Air Too Toxic To Breathe

Grand Bayou, Louisiana — The federal agencies delegated with protecting the environment, worker safety, and public health are in hot water in the small coastal communities across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Fishermen responders who are working BP’s giant uncontrolled slick in the Gulf are reporting bad headaches, hacking coughs, stuffy sinuses, sore throats, and other symptoms. The Material Safety Data Sheets for crude oil and the chemical products being used to disperse and break up the slick — underwater and on the surface — list these very illnesses as symptoms of overexposure to volatile organic carbons (VOCs), hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals boiling off the slick.

When the fishermen come home, they find their families hacking, snuffling, and complaining of sore throats and headaches, too. There is a good reason for the outbreak of illnesses sweeping across this area.

Last weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted its air quality monitoring data from the greater Venice, Louisiana, area. The data showed federal standards were being exceeded by 100- to 1,000-fold for VOCs, and hydrogen sulfide, among others–and that was on shore. These high levels could certainly explain the illnesses and were certainly a cause for alarm in the coastal communities.

I wrote an article based on EPA’s information. So did chemist Wilma Subra with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Baton Rouge-based LEAN is an advocate of public health and worker safety, and a trusted source of information on chemicals, exposure, and safety monitoring throughout this region.

Two days after the EPA posted its air quality monitoring data, most of it vanished from its website–except for the data showing the very highest level of airborne chemicals. Subra reports that she had a conference call with EPA officials yesterday and those officials confirmed that the higher levels they initially reported had remained on the site and were accurate.

“The detection levels on the instrumentation used by the EPA were not accurate enough to report airborne chemicals at lower levels,” explains Subra. “So the EPA removed the data showing low levels from their website. But the EPA maintained the higher levels–those concentrations of 5 to 10 parts per billion, the concentration where you start getting acute health impacts.”

This raises serious concerns for people in and around the coastal city of Venice, Louisiana, where the data were collected. And concentrations of oil and chemical dispersants are expected to be much, much higher offshore above the slick. How high? Five oil rigs have been shut down in the Gulf near BP’s blowout allegedly because of concerns about fire. However, many of the fishermen in this area also work on the rigs. And the fishermen know the oil workers coming in from the rigs are suffering identical symptoms to the fishermen and their families.

But oilmen and fishermen are not being treated the same by BP and other oil companies operating in the Gulf. Oilmen are being evacuated because of high concentrations of dangerous chemicals, according to the fishermen, not fire danger. Meanwhile, fishermen responders are not even being provided with respirators for cleanup work – much less being protected from “fire danger.”

As someone who witnessed the Exxon Valdez disaster, I saw this same charade unfold 20 years ago in Prince William Sound-and the result was literally thousands of sick cleanup workers who thought they had “the Valdez Crud,” or simple colds and flu. Instead Exxon likely dismissed injured workers – and its own responsibility/liability to take care of these people – using an exemption for reporting “colds and flu” in hazardous waste cleanup regulations. 29 CFR (1904.5(b)(2)(viii)

The response to the BP leak is starting to look an awful lot like what happened during the Exxon Valdez cleanup. BP is not a self-regulated company, but it sure is acting like one.

The federal agencies responsible for monitoring public health and worker safety need to take aggressive action to prevent human tragedy. EPA should do continuous monitoring of air quality across the oil-impacted Gulf states–rather than only in communities where the oil is coming ashore–and EPA should post all the data it collects. It is public information and the people have a right to know about a toxic menace in their communities. If air quality continues to exceed public safety standards, the federal government has an obligation to act to evacuate people-just as it would in response to a hurricane, except at BP’s expense.

Further, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) officials should be monitoring BP’s worker-safety program. OSHA has a responsibility to order BP to take steps to figure out why workers are getting sick and to order BP to take immediate preventative action. This is all supposed to be part of BP’s worker-safety program and it’s up to the federal government to make sure BP’s plan works in practice as stated on paper.

The current situation is a disaster in the making. Fishermen who ask BP for respirators jeopardize their cleanup jobs. So, they’ve stopped asking. Fishermen are aware that only three workers need to request a Health Hazard Evaluation for the federal government to take action. But no one has stepped up because fisheries have closed and spill response might be the only job they have–even if it might cost them their health or life, as happened to Exxon Valdez workers.

Americans need to demand that Congress authorize the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety to conduct a Health Hazard Evaluation of the Gulf situation. Failure to have our regulatory agencies act immediately to protect people’s health in impacted coastal communities is a crime our country cannot afford to commit.


