Later On

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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Why businesses require regulation: “Air pollution hot spot in Paramount spurs calls for action on metal factory emissions”

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Tony Barboza reports in the LA Times:

en with the doors and windows closed, Venecia Yanez can’t escape the head-splitting, metallic odors that permeate her Paramount home.

Yanez says the harsh fumes and smoke that waft in at all hours and the rusty residue she finds on her family’s car must be coming from one of the metal-forging plants she can see from outside her apartment.

She and her neighbors on Vermont Avenue have long complained of headaches, nausea and burning throats. Yanez, 28, worries the emissions are harmful to her 14-month-old daughter.

“We breathe it every day and it just doesn’t feel safe,” she said.

Residents of this small, working-class city southeast of Los Angeles have for years watched regulators launch studies and promise stricter rules to protect homes and schools from toxic emissions from the array of metal-processing facilities operating in their midst. But they have seen little action.

Then, a few weeks ago, air quality monitoring detected high levels of a potent, cancer-causing metal in Paramount, forcing authorities to pay attention.

Now, what had been a slow-moving effort targeting one metal-forging plant has snowballed into a broad investigation, with teams of inspectors from several agencies fanning out to at least 20 facilities in the city’s industrial spine, searching for the origin of the toxic hot spot.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has not yet found the source of hexavalent chromium, a compound known to cause lung cancer, that was detected at more than 350 times normal levels starting in late October.

And it’s not clear how long it could take.

Community groups and some civic leaders say the latest revelations in Paramount show that government in California has not done enough to address hot spots of pollution where industry operates near homes and schools.

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said: “I am concerned that our community has become the latest example of people being exposed to toxic chemicals because a company is breaking the law and regulators haven’t been aggressive enough in enforcing that law.” He urged the air district to “find the culprit and fix the problem — now.” . . .

Continue reading.

Do read the rest: finding the source of the pollution is not so easy as it sounds.

This is a clear instance of where government is required. Individual homeowners do not have the power to force a business to clean up its act, particularly when they are (in effect) bystanders rather than customers. The business is dumping its toxic pollutants on them, and the only thing that can force the business to stop is the government.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2016 at 2:36 pm

No Evidence of Aloe Vera Found in the Aloe Vera at Wal-Mart, CVS

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I’m sure that the new administration thinks it’s good that the FDA doesn’t check products but lets the manufacturers operate on the honor system. Unfortunately, ….

Lydia Mulvaney has an article at Bloomberg:

The aloe vera gel many Americans buy to soothe damaged skin contains no evidence of aloe vera at all.

Samples of store-brand aloe gel purchased at national retailers Wal-Mart, Target and CVS showed no indication of the plant in various lab tests. The products all listed aloe barbadensis leaf juice — another name for aloe vera — as either the No. 1 ingredient or No. 2 after water.

There’s no watchdog assuring that aloe products are what they say they are. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve cosmetics before they’re sold and has never levied a fine for selling fake aloe. That means suppliers are on an honor system, even as the total U.S. market for aloe products, including drinks and vitamins, has grown 11 percent in the past year to $146 million, according to Chicago-based market researcher SPINS LLC.

“You have to be very careful when you select and use aloe products,” said Tod Cooperman, president of White Plains, New York-based, which has done aloe testing.

Aloe’s three chemical markers — acemannan, malic acid and glucose — were absent in the tests for Wal-Mart, Target and CVS products conducted by a lab hired by Bloomberg News. The three samples contained a cheaper element called maltodextrin, a sugar sometimes used to imitate aloe. The gel that’s sold at another retailer, Walgreens, contained one marker, malic acid, but not the other two. That means the presence of aloe can’t be confirmed or ruled out, said Ken Jones, an independent industry consultant based in Chapala, Mexico. . .

Continue reading.

The above exemplifies why many of us like to have the government acting as an independent quality control force on private corporations and their products and activities: you simply cannot trust them. (Ideally, of course, the government is independent and not a fully-owned subsidiary.)

BTW, the FDA has corporations on the honor system because a GOP Congress routinely underfunds agencies so that they cannot function well. The IRS is another example: they have cut back their audit staff, even though function brought in millions more in tax revenue than we get without it. The GOP, of course, opposes taxes so they will try to cripple the agency that collects taxes, which has the side benefit of starving other agencies: FDA, EPA, DOJ, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2016 at 3:31 pm

Maryland’s plea to EPA: Make out-of-state power plants run pollution controls

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It will be instructive to see how Trump’s EPA handles this one. I assume they will do absolutely nothing because businesses should be allowed to do whatever they want to make profits because corporate profits mean more jobs! (despite all the evidence to the contrary) So if destroying the biosphere will increase your profits, just go right ahead ExxonMobil! Don’t let us slow you down! I’m sure that climate change will work out okay, though your own scientists deny that. Still, since it’s a total fiction, we can just ignore them. And next quarter’s looking good.

