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FDA Cracking Down on Dietary Supplement Claims

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More than three-quarters of U.S. consumers take a dietary supplement to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. But according to the FDA, some of those supplements may be making false and misleading claims.

Federal Crackdown on Tainted and Misleading Dietary Supplements

Currently, the FDA does not review dietary supplements before they are sold on U.S. shelves. But the federal watchdog agency can get involved if the products are found to be unsafe or when they advertise false and misleading claims about their benefits on the labels.

With an ever-growing supply of dietary supplements that misleadingly promise to help with everything from cancer to sexual performance, Alzheimer’s and weight loss, the $50 billion a year industry is showing no signs of slowing.

And while most supplement makers ensure their products are safe, and ingredients match the labels, a plethora of bad actors are capitalizing on the market and selling products that are tainted with unapproved drugs and chemicals and making illegal marketing claims.

Most Important Regulatory Modernization in Decades

Under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, supplements are considered foods that are safe unless proven otherwise. Supplements do not have to go through trials to determine safety and efficacy nor do they require premarket approval before they can be sold on shelves. This means that supplements sold online and in stores have not been tested or proven safe or effective and are only removed from the market if the FDA investigates and determines them to be unsafe.

Exploding Supplement Market

Since the law was enacted in 1994, the supplement market has grown exponentially from about 4,000 products to some 80,000. In fact, the FDA estimates that three out of every four Americans regularly take supplements. For older adults, usage jumps to four out of five and about one out of every three children are given a supplement.

Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will tighten regulations and enforcement of supplement makers in an effort to:

  • Reduce inaccurate claims
  • Improve safety
  • Encourage innovation within the industry
  • Faster public alerts via a rapid response tool
  • Streamline handling of illegal supplements

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the proposed changes would be some of the most important regulatory updates in decades while ensuring that the new rules would be flexible enough to foster product improvements.

Currently, supplement manufacturers must register their facilities with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but do not have to report product ingredients. But with little oversight, the federal watchdog agency doesn’t know how many product manufacturers are complying with the rules nor does it know who makes what.

In fact, the California Department of Public Health conducted an analysis that found dangerous and unapproved ingredients in nearly 800 different dietary supplements, including ingredients shipped from overseas. The FDA has reported that some supplements have ingredients and combinations that have never been tested in humans.

If you are taking a dietary supplement, make sure the manufacturer is reputable, check for FDA warnings or alerts related to the product or its company and be wary of supplements that claim to help serious health conditions.

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Vaping Death Totals Continue to Rise

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While the vaping illness that was so prevalent in the news during the summer of 2019 isn’t making headlines now, it’s still a major concern with new cases and deaths being reported. Four more deaths have been added to the list since January 21, bringing the total to 64.

More Illnesses and Deaths

Those deaths have occurred in 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of those hospitalized for the illness was up to 2758, which is an increase of 47 since the January update. The illness also has a name – EVALI or e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. Most of the products contain vitamin E acetate, which is a product safe for use as a topical or for eating but harmful when inhaled. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still believes there could be more than one cause of the disease.

According to health officials, the worst of the disease occurred in September 2019 with the most cases being treated. New cases are still being treated and reported around the country and other deaths are under investigation. The government agencies have warned people to avoid using illegal products for vaping.

Sales of vaping products, especially those that contain THC, have dropped around the country where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use. Washington had the largest drop in sales by nearly 50 percent. Other states, including California and Colorado, are seeing an increase once again.

Continued Concern

Federal agencies claim that nicotine vapes aren’t part of the outbreak of the illness. A ban across the country on most flavored vaping products took affect early in February. This includes fruit and mint, but it may not be as effective as is hoped. The ban focused on cartridges for vaporizers or prefilled pods, such as those manufactured by the major e-cigarette manufacturers. Disposable vapes weren’t included in the ban, and they feature various flavors.

There is some concern that states may be taking the ban too far. Proponents for vaping say that banning menthol could do more harm than good. They cite statistics that say menthol smokers smoke less than non-menthol smokers. Vaping in schools is still a major concern because the devices are easy to conceal and use during school hours. It can be difficult to catch a student vaping. The schools are concerned about how vaping is impacting their studies and grades as well as their behavior at home.

The design of many of the vaping products makes it easy to hide in plain sight. For instance, one product looks just like a Sharpie and even has the word written on the side. Another product looks like a watch, which can be worn on the wrist. To combat this problem, some schools have installed vapor detectors in bathrooms. While no alarm is triggered, a message is sent to administration to alert them about what is going on.

Vaping may not make the headlines as it has in the past, but it still carries a risk for those who continue.

