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VACCINE NEWS

Mercury in Vaccines
Uproar over a little-known preservative, thimerosal, jostles U.S. hepatitis B vaccination policy

In 1997, when Frank Pallone, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, attached a simple amendment to an FDA reauthorization bill, he could not have predicted that it would cause such a commotion two years later. His amendment ran just 133 words.

It gave FDA two years to "compile a list of drugs and foods that contain intentionally introduced mercury compounds and to] provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the mercury compounds in the list.." The bill later evolved into the landmark FDA Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA) and was signed into law on November 21, 1997.

Pallone's amendment undoubtedly sprang from his long interest in environmental causes. But he had unwittingly set into motion a chain of events that would, two years later, bring turmoil to the immunization policy world and fears of harm to the nation's hepatitis B control effort.

Facts about Thimerosal and Mercury

Thimerosal is a water-soluble, cream-colored crystalline powder. It is 49.6% mercury by weight. In the human body, thimerosal is metabolized to ethylmercury and thiosalicylate. The literature on thimerosal metabolism and excretion is limited and old. Case reports have demonstrated toxicity after massive overdoses. Toxicological information on the chief metabolite of thimerosal, ethylmercury, is extremely limited.

During the recent controversy over the safety of thimerosal in vaccines, toxicologists have assumed that the toxicity of ethylmercury is equivalent to the toxicity of methylmercury. The toxicity of methylmercury is complex and depends on the type, level, and duration of exposure.

The primary environmental exposure is through consumption of predator fish. A 6-ounce can of tuna fish contains an average of 17 micrograms of mercury. A pediatric dose of hepatitis B vaccine contains 12.5 micrograms. The major toxicity of mercury is manifested in the central nervous system.

Forty years ago, when women at Minamata Bay, Japan, ate fish contaminated with methylmercury from pollutants, their children were exposed to high levels in utero and were born with severe developmental and neurological disorders. Methylmercury poisoning also occurred in Iraq following consumption of seed grain that had been treated with a fungicide containing methylmercury. In both the Japanese and Iraqi episodes, exposures to methylmercury were very high.

Two population-based studies are often cited as the basis for calculations on the neurotoxicity of mercury in utero. In the first, a study from the Seychelles, infants were exposed to mercury in utero when their mothers ate a high daily consumption of methylmercury-containing fish. The mothers had mean mercury levels in hair of 6.8 ppm. No developmental defects were detected. In the second, a study from the Faroe Islands, infants were born to mothers with mean hair levels of 4.3 ppm. In contrast to the Seychelles mothers, these mothers were exposed to mercury through intermittent "bolus" consumption of pilot whale meat. Lower scores on memory, attention, and language tests were associated with methylmercury exposure in the children (see Mercury Study Report to Congress, EPA, 1997).

Thimerosal, old soldier under a cloud

At first glance, someone looking for a controversy would not choose thimerosal. It has been used as a vaccine preservative since the 1930s, and, until recently, it has generally been viewed as a safe, reliable, and somewhat drab defender against bacterial and fungal contamination. The compound garners only one short paragraph in the 1249-page Plotkin and Orenstein reference book, Vaccines 3rd Edition (1999).

Thimerosal is sometimes added to vaccines during manufacturing as a guarantee against production-related contamination. Its greatest value, however, is in the field, where it acts as a fail-safe against imperfect aseptic handling. It is especially valuable for multidose vaccine vials, in which the re-entry of needles greatly increases the risk of bacterial introduction.

Thimerosal's only competitor, 2-phenoxyethanol, is less effective than thimerosal in suppressing potential contaminants like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli, and Staph. aureus, according to data presented by Dr. Stanley Plotkin at an August workshop on thimerosal safety held at the National Institutes of Health. The problem with thimerosal is that it contains 49.6% mercury by weight. At high exposure levels, mercury causes neurotoxicity in humans, especially in fetuses and small infants whose brains are still developing. But because of thimerosal's long track record as a defender against vaccine contamination disasters, discarding it is not easy.

CBER mercury analysis triggered fears

Over a year went by before the FDAMA mercury study got any public attention at FDA. Finally, on December 14, 1998, just 11 months before the congressional deadline, the agency published a notice in the Federal Register requesting manufacturers to provide data on mercury content. The agency published a second, more specific request on April 29, 1999. The work of analyzing the vaccine data fell to FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research (CBER).

Officials at CBER were aware that thimerosal had surfaced as a safety issue in Europe. In June 1999, the "European FDA", called the Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA), completed an 18-month inquiry into the risks and benefits of using thimerosal in vaccines. EMEA concluded that "although there is no evidence of harm caused by the level of exposure from vaccines, it would be prudent to promote the general use of vaccines without thimerosal.."

One of CBER's first tasks was to simply add up the total amount of mercury given to children through vaccines in the US immunization schedule. Although it may seem surprising that CBER had not done this before, CBER's mission, to ensure the purity, potency, safety, and efficacy of individual products, would never have required such an analysis. CBER researchers soon confirmed that thimerosal was present in over 30 licensed vaccines in the US in concentrations of 0.003% to 0.01%.

According to the agency's calculations, an infant six months old who got all vaccine doses on schedule would receive 75 micrograms of mercury from three doses of DTaP, 75 micrograms from three doses of Hib, and 37.5 micrograms from three doses of hepatitis B vaccine - a total of 187.5 micrograms of mercury.

But was this enough mercury to worry about? The analysts next tried to compare the calculated mercury intake with federal guidelines for safe mercury intake, but they immediately ran into difficulty. Thimerosal is metabolized in humans to ethylmercury, but all guidelines for safe mercury intake relate only to methylmercury. No guideline exists for the ethyl compound. Indeed, the literature on ethylmercury toxicity is so scant that toxicologists do not even know whether ethylmercury is more or less toxic than its methyl cousin.

Left with no choice, CBER analysts assumed that the toxicity of the ethyl compound is equivalent to the methyl compound. Armed with this assumption, they compared the mercury intake from vaccines in children six months old, 187.5 micrograms, to the suggested safe limits for methylmercury intake published by three federal agencies: EPA, FDA, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It was then that they made a remarkable discovery - the mercury intake through vaccination in the first six months of life exceeded the limit set by EPA.

Sharpening a double-edged sword

The CBER analysts were concerned. Millions of American children under six months old had apparently received, and were continuing to receive, an amount of mercury from vaccines that exceeded a federal guideline. The finding was potentially serious, but it was muddled by several factors.

First, the three federal agencies that publish mercury intake guidelines, EPA, FDA, and ATSDR, disagree about the safe limit. EPA's limit is significantly lower than the FDA and ATSDR guidelines. The intake of mercury from vaccination exceeded only the EPA guideline.

Second, EPA's guideline (called the EPA reference dose, or RfD) is truly cautious. It is based on a single episode of methylmercury poisoning in Iraq in which 81 children were exposed to high levels of mercury in utero. EPA calculated the RFD by determining the dose that produced a 10% prevalence of adverse neurological effects in the affected children, such as late walking, late talking, and abnormal neurological scores. The agency then placed a 95% confidence interval around this dose and divided the lower bound of the interval by an "uncertainty factor" of 10 to arrive at the RFD.

