Monthly Archives: August 2015

Saturday Scenery: Summer Summary

I haven’t done a Saturday Scenery post in a while, so I thought it was time to do a super-sized version. I haven’t had much time to write this summer, and below you’ll see why. Some of these I took with my phone camera, so they’re not amazing. Others I actually took with my professional camera (I hope you can tell the difference 🙂 ) Get prepared to see a lot of the back of my kids’ heads – it’s really a special art form of mine… School starts on Monday, so this is our last weekend of summer. I thought you might enjoy seeing how much we enjoyed our summer. I hope you enjoyed yours as well!

The painted hills at John Day Fossil Beds

The painted hills at John Day Fossil Beds

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Taking a walk to the playground in Leavenworth, WA.

Finding a live sand dollar on the beach.

Finding a live sand dollar on the beach.

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Getting ready to scale the dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation area – the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America.

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Icicle Gorge, WA.

Catching crawfish in the John Day River.

Catching crawfish in the John Day River.

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Camping at Fort Stevens State Park.

Throwing rocks in the Wenatchee River.

Throwing rocks in the Wenatchee River.

Playing in the sand at Heceta Lighthouse beach.

Playing in the sand at Heceta Lighthouse beach.

Riding bikes through the forest.

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Flying kites on the beach.

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Campground.

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Campground.

Playing in the ocean.

Playing in the ocean.

Hiking, hiking, and more hiking.

Hiking, hiking, and more hiking.

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From the Rancher’s Mouth: Beef Cattle and the Environment

Confession: my husband, kids and I hardly ever eat beef. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I bought beef at the store. Not that I don’t like beef – I occasionally enjoy a good hamburger at a restaurant and when we visit my parents I often request steak because my dad cooks a good steak.  Part of the reason we don’t eat much beef is because we only eat meat about 50 percent of the time. My husband used to be a vegetarian because he believes with our growing population it’s more efficient to eat a plant-based diet instead of using resources to raise animals for us to eat. Since having kids, he’s relaxed his approach because getting protein into kids is hard enough without the added difficulty of doing it without meat. As a compromise, when I plan the weekly menu, half of it is vegetarian. When we do eat meat, we don’t usually choose beef because cows are fairly resource-intense to raise (and, frankly, it’s often more expensive than chicken.)

At least, that’s what we think. In complete fairness, I’ve not spent a lot of time looking at the data, so when a cattle rancher with a degree in Environmental Studies agreed to share her perspective on the environmental impact of raising beef cattle, I was really excited. The below guest post by Cassidy  is a bit of an introduction into the environmental conversation around raising beef. Admittedly, this is one perspective on the conversation, and I plan to come back to this issue again in the future. But it’s an important perspective from a very intelligent, well-researched source, and I learned a lot about cattle ranching that I never knew. I hope you learn something new, too. (All pictures courtesy of Cassidy.)

Cassidy lives and works with her husband and six-month-old son on a cattle ranch in east central Colorado, where they raise registered Angus, Red Angus, Hereford and Charolais cattle. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. When they’re not messing with cows, horses or dogs or playing with their roly-poly kiddo, she likes to cook, read, do DIY projects, and cover as many surfaces as possible in plaid and/or glitter. 

–By Cassidy —

I’ve started and almost finished this post many times, but haven’t ever been happy with the result. I struggled with how to format it in a way that wasn’t too wordy while also being direct and informative and as unbiased as possible. The best I could come up with is a broad FAQ of sorts, because I get asked the same questions over and over. This is a very brief overview of a very complicated topic.

Just a disclaimer, I am going to be talking about beef ranching only. I’m also not going to be discussing feedlots—that’s a separate (though very much related) issue.

As a cattle rancher, how do you feel about the argument that people need to eat less beef?
I think people need to eat less (and waste less!) period, beef included. A quarter-pounder contains more than enough calories for a meal; do you really need to supersize it and add more of everything? And how much of that 16-oz steak are you going to eat, and how much are you going to throw away? This country as a whole struggles with consumerism and health, so cutting back across the board—not just in beef—seems to be a good idea to me.

But beef is the least feed-efficient animal, and they take up so many resources!

Flour the baby calf.

Flour the baby calf.

