How we discovered a possible link between car exhausts and Alzheimer’s

Iron is known to be toxic to brain cells, and tiny magnetic iron particles (magnetite) are thought to be involved in the development of neurological disorders. Now, for the first time, we have identified the abundant presence of these highly reactive particles in human brains.

Previous studies have suggested that there are increased amounts of magnetite in Alzheimer’s-affected brains, and that these particles may be linked with the development of the disease. We wondered if this increased brain magnetite might come from inhaling polluted air.

Very small, round particles made out of magnetite (called magnetite nanospheres) are abundant in city air pollution. They are formed at high temperatures and condense as iron-rich droplets as they cool. These particles range in diameter from less than 5nm (nanometres) to more than 100nm (for comparison an HIV is 120nm in diameter) and are often found together with pollution particles made out of other metals.

Vehicles are a major source of these magnetite nanospheres. They are created by fuel combustion (especially diesel), iron wear from the engine block and frictional heating from brake pads. In addition to some occupational settings, high concentrations of magnetite pollution nanoparticles may be produced indoors by open fires or poorly-sealed stoves used for cooking or heating.

Larger magnetite particles can be more than 10 micrometres in diameter (about the size of a cloud water droplet) and come from industrial sources, such as power stations, but only magnetite pollution particles that are smaller than 200nm can enter the brain directly by being breathed in through the nose. They can then travel through the nerve cells of the olfactory bulb (see illustration).

By-passing the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier – the protective cell wall that prevents harmful substances entering the brain – doesn’t protect against this type of nasal entry, so these small particles can enter the brain relatively unimpeded. After nanoparticles enter these olfactory areas, they can spread to other parts of the brain, including the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, which are regions affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

The presence in the brain of magnetite might trigger events leading to neurodegenerative disease. Magnetite contains a mix of two types of iron, called ferric and ferrous iron. Ferrous iron has been shown to be an effective catalyst for the production of very reactive and damaging molecules called “reactive oxygen species”. Brain damage due to these types of molecules is known to occur very early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

A key change in the brain in this disease is the formation of “senile plaques”, which are clumps of abnormal protein found between nerve cells. Magnetite particles have been found to be directly associated with these senile plaques, and to enhance the toxicity of the protein that is found in the centre of each one.

To examine if magnetite from external sources might exist in human brains, we used magnetic, electron microscopic and other techniques to examine brain samples from 37 cadavers – aged three to 92 years at time of death – who had lived in Mexico City or in Manchester, UK. We found that many of the highly magnetic brain samples were from people under the age of 40 from Mexico City who had been exposed to high levels of air pollution, and in older Manchester cases (over 65 years at death) with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Most of the magnetite particles in the brain samples were spherical and different in size and shape from the magnetite particles that naturally occur in people and animals. They ranged in diameter from 5nm to 150nm and were found together with nanoparticles containing other metals, such as platinum, nickel and cobalt, which would not occur naturally in the brain. We also extracted the magnetite particles from the brains using an enzyme. The enzyme dissolved the brain tissue and left the magnetite particles intact. These particles were then extracted using a magnet. The particles were a striking match for the magnetite nanospheres found in air pollution.

Since less than 5% of cases of Alzheimer’s disease are directly inherited, it is likely that the environment plays a major role in the disease. Because of their combination of being very tiny, known to be toxic to brains, and very commonly found in air pollution, magnetite pollution nanoparticles need to be examined as a possible risk for brain disease, including Alzheimer’s. If a link to human health is discovered, this would have major implications for laws limiting exposure to this type of air pollution.

Evaluation of the current status of the eye lens radiation exposure in an Interventional Radiology department.


Following recent epidemiological studies, which showed tissue reactions from ionizing radiation at significantly lower doses, the 2013/59 EURATOM Directive of 5th December 2013 lowered the limit on the equivalent dose to the eye lens from 150 mSv to 20 mSv per year. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, it is considered appropriate to perform a timely dose monitoring by using specific dosimeters.

Analysis of the current state of the eye lens exposures during interventional procedures. The survey aimed at assessing the degree of information available to the exposed workers as regards lowering the dose limit in Interventional Radiology departments of some hospitals in Campania (Southern Italy).

The equivalent dose was assessed, over a period of 90 days, using specific Hp dosimeters(3), placed sideways with regard to prescription eye glasses. The level of awareness of the new dose limit among operators was assessed using a questionnaire.

The values of the equivalent dose to the lens of the eye for the I and II Operators were found to be <150 mSv/year but for the I Operator a value of 54 mSv/year was obtained, ie higher than 20 mSv/year, that is the new limit of the equivalent dose according to 2013/59 EURATOM. The initial results of the questionnaire from 52 exposed workers, of which 46 (88%) were from exposure category A and 6 (12%) from category B, showed a low level of information (19%).

