Category Archives: Home Life

immunodeficiency

Genetic Immunodeficiency In Children

immunodeficiency

Prof. Adrian Liston and prof. Isabelle Meyts, along with a team of scientists, were able to characterize a new genetic immunodeficiency resulting from a mutation in a gene named STAT2. Patients with this mutation are extremely vulnerable to normally mild childhood illnesses such as rotavirus and enterovirus. The analysis of the genetic defect allows clinicians to provide children with the proper therapies before their illnesses prove fatal.  These findings have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

It has become possible for researchers to identify extremely subtle defects of the human immune system with the recent advancements in technologies and tools. Prior to these many patients with hidden immunodeficiencies, or defects that were not obvious from the beginning, often became extremely ill or even died before their genetic disorders were diagnosed. The team was able to identify a gene mutation causing an immunodeficiency that can be fatal during childhood, enabling children to be diagnosed, monitored and preemptively treated for the disorder.

These immunodeficiency disorders are not rare. They range from as severe as the well-known “bubble boy” to nearly impossible to detect “hidden” defects.  Immunodeficiencies are more common than scientists previously thought and they have only just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to defining these latter types of immune disorders that can be specific enough to make sufferers highly susceptible to just one or two types of diseases.

Prof. Adrian Liston stated he wouldn’t be surprised if they discover that up to 1 in 100 children are affected at the completion and identification of all genetic immunodeficiencies. The “hidden” ones are especially insidious because they do not present as obviously as other genetic immune disorders. One patient in their study did, unfortunately, die before a diagnosis could be made.  Another patient is alive and well since being diagnosed and is being carefully watched. If they can identify them, they can do something about most immunodeficiencies.

They stress the importance of assessing the severity of childhood illnesses on the part of parents and suggest that parents look for helpful information online and raise the possibility of a potential genetic immunodeficiency with a pediatrician.  Severe common illnesses may signal immune disorders. They feel that when an otherwise healthy child experiences extremely severe infection with a common pathogen like the flu or chickenpox virus, or when a child is particularly vulnerable to infection with a single pathogen, there is most likely an underlying defect in the immune system.  If there is a history of a child in the family succumbing to infection, this should alert the family and the clinician. Identifying the causative gene defect allows for genetic counseling and preventive measures to be taken.

Prof. Adrian Liston’s lab has developed a unique immune phenotyping platform and gene discovery program that can help identify previously unknown immune system defects and inflammatory diseases, aiding in new treatments that can be administered in a timely way to unravel “hidden” immunodeficiencies.  They seek to identify every possible cause of genetic immunodeficiency so that every child displaying warning signs can be tested and treated before it is too late.

Dr. Fredda Branyon

social media icons

Social Media

social media icons

Can social media leave you socially isolated?  Randy Dotinga from HealthDay Reporter addressed this issue in a recent article.  

When young people spend a lot of time on social media, mainly websites designed to bring people together, it seems to isolate them, according to new research.

They also found that the heaviest users of social media had about twice the odds of feeling socially isolated compared to their less “web-connected” friends.

Study lead author Dr. Brian Primack says that research suggests that those who use social media the most are especially isolated, even though those studies have been small. The new study is an analysis of social media users and so-called social isolation in a large group of people from across the U.S. However, at least one social media expert says the study leaves too many questions unanswered to offer people any practical advice.

This particular study included 1,800 people aged 19 to 32 who completed a 20-minute online questionnaire in 2014.  Half of the participants were female and 59% were white. Income for more than 1/3 was at least $75,000 a year. Those taking part in the research received $15 for the survey.

They were asked questions about how isolated they felt and how often they used Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Reddit. Those who used the services more in terms of the number of times or in the total amount of time spent were more likely to report feeling isolated from others. Those in the top quarter who frequently checked social media (58+ times a week) were about 3X as likely to have increased social isolation than those who checked the least and visited social media sites less than 9X a week.

The average time that most spent on social media were 61 minutes per day.

Those who spent more than 121 minutes a day had about twice the odds of feeling isolated than those spending less than 30 minutes a day, however, the study had limitations.  It wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship and it’s not clear which came first – the social media use or the feelings of isolation. The study also only looked at those aged 32 and under, so the findings may not be the same in older people.

The study examined people’s use of social media as a whole and not specific sites.  There’s no way to know if people who read glowing posts about their friends’ perfect vacations on Facebook are more or less isolated than those who prefer to watch YouTube videos of cats or bitterly argue about politics on Twitter.