At What Cost? BP Spill Responders Told to Forgo Precautionary Health Measures in Cleanup

Venice, Louisiana — Local fishermen hired to work on BP’s uncontrolled oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico are scared and confused. Fishermen here and in other small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of Barataria Bay are getting sick from the working on the cleanup, yet BP is assuring them they don’t need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

Fishermen have never seen the results from the air-quality monitoring patches some of them wear on their rain gear when they are out booming and skimming the giant oil slick. However, more and more fishermen are suffering from bad headaches, burning eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness. They are starting to suspect that BP is not telling them the truth.

And based on air monitoring conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Louisiana coastal community, those workers seem to be correct. The EPA findings show that airborne levels of toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds like benzene, for instance, now far exceed safety standards for human exposure.

For two weeks, I’ve been in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama sharing stories from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which devastated the community I lived and commercially fished in, with everyone from fishermen and women to local mayors to state governors and the crush of international media.

During the 1989 cleanup in Alaska, thousands of workers had what Exxon medical doctors called, “the Valdez Crud,” and dismissed as simple colds and flu. Fourteen years later, I followed the trail of sick workers through the maze of court records, congressional records, obituaries, and media stories, and made hundreds of phone calls. I found a different story. As one former cleanup worker put it, “I thought I had the Valdez Crud in 1989. I didn’t think I’d have it for fourteen years.”

In 1989 Exxon knew cleanup workers were getting sick: Exxon’s clinical data shows 6,722 cases of upper respiratory “infections”–or more likely work-related chemical induced illnesses. Exxon also knew workers were being overexposed to oil vapors and oil particles as verified through its air-quality monitoring program contracted to Med-Tox. The cleanup workers never saw results of this program. Neither did OSHA, the agency supposedly charged to oversee and independently monitor Exxon’s worker-safety program.

Alarmed by the “chemical poisoning epidemic,” as expert witness Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum would later call it when he testified on behalf of sick workers, Exxon created a partial release form to indemnify itself from future health claims. Exxon paid its workers $600.50 to sign it, as I discovered in court records.

Sick workers were left to fend for themselves. Merle Savage was a foreman on the Bering Traderduring the cleanup and supervised 180 workers. She described a persistent headache and “bronchitis” symptoms in 1989 that “wouldn’t go away.” Her medical doctors didn’t connect her symptoms to her hazardous waste cleanup work. She is now completely disabled.

Richard Nagel
, a master captain, supervised the workers who sprayed the dispersant Inipol. Exxon called Inipol, a “bioremediation” agent, but the Material Safety Data Sheet listed the solvent and human health hazard, 2-butoxyethanol. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knows the Product Schedule is rife with abuse and products are used interchangeably – and that “misuses may cause further harm to the environment than the oil alone,” but the charade continues. Nagel outlived most of his crew on the Pegasus. He was fifty-three when he died in 2009 of complications from systemic illnesses that his medical doctors never connected to his cleanup work.

Unlike the Exxon Valdez tragedy, in more recent oil spills human-health studies were conducted by independent qualified personnel. After the 2002 Prestige oil spill, medical researchers reported that fishermen and residents of Galacia, Spain, suffered identical symptoms to Exxon Valdez and now BP Gulf responders when cleaning up off their coast – or just from breathing air laced with oil vapors, driven by hurricane force winds. Similarly, after the 2007 Hebei Spirit oil spill off the coast of Taean, South Korea, medical researchers documented respiratory damage, central nervous system damage, and even genetic damage in volunteers and fishermen who worked on the cleanup.

There is no excuse for sick people. BP and the federal agencies charged with worker safety know that the risks of working on a hazardous waste cleanup are extraordinarily high and that it will take a concerted effort to keep workers safe and healthy. Further, it will take an equally extraordinary effort by BP and the federal government to protect public health in coastal communities downwind or downstream from the toxic stew in the Gulf.

Yet I don’t see either BP or the federal government taking sufficient–or any–action to prevent human tragedy in the form of acute and likely long-term illnesses from its uncontrolled leak.

Years after the Exxon Valdez human-health tragedy, Eula Bingham, who was assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health in the Carter Administration, said of the federal OSHA inaction, “Quite frankly, they should have been more aggressive, but the government just folded.”

