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Monday, November 22, 2010

ASU Scientist warns about overuse of germ killing products

Killing microorganisms has become a national obsession. A pair of antimicrobial compounds known as triclosan and triclocarban are the current weapons of choice in our war of attrition against the microbial world. Both chemicals are found in an array of personal care products like antimicrobial soaps, and triclosan also is formulated into everyday items ranging from plastics and toys to articles of clothing.
According to new research by associate professor Rolf Halden of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, these chemicals are not safe for human health or the environment. And, they do not work.
“The culture of fear leads people to make impulsive decisions and buy a lot of antimicrobial products that are not really needed,” Halden says. “It's a profitable market to be in, but not one that is ultimately sustainable or a good idea.”
Levels of triclosan in humans have increased by an average of 50 percent since 2004, according to newly updated data from the CDC. Triclosan and triclocarban are present in 60 percent of all rivers and streams nationwide and analysis of lake sediments have shown a steady increase in triclosan since the 1960s. Antimicrobial chemicals appear in household dust where they may act as allergens. Also, 97 percent of all U.S. women show detectable levels of triclosan in their breast milk.
Halden and his team conducted a series of experiments aimed at tracking the environmental course of the active ingredients in personal care products. The disturbing results of their research indicate that triclosan and triclocarban first aggregate in wastewater sludge and are transferred to soils and natural water environments, where they were observed to persist for months or years.
 “We make 13 billion pounds of dry sludge per year,” Halden notes. “That is equal to a railroad train filled with sludge stretching 750 miles from Phoenix to San Francisco.” One half of this sludge winds up on agricultural fields. The potential for these chemicals to migrate into food or leach into groundwater, has not received adequate consideration. It is likely that antimicrobials are capable of moving up the food chain, through a process known as biomagnification.
Halden noted the thresholds for killing microbes are much higher than those for life forms like algae, crustaceans and fish. "This explains why residual concentrations of antimicrobials found in aquatic environments are still sufficiently harmful to wipe out the small and sensitive crustaceans, which are critical to the aquatic life cycle and food web," Halden stated.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

The antimicrobial triclosan began its use in the medical surgical arena in 1964. Since then, industry’s drive to convince consumers of the need for antimicrobials has been aggressive and highly effective. Triclosan was first added to commercial liquid hand soap in 1987. Four years later, 76 percent of liquid hand soaps contained the chemical. Triclosan is added to plastic containers, toys and even clothing, too.
In 2005, the FDA asked an expert panel, which included Halden, to review all the available information on these chemicals. The panel concluded that regular use of antimicrobial products by the general public was no more effective against disease causing germs than simply washing thoroughly with regular soap and water.
In 2003 and 2009, University of Minnesota civil engineering professor William Arnold and his colleague Kristopher McNeill published their discovery that triclosan, when exposed to sunlight, generates a specific group of four dioxins – highly toxic compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants. The researchers found that levels of dioxins derived from the antibacterial soap ingredient triclosan have risen by 200 to 300 percent.
Killing microorganisms has become a national obsession. We can stop it by choosing to buy products without “antibacterial” on the label. This is one chemical we can easily do away with by reading labels and just not buying it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

“Smart pills” have embedded microchip for compliance

Novartis AG, one of the largest drug companies in the world, has announced a plan to begin embedding microchips in pills.

"We hope within the next 18 months to have something that we will be able to submit to the regulators," global head of development Trevor Mundel told Reuters news service. "The regulators all like the concept and have been very encouraging."

The silicon and metal sensor is activated by stomach acid. It then sends data via a wireless radio signal to another chip worn as a skin patch or embedded just under the skin which transmits the information wirelessly to a designated smartphone, e-mail account, etc. The chip's power expires after a few hours. The first use being studied is for a drug for transplant patients that helps avoid organ rejection. Since the drug itself is already approved and established, Novartis might be able to forgo clinical trials and simply conduct bioequivalence tests to show the second-gen pills have the same effect as the originals.

Anticipating that once the sensor-based technology is regulatory approved, the ‘smart-pill’ platform will be transferrable to different drugs, Mundel said future ‘smart-pill’ variants will be able to collect more advanced data, such as a patient’s heart rate, temperature and body movement, to ensure a drug is working effectively.

Rival firm Philips is bringing forward its IntelliCap technology, which was first showcased in 2008. MicroCHIPS, an American start-up, is developing smart, implantable microchips which have reservoirs to hold drugs or tiny monitoring devices. Vitality, an American firm, has come up with a cap for pill bottles that telephones hapless patients if they fail to take their medicine on time.

