Let’s Promote Environmentally Friendly Ways Of Working

Did you know that it is not just paper work but also computer work and the Internet which have a strong environmental impact? How? Mainly because of servers.

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There are about 3 million data centers in the US alone and 8.4 million worldwide. Data centers and computers need huge amounts of power to send, filter, and read messages. The information communications and technology industry –internet and cloud services – produces more than 830 million tons of CO2 every year. That adds up to about 2% of all global CO2 emissions and about 7% of the world’s electricity.

These data centres also require huge amounts of water. In fact, most of the energy used  is to keep processors cool as these heat up from being in use 24/7, and increase water usage indirectly from water being used in the same way at the power plants they get their electricity from. In the US alone where most of these data centres are, these were responsible for consumption of 626 billion liters of water in 2014, which includes both water consumed directly at data center sites and water used to generate the electricity that powered them that year. The researchers expect this number to reach 660 billion liters in 2020” (Data Center Knowledge).

But the problem is not just water or energy usage per se but also the type of energy being used which is mainly fossil-fuel based. A 2016 Greenpeace report says the following: “The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels despite significant gains in energy efficiency and adoption of a commitment to 100% renewable energy because of the dramatic growth in new data center construction by cloud and colocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other hot spots that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the U.S.

Here is an interesting fact, ADEME (French environmental and energy management agency) cites that the average digital items (mail, download, video, web request) travels about 15,000 km before getting to your screen! Good grief!

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WHAT’S THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF EMAIL?

Spam e-mail: .3 grams of CO2
Regular e-mail: 4 grams of CO2
E-mail with large attachment: 50 grams of CO2

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ONLINE CARBON FOOTPRINT

  1. Be proactive about maintaining a small inbox. Remember that those e-mails from last year aren’t just sitting in your inbox, they’re requiring energy to store them on servers. Delete, delete, delete! (And unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters to lessen your work next time!)
  2. Stop sending unnecessary messages. When possible, avoid messaging and, communicate face-to-face. This avoids putting more strain on data centers as well as building up your work relationship.
  3. Support companies that use renewable energy to power their cloud. This is an article comparing Google, amazon and Microsoft re the greenest cloud. A rivetting read!
  4. Avoid vampire power. When your computer’s turned off but you’re still plugged in and charging, your device will draw .5 to 2 watts of energy per hour. Not a lot, but still… it all begins to add up. Make sure to unplug all electronic devices when not in use to conserve power.
  5. Can you try sending 5-10 less emails per day?

Good luck!

Let’s talk about Mouth washing- Part 1

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We eat, drink, love and talk with our mouth. Some even pull trucks and do other varied and wonderful things….and we also put in and take out stuff from it, sometimes rather carelessly too.

Have you ever thought of ALL the products you use in your mouth and how ecological and or sustainable they are? Did you just shudder? Don’t worry, below are some ways you can achieve zen-ness, and remember, EVERY step counts:

Tooth brush:

This simple tool has been around in many forms including chew sticks, toothpicks etc. for about 5000 years or more though it is believed that the toothbrush in its most known form originated in China in 1498. Press here for some fascinating  toothbrush history. Handles over the ages have been made from natural materials like bamboo, bone, ivory or wood and the bristles were made from hogs’ hair etc. During the 1900s though, celluloid (a type of thermoplastic) replaced these natural handles gradually. Jump to the 21st century and we see that plastic has so fully infiltrated toothbrush design that it’s nearly impossible to clean our teeth without touching a polymer. In modern manual toothbrushes, the handle is made from polypropylene plastic, the rubber grips are made from styrene-based thermoplastic elastomers and the bristles are made from nylon, which are all sourced from non renewable fossil fuels. And because plastic is essentially indestructible, that means nearly every single toothbrush made since the 1930s is still out there in the world somewhere, living on as a piece of trash. How horrific is that? If everyone around the world replaced their toothbrush every 3-4 months, as recommended by the American Dental Associations, about 23 billion toothbrushes would get trashed annually.