Again, true. Of the four main meat animals (fish, chicken, pigs, cattle), beef is the least feed-efficient animal; that is, it takes more pounds of feed to make one pound of meat (Johnston 2012). Cattle are larger than fish, chicken and pigs and thus take up more room and require more input just to maintain themselves. However, 85 percent of the land where cattle are raised is unsuitable for farming (Explore Beef 2009), so cows are a way to make that land work for us from a food production perspective, while maintaining natural beauty and wide-open spaces.

Another cool thing about wide-open spaces, besides the natural environment for wildlife and just seeing nature do its thing? Carbon sequestration! Grasslands, like forests, are carbon sinks, and some research shows that grasslands produce more in an environment higher in carbon dioxide (North Carolina State University 2001). Grasses require disturbance—grazing—to remain healthy, so well-managed grazing actually helps the environment; I talk more about this in the next section.

Isn’t livestock ranching bad for the environment? Ranchers only care about the bottom line, not the land.
Livestock ranching as it relates to climate change and land use is a big deal. A study by the FAO shows the impact livestock have on the environmental health of our planet (FAO 2006). As a rancher who holds a degree in Environmental Studies from CU Boulder, I get it, I really do. But no, well-managed ranching is not bad for the environment (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development 2008, Explore Beef 2009). The key here is the management, and the American ranching industry has made huge leaps and bounds in the past several decades as far as management is concerned. On government lands, for instance, land health is monitored closely. In years of environmental duress or when the rangeland in question is not up to standard, the number of animals allowed on the permit may be decreased, or a rest period may be implemented (Wiles 2014).

However, it’s hard to get a real read on the nation’s rangeland health as a whole. This article explains it much better than I can.

Ranching and the environment are very closely related—they have to be! Yes, ranchers care about the bottom line. They have to; a ranch is a business. But, ranchers are also stewards of the land, and the health of the environment is often the same as the health of the bottom line. How? Well, ranchers make a large portion of their income (if not all their income) selling cattle. Good grass makes for healthy cattle that produce better milk and raise bigger calves. Since cattle that will be eaten (feeder cattle) are bought and sold by the pound, this is important. Good grass also makes for big, strong, healthy bulls and replacement heifers (yearling heifers chosen to stay in the herd to replace old or culled cattle), which will increase their value to a prospective buyer. Poor grazing management is economically counterproductive, since bad management means less or poorer quality grass which translates to less weight gained or value added.

The environment, of course, includes the water, too. The area where land and a river or stream meets is called a riparian area. Managing this area is, in my opinion, one of the weaker links, but it’s also one of the areas where improvements are being pushed the hardest. Riparian areas are hard to manage, because they’re where cows like to be. It’s cool, there’s water, and the grass is tasty, so it’s not easy to convince the girls that they don’t need to hang out by the creek all the time.

Fenced off pond.

Fenced off pond.

We manage this by giving cows other water sources, and use windmill- and solar-powered water pumps to pump water into tanks fitted with overflow floats or ground tanks so they don’t overflow and get muddy. We also fence off particularly sensitive or boggy areas—sometimes just as much for the cows’ benefit, because cows can get bogged down and stuck and will die if you don’t get to them in time, and it can be pretty dangerous and exhausting work to pull a stuck cow out of a bog. We also use salt and mineral strategically to lure cows away from creeks to water tanks that are easier to manage. When all else fails, the cowboys will ride the creek every day, and push the cows away.

If ranching were all about the bottom line, no one would do it. It’s not a job; it’s truly a lifestyle that you have to enjoy to keep at it. The hours are long and the work is hard, and it’s definitely not as romantic as it seems. My husband and I have never held hands riding off into the sunset on our horses, but we have held (gloved) hands in the pickup checking calves all night long during a blizzard.

I’ve read that cows produce a lot of methane, which is a major greenhouse gas.
Also true! Cows are ruminants and enteric fermentation (methane production) is a natural by-product of their digestive processes, enteric fermentation from beef cattle accounts for about 19 percent of annual US methane emissions (United States Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions 2009). That’s a big number, but it bears mentioning that while methane is the more potent greenhouse gas, it only accounts for ten percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The beef industry is working on making animals more efficient in how they process feed—more moderate-framed, high feed-efficiency cattle that don’t require as much input. Our primary goal in choosing herd sires and replacement heifers for our ranch is frame size and efficiency. Our ranch is part of a larger group of ranches, and we provide the bulls to all the other ranches. Choosing moderate-framed bulls with high feed efficiency makes a big impact across all of the ranches, since there are over 16,000 cows. This means that there are 16,000 cows annually that are going to produce a more moderate-framed calf, thus producing less methane and using fewer resources. It also means that we are choosing replacement heifers from a more moderately-sized group of calves. The end goal is to have a very moderately-sized, highly efficient herd that is effective from both an economic and environmental standpoint: smaller, more efficient cattle use fewer resources and produce less methane.