What’s going on if there is no link between social media use and isolation? People who feel more socially isolated do use a lot of social media to try to increase their social circles, but both directions may be at work.  Those feeling socially isolated may reach out on social media to self-medicate, but this might only increase perceptions of social isolation. In conclusion, the findings suggest that people who feel isolated may generally be unable to find a connection through social media and the answer just might be going offline.

Dr. Fredda Branyon

a_picture of a_dog_resting

Your Dog Says “No” to These

It’s difficult to realize that your pampered and over-indulged pet that doesn’t have a care in the world can get stressed out. The stressors for canine are very different from those humans often experience. This stress can adversely affect a dog’s health and longevity when they live with a fear or anxiety disorder. When your loving pet is under stress, their body releases an excessive amount of norepinephrine, the fight or flight hormone that can alter gut bacteria and interfere with GI tract motility. Next comes the diarrhea, adding to his/her stress level. Some can become chronic, so it’s up to us to alleviate this stress.

Some common signs of stress and their triggers in dogsare nose/lip licking, yawning, panting, reduced or absent appetite, diarrhea, tail lowered or tucked, ears pulled or pinned back, cowering/crouched body posture and/or hiding, trembling/shaking and increased vocalizations as whining, howling or barking.

Listed here are the 10 most common stress triggers in dogs:

  1. Novelty-exposure to new items, new people, new animals, etc.
  2. Loud noises-fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.
  3. Changes in housing-moving to a new home, boarding, etc.
  4. Changes in household members-new baby, new pet, loss of pet or human,
    house-guests, etc.
  5. Changes in household routine-new job schedule, kids returning to school,
    holidays, etc.
  6. Punitive training methods-shock collars, yelling, hitting, etc.
  7. Invasion of personal space-disruption when resting, hugging, kissing, forcibly
    restraining, etc.
  8. Lack of outlets for normal breed behaviors-herding, running, retrieving, etc.
  9. Separation from human family members-separation anxiety, etc.
  10. Poor (strained) relationships with other household members (pets or humans),
    etc.

Some of these can be avoided but others cannot. Here are some triggers you can exert control over and minimize your dog’s life. Replace punitive training with positive reinforcement behavior training, make sure everyone in the household understands and respects your dog’s need for uninterrupted sleep and appropriate canine-friendly handling, increasing daily physical activity level and don’t leave them alone for too long at a time as they tend to get lonely and bored when forced to stay alone.

Here are some other tips to reduce your dog’s stress:

  • Leave an article of clothing or blanket with your scent on it
  • Leave a toy for your dog to focus on in your absence and small treats around the
    house
  • Add a flower essence blend to the drinking water
  • Invest in an Adaptil collar or diffuser for your dog
  • Give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation along with TLC
  • Play calm, soothing music to relax your dog
  • Wraps are available if your dog responds to pressure applied to the body
  • Ttouch is a specific massage technique that can help anxious pets
  • Consult your holistic vet about homeopathic, TCM and other remedies
  • Nutraceuticals and herbs can help calm your pet
  • Essential oil of lavender is proven to reduce a dog’s stress response
  • If your dog had a rocky start in life try a program called A Sound Beginning
  • If the stress worsens, consider a self-healing technique through a trained
    professional

We all love our animals, so let’s do our best to keep that little (or big) he or she happy and in our lives as long as possible. They also add to the human life and make us happy while doing so. To some of us, they ARE our children.

Dr Fredda Branyon

first aid

First Aid For Seizures

first aid

It seems there are so many more people having and being diagnosed with seizures than ever before. Many times, we have needed to make an appointment for one of our patients and the neurologist did not have an opening for months. All neurologist are heavily booked with an overabundance of patients. Just in the last two years, two of my close friends have had seizures.

It is always advisable to know what to do in the event of someone we love or know when they are having a seizure.

To help clarify the best aids for seizure here are some tips:

  • Be sure you or your loved one carries a medical ID so those around can help to keep you safe and provide the correct treatment quickly.
  • Your family, friends, and co-workers should know what to do if you would have a seizure.
  • All potential dangers of high places or moving machinery should be avoided, especially if your seizures are not under control.
  • Stay active but choose your spots wisely.  If seizures are well controlled, for the most part, you can lead a normal life.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking any anticonvulsant medications you may be using.  Consult first with your doctor as the type of medication depends on the type of epilepsy you have and the dose is determined by weight, age, gender, etc.
  • Keep yourself alert to the risks of possible drug interactions with your medication.
  • Be sure to avoid alcohol as it might interfere with the effectiveness of your medication and may lower the brain’s seizure threshold.

