The occasion was a tour of a facility that burns human waste and produces water and electricity (plus a little ash). I have visited lots of similar sites, like power plants and paper mills, so when I heard about this one—it’s part of the Gates Foundation’s effort to improve sanitation in poor countries—I was eager to check it out.
The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.
Here’s a short video from my visit in November, which explains how it all works:
Why would anyone want to turn waste into drinking water and electricity?
Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren’t properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically.
If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy.
Western toilets aren’t the answer, because they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just isn’t feasible in many poor countries. So a few years ago our foundation put out a call for new solution.
One idea is to reinvent the toilet, which I’ve written about before.
Another idea—and the goal of the project I toured—is to reinvent the sewage treatment plant. The project is called the Omniprocessor, and it was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle. I recently went to Janicki’s headquarters to check out an Omniprocessor before the start of a pilot project in Senegal.
The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the U.S. government.
Before we even started the tour, I had a question: Don’t modern sewage plants already incinerate waste? I learned that some just turn the waste into solids that are stored in the desert. Others burn it using diesel or some other fuel that they buy. That means they use a lot of energy, which makes them impractical in most poor countries.
The Omniprocessor solves that problem. Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity.
If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry. Our foundation is funding Janicki to do the development. It’s really amazing to see how they’ve embraced the work; founder Peter Janicki and his family have traveled to Africa and India multiple times so they can see the scope of the problem. Our goal is to make the processors cheap enough that entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries will want to invest in them and then start profitable waste-treatment businesses.
We still have a lot to learn before we get to that point. The next step is the pilot project; later this year, Janicki will set up an Omniprocessor in Dakar, Senegal, where they’ll study everything from how you connect with the local community (the team is already working with leaders there) to how you pick the most convenient location. They will also test one of the coolest things I saw on my tour: a system of sensors and webcams that will let Janicki’s engineers control the processor remotely and communicate with the team in Dakar so they can diagnose any problems that come up.
The history of philanthropy is littered with well-intentioned inventions that never deliver on their promise. Hopefully, these early steps will help us make sure the Omniprocessor doesn’t join the list. If things go well in Senegal, we’ll start looking for partners in the developing world. For example I think it could be a great fit in India, where there are lots of entrepreneurs who could own and operate the processors, as well as companies with the skill to manufacture many of the parts.
It might be many years before the processor is being used widely. But I was really impressed with Janicki’s engineering. And I’m excited about the business model. The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace. It’s the ultimate example of that old expression: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
A cup of fresh cocoa helps to improve brain function among older people, as some of recent studies claim.
In a rapidly changing and aging world more and more people suffer from age-related decline of intelligence or dementia.
Scientists are looking for more new methods to combat it, because this illness dramatically reduces the quality of life of the patient and often leads to the necessity of reconsidering the ways of living of all family members.
Flavonoids and antioxidants that are found in cocoa beans may be good sources of medicine in this situation.
Ian MacDonald, the scientist from Nottingham, United Kingdom, describes an experiment in which young women were drinking a cup of cocoa before performing complex tasks and performed them under control of a magnetic resonance imaging procedure.
The device showed a significant acceleration of cerebral blood flow in the group.
The next step was to study the impact of cocoa on the brains of people who have initially reduced cerebral blood flow.
According to the researchers, the benefits that cocoa brings were discovered during the investigation of health of the tribes of South America who drink this beverage in very large quantities.
However, the problem lies in the fact that cocoa powder which is delivered to the shops is poor with flavonoids. They are artificially extracted from raw materials, as flavonoids give this drink a bitter taste.
The researchers also fear that patients will “look” the same substance in chocolate that will lead to problems with obesity. Chocolate is food for pleasure and it will never improve health as opposed to cocoa in anticipation of bright future, scientists say.
Soda is not good for you. The high-calorie, sugary drinks have been linked to obesity and a host of other health problems. Soda can be particularly dangerous to children, who can consume lots of calories quickly through colas and other pop without feeling full. And then there’s the dental toll — it doesn’t take a peer-reviewed study to tell you that drinking lots of sweetened soda isn’t great for your teeth.
But soda isn’t just water, corn syrup and carbonation — a can of Coke or Pepsi also contains chemical additives for coloring and flavoring. And according to one public health group, those additives could increase your chance of getting cancer.
That’s the message from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer watchdog group. CSPI has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the “caramel coloring” that is used in Coke, Pepsi and other sodas, on the grounds that the chemicals are carcinogenic.