I am in Louisiana as a volunteer to help make sure that, this time, the no one just folds. We need independent medical researchers to monitor health impacts. We need the Obama Administration to take aggressive steps to protect public health and worker safety and stop this unfolding tragedy before it gets worse.

Inflammation Example: One Way Comfort Food Poisons

It’s often taken as a matter of faith when natural healers or medical doctors say that diets that contain too much starch, sugar and unhealthy fat causes cancer, heart disease, depression, obesity, fibromyalgia, diabetes and rapid aging. However, while the connections between junk food/comfort food diets and the diseases they cause are numerous and complex, a few can be distilled down into key explanations that provide concrete examples as to how diet actually leads to disease.

Today, I want to talk about one narrow issue of inflammation.

In many parts of the world food is flavored using fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs and spices. In what we view as the healthiest diets, food isn’t only flavored using fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs and spices but those things comprise a good bulk of the dishes. Unfortunately, most of the calories in American cooking instead come from eating meals heavy in refined sugar and starches flavored with fats.

In American cooking, refined-starch foods (white rice, white potatoes, white flour) are usually flavored with omega 6 fatty acid-heavy fat. The fat-based flavorings popular in America include butter, cheese, bacon, mayonnaise and starch-and-fat-based gravies or sugar-and-fat-based icings and syrups. Another favorite American way of flavoring food with fat is to deep fry the food in fat, using fat for both flavor and texture. Thus we have macaroni and cheese, potato salad, macaroni salad, mashed potatoes, french fries, and bread-based fatty combos ranging from grilled cheese sandwiches to burgers.

We keep hearing how this junk food/comfort food diet leads to heart problems, cancer, and so on. Exactly how do they?

One of the many ways a junk food/comfort food meal poisons us is by creating the ideal conditions for inflammation in our bodies. A diet of the above-mentioned foods creates ideal conditions for chronic inflammation, when they are eaten together.

Inflammation and Disease

Inflammation is part of a normal wound-healing and growth process. Under abnormal dietary conditions, though, chronic inflammation destroys tissues in a number of ways, and facilitates the spread of tissue-damaging disorders.

Many diseases like coronary artery disease and cancer can be described as chronic inflammatory diseases because inflammation plays a key role in making the disease possible. In coronary artery disease, the cholesterol-laden plaques deposit on the artery walls as protective coverings over inflammation sites. The more inflammation, the more plaques deposit in an attempt to heal the patch of damaged tissue, and the more cholesterol builds up in that blood vessel. With cancer, inflammation is how cancer is able to disrupt and grow into surrounding healthy tissue (among other things). In both diseases, were it not for inflammation, the progression of the disease is limited, contained or stopped.

It’s not exaggerating to say that chronic inflammation is a factor in many of the lifestyle diseases that are considered epidemic today, and that the rise of these diseases in our society can be linked to the rise of chronic inflammation from diets based on cheap refined starches, fats and cheap factory farmed meats.

How exactly does eating a macaroni-and-cheese dinner lead to inflammation? Using that example, I can explain one pathway of inflammation. A single meal can create the conditions for a bout of unhealthy inflammation, especially meals containing lots of factory farmed animal fats and starch or sugar.

Insulin Spikes Lead to Production of Inflammatory Prostaglandins

Really simplified down, one can say that prostaglandin is a substance our body creates that is part of an inflammation response. Many pain relievers like Aspirin, Vioxx and other so-called “COX-1” and “COX-2” inhibitors, actually interfere with the production of prostaglandin and that’s how they reduce inflammation and pain. Prostaglandins are molecules that are part of one of our inflammation and pain responses.

Where do Prostaglandins come from?

When you eat a lot of sugar or refined starches (high glycemic index foods) your body deals with the resulting spike in your blood sugar from digesting those foods by releasing a lot of insulin to force your cells to absorb the glucose from your blood. In a nutshell, insulin leads to IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factors) and to the production of prostaglandins.

In the case of a junk food/comfort food diet or binge, this process of insulin production is so excessive as to be more than what your body needs. Your body will try producing more inflammation factors than is necessary due to excess insulin, leading to chronic inflammation problems, just as excess insulin leads to type II diabetes.

Prostaglandins Are Made From Omega 6 Fatty Acid

The overproduction of prostaglandins isn’t normally a problem in natural healthy (pre-Industrial era) lifestyles, even if you eat a lot of sweets and have a lot of insulin spikes. It takes another factor to overproduce prostaglandins, and that is excess omega-6 fatty acid.

