As if Bisphenol A, or BPA, didn’t have enough of a bad rap in the bottled water world, it now has been linked to the plastic product that enables parents to feed their newborns.
Baby bottles made from the industrial chemical used in epoxy, resin and polycarbonate – or everyday plastic– can release BPA when heated. The compound has been linked to changes in human hormones because its structure mimics that of estrogen. The links are so evident that scientists have dubbed BPA a “hormone disruptor.”
“As the name implies, hormone disruptors can interfere with the natural human hormones, especially for young children,” blogger Cristen Conger writes in an article on HowStuffWorks.com. “According to a joint U.S.-Canada study conducted by a group of environmental health organizations, BPA in products and inside a woman’s body (from using BPA-containing products) may cause development and neurological problems for fetuses and infants based on the results of extensive animal trials….”
Obesity is one of the purported side effects of BPA ingestion.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer found in humans, and is also the fifth most common type of cancer. In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 76,100 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States, with around 9,710 patients dying from the disease.
Melanoma begins in melanocytes, which is the kind of cell that makes the pigment known as melanin. Melanocytes are found in many pigmented tissues, like your skin, eyes, or the intestines. Many cases of melanoma begin in a mole.
Normal skin cells are produced in the same way every time – healthy cells push old cells to the surface where they are eventually sloughed off. This is part of the reason why your house can get so dusty. Skin cancer develops when skin cells suffer damage due to DNA changes and begin to grow out of control, eventually forming masses of cancerous cells. These masses of cancerous calls are generally called tumors. Scientists still can’t explain exactly what damages skin cells in this way, but they do believe that it’s probably a combination of factors, both genetic and environmental. Scientific studies also suggest that sun exposure and suffering sunburns or sun-induced skin blisters may also play a role in the development of abnormal skin cells that lead to melanoma.
Living close to the equator or at a high elevation
Having many moles or unusual moles
A family history of melanoma
Weakened immune system
Most of these risk factors are related to sun damage and melanin production. There is also an emerging concern that use of erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, may increase your risk of developing melanoma.
Stage 0 – This stage is the earliest stage of melanoma. All abnormal melanocytes are in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Another name for this stage is “melanoma in situ.” The melanocytes may become cancer and spread into the nearby tissue.
Stage I – At this stage, it is correct to call the abnormal melanocyte growth cancerous. This stage is divided into two stages. Ulceration is described as a break in the skin. Stage 1 is further defined as follows:
Stage IA – Not more than 1 millimeter (mm) thick, with no ulceration.
Stage IB – Not more than 1 mm thick with ulceration, or less than 2 mm thick with no ulceration.
Stage II – At this stage, the tumor has gone even farther down into the epidermis and has likely broken into the dermis (the layer beneath the outer skin layer). Stage II is further broken down into the following subcategories:
Stage IIA – More than 1 mm but less than 2 mm thick with ulceration or more than 2 mm but less than 4 mm thick with no ulceration.
Stage IIB – More than 2 mm but less than 4 mm thick with ulceration or more than 4 mm thick with no ulceration.
Stage IIC – More than 4 mm thick with ulceration.
Stage III – At stage III, thickness is no longer a major issue. Instead, this stage is typified by one of the following: the cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes, the lymph nodes become joined together, the cancer is in a lymph vessel between a primary tumor and nearby lymph nodes, or very small tumors are found under the skin (but no more than 2 cm away from original tumor).
Stage IV – The cancer has metastasized and spread to other major organs, such as the lungs, GI tract, bone, brain, or liver. Cancer spreads in three ways: through tissues, circulation in the lymph system, and through the bloodstream.
Staging is an important part of being diagnosed with melanoma. The staging matters because it guides doctors in determining which treatments are best for a patient given the particular presentation and severity of their melanoma. Many diagnostic tests are used to determine the staging, and patients may undergo procedures like a simple physical examination, lymph node mapping, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, and blood tests.
If you find this on your body, go see a dermatologist!
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone should self-examine their skin each month looking for skin abnormalities and changes. They also recommend that a full-body exam be conducted once a year by a licensed dermatologist.
