A study from the Georgetown University Medical Center shows that toxic chemicals made by people which linger in the environment could impair brain function. This study is believed to be the first to focus on PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls and the impact to the cells which provide support for neurons and the central nervous system.
How PCBs Impact the Brain
The research was done on the brain cells of mice in laboratory tests. According to researchers, the study shows how important the astrocytes are for brain function and how much they are impacted by PCBs. The astrocytes not only support the neurons in the brain, they regulate communication between them and maintain the barrier between blood and brain. They also repair nervous tissue after an injury occurs. If these cells don’t do their jobs, neurons die.
PCBs have other negative consequences, including disruption of hormone signals, preventing the immune system from working properly and inhibiting reproduction as well as causing cancer. The chemicals are linked with killing certain brain cells in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
These chemicals were popular because they are resistant to heat, stable and insulated. PCBs were used in lubricants, paints, coolants, flame retardants, adhesives and many other products. Production of the chemicals ended in 2001 when the dangers became more apparent. However, their stability means they persist in the environment even years later. PCBs have been linked with the decline of the population of killer whales in existence.
In certain regions of the world, the people may be constantly exposed to these chemicals. At this time, it’s not possible to remove the chemicals from a person’s system. However, the goal is to find ways to compensate for the damage through other treatments, which would help the person continue to function as normally as possible.
PCBs May Cause Many Cancers
PCBs are a probable carcinogen. Studies of the chemicals have shown an increased risk for several cancers, including the following:
- Liver cancer
- Brain cancer
- Gall bladder cancer
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Biliary tract cancer
It may also be linked to breast cancer. These chemicals may also cause developmental problems for babies when the pregnant mothers are exposed. In one study, the babies who were born to exposed mothers had lower birth weights and head sizes. They also scored lower on memory, behavioral and psychomotor tests for the first seven years.
Today, the most common way to be exposed to PCBs is by eating contaminated fish or breathing the air near contaminated areas. PCBs don’t leave the body, so they can accumulate over time. These chemicals have been found all around the world and they don’t go away. Many experts believe that PCBs can spread through the air along with the water. Higher concentrates of the chemicals are found with more exposure. For instance, a child born to a mother who was exposed may have a higher concentrate than the parent. Some of these PCBs become nontoxic, but it takes many years for the process to be completed.
eBay to Remove Reclined Sleepers from Website
Consumer Reports asks retailers to stop selling inclined sleepers, citing them as dangerous for infants. This request is for online marketplaces as well, and eBay is complying.
eBay will be banning all inclined infant sleepers from the website, not just those that have recall notices attached to them. This action is in response to a letter sent from Consumer Reports to 15 businesses in the retail industry, including eBay.
Dangerous for Babies
Inclined sleepers for infants angle babies between 10 and 30 degrees, which can be dangerous for them when they fall asleep. Consumer Reports has deemed the entire category or infant reclined sleepers as unsafe because of the overall design. Products in this category have been linked to 73 infant fatalities.
These products are dangerous because they put the babies at an incline for sleeping. The infant’s head can lean forward, putting their chin down on their chest, which can compress the airway and allow them to suffocate. Other issues with these products include soft bedding and having a rounded surface which isn’t in following of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
eBay has already started enforcing the restrictions and banning products, such as the Hiccapop DayDreamer and Evenflo Pillo Portable Napper. The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is one of the best known and was recalled earlier in the year. In fact, over five million products in this category have been recalled. Several brands are still available to purchase even though experts have warned against using them.
Multiple organizations have advised parents, daycare centers and others not to use any infant inclined sleeper, including the AAP and Consumer Federation of America.
The companies contacted in the letter include:
- Bed Bath and Beyond
- Albee Baby
- Buy Buy Baby
- Magic Beans
- You Are My Everything
Both eBay and You Are My Everything have agreed to remove the products from sale. Other companies have not replied to the letter. One of the concerns with these products is they are marketed as safe for resting or napping, but it only takes a few minutes for a baby to suffocate when they fall asleep. Experts say it’s wrong to promote them as safe for any amount of sleep. Babies have suffocated in infant reclined sleepers in less than 15 minutes, according to incident reports.
Along with the risk of suffocation, another danger is with the baby being able to roll over. They roll from their back to their stomach if they are left unrestrained, which is another position which increases the risk of suffocation. They may turn into the side of the device and smother.
The AAP recommends putting babies to bed on a firm mattress with no other bedding. They should be placed on their backs with nothing else in the bed. This is the only position which is approved by the AAP and for doctors until the baby is able to turn over by themselves.
