Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Choosing our Words Wisely

Choosing our Words Wisely

During the holiday season it’s a good time to reconsider the words we use when we discuss or introduce our extended families. The wrong words chosen can be hurtful to others and so we must consider the 4-way test of things we say, think, or do:

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

For instance, when introducing one’s step-children, one might say “This is my son and this is my step son.”

Is it true? Yes, one child is biological one is not.
Is it fair to point this out? Perhaps it is fair, but it is unnecessary.
Will it build good-will or better friendships? Definitely not for the step-child, and definitely not between the parent and step-child, or between the step-child and his siblings by marriage.
Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Definitely not.

So in accordance with the 4-way test of things we say, think or do, one might consider it best to simply introduce the two children as: “These are my children.” Differentiating which children are biological and which ones are not might be necessary in a court of law or in a medical setting when discussing heredity and family illnesses, but in the general public setting, it is not only unnecessary but hurtful as well.

I have many biological aunts who are married. I always refer to each aunt and her spouse as my “aunt and uncle.” For instance, I would never point out “this is my aunt and this is her husband.” To disassociate myself from her spouse by way of family bloodlines would be pointlessly hurtful. Regardless of how much or little I care for her spouse, her spouse is still part of our family and by pointing out he is only family by marriage does not serves to build good will or better friendships.

However close or distant we may feel about our family that is related by marriage, it is never helpful to point out to strangers specifically how they are related to you. While the differentiation may be truthful, it is never helpful in building better relationships.

And so during this holiday season, it is only sensible to choose our words wisely when introducing family. Let’s try our best to keep the “happy” in our holidays.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prevent Cognitive Decline

Every morning my father practices a daily activity of speed-reading on various topics. Over decades of practice he has improved his cognitive recognition and retention of some the most challenging academic disciplines - rapidly. Most exciting is his claim that the wide array of challenging topics chosen for these exercises actually improves his ability to learn. The more difficult the book, the more stimulating the effects are on his mind lighting up with the euphoria of new learning. Recently, he has become increasingly interested in finding ways to explain, test, and share his experience with others.


Effortful learning may help to slow the effects of an aging mind. In fact, involvement in mentally challenging activities could slow the rate of cognitive decline caused by degenerative diseases. “Learning to Learn” is a method of boosting problem-solving skills. It enhances neurogenesis, which is believed to prevent and or treat disorders that lead to cognitive decline.


When learning is difficult, neurons throughout the hippocampus become fully engaged. This is important because when a mind is not challenged, new neurons lack the stimulation required to exist. The most opportune time to learn is when newborn cells, which start life unspecialized, begin to differentiate into neurons and respond to neurotransmitters. It is important to note that there is a critical window of time in which learning can save newborn neurons. Training before this time is too early.


An enhanced capacity for learning demonstrated by rats continually challenged with difficult learning exercises, showed that stimulating neurons throughout the hippocampus was necessary for them to be fully engaged. Research also showed that activities involving cognitive effort were responsible for new neuron development. When unchallenged, new neurons lacked the stimulation needed to survive and consequently faded away. For example, animals that were slow to learn and required more trials to learn task mastery ended up with more new neurons than animals that learned quickly. The findings also showed that more successfully an organism learned the material, the higher number of new neurons were retained. This proves the hypothesis that learning that requires concerted effort stimulates new neurons.


The theory was tested by injecting animal test subjects with BrdU at the beginning of an experiment. One week later, subjects were recruited into the eyeblink training program. The remaining subjects were not stimulated with challenging activity (control group). Some days after training, it was found that the challenged rats retained more BrdU-labeled neurons in the hippocampus than did the control rats. The study also found that before cells can be wired into the brain with neurons, new cells must be somewhat mature before they can respond to learning.


As science searches for solutions to mental diseases like Alzheimer’s, and other causes of debilitating progressive memory loss and learning ability, finding ways of delaying the maturation of mental decline could lead to the preservation of self reliance and more rich and fulfilling living throughout our twilight years. Possibly my father’s experience with subliminal reading could become more a widely adopted practice to keep ones mind active. It might even help avoid the debilitating effects of aging on the mind. (Learn this technique at: ShhTract.com.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't Rely on Oral Contracts

When considering entering into a contract, the Statute of Frauds is an important protector of your interests. The Statute of Frauds protects parties who enter important contracts that can have significant effects on them if not well thought though.

The statute of frauds requires specific types of contracts to be in writing or evidenced by a written memorandum, rather than an oral agreement.

There are five types of contracts that fall within this category:

  1. Contracts involving land.

  2. Contracts that cannot by their terms bee performed within 1 year.

  3. Collateral, or secondary contracts, such as promises to answer for the debt or duty of another and promises by the administrator or executor of an estate to pay a debt of the estate personally.

  4. Promises made in consideration of marriage.

  5. Contracts for sales of goods exceeding $5,000 or more.


Is the Statute of Frauds a good thing?

It definitely protects people from entering into contracts they might not otherwise have fully thought through. If one must put something into writing and sign it, they must have thought about it more seriously than having simply held a conversation over it.

The Statute of Frauds protects parties from being held to agreements that might put them at an undue hardship.

  • Landowners might lose their land, and ultimately shelter.

  • For the guarantor of a collateral promise, he/she might be overburdened financially by the transaction of accumulating another’s debt.

  • For a party of considerable wealth to enter into marriage without fully considering a prenuptial contract, he/she could lose a significant amount of their estate in the event of a divorce.

  • For parties purchasing $5,000 or more of goods, only one who could afford such an investment would be likely to sign a contract for those goods.

  • The one-year rule, also protects those who enter into it. So many circumstances can change within a year that it is vital for parties that will fulfill a contract outside of that timeframe to be bound to that agreement.


To put oneself in a position that is detrimental to their financial situation or lifestyle (shelter), one must thoroughly consider such a decision. Hopefully for the majority of people, a written contract will have ensured this.


All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ABCD's of Skin Cancer

Early detection is the best prevention against any type of cancer.

To prevent the risk from skin cancers, aside limiting sun exposure, one should regularly inspect moles and freckles on the skin. There are four specific signs to look for when inspecting moles that appear on the skin:

  • Asymmetry: When half of the mole does not match the other half.

