Traditional Chinese medicine may reduce severity of PTSD

(Natural News) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that often occurs after a person witnesses or is involved in a life-threatening event. Currently, antidepressants are the only approved treatment for PTSD, but these drugs are known to be ineffective and harmful to health. In the search for alternative treatments for trauma-associated disorders like…

Testing reveals PFOA chemicals in US food supply

Per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances1,2 (PFAS) are widely used chemicals that make products water-, oil-, grease- and stain-resistant. The chemicals are also used in firefighting foam. One type, perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is commonly found in older nonstick cookware.

PFOA and its cousin perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are associated with a wide array of health problems, including cancer, immune and thyroid dysfunction, low birth weight and more.3

Disturbingly, because PFAS chemicals take thousands of years to degrade, and are found in groundwater across the country,4,5 they’ve become a significant environmental threat.

Research6 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in 2007 found PFAS chemicals in the blood of more than 98% of Americans tested. And, while concentrations of some PFAS (including PFOA and PFOS) declined by 10% to 32% between 1999 and 2004, another PFAS called PFNA doubled, resulting in a net increase.

The decline of PFOA and PFOS can be explained by the fact that both have been phased out, PFOS starting in 2000 and PFOA in 20067,8 Still, due to their persistence in the environment, they’re still showing up in the strangest places.

Sharon Lerner, a reporting fellow at The Investigative Fund and an investigative journalist for The Intercept and other major media outlets, has written extensively about PFAS and the industry’s attempts to cover up the damage.9

Testing reveals PFAS in US food supply

Research10,11 published in 2017 revealed 33% of fast food wrappers and containers contain fluorine, which suggests perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) were used to give the paper that slick surface, and earlier studies12,13,14 have confirmed fluorinated chemicals can migrate from the packaging into the food.

Now, food testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (performed in 2017 as part of its Total Diet Study15 and presented16 at the 2019 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) reveals PFAS chemicals are in the U.S. food supply,17,18,19,20,21 and at levels far exceeding the advisory limit for PFOA and PFAS in drinking water (there’s currently no limits in food).

Of the 91 foods tested for 16 types of PFAS, 10 were found to contain the chemicals.22 As reported by PBS:23

“The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested were double or more the only currently existing federal advisory level for any kind of … PFAS. The level in the chocolate cake was higher: more than 250 times the only federal guidelines, which are for some PFAS in drinking water …

PFOS, an older form of PFAS no longer made in the U.S., turned up at levels ranging from 134 parts per trillion to 865 parts per trillion in tilapia, chicken, turkey, beef, cod, salmon, shrimp, lamb, catfish and hot dogs. Prepared chocolate cake tested at 17,640 parts per trillion of a kind of PFAS called PFPeA.

The FDA presentation also included what appeared to be previously unreported findings of PFAS levels — one spiking over 1,000 parts per trillion — in leafy green vegetables grown within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of an unspecified eastern U.S. PFAS plant and sold at a farmer’s market.”

Dairy farm near Air Force base forced to ditch toxic milk

The FDA also reported that samples of drinking water and milk from cows raised on a farm near a U.S. Air Force base that uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam were found to contain disturbing amounts of the chemicals.

Drinking water contained 35 times more PFAS than the current health advisory level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is 70 parts per trillion (ppt).24 The milk contained high enough amounts it was deemed a human health concern, resulting in all milk from the farm being discarded.

In humans, the serum elimination half-life of PFOA ranges between 2.325,26 and 3.8 years,27 and for PFOS between 4.8 to 5.4 years.28 Similarly, it takes a long time for exposed cows to start producing clean milk. As reported by CNN Health:29

“The FDA noted that even after the cows are no longer exposed to the PFAS contaminated water or feed, the accumulated chemicals can remain in the cow. Just 30 days of eating and drinking contaminated food and water would require 1.5 years for a cow to rid their system of the chemicals.”

April 25, 2019, the EPA released draft interim guidance for groundwater contaminated with PFOA/PFOS above 70 ppt, which is a “key component of the agency’s PFAS Action Plan,” according to the press release.30 While that’s great news, it seems clear we also need regulations for PFAS contamination in food and not just drinking water.

Sewage sludge — A major source of PFAS on farms

As recently reported by The Intercept,31 sewage sludge appears to be another major source of these toxic, persistent chemicals. Documents32 obtained by The Intercept reveal 44 samples of sewage sludge tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection all contained at least one PFAS chemical, and “In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.”