CBER's finding was also clouded by important differences in the nature of exposure between the Iraqi children and children exposed through vaccination. The Iraqi children sustained long-term daily prenatal exposures, while vaccinated children have intermittent intramuscular doses later in life, as infants. No one, however, could tell CBER exactly how these exposure differences might affect the potential neurotoxicity of mercury.

AAP sounds an alarm

In mid-June, CBER's findings came to attention of Dr. Neal A. Halsey, Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety. Halsey is a pediatrician and a highly respected vaccine expert. When he learned of the CBER findings, he was finishing up a four-year term as chairperson of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, the committee that determines AAP vaccination policy and edits the renowned Red Book.

Long before he heard about the thimerosal findings, Halsey had become worried about the progress of vaccination protest groups in the US They had chalked up significant successes in discrediting childhood vaccination. Five months earlier, a network television program had seriously questioned the nation's hepatitis B vaccination policy.

In May, Congress had held a contentious hearing on the dangers of vaccination. News media and political groups had picked up the anti-vaccination chant. Halsey feared that the tide was turning against childhood vaccination, with potentially dangerous consequences. Halsey confirmed CBER's calculations and did his own research on mercury, consulting with experts around the country. He became convinced that the findings were worthy of alarm, and he worried that if they became public prematurely, vaccination protesters would use them to stage yet another attack on the nation's immunization programs.

Halsey met with officials at CBER on June 22nd and then called Dr. Walter Orenstein, director of CDC's National Immunization Program (NIP). Eight days later, NIP staff flew to Washington to meet with FDA, AAP, and vaccine manufacturers. From the start, Halsey and his colleagues at AAP, including the new chairperson of the Infectious Diseases Committee, Dr. Jon Abramson, took a strong proactive stance. They argued that physicians should be told - soon - about the amount of mercury in vaccines and the conflict with a federal guideline.

Hectic negotiations led to AAP-CDC compromise, but differences lived on CDC was surprised by the urgent and undoubting position taken by Halsey and his colleagues at AAP. CDC officials argued that there was no need for precipitous action. They pointed out that no child was known to be harmed from thimerosal, and they were loath to undermine confidence in existing vaccines by labeling some vaccines "bad" (thimerosal-containing) and some "good" (thimerosal-free). But, in further discussions through the first few days of July, it became clear that Halsey and AAP would not retreat - they believed that immediate action was needed.

Within AAP, the issue ascended quickly from Halsey's committee to the executive board. AAP executives felt that their members needed more than just information about thimerosal - they also needed a way to reduce mercury exposure in their tiny patients. They feared that pediatricians who continued to administer thimerosal-containing vaccines could face a flurry of lawsuits, perhaps claiming that children had acquired learning disabilities from mercury exposure.

The discussions quickly veered toward pushing vaccine doses back from the first six months of life to a later time, when infants' bodies were larger and better able to tolerate mercury. Delaying vaccinations against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or Hemophilus influenza type b was not practical or could expose children to serious infections.

It soon became evident that the delayed vaccine would have to be hepatitis B. Only two single-antigen pediatric hepatitis B vaccines exist on the US market, Engerix-B (SmithKline Beecham) and Recombivax HB (Merck). Both contain thimerosal and 12.5 micrograms of mercury per 0.5 ml dose. AAP pressed CDC to agree to a delay of the hepatitis B vaccination series, usually started at birth, for children born to hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-seronegative mothers.

The Academy argued that the delay would only be temporary, because both Merck and SmithKline Beecham had promised that they could quickly shift manufacturing to thimerosal-free vaccine, perhaps in just a few months.

FDA had already promised to review applications for thimerosal-free hepatitis B vaccine rapidly - within 30 days. At the CDC Hepatitis Branch in Atlanta, Dr. Harold Margolis, Chief of the Branch, and staff epidemiologist Dr. Eric Mast saw trouble. They and other hepatitis B control advocates had worked hard since 1991 to make infant vaccination routine, and it had become a cornerstone of the CDC-ACIP strategy to eliminate hepatitis B transmission in the US. The strategy was working - hepatitis B rates had fallen consistently since the policy was implemented. Margolis and Mast worried that delaying the routine birth dose, even temporarily, would cause hepatitis B vaccination rates to slide. Furthermore, once the policy was changed, it could be difficult to switch back.

States were already under pressure from vaccination protest groups to drop hepatitis B vaccination school entry requirements. Margolis and Mast began working furiously to build a case against delaying hepatitis B vaccination. The CDC hepatitis group felt that AAP had not sufficiently accounted for the burden of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection during childhood. Mast had estimates showing that, in the years before routine vaccination began, 45,000 HBV infections had occurred annually in children less than 10 years old. Of those, 33,000 were in children of HBsAg-seronegative mothers.

CDC also had data from the 1998 National Immunization Survey suggesting that a delay in the birth dose would decrease hepatitis B vaccination completion rates by 15% - perhaps even more in infants born to high-risk mothers. Negotiations continued with AAP nearly around the clock. Everyone was becoming exhausted.

AAP insisted on a six-month delay of hepatitis B vaccination for infants of HBsAg-negative moms. CDC resisted. As the groups continued negotiations over days, worries increased that the story would leak to the press in an uncontrolled way, triggering a general vaccination scare. "Everyone worried that, with the vaccination protest groups looking over our shoulders, if they got the sense that some [toxicological] standard was broken, all hell would break loose," said a senior official who worked on the issue. Speaking later, AAP's Abramson said, "AAP and CDC diverged on the hepatitis B issue. It was a matter of how safe do you want to be? . Our perspective was let the individual pediatrician make a judgment for each family. CDC was looking at it from a public health perspective."

Finally, after a week of late night meetings involving the AAP executive board, Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan and other CDC officials, FDA, the manufacturers, and others, the exhausted group struck a compromise. An AAP-USPHS joint statement was issued on July 7 at 4:15 PM.

The statement said in part: Clinicians and parents can take advantage of the flexibility within the existing schedule for infants born to HBsAg-negative women to postpone the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine from birth until two to six months of age when the infant is considerably larger. Pre-term infants born to HBsAg-negative mothers should similarly receive hepatitis B vaccine, but ideally not until they reach term gestational age and a weight of at least 2.5 kilograms. Because of the substantial risk of disease, there is no change in the recommendations for infants of HBsAg-positive mothers or of mothers whose status is unknown. Also, in populations where HBsAg screening of pregnant women is not routinely performed, vaccination of all infants at birth should be maintained, as is currently recommended.

A few days later, AAP issued an "Interim Report to Clinicians" sharpening its own position: At this time, the only thimerosal-free hepatitis B vaccine available (COMVAX) also contains Hib vaccine (PRP-OMP). The product is not approved for use before 6 weeks of age because of decreased response to the Hib component. For that reason, where available, this thimerosal-free vaccine may be given to infants born to HBsAg negative women beginning at the two months visit.

