Category Archives: Cancer

Is you pet Roundup Ready™? It better be. . .


Roundup™, Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer has been the keystone of the agricultural giant’s genetically engineered crops,as well as the subject of endless controversies, ranging from the economic power GMO companies have amassed to contamination of other plants, the evolution of superweeds immune to the presticide [leading to an escalation to more dangerous herbicides], and the possible health impacts on animals, including the human kind. [See here for  our extensive collection of previous posts.]

A recent California verdict awarded $289 million to a groundskeeper dying of non-Hodgkin lymphoma who charged that his ailment stemmed directly from exposure to the herbicide, though the judge reduced the total to $78 million.

The company was sold in June to Germany’s Bayer, the German chemical-gint, but the flow of Roundup™ continues

And now comes word that glyphosate, the weedkiller’s active ingredient, is in your pet food.

While the author of the Cornell University study says the amounts are well below  the government’s danger threshhold, he’s stopped feeding the stuff to his own pet.

From Cornell University:

Got glyphosate?

Your pet’s breakfast might.

A new Cornell study published this month in Environmental Pollution finds that glyphosate, the active herbicidal ingredient in widely used weed killers like Roundup, was present at low levels in a variety of dog and cat foods the researchers purchased at stores. Before you go switching Fido or Fluffy’s favorite brand, however, be aware that the amounts of the herbicide found correspond to levels currently considered safe for humans.

The study grew out of a larger interdisciplinary research project led by Brian Richards, senior research associate in biological and environmental engineering, and supported by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund, which sought to reassess glyphosate mobility and impacts in several contexts: movement from crop fields in surface water, impacts on soils and on animals consuming it in their feed.

Richard’s co-investigators Anthony Hay, associate professor of microbiology, and Kenneth Simpson, professor of small-animal medicine, visited a pet store and a retail outlet, where they selected multiple bags of cat and dog foods from major brands. The 18 feeds were all mixtures of vegetable and meat ingredients, and one product was certified GMO-free. Analyses conducted by postdoctoral researcher and lead author Jiang Zhao in Hay’s lab, and research support specialist Steve Pacenka, found that all of the products contained glyphosate at concentrations ranging from approximately 80 to 2,000 micrograms of glyphosate per kilogram.

Since there is not enough data available to determine what effect – if any – low-dose glyphosate exposure has on domestic animals, the researchers used human acceptable daily intake guidelines to put these findings in context, according to Hay. The researchers estimated that the median dog exposure would amount to only 0.7 percent of the U.S. glyphosate limit set for humans.

“While the levels of glyphosate in pet foods surprised us, if a human ate it every day, their glyphosate exposure would still be well below the limits currently deemed safe,” Hay said.

“Even the most contaminated feed they studied had thousands of times less glyphosate than levels that were shown to have no adverse effects on dogs in the U.S. EPA’s Draft Risk Assessment for glyphosate” said Dan Wixted, a pesticide educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension who was not involved in the study.

While unable to pinpoint the exact product or crops that were the source of the glyphosate, Hay’s team did find a correlation with fiber, suggesting a plant-based origin.

“We know that glyphosate is only certified for spraying on crops, and it does not bio-accumulate in animals, so we would not expect it to come from feed animals that are the main protein sources in some of the products,” Hay said. “Our evidence suggests that it’s coming from plant material.”

One surprising finding of the study: Glyphosate was detected in the one GMO-free product the researchers analyzed at levels higher than those of several other processed feeds. This suggests that keeping feed stocks uncontaminated is a challenge even in the GMO-free market.

What is a pet owner to do with this information?

“Glyphosate is out there in our pets’ food, and while there doesn’t appear to be any immediate risk, there is still uncertainty about the chronic impact of low doses like these,” Hay said. “It’s hard to find a product that doesn’t have glyphosate in it, so we included the exposure assessment to provide some context. The old adage ‘dose determines the poison’ is good to keep in mind: While it’s possible that these animals might respond differently than humans, the numbers are still within a range that would be deemed safe for humans.”

Hay, for his part, has stopped feeding chow found to be high in glyphosate to his own dog, a pug beagle mix, but he hasn’t seen any changes in her health.

“She’s more cat than dog to be honest,” he said. “She sits on the bed and won’t go outside when it rains. But I can now confirm that her laziness has nothing to do with her feed.”

California: Roundup™ must carry a cancer warning


A new California law will force Monsanto to slap a cancer warning on its Roundup weedkiller.

Score one for the good guys.

The story, from RT America:

California to force Monsanto to label its herbicide as possibly carcinogenic


Program Notes:

Agrochemical giant, Monsanto has lost its court battle in California after a Fresno county judge ruled that the active ingredient in the company’s notorious weed killer ‘Roundup,’ glyphosate, can be added to the state’s list of cancer-causing agents. Once the chemical is added to the list, the company will have one year to label that it’s a possible carcinogen on their products. RT America’s Brigida Santos reports, speaking to Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, and Alexis Baden-Meyer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association.

California Roundup cancer warning label okayed


Roundup, the glyphosate-based plant killer sold to spray fields planted with Monsanto’s genetically altered plants [previously], may come with a cancer warning label if the Big Agra giant loses an appeal of a new court ruling.