  • Border: When the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular.

  • Color: When the color of the mole varies throughout.

  • Diameter: When the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser.


Skin Cancer Facts:

  • Most tumors that arise in the skin are benign and do not metastasize.

  • Skin cancer can be caused by excessive exposure to sunlight.

  • Three forms of cancer are:

    • Basal Cell Carcinoma (Slow growing; rarely metastasizes relatively easy to treat if caught early)

    • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (Cancer of the epidermis)

    • Malignant Melanoma (The worst type; very rapid growing; metastasizes rapidly throughout the body; people can die from this type of cancer; early detection is the best defense.)



  • Among the risk factors for skin cancer are:

    • Skin type

    • Sun exposure

    • Family History

    • Age

    • Weak immune system



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brain Shape = Function

Imagine evidence from brain-imaging aiding in criminal conviction. In the film Minority Report, actor Tom Cruise plays a law enforcement officer of the “Pre-Crime” division of a privatized police force. In the story, Cruise’s character is framed for a crime he had not yet committed. The movie warns of the potential for distortion when second-guessing our free will. Perhaps this isn’t simply science fiction. Advanced imaging and methods of measuring brains shape, could lead “experts” to make predictions about someone’s individual character, and even one’s propensity to commit a crime.


Early “scientists” judged the shape of a human brain to predict brain function. However, recent breakthroughs in brain shape analysis are also discovering a link between brain shape and brain function. New models of cortex folding that combine genetics and physical principles can help integrate what is known about morphology, development and mental connectivity along with genetic processes that could control timing and development of the cortex. By creating a detailed timetable of the formation of many different connections that make up the brain’s communication system, we will be able to determine when different parts of the cortex develop in the womb. This will enable scientists to experiment by modifying the development of distinct layers or neurons.


Researchers have begun to understand that autism arises from mis-wiring of the brain. This causes communication between nearby cortical areas to increase, while communication between distant areas decreases. People with autism exhibit deviations from the normal number and positions of neurons in cortical layers compared with those of healthy subjects. Abnormal distribution of neurons in cortical layers disrupts connections and impairs the function of the nervous system in communication.


In fact “the range of neurological diseases with vastly different symptoms such as those seen in schizophrenia, autism, Williams syndrome, childhood epilepsy, and other disorders may be the result of pathology arising at different times in development and variously affecting regions, layers and sets of neurons that happen to be emerging, migrating or connecting when the process goes awry.” Claus C. Hilgetag and Helen Barbas (2010)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Olive Oil is NOT the Healthiest

We've all heard about the health benefits of olive oil - but did you know...
There are 2 oils far healthier than olive oil.

Sunflower Oil & Safflower Oil:

* have more polyunsaturated - (good fats) than olive oil
* less monounsaturated and less saturated fats (bad fats) than olive oil.

-----------------------------------------------------

FAT FACTS:

The more saturated - the more it sticks together & clogs arteries.
The more unsaturated - the healthier - as it does not stick together.

-----------------------------------------------------

BELOW CHART GUIDE:

BEST = Yellow (polyunsaturated fat) - Healthiest
WORST = Blue (saturated fat) - unhealthiest
IN BETWEEN = Red (monounsaturated) is less unhealthy than a saturated fat, but can still stick to arteries


FOR YOUR BEST HEALTH:
* eat more yellow (polyunsaturated) fats
* eat less blues (saturated) and less reds (monounsaturated).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food Safety Tips - Avoid E. Coli & Salmonella

The safety of the food we eat is essential to our health and ultimately, our existence. “Germs in food make 76 million Americans sick, send 323,000 to hospitals and kill 5,000 each year “, the CDC estimates. Americans are not the only ones at risk as foodborne diseases actually occur “daily in all countries, from the most to the least developed” (WHO). Therefore, it is no wonder why growing priority is being placed on food safety. In fact, “increasing concern about food safety has led to a boost in research into quicker and cheaper methods of detecting and killing pathogens” (ElAmin). Between scientific advancements in detection and treatment and public awareness of preventative measures, foodborne disease may soon become a problem of the past.

Two Most Common Pathogens
The two most common pathogens found in food are salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli). These pathogens are responsible for tens of thousands of illnesses and infections and hundreds of deaths every year in the United States.

Salmonella is a bacteria found in a number of places including water, soil and animal feces to the more common household items such as raw meat and eggs, and on kitchen surfaces. Each year, salmonella infections affect nearly 50,000 people in the United States. Symptoms of salmonella infection include “nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and headaches” (Homeier).

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a dangerous pathogen that is responsible for “73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths” in the United States each year. (CDC) Symptoms of an E. coli infection usually “start about 7 days after you are infected with the germ” (AAFP) and begin with severe abdominal cramps, then diarrhea and eventually bloody stools caused by sores the infection makes in the intestines. Other symptoms may include a mild fever and possible nausea or vomiting (AAFP).

Preventing Infections of Salmonella and E. coli.
Proper food preparation is the first key to understanding how to limit the spread of salmonella and E. coli. To prevent both diseases, it is recommended to cook meat thoroughly at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, avoid raw milk and eggs, including under cooked eggs (Outbreak, Inc.) Drink only “pasteurized milk, juices, or cider” or water that has been “treated with chlorine or other effective disinfectants” and thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. (Outbreak, Inc.) Eric Schlosser reports that, “the most common cause of foodborne outbreaks has been the consumption of undercooked ground beef” and “contaminated bean sprouts, salad greens, cantaloupe” and salami.

Proper food storage is second vital issue in public awareness. Important rules to follow are to “wash and chill melons before slicing” and “separate raw meat, poultry and seafood” from other items in the refrigerator (BFHD). Also be sure to “keep hot food hot and cold food cold”, “keep food refrigerated or frozen” and to “refrigerate leftovers right away or throw them away” (AAFP).

Cleanliness is the third key factor the public should understand to help cease the spread of both salmonella and E. coli. It is recommended that after contact with any foods of animal origin, soap and water should be used to immediately wash any surfaces touched (hands, utensils and kitchen surfaces). The handling of pets such as “reptiles, amphibians or birds” or pet feces, the “changing of soiled diapers” or bowel movements all necessitate the thorough washing of hands with soap and water (Outbreak Inc.)

