Saturday, November 20, 2010

Darvon and Darvocet: Risks Outweigh the Benefits





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Friday, November 19, 2010

Some "Lead-Free" Pottery Can Still Taint Food

/PRNewswire/ -- Colorful pottery may look nice on the dining room table. But beware: it can cause serious harm if it can contaminate food placed in it with lead.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it has confirmed reports that traditional ceramic pottery made by several manufacturers in Mexico -- and labeled "lead free" -- in fact contains lead.

Learn about this pottery, and steps you can take to detect it, at http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm233531.htm.

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Beware of the Break Up Email

What fun!  Today, I received a delightful email which immediately went into the trash.  It appears the writer of the email worded it in a decidedly hostile manner. 

What was so fun about the email was it was allegedly addressed to the young female who was his, er, partner.  Then why was the email addressed to so many recipients? 

In the email, the writer has promised to upload any and all acts online so the world can enjoy their alleged antics.  Wow.  If so many recipients have been so intimately involved with the writer of the email, then he was one busy character.  No wonder he had to send it to any mailbox he could.  He couldn't remember their names!

Scam?  I think so.  Trash?  I know so.

Beware of any email that trashes the alleged recipient.  You don't want to be a victim of malware.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Violent Pornography Linked to Sexually Aggressive Behavior in Children and Adolescents

/PRNewswire/ -- Viewing violent x-rated material may contribute to sexually aggressive behavior among 10-17 year olds. X-rated material without violent content does not appear to have the same impact, finds a new study conducted by Internet Solutions for Kids and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published in Aggressive Behavior, the study is expected to be highly influential. "Because of the obvious ethical problems of purposefully exposing kids to pornography," Dr. Michele Ybarra, the primary author of the study, explains, "little was known before about how viewing x-rated material may be related to sexual aggression in children. We asked kids whether they had looked at x-rated material before, and then looked to see if the kids who said 'yes' were more likely to also say that they were sexually aggressive."

The study finds that youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus kids not exposed to x-rated material. Watching violent pornography does not always lead to sexual aggression and not all sexual aggressors have been exposed to pornography, Ybarra cautions; nor does the study prove that violent x-rated material causes sexual aggression.

Exposure to Internet pornography is relatively common. Findings from the Youth Internet Safety Survey – 2 indicate that 15% of 12-17 year olds have purposefully looked at x-rated material online. Data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggest that 70% of 15-17 year-old Internet users accidentally view pornography "very" or "somewhat" often. Nevertheless, Ybarra's study also finds that the Internet is not the most common source of x-rated material – even violent x-rated material. Fourteen percent looked at x-rated material in movies, 12% in magazines, and 11% online.

"There's an assumption out there that the Internet has somehow increased kids' exposures to deviant content. Our data don't support this. We're learning that just because content that we find disturbing is accessible online, doesn't mean kids will seek it out," Ybarra explains. She agrees that blocking and filtering software will likely prevent exposure to violent x-rated material online. "But, these things won't do anything to prevent exposure through magazines and movies. That's why it's important to talk to your kids also."

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FDA Warning Letters issued to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned four companies that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive” and said that further action, including seizure of their products, is possible under federal law.

The companies receiving Warning Letters and their products are:

• Charge Beverages Corp.: Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked
• New Century Brewing Co., LLC: Moonshot
• Phusion Projects, LLC (doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.): Four Loko
• United Brands Company Inc.: Joose and Max

FDA’s action follows a scientific review by the Agency. FDA examined the published peer-reviewed literature on the co-consumption of caffeine and alcohol, consulted with experts in the fields of toxicology, neuropharmacology, emergency medicine, and epidemiology, and reviewed information provided by product manufacturers. FDA also performed its own independent laboratory analysis of these products.

“FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Principal Deputy Commissioner. “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”

Experts have raised concerns that caffeine can mask some of the sensory cues individuals might normally rely on to determine their level of intoxication. The FDA said peer-reviewed studies suggest that the consumption of beverages containing added caffeine and alcohol is associated with risky behaviors that may lead to hazardous and life-threatening situations.

The agency said the products named in the Warning Letters are being marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FFDCA). Each Warning Letter requests that the recipient inform the FDA in writing within 15 days of the specific steps that will be taken to remedy the violation and prevent its recurrence. If a company does not believe its products are in violation of the FFDCA, it may present its reasoning and any supporting information as well.

If the FDA believes that the violation continues to exist, the agency may pursue an enforcement action that could include seizure of the products or an injunction to prevent the firm from continuing to produce the product until the violation has been corrected.

