Although I'm not sure it's something to get worked up about, I do believe the barrage of environmental chemicals and toxins we are exposed to may potentially be leading to the increased rates of cancer, infertility and other chronic diseases. More research in this area of study and industry guidelines/watchdogs are definitely needed. Do we really know if flame retardants improve our survival in a house fire? What are the long term consequences of these chemicals? Read on for the full article.
Yours, in health,
From my AMA (American Medical Association) Morning Rounds:
"Two new studies on potentially toxic chemicals found in couches and other furniture in US households garnered extensive print and online coverage, but were not picked up by any of the major televisions stations. Most of the media sources noted that furniture manufacturers tend to tailor their products to meet California's standards because of the role its market plays in sustaining the nation's economy. The majority of sources also noted the health effects associated with the chemicals reported in the studies.
USA Today (11/29, Koch) reports, "More than half of US couches contain potentially toxic flame retardants that pose risks to humans as the chemicals migrate from furniture foam into house dust," according to a study published in the Nov. 28 issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science & Technology. Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley, and Duke University found that 41 percent of the 102 couches they tested had "foam with chlorinated Tris, a probable human carcinogen removed from baby pajamas in 1977." They also discovered that 17 percent of the sofas "contained the chemical pentaBDE," which has been banned globally.
The Los Angeles Times (11/29, Boxall) "Greenspace" blog notes that the study team found that most (85%) of the couches which were purchased by US consumers "from 1985 to 2010," had been "treated with chemical flame retardants." However, another flame retardant, Firemaster 550, which "contains toxic ingredients, was detected in 13 couches, most of them sold in the last seven years."
The Bangor (ME) Daily News (11/28, Farwell) points out that studies "have found that exposing rats to high doses of Firemaster 550 can lead to lower birth weight and genital and skeletal deformities."
The Chicago Tribune (11/28, Hawthorne) noted that "several of the flame retardants detected in the new study have been linked to hormone disruption, developmental problems, lower IQ and impaired fertility." The American Chemistry Council responded to the study by issuing a statement saying, "There is no data in this study that indicate that the levels of flame retardants found would cause any human health problems." The industry trade group also "cited an analysis of a government-funded study that it said shows 'flame retardants in upholstered furniture can provide valuable escape time' from house fires." But the Tribune points out that studies by the "US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Underwriters Laboratories found that flame retardants in household furniture cushions provide no meaningful protection from fires."
The ABC News (11/28, Bockman) "Medical Unit" blog reports that because of California's "flammability standard, known as TB117 [pdf], many furniture manufacturers treat polyurethane foam with flame retardants. TB117 requires furniture sold in the state to withstand a 12-second flame exposure without igniting." Most US states have similar laws.
The NPR (11/29, Shute) "Shots" blog reports that in a second study published in the same journal, researchers at the Massachusetts-based Silent Spring Institute found "fire retardants in household dust." In 75 percent of the homes they "tested, the dust contained tris, which was banned in children's sleepwear in the 1970s because it caused cancer in lab animals." They also found that many homes "had related chemicals - TCEP and TDCIPP - which the state of California lists as carcinogens."
The studies are also covered by Forbes (11/29, Westervelt), the Huffington Post (11/28, Peeples), the CNN (11/29, Kounang) "Vitals" blog, the Fox News (11/28) website, the Baltimore Sun (11/29, Walker) "Picture of Health" blog, California Watch (11/29, Jewett), the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (11/28, Robison) "Boomer Consumer" blog, Alabama Live (11/29, Oliver), the MinnPost (11/29, Perry) "Second Opinion" column, HealthDay (11/29, Preidt) and WebMD (11/28, Boyles).
Studies come as lawmakers push for stricter regulations. The San Francisco Chronicle (11/28, Lee) notes that the new studies "arrive as state and federal lawmakers are pushing for stricter regulations on potentially hazardous chemicals that go into furniture, electronics and other products." California Gov. Jerry Brown "now wants regulations to reduce the number of chemicals permitted in furniture, but experts say the law has already done damage nationwide."
Similarly, The Hill (11/29, Viebeck) "Healthwatch" blog reports that the release of the new research on Wednesday prompted advocates to "argue for passage of the Safe Chemicals Act." The bill, which Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) sponsored, "would restrict the use of chemicals that are not proven to be safe.'"
