Media Review

    Media Review

    Ultrasound scans may disrupt fetal brain development

    Ultrasound examinations may disrupt normal brain development in unborn babies, say Swedish scientists. They have urged mothers-to-be to avoid unnecessary ultrasonic scans, but not cancel routine examinations.”Ultrasound is misused at times,” says Helle Kieler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “There are a lot of ultrasound examinations performed which are not needed.” Kieler’s team studied a group of Swedish men born between 1973 and 1978. Nearly 7000 had received ultrasonic scans in the womb, while 170,000 had not. Kieler found that of the men born between 1976 and 1978 who had ultrasonic scans in the womb, 32 per cent more than expected were left-handed. In an average population, around nine per cent of men are left-handed. The results suggest that some men who genetically would have been expected to be born right-handed had actually grown up to be left-handed. Kieler says this could be due to a disruption of their brain development in the womb: “It’s commonly known among neuropsychiatrists that right-handed people can become left-handed by slight damage to the brain.” She says it is significant that the effect was only found in men born in 1976 and later. That year, it became common in Sweden for expectant mothers to have two ultrasonic scans – one after 17 weeks of pregnancy and another after 37 weeks. How ultrasound could affect the brain is still a mystery though. Kieler suspects that a process called cavitation – where small bubbles in the body fluids vibrate in the ultrasonic waves – could influence brain development.”This is a big gap in our knowledge,” says Duck. “If ultrasound is having this effect, we have to take it seriously, but right now, we just don’t know what is going on.”
    Source: New Scientist 10/12/01

    Kitchen appliances linked to miscarriage

    STRONG magnetic fields produced by trains and household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and food mixers increase the risk of miscarriage by up to three times, according to a new study. The National Radiological Protection Board – Britain’s advisory body on radiation – said the American study needed to be taken seriously, although further work was needed. “If true, there wouldhave to be precautionary advice to pregnant women,” said a spokesman. Dr De-Kun Li, of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute at Oakland, California, asked 1,063 women in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy to wear a device on their waists that measured magnetic field levels every 10 seconds. He found that pregnant women exposed to peak radiation levels greater than 1.6 microteslas – 100 times less than permitted by NRPB guidelines – were nearly twice as likely to miscarry, New Scientist reported. Those who experienced high peak fields were three times as likely to miscarry. Dr Li said this second finding was another confirmation that the increase in miscarriages “was due to electromagnetic fields”. The team did not examine which appliances were producing the strong fields, but devices with powerful motors are known to be the worst culprits.Vacuum cleaners and drills emit around 20 microteslas – more than 12 times higher than the critical level in the study. Foodmixers give off around 10. Radiation within 70ft of a 400,000 volt pylon as used by the National Grid is eight microteslas. Dr Li speculated that high levels of radiation might cause miscarriages by subtly disrupting cell-to-cell communication.

    Fetuses Can Hear Ultrasound Examinations

    Ultrasound examinations during pregnancy expose the fetus to a sound as loud as that made by a subway train. Neither adults nor fetuses can hear ultrasound waves because they vibrate at too high a frequency for our ears to detect them. But James Greenleaf, Paul Ogburn and Mostafa Fatemi of the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota, investigated the possibility that ultrasound could cause secondary vibrations in a woman’s uterus.Ultrasound machines generate sound waves in pulses lasting less than one ten thousandth of a second. Pulses are used because a continuous soundwave could generate too much heat in the tissue being examined. The Mayo team predicted that the pulsing would translate into a “tapping” effect.They listened in by placing a tiny hydrophone inside a woman’s uterus while she was undergoing an ultrasound examination. Sure enough, they picked up a hum at around the frequency of the tapping.
    Source: New Scientist 01/12/01
    AAP Guidelines for Treating Behavioral Disorders in Children with Ritalin Ignores Evidence of Cancer Risks
    By Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition

    Based on an industry-funded multi-university trial on 282 pre-teen children treated with Ritalin for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), just published in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the use of the drug. However, the Academy ignores clear evidence of the drug’s cancer risks of which parents, teachers and school nurses, besides most pediatricians and carcinogenicity tests were conducted at the taxpayers expense by the National Toxicology Program, the results of which were published in 1995. Adult mice were fed Ritalin over a two-year period at dosages close to those prescribed to children. The mice developed a statistically significant incidence of liver abnormalities and tumors, including highly aggressive rare cancers known as hepatoblastomas. These findings are particularly disturbing as the tests were conducted on adult, rather than young mice which would be expected to be much more sensitive to carcinogenic effects. The National Toxicology Program concluded that Ritalin is a “possible human carcinogen,” and recommended the need for further research. The Physicians’ Desk Reference admits evidence on the carcinogenicity of Ritalin, now manufactured by Novartis, qualified by the statement that “the significance of these results is unknown,” apparently not recognizing that this is more alarming than reassuring. Apart from cancer risks, there is also suggestive evidence that Ritalin induces genetic damage in blood cells of Ritalin-treated children.
    Cancer Prevention Coalition 4/10/01
    For information on the natural treatment of ADHD in Australia contact

    Child vaccination fund accused of cosying up to drug firms

    An organisation that was given $US750 million ($1.45 billion) by Bill Gates to save children’s lives by increasing the vaccination rate in poor countries has been accused of creating lucrative new markets for drug companies instead of tackling diseases. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) is the first of the public/private initiatives set up with the support of the World Health Organisation to improve health in the developing world. Its purpose is to channel money to poor countries that need to expand vaccination programs. In some countries less than half the infants are vaccinated against diseases such as measles, which kills 1 million children a year, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. But on Tuesday the Save the Children Fund (SCF) accused Gavi of encouraging poor nations to buy expensive new vaccinations such as Hepatitis B and Hib (against one form of meningitis), which they will not be able to afford once the Gavi subsidy runs out in five years.SCF says developing countries should be helped to build up their health-care systems so they can ensure all children are properly immunised. SCF accuses Gavi of being in bed with the pharmaceutical industry; it has a representative of the vaccine manufacturer Aventis Pasteur on its board, and a nominee of the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, representing the industry in the developing world.
    Source: Sydney Morning Herald 17/01/02.

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