Saturday, June 30, 2007

Heavy Metals and Special Education, ADHD, and Autism

Heavy metals are known toxins to the developing nervous systems of children, and can cause brain damage that exhibits itself as learning disabilities. There is reason to fear that heavy metals are at least partly responsible for the fact that special education services are recommended for between 5 and 10% of children. If the numbers of children recommended for special education services continues to grow, almost every extended family will have a special education child.

Heavy metals in coal are a serious problem. An excellent source of information on trace elements in coal is found at:

http://www.wvgs.wvnet.edu/www/datastat/te/index.htm

Coal contains roughly 350 ppm of heavy metals. Roughly 10% of these metals are released to the atmosphere when the coal is burned. The 10% figure is based on a detailed EPA study of nickel releases found here:

http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/le/nickel.pdf

and on information about lead found here:

http://www.wvgs.wvnet.edu/www/datastat/te/PbHome.htm

Almost 7 billion tons of coal is burned every year. 2.5 million tons of heavy metals contaminate the coal. 2.25 million tons of the heavy metals are contained in roughly 500 million tons of coal ash disposed of every year. Some fraction of this 2.25 million tons almost certainly ends up in food and drinking water. The 250,000 tons of heavy metals emitted into the atmosphere are a more serious problem. Once emitted to the atmosphere, the heavy metals are dispersed globally.

Heavy metals considered hazardous air pollutants by the EPA total roughly 100 ppm in coal. These metals are: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, mercury, manganese, nickel, lead, antimony, selenium, uranium, and thorium. In addition to the heavy metals, coals contain roughly 100 ppm fluorine and 1000 ppm chlorine. These are released as the acids HF and HCl (700,000 and 7 million tons respectively). Both these acids are considered hazardous air pollutants by the EPA.

The environmental movement rightfully celebrates the removal of lead from gasoline as a great success. At peak emissions in the early 1970’s, roughly 150,000 tons of lead per year were released to the atmosphere from leaded gasoline. At the time, lead emissions from coal combustion were on the order of 2,000 tons per year, a negligible contribution to the total. Today, lead emissions from gasoline are on the order of 2,000 tons per year and continuing to fall. Lead emissions from coal combustion are roughly 7,000 tons per year and rising.

The history of lead in gasoline proves that companies will risk the health of children for the reward of profits. The oil and automotive industries knew from the outset that putting lead into gasoline was accompanied by substantial health risks. An excellent account of the history of leaded gasoline can be found here:

http://www.radford.edu/%7Ewkovarik/ethylwar/IJOEH.pdf

There seems to be a great deal of uncertainty on the internet about whether heavy metals emissions from coal are a significant public health risk. Like the industries involved with leaded gasoline, today’s industries that depend upon coal for profit are also playing down the public health risks. There is no uncertainty in the scientific literature. Heavy metals are known neurological toxins. Lead levels in the blood of children are correlated with the results of intelligence tests. See a recent review on this subject here:

http://www.ehponline.org/members/2004/6941/6941.pdf

When heavy metals emissions from burning residual fuel oil are added to the heavy metals emitted by coal combustion, the total is roughly 300,000 tons per year. This is double the peak lead emissions of 150,000 tons per year.

I’m not optimistic about fixing this problem, especially in light of the history of the battle to remove lead from gasoline. In the meantime, I recommend that all parents and health care professional consider extra vitamins for children. The body can find poisonous metals, and either detoxify them or dissolve and urinate them away. This process can be thought of as a subset of wound healing. In animal studies, vitamins have been shown to prevent neurological damage during growth and development. B-complex vitamins are known to be involved in many of the metabolic pathways responsible for wound healing that are common to animals and children. It is not unreasonable to speculate that taking extra vitamin C and extra B-complex vitamins can help prevent trace heavy metals in the environment from harming children. There is no proof that extra vitamins can’t help. For my children, I chose the doses of vitamins where my fear of giving them too much was about equal to my fear that I wasn’t giving them enough.

Optimal Doses of Vitamins for Children (Vitamin C, B-complex, and Niacin)

The benefits and side effects of vitamins increase with increasing doses. At very low doses, side effects are almost unknown and the benefits are the biggest possible (at very low doses vitamins prevent death). At high enough doses the incremental benefits are difficult to quantify and the side effects are obvious. It is easy to make the decision to take a lower dose. Optimal doses of vitamins lie between these extremes. For the large majority, food is not enough and getting optimal dosages requires taking supplements.

The primary function of vitamins is to catalyze the chemical reactions responsible for growth and development. It is far more important to eat optimal doses of vitamins as a child than as an adult.