If thimerosal-free vaccine is not available, hepatitis B virus vaccination should be initiated at 6 months of age.. CDC issued its own supplemental guidance on July 14 (see http://www.cdc.gov/nip/news/thimerosal-guidance.htm), saying: Many hospitals have instituted policies to vaccinate all children at birth regardless of HBsAg status as a means of ensuring that all the infants of HBsAg positive women and infants of women with an unknown HBsAg status are vaccinated at birth. These hospitals should continue current policies until procedures are or can be put in place to guarantee the proper management of all births to prevent perinatal HBV transmission.. CDC also said "hepatitis B vaccination at birth should be continued for infants born to HBsAg-negative mothers belonging to populations at risk for early childhood HBV infections, including Asian Pacific Islanders, immigrant populations from countries in which HBV is of high or intermediate endemicity., and households with persons with chronic HBV infection."

The AAP and CDC policies remain slightly at odds. AAP prefers that infants of HBsAg-seropositive moms be delayed until two months if COMVAX is available, or until six months if it is not. CDC prefers that hepatitis B vaccine be administered according to the current recommendations of the ACIP, which allow vaccination to begin at two months.

Reaction in the real world

In the weeks after the AAP and CDC statements were issued, state health departments reacted in a variety of ways. At least one state, New Hampshire, recommended no change in the hepatitis B vaccination schedule. At the other extreme, New Mexico opted for a full one-year delay. Most states have adopted a 2- or a 2-6 month delay for infants of HBsAg-seronegative women, and many of those states recommend COMVAX at two months. Some physicians have criticized the new recommendations. "I can't believe the Academy doesn't think it has stubbed its toe on this one," said one prominent Texas pediatrician who is a member of AAP. "It's too much too fast. I mean, it's crazy." Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious disease at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of ACIP, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the fear of trace mercury in vaccines was "a theoretical and unproven problem which has been elevated to a level of importance that doesn't make sense."

Others have taken the opposite view - some leaders within AAP believe that the Academy did not go far enough to protect infants against mercury. But pediatricians in both camps feel obligated to follow the new policies for fear of legal liability if they diverge. Informal surveys indicate that hospitals have changed their hepatitis B vaccination policies rapidly to comply with the new recommendations, often on orders from their legal departments. The consequences have not always been good.

Dr. Barbara Watson, chief of immunization at the Philadelphia City Health Department, told attendees at the August NIH thimerosal workshop that she personally knew of three infants of HBsAg-seropositive mothers who missed being vaccinated in hospital because of confusion caused by the policy change.

At the August NIH workshop, Dr. Eric Mast showed a CDC analysis estimating that 246 infants of HBsAg-seronegative mothers and 200 infants of mothers with unknown HBsAg status would become infected nationwide as a result of the new policy, assuming it lasted six months and produced a 15% to 25% drop in the newborn vaccination rate.

The aftermath The nation's most well-known vaccination protester is pleased with the change in hepatitis B vaccination policy. Barbara Loe Fisher, President of the National Vaccine Information Center in Vienna, Virginia, said in a press release that the new policy "will result in the deaths and injury of fewer babies.. Eliminating mercury from childhood vaccines is an important safety initiative and we hope that further evaluation of the cumulative toxic effects of other vaccine ingredients, such as aluminum used as an adjuvant, will also be undertaken .." But a physician from WHO, Dr. John Clements, said at the NIH workshop that "the US has gone on its due process to identify a problem and correct it. But there is a knock-on effect which the world must bear as a consequence."

Clements pointed out that only multidose, multipuncture vaccine vials can be used in developing countries because of cost and cold-chain considerations. Removing thimerosal from these vials is not an option for WHO, at least for the next several years, he said.

The Foreseeable Future

The long-term effect of the controversy on hepatitis B vaccination rates remains murky. Vaccine manufacturers have agreed to provide a plan to eliminate or reduce the mercury content of vaccines as soon as possible (see editor's postscript). AAP and CDC plan to monitor immunization practices, immunization coverage, and vaccine preventable disease levels. ACIP will take up the thimerosal issue at its October meeting.

In an August interview, Dr. Halsey defended the thimerosal decision-making process used by AAP and CDC. It would not have been possible to deal with thimerosal in the usual public forums like ACIP, Halsey said, because the presence of vaccination protesters would have made rational discussion hopeless. Deliberations were handled in the only way possible, he said. But Halsey acknowledged that many of his immunization colleagues are angry with him and miffed about the way the issue was handled.

Halsey said he does not believe that delaying the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine in HBsAg-seronegative mothers will have a major impact. He does worry, however, about the effects, real and perceived, that mercury may have on vaccinated infants. He pointed out that, to truly assess infants' exposure to mercury, the intake from thimerosal must be added to the intake from all other sources, especially maternal fish consumption.

For infants born to women with high mercury consumption, he said, "no one knows what dose of mercury, if any, from vaccines is safe.. We can say there is no evidence of harm, but the truth is no one has looked." http://www.hepatitiscontrolreport.com/vol/v4n21.html

COMMENT: It appears that there is a very limited role for hepatitis B vaccination, but only in the children of mothers who are currently infected with the virus. It makes little sense to expose millions of others to the risk and dangers of this vaccination which extend far beyond the dangers of the mercury issue discussed above and which will likely be resolved in the next few years.

 

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ORGANIC FOODS

 

AVOID GASSY FOODS--GO ORGANIC!

It's a topic that we just can't ignore anymore. It's true... some people's diets can be a little on the gassy side.

Now before you turn your noses up, take a moment to think about how we all might be able to find a little relief in these matters. Erhum... to be more specific, a significant amount of greenhouse gases are generated by how we choose to eat.

Industrial agriculture and long-distance food transportation generates between 20-25% of all climate destabilizing greenhouse gases in the U.S. and other industrialized nations. The average conventional food was produced using petroleum based chemical fertilizers and pesticides, packaged in petrochemical plastics, refrigerated in electricity-hungry coolers, and shipped 1500 miles in fuel-inefficient trucks.

In this week's blog, Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association, shares the good news about how buying local and organically grown food can play a significant role in reducing global warming.

Can the Organic Community Save the World?
By: Ronnie Cummins My Daily Bytes Feb. 21, 2006

“What we need is energy independence and the conversion of U.S. and global agriculture, transportation, and utilities to conservation practices and renewable energy.” John Kearney, energy activist and long-time consultant to the International Indian Treaty Council, in an email to the author Feb. 11, 2006 One of the most positive things about organic food and farming is that it’s not only good for our health and the survival of family farms, but also good for the environment and biodiversity: the soil food web, plants, birds, insects, wildlife, fish. Perhaps less understood, but equally important, is the fact that organic or sustainable farming conserves energy and water, reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and serves as a “carbon sink” to help stabilize global warming.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/globalwarming101003.cfm

Organic farms use far less non-renewable energy and petroleum inputs than industrial agriculture (for example it takes enormous amounts of energy and petroleum products to produce pesticides and chemical fertilizers), and generate far less climate destabilizing greenhouse gases such as CO2.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/fossil-fuels.cfm

Since the U.S., with less than five percent of the world’s population, is generating 29% of all the world’s greenhouse gases, it’s especially important to reduce our nation’s pollution by building up a strong organic agriculture and alternative energy sector as quickly as possible.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/Politics/security101105.cfm

Industrial agriculture and long-distance food transportation generate somewhere between 20-25% of all climate destabilizing greenhouse gases in the U.S., Canada, and other industrialized nations.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/btc/london011006.cfm

The average food item in an American grocery store, whether conventional or organic, has traveled 1500 miles from farm to market, usually in a diesel-belching tractor-trailer. Multi-ingredient processed foods add up to even more food miles and greenhouse gases. Food processing, packaging, and waste disposal (i.e. throwing millions of tons of uneaten foods into landfills instead of composting them, burning crop wastes instead of composting them) adds up to further energy use and greenhouse gas pollution.

