There might be dangerous chemicals in your tap water — here’s how to stay safe

Remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”? Of course, you do.

But unless you’ve rewatched it recently, you may not remember that Brockovich—in real life, and in the movie—was fighting a company suspected of polluting a small California town’s drinking water with a cancer-causing contaminant called chromium-6 (aka, hexavalent chromium).

Fast-forward 20 years, and it may shock you to learn that chromium-6 is still a threat to 218 million Americans, including residents of every state. That’s just one of the many findings of a just-released Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on the state of our nation’s drinking water.

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“We’ve known about chromium-6 since Erin Brockovich, but it’s still a pervasive problem, and there’s no federal legal standard for it,” says Nneka Leiba, MPH, the director of Healthy Living Science at the EWG.

Unfortunately, chromium-6 isn’t the only dangerous chemical of concern. After examining data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and almost 50,000 public water systems across the nation, the EWG found 267 different contaminants in our nation’s water supply—more than half of which have no established legal limit.

How could this be, you ask? “The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t put a new contaminant on its regulated list since 1996, which is when the Clean Water Act was passed. We’ve learned so much more about chemicals since then, but we still haven’t made any improvements in our policies,” Leiba explains.

Arsenic, lead, the agricultural herbicide Atrazine, perchlorate, and perfluorinated chemicals are just a handful of the hundreds of contaminants the EWG found to be widespread in public tap water systems. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, impair thyroid function, and cause harm to fetal growth and development.

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When asked for a response, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson was quick to point out that “more than 90 percent of the country’s drinking water systems meet all of EPA’s health-based drinking water standards” and that the EPA has “set drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides.”

How you can protect yourself

Start by plugging your zip code into the EWG’s database to learn what contaminants are in your local tap water.

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  • Your bottled water has 24,500 chemicals

Next, check out the EWG water filter guide and buy one, stat. You can input contaminants of concern and find filters that are third-party certified by NSF International, a product testing, inspection, and certification organization.

“In most cases, activated carbon water filters will reduce many or all contaminants,” Leiba says, referring to the pitcher-style water filters many of us already use. “Having one is especially important if there’s a vulnerable population in your house—someone who is pregnant or sick, or a baby,” Leiba says. (One EWG-approved filter to try: Brita Chrome 8-Cup Water Filter Pitcher, $40, amazon.com)

Put your water filter to good use with this de-bloating sassy water recipe:

One thing you shouldn’t do: turn to bottled water.

“In many cases, bottled water is just filtered tap water, so it’s the same thing you’d get using a filter,” Leiba says. “But bottled water is much more expensive, and it can also expose you to contaminants leaching into your water from the plastic bottle itself.”

Protecting future generations

Leiba says we all need to “raise our voices” and let elected officials know we need greater source-water protections and infrastructure upgrades (contact information for local government officials can be found on USA.gov.) “Our water utilities are constantly dealing with the influx of contaminants, but the onus isn’t only on the utility,” she says. “They’re usually within federal safety limits, but being within federal limits does not mean our water is safe. In many cases, we’ve done the science and the testing, and we know that these contaminants are unsafe, but there’s been no action taken.”

5 Ways My Family Makes My Life Happier

Happiness is something that all people strive for throughout their life. However, this word has absolutely different meaning for each of us. I’m convinced that every person has something that makes them happy, regardless of age and interests. For years I’ve tried to find out things that really matter to me and that make my life meaningful. Now I can easily say that family is one of the most significant values to me. My life is very busy and I have to fulfill a lot of tasks and cope with numerous troubles every day. In spite of this I never get upset because I know that my family will support and understand me.

My home is the only place in my life where I can be myself whatever happens. This is my harbor which makes me feel confident and safe. Whether you are a child or an adult, you are always attached to your family since they are an indispensable part of your life and they always bring you joy and happiness. That’s why we should realize how much our families are important to us, appreciate our loved ones and do our best to take care of them. Here are a few undeniable reasons why I feel happy with my family.

1. It Gives Me Sense of Love and Care
I think that love and care are the most crucial things that make us happy and satisfied. Who else can give you more love and care than your family? Every family member should care for one another, only this way you will develop trust and strong family ties. Unfortunately, very often we take our family for granted and forget to care about them. Actually, it doesn’t take much time and effort to express your love and gratitude to your parents, children or husband/wife. Just a few minutes of your attention will make them happy and they will feel how much they matter to you.

When I was a child, my parents’ love helped me to overcome various difficulties and it gave me emotional support. Now I have my own child and I try hard to fill her up with my love and care. I’m sure that this way she will grow up a successful and loving personality. Although I live far away from my parents and we can’t see each other very often, we try to keep in touch by phone,texting, sending gifts and cards. It reduces the distance between us and shows our mutual concern and emotional involvement. When my husband gives flowers to me and kisses me tenderly, I am the happiest person in the world!

2. It Provides Me with Support
My family is my strength in hard times. Whenever I face stressful situations and have to surmount numerous barriers only my family think and worry about me. It’s a great pleasure and happiness to feel their support, even if they are not near me. At different stages of my life my family members helped me to cope with stress and anxiety.

For example, there were some periods in my childhood when I suffered from misunderstanding of my peers, which resulted in quarrels with friends and classmates. At those moments I was completely frustrated and only my mother could cheer me up and help to solve the problem. I am an adult person now, but still my mother’s support gives me strength and patience to reach my goals and desires.

3. It Is the Source of My Motivation and Inspiration
Inspiration is something we need to succeed in our life and to be happy. A person can’t show good results in different activities without being inspired and motivated. I believe that inspiration is all around us and it comes from a variety of sources. For me family is one of the biggest sources of inspiration. Warm and cheerful atmosphere in my family constantly gives me motivation to excel and progress in my job. At every possible opportunity I try to get together with my family that inspires me to live, enjoy and laugh. The little things such as chatting over a cup of tea or having the family card game give me an endless source of inspiration.

4. I Feel Absolutely Safe with My Family
Generally, all people feel safe within their own inner world. Since human beings are social creatures, they have to interact with others and share their thoughts, ideas and experience. Sometimes this interpersonal connection may be unpleasant for us and may even hurt our feelings and lower our self-esteem.

