|ACSH Hosts Media Symposium on Harm Reduction
On June 26th the American Council on Science and Health assembled a distinguished panel of scientists in New York City to present a one day educational symposium for the media on the concept of harm reduction. Harm reduction aims to decrease the negative health consequences of risky behaviors by modifying exposures or using less hazardous alternatives. While harm reduction has been applied across a wide spectrum of risky behaviors, including sexual practices and intravenous drug use, the ACSH symposium focused on the strategy applied to two specific examples: cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse.
The day opened with remarks by ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan and an introduction by Dr. Kimberly Thompson, ACSH adviser and associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Thompson described the broader topic of risk evaluation and management, and discussed the influence that sensational media reports have on people's perspectives of their greatest health risks.
The morning session presented the pros and cons of applying harm reduction strategies to smoking and, in particular, focused on the arguments of whether or not to promote and endorse smokeless tobacco products as a less risky alternative. Dr. Gregory Connolly, Director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, opened the session. Dr. Connolly expressed concern that the product would serve as a gateway drug to cigarettes. Reviewing the history of tobacco advertisement in America, he argued that allowing the smokeless tobacco industry to market its product as a safer alternative to smoking, without strict regulation, may lead to an increase in addiction by young users who would then potentially switch to cigarettes. He implored that strict regulation is needed to ensure that smokeless tobacco products do not enter the market and make claims that could mislead consumers. Dr. Philip Cole, professor emeritus of the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, proposed the use of alternative nicotine delivery systems. He noted that while some 50% of smokers die prematurely from their habit, only about one half of one percent of smokeless tobacco users are killed by their habit. To reduce the devastating toll of cigarette-related death and illnesses, he advocated for the use of alternatives such as the patch, nicotine gum, nicotine inhalers, and smokeless tobacco, by smokers who would otherwise be unable to quit.
The afternoon session explored harm reduction strategies applied to alcohol abuse and opened with Dr. Sally Satel, W.H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C. Dr. Satel argued that for many people who are problem drinkers but not full-blown alcoholics, abstinence may be an unrealistically high hurdle, adding that a more attainable goal would be to moderate their drinking or take part in controlled drinking. Dr. Peter Provet, President of the Odyssey House treatment center, followed Dr. Satel and urged abstinence as the best method of dealing with problem drinkers. Dr. Provet stated that proposing moderate alcohol consumption as a treatment option for people with abuse problems was not only bad policy, but also a threat to the entire alcohol-abuse tradition, which is based on the consistent, frequently reinforced message of abstinence.
Luncheon speaker Dr. George Lundberg, editor of Medscape General Medicine website, editor-in-chief emeritus of Medscape and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, summarized the discussions. Dr. Lundberg described cigarettes and alcohol as two of the greatest sources of harm in our society noting that the debate over the best treatment options will continue, and that harm reduction strategies are worthy of a place in the public health world. Dr. Lundberg advocated the use of harm reduction methods for those who are long-term abusers and added that we have to accept the fact that people will most likely always be victims of their addiction.
The symposium was well attended by members of the media and drew impressive media coverage. Related news stories include a June 20th New York Sun article "Start Chewing May Be Tobacco Option: Harm Reduction To Be Topic at Health Symposium"; a July 2nd Wall Street Journal article "Kicking the Habit (Sort Of): New Theory Lets Smokers Smoke, Alcoholics Drink"; a June 28th posting on ScienceDaily.com titled "Dry Snuff's Oral-Cavity Cancer Risk Higher Than Moist Snuff, Chewing Tobacco"; and a July 10th Reuters Television Special Report, "Will Less Be More When It Comes to Addiction?" Additionally, on July 3rd ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross appeared in a segment on the Fox News Channel show, "The Big Story with John Gibson," discussing harm reduction as a public health strategy.
To obtain more information on the harm reduction symposium, or to purchase a copy of the conference's transcript ($5.00) and/or video tape ($10.00), please contact Karen Schneider at 212-362-7044, ext. 240 or email email@example.com.
Like many businesses and organizations in New York City and across the nation ACSH was gravely affected by the events of September 11, 2001. The subsequent economic downturn, and a substantial loss of funding, resulted in a cash flow deficit for ACSH. Also during this period, demands on ACSH to respond to the public health concerns and crises that emerged increased substantially. To manage this dilemma, ACSH re-prioritized its activities and limited resources. We released several scheduled publications online only so that the information would still be readily available to the public and we delayed the release of several non-scientific publications like this ACSH News.
ACSH's funding remains precarious, but we are pleased to finally release this expanded issue of ACSH News, which highlights ACSH events and activities for the nine-month period of October 2001 to June 2002. As you will see, ACSH's quick response to public health concerns, and its media availability during these critical times demonstrate why now more than ever before continued and increased funding to ACSH is imperative.
The Aftermath of September 11, 2001: ACSH on Bioterrorism and Our Nation's Preparedness
Since September 11, 2001, bioterrorism has been a prominent topic in the news, and ACSH has played a dominant role in these discussions. ACSH representatives have spoken out on numerous occasions, both in the print media and on television, offering science-based viewpoints and information on current health concerns and how to best address them. ACSH continues to help the public and the media sort out fact from fiction, providing a realistic perspective on how they can protect themselves from these new risks. Here is a summary of recent television, radio, and print media coverage:
- ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan's June 11th commentary in the Wall Street Journal, "Don't Have a Meltdown Over 'Dirty Nukes'" informed readers of the real risks associated with a "dirty nuke" and provided sound advice on the efficacy of potassium iodide (KI) pills. The editorial was reprinted in the June 11th edition of the Department of Defense's news digest, The Early Bird.
