Archive | The Body Electric

ADD Linked To Pesticides?

This certainly is interesting. I remember when I was a kid, the DDT truck used to spray our street and kids would run out to play in the fog:

Studies linking environmental substances to disease are coming fast and furious. Chemicals in plastics and common household goods have been associated with serious developmental problems, while a long inventory of other hazards are contributing to rising rates of modern ills: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autism.

Add attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the list. A new study in the journal Pediatrics associates exposure to pesticides to cases of ADHD in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen 3% a year between 1997 and 2006. Increasingly, research suggests that chemical influences, perhaps in combination with other environmental factors — like video gaming, hyperkinetically edited TV shows and flashing images in educational DVDs aimed at infants — may be contributing to the increase in attention problems.(See pictures of inside a school for autistic children.)

Led by Maryse Bouchard in Montreal, researchers based at the University of Montreal and Harvard University examined the potential relationship between ADHD and exposure to certain toxic pesticides called organophosphates. The team analyzed the levels of pesticide residues in the urine of more than 1,100 children aged 8 to 15 years old, and found that those with the highest levels of dialkyl phosphates, which are the breakdown products of organophosphate pesticides, also had the highest incidence of ADHD. Overall, they found a 35% increase in the odds of developing ADHD with every 10-fold increase in urinary concentration of the pesticide residues. The effect was seen even at the low end of exposure: kids who had any detectable, above-average level of the most common pesticide metabolite in their urine were twice as likely as those with undetectable levels to record symptoms of the learning disorder.

“I was quite surprised to see an effect at lower levels of exposure,” says Bouchard, who used data on ADHD from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a long-term study of health parameters of a representative sample of U.S. citizens.(Read how fidgeting can help kids with ADHD learn.)

Long Hours

And this, my dears, is exactly why blogging is so stressful. If you’re awake, you’re mostly reading things to blog about, blogging, or thinking about blogging. (Or you’re blogging in advance so you can take some time off.) It’s just crazy.

But it’s not as bad as working on a campaign, where I routinely worked 14-hour days. I’ll never do that again:

May 11 (Bloomberg) — Working 10 hours or more a day may harm the heart, according to a study of more than 10,000 British civil servants.

People who added three or more hours to a seven-hour day had a 60 percent greater risk of heart attack, angina and death from cardiovascular disease than those with no overtime work, researchers from the U.K., Finland and France reported today in the European Heart Journal. The findings are from the Whitehall II study, which has tracked British civil servants since 1985.

The results bolster evidence that suggests working overtime is linked to poor health and may play a greater role in heart disease than previously thought, wrote Gordon McInnes, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, in an editorial accompanying the study. Physicians should consider working hours when patients experience chest pain or show symptoms of heart disease, he said.

“Employees with the highest risk of coronary heart disease claimed to work 11 to 12 hours per day, a most unusual work pattern certainly in the European context,” McInnes wrote. “Overtime-induced work stress might contribute to a substantial proportion of cardiovascular disease.”

Cancer

I decided years ago I wasn’t going to give money to cancer groups – not because they don’t do some good work, they do provide needed support to cancer patients – but because there is a gigantic medical-research complex that, to protect their own interests, have to pretend that the vast majority of cancers aren’t triggered by environmental toxins.

So I’m very surprised to read this Nicholas Kristof column in the Times, and predict that the panel of experts who headed this study will soon be demonized and marginalized for even suggesting such things:

The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.

I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.

Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”

It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. Established in 1971, this is a group of three distinguished experts who review America’s cancer program and report directly to the president.

One of the seats is now vacant, but the panel members who joined in this report are Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Both were originally appointed to the panel by former President George W. Bush.

“We wanted to let people know that we’re concerned, and that they should be concerned,” Professor Leffall told me.

Those of us out here have been concerned for a very long time. But we need the federal government to take a leadership role. Here’s hoping there’s some strong follow-up on this.

The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.

“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”

Industry may howl. The food industry has already been fighting legislation in the Senate backed by Dianne Feinstein of California that would ban bisphenol-A, commonly found in plastics and better known as BPA, from food and beverage containers.

Which Came First?

The depression, or the chocolate?

People who eat more chocolate are more likely to be depressed than people who eat less chocolate, a new study has found.

What isn’t clear, though, is whether people who were more likely to be depressed ate more chocolate in the study—or whether chocolate itself is linked to depression.