Nonetheless, there is a place where I can feel safe and comfortable. That is my home. Here I can be myself and I don’t need to play roles and explain anything to my family because they know who I am and take me with all my good and bad sides as well. Thus, my family boosts my self-confidence that is necessary for numerous life achievements.

5. We Enjoy the Best Moments of Our Life Together
Undoubtedly, time spent with your family is one of the major things which determine your relations with them and your happiness either. Therefore, we need to devote time to our loved ones in order to be happy and bring positive emotions to them. Despite my busy schedule I always carve out time for my little daughter and my husband. Surely, we can’t enjoy walking to the park or sitting in the café every day, but I’ve made it a rule to spend an hour with my family once a week. At these moments, I forget about my work, office calls and I am present with my family whole-heartedly.

There is a great number of other activities that I practice with my family and that bring us closer, making us love, respect and value each other more. For instance, we have a wonderful tradition of celebrating our birthdays, family anniversaries and other events that are important to us. Every year we try to visit new interesting places in our country and abroad. I should say it’s an amazing experience that fills us with excitement and memorable impressions.

Family is the greatest blessing that we can get in our life. My family is the first priority to me and I really appreciate it as I know that my parents, my husband and my daughter are the most precious people for me and no one else can make me happy and satisfied as they do. Is your family important to you? What makes you feel happy with your family? How do you express your love and care to them?

My Daughter Nearly Died of Sepsis. Here’s How You Can Stay Safe

We thought it was the flu. On a bleak afternoon this past winter, my 16-year-old daughter came home early from school, complaining of a fever and sore throat. Less than 48 hours later, I was sitting next to her in an ambulance, careening toward the nearest emergency room.

It wasn’t the flu. An underlying urinary tract infection and a nascent case of strep throat had combined forces to create a perfect storm in my daughter’s body, and she had gone into septic shock—the most severe stage of sepsis, a potentially fatal condition and a leading cause of all in-hospital deaths.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is an extreme bodily response to infection, in which inflammation throughout the body can lead to organ damage and even organ failure. It’s often characterized by fever, a high heart rate, low blood pressure, confusion, and dizziness.

Sepsis doesn’t have a particular season of the year, and it can hit almost anyone, regardless of age or prior health. In March, Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine at the age of 69. In 2009, 20 year-old Brazilian model Mariana Bridi da Costa died within days after a UTI turned into an aggressive case of sepsis.

“People with sepsis can slip from what seems like routine infection into a systemic situation very quickly,” warns Anthony Fiore, MD, chief of Epidemiologic Research and Innovations in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: Should You Go to the ER?

If it’s such a big deal, why haven’t I heard of it?

Because there currently isn’t a single standard methodology for assessing sepsis, hard statistics on its prevalence and mortality rates can be hard to pin down. But according to the CDC, over one million cases of sepsis occur each year, and it’s the ninth leading cause of “disease-related deaths.” The National Institutes of Health reports that sepsis kills more people in the U.S. than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.

Yet while less common conditions like Ebola and Zika garner big headlines, you may not have ever even heard of sepsis before. Donald Landry, MD, chair of medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, has a theory about that. “It’s a syndrome, not a disease,” he says. “It gets buried in other conditions. It doesn’t register with the public as something identifiable.”

How can I recognize the symptoms?

Fortunately, once you know the warning signs, sepsis can be recognized and effectively treated—and often with no further long term consequences.

“If you get an infection, you’re likely to have a fever and likely going to feel somewhat lousy,” explains Craig M. Coopersmith, MD, a past president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. “But if you feel there’s anything above and beyond that—if you feel your heart racing, if you’re breathing fast, if your family recognizes that you’re confused, if it feels like you’re making less urine than usual—anything that feels abnormal to yourself or your loved ones might be a warning sign that not only might you have an infection, you might have an organ dysfunction. And if you do, that is a true medical emergency, because your health and potentially the life of yourself or of your loved one might be at stake.”

If you suspect sepsis in yourself or a loved one (besides those listed above, other signs include pale or discolored skin, rash, and, as the CDC helpfully puts it, “I feel like I might die”) the CDC recommends heading to the emergency room and saying directly, “I am concerned about sepsis.”

RELATED: 8 Things ER Doctors Refuse to Have in Their Homes

My daughter’s story has a happy ending. After a terrifying 36 hours in the ER and a potent mix of antibiotics, fluids, and dopamine, her condition stabilized. She spent a few days in the intensive care unit and another week recovering, then returned to school with no other ill effects than falling behind on her math homework.

That’s the easily achieved outcome I now want for so many more families like mine. Simple awareness can make all the difference. As Dr. Coopersmith says, “If sepsis is recognized in every patient and treated rapidly and appropriately, we can save multiple thousands of lives a year.”

Soft Contact Lenses Safe for Kids and Teens, Review Finds

Infection rates no higher than for adults, and actually lowest for younger kids

July 05, 2017
WEDNESDAY, July 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Soft contact lenses are as safe for children and teens as they are for adults, a new review finds.

“In the past decade, there has been increasing interest in fitting children with contact lenses,” said review author Mark Bullimore, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry.

He reviewed nine studies that included 7- to 19-year-olds who use soft contact lenses, to gauge the risk of corneal inflammation and infection. Called “corneal infiltrative events,” these are usually mild, but about 5 percent involve a serious infection called microbial keratitis.

Bullimore found a relatively low rate of these corneal infiltrative events among youths, with one large study finding the rate of events in younger children (8 to 12) much lower than in teens aged 13 to 17.

The review also found that microbial keratitis was uncommon, with one study finding no cases in younger children, and the rate among teens similar to that of adults.

Why the difference? It’s suspected that younger kids aren’t showering or napping while wearing their contact lenses as often as teens do. Those behaviors increase the risk of corneal infiltrative events, according to Bullimore.

The study was published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

In a journal news release, Bullimore said the findings should reassure parents about the safety of soft contacts in children and teens. They may improve young people’s self-esteem and quality of life, and have been shown to prevent or slow progression of nearsightedness in children, he said.

“The overall picture is that the incidence of corneal infiltrative events in children is no higher than in adults, and in the youngest age range … it may be markedly lower,” Bullimore wrote in the review, adding that “greater parental supervision may also help to mitigate risks.”

