Uncategorized Archive


To Vaccinate Your Teenage Daughter or Son….or Not?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

As soon as a teenage girl walks into her pediatrician’s office, he will suggest another vaccination, to be delivered through a series of shots spaced out over six months.  This time the vaccine is Gardasil, intended to protect her from being infected by the human papilloma virus, HPV, which might cause cervical cancer later in life.

On balance, is this series of vaccinations a good idea?  Is it safe; is it worth the possible side effects?

Gardasil is manufactured by Merck Vaccines.  It was fast-tracked for approval in June 2006 by the Food & Drug Administration after only two years and limited studies of only 1,200 girls for only two years.  Like all pharmaceutical products, as well as the chemicals used in all manufactured products, from skin cream to formaldehyde, the manufacturer is in charge of the studies.

When, after the two-year study, the CDC recommended that Gardasil routinely be given to all 11- to 12-year-old girls, the head of the CDC was Julie Gerberding.  With the change of administrations, she left for a job as president of Merck Vaccines.  (Just one more typical example of the revolving door between industry and the folks who are supposed to protect our health.)

Merck is the company that had known for nearly a decade before it became public knowledge that infants getting the federally-mandated multiple vaccinations were thus getting an elevated dose of mercury from the preservative in those vaccines (a dose up to 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish), but did not disclose this information.  Gardasil is preserved with aluminum, like mercury, a toxin.

It is not clear that Gardasil is truly effective nor worth the risk.

Now that tens of thousands of girls have gotten this series of vaccinations, records kept by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) show a high level of adverse reactions.  The reactions generally double after the second injection and quadruple after the third.  They range from headache, hair loss, dizziness and nausea, to an anaphylactic shock, seizures and even death.  Read their stories at www.truthaboutgardasil.org, a website founded by Marion Greene whose own daughter was injured.  In fact, there are twice as many adverse side effects from Gardasil as from flu shots (which contain mercury).  Merck, of course, reports virtually no risk.

Gardasil is approved to protect girls and women, ages 9 through 26, from the two types of HPV that are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases (and against two other types that cause 90 percent of all cases of genital warts).  There are more than 120 types of HPV, as many as 40 of them spread through sexual contact; of these 40, 15 types have the potential to cause cancers in females and males.  The vaccine’s effectiveness is very limited against these other types of HPV.  Furthermore, about 90 percent of genital HPV cases clear up on their own within two years.

Even worse, news has recently leaked out that Gardasil increases the risk of precancerous lesions, or worse, by 44.6 percent among people (most likely those who are sexually active) who have already been exposed to two types of the HPV virus.  This time, Merck actually told FDA about this risk, yet the agency approved the vaccine and did not even demand a warning insert in the package.

Nor is anyone sure about how long the protection will last.  As you read, above, the Merck study followed vaccinated girls and women for only two years, and in some cases even gave them booster shots.  Other clinical trials followed women ages 16 to 23 for up to four-and-a-half years after their three does of the vaccine.  But compare that to the fact that cervical cancer takes decades to develop.  Then there’s the fact that HPV exposure occurs in 10 percent of children in the first 10 years of life, before any vaccination.

The risk of adverse effects from the vaccine seems higher than the risk of getting cervical cancer in the U.S.  That’s because women and teenage girls in our country, when they become sexually active, are likely to get regular pap smears which detect cell abnormalities before they turn into cancer, and so treatment can start long before the cancer develops.  Cervical cancer rates have dropped 74% since regular pap smear testing began.  It’s among the women who have not had a pap test for five years or more that most cervical cancer is found these days.  And pap smears are still required even for a girl who has been vaccinated.

Gardasil is the most expensive vaccine ever recommended for school-age children.  Merck charges $120 for each dose, and the cost for the three-shot regimen adds up to $400 to $1,000 per patient.   Merck is now pushing to extend its market, to boys and men, to prevent genital warts, and to women up to the age of 45.   It advertises widely, and is also pushing a campaign at least 20 states to convince legislators to require the HPV vaccinations as a prerequisite for girls to attend school.  My state of Massachusetts actually considered such a mandate, but so far that has not succeeded.

