Consumer Health Digest #02-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 8, 2002

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

"Miss Cleo" promoters sentenced in criminal case. The corporations and corporate leaders behind TV psychic "Miss Cleo" were sentenced after pleading "no contest" to criminal charges of unlawful merchandising practices in Missouri. The defendants were Florida-based corporations Access Resource Services and Psychic Reader Network, current corporate president Peter Stolz, and corporate officer and past-president Steven L. Feder (Stolz's cousin). The sentences included probation, financial penalties, and an order barring the men from further telemarketing activities in Missouri. Quackwatch has additional details.

NCAHF blasts anti-amalgamists. The National Council Against Health Fraud has issued a position paper response to false claims that the mercury content of amalgam fillings causes toxic amounts of mercury to enter the body. The paper concludes that amalgam fillings are safe, that anti-amalgam activities endanger public welfare, and that so-called "mercury-free dentistry" is substandard practice. Dental amalgam has been widely used for over 150 years. It is the most thoroughly studied and tested filling material now used. Compared to other restorative materials, it is more durable, easier to use, and less expensive. It is made by mixing approximately equal parts of elemental liquid mercury and an alloy powder composed of silver, tin, copper, and sometimes smaller amounts of zinc, palladium, or indium. Although some forms of mercury are hazardous, the mercury in amalgam is chemically bound to the other metals to make it stable and therefore safe for use in dental applications. The difference between bound and unbound chemicals can be illustrated by a simple comparison. Elemental hydrogen is an explosive gas. Elemental oxygen is a gas that supports combustion. When combined, however, they form water, which has neither of these effects. Saying that amalgam will poison you is like saying that drinking water will make you explode and burst into flames. The NCAHF Position Paper on Dental Amalgam is available in both text and PDF formats.

NICO practitioner charged with professional misconduct. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has ordered Anthony G. Roeder, D.D.S., of Paoli, Pennsylvania, to "show cause" why his license should not be revoked or restricted. [Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs Anthony G. Roeder, D.D.S. [Order to show cause. State Board of Dentistry Docket No. 1222-46-02, Sept 23, 2002] The order alleges that Roeder:

Roeder is part of a small network of "biological dentists" who diagnose and treat "neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO)," a condition said to involve "cavities" or cysts within the jaw. NICO is not a legitimate diagnosis. [Dodes JE, Schissel M. Cavitational osteopathosis, NICO, and "biological dentistry." Quackwatch Web site]

Six more argyria cases reported. Argyria is a condition in which silver salts deposit in the skin, eyes, and internal organs, and the skin turns blue-gray. Many cases occurred during the pre-antibiotic era when silver was a common ingredient in nosedrops. When the cause became apparent, the medical profession stopped recommending their use and reputable manufacturers stopped producing them. However, silver products are being marketed as "dietary supplements" and devices and instructions for making them are also available. Within the past month, six cases of argyria related to silver products have been reported:

The first five were reported in a medical journal. [Hori K and others. Believe it or not—Silver still poisons! Veterinary and Human Toxicology 44(5):291-292, 2002] The sixth was identified in news reports. [Blue Is the color of my candidate's skin. Associated Press, Oct 2, 2002] Another case was reported two years ago. [Gulbranson SH and others. Argyria following the use of dietary supplements containing colloidal silver protein. Cutis 66:373-374, 2000.] Quackwatch contains additional information about the illegal marketing of silver-related products.

Heart Association updates chelation position paper. The American Heart Association has updated its policy statement on Questions and Answers about Chelation Therapy. The statement concludes:

The American Heart Association's Clinical Science Committee has reviewed the available literature on the use of chelation (EDTA) in the treatment of atherosclerotic heart or blood vessel disease and finds no scientific evidence to demonstrate any benefit of this form of therapy. Furthermore, employment of this form of unproven treatment may deprive patients of the well established benefits attendant to the many other valuable methods of treating these diseases.

Book chronicles three prominent quacks. Historian Eric S. Juhnke has examined the marketing successes of John Brinkley, Norman Baker, and Harry Hoxsey. Brinkley offered "rejuvenation" with goat gland implants. Baker offered home remedies for a wide variety of ailments. Hoxsey promised to cure cancer. All three won large audiences and powerful political patrons by casting their pitches in everyday language and resonating with the fears and insecurities of their supporters. Today's quacks use many of the same sales pitches and political maneuvers. Quacks and Crusaders: The Fabulous Careers of John Brinkley, Norman Baker, & Harry Hoxsey is available at a 33% discount from Amazon Books.

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This page was posted on October 8, 2002.