All soft contacts now approved for daily and overnight wear have no age restrictions, the researchers said.

Is the Flu Shot Safe?

There is no question that the presence of flu season each year and the vaccine created as a result have become hotly debated issues in the media, by bloggers and perhaps most fiercely, by moms.

Since I have often fit into high risk category number one in the past few years (pregnant women), and have children that fit into high risk category number two (young children), this is an issue I have spent many hours researching. I’ve compiled some of the research I have come across in researching this topic. Please note that I am not a doctor, and none of this is to be considered medical advice. I’m simply sharing information I found while researching this topic for my own family.

Also please note that any discussion involving vaccines can potentially become heated. I welcome *charitable and civil* discussion in the comments below. Any direct attacks or name calling will be banned. At the end of the day, we are all striving to make the most healthy decisions for ourselves and our families.

Terms, Defined

When referring to the flu, I am including all of the following in the definition:

Influenza, often referred to as “flu,“ is an infectious respiratory disease caused by type A or type B influenza viruses, which are present in the mucus membranes and secretions of the nose, throat and lungs. There are other viruses and bacteria associated with “flu-like” symptoms and it is estimated that about 80 percent of all flu-like illness that occurs every year during the “flu season” is not type A or type B influenza. Only lab confirmation can detect whether flu-like symptoms, including serious complications like pneumonia, are caused by influenza viruses or other types of viral or bacterial organisms.

When referring to the flu vaccine I am including the following:

Two types of influenza vaccines are available in the U.S.: inactivated injectable influenza vaccine and live attenuated influenza vaccine, which is inhaled through the nose,Inactivated, injectable influenza vaccines packaged in multi-dose vials contain the mercury preservative thimerosal but inactivated influenza vaccines in single dose vials are thimerosal-free or contain trace amounts of the mercury preservative. The live attenuated nasal influenza vaccine does not contain thimerosal. (as of the date of my research on the topic)
There are 16 different influenza vaccine products licensed in the U.S. marketed by different pharmaceutical companies. Some of these vaccines contain only the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus strain. However, most seasonal influenza vaccines in the U.S. contain two type A influenza viruses and one type B influenza virus that are selected every year by the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for inclusion in flu shots given during the current flu season.

What’s the Flu Vaccine?

The NVIC compiled a helpful list of links (from the FDA website) of the product inserts and specifics on the current flu vaccines:

Quadrivalent Vaccines – Nasal

FluMist by MedImmune, LLC – Product Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Quadrivalent Vaccines – Injected

Fluarix Quadrivalent by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Fluzone Quadrivalent by Sanofi Pasteur Inc. – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category C
Trivalent Vaccines – Injected

AFLURIA by CSL Limited (Afluria) – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Agriflu by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
FluLaval by ID Biomedical Corporation of Quebec – Package Insert  & Licensing Information, Category B
Fluarix by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Flublok by Protein Sciences Corporation – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Flucelvax by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. ­– Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category B
Fluvirin by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Ltd. – Package Insert & Licensing Information, Category C
Fluzone by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.
Package Insert – Fluzone & Licensing Information, Category C
Package Insert – Fluzone High Dose & Licensing Information, Category C
Package Insert – Fluzone Intradermal & Licensing Information, Category B
In short, the following ingredients can be found in some of the different flu vaccines (and even the CDC confirms many of these):

Aluminum
Formaldehyde
Trace antibiotics
Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease
Triton X-100 — a detergent
Phenol (carbolic acid)
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant
Nonoxynol – used to kill or stop growth of STDs
Octoxinol 9 – a vaginal spermicide
Sodium phosphate
Pros & Cons of the Flu Shot

Obviously, the upside of getting a flu vaccine should be immunity from the flu. Unfortunately, if the wrong strain is included in the vaccine, this won’t be accomplished. This article explains how this is not an exact science and how it is not possible to completely predict the strain or provide protection from it.

It seems there are two safety issues with flu season: the flu itself and the safety of the vaccine. I set out to research if (a) the vaccine was effective and (b) if it was safe. Once finding this out, I also wanted to determine the risks of the vaccine in comparison to the risks of simply contracting the flu.

Ironically, while pregnant women, elderly, small children and medical workers are thought to be high risk candidates for contracting the virus (and are therefore encouraged to get it), the research is still out on the safety of the vaccine for these categories.

What are contraindications to the flu vaccine?

Among high risk factors listed by the CDC and the vaccine manufacturers are anyone who:
(1) is sick with a fever;
(2) has an egg allergy;
(3) has a mercury allergy;
(4) has a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

If immunosuppressed individuals receive the flu vaccine they may not get an adequate protective antibody response.

Is Flu Vaccine Recommended for Children?

One consideration with the mass use of flu vaccine in healthy children is the removal of natural antibodies to flu which are obtained from natural infection. The question of whether it is better for healthy children, who rarely suffer complications from flu, to get the flu and develop permanent immunity to that flu strain or it is better for children to get vaccinated every year to try to suppress all flu infection in early childhood is a question that has yet to be adequately answered by medical science.

Although in the past the flu vaccine has not been recommended for healthy children, today vaccination of children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years is strongly recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the CDC and New Jersey now requires influenza vaccine for daycare and kindergarten entry.

Is the flu Vaccine Safe During Pregnancy?

In years past, pregnancy was also a contraindication to flu vaccine but, today, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu vaccine for women more than 14 weeks pregnant.

Influenza vaccines are Category B or C drugs, which means that adequate and well-controlled studies on pregnant women have not been conducted and it is not known whether these vaccines can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or if they can affect reproduction capacity.

The package inserts published by the flu vaccine manufacturers state that “Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with influenza virus vaccine. It is also not known whether influenza virus vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Although animal reproductive studies have not been conducted, the prescribing health care provider should be aware of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The ACIP states that if used during pregnancy, administration of influenza virus vaccine after 14 weeks of gestation may be preferable to avoid coincidental association of the vaccine with early pregnancy loss.”

Pregnant women should be aware that the flu vaccine contains Thimerosal, which is a mercury derivative. Mercury is toxic to the brain and has been found to be associated with brain damage and developmental delays in babies whose mothers were exposed to high levels of mercury during pregnancy.”

