Science & Environment

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'Nessie’ sighting vaults Canadian couple into media spotlight after photo in Scotland
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Apr 24, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read

A Canadian couple, Parry Malm and Shannon Wiseman, living in England have been thrust into the limelight after capturing images, as shown in these handout images, of what could be the famed Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.
A Canadian couple, Parry Malm and Shannon Wiseman, living in England have been thrust into the limelight after capturing images, as shown in these handout images, of what could be the famed Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. PHOTO BY HO /The Canadian Press
LONDON — Parry Malm and Shannon Wiseman weren’t expecting a “pivotal moment” in their sons’ lives when they visited Scotland’s Loch Ness earlier this month, but that’s exactly what happened.


“Our youngest is turning three next week,” said Wiseman from the family’s home in London, England. “And he tells everyone there have been two pivotal moments in his life: Seeing the world’s largest dinosaur, which he did at the Natural History Museum in January, and seeing Nessie.


“He tells everyone he encounters. He tells the postman, he tells the guys in the shops and the cafes.”

Malm and Wiseman have been thrust into the limelight after a photo they took during their family vacation showed a shadowy figure poking above the waterline, something that the couple’s children — and others — firmly believe is the latest sighting of the famed Loch Ness Monster.

Malm and Wiseman, who are from Coquitlam B.C., and Calgary respectively, moved to England in 2006.


The couple said the original plan for the spring vacation was to take a boat ride in Loch Ness because their children were “completely captivated by the concept of Nessie.”

“We’d even packed shortbread cookies, which we were told from these books was Nessie’s favourite treat,” Wiseman quipped. “Turned out shortbread cookies were not necessary.”

That’s because the family spotted something sticking out of the water while visiting a lookout at nearby Urquhart Castle.

“We just started watching it more and more, and we could see its head craning above water,” Malm said. “And then it was swimming against the current towards the castle, slowly but surely, like very fastidiously going over the waves (and) coming closer and closer. And then it submerged and disappeared.”


Malm said the family took a photo of what they saw and decided “for a bit of a laugh” to send the picture to the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, which he stumbled upon while surfing the internet.

“They got in touch within 24 hours,” Malm recalled. “They were super excited. They sent it to one of their Loch Ness experts who said that it was ‘compelling evidence,’ I believe was the exact phrase.

“And just one thing led to another. I mean, it’s been incredible.”

Since the photo submission, Malm and Wiseman have been featured in British tabloids such as The Sun and the Daily Mirror and digital publication LADbible.

On the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, the encounter has been recorded as the first Nessie sighting of 2024.


“We’ve both got texts from people who we haven’t heard from in quite some time going, ‘Guess who I just saw on TV?”‘ Malm said.

“I’m just glad that we hit the national media in Canada for spotting the Loch Ness monster and not being on Crime Stoppers.”

Both Malm and Wiseman said they are happy their experience is bringing some positivity to the daily news cycle, and at least one person they have spoken with thanked them for the picture.

“Our son’s school’s headmaster is Scottish,” Malm said. “And he pulls me aside at pick up one day and he goes, ‘You know what, Perry? You’ve done more for Scottish tourism than anybody else in my lifetime.’

“So, hopefully some people will be inspired to come visit Scotland.”


What isn’t certain, however, is what they actually encountered on that cold April morning on the shore of Loch Ness.

“We don’t know what we saw,” Wiseman said. “Our children believe we saw Nessie, and I believe it for them.

“I believe that we saw something that could be Nessie, and that is a very broad possibility.”

Malm said the wonder that the sighting has inspired in his children, and others resonating with the photo, is more important than the question of what they encountered.

“It’s really charming,” he said of the outpouring of reactions. “Because in a world where the news is about a war here and an atrocity there, it’s just nice that people are interested in something that’s just lighthearted, a little bit silly and a little bit unbelievable.”
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Doctors combine a pig kidney transplant and a heart device in a bid to extend woman’s life
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Lauran Neergaard
Published Apr 24, 2024 • 3 minute read

NEW YORK — Doctors have transplanted a pig kidney into a New Jersey woman who was near death, part of a dramatic pair of surgeries that also stabilized her failing heart.


Lisa Pisano’s combination of heart and kidney failure left her too sick to qualify for a traditional transplant, and out of options. Then doctors at NYU Langone Health devised a novel one-two punch: Implant a mechanical pump to keep her heart beating and days later transplant a kidney from a genetically modified pig.


Pisano is recovering well, the NYU team announced Wednesday. She’s only the second patient ever to receive a pig kidney — following a landmark transplant last month at Massachusetts General Hospital — and the latest in a string of attempts to make animal-to-human transplantation a reality.

This week, the 54-year-old grasped a walker and took her first few steps.

“I was at the end of my rope,” Pisano told The Associated Press. “I just took a chance. And you know, worst case scenario, if it didn’t work for me, it might have worked for someone else and it could have helped the next person.”


Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of NYU Langone Transplant Institute, recounted cheers in the operating room as the organ immediately started making urine.

“It’s been transformative,” Montgomery said of the experiment’s early results.

But “we’re not off the hook yet,” cautioned Dr. Nader Moazami, the NYU cardiac surgeon who implanted the heart pump.

Other transplant experts are closely watching how the patient fares.

“I have to congratulate them,” said Dr. Tatsuo Kawai of Mass General, who noted that his own pig kidney patient was healthier overall before the operation. “When the heart function is bad, it’s really difficult to do a kidney transplant.”

THE PIG ORGAN QUEST
More than 100,000 people are on the U.S. transplant waiting list, most who need a kidney, and thousands die waiting. In hopes of filling the shortage of donated organs, several biotech companies are genetically modifying pigs so their organs are more humanlike, less likely to be destroyed by people’s immune system.


NYU and other research teams have temporarily transplanted pig kidneys and hearts into brain-dead bodies, with promising results. Then the University of Maryland transplanted pig hearts into two men who were out of other options, and both died within months.