In our factory farmed food universe today, where animals aren’t grass-fed and free-range, but are fed on cheaply grown grains and other unnatural feed heavy in omega 6 fats, the fats from those animals are in turn deficient in omega 3 fatty acids and heavy in omega 6 fatty acids. Thus, factory farmed dairy, beef, and their derivatives, as well as vegetable oils made from cheaply grown grains, are overloading our diet with omega 6 fatty acids, and we are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids. These factory farmed meats and dairy are considered inflammatory in part because omega 6 fatty acid is used to make inflammation molecules. For example, the prostaglandins that are produced by the body after insulin spikes are made out of omega 6 fatty acid.

When the so-called COX inhibitors like aspirin and Vioxx are inhibiting inflammation and pain, what they are doing is inhibiting cyclooxygenase, which is the enzyme used to convert arachidonic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) into prostaglandins and other inflammation molecules.

With an unnatural excess of omega 6 fatty acids in our diets, we have more than enough arachidonic acid for our bodies to churn out excessive inflammation-related molecules to support the demand for inflammation molecules that pathologically excessive insulin triggers.

Inflammation on a Plate: Comfort Foods are High Glycemic Index Foods Flavored with Omega 6 Fats

So a diet high in high glycemic index refined starches and sugars combined with heavy use of omega 6 fats like butter, cheese, bacon, fatty meats, vegetable-oil based mayonnaise, is basically inflammation-on-a-plate. Each junk food/comfort food meal that is heavy in refined or dense starches, that are flavored with fats as Americans do when they cook, is an ideal way to feed inflammation as it contains both the insulin triggers for inflammation and the omega 6 fatty acids to make the prostaglandins with.

Inflammation-on-a-plate foods would be: macaroni and cheese, french fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, white bread sandwiches with mayonnaise or other dressings, macaroni salad, potato salad, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, white flour pizzas, fried foods, fried white rice, most foods containing butter and sugar or butter and flour, butter flavored popcorn, buttered corn, nachos and baked desserts. I.e. most American foods.

In closing

The above inflammation pathway is only one common way in which comfort food diets can poison us. There are actually many ways to explain the degenerative processes that junk food/comfort foods are associated with, that contribute to heart disease, cancer, aging, osteoporosis and other diseases.

If you have a chronic inflammatory disease, a doctor could prescribe aspirin, Vioxx, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or steroids to control inflammation. The currently popular fad prescription today, statins, are cholesterol lowering drugs thought to derive most of their benefit from an anti-inflammatory effect. However, these anti-inflammatories have serious side effects.

A natural healer or nutritional healer would simply say that to avoid inflammation, one way is to stop eating so much of the omega 6 fatty acid containing foods (i.e. cut out the factory farmed meats and dairy and vegetable oils), switch to healthy oils in a moderate-fat or low-fat diet, and switch to anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables and spices to flavor your meals with instead of fats.

By moving away from the starches-fat-sugar-salt paradigm underlying bland, heavy comfort food cooking and learning to eat more fruits and vegetables, and learning to flavor your foods with herbs, spices, fresh fruits and veggies instead of fats, you can reduce the toll of chronic inflammation in your life.

Copyright Aspergirl/Andromeda 2009-2010

The question “Do vaccines cause brain damage?” finally answered

Neurological Vaccine Damage Explained by Dr. Andrew Moulden

Pathological processes have been clinically silent — until now
May 26, 2009, Fort Collins, CO. Canadian physician, Dr. Andrew Moulden BA, MA, MD, PhD, and leader of the Canadian Action Party will join radio talk show host, Leslie Botha, safe vaccine advocate and researcher, Cynthia Janak and Dr. Judi Gerstung on Holy Hormones Honey the Greatest Story Never Told! on community radio, KRFC FM 88.9, Monday, June 1 from 6 to 7 pm MST. The show will be audio streamed via the KRFC web site.

For the past seven months, the popular talk show has focused on the dangers of Gardasil, Childhood Immunizations and the Anthrax vaccine that has been linked to the Gulf War syndrome. The hosts have interviewed parents, and medical experts as they strive to share information about the dangerous and toxic adjuvants that are used in the vaccine serums as preservatives and additives. After months of research and combing FDA, CDC and myriads of pharmaceutical documents, Janak and Botha discussed the link between vaccines with toxic compounds, and neurological damage. In February, on a show titled: “Gardasil Girls Give the Silent Faces of Autism a Voice,” and with documentation in hand, they announced that the Gardasil vaccine and childhood immunizations were responsible for brain damage.