No testing has been done on the effects of these vaccines, alone or in combination, on the unborn children of pregnant women who receive them, though:

A recent study showed exposure flu viruses among women during pregnancy provoke a similar gene expression pattern in the fetus as that seen in autistic children. (Full article)

Another important point to consider when weighing the risks and benefits of the flu vaccine(s) is their effectiveness. There are no controlled studies that demonstrate any decrease in cases of the flu among those who have gotten the vaccine. The insert in the FLUVAL vaccine for the 2009-2010 formula specifically states:

FLULAVAL is an influenza virus vaccine indicated for active immunization of adults 18 years of age and older against influenza disease caused by influenza virus subtypes A and type B contained in the vaccine. This indication is based on immune response elicited by FLULAVAL, and there have been no controlled trials demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with FLULAVAL.

Additional Resources

I highly encourage everyone to do their own research on this or any health topic. If you are interested in further reading, here are some of the resources I found helpful:

National Vaccine Information Center page on Influenza

More detail on the flu vaccine

Flu Shot and possible link to Guillain Barre Syndrome

Medical Literature (source)

Osterholm M, Kelley N, Sommer A, Belongia E, Efficacy and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccines: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Early Online Publication, 26 October 2011, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70295-X
Enstone J. 2010. Influenza transmission and related infection control issues. Introduction to Pandemic Influenza (pp. 57-72). CABI.
Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, Bawazeer GA, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD001269. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub4.
Freed GL, Clark SJ. 2010. Parental Vaccine Safety Concerns in 2009. Pediatrics.
Jefferson T., Debalini MG et al. 2009. Relation of study quality, concordance, take home message, funding, and impact in studies of influenza vaccines; systematic review. British Medical Journal.
Aledort TE, Lurie N et al. 2007. Non-pharmaceutical public health interventions for pandemic influenza: an evaluation of the evidence base. BMC Public Health.
Jefferson T. 2006. Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence. British Medical Journal.
King WD, Woolhandler SJ et al. 2006. Influenza Vaccination and Health Care Workers in the U.S. Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Simonsen L., Clarke MJ et al. 1998. Pandemic versus Epidemic Influenza Mortality: A Pattern of Changing Age Distribution. Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Is It Safe To Travel Abroad In The Donald Trump Era?

Heather Gorawski says she never lied about her nationality when she visited Nicaragua recently. But she didn’t go out of her way to reveal she was American, either.

“When I struck up a conversation with a local, I would use a Canadian reference,” she says. Later, though, the truth would come out: Gorawski is from New Hampshire.

And that’s when Donald Trump comments would start: The president is a liar, a racist, and a con-man. And what’s with you Americans, anyway? How could you elect someone like that?

“I was never met with hate or anger,” says Gorawski, who works for an organic cosmetics company in Keene, N.H. “Just a distaste for our elected choice.”

She’s afraid the disapproval could suddenly boil over into danger — a worry that is shared by many Americans with plans to travel abroad, regardless of their political affiliation. It’s a legitimate concern, particularly now, as many question whether Trump can last an entire term. Has America’s commander-in-chief already burned too many bridges abroad, they wonder, and how will that affect travelers?

“President Trump has created a complex perception of American and anti-American sentiment,” says Carlos Portillo, a regional intelligence officer in Latin America for Pinkerton’s Global Risk Group. “In terms of security, this can certainly affect American travelers, mainly the ones traveling to countries that have an opposite approach to Mr. Trump’s declarations, policies, and positions.”

While the politics may be complicated, the issue really comes down to a simple question: Is it safe to leave the country in the Trump era? For now, at least, if you’re going to one of the usual tourism destinations, the answer is a qualified yes. But it can’t hurt to take a few extra precautions.

Experts say several destinations may have become a little more dangerous, now that Trump is in power. For example, some Middle East countries are more prone to targeting certain American travelers based on religious issues, according to Portillo. In Latin America, Venezuela can be a dangerous country to travel to for American travelers thanks to the political situation and rising anti-American sentiment.

The U.S. State Department maintains a list of travel warnings. Since the inauguration, the government has issued alerts for El Salvador, Honduras, Iraq, Libya and North Korea. None of them directly mention the change in administration as a possible cause of concern.

There’s a practical reason for that, says Christopher Fettweis, an associate professor of political science at Tulane University.

“Rarely do locals hold tourists responsible for the actions of their government,” he says. “There have been times in the past where Americans were targeted for their ransom value — such as in Colombia in the 1990s — or by terrorists. But to say this is uncommon would be an understatement.”

That’s good to know if you’re planning a vacation off the beaten path. But what about the usual places that Americans visit? Is there any evidence that a controversial president has also created problems for tourists?

Scott Hume, the director of security operations for Global Rescue, a provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services, says there’s no indication that Americans are in any greater danger now than before the change in administration.

“There have been a series of protests against the Trump administration policies around the world, particularly in Europe, and some have taken place at U.S. Embassies and US Consulates,” he says. “But these have largely remained peaceful.”

Hume says there’s simmering opposition to certain Trump administration policies around the world, but as of now, no evidence exists that Americans are specifically being targeted any more so than before Trump’s inauguration. That hasn’t stopped travelers from worrying. In a recent poll of its own members, Global Rescue found people worried the most about security in Europe, followed by Africa and the Middle East.

There’s a perception, sometimes correct, that American travelers are seen as ambassadors of U.S. foreign policy, says Laura Mandala, the CEO of a research firm that specializes in tracking travel sentiment. Confrontations are likeliest to result from the president’s early executive orders, which some have referred to as a travel ban.

“Will U.S. travelers be subject to retaliatory gestures of foreigners who are disgruntled by the ban or who may have been affected by it?” she asks. “We don’t know, and that is enough to keep some travelers from venturing abroad.”

And what’s the view from the ground? Adryenn Ashley, an online entrepreneur, was at a conference in Lisbon during the presidential election and recalls the “sheer shock” of the people she met. “Everyone I spoke to asked me how I felt,” she says. Although she never felt as if she was in any danger, she quickly adapted.

“Whenever someone asked me what I thought about Trump, I would say, ‘It’s an interesting time, for sure,’” she says. “And then, ‘What do you think?’”

That’s a common thread in the many interviews with travelers like her who have visited Europe, Canada and Mexico since the inauguration. There’s shock, curiosity, but nothing more — at least not yet.