From the Associated Press:

California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.

California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.

Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.

Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.

“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.

After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.

Psilocybin cuts cancer patient anxiety, depression


Psilocybin, a mind-altering chemical found in “magic mushrooms,” once again proves the most powerful treatment yet for anxiety and depression, this time in cancer patients.

Two parallel studies have demonstrated remarkable effects from the drug, one which also also been shown in other studies to be the most potent pharmacological treatment ever found for alleviating major depression [here, here and here], social isolation, and spousal abuse, as well as in reducing tobacco smoking.

Gee, guess those ‘shrooms really are magic.

We include reports on both of the latest studies, first from the New York University Langone Medical Center:

When combined with psychological counseling, a single dose of a mind-altering compound contained in psychedelic mushrooms significantly lessens mental anguish in distressed cancer patients for months at a time, according to results of a clinical trial led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology [access free for the article] online December 1, the study showed that one-time treatment with the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin—whose use required federal waivers because it is a banned substance—quickly brought relief from distress that then lasted for more than 6 months in 80 percent of the 29 study subjects monitored, based on clinical evaluation scores for anxiety and depression.

The NYU Langone-led study was published side by side with a similar study from Johns Hopkins University. Study results were also endorsed in 11 accompanying editorials from leading experts in psychiatry, addiction, and palliative care.

“Our results represent the strongest evidence to date of a clinical benefit from psilocybin therapy, with the potential to transform care for patients with cancer-related psychological distress,” says study lead investigator Stephen Ross, MD, director of substance abuse services in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone.

“If larger clinical trials prove successful, then we could ultimately have available a safe, effective, and inexpensive medication—dispensed under strict control—to alleviate the distress that increases suicide rates among cancer patients,” says Ross, also an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.

Study co-investigator Jeffrey Guss, MD, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone, notes that psilocybin has been studied for decades and has an established safety profile. Study participants, he says, experienced no serious negative effects, such as hospitalization or more serious mental health conditions.

Although the neurological benefits of psilocybin are not completely understood, it has been proven to activate parts of the brain also impacted by the signaling chemical serotonin, which is known to control mood and anxiety. Serotonin imbalances have also been linked to depression.

For the study, half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive a 0.3 milligrams per kilogram dose of psilocybin while the rest received a vitamin placebo of 250 milligrams of niacin, known to produce a “rush” that mimics a hallucinogenic drug experience.

Approximately halfway through the study’s monitoring period (after seven weeks), all participants switched treatments. Those who initially received psilocybin took a single dose of placebo, and those who first took niacin, then received psilocybin. Neither patients nor researchers knew who had first received psilocybin or placebo. Guss says, “The randomization, placebo control, and double-blind procedures maximized the validity of the study results.”

One of the key findings was that improvements in clinical evaluation scores for anxiety and depression lasted for the remainder of the study’s extended monitoring period—specifically, eight months for those who took psilocybin first.

Much, much more after the jump: Continue reading

Gut bacteria: We share them with our kin


A family tree showing how different strains of Bifidobacteriaceae bacteria evolved in humans [blue] and our hominid relatives, the gorilla [green], chimp [yellow] and bonobo [red].

A family tree showing how different strains of Bifidobacteriaceae bacteria evolved in humans [blue] and our hominid relatives, the gorilla [green], chimp [yellow] and bonobo [red].

We’ve been posting quite a bit about the critters inside us, organisms that comprise the majority of the cells inside our skins.

They’ve been linked with a growing list of human afflictions, as we’ve noted in previous posts about  Previous posts have noted newly established links between our intestinal microbes and multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, anorexia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even our emotional states.

And now comes the latest intestinal microbial discovery, genetic traits they share in large part with their relatives in the guts of our own relatives.

From the University of California, Berkeley: [emphasis added]

For all the anxiety today about the bacteria in our gut being under constant assault by antibiotics, stress and bad diets, it turns out that a lot of the bacteria in our intestines have been with us for at least 15 million years, since we were pre-human apes.

A new comparison [$30 for a one-day access] of the gut microbiomes of humans, chimps (our closest ancestor), bonobos and gorillas shows that the evolution of two of the major families of bacteria in these apes’ guts exactly parallels the evolution of their hosts.

This shows that the microbes in our guts are determined in part by our evolutionary history, not just external factors like diet, medicine and geography. Obesity, cancer and some inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and Crohn’s disease, have been linked to imbalances in the mix of microbes in our stomach and intestines.

“We are showing that some human gut bacteria are the direct descendant of gut bacteria that lived within our common ancestors with apes,” said lead researcher Andrew Moeller, a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. “It shows there has been an unbroken line of inheritance or transfer from one generation to another for millions of years, since the dawn of African apes.”

Moeller is beginning to assemble a snapshot of the microbes in the guts of our ancient ape ancestor — in essence, a paleo gut that fit our paleo diet — and hopes to go even further back in time if, as seems likely, all mammals have evolved their unique microbiota from a common ancestral population in the distant past.

“We now have samples from all the major groups of mammals, and we’re working on tracing the evolution of the microbiome all the way back to when we were tiny carnivorous creatures 100 million years ago,“ he said.

