Living VERY close to pesticide-laden agricultural lands :(

vale7June 30, 2012

Hi everyone - I'm new here. I live in Quebec, Canada and my boyfriend and I recently moved into our new house. We are planning on living here forever - the house is big enough to accommodate a family of 5 or 6 plus our two large dogs. We bought a half-acre piece of land and built our house on it.

At first we thought, Wow, having these agricultural lands behind our house is great - we'll never be bothered by any neighbors. But then I read a book on pesticides. And then I realized that this tractor with the huge container spraying liquids onto the crops almost everyday of the week is probably spraying pesticides - not water, silly me.

We are still planning on keeping the house - we had it built to our taste and big enough to live in it with many little ones running around. But I'm bummed. I thought I would write a letter to the town mayor but found out the mayor is actually a member of the family who owns the potato company which happens to be one of the biggest in Canada - if not THE biggest potato supplier. I'm pretty sure the mayor would never take into consideration a petition or letter asking them to please reduce their pesticide use.

So here I am, kindly asking if there was anything I could do to reduce our pesticide exposure while living within 300 feet of the agricultural lands where they so often spray pesticides. I had this big dream of having my very own organic garden ever since we bought our piece of land and the more I think of it, the less I think I could do it without having all my produce infected with pesticide residue. I know they would not spray any on MY garden but it is windy pretty much all the time here and I know that pesticides are even found in rain water wherever pesticides get to be "drifted" by winds. And what about the bees? Would they contaminate my produce? The beautiful apple trees I planned on having... :( And the water-saving system I wanted to make to collect rain water for my garden... Should I just give up on my dream garden and buy my fruits and vegetables from organic growers?

Right now, there are several Birch trees that separate our land from the agricultural one behind our house... there are about 10 trees or so, maybe 20 feet high. Should I try and make a "wall of trees"? Would that help in keeping most pesticides away when it is windy? What else could be done to reduce our pesticide exposure? Or to reduce the risk of having those nasty chemicals contaminate our land and garden, if we do choose on having a garden?

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

A friendly discussion with the farmer would help determine just what s/he is using.
Some sprays aren't pesticides.
And many pesticides are environmentally friendly.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 8:30PM
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Your major concern would be drift from what ever is being sprayed and a windbreak can aid in limiting drift no matter what is being sprayed. There are no "environmentally friendly" pesticides. There are some pesticides that have a lower impact on the environment, although few of those are used by "conventional farm operations".
The best you can do is limit your exposure (the windbreak) to any of these that farmer is using and work to make the soil you have as healthy as you can by adding adequate levels of organic matter. Adequate levels of organic matter in soil make a good place for the Soil Food Web which will aid in bioremediation, elimination of unwanted chemicals from your soil.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 6:28AM
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I don't think any pesticides are environmentally-friendly. By definition, a pesticide is something that kills pests - weeds, insects, etc. (in Latin, "pestis", pests, and "caedere", kill). It isn't a repellent. It kills. And whatever kills pests cannot be good for the environment nor human health.

kimmsr - thank you so much :-) I think you responded on another forum where I posted this as well. I didn't know the "wall of trees" I was referring to in my original post had a specific name - windbreak (I'm French!). That is probably why I couldn't seem to find much info on it. I will look this up and will do that for sure. I am planning on furnishing the Birch tree row a little more and then plant flower trees in front of them (just so that it looks pretty from our house - I don't like Birch trees!).

I was planning on using organic matter for my garden already but I think I will see if we can get more for the whole yard - we still need about a foot of soil everywhere to level it off, before planting grass seeds.

Thank you again! :-)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 10:41AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Why is it that people are concerned about their soil and water but not about their own bodies? Chronic (frequent) exposure to toxic substances can cause severe long term ramifications. This is true even if the chemicals are purported to be 'safe '.

If I purchased such a property and found out after the fact about the proximity to agricultural spraying, I'd be on the phone with a lawyer....getting out of the purchase. You cannot build a barrier big enough to prevent tbe chemicals from entering your home and your body via your lungs, skin, etc.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 11:02PM
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art_1(10 CA)

Whether pesticide residues (and their breakdown products) in food that we consume is enough to be harmful is another issue, but the people that handle the chemicals directly (work in the field) are certainly at an increased risk.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:21AM
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rhizo 1, I am concerned about my soil because I want to reduce the pesticide exposure - not to eradicate it altogether (that is virtually impossible). As for our water, Quebec has very strict laws and we have one of the cleanest water in the world. I'm still having purifiers installed though, for peace of mind.

I realize the dangers for our bodies but I wish to reduce ingesting pesticides through fruits and vegetables and to be able to do so, I need a good soil and I need to block any drift from that agricultural land behind our house.

As for getting out of the purchase - it is a piece of land that we bought over a year ago. My father and my boyfriend built our house, and did so while keeping in mind that we would live here for 40, 50 years. The land is about half an acre big, which isn't huge but nice enough considering that we want 3 to 4 kids and want to have space for a pool, a big garden, a play area, etc. They do no sell lands that big anymore in our town - the biggest ones they sell are 8000 sq ft, and that's TINY. Most are 4000-5000sq ft. My brother lives next door, my sister 4 minutes away, and my parents & grandma 5. We are not selling this house anytime soon. But we have become conscientious and we will do everything to reduce our exposure to pesticides without having to move.

Also, we could be living in Paris, France, where there is no agricultural land at all, yet they have one of the highest level of pesticides in the air. It doesn't matter so much where you live - there are a hundred other things you can do to help reduce risks associated with pesticide exposure.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 8:56AM
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I wonder how much longer that field will be in production. I also wonder if your home is upwind (to the west) of the field.