Summer grass meadow.

Summer grass meadow.

One thing to mention here though is that I often hear that grass-fed beef is the better option both health-wise and environmentally. Keep in mind that cattle that are finished on grass rather than grain not only produce more methane because grass is harder to digest (Jones 2014), but because grass-finished cattle live anywhere from 6-16 months longer (Brady 2014) because it takes them longer to reach slaughter weight. This means that they consume more grass, water and space, too.

Isn’t it unfair that one person can own so much land and not allow it to be available for public use?
The ranch that my husband and I work for is about 50 miles away from a large city, with lots of smaller towns in between, and the owner buys up land as it comes up for sale so that it doesn’t get sold to developers. This means that the ranch is not even close to being contiguous, but I think it’s pretty neat because he’s working so hard to make sure that there’s some open spaces left for our children to see.

I know that there are people who have negative opinions about private land ownership, because that land isn’t open to the public for use. While I understand that argument, I think that the end result is more important, and if private citizens have to buy land to save it from being turned into 40-acre lots for homes and subdivisions, then so be it.

What’s more environmentally friendly: 80,000 acres of open land with a herd of cattle grazing, and a handful of houses and barns, or 40-acres with a house and a barn and a shop and a cement driveway with a horse “pasture” that’s eaten down to dirt and weeds? The latter might seem extreme, but it’s what I drive past every single day on my way to the office at headquarters, and it breaks my heart to see so little respect for the environment by the same people who condemn us, their neighbors, for raising cattle.

Winter pasture.

Winter pasture.

Just a tip: if you want to hike, or ride your horse, or just see a ranch, write a letter or email to the manager (I would say call, but lots of ranches are sans reliable phone service!) and ask for access or a tour. They may say no, of course, as is their right, but it’s a better course of action than trespassing, which is not only illegal but will guarantee the denial of future access.

Sources:

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. (2008, April). Grazing Management Adjustments for Healthy Rangelands. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from ESRD: http://esrd.alberta.ca/lands-forests/grazing-range-management/documents/GrazingManagementHealthyRangelands-2008.pdf

Brady, J. (2014). Why Grass Finished Is Important. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from Brady’s Idaho Beef: http://www.bradysbeef.com/grass-finished-beef.html

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. (October 2009). Enteric Fermentation Mitigation. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: http://www.c2es.org/docUploads/Enteric-Fermentation-09-09.pdf

Explore Beef. (2009, April). Cattle Ranching and Environmental Stewardship. Retrieved July 15, 2015, from Explore Beef: http://www.explorebeef.org/environment.aspx

FAO. (2006, November 29). Livestock a major threat to environment. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from FAO Newsroom: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/News/2006/1000448/index.html

Johnston, G. (2012, 2 2). Why is beef losing ground to chicken? Retrieved June 15, 2015, from Agriculture.com: http://www.agriculture.com/livestock/cattle/why-is-beef-losing-ground-to-chicken_276-ar21983

Jones, M. (2014, February). Ways to Reduce Methane Production in Cattle. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from UNL Beef: http://beef.unl.edu/reduce-methane-production-cattle

North American Meat Institute. (2011, March). The United States Meat Industry at a Glance. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from North American Meat Institute: https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/47465/pid/47465

North Carolina State University. (2001, January 15). Scientists Find That Grasslands Can Act as Carbon Sinks. Retrieved August 19, 2015, from Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010111073831.htm

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved 8 2015, July, from EPA.gov: http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Overview of Greenhouse Gases: Methane Emissions. Retrieved July 8, 2015, from EPA.gov: http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

USDA. (1996, August). Rangeland Health. Retrieved July 18, 2015, from Natural Resources Conservation Service Maryland: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/md/home/?cid=nrcs143_014218

Wiles, T. (2014, November 12). A new map shows rangeland health West-wide. Retrieved July 18, 2015, from High Country News: https://www.hcn.org/articles/BLM-rangeland-health-grazing-cattle-environment

 

 

 

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Farming in Focus: July Wheat Harvest and a bonus at the end

I’m slow this summer, so forgive me. I know we’re half-way through August and I’m just posting my July Farming in Focus. That’s life. I’m just happy I’m getting to this at all with two kids running around my legs all summer!!

