Plastic Bottles Still Cause Major Safety Concerns

September 4, 2008

The National Toxicology Program (NTP), of the U.S. Deptartment of Health and Human Services, released a final report yesterday about the chemical compound bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in hard plastic products, including baby bottles and other baby products. The government indicates that there is still “some concern” that the plastic chemical may cause problems with development and health.

Bisphenol A is a chemical compound used in the production of polycarbonate, a type of hard plastic. The BPA chemical helps prevent the plastic from shattering, which many argue is a necessary safety feature.

In recent years, concerns have emerged about the health risk this plastic bottle chemical may pose to the general public, and particularly young children and infants who are still developing.

BPA has been suspected of having adverse effects on reproductive health as it is an estrogen agonist and mimics the action of the body’s own natural hormone, estrogen. It is also an endocrine disruptor and may cause malfunctioning of the hormonal system if the body is exposed to low doses of BPA over a long period of time.

Animal studies between 1997 and 2005 have shown changes in the genital tract, a decline in testicular testosterone, decreasing maternal behaviors and changes in breast tissue, predisposing it to carcinogens. Though these findings have not been conclusively established, it is thought that low doses of BPA absorbed into the body over a long period of time may cause chronic toxicity in humans.

The NTP report does not call for a ban of the plastics chemical, but states that further investigation and testing of BPA in human studies is needed. It rated their level of concern as “some concern”, which falls in the middle of a five level scale of concerns which ranged from “negligible concern” to “serious concern.”

Earlier this year, the FDA took a controversial position when they indicated that BPA was safe to use in feeding bottles, and that they had no reason to believe the chemical should be banned. However, the FDA is holding an advisory panel meeting of independent experts on September 16, 2008 to discuss the issue further.

There have been movements in several states to ban the use of the BPA plastic bottle chemical, and law makers in Canada announced their intention to ban BPA in baby bottles in April 2008. U.S Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has introduced legislation banning BPA in infant products throughout the United States. In addition, a number of large retailers, including Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us, have stopped selling any baby bottles that contain the BPA chemical.

In June 2008, a plastic baby bottle class action lawsuit was filed against five companies who manufacture and sell baby bottles that contain BPA, including Evenflo Co., Avent America, Inc., Handicraft Co., Playtex and Gerber Novartis. The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers failed to adequately disclose the health risks associated with the plastic bottle chemical.

Article courtesy of AboutLawsuits.com

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Study Shows No Decrease In Illicit Drug Use in US Adults

September 4, 2008

Cocaine and methamphetamine use among young adults declined significantly last year as supplies dried up, leading to higher prices and reduced purity, the government reports. Overall use of illicit drugs showed little change.

About one in five young adults last year acknowledged illicit drug use within the previous month, a rate similar to previous years. But cocaine use declined by one-quarter and methamphetamine use by one-third.

Drug use increased among the 50-59 age group as more baby boomers joined that category. Their past month drug use rose from 4.3 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2007.

“The baby boomers have much higher rates of self-destructive behavior than any parallel age group we have data from,” said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Walters, 55, is a boomer himself.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, being released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is based on interviews with about 67,500 people.

Overall, about 20 million people 12 or older reported using illicit drugs within the past month. Marijuana was the most popular by far, with 14.4 million acknowledging use of marijuana in the past month.

Among adolescents, age 12 to 17, drug use dipped from 9.8 percent in 2006 to 9.5 percent last year, continuing a five-year trend. Their use of alcohol and cigarettes also fell during the same period.

“The earlier you use drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, the more likely you are to have a lifelong problem,” Walters said.

Much of the progress in curbing drug use occurred between 2002 and 2005. Critics of the nation’s drug policies warned not to read too much into the latest numbers.

“Use of marijuana and other drugs naturally fluctuates and if you look at long-term trends, current rates are smack in the middle of the range they’ve been in for decades,” said Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates the decriminalization of marijuana. “There is simply no evidence that current policies … have made any difference.”

A World Health Organization survey of 17 countries this year showed that people in the U.S. were more likely than people elsewhere to have tried illicit drugs. The U.S. tied New Zealand for the highest rate of marijuana use and far outpaced other countries on cocaine use, the survey found.

The U.S. report measured drug use over the past month, while the WHO’s looked at drug use over a lifetime.

The WHO survey concluded: “The use of drugs seems to be a feature of more affluent countries. The U.S., which has been driving much of the world’s drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies as well as a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries.”