If you're anything like me and you use exercise for stress relief, you easily understand that exercise boosts mental health. But, again, now there's proof! Exercise warded off a relapse of major depression in patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) as much as SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) after 4 months and even prevented significantly less relapses than SSRIs after 10 months! This means that exercise is as effective in the short term for preventing relapses of MDD and even MORE EFFECTIVE than SSRIs in preventing them over 10 months.
"One study of a jogging intervention among 80 inpatients with chronic schizophrenia, in which 40 patients jogged for 40 minutes 3 times a week, depression, anxiety, phobia, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors declined significantly compared with 40 inpatient control participants who were inactive and showed no improvement". Now imagine if inpatient psychiatry centers implemented mandatory physical fitness...rates of readmissionHard to find drugs with this kind of staying power! And the side effects of exercise (besides injury) are almost nil. Yet another reason to get out and get active! See below for the full article
SAN DIEGO, California – The benefits of exercise in nearly every aspect of physical health are well known, but evidence in recent years suggests a unique effect on some psychiatric disorders, prompting mental health clinicians to rethink treatment strategies and to consider the possibility of exercise not just in therapy but as therapy.
"Above and beyond the standard benefits of exercise in healthy living and general well-being, there is strong evidence demonstrating the ability of exercise to in fact treat mental illness and have significant benefits on a neurotrophic, neurobiologic basis," Douglas Noordsy, MD, told delegates attending Psych Congress 2012: US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress.
Some of the strongest evidence is seen in depression, where psychiatric benefits from exercise have been shown in some cases to match those achieved with pharmacologic interventions and to persist to prevent remission in the long term.
Dr. Noordsy referenced a study from researchers at Duke University in which 156 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) were randomly assigned either to aerobic exercise, sertraline therapy (50 mg to 200 mg), or both for 4 months.
The difference in remission rates in the exercise and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) groups after 4 months were not significant – 60% and 69%, respectively, but at a 10-month follow-up, the exercise group showed a significantly lower relapse rate ( P = .01) ( Psychosom Med 2000;62:633-638).
"The patients who were independently exercising on their own after the treatment period had half the odds for meeting the depression criteria 6 months later compared to patients who didn't exercise after the 4-month study," said Dr. Noordsy, an associate professor and director of psychosis services at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire.
A similar study from the same group of researchers 10 years later in a larger sample involving 202 patients assigned to supervised exercise, sertraline therapy (50 mg to 200 mg) or placebo showed remission rates of 46% at 4 months and 66% at the 16-month follow-up across both treatment groups, with no significant greater improvement with SSRIs compared with exercise in predicting MDD remission at 1 year ( Psychosom Med 2011 Feb-Mar;73:127-33; epub 2010 Dec 10).
Other studies have shown equally impressive results in exercise for a variety of populations, including pregnant women with depression, who have a high interest in avoiding medications, people with HIV, and even patients with heart failure, who showed not only a significant reduction in depression related to exercise but also reduced mortality ( Am J Cardiol 2011;107:64-68).
The evidence in relation to anxiety, although not as strong, still suggests a benefit, and the rigors of a cardiovascular workout seem particularly suited to addressing the physiologic effects associated with anxiety, Dr. Noordsy said.
"We know that with anxiety, the heart rate goes up, you start breathing fast, and it kind of snowballs with more anxiety, and that can trigger a panic attack," he explained.
"So one of the important positive effects of physical exercise is it allows people to become conditioned to having their heart rate and respiratory rate increase when they're not associated with anxiety, thereby addressing the triggers."
Evidence is somewhat lacking in the area of bipolar disorder, but patients often have symptoms similar enough to depression to suggest a benefit, Dr. Noordsy said.
"The evidence on depression in bipolar disorder is strong enough that I certainly feel comfortable in talking about exercise as part of [bipolar patients'] management."
In terms of more serious psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, evidence is limited on benefits of exercise for the core symptoms of psychosis or cognition. However, several studies have shown improvement in comorbidities and metabolic issues related to antipsychotics that such patients commonly face.
One study of a jogging intervention among 80 inpatients with chronic schizophrenia, in which 40 patients jogged for 40 minutes 3 times a week, depression, anxiety, phobia, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors declined significantly compared with 40 inpatient control participants who were inactive and showed no improvement.
The evidence on the benefits of exercise in cognitive function disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease, is much more extensive, with as many as 8 strong studies on dementia alone in the last 3 years showing improvements with activities such as walking and strength training on memory and executive function.
Dr. Noordsy noted one particularly remarkable study in which researchers compared patients with and without the ApoE gene, which is linked strongly to late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
In the study, patients who were ApoE-negative showed similarly low mean cortical binding potential, related to plaque buildup in the brain, regardless of whether they exercised or not.