Maine’s tolerance levels for PFAS are set at 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) for PFOA, 5.2 ppb for PFOS, and 1,900 ppb for PFBS. Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland, told The Intercept these levels are “probably about 10 times weaker than they should be,” adding, “Even low parts-per-billion levels of PFAS in sludge can threaten the health of the food supply.”

How do PFAS get into the food supply?

At present, authorities do not know exactly how the chemicals are entering the food supply, but there are several possibilities, and it’s likely to be a combination of factors. One is that the chemicals are leaching from food packaging.

Another theory is that when biodegradable packaging in which PFAS are used are composted, the chemicals enter the food chain via the compost.33,34 As noted in study35 published online May 29, 2019:

“The loads and leachability of 17 perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) were analyzed in nine OFMSW [organic fraction of municipal solid waste] commercial composts and one backyard compost.

PFAA loads ranged from 28.7 to 75.9 micrograms/kilo for OFMSW compost that included food packaging and from 2.38 to 7.6 micrograms/kilo for composts that did not include food packaging.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) were detected in all composts; however, OFMSW composts were dominated by short-chain PFAAs (>64%) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs, >68%), particularly the C6 PFCA.”

A third hypothesis is that they’re entering the food chain via contaminated groundwater. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 90 military bases have groundwater contaminated with PFAS at levels exceeding the EPA advisory level,36 and PFAS have been found in local water systems across the country as well.37,38,39 When contaminated groundwater is used to irrigate crop fields, the chemicals then enter the food chain.

Researchers experiment with PFOA as cancer treatment

Curiously, while PFOA has been implicated in certain cancers, particularly kidney and testicular cancer, a 2018 study40 details a human experiment to test the chemical’s chemotherapeutic properties. According to this paper:

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized PFOA as a possible human carcinogen for testicular and kidney cancer (group 2B).

In light of this IARC qualitative hazard index listing and the presence of PFOA in the general population, it is highly unusual that an environmental toxicant such as PFOA would ever be considered for its chemotherapeutic properties.

Interestingly, PFOA has been shown to cause endoplasmic reticulum stress in tumor cells, activity against PIM kinases, and activity in 5 xenograft models of solid tumors.

Because PIM kinases can be overexpressed in many cancers that involve cell survival, cell cycle progression, and cell migration, inhibitors of PIM kinases have become a focus for drug discovery research, including APFO [ammonium perfluorooctanoate].

Based on APFO’s antitumorgenicity profile, a phase 1 trial was sponsored by CXR Biosciences, Ltd … to determine the safety, dose limiting toxicity, and maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of APFO …

The purpose of this paper is to describe this APFO phase 1 trial and the time-dependent relationships that were observed over the course of this study between administered doses of APFO, plasma concentrations of PFOA, and several clinical markers, including cholesterol, in the participating subjects.”

In all, 49 “primarily solid-tumor cancer patients who had failed standard therapy” received a weekly dose of APFO — an ammonium salt of PFOA — ranging between 50 milligrams and 1,200 mg for six weeks.

It’s worth noting that three of the researchers have declared conflicts of interest, having received grants from or been employed by 3M Company, a former manufacturer of PFOA.

I bring that up, seeing how they propose that health concerns over environmental PFOA exposure may be overblown, as they could find “no evidence of any major effects other than a decrease in total cholesterol (but not HDL) and an increase in fT4 (but not TSH) for increasing levels of PFOA plasma concentration,” despite reaching “levels of PFOA more than four orders of magnitude higher than the levels observed in general populations.” Only one subject exhibited signs of “dose-limiting toxicity.”

Doubtful PFOA is helpful rather than harmful

I wouldn’t shrug off concerns about PFOA (or any other PFAS) based on that study, however. There’s a far more robust body of evidence showing PFAS chemicals can cause harm even in minute doses.

In 2005, the EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act by withholding decades’ worth of information about health hazards associated with PFOA. That same year (2005), a panel of scientists was convened to determine PFOA’s effect on human health.

The results of this seven-year investigation, which was completed in November 2013, are detailed in more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers, and link PFOA to:41

  • Ulcerative colitis
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Thyroid disease
  • Testicular- and kidney cancer

Its health effects were deemed to be widespread and occurred even at very low exposure levels. In 2015, a woman who sued DuPont, blaming her kidney cancer on PFOA-contaminated drinking water, was awarded $1.6 million in damages.42

This and other legal processes against DuPont uncovered internal documents showing the company was fully aware of the chemical’s danger to the public and employees, yet continued using it and hid contamination problems.

