Saturday, April 23, 2011

Biosolids Are Used As Fertilizers!

...Just some food for thought.  

Fertilizer: any substance, natural or synthetic, added to soil to increase its capacity to support plant growth.
- This includes a variety of nitrates and minerals, and manure. Usually animal manure. This type of fertilizer is ideal because it contains recycled nutrients from the plants the animals eat.

Biosolids: human waste, treated to be used as fertilizer.
- That is, sewer sludge that has been filtered, and can be used to make plants grow faster. In some countries, it is used as a type of fertilizer, and is considered very beneficial.
- Same thing as animal manure, right? No, I didn’t think so either.

But before you spit out any of your vegetables, you should know why biosolids are used as fertilizers in the first place. Here, out in the big cities of the West, we’re very, well, Westernized. We’re not used to getting our hands dirty. Sewage is exactly that. Not only does the thought of it in our foods make most of us want to gag, there are also many logical reasons why we wouldn’t want it near our food. Pharmaceuticals and other drugs, hormones, flame-retardants, metals, and other potentially harmful things have been found in biosolids. Humans carry diseases; they ingest unhealthy foods everyday; they breathe pollution.

However, keep in mind that this is taken into consideration. The use of biosolids is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). Special care is taken during the intensive treatment process, in order to ensure that only healthy nutrients are left in the biosolids before they are put into soil. Plants grown with biosolids are carefully monitored, and the treatment plants are kept a safe distance from residential areas. Though there have been concerns from those who live near these farms, there have yet to be any significant health risks linked to the use of biosolids.

Biosolids are a valuable source of nutrients for growing crops, and improving pasture. They contain nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter, as well as minerals like copper, iron and zinc, which would otherwise have to be bought separately and added to soil. Biosolids enhance soil structure, making it more permeable and allowing it to hold in moisture longer. They improve soil fertility for much cheaper than commercial fertilizers. This cuts costs for both the farmers and the consumers.

One of the greatest benefits of using biosolids as fertilizer is that it is good for the environment. Some would go so far as to say it completes the natural cycle, if our waste was to be recycled to grow our food. Rather than sewage ending up in landfills, it is better that its valuable nutrients are put to good use. If we can find a way to reduce pollution, we must do it.

The potential stakeholders in this situation are the consumers. Our health is in the hands of farmers when it comes to the foods we buy and eat. While biosolids are a valuable resource, and have the potential to improve crops, cut costs, and help the environment in the long run, caution must be taken. Farmers, and all who play a role in the production of our foods, have the responsibility of ensuring that these fertilizers are properly treated, and that biosolid plants do not affect the health of the public.

And I have my sources... 

Also, check out Claudia and Kendra's blogs:

Biosolids as Agricultural Fertilizer?!?!?!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Way To Go, Bigelow!

Canadians have made many great contributions to modern medicine, and our understanding of the human body. The discovery of Insulin is a well-known Canadian contribution. You may have also heard of Pablum, a cereal for infants containing the vitamins needed healthy development. What about the discovery of the T-cell receptor, a contribution to drug development? There’s also the Cobalt Bomb, first used in Canada in 1951, the first cancer treatment with high enough radiation to cure deep tumors. The list goes on and on…

Canadians have also made significant efforts in cardiovascular research. In particular, Canadian surgeon and hypothermia researcher Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, whose research allowed the first open-heart surgery on a human.

Though it is believed that heart surgery began in the 19th century, operating inside the heart is much newer. Before the 1950s, when a patient had a heart defect, doctors were limited to external repairs, because there was no way to safely stop blood flow.

Through Dr. Bigelow’s hypothermic research in the early 1940s, some involving the study of hibernating animals, he discovered that lowering the temperature in the limbs also reduced the amount of oxygen required for that part of the body. He applied this knowledge to the internal organs of the body, and concluded that hypothermia would allow doctors to operate on the heart without killing other organs or destroying the heart itself. In 1952, the first open-heart surgery was performed on a 5-year-old girl who had a hole in her heart.