There’s more, after the jump. Continue reading

Map of the day: Japanese cancer cartography


BLOG Cancer in Japan

From the Japan Times, which reports:

A landmark study of cancer diagnoses in Japan has revealed huge regional gaps in incidence rates in what one official said reflected notable differences in lifestyle habits across the country.

According to new statistics for all 47 prefectures, released by the National Cancer Center Wednesday, an estimated 865,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, up 14,000 from the year before. Men accounted for some 504,000 of the total, while women made up 361,000.

The latest figures offer the most precise picture yet of cancer incidence and deaths across Japan, the NCC said, adding it was the first time every prefecture had submitted data on cancer patients. In last year’s study, 40 prefectures cooperated.

The data show that many prefectures in the Tohoku region and western Japan prefectures along the Sea of Japan coast, such as Akita, Ishikawa, Tottori, Shimane and Fukuoka, have higher than average incidences of cancer. Prefectures including Chiba, Kanagawa and Kagoshima, meanwhile, have among the nation’s lowest cancer rates.

Tomohiro Matsuda, head of the registry section at the NCC, said regional differences in diet, smoking and drinking habits are reflected in the statistics, though a combination of factors comes into play.

Chemotherapy drug leads to loss of hearing


We’ve never done things in half measures.

Just ask any of our three ex-wives.

So when it came to cancer, we didn’t have just one variety. No, we had two [previously].

In addition to the prostate adenoma that’s almost inevitable for the aging male, I also had a much more pernicious Stage IV “high grade metastatic micropapillary urothelial carcinoma” of the bladder, which had pierced through the muscle begun infiltrating into the lymphatic system, the fast track to metastasis in other organs.

The prognosis wasn’t good. Even with surgery and chemo, sources we consulted at the time listed survival odds after five years at about one in five, although numbers I found today raised that overall number to 58 percent.

After I lost our bladder and prostate to the surgeon’s knife on the morning of 20 November 2012, then started a four-month-long regime of chemotherapy on 8 January 2013.

Chemo was, in short, miserable. There was the nausea, and to counter it, drugs that caused constipation so bad that two emergency room trip were required. We were spared further visits after our oncologist, since retired, provided authorization for medical marijuana.

But after all the initial agony, we discovered problems we hadn’t be warned about beforehand, resulting from the damage done to our nervous system by the same poisons that had killed off the cancer cells.

One form of damage was well known, neuropathy.

We discovered it when our feet would never fully “wake up,” but instead remained constantly atingle.

That might sound like a minor problem, but consider that constant and delicate feedback from the nerves in your feet is what, along with signals from your inner ear, allows you to keep balance when standing, walking, climbing. . .you get the idea.

And speaking of ears.

What we also discovered was that we’d lost about a third of our hearing, a loss compounded by sometimes shrieking levels of tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears.

When we mentioned it to our oncologist we got a dismissive response, and a suggestion that it was simply a product of being tired.

Three years later it’s no better.

We can’t watch television or DVDs without subtitles, and conversations are often intolerable because we miss half or more of the words unless the speaker is possessed of a speaking range that fits within the narrow range of frequencies to survive the damage.

But the hardest part was the dismissive attitude of our physicians.

Confirmation comes at least [What was that you said?]

Well, now we have hard evidence, involving cisplatin, the most painful of the drugs in our chemo regimen.

And whilst the patients involved in the study were treated for a different breed of answer than those afflicting us, the key result unquestionably applies.

From the University of Indiana:

Many testicular cancer survivors experience hearing loss after cisplatin-based chemotherapy, according to researchers at Indiana University.

The researchers, led by Lois B. Travis, M.D., Sc.D., the Lawrence H. Einhorn Professor of Cancer Research at the IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren  Simon Cancer Center, studied for the first time the cumulative effects of cisplatin-based chemotherapy on hearing levels in testicular cancer survivors through comprehensive audiometry measurements. They found that increasing doses of cisplatin were associated with increased hearing loss at most of the tested frequencies, involving 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 kHz.

The research was published online June 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“In addition to hearing loss, about 40 percent of patients also experienced tinnitus (ringing-in-the-ears), which was significantly correlated with reduced hearing,” Dr. Travis, also director of the cancer center’s Survivorship Research Program, said.

Although this study was conducted in patients with testicular cancer, the authors point out that the general conclusions are likely applicable to patients with other types of adult-onset cancers that are commonly treated with cisplatin. They indicate that it will be important to follow patients given cisplatin-based chemotherapy long-term to better understand the extent to which the natural aging process may further add to hearing deficits, as it does in the general population.

“The results show the importance of comprehensive hearing assessments, preferably, both before and after treatments,” Dr. Travis said. “Our findings suggest that health care providers should, at a minimum, annually query patients who have received cisplatin-based chemotherapy about their hearing status, consulting with audiologists as indicated. Patients should also be urged to avoid noise exposure, drugs having adverse effects on hearing, and other factors that may further damage hearing.”

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Chemo brain: Another drug is implicated


Chemo brain. . .two little words for something so profound.

But before we get to the latest medical finding about chemo’s cerebral ravages, some personal context.

Going through chemotherapy following surgery for an aggressive bladder cancer [plus more malignancy in the ol’ prostate] was a frightening experience on a body now equipped with bag on the belly to catch the urine from a section clipped from the small intestine voiding through an abdominal opening.

