Why You Should Avoid Airport Scanners in the USA

In the US there has been a great outcry against the naked body X-ray scanners recently introduced into American airports as a counter terrorism measure. The transport safety authority (TSA) has always claimed that they were safe, but this has been greatly disputed by many in the health media and now it seems also by authorities who certainly seem to know what they are talking about.

It appears that TSA faked its safety data on its X-ray airport scanners in order to deceive the public about the safety of such devices. The evidence has emerged thanks to the revelations of a letter signed by five professors from the University of California, San Francisco and Arizona State University. The letter reveals:

• To this day, there has been no credible scientific testing of the TSA’s naked body scanners. The claimed “safety” of the technology by the TSA is based on rigged tests.

• The testing that did take place was done on a custom combination of spare parts rigged by the manufacturer of the machines (Rapidscan) and didn’t even use the actual machines installed in airports.

• The names of the researchers who conducted the radiation tests at Rapidscan have been kept secret. This means the researchers are not available for scientific questioning of any kind, and there has been no opportunity to even ask whether they are qualified to conduct such tests.

Further, none of the Rapidscan tests have been available to be subjected to peer review. They are quite literally secret tests using secret techniques engineered by secret researchers. We the People apparently have no right to see the data, nor the methodology, nor even the names of the researchers who supposedly carried out these safety tests.

What is perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the final testing report produced from this fabricated testing scenario has been so heavily redacted that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements,” say the professors. In other words, the testing violates the very first tenant of scientific experimentation which is that all experiments must be repeatable in order to be verified as accurate.

As the professors state in their letter:

“The document is heavily redacted with red stamps over the words and figures. In every case the electric current used which correlates one to one with X-ray dose has been specifically redacted. Thus there is no way to repeat any of these measurements. While the report purports to present the results of objective testing, in fact the JHU APL personnel, who are unnamed anywhere in the document either as experimenters or as authors, were not provided with a machine by Rapiscan. Instead they were invited to the manufacturing site to observe a mock-up of components (spare parts) that were said to be similar to those that are parts of the Rapiscan system. The tests were performed by the manufacturer using the manufacturer’s questionable test procedures.”

Unfortunately, this is not that unusual when national defence is called into question. However with my alternative health hat on I cannot begin to imagine the outcry if a herbal product company claimed that its products cured cancer, and it did all the testing itself, and all the names of the researchers were kept secret, and the methodology was a secret, and the whole document was 50% redacted to protect “proprietary information.”

So is it safe? Well, the dose rates of X-rays being emitted by the Rapidscan machines are actually quite high — comparable to that of CT scans, say the professors. Yes, the dose duration is significantly lower than a CT scan, but the dose intensity is much higher than what you might think. And as anyone who knows a bit about physics and biology will tell you, the real danger from radiation is a high-intensity, short-duration exposure. That’s exactly what the TSA’s backscatter machines produce. Further, the radiation detection device used by Rapidscan to measure the output of the machines — an ion chamber — is incapable of accurately measuring the high-intensity burst of radiation produced by the TSA’s naked body scanners, say the professors.

At the same time, the radiation field measurement device used by the TSA — a Fluke 451 instrument — is incapable of measuring the high dose rates emitted by backscatter machines. The measurement devices, in effect, “max out” and cannot measure the full intensity of the exposure. Thus, the TSA’s claims of “low radiation” are actually fraudulent.
The amount of electrical current applied to the X-ray tubes has been redacted by the TSA (working with John Hopkins). This makes it impossible for third-party scientists to accurately calculate the actual radiation exposure, and it hints at yet more evidence of a total TSA cover-up.

The TSA adamantly refuses to allow independent testing of the radiation levels being emitted by the machines and this is on the basis that “terrorists might be able to circumvent the technology” if anyone is allowed to actually test the machine. For once, I cannot even find a comment to make.

So again, is it safe? Well the actual radiation emitted by the machines is far higher than what the TSA claims according to John Sedat, a professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and the primary author of the letter.