On June 1, Dr. Andrew Moulden, whose expertise is in neurobehavioral assessments of acquired brain and behavioral disorders, will be addressing how vaccines cause micro-strokes that result in neurological damage to those with adverse vaccine reactions. Dr. Moulden has chosen to devote his career to neurobehavioral and neurocognitive assessments and research based upon his PhD and Masters training rather than practicing clinical medicine. For the past several years Dr. Moulden has devoted his work to deciphering neurobehavioral sequelae associated with immune system hyper stimulation, neurodevelopmental disorders, “and ultimately to vaccinations as the common environmental trigger for several brain and behavioral disorders.”

Dr. Moulden has just released a DVD series titled: Tolerance Lost, proving “in medical physiology and clinical sciences, by using new and old diagnostic technologies, that all vaccinations cause immediate and delayed, acute and chronic, permanent and transient, disease and disorders that cut across all organ systems.” According to Moulden, damaged tissues are the result of impaired blood flow and blood “sludging” in the microscopic vessels of the circulatory system. Autism, ADHD, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Anthrax (Gulf War Syndrome) Gardasil adverse reactions, specific learning disabilities, seizures and more are caused by the impaired blood flow — specifically to the brain.

Dr. Moulden stresses that “all vaccinations are causing the same neurological damages as wild polio and other ‘vaccine preventable pathogens did in the past — albeit in an attenuated form. It is not the germs/toxins that are causing damage; it is the body’s non-specific response to foreign substances entering it. All vaccinations are ‘foreign substances.’ Repeat vaccinations serially aggravate the underlying mechanisms of injury.”

Now, with Dr. Moulden’s expertise, lay people and practitioners will now be able to see the neurological damages, in real time, or retrospectively, in most that have been injured or who have died — whether or not they recognized at the time that injury/death was vaccine induced. The range of impairment -common to all vaccinations — is from clinically silent to terminal, (life ending) with the entire gamut of neurocogntive, neuropscyhiatric, and neuroimmunological derailments existing along a continuum of harm and end organ diagnostic labels…. including the proverbial “cause of death unknown.”

The June 1 radio show will be a groundbreaking event because the question, “do vaccines cause brain damage?” will finally be answered.

© Cynthia A. Janak

My thoughts on the Swine Flu

Okay. Not sure if it is time to hit the panic button yet, but there are a hell of a lot of worried people out there.

I am here to give you some advice. I am not a medical doctor, but it is common sense.

There is not a doubt in my mind that this was somehow engineered. Doing my research on the rate of dispersal. There are some troubling things I am discovering, that I will get to if this continues.

First, do not EVER let them take away your rights in the name of any sort of health emergency. Be cautious and wary of governmental interaction.

Second-I realize that this is hitting healthy people with healthy immune systems, but I still recommend you take as much vitamin D3 as possible. Colloidal silver is also a very good idea, I am also warming up to oregano. What sucks is that I am currently fairly sick…meh.

Third-Try to avoid the antibiotics. I do not see how it would be helpful in these cases. The flu is VIRAL. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. Doctors tend to overprescribe them; irate patients tend to demand them for every sickness. This, in my humble opinion, has made health matters far worse.

You have my thoughts on this. I pray you stay well and safe.


Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan

*This is what you wanted…right?*

Republican Senators are questioning whether President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

New Penalties

Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties.  “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Elderly Hardest Hit

Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

Hidden Provisions

If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.

The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).

Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”

More Scrutiny Needed

On Friday, President Obama called it “inexcusable and irresponsible” for senators to delay passing the stimulus bill. In truth, this bill needs more scrutiny.

The health-care industry is the largest employer in the U.S. It produces almost 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Yet the bill treats health care the way European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth industry. Imagine limiting growth and innovation in the electronics or auto industry during this downturn. This stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.

Pass the tofu: 1 in 200 kids are vegetarian

Sam Silverman is co-captain of his high school football team — a safety accustomed to bruising collisions. But that’s nothing compared with the abuse he gets for being a vegetarian.

“I get a lot of flak for it in the locker room,” said the 16-year-old junior at Westborough High School in Massachusetts.

“All the time, my friends try to get me to eat meat and tell me how good it tastes and how much bigger I would be,” said Silverman, who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. “But for me, there’s no real temptation.”