But Nicole Filiatrault, a doctor from West Palm Beach, Fla., isn’t waiting for the “yet” to happen. She recalls traveling abroad after 9/11, during the early days of the George W. Bush presidency. Anti-American sentiment was running high. In Canada, she says she was treated rudely and cut off in traffic because of the American license plate. Then, when she crossed the border to Mexico a few months later, a border guard issued a stern warning: “I was told that Americans were not liked and to be careful and it could get very dangerous.”

She’s rethinking her plans to travel abroad now. “I’m scared,” she says.

If you’re planning to go abroad, you can take a few common-sense precautions. Cori Dossett, a conference planner based in Dallas, is visiting Russia in May, and she’s made detailed evacuation plans just in case things take a turn for the worse. “I check the State Department website for accurate reports, warnings, registries and general information,” she says.

Experts also recommend signing up for the State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a service that allows U.S. citizens traveling abroad to register their location with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

And now, more than ever, try not to stand out. Wear darker colors and avoid T-shirts with logos, particularly those with flags or political statements. “Also take care with how you present yourself,” adds Michael Montgomery, a former American diplomat who now runs a Huntington Woods, Mich.- based company that consults with nonprofit organizations.

“And if you own a ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap,” he adds, “Definitely leave that at home.”

Xylitol: Is it Healthy or Safe?

I use Xylitol in my simple whitening toothpaste and by far the most asked question in the comments of that post is about the safety of xylitol usage. Though it is absolutely not safe (and can even be deadly) to dogs, there is some evidence that it has benefits in humans, especially for oral use.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a polyalcohol or sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and extracted from corn or birch wood to make a sweetener that is similar in taste to sugar but with about 40% fewer calories. Even though Xylitol is extracted from natural sources, it goes through a process called sugar hydrogenation to become a shelf stable white powder for food and dental use.

Though technically considered a low-digestible carbohydrate, it does not impact blood sugar levels the way sugar does (and this is one of the reasons it is so dangerous to dogs). It can have a laxative effect in humans (more on that below) but it generally considered safe for human use, though it is a FODMAP and can be problematic for some people.

It is widely used in chewing gum, oral health products and as a sugar substitute for those with diabetes or blood sugar related problems. Xylitol is even recommended in the natural health community and is in many anti-candida recipes and diets.

But, is Xylitol actually healthy or safe?

Xylitol as a Sweetener?

Xylitol is a somewhat controversial sweetener, but is often promoted as safe for human consumption as a healthier alternative to sugar.

Certainly, I don’t think it is saying much for something to be a healthier alternative to sugar, especially with all the problems sugar can cause, and just because something is considered safe for consumption, doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy.

I have my concerns with the way Xylitol is processed and its long term use for several reasons. It is most often processed from corn, and often genetically modified.

Additionally, since Xylitol is not metabolized and broken down in the stomach like other sweeteners so it reaches parts of the intestines that regular sugar wouldn’t. Since it has the ability to kill many strains of bacteria including streptococcus mutans, which is one of the reasons it is beneficial for dental health, it may also negatively affect gut bacteria.

Long-term, this may mean that xylitol could be beneficial for helping with bacterial overgrowth in the digestive system and even with things like biofilms, but it may also mean it can negatively affect beneficial gut bacteria. At the least, this warrants caution and additional research. At the same time, many respected sources take an optimistic approach to xylitol’s potential.

Chris Kresser’s take on them:

For the most part, sugar alcohols cause no appreciable changes in blood glucose or insulin in humans, and sorbitol and xylitol have not been found to raise blood glucose following consumption. (5) In diabetic rats, 5 weeks of xylitol supplementation (as 10% of their drinking water) reduced body weight, blood glucose, and serum lipids, and increased glucose tolerance compared with controls. (6) Two other rat studies also found that xylitol-supplemented rats gained less weight and fat mass compared with control rats, and had improved glucose tolerance. (7, 8)

Interestingly, while research is still emerging, there is some evidence that sugar alcohols like Xylitol can act as a prebiotic and feed gut bacteria (source) which could have both positive and negative consequences for different people. Since they are FODMAP, some people will experience digestive issues from sugar alcohol consumption.

Xylitol has a few potential unexpected benefits:

It may have the potential to increase collagen synthesis and improve skin strength and smoothness when consumed internally and even to help improve bone density with long term use.
Studies found that xylitol chewing gum helped reduce ear infections in 30-40% of children who struggled with recurring infections because it helped eliminate bacteria in the mouth that can contribute to ear infection.
It can also cause loose stool, diarrhea and bloating, and many sources recommend working up slowly when consuming sugar alcohols.

Xylitol for Dental Health?

In my opinion, the dental benefits of xylitol are the most studied and the most convincing, especially:

Habitual use of xylitol-containing food and oral hygiene adjuvants has been shown to reduce the growth of dental plaque, to interfere with the growth of caries-associated bacteria, to decrease the incidence of dental caries, and to be associated with remineralization of caries lesions. (source)

and

By providing fuel for acid-forming bacteria in the mouth, sugar consumption sets up an ideal acidic condition that promotes decay and demineralization of teeth. Xylitol, conversely, is non-fermentable and does not feed acid-forming oral bacteria. Regular use of xylitol causes cavity-forming bacteria, most notably Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans ), to starve and die off by as much as 73%,decreasing the level of acidic byproducts formed when bacteria ferment sugars.24Xylitol also increases salivary flow which helps to buffer these acids.25 A more alkaline environment is created, leading to less tooth decay and plaque, and enhanced tooth remineralization. Untreated cavities, especially small decay spots, can harden and become less sensitive from exposure to xylitol.26

My dentist suggests Xylitol chewing gum for helping avoid cavities, but since I don’t like chewing gum for several other reasons (another topic for another day), I like to use it in toothpaste instead.

Important: Xylitol and Dogs

Though it is considered safe for humans, it is extremely toxic to dogs and other pets:

In both humans and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. Xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas in humans. However, when non-primate species (e.g., a dog) eat something containing xylitol, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This rapid release of insulin results in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that occurs within 10-60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can be life-threatening. (source)

Even a very small amount of xylitol can be deadly, especially to small dogs. In fact some brands of gum contain enough xylitol that even a single piece could be lethal to a dog.

