New Perspectives on Traveling – A Conversation with Raymond Peat, PhD

The Airport Business Toxicity

Until 2016, I had only traveled through Europe, visiting other countries by plane. Since the trips weren’t too long, and I was in better shape health-wise (or was simply unaware), I didn’t mind it much.

Traveling can be stressful, and the stress of using different types of travel can vary greatly, up to even becoming pleasant. Since beginning to incorporate transatlantic flight, I became very aware of the extreme stress this can create. Sitting down in uncomfortable seats for 10 hours or more, and all that comes with it — morons with guns, rigid people at the airports and on the airplanes, the fear of missing your plane or getting to the wrong place, the luggage issues and irradiations to name a few. It turned out to be a nightmare for me. One could think that business or first class (they cost 3-5, and even 10 times the cost of economy class) is better, but it’s the whole airport business that I think is so taxing. People are treated like toxic cargo.

Since I understood the stress first hand, I decided to ask Ray Peat what he would do in order to mitigate the stress. He often has great advice for these types of practical issues.

Here’s what he told me:

“I haven’t found anything that really makes it [airplane travel] tolerable; I just don’t go, if I can’t go by car, ship, or train, so that I can walk around whenever I want to.” Ray Peat, PhD 

I had the same experience, nothing actually solved the problems that come with flying. You have to deal with too little space. It’s the equivalent of living in a tiny apartment in Mexico City for your whole life.

I remembered that Ray Peat had been in Europe around 1968. As far as I know, he visited many countries, including Russia and others in Europe. So, I asked myself if that experience might have caused him to come to that conclusion, or if he was already aware of the stress of flying. I asked him how he would go to Europe, from the U.S., if he had to, and a few other questions. Again, I turned to him for answers. Here’s a bit of our conversation:

Me: “Hello Ray. If you had to go to Europe, would you go by ship?

RP: Yes, ships are the pleasant way to travel.

Me: “Even if it would take several days? The quickest from America to Europe seems to be a week, but generally it takes around 10 days. Would you tolerate that?”

RP: When I went it took 9 days each way, and I would have enjoyed more.

Me: “Interesting. What have you enjoyed in particular on the cruise?”

RP: The company, watching the ocean, and the constant up and down motion.

This conversation sparked an interest in me, so I started researching the effects of long-haul transportation, and the future it might hold in options for travel. I considered that planes can’t really improve their speed or comfort anytime soon.

At a different time, I asked Ray if there’s any future technology improvements he might be enthusiastic about.  Since I have read a lot of his work, I knew he was pretty skeptical about most of them.

Me: “Is there any modern or futuristic technology that has captured your attention? Anything, you think, can actually elevate the human condition?”

Ray Peat: “Solar, wind, and ocean (tidal, wave, and thermoelectric) electric power production; dirigible and good rail transportation.”

Me: “Do you consider nuclear plants a good way to produce energy?”

Ray Peat: No, the worst possible way, it’s essentially a scheme to assure that there will be uranium for the pentagon.

Me: “Interesting about dirigibles. However, I have only read about their declining use in past decades. The Hindenburg Disaster basically interrupted their use for passengers. Do you mean using them as a mean of transportation? In public opinion, airplanes aren’t problematic for most people, and are preferred over dirigibles. *Am I missing something?”

*Here I didn’t mean to say that the public opinion is “right”, but rather that in this situation it would be difficult to implement alternatives if people think airplanes are relatively safe and tolerable.

Ray Peat: “Public opinion is formed to optimize profits. Even hydrogen-filled dirigibles are safe and cheap, and rapid change of time zones is seriously stressful. In 1937, the Germans were leading in commercial aviation, and the US government was subsidizing domestic airlines to carry mail, permitting them to also carry a few paying passengers. The Hindenburg disaster was essential for the development of a US owned air passenger industry. People had been reluctant to fly for safety reasons, as well as cost. The dirigibles took just over two days to cross, and provided beds and high quality dining, for $400. The first US transatlantic airline cost $375, people had to sit up for more than 24 hours, and only a few passengers were carried along with the mail. The efficiency of airlines is analogous to the efficiency of nuclear power, i.e., it rests on government subsidies. A few days ago, the Amtrack accident was the result of trying to save ten minutes on the trip from Seattle to Portland. When government money is involved, people go crazy.”

