The Top Five Most Costly Inpatient Conditions


Septicemia was the most expensive condition treated in US hospitals in 2013, followed by osteoarthritis; care for newborn infants; complication of device, implant, or graft; and acute myocardial infarction (MI), according to a statistical brief from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In 2013, aggregate hospital costs for 35.6 million hospital stays totaled $381.4 billion. The five most expensive conditions accounted for 20.5% of total hospital costs in 2013.

The hospital costs represent the hospital’s costs to produce the services, not the amount paid for services by payers. They do not include the physician fees associated with the hospitalization, the agency notes.

Coming in at number one, septicemia accounted for $23.7 billion (6.2%) of the total costs for all hospitalizations in 2013, followed by osteoarthritis, at $16.5 billion (4.3%), newborn infant care, at $13.3 billion (3.5%), complication of device, implant or graft, at a cost of $12.4 billion (3.3%), and acute MI, at $12.1 billion (3.2%).

Rounding out the top 20 most expensive inpatient conditions (in order) were congestive heart failure; spondylosis, intervertebral disc disorders and other back problems; pneumonia; coronary atherosclerosis; acute cerebrovascular disease; cardiac dysrhythmias; respiratory failure, insufficiency, arrest (adult); complications of surgery or medical care; rehabilitation care, fitting and adjustment of prostheses; mood disorders; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis; heart valve disorders; diabetes with complications; fracture of neck or femur; and biliary track disease.

Together, the 20 most expensive conditions accounted for nearly half (47.7%) of aggregate hospital costs. They accounted for 43.7% of all hospital stays.

By Payer

The primary payer shares of total hospital costs were 63% for Medicare and Medicaid, 28% for private insurance, and 5% for uninsured hospitalizations, according to the brief.
With regard to payer, osteoarthritis and back problems were the most expensive conditions for Medicare and private insurance. Pregnancy and childbirth were the most costly for Medicaid and private insurance, and skin infections were the most costly for Medicaid and the uninsured.

Nine of the 20 most expensive conditions for hospital stays billed to Medicare involved the cardiovascular or respiratory system, as did seven of the 20 most expensive conditions billed to Medicaid.

Authors Celeste M. Torio, PhD, MPH, and Brian J. Moore, PhD, also note in their brief that healthcare expenditures have maintained a “relatively stable share” of the gross domestic product since 2009, reaching 17.5% in 2014. Hospital care expenditures in particular, which make up the largest single component of healthcare spending, grew 4.1% in 2014. Although this is up from 3.5% in 2013, annual hospital care expenditure growth averaged 5.5% from 2008 through 2012.

The authors note that although only 7.2% of the US population had a hospital inpatient stay in 2012, the average expense per stay associated with those hospitalizations was more than $18,000, making hospitalization one of the most expensive types of healthcare treatment.

How to Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco


Many treatments and resources can help you stop using tobacco, including medications and counseling. But the first step in quitting is to commit to quit. Then, you need to set a plan. Having a plan increases your chances of quitting successfully. A strong plan will include:

  • A quit date
  • Plans for dealing with situations that make you to want to smoke or use tobacco
  • A support network

Talk with your doctor about putting together a treatment plan to help you quit. Remember, it may take several attempts to successfully quit tobacco use. Don’t give up.

Medications

Using medication can at least double your chances of quitting smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications to treat nicotine addiction. If you have health insurance, medications to help you quit tobacco use may be covered.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT is the most widely used medication for quitting. It has mild side effects and is available over the counter and by prescription. NRT lessens the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and cravings. Your doctor will help find the best dose for you based on your current smoking habits. NRT comes in several forms:

  • Gum
  • Lozenges
  • Skin patches
  • Inhalers
  • Nasal sprays

Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban). This medication can reduce withdrawal symptoms. Common side effects include dry mouth and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Varenicline (Chantix). This medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and keeps you from enjoying nicotine if you start smoking again. Common side effects include nausea, vivid dreams, constipation, and drowsiness.

Counseling

In addition to medication, counseling can be used to help with stopping tobacco use. Counseling increases your chances of successfully quitting. Your doctor can refer you to a professionally trained counselor or mental health therapist. A counselor can help you set up a tobacco-free environment and change behaviors and identify triggers that make you want to use tobacco. It is helpful for people who:

  • Have tried several times to quit but have not been successful
  • Experience severe feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Do not have enough support from family and friends to quit
  • Are dependent on alcohol or other substances

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers cover different types of tobacco-quitting programs and offer different coverage levels. Talk with a nurse, social worker, or other member of your health care team to learn what may be covered through your insurance policy. If you do not have insurance, these people can help you explore other options.

Mobile apps

If you want a little extra help in stopping your tobacco use, you can try using a mobile app for your smartphone, laptop, or other mobile device. Studies have shown that using app  like this can help motivate you to reach your goal. There are a lot of apps available, but only some of them offer reliable, science-based support. Some apps actively try to encourage people to smoke more! Be sure to choose apps carefully, and when in doubt, ask your health care team for guidance. A list of a few mobile apps is located in the Resources to Help You Quit section.

Electronic cigarettes and other forms of tobacco

Some people think that switching to smoking electronic cigarettes will help them quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are also known as e-cigarettes and vapor cigarettes. E-cigarettes vaporize a nicotine fluid, which mimics the smoke that comes from burning tobacco in traditional cigarettes. This is why some people refer to using e-cigarettes as “vaping.”

E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, and the market is changing rapidly. There are thousands of e-cigarette devices and liquids available. E-cigarettes are currently not regulated by the FDA. There are also no regulations or quality controls guiding the manufacturing of the devices. The FDA does not approve their use as a way of quitting smoking. In 2015, ASCO and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) issued a joint statement on electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS. ASCO and AACR agree that there is not enough scientific research to say that this is a safe and effective way to quit tobacco use and do not endorse their use as a quitting aid. More research is needed to understand if e-cigarettes can harm or improve health.

In addition to e-cigarettes, some people think about going from smoking cigarettes to smoking pipes or cigars instead. This is not an effective way to stop smoking. All forms of smoking tobacco, including pipes, cigars, and cigarillos, contain carcinogens and are not safe alternatives to cigarettes. Waterpipes, or hookahs, present the same dangers as other forms of tobacco smoking, even though the smoke is first passed through water. In fact, smoking through a waterpipe can expose you to higher amounts of toxins than smoking cigarettes.

Smokeless tobaccos, such as chewing tobacco, snuff, snus, and dissolved tobacco, are also not an effective way to stop tobacco use. Many people feel that smokeless tobacco is less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and cigarillos. However, even smokeless tobacco products contain nicotine and other chemicals that increase the risk of cancer, particularly oral cancer.

Have realistic expectations

Different people will have different experiences with stopping tobacco use. However, it is helpful to prepare yourself for the reality of what it is like to stop using tobacco.

When you first stop, you will likely experience the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Urges to smoke
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling depressed

These symptoms are usually at their strongest in the first few days after quitting. About 1 to 2 weeks after stopping, the symptoms will usually lessen. However, if you have a strong addiction to nicotine, these symptoms may last for weeks or months. Some people have mild withdrawal symptoms, whereas others have moderate or severe symptoms. The uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal often draw people back to tobacco use. Even many years after successfully quitting tobacco use, people have gone back to a smoking habit because they’ve been exposed to other people smoking. Overcoming a nicotine addiction can be a life-long process. Do not be afraid to ask for help and support coping with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

The Big Business of Dialysis Care


Willem Johan Kolff’s invention of the dialysis machine was singularly heroic. He cobbled together the first device from juice cans, sausage casings, and a washing machine — all the while running a hospital in wartime Europe and aiding the Dutch resistance.

Kolff emigrated to the United States after the World War II in part to spread dialysis use. That his adopted country embraced his invention would be an understatement.

The principles of dialysis have changed little since the first American underwent the procedure in 1948: toxins in a patient’s blood are filtered through a permeable membrane. The cleansed blood is returned to the body.

Yet dialysis is now delivered — and leveraged — in a manner as systematic as the environment in which it was created was chaotic. Dialysis is a big, profitable, and growing business in the United States. Outcomes trail those of other countries, however. Patient empowerment may be a path to improving costs and outcomes alike.

Dialysis has always exacted a toll. It is grueling for patients, whose bodies can experience wrenching physiological changes in the course of a typical four-hour session. “There is clearly a downhill course” for dialysis patients, says David Klassen, MD, the chief medical officer for the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit organization that coordinates U.S. organ transplant activities, and the former longtime director of the kidney transplant program at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Dialysis also became so expensive that Congress expanded the Medicare program in 1973 to include coverage for any patient who needed it.

That expansion initially covered some 10,000 patients. News coverage of the era indicated the maximum cost for this coverage would be about $200 million a year, or about $1.1 billion in today’s dollars. Those estimates were far short of today’s demand.

According to the U.S. Renal Data System, 468,000 patients underwent dialysis in 2013. That’s a nearly 47-fold increase in 40 years, driven in part by the rise nationwide in diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions.

Medicare now shells out $34 billion a year for dialysis care, and these patients account for an outsized portion of the program’s total expenditures.

Dialysis care has improved gradually over the decades. Unadjusted mortality rates among patients dropped nearly 36% between 2001 and 2013.

The Corporatization of Dialysis Delivery

As dialysis has expanded, its delivery model has changed. It was once performed almost exclusively in hospitals. But now hundreds of thousands of Americans have their blood cleansed in anonymous storefronts, industrial parks, and strip malls. And a large majority of the dialysis services delivered in the U.S. are expected to turn a profit.

