Archive for the 'Health' Category

Mercury & Autism: Definitely Linked

May 1, 2008

Suspicions have finally been confirmed: mercury has been linked to autism by the University of Texas Health Science Center. The researchers found that the distance a child lived from a mercury emitting coal power plant or other industrial facility influenced the his or her likelihood of autism. You may have even seen ads lately advocating the use of coal as a clean energy source. CARE Energy says on their website that coal is becoming cleaner by reducing “the emissions of electricity generation.” They do not even mention mercury! Where do you think the elevated levels in fish come from? Researcher Vincent St. Louis said: “We can say conclusively that if you reduce mercury emissions it will result in less mercury in fish.”

Although the study only focused on one aspect of mercury exposure (as a study must do in order to be considered valid), how can we not conclude mercury is dangerous in every context? Pollution by mercury is “…is a problem of global magnitude,” says James Hurley, assistant director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Aquatic Sciences Center. We have yet to find how much destruction is being caused by mercury. But we know that it has already had negative impacts on humans, wildlife, and the environment. It is safe to say it has impacted our future, too.

Unfortunately mercury is extremely prevalent. Mercury has been found in California rainwater from industrial waste in China. For energy conservation, we are advised to switch to fluorescent light bulbs. They do save energy, but they are filled with mercury. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 800 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of every year.” Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com figures that amounts “to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste. Astonishingly, that’s almost half the amount of mercury emitted into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants each year. It only takes 4mg of mercury to contaminate up to 7,000 gallons of freshwater, meaning that the 30,000 pounds of mercury thrown away in compact fluorescent light bulbs each year is enough to pollute nearly every lake, pond, river and stream in North America (not to mention the oceans).” LEDs are a great alternative to fluorescents.

Some children may develop autism as a result of mercury exposure, but just because someone is not affected in this particular way, it is not safe to believe it is not affecting them AT ALL. It seems more dramatic to believe that an individual is somehow IMMUNE to mercury than that he or she is being affected in less quantifiable and identifiable ways. Just because a person does not exhibit enough similar symptoms as those corresponding to a disease or disorder label with a disorder does not mean their quality of life is unaltered. Parents of children with autism seek answers. The general population seems less motivated about finding out why they are sick or obese or tired, though mercury has also been linked with damaging the nervous systems of unborn children, heart attack, and stroke.

Several disorders and diseases have been linked to pollutants and chemicals and toxins in our environment and our food. Asthma is now linked to several household cleaning products and air fresheners. High fructose corn syrup is linked to diabetes. Pesticides are linked to hormone complications and premature births.

It might not be possible to be completely isolated from mercury overexposure, but there are some precautions to take:

-avoid fluorescent lighting
-avoid living near coal power plants (for every 10 miles, the rate of autism dropped 1-2%)
-support alternative energy sources
-be cautious of fish intake, replace with omega-3 supplement like OmegaBrite

There are better options to all of our toxic products and energy sources; we just have to start choosing them!

The Organic Advantage

February 21, 2008

A recent UK government report found that chickens raised in the widespread, non-organic fashion, have a 23.4% chance of being contaminated with salmonella, a bacteria responsible for food poisoning. The chance of an organic flock having salmonella? Only 4.4%.

What’s the difference between how the chickens are raised?

Organic chickens must have “access to outdoor ranges and pasture, with an emphasis on enabling the animals to express their natural behaviour.” Sounds pretty reasonable.

The non-organic chickens are mostly housed in cages which allow each individual bird the space of a standard sheet of paper. Yes, the 8 1/2 X 11 kind. These birds are also given antibiotics, which not only help to create superbugs and weaken the birds’ immune systems, but they potentially have the same effect on you when you eat the chicken or its eggs.

So, non-organic animals are likely to be raised under harsh conditions and administered antibiotics and hormones (the run-off of which create mutated fish), but what about non-organic fruits and vegetables?

Non-organic fruits and vegetables are grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizer. So what? Well, studies are showing that more than 90% of children in the US “have detectable residues of at least one neurotoxic pesticide in their urine.” Something is called neurotoxic when it is poisonous to your brain and nervous system.

According to Dr. Mercola, pesticides also contribute to “disruption of the endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women.”

How can we avoid them? According to a study outlined in a 2003 Environmental Health Perspectives article, children “eating organic fruits and vegetables had six times lower levels of pesticide byproducts in their blood versus children eating conventional produce.

Anytime that pesticide is found on organic produce, it is either because pesticides have drifted from a nearby non-organic farm or the produce has been contaminated by “long-ago banned pesticides that linger in the environment.” So the effects of pesticide use are extremely long term!

Besides helping you to avoid dangerous pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, choosing organics also supplies you with more nutrients. Those organically raised chickens we just discussed lay eggs which, according to a Mother Earth News, contain:

1⁄3 less cholesterol
1⁄4 less saturated fat
2⁄3 more vitamin A
2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta carotene

That’s a huge difference! And the non-organic produce has roughly 17% less nutrients than as its organic counterpart.

