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Friday Finds: The Clean Air Diet

Forget Fritos: Air pollution may be making people fat
Sure, it’s got nothing on the much-hyped “Paleo Diet,” but a new theory that air pollution may be making us fat could provide one more bullet in the never-ending arsenal of dieting ticks and trips that people can use to lose weight. According to Discovery News, just as the oceans are becoming more acidic as they sequester more carbon dioxide, studies show that our blood becomes more acidic when we breathe in CO2-laden air, even just for a few weeks. But though higher acidity in the ocean means weaker coral reefs and shell-covered creatures, a drop in pH in our brains acts much differently by making appetite-related neurons fire more frequently, which could result in us eating more, sleeping less and, eventually, gaining more weight. Though the theory hasn’t yet been heavily tested, previous studies have shown that the issue of obesity goes far beyond cutting calories and exercising more. And, even if the theory doesn’t pan out, clean air is definitely tied to a whole host of other great health benefits, like not dying early, so take a deep breath!

History shows that “drill, baby, drill” mentality doesn’t lower gas prices
The commonly held notion that more domestic drilling leads to lower U.S. gas prices is completely false, reports the Associated Press, which came to the conclusion after analyzing more than three decades’ of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production. Though both political parties are guilty of using the "drill, baby, drill" mentality to link higher gas prices to an "unfriendly" domestic drilling policy, the facts tell an entirely different tale. For example, since February 2009 we’ve increased oil production by 15 percent (yes, during the Obama presidency, which is supposedly extremely unfriendly to domestic energy production), yet between 2009 and 2012 prices at the pump spiked by more than a dollar during that time. The reason, much to Americans’ dismay, is that since oil is a global commodity, neither the U.S. nor our president has much say in determining the price of gasoline. We do, however, have a say in how much gas we use, which means that the only real way to decrease the amount that we pay at the pump is to, simply, use less gas by driving more gas-efficient cars and taking public transit, to name just a few examples.

EPA deems flammable fracking water “safe” to drink
Last week, the EPA announced that water in Dimock, Penn. is safe to drink, despite dangerous levels of methane gas, reports ProPublica. Since 2009, Dimock residents have been complaining, and rightly so, that fracking near their homes has resulted in widespread contamination of nearby water sources. Three years later, the EPA finally got around to testing whether the water was indeed contaminated by fracking. After testing 11 out of 60 homes, the EPA found that in addition to high methane levels, “dozens of other contaminants, including low levels of chemicals known to cause cancer and heavy metals that exceed the agency’s ‘trigger level” were present in the water. Technically, drinking methane won’t kill you, but it will blow up your house or smother you if you breathe too much of it. But, not surprisingly, that technicality doesn’t really sit well with those unfortunate enough to be located near fracking, which is why Earthjustice is working on several fronts to protect the environment and human health from the many threats of fracking.

Congressman uses clever tactic to get BPA ban
In the past few years, many public health and safety groups have asked the government to ban the plasticizing chemical bisphenol A (BPA) on the grounds that it’s been linked to everything from heart disease to sexual dysfunction, all to no avail. Recently though, Rep. Ed Markey (D) took a different tactic in trying to eliminate the chemical from baby bottles, soup cans, water bottles and other household items by asking the FDA to use a little known “abandonment” clause that allows people to ask for changes to food additive rules if they can prove that the additive is no longer being used for its original purpose, reports the Washington Post. And, in fact, BPA isn’t used much anymore. Thanks to repeated pressure by consumers and public interest groups, many companies—including BPA’s top four producers—no longer use BPA or are in the stages of phasing it out. (Just this month, Campbell’s Soup Company announced its own plans to phase out the chemical.) BPA’s lack of use, coupled with the chemical industry’s similar request for the government to officially ban BPA in order to provide clarity to consumers, may just be the push that the government needs to finally kick BPA in the can.

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