So, what can we do?

Check out bamboo toothbrushes

toothbrushThey are cool and tend to come in unbleached cardboard packaging but bear in mind a few things:

Get your toothbrush from sustainable, local  (when possible) and ethical companies.

Make sure to dispose of them properly. This shows you in detail how you can do that.

Many companies claim that their bristles are 100% biodegradable but many are made from nylon so make sure to check the material of your bristle ( If they are made of nylon, they will melt) before you dispose off the brush.

Check out recyclable heads for your electric toothbrush

If you love your electric toothbrush but also love ecology, you could investigate the 2 options below:

oral bApart from the non biodegradable products in the brush head itself, it is disgusting how 4/5 of the brush head is wasted. So, you could look for recyclable heads but check what they mean by “recyclable” as this doesn’t mean biodegradable and that you can throw the head in your composter or the plastic bin but rather, that you have to send it to the manufacturers for them to recycle.

 

toothbrush

 

I saw these Bamboo replacement heads online but not sure about them as you have to buy in gross (5000 pieces) plus they come from China and I am not sure how ethical or ecological they are. But they sure look good!

Let me know if you find a better option!

Check out less plastic in your toothbrush head

brushette

Look for companies like brushette.com where after a small initial investment in buying the tip holder, all you buy is the tip and save up not just on plastic but also on money. They send you an envelope where you collect the tips and once you have a reasonable amount, you send it back for them to recycle responsibly plus they credit your account. How cool is that.

Write to your toothbrush manufacturer asking for green and sustainable solutions

I am an eco nut but even I make some concessions. One of my few concessions is using an electric toothbrush because I always end up hurting my gums with a manual one. Worried about my own trash, I recently wrote to Oral-B Spain seeking solutions. I was disheartened as what they basically said was that they cared more for the hygiene and security of their products than the end of life of their own products. They had no solutions for the customer who ends up with tons of packaging and a non biodegradable product which adds to a landfill or mars nature- their solution was to basically put the problem on to othes. Weirdly enough, the UK site has an address where you can send your brush head for recycling. I guess the Brits care more about this topic than the Spanish, the French or the Americans ( Oral-B sites sites I checked). But you can be sure that if more of us write, they will start taking more and more care and look for sustainable alternatives to make their products from.

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Translation:

Dear Julie,
We thank you for taking the time to share your opinions and suggestions regarding the packaging and manufacturing of our products and we regret that you do not want to continue to use our heads.
Our first priority is to offer a hygienic and safe product to our consumers. We package each brush head individually because people normally use only one at a time. If several brush heads are packaged together, and that packaging remains open, they may be exposed to dust, bacteria or other potentially harmful substances that could affect users.
We strive to minimize the impact of packaging on the environment using mainly two components: PET plastic blisters and cardboard supports, both being recyclable materials.
Our current brushes and heads consist of multiple components and the options for processing these materials can be reported at your local recycling plant. We are working to increase the use of recycled materials and committed to launch recycling programs in as many countries as we can.
We continue working continuously to improve our products and in this sense, comments like yours are welcome. It means a lot to know how our users feel about the evolution of our products and packaging and I will be in charge of transmitting their comments to the corresponding Departments.
Sincerely,
Javier

 

 

What are E-Numbers? Are they good or bad for me?

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E numbers with the “E” standing for “Europe” are codes for substances used as food additives for use within the European Union and European Free Trade Association ( a trade organization consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

These codes relate to a set of EU rules about which foods can contain them and how much you should be able to consume in a day. Below is a quick guide to these numbers while in this link you have more detailed info.

