Tuesday, May 31, 2005

If the sun doesn’t kill you, the sunscreen will

It’s been unseasonably sunny and hot here in the BC rainforest this spring, which prompted me to buy sunscreen last weekend. I bought two tubes: a water-proof/sweat-proof version and a sensitive skin version of the same brand.

When I got home I checked the active ingredients of each tube and found that in the water-proof/sweat-proof tube, two of the four active ingredients are ranked in the top twenty most toxic ingredients added to sunscreen. So I took that tube back to the store.

The clerk asked me why I was returning the product.

“Because two of the ingredients are highly toxic,” I said.

She filled in the “Reason for Return” space with “Don’t want.”

I left the store and was immediately disappointed in myself. Why hadn’t I pushed to have the clerk write down my actual reason for returning the product?

And then I had an idea. What if consumers:

  1. targeted one personal care product manufacturer (I’d start with Dove since they’re on an advertising blitz and just asking for some earned media attention);
  2. purchased that company’s most toxic products (the Face Care Essential Nutrients group of lotions, cleansers, creams and toners are particularly poisonous); and then
  3. returned the products stating “toxic ingredients” as the reason.

If enough people did this, it could make a difference… and it would be fun!

To find out how toxic the ingredients in your personal care products are, visit the Environmental Working Group sub-site Skin Deep and do a safety assessment of the crap in your medicine cabinet. Don’t be afraid to throw the poisonous products out!

Wash with water and milk. Clean your pores with honey. Tone with vinegar. (Actually, I’m making this part up. Better ask Grandma what she used to use to stay clean and smelling good during the war. I bet her secrets were safer, cheaper and just as effective as the processed stuff we buy today.)

If I had any programming ability, I’d figure out how to take the EWG’s fantastic database and add it to PDAs, so consumers could check ingredients while standing in the aisles of the pharmacy or supermarket.

And then the guerilla-media-types could put super-sticky, danger-red warning stickers on the products that contain cancer-causing ingredients…and green “this product is safe” stickers on the products that don’t add to our body’s toxic loads. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Meningitis (Marketing) can Strike out of the Blue

So, I’m thinking it may be fun and worthwhile to focus this blog simply on deconstructing CNN health stories…it may be too narrow a focus, but given the crap I regularly read from that news source, I’d never be without something to write about.

The CNN propaganda that informs today’s blog focuses on a new meningitis vaccine.
(Poor Leslie, the anecdotal focus of the news story, contracted meningitis at 8-years old and has been left with scars on her shoulders and knees. She urges everyone to get the new meningitis vaccine.)

Where to start? Back in 1983. That was the year that I contracted meningococcal meningitis. I spent about a week in hospital. Spinal tap. Whole deal. My case falls into the classic high risk formula in that I was living in a dorm at the time. None of the other girls I bunked with (four to a room) or I shared a floor with (about forty 16- and 17-year olds) got sick.

Maybe the health or hospital care in England in 1983 was better than it is in the USA today…maybe my infection was not as bad as the cases I read about in the paper…maybe I started out healthier than the kids who have permanent damage or die from meningitis…or maybe I was just lucky. I don’t expect we’ll ever know.

But it is my own anecdotal experience with meningococcal meningitis that informs my skepticism about this new vaccine. It’s so easy to parade out the worst-case scenario to make a point about the horrors of a disease and the miracle that is the new cure.

So, back to my fave health news source and the article in question. How dangerous is this disease? CNN reports:

Although meningococcal meningitis affects only about 3,000 people nationwide each year, it kills a fifth of adolescents who get it.

“Nationwide” refers to the USA, of course. Population of the USA these days is just shy of 300 million. So in the whole population of the USA, about 1 in every 100,000 people will contract meningococcal meningitis each year. Not very high risks, really.

But wait, it kills a fifth of adolescents who get it. That’s 20 percent. But not 20 percent of 3,000 (which would be 600 adolescents a year) since the 3,000 is the total number of cases of ALL Americans, no matter how old they are.

Why aren’t we told the death stats for that full 3,000 people who contract meningitis? Do adults or babies who have the infection fare better, worse or the same as adolescents? Why is CNN using this wonky, potentially misleading math?

Probably because the goal of the story is to generate support for vaccinating 8 million US kids with this new vaccine – “11- to 12-year-olds, students entering high school and college freshmen headed for dorm life.”

Perhaps the best question is, "how many kids from the target population for this new vaccine contract this form of meningitis each year?"

The meningococcal meningitis vaccine just received FDA approval in January this year, which means that the marketing of the vaccine (including selling fear about the disease) is just getting started.