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Facts and Myths About What Causes Cancer

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Over the years, you’ve probably heard that a wide range of things can lead to cancer. New research will either validate or deny these claims, but it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Here is a list of a few things that have created concern in recent years and the truth about them.

Artificial Sweeteners

One of the most popular items that has been linked to cancer is artificial sweeteners like Equal and Sweet ‘n Low. Sweeteners that contain saccharine got a bad rap a few years back when it was discovered that the ingredient caused cancer in rats.

According to researchers, rats react in a different way to saccharine than people. There has been no indication that it leads to a higher cancer risk, and the warning label has been gone on these products since 2000. Aspartame hasn’t been found to cause cancer either.

Cell Phones

While cell phones haven’t been linked to cancer, they do come with warnings. They emit the same kind of energy as what is found in microwave ovens. It’s best to use a hands-free device, just in case.

Meat

You may not think about the dangers of eating processed meat, but the nitrates in hot dogs, lunch meat and other types of meat could cause cancer. These nitrates specifically increase the risk for colon cancer.

Coffee

No, coffee doesn’t cause cancer, which is good news for coffee fanatics. In fact, even better news is that research shows that drinking coffee regularly could reduce the risk for specific kinds of cancer, including liver, uterus and prostate cancer.

Fluoride

You can find this ingredient in mouthwash and toothpaste, along with other products. It may also be present in drinking water. While there have been concerns for how it can cause cancer, no direct link has been found.

Antiperspirant or deodorant

Both of these products are designed to help prevent odor, but antiperspirant keeps you from sweating while deodorant stops the smell. These products contain various chemicals that act similar to estrogen, which can cause cancerous cells to grow. However, no definite link has been found between the products and cancer.

X-rays

X-rays aren’t safe for the body, which is why doctors and dentists cover you with a lead blanket to keep the radiation away from your body. Higher doses of radiation lead to a higher risk of cancer. However, x-rays usually include a small amount and only slightly raise your risk.

Cleaning Products

Some cleaning products and other household items can increase your risk of cancer. The dangerous products are those listed as volatile organic compounds or VOCs. If they are listed as low-VOC, it means they are safer. You can look for products that say danger or poison, highly flammable, corrosive or highly combustible as an indication of what to stay away from.

Some of these items have been linked to cancer while others have not proven to carry a risk. It’s best to be careful and avoid certain products if you’re concerned.

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Are You at Risk for Cancer from Driving Too Much?

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A study done by the University of California at Riverside suggests that carcinogens in car seats may increase risk for developing cancer on long commutes. According to research, car seats contain TDCIPP, a flame retardant.

CBS News reported on the study, which raises the concern for people who spend longer times in their vehicles due to commutes to work or school. People who are exposed to carcinogens long-term may have an increased risk for developing cancer.

What is TDCIPP?

This chemical is technically known as chlorinated alkyl phosphates. It’s used in automotive seating and upholstery as a fire retardant. It’s also been used in the pads on infant changing tables and nursing pillows. It was once used in pajamas for children, but it was eliminated because it caused serious side effects. However, it’s still one of the most common additives for baby products.

The chemical can get into the air and mix with dust in a home. It can fall onto various surfaces in the household, including toys. Children who put the toys in their mouth may ingest the chemical. TDCIPP can also land on food, which would allow adults to ingest it. With vehicle upholstery, the dust could be breathed in because of the closed space.

It can be difficult to eliminate exposure to this chemical, especially when it comes to driving or riding in a car. However, you may be able to limit your exposure in other ways by reviewing the materials in the products you buy. TDCIPP is found in polyurethane foam. You can choose cotton, polyester or other natural fabrics that are safer and don’t contain foam.

TDCIPP was added to Proposition 65 in California, which is a list of chemicals known to cause cancer. This chemical was added in 2013, but it’s still being used in vehicles. The study showed that elevated risk came from just a week of commuting.

The Study and Participants

The study used about 80 participants, all of whom were students with commutes of about 15 minutes up to over two hours. The participants wore silicone wristbands as part of the test for five days. Airborne contaminants are attracted to silicone. The research team believes that the chemical then migrated to the participants’ systems.

The team plans to conduct another test with more participants of various ages. They plan to study ways to protect those who must commute daily from exposure. At the present time, they recommend dusting the inside of the car regularly to remove any excess dust. The Environmental Protection Agency also has guidelines on how to limit exposure to contaminants, though they may not be specific to TDCIPP.

The concern goes beyond what information was learned in this study to the possible impact for those who spend years with daily long commutes. Some people travel for one or two hours every day or more for many years. The potential for long-term effect is still an unknown until more research is done on TDCIPP and commuters.

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