Bits and Pieces: Antibiotics in Animal Feed and Harmful Chemicals in Toiletries

Learn about different chemicals harmful to animals and humans as well as other 1977 news pieces.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1977
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Despite the benefits to animals of using antibiotics in animal feed it can cause health risks to people.

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Antibiotics in Animal Feed

FDA's Donald Kennedy is pushing for a ban on the use of antibiotics in animal feeds. Feedlot managers have long claimed that the drugs cause animals to gain weight faster, but scientists are concerned that the indiscriminate use of penicillin and other antibiotics in feeds is increasing the number of drug-resistant bacteria in the environment. (Such bacteria are now a serious health problem worldwide.) Kennedy — addressing an FDA advisory committee — asked for tough rules governing the use of antibiotics in feeds, saying: "The benefit of using these drugs routinely as over-the-counter products to help animals grow faster ... does not outweigh the potential risk posed to people.

Benefits of City Life 

In a 20-year follow-up of the famous Midtown Manhattan Study (which concluded that 23 percent of New York City's East Side residents were in need of psychiatric help), Columbia University sociologist Leo Srole finds that the mental health of New Yorkers is now about twice as good as it was in 1954, when the Midtown study commenced. Moreover, Srole cites evidence that mental health in general "is more favorable in big population centers — including New York as the biggest — than in smaller ones."

Nerve Gas Research  

Nerve gas research has resumed in the U.S. after an eight-year layoff. The U.S. Navy will spend $1.5 million this year on a device (code name: Big Eye) designed to cover an area one mile square with nerve gas, while the U.S. Army intends to spend $2.7 million on a "binary" bomb that will use two harmless chemicals to make deadly gas.

Dirigible Business

The dirigible business is booming, thanks to the new 200-mile offshore fishing limits adopted recently by major world powers. Dirigibles are far less expensive to operate than conventional patrol aircraft, yet can survey more miles of ocean (10,000 square miles per day) in a shorter time than surface vessels. Venezuela has already bought ten airships from an English firm, and the British government itself has opened discussions with the manufacturer.

Garbage Law and Recycling

Terry Seaborn of Oakland, California doesn't know the meaning of the word "garbage" (he recycles all his wastes), and he doesn't pay his garbage bills. Which is why — not long ago — the city of Oakland (which has a mandatory garbage pickup ordinance) put two liens on Seaborn's property. Fortunately, Terry was able to get the liens removed — and obtain an exemption from the ordinance — by taking his case to the City Council. The garbage law, however, remains on the books. Says Seaborn: "I'd like to think there are other alternatives to this ordinance."

Pentachlorophenol (PCP) Found in Animals 

Eight Michigan dairy herds were quarantined earlier this year after high levels of pentachlorophenol (PCP) — a toxic and widely used wood preservative — were detected in tissue samples taken from the cows. One of the quarantined herds is slated for burial ... however, the milk from six of the herds has been OK'd for sale following FDA tests showing no contamination of the milk by PCP or by dioxin (a PCP contaminant). The state of Michigan has banned the further sale of PCP pending an investigation.

Use of N-nitrosodiethanlamine in Toiletries

Chemist David H. Fine reported at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society that a certain cancer-causing chemical known as N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA) can be detected in a wide variety of toiletries, including various shampoos, baby oils, and cosmetics. The carcinogen — present in amounts ranging from 1 to 48,000 parts per billion — is apparently created inadvertently during manufacture of the product(s). The health ramifications of Fine's findings are not yet known.

Mosquito Larvae Control Using Dragonfly Nymphs 

Wells, Maine, (population 600) will import dragonfly nymphs for the second summer in a row to control its mosquito population. Last year, townspeople rejected a plan to hire a helicopter (at a cost of $6,000) to spray 110 acres of prime mosquito breeding grounds with pesticides ... and instead voted to spend $2,400 to import 11,500 baby dragonflies to the area. The novel biological control measure worked so well that the residents of the town intend to try it again.


Other 1977 News: 

  • Lead poisoning in children continues at near-epidemic levels across the U.S. St. Louis leads the country in the number of cases reported (613 in the third quarter of 1976 alone).
  • The U.S. Geological Survey reports finding both gold and silver in Palo Alto, California Sewage. The metals (about $200 worth per ton of fresh sludge) apparently come from industrial discharges.
  • A recent Harris poll indicates that Americans oppose a ban on the manufacture and sale of saccharin by a 76 — 15 percent margin, and that — furthermore — a substantial 57 percent of the American public believes that the damage to health from eating sugar is greater than that from eating saccharin.
  • An Oregon firm has introduced an inexpensive, all-weather beehive scale — The Bee Flat Scale — that makes it possible for beekeepers to tell at a glance how their hives are doing. The scale comes in standard 8- and 10-frame hive sizes and can weigh up to 260 pounds (though not accurately). 
  • Scientists say that the winter of 1976 was the coldest since 1957 at the South Pole. Average daily readings for the April to September half year was a cryogenic minus 77.3 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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