In a June 24th Fox News Channel interview, Dr. Whelan differentiated between the threat of anthrax and that of smallpox noting that smallpox is a purely hypothetical risk in America, while anthrax remains a remote but real risk.
Dr. Whelan appeared on CNBC with Alan Murray on June 11th and the Fox News Channel's Judith Regan Tonight on June 16th. Both shows focused on "dirty bomb" threats and whether or not government distribution of KI pills would really offer the public protection.
Dr. Whelan presented remarks at a special conference convened by former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo on November 21, 2001, under the umbrella topic of "Building New York: Putting Health Risks in Perspective."
During October and November 2001, ACSH representatives Drs. Elizabeth Whelan, Gilbert Ross, and Ruth Kava and Mr. Jeff Stier appeared almost daily on local and national television programs to discuss anthrax and other bioterror scares and offer a rational understanding of the risks posed to the public. Media appearances include Fox News (October 13, 14, 15, 20, and 28 and November 4), MSNBC, CNN's Aaron Brown Show, CNN's Talkback Live, and CNN Headline News (October 17, November 2 and 4).
Radio stations across the country interviewed ACSH representatives on the topic of bioterrorism: On October 31 Jeff Stier was interviewed by WTAX Springfield, IL; On October 29 Dr. Gilbert Ross was interviewed by KTSA, San Antonio, TX; On October 16 Dr. Ross was interviewed by KTAR, Phoenix, AZ, as well as stations in Atlanta, GA, Richmond, VA, San Diego, CA, and Detroit, MI. And on the October 16th edition of CNN's Blitzer Report, ACSH advisor Dr. Sanford Kuvin was interviewed about the government's lack of readiness in the threat of bioterrorism.
Dr. Whelan's October 25, 2001, commentary "Don't Panic: We Can Fight Smallpox," published in the Wall Street Journal, put the threat of smallpox into the proper perspective and reassured a jittery public about the safeguards offered by today's technology and medical knowledge. The article was commended for quelling fears and informing the public of the real risks.
Dr. Ross' October 16 letter to the New York Times, "More Information Needed About Anthrax Threat," responded to an article that criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for not being more forthcoming in informing the American public and keeping them up-to-date.
Another letter by Dr. Ross, "Let's Not Overreact to the Threat of Bioterrorism," offered a contrary opinion to Dr. Scott Gottlieb's recommendations that the public have Cipro on hand as a precautionary measure for potential bioterrorism. It was published in the Wall Street Journal on October 29th.
Finally, in an October 23rd ACSH press release, "Health Group Urges Irradiation to Protect Mail," ACSH recommended that the U.S. Postal Service use irradiation technology to sanitize mail, thus protecting workers and the public from bioterrorism. And, in an October 24th press release, ACSH asked Americans to remain calm during the anthrax exposures in Florida, New York, Washington, DC, and other areas.
ACSH representatives have been prolific and outspoken during these perilous times. ACSH plans to continue making its resources available in the months ahead to rebuild the confidence of the people of New York City, and the citizens of this great nation.
Other Media Events
While bioterrorism, smallpox and anthrax dominated the airwaves, ACSH representatives spoke out on other hot public and environmental health topics as well:
- On May 9th BBC's World Service Science News radio show interviewed ACSH director of nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava on the "blood-type diet." Dr. Kava commented that the diet was preposterous and that one might equally as well try to eat according to one's eye color, given that both are genetically determined adding that there is no scientific evidence that either has an impact on dietary requirements.
- On May 15th Dr. Kava could be heard on Radio America's Gary Nolan Show. The topic was wide-ranging and included the recent accusation by environmental extremists that chocolate contains harmful levels of lead and cadmium, which is an example of a frivolous lawsuit brought under the "bounty-hunter" provision of California's Proposition 65. Dr. Kava also discussed scare-mongering media reports about trace levels of chemicals like Alar and acrylamide in foods, as well as ACSH's Holiday Dinner Menu.
- On June 22nd ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan appeared on MSNBC to discuss cancer clusters. She noted that there is a lack of science in support of the allegation that environmental chemicals contribute to the causation of breast cancer on Long Island, while acknowledging that breast cancer is slightly more prevalent amongst residents in certain areas.
- On May 6th WCBS TV interviewed Dr. Whelan on the Competitive Enterprise Institute's survey of oncologists and their views on the length of the FDA drug approval process.
- On March 13th ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross appeared on a San Francisco radio talk show to discuss the implications of chemicals in our waterways.
- In January, Dr. Ross appeared on the syndicated Montel Williams Show to debunk the alleged depression and suicide link with accutane (isotretinoin use), and to advise how to be alert for unpredictable drug side effects. The show aired to a nationwide television audience March 8th.
- On December 20, 2001, Radio France International France's version of Voice of America interviewed ACSH nutrition director Dr. Ruth Kava on the effects of fasting on the body.
- On December 3rd ACSH associate director Jeff Stier took on Richard Wiles from the Environmental Working Group on National Public Radio'sJustice Talking. The debate focused on the chemical industry, discussing right-to-know issues, government regulation, and major cases from the past and present.
- On November 18th Jeff Stier discussed ACSH and current health issues on Talk Radio Network's Fight Back! Talk Back! with David Horowitz.
- On October 5th Dr. Kava recorded one-minute radio commercials on biotechnology for Talk Radio News Service. Dr. Kava discusses past food scares and how anti-biotechnology activists are using the same tactics to scare consumers today, preventing them from making informed food choices. PPPPP
Short Takes on ACSH Editorials, Commentaries, and Letters
In addition to numerous television and radio appearances, ACSH representatives remain prolific in the print media as well:
- ACSH director of nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava's letter "Feeling Water-Logged?," published in the Wall Street Journal on May 29th, commended a previous article on the truth about water consumption and the variety of sources an individual can obtain water from.