Did you get a chance to call the grower to find out what is being used?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Sell it. Don't raise kids to be chronically exposed to high doses of chemicals in the air and groundwater. In a severely contaminated town in MA over years of lawsuits it was learned that bathing in contaminated water was causing the most damage to health.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:46PM
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Even though our air today is somewhat cleaner then the air our grandparents inhaled it is still heavily contaminated with stuff that is not good for us to breath, and our water is even worse for us. No one, alive, can avoid these contaminants but we can, as Vale 7 wishes to, limit our exposure some by growing our food in a good healthy soil (even if the contaminants in the air and water accumulate in our soil) and by taking steps, such as building windbreaks) that can alter what is dumped onto our soil.
Some diseases are genetic in origin. Some of us are preprogramed to have certain disease (Emphysemia can be caused by a deficiency in producing Alpha1 antitrypsen) as well as other things such as smoking and breathing stuff that is not good for you. Some cancers have genetic links, and it is appearing that many other disease may be too. But, many of these disease can also have an environmental cause, exposure to some of the garbage in our air and water.
So should thjose of us that are organic gardeners walk around wearing HEPA filter face masks? That probably is no totally as necessary as it was in the 1940's and 1950's and before. Should we reverse osmosis filter all of the water we use? Probably not necessary yet, even though the water we use is not as pure as some claim. But, growing as much of our own food, protected as best we can against contamination from others not as concerned as we are, are things we can and should be doing.
Some people would find this boardering on paranoia, but if you do do not keep coming to a forum dedicated to growing good, healthy food and people to tell us that.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:50AM
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greginnd(Z4 ND)

Frankly I think it is a mistake to rush to judgement and start calling lawyers, etc. You bought land in an agricultural area. Farms using herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are certainly not unexpected.

I would try to get to know your neighbors on a friendly basis. Most farmers are more than willing to take extra care spraying around farmsteads and homes. Introduce yourself. Let them know who you are. Tell the that you want to grow organic vegetables on your property. Most likely they will take kindly to your introduction and be extra cautious around your property.

There is a lot they can do to reduce the possibility of spray drift. They can spray only on calm days. They can adjust the height of the sprayers and the droplet size which is one of the biggest factors for spray drift. They can keep the sprays more distant from your land.

So my advice would be to try the neighborly approach first.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 9:10AM
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idaho gardener - it was closed yesterday because of the holidays (Canada Day). I will give them a call later today. And I believe our house is located southwest. More south than west. What does it mean? And what do you mean, you wonder how long that field will be in production? Do they stop using it every few years? To replenish the soil or something? Sorry - I know next to nothing about this whole agriculture thing.

pnbrown - I doubt that our town is heavily contaminated. I could be wrong of course. But as of right now I don't think there are any lawsuits or anything of the sort. I said earlier that in Quebec, we have very strict laws for drinking water and that we have one of the cleanest water in the world. We get our water through the city's aqueduct and I located a laboratory that can test our water if I want to have it tested. I will ask the town people for their reports on drinking water testing, to see if they have any (they probably do have these). Well, I just emailed them, actually. And as I also said earlier, we were planning on installing a water purifier system on our water tank so if I don't like the test results in the city's reports we will go ahead and have one installed.

Pesticides are so heavily used all around the world that they are now even found in whales and dolphins that wash ashore. There are pesticides all the way up to the north pole, in places where even humans don't go (let alone spray pesticides). I do not believe that by selling our house and buying one elsewhere we'd be better off.

And yes, kimmsr is right. I want to limit our exposure. I know we live close to that field. I know the risks. I want to reduce them by doing little things that will be useful in doing just that. Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 10:48AM
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Depending on how many feet you do not mind putting into a wooded area, rows, preferably not symmetrical but with clumps, for a more aesthetic woodsy feel, are good idea.

Put in some viburnum, cherries, apple etc. also so you can have fruit to eat fresh and for jams and jellies.

I grew up in the period when everyone had a burning barrel, our town dump was burning constantly, we put barrels of used oil down to control dust in the alley, pesticide dust often floated in air when people dusted their roses and gardens yet beyond busting myself up more than once, I do not take any prescription pills for and am healthier than the guys I grew up with who run to the doctor every time a fart smells wrong.

You are going to have people giving you the "we are doomed, doomed I say!" spiel till hell freezes, so just go with your gut instinct and ignore anyone else, me included, to do what you feel best.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:48PM
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greginnd - We're not selling the house of getting rid of it. ;) My father & my boyfriend built it, they spent months making it what it is today. He works from home, he needed a huge office with lots of storage everywhere throughout the house, the house's been built with our needs in mind. We're here to stay. But I will make friends with the neighbors. I located the owners. One of the land is rented. I have the addresses of the people, they do live on our street but further down (not next door neighbors by any means). I'll find a way to chat with them a little and see what they use.

RpR, thank you for the suggestions :) Overall I've gotten some great ideas and advice from some people. The rest I just do ignore. I'll look for more ideas and tips to help reduce our exposure while living close to these agricultural lands and do everything I possibly can that could be beneficial. Thank you :)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 4:24PM
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So if you have municipal water that is probably one risk avoided. Well-water from wells near ag lands often have contaminated water, I figured you were on a well. In very extreme cases, like the one I mentioned, even municipal aquifers that feed the wells that feed the water-towers (a common arrangement in rural towns), can be contaminated, but then the periodic testing would reveal that, of course.