Mass General’s pig kidney transplant last month raised new hopes. Kawai said Richard “Rick” Slayman experienced an early rejection scare but bounced back enough to go home earlier this month and still is faring well five weeks post-transplant. A recent biopsy showed no further problems.

A COMPLEX CASE AT NYU
Pisano is the first woman to receive a pig organ — and unlike with prior xenotransplant experiments, both her heart and kidneys had failed. She went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated before the experimental surgeries. She’d gotten too weak to even play with her grandchildren. “I was miserable,” the Cookstown, New Jersey, woman said.


A failed heart made her ineligible for a traditional kidney transplant. But while on dialysis, she didn’t qualify for a heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device or LVAD, either.

“It’s like being in a maze and you can’t find a way out,” Montgomery explained — until the surgeons decided to pair a heart pump with a pig kidney.

TWO SURGERIES IN EIGHT DAYS
With emergency permission from the Food and Drug Administration, Montgomery chose an organ from a pig genetically engineered by United Therapeutics Corp. so its cells don’t produce a particular sugar that’s foreign to the human body and triggers immediate organ rejection.

Plus a tweak: The donor pig’s thymus gland, which trains the immune system, was attached to the donated kidney in hopes that it would help Pisano’s body tolerate the new organ.


Surgeons implanted the LVAD to power Pisano’s heart on April 4, and transplanted the pig kidney on April 12. There’s no way to predict her long-term outcome but she’s shown no sign of organ rejection so far, Montgomery said. And in adjusting the LVAD to work with her new kidney, Moazami said doctors already have learned lessons that could help future care of heart-and-kidney patients.

Special “compassionate use” experiments teach doctors a lot but it will take rigorous studies to prove if xenotransplants really work. What happens with Pisano and Mass General’s kidney recipient will undoubtedly influence FDA’s decision to allow such trials. United Therapeutics said it hopes to begin one next year.
 

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The hidden cost of food inflation – compromising safety for affordability
As inflation climbs, Canadians risk food safety to stretch their dollars

Author of the article:Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Published Apr 26, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

The intersection of rising food costs and consumer health safety is emerging as a critical issue in today’s economy.


Recent research from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in partnership with Caddle, provides alarming insights into how financial pressures are influencing food safety behaviours among Canadians, with significant public health impacts.


The study surveyed 9,109 Canadians, revealing that 58% of respondents are more inclined to eat food near or beyond its “best before” date due to economic pressures from rising food prices. This trend is not marginal but indicative of a broad shift in consumer behaviour driven by financial necessity.

Alarmingly, 23.1% of these individuals consistently consume such foods, and an additional 38.6% do so frequently.

This risky behavior has direct health consequences: 20% of those surveyed reported sickness related to consuming food products past their “best before” date.



The data becomes even more concerning among Millennials, where 41% have experienced foodborne illnesses under similar circumstances. This demographic detail not only underscores the vulnerability of younger consumers but also highlights a generational divide in risk exposure and financial stability.

Despite these results being self-reported, the figures are alarmingly high.

Approximately 50.1% of Canadians acknowledge inflation has forced them to compromise on food safety, adopting strategies like freezing perishables or extending the usability of leftovers beyond typical safety margins. While these practices are resourceful, they can potentially lead to an increase in foodborne diseases, a concern substantiated by the reported incidences of illness.



The implications of these findings extend beyond individual households, suggesting a systemic issue that intertwines economic policies with public health outcomes.

Although food spending at the grocery store has decreased compared to 2018 and 2019, possibly indicating Canadians are wasting less food at home, this may also imply they are taking greater risks with their health.

As Canadians adjust their eating habits to cope with financial pressures, the need for enhanced risk communication policies and informing the public about how to manage risks at home is more critical than ever. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggests about four million Canadians contract a foodborne illness each year, a number that this report suggests may rise as food inflation becomes a widespread issue.


Food in Canada is generally safer compared to other nations. However, the consumer remains the most critical risk manager within the entire supply chain. While expiry dates are non-negotiable, “best before” dates do not mean “bad after.”

Nevertheless, consumers must carefully assess whether a product is safe to eat, considering their ability to cope with potential risks. Making the wrong decision could result in missing work and incurring additional costs.

Perhaps someday consumers will have access to home technology that can detect the safety level of the food they are about to eat in real time?

This research from Dalhousie University highlights an urgent need for policies that address the interplay between economic pressures and public health, emphasizing the necessity of robust consumer education on food safety in times of economic strain.

– Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University
 

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Bird flu virus found in 1 in 5 U.S. milk samples, FDA says
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Gerson Freitas Jr.
Published Apr 26, 2024 • 1 minute read
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday, March 25, 2024, that milk from dairy cows in Texas and Kansas has tested positive for bird flu.
Fragments of the bird flu virus have been found in about one fifth of commercial milk samples tested in a U.S. nationally representative study, according to the Food and Drug Administration.


While the presence of traces of the virus in milk doesn’t necessarily indicate a risk to consumers, more tests are needed to confirm if intact pathogen is present and remains infectious, the FDA said in a statement on its website. That would determine “whether there is any risk of illness associated with consuming the product,” it added.


The initial study results offer a stark indication of how quickly a virus that has killed millions of birds globally is spreading among U.S. dairy cows, raising health and food security woes while spooking markets.

The FDA said there’s a higher proportion of positive tests coming from milk in areas with infected herds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed 33 infected herds in eight states including Texas, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio. On Wednesday, the USDA implemented mandatory testing of dairy cows moving across state borders as part of efforts to understand the extent of the outbreak and contain the virus.

Authorities have reaffirmed that the risk to humans remain low. So far this year, the U.S. has only identified one person who has been infected — and there’s been no human-to-human transmission. The person, who had direct contact with contaminated cattle, experienced only minor symptoms and was treated with Tamiflu.