The results highlight not only the importance of using specific devices for individual protection but also the importance of the level of training and information the exposed medical staff are given concerning the new regulations.

Fluoride is a neurotoxin that damages your brain

Image: Fluoride is a neurotoxin that damages your brain

For many people, fluoride has become a fact of life. The addition of fluoride to public water supplies en masse has made avoiding exposure to this toxin very difficult. While proponents of fluoride say that this “mineral” is essential for dental health, the truth is that fluoride is not an essential nutrient. Human beings do not need to consume fluoride to be healthy — and in fact, you are much better off without it.

While it is true that fluoride can be found in the Earth’s crust, the fluoride used in dental products and tap water is not derived from the Earth. Instead, water fluoridation relies on chemicals known as “silicofluorides.” These are byproducts of the phosphate fertilizer industry — and municipalities nationwide allow these chemicals to be dumped into the water supply for the explicit purpose of human consumption.

Fluoride is not the benign substance overzealous globalists would like for you to believe; it is a dangerous, neurotoxic substance that has been decried as a “soft kill” tactic of the global elite. At the very least, it’s a documented threat to human health.

Fluoride is toxic to your brain

While the CDC claims that water fluoridation is “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,” science shows that simply isn’t true. The CDC’s own data have shown that water fluoridation is contributing to increased rates of dental fluorosis (DF). In mild cases, DF appears as nothing more than white spots on the teeth, but more advanced cases can be disfiguring with severe damage to the tooth enamel. Statistics from 2004 indicate that 41 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 15 have dental fluorosis — a 400 percent increase in just 60 years.

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As you might surmise, fluoride’s deleterious effects do not end with damage to tooth enamel.

As Be Brain Fit reports, a recently published study in The Lancet recommended that fluoride be re-classified as a developmental neurotoxin — similar to lead, mercury, or arsenic.

Scientists have repeatedly documented evidence that suggests fluoride consumption reduces IQ in children. A study conducted in Mexico City, by scientists from the University of TorontoUniversity of MichiganHarvardMcGill, and the national public health agency of Mexico, recently confirmed again that fluoride exposure negatively effects kids’ brains. 

“It found an average loss of 5 to 6 IQ points among children of mothers with urine fluoride levels of 1.5 mg/L compared to those with 0.5 mg/L. For an entire population, such a loss would be expected to halve the number of geniuses in society and double the number of mentally handicapped,” PR Newswire reports.

Fluoride isn’t just making people dumb

The neurotoxic compound isn’t just lowering people’s IQs — it’s doing far more than that. Recently published research has also linked fluoride exposure to an increased risk of ADHD. The researchers stated that there is a growing body of evidence which clearly demonstrates that fetuses are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of fluoride, and that their findings are right in line with that belief: Fluoride harms developing children.

Some evidence has also indicated that fluoride may be an indirect cause of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s believed that when aluminum and fluoride combine, fluoride helps transport aluminum across the blood-brain barrier. Be Brain Fit notes that aluminum fluoride in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s, as well.

Fluoride has been associated with a host of other issues, including nervous system degeneration and decreased pineal gland function. Beyond the fact that fluoride is clearly not good for you, water fluoridation is a questionable endeavor, if for no other reason than for the fact that the government has no business in mass medicating the people via the water supply.

New Study Reveals Harmful Effects of Dim Light Exposure During Sleep

Story at-a-glance

  • Exposure to very dim light during sleep — even if it does not noticeably impair your sleep — may affect your brain function and cognition during the day
  • Sleeping under 10 lux light conditions decreased activation in a brain region involved in response inhibition, attentional control and the detection of relevant cues when performing a task the following day
  • Animal research found that nighttime exposure to 5 lux for three weeks in a row produced depression-like symptoms and impaired cognition

By Dr. Mercola

Inside the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of your brain, which is part of your hypothalamus, resides your master biological clock. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it’s time to secrete melatonin, and when to turn it off.

Your melatonin level inversely rises and falls with light and darkness, and both your physical and mental health is intricately tied to this rhythm of light and dark.

When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set. Conversely, when you’re exposed to bright artificial lighting at night, including blue light emitted from TVs and electronic screens, you may have trouble falling asleep due to suppressed melatonin levels.

Many sleep problems can be resolved by making sure you avoid blue light exposure after sunset and sleep in total darkness.

Interestingly, being exposed to very dim light during sleep — even if it does not noticeably seem to impair your sleep — may also affect your brain function and cognition during the day.