Avoid person-to-person transmission. Public settings or interactions offer a fourth level of complexity for the spread of both pathogens that the public would be of added benefit to understand. It is important to note that E. coli “outbreak can also be caused by person-to-person transmission of the bacteria in homes and in settings like daycare centers, hospitals, and nursing homes” (Outbreak Inc.) Prevention of E. coli is also aided by avoiding “swallowing lake or pool water while swimming”. While both diseases can spread from animal-to-human exposure, “petting zoos and other animal exhibits” are safest when avoided (Outbreak Inc.)

Cold Pasteurization/Irradiation
Treatment of food is the next vital step in the prevention of infection for both E. coli and salmonella infections. Irradiation, also known as Cold Pasteurization, is gaining ground as an essential method to eliminate the dangers created by pathogens in meat. According to Eric Schlosser, “Irradiation is a form of bacterial birth control” so that “when microorganisms are zapped with low levels of gamma rays or x-rays, they are not killed, but their DNA is disrupted and they cannot reproduce.” This technique is progressing, as “major meat and poultry suppliers are forming alliances with manufacturers of the food irradiation equipment. There are 21 companies currently supplying equipment that could be used”( I-AX). Although public fears regarding radiation and “reluctance among consumers to eat things that have been exposed to radiation” are still significantly high, “irradiated foods are safe to eat”, according to “The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization,” says Schlosser.

REVISS, explains the difference between items that are “irradiated” and those that are “contaminated” with radiation. “A contaminated item is one that has a measurable quantity of radioactive material deposited on it. It is in itself a source of radiation and must be contained appropriately. It should not be handled without protection, as it may contaminate anything that comes into contact with it. An item irradiated by cobalt-60 is one that has had gamma radiation 'shone' through it. The irradiated item does not pick up any radioactivity and never contains radioactivity, so it may be handled normally” (REVISS). Therefore, the process of irradiation leaves food free of dangerous pathogens and radiation resulting only in improved food safety.

The CDC explains that, ongoing studies in the safety of irradiation over the past four decades have proven that “like pasteurization and retort canning, irradiation is a safe and effective food processing step. Treated food does not become radioactive, and, in general, shelf life is prolonged because organisms that cause spoilage are reduced along with pathogens. Irradiation has been used effectively in meats, poultry, grains, and produce” (CDC). The FDA concurs, “Irradiation of food does not lead to changes in the composition of the food that, from a toxicological point of view, would have an adverse effect on human health” (Morehouse). It is also important to note that an additional benefit of food irradiation is the control of “insect pests – thus reducing the need for environmentally harmful fumigants” (Robertson).

The safety of irradiation therefore holds great promise in the improvement of public health via reduction and eventually eradication of foodborne infections. The CDC estimates “The potential benefit of irradiating meat and poultry alone is substantial; it could prevent hundreds of thousands of foodborne illnesses, thousands of hospitalizations, and hundreds of deaths each year” (Tauxe). Education of the public as to the true facts of irradiation will be important in obtaining a broadened acceptance of irradiation and in turn, access to all the benefits that irradiation has to offer.

Foodborne illnesses can become a problem of the past with the help of science and public awareness. Thorough testing for early detection of pathogens, public awareness of preventative measures and the elimination of pathogens through irradiation will all be essential components in the plan to eradicate the contamination of pathogens that lead to foodborne infections.


References:
American Academy of Family Physicians. “E. Coli infection”. Familydoctor.org.
Associated Press. “Despite E. coli outbreak, food safer than ever.” Msnbc.com
Benton-Franklin Health District. “Salmonella food safety series”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Escherichia coli O157:H7”. CDC.gov September 24, 2006.
ElAmin, Ahmed. “Salmonella test approved for poultry plants”. FoodProductionDaily-USA.com.
ElAmin, Ahmed. “Test lab opens for E. Coli, clostridium botulinum”. FoodProductionDaily-USA.com.
Homeier, Barbara P., “Salmonella Infections”. KidsHealth June 2005.
I-AX Technologies. “Cold Pasteurization (a.k.a. Food Irradiation)”. Iaxtech.com.
Igen.com “First Rapid Commercial Salmonella Test Gets US Seal of Approval”. Content-wire.com.
Morehouse, Kim M. “Food Irradiation: The treatment of foods with ionizing radiation”. Food Testing & Analysis.
Outbreak, Inc. “How can I prevent Salmonella infection”. About-salmonella.com.
Outbreak, Inc. “E. coli O157:H7 – a foodborne pathogen” About-ecoli.com.
REVISS. “A Guide to the Terminology of Radioactivity,
Radiation Sources and their Distribution.” Reviss.com.
Robertson, Robert E. and Hoy, Jerilynn “Food Irradiation, Available Research Indicates That Benefits Outweigh Risks.” United States General Accounting Office. August 2000.
Schlosser, Eric. “Fast Food Nation”. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Tauxe, Robert V. “Food Safety and Irradiation: Protecting the Public from Foodborne Infections”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization. “General information related to foodborne disease”. Who.int.

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Additional Uses for WD-40

Below are some additional uses for WD-40 as recommended by the manufacturer:

Protects silver from tarnishing.

Removes road tar and grime from cars.

Loosens stubborn zippers.
Untangles jewelry chains.

Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing.

Keeps scissors working smoothly.

Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.

Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.

Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.
Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.

Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.

Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.

Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans

Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.

Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools.

Lubricates prosthetic limbs.

Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).

Removes all traces of duct tape.

It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.

If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start.

Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly, so use WD-40 to loosen and remove. Plus, it removes bugs from grills and bumpers.

Ingredients in WD-40:
  • solvent naphtha petroleum, medium aliphatic, > 60%
  • petroleum base oil as paraffinic distillate, heavy, solvent-dewaxed (severe), 15% to 25%
  • corrosion inhibitor unregulated, 1% to 10%
  • wetting agent unregulated, 1% to 10%
  • fragrance unregulated, 0% to 1%
  • carbon dioxide, 2% to 3%
  • Friday, May 14, 2010

    BPA & Plastics to Avoid

    A food safety bill considering a ban on BPA (Bisphenol-A) is being resisted by the food industry and major business groups. The bill “to improve food safety” contains a “proposed amendment that would ban bisphenol-A, a controversial chemical, from food and beverage containers.”

