Dr. Mead Killion, whom The Wall Street Journal calls
"a hearing aid pioneer," is petitioning the FDA to relax its regulations on
aids so that the devices can become more affordable. Dr. Killion contends that
aids for mild-to-moderate hearing loss could be sold over-the-counter for about
$100. Current FDA regulations require consumers to have a medical doctor check
for infection, acoustical nerve tumors, too much ear wax, or other medical
problems before getting a hearing aid. This requirement can be waived if a
person goes to a state-licensed hearing-aid specialist. Testing and fitting
sessions, performed by these specialists, increase the average cost of a pair
of hearing aids to $2200, according to an industry study sponsored by Knowles
Electronics. The high cost means that most people who need hearing aids cannot
afford them. Neither Medicare nor many private insurers will pay for the devices.
A recent Journal of the American Medical Association article
reported that hearing loss is the third-most-common chronic condition in older
hearing loss is linked to depression, anxiety, and paranoia.
In February 2004, the FDA rejected the first petition submitted by Dr. Killion
and his wife Gail Gudmundsen, who also has a PhD in audiology. That petition
asked the FDA to rescind its requirement for a physician screening or waiver
and to permit over-the-counter sale of hearing aids. Instead of a medical screening,
the two audiologists had suggested that hearing aid packages list warning signs
of a serious medical problem such as bleeding from the ear and chronic dizziness.
Dr. Killion has submitted another petition to the FDA. This one asks the agency
to create a 'one size fits most' category that would have fewer
Technology for effective, inexpensive hearing aids already exists. Dr. Killion
points to hearing devices for hunters, sold in sporting goods stores, as an
example. These devices effectively "muffle" gun shots while amplifying
quiet sounds, such as those made by animals moving through vegetation. He also
says that new materials decrease the need for custom-made molds for the ear
pieces. Low-cost aids are already being sold in India and other less-regulated
As Richard Goode, a professor at Stanford University and the former president
of the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgeons, said
to The Wall Street Journal: "If the FDA does
not require the public to see a doctor to rule out glaucoma or other disease
before getting reading
glasses [sold in pharmacies], why does it do so for hearing aids?"
Zimmerman, Ann. The Noisy Debate Over Hearing Aids: Why So Expensive? The
Wall Street Journal 24 March 2004
Stossel Takes on Homeopathy
ABC News "20/20" aired a piece on homeopathic medicine on its January 30, 2004
program. The story behind the segment (see www.homeopathic.com)
is far more interesting than the eight-minute segment engineered to conclude
Stossel's signature "Give me a break." Initially, a
producer from ABC contacted homeopath Dana Ullman and told him that "20/20"
wanted to do a segment on homeopathy that would include a replication of
recent European research. Ullman agreed to an interview if Madeleine Ennis,
professor of clinical biochemistry at Queen's University (Belfast),
okayed the protocol for the experiment.
Dr. Ennis had taken part in two experiments involving human basophils and homeopathic
dilutions of histamine. Basophils contain granules that can be stained with
a special dye and, then, decolorized (degranulated) with anti-immunoglobulin
E. As basophils degranulate, they release histamine. Large amounts of histamine,
in turn, inhibit degranulation.
The first experiment took place at four independent research laboratories in
1999 (Inflammation Research 1999, 48:s17-s18). Building on the experiments
performed by French biologist Dr. Jacques Benveniste in the 1980s, the group
compared degranulation of basophils exposed to homeopathic ('ghost')
dilutions of histamine to those exposed to control solutions of pure water.
Three laboratories that had nothing further to do with the experiment prepared
the homeopathic and control solutions. An independent researcher coded the
solutions and collated the data so that the scientists performing the experiment
To the researchers' surprise, three of the four labs involved in the
trial reported that the homeopathic histamine solutions caused statistically
significant inhibition of the basophil degranulation reaction when compared
with the controls. The fourth lab also observed that the 'ghost' histamine
solution inhibited basophil degranulation, but it was not statistically significant.
The basophils that remained intact (and dyed) after the histamine-inhibition
reaction occurred were hand-counted "and, therefore, subject to human
error." Dr. Ennis, who had taken part in the four-lab trial, performed
yet another experiment — this time measuring active (colorized) basophils
by machine. Ennis, who admits being skeptical of homeopathy, found that "histamine
solutions, both at pharmacological concentrations and diluted out of existence,
lead to statistically significant inhibition of basophil activation by anti-immunoglobulin
E" (Inflammation Research 2001: 50: 47-48).
