Diesel Fumes Now Considered to be a Major Health Hazard

If you are in a metropolitan area and stare into the sky, you will see that the air has a haze-like quality to it. This is likely because the air is tainted with fumes emitted by factories and the thousands of vehicles on the highway.

For the most part, city dwellers are so use to it that it no longer affects them. For them, a smoggy sky is the norm. While it has long been known that diesel fumes pose a health risk, it was never considered a serious threat. However, the World Health Organization is now reconsidering and has plans to upgrade the threat level, which would put diesel fumes on the same level as secondhand smoke.

The odds of developing cancer from exposure to exhaust fumes is minimal, but because so many residents of large cities breathe it in in some form or another, the panel is in talks to elevate the risk status from “probable carcinogen” to “carcinogen.” This would put diesel exhaust in the same classification as passive smoking.

Anyone who lives in an urban area is at a high risk of daily exposure. This includes pedestrians, crew members who work on ships and ports, big rig drivers and heavy machinery operators.

The health panel consisted of members of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and was held in Lyons, France. The potential danger of diesel exhaust has not been considered since 1989 and was then labeled as a probable carcinogen. With the reclassification, it now holds the same status as other hazards, such as ultraviolet radiation and asbestos.

The U.S. government, in the meantime, still lists diesel exhaust as only a likely carcinogen. Officials said this was due to newer vehicle models that emit less fumes. While the overall risk factor has gone down due to more eco-friendly technology, there is still enough for health and environment experts to remain concerned.

The Case for the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food

Whenever you bite into a granola bar, scarf down a bowl of cereal or pour dressing into your salad, you are likely consuming food that has been altered from its original state. It’s rare these days that you can find a food item on the store shelves that hasn’t been modified with all sorts of artificial chemicals and preservatives. Unless the food is specifically labeled as organic, then it almost certainly contains genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Just about every food that comes in a package is made from crops that’s DNA was genetically altered in a lab. This is done to make the plants more resistant to herbicide commonly used for controlling weed.

Activists are now calling for the Food and Drug Administration to mandate that all food packages label its ingredients as being genetically modified. The ballot is expected to spark a fierce showdown between the organic food industry, which support mandated labeling, and nationally known brands like Kraft and Kelloggs, which oppose such regulations.

Farmers and researchers argue that engineered crops are safe and helpful for expanding the world’s food supply. Critics, however, argue that foods with GMO are far from natural and should be labeled as such.

Agricultural farmers and biotech companies believe that strict labeling regulations may mislead consumers and cause unfounded fear of modified foods. They also added that such foods are beneficial to the environment and economy.

Oprah Winfrey – who is perhaps one of the most influential women in the world – produced an article in her O magazine that was critical of modified foods and even proposed ideas on how one can limit intake of engineered food. Her article was rebuked by Tim Burrack, an Iowa farmer, who wrote to Ms. Winfrey urging her not to demonize modified crops.

This is certainly a hotly contested issue with a lot of politics thrown in. A recent NPR poll does show that about 9 in 10 people support having GMO foods labeled. Whether the dangers of genetically modified food is legit or just a way for the organic food industry to burst their way into the market, the consensus seems to agree that everyone should have a right to know what they are eating.

New Consumer Fear over the Use of “Meat Glue”

The U.S. Meat industry has been under heavy attack in the last few months after videos surfaced of the “pink slime.” The industry is now under scrutiny again amid criticisms that meat processing plants are using what is being termed as “meat glue.”

Meat glue is actually a type of enzyme that is used to bind smaller cuts of pork and beef together to give it a larger and more uniform appearance. Meat glue is also used on imitation crab meat, dairy products and pasta. While the meat industry insists that the enzyme is safe, the U.S. Agriculture Department is now requiring the substance to be listed on food labels.

Meat glue is made from beef plasma, and critics claim that aside from health issues, it can also be used to deceive consumers by taking smaller cuts of inexpensive meat and piecing it together and labeling it as premium cuts.