But although ApoE-positive individuals (n = 39) had values that were substantially higher, the ApoE-positive patients who exercised (n = 13) had values similar to those who did not carry the gene ( Arch Neurol 2012;69:636-643).
"You could look at these results and rightfully say physical exercise neutralizes your risk for developing Alzheimer's disease if you're ApoE positive," Dr. Noordsy said.
This is pretty much a no-brainer, as dance is an excellent form of exercise and self-expression, however, now there's SCIENCE behind the art! It's about time science catches up to experience, and I mean this for innumerous health systems and healing modalities (including various forms of energy medicine and spirituality). My take, dance on with your bad selves! Happy Tuesday!!!
"Teen girls who took dance classes saw reductions in their stress levels and psychosomatic symptoms, researchers found.
In a randomized trial, girls ages 13 to 18 with internalizing problems, who were involved in an 8-month dance intervention, self-reported improvements in their health status and overwhelmingly deemed the dance classes as a positive experience (91%), according to Anna Duberg, RPT, of the Center for Health Care Sciences in Orebro, Sweden, and colleagues.
"[Dance] can provide a supportive environment and an opportunity to enhance low body attitudes and physical self-perceptions," wrote Duberg's group in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, adding that the intervention could help reduce "disabling conditions resulting from stress."
The number of adolescents who rate themselves as having poor health is three times higher for girls than boys, the authors pointed out. This is especially true for young girls with internalizing problems such as depression and low self-worth.
"Exercise is considered an active strategy to prevent and treat depression and anxiety for school-aged youth," they explained. "It has been shown to promote positive thoughts and feelings, enhance confidence to cope with problems, and provide increased confidence and self-control."
The study measured self-rated health changes of 112 Swedish girls, who paid multiple visits to the school nurse for psychosomatic symptoms including head, stomach, neck, back, or shoulder pain and persistent negative emotional affect or tiredness.
They were randomized to either 8 months of twice-weekly, 75 minute-long dance lessons under the supervision of trained dance instructors, or compensation with free movie passes during periodic interviews. All participants were offered school healthcare as usual.
The girls' internalizing problems were not brought up during the dance classes, the authors said.
They interviewed the teens at baseline, 8 months, 12 months, and 20 months on self-reported health, emotional distress, psychosomatic symptoms, negative affect, depression, sleep, school, interests, and enjoyment of dance, as well as adherence to and experience with the dance intervention in the study group. Self-reported health was measured on a five-point scale, with 1 indicating poor health, and 5 indicating very good health.
At baseline, the mean score on the scale was 3.32 for the dance intervention group and 3.75 for the control group.
Those in the dance group saw reductions in self-reported stress at 8-month (mean difference 0.30, 95% CI -0.01 to 0.61) and 12-month (mean difference 0.62, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.99) follow-up compared with participants who did not take dance classes.
The results held firm over the long term, with the intervention group reporting reductions at 20-months of follow-up (mean difference 0.40, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.77).
Adherence to the dance intervention included 13% who attended more than 89% of the classes, 54% who attended half to 89% of the classes, and 33% who attended less than half to 10% of the classes.
Only 6% rated the dance experience as neutral, and 2% called the experience negative.
Self-reported health was higher in the dance intervention group at every follow-up interview compared with controls, the researchers found, with differences as high as 62% at 12 months after the start of the intervention. Eighty-seven percent of participants self-reported good or very good health at 12 months in the dance group versus 76% in the control group.
The researchers suggested possible mechanisms of action in the dance intervention, including lack of demands and pressures associated with school; the opportunity to have input into the choreography and music used during the intervention; and social aspects involved with the classes.
"It is possible that the social aspect combined with the attention given to the girls affected self-reported health," they wrote.
The study was limited by lower baseline scores in the intervention group versus the control group, and lower scores generally improve more than higher scores. There also was the risk for bias because of self-reporting and because the girls knew the purpose of the study. Finally, the study examined the effect of a whole intervention, not the actual dancing.
Nonetheless, the study "points out the role of joyful social physical activity in influencing health," the group concluded, noting that future studies could look at multiple intervention arms."
A scientific argument against GMOs
"Yes: Food labels would let consumers make informed choices The paternalistic assertion that labeling of genetically modified foods “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions. Civilization rests on the confidence that an individual’s basic human rights will be respected by the government, including the ‘right to know.’ The AAAS board failed to note that the FDA's testing program for GM foods is voluntary.
