Chaotic winter in the Northeast — My Latest News Publication!

My recent article made the front page of the Energy & Environment section of The Hill yesterday morning. You can read the article by clicking here. Please share! 

"In recent years natural disasters have become increasingly frequent in the U.S. Over the last year alone, Houston contended with one of the heaviest rain storms in U.S. history, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and neighboring islands were harshly affected by two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, and major parts of Pacific coastal states were incinerated by record wildfires. With the onset of winter came anticipated relief. However, climate-related disasters did not relent. They only relocated."

Click here to read more. 

Click here to follow me on Facebook!

Follow this blog by scrolling to the top right of this page. Click: "Follow" à Log In à"Follow publicly”

                                                                          Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
                                                                          Environmental Health Scientist


Say NO to Offshore Drilling– Public Comment Ends today!

In April of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary of the Interior to revisit proposed oil and gas lease sales in coastal waters around the country. Development of a new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program is now underway. The draft for the Program would make over 98% of the outer continental shelf resources around the country available to possible oil and gas leasing during 2019-2024. Fortunately, we the public get to weigh in and help inform the Secretary on which areas to include for future leasing consideration. Let me highlight some general reasons why new oil and gas drilling would be bad for our coastal waters. After, please leave your public comments by clicking here. Today is the last day to comment!

Importantly, as with all projects, accidents do and will happen. It was only this past November that a branch of the Keystone XL pipeline sprung a leak up in North Dakota releasing over 200,000 gallons of oil. That leak came only six months after the same pipeline leaked 16,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, taking over two months to clean up. Accidents simply happen. And when we’re talking about projects of such a grand scale, particularly dealing with highly toxic material, accidents have major consequences. In the Dakotas it was just a simple pipeline pumping oil over land. Here, we’re talking about drilling, and we’re talking about drilling in the ocean. Oil spills in the ocean are far more difficult to contain and have extensive consequences to the environment and to coastal economies.

As recently as 2015 California saw a major oil spill off its coast—the Refugio oil spill—that was a result of a pipeline leak from an offshore oil platform. The spill contaminated the beaches of Santa Barbara with nearly 150,000 gallons of oil, damaging marine life and costing the county some $75 million. California’s largest oil spill in 1969 was also a result of offshore drilling. Similarly, the greatest oil spill in U.S. history—the BP oil spill—was a result of offshore drilling. It is shortsighted to think that what has happened in the past will not happen again. We know it will. It is simply a matter of when and where.

Further, we do not need new oil and gas rigs to meet our energy needs. We don’t need oil and gas rigs to grow our economy. In the case of California, the state is the 6th largest economy in the world, ahead of most entire nations, and we sit on some of the best solar energy potential in the country, not to mention wind and geothermal. Fortunately, California has already led the country in deploying renewable energy technology—but we must not regress by simultaneously allowing an arcane and highly polluting energy resource to be exploited in our coastal waters. Fossil fuels equate to short-term gain, long-term pain. They are not our energy future. Even natural gas, while cleaner, is still a fossil fuel that pollutes our air and warms our climate.

At absolute best, more offshore oil and gas drilling will expedite us towards the precipice of climate change, contributing massive amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. That’s not something we can stand for. In California, we know heat, droughts, and wild fires far too well to dismiss this threat. At worst, these projects will exacerbate climate change while also creating another BP or Exxon Valdez oil spill—destroying our fragile marine ecosystems, gorgeous beaches, and killing tourism.

Today at 11:59PM ET marks the last day for public comment on this issue. Make your voice heard by clicking here. In the upper right of the web page, you'll find a "Comment Now!" button where you can click to leave your comment. Also consider reaching out to your congressman/woman. Feel free to use parts of this blog in your public comment or dialogue. Please share this post, and together we can keep our oceans healthy. 

Click here for video of yesterday’s successful rally for clean oceans in HB. Or click here for the original Facebook event where you can link up with fellow ocean advocates in southern California!

Follow this blog by scrolling to the top right of this page. Click: "Follow" à Log In à "Follow publicly”

                                                                          Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
                                                                          Environmental Health Scientist


Say Bye to Milk – A Table of Calcium-Rich Substitutes!

