Roughly 383,000 acres of soybean crops have been injured by the weed-killer dicamba as of June 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.
Dicamba destroys everything it touches, other than the crops that are genetically engineered to withstand it. “Dicamba drift” is a well-known term associated with the herbicide because the chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-targeted fields, stunting plants’ growth, and leaving them wrinkled or cupped.
Non-targeted crops and trees have been harmed by dicamba drift for numerous growing seasons, according to Bradley, who has tracked the damage caused by the weed-killer extensively.
In 2017, Monsanto’s (now Bayer) new dicamba-based herbicide, XtendiMax, was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on the company’s Xtend soybeans and cotton. That growing season, XtendiMax reportedly damaged an estimated 3.6 million acres of off-target crops in more than 2 dozen states.
Many crops were also devastated in 2016 when 10 states reported hundreds of thousands of crop acres damaged by the apparent misuse of older, unapproved versions of dicamba.
The summer of 2018 has fared a bit better, but the damage was still palpable, according to Bradley.
“Many growers in [Missouri] have adopted the Xtend trait so they don’t experience dicamba injury on their soybean crop for a third season in a row. Since the adoption of the Xtend trait is so high in this area, relatively speaking there seem to be fewer soybean fields with injury this year compared to last.
However, just as in the past two seasons, there are still fields of non-Xtend soybean in this area showing injury from one end to the other.
More surprising to me than that has been the extent of the trees that are showing symptoms of growth regulator herbicide injury in that part of the state where the adoption of this trait is so high.”
Compared to 2017, 2018 has seen more cases of off-target movement of the chemical to specialty crops, vegetables, ornamental plants, and trees, said Bradley. 
“I have personally witnessed this increasing problem of off-target dicamba injury to “other” crops and tree species in the calls I have received, field visits, and “windshield surveys” of Missouri that I have taken the past few weeks, especially when driving around southeast Missouri last week.”
Here are the soybean injury numbers in 2018 (could actually be much more), by acres, in individual states, according to the University of Missouri: 
People relax on sofas and walk across their kitchen floors without giving it a second thought, but a study shows that toxic chemicals used in furniture and vinyl flooring to make them fire-resistant could be poisoning children. 
The problem is most prevalent in public housing where scientists say children have toxin levels in their blood and urine up to 15 times higher than those who aren’t exposed.
The flame-retardant chemicals, called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are linked to neurodevelopmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer, and other diseases.
Despite efforts to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs, they continue to persist, said Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University.
The full scope of the dangers posed by polybrominated diphenyl ethers is unknown because few studies have investigated how or if the chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstreams of children who are exposed to them.
“There are concerns that these chemicals could affect the developing brain.
In homes with flame retardants, particularly for children who spend most of their time indoors, they have widespread exposure, for example in household dust.”
PBDEs fall under the umbrella term semi-volatile organic compounds. They are found in electronics, furniture, and building materials. In pieces of furniture like sofas, they are found in the foam inside of the cushions.
In the past, PBDEs were used in most couches, rugs, and TVs. Research shows these chemicals can stunt the development of the brain and reproductive system. Phthalates, used in vinyl flooring and carpets, as well as food packaging, have been linked to obesity because the chemicals change the way the body stores fat.
Improvements are Being Made, But…
In the United States, great strides have been made to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs. When Stapleton first tested consumer products for the fire-retardants, 80% contained PBDEs. Her most recent tests showed about 20% of consumer products contained the toxins.
But U.S. regulators have stopped short of banning PBDEs and they continue to persist in the environment, particularly in public housing, where older flooring, furniture, and other products have not been swapped out for safer ones.
What’s more, the toxins keep showing up in unexpected places, including in farmed fish, even though both the U.S. and European Union (EU) have placed restrictions on PBDEs in fish-farming waters.
For the study, which began in 2014, Stapleton and her colleagues analyzed indoor dust and air from inside the homes of 190 families and 203 children, along with foam from inside furniture. They collected blood and urine samples from the children to test for the prevalence of PBDEs. 
“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents, and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”
Children from homes with vinyl flooring had levels of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite – a chemical linked to respiratory and skin conditions, multiple myeloma, and other health problems – in their urine that were 15 times higher compared with children who were not exposed. 
Children who lived in homes that had a sofa in the main living area that had PBDEs in the foam had a 6-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood.
