Tag Archives: health

Acreage Cancer Cluster – Status update & Residents meeting

A very important public meeting is scheduled for tomorrow – February 9th from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. to allow residents to discuss the pediatric cancer cluster in the Acreage.

Details from the original story is here.

The location of the public meeting is Seminole Ridge High School – 4601 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road – Loxahatchee.

Update on the story:

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has weighed in stating that he will appeal to the federal government for their assisting into the investigation. This comes one day after Florida health officials said that there were no plans to search for the environmental cause of the cancer cluster.

“This is of grave concern to me,” Crist said. “The people deserve every ounce of energy that can be put into this situation to reveal how this happened, what the cause might be and what can be done to help these residents.”

“This investigation will continue as long as it takes to get to the root of this issue,” he said. “The people deserve nothing less.”

Dr. Alina Alonso wanted to “clarify statements that may have led to confusion.”

Through a spokesman, Alonso said late Thursday that she “welcomes the governor’s involvement.”

“I want to reiterate that the investigation is in no way finished, but rather is at a point where the Palm Beach County Health Department needs the guidance of elected officials, universities, research facilities and federal agencies to look further into the elevated rates of cancer,” Alonso said in a statement, adding that she “would like to clarify statements that may have led to confusion.”

Alonso said the next step was to raise awareness about childhood brain cancer. Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros rejected that saying that The Acreage residents are “beyond aware.”

“We want to do everything we can and use all our resources to give as much information,” Viamonte Ros said. “And not just awareness, but certainly to be able to find a cause, if there is one, or certainly to be able to answer questions.”

But Viamonte Ros believes that state health officials have exhausted their research options and have “reached the point where we need federal guidance to review what we’ve done and better clarify what the next steps should be.”

State officials additional plan to contact the National Institutes of Health. Meanwhile, Crist said that they state was now working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The good news is Florida Department of Health’s Chief of Staff Robert Siedlecki Jr. said that state officials will test the water and soil at cancer-stricken children’s homes.

“If they want us to test it, we will.”

“We have to try to figure out what is happening,” Commissioner Shelley Vana said. “You can’t just leave them hanging like that. I do understand that it can be difficult to find answers, but we have make an attempt.”

“My heart goes out to the Acreage families who are experiencing the heartache of cancer,” he said in a statement. “I cannot imagine the pain these parents, grandparents, children and their loved ones are feeling. I support the calls for further investigation and thank Governor Crist for committing to get to the bottom of this.” – Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach)

Anyone with additional information regarding the investigation, please provide any details in the comments below.

Also, if you plan on attending the February 9th meeting (or if you attended after in concludes), I would welcome the comments.

There will be a live on-line chat during the Tuesday night meeting with Palm Beach Post reporter Jason Schultz.[click here]

Sources:

Crist vows to investigate Acreage cancer cases

State officials agree to test soil and water at Acreage homes of cancer-stricken children

State officials agree to test soil, water at homes of Acreage kids with cancer

Map: acreage cancer cluster

Updated articles from the Palm Beach Post

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Pediatric Cancer Cluster in The Acreage

The Florida Department of Health confirmed that The Acreage in Palm Beach County is encountering a higher than normal number of brain and central nervous system tumors and cancer in children, especially girls.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other state lawmakers are calling for a probe to determine the cause.   One environmental expert said that the cancer cluster did warrant national attention.

Health officials state that they may never be able to determine the cause.  Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, said that there are currently no plans to conduct environmental tests.

“We really don’t have one thing,” said Alonso.  “From what we’re seeing now, there is nothing that is going to say, ‘Aha this is the cause of the cancer.’”

Nelson said environmental tests should start “as soon as possible.”  He pledged to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get them to “lend their resources and expertise to the investigation.”

“Residents still don’t know a cause or what’s responsible for these cases of cancer,” Nelson wrote to Florida’s surgeon general on Tuesday.  “And we can’t work to fix the problem or hold someone accountable until we can answer these questions.”

“We need to give them the resources to make sure they can identify a cause,” said State Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington).

Environmental tests will not occur until the department finishes analyzing the interviews over the next two months. 

Authorities have identified 13 cases of brain cancer or tumors among children and teenagers in the community from 1993 and 2008.

There was a significant jump in the number of cases after 2002 said Tammie Johnson, a state epidemiologist.  There is enough data available thus far to label these cancer cases a cluster.

Two more children were diagnosed with brain tumors in late 2009 generating fears that the cancer cluster is continuing to grow.

Homeowners should insist on federal assistance said Peter deFur, president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts in Richmond, Virginia.   He added that the CDC should conduct a health assessment which would include reviewing residents’ medical records and performing blood and environmental analysis.

