Category Archives: Topics


When Your Body Turns Against Itself

It can be a scary thing to think about something that it supposed to be good for your body turning around and harming it. This is exactly the case with proteins called prions.

In a village in Papua New Guinea, a strange disease had been spreading for years killing women and children in the tribe- its source and cause was elusive. When researchers delved into the matter in the early 1960s, the answer they got surprised them.

The disease was known as kuru among the people, meaning “shivering” or “trembling”. It would begin to take over an individual by slowly causing the inability to move limbs, then the loss of control of emotions, followed by the loss of control of bodily functions and complete inability to move. The village was losing about 200 people a year to the disease- mostly women and children.
After conducting extensive research in the village, researcher Shirley Lindenbaum found that it was not correlated with genetics, but with an unnerving funeral ritual. Some of the people of the tribe, mostly only women, would cook and ingest the bodies of deceased tribe members. They thought it to be an act of love, and believed they were giving the spirit of the deceased a safe place of housing for a time. Children would sometimes partake, thus the link was connected to those dying of the disease. However, it was found not be a bacteria or infection that caused the disease, but proteins gone bad.

A prion is a protein inside our brains that, when becoming twisted in the wrong way, or “misfolded”, turns hostile and combative, acting like a pathogen and causing any other protein it comes into contact with to also become warped. This forms clumps of prions that will attack brain cells until the brain completely loses functionality.

These proteins turned to the dark side are the cause of “mad cow” disease, among others, and have been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is disturbing that these proteins intended for good have the potential to harm so immensely. Yet more disturbing still is that the “infected” prions are not killed by boiling water, or easily with heat or radiation. This means the warped prions can carry over to other patients from contact with surgical tools, and the reason why mad cow disease is spread through the ingesting of affected meat. Since thorough cooking does not get rid of bad prions, one is not be able to know they are infected until later. Likewise, with the case of kuru, the disease began to spread due to one of the deceased tribal members already having a prion-related disease.

Prion-related diseases, known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs, are untreatable since not much information is yet known how and why prions become misfolded. Researches at Iowa State University have linked copper ions with the misfolding of the proteins, but not with the actual prion-related disease. However, the link is a start, and for now, scientists are hard at work to determine the root cause so that when symptoms of TSEs arise, the misfolding of the prions can be undone.


E-Cigarettes May Be Going Extinct

In a span of two years, smokers wishing to quit may have many less options than they do today, as brand new FDA regulations on e-cigarettes and related products are already causing harm to the vaping industry. This FDA censorship, which took effect August 8, will drastically reduce the size of the vaping market, limit consumers’ options, and generally discourage them from trying to find an alternative to smoking.

The first major action the FDA took against the vaping industry is requiring all manufacturers to obtain FDA approval for any product they wish to carry for longer than two years. In order to do this, manufacturers must submit a “premarket tobacco product application” (PMTA) for each product they wish to continue selling, the cost of which the FDA estimates to be from $12,000 – $2.6 million. Due to this harsh restriction, some larger manufacturers have already filed federal lawsuits against the FDA. One of these companies, Nicopure, has stated that it would have to submit thousands of PMTAs to keep all of its current products on the market, but will not be able to manage more than a dozen in the next two years. This demand in itself will diminish the number of e-cigarette manufacturers, and will reduce the amount of products available to the public.

Aside from these giant issues the larger “formal” manufacturers will have to face, there are the thousands of vape shops across the country that will likely diminish. Vape shops custom mix e-liquids for their customers, as well as assemble and fix e-cigarettes, but these actions will now cause shops to qualify as manufacturers under the FDA’s new rules. The shops will be unlikely to bear the monetary weight of FDA regulation as manufacturers, and then will be forced to no longer offer these customer services. Custom mixing e-liquids is the main draw and major selling point of vape shops, and with no longer being able to offer custom fluids, many shops will likely run out of business.