PBDEs are still so prevalent that they have even shown up in marine organisms in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. The toxins can linger for years and bind to other particles in the water that can carry them throughout the ocean. Studies have found that PBDEs and other organic pollutants are prevalent in fish worldwide.
Children may suffer the ill effects of PBDEs even if they haven’t been directly exposed to it. A study published in 2017 found that prenatal exposure to the chemicals may lead to lower IQ scores in children.
Reducing Exposure to Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
Like anything else, know that we’re always bombarded with toxins from various sources; it isn’t great, but in some respect, it’s simply part of our lives and society – unless you want to live in a bubble. So while I wouldn’t overly stress about this, it’s good to know that these toxins do exist, and there are some simple things you can do to reduce exposure without stressing yourself into a jumbled ball of yarn.
Saturated fat is evil! No, it’s not! It’s good for you! Talk about a mixed bag of science. You probably heard growing up that saturated fat was the conduit to heart attacks and stroke, but in recent years, research has found that saturated fat might not be the heart-destroyer it was once believed to be. You can enjoy dairy products without fear of the saturated fats contained within them.
Go ahead and spread some butter on that roll.
The study comes from researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The authors found “no significant link” between dairy fats and risk of heart disease or stroke. 
In a rather shocking twist, they found thata fatty acid in dairy may actually decrease the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The study spanned 22 years and included nearly 3,000 adults aged 65 and older. Scientists measured plasma levels of 3 different fatty acids found in dairy products starting in 1992, and then again 6 and 13 years later.
Those with higher fatty acid levels – considered by researchers to be a sign of higher dairy consumption – had a 42% lower risk of dying from stroke.
Marcia Otto, Ph.D., the study’s first and corresponding author and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, said:
“Our findings not only support, but significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In addition to not contributing to death, the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.” 
Otto and her team acknowledge the mixed messages surrounding dietary guidelines.
“Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats. It’s therefore important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay.”
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from health problems due to being overweight or obese. Oh, and the United States was the 3rd fattest country on Earth. 
China is more populated than the U.S., yet the U.S. has more ‘obese’ citizens – 79.4 million compared with 57.3 million. 
Approximately 30% of the world’s population lives with excess body weight, and 10% of those individuals qualify as obese. People were classified as overweight if their body mass index (BMI) was between 25 and 29, while obesity was defined as having a BMI of 30 or over. 
Researchers wrote that the findings represent “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis.”
When looking at the 100 most populated countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the U.S. had the highest obesity rates, at 27.5%, 26.8%, and 26.5% of people respectively having a BMI over 30. 
For the study released just 2 years ago, the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Obesity Collaborators analyzed data on 68.5 million people to establish body weight trends from 1980 to 2015, and to get a more complete picture of the obesity crises’ effect on the world.
Seventy countries saw their obesity rates double since 1980, and the rates of people carrying unhealthy, excess weight has increased in almost all other nations. Overall, almost 108 million children are now considered obese, and over 600 million adults.
The authors wrote:
“Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries was greater than that of adults.”
The U.S. had the highest childhood obesity rate of the 100 most populated nations, with 12.7% of children classified as obese. The remaining top 5 included Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Chile.
The researchers also found that weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, had claimed the lives of 4 million people in 2015, and that number is only expected to rise.
“Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people. Over the past decade, numerous interventions have been evaluated, but very little evidence exists about their long-term effectiveness.
Over the next 10 years, we will closely with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in monitoring and evaluating the progress of countries in controlling overweight and obesity. Moreover, we will share data and findings with scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders seeking evidence-based strategies to address this problem.”
Why Are So Many People Battling Excess Weight?
Urbanization, poor diets, and reduced physical activity are believed to be the primary drivers behind increasing obesity rates. Though researchers found fewer obese children than adults, the rates at which their numbers increased was greater. That means today’s children will have lived more years with a high BMI. 
Assistant professor or global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Goodarz Danaei said:
“This re-emphasizes what we already know about the obesity epidemic. But it raises the alarm that we may be facing a wave of obesity in the coming years across high and low-income countries.
We don’t really know what the long-term effects will be if exposed to high BMI over 20, 30, 40 years. It may be larger than we have already seen.”
What is the Root of Increasing Obesity Levels?
China, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are wealthy countries, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in the study. Obesity levels increased among all the nations studied, regardless of income.
The authors wrote:
“Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers. Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy dense foods, along with intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations.”