BTW, if you are naive enough to have imagined that the mayor of your town was going to be able to get a farmer to stop spraying (which they can do in accordance with the pesticide guidelines that are designed to sell pesticides and make farmers dependent on chemicals, not protect the public or the environment, and which situation would pretty obvious to anyone while building a house over several years if not even before buying the property) why would you arbitrarily ignore the anti-pesticide stance that would obviously be forthcoming from an organic gardening forum (aside form those posters here who are clearly completely unconcerned with toxins and seem to former salesmen of chemicals)?

Ah yes, because you perhaps didn't notice that this is the ORGANIC gardening forum, not the remedial pesticide forum where everyone agrees that yes all places on the planet are equally contaminated, so don't worry about it at all. For sure do not bother to read any studies on links between chronic exposure to pesticides and cancers. That would be silly.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:22PM
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pnbrown - I contacted the town people and water is being tested every week. I have to contact the independent company to ask for the results and thus decide if we still get the water purifier installed or not.

I never said I would ask the mayor to tell the farmer to stop spraying. This is some hasty conclusion you drew here. I thought I could first find out the kind of pesticides used and then how many times it's used during a season, on average. I wasn't planning on contacting him yesterday. I figured, if I could find out the types of chemicals and how dangerous they were I could find studies on them and if they were amongst the most dangerous types, write a letter or a petition (with many signatures) which would kindly ask them to either reduce their use (if I found out they used them more often than what my research on them would have suggested as a "normal" use) or to switch to a better alternative that would be less harmful to humans/the environment (and I'd join studies on those less harmful ones as well). That's what I was thinking about. It never crossed my mind to tell him, Hey! Tell those farmers to stop spraying altogether so that I feel better and they can lose all their crops and go bankrupt! I think I am a little smarter than that. ;)

I'm asking my question in an organic gardening forum (I made no mistake about the forums where I asked, thank you for wondering), because I wanted tips and advice as to how to reduce our exposure to those nasty chemicals. I knew I would get the "sell you house" comment and that doesn't phase me one bit. Just like you would ignore some irrational thought or opinion on a forum regarding that aching back of yours or I don't know what other illness, I choose to ignore that kind of reply and not follow up on it. That's an individual choice - my choice, obviously. No need to worry that much about my life, I swear I'll be careful! ;)

Oh and we built our house within 8 months. Not in years. Not even a year. I didn't care about organic gardening or the agricultural lands behind our property 8 months ago because I had not educated myself on the subject, and it's clearly not something I was raised to believe in. My mom never cooked for us and when she did, we got very little vegetable and fruit that she never thought to wash (her specialty was kraft dinner with sausage slices - and I'm totally rolling my eyes here!). So I didn't learn anything from that. It's when I picked up a book earlier this summer that I got to find out about the real issue with pesticides and whatnot. That's when I decided that things would change around here.

Since then I did read a few studies that were cited in the book and that I located through the Internet. The book I read ("Vous reprendrez bien un peu de pesticides ?" by Gerard Pouradier) listed tons of studies. Since I'm a psychology student I get access to thousands of different scientific journals for free and I can get access to hundreds of thousands of studies on all kinds of subjects. So yes, I will take this wonderful opportunity to educate myself even more. But I did read about their link to cancer. I know that triazole fungicides and urea herbicides are linked to Hodgkin's lymphoma. I know that some organochloride insecticides and some herbicides as well are linked to some type of leukemia.

Since your are value your health (and mine! ;) ) so much, you should know that some of the things you probably have at home are toxic for you and your body as well. Do you use adhesives? 'Cause these contain formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia, to name just a few, which are toxic to your health. Do you have carpeting in your home? Most contain alcohols, which isn't good for your health - if you do have carpeting, you should totally get rid of it! ;) Any caulking compounds? I hope you use only biodegradable cleaning products (you probably do). How about cosmetics? Are you a man? Does your wife wear makeup? Some brands are worse than others for your health. How about fabric, drapery & upholstery? They contain formaldehyde. What about liquid paper? Toxic. Paper towels? Contain formaldehyde. Paint? Are your walls painted? Paint is toxic, most contain formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, alcohols... And plywood? Sure, your house has to be built with some plywood. Then you're exposed to formaldehyde once again, which has been linked to some types of cancer. I could suggest you sell you house and go live with Bushmen in South Africa. Of course I won't ;) That'd be silly of me to tell a complete stranger to sell his or her house. ;)

Your life doesn't depend on my health. Whether I sell my house or not will not change a thing in your life. Don't feel bad for me. I'm old enough to make my own choices and decide what I can and cannot do while taking into consideration the other aspects of my (and my boyfriend's) life. You entertained me though. ;) Thank you for your time! You take care of yourself!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 8:45PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

One of the reasons why I would worry so much about your almost certain exposure to agricultural chemicals IS because of the constant day to day, minute to minute exposure to those household 'toxins' you mention.

We humans are mightily equipped to deal with and recover from such events, but when chronically confronted, even in minute doses, our systems begin to break down. We all have to deal with those substances you mentioned (you missed quite a few, by the but you have the added concern about every breath you take, every particle of dust brought into the home. You just can't filter that stuff out. Don't be led to believe that only the 'big guns' are worth worrying about.

I wish you could spend one day in my shoes, just to see what it's like to live with serious health issues brought about by exposure to a common pesticide. It's easy for me to overreact when I feel that someone is either not facing reality or really doesn't know the facts. My crisis occurred over twenty five years ago. That's a long time to deal with the kinds of health problems I have.

My husband and I use the word 'safe' in, " Is this soap something that's safe for you to use?" When we go to the store together, I have to stick to the 'safe' aisles. We had to stop visiting the home of some very good friends of ours because their home was not 'safe' for me....they used air fresheners.