At the end of last month I visited my friend Marie Bowers Stagg’s farm just north of Eugene to see how they harvest wheat. Then, earlier this week I got to tag along with her husband Tristan as he delivered almost 60,000 pounds of wheat to the grain elevator in Portland. Read on to see my adventures – and as a reward, if you make it to the end you’ll get to see how blueberries are harvested by machine! I finally caught back up with last month’s blueberry farmer in Albany and got to climb aboard a mechanical blueberry harvester!

Bashaw land and seed-4Bowers Stagg (who blogs at Oregon Green) is a fifth generation grass seed farmer on her family’s nearly 100-year old farm in the Willamette Valley. Her family primarily grows annual rye grass seed on a few thousand acres, but they also grow about 500 acres of wheat, 200 acres of meadowfoam, and this year grew about 50 acres of forage peas for cover crop. As is the case for all farmers, one of the most challenging aspects of farming is dealing with the unknown of the weather. This spring and summer in Oregon have been extremely hot and dry, so much so that it’s the first year Bowers Stagg has had to carry around a water tank in the bed of her truck everywhere she goes in case something catches on fire. Dry wheat is highly flammable and Bowers Stagg told me merely a spark from hitting a rock in the field with the combine can catch the wheat stubble on fire, something that happened in July on their farm. When I was visiting, Bowers Stagg had to stop to spray water on a compost pile consisting of leftover combine remains that ignited itself.

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One of Bowers Stagg’s primary concerns this year is fire hazard, but the heat and dry weather have also impacted their (and almost all farmers she knows) yield. This year their wheat yields are down about 30-50 percent. The last field they harvested yielded about half of what it did the previous two years.  Not only that, but because it was such a dry spring, the amount of protein in the wheat is higher than it usually is, which may sound like a good thing but it’s not. Eastern Oregon is expected to grow high-protein wheat because it’s always dry there, but western Oregon is expected to grow low-protein wheat because we get more rain. These two balance each other and the final product has just the right amount of protein. Except this year we didn’t get that rain and as a result, when Bowers Stagg’s husband Tristan delivers the wheat to the grain elevator, they get docked for having too much protein.

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One of the ways Bowers Stagg’s farm can off-set losing money on that low yield and high-protein wheat is to store it until the price of wheat goes up later in the year when demand is down. Pictured here is about 15 truck loads of wheat, or about 15,200 bushels that they’ll be saving and selling later in the year. Bowers Stagg grows soft winter wheat, which is primarily used in flatbread, crackers and wheat noodles (like Yakisoba) as it’s not the right consistency for bread. Most bread that we’re familiar with is made from hard red wheat.

Bashaw land and seed-5I have to say, this was what I was looking forward to the most during my visit to Bowers Stagg’s farm: riding in a combine! I was super excited about it, but after taking a few turns in this thing, I can honestly say I have very little interest in doing this full-time. This might be one of the most boring jobs I can think of. This is 15-year-old AJ’s first summer working for Bowers Stagg, and he seems to like it, but I honestly cannot imagine driving a combine around for 14 hours a day. Yes, that’s right, 14 hours a day of sitting in that cab moving at the speed of molasses!! Important and necessary, yes, but not exactly thrilling. I understand why they hire teenagers to run the combine, but I was a little shocked to discover that a 15-year-old is allowed to work 14 hours a day. Bowers Stagg told me agricultural employment allows for exceptions enabling them to employ minors. They cannot work more than 14 hours a day or more than 72 hours per week. Because this is AJ’s first summer, he’s making minimum wage, but next summer if he comes back he’ll get a raise. He says he’s saving his money up to buy a truck he has his eye on. That’s certainly more dedication than I had at 15, I’m not sure I did anything for 14 hours a day except drive my parents crazy.

Bashaw land and seed-7As the combine fills up with harvested wheat, one of AJ’s co-workers drives this wagon up next to the combine and AJ off-loads about 12,000 pounds of wheat and keeps on driving. AJ will finish early today because harvest is almost over. One of the benefits of a hot, dry spring and summer is that the wheat harvest is early this year. Bowers Stagg told me this is the first time that she can ever remember being done with harvest so early.

