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'Tis the Season for Carbon Monoxide

From MarketWatch:

This year, more than 20,000 people will visit the emergency room due to the No. 1 killer poison in the United States. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas which will kill approximately 500 people over the course of the year.

Aurora Health Care and the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine are urging households to guard against CO poisoning this holiday season. The winter months see a drastic increase of CO poisoning cases. The key to not being a victim is being aware of common hazards and installing a CO detector.

"With the onset of cold weather people are turning on furnaces for the first time of the season," explains Dr. Jeffrey Niezgoda, Medical Director of the Centers of Comprehensive Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center and President of the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine. "We want to remind people to have their furnaces and chimneys serviced and to replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector, install one on every level of your home. It may save your life."

Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, impaired judgment or confusion.

"With minor exposures many people will quickly recover after being removed from the poisonous environment," says Niezgoda. "However, some people will show delayed symptoms, so if you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should go to the emergency room."

"In cases of severe carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be beneficial," says Niezgoda. "Treating a patient with hyperbaric oxygen allows for rapid removal of carbon monoxide and can prevent cellular damage, especially in the brain and heart."

Prevention, and the use of a CO detector, are big keys in preventing CO poisoning, according to the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine. Be sure your furnace and other appliances, such as gas ovens, ranges and cook tops are inspected for ventilation. Do not cook with a propane grill inside your garage. Have gas fireplaces inspected each fall to ensure the pilot light burns safely. Your home heating system, chimney and flue must be cleared of nests, leaves and residue, and should be inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician, annually. Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements. Do not leave your car, mower or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open. Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.

Posted: 11/26/2008 11:23:00 AM

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Can Organic Detox Foot Pads Really Make You Feel Better?

From The Daily Green:

URTH Guy was sent a sample kit the other day from Global Healing Center, an informational website and online retailer of natural products based on non-GMO, organically certified, wildcrafted ingredients.

The item that most caught my attention is Dr. Group's Organic Foot Pads, since I've been hearing about Kinoki foot pads from friends and in the media. According to Global Healing Center (GHC), Dr. Group's pads are designed to aid the body in removing harmful chemicals and heavy metal toxins. And they are the first such pads made with genuine organic ingredients.

The foot pads are supposed to take advantage of 60 acupressure points found on the soles of your feet. They are said to "stimulate, energize and draw out chemicals, toxins and heavy metals from the body. These points mirror the specific body systems of the biorhythmic network that represents our total state of wellbeing."

What's in them? Organic wood vinegar, which is supposed to produce an osmotic effect that promotes the transport of toxins across cell membranes. There's also organic bamboo vinegar, organic Agaricus Blazei Murril (a fungus extract), powdered gemstones, natural starch and various herbs (such as organic Loquat). You're supposed to apply one pad to the sole of each foot before bed, every night or every other night.

So I tried this, as did my friends. In the morning, we all discovered that the pads had transformed from hospital white to completely disgusting brown. They smelled a bit worse, like burnt bacon. I only had time to sleep for about five hours, and mine were less nasty looking. According to Dr. Group, if you use them for several days in a row they will begin to look less grody, which he says is proof that they really do pull toxins.

Bayard tried a second set of foot pads the next night, putting them further towards the middle of the foot. "They turned brown everywhere but the center this time, which was interesting," he reports. "I think the middle in reflexology is where the internal organs are. Also, in the area where my lungs are supposed to be on my foot, the feet are discolored slightly like bruising. Who knows maybe there is something going on. But I'm still sick [he was trying to fight off a cold]."

According to John Stossel such detox foot pads don’t work, and are akin to a scam -- at least those made by Avon and Kinoki.  Stossel's 20/20 asked NMS Labs of Willow Grove, Pa., to analyze Kinoki and Avon pads used by eight volunteers. Scientists didn't find toxins on the used pads. One test did find some lead, which Friedman-Jimenez believes most likely had been stuck to a tester's foot after they walked on it somewhere.

If you don't like John Stossel, NPR had simlar conclusions, based in part on testing in California.

Posted: 11/26/2008 10:38:00 AM

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Fifteen percent of seniors admitted to hospital are suffering drug side effects

From the Toronoto Star:

They are the drugged-out generation, and they're not who you think they are.

They're 80. And 85 and 90 and 95 – overmedicated seniors clogging emergency departments, blocking hospital beds and sicker than they have any reason to be.

The Number 1 drug users in North America, outside of patients in long-term care facilities, are women over the age of 65. Twelve percent are on 10 or more meds, sometimes up to 20 or more drugs; 23 percent take at least five drugs. In long-term care, seniors are on six to eight medications, on average. Fifteen per cent of seniors admitted to hospital are suffering drug side effects. It's not uncommon to find seniors dizzy and dotty from being prescribed so many drugs.