CSPI says the artificial brown coloring — which doesn’t have much to do with actual caramel, despite the name — is made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressures and at high temperatures. (Just like Mom used to do it!) Those reactions produce the chemicals 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole — chemicals that government studies have found to cause lung, liver or thyroid cancer in lab rats or mice. “It’s a small but significant risk, and it’s the kind of thing that government agencies should deal with,” says Michael Jacobson, the executive director of CSPI.
Is Jacobson right? A 2007 study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in male and
female B6C3F1 mice based on increased incidences of alveolar/bronchiolar neoplasms,” otherwise known as lung tumors. The state of California has also concluded that 4-MEI is a carcinogen, and is in the process of crafting regulations that may require food and drinks containing significant levels of the chemical to bear cancer warnings.
According to California’s regulators, a level of more than 16 micrograms per day would pose a significant risk — meaning it could result in at least one excess case of cancer per 100,000 exposed people. Given that there are roughly 130 micrograms of 4-MI per 12-ounce can of soda — and given that the average American drinks 14 ounces of soda a day, with young men drinking far more — that would mean that most of us would be at some risk.
As a result, CSPI has been petitioning the FDA to change the name or ban the use of the chemicals in soda and other foods, or at least force manufacturers to put warning labels on their packaging. “We think industry can solve this problem,” says Jacobson. “They don’t want to put warning labels on their products.”
The soda industry, however, is fighting back. In a statement the American Beverage Association — an industry group that includes soda makers — denied that 4-MEI posed any danger to human health:
4-MEI is not a threat to human health. There is no evidence that 4-MEI causes cancer in humans. No health regulatory agency around the globe, including the Food and Drug Administration, has said that 4-MEI is a human carcinogen. This petition is nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers by an advocacy group long-dedicated to attacking the food and beverage industry.
In California a number of industry groups — including the American Beverage Association — have filed a lawsuit against state regulators to block efforts to list 4-MEI as a carcinogen:
The state agency’s decision does not reflect sound science and failed to follow its own regulations. Also, it did not take into account all the data available on the subject in this process.
Energy drinks, many of which contain too much caffeine, may be harmful to children, according to a new study published on Monday.
The finding was based on a review of the literature on energy drinks, researchers at the University of Miami said in the study appearing in the journal Pediatrics.
Many of the energy drinks reviewed contain three times the caffeine of a cola and some of which have five times more, said the study.
The study showed that caffeine in the drinks can exacerbate cardiac conditions, especially in children with eating disorders, and interfere with calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents.
Energy drinks produce extra calories which can contribute to diabetes, high body mass index and dental problems, according to the study.
Also, energy drinks contain additional ingredients which may boost caffeine levels, said the study.
The study also found that many children and young adults in the United States have tried energy drinks, and some consume them heavily.
A survey of college students reported that 51 percent regularly consumed one or more of the drinks per month, and a majority of those students drank them several times a week.
Insufficient sleep and a desire for more energy were cited as reasons for such consumption, said the study.
The drinks are unregulated in the United States, and the number of overdoses of caffeine from drinking them remains unknown, the study said.
But in Germany, Ireland and New Zealand, officials have reported cases of liver damage, kidney failure, seizures, confusion and arrhythmias associated with energy drink use, according to the study.
In spite of the fact that the FDA has banned the drink Four Loko, students still want it, which makes the manufacturer of it very happy. Some students have had to find medical help as a result of the over consumption of this drink that combines alcohol and caffeine. Recently, some University students had to be taken to the hospital after they blacked out at party. It is becoming apparent that regular consumption of this drink could lead to alcohol addiction. This, in turn, will eventually require North Carolina alcoholism detoxification for regular Four Loko drinkers who live in the Tar Heel state.
At a recent music concert almost 30 people were treated an illness that was determined to be related to alcohol and 11 people were taken to the hospital. The drink Four Loko has also been involved of deadly automobile accidents. As a result of a study that was conducted and these incidents, the FDA sent warning letters four of the companies that manufacture the mixed beverage.
The drink Four Loko is the equivalent of 8oz. of coffee and four beers. Some health officials believe that the drink is dangerous since the caffeine hides the level of intoxication, which makes it hard for the consumers to determine their limit accurately. There have been some scientific studies that have even determined hat caffeine is a food additive that is unsafe.
Despite what the experts say, the makers of Four Loko disagree. Phusion Projects say that the drink Four Loko is no more concerning than consuming Red Bull and Vodka. They still believe the combination of caffeine and alcohol is safe. Further, popular drinks such as Irish coffees and rum and colas that have been consumed responsibly and safely or years should be facing the same scrutiny that the drink Four Loko have faced recently.