After being interviewed by John Stossel, Dana Ullman learned that the London
experimenter hired by ABC changed the protocol in a way that assured negative
results. Dr. Ennis informed Ullman of several concerns that she had with the
new protocol including the use of ammonium chloride, which destroys basophils,
and the use of fetal calf serum, which alters the binding reactions of basophils
and has other unknown effects. In addition, the experimenter left the blood
that contained the fragile basophils to sit and sediment for four hours, compromising
their viability. The "20/20" transcript says that "Dana Ullman
tried to get the test called off before it even began, saying it was not an
of earlier tests. He later complained the test wasn't designed or conducted
properly. We then consulted leading university scientists who reviewed the
test protocols and said they were 'technically sound' and 'meticulously
conducted.'" ABC would not tell Ullman who these 'leading
university scientists' were. Professional skeptic and former magician
James Randi was the only 'authority' with a negative view of homeopathy
that "20/20" chose to name. To further support his skepticism of homeopathy,
Stossel inaccurately defined homeopathic dilution: "At 6C, the amount
is like one drop of medicine in 50 swimming pools." "In actual
fact," Ullman explains on his website, "the total amount of water
used to make a 6C potency is around six test tubes (or around 6 ounces of water)."
Milgrom, Lionel. Thanks for the memory. Guardian. 15 March 2001. www.guardian.co.uk
Stossel, John. Homeopathy: Can Water Really Remember" (Commentary) www.abcnews.go.com
Ullman, Dana. John Stossel and "20/20" program on "Homeopathy: Junk Science
Creates Junk Journalism — When TV Science Creates Science Fiction." www.homeopathic.com
In their article "Intestinal Dysbiosis and the Causes of Disease," Leo
Galland, MD, and Stephen Barrie, ND, delineate four patterns of intestinal
dysbiosis: putrefaction, deficiency, fermentation, and sensitization. Dysbiosis
refers to the presence of harmful microorganisms that can cause widespread
effects. Galland and Barrie say that dysbiosis can be a contributor to several
conditions, including chronic gastrointestinal, inflammatory or autoimmune
disorders, food allergy and intolerance, breast and colon cancer, and unexplained
fatigue, malnutrition or neuropsychiatric symptoms. To be treated effectively,
the pattern of intestinal dysbiosis must first be identified.
"Putrefaction dysbiosis results from diets high in fat and animal flesh
and low in insoluble fiber," the authors state. "This type of diet
produces an increased concentration of Bacteroides sp. and a decreased concentration
of Bifidobacteria sp. in stool." Enzymes in Bacteroides break down bile
acids and excreted estrogens, raising plasma estrogen levels. Deconjugated bile
acids cause diarrhea and are toxic to colonic epithelium, contributing to colon
cancer. In a high meat environment, Bacteroides also produces the enzyme urease,
which hydrolyzes urea to ammonia, raising stool pH. The risk of colon cancer
increases when stool pH is relatively high. Bifidobacteria sp., the 'good' bacteria
that decreases during putrefaction dysbiosis, ferments soluble fiber, thereby
making short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate counteracts many of the
negative effects caused by harmful bacteria like Bacteroides sp. It lowers stool
pH, causes neoplastic cells to differentiate, decreases inflammation in ulcerative
colitis, and decreases absorption of ammonia from the intestine. The authors
say that putrefaction dysbiosis is usually corrected by maintaining a diet that
is high in soluble and insoluble fiber and low in saturated fat and meat and
by supplementing with Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, Fresh yogurt or kefir
may also be helpful.
Deficiency of beneficial normal fecal bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus,
and E. coli, can be caused by antibiotic use (particularly metronidazole) and/or
insufficient soluble fiber in the diet. Deficient numbers of these bacteria
are associated with irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by diarrhea, cramps
and food intolerance. The authors call deficiency and putrefaction dysbiosis "complementary
conditions," saying they often occur together and respond to the same
The third pattern, fermentation, occurs because of an overgrowth of endogenous
bacteria in the stomach, small intestine, and cecum and results in carbohydrate
intolerance. Such overgrowth can result from gastric hypochlorhydria, tasis
due to abnormal motility, immune deficiency, or malnutrition. Small bowel parasitosis
can also be a factor. Fermentation dysbiosis can play a significant role in
inflammatory bowel disease. E. Gottschall has used a diet that avoids cereal
grains and added sugar and restricts disaccharide sugars to alter gut flora.
Long-term anti-microbial therapy is also used to treat fermentation dysbiosis.
The authors suggest citrus seed extract — 600 to 1600 mg/day — as a
first-line treatment because of its low toxicity and broad spectrum of action
against bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Very high doses can cause diarrhea.