Madrid Statement details health effects of PFAS

In May 2015, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries signed the so-called Madrid Statement on PFASs,43,44 which warns about the harms of all PFAS chemicals, both old and new. According to the Madrid Statement, health effects associated with the older, long-chain PFASs such as PFOA, include:45

Liver toxicity

Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune- and endocrine systems

Adverse neurobehavioral effects

Neonatal toxicity and death

Tumors in multiple organ systems

Testicular and kidney cancers

Liver malfunction

Hypothyroidism

High cholesterol

Ulcerative colitis

Reduced birth weight and size

Obesity

Decreased immune response to vaccines

Reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty

The Madrid Statement also points out the problem with replacing PFASs known to be harmful with other similar, but less scientifically evaluated, compounds, saying:

“Although some of the long-chain PFASs are being regulated or phased out, the most common replacements are short-chain PFASs with similar structures, or compounds with fluorinated segments joined by ether linkages.

While some shorter-chain fluorinated alternatives seem to be less bioaccumulative, they are still as environmentally persistent as long-chain substances or have persistent degradation products.

Thus, a switch to short-chain and other fluorinated alternatives may not reduce the amounts of PFASs in the environment. In addition, because some of the shorter-chain PFASs are less effective, larger quantities may be needed to provide the same performance.”

How to avoid PFAS chemicals

The Madrid Statement recommends avoiding any and all products containing or manufactured with PFASs, noting they include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. More helpful tips can be found in the EWG’s “Guide to Avoiding PFCS.”46 Other suggestions that will help you avoid these dangerous chemicals include avoiding:

Items that have been pretreated with stain-repellants, and opt out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets

Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing — One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as “breathable.” These are typically treated with polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic fluoropolymer

Items treated with flame retardant chemicals47 This includes a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton

Fast food and carry out foods — The wrappers are typically treated with PFCs

Microwave popcorn — PFCs not only may present in the inner coating of the bag, but they also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use “old-fashioned” stovetop popcorn

Nonstick cookware and other treated kitchen utensils — Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home.

A newer type of nonstick cookware called Duralon uses a nonfluoridated nylon polymer for its nonstick coating. While this appears to be safe, your safest bet is still ceramic and enameled cast iron.

While some recommend using aluminum, stainless steel and copper cookware, I don’t for the following reasons: Aluminum is a strongly suspected causal factor in Alzheimer’s disease, and stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum and carbon.

For those with nickel allergies, this may be a particularly important consideration. Copper cookware is also not recommended because most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. (Copper cookware must be lined due to the possibility of copper poisoning.)

Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFE or “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients — The EWG has an excellent database called Skin Deep48 you can peruse to find healthier options

Unfiltered tap water — Unfortunately, your choices are limited when it comes to avoiding PFASs in drinking water. Either you must filter your water or obtain water from a clean source. Both solutions can be problematic and/or costly.

While many opt for bottled water, it’s important to realize that PFASs are not regulated in bottled water, so there’s absolutely no guarantee that it’ll be free of these or other chemicals. Bottled water also increases your risk of exposure to hazardous plastic chemicals such as bisphenol-A, which has its own set of health risks.

Most common water filters available in supermarkets will not remove PFASs. You really need a high-quality carbon filtration system. The New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute recommends using granulated activated carbon “or an equally efficient technology” to remove PFC chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS from your drinking water.49 Activated carbon has been shown to remove about 90% of these chemicals.

Genetically edited babies might die young

In 2018, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies. He modified the DNA of human embryos during in vitro fertilization by disabling a gene called CCR5, which could potentially make the babies resistant to infection with HIV.1

The babies, twin girls known as Lulu and Nana, were born in 2018,2 and a third baby with an edited CCR5 gene is due to be born in 2019.3 He’s team received major backlash from the highly controversial move, as while the technology to genetically edit human babies has existed for some time, ethical considerations had stopped researchers from tinkering with the human germline.

In the case of editing germline cells, such as embryos, eggs and sperm, changes made to the genome will be inherited by future generations, potentially altering the course of evolution. What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly clear that altering even a single gene can lead to a cascade of unexpected changes.