The FDA website recently reported that of the combined use of alcohol and caffeine among college student in the United States, the use was as much as 26%. Most college students don’t see a problem with the energy drink. Although the statement by Four Loko CEO might be considered by some to be a valid argument, others believe they see the social influences combined with the science of their product as a larger possible risk than any other mixed drink.
Over the past 40 years the consumption of soda has increased substantially, much to the pleasure of the soda manufacturers; however, so have the ill effects of its over consumption.
The fact is that today kids consume way too much sugar as compared to 40 years ago. Teenagers are drinking less milk and, as a result, are getting less calcium. They are getting about 40% of their energy/sugar calories from soft drinks.
Currently, teens are drinking half as much milk as soda as compared to 20 years ago. There have been research studies which show that teenage girls who require 1300mg of calcium/day are only getting about 800mg. This lack of calcium can predispose one to broken bones and osteoporosis. Calcium is also important for bone development up to the age of 18.
It is a natural fact that teenage girls who drink too much soda have a much greater risk of breaking a bone or developing osteoporosis. Three cans of soda/day poses a serious risk for teenage boys. Males in the 12 to 29 age range are known to be the single largest group of people who indulge in soda. The risks to one’s health from the over consumption of soda include tooth decay and destruction, osteoporosis, obesity, kidney stones, and diabetes.
Soda contents include caffeine, acid, additive dye, and a high fructose corn syrup. An average can of soda has about 10 to 12 tsp of sugar or 40 to 48 grams of phosphoric or carbonic acid.
The fructose syrup contains zero nutritional value. Caffeine, which is stimulant that is mildly addictive, causes calcium excretion that can result in an increased risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Most people think that the sugar in the soda is bad and that is what causes tooth decay. However, the research shows that the real danger is in the acid. The phosphoric or carbonic acid dissolves the calcium out of the enamel leaving it a softened matrix for bacteria to enter the teeth and cause wholesale tooth destruction. Therefore, sugar free sodas are not a viable answer.
Most individuals who drink a lot of soda range from some minor decalcification of teeth, with white bands of softened enamel which encircle the teeth at or near the gum line to cases where numerous teeth are totally destroyed from decay.
Many of these individuals are students who study while continuously sipping a soda which creates an acid bath for their teeth. Don’t forget the fact that the sugar itself is also converted to acid by the bacteria on the teeth. Coupled all this with poor dental hygiene and you have a recipe for an oral disaster in the making.
The public should be educated regarding the ill effects and the soda companies need to take some responsibility since they insist on glorifying drinking their brands as being a sort of cool. So the next time your kids or you drink a soda, be aware and concerned. Always use moderation. Don’t bathe your teeth in acid, rinse with water and practice good oral hygiene.
Alcohol is created when glucose is fermented by yeast. The alcohol content is determined by the length of fermentation and the amount of yeast. Wine and cider are made with fruit. Cereals such as rye and barley are the foundation of beer and spirits. Alcohol is considered a drug that can alter mood. While it may relax some people, alcohol is actually a depressant. It suppresses the part of the brain that controls judgment. Many people have an alcohol problem. Eventually, these people will have to seek treatment like what Maryland alcohol abuse programs and other similar programs in other places provide.
Wine producers touted the results of a scientific study as proof that wine is good for your health. A 1992 research study showed a correlation between high wine consumption rates in France and the low death rates in France from coronary heart disease. Further studies reported that a pattern of diet and alcohol consumption in other European countries seemed to support the earlier study.They stated that alcohol can lower heart disease.
Red wine does contain flavonoids which do work as antioxidants. It is possible that the antioxidants can help to reduce fat build up on the inner walls of the arteries. Scientists also are studying whether red wine may help maintain the flexibility of the blood vessel. Alcohol and heart problems need to be further studied.
These studies seem premature in their finding and do not consider that alcoholic drinks harm more than they help. It does address real issues with alcohol problems. A major risk of chronic alcohol use is the long-term damage that can be done to the internal organs of the body. For example, alcohol abuse is the leading factor of liver cirrhosis.
The scarred tissue of the liver cannot be returned to good health. The liver is responsible for metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates as well as the major function of excretion of waste products from the body. An alcoholic problem can also lead to stomach ulcers, weight gain, fertility issues, and exhaustion of vital minerals and vitamins.
Doctors are cautious about alcohol consumption. In fact, generally, a woman (not pregnant) can have one drink daily. A man can consume two drinks daily. However, it should be the recommended serving size. For example, a standard drink is described as follows: 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of wine cooler, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounce of 80-proof distilled liquor.
Current trends of alcoholic consumption have focused on carbohydrates. Many diet plans have limited carbohydrate consumption and this is a continuation of those plans.
