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Eco-Beat

The nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides warns that some 60 percent of pesticides used today have been shown to affect the thyroid gland’s production of T3 and T4 hormones. Commercially available insecticides and fungicides have also been implicated. Women are most at risk.

EarthTalk®

The Editors of E/The
Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Instances of people with thyroid problems seem to be on the rise. Is there an environmental connection? —Dora Light, Waukesha, WI

The American Cancer Society reports that thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that have been on the rise in recent decades, with cases increasing six percent annually since 1997. Many researchers, however, attribute these increases to our having simply gotten better at detection. Regardless, exposures to stress, radiation, and pollutants have been known to increase a person’s risk of developing thyroid problems.

Thyroid disease takes two primary forms. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormones that regulate metabolism. This can cause a racing heart, weight loss, insomnia, and other problems. In cases of hypothyroidism, the body produces too few hormones, so we feel fatigued and may gain weight, among other symptoms. According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), many people with thyroid problems don’t realize it, as symptoms can be mistaken for other problems or attributed to lack of sleep. Thyroid problems in children can delay or impair neurological development.

Doctors are not sure why some people are prone to thyroid disease while others aren’t, but genetics has much to do with it. One recent UCLA study found that genetic background accounts for about 70 percent of the risk. However, researchers have begun to find links between increased risk of thyroid disease and exposure to certain chemicals, especially among women. “Pesticide Use and Thyroid Disease Among Women in the Agricultural Health Study,” published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2002, found that Iowa and North Carolina women married to men using such pesticides as aldrin, DDT, and lindane were at much higher risk of developing thyroid disease than women in nonagricultural areas. According to Dr. Whitney S. Goldner, lead researcher on the study, 12.5 percent of the 16,500 wives evaluated developed thyroid disease compared to between one and eight percent in the general population.

It’s not just farm women who should worry. Trace amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers most certainly end up in some of the food we eat. The nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides warns that some 60 percent of pesticides used today have been shown to affect the thyroid gland’s production of T3 and T4 hormones. Commercially available insecticides and fungicides have also been implicated.

Likewise, some chemicals used in plastics and flame-retardants contain toxins shown to trigger thyroid problems in those genetically predisposed. And a 2007 study at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio found that triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in everything from hand soaps to facial tissues to toys—it’s present in the bloodstreams of three out of every four Americans—could be causing some mothers’ thyroid glands to send signals to fetuses that may, in turn, contribute to autism.

An increasing number of doctors now believe that hypothyroidism could be precipitated by a dietary deficiency in iodine, a trace element found in the thyroid’s T3 and T4 hormones and essential in small amounts for good health. Besides eating more seafood, switching to iodized salt and/or taking iodine supplements can boost iodine intake without the need for medications. But too much iodine is not healthy, so always consult with your doctor before embarking on any new health or diet regimen.


Do you have energy hogs in the office?

—PNM

Electronic office equipment is the fastest-growing energy user in businesses, making up about seven percent of business power consumption. Taking steps to reduce energy consumption in the office not only reduces energy bills, it reduces the impact of emissions on the environment as well.

A desktop computer running 24/7/365 without sleep mode can cost $4.60 per month in electricity. A fax machine can cost $5.75, and a large copier can cost $26. Individually, these are not large amounts, but you can see how they really add up on your monthly electricity bill. However, if you use that desktop computer for eight hours, five days a week, and put it in sleep mode the rest of the week, that $4.60 becomes $1. The cost to operate the fax machine also falls to $1 per month, and the large copier is $4.50. For these three office tools, your monthly cost just dropped from $36 to $6.50.

There are more details about these savings in the PNM PowerSource e-mail newsletter for business. If you’re not signed up, you can get it for free at PNM.com/powersource. We offer the newsletter because we want to make sure that you have the tools and information you need to make wise energy decisions.


Sandias

Las Placitas Association sponsors talk/tour of Sandia Mountain’s “broken, northern nose”

—Las Placitas Association
Albuquerque geologist Dirk Van Hart will show PowerPoint images and talk about the broken, northern nose of the Sandia Mountain at the Placitas Community Center on Saturday, April 16, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in an event sponsored by Las Placitas Association (LPA). The center is located to the north of the Village, at 41 Camino de las Huertas.

Following the indoor presentation, Van Hart will be along as our guide for: 

  1. A carpool road trip, first west down NM 165 to look at a fault along the highway,
  2. Then the drive east back up NM 165 to Tunnel Springs Road and Quail Meadow Road and on to the parking area at Forest Service Road 231 (FS 231) for an excellent view of the complicated “broken, northern nose” of the mountain.
  3. A view-filled walk (downslope) west a mile on the Strip Mine Trail to the Forest Service Road 445 (FS 445) parking area, where some of us hikers will have parked our vehicles earlier,
  4. Then shared rides from FS 445 back up to the parked cars at FS 231.

If you would like to go on this hike, please RSVP so our carpooling can be worked out well ahead of time.

Van Hart began his odyssey in geology from his boyhood home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, “by finding all kinds of rocks, fossils, etc. in the continental-glacial outwash deposits (post 18,000 years ago) in the fields a few blocks away.” He received his B.A. in geology at Rutgers University in New Jersey and his M.S. in geology from Miami University in Ohio a year after starting work as a petroleum geologist. His career has taken him and wife, “Rusty,” and two sons on the geologist’s gypsy trail in the U.S. and Guatemala, Ecuador, Sicily, and Belize. Dirk says that Rusty “somehow endured all of this turmoil” in their 43 years together, and their sons “never wanted to travel anymore.”