Another HPV vaccine, Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved in May of this year.  It protects against only two strains of HPV virus, contains almost twice the aluminum content as well as a second adjuvant (a chemical agent added to boost the effectiveness of the active ingredient).  Higher rates of anaphylactic shock reactions have been reported after Cervarix than Gardasil in Europe, where both have been used.

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For more information:

www.truthaboutgardasil.org

National Vaccine Information Center, www.nvic.org

Generation Rescue, www.generationrescue.org/vaccines

www.youtube.com/watch?v=msoyRYSoSJk

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

Kids in the Gulf

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

As the massive oil slicks from the BP Gulf spill advance upon shores and communities, everyone is worried about the effect on wildlife and the natural environment, but strangely silent about another unavoidable danger.  Substantial harm to the children of the Gulf Coast is now unavoidable.

If you can smell oil in the air, as is now reported, that means the chemicals are in the air, and can be inhaled.  Parents who are helping to mop up the oil (often, we’ve heard, without even being given gloves) will bring these chemicals into their homes on their skin and clothing.  As the oil hits shore, it enters the water supply.

Crude oil is complex mix of hundreds of highly toxic chemicals, including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are infamous for their capacity to cause cancer as well as damage to the nervous system.  In fact, crude oil components can damage every one of the body’s systems, from the reproductive and respiratory systems to the immune system, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal system.  They disrupt the organs that make up the endocrine system that controls mental and physical growth as well as fertility. They easily penetrate cell walls, to damage cell structures, including DNA.

But the danger is greatest to children because their immature bodies, with incompletely formed immune and detoxification systems, are substantially more vulnerable than adults’.  The child in the womb is the most at risk.  The report recently released by the President’s Cancer Panel warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy.  Harm has already occurred: childhood cancer, once a rarity, has leapt 67 percent over the past twenty years as chemical production escalated.  We’ll see a spike in similar awful statistics for the Gulf area in years to come.

Why aren’t federal agencies discussing this looming health disaster?  They need to alert local authorities of ways to minimize exposure to residents.  People who work with crude oil need to be given protective equipment.  Special measures must be taken to protect young children and pregnant women.

Our children’s bodies are already dangerously overloaded with toxic substances and far too many, one out of three, are suffering from chronic, sometimes deadly, illnesses as a result.

What will we learn from this disaster?  Will the costs in childhood cancer, birth defects, asthma, and dwindling male births be factored into our nation’s future energy plans?
This latest assault from the sea is one more reason that we need to act now to phase out oil from our economy and from our environment.

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For more information: Crude Oil Health Hazards Fact Sheet, by Dr. Michael Harbut (Kamanos Cancer Institute) and Dr. Kathleen Burns (Sciencecorps), www.sciencecorps.org/crudeoilhazards.htm

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

A New Pediatrics to Heal Sick Children (and Keep Well Kids Healthy)

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

If your baby were suffering from colic, would you treat him with artificially dyed and sweetened simethicone (the chemical in drugs such as Mylanta and Mylicon) or first try an emulsion of fennel seed oil?  If your young daughter developed a persistent rash, would you prefer the doctor to prescribe antihistamines or a diet rich in omega fatty acids?

More and more, it’s likely you’d give the second choice a try.  The big news is that mind-body pediatrics has come of age over the past generation.  It’s a trend that seems very appropriate for a generation of parents looking for foods without pesticides and cosmetics without solvents.

A major symptom of its acceptance is the publication of the first textbook book on Integrative Pediatrics, edited by the avuncular and reassuring Dr. Andrew Weil, the U.S.’s best known nonconventional medicine practitioner and spokesperson ((www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Medicine/Pediatrics/?view=usa&ci=9780195384727).   The august National Institutes of Health has set up a center devoted to its study (www.nccam.nih.gov/health) while the American Academy of Pediatrics has formed a practitioners’ Section.  And you can now find pediatricians across the nation who will use integrative practices to care for your children (resource: www.app.org/sections/CHIM/ParentResources.html, click on hyperlink to members, select Section on Complementary and Alternative, for a listing by zip code; also, www.aaemonline.org).