FDA’s action today follows a November 2009 request to manufacturers to provide information on the safety of adding caffeine to their products.

FDA is aware that on November 16, Phusion Projects, LLC, the maker of Four Loko, announced its intention to remove caffeine and other stimulants from its drinks. FDA views this announcement as a positive step. FDA has not yet heard officially from the company about this announcement, including how quickly it will remove present product from circulation and how quickly it will reformulate its product. FDA intends to work with Phusion Projects, LLC and the other manufacturers to assure their products meet safety standards.

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New Report: States Slash Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs to Lowest Level Since Tobacco Settlement

/PRNewswire-/ -- The states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use to the lowest level since 1999, when they first received tobacco settlement funds, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

The states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only two percent of it – $517.9 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The states have cut funding for such programs by nine percent ($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.

With the U.S. adult smoking rate stalled at 20.6 percent after decades of decline, the report warns that continued progress against tobacco use – the nation's number one cause of preventable death – is at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report also calls on states to increase tobacco taxes and, for states that have yet to do so, to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

The report further calls on the federal government to robustly fund and implement the national tobacco prevention strategy unveiled last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including launching a national media campaign to discourage kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.

The report, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These organizations have issued annual reports assessing whether the states have kept their promise to use funds from the state tobacco settlements – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use.

"We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but we will not win it unless elected officials at all levels step up efforts to implement proven solutions," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Despite their budgetary challenges, the states are collecting huge sums from the tobacco industry and should be spending more of it to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment for the states that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

Other findings of this year's report include:

* Most states are falling far short of meeting recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The $517.9 million the states have budgeted amounts to just 14 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends for all the states combined.
* Counting both state funds and federal grants, only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels. Only five other states provide even half the recommended funding, while 33 states and DC provide less than a quarter. Three states – Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio – provide zero state funds for tobacco prevention this year.
* Tobacco companies spend nearly $25 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion a year on marketing.
* Federal grants, most of them temporary, have helped to cushion the impact of funding cuts in some states. In the past year, the federal government has provided $261.6 million in state and community grants specifically dedicated to reducing tobacco use (the grants are spread over three fiscal years, so not all the money will be spent in fiscal 2011).


The report comes as recent surveys have found that smoking declines in the United States have slowed and even stalled. The CDC recently reported that the adult smoking rate in 2009 was 20.6 percent – essentially unchanged since 2004 when 20.9 percent smoked. While smoking among high school students has declined by 46 percent from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997, 19.5 percent still smoke.

"We know that much of what helps us live longer, healthier lives happens outside the doctor's office," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "With progress on smoking rates stalled, it's more important than ever for states to focus on community prevention programs and policies that work – like smoke-free restaurants and workplaces and adequate funding to prevent kids from starting and to help smokers quit."

"For every step forward in curbing tobacco use among Americans, many states have taken two steps backwards," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. "The public health community is appalled at the lack of commitment among a vast majority of states to adequately fund comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs with the settlement dollars. As tobacco companies devise new tactics to increase smoking rates among children and adults, it's more important than ever to protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco use and give smokers the necessary tools to reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related illnesses."

"Fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs stop addiction before it starts and improve the health of our nation's communities," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. "Given the record low amount that states are allocating to these important programs, they simply must do a better job at properly allocating funding that helps reduce tobacco use and protects the health of children, 4,100 of whom try their first cigarette every day."

"States have a responsibility to prevent people from starting to smoke and to ensure that all smokers have easy access to cessation treatments and services as the human and financial toll of tobacco continues to rise," said Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO. "Preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit saves lives and money."

Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kill more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and cost the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

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Watchdog Calls for State Bans on Alcoholic Energy Drinks

/PRNewswire/ -- While applauding expected actions by the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission against dangerous alcoholic energy drinks, Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog, called for strong state action as well.

In the wake of increased media attention to the grave risks of combining caffeine with high-alcohol content, states have taking swift stands. In the past 2 weeks alone, four states – Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington, and New York— have shown leadership by banning the products or suspending their sale, while many more states are planning similar actions.

"State-level product bans will continue to be necessary to get the products off of store shelves," explained Michele Simon, Marin Institute's research and policy director and co-author of the 2007 report. "States are the primary regulators of alcoholic beverages and have full authority to ban alcoholic energy drinks whether by regulatory or legislative action, or through attorney general enforcement," Simon added.