What is a food desert? It’s an area of the country where there are mini-marts on practically every street corner, but few or no supermarkets to speak of. Mini-marts offer snacks, sodas, candy, and lots of fattening prepared foods, but no fresh produce or other healthful foods. As of 2015, as many as 23.5 million people in the U.S. lived in food deserts.
Much of the time, people who grow up in a food desert know little about healthy eating, or how to prepare healthful foods. A lack of education is as much a problem as a lack of nourishing foods.
Taking antibiotics for kidney stones is probably a bad idea. A review of almost 300,000 patient records from the United Kingdom (UK) revealed higher rates of kidney stones in people who took 5 categories of oral antibiotics, including broad-spectrum penicillins and fluoroquinolones, which include Cipro. 
Broad-spectrum penicillins are antibiotics containing both penicillin and another active ingredient.
The study doesn’t prove that antibiotics cause kidney stones, but that would be a logical assumption to make based on previously-published studies. The findings of the review were concerning enough that pediatric urologist Gregory E. Tasian said that he would consider looking for alternatives to the antibiotics shown to cause kidney stones whenever feasible.
“These findings just add weight to the large body of evidence that antibiotics should be prescribed for appropriate reasons and used judiciously.” 
In as many as one-third of cases, antibiotics are prescribed for conditions the drugs can’t treat, such as a virus. This, in addition to potentially upping the risk of kidney stones, is a known contributor to drug resistance and superbugs.
In the study, researchers reviewed the records of patients who developed kidney stones at least 3 months after taking antibiotics. Since stones can take weeks to months to develop, the researchers excluded any patients who might have developed them for other reasons.
The strongest link between antibiotics and kidney stones was found in sulfa drugs, including Bactrim. Patients who took sulfa antibiotics were more than twice as likely to develop kidney stones within 3-12 months after finishing a course of the drugs compared to people who hadn’t taken the medicines.
A slightly weaker link was found between kidney stones and 4 other categories of antibiotics:
Fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Flagyl)
Nitrofurantoin (sold as Macrobid)
The risks were especially high for children younger than 18. 
Patients who took broad-spectrum penicillins were found to be 30% more likely to develop kidney stones within 3-12 months of finishing the medicines than those who did not take the antibiotics. No link was found between regular penicillin and antibiotics. 
According to Joshua M. Stern, a New York urologist who was not part of the study, the relationship between the five categories of antibiotics and kidney stones is a complicated one; but it’s likely that antibiotics disrupt the microbiome in such a way that it creates an ideal environment for the formation of stones.
“This study really shows at a large scale that antibiotics are associated with increased kidney stone risk.” 
The findings remained consistent even when the study subjects were taking other medications or suffered from other conditions that might predispose them to kidney stones, according to Tasian.
Apart from the pain that kidney stones can cause, there are other risks involved with them, too, including a higher risk of high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and heart disease. Tasian called for more research to determine whether those disorders are also associated with antibiotic use.
Fortunately, the microbiome does a pretty good job of protecting and regenerating itself. In the study, the risk of kidney stones did decline somewhat over time, suggesting that the patients’ internal bacteria had started to recover.
Remember: Don’t take antibiotics for kidney stones!
In this piece, I’d like to cover the in-depth reports outlining 2017, and then we will get into the overview for 2018 in the next piece. Three reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2017, it was the longest decline in U.S. life expectancy at birth since World War I. Sadly, the dismal reports show that rising suicide and drug overdose rates were among the main contributors to the decline.
Between 1915 and 1918, WWI and a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people in the U.S. and an estimated 50 million people worldwide. That was the last time there was such a startling drop in the number of years Americans could expect to live. In most developed nations, life expectancy has continued to climb over the decades.
The reports suggest that American society is quite sick.
Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said: 
“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”
Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: 
“I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States. Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States.”
S.V. Subramanian, a professor of population health and geography at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, asked:
“After 3 years of stagnation and decline, what do we do now? Do we say this is the new normal? Or can we say this is a tractable problem?”
An American born in 2017 can expect to live 78.6 years at birth, down 1/10 of a year from 2016, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Men can expect to live 76.1 years, down 1/10 of a year from 2016. Life expectancy for women remains unchanged from 2016, at 81.1 years.