“To date, the retail milk studies have shown no results that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” FDA said.
 

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Dangerous worms now wriggling in Ontario soil
Hammerhead worms can grow to three feet and have been found in Newmarket, Hamilton and the Kitchener area

Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Apr 27, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

Hammerhead worms found in a garden in Montreal on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.
Hammerhead worms found in a garden in Montreal on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. PHOTO BY PIERRE OBENDRAUF /Montreal Gazette
Ontario has been invaded by worm that are dangerous to pets.


There have been reports that hammerhead worms, which can grow to three-feet-long, have recently been found in Newmarket, Hamilton and the Kitchener area.


“They’re here. People are surprised to see them because they are very unusual. People are not used to seeing them. They are originally a semitropical organism,” John Reynolds, a laboratory biologist and worm expert, recently told CTV News Toronto.

It isn’t clear how the worms, native to Southeast Asia, came into the province but they have previously been found in the United States and Quebec.

“They don’t get very far on their own. They need to be transported,” Reynolds explained. “They can spread quickly because if you cut them, each piece becomes a new individual.”



He said hammerhead worms produce a dangerous neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin that is also found in pufferfish.

The worm’s toxins can kill small animals and causes a rash in people.

“They are not seriously harmful to people. They can cause a terrible rash and make your hands tingle for a while,” Reynolds said. “If you swallow one by mistake, it will only make you nauseous. It certainly won’t be fatal.”

However, the Kitchener worm expert warned people not to pick up worms.

“These worms have been here, but in such low numbers that they were originally overlooked, but recently they have become more visible,” Reynolds said, adding as the number of hammerhead worms increases, the more sightings and awareness there will be.

The Invasive Species Center advises people to report any sightings of hammerhead worms on iNaturalist.ca.

“Ideally get precise location information, an address,” Reynolds said. “And get some photos because that’s really the only way you can verify detection.”

kconnor@postmedia.com
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EPA bans most uses of toxic solvent tied to dozens of deaths
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Maxine Joselow, The Washington Post
Published Apr 30, 2024 • 4 minute read

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday a ban on most uses of methylene chloride, a toxic solvent used in paint stripping that has been linked to at least 88 accidental deaths since 1980.


The final rule bolsters the Biden administration’s broader crackdown on an array of chemicals known to cause serious health effects, despite their helpful applications in everyday life. It will restrict all consumer uses of methylene chloride and most industrial and commercial uses, with some exemptions for the military and makers of climate-friendly coolants and electric vehicle components.

Methylene chloride is often used to refinish bathtubs and furniture, and to make pharmaceuticals and refrigerants. Short-term exposure can cause dizziness, headaches and damage to the central nervous system. Long-term exposure is linked to several types of cancer, including those of the brain, breast, liver and lung.


The EPA has recently unveiled a flurry of other regulations on toxic chemicals. Earlier this month, the agency moved to force polluters to clean up two of the most pervasive forms of “forever chemicals,” designating them as hazardous substances under the nation’s Superfund law. The agency also limited emissions of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing gas, from roughly 200 chemical plants across the country.

The Biden administration says it has reinvigorated the EPA’s chemicals office after years of budget cuts, depleted staffing levels and generally weaker proposals under President Donald Trump.

“With today’s rule, and the ones that will soon follow, the Biden administration is really turning the page on worker chemical safety in this country,” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said on a call with reporters Monday previewing the announcement.


“I wish these protections had been in place earlier, because for many families, they’re coming too late,” Freedhoff added.

The final rule requires companies to rapidly phase down manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride. Consumer use of the chemical will be phased out within a year, and most industrial and commercial uses will be prohibited within two years.

The EPA will also establish a program aimed at protecting workers from exposure to methylene chloride, especially those engaged in bathtub refinishing or other paint stripping. The program will involve strict monitoring requirements, exposure limits and worker training.

Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son, Kevin, died of methylene chloride poisoning while refinishing a bathtub in 2017, said the agency’s actions will prevent other families from experiencing her “unimaginable loss.”


“Science has told us for decades about the dangers of methylene chloride,” Hartley said on the call with reporters. “The EPA’s actions today are telling us that they heard our stories and are protecting workers.”

Retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s have already pulled methylene chloride from their shelves in the face of public outcry. But manufacturers of the solvent have argued that workers and consumers have safely handled it for more than 60 years.

The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, an industry group, wrote in public comments on the proposed rule that methylene chloride “has been used by hundreds of thousands of workers in dozens of different applications for many decades, with no evidence of liver toxicity or increased cancer risk.”


The final rule contains exemptions for uses of methylene chloride that are important to the economy, national security and the fight against climate change, the EPA said. It allows for the continued production of climate-friendly coolants and battery separators for electric vehicles — two technologies key to Biden’s climate agenda.

Rich Gold, a lobbyist who leads the law firm Holland & Knight’s public policy and regulation group and represents chemical industry clients, said the EPA struck the right balance with the exemptions.

“There are uses that are absolutely essential, such as batteries for EVs and climate-friendly refrigerants,” Gold said. “And then there are uses where the agency feels the risk is too high.”


Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a supervising senior attorney at the environmental law firm Earthjustice who has represented workers and communities exposed to methylene chloride, said the rule is “sorely needed” and will “protect millions of people.” But he criticized the exclusions from the ban, which the chemical industry sought, as too lenient.

“The rule allows more than 50 percent of current methylene chloride production and use to continue, subject only to workplace exposure limits that EPA lacks the resources to enforce and that do nothing for the communities where methylene chloride is released,” Kalmuss-Katz said in an email.

The EPA first proposed to ban most uses of methylene chloride on Jan. 19, 2017 — a day before President Barack Obama left office. A year earlier, Congress had granted the EPA new powers to restrict the use of toxic chemicals in an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the nation’s main chemical safety law.