The two leading dialysis companies, German conglomerate Fresenius Medical Care and Colorado-based DaVita Healthcare Partners, control about 70% of the U.S. market. Together they operate about 3,900 locations nationwide — roughly the same number of Target, Best Buy, and Publix Super Market stores combined.

But while those better-known enterprises mostly compete on price, the dialysis sector mostly appears to compete on price growth.

It currently costs about $88,000 a year for a patient to undergo dialysis, according to the USRDS. That’s about 60% more than what the average U.S. household earns in a year. That figure includes not only dialysis itself, but the costs of collateral emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Typical DaVita Dialysis Center

Typical DaVita Dialysis Center. Click To Enlarge.

Franklin Maddux, MD, executive vice president for clinical and scientific affairs and chief medical officer for Fresenius, which leads the U.S. market with a 48% share, notes that dialysis patients are likely to be made ill by excess fluid retention and other physiological imbalances that are difficult to control.

Luis Alvarez, MD, PhD, chief of the nephrology division at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and chief medical officer of the startup firm Outset Medical, says dialysis patients can also suffer blood clots (from not enough blood thinners) or excessive bleeding (from too many blood thinners), heart attacks, or strokes.

According to data from Fresenius, one of its American dialysis patients will spend about 10 days in the hospital during each quarter — more than double the hospital days for its patients in Asia or Latin America. Maddux says the disparity is due to different record-keeping regulations in each country, and the rate of U.S. hospital days has actually declined 22% in recent years.

Despite the patient acuity, dialysis is enormously profitable for both DaVita and Fresenius. DaVita reported adjusted net income of $828 million for 2015, up more than $100 million from 2014. Three-quarters of its cash flow stems from dialysis services.

Fresenius fared even better, netting more than $1 billion in after-tax profit for 2015. For the first quarter of this year, its revenue was up 6%, net income up 9%.

The pharmaceutical industry also benefits tremendously from dialysis. Aside from regularly receiving blood thinners, many patients also receive Epogen, a drug that stimulates blood cell production (kidneys perform this when functioning properly).

“Those kind of drugs have been huge,” says Klassen. “They have had an enormous impact prolonging the lives of patients.”

Amgen, the California biotech company that holds the patent on Epogen, has reaped roughly $40 billion in sales since the FDA approved it for use in 1989, making it one of the biggest blockbuster drugs ever. After Congress approved having Medicare pay for more Epogen, average doses to dialysis patients tripled between 1991 and 2007.

A connection between the two for-profit dialysis giants and rising treatment costs was made by Leemore Dafny, PhD, and David Cutler, PhD, health care economists with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Harvard University, respectively, in a 2012 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Their findings: Average spending for DaVita and Fresenius patients rose about 50% from 2005 to 2009, to about $120,000 annually. Spending for dialysis patients in Medicare rose about 20% during that time, but reached only about $60,000 a year.

Dafny, who is a Lead Advisor for NEJM Catalyst, said she was drawn to studying dialysis in part due to its extraordinary profitability. “We saw an increase in private prices as there was increase in the joint market share of both companies,” she told NEJM Catalyst. Both Fresenius and DaVita grew dramatically starting about 15 years ago as they moved to consolidate the sector.

The market leaders might be even more profitable if not for the litigation surrounding their business practices.

DaVita has paid out nearly $1 billion since 2013 to settle three whistleblower suits. Last year, it paid $495 million to settle a suit filed by two former employees accusing it of overbilling the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It was the largest settlement ever for a whistleblower suit where the federal government declined to intervene.

Earlier this year, Fresenius paid $250 million to settle a suit regarding two supplementary dialysis products it markets and sells, a smaller yet significant profit center for it and DaVita. The products, GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, were linked to sudden cases of cardiac arrests in dialysis patients. The suit, joined by several state attorneys general, accused Fresenius of issuing warnings to its own dialysis centers regarding the risks associated with the products, but not other centers that used GranuFlo and NaturaLyte.

Both companies remain the subjects of various state and federal probes.

The big for-profit operators have also been shown to have much higher mortality rates than nonprofit dialysis centers in the U.S. A 2010 article inHealth Services Research tallied a 19% higher risk of death at Fresenius facilities, and a 24% higher death risk at DaVita facilities, than patients receiving care at the biggest nonprofit chain. The study authors concluded, “Given the movement toward further consolidation of large FP chains, reasons behind the increase in mortality require scrutiny.”

A 2009 article titled “Why Is the Mortality of Dialysis Patients in the United States Much Higher than the Rest of the World?” co-authored by Raymond Hakim, MD, PhD, who was Maddux’s predecessor as Fresenius chief medical officer, acknowledged that U.S. one-year mortality rates were among the highest in the world: 21.7% in 2003, versus 15.6% in Europe and 6.6% in Japan. The authors fingered patient nutrition and staff training as particular causes of the discrepancy.

Cost Growth, and Cutbacks

The huge growth curve in expenditures for dialysis patients has not been lost on the federal government. In 2011, Medicare began bundling dialysis care payments in an attempt to better control expenses, paying about $240 per treatment, or around $37,000 a year.

In 2012, Medicare approved other drugs to stimulate blood cell production. That helped render Epogen sales anemic: They are now about half of their peak six years ago. This year, Medicare put about 2% of dialysis payments at risk based on providers meeting certain quality measures, which is intended to cut the huge costs related to treating complications.

But if a dialysis patient has private insurance, that payer is required to cover services for the first 30 months until Medicare becomes the primary payer. Private payers typically pay at least twice Medicare rates, according to Alvarez.

Those 30 months represent the window within which dialysis providers collect their paydays. DaVita earns its entire dialysis profit from the privately insured, even though they represent only about 10% of all of its patients; Medicare patients account for a double-digit negative margin. In its most recent earnings call, DaVita officials discussed pushing commercial insurers reluctant to continue covering dialysis patients. (DaVita did not respond to written questions seeking comment on issues raised in this article.)

Fresenius declined to break out its payer numbers, but Maddux acknowledges the differential. “We do recognize that the different payer types have vastly different payments. There are patients we dialyze where we don’t make any money, and there are those patients where we do make a margin on it,” he says.

There are other options to cut costs in private-sector dialysis. Home dialysis, for example, has significantly lower costs than the labor and sunk costs of operating a dialysis center. But Fresenius’ and DaVita’s home dialysis rates hover around 20% and 10%, respectively. Dafny believes both companies are reluctant to promote home dialysis because they are paid less to furnish supplements and other services.

Maddux notes that home dialysis isn’t always feasible: Patients must be able to take care of a lot of the dialyzing themselves, or have the means for a home caregiver, among other variables.

Empowered Dialysis

Richard Gibney, MD, might be the first person to combine the words “dialysis” and “joyful” in a sentence. A veteran nephrologist practicing in Waco, Texas, Gibney oversees the operations of several Fresenius-owned dialysis centers in the region, where he takes an unorthodox approach to delivering care. For example, he holds yoga classes for patients as they’re being dialyzed — a response to the rising rates of diabetes among the patients and a need to increase their circulatory performance.

But Gibney’s most radical approach toward dialysis is the notion of “empowering” patients by having them perform some or much of the setup and monitoring of their treatment. The model follows one originally developed in Sweden.

“The entire country does what we in Texas call ‘hunker-down dialysis.’ They tell you to sit down, put out your arm (to be connected to the machine), and don’t say anything,” explains Gibney, who says he was inspired to change the process through his interactions with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). He contends that enforced passivity results in miserable patients reluctant to share symptoms of pain and discomfort while being dialyzed, leading to a greater rate of clinical complications.

In 2011, IHI published a case study of Swedish dialysis patients who had taken on self-management of their own dialysis and care. The operating costs of the unit dropped 33% because of reduced complications, and patient satisfaction was undeniably improved.

Patients involved in empowered dialysis at Gibney’s centers are given a variety of options for what they can do themselves. That includes cannulating (inserting the needles into their bodies), responding to alarms, and testing their own blood, among other steps.

Gibney has about 280 patients currently engaged in empowered dialysis in a dozen centers in the Waco area. Some centers operate a hybrid model, offering empowered treatment along with traditional processes; two centers treat empowered patients only.

The limited results have been encouraging. Between January and October of 2015 in the two centers using the hybrid model, 181 empowered patients experienced four deaths and 103 hospitalizations, rates of 2.2% and 57%, respectively. Of the 588 patients who underwent traditional dialysis, 69 died and there were 904 hospitalizations, rates more than five times and two times higher, respectively.

Outset Medical, based in San Jose, California, seeks to empower dialysis patients through technology.

Outset’s Tablo device aims to transform dialysis in the way ATMs have done for banking and self-checkout kiosks for grocery shopping.

The Tablo, which resembles a dormitory refrigerator, breaks down the act of dialyzing in simple steps. Patients and/or technicians are given prompts on a video screen. Concentrates required for the session come in modules easily installed into the machine, which in turn can be connected to a sink faucet, bypassing the need to purify the water supply. There is also no need for “stringing” — the need to push tubing throughout the device much in the same way an old film projector is threaded. Patients can hook themselves up in about 10 minutes and as quickly as six minutes, according to Outset CEO Leslie Trigg.

During the dialysis session, the screen displays the patient’s progress through a tree that slowly turns from white to green. When it concludes, Tablo plays a jazzy tune reminiscent of a morning talk show interlude and transmits relevant clinical data to providers. It then self-cleans for the next patient.

“We have tried in every way to make this a consumer experience,” Trigg says, down to subtle details such as the ventilation holes, which have a pattern similar to the Jabra wireless speaker.

