Category: Health

Colorado proposes regulation of pesticides for growing pot

State regulators have proposed rules that would further restrict which pesticides can be used to grow marijuana to those that are least harmful and already are allowed on crops intended for human consumption and tobacco.

The draft rules mark the state’s latest effort in a process that began about two years ago but has dragged on amid industry pressure and lack of guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…

The proposal would limit allowable pesticides to those so nontoxic they do not need to be registered with the federal government or those so safe to use that no residue level needs to be determined…

“The licensed marijuana industry and the state of Colorado are all stuck in the same dilemma in that pesticide regulations are controlled by federal law, and the federal government refuses to provide guidance,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group…

If passed, the suggested rules would be a marked change in how the state has treated pesticides on cannabis for the past two years, which has been to allow those whose warning labels are so broadly written it would not be a violation to use them. That included a number of pesticides with tolerance limits established for certain food crops but whose safety on marijuana was unknown.

Under the new rules, which also would apply to hemp growers, only those pesticides exempt from any tolerance limits could be used, and they must be allowed on crops intended for human consumption by the EPA…

The issue of pesticides on pot has been contentious since at least 2012, when state inspectors first noticed marijuana grow operations were using them.

With no federal guidance on how to regulate them and an industry reluctant to accept limitations on what could be used, state officials waffled over what to do and made pesticide enforcement a low priority…

In other words, state politicians are as incompetent as the Congressional flavor. Same response to even a moderate question — let’s run and hide, try not to do anything useful in case we screw up. Chickens have come home to roost.

There is no problem utilizing vegetable crop regulations for a start. Much like the quandary faced by fish farms, there should be an easy market solution which includes verification of organic qualification. A certain portion of the populace will buy the cheapest weed regardless of pesticide treatment. We are talking, after all, about half the market being smokers. The rest will often opt for organic.

None of this is rocket science. The problem is the politicians not the task of constructing useful regulations.

Lead exposure in mothers can affect more than one generation

A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren. Their study, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.

It’s a known fact that babies in the womb can be affected by low levels of lead exposure. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the lead passes through the placenta into the baby’s developing bones and other organs. Pregnant women with a past exposure to lead can also affect the unborn child’s brain, causing developmental problems later in life. Previous research studies have suggested that exposure to heavy metal toxicants can influence a person’s global DNA methylation profile.

In the recent Wayne State study led by Douglas Ruden, Ph.D….program leader in the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, he and his research team revealed that lead exposure can cause specific changes in DNA methylation, which can be detected in dried blood spots beyond one generation. The neonatal blood spots from both the mothers and children in this study were obtained from the Michigan Neonatal Biobank, a unique resource that has most of the neonatal dried blood spots from children born in Michigan since 1984…

“Our results suggest that lead exposure during pregnancy affects the DNA methylation status of the fetal germ cells, which leads to altered DNA methylation in grandchildren’s neonatal dried blood spots,” said Ruden. “This is the first demonstration that an environmental exposure in pregnant mothers can have an epigenetic effect on the DNA methylation pattern in the grandchildren.”

The research team stated that this novel, two-generational study design might be able to identify the genes that may serve as possible candidate biomarkers for future transgenerational risk assessment studies.

Consider the creeps who despoil the world’s environment in their quest for short-term profits not only may be shortening your own life; but, that of your children – and, now, we know the effects may proceed directly to your grandchildren.

And the contaminated environment hangs around even longer.

What smells like Tuberculosis?

“Smell technology” might improve the diagnosis of pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis (TB) around the world…

A device that detects a pattern of chemicals in the breath was both sensitive and specific for TB in a small pilot study, according to Amandip Sahota, MD, of the University Hospitals of Leicester in England.

In the study, the device was able to detect both pulmonary and extrapulmonary forms of the disease, Sahota reported at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).

The idea of using breath samples to detect disease is not new, Sahota noted, but his study employed a technology — Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) — — that has the potential to be cheaper, faster, and more widely available than earlier methods…

In the U.S., TB incidence continues to fall…but worldwide, the disease still exacts a stunning toll — about 9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths a year.