Those who are the most fragile are children; followed by the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune or nervous system or liver function. (I was young, strong, and healthy at the time. Surprise!)

I wish you and your family a long and happy life, sincerely. It's not all that difficult to substitute safe and non-toxic household products for the worst offenders in the home. I'd be happy to help you with that, if you wish.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 1:23AM
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    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 2:31AM
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Well, that's what I'm here for, entertainment! Just by chance that the reality is different from what you (or I) imagine, check into the link appended below. Level of exposure to carcinogens x diet greatly complicates the picture.

Rhizo, that is a drag. There is at least one person at the HT forum whose health is now extremely poor due to long-ago exposure to pesticides, he thinks. The producers of these poisons count on the fact that the countless anecdotal accounts carry no weight in law.

Here is a link that might be useful: begin remedial education

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 9:52AM
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rhizo 1, thank you for sharing your experience. I don't know what health issues you have, but I truly am sorry to hear about them and the hard time they are giving you on a daily basis. If I had a good friend with serious health issues I would do anything to get more informed on the subject and stop using whatever products are harmful to her health (and probably everybody's health). While I am not afflicted by serious health problems myself, I did volunteer to be an assistant to one of my teachers who is working with sick people and I have witnessed first hand how much of a struggle it can be to them and how it affects them psychologically speaking. I admire you for making the constant and conscious efforts to do what is safest for your health. Some get just so disillusioned about it all that they stop fighting and let their health problems take over, waiting for death to come. Talking to these individuals is so sad. Keep fighting and being so careful about everything. Down the road it is worth it.

I am in rather OK health. I've been flirting with the idea of becoming a vegan & taking a green turn for quite a while now so I did some research in the last year. As a result I changed every cleaning product we use (dishwasher, laundry, multi-purpose cleaners...). I buy vegan organic toothpaste, shampoo, soap, candles, and have been for the last 6 months. I don't wear perfume, my boyfriend stopped using his aftershave. I try to be careful with phthalate products and avoid them when/if at all possible. I've become increasingly concerned about the environment as well - I guess it goes hand in hand. I don't buy plastic bottles/containers, have reusable bags for my grocery shopping, buy BPA-free products. I wear organic & vegan makeup, use organic lotions, buy organic shampoo for the dogs. My bug repellent spray is all natural, as well as my bite stick. I'm probably forgetting some things right now but you get a good idea. The one thing I haven't been able to find that doesn't irritate my skin is organic vegan deodorant. Still trying to find one that agrees with me.

I am still decorating the house and was wondering what types of plants to buy and it's been suggested to me that I buy plants that are known to absorb pollutants very well. So I did my research and I'm planning on getting Bamboo palms, Rubber plants, English ivies, Peace lilies and Areca palms, among a few others. We have big, 9 ft wide, 7 ft high windows all around the house so sun isn't an issue.

The one thing that never really occurred to me was pesticide exposure. Well, I knew about it, but I didn't know the extent of it, its effects and everything. That's why I picked up that book earlier this summer. I wanted to know more. And I still want to know more than I do right now.

If you do think about others things that I could do to help reduce our exposure to toxins or pesticides, or any other chemical products, I would love to know more. Anything that is harmful, I want to get rid of, as long as it is possible.

And just as a side note, regarding the lands behind our house and the fact that we are living close enough that it bothers me: my brother, as I said, lives next door, and has been for the past 11 years. He couldn't care less about the environment or his health. He's just really careless. His now ex-girlfriend lived there with her two kids for 10 years, which were aged 3 and 5 at the time. Besides the few cases of bronchitis that the little one had (because of a defect, something like his bronchi are too small and that makes him prone to this), they were never really sick. My brother and his ex-girlfriend are also fine, to this day anyway. Might not last very long for him though - he's into bodybuilding right now and eats red meat every single day, and has been for the last year, at least. And of course he isn't careful about where his meat comes from which means it's probably full of hormones and antibiotics and whatnot.

My front door neighbor, also, is a girl I went to school with. She still lives there (it's her parents' house) and has been for the past 26 years. Beside being overweight (I swear she orders junk food at least 3 times a week), she's fine. Of course we don't talk about our health very much but I'll bring that up next time I see her.

I know everyone's different and what affects someone's health might not affect someone else's. I just wish to reduce our exposure to as many toxic products as possible while keeping this house. Maybe later we would consider selling it, but not now, that is out of the question at the moment. But everything else I can change around here, I will. So if anyone has any tips or advice, they will be greatly appreciated.

And that video is very sad. Humans are destroying everything they touch. Big pharmaceutical companies are making profits by selling pesticides AND selling meds to people sick from their nasty chemicals. They play with nature and genetically modify organisms as if it was OK and safe to do it. They created these Africanized bees that turned out to be killing monsters. They created strawberries that are so big that they cannot even fit into my mouth. They think people want mutant bell peppers, super round apples, ridiculously straight cucumbers and carrots... peas that are all the same size. I wish humans would just let nature be nature and stop destroying it.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 11:48AM
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art_1(10 CA)

It sounds like you are aware which is one of the best things. Just because most people do things a certain way or are unaware of things doesn't mean those things are 'fine, totally harmless.'

Here is an interesting link on vitamins and minerals in diet and overall health (same author that pnbrown's linked article above mentions, nearly 30 years later):

Adaptive dysfunction of selenoproteins from the perspective of the triage theory: why modest selenium deficiency may increase risk of diseases of aging.

