STUDY: Testing reveals scores of substances in study volunteers
JOURNAL: Environmental Working Group
AUTHORS: Jane Houlihan
ABSTRACT: When scientists sampled Andrea Martin’s blood and urine to see what toxins she’d picked up from the world around her, she got a surprise. “I had 95 chemical contaminants in my little body. And it was very mind blowing,” said Martin. The test results indicate that we all pick up tiny amounts of an astounding number of chemicals that are known to be dangerous in larger doses.
COMMENTARY: Martin and eight others were tested by Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and an advocacy organization called the Environmental Working Group.
On average, the nine participants had traces of 53 chemicals known to cause cancer in human or animal tests. In addition, they had an average of 62 chemicals toxic to the brain or nervous system, plus 55 associated with birth defects.
The scientists did not find any single substance in amounts the government describes as unhealthy, but said the sheer number of chemicals was unnerving, especially given the uncertainty about the health effects of trace amounts.
"This is irrefutable proof that humans carry in their bodies scores of industrial contaminants, most of which didn’t exist 75 years ago,” said Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.
Scientists have found chemicals called pthalates, which are known to cause birth defects in animals, in many personal care items like makeup, hairspray, soap and also plastic food wrap.
Other chemicals found in the participants’ bodies target the nervous system, including: Acetone in nail polish synthetic fragrances in perfume and soap, poisons in weed killers and bug sprays, perchloral ethyline in dry cleaners, zylene in paint which can also cause organ damage.
For those intent on avoiding even traces of toxic chemicals, the study’s authors suggest eating organic produce, minimizing fatty foods since chemicals concentrate in body fat, minimizing the use of beauty products, avoiding stain removers and avoiding seafood known to be high in mercury.
These precautions may be more hassle than many care to deal with, but the scientists in charge of the study say it is amazing how many potentially toxic chemicals get in our bodies.
STUDY: Preventing infant sleeping problems should be more cost-effective than treating them after they have arisen.
JOURNAL: Arch Dis Child. 2003;88:108-111
AUTHORS: M. Nikolopoulou and Ian St. James-Roberts
ABSTRACT: Newborn infants that feed too often are at high risk for disrupted night sleep. However, these infants may benefit from a simple preventive behavioral program.
COMMENTARY: Many Western parents find infant and child night waking to be a source of substantial stress, both for themselves and their relationships with their children.
In a community sample of 316 newborn infants, those who had more than 11 feeds per 24 hours at one week of age were 2.7 times (95% confidence interval, 1.5 - 4.8) more likely to fail to sleep through the night at 12 weeks of age.
The infants and their families were randomized to receive one of three interventions: a three-step behavioral program, an educational booklet and helpline access for sleeping problems, or routine services. The behavioral program consisted of maximizing the difference between night and day environments by minimizing light and social interaction at night; avoiding feeding or cuddling at night; and from the age of three weeks, gradually delaying feeds when the baby awoke at night.
At 12 weeks, 82% of at-risk infants who received the behavioral program slept through the night, compared with 61% of at-risk infants who received the other interventions. The findings were similar for both bottle- and breast-fed babies.
"Preventing infant sleeping problems should be more cost-effective than treating them after they have arisen," the authors write. "This study provides evidence that it is possible to identify infants who are at risk of failing to sleep through the night at an early age, and that a simple, three step, preventive behavioral program increases the number who sleep through the night by 21%."