- On May 27th the New York Times published ACSH president Dr. Whelan's letter "Schools to Ban Avocados Too?," which criticized proposals to ban "junk food" from schools as an answer to childhood obesity.
- The May/June 2002 National Council Against Health Fraud Newsletter published HealthFactsAndFears.com's editor Todd Seavey's article, "Press Objectivity, Biotech, and Gaia Worship." The article explains the difference between objective reporting and "balanced" reporting.
On May 21st ACSH associate director Jeff Stier's commentary "Pretty Woman Doesn't Make Pretty Policy" appeared in the New York Sun. The editorial raises questions about how celebrity status instead of health priorities is used to attract funding for health causes. On June 18th The Gary Nolan Show interviewed Mr. Stier on the editorial. The program is syndicated to about 50 markets around the country.
- In an April 28th Letter to the Editor published by The Sunday Oklahoman, Dr. Whelan clarifies her views on the health effects of secondhand smoke, stating that her position was misrepresented in a previous editorial published April 21st.
- In his letter "Premature Testing's Cost," published in the March 12th New York Times, Dr. Gilbert Ross questions the use of spiral CT scan for lung cancer screening, noting that, as with the widely used mammograms and P.S.A tests, there is still much uncertainty about its true efficacy in saving lives.
- On March 11th the Philadelphia Inquirer published letters by Dr. Gilbert Ross and ACSH advisor Dr. Robert Sklaroff. Both letters responded to a letter written about scientist and anti-tobacco activist Dr. John Slade's suicide.
- The Wall Street Journal published Dr. Ross' letter "Sacrificed on Altar of 'Genetic Purity'" on March 1st. The letter argues that despite more than seven years of widespread use, there is no evidence of adverse health effects in humans from genetically engineered food, and that alarmists in Europe would sacrifice the great potential for lifesaving improvements in nutrition in the name of "genetic purity."
- "Indeed, some breast and prostate tumors may not be life-threatening, yet the screening leads to surgical and other interventions that can be harmful or disabling," writes Dr. Elizabeth Whelan in her letter, "Is Cancer Testing Worthwhile?" published on January 2 in the New York Times.
- ACSH director of nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava reviewed Daniel Charles' book, "Lord of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, the Future of Food," in the December 23, 2001 edition of the Washington Times.
- In the November 18, 2001, Washington Times, Dr. Whelan reviewed Elizabeth Fenn's "Pox Americana." The book explores whether the re-introduction of smallpox in America in 2001 would have the same devastating effect as it did during the Revolutionary War.
- On November 12, 2001 Dr. Gilbert Ross' letter, "Flu Shots: A Good Idea for Those Who Are At Risk," appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Ross recommends that those who are at most risk for contracting and dying of influenza the elderly and the chronically ill should be vaccinated every year, and not just in reaction to the recent anthrax scare.
ACSH Launches New Online Magazine
In keeping with ACSH's devotion to providing the public with cutting-edge science in the most cost effective and timely manner, ACSH launched HealthFactsAndFears.com (HFAF) this February, a new interactive online magazine that replaces ACSH's long-standing magazine, Priorities for Health. Headed by a new editor, Todd Seavey (see brief bio below), this newly transformed site will apply good science to public health controversies and recent new stories, publishing articles by a mix of scientists and non-scientists, including the staff and advisors of ACSH. There will also be thought-provoking editorial rants on topics ranging from smoking to cholesterol to cloning.
HealthFactsAndFears.com promises to be more current and exciting than its quarterly predecessor Priorities For Health. Readers can log online daily and read ACSH's reaction to the latest-breaking public health news story or event. In today's highly technological information age, ACSH's goal is to make its scientific positions available to the public within a nanosecond of transmission.
At HealthFactsAndFears.com visit the Featured Articles section for articles written by well-respected scientists and journalists. You can peruse the High Priorities section, which includes a variety of recurring columns such as "Rx-Roundup" (pharmaceutical issues), "Inverted Priorities" (about society's misguided focus on hypothetical risks), "Scam-A-Rama" (health quackery), "Phantom Health Menaces" (environmental issues), "Safe-at-the-Plate" (food and nutrition), Health Newsflash (late-breaking public health news), and "Vs." (point/counterpoint debates), among others. And "The Week in Links" section provides direct links to other health and science sites and stories that may be of interest. There is a little something for everyone.
HealthFactsAndFears.com also hosts a forum for both consumers and professionals to respond to what they are reading. If you wish to comment on a story or editorial, you can email your own personal rant to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the ACSH forums at www.acsh.org/forum/. Some of the most recent controversies have arisen over stories such as "Is Smoking at Home Child Abuse," "Smallpox and the Right to Know," and "Is the Food Industry to Blame for Fat?" If you have an opinion and feel strongly about an issue, then HFAF provides the perfect avenue for you to add your two cents.
Best of all, HealthFactsAndFears.com is available online, 24 hours a day, free-of-charge. Readers can subscribe online to receive the HFAF Bulletin, a weekly email update, chock-full of the latest articles and stories on the website. In the past couple of months, HFAF has enrolled more than one thousand subscribers and entertains hundreds of visitors daily. We anticipate that its readership will continue to grow at this pace. We look forward to watching its development and to having you be a part of its evolution. Don't forget to bookmark www.healthfactsandfears.com.
ACSH Welcomes New Director of Publications and Research Interns
In January, Todd Seavey joined the ACSH staff as the new director of publications and editor of ACSH's new online magazine, HealthFacts AndFears.com. Mr. Seavey is a 1991 graduate of Brown University and has an impressive line of credentials in research and journalism. He has written freelance articles for the New York Press, the New York Post, Reason, People, Spy, and other publications, as well as scripts for Justice League of America comic books. You can enjoy his prolific and often controversial opinions in the "Editor's Rants" section of HealthFactsAndFears.com where he speaks out strongly on a wide range of issues and concerns. Mr. Seavey was also a researcher and associate producer at ABC News, where he worked closely with John Stossel.