Watch for more scare-mongering in the months to come – when news in August is slow and “back-to-school” stories start to fill the pages, I'll bet we see lots of articles calling for the target populations of students to get their meningitis shots.

My call to parents is simply this: Ask your doctor the following question:

What are the potential side effects of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine?

Like all vaccines, it will not be benign. The drug-maker will have recorded adverse reactions while the vaccine was being tested. Find out what those reactions were and how prevalent they were. Find out if any groups of kids fared worse than others (medical background, cultural background, income level).

If your doctor can’t answer you, ask to see the product monograph before allowing your child to roll up his or her sleeve. It’s called, “Informed Consent” and in neither Canada nor the US is it very well-understood or practiced when it comes to the sacred culture of vaccines.

Friday, May 27, 2005

A Lesson in Fear Mongering

Those wily government folk are at it again, creating fear out of thin air by manipulating statistics and comparing apples with roast beef.

CNN just ran an article with the headline, Experts Say Flu Pandemic is Imminent. It’s a short enough article, with enough outrageously manipulative statements that I feel like deconstructing the whole damn thing. The CNN article is in red. My commentary in black.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Health experts warn that things are falling into place for a global flu pandemic like the one in 1918 that killed tens of millions of people worldwide. They say it might not be quite as extreme, but by all calculations, will be very dangerous.

Who are these experts? What are their credentials? What method have they used to calculate the dangers of the imminent flu pandemic? Anyone who lives in Ontario or British Columbia will no doubt recall the fear-mongering that accompanied the SARS outbreak of two years ago. A couple of dozen people died from a respiratory illness. The media and health officials were comparing SARS to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Hello? Tens of millions of deaths in 1918 and a couple dozen people warrants this kind of comparison? This is a tactic to ensure the public readily accepts, nay, demands government to intervene and develop a vaccine.

"We're staring down the barrel of a loaded gun and that gun is ready to fire," said Rep. MichaelFerguson, R-New Jersey, at a congressional hearing Thursday.

This is a great “red-meat” quote by a politician. Again, what are his population health credentials? Dammit, Jim, he’s a politician, not a doctor. His image of the loaded gun is very effective at creating the impression that anyone who comes in contact with this inevitable flu will die…not many people are shot point blank in the eye and survive. Fear-mongering.
Health officials at the hearing agreed. They believe a flu pandemic is inevitable and it will likely come from the bird flu that is spreading in Asia.

Still no idea who these health officials are. Are they drug-makers? Are they share-holders in the company that will stand up and save the day by creating a vaccine? Who are they? Why are their opinions more credible than mine? What data do they have to support their claims?
That flu is dangerous because it is a strain that most humans have never been exposed to, so there is no natural immunity and there is no vaccine.

It didn’t take long – just 125 words – before the miracle vaccine is introduced. But in those 125 words great fear has been created – or at least the seeds of concern have been sowed. Oh my, we have no natural immunity to this flu…in fact, we have no natural immunity to most strains of the flu since it’s always changing…at least, I believe that’s true. But I’m happy to be corrected on that point.
But now it's infecting humans. The virus first spread from bird to bird; then some of the people who work with the birds became infected. Fifty-three people died.

Get this manipulative tactic: Humans are now being infected…Fifty-three people have died. It’s not millions (or even hundreds) but people are dying. This is a little scarier – but wait! Read on and find out that…
So far, avian flu has only spread from person to person twice. But if that becomes more frequent, experts say, a pandemic could be imminent.

Ahhh…only TWO people have caught it from another human being. The others have caught the flu from birds. Most of them work with birds in conditions that would appall even folks who know how KFC chickens spend their lives.
The health officials laid out for a congressional committee what they are doing to prepare treatments and a vaccine. The news wasn't good.

Am I the only person who at this point is wondering if there even are any health officials? Not a single quote from these mysterious, unnamed doomsdayers…
A vaccine is in development but since it has to be matched to the flu strain once it's spreading in the human population, it would take six months after the first cases to complete it.

Now I’m confused. I thought we just learned that two people have contracted this pandemic flu strain from humans. It’s now spreading in the human population according to a couple of paragraphs ago. So, all we need is six months from the first cases to have the vaccine made. We must be well on our way since I heard about those human-to-human transmissions ages ago. Why is the reporter saying "it would take" when the process must already be underway? To create more tension, perhaps?
"It isn't as if overnight we'd be able to get a vaccine for everyone who is going to need a vaccine," said Dr.Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of health.