Marin Institute first sounded the alarm about alcoholic energy drinks in 2007, with its groundbreaking report, Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix. The report describes both the health risks and how companies market these products to youth.

"We are thrilled that the federal government is taking action," said Simon. "We have maintained all along that these products contain illegal additives in the form of caffeine and other stimulants and that they are being deceptively marketed to youth."

For the past several years, Marin Institute has called on companies to stop making these products, for states to ban or restrict them, and for the federal government to act as well. Most recently, Marin Institute directed more than 1,200 emails from around the country calling on FDA to ban alcoholic energy drinks. In 2010, Marin Institute backed legislation in Washington State, California, and New York to ban the tainted products.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1 in 10 Americans Touched by Bed Bug Problem

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite media reports that make it seem like the country has been overrun by bed bugs, most Americans seem to be taking this latest scare in stride, with about one in ten respondents in a nationwide survey saying they or someone they know has had a bed bug problem. That number was higher (nearly 2 out of 10) among survey respondents from the Northeast, where cities like New York City have been particularly hard-hit with bed bug infestations.

Regional differences aside, the country was fairly evenly split in terms of their bed bug concerns. Just under half said they were concerned about picking up bed bugs, while half were not, according to the survey conducted by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of Enforcer® Brand pest control products.

"Bed bugs can be a problem anywhere – from big cities to small towns, from coast to coast, and in a variety of settings," says Mari Hayes, VP, Product Development & Marketing, Zep Retail (manufacturer of Enforcer brand products), noting that 25 percent of survey respondents are only afraid of picking up bed bugs when staying at a hotel and nine percent think bed bugs are only a real problem in big cities like New York City. "Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid them from the start and to eliminate them if you get them."

What People are Doing to Avoid Bed Bugs

Many survey respondents admit to altering their behavior in and outside the home in response to recent reports about bed bug infestations:

* 22 percent have started checking their beds, furniture, clothes and rugs for evidence of bed bugs on a regular basis.
* 21 percent have started washing their clothes and bed linens in extremely hot water and drying them on super-high heat in an attempt to kill bugs that may or may not be there.
* 16 percent are avoiding establishments because they're afraid of picking up bed bugs and bringing them home.
* 13 percent have stopped traveling to hotels or cities with known bed bug problems.
* 12 percent are avoiding people they know who have had a bed bug problem.


"Clearly, people are getting concerned about potential bed bug infestations," comments Hayes. "As we enter the holiday travel, shopping and entertainment season, it will be interesting to see how hotels, stores, theaters and other establishments are coping with a potential downturn in business."

Extreme Measures Considered

While 11 percent of those surveyed said bed bugs are "almost impossible to get rid of," many of the respondents said they would be likely to try a variety of methods – some more extreme than others – to stave off an infestation:

* 52 percent would buy mattress wraps that protect against bed bugs.
* 35 percent would hire a professional to take care of the problem, no matter what the cost.
* 27 percent would blast their home with super-high heat to kill any bed bugs that might be lurking.
* 18 percent would cover all their upholstered furniture with plastic slip covers.
* 13 percent would even go so far as to get a bed bug-sniffing dog to warn them at the first sign of infestation.


"Although some of these measures may seem extreme, they are all effective when used as part of a comprehensive bed bug elimination program," says Hayes. "In fact, there are a number of steps people need to take to eradicate bed bugs from their homes, and it appears as if the people surveyed are aware of many of them."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, those necessary bed bug elimination steps include:

* Inspecting infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces.
* Checking for bed bugs on luggage and clothes when returning home from a trip.
* Looking for bed bugs or signs of infestation on secondhand items before bringing the items home.
* Correctly identifying the pest.
* Keeping records – including dates when and locations where pests are found.
* Cleaning all items within a bed bug infested living area.
* Reducing clutter where bed bugs can hide.
* Eliminating bed bug habitats.
* Physically removing bed bugs through cleaning.
* Using pesticides carefully according to the label directions.
* Following up inspections and possible treatments.
* Raising awareness through education on prevention of bed bugs.
* Washing and drying bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.
* Heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) for 1 hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
* Cold treatments (below 0 degrees F (-19 degrees C) for at least 4 days) can eliminate some infestations. Again, the cooler the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
* Use mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.


