New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 246

new internationalist
issue 246 - August 1993

Questions
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Can I use cotton toilet paper with a clear conscience?
Is it likely to have been produced in circumstances that are environmentally friendly?

[image, unknown] Unless toilet paper is made from organically-produced cotton it is unlikely to be environmentally-friendly.

In most countries cotton production is an intensive monoculture, relying on high pesticide input. It is more than likely that highly toxic organochloride pesticides would have been used on the cotton in your toilet rolls.

Organochlorides are held responsible for cancers and birth defects and are implicated in the global fall in sperm count. They are highly persistent, both in the environment and in animal tissues, and have been shown to be transmitted in mothers’ milk.

A number of countries – including Australia – no longer permit the use of organochloride pesticides on crops but still allow their use for cotton-growing. Indiscriminate spraying from the air has been blamed for health problems in cotton-growing areas. Consumers, meanwhile, run the risk of absorbing toxic organochlorides when using cotton products which are in close contact with the body – such as tampons.

But then bleaching paper with chlorine-based compound also creates organochlorides – a major problem of pulp mill effluent.

So the answer is: either buy non-chlorine bleached paper products or organically-grown cotton. Above all, write to the manufacturers and ask them about their production methods and their sources of raw materials.

David Firn
Oxford, UK

Cotton crops may be sprayed with harmful pesticides 45 times per season. Organically-grown cotton is available but demand outstrips supply. For minimal environmental impact it is best to use 100 per cent post-consumer waste paper or recycle some of those NIs.

Annie Key
Leicester, UK

Has anyone heard of a vegetarian famine relief organization called VEGFAM?
If so what’s the address, please?

[image, unknown] VEGFAM was established in 1963 as a charity to feed the hungry without exploiting animals and using only plant foods. The 30 countries where VEGFAM has financed projects have fragile environments which cannot support the double population explosion: of humans and their food animals. VEGFAM’s headquarters are at The Sanctuary, Lydford, Devon, EX20 4AL, UK. Tel 082 282 203 or 0462 456294.

F Howard
VEGFAM, UK

Awaiting your answers...

I suspect that cannibalism is a racist myth. Did Idi Amin have to eat people other than for the benefit of our tabloid press? Can anyone provide me with evidence of cannibalism – either way?

David Williams
Camberley, UK

I am a Canadian residing in Aotearoa/New Zealand and have heard people from the UK referred to as POMs. Does anyone know the origins of this?

Janice Travett
Palmerston North, Aotearoa / New Zealand

Does anyone know how the origin of the belief that a stork brings a new baby?
Why should storks be associated with childbirth?

Mary Morgans
Ainsdale, UK

Is the story of Elzeard Bouffin – the ‘man who planted trees’ in the Alps – true or was it invented to encourage replanting in that area?

Steve Lamb
Lasquite Is, Canada

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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