What should we all know about helping someone who is having a seizure?

  • You should first loosen the clothing around the neck; do not hold them down or restrain them.
  • No objects should be inserted in the person’s mouth. Be sure to remove all sharp objects to prevent injury.
  • Lay the person on their side to maintain an open airway and prevent the person from inhaling any secretions after the seizure.
  • You may find the person confused and they should not be left alone.
  • It is usually not necessary to call 911 if the person is known to have epilepsy, but do call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if another seizure begins soon after the first.  
  • If they cannot be awakened after the movements have stopped, be sure to call 911, or if there is something else that may be wrong as having another medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes.

For a child with generalized seizures move them away from hard, sharp or hot objects and place something under their head with them turned on one side to keep airway clear.  Do not hold their tongue down or restrain movement. Observe the child care if they are having a Petit Mal and count and record episodes.

If the child is frightened, reassure him or her and follow the above instructions. If having a partial seizure speak calmly to the child and guide him/her to a safe place and stay close until the seizure has ended. With a Myoclonic seizure, speak calmly to the child and again, guide him/her to a safe place and stay close until seizure has ended. With Myoclonic Jerks reassure the child and check for injury from the fall. Comfort the child with an Atonic seizure and check for injury. Look for clusters of attacks with Infantile Spasms and comfort the child when an attack occurs.

Hopefully these hints of how to care for a family member or friend who has a seizure will better help you to understand and care for them.

Dr Fredda Branyon

morning health habit

Morning Health Habits of the Experts

morning health habit

I can remember my parents sometimes saying, “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?” Sometimes maybe I should have gone back to bed and got up on the right side. Ever feel that way?

The choices we make after waking each morning can set the tone for our entire day and affect our health.  It is so easy, however, to get off track when we feel pulled in a million different directions as soon as that alarm goes off.  Creating healthy a.m. habits can pay off. We should always take time for a balanced breakfast that helps you stay at a healthy weight and can stabilize blood sugar levels.  Those a.m. workouts are great for our body and may burn more body fat and have less stress. Some top health experts take advantage of the quiet morning hours to set goals and practice mindfulness.  This can help in boosting your brainpower, increasing focus, handling stress better and improving relationships.

Here are 5 top ways the experts take care of their own physical and mental health every single morning:

1. They never skip breakfast

If they are running late a slice of whole wheat bread or one waffle with peanut butter will suffice.

2. They sweat first thing

Working out in the a.m. can give you time to think out your daily routine and problems. Challenge yourself to step up your workout.

3. They wake up early to have time for themselves

By waking early you can take care of your family and yourself and will be physically and mentally ready to care for your family, your clients and yourself.  “Me” time is important and can positively set the stage for the rest of your day.

4. They set goals

The night before try writing out an “action list” with 3 to 5 things as a goal.
This simplifies the morning and gives a clear headspace. Think of 3 things you are grateful for as soon as your eyes open in the morning.

5. They start each day mindfully—and gratefully

Just the process of the sound of beans in the coffee grinder and aromas of coffee brewing starts things off right.  The first hour of the day can set the precedent for rest of the day. Meditation might help to clear your mind and prepare you mentally for the day ahead.  It can also help to keep things in perspective with a few minutes of gratitude at the end of the meditation.

The five top health experts interviewed have given an insight into ways we can set our goals and receive peacefulness, mental clarity, and organization into our lives.  We may all have different ways of achieving what these doctors do, but it should always start with that first opening of the eyes in the morning! This advice comes from a cardiologist to an author and medical editor.  They can’t all be wrong, so try it! Seek a healthier and more grounded you! You deserve it.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Alternative Medicine

Alternative Meds Go Mainstream

Even though billions of dollars a year is being shelled out for alternative medicines, the decision to try those hot new supplements is grounded on only a friend’s recommendation or gossip. Do you ever wonder why that is? Doctors are admitting to being unfamiliar with the products and unsure of their benefits.

You might be concerned about your cholesterol is being a little high and have heard that you can actually lower it with some magical new product. It sounds great but then you wonder what brand is best, do they really work and are they safe. Check the package ingredient list and look it up! There is a new PDR for Nutritional products to give you information which are for real and which are a waste of money. There is an ever-growing array of these functional foods, vitamins, minerals, sports nutritional products, amino acids, probiotics, metabolite, hormones, enzymes and cartilage products, so you should spend time researching these various products.