Sensitization, the fourth pattern, involves aggravated abnormal immune responses
to components of microflora normally found in the GI tract. It may accompany
fermentation dysbiosis and may respond to the same type of diet and anti-microbial
Galland, Leo, MD and Barrie, Stephen, ND. Intestinal
Dysbiosis and the Causes of Disease. www.healthy.net/asp/templates/Article.asp?Id=423
The origin of Nipah virus, which killed 40% of the 257 Malaysians who got it
in the late 1990s, is the subject of a study organized by the Consortium
for Conservation Medicine (Palisades, New York). The four-year study is trying
to determine if human-induced environmental changes caused the outbreak.
Nipah appeared suddenly in 1998, infecting pigs then moving on to the men
in contact with them. The pigs developed encephalitis and a loud cough before
they died. After the Malaysians killed 1.1 million pigs, the virus disappeared.
Scientists believe that the world's largest bats (Pteropus vampyrus)
host Nipah virus. These fruit-eating bats, which have a five-foot wingspan,
have antibodies that protect them from the virus.
Like SARS, Nipah is an example
of a virus that has lived peaceably with one species but wreaks havoc when
it moves on to others. Some scientists believe that the bats flew to Malaysian
fruit tree farms in search of food after massive fires in 1997, which destroyed
over 12 million acres of virgin forest in Borneo and Sumatra, affecting fruit
production in the bats' native habitat. On Malaysian fruit farms, the
trees are fertilized by hog manure from animals that live in pens on the premises.
Scientists believe that the bats dropped fruit pulp as they ate into the hog
pens below, delivering a "lethal dose of virus-laden saliva." The
virus, which became more potent while in the pigs, then moved on to the men
working with the animals. "In the case of almost every emerging disease,
complex human changes to the environment drive emergence," says Dr.
Peter Daszak, a parasitologist and executive director of the Consortium that
organized the study. The study will try to identify the many variables that
caused this sudden epidemic.
Fritsch, Peter. Scientists Search for Human Hand Behind Jungle Virus. The
Wall Street Journal 19 June 2003.
In May 2000, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center opened an 11-bed
palliative-care unit that has become a model for other US hospitals. Slow
to gain acceptance in the US, palliative care has been a recognized medical
specialty in Britain since 1987. Palliative-care physicians focus on comfort
rather than cure when treating terminally-ill patients. Although they use
procedures such as blood transfusions and radiation to treat symptoms of
a disease, palliative-care physicians do not use all the drugs and technology
at their disposal "to preserve life at any cost." Like hospice
care, palliative care emphasizes pain management and easing mental-emotional
stress. Palliative care, however, can begin earlier than hospice.
VCU's palliative care unit exemplifies its humane as well as economic
advantages. In order to increase the comfort of cancer patients who suffer
shortness of breath, the unit's physicians developed a 'misting
device' that delivers pain medication directly to the lungs. The palliative-care
doctors are also more comfortable prescribing strong narcotics, such as Dilaudid,
to help patients suffering from intense pain. The staff goal is that patients
can die peaceably in the familiar comfort of their own home, if possible. In
the process, the palliative-care unit saves millions of dollars. The Wall Street
Journal compared the average care cost for terminally-ill cancer patients during
the five days before dying in a palliative vs. a non-palliative unit. Drugs
and chemotherapy, lab tests and diagnostic imaging, medical supplies, room,
and other expenses average $12, 319 for five days of care in a non-palliative
unit. The average cost in the palliative unit is $5,312. Non-palliative care
involves far more lab testing and drug treatment — even though a patient
is near death — than palliative care. Right now, about 50% of Americans
who die each year die in a non-palliative hospital unit.
Naik, Gautam. Unlikely Way to Cut Hospital Costs: Comfort the Dying. The
Wall Street Journal 10 March 2004.
Soil and Your Health, a Basic Earth Guide book written by Beatrice Trum Hunter,
explains how organisms contribute to the quality and fertility of the Earth's
soil and how farming/gardening practices affect the soil and food quality. "Soil
formation is dynamic, a living process," writes Ms. Hunter. Microbes
such as actinomycetes ("aerobic organisms classifiable between bacteria
and fungi") and earthworms help decompose organic matter, forming
spongy-textured humus. Humus improves soil structure and increases the soil's
ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Humus and the microorganisms that
thrive in humus also help plants resist pests and disease.
Unfortunately, these beneficial soil organisms, including earthworms, are
destroyed by the acidic pH of chemical fertilizers and pest-poisoning sprays.
from antibiotic-free livestock, on the other hand, encourages earthworm activity.
