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BPA and hormones in our fruits and vegetables!

BPA and hormones in our fruits and vegetables!

A group of biology peeps in Florida took a stroll to the nearby supermarket to grab some samples for chemical testing. Unlike most of us, they are well-aware of the fact that industrial farms have been regularly irrigating our food with wastewater (2). Though there may be some advantages to this irrigation method within developing countries, in our own heavily medicated and polluted country the consequences to using water laced with plastic byproducts, prescription medicine and contraceptives create potential biohazards for our children and us.

Some of the chemicals these scientists found have been making recent headlines. Bisphenol A, which you may know as “BPA” from the slew of “BPA-Free” baby products hitting the market, is being found in produce like tomatoes and potatoes in quantities that have been linked to deleterious effects in the reproductive system as well as increased cancer rates. BPA is a very controversial chemical; expert panels argue that it “is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals” (3). Despite BPA’s extensively documented effects on the reproductive system of lab animals, its effects on humans are highly controversial; for a large number of studies, the scientists have not been able to clearly separate its effects from the effects of female hormones that are also being found in your grocery bag. To boot, the Center for Disease Control has found that 90% of us have high levels of BPA in our bodies.

Estradiol is another chemical these Floridian scientists have discovered in our lettuce and citrus. Every human being, whether male or female, has a chemical receptivity to the hormone estrogen; estradiol binds with our body’s estrogen receptors and BPA has also been shown to mimic estradiol. For males, high levels of estradiol may result in feminine traits or cause sterility (4). Since BPA has been found to change the expression of key developmental genes that affect the female reproductive system (5), this chemical cocktail of BPA+Estradiol can be perceived as the equivalent of a hormone treatment for the reproductive system. How this combination of chemicals may be affecting our children, few are hypothesizing due to the complex range of chemical reactions that may take place in the human body. Nevertheless, the estimated amount of this compound that you and I may be ingesting is considered “beyond the recommended intake” according to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Another chemical disruptor of our natural hormones, nonylphenol, was also detected in our food. Nonylphenol is a compound that also weakly mimics estrogen. It comes from detergents or pesticides and like estradiol and BPA, is not easily removed during wastewater treatment. Since Nonylphenol and Bisphenol A mimic the activity of natural hormones like estrogen and estradiol, this class of chemicals are called endocrine disruptors. As a whole, endocrine disruptors are known to cause birth defects, learning disabilities, deformations of the body, sexual developmental issues, and cancerous tumors.

For decades, the onset of puberty in our children has been happening earlier, especially for girls. Testosterone levels and sperm count have also been steadily decreasing in males for at least fifty years. The fact that these hormones and hormone disruptors have been in our meat and animal products is not news, though little has ever been done to regulate the industry. This most recent study now warns us of further exposure from our fruits and vegetables and will undoubtedly solicit more studies of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in our food.

 

Editor’s Note: This is my application essay for an internship. Reproduced because I think it’s a big deal, too.

(1) Jian Lu, Jun Wu, Peter J Stoffella, Patrick Wilson. Analysis of Bisphenol A, Nonylphenol and Natural Estrogens in Vegetables and Fruits Using Gas Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Dec 6. Epub 2012 Dec 6. PMID: 23215552

(2) Bartram, J., Carr, R. “Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta, and grey water, Volume 2: Wastewater use in Agriculture”. World Health Organization, 2006.

(3) Vogel, S. (2009). “The Politics of Plastics: The Making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A ‘Safety'”. American Journal of Public Health 99 (S3): 559–566.

(4) Sharpe, RM; Skakkebaek, NE (1993). “Are oestrogens involved in falling sperm counts and disorders of the male reproductive tract?”. Lancet 341 (8857): 1392–5. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(93)90953-E. PMID 8098802.

(5) Smith CC, Taylor HS (January 2007). “Xenoestrogen exposure imprints expression of genes (Hoxa10) required for normal uterine development”. FASEB J. 21 (1): 239–46. doi:10.1096/fj.06-6635com. PMID 17093138.

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The NEW mathematical tools of Education Administration

The NEW mathematical tools of Education Administration

Research in education is finally approaching the next level, and judging by my graduate classes in statistics, we’re going to need some incredible brain power to use these new methodologies.

First and foremost on the VAM (Value-Added Modeling) for evaluating teachers, schools, and districts, the premiere tool is called HLM (Hierarchical Linear Modeling). To use this software reasonably well, you need about two courses in basic statistics, a course of linear regression, and another course of multi-level modeling. It’s a pain in the arse to interpret the numbers that come out of these models, but if you can do it, you can probably work for anyone from Operations Research departments to Goldman Sachs. As a quick summary, if you input last year’s scores, students’ socioeconomic status, gender, race, parents’ education, etc. then you should be able to predict a student’s score the following year. In companies if you plot the productivity vs. sick days used, chances are you’ll see a relationship in the data. If you’re working through multi-level regression work, I’ve found these resources that carried me through a few homework assignments as well as a midterm:

Multilevel Regression Modeling Resources

Probability has also become a major focal point for estimating how random characteristics of schools, teachers, and students can be modeled. For a great introduction to probability theory, Ross is the major book that all beginners seem to find the most appropriate:A First Course in Probability (8th Edition). The major takeaway from probability theory is the “probability distribution.” For the best possible overview of the interconnectedness of this (insanely) difficult topic (well, at first…), this paper is a beautiful graphical organizer. Anyone who begins this little tumble down the rabbit hole will also be drawn to Bayesian Data Analysis. You’ll also probably need to get a good grip on R (the programming language) as well… So, if this is you and you’re trying to figure out this mess of Bayesian analysis (also related to Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, and forecasting), you’ll probably want this book with the cute little puppies on the front:

Finally, IRT (also known as Item Response Theory) is how they grade the SATs. CDM (Cognitive Diagnosis Modeling) is an evolution of IRT and is the umbrella concept of the multifaceted models that have arisen to explain the ways we can test for specific skills. It is extremely complex and requires algorithms such as the Expectation-Maximization Method or Maximum Likelihook methods (which again, require insane amounts of statistics training in probability and inference).