Finally, one of the health experts speaks! And what a gem of a quote. It also isn’t as if we’d NEED a vaccine overnight, either, would we Dr.Fauci? And who are the “everyone” who will need the vaccine? Is it, “everyone?” Or will it be “people who live in rural areas where avian farming is prominent?” Or will it be “people in China where the flu is now making rounds?” Or could it be “people whose last name has the prefix or suffix ‘bird’ in it?”
Treatment isn't easy either. There is one drug available now that works against this type of flu, but it needs to be given within 48 hours of infection.

Again, mucho confusion. Two paragraphs ago I was lead to believe that it WOULD take six months to develop the vaccine after the first cases are identified. And now I learn that the drug is already available! So there’s a vaccine that works! I don’t need to be as scared, do I? If I start to feel sick, I’ll see my doctor and get the shot.
"When you start getting the flu it's hard to distinguish it from any other upper respiratory infections so most people don't realize they have flu until past the 48 hour window," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Or maybe I won’t get the vaccine because I may not realize that I’m about to drop dead from the avian flu pandemic that could be as devastating as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people worldwide. Please! By the time the avian flu hits North America the public will be so scared that they’ll be getting vaccines and taking drugs for every sneeze and tickle in their throat. I’ll take bets on it!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Attention! Attention! What will it take to get your attention?

I received a personal reply to my post about AHDH and behaviour problems of little kids. The writer is a speech therapist. I thought she made some good points, some of which may be contradictory to the position I took in my post. So here, with her permission, is another perspective of the whole “what to do with kids who have trouble in school” challenge:

I'm on the fence here, working with kids and seeing how their inability to attend can affect their lives and their relationships with other kids. For some kids (a rare few) Ritalin has been a blessing. Not for the teachers, but for the kids, because they can focus enough to learn, and that is empowering.

Attention problems are a complex issue. It's not always a matter of "misbehaving" when they are in school. It's a matter of learning. Some kids are truly unable to attend, for various reasons, and so have a really hard time learning, which can have a huge impact on their self esteem, leading to depression, aggression etc, etc. etc.

It's important to look at the causes too, and at the impact inability to sustain attention can have on a child's life if they don't learn to manage their own attention in those early preschool years. And there are lots of things about our current culture that make it difficult for them to learn those skills when that window of opportunity is open in their developing brains.

Attention focussing/sustaining is a learned behaviour (achieving and sustaining beta wave brain activity)... as is impulsivity. It is learned partly by personal preference/style, opportunity and practice, and partly by imitation. And it is learned or not learned long before the child ever gets to school.

There are many, many things in children's early environments that can interfere with this learning process, by deliberately manipulating their attention externally, preventing them from taking time to reflect on what they see and hear, which builds attention skills. I also wonder about the current trend among parents to "multitask." It's not setting a good example for kids, re: focussing and sustaining attention.

Two good articles that explore how children's early environments can effect their ability to pay attention are Toddler TV Time May Shorten Attention Spans and Attention Problems Due to TV Before 3.

I think the reason most of these problems come up in school is that it is so language-based, vs. watching videos, playing sports, manipulating concrete objects in play, etc. Language means listening, and listening is time-sensitive.

If we want to spend a lot of time reflecting on visual information (pictures, written words) we have all the time in the world. Except for fast paced videos, which are artificial, most of the things we see are more permanent and we can go back and look at them again, or gaze for a long time while processing the information. But when someone's talking, their words go by in a fraction of a second, then they're gone.

If our attention wanders, the opportunity to learn from the unattended words is lost. Yes, the teacher can repeat, and does, often. But there are still some children who process slowly or can't remember what they hear (due to middle ear infections in preschool years interfering with learned listening skills? or a preference for visual sensory information that causes their attention to be pulled away from listening by tempting visual distractions?)

Listening is hard work for some kids. But it's a critical skill for all of us.I'd like to see a better informed public about preventing the problems... and a lot of research on non-chemical ways of teaching kids to focus, to sustain that beta wave activity... biofeedback comes to mind.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Vaccines: There are significant risks for kids

Here’s a letter-to-the-editor that I wish I had written. From the Florida Times-Union, May 24, 2005 by Bruce R. Anderson Jr., Attorney, Jacksonville Beach.

I respectfully disagree with a recent letter from two doctors encouraging parents to immunize their children because the "benefits of immunization far outweigh the small risks."

Despite the fact that vaccines have reduced serious childhood infections, we do our children and ourselves a disservice when we fail to research the significant risks of permanent injury and death from vaccines.

We should demand from our pediatricians and health care providers the same degree of testing and informed consent for vaccinations that is provided for any other medical procedure.

Vaccines are a complex mix of viral proteins, preservatives, additives and residuals from chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Thimerosal, a sterilizer and preservative, is made with 49.6 percent organic mercury, a known neurotoxin.