Trigg says a marker of success for Tablo would be in making dialysis pleasant enough for patients to reduce missed treatments, which she says average more than 13 per year and lead to higher hospitalization rates.

Private equity firms have liked what they have seen with Tablo: Outset raised $91 million in equity and debt funding last year.

Fresenius will be deploying the Tablo in a pilot program that begins later this year, which will include some of the sites under Gibney’s management. “We’ll want to know if it delivers adequate dialysis, if it’s durable, and if the service from the manufacturer is good,” Maddux says.

Another outcome of Tablo’s revamp of an old clinical process is reduced labor costs and medical complications. The former is DaVita’s and Fresenius’ biggest expense. The latter puts patients in the hospitals — where Dafny notes those companies aren’t paid to dialyze them.

And if patients can hook themselves up to the dialysis machines themselves, what becomes of the thousands of technicians staffing the dialysis centers?

“That’s not my area of interest and expertise,” Gibney says. However, he adds that staff have asked if they are going to lose their jobs.

“I said ‘No, that’s totally wrong. We’re transitioning from you being a worker bee, a madman like you’re running cattle through a chute, to becoming teachers, mentors, and cheerleaders,’ ” he says.

Alvarez says that the staffs of many dialysis centers — particularly the technicians who are responsible for hooking up and monitoring the progress of each session and who comprise the bulk of employees — are under tremendous pressure to perform. “The guy you’re depending on for your life does not make much more than someone who works at Jamba Juice,” he says. “A lot of patients are angry at you, it’s a stressful job, and turnover is monumental.”

Alvarez, who straddles two worlds as a veteran kidney clinician and a key executive in a hot startup company, takes a fairly blunt position on how dialysis should evolve.

Improved profitability and outcomes must go “hand-in-hand” in this particular area of health care delivery, he says. “We are spending 8% of the Medicare budget on these patients. That’s an enormous expenditure for us as a nation, and it behooves us to deliver greater value.”

The world’s oldest computer is still revealing its secrets


Item 15087 wasn’t much to look at, particularly compared to other wonders uncovered from the shipwreck at Antikythera, Greece, in 1901. The underwater excavation revealed gorgeous bronze sculptures, ropes of decadent jewelry and a treasure trove of antique coins.

Amid all that splendor, who could have guessed that a shoebox-size mangled bronze machine, its inscriptions barely legible, its gears calcified and corroded, would be the discovery that could captivate scientists for more than a century?

“In this very small volume of messed-up corroded metal you have packed in there enough knowledge to fill several books telling us about ancient technology, ancient science and the way these interacted with the broader culture of the time,” said Alexander Jones, a historian of ancient science at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. “It would be hard to dispute that this is the single most information-rich object that has been uncovered by archaeologists from ancient times.”

Jones is part of an international team of archaeologists, astronomers and historians who have labored for the past 10 years to decipher the mechanism’s many mysteries. The results of their research, including the text of a long explanatory “label” revealed through X-ray analysis, were just published in a special issue of the journal Almagest, which examines the history and philosophy of science.

The findings substantially improve our understanding of the instrument’s origins and purpose, Jones said, offering hints at where and by whom the mechanism was made, and how it might have been used. It looks increasingly like a “philosopher’s guide to the galaxy,” as the Associated Press put it — functioning as a teaching tool, a status symbol and an elaborate celebration of the wonders of ancient science and technology.

[The key to these ancient riddles may lie in a father’s love for his dead son]

In its prime, about 2,100 years ago, the Antikythera (an-ti-KEE-thur-a) Mechanism was a complex, whirling, clockwork instrument comprising at least 30 bronze gears bearing thousands of interlocking tiny teeth. Powered by a single hand crank, the machine modeled the passage of time and the movements of celestial bodies with astonishing precision. It had dials that counted the days according to at least three different calendars, and another that could be used to calculate the timing of the Olympics. Pointers representing the stars and planets revolved around its front face, indicating their position in relation to Earth. A tiny, painted model of the moon rotated on a spindly axis, flashing black and white to mimic the real moon’s waxing and waning.
The sum of all these moving parts was far and away the most sophisticated piece of machinery found from ancient Greece. Nothing like it would appear again until the 14th century, when the earliest geared clocks began to be built in Europe. For the first half century after its discovery, researchers believed that the Antikythera Mechanism had to be something simpler than it seemed, like an astrolabe. How could the Greeks have developed the technology needed to create something so precise, so perfect — only to have it vanish for 1,400 years?

But then Derek de Solla Price, a polymath physicist and science historian at Yale University, traveled to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens to take a look at the enigmatic piece of machinery. In a 1959 paper in Scientific American, he posited that the Antikythera Mechanism was actually the world’s first known “computer,” capable of calculating astronomical events and illustrating the workings of the universe. Over the next two and a half decades, he described in meticulous detail how the mechanism’s diverse functions could be elucidated from the relationships among its intricately interlocked gears.

“Nothing like this instrument is preserved elsewhere. Nothing comparable to it is known from any ancient scientific text or literary allusion,” he wrote.


That wasn’t completely accurate — Cicero wrote of a instrument made by the first century BCE scholar Posidonius of Rhodes that “at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the Sun, the Moon and the five planets that take place in the heavens every day and night.” But it was true that the existence of the Antikythera Mechanism challenged all of scientists’ assumptions about what the ancient Greeks were capable of.

“It is a bit frightening to know that just before the fall of their great civilization the ancient Greeks had come so close to our age, not only in their thought, but also in their scientific technology,” Price said.

Still, the degree of damage to the ancient plates and gears meant that many key questions about the the instrument couldn’t be answered with the technology of Price’s day. Many of the internal workings were clogged or corroded, and the inscriptions were faded or covered up by plates that had been crushed together.
Enter X-ray scanning and imaging technology, which have finally become powerful enough to allow researchers to peer beneath the machine’s calcified surfaces. A decade ago, a diverse group of scientists teamed up to form the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project (AMRP), which would take advantage of that new capability. Their initial results, which illuminated some of the complex inner workings of the machine, were exciting enough to persuade Jones to jump on board.

Fluent in Ancient Greek, he was able to translate the hundreds of new characters revealed in the advanced imaging process.

“Before, we had scraps of the text that was hiding inside these fragments, but there was still a lot of noise,” he said. By combining X-ray images with the impressions left on material that had stuck to the original bronze, “it was like a double jigsaw puzzle that we were able to use for a much clearer reading.”

The main discovery was a more than 3,500-word explanatory text on the main plate of the instrument. It’s not quite an instruction manual — speaking to reporters, Jones’s colleague Mike Edmunds compared it to the long label beside an item in a museum display, according to the AP.

“It’s not telling you how to use it. It says, ‘What you see is such and such,’ rather than, ‘Turn this knob and it shows you something,’ ” he explained.

Other newly translated excerpts included descriptions of a calendar unique to the northern Greek city of Corinth and tiny orbs — now believed lost to the sandy sea bottom — that once moved across the instrument’s face in perfect simulation of the true motion of the five known planets, as well as a mark on the dial that gave the dates of various athletic events, including a relatively minor competition that was held in the city of Rhodes.

That indicates that the mechanism may have been built in Rhodes — a theory boosted by the fact that much of the pottery uncovered by the shipwreck was characteristic of that city. The craftsmanship of the instrument, and the two distinct sets of handwriting evident in the inscriptions, makes Jones believe that it was a team effort from a small workshop that may have produced similar items. True, no other Antikythera Mechanisms have been found, but that doesn’t mean they never existed. Plenty of ancient bronze artifacts were melted down for scrap (indeed, the mechanism itself may have included material from other objects).
It’s likely that this particular mechanism and the associated Antikythera treasures were en route to a Roman port, where they’d be sold to wealthy nobles who collected rare antiques and intellectual curiosities to adorn their homes.

The elegant complexity of the mechanism – and the use its makers designed it for – are emblematic of the values of the ancient world: For example, a dial that predicts the occurrence of eclipses to the precision of a day also purports to forecast what the color of the moon and weather in the region will be that day. To modern scientists, the three phenomena are entirely distinct from one another — eclipses depend on the predictable movements of the sun, moon and planets, the color of the moon on the scattering of light in Earth’s atmosphere, and the weather on difficult-to-track local conditions. Astronomers may be able to forecast an eclipse years in advance, but there’s no scientific way to know the weather that far out (just ask our friends at the Capital Weather Gang).

But to an ancient Greek, the three concerns were inextricably linked. It was believed that an eclipse could portend a famine, an uprising, a nation’s fate in war.

“Things like eclipses were regarded as having ominous significance,” Jones said. It would have made perfect sense to tie together “these things that are purely astronomical with things that are more cultural, like the Olympic games, and calendars, which is astronomy in service of religion and society, with astrology, which is pure religion.”

That may go some way toward explaining the strange realization Price made more than 50 years ago: The ancient Greeks came dazzlingly close to inventing clockwork centuries sooner than really happened. That they chose to utilize the technology not to mark the minutes, but to plot out their place in the universe, shows just how deeply they regarded the significance of celestial events in their lives.

In a single instrument, Jones said, “they were trying to gather a whole range of things that were part of the Greek experience of the cosmos.”

Breast-Conservation or Mastectomy: Should Patients Retain Choice?


Patients with small operable breast cancers are typically given a choice between breast-conservation surgery and mastectomy. The rationale for providing women with the option is that overall survival is thought to be similar between the two strategies. Recent outcomes data, however, seem to tip the scales in favor of breast conservation. Yet other factors, such as a lifetime of surveillance and anxiety associated with testing, lead some women to insist on mastectomy.

