Friday, November 30, 2007

Premature puberty, pesticides, and breast cancer

A special report by PESTed hero Sandra Steingraber was released by The Breast Cancer Fund a few weeks ago, called The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls. Early onset of puberty in girls is a major risk factor for breast cancer, as well as for a host of other emotional and physical health issues related to body image and self-esteem, drug abuse, early sexual activity, and even likelihood of physical abuse. The report is a comprehensive review of the literature on premature puberty with analysis and recommendations that point to some really important themes -
* This is not a normal or natural trend. Average age at puberty for girls fell from the late teens to the early teens over 19th and 20th centuries, mostly due to improvements in nutrition and health care. However, current trends do not follow with the historical trend - average age of onset of menstruation has fallen only by a few months over the past 40 years, while average age of first breast development has fallen by 1 - 2 years. And, both numbers have fallen farther and faster for African American and Hispanic girls than for Caucasian girls.
* This is a racial and socioeconomic issue as much as it is a women's issue. Early-onset puberty is connected to a complicated matrix of other health issues that affect our hormones, including obesity, stress, pre-term birth and birth weight, level of physical activity, and exposure to chemical pollution in the environment. The result is that early-onset puberty and the health and emotional risks it brings are more common for people of color and low-income communities, who suffer disproportionately from all those other health risks.
* A precautionary approach to endocrine-disrupting chemicals - including pesticides - is needed! Compared with girls 40 years ago, girls today are exposed to a host of chemicals in their environment that may affect the functioning of their hormones in childhood and puberty, and that they may pass on to their own children during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Not least among these are pesticides, which contaminate our drinking water and food, and may also contaminate our homes, schools, childcare centers, and workplaces. We simply cannot afford to wait around to find out exactly how and why these chemicals could be hurting us before we take action to reduce or eliminate them from our environment. To do so would not only be imprudent, but unfair to our children, and to the socioeconomic groups that are most heavily affected.
Taking this report together with evidence that boys are also being negatively affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment, I feel all the more concerned, and strengthened in my resolve to work to reduce children's pesticide exposures in my community and my state. Looking at information like this should remind us that environmental responsibility isn't just about the environment - it's about social justice and fighting back against the very real health effects of racism and poverty, and it's about feminism and fighting for the sexual and reproductive health of girls and boys.

Please join me in making more responsible decisions about what you buy for your holiday celebrations, and all year round. For those of you here in North Carolina, here are some important ways to take action to reduce pesticide use at your child's school or childcare center, and to speak out for just and sustainable local agriculture. Also, check out The Breast Cancer Fund's ideas for "What You Can Do Personally and Politically."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

organic holidays

This week, as we gather with friends and family to give thanks for life's blessings, we also begin a frenzied holiday season. Chances are, the Thanksgiving holiday has got you thinking about gifts, parties, holiday baking and decorating, and a million more to-do list items. We've put together some resources to make your to-do list a little more sustainable, starting with organic Christmas trees:

Looking for an organic or sustainably-grown Christmas tree or wreath? Look no further than PESTed's annual guide, a great place to start your search.

PESTed also has a great archive of recipes for locally-grown North Carolina produce. Check out these tasty concoctions like sauteed collards, baked winter squash and apple crisp. Most of these great recipes come from our friends Anne Everitt and Susan Spalt, who both draw their ingredients lists from the Carrboro Farmer's Market.

Bloggers from around the environmental community are compiling resources for sustainable holiday celebrating and gift-giving this year. Check out this great sampling:
...and of course, one of the greenest gifts of all is a gift to PESTed. Check out our donations page to find out how to support our work, and how to make a donation in honor of a friend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Good news! Envelopes stuffed, Dole workers to be compensated

Good news: PestEd volunteers stuffed 1200 envelopes in about two hours last night. Good work, team! I'll include some pictures, below - when your fundraising appeal letter comes in the mail in a couple weeks, you'll know how it got stuffed.
Volunteers Maggie and Robyn stuffing envelopes on the left - check out that blur of envelope sealing action! New staffer Ana and volunteer Lee Ann stuff a monster stack of enveopes on the right. Great job, team!

And, the real good news: Nicaraguan farmworkers have been awarded $3.2 million dollars in a lawsuit against American company Dole Food, Inc. for exposing them to pesticides they say made them sterile. From a Nov 6 story in The LA Times:
A Los Angeles jury on Monday awarded $3.2 million to six Nicaraguan farmworkers who had sued Dole Food Co. Inc., arguing they had been rendered sterile some three decades ago by the international corporate giant's application of a banned pesticide on the plantations where they worked.

Jurors return today to consider whether Dole, and codefendant Dow Chemical Co., should be punished with more monetary damages. They will decide whether Dole acted maliciously in failing to warn its workers of the danger, and
whether Dow engaged in gross negligence in manufacturing the chemical. (...)
From Beyond Pesticides:
(...) The lawsuit accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (DBCP) to kill rootworms on banana plants. Until 1977, DBCP was used in the United States as a soil fumigant and nematocide on over 40 different crops. (...)
More information on DBCP from

You may also be aware that Dow Chemical is implicated in the Bhopal disaster, but according to a recent story from Agence France-Presse, Dow may finally settle with the Indian government on a clean up plan.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Envelope Stuffing Party this Weds!Come on down.

PESTed's having it's semi-annual Envelope Stuffing Party this Weds, Nov 7th, between 5 and 8 pm at our office in downtown Raleigh, and we're looking for volunteers to come help out! You can come for the whole time, or just a portion of it (whatever works best for you). We'll have some delicious food and drinks, and music too. It's a fun and easy way to support PESTed's work, and meet some other like-minded people who volunteer for us.

To RSVP, or for more information, please email us, or give us a call at (919) 833-1123.

Thank you!