Five years ago, the federal government disclosed that the levels of mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines given to children exceeded federal safety limits for adults by up to 50 times per shot.

Parents of vaccine-injured children bear the heavy burden of providing for medical care, therapies and educational programs, yet have received no reasonable explanation for the continued use of mercury in flu and other vaccines given to our children.

Contrary to the letter writers' assurances, animal and test tube studies published in respected medical journals by independent physicians and researchers have provided biological evidence of a causal connection between autism and other developmental disorders and thimerosal-containing vaccines.

Since 1988, the number of vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends before a child reaches 2 years of age has nearly tripled.

Simultaneously, we have seen asthma rates double, diabetes rates triple and autism rates grow from a rare incidence of one in 10,000 births to one in 166 today. Today, one in every six American children has a developmental disorder or behavioral

Vaccines can be made safer. The one-size-fits-all vaccine policy and schedule that the CDC and FDA promote is not justified by weighing the benefits of immunization against the risk of death and injury to some of our children. How can anyone claim the moral authority to write off an unknown number of children to death or severe vaccine injuries for the benefit of the rest of the population?

The recent parent movement for informed consent and safer vaccines and vaccine policies should not be dismissed as anti-vaccine or extremist.

Informed parents may determine that it is in their child's best interests to delay some or all vaccinations until their child is older and stronger, until safer vaccines are produced or not to vaccinate at all.

Doctors should work with parents to make informed decisions for each child, separate from any consideration of protecting the entire population.

No one should attempt to scare parents into vaccinating their children without making an informed decision based only on the best interest of each child.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You Can’t Beat Texas…for the Most Autistic Kids

Well, no matter where you stand on the issue of why autism rates are increasing in the USA (Is it caused by vaccine damage? Is it due to bad parenting? Is it simply better screening?), these stats are shocking. I do wonder, though, given that autism is so broad in how it effects kids (some kids can barely function while others are very high functioning) if these stats create a more frightening picture than need be…fear-mongering being a favourite pass-time of so many organizations.

The full, original data is available The Autism Autoimmunity Project , with numbers for every state. Here are just a couple of the shocker stats:

One of my favourite states, New Hampshire, had the highest overall increase in autism rates: In 2003 there were 585 autistic kids aged 6 to 21. In 2004 there were 912 kids of that same age diagnosed with autism. That’s a 58% increase in one year. And for the 3 to 5 year old age group the number of autistic kids in New Hampshire jumped from 82 to 120 (a 46% increase).

And the state that boasts the most autistic kids? GWB’s home state of Texas. In 2003 there were 10,354 6 to 21 year olds with autism and in 2004 there were 12,412. And for the wee 3 to 5 year olds it jumped from 1,586 up to 1,824.

Back to the 6 to 21 year olds: nationally, if you compare all the kids in that age group in with autism, who were being served by the Individuals With Disabilities Discrimination Act in 1992 and 2003 you jump from 12,222 kids to 140,920 kids…a 1,000% increase.

Something scary is going on, for sure. This can’t be attributed simply to better screening. We can’t put the blame for that kind of increase on overbearing mothers. What we really need to see is a state-by-state, year-over-year analysis to start to understand exactly how these increases have happened.

  • Was there a big jump in one year to the next or has it been a steady increase?
  • Were there any new, widely-used pediatric products introduced over this period (more vaccines? New cough medicine? Some kind of widely eaten convenience food?)?
  • Did anything change in agriculture that could be responsible, like genetically modified foods or new types of pesticides and herbicides?
  • Are there any groups of kids that are more likely to suffer from autism than others (rural versus urban? Hispanic versus Caucasian versus Asian versus versus versus…? Rich versus poor?).
You get the picture.

With such shocking numbers, I’m kind of surprised that the American public hasn’t called on government to figure out why and how kids are being harmed in such huge numbers. I say that yet I have no idea what the autism rates are in Canada, where I live…I guess if we’re not directly impacted it’s just too easy to ignore what could be a huge social problem over the next generation if these numbers continue to rise at the same rate as they have been over the last decade.

Monday, May 23, 2005

When Baby Einstein Bites

Today is my son’s 9th birthday. He asked to open his presents at the hour he was born…sure, as long as I can sleep in. He’s been up since 5:30 this morning, building and playing with his new Star Wars lego and Bionicle characters. The kid can spend 8 hours focused on this kind of play…but can he focus for ten minutes on writing one thank you card to his grand mother? Not on your life! Not because he’s a bad kid, or a stupid kid, or a defiant kid…but simply because he’s a kid!

Which leads me to today’s post and the terribly sad story that ran in yesterday’s New York Times Week in Review about toddlers being kicked out pre-school. (If you want to read the full article, visit it soon – it won’t be free for long!)