And as part of ACSH's educational outreach efforts, ACSH sponsors a one-year and a summer internship program. Joining ACSH as a one-year research intern is Karen Schneider, a graduate of Brown University with a bachelor's degree in Medical Sociology. Karen is assisting with the research and development of several ACSH projects and was most recently responsible for coordinating ACSH's harm reduction symposium. ACSH also welcomes summer interns Sagine Gousse, a sophmore at Dartmouth College whose major is undeclared, and Adam Valerio, a senior at Rutgers University pursuing bachelor degrees in both Exercise Science and Philosophy.
ACSH Co-Founder and Director Dr. Fredrick J. Stare Dies at the Age of 91
It is with profound sorrow that ACSH mourns the death of its co-founder and Director on April 4. Born in 1910, Dr. Stare was one of the nation's foremost nutritionists, who contributed much to the field during his lifetime. Besides founding, and for many years chairing, the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Stare was extremely active in providing sound, scientifically-based nutrition information to the public. Author of numerous consumer-oriented books, and recipient of honors, awards, and achievements too plentiful to mention here, for almost a century Dr. Stare worked tirelessly in the service of public health and nutrition education until his health began to fail. His legacy and his efforts in promoting sound nutrition and public health information make him one of the most distinguished nutritionists of the 20th century.
The DDT Ban Turns Thirty
June 14th of this year marked the thirtieth anniversary of one of the most tragic public health decisions in history the ban of DDT. With little evidence of substantial harm to animals, and no evidence that DDT poses a hazard to human health, the Environmental Protection Agency banned its use in 1972, despite the fact that earlier it had been hailed as a "miracle" chemical that repelled and killed mosquitoes that carry malaria.
The results of the ban have been disastrous, particularly to Third World countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about two and a half million people die of malaria each year, mostly in Africa and the majority of them poor children about one child every thirty seconds. That means more than sixty million lives have been needlessly lost since the ban on DDT took effect. During the time that DDT was in widespread use (1950-1970), malaria's devastating effects nearly ceased. In all, DDT has been conservatively credited with saving some 100 million lives. Today, however, governments around the world, including the United States, are posed to enact a global ban on DDT. If enacted, this treaty will ensure continued widespread deaths from malaria.
ACSH recognized this tragic anniversary with a press release and a report (available online only) entitled, "The DDT Ban Turns 30 Millions Dead of Malaria Because of Ban, More Deaths Likely." ACSH's message about the dire effects of the 30-year DDT ban was echoed widely by print and electronic media. ACSH was cited in theCompetitive Enterprise Institute press release on June 13th, "Treaty Before Senate Could Threaten Millions of Lives"; in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Life and Deaths of DDT" on June14th, in a United Press Internationalstory, "Think Tanks Wrap-Up" on June 15th; and in a Greenwire article, "Pesticides: 30 Years Old, DDT Ban Still Incites Debate" on June 14th. And, on June 27th, ACSH Director of Publications Todd Seavey was interviewed on The Gary Nolan Show about the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) treaty and DDT.
Acrylamide Takes Center Stage
In a nation where food scares often play out like a comedy of errors, ACSH was quick to respond to an April news story about Swedish scientists' findings that fried or baked foods high in starch contain chemicals which can increase the risk of cancer in humans. Renouncing the cancer scare in an April 25 press release, ACSH noted that the claim that acrylamide, found in common foods such as potatoes and bread after cooking, poses a human cancer risk is based exclusively on high dose studies in laboratory animals. ACSH added that there is no evidence that humans who eat the observed levels of acrylamide are exposed to any risk of any type of cancer. The ACSH release also urged consumers to be skeptical of the unpublished findings, which assume that cancer rates in high-dose animal ingestion studies are a good indicator for human cancer risk.
ACSH representatives subsequently appeared on several television and radio programs to discuss the acrylamide controversy. On June 25th NBC's Nightly News with Tom Brokaw called on Dr. Whelan to debunk the acrylamide scare, and Dr. Whelan was interviewed by Voice of America on April 25th. ACSH associate director Jeff Stier was interviewed by Carl Wiglesworth of KTSA in San Antonio on April 25th, and ACSH director of nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava was also interviewed about acrylamides and food scares on Virginia's WLNI-FI Morning Talk Radio on June 21st. Also, in April Dr. Gilbert Ross recorded several short soundbites of ACSH's position on acrylamides, which will be used in 60-second radio commentaries that will run on 40 stations in the Northwest.
ACSH is one of the biggest challengers of the acrylamide scare, and our position is cited nationally and internationally in numerous news articles and releases. Recent coverage includes the Reuters' news wire story, "Don't Give Up Fries, Chips, Bread Just Yet"; the April 30th New York Times article "Scientists Cautious on Report of Cancer From Starchy Foods"; the June 7th Washington Post article "Europe Finds Fried Food Has Probable Carcinogen Acrylamide Produced In Cooking Process"; and the June 28th Chicago Tribune article "Scientists Take Starch Out Of French Fry Cancer Scare."
ACSH News Briefs
- CSPI and Pizza
This spring the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) attacked yet another of America's favorite foods pizza because it can contain substantial amounts of fat and calories. ACSH countered this attack with a May 17th press release. While many Americans are concerned about consuming excess calories and fat, and of course one can eat too much of any food, this doesn't mean that pizza, or any other favorite food, can't be a valuable part of a healthy, balanced diet.