Despite the advent of new technologies, Sahota said, most TB diagnosis worldwide is still done using culture methods, which are time-consuming and require significant expertise. A simple rapid point-of-care test would speed treatment, he said…

Shruthi Ravimohan, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania commented…”The longer patients wait for their results…the more likely is it that they will be lost to follow-up or the test results will be lost in the meantime.”

As well, she noted, delayed treatment is likely to have other adverse consequences, including advancing illness…

…The sensitivity of the test was 93% and the specificity was 94%.

Importantly, Sahota said, the 25 patients had varying forms of TB, with only 11 having pulmonary disease. Also, six had lymph node disease, four had spinal involvement or psoas abscess, two had joint disease, and one patient each had testicular and skin TB.

The method “is not limited to the lung,” he said.

Every little step forward helps the health of the world. Battlefield expedients may result in more lives saved in the developing world. OK with me.

Surgery by an unlicensed assistant and $150 million insurance fraud – Woo-Hoo!

A physician assistant who wasn’t licensed or trained to perform surgery operated on hundreds of patients while the orthopedic surgeon who billed for the procedures schemed with colleagues to hide a massive insurance fraud conspiracy…

…Prosecutors opposed reducing bail for 13 people who have pleaded not guilty in the alleged $150m fraud scheme and outlined the complexity of an operation they say spanned a decade and led to unnecessary and scarring surgeries for patients.

The indictments “paint a clear picture of a sophisticated and savvy group of criminal conspirators who placed profits above the health and welfare of the thousands of patients they purported to treat,” deputy district attorney Catherine Chon said in court papers…“The callous disregard and extreme indifference that was shown to unsuspecting victims is reflected in the overt acts alleged.”

Dr Munir Uwaydah and his associates allegedly prescribed unnecessary expensive medications, billed two-minute doctor’s appointments as hour-long examinations, and doctored MRI results and medical records to justify unnecessary operations.

Fifteen people have been indicted in the scheme alleged to have paid marketers and workers’ compensation lawyers up to $10,000 a month in kickbacks to funnel patients to Uwaydah’s clinic. They got bonuses if the patients were candidates for surgery and additional cash if they received operations…

In some instances, even the patients were paid if they were reluctant to go through with the expensive surgeries, Chon said…

RTFA for all the misery inflicted on patients.

And we have a delightful commingling of crooked doctors and lawyers in this insurance fraud. Politicians keep telling us the biggest problem in the cost of medical care in America is that too many poor people keep trying to stay alive. Poisonally, I think those politicians fall into the same class of creep as doctors and lawyers who milk the system for illegitimate insurance claims.

Feds launching huge study of oil and gas worker safety

An unprecedented study of the hazards rooted in America’s largest oil patches will be launched next year by federal health officials in Colorado who hope to cut the dangers faced by oil and gas workers.

Scientists from the Denver office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will distribute questionnaires to 500 oil field workers in North Dakota, Texas and another unnamed state.

Institute personnel will fan out to so-called “man camps”; training centers; equipment and trucking yards; well sites; and community centers in oilfield towns.

Oil field work is considered one of the most dangerous in the country. Between 2005 and 2009, the national occupational fatality rate for the oil and gas industry was seven times higher than the general industry rate and 2½ times higher than the construction industry rate.

Workers will be asked about the types of injuries they’ve suffered while on the job, what they were doing when they were injured, the training they’ve had and whether oil companies provide bonuses to workers who don’t report an injury or incident over a certain length of time, said Kyla Retzer, a Denver-based epidemiologist with the institute’s oil and gas program…

“We’ve analyzed fatality numbers, and we knew that fatality rates were high among oil field workers,” Retzer said. “But we haven’t talked to workers directly in a systematic way about some of their safety-related behaviors and what their concerns are.”

“It’s not an organized workforce,” Retzer said, “so there is no real access to a specific group.”…

Overdue. Always has been pushed back by every level of government. Dirty money crosses lots of palms.

I haven’t worked in the oil industry since the 1960’s. Nothing has changed.

