Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekly ACSH Report

Compiled by Rich Kozlovich

This week there has been so much information that I couldn’t even begin to put it all in here. As I organized this week’s information I ended up with about 7 pages of stuff. It was just too much to put in this article, so I deleted a great deal of wonderful information, which is typical.

Here are ACSH’s latest views on the Swine Flu “crisis”.

There is so much going around about the latest flu “crisis” and so much is somewhat irrational. The media is clearly responsible for most if it. Apparently the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, indicates that the swine flu virus mixing with other strains such as avian flu,responded, “The virus is still very stable...But as we all know, the influenza virus is highly unpredictable and has great potential for mutation.” There are a number of points that should be discussed as a result. Avian flu is “highly pathogenic” according to Dr. Ross and “In combination with swine flu, that would indeed be a devastating virus, but they’re being alarmist again. They simply have to monitor the virus to see if there’s any change in genotype or virulence.” The CDC claims that their mathematical modeling shows that over one million Americans have now been infected with the swine flu virus.

So far there have only been 127 deaths in the U.S., “a relatively low number but disturbing in its uncharacteristic concentration in younger patients.”An article published on Friday from Associated Press medical writer Mark Stobbe reports that 600million swine flu vaccinations may be distributed for the upcoming flu season

All of this “crisis” thinking is causing “crisis” decisions that are unfounded regarding flu vaccinations. The country has three hundred million people and six hundred vaccinations are going to be available. Is everyone going to have two vaccinations this year? Irrational! Dr. Ross Gilbert points out “For now, people are running around in a panic, wearing masks and not going to school. They lack the perspective to see that the seasonal flu is more dangerous than this. [The usual seasonsal flu] is a pandemic by any standard, and thus far, apparently much more dangerous than swine flu.”

Because of the implementation of this and regular flu season shots ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says “I can’t imagine the logistics of that. There’s going to be a huge overlap between the two vaccination schedules. I could easily imagine tens of millions of doses of this stuff not being used because people don’t want it or there’s just no way to get it distributed. In fact, millions of doses of annual, seasonal flu vaccine are discarded every year.”

The article also mentions the 1976 vaccination of 40 million Americans in anticipation of a new strain of swine flu: In 1976 America was in an anticipation of a swine flu “crisis” which never materialized. Forty million got shots and five hundred developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but this is a bit of data dredging because no one knows what really causes it.

Dr. Ross notes that “The flu vaccine is practically as safe as rainwater unless you’re allergic to eggs, since it’s developed in eggs. The fact that in 1976 there were 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome from 40 million doses swine flu is of minimal concern. That risk is about one in 100,000, and in most cases the symptoms were mild and reversible. These vaccines will hopefully even be less toxic.”

Get the Lead out….Another environmental scare?

Without scares could these activist organizations exist? If they didn’t exist would they have to go out and get real jobs? Perhaps that what they are really afraid of?

The Center for Environmental Health claim to have “found yet another unnecessary lead risk: high levels of lead in name-brand handbags and wallets purchased from Target, Macy’s, Wal-Mart, and many other retailers,” and they recommend that we “TELL THESE STORES TO GET THE LEAD OUT OF PURSES!” They go on to make a demonstrably false claim: “Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

Once again we find “scientists”, the so-called experts who we are all supposed to bend before and obey, are changing the rules to make their views the “new science”. “This is a new wave of people who are arguing against the classical toxicological principle that dosages are significant,” says Dr. Whelan.

Dr. Ross adds: “We strongly disagree with that thesis on the grounds that it is unscientific and is basically analogous to a revocation of the laws of thermodynamics -- by which I mean they can’t just get away with saying that a tiny exposure is worse than a large one -- it’s nonsense. There is no evidence to support it.”

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who has been involved in all the legislative issues that have faced our industry for many years. Recently there was a discussion about the need to return pesticides that have been forced off the market (banned is the commonly used term, but the only pesticide used in structural pest control that was ever banned was DDT and that was based on junk science) by EPA and their tactic of changing the rules in order to make it too expensive to maintain a pesticide registration.