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While the focus of my visit was wheat, as I mentioned, Bowers Stagg primarily grows grass seed. They were already finished harvesting grass seed when I visited – they finished that the second to last week in July even though they aren’t normally done until August 1st. As a result, Bowers Stagg said this is the first time in her life that she’ll be able to take a vacation in August. She said her dad is planning to go camping in August just so he can say he did it. Her family primarily grows  forage type grass seed – seed used in pastures to feed livestock. One of the reasons they grow so much grass seed is because the soil where they live isn’t suited for much else. It’s mostly clay and doesn’t drain well enough to grow other crops. Bowers Stagg said they’re always looking for other crops to rotate in, but there aren’t many options.

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One way farmers improve their soil quality, at least enough to grow crops like wheat, corn, and mint in climates that are overly wet in the winter and dry in the summer like where Bowers Stagg lives, is through something called tiling. Basically, they dig these huge trenches in the field and run perforated tubing underground. This helps water drain off the surface and out the tubes into ditches and streams. Seems brilliant, right? So why doesn’t Bowers Stagg do this on all her land so she can have more crop rotation options? “Well, as my mom says,” Bower-Stagg told me, “you’re pretty much buying your land again.” The cost of tiling is so high, it’s almost like you’ve paid twice for your land. Then, even if the soil is good enough to grow corn or mint, you’d need to install irrigation as well, which is also costly. One complication of lack of rotation crops is that pest control can be very difficult. If you keep the same crop on the field year after year, it gets difficult to get rid of the bugs and weeds who damage or compete with that crop. Bowers Stagg said they used to be able to burn their fields every few years to get rid of slugs and other pests, but that has since been banned. Now instead of burning the wheat stubble, they bale it up and send it to a mushroom farm to become a home for baby mushrooms. And, they end up using more pesticide to get rid of pests.

Bashaw land and seed-14After the wheat is harvested, it’s delivered to the grain elevator on the Willamette River in downtown Portland. The wheat is dumped from trucks into a pit in the ground and then literally elevated up to those tunnels in the sky of this picture. From there, the wheat is poured into ships on the river where it travels mostly to Asia. Tristan told me that 74 percent of agriculture in Oregon is exported, including the majority of their wheat where it is made into Asian noodles.

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Tristan has only been a farmer since he married Marie. He’s actually a paramedic and still does that part time. He says he likes farming better because while the hours aren’t great, he gets to work with really nice people, unlike his job as a paramedic where he often works with “unsavory” people (his words, not mine.) This is Tristan’s sixth load of wheat he’s delivered to the elevator this year. Thankfully when I got to tag along harvest was almost done and it was only a 20 minute process. Last time he delivered wheat he had to wait almost three hours in line behind other trucks. First Tristan uncovers the tarps from the top of the truck and then drives the truck onto a scale that weighs the truck full of wheat. It’s at this point that the wheat is also probed to determine protein and moisture content.

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Next Tristan opens the back of the truck and the wheat comes pouring out into the pit below. Tristan takes care to remove his sunglasses and and anything else important that he’s wearing because if it falls off, it’s gone.

Bashaw land and seed-12It takes less than five minutes for 60,000 pounds of wheat to pour out of two trailers. The wheat falls out so fast that there is a risk that the sides of the trailer might implode if it falls out too fast. It wouldn’t even be possible with the tarps on top.

Bashaw land and seed-15I noticed a bunch of geese hanging around the elevator and after Tristan is finished he tells me why. They eat the leftover grains on the ground. Before getting back into the truck, Tristan empties his pockets out onto the ground that got filled up with wheat when he opened the back of the truck and the wheat fell out all over him. And that’s the end of my wheat story!

But wait, there’s more!

mechanical harvest update-1

This is what it looks like to drive a blueberry harvesting machine! Don’t worry, it moves slowly.

blueberry harvester-1The harvester is driven over the rows of blueberries and as the bushes pass through the arms of the machine, the berries are shaken off the bush and caught in trays.

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Then they travel up above onto a conveyor belt where they are caught in containers.

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Then they are dumped into bigger totes and offloaded by a fork lift onto a refrigerated semi truck and taken to be processed into frozen blueberries. Watch the video below to see the whole process.

