The Hidden Dangers of Soil Contamination

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REmtl.ca

A few years ago, I developed a site locating on a map all contaminated sites in Montreal, Canada. This was done in an open data hackathon, with a team made of open data specialists as well as McGill University professors specialized in urban development.

I was surprised to discover that data is available for all, at municipal, provincial and federal level. I was also surprised to see that in what appears to be a highly livable Canadian city like Montreal, there were old contaminated sites everywhere. I checked a few addresses. One for example showed on Google Street View a nice colorful kids’ playground, but in fact used to be a contaminated gas station. So we have infants, kids and parents playing on top of chemicals, because the city decided the location wasn’t fit for construction. Nice!

On the southern parts of the city named Griffintown, developers were building luxury condominiums where used to be industrial plants, with Bisphenol A (BPA) and PorpolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) contamination. These chemicals are highly toxic and remain in the environment for a long time, impacting the cardiovascular system, neuronal, cognition and also increases cancer risk.

And this is not limited to Montreal. You can go on Vox’s excellent lead exposure risk map, and discover that many cities like New York City or Philadelphia are blanketed with lead poisoning. This is an acute issue for children. Children that are lead poisoned are at risk of decreased IQ, delayed language acquisition, partial illiteracy, behavioral issues, organ failure, and even death. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that there is no amount of lead exposure that is considered safe for children.

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Map showing areas with extreme risk “10” in NYC

So why don’t we speak about this?

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“The Blue Zones, Second Edition” book review

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Is there a recipe to live past 100, and at the same time have a good quality of life?

That’s what Dan Bruettner tries to investigate in his book entitled “The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”.

With his team, Dan went to Barbagia in Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California, United States), Nicoya (Costa Rica). These have relatively a high percentage of centenarians, and low occurrences of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or COPD. Dan interviewed them on their diet, daily lifestyle, social networks and various habits. His findings are then discussed with doctors and health experts.

So how do you live a good life past 100?

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Cancer : Working Against the “Bad Luck”

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In my personal opinion, cancer is the worst type of disease.

I remember a friend who was diagnosed cancer. She was your typical urban geek : front-end programmer at a popular tech startup, lover of yoga, non-smoker, vegan and commuting by bike to work.

She is the kind of hip person you see around the latest bio-vegan-gluten-free coffee shop. You think they’d keep forever their slim waists and healthy composure.

Yet the worst came.

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Why I Run

Running is one of our defining characteristics. Plus it’s fun and healthy for you!

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The human skeleton amazes anthropologists.

We are not the fastest runners. Many other quadrupeds leave us behind when running short distances.

Yet, we are remarkably skilled in endurance running. Apart from accounts of endurant horses and camels, bred selectively for endurance, very few other species are able to run farther.

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Can cooking skills be the key to health?

Cooking could prevent chronic diseases and improve your overall well-being.

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Nutrition is a major component of health but far too often, most go for easy solutions.

This goes from eating out at lunch breaks, picking up frozen dinners or prepared food at the grocery store, and eating chicken in buckets in the evening.

In fact, it’s easy and practical in modern times no to cook at all and only use the fridge to stock up on prepared food. That goes from adolescents, busy professionals to ambitious mums. And when there is cooking, it involves convenience food such as canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and ready-made ingredients.

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Bigger is not always better

Endurance athletes with small and lean bodies have higher life expectancy than bigger power athletes

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Mo Farah (left) runs longer. Usain Bolt (right) runs faster. Compare their body shape. Who is better?

Bigger is popular. It’s synonymous to growth, speed and winning. It leads legions of men, and women, to gyms and crossfit centers to increase muscles and chest size. Compared to endurance, strength training is naturally more sexy.

When compared to a sedentary lifestyle, strength training is indeed a good choice. Yet, it appears that endurance training leads to higher longevity.

A Finnish research shows endurance athletes (long distance running, cross country skiiing) had higher life expectancy (avg 75.6 years) than team sports athletes (avg 73.9) or power athletes (avg 71.9). All had higher life expectancy than sedentary population (avg 69.9).

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Eating slightly less than you need

10 to 15% caloric restriction increases life expectancy.

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In an ideal world, everyone would know exactly daily calories requirements. Each body cell would get exactly enough energy and nutrients for use.

Practically, this is impossible. Physical activity, digestion, exercise, weather conditions, stress, psychology and many other factors change calorie requirements. Most of us end up eating more than needed, due to easy and cheap availability of high caloric food.

A paying strategy is to eat 10 to 15% less than you need. Based on your weight, daily physical activity, many online tools and applications will advise a daily calorie intake to maintain your weight. Subtract 10 to 15% from the figure shown.

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