In light of the evidence that seems to support better outcomes after breast-conservation surgery, is it still appropriate to give women a choice? This question was tackled in a debate at the 33rd Annual Miami Breast Cancer Conference.

Choice implies that the two options are equal, said one of the speakers, J. Michael Dixon, MD, of the Edinburgh Breast Unit of Western General Hospital of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, but the evidence is clear that breast conservation is a better therapy than mastectomy, with less morbidity and fewer complications, and long-term outcomes that are at least as good and possibly superior. Dixon reviewed some of that evidence for attendees.

A study by Hwang et al found better overall survival with breast-conservation surgery compared with mastectomy in women with stages I or II breast cancer over 19 years of follow-up (HR 0.81, P<0.0001). Breast conservation plus radiation was equivalent or superior in all age groups in hormone receptor (HR)-negative or -positive disease. Recent evidence from Norway in women with early breast cancer shows worse adjusted breast cancer-specific mortality with mastectomy versus breast-conservation surgery (HR 1.64, 95% CI 1.43-1.88).

In women with invasive breast cancer, overall survival was superior for breast-conservation surgery (HR 0.87, P<0.001) after correcting for disease stage, age, and adjuvant therapies. In a separate analysis of women with invasive breast cancer, mastectomy was associated with an excess adjusted risk of breast cancer-specific mortality (HR 1.7, 95% CI 1.3-2.4) compared with breast conservation regardless of the mode of detection of the cancer.

In an examination of the Dutch Cancer Registry Study, presented at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, overall survival was significantly better with breast-conservation surgery compared with mastectomy for any stage of disease.

The perception persists, though, Dixon continued, that mastectomy is associated with a lower rate of recurrence. This perception is contradicted by newer evidence showing that the rate of locoregional recurrence may actually be higher with mastectomy alone, even in patients with a more aggressive disease such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), and that overall survival is perhaps superior to breast conservation in some TNBC patients.

Complications and costs are higher after mastectomy, he noted, particularly when breast reconstruction is performed: “Mastectomy is a poor operation … and should no longer be offered as a choice,” he said.

On the other hand, Patrick Borgen, MD, of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the meeting’s program chair, countered in his presentation that although assessment of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database demonstrated a superior overall survival rate with breast conservation versus mastectomy alone or mastectomy with radiation, the difference was marginal in favor of the former after controlling for tumor size and lymph node status. The slight advantage to breast conservation found in SEER is consistent with the work cited by Dixon, but does not come close to warranting the elimination of mastectomy in the conversation, Borgen said.

Further, the picture is more complex than the small but real improvement in outcomes observed with lumpectomy plus radiation. The complexity of the decision is illustrated by the increase in the rate of mastectomy as a percentage of breast cancer surgeries since 2005, with the greatest growth in the rate of mastectomy occurring in younger women (age 20 to 39) at diagnosis. Women with high levels of anxiety, for instance, have worse mean quality-of-life scores after breast-conservation surgery compared with patients post-mastectomy.

Other data suggest that regret rates after mastectomy are low, said Borgen — “thus demonstrating in the main that women have made a good choice for themselves.”

Accessibility to a radiation oncologist is also an important factor in the choice and receipt of breast-conservation surgery in early-stage breast cancer: Another SEER database analysis found that the odds of having breast-conservation surgery compared with mastectomy were positively correlated with radiation-oncologist density.

Borgen noted that the aesthetic results after breast-conservation surgery affect patients’ satisfaction with the procedure and act to confirm or cast doubt on a woman’s decision to have the procedure. Breast asymmetry was found to be a determinant of patient satisfaction, with women with more pronounced asymmetry less likely to be satisfied with their decision and less likely to be certain about their decision.

Borgen concluded that surgical oncologists should not remove options from their armamentarium based on perceived desirability, but rather, must “strive to openly and completely share the real risks, benefits, and alternatives … in an effort to reconcile a reasonable means to an end for each patient.

In some Zip codes, 1 in 7 children suffer from dangerously high blood lead levels


In one city after another, the tests showed startling numbers of children with unsafe blood lead levels: Poughkeepsie and Syracuse and Buffalo. Erie and Reading. Cleveland and Cincinnati.

In those cities and others around the country, 14 percent of kids — and in some cases more — have troubling amounts of the toxic metal in their blood, according to new research published Wednesday. The findings underscore how despite long-running public health efforts to reduce lead exposure, many U.S. children still live in environments where they’re likely to encounter a substance that can lead to lasting behavioral, mental and physical problems.

“We’ve been making progress for decades, but we have a ways to go,” said Harvey Kaufman, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics and a co-author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics. “With blood [lead] levels in kids, there is no safe level.”

Kaufman and two colleagues at Quest, the nation’s largest lab testing provider, examined more than 5.2 million blood tests for infants and children under age 6 that were taken between 2009 and 2015. The results spanned every state and the District of Columbia.

The researchers found that while blood lead levels declined nationally overall during that period, roughly 3 percent of children across the country had levels that exceed five micrograms per deciliter — the threshold that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers cause for concern. But in some places and among particular demographics, those figures are much higher.

In certain regions of the country, including parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, more than 1 in 7 children tested for elevated levels of lead in their blood. Minnesota had the highest overall rate of young children with disturbing blood lead levels, at 10.3 percent. That was followed by Pennsylvania (7.8 percent), Kentucky (7.1 percent), Ohio (7 percent) and Connecticut (6.7 percent).

“It’s a tragedy that anywhere in the United States of America, we have 14 percent of children with lead levels above the CDC threshold,” said Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. “Lead is the most obvious tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to environmental health threats. Often where there is childhood lead exposure, there are other environmental hazards of great concern.”

So why are kids in certain places more at risk of lead poisoning?

Living in an area with a high proportion of pre-1950s construction — an area when lead-based paints were widely used and lead pipes were still the norm in some places — increases potential exposures for children. So older housing stock equals more risk.

But being poor also plays a role. Wednesday’s study showed that children living in Zip codes with higher poverty rates had a greater proportion of elevated blood lead levels, while children in more affluent Zip codes were “much less likely” to suffer that fate.

The news wasn’t entirely bad. States such as California and Florida had the lowest rates of elevated blood lead levels in children, at 1.4 percent and 1.1. percent, respectively. And over the six years included in the study, New Hampshire saw the largest absolute decline in high blood lead levels, from 9.7 percent to 2.6 percent.

Quest’s study does acknowledge some limitations. The researchers were confined to tests that were actually ordered by physicians, and only those conducted by the company rather than its competitors. It’s also possible that certain populations or certain places deemed at higher risk are being tested more frequently. But overall, Kaufman said, the data include a huge number of samples across every state, and repeat specimens were omitted, all of which help to eliminate aberrations in the findings.

A federal advisory committee in 2012 estimated that there are nearly a half million children in the United States with blood lead levels that exceed the CDC threshold. While the most substantial threats are still lead-based paint and lead contamination in soil, the recent water crisis in Flint, Mich., has highlighted the many pathways of exposure. There, an estimated 9,000 children under age 6 have been exposed to lead in drinking water, and officials have identified hundreds with elevated blood lead levels.

Public health officials have long warned that lead is unsafe at any level in the blood. Even small amounts can contribute to a range of problems, including lower IQs, shortened attention spans, antisocial behavior and health issues such as hypertension, anemia and damage to the kidneys and reproductive organs.

A recent Reuters investigation found that in much of the country, lead testing isn’t required for young children and infants. And even when it is, those blood tests often aren’t done. In addition, Trasande said many pediatricians “have taken their eye off the ball” when it comes to testing, because elevated lead in blood isn’t as widespread as it once was.

“It’s easy to lose sight of this ongoing and insidious battle,” he said. “It’s not as if we can write a prescription for this problem. The prescription is prevention.”

That battle, of course, is not a new one. In 2000, the federal governmentreleased a multifaceted plan “to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in the United States as a major public health problem by the year 2010,” largely by abating lead hazards in homes and expanding blood lead screening and follow-up care for at-risk children. But in part because of a shortage of congressional funding for abatement programs, lead risks remain a reality for millions of U.S. children.

A more recent government initiative has a new goal — eliminating elevated blood lead levels in children by 2020. But that’s an unlikely target in the absence of even more aggressive measures.

“We really need to keep the pressure on policymakers and others to keep driving lead out of our homes and our environment,” said Kaufman, “so that kids and pregnant women are safe.”

For those interested in more history on the nation’s lead poisoning problem, HBO’s John Oliver dove deep into the issue in a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” complete with a musical number alongside the cast of Sesame Street

The Death Rate Is Rising


For the first time 10 years, the death rate for people living in the U.S. has risen. Preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests both the overall number of deaths and the rate adjusted for the increasing likelihood of death as people age, rose in 2015.1

US Death Rate

Story at-a-glance

  • For the first time in 10 years, the death rate for people in the U.S. has risen
  • This rise is a larger increase than has been experienced since 1992, when the rise was attributed to an increased number of deaths from HIV
  • The underlying conditions that may be responsible for the overall rise, and are responsible for the rise in death rates of middle-aged white people, are cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, all of which are linked to obesity

At the same time, the CDC also released numbers from one of the largest and broadest health surveys in the U.S., finding rising rates of obesity and diabetes. 2

Although in the past several decades the number of people who die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and stroke has declined, this year the number of deaths related to CVD has increased.3

Declining rates of death from multiple sources, including diabetes, cancers and CVD have been attributed to growing technological advancements in medical treatment protocols.

