Dead Zone: Not Iowa Nice

Life here on Earth has it all figured out. Plants consume carbon dioxide and water and pump out oxygen and carbohydrates. Animals consume carbohydrates and pump out carbon dioxide. It works beautifully when in balance. When out of balance, it creates spots where no life exists called Dead Zones. Dead Zone sound like something from a Stephen King novel. In reality, they are found in watersheds. The cause: lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Dissolved oxygen gets into water when it rushes and tumbles. How does it leave water? It gets used up by animals and by decomposition.

When fertilizer from fields runs into the water, it causes algae to grow.

No problem, right? The algae will put oxygen in the water. It does, until it dies or until the excess algae chokes out other vegetation and kills it. Decomposition uses oxygen. The oxygen levels fall and animals die due to the lack of it, just as in the Death Zone of Mt Everest where the lack of oxygen is due to lower air pressure. Just like Everest climbers, aquatic animals try to get to areas of higher oxygen…they try to swim away and also gulp air at the surface. But they become lethargic and eventually will suffocate.

Of all crops, corn uses the most fertilizer. Therefore, its production is responsible for most of the Dead Zone. This map shows where most of the fertilizer us used in the Mississippi. Because fertilizer is mostly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, these areas are labeled “Nitrogen Hot Spots.”

The problem is acute when fresh water from farm fields containing fertilizer washes into the Mississippi. This water streams into the Gulf of Mexico-salt water–and sits on top of it because salt water is heavier.

Dissolved oxygen levels should be around 10 ppm for healthy water. Click here to check your local dissolved oxygen levels.

Sadly, the Dead Zone is projected to reach record levels this year, due to all of the flooding in the midwest.

What can be done to prevent this problem? One solution is to restore flood plains. No till farming and cover crops are other solutions.

Another is to follow the 4 Rs of nutrient stewardship.

  • Right fertilizer source at the
  • Right rate, at the
  • Right time and in the
  • Right place

However, crop farmers are not the only ones to blame for this. In fact, lots of the pollution comes from meat and dairy operations. Personally, I try to limit my meat and dairy consumption and when it comes to eggs and chicken, I buy local…but it’s not easy for me.

The Dead Zone and agricultural pollution is a huge issue for Iowa. Because of all the animal feeding operations, Iowa is number one in poop...and the excess nitrogen in the form of nitrates that comes with it. New evidence shows that this does more than cause the Gulf Dead Zone. It contributes to cancer, including thyroid cancer which is very common in Iowa, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, and many birth defects and pre-term birth. We need more regulations of these pollutants. We need to reduce our dependence on corn and corn ethanol in Iowa. We need more regulations on animal feeding operations–many of them are owned by China. Did you know that there is more chicken shit in Iowa than people shit? None of it has to go through sewage treatment! Not a pretty picture.

Solutions will not be easy and won’t come as long as Iowans are complacent about the issue. Last year, almost none of my students had even heard of the Dead Zone. Iowans consider themselves “Iowa Nice” because they are superficially polite. But being ignorant of pollution is not very nice, is it?

Sadly, all of this rain and flooding will be a disaster for water quality. Here is a great article with more information.

The viral blast from the past

Recently, Iowa has joined the ranks of states who have seen cases of measles, a viral disease entriely prevented by vaccine. Before a vaccine was developed in 1963, millions of people caught the diease each year. Brain swelling and death were the most serious side effects. In 2000, public health officals believed the United States was free of measles. However, in 2019, we have seen more cases than in 1994. Click here for a map and more information.

On Twitter, Dan Rather mused “Perhaps the anti-vaccine movement and the resurgence of overt racist rhetoric have something in common. As firsthand knowledge of the horrors of lynchings, the Holocaust, the scourge of horrific diseases fades with time, we forget that deadly pestilences demand our vigilance.” Some of this is true. Young parents haven’t measles. Except for cases of extreme flu and HIV, people have forgotten how horrible viral diseases can be, with their resistance to antibiotics. You can’t kill a virus because it isn’t alive. It needs your cells to reproduce. How does your body fight a virus? It has to assemble the correct chemicals to take it down and to do this, it has to learn about the virus through exposure. Vaccines provide this training.

