Health Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Health Media Articles in Major Media
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The Food and Drug Administration, criticized by its own scientific advisers for ignoring available data about health risks posed by a chemical found in everyday plastic, said yesterday it has no plans to amend its position on the substance but will continue to study it. The agency has been reviewing its risk assessments for bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in a wide variety of products, from baby bottles to compact discs to the lining of canned goods. The chemical, commonly called BPA, mimics estrogen and may disrupt the body's carefully calibrated endocrine system. Over the past decade, more than 130 studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological problems and other disorders. Much of the new research suggests that BPA has an effect at very low doses -- lower than the current safety standard set by the FDA. The most prominent finding was by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, which reported that there is "some concern" that BPA may affect the brain and behavioral development of fetuses, infants and young children. In October, the FDA was faulted by its own panel of independent science advisers, who said the agency's position on BPA was scientifically flawed. Yesterday, Laura Tarantino, director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, said the FDA will respond to that recommendation by performing additional analysis. She said she did not know if it would last months or years. "I can't tell you when we will finalize this," she said.
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What are the pills in your medicine cabinet, and how do you know they're best for you? When drug companies seek approval to market new medicines, they must show the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the results of all the tests they've run on volunteer patients - at first on only a few, then on dozens, and finally on hundreds or sometimes thousands. After winning approval, the companies typically sponsor reports of those tests in medical journal publications, which many doctors often rely on to determine whether to prescribe new drugs for their patients. Now a skeptical team of medical investigators at UCSF has accused the major drug companies of bias by distorting the results of their trials in those publications, making it hard for doctors to judge for themselves the pros and cons of prescribing the new drugs. As a result, the researchers say, patients may sometimes be taking medicines they don't need - or with unwanted side effects - that their doctors have prescribed on the basis of inadequate information. The UCSF team, led by Lisa A. Bero of the medical center's Institute for Health Policy Studies, probed the details of 164 drug trials involving as many as 1,500 patients over a two-year period and then examined reports on those trials that were published in medical journals, as well as those that remained unpublished. "We found really important information from the official trial reports that were either not published at all or that stressed mostly the positive results of trials in the published versions," said Kristin Rising, a physician at the institute who did the major investigation.
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In a sweeping critique ... an expert panel of the National Research Council said the federal government was not doing enough to identify potential health and environmental risks from engineered nanomaterials. Nanomaterials are engineered on the scale of a billionth of a meter, perhaps 1/10,000 the width of a human hair. They are turning up in a range of items including consumer products like toothpaste and tennis rackets and industrial products like degreasers or adhesives. But some experts say they may pose health or environmental risks. For example, researchers in Scotland reported this year that carbon nanotubes may pose the same health risks as asbestos. “Industry wants to run with it,” said Andrew D. Maynard, chief science adviser to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, who was the chairman of the panel. But he added, “one of the big barriers at the moment is understanding how to use it safely.” The panel analyzed the risk research strategy of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the program to coordinate federal efforts in nanotechnology research and development. Its report concluded that the initiative’s strategy “does not present a vision, contain a clear set of goals, have a plan of action for how the goals are to be achieved, or describe mechanisms to review and evaluate funded research and assess whether progress has been achieved.” An informal coalition of environmental and business organizations praised the report, saying that for three years they had been urging the federal government to do more to assess potential health and environmental effects of nanomaterials.
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When he was just 7 years old, Sacramento native Nate DeFelice was told he had Type 1 diabetes. So when he joined a diabetes research project at Ben-Gurion University [in Israel] two years ago, he hoped it would be a meaningful experience. As it turns out, the project could change his life and those of millions of other diabetics. DeFelice, 27, never dreamed that he would help discover a potential cure for his disease, see the beginning of a Federal Drug Administration-approved clinical trial in the United States, and co-author a scientific paper along with seven other researchers published in October by the National Academy of Sciences. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in childhood, is caused by a failure of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas called "islets." They require daily injections of insulin, which helps break down glucose in the blood. When Ben-Gurion University biochemistry Professor Dr. Eli Lewis asked for volunteers to participate in new research on diabetes, DeFelice jumped at the chance. Lewis, DeFelice and the other researchers have focused their investigations on islet transplantation. The Israeli team then opted for a new approach, ... focusing ... on inflammation caused by the transplant itself. Lewis grafted healthy islets into diabetic mice and treated them with an anti-inflammatory drug called alpha-1-antitrypsin, or AAT. Within months, they discovered three encouraging results: AAT enabled the newly grafted islets to survive indefinitely, successfully secreting insulin. The researchers stopped administering AAT and the islets continued to function. The mice's immune systems remained intact and were able to reject additional grafts while the original transplant continued to function.
