Veggie Athletes, Sinful Salmon and Sprayed Insulation

Are any professional athletes vegetarians?

—Scott Israel, Arlington, TX

© Chris Murphy

Billie Jean King, who racked up 20 wins at Wimbledon, won the U.S. Open 13 times and dealt a blow to male chauvinism when she beat Bobby Riggs in a 1973 tennis match, was powered by a vegetarian diet. She is not alone. The list of vegetarian athletes is several pages long and includes names like bodybuilder Andreas Cahling, football star Desmond Howard, Ironwoman Ruth Heidrich and sprinter Carl Lewis.

Athletes do not have to eat meat to ensure optimal performance, according to a 1997 American Dietetic Association position paper. The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) agrees, claiming, "Due to its high carbohydrate and low-fat content, vegetarianism is an optimal sports diet."

Like everyone else, vegetarians need to eat a balanced diet, taking extra care to get plenty of iron, vitamin B12 and zinc. Thanks in part to the cereals developed by vegetarian John Harvey Kellogg, that is relatively easy to do. According to John Robbins" Diet for a New America, considerable research has shown that vegetarians tend to have more stamina and endurance than meat-eaters.

CONTACTS

PCRM
Tel: (202) 686-2210

Veggie Sports Association

—Corene Luh


Do salmon grown on fish farms contain more or less toxins than wild salmon?

—Jay Simms, Madison, WI

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, 842 million pounds of fish were produced in 1999 by the United States through fish farming, or aquaculture, including 39 million pounds of salmon. More than 50 percent of the world's salmon is now farmed according to the National Audubon Society.

In a study published by the journal Chemosphere, researchers concluded that farmed salmon contained higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides and polybrominated diphenylethers than wild salmon. The discrepancy was thought to result from the high levels of toxins that are also found in commercial salmon feed.

Though there is not yet much agreement on the toxicity of farmed salmon, what is certain is that aquaculture of the fish along the Atlantic coast is causing the population of wild salmon to severely decline. According to Audubon, farms are taking up prime locations, forcing wild stocks to migrate to less-than-ideal areas.

CONTACT

National Audubon Society
Tel: (212) 979-3000

—Abbi Leman


What are the environmental costs and benefits of using sprayed insulation products like Comfort Foam?

—Malcolm Greeley, Evanston, IL

Sprayed insulation materials are commonly used to fill spaces in unfinished walls, attics and floors. Comfort Foam from Foam Enterprises is sprayed insulation that forms closed cells, which means it becomes a nearly impermeable barrier. It is made from polyurethane, and it reduces heat transfer more effectively than many other types of insulation such as fiberglass, cellulose or open-cell spray products like Icynene (as measured by "R-values").

Foam Enterprises spokesperson Bill Amend touts the environmental benefits of his product. "Insulating with closed-cell polyurethane significantly reduces the demand for burning fossil fuels to condition your home, " he says. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 50 to 70 percent of the energy used in American homes is consumed by heating and cooling, and the agency lists insulation as an important way to reduce waste.

However, many environmentalists do not recommend the product. Although chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are no longer used by the insulation industry, closed-cell materials are typically blown into place with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are also ozone destroying. Even though the company says Comfort Foam is extremely stable and safe when cured, its liquid component is quite toxic. Annie Berthhold-Bond writes in Better Basics for the Home that polyurethane insulation should be avoided because of the toxicity of some of its ingredients and its potential for off-gassing. Scientific data on the health hazards of foam off-gassing are inconclusive. Open-cell insulation, which is also usually made from petroleum products, tends to be blown with water, and usually does not release any potentially harmful emissions.

CONTACT

Foam Enterprises
Tel: (800) 796-9743

—A.L.