Scott Pruitt, who led the EPA under Trump, initially signaled that the agency would follow through on the Obama administration’s proposal, and he met with relatives of three men who had died of exposure to methylene chloride. But the Trump administration ultimately finalized a narrow ban on solely consumer uses in 2019, sparking an outcry from public health advocates and many congressional Democrats.

The Biden administration rule does not apply to methylene chloride that is added to foods such as decaffeinated coffee and certain spice extracts. The Food and Drug Administration — not the EPA — has the authority to restrict this use of the chemical.

FDA spokesman Enrico Dinges said in an email that the agency is reviewing advocates’ petitions for rescinding the approval of methylene chloride and three other chemicals added to foods. He declined to comment further.
 

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12-sided Roman relic baffles archaeologists, spawns countless theories
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Leo Sands, The Washington Post
Published Apr 30, 2024 • 5 minute read

The dodecahedron on display at the National Civil War Center in Newark, England.
The dodecahedron on display at the National Civil War Center in Newark, England. PHOTO BY COURTESY OF NORTON DISNEY HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY GROUP /The Washington Post
LONDON — As the group of amateur archaeologists sifted through tiles, animal teeth and pottery fragments buried within an ancient Roman pit in eastern England, one of them encountered something unusual last June.


It was a cast bronze object, hollow in the middle, flat along 12 faces, about the size of a clenched fist. Only one of the diggers — all members of Norton Disney village’s archaeology society — recognized the discovery: It was a Roman dodecahedron, likely to have been placed there 1,700 years earlier.


“You’re looking at a very strange and bizarre object,” Richard Parker, secretary of the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group, said in a telephone interview.

At first glimpse, the dodecahedron looks more like a sci-fi illustration than it does an ancient Roman relic. Each of its pentagon-shaped faces is punctuated by a hole, varying in size, and each of its 20 corners is accented by a semi-spherical knob.

Since 1739, some 130 of these objects have been discovered across Northern and Western Europe. While archaeologists have dated the relics to Roman times, they have been baffled by the objects for centuries, with no consensus ever emerging on what they were for. There is no known written description of them in ancient texts; nor do any pictorial references exist.


“One reason that it is so captivating for the public is that it’s hard to believe that we have anything from the Roman period that we don’t know what it’s for,” Lorena Hitchens, an archaeologist specializing in Roman dodecahedrons, said in a telephone interview. “It’s very tempting to want to solve that mystery.”

“It’s a really good dodecahedron,” added Hitchens, who examined the relic and found it to be remarkably intact. A preliminary inspection dated the find to between A.D. 43 and 410, the later Roman period.

“It really is one of the oddest and most unusual artifacts that you can get from antiquity,” said Parker, who was brewing tea for his fellow amateur archaeologists when one of the volunteers found the relic. “You look at it and you think: This doesn’t belong. But it actually does. It’s from the Roman period.”


And yet, no one can say how the Romans put it to use. “The function of these enigmatic forms is still unclear and no firm conclusions have been reached,” the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme summarizes.

There are, however, clues: The form, condition and locations of the discoveries all offer signposts. They may not solve the mystery, but archaeologists believe that they at least narrow the range of working theories.

For instance, dodecahedrons so far discovered range in length from two to over four inches, suggesting to Hitchens that they are not standard measuring devices. “You need consistency to be able to use anything as a gauge,” she said.

The geographic locations of the discoveries offer another clue: They have been found across the northern and western provinces of the Roman Empire — modern-day Britain, France and Germany. “They’re always north of the Alps,” with none so far discovered around the Mediterranean Basin, Hitchens said. To her, this is a hint that they were not primarily military objects: “If it was purely a Roman military thing, it would have been used all over the empire.”


Internet sleuths have joined the speculation, including on a dedicated Reddit forum, with many gravitating toward an explanation that revolves around their use as tools. In one YouTube video, knit and crochet pattern designer Amy Gaines posits her theory that dodecahedrons may have been used to knit gold chains, constructing a 3D-printed replica to demonstrate her theory. Parker said one member of the public suggested to him this week — perhaps half-jokingly — that they could have been used as a dog treat dispenser. English Heritage lists theories ranging from a tool for finding the best date to sow grain, to functioning as a candleholder, a polygonal dice, a range finder, a surveying instrument, or a way of knitting gloves.


But academic archaeologists shy away from the suggestion that they were practical objects used as everyday tools. “I know that because I’ve examined a lot of them, and they don’t have the kind of use wear you’d expect from a tool,” Hitchens said.

“They’re also much more delicate than people realize,” she said. “They would be broken very quickly.”

Nor does Hitchens believe that they could have been used as die— the varying weights of the faces, due to the oddly shaped holes, make them unbalanced, and the protruding knobs impede their ability to roll.

The most popular theory among academic experts, although not yet proved, is that dodecahedrons held religious or ritual meaning, linked in some way to local practices on the Roman Empire’s fringes.


Proponents of this theory — including Parker — also point to the intricacy of the object itself, suggesting it probably had special value. According to Hitchens, the relic was made using a lost-wax bronze-casting process, an extremely technical feat — made even more challenging by the fact that the final product was hollow. “It’s a difficult shape to work with. You have to be really at the top of your game to make one of these,” she said.

Archaeologists believe the Norton Disney relic was intentionally buried at the site where it was found — the same place where a figurine of a godlike figure riding a horse, an object associated with places of worship, was found decades earlier. “We think there is some sort of religious element to the site,” Parker said. “It’s very possible that we may be looking at something that had a ritualistic element.”

“You can’t at this point yet prove that, though,” Hitchens said. “At some point, it will reveal itself to us.”

Perhaps that moment will come next month, when it will go on display at the nearby Lincoln Museum, suggested Gaines, the pattern designer.

