About 120 years ago in Asbury Park, N.J., 3 in One Household Oil hit hardware-store shelves. Since then, it’s been used to restore the health of everything from rusty bicycle chains to squeaky door hinges.
And 26 years ago, another 3-in-1 household health-restorer became available: The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has spared parents and kids terrible misery while saving countless lives. All three vaccines were developed (separately) in the 1960s, and were bundled in 1988. Before the vaccine, there were over 200,000 cases of mumps in North America annually. In 1962, 3,000-plus people died from measles. But the vaccines virtually eradicated these highly communicable diseases, until now.
British Columbia reported 350 cases of measles from January through March. In Columbus, Ohio, 116 cases of mumps were reported during the same period. This is alarming, because it reflects the growing number of un- or under-vaccinated people in North America and how global travel exposes the unprotected to infection from places where the diseases are still rampant. While no vaccine is absolutely safe, the benefits outweigh the risk by more than 10,000 to 1.
Children’s first MMR vaccine is at 12 to 18 months; the second at ages 4 to 6. Anyone up to 55 who’s unvaccinated also can get one. Getting a childhood disease as an adult doesn’t make you younger, and you don’t want to roll back the clock on your children’s health.
From “Nosferatu” in 1922 to “Contagion” in 2011, movies have stoked microbe terror by (usually inaccurately) dramatizing what could happen if an evil virus or bacteria were unleashed on humanity. What no one thought to portray is the actual harm that antimicrobials do to the environment, animals and you.
Now the Center for Environmental Security is spreading the word that the use of at-home germ-killers, like triclocarban (TCC) and triclosan (TCS), poses serious risks. They were first developed for medical use and are beneficial in that context. But these chemicals, found in more than 2,000 consumer products such as soaps, toothpaste, detergents, clothing, carpets, paints, plastics, toys, school supplies and even pacifiers, don’t make you healthier. They pollute the water supply, can disrupt your fertility, may cause birth defects and may disturb hormone-related and immune functions. And, oh yeah, they may fuel antibiotic resistance. They’re so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these chemicals are found in the blood of 75 percent of Americans.
Now the Food and Drug Administration is asking soap manufacturers to either show that TCC and TCS are safe or remove them from products. You have until June 16 to let the FDA know what you think about this move. Go to www.regulations.gov and search for “triclosan.” There you’ll be able to write up your thoughts and send them off. And in the meantime, stick with good old soap and water; wash your hands for 20 seconds to disinfect them, and use only alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
‘P’ is for pool?
Before jumping into your neighborhood pool this summer, you might reflect on Olympic gold-medal swimmer Ryan Lochte’s confession that he peed in the pool during warm-ups and Michael Phelps’ agreement that the practice is common during training. No Olympians in your pool? Turns out around 20 percent of most swimmers admit they’ve urinated in the pool.
Whatever the number, the big question is: Does chlorine, used to disinfect most pools, KO all the germs that are deposited in such a great Petri dish? Well, the answer is yes mostly. But the diarrhea-causing parasite cryptosporidium (which comes from intestinal leakage) can survive in a well-maintained pool for days. And a chemical reaction between chlorine, urine and sweat produces trichloramine, which can cause breathing problems.
Another volatile chemical produced by urine and chlorine is the neurotoxin cyanogen chloride. Not something you necessarily want to soak in, but it takes more than a pool party of 12-year-olds to weaponize pool water.
So how can you tell if your pool or hot tub is pee-luted? The strong pool-water smell? Nope. That’s the aroma of chloramines, not a sign of clean water (a common myth).
Here are some tips for a cleaner splash:before