recommend.  Perhaps, if Reay had included in $ amounts how much money would be saved for each cut back made, this book would be as popular as say "Rich Dad, Poor Dad".  One example he mentioned was that we could actually use our tank of gas one week longer if we drove 5 miles per hour slower. He didn't say how much we could actually save in dollar amounts and my guess is that people would be more interested in how the reductions save money than how they reduce carbon emissions as people do not yet realize how carbon emissions hit them directly. Reay does try to deal with this issue but explains that people usually take their savings and buy more with it.  I don't think he gives people enough credit.  With the new awareness he is bringing to everyone I think that people would consider things more before they made more purchases.  FYI, my family has saved about $30 in our energy bill and about $5 in gas over 2 months. The $35 will go towards my daughter's college fund and maybe she will study the environment.


The discussion of the Carbone family sounds like a typical family whether in England or in the United States and really hits home with anyone who reads the book.

     "As the Carbone's worry about global warming has grown they have become increasingly keen to "do their bit" to prevent it.  They have separated their bottles, tins, and newspapers from the rest of their household trash.  They have replaced their light bulbs with energy efficiency ones, and are always on at the boys for leaving lights, TVs, and computers on. They feel they do what they can for the environment and would describe their lifestyle as 'really quite green'. "

So what help are the Carbone' s various actions in mitigating climate change? The blunt answer is: not much.  Their weekly car trips to the supermarket produce more green house gas than all that saved by their efforts to recycle and cut energy wastage."

Reay goes on to explain why they don't do more.  He explains that people are reluctant to make real change because it would require a real change of lifestyle like "getting rid of their gas guzzling SUV" and the current "apocalypses" are happening too far away from them.  Once things get closer to home, people will start to do something, but by then it will be too late.  Most people think that the government and or scientists will come up with something but we can't wait for them. "The buck stops with us".

Reay goes into really frightening things that have already started in motion and that will hit each and everyone of us where it hurts, right in our own back yards.  How many of us have already started complaining about the strange weather, bugs, illnesses, increase in asthma related issues?  It is already hitting us.  As in the information above in a bulleted outline of the book’s important points he goes over how many emissions we make in our daily lives and how much we can actually cut back with simple changes in our lifestyles.


Reay, Dave, "Climate Change Begins At Home," Macmillan, Houndmills, 2005, 2006

ScienceDaily, "Worst Offenders For Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Top 20 US Counties Identified",
 (Apr. 17, 2008)   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416175442.htm

The Cleveland Carbon Fund  http://www.clevelandcarbonfund.org/about/

Monday, July 11, 2011


I recently read this astonishing - and tragic - fact:  Due to complications of obesity, the generation now being born will be the first generation that won't outlive its parents.

I am thus moved to repeat the publication of a video I blogged about once before by one Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco.

The first time I ran across it, I wondered if I had the stamina to sit through an hour-plus lecture.  However, as the lecture progressed, all other thoughts flew as Dr. Lustig brought the complex science of nutrition into sharp focus, pointing out the exact mechanisms in the body by which the processed American diet is killing us. 

In particular, Dr. Lustig points an accusatory finger at fructose, and explains its domino effect on our health in simple, understandable, but undeniably frightening terms.  Fructose is a particular type of sugar, derived generally from fruit.  Our bodies deal with fructose differently - and in a way that creates more harm - than glucose, another common sugar.  Unfortunately, because fructose is "from fruit," people tend to assume it's healthy and "natural."   Not so.

I found the following brief summary by Dr. Mercola of part of Dr. Lustig's lecture, on the impact of fructose just on weight gain: 

"Fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn free fatty acids (FFAs) into triglycerides that get stored as fat. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this. When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose, however, results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat

The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.

Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain's communication with leptin, resulting in overeating."  (summary by Dr. Mercola, here.)

The first time I watched the video, I passed it along to my friend Ray Jagoda, and urged him to put in the time in front of the tube.  I heard back within a few days.  Ray said he and his au pair spent an hour going through all the foods in their fridge and cupboards, and were astonished at how many of these contained fructose.

All I can say is, give up an hour and a few minutes to watch Dr. Lustig's lecture.  This may be the lecture that prolongs your life.