The Aspen (Colo.) Times
July 26, 2005


By John Colson

Aspen's tap water got a passing grade from a doctor whose expertise is
environmental pollution and its effects on human health.

"In general, I thought the water was good," said Dr. Mark Liponis
during Monday's Aspen Center for Integrative Health Summer Health

Liponis, medical director of the Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and a
well-known holistic health care practitioner, had samples of Aspen's
tap water sent to him by the organization's development director, Liz

He then had it tested by Underwriters Laboratory Inc.

The results, he said, showed that Aspen's water has slightly elevated
levels of some heavy metals, but none anywhere near the level of

For example, barium, chromium, copper, fluoride and chloroform were
all detected at varying low levels. Only fluoride was even close to
federally established maximums, and it was roughly 25 percent of that

Liponis said the town's water is "a little on the hard side," and
somewhat alkaline due to its high concentration of calcium.

"I'd say overall, a very good report, with slight room for
improvement," he told the audience of roughly 300, which ranged from
local residents attending out of personal interest to alternative
health care specialists and aficionados.

Liponis spoke at the end of a long day of talks by a number of
experts, including Dr. Jeffrey Bland, president and chief science
officer for the Metagenics corporation in Gig Harbor, Wash.;
veterinarian Greg Ogilvie, a specialist in internal medicine and
oncology; and others.

The list of speakers was assembled under the topical headline "You Bet
Your Life," because, as described in the symposium literature, "Every
day we literally bet our lives on a myriad of choices we make -- to
or not to do, things that affect our health and longevity."

Liponis addressed "Lurking Menaces: Everyday Toxins That Undermine
Your Health," and his talk was littered with references to nasty
substances poured into the environment on a daily basis, from the
heavy meals that result from mining to the chemicals we spray on our

He said there currently are 80,000 chemical compounds in commercial
use, a list that grows by 2,000 to 3,000 every year and that
represents a total physical load of 1 million pounds per year.

The vast majority of those compounds, he said, have been subjected to
little or no testing by industry or the government.

"What we know is really the tip of the iceberg," he intoned. "We
really know very little."

For example, Teflon, used for decades as a nonstick coating for pots
and pans, was not the subject of an Environmental Protection Agency
study until very recently. Liponis said it was not until June 30 of
this year that the EPA began raising questions about Teflon's role in
causing cancer among children and adults.

One in four Americans, including 10 million children, live within four
miles an EPA Superfund cleanup site, he continued. He recalled the
days when deep-rock miners would carry canaries into the mines as a
warning against toxic fumes -- if the canary fell over dead, the miner
headed for the surface, knowing he might die before he got there.

"The canaries are our kids," Liponis said, explaining that unborn
children who are exposed to high levels of chemical pollutants suffer
the effects of that exposure much more than their mothers.

He cited developmental deformities in everything from frogs to polar
bears to illustrate his belief that modern society's effects on the
planet are poisonous ones. He recommended the book, "Our Stolen
Future," by Theo Colborn, Dianna Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers,
which details the authors' thesis that chemical pollution is
disrupting our endocrine systems, which regulate everything from
reproduction to cognitive function.

Liponis believes that modern society's approach to the introduction of
chemicals into the environment is backward -- industry comes up with a
chemical solution to a problem, the chemical goes into general use,
and only after it causes health problems of a certain scale does it
undergo scientific scrutiny and government control.

"We need to prove that it's safe before it comes on the marketplace,"
Liponis stated, calling that thought his "precautionary principle." He
rattled off a litany of chemicals and acronyms as proof of his
contention: mercury accumulating in fish and people; PCBs causing
birth defects; pesticides now being linked to Parkinson's disease; and

Even the bottled water phenomenon did not escape his ire, as he
pointed out that not only is bottled water "a thousand times more
expensive than what you get out of the tap," it is not always as pure
as its marketers claim.

And, he said, "The biggest problem with bottled water is the bottles,"
which are tossed in a landfill and take hundreds or thousands of years
to disintegrate.

"We need bottles that degrade within days, or hours," he said, urging
his audience to switch to home-filtration systems if they cannot bring
themselves to drink water straight from the tap.

As for other "emerging threats," Liponis said genetically modified
foods are being manufactured at alarming rates, with little or no
government oversight in the United States.

"They've never been tested," he said, once again calling on government
officials to adopt his "precautionary principle" of "making sure it's
safe" before unleashing it on the public.

Another looming problem, he said, is the emerging science of
nanotechnology, or specifically "nanoparticles" that are being touted
as everything from diagnostic tools to repair devices for machines and
even the human body. The potential for unanticipated, and negative
consequence is enormous, he warned.

Urging the audience to be "better stewards of your environment," he
concluded, "If we're not going to do it, then nobody is."

The one-day symposium, held at Paepcke Auditorium, was the fifth such
annual gathering in Aspen. It will be followed by the first Aspen
Healthy Gourmet Fest, July 29 and 30.

The event is a combination of cooking lessons and tasting events, many
conducted in "some of Aspen's most exclusive private homes" by
"America's top chefs." There also will be an awards ceremony and
dinner at the St. Regis Resort Aspen where the "Platinum Carrot Chef
Awards" will be handed out in five categories: ethnic, organic, raw,
spa and vegetarian.

In addition, lifetime achievement awards will be presented to
California restaurateur Alice Waters, for her use of seasonal organic
foods in her restaurant, and winemaker Jim Fetzer, for his work in
bottling organic wines. "Citizen Awards" will be given to Gary
Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, for his work introducing healthy
foods into school vending machines; Morgan Spurlock, maker of the film
"Supersize Me"; and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for helping provide
fresh fruit and vegetable snacks free to students in 500 schools.

Tickets to the two-day event are $500, and can be obtained by visiting
the website or by calling 970-920-2957, ext. 2.

John Colson's e-mail address is