One of the most positive trends in the organic community, in terms of protecting the environment and stabilizing the climate, is the increasing popularity of farmers markets, the community supported agriculture (buying directly from farmers) movement, and buying products produced locally and regionally. Other healthy and climate friendly consumer trends include cultivating a home garden, eating more seasonally, eating less meat and animal products, consuming more raw foods, cooking from scratch, and avoiding highly processed and packaged foods.

It’s true that the major portion of greenhouse gases come from cars, transportation, and utilities (75%), but we will never stabilize the climate until we relocalize and green the increasingly globalized and energy-intensive food and farming sector as well. And of course, in political terms, it is becoming obvious that environmental movement, standing alone, does not have the political clout to force Washington and the oil and utilities companies to implement a crash program of conservation and conversion to renewables.

Unless America’s 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers can join hands with the domestic climate crisis and alternative energy movement to reduce our greenhouse gases by 75% (Germany has already reduced their greenhouse gases by 21%), it may soon be too late to save the world from rising sea levels, hurricanes, devastating crop losses, increasing global poverty and conflict, and migrating diseases and epidemics.

One of the major factors holding back ordinary Americans from getting involved in the climate chaos debate is a pervasive pessimism and fatalism. As the refrain goes, “You can’t fight Congress and the big corporations.” But as organic consumers understand, you can “fight the powers,” and begin to win, at least in the marketplace, if you vote with your pocketbook for health, Fair Trade, and sustainability. This is an important and inspiring lesson that we can offer to our fellow citizens, as we join together to retool the economy and stop runaway global warming. As we get organized to force our elected public officials to eliminate corporate welfare and petroleum subsidies, and instead to subsidize the conversion of the agriculture, transportation, and utilities sectors of the economy, we can simultaneously “walk our talk.” We can buy local and organic, convince our families and friends to do the same, and begin to reduce our personal and household energy consumption by 75%.

Most of us can make a commitment to drive less, trade in our gas guzzlers for hybrids or compacts, retrofit our homes, arrange to buy green power through our local utilities companies, and “power down” our energy needs. This will save energy, reduce greenhouses gases, and, perhaps most importantly, keep our spirits and self-confidence intact as we embark upon our long-term campaign to save the planet.

The organic community can also use our positive message, our mainstream appeal, and our positive energy to point out that the conversion of American society to sustainable energy, agriculture, and transportation practices will create millions of new living wage jobs, and revitalize both urban and rural communities.

And last, but certainly not least, as today’s “quote of the day” points out, we need to frame our growing organic revolution and our nationwide and global movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% as a movement to achieve “Energy Independence,” It is both disgusting and alarming that the U.S. is increasingly dependent upon reactionary oil sheiks, misogynistic religious fundamentalists, and authoritarian governments in Central Asia to supply our oil. Now we are becoming food dependent as well, by importing more and more food from China and other nations, including organic foods that can easily be produced here in North America.

On the commercial front we are becoming increasingly dependent upon a military dictatorship, China, which supplies, for example, 71% of all products sold in Wal-Mart, and subsidizes U.S. military expenditures and corporate welfare by buying up U.S. Treasury notes (I.O.U.s) by the billions.

More and more people are starting to understand that the real reason we are occupying and ravaging Iraq is to seize control of their oil, as we enter the era of “Peak Oil” and increasing scarcity. Likewise people understand that the next likely war, in Iran, will be initiated for similar reasons, even though the Bush administration will claim that Iran’s nuclear program poses a threat to American national security. http://www.organicconsumers.org/politics/energy021206.cfm

The right-wing extremists in the Bush administration are not exaggerating when they say that from now on America will be involved in “permanent war.” But of course if we continue to go down this violent and racist path of Empire and global domination, our multi-trillion dollar economy will gradually disintegrate into chaos, along with the global climate. The anti-Iraq war movement in America, just like the climate crisis movement, can learn a valuable lesson from the successes of the organic community: accentuate the positive, reach out to the mainstream, talk about and act on the solutions to problems and crises, don’t just dwell on the gloom and doom.

We stand at a crossroads of great peril, but also of great promise. People are stunned by the constant barrage of bad news in the media, stressed out financially and psychologically, and badly in need of inspiration. We must help ourselves and a critical mass of the body politic break through the psychological trap of looking outside ourselves and our communities for powerful leaders to solve our problems. The Democratic and Republican parties, as presently constituted, cannot save us. The new grassroots Movement we build will have to be strong enough to bring these out-of-control politicians to heel, along with the corporations who, of course, are the real power behind the throne.

As difficult as it may be, we must look in the mirror for leadership, and prepare ourselves to “clean house,” from Main Street to the Middle East. We must all become the messengers of the good news that we can avert climate chaos and permanent war. The solution to the present global crisis is called Energy Independence and Sustainable Production and Consumption. As we walk our talk, put our consumer dollars where our values lie, teach our kids by example, and get organized politically, we must keep repeating our mantra: “…energy independence and the conversion of U.S. and global agriculture, transportation, and utilities to conservation practices and renewable energy.” It’s time to roll up our sleeves and begin.

Please join and support the Organic Consumers Association as we embark on this perilous journey of transformation. http://www.organicconsumers.org/ ### _________________ Ronnie Cummins Organic Consumers Association Executive Director

The evil in the food business

The food industry is all about high production, shelf life, and getting you addicted. Many things about it are evil. Monsanto and ADM, for example. In the process of food distribution nutrients are depleted and the benefits of "fresh" produce diminished as it travels the distribution system. This is all to accomodate Big distributors and Big growers profits. Local is the best. That said you can't get any produce in cold climates in January unless they make a very long trek. You should know that even smaller grocery chains include local products in season.

The BIG problem with the food industry is that Monsanto and others like them are being allowed to alter the genetic code of what we eat worldwide, patent that altered code, allow its pollen to pollute neighbouring organic farms, alter the worlds repository of proven genetics, threaten small farmers with legal action should they plant the seed of the offspring that they did not want in the first place and develop strains that are toxic to humans so they can also be toxic to insect pests. These are Franken Foods.

This is EVIL!

The FDA is culpable as well. Is more poison produce better than less organic produce? Only for corporations. We don't need more food. We need better food.