To ease public anxiety about the use of meat glue, the American Meat Institute hosted a conference led by Fibrimex and Ajinomoto North America, two manufacturers of the enzyme. Both companies insist that only a small percentage of the enzyme makes its way into the meat that is sold in stores.

William Marler, A Seattle lawyer and critic of the meat glue, believes that consuming steak with the glue can put consumers at risk for food-borne illnesses.

Fibrimex and Ajinomoto North America both rebuffed Marler’s claim, stating that the enzyme has been in use for the past two decades and no consumer has ever fallen ill as a result.

The meat industry already has a black eye after the whole pink slime fiasco. While meat glue, for the most part, does not appear to be a major health threat, it does create publicity, though not the good kind. The meat industry will have to take drastic PR measures if it wants to get back on the good side with its consumers.

Teens Drinking Hand Sanitizer to Get Drunk

Teenagers are known for doing stupid things. It is somewhat expected as they are young and at a period in their lives when they want to try new and daring things. Some teenagers also cave in to peer pressure simply because they want to fit in.

Alcohol consumption among teens is a frequent epidemic. If a teen tells her parents that she is spending the night at a friend’s house for a harmless slumber party, chances are that the party is not so innocent and involves alcohol.

Teens will go to great lengths to obtain alcohol. This may mean using a fake ID or getting an older sibling to buy it for them. If these methods don’t work, then they will resort to unorthodox ways. A study shows that a rising number of teens are consuming alcohol by drinking hand sanitizer. An item that is used to clean your hands and kill bacteria is now being utilized by teenagers as a form of booze.

Hand sanitizer contains about 62 percent ethyl alcohol, and some teens are reportedly using salt to extract the alcohol content from the sanitizer. Since 2010, there have been 60 reported cases of teens being admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning and later admitting to have ingested the alcohol from hand sanitizer.

Anything clearly meant for cleaning a body part is not meant to go inside your mouth. One way for parents to prevent their kids from trying this stunt at home is by purchasing hand sanitizer in foam form, which is much harder to have the alcohol extracted.

Alcohol and teens obviously do not mix. Teenage drinking can cause dizziness, vomiting and nausea. It is believed that some teens are drinking the hand sanitizer without even bothering to separate the alcohol first, which can only compound the health risk. Parents need to be realistic and stop believing that their children will never do such a dumb thing. It is often this denial and attitude that causes them to miss the signs that their teens are engaged in such activities.

Car Pollution a Bigger Threat to Human Lives than Auto Collisions

Driving has its risks. Motorists have to be extremely careful when observing road conditions around them. Even so, there is always the risk of a collision by a negligent driver in which serious injury and even death may result. The number of collisions resulting in a fatality numbers in the thousands annually. However, while driving can be dangerous, it is not more dangerous than the smog emitted from vehicles.

According to a study published in the Environmental Science and Technology, approximately 3,300 deaths in the UK in 2005 were linked to emission sources, while deaths from direct collisions numbered just below 3,000.

The study was conducted by Steve Yim and Steven Barrett from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research came in light of London’s violation of air quality regulations set forth by the E.U., which could result in massive penalty fees for the British government if it does not address the issue.

The study further shows that another 6,000 deaths in the country can be attributed to emissions that originated from other regions surrounding the UK. Likewise, an additional 3,100 deaths from other European countries can be traced back to emission from UK sources.

Yim and Barrett analyzed the country’s emission rates according to categories that include road transport, shipping and air, residential, and agricultural sources. Other factors like population density and wind patterns were also factored in. The research discovered that road transportation was the biggest contributor of emission related deaths. This is likely due to the fact that emission from ground vehicles occur at ground level.

While the studies pertained to the UK, other nations need to take notice as well. This is another reason the world needs to begin looking into alternate sources of power, such as wind and solar energy. Aside from human casualties, the emission is also slowly strangling the eco system. It is about time for developed nations to search elsewhere for viable energy sources.

