Consumer Health Digest #10-36

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 9, 2010

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

Rea disciplinary case settled. The Texas Medical Board has approved a mediated agreed order under which William J. Rea, M.D. must revise the form he uses to obtain consent to treat patients with injections of environmental substances. The order was based upon Rea's failure to obtain informed consent from five patients diagnosed with chemical sensitivity and/or environmental sensitivity. During the investigation, Rea testified that a "car exhaust" solution he used for injections was so dilute that only an "electromagnetic imprint" of the original active substances remained. The revised consent form must state that (a) his injections contain only an “electromagnetic imprint” of the agents in question, (b) the therapy is not FDA approved, and (c) the therapeutic value of the therapy is disputed. In addition, he must not start using any formulations that contain any amounts of substances classified as hazardous or carcinogenic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or any other federal or state regulatory agency. The mediated agreed order settled the board's complaint, filed in 2007, which charged that Rea had (a) used pseudoscientific test methods, (b) failed to make accurate diagnoses, (c) provided "nonsensical" treatments, (d) failed to properly inform patients that his approach is unproven, (e) practiced in areas for which he has not been trained, and (f) represented himself as certified by a board that is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The charges not related to informed consent were dropped as part of the settlement. Rea, who operates the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas, is best known for his promotion of the concept of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a diagnosis not recognized as valid by the scientific community. Quackwatch has a detailed discussion of "MCS."

No overall association found between cell phones and brain tumors. A major study that examined whether cell phone use increases the risk of gliomas (malignant tumors) and meningiomas (benign tumors) has found no evidence that it does. The research, conducted in 13 countries using a common protocol, involved 2,708 glioma cases, 2,409 meningioma cases, and matched controls. It is the largest case-control study of cell phones and brain tumors conducted to date, with the largest numbers of users with at least 10 years of exposure and the greatest cumulative hours of use of any study. For the small proportion of study participants who reported spending the most total time on cell phone calls, there was some association with glioma, but the researchers considered this finding inconclusive. [INTERPHONE Study Group. Brain tumor risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. International Journal of Epidemiology. 39:675-694, 2010] The National Cancer Institute has summarized the findings of smaller studies, most of which found no overall association. [Cell phones and cancer risk. NCI Web site, May 19, 2010] A few of the studies found slight possible higher risks for certain tumors, but the most likely explanation for this is that if enough data points are studied, some may look significant even though they are not. Many laboratory studies have found no evidence that radio waves are carcinogenic in laboratory rodents, and physicists point out that radio waves are not sufficiently energetic to cause DNA damage. All evidence considered, there is no current reason to avoid cell-phone use out of fear that it will cause tumors.

Green tea claims triggers two FDA warning letters. The FDA has issued two warning letters related to claims made for green tea products. One ordered Unilever Americas to stop claiming that its Lipton Green Tea 100% Naturally Caffeinated product has a significant cholesterol-lowering effect and is "a naturally rich source of antioxidants." The other ordered Cadbury Adams USA to stop claiming that its Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale was "enhanced with 200 mg of antioxidants from green tea and vitamin C."

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This page was revised on September 11, 2010.