This kind of medical care works to keep children well by instilling a long-life pattern of healthy living and by treating simple problems such as ear aches without resorting to the overuse of drugs.  It particularly lends itself to caring for children with chronic illnesses, such as cancer, juvenile arthritis, obesity, asthma and developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD, where conventional medicine hasn’t a great track record of cures.  In fact, there’s been a major increase in the number of prescription medications used to treat symptoms of childhood chronic illnesses, despite the absence of data that they are effective in curing the underlying problems.

If the incidence of chronic childhood illnesses continues the upward climb it has taken over the past two decades, and as more families understand the link between prevention and treatment, integrative pediatrics may very well become the standard practice of the future.

Probably only grandmothers like me remember when revered New York Times journalist James Reston, returning from a 1972 reporting trip to China with President Nixon, wrote about his surprising experience in undergoing an emergency appendectomy with acupuncture as the only sedative.  That launched our nation’s first timid and by now vast interest in alternative medicine, from acupuncture to meditation, massage and body manipulation, biofeedback, exercise, nutrition and the use of botanically-based supplements.

Now that these techniques are no longer ‘alternative’ to conventional western medicine but have become pretty much an accepted part of it, they are called “integrative” (meaning they’re integrated into standard practice) or “holistic” or “complementary” or “environmental” (a term especially acknowledging the effect of toxic exposures).

In my interviews with integrative pediatricians, they explain, first and foremost, that the power in holistic practice is their relationship with the child and her family, that healing is inexorably bound to the connection between practitioner and patient. (www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Medicine/Pediatrics/?view=usa&ci=9780195384727, pp 594-620.)   To create that connection, they spend lots of time meeting and talking and educating.  They build a team with the parents; the pediatrician acts like a quarterback helping the parents navigate the health care system.  In the first months of a child’s life, they focus on frequent well-baby care where they also design individualized schedules for vaccinations and treat problems that may arise, such as colic.  These conversations with parents and patient continue as the child grows, so different from the usual harried, cookie-cutter 15-minute consultation.

If you visit Dr. Lawrence Rosen, a 43-year-old MIT grad and Mt Sinai-trained integrative pediatrician, you’ll find his pleasant office in New Jersey a paragon of green construction – the flooring, cabinetry and paint were chosen as the safest, least toxic (his website offers resources on green pediatrics construction based on his research and experiences).  Even the staff’s dishware is either glass or nontoxic plastic made from recycled materials.  Dr. Rosen explains that “the build-up of low-level toxic exposures is responsible for more illnesses than one-time higher exposure.”  He’s given him practice a name: The Whole Child Center (www.wholechildcenter.org), and he blogs when he can about natural parenting practices (www.thewholechild.us).

One of his patients is a ten-year-old girl (let’s call her Jenny) with asthma so severe she was using several different inhalers and several different allergy medications every day.  Some of the steroid-based drugs were affecting her appetite and causing weight gain, while their continued use could have threatened her long-term development.  Yet she still found it hard to participate in school sports.  Jenny also had eczema and food allergies.  “Rather than prescribing more medicines to suppress her symptoms, I looked for ways to balance her immune system response,” Dr. Rosen explained.   He didn’t remove her from her medications immediately, to avoid an attack, but slowly over time worked with Jenny to integrate complementary therapies.

He started her on a daily probioitic, –which are supplements or foods like yogurt, rich in beneficial live microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria.  He told her mom to ensure her diet included lots of fruits and vegetables with their healing antioxidants as well as foods with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.  Jenny was encouraged to build up her physical strength by swimming and walks outdoors in nature.  Dr. Rosen also worked with her on relaxation techniques including guided imagery and breathing (“Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.and his wife, Myla).    After careful monitoring, she’s now mostly weaned from her prescription meds, uses an inhaler infrequently, and has achieved her dream of participating in sports.  Whereas last year she had missed 40 days of school, this year it was down to five.