He says, “..the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks.” Peter Rez, the physics professor from Arizona State, says that the high-quality images described by the TSA could not be produced with the low levels of radiation being claimed by the TSA. The images, in other words, don’t match up with the TSA’s story. Rez estimates the actual radiation exposure is 45 times higher than what we’ve previously been told.

The TSA refuses to allow independent testing of its machines because it knows what informed readers already know: That if the machines were honestly and accurately tested, they would show far higher levels of radiation exposure than indicated and it would show that the TSA’s body scanners significantly increase the risk of cancer to a population that is already over-irradiated with medical imaging tests such as CT scans and chest X-rays.

There is already a very strong public backlash against these devices in the US and it has reached the point where the state of Texas is about to pass a law that would criminalize TSA agents who attempt to operate these naked x-rays. The TSA has put out a preemptive statement on its blog that claims none of this matters as “States cannot regulate the federal government.” It will certainly be interesting to see what happens and Texas would seem to be the ideal state to challenge this.

If you have any choice in the matter avoid the scanners altogether or go by sea.

Scientists develop genetically modified cows to produce “human” breast milk

April 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health, Strange But True

I debated with myself whether or not to comment on this, as it has certainly had widespread attention in the newspapers. It seems that I won the debate so here goes. The words ‘genetically modified’ never inspire me with confidence and attempting to give babies such a product truly worries me.

China Agricultural University Scientists have bred 300 cattle that have been given human genes to make their milk contain the same nutrients and fat content as breast milk. Professor Li, who led the research, and his team used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows According to the Professor, the product could offer mothers an alternative to conventional infant formula. Why? There are already plenty of alternatives available to women who do not wish to, or cannot, breastfeed and it is already well established in the nutritional field that cow’s milk is not natural to babies, and indeed can be the cause of a basic allergic reaction in many.

Human milk differs from cows’ milk in several important ways. It contains high quantities of nutrients beneficial to a baby’s growth and immune system. It provides, without question, the best possible start in life for an infant’s health. Cows’ milk is much harder for a baby to digest, has less fat and fewer carbohydrates and contains no antibodies that protect against disease.

One variety of the GM cows produced milk containing lysozyme – an antimicrobial protein found in breast milk that protects babies from infection. They also created cows that produced human lactoferrin, a protein which boosts the immune system. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also expressed in the milk. Prof Li claims his team has boosted the milk’s fat content by a fifth and changed the levels of solids to make it close to the composition of human milk. The developers say it could help mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies and do not want to use formula but why they imagine giving an artificially altered milk is any better than a formula is something I have not yet got to grips with. The developers also claim ‘The milk tastes stronger than normal milk, and within ten years, people will be able to pick up these human-milk-like products at the supermarket.’ Alongside the other genetically modified products that will no doubt have crept into the marketplace, and some scientists in 20 years time will be getting a grant to investigate this is why these products are causing health problems in the consumer.

And just who is willing to take such a risk with their baby’s health? Or new product carry risks, and the risks are usually not apparent until the product has been in use in some time — would you gamble with your child’s health on that basis? Breast milk is promoted worldwide for the very good reason that it is perfectly suited to the babies health and growth and no cows’ milk is ever going to be able to match that.

So no, I don’t agree with genetically modified milk for babies and what about the poor old cows? In two experiments by the Chinese in which 42 GM calves were born, just 26 survived. Ten died soon after birth and six died within six months. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said: ‘Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern. Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got?’

Certainly China’s rules on GM food are more relaxed than those in Europe and the GM milk would not be allowed on sale in Britain unless it was approved by the European Union and passed stringent safety tests. However, some British scientists said the research could be of huge benefit. Prof Keith Campbell, a biologist at Nottingham University and a member of the team that cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, (so not an unbiased commentator) said GM animals were not a threat to health unless scientists deliberately gave them a gene that made their milk toxic. ‘The modified milk could help boost sales of dairy products in Asia, where more than nine in ten people are lactose intolerant and cannot consume cows’ milk without suffering stomach upsets and cramps.’