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E numbers have had a lot of negative publicity but despite what you might think, when you research them in detail you find that not all E-numbers are harmful. Some examples:

  • Sulfite in wine:  Sulphur dioxide has been used in wine-making for thousands of years, ever since the ancient Romans discovered that it would keep their wine from turning into vinegar. In modern times, it is sometimes added during the fermentation process to prevent acidification (and preserve flavor), enhance color, and remove fermentation by-products such as acetaldehyde (which many scientists think cause hangovers—although, unfortunately, adding sulfites won’t make you hangover-immune either). Sulfites are common not only in wine, but in some ciders, dried fruits, and dried potatoes. E-numbers: 220-228
  • Nitrates and nitrites in cured meats: Curing red meats also includes adding sodium nitrate and potassium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve its color, prevent fats from becoming rancid, and killing harmful bacteria. You have these ingredients to thank for keeping you safe from illnesses—such as botulism poisoning—that are caused by food spoilage. E-numbers: 249-252
  • Antioxidants in pre-sliced fruits: Antioxidants are often added to pre-sliced fruits you buy in the store to remove oxygen and prevent browning. These and other fruits may be treated with ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, which has natural antioxidant characteristics. E-numbers: 170, 300, 302, 330
  • Preservatives in caviar: For those of you who can afford it or like it, guess how the shelf life and taste of caviar is preserved while avoiding bacterial activity? E-numbers: 284-285
  • Essential nutrients and vitamins: Many of these additives are actually essential nutrients and vitamins and are important for good nutrition. A few E-numbers essential for the human body are: E-numbers: 101 (vitamin B2), 300 (vitamin C), 306-9 (vitamin E) , 948 (oxygen!).

On the other hand, research into possible links between food colours and hyperactivity in children has found that consuming certain artificial food colours could cause increased hyperactivity in some children. These are called the Southampton Six and are:

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  1. E110: Sunset yellow FCF
  2. E104: Quinoline yellow
  3. E122: Carmoisine
  4. E129: Allura red
  5. E102: Tartrazine
  6. E124: Ponceau 4R

Food and drink containing any of these six colours must carry a warning on the packaging. This will say ‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.

And then, of course, there is all the debate about:

  • E621: the flavour enhancer, Monosodium Glutamate:
  • E250: the preservatives, Sodium nitrite and E251 or sodium nitrate
  • E211: the preservative, sodium benzoate
  • E282: the mould inhibitor, Calcium propionate
  • E951: the artifical sweetners aspartame and E952 or cyclamate
  • E320: the anti-oxidant, BHA –butylated hydroxyanisole. Etc……

UntitledSo, what is the take-away from all this? Well, that E-numbers are not all bad. And you really must educate yourself on food labels. However, as said in my last post on bio-accumulation, the less we expose ourselves to man-made chemicals, the better it is for our holistic selves. Ergo, always buy organic when possible and make most if not all your food at home. Avoid as much processed/ packaged food as possible so Be Happy and Stay Happy!

 

Bio-accumulation & Bio-magnification

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Picture Creator:Bridger

BIO-ACCUMULATION

WHAT?  As said in my previous post, Bio-accumulation is the gradual accumulation of harmful substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism.

HOW? One way is by an amount of the chemical coming into the living organism faster than the organism can break it down and use it. To put it simply, there is more input than output, therefore causing the chemical to accumulate in the organism.

The other main way is by the chemical coming into the living organism and the organism not being able to break it down or excrete it in any way whatsoever. Ergo, the chemical continues to accumulate until it eventually becomes deadly to the living organism.

Here are some examples of how this would occur: Let’s take car emissions – they are a huge contributory factor as they release chemicals into the air. Now picture these building up in trees and birds. Upon raining, these chemicals would then get washed out of the air and seep into the ground where they would certainly enter plants and the animals which eat these plants.

Another example is illustrated below and in water:

Bio accumulatiom

As humans, we sit at the top of the food chain, and those droplets of toxins in plankton/krill can be quite substantial by the time we ingest they get to us through the links in the food chain.