“Who knows, somebody may see it and make a connection to its use that may be the best solution,” she suggested in an email. “I wonder in 2,000 years what an archaeologist will think when she discovers some of the tools or the junk we throw away without the instruction manual.”
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Anger has been linked to heart disease. A new study suggests why
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Sabrina Malhi, The Washington Post
Published May 01, 2024 • 3 minute read

A new study suggests that anger has been linked to heart disease.
The phrase “anger kills” might have a more literal meaning: New research suggests a possible reason frequent anger has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, emphasizes the potential health risks associated with intense anger and illuminates the influence of negative emotions on our overall well-being.


Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study involved 280 healthy adults who were randomly assigned to a different eight-minute task, each designed to elicit feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness or neutrality. Before and after these emotional tasks, researchers assessed the participants’ endothelial health. Endothelial cells, which line the insides of blood vessels, are essential for maintaining vessel integrity and are vital for proper circulation and cardiovascular health.

The findings revealed that anger had a significant negative impact on endothelial function, limiting the blood vessels’ ability to dilate. The response was not as pronounced with anxiety or sadness.

According to Daichi Shimbo, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the lead study author, this research marks a step toward understanding how different negative emotions particularly affect physical health.


“It’s fascinating that anxiety and sadness did not have the same effect as anger, suggesting that the ways in which negative emotions contribute to heart disease differ,” Shimbo said.

The research team chose to study healthy individuals to avoid the confounding effects of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, which can compromise vascular function. Shimbo noted that if participants had such conditions, they already could have affected blood vessels and it would be difficult to determine the effect of emotions alone on vascular health.

Brian Choi, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and radiology at George Washington University, said findings like these could prompt health-care providers to investigate therapies such as anger management to see if they could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


“We often hear of someone suffering a heart attack during a highly distressing event. We’ve known that stress from anger can trigger a heart attack, but we didn’t understand why until this study, which elucidates the underlying mechanism,” Choi said.

Shimbo says he wants to delve further into the reasons anger detrimentally affects the heart, considering whether the cause is related to the sympathetic nervous response (the body’s alert system) or inflammation.

David Spiegel, an associate chair of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, said cases of mental illness, including depression and anxiety, have shot up in the past few years, with an estimated 31 percent of Americans reporting some sort of anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety and depression can often be expressed as anger.


He adds that while anger is a normal emotion, constant feelings of anger not only have long-term impacts on an individual – they can also impact others around them.

“The concern is that when people are angry all the time, they kind of have their foot on the accelerator and the brake. … So anger has its body costs,” Spiegel said. “It’s not only the person you’re angry at who pays the price when you’re angry, your body pays the price for it.”

Common treatments for anger management typically include cognitive-behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques, stress management strategies and communication skills training.
 

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Dr. Eileen de Villa isn't telling the truth on drug decriminalization
Tries to claim decriminalization won't allow for open drug use when it clearly will


Author of the article:Brian Lilley
Published May 01, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read
44 Comments


Dr. Eileen de Villa wants you to believe that if Toronto follows British Columbia’s lead and decriminalizes all hard drugs, everything will be fine.


In a video statement released Tuesday, de Villa said that if hard drugs are decriminalized, people won’t be using drugs in public willy nilly.


“On open public drug use, let me be perfectly clear,” de Villa said. “Lighting up a crack pipe in a playground or injecting drugs on the subway, these are not acceptable and should not be allowed.”

Except under the proposal the city put forward to the federal government, those activities would be allowed. The city was very clear in its proposal, dubbed the Toronto Model, that drug use would only be prohibited in child-care facilities, K-12 schools and airports.

That means police would be powerless to stop someone sitting down at your local community playground and lighting up a crack pipe as children played all around. Officers would have no tools at their disposal to deal with someone who was injecting drugs on the subway.


The proponents of this plan continually say that drug addiction is a health issue and not a law enforcement issue and people shouldn’t be charged for small amounts of drugs for personal use. According to the city’s own proposal for decriminalization, there were 617 people charged with simple possession in 2021 but in 581 of those instances, possession was not the only charge, it was an add on to other charges such as assault.

That means just 36 people were charged with simple possession as the sole offence in 2021.

This proves the activists, like de Villa, are making a false argument about policing and charges.

Taking away the ability of police to deal with people who are causing public disorder through their open drug use in public places will lead to chaos. This is part of the reason that British Columbia’s Premier David Eby has asked the federal government to recriminalize hard drugs in most instances.


These drugs would still be legal in private dwellings, even shelters and some other locations but be illegal in most public settings. B.C. saw the chaos and disorder caused by the wholesale decriminalization of drugs and they want to walk it back but so far, the Trudeau government has been non-committal.

Trudeau’s addictions minister Ya’ara Saks would only say on Wednesday that she is awaiting information from B.C. before making a decision. Those comments are more open than earlier in the week when she would only say that this was the first year of a three-year pilot project.

At that time, Saks also refused to rule out granting Toronto their exemption.

On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre sent Trudeau a letter demanding that he reject Toronto’s proposal “to legalize crack, cocaine, heroin, meth and other hard drugs.”



Poilievre pointed to the massive increase in drug overdose deaths since the Trudeau Liberals took office and began liberalizing Canada’s drug policies and laws. Those stats alone should be all that is needed for Saks to realize the decriminalization in B.C., the kind Toronto wants, is a mess and not worth standing by.

B.C. saw a record 2,546 overdose deaths in 2023, that’s more than Ontario in a province with one third of our population.

That is not a record worth following.

Is there an overdose problem? Absolutely, but decriminalization is not the answer.

The four pillars of drug policy have long been prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. The activists who now control our policy from the public health side focus almost exclusively on harm reduction and making drugs easier to get.

That’s not a compassionate answer when we aren’t also acting on the pillars.