    BPA is used in a variety of consumer goods, “including compact discs, dental sealants, credit card and ATM receipts,” as well as “plastic food containers, bottles and the epoxy linings of metal cans.” The major concern of health advocates is the use of BPA in products that can leach the chemical into foods and beverages. According to federal estimates, the chemical “is found in the urine of more than 90% of the U.S. Population,” while a 2009 U.S. study “detected an average of 2.8 ng/mL BPA in the blood of 9 out of the 10 umbilical cords tested.”

    The safety of Bisphenol A has been in question since the 1930’s. It is known as “an endocrine disruptor”. The U.S. National Institutes of Health notes concern for BPA’s “effects on fetal and infant brain development and behavior” and link to increased obesity. Bisphenol A is shown to affect thyroid function and can “promote the growth of neuroblastoma cells”. In Sep. 2008, the Journal of the American Medical Association published findings on a cross-sectional study of 1,500 people that found “higher bisphenol levels [in urine] were significantly associated with heart disease, diabetes, and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes.” Canada classified BPA as “toxic to human health and the environment”. Denmark and France banned BPA use in baby bottles. Japan replaced the majority of its epoxy-coated cans with PET film. Additionally, “many companies have voluntarily removed BPA from their products or required suppliers to provide BPA-free options.”

    To avoid BPA in food products, consumers should look for plastics with at Number 7 or Number 3 printed in the recycling triangle at the bottom. These plastics can leach BPA into food and drinks and are extremely toxic when burned. These plastics should not touch food. Additional plastics to avoid are those containing a Number 6 in the bottom. Number 6 is can also leach toxins into foods, especially when heated.

    Ref:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/25/AR2010042503408.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
    http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/recycling-symbols-plastics-460321

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    HydroCremation, Environmentally Responsible Alternative to Cremation

    Alkaline Hydrolysis, alternative to incineration creation

    When we die, Alkaline Hydrolysis is the natural method of decomposition. Just as food in the intestine is digested and transformed into nutrients by alkaline hydrolysis and enzymes operating at pH 7-8 at body temperature. Human bodies are mostly water and when buried under the earth we degrade through this natural process, (expedited by the soil bacteria.)

    “Water Resolution” is the water reduction process for the application of Alkaline Hydrolysis to human cadavers. The Alkaline hydrolysis process has been used worldwide in laboratory and research applications. It is a fully automated process of pressure, high temperature, and alkalinity to accelerate the natural process of tissue hydrolysis decomposition by using a strong alkali (pH 14) to solubilize and hydrolyze tissue, expedited by heat at 150˚C in a pressurized vessel. The integral load cells weigh the body and the appropriate amount of water and alkali are added automatically to the vessel. The vessel is quickly heated via steam to around 150˚C (~300˚F) and the body is resolved to its component elements. The entire process is complete in 2-3 hours. This process generates a solution of amino acids, peptides, sugars, and soap (salts of fatty acids) that is suitable and safe for release into the environment.
    The process is environmentally friendly because it does not generate air pollution and the embalming fluid is neutralized into a harmless chemical compound. It incurs 20 times less CO2 emissions vs. average cremation. It is energy efficient, using 1/10th the energy per body versus cremation. It makes use of foreign substance in the body, like pacemakers, replacement joints and pins, which remain sterile and intact for recovery and possible re-use. Additionally, for the budget conscious, it is 3-5 times less expensive than cremation. It is projected that within 5 years hundreds of machines will be in use in California, Oregon, and Washington.

    By mimicking a body’s natural chemical process of decomposition it breaks down the human chemical make up of 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen, 1.5% Calcium, 1% Phosphorus and 1.5% total of remaining additional periodic elements reducing CO2 emissions in the process.

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    REM Sleep Improves Memory

    A new study suggests that naps can “boost your ability to process and store information tenfold – but only if you dream while you’re asleep”.

    The Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass., conducted a study on 99 college students. Students were asked to memorize “a complex maze on a computer”. Then the students were placed “inside a virtual 3-D version of the maze” and asked to “navigate to another spot within it”. The students did this several times before half of them were sent to take a 90-minute nap. The half that remained awake watched videos. Five hours later, all of the students were tested on the maze again. The students who napped tested better than the students who stayed awake, “even those who had reviewed the maze in their heads.” Of the students who napped, those who dreamt of the maze “performed 10 times better than the nappers who didn’t.”

    The students who dreamt of the maze tested poorly on the maze the first time around, which may support a theory of researchers’ that the brain recognizes when a task is difficult and thus prompts dreams about it. The lead author of the study, Robert Stickgold said, “When you dream your brain is trying to look at connections that you might not think of or notice when [you’re] awake.” Michael Breus, clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health concurred, “The sleeping brain seems to be processing information on one level, but on a higher level, it helps evolve your memory network if the information is relevant or helpful in your life experience.”

    Some vitamins, minerals and amino acids that help produce sleep are: Calcium, Magnesium, B vitamins (6 and 12), Inositol (enhances REM sleep), Chromium, Tryptophan, Serotonin, and Melatonin.

    Ref: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/22/naps.memory.dream.brain/?hpt=Sbin
    http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/sleep/sleep_ins_nutrition.htm

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Dangers of Formaldehyde Embalming

    In conventional embalming, blood is drained from a cadaver’s circulatory system and replaced by a formaldehyde based embalming fluid to delay decomposition. Formaldehyde has a GROUP 1 carcinogen status, the highest toxicity level issued to any chemical. Extensive documentation catalogs the risks of serious allergic/asthmatic reactions, allergic sensitization, IgE Immune-mediated hypersensitivity, and allergic contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde is a groundwater contaminant, industrial river and lake effluent, wastewater treatment plant impactor, and a soil deposition/impact chemical. In the average 6-8 ounces of formaldehyde leaked through a casket and concrete vault per grave, formaldehyde’s environmental half-life and pathways of biodegradation are still 50-75 times the maximum health advisory limits for contaminant/soil leachant.