Such is the case with the CCR5 gene, as new research published in Nature Medicine revealed that knocking out that gene may lead to negative effects on life expectancy, potentially shortening the gene-edited babies’ life spans before they were even born.4

World’s first gene-edited babies may die early

University of California Berkeley used genotyping and death register information of 409,693 individuals of British ancestry to determine the effects of mutations to the CCR5 gene, similar to what He’s team altered in the “designer” babies. While they did, indeed, find that such individuals may have higher immunity against HIV, they also had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality rate.

In other words, those with CCR5 mutations were about 21% less likely to live to be 76 years. Study author Rasmus Nielsen, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR, “This is a cautionary tale … What we found is that they had significantly increased mortality … It’s rather substantial. We were quite surprised the effect was this large.”5

Nielsen and colleagues believe altering the CCR5 gene may weaken immunity against other viruses, such as acquiring a fatal case of influenza.6 So a gene alteration that may be considered to be protective can quickly turn out to actually be harmful. Nielsen continued to The Telegraph:7

“Beyond the many ethical issues involved with the CRISPR babies, the fact is that, right now, with current knowledge, it is still very dangerous to try to introduce mutations without knowing the full effect of what those mutations do. In this case, it is probably not a mutation that most people would want to have. You are actually, on average, worse off having it.”

What is CRISPR and CRISPR-cas 9?

CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, allows scientists to modify an organism’s DNA, leading to possibilities that were unheard of generations ago not only in the medical field but also in agriculture and manufacturing. By tweaking genetics, researchers could theoretically help prevent inheritable diseases or create hardier, more nutritious plants, for instance.

Whereas gene editing was once a very imprecise and expensive process, scientists can now go into your DNA and essentially cut and paste it at specified places. The technology can be traced back to bacteria, which protect themselves by cutting out invading virus’ DNA and inserting it into their own, then replicating the new sequences to prevent future viral invasions.8

In 2012, researchers refined the system and revealed that any DNA (not just bacteria) has this ability — and the process works in humans.9 With CRISPR-Cas 9, the technology was said to be even more precise, acting as a pair of scissors to “snip” DNA at specific locations. As explained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health:10

“CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria. The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to ‘remember’ the viruses (or closely related ones).

If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.

… Although Cas9 is the enzyme that is used most often, other enzymes (for example Cpf1) can also be used. Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell’s own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence.”

Why the world has resisted the creation of CRISPR babies

While the U.S. National Institutes of Health does not provide funding for studies on gene-editing technologies in human embryos, CRISPR technology has already been used to edit human embryos made from sperm from men carrying inherited disease mutations. The researchers successfully altered the DNA in a way that would eliminate or correct the genes causing the inherited disease.11,12

Unlike in the Chinese study, the gene-edited embryos were only allowed to develop for a few days.13 There was no intention to implant them into a womb to develop into babies, but had this been done, the gene edits would have been passed on to future generations as well.

This is a large part of the controversy surrounding He’s gene-edited babies. William Hurlbut, a scientist and bioethicist at Stanford, told NPR, “I think we’re facing a very serious issue as a species here … This is not like other technologies. It’s not like you’re just dealing with an individual patient. You’re now dealing with the entire human gene pool.”14

Also problematic, He’s genetic editing disabled CCR5 in an attempt to replicate the effect of a CCR5 variant called delta 32, which occurs naturally in about 10 percent of northern Europeans,15 but much less often in Chinese people.16

However, while it approximated the natural CCR5 mutation, it did not duplicate it exactly, leading some experts, like professor Robin Lovell-Badge, from the Francis Crick Institute, to call the study “foolish” and question whether it would work to prevent HIV in the babies:17

“It is impossible to predict if the mutations carried by the twin girls will have any effect … [the study] shows once more that He Jiankui was foolish to choose CCR5 to mutate.”

As a result of the rogue study that many believe violated ethical rules, He was fired from his university position and criticized by Guangdong’s health ministry.18 Yet, according to Hurlbut, at least one fertility clinic in Dubai has already contacted He to ask if he would teach the technology to his clinic. “You can see from this that there will be immediate uptake for application of this,” Hurlbut said.19

Xinzhu Wei, another author of the study that found CCR5 mutations may shorten life span, added: “Because one gene could affect multiple traits, and because, depending on the environment, the effects of a mutation could be quite different, I think there can be many uncertainties and unknown effects in any germline editing.”20

She also told BBC News, “The Crispr technology is far too dangerous to use right now for germ-line editing.”21

CRISPR leads to unexpected off-target mutations

Warning bells have been sounded before when it comes to CRISPR, as the technology leads to unexpected mutations — even in the case of the “more precise” CRISPR-Cas 9. One study used a different method to search for unintended mutations, based on a separate study that used CRISPR-Cas9 to restore sight in blind mice by correcting a genetic mutation.