However, there comes a point when technology and treatments cannot overcome the effects of poor lifestyle choices.

Measurement of Death Rate

The death rate is measured as a number of people who die per 100,000. The overall rate has been declining in the U.S. since 1935. In 1935, the CDC published a death rate of 1,860.1 persons per 100,000, and in 2014 that number was 723.2 persons per 100,000.4,5 In 2015, the number rose to 729.2 persons per 100,000.

Although single-year improvements in mortality have been small since 1935, there has been an overall 60 percent decline in death rate between 1935 and 2010. Despite declining rates, every year the leading causes of death were heart disease, cancer and stroke.6

The rise in death rate in 2015 is significant as it represents a larger increase in death rate than has been experienced since 1993, when the rate rose by 8.8 people per 100,000 or an overall increase of 1.7 percent.7

The rates for the leading causes of death that year were stable, but there was a significant rise in the number of deaths from HIV.

What Caused the Rise in Death Rate?

On the surface, the CDC report lists a rise in several causes of death, including suicide, Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdose.8 The latter refers primarily to opioid prescription overdoses, which now far surpasses illicit drug overdoses.

In the past, although there have been increased numbers in specific groups noted, an increase in death rate for the entire population has been a relatively rare occurrence.

As of yet, the data from 2015 is preliminary and has not been completely broken down and evaluated. Using data from 1999 to 2014, researchers have demonstrated a rise in death rate in middle-class whites living in the U.S. and have found some disturbing trends.

Early evaluation of data revealed an increasing number of people who die earlier than expected from suicide and drug overdose.9

However, further exploration of CDC records by Commonwealth Fund researchers uncovered statistics that overdose and suicide could account for only 40 percent of the rise in early deaths. The remaining increases were from illnesses related to obesity.

Heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes were responsible for the disparity between the percentage of expected declining deaths and the actual number of deaths.10

Researchers called this number the mortality gap, and found it accounted for an extra 100 deaths in middle-aged Caucasians per 100,000.

Evaluation of this data indicates that not only are more middle-aged white Americans getting sick with diseases that usually kill older people, when they do get sick, they aren’t getting better.

Obesity Rates Climb

With an expanding waistline comes an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and gout. High blood pressure also places you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Every year since 1957, the CDC has taken a survey of individuals 18 years and older, asking them about their health. From the data in 2015, they learned that less people were smoking, more had health insurance and more considered themselves to be obese.11

The uptick of obesity amounted to half a percentage point, rising from 29.9 percent to 30.4 percent of respondents over the age of 18.

However, it’s the continuation of a trend that began in 1985, when most states began reporting data to the CDC.12 In 1992 the majority of states reported rates of obesity at or lower than 14 percent.

This represents a rise of 15 percent over a 23-year period. Although already disturbing enough, the CDC’s numbers may actually be too low.

In 2012, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found 34.9 percent of adults 20 years and older were obese. For this survey, researchers measured the height and weight of more than 9,000 people living in the U.S. instead of relying on self-reported data.13

This approach is likely more accurate since many people overestimate their height, which then affects their body mass index (BMI) indicator. Your BMI is a comparison of your weight to your height, using a mathematical equation. This number is then plotted on a graph and compared against normative values.

A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese and 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.14 These numbers may not accurately portray your obesity level if your body fat content is lower than normal.

Moreover, two brand new studies15 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) show that 35 percent of American men, 40 percent of women and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

Nearly 10 percent of women and 5.5 percent of men now fall into the class 3 obesity category with a BMI of 40 or higher.

How You Can Prevent Becoming a Statistic

While it is premature to fault the rise in death rate on one specific illness, even the preliminary data indicates an increase in deaths from illnesses commonly associated with obesity.

Weight loss is a complex and complicated process, involving many bodily systems and psychological choices. However, while there are intricate body mechanisms at work, it boils down to simple choices you make each day.

Use this list of nine strategies as a guide for change. They may significantly increase your potential for successful weight loss. Remember to implement each change slowly, over time.

If you make one addition every six weeks, you may experience results you didn’t expect to both your weight goals and your overall health. Remember, success comes when you put knowledge into action.

Get motivated!

You need to have an internal reason for wanting to achieve your goal weight. When the carbs, sugar and nighttime snacks call your name, you must have a deep seated reason for turning them down.

Forget dieting

Dieting is something you do for a short time and then revert back to the habits that got you in trouble in the first place. Instead, it’s time to make a permanent change to your lifestyle choices to impact your future health. This is not just about weight loss; it’s about the overall quality of your life.

Think about the changes you’re making as permanent changes you’ll maintain throughout your life. Small steps you continue to follow will result in big changes.

Enlist support

Research demonstrates people who want to start exercising, lose weight, stop smoking or change other habits are more successful when they have a support system in place to help hold them accountable.16,17 Before you make major changes, enlist supporters you can rely on.

You may approach a group of friends who want to make the same changes, or people who are already in the middle of these health changes. You may even consider hiring a support person, like a psychologist or counselor. Paying for the service may motivate you to stay on track and finish the program.

Boost your fiber intake

Soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet has multiple benefits. It fills you up so you don’t eat as much, it regulates your bowels, it may release a molecule that works in your brain to reduce your appetite, it helps control your blood sugar (also reducing your appetite), reduces the effect of carbohydrates in your diet and it is a simple addition to your daily regimen.18,19,20

Remember that the real foods you eat are more than just one thing. For instance, potatoes are high in fiber, but also high in carbohydrates.

The carbs spike your insulin levels, increase your risk of diabetes and increase the potential your blood sugar plummets two to three hours later, which can prompt overeating. Seek to get 40 to 50 grams (gm) of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat each day.

Choose healthy fats over net carbs

Although all fats had been lumped into one category of “bad-for-you-food,” research has demonstrated it isn’t the healthy fats found in organic, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil, or pastured organic meats that are the culprit. Instead, it’s the processing chemicals and trans fats found in baked goods, fast foods and boxed goods that trigger heart disease, inflammation and insulin resistance.

Once a low-fat diet became the primary recommendation for weight loss and cholesterol reduction, people turned to net carbs (total carbs minus fiber; think sugar) to fill them up. This results in high blood sugar and insulin and leptin resistance. Each of these factors leads to weight gain and rising cholesterol numbers.

Given the choice, choose healthy fats over carbohydrates. You can cut your net carbs, or the amount of carbohydrates that impact your body, by increasing your fiber. Net carbohydrates equal your total number of carbs in grams minus your total amount of fiber in grams.

As a general rule, keep your total fructose intake from all sources (including whole fruit) to a maximum of 25 gm per day, or as little as 15 gm a day if you’re insulin resistant.

Consider intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a scheduled eating pattern that helps your body to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.

You accomplish this by not eating for approximately 15 hours or more. This reduces your glycogen stores and makes your body turn to burning fat, a better fuel for your muscles and brain. To learn more please see this previous article onintermittent fasting.

Exercise regularly

Your body has at least 360 moving joints. In other words, your body was made for moving. Exercise tones your muscles, boosts your metabolism, improves your mood and slows aging. The exercise you choose should be one you enjoy and will continue.

If you are new to exercise seek out a partner you can exercise with several times a week. Ideally, to optimize your chances of weight loss, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which can be done with or without equipment, indoors or out. You can even turn your strength training routine into a HIIT session by slowing it down (so-called super-slow weight training). Last but not least, walk more. A goal of 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day, over and above your regular fitness regimen, is ideal.

Address your stress

Stress reduction is an important aspect to changing your nutritional habits and managing your weight.21,22,23 Find a stress reducer you enjoy. My favorite is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It’s easy to learn and can be done anywhere at any time. Click here to learn more about how to do EFT at home.

Drink enough clean, pure water

Increasing the amount of water you drink each day by one to three cups is an easy way to feel full, hydrate your cells,increase your metabolism and help your weight management efforts.24,25

Plan your snacks

You will get the munchies, so plan for them. Keep snacks high in healthy fats and fiber nearby so you won’t be tempted to snack on junk food. High-fiber foods will fill you up without adding low nutritional calories.

Keep in mind that once you’ve successfully shifted your body into fat-burning mode (by reducing net carbs and increasing healthy fats), sugar cravings will dramatically reduce or disappear altogether. Intermittent fasting can help speed up this metabolic transition.

Indoor Air Pollution


Your life depends on the air you breathe. Your body is so dependent on oxygen, you can go only three minutes without air. The quality of air you breathe affects your respiratory system and your overall health.

Indoor Air Quality

Story at-a-glance

  • Poor air quality may lead to respiratory and heart conditions, decreased cognitive function and high blood pressure
  • Air pollution originates from many sources in your home, ranging from furniture and paint, to cooking fish and using air fresheners
  • Using air filters and shower filters, removing air fresheners and scented candles, opening your windows and decorating with plants are just some of the ways you can improve the air quality at work and at home

From several sociological studies, the amount of time the average person living in the U.S. spends inside has remained stable for a few decades.1 The data indicates that people who are employed in the U.S. spend 2 percent of their time outside, 6 percent in transit and 92 percent of their time indoors.

This means your indoor air quality is more important to your long-term health than the air you breathe outside. Interestingly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the levels of indoor air pollution can be between two and five times higher inside than they are outside.2

Some indoor pollutants can be as much as 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These differences are related to the type of pollution and the relative lack of air exchange in new energy efficient homes. According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality is one of the top risks to public health.3

What’s in the Air You Breathe?