In my last two blogs we learned that the old axiom “Milk, does a body good” simply doesn’t hold water (or milk?). The slogan is just that, a slogan; propagated heavily by the for-profit milk enterprise. It took advantage of some loose science, but was mostly a success in marketing, not public health.

When I was a kid, I basically lived off of milk—more specifically, 2% milk. Towards the end of high school, I did the unspeakable. I switched to non-fat. Yes, it tasted like water at first, but I got used to it and continued to enjoy milk in my breakfast cereal. For another decade I kept my non-fat milk/cereal routine, gravitating towards healthier cereals such as unsweetened Grape Nuts, whole wheat Cheerios, and corn flakes as I grew older (and wiser!). However, after taking a couple nutrition courses in grad school and reading a few books by leading nutritionist, I realized milk was an unnecessary part of my diet. It was time to kick the habit!

Around that time my girlfriend introduced me to almond milk. I decided to give it a go. It was a great substitute as I could hardly tell the difference! Yet California was deep in a drought, and almonds were a very water-intensive crop mostly sourced from the arid state. Did I need milk at all? Did I need cereal? A self-administered dietary survey from a couple months back had already showed I was eating too much grain and too little fruit. Perhaps this was the perfect opportunity for a positive dietary change—mixed fruit for breakfast! And so it went. Three years later, I haven’t looked back. I haven’t missed milk, and I haven’t missed cereal. And nor has my body.

See the table below for some great calcium-rich alternatives. A multi-vitamin or calcium supplement is another way to meet your daily calcium needs.  

Calcium (milligrams)
Collards, frozen, boiled
1 cup
Orange Juice, Calcium-fortified
1 cup
Oatmeal, instant
2 packs
Milk, skim
1 cup
Figs, dried
10 medium
1/2 cup
Spinach, boiled
1 cup
Canned salmon
3 oz
Cheese, American
1 oz
White Beans, boiled
1 cup
1 2-oz piece
Black turtle beans, boiled
1 cup
Swiss chard, boiled
1 cup
Iceberg lettuce
1 head
Green peas, boiled
1 cup
Broccoli, boiled
1 cup
Soy milk
1 cup
1 cup
1 oz (24 nuts)

To see the calcium content of more foods, and compare them with dairy, visit Harvard’s The Nutrition Source website.

To follow this blog, simply click "Follow" at the top right of this page, log into your account, and click "follow publicly."

Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
Environmental Health Scientist


Milk, Calcium & the Bones

In my last blog I talked about the drawbacks of milk consumption. Well, what about the benefits? What about the perks of calcium?  True, milk is a rich source of calcium. However, there is no calcium scarcity in the U.S.  In fact, America nearly tops the list when it comes to per capita calcium intake. Television commercials and ads that tell you otherwise, often with the remedy being three glasses of milk per day, are sponsored by the National Dairy Council. Not exactly a neutral source on the issue.

Bone strength depends on calcium—so the more the better, right? According to Dr. Walter Willett, who chairs the Dept of Nutrition at Harvard, “there is no solid evidence that merely increasing the amount of milk in your diet will protect you from breaking a hip or wrist or crushing a backbone in later years.” This is particularly relevant to those with osteoporosis. While daily calcium recommendations exist (1000-1300 mg/day), it remains unclear what the proper intake is. Interestingly, countries with the highest calcium intake tend to have higher, not lower, hip fracture rates. In a major U.S. study1, women who drank 2+ glasses of milk/day were at least as likely to break a hip or forearm as woman who drank 1 glass/week or less. This was true for men in another major study2. Dr. Willett cautions that all the hype surrounding calcium intake is distracting us from strategies that really work to prevent fractures, such as exercise, certain medications, and (for women) hormone replacement therapy.