Much of the disinformation here in the United States is associated with Russian disinformation campaigns. We even have a crop of politicians going against doctor’s advice on vaccines and other important health issues. I’ve encountered locals who invoke their own version of god to justify ignoring doctors’ advice.

People are even refusing to vaccinate their pets. Who is most likely to believe this misinformation? “A (rural) middle age, Midwestern man with high-school diploma, low income and a tendency not to think his vote matters much: this is the identity of the average American anti-vaxxer,” However, on social media, the typical anti-vaxxer is female, sheltered, and has a sense of persecution. Because they believe they are being persecuted, arguing with them makes them cling to their beliefs even more.

It comes as no surprise that a number of these people are simply complacent. Some might engage in “magical thinking” –the hope that something is out there beyond simply what we know at this time. Both complacency and magical thinking go together to create a “it can’t happen to me” attitude. I asked a doctor in a city which has seen a measles outbreak if the cases were mostly poor people. He said, no, poor people in general appreciate medical care and trust doctors. They also know bad things can happen. This epidemic has roots in the middle class.

Thanks to scientific advances, some viral killers have been almost entirely wiped from the face of the Earth. Polio is one of those killers. Although it was always around, it spread as an epidemic in the early 1900s with break- outs occurring each summer. In the United States, the epidiemic reached its peak in the summer of 1950 with 57,628 cases, 3,145 resulting in death and 21,269 were left with some form of paralysis.

Treatments included keeping the joints warm and moist by wrapping the patient in wet wool and moving the joints to prevent paralysis.

Some patients suffered chest muscle paralysis, could not breathe on their own and were put into a ventilator known as the iron lung. Each device cost as much as an average home.

Infant in iron lung

At the University of Pittsburgh, Jonas Salk launched what was then the largest human trial in history, injecting nearly 2 million American kids with a potential vaccine. His method, made from an attenuated virus, was funded by public donations via the March of Dimes. When it was announced that his vaccine worked, Salk was hailed as a humanitarian hero. You can read more here.

In 1952 Salk give vaccine to his family. In 1955, the vaccine given to the public for free. By 1994, polio was mostly wiped out.

Famed CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow asked Salk who owned the patent to his vaccine. The scientist replied: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

A friend of mine remembers contracting polio in 1955, two months after the vaccine was annouced.

“I was 5 and had a terrible headache. We called the local doctor We didn’t have insurance so the doctor kept me at home and he had 2 Blue Cross nurses come over evey day to help my mom help. I could not move so my mom had to boil wool blankets and wrap me in them, then they had to exercise every joint in my body to loosen them. This was every day. Most people were in the hospital in an iron lung. Since we were poor, I was at home. It took about 2 months of constant exercising joints and boiling blankets to keep the joints loose. I was unable to move at all. This was 1955 about 2 months after the vaccination. I have had problems with moving and bones. I spent 2 months at the Shriners Hospital straightening some bones especially in my feet. Still have issues with my back. ” She adds, ” I hope parents will vaccinate their children.”

Most (98-99%) people do vaccinate their kids. However, confidence in vaccines is falling in the US. One thing compounding this problem is the profit motive in medicine. Health care costs have risen faster than incomes in the United States. They slowed after the Affordable Care Act was implimented, sadly misinformation about the act has been widespread. Although the reasons are complex, health insurance is a major factor for our skyrocketing costs. Bottom line: it’s easy to convince people that the health care industry doesn’t care about them, only about money. If you look at health care billionaires, none of them have come up with a cure. It’s no surprise that one reason given for not vaccinating is that doctors and pharmaceutical companies just want to make money. This needs to change. Another problem is the flat funding for public health over the past few years. This needs to change.

The measles outbreak is an example of public misinformation as well as a consequence of government’s failure to adequately fund public health.. As a new election season gears up, look for candidates who put you and your family’s health first and make sure to vote for those who give accurate information. The way things are going, vaccinations could become illegal some day. Can you imagine health care workers thrown in jail for vaccinating people? Don’t let it happen.

Can you spot the E. coli in this contaminated water?

