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Receipts expose retail workers, consumers to ‘worrying’ levels of cancer-linked chemicals: study

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip


Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 10:00PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2019 10:27PM EST

Retail workers across Canada are being exposed to “worrying” levels of BPA and BPS — hormone disrupting industrial chemicals that have been linked to diabetes, obesity, ADHD and breast and prostate cancers — by simply handling thermal paper receipts, according to the results of a new experiment by Environmental Defence Canada (EDC). To reach that conclusion, four environmentalists even put their bodies on the line.

“These slips of paper are covertly exposing cashiers to worrying levels of hormone disrupting BPA and BPS every day,” Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager at EDC, said in the study. “But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

For the first-of-its-kind experiment, Malas and EDC toxics program co-ordinator Sarah Jamal partnered with Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, the authors of “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health” — a 2009 book that is about to be re-released in an updated form.

For the experiment, each of the four environmentalists voluntarily handled receipts, tickets and passes printed on thermal paper and then conducted urine tests to show how easily BPA — which is short for “bisphenol A” and commonly found in thermal paper — can be absorbed through the skin into a person’s body.

They also handled thermal paper coated with BPS, or “bisphenol S,” which several companies have switched to in light of BPA-related concerns, though some scientists warn it could have similar negative health effects.

The team at EDC found that BPA levels in their bodies rose up to 42 times higher than the baseline and BPS levels increased by up to 115 times.

“As a consumer, this scares the bejeebers out of me,” Smith told CTV News. “All of us have handled these things on a daily basis.”

THE EXPERIMENT

While the increased amount of BPA and BPS were both considered troubling, the dramatic difference in BPS can be explained by the greater proportion of BPS-coated receipts in the Canadian market, EDC’s report stated.

Smith, moreover, who recorded the highest levels of both BPA and BPS in the experiment, cleaned his hands with sanitizer before touching the receipts.

Previous studies have shown that holding receipts and eating after using hand sanitizer results in higher levels of BPA in blood and urine.

“The scale of chemical increase that I saw in my body is probably due to my use of hand sanitizer before the experiment,” Smith explained. “Given that many people, including retail workers, use hand sanitizer on a daily basis, this is a huge cause for concern. I now try not to touch cash receipts when someone hands one to me. And it’s tough to do.”

Researchers did a two-week BPA and BPS detox before the experiment, avoiding all sources of the chemicals for two weeks, cutting out canned food, plastic containers, bottled water and wearing gloves when handling receipts.

Each participant took a urine sample to test BPA and BPS levels after the two-week detox. This would be the baseline data.

The researchers then touched an assortment of receipts collected from Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area for a short time, around 15 minutes; the length of time they estimated a cashier would spend touching receipts on a daily basis.

They then tested chemicals in their urine from before the exposure and eight to 10 hours later.

“To see the levels of BPA and BPS in my body grow upwards of more than a hundred-fold just from holding receipts is mind boggling,” said Malas.

BPA AND BPS CONCERNS

Today in Canada, BPA is most commonly found in food and drink containers such as cans and water bottles and is linked to obesity and infertility, among other health problems.

Health Canada’s latest Canadian Health Measures Survey revealed than nine out of 10 Canadians have BPA in their systems.

BPA is known for its hormone disrupting effects and is linked to a wide range of health issues including diabetes, ADHD in children and hormone-based cancers in the breast and prostate, EDC said.

Vasantha Rupasinghe, a Dalhousie University professor who does research on BPA and BPS, said he was surprised at how much of the material was absorbed through the skin in the EDC experiment.

“When we compare the two compounds at same concentrations what we found was the damage was pretty much the same,” he said. “I think the responsible authorities like Health Canada need to pay attention to these new substitutes used in preparing these plastic-based material in food packaging and test their toxicity and whether they are harmful for human health.”

The findings have also worried union leaders representing retail workers.

“I mean a lot of them don’t even know that these chemicals exist,” United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada health and safety representative Mary Shaw told CTV News. “They are not being informed by their employers either which is incredibly frustrating.”

The union has suggested that cashiers wear protective gloves unless safer alternatives are used to existing thermal paper receipts. That stance was even espoused in a fall 2018 edition of “Checkout,” UFCW Canada’s news magazine.

Cashier and retail sales jobs are also among the two most common occupations for women in Canada.

A significant portion of these women are of childbearing age and may face unacceptable health risks because of exposure to BPA and BPS on the job, the EDC researchers concluded.

“It is even more alarming that this is happening within the bodies of hundreds of thousands of women and teenage cashiers who are more biologically vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals and who handle dozens of receipts daily,” Malas said.

The European Union has already taken action, banning the use of BPA in receipts beginning next year.