The researchers sequenced the entire genome of the CRISPR-edited mice to search for mutations. In addition to the intended genetic edit, they found more than 100 additional deletions and insertions along with more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations, raising concerns that testing CRISPR in humans may be premature, even with CRISPR-Cas 9.22

Study author Dr. Stephen Tsang of Columbia University Medical Center said that even a single change to a nucleotide could have a “huge impact.”23 Indeed, in animals, gene editing has led to unexpected side effects, including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrate.24,25

Does CRISPR carry cancer concerns?

Off-target mutations that occur as the result of gene editing include rearranging chromosomes, inactivating essential genes or improperly activating others, such as cancer-causing genes.26

For instance, CRISPR-Cas 9 leads to the activation of the p53 gene, which works to either repair the DNA break or kill off the CRISPR-edited cell.27 CRISPR actually has a low efficacy rate for this reason, and CRISPR-edited cells that survive are able to do so because of a dysfunctional p53.

Unfortunately, p53 dysfunction is also linked to cancer (including close to half of ovarian and colorectal cancers and a sizable portion of lung, pancreatic, stomach, breast and liver cancers as well).28

In one study, researchers were able to boost average insertion or deletion efficiency to greater than 80 percent, but that was because of a dysfunctional p53 gene,29 which would mean the cells could be predisposed to cancer. Tinkering with genetics is an exciting field and one that holds great allure to scientists looking for fame and fortune, but the fact is there’s a great number of unknowns when it comes to altering genetics.

It’s quite possible, for instance, that using CRISPR to cure one chronic or terminal disease could come at the “cost” of a shortened life span or an increased cancer risk later.30 And if that’s the case, do the benefits still outweigh the risks? Hurlbut told CNBC, “We want to be very careful, nature is a profound balance and if we intervene in a way that is not profound we can upset things.”31

Is caution also warranted for gene-edited food?

The evidence is in favor of using extreme caution when proceeding with genetic tinkering of human germlines — if it should be done at all. Some scientists have called for a global moratorium on CRISPR babies,32 even as another area of gene editing — that of your food — is moving full-steam ahead.

A gene-edited soybean oil created by biotech company Calyxt, contains two inactivated genes, resulting in an oil with no trans fats, increased heart-healthy oleic acid and a longer shelf life — but with unknown effects on human health.

Although they’re genetically engineered, gene-edited foods are not marketed as GMOs, nor are they labeled as such.33 What’s more, Calyxt’s gene-edited soybean oil is already on the market and being served at restaurants, so you could be eating it without even knowing.

As for gene-editing on embryos, it raises an even more profound question about informed consent — is it ethical for parents to alter their children’s genetics without their consent? Questions such as these will only continue to mount as CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies race forward at an unprecedented pace.

Why mosquitoes develop resistance to pesticides

Despite their tiny size, mosquitoes have been called the world’s most dangerous creature because they spread deadly diseases. More than half the people on Earth live in an area where disease-carrying mosquitoes are present and, every year, mosquitoes cause millions of deaths from diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever.1

Insecticides are considered to be one of the primary defenses against insects like mosquitoes, but they come with their own set of risks, not the least of which is the potential for resistance.

The growing problem of insecticide resistance has not gone unnoticed by the World Health Organization, which reported that resistance to four commonly used classes of insecticides — pyrethroids, organochlorines, carbamates and organophosphates — is already widespread in regions of Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.2

Now, research published in the journal Oecologia has shown that mosquitoes are also developing resistance to commonly used agricultural insecticides, but their predators are not, creating the perfect environment for mosquitoes to flourish.3 Paradoxically, in this way insecticide usage could be leading to increased numbers of mosquitoes in some regions.

Mosquito predators may die while mosquitoes thrive

Researchers from Utah State University were conducting research on Costa Rican orange plantations when they realized they were getting an awful lot of mosquito bites — more so than they received in other areas. This led to the first part of the featured study, in which the researchers detected mosquito larvae flourishing in bromeliads, plants that hold small pools of water between the folds of their leaves.