- The Starbucks Saga Continues
Anti-biotechnology activists continue to spread false fears about the safety of milk from cows supplemented with bioengineered bovine growth hormones (rBST). In its February press release, "Warning: Starbucks Protestors Spread False Fears About Safe Foods: Misleading Attacks on Milk and Safe Foods Cause Unnecessary Concerns for Parents and Consumers," ACSH asks consumers to check the facts from the hundreds of real experts who have published and commented on these issues.
- ACSH Receives New Grants
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of premature death in America, accounting for over 450,000 deaths annually. In 1996 ACSH publishedCigarettes: What The Warning Label Doesn't Tell You, a first of its kind book that documented the pervasive effects of smoking on the body by different areas of medical specialty. Thousands of copies of this groundbreaking book have been sold, and in 1997, the book was re-published and distributed by Prometheus Books. It remains available at well-known bookstores like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
This spring the F.M. Kirby Foundation awarded a generous grant to ACSH not only to update the present Cigarette book with more recent scientific information, but to develop a version of the book targeted to a teenage audience. It is an established fact that most smokers develop their habit during their teenage years. Thus the goal of this project is to provide young people with information that will deter them from ever starting to smoke. Look for both books late next year.
The New York-based Bodman Foundation also awarded a grant to ACSH this spring to further the efforts of the ACSH New York City Advisory Council on Health Priorities (NYCACHP). On the heels of the 9/11 disaster, the efforts of this ACSH affiliate focused on the issues of specific concern to the five boroughs of New York will be of tantamount importance.
- Donate to ACSH Online We Need Your Help
ACSH does not have the multi-million dollar budget of those self-appointed consumer and environmental groups which regularly scare us about the safety of the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products of modern technology. But ACSH is the only consortium of physicians and scientists, representing many different disciplines, regularly challenging myths and hyperbole about the causes of disease. And ACSH communicates its message daily to the media, opinion leaders, and general consumers, among others. We need your help.
ACSH now welcomes you to make your contribution online. Click through to http://www.acsh.org/ donate.html and use the Amazon Honor System to make an easy, secure online donation. The Amazon Honor System is a safe and easy way for you to support ACSH, and it is a way for us to raise funds without resorting to intrusive banner advertisements.
- Resolve to Be Healthy in 2002
Each year, for over 10 years now, ACSH has regularly offered resolutions to help the public increase its chances of having a healthier and happier new year. First and foremost on the resolutions list for 2002, ACSH recommended that you focus your efforts on things that matter. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Americans are increasingly concerned about new, real threats to their health and safety. Now, more than ever, it is important that we distinguish between risks that are real and can be lessened by individuals' actions, and those that are theoretical, very small, or beyond our control.
- Join HealthFactsandFears.com Bulletin and ACSH Update
Stay abreast of what's current on the new online ACSH magazine, HealthFactsAndFears.com, by signing up to receive regular email bulletins of all the new articles, editorials and commentaries posted on HFAF each week. To join visit the HealthFacts AndFears.com homepage and submit your email address directly, or send an email message to seavey[at]acsh.org. The body of the email message should include the phrase "subscribe healthfactsandfears.com bulletin."
Additionally, nearly 2,000 new subscribers have joined the ACSH UPDATE list serve since our last reporting, bringing the total number of members to over 10,000. UPDATE subscribers receive periodic email bulletins from ACSH that inform them of general ACSH programs, activities, and publications. To join UPDATE, visit the ACSH homepage at www.acsh.org and submit your email address directly, or send an email message to stier[at]acsh.org. The body of the email message should include the phrase "subscribe update."
- ACSH Papers and Letters in Professional Journals
On March 21st Medscape published the ACSH study by Dr. John LaRosa "Chemoprevention of Coronary Artherosclerosis: The Role of Lipid Interventions," which provides compelling scientific evidence that cholesterol-lowering drug therapy can reduce the risk of heart attacks by about 30 percent.
The Volume 7, 2002 issue of the Journal of Health Communication published the ACSH study "Dietary Supplements Safety Information in Magazines Popular Among Older Readers." This study presents an analysis of supplement safety information in ten major magazines popular among older readers.
- ACSH Directors Receive Awards
Congratulations to ACSH Directors Drs. Norman Borlaug and Stephen S. Sternberg. On January 22nd Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Public Welfare Medal the highest award given annually by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for his work in developing high-yield, disease-resistant wheat strains for cultivation around the world, the so-called "Green Revolution." The Academy praised Dr. Borlaug's life-long dedication to improving agricultural techniques and food production in the developing world.
Dr. Sternberg was selected as the 2001 recipient of the Fred Waldorf Stewart Award, presented annually by the Department of Pathology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It is bestowed on an individual who is deemed to have contributed significantly to progress against neoplastic disease.
- ACSH and the Government
- On May 14th ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on "Tobacco's Deadly Secret: The Impact of Tobacco Marketing On Women and Girls." She addressed the critical issue of women's magazines and their failure to accurately report the dangerous health consequences of smoking to American women, as found in ACSH's surveys of these magazines in the last decade.
- ACSH's website is now linked from the Office of Dietary Supplements' website, as a resource for consumers and professionals.
- On March 6th ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross testified in Sacramento before an EPA peer-review panel contemplating the safety factor for acceptable levels of perchlorate in drinking water.
- ACSH submitted its peer-reviewed, scientific report, "Arsenic, Drinking Water and Health," to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as supporting documentation in their review of a proposal to reduce the levels of arsenic allowed in drinking water. The study was also accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
- ACSH responded to congressional inquiries, in regards to Dr. John Graham's nomination to OIRA, by making a visit to Washington, D.C. in the fall, as well as writing letters on his behalf. Dr. Graham had served on ACSH's scientific advisory board for many years.