A nutrient-dense, high-fiber, fruit-based supplement bar increases HDL cholesterol, particularly large HDL, lowers homocysteine, and raises glutathione in a 2-wk trial.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Art, your first linked summary is quite interesting to me, although I can't pretend to effectively understand most of the terminology or biology. The first paragraph appears be saying that V/M deficiency essentially causes an excess of certain proteins in the body, which if so, is an interesting connection to Dr Campbell's findings that dietary protein consumption over a minimum requirement turns on cancerous cells or nodes.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 12:48PM
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art_1(10 CA)

That pretty much sums it up, even the titles give the main idea. If the body is low on essential vitamins and minerals as many people are then it will focus on more basic survival mechanisms like energy metabolism and sacrifice more long-term maintenance like removal of free radicals which are associated with aging and which antioxidants help with. In agreement with Dr. Campbell that there are many (thousands) of biological interactions that are important (requiring nutrients from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables) to prevent disease and aging.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 1:59PM
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pnbrown - I'm sorry. I know you are here to educate and give free advice, which I truly do appreciate, and not to entertain anyone. I just think that we have to be realistic, and while I'm ready to do just about anything I possibly can to reduce our exposure to pesticides and any other chemicals, selling our house is something we are not considering at the moment. Perhaps we will not live here forever, as we first planned on doing, but right now it is out of the question.

Thank you so much for the link. I told my brother many times about his meat-eating habit and he just won't listen. I think tonight I will pull up a few studies and see if I can put some sense into him. I doubt he will care - as long as he isn't sick he thinks it's fine. The part of the article about the plant-based foods is also very interesting. I will see what else I can find on the subject this weekend since these studies are a little dated. It'd be interesting to see what else they found out since then.

art 1, I know. These studies are great! I find the second one particularly interesting and I plan on following up on several studies listed in reference. My diet is not the worst out there but there certainly is room for improvement and after reading these 3 articles I'm going to be more careful, now more than ever, because of the location of our house. I will look more into what I could do to improve my diet to help protect my body against toxins and chemicals. Researching is fun but time consuming! I'll have more free time this weekend. I'm lucky that my boyfriend is very comprehensive and cares enough about our overall health to put up with the changes I keep doing around here (he hates my organic toothpaste but still uses it everyday!). ;)

I heard about curcumin, turmeric and graviola as being protective against cancer (or destroying certain cancer cells). I haven't researched these claims yet but I am planning to. Might be a good idea to incorporate these in my diet if my research turns out to be conclusive. Have any of you heard about that? Also, while I'm at it, do you have any book recommendations on health and such (the topics we've been discussing in the last couple of posts)? I mean, I love browsing through databases for studies and articles but I also love reading books that summarize findings in a particular domain. If you happen to have heard of a book or read a book (that's been well done, listing studies and everything so that I can find more details if I want to), I'd love to know about it.

Just as a fun fact, while I was browsing through the studies it reminded me of what one of my teachers taught us last year. It was a class on aging and maturity, and we got to learn about many neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging, as well as activities and hobbies that are proven to delay the apparition of the first symptoms, mainly because they contribute to our cognitive reserve. The very first one on the list was gardening. :) They cannot really explain why it is so helpful but it's good for you, in terms of delaying cognitive aging! Education, expertise (in anything) and social support also contribute to a cognitive reserve, and maybe I am forgetting a few others.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 12:15PM
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lol, I write such long replies, sorry about that. I just wanted to share a pdf file that I found that has been referenced in a study I read. I haven't had the chance to read it yet - there are 240 pages! - but I quickly read the table of contents and thought it was worth sharing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Reducing environmental cancer risk

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 2:50PM
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art_1(10 CA)

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka is one that comes to mind. I thought the movie Forks Over Knives was good. As far as conclusive evidence, I think you just have to review a bunch of sources and form your own opinions. The Mediterranean and Japanese diets are good. Balance, moderation and all of that.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 2:46AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I will look into them. Meanwhile, I've had some time to review several studies on animal protein and diseases/cancer and results are so conflicting. The entire scientific population seems to be divided on the subject. The one thing I know for sure is that organic meat is a lot better than the meat you buy at the grocery store.

As for the Mediterranean diet, I knew about it but my body has a hard time digesting wheat properly. I'll look into the Japanese diet and see if that'd be any better considering this issue.

Also, I found a book from Dr Campbell (the one who wrote the article linked by pnbrown, above) called "The China Study". There are hundreds of reviews on it on Amazon and one 1-star comment has 84 replies with lots of links. This just shows how much conflict there is on the subject.

I'm going back to my research now! Thanks for the many replies on my thread. Found this discussion very interesting!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:28AM
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I have that book coming in the mail. According to what I have read the peer opinion on the China Study is not very divided, because the study is by such an enormous margin the most conclusive ever carried out.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 10:50AM
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Sorry, I was multi-tasking while trying to be careful not to write another novel with my last reply and that resulted in me expressing my thoughts rather poorly. I meant to say that there is conflicting opinions from the general population on the subject, judging by the number of replies on that book, although there are far more 5-star ratings than 1, 2 and 3 combined. Way more. But at the same time I feel that 5-star ratings are usually misleading when it comes to judging the quality and veracity of a book that aims to educate people by presenting them with studies and facts. In the 5-star reviews, there are a lot of over-enthusiastic people writing "oh this book is so wonderful it's changed my life!"-type of comments. I want to avoid these people's opinions because they provide me with nothing but personal views on the book - so I always start reading the 1-star ratings first and read my way up to 4, if I feel I still need to, because that's where I feel you get the most interesting and valuable information on the book. Of course there are ignorant people in both the 1- and 5-star rating sections but you often find strong opinions in the 1-star reviews that are backed up with links, studies, or other book suggestions, and that gets my mind going and I get to see both sides of the same coin.