Pic of the day

Click to enlargeTara Ruby Photography

Photo of breastfeeding El Paso soldiers garners global attention

A group photo showing women soldiers breastfeeding their babies at a military base in El Paso went viral this week. In the picture, 10 mothers in camouflage uniforms hold 10 hungry babies to their chests.

El Paso photographer Tara Ruby took the picture at Fort Bliss Army base with the intention of donating it as decoration for a room recently reserved for breastfeeding soldiers.

“The room is intended so they can have a private area to go and pump their breast milk and then they have a refrigerator so they can store it,” Ruby said…

She shared the photo on her professional Facebook page late one evening, but when she looked the next morning, it had disappeared. Ruby reposted the photo and it has since been shared around the world, picked up by CNN, Time, the BBC and many others. Facebook has not responded to questions about what happened to the photo.

Meanwhile, Ruby said it’s stirred discussion about a lack of accommodations for nursing Army moms.

The Army is the only military branch that doesn’t have a policy on breastfeeding, according to a column in the Army Times written this year by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. She’s trying to change that with an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that’s currently stalled in Congress.

Best bumper sticker I’ve seen this week said REPLACE CONGRESS. On the back of a van belonging to a recent Emmy winner no less. OTOH, I still believe electoral politics is useful for mobilizing public opinion if nothing else. Go for it, folks.

I know we have ignoranus congress-critters who don’t comprehend the health and cultural values of breastfeeding. Cripes, they’re elected – no doubt – by fools who don’t comprehend evolution, science or democracy. In a state of permanent intellectual constipation, I don’t expect the peabrains in that crowd to change. But, pressure can be brought to bear on officials who try at a modicum of understanding of progress and reality.

Cattle virus is linked to breast cancer

Can you tell if I have leukemia?

Researchers were surprised to find in a new study that a significant number of breast cancer cells from more than 200 women had evidence of exposure to bovine leukemia virus, or BLV.

BLV infects dairy and beef cattle’s blood cells and mammary tissues, and was for a long time thought not to be able to infect humans.

Nearly all bulk milk tanks at large factory farms are infected with BLV, but only about 5 percent of cows get sick if they have the virus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The same group of researchers at the University of California Berkeley involved in the new study also found last year that BLV could be transmitted to humans.

“The association between BLV infection and breast cancer was surprising to many previous reviewers of the study, but it’s important to note that our results do not prove that the virus causes cancer,” said Dr. Gertrude Buehring, a professor of virology in the University of California Berkeley, in a press release. “However, this is the most important first step. We still need to confirm that the infection with the virus happened before, not after, breast cancer developed, and if so, how.”

Using donated tissue from the Cooperative Human Tissue Network, the researchers compared breast tissue from 239 women who either had breast cancer or did not.

They found that 59 percent of breast cancer cells had evidence of exposure to BLV based on the presence of viral DNA in the cells. Cells from women who had not had breast cancer only had evidence of exposure 29 percent of the time.

When researchers further analyzed the data, they found the risk of developing breast cancer was 3.1 times higher if BLV was present in a woman than if it was not. Buehring said the odds ratio is higher than other well known risk factors for breast cancer, including obesity, alcohol consumption and hormones.

And a chill went through the hearts and minds of dairy agribusiness managers. Probably already on the phone to lobbyists to get votes lined up in the USDA/FDA to prevent any further studies accepted if they even hint at a link.

The antidepressant Paxil is unsafe to prescribe for teenagers – more folks say

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Fourteen years ago, a leading drug maker published a study showing that the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teenagers. On Wednesday, a major medical journal posted a new analysis of the same data concluding that the opposite is true.

That study — featured prominently by the journal BMJ — is a clear break from scientific custom and reflects a new era in scientific publishing, some experts said, opening the way for journals to post multiple interpretations of the same experiment. It comes at a time of self-examination across science — retractions are at an all-time high; recent cases of fraud have shaken fields as diverse as anesthesia and political science…

“This paper is alarming, but its existence is a good thing,” said Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who was not involved in either the original study or the reanalysis. “It signals that the community is waking up, checking its work and doing what science is supposed to do — self-correct.”