Are you aware that much of our corn here in America and Mexico has been contaminated by Starlink? Starlink has not been widely tested and it makes its own pesticide, it is only suitable for animal consumption - it fattens them up.

Take corporate control of the nations corn supply so they can convert it to ethanol for fuel instead of food and on and on.

 

 

 

 

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TOXICITY

Detoxing Chemicals and Pollutants for Optimal Health
By Jeff Morris

Are your patients toxic? The answer increasingly appears to be yes-and your job, in order to maintain optimal health and reduce the incidence of the diseases of aging, is to detoxify them. That conclusion is one being reached by more and more anti-aging practitioners, and achieves particular resonance with Rashid O. Buttar, D.O. of Cornelius, NC, and Robert A. Nash, M.D. of Virginia Beach, VA.

"I can now very comfortably and definitively state to you," says Dr. Buttar, "that, in my opinion, based on the evidence, every single chronic insidious disease process is related to one word: toxicity. You cannot address the issues of aging unless you address detoxification." Dr. Buttar, board certified and a diplomat in preventive medicine and clinical metal toxicology, and Vice-Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology, contends that he only recently arrived at this conclusion. "Five years ago I wouldn't have said this, even a year ago I wouldn't have said it. But the more success we've had, the clearer it has become: All chronic disease is toxicity. You get rid of the toxicity and you put out the fire. You may need to rebuild afterward, but you must put the fire out. Conventional medicine is just covering your eyes so you don't see the fire."

Dr. Nash, who is board certified in neurology, pain medicine, and chelation therapy and is Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology, concurs, though perhaps not 100 percent. "Most of the diseases of aging-vascular, most cancers, arthritis and others-have been shown to be associated with toxic metals and persistent organic pollutants. Vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack, plus most of the cancers and macular degeneration, have been directly linked to lead. That's just lead," notes Dr. Nash. And "just lead" is but a minor fraction of the toxic soup in which we have all come to stew.

As Walter J. Crinnion, N.D., chairman of the department of environmental medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Phoenix, wrote six years ago, "Chemical compounds ubiquitous in our food, air, and water are now found in every person. The bioaccumulation of these compounds in some individuals can lead to a variety of metabolic and systemic dysfunctions, and in some cases outright disease states." (Altern Med Rev 2000;5(1):52-63) Dr. Crinnion wrote that some individuals appear to be less able to clear the daily chemical exposure from the body than others, leading to a total load of toxins that exceeds the ability of the body to adapt; at that point, damage to certain organ systems can occur. "The systems most affected by these xenobiotic compounds include the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems." Immunotoxicity, according to Dr. Crinnion, may be the major factor in the increasing rates of asthma, allergies, cancers, and chronic viral infections. But the effects are widespread: "Neurological toxicity can affect cognition, mood, and cause chronic neurological illnesses. Endocrine toxicity can affect reproduction, menses, libido, metabolism, stress-handling ability, glucose regulation, and other important functions."

A 2003 U.S. study by the Centers for Disease Control revealed the presence of 116 chemicals-some of them banned for more than two decades because of toxicity-in people of all ages. In July 2005, the CDC released the third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, which the organization stated was "the most extensive assessment ever made of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment." CDC claims that its Environmental Health Laboratory at the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), using "advanced laboratory science and innovative techniques," has been in the forefront of efforts to assess people's exposure to environmental chemicals. "CDC's highly trained laboratory scientists have built on more than three decades of experience in measuring chemicals directly in people's blood or urine, a process known as biomonitoring." While presenting first-time exposure information for 38 of the 148 chemicals included, the CDC makes clear that "the measurement of an environmental chemical in a person's blood or urine does not by itself mean that the chemical causes disease … separate studies of varying exposure levels and health effects are needed to determine which blood or urine levels result in disease." However, according to Dr. Buttar, "the number one concern among scientists at CDC, which they cannot say publicly, is mercury; number two is arsenic."

The CDC report also makes an important distinction: that the level of chemicals found within the body is a result of the cumulative impact of many different types of exposure. "Concentrations of environmental chemicals in blood or urine are not the same as those in air, water, food, soil, or dust. For example, a chemical concentration of 10 µg/L in water does not produce a level of 10 µg/L in blood or urine. Blood or urine levels may reflect exposure from one or more sources, including air, water, food, soil, and dust. Levels of a chemical in blood and urine are determined by how much of the chemical has entered the body through all routes of exposure, including ingestion, inhalation, or dermal absorption, and how the chemical is distributed in body tissues, transformed into metabolites, and eliminated from the body." Not only does this reinforce the concept that environmental pollutants are ubiquitous in our environment, it also makes the findings more useful from a health standpoint: "Biomonitoring measurements are the most health-relevant assessments of exposure because they measure the amount of the chemical that actually gets into people from all environmental sources combined. With a few exceptions, it is the concentration of the chemical in people that provides the best exposure information to evaluate the potential for adverse health effects," notes the CDC.

The implications of multiple-source exposure are disturbing. Britain's Environmental Toxins Foundation (ETF) states that "more and more research [is] pointing towards mounting evidence of structural and genetic damage, potentially caused to the human morphology, through the huge influx of chemical agents found in the air, soil and water today… As more and more people are made aware of the implications from the accumulation of varying levels of different chemicals in our bodies, the need to monitor and curb the influx of these agents permeating into our daily lives, becomes seemingly obvious. An influx of agents absorbed, ingested and inhaled from the food we eat, the water we drink and from the air we breath… this very crucial issue of: chronic sub-lethal poisoning to our bodies from the: inhalation, ingestion and absorption of heavy metals, inorganic and organic chemical compounds which are increasingly prevalent in our modern environment."

In a paper published in Alternative Therapies, July/August 2005, "Metals in Medicine," Dr. Nash sums up recent developments in his specialty, metal toxicity: "During the past five years, the understanding of vascular disease has changed. Vulnerable plaque has replaced stenotic lesion as the main cause of vascular problems. Questions about the long-term benefits of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery have been raised. Metals have been implicated in many of the diseases of aging as well as in neurodevelopmental diseases and autism spectrum disorders. The American Board of Chelation Therapy (ABCT) has formally changed its name to the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (ABCMT) because of the new scientific association of toxicant metals with multiple diseases." Dr. Nash also explains that with the advent of the industrial revolution, the presence of many metals, such as lead and mercury, in the environment has increased. "Tobacco, which tends to bio-concentrate cadmium, is a major producer of metal. Arsenic has been used in the past in agriculture. Forest fires release metals, especially mercury, from stable seleno-mercurial compounds that are extraordinary stable in the tree during its life. Volcanoes also spew out copious amounts of mercury. One study done with ice core drilling from a glacier in northwest Wyoming collated every major volcanic eruption with a heavy level of mercury. Nature acts as our best filter, with plant life and trees trapping many toxins, including toxicant metals. Between nature and man, we have polluted the planet. Man's pollution is by far the most toxic. We are now paying a price for our environmental neglect. That price appears to be the increasing diseases of aging, such as vascular disease, congestive heart failure, and cancers."

