Consumer Health Digest #07-26
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 10, 2007
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.
More evidence against alleged autism/mercury link. Although autism has no plausible association with mercury toxicity or other heavy metal exposure, oral and topical chelation therapy are being used to treat autism after evaluation of hair, blood, or urine samples for heavy metal toxicity. In this study, hair samples were obtained from 15 children ages 2 to 6 with autism and 16 of their nonautistic siblings in the same age range. No significant differences in mercury levels were found between the two groups. [Williams PG and others. A controlled study of mercury levels in hair samples of children with autism as compared to their typically developing siblings. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (in press), 2007] This finding is strong evidence against the notion that mercury toxicity causes autism.
Suit filed in chelation death. The parents of a 5-year-old autistic child who was killed by chelation therapy are suing Roy Kerry, M.D., ApothéCure (a compounding pharmacy), and several other associated individuals and companies. The suit seeks punitive damages as well as damages for wrongful death and lack of informed consent. Kerry is also facing disciplinary action by the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine. There is no scientific evidence that autism has a toxic basis or that chelation therapy has any therapeutic value for autistic children.
Consumer Reports pans Lens Doctor. Lens Doctor, a liquid solution that is brushed onto glasses that are scratched or cloudy, is claimed to fill in scratches, undo cloudiness, make your glasses "like new again." However, tests conducted for Consumer Reports magazine found that the product lessened readability. [Lens Doctor gets a black eye. Consumer Reports 12(8):7, 2007] Infomercialscams.com has published 25 complaints from dissatisfied customers who reported poor product performance, slow delivery, nondelivery, and credit card overcharges.
ACSH updates irradiated foods report. The sixth edition of American Council on Health's report on food irradiation can be read online free of charge. It's key points include:
- Low-dose radiation can be used to pasteurize foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and spices in the same manner that heat is used to pasteurize milk, eliminating disease-causing organisms. Leafy produce such as spinach and lettuce can also be sanitized by irradiation without impairing its quality.
- Recent cases of bacterial contamination of the food supply make it imperative that all effective means of sanitizing both animal and plant products be used.
- Irradiation not only enhances food safety, it can also increase the availability of many foods that are rarely if ever marketed in the U.S. market.
- To avoid importing destructive insect and other pests with foreign produce, the foods must be treated to kill or inactivate them. Standard processes include temperature treatments that may impair quality, or fumigation with toxic gases. Irradiation can avoid these techniques—it can both halt the spread of pests and in some cases improve food quality without impairing safety.
- Food irradiation has been studied more extensively than that of any other food preservation process, including canning, freezing, dehydration, and the use of chemical additives. Just as processing foods by other means (such as broiling) can create minute amounts of new chemicals, so can irradiation—but there is no evidence that trace amounts of these chemicals are hazardous for human consumption. Nor does irradiation of food pose a risk to workers in irradiation plants or to communities in which irradiation plants are located.
- More than 50 countries have approved irradiation for various applications, as have The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the Institute of Food Technologists.
Psychic researcher rebuked. The FDA Office of Research Protection has told the University of Arizona that Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. had failed to protect the identities of several experimental subjects and had failed to get institutional review board approval for certain studies. The letter asked the University to correct the problems and to suspend all human research by Schwartz until he completes training in human subjects research protection. [McNeilly PJ. Warning letter to Leslie P. Tolbert, Ph.D., June 22, 2007] Schwartz is a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery at the University of Arizona and director of its Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health and its Center for Frontier Medicine in Biofield Science. He also directs the psychology department's VERITAS Research Program (formerly called Human Energy Systems Laboratory). The university's Web site states that (a) the program was "created primarily to test the hypothesis that the consciousness (or personality or identity) of a person survives physical death" and that its current Mediumship Communication Research Project "analyzes the purported communication with the deceased that is experienced by individuals termed mediums."
This page was posted on July 11, 2007.