A young patient with cancer in remission might be treated with similar practices, to support his immune system and his body’s overall strength and resilience.

“Conventional Western medicine is about fixing disease, mainly acute illnesses.  It’s oriented around disease labeling and treatment,” Dr. Rosen says.  Integrative pediatricians focus on wellness and innate balance of health.
Information Sources:

American Academy of Environmental Medicine
A membership association of environmental physicians
www.aaem.org

Holistic Pediatrics Association
For families and practitioners; has a member directory
www.hpakids.org

Integrative Practitioner
A practitioner group
www.integrativepractitioner.com

To my readers:  I’m working on a related article that will focus on the way that nutrition can heal developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism.  And another article on how today’s health care system impedes the use of integrative pediatrics.

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

The Girlcott – Compounded Green Consumer Power

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Compounded Green Consumer Power

One good aspect of our consumer-driven economy is, that each of us has the power to make change happen by the way we spend our money.  And some positive changes are happening, at least around the margins — the influx of stainless steel water bottles onto our supermarket shelves to replace the toxic plastic ones, labels disclosing (some) ingredients on a handful of household products, the armloads of newly-arrived organic personal care items.

Christine Gardner, a young mother of three, figured out a way to multiply her consumer power and educate her hometown of San Francisco about the toxic ingredients in our everyday cosmetics and personal care products.  She created an appealing event she called The Girlcott (www.thegirlcott.com), to coincide with Earth Day.

Instead of a boycott, which drives change by saying “No,” a Girlcott is a collective exercise that says “Yes,” in this case to healthier alternatives.  She first read about this concept in the book Not Just a Pretty Face, by Stacy Malkan, and decided to bring it to life in her community.

Christine, who admits she has enjoyed many manicures in her day, says she built the Girlcott around the concepts of Awareness, Action, Alternatives and Advocacy.  To boost awareness, she built a website of information that showcases the science revealing the chemicals in our cosmetics.

The Girlcott –the embodiment of Action, Alternatives and Advocacy –took place on a sunny Saturday in one of the city’s most popular spots, the Presidio.  Supporters arrived throughout the day to hand over bag upon bag of toxic cosmetics and personal care products culled from their purses and medicine cabinets.  There they also found appealing benign replacements from the dozens of displays set up by collaborating green merchants and entrepreneurs.

Spokespeople from environmental organizations were present to talk about the hazardous chemicals that lurk, unlabelled, in the products we routinely purchase, unaware of the harm they can do to us and our children.  They even had pre-addressed envelopes ready for visitors to write letters to Nancy Pelosi and California’s State Senators demanding their attention to our growing consumer vulnerability.

I asked Christine to explain how she pulled off such a major event with only her sister-in-law, Nisreen Gardner, working in support.  First, she said, she convinced the city’s Department of Environment (www.sfenvironment.org) for permission to create the drop-off point in the Presidio.  Through a series of cold phone calls, Christine lined up the participation of non-profits with special expertise in consumer products, including the Environmental Working Group, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Breast Cancer Fund and Teens Turning Green.  They all sent out invitations to The Girlcott to their constituents across the area.  Then she attracted the interest of companies with healthy products to sample and sell to a motivated and educated audience.

The city’s toxic waste manager collaborated by placing and then hauling away the large waste containers that filled up by the end of the day; the waste was transported directly to the transfer facility where liquids were neutralized, solids were burned and packaging was properly recycled.

Now that the model has been tested, there’s no reason not to mount this kind of event in communities across the nation.  Participants throughout the day were thrilled to rid their routines of potentially harmful ingredients and many remarked that they wished the service could become well-established, to keep these chemicals from polluting our water, our air and our land, much like composting now is required at every household in San Francisco.

San Francisco, not surprisingly, is rich in groups actively working on environmental health problems.  There are, for example, various coalitions of Bay Area mothers (one of which includes Christine) that recently banded together to successfully halt a proposed aerial spray of pesticide over the city.  “We understand how to demonstrate our collective power,” she says.  The challenge, Christine adds, extends far beyond shopping our way to a successful green economy.  “These moms know they have to learn where the dangers lurk and prepare to face them head on.”