Evidence of the role of environmental toxins in disease continues to pile up. A report detailing new links between environmental toxicants and breast cancer, "State of the Evidence 2004: What Is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer?" concluded that exposure to synthetic chemicals and radiation has contributed more than previously thought to the rising incidence of breast cancer. The report was jointly released October 7, 2004 by the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit environmental health organization, and Breast Cancer Action, a non-profit national education and advocacy organization. It contained new evidence from 21 research studies published since February 2003 adding to existing evidence linking toxicants in the environment to breast cancer, and was peer-reviewed by six leading scientists, including a noted scientist from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization. According to the report, in the past 50 years, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer more than tripled in the United States, to one in seven today. This trend parallels a staggering increase of chemicals in the environment: the report says that "compelling scientific evidence" points to some of the 85,000 synthetic chemicals in use today as contributing to breast cancer by altering hormone function or gene expression. Fewer than one in 10 cases of breast cancer occurs in women born with a genetic predisposition for the disease. As many as 50 percent of breast cancer cases remain unexplained by personal characteristics and other traditionally accepted risk factors; epidemiologists and other scientists increasingly believe many cases are linked to environmental factors. "This [is] the clearest evidence yet that the rise in breast cancer incidence is linked to exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals," said Nancy Evans, a health science consultant for the Breast Cancer Fund and the editor of the report. "Medical X-rays, pesticides, household cleaning products, personal care products and some pharmaceuticals-these are just a few of the multiple and chronic exposures contributing to this epidemic."

Other studies continue in an attempt to determine whether endometriosis, a source of chronic pelvic pain in women, may be caused by environmental agents, including exposure to man-made chemicals such as dioxin and PCBs. As far back as 1992, research showed that endometriosis in monkeys could be caused by exposure to dioxin.

Lynn Tondat Carter, Ph.D., whose doctorate is in physiological psychology and is Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, writes in The Celestine Journal that toxins that directly affect the nervous system, called neurotoxins, also affect our immune functions, since the nervous system is intricately connected to the immune system. "Thus, our very ability to think and feel normally can be drastically affected by exposure to toxins. It does not take a giant leap of logic to realize that we could soon be in such a state of toxic poisoning that we would be unable to 'problem-solve' our way out." Continues Dr. Carter: "In 1989 alone, EPA estimates, in its Toxic Release Inventory National Report, that 1.9 billion pounds of chemical were dumped into our nation's water systems. In that same year, 2.4 billion pounds of chemicals were released into the atmosphere; with the total chemical attack on the environment estimated at 5.7 billion pounds. This is only in one year. According to a recent report by the National Research Council, 70,000 of the chemicals in commercial use today have not even been tested for neurotoxic effects.

Known neurotoxins that we are most commonly exposed to are lead, mercury, cadmium and pesticides. Most of these toxins are colorless and odorless, making sensory detection impossible. While sudden poisoning can result in immediate reactions that are traceable to the source, the symptoms of poisoning from today's pollution may come on more slowly due to a gradual build-up.

Here is just a partial list of common sub-clinical symptoms of toxicity: fatigue, lethargy, depression, headaches, allergies, chronic infection, frequent colds, nervousness, sudden anger, sensitivity to perfume/odors, memory loss and joint pains. Because so many of these symptoms could stem from a multitude of other causes, often toxicity is not readily suspected. With continued exposure, neurotoxins may trigger the expression of a disease for which one has a genetic predisposition. In general, it is thought that toxins pose the most dangerous risk for our children."

Dr. Buttar points to a July 2005 paper, released by the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org), that confirms the worst fear: that the average person does not need to spend years being exposed to environmental pollutants to be affected-nor does the average child. In "Body Burden-The Pollution in Newborns," EWG reports, "Not long ago scientists thought that the placenta shielded cord blood-and the developing baby-from most chemicals and pollutants in the environment. But now we know that at this critical time when organs, vessels, membranes and systems are knit together from single cells to finished form in a span of weeks, the umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol…"

"In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group.

The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied."

EWG goes on to explain why the presence of these substances in umbilical cord blood has such profound and long-lasting implications: Chemical exposures in the womb or during infancy can be dramatically more harmful than exposures later in life. Substantial scientific evidence demonstrates that children face amplified risks from their body burden of pollution; the findings are particularly strong for many of the chemicals found in this study, including mercury, PCBs and dioxins. Children's vulnerability derives from both rapid development and incomplete defense systems:

· A developing child's chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults.
· An immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.
· Children have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, allowing more of a chemical to reach "target organs."
· A baby's organs and systems are rapidly developing, and thus are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.
· Systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not fully developed.
· The longer future life span of a child compared to an adult allows more time for adverse effects to arise.

Most disturbing about these findings to Dr. Buttar is that in every case, mercury was found. The presence of mercury is attributed to pollution from coal-fired power plants, mercury-containing products, and certain industrial processes. It accumulates in seafood. And, though you might think the mercury problem has been abated, Dr. Nash cites a November 17, 2004 Wall Street Journal article by Matt Pottinger, Steve Stecklow and John J. Fialka describing the high levels of mercury that are now being spread, particularly by massive industrial development in China. As the article states, "Mercury and other pollutants from China's more than 2,000 coal-fired power plants soar high into the atmosphere and around the globe on what has become a transcontinental conveyor belt of bad air. North America and Europe add their own dirty loads to the belt. But Asia, pulsating with the economic rebirth of China and India, is the largest contributor."

It further explains: Scientists long assumed mercury settled into the ground or water soon after it spewed forth as a gas from smokestacks. But using satellites, airplanes and supercomputers, scientists are now tracking air pollution with unprecedented precision, discovering plumes of soot, ozone, sulfates and mercury that drift eastward across oceans and continents…The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently reported that a third of the country's lakes and nearly a quarter of its rivers are now so polluted with mercury that children and pregnant women are advised to limit or avoid eating fish caught there. Warnings about mercury, a highly toxic metal used in things ranging from dental fillings to watch batteries, have been issued by 45 states and cover four of the five Great Lakes. Some scientists now say 30% or more of the mercury settling into U.S. ground soil and waterways comes from other countries - in particular, China…Mining, waste incineration and coal combustion emit the metal in the form of an invisible gas. After it rains down and seeps into wetlands, rivers and lakes, microbes convert it into methylmercury, a compound that works its way up the food chain into fish and eventually people.

The EWG report states, "Methylmercury exposure in the womb causes measurable declines in brain function in children exposed to levels corresponding to 58 parts per billion in maternal blood (NAS 2000b). Researchers in the Netherlands found a doubling in the risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease at methylmercury hair levels of 2 mg/kg, which corresponds to about one fifth the assumed safe maternal blood level (Salonen, et al. 1995). Increased diastolic and systolic blood pressure and decreased heart rate variability in developmentally exposed children have also been observed at doses below what the EPA considers a safe maternal blood level (NAS 2000b, Sorensen et al. 1999)."

The Wall Street Journal reinforces this: "The dangers of significant methylmercury exposure to the nervous system are well documented, particularly in fetuses and children. Permanent harm to children can range from subtle deficits in memory and attention span to mental retardation. In January [2004], EPA scientists released research indicating that 630,000 U.S. babies born during a 12-month period in 1999-2000 had potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood - about twice as many babies as previously estimated."