The authors of the reanalysis said that many clinical studies had some of the same issues as the original Paxil study, and that data should be made freely available across clinical medicine, so that multiple parties could analyze them…

Over the years, thousands of people taking or withdrawing from Paxil or other psychiatric drugs have committed violent acts, including suicide, experts said, though no firm statistics are available. Because many factors could have contributed to that behavior, it is still far from clear who is at risk — and for whom the drugs are protective.

RTFA. The debate rages on. Both sides of this particular question point out what they consider inaccuracies, deliberate or otherwise, in studies antithetical to their position.

Please don’t endorse sophistry and kid yourself about the truth lying somewhere between two extremes. Fact is,
one of the extremes may be overwhelmingly correct. Meanwhile, argue, interrogate your physician if they’re prescribing something you question.

Breakthrough treating sickle-cell anemia

Physicians at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System have cured 12 adult patients of sickle cell disease using a unique procedure for stem cell transplantation from healthy, tissue-matched siblings.

The transplants were the first to be performed outside of the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland, where the procedure was developed. Physicians there have treated 30 patients, with an 87 percent success rate. The results of the phase I/II clinical trial at UI Health, in which 92 percent of treated patients were cured…

The new technique eliminates the need for chemotherapy to prepare the patient to receive the transplanted cells and offers the prospect of cure for tens of thousands of adults suffering from sickle cell disease.

About 90 percent of the approximately 450 patients who have received stem cell transplants for sickle cell disease have been children. Chemotherapy has been considered too risky for adult patients, who are often more weakened than children by the disease.

“Adults with sickle cell disease are now living on average until about age 50 with blood transfusions and drugs to help with pain crises, but their quality of life can be very low,” says Dr. Damiano Rondelli, chief of hematology/oncology and director of the blood and marrow transplant program at UI Health, and corresponding author on the paper.

“Now, with this chemotherapy-free transplant, we are curing adults with sickle cell disease, and we see that their quality of life improves vastly within just one month of the transplant,” said Rondelli, who is also the Michael Reese Professor of Hematology in the UIC College of Medicine. “They are able to go back to school, go back to work, and can experience life without pain.”

Sickle cell disease is inherited. It primarily affects people of African descent, including about one in every 500 African Americans born in the U.S. The defect causes the oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be crescent shaped, like a sickle. The misshapen cells deliver less oxygen to the body’s tissues, causing severe pain and eventually stroke or organ damage.

Bravo! Some of the best medical news in a while.

Egg prices have doubled in the last year. Here’s why

Click to enlargeEgg farmer looking for a subsidy – See any chickens?

If you look at a graph of the price of eggs, it usually resembles the flight path of a chicken: It bounces up a little bit, then flutters back to earth. But in the last few months egg prices have been soaring like — well, if not like eagles, at least like a flock of enthusiastic pigeons. The price is twice what it was this time last year.

What’s going on here? This year, avian flu hit a lot of egg farmers, wiping out their hens. Now this loss of birds is translating to a scarcity of eggs. Interestingly, the price of specialty eggs — like organic, and vegetarian-fed — hasn’t increased in the same way, which means they are pretty competitive.

That doesn’t mean that organic chicken operations are immune to avian flu. Donald Carr looked into this and found that small egg operations are probably just as prone to disease as big ones.

Congress is currently considering a bailout to help chicken farmers, which might help bring down the cost of eggs. From the perspective of someone living in poverty, cheaper eggs are important: Eggs have long been a healthy and inexpensive mainstay. They are easy to cook, too.

Our family eats eggs from cage-free chickens. If you’ve ever seen photos or visited a so-called battery chicken farm you’d probably make the same decision. The eggs we also eat are brown not white. While color variations to some extent are genetic, the popularity of white eggs comes from the same Anglo-Saxon fixation on white means clean, white means pure. Now, centuries out-of-date.

Growing up in New England, folks generally have more sense than to believe that myth – which is why most folks eat eggs with brown shells from chickens that didn’t have extra minerals added to their diet to produce white shells. Not any different from ignoring bleached, all-purpose flour. Yankees buy King Arthur unbleached flour instead of the stuff that keeps the stock market happy.

The eggs my wife and I eat have increased in price 10% year-over-year.