Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hi, everyone! Long time, no see!

If you look carefully, every now and again you can glimpse the Storm or Windstorm whistle in the background of a Hollywood movie. Usually, it's one of those blink-and-you-miss it moments, but in the new movie "Darling Companion," our Windstorm Whistle's practically a supporting actor! It even has lines!

Check out the trailer here:

Thanks Sony Pictures Classics!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Storm Whistle Inventor Dr. Wright Has a New Video Podcast Up! Hooray!

Happy, happy Tuesday, everyone! And what better what to celebrate such a fine day then a brand-new episode of "Dr. Wright Breaks It Down for You"? In this week's episode (all right, more like this MONTH'S episode), Storm whistle inventor Dr. Wright and I discuss soap. Why do we need it? How does it work? And what does the game "Angry Birds" have to do with it again?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Food Dye Dilemma

It's been a while since we've had a blogpost on a good old-fashioned safety topic. I just wrote a piece for Vortex Toothpaste (Storm Whistle inventor Dr. Wright's newest invention) on food dye, and I thought you all would be interested in it as well!

St. Patrick’s Day was last weekend, and seeing all those green cupcakes and cookies everywhere made me think about food dye. I’ve heard vague rumblings about food dye being unhealthy, and there are even grocery store chains that won’t sell food with artificial dyes. But are they actually bad for you?

It’s a tricky question, because on the one hand, artificial coloring is, well, artificial. On the other hand, artificial coloring have been around for over eighty years—Americans eat over 100 million pounds of the dye Brilliant Blue every year without incident.The natural dye carmine, however, can cause a severe allergic reaction in some individuals.  So just because a dye is natural, doesn’t mean it’s better for you. It’s all a bit tricky. 

While poking around the Internet, I found one study in particular that seems to be the most widely cited: “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.”   In this British survey from 2007, children were given two kinds of drinks with a different mix of artificial dyes and preservatives.  The survey concluded that “[a]rtificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.” 

The FDA has taken quite a critical look at this study, however, saying:
" particular procedural weakness relevant to regulatory application was the use of chemical mixtures as challenge materials which basically precludes identifying which specific compound(s) within the mixtures might be responsible for any treatment related effects. Consequently, there would be little, if any, utility of these findings to assess risk or to support regulatory decisions for specific compounds.”

In other words, when you don’t test chemicals individually, you get really muddy results. Who knows if it’s the just the preservatives that’s making the children hyperactive, or just the red dye, etc?

The FDA more explicitly sums up its reaction to the survey on the FAQs on its website:
Both the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority independently reviewed the results from this study and each has concluded that the study does not substantiate a link between the color additives that were tested and behavioral effects. 

So I suppose that’s the last word from the FDA about that.

I guess what you really have to do is look at each dye individually—each dye is chemically unique, and one chemical may have a different effect on a person than a different one will. This is the main problem that tripped up the 2007 British study—the whole study was basically deemed invalid since they didn’t test the food dyes separately. 

I’m going to take a closer look at specific food dyes over the next few weeks, starting with Brilliant Blue. Check back next week to see what I’ve dug up!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yet Another Brand-Spanking New Episode of "Dr. Wright Breaks It Down for You!"

I know, I know. I'm supposed to put out a new episode of "Dr. Wright Breaks It Down for You" WEEKLY, not once a month or so. But boy, I really had a hard time editing together the video to go along with this particular podcast (entitled "Help! I Have a Canker Sore!). I mean, I could really only look at videos of people with canker sores for, like, two seconds before I started feeling a little queasy.

I finally resorted to just animating a lot of the podcast (using, of course, my trusty animation program: Microsoft Paint 97).

So enjoy our newest episode, featuring, as always, Storm Whistle inventor Dr. Wright!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Episode of "Dr. Wright Breaks It Down for You!"

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start off the New Year than a brand, spanking-new episode of "Dr. Wright Breaks It Down for You"?

This particular episode deals with fluoride, specifically how the chemical is used in toothpastes. Fluoride can do some very powerful, very helpful things to teeth, but you should always be careful when interacting with chemicals. Be sure not to swallow too much fluoridated toothpaste, and children under the age of two should not use fluoridated toothpaste unless recommended to do so by a dental professional.

But enough with the serious side of things. The above video podcast features a seal getting its teeth brushed! And it's adorable! Check it out!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fireplace Safety!