Anyway, judging by the 1-star reviews I read, many things stated in the book sound suspicious in that some results are misinterpreted and the author seems to present only one side of the same coin. I haven't read the book and thus cannot comment on it myself. But that's what I found out by browsing the reviews.

Don't get me wrong here - I do believe that the way Americans and even Canadians consume animal proteins nowadays is unhealthy but I'm not sure yet that there's a causal relationahip between meat and cancer. Heck, I've even said earlier that I've been flirting with the idea of becoming a vegan for a few years now. I'm not a big meat-eater either. I just think there are many conflicting opinions in the scientific community as well as in the general population (once you make abstraction of the personal reviews commenting that "this book is so wonderful, I've tried the lifestyle and I feel so much better" or "this book is awful, I hate the way in which it is written or the fact that it isn't very well organized"). I'm trying to make sense of this all but I'm having a bit of a hard time considering that for every study stating an obvious cancer risk, one is stating the opposite. Ah well, I guess I'll keep reading. I will order the China Study book though.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 6:13PM
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"even Canadians", aye? Yep, I would say, it's just the same diet on average, based from my visits to Canada.

I am lacto-vegetarian, for nearly 40 years now. Reading Campbell and others is now causing me to cut way back on dairy products, and perhaps I will eventually find the will-power to cut them out entirely.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Hehe :D I guess it depends where you go. Same goes for the States - there are places where it is a lot worse than others.

Lacto-vegetarian for nearly 40 years? Wow! That's a long time! Everything is good, health-wise? I mean, no major health issue, as some people like to say happen on vegetarian diets? No B12 deficiency or anything? That's what I'm most afraid of - depriving my body of essential vitamins or minerals - and what refrains me from staying on a vegan lifestyle. I can spend a few months on it and then I switch back to eating anything. I keep going back and forth.

I do believe that diary products are not very good for our health, especially when they come from cows... I don't think our ancestors, 100,000 years ago, had a glass of cow's milk during breakfast, everyday. Especially not the way we process it now (pasteurization and everything). A biology teacher told us a few years ago that our digestive system had not evolved in over 100,000 years, meaning that we should eat the same way our ancestors did - lots of plant-based foods and a little meat every now and then. No processed food, sugar, coffee, anything of the sort should be consumed, he believed, and plant foods should be eaten raw.

As far as dropping diary products from your diet, I think as long as you make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium, you should be alright. I'm thinking you knew that already... ;) I mean, you have to be doing something good for being able to stay on a lacto-vegetarian diet for so long so I'm sure whatever you decide down the road you will do everything right (and not go ahead blindly as some people do and end up ruining their health because they didn't research anything!).

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Yes, Vale, b12 is an issue, I sometimes take methylcobalmin for that. My father who has been lacto-veg for the same amount of time has some possibly permanent minor nerve damage in the toes due to the lack of b12, so we are aware of it now.

I agree that even those of us who have ancestrally been eating dairy products for the most generations (northern and central europeans) still are not well adapted to that food. My feeling is that products made from fermented raw milk are the best: yogurt, cultured butter, artisanal cheese. I try to stick with those in modest amounts. I get the raw milk yogurt locally, the cheese is not so easy to come by. I quit taking milk in my cereal some time ago, I use almond milk now. If I could manage to avoid refined sugar entirely my health would probably be as good as is possible, as it is I get the occasional sniffle or stomach bug. Sugar lowers the effectiveness of the immune system as you know.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 10:27AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I agree with the above posters that you should plant a nice wide windbreak with multiple rows of vegetation, both deciduous and evergreen, particularly on the side(s) with prevailing winds.

I live right across the street from agricutural land that is in the southwest and northwest directions, so I am usually downwind. These fields used to be conventional farmland, with plenty of spraying, that would come right across the street into my yard and windows. In the past few years, due to complaints by residents (including myself), the farmer has been converting these fields to organic uses.

Currently about 1/4 of the land is being using for organic egg-laying chickens that are raised in a system of pasture-rotation. They are a kind of stinky sometimes but I'd rather smell the chicken sh*t than the pesticides any day!

I am glad this farmer is so responsive to the residents, and is branching out into organic farming, but I will NEVER live abutting farmland again. Besides the exposure to pesticides, there is the ongoing commotion of tractors and mowers and workers, and I also dislike being blasted by strong winds that blow across the fields.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 1:32AM
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pnbrown, I'm sorry to learn about your father though I'm glad it's minor. Interesting about the fermented raw milk products, I will look more into this for sure!

I found a free article on vegan diets that is very interesting. I thought I would share it because it is packed with a lot of useful information and the list of referenced studies is impressive, to say the least. There is also a section on "potential nutritional shortfalls" which is very instructive. It is a great summary of the many health effects of a vegetarian/vegan diet.

I wish I could attach PDF files to my replies, there are many studies that aren't free that are just as great and informative!

Terrene, I agree, I'd rather smell chicken crap than having to deal with the pesticides everyday! :P You are lucky that the farmer agreed to change his ways. As far as the tractors, mowers and workers, I was raised in this very town I live in right now and they were always part of the scenery! For as far as I can remember, they always had these big tractors out and about during summer and they always slowed down traffic, so I'd say I'm used to it now. It doesn't bother me that much. ;)

I've talked to one of the owners of the lands briefly and he said that for the next few years they will cultivate industrial hemp that will be used for ethanol (they hope to mix that ethanol to gas and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future). I'll have to do a little research to know if they actually spray pesticides on hemp or not. If not I'm planning on doing my garden next year for sure and for the next few years as well even though that windbreak will not be nearly as tall and thick as I want it to be!