You lay therein a reclining chair, sometimes for the better part of a morning or afternoon, as a toxic chemical stew trickled into a burning vein.

The same chemicals toxic to the cancer also proved toxic to nerve cells, both in feet benumbed and tingling from neuropathy and in ears increasingly deafened and simultaneously clangorous with tinnitus.

But chemo also damages the hipocampus, part of the brain critical in memory formation [among other things], leading to the taxing effort needed to impress and recall events of daily life. . .in other words, chemo brain.

For fifteen years before the cancer diagnosis, surgery, and chemo, we had taken a mild weekly dose of another cancer chemo drug to keep in check a disease that tuned our immune system into an inflammatory machine consuming the cartilage between the joints of hands, wrists, and elbows.

Methotrexate was the major component of a five-drug cocktail drug we consumed, losing it from the mix a few years ago.

When it came time for the post-surgery chemo regime, the cancer panel at Kaiser considered the biopsy and our general medical profile and settled on two possible chemo regimes. Because the principal drug in one of the alternatives was methotrexate, I figured that since the cancer developed when methotrexate was present, the drug might conceivably have led to selection of cell lines more resistant to the drug. Our oncologist allowed as he could say for certain that I was wrong.

And that brings us to a new chemo brain finding, one in which methotrexate is both a blessing and a culprit.

From St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital:

Research from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital suggests that pediatric leukemia patients exposed to higher concentrations of the chemotherapy drug methotrexate are more likely to struggle with mental flexibility, organization and related skills as long-term survivors. The findings appear online in an early release article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology [subscription required].

Investigators also reported that brain imaging showed that higher blood levels of methotrexate during treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) were associated with anatomical and functional changes in regions of the brain involved with mental flexibility, planning, reasoning and other skills related to executive functioning. Brain imaging documented several changes, including increased activity in the frontal lobe region. The finding suggests survivors’ brains may be working harder to compensate for impaired cognitive functioning.

“With five-year survival rates for pediatric ALL approaching 95 percent, researchers are focused on better understanding and reducing the neurotoxicity patients still experience during and sometimes long after treatment,” said first and corresponding author Kevin Krull, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. “It remains a relatively common problem even in the contemporary treatment era of chemotherapy only.

“This study is the first to show a clear dose-response effect between methotrexate concentrations in the blood during treatment and executive functioning in survivors. This information is essential for designing effective intervention to address the risk,” he said.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

The Precautionary Principle and why we need it


In its simplest form, as defined in a 2004 report from the World Health Organization, the Precautionary Principle declares:

[I] in cases of serious or irreversible threats to the health of humans or ecosystems, acknowledged scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason  to  postpone  preventive  measures.

When it comes to things with the potential to do harm, in the words of our college botany professor, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Consider that today we have 80,000 chemicals in circulation for which we have very little information about their long-term impacts of ourselves and our environment.

How many times have we been assured that something is not only safe but beneficial, only to discover that, in fact, the substance in question is doing great harm.

Think DDT, most fire retardants, lead in our pipes and gasoline, bee-kkilling pesticides, and those endocrine disrupting chemicals found in so many products we use daily.

In Europe, new substances may not be introduced until they have been sujected to a review by the European Environment Agency, which, unlike the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has formally adopted the Precautionary Principle as its gold standard — and don’t forget that Donald Trump wants to abolish the EPA [among other things, he says it’s bad for his hair].

From 1995 to 2013, David Gee was senior advisor on science, policy, and emerging issues for the European Environment Agency [EEA], and in that role was a leading advocate for the adoption of the Precautionary Principle. He currently serves as a visiting fellow at Brunel University’s Institute of Environment, Health, and Societies in London.

In his work to the EEA, Gee was instrumental in the creation of two massive reports, the 2002 document Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896-2000 followed in 2013 by Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. Both are available as free downloads.

On 9 May he spoke at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, and his talk is illuminating.

Two slides will serve to illustrate some of the — to us — shocking failures of U.S. science to address the proliferation of substances thrown at us by the corpocracy in which we live.

First, a chart showing that most scientific research on hazards is directed toward things we already know are harmful:

BLOG Hazards 2

The second reveals that very little funding goes toward researching possible adverse impacts of new technologies:

BLOG Hazards

And with that, on with the the talk, via University of California Television:

Warnings about Hazards to Health and Environments

Program notes:

Today’s “safety” can take decades to disprove. David Gee has worked for 40 years on reducing harm from hazards to health and environment. Here he explores the harm that can result from not responding adequately to health risks in the environment. Research eventually shows that exposures and the nature of the harm expand over time and that harm is caused at lower and lower levels of exposure. In addition, benefits of taking action expand over time.