First in line to go to prison for a miscarriage

Iowa was once a sensible state but it’s been heavily influenced by crazy as of late. Recently, a man introduced a bill to make miscarriages and causing them illegal–or at least subject to investigation.

I do hope lots of people go to jail, and for starters let’s put those who pump out air pollution –and politicians who vote to deregulate it–in jail. Yes, air pollution is associated with miscarriages.Yes indeed it is highly correlated with miscarriage, premature birth, and still birth.

Low blood oxygen as seen near Confined Animal Feeding Operations and fossil fuel combustion can cause miscarriages and numerous problems for developing children. Not only do the pollutants use up oxygen, they can bind to maternal hemoglobin and starve the woman and the embryo of oxygen! The same goes for nitrates, ubiquitous in Iowa waters.

Next we can screen all men for faulty sperm. Faulty sperm is associated with a high rate of repeat miscarriages.

If a man has faulty sperm, he needs to be castrated to prevent miscarriages, right? And what causes faulty sperm? Pollution.

Radiation, environmental toxins, and aging contribute to faulty sperm. The jury is still out but there is evidence that being fat can cause faulty sperm. And being an older father contributes to “miscarriage, birth defects, poor neurodevelopmental outcomes, and childhood cancer.” In fact, bearing the child of an older man can increase the mother’s risk of diabetes.

To avoid jail time, men above the age of 40 should not attempt to reproduce.

Here come the miscarriages. Let’s send the right people to prison!

Fracking causes air and water pollution associated with miscarriage, low birth weight, and also contributes to low sperm quality.

Therefore, the first on trial should be the frackers.

Women, we all know that miscarriages happen in around 20% of all pregnancies. I’ve never had one but those who have may soon get in line to sue those who cause them if this bill goes through. I’m half hoping it does.

Sexist, racist pollution

Detroit Refinery, owned by Marathon Oil, sits beside one of Detroit’s poorest neighborhoods.

I’m sensitive to health and safety regulations being cut. To me, these are protections. As a chemist, protections mean a lot to me. As a baby, I was given a lot of tetracycline. When my permanent teeth came in, they were grey and stained. This has affected my whole life. Yes I have crowns but that is not the same as real teeth. They need more maintaining. They need replacing at times. They make me self-conscious–but I still like to smile. And I have not gotten one penny of compensation for it all.

This is why, when I wrote about a dystopia in Mixed In, it was one in which there were no consumer protections and no environmental protections. The only regulations were for personal behavior. 

I’m fortunate in one way, my problem has not been passed on to my kids, However, a new article discusses the many ways pollution is linked to disease and weakness that persists genetically.

Pollution can make people and animals more susceptible to disease. and this occurs at a genetic level, meaning, future generations will suffer.  For example, fluorocarbon pollution from substances such as fire fighting foams and water proofing chemicals found in food packaging  have been linked to a weakened immune response. The result in humans is that those exposed get more colds, respiratory infections and gastroenteritis. This is particularly common in young girls. These changes are at a genetic level–in other words, will be passed on. Additionally, those exposed are less protected by vaccines. which work by boosting the immune system.

Some substances such as zinc, lead, and phthalates used in pvc and other plastics boost the infecting ability of bacteria and viruses.

In other words, unregulated pollution can doom generations of people while making pathogens stronger.

Another thing about pollution: It’s racist. African Americans are most likely to live in the shadow of pollution and are the least likely to profit from it. Do you think they don’t know it? Of course they do. And so do the politicians who spout the phrase “job killing regulations.” These guys know exactly what and who pollution harms and they don’t care. The question is: do you?

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

When visiting Detroit, the Charles A. Wright Museum, located downtown, is a must see. The first thing you notice is that it is not packed with stuff. It’s an airy and open venue used for everything from weddings to school trips.

In this era of President Bone Spurs, consider what it is like to begin with absolutely nothing. Taken from your home, you can’t have a family. You are not even permitted to own a dog!

You might not even be considered human.

Am I not a man and a brother? These tokens, made by Charles Darwin’s family, pushed the idea that an African was indeed a “man” I’d seen photos of them but here is the real thing, smaller than I imagined. Another thing I learned was that Saudi Arabia was active in the slave trade. And most slaves were Christians. East Africa embraced the religion in the 1300s.