- ACSH on Campus
- Nick Tate, Science and Medicine Editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, used the ACSH booklet "Handbook for Journalists" in a journalism class he taught at Emory University on writing about health issues.
- The ACSH Priorities article "Are The Global Threats Real" will be included as a part of the curriculum for a summer "Issues in Environmental Science" course at Lesley University.
- Two ACSH reports, You've Come a Long Way...or Have You and Tobacco and Women's Health will be included on a CD-ROM produced by the Massachusetts Tobacco Advisory Committee on Women and Girls. The CD-ROM will be distributed, gratis, to tobacco control professionals and educators in Massachusetts and elsewhere.
- The VAPremier Health Plan Inc. in Norfolk, VA was granted permission by ACSH to reproduce several chapters of ACSH's Cigarettes: What The Warning Label Doesn't Tell You book for distribution at a Maternal-Child Health Partnership Conference. The material will be used to provide an in-depth look at the consequence of smoking during pregnancy to local area OB/GYN providers and health care professionals.
- Excerpts of ACSH's popular book, Facts versus Fears, will appear in a soon to be published scholarly book entitled A Reader for the Politically Incorrect. The book will be distributed primarily to students of the Montclair State University's Department of Political Science.
- An excerpt from ACSH's report Biotechnology and Food will appear in a six-volume set published by Grolier entitled Pro/Con. The set is scheduled to be published in June 2002 and encourages critical thinking among high school students. The ACSH excerpt will appear in Volume 4, "The Environment."
- Priorities' Swan Song
The final issue of Priorities for Health (Volume 13 Number 4), released in January 2002, included essays looking at the basic facts about environmental tobacco smoke, how to become an effective anti-tobacco activist, Third World perspectives on tobacco issues, tobacco and oral health, and much, much more. See page six for more information about ACSH's new online magazine, HealthFactsAndFears. com, which replaces Priorities.
ACSH Quips and Quotes
- ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross was quoted in the June 24th AMEDNEWS.com article, "Want More Nicotine? Just Drink the Water," which explores the debate over the regulation and restriction of new "nicotine water." He was quoted as saying, "It may be a psychological benefit, especially to younger people who might, when they go out to recess, instead of having a smoke try to have nicotine water. If that worked, that would be great because smoking in high schools is a real problem."
- In a June 24th New York Post op-ed "Lead Paint Scam," by Steven Malanga, Dr. Gilbert Ross warned: "Kids who test at these lower levels should not be termed 'lead poisoned.' 'Poisoning' is a loaded word that takes this discussion out of the realm of the scientific." The article took a look at the lead-paint poisoning rates in New York City and explored the veracity of a New York Public Interest Group study's claims that the great majority of children suffering from lead poisoning have significantly lower lead levels than did the average American child of 25 years ago.
- ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, was quoted in the June 22nd Windsor Star editorial "More Scary Claims From the 'Junk Science' File." The editorial critiqued recent full-page ads run in the New York Times by the Center for Children's Health and the Environment, claiming that chemicals in the environment are a cause of brain cancer and other health problems in children. Dr. Whelan stated: "These ads are absolutely, totally, and blatantly a lie. What a horrible thing to say to parents of young children. If you were to do a search in a medical library into the etiology, the cause, of brain cancer, you would find absolutely zero reference to toxic chemicals."
- The June 18th editorial in the National Post by Terence Corcoran, "How 'Obesity' Keeps Getting Bigger," explored the topic of "junk science" and its definition as given by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. He writes: "She identified two common denominators: a distortion of scientific fact and the exaggeration of risks. For our purposes, we've expanded the definition. Junk science occurs when facts are distorted, risk is exaggerated, and the science is warped by politics and ideology. It's an important addition. Even good science, in the hands of a craven lawyer or a political demagogue, can be turned into junk."
- A June 5th article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Going Soft On Butter," quoted ACSH director of nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava in its discussion on the growth of butter consumption: "Don't eat it every day, and don't eat huge amounts of it. When using butter, use it when flavor counts most, and use oils, such as canola and olive, for everyday cooking."
- In the May 31st HealthScoutNews article "Designer Drugs and Vitamins May Be in the Genes" Dr. Ruth Kava commented: "I think this is a great example of 'nutribabble'. They're taking this way beyond the data. Yes, we've mapped the human genome, but I don't know that we've made the connections yet to make this useful." However, Dr. Kava went on to acknowledge that it is an interesting idea that may prove useful one day in the future.
- A May 27th Houston Chronicle column, "Some Cancer Clusters Could Be More Fiction Than Fact," conveys information reported in the recent ACSH study, Cancer Clusters: Findings vs. Feelings. "Many of these supposed clusters include whatever types of cancer have been diagnosed in the area. This ignores the reality that different cancers are really different diseases."
- Dr. Gilbert Ross was quoted in the New York Times' May 8th article, "Study Finds Far Less Pesticide Residue on Organic Produce," by Marian Burros, which found that organic produce contains a third as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown foods. "So what? The health risks associated with pesticide residues on food are not at all established. I think the amount of pesticide residues to which we are exposed on our foods pose no significant health risks to human beings."
- ACSH was a resource for the April 30th Jerusalem Post article "Country Set For Fluoridation," which cited the statistic that people who drink fluoridated water for a lifetime will develop up to 70 percent fewer cavities than they would without fluoridation.
- An April 30th Agbioview article, "International Campaign Touts High-Yield Farming and Forestry to Conserve Wildlands," reports on a declaration signed by a coalition of food, environmental, farming, and forestry experts in favor of high-yield conservation. One of the supporters included ACSH director Dr. Norman Borlaug, who was quoted as saying: "Growing more crops and trees per acre leaves more land for Nature. We cannot choose between feeding malnourished children and saving endangered wild species. Without higher yields, peasant farmers will destroy the wildlands and species to keep their children from starving. Sustainably higher yields of crops and trees are the only visible way to save both."
