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Another Class of Pesticides Is Destroying Brains

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While there are many sources of exposure to toxic chemicals, the use of organophosphates (OPs) is making news once again for the damage it causes to children’s brains.

A group of environmental and public health researchers from the U.S. and Canada suggest prenatal exposure to OPs is putting children at risk for behavioral and cognitive deficits, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders. For this reason, they are calling for a global phaseout of these toxic chemicals, among other measures.

OP Pesticides Flagged as Significant Risk to Children and Pregnant Women

Authors of a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine1 suggest OPs pose significant health risks to children, including attention and memory deficits, autism and reduced IQ.

Based on a meta-analysis of data and literature on OPs contained in a United Nations (U.N.) database2 housing information reported by 71 countries, the team asserts these chemicals are such a significant threat to the health of children and pregnant women they should be banned.

With respect to the findings, lead author, professor Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., environmental epidemiologist and director of the Environmental Health Sciences Core Center at the University of California, Davis, called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to action, saying:3

“We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and fetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime. By law, the EPA cannot ignore such clear findings: It’s time for a ban not just on chlorpyrifos, but all organophosphate pesticides.”

Picciotto and her team noted:4

  • OP compounds were originally developed in the 1930s and 1940s for use as human nerve gas agents; some were later adapted at lower doses for use as insecticides5
  • People are routinely exposed to OP pesticides due to their wide use in agriculture, on golf courses and in homes, parks, rights of way, schools and countless public spaces
  • More than 40 OP pesticides, including those most commonly used, are now considered by the EPA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be moderately or highly hazardous to human health6
  • In the U.S., a number of OP pesticides, including azinphos-methyl, chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos and malathion, were licensed for insecticidal use prior to the establishment of regulations requiring them to be evaluated for ecologic and human health impacts7
  • To date, U.S. regulators have already banned 26 out of 40 OP pesticides considered to be human health hazards, whereas the European Union has banned 33 of 398

Pesticide Bans Vary by Country and Are Not Well Enforced

The researchers were quick to note pesticide regulations vary widely around the world and are not always well enforced. Even when a certain toxic pesticide is banned in one country, it can still be exported elsewhere.

Very often these products end up in developing countries. Regions like Central America, where agricultural chemicals are less regulated, have been impacted.9 In addition, earlier this year, I discussed how agrochemicals have increased birth defects and deformities in Argentinian children.

Authors of a 2001 study published in the journal Toxicology10 observed developing countries with warmer climates, where the growing season allows for the cultivation of two or three crops a year — much of which is exported to regions with colder climates and shorter growing seasons — are increasingly impacted by toxic agricultural chemicals. The researchers stated:11

“Many older, [nonpatentable], more toxic, environmentally persistent and inexpensive chemicals are used extensively in developing nations, creating serious acute health problems and local and global environmental contamination.

Few developing nations have a clearly expressed ‘philosophy’ concerning pesticides. There is a lack of rigorous legislation and regulations to control pesticides, as well as training programs for personnel to inspect and monitor use.”

According to the current study, at least a dozen OP pesticides classified by the WHO/FAO as highly hazardous are still being used in Mexico.12 Based on the large amount of produce imported to the U.S. from that country, such news is of particular concern to Americans. This is just one more reason to avoid conventional produce and buy organic fruits and vegetables as often as possible.

The Dangers of Chlorpyrifos, One of the Most Commonly Used Pesticides

Although you may not have heard of chlorpyrifos, scientists at Harvard University assert it’s very likely to be found inside your body based on the fact it is the most widely-used pesticide on American farms.13 Having been invented as an alternative to the caustic dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) — which was itself a replacement for toxic lead arsenate — chlorpyrifos is said to be the latest in a group of “regrettable substitutions.”14 Beyond this, chlorpyrifos:15

  • Was banned from household use by the EPA in 2000
  • Continues to be sprayed on agricultural crops and is routinely applied to golf courses and public spaces
  • Kills insect pests by attacking their nervous system; its impact on humans is somewhat similar
  • When sprayed on food crops, the farmworkers applying chlorpyrifos may experience confusion, dizziness and nausea

Sharing more facts about chlorpyrifos, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) states:16

“Use of chlorpyrifos is heaviest in [U.S.] areas dominated by agriculture, including California, the Northwest and the Midwest. It is applied on grapes; on tree fruits such as apples, nectarines, peaches, citrus and almonds; and on corn, wheat and soybeans.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tests produce for pesticide residues each year, estimate that almost half of conventionally grown apples are sprayed with the pesticide. Americans are also exposed to chlorpyrifos residues on imported produce.”

Corporate Profits and Industry Interests Prioritized Over Human Health

In the U.S., the battle over how to handle toxic pesticides continues to be waged, pitting corporate profits and the interest of industry trade groups against human health. August 2018, a U.S. federal appeals court mandated the EPA ban the use of chlorpyrifos with respect to its remaining applications.17

The judgment, which is currently under appeal, countered the EPA’s 2017 reversal of the Obama administration’s efforts to eliminate the poison two years earlier. The EWG suggests political ties between U.S. President Donald Trump and Dow Chemical Company, manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, initially stalled the action to more comprehensively ban the pesticide.18

According to EWG, Dow contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural ball in 2017. Alleged conversations in early 2017 between former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who was forced to resign in July 2018 due to ethical scandals, and Dow’s CEO are believed to have resulted in Pruitt reversing the agency’s proposal to ban chlorpyrifos from use on food crops.19

As such, Pruitt ignored the recommendation of EPA scientists, who, in November 2016, had revised both their human health risk and drinking water exposure assessments for chlorpyrifos, highlighting the potential health risks of exposure to chlorpyrifos residues in food and drinking water.