    On average two-thirds of the time, embalming prep rooms are exceeding ACGIH and OSHA limits for safe exposure. “Airborne concentrations above 0.1 ppm can cause irritation of the eyes nose and throat. The severity of irritation increases as concentration increases; at 100 ppm it is immediately dangerous to life, health, and explosively high vapor pressure.

    Green burial alternatives are worth exploring to avoid these toxins.

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Carbohydrates & Heart Disease in Women


    A new study gives women a good reason to watch their glycemic index. According to the Italian National Cancer Institute, diets rich in carbohydrates with high-glycemic indexes (such as corn flakes and white bread) increase “the risk of heart disease for women” as opposed to lower glycemic carbohydrates (such as those found in “whole wheat products and sweet potatoes.”)

    The Italian study followed “15,171 men and 32,578 women” for 8 years. Women who consumed the most carbohydrates experienced twice the “incidence of heart disease” compared with women who ate the least. Upon further analysis, the risk was found to be “associated with higher intake of high-glycemic foods.” No effect was seen in the men studied. These findings corroborate prior studies on both genders by the Nurses Health Study (in the US) and a study in the Netherlands.

    The reason behind the difference in gender response has only been speculated on. Dr. Victoria Drake, “director of the Micronutrient Information Center…of Oregon State University” believes the difference might relate to sex hormonal differences. Dr. Drake explains, that while male androgens “appear to slow the transformation of carbohydrates into blood sugar”, female estrogen “speeds the process”. Additionally, Dr. Drake explains that the high glycemic index “is known to increase the concentration of triglycerides and lower the concentration of HDL cholesterol, the good kind” making these type of sugars “a stronger risk factor for heart disease.”

    Ref: Health Day (2010) http://www.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=637965

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Home Funeral Trend

    Americans - Not Caring for Our Own Dead
    Periodically people you know and love will die. The one thing that is certain in life is death. There is no way around it. You and I, our family, community, the entire human civilization alive today will all pass sometime in the next century. This thought is one most Americans try to avoid.

    Let’s say your grandmother has had a stroke and is near death at a local hospital. You go to her to be with her in her last moments, and then, the beloved person before you, who had cared for you, raised you, and loved you is gone. No sooner has she passed when, you are asked to leave the room. A doctor will be in to fill out the death certificate and then your loved one will be whisked away to the hospital morgue, or worse to be sliced and probed in autopsy (if the cause of death was unclear). You choose a funeral home and they take care of the rest of the process. Her body is now property of the state. The next time you see her will be for maybe an hour or two at the wake where she’s been specifically prepared for extended viewing time (some liken this as being turned into a human pickle). From there it’s time to head to the cemetery or collect her ashes. It is a process that is far removed from a personal and private investment with your loved one who has passed.

    Knox (2009) explains how she felt when her young daughter passed. “I had given birth to her. She had lived with me every day of her life. I had carefully chosen what she was exposed to, what she ate, where she went to school. I was required by law to care well for her. But now that her heart had stopped beating, I was being told that her care was no longer my concern.” Knox (2009) No wonder Americans have such a hard time with loss. Death has been institutionalized and turned into a series of merchandising and purchasing obligations. The whole experience is empty, demoralizing and expensive.

    In Support of Home Funerals
    Home funerals assist in the healing of and recovery of survivors. One dangerous coping method of loss “is to deny its existence” (Roussell, 1999, p. 6). A home funeral gives people the extra time needed to adjust to the reality that their loved one is gone. Not only is it healthier for the grieving process to have this time, the additional responsibilities also aid the grieving process. Those who have cared for their own dead have found the experience both meaningful and empowering. Knox (1999) describes the home funeral she held for 8-year-old daughter:
    We brought her home and kept her in her room for three days surrounded by her beloved toys and pictures and stuffed animals. Her friends came to be with her one last time, and took as much time as they needed to say goodbye. Her teachers came to stroke her cheek. Her brothers, her aunt and uncles, her cousins, her babysitters, her grandparents could all be with her. We could all sit with her for hours if we chose, trying, trying to get used to the idea, trying to take it all in. This small and mighty child had led us through the valley of death, and an entire community experienced a brilliant light in the deepest darkness of loss and grief. It was terrible and beautiful (p. 3).
    A home funeral provides a loving, beautiful and meaningful way of saying goodbye, unconstrained by the schedules of a church or mortuary. It also gives the surviving loved ones extra time adjust to the loss. A home funeral is also more cost efficient. An average traditional funeral costs anywhere from $3,500.00 to $7,000.00, while a home funeral and natural burial can cost less than $500.00.

    A good comparison of the differences between the two kinds of funerals (home versus mortuary) was showcased in the March 2009 Smithsonian magazine in an article titled “The Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral”.

    Legal Rights to Home Funerals
    Many people do not know is that it is legal for them to take their loved ones home (in their own car) and to keep them (if cooled) for a number of days. Currently home funeral is legal in 45 states. Also, many people do not realize that embalming is not mandatory for burial and that it is actually a dangerous toxin for the environment. (Read more on the benefits of Green Burial.)

    Legally, you can take your own dead home with you as long as you get the proper permit for transporting, and follow approved procedures for cooling, and length of time before burial. Even a home burial is not illegal in some states and counties.

    Home Burial
    The state of Oregon is silent on this issue. Title 97.120(2) says it is actually up to each individual county as to the laws concerning home burial. Most counties ask for a certain acreage amount, a distance of at least 150’ from a water supply, and at least two feet of earth on top. Before burial, the person in charge must sign the burial-transit permit and return it within 10 days to the registration of the county in which the death occurred. The practice is generally discouraged because of the potential affect on the property value. Because the practice is not common yet, society is still uncomfortable with it. Neighbors might find it disturbing to watch someone bring a body home, hold a funeral in their home, and then bury the body in their yard. However, a number of planned “Green Burial Preserves” are currently in development throughout the country to fulfill the demand for natural burials.


    REF:

    Alexander, M. (2009) The Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Presence-of-Mind-Which-Way-Out.html

    Knox, E. (2009) Crossings.