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A careless touch could be all police or insurance companies need to determine not only your identity, but also your past drug use, if you've fired a gun or handled explosives, even specific medical conditions. "A fingerprint is only good to identify a criminal if you already have their fingerprint on file," said David Russell, a professor at the University of East Anglia, who, along with Pompi Hazarika, helped developed [a new analytical] technique. "This will give police new tools to help discover that identity." For decades forensic scientists have dusted fingerprints with magnetic particles to reveal the hidden swirls and curls that differentiate each person on the planet. The iron oxide particles attach themselves to the tiny bits of water, minerals, and oils that accumulate on the fingers as they touch various objects and other parts of the body. The new technique attaches the iron oxide particles to antibodies and suspends them both in a liquid solution, which is then drizzled over a fingerprint. If the chemical that a specific antibody targets is present, the molecules latch onto it and glow. So far the scientists can detect five different drugs: THC (marijuana), cocaine, nicotine, methadone and a derivative of methadone. Other drugs, particularly opium-based drugs like heroine or morphine, should also be detectable, since antibodies already exist for them as well. Drugs aren't the only chemicals the new tests could detect. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions produce specific chemicals also secreted in sweat and oil. By tweaking the antibodies on the particles, forensic scientists could test for a variety of medical conditions.
The male [sex] is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals. The research ... shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. Backed by some of the world's leading scientists, who say that it "waves a red flag" for humanity and shows that evolution itself is being disrupted, the report comes out at a particularly sensitive time for ministers. It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminised genitals. "This research shows that the basic male tool kit is under threat," says Gwynne Lyons, a former government adviser on the health effects of chemicals, who wrote the report. Wildlife and people have been exposed to more than 100,000 new chemicals in recent years, and the European Commission has admitted that 99 per cent of them are not adequately regulated. There is not even proper safety information on 85 per cent of them. Many have been identified as "endocrine disrupters" – or gender-benders – because they interfere with hormones. These include phthalates, used in food wrapping, cosmetics and baby powders among other applications; flame retardants in furniture and electrical goods; PCBs, a now banned group of substances still widespread in food and the environment; and many pesticides.
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Take a walk down the street or through the park and you'll see them – people of all ages toting bottles of water. Last year, Americans drank nine billion gallons out of those little plastic bottles. Sure, it's healthier than soda, but all that plastic is just as bad for the environment, creating an estimated 1.5 million tons of waste each year. So, more and more places are banning bottled water. Washington University in St. Louis will end almost all sales by the end of this semester. San Francisco declared it a no-no in city offices last year. Other local governments may do the same. Some brands, including Coca-Cola's Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina, come from the tap – and supporters of these measures argue you're better off just filling a reusable container at the water fountain for free. A cheap, calorie-free alternative that doesn't hurt the environment. Now, I'll drink to that.
Neuroscientists have shown that they can [create] a “body swapping” illusion that could have a profound effect on a range of therapeutic techniques. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last month, Swedish researchers presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt any other human form, no matter how different, as its own. “You can see the possibilities, putting a male in a female body, young in old, white in black and vice versa,” said Dr. Henrik Ehrsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The technique is simple. A subject stands or sits opposite the scientist, as if engaged in an interview. Both are wearing headsets, with special goggles, the scientist’s containing small film cameras. The goggles are rigged so the subject sees what the scientist sees: to the right and left are the scientist’s arms, and below is the scientist’s body. To add a physical element, the researchers have each person squeeze the other’s hand, as if in a handshake. Now the subject can see and “feel” the new body. In a matter of seconds, the illusion is complete. In a series of studies, using mannequins and stroking both bodies’ bellies simultaneously, the Karolinska researchers have found that men and women say they not only feel they have taken on the new body, but also unconsciously cringe when it is poked or threatened. In previous work, neuroscientists have induced various kinds of out-of-body experiences using similar techniques. The brain is so easily tricked, they say, precisely because it has spent a lifetime in its own body.