This consists of a 600-page book that gives doctors and laymen a complete reference source for these alternative remedies. It provides a scientifically validated and trustworthy compendium of chemical formulations, indications, actions and even potential hazards of nearly every alternative med in use. A whole bunch of stuff out there is not accurate and not to rely on, according to Sheldon Saul Hendler, MD, PhD, so choose a reliable source such as the PDR. except for herbs and botanicals and is a critique of these products. Many of the items in the herbal PDR are exclusively medicinal and the nutritional supplements include only bioactive substances found in foods that we eat. Information on substances only available outside the U.S. is also provided. The entry for each substance will begin with a list of common trade names and a description of its chemical structure, then if they are legitimate. A comprehensive summary of existing scientific research follows and a rundown on potential side effects, adverse reactions, interactions with prescriptions and nonprescription drugs and foods. Finally, a proper dosage, where applicable, is listed. This is why it’s called Physician’s Desk Reference. Most supplement books are too simplistic, and they are wrong.

It’s obvious we are in a new era where patients are taking control of their healthcare and empowering themselves. This PDR has been written with the consumer in mind and is less obtuse. Self-prescribing may not always be the best idea, but at least this book gives them ready-to-use access to more authoritative information than simply what they hear via the grapevine.

The PDR isn’t flawless, though. The PDR reference is great for what it covers, but it doesn’t cover it all. From the healthcare provider’s point of view it is handy and useful, concise and comprehensive. Most doctors haven’t been trained and often are not even interested, so they know relatively little about dietary supplements. They often neglect to ask their patients about supplements, as they don’t know what to do with the information once they have it.

They view this reference guide as a bridge between the patients and health professions. Most patients leave their physicians out of the loop because they think the physician knows little about nutritional supplementation. The physician now has a reliable source.

Dr Fredda Branyon

blood pressure check-up

Misconceptions About High Blood Pressure

check_upDoes high blood pressure worry you? If so, your concern is well-founded. If we leave this condition untreated, hypertension can lead to a range of other health problems, including heart disease and stroke. By knowing more about high blood pressure it can help you to prevent this from damaging your health or that of someone you love.

The following are some misconceptions about high blood pressure to help you.

1. High blood pressure isn’t a big deal

Well, this can definitely kill you if you ignore the warnings. Your heart normally beats regularly, pumping blood through the vessels over your entire body. The blood pushes against the sides of your blood vessels as the blood is pushed by the heartbeat. These vessels are flexible and can widen or constrict as needed to keep the blood flowing. If your blood begins to push too hard against the vessels, this is high blood pressure that can cause the arteries to become stiff over time, leading to damage of your blood vessels, heart, kidneys and other organs. Heart disease and stroke are both caused by high blood pressure. You may not even know you have it.

2. High blood pressure can’t be prevented

Even if you are at a greater risk of high blood pressure, there are things you can do to prevent it. Keep our weight at a healthy level, eat a healthy diet, limit how much salt you eat, limit how much alcohol you drink, don’t smoke tobacco, get regular exercise and don’t let stress build up.

3. It’s OK as long as one number is normal

There is sometimes confusion with the two numbers. The top one is your systolic blood pressure and represents the force of blood through your blood vessels during your heartbeat. 119 or below is normal systolic blood pressure. If it is 120-139 it is prehypertension, 140 and greater is high blood pressure and 150 and greater is high blood pressure in those over age 60. The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure and represents the force of blood through your blood vessels in between heartbeats, while your heart is resting. A number of 79 or below is normal, 80-89 is prehypertension and 90 and greater is hypertension. Experts say the heart can tolerate a high top number better than a high bottom number. Blood pressure does change throughout the day.

4. Treatment

Some things you might have heard as treatment and put fear in you are giving up your favorite foods or taking drugs with annoying side effects. Your doctor will work with you to come up with a suitable plan of foods and drugs for you. Some approaches might be using the DASH eating plan of less fat and saturated fat as well as eating more fresh fruits and veggies. Weight control will lower your risk of high blood pressure and decreasing the amount of alcohol you consume. Tobacco smoke can make blood pressure rise, so quit! Medications will likely be prescribed to control our high blood pressure as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, alpha-blockers and calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers.