Typically, overmedicated seniors have been seen by numerous specialists who have prescribed various medications to treat a host of chronic ailments – high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, cancer – but there hasn't been any oversight by a geriatrician skilled in looking at the big picture and assessing contra-indications and side effects. Ask any doctor with expertise in seniors what their top health concerns are and they all cite overmedication.

Dr. Mark Nowacynski, an exceedingly rare family doctor who does home visits on a full-time basis, shakes his head. "So many old people are prescribed so many drugs, they don't know what they're for and they often don't take them properly," he says.

One of the reasons overmedication is such a serious issue, apart from the biological aspects, is that seniors become vulnerable to serious falls when they're excessively drugged, and serious falls can lead to a downward spiral of hospitalization, extreme fear of going out, isolation and death. As well, many seniors have trouble sleeping; instead of being encouraged to tire themselves out with exercise and activities, they may become habituated to sleeping pills that leave them groggy during the day.

Another problem, says Dr. Paula Rochon, a Baycrest geriatrician, is that doses for older people should often be much lower than for younger people. She notes that Valium is long acting and very sedating and shouldn't be prescribed at all to seniors.

Not only does overmedication cost the health-care system millions of dollars annually in unnecessary, expensive prescriptions but also the entire system slows down – and wait times for other patients lengthen – as emergency departments and hospitals struggle to diagnose drug-related problems.

Doctors and nurses trained in the ailments of old age and alert to the problem of overmedication can resolve many of these issues quite quickly, but most doctors haven't had any significant geriatric training. Stories are legion about elders blocking emergency rooms and being admitted to hospital, with doctors thinking the old people are having heart attacks and ordering expensive tests when the problem is simply overmedication.

The Ontario government has responded to the issue with the MedsCheck program (, in which pharmacists are paid to assess seniors' medications and detect problems. People who have an OHIP card and are taking three or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition are eligible. On presenting their card, they receive a one-on-one, private consultation for up to 30 minutes with a pharmacist, who will make sure they are taking their drugs properly and educate them about possible adverse drug reactions.

Posted: 11/14/2008 9:59:00 AM

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As DNA test backlogs soar, U.S. cuts funding

From the Los Angeles Times:

Last summer, the Los Angeles Police Department was dealt a rude shock.

Expecting nearly $1 million in federal grant money to help cover the cost of analyzing DNA evidence in rape cases and other violent crimes, the department was awarded only half that much.

U.S. Department of Justice officials, who distribute the money to police agencies nationwide, told LAPD staff that the fault was their own. The LAPD had been too slow to spend about half the DNA grant money awarded in prior years, so its 2008 allotment was reduced. Meanwhile, an audit found that more than 7,000 rape kits are waiting to be analyzed, the largest known backlog in the country.

As dire as LAPD's problem is, it is hardly unique.

The Justice Department cut backlog funding this year to crime labs in 17 states, including California, because they had not spent federal grants dating as far back as 2004. About a quarter of the 105 law enforcement agencies that receive these grants had their funding docked, Justice Department officials said.

The cuts coincide with a soaring national DNA backlog. Although the federal government hasn't estimated the backlog in recent years, Human Rights Watch, which advocates for rape victims among others, has put it at about 400,000 cases.

Smaller jurisdictions are not immune. In Erie County, N.Y., the year-to-year backlog increased from 620 to 920 in 2007. In Ventura County, the backlog increased from 53 cases to 156 during the same period.

It has been nearly a decade since Congress ordered the Justice Department to help crime labs reduce their backlogs. Since 2004, Congress has given the department $474 million for this purpose through the Debbie Smith Act, written by Maloney and named after a woman who advocates for eliminating backlogs. Smith was raped in 1989, but her attacker's DNA went untested for six years.

With this funding, the Bush administration said, the backlog would be eliminated in five years, a period that soon will expire.

But at the same time, an unprecedented number of DNA samples entered the nation's crime labs. New laws mandated that DNA be taken from more people, often including those arrested but not charged with a crime. Meanwhile, new technologies made it possible to analyze small or degraded samples.

It remains unclear why the LAPD and many other labs have not used all their grant money. Several labs contacted by ProPublica had no explanation for why the money hadn't been spent.

LAPD Assistant Chief Sharon Papa acknowledged that, on paper, the department had nearly $2 million in unspent federal DNA funds as of August. She and her staff said those figures did not account for about $500,000 of DNA work sent to private labs but not yet reflected on balance sheets.

The spending delay was largely the result of confusion about the time frames the Justice Department sets for spending the money, Papa and others said. She also said the cash flow problem hasn't slowed the pace of the department's DNA testing.