Minute Amounts of Light During Sleep Can Affect Cognition

I’ve been a long-time advocate of sleeping in TOTAL darkness, and an interesting study1 published in Scientific Reports highlights the importance of this recommendation — not just for solid sleep, but also for cognitive health.

In this study, 20 healthy men slept in a laboratory shrouded in complete darkness for two nights in a row. On the third night, they were exposed to a dim light of either 5 or 10 lux while sleeping.

To get an idea of how dim a light intensity of 5 or 10 lux is, 1 lux is equal to the brightness of a surface illuminated by one candle, placed 1 meter (3.28 feet) away from the surface. Twilight is just below 11 lux, whereas an object illuminated by the light of the full moon is about one-tenth of a lux.2

After the second and third nights, the participants performed working memory tests (so-called n-back tests) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The goal was to evaluate the effects of dim light exposure during sleep on functional brain activation during a working memory task the next day.

When sleeping under 10 lux light conditions, there was decreased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus, an area of your brain involved in response inhibition, attentional control and the detection of relevant cues when performing a task.3

Exposure to 5-lux light had no statistically significant effect on the participants’ brain activity. In other words, past a certain point of very dim light, nighttime light exposure can have a direct influence on your brain function, specifically your cognition and working memory.

Nighttime Light — A Hazardous ‘Pollutant’

According to the authors of this study:

“Nighttime light is now considered to be one of the fastest growing pollutants, and the invasion of artificial light into previously unlit areas is threatening the soundness of human health and sleep.

Nighttime artificial lighting in cities is divided into three types: sky glow, trespass and glow. Light trespass refers to unwanted direct lighting of an area, and it occurs when unwanted light spills over into another property or dwelling and causes sleep interference, negative influence on one’s well-being …

Several studies have also shown that light pollution and shift work are tentative risk factors for cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, gastrointestinal disease and metabolic syndrome …”

Fortunately, the detrimental effects of nighttime light pollution are starting to gain recognition, and some countries have even adopted regulations to reduce nighttime light in residential areas.

Guidelines issued by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage (CIE), Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) and Institution of Lighting Engineers (ILE), have an upper brightness limit for light trespass of 2, 3 and 5 lux in in residential areas respectively.


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Chronic Exposure to Light During Sleep May Cause Pronounced Effects on Cognition

The study in question was done to investigate whether these limits are sufficient to reduce sleep and cognitive problems associated with nighttime light pollution.

While limits of 5 lux or less appear sufficient, they discovered that exposure to 10 lux may produce adverse brain effects even if there are no subjective, outward symptoms of impairment. As noted by the authors:

“This study is meaningful because it is the first to scientifically identify the effect of the dim light at night on human brain function and cognition. It is noteworthy that the brain activation was altered after only a single night of light exposure.

This suggests that the chronic exposure to the light at night for many nights might have caused more pronounced effects on the brain and cognition … The interesting finding in the 10 lux group … was the discrepancy between the n-back task and fMRI results.

The decrease of the brain activation in fMRI in the frontal lobe without significant finding in the n-back task of 10 lux group suggests that the absence of evidence of subjective or objective cognitive dysfunction does not necessarily mean that the brain is functioning normally.

This indicates that certain exposure to dim light might influence brain function for cognition even if there is no significant impairment in subjective symptoms (or even in an objective neurocognitive function test).” 

Lack of Symptoms Does Not Mean You’re Unaffected

In other words, what they discovered is that while you might not notice a problem, your brain is still not working normally or optimally. The reason for this is not entirely clear. One possibility is that the decrease in brain activity is related to a reduction in deep sleep, most likely brought on by disrupted melatonin secretion.

Another possibility is that light exposure at night somehow directly induces cognitive dysfunction (opposed to indirectly, via sleep disturbance). One mouse study found that aberrant light exposure caused learning impairments and mood disturbances by directly affecting melanopsin-expressing neurons.

These melanopsin-expressing neurons, also known as photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, found in the retina of the eye, are not involved in vision. Instead, they play a role in circadian rhythm synchronization and the suppression or release of melatonin.

These retinal cells are also linked to the hypothalamus and the limbic regions, including the amygdala. Other researchers have suggested dim light at night could have a direct influence on brain function via some process related to these photosensitive retinal ganglion cells.

Even 5 Lux Could Potentially Contribute to Depressed Mood

In one study, hamsters exposed to 5 lux at night for four weeks altered their neuronal structure, which in turn caused the hamsters to exhibit symptoms of depression. Another animal study also found that nighttime exposure to 5 lux — this time for three weeks in a row — produced both depression-like symptoms and impaired cognition.

Neurons in the hippocampus also shrunk in length, an effect primarily attributed to a decrease in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

BDNF is a remarkable rejuvenator in several respects. Not only does it preserve existing brain cells, it also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, effectively making your brain grow larger.