Jamie Smith Hopkins reports at the Center for Public Integrity:

Some power plants with smog controls aren’t using them effectively — or at all — and are fouling the air hundreds of miles away as a result.

That’s the conclusion reached by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week to make 19 coal-fired plants run their control equipment throughout the summer, when ground-level ozone — often known as smog — is most likely to form.

Ten of those 19 plants were identified by the Center for Public Integrity in September as “super polluters” because they were among the top 100 U.S. industrial sites for toxic substances pumped into the air, greenhouse gases released, or both, in 2014.

Maryland’s petition focused on releases of nitrogen oxides, a key ozone ingredient. Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s secretary of the environment, said he simply wants the 19 plants to do what his state’s coal plants must: “Run the controls — run the controls every day of the ozone season, and downwind states will benefit significantly from that.”

Ozone is bad for the lungs, can trigger asthma attacks and, researchers suspect, can harm the heart as well. And the pollutants that turn into it when baked in the sun can travel far afield.

Maryland contends that roughly 70 percent of its ozone problem can be linked to emissions from upwind states. Its petition names power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including three in the southwest Indiana region that the Center featured because of its concentration of big air polluters.

Maryland says in its petition that the power plants’ inefficient use of their controls put roughly 39,000 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air in the summer of 2015 that otherwise would have been captured. That’s because federal rules capping those emissions are based on averages over the entire summer, rather than on a daily basis. . .

Continue reading.

Note that this is a situation that exactly calls for government action: individual consumers cannot do it. What are you going to do? not use electricity this winter? The only player with power comparable to the corporations is the Federal government, which in this case is involved because one state is dumping pollution on its neighbor, which quite clearly should be illegal, just as you can dump your garbage on my lawn.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2016 at 1:17 pm

What could possibly go wrong? Across Texas, growing clusters of unvaccinated children

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Anna Casey writes in the Texas Tribune:

Georgia Moore was diagnosed with leukemia the day after her 10th birthday. The fourth-grader began an intense chemotherapy regimen, which left her immune system vulnerable and kept her from attending her small, private Montessori school in Austin.

But her younger sister Ivy was in kindergarten at the same school, where a handful of families opted out of vaccinating their children. That meant 6-year-old Ivy might bring home germs that could pose a risk to Georgia.

“She would go to school, come home and immediately we’d put clothes in the washer to keep a healthy environment,” the girls’ mother, Courtney Moore, said of the family’s after-school routine.

The Moores’ vigilance paid off. Georgia, now 16, had very few hospitalizations during the course of her treatment and is now cancer-free and five years out of treatment. But Georgia’s battle against cancer made Courtney Moore a vocal advocate for immunizations in Texas — where an increasing number of parents are opting against vaccinating their children, and data about the number of unvaccinated kids in individual public schools is not available.

Texas is one of 18 states that allow non-medical exemptions to the vaccines required for school attendance. California had a similar law allowing non-medical exemptions, until last year when it enacted a law that has one of the strictest requirements in the country after a 2014 outbreak of measles traced to the Disneyland theme park infected more than 100 people around the country.

Many of the parents opting out of the immunizations, which are widely recommended by doctors, say they fear a link between the vaccines and health problems such as autism. But studies that they cite have been widely debunked by public health officials.

“Year after year we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of students with a conscientious exemption from vaccination in Texas,” said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “But overall, the numbers are small.”

Even though statewide levels of vaccinations remain high, at over 98 percent, what concerns public health officials are the growing clusters of geographic areas with high rates of unvaccinated children. Texas went from just 2,314 “conscientious exemptions” in 2003 to 44,716 this year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. [Herd vulnerability – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2016 at 3:05 pm

A FDA-registered food safety laboratory tested iconic American food for residues of the weed killer glyphosate (aka Monsanto’s Roundup) and found ALARMING amounts.

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I periodically see news reports of scientist who carefully compare the nutritional value of organic produce vs. conventionally raised produce (i.e., using various pesticides) and state their findings by saying that there is “no difference between the foods.” They are speaking only of nutritional differences and they (carefully?) avoid any discussion of differences in pesticide residues, but the absence of pesticides is exactly why I buy organic produce, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Unfortunately, conventional food crops, along with their residual pesticides, go into the making of a lot of prepared foods. This post discusses that issue. From the post:

A FDA-registered food safety laboratory tested iconic American food for residues of the weed killer glyphosate (aka Monsanto’s Roundup) and found ALARMING amounts.

Just to give you an idea of how outrageous these amounts are, independent research shows that probable harm to human health begins at really low levels of exposure – at only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate. Many foods were found to have over 1,000 times this amount! Well above what regulators throughout the world consider “safe”.