In addition to creating nourishing humus, earthworms aerate the soil, increase
the number of actinomycetes, and make minerals bioavailable to plants. A 21-year
Swiss study comparing conventional and organic farming practices confirmed
that organic methods resulted in a rich soil with microbial diversity (Science,
31 May 2002). Although the organic fields, depending on the crop, produced
slightly less than conventionally-farmed fields, organic fields require less
energy to till them, less fertilizer, and far fewer pesticides — which
means a farmer doesn't have to spend as much money to grow the crops
when using organic methods. Profits made by organic farms in Europe are comparable
to conventional farms.
The quality of the soil affects crop health and nutritious content of the food
we eat. Scientific analysis of pesticide residue data collected by the USDA
(1994 to 1999), data collected by California's Department of Pesticide
Regulation (1989-1998), and tests by Consumers Union (1997) show that organically-grown
food contains significantly less pesticide residue than conventionally-grown
food. Virginia Worthington, MS, ScD, CNS, collected data from 37 papers about
specific nutrients and toxins in various crops. She found "higher amounts
of nutritionally significant minerals in organic, compared to conventional
crops." An anecdotal report from a Japanese businessman claimed that
racehorses that graze on manure-fertilized grass have stronger legs and fewer
leg fractures than those who graze on chemically-fertilized grass.
Flavorful taste, good nutrition, and a desire to avoid pesticides have encouraged
US consumers to buy organic food. The amount of farmland devoted to organic
practices doubled during the 1990s to meet growing consumer demand, and the
USDA's Agricultural Research Service began to turn its attention to
organic practices. It now has test sites looking at organic-compatible ways
to control plant diseases and weeds, biological pest controls, and soil fertility.
Perhaps, one day, the US government will take that final leap and stop subsidizing
conventional farming practices, choosing instead to encourage less costly,
ecologically-sound organic practices.
Soil and Your Health gives readers a comprehensive overview about an important
environmental topic so that they can make informed choices in everyday life.
Consumers, gardeners, and farmers need to understand that the health of the
Earth's soil affects the health of the plants that grow in it and, ultimately,
the health of those who eat the plants.
Hunter, Beatrice Trum. Soil and Your Health. (Basic Health Publications, 2004)
The Sun Safety Alliance
The Sun Safety Alliance (SSA), a nonprofit coalition, is preparing to inundate
practitioners and the public with information about skin cancer prevention,
according to the group's web site (www.sunsafetyalliance.org). The
bulk of the advice focuses on the need to apply sunscreen "liberally" and "often." Although
the group is supported by the American Academy of Dermatology, its members
come from the commercial sector and include the National Association of Chain
Drug Stores (NACDS), Schering-Plough HealthCare Products' Coppertone® sun
care line, Roche Vitamins, and The Walt Disney Company's DisneyHand
program. The information on the web site emphasizes the dangers of UV rays
and ignores the benefits of sunlight's role in the creation of vitamin
D, "the sunshine vitamin."
When exposed to UVB rays in sunlight, skin produces vitamin D. Skin production
accounts for most of the body's supply. Vitamin D is involved in calcium
absorption. Low blood levels of this vitamin are linked to an increased risk
of breast and colon cancers. Scientists at an October 2003, National Institutes
of Health conference, "Vitamin D and Health in the 21st Century," reported
an 'alarming prevalence' of vitamin D deficiency in the US. Scientists
attribute the deficiency partly to diet and partly to worries about UV rays
and skin cancer that keep people indoors or coated with sunscreen.
Although much is made of the thinning ozone layer as a reason to wear sunscreen,
some of the UV rays in sunlight are able — and have always been able — to
pass through the ozone layer. The ozone layer primarily stops UVC rays, which
have the shortest wavelength. UVB rays, which have a medium length, are only
partially absorbed by the ozone layer. They do not penetrate the skin as deeply
as the longer UVA rays do and are the primary cause of sunburn. While the body
uses UVB rays to make vitamin D, too much of a good thing can cause tissue
damage. The ozone layer does not stop UVA rays at all. UVA rays, which account
for 90-95% of the ultraviolet light that reaches earth, are absorbed by melanocytes
that cause the skin to tan. These rays can also weaken the skin's connective
tissue and make it more susceptible to sun damage. In addition, UVA rays suppress
immune function. Tanning beds use mostly UVA light sources. Melanoma has increased
sharply, even in areas where no change has occurred in the ozone layer. Professor
Johan Moan of the Norwegian Cancer Institute looked at the yearly incidence
of melanoma in Norway from 1957 to 1984 and found a 350% increase among men
and 440% increase among women during that period
Some researchers believe that the increased use of chemical sunscreens that
absorb rather than reflect UV rays is the main cause for the rise in skin cancer.