Driven from the South after the Civil War, African-Americans found a home in Detroit, where their assembly and sewing skills were welcome and contributed to the affluence of the city.

Today, literacy is more important than “hand skills” since labor is cheaper overseas. Illiteracy is a looming problem that the city is determined to solve.

But don’t think for a moment that Detroiters don’t love their history and heritage.

My Mom was . a big fan of Malcom X.

You might find yourself on a street in 1920s Detroit.


Or looking at Aretha’s first record.

We took in an exhibit about African-American hair stylists.

A traditional headrest from Africa kept people from messing their styles when they slept.

Modern hairstyles were part of an exhibit about being fancy.

This unicorn style celebrates European culture. Inclusivity is important. After all, unity is a part of Kwanzaa, which by the way, lasts from Dec. 26 to January 1. The important message of the exhibit was to love the way you are.

Rural poverty–reality and fiction

In my forthcoming novel, there’s a palipitable divide between rich and poor; it’s a dystopia, after all. And who are the poor in this fictional society? Although people in the city of Cochtonville struggle, the true poverty is in the rural areas. This is realistic. Although not all sources agree, most of the poor in the United States are rural.  How does a rural area become poor?

Once a society depends on agriculture, the rich are those who can grab the land. The poor have no land, or have it taken from them. Here in the US, high poverty groups have had their land taken through violent tactics, as spoils of war, through foreclosure, or have been forced off their land through fear and intimidation.

Rural poverty is a world-wide problem. A study in China found these complicating factors to rural poverty: an abundance of children, low education and skill levels in rural workers, and poor health in rural communities. (Zhang, Jinping, et al. “Analyzing Influencing Factors of Rural Poverty in Typical Poverty Areas of Hainan Province: A Case Study of Lingao County.” Chinese Geographical Science, vol. 28, no. 6, 2018, p. 1061+. Academic OneFile, )

Things in the United States are not much different. Besides land grabs, factors promoting rural poverty in the United States include lack of education and birth control for rural women, environmental factors such as poor land and bad weather/climate change limiting rural growth, and the lack of population in rural communities due to fewer of social, cultural, and employment opportunities. As previously mentioned, not owning your own land is a contributing factor to rural poverty across the globe.

Solutions to rural poverty include a guaranteed minimum income and more economic opportunities in rural areas. A living wage, not just a job, and affordable housing are key needs of all people in poverty, including the rural poor.

Rural poverty was once much greater in the United States. The Great Society War on poverty made great strides in diminishing poverty and rural poverty. However, it fell victim to tax cuts and the cost of war.It’s estimated that 25% of rural children are impoverished. Although this is better than it was 60 years ago, the social safety net in the United States lags behind that of developed nations. 

In a recent study, rural high poverty communities were found to have “food insecurity,” limited access to health care, chronic disease, and a lack of transportation. Believe it or not, rural people have trouble accessing and affording fruits and vegetables. They often rely on food pantries and this is associated with being over-weight. Why? Food pantry diets are mainly shelf stable, low cost foods which are less nutritious. When poor people have food, they binge due to insecurity. They need help making healthier choices and they need access to healthier choices. (Stlika et al. BMC Public Health, 2018. 18:1055.) Canned foods can be nutritious and even fresh food, if stored extensively, may lose nutrients. The key is to make sure enough of this food is available.


One thing poor do not need is being shamed. The notion that the poor are culpable for their fate goes back a long way and is most often used by those who don’t want people to vote to help the poor. It leads to poor people hiding their poverty in shame. Most people in this country are not poor. When the poor are segregated from others, it is easier to foist the notion of undeserving poor on an naive public.Public spaces are one arena where poor can share in society. When these places are privatized or segregated due to fees, we as a nation lose the ability to understand poverty. Then, we believe fictions about them.