It’s starting to get colder and colder here in the Midwest, and we’re all looking at ways to get our homes even toastier.  My husband and I just moved into a new apartment that features a FIREPLACE, and we’re pretty excited. Though between visions of chestnuts roasting over the aforementioned open fire, one question still nags at me.

How do I start a fire in my fireplace without burning down the house or getting carbon monoxide poisoning?

 Good question. 

I vaguely remember something called a “flue” being important, but googling “flue” gets you a list of sites from the Center of Disease Control. Hm. 

I try googling "starting a fire in a fireplace.” There we go!

After reading several articles—WikiHow has a good one here—it’s clear that there are really two important words one needs to be familiar with when trying to safely start a fire in one’s own home:
  • Damper
  • Draft

The DAMPER is a sheet of metal, basically, that blocks the chimney, or FLUE (there’s that word!) when it’s not in use, therefore preventing cold air from flowing into the house.  You will want to open this BEFORE you start, or else the smoke won’t be able to escape out the chimney. 

Aside from the general unpleasantness of having a smoke-filled living room, you’ll want to open the damper before you start the fire beCAUSE the damper lever is located inside the chimney. A difficult place to reach if you have to maneuver past a small fire. 

After you open the damper, make life easier for yourself and make sure the smoke is actually going upwards by lighting a match. If the smoke isn’t going upwards, then you’ve got to deal with the draft. 

The dreaded draft. This is the tricky part, because sometimes, you can do everything right, you can open the damper and STILL, STILL the smoke will refuse to go up the chimney, preferring instead to float around your home. 

This happens, according to WikiHow, because the upper part of the fireplace is too cold. You’ll have to warm it up, which is a bit of a trial. 

WikiHow suggests that you use one of those “commercial wax logs” (a la Duraflame), which will be relatively smokeless—important as you’ll have to start this one out with the damper CLOSED.

You then
“Put the [lighted Duraflame or whatever] on the back of the fireplace shovel, light it and place it up inside the fireplace near the flue opening. What you are trying to do is to heat the upper part of the fireplace. When you have heated it (you will need to use trial and error to determine how long this process is) slowly open the damper and with luck and skill you will find that the heat and fire from your little block will force the air up the chimney. When the draft has fully reversed (you will hear the air sucking the fire and heat from the starter block), then you can light your fire.”
It stands to be repeated that you should NOT hold the lit Duraflame in your hand. This is an awful idea.  Use a tool like the fireplace shovel or the fireplace tongs.

Tim Ferriss agrees with this, saying on his blog
“One tip for a smoke free start is to light the end of a rolled up newspaper hold it up the chimney for 10 or 15 seconds before lighting the fire to get the airflow moving and avoid any back draft.”
Once you get the draft moving in the right direction, it’s a question of how to position the firewood inside the fireplace. If you don’t have any of those fancy Duraflame logs hanging around, or would just like to do it cowboy-style with real wood, then I’d look at Martha Stewart’s Step-by-Step Guide for Starting a Fire.

She gives an especially good tip on Step 5:

Don't overfeed the fire, which can smother the fire or cause it to blaze out of control.

Yes! Please don’t let your fire blaze out of control. Oh my goodness, that would be bad. It’s better to err on the side of less wood rather than more wood when adding fuel to your fire. It’s easy to add MORE wood, but not so easy to take wood AWAY.
Once your fire has burned down to ashes, Martha suggests that you leave them to cool for a day or so. Once they have cooled, she writes (in true Martha Stewart fashion)

“Ashes can be deposited onto flowerbeds around the garden, since they benefit roses and other flowers."


I’ll let you all know how starting a fire works for me, though after reading through all of these how-tos cautioning against fires blazing out of control, I may be too scared to try it. Yet winter is no place for cowards! Onward!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Storm Whistle Featured on Fox 2 News St. Louis!

There's been a lot of press over the last few days about Storm whistle inventor Dr. Howard Wright's newest product: Vortex Toothpaste. But it's rekindled interest in Dr. Wright's first invention: the Storm whistle!

The kind folks over at Fox 2 News St. Louis did a feature on Dr. Wright, and dedicated a whole segment to the Storm whistle. Check it out HERE!

Thanks Fox 2 News St. Louis!

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