Read more at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2016 at 10:52 am

Parents are insisting on doctors who insist on vaccinations

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Lena Sun reports in the Washington Post:

Pediatricians around the country, faced with persistent opposition to childhood vaccinations, are increasingly grappling with the difficult decision of whether to dismiss those families from their practices to protect their other patients.

Doctors say they are more willing to take this last-resort step because the anti-vaccine movement in recent years has contributed to a resurgence of preventable childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. Their practices also have been emboldened by families who say they will only choose physicians who require other families to vaccinate.

But the decision is ethically fraught. Doctors must balance their obligation to care for individual children against the potential harm to other patients. They must respect parents’ right to make their own medical decisions. And they need to consider the public health consequences of a refusal to treat, which could result in non-vaccinating families clustered in certain practices, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.

Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics considered it unacceptable to refuse families for not vaccinating.

At the large Salem, Ore., pediatric practice where Mark Helm is a partner, clinicians eventually felt that their top priority was to protect their many medically fragile patients, including children with cancer or weak immune systems and infants not yet old enough to be fully vaccinated. Last year, Childhood Health Associates of Salem became the first practice in Oregon to require all of its families to vaccinate their children fully and on schedule for the diseases most easily spread from person-to-person contact.

“Our policy happened because it simply did not seem ‘just’ to permit the kids who could not be vaccinated to face dire risks because another child’s parent ‘disbelieved’ vaccination,” Helm explained. “We did not want anyone to get measles because they passed through our waiting room.”

In response, about a dozen families out of several thousand chose to leave the practice, Helm said. But other doctors’ groups in the community followed Childhood Health’s lead and adopted similar measures. The overwhelming majority of Childhood Health’s families have supported the move, blurting out thanks in person, on the practice’s website and Facebook page.

“These are young parents and they’re saying, ‘I’m so glad about your policy. . . . I don’t understand why people don’t vaccinate their kids,’ ” Helm recalled. “That kind of spontaneous comment did not used to happen.”

After years of meeting hesi­ta­tion or reluctance from parents, he said, “it’s just nice to hear parents say that — that they want their children to be vaccinated.”

Some of the heightened appreciation of vaccines grew out of a 2015 measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in California. A single, unvaccinated child with measles led to the infection of 131 people, many of whom also were unvaccinated. One infected adult who visited several hospitals ended up exposing 98 infants, 14 pregnant women and 237 hospital employees, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Following the Disneyland outbreak, California passed a law that requires almost all schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated to go to school, allowing only some medical exemptions. The debate over the bill helped raise awareness of the dangers of measles and other preventable diseases.

For years, the official position of the AAP was not to dismiss vaccine-resistant families. But recently, the AAP recognized what many individual pediatricians have been wrestling with on an ad hoc basis. This summer, it announced for the first time that dismissal is now an acceptable option if doctors have exhausted counseling efforts. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2016 at 8:06 am

How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat

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Anahad O’Connor writes in the NY Times:

The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper.

Even though the influence-peddling revealed in the documents dates back nearly 50 years, more recent reports show that the food industry has continued to influence nutrition science.

Last year, an article in The New York Times revealed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, had provided millions of dollars in funding to researchers who sought to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity. In June, The Associated Press reported that candy makers were funding studies that claimed that children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who do not.

The Harvard scientists and the sugar executives with whom they collaborated are no longer alive. One of the scientists who was paid by the sugar industry was D. Mark Hegsted, who went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where in 1977 he helped draft the forerunner to the federal government’s dietary guidelines. Another was Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, the chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department.

In a statement responding to the JAMA journal report, the Sugar Association said that the 1967 review was published at a time when medical journals did not typically require researchers to disclose funding sources. The New England Journal of Medicine did not begin to require financial disclosures until 1984.

The industry “should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities,” the Sugar Association statement said. Even so, it defended industry-funded research as playing an important and informative role in scientific debate. It said that several decades of research had concluded that sugar “does not have a unique role in heart disease.”

The revelations are important because the debate about the relative harms of sugar and saturated fat continues today, Dr. Glantz said. For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.

“It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion,” he said.

Dr. Hegsted used his research to influence the government’s dietary recommendations, which emphasized saturated fat as a driver of heart disease while largely characterizing sugar as empty calories linked to tooth decay. Today, the saturated fat warnings remain a cornerstone of the government’s dietary guidelines, though in recent years the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization and other health authorities have also begun to warn that too much added sugar may increase cardiovascular disease risk.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, wrote an editorial accompanying the new paper in which she said the documents provided “compelling evidence” that the sugar industry had initiated research “expressly to exonerate sugar as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.”

“I think it’s appalling,” she said. “You just never see examples that are this blatant.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2016 at 2:33 pm

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