Me: “Thanks, that’s really interesting to know. You mentioned dirigibles being interesting things that can be (re)developed and used again in the future. Are you aware of any upcoming project using them again?”

Then he linked me to a few pages that I’ll add to the references of this article, along with other things.

Interesting, isn’t it? How cool would it be to fly in an airship, being able to scratch your leg, actually walk around, move and have a fine dining experience?

That raised my interest about them quite a bit, so I focused my research on that for a while. I’ve been reading things on airships.net, supposedly an enthusiast’s website. This is an interesting comment I found on one of the websites:

“I agree– transatlantic flight is a disgrace and only several notches above the slave trade for inconvenience to the passenger. Someone should bring back the airship! All hail to Zeppelin!”

On this website, you can find a very interesting brochure that was used back then for those who wanted to familiarize themselves with airship travel.

This brochure was published by the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei to familiarize airship passengers with what they could expect during their voyage on the Hindenburg or Graf Zeppelin.”

At last, I think I’d much more enjoy long-haul travel if dirigibles were around again, and they might make a return. They are also a more ecological way to travel, and an alternative to being extremely uncomfortable on planes. I wouldn’t mind if the trip would take two or three days rather than 12 or 16 hours to get somewhere, for example crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific. So, I’m interested and hopeful about their future development and re-use. Helium seems to be scarce lately, but hydrogen isn’t, although that would raise more eyebrows than helium-filled airships. Also, helium is controlled politically in a monopolistic way, whereas hydrogen is relatively politically and economically free.

I’m not saying they should or could completely replace airlines (in perspective I wouldn’t disdain it, but some people just prefer the quickest though uncomfortable way), but they can definitely be an excellent alternative for people who care about their own health comfort and well-being.

An additional danger of airliners is the toxicity of organophosphate that might come from the lubricants of the engine in the air pressurizing system, putting harmful quantities of nerve gas in the air that’s inhaled during the trip. Organophosphate is used as agricultural pesticide too, and has the ability to raise the inflammatory nitric oxide and induce convulsions. [6]

Each of those factors makes long-haul travel a degrading experience, rather than a pleasant one. If we want to consider the context of a meaningful existence, everything should be seen in a constructive rather than a destructive way, with a focus on more than the mere nutritional and physical factors. But ultimately, everything relates to our biology, and thinking of a world, a society and systems that support health and wholeness instead of embracing the reductionist idea of coping with the stressors seem to be essential.

The toxicity of the airport business needs to become part of the context for thinking about transportation, health and environment in a constructive and ecological way. It’s part of the current social-economic system that’s based on violence and money. Things could change quickly if people start evaluating what they are doing, instead of living by advertisements and whatever the current culture dictates.

Rail Transportation & The Streetcar Conspiracy

An important challenge of our days is to move quickly within a city or a town (or intercity), and do it without polluting the air. The cars and traffic paradigma is so widely accepted, that mentioning alternatives seems unreal and controversial to people. Most people nowadays are unaware that streetcars, rail trolleys, were the chief mode of public transportation in North America and Europe, and were serving this purpose very well until they got mostly dismantled in the mid-20th century.

“Yes, trolley buses are awful, but the old track trolleys were very pleasant. Intercity trains in England used to be so efficient that cars were mostly inconvenient. The streetcar conspiracy needs to become part of the context for thinking about transportation and the environment. GM, Firestone, and Standard Oil managed, through controlling government policies, advertising, and directly buying and shutting down streetcar lines, to propel the conversion away from the rail system. Selling asphalt to government for paving was one aspect of the corporate motivation.” Ray Peat, PhD

The Streetcar Conspiracy, the destruction of most of the rail system, is just another example of corporate interest being put above the public one. The destructive effects of it being replaces by cars and autobuses are many. Cities are now usually inflammatory places. Even when using smog devices, the gasoline that’s treated with lead and manganese, results in toxic nanoparticles in the air. The nanoparticles are much smaller than cells, in the order of a tenth of a micron, and enter it freely, causing inflammation. [8, 9, 10] Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT or MCMT) is an organomanganese compound with the formula (C5H4CH3)Mn(CO)3. Initially marketed as a supplement for use in leaded gasoline, MMT was later used in unleaded gasoline to increase the octane rating. Although it hasn’t been studied much, it’s possible that the toxicity of the inhaled manganese could be much greater than the one in food.  The smokes themselves are a problem, containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, among other toxins. [11, 12]

