Food and Drug Administration

AOL brings us a groundbreaking series on the dangers of nanotechnology

Folks, do yourself a favor and walk, don't run -- OK, just click through -- to see the important new investigative project on the dangers of nanotechnology, and what a pitiful job our government is doing monitoring this technology we now find in our medicine, beauty aids, soaps, sunscreens, clothes and food -- the very stuff we put on and in our bodies.

Nano, it's turning out, often appears to have serious health consequences when scientists look into it -- even causing harmful changes in DNA. Serious stuff, my friends. But it's proliferating at a rate that far eclipses researchers' ability to gauge the technology's danger. And it's being unleashed on America's consumers with almost no regulation.

Here's a pretty good summary of the danger:

"Nanoparticles can heal, but they can also kill. Thanks to their size, researchers have found, they can enter the body by almost every pathway. They can be inhaled, ingested, absorbed through skin and eyes. They can invade the brain through the olfactory nerves in the nose.

"After penetrating the body, nanoparticles can enter cells, move from organ to organ and even cross the protective blood-brain barrier. They can also get into the bloodstream, bone marrow, nerves, ovaries, muscles and lymph nodes.

The series is by my former reporting partner, Andy Schneider, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes in the past and could be on his way to another. Andy's a remarkable reporter -- a godsend, really. I'm so glad to see that after getting laid off with a bunch of us from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a  year ago, he's landed where he can keep doing important journalism.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Risky business - food poisoning cost Americans $152 billion annually

With a couple of Washington and Oregon state cheese recalls fresh in our memories this month, and a history of fatal E. coli poisoning that swept through a Washington state fast food chain in the 1990s, we should pay attention to a new report that food-borne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella cost this country $152 billion annually in health care and other losses.

The report, from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is much higher than the earllier figure of $35 billion reported by the Agriculture Department in 1997. The illnesses sicken some 76 million people annually.

Include in that list a college student from South Carolina, hospitalized for a week in May after developing an E. coli 0157 infection from eating a bite of packaged chocolate chip cookie dough. That strain of bacteria can cause severe illness, kidney failure and even death. The suspected source of contamination: flour, and the company, Nestle, recalled the refrigerated product after illnesses in 28 states, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Not all are so lucky as college student Margo Moskowtiz. The government estimates that 5,000 of those who become ill die.

New food-safety legislation would give the federal Food and Drug Adminstration new powers to enforce food safety laws and prevent food contamination. The House has passed a new food safety bill, and the measure awaits a full vote in the Senate.

Let's try this again: Washington state Senate passes a bill limiting the use of BPA

Mothers take great care to provide the best for their children, choosing nutritious formula and food for their young. So why is a chemical that may hinder a child's development allowed in baby bottles and sippy cups?

That was the sentiment behind a 36-9 vote in the Washington state SenatJennifere today for a bill (SB 6248) to ban bisphenol A, or BPA, from food and drink containers for young children. Similar legislation passed the House earlier this week 95-1, but that bill (HB 1180) went further by also banning the chemical in bottles containing sports drinks such as Gatorade.

BPA is widely used in shatterproof plastic containers for food and drinks, as well as a plastic lining in cans for food and soda. Studies have shown that when these containers become hot, whether through microwaving or by pouring hot liquid into them, BPA can seep into the food or drink. This is also occurs when the plastics get scratched over time.

Federal safety regulators have expressed concern about the harmful effects the chemical could have on fetuses and young children's brains, reproductive systems, pituitary glands, and behavior. The chemical has also been linked to a variety of cancers, diabetes, and obesity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration "believes there are great causes for concern, especially among the youngest,” said Rep.

MoJo reveals silencing of scientist who uncovered toxic mercury in corn syrup

Another day, and we once again feel compelled to praise independent news media. To wit: Freelancer Melinda Wenner is out with a story in Mother Jones that says the federal government tried to obscure the findings of a federal scientist who found traces of toxic mercury in high fructose corn syrup.

HFCS is, of course, the sweetener that has replaced sugar in a bunch of processed foods made by the likes of Smucker's, Quaker, Hershey's and Kraft, as well as lesser-known food producers.

mojo-logo1The researcher, Renee Dufault of the Food and Drug Administration, had common food products tested for mercury. She was suspicious because she had learned that mercury is used in some plants that produce lye, which in turn is used to separate corn starch from the kernel in the process of making corn syrup.

Sure enough, the tests showed mercury in the food. Dufault, though, was told in no uncertain terms not to pursue this line of inquiry. FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek justified the agency's decision to halt the research by saying agency officals doubted "that there was any evidence of a risk."

The MoJo article describes what happened next:

At first, Dufault was reluctant to pursue the matter. But eventually, she became frustrated enough to try to publish the findings herself. She had her 20 original samples retested; mercury was found in nearly half of them.