Saturday, February 12, 2011

American Council on Science and Health, 2011: Week Five

By Rich Kozlovich

As I publish these links each week from the American Council on Science and Health you will notice that ACSH is never at a loss to find a new scare. Why? Because they are jumping up all the time!  Has this been the case in the past? Yes and no! In days gone by the opportunity to scare huge numbers of people at the same time, over a broad area, was severely limited.  The media has changed all of that, and furthermore there is now a great deal of money and prominence in the scare mongering business….. especially in the form of government grant money.  My purpose here is to make everyone aware of how much claptrap is out there and how to do some critical thinking about it. Something you will never see in the media

As for the smoking issue discussed here; I think it is one of the worst inflictions man has imposed on himself! However, I don't like the ban on smoking because it is way too much decision making by bureaucrats on what people should and shouldn’t be allowed to do, largely based on the idea that second had smoke harms others. Having said that, I absolutely think that there is an adverse health effect on others by secondary smoke[; but not to the extent they claim. And mostly because we now know they doctored the data to get the conclusions they wanted.

However, as for insisting that companies should not be firing employees who smoke as opposed to helping them to quit smoking; I do believe that permitting companies to fire employees who smoke, refuse employment to smokers, charging them higher insurance premiums, or even making them pay for their own health insurance will do more to help people quit smoking than any government imposed ban or company anti-smoking program. 

If you want to see why people are doing what they are doing; look to see how they are being rewarded.

Enjoy this week’s offerings!


After vilifying sugary soft drinks as one of the main causes of our nation's obesity epidemic, the media is now going after diet sodas as well by publicizing a thoroughly unscientific, poorly executed study presented yesterday at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

New frontiers on tobacco harm reduction Despite receiving even an A-list celebrity testimonial on their efficacy, e-cigarettes have gotten a lot of flack from public health opponents who argue that the clean nicotine delivery device is harmful and contains "toxic" chemicals.

A bipartisan diet for the White HouseAmericans should focus on achieving a "balance" in their diets, stressed First Lady Michelle Obama at a press meeting celebrating the first-year anniversary of her anti-obesity Let's Move campaign yesterday.

HPV vaccine also protects against anal cancerYesterday's The New York Times underscored the risks associated with anal cancer - facts largely unknown to many U.S. adults.

Those born to be wild should always wear a helmetIn a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgery, researchers debunked the myth that motorcycle helmets are associated with a higher risk of cervical spine injury.

Lymph node removal for early breast cancer not essential? That’s so last month!The top story in today's The New York would have you believe that a new JAMA study showing that it may not be necessary to remove the axillary lymph nodes in early-stage cases of breast cancer is the first report of its kind.

More fun under the sun lowers MS riskA new study from sunny Down Under bolsters the link between multiple sclerosis (MS) and sun exposure and vitamin D levels.

Vancouver gives harm reduction a shot in the arm with clean needle programThe New York Times reports that, thanks in large part to Insite, the only "safe injection site" in North America, Vancouver has seen a 52 percent reduction in new HIV infections since 1996, even as other cities are experiencing an increase.

Plenty of bugs in EPA prioritiesAs the bed bug epidemic continues to spread through New York City and elsewhere, the EPA is now planning to commence research aimed at developing pesticide alternatives, especially genetic-based solutions, rather than allow DDT to be used.

For some infants, solid food too early may have hefty consequencesThe March issue of Pediatrics presents some startling if unexplained findings aboutinfant health. Researchers who conducted a study of 847 babies in eastern Massachusetts found that there was a 6.3 fold increase in the likelihood that a child would be obese at age three if a bottle-fed infant began eating solid foods before four months of age compared to bottle-fed infants who began eating solid foods after four months.

First lady applies moral suasion on restaurant giantsIn a Page One story, The New York Times reported on Michelle Obama's attempts to coax the American restaurant industry in the direction of preparing healthier offerings for children. This is part of her Let's Move campaign against childhood obesity. The Times notes that meetings between Mrs. Obama's aides and the National Restaurant Association are intended to prod the industry towards smaller portions and plates of "carrots, apple slices and milk instead of French

Pfizer shifts research to China: Is anyone to blame?Pfizer is the world's largest pharmaceutical company. So its actions must be taken as important on their own terms and as a barometer for larger trends within the pharmaceutical industry. This is likely the relevant context for judging its decision announced last week to shutter U.S. and British labs and move its antibiotic research program to new facilities in Shanghai. About twenty-five percent of Pfizer's scientists will be let go in the process.

Fear of defibrillators is truly shockingIf you saw someone dying of a heart attack and an electric defibrillator was nearby, would you pick up the paddles and try to shock the victim back to life? According to a troubling new report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, nearly half of the population could not identify an automated external defibrillator (AED) and 43 percent of people would not use one even if they could.

USDA Beets Back the EnvironmentalistsACSH staffers are pleased that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has once again ruled on the side of science, this time allowing American farmers to continue growing genetically modified sugar beets.

FDA delivers bundle of joy with the approval of a treatment that reduces preterm births Under its accelerated approval program, the FDA announced Friday that it has given the go-ahead to K-V Pharmaceutical Co.'s new drug Makena, a synthetic form of progesterone used to reduce the risk of premature delivery.

World Cancer Research Fund needs to do its homeworkCancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. At least that's what the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) would have you believe in its report Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Senseless smoke-free stats all smoke and mirrorsThere is no such thing as a safe form of tobacco, says Joseph Lee, a social research specialist for the Department of Family Medicine at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in an op-ed last week for Raleigh's NewsObserver.com. Today's New York Times contains a Page One story on a strange and disquieting trend: U.S. businesses - especially those involved in health care - are increasingly banning not only smoking by employees, but employees who smoke. Among the first of the leading medical institutions to implement the policy was the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio in 2007.

A better treatment for spina bifida?: New in utero surgery is a marvel
Another study in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine; reports on a surgical marvel. A controlled study of fetuses diagnosed via sonogram in utero with spina bifida - a neural tube defect - showed that their outcomes could be dramatically improved through surgery performed prenatally. Spina bifida is a condition in which the spinal column is incompletely fused and the spinal cord is exposed, and it can lead to muscle weakness, bladder

FDA speaks with forked tongue on medical device approval
A business article published yesterday by The New York Times alerts us to a profound worry: FDA over-regulation of the medical device industry is driving companies in this business overseas to countries like China, India and Brazil. The approval process for new medical devices is not only more difficult and time-consuming in the U.S. than it is in Asia and Latin America, the article points out that it is even harder than in the notoriously regulation-obsessed European Union.

More dubious assertions from advocates of smoking bansACSH scientific advisor and Professor of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Dr. Michael Siegel points to a troubling misrepresentation by advocates of smoking bans. University of Iowa researchers claimed that a state ban on smoking in public places had lowered rates of heart disease by, as an NBC TV affiliate put it, "staggering numbers." But Dr. Siegel notes that if anything, the data show just the opposite. It appears that already rapidly

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If there is a health scare today, the American Council on Science and Health will most likely have the answer by tomorrow; and for members it will appear in your e-mail. No effort on your part, except to read the answer. All that the ACSH is interested in are the facts and they are prepared to follow them wherever they lead. Who can ask for more?  Please Donate Now!


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