Toronto’s policy is deeply flawed, de Villa is trying to mislead the entire city and Toronto’s application for decriminalization should be rejected.

blilley@postmedia.com
 

spaminator

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A wild orangutan used a medicinal plant to treat a wound, scientists say
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Christina Larson
Published May 02, 2024 • 2 minute read

Orangutan Self-Medication
Two months earlier, researchers observed him apply chewed leaves from a plant, used throughout Southeast Asia to treat pain and inflammation and to kill bacteria, to the wound.
WASHINGTON (AP) — An orangutan appeared to treat a wound with medicine from a tropical plant_ the latest example of how some animals attempt to soothe their own ills with remedies found in the wild, scientists reported Thursday.


Scientists observed Rakus pluck and chew up leaves of a medicinal plant used by people throughout Southeast Asia to treat pain and inflammation. The adult male orangutan then used his fingers to apply the plant juices to an injury on the right cheek. Afterward, he pressed the chewed plant to cover the open wound like a makeshift bandage, according to a new study in Scientific Reports.


Previous research has documented several species of great apes foraging for medicines in forests to heal themselves, but scientists hadn’t yet seen an animal treat itself in this way.

“This is the first time that we have observed a wild animal applying a quite potent medicinal plant directly to a wound,” said co-author Isabelle Laumer, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany.


The orangutan’s intriguing behavior was recorded in 2022 by Ulil Azhari, a co-author and field researcher at the Suaq Project in Medan, Indonesia. Photographs show the animal’s wound closed within a month without any problems.

Scientists have been observing orangutans in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park since 1994, but they hadn’t previously seen this behavior.

“It’s a single observation,” said Emory University biologist Jacobus de Roode, who was not involved in the study. “But often we learn about new behaviors by starting with a single observation.”

“Very likely it’s self-medication,” said de Roode, adding that the orangutan applied the plant only to the wound and no other body part.

It’s possible Rakus learned the technique from other orangutans living outside the park and away from scientists’ daily scrutiny, said co-author Caroline Schuppli at Max Planck.


Rakus was born and lived as a juvenile outside the study area. Researchers believe the orangutan got hurt in a fight with another animal. It’s not known whether Rakus earlier treated other injuries.

Scientists have previously recorded other primates using plants to treat themselves.

Bornean orangutans rubbed themselves with juices from a medicinal plant, possibly to reduce body pains or chase away parasites.

Chimpanzees in multiple locations have been observed chewing on the shoots of bitter-tasting plants to soothe their stomachs. Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos swallow certain rough leaves whole to get rid of stomach parasites.

“If this behavior exists in some of our closest living relatives, what could that tell us about how medicine first evolved?” said Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientific officer of the nonprofit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, who had no role in the study.
 
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Two baby eagles born in Toronto nest
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published May 04, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

Toronto's first-ever documented bald eagle nest is being watched closely by the conservation authority.
Toronto's first-ever documented bald eagle nest is being watched closely by the conservation authority. PHOTO BY @TRCA_HQ/INSTAGRAM /TORONTO SUN
Two baby bald eagles have been born in Toronto, according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.


This is after the fist ever bald eagle was spotted in the city earlier this year.


The TRCA has kept the location of the nest a secret to protect the birds.

But two babies have been seen in the nest.

Baby eagles will stay in their nest being fed by their mother for up to three months.

TRCA’s Karen McDonald told CTV News that ensuring the safety of the birds is a priority.

“Toronto and Region Conservation Authority can confirm that two eagles are being raised in Toronto,” she said. “Maintaining their habitat and ensuring their welfare are critical priorities for us, which is why we request that all media outlets continue to keep their location undisclosed.”


This is the only documented eagle nest in Toronto, according to the TRCA.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the arrival of Toronto’s first-ever recorded Bald Eagle nest – a historic moment for our local ecosystem!” the TRCA posted online on March 7. “Just last year, eagles were removed from the list of at-risk species in Ontario, showcasing a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction.”

“Their presence in Toronto is not only a sign of the species’ recovery but also reflects a healthy environment and the impact of our ecological restoration work that has helped make conditions suitable for this pair to raise a family,” the TRCA added.

It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 eagles in Ontario.

And bald eagles are no longer listed as an endangered species in the province.
1714952316048.png
 

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency to test milk after findings of inactive avian flu virus in U.S. milk
'If the CFIA becomes aware of any potential food safety or animal health risks, immediate actions will be taken to help protect Canada’s food supply and livestock'

Author of the article:Elizabeth Payne
Published May 04, 2024 • Last updated 17 hours ago • 3 minute read

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month that milk from dairy cows in Texas and Kansas has tested positive for bird flu.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month that milk from dairy cows in Texas and Kansas has tested positive for bird flu.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced late Friday that it will begin testing milk from grocery stores for viral fragments of H5N1 avian flu virus.


The agency said that it wants to reassure Canadians that commercially sold milk and milk products remain safe to consume.


“With recent news of dairy cattle in the United States testing positive for the High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and reports of fragments of HAPI detected in pasteurized milk sold in the U.S., we understand the Canadians may be concerned about the safety of milk and milk products,” CFIA said in a statement late Friday.

The move comes after inactive fragments of avian influenza showed up in retail milk in the United States where the virus has been confirmed in 36 dairy herds. Inactive avian influenza fragments were found in about 20 per cent of samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. The FDA also found fragments of the virus in cottage cheese and sour cream. Beef is also being tested in the U.S.


The fragments are not active and not considered a risk. Pasteurization kills any viruses in milk. The FDA released a study this week showing that pasteurization works to inactivate the virus that causes HPAI, or H5N1 avian influenza. But the findings in U.S. milk were widely seen as evidence that the spread of avian influenza in cattle is more common than believed and may involve asymptomatic livestock not identified as being infected.

HPAI is a reportable disease in Canada, meaning any person who suspects a case in poultry or livestock must report it to the CFIA. Confirmed and probable human cases are also reportable.

Previously, testing for avian influenza was done if animals showed showed any signs of having HPAI. None had been identified in Canada.


The CFIA says expansion of already existing measures is to manage the possible emergency of HPAI avian influenza in Canada.

