Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Global Warming Affects Our Pets

Global warming has brought about extreme weather conditions, extreme cold or extreme heat, which can even come unexpectedly. Have you noticed how the weather nowadays can seem to be out of date or out of season? Yet when they come, they always seem to be at an intense level.

The Department of Pathology and Animal Health, University of Naples "Federico II", Naples, Italy warned, that the effects of these climate changes include the increase in numerous vector borne diseases. Vector in biology means an agent or organism capable of transmitting disease-causing microorganisms from one infected human being or animal to another. The most common vectors are mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.

Humans are not the only ones susceptible to the effects of these severe climate conditions. Even our pets who are supposed to have built-in adapters for wild life condition can be affected. Why not? We have sheltered and protected them just like our own offspring. We feed, bathe, and care for them to make them feel comfortable so they would never run away from home. Just like humans, pets would prefer to stay snug, cared for, and cozy in a loving home. However, they are the likely carriers of fleas and ticks.

According to the paper reviews of the university, one such vector borne parasite is called "Dirofilaria" and poses a great risk of infecting humans and animals because they are mosquito-borne parasites. The past summer temperatures had been ideal for the incubation of these parasites and its impact can spread in different parts of the world.

As winters have become shorter and milder, ticks have more time to be active during the year. In Europe, dog tick is said to be responsible for spreading a malaria-like disease called "canine babesiosis" to other countries that rarely experienced any such diseases in their communities. In other cases, ticks called  "Ixodes' medically pinpointed as responsible for tick-borne encephalitis that occur in horses and dogs, are now gaining greater density in Europe. Cat flea typhus, which used to be a rare disease, is now feared to become widespread in both dogs and cats.  

As responsible pet lovers and owners, our tendency is to treat our household pets with anti-flea products that contain insecticides. They may come in the form of shampoos, spray or dusting agents to make sure fleas will not thrive to cause discomfort in our pets. However, there is still another problem to contend with.

As early as June 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave out its warning that flea control products sold as shampoos, dips, and other forms of flea insecticides pose a threat to its users, handlers and the pet itself. Most of them contain some of the most dangerous pesticides collectively known as "organophosphate" (OP). Individually there are seven known "organophosphates" widely used in pet products. These are: malathion, dichlorvos, phosmet, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon, naled, and chlorpyrifos.

The CDC came out with this warning after several cases of children being hospitalized for "organophosphate" poisoning as a result of their exposure to pesticides found in their respective dogs or cats. The CDC further warned that children who will continuously be exposed to these toxic hazards face an increased risk of impaired brain development.

It was established that a child who is still in the developing stage of his or her nervous system is highly vulnerable to the toxic effects of "organophosphate". This report aims to bring to the consumer the knowledge that the anti-flea product they have patronized not only contribute to our environmental ruin but also threaten our health, especially that of our children.

Anti-flea shampoos are carried in water-run offs that will eventually find its way to canals, rivers and streams. Aerosol sprays evaporate and mingle in our atmosphere while dusting powders are particulate matters that contribute in polluting our air. There is a call to go green, which means changing our lifestyle including that of our pets, by utilizing products made from less hazardous raw materials.

There is a green and safer alternative to care for our pets.  The Natural Resources Defense Council suggests a little extra effort like regular washing and combing of pets as well as cleaning of furniture and vacuuming of carpets can control cases of mild flea infestations. If necessary, there are other newer substances known as insect growth regulators not classified as pesticides but as chemicals that are effective in arresting the propagation of young fleas. They are safe to spray and apply on our pets since the ingredients were verified to be non-hazardous.  

Based on the above report, the facts presented to the buying public aim to convince them of the need to go green. Change must also come from them because they are the end users and hazardous wastes result from their use of non-eco friendly goods. Increasing the public's demand for green products can lessen the demand on products made from toxic raw materials. 

Hopefully, we will finally see the day that environmental concerns for toxic wastes and pollution will become a thing of the past.  Don't you think it's about time we stopped using toxic products and all other consumer goods that result to toxic wastes? 

For your guide to green products, visit The GreenAbility. it's also a good place to learn more.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Quality of Air We Breathe

Accordingly, air pollution in the U.S. stems not only from the pollution originating from the country’s sources of air pollutants but also includes air borne pollution coming from global sources. Hence, tracking which source is the greatest contributor to air pollution, presents difficulties. The air moves along with the pollutants thus, the levels of pollution will differ from one place and one moment to another.   

