Tag: health

Accounting for Pollution: Garbage lasts Forever

You won’t hear an accountant mention pollution & accounting in the same sentence, but we are going to do so here, since we aren’t accountants. Garbage is what’s known as an economic bad, as opposed to most physical items, which are considered economic goods. Since garbage costs time and energy to remove, the possession of more garbage decreases the value of the one who possesses it. The phrase “throw it away” is misleading, comparable to fake news. Forget about diamonds – garbage quite literally is forever. We have nowhere to put it, so we resort to housing garbage in designated areas of our home planet Earth. As we continue generating this economic bad, garbage accumulation must result in a decrease in the value of planet Earth.

If you take a class in environmental science or search online, you’ll learn of the two rough categories of pollution:

Point and non-point source pollution —


Point-source originates from a definite, identifiable source. Think of it as original pollution. Examples of point-sources:

– factories
– sewage treatment plants
– electric power generation
– oil & gas extraction
– oil & gas refineries
– coal mining
– coal fired power generation
– air pollution
– mobile sources & transportation (planes, trains, automobiles)

This San Antonio de los buenos pipe dumps over 20 million gallons of sewage into the Pacific Ocean every single day. Although the origin has been identified, there is nothing that has been done. A solution may cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Humans, mammals, and creatures of every taxonomic rank experience pain. Illness affect us all, and each illness has the potential to reach a point of no return, at which point it becomes terminal for the organism. As of this moment, humans are inflicting a seemingly small amount of damage – analogous to an illness – on our earth via pollution. In an anthropomorphic sense, we are giving Earth a weakened immune system. It has the sniffles. As of now its not too late to get healthy. We can reduce the ill effects of pollution on our environment and atmosphere. And in doing so discover practices that promote a healthier Earth. Although not easy, we have to believe that it is possible. This is of utmost importance because if we aren’t careful, the small damages we are doing to earth may turn into something more serious. Its far easier to prevent lung cancer by refraining from smoking than it is to cure lung cancer after you get it. Likewise, it requires significantly more energy to clean up pollution than to prevent it. Prevention is better than clean up.

Non-point sources:

Non-point does not originate from a definite, identifiable source. It is a result of the diffusion of point-source pollution.

Run Off: Let’s look at an example. Think about the contribution of a cars in a city to non-point source pollution that accumulates on roads (let’s simplify by excluding air pollution from the equation).  in your city distribute substances (oil, gasoline, exaust, sludge, rubber, litter, debris, etc.) that accumulate on road surfaces. Individually, each car is a point-source. The aggregation of these chemicals being deposited by all 494,000 cars registered in San Francisco contributes to the category known as non-point source pollution.

Another example is runoff. The harmful chemicals that collect on any surface of earth, whether a road, parking lot, farm, originate at point-sources including cars, equipment, debris, agricultural materials, etc.

“When rain or melted snow moves over and through the ground, the water absorbs and assimilates any pollutants it comes into contact with.” (USEPA, 2004b)

Let us consider agricultural non-point sources, which are a result of the diffuse runoff that comes from the use of fertilizers, pesticides, or animal waste while growing crops and livestock.

Simple logic: to reduce the non-point source pollution that as a result of agriculture sources, we must stop it at the point of origin.

In this case, identifying each point source is too cumbersome and thus impractical… but we can paint a picture of what the point source associated with each non-point source generally looks like.

The pollution in the runoff example is the result of multiple locations over a period of days or weeks before rainfall, so you can’t pinpoint the exact source. Runoff is difficult to measure, identify, and control because it is the result of combined pollution sources that are received by the environment when water absorbs those chemicals which occurs over the entire surface of earth.