The FDA is giving the grace period of two years for manufacturers to seek its approval of products, however, it does not apply to variations introduced after the August 8 deadline, in effect banning product improvements. Even small changes in a current product’s size, flavor, ingredients, etc. after August 8 will constitute a brand new product that will require FDA approval. This means that any larger changes, such as improvements, to a current product are also banned without approval- improvements that could make e-cigarettes easier or cheaper to use, or could cause them to be more appealing to smokers wishing to quit.

In addition, the FDA has placed speech restrictions to prevent fraud. However, these restrictions prohibit statements and explanations that are true and accurate, and that would benefit consumers trying to decide between smoking and vaping. Since the FDA has placed tobacco-free e-cigarettes into the tobacco products category, manufacturers are not allowed to advertise their products as “smoke-free”, “ash-free”, “tar-free”, etc, as that would be promoting a “tobacco product”. Therefore, e-cigarette companies will not be able to promote the main goal and advantage of their products- being less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

Up until now, manufacturers of e-cigarette products have gone largely unregulated. The harmful effects of vaping may not be fully known or scientifically proven, however, the fact that e-cigarettes contain only a fraction of the harmful chemicals as do conventional tobacco cigarettes, makes them a less-harmful option. Only time will tell, but the FDA has already caused the future to look bleak for this alternative to tobacco smoking.


You May Be Putting Mercury On Your Face

It is very important to check the ingredient lists on your facial products, as you may by applying an incredibly toxic chemical to your face and hands.

Many anti-aging and anti-wrinkle cremes have been found to contain traces of mercury, and even occasionally soaps and lotions. As it is illegal for skin products to contain mercury in the US, these products still manage to find their way to US store shelves from other countries. Buyers should be wary when they see un-branded and unfamiliar brand products, as they may have been imported, and when buying skin products in another country. But even at home, the internet market is a hotspot for these items to be easily sold, so special caution should be taken when purchasing skin products online.

Mercury exposure is very dangerous and must be taken seriously. Mercury can effect the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs of people of all ages. It is especially harmful to pregnant women and unborn babies, as it can harm their developing nervous systems, affecting ability to think and learn. Mercury can be passed to other people in a household by contact with the person who applied a mercury-containing product to their skin, or even with washcloths on which the product was applied. These products are even dangerous without direct contact to the skin, as they can release mercury in the form of vapor.

The ingredients on a skin product may not list “mercury” out-right, but if you have any product that lists the ingredients “mercurous chloride”, “mercuric”, “mercurio”, or “calomel”, use should be discontinued immediately. Before purchasing anti-aging or any type of face creme in the store, check the ingredient list for these key words. Products that do not list ingredients should be avoided. If throwing out any products at home, be sure to dispose of any mercury-containing product in a sealed plastic bag or container.


Where you live may be worsening your asthma

Along with the potential of hazardous chemicals draining into rivers and lakes and entering the local water supply, studies are now showing that the effects of fracking may cause asthma symptoms to worsen or intensify.

Fracking has become a very popular process in recent times. It is achieved by oil companies pumping water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to extract pockets of natural gas that are hard to reach by other means. It is very controversial due to potential environmental and health dangers, and the overall uncertainty about this fairly new process that involves highly toxic chemicals.

The study was conducted by Dr. Brian Schwartz from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and a team of researchers. The data for the study was taken by Schwartz and his team from digital records from over 35,000 patients at Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Clinic between 2005 and 2012.  A very large amount of fracking sites and natural gas wells were created in the area over these years. Looking at asthma exacerbations in patients during four stages of natural gas production, the numbers showed that there were increased allergy prescriptions given, increased emergency room visits, and increased hospitalizations for asthma patients during the studied time span. The report states that severe asthma attacks were 1.5 times more likely and moderate attacks were 4 time more likely.

There are many individual effects of fracking which seem to have a direct correlation to the worsening of asthma, but Schwartz states that pollution and the stress of a changing environment seem to be the most impactful. As the study has not proved this correlation as fact, the findings show a definite association.

