Saturday, February 6, 2010

Investigations: Your Cellphone May be Frying Your Skull

Is your cellphone or PDA frying your brain? The notion is often dismissed by scientists, especially in North America, but an interesting GQ magazine investigation says a growing body of research suggests the devices could be as bad as tobacco or lead paint - and that we could be in for major public-health problems as a result. Studies are linking their use to "brain aging," brain damage, early-onset Alzheimer's, senility, DNA damage and sperm die-offs (because cells are often kept in pockets or at the hip).
Studies have found the chance of getting a brain tumour is up to 40 percent higher among adults who've used a cell for a decade. The devices can cause tumours of the parotid gland (located in the cheek). A Swedish study last year found people who started using a cell before age 20 were five times more likely to develop a brain tumour. Another study reported a nearly 300 percent increased risk of acoustic neuroma, a tumour of the acoustic nerve.

But GQ reports U.S. authorities have so far acted to shield cellphone makers, refusing to support independent research or protect the public. Meanwhile, cellphone companies have funded skewed studies denying there is a problem.

AlterNet, picking up on this report, has this story that adds more depth to the discussion, including links to this New York Times piece on rifts among scientists doing a massive, long-awaited $24-million study on cellphone health impacts, funded partially by the telecom industry. Scientists involved in the study are reportedly so at odds with each other over the findings some are not even on speaking terms. The results have ambled about for three years without being published. But the study is already being criticized as flawed because of a faulty methodology that excludes the most vulnerable populations.

TAGS: health

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Investigations: Karzai Brother at Centre of Afghan Land Grabs

More controversy is swirling around Afghan President Hamid Karzai's controversial brother Ahmed Wali. You'll remember that Ahmed Wali is considered the most powerful figure in Kandahar and that U.S. officials have linked him to the drug trade, as I wrote in this Montreal Gazette feature last August. (Both Karzai brothers deny the accusation.)
Now, NPR reports that Ahmed Wali is at the centre of land grabs that are said to be fueling widespread public resentment in the country. (Ahmed Wali didn't respond to NPR's request for comment.)

The problem is growing fast across Afghanistan, where powerful warlords are evicting Afghan residents and seizing their land with little or no compensation. Even public land is being seized. Half-hearted efforts in Kabul to rein in the warlords haven't worked.

As I reported in August, the rampant corruption is said to be pushing citizens to hook up with the Taliban insurgency, while Canadian and other Western officials seem to be turning a blind eye.

Investigations: Fatty Acids Cut Mental Illness Among At-Risk Youth

Fatty acids significantly reduced the risk of mental illness among young people with extremely high chances of developing psychosis, according to a new study in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. What's more, the omega-3 fatty acids didn't have any side effects - unlike pharmaceutical drugs for the same conditions - and the effects lasted even after the study.
In the first study of its kind, young people aged 13 to 25 who were deemed to have up to 40 percent chance of developing psychosis were given a daily fish oil capsule. Only 4.9 percent went on to develop psychosis. In a placebo group, 27.5 percent developed psychosis. See this blog item for more details. Results were similar when at-risk youth were given polyunsaturated fatty acids.

TAGS: health

Tools: Free Books & Mags

Here's a great resource if you're looking for a book or magazine: This searchable resource has massive numbers of free electronic material. I've just added it to my blogroll in the right-hand column.
Btw, your suggestions for sites to add to my links list are very welcome.

TAGS: tools

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Investigations: Chemical-Doused Shrimp Escapes Regulators

Shrimp always seemed like a healthy food choice to me. Not so, according to this AlterNet report citing a book by Montreal's Taras Grescoe, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. The award-winning book (including a nod for best non-fiction book from the Writers' Trust of Canada) says shrimp - America's most popular seafood - are treated with a remarkable soup of chemicals like diesel, Borax, superphosphate, urea and sodium tripolyphosphate (the last being a suspected neurotoxin).
Few imported shrimp are inspected by food regulators. And "when researchers examined ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics," says the AlterNet story. Visit the Bottomfeeder Web site for more details.

TAGS: health, food