– land runoff
– precititation (acid rain)
– atmospheric deposition
– drainage
– leakage
– seepage (from underground storage tanks)
– hydrological modification (via rainfall and snowmelt)
– storm water runoff
– atmospheric deposition of contaminants, and
– storm water runoff from
– golf courses
– agricultural establishments
– forestry or construction sites

Acid Rain: Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) enter the atmostphere when fossil fuels are burned at factories or by internal combustion engines. These chemicals can cause acid rain. Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) reacting in the atmosphere with water; it then returns to earth as polluted rain, fog, or snow. Acid rain is considered non-point source. The originating source of acid rain are the multitude of point-sources sending smog into the atmosphere that combines with clouds.

After examining how we define point and non-point sources, logic will allow us to realize that by reducing all the point-sources, we will eliminate non-point sources of pollution from appearing. This of course does not include pollution that has already entered the atmosphere. What’s there is there unless we can do something to remove it. Reducing point sources of pollution will thus stop non-point sources of pollution from accumulating, but we will still have cleanup to do. However, for now, to make the largest impact, humans should focus efforts toward reducing point-sources.

Seems simple enough. But what happens when we try to track pollution to discover where it is coming from?

Can we track pollution?

It turns out that tracking pollution to a single source is difficult.

How can we determine the source of microplastics pollution, the material washing up on the far-stretching beaches of Zlatni Rat, Croatia? By first examining the materials themselves, maybe we discover that a large percentage of it is made up of specific types of materials – for instance, polystyrene (aka styrofoam).

Going with this example, after disposal, a piece of styrofoam will break up into 999,999 pieces pretty quickly. These tiny polystyrene particles may have come from a piece of packaging, part of a cooler, a styrofoam cup, you name it. We can consider existing ocean currents  in the Mediterranean and near Croatia to consider what may have sent it there. Because the Mediterranean is a semi-closed body of water, attaching to the Atlantic only through the strait of Gibraltar on the west and to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal on the southeastern side, we can hypothesize that microplastic particles existing there also originated there. The Mediterranean is more or less a closed system.

It is much more likely that the point-source origin is located somewhere along the coast of the Mediterranean sea. By narrowing it down, we can then try to estimate travel time to determine how long it may have taken to get from one place to another. We can think about ocean currents that may have sent it there. We can try multiple things to try to get a sense for where exactly all of the rubbish is coming from.

But ultimately, it is absolutely impossible to know where exactly plastics on the beaches of Croatia originated.

Scientists have categorized this as “non-point source” pollution because its origin is unknown. In a disorganized universe that follows the second law of thermodynamics, microplastics get lost in the clutter of the environment and atmosphere. Nobody can identify the source.

But these microplastics came from somewhere. So by convention, these pieces of microscopic polystyrene are considered non-point and separate from point-sources of pollution.

Non-point source pollution results from the disorganization and diffusion of all the point-sources of pollution combined through the environment. Non-point source pollution is “redundant source pollution”. Current technology is too incompetent to identify the point-source tied to every non-point source.

Accounting for pollution

In 1769, when James Watt patented the first steam engine. Voila, air pollution was amplified. With the growth of transportation technology as well as the human population since that date, pollution has progressively gotten worse as we’ve continued polluting the earth for at least 250 years.

Imagine for a second that we want to calculate how much pollution has ever occurred in the history of the world between now and forever-ago. To measure and account for quantity of those harmful substances in our environment, it would be helpful to differentiate between point and non-point because to avoid redundancy. Although an impossible feat in practice, to do so in theory, we would simply need to account for pollution arising from every single point-source in human history. By summing up pollution from each and every the point source ever, we would get an exact amount of total historical pollution (THP). We don’t need to factor in non-point source, because it would be counted twice.

(Point Source) + (Non Point source) > THP

THP is equal to the sum of all point sources of pollution from time = year 1700, to time = year 2018.

THP = ∑ (all point-sources of pollution) = Total Point-Source Pollution


Two broad types of pollution have been discussed briefly. When we consider which efforts will most greatly impact the future of humanity and help us create a clean, healthy environment, it can be hard to say which efforts are most effective.

