Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet

The chemicals we spray on crops harm far more than the pests they are designed to kill. Photo: © kelly marken - Fotolia.com

Our “Notes from…” series features thoughtful essays by people from around the globe. Frequently, the writers present us with a discussion of an environmental problem in their home nations. Through their posts, we see that virtually no place on Earth is entirely free of environmental degradation, toxins, and trash. Writing from India, Dipak Kumar Singh reminds us in today’s post that we can’t begin to find solutions until we courageously face the problems. — Julia Wasson, Publisher


How does one think or write about pollution of water and soil (not dirt, as this website makes an effort to point out) without spreading guilt in the heart of people who take their humanity seriously? It’s not easy, though you will notice I have tried. There isn’t a new fact that I bring to you — but just the fact that we have so much inertia of inaction and perhaps more so in thinking.

All of us use the three-pronged plug for electrical appliances. The third, thicker pin is for the earth. So with any amount of electricity we consume, the earth has to be a party to it. This is fine, scientifically, but it reflects our attitude towards the earth, which we symbolically call “Mother Earth” in most societies. What if, someday, our mother stops taking all the third-pin electricity?

Just now this is a hypothesis of nonsense. But a very similar thing has happened. In many instances, the earth has stopped cleansing itself. If the earth had legs, she would have run away from us by now.

Toxins in the Water

As you take a sip of that wonderful hot or cold tea, think about the tea bush in Assam, India or Kenya that is sprayed with pesticides many times during a single crop season. All that pesticide gets washed into rivers and finally into the sea. The sea will take some time to show a red flag.

The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children.

Cotton and Cancer

Welcome to the world’s favorite fabric: cotton. The cotton plant is sprayed with Endosulfan sometimes twice a week all over the world.

In every cotton-growing village on Earth, there is a soil/water pollution problem. I venture to make this sweeping statement to provoke you to tell me about the happy exception, so we can find how to replicate it elsewhere.

In Malwa district of Punjab, a new cancer wing has been opened to benefit patients from the districts of Barnala, Bhatinda, Ferozepur, Muktsa, Mausa, Moga, Faridkot and Sangrun — all cotton-growing districts.

Spoilt for Choice

Have we broken some sacred self-rejuvenating system of Mother Earth?

We have done it before. After World War II, we misused penicillin. In the 1960s, we misused DDT. And now what chemical shall it be?

We are spoilt for choice: Phorates, Monocrotophos, Carbofuran, Dimethoate, Carbaryl, Endosulfan — and some or all of these already have entered our food chain.

Will the next chemical we abuse be Endosulfan? It does have the distinction of being used for a very long time and in huge quantities. India alone produces over 8000 tonnes of it.

The world production of this pesticide must be at least double this quantity. This is shocking, because the first reports of Endosulfan getting into the food chain came in the late 1960s. Endosulfan is a bioaccumulator in kidney, liver, and fat tissues. It is an endocrine disruptor and enhances the effects of estrogen.

Yet, scientists in India and many other countries are still debating if Endosulfan really causes cancer. Can there be a darker black humor?

Endosulfan in the Environment

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Endosulfan breaks down into endosulfan sulfate and endosulfan diol, both of which have “structures similar to the parent compound and are also of toxicological concern… The estimated half-lives for the combined toxic residues (endosulfan plus endosulfan sulfate) [range] from roughly 9 months to 6 years.”*

Endosulfan has relatively high potential to bioaccumulate in fish. It is also toxic to amphibians; low levels have been found to kill tadpoles. When Endosulphan is sprayed, it kills all little living things: insects, birds, and small animals. The area smells awful for weeks as the scavenging animals die, too.

Endosulfan travels long distances in the atmosphere from where it is used. It has been detected in dust from the Sahara Desert that was collected in the Caribbean after being blown across the Atlantic Ocean.

Dietary exposure to Endosulfan is 0.015 mg/kg for adults and 0.0015 mg/kg for children. For chronic dietary expsoure, the U.S. EPA reference doses are 0.006 mg/(kg·day) and 0.0006 mg/(kg·day) for adults and children, respectively. This is scary for a very popular pesticide.*

With Endosulfan exposure, humans die at a dose of 35 mg/kg body weight. At higher doses, we will die within an hour, says a WHO report of 1984. Is that an unreachable dose for a chemical with 800 days’ half life?*

As early as 1995, Endosulfan runoff from cotton fields killed tonnes of fish in Alabama rivers in the U.S.^ And it was only last year that the U.S. EPA announced that all uses of Endosulfan will soon be banned. Yet, in India, we are still debating. Why do decision-makers take 15 years to understand what others already know?

Dipak Kumar

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

*IPCS (1984) Endosulfan. Geneva, World Health Organization, International Programme on Chemical Safety (Environmental Health Criteria 40.)

^This is a very unemotional bottom line for a race of unintelligent humanity. I say this not because I hate humans, but because I value all living beings; so, the tonnes of fish that died in Alabama river in 1995 were 240,000 individual fish. We can begin by reading our own scientific papers and reports and take timely action.

This March 6, 2011 Sunday HINDUSTAN TIMES article describes a health crisis due to pesticides, including endosulfan. Photo: Courtesy Dipak Kumar Singh

Try This Delicious Anti-Aging Tea from Supple Skin

Supple Skin's loose tea comes in a wide variety of flavors for various purposes. Photo: Courtesy Supple Skin

For most of the past decade, I’ve been a coffee lover. As a former road warrior, I frequented a lot of city coffee shops and drank my share of airport coffee. But I’ve found something new to quench my thirst and soothe my spirit: La La’s Tea from Supple Skin. It’s filled with “Anti-Aging Antioxidants” that are not only healthy, but also delicious. Fancy that: a beverage that tastes good and does good for your body at the same time.