Oxybenzone, a principal ingredient in most sunscreens including Coppertone,
absorbs UVA light and then is readily absorbed through the skin and excreted
in the urine. Although Cameron Hayden and colleagues at the University of Queensland,
Australia, who performed the research, do not know the long-term effects of
sunscreen use, they are wary. (The Lancet, 9/20/97). In his article "Sunscreens:
Do They Cause Skin Cancer?" Hans R. Larsen, MSc ChE, says that benzophenone
derivatives, which include oxybenzone, are powerful free radical generators: "Benzophenone
is activated by ultraviolet light. The absorbed energy breaks benzophenone's
double bond to produce two free radical sites. The free radicals desperately
look for a hydrogen atom to make them 'feel whole again.'" Larsen
also notes that wherever chemical sunscreens are promoted, the incidence of
melanoma rises. Part of the problem may be that sunscreens give people a false
sense of safety and they stay out in the sun longer since their skin does not
Rather than relying on frequent and liberal applications of absorbing sunscreens,
consumers can use a reflecting physical sunscreen such as calamine lotion,
based on zinc oxide, or wearing protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
while outside. A moderate natural suntan also offers some protection. Hans
Larsen says, "regular and moderate unprotected sun exposure in the early
morning or late afternoon will help maintain a protective tan and keep your
vitamin D stores at an optimum level."
The active ingredient in sunscreen: is it safe? (oxybenzone) Healthfacts,
July 1998 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0815/is_n7_v23/ai_20963314
Federal Trade Commission. Indoor Tanning. http://my.webmd.com
Larsen, Hans R., MSc ChE. Sunscreens: Do They Cause Skin Cancer? International
Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Vol 12, No 12, December
Stephens, Anastasia. What the ingredients in sun cream
can do to your health. www.taylor-jackson.com/suncreams_that_damage.htm
Sunscreens — cancer in a bottle? The dangers of PABA/Oxybenzone. www.natural-health-information-centre.com/paba-oxybenzone.html
Toor, Daryl. American Academy of Dermatology Teams Up with Drug Stores and
Coppertone to Mislead Sun-Tanners about Health Benefits of Sunshine. Press
release from Wolff Systems Technology, April 1. 2004
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that produces eggs (oocysts) in the digestive
tract of cats. The eggs are excreted in feces and remain in that form until
a mammal or bird eats them. If the next host isn't a cat, the eggs
hatch, and the parasites migrate to various tissues where they form cysts.
If this intermediate host becomes dinner for a cat, the parasites move to
the cat's digestive tract and begin producing eggs. Researchers at
Oxford learned that rats and mice that have been infected with T. gondii
become less cautious, more active, and have slower reaction times. The rodents
also show an attraction to cat urine. All of these behaviors increase the
likelihood that the parasites in the rodents will be returned to a cat's
digestive tract where they will lay the next generation of eggs.
Humans can become infected with T. gondii (toxoplasmosis) via infected water
or meat products or from cat feces. Acute infection is characterized by fever,
enlarged lymph nodes, muscle aches and pains, and flu-like symptoms. The primary
danger comes when a pregnant woman become infected. T. gondii can pass through
the placenta and reach the fetus, causing serious problems that include hydrocephalus,
retinochoroiditis, enlargement of the liver and spleen, and heart problems.
Chuck Louch writes in the Port Townsend Marine Science Center newsletter that
the large number of cats, particularly feral cats — about 60 million — and
the use of flush-able kitty litter means that T. gondii oocysts are affecting
more species than ever. Large numbers of oocysts are being washed down storm
sewers and into streams, rivers, and eventually
to the sea. These T. gondii eggs can survive water and waste treatment plants.
In 1995, contamination of the municipal water supply of the Greater Victoria
area of British Columbia led to an outbreak of toxoplasmosis in humans.
T. gondii has also entered the marine food chain. Sea otters, for example,
are apparently getting the parasites from clams, oysters, or other benthic
bivalves that they eat. Unlike land mammals, sea otters have little or no immunity
to the parasites. Instead of forming harmless cysts, T. gondii parasites invade
a sea otter's brain and eventually cause death. Louch reports that otters
that live in coastal areas that receive a high flow of water from streams,
rivers, or storm drains are three times more likely to become infected with
Louch, Chuck. Of Cats, Protozoans, and Sea Otters: A Tale of Villainy. Octopress (Port Townsend Marine Science Center newsletter) Vol. XX, No. 1, Winter 2003
Toxoplasma gondii. http://cvm.msu.edu/courses/mic569/docs/parasite/TOXO.HTML