Interrupting circulation meant disrupting oxygen flow to vital organs, like the brain, causing fatal damage. The lower temperature reduced the oxygen requirement, but this was not effective for very long. When the heart-lung pump was invented, this became part of the procedure, an addition to the cold chemicals that are injected into the coronary arteries.
Today, though this is still a highly effective method of open-heart surgery, surgeons have not stopped improving their methods. It is now possible to perform an operation on a beating heart, though one that has been stabilized so that it is almost still, which has in some cases proved safer. There is even robot-assisted surgery, introduced in 1999; less invasive, a surgeon operates robotic arms which enter small holes cut in the chest, so that the chest is not wide open and bones remain untouched. The heart can also pump naturally, reducing recovery time and risk.
Dr. Bigelow, along with Dr. John Callaghan, is also credited with the idea of the pacemaker. Though the first pacemaker was not used until much later, Bigelow discovered in 1949, that by prodding a stopped heart with a probe, he could make it restart. He and Bigelow began to work with the idea that en electric shock to the heart could achieve the same affect. Thus, the pacemaker eventually came about.
It’s amazing how far we’ve come in medical technology, and amazing what researchers have and continue to achieve. It takes many minds to devise and improve something as great as heart surgery, yet there is no doubt that even a single idea can lead us into the future.

Like I said, there's a much longer list. Here's two more of our life-saving accomplishments:

It's true...we can't live without technology.

First In Canada to Use Endoscopic Ultrasound Technology

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sustain or Industrialize?

That is the question.

A question that the agricultural industry is faced with; and it becomes more demanding with the growing population, and the looming threat of global warming. What it comes down to, really, is convenience and profit versus health and the environment. Industrial agriculture is clearly the more efficient and profitable method of farming. With it, we rely on a few productive breeds of livestock and crops.

Only a select few crops are grown year after year to reduce production costs, thus creating a higher profit for the farmers. Growing certain, more productive crops in bulk is efficient, but it reduces the diversity of plants. The plants that are grown tend to get attacked by pests and weeds due to lack of crop rotation, and so more pesticides and fertilizers are needed. These chemicals go into the food that we consume, and run off into rivers and streams, causing harm to humans and the environment.

On farms where industrial agriculture is practiced, they have huge amounts of livestock. Like with the crops, they are farmed for speed, quantity, and profit, rather than quality. Animals are genetically modified to be fatter, and therefore worth more meat. These specialized animals are kept in filthy, crowded conditions, and are susceptible to disease. This is potentially harmful to us, and cruel to the animals. The most common example of this would be chickens. They are grown to unnatural sizes and so many of them are crowded in tiny spaces on these farms.

Industrial agriculture causes pollution and soil destruction, it consumes large amounts of water and energy and uses many chemicals that polute the water. It is cruel to animals, and it will have a disastrous long term effect on our environment and its biodiversity.
Why then, do we do it? Profit, of course, why else? The cheap products brought about by industrial agriculture benefits the farmer and the consumer – but only from a financial point of view. This is not a good enough reason.

Some have questioned if agriculture is going to be able to keep up with the steady increase in population. With the speed at which industrial agriculture produces, we are, in fact, overproducing some foods. The problem is not producing more food for today’s population, but sustaining our resources so that we can feed populations of the future, with natural products, grown from uncontaminated soil and water.

This is where sustainable agriculture comes in, the readily available alternative. The number of ways to produce and consume sustainable foods continues growing. Sustainable agriculture does not use the methods of industrial agriculture, such as genetically modifying plants and animals. Instead, plants are grown naturally, reducing the risk of contamination and using less harmful chemicals in the making. Sustainable techniques include using natural pesticides and no-till cultivation to prevent soil erosion, all benefiting the environment. The short term health benefits and long-term environmental advantages, outweigh the immediate convenience of industrial farming. When it comes to what we consume, and what we put into the environment, quality, not quantity, should be our first priority.  


The more you know...!
Click on these links to see what these people had to say.

The foods we eat could kill tons of other species!

Stop Before It's Too Late!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beautiful Babies

"Love me the way I am!"
“Designer babies” is a term used by the media to describe choosing the characteristics of babies before birth. In scientific terms, it is selecting and modifying genes for desirable traits. This means that they can screen for diseases in the embryos and only implant the healthy embryos into the mother, creating only healthy babies.

Sounds good right? To scientists, yes, but there is controversy in the media. There are people who stand against this because of ethical concerns. The fear is that we will take this too far, and eventually start choosing the traits of children for cosmetic purposes rather than just medical.

Yes, one day it could be possible to decide everything from your child’s eye colour to their brain capacity. Today, however, we can’t do more than screen for heritable diseases. This process is called Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This is done in embryos created through InVitro Fertilization, basically where an egg and sperm from the parents are taken to a lab and fertilized there, then implanted in the mother’s womb. During PGD, these embryos are screened for certain diseases, and those affected are not implanted.