Renee Artman, director of the Ventura County Sheriff's lab, which used nearly all its 2006 federal funding, said many labs would like to use the money to hire more DNA analysts. But the grants cover only a fixed period (usually 12 months), which means labs can guarantee jobs for only that time.

L.A. isn't the only city where the money sits unused for years.

In progress reports filed in early 2008, 26 labs said they had not yet fully tapped into 2006 DNA money. A lab in Allegheny County, Pa., hadn't used all of its 2004 grant.

At the Illinois State Police crime lab, the DNA backlog was eliminated in 2005, but it reemerged with 938 cases in September 2008. Yet the lab has not fully spent its grants from 2006 or 2007.

The lab has not been penalized for the unspent funds, said Master Sgt. Brian Ley, an agency spokesman. It received $2.4 million in 2007.

"This is an issue we've dealt with for years," Ley said. "We recognize that there will always be a backlog of some sort."

Posted: 11/14/2008 9:50:00 AM

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Testosterone Modestly Boosted Sex Drive In Post-Menopausal Women

From Medical News Today:

An Australian led study found that using testosterone patches helped to increase sex drive in post-menopausal women with low sex drive who were not on hormone replacement therapies.

The research was led by principal investigator Susan Davis who is Professor of Women's Health in the Department of Medicine at Monash University, Victoria, and published in the 6th November issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was supported by Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals USA.

"What we have found is that treatment with a patch delivering 300 micrograms (ug) of testosterone each day results in meaningful improvement in sexual function in postmenopausal women with low libido who are using no other hormone therapy," said Davis .

The study is thought to be the first in the world to show that administering testosterone on its own through a skin patch can significantly increase the sexual wellbeing of women who seek medical help for loss of sexual desire following the menopause, something that is not uncommon said Davis.

Davis and colleagues concluded that: "In postmenopausal women not receiving estrogen therapy, treatment with a patch delivering 300 µg of testosterone per day resulted in a modest but meaningful improvement in sexual function."

However, they also noted that: "The long-term effects of testosterone, including effects on the breast, remain uncertain."

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Julia R Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender and Reproduction, urged caution about adminstering testosterone to address sexual desire problems in women. As the researchers themselves noted, the link with breast cancer is not clear, she wrote, and we don't understand enough to be able to predict which patients are more likely to have negative reactions.

Davis said in a press statement that research on the safety issues was under way, involving more women over a longer period.

And from The Baltimore Sun, Trial tests gel that boosts menopausal women's libido

Doctors in Hampton Roads, Va., have begun a clinical trial on a gel they hope can help menopausal women who have lost interest in sex. LibiGel is geared toward women with low libidos. Patients apply the gel once a day to their arm.

While a wide range of disorders can lead to loss of libido, a low level of testosterone often is to blame. Since the ovaries produce the hormone, a woman's interest in sex may drop after menopause.

Early studies showed LibiGel raised blood testosterone levels to normal levels in women who had gone through surgical menopause. Participants reported no serious side effects.

The new study will expand the number of patients and test the gel's safety in women with certain risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Patients will be randomly assigned to get the gel or a placebo.

Posted: 11/13/2008 10:24:00 AM

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Male, interrupted: As more genital birth defects are seen in boys, attention turns to phthalates, chemicals found in a variety of consumer products

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, surgeon Howard Snyder says he and his colleagues repair the genitalia of roughly 300 baby boys every year - about double what they did when he started his practice 30 years ago.

He's not the only doctor who's noticed an increase in this kind of birth defect.

The most common of them, hypospadias, nearly doubled in the United States between the late 1960s and early 1990s, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Snyder suspects that while in the womb, some of these boys may have been affected by hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, found in dozens of consumer products.

These chemicals give plastics flexibility, prevent perfumes from losing their scents, and keep nail polishes from chipping.

But in lab rats and mice, doses comparable to those we humans absorb from the environment can disrupt the formation of male genitals and otherwise feminize male animals. One small study from the University of Rochester also linked these chemicals to irregularities in male genital development.

Despite that, phthalates are added to numerous products ranging from deodorants to shower curtains to IV tubing in hospitals.

While the European Union has banned one type of phthalate in nail polishes and several others in children's toys, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is "assessing the toxicity of several phthalates," and awaiting results of a National Research Council study, expected next year, a spokesman said.

The specific problem that concerns Children's Hospital's Snyder - hypospadias - is considered an incomplete development of the male organs, causing a boy's urethra to exit the underside of his penis. In most cases, surgeons can reroute the urethra, but it can take several difficult operations.

While there's yet no direct link between this defect and phthalates, the dramatic increase in cases and the animal data have many doctors concerned.

Phthalates fall into a group of chemicals called endocrine disruptors because they either mimic or block the action of human hormones. Phthalates interfere with the synthesis of testosterone.

Posted: 11/6/2008 11:43:00 AM

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