Christine has also devoted her organizing power to her children’s schools where she has worked with administrators, teachers, students and other parents to create “eco-Councils” that focus on campus environments, from reviewing the ingredients on the lunch menu, cheering for recycled toilet paper, and reading the labels of cleaning products, to exploring financing strategies for solar panels.

“These efforts are a win-win for not only our children, but for the planet they will inherit.”  Christine is willing to serve as a resource for anyone interested in replicating and improving on her efforts.  “This is only the very beginning of the work that must be done to deliver a healthier tomorrow for us all.   I feel a great responsibility to my own family to take these initiatives, with the great hope that others will not only follow but collectively demand new policies that ensure our protection and preservation.”

Christine is clear that consumer change will bring change only so far.  If we limit our actions to consumer transactions, we’re relinquishing our power as citizens, which is really our central role.  Though we contribute to the degradation of the environment by bad or uncaring or consumer choices, we’re not the ones creating the problem.  So let’s never forget our power as knowledgeable activists, the only way to get at the real problem.  And to think about this further, read Forget Shorter Showers, www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4801.

To learn more about Christine’s actions, look at the websites she’s set up:

www.thegirlcott.com

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

My Mother Made Me Fat!

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

If it hadn’t been for the Big Macs that Joannie ate pretty much three times a week, she wouldn’t have gotten fat.  If she hadn’t been exposed while in her mother’s womb to chemicals x, y and z, Joannie wouldn’t have had the propensity to get fat.  And if Joannie’s mom had eaten more sensibly, both waistlines would be slimmer.

Fat people most likely are programmed to become fat before taking their first sip of milk.  Today’s news is, that pesticides are among the chemicals responsible for this reprogramming.

Two of three U.S. adults are now classified as overweight.  Type II diabetes has increased in like measure over the same decades, and so has heart disease.  This is not a coincidence.  These illnesses share common characteristics: they are triggered while in the womb by exposure to the same kinds of chemicals and the outcomes show up in adulthood.  Scientists now call this pattern “the fetal origins of adult diseases.”

The most likely culprits are chemicals now grouped together under the rubric “endocrine disrupters.”  It’s been known for about two decades, though disputed by the manufacturers, that these chemicals alter the normal signaling pathways of hormones.  Think of Bisphenol A (BPA), right now the nation’s most celebrated endocrine disruptor.

Pesticides, though not specifically thought of as endocrine disruptors nor regulated as such, can similarly knock normal development off track.  Research has just found that a family of pesticides among the most widely used in the world is connected to these three adult illnesses.  This is the family of organophosphates, concocted from petroleum with an addition of phosphoric acid.

When lab rats are exposed to these pesticides through the mothers’ diet, at a time in their development equivalent to a human baby’s second trimester in the womb, their metabolism changes in two ways: their cholesterol and triglycerides rise.  These abnormal and lasting changes resemble the major factors that predict and lead, later in life, to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease (specifically, atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material collects along the arteries and hardens artery walls).  .

These changes in metabolism happen at low levels, within the levels we are uniformly exposed to, which the Environmental Protection Agency declares as “safe” but are evidently not.  The changes are the strongest when the mother rats are fed a high-fat diet.  Human babies may even be underweight at birth (and there’s an epidemic of underweight babies in the U.S.), but quickly become overweight

Humans run into these pesticides in our food and water.  Of course, children continue to be exposed once they are born and are in fact exposed more than adults because they eat and drink more in relation to their body weight and have a higher ratio of skin.

The other groups of people exposed most to organophosphates and other pesticides are the same groups with the highest rates of obesity – people who live in run-down inner-city neighborhoods, the poor, and farmworkers.  Again, not a coincidence but a connection, a trigger.

Dr. Ted Slotkin of Duke University, the researcher responsible for these discoveries, found another compelling clue: exposure caused harm to the rodent’s brain, as well as its metabolism.  Once the exposed lab animal was born and started to eat at will, its consumption of a high-fat diet reduced the adverse symptoms in its brain functioning.  As Dr. Slotkin muses, “If you’ve got neurofunctional deficits, and they can be offset by continually eating Big Macs, then you will naturally (but unconsciously) select that kind of food because it will make you feel better.”  Unfortunately, increased fat will further harm the animal’s, or human’s, metabolism.