When they compared the mosquitoes on orange plantations treated for decades with dimethoate, an organophosphate insecticide, with mosquitoes found in forests not treated with insecticides, they found double the mosquitoes in the orange plantations, but a lack of damselfly larvae, which are insects known to feast on mosquitoes.4

The researchers also exposed mosquitoes to dimethoate in the lab, which revealed not only that mosquitoes from orange plantations were 10 times more tolerant of the insecticide than the pristine forest mosquitoes, but also that damselflies from plantations succumbed to the chemicals, suggesting they have not developed resistance the away the mosquitoes have.5

“This evolved resistance to pesticides may, therefore, allow W. abebela [mosquitoes] to colonize habitats free of the dominant predator in the system, explaining the higher W. abebela abundances in pesticide-exposed areas than in pesticide-free locations,” the researchers explained.6

Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit organization leading a mission to transition to a world free of toxic pesticides, further explained that differences in biology of mosquitoes and their damselfly predators are compounding the insecticide resistance problem:7

“Life cycles of the mosquitoes studied are 12 to 24 times shorter than damselflies, providing mosquitoes with a faster opportunity to develop resistant individuals. Given this short life cycle, even a small number of resistant mosquitoes can rapidly repopulate an area with their improved genetics.

Damselflies just cannot catch up in time. This further increases the dominance of mosquitoes in an ecosystem. Without predators to tamp down their populations, mosquitoes are able to colonize new habitats. In this case, mosquitoes in chemical-dependent groves are able to lay eggs in larger bromeliads, whereas in pristine areas the presence of damselflies and other predators make this highly unlikely.”

Mosquitoes genetically adapt while predators are poisoned

One of the mechanisms that allows mosquitoes to so efficiently develop resistance to pesticides is through the overproduction of specific enzymes, as follows:8

  • Carboxylesterases, which are efficient against organophosphate and carbamate insecticides
  • Glutathione-S-transferases, or GSTs, which are efficient against organophosphates, organochlorine and pyrethroid insecticides
  • Cytochrome P450-dependent monoxygenases, which are efficient against most insecticide types, often in conjunction with other enzymes

At least one study, in which researchers analyzed more than 760 mosquito genes possibly involved in insecticide resistance, revealed that an increase in activity of detoxification enzymes in resistant insects was triggered by a rise in the copies of genes coding for the enzymes.9,10

Mosquitoes in at least 68 countries resistant to insecticides

According to a WHO global report on insecticide resistance in malaria vectors like mosquitoes, 68 countries have reported mosquitoes resistant to at least one class of insecticide, while 57 of them report resistance to two or more classes.11

That being said, as of February 2019, only 40 countries have completed insecticide resistance monitoring and management plans as recommended by WHO’s report, leading the Organization to suggest that their understanding of the extent of the problem is incomplete.

The global fight against malaria is centered on insecticide application and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, but insecticide resistance renders these “weapons” highly questionable.

As for insecticide-treated bed nets, which are treated with pyrethroids, a five-year evaluation conducted across five countries found that mosquitoes were resistant to pyrethroids in all of the areas tested, but those using the nets still had significantly lower rates of malaria infection than those who did not.12

According to WHO, “They attributed the continued efficacy of LLINs [long-lasting insecticidal nets] to the barrier provided by the nets themselves and to the fact that, even in areas where mosquitoes have developed resistance to pyrethroids, treated nets may still kill the mosquitoes.”13

One WHO scientist suggested that resistant mosquitoes landing on the treated nets may not die right away, but if they continue to be exposed to the insecticides while trying to find a way through the net, it’s possible the higher exposure could eventually kill the mosquito.14 However, other studies have found that both treated and untreated nets have a “clear protective effect against malaria.”15

Insecticide usage leads to devastating ‘trophic cascades’

Applying insecticides and other pesticides is creating resistant bugs along with a host of other problems, as such chemicals do not exist in isolation. When they’re applied in the environment, they lead to what Beyond Pesticides described as “trophic cascades.”

“Beyond direct toxicity, pesticides can significantly reduce, change the behavior of, or destroy populations of plants and animals. These effects can ripple up and down food chains, causing what is known as a trophic cascade. A trophic cascade is one easily-understood example of ecosystem-mediated pesticide effects,” the organization noted.16

They used the example of the organophosphate insecticide malathion, which is sometimes applied to aquatic environments for mosquito control. It’s typically applied in low doses over the course of several weeks for this purpose. Researchers tested the effects of applying the chemical in this way as compared to a one-time exposure, such as may occur due to agricultural runoff, to a variety of plankton and tadpoles.