Dr. Grout’s comment:
Is this promising or just creepy? With chip-in-a-pill, we have something you swallow that can both monitor your vital signs and track compliance with prescription drug regimens. They are calling this “personalized medicine.”
This new technology will first be used with people who have had organ transplants. They are in a very precarious position; a “smart pill” may seem to make sense for those patients. But what happens when the chip is applied to a wider range of prescription drugs and perhaps vaccines? In the marketing business, this kind of things is called a "continuity program" – a way to make sure repeat sales happen on a regular basis.

Various studies have estimated that a third to half of prescription drugs are not taken as prescribed – or at all – because patients are worried about side effects or just don’t want to take so many drugs. Pharmaceutical companies lose significant revenue from patients skipping out on their prescribed pills; one industry study estimates needless hospitalizations as a result of such failings cost $100 billion a year.

Will patients clamor for more data about their health, much as banks’ customers embraced the internet as a means of keeping better track of their accounts? Or will people come to see the ability for drugmakers to keep such intimate tabs on their customers as too Orwellian?  It represents a new level of intrusion into patients' lives. Will you be forced to take, say, a statin drug which you don’t want to take in order to have the blood pressure medicine you really do want to take?

The microchip itself is said to be about the size of a grain of sand. Although much has been said about the chemical toxicity of discarded computer parts, there is no mention in any of the news reports about the safety of ingesting a circuit board, or the safety of this new form of EMF transmissions within the body.

Monday, November 8, 2010

BPA found in many grocery store foods

A research team from the University of Texas School of Public Health measured 105 human, cat, and dog foods from grocery stores in Dallas in March. They looked at fresh and canned food as well as food wrapped in plastic packaging. In 63 samples, they detected "quantifiable levels" of bisphenol A, often used to line food cans and to harden plastics.

Canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans was the worst offender of all products tested. Three cans contained between 26.60 and 65.00 ng of BPA per gram of food, which is equivalent to 26.60 to 65.00 ppb. Quantifiable levels of bisphenol A were found in cans of Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water and in cans of Kroger Sweet Peas Garden Variety. Foods with plastic packaging, such as Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs, had higher BPA levels than cans of the same food. BPA was detected in plastic-wrapped fresh sliced turkey. Canned Enfamil baby formula had more BPA than canned V8 juice.

Linda Birnbaum, a coauthor of the report, told Chemical & Engineering News that the low parts per billion levels detected are in line with previous reports on food from other countries and by U.S. environmental groups.

The levels found in the U.S. are nearly 1,000 times lower than the “tolerable daily intake” levels set by the by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Whether the levels represent a concern, particularly for infants and small children, is under debate. Experts including Laura Vandenberg, a BPA researcher at Tufts University, and Fred vom Saal of the University of Missouri, Columbia, contend that EPA's BPA limit is too high.

Chemists have been formulating BPA-free can linings. The cans of tomato paste analyzed in the new study had non-detectable levels of BPA. Because acidic foods like tomatoes are known to enhance BPA leaching, the findings suggest that effective new linings exist and that companies are using them, says Ruthann Rudel of the Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit research group.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

The take away message here is that consumer resistance causes the marketplace to change for the better. In March 2009, the six largest makers of baby bottles announced they would stop manufacturing baby bottles in the United States made with BPA. Last month, Canada added BPA to its official list of toxic substances, opening the possibility of regulating it. The FDA has not taken such action.

Epidemiological studies have linked human exposure to BPA with heart disease and diabetes in adults and abnormal behaviors in toddlers. Dozens of toxicology studies also connect BPA concentrations equivalent to the levels found in the U.S. population with a range of health problems. BPA is an endocrine disrupter - it acts like a hormone. It was discovered to be an estrogen in the 1930s.

Health standards established in the U.S. for exposure to toxic chemicals rest upon a core assumption: high-dose testing procedures adequately predict potential low-dose effects. A growing body of research now confirms that endocrine disruptors, like hormones, can also contradict the expectations of traditional regulatory testing.

Endocrinology is replete with cases in which hormone action at low levels differs dramatically from hormone action at high levels. For example, administering newborn mice a high dose (1000 μg/kg/day) of the estrogenic drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) causes weight loss in adult mice. In contrast, a dose of 1 μg/kg/day causes grotesque obesity in adulthood.

Radiation screening promoted to detect lung cancer

Annual CT scans of current and former heavy smokers reduced their risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent, according to the largest study ever done of lung cancer screening.

The effectiveness of CT scanning for lung cancer has been debated for years because the test can pick up lung abnormalities like scars from past infections that are not cancer. Such irregularities "are common in heavy smokers and can result in costly anxiety-producing tests. CT scans use coordinated X-rays and a dye to provide three-dimensional views.

Chest X-rays have never been shown to save lives, according to Ned Patz, a professor of radiology at Duke University Medical Center who helped design the National Lung Screening Trial, a $250 million government-funded study conducted by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network and the cancer institute.