A newer entry has been non-alcoholic drinks such as beers. They are malt-based beverage geared towards those who cannot consume alcohol: pregnant women, designated drivers and those with health concern that prohibit any malt-based products. There have not been studies on the health benefits of these drinks.
Doctors continue to state that the best non-alcoholic drink is pure water. It is the healthiest beverage choice. It helps to remove toxins and waste from your body. Water keeps the heart healthy and improves the condition of skin.
If you consume sports drinks, it may be best to wait thirty minutes before brushing your teeth. According to a recent study, citric acid in sports drinks weaken tooth enamel – brushing too soon after sipping a sports drink may increase the risk of tooth erosion.
The study, from NYU dental researchers found that consuming popular sports drinks softens the teeth, especially if you consume too many. Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry tells us this is the first study linking citric acid in sports drinks to erosion of the teeth.
Teeth from cows were used for the study, which resemble human teeth. The dentists cut the cow’s teeth in half and submerged one-half in water, and the other half in a sports drink. The tooth subjected to the sports drink showed a significant amount of erosion and softening, probably from the citric acid in the sports drink.
Several top-selling s drinks were used to prove that the sports drinks cause teeth to erode. The scientists submerged five teeth 75 to 90 minutes in order to approximate the amount of time human teeth are exposed to citric acid while sipping on sports drinks.
“To prevent tooth erosion, consume sports drinks in moderation, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, to allow softened enamel to re-harden,” says Dr. Wolff. He also suggests limiting sports drinks to avoid destruction of tooth enamel that leads to erosion and soft teeth. Your dentist can tell you if acid-neutralizing remineralizing toothpaste might protect your teeth from erosive tooth wear that can happen silently while sipping on your favorite sports drink.
The British government is looking into the effect of hard water on eczema sufferers. The aim by a study supported by the Department of Health is to test the effect of installing water softeners into eczema sufferers' homes in a bid to alleviate the painful condition.
The British government is looking into the effect of hard water on eczema sufferers. The aim by a study supported by the Department of Health is to test the effect of installing water softeners into eczema sufferers’ homes in a bid to alleviate the painful condition.
Scientists will test the effect on children between 6 months and 16 years old who have moderate to severe eczema. The reason why water softeners are being installed is because past studies have revealed a correlation between hard water areas and a prevalence of eczema.
In the UK, nearly 20% of children have eczema conditions of some level and it is usually found on the ankles, face, knees and neck.
The study originally started in 2007 with 230 participants and before it comes to a conclusion in August 2009, the study leaders want to enrol another 80 participants.
The study involves the children’s parents keeping a record of the eczema symptoms and the child wearing a wrist band that detects scratching at night. Also, for 3 months a water softener is installed in the home and then removed for 4 weeks to observe if there is any change to the symptoms.
One mother tells the story of her son’s participation in the study:
Anne-Marie said “Dylan (her son) had bleeding sores, and even changing him was heart-breaking. Every time his skin was exposed, he started scratching. And he wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour without waking up to scratch.”
“We had about a dozen different creams on prescription and I was at my wit’s end,” she added.
The water softener resulted in a fast and pronounced improvement in the baby’s condition.
Anne-Marie described the effect of using softened water in the home: “Less than two weeks after the softener was installed there was a dramatic improvement. Now there’s barely a mark on him. He’s a completely different baby.”
From Portsmouth University, Professor Tara Dean who is looking after the study said: “If water softeners are found to improve the symptoms of eczema it will be a breakthrough for both patients and doctors.”
It’s true. Tea has been shown to offer protection to our teeth. Tea is a natural source of fluoride, which is known to protect against tooth decay.
Drinking tea (without added sugar) has been associated with a number of beneficial effects in preventing tooth decay.
Epidemiological surveys have reported that some populations who drink tea on a regular basis have a reduced number of carious teeth. Proposed mechanisms for tea’s oral health benefits include:
The authors concluded that tea was an effective vehicle for delivering fluoride to the oral cavity where it may then become associated with the oral tissues potentially helping to prevent dental decay. Even for adults, whose teeth are fully formed, tea’s fluoride is a great way to protect your teeth. The fluoride found in tea has been shown to inhibit the growth of glucosyltransferase. This substance helps the plaque that naturally forms to adhere to our teeth.
Other components of tea may also contribute to the inhibition of caries. It has been reported that the tannins in tea can inhibit salivary amylase thereby reducing the cariogenic potential of starch-containing foods.
In addition to its beneficial effect on plaque, tannin, along with other components of tea such as catechin, caffeine and tocopherol have been shown to be effective in increasing the acid resistance of tooth enamel.