Headlines of the day II: Gift that keeps on giving


First, from the London Daily Mail:

Nuclear leak at Washington’s infamous Hanford Site is CATASTROPHIC, former worker claims, as eight inches of radioactive waste escapes core of ‘the world’s safest’ tank

  • Tank has two shells; a crack was spotted in the inner one in 2011
  • Now that crack has widened, spilling waste into the gap between the shells
  • It happened after attempts to pump the waste out of the tank
  • The Department of Energy says this was ‘anticipated’
  • But workers at the plant said they weren’t told it was a possibility 
  • The double-shell tank can contain up to a million gallons of deadly waste
  • It was supposed to be the safest possible container for radioactive liquid 
  • The Hanford Site provided plutonium for the first atomic bomb 

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The feds won’t pay these ill nuclear pioneers from the space race

  • Department of Energy says only Santa Susana workers in Area IV could be exposed to radiation
  • But former nuclear workers say the system wasn’t so tidy and that they deserve medical compensation
  • Tales of sodium reactor waste dump, radioactive mist

Endocrine disruptors in fracking wastewater


Longtime readers know esnl is somewhat obsessed with the subject of endocrine disruptors, chemicals we’ve created that turn out to be mimics of the chemicals produced by the body’s own endocrine glands capable of inducing conditions ranging from obesity and sterility to ADD and cancer.

We’ve also been concerned with fracking, most notably the federal government’s rules permitting oil companies to keep secret the chemicals they pour into the ground to extract oil and natural gas, chemicals that leach into groundwater supplies or spill into streams through breaches in waste containment dams.

And now comes research that melds these two nightmares.

From the University of Missouri School of Medicine:

Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release natural gas and oil from underground rock. Recent studies have centered on potential water pollution from this process that may increase endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in surface and ground water and whether populations living near these operations have an increased risk of disease. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri report high levels of EDC activity in the surface water near a hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia. Scientists warn that this level of activity may be associated with negative health effects in aquatic organisms, other animals and humans.

“Surface water samples collected on the disposal facility site and immediately downstream exhibited considerably greater EDC activity than surface water samples collected immediately upstream and in a nearby reference stream” said Susan C. Nagel, PhD, director of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health in the School of Medicine, and an adjunct associate professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. “The level of EDC activity was within the range or higher than the level known to impact the health of aquatic organisms.”

Dozens of chemicals may be used in fracturing at one site and approximately 1,000 different chemicals are reportedly used across the industry; more than 100 of these chemicals are known as or suspected to be EDCs. Large volumes of wastewater are produced in the process of fracking. Fracking wastewater is laden with chemicals used to drill and frack the well and may also contain radioactive compounds and heavy metals released from deep underground.

Disposal wells, like the one in the current study, are used only to dispose of fluids associated with oil and natural gas production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Approximately 36,000 of these disposal wells are currently in operation across the U.S., and little work has been done to evaluate their potential impacts on nearby surface water,” said Christopher Kassotis, a former graduate student in Nagel’s laboratory and a current postdoctoral fellow at Duke University. “Given the large number of disposal wells in the U.S., it is critical for further investigation into the potential human and environmental health impacts.”

“Endocrine Disrupting Activity in Surface Water Associated with a West Virginia Oil and Gas Industry Wastewater Injection Disposal Site” will be published online in Science of the Total Environment. Research was part of a larger collaboration with Denise Akob, a geomicrobiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who also directed the study.

More endocrine disrupting chemical dangers


Well, not so much new as newly discovered.

Industrial society and its technologies have unleashed a flood of chemicals into our bodies and the environment, most of them released without any serious efforts to determine whether or not we might be doing serious harm.

Well, guess what? With each passing month we learn of more chemicals that mimic the body’s own compounds, often to considerable harm.

The recent meeting of the physicians and scientists of the Endocrine Society has provided a flood of new evidence of the dangers of our chemical carelessness, and we offer some of them here.

Our first story concerns another ominous new finding about chemical we’ve covered in considerable depth.

From the Endocrine Society:

A new culture system that tests the role of chemical exposure on the developing mammary gland has found that bisphenol A (BPA) directly affects the mammary gland of mouse embryos. The study results, to be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston, show that these changes to embryonic mammary tissue occur at a dose comparable to that of humans’ environmental exposure to BPA.

“We exposure in the womb to endocrine disruptors such as BPA may be a main factor responsible for the increased incidence of breast cancer in women,” said the study’s lead investigator, Lucia Speroni, PhD, a research associate and member of the Soto-Sonnenschein lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

“We knew from our previous research that BPA causes changes to breast tissue associated with a higher predisposition to breast cancer later in life,” said Speroni, who helped develop the new biological assay. “However, until now, we did not know whether this was a direct effect on the fetus or an indirect effect from the mother’s exposure.”

BPA is a hormone-like industrial chemical that appears in many plastic and resin household products and food containers. It has been detected in most urine samples representative of the U.S. population. Research links BPA to numerous adverse health effects in humans, and it can cross the placenta in the womb.

A second story from Endocrine Society concerns hidden dangers lurking in a compound we avidly slather on our skins:

Many ultraviolet (UV)-filtering chemicals commonly used in sunscreens interfere with the function of human sperm cells, and some mimic the effect of the female hormone progesterone, a new study finds. Results of the Danish study will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

“These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent,” said the study’s senior investigator, Niels Skakkebaek, MD, DMSc, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and a researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet.

Although the purpose of the chemical UV filters is to reduce the amount of the sun’s UV rays getting through the skin by absorbing UV, some UV filters are rapidly absorbed through the skin, Skakkebaek said. UV filter chemicals reportedly have been found in human blood samples and in 95 percent of urine samples in the U.S., Denmark and other countries.