The study in question basically showed that nighttime light exposure of just 5 lux effectively inhibited this important brain rejuvenator, causing neuronal shrinkage in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in both long-term memory storage and the regulation of emotions.

In light of such evidence (no pun intended), it would certainly be prudent to evaluate your nighttime light exposure if you “feel blue” or struggle with any kind of depression. Even a seemingly insignificant amount of light could be interfering with your melatonin and/or BDNF production, causing a mood imbalance.

Even the display on your alarm clock could be causing you trouble without you realizing it. I used to recommend covering up digital alarm clocks but know from personal experience how inconvenient that can be, especially if you have blackout drapes and sleep in pitch blackness like I do. I finally discovered a perfect solution — an alarm clock for blind people. It has a very large button that is easy to find, and when you tap it, it audibly tells you the time.

Light-Sensing Pigment in Your Eyes Help Direct Waking/Sleeping Cycles

The wavelength of light also matters to your health, not just the brightness itself. The wavelength gives light its color. Red and orange light have longer wavelengths while green and blue are shorter. The influence of varying wavelengths of light on brain function was demonstrated in a 2014 Belgian study,4 which showed that orange light serves as a powerful “wake-up call” for your entire body.

Again, the influence of light wavelengths has to do with the photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in your eye, which produce a light-sensing pigment called melanopsin. This pigment plays an important role in directing your waking and sleeping cycles. As reported by New Scientist:5

“To find out how melanopsin wakes up the brain, Gilles Vandewalle at the University of Liege, Belgium, and his team gave 16 people a 10-minute blast of blue or orange light while they performed a memory test in an fMRI scanner. They were then blindfolded for 70 minutes, before being retested under a green light.

People initially exposed to orange light had greater brain activity in several regions related to alertness and cognition when they were retested, compared with those pre-exposed to blue light. Vandewalle thinks that melanopsin is acting as a kind of switch, sending different signals to the brain depending on its state.

Orange light, which has the longer wavelength, is known to make the pigment more light-sensitive, but blue light has the opposite effect. Green light lies somewhere in the middle. The findings suggest that pre-exposure to orange light pushes the balance towards the more light-sensitive form of melanopsin, enhancing the response in the brain.”

This kind of information becomes particularly important if you work the night shift. By carefully selecting the type of artificial light you expose yourself to at different times, you can ameliorate at least some of the adverse effects associated with shift work. For more details, please see my previous article, “How to Counteract the Ill Effects of Working the Night Shift.”

How to Make Digital Screens Healthier

In addition to reducing the light in your sleeping environment it is also helpful to eliminate blue light from artificial sources like watching TV at night. You can do this be picking up a $9 pair of UVEX blue blockers on Amazon.  It is far more convenient, though, to use blue light blocking software on your computer monitor after sunset.

Many use f.lux to do this, but I have a great surprise for you as I have found a FAR better alternative that was created by Daniel Georgiev, a 22-year-old Bulgarian programmer that Ben Greenfield introduced to me.

He is one of the rare people that already knew most of the information in this article. He was using f.lux but was very frustrated with the controls. He attempted to contact the f.lux programmers but they never got back to him. So, he created a massively superior alternative called Iris. It is free, but you’ll want to pay the $2 and reward Daniel with the donation. You can purchase the $2 Iris software here.

Iris is better because it has three levels of blue blocking below f.lux: dim incandescent, candle and ember. I have been using ember after sunset and measured the spectrum and it blocked nearly all light below 550 nanometers (nm), which is spectacular, as you can see in the image below when I measured it on my monitor in the ember setting.

When I measured the f.lux at its lowest setting of incandescent it showed loads of blue light coming through, all the way down to as you can clearly see in the images below.

So, if you are serious about protecting your vision you will abandon f.lux software and switch to Iris. I have been using it for about three months now, and even though I have very good vision at the age of 62 and don’t require reading glasses, my visual acuity seems to have dramatically increased. I believe this is because I am not exposing my retina to the damaging effects of blue light after sunset.

Iris Software:

F.lux Software:

Nighttime LED Light Pollution May Be Particularly Harmful

As detailed in my interview with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology, lighting is an important health consideration. Natural sunlight simply cannot be beat, but unless you spend a majority of your time outside, you’ll need to give some serious consideration to the kind of artificial lighting you use at home and at work.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have now become a standard indoor light source, thanks to their energy efficiency. However, the price society will have to pay in terms of health could end up being enormous. If you missed this interview, I strongly recommend taking the time to listen to it, and read through the accompanying article, “How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health.” It’s a really crucial issue.

In summary, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting may promote age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness, and exacerbate health problems rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. For this reason, LEDs are best avoided.

