October 18th, 2009 20:35 EST
Food Day, Flavor City, Cancer Month, Paranoia Time, and Tylenol
By Curtis Porter
World Food Day: a reminder that malnutrition - indeed, starvation - still stalks the world`s impoverished regions. This was the scourge that our late founding trustee and Nobel Peace laureate, Norman Borlaug, fought against all his long life.
Hooked on Harm Reduction
ACSH`s Jeff Stier has an op-ed in today`s New York Post skewering the New York City Council`s decision this week to ban certain flavorings in all tobacco products: "It is a quit-or-die dogma that evades logic...These government actions will do nothing to protect kids. The only effect is to promote the most dangerous form of tobacco use, smoking cigarettes. If the advocates get their way, the only thing addicted smokers will be able to buy are mostly ineffective nicotine gums and patches - and, of course, cigarettes."
Righteous Anger, Mostly
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month - which is ongoing - a headline on the blog Jezebel (warning: article contains salty language) reads "Breast cancer is a disease, not a marketing opportunity." The post goes on to lambaste various marketing attempts to exploit the disease for publicity and eventually veers off onto a tangential screed about environmental chemicals, but for the most part we found it fairly enlightening.
"So many people are out there supporting so many breast cancer groups," says Stier. "The groups say they fight breast cancer, and these well-intentioned people give money to organizations just because they are `against breast cancer.` Some of these groups actually undermine the cause, by sending us in the wrong direction - by suggesting environmental chemicals are to blame, or promoting misguided legislation such as the EARLY Act."
"Studies attempting to link environmental chemical exposure to breast cancer have been done hundreds of times," says ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross. "No relationship has been demonstrated."
Giving a Voice to People Who Should Stop Talking
ACSH staffers had mixed feelings about a New York Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer that reveals a current of anti-scientific distrust of the H1N1 flu vaccine - and vaccines in general - among some Americans who tend to feel strongly on subjects about which they have no expertise. "The key is, she points out a real junk science controversy and debunks it," says Stier. "The message eventually comes through that the H1N1 vaccine is safe."
Dr. Ross is less patient with the blatantly erroneous arguments raised. "I do not feel that this is appropriately balanced, though it certainly has the appearance of being balanced," he says. "It may be polite to give equal time to self-styled `medical experts` and `concerned mothers,` but Ms. Steinhauer does a disservice to her readers by creating the false notion that there is confusion among actual health experts over whether the vaccine is safe. The so-called `debate about vaccines` is like the debate about vaccines causing autism. It`s created in these people`s minds."
Have no fear, however. Here to offer their own misguided opinions on the subject are various celebrities who also have no medical or scientific background. In a rare reminder that being egregiously irrational knows no political affiliation, both Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher have spoken out against flu vaccines (warning: the Bill Maher video is painful to watch).
"This issue is attracting attention from celebrities on both ends of the political spectrum," says Stier. "It underscores, whether we like it or not (we don`t), the importance of celebrities when the media explores these issues. We must steel ourselves against this phenomenon by reviewing the long history of celebrities versus science."
Out of the ashes of all of this misinformation rises the phoenix that is the quote of the day, as recorded by Ms. Steinhauer:
"I wonder if the people disseminating this false information about this vaccine realize that what they are doing could result in some people losing their lives," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the director of the Department of Public Health for Los Angeles County. The comments of vaccine dissenters, which he said "politically come from the left and the right," were frequently "not just counterproductive," he said, "but downright disgraceful."
Tylenol and Vaccines
A new study published in the journal The Lancet reveals that giving children acetaminophen to prevent fever when they receive childhood vaccinations can reduce their immune response. "In the routine vaccinated population, acetaminophen should not be administered with vaccine," says Dr. Ross.
"This study is specifically about acetaminophen," adds Stier. "It is unclear if reducing fever is the issue or simply taking acetaminophen. The important thing is parents - and doctors - should know not to give it to kids when they receive a vaccine."
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