New Tests for Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Show No Asbestos
According to Johnson & Johnson, new tests on Johnson’s Baby Powder show that the product is free of asbestos. Trace amounts had been found previously, as reported by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Testing for Asbestos
A test conducted by the FDA earlier had shown indications of asbestos being present in the powder. In response, the manufacturer recalled a single lot of the baby powder back in October. Since then, Johnson & Johnson has conducted 155 tests using two third-party labs and four testing methods. The samples were from the same bottle used in the FDA tests.
The manufacturer had already responded to the FDA findings by conducting a small test in October which showed no asbestos findings. However, the DFA stood by its results. Officials did say that the difference in tests could be the result of contaminants not being uniform in the product. They also admitted there is no standardized testing to detect asbestos in talc.
The tests that were done by the third-party labs showed no asbestos in the bottle or in any samples of the rest of the lot from which the bottle came. The manufacturer suggested that the FDA results were from contamination or a lab error.
About 33,000 bottles of the product were recalled in the US in October after the FDA results were noted. This was a voluntary recall by Johnson & Johnson and the first time for such a recall. However, it’s not the first time the company has faced accusations that the products cause health issues, including cancer.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, which means it’s likely to cause cancer. In this case, it is mesothelioma, which is a deadly type of cancer that acts fast and is aggressive.
Mesothelioma results from the asbestos fibers getting into the lungs. Over time, continued exposure to asbestos causes the fibers to build up in the lungs. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining around the lungs or abdomen as well as other organs.
This is a rare type of cancer that has fewer than 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Treatments are available, but they only manage the condition rather than curing it. A person can live for several years with mesothelioma while some have had much longer lifespans after the diagnosis.
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include coughing and pain in the chest. The person may be short of breath and often loses weight. Several options for treatment exist, but the cancer metastasizes quickly. Chemotherapy may be an option as well as radiation. Surgery and other medical procedures may be recommended, but they only help with the condition rather than removing the cancer.
When mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, it happens over a longer period. Products that contain the material can release it into the environment where the person will inhale it. Slowly, enough of the asbestos will accumulate in the lungs to cause a problem. Because of it being a carcinogen, asbestos is banned from products in the US.
Vapers May Pay Higher Life Insurance Premiums
Reinsurers around the world are reevaluating insurance premiums and risk for those who vape. Vapers may end up paying more for insurance than smokers or even be excluded completely from some policies.
Current totals for vaping deaths stand at 47 for one mysterious lung illness that has been connected to vaping. Other health concerns have continued to grow even though some studies show that vaporizers and e-cigarettes help smokers to stop using traditional cigarettes.
Warnings to Insurers
Reinsurers are the companies that insure the insurance providers. They use their vast research tools to help insurers determine risk. While they don’t provide recommendations for pricing or require specific policies, they do give general advice on risk. They can also charge higher premiums or even fail to provide reinsurance if their advice isn’t followed.
In the past, vapers were treated like smokers when it came to insurance. Smokers already pay up to twice as much as nonsmokers for life insurance because of the higher risk for lung cancer and other health problems. Three reinsurers have updated their recommendations on vaping recently with others still considering their guidelines.
The warnings from the reinsurers includes vaping products that contain THC, which is an active ingredient in marijuana. They also focus on younger vapers, particularly insuring those who are under the age of 25 due to the recent illnesses and deaths from the vaping illness. Many of those who have had the illness have been under that age and even still in their teens.
Many insurers are treating vapers the same as smokers while refusing to insure those who are vaping products which may be likely to cause cancer. Supporters of vaping believe this step is harsh because it’s already difficult for people who smoke to get insurance.
Most insurers have already put vapers with smokers when it comes to pricing and risk. The few that didn’t in the past are beginning to change their stance now. Reinsurers are continuing to monitor the information available about vaping and health concerns.
Damage from Vaping
It’s still too early to tell the long-term damage from vaping. If more illnesses from vaping become apparent, it is expected that insurers will respond accordingly. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that people stop vaping, especially with products that contain THC or vitamin E. Experts suggest that people give up vaping completely until it’s determined what ingredient is causing the epidemic that overtook the nation during the summer.
This is another hit for vaping manufacturers who have already lost customers and support due to the negative publicity and information being presented. They continue to claim that vaping is safer than smoking, but recent deaths have placed a high concern about this idea out to the public. In fact, JUUL was one manufacturer that the FDA gave a warning to for promoting their products as a safer alternative. That claim cannot be made unless specific data is provided to support it, which JUUL did not have. The manufacturer has stopped all marketing in the US but still continues to promote products in other countries.
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