5. Treatment doesn’t work

Your doctor can develop a comprehensive program for management of your high blood pressure. Check your blood pressure often, follow your treatment plan, see your doctor often, ask your doctor for information about meds and their side effects and reduce the in take of salt. You can remain healthy for years to come by following your treatment plans.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Glass of Milk

FDA Milk Prohibition

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives warnings about consuming raw milk, but the wholesome and natural food has a loyal and growing following. Until the 19th century “pasteurization” did not exist. It actually allows the proliferation of the milk coming from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS) that can be produced in filthy conditions, and then heated until all the pathogens are gone. Not only killing the germs, but it also kills off the beneficial organisms in the milk and prevents natural souring. The FDA has begun a war against raw milk producers who are actually producing far healthier milk. This is all under the guise of protecting the public health, but in essence, they are taking away Americans’ food freedom.

The FDA is actually squeezing out the small farmers. The 10th Amendment reads “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Therefore, the FDA is in violation of the Constitution by trying to enforce raw milk bans within the states. This ban favors the industrial dairy at the expense of small family farms, according to Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center.

Hawaii, North Dakota and Alaska have introduced bills to legalize raw milk in their states. In Hawaii, this would legalize the sale of raw milk in retail stores as long as it contains a warning label about the “risks” of consuming unpasteurized milk. Farmers would also need to maintain records of everyone who purchased their raw milk. In North Dakota, farmers would be allowed to sell raw milk directly to consumers where they now have to purchase a share of the cow or herd to buy the raw milk. In Alaska, it would be legal for farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers but have a warning label.

The media continues to spread inaccuracies and reports fear-based information related to raw milk consumption. West Virginia has historically been one of the least open states to raw milk and in 2016 legalized the distribution of raw milk through herd-share agreements.

It isn’t raw milk that makes people sick, even though that happens to be the target. The majority of food making people sick is coming from CAFOs and not the small organic farmers. You can get self-serve dairy straight from the vat in New Zealand. I remember 30 years ago when we used to buy raw milk directly from a small farmer near our home. It was self-serve. After turning on the agitator to mix the milk and cream that had risen to the top, we could fill our jugs from the spigot and then left our money in a jar. Everything was on an honor-based purchase. My kids loved it and were NEVER sick from it. If only that were still available, we would be buying it there again.

The grass-fed raw milk contains healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract, has more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors and immunoglobulins, contains conjugated linoleic acid, has beneficial raw fats, amino acids and proteins in a highly bioavailable form and contains vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K in highly bioavailable forms.

I believe in food freedom and we should all be able to consume whatever we believe to be healthy for us. If you happen to be allergic to the milk proteins or insulin resistant, you would be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk. The grass-fed raw milk from a high-quality source is usually superior in nutrition and flavor. We need to demand our rights for the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Dr Fredda Branyon

ice_cream

Is Ben & Jerry’s Protecting the Environment?

ice_cream

Their ice cream sure is good but are they contributing to destroying our environment?  This ice cream icon started in Vermont in 1978 and claims to be as devoted to stewardship to the environment as it is to creating new ice cream flavors.  The friendly image propelled the brand into one of Unilever’s (their corporate owner) rising stars with revenues close to $600 million a year and growing.  They are, like many other corporate giants, actively supporting industrial dairy which is so damaging to the environment, the cows and the farmers that this system is destined to collapse.

They are still clinging to its Vermont heritage but Vermont is no longer home to an abundance of grazing cows producing rich, creamy milk that is used to make their premium ice cream. CAFO’s are becoming the norm and farmers are forced to grow their herds and increase milk production using artificial methods like feeding cows an unnatural amount of grain-based food, 24 hour confinement and increased number of milkings per day. Because of the price of milk now, the average-sized dairy farm in Vermont is operating at a loss of $100,000 a year. Farmers are only getting about $14 for 11.6 gallons of milk that costs them about $22 to produce. There is currently a petition by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to encourage Ben & Jerry’s to stop defrauding consumers and convert to organic.

The industrial dairy industry dumped 43 million gallons of milk in 2016 due to a massive milk glut.  This was the result of a 2014 spike in milk prices that encouraged many dairy farmers to add more cows to their farms.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed dairy cows increased by 40,000 in 2016 with a 1.4% increase in production per cow. This resulted in milk prices declining 22% to $16.30 with too much milk and nowhere to sell it.

Now we are at a point where dairy cows are dying at an alarming rate by suffering from burnout and disease. The U.S. dairy herds mortality rates are more than 10% a year, which is up from 3.8% in 2002.