    Knox, E. (1999). Resource Guide. A Manual for Home Funeral Care. Takoma Park, MD:
    Crossings.

    Oregon Mortuary and Cemetary Board (2009).

    Roussell, J. O. (1999). Dealing with Grief: Theirs & Ours. New York: Alba House.

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Alzheimer's: The Art of Losing

    I found Ruth L. Ozeki’s piece, "The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, & Mom," of special interest because my grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s. I wanted to learn how others deal with such a long-term loss of one who slips away slowly over several years. Though my grandmother’s health in other aspects is not bad, the fact that she cannot recall names, faces, places or family history is a death of sorts. It is a death of memory. Somehow families must push through with the awareness that their loved one is no longer who they once were in healthier times. We must learn to love a new person who looks a great deal like the old person, but may or may not remember us from day to day. We must learn to not hold anger or resent their loss of memories we revere, but learn to appreciate new memories we can create while they are still with us. I felt Ozeki really proved how important this step is. Ozeki’s adaptability enabled her to build new memories with her mother and prepared her for her mother’s passing. Ozeki’s piece was an inspiration to any person dealing with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s.

    Ruth Ozeki discusses writing the article “The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, & Mom” which she was asked to consider renaming to “The Art of Letting Go”. Ozeki thoughtfully considers the alteration in meaning via a poem by Elizabeth Bishop titled “One Art.” Ozeki describes the poem as “clearly…a case where ‘losing’ and ‘letting go’ are not interchangeable.” Ozeki highlights some differences between letting go and losing: “When I let go, I’m in control; when I lose, I’m not. Letting go is a willful act; losing, a violation of my will.”

    Ozeki then discusses the traditions her family’s Japanese culture and the custom of sitting zazen during spiritual meditation. Her mother as a 2nd generation Japanese American had so much distance from her Japanese roots that she did not meditate in the zazen position and this prevented her from attending her grandmother’s funeral. Her inability to sit in the position would be “an embarrassment to the family,” Ozeki explains. At the funeral in Japan Ozeki explains another Japanese custom called “honewake” or “dividing the bones, which is often practiced when a person’s family lives in different places.” She returned from Japan with some bones of her grandmother, which she was to deliver to her mother. The experience inspired her to film a documentary called “Halving the Bones.”

    Once Ozeki’s father died, she asked her mother with Alzheimer’s to come live with her in 1999. She cared for her mother until her death in late 2004, but reflects on some of the exchanges that took place between she and her mother during those five years. Once mother expressed concern that the washer and dryer in the guesthouse she lived in would prevent Ozeki from washing laundry once she died and Ozeki rented the guesthouse to another person. Ozeki settled the concern by jokingly confirming she would bury her mom with the washer and dryer so she could keep her clothes clean in heaven. When her mother turned 90 in May of 2004, her mom was in disbelief that she was 90. She said she felt forty and when Ozeki confirmed that even she was “older than forty,” her mother replied, “You are? That’s terrible!”

    Ozeki then reflected on the differences in how she handled the deaths of her father and her mother. When her father died, she wasn’t ready for it. She held much anger at him for not preparing for it. She drank too much during the grieving process. However, the time she spent with her mom prepared them both for her mother’s death. “I wanted to keep my wits about me. I didn’t want to run away." She also encourages that people “write your loss” – “I spent ten years losing my mom, little by little, day by day, but during that time, I wrote books, letters, e-mails, blog postings, stories, journal entries, and poems…I’ve been turning loss into letting go.”

    Reference:
    Ozeki R. L. (2008). The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, & Mom. Shambhala Sun Magazine. Retrieved from:
    http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3186&Itemid=244
    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Independence vs. Assistance

    The elderly should be mindful of how much help they accept and caretakers should be cautious of offering too much help are the fundamentals of an idea called “wise independence”. Ruddick (1999) describes the idea of wise independence as “the capacity to plan and control one’s life, combined with the willingness to acknowledge one’s limitations and accept help in ways that are gratifying to the helper.” The elderly person and his or her caretaker should “create between them and for each other a workable balance between letting go and holding on, assertion and acceptance, intervention and letting be” (Ruddick, 1999).

    A real risk exists when people let go of their independence to become too dependent on caregivers. Ruddick (1999) explains that, “a caring person should know that if she hovers and insists she may encourage in the person she cares for a despairing acquiescence that is as life-ending as the ‘fall’ she would prevent” (p. 58).

    Clark (2003) experienced this situation with her mother who moved into a “nursing home for a few weeks rest.” Although her mother, in her late 70’s, had suffered debilitating arthritis for many years that was so bad that “she probably would have been confined to a wheelchair”, her independent life prevented it. Clark (2003) explained how “her [mother’s] need to do for other people was so great that she kept pushing herself, forcing activity on those aching joints willing them to function.” However, shortly after Clark’s mother entered the nursing home, she witnessed a drastic decline in her mother’s energy. Clark (2003) described that “as soon she began to take it easy, everything in her body slowed up…She could no longer take care of others” and she died a few weeks later.

    A similar decline is occurring in an elderly relative who recently entered a retirement home. Pedro, who is in his mid 80’s, lived independently as a retiree without any caregiving assistance until two years ago when he suffered his first fall. Pedro. tripped over his rambunctious dog, Nero, and suffered a minor injury. Since then, Pedro began to accept the help of a caregiver. As Pedro began to increasingly rely upon his caregiver he did less for himself. He delegated errands, shopping, house care, yard care, and personal budgeting to his caregiver and thus began to require even more help until he moved into a retirement home in June this year. Since his arrival at the retirement home he has fallen multiple times. The last fall resulted in a broken elbow. He has since been hospitalized.

    When Ruddick (1999) explains that “both living and caring well involve a changing process of adjusting, accepting and appreciating the living and caring that remains possible,” (p.58) I see how a lack of “wise independence” negatively affects the elderly. I believe that Pedro’s comfort level with caretakers just minutes away has led him to be less cautious when walking or moving about his apartment. In this sense, Pedro is becoming even more dependent on the caretakers and much less independent. I now fear for Pedro’s health, that it might decline even further now that he has no requirement to care for himself.