I have to admit that it took a while for me to get around to trying this product. I had it in my cupboard for a long time, preferring to take my coffee fix rather than brew up a cup of tea. My other excuse was that I didn’t have a tea pot; I had to buy a special tea cup so I could brew one cup at a time in my microwave. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been  trying Supple Skin’s La La’s brand tea. And I love it!

The ingredients are are all “green teas and super food extracts.” Sounds like a bit of advertising hype, until you read the contents:

“Ingredients: Organic Green Tea, Green Tea Variety, White Tea, Lemon Myrtle, Citrus, Osmanthus, Pomegranate, Mango, Guarana energy [What’s that?], Oolong Tea, Stevia, Ancient Sea Minerals, Goji, Cornflowers, Mango, Papaya, Honey and Lemon, Organic Stevia, Organic Spirulina, Brazilian Acerola berry, Aloe Vera power [should that be “powder”?], Organic Fo-ti (powder), Green Tea Powder.”

It’s after eight p.m. as I write this, and with all that green tea in my teacup, I’m wondering if it will keep me awake. I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine, so it might be a long night. Since most of my tea-drinking happens in the morning, that’s not usually something I think about. Still, for those who don’t have a caffeine problem, this could be the perfect cap to an evening meal. The flavor is slightly citrus-y, with a delicate aroma that tantalizes without being overpowering. I find it a refreshing change from a lot of the orange, lemon, or pomegranate teas I’ve tried from other companies.

Supple Skin’s La La’s tea comes loose in a brown-paper bag that holds two ounces of dried product. Two ounces doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a measure of weight, not volume. The directions say, “Steep 1 tsp of tea in a cup of hot water.” I don’t use a full teaspoon, yet my drink is satisfying and delicious. If you like a stronger cup, then steeping a full teaspoon might be a good idea. Because I’m content with weaker tea (and, let’s face it, I’m cheap), I tend to reuse the leaves from a previous cup and just add a small amount of fresh leaves to it. For me, this is yummy; for you, maybe not.

Supple Skin provides products for the health of your skin. Photo: Courtesy Supple Skin Boutique

It would be especially good if all of the ingredients were organic, but having some is better than having none. I just pulled out a couple of pieces of what looks and tastes like orange or lemon rind.  I don’t see “orange” in the list of ingredients, but maybe that’s what the company means by “Citrus.”

Most of the popular commercial teas that come in bags are finely chopped, but this product is different. The tea and other herbs in La La’s Tea are tightly wrapped in on themselves when dry, then expand into full leaves when wet. When I finish with the used leaves, I add them to our compost pile; it actually seems like I’m putting a food into the compost, not like I’m dropping some shredded bits of an unidentifiable substance.

Supple Skin offers a huge variety of teas, herbs, oils, and accessories. When I was offered the opportunity to review some of the Supple Skin products, the choices were almost overwhelming. If you visit their web store (and I suggest you do), you may find yourself wanting “some of this, and some of this, and some of this” like I did. The prices are low enough that you can probably try several varieties over a few months or weeks. There’s even a tea for psoriasis, a tea for acne, a tea for eczema, a tea for weight loss, and a whole lot more. Supple Skin also carries oils for reducing scars, soap nuts for washing your laundry, an organic eye mask, and citrus for vodka and soda! If you can’t find a product that appeals to you, I’ll be very surprised.

The fundamental idea behind Supple Skin is that what you put into your body affects your health — and that’s reflected in the health of your skin. I was just reading an article today in Real Simple that talked about how the foods we eat can age our skin or make it stay young looking. They might as well have interviewed the folks at Supple Skin; they seem to have figured that out long ago. Supple Skin’s La La’s Anti-Aging Antioxidants tea is actually good for your skin. Isn’t that a refreshing change!  And it’s reasonably priced for the amount you get: $12.95 when you purchase it on line from Supple Skin.

As you might expect, the Supple Skin website comes with the obligatory warning:

If you are taking any other herbs or supplements please consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting any new regimen. If you are pregnant of breast feeding, consult with your physician before taking. Keep out of reach of children under 12 years and pets.

This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I love my new mug by The Tea Spot. Photo: Courtesy The Tea Spot

Okay. Consider yourself warned and informed.

While we’re on the subject of tea, let me put in a word for my new teacup from The Tea Spot. It’s a versatile three-piece system that allows you to brew the tea inside the ceramic strainer, which sits inside the cup. Put the lid on for brewing in the microwave, steeping tea leaves in boiling water, or keeping your drink warm on your desk. When your tea is as strong as you like, remove the lid and turn it over. Remove the strainer, and set it into the lid to drain. Then sip your tea from the cup and enjoy.  You can purchase a Steeping Mug from The Tea Spot on line for $21.95, or find one at a kitchen store near you.

Update 10/14/10: I had no trouble falling asleep last night after drinking La La’s Anti-Aging Antioxidant tea. Apparently, if there is caffeine, it isn’t enough to keep me awake. And that’s good news for those of us who like to drink a warm, comforting beverage before bed. JW

The Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received free samples of various Supple Skin products, including La La’s Anti-Aging Antioxidant Tea. No other compensation or incentive was provided. We purchased the Tea Spot Steeping Mug from a local kitchen store.

Our review policy is to only review those products we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a product, we do not review it. We are not influenced by complimentary products and provide our honest opinions. For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with Amazon.com. If you purchase this product or any other products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Our company will receive a small financial compensation from Amazon, which we use to sustain this website.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living