The intention is not to say one category of pollution is worse or more benign than the other. The purpose is to identify the difference between pollution that has already entered the ecosystem, and pollution that is currently entering the ecosystem.

Before taking efforts to eliminate it, let’s realize there are different strategic purposes to reduction of each.

  1. The value in eliminating non-point source pollution: stop pollution from diffusing and spreading to new areas, and remove old, existing pollution from our environment. Pollution that is already there.
  2. Value in eliminating point-source pollution: prevent future pollution from entering out atmosphere and environment in the first place! Pollution that is entering the environment right now and into the future.

It is far easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix a problem.

In order to minimize human contribution to the pollution problem, humans must stop putting it into the ecosystem in the first place.

When calculating amounts of pollution, non-point source pollution has already been accounted for via the summation of all point sources. Point source pollution that has diffused throughout the environment can no longer be traced, so we duplicate it if we add them together. In theory, non-point source pollution is redundant and already accounted for, so we can essentially ignore it when accounting for how much pollution we create.

With enough thought and research, a point source can be broken down into its component point-sources. If you think you have a non-point source, ask yourself: What do I need to do to identify the original source?

Who has the power? The decision makers in the agriculture industry control what pesticides and fertilizers are used, as well as what happens to animal waste. In addition, every automobile manufacturer . on the business side of a a farm or agricultural facility. But as comsumers, we have the power to choose where our dollars go. Each dollar spent is like casting a vote for which business practices we will incentivize. If we purchase products that contribute to jit, we are playing our small but incremental role in the continuation of

For the future of our species, we must be focus on identifying point-sources in order to reduce the amount of pollution at its origin, rather than after-the-fact removal. If you are interested in discussing this further, please contact us.

Chemistry of Sunscreen

Stop by a Wallgreens or CVS and you’ll notice a large sunscreen selection, but each product has advantages and flaws. The differences, it turns out, depend on the chemistry of each active ingredient. If you’re in the United States, glancing at the list on the back of each bottle, you’ll see that products tend to have some combination of 8 common active ingredients.

But did you know that of the 8 most common active ingredients, there are actually only two different UV protection mechanisms? Categorized below, you’ll notice that UV filter compounds are much more common, while the mineral blocker type only include two of the main compounds.

Sunscreen lotion contains active ingredients that contribute to the sunscreen’s SPF, protecting you from sunburn by keeping UV rays from reaching your skin and damaging cells. Active ingredients protect you from UV rays in two unique ways:


This method filters or absorbs UV light, turning the radiation into heat energy, rather than allowing it to cause cell damage.

UV filters chemical ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone

  • Hazards of UV filters:
    • UV filters can and have been measured in blood of people who use sunscreen frequently. The main concern with these chemicals is endocrine disruption.
    • Oxybenzone is by far the most dangerous chemical found in sunscreen. It penetrates the skin easily and enters the blood stream. It has the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, causing hormone disruption. It is estrogenically active and has potent anti-androgenic effects.


Blocks UV light from penetrating through the mineral ingredients in the sunscreen so that it never comes into contact with your skin. (ex. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide)

Pick up your tube of sunscreen and look at the back. You’ll see a number of active ingredients. Typically, you’ll see 4 or 5 Filtering type ingredients listed. The compounds that protect by Filtering will tend to absorb only certain wavelengths of light, so sunscreen companies include a combination of different ones to block a broader spectrum of UV rays.

Blocking type ingredients work in a different way, so they are present either by themselves or with a few filter ingredients. For example, you might have sunscreen that lists zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.

To avoid sunburn and more importantly skin damage from UV rays, elect for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with as high an SPF as possible, and ideally use a sunscreen that also contains Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.

