Consumer Health Digest #03-46
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 25, 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.
New England Journal supports amalgam filling use. The New England Journal of medicine has published a strongly worded article intended to reassure dentists and the general public that amalgam use is safe. [Clarkson TW and others. The toxicology of Mercury -- Current exposures and clinical manifestations. New England Journal of Medicine 349:1731-1737, 2003] The authors identify three major sources of mercury exposure to the general population: fish consumption, dental amalgam fillings and vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. They conclude:
- Urinary mercury concentrations in patients with amalgams are only about 2-4 micrograms per liter, well below the 20- to 50-microgram level that can be found with occupational exposure. Even at the levels associated with occupational exposure, symptoms are mild and reversible.
- Speculation and public concern have arisen from claims that long-term exposure to low concentrations of mercury vapor from amalgams will either cause or exacerbate neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. However, several epidemiologic investigations have failed to provide evidence of a role of amalgam in these diseases.
- Patients who have questions about the potential relation between amalgam fillings and degenerative diseases can be assured that the available evidence shows no connection.
New British law supports fluoridation. The British Government has enacted a Water Bill that enables local communities in England and Wales to decide whether they wish to have their water fluoridated. Clause 58 transfers the final decision about fluoridation away from water suppliers to health authorities in consultation with their local communities. Once regulations are implemented, water companies will be obliged to fluoridate supplies if asked to do so by a health authority which has determined that a community supports it. Within the next few months, Department of Health officials will publish regulations determining how public consultations on fluoridation should be conducted and the outcomes decided. The British Fluoridation Society has worked closely with key MPs, the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association and the Water Industry's representative body, Water UK, to encourage the Government to correct flawed legislation so that health authorities rather than water companies make decisions about fluoridation.
"Scientific" chiropractic technique debunked. Chirobase has posted a detailed report explaining why Chiropractic Biophysics ® (CBP®) lacks a rational basis. CBP is based on theoretical calculations related to posture and spinal curvature. To determine what curvature exists, practitioners draw many lines on the patient's x-ray films and measure the various angles at which they meet. The treatment includes adjustments, traction, and exercises intended to develop "normal" neck and low-back curvature. However, many people without symptoms have curves that deviate from CBP's "ideal spine," and research has not demonstrated that anything unique to CBP improves treatment outcomes. The report concludes: "Patients may expend considerable time and money only to find that they are no better or worse than if they had a few manipulations to the areas related to their symptoms. And some will wind up with unnecessary lifelong care that includes excessive exposure to radiation." Some practitioners advocate treating children from birth onward. [Botnick A. A Close Look at Chiropractic Biophysics (CBP). Chirobase, Nov 24, 2003] After reading the article, CBP's originator (Donald D. Harrison, DC, PhD, MSE) stated that it contained "misleading, false & slanderous statements" and demanded that it be removed. When asked to identify the statements, he refused and stated that he will sue the author and the webmaster.
FDA attacks "hormone-free" milk claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned four manufacturers to stop labeling their milk products are "No Hormones" or "Hormone Free." The agency has determined that these statements are false claims because all milk contains naturally occurring hormones that milk processing does not remove. I has also stated that food manufacturers who do not use milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) may voluntarily inform consumers of this fact on their product labels or labeling, provided that the statements are truthful and not misleading. During the rbST approval process, the FDA determined that the recombinant (genetically engineered) form of bST is virtually identical to a cow's natural somatotropin, a pituitary hormone that stimulates milk production and that there is no significant difference between milk from treated and untreated cows. For that reason, the FDA also concluded that it lacks the authority to require special labeling for products from rbST-treated cows, and that producers have no basis for claiming that milk from untreated cows is safer. [FDA warns milk producers to remove "hormone free" claims from the labeling of dairy products. FDA news release, Sept 12, 2003]
Australian court blocks payment to MLM distributors who marketed illegally. The New South Wales Supreme Court has ruled the liquidator of Giraffe World Australia Pty Ltd could refuse to pay for commission income earned from illegal pyramid selling activity. In August 1999, the Federal Court had found that Giraffe World had violated the Trade Practices Act of 1974 for referral and pyramid selling and for misleading consumers about its "negative ion' mat," which did not produce negative ions or health benefits as the company had claimed. The mat was promoted through a pyramid selling scheme; as the scheme saturated the market, new membership levels dropped and the company was put out of business.
UK advertising authority asks unregistered chiropractor to modify ads. The British Advertising Standards Authority has asked Harry Rowe to modify his ads by removing the word "Dr." from his title. The case arose in response to ads that described Rowe's chiropractic training and claimed:
Harry offers treatment solutions for many conditions including dyslexia, ADHD (Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder), learning disabilities, dyspraxia, autism . . . skin disorders, scoliosis, epilepsy as well as structural problems. . . . IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THE ABOVE SYMPTOMS, WE CAN HELP, AS WE HAVE HELPED THOUSANDS LIKE YOU!!!
The ads also referred to Rowe as a "complementary medicine practitioner." The ASA's investigation revealed that although Rowe had received a chiropractic degree at Cleveland Chiropractic College (in the United States), he was not registered to practice in the United Kingdom. The Authority concluded that (a) the advertisement misleadingly implied that Rowe was a registered chiropractor; (b) the offer to diagnose and treat serious medical conditions could improperly discourage people from seeking essential medical care; and (c) the title "Dr. Harry Rowe" misleadingly implied he was a qualified medical practitioner. ASA adjudication report: [Post House Family Complementary and Alternative Medicine Centre, Nov 26, 2003]
This page was posted on November 25, 2003.