The majority of air pollution is made of particulate matter, most measuring diameters not visible to the naked eye. Gases, droplets, particles and ground-level ozone comprise air pollution, both indoors and outdoors.4

Particulate matter, also called particle pollution, is a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. The mixture may contain inorganic and organic materials, such as:5

Dust Pollen Smoke
Smog Liquid droplets Acids
Metals Chemicals Soil

The EPA believes the size of the particle has a direct link to the potential for health risks. Particles 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller can be inhaled, pass through the throat and nose and enter your lungs.

These particles may then trigger respiratory problems, worsen asthma, or may be broken down to pass through your lungs and into your blood where they can damage your heart and other organs.6

Many underestimate the amount of indoor pollution they breathe each day. Even small amounts of particulate pollution have an impact on your health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no threshold identified in which no damage to your health is observed.7

Sources of Pollution at Home and at Work

Indoor pollution may come from several different sources, including furniture, cabinetry and pollution drawn inside through your ventilation system. High temperatures and increased humidity can concentrate some pollutants inside.

Materials used to construct the building you spend your time in, and the furnishings you use in the office and at home may release gasses containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), having both short- and long-term health effects.

The number of different housing products that release VOCs number in the thousands and include:8

Paints, paint strippers and solvents Wood preservatives Aerosol sprays
Cleaners and disinfectants Moth repellents and air fresheners Stored fuels and car products
Dry-cleaned clothing Pesticides Building materials
Copier and printer fluids Correction fluid Hobby supplies
Wood glue Permanent markers Graphic and craft materials
Pressed wood products made with MDF board Household cleaning products Cabinetry

Sometimes the pollution in the air comes from an unexpected source. Korea’s Ministry of Environment released a report that frying mackerel without proper ventilation was the worst cause of indoor air pollution,9 capable of creating 2,400 micrograms of fine dust particles.10

This amount is several times higher than pollution rated by meteorologists as “very bad.” Studies also indicate frying mackerel releases VOCs.11

Monitoring and Tracking Indoor Air Pollution

The advent of energy efficient homes in the 1980s gave rise to “sick building syndrome,” a term coined to describe a common array of illnesses people suffer from working and living in poorly ventilated buildings. Today, architects and builders spend more time and money ensuring proper ventilation.

Some companies use carbon monoxide sensors tied to their ventilation systems. When the amount of carbon monoxide rises too high, the ventilation systems start running. Other companies also use sensors to monitor levels of VOCs.12

You have options for monitoring your air quality at home as well. Radon detectors are available for installation in your basement to monitor and alert you when high levels of cancer-causing radon are seeping into your basement.

Carbon monoxide monitors are inexpensive and will alert you to high levels of carbon monoxide in your home. New technology is also available to monitor fine particulate matter in your home, track trends and even deliver the information straight to your mobile phone.

A science teacher in Pennsylvania was testing such a product in his classroom when he detected spikes in particulate matter that corresponded to a generator on the school rooftop.13 By recognizing the danger and alerting the school, the generator was removed.

Effects of Air Pollution on Your Health

The effects of indoor air pollution on your health may be experienced immediately, or even years later. Several factors weigh into the severity of your reaction, including your age and pre-existing medical conditions.

People who are most susceptible to the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution include those who have or are:14

Coronary artery disease Children younger than 14
Emphysema Pregnant women
Congestive heart failure Asthma
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Athletes who vigorously exercise

After a single exposure you may experience:15

Worsening asthma Itchy, watery eyes Headaches
Dizziness Fatigue Scratchy throat
Runny nose

Many of these reactions appear similar to a cold or allergic reaction. Once the pollutant has been removed or you leave the environment, your physical symptoms usually subside rather quickly. Long-term or chronic health conditions, on the other hand, do not readily resolve simply by removing yourself from an environment filled with indoor air pollution. These conditions include:16,17

Accelerated aging of your lungs Loss of lung capacity Decreased lung function
Asthma Bronchitis Emphysema
Lung cancer Shortened life span High blood pressure18
Pneumonia Heart attack19 Stroke
Hospitalization for diabetes Decreased cognitive function, or ability to make better decisions and be more productive20 Depression

Several of the long-term effects of exposure to poor indoor air quality are just being discovered through intensive research delving into the problems associated with exposure to particulate matter. The links to increased hospitalizations, high blood pressure and decrease in cognitive skills are newly discovered challenges facing those who consistently breathe poor air quality.

Can You Make a Difference?

The good news is that you can make a significant difference in the air quality both at home and at work, no matter the age of the building. According to research led by scientists from the University of Illinois, improvements to older buildings, producing better air quality, resulted in fewer reports of headaches and respiratory problems, and less psychological stress.21

Here are several changes you can make to your own home, or suggest be made to your employer’s building. Most are very cost-effective in the short run and may help significantly reduce your healthcare costs in the long run. You may want to discuss with your employer their potential return on investment from changes with possible increased productivity and reduced insurance costs.

Monitor the air quality

While there is no safe threshold for particulate matter and air pollution, monitoring the levels in your home and work place may help identify contaminants and may give you an indication of the effect your changes make on indoor air quality.

Filter your air

Commercially purchased air filters may change measurements of health, include lowering the amount of C-reactive protein and other measurements of inflammation and blood vessel function.22 Not all filters work with the same efficiency to remove pollutants from your home, and no one filter can remove all pollutants. See this article for an explanation of the different types of air filters to meet your specific needs.

Filter your water

You may already filter your drinking water, but do you filter the water from your shower? President Obama’s Cancer Panel recommends you use filters for your drinking water and shower to filter chlorine.

During a 10-minute shower you can absorb 100 times more chlorine than you would drinking 1 gallon of water. Chlorine becomes airborne during a shower, combined with high humidity levels in the bathroom, increases the amount of chlorine you inhale.

Shop for a filter with NSF/ANSI 177: Shower Filtration Systems-Aesthetic Effects. These filters are tested by a third party to effectively remove chlorine.23,24

Decorate with plants

Houseplants are functional and decorative. They brighten your space and purify your air. Research also demonstrates that greenery in your environment improves your mental and emotional health. These are the top 10 plants to improve air quality:25 aloe, English ivy, rubber tree, peace lily, snake plant, bamboo palm, philodendron, spider plant, red-edge dracaena, and golden pothos.

Remove harsh cleaning products and scented chemicals

Most over-the-counter and grocery store cleaning products contain chemicals that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Air fresheners and scented candles can contain VOCs that pollute the air in your home. The American Lung Association (ALA) recommends reducing the amount of VOCs in your home by reading labels and purchasing products low in chemicals. Soap and water, or vinegar and baking soda can serve as inexpensive alternatives.26

Open the windows

One of the easiest ways to reduce the pollutants in your home is to open the windows. Because most newer homes are energy efficient and have little leakage, even opening a window 15 minutes a day can improve the quality of the air you breathe.

Service your appliances

A poorly maintained furnace, space heater, hot water heater, water softener, natural gas heater or stove and other fuel-burning appliances may leak carbon dioxide or nitrogen dioxide. Have your appliances serviced per the manufacturer’s recommendations to reduce potential indoor air pollution.

Can coffee cause cancer? Only if it’s very hot, says WHO agency


There is no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency said on Wednesday in a reverse of its previous warning, but it also said all “very hot” drinks are probably carcinogenic.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had previously rated coffee as “possibly carcinogenic” but has changed its mind.

It now says its latest review found “no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect” of coffee drinking and pointed to some studies showing coffee may actually reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

“(This) does not show that coffee is certainly safe … but there is less reason for concern today than there was before,” Dana Loomis, the deputy head of IARC’s Monograph classification department told a news conference.

At the same time, however, IARC presented other scientific evidence which suggests that drinking anything very hot – around 65 degrees Celsius or above – including water, coffee, tea and other beverages, probably does cause cancer of the oesophagus.

Lyon-based IARC, which last year prompted headlines worldwide by saying processed meat can cause cancer, reached its conclusions after reviewing more than 1,000 scientific studies in humans and animals. There was inadequate evidence for coffee to be classified as either carcinogenic or not carcinogenic.

IARC had previously put coffee as a “possible carcinogen” in its 2B category alongside chloroform, lead and many other substances.

The U.S. National Coffee Association welcomed the change in IARC’s classification as “great news for coffee drinkers”.

The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, whose members are six of the major European coffee companies – illycaffè, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestlé (NESN.S), Paulig, and Tchibo – said IARC had found “no negative relationship between coffee consumption and cancer”.

LET IT COOL

In its evaluation of very hot drinks, IARC said animal studies suggest carcinogenic effects probably occur with drinking temperatures of 65 Celsius or above. Some experiments with rats and mice found “very hot” liquids, including water, could promote the development of tumours, it said.

The agency said studies of hot drinks such as maté, an infusion consumed mainly in South America, tea and other drinks in several countries including China, Iran, Japan and Turkey, found the risk of oesophageal cancer “may increase with the temperature of the drink” above 65 Celsius.

“These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of oesophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” said IARC’s director, Christopher Wild.

Oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer worldwide and one of the main causes of cancer death, with around 400,000 deaths recorded in 2012.

The WHO’s official spokesman in Geneva, Gregory Hartl, stressed that smoking and drinking alcohol were among the most serious risk factors for oesophageal cancer and urged people to focus on reducing these as a priority. He said IARC’s evaluation of hot drinks was based on limited available evidence in humans and animals and more research is needed.

“We say: be prudent, let hot drinks cool down,” he told Reuters, adding that the WHO’s advice was to “not consume foods or drinks when they are at a very hot – scalding hot – temperature”.