I

Climate Change–no, we are not debating when there are only 12 years left

global warming and extreme weather concept. man drowning in the

Each year since I’ve been a chemist, I’ve measured a higher level of background carbon dioxide in my lab. Every year more, like an invasion of ants marching. Like a steady diet of candy. Like one more blanket when you are in front of a fire. Carbon dioxide is natural but too much of it warms the Earth and causes changes in weather and ocean current patterns! What will happen if this continues and our climate is irreversibly changed?

Here in the Midwest, we face temperature extremes, flooding and droughts alternating with deluges. Tornados could become more damaging. Some crops will not grow as well with elevated carbon dioxide. Corn is one of those crops. Other plants will grow but have fewer nutrients. 

Climate change promises disease-spreading insects, more bacterial infections, mental health issues, air pollution, and other health problems… a new report says we have twelve years to stop this horror.

Do scientists believe that human activity, mostly burning fossils fuels, is changing the planet? Yes they do.

97% of climate scientists say it is undoubtedly happening and a whole host of scientific organizations agree.

Chemists have been warning about this since the 1890s.  The American Chemical Society, of which I am a member, has this to say:

“Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem.” (2004)4

The American Physical Society (physics folks) released this statement “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” (2007)8

Click here for more, many more organizations who agree.

There is not a debate. There is more carbon dioxide in the air and it is changing our climate.  Here is the evidence.

Sometimes denier die-hards say “What about global cooling? Didn’t scientists predict that? A couple of scientists did. The idea was that pollution in the atmosphere would reflect the sun. This does cause cooling; there is cooling after volcanic eruptions for example.  However, these few guys vastly underestimated the extent of global warming from human sources and used outdated computer models to make their prediction. You would not use a computer from the 70s to do any research today. Why would anyone think scientists would find information, pushed by a few scientists, and disputed by others, was worth anything today? The real question is, why are people still repeating this erroneous claim? Who is spreading this misinformation?

The misinformation is spread by many “institutes” and foundations.” (Click to see who is lying.)

Here is information about lying asses in the United States.

Who funds them? Most of them in the U.S. claim to be “Libertarian” and have ties to the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers are known to educators because they send out books about why scientists don’t believe climate change. I got one myself. It was BS.

Why would they care? They mostly make toilet paper. Well, not really. They own pipelines and some energy companies, too.  They own oil refineries. They own tar sands. Some cite their ties with China and Russia–two of the biggest polluters. Oh, and when they make toilet paper, they are huge polluters. They also pollute the air around the refineries with particulates.

Other deniers, such as the science writer for the Wall Street Journal, are connected with the petroleum industry.

There are 100 companies, and their investors, who are responsible for much of the climate problems we face, everything from extreme weather to physical symptoms.

The people making big bucks from this impending disaster think they have enough money to save them from the consequences. They probably are banking on making money from the natural disasters. They will be happier with fewer riff-raff in their neighborhoods. Do you have billions of dollars to save yourself or do you want to do something meaningful with your life over he next 12 years?

What can you as a private citizen do when there are so many greedy people in the world?  Some of the top evil doers are not even in the same country–companies from China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia top our own as polluters. Here are a few suggestions of what you can do to help: (click link )

But mostly it is not you–it’s the companies making money from coal, oil, and gas who are to blame for suppressing information and casting doubt.

The best thing you can do is  Do not vote for climate change deniers. They lie and block any solutions. They are propped up with money and lies supplied by those who are causing the havoc. Here are the well established deniers in Iowa.

DO Vote for Dave Loebsack!

Inform others about climate change. Thanks to the Koch brothers, most people in the US don’t know that there is scientific agreement about climate change.

Scientists know carbon dioxide is increasing and is adding another layer of blankets to the Earth.

Don’t let it slide. Every part of the world will suffer from climate change. Now is not the time for silence. Your average denier needs to hear from you. “I believe the many scientists and the 97% of experts who say that we must stop climate change before it is too late.”

Climate Change is real. No, scientists are not debating, unsure, or getting rich talking about it. If the later was true, climate scientists would be the billionaires and could buy their own politicians. Scientists make money telling the truth and coming up with solutions to problems. Help them.

 

 

 

 

Violence Against Women

Did you know that the Violence Against Women Act is up for renewal and that many in Congress, including Chuck Grassley, have voted against it in the past?