Dursban came into the conversation and the claims by activists that it caused autism. One of the scientists commented that Dursban has been off the market for ten years and if it really did cause autism then you should have seen a drop in autism cases and we haven’t. It must then be concluded that Dursban didn’t cause autism. I was really impressed; at least until he then said that he has decided that plastic bottles were what was causing autism. And he meant it. Of course it could be worse….here is someone who believes that these chemicals cause obesity.

Former environmental consultant Janelle Sorensen has a hunch that our children are getting fatter because of chemicals in plastics, and she convinced Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai, to agree with her. Well, sort of. “Right now it’s a correlation; we don’t know if it’s cause and effect or an accidental finding,” Dr. Landrigan said. “The $64,000 question is, what is the causal pathway? Does it go through the thyroid gland? Does it change fat metabolism?”

Except for a very few people, I will tell you what changes metabolism. Exercise! It is all about calories in and calories out.

In a blog entry published on Friday, Andrew Van Dam with the Association of Health Care Journalists finally noticed the media bias against bisphenol-A (BPA)that ACSH staffers -- almost alone against the crowd -- have been condemning for some time. “In a review of American media coverage of the controversy of bisphenol-A, researchers at STATS (a nonprofit, nonpartisan Statistical Assessment Service affiliated with George Mason University), say the media failed to properly weight different studies based on their size and research methodology.”

Dr. Whelan has noticed the trend: “If you looked at media coverage of BPA for the last six months, you’d find that a vast majority of the reports were biased in favor of anti-chemical scares. There were very few scientists who were willing to defend BPA despite all the evidence that proves it’s not dangerous. The FDA has already ruled time and time again that BPA is safe as used. How could they come out with any other assessment, unless a new administration can overturn scientific evidence?”

“This needs to be brought to light,” says Dr. Ross. “All of this hype comes from two or three junk science groups like the one under Frederick vom Saal that has been trying to scare people about BPA for over ten years. They automatically doubt any corporate-funded study -- including any researcher who ever received industry support -- for absolutely no reason other than the fact that they want to be praised as heroes.”

“Well, I don’t know their motivation, if it’s publicity-seeking or what,” says Dr. Whelan, “but I know that they aren’t advancing the cause of public health. Any reassessment study would take so long that BPA would probably be banned everywhere already by the time that they prove it is safe again.”

New York Times health and science columnist Gina Kolata, wrote a guest contribution to John Tierney’s New York Times science blog highlighting the recent STATS report that revealed a lack of objectivity in media coverage of the bisphenol-A debate.

“The fact that Ms. Kolata is raising questions about media bias is important since she’s a mainstream reporter, and the mainstream media doesn’t like to criticize itself,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. “People aren’t interested in a critical look at the negative news they’ve been putting out, but she’s showing them anyway. Thanks are due as well to John Tierney for highlighting this story initially.”

Acetaminophen: Use As Directed


FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory committee is meeting to discuss “how to address the public health problem of liver injury related to the use of acetaminophen in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (RX) products,” noting that they are not seeking to remove it from the market, as it is safe when used as directed…..People just need to be careful about mixing medications that have acetaminophen in them.” For more information, see ACSH’s publication on OTC pain relievers.

FDA advisory panelists voted yesterday to ban Percocet and Vicodin, two popular painkillers that contain acetaminophen, because of their potential to cause liver damage. I think this is an important point.

“Consumer representatives on the panel included Sidney Wolfe, an outspoken opponent of pharmaceutical companies and drugs in general. “The fact that Sidney Wolfe is a ‘consumer representative’ on a supposedly objective panel is very disturbing,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “He is taking up a position that should be going to an actual consumer representative and not an activist from the country’s most strident anti-pharmaceutical watchdog group.”
Very often these panels of government “experts” are nothing more than activists who have been given the opportunity to expound their latest philosophical flavor of the day without any real opposition. These various panels are often rigged in order to come out with predetermined results. It was the same with DDT and the pattern has continued down to today.

As I said before, I had to eliminate a host of information, including information about activists attempting to eliminate fluoride from the drinking water in New Jersey, and medicines that can be developed from genetically modified foods, although I did link those two pieces of information in my weekly newsletter. For those who would like to receive ASCH’s Morning Dispatch:

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