What that it does for me is raise what I think is a very reasonable question, which is why is boosting dairy products a priority? If 9 out of 10 are lactose intolerant then why try to force to drink milk when it is not indigenous to their culture? It leads me to wonder just who is sponsoring this research and I suspect the dairy industry might have had a hand in writing a large cheque.

Warfarin and Supplement Interactions – and What About Food?

Way back in 1988 I was Editor of a book called The Medicine Chest which was a straightforward examination of the interactions between drugs, supplements and foods. It had a lot of good advice that hasn’t changed much over the years so I was surprised to receive a ‘news’ item that warned that Warfarin when taken with vitamin E and large doses of vitamin C can decrease effect of the drug.

I was not surprised at the effect because I was writing about it over 20 years ago, but that it was news came as a surprise. However, it never hurts to repeat a good piece of information and scientists never turn up a chance for a grant to research something we already know.

This time it is researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah who want to point out the dangers. Warfarin is a commonly prescribed drug used to prevent blood clots from forming and given to people with certain types of irregular heartbeat, those with prosthetic heart valves, and those who have suffered a heart attack.

The study consisted of interviews with 100 atrial fibrillation patients to determine their understanding of potential interactions between supplements and medications such as Warfarin. This is not really a study about interactions but of people’s understanding of them and generally people do not know enough about how supplements, and everyday foodstuffs react with their medication.

In this study more than half were unaware of potential interactions and they also found that of the 100 most-used supplements (vitamins, glucosamine/chondroitin, fish oil and coenzyme Q10) 69 percent interfere with the Warfarin’s effectiveness.

Warfarin and herbal and dietary supplements “compete” in the liver and this competition changes the way the blood thinner works — either intensifying its active ingredients, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding, or by reducing its effectiveness, increasing the risk of stroke.

All true, and the lead researcher is urging that doctors do a better job of teaching patients about the dangers of mixing Warfarin with these products. Now I entirely agree with him, but what he doesn’t mention is that this particular drug is also seriously affected by certain foodstuffs and other drugs.

Given what the average doctor knows about nutrition I hold out little hope they will also pass on this advice so that instead of increasing or decreasing their drug prescription they could suggest changes to their patients diet. In addition, the effectiveness of Warfarin is impacted by other drugs – particularly antifungals, barbiturates and beta blockers which all decrease the drugs effectiveness.
Conversely, antibiotics, some diabetes drugs, gout medicines, tricyclic antidepressants and asprin and paracetamol – among others – all can increase the drug’s effectiveness, making it more potent.

On Warfarin? Avoid These:
Warfarin is affected by large doses of vitamin E, vitamin C, bioflavanoids and calcium and a large intake of fats or oils. If the diet is also high in vitamin K rich foods this can cause an imbalance in the body which could decrease the anticoagulant effect.

Vitamin K is needed to allow your blood to clot normally, to protect your bones from fracture and postmenopausal bone loss, to prevent calcification of the arteries and provide possible protection against liver and prostate cancer.

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin and only a small amount is able to be stored in the body. It is destroyed by light and acids and alkalis such as vinegar or baking soda. A deficiency of it can lead to increased blood clotting time, easy bruising and excessive bleeding.

Significant food sources include: green leafy vegetables including spinach, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale and also cauliflower, cow’s milk, eggs, fish liver oils, green vegetables, kelp, liver, molasses, polyunsaturated oils, tomatoes

Everyone responds differently to drugs, foods and supplements so if you have any concerns, or if your diet is high in vitamin K rich foods, then you should discuss with your doctor how this is affecting your medication.

Dark Chocolate Is Good For Diabetics – Oh Really?

October 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Strange But True

You may have seen a similar headline that in your daily newspaper this week (without the boom really of course) and it relates to results from a study by a group of researchers from the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School.

I never thought I would be the one to try and dissuade anyone from eating chocolate, but there are some serious drawbacks to my mind with this research.