“If Congress fails to reauthorize VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)  this year, the impact will be hard felt. Not only could it mean a loss of essential services that enable survivors to heal and seek justice, but it will inhibit states’ ability to fully prosecute sex crimes.”

 

trumpquotes5
From: http://www.konbini.com/us/inspiration/aria-watson-trump-quotes-photo-project/

Violence, and especially violence against women, is a horror we can do something about.

About 10 % of all relationships are abusive. The question is, who abuses their partner and why?

Abusive People often can’t express themselves and are unable to communicate effectively with others. Furthermore, they are “fearfully attached” to their partners.  Some studies have identified these traits in abusers: highly sensitive to criticism, blame the victim and or circumstances, do not take responsibility for their actions, do not fit in well with society, have low levels of empathy. They do not like themselves–they have a lot of shame about what they are doing to their partners. They become frustrated easily, can be irresponsible and find it hard to have fun. Click here for more.

Fortunately, this behavior can be modified through therapy and by society.

What about rapists? They are a more complicated bunch, and society cheers them on in subtle ways. Around 600 women in the United States are raped by men each day. Most often, these are women under the age of 24. Rape is a crime that is reflective of society.

“Young people who gang up on and violate a semi-conscious woman and post pictures on Facebook are not acting on some individually dreamed up sexual fantasy but rather following group norms. We know from psychological research that once a group is established, the immediate pressure to adhere to the in-group code will often override the desire and ability to reach across to a member of the out-group.”

Men are most likely to rape and coerce women when they have peers who express hostility towards women. However, rapists may also be anti-social people. who express hostility on-line or to themselves. We can’t so quickly write off rape as a crime done by a person outside of social norms as is more often seen with domestic abusers. Sometimes, people learn from movies and other aspects of our culture that rape is okay if the woman is drunk or you are a cool. Click here for a very good link.

Most men who violate women see it as a part of being masculine. Some see it as an entitlement, such as they bought the woman something or they are rich and famous. These rapists, unlike many perpetrators of other forms of violence, are self assured and entitled.

Often, these people objectify women. “Sexual objectification changes the way people view women by reducing them to sexual objects—denied humanity and an internal mental life, as well as deemed unworthy of moral concern.”

In other words, people who see women as sexual objects do not care about their feelings when the women are wronged.

Women can be complacent in violence against other women. A person can be a women or have daughters and still be a part of society’s acceptance of Violence Against Women. Laws against violence help prevent violence but even more, social shunning of violence is important in halting it. Unfortunately, we have a whole cast of ugly characters in office who normalize it at this time.

All is not lost but everyone, everyone must speak up, now more than ever. Urge your congressional representative to renew VAWA. Grassley has voted against the Violence Against Women Act twice. He has also voted against MLK Day.  Vote him out in 2020. There is no place for perpetrators and supporters of violence in our society and certainly not in the senate!

(PDF) Sexual Objectification Increases Rape Victim Blame and Decreases Perceived Suffering. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249136582_Sexual_Objectification_Increases_Rape_Victim_Blame_and_Decreases_Perceived_Suffering[accessed Oct 09 2018].

 

Mercurial Madness

I didn’t read much about it in the local or state news but  last December, a Mercury jug containing 5 kg (11 pounds) of the toxic metal was spilled in an Iowa bar.

If that isn’t bad enough, the mercury was gathered up and  put in the basement of a rental house where kids found it and played with it in the sandbox. 

Where does mercury come from?  Why is it toxic and how bad is it? 

Here are some facts about mercury:

  1. Depositphotos_140325262_l-2015Mercury is an element, meaning it can’t be broken into anything smaller. You can’t get rid of it by burning it up, for example.
  2. In fact, you do not want to burn mercury. It is a metal but with very weak bonds between atoms. It has a low vapor pressure and heating it makes it into a gas. This gas is very toxic. It is easily absorbed into the lungs. It moves to the brain where it causes central nervous system poisoning. Mercury is toxic via all routes: ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact.
  3. Mercury poisons by sticking to the sulfur in enzymes, causing them to unravel. What does this do? It harms many different enzymes–it interferes with ones that build your skeleton, it inhibits food digestion, it ruins nerve connections, and it causes hydrogen peroxide to build up in your blood.
  4. Mercury can get into the air from burning coal and oil. Forty two percent of mercury in our air comes from coal burning. Since mercury is heavy and doesn’t change into anything else, this can be breathed in, and get into our water and soil.
  5. Another source of mercury is gold mining and processing, especially in small scale operations.Peru is known for a high number of these. They rely on using a mercury amalgam to extract the gold.
  6. Mercury is a dense metallic liquid. It was once known as quicksilver. The word mercurial means flighty or fast.
    mercurial-superfly-360-elite-firm-ground-soccer-cleat-WOv7pN
    Can there be a much better name for a shoe than Mercurial Superfly? https://store.nike.com/
  7. It’s about 14 x more dense than water, meaning that a gallon of mercury would weigh 113 pounds.
  8. It has the symbol Hg meaning “liquid silver” or “hydroargyrum”.
  9. Mercury is found as the ore cinnabar, chemical name mercury (II) sulfide, HgS. Most of mercury used today comes from mines in Spain or Italy.
  10. It is commonly used in electrical switches and was once frequently used in thermometers and in dental fillings known as amalgams. An amalgam is a combination of mercury and other metals. It’s tough and easy to squeeze into small places. These are thought to be safe in adults and mercury not detected in breast milk of mothers who have mercury fillings. 
  11. Dental crowns do not contain mercury.
  12. Mercury pollution has caused Minamata disease, a birth defect harming the skeleton and a pollution related disease. Click here for more about the people who were affected.
  13. Many people think of the Mad Hatter when they think of mercury poisoning. Mercury was used in felt processing and hat-making from the 17th century up until 1941.
  14. Mercury was used to treat syphilis up through the early 1900s.
  15. A mercury salt with fluorescein, mercurochrome, is still used as an antiseptic in some places.
  16. Mercury can exist in several forms: elemental (as found in the Iowa bar) , inorganic (cinnabar), and organic (the most toxic).
  17. Mercury is water soluble. It builds up in fish and seafood–the larger the animal, the more mercury. This diagram shows that the elemental mercury becomes organic mercury and bioaccumulates in the food chain.

    MercuryFoodChain.svg
    Imagine of mercury accumulation from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_in_fish#/media/File:MercuryFoodChain.svg
  18. Fish contains more mercury than vaccines.
  19. Mercury is in some vaccines in a small amount. Consider the alternative which is getting the flu.
  20. Mercury is heavy and exists in the depths of the Earth. Besides mining and coal burning, volcanos release tons of vaporized mercury into the air, especially Pacific volcanos.
  21. Mercury poisoning continues today. “Analysis of hair samples from 1044 women of reproductive age in 37 locations across 25 countries on 6 continents revealed that 42% of women sampled had mercury levels over the US EPA limit level of 1 ppm, above which brain damage, IQ loss, and kidney damage may occur. Additionally, 53% of the global sample exceeded the level 0.58 ppm of mercury, a level now associated with the onset of fetal neurological damage. Exposures were higher and more pervasive in communities near mercury gold mining, in the Pacific Islands, and in communities near industrial contamination.”
  22. New laws will weaken our restrictions on mercury emissions. We will be dooming people to nervous system, skeletal, and blood disorders and putting poison in our oceans. Thes laws are a “major weakening’ of mercury rules. Folks, that’s madness!

Is your purse big enough and other bookish concerns

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My great grandfather’s copy of The Last Puritan with a green cover. Keep or throw? Read below.

My first published novel will soon be out of print! The publisher, a small one, decided to close because of declining e-book profits. Ebooks have been good money makers for small and independently published books. They offer a better percentage payback for authors. They are low risk and low-cost alternatives to print books. At one time, a third of all readers bought them. But sales continue to drop. And I understand it. I haven’t read from my Kindle in months. Reading from a screen is not relaxing for me.