Performing a self-exam is easy. Check your entire body, including your scalp, palms, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet. Use a hand mirror to visualize areas that are not easily seen. In performing this self-exam, remember A-B-C-D-E, as you are looking for the following characteristics in a mole:
Asymmetry – the two halves of the mole don’t match
Border – irregular or poorly defined border on the mole
Color – the mole has varied coloring, varying shades of tan, brown, or black and sometimes can be red, white or blue
Diameter – melanomas are typically greater than 6 millimeters, although they can be smaller
Evolving – a mole that is changing or looks different from your other moles
If you find any moles exhibiting these characteristics, see a dermatologist immediately. Remember, early diagnosis of melanoma or skin cancer can save your life.
Oregon, Washington State and Vermont say the slogans for 5-Hour Energy drink are hype that is misleading. Last week the Attorneys General of all three states filed lawsuits against the drink’s maker, Living Essentials LLC and Innovation Ventures LLC of Farmington Hills, Michigan.
They are seeking civil penalties against the companies for the marketing which they claim is deceptive.
Claims about 5-Hour energy promise consumers it is a special blend that delivers the potent energy that lasts and lasts and does not result in an energy crash. The truth is that 5-Hour Energy is concentrated caffeine. Calories provide energy and the drink is low calorie. Five-Hour energy also comes with a variety of B vitamins – B3, B6 and B12, but any way you slice it, it’s caffeine and many users report they have the side effects of too much caffeine. The amount of caffeine is roughly three times the amount in a coffee or cola.
The three states join 33 other states that are already investigating the claims used to boost sales of 5-Hour Energy drink.
Civil penalties could be leveled because false and misleading advertising violates the Oregon Trade Practices Act.
The makers of 5-Hour Energy have deep pockets and say this is civil intimidation and they will not “roll over, pay the ransom and move on,” according to a spokeswoman and reported by PBS.org.
The energy drink industry goes largely unregulated as some reports of fatalities have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Between 2008 and 2012, the Food and Drug Administration investigated 13 deaths that were reported to the FDA. Deaths resulted primarily from heart attacks and convulsions.
According to a published report in Pediatrics, there were nearly 5,000 overdoses in 2007, and half among teens who had consumed energy drinks.
That is not new. When researchers from the University of Bonn studied the images of the hearts of 17 individuals who drank an energy drink with 32 mg of caffeine and 400 mg of taurine, the left ventricle contracted intensely. That is the chamber of the heart that moves blood around the body and the peaks could be seen through MRI imaging.
For those individuals with heart disease, the impact is unknown, however, researchers believe anyone with an arrhythmia or an unstable, irregular heart beat should not consume energy drinks.
The company sells nine million bottles of the concentrated energy drink every week at about $2 each roughly translating to $18 million dollars in revenue weekly.
It is a very common practice. Drug sales reps visit a client, usually a hospital, a clinic or a doctor, with the sole purpose of selling a drug or medical device. That is the primary way a doctor learns about a drug or device, but it is fraught with problems.
The Washington Post asks the question “Should a pharmaceutical sales rep be allowed to tell a doctor that Topamax, prescribed for migraines and seizures, might also work on alcohol addiction?” Is it his free speech right to say that any drug has uses beyond what’s listed on its label? Historically, the answer to that question has been no.
Doctors have been allowed to prescribe off-label but the drug industry has not been allowed to advertise use of a drug for which it was not approved. To do so could be considered Medicare fraud, deceptive practices, misbranding and a violation of consumer protection laws.
But misbranding has become increasingly common. Consider the case of Risperdal, the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceuticals) antipsychotic drug approved to treat schizophrenia and a bi-polar condition. But the drug was routinely prescribed to keep quiet dementia patients in nursing homes, mentally challenged youths or disabled individuals. The known side effects include heart complications and stroke and Risperdal posed a substantial risk of death, particularly in the elderly.
That didn’t stop Johnson & Johnson from promoting those uses – and in many cases, Medicare paid.
As a result, the Department of Justice fined J&J $2.2 billion for off-label marketing. It’s not all bad news for J&J. At the end of the day, Risperdal brought more in profits than fines.
Prompted in part by some recent court decisions, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to set some new guidelines by the end of the year to clarify what sort of data drug companies will be allowed to disclose to physicians. The drug industry had argued it was their First Amendment right of free speech to tell physicians about the off-label uses of their drugs, as long as it is truthful. However, fatalities resulted when that happened with Risperdal when it was promoted for off-label use.
GlaxoSmithKline also paid about $3 billion for mislabeling its popular antidepressants off-label. Vioxx was promoted as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, for which it was not approved. The drug was found to increase the risks of heart attacks and was linked to at least 55,000 deaths before it was recalled. In the end, the profits derived exceeded the fines.
