Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe?

Electronic cigarettes were first introduced in the US in 2007.  They were marketed as a device to help smokers cut back on their smoking habit.  There are now opinions that remain divided as to their long-term impact on health.

The concerns include how e-cigarettes are marketed and what ingredients are contained within these devices.  E-cigarettes have a mouthpiece or cartridge, an atomizer and a battery.  The cartridge holds a liquid solution, usually containing nicotine, that is heated up and vaporized by the atomizer.  Once the liquid is vaporized, the person can inhale it, mimicking the process of smoking.  Unfortunately, the solutions within the cartridges have variable concentrations of nicotine – amounts can range from no nicotine at all to high concentrations of 24-36 mg/ml.  Also the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report last year revealing that the number of e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers in the US had increased dramatically over the past 5 years.  In 2010 there was one call per month, but this rose to around 215 calls per month by 2014.

What does this mean?  Well the director of the CDC stated that the report “raises another red flag about e-cigarettes: the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous.”  Defenders of the device however pointed out that more than half of the call to poison centers involved children aged 5 years and under.  Which they stated suggested that a misuse of a product intended for adults was to blame.  But the investigators said that the child poisoning was usually due to direct contact with the cartridge liquid, either through ingestion, inhalation or exposure to the liquid on their skin or eyes.  Currently these devices are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.

Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a proposal to extend current tobacco regulations to include all e-cigarettes and other products that meet the legal definintion of a tobacco product.  This would allow them to restrict the way e-cigarettes are advertise and promoted, especially campaigns designed to appeal to youths.  Consumers will also have to wait for an accepted set of measures to confirm the purity of e-cigarettes and the liquids used within.

Much is still unknown about precisely what is present in terms of chemicals, and what their long-term effects might be.  When two brands where analyzed by the FDA they found variable levels of nicotine and identified traces of toxic chemicals including carcinogens (formaldehyde and acetaldehyde), which are substances known to cause cancer.  Another study from the University of Southern California found that the vapor produced by a popular brand of e-cigarette contained toxic levels of certain metals, nickel and chromium, far greater than those found in the smoke of traditional cigarettes.  I think there is still research to be done to definitively find out the safety of these devices, although the consensus seems to be that they are sill less harmful that regular cigarettes.  But without further regulations to make a standardized product, I feel that the number of child poisonings are going to continue.

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Food Safety Tips

Food Safety

The safe handling, preparation, and storage of food.

Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

washing handsBacteria can be spread throughout a kitchen and contaminate hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.

Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces.  If you use sponges or towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine to get rid of bacteria.

Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate

separateSeparate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods starting at the store in your shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.

Cross contamination is the easiest way bacteria can be spread.

Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood versus fresh produce. And never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

Cook: Cook to Proper Temperatures

foodtempUse a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Food is considered to be safely cooked when it reaches an internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

When microwaving food make sure there are no cold spots in the food, where bacteria can survive.  For best results, cover food, stir and rotate the dish once or twice during cooking.

Chill: Refrigerate Promptly

refrigeraterUse an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is 40*F or below, the freezer temperature should be 0*F or below.

Refrigerate cooked foods promptly after eating, in shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

Defrosting food safely can be done in three ways; in the refrigerator, in cold water, and the microwave using the defrost setting.

Save up to $370 a Year.

Learn how to save up to  $370 per year by reducing your food waste.  According to the Let’s Talk Trash initiative on My Plate the United States wastes about 90 Billion pounds of uneaten edible food each year.  This costs most people $370 each year.  What does this mean to you? Well less food loss and waste can help save money, improve food access, and protect natural resources.

Facts about food loss and waste include:

  • Food waste is now the single largest component going into municipal landfills.
  • Food loss is when food is spilled or spoils before it reaches the retailer.
  • Wholesome food is thrown away instead of reaching people in need.
  • Purchasing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food uses land, water, and energy resources that could be used for other purposes.

Want to make a change in your home?

Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and click on the Eating Healthy on a Budget section to find ways to eat healthy and help manage your food resources in your home.  There are also interactive links to help you plan and save, be food safe, check for quality, storage reminders, re-purpose and freeze extra food, donate, and recycle and compost.

With so many helpful tips and ideas, like eat before going to the grocery store, the new USDA “FoodKeeper” app, directions on how to freeze almost any food, a free pdf book on safe food storage, a guide to food quality and how long food lasts once you get it home, and so much more.

I know I am guilty of buying too much food at the store and realize when I get home that there is no way I will be able to eat all of it before it spoils.  I have started to plan more, make a list and stick to it, and buy in smaller quantities, not bulk because I think its cheaper.  The message is there are small steps each of us can make to help with food waste.  And there are also great resources available for those who want to make a change in their own lives.