He and Rusty have lived in Albuquerque since 1989. He did fieldwork in the Juan Tabo area in the northwest part of Sandia Mountain and published his work in the periodical New Mexico Geology in 1998. He finds that the geology of our Placitas area is best understood in the context of the entire range of the mountain and that geology and history are in a natural and necessary pairing.

In June 2009, Van Hart submitted for publication the manuscript of a book titled Old New Mexico Route 44 (Now a Portion of US-550): A Historical and Geological Excursion and adds, “The publisher, Sunstone Press of Santa Fe, assures me it’ll be out this year [2011].”

With Dirk Van Hart as our guide, April 16 promises to find us on a pleasurable Saturday midday outing at the base of Sandia Mountain.

Please RSVP for this LPA event with Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 or zhdohner@yahoo.com.

Las Placitas Associations’ goal is to protect open space, restore riparian watersheds, promote recreational, educational, and rural activities, and engage the members of our community in appreciating the environmental and cultural richness of this area.


The bad news about “native” trees

—Mike Dooley, Dooley Landscape Design
Living in the desert makes trees especially important for shade and as windbreaks, but some native species have problems that we should take into consideration before purchasing. If we take a look at where native plants grow and where they don’t grow, we’ll learn an important lesson about the nature of deserts. Desert regions have microclimes that allow plants to do well in one area, but the same plant may not grow at all only a few feet away. Native willows and Woods’ rose are examples of “native “plants that are very sensitive to location. These plants must have a location that is damp. Luckily, most plants are more adaptable to variances in location than these examples. The key word here is “adaptability.” Some plants can adapt, and some plants will struggle. Let’s look at some common landscape plants and see how they rate.

Cottonwoods are the dominant tree in the bosque and appear to do well in Albuquerque, but cottonwoods grow in a riparian ecosystem and require lots of water. You’ll never see cottonwoods growing wild out in the desert, so if you want one in your yard, it’ll need lots of water. Cottonwoods are like ash trees in that they have shallow roots, and this can be a problem. The good news about cottonwoods is that they are very fast growing. You should also know that most of the trees sold in nurseries are all males and don’t produce the messy “cotton” that the native trees do.

Piñon pines are found as you move up in elevation, at around 6,000 feet. They are native in areas of Placitas, east of Tramway, and the East Mountains. Now that the beetles that were killing thousands of trees a few years ago are gone, the piñon is back as a well-adapted but slow growing tree for this area.

Ponderosa pine grows in sheltered canyons, starting around 7,500 feet. Ponderosas are often planted in the higher elevations of our area and can do well. When Ponderosas are planted on the West Mesa, they’re not going to do as well as they should because of the sandy conditions and lower elevations that exist west of the river. Ponderosas and piñons are the trees that you commonly see sold as “field collected” specimens on the side of the road. In general, the piñons will do better in most of Albuquerque.

New Mexico privet is a small multitrunk tree that grows at high elevations, but this is a plant that adapts very well throughout our area. This native can be trimmed into a really beautiful tree for the courtyard and has the added bonus of being fairly clean because of the very small leaves. Although it loses its leaves in winter, the multitrunk nature of the tree adds to its appeal year round.

Aspens are much loved, and we see them in huge groves as we travel through the higher elevations of the mountains. Aspens love the cold area above 8,000 feet, with its saturated and frozen soils much of the year. Over the years, I’ve had many requests for aspens, and after watching many die or at least struggle to get established, I no longer plant these trees in my designs.

Spruce grows well in the same high mountain zone. Spruce and aspen are very common in Santa Fe and do fairly well in that location, if given plenty of water. Spruce struggles in Albuquerque because of the lower elevation and seems to always look stressed. All conifers grow slowly, so don’t think that you plant small ones and get much growth in any reasonable amount of time.

Mike’s new book, Residential Landscape Design for the Horticulturally Hopeless, will be available on Amazon in April.


New Mexico interactive plant list available

A searchable plant list to encourage water conservation in landscapes is now available on the New Mexico State Engineer’s Web site. The plant list is an expert-recommended list of low-water use, native, or adaptive plants that thrive in New Mexico’s climate and that save water.

In an effort to instruct New Mexicans in the art of using outdoor water more efficiently, the Office of the State Engineer, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is offering plant information to the public. Several search criteria can be selected, including region, plant category, flower color, bloom season, sun exposure, plant size, deciduous/evergreen, water requirement, wildlife attraction, and soil type.

“The interactive plant list will help people select a plant that is appropriate to specific microclimates. This useful tool prevents costly experiments for home and business owners,” said Water Use and Conservation Bureau Chief John Longworth.

A plant list advisory team of volunteers and experts from the Office of the State Engineer, San Juan College, Green Forward Landscape Design, Agua Fria Nursery, Judith Phillips Design Oasis, New Mexico State University, Schultz Communications, University of Texas at El Paso, and a plant expert from Carlsbad Caverns, worked together to compile the information. Plant photographs on the Web site were provided by High Country Gardens and the Quercus Group.

The project was jointly funded by the Office of the State Engineer and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

To access the plant list, visit http://wuc.ose.state.nm.us/Plants/.

The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administrating the state’s water resources. The state engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The state engineer is also secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission.

     

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