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

Of Teenagers and Whales

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Yesterday evening, after my teenage granddaughter had finished her homework, we went at her request to a nearby mall.  We drove, of course.

While she was hunting around for some new acquisition of the outlandish apparel teenagers relish these days, I sauntered idly around the shops.  The stores are all chains common to malls across our country.  She spent her time at two places I had never heard of, Rue 21 and Wet Seal, jam-packed with girls her age.

There was not a natural product among all the offerings as far as my eyes could see.  Every item of apparel was constructed of a man-made fabric, mostly acrylic, some nylon.  In the mall plaza where I then sat down to wait, a free-standing booth was selling wind-up toys, plastic one and all.

My granddaughter emerged with her purchases of a fake fur vest (acrylic) and animal-patterned tights (nylon).

The common thread (no pun intended) throughout the mall is petroleum.   Both acrylic and nylon are manufactured from oil.  Just as 98% of all manmade chemicals are.  Acrylic was originally created by DuPont.  Monsanto entered the picture when it developed a chemical process to keep acrylic from pilling.

What’s my point?  These fabrics are (1) adding to an unthinking, wanton use of the fossil fuels that are causing global warming, and (2) made with toxic chemicals that eventually end up in our food, water, and air.   And (3) made by the same companies produce the most oil-based polluting substances.

It is companies such as DuPont and Monsanto and the products they make – which we so avidly buy and buy and buy –that end up causing the chronic illnesses that beset one out of three of our children.

The mall we visited is called the Arsenal Mall, originally built to store weapons during World War II.  In its re-use as a mall of mass consumption, it’s simply shifted its destructive role.

Eventually our consumer products along with unimaginably massive amounts of toxic chemicals find their way into lakes, rivers and seas.  Their spread extends far beyond the island of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7rNYzSH-BA twice the size of Texas.

You have to read the new book, Eye of the Whale, by Douglas Carlton Abrams, to grasp the connection between the vast contamination of the oceans and its inhabitants and our damaged human condition.  In this thriller in the tradition of John LeCarre (think The Constant Gardener), Abrams writes, “The level of toxic pollution in even the most remote locations and in sea life everywhere (is) staggering.  Perhaps this whale was demonstrating the aberrant development and disease such contaminants were causing.  Pollution was replacing the harpoon as the greatest threat to whales, but pollution, unlike the harpoon, was a danger not only to whales.”

The book follows a young scientist, an expert in humpback whale communication, as, piece by piece, she decodes a new whale song whose meaning she deciphers as “babies in danger.”  She finds her own life threatened by commercial whalers, chemical companies and their lackeys in science, government, and the press, who need to keep these dangers out of the public eye.  There’s nothing fictional at about such a cast of characters.

Abrams wraps his mastery of the scientific evidence –of the link between the poisoned environment and cancer, hermaphroditism, and a damaged immune system, for example –in a fast-paced plot with lots of heroes and villains and real tension about how the novel will end.

This book asks the same question that came to me as I watched the mall shoppers on their voracious hunt for acquisitions.  It seems as if the way we live these days is killing us and the world around us.  Aren’t there other ways to arrange a civilized life?

Can human nature live with nature?

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Cross-posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

Anti-bacterials – Anti-health

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

In our natural instinct to protect our children, we sometimes (often?) get waylaid by products that end up doing more harm than good, but make a nice profit for the manufacturer.  A chemical called triclosan is a case in point.

It’s supposed to vanquish “germs,” that is, bacteria or microbes.  You’ll find it in liquid soaps, toothpastes, acne creams, and wipes, as well as in surprising places such as cutting boards, bath towels, plastic sandals and  children’s toys.  Its sibling chemical, triclocarban, is used primarily in deodorant bar soaps and in many cosmetic products.  We spend almost $1 billion a year on these products.  Yet basic hand-washing with plain soap and water does as good a job in killing germs and preventing illness.