Drugs are Still Doing Americans In
The overall number of fatal drug overdoses rose from 63,632 in 2016 to 70,237 in 2017 – an annual record. Opioids sold on the street caused 47,600 overdoses in 2017 – another record, driven largely by an increase in fentanyl deaths. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in August, 2017 
The number of fatal drug overdoses has more than quadrupled since 1999. Deaths from opioids were nearly 6 times greater in 2017 than they were in 1999.
There was no increase in overdose deaths from legal painkillers in 2017. As well, heroin overdoses did not rise. Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the Center for Health Statistics, said that efforts to keep legal painkillers off the streets and out of the hands of drug dealers, as well as prescription drug monitoring programs, may have contributed to the steady numbers.
Authorities have been cracking down on so-called “pill mills,” unscrupulous doctors, and states have been going after drug companies that belched out suspicious amounts of pills to states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.
Anderson also credits the wider availability of the opioid antidote naloxone, efforts to educate substance abusers as they leave jail, more treatment programs, and expanded Medicaid programs for the lack of an increase in legal opioid and heroin overdoses.
As 2018 draws to a close, provisional data for the first 4 months of the year hints at a plateau in overdoses and possibly a slight decline.
But the plateau in heroin deaths doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people are dying from hard drugs. According to Sharfstein, it reflects the fact that fentanyl has overtaken heroin on the illicit drug market.
In fact, the reports show that fentanyl-related deaths climbed from 19,413 in 2016 to 28,466 in 2017.
West Virginia continues to lead the nation in overdose deaths, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, the data show. The state least affected by drug overdoses was Nebraska, where there were just 8.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents. By comparison, West Virginia had 57.8 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.
Life Expectancy Cut Short … on Purpose
As doctors and researchers work to find ways to expand Americans’ life expectancy, it seems that many Americans simply want to “check out” and do so by taking their own life.
Suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for the last decade, increasing from 10 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017. Female suicides increased more sharply than male suicides, though more men than women die by suicide each year.
Between 1999 and 2017, the male suicide rate increased by 26% – from about 18 suicides per 100,000 to almost 22 per 100,000.
The suicide rate among women during that period rose from 4 suicides per 100,000 to nearly 6 per 100,000, or 53%. Women between the ages of 45 and 64 experienced the highest suicide rates in both 1999 (6 suicides per 100,000) and 2017 (nearly 10 suicides per 100,000).
Suicide rates in rural counties were significantly higher than in urban counties.
“We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier.”
He added that the CDC “is committed to putting science into action and to protect U.S. health.”
This news is obviously unfortunate, but hopefully with more awareness being risen around the country, we can collectively take measures improve quality of life across the board.
In the past 3 years, Monsanto’s (now Bayer) genetically modified soybean seeds have dominated 60% to 70% of the market. The Xtend soybeans bring in about $1 billion a year for Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in June 2018. But sales of the seeds are being driven by fear, and that fear has birthed an anti-trust lawsuit against the agrochemical giant.
Xtend soybeans have been genetically altered to withstand an herbicide called dicamba. The weed-killer has been around for decades, but it poses a problem for farmers because it typically kills non-gmo soybeans. Farmers who plant Xtend seeds, however, can spray dicamba all over their crops without worrying that their soybeans will be killed in the process.
Dennis Wentworth, a farmer in central Illinois, said:
“One hundred percent of the soybeans that we plant are Xtend soybeans. It controls the weeds. Kills the weeds. That’s the bottom line. It doesn’t affect the crop.”
Many farmers say dicamba has become their go-to herbicide because it kills weeds that other herbicides can’t. They also claim the new seeds produce a bigger yield.
However, many of these same farmers claim they started planting Xtend soybeans because they had no other option. Take Randy Brazel, for example. Brazel grows soybeans in southeastern Missouri and western Tennessee. In early December 2018, the farmer had already ordered non-GMO soybean seeds, but a phone call from a neighbor made him realize it was Xtend soybeans or nothing.
“I have a neighbor, a friend. He calls me and says, ‘I am going to have to go dicamba.’”
Dicamba is known to drift far and wide, including to other farmers’ fields, where it can harm non-targeted plants. Brazel knew that if his neighbor decided to spray dicamba, his own crops were at risk.
Dicamba drift, as it’s called, has been such a problem that in 2017, officials in Arkansas and Missouri enacted a 120-day ban on the use of the herbicide. A few months later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into an agreement with Monsanto and other makers of dicamba products dictating that dicamba would be classified as “restricted use” for the 2018 growing season.