If organics are not in your area, you can use this list, compiled by the Environmental Working Group, which shows how much pesticide is likely to be on a given fruit or vegetable, so you can choose those with the least contamination.

While it is better to eat fruits and vegetables with pesticides instead of processed foods, those who eat organically will have a healthy advantage.

Report Cards: McDonald’s New Marketing Platform

December 30, 2007

McDonald’s paid the $1,700 tab for Seminole County, Florida’s report card jackets “in exchange for a coupon, featuring Ronald McDonald, on the card’s cover.” With good grades and attendance, the coupon can be redeemed for a free Happy Meal.

This appears to violate the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which McDonald’s joined last year. Created by the Better Business Bureau, the initiative “provide(s) companies that advertise foods and beverages to children with a transparent and accountable advertising self-regulation mechanism.” Members are not allowed to advertise at schools and cannot place materials in editorial or entertainment content.

Did McDonald’s find a loophole? The report cards are sent straight to the home and may not be easily classifiable as editorial or entertainment. The first compliance review will be in three years. We might have to wait until then for the verdict.

The coupons put parents in a tough spot; a mother in the Seminole school district resented “‘being the bad guy’ that had to deny her daughter the meal.” The mother made the right decision; pairing rewards from doing well at school with unhealthy food is a dangerous combination. The child may only want to do well at school if this same reward is granted, a reward that probably jeopardizes her wellbeing in the long run. It is a safe assumption to believe that the unhealthier a child is, the worse he or she will do in school.

The type of food eaten makes a difference in school performance. A study shows that eating a breakfast with whole grains, like oatmeal, beats eating cold cereal or no breakfast at all. This is probably due to its high protein and fiber, and its gradual raise of glucose levels.

McDonald’s still bleaches all of its grains used, eliminating any nutrition present in its breads. Bleaching most bread creates a poison called alloxon, which has produced diabetes in lab animals, a pretty good sign it is not safe for humans.

McDonald’s has added “healthy” choices to its menu, but these choices are only deceptively healthy, and contain colors and preservatives that have been determined to be detrimental to a human’s health.

McDonald’s defended it’s happy meals, citing that a child could choose a low calorie Happy Meal of Chicken McNuggets, apple dippers, and low fat milk. The combination may be low calorie, but it contains MSG, food coloring, and sodium benzoate. Check McDonald’s ingredients. Most children would probably want the even unhealthier choices, anyway.

McDonald’s is not the only party to blame in this recent event. According to the OrlandoSentinel.com, school board officials call the report card promotions a “business partnership” rather than advertisements.

For schools to find these kinds of “partnerships” beneficial, there must be a lack of funds. If schools were properly paid for and funded, they would not be turning to corporations to print report card jackets.

For more information on the effect of marketing & advertising to children:
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
Common Sense Media: Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Preferences
ChildrenNow.org: Media & Obesity

MRSA is Not Herb Resistant

November 29, 2007

Yes, we now have to worry about superbugs: germs that are so advanced, they are resistant to our antibiotics. But they are resistant to our antibiotics because we overuse them. We use antibiotics for everything– bacteria, viruses, cleaning our hands and bodies, and cleaning our houses. If a germ comes in contact with an antibiotic but does not die, it learns from the experience and passes the information to other germs. Even if a germ is killed, when another bacteria comes in contact with the dead germ, it can still acquire the dead germ’s information about the antibiotic to avoid itself from becoming killed.

The media hype has failed to mention that these germs can be battled with herbs. A research team in 2003 found that Pau d’Arco (also calledTabebuia impetiginosa, Tabebuia avellanedae, Tabebuia heptaphylla) kills MRSA. View the abstract at PubMed.

Why would this information not be more widespread? Is it possible that the public is not informed about these treatments because they are cheap and provide no source of income for the drug companies which support our government?

Drug companies should be smarter about natural treatments and create more pharmaceutical grade alternative medicines, like what has been done with garlic (for cardiovascular diseases) and fish oil (for mood disorders, respiratory health, and arthritis).

The rest of this post is from an article I wrote published at NewsTarget.com:

…Pau D’Arco not only treats drug resistant Staph, it guards against other infections and health problems, including viruses, parasites, and possibly cancer. Antibiotics however, do not work against viruses and cancer. Instead, antibiotics “may help fungi to proliferate within the human body”, and they kill all types of bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria which aid in healthy digestion. A lack of beneficial bacteria has been linked with autism and bowel disorders.

Antibiotic use in children has been correlated with asthma and allergies, and their use can “alter the development of a child’s immune system.” The same study also found that children were less likely to develop these problems if they were exposed to a dog before the age of 1.

So germ exposure can be a good thing, and all this exposure to antibiotics is actually making us weaker and making the harmful bacteria stronger! They are not only over prescribed by doctors, but they are used in agriculture and fed to livestock. So if you are not choosing organic food, you may be taking antibiotics!