Both green and black tea and their specific flavonoids, mainly catechins, have exhibited inhibitory effects on the growth of cariogenic bacteria by preventing the adherence and growth of plaque bacteria at the tooth surface.
So, while black tea is definitely good for you, and is protective to your teeth, for the maximum overall health benefits, get your daily dose of green tea. Many scientists today suggest that for the maximum benefit to your dental health, you combine the two. Both are delicious and refreshing, making a wonderful drink any time of day. It may be one of the simplest ways you can protect your health – and your smile.
One cup of tea contains approximately 0.25 milligrams of fluoride. Fluoride is well known about its positive effect on teeth. One’s daily fluoride need is somewhere between 1.4 and 1.5 milligrams. Thus tea consumption also contributes to meet our fluoride need.
People, who have abandoned their morning cup of coffee for a healthier cup of herbal tea might want to think again, say British researchers. They found that many herbal teas seriously damage teeth by eroding protective enamel.
Drinking herbal teas regularly can erode tooth enamel, according to a new study conducted in the United Kingdom. Paul Brunton and A. Hussain at the University Dental Hospital of Manchester conducted their study with three groups of 21 extracted teeth.
Each set of teeth was dropped into either regular black tea (Typhoo), herbal tea (Twinings’ Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla tea), or water. The teeth soaked for 14 days, which the investigators determined to be equal to drinking three cups a day for 18 years.
Both the black tea and the herbal tea caused tooth surface loss; however, Brunton and Hussain found that the erosive effect of herbal tea was five times more severe. The findings, published in the November 2001 issue of the Journal of Dentistry, were attributed to the high acid content of the herbal tea.
Another tea study of tea effects found that polyphenols–chemicals found in tea–can help prevent bad breath. Laboratory experiments revealed that polyphenols can retard the bacterial growth that causes bad breath.
ScienceDaily (Jun. 17, 2008) — A new study has good news for coffee drinkers: Regular coffee drinking (up to 6 cups per day) is not associated with increased deaths in either men or women.
In fact, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a somewhat smaller rate of death from heart disease.
“Coffee consumption has been linked to various beneficial and detrimental health effects, but data on its relation with death were lacking,” says Esther Lopez-Garcia, PhD, the study’s lead author. “Coffee consumption was not associated with a higher risk of mortality in middle-aged men and women. The possibility of a modest benefit of coffee consumption on heart disease, cancer, and other causes of death needs to be further investigated.”
Women consuming two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease during the follow-up period (which lasted from 1980 to 2004 and involved 84,214 women) as compared with non-consumers, and an 18 percent lower risk of death caused by something other than cancer or heart disease as compared with non-consumers during follow-up.
For men, this level of consumption was associated with neither a higher nor a lower risk of death during the follow-up period (which lasted from 1986 to 2004 and involved 41,736 men).
The researchers analyzed data of 84,214 women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and 41,736 men who had participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. To be in the current study, participants had to have been free of cancer and heart disease at the start of those larger studies.
The study participants completed questionnaires every two to four years that included questions about how frequently they drank coffee, other diet habits, smoking, and health conditions. The researchers then compared the frequency of death from any cause, death due to heart disease, and death due to cancer among people with different coffee-drinking habits.
Among women, 2,368 deaths were due to heart disease, 5,011 were due to cancer, and 3,716 were due to another cause. Among men, 2,049 deaths were due to heart disease, 2,491 were due to cancer, and 2,348 were due to another cause.
While accounting for other risk factors, such as body size, smoking, diet, and specific diseases, the researchers found that people who drank more coffee were less likely to die during the follow-up period. This was mainly because of lower risk for heart disease deaths among coffee drinkers.
The researchers found no association between coffee drinking and cancer deaths. These relationships did not seem to be related to caffeine because people who drank decaffeinated coffee also had lower death rates than people who did not drink coffee.
The editors of Annals of Internal Medicine caution that the design of the study does not make it certain that coffee decreases the chances of dying sooner than expected. Something else about coffee drinkers might be protecting them. And some measurement error in the assessment of coffee consumption is inevitable because estimated consumption came from self-reports.
This study was supported by National Institutes of Health research grants.
Migraines affect more than 36 million Americans – that’s nearly one out of every ten people! It’s also in the top twenty disabilities that cause people to miss work. The thing is, if they all knew this secret to curing and preventing these chronically severe headaches, that number would see a drastic reduction.
Fruit tea - one word describes it - DELICIOUS and HEALTHY.
Fruit tea comprised of browned shredded quince which has been oven-dried, dry-grilled until brown, and stored ready to steep in boiling water.