Besides the mere pollution problem, it makes city living inconvenient, making it hard to move within it, even if the distance is small. To cross the city in Mexico City, in Los Angeles, etc. it usually takes hours during the day. People have been told that’s freedom and the right way to live. Paving the cities creates many environmental problems, including raising the daytime temperatures, and creating desertification, toxic dust.

“Shifting from cars to electric rail could be done quickly, with sufficient motivation. A billion people aren’t likely to suddenly have insight, but most of them either follow orders or conform to what others do.” Ray Peat, PhD 

References and recommended reads:

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/8252162/The-return-of-the-Zeppelin-not-just-a-flight-of-fancy.html

2. https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/29/lockheed-has-liftoff-sells-new-airships-in-480m-deal.html

3. https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/10/this-airship-transports-lockheed-into-new-territory.html

Lockheed Martin has landed its first contract for the hybrid airship it created inside its top secret Skunk Works division. In a deal valued at $480 million, Straightline Aviation (SLA) has signed a letter of intent to purchase 12 of the heavier-than-air airships that measure nearly a football field long. First delivery is scheduled for 2018, with the final airship expected no later than 2021.

The helium-filled airships will be able to carry 20 tons of cargo to remote places without roads. They will even be able to hover over open water. Lockheed has been pitching the airships as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way to deliver supplies and equipment.

Source: Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin’s new LMH1 airship to hit the market in late 2018.

“There is a real need for this,” said SLA CEO Mike Kendrick. “It can cost up to $1 billion to put all the infrastructure in for an oil well.” He said falling commodity prices have not hurt interest in the airships — quite the opposite, given the cost savings — and U.K.-based SLA has four or five customers ready to try out the airships whenever they’re finally ready.

Kendrick used to run Richard Branson’s Virgin Airship and Balloon Company, which had 19 blimps around the globe used for advertising or camera work. He was also flight director for Branson’s balloon flights. He and his team formed Straightline to focus initially on delivering cargo.

What attracted SLA to the Lockheed Martin product is that the hybrid airship is heavier than air, even though it is filled with helium. Its skin and airframe weigh it down, it doesn’t need mooring like a traditional blimp. Engines guide the airship into position, and on its belly are wheel-like structures that spin to let it either hover or “grip” a surface. Lockheed said this provides stability in windy conditions for loading and unloading supplies, making it much easier to operate than a lighter-than-air machine.

“The difference between lighter-than-air and hybrid airships is quite profound,” said SLA’s CEO. “It may seem small but it is a spectacular development.”

Lockheed proved the concept a decade ago with a one-third size prototype, and it has spent years figuring out the right size and the right markets, spending more than $100 million on the project. This is also the first time that Skunk Works, a division of Lockheed Martin more famous for creating legendary military aircraft like the SR-71 and Stealth fighter, has developed something for the commercial market. The company even created a special sales and marketing arm, called Hybrid Enterprises.

There are competitors, most notably the Airlander 10 being built by U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles. The Airlander was unveiled last week and labeled the world’s largest aircraft, a lighter-than-air hybrid that may focus more on the tourism market.

This airship transports Lockheed into new territory

Straightline COO Mark Dory said his company has also been talking to HAV about a potential deal in the future and is “very hopeful” the Airlander will be a success. However, he added, “at the moment, our focus is in cargo rather than the the passenger side.”

But the passenger side is on the horizon, along with other potential markets in disaster relief, communications, agriculture and renewable energy.

SLA’s Kendrick said oil, gas and mining are the “low hanging fruit,” to start with, whether it’s delivering cargo by air to the “soft sands” of the Middle East, or removing the need to build annual ice roads in northern Canada. “Some ice roads can cost $20 million a year to construct,” said Rob Binns, CEO of Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Enterprises. That is one market SLA hopes to target. “You don’t have to build ice roads … and wait for the environmentalists to give you permission,” said CEO Kendrick. “You can just land on ice.”