If you’re looking into developing a strong program in statistical analysis in education, this is your foundation. Policy and management aside, this is how to extract the data that is required to make policy arguments. If your superintendent isn’t aware of these tools, it’s time to go to a board meeting.

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Mid-Semester Musings…

Mid-Semester Musings…

Hurricane Sandy is, ironically, providing a short respite… the power is still on, classes are cancelled for two days, I have a moment to make updates on the sites I’m administering, and I can finally reorganize my winter clothes… well, while there’s still power and light…

Since September, I’ve learned and accomplished far more than I expected. For starters, statistical mathematics is much harder than I thought… but much more powerful than I imagined. Probability is a way of envisioning the separation of one potential event into all of its possible actualities, and the defining attributes of the players in this universe of events are definable “after the fact.” It’s actually quite incredible. I now understand why financial analysts think they’re smarter than everyone else, but I still can’t fathom the arrogance that usurps their morality. But to be honest, the difficulty of using these statistical algorithms to make good predictions are far more valuable than any public sector salary… so any true nationalist needs to do some introspection about their tax investment if they want smart people to assist in the reformation of this country. It’s no wonder that analysts would rather make 6 times more money for easier work. (Easier you ask? Yes… because statistical research for social science and psychology is still developing out of its infancy, but the research for finance is 45 years ahead.)

The election is almost over, thank heavens. I’m, admittedly, a politically vested person. I believe in the common good, the general welfare, prevention of warfare, promotion of education and healthcare… and it’s very sad that we can’t be sure that either candidate will push these efforts. What’s even worse is the insane amount of money that runs the PACs that support these two political parties that have a duopoly on our political system… and it seems that our population is far too immature and short-sighted, ignoring the tremendous oligarchical structure that holds our pensions, municipal bonds, college funding, mortgage banking, and our news organizations. Most believe third party candidates to be impractically naive personalities. They may actually be our only way to reform a broken government.

On a personal note, the edits for our book on Model UN Education and Social Intelligence for high school students is complete and finished. The website is ready for media content and our videos from the upcoming RUMUN and HMUN workshops will be available to members, as well as my upcoming presentation on “Presentation Skills: An Application of Social Intelligence” that I’ll be giving to the Rutgers Education Psychology faculty and graduate students. The youtube channel is up and running, the copyright is initiated, and the affiliates are being notified of their ability to make commissions. If you want to help sell our book for online commissions, let me know!

My wife is also beginning her work on her little website adventure. She will be launching her site called the Uneasy Yogini within the next two months. She’ll be promoting her classes, good products, healthy food and exercise, and some nice local spots. One day she’s hoping to have her second career take over her primary… but that is several years away, and we’ve got some parental basics to get through first.

 

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Who can change policy?

Who can change policy?

College work is in full swing.

(hilarious as I’m turning 34… am I smart or stupid? Will my wife still love me when it’s over?)

As I re-engage my creative mind within the collegiate terra firma of mental fertility, there is one glaring detail that lingers on the horizon as I simultaneously beseech myself to stay abreast of the national epidemic of political gridlock:

There is no shortage of interesting ideas!

Seriously… I hear good ideas everyday. Very few of them should be implemented with 100% faith and ubiquity, but they should be attempted nonetheless.

The Chicago teachers’ strike is a very good example of the final compromise that could have been entertained months ago while the details of the “initial” teacher assessment model could have been fine-tuned through the collaboration of the union AND the mayor’s office. If one employs the “golden axiom of social intelligence” [We are smarter than I] a successful strategy would reveal itself with minimal energy:

  1. Collaboratively discuss theoretical model that may prove accurate.
  2. Make predictions.
  3. Strategize implementation to answer the questions of BOTH parties (the union AND the administration).
  4. Implement for a provisional year.
  5. Employ third party expertise to THOROUGHLY analyze results.
  6. Present results to both parties and meet collaboratively to discuss & critique. Compare with predictions.
  7. Renegotiate steps 1, 2, & 3 before implementing within policy.

Mutual respect and mutual goals should be the new paradigm for local, state, and federal policy. When we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, we can finally have the open mind to attempt collaborative solutions.

A closing note: one interesting consequence of collaboration is the revelation of selfish spearheads of personal belief. Ardent figureheads of unyielding ideas are of more danger to our communal benefit than those who are willing to compromise. If democracy is a sacred idea, we must reduce the power of metaphoric monarchs. The union president doesn’t always support EACH of its members and the superintendent’s policy is RARELY a result of administrative consensus.

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Web Design & Hosting

Web Design & Hosting

Modern websites require traffic.

They can be gateways to affiliates, a hub that capitalizes on a niche, or a virtual community that shares interests and values…

Do you need membership?

Do you wish to “protect” your content for paid subscribers? Are you planning on linking your website with social networking?

Do you have content ready to go? Is it video, audio, and ebooks?

Do you have your online marketing plan? Are you capitalizing on the free networks that exist already? YouTube? Podcasts? Facebook? Twitter?

Do you have your images created? A home page design? Are you blogging or just presenting static webpages?

 

Do you have a domain and/or hosting? With what company and what are their capabilities for security, e-commerce, and email?

Have you asked these questions already? Do you need help answering them? Contact me for a consultation.

 

 

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