Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Today, I'd like to dedicate my blog to some recent news in pharmaceutical and medicinal industry. You can imagine they are not very positive.
My only comment is to always think twice when you read something about those industries, because they have the tendency to lie. For example, the first news about the use of Vitamin D leaves me under the impression that vitamin D is dangerous. They don't say it, but they kind of imply it. The reality, however, is different. When irradiated by direct sunlight, the body produces tons of vitamin D absolutely safely! And there are no adverse effects appart from the danger of sunburn. So this kind of statements are very suspicious. Especially considering the fact that most people do not expose themselves enough on sunlight and thus, they are very unlikely to have high levels of vitamin D. And how you define sufficient levels when that vitamin is just starting getting properly studied is a mystery for me. For calcium, however, I agree that one should be careful with it.
Also, in articles 2, 3 and 9, you can see how the power of one industry - be it chemical or farming, can postpone crucial risk assessments and changes of rules. Just because of ... financial loss and inconvenience. Still believes your governments cares about your health? I don't.

  1. Report Questions Need for 2 Diet Supplements
  2. F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk
  3. US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen: study
  4. U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents
  5. Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?
  6. Study of Breast Biopsies Finds Surgery Used Too Extensively
  7. Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care
  8. Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics
  9. Government Says 2 Common Materials Pose Risk of Cancer

Report Questions Need for 2 Diet Supplements


By GINA KOLATA , Published: November 29, 2010

The very high levels of vitamin D that are often recommended by doctors and testing laboratories — and can be achieved only by taking supplements — are unnecessary and could be harmful, an expert committee says. It also concludes that calcium supplements are not needed. 
The group said most people have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood supplied by their diets and natural sources like sunshine, the committee says in a report that is to be released on Tuesday.
With calcium, adolescent girls may be the only group that is getting too little, the panel found. Older women, on the other hand, may take too much, putting themselves at risk for kidney stones. And there is evidence that excess calcium can increase the risk of heart disease, the group wrote.
The 14-member expert committee was convened by the Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit scientific body, at the request of the United States and Canadian governments. It was asked to examine the available data — nearly 1,000 publications — to determine how much vitamin D and calcium people were getting, how much was needed for optimal health and how much was too much.

Bone health, though, is only one of the benefits that have been attributed to vitamin D, and there is not enough good evidence to support most other claims, the committee said.
Some labs have started reporting levels of less than 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood as a deficiency. With that as a standard, 80 percent of the population would be deemed deficient of vitamin D, Dr. Rosen said. Most people need to take supplements to reach levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter, he added.
But, the committee concluded, a level of 20 to 30 nanograms is all that is needed for bone health, and nearly everyone is in that range.
The committee, though, said people need only 600 international units a day (vit. D).
To assess the amounts of vitamin D and calcium people are getting, the panel looked at national data on diets. Most people, they concluded, get enough calcium from the foods they eat, about 1,000 milligrams a day for most adults (1,200 for women ages 51 to 70).
Vitamin D is more complicated, the group said. In general, most people are not getting enough vitamin D from their diets, but they have enough of the vitamin in their blood, probably because they are also making it naturally after being out in the sun and storing it in their bodies.
After reviewing the data, the committee concluded that the evidence for the benefits of high levels of vitamin D was “inconsistent and/or conflicting and did not demonstrate causality.” Evidence also suggests that high levels of vitamin D can increase the risks for fractures and the overall death rate and can raise the risk for other diseases. While those studies are not conclusive, any risk looms large when there is no demonstrable benefit.
source

F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk


By WILLIAM NEUMAN Published: January 25, 2011
Each year, federal inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.
But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.
In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing, and now the two sides are sparring over how much danger the antibiotics pose and the best way to ensure that the drugs do not end up in the milk supply.
But food safety advocates said that the F.D.A.’s preliminary findings raised issues about the possible overuse of antibiotics in livestock, which many fear could undermine the effectiveness of drugs to combat human illnesses.The F.D.A. said that it would confer with the industry before deciding how to proceed. 
The concerns of federal regulators stem from tests done by the Department of Agriculture on dairy cows sent to be slaughtered at meat plants. For years, those tests have found a small but persistent number of animals with drug residues, mostly antibiotics, that violate legal limits.
The question for the F.D.A. is whether cows that are producing milk also have improper levels of such drugs in their bodies and whether traces of those drugs are getting into the milk.
Regulators and veterinarians say that high levels of drugs can persist in an animal’s system because of misuse of medicines on the farm.
 source