It’s not visual fatigue that is making ebooks less popular. Ebooks do not cause more eyestrain, especially if they are not read for over twenty minutes at a time and if you do not wear corrective lenses (although this is still being debated.) They may cause head and neck problems and most people find that glasses made for general use do not work with computers. This is because electronic print is not as crisp or clear as those created with ink and paper. E-reading many cause dry eyes as people do not blink as much when reading from an electronic page.

There’s a reason that people don’t enjoy e-books. Reading from “plasma” is different neurologically from reading on print. Screen reading is superficial and less deep. Your eyes jerk more. Your brain reads less completely. It’s skimming. It affects you. You become “cognitively impatient.” When you search for answers, you will tend to grab onto the simplest one, not the one that fits the data or information the best. You don’t dig in.

People don’t relish the page as they used to due to cognitive impatience. Novelists have adapted by writing “quick reads”–page turners– that are easy to follow and understand. Sometimes, this writing is formulaic. Critics say it is not “internal” enough and moves too quickly.  Supporters of the new, fast style say that these books are fun and exciting and less about the boring psychological struggles of rich, white people. I aspire to write in the middle in a niche form known as upmarket. You can see from my critics that I at times get blasted from both sides. However, it seems that “real” readers are rebelling not against the form but in the way it is presented. They demand print books. And yet, when an author submits a book for consideration, it’s understandably electronic, creating a gap between writing for print and getting your book in print.

This I find that cognitive impatience gets in the way when I grade on-line.  I’m okay for the first few papers and then, suddenly, I can’t take it all in. This is why when I grade a short story or research paper, I always print off a copy and write on it. Yes, I know that I can use many programs to allow me to comment on student papers electronically. It isn’t as deep. I write comments on their papers. Sometimes my students say that reading handwriting reminds them of their grandparents. I see this as a good thing.

The same thing is true when I write novels. I compose electronically but I must read paper, and over and over, as I polish the manuscript. Does this create a disconnect with readers? Who should I write for–print lovers or e-book fans? My latest book has sold more ebooks than print.

The situation is even murkier for professors. Print books are expensive and students use them for a limited time. They must be shipped and if students don’t order them promptly or if the books are backordered, they can miss many assignments. E-books are cheaper, easier to get,  and create less waste. However, I once had my students purchase an electronic lab manual, the only manual that came with our text, and they had a terrible time following the instructions. Now, I write and self-publish my own print manual and stress writing, on paper, a solid conclusion based on data for their lab reports.

There is also a mild debate about e-books in grade school. These can engage students, although some studies say that students have lower comprehension with e-books. Things such as flipping the pages of a book help with a tactile sensation that promotes understanding. My students tell me that unless they travel by air, they prefer print books. They agree that even the feel and smell of books is  part of the experience. One says, “A sign of a good purse is how many books you can fit into it.”

Another concern is that although blue light from computer screens is safe for adults, it may damage the eyes of children. Blue light creates alertness which is probably why we love screens. Blue light before  bed can mess up our sleep cycles and cause daytime sleepiness and poor performance in school.

There’s a downside to print books. Paper books carry a danger–they can house mold, mildew, dust, bacteria,  and particulates–these are associated with health problems in librarians! Some library books have been found to contain bed bugs and traces of cocaine.  You can remove mold and mildew from old books. You can prevent bed bug transfer by heating book bags in your clothes dryer. And bacteria can only live in a book for a few days.

There is one old book you must avoid. Green books older than the 1850s–those with covers and green print in pages–can contain arsenic.  Do not buy or keep these books. 

It’s a good idea to periodically cull old books from your shelves for the health reasons outlined above. You can always store your favorite classics on your e-reader. My great-grandfather’s book ( shown above) is worth about $15 at most. It made me cough when I opened it. I’m not sure I can part with it just yet because it’s one of the only things I have of him.

As for brains maxed out on high tech reading, neuroscientists recommend a two week respite from-e-reading to help your brain recover. So if you need a break, go ahead, get that big purse or backpack–large enough for two weeks of print reading and take it along on your next vacation.

Old books on wooden table
Magic or mildew? An old book could carry both. Replace those old copies!

 

Here’s a link to the print version of Wolves and Deer.

Prefer e-book? Here’s an excerpt and link for that.

Would you rather read a futuristic novel? Click here for Mixed In.