Skakkebaek and his colleagues tested 29 of the 31 UV filters allowed in sunscreens in the U.S. or the European Union (EU) on live, healthy human sperm cells, from fresh semen samples obtained from several healthy donors. The sperm cells underwent testing in a buffer solution that resembled the conditions in female fallopian tubes.

And from the Endocrine Society via Newswise, hazards in a chemical we once eagerly used to saturate the fabrics of our daily lives:

Brominated fire retardants, used in many consumer products and known to cause hormonal irregularities, overstimulates an adrenal gland hormone in a way that may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, new research in human cells finds. Researchers will present their study results Saturday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

Flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been widely used in furniture foam cushions, clothes, building materials and electronics to slow the rate of ignition and fire growth. The United States is phasing out use of these industrial chemicals because they are endocrine disruptors, substances that can impair hormone-controlled processes, and mounting scientific evidence shows they can affect neurologic development in infants and children as well as reproductive, thyroid, and metabolic functions.

“However, these chemicals leach into the environment and bioaccumulate, and have appeared in our environment, including house dust, the food supply and breast milk samples in the U.S.,” said the study’s principal investigator, Phillip Kopf, PhD, an assistant professor at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

Finally, another endocrine disruptor we use in the hopes of sparing us from medical problems. From Endocrine Society via Newswise:

Use of a common nonprescription antimicrobial, triclocarban (TCC), during pregnancy and breast-feeding may alter the offspring’s composition of intestinal bacteria and other micro-organisms, called the gut microbiota, a new animal study finds. Presentation of the results will take place Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

The gut microbiota contains both beneficial and harmful microbes, and changes in its normal composition are linked to diseases including obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and asthma.

TCC is frequently added to antibacterial bar soap. Many antibacterial personal care products are commonly used during pregnancy and by nursing women to protect against infectious disease, said the study’s lead author, Rebekah Kennedy, a graduate student in Comparative and Experimental Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Our research adds to the growing body of scientific literature suggesting unintended health consequences related to nonprescription antimicrobial use and will allow pregnant and nursing mothers to make informed decisions regarding use of these antimicrobial products,” she said.

Active fault underlies a Japanese nuclear plant


Plus an update on California nuclear plants. . .

While 9/11 are numbers burned into the American mind, to Japan the equally ominous digits are 3/11, the month and day of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tidal wave that would claim 18,465 lives and trigger one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, leading to radiation releases still ongoing five years later, as Scientific American reported this week:

Today the disaster site remains in crisis mode. Former residents will not likely return anytime soon, because levels of radioactivity near their abodes remain high. Even more troublesome, the plant has yet to stop producing dangerous nuclear waste: its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), currently circulates water through the three melted units to keep them cool—generating a relentless supply of radioactive water. To make matters worse, groundwater flowing from a hill behind the crippled plant now mingles with radioactive materials before heading into the sea.

TEPCO collects the contaminated water and stores it all in massive tanks at the rate of up to 400 metric tons a day. Lately the water has been processed to reduce the concentration of radionuclides, but it still retains high concentrations of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Disputes over its final resting place remain unresolved. The same goes for the millions of bags of contaminated topsoil and other solid waste from the disaster, as well as the uranium fuel itself. Health reports, too, are worrisome. Scientists have seen an increase in thyroid cancers among the children who had lived in Fukushima at the time, although it is too early to tell if those cases can be attributed to the accident.

The nuclear disaster resulted in a mandatory shutdown order for all of Japan’s nuclear plants and a comprehensive review of their sites for seismic safety issues.

As a result of that review it now appears that one of the nation’s other nuclear power plants may have to be shuttered, given that it sits on an active earthquake fault.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

One of the faults that run under the premises of Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture can be reasonably concluded to be active, according to an evaluation compiled Thursday by an expert panel at the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The No. 1 reactor at the Shika plant may have to be decommissioned under the new nuclear regulatory standards, which ban the construction of important facilities above an active fault. The fault in question lies directly under the No. 1 reactor building.

The power company has already submitted an application for a safety inspection of the No. 2 reactor, asserting that the fault is not active. The utility also intends to file a similar application regarding the No. 1 reactor in the near future.

After taking the panel’s conclusion into account, the NRA will make a decision during safety reviews as to whether the fault in question is active.

California only has one functioning nuclear power plant complex, with five others in various stages of decommissioning.

The one function facility is the complex in Diablo Canyon in Northern California, a power plant that caused the Union of Concern Scientists to issue a warning in November 2013:

California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant sits near several earthquake fault lines. One of these—discovered in late 2008—is a mere 2,000 feet from Diablo Canyon’s two reactors, and could cause more ground motion during an earthquake than the reactors were designed to withstand.

Despite enforcing seismic regulations in similar situations elsewhere, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hasn’t enforced them at Diablo Canyon—exposing Americans to undue risk.

The risk of an earthquake at Diablo Canyon is due to the site’s location near a number of fault lines, both offshore and inland from the plant. In fact, dozens of earthquakes have already occurred at or near Diablo Canyon.

Two years later the San Francisco Chronicle issued another warning:

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned.

