Time to Roll Up Our Sleeves

October 22, 2010

Just a quick post this week since I’m enjoying a vacation and mostly staying off the ‘net.

Flu shots are available now, so I just wanted to take the opportunity to stress their importance. Sure, for the average healthy person influenza usually isn’t life-threatening (though H1N1, which is still around, can be in rare cases, and was worse than some people seem to think it was as I talked about last spring), but it still knocks you down for a few days. If you think the flu is an upset stomache or a bit of a cough, you haven’t had it.

The main reason it’s important even for healthy people to get it is to protect others. I have a grandma in her 90’s and a 4-month old daughter; in the case of my grandma the vaccine is at best moderately effective, and my daughter is too young to get it. So by getting the vaccine myself, I’m helping to protect them, and other susceptible people I may come into contact with. This only works if most people in contact with them are vaccinated. It’s particularly important for children to be vaccinated, since they’re the most common transmission vector for influenza.

Modern flu vaccines are very safe (unless you are allergic to eggs), and highly effective for the strains included in the shot. Even for a healthy person, the risk vs. benefit is strongly in favour of getting the shot. So please get your flu shot – if not for yourself, then for those around you.


Canada declares BPA toxic

October 13, 2010

Canada has now officially declared BPA (bisphenol A) to be toxic. But what does that mean? Is it going to be banned? The short answer is, probably not.

As I have discussed previously, when the Canadian government declares something to be toxic, it has a fairly specific legal definition. It means that either it may be having adverse effects on the environment or biological diversity, it may pose a danger to the environment on which life depends, or it may constitute a danger to human health.

In the case of BPA, it was declared toxic for 2 reasons. The primary reason was actually related to the environment, and specifically BPA in sewage effluent affecting aquatic organisms. The second reason was that, even though Health Canada concluded that exposures were below levels known to cause harm, the margin of safety was too small for formula-fed infants.

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Detox scams

October 12, 2010

It seems there are advertisements everywhere for various types of “detox” that will improve your health, make you lose weight, and more. But what does “detox” really do?

Any time I see the word “detox”, my scam alert radar kicks in (to be fair, maybe some people offering detox treatments aren’t scammers, and are merely deluded). These treatments are generally based on the concept of some undefined “toxins” being the source of all your problems, without ever defining what these toxins are supposed to be.

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Manganese in baby formula

October 1, 2010

Last week I talked about high levels of manganese in drinking water being associated with reduced IQ. A related issue is baby formula – there is typically manganese in baby formula, and when mixed with water this could result in higher exposure than from water alone.

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