Japan Offspring Fund(JOF) is a consumer group and environmental NGO established in 1984. We have researched issues involving the safety of daily life, including chemical residues, endocrine disruptors, and genetically engineered food.

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Japan Offspring Fund (JOF) Monthly Newsletter
May 2005, No.193

* Safety of household water: how to eliminate chlorine from bath and shower water

Many people pay great attention to the safety of their drinking water. However, the bath and shower water is usually ignored. In fact, such water can be more dangerous for your health, and it is necessary to take precautions to make it safer.

* Kaiten Sushi: how to have fun and eat safely in “sushi bars” (Part 1)

We all love “sushi bars” and enjoy seeing the small plates of raw fish moving on the conveyer belt. Such Kaiten Sushi restaurants are very popular. But are they safe? We take a close look at sushi bars, starting in this issue with the salmon.

* Trans fatty acids in margarine

We investigated margarines sold in Japan. Trans fatty acids are known to have cholesterol-raising effects. There is growing public concern about using margarine. In fact, trans fatty acids can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HLD ("good") cholesterol. The more liquid the margarine, the less hydrogenated it is and the less trans fatty acids it contains. Did you know that to make margarine, the factories are using the same chemical process as if they were making plastic? Our conclusion is: avoid margarine!

Safety of household water: how to eliminate chlorine from bath and shower water

Each day we drink about 1-2 liters of water. Compared to that, the 200 liters or more that we use for bathing, or 40 liters in case we take a shower, is a much more serious problem. A large quantity of chlorine and trihalomethane (by-products of chlorination of tap water that contains organic material) are released and discharged from the hot water. As we breathe the air with such substances, we are actually inhaling much more chlorine and trihalomethane than if we were drinking the non-purified tap water.

  • Bath

We examined how C-vitamin can help to improve bath water. By adding 1 gram of ascorbic acid into the hot water, the bad smell disappears, as the ascorbic acid binds to the chlorine. Based on this test we concluded that this is an inexpensive way to improve bath water.

We also tested adding the peel of mikan (tangerine) and different herbs and other plants, such as wormwood. They appeared to be able to bind chlorine and remove the smell.
For example, we added 3 packs of Japanese barley tea and got a nice brown colour, plus a scent that was lovely. Adding about a cup of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) was another way of improving the bath water, and getting an onsen-like feeling at a much lower cost than buying the expensive bags of mixtures sold for that purpose. And, it even felt like it had a nice effect on the skin!

  • Shower water

While it appears to be rather easy to remove chlorine from hot water, the trihalomethane is a more difficult problem. Furthermore, it is a volatile substance that evaporates easily into the air. Because of this, we recommend good ventilation while taking a shower. It is possible to remove both chlorine and other chemicals, such as trihalomethane (including chloroform) by installing a water purifier. These machines contain a filter with active carbon, but as bacteria can multiply in the active carbon filter, it can create problems if you use the water as drinking water. Thus we do not really recommend this solution.

Kaiten Sushi: how to have fun and eat safely in “sushi bars” (Part 1)

Japan has introduced many novel ideas to the World’s food culture, including sushi and sashimi. These fresh, raw pieces of fish are enjoyed with soy sauce and some horseradish. Sushi, where the fish is placed on top of rice, has become especially well-known outside of Japan. In this issue we take a close look at the safety problems related to farmed salmon.

The most important advice is to avoid the farmed salmon. The reason sushi bars prefer farmed salmon is that they do not contain a certain parasite, which thrives on natural salmon. Also, farmed salmon is generally cheaper than when salmon is caught wild in rivers or in the ocean.

PCBs and farmed salmon

Farmed salmon is a serious matter. In 2003, the US consumer organization Environment Working Group (EWG) has released a report on dangerous chemicals in farmed salmon. The report tested farmed salmon and found high levels of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) at levels that exceeded safety recommendations. PCBs are thought to cause cancer. Especially farmed salmon from Europe were found to be really high. EWG recommends that one should not consume farmed salmon more than once a month.

The problem is the feed. The fish feed contains low levels of PCBs that accumulate in the fat of salmon. Fish fat is generally to be recommended as very healthy, but not when it comes from farmed salmon. In Japan, salmon sold in supermarkets and fish shops has to be clearly labeled to give the consumer a choice between farmed and wild salmon. In the sushi bar, however, you do not get such labels.

There are several ways to distinguish between farmed and wild salmon. First of all, several famous brand names such as Keiji, Tokishirazu, and Mejika indicate that their products are only wild salmon. Akisake and Akiaji are others that can also be trusted. Wild salmon from Alaska, Russia and Canada with a deep red colour can generally be trusted; the high quality also means that the price is very high. Wild pink salmon, such as King Salmon is called Masunosake in Japan.

It is actually easy to know if the salmon is farmed or not – just look at the price. Is that a cheap piece of sushi moving slowly towards you on the sushi bar conveyer belt? Well, in that case, just avoid it. There is so much else to choose from that you can enjoy without any worries.

For more information about PCBs in farmed salmon, please click here to go the Environment Working Group report:


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