Dow Chemical and German paper group Koehler have also jointly won a U.S. Environment Protection Agency award for developing a thermal printing paper that does not need chemicals such as BPA or BPS.

The EDC environmentalists have also launched a petition to push Ottawa to increase safety testing of chemicals before they are used.

“BPA is just one of many harmful chemicals that we are exposed to every day,” Lourie said. “The onus lies on governments to do the right thing, protect public health, and make sure that these kinds of chemicals aren’t being used.”

According to EDC, Health Canada doesn’t consider BPA exposure a significant risk to Canadians, as average exposures are below the levels considered harmful, EDC said.

Health Canada banned the use of BPA in baby bottles nine years ago, the first country to do so.

In a statement sent to CTV News, a Health Canada spokesperson said that the federal department “is committed to protecting Canadians from harmful substances” and “is aware of the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the production of thermal paper.”

“At this time, Health Canada has not concluded that BPA in thermal receipt paper is a significant source of exposure for the general population,” the statement read. “Currently, there are no plans to ban the use of BPA and Bisphenol S (BPS) on receipts.”

“It is important for Canadians to understand that just because a chemical may be detected in our bodies, it does not necessarily mean it is causing harm,” the statement added. “Health Canada also continues to assess new research on BPA and BPS and, if necessary, will not hesitate to take appropriate action to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”

10 MILLION METRIC TONNES

Despite these health concerns, the use of BPA in consumer products continues to grow.

In 2016, around eight million metric tonnes of BPA were used globally and its consumption is projected to grow to 10.6 million metric tons by 2022.

Meanwhile, Professor Patricia Hunt from Washington State University’s school of molecular biosciences, warned that while people can reduce exposure, they can’t eliminate it entirely because it is in our food, water and air.

“It is true if you ingest them they are rapidly eliminated, but it’s not true if you take them into the skin they are rapidly eliminated. We are being constantly exposed,” she said. “These are chemicals that behave like hormones or interfere with hormones. And hormones can do their work at low, low levels. The low doses are equally dangerous perhaps even more so.”

THERMAL PAPER

EDC is calling for a ban on the use of bisphenol-based thermal paper by 2021 and for a clampdown on bisphenols that could lead to human or environmental exposure.

Thermal paper printing uses heat to turn the BPA or BPS coating into text and numbers without the use of ink.

“Canada should quickly move to ban bisphenols in receipts,” Malas said.

The study also recommended receipt-handling training for cashiers and called on retailers to use e-receipts or bisphenol-free paper.

EDC suggested consumers hold the unprinted side of the receipt and wash their hands after handling.

It also said receipts should not be recycled as they contaminate the recycling stream.

Canada’s second largest food retailer Sobeys told CTV News that its receipt paper is BPA free, but does contain BPS.

“When the report is released, we will go through the new findings in full detail and investigate alternatives,” a Sobeys spokeswoman told CTV News.

The Retail Council of Canada declined to comment specifically on the EDC study, saying in an emailed statement that it does not “comment on business decisions including the sourcing of supplies and equipment” but will “advise our member retailers of its findings and recommendations” following a “thorough review” of that material.

“That said, MANY retailers have switched their cashier receipts to paper that does not contain Bisphenol A (BPA),” the statement added. “In addition, retailers are increasingly moving to electronic receipts which removes the need for printed paper (including digital and online receipts).”

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Health Ranger posts new microscopy photos of covid swabs, covid masks and mysterious red and blue fibers

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(Natural News) What follows is a series of microscopy photos of covid swabs (a synthetic swab, then a cotton swab), a covid mask and some zoomed-in photos of mysterious red and blue fibers found in the masks.

The magnification range for these photos is 50X to 200X. Most were taken with white light, but several (as indicated) were taken with UV light.

The images shown here are 600 pixels wide. We have higher resolution images available to researchers and indy media journalists; contact us for those hi-res images.

More microscopy investigations are under way, and new images will be posted as they are finalized.

First, this series shows the carbon fiber layer of a covid mask, illuminated with UV light:

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5,800 test positive, 74 die of coronavirus at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated

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(Natural News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, April 15, confirmed some 5,800 breakthrough coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S.

A breakthrough COVID-19 case is defined as someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated against the disease.

Nearly 400 breakthrough cases required treatment at hospitals and 74 died. A little over 40 percent of the infections were in people 60 years and above and 65 percent were female. About 29 percent of the vaccine breakthrough infections were reportedly asymptomatic. The figures were for cases through April 13.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the causes of the breakthrough cases are being probed. “Some of these breakthroughs are, of course, failure of an immune response in the host. And then some of them we worry might be related to a variant that is circulating. So we’re looking at both,” she said.