“If the CFIA becomes aware of any potential food safety or animal health risks, immediate actions will be taken to help protect Canada’s food supply and livestock.“

Its work will “inform and support” ongoing preparations being undertaken by the Public Health Agency of Canada and its partners to protect human health.

The CFIA announcement comes amid growing global concern about the spread of avian influenza in mammals, which increases the risk of the virus mutating to a form that can easily spread among humans, potentially causing a deadly pandemic.

The spread to cattle and barn cats in the U.S. in recent months has heightened that concern.


One person who worked with cattle also tested positive for the virus. Anecdotally, some have talked about illnesses in farm workers in the U.S. over the same period that went un-reported.

Officials in Canada and elsewhere continue to say the risk remains low for humans.

In Canada, though, there have been growing concerns that not enough was known about whether the virus was in cattle here. A leading animal health expert is among those who have been pushing for the federal government to do more active testing for the virus in Canada, saying without that there isn’t enough information to say whether the virus is in Canada.

Despite assurances from government officials that no cases H5N1 have been identified in Canada, J. Scott Weese, the head of the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses at the Ontario Veterinary College, told this newspaper Friday there hasn’t been enough surveillance to say for certain that it is not in Canada.


“We don’t know if we have it in this country in cattle. We don’t have evidence yet, but we haven’t done a lot of surveillance,” said Weese.

“You can’t control it if you don’t look,” said Weese.

Canada has an influenza pandemic plan in place which allows for the manufacture of pandemic vaccines as well as pre-pandemic vaccines to protect people if deemed necessary.
 

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High levels of ultra-processed foods linked with early death, brain issues
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Anahad O’Connor, The Washington Post
Published May 09, 2024 • 4 minute read

A large study suggests that there might be a striking reason to limit your intake of ultra-processed foods – early death.


The study of 115,000 people found that those who ate large amounts of ultra-processed foods, especially processed meats, sugary breakfast foods and sugar and artificially sweetened beverages, were more likely to die prematurely.

The research, published Wednesday in the journal BMJ, adds to a growing body of evidence that has linked ultra-processed foods to a higher rate of health problems. Ultra-processed foods encompass a broad category ranging from cookies, doughnuts and potato chips to hot dogs, white bread and frozen meals.

Scientists say what these foods have in common is that they are typically formulations of industrial ingredients that are designed by manufacturers to achieve a certain “bliss point,” which causes us to crave and overeat them. They also tend to be low in nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.


Here are some of the key findings:

– Mortality risk: When the researchers looked at intake of ultra-processed foods, they found that participants who consumed the most – averaging seven servings of these foods per day or more – had a slightly higher risk of dying early compared with people who consumed the least ultra-processed foods.

– Brain health: The study found that people who ate the most ultra-processed foods had an 8 percent higher likelihood of dying from neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. But they did not find a higher risk of deaths from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

– Increased risk with certain foods: The researchers found that there were certain ultra-processed foods that were particularly associated with harm. These included processed meats, white bread, sugary cereals and other highly processed breakfast foods, potato chips, sugary snacks and sugary beverages, and artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet soda.


– Study limitations: The researchers cautioned that their findings were not definitive. The study showed only associations, not cause and effect. People who consume a lot of ultra-processed foods tend to engage in other unhealthy habits. They eat fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are more likely to smoke and less likely to be physically active. The researchers took these factors into account when they did their analysis, but other variables could have played a role as well.

Risk of high ultra-processed diets

In recent years, studies have found that eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods causes people to quickly gain weight and increases their risk of at least 32 different health conditions, including cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression and dementia. A handful of studies have also found that diets high in ultra-processed foods increase the risk of early death. But many of these studies were relatively small, short in duration or did not look into specific causes of death.


The new study addressed these issues by analyzing data on tens of thousands of adults who were followed for more than 30 years, said Mingyang Song, lead author of the study and a professor of clinical epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“There has been great interest from both the public and scientific community in understanding the health impact of ultra-processed foods, which now account for more than 60% of daily calories in Americans,” Song said in an email.

The study included two groups, a cohort of about 75,000 registered nurses who were tracked from 1984 to 2018, and a group of roughly 40,000 male doctors and health professionals who were followed from 1986 to 2018. The participants answered questions about their health and lifestyle habits every two years and provided details about the foods they ate every four years.


Previous studies have found that consuming a lot of ultra-processed foods could drive inflammation in the brain and weaken the blood-brain barrier, setting the stage for neurodegeneration. There is also evidence that ultra-processed foods can hamper overall health by reducing insulin sensitivity, disturbing gut microbiota, and driving weight gain and chronic inflammation throughout the body.

Some foods are better than others

The new findings support the idea that all ultra-processed foods are not the same and that some, such as whole-grain bread for example, can even be healthful, according to an editorial that accompanied the study in BMJ. Some countries have implemented public health measures to help people improve their diets, such as banning companies from using trans fats in their products, putting warning labels on sugary junk foods and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

The authors of the BMJ editorial, Kathryn E. Bradbury and Sally Mackay, two nutrition experts at the University of Auckland, said these and other public health interventions should be adopted more widely.

“Our global food system is dominated by packaged foods that often have a poor nutritional profile,” they wrote. “This system largely serves the goals of multinational food companies, which formulate food products from cheap raw materials into marketable, palatable, and shelf stable food products for profit.”
 

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Pfizer agrees to settle more than 10,000 Zantac cancer suits
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Jef Feeley
Published May 08, 2024 • 3 minute read

Pfizer Inc. has agreed to settle more than 10,000 cases accusing it of hiding the cancer risks of its Zantac heartburn drug, according to people familiar with the deal, the biggest of the litigation.


The agreements cover cases in state courts across the US but don’t completely resolve the company’s exposure to Zantac claims, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the settlement publicly. Financial details of the accords weren’t immediately available.