About the planned revision, the EPA states, “Currently, chlorpyrifos remains registered as it undergoes registration review. As part of the ongoing registration review, we will continue to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects and complete our assessment by October 1, 2022.”20

With respect to corporate interests, the Union of Concerned Scientists states, “The power that companies like Dow Chemical wield in government can give them special access to administration officials, which in turn can allow them to unduly influence federal policies in ways that serve corporate interests rather than the public interest.”21

Proposed Rollback on Pesticide Application Age Limits Also Puts Children at Risk

The Global Justice Ecology Project22 says the Trump administration also intends to roll back the age limits on restricted-use pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, to allow workers as young as 16 years old to spray the toxic chemicals.23 This recommendation was first announced by Pruitt last year and is set to take effect in September 2019.

Previously, the Obama administration had established the minimum age rules to protect minors working on farms, many of whom are teenage (or younger) migrant workers speaking little, if any, English. Given the language barrier, it can be challenging for them to understand directions on how to apply pesticides safely.

EWG President Ken Cook did not mince words when commenting on the Trump administration’s plans to allow kids as young as 16 to handle health-damaging pesticides. In addition to calling the administration’s actions a “war on children’s health,”24 Cook said:25

“There are other farm jobs they could do that don’t involve strapping containers of dangerous chemicals on their backs that they will inhale and ingest. But this administration will let unscrupulous farm bosses risk these kids’ health. Maybe the President should pick up a spray nozzle for a day and see what it’s like walking through a plume of pesticide fumes.”

Beyond this, the EWG suggests a decision by acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler in September 2018 to place the EPA’s top children’s health official, Dr. Ruth Etzel, on administrative leave may be the first step toward eliminating a team assigned to “reduce negative environmental impacts on children” through involvement in EPA activities such as policy enforcement, research and rulemaking.26

Etzel, a pediatrician and specialist in preventive medicine and public health, who has been a leader in children’s environmental health for 30 years, was assigned as director of the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection in 2015.

The removal of Etzel may be “the opening gambit in a plan by this administration to dismantle [the] EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, one of the world’s leading authorities on children’s health and founding director of Boston College’s global public health initiative.27

Pesticide Impacts on Children’s Brains and How to Prevent Harm

While you may think adults and children are equally susceptible to the toxic side effects of pesticides like chlorpyrifos, EarthJustice, creator of the video shown above, notes, “Children often experience greater exposure to chlorpyrifos and other pesticides because they frequently put their hands in their mouths and, relative to adults, they eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink more water and juice for their weight.”28

Robin Whyatt, deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University in New York and coauthor of the October 2018 research, told the Guardian the impact of OPs on children’s brains, while relatively low in terms of actual IQ points on a child by child basis, could result in long-term, negative societal shifts. She said:29

“The problem is that when you have an exposure as ubiquitous as [OPs], you get distributional shifts in IQ, with fewer people in the brilliant range and more in the lower ranges of IQ. That can have a very substantial economic impact on societies in terms of the ruined potential of children’s abilities.”

According to Whyatt, a good deal of the neurological damage linked to OP use impacts working memory, which, she notes, relates to your brain’s ability to retain and recall short-term thoughts. As such, a child’s brain that has been damaged by OPs may be able to retain only a portion of an instruction such as “open your science textbooks to page 37 and began [sic] exercise number four,” she said.30

Another study coauthor, Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, stated:31

“We found no evidence of a safe level of organophosphate pesticide exposure for children. Well before birth, organophosphate pesticides are disrupting the brain in its earliest stages, putting them on track for difficulties in learning, memory and attention — effects which may not appear until they reach school-age. Government officials around the world need to listen to science, not chemical lobbyists.”

Recommendations to Protect Children From Pesticides

The group of study authors offered a number of specific recommendations to help protect children, including the call to phase out chlorpyrifos and other OP pesticides worldwide. With respect to their other suggestions, most of which will need to be addressed by government leaders and other policy influencers, the researchers invited global entities to:32







Encourage the use of integrated pest management (IPM) through incentives as well as training in agroecology

Ensure worker safety through proper training and the use of protective equipment

Implement mandatory surveillance of pesticide-related illness

Increase education on the hazards of OPs in medical and nursing schools, as well as continuing education courses targeting health care professionals

Monitor watersheds and other sources of human exposures to OPs

Promote the development of nontoxic approaches to pest control through IPM

While the battle around OPs and other toxic pesticides is waged, you can safeguard your health and the health of your children at the most basic level by purchasing organic, pesticide-free foods as often as possible. For more tips, check out my article “Which Fruits and Vegetables Have the Most Pesticides?” or refer to the EWG’s “2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.”33

An even safer choice is to grow your own food. Because pesticide residues can transfer from peels to your hands, be sure to wash foods well before eating, even if you plan on peeling it afterward.

As a final thought, remember change comes from people, not governments or other high-level entities. Whether you realize it or not, you vote with your wallet. Every purchase you make influences the change you want to see. About this, André Leu, organic farmer, director of Regeneration International and author of “Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides,” in an interview about the myths of safe pesticides, said:

“You have to make this change yourself. It’s simple to make. If enough of us are making this change, we’ll actually change agriculture because the retailers and farmers will be forced to change production to meet the market.

Buying organic food, buying local food, going to Community-Supported Agriculture (CSAs), is actually a very powerful political and change act. Your dollars will do more to change the system than probably anything else.”

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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