The trial involved more than 53,000 people ages 55 to 74 who had smoked at least 30 pack-years — one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Ex-smokers who had quit within the previous 15 years were included in the group. Each was given either a standard chest X-ray or a low-dose CT scan at the start of the trial and then twice more over the next two years. Participants were followed for up to five years. There were 354 lung cancer deaths among those who received CT scans and 442 among those who got X-rays.

The study found that for every 300 people who were screened, one person lived who would otherwise have died during the study. But one-quarter of those given CT scans were found to have anomalies, nearly all of which were benign. These false signals generally led to more worry, more CT scans and sometimes to lung biopsies and thoracic surgery.

Oncologists predict the study’s results would soon lead to widespread use of CT scans, in particular for older smokers, who have a one in 10 chance of contracting lung cancer.

But health officials involved in the study refused to endorse widespread screening of current or former smokers, saying more analysis of the study’s results is needed to further identify who benefited most.

Deaths due to all causes declined by 7 percent among study participants who received CT scans, suggesting the tests helped to detect other life-threatening diseases besides lung cancer.


“What we have found is that low-dose CT scan also gives information on cardiovascular disease, emphysema” and other pulmonary diseases, said Dr. Claudia Henschke, a clinical professor of radiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a longtime advocate for use of CT to screen for lung cancer. “Those are the three big killers of older people. There is just tremendous potential.”

Lung cancer will claim about 157,000 lives this year, more than the deaths from colorectal, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers combined. Most patients discover their disease too late for treatment, and 85 percent die from it.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

Some might ask if this is a case of vested interests looking to maintain their market share – mammograms are ineffective and deliver too much radiation, so let’s screen for lung cancer instead.  But I don’t think so. This one actually makes sense, because the recommendation is for a targeted population of smokers (current and former).

Until we have eliminated smoking from the consciousness of the race, people will continue to become addicted to nicotine, and will continue to develop the horrifically devastating disease of lung cancer, and will continue to die agonizing deaths. When they stop smoking, the risk of cardiovascular disease quickly returns to the baseline of non-smokers. However, the risk of lung cancer continues for many years.


If a CT scan of the chest can detect potential disease in current or former smokers early enough to treat it surgically with reasonably anticipation of cure, then indeed the potential for saving lives is well worth the extra radiation delivered by the spiral CT scan. A 20% survival benefit far exceeds the measured 2% survival benefit obtained through routine mammography screening.

Scientists Discover Cancer Hides from Immune System

Researchers at Cambridge University discovered how tumor cells protect themselves from the body's natural defenses. According to the paper in Science, a protein known as FAP (fibroblast activation protein alpha) stops the body's immune system from attacking the rogue cancer cells. The protein is found in stromal cells – a kind of tissue cell that usually races to the scene of a wound to aid healing. Thus, the cancer can "trick the body into thinking it is an injury and instead of destroying the tumours, it actually nurtures them," a deception that has thwarted the development of vaccines and other treatments which rely on the body's immune system to work.

The team made their breakthrough discovery after creating a mouse in which FAP-producing cells could be eliminated. "When this happened in animals with well-established lung tumours, the cancer rapidly shrunk. Only 2% of the cells within these tumours actually produced FAP, so the scientists are convinced that they had a far wider role in protecting the tumour from the immune system."

Dr. Grout’s comment:

Cancer has long been called the “wound that never heals.” What if, instead of trying to kill the cancer cells right off the bat, we actually tried to help the body break up the scar tissue surrounding them – after, of course, ensuring that the body’s own natural killer cells were up to the task of eliminating foreign cells? Would that not be a novel concept in the annals of medical therapeutics?

First prepare the terrain – clear the decks, as it were – then bring out the soldiers to destroy what remains of the enemy. And make no mistake, cancer is the enemy. But remember always that it started out as one of us, and anything that we do to one of us is going to have an effect on all of us – just like in life. Cancer is the mini-battleground that we are seeing all over the world – both in populations and in environment. So first we deal with the environment, then it is much easier to deal with the populations.

FDA announces new inquiry into chelation supplements

The Food and Drug Administration put eight companies on notice that their over-the- counter (OTC) chelation products are unapproved drugs and devices, and that it is a violation of federal law to make unproven claims about these products. The targeted supplements contain EDTA.

According to the FDA, the targeted companies claim their products treat a range of diseases by removing toxic metals from the body, including autism, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and macular degeneration. The agency said there are serious safety issues associated with chelation products, which can alter the levels of certain substances in the blood. 

