Consumer Health Digest #03-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 18, 2003

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.

Congress funds national "Do Not Call" list. The Do-Not-Call Implementation Act (Public Law No: 108-10 ) permits the FTC to proceed with its plan to implement a national directory of people who do not wish to receive unsolicited sales calls. The agency hopes to launch the program this summer. Once the list is established, telemarketers would have to check it every three months to find out who does not want to be called, and calls to listed persons could trigger fines of up to $11,000 per violation. Charities, surveys and calls on behalf of politicians would be exempt. The FTC's Do Not Call Registry Web site will monitor implementation of the list. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees calls made by airlines, banks, and telephone companies (the worst offenders), airlines, and banks, is considering forcing them to adhere to the program. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which claims to have a better plan, has filed suit to stop the FTC from establishing its proposed list. So far, 27 states have enacted their own do-not-call legislation.

California slated for fluoridation boost. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's board of directors has voted to adjust the fluoride content of the 1.7 gallons of water it supplies daily to about 18 million people in Southern California. The company estimates that it will take about 30 months to supplement the trace amounts of naturally occurring fluoride in the district's imported source waters from the Colorado River and Northern California to optimum levels. The California Dental Association Foundation, in cooperation with a statewide fluoridation task force, has offered to pay the $5 million cost of installing the equipment. [Metropolitan Board adopts policy to fluoridate imported drinking water fluoridation projected to cost less than a dollar a family. News release, Feb 11, 2003] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2000,.about 162 million people (65.8% of the U.S. population served by public water systems) received optimally fluoridated water. [Populations receiving optimally fluoridated public drinking water -- United States, 2000. MMWR 51:144-147, 2002]

Anthrax-related stock swindler convicted. Charles W. Kallmann, the former Chief Executive Officer of 37Point9, Inc., has pled guilty in federal court in San Diego, California, to two counts of securities fraud intended to boost his company's stock price during the anthrax scare in 2001. Kallmann was charged with issuing false press releases claiming that "SurfaceShield" had long-term killing effectiveness against anthrax and a wide variety of other germs. The price of the stock increased approximately 300% in response to the releases. The sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 9th. [Defendant pleads guilty to issuing false anthrax press releases. U.S. Justice Department news release, March 11, 2003]

Unlicensed midwife jailed again for contempt. Freida Miller, a 48-year-old lay midwife who mainly services Amish and Mennonite communities in Holmes and Wayne counties (about 70 miles northeast of Columbus, Ohio), has been ordered held until June 18 for contempt of court. In May 2002, she had pled guilty to unauthorized practice of medicine and possession of dangerous drugs. (She had illegally injected the prescription drugs Pitocin and Methergine into a new mother to stop bleeding after a birth in December 2001.) Later she was sentenced to 3 years of probation but was jailed for 55 days because she refused to tell a grand jury who had provided the drugs. [Singer P. Midwife back in jail for not revealing source of drugs. Columbus Dispatch, March 15, 2003]

Cameroon health official warns against "urine therapy." Cameroon's health minister, Urbain Olanguena Awono, has warned that drinking urine may not be good for people's health. In a public statement, he said: "Given the risks of toxicity associated in the short, medium and long term with ingesting urine, the health ministry advises against the consumption of urine and invites those who promote the practice to cease doing so forthwith or risk prosecution."

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This page was posted on March 18, 2003.