BIO-MAGNIFICATION

WHAT? Also known as bio-amplification/biological magnification, Bio-magnification is a cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance (e.g. pesticides, metals, etc.) as it moves up the food chain.

The below drawing nicely illustrates what this is, with mercury being the heavy metal

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HOW? Bio-accumulation occurs at the base of a food web, usually within primary producers like phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms absorb POPs or Persistent Organic Pollutants like DDT ( an insecticide) or PCBs (flame retardants) directly from the seawater and accumulate them in their bodies over time. The toxins build up in their tissues because they are absorbed from the water at a rate faster than they can be metabolized. Bio-magnification then occurs when slightly larger organisms called zooplankton feed upon the contaminated phytoplankton and in turn absorb POPs into their own tissues at a higher concentration. The POPs can be passed from producer to consumer (to consumer, to consumer, and so on…) Bio-magnification can continue all the way up the food web or chain. Because the amounts of POPs become more and more concentrated at each link in the food chain, some of the ocean’s apex predators are at risk of gaining potentially fatal levels of POPs within their bodies, like orcas for example.

EH?

Now consider this: All the toxins we ingest through our foods bio accumulate in our bodies and as apex predators, these toxins are bio-magnified through the food chain. To top it, we live in increasingly polluted cities and use products with known and unknown chemicals on our bodies ( soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, toothpastes, perfumes, makeup etc, in our homes ( detergents, air fresheners, anti-dust sprays, sprays to polish and clean furniture etc), in our offices ( sprays to clean surfaces, floor cleaners, air fresheners etc) far from nature in concrete jungles …is it any surprise that we are increasingly sick, depressed and unhappy? 

So, I feel one should reasonably avoid as many chemicals as possible and try to simplify life by making careful, sustainable choices which work out not just for us as individuals but us as a society. And in the long run, it will work out for your pocket too!

 

Parabens

methylWHAT? Parabens ( Cool tongue-twisting chemical names: parahydroxybenzoates – whoaaaaa or, esters of parahydrobenzoic acid) are a family of related artificially made chemicals. They are a white to off-white crystalline powder. The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics and food are methylparaben, propylparaben and ethylparaben. Butylparaben is also commonly used but just in cosmetics. As you can see from their names, they are quite easy to identify on labels. Until you come across E numbers, that is. More on those later….ethyl-e1528211243964

WHY? Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in pharmaceutical products and cosmetics as they reduce spoilage from air, fungi, bacteria, or yeast. They are also used as food additives as due to their above properties, they increase shelf life.

WHERE? In pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and cosmetics. Cosmetics that may contain parabens include makeup, moisturizer, hair care products and shaving products, among others. A few brands of deodorants might also contain parabens.

WHEN? The public hue and cry on parabens started whenpropyl P. D. Darbre et al (2004) published a study on parabens which suggested that these chemicals which mimic the female sex hormones (oestrogen) and/or damage genes at a celular level, when applied in bodycare cosmetics around the breast area could be a contributory factor in the rising cases of breast cancer. This was the first time that parabens had been shown to be present as intact *esters within the human body and in the human breast. But this study led to more questions than answers. alas, plus the subsequent villification of parabens by the media, despite the authors expressing the need for “larger studies.” So, what has happened since then? Many, many studies have since been done ( I will put the links to just a few) and they show the following:

  1. The concentration of parabens in human urine which confirms systemic human absorption. Here is a study and here another.
  2. The fact that methylparaben is the paraben that was detected at the highest level but possibly because of its wide usage in cosmetics and also because it penetrates the most into the skin. I could only access the abstract of the study by El Hussein et al., 2007, alas. Wish all studies could have open access!
  3. Accumulation of methylparaben can occur in the outermost layer of the skin through repeated usage of a product during the day and/or multiple applications of different products each containing parabens.
  4. The presence of parabens in raw sewage, whether through human excretion or as wash off products.
  5. Parabens in aquatic systems: secondary and additional treatment of wastewater shows that parabens and their derivatives which have become chlorinated once in contact with the chlorine in tap water, are NOT likely to produce biological effects. Thank god for small mercies!