The Acreage is a semirural community in northwest Palm Beach County.  As the name would suggest, homes are built on at least a single acre lot.  There are farms in the area and farm equipment is stored on those lots. 

Quick aside:  I looked at the area a dozen years ago about a year before my divorce.  I really have to say that I liked the rural feel of the community and loved the idea of hiring and working directly with the builder that would construct my home.   I suspect it is this reason that I have been watching this story develop.  My daughter was 6 years old when I looked at the community.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, which is not part of the cluster investigation, isn’t planning to conduct any tests, spokeswoman Cristina Llorens said Tuesday.  The agency randomly sampled 50 wells last year and declared that ground water quality in The Acreage was “generally good,” despite some elevated levels of radiation that could come from natural causes.

Excessive radiation can cause brain cancer.

Environmental concerns in the area:

  • Farm chemicals
  • Well-water quality
  • Pratt & Whitney toxic-cleanup site
  • Possibly contaminated fill dumped from other locations
  • Cell phone towers
  • Naturally occurring radioactive substances in rock

deFur said that The Acreage may be experiencing a “cumulative risk situation” where stresses on top of stresses exceed  what people’s systems can handle.

The fact the health department found a greater disparity in girls than boys raises a question of whether a hormone-disrupting chemical could be involved, he said.

“For everybody to have a comfort level, you need to know the source,” said Michelle Damone, board president of Indian Trail Improvement District.  “Without knowing the cause of it, how do you go and correct it?”

Next phases:

The state health department expects to complete the second phase of the study by mid-March, 2010.  They plan to conduct interviews with 12 of the 13 families and review the cancer rates using updated population data.  Note:  The thirteenth family could not be located as they have moved from the area.

If a third phase occurs, it may include environmental tests which would take up to one year to complete.

A fourth phase would be a large-scale federal or university-based project.

As mentioned earlier, additional studies are not currently planned.

“Everybody is exposed to a multitude of things,” said Becky Samarripa, whose 15-year-old daughter had a tumor removed in 2008.  Still, so many of these children went to the same schools, play in the same soil and drink the same well water that tests in at least one of those areas should be warranted, she said.

New York law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, affiliated with environmental activist Erin Brockovich, has been conducting water analyses since late last year. 

 

Public meeting:

Officials plan to discuss the investigation at a public meeting.

Date:           February 9, 2010

Time:          6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Location:   Seminole Ridge High School

                    4601 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road

                    Loxahatchee

 Sources:

Link to study:  Acreage SIR Recalculation Population Estimate Methods and Results

Cancer cluster designation rattles The Acreage

New data confirms Acreage cancer cluster; health official puzzled on cause of children’s ailments

 

Swine Flu – Are You Scared Yet?

We are still being told that we should fear the H1N1 virus – also known as the swine flu.

The article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel opens with ‘No worse than seasonal flu, so far.’

The second line (actual title) is more calming – ‘After 6 months, swine flu looks pretty mild.

Then they drop the fear bomb with the sub-title – ‘Danger of H1N1 virus is not what it is but the potential of what it could become.’

Even before reading the actual article, I was told all I needed to know.  It’s all about fearing the potential.  We are programmed to fear worst case scenario, fear the unknown, fear of a boogey-man.

We all fear another terrorist attack, Global Warming, killer bees, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, bird flu, swine flu, and so on.  Let’s not forget ‘side effects may include . . . ‘.

Both political parties make us frightened.  According to the right, we better fear ‘the gays’ and they’ll inflict their lifestyle onto the rest of us.  And the left has us worrying if we don’t stop made-made Global Warming we’re doomed as doomed can be.

Once a hurricane is less than a week a way, we are bombarded with non-stop news briefs hyping up the storm.  We are shown long lines at The Home Depot and Publix as everyone is stocking up for the impending doom.

It doesn’t matter what the alert, the media will hype it up.  They, of course, sell papers and gain viewers with each fear.  The more deadly the better.  And if they could make it about YOU then you could be hooked.

Shortly after the first outbreak of H1N1 in Mexico the media went to work alerting us to this widespread pandemic that would surely ensue.

Anyone coughs and we’re concerned that they are suffering from the swine flu.  Companies and restaurants put up hand sanitizers at entrances – which now reminds me of being on a cruise ship.

On October 6th, the swine flu vaccine should become available.  Insurance companies are offering to pay for the vaccine without co-pays.  Then it must be serious if the insurance companies don’t expect to profit from it.

I must say that I agree with Bill Maher who said on Twitter ‘If u get a swine flu shot ur an idiot.’

I know a number of people who over the years have gotten flu shots only to come down with the flu.  Isn’t that the purpose of the vaccine – to prevent the flu?