More than half the people who tried drugs for the first time in 2007 used marijuana, according to the U.S. survey. The rate of new marijuana users came to about 6,000 people a day.

The overall rate of illicit drug use dropped from 8.3 percent of those 12 and older to 8.0 percent in 2007.

Walters also acknowledged concern about nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among young adults. He urged parents to have more awareness of where they keep their prescriptions and to throw them away when the drugs are no longer needed.

The survey, which also examined mental health, indicated that 24.3 million people 18 or older experienced “serious psychological distress over the past year.” It stressed the link between mental health and substance abuse, noting that adults experiencing depression within the past year were more than twice as like to have tried illicit drugs during that time than other adults.

Article by Kevin Freking

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Study Suggests Smoking is Worse for Women

September 2, 2008

Women typically get heart disease much later than men, but not if they smoke, researchers said Tuesday.

In fact, women who smoke have heart attacks nearly 14 years earlier than women who don’t smoke, Norwegian doctors reported in a study presented to the European Society of Cardiology. For men, the gap is not so dramatic; male smokers have heart attacks about six years earlier than men who don’t smoke.

“This is not a minor difference,” said Dr. Silvia Priori, a cardiologist at the Scientific Institute in Pavia, Italy. “Women need to realize they are losing much more than men when they smoke,” she said. Priori was not connected to the research.

Dr. Morten Grundtvig and colleagues from the Innlandet Hospital Trust in Lillehammer, Norway, based their study on data from 1,784 patients admitted for a first heart attack at a hospital in Lillehammer.

Their study found that the men on average had their first heart attack at age 72 if they didn’t smoke, and at 64 if they did.

Women in the study had their first heart attack at age 81 if they didn’t smoke, and at age 66 if they did.

After adjusting for other heart risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, researchers found that the difference for women was about 14 years and for men, about six years.

Previous studies looking at a possible gender difference have been inconclusive.

Doctors have long suspected that female hormones protect women against heart disease. Estrogen is thought to raise the levels of good cholesterol as well as enabling blood vessel walls to relax more easily, thus lowering the chances of a blockage.

Grundtvig said that smoking might make women go through menopause earlier, leaving them less protected against a heart attack. With rising rates of smoking in women – compared with falling rates in men – Grundtvig said that doctors expect to see increased heart disease in women.

“Smoking might erase the natural advantage that women have,” said Dr. Robert Harrington, a professor of medicine at Duke University and spokesman for the American College of Cardiology.

Doctors aren’t yet sure if other cardiac risk factors like cholesterol and obesity also affect women differently.

“The difference in how smoking affects women and men is profound,” Harrington said. “Unless women don’t smoke or quit, they risk ending up with the same terrible diseases as men, only at a much earlier age.”

Article by Maria Cheng

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CDC Report Says Mississippi Is Most Obese

July 17, 2008

Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee lead the nation when it comes to obesity, a new government survey reported Thursday.

More than 30 percent of adults in each of the states tipped the scales enough to ensure the South remains the nation’s fattest region.

Colorado was the least obese, with about 19 percent fitting that category in a random telephone survey last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2007 findings are similar to results from the same survey the three previous years. Mississippi has had the highest obesity rate every year since 2004. But Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana have also clustered near the top of the list, often so close that the difference between their rates and Mississippi’s may not be statistically significant.

Why is the South so heavy? The traditional Southern diet – high in fat and fried food – may be part of the answer, said Dr. William Dietz, who heads CDC’s nutrition, physical activity and obesity division.

The South also has a large concentration of rural residents and black women – two groups that tend to have higher obesity rates, he said.

Colorado, meanwhile, is a state with a reputation for exercise. It has plentiful biking and hiking trails, and an elevation that causes the body to labor a bit more, Dietz said.

Obesity is based on the body mass index, a calculation using height and weight. A 5-foot, 9-inch adult who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30, which is considered the threshold for obesity.

CDC officials believe the telephone survey of 350,000 adults offers conservative estimates of obesity rates, because it’s based on what respondents said about their height and weight. Men commonly overstate their height and women often lowball their weight, health experts say.

“The heavier you are, the more you underestimate your weight, probably because you don’t weigh yourself as often,” Dietz said.

Overall, about 26 percent of the respondents were obese, according to the study, published this week in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

A different CDC survey – a gold-standard project in which researchers actually weigh and measure survey respondents – put the adult obesity rate at 34 percent in 2005 and 2006, the most recent years for which there are data.

Article by Mike Stobbe

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