Let’s briefly touch on vitamin-D, which is needed for calcium uptake by the body. Most foods don’t naturally contain this vitamin. However, milk and other dairy products are fortified with vitamin-D. Does this underscore the need to consume calcium rich, vitamin-D fortified dairy products? Not exactly. If you live in southern California or other the low latitudes areas (within 40 of equator) and spend reasonable time outdoors (no need to tan!) then you’re getting enough vitamin-D from the sun. For everyone else, a simple multivitamin containing vitamin-D is enough to do the trick. Importantly, these supplements don’t come with the unnecessary saturated fat, galactose, and calories that milk and other dairy products contain.

In summary, milk delivers a lot more than just calcium to the body. And these “other” ingredients are of concern.  Calcium and vitamin-D can be obtained in much healthier ways. In my next blog I’ll highlight a number of foods that are both healthy and rich in calcium to enable you to make some healthy changes!

Be sure to follow and subscribe to my blog to get notified on future posts! 

                                               Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
                                               Environmental Health Scientist

Studies Cities
  1. Nurses’ Health Study
  2. Health Professionals Follow-up Study


Milk – Does It Do a Body Good?

I won’t speak for the globe, but it seems nearly everyone in America grew up on milk. Milk with cereal, milk with cookies, milk in eggs, and just plain ol’ milk in a glass. Most of us never questioned this norm, and have carried it with us into adulthood. You can probably still replay those ‘Got Milk?” commercials in your memory! However, from a health standpoint there are in fact more reasons NOT to drink milk than to drink it. Don’t take it from me, ask Dr. Walter Willett who chairs the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School. Let’s look at some key drawbacks he describes. 

The Dark Side of Milk

1) Saturated Fat – A typical glass of whole milk contains 5 grams of saturated fat—similar to eating 4 strips of bacon! Saturated fat is strongly linked to heart disease, which is the number one killer in the U.S. To avoid such fat, you could opt for non-fat milk. But this still leaves you with drawback #2.

2) Extra calories – Just 2 glasses of whole milk a day adds 300 calories to your diet! And unfortunately, those calories don’t substitute for meals. That is, people don’t tend to eat less when they consume high calorie beverages (i.e. juice, soda, milk). It just ends up being added calories. With low- or non-fat milk, you’re still getting a bunch of extra calories. The same, or worse, goes for café lattes I might add! Water is simply the best choice for low calories and weight control.

3) Lactose intolerance – All babies are born with the ability to digest milk. This makes perfect sense evolutionarily speaking. For most, however, this ability is short lived, and by adulthood only about a quarter of the world’s population maintains the ability to fully digest milk. This is because the body stops producing an enzyme called lactase, which breaks down milk sugar (lactose). In the U.S., about half of Hispanic Americans, 75% of African Americans, and over 90% of Asian Americans cannot tolerate much lactose—the consequence being nausea, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.

4) Prostate Cancer – Diets high in dairy products have been implicated as risk factors for prostate cancer. As of about 15 years ago, nine separate studies had shown the strongest and most consistent dietary cause of prostate cancer to be high milk or dairy product intake. In one study, men who drank two or more glasses of milk per day were almost twice as likely to develop prostate cancer.

5) Ovarian Cancer – When lactose from milk is digested, a simple sugar called galactose is released. Although still inconclusive, numerous studies have shown a link between galactose and ovarian cancer.

Well, what about calcium intake, bone density, and the benefits of milk? In my next blog we’ll address this. You’ll learn why such perks don’t outweigh the negatives.

To follow this blog, simply click "Follow" at the top right of this page, log into your account, and click "follow publicly."

                                                                  Dr. Shahir Masri
                                                                  Environmental Health Scientist


The Power of One - Video Clip

Hey everyone! 

I'd like to share this short video below, reminding you of the power each of us have to shape the world around us. Whether it be something as simple as cleaning up a littered road like I did in this video, or volunteering with a local organization, we can each make a difference. So get active and take pride in your ability to 

This video is meant to inspire YOU to make a positive impact to your community and planet. Help prevent toxic pollution and trash from contaminating our environment. It doesn't take much to make a difference. Please share!

Please join this blog to help support my upcoming projects. Click “join this site” at the top right of this page, log into your account, and click “follow publicly.”  Thanks!!

                                                                                            Shahir Masri, Sc.D.                                                                                            Environmental Health Scientist