Silverman may feel like a vegetable vendor at a butchers’ convention, but about 367,000 other kids are in the same boat, according to a recent study that provides the government’s first estimate of how many children avoid meat. That’s about 1 in 200.

Other surveys suggest the rate could be four to six times that among older teens who have more control over what they eat than young children do.

A loose name
Vegetarian diets exclude meat, but the name is sometimes loosely worn. Some self-described vegetarians eat fish or poultry on occasion, while others — called vegans — cut out animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy products.

Anecdotally, adolescent vegetarianism seems to be rising, thanks in part to YouTube animal slaughter videos that shock the developing sensibilities of many U.S. children. But there isn’t enough long-term data to prove that, according to government researchers.

The new estimate of young vegetarians comes from a recent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of alternative medicine based on a survey of thousands of Americans in 2007. Information on children’s diet habits was gleaned from about 9,000 parents and other adults speaking on the behalf of those under 18.

“I don’t think we’ve done a good job of counting the number of vegetarian youth, but I think this is reasonable,” Amy Lanou, a nutrition scientist at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, said of the government estimate. She works with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan advocacy group.

Compassionate view
Vegetarians say it’s animal welfare, not health, that most often causes kids to stop eating meat.

“Compassion for animals is the major, major reason,” said Richard Schwartz, president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, an organization with a newsletter mailing list of about 800. “When kids find out the things they are eating are living animals — and if they have a pet….”

Case in point is Nicole Nightingale, 14, of Safety Harbor, Fla. In 2007, Nightingale was on the Internet to read about chicken when she came across a video on YouTube that showed the birds being slaughtered. At the end, viewers were invited to go to the Web site — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Nicole told her parents she was going vegan, prompting her mother to send an angry letter to PETA. But the vegan diet is working out, and now her mother is taking steps to become a vegetarian, too, said Nightingale, an eighth-grader.

She believes her experience was typical for a pre-adolescent vegetarian. “A lot more kids are using the Internet. They’re curious about stuff and trying to become independent and they’re trying to find out who they are,” she said.

Not necessarily low-cal
Vegetarians are most often female, from higher-income families and living on the East or West coasts, according to previous studies. One good place to find teen vegetarians is Agnes Scott College, a mostly white, all-women’s private school in suburban Atlanta with about 850 students. Roughly 5 to 10 percent of Agnes Scott students eat vegetarian, said Pete Miller, the college’s director of food service.

requently, the most popular entree at the college dining hall is a fresh mozzarella sandwich with organic greens. And the comment board (called “the Beef Board,” as in “what’s your beef?”) often contains plaudits for vegetarian dishes or requests for more. “They’re very vocal,” Miller said of his vegetarian diners.

Eating vegetarian can be very healthy — nutritionists often push kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, of course. For growing children, however, it’s important to get sufficient amounts of protein, vitamins B12 and D, iron, calcium and other important nutrients that most people get from meat, eggs and dairy.

Also, vegetarian diets are not necessarily slimming. Some vegetarian kids cut out meat but fill up on doughnuts, french fries, soda or potato chips, experts said.

“Vegetarian doesn’t mean low-calorie,” said Dr. Christopher Bolling, who directs weight management research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He said roughly 10 to 15 percent of the overweight kids who come to his medical center’s weight loss program have tried a vegetarian diet at some point before starting the program.

Rayna Middlebrooks, 15, last year started a weight-loss program offered by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a nonprofit hospital organization. She said she’s been on a vegetarian diet for four years and now carries about 250 pounds on her 5-foot-3 inch frame.

Her mother confirmed that, and said that although Rayna does a great job of cooking vegetable-rich stir-fried meals for herself, the girl also loves pasta, soda and sweets. “I have to watch her with the candy,” said Barbara Middlebrooks, of Decatur.

On the flip side is Silverman, the Boston-area football player. He’s pleased with his health and has no problem sticking to his diet. Rather than try to negotiate the school cafeteria line, he brings his lunch to school. It’s the same lunch every day — rye bread, some chicken-like tofu, cheese, a clementine and an assortment of Nutrigrain, Cliff, granola and Power Bars.

He was raised vegetarian and said it’s now so deeply ingrained that the idea of eating meat is nauseating. Recently, he ate something he belatedly realized might contain chicken. “I felt sick the rest of the day, until I threw up,” he said.