Back to the Sun-Sentinel for a minute:

“As the new bug circulates, health officials fear it may mix with others to create a new version that spreads faster or causes more deaths. For instance, the bird flu that appeared in Asia in 2006 kills most who get it but does not spread easily in humans. A bad scenario would be if that bird flu combined with the new, easily spread H1N1, said Virginia flu expert Richard Wenzel, past president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.”

Now we’re worried about mutating diseases.  What if that bird flu came back?

Actually, that could happen in a lab.  Isn’t that how we have killer bees?

According to the article, more people may get swine flu than seasonal flu but seasonal flu kills a greater percentage.

“Also, the World Health Organization this week said two dozen cases of swine flu were resistant to the vaccine. On the plus side, everyone who had the flu will be immune to getting it again.”

This article admits that the vaccine may not work.  And it says that you will be immune to a reoccurrence.  That is, of course, unless it mutates with some other disease.   I was always told growing up that once I had chicken pox, I’d never get it again.  They didn’t warn us about shingles.

Where more people die from many other things, maybe I’ll worry about them.  Instead, I think I’ll try my best to take care of myself and enjoy life on a daily basis not worrying about every thing that comes along.

Oh and I’ve cancelled my subscription to the newspaper.

If you wake up looking like this, don’t go to work…

If you wake up looking like this, don’t go to work…

Farts can lower your blood pressure

From the ‘I swear I’m not making this up’ file.

For years, I have been sitting at my office and my co-worker has been letting go. And not just regular farts but ones so horrific that tears would form in my eyes as I would grasp for air praying for a clean breath. His argument for sharing the putrid offense was that he had hypertension and it was great for his blood pressure.

Turns out, my co-worker had been telling me the truth.

The unpleasant aroma of the gas, called hydrogen sulfide (H2S), can be a little too familiar, as it is expelled by bacteria living in the human colon and eventually makes its way, well, out.

The new research found that cells lining mice’s blood vessels naturally make the gas and this action can help keep the rodents’ blood pressure low by relaxing the blood vessels to prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). This gas is “no doubt” produced in cells lining human blood vessels too, the researchers said.

“Now that we know hydrogen sulfide’s role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension,” said Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., a co-author of the study detailed in the Oct. 24th issue of the journal Science.

I picked up 2 amazing facts in the above 3 paragraphs.

First, there are scientists that observe and measure farts produced by mice.

Second, they are planning on designing a drug that will help my co-worker and others like him to produce more farts. And the way I am interpreting this article, not just regular farts – but of the all terrifying ‘silent-but-deadly’ variety.

From the article: A smelly rotten-egg gas in farts controls blood pressure in mice, a new study finds.”

Didn’t I also recently read that the methane produced from moose farts is a major contributor to Global Warming? Kill the planet – save a life. I’m just saying.

The article caught my attention because the title The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure seemed more like something from The Onion than from LiveScience.

And now I know why kids don’t have high blood pressure. There is nothing you can do to stop them from letting ‘em rip. They love cutting farts. Now we can encourage people to be themselves.

Now, does this mean that we’ll need to set up Farting Zones in restaurants, airports and the workplace? I can picture the annual physicals at my doctor’s office. I’ll have blood, urine and farting tests. Turn your head and fart.

The full article includes quite a bit of scientific information, but my mind couldn’t get past the thought of thousands of people on this drug therapy cutting ghastly farts everywhere I went. I know that’s a tad immature, as I’m not thinking of the long-term benefits, but whenever I get a whiff of the sulphur farts, my mind thinks of little else.

Hydrogen sulfide is the most recently discovered member of a family of gasotransmitters, small molecules inside our bodies with important physiological functions.

This study is the first to reveal that the CSE enzyme that triggers hydrogen sulfide is activated itself in the same way as other enzymes when they trigger their respective gasotransmitter, such as a nitric oxide-forming enzyme that also regulates blood pressure, Dr. Snyder said.

Because gasotransmitters are common in mammals all over the evolutionary tree, these findings on the importance of hydrogen sulfide are thought to have broad applications to human diseases, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

I was supposed to learn here that releasing these gasotransmitters, we could one day see a reduction of hypertension, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. But all my mind got out of this was that SBD’s (silent-but-deadly farts) are common to all mammals.

I’m guessing the product that will be welcomed by the public once this drug therapy is released is one that deadens our sense of smell or a product that you rub just below your nostrils that blocks the fart smell and may even offer scented varieties – like new car smell.

The other item that caught my attention in this article was “the research was supported by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as well as a Research Scientist Award.”

In other words, three research centers cooperated in funding this grant. That would mean that these 3 research centers had to review a request to fund the study of noxious farting by mice in order to reduce blood pressure.