One rare exception is if you work the night shift. In this case, to help establish a new circadian rhythm you’ll want a small amount (just 15 to 30 minutes’ worth) of blue light exposure first thing upon waking (which if you work nights will typically be in the evening, when it’s dark out), along with incandescent light for the longer wavelengths, which include near-infrared. I describe all of this in more detail in the shift work article hyperlinked above. For all others, LED lighting is simply not a good idea.

Environmental Near-Infrared Light Exposure Is Important for Health

As explained by Wunsch, the vast majority of the energy your body needs to maintain systemic equilibrium actually comes from environmental infrared light exposure. The near-infrared range of light found not only in natural sunlight but also in incandescent light bulbs and halogens benefit your health in a number of important ways, including priming the cells in your retina for repair and regeneration.

LEDs emit primarily blue light, which reduces melatonin production in both your pineal gland and in your retina. In your retina, melatonin helps with regeneration, which is why LEDs are so harmful to your vision. Blue light also creates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that, when generated in excess, cause damage. So, when using LEDs, you end up with increased damage and decreased repair and regeneration throughout your body, not just in your eyes.

LED light exposure that is not balanced with full sunlight loaded with the red parts of the spectrum is always damaging to your biology, but even more so at night. Hence lighting your living room, kitchen and dining room — any room where you spend most of your evening — is best done using good old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, halogens and candles.

Save the energy-saving LEDs for your garage, closets and hallways where exposure is minimal. More detailed information on how to identify the healthiest light bulbs can be found in “How LED Lighting May Compromise Your Health.”

To Optimize Your Sleep and Protect Your Brain Health, Sleep in Total Darkness

When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body produces less melatonin, which means it has less ability to fight cancer, and less protection against free radicals that may accelerate aging and disease. So if you’re having even slight trouble sleeping, I suggest you review my 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep for more guidance on how to improve your sleep-wake cycle.

Even if you think you’re sleeping OK, but know you have light pollution entering your room at night, consider taking steps to block it, since being asymptomatic does not mean your brain is unaffected and functioning normally. Also consider cleaning up the lighting sources in your home and office to avoid unnecessary harm.

As mentioned, AMD is a very real and serious side effect of being chronically exposed to LED lighting, especially if you’re also getting very little natural sunlight exposure.

Early Puberty Mystery Linked to Family Exposure to Household Chemicals

“We are starting to have enough information about them to certainly be concerned.”

American girls are now going through puberty significantly earlier than in decades prior, a trend that’s been linked to physiological and psychological risks. The various factors thought to drive early puberty include obesity, toxic stress, and environmental elements. A landmark study published Monday looks at one particular type of environmental element — the chemicals in household items.

A long-running study on mothers and children published in Human Reproduction determined that the onset of female puberty is associated with exposure to chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and the antibacterial agent triclosan. These products in personal care products, like some brands of perfumes, cosmetics, and toothpaste. The same result was not found in populations of boys, whose timing of puberty was also examined in this study.

“We have known for the past 15 to 20 years that girls are entering puberty at an earlier age than they used to in the past,” lead author and University of California, Berkeley associate professor Kim Harley, Ph.D. tells Inverse. “We certainly know that obesity plays a role in that but now we also know that the hormone-disrupting chemicals that are in our homes and in our environment could be an additional factor that’s contributing to this.”

While it’s too soon to say conclusively whether these widely used chemicals are definitively causing early puberty, Harley believes that “we need to be paying attention to these chemicals and we are starting to have enough information about them to certainly be concerned.”

Pregnant mothers were evaluated during this study.

Discovering the cause of early puberty is important to scientists because the phenomenon is linked to a higher risk of developing depression, a greater risk for teen pregnancy, and an increased likelihood of developing diseases like breast cancer and heart disease.

The new study’s conclusions are based on data on pregnant women and the children they gave birth to who were enrolled in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas study between 1999 and 2000. When the women were at around 14 and 27 weeks’ gestation they gave the scientists consent to examine their urine samples for concentrations of phthalates, parabens, and phenols. After the women gave birth, the team collected urine samples and evaluated the pubertal development of the resulting 179 girls and 159 boys. Every nine months between the ages of 9 and 13, scientists checked in to see how puberty was affecting the children.

Overall, 90 percent of the urine samples showed concentrations of all the compounds they tested for. That was only detected in the 73 percent of the samples of pregnant mothers and 69 percent of samples taken from the nine-year old girls.