This being considered, it would be best to place greater concentration on the sources of air pollutants in general. The most powerful emitters of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are the power plants, cars and trucks, and industrial smoke stacks. Most of the pollutants travel while in the air and eventually forms the acid rain that we now know of. As soon as they precipitate, it rises in the form of rain or snowfall and goes back to the ground.

The major sources of mercury pollution are the coal-fueled power plants and industrial waste incinerators. All these sources include carbon dioxide in their emission hence; it remains the most inexhaustible of all the greenhouse gasses that has continued to damage the Earth’s atmosphere.

The American Lung Association’s listings of the most air polluted state are based on the number of hospital admissions within a particular area; this admissions or hospital visits pertained to treatment of patients for health problems linked to long or short-term exposure to particulate matters that pollute the air. The statistics included deaths aggravated by the said type of air pollution. Hence, the state with the most number of health cases linked to air pollution reported, qualifies as the area with the highest level of pollution.

In the U.S., the consensus is that, California still holds the title of being the state with the highest level of air pollution. In fact, four of California’s metropolis, San Bernardino, Riverside, Bakersfield, and Fresno lead the pack of California’s collective cities and counties listed in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report as of 2006. Liberty, Pittsburgh comes in next as the first area outside of California to have the highest level of air pollution while Dearborn, Michigan holds the title to being the second area outside of California to have high level of air contaminants. 

Certain political views blamed the Bush administration for the worsening of the air pollution in some state. Certain changes in the enforcement of policies to ensure air quality involved relaxing inspection requirements. Under the relaxed rule, states are required to inspect pollution sources only once in every five years, in spite of the presence of factories that were previously monitored to have given off tons of harmful pollutants during the past years.

America’s children are reportedly paying the price for this disregard in ensuring clean air in our environment. Asthma has become prevalent   and now a major health issue since medical statistics shows asthma as the leading cause of children’s hospitalization during the past years. Parents are now faced with the dilemma of forcing their kids to stay indoors.

However, indoor air pollution is another issue.

Read a related article about Air Pollution in the U.S.  

Do We Keep Our Kids Safe from Pollution by Keeping Them Confined Indoors?

Staying indoors most of the time does not guarantee our protection from air pollution. People, particularly children, often suffer from asthma attacks despite staying within the confines of their homes. Some of us may not be aware of it but indoor pollution is also a threat to our health and that of our children’s. Some of the medically verified allergens we should be aware of are:

  • The secondhand smoke exhaled by a family member, as he or she exhales the cigarette, pipe, or cigar inside an enclosed room or car. 

  • The dust mites, who are too minute to be perceived by the human eye but can be sensed by our olfactory system; these allergens can be present in almost every home, in bedding materials, mattresses, stuffed toys, curtains, and upholstered furniture.

  • Molds that thrive on wet or damp areas often found in bathrooms, kitchen, and particularly the basement. The growth of mold spores is accounted during rainfalls followed by great humidity or in rooms where there are cold and dry conditions.

  • Cockroaches and other insects are carriers of allergens in the form of their droppings and secretions. We know for sure that these pests are capable of these things but it is something not totally visible to us. Hence, they merely evaporate in our surroundings and become part of the air that we breathe indoors. Eliminating them in our households as much and as often as possible lessens the composition of our indoor air pollution.

  • Our pet’s skin also sheds off flakes and fine particles of hair not to mention other secretions they may leave in their litter boxes or in the specific spots in our homes that they consider as their special places. We may have provided them with scratchboards or mattresses, but could take us a week or more before we could attend to. The accumulation however can rise in the air and becomes part of the air we breathe.

  • Nitrogen Dioxide, the emission that comes from our indoor fuel burning equipment especially if our homes do not have enough air vents. These are fuel burners such as gas stoves, gas space heaters, wood stoves, gas or oil furnaces, and unvented kerosene fueled heaters.

Our children are at risk from both indoor and outdoor pollutants. Statistics gathered from hospitals, place asthma as the number one cause for hospitalization among children while schools have recorded asthma as the leading reason for student absences.  

These are certain environmental issues that cause detrimental risks to our health. The call for change and order can get a good start right in our own homes.