The CDC is monitoring reported cases “for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.” It has created a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough database, where state health departments can enter, store and manage data for cases in their region.

Where available, respiratory specimens that tested positive for COVID-19 will be collected for genomic sequencing “to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.”

Positive test less than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated is not a breakthrough case

The number of cases the CDC has identified does not include people who contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after their final dose. The two-week marker is important, said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A human body should have enough time to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after that timeframe. Before then, a person won’t necessarily have the built-up immunity needed to fight off an infection. According to Dr. Adalja, cases that occur before the two-week mark are not considered breakthrough cases.

Dr. Adalja also noted that more research is needed to determine if highly infectious variants of the virus are behind the breakthrough cases. “It is crucial to study breakthrough cases to understand their severity, their contagiousness and what role variants may be playing,” Dr. Adalja said.

More than 78 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 15.

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”

But the CDC conceded that “thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed with the CDC. “These vaccines that we’re using are fabulous but they’re not perfect,” he said. “At best, they’re 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness, but minor illnesses can occur.”

According to U.S. drug regulators, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection. Moderna’s was shown in a clinical trial to be 94.1 percent effective while Johnson & Johnson’s was 66.9 percent effective. Only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received its emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, was tested when variants were circulating.

The percentages are based on results from vaccine recipients two weeks after the final vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in a briefing last week that the breakthrough cases are not a cause for concern.

“I think the important thing is to look at what the denominator of vaccinated people is. Because it is very likely that the number of breakthrough cases is not at all incompatible with the 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy,” he said. “So I don’t think that there needs to be concern about any shift or change in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

More info needed before drawing conclusions from breakthrough cases

The percentage of vaccine breakthroughs in a population depends on multiple factors, including vaccine efficacy, the amount of virus circulating and the length of time since vaccination, according to Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.

“I love to see small numbers as much as anyone, but know that numbers like this cannot be directly interpreted as a measure of vaccine efficacy (although I have a feeling they will be). We can only interpret them against a background rate in unvaccinated people,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

“Similarly, ‘most breakthroughs have been in elderly adults’ should not be read as the vaccine is less effective in elderly adults. The majority of vaccinations (and the longest amount of follow-up time) have been in elderly adults. Again, we need more info to interpret.”

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More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year

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(Natural News) More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Francisco last year, a microcosm of a larger nationwide problem coinciding with the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, an astonishing 118 times more since the introduction of the drug in the city just five years earlier.

That figure nearly tripled the 254 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the city for the whole of last year. More than 8 in 10 deaths were male, and just under half were white. People aged 55 to 64 made up nearly a quarter of the fatalities. Nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in open-air drug markets such as the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The number of overdose deaths in the city could have been far worse as more than 3,000 addicts suffering from an overdose were administered with naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.

San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl overdose continues to rise this year as 135 died by overdose in January and February, putting the city on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.

The city has become a significant part of a larger trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on Wednesday, April 14, showing that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose over the 12-month period that ended in September last year – the highest since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s.

Lockdowns lead to more cases of drug overdose

The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis that may be correlated to the government’s monotonous battle plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement a stay-at-home order. It subsequently endured the longest lockdown of any state in the country.

The pandemic and accompanying lockdowns are believed to be partly responsible for the soaring number of drug deaths for obvious reasons. Lockdowns have badly disrupted the social services in the city, including drug addiction treatment. Drug experts say the isolation of the past 12 months is causing vulnerable residents to turn to opioids.

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us,” said Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. “It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

Fentanyl first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 2015. There were just six deaths from the synthetic opioid that year, 12 deaths in 2016 and 37 deaths in 2017. The figure skyrocketed when the drugs became widely available in the city in 2018.

Kristen Marshall, manager of the national drug harm reduction DOPE Project, noted the grim irony that while social isolation could save lives from COVID-19, it had undoubtedly contributed to the number of overdose deaths.

“Isolation is also the thing that puts people at the absolute highest risk of overdose death,” she said.

Pandemic exacerbates rise in deaths from drug overdose

The number of deaths from drug overdose started rising in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, making it hard to gauge how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend. The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect.

Many treatment programs closed during that time while drop-in centers, which provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, cut back services.

The data released by the CDC shows a 29 percent rise in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020 compared with the previous 12-month period. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were the primary drivers, although many fatal overdoses have also involved stimulant drugs like methamphetamine.

Unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a national addiction conference last week.

“And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.”

Dr. Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

“Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supported Dr. Volkow’s claim, saying that transnational criminal organizations cause a spike in overdoses by mixing fentanyl into illicit narcotics.

According to the DEA, Mexican cartels often purchase the drug components in China and use human mules to smuggle the narcotics to lucrative drug markets north of the border.

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