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Dysfunction - May 17

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Goodbye, girls

Chris Lydgate, Pamplin Media Group via Portland Tribune
Researcher ponders why U.S. kids reach puberty at an ever-younger age
If historical statistics are any guide, the average girl in northern Europe in the 1830s entered puberty - defined by menarche, or the onset of menstruation - at approximately 17 years of age. Today, chances are that her American counterpart will have her first period at about 12 and a half.

Other signs of sexual maturity also are appearing sooner. Half of all girls in the U.S. show breast development by their 10th birthday, 14 percent by the time they’re 9.

The acceleration is so pronounced that in 1999 American pediatricians redefined the threshold of “normal,” scaling it back to 8 for white girls and 7 for black girls (who tend to reach puberty significantly earlier.)

This relentless erosion of girlhood - echoed across the more affluent nations of the world - is tripping alarm bells for researchers, environmentalists and parents.

First, girls who hit puberty sooner are more likely to wind up with a long list of health and social problems.

Second, it raises the unpleasant possibility that something sinister in our environment may be sabotaging the complex hormonal system that governs sexual development.
(15 May 2008)

Environmental results of the Gold Rush
(text and video)
Laura Anthony, KGO
The California Gold Rush was a time of great excitement and prosperity. During a seven year period, from 1848 to 1855, more than a half million people came to California to pull gold from the Sierra Foothills.

Many found their fortunes, many more did not. but some say the greatest legacy of California's rush for gold was in the toxins and environmental damage left in its wake -- a legacy that still hasn't been fully examined to this day.

... "The primary thing we're concerned about is mercury, which was left behind by the miners. Millions of pounds of mercury are in our environment here," said [Elizabeth Martin from the Sierra Fund].

During the Gold Rush, miners used mercury to extract the precious metal from quartz and stone.

... Dr. Roger Hicks is director of a Grass Valley health clinic. He thinks studies of mercury as a potential cause for developmental delays, retardation and other health problems he sees in local communities are long overdue.

"There's a saying in medicine. You'll never find a fever if you don't take a temperature," said Dr. Hicks. "My concern is with chronic mercury poisoning, which is a little bit, everyday, over time."

... It took just a short time to leave the massive environmental scars still seen at Malakoff Diggins, north of Nevada City. In the late 1800's, it was the site of the world's largest hydraulic gold mining operation.

When Malakoff Diggins was in full operation, they had eight giant cannons shooting 100,000 gallons per minute of water onto the hillsides in the Sierra Foothills, 24 hours per day.

In 30 years, 41 million cubic yards of earth had been excavated at Malakoff, leaving an open pit over a mile in length and as much as 600 feet deep.
(14 May 2008)
Our actions live on. -BA

Not as green as they claim to be

Beth Daley, Boston Globe
... As the world goes eco-friendly - even eco-vodka is coming to martini bars - it's not clear how much environmental good will come from all the green products consumers are buying. Companies regularly tout something as green when it is not even good for the environment - it might just be less harmful than a competitor's product or than one the company sold previously.

Few companies out and out lie, but they often use vague terms with no defined meaning, such as "earth friendly," or tout an environmental benefit while leaving out the environmental harm their product can cause.

Consumers in the United States are expected to double their spending on green products and services in the next year to an estimated $500 billion, according to an annual consumer survey by Landor Associates. Turn on the television or walk down any store aisle, and it's impossible to escape products and services being sold as greener: potato chips, household cleaners, garage doors - even trash hauling.
(14 May 2008)

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