By Patricia Hunt of Washington State University and 20 other scientists
As a group of scientists and physicians that includes many long-standing members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we challenge the recent AAAS Board of Directors statement opposing efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants. Their position tramples the rights of consumers to make informed choices.
The statement argues: “These efforts are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. Rather, these initiatives are driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the persistent perception that such foods are somehow ‘unnatural’ and potentially dangerous to the desire to gain competitive advantage by legislating attachment of a label meant to alarm.”
This narrow focus on GMO safety ignores the broader life-cycle impacts of GMO crops. Many GM crops are engineered to be herbicide-resistant, which has led to the evolution of weeds resistant to widely used herbicides, including RoundUp and its active ingredient glyphosate. This, in turn, has led to increased herbicide use and to searches for alternatives. Thus, herbicide-resistant GMOs are committing us to a chemical treadmill.
Burgeoning growth of the organic food sector demonstrates that some consumers make choices based on sustainability, including potential health effects on farmworkers and the environment due to intense chemical use. Other cropping systems have reduced the need for chemical inputs, and many consumers want to support and expand the development of these farming practices by choosing not to buy food produced using GM technologies. Further, many people in the United States want food that approximates – in so far as possible – the food their forebears ate. Whole communities such as the Amish mandate this of their members. This powerful instinct will always exist among certain groups, regardless of scientific advances and safety analyses.
Editor's Note: The board of the world's largest general scientific organization created a firestorm by calling labeling of genetically modified foods unnecessary. A group of prominent scientists disagrees.Thus, the Board’s paternalistic assertion that labeling of GM foods “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions.
Importantly, despite their widespread use, the human and wildlife toxicity of herbicides has not been well studied. Evidence suggests that at least some may induce detrimental health effects even at low exposure levels. Importantly, recent molecular studies suggest that glyphosate-based herbicides can impair retinoic acid signaling, producing teratogenic effects. Thus, the finding of human effects consistent with impaired retinoic signaling in agricultural areas with heavy RoundUp use raises concern about the potential health effects of heavy herbicide usage. Although these studies do not prove that RoundUp/glyphosate creates unwarranted human risks, they raise significant concerns. Labeling GMO products would allow consumers to make choices based on these concerns.
University of Houston Coastal Center Many GM crops are engineered to be herbicide-resistant. The Board asserts that “Civilization rests on people’s ability to modify plants to make them more suitable as food, feed and fiber plants and all of these modifications are genetic.” However, civilization also rests on the confidence that an individual’s basic human rights will be respected by his or her fellow citizens and by the government, including the ‘right to know.’
The AAAS statement notes that “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.” The statement should have included the fact that the Food and Drug Administration’s testing program is voluntary. Our experience with other well-studied consumer products (tobacco, asbestos, bisphenol A, phthalates) demonstrates that a large number of tests provide no guarantee of safety. Typically, evidence of harm has only emerged when testing has been conducted independently of those who benefit from the product or practice. Unfortunately, years of manufactured doubt by those with a vested interest have and continue to slow public health decisions that rightfully should be based solely on science.
Patricia Hunt, PhD
Washington State University
Bruce Blumberg, PhD
University of California, Irvine
Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD
Karlstad University, Sweden
Richard Clapp, PhD
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Terrence J. Collins, PhD
Carnegie Mellon University
Peter L. DeFur, PhD
Virginia Commonwealth University
Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT
Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders
Louis J. Guillette, Jr. PhD
Medical School of South Carolina
Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
Steve Heilig, MPH San Francisco Medical Society
Shuk-mei Ho, PhD University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Richard Jackson, MD Former Director, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC
Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP USC School of Medicine
Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH Simon Fraser University
John Peterson Myers, PhD Environmental Health Sciences*
Gail S. Prins, PhD University of Illinois at Chicago
Shanna Swan, PhD Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
Bernard Weiss, PhD University of Rochester
Laura Vandenberg, PhD Tufts University
Frederick S. vom Saal, PhD University of Missouri
R. Thomas Zoeller University of Massachusetts, Amherst"
Dr. Maltz earned a Medical Degree and Master in Public Health from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, TX. She completed a combined Internal and Preventive Medicine Residency at UTMB in June, 2011. She then completed a 2-year Integrative Medicine Fellowship at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT, during which she simultaneously underwent an intensive 1000-hour curriculum created by The University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Program founded by Dr. Andrew Weil.