Both types of exposure were damaging, though the continued low-dose exposure was the worst. According to Beyond Pesticides, the trophic cascades in aquatic environments caused by insecticide exposure show the complexity of ecosystems and the widespread effects that insecticides cause:17

“In both instances, malathion’s impact on zooplankton caused a trophic cascade. By depressing the zooplankton population, phytoplankton flourished. The increase in free-floating algae clouded water, decreased light penetration, and led to reduced periphyton growth.

Decreases in periphyton algae, the primary food source for tadpoles, retarded growth and development in leopard frogs, which prevented many from metamorphosing before the vernal pool in which they resided dried up (though wood frogs were generally unaffected).

While zooplankton in the single-application mesocosm eventually experienced a population rebound, it took nearly a month and a half before this occurred. Overall, frogs in single-application mesocosms fared slightly better than those in chronically exposed tanks, which experienced an ongoing state of disruption that never permitted zooplankton populations to bounce back.”

Genetically engineered mosquitoes released

In January 2018, lab-bred Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying wolbachia bacteria were released in South Miami, Florida. It was the first phase of the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Reduction Test Program, which targeted a one-half square-mile treatment area that received the altered mosquitoes and a corresponding control area within the city.

Over a six-month period, the genetically engineered mosquitoes were released into an approximately 170-acre area. Interest in releasing lab-made mosquitoes has peaked in recent years in response to the Zika virus scare, which has since petered out in the U.S.

The project was conducted by the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control & Habitat Management Division in collaboration with MosquitoMate, Inc., which created the technology.

MosquitoMate’s lab-bred male mosquitoes are infected with wolbachia bacteria, which is naturally occurring in up to 60 percent of insect species, but not in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. When the male wolbachia mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes in the wild (which do not carry the bacteria), the resulting eggs do not hatch, which means the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area should ultimately decrease.18

The project was said to be a success, showing a 75 percent reduction in mosquitoes in the area, due to egg hatch failure.19,20 However, once genetically engineered mosquitoes are released (as they already have been), there’s no stopping them from mingling with wild mosquitoes.

While this may help to reduce the spread of certain viruses (although this remains to be seen), it may also have other unintended, as yet unknown consequences. There’s also the potential ramifications to the ecosystem of eliminating the insects, which can occur whenever any species is removed or drastically reduced — even species we deem to be pests.

While mosquitoes are primarily viewed as a nuisance and vector for deadly diseases like malaria, there may be “undesirable side effects” of eradicating them entirely, according to Florida University entomologist Phil Lounibos, Ph.D. BBC News reported:21

” … [Lounibos] says mosquitoes, which mostly feed on plant nectar, are important pollinators. They are also a food source for birds and bats while their young — as larvae — are consumed by fish and frogs. This could have an effect further up and down the food chain …

He warns that mosquitoes could be replaced by an insect ‘equally, or more, undesirable from a public health viewpoint.’ Its replacement could even conceivably spread diseases further and faster than mosquitoes today.”

Tips for avoiding mosquitoes

It’s definitely something to consider, although you can also take sensible precautions to avoid getting bitten. Wear long sleeves and pants if you know you’ll be outdoors in a mosquito-prone area and use natural insect repellants (not synthetic chemical versions), like cinnamon leaf oil, citronella essential oil or catnip oil, as necessary.

If mosquitoes are bothering you in your backyard, a house fan can keep them away while you’re outdoors, as can the strategic planting of marigolds, which mosquitoes tend to stay away from.

Draining standing water, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths and children’s toys, is also important to encourage mosquitoes to live elsewhere. This is where mosquitoes breed, so if you eliminate standing water you’ll eliminate many mosquitoes. Finally, try installing a bat house, as mosquitoes are one of their favorite meals.

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Gvt Report: $160 Million Paid So Far in 2019 for Vaccine Injuries and Deaths

by Brian Shilhavy

The federal government Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines (ACCV) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just concluded their second meeting of 2019 on June 6th.

These quarterly meetings include a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on cases settled for vaccine injuries and deaths as mandated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP).

The NVICP was started as a result of a law passed in 1986 that gave pharmaceutical companies legal immunity from being sued due to injuries and deaths resulting from vaccines.

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