HOW?Butyl

But, as per UC Berkley’s adjunct associate professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology, Dale Leitman, existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation. They fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk. Heard of Bioaccumulation? This is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism. Yup, merits another post!

So, what is my take on Parabens in general? Though the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel “supports the safety of cosmetic products in which parabens preservatives are used”, I would avoid ALL products with these due to their bio-accumulation in our bodies. 

DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid/advised by anybody to write/research the above. I have no links whatsoever to big pharma or any personal hygiene product company. The views in this post are my own.

*Ester: an organic compound made by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by an alkyl or other organic group. Many naturally occurring fats and essential oils are esters of fatty acids.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

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I don’t know about you but I am always suspicious of unpronounceable chemical names on labels. These 2 in particular are notorious and controversial as you will come across many sites saying that they cause no harm ( mainly personal hygiene product companies and others with a vested interest) and others vilifying them ( mostly bloggers ). To top it, many sites just quote others or add their own particular hot chilli mix.  So, could someone PUHLEASE clarify?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS):

WHAT? AAAAThis is a man-made organic compound which is mainly used in detergents. It is a white or cream-colored crystal, flake, or powder or a clear to yellowish thick fluid with a faint odor.

WHY? It is a highly effective surfactant. What does that mean, you say? Well, basically that it cleans by helping to dissolve elements which aren’t water-soluble, like fats/oils. It also creates foam/lather as it “solubilizes air” in water. However, its ability to foam has a negligible effect on the functional performance of the product as this is mainly to satisfy consumer demand, fuelled by media making us believe that foam cleans. It is used also for its thickening effect. The properties go on- it acts as a dispersion agent to properly mix the ingredients in fragrance oils and body sprays and lastly, it kills microbes. Sounds pretty useful, huh? No wonder it is so widely used.

WHERE? It is found in higher concentrations in industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps and in lower concentrations in toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream/foam and bubble bath It is used as a dispersing agent in creams, lotions, as a cleansing agent in cosmetics, a whipping aid in dried egg products and food additives and has an essential function in commerce in leather softening and wool cleaning, metal processing, as an emulsifier, penetrant in glaze, paint remover and an antifoaming agent in solid rocket propellants. It may, also, be used as a penetrant, flocculating and de-inking agent in paper industry.

HOW?  SLS is derived from coconut oil. However, a very important ‘however’, it is made by adding sulfuric acid (made from sulfur taken from direct mining or processing of low-grade ores such as coal and petroleum) to the oil. A chemical reaction occurs where Hydrogen lauryl sulfate is produced which, being unstable, is then neutralized with sodium carbonate. Does this make SLS plant derived? Er…..kinda, the same way plastic is plant derived ( I mean, petrol is fermented plant material, right? Face palm)

SO? I have looked closely at about 10 human studies and skimmed many, many others and it seems that at worst, it is a skin irritant for humans, with one study ( A. Blondeel et al, 1978) stating that, “Among 242 patients suffering from eczematous dermatitis,…(a) Great number of allergic reactions to sodium lauryl sulfate (6.4%) was observed.” That’s 15 people among 242. Re the various animal studies that I looked at, the words “eye irritant” appeared but mostly, the phrase “no effect” was oft-repeated. However, what I found worrying was its effect on the environment for “The substance is toxic to aquatic organisms. It is strongly advised not to let the chemical enter into the environment.” (U.S. National Library of Medicine) And what do you think you wash into the waterways through your toothpaste and bubble bath and cleaning products etc….

Should you want to get rid of SLS, here are some alternative names for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS) to look out for in labels:

• Sodium lauryl sulphate
• Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
• Sodium dodecyl sulfate
• Dodecyl sulfate, sodium salt
• Sodium lauryl sulfate ether
• Sodium dodecyl sulfate

…am sure that am missing a few in this list..