Many people are understandably opposed to even having xylitol in the house with pets and caution should be used to keep any xylitol containing products (gum, toothpaste, etc) out of the reach of pets.

My Take on Xylitol

With the current research, I would only ever consider using a Xylitol from birch wood in homemade oral health products like:

Remineralizing toothpaste
Simple whitening toothpaste
Until more research emerges, I don’t feel comfortable using it as a sweetener in food, though many people do.

Other sources:
Bahador A, Lesan S, Kashi N. Effect of xylitol on cariogenic and beneficial oral streptococci: a randomized, double-blind crossover trial. Iran J Microbiol. 2012 Jun;4(2):75-81.
VCA Animal Hospitals: Xylitol Safety in Dogs
Hujoel PP, Makinen KK, Bennett CA, et al. The optimum time to initiate habitual xylitol gum-chewing for obtaining long-term caries prevention. J Dent Res. 1999;78(3):797-803.
Milgrom P, Ly KA, Roberts MC, et al. Mutans streptococci dose response to xylitol chewing gum. J Dent Res. 2006 Feb;85(2):177-81.
Mattila PT, Svanberg MJ, Pokka P, et al. Dietary xylitol protects against weakening of bone biomechanical properties in ovariectomized rats . J Nutr. 1998 Oct;128(10):1811-4.
Mattila PT, Svanberg MJ, Knuuttila ML. Increased bone volume and bone mineral content in xylitol-fed aged rats. Gerontology. 2001 Nov-Dec;47(6):300-5.
Uhari M, Kontiokari T, Niemela M. A novel use of xylitol sugar in preventing acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 1998;102:879–84.
Sato H, Ide Y, Nasu M, et al. The effects of oral xylitol administration on bone density in rat femur. Odontology. 2011 Jan;99(1):28-33.

What’s your take? Do you use Xylitol? Share below!

Is Stevia Safe or Healthy?

We all know that sugar isn’t healthy, especially in excess, but increased awareness about the problems with sugar consumption have led to the development and use of sugar substitutes.

Some of these substitutes are harmful, and some are beneficial alternatives. Most alternative sweeteners on the market are artificially created and have a host of side effects. Others, like honey or maple syrup, have slightly more health benefits than processed sugar but are still high in naturally occurring types of sugar such as fructose.

One sweetener that often gets lost amid the confusion is stevia…

What is Stevia?

Stevia is an herb, originally from South America, though it now grows throughout the world.

It is naturally very sweet and considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar and other artificial sweeteners do.

It has been used as a sweetener and medicinal herb in various cultures around the world for centuries but has only gained modern popularity in recent years.

Unfortunately, while stevia leaf (in fresh or dried form), is a natural herbal sweetener, many modern forms of stevia based sweeteners are powdered and processed. In fact, popular powdered stevia sweeteners go through dozens of steps during processing from bleaching to chemical alteration.

There are two compounds in stevia that are responsible for the sweetness: Stevioside and Rebaudioside A.

Rebaudioside A is most often extracted and used in stevia powders and sweeteners, but it is not usually the only ingredient. In fact, most stevia sweeteners on the market contain added erythritol from corn, dextrose or other artificial sweeteners.

Stevioside only makes up about 10% of the sweetness in stevia but also has the unusual bitter aftertaste that many people don’t like in stevia. It also contains most of the beneficial properties of stevia that are credited with the health benefits and is the most well studied.

Is Stevia Safe?

To answer this question, it is important to differentiate between processed forms of stevia and the naturally occurring herbal form.

Stevia as the green plant that you can grow in your backyard or find as dried leaf or tincture form is considered safe and has even been studied and found to have health benefits.

Powdered and bleached stevia, though FDA approved, has not been studied and undergoes an extensive chemical process to reach its final white powdered form.

Benefits of Stevia (in Natural Form)

Stevia as a medicinal herb has been used for centuries but has also been recently studied for its health benefits.

One double-blind placebo study found that regular consumption of stevia can help reduce blood pressure for patients with mild hypertension. (1)

Another study found that stevia may have the potential to reduce breast cancer cell growth (2), though this hasn’t been extensively researched yet.

Follow up studies have uncovered potential benefits in reducing blood sugar and in avoiding other types of cancer growth.

In addition, most people who consume stevia use it as an alternative for sugar, and simply avoiding sugar can have health benefits of its own.

Risks of Stevia

Even in natural form, there are also some potential risks of using stevia.

It has an extremely sweet natural taste but doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. While this would logically be a good thing at first glance, there is a potential downside to this. The body expects a blood sugar change when consuming sweet foods. Some experts speculate that it might be stressful to the body when it expects a blood sugar rise and it doesn’t occur, though this hasn’t been proven.

Researcher Sarah Ballantyne also presents some concerns about the potential hormone-mimicking and altering effects:

There is evidence that steviol glycosides have contraceptive effects in both males and females. In particular, one specific steviol glycoside, called stevioside, has been shown to have potent contraceptive properties in female rats, implying that stevia may have an impact on estrogen, progesterone or both.

While small and occasional consumption of stevia likely has little to no impact on general health, it should not be consumed on a regular basis especially by those with altered hormone balance and dysfunctional immune systems.(3)

The only studies I found on this hormone aspect indicated that extremely large amounts of the Stevioside part of the plant would be needed to affect hormone balance (and Stevioside only makes up 10% of the sweet compounds in the plant), so I don’t think this is a tremendous concern, especially for moderate or occasional use.

Even though studies show that only extremely large amounts of stevia would be needed to cause temporary infertility or hormone problems, I would still personally avoid stevia if I struggled with hormone problems or infertility.

Stevia Safety: The Bottom Line

No human studies have ever shown any problems from pure and natural forms of stevia and dozens of studies have shown potential benefits from it.

Personally, I feel safe using stevia in leaf form or tinctures made from leaf form but avoid the white processed and powdered versions.

In particular, the two forms of stevia I use are:

Stevia Leaf– Which I use in teas as a sweetener and to make this stevia tincture (for use in recipes or drinks)
Sweet Drops Stevia- A pre-made stevia tincture that comes in various flavors
What do you think? Does your family use stevia?

Is Fermented Cod Liver Oil Safe or Rancid?