In its October 14 press conference, the FDA implied that chelation products were being used by parents of children with autism without a doctor's supervision. But on questioning by reporters, FDA representatives were unable to back up the claim with any evidence of use of OTC chelation products by autism parents or of their use without medical supervision. The FDA asserted that the OTC products being promoted were dangerous. On questioning by reporters, the FDA admitted that it had received no reports of adverse reactions to the products or to chelation in general, other than 1 death 5 years ago which was due to a medical error and in which a prescription drug was used. The FDA suggested that the reason it had received no reports on side effects was because parents and patients were unable to make the connection between the product and any harmful effects, yet they had no documentation to support this claim. The FDA also admitted that its action was prompted by "the prominence of the products on the internet" and was not due to any safety issues. “Just because we don’t have evidence of lots of adverse events doesn’t mean there’s no risk from these products,” said Charles Lee, medical officer at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The eight companies are World Health Products, Hormonal Health, World Health Products, Evenbetternow, Maxam Nutraceutics/Maxam Laboratories, Cardio Renew, Artery Health Institute, Longevity Plus, and Dr. Rhonda Henry.

SafeMinds, an autism organization, said it feels that FDA is trying to cast autism parents in a negative light by implying parents were giving their children dangerous products. “Only on questioning by the media did the FDA have to back off from its wild claims. SafeMinds feels the FDA owes the autism community an apology.”

Dr. Grout’s comment:

The FDA acted in the complete absence of consumer complaints, and has acted without substantiating any negative results. This is reminiscent of last year’s heavy handed action against desiccated thyroid, a natural remedy used safely for decades before the pharmaceutical version, Synthyroid, came on the market. This is going to raise questions of whether the FDA, long accused of having a too-cozy relationship with the drug companies, is really trying to protect the revenue streams for statins, stents, and by-pass surgeries – and whether it is trying to dampen claims that mercury in vaccines contributed to developmental disabilities. This is going to raise questions of whether the FDA is being used by special interests to again attack natural medicine. In Arizona, for example, it is already considered “unprofessional behavior” for an M.D. – a cardiologist – to use chelation to treat heart disease. Although I am an M.D., I can use chelation because I also have the homeopathic physician’s license.  

Chelation therapy is used in the treatment of chronic illness because heavy metals are inflammatory and neurotoxic. Inflammation is the underlying cause of much chronic disease. Despite what the FDA asserts in this notice, it is well established that by decreasing the total body load of toxins, the body is more easily able to heal from its injuries and become healthy again. This is true for autism, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

EDTA is an excellent chelating agent, meaning it removes heavy metal contaminants. That is well established. City water systems put it in as a pre-treatment item. Chlorella is used in water treatment facilities to chelate heavy metals as well. You find EDTA listed as an ingredient in many food products because it is an antioxidant – keeps food from spoiling.

Some OTC chelation products use things which are not yet proven (clay foot baths, for instance), but there is no evidence that they do any harm. Other OTC products use homeopathic remedies which operate on the energetic level which we are not yet able to measure. There is no evidence that they do any harm either.

There is a valid question here, however, of whether chelation should be done outside the oversight of a physician’s care. When chelating agents are given either intravenously or orally, I fall into the camp of agreeing that the chelation should be done under medical supervision – whether this be allopathic MD or DO, homeopathic MD(H) or DO(H), chiropractor with internal medicine certification, naturopathic physician, nurse practitioner – anyone who is licensed to practice medicine can become qualified to treat heavy metal toxicity. OTC products place a substantial burden of responsibility on the consumer. That said, I have not heard of anyone dying because of it. Some electrolyte imbalances can occur and patients need to be monitored for electrolyte replacement during the course of the oral therapy. It’s easy enough to do.

The FDA and the AMA have had a problem with chelation therapy for many years. Often chelation therapy will reduce the symptoms of patients with chest pain to the point where they do not need a cardiac bypass graft or antihypertensive medications… But since the only evidence that we have are the patient’s reported symptoms, these are considered to be “subjective.” The diameter of a coronary artery is so small that it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure small changes in diameter. Since blood flow through an artery is proportional to the 4th power of the radius (i.e. 2x2x2x2) – even a tiny increase in the diameter of the blood vessel (diameter = twice the radius) can result in significantly larger flow, whether we can measure the diameter change or not. Increasingly, the literature points to inflammation and infections as the underlying causes of heart disease and chelation therapy reduces inflammation and infections.

In 2003, the National Institutes of Health launched the first large scale study of chelation for patients with coronary artery disease. Hundreds of medical clinics across the country are participating in this five year, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. We are not. This study was long resisted by the holistic community because many view double-blind studies as unethical; they require withholding treatments from participants who receive just a placebo. 

As of this writing, the study has completed enrollment of patients. Participants will continue to be followed through 2011, and the results will be analyzed in 2012.

Want to see the petition circulating about this? Go to the Alliance of Natural Health at