Starting in 2008, PG&E swapped out the plant’s old steam generators and reactor vessel heads without evaluating whether the replacements could withstand a major earthquake on the Hosgri Fault — just 3 miles away — and a simultaneous loss of cooling water within the reactors.

Instead, PG&E evaluated each scenario — the earthquake and the loss of coolant — separately, even though Diablo’s license requires that the two be considered together. A severe quake, after all, could rupture pipes connected to the reactor vessels and cause the water to drain, potentially leading to a meltdown.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant operator, insists Diablo Canyon is safe.

Until three years ago, California has a second operating nuclear power facility at San Onofre in Southern California. However a serious of mistakes by plant operators and the installation of a tubing system for the plant’s steam generators ultimately led to regulatory investigations culminating in the announcement that the plant would be commissioned, leaving ratepayer to foot the bill for errors made by San Diego Gas & Electric, the facility’s operator.

Here’s a 30 October 2015 video report from KPBS in San Diego on the problems and SDG&E’s failure to notify federal regulators of the crisis:

Edison Never Told Federal Regulators Of San Onofre Equipment Design Flaw

In the cases of both facilities, previously unknown faults not included in the plants’ designs were discovered long after they were up and running, including one major new system at San Onofre capable of producing an 8.0 shocker, ten times larger than the Fukushima shaker and 32 times stranger than the plant was designed to withstand.

We’ve posted extensively about the problems at California’s nuclears plants, both Diablo Canyon and San Onofre.

Native Americans imperiled in ‘national interest’


When the first Europeans arrived in what they called the New World, they were greeted hospitably by the peoples to who the Americas were anything but new.

In additions to guns, armor, and horses, the Europeans brought invisible invaders, microbes that would kill many times more the numbers of indigenous people who fell to the guns and swords of the invaders.

And invisible enemies are still assaulting those who first called this land home, particles far smaller than the living organisms that had brought lethal epidemics of measles, small pox, and other ailments new to the Americas.

These new afflictions were brought by miners and scientists, assaulting the earth for uranium to build the bombs brandished during the Cold War and that still form the backbone of the national arsenal.

In the latest episode of Days of Revolt, journalist Chris Hedges talks with two Native Americans about the radioactive threat to their peoples, as well as the impacts of coal mining and fracking.

Charmaine White Face is of the Oglala Tetuwan Nation, or from POW Camp 344, the original designation of what became today’s reservation. Petuuche Gilbert comes from the Acoma Nation in New Mexico, the oldest continuously inhabited urban community in the country.

One of the deepest concerns of the Acoma has a direct connection to UC Berkeley, the two national laboratories in New Mexico, both of which have intimate connections with the University of California and its Berkeley campus.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Sacrifice Zones

From the transcript:

HEDGES: Let me ask you, Petuuche, in New Mexico are there, is it a similar situation as South Dakota, Wyoming? Different in any way, what you’re confronting?

GILBERT: I think it’s very similar in terms of the dependency of the United States on nuclear energy. So I call New Mexico a very irradiated state because of its attention on nuclear research. So in Mexico not only do you have abandoned uranium mines and mills, but you have your two National Laboratories–.

HEDGES: Los Alamos.

GILBERT: Los Alamos National Laboratories that still makes smart bombs. And that Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque that stores supposedly the world’s largest collection of nuclear warheads. And then you have your WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project plant in Carlsbad which is now closed because of problems, a fire that occurred a couple years ago. And then you have a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico.

So yet this whole state that’s so dependent on this nuclear research, and the whole nuclear fuel cycle, what our concentration is is up, where I’m from, is the mines and mills which we call the legacy uranium mines and mills in the Grants Mining District. You have today, the EPA tells us there’s 97 abandoned uranium mines and five mills. And of course, all of these have created radioactive poisoning of the land, the people the environment and wildlife.

HEDGES: What is a, what is a mill? What does a mill do?

GILBERT: A mill would process the uranium ore into yellow cake.

HEDGES: I see.

GILBERT: So in, in this Grants [inaud.] you get five plants. They’re all closed, now, and they are administered by the Department of Energy or another [crosstalk].

HEDGES: And are you seeing the same kind of health effects?

GILBERT: Same kind of health effects. The refusal of the state of New Mexico, the refusal of the United States to do epidemiological studies or other real serious risk health impact studies. And that does–for example, today the citizens are okay with going with new uranium mining, because they don’t have the information to influence them, that radiation poisoning affects them and that they were all radiation victims as a result of these mines and mills.

HEDGES: And you’re seeing the elevated cancer rates that you’re seeing in South Dakota.

GILBERT: Yes, yes. There’s this one community that published what they call a death map in the Albuquerque Journal. It’s the Blue Water Valley Downstream Alliance organization. Their villages are less than 100 yards away from an old Homestake [inaud.] mill site, and that the people are dying from cancer, they claim, as a result of living right next and adjacent to this old mill.

So definitely radon gas, or radioactive particles contaminated the groundwater, that are affecting the health and welfare of the people, including the wildlife.

Cancer: Another reason to loathe the TPP


The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational Pacific Rim trading pact, negotiated in secret under the sway of corporate lobbyists and signed today in New Zealand, must be approved by Congress in order to take effect.

Hillary Clinton loves it, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren  don’t.