Among the possible implications of mercury and other toxins cited by EWG: Major nervous system disorders. Several recent studies have determined that the reported incidence of autism is increasing, and is now almost 10 times higher than in the mid-1980's (Byrd 2002, Chakrabarti and Fombonne 2001). The number of children being diagnosed and treated for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has also increased dramatically in the past decade (Robison et al. 1999, Robison et al. 2002, Zito et al. 2000). The causes are largely unexplained, but environmental factors, including chemical exposures, are considered a likely contributor. Environmental factors have also been increasingly linked with Parkinson's disease (Checkoway and Nelson 1999, Engel et al. 2001).

In "Metals in Medicine," Dr. Nash goes into more detail: Mercury is known to affect the brain and has been associated with the causation or exacerbation of degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease... mercury is associated with autism, the degenerative diseases of the brain mentioned above, neurodevelopmental diseases, vascular diseases, nephrotoxicity, and cancer.

[Clarkson TW, Magos L, Myers GJ. The toxicology of mercury-current exposures and clinical manifestations.N Engl J Med. 2003;349(18):1731-1737] points out that "the fetal brain is more susceptible than the adult brain to mercury induced damage." Specifically, methylmercury "inhibits the division and migration of neuronal cells" and "disrupts the cytoarchitecture of the developing brain." Recent studies have correlated the explosive increase of autism with thimerosal, an additive to many vaccines that contains 50% ethyl mercury. This issue of a connection between thimerosal and autism has been of particular concern to both Dr. Buttar and Dr. Nash.

As we reported in the June 14, 2005 issue of the e-Journal, Dr. Buttar testified in 2004 before a congressional subcommittee hearing sponsored by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) about the connection between heavy metals-particularly mercury-and autism. Dr. Buttar discussed the chelation therapy he had offered his own son, who had a profound developmental delay and is now an example of how autism can be fully and permanently reversed in some children. Dr. Nash was one of a number of experts who joined with Rep. Burton's House Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness to refute the findings published in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Immunization Safety Review Committee's Vaccines and Autism report of May 18, 2004. In that report, the eighth and final in a series designed to examine the safety of vaccines that contain thimerosal, the IOM Committee concluded, "The body of epidemiological evidence favors the rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism," even though the Committee had in a 2001 report called such a causal relationship, "biologically plausible." The Committee based its final conclusions on their review of approximately 10 previously conducted epidemiological studies. Of those roughly 10 studies, 5 reported probable links between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, yet those 5 were summarily dismissed because the Committee determined the manner in which they were conducted was flawed. At that time, Rep. Burton stated, "I believe the [IOM] findings are heavily biased, and unrepresentative of all the available scientific and medical research. I think it is highly irresponsible for the IOM Immunization Safety Review Committee to purport definitive findings to the American public, which are based on selective scientific studies that are greatly flawed to begin with."

The NIH describes chelation is a chemical process in which a substance is used to bind molecules, such as metals or minerals, and hold them tightly so that they can be removed from a system, such as the body. In medicine, says the NIH, chelation has been scientifically proven to rid the body of excess or toxic metals. For example, a person who has lead poisoning may be given chelation therapy in order to bind and remove excess lead from the body before it can cause damage.

Chelation therapy has been a keystone of Dr. Buttar's treatment program, with which he has reported great success in improving the prospects for autistic children. His Advanced Concepts in Medicine clinic specializes in treating cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions in patients refractory to conventional treatments, with a special emphasis on the interrelationship between metal toxicity and insidious disease processes. With his newfound conviction that every chronic disease is related to toxicity, Dr. Buttar's treatment philosophy is likely to take on even greater significance. As he puts it, "These aren't my theories, these things have been out there. What we have done is taken that hypothesis and figured out how to remove those toxins. The problem is the simplicity of it makes most people say it can't be-it's more complicated." Dr. Buttar does not limit toxicity to only metal and chemical pollutants, however. He categorizes toxins into five groups, of which the first three, he says, are measurable, with the last two being "more esoteric":

1. Metals - The CDC list of metal pollutants includes Antimony Barium Beryllium Cadmium Cesium Cobalt Lead Mercury Molybdenum Platinum Tungsten Thallium Uranium
2. Organic pollutants - benzines, hydrocarbons, etc.
3. Opportunistics - bacteria, virus, yeast; these need an opportunity to set up house, and find it in immune systems damaged from toxicity groups 1 and 2.
4. Energy - electromagnetics cause a disruption in our resonance; microwaves are the most dangerous.
5. Spiritual, psychological, emotional - someone who is not "whole," lacking something. Explains Dr. Buttar, "We've gotten cancer patients to the point that everything is fine, but their 'time is up'; patients who on autopsy show no evidence of cancer, but still died."

Dr. Nash noted in "Metals in Medicine" that the effects of toxicant metals on human health have been reported in peer-reviewed literature with increasing frequency; they are present in many diseases of aging, especially vascular diseases. And though historical experience of toxicologists who treated individuals poisoned by acutely toxicant metals is waning-very few of these cases have been reported during the past 30 years in the U.S.-researchers with a special interest in clinical metal toxicology have noticed a clinical correlation between metal detoxification by chelation therapy and clinical improvement of vascular diseases.

In 2002, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), both components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the Trial To Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT). TACT is the first large-scale, multicenter study to determine the safety and efficacy of EDTA chelation therapy for individuals with coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease. The principal investigator for the trial is Gervasio A. Lamas, M.D., director of cardiovascular research and academic affairs at Mount Sinai Medical Center-Miami Heart Institute, Miami Beach, a board-certified cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at University of Miami School of Medicine. Dr. Nash is serving on the NIH Data and Safety Management Board of the study- "I am one of seven on the panel to oversee this study, for safety reasons," he says. Investigators enrolled the first participants in September 2003. The study will take approximately five years to complete.

Dr. Nash says he can only speak with authority on metal detoxification, but in his view, the "big 4" metal toxins are lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. "All four are easily detected by provoked urine testing," says Dr. Nash. "We're finding in excess of 95 percent of the population over 50 has large amounts of toxic metals in the body when provoked urine testing is performed." The treatment he recommends is to detoxify the body of these metals. Dr. Nash hopes the group of professionals to which he belongs, called clinical metal toxicologists, can provide better disease management by using a new standard of preventive care. "Look at the cost of treatment. Most of the cost-up to 60 percent of Medicare-goes to heroic efforts during the last six months of life. Most of us feel that money should be spent on true diagnosis as well as better disease management. We feel that we need to detoxify as best we can, and provide patients with adequate micro and macro dietary intake to provide building blocks to build up their own immune systems."