 

 

 

 

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The Miracle Mineral Solution Sham and What You Can Do About It

I’m thrilled to share today’s article, written by another volunteer summer guest blogger, Mommy PhD (also known as Alison). As her stage name suggest, Alison has a PhD in Biology and Biomedical Sciences and post-doctoral training in neurotoxicology and epigenetics. Aside from being a mommy, she also currently works at Emory University as a post-doctoral fellow.

I follow Mommy PhD’s page on Facebook (you should, too!) and we’re in a few sciencey groups together, so I’ve been following along with her recent efforts to bring attention to what can only be described, in my opinion, as a group of terribly misguided parents engaging in horrific acts of (hopefully) unintended child abuse led and encouraged by a fanatic cult. This topic is a bit outside my usual realm of issues, but I asked Alison to write this post because, as a mother (and a human), I was appalled when I learned about it, and I think parents should be aware that this is happening and know of ways to help. Fair warning: some of the information and images below are a bit shocking – it turned my stomach, it might turn yours as well, but I hope bringing attention to this underground movement will help stop it. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Alison for her hard work.

——By Mommy PhD ——

Over the past few months, I have been working with an amazing group of people from all over the world to raise awareness about the use of Miracle Mineral Solution (chlorine dioxide, or CD, an industrial bleaching agent) as an enema to “cure” autism. Proponents of MMS claim that autism is caused by parasites and that bleach enemas remove these parasites and thereby “cure” autism. But what they think are parasites are really the lining of these children’s intestines that have been stripped away.

Some people blame the parents, but the real blame lies with the proponents of MMS who take advantage of parents who are searching for support and are overwhelmed with trying to help their child. In a way, as a mother, I can understand this. Parents will try anything to help their child. I have two kids and when it comes to protecting my children, I can turn into quite the mama bear. So when the proponents of MMS sell the false hope that autism can be cured, I can see how parents who can’t figure out what to do might fall for this. However, the proponents of MMS misrepresent science and flat out lie to support their lies. MMS has no benefit and can only cause harm.

  • There is no scientific basis for the use of MMS to treat autism (or anything else for which it is claimed to be used).
  • At the suggested doses, the chemicals in MMS are toxic. In fact, the most concerning effect observed in the toxicity studies of chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite is neurodevelopmental delay.
  • Using untested, unproven and unregulated treatments on children is childhood experimentation. To experiment on children without appropriate regulation and approval is highly unethical.
  • There are many resources for support for parents and evidence-based information on autism. You can contact these places for recommendations in your area.
  • The authorities are beginning to crack down on those who sell and promote MMS and related products.

What is chlorine dioxide/MMS?

Chlorine dioxide/Miracle Mineral Solution is an industrial strength bleaching agent that can be used in very low concentrations as a water purifier. CD/MMS is sold as a 28 percent solution of sodium chlorite and an activator (an acid like citric acid). When these are combined, chlorine dioxide is formed. However, as an analysis carried out by an independent lab at the request of investigative journalists in the UK, this reaction is highly inefficient and most (90 percent) of the sodium chlorite remains in this form. This produces a solution with a concentration of chlorine dioxide and unconverted sodium chlorite many hundreds of times higher than the acceptable limit set by the EPA.  So when people use this product, as an enema or orally or as eye drops or however they use it, the toxicity results mostly from sodium chlorite.

Is chlorine dioxide a bleach?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes. It is most definitely a bleach. See this article by Emily Willingham for a demonstration of what chlorine dioxide does to a navy blue cloth napkin.MMS is a bleach

Proponents of MMS will tell you that CD is not a bleach since it’s not household bleach (sodium hypochlorite). However, bleach is a general term that includes any compound that removes color. Chlorine dioxide is a bleach. It’s not household bleach, but it is most definitely a type of bleach.

Andy Brunning from Compound Interest created this graphic to demonstrate some of the many different chemicals that are classified as bleaches.

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Who invented Miracle Mineral Solution and the CD Autism protocol?

MMS was invented by Jim Humble. He is not a doctor, yet claims that the CD/MMS protocols cure Ebola, malaria, HIV and other diseases. He invented this “cure” while on a gold mining expedition in Guyana in 1996. In online videos, he claims to be a billion-year-old god from the Andromeda galaxy, specifically from the Planet of the Gods.  He founded his own “non-religious” church (their choice of words, not mine), the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, to protect himself and his “Ministers of Health” against legal action relating to his promotion of this protocol. They do not even try to hide that they formed this so-called church to protect themselves against prosecution and share information about how to avoid the authorities. This church looks very much like a cult.