Of course there is backlash about the study from energy industry leaders, who say there are flaws in how the study was conducted. As this study helps with our understanding of the effects of fracking and asthma symptoms, suggestions have been made that it would be beneficial for researchers to further study patients who are living near to producing oil and gas wells.


Lawsuits for Unneeded Heart Stents

Dr. Seydi Aksut was once one of the busiest cardiologist in Alabama. According to federal data in 2012, Dr. Aksut installed more heart stents than any other doctor in Alabama.

Unfortunately, it seems like many of the procedures may have been unnecessary. In 2013 Vaughn Hospital performed an independent review of all stent cases and notified patients who may have been impacted. Since then, more than 12 lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Aksut.

To learn more click here and here.


Why is our country being torn apart? Confirmation Bias

Some would say that our country hasn’t been this divided in decades. There are so many issues that have polarized us into different camps; Black Lives Matter, Obamacare, gun control, marriage, and even bathrooms.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on these issues one thing can be certain: the other side is crazy! In fact, you probably have hard facts to back you up, but believe this… so does the other side.


Say hello to “Confirmation Bias”. It’s a scientific term that describes our natural inclination to confirm our position.

Without even trying, we tend to look for things that support our thoughts, interpret data in a way that backs our arguments, and then favorably recall data that makes us right. In fact, researchers have shown that we don’t even need clear evidence to believe it proves our point – we will even use ambiguous evidence in a pinch and think it completely backs us up.

One of the results of confirmation bias is “attitude polarization”. On emotionally charged issues, groups of people are prone to generate very different perspectives using the same data. Once our emotions set us on a particular path, we will naturally seek evidence to confirm that path.  In complex real-world issues, there’s enough data to go around to support anyone’s position.

Unfortunately, our bias isn’t on the conscious level and so almost all of us exhibit confirmation bias without even trying.

Knowing about confirmation bias isn’t about doubting your own position. Obviously you are right. Whatever your stance on the issues, you’ve rationally built your arguments on hard facts. Nevertheless, what’s important to know is that the other side has also built their arguments on hard facts (or at least they’ve armed themselves with enough data to “know” they are right).

If we aim to bring healing to this country, it will not be through arguing our agenda. Thanks to confirmation bias, the other side has amassed sufficient evidence to contradict your rational argument. If you want change and healing, you must appeal to emotion; and empathy is the main tool to do so.


Doctors Warn About LED Streetlights

We are all happy to get rid of the gloomy streetlights of old, but if you’ve felt like the new white LED lights are harsh on the eyes, you’re not alone. Science is on your side.

The new LED streetlights shine in a color range that is scientifically proven to hurt our eyes and produce significant glare. Doctors Color Temperaturerecommend that streetlights produce a color temperature less than 3000 Kelvin and new LED streetlights produce light at 4000 to 5000 Kelvin. This range has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns in humans and wildlife.

Although the lights look pretty from a distance, they might have significant long term effects on local residents and wildlife.

Click here to read the press release by the American Medical Association.



GMO Labels: coming to a store near you

July 1st marks the first day of mandatory GMO labeling, at least in Vermont. Although the new law only applies to food sold in Vermont, any company which sells food nationwide would either need specific packaging for Vermont or would in effect be labeling their product  everywhere. Many believe this will begin a chain reaction in GMO labeling.

Federal law makers are considering ways of putting a hold on the state law, citing concerns about its impact on US agriculture and commerce. They claim that state level laws could potentially create 50 different regulation frameworks that food product manufacturers would have to adhere to. Additionally, they claim that labeling GMOs will unnecessarily increase food prices.

The Senate has proposed a compromise law that will be voted on in the next few weeks. This law allows food manufacturers to display GMO information by either printing it on the box or having a QR code that one can scan with a smart phone. Opponents of the bill say that requiring a smart phone to read the label defeats the purpose of even having a label and helps keep US consumers in the dark about their food.

Click here to learn more.