Medicare even pays for some drugs prescribed off-label.
How can the FDA protect Americans if industry reps can urge the use of untested practices? The truth is that without rules and penalties, the FDA cannot protect Americans from off-label use of drugs. In order to be labeled and approved, a drug must undergo clinical trials and premarket approval to prove safety and efficacy. Off-label use has not undergone any such testing, so how is the FDA protecting Americans and fulfilling its role as a watchdog?
The question about whether or not Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder contains carcinogens is reportedly about 30 years old. That is alleged in a plaintiffs’ lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over its Baby Powder claiming there were reports as early as 1982 that the company’s baby powder was linked to ovarian cancer.
Talcum powder, pictured here, may be contaminated with naturally occuring asbestos.
Now a class action lawsuit has been filed in Missouri claiming the use of the baby powder caused a 33 percent rise in the risk of ovarian cancer. The case has been filed in federal court alleging that the main ingredient, talc, is actually made from a hydrous magnesium silicate. Talc mines are found throughout the country and talc, the softest mineral on a scale of 1 to 10, is often found contaminated with naturally occurring asbestos, a group of fibers which are a known carcinogen.
The advertising for Johnson’s Baby Powder indicates it is so soft it can be used on a baby. Often women use it in their genital area to minimize chafing in hot summer months and there is nothing anywhere in a product label that states that is not wise. Additionally, parents and caregivers may use it on an infant’s genital area to avoid rashes.
The only warnings on the label say to avoid contact with the eyes, avoid inhaling the powder and to only use it externally.
A New York Times article from August 12, 1982 titled “Talcum Company Calls Study on Cancer Link Inconclusive,” first outlined the link to genital cancer in a published study in the journal Cancer. The principal author, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer, recommended further study be undertaken after he found 43 percent of 215 women with ovarian cancer diagnosed between November 1978 and September 1981 had used talc on their genitals or sanitary napkins.
Johnson & Johnson agreed at the time that more study was needed as well to determine if it is the mineral in the talc or the asbestos content of the talc that might make a user susceptible to cancer. For its part, in 1982 the company said its talc did not contain asbestos.
The plaintiffs say that J&J has intentionally deceived the public since 1982 with “fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practices and omission, concealment, and suppression of material information in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise in trade or commerce in or from the state of Missouri.”
So far in 2014, three lawsuits have been filed against the healthcare company over baby powder alleging a violation of the state’s Merchandising Practices Act, seeking restitution and a revision to the J&J ad campaign. In October 2013 a lawsuit was filed in South Dakota federal court by a woman who developed ovarian cancer.
This is a class action lawsuit made up of residents of Missouri who have used Johnson’s Baby Powder within the last five years.
This is a project that had its genesis in tragedy.
John James was a chief toxicologist for NASA in Houston when his 19-year-old son died after two doctors made a series of medical errors. John Alexander James had an abnormal heart beat and despite being treated by a “team” of cardiologists in a central Texas hospital, his father says the treatment was “uninformed, careless and unethical.”
James founded Patient Safety America to educate the public on hospital and doctor errors. Partnering with Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project he has compiled some guestimates on the number of people who die in hospitals due to medical errors.
His estimate – 440,000 suffer a fatal hospital error annually. The cause can be delayed care, the wrong prescription, too much of a drug, hospital infections, the wrong treatment or a failure to order tests or treatment. That amounts to more than 1,000 deaths a day in U.S. hospitals.
James says his guestimate is inexact and it does eclipse estimates from the Institute of Medicine which 15 years ago estimated that number to be about 98,000 deaths per year. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that number at 180,000 Medicare patients alone.
Regardless of the number that is too many needless and preventable deaths due to medical and hospital errors.
James and Consumers Union have created a hospital safety score sheet which includes 2,591 hospitals in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Hospitals are scored from one to 100 based on five measures of patient safety including mortality, meaning the chance the patient will die in the hospital or within 30 days of admission, readmission rates, communication about medications and discharge, infection control including hand washing and the number of scans one receives.
If you assume larger cities with a higher per capita income have the best hospitals, assume again. Damariscotta, Maine and Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota ranked very well. The SD hospital is a teaching facility which has instituted a strict hand washing protocol and policies for minimizing infection around the use of urinary catheters. Both are likely causes of hospital infections.
Back in 1999, when the Institute of Medicine issued its report, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System” the problem of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not as profound as today.
The ranking of your local hospital is available with a subscription to Consumer Reports.