Not only are we wasting a hefty sum of money, it turns out that we are harming ourselves and the world around us.   Because manufacturers have impregnated triclosan into so many products, it has, in turn, entered our bodies: tests have found it in at least 75 percent of Americans.  That’s not good news because this chemical interferes with the thyroid hormone, which can disturb normal growth and brain development.  Both triclosan and triclocarban also interfere with the male and female sex hormones that affect the reproductive system and could potentially contribute to breast cancer.  Both accumulate in human blood, breast milk and the umbilical cord of babies in the womb.   Both chemicals also degenerate into dioxin – a potent carcinogen, –wherever they are released and morph into dioxin wherever they are manufactured.

Another troubling fact is that these chemicals are probably contributing to antibiotic resistance in bacteria or microbes that cause human infections.  That was one reason that the American Medical Association has declared that we should avoid these chemicals.

It is not necessary to directly use these chemical-laden products for their traces to enter your body.  They get washed down the drain into our waterways where some of it persists through sewerage treatment.  They end up in the sludge often applied as fertilizer to agricultural fields.  They end up in creatures as diverse as earthworms, bottleneck dolphins, and algae (to which they are toxic).

The regulation of these chemicals is a nightmare because they’ve been incorporated into many different products and reappear in so many other sources, such as drinking water.  For example, when triclosan is used in toothpaste, it is regulated by the FDA, but it must also be approved for use by EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs because as an anti-microbial it is classified as a pesticide.  When found in our water supply, triclosan is subject to both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees its use in consumer proudcts.  As the Environmental Defense Fund points out, “Such a complex regulatory system serves as an impediment to taking a comprehensive approach to triclosan regulation, and has fostered its cavalier use.”

What it means for you:

  • Take consumer action.  Save your money and protect your family’s health: avoid buying “antibacterial” products.
    These chemicals appear on labels in different guises — as triclosan, triclocarban, Microban, Irgasan, Biofresh, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac, or Cloxifenolum.  Companies using these chemicals include Rubbermaid, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter and Gamble and Unilever.
  • Instead, use soap and water.  If and when you want to be extra careful, you can wet your hands with isopropyl alcohol, the liquid doctors swab on our skin before giving us a shot.   When you’re on the go, use an alcohol-based wipe, but if its package says ‘antibacterial,’ it contains one of the offending chemicals.  Soap-and-water is the right way to clean towels, toys etc.
  • Take citizen action: join the movement underway to ban these chemicals.  Right now a coalition of environmental health groups has formed a Ban Triclosan Campaign, to pressure FDA and EPA to regulate these antibacterials.   Join them at www.beyondpesticides.org/antibacterial/action/resources.htm.

Good news alert about chemicals in general:

The U.S. imports or makes 27 trillion pounds a year of chemicals, a lot of them harmful to us, our children and environment.  Up till now, no one could say how many of them are in fact toxic because of the gapping holes and flaws in the law governing their use, the Toxic Control Substances Act, passed in 1976.

Now a much improved law, the Safe Chemicals Act, has been introduced into the Senate (by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Democrat from New Jersey) and the House (by Rep Henry Waxman, Democrat from California).   Though similar legislation has been offered in earlier years, this time around chances of passage are good because: (1) a remarkable, perhaps historic number of grassroots and national environmental health groups have coalesced, forming Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, to push for its passage, (2) there’s a more favorable administration and Congress, and (3) new science supports the connection between cause (harmful chemicals) and effect (illnesses).  To stay on top of the fate of this bill, and/or to help give it a push, contact the coalition: www.saferchemicals.org.

Sources for the triclosan article:

  • Cal Baier-Anderson, Are we ready to get sensible about triclosan use, April 9, 2010, www.blos.edf.org.
  • Gina Solomon, Antibacterial soaps: Buyer beware, April 5, 2010, http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs
  • Sarah Janssen, Not Effective and Not Safe, Natural Resources Defense Council, April 2010.
  • What’s Lurking in Your Soap: The Trouble with Triclosan, Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch.
  • Triclosan: What the Research Shows, Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch.