Mothers whose samples contained diethyl phthalate and triclosan had daughters that entered puberty earlier. For every doubling of triclosan in the mother’s urine, the timing of the girls’ first menstrual period shifted by just under a month and for every doubling in the samples for an indicator for phthalates, the development of girls’ pubic hair shifted by 1.3 months earlier. The urine samples taken from 9-year old girls revealed that, for every doubling in concentrations of parabens, the timing of the breast and pubic hair development, as well as their first period, happened one month earlier on average.

Some of these chemicals are found in cosmetics.

One reason these chemicals may affect puberty is because all of them are known endocrine disruptors. Previous studies on animals and humans have demonstrated that endocrine disruptors have the capacity to mimic, block, or otherwise interfere with the body’s hormones.

“They can bind to hormone receptors, such as estrogen receptors, and influence changes in our bodies,” explains Harley. “That’s what we are concerned about. We’ve known from animal studies that these chemicals can impact development in rats, particularly if the exposure is happening in utero, and now we’re starting to get research from human studies that they may also impact development.”

What’s difficult about sharing the results of this study, says Harley, is that for now all they can say is that these are “chemicals of concern.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention readily acknowledges that there’s widespread exposure to phthalates and parabens, with the majority of Americans who are tested containing evidence of these chemicals in their urine. However, the agency states that finding a measurable amount of these chemicals does “not imply that they cause an adverse health effect.”

Harley hopes that regulators look at studies like hers when they move forward in conducting policy decisions and regulations. As of now, she explains, there’s no established benchmark level that states when it’s no longer safe to be exposed to these chemicals. It’s not illegal to have them in personal care products because the science isn’t strong enough to say that they absolutely cause adverse health effects. They are controversial chemicals, and about 70 percent of Americans have them inside their bodies.

“These chemicals are basically ubiquitous,” says Harley. “The regulation isn’t really there and the science is still equivocal. But for people who are concerned, there are things you can do.”

The advice is simple: Reduce exposure to chemicals of concern by changing the personal care products that you use and by purchasing products that don’t contain them. Scientists can’t say for sure what will change for you if you do, but doing so certainly can’t hurt.

High vitamin A intake may increase risk of bone fractures

Scientists Have Connected The Brains of 3 People, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

main article image

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.

The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

But apart from opening up strange new methods of communication, BrainNet could actually teach us more about how the human brain functions on a deeper level.

“We present BrainNet which, to our knowledge, is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving,” write the researchers.

“The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication.”

In the experiment set up by the scientists, two ‘senders’ were connected to EEG electrodes and asked to play a Tetris-style game involving falling blocks. They had to decide whether each block needed rotating or not.

To do this, they were asked to stare at one of two flashing LEDs at either side of the screen – one flashing at 15 Hz and the other at 17 Hz – which produced different signals in the brain that the EEG could pick up on.

These choices were then relayed to a single ‘receiver’ through a TMS cap that could generate phantom flashes of light in the receiver’s mind, known as phosphenes. The receiver couldn’t see the whole game area, but had to rotate the falling block if a light flash signal was sent.

Across five different groups of three people, the researchers hit an average accuracy level of 81.25 percent, which is decent for a first try.

To add an extra layer of complexity to the game, the senders could add a second round of feedback indicating whether the receiver had made the right call.

Receivers were able to detect which of the senders was most reliable based on brain communications alone, which the researchers say shows promise for developing systems that deal with more real world scenarios where human unreliability would be a factor.

And while the current system can only transmit one ‘bit’ (or flash) of data at a time, the team from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University thinks the setup can be expanded in the future.

The same group of researchers has previously been able to link up two brains successfully, getting participants to play a game of 20 questions against each other. Again, phantom phosphene flashes were used to transmit information, in this case “yes” or “no”.

For now it’s very slow and not fully reliable, and this work has yet to be peer-reviewed by the neuroscience community, but it’s a glimpse at some fanciful ways we could be getting our thoughts across to each other in the future – maybe even pooling mental resources to try and tackle major problems.

“Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a ‘social network’ of connected brains,” writes the team.

Feds Employ Data-driven Early Warning System in Opioid Fight

The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

  Patients would travel hundreds of miles to see Dr. Andrzej Zielke, eager for what authorities described as a steady flow of prescriptions for the kinds of powerful painkillers that ushered the nation into its worst drug crisis in history.

At least one of Zielke’s patients died of an overdose, and prosecutors say others became so dependent on oxycodone and other opioids they would crowd his office, sometimes sleeping in the waiting room. Some peddled their pills near tumble-down storefronts and on blighted street corners in addiction-plagued parts of Allegheny County, where deaths by drug overdose reached record levels last year.

But Robert Cessar, a longtime federal prosecutor, was unaware of Zielke until Justice Department officials handed him a binder of data that, he said, confirmed what pill-seekers from as far away as Ohio and Virginia already knew. The doctor who offered ozone therapy and herbal pain remedies was also prescribing highly addictive narcotics to patients who didn’t need them, according to an indictment charging him with conspiracy and unlawfully distributing controlled substances.