    Wise independence is not merely just an encouraging idea; it is a vital component in the health and longevity of the elderly. Caregivers and the elderly must be mindful of the independence vs. assistance balance, so they do not create excessive vulnerability and dependence on the caregiver(s).

    Reference:
    Clark, M. H. (2003). Kitchen Privileges. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
    Ruddick, S. (1999). Virtues and Age. In M. U. Walker (Ed.), Mother Time. Women, Aging, and Ethics. (pp. 45-60). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    Impairments = Missed Opportunities

    Reduced mobility creates hardships for seniors interacting with the world around them. When one experiences falls, broken hips, broken wrists, lower back pain and or a reduction in or cessation of driving, opportunities for interpersonal communications diminish.

    My grandfather developed severe back pain brought on by a crushed disc in his lower back earlier this year. Lower back pain in the elderly is common, as a recent national survey proved that in “patients aged 75 and older…back pain is the third most frequently reported symptom” (Bressler, et. al., 1999). His back pain caused him trouble walking and difficulties rising from chairs, walking up stairs, walking to the phone, and getting in and out of vehicles. Additionally, just a few months prior, he suffered a fall that resulted in a broken wrist. The broken wrist reduced his ability to write and in combination with the loss of mobility from the lower back pain, he experienced a lack of communications with family and friends.

    While the impairments in the ability to walk and write do not initially sound related to traditional communication barriers like hearing or vision losses, they have affected my grandfather’s ability to do many things related to interpersonal communication. He is no longer able to walk to the phone fast enough to answer it. When he finally does receive a phone call, he seldom holds the phone for long because of the pain in his wrist. When someone comes to his front door, he seldom makes his way across the house to open the door quickly enough. He no longer writes letters or sends birthday cards to friends and family. These impairments have led him to hire a caregiver to run errands for him, drive him and write out checks for him, though the caregiver’s assistance does not improve his communications with outside family, friends or society.

    Further compounding the lack of communication that my grandfather experiences with avoiding calls and not writing, is the fact that he has ceased driving due to the lower back pain. Now that he must rely on the caregiver’s schedule for transportation, it has lessened his opportunities for outings and social interactions. “The older person who reduces or ceases driving bears the brunt of the changes that occur in terms of monetary, social, psychological, and emotional costs” (Burkhart, 2007). Knopp (2009) notes, that “isolation and loneliness experienced by nondriving seniors can result in deteriorated physical and mental health.” Plus, older drivers who generally drive on six outings per week usually reduce outings down to two per week when they become reliant on receiving rides from others (Burkhart, 2007). Hence by discontinuing driving, my grandfather has lost additional opportunities to engage socially with others outside his home.

    Sadly, the number of seniors who do not drive is not as uncommon as one might think. “SCOPE, the community planning group, cites national research indicating that about 21 percent of Americans age 65 or older don't drive and that, on any given day, 50 percent are home-bound due to lack of transportation options” (Knopp, 2009).

    Falls in the elderly are also not uncommon. Warshaw (2006) reports that “after age 85, over half of women will suffer a fall” while “31 percent in the 80- to 84-year age group” of men experience falls. The complications from falls include fractures of the hip, and forearm [or wrist] (Warshaw, 2006). Earlier this month, the Pope at age 82, fractured his wrist when he fell (B92.net, 2009). A good friend, Marie, who was in her mid-70’s when she fell on pavement broke both her wrist and hip. “Because bones become brittle with age, fractures are common among the elderly” (Joseph, 2008). Interestingly, Warsaw (2006) also points out that “after a few falls, some people become so frightened and anxious that they will not attempt to stand even when there is adequate help and support.” As people become afraid to stand or walk after falls, they are not likely to return to outings that require walking or standing which also decreases their opportunities for interpersonal communications with friends, family and society.

    When Marie experienced the impairments of a fractured wrist and broken hip, I witnessed a loss in her interpersonal communications. Like my grandfather’s experience, Marie’s reduced mobility in walking and writing, resulted in her not taking telephone calls, seldom answering the door and the end of her writing to friends and family. Additionally, Marie had been a very social person before her accident and had engaged in many senior group tours overseas and spent much of her time out with friends shopping and dining out. Her reduced mobility led to the end of her overseas vacations as well as her social outings with friends.

    When looking at the losses of mobility from back pain, falls, broken wrists and broken hips, compounded with the cessation of driving, it becomes clear that seniors and the elderly lose opportunities for social engagement as mobility is reduced and they become increasingly homebound. Thus, even impairments unrelated to hearing and sight can equal losses in interpersonal communications for seniors and the elderly.

    References
    Bressler, H., et. al. (1999, Sep., 1). The Prevalence of Low Back Pain in the Elderly: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Retrieved from: http://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=1999&issue=09010&article=00011&type=abstract

    Burkhart, J. (2007, Jan. 30). Mobility Changes: Their Nature, Effects, and Meaning for Elders Who Reduce or Cease Driving. Ecosometrics Incorporated. Retrieved from: http://trb.metapress.com/content/dlk6vw1r15245554/

    Joseph, T. (2008, July 28). Colles’ Wrist Fracture. Medicine Plus. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000002.htm


    Knopp, T. (2009, July 12). Nonprofit service helps seniors retain mobility. Herald Tribune. Retrieved from: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20090712/COLUMNIST/907121023/2080/OPINION?Title=Nonprofit-service-helps-seniors-retain-mobility.

    Pope Falls and Suffers Broken Wrist. (2009, July 17). B92.net. Retrieved from: http://www.b92.net/eng/news/world-article.php?yyyy=2009&mm=07&dd=17&nav_id=60560

    Warshaw, G. (2006, Apr. 10). Falls and the Elderly. University of Cincinnati. Netwellnes.org. Retrieved from: http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/aging/faq9.cfm

    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Selecting In-Home Caregivers

    Marion is in her 90’s. She lives alone, but is across the street from her son and his wife. Her children have hired many caregivers for Marion. However, Marion is never invited to interview or choose her caregivers. So, the result has been that Marion often goes without care because she frequently dislikes who has been selected to care for her and usually fires the person or drives them away with menial tasks unrelated to caregiving (i.e. pulling weeds). This has left Marion in an unsafe situation - without regular care.