Kerri Rivera is a “Minister of Health” within this church and has written a book describing her CD Autism protocol, which discusses CD/MMS given by enema or by drinking to “cure” children of autism.  She is also not a doctor. The justification for this protocol is that CD/MMS “cures” autism by removing the parasites (rope worms, not a real thing) that cause it. However, there is zero scientific plausibility that this treatment works. Autism is a not a disease to be cured. Research shows that autism is largely genetic. There is no link at all between parasites and autism.  What Kerri Rivera and other proponents of MMS say are parasites are really the lining of these children’s intestines that have been stripped away.

Intestinal parastiesFor comparison, here are some images on the left posted by parents of what falls out of their children after treating with MMS by enemas. Compare to the images on the right of actual intestinal parasites that infect the human gut. Worms have symmetry and structure, which the intestinal lining does not. What you see on the left are mixtures of intestinal mucus, undigested food, fecal matter and blood. They have no structure, no defined morphology, no symmetry. These are not parasites.

How do the kids react to being given MMS enemas?

Parents who are carrying out this protocol share their stories online. They share stories about their children crying in pain as they are held down and an industrial strength bleaching agent is forced into their rectums. They share pictures of the lining of their children’s intestines falling out, toenails falling off, and hair falling out. They share that their children stop showing emotion and have a loss of appetite. These are all signs of chronic poisoning and chronic abuse, but in these groups parents are congratulated for “curing” their children of autism. When parents post about disturbing symptoms their children are having in response to this “treatment”, the answer from the leaders is always – give more enemas.  These children are in pain but children trust their parents. This is an utter betrayal of that trust.

Is CD toxic at the dose recommended in the CD Autism protocol?

Yes. In fact, the FDA issued a warning about using this product in 2010:

‘FDA warned consumers not to consume or use Miracle Mineral Solution, an oral liquid solution also known as “Miracle Mineral Supplement” or “MMS.” The product, when used as directed, produces an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health. The product instructs consumers to mix the 28 percent sodium chlorite solution with an acid such as citrus juice. This mixture produces chlorine dioxide, a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment. High oral doses of this bleach, such as those recommended in the labeling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.’

In 2000, the EPA did a comprehensive review of all the literature on the toxicity of chlorine-based disinfectants including chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite. They used this review to determine safe levels for oral ingestion of these chemicals. They also determined the effects of toxic doses.

EPA Toxicology Review of ChlorineThe EPA concluded that oral ingestion of chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite is safe below 0.03 mg/kg/day. This “reference dose” indicates the dose that is safe to drink every day of your life with no adverse effects. This means that a 20 kg child can safely ingest 0.6 mg (0.00002 ounces). While the EPA says these compounds are safe below these levels, this also means that above these levels, they are not safe. Doses of CD/MMS prepared as directed are 10,000 times higher than the EPA reference dose and 520 times higher than the WHO maximum allowable daily dose.

These are also oral doses. Doses given rectally (by enema) are likely to have a greater toxic effect as they are likely to be absorbed more readily. Rectal exposure was not tested by the EPA as it is not a common route of exposure for water disinfecting chemicals.

Perhaps the most shocking thing in this report is that the most consistent finding of long-term and developmental toxicity studies in animals was NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DELAY. So not only are people pushing a toxic substance, they are pushing a substance that is likely to cause the sorts of issues in children that they claim it prevents.

How do proponents of CD/MMS distort the toxicity data?

In CD/MMS groups, people will often cite this 1982 paper as evidence that the EPA says chlorine dioxide is safe. There are numerous problems with this claim that show the ways that proponents of MMS manipulate information and lie.

  • They are misrepresenting the source of the article. The article was not a publication of the EPA or carried out by EPA scientists. It was carried out by scientists at Ohio State University and was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
  • The paper showed that drinking up to 5 ppm of sodium chlorite or chlorine dioxide for 12 weeks was safe. There is nothing wrong with the research in this paper. It clearly states that drinking half a liter (about half a quart) of a 5 ppm solution of chlorine-based disinfectants is safe.  What dose is this?  Assuming an average weight of 90 kilograms (almost 200 pounds) for an adult male, this is a dose of 3.5 MICROgrams/kg.
  • Lab tests show that most (90 percent) of the sodium chlorite in MMS remains unconverted yielding a 391 ppm sodium chlorite solution with very little chlorine dioxide. This given as directed translates to a dose of 312 mg/kg daily (for a 20 kg child). That’s MILLIgrams.  312 compared to 0.0035. The safety of a 0.0035 mg/kg dose tells us nothing about the safety of a 312 mg/kg dose.