The FDA has authority to require milk to be tested if evidence exists that drug residues may be in the milk supply.  Some dairy farms have been stopped by the FDA from selling their cattle for meat after drug residue violations; however, this does not typically extend to the milk.

Now the question is if Ben & Jerry’s will support farming the natural way!  Grass-fed dairy is a viable solution to the problems of industrial dairy.

  • When a cow eats corn and grain the pH of the rumen becomes acidic and destroys some flora and increases systemic inflammation that will inevitably shorten the cow’s lifespan and increases the risk of infection.
  • By raising grass-fed cows it requires fewer resources than growing grain crops to feed CAFO cows as well as fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • A 100% grass fed farm spreads manure over pastures naturally as the cows roam, and there is no need for environmentally destructive manure lagoons.
  • Grass-fed dairy farming works best with small herds and then helps also to support local economies and small farmers who can then claim a premium price for their premium dairy products.  

More than 200 dairy farms in Vermont have transitioned to organic and are returning their cows to a grass-based diet.  Purchasing your grass-fed milk and other foods from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting high-quality food.  Try making your own grass-fed milk ice cream at home. The Campaign for Real Milk website can help you to locate a raw, grass-fed milk source near you.

Dr Fredda Branyon

rubber_ducks

Poison In Toys

rubber_ducks

Those simple plastic toys our children are playing with every day might be posing a danger to their health and wellness. Chemicals found in toys may also inhabit your floors, kitchen storage, shower curtains and laundry detergents. Some are actually so dangerous they have been banned from use in consumer products and others are banned from their use just in children’s products.

In spite of the danger, one of the world’s largest chemical companies is fighting to continue the use of phthalates. This is a chemical with known endocrine disrupting effects, and children whose neurological and endocrine systems are still developing, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of phthalates.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil has spent years prioritizing corporate interests over those of consumers and the environment. In a recent report it is demonstrated that the petroleum company understood the link between fossil fuel use and warming climate as early as 1977. The company has tried to refute the idea, protecting their interest in the oil industry. Over 25% of their $16 billion net profit in 2015 resulted from the sales of other petroleum-based products that include plastics, batteries, synthetic fibers, household detergents and tires. One of the chemicals is the family of phthalates and is used to make plastic pliables.

These health risks from exposure to phthalates are significant and Congress limited or banned the use of several of these phthalates in 2008 and investigated if more should be removed from children’s products. Eight phthalates were recommended to be banned from children’s toys in a final report in 2014, but the CPSA has yet to finalize their ban. ExxonMobil continues to insist the product produces no harm and is working hard to reverse the committee decision.

Phthalates are plasticizers and added to plastics to make them more pliable. Most have a half-life of 24 to 48 hours but recent studies have detected a toxic load of phthalates in urine, blood and breast milk. A higher level is evident in those who eat from fast food restaurants as the food is packaged in plastic and/or non-stick wrappers. Small children are exposed through teething toys, plastic toys, breathing household dust and through the use of medical devices. Constant exposure to products made with phthalates guarantees the chemicals remain in the body and stored in the fat cells. When released, they contribute to the level of phthalates found in the urine.

These phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, otherwise known as chemicals that interfere with the function of your body’s endocrine system. Some changes in wildlife that have been traced to endocrine-disrupting chemicals include Baltic seal population reduction, eggshell thinning in birds of prey, alligator population decrease in a polluted lake, frog population decrease, male sex organs on female marine animals such as whelks and snails and negative effects on fish reproduction and development.

They are also linked to male reproductive problems. A study evaluated immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization. There were 761 oocytes, or immature eggs, and only 184 developed well enough to be transferred to the prospective mother. There was an inverse association between men who had high levels of phthalates in their urine and the development of high-quality blastocysts.

Scientists have also linked phthalate exposure to attention deficit disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, lowered IQ, autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, reduced male fertility, asthma, altered thyroid function, imbalanced growth hormone, liver cancer, miscarriage and suspected carcinogen. Priority should be to reduce our exposure to phthalates to our families. Avoiding plastic food containers, plastic toys, reading labels, buying goods in glass containers, don’t microwave plastic containers or wraps, using natural cleaning products, avoiding fabric softeners and checking your tap water for contaminants are just a few of the precautions we should all be using. It’s up to us to keep our family healthy.

Dr Fredda Branyon