To those who feel it is wrong to choose the traits of a baby, making them picture-perfect, those who think that in choosing their DNA we’re treating them more like dolls than human beings, I agree. We would be tampering with life, with the gift of a child. But, to those people, I would like to say that you need not worry about that! Not yet, at least. Currently the option to choose a child’s sex, let alone eye colour, is not even available. It’s possible, but not 100% effective, and nowhere near affordable.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis is most commonly suggested for couples with known heritable diseases, or older couples whose children would also run the risk of genetic defects. Personally, I don’t see the unethical aspects of this process. Couples who may not have wanted children, because of the risk of diseases being passed on, can now ensure a healthy child. People who would have had an abortion in light of bad diagnosis during pregnancy, could prevent this, and a life could be saved.

Yes, people could abuse this technology if science allows us to choose the cosmetic traits of our child. It is wrong to put a child at risk for superficial reasons, and I am completely against this. But protesting PDG because of these possibilities is like protesting medical school because you are against cosmetic surgery. Many people are against it because they think it is an unnecessary risk, a waste of money, or simply unethical. But even these people cannot protest research on the human anatomy and practice of safe surgical alterations. The ones that allow us to save people with injuries or illnesses, as well as make cosmetic procedures possible. This is the same with the concept of PDG. Currently, all this procedure does is allow us to prevent babies from diseases before pregnancy, and save lives.

♀      ♂      ♀      ♂     ♀     ♂      ♀     ♂

♀      ♂      ♀      ♂     ♀     ♂      ♀     ♂
Interested in this topic? Wanna learn more? Want another opinion?
Check out:

What's Wrong With My Baby? by Claudia

The Ideal Baby...It Could Be Yours! by Dora

(You'll find my comments there, too.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


There are millions of differents species of plants and animals on Earth, and still so many remain undiscovered. Of the known plants and animals, it is estimated that 50% live in the tropical rainforests.

With warm temperatures year round, and near daily rainfall, the rainforest has the ideal conditions for sustaining. Thus, rainforests contain the most biodiversity, and provide us with the widest range of resources of all ecosystems.

The Maues Marmoset

Rainforests are home to countless millions of the most amazing species of plants and animals. Some with millions in their population, other with only dozens. The Maues Marmoset, a tiny monkey the size of your hand lives entirely in a few square miles of the Amazon rainforest. Here you’ll also leopards, jaguars, apes, toucans, billions of insects, chameleons, poison-dart frogs, sloths, fish, the fourteen-foot boa, birds, river dolphins, manatee, and humans…To name a few.

The Jaguar

The Tree Frog

  Many of these species have not been able to adapt quickly enough to the rapid changes that humans are making to their environment, taking resources unsparingly and giving nothing back. An average of 35 rainforest species becomes extinct every day. We are losing rare, even undiscovered animals and plants that are used for medicinal cures, more than 99% of which have yet to be tested. Tropical rainforest cover only about 7% of Earth’s land surface, yet tens of millions of acres are being destroyed every year. Our rainforests are disappearing.

The Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization founded in 1988. Their aim is to protect the rainforests, using practical solutions, and often by teaming up with other organizations. Some of the threats that they are fighting include logging, clearing for farms and ranches, over-hunting and -fishing, charcoal production, mining and exploration, road building and industrial plants, and oil extraction.

Some of the RCF projects include work around the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Conservation Area, in the Amazon basin of northeast Peru. Here they fight for the animals as well as for the rights of the people who live in parts of the Amazon, whose homes are being threatened by industrial plans. They want to protect the reserves around the Tahuayo River. They are also working with the Universidad de Golfito Foundation in the last remaining tropical rainforest in Costa Rica, which has become too small to ensure the long term survival of its endangered species. They intend long-term to purchase 5000 hectares of this rainforest in order to protect more of it from being taken down.

For all the reasons listed above – the beauty and importance of our tropical rainforests – the work of the RCF is very significant. One of the most effective things they are doing is raising awareness, because the loss of our rainforests is everyone’s business. We will all be affected, and more people need to take a stand against the destruction of our natural ecosystems.


Also check out:

The Second Incision: Coral Reefs

Saving the Penguins!

(You'll find my comments there, too)