    Once when Marion was chosen a caregiver she got along well with, the benefits of good communication were obvious. Because Marion was instructing the caregiver in what she wanted and needed done, Marion was happier and more responsive during visits. The caregiver made sure she got up and dressed every day (as opposed to sleeping in bed all day in pajamas). She helped Marion to look presentable, even helping her to dye her hair red. Marion was eating regular meals, looking healthier and feeling better. She boasted how good it felt to have her back scrubbed during her bath. She stopped falling trying to use the restroom during the night (perhaps because she did not sleep all day, she had more opportunities to go during the day.) This caregiver contentedly worked with Marion for over a year until Marion’s son cut her hours back and she was forced to move on.

    The lack of communication between Marion and her children has been a losing situation for Marion’s health and wellbeing. Marion does not communicate her wishes to her children because she feels they do not care (likely because she is never included in the decision making). Marion does communicate her concerns to her grandchildren, but they have no control over the finances, Medicaid, or care giving decisions.

    As in-home care is highly personalized, communication is key. If a senior is of mental clarity and can communicate for herself, this is ideal. This gives the senior a voice and a decision in the administering of her own care. However, when family members step in and make decisions without the senior’s input or consideration, as Marion’s family did, this is highly destructive to the senior’s sense of independence, as well as the quality of care she receives.

    A properly placed caregiver, sensitive to the client’s personal needs, would ensure better care and a greater longevity of caregivers. Simply working in firms that had high turnover rates, one gets a glimpse of the stress that training new people or adjusting to changes in staff creates. I cannot begin to imagine how just how stressful it would be to add a turnover in caregivers to dealing with one’s own personal disabilities or unattended needs. It cannot be healthy for seniors to deal with such turnover, which makes the initial proper placement such a vital step in the care giving process.

    Benefits of In-Home Care
    • Significant financial savings to seniors and Medicaid
    • Staying in one’s own home is generally preferable to entering a retirement community.
    • People tend not feel sick if they are cared for at home.
    • People are able to maintain some forms of independence, as they address some of their own needs themselves or by delegating difficult tasks to an in-home caregiver.
    • Seniors do not have to lose the community they have grown comfortable with.


    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Green Departures

    “Americans put 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete, 104,272 tons of steel [for caskets and vaults], 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and 30 million board feet of hardwoods into the ground each year...the concrete alone…[is] enough to build 13,573 American houses.”
    A growing trend is the practice green or natural burial, which compassionately cares for the deceased and protects the earth. However, this natural and safe method has been practiced for centuries.

    Muslims wrap their dead in “white wrappings” and bury them directly onto the dirt of the grave (Jonker, 2006, p. 158). As Jonker (2006) explains, “No coffin is needed or wanted” (p. 158). The body is lowered into the grave “with shawls or lengths of cloth” and is “positioned as if sleeping” (Jonker, 2006, p. 158) with either a stone or pile of mud placed under the head for support (p. 158). The natural burial of the body in Islam (wrappings of just a shroud, no embalming and being placed directly in contact with the earth) allows for a more natural return to the earth. There is no use of unnecessary embalming fluid and coffin to slow the recycling of the body to the soil.

    The Jews also bury directly in the ground, and do not allow interment in mausoleums “as this is not returning the body to the dust from whence it came” (Levine, 1997, p. 107). Additionally, like Islam, Judaism prohibits both cremation and embalming (Levine, 1997, p. 107). This law was designed to prevent destruction and or altering of the body, however it is also done for the compassion of the surviving loved ones (Levine, 1997, p. 107). Because “embalming…creates an illusion of life…[it] may hinder the bereaved from acknowledging the death of their loved one” (Levine, 1997, p. 108). These compassionate Jewish values honor the deceased, assist in the healing of loved ones and protect the planet.

    Ecohumanist beliefs also support natural burial for the preservation of the planet. One of the principles shared on the Council for Secular Humanist (2009) is to “protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.” When one considers all the pollution and waste from common contemporary burials (embalmed body in casket), one cannot ignore the significant and devastating effects upon the earth. Cullen (2006) presents some very startling statistics on contemporary burials.
    “Americans put 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete, 104,272 tons of steel [for caskets and vaults], 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and 30 million board feet of hardwoods into the ground each year...the concrete alone…[is] enough to build 13,573 American houses” (p. 52).
    “Like the contents of any landfill, the embalmed body’s toxic cache escapes its host and eventually leaches into the environment, tainting surrounding soil and groundwaters” (Harris, 2007, p. 38). This happens because coffins are not leak-proof. Harris (2007) explains that the “combined body fluids, liquefied tissue, formaldehyde, bacteria, and corporeal acids…collect at the lowest spot of the casket, pooling in a…toxic soup” (p. 37). Wood caskets are porous offering minimal resistance to such toxic liquids, which can easily leak out (Harris, 2007, p. 37). While “metal caskets are more resilient…acids work to breach them as well” (Harris, 2007, p. 37). Cullen (2006) notes that green (natural) burials can “cut that waste [and pollution] dramatically” (p. 52).

    Embalming and caskets are not only unnecessary, they are wasteful and harmful to the planet. Obviously the pollution of the earth and the waste of precious resources do not help to protect the purity or safety of our planet. Natural or green burials, as supported by Ecohumanists, are clearly the most ethical and compassionate methods of burial. They help protect the planet for future generations.

    References:

    Cullen, L. T. (2006). Remember Me. New York: Harper Collins.

    Harris, M. (2007). Grave Matters. A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial. New York: Scribner.

    Jonker, G. (2006). The many facets of Islam: Death, dying and disposal between orthodox rule and historical conventon, in, C.M. Parkes, P. Laungani, & B. Young (Ed.), Death and Bereavement Across Cultures (pp. 98-130) London: Routledge.

    Levine, E. (2006). Jewish Views and Customs on Death, in, C.M. Parkes, P. Laungani, & B. Young (Ed.), Death and Bereavement Across Cultures (pp. 98-130) London: Routledge.

    The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles. (2009). Council for Secular Humanism. Retrieved June 2, 2009, from: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=affirmations
    All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.