Archive for March, 2014

Winter Confidence with Microspikes

March 11, 2014

What an awesome winter we are having! New Hampshire winters inspire snow bunnies to head south and arctic hares to stay north and enjoy the full bloom of the season. We comment on all the variations of snow from light fluffy stuff to the wet snow that remains draped on evergreens in soft ermine stoles. To enjoy the snow and get around safely, a pair of Microspikes, hardened stainless steel spikes on an elastomer harness that stretches over shoes or boots, is indispensable.

Like it or not, winter in NH also includes dealing with ice on both ends of the spectrum.We find surprise patches of ice wherever water runs or rain collects or frost heaves. On weekends, cars fill every trailhead parking lot that is plowed out. Magnificent frozen waterfalls reflect their mineral colors like crystal palaces in the sun. Word quickly passes for the best time to see them. Places like Smart’s Brook, the Flume, Bridal Veil Falls, and Mt. Pemigewasset can all be accessed with relatively short hikes, but foot gear that stands up to the inevitable ice spots is essential.

Snow shoers make the first trails after significant storms. Trails soon become well packed throughout the White Mountains by inspired New Hampshirites as well as visitors. Except for new snow, microspikes mean the difference between slip-sliding our way along a trail or walking with confidence whether on level or graded paths. The spikes come in several different sizes to fit over different size shoes or boots. Now is a good time to check out which sporting goods stores near you carry the spikes, what size you need, and when seasonal reduced sales begin.

Winter hiking usually takes less effort as we encounter frozen stream crossings and enjoy better traction going uphill or downhill with the spikes. With snow cover there are fewer obstacles to negotiate. You can just plant your foot where you want to go. A recent hike over Welch-Dickey was a cake walk. 2-3 feet of snow unscrambled most of the usual scrambles, and microspikes made the hike actually less strenuous than in summer.

In winter, giant granite slabs leading up to summits are turned into snow fields calling for sunglasses; spruce/fir forests become magical adventures that must have also inspired children’s book illustrators and cinematographers. Cairns that mark the trail in open areas may be buried except for a few layers of top stones; Jack Pines are turning gold and spring is definitely in the air.

One of the added benefits of regular exercise that heats up your core temperature when walking uphill, brisk walking, peddling a bike, climbing stairs, or lifting weights means there is less need to turn up the thermostat at home. We are saving on the heating bill while keeping our circulation doing what it is meant to do best. Exercise gets heart rate up, improves color and breathing.

One of the ways to improve lung capacity is to practice 2 to 1 breathing. Let your breath be your speedometer. Make your exhalations twice as long as your inhalations and shift gears whenever needed to be able to keep the ratio 2:1 with your mouth closed. Example: 6 paces/counts out, 3 paces/counts in. Shift down (4:2, 2:1) whenever you have to open your mouth to breathe. Stop for a rest when needed. Watch what happens when your body naturally begins to take deeper breaths in sync with regular exercise.

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What’s This About Tritan, the new ‘BPA-Free” Plastic?

March 5, 2014

This week we learned that Tritan, the new plastic being used in commercial products, including the new bins Whole Foods is renovating their stores with, is more estrogenic than BPA (Bisphenol-A), the plastic we have been trying to avoid. Now, we learn that Tritan, produced by Eastman Chemicals, is not being regulated by the EPA due to slick maneuvering reminiscent of the Tobacco industry’s saga which claimed that tobacco smoke was not a health hazard.

Mariah Blake‘s piece in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, “The Scarey New Evidence on BPA-free Plastics: And the Big Tobacco-style campaign to bury it,” sounds an alarm for us. We learn that the BPA-free Nalgene, Camelback, Evenflo, Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and Cuisinart products we thought were safe, all contain Tritan, without warning labels for us.

Plastic water bottles have also been found to be estrogenic, with increasing amounts of the chemicals released into water when exposed to UV waves, left in the car, sitting on grocery shelves, or run through the dishwasher. There is a long list of estrogenic health problems, including brain and organ development in utero, cancer, diabetes, obesity, problems with bone growth, ovulation, heart function, and more.

When George Bittner, professor of neurobiology at U Texas-Austin released a research paper he coauthored in the NIH (National Institutes of Health) journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, stating that virtually all commercially available plastics were estrogenic, he was successfully sued by Eastman Chemicals. How is this possible? Simple: for their research tests, Eastman used Charles River Sprague Dawley Lab Rats, which are insensitive to estrogens and can stand a 100x higher dose than can humans without effect. The jury did not grasp the significance of this ploy. Of course, their results were negative.

The above tactics, combined with well-oiled rhetoric in the court proceedings that snowed the jury, mean that our health effects were jeopardized again, just as in the tobacco years.

According to Blake, “The EPA quietly withdrew a request for White House approval to add some endocrine disrupting chemicals- among them BPA [and others] to its ‘chemicals of concern’ list because it found that they may present an unreasonable risk to human health. This would require chemical makers to share safe-testing data with federal regulators.” This despite the 1996 law passed by congress requiring the EPA to screen 80,000 chemicals for endocrine-disrupting effects and report back by 2000. That report has not been forthcoming.

Meantime, for our own safety, we need to consider storing foods in glass jars, give tap water the respect it deserves, check out stainless containers for our packs, and look to whole foods a meal at a time, as we create safety measures that give us some control over our health.