I’ve written in depth before about supplements I personally take, including fermented cod liver oil.

If you follow many bloggers in the natural health community, you’ve probably seen the recent drama about the potential quality issues with fermented cod liver oil.

If you missed it, here is a quick recap:

Fermented Cod Liver Oil is considered a traditional food that has been recommended by the Weston A. Price Foundation and many real food bloggers (including me) for years. It was even the WAPF recommended brand for use in homemade infant formula and many members take it religiously.

On August 21, 2015, Weston A. Price Foundation Vice President Dr. Kaayla Daniel released a 100+ page report detailing the results of independent lab tests that she had on samples of Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil and that alleged major issues with the brand, including rancidity, lower levels of nutrients than were claimed, and sourcing issues.

Dr. Daniel’s report claims that FCLO is not actually fermented, is rancid, putrid, and adulterated with other (cheaper) oils. It also alleges that there are lower levels of fat soluble nutrients in FCLO than claimed and that the oil isn’t even from cod. Serious claims from a well-respected person in the real food community.

Understandably, this has left many people in the real food community reeling and looking for answers. I’ve gotten many emails, comments, and social media messages in the last few days asking what my take on the subject is, and have spent the last several days researching all of the claims from both sides.

Below is my personal opinion and research on this issue based on the information available right now. I will continue to update this post as more information is revealed.

My hope is that no matter the outcome of further research and study about fermented cod liver oil, the real food community will take this as a lesson in the importance of verifying the quality of supplements and use this as an opportunity to improve the real food movement, rather than to divide the community.

Is Fermented Cod Liver Oil Safe or Rancid?

In short… I don’t know. Based on the information available from both sides, I don’t think it is possible for anyone (short of Green Pastures, the company producing the fermented cod liver oil in question) to know the answers to all of the questions that many people are asking right now. At the same time, there are some holes in the report from Dr. Daniels and some potential financial ties that have come to light that call her motivation into question.

When our family first started taking fermented cod liver oil years ago, I did a lot of research on the company and on cod liver oil in general (as anyone should do before taking fat soluble vitamins regularly). The only lab reports I was able to find at the time were from Green Pastures and they showed no rancidity in the fermented cod liver oil and verified that FCLO did contain the fat soluble vitamins it was known for.

The recent report from Dr. Daniel calls these tests into question. Her results have the lab company and the party funding the test blurred out, which is somewhat suspect, though I do not think that this necessarily discredits the information in the reports. The report does, however, make some assertions about certain compounds being harmful as a justification for why FCLO is not safe, and some of these claims are not backed by existing science (or are at least controversial).

In the last six months or so, I’ve actually been researching and testing different forms of cod liver oil after readers have inquired about different brands and reported issues they’ve had with FCLO.

My Experience

Our family has seen benefits from taking fermented cod liver oil over the years, including reversal of tooth decay. I’ve also noticed that my skin is naturally more sun tolerant since taking FCLO, probably from the fat soluble vitamins it contains.

At the same time, there is the possibility that the quality of Green Pastures FCLO has changed since I researched it years ago, or that more recent lab testing has been able to reveal problems that were undetectable years ago.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil: The Claims

FCLO is Not Fermented:

There may be some truth to this claim. I’ve talked before about the importance of fermented foods for health, and why the naturally created beneficial bacteria in fermented foods are so important.

The red flag that Daniels explains is that oil cannot ferment. The process of fermentation requires the presence of a carbohydrate as the food for the fermentation process. Many people (including me) assumed that an unnamed carbohydrate was used for the fermentation process but was removed by the process so it was not listed on the ingredients or that the livers themselves were fermented and not the oil (as an oil can’t ferment without another ingredient).

Green Pastures owner Dave Wetzel has been less than transparent about this fermentation process, though supposedly he has brought several WAPF members and high profile bloggers to his facility to see the process and verify its quality. (I have never been to the facility and have no firsthand knowledge of this process, so I have to rely on Dave’s explanation of his process.

This is one area that I hope we see more detail on from Green Pastures and from independent sources in the future. For now, the debate about the process used and what part of the process actually requires fermentation does not necessarily mean that the final product is not high quality, but it does raise some interesting questions to explore.

FCLO is Rancid:

Fats and oils cannot ferment without carbohydrates, so what happens when they are exposed to the conditions of fermentation? In short, they go rancid.

This is the basis for the claims in the new report. The independent lab results from Dr. Daniel show several biomarkers of rancidity in the samples tested (these were not present in the reports I found in my initial research).

In Daniel’s tests, peroxide, free fatty acids and other biomarkers of rancidity were found. I was unable to find clear answers directly from Green Pastures, though I found several older articles and interviews in which Dave states that his product does not contain these biomarkers or that the substances are not harmful. Again, more research is needed from independent sources on this.

Low Levels of Vitamins:

Another claim in the reports is that FCLO contains less fat soluble vitamins than claimed and that the Vitamin D is in the form of D2 and not D3.

The common consensus among medical experts is that D3 is the preferred form, though Green Pastures claims that D2 is equally safe and effective. To be fair, all forms of cod liver oil contain higher levels of D2 and this does not necessarily raise a red flag, but again, more research is needed.

Also, Green Pastures has never made claims, to my knowledge, about the levels of nutrients in their products, carefully explaining that they are a food product and that levels can change.

Not Actually Cod:

The report further claimed that the DNA tests on Green Pastures products showed that the livers used were from Alaskan Polluck, not cod. This seems to be partially an issue of understanding of fish species and families, since:

The Alaska pollock or walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus, formerly Theragra chalcogramma) is a marine fish species of the cod family Gadidae. Alaska pollock is a semipelagic schooling fish widely distributed in the North Pacific with largest concentrations found in the eastern Bering Sea.

After hours of research, I could not find any definitive answer directly from Green Pastures about the origin or species of the fish they use. The closest I could find was Dave’s vague answer from his own FAQs:

Ok, The question arises on the topic of location of the fish. The fish school in the northern, cold waters around the Arctic Ocean. They do not have a nationality and a fish can school for a 1000+ miles in its life. So the relevance of the specific spot the fish is cleaned is not relevant to the discussion, ‘is the fish safe to consume’.