Drinking very hot beverages is now classified as probably carcinogenic in IARC’s group 2A category, alongside red meat and nitrogen mustard.

But David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Britain’s University of Cambridge, said he was concerned that IARC’s review would confuse people.

“Last year the IARC said that bacon is carcinogenic, but it became clear that when eaten in moderation it is not very risky. In the case of very hot drinks, the IARC concludes they are probably hazardous, but can’t say how big the risk might be,” he said in an emailed comment. “This may be interesting science, but makes it difficult to construct a sensible response.”

Latest Radio Frequency Study Adds Credibility to Concerns About Cell Phone Hazards


In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared cell phones a Group 2B ‘Possible Carcinogen,’ meaning a “possible cancer-causing agent,” based on the available research. According to the press release:1

Story at-a-glance

  • In 2011, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared the radiation emitted by cell phones and wireless devices a Group 2B “Possible Carcinogen,” based on the available research
  • 72 percent of industry-funded studies failed to discern any biological effect from cell phone radiation exposure, whereas 67 percent of independent studies did find biological effects
  • Most recently, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency research program, based at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concluded that whole body exposure to cell phone radiation likely caused heart and brain cancer in male rats
  • This large animal study supports the growing body of science showing an association between cell phone radiation and brain tumors

“Dr. Jonathan Samet … Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that ‘the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification … and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.’

‘Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,’ said IARC Director Christopher Wild, Ph.D., ‘it is important that additional research be conducted into the longterm, heavy use of mobile phones.

Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as handsfree devices or texting.'”

Since 2011, there has been an accumulating body of scientific evidence suggesting the IARC classification should be upgraded. For example, leading brain tumor researcher, Dr. Lennart Hardell in Sweden, in December 2014, called for an upgrade to a Group 1 Carcinogen, saying:2

After that meeting supportive evidence has come from e.g. the French CERENAT study and also our recent publication on glioma.

An increased risk for acoustic neuroma associated with use of wireless phones was published by our research group after the meeting giving pooled results of our study periods 1997 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009.

Also other studies have reported similar findings. We evaluated the Hill viewpoints on association and causation used in the 1960s in the debate on lung cancer risk among smokers.

Using these viewpoints our summary was that RF-EMF exposure should be a Group 1 carcinogen according to IARC criteria. There is now a petition to support that notion aiming at alerting IARC to classify such exposure to cause human cancer.”

Latest Radiofrequency Study — A Wake Up Call for Cell Phone Hazard Deniers?

Despite such findings, cell phones have become increasingly pervasive and such a common part of our daily lives that most people never think twice about using them and carrying them on their body all day long.

Some do exercise caution, using speakerphone or texting, for instance, instead of holding the phone up to their ear (and right next to their brain), but many still refuse to believe the risks are real.

Alas, researchers have demonstrated that wireless phones and other gadgets have the potential to cause all sorts of health problems, from headaches to brain tumors, with young children being at greatest risk.

Sure, some studies have also found no effects, but most of these were industry-funded, which tends to render the results less reliable.

In fact, 72 percent of industry-funded studies have failed to discern any biological effect from cell phone radiation exposure, whereas 67 percent of independent studies (those not funded by industry) did find biological effects.3

For example, by 1990, before there even was a consumer cell phone industry, at least two dozen epidemiological studies on humans indicated a link between electromagnetic fields (EMF) and/or radio frequencies (RF) and serious health problems, including childhood leukemia.

And in 1977, there was a Senate hearing on the subject of radiofrequency radiation and brain tumors. The link between brain cancer and cell phone use has been a particularly persistent one, and mounting research has only made this association stronger.

Most recently, partial results of a large U.S. federal government funded animal study suggests wireless radiation from mobile phones increased the risk of heart and brain tumors in male mice.4,5,6,7,8

Heart and Brain Tumors Found in Rats Exposed to Cell Phone Radiation

The study was done by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program started by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 1978 and now housed at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

To evaluate the impact of RF on the rats, the animals were placed in special chambers in which they were exposed to various levels of cell phone radiation for a total of nine hours a day, seven days a week, from birth to the age of 2 (basically the full lifespan of a rat).

Both Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile (GSM) modulations were used.

A control group lived out their lives without exposure. Of the exposed rats, 2 to 3 percent of the males developed malignant gliomas (a form of brain cancer). None in the control group developed cancer.

Interestingly, exposed female rats had far lower cancer rates than the males — nearly three-quarters lower — but gender differences are not an unusual finding in research, according to experts.

Of the male rats exposed to the highest levels of cell phone radiation, 5 to 7 percent also developed schwannomas (nerve cell tumors) in their hearts. None in the control group developed this problem.

According to the authors, these brain and heart cancers were likely caused by whole-body exposure to the cell phone radiation. No statistically significant difference in the numbers of tumors was noted between CDMA versus GSM modulations.

(Note that other research has shown even greater risk for brain tumors from newer 3G phones or Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), despite the power being significantly lower. This suggests a similar animal study, such as the NTP study, using 3G technology, might show even greater tumor risk.)

Disagreements Over Test Results Abound

The study has been criticized for its anomalies however, which include an increased death rate among the controls, and the fact that none of the controls developed cancer. In other studies performed by the NTP, an average of 2 percent of controls tends to develop gliomas.

Still, the authors warn that even if the risk is very small, it should not be discounted. Moreover, the results do indicate a dose-dependent relationship between exposure and cancer risk, meaning the longer the rats were exposed the greater the risk.

“Given the extremely large number of people who use wireless communication devices, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to the RFR (radio-frequency radiation) generated by those devices would have broad implications for public health,” they say.

Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society also noted that “the NTP report linking RFR to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk.” This was an about-face for the American Cancer Society, which has long been a denier of risk.

Christopher Portier, Ph.D., retired head of the NTP who was involved in the launch of the study, also insists the differences between the sexes means it’s not an associated finding, but rather a clear and causative relationship between exposure to GSM and CDMA radiation and cancer among the male rats.

“I would call it a causative study, absolutely,” he told Scientific American.9 “They controlled everything in the study. It’s [the cancer] because of the exposure.” Previous research certainly supports these findings. In one, those who began using cell phones heavily before age 20 had four to five times more brain cancer by their late 20s, compared to those whose exposure was minimal.10,11

How Does RF Cause Cellular Damage?

RF is a non-ionizing type of radiation, meaning it does not break chemical bonds. Within current FCC exposure guidelines, it is generally believed to not produce sufficient heat to cause damage tissue. There is some research12 showing non-uniform absorption of RF and temperatures as high as 6 degrees higher in the hotspots, which refutes this assumption.

It is on this fact that most safety claims are hinged. However, RF appears to be able to cause damage in other ways. In a recent Scientific American interview, Jerry Phillips, Ph.D., a biochemist and Director of the Excel Science Center at the University of Colorado explained how living cells react to RF radiation:13

“The signal couples with those cells, although nobody really knows what the nature of that coupling is. Some effects of that reaction can be things like movement of calcium across membranes, the production of free radicals or a change in the expression of genes in the cell.

Suddenly important proteins are being expressed at times and places and in amounts that they shouldn’t be, and that has a dramatic effect on the function of the cells. And some of these changes are consistent with what’s seen when cells undergo conversion from normal to malignant.”

When you consider the fact that your body is bioelectric, it’s easier to understand how and why biological damage from wireless phones might occur.14 For starters, your body uses electrons to communicate, and inside every cell are mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, and these mitochondria can be adversely impacted by electromagnetic fields, resulting in cellular dysfunction. Other mechanisms of harm have also been discovered in recent years.

Electromagnetic Fields Can Damage Cells and DNA Via Cellular Stress Responses

Research by Martin Blank, Ph.D., a Special Lecturer and retired Associate Professor at Columbia University in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics and former president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society,15 explains that electromagnetic fields (EMF) damage your cells and DNA by inducing a cellular stress response.

He gave an informative speech at the November 18, 2010 Commonwealth Club of California program, “The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields,” co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org (embedded above for your convenience).

According to Blank, the coiled structure of DNA is very vulnerable to electromagnetic fields. It possesses the same structural characteristics of a fractal antenna (electronic conduction and self-symmetry), and these two properties allow for greater reactivity of DNA to EMF than other tissues. Moreover, no heat is required for this DNA damage to occur.

Blank believes the potential harm of wireless technologies can be significant, and that there’s plenty of peer-reviewed research to back up such suspicions. For example, a 2009 review16 of 11 long-term epidemiologic studies revealed using a cell phone for 10 years or longer doubles your risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same side of the head where the cell phone is typically held.

Thousands of studies showing biological effects from low-intensity EMF were also synthesized and summarized in the BioInitiative Report17 (2007 and 2012), including immune system effects, neurological effects, cognitive effects and much more.

Another important study,18,19 funded by the U.S. government, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2011. Using a positron emission tomography or PET scan capable of detecting alterations in glucose, the researchers determined that cell phone radiation triggers your brain cells to metabolize glucose at an increased rate.

Glucose metabolism equates to cell activation, so the findings indicate that radiation from your cell phone has a well-defined measureable influence on your brain. Essentially, each time you put a cell phone up to your ear, you’re artificially activating your brain cells. That said, it’s still unclear whether this excess glucose production is directly harmful, or can cause a cascade of problems down the line, but there is no question there are biological effects from the radiation.

Voltage Gated Calcium Channels a Master Mechanism?

More recently, Dr. Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, has built a case that Voltage-Gated Calcium Channel (VGCC) activation in cells from low-intensity EMFs, such as those emitted by cell phones, wireless devices and wireless infrastructure, is a primary mechanism of biological dysfunction.