“It’s possible chocolate has antidepressant effects and that’s why they are eating chocolate,” said Beatrice Golomb, one of the study’s researchers and an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “I think many of us believe chocolate consumption, at least in the short term, makes us feel better.”

Some research has suggested that chocolate, made from the beans of cocoa trees, has health benefits such as lowering blood pressure. But there has been little research involving mood.

Dr. Golomb and her colleagues looked at 931 adults who weren’t taking antidepressants and didn’t have known cardiovascular disease or diabetes. (The same group of patients was being screened as part of separate research involving cholesterol-lowering drugs.) The results appear in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Participants were asked about how many servings of chocolate they ate per week and then were screened for depression, using a questionnaire about mood, sleep and eating habits that doctors use to determine if a person might be depressed.

A depression-rating scale indicates whether a person should be referred to a psychiatrist for additional evaluation and possible treatment. Patients who score higher than a 16 on the scale are considered possibly depressed; those who score above 22 are considered likely to be depressed. People whose scores are 16 or less aren’t considered depressed.

The study found that “possibly depressed” individuals, who scored above 16, ate 8.4 servings of chocolate per month. People who weren’t depressed, scoring at or below 16, ate 5.4 servings of chocolate per month. Patients with scores higher than 22—or those most likely to be depressed—ate the most chocolate, with 11.8 servings a month.

Intersexed

This can’t be good:

More than 80% of the male bass fish in Washington’s major river are now exhibiting female traits such as egg production because of a “toxic stew” of pollutants, scientists and campaigners reported yesterday.

Intersex fish probably result from drugs, such as the contraceptive pill, and other chemicals being flushed into the water and have been found right across the US.

The Potomac Conservancy, which focuses on Washington DC’s river, called for new research to determine what was causing male smallmouth bass to carry immature eggs in their testes. “We have not been able to identify one particular chemical or one particular source,” said Vicki Blazer, a fish biologist with the US geological survey. “We are still trying to get a handle on what chemicals are important.”

But she said early evidence pointed to a mix of chemicals – commonly used at home as well as those used in large-scale farming operations – causing the deformities. The suspect chemicals mimic natural hormones and disrupt the endocrine system, with young fish being particularly susceptible.

The chemicals could include birth control pills and other drugs, toiletries especially those with fragrances, products such as tissues treated with antibacterial agents, or goods treated with flame retardants that find their way into waste water. However, Blazer also pointed to runoff from fertilisers and pesticides from agricultural areas.

About 5 million people live in the greater Washington area, and 90% of them get their drinking water from the Potomac.

There is evidence that the anomaly is not confined to the Potomac, one of the largest rivers on America’s Atlantic coast.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

But say it anyway!

Women who are starved of an apology for rude or hurtful behaviour suffer an increase in blood pressure which can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke, a study found.

But those who hear a well-timed “sorry” calm down more quickly, with their blood pressure returning to normal 20 per cent faster, the research showed.

Conversely, a man’s blood pressure takes 20 per cent longer to recover after an apology – suggesting men become more worked up after hearing an admission of guilt.

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, US, measured the diastolic blood pressure of 29 men and 59 women throughout the experiment.

Turn On, Tune In

Maybe they’re ready to take a look at all the potential benefits:

As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Pollen Hell

As long as I can remember, they tell us the pollen is hitting “record highs” this year. All I know is, I’ve been sneezing all week:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pollen: It’s on your car, in the air and especially in your sinuses.

From Florida to Texas to Colorado, 2010 is shaping up to be a monster of an allergy season. The words “pollen” and “allergy” are among the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in several U.S. cities. Everywhere, it seems, is covered in a fine yellow dust that irritates our lives. Experts say it’s the worst they’ve seen in years in many areas.

“It’s wicked bad this year,” said Dr. Mona Mangat, an allergy specialist in St. Petersburg, Fla., who can’t recall a worse year in the six she’s worked there. “We’re just overwhelmed with patients right now. We’re double- and triple-booked with new patients, trying to work people in because we know how much people are suffering.”

This year is especially bad in the Southeast, weather experts say, likely due to winter’s unseasonably cold weather.

“That may have helped delay some of the plants from blooming as early as they may have wanted to,” said John Feerick, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. “It’s the fact that everything is coming out all at once.”

High winds in some areas also spread the misery.

“We had a perfect storm this year,” said Dr. William Storms, professor at University of Colorado and a clinician. “It’s the worst I’ve seen in 10 years.”

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