FDA Places Restriction on Use of Antibiotics on Livestock

People go vegetarian for all sorts of reasons. Health concerns are often cited as the primary reason for the transition in diet. Just to be clear, meat in itself is actually very healthy. The main problem stems from the fact that most meat these days goes through a cycle where it is exposed to all sorts of nasty chemicals that are not meant to go into people’s mouths.

Another problem is that farmers tend to inject their livestock with growth hormones and antibiotics. Thousands of human deaths that occur every year can be attributed to bacteria that can be found in the meat. Farmers are known to inject their cattle, pigs and chickens with antibiotics, which can help them grow more quickly. The problem with this practice, however, is that constant injections can make the bacteria inside the animals more resistant to the antibiotics over time. When people ingest the meat, they become ill and cannot be treated with normal antibiotics because of the bacteria’s resistance.

The Food and Drug Administration are now stepping in to put a stop to this practice. They have implemented a new policy that would require farmers to acquire consent from a veterinarian to obtain the antibiotics.

Michael Taylor, the deputy commissioner of food for the FDA, believes that this new policy can save lives and prevent scores of people from falling ill each year. It is estimated that around two million people are admitted to the hospital annually for bacteria related illnesses, though it is unclear how many of these cases are related to the consumption of infected meat.

While this policy is definitely well intended, it may hurt small farming businesses. There are less than 10,000 veterinarians that specialize in the treatment of large animals in the U.S. This will make it extremely difficult for some farmers to receive the necessary antibiotics for their livestock that are legitimately sick.

While this policy may have negative implications for farmers, it places the safety and interest of the public first. In a society where just about every type of food is modified to some extent, this policy will keep some of those modifications out of the meat that people consume.

Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in Soft Drinks

Common sense will tell you that any drink loaded with sugar is not exactly a healthy beverage. Even then, refreshments like soda are consumed by millions of people on a daily basis. The irresistible taste and fizz of a soda pop is just so insatiable for some that the immediate satisfaction of having one outweighs the health risks.

A new study now shows that sugar is not the only factor you should be concerned with when consuming soda. A recent study found that most soda beverages – including the globally popular Coke and Pepsi – contain a caramel coloring ingredient that is linked to cancer. The ingredient in question is a chemical known as 4-methylimidazole, also known more simply as 4-MI. The coloring is not derived from natural caramel; it is produced using a mixture of chemicals that involves ammonia.

4-MI has been shown to induce cancer in lab rats, though whether it can have the same harmful effect on humans remains unknown at this time. 4-MI is found in both regular and diet soda. The amount found in a 12-ounce can exceeds the limit that is recommended by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Despite the health risks posed by 4-MI, health experts insist that there is no cause for alarm. The dosage in a single serving is practically negligible. High fructose corn syrup is a far more serious health risk factor than 4-MI.

There are hundreds of reasons you shouldn’t be drinking soda; its contents are nothing but empty calories, it has no nutritional benefits, and it can lead to obesity. However, 4-MI does not appear to be one of those reasons you should be concerned over. As long as you have soda in moderation, then there is no need to worry about any harm from being exposed to a little caramel coloring.

Pink Slime for School Lunch?

School lunches have always been touted as healthy. That myth was shattered when videos surfaced in early march of meat being processed in a factory. The video showed meat in its early stages of processing. Of course, you would never know it was meat because it looked like a glob of pink slime. What is even more disturbing is that this pink goo is what eventually ends up on the tray of school lunches.

Amidst the outcry, Beef Products Inc., the manufacturer of the processed meat, announced that it would halt production of the beef filler at three of its four factories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has permitted schools to stop using the meat in their cafeteria. The USDA, however, has insisted that the meat does meet all requirements for food health and safety.

The meat is composed of leftover scraps from other meat cuts. The scraps have its fat separated and is compressed into ground meat. The product is then washed in ammonium hydroxide to kill harmful bacteria. Ammonium hydroxide is the chemical contained in most cleaning agents. This is one of the primary reasons for the outcry and call for it to be removed from school lunches.