Basically, in the USA, six in every thousand wee tykes is being kicked out of pre-school for bad behaviour. That’s about one in every 167 toddlers. The journalist does a great job of pointing the finger almost at the right culprit: it’s not the kids’ fault, nor the parents. She blames the daycare structure and too much emphasis on teaching kids marketable skills (like how to read and write) at too young an age.

I’d go one step back and blame some bigger societal structures and, maybe even, US-style capitalism… daycares are just responding to what the marketplace has convinced parents to want. Parents want what is best for their kids. And I’m thinking with all the Baby Einstein products available now, that parents have been hoodwinked into believing that a kid’s academic achievements are more important than their social skills, emotional intelligence, self-esteem…and we wonder why 11 million American children are taking antidepressants?

I am lucky that my sweet son is naturally inclined to being “good in school” even without effort on his part. It has allowed me to feel totally comfortable with pulling him from classes for a week, every year around this time, to live among activists on a small island, to absorb intangibles like passion for a belief, commitment to a cause, and connection of self to earth. Knowledge that’s hard to pick up in a classroom but, I believe, critical to being a well-rounded and happy person.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saturday Morning Stats – Big Pharma Advertising

It would be great fun to have my act together to write a weekly, Saturday Morning Stats column. Little ditties to launch discussion over weekend brunch, or at half-time.

“Hey Joe, did you know that something like 35% of men complain about having a soft penis during intercourse and that, like 90% of the men who tale to their doctor and get a drug are happy with the results?”

“Dave, dude, I can’t believe you’re falling for that BS. I just read some stats at that Adisen blog that Viagra is the most heavily advertised drug on the market. Men’s dicks are fine, man. It’s the power of suggestion that’s making all those sorry slobs think they aren’t good enough in bed. Get a grip.”

You get the picture.

In honour of my dad, who is celebrating his 65th birthday today, and has not been suckered by the pharma ads that have convinced most (insured) seniors that need meds to get out of bed in the morning, here’s my first Saturday Morning Stats entry.

Big Pharma Advertising
  1. Number of different television ads that Big Pharma produced and ran in 2004: 485
  2. Number of these ads that were submitted for review by the FDA: 143
  3. Number of hours the average American adult will spend watching television in 2004: 1,669 (that’s about 70 days, or 10 weeks of watching TV 24 hours a day…)
  4. Amount of money Pfizer spent on newspaper, magazine, radio, and TV ads in the first 3 months of 2003: $223.6 million
  5. Amount of money Pfizer spent on newspaper, magazine, radio, and TV ads in the first 3 months of 2004: $274.7 million (I guess the ads must be driving sales or they wouldn’t be increasing their investment in this area)

I have sources for all these stats…but it’s Saturday morning and it’s a sunny day and creating all the web links is just beyond my ability at this moment. So if you want the source material…send me an email and I’ll get it to you. Or post a comment and I'll reply on Monday.

Eat well and get outside this weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Has Johnnie taken his Kiddie-Cocaine today?

So, you have a boy child and he’s a handful in school. His kindergarten teacher asks you to take him to see a doctor, to determine if said child can be diagnosed and treated for his disruptive behaviour. You see your doctor and within 10 minutes your 5-year old has become one of America’s statistics: a kid taking a prescribed methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or Amphetamine (Adderall).

You give him daily pills. He settles down. Teacher’s happy. Boy is easier to parent. All is good in the world.

Yeah, maybe…

But what is the message that we’re sending to (mostly) little boys when we put them on behaviour modifying drugs? We aren’t saying, “you’re my child and I love you no matter how difficult you can be.”

We aren’t saying, “you may be a handful, but I love your spunk and personality.”

No, quite the opposite. What we’re saying to all these (mostly) boys is, “you know, your personality isn’t working for us. It needs to be changed. The kid you are…well, it’s not good enough. Take this legally prescribed drug that will change you into the kid we wish we had been given.”

Sounds brutal, but really, isn’t that the message that the kid will take away, subconsciously, at least?

So the little boy turns into a rebellious pre-teen, as most kids do. He’s been taking mood-altering drugs for as long as he can remember. What moral authority does the parent of that pre-teen have to say that he shouldn’t try other mood-altering drugs, like speed or cocaine or acid?

In my opinion, the parent has no authority. The kid is already a hard drug-user and understands how much better life can be when it’s chemically altered. And odds are he knows that Ritalin is interchangeable with amphetamine and methamphetamine, and that all of them produce much the same effect as cocaine.