Antibacterial soaps and sanitizers create the same problem: stronger, more immune bacteria. Natural soaps wash away dirt and germs from the body, but they don’t help create superbugs. In addition to creating superbugs and lowering our immunity, NewsTarget recently reported that many antibacterial soaps also contain the toxic chemical triclosan which can promote cancer. Antibacterial soaps could also change your hormones.

So before resorting to antibiotics and chemical antibacterials, first try alternatives such as Pau D’Arco, garlic, grapefruit seed extract, honey, colloidal silver, lemon, and tee tree oil. There are many others, and most natural antibiotic alternatives are safe for everyday, preventative use, unlike antibiotics.

Farm Workers Sterilized by Banana Pesticide

November 7, 2007

Farm workers in Nicaragua were poisoned and sterilized by dibromo chloropropane, a pesticide made by Dow Chemical for use on Dole banana plantations. On November 5th, a jury awarded them $3.3 million dollars.

This particular pesticide has been banned in both the U.S. and Nicaragua, but has had long term effects on those who were in daily contact with the poison. Dole was using the pesticide on its plantations in Nicaragua until 1993, so many people still have this pesticide in their bodies and may be experiencing health problems due to its consumption.

Other pesticides are in wide use in non-organic food, and bans on their use seem to only occur once the damage is widespread. Legal pesticides have been linked with Parkinson’s and premature birth.

The Environmental Working Group conducted a study to find out just how many pesticides were used on individual types of produce and ranked them according to their average number of pesticides. They found up to 11 pesticides on an individual piece of produce. Peaches and apples were found out to be the worst. View the report here.

It is not always possible to purchase organic fruit and vegetables, but this list makes it easier to choose produce based on which types are most likely to be the least harmful.

Walgreens Pulls Dangerous Air Fresheners

September 21, 2007

The National Resources Defense Council released a detailed analysis confirming the dangers of phthalates, which can affect hormones and reproductive development, with a particular risk to babies and children. Several household and personal items contain the ingredient. In response to the news, Walgreens announced that it will pull air fresheners containing the containment off the shelves, including its own brand. They will soon have more phthalate-free options available.

Statement from Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC scientist, regarding Walgreens’ Decision:

“Pulling these air fresheners from their shelves is a conscious choice on the part of Walgreens to put their customers first and take the lead on product safety. This is a wonderful example of corporate responsibility and also shows how companies and health groups can work together to find solutions.”

“Hopefully other companies will follow Walgreens’ lead. And we also hope that the federal government will step up and protect citizens further by taking closer look at the risks of phthalates and requiring companies to test for these chemicals and properly label their products.”

So far, only Walgreens as pulled these dangerous products. Phthalates are found in most air fresheners currently on the market.

Read the full report.

Coffee Lowers Disease Rates

August 22, 2007

Since a teenager in England overdosed on espressos, coffee consumption has been scrutinized. But there have been a few underpressed revelations as well. When consumed moderately and regularly by adults, coffee and caffeine can have some great benefits.

Peter R. Martin, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University said, “Predominantly in epidemiologic studies, there have been associations between coffee consumption and lowered rates of certain illnesses, like suicide, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Type II diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease.”

That’s great news since apparently 80% of Americans drink coffee and over 50% are keeping fueled every single day! The antioxidants can possibly lessen the debilitating effects of the American diet, though most people still need a lot more help.

Coffee has been proven especially good for older women (more so than older men). A new study presented in the August issue of Neurology found “that women age 65 who drank three or more cups of coffee or tea a day were about one-third less likely to have a significant decline in verbal skills than those who drank a cup or less.”

Check out Forbe’s top ten Coffee Perks for other studies and proven benefits for everyday Joes… people and coffee!

Soda is in Trouble Again

July 26, 2007

Soda is having problems staying out of trouble, and so are the kids who drink it.

The American Journal of Public Health surveyed thousands of teenagers “about their eating and soda-drinking habits, as well as hyperactivity and conduct problems in school, and mental health indicators such as anxiousness, dizziness, hopelessness, panic, sadness, sleeplessness, tension, unhappiness with themselves and a sense that everything is a burden.”

And, yup, of course, the more soda the kid drinks, the more likely he/she is to have these problems.

The exact cause is not determined in this study, only the correlation between soda consumption and mental health problems, but we can can make a few guesses why they have a negative effect on behavior:

Colors and Preservatives: already linked to behavior problems in kids

Phosphoric Acid: as damaging to your teeth as battery acid

Sugar: high sugar intake is linked to pancreatic cancer

Nutritionist Mike Adams said, “It is very clear that diet strongly impacts mood, mental function and behavior. Drinking liquid sugars or artificial chemical sweeteners is much like poison to the human body, and it causes an imbalance in the functioning of the body and mind.” He is the author of The Five Soft Drink Monsters, a guide to kick the soda habit.