Medical experimentation on children

Another huge issue with using the protocol on children is that using unproven treatments on children is medical experimentation. Doing this without proper approvals and oversight is a huge ethical issue. The National Institutes of Health have strict guidelines governing when it is ethically appropriate to use humans and children as subjects in medical studies. All human studies performed by medical professionals must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), a committee of scientists, doctors and community members, to ensure that human subject research is conducted in accordance with all federal, institutional and ethical guidelines. To use an unproven treatment without approvals on a child is experimentation and violates all of these guidelines.

Where can parents of autistic children find accurate information and helpful resources?

I imagine that parents find CD/MMS because they are looking for support and resources to help them navigate raising an autistic child. It’s unfortunate that they find information about CD/MMS and other fake cures being peddled to parents, instead of the excellent resources out there that provide accurate information and resources. Here are a few reputable sources for different kinds of information about autism.

What progress has been made to prevent the use of MMS?

Fortunately, over the past few months, we have made a lot of progress to stop these people from abusing more children.

  • Products relating to MMS were removed from Etsy and the US eBay site (new ones are popping up on eBay and people are continuing to report them).
  • Louis Daniel Smith in was convicted in US Federal court “for selling industrial bleach as a miracle cure for numerous diseases and illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, lyme disease, asthma and the common cold”. He set up a fake water purification business to purchase the chemicals and to attempt to hide his activities from authorities. He was convicted of conspiracy, introducing misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud and smuggling.
  • We held a small, peaceful protest at the AutismOne/Focus for Health Conference in Chicago, which I have written about before.
  • During the AutismOne (known for promoting dubious “cures” for autism) conference in May, the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, served AutismOne regular Kerri Rivera with a subpoena and Kerri signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, acknowledging that she has violated the Consumer Fraud Act and prohibiting her from giving seminars promoting CD/MMS and selling or promoting MMS in Illinois. Read more on this at Debunking Denialism.
  • There has been increased media coverage of this issue, especially by Phil Rogers and his team at NBC Chicago.

These are huge developments and the result of many months of hard work by many people. With the action by the Illinois Attorney General and the federal conviction of Smith, it is reassuring to see the authorities taking this seriously.

And, it’s not just in the US. In the UK authorities are also cracking down on the promotion and sale of these products and conferences promoting MMS in the UK have been cancelled after public outcry.

How You Can Help: Reporting products on Etsy and eBay

We were able to get Etsy to remove all CD/MMS related products from their site. We have made progress with eBay, but it’s been a little harder (their site is bigger and each country has it’s own site).  A few months ago, I emailed with them and they changed their filters so most of these products were blocked before they could be listed. Due to that, all products were removed from eBay, but there is a slow trickle of new products being listed as suppliers learn how the filters work.

However, it’s still fairly obvious that a 28 percent sodium chlorite solution with Jim Humble mentioned in the product description is not intended for water purification. There are also vendors selling only the citric acid activator. This is highly suspicious. Why would you need only citric acid activator? My suspicion is that when someone buys the activator, the order confirmation is followed by an email with instructions to purchase the sodium chlorite independently from eBay. We are continuing to monitor and report these products to eBay.

If you’d like to help report products, search eBay for chlorine dioxide, MMS, miracle mineral solution, Jim Humble, or sodium chlorite. At the lower right of the product page, below the “People who viewed this item also viewed” section, is a link to “report item”. (You do need to have an eBay login to report an item.) Report the item as a “prohibited and restricted item” and a “hazardous material”. Under detailed reason, select “pesticides and poisons.”

It’s been a good spring and summer for the fight against MMS. The momentum is with us and we continue to identify and report sellers and distributors to the appropriate authorities. We will continue our outreach to educate parents and to help them find the resources they need so they don’t fall for false hope. Hopefully, we can make MMS a thing of medical history, like leeches and bloodletting.

 

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