Monthly Archives: March 2007

Good news all around

1. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces rate of HIV infection

2. Eric Kerouak, who I wrote about before, has stepped down from his position overseeing birth control and reproduction for the Health and Human Services department. Good thing, considering he was publicly against abortion and birth control.

3. I got accepted to medical school.


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Former Arizona governor admits to seeing UFO

Phoenix lights Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington (also a former pilot) has come forward on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to admit he saw the famous “Phoenix Lights” ten years ago while he was in office. (I will let you search for stories on the Phoenix Lights yourself. It is all over the internet, and Discovery did a special on it…)

S had his first (and only!) sleep over last year. His older friend C.J. got him so freaked out about aliens (something we had never discussed before) that they both came out of the room, wild-eyed and babbling. C.J. kept saying “It was a special on DISCOVERY! It was REAL!” I wonder if he saw the special on the Phoenix Lights?

Sigh. I don’t normally condition kids to believe The Man’s lies, but I needed some peace and quiet. I told them no aliens were coming to visit and sent them back to bed.

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Wish me luck

I am interviewing for medical school tomorrow!


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Chicken pox vaccine fizzles

Thanks Green Fertility for the head’s up on this story, just when I was researching vaccines for a friend from hipmama.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has confirmed that Merck’s chicken pox vaccine fades in effectiveness. Not only has the incidence of shingles changed on a public health scale since the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine and a lack of the natural disease in society, but, according to this article:

” And with fewer natural cases of the disease going around, unvaccinated

children or children in whom the first dose of the vaccine fails to work have

been catching the highly contagious disease later in life, when the risk of

severe complications is greater, they said.

“If you’re unvaccinated and you get it later in life, there’s a 20-times greater

risk of dying compared to a child, and a 10 to 15 times greater chance

of getting hospitalized,” said Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention in Atlanta, who worked on the study.”

I am sure that she meant unvaccinated or vaccinated yet still not immune. So, is the CDC recommending to get rid of the vaccine, and revert back to the natural immunity caused by a relatively uncomplicated childhood illness, or are they going to continue to risk that our children get more serious disease later in life? Oh, no, they are going to reward Merck for creating yet another shabby medication, and recommend boosters in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

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Help others, help yourself!

pest-walletguide.jpgWant to help the Environmental Working Group study the safety of brands of bottled water? It’s as easy as logging on to this website with a bottle of water in your hand, and entering in information off of the label. Easy stuff, like the UPC code, the source, any health claims.

The first 1000 people to enter in a label will get mailed a handy dandy pocket guide to the best and worst fruits and veggies, pesticide-wise.

Woo hoo! It’s not often that activism is so rewarding!

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Stinky phthlalates!

phthalate adPhthalate (ooooh!) exposure in pregnant women may come from a variety of sources, most of which contain fragrances. A coalition of environmental and public health groups compiled a study of commonly used cosmetics and listed which of them had high levels of phthalates, “including nine of 14 deodorants, all 17 fragrances tested, six of seven hair gels, four of seven mousses, 14 of 18 hair sprays, and two of nine hand and body lotions, in concentrations ranging from trace amounts to nearly three percent of the product formulation.”

Phthalates are banned in cosmetics in the European Union, which may be why many of these companies also produce similar products that are phthalate free. Some examples from the full study (pdf) include:

“Unilever make hair sprays with (Salon Selectives and Aqua Net) and without phthalates (Thermasilk and Suave). L’Oreal markets Jet Set nail polish without DBP but puts the phthalate in its Maybelline brand. Procter & Gamble sells Secret Sheer Dry deodorant with phthalates and Secret Platinum Protection Ambition Scent without phthalates. Louis Vuitton has taken phthalates out of its Urban Decay nail polish but still has these dangerous chemicals in Christian Dior nail polish and the fragrance Poison.”

Not only are these ingredients legal to put in cosmetics in the United States, but not one of the products with them has anything in the ingredient list to let a consumer make an educated choice. You have to check a study such as this to know. Most phthlates are grouped in under the listing “fragrance”.

If you would like the full list of products tested, the tables are available in the full study (pdf) . Most of the worst offenders were perfumes.

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Gender bender chemicals

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI can hardly keep up with the warnings in the news these days. I can’t pass this one up, because it is about one of my favorite scary words to say: phthalates. Ooooh, say it again. Phthalates. That sounds even worse than napthalene, doesn’t it?

Recent research, soon to be published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, shows significant feminization of boys born to mothers with high levels of four types of phthalates in their blood. Phthalates are used in so many pliable plastic products, from toys to medical tubing, that it is difficult to determine what the primary points of exposure are. But, this research convinces me that something more needs to be done.

Check out these conclusions:

“Tests showed that women with higher levels of four different phthalates were more likely to have baby boys with a range of conditions, from smaller penises and undescended testicles to a shorter perineum, the distance between the genitals and the anus. The differences, say the authors, indicate a feminisation of the boys similar to that seen in animals exposed to the chemicals.”

Animals studies have also showed more pervasive changes, affecting behavior and learning.

I hope more research is done, and not just because of the penis size issue.

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Children most likely victims of medical error

Today’s New York Times has a scary report about medical errors. Ever since it was disclosed that medical errors may account for more deaths than breast cancer and car accidents combined, they have been getting a lot more attention. (Very warranted IMO) This article about a recent study of medical errors concludes that they occur with pediatric patients with higher frequency than even surgical patients.

I already told the story about a doctor trying to talk my mom out of investigating symptoms in my younger brother that later turned out to be a brain tumor here. The book I wrote about in that post and this new study conclude that poor communication is to blame. Considering that a health care practitioner is supposed to be trained to listen as part of their diagnostic skills, I think the heavier weight of the communication errors should fall on their shoulders. I always tried to take the time to listen with an open mind and ask questions with women at the birth center where I trained.

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Breakfast and breastmilk

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI went to a rare breakfast out with my family yesterday. I live in Broward County, Florida. Lots of older people live here. The New York style deli we chose is a favorite with the retirees.

On this particular morning, there were two men, sitting with separate parties, who were Holocaust survivors. How did I know? I didn’t make an assumption based on their age, accents, or anything like that. Both seemed to be enjoying their breakfast and the company around them. One of the nice men picked up a piece of Z’s toy that he had dropped on the floor, and handed it to him with a smile, his arm outstretched with a large tattooed number running up the forearm. Both men had these tattoos. They both still carry a constant reminder of the horror that was very real for them, their families, and their culture.

I know by now that the topic of breastfeeding is touchy, to say the least. I get reminded again and again that some people are way too caught up in their own issues to be able to have a decent discussion about feeding babies, and the fact that I continue to discuss these issues means that I volunteer to be the recipient of a lot of misplaced anger. It is a health decision with many factors, not a moral decision. Just like many decisions we make before, during, and after the births of our children, many involve seemingly choosing a side in a non-existent battle. We are all mothers.

I do not mean to discount any negativity anyone has felt because of their feeding choice. I have been a lactation consultant. I have heard the stories and been there with the moms. I have also been torn a new one on many occasions, usually online, when I wasn’t passing any judgment on anybody. Even though every major health organization supports breastfeeding as the healthiest choice for children, the minute I bring up feeding babies, there is a small minority that will howl before they listen.

I am OK with that. I realize that being involved in birth and parenting means talking about some very sensitive topics. Some people may not want to be in a dialogue about them, and they don’t have to be. Some people may want to be in an angry dialogue about them, and I can duck out when they get hostile. But, please, folks, don’t call me a nipple nazi. As long as we keep the persecution in perspective, I can just walk away as I always do. I got a vivid reminder of why I feel so strongly about this yesterday.


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