Bed Bugs: Myths vs. Facts

The survey found that some people are operating under a number of misconceptions when it comes to bed bugs:

* 37 percent believe that bed bugs spread disease. Actually, while bed bugs may bite, causing small welts, there is no indication they spread disease.
* 34 percent believe bed bugs are resistant to pesticides. In fact, there are still several pesticides on the market that kill not only bed bugs, but also their eggs.
* 29 percent believe that bed bugs are caused by a general lack of cleanliness and hygiene. Unfortunately, bed bugs can be a problem no matter how fastidious a person is about staying clean.
* 62 percent would dispose of bed bug-infested mattresses and 29 percent would dispose of infected carpeting. These extreme measures are not needed if the proper bed bug elimination strategy is pursued.


"Some of these misconceptions may be why there's such a stigma attached to having a bed bug problem," suggests Hayes, noting that a quarter of those surveyed said they would be "too embarrassed" to tell friends or acquaintances if they had a bed bug problem in their home.

Indeed, the thought of a bed bug infestation is so worrisome that 30 percent of those surveyed said they would rather have a root canal than deal with bed bugs.

Survey Methodology

The survey of 1,005 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone from October 21-24, 2010 by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of the Enforcer® Brand. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. For additional survey results, visit www.enforcer.com.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Say 'I Opt Out' of Airport Scanners on National Opt Out Day, November 24

/PRNewswire/ -- Pro-consumer grassroots effort We Won't Fly is organizing mass x-ray scanner opt outs at airports around the nation for National Opt Out of the Airport Scanners Day, November 24, in order to highlight the health and privacy dangers of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) backscatter x-ray airport scanners.

"Not only are these porno scanners a gross violation of individual privacy," said boycott co-founder George Donnelly, "they're also a threat to the health of millions of passengers and ineffective as well. The goal of the demonstrations is to urge Americans to exercise their legal right to 'opt out' of the scan."

If you have to fly on November 24, We Won't Fly urges you to opt out of the new scanners for your own health and privacy. Say "I opt out!" Be prepared for delays and intimate TSA "patdowns." If you're not flying on November 24, We Won't Fly urges you to tell your friends, family and community members who are flying. Organizers of local meetups can list their events on our nationwide map at http://WeWontFly.com/opt-out-day.

As University of California scientists noted earlier this year, the airport scanners may pose a serious health risk. "Our overriding concern is the extent to which the safety of this scanning device has been adequately demonstrated. This can only be determined by a meeting of an impartial panel of experts that would include medical physicists and radiation biologists at which all of the available relevant data is reviewed," they said in a letter of concern.

A recent article in the San Diego Entertainer on August 31, 2010 stated that "the scans are detailed enough to identify a person's gender... to identify a passenger's surgery scars, or to discern whether a woman is on her menstrual cycle or not." As CNN has reported, the scanners include ethernet connectivity. Images can be stored and shared by design. According to CBS News, US Marshals saved 35,000 images from similar scanners at just one courthouse.

We Won't Fly is a pro-consumer grassroots effort to boycott the airlines until they join with concerned consumers in opposition to the new airport x-ray scanners and enhanced patdowns.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Stop a Predator...? Don't Ask Backpage, Yet.

/PRNewswire/ -- Ongoing independent research commissioned by Women's Funding Network, in partnership with the Georgia-based "A Future. Not A Past." campaign, has exposed Internet classified sites as the most commonly used platform for buying and trafficking adolescent girls.

A report released in October by the AIM Group, a global team of consultants in interactive and traditional media, found that Village Voice Media, with its backpage.com classifieds site, is the new leader in online sex advertising. The site recently announced the acquisition of an online security specialist and an initial take-down of roughly half of their sex-related categories while putting others under review. The other half of the frequently misused categories to advertise illegal sex, often related to trafficking, remain active and girls continue to be exploited on backpage.

A CNN segment aired yesterday highlights the plight of just one of thousands of girls trafficked online every day. A young woman who was coerced into the sex trade at 14 is suing Village Voice Media, accusing the newspaper conglomerate of knowingly allowing her trafficker to advertise her sexual services on backpage.com, alleging that websites like backpage provide a "safe house" for traffickers and predators to buy and sell girls for sex.

"How many more girls will be trafficked before Village Voice Media takes comprehensive action to protect them? From what we've seen so far the answer is not nearly far enough," says Deborah Richardson, chief programs officer at Women's Funding Network. "The fact is that girls are being bought and sold online while media companies that provide a platform for this illegal activity increase their profits and market share," Richardson adds.

"Drastic steps must be taken to combat sex trafficking of girls in the United States. Instead of applying a band-aid approach to the problem, companies like backpage must take action to truly protect girls through improved screening and monitoring, and increased cooperation with law enforcement," concludes Richardson.

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