Health Scare Without Shame

MSNBC may want to include another menu item on its home page. Label it "Junk" and link it to articles written by MSNBC environment reporter Francesca Lyman. "Report warns of dangers of plastic IV bags" is Lyman's latest mindless fearmongering at MSNBC about chemicals.

The excuse for Lyman's latest rant is "the new peer-reviewed study by the University of Massachusetts' Lowell Center for Sustainable Production" in which "research scientist Joel Tickner" reports "limited, but clear, evidence of human damage from exposure to [di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)]," a chemical that leaches from intravenous (IV) bags and tubing made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This conclusion is based on Tickner's analysis of more than 100 published studies on DEHP going back more than 40 years.

If Tickner is correct, he should be in the running for a Nobel Prize or some other prestigious award. After all, this graduate student intern apparently has discovered that plastic IV bags are dangerous a discovery that has escaped the entire medical community for 40 years. Is Tickner on to something?

Tickner's report focuses mainly on the alleged non-cancer hazards of DEHP, including damage to kidneys, lungs, reproductive organs. Tickner does examine the cancer question, but since the evidence that DEHP causes cancer in humans is so weak, he spends little time with it. Lyman is a different story, though.

Reaching for the cancer panic button, Lyman points out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regards DEHP as a "probable human carcinogen" and that the Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program has classified DEHP as "reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen." But these terms actually mean less than Lyman would like.

Both classifications are based on animal testing, not evidence from studies on actual humans. Aside from the substantial biological differences between laboratory rats and humans, including that laboratory rats are bred to be prone to cancer, only relatively high doses of DEHP over an entire lifetime about 300 milligrams per kilogram of body-weight per day (mg/kg bw/day) are associated with cancer in rats. Typical humans doses are on the order of a hundred times lower and only during the period of treatment, not a lifetime.

Shifting gears to supposed non-cancer effects, Lyman writes "Dozens of animal studies, says Tickner, 'present an even stronger case against DEHP.' Studies on rats strongly suggest the DEHP can cause damage to testes and testicular cells, reproductive damage in ovaries and infertility, respiratory distress in lungs, and lead to spina bifida, misplaced digits and other abnormalities in offspring." Sure they do but not at doses any human would ever be exposed to.

As stated in a recent article in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, "Various reports indicate the toxicity of DEHP, particularly in liver and reproductive organs but all these studies used large doses (up to 2,000 or more mg/kg bw/day) and oral route of administration which are not relevant to the intravenous administration during blood transfusion or the low amounts present in blood."

Perhaps the most damning evidence against Tickner's claims is his glaring omission of a revealing study. According to Tickner's report, the highest human exposure to DEHP comes from extracorporeal oxygenation in infants. Tickner writes, "These infants whose limited development and generally immature metabolic pathways may place them at greater risk of toxic insults, receive among the highest doses of DEHP from medical devices."

But studies so far have not associated DEHP from extracorporeal oxygenation with any observable toxicity. Apparently, DEHP is metabolized so quickly that toxic levels do not build up in tissue.

So if the science is not pushing Tickner to his conclusions and Lyman to her reporting, what's going on? Green skullduggery.

In addition to Tickner's exalted status as "graduate student intern," Tickner has been identified as a "scientific researcher at Greenpeace," "a Greenpeace staff scientist," and simply as "Greenpeace's" in newspaper articles. Tickner is also listed as the editor of a Greenpeace report "The PVC Lifecycle: Dioxin from Cradle to Grave." Why is this connection important?

Greenpeace is in the midst of a jihad against all products that contain chlorine, including polyvinyl chloride. This jihad is also targeted at anything that makes PVC more useful, like DEHP. Greenpeace also funds Health Care Without Harm, the sponsor of Tickner's report.

Why didn't Lyman report any of this instead of her fearmongering? She's an enviro.

In the mid-1980s, she was the editor of "Environmental Action," a magazine published by the lobbying group Environmental Action. She's also a co-author of the "The Greenhouse Trap: What We're Doing to the Atmosphere and How We Can Slow Global Warming," a 1990 book commissioned by the World Resources Institute, an extreme environmental advocacy group.

Lyman has continued her activist ways at MSNBC, penning articles on toxic baby nurseries, tampons contaminated with dioxin, pesticides causing hyperactivity in children, formaldehyde in bed linens, chemicals in breast milk, and mercury in thermometers.

Get the picture? This whole report is a Greenpeace set-up, spiked by Lyman. I expect as much from Greenpeace. I had higher hopes for MSNBC.

Certainly Lyman has the right to speak her mind and advocate whatever she wants, but perhaps MSNBC should consider finding a more objective journalist for future reporting on these issues. Click here to send your comments to MSNBC.

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