 Zielke denied he was overprescribing, telling AP he practiced alternative medicine and many of his patients stopped seeing him when he cut down on pain pills.

His indictment in October was the first by a nationwide group of federal law enforcement officials that, armed with new access to a broader array of prescription drug databases, Medicaid and Medicare figures, coroners’ records and other numbers compiled by the Justice Department, aims to stop fraudulent doctors faster than before.

The department is providing a trove of data to the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which draws together authorities in 12 regions across the country, that shows which doctors are prescribing the most, how far patients will travel to see them and whether any have died within 60 days of receiving one of their prescriptions, among other information.

Authorities have been going after so-called “pill mills” for years, but the new approach brings additional federal resources to bear against the escalating epidemic. Where prosecutors would spend months or longer building a case by relying on erratic informants and only limited data, the number-crunching by analysts in Washington provides information they say lets them quickly zero in on a region’s top opioid prescribers.

“This data shines a light we’ve never had before,” Cessar said. “We don’t need to have confidential informants on the street to start a case. Now, we have someone behind a computer screen who is helping us. That has to put (doctors) on notice that we have new tools.”

And Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, told AP the Justice Department will consider going after any law-breaker, even a pharmaceutical company, as it seeks to bring more cases and reduce the number of unwarranted prescriptions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been in lock-step with President Donald Trump about the need to combat the drug abuse problem that claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016, a priority that resonates with Trump’s working-class supporters who have seen the ravages of drug abuse first-hand. The president called it a public health emergency, a declaration that allows the government to redirect resources in various ways to fight opioid abuse.

But he directed no new federal money to deal with a scourge that kills nearly 100 people a day, and critics say his efforts fall short of what is needed. The Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t seem eager to put extra money toward the problem.

While the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s broader strategy remains to be seen, the Justice Department’s data-driven effort is one small area where federal prosecutors say they can have an impact.

The data analysis provides clues about who may be breaking the law that are then corroborated with old-fashioned detective work — tips from informants or undercover office visits, said Shawn A. Brokos, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Pittsburgh division. Investigators can also get a sense for where displaced patients will turn next.

Authorities acknowledge there are legitimate reasons for some doctors to prescribe large quantities of opioids, and high prescribing alone doesn’t necessarily trigger extra scrutiny. What raises red flags for investigators are the dentists, psychiatrists and gynecologists who are prescribing at surprisingly high rates.

The effort operates on the long-held perception that drug addiction often starts with prescriptions from doctors and leads to abuse of more dangerous black market drugs like fentanyl, which, for the first time last year, contributed to more overdose deaths than any other legal or illegal drug, surpassing pain pills and heroin.

But that focus can cause law-abiding physicians to abandon disabled patients who rely on prescriptions, for fear of being shut down, said University of Alabama addiction researcher Stefan Kertesz. Those patients will turn to harder street drugs or even kill themselves, he said.

“The professional risk for physicians is so high that the natural tendency is to get out of the business of prescription opioids at all,” he said.

Another addiction expert, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said prosecutors’ emphasis on “drug-dealing doctors” is appropriate but inadequate on its own.

“It’s just not really going to have that much of an impact on an epidemic,” he said. The bigger change will come from a stronger push for prevention and treatment, he said. And, he added, “They should go after the bigger fish…. the legal narcotics distributors and wholesalers who have literally been getting away with mass manslaughter.”

Investigators said Zielke charged $250 a visit and made patients pay in cash. But Zielke said prosecutors unfairly targeted him. Instead of more prosecutions, he said, the government “should promote more alternative therapies,” he said. “And they should find out why so many people have pain.”

A second indictment by the anti-fraud unit involved a cardiologist in Elko, Nevada, accused of routinely providing patients fentanyl and other painkillers they did not need. Justice officials hope to expand the data-driven work nationwide.

Will it work? As Soo Song, who watched addiction warp communities while serving as acting U.S. attorney in western Pennyslvania, put it: “The best measure of success will be if fewer people die.”

Ibuprofen Associated With Fertility Problems in Men, Study Finds

The next time you’re reaching for a tablet of Advil or Motrin for a quick cure to a headache or back pain or something, you might want to find another pain reliever of choice — especially if you’re a man with a family plan. A new studypublished Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found ibuprofen can harm testicles and lead to impaired fertility in men.


The study, led by a group of Danish researchers, is part of a broader investigation of the physiological side-effects of regular use of over-the-counter pain relievers. It’s a direct follow-up of studies on how aspirin, acetaminophen (better known by the brand name Tylenol) and ibuprofen (of which Advil and Motrin are the most well-known brand names) affect pregnant women, finding that each of these medications adversely affected testicles of male babies while inside the womb.