If the thought of your child eating meat that was once a glob of pink slime is unsettling, then you can opt to prepare your child’s school lunches yourself. By preparing the lunch, you know what exactly your child will be eating. Fixing your child’s meal is easy. It can be something as simple as a juice box, fruit, bag of baked chips and a sandwich made with natural meat. Of course, all schools by now have stopped using the pink slime meat, but if there is still doubt about what the cafeteria is putting into their lunches, then invest in the time to prepare a healthier alternative of your own.

Head of Faulty Breast-Implant Firm Arrested

A global scare came to a dramatic conclusion as Jean-Claude Mas was arrested in France earlier this month. Following a long investigation, the man who was CEO of the firm Poly Implant Prothese was found to have sold sub-standard implants to clinics for implantation in women. If convicted, he could go jail likely for the rest of his days. The charges range from involuntary manslaughter, fraud, and causing injury. This brought a chilling reminder to thousands of women who carry PIP implants.

This case isn’t new. The situation was brought up to the authorities years ago, and in March 2010 the implants were forced off the market because of safety concerns. France authorities have been criticized as being slow to act in this matter. When it comes to implants, or medical equipment of any type, the bar should be higher, and as such these situations always raise public anger. The company had been providing implants until very recently still, with nothing much being done to slow their distribution. The authorities having finally acted, lawyers representing some of the women suing said that seeing Mas brought to justice was a welcomed sight for those wronged.

PIP had been selling their implants for years on the international market, and had good success thanks to lower prices, but what they hid was the fact that they had apparently used industrial silicone not certified for use in medical equipment. While there’s been no sign that this could lead to higher cancer rates, some doctors have reported seeing a higher rupture rate in those implants. Mas had admitted selling over 300,000 implants with sub-standard products, but says they caused no greater risk than normal implants. He also apparently admitted lying about the implants to medical certification boards. Meanwhile, a judge will have to decide whether he is let out on bail or not.

France has called for tighter medical regulations in the EU, and asked women that have PIP implants to get them removed. Meanwhile, other countries such as Britain and Brazil have suggested that anyone using these implants should get a check with their doctor, in case of a potential problem. While there’s no definitive answer as to how risky these implants are, it’s always best not to take any chance. Any sort of rupture can cause complications which are not easy to live with.

Some of the recent news of PIP implant victims have been horrible, Louise Chambers, a 25 year old mother of three, Debbie Lewis or 28 year old Joanna Van Rooyen.

The Dangers of Bisphenol

For those of you who are concerned about health conditions such as, breast and prostate cancer, sexual development abnormalities, and now heart disease, linked to the packaging additive bisphenol A (BPA), there is promising news for you:

Earlier this month, the FDA reversed its stance on the chemical, saying it is now

“taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply.”

It is truly a huge first step, as is the move by cities and states around the country to ban the suspected endocrine disruptor from baby products such as formula cans and ‘sippy’ cups. It could still be years, however, before we see BPA removed from thousands of other products on the market. Yes, this is including those canned soups that you enjoy every day for lunch, but don’t fret, because I enjoy them too.

What is so disconcerting about the BPA issue is that consumers have not been granted the knowledge to decide for themselves whether or not they want to buy products that are packaged with it. As with genetically modified foods, it becomes a consumer guessing game: To date, there are no labeling requirements for thousands of industrial chemicals like BPA that turn up in our food stuffs and packaging.

Here are some tips…..
Soup Swap:
A recent Consumer Reports test found BPA in 19 name-brand foods; the highest levels were in canned soup, including Campbell’s chicken noodle. Switch to Dr. McDougall’s BPA-free soups packaged in FSC-certified cartons, or just make your own from scratch, like mom used to.

Beware of Beans:
Don’t reach for canned beans to whip up that batch of black bean chili, unless you’re going to buy Eden Organic, or other such brands. Westbrae Natural, for instance, says on its website that the lining of its cans is

“a type of food-grade epoxy…the simplest earth friendly coating available.”

Tomatoes and Tuna:
If you love making pasta sauce from scratch, but even that innocent looking little can of tomato paste likely has BPA in it. This all the more reason to plant your own tomatoes, or check out the Bionaturae brand of tomato paste.