Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Good Soil Test Is Hard to Find

My first piece for Modern Farmer, a new magazine (as of this spring) devoted to the new food movement, is on soil testing, a topic I first explored in an award-winning East Bay Express feature on urban farming and soil contaminants. What I wrote about for Modern Farmer, in short: public soil testing is in decline, and even though the answers it offers are imperfect, it can be an important tool for urban farmers and backyard gardeners hoping to better understand their soil and their crops. Read it here! (It runs online only, not in print.) Hopefully there will be more pieces to come for this interesting new publication.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Nanosilver: Unique powers, unique risks

Maybe you've never heard of nanosilver before. I wouldn't blame you. Maybe you've heard of it but have no idea what it is. Wouldn't blame you. But it's neat stuff. I won't get into all the details here -- I refer you to my new feature in Environmental Health Perspectives for that -- but basically it's a tiny silver compound (1-100 nanometers across) with incredibly powerful antimicrobial qualities. It can kill almost anything, including lethal hospital superbugs that have developed resistance to lesser antimicrobials.
In recent years we've developed technologies to impregnate nanosilver in all sorts of materials, including fabrics, plastics, and various coatings -- which has led to nanosilver being incorporated into everything from dryers to baby bottles to workout clothing to wheelchairs.
But alas. Every upside has a downside: potential health risks, environmental risks, and perhaps most serious of all, the risk that bugs will develop resistance to nanosilver, too, our most powerful weapon against them.
And that's what my story in EHP is about. Read it here.