UV blocking minerals: Zinc Oxide, Titanium dioxide

  • Hazards of mineral blockers:
    • Zinc Oxide and Titanium dioxide particles are photoactive, meaning they can create free radicals when exposed to UV radiation that damage surrounding cells. To mitigate this risk, manufacturers apply surface coatings to these particles.
    • Both of these mineral blockers are electrically charged molecules. Over time and due to heat exposure, these mineral blockers can settle or clump, leaving gaps in skin coverage. To be effective, mineral sunscreens contain ingredients that hold zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in a suspension to provide an even coating on the skin.
    • Titanium Dioxide creates more free radicals that do oxidative damage to your body and skin cells, and increases aging processes. Zinc oxide tends to have a broader-spectrum range of coverage than titanium dioxide, although the combination of both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide provide the broadest range of protection.
    • Zinc and titanium oxide may potentially harm environment.

Some products, such as “SheerZinc Face” by Neutrogena, will contain zinc oxide. Finding a product that contains both zinc oxide AND titanium dioxide is much less common due to the highly charged particles tendency to coagulate and cause clumping.


As discussed, there are two different types of sunscreen. If you are going for a product that contains Mineral Blockers, Zinc Oxide is preferred over Titanium Dioxide. Check products that contain mineral blockers to ensure lotion consistency is homogenous and not de-coagulated because the clumps will cause gaps in skin coverage, thus causing you to get burnt.

Your ideal sunscreen might have the following active ingredients:

  • Homosalate (8–10%)
  • Ocinoxate (variable percentage)
  • Octocrylene (2–6%)
  • Zinc Oxide (5–15% +)


Stanford is Helping Humans Age Well

Everyone wants to thrive during old age. What will it take to to increase the number of years of healthy, active life that we all have the opportunity to experience? Stanford University created a center to do just that.

The official mission…

…of the Stanford Center on Longevity is: “accelerate and implement scientific discoveries, technological advances, behavioral practices, and social norms so that century long lives are healthy and rewarding.” The center has three divisions: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Security.

From the mission above, let’s look at what, specifically, Stanford is doing to help us achieve healthy, rewarding, Century-Long Lives.

In an internet-connected world…

…more and more devices are starting to track human data. In addition to devices such as fitbit heart rate and step trackers, our iPhones also have the capability of collecting and recording large amounts of data from our everyday lives. Aggregating this data and analyzing it using Artificial Intelligence algorithms could provide insight into a person’s current state of health, which may allow for earlier prediction of disease, to recognize it in its early stages. For example, according to the New York Times, speech recognition software has been used by Arizona State University to analyze linguistic data of NFL players at press conferences over a multiple year period to determine changes in vocabulary and sentence structure, which provided insight into the onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). What if a similar speech analysis technology could be applied during phone calls of individuals with Parkinson’s disease so that their doctor can adjust the medication, as this article from Slate mentions? What if one could apply the same for Alzheimer’s? Complex algorithms would have to be written, but when considering the scope of technological capacity that we have today, this is certainly possible.

Financial Stability

The center is helping people with achieve and maintain financial stability. Some great first steps to becoming more financially stable include getting out of high-interest debt (such as credit card debt), paying off student loans/mortgage each month, living below your means by creating a budget, saving a regular percentage of your income, maintaining 6-12 months of living expenses in cash, and finally, investing. From a financial standpoint, center focuses on financial capability, new career lifecycles, and common financial pitfalls (such as fraud). In order to maintain your finances as you get older and well into your retirement, the center covers some best practices and other wisdom related to helping manage retirement income, and even ways to supplement that income. If we’re going to be healthier and energetic for longer, humans will have the opportunity to start a side gig, take up a craft, and maybe even build their own business.


Surrounding yourself with a supportive community is supremely important as well. William Chopik mentions that, whether it be friends or family, “having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad” may be so crucial to keeping stress levels low and maintaining positivity, and overall happiness.

It’s great to see universities like Stanford leading our civilization on teaching and spreading the word about how we can implement some of the latest breakthroughs in longevity research. The center’s website will serve as a great resource to help people take small actions to maintain health.

From the Stanford Center on Longevity’s website, it was founded in 2007 by Thomas Rando MD, PhD, and Laura Carstensen PhD.