Public health groups, consumer advocates and members of Congress blasted the Food and Drug Administration yesterday for failing to act after discovering trace amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula sold in the United States. "This FDA, this Bush administration, instead of protecting the public health, is protecting industry," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA budget. "We're talking about babies, about the most vulnerable. This really makes me angry." The FDA found melamine and cyanuric acid, a related chemical, in samples of baby formula made by major U.S. manufacturers. Melamine can cause kidney and bladder stones and, in worst cases, kidney failure and death. If melamine and cyanuric acid combine, they can form round yellow crystals that can also damage kidneys and destroy renal function. Melamine was found in Good Start Supreme Infant Formula With Iron made by Nestle, and cyanuric acid was detected in Enfamil Lipil With Iron infant formula powder made by Mead Johnson. The FDA has been testing hundreds of food products for melamine in the aftermath of a scandal this year involving Chinese infant formula tainted with melamine. Chinese manufacturers deliberately added the chemical to watered-down formula to make it appear to contain higher levels of protein. More than 50,000 Asian infants were hospitalized, and at least four died.
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Cancer researchers have known for years that it was possible in rare cases for some cancers to go away on their own. There were occasional instances of melanomas and kidney cancers that just vanished. And neuroblastoma, a very rare childhood tumor, can go away without treatment. But these were mostly seen as oddities — an unusual pediatric cancer that might not bear on common cancers of adults, a smattering of case reports of spontaneous cures. And since almost every cancer that is detected is treated, it seemed impossible even to ask what would happen if cancers were left alone. Now, though, researchers say they have found a situation in Norway that has let them ask that question about breast cancer. And their new study, to be published Tuesday in The Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that even invasive cancers may sometimes go away without treatment and in larger numbers than anyone ever believed. Robert M. Kaplan, the chairman of the department of health services at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, [is] persuaded by the analysis. The implications are potentially enormous, Dr. Kaplan said. If the results are replicated, he said, it could eventually be possible for some women to opt for so-called watchful waiting, monitoring a tumor in their breast to see whether it grows. “People have never thought that way about breast cancer,” he added. Dr. Kaplan and his colleague, Dr. Franz Porzsolt, an oncologist at the University of Ulm, said in an editorial that accompanied the study, “If the spontaneous remission hypothesis is credible, it should cause a major re-evaluation in the approach to breast cancer research and treatment.”
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Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination. The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness. The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers. Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ. "Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing." When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.
California officials recently ordered two "personal genomics" firms to cease and desist operations within the state. The companies eventually were allowed to continue operations - with a few more regulatory conditions - but why did the state demand that they shut down in the first place? Why would a state that regards itself as progressive and high-tech act to censor what we can know about ourselves? Though regulators may shut down unscrupulous firms, the services offered by Navigenics and 23andMe meet the highest standards of accuracy, validity and reliability. The laboratories employed by both companies are fully licensed and trusted by researchers around the world. These companies give individuals the ability to take a "snapshot" of their DNA. The state objected, determining that doctors are gatekeepers of the human body, and Californians need a prescription to access their genetic blueprint. Doctors have a powerful lobby in Sacramento, and these technologies directly threaten their profits. Personal genomics aims to empower the individual, not line the pockets of an elite medical establishment. This establishment believes that individuals cannot be trusted with their own genetic information. The genome is vast, complicated and poorly understood, the argument goes, and therefore customers could be inundated with raw information of little or no practical use. Forbidding us from looking at our genes because we don't yet understand them, however, is contrary to science, innovation and human nature.