He believes the VGCC activation in cells can explain long-reported association between electromagnetic fields and a wide range of biological changes and health effects, including neuropsychiatric, hormonal, and cardiac effects, chromosomal breaks, lowered fertility, oxidative stress, changes in calcium signaling, cellular DNA damage, breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, melatonin depletion and sleep disruption, and cancer. According to Pall:

“We’re clearly at a point where we can confidently debunk the industry’s argument of more than 20 years that there cannot be a biological mechanism of action from these low-intensity EMFs. According to industry, the forces electromagnetic fields place on electrically charged groups in the cell are too weak to produce biological effects.

However, the unique structural properties of the VGCC protein can, it turns out, explain why the force on a cell’s voltage sensor from low intensity EMFs are millions of times stronger than are the forces on singly charged groups elsewhere in the cell.

They may be low-intensity but with regard to the VGCCs can have a tremendously powerful impact on the cell. Furthermore, published studies showing calcium channel blocker drugs block or greatly lower biological effects from electromagnetic fields, confirming there is a voltage gated calcium channel mechanism that is occurring.”

Epidemiologist Calls for Revised Cell Phone Standards

Devra Davis, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and author of the book, “Disconnect,” has been an outspoken proponent of improved cell phone standards and regulations. At present, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bases its standards on a model that overwhelmingly does not apply to the population at large. As explained in a recent article by STAT:20

“[T]he current FCC standards are unrealistic because they’re based on … a creature called Standard Anthropomorphic Man, or SAM — that’s larger than the average person, and, therefore, able to withstand more radiation exposure than most people. ‘SAM is not an ordinary guy,’ Davis wrote.

‘He ranked in size and mass at the top 10 percent of all military recruits in 1989, weighing more than 200 pounds, with an 11-pound head, and standing about 6 feet 2 inches tall.

SAM was not especially talkative, as he was assumed to use a cell phone for no more than six minutes.’ On Friday [May 27, 2016], Davis reiterated her call for revised FCC standards that would be based on the average person … ‘Every parent who thinks it’s so cute to give their kids a little cell phone should ask themselves if they would give them a glass of whiskey or a gun,’ she said.”

Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org says there is also question as to whether the FCC is enforcing its own thermal guidelines. She says:

“While we know the FCC SAR limits are only intended to protect from potential heating effects, and do not consider low-intensity biological effects which are equally important, questions exist about the FCC’s effectiveness at regulating the thermal risks they do acknowledge. Some believe a great number of phones on the market today are well over the FCC limit, and greater surveillance to protect the public is needed.”

1 in 4 Car Accidents Caused by Cell Phones

It’s not just the RF that makes cell phones dangerous. They also play a significant role in car accidents caused by distracted drivers, which took the life of nearly 3,330 people in 2012 and injured 421,000.21 Last year, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that cell phone use is responsible for 26 percent of all car accidents in the U.S.22

Surprisingly, only 5 percent were related specifically to texting, suggesting talking on the phone is just as risky, if not more. Among teen drivers, the influence of cell phones on accident rates is much higher however. According to a recent report by the American Automobile Association (AAA), 60 percent of car crashes involving teenagers are due to talking, texting and other distractions.23

Aside from cell phone usage, other distractions for teens causing them to be involved in car accidents included talking to passengers and looking at something inside the car.

Overall, using your cell phone in any manner while driving increases your chances of an accident, as it takes your attention off the task at hand, which is to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on safe driving. Indeed, research24has shown that driving performance is equally affected while using either a handheld or hands-free phone, leading to effects such as increased reaction time.

This warning is especially relevant for American drivers, as a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that talking, texting and reading e-mail on the phone while driving are far more prevalent in the U.S. than in Europe.

In the U.S., 69 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported talking on their cell phone while driving within the last 30 days. One-third of U.S. drivers also read or sent text messages or emails while driving — twice the rate of texting and emailing drivers in Spain.

A little more than 30 percent of U.S. drivers report never using a cell phone while driving, compared to nearly 80 percent of drivers in the U.K and about 60 percent of drivers in Germany, France and Spain.

Also on the rise are pedestrian injuries from cell phones, which are up 35 percent since 2010. It’s estimated that 10 percent of the 78,000 US pedestrian injuries in 2012 were the result of “mobile device distraction.”25 In this case, research has shown that textingis significantly more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while walking.26 To make the roads safer for everyone, the CDC offers the following commonsense recommendations:

  • Model safe behavior behind the wheel — never text and drive.
  • Always stay focused and alert when driving.
  • Take the pledge — commit to distraction-free driving.
  • Speak out if the driver in your car is distracted.
  • Encourage your friends and family to designate their cars a “no phone” zone when driving.

Beware of Industry Bias

It is important to note potential conflicts of interest in the media, and know the values of the people at publications from whom you receive your information.

While many publications wrote responsibly about the recent NTP rat study, such as The Wall Street Journal,27 Scientific American,28 Mother Jones, Science,29 Consumer Reports,30 and several others globally, The New York Times downplayed the findings, and also put out a video on the subject that contrasted sharply with the video of the Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Knudson.

When one looks into who owns The New York Times, it is not surprising to learn that billionaire telecom magnate Carlos Slim, who owns wireless assets globally, and who is Chairman and Chief Executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil, is a major shareholder.31

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D. of U.C. Berkeley has created a table, “Spin vs Fact: National Toxicology Program on Cancer Risk from Cell Phone Radiation,”32 to illuminate some of the ways parties have downplayed the recent rat study, contrasting the spin with facts. The flurry of media coverage on this topic has highlighted biases at a number of publications, so remember to not take anything on face value alone, but instead always dig into the facts and learn which publications have an industry slant.

How to Protect Your Health From Cell Phone Radiation

Last year, I was interviewed for a New York Times33 article about the health concerns associated with wearable technologies. As usual, I was criticized for raising concerns, and after the fact the editor even noted that I shouldn’t have been used as a source due to being “widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments.”

Nevertheless, as the years pass, more and more studies keep coming to the conclusion I formed several years ago, which is that the risks of RF are real, and that we need to invoke the precautionary principle with regards to the use of cell phones and other wireless technologies.

It’s important to note that researchers are in general agreement that there’s a latency period of about 10 years or more before the damage shows up, which places children at greatest risk, since their exposures are earlier in life and longer.

International EMF scientists from 39 countries last May issued the International EMF Scientist Appeal to the United Nations calling for precautionary action, announced by spokesperson Dr. Martin Blank (see video above).34 Until the industry and regulators start taking this matter seriously, the responsibility to keep children safe falls on the parents and schools. To minimize the risk to your brain, and that of your child, I recommend paying heed to the following common-sense advice:

Don’t let your child use a cell phone

Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults due to having thinner skull bones, and developing immune systems and brains.

Keep your cell phone use to a minimum

Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call. Use a landline phone at home and at work, and if you use a cell phone, develop a practice of forwarding it to a landline whenever possible.

Reduce or eliminate your use of other wireless devices

Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to routinely use wireless devices. A hard-wired Ethernet internet connection for computers, printers and peripherals is not only safer for your health, but significantly faster and more secure. Reconsider any wearable tech, like smart watches, which emit extremely high levels of radiation. Wireless on the body is extremely misguided.

Opt for older portable home phones

If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are no safer during calls, but at least some of them do not continuously broadcast when not in use. Note the only way to truly be sure if your cordless phone is emitting radiation is to use an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone. (I recommend looking for an RF meter that goes up to 8 Gigahertz to cover most phones).

You can find RF meters at www.emfsafetystore.com. Even without an RF meter, you can be fairly certain your portable phone is problematic if the technology is labeled DECT, which stands for “digitally enhanced cordless technology.” Alternatively, be careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren’t talking.

Try keeping the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, especially your bedroom. Ideally, it would be beneficial to turn off or disconnect your base station at night before you go to bed. Or, better yet, just have it on hand for times when portability is essential and use a corded landline phone the majority of time.

Limit cell phone use to areas with excellent reception

The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses the more radiation it emits. Ideally, only use your phone with full bars and good reception.

Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body, and do not sleep with it below your pillow or near your head

Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in your bra or in a shirt pocket over your heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man’s pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.

Don’t assume one cell phone is safer than another

There’s no such thing as a “safe” cell phone. A specific absorption rate (SAR) value for a phone only addresses one form of risk, the thermal effects, comparing one phone to another, and it is not a measure of biological safety. Frequencies, peaks, pulsing and other signal characteristics are also biologically active. The longer one is exposed the greater the risk. If you want to be safe, use hard-wired connections.

Respect others; many are highly sensitive to EMF/RF

Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others’ cell phones in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the “second hand radiation” effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.

Use a well-shielded wired headset

Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded — and most of them are not — the wire itself can act as an antenna attracting and transmitting radiation directly to your brain.

So make sure the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded. Better headsets use a combination of shielded wire and air-tube. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the sound to your head as an actual sound wave. Although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.

Be a role model

Set limits on how people can communicate with you to minimize cell phone and wireless radiation exposures. The instant gratification one may get from being in constant contact is not worth the serious risks of radiation exposures. Take a stand for yourself and be a role model for your children.

Help educate your children’s schools

Bring evidence of risk from cell phone and wireless technologies to schools and teachers unions. Protective change is not going to happen soon enough at the federal level, thus grassroots action to educate people responsible for the lives of vulnerable populations is essential. Follow this topic at Campaign for Radiation Free Schools on Facebook.