Friday, December 12, 2008

Organic Garden of Fruit on Maui Hawaii

The organic garden at the Hale Hookipa Inn Maui Bed and BreakfastWhen it's cold and snowy here in upstate NY, I like to think about Hawaii to stay warm. I make a nice cup of organic Kona coffee, and I pull up all my Hawaiian friends' blogs, and cozy up around the warm pictures.

In this latest post by my friend Cherie, who runs a Hawaiian Bed and Breakfast on Maui, she mentions feeding her guests from Alaska fresh organic fruit from the garden surrounding her historic Hawaii accommodations.Cherie on Maui with her organic papayas If you book before Christmas, Cherie is offering a snow bird special of 8% off her already inexpensive Maui lodging.

Mmmmm. Snow bird special. Ahhhgggghhhh. (/homer)

Here's a picture of Cherie with her papayas. She also grows organic cherimoyas and lilikoi, or passion fruit. I first met Cherie when we were living on Maui, in the late 90's. Every time I see a picture of her place, I'm amazed at the results of her years of hard work! Can't wait to visit again someday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soil Conditioners Could Pose Asbestos Hazard

When we hear the word "asbestos" we often think back on the controversy of the late 1970’s when it became common knowledge that asbestos was indeed a human health hazard. Asbestos however, is still a relevant hazard today in a number of different capacities. While most asbestos containing products were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, unfortunately it still exists in hundreds of older products as well as in trace amounts in newly manufactured products. Among new products that may still contain asbestos are soil retention enhancers, particularly vermiculite.

Vermiculite is mined from natural deposits across the globe and has a myriad of uses not only for commercial and private gardening, but also as an insulation compound. Vermiculite forms over millions of years due to the weathering of the mineral, biotite. Unfortunately, former biotite deposits are often in close proximity to deposits of diopside, which upon being subjected to the same weathering and age conditions becomes asbestos.

In Libby, MT one particularly mine shipped hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite across the country. However, they were not the only manufacturers of vermiculite to ship asbestos with their products. Many other manufacturers were doing the same thing before EPA testing and regulations finally forced them to limit the amount of residual asbestos dust in the vermiculite.

Today, most vermiculite is safe. However, that is not to say it cannot contain asbestos. Vermiculite which is accompanied by a great deal of dust likely has residual asbestos in its contents and should be used with caution. Current EPA regulations ban products which contain 1% or more asbestos. Unfortunately even products containing less that 1% asbestos are still extremely hazardous, particularly when in loose dust form as vermiculite often is manufactured.

It is no surprise then that hundreds of the Libby mine’s employees and residents of the town were diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that is known only to be caused by asbestos exposure. Options for mesothelioma treatment are limited, so many of these residents were able to secure financial compensation for their families through litigation. Mesothelioma incidence is also known to be high in commercial gardeners and other occupations which deal with large amounts of loose vermiculite.

Fortunately, exposure to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite can be avoided if consumers follow simple precautions. Note the appearance of the vermiculite. If it seems to carry a great deal of residual dust, dispose of it outdoors. Most manufacturers of vermiculite mark their products packaging with "Non Dusty" labels. These refined granules are often slightly more expensive but they are certainly the safest.

Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Asbestos Materials Ban.1989
Consumer Product Safety Commission. Asbestos Consumer Products.