The deal is likely to reassure investors, who have seen other Zantac makers, including GSK Plc and Sanofi, sign settlements. Concerns about the drugmakers’ exposure to Zantac suits helped wipe out about $45 billion in combined market value in the summer of 2022. The shares have since recovered and have risen on news of the earlier deals.

Pfizer shares were up 1.5% to $28.19 at 11:55 a.m. in New York.


“Pfizer has explored and will continue to explore opportunistic settlements of certain cases if appropriate, and has settled certain cases,” the New York-based company said in an emailed statement. “The company has not sold a Zantac product in more than 15 years and did so only for a limited period of time.”

Settling and Fighting

Bloomberg News reported last month that Sanofi agreed to pay more than $100 million to resolve about 4,000 Zantac cases. Zantac has been owned by different drugmakers in its more than 30-year run as one of the most popular antacids in the US.

The settlements come as GSK defends itself in its first US jury trial over claims it knew Zantac posed a serious risk. In opening statements May 2 in Chicago, a lawyer for the plaintiff blamed corporate greed for his client’s colorectal cancer, while an attorney for GSK told the jurors no scientific studies have linked Zantac to the disease, which affects millions of Americans every year.


GSK has also settled some Zantac cases before they could go to trial.

News of the Pfizer settlement surfaced in a filing in state court in Delaware tied to the Chicago trial. More than 70,000 Zantac suits have been filed in Delaware, where a judge is mulling whether scientific evidence underlying those cases is sufficiently robust to allow them to go to trial.

Telltale Filing

Zantac plaintiffs’ lawyers filed an April 29 notice that the Chicago judge had reviewed the underlying science and cleared the case for trial. They noted that the order applied only to GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, which also made Zantac at one point, because “Pfizer had already settled.”

Zantac, developed by GSK and Warner-Lambert, hit the US market as a prescription drug in 1983 before becoming an over-the-counter heartburn treatment in 1996. Sanofi, which acquired it in 2017, recalled it in 2019, about a month after an independent lab released tests showing the likely carcinogen NDMA in the drug and its generics. The lab’s research indicated the drug’s active ingredient, ranitidine, formed NDMA over time or at higher temperatures.


The US Food and Drug Administration confirmed the findings in 2020 and ordered drugmakers to take all versions of the medicine off the market. Sanofi has since returned Zantac to store shelves but without ranitidine. It is now made with famotidine, the active ingredient in competitor Pepcid.

The companies got a big win in 2022 when a federal judge threw out more than 5,000 suits in Florida, saying the science behind the cancer claims was flawed. That decision also applied to about 50,000 unfiled cases covered by a multi-district litigation, according to court filings. Many of those cases later were filed in Delaware.
 

spaminator

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Pfizer agrees to settle more than 10,000 Zantac cancer suits
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Jef Feeley
Published May 08, 2024 • 3 minute read

Pfizer Inc. has agreed to settle more than 10,000 cases accusing it of hiding the cancer risks of its Zantac heartburn drug, according to people familiar with the deal, the biggest of the litigation.


The agreements cover cases in state courts across the US but don’t completely resolve the company’s exposure to Zantac claims, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the settlement publicly. Financial details of the accords weren’t immediately available.

The deal is likely to reassure investors, who have seen other Zantac makers, including GSK Plc and Sanofi, sign settlements. Concerns about the drugmakers’ exposure to Zantac suits helped wipe out about $45 billion in combined market value in the summer of 2022. The shares have since recovered and have risen on news of the earlier deals.

Pfizer shares were up 1.5% to $28.19 at 11:55 a.m. in New York.


“Pfizer has explored and will continue to explore opportunistic settlements of certain cases if appropriate, and has settled certain cases,” the New York-based company said in an emailed statement. “The company has not sold a Zantac product in more than 15 years and did so only for a limited period of time.”

Settling and Fighting

Bloomberg News reported last month that Sanofi agreed to pay more than $100 million to resolve about 4,000 Zantac cases. Zantac has been owned by different drugmakers in its more than 30-year run as one of the most popular antacids in the US.

The settlements come as GSK defends itself in its first US jury trial over claims it knew Zantac posed a serious risk. In opening statements May 2 in Chicago, a lawyer for the plaintiff blamed corporate greed for his client’s colorectal cancer, while an attorney for GSK told the jurors no scientific studies have linked Zantac to the disease, which affects millions of Americans every year.


GSK has also settled some Zantac cases before they could go to trial.

News of the Pfizer settlement surfaced in a filing in state court in Delaware tied to the Chicago trial. More than 70,000 Zantac suits have been filed in Delaware, where a judge is mulling whether scientific evidence underlying those cases is sufficiently robust to allow them to go to trial.

Telltale Filing

Zantac plaintiffs’ lawyers filed an April 29 notice that the Chicago judge had reviewed the underlying science and cleared the case for trial. They noted that the order applied only to GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, which also made Zantac at one point, because “Pfizer had already settled.”

Zantac, developed by GSK and Warner-Lambert, hit the US market as a prescription drug in 1983 before becoming an over-the-counter heartburn treatment in 1996. Sanofi, which acquired it in 2017, recalled it in 2019, about a month after an independent lab released tests showing the likely carcinogen NDMA in the drug and its generics. The lab’s research indicated the drug’s active ingredient, ranitidine, formed NDMA over time or at higher temperatures.


The US Food and Drug Administration confirmed the findings in 2020 and ordered drugmakers to take all versions of the medicine off the market. Sanofi has since returned Zantac to store shelves but without ranitidine. It is now made with famotidine, the active ingredient in competitor Pepcid.

The companies got a big win in 2022 when a federal judge threw out more than 5,000 suits in Florida, saying the science behind the cancer claims was flawed. That decision also applied to about 50,000 unfiled cases covered by a multi-district litigation, according to court filings. Many of those cases later were filed in Delaware.
im grateful to still be here. :eek: :(