Red Flags from the Report

While Kaayla’s report certainly raises some concerns about FCLO, it also raises some concerns about its own validity. For instance:

The labs used for the testing and who paid for the independent testing is not disclosed. This isn’t necessarily a red flag on its own, but given the rumored history of drama within the WAPF organization, I think it deserves further investigation. Given how much heated press this report has generated, I can certainly understand the potential desire of a donor to remain anonymous in the report,  but it does raise a red flag.
Though I have no firsthand experience with any of the board members of WAPF, including Sally Fallon or Dr. Daniel, reports of internal drama run rampant in the real food community. In fact, I avoided joining the WAPF for years partially because of these claims. We have not heard an official response from WAPF or Green Pastures yet, and I think that thoroughly evaluating both sides will be an important step for any of us looking to understand the long term validity of these claims.
The one funding source that Kaayla mentions in the report, Dr. Ron Schmid ND, has a long and somewhat dramatic history with FCLO. He reportedly took (really large doses- above the recommended amount) of regular cod liver oil and then fermented cod liver oil for decades and attributes them to his severe heart disease. He has also stated publicly that he attributes his miraculous recovery from heart disease with discontinuing taking FCLO. Not exactly an unbiased source. Again, this does not discredit the information, but does raise some additional questions.
While Daniels lists sources for many of her claims, she doesn’t list her sources for many of her quotes. In fact, while she says she talked to many experts (including “top university professors, scientists, researchers, lab managers, doctors and other health care practitioners”), these sources are unnamed for many of her more serious allegations. Obviously, these claims would carry much more weight if they were substantiated and sourced.
It also raised a red flag for me that Daniel has a call to action for her own services in the report, saying: “Finally, if you think you have health challenges related to FCLO consumption, share your story with friends, colleagues . . . and me. If you think you’ve been harmed, I would like to offer you a FREE mini appointment by phone or face-to- face on Skype. To share your story or to make your appointment, contact me at ***********@earthlink.net.” I can understand her desire to help others if she truly feels that FCLO is harmful, but a report making these allegations does not seem like the appropriate place to make this offer. Again, not a reason to discredit the report, but a red flag.
Emerging information has also revealed some potential political ties from the new organization Dr. Daniels founded after leaving/being forced out of WAPF and the makers of the Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil product she recommends. In other words, the company she recommends as an alternative to FCLO is a sponsor of her new organization so she may have a bias here. Additionally, there is a lot of information floating around about potential conflict within the old organization hierarchy of WAPF that suggests there may be much more to the story on both sides.
The Bottom Line

Based on the available information at this time, it is extremely difficult or impossible to draw a definitive conclusion on the issue of the quality of Green Pastures FCLO or other CLO products. I think that this whole “scandal” is a symptom of a much bigger problem- the mud slinging between competing companies and emerging attacks on both sides of the fence.

The report brings up some serious points and hints at some possible misleading information from Green Pastures over the years. As a mom who has given FCLO to my own family for years and seen good enough results to recommend it to readers as well, I am extremely angry and disappointed in Green Pastures if any of these claims turn out to be true. At the same time, there are some serious holes in the Dr. Daniel’s report and the potential financial ties to the new company bring up more questions.

I think more research and disclosure is needed from both parties, and like I said, I hope that all of us in the real food community will use this as an opportunity to improve, learn more, and get to the truth, and not as an excuse to argue and divide.

At the end of the day, I have to hope and trust until I see evidence to the contrary that both the founders of Green Pastures and Dr. Daniel are interested in health and serving their communities and continue to evaluate any information as objectively as possible.

At the same time, I don’t think either side is unbiased.

Green Pastures, of course, derives a profit from the sale of their FCLO. Dr Daniel has a rumored history of contention with different parties within WAPF and with Green Pastures as well as potential financial ties to the new EVCLO company. Again, none of these are relevant to the validity of the data in the reports or even necessarily to the motivation of either party, but they do provide a possible motivation for slanting information one way or the other.

At the end of the day, things are rarely what they seem on the surface and my guess is that we will continue to find more from both sides of this story.

What Our Family is Doing

As I mentioned, after many reader questions, I have been researching FCLO and  alternative cod liver oil sources for months.

For now, we still have FCLO in our fridge, but have been testing virgin cod liver oil as well. I’m also continuing to research the safety and effectiveness of both products and hope to see more transparency from both companies.

Based on the evidence available, I can certainly see the importance of exercising caution with consuming FCLO until we have more information, but do not think the report alone is enough evidence to never take FCLO again unless we receive further verification.

For those of us who have taken (or decide to still take) Fermented Cod Liver Oil in the recommended doses, I do not think that the report offers definite reasons for concern or stress.

I hope that both parties act openly and transparently in the coming weeks and months and will update this post as more information becomes available.

Since there is so much conflicting information on the issue right now, please share any information or research you’ve found in the comments below. Has your opinion of FCLO changed as a result of this report?

France and Canada: 58th and 59th countries to endorse Safe Schools Declaration

Education International has welcomed the move by France and Canada to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, committing themselves to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of war.

 

Education International (EI) and its affiliates congratulate the French and Canadian governments for becoming the latest countries to endorse the international political commitment known as the Safe Schools Declaration.The commendation was issued by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack(GCPEA), an inter-agency coalition formed in 2010 to address the issue of targeted attacks on education during armed conflict.

Safe from attack

Keeping education safe from the types of attacks the GCPEA works to highlight is the other dimension to the EI/United Nations Girls’ Education school-related gender-based violence initiative.This initiative seeks to keep schools free from violence that can be committed by students, teachers and education support personnel, who can also all be victims of such violence.

The endorsement came during the international conference on the protection of children in armed conflicts being hosted by the French foreign ministry in Paris on 21 February. This conference marked the 10th anniversary of the Paris Principles and Commitments, dedicated to protecting children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups.

International support

Fifty-nine countries have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, including most of the European Union and NATO member states. The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that facilitates countries to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict. It stresses the importance of continuing education during armed conflict.

By joining the Declaration, countries pledge to restore access to education when schools are bombed, burned, and destroyed during armed conflict, and undertake to make it less likely that students, teachers, and schools will be attacked in the first place. They agree to deter such violence by promising to investigate and prosecute war crimes involving schools, and to minimise the use of schools for military purposes so they do not become targets for attack.