- ACSH medical director Dr. Gilbert Ross was quoted in a March 13th New York Times article, "Stream Tests Show Traces of Array of Contaminants." The article discussed a recent nationwide survey, which found that water downstream from sewage treatment plants contained trace amounts of hormones, drugs, chemicals excreted by smokers, and disinfectants. Dr. Ross stated: "Just detecting these substances, whether in water, air or, even in our bodies, at such minuscule levels doesn't mean they have a deleterious effect on humans or the environment."
- On March 6th ACSH nutrition director Dr. Ruth Kava was quoted in a UPI article on the health differences between those who eat breakfast and those who skip this important meal. Dr. Kava explained that the protein found in eggs and yogurt can "fuel a person throughout the day" and is necessary for the production of antibodies that fight illness and infection. However, she cautioned that there is no data supporting the idea that by skipping breakfast you will be more prone to sickness.
- Dr. Elizabeth Whelan was quoted in the March 6th Salt Lake Tribune story "City Haze a Threat to Lives: Study Likens Risk to Living with a Smoker." The story reported the findings of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which linked breathing polluted air to an increased risk of dying from lung cancer. Dr. Whelan debunked the study by reiterating the fact that cigarettes account for 92% of all lung cancer deaths and that the possibility of lung cancer deaths caused by air pollution accounts for a very small portion of the cancer deaths.
- Dr. Kava was quoted in the February 26th Associated Press article "Can Hot Dogs Lead to Diabetes: Study Looks at Processed Meats" about a recent study that found that diets heavy in processed meats increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50% in men. Dr. Kava denounced the study, saying: "Its weakness lies in the fact that it relied on how well people remembered what they ate."
- A February 4 Washington Times article about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's (PCRM) smear campaign against milk quoted Dr. Elizabeth Whelan: "To discourage the use of an inherently nutritious product, I find highly irresponsible. Let's be upfront about this, about where their money comes from and what their agenda is they are animal-rights activists. These are not people interested in the health of children when they are encouraging parents against giving milk to children."
- On January 21 ACSH associate director Jeff Stier, Esq. was quoted in the USA Today article "Coalition: Millions Go to School Near Toxic Sites." The article addressed concerns that students were being exposed to dangerous chemicals when attending schools built on toxic waste dumps. Stier stated: "We have not seen any evidence that environmental exposure to trace levels of chemicals... has put human beings at risk. It's problematic when (activists) manipulate legitimate concerns in an effort to promote legislation, regulations, and lawsuits that are not based in science."
- Dr. Kava was quoted in a December 6, 2001, United Press International article on a particular enzyme that might be linked to obesity. She discussed how discovery of the enzyme could effect anti-obesity drug development.
- Dr. Kava was quoted in a December 4, 2001 Washington Times article. "Food Just For Women," about the different functional foods marketed towards women. Dr Kava advised: "When buying a commercial product marketed for women, look to see if the Food and Drug Administration has evaluated any of its stated health claims."
- Dr. Ross was quoted in the November 20 Wall Street Journal commentary "A Dose of Sanity: Christie Whitman Shows She's Not Afraid of Mice" about the EPA's regulations of pesticides. He asked: "Over the past decades, all health status measures have dramatically improved, thanks in part to the increasing safety and nutritional content of our food supply. If pesticides were in any way dangerous, either acutely or chronically, would we not have seen some deleterious effects?"
- Dr. Kava was quoted in a November 8 Investor's Business Daily article, "Will America's Food Supply Be Terrorism's Next Target?" She commented: "Consumers have been unnecessarily frightened of irradiation. They wrongly think it makes food radioactive or destroys nutrients. In fact, it's a proven way to deal with both accidental and deliberate biological contamination."
- Some activists are raising concerns about low levels of asbestos found in downtown Manhattan air since the WTC tragedy. Dr. Whelan is quoted on the topic in a October 19th Wall Street Journal editorial, "The EPA Comes Clean on Asbestos," by Kim Strassel, which takes a look at how the EPA created an environment ripe for such unfounded scares. "Every moment we waste scaring our kids about hypothetical risks like those posed by trace exposure to asbestos, is a moment we could be focusing on real health risks, like smoking, not wearing seatbelts, or not using bike helmets. Public health policies should focus on established risks, not phantom risks."
- "There is no hard evidence that PCBs cause health problems, especially increased cancer rates from long-term occupational PCB exposure" notes Dr. Whelan in "Dredging Politics," an August 3 National Review op-ed that critiques the Bush administration's current environmental policy.
Recent ACSH Publications
- Special Report: Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation Of Infant Formula (Online Only; July 2002)Experts disagree about whether it is necessary to include the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) in infant formulas to promote optimal brain and visual development, and some concerns have been raised about the safety of such supplementations. In this Special Report, ACSH examines the issue and concludes that such supplementation is safe. However, current available scientific evidence does not clearly establish the advantages of including DHA and ARA in infant formulas.
- The DDT Ban Turns 30 Millions Dead of Malaria Because of Ban, More Deaths Likely (Online Only; June 2002)Currently, the Senate is poised to enact an international treaty banning all use of DDT, despite the millions of people who have already died as a result of the U.S. EPA's ban on the chemical. This report looks at the benefits of DDT-use, as shown through history, and the costs to the public's health if an international ban goes into effect. (See page 7)
- Health and Safety Tips for Your Summer Vacation (Online Only; Revised May 2002)Whether you are traveling around the world or relaxing at home, a safe, healthy vacation will add to your enjoyment. This booklet offers some health and safety tips to keep in mind when planning your summer vacation that will help you avoid some of the potential drawbacks of summertime fun.