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The Food and Drug Administration ignored scientific evidence and used flawed methods when it determined that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and in the lining of cans is not harmful, a scientific advisory panel has found. In a highly critical report ... the panel of scientists from government and academia said the FDA did not take into consideration scores of studies that have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals when it completed a draft risk assessment of the chemical last month. The panel said the FDA didn't use enough infant formula samples and didn't adequately account for variations among the samples. Taking those studies into consideration, the panel concluded, the FDA's margin of safety is "inadequate". The panel is part of the Science Board, a committee of advisers to the FDA commissioner, and was set up to review the FDA's risk assessment of BPA. Many of the studies that the panel said the FDA ignored were reviewed by the National Toxicology Program, which concluded in September that it had "some concern" that BPA can affect brain and behavioral development in infants and small children. Officials at FDA, which regulates the chemical's use in plastic food containers, bottles, tableware and the plastic linings of food cans, accepted some of the criticism in the report. "FDA agrees that due to the uncertainties raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low doses of bisphenol-A that additional research would be valuable," said spokeswoman Judy Leon. The agency has commissioned new research on BPA.
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After a century of declines, the U.S. infant mortality rate barely budged between 2000 and 2005, causing the United States to slip further behind other developed countries despite spending more on healthcare, according to a report released Wednesday. The rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, virtually unchanged from 6.89 in 2000. In 1900, the rate was 100 deaths per 1,000 live births. The United States dropped to 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, the latest year for which data are available from all countries, tying with Poland and Slovakia. The year before, it was 27th. In 1960, it was 12th. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the leveling off in mortality to a 9% increase in premature births over the same period and to stalled progress in saving the earliest preterm infants. Premature birth and low birth weight are by far the biggest causes of infant death. Infant mortality rates vary by race and ethnicity, from a high of 13.63 per 1,000 births for African American women to a low of 4.42 for Cuban Americans, according to the CDC report. Differences in socioeconomic status and access to medical care did not entirely explain the gap, the report said. Premature births are increasing, possibly tied to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. What those conditions have in common is that they are preventable, and that ... is where the United States falls behind other developed countries.
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A retired medical supply manufacturer who considers bisphenol A to be "perfectly safe" gave $5 million to the research center headed by the chairman of a Food and Drug Administration panel about to rule on the chemical's safety. The July donation from Charles Gelman is nearly 50 times the annual budget of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, where Martin Philbert is founder and co-director. Philbert did not disclose the donation to the FDA, and agency officials learned of it when reporters asked about it. Gelman said he considers the chemical, which is used to make baby bottles and aluminum can liners, to be safe. He said he had made his views clear to Philbert in several conversations. Philbert denied that. Philbert's committee is expected to release its opinion this month. The decision of Philbert's committee is expected to have huge implications on the regulation and sale of the chemical in items such as baby bottles, reusable food containers and plastic wraps. Since the late 1990s, studies have linked bisphenol A to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive failures and hyperactivity in laboratory animals. Gelman, a retired manufacturer of syringes and medical filtration devices, has fought against government regulation of pollutants for years. He is an anti-regulation activist and an outspoken supporter of organizations such as JunkScience.com, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute that attack the credibility of government and academic scientists on such topics as global warming and hazardous chemicals.
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Deep inside an 86-page supplement to United States export regulations is a single sentence that bars U.S. exports of vaccines for avian bird flu and dozens of other viruses to five countries designated "state sponsors of terrorism." The reason: Fear that they will be used for biological warfare. Under this little-known policy, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan may not get the vaccines unless they apply for special export licenses, which would be given or refused according to the discretion and timing of the U.S. Three of those nations -- Iran, Cuba and Sudan -- also are subject to a ban on all human pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a general U.S. embargo. The regulations, which cover vaccines for everything from Dengue fever to the Ebola virus, have raised concern within the medical and scientific communities. Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were not even aware of the policies until contacted by The Associated Press ... and privately expressed alarm. They make "no scientific sense," said Peter Palese, chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Some experts say the idea of using vaccines for bioweapons is far-fetched.