The study reports that dark chocolate has significant health benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes as HDL (high density lipoprotein) or ‘good’ cholesterol is improved and overall cholesterol balance is enhanced when patients consume 45g of dark chocolate each day over 16 weeks.

The patients were given 85% cocoa solids or a placebo which contained no cocoa solids but was dyed the same colour as the dark chocolate. No mention is made of how the poor group, placebo fared, rather than having to consume something that sounds quite unpleasant.

Steve Atkin, Professor of Diabetes and Endocrinology, who led the study says: “People with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease and since one of the main contributory factors to heart disease is a low level of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, the findings that dark chocolate can improve this, means the results of this study are hugely significant.”

Hmm, I agree with the first part of the sentence but not at all convinced about his conclusion. He goes on to say “Chocolate with a high cocoa content should be included in the diet of individuals with Type 2 diabetes as part of a sensible, balanced approach to diet and lifestyle. This study demonstrates that it can offer a potential reduction in cardiovascular risk without detrimental risks on weight, insulin resistance or glycaemic control.”

I do wonder about doctors I do really — however as he is a professor perhaps he is slightly different — but firstly there is rarely such a thing as a sensible approach chocolate intake for many people and secondly I do not see how a chocolate bar does not have a detrimental risk for weight or glycaemic control.

I’m certainly no expert, but Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at leading health charity Diabetes UK, is and takes the same view and he should know what he’s talking about. This was his response to that piece of research:

“On no account should people take away the message from this study, conducted in only 12 people, that eating even a small amount of dark chocolate is going to help reduce their cholesterol levels. The tiny health benefit of this compound found in cocoa-rich chocolate would be hugely outweighed by the fat and sugar content. The design of the study is also somewhat unrealistic as they asked participants to eat only around half the size of a normal, dark chocolate bar every day for eight weeks.

That is something that I can agree with, but the really critical element for me in this research is that yet again it is being paraded as a result on an incredibly tiny sample. 12 people might make up a jury but they do not weigh very heavily for me against the 3 million diabetics estimated in the UK.
This research is on far too small scale to draw such a huge and potentially damaging conclusion from and although there certainly might be some benefit in investigating further. I will let Dr. Iain Frame, of Diabetes UK, have the last word. “It would, however, be interesting to see if further research could find a way of testing whether polyphenols could be added to foods which weren’t high in sugar and saturated fat such as chocolate.”

Until then by all means each chocolate if you are diabetic, but very little and not very often would be my advice and if you would like further information on diabetes please visit www.diabetesuk.org

Oh really – retirement and sleep

November 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


You have got to admire those researchers, they keep coming up with ‘new’ ideas.  Apparently a new study in the journal Sleep shows that retirement is followed by a sharp decrease in the prevalence of sleep disturbances, particularly in men, management-level workers, employees who reported high psychological job demands, and people who occasionally or consistently worked night shifts.
No, really?  Guess why? Because the researchers have concluded that once you have no work-related stress it means you are likely to sleep better.  Who would have thought it?

Results showed that the odds of having disturbed sleep in the seven years after retirement were 26 percent lower than in the seven years before retiring and the greatest reduction in sleep disturbances was reported by those who had suffered depression or mental fatigue in their work life.
The study involved employees from the French national gas and electricity company, Electricité de France-Gaz de France, and research also indicated that the results were perhaps related to the fact that the participants had enjoyed employment benefits such as guaranteed job stability, a statutory retirement age between 55 and 60 years, and a company-paid pension that was 80 percent of their salary.
Not any more, I suspect and it doesn’t tally with my purely anecdotal research which indicates the opposite. Retirement with its sharp decline in income and adjustment to a different way of life can bring its own stresses.  Those working in a busy environment suddenly find life a little flat, with no one to exchange views with, discuss last night’s match or have their brains stretched solving a problem.
When I was working in my local library I found that the greatest number of books taken out by the elderly. Now although they are great readers, many also told me that they didn’t sleep as much as they used to so had given up trying and took out more books to see them through the night.