Of particular concern to those treating the diseases of aging is the possible connection between mercury and Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Nash notes, "Some of the [mercurous] vapors [from dental amalgams] reach the brain via the ethmoid sinuses. Is it coincidental that Alzheimer's disease has shown degenerative tracts often following the olfactory connections?…There is increasing evidence of mercury associated with Alzheimer's disease. (see "smoking teeth")

Dr. Boyd Haley, Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, University of Kentucky, has published multiple papers on his research since the late 1980s. He has successfully reproduced the changes seen in Alzheimer's disease in the brain homogenate of normal brains with the addition of mercury, in the form of both mercury chloride and thimerosal." Some people hypothesize that mercury may contribute to autism on one end of the lifespan and Alzheimer's on the other end, Dr. Nash told us. "I'm not convinced that mercury is the sole cause, but other factors may be involved. It could be a genetic thing. It appears there is a third of the people who are genetically prone to not getting rid of the metals, who may be most susceptible for Alzheimer's disease."

In his article, Dr. Nash goes on to conclude, "The work of Haley, Aposhian, Godfrey, and others makes a strong case that mercury may cause or at the very least exacerbate Alzheimer's disease. Studies looking at toxic metals, especially mercury, as a possible cause for Alzheimer's disease need to be conducted. The clinical metal toxicologists have clinical experience that early metal detoxification will often stabilize and even reverse early Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed." As with other integrative practitioners, Dr. Nash sees the necessity for a fundamental change in the way medicine approaches disease. "We need to find out what is causative of diseases of aging. This will take time, but we have not had an adequate prevention of diseases. Most patients who see doctors do not have diseases, they have symptoms. Doctors know symptoms don't kill folks, but they placate patients with medications to ease symptoms. The mechanism is straightforward; in the clinical setting you can shift the physician's mindset from only treating the symptoms of disease, to understand that these diseases have correlates that we have never recognized." Dr. Nash believes that recognition of causative factors of disease is a trend that is spreading worldwide.

In "Metals in Medicine" he concludes, "Toxicant metals are increasingly being associated with multiple disease states…The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have authorized payment for in-office, intravenous metals detoxification in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia, as well as the Indian Health Service. This is a great opportunity to collect meaningful data directly from patients. It is known that dialysis can be delayed at least two or three years by repeated in-office, intravenous metals detoxification; it is hoped that all prospective dialysis patients would be tested for toxicant metals and treated appropriately.

If detoxification of toxicant metals can become the standard in time, our health may improve markedly.

Could toxicant metals be a diagnosable and treatable risk factor in many of the diseases affecting this nation?

The clinical metal toxicologists are the experts in low-dose, chronic accumulation of toxicant metals and the symptomatic reversal observed with treatment. Many clinical metal toxicologists are participating in the NIH's TACT study. More research is needed in the basic science mechanisms of toxicant metals and common diseases. Additional clinical research, besides the TACT study, is also needed." I believe toxicant metals and their detection and detoxification will be one of the exciting new fields in medicine. I have great hope for the future of medicine," adds Dr. Nash. End

(A little FYI from Dr. Susan - who has been working with heavy metal toxicity for about 18 years now. This article reinforces the anti-aging detoxification philosophy. This is exactly what I encourage patients to do! Go to "How do I detox?" and read about NCD)

 

Toxic Formaldehyde:
Lurking in All These Secret Household Locations!

by SixWise.com

Formaldehyde, the colorless, strong-smelling gas often associated with embalming fluid or preservatives in medical labs, is much more commonly used than most consumers realize. In fact, chances are high that you've already inhaled or absorbed some today just by going about your morning routine. The idea of brushing your teeth or washing your hair with formaldehyde-infested products is unpleasant, to say the least, but it's also a real health danger.

Formaldehyde, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is a toxic cancer-causing substance (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies it as a probable human carcinogen). It sure looks nice ... but this room is largely made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which the EPA says emits more formaldehyde fumes than any other pressed wood product. The primary ways people are exposed to this poisonous substance is by inhaling its vapors from the air or absorbing liquids that contain it through the skin.

Here are some of the common sources that may be in your home:

· Personal care products (shampoo, toothpaste, mascara, air fragrances, aftershave, cosmetics, nail polish)
· "No-iron" durable-press clothing, fabrics and draperies
· Plywood and particleboard used to build homes
· Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) used for cabinets and furniture
· Glues and adhesives
· Paints and coatings
· Certain insulation materials (urea-formaldehyde foam and fiberglass)
· Automobile emissions
· Emissions from burning wood, kerosene or natural gas
· Cigarette smoke How Much Formaldehyde Does it Take to Cause Health Issues?

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as few as 0.1 parts per million (ppm) of formaldehyde in air can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat, stuffy nose, nausea, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, skin rashes and allergic reactions.

The EPA says, "It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans." And as with most chemicals, whereas some people will have a relatively high "tolerance" and not show noticeable symptoms when exposed, others may be extremely sensitive. There have been documented cases of people who have had allergic or asthmatic reactions to formaldehyde just from wearing durable-press clothing that contains the substance.

No-iron pants and shirts may save you time ironing, but they also outgas formaldehydes fumes for you to inhale throughout the day. Although CPSC says that formaldehyde levels in indoor and outdoor air are usually less than 0.03 ppm, this level can vary tremendously depending on the products in your home. One of the biggest concerns comes from pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins.

The worst of these is medium-density fiberboard (often used for drawer fronts, cabinets and furniture tops), as it's known to emit more formaldehyde fumes than any other pressed wood product. Fortunately, since 1985 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has required that prefabricated and mobile homes be built only from plywood and particleboard that conform to specified formaldehyde emission limits, however homes built prior to this had no such standards. Another concern is urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) that was widely used in the 1970s.

According to the EPA, many homes with this insulation were found to have high indoor levels of formaldehyde. Few homes use this product today, however, and UFFI formaldehyde emissions decline over time so older homes with UFFI are not likely to be emitting high levels today.

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Formaldehyde

Alarmingly, even with the newer safeguards in place, the EPA says that, "In homes with significant amounts of new pressed wood products, levels [of formaldehyde] can be greater than 0.3 ppm." Remember that CPSC found health effects occurred with levels as low as 0.1 ppm. The EPA also says that, "Average concentrations in older homes without UFFI are generally well below 0.1 ppm." But what about homes that do have UFFI or a combination of UFFI and pressed wood products? And, what these estimates fail to take into account are the exposures we're receiving directly from personal care products we apply directly to our bodies. Avoid the typical commercial cosmetics & personal care products, which contain multiple potentially toxic chemicals including for many formaldehyde. Use safe, natural cosmetics and body care products instead.

Now reducing your exposure to this cancer-causing substance as much as possible is a prudent choice. Here are some tips, from the EPA and the CPSC, to reduce formaldehyde levels in your home.

· Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers regularly (high temperatures and humidity increase formaldehyde emissions).
· Make sure your home is well ventilated, especially after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home.
· Use an air cleaning and purification system in your home that utilizes natural "photocatalysis" process.
· Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (they emit less formaldehyde) or avoid pressed wood products altogether.
· Buy furniture or cabinets that are mostly laminated or coated (unlaminated, or raw, pressed wood panels generally emit more formaldehyde).
· Wash durable-press fabrics before wearing them.
· Opt for natural cosmetics and body care products.

 

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