People who remember when tobacco advertising was a prominent part of the media landscape ... probably recollect that actors like Barbara Stanwyck and athletes like Mickey Mantle routinely endorsed cigarettes. But how about doctors and other medical professionals, proclaiming the merits of various cigarette brands? Or politicians? Or children? Even Santa Claus? Those images — some flabbergasting, even disturbing — were also used by Madison Avenue to peddle tobacco products. An exhibit ... in New York presents cigarette ads from the 1920s through the early 1950s in an effort to demonstrate what has changed since then — and what may not have. The exhibit is the brainchild of Dr. Robert K. Jackler of the Stanford School of Medicine. “The very best artists and copywriters that money could buy” would work on cigarette accounts, said Dr. Jackler. “This era of over-the-top hucksterism went on for decades,” he added, “and it was all blatantly false.” The genesis of the exhibit was an ad from around 1930 for Lucky Strike cigarettes, which shows a doctor above a headline proclaiming that “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating.’ ” The Luckies doctor was joined in Dr. Jackler’s collection of about 5,000 ads by scores of scientists and medical professionals — doctors, dentists, nurses — making statements that are now known to be patently untrue. Some of the claims being made in the ads, you did not have to be a scientist in a laboratory to dispute ... ads that smoking certain brands “does not cause bad breath” or “can never stain your teeth.”
Note: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) promoted cigarette ads for 20 years "after careful consideration of the extent to which cigarettes were used by physicians in practice." Will people, even highly respected members of society, bend the truth and even lie when paid enough? This article seems to answer that with a resounding yes. Is that still true today? For excerpts from many highly revealing articles showing it's as true now as ever, click here and here.
Mobile phones DO increase the risk of brain cancer, scientists claimed yesterday. The chances of developing a malignant tumour are "significantly increased" for people who use a mobile for ten years. The shock finding is the result of the biggest ever study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation. Scientists found a type of brain tumour called glioma is more likely in long-term mobile users. French experts analysed data from 13 countries, including Britain. They cross-referenced various types of tumours with mobile use. Researchers admit the cause is unknown, but it is thought radiation from handsets could be the trigger. Study chief Professor Elisabeth Cardis said: "To underestimate the risk would be a complete disaster." Last night a British expert insisted mobiles are not dangerous. Professor Patricia McKinney of the University of Leeds said: "Reasonable use is unlikely to increase the risk of tumours."
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Scientists on Thursday warned US legislators of the risks of brain cancer from cell phone use, highlighting the potential risk for children who use mobile phones. "We urgently need more research," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy. "We must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer," Carpenter said. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said that most studies "claiming that there is no link between cell phones and brain tumors are outdated, had methodological concerns and did not include sufficient numbers of long-term cell phone users." Many studies denying a link "defined regular cell phones as 'once a week,'" added Herberman. "I cannot tell this committee that cell phones are definitely dangerous. But, I certainly cannot tell you that they are safe," he said. Carpenter and Herberman both told the committee the brain cancer risk from cell phone use is far greater for children than for adults. Herberman held up a model for lawmakers showing how radiation from a cell phone penetrates far deeper into the brain of a 5-year-old than that of an adult. "Every child is using cell phones all of the time, and there are three billion cell phone users in the world," said Herberman. He added that, like the messages that warn of health risks on cigarette packs, cell phones "need a precautionary message."
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A new study from researchers at the University of Ottawa shows honey to be effective in killing bacteria that cause chronic sinusitis [which] affects millions of people every year. In chronic sinusitis, the mucous membranes in the sinus cavities become inflamed, causing headaches, stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing. Though it can be caused by allergies, chronic sinusitis can also be caused by bacteria that colonize in the nose and sinuses. That's where honey may help. Researchers, led by Tala Alandejani, MD, at the University of Ottawa, tested two honeys, manuka and sidr. [They] singled out three particularly nasty bacteria: two strains of staph bacteria ... and one called Pseudomonas aeriginosa. The two types of honey were effective in killing the bacteria. Even bacteria growing in a biofilm, a thin, slimy layer formed by bacteria that affords resistance to antibiotics, were susceptible to honey. The researchers also found that the two types of honey worked significantly better than an antibiotic against [the staph bacterias]. Scientists hope the results can help lead to a new treatment for people with chronic sinusitis.
Note: One note of caution: Infants one year or younger should never be given honey because it could become toxic in their underformed intestinal tract, causing illness or even death.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.