I'm still not sure what trees I will plant for that windbreak. My sister has this beautiful, big, Blue Spruce tree and I love the way it looks. I think it would be pretty during winter with all the snow we get. I liked the idea of planting a few fruit trees but these would be in the front row. I will look into nut trees as well. Planning the windbreak is so exciting, I'm already looking forward to having it all in place and watching the trees grow!

Here is a link that might be useful: Health Effects of Vegan Diets

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 10:22AM
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On the Colorado Blue Spruce, they are called that for a reason, as one well known horticulturist up here often says.

If you plant one yours may survive or it may join the common result in the wood pile.
My grandparents had a very large one but it was surrounded by lilacs on three sides and a house on the other.
They can be very fussy.

Now Austrian Black Pines they are tough, I have one that is fifteen years old, near twenty feet high and near ten feet wide.
I got it off of a scrap pile of a nursery I worked at.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 5:20PM
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RpR, do you know if Colorado Blue Spruce trees are hard to grow in Quebec as well? My grandmother planted that tree nearly 25 years ago (she recently moved into my parents' house and my sister into hers). She is a little obsessed with gardening and keeping her lawn free of weeds (she'd spend days removing weeds from her lawn) but I don't think she ever did anything to keep that Blue spruce alive. It's about 30 ft tall, and probably 10-12 ft wide. It's really beautiful and it makes lots of cones every year. I was thinking I could either try and grow one or two from seeds (since there are available right there) or I could buy them locally if it proves to be too difficult. If I remember correctly my grandmother told me when I was younger that it took several years to grow to a few ft tall (she received the young tree from my parents)... so maybe I'm better off buying them. Though if they are hard to keep alive I might as well consider other trees. Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:35AM
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The China Study came today in the mail, Vale, I'll let you know if there is anything in it particularly relevant to this thread.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 5:50PM
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You would have to compare your average climate with the average in the parts of Colorado where it grows best.
Call an arboretum to see what they say.

I would buy one, ever green trees, of all sorts take years to get going if they are started from seed or even very small.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:34PM
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So, apropos to your OP, already in the China Study is the statement that even absurdly high doses of carcinogens have been nullified with diet, in test after test. Or they can be quickly made fatal by a diet high in animal protein.

So your situation is suddenly rather interesting. Your children are likely to be exposed chronically to higher than average doses of chemicals which may be carcinogenic, so their diet is all the more important. You should order the book, that's easy to do in comparison to selling the property, at least.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 6:58AM
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I haven't read the thread in detail yet. Vale, thought you should know about this recent finding on pesticide drift from potato fields in MN:

"May 17, 2012
Residents Measure Pesticides in Minnesota Air

Pesticide Drift Monitoring Near Potato Fields Indicates Chronic Exposure in Central Minnesota as EPA Re-evaluates Health Risks from Chlorothalonil

St. Paul, Minnesota - A report released today indicates that Central Minnesota communities face frequent exposure to multiple pesticides in the air they breathe, and residents are calling for stronger protections from one common potato fungicide.

Pesticide Drift Monitoring in Minnesota, authored by Pesticide Action Network (PAN), is the result of a community-led air monitoring study conducted by a group of concerned Minnesotans. Residents found the fungicide chlorothalonil present in 64% of air samples taken near their homes. Current EPA rules do not consider the health effects of breathing chlorothalonil.

"This on-the-ground monitoring documents the fact that many Minnesotans are regularly exposed to pesticides in the air they breathe," said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "State and federal officials should act on these results by providing greater health protections for rural residents, and more carefully considering the science around inhalation effects. Even at low levels, airborne pesticides can raise serious health concerns."

Regulations for chlorothalonil were set by EPA using studies based on ingesting the chemical, even though the agency considers chlorothalonil to be "slightly toxic to non-toxic" when ingested and "highly toxic or acutely toxic" when inhaled. In March, EPA began a new review of chlorothalonil, which will include inhalation studies.

"Living near potato fields, I�ve frequently been exposed to pesticide drift in the last 15 years or so," said Park Rapids resident Carol Ashley, member of Minnesotans for Pesticide Awareness. "One type of pesticide wipes me out so that I can barely move for days. I have to struggle to breathe."

Chlorothalonil is classified by EPA as a "probable" carcinogen. Along with cancer, other probable health impacts from exposure include immunological reactions in the airways and skin, pneumonia, and kidney failure."

See the link for more info.

IMO, you should move. If you don't want to leave your house because your boyfriend and father built it, consider jacking it up and moving it to a new location, away from potato fields.

Also, milk is a poor source of calcium. Because it is so acidic, it leaches calcium from you body to neutralize the acid. The New York Times had an op=ed on this earlier this week. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D.

Here is a link that might be useful: panna

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 9:54AM
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greginnd(Z4 ND)

Well, I'm glad I checked back on this thread. Lots of interesting information and lively discussions. I have done a lot of reading on various ways of eating. Everything points me toward a largely plant-based diet. Raw plants even better. I still struggle with eating too much meat and dairy but my feeling is those things in small amounts won't hurt. Moderation in everything (including moderation) is my motto. Anyway, I have been growing my own vegetables in my small city plot for the last 15 years. This spring I purchased a 12 acre farmstead. Long story - but I am starting a winery. The first thing I did was plant a big vegetable garden. I just put up a blog post update (link below).