Ibuprofen use is particularly common among athletes who use over-the-counter pain relievers quite frequently. The research team found 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35, and gave 14 participants daily doses of ibuprofen of about 600 milligrams twice a day — a rate that’s fairly common for professional and amateur athletes alike. That’s the same maximum dosage recommended by drug makers and listed on the label of products like Advil and Motrin. The rest of the volunteers were put on a placebo.

After just 15 days, the researchers observed signs of dysfunction in the testicles for the men taking ibuprofen. The body’s pituitary glads secrete what are called luteinizing hormones that simulate testosterone production by the testicles. Regular ibuprofen use, it turns out, starts to modulate the rates and levels of luteinizing hormone secretion, as well as causing the ratio of testosterone and luteinizing hormones in the blood to decrease.

As a result, the participants started experiencing what’s called compensated hypogonadism, which can lead to decreased fertility, depression, and higher risk of experiencing heart failure or stroke.

The researchers followed up the trial with lab studies of human testicle samples provided by organized donors, verifying that the impact ibuprofen has on testicles and testosterone even outside the body.

There are two big things worth mentioning here. The first is that the sample size for the clinical side of the study is extremely small, so even with the lab experiments, the results as a whole really need to be taken with a grain of salt. The second thing is that with how quickly ibuprofen use affected testicular activity, the research team thinks the effects are pretty easily reversible.

Questions arise, however, whether those same effects are reversible even after long-term use. For athletes or patients with chronic pain, who have used ibuprofen for years, it’s unclear how permanent those hormone changes might be, or to what extent the negative impacts on fertility could be rectified.

Although the study is small, it’s bound to jumpstart greater investigations into how over-the-counter pain relievers affect fertility, given how popular the use of these drugs is. Men using ibuprofen might want to switch to a different drug of choice the next time they feel a headache coming on.

A Diabetes Drug Has ‘Significantly Reversed Memory Loss’ in Mice With Alzheimer’s

A drug developed for type 2 diabetes has “significantly reversed memory loss” in mice with Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers now want to test it on humans.

The treatment is exciting for scientists because it works by protecting the brain cells attacked by Alzheimer’s disease in three separate ways, rather than relying on a single approach.


And seeing as the drug has already been tested and approved for use in humans, it’s something that could hit the market a lot faster than other experimental treatment options.

The results have only been seen in mice so far, but the drug “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author Christian Hölscher of Lancaster University in the UK.

“With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer’s,” said Doug Brown from UK organisation, Alzheimer’s Society.

“It’s imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them.”

Previous research had already established a link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s – type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and it also appears to make the disease progress more rapidly.

This could be a result of insulin not getting to the cells properly – insulin is a growth factor which is known to protect brain cells, and insulin resistance has been observed in Alzheimer’s disease brains, as well as being the biological mechanism behind type 2 diabetes.

 So researchers have been investigating whether drugs that treat type 2 diabetes might also benefit Alzheimer’s symptoms for a while now.

They’ve seen previous success in humans with an older diabetes drug known as liraglutide. But this is the first ‘triple agonist’ drug that’s been tested.

The drug, which is referred to only as ‘triple receptor agonist’, or TA, in the paper, acts in multiple ways to protect the brain from degeneration, by activating GIP-1, GIP, and glucagon receptors at the same time.

Seeing as growth factor signalling has been shown to be impaired in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, the idea was that the drug might help re-stimulate damaged brain cells and protect against further damage.

The researchers tested the drug in mice that had been genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease.

They used a maze to measure the animal’s learning and memory formation, and found that the drug “significantly reversed the memory deficit,” the researchers write.

The drug also:

  • enhanced levels of a brain growth factor which protects nerve cell functioning
  • reduced the amount of toxic amyloid plaques in the brain
  • reduced both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
  • slowed down the rate of nerve cell loss

“These very promising outcomes demonstrate the efficacy of these novel multiple receptor drugs that originally were developed to treat type 2 diabetes but have shown consistent neuro- protective effects in several studies,” said Hölscher.

There’s still a long way to go before it’s clear whether or not this drug will have the same effect in humans, and whether it’s the best option to move forward with.

“Further dose-response tests and direct comparisons with other drugs have to be conducted in order to evaluate if this new [drug] is superior to previous ones,” Hölscher added.

But the fact that this multi-approach drug has shown such promising results so far is incredibly exciting, and is a great way to start 2018.

After all, more than 5 million Americans are already living with Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that number could be as high as 16 million. So we definitely need new treatment options.