Think I’m being extreme? A fear-mongerer? A study at the University of California at Berkeley, which tracked 500 children for more than 25 years, found that use of methylphenidate and other stimulants in the treatment of ADHD increases the likelihood that a child in later life will take up smoking, cocaine, and other stimulants. (Some Harvard scientists dispute this study and claim to have found the opposite to be true – that kids who don’t get medicated are more likely to be hard drug users as adults…Harvard…Berkeley…who to trust??)

Here are a few stats from the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse to think about (you can find the sources of the data at the GDCADA website linked above):

  • Between 30 and 50 percent of adolescents in drug treatment centers report Ritalin use.
  • Ritalin ranks in the top 10 most frequently reported controlled pharmaceuticals stolen from licensed handlers.
  • Reports from students and faculty on college campuses show Ritalin used as a study aid and party drug in the same manner that amphetamine was used on campuses in the 1960s.

Does it make you pause and wonder whether drugging a hyper 5-year old is really a good idea in the long-run?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fish really does make you smarter!

I just read an interesting study in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, about how essential fatty acids (like fish oils) can help kids improve their academic skills and even overcome some of the behavioural characteristics of ADHD.

A couple posts ago I did cite evidence that medical journal studies have fallen into question, but I have anecdotal evidence to support the study in Pediatrics. Based on that, I believe this study was done with integrity!

A year ago my son (who was seven at the time) was "diagnosed" by the manager of his after-school care program as behavioural and placed with 11 other so-called, “at-risk kids” who, as she put it, were either on behaviour modification drugs or should be on them. I pulled my child from this care situation immediately and then began to look into how to help my energetic and argumentative boy to quiet down a little.

Not for one second did I believe he was either at-risk or in need of any pharmaceutical drugs, so my research led me to look at food and chemical influencers. I read a book called, “Is Your Child’s Brain Starving?

Doctor Michael Lyon, who wrote the book, proposed that when a child lacks essential fatty acids, his brain cannot function effectively and one of the results is often ADHD-like behaviour. Eureka!

We started our son on some vitamins developed just for kids like him and within one month saw a marked improvement in his behaviour. It’s been six months since he started the vitamins and nobody would call him anything other than your typical noisy eight-year old…

As the pop-culture icon, Nancy Reagan loves to tell teens, “Just say ‘no’ to drugs.”

(Okay…I know she means “bad” drugs like pot, not legally prescribed pharmaceuticals… but did you know that Ritalin has become a popular street drug? Young people get prescriptions and then sell the pills for up to $20 per pill? College and high school students, hoping to improve their concentration while studying, grind the pills into powder and snort it like cocaine…oooh, I feel another post coming on…)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

3 Dead Babies + 2 Hours of Insomnia = 1 New Film Idea

3 Dead Babies

So disturbing, reading news from Ontario that three infants, all two months old, died in January from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It was my biggest fear when my son was an infant. I just can’t imagine the grief those parents must be feeling.

What makes this story newsworthy is the fact that the Coroner’s office that is investigating these deaths has found that all three infants had been vaccinated in the two weeks before their deaths. According to the story, no link has been made between the vaccines and the deaths, however.

2 Hours of Insomnia

As I was laying awake, pondering the fact that a ten-pound, two-month old infant who’s immune system is not even close to fully developed receives two vaccines that contain nine viruses and diseases, I wondered how any immune system could be expected to fight all those bugs without having some kind of negative reaction.

In most Canadian provinces and U.S. states, the vaccine schedule is the same: at two, four and six months of age the baby is given two needles containing active ingredients that are meant to produce antibodies that will protect the infant from:

  1. diphtheria (a disease of the skin, nose and throat)
  2. pertussis (whooping cough)
  3. tetanus (lock jaw)
  4. polio
  5. HIB (haemophilus influenza type B)
  6. pneumonia
  7. meningitis
  8. infections of the bloodstream and
  9. infections of the middle ear

For the vaccine to work, the body must react to the disease in some way, to create the desired antibodies that are supposed to provide immunity. Isn’t that a lot of work for a very small body that is still only partially developed in terms of its immune, digestive, neurological, sensory, (etc., etc.), systems? Admittedly I’m not a doctor, but I know that I sure wouldn’t want to be fighting polio, pneumonia and meningitis at the same time.

1 New Film Idea

So here’s my crazy idea. I’d like to do a documentary film about the most high-profile vaccine supporters, from doctors to journalists, health policy-makers to vaccine manufacturers, military seniors to the executive directors of pro-vaccine charities. They all claim vaccines are, if not entirely safe, so safe that risk of an adverse vaccine reaction is one in a million (the most repeated stat around vaccinations that ever there was.)