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):

SODIUM3WHAT? WHY? WHERE? SLS and SLES have pretty much the same properties (see above) with ONE major difference. Since, as we know from the above, SLS is a skin and eye irritant, to make it milder, it is put through a manufacturing process called “ethoxylation” and transforms into SLES. Ergo, the lauryl changing to laureth. Voilà!

With this change though, the alternative / trade names for Sodium Laureth Sulfate mulitply wildly. Am sure that I am missing some but here is the list:
• Alkyl Ether Sulfate
• Aquarex ME/ Methyl
• Carsonol SLS
• Dehydrag Sulfate
• Dodecyl Alcohol
• Dreft
• Duponal
• Emal 10
• Hydrogen Sulfate
• Irium
• Lanette Wax-S
• Laureth-8 carboxylic acid
• Maprofix 563/ NEU/ WAC/ WAC-LA
• Monogen Y 100
• Monododecylester
• Neutrazyme
• Orvus WA Paste
• Perklankrol ESD 60
• Perlankroll
• PEG-5 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-7 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-8 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-12 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 5 ( or 7/12/400/600) lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Quolac EX-UB
• SDS
• Sipex OP
• Sipon PD/WD
• Solsol Needles
• Sepanol T 28
• Sodium dodecylpoly (oxyethylene) sulfate
• Sodium lauryl sulfate ethoxylate
• Sodium polyoxyethylene POE(2) lauryl ether sulfate
• Sodium laureth-8 sulfate
• Sodium Diethylene glycol Lauryl Ether Sulfate
• Sodium salt
• Sodium laureth 5 ( or 7 /12) sulfate
• Sodium lauryl ether sulfate
• Steol-130, 230, 270, 330, 370 or 460
• Stephanol or anything with the word Stephanol and something else
• Sulfuric Acid
• Tarapon K 12
• Texapon K 12
• Trepenol WA
• 000151-21-3

You can check here for further chemical info on any of the trade or alternative names which I have listed above, for both SLS and SLES.

So WTF? I have been researching these 2 chemicals for weeks. I have seen good and bad. 2 studies ([Piret J et al 2000)  and (J.Piret et al, 2002)  have shown SLS to aid against the Herpes Simplex virus. Another study says that “nanosuspensions coated with SDS (Sodium dodecyl sulfate) may ultimately lead to improvements in the treatment of Toxoplasmic encephalitis and other cerebral diseases”. On the other hand, a study says that SLS affects the duration of mouth /canker sores and seems to increase the pain too. (YJ Shim et al, 2012). And so it goes on, with research after research on carcinogenicity, developmental or reproductive toxicity (with “no effects” being the result) and the picture I am getting is that the main threat seems to be of SLS as an eye and skin irritant  dependant on the intensity of detergent concentrations and length of exposure. Now you know why shampoo bottles always mention rinsing your eyes out as soon as the product gets in.

Be that as it may, my environmental concerns remain. What we wash out through our sinks/baths and showers end up in waterways in concentrations which are harmful to fish and other water fauna. Various studies show the harmful effects of surfectant molecules on water plants. Here is just one and here another one.

Another point to note is that most of the studies look at these chemicals in isolation – (more on this in the next post.) Also, no one seems to have researched the possible gradual and or, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures of all the chemicals in personal care products, on us. Have you thought of the combined effect of all those chemicals in all those things that you use daily in conjunction with the increasingly contaminated environments we live in and the heavily sprayed food we eat? Gulp! A post on Bio-accumulation and Bio-magnification will be posted at some point.

Green and handmade ALTERNATIVES coming up, never fear!

DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid/advised by anybody to write/research the above. I have no links whatsoever to big pharma or any personal higiene product company. The views in this post are my own. I wish I could quote/mention the many, many articles that I read and do a meta-analysis but I am afraid that that would be beyond me at the moment.