*Photo of Joel atop mast taken during JUNK construction, pre-launch. Here for kicks.*
The sails hang still, like the edge of an oversized tablecloth reaching lazily to the floor. There is no wind again today. We were becalmed 10 days ago, then a gentle breeze brought 500 miles of west. Becalmed again, I step outside to find Mahi Mahi under our raft. Hopefully they will grace our menu. I walk around the deck conducting my ritualistic inspection of bottles, netting, integrity of lashings and welded parts, wear on lines, exposed wires on stays, and a general look and keen listen for things that are different than before.
We noticed a problem - the top of the mast was cracking. I spotted two three-inch cracks coming down from the masthead. And the eyebolt holding the mainsail secure to the masthead was bent open. We’re lucky it didn’t fail under way. What to do? Fortunately, we had two pieces of chain we used to create a bridge between the stays to support the failing eyebolt. A couple of large hose clamps tightened around the top of the mast stopped the crack from lengthening.
As we’ve said before, boats require maintenance, especially when underway, as the stress of sailing makes everything move, rub, grind, and abrade. I also discovered that where the aluminum airplane fuselage touches the aluminum masts, grooves begin to form. Where netting rubs netting, there are eventual holes. The movements are slow and seemingly innocuous, yet in time change is inevitable. Only with careful inspection can we anticipate these, and stay ahead of the game.
Read on for responses to blog questions about plastics, chemicals, childrens autism, and BPA in canned foods.
To Dawn P's question about chemicals in plastic and rises in childhood autism:
Thank you for a great question. We know that many synthetic compounds found in plastic, which give it properties such as elasticity, color, UV and flame resistance, are also linked to ailments found in humans. We know that synthetic compounds like styrene, bisphenol A, phthalates and nonylphenol are pre-production chemicals found in plastic, and linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, insulin inhibition, and other effects. Then there are the post-production pollutants that adhere to plastic marine debris that hundreds of species have been documented to ingest. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation has discovered significant amounts of DDT, PCBs and PAHs absorbed into plastic. We are finding that these pollutants on plastic, when ingested, migrate into the tissues and organs of some organisms. Those compounds are well known to have adverse effects of wildlife and humans.
I urge you to review the work of Frederick vom Saal, Earl Gray and Ana Soto. I know vom Saal has his published papers available on line. Earl Gray and Ana Soto have done extensive work on endocrine disrupting toxins and their effect on human development and wildlife.
I would be elated to see what research you find. Especially anything published in the last few months, since I've been away for a while.
And to the question about BPA in canned foods:
Yes, bisphenol A, the building block of polycarbonate plastic, is all over. It’s that plastic film in cans, dental fillings, polycarbonate water bottles and babyfood bottles. When you touch a new CD or DVD it's on your hands. The argument that it only leaches into food and beverages when heated is false. Scientists have found, that at room temperature, polycarbonate buckets and bowls leach bisphenol A into water (Howdeshell et al., 2003 Environmental Health Perspectives).
Other studies show an alarming relationship between very low doses of bisphenol A and cancer, endocrine disruption and insulin resistance. Bisphenol A is an estrogen mimic, resulting in the growth of cancer cells in the mammary glands and prostate gland in studies of mice. One lab study found that with a dosage of 10µg/kg/day, 100% of the rats developed prostate cancer (Ho et al., 2006, Cancer Research). Another study found bisphenol A, at the same low dose of 10 µg / kg/ day, stimulates abnormal development of basal cells in mouse fetuses. (Timms et al. 2005, PNAS 102:7014). In other studies, the same low dose given to lab rats found at first it stimulates insulin secretion and subsequently causes insulin resistance (Alonso-Magdalena et al. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006). In humans, researchers found blood levels of BPA were linked to obesity in women (Takeuchi et al. Endo J. 2004). Also, elevated levels of BPA in blood was associated with recurrent miscarriage in women (Takeuchi et al. Endo J. 2004).
What is alarming is that these effects happen in extremely low doses, below human exposure. Bisphenol A is all around us. Even a polycarbonate baby food bottle give your infant a dose of 5 µg/kg/day. The Environmental Protection Agency oral reference dose is 50ug/kg/day, 5 times the dosage found to cause harm in lab studies.
Why does the Environmental Protection Agency permit humans to be in contact with bisphenol A in high doses? To influence regulation, scientists and policymakers work together to draft new policy. Weight of evidence influences that policy. Vom Saal and Hughes reviewed the 161 animal studies with bisphenol A conducted between 1997-2006. They correlated results with funding source.
Chemical corporations fund studies that give desired results. They publish those in trade journals, and reference those when lobbying lawmakers. This creates doubt. Creating doubt is a game industry plays to influence policy. It has been effective to postpone regulation that would hurt their industry, despite the consequences for human health.
It is imperative that the public be involved in the political process. Get to know your political representatives. By contacting them, you can insist that junk science be abandoned. I’m glad one visitor to our blog brought up SB1713, a senate bill to curb the use of bisphenol A in products we come in contact with. Also, contact your local representative to lend your support to California AB 2058. If signed into law, this bill would require large grocery chains and pharmacies statewide to charge a 25 cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags if a 70% reduction in plastic bag usage is not achieved by the end of 2010.