How does all this relate to this thread? Well, when I started my garden I saw the guys in the soybean fields around me spraying. A couple days later I checked on my garden and found the newly sprouted beans all dying and the tomatoes all curled up. My first thought was to blame the neighbors. But I did a lot more digging. I had friendly conversations with the farmers around me. It turns out that the round-up they were spraying did not enter my property. I see no evidence of drift damage on the edges of the fields. I found out through lots of searching that the manure left on the property from the horse barn was contaminated with picloram or clopyralid. The problem? The previous owners fed their horses ditch hay a couple seasons ago. The county sprays this persistent herbicide along the roadways and railroad tracks. It doesn't harm the animals and passes right through them ending up in the manure. Unfortunately it lasts for years in the soil. Most of my garden is growing well but there are spots where the herbicide is very evident.

Organic gardeners using manure and/or hay need to make sure they are not using hay contaminated with Tordon (picloram) or clopyralid. Watch out for composts as they persist in compost for years too.

The neighboring large soybean and sugar beet field owners also live in their farmsteads around me. They are VERY cognizant of being careful spraying around the homes. Do mistakes happen? Sure. But the farmers and farm workers want to be as safe as possible too. One thing we have going for us here in North Dakota is that we don't allow corporate farming.

In an ideal world there would be nothing sprayed on the land. But as the OP pointed out - the goal here is to be realistic and be as safe as possible. That starts with establishing a good relationship with those around you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greg's Farm Garden - Booming in July

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:24AM
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RpR, thank you. I've looked up the average monthly temperatures and it's pretty much the same, except for 3 to 4 months (December through March) that are warmer in Colorado. I'm not sure what I will do yet, if I want them in my windbreak or not but if I do I will buy them locally.

pnbrown, I will order it right away! I've read a few pages through the "Look inside" option on Amazon and it does seem interesting!

althea - thank you for the link! I do believe that chlorothalonil has been banned for lawn maintenance in Quebec, since 2006, but I don't think it's been banned for agriculture use. There are dozens and dozens of different pesticides that can be used for potato fields though and I will have to ask the owners of the lands behind our house if they use chlorothalonil. I've located the owners but am still debating on how to approach them regarding the pesticides... The owners are quite old and I don't want them to think I'm rude or that I want them to change their ways or anything. I do know however that they will be using these lands for industrial hemp for a few years starting next year, and from what I could gather on the subject pesticides aren't sprayed on hemp. I think they're also dealing with nematodes right now and that could be why they accepted to use their lands for something else than potatoes - I've heard they are ravaging their plants.

As far as jacking the house, since we have the basement it is impossible to do. And well, it's not just the fact that my BF and father built the house, but also that my whole family lives close. Moving is out of the question right now, as I mentioned earlier, but I'm ready to take all kinds of extra steps to reduce our exposure to chemicals and toxins all around our place.

As a side note they finally came back to spray their lands yesterday (for the 1st time since I started this thread). They were not spraying the same way as they usually do... the tractor normally sprays in a perpendicular manner (facing our street/house and going back in the opposite direction) but yesterday, he sprayed in-parallel with our street/house. I'm not sure if he did it this way because of the wind direction but it's the first time I ever saw him spraying like this.

greginnd - I appreciate this discussion as well. :) I find it very refreshing to be able to talk with people who are as much concerned about their health (or the environment) as I am. I mean, many members of my family and friends usually think I'm nuts for doing everything I'm doing (the whole organic/vegan/green aspect of living) and I've been having a hard time dealing with some of the things they do and not care one bit about. Anyways, I really do enjoy these discussions!

Regarding the winery, I've read in the pesticide book mentioned in my very first post that grapes are nearly as heavily sprayed with pesticides as apples. I'm guessing you're planning on doing everything organic? Or as safe as humanely possible for both humans and the environment?

Very interesting about the herbicide staying in the soil for years. For my future garden I was planning on doing something similar like square foot gardening. I am not sure I would use any "special" soil (as suggested by Mel Bartholemew) but I was planning on using some other type of soil than the one we have in the yard. I'll be careful about where the soil comes from, for sure.

From the research I did on the owners of the field behind our house, they are not corporate farmers. Some of their family members are however, and own lands in other areas of our town.

Your garden looks very big - and clean! Very impressive! I'm used to seeing my mother's garden and it sure looks nothing like yours. She lets weeds grow everywhere and really isn't working on it that much. How big actually is your garden? I've been wondering how big of a garden I should do for my boyfriend and I. We do eat a lot of vegetables and fruits (though less fruit than veggies), and I juice quite a bit as well (at least once a day). I was thinking about making a garden that would be big enough that we were able to go through a few winter months with our own supply of vegetables (I would make and then freeze our juices in advance) but I have not been able to determine how big that garden should be. I guess it'd be a trial and error thing.

And I totally agree - the one thing I am very sure about from the research I've done so far is that a plant-based diet is what seems to be the most healthy for humans, as long as these plants are as free of chemicals/pesticides as possible and consumed as raw as possible. I've found many raw food recipes that look great and I can't wait to order my food dehydrator to make some of them already!

Well, I wish you good luck with that winery project of yours. :-) I cannot get myself to drink a glass of wine as of right now - I hate the taste of it - but I've been told (about 7 years ago when I was just shy of 20) it's something you get to enjoy more as you age. Oh well, maybe some day.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 7:37PM
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greginnd(Z4 ND)

The large grape producers in california use a lot of pesticides. I will not be completely organic but I will limit any anti fungal and pesticide spraying to the bare minimum. Fortunately we have less pests here than they do in CA.

My garden is 30' x 90'. It is plenty big for my family and well have plenty extra to share. I'm thinking about selling some at our local farmers market too. if that goes well I will expand it next year for market produce.

Not all herbicides are long lasting. The one we have, unfortunately is.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 10:03AM
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