I would like to get them on record making their assertions of safety. And then, I’d like them to put their own immune systems where their mouths are: to sit down, roll up their sleeves and take the same vaccinations given to our infants – BUT – adjusted for their weight. So, a 150 pound doctor would receive 15 needles-full of each of the shots given to the two-month old. And then she’d get the same 15 needles again two and four months later. Kind of a Supersize Me for vaccines.

Anyone who wants to help out on this project is welcome to contact me at adisen@shaw.ca. It’ll be a great film! We just need to find the funding….maybe an unrestricted educational grant from Merck? I’ll look into it…

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Medical Journals’ Integrity in Question

I’m bummed. Integrity and honesty are the two qualities of individuals in power positions that I most admire. Even if I don’t agree with someone who acts and speaks with integrity and honesty, I will respect and listen carefully to that person’s ideas – even if they are telling me that studies show the flu vaccine would be good for me and my family, which of course, I don't currently believe.

So today, when I read an article in the Public Library of Science journal that cites evidence that medical journals, their editors, and the peer reviewers who are charged with ensuring that studies being submitted to the journals have met certain criteria (that is, they were done in such a way as to provide legitimate results) are working as marketing agents for the pharmaceutical industry…well, I want to reach for some meds to make me feel better.

Medical journals are cited by everyone as proof of a drug's safety and effectiveness. Vaccines included.

But the man who was the editor of the British Medical Journal for 25 years has called into question the integrity and honesty of the very studies that are reported in medical journals. Richard Smith's analysis of the integrity of studies printed in medical journals found, “Overall, studies funded by a [pharmaceutical] company were four times more likely to have results favourable to the company than studies funded from other sources.”

Other senior people at other medical journals had similarly damning things to say about the integrity of the study results printed on their pages:

It’s a very enlightening, albeit depressing article. Remind me again of whose best interest pharmaceutical companies look out for…it’s the patient’s, right?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Enron: a Cautionary Tale for Merck?

I saw the documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” today. Great doc. Worth seeing.

In the last ten minutes it occurred to me that the back room deals that were exposed by the fall of Enron – the fact that all the major U.S. banks, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, as well as dozens of stock traders and all the senior managers at Enron colluded to make some serious money for themselves – will likely be the story that is one day exposed about the vaccine industry and its ties to corporate and government interests.

Don't be fooled into believing that public health is the goal of the vaccine industry and all its players. Personal gain by a few well-positioned executives will be exposed in due course. It’s slowly happening in other areas of the big pharma world. It may take a few more years, but I feel pretty confident that I'll be able to say, "I told you so," one day.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Advertising Influences Doctor’s Prescribing

A recent study only fanned the fire of controversy surrounding the estimated $4 billion spent each year by the drug industry on direct-to-consumer advertising. Many advocates for public health have complained about drug ads showing happy people whose lives have been changed by a drug, which is where the study came into play.

The study involved sending actors pretending to be patients complaining of symptoms of stress and fatigue into 152 doctors' offices to see whether they would be given prescriptions. (The physicians had previously consented to participate but were not told when they would be tested.)

Researchers found that "patients" were five times as likely to walk out of doctors' offices with a prescription when they mentioned seeing an ad for the heavily promoted antidepressant Paxil.

Moreover, when the "patients" asked for Paxil specifically, 55 percent were given prescriptions and 50 percent were diagnosed with depression.

Read the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 293 No. 16, April 27, 2005

Friday, May 13, 2005

Anti-vaccination crowd needs a pill

People, like me, who make the effort to think about, look into and carefully weigh any medical intervention that is recommended for my son, are often called names. We’re labeled as irresponsible, negligent and even abusive when our decisions counter popular thinking. My choice not to fully vaccinate my son has landed me with many unflattering labels.

My belief is that parents have the right to be fully informed about any decision they are making on another person’s behalf. I also believe that the media have a significant and important role to play in helping parents make those decisions.

This clip from a recent column in the Edmonton Sun does a disservice to all thoughtful human beings. Mindelle Jacobs, you should be ashamed and embarrassed. Name-calling and threats are always the last resort of a person trying to convince others that their indefensible argument is defensible.
"It is almost incomprehensible that in the West, where vaccination programs have long been routine, there are still a few morons who refuse to immunize their kids.

The rubella outbreak in southwestern Ontario continues to spread, with more than 120 confirmed cases, including two pregnant women. Nine other expecting women may also have been exposed.

We can't cane these foolish parents for placing their children and the larger community at risk - although I'd sure like to. We can't jail them either. While vaccination is almost universal in Canada, it isn't mandatory.