Under the agreement, dicamba could only be sprayed by certified applicators with specific training; spraying would only be permitted when winds were less than 16 kilometers, or just under 10 mph, and spraying would be restricted to certain times of the day. Furthermore, farmers were required to keep detailed records of dicamba use.
Brazel knew the risks and wasn’t willing to lose his soybean crop, so he canceled the non-GMO seeds he had ordered and instead ordered Xtend soybeans.
“Then I have to get on the phone and call every other neighbor and say, ‘Listen, I did not want to do this. But I am going to be forced to go dicamba.’ Well, then that forces all those neighbors to call their neighbors. And eventually what you have is a monopoly.”
That’s exactly what Bayer and other dicamba manufacturers are banking on, said Rob Robinson, CEO of Rob-See-Co. He has lost a lot of customers who decided to “go dicamba” out of fear that if they didn’t, their soybean crop would be damaged.
“At least on a local basis, they’re being sold with this idea. It’s actively part of the sales process.”
Seed companies remind farmers that if they plant Xtend seeds, they won’t see any dicamba damage, and they won’t have any uncomfortable discussions with their neighbors, according to Robinson.
He went on:
“Now, how far that goes up the management chain with Monsanto, now Bayer, I can’t tell you, but I know that locally, that’s the message.”
The anti-trust lawsuit, filed by several law firms on behalf of farmers, alleges that Bayer violated anti-trust law by selling dicamba-resistant seeds. The lawsuit claims that the company knew that the risk of dicamba drift could drive competitors out of the market.
Bayer maintains that dicamba is safe when used properly and points out that dicamba drift damage was less severe in 2018. It further claims that farmers are buying Xtend seeds because they offer better weed control and higher yields.
Bayer’s critics say the only reason there was less damage from drifting dicamba last year is because so many farmers have been strong-armed into buying Xtend soybeans.
Whatever the reasons, Bayer is making bank on the fears of American farmers.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes a person to briefly and repeatedly stop breathing in his or her sleep. You may not know this, but the issue may actually lead to numerous health ailments, with one recent study finding that obstructive sleep apnea appears to increase one’s odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yikes.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open even as the body works to keep breathing. More than 18 million adults in the United States have OSA and either experience or are at a higher risk of experiencing high blood pressure, heart disease, and mood and memory problems (Alzheimer’s disease) due to the disorder.
For the study, lead researcher neurologist Dr. Diego Carvalho and his colleagues looked at 288 adults, aged 65 and older, who did not have thinking or memory problems. The participants underwent brain scans to determine if they had “tau protein tangles” in the temporal lobe, the part of the brain involved in memory and perception of time. The temporal lobe is more likely to accumulate tau tangles than other areas of the brain.
In addition, the researchers asked the participants’ bed partners if they had ever seen them experiencing sleep apnea; 43 individuals with symptoms were identified.
Those adults were found to have more than 5% more tau than those without sleep apnea symptoms. That finding remained consistent after the team adjusted for other factors linked to tau accumulation, including age, sex, education, cardiovascular risk factors, and other sleep problems.
“Since tau accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, an increase in tau raises concern that sleep apnea could make [people] with sleep apnea more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.”
The study backs previous studies suggesting that sleep apnea increases the risk of dementia.
“However, it is also possible that Alzheimer’s disease could predispose people to sleep apnea or that there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease.”
The study was limited by the small number of participants, the lack of tests to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea and uncertainty over whether any of the participants were already being treated for it.
Researchers haven’t identified the mechanism behind sleep apnea’s apparent influence on Alzheimer’s risk, and don’t know if sleep apnea causes the buildup of “tau” protein tangles in the brain that are a marker for Alzheimer’s, or if the increased tau contributes to sleep apnea.
However, they suspect that the brain experiences excess stress due to less oxygen getting to the organ during apnea episodes. Sleep disturbances may also disrupt the brain’s circadian rhythms, the internal “body clock” that cycles between alertness and sleepiness.
The brain solidifies memories during sleep, Rebecca Edelmayer, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, who reviewed the study, said. Interrupting that process may have a negative effect on both memory and thinking.
“What we know now about the importance of sleep is that good sleep is really important for your overall health,” said Edelmayer.
The findings are slated to be presented at an AAN meeting in Philadelphia on May 4. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.