Can’t help themselves?

Deborah Kotz wrote an otherwise accurate description of new research on SIDS here:

However, she erred when she conflated SIDS with accidental suffocation:

“…according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; half of these deaths are due to SIDS, when babies suffocate accidentally after getting trapped in bedding …”

CDC actually lists SIDS and accidental suffocation as separate causes, see:

Furthermore the research she was reporting on quite clearly shows that SIDS is an entity in and of itself.


New WHO mental health action plan

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new mental health action plan today.  The full text of Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan’s remarks can be found here:

Dr. Chan correctly notes “… the treatment of people with mental and behavioural problems remains cruel, inhuman, and degrading in a number of countries.”   The plan she describes focuses heavily on ending the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.  

The plan also favors a move away from hospitalization towards outpatient and community-based services.  While this is a noble goal – it has actually been the practice in the Untied States for nearly 50 years.  Unfortunately, the experience in the U.S. has been that those community-based services too frequently become easy prey for the budget cutter’s ax.  

Our need to find blame

CDC published updated stats on drownings here yesterday:

When the link popped up in my inbox – I hesitated to click though to the article.  There have been four drownings of young children in the small town where I live during the last couple years.  Horrible, heartbreaking tragedies that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reminded of….

I did finally open the article, and the math was immediately obvious – my town is running at about 10 times the national average for all ages, and over 100 times the national average for toddler aged children.  These were all accidents, so it is obvious that this is just a terrible (hopefully temporary) twist of fate.  

Then it occurred to me, what if this was autism we were talking about, or some specific form of cancer?  If it wasn’t obvious that they were accidents, how powerful would the need be to find some common cause to link them together?  Food for thought.  


Is Wisconsin DHS/DNR saying “trust us” on Molybdenum?

A rare move these days – the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Department of Natural Resources moved to relax a drinking water standard yesterday.  A joint press release announced that the previous state standard of 40 ug/L was being revised upwards to 90 ug/L.  They gave no discussion of the decision process that led to the  revision.  

Realistically – given the uncertainties and safety factors involved  – there probably is not a lot of difference in the reliability of the two numbers.  The WHO standard splits the difference at 70 ug/L.  But to put out a press release revising the standard upwards – in this day and age – without any mention of the science involved.  Wow!


“The milk revolution” and human weaning

First attempt at posting via tablet – please bear with me

“Archaeology: The milk revolution” is one of the most intriguing articles I have read in quite a while.  The collaboration of chemistry, molecular biology and archaeology makes a very compelling story.  

The observation that adult lactose tolerance is a recent evolutionary development would seem to have implications on the understanding of the natural age for human weaning.  Lactase activity in modern lactose intolerant populations begins to decline sometime after age two, and is normally complete by age five.  This could imply that weaning between ages two and five was the natural norm in early humans.  





Hexavalent Chromium in California drinking water

The National Resources Defense Council recently announced a great legal victory, a court order forcing the state of California to set a drinking water standard for Hexavalent Chromium [Cr(VI)] by the end of this month.  Many will be watching with great interest to see what level the state chooses.  Nationally – EPA is at the beginning of a three year process which will assess for the first time, what the level of this contaminant is in the drinking water provided to most of the rest of America.  

There is one aspect of the nearly two decades of study that will go into the California decision that I still find quite intriguing.  It turns out that there are many rural areas in the state where Cr(VI) occurs naturally in the groundwater, at concentrations near where a feasible standard might be.  Many of these communities must sit right next to communities served by surface water systems that are free from Cr(VI).  This seems like a perfect set up for a powerful epidemiology study, that could provide a great reference to support the standard.  Yet – no such study seems to be underway, and it seem unlikely that one could be completed in time to inform the decision making  process.   

The “Fearless Formula Feeder” and World Breastfeeding Week

The “Fearless Formula Feeder” has chosen World Breastfeeding week to announce an “I Support You” movement aimed at supporting all mothers, not just those who choose to breastfeed.  Like most pseudoscience, FFF’s movement fails in its premise.   While WHO’s strategy for this year is to honor breastfeeding supporters  (a group FFF clearly views as her enemy) – the purpose of World Breastfeeding Week – like all good public health initiatives is about improving outcomes.  The outcome the WHO wishes to improve is increasing the number of mothers who succeed at breastfeeding for a full two years.  We can debate science behind their policy if you want – I welcome it.

So let’s get back to that failed premise – show me your data FFF.   Where is the mother who failed at formula feeding because a hospital gave her free breastfeeding supplies?  Where is the mother who failed at formula feeding because a maternity nurse introduced a rubber nipple?  Where is the mother who failed at formula feeding because her employer didn’t give her enough time or space to keep up her formula supply?   What obstacle has society put in place that is causing mothers who choose to formula feed to fail at formula feeding?  The outcome is not about how you felt while doing it, or how you feel about it now, but about whether you succeeded or failed.

While WHO has chosen a strategy of honoring breastfeeding supporters, World Breastfeeding Week is really about changing the outcome for the many mothers who try to breastfeed and fail due to lack of support.