4. https://www.airships.net

5. https://www.citymetric.com/transport/why-blimps-and-airships-died-out-and-how-they-might-make-comeback-722

6. A role of nitric oxide in organophosphate-induced convulsions.

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerotoxic_syndrome

8. Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Mar; 124(3): 306–312.
Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Dementia Incidence in Northern Sweden: A Longitudinal Study
Anna Oudin,1 Bertil Forsberg,1,† Annelie Nordin Adolfsson,2 Nina Lind,3 Lars Modig,1 Maria Nordin,3 Steven Nordin,3 Rolf Adolfsson,2 and Lars-Göran Nilsson4,5
Background
Exposure to ambient air pollution is suspected to cause cognitive effects, but a prospective cohort is needed to study exposure to air pollution at the home address and the incidence of dementia.
Objectives
We aimed to assess the association between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and dementia incidence in a major city in northern Sweden.
Methods
Data on dementia incidence over a 15-year period were obtained from the longitudinal Betula study. Traffic air pollution exposure was assessed using a land-use regression model with a spatial resolution of 50 m × 50 m. Annual mean nitrogen oxide levels at the residential address of the participants at baseline (the start of follow-up) were used as markers for long-term exposure to air pollution.
Results
Out of 1,806 participants at baseline, 191 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during follow-up, and 111 were diagnosed with vascular dementia. Participants in the group with the highest exposure were more likely than those in the group with the lowest exposure to be diagnosed with dementia (Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia), with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.43 (95% CI: 0.998, 2.05 for the highest vs. the lowest quartile). The estimates were similar for Alzheimer’s disease (HR 1.38) and vascular dementia (HR 1.47). The HR for dementia associated with the third quartile versus the lowest quartile was 1.48 (95% CI: 1.03, 2.11). A subanalysis that excluded a younger sample that had been retested after only 5 years of follow-up suggested stronger associations with exposure than were present in the full cohort (HR = 1.71; 95% CI: 1.08, 2.73 for the highest vs. the lowest quartile).
Conclusions
If the associations we observed are causal, then air pollution from traffic might be an important risk factor for vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Citation
Oudin A, Forsberg B, Nordin Adolfsson A, Lind N, Modig L, Nordin M, Nordin S, Adolfsson R, Nilsson LG. 2016. Traffic-related air pollution and dementia incidence in northern Sweden: a longitudinal study. Environ Health Perspect 124:306–312; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.14083229.

9. Toxicology in Vitro
Volume 29, Issue 1, February 2015, Pages 195-203
Influence of physicochemical properties of silver nanoparticles on mast cell activation and degranulation
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are increasingly being incorporated into products for their antimicrobial properties. This has resulted in increased human exposures and the possibility of adverse health effects. Mast cells orchestrate allergic immune responses through degranulation and release of pre-formed mediators. Little data exists on understanding interactions of AgNPs with mast cells and the properties that influence activation and degranulation. Using bone marrow-derived mast cells and AgNPs of varying physicochemical properties we tested the hypothesis that AgNP physicochemical properties influence mast cell degranulation and osteopontin production. AgNPs evaluated included spherical 20 nm and 110 nm suspended in either polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) or citrate, Ag plates suspended in PVP of diameters between 40–60 nm or 100–130 nm, and Ag nanowires suspended in PVP with thicknesses <100 nm and length up to 2 μm. Mast cell responses were found to be dependent on the physicochemical properties of the AgNP. Further, we determined a role for scavenger receptor B1 in AgNP-induced mast cell responses. Mast cell degranulation was not dependent on AgNP dissolution but was prevented by tyrosine kinase inhibitor pretreatment. This study suggests that exposure to AgNPs may elicit adverse mast cell responses that could contribute to the initiation or exacerbation of allergic disease.

10. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(1), 246; doi:10.3390/ijms19010246
Synergistic Effect of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles on Cell Viability and Activation of MAP Kinases and NFκB
Ángela Dávila-Grana, Lara Diego-González, África González-Fernández and Rosana Simón-Vázquez *
Inmunología, Centro de Investigaciones Biomédicas (CINBIO), Centro Singular de Investigación de Galicia, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Galicia Sur (IIS-GS), Universidade de Vigo, Campus Universitario de Vigo, 36310 Pontevedra, Spain
In recent years, there has been an increase in the production of several types of nanoparticles (Nps) for different purposes. Several studies have been performed to analyse the toxicity induced by some of these individual Nps, but data are scarce on the potential hazards or beneficial effects induced by a range of nanomaterials in the same environment. The purpose of the study described here was to evaluate the toxicological effects induced by in vitro exposure of human cells to ZnO Nps in combination with different concentrations of other metal oxide Nps (Al2O3, CeO2, TiO2 and Y2O3). The results indicate that the presence of these Nps has synergistic or antagonistic effects on the cell death induced by ZnO Nps, with a quite marked beneficial effect observed when high concentrations of Nps were tested. Moreover, analysis by Western blot of the main components of the intracellular activation routes (MAPKs and NFκB) again showed that the presence of other Nps can affect cell activation. In conclusion, the presence of several Nps in the same environment modifies the functional activity of one individual Np. Further studies are required in order to elucidate the effects induced by combinations of nanomaterials. View Full-Text

11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241197/
Cancer risk assessment, indicators, and guidelines for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the ambient air.
Carl-Elis Boström, Per Gerde, Annika Hanberg, Bengt Jernström, Christer Johansson, Titus Kyrklund, Agneta Rannug, Margareta Törnqvist, Katarina Victorin, and Roger Westerholm
Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed during incomplete combustion. Domestic wood burning and road traffic are the major sources of PAHs in Sweden. In Stockholm, the sum of 14 different PAHs is 100-200 ng/m(3) at the street-level site, the most abundant being phenanthrene. Benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) varies between 1 and 2 ng/m(3). Exposure to PAH-containing substances increases the risk of cancer in humans. The carcinogenicity of PAHs is associated with the complexity of the molecule, i.e., increasing number of benzenoid rings, and with metabolic activation to reactive diol epoxide intermediates and their subsequent covalent binding to critical targets in DNA. B[a]P is the main indicator of carcinogenic PAHs. Fluoranthene is an important volatile PAH because it occurs at high concentrations in ambient air and because it is an experimental carcinogen in certain test systems. Thus, fluoranthene is suggested as a complementary indicator to B[a]P. The most carcinogenic PAH identified, dibenzo[a,l]pyrene, is also suggested as an indicator, although it occurs at very low concentrations. Quantitative cancer risk estimates of PAHs as air pollutants are very uncertain because of the lack of useful, good-quality data. According to the World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines for Europe, the unit risk is 9 X 10(-5) per ng/m(3) of B[a]P as indicator of the total PAH content, namely, lifetime exposure to 0.1 ng/m(3) would theoretically lead to one extra cancer case in 100,000 exposed individuals. This concentration of 0.1 ng/m(3) of B[a]P is suggested as a health-based guideline. Because the carcinogenic potency of fluoranthene has been estimated to be approximately 20 times less than that of B[a]P, a tentative guideline value of 2 ng/m(3) is suggested for fluoranthene. Other significant PAHs are phenanthrene, methylated phenanthrenes/anthracenes and pyrene (high air concentrations), and large-molecule PAHs such as dibenz[a,h]anthracene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene (high carcinogenicity). Additional source-specific indicators are benzo[ghi]perylene for gasoline vehicles, retene for wood combustion, and dibenzothiophene and benzonaphthothiophene for sulfur-containing fuels.

12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21644482

J Environ Health. 2011 May;73(9):22-5.

Sources, distribution, and toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Guo Y1, Wu K, Huo X, Xu X.

Author information

Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous pollutants released from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and are always found as a mixture of individual compounds. Due to economic growth and a sharp increase in energy consumption in recent years, large quantities of PAHs have been released into the environment worldwide. Because many PAHs and their derivatives are strongly potent carcinogens, or mutagens, PAHs have been extensively studied recently. The authors reviewed the origin and distribution of PAHs in atmosphere, soil, and sediment in natural environments. PAHs represent a class of toxicological compounds that can create a variety of hazardous effects in vivo/in vitro, including genotoxicity, immunotoxicity, developmental toxicity, and carcinogenesis, which the authors also describe.

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