US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen: study

December 19, 2010 
A US environmental group has found that drinking water in 35 American cities contains hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The study by the Environmental Working Group -- the first nationwide analysis measuring the presence of the chemical in US water systems -- is to be made public on Monday, the daily reported.
The group found hexavalent in the tap water of 31 out of 35 cities sampled. Of those, 25 had levels that exceeded the goal proposed in California, which has been trying aggressively to reduce the chemical in its water supply.
The federal is considering whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in . The agency is reviewing the chemical after the National Institutes of Health, deemed it a "probable " in 2008.
Hexavalent chromium has long been known to cause when inhaled, and scientists recently found evidence that it causes cancer in laboratory animals when ingested. It has been linked in animals to liver and as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers.
A widely used industrial chemical until the early 1990s, hexavalent chromium still used in some industries, such as in chrome plating and the manufacturing of plastics and dyes. The chemical can also leach into groundwater from natural ores.
 source



US orders more testing of chromium-6 in tap water

January 13, 2011
The Environmental Protection Agency has asked local US communities to test more carefully for hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen.
After preliminary health studies, the EPA opted Wednesday to class the chemical known as chromium-6 as one likely to cause cancer in humans when ingested over the course of a lifetime.It adopted a rule of a maximum 0.1 milligrams per liter (100 parts per billion), and urged managers of water systems with their source in ground water be tested two times a year, versus four times a year for systems with surface water sources.
 source 

U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents

Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry. The issue of gene patents has long been a controversial and emotional one. Opponents say that genes are products of nature, not inventions, and should be the common heritage of mankind. They say that locking up basic genetic information in patents actually impedes medical progress. Proponents say genes isolated from the body are chemicals that are different from those found in the body and therefore are eligible for patents.

Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?

WARNING: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body.
I’m paraphrasing here. But the legal departments of cellphone manufacturers slip a warning about holding the phone against your head or body into the fine print of the little slip that you toss aside when unpacking your phone. Apple, for example, doesn’t want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch. source

Study of Breast Biopsies Finds Surgery Used Too Extensively

Too many women with abnormal mammograms or other breast problems are undergoing surgical biopsies when they should be having needle biopsies, which are safer, less invasive and cheaper, new research shows. A study in Florida found that 30 percent of the breast biopsies there from 2003 to 2008 were surgical. The rate should be 10 percent or less, according to medical guidelines.
The figures in the rest of the country are likely to be similar to Florida’s, researchers say, which would translate to more than 300,000 women a year having unnecessary surgery, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of these women do not even have cancer: about 80 percent of breast biopsies are benign. For women who do have cancer, a surgical biopsy means two operations instead of one, and may make the cancer surgery more difficult than it would have been if a needle biopsy had been done.
A surgical biopsy requires an inchlong incision, stitches and sometimes sedation or general anesthesia. It leaves a scar. A needle biopsy requires only numbing with a local anesthetic, uses a tiny incision and no stitches and carries less risk of infection and scarring. If the abnormality in the breast is too small to be felt and has been detected by a mammogram or other imaging method, the needle biopsy must also be guided by imaging — mammography, ultrasound or M.R.I. — and will often have to be performed by a radiologist. If a lump can be felt, imaging is not needed to guide the needle, and a surgeon can perform it.
Hospitals charge $5,000 to $6,000 for a needle biopsy, and double that for an open biopsy, according to Dr. Grobmyer’s article. Doctors’ fees for an open biopsy range from $1,500 to $2,500, he said, and $750 to $1,500 for a needle biopsy.source

Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care

A new study finds that many women with early breast cancer do not need a painful procedure that has long been routine: removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit.
The discovery turns standard medical practice on its head. Surgeons have been removing lymph nodes from under the arms of breast cancer patients for 100 years, believing it would prolong women’s lives by keeping the cancer from spreading or coming back. Now, researchers report that for women who meet certain criteria — about 20 percent of patients, or 40,000 women a year in the United States — taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur. And it can cause complications like infection and lymphedema, a chronic swelling in the arm that ranges from mild to disabling.
Removing the cancerous lymph nodes proved unnecessary because the women in the study had chemotherapy and radiation, which probably wiped out any disease in the nodes, the researchers said. Those treatments are now standard for women with breast cancer in the lymph nodes, based on the realization that once the disease reaches the nodes, it has the potential to spread to vital organs and cannot be eliminated by surgery alone.
Experts say that the new findings, combined with similar ones from earlier studies, should change medical practice for many patients. Some centers have already acted on the new information. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan changed its practice in September, because doctors knew the study results before they were published. But more widespread change may take time, experts say, because the belief in removing nodes is so deeply ingrained.
The new results do not apply to all patients, only to women whose disease and treatment meet the criteria in the study. The tumors were early, at clinical stage T1 or T2, meaning less than two inches across. Biopsies of one or two armpit nodes had found cancer, but the nodes were not enlarged enough to be felt during an exam, and the cancer had not spread anywhere else. The women had lumpectomies, and most also had radiation to the entire breast, and chemotherapy or hormone-blocking drugs, or both.
It is not known whether the findings also apply to women who do not have radiation and chemotherapy, or to those who have only part of the breast irradiated. Nor is it known whether the findings could be applied to other types of cancer. The results mean that women like those in the study will still have to have at least one lymph node removed, to look for cancer and decide whether they will need more treatment. But taking out just one or a few nodes should be enough.
  source

Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics


Ms. Brown, 35, is not taking hCG to help her bear a child. She believes that by combining the hormone injections with a 500-calorie-a-day diet, she will achieve a kind of weight-loss nirvana: losing fat in all the right places without feeling tired or hungry. “I had a friend who did it before her wedding,” Ms. Brown said. “She looks great.”
Women like Ms. Brown are streaming into doctors’ offices and weight-loss clinics all over the country, paying upward of $1,000 a month for a consultation, a supply of the hormone and the syringes needed to deliver it. More than 50 years after a doctor at a Roman clinic began promoting hCG as a dieting aid, it is as popular as ever, even though there is scant evidence that it makes any difference.
In response to inquiries stirred up by the diet’s popularity, the Food and Drug Administration warned in January that “homeopathic” forms of hCG, like lozenges and sprays, sold over the Internet and in some health food stores, are fraudulent and illegal if they claim weight-loss powers. The injectable, prescription form of hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is approved as a treatment for infertility and other uses, and it is legal for doctors to prescribe it “off-label” for weight loss.
But the F.D.A. has also reiterated a warning, first issued in the mid-1970s, that is required on hCG packaging: It has not been shown to increase weight loss, to cause a more “attractive” distribution of fat or to “decrease hunger and discomfort” from low-calorie diets.
The F.D.A. recently received a report of a patient on the hCG diet who had a pulmonary embolism, said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the agency. He said the hormone carried risks of blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement. source

Government Says 2 Common Materials Pose Risk of Cancer

WASHINGTON — The government issued warnings on Friday about two materials used daily by millions of Americans, saying that one causes cancer and the other might.
Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low.

Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene along with six other chemicals that were added Friday to the government’s official Report on Carcinogens. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings. 
Studies of workers like embalmers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde have found increased incidences of myeloid leukemia and rare cancers of the nasal passages and upper mouth.
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said that formaldehyde is both worrisome and inescapable.

Consumers can reduce their exposure to formaldehyde by avoiding pressed-wood products or buying only those that are labeled as U.L.E.F. (ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde), N.A.F. (no added formaldehyde) or C.A.R.B. (California Air Resources Board) Phase 1 or Phase 2 compliant.
Styrene is mostly a concern for workers who build boats, car parts, bathtubs and shower stalls. Studies of workers exposed to high levels of styrene have found increased risks of leukemia and lymphoma and genetic damage to white blood cells. There is also some evidence that styrene increases the risks of cancer of the pancreas and esophagus among styrene workers, the report found. Consumers can be exposed to styrene from the fumes of building materials, photocopiers and tobacco smoke.
As for styrene’s presence in plastic utensils and other consumer products, Dr. Brawley likened the risk from such products to that of coffee and cellphones — uncertain and slight.
The report also lists aristolochic acids, found in plants and sometimes used in herbal medicines, as a known carcinogen and added to the list of probable carcinogens other substances like captafol (a fungicide no longer sold in the United States), finely spun glass wool fibers (used in insulation), cobalt-tungsten carbide (used in manufacturing), riddelliine (plants eaten by cattle, horses and sheep) and ortho-nitrotoluene (used in dyes).source
And more:

Federal Research Center Will Help Develop Medicines -
- The Obama administration has become so concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs coming out of the pharmaceutical industry that officials have decided to start a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines. 
Under the plan, more than $700 million in research projects already under way at various institutes and centers would be brought together at the new center. But officials hope that the prospect of finding new drugs will lure Congress into increasing the center’s financing well beyond $1 billion
X-Rays and Unshielded Infants -

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