Has retirement affected your sleeping habits?

The Microsoft Burger hits Japan

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


If you own a computer you know that Microsoft has launched their new operating system Windows 7.  Japanese customers are so excited that a special Burger King hamburger is on offer for just 7 days around the launch and selling, not surprisingly, for 777 Yen.

Just a bit of harmless publicity? Well, this seven-decker beefburger clocks in at a staggering 1,000 calories and is five inches high.  Quite how you eat this true whopper is a mystery, to say nothing of the problems you are facing your digestive system with. It is estimated at around five times larger than a typical quarter pounder and environmentalists have estimated that due to the amount of water needed to produce factory beef this giant could have taken 7,000 gallons of water to produce.  AS we are being urged to conserve water by not cleaning our teeth under a running tap it seems somewhat ironic, and even a 7 day promotion seems like 7 days too long for the planet, and your stomach.

Oh really? What to wear in the sun

October 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


I love researchers, I really do. They inhabit the world of the bleeding obvious and that which has been known for years, and still get people to pay them to investigate it.

Now if you are planning to jet off for some winter sun I can offer some scientifically validated evidence on what colours your clothing should be to give you the best protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Scientists in Spain have reported fabric dyed deep blue or red provide greater UV protection than shades of yellow. Strangely they didn’t test white, which is the colour of choice for those living in the hottest regions of the world such as India. The fact that it also makes you feel cooler has not yet been tested – give them time.

Dinosaurs killed by pigeons?

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under featured, Strange But True


Well no, not really, but a study by a team of U.S. and Australian researchers has shown that T.rex’s relatives suffered from the potentially life-threatening disease trichomonosis, which is still carried by pigeons today.

Some of the world’s most famous T.rex specimens have holes in the lower jaw, which is a classic symptom of trichomonosis and they occur in exactly the same place as in modern birds with trichomonosis.

Trichomonosis is carried mainly by pigeons these days, but they are generally immune to the disease. Birds of prey are particularly susceptible to trichomonosis if they eat infected pigeons, and I wonder if that is why pigeon pie is no longer a fashionable menu item, except perhaps in Hector Blumenthal’s kitchens?

Oh really? Having enough sleep may reduce mistakes in memory!

October 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


We haven’t had one of these for a while but I always like to know that out there somewhere science never sleeps – especially if someone is paying them to research it.

Sleep is the subject here because Kimberley Fenn, a cognitive neuroscientist at Michigan State University, has studied on this and come to the conclusion that having enough sleep may reduce mistakes in memory.

No, really? If you don’t get enough sleep you are not going to be as sharp or able to remember things as well as if you got your full quota – don’t snicker, this lady got a lot of money to research this.

While previous research has shown that sleep improves memory, this study is the first to address errors in memory and although it isn’t known how sleep helps with this that hasn’t deterred Kimberley Fenn as she believes that further research is warranted, and plans to study different population groups, particularly the elderly, as she believes this could potentially improve their quality of life in some way.

Trust me, I do not make this up!

Hard to die from a heart attack today

September 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


I have always thought that you have to a touch arrogant to be a consultant, and proof is in this week from Barcelona where the European Society of Cardiology have been meeting. Their President, Roberto Ferrari MD, claimed that adults today can expect to live 10 years longer than the average adult 30 to 40 years ago. Nothing too surprising about that, but he has set the cat among the pigeons by claiming that most of that extra decade resulted from advances in cardiovascular medicine, especially the treatment of heart attacks. Fine if he had left it there, but he went on to say “In cardiology, we have contributed seven of those 10 years of life, while oncologists have contributed 2.4 months,” and we are awaiting a response from the various Cancer Societies in Europe and the USA on that one.

However it might reassure you to know that he is confident that “it is difficult to die from a heart attack today.” Let’s hope his own heart is a strong one or he might keel over from the adverse publicity if he ever did have a heart attack!

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