All we can do, I suppose, is express our disgust that people would use religious or philosophical reasons to turn their backs on a vital part of our public health system. "

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rubella Outbreak is Giving Me a Rash

So, for the past few weeks the government of Ontario and health officials in Southern Ontario (a Canadian province just north of Detroit) have been wringing their hands about a rubella outbreak (about 120 people, including 2 pregnant women) and talking about forced immunization.

Rubella, or German measles, is a benign disease when contracted by children. That’s what everyone, including the upset health officials say. There’s no argument on that.

Rubella can cause birth defects to fetuses that are in the first trimester of development. Another fact that nobody disputes.

Kids who contract rubella have a lifetime immunity to the disease. Another fact that everyone, no matter what side of the vaccine fence they sit on, agrees with.

So, the conclusion by government and some health officials, rising from the recent outbreak of rubella: let’s consider implementing a compulsory rubella vaccine policy for all children. I lost the train of logic on this…

If all kids contracted this benign disease (as most still contract chicken pox) then the women of child-bearing age would not be at risk of contracting the disease when they’re pregnant since they already would have had it…why do vaccines even enter the discussion??

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Screening Children for Mental Problems - a Gimmick Aimed at Increasing Pharma Profits

I've been following the story of forced mental health screening that Congress has proposed for all American school-aged children and all women (not sure why men have been excluded...or am I?!)

Most of my well-informed American friends have not heard about this. For some reason, it hasn't been a top news story. Mostly just covered by so-called "alternative" media. Forced mental health screening is a very scary idea that could have huge and terrible ramifications to individuals and to society as whole.

And - I just read that my own state's Senator, Democrat Edward Kennedy, is actually supporting this initiative...and here I thought I was voting for the common sense candidate in the last election. Silly me...

Find out more. This is an important issue.

Read Mother Jones article of one 13 year old's experience after having had a mental health screening at her school.

And the Alliance for Human Research Protection's analysis of forced mental health screening in the New Freedom Commission report.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

As True Today as it was Then

"Theories of science must be judged on the basis of facts and reasoning, and not by the authority of dogma." Thomas Huxley, 1860

Monday, May 09, 2005

Death by Measles or Lightning Strike

Given that millions and millions of children all over the world receive the measles vaccine every year, you'd think the disease was a) either pretty prevalent, or b) pretty dangerous.

Well, to put the measles into a little perspective, how about these stats from the UK:
  • Measles is the NUMBER ONE most serious childhood disease;
  • Six times more people in the UK are struck by lightning every year - 100 people on average - than died from measles in the major measles outbreaks in 1988 - 80,000 cases with 15 deaths;
  • There are 1500 UK asthma deaths annually rising at 1% per annum - 10,000 percent more than measles deaths in 1988;
  • Vaccines are implicated in allergies like asthma and immune diseases;
  • 1 in 1000 UK infants die from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome);
  • SIDS was rare prior to 1950 and the DPT vaccine is implicated in SIDS deaths.
I think I'll keep my non-vaccinated son inside during the next thunderstorm.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Cancer is a Political Disease

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is exclusively sponsored by Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, a U.S. subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries. Focusing narrowly on mammography, their slogan is, “Early Detection is Your Best Prevention,” which is nonsense, since if your cancer can be detected it’s too late to prevent it.

Zeneca earns $300 million yearly from sales of the carcinogenic herbicide Acetochlor, while simultaneously marketing Tamoxifen, the world’s best-selling cancer therapy drug, and running a chain of eleven U.S. cancer treatment centers.

Chemical manufacturers try to deflect attention away from the fact that 90 to 95% of all cancer is caused by exposure to carcinogens.

Learn more at the Cancer Prevention Coalition website.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

To DPT or not to DPT, that is the Question

So much has been written on the possible dangers of the DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) vaccine that I am amazed at how many of my well-read friends still believe their infants need this shot to remain healthy… or even alive.

Of course, research by people like Dr. Vera Shiebner which linked the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine to crib death (also known as SIDS), has been hotly debated by vaccine supporters since her research was published in 1993. It is so hard for parents to know whom to trust.

How about the vaccine manufacturer? Can we trust them? Normally I would be skeptical of info from the company that makes money from the sales of vaccines. But here’s the warning that the Connaught Company, an American vaccine supplier, has included in its package insert:

“In a large, controlled study in England, children two to 35 months of age with serious, acute neurological disorders such as encephalopathy or complicated convulsions, are more likely to have received DPT in the seven days preceding onset.”

Did you catch that? Wow. I think that says all we need to know about the safety of the DPT vaccine, no?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Magic Little Pill

Watch The Magic Little Pill, a five-minute doc about the redefinition of health by pharma-makers and the impact this is having on children’s well-being.