Cross Posted from PoisonedforProfit.net

What’s amiss with our children?

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

As we watched each of our five grandchildren and their friends enter this world and begin their life’s journey, it became more and more clear that something is amiss with this generation.  How are your children and your friends’ children doing?

Most likely, one of three of the children you know in this generation suffers from a chronic illness.  Perhaps it’s cancer, or birth defects, perhaps asthma, or a problem that affects the child’s mind and behavior, such as Downs Syndrome, learning disorders, ADHD or autism.  Though one in three may sound exaggerated, unbelievable, the  figures are there amidst various government files.

This generation is different.  Childhood cancer, once a medical rarity, has grown 67 percent since 1950.  Asthma has increased 140 percent in the last twenty years and autism rates without a doubt have increased at least 200 percent.  Miscarriages and premature births are also on the rise, while the ratio of male babies dwindles and girls face endometriosis even in teenage.

This generation is the first to be raised in a truly toxified world.  Even before conception and on into adulthood, the assault is everywhere: heavy metals and carcinogenic particles in air pollution; industrial solvents, household detergents, prozac and radioactive wastes in drinking water; pesticides in flea collars; artificial growth hormones in beef, arsenic in chicken; synthetic hormones in bottles, teething rings and medical devices; formaldehyde in cribs and nail polish, and even rocket fuel in lettuce.   Pacifiers are now manufactured with nanoparticles from silver, to be sold as ‘antibacterial.’  What’s wrong with rinsing a pacifier in soapy water?

Despite naysayers (who pays them to say nay?—that’s a whole story in itself), it’s clear there is both an association and a causative connection between the vast explosion of poisons in our everyday lives and our children’s “issues.”  Over 80,000 industrial chemicals (tested only by the manufacturer) are in commerce in this country, produced or imported at 15 trillion pounds a year.   Pesticide use has leapt from the troubling 400 million pounds Rachel Carson wrote about in the 1960s to the mind-boggling 4.4 billion pounds in use today.   Nuclear power plants, aging and under-maintained, increasingly leak wastes, often without notifying their community.

What could be more elemental than our desire to protect our children.  Children and fetuses, because of their undeveloped defense systems, are ten to sixty-five times more susceptible to specific toxics than adults.  These toxics diminish the capacities of our children…the future of our families, our communities, our nation.

Illness does not necessarily show up in childhood.  Environmental exposures, from conception to early life, can set a person´s cellular code for life and can cause disease at any time, through old age. This accounts for the rise in Parkinson´s and Alzheimer´s diseases, prostate and breast cancer.

Yet this is not the dispiriting ‘Bad News’ it might seem.  It is, actually, a message of hope and optimism.  We are fearful only when we are ignorant and powerless.  Now that we know what is happening, we can determine not to let it happen further.

These poisons are manmade; manufacturers can take them out of our children´s lives and make profits from safe products.  ‘Green chemistry’ can replace toxic molecules with harmless ones.  We can connect global climate change actions to environmental health strategies.  If we replace coal-fired power, in the process we reduce not only carbon but also emissions of the tons of lead, mercury, hydrochloric acid, chromium, arsenic, sulfur and nitrogen oxides that cause autism, Alzheimer’s and other public health menaces.

In a riff on Pogo, let’s say, “We have met the heroes and it is us.”  We cannot bury our heads and hope it will all go away.  We cannot leave the job to someone else.  Some may feel the problem is so massive, it’s best to pretend it doesn’t exist.  But it isn’t more massive than we allow it to be.  It’s totally within our reach.

We are mothers and grandmothers.  There are 23 million children adversely affected by our toxic lives.  That makes (more or less) 23 million mothers, 46 million grandmothers.  We are a powerhouse.  It is in our power to learn about what harms our children and to share our knowledge.  It is in our power as a community of citizens and parents to demand action against the current harmful policies and practices and against the indiscriminate use of processes and practices that destroy and degrade all life on our planet.

Cross posted from PoisonedforProfit.net