There are many reasons to loathe the TPP, including its secret tribunal capable of fining nations huge sums for enacting environmental, public health, and other barriers to protect citizens from unalloyed corporate rapacity.

Now comes another good reason, cancer.

From RT’s The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann:

What Today’s TPP Signing Means

Program notes:

Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch & Zahara Heckscher, Writer/Educator/Social Justice Advocate join Thom. Representatives from 12 countries are gathering in the world’s most remote capital to finally sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What effect will this have on the effort to block the deal here in the US?

Charts of the day: Cancer deaths in Europe


From Eurostat [PDF], first the mortality rates by nation [and click on the images to enlarge]:

BLOG EU Cancer rates

And cancer death rates by sex:

BLOG EU Cancer types

Headline of the day: Medical complications


From The Independent:

Cancer screening has never been shown to save lives, experts claim

Researchers say false results causing deaths from needless treatments are not being taken into account

High sugar diets linked to breast, lung cancers


More bad news for folks who indulge a sweet tooth.

That stuff you love may cause breast cancer and increase the speed of lung cancer spread.

From the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center:

The high amounts of dietary sugar in the typical Western diet may increase the risk of breast cancer and metastasis to the lungs, according to a study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The findings, published in the Jan. 1 online issue of Cancer Research, demonstrated dietary sugar’s effect on an enzymatic signaling pathway known as 12-LOX (12-lipoxygenase).

“We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis, when compared to a non-sugar starch diet,” said Peiying Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine. “This was due, in part, to increased expression of 12-LOX and a related fatty acid called 12-HETE.”

Previous epidemiological studies have shown that dietary sugar intake has an impact on breast cancer development, with inflammation thought to play a role.

“The current study investigated the impact of dietary sugar on mammary gland tumor development in multiple mouse models, along with mechanisms that may be involved,” said co-author Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine. “We determined that it was specifically fructose, in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, which was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumors.”

Cohen added that the data suggested that dietary sugar induces 12-LOX signaling to increase risks for breast cancer development and metastasis.

Identifying risk factors for breast cancer is a public health priority, say the authors. The researchers state that moderate sugar consumption is critical, given that the per capita consumption of sugar in the U.S. has surged to over 100 lbs. per year and an increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been identified as a significant contributor to an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and cancer worldwide.

There’s more after the jump. . . Continue reading

Genetic links discovered in 12 cancer types


A new study sheds light on the inherited components of 12 cancer types. The research confirmed the well-known heritability of breast and ovarian cancers and found a surprising inherited component to stomach cancer. In the graphic above, Lung 1 is lung squamous cell carcinoma, and Lung 2 is lung adenocarcinoma.

A new study sheds light on the inherited components of 12 cancer types. The research confirmed the well-known heritability of breast and ovarian cancers and found a surprising inherited component to stomach cancer. In the graphic above, Lung 1 is lung squamous cell carcinoma, and Lung 2 is lung adenocarcinoma.

From Washington University in St. Louis, via Newswise:

Researchers long have known that some portion of the risk of developing cancer is hereditary and that inherited genetic errors are very important in some tumors but much less so in others.

In a new analysis, researchers have shed light on these hereditary elements across 12 cancer types — showing a surprising inherited component to stomach cancer and providing some needed clarity on the consequences of certain types of mutations in well-known breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The study, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears Dec. 22 in the journal Nature Communications.

The investigators analyzed genetic information from more than 4,000 cancer cases included in The Cancer Genome Atlas project, an initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to unravel the genetic basis of cancer.

“In general, we have known that ovarian and breast cancers have a significant inherited component, and others, such as acute myeloid leukemia and lung cancer, have a much smaller inherited genetic contribution,” said senior author Li Ding, PhD, associate professor of medicine and assistant director of the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University. “But this is the first time on a large scale that we’ve been able to pinpoint gene culprits or even the actual mutations responsible for cancer susceptibility.”

The new information has implications for improving the accuracy of existing genetic tests for cancer risk and eventually expanding the available tests to include a wider variety of tumors.

Past genomic studies of cancer compared sequencing data from patients’ healthy tissue and the same patients’ tumors. These studies uncovered mutations present in the tumors, helping researchers identify important genes that likely play roles in cancer. But this type of analysis can’t distinguish between inherited mutations present at birth and mutations acquired over the lifespan.

To help tease out cancer’s inherited components, the new study adds analysis of the sequencing data from the patients’ normal cells that contain the “germline” information. A patient’s germline is the genetic information inherited from both parents. This new layer of information gives a genetic baseline of a patient’s genes at birth and can reveal whether cancer-associated mutations were already present.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Maps of the day: Major cancer rates by state


Just released by the Centers for Disease Control, a look at cancer prevalence rates for U.S. states and territories for the latest year available, with rate per 100,000 of population [click on the image to enlarge]:

Age-adjusted rate* of invasive cancer by cancer site and jurisdiction — National Program of Cancer Registries and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, 50 States, the District of Columbia (DC), and Puerto Rico (PR), 2012

Age-adjusted rate of invasive cancer by cancer site and jurisdiction — National Program of Cancer Registries and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, 50 States, the District of Columbia (DC), and Puerto Rico (PR), 2012