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CAT | Toxins and Health

e-cigThink your electronic cigarettes are safer than the real thing? Or that they pose no threat to you and those around you? Recent findings are beginning to show otherwise—and both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are taking steps to warn the public.

Last month the CDC issued a report cautioned consumers about the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes, revealing that the number of e-cigarette-related calls to poison control centers jumped from an average of one call per month in 2000 to around 200 calls per month in early 2014—with more than half of those calls involving young children.

Of particular concern is the liquid nicotine found inside the e-cig cylinders, which can be highly toxic if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through direct exposure with the skin or eyes. “Cigarettes are the most dangerous consumer product on the planet, and smokers need to treat e-cigs with considerable caution especially since the product is unregulated.” Dr. Tim MacAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, recently told ABC News.

As the number of e-cigarette smokers continues to rise, so does the number of concerns surrounding their effects on human health. Researchers have found that some of the more powerful e-cigs burn so hot their vapors could be as toxic as those released by regular cigarettes—meaning second-hand inhalers aren’t necessarily out of harm’s way. And results from a recent Boston University study, published in the journal Nature, showed similar damage to human cells from both e-cigarette and ordinary cigarette fumes.

The recent findings coincide with newly proposed FDA regulations regarding the sale and purchase of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. In particular, all products and ingredients would have to be registered with the administration; strict health warnings would be required; vending machine sales would be prohibited; and purchasers would have to be 18 years or older. In addition, e-cig manufacturers would no longer be allowed to provide free samples. A 75-day public comment period is required before the recommendations can be finalized.

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tractor_fieldIf you think switching to organic foods won’t much of an impact on your overall body burden of accumulated toxins, a recent study out of RMIT University in Australia may have you singing a new tune. In one of the first studies of its kind to look at the effects of organic diets on pesticide levels in adults, just one week on an organic diet was shown to reduce pesticide levels by nearly 90 percent.

Dr. Liza Oates and a team of researchers followed more than a dozen adults for a period of two weeks, during which time participants spent one week on an 80% organic diet and one week on an 80% “conventional” diet. According to Dr. Oates, organophosphate pesticides—a type of neurotoxin shown to have damaging effects on the human nervous system—are used widely in conventional food production.

After each week, urine samples were taken from the participants and tested for dialkylphosphates (DAPs), which are produced in the body as it metabolizes organophosphate pesticides. Results of the study, published last month in the journal Environmental Research, showed urinary DAP levels were 89% lower after just a week on a primarily organic diet.

“Our results show that people who switch to eating mainly organic food for just one week can dramatically reduce their exposure to pesticides, demonstrating that an organic diet has a key role to play in a precautionary approach to reducing pesticide exposure,” said Dr. Oates. A follow-up study is underway.

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