- Facts About "Functional Foods" (April 2002)Consumers today are inundated with ads for so-called "functional foods" that will supposedly improve their health. But scientists and physicians associated with ACSH find that many of the supposed health benefits of these foods are not backed by substantial scientific information. In this new report, experts evaluate the scientific evidence for a variety of health food claims and rank them according to the strength of the evidence.
- Cancer Clusters: Findings Vs. Feelings (February 2002)While years of news reports and Hollywood productions have led the public to believe that industrial pollution in the environment is causing local "cancer clusters," this recent ACSH report concludes that there is no evidence of such a link.
- Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer (February 2002)Despite media reports to the contrary, claims about lifestyle and dietary factors affecting a man's chance of developing prostate cancer are scientifically unproven found scientists associated with ACSH. In this new report, ACSH scientific experts evaluate the scientific evidence for a number of postulated risk factors and rank them according to the strength of the evidence for their role.
- Special Report: Arsenic, Drinking Water, and Health (Online Only; February 2002)There is considerable controversy over whether chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water at concentrations found in the United States poses a health risk. This ACSH report finds that the limitations of available epidemiological data and the state-of-the-science on the mode-of-action of arsenic toxicity including cancer are inadequate to support the conclusion that arsenic in drinking water, below the current U.S. limit of 50 Âµg/L can result in adverse health effects.
- Chemoprevention of Coronary Heart Disease (March 2002)Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in this country, accounting for four out of every ten deaths. This report suggests that one of the most promising approaches to reducing that toll is chemoprevention, or decreasing heart attack risk through the use of drugs that lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
- Special Report: Perchlorate in Drinking Water: Scientific Collaboration in Defining Safety (January 2002)This report is published to provide readers with a historical perspective on perchlorate use, how the concern over perchlorate arose, what the regulatory response has been over the last 10 years, and how the scientific process can be extremely beneficial in establishing safe exposure levels for humans in order to safeguard public health.
- Vaccinations: What Parents Need to Know (Online Only, November 2001)This report summarizes the evidence on both the benefits and the potential risks of vaccines, with an emphasis on the vaccines used in routine childhood immunization. It also addresses some of the common myths about vaccines and discusses a few of the vaccine safety issues that have recently been in the news.
- What's the Story? Childhood Immunizations (Online Only, November 2001)This consumer-friendly brochure for parents summarizes into a concise, direct question-and-answer format, ACSH's longer report Vaccinations: What Parents Need to Know (see above).
Upcoming ACSH Publications
The topics below are in various stages of development as ACSH books, booklets, special reports, special releases, journal articles, or brochures. As usual, however, there are always more projects in development than there is funding to research and publish them.
If you wish to make a special contribution to the production of any of these publications, or if you wish to obtain more information about the projects, please contact ACSH associate director Jeff Stier by telephone (212-362-7044, ext. 225), by email (Stier@acsh.org), or by mail (ACSH, 1995 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10023-5860). All contributions are tax-deductible, as provided by law.
In the coming months, look for these new and exciting publications from ACSH:
- Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals?
Public concern about environmental health threats to children has intensified in recent years and has caused scientists, politicians, regulators, and public health officials to take notice. The issue is whether young children, infants, and fetuses are at an increased health risk from environmental chemicals either because they have a heightened susceptibility to such compounds and/or because they experience higher relative exposures to environmental chemicals than do adults.
This over 220-page, exhaustive, 13-chapter book by ACSH will evaluate the important public health questions and concerns from several perspectives. Part I includes a comprehensive scientific assessment of children's susceptibility to environmental agents; Part II looks at the advocacy and regulatory issues that ensue. Do activist groups use alleged risks from chemicals and other environmental fears to manipulate parents' legitimate and appropriate concerns for their children's health? Have children become victims of these crusades?
- The Role of Eggs in the Diet: An Update
Although often maligned for their cholesterol content, eggs are an important part of the American diet and are a nutritional food that provides an excellent source of high-quality protein and vitamins along with iron and other trace minerals. This update examines concerns about eggs in the diet.
- Alzheimer's Disease: An Update
In 1990 ACSH published a status report on Alzheimer's disease, a progressive form of dementia that occurs primarily in the elderly. Since then, new approaches and research information have emerged to address this debilitating disease. This report will review what we've learned and what new scientific options are available.
- Smoking Cessation
It is well known that smoking is a deadly habit. Each year thousands of smokers try to quit smoking "cold turkey," but most cannot do so without some type of cessation assistance. This newly revised and updated report from ACSH will provide smokers with the currently available options and alternatives that exist to help them break this deadly addiction.
- Beef: A Special Report
This new report will expand on the earlier ACSH report, The Beef Controversy, and cover positive dietary contributions by beef, diet-disease connections, the use of hormones and antibiotics in beef production, and the relative value of "organic" versus conventionally produced beef.
- Acrylamide: A Special Report
When the findings of a recent Swedish study concluded that fried or baked foods high in starch introduced chemicals, which increase the risk of human cancer, the chemical acrylamide emerged as the latest contender in the health facts versus fears arena (see page 8). What is acrylamide? Is the presence of this chemical in food a legitimate public health concern? This special report from ACSH will explore the science and the controversy.
Other topics that ACSH will be targeting, if funding permits:
- Mental health and treatments for depression
- Mad Cow Disease
- Aging and sexuality
- Childhood obesity
- Nutrition accuracy in popular magazines
- Food irradiation
- Tobacco and men's magazinesFor information on how you can order ACSH publications, please contact Judy D'Agostino at 212-362-7044, or email email@example.com, or fax 212-362-4919.