Here are some risks associated with not taking extra vitamins as a child:

 Lower IQ (special education is a booming business touching the lives of
close to 10% of the nation’s children)
 Reduced athletic ability (a majority of today’s aspiring Olympians take
extra vitamins)
 Reduced IQ and/or athletic ability caused by a severe viral or bacterial
infection (extra vitamins can reduce the duration and severity of illnesses)
 Childhood cancer
 Childhood diabetes
 Childhood heart disease
 Eating disorders

Reduced athletic ability and IQ are associated with childhood cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and eating disorders. Exposure to the growing levels of heavy metals in the environment is a likely causing of the rising incidences of these conditions. There is no known cure for reduced IQ and athletic ability.

Here are the most serious risks associated with extra vitamins:

 Neuropathy
 Vomiting
 Impaired vision
 Nausea
 Headache
 Fatigue

There are hundreds of known vitamin side effects that are not hard to find on the internet with just a little digging. All these side effects are 100% reversible if treated promptly by lowering the dosage of the offending vitamin. There is no reason to believe that vitamins should cause any child more than minor discomfort if the doses they are taking are overseen by an experienced pediatrician.

Today’s children are in trouble. The levels of toxins in the environment are rising steadily. Expectations for academic achievement are rising steadily. The penalty for being in the bottom quarter of the population in health and intelligence is increasing. Food is not enough. A one RDA multivitamin is not enough. Today’s children need extra vitamin C, extra niacin, and a multivitamin formulated with more than 1 RDA of B-complex vitamins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vitamin Injections: Testing Response vs. Dose (Vitamin C and Niacin)

No disease can be cured without the help of vitamins. The absence of vitamins in the diet causes fatal vitamin deficiency diseases. Diseases are expected to get worse if the body is deprived of vitamins during the healing process. Since it is impractical to measure the amount of vitamins in every meal, it is wise to take a multivitamin at least once or twice a week.

Physicians have been investigating effectiveness as a function of vitamin doses for decades. In my opinion, the most remarkable reports involve 10,000 to 100,000 mg/day doses of vitamin C and 50 to 5000 mg/day doses of niacin. Both vitamins have obvious side effects at the high end of these doses, so significant benefits are required to make taking these doses worthwhile. This column will discuss sinusitis and cancer.

Cforyourself claims that taking as much vitamin C as the digestive tract can manage is required to get maximum benefit for sinusitis. The benefit of vitamin C is claimed to increase with dose out to the highest tolerable amounts (10,000 to 100,000 mg/day).

Sinusitis often occurs in both sinuses. Vitamin C pills treat both sinuses equally, and spread the delivered dose more or less evenly throughout the body. I believe that the need for extraordinary doses of vitamin C may be limited to the sinuses. If so, why not use sodium ascorbate injections to both selectively deliver the vitamin to the sinus tissue and to test response as a function of dose. When sinusitis is present in both sinuses, physicians could inject different doses at different frequencies. Very high doses could be delivered to the sinus tissue while exposing the rest of the body to ordinary doses. I have written that I believe niacin increases the effectiveness of vitamin C for treating colds and other respiratory infections. Adding niacin to the injections could test the theory.

Drs. Pauling, Hoffer, and Cathcart are leading advocates of high doses of vitamin C and/or niacin as part of the treatment strategy for cancer (vitamin therapy is believed by many vitamin advocates to effectively complement chemotherapy). As of now, the effectiveness of high doses of vitamins against cancer remains controversial. The mechanism of action is unknown. What if high doses of vitamins fight cancer locally? If they do, injections provide a method of acquiring facts about effectiveness and dose/response. Tissues directly surrounding tumors could be injected with vitamins and the response observed. Tumors remote from the injections would serve as controls. If chemotherapy were more effective at the sites of the vitamin injections, the usefulness of vitamins as part of cancer treatments would be obvious.

The effectiveness of high doses of vitamins has remained controversial for decades. New approaches are needed to break the stalemate. I hope researchers will consider vitamin injections as a means of putting their ideas to the test.

Heavy Metals, Autism, Special Education and Vitamins (B-complex, Niacin, and Vitamin C)

Heavy metals are known toxins to the developing nervous systems of children, and can cause brain damage that exhibits itself as learning disabilities. There is reason to fear that heavy metals are at least partly responsible for the fact that special education services are recommended for between 5 and 10% of children. If the numbers of children recommended for special education services continues to grow, almost every extended family will have a special education child.

Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, nickel, and vanadium are all emitted to industry and regulated by the government. For example, the government requires <15 ppb lead in drinking water and <375 ppm in soil. For mercury, <2 ppb is required in drinking water and <0.14 ppb in lakes and streams is recommended. The lower threshold for lakes and streams prevents dangerous concentration of methyl mercury in fish. Fish sold in stores must contain <1 ppm methyl mercury. The numbers in these two examples are small, and typical of the rest of the heavy metals on the list. Many soil and water samples contain >10% of the government thresholds for action. Despite government action over the past several decades, the levels of most of these heavy metals in water and soil samples are probably rising. Good data is surprisingly hard to come by. Lead is an exception. Lead levels fell dramatically after lead was removed from paint, gasoline, and the solder for copper water pipes. The benefits from those actions will soon be fully effective, and lead levels may start to rise again.

The worst problem is that many of these metals are trace contaminants in coal and marine transportation fuel. Fifty metric tons/year of mercury are emitted from coal-fired power plants in the United States. I couldn’t find any data tracking the fate of the rest of the metals when coal is burned at power plants. The government is aware that this is unacceptable and is working, slowly, to reduce emissions.

The next obvious problem is that most of these metals are mined, smelted, purified, and sold as raw materials for industrial products. For example, about 6 million tons of lead, 2000 tons of mercury, and 20,000 tons of cadmium are mined, refined, and sold every year. Another serious problem involves sludge from sewage treatment plants. This material typically contains measurable levels of metals and is often used as fertilizers. Once spread onto fields, the metals will be absorbed by commodity crops, eaten by people and domesticated and animals, and excreted back into the sewage system. Over time, steady build-up of metals levels in the sewage sludge has to be a concern. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find data tracking metals levels in sewage sludge over time.

I’m unaware of any serious government action to eliminate these emissions. What do our government officials believe is going to become of these metals once they are refined and sold? Losses to air and water during the refining process, improper disposal of metal-containing products, and sewage plant sludge used as fertilizer should be expected to cause a relentless build-up of heavy metals in the environment. It looks to me like the unspoken plan is to allow levels of heavy metals to steadily build in the environment until the metals levels everywhere start to approach the thresholds stated in the regulations.

There isn’t scientific proof today that rising levels of heavy metals in the environment is contributing to the rising percentage of children recommended for special education services. When there is, I’m confident that emissions to the environment will be rapidly reduced. Until then, business interests are likely to maintain the status quo.

In the meantime, I recommend that all parents and health care professional consider extra vitamins for children. The body can find poisonous metals, and either detoxify them or dissolve and urinate them away. This process can be thought of as a subset of wound healing. In animal studies, vitamins have been shown to prevent neurological damage during growth and development. B-complex vitamins are known to be involved in many of the metabolic pathways responsible for wound healing that are common to animals and children. It is not unreasonable to speculate that taking extra vitamin C and extra B-complex vitamins can help prevent trace heavy metals in the environment from harming children. Although there is little in the way of proof that the levels of heavy metals average children are exposed to is causing harm, or that vitamins in excess of the RDA can protect them, there is even less proof that extra vitamins can’t help. For my children, I chose the doses of vitamins where my fear of giving them too much was about equal to my fear that I wasn’t giving them enough.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Vitamin C Injections, Niacin, B-complex Vitamins, and Bed Sores

Three of the most prominent advocates of vitamin supplements, Dr. Frederick Klenner, Dr. Abram Hoffer, and Dr. Robert Cathcart, all report that intravenous injections of concentrated sodium ascorbate in doses of 50 to 300 g/day have remarkable curative effects. I’ve long been fascinated by their publications, but saw no path forward. I read what they wrote, but I didn’t see any way that I could put their experiences to use in my life. Now I do.

I suggested in last week’s entry that health care professionals should test the effectiveness of local vitamin injections (not intravenous) as a treatment for bug bites. This inspired thoughts from readers, one of whom turned my attention to bed sores. I’ve written many times that vitamins have proven benefits for healing wounds. If Wikipedia is to be believed, vitamin supplements are now part of the standard program of care for bed sores. Supplements, however, treat most of the sores equally and give little information about wound healing response as a function of dose.

I have always wanted to see the healing effects of vitamins for myself (no pun intended). Bed sores are an opportunity to put the science of vitamins and wound healing to the acid test, and then to optimize the treatment if it works. Most patients suffering from bed sores have several. They often have symmetrical wounds, one on each side. Instead of using supplements, doctors and nurses could inject vitamins locally into the muscles directly under the bedsores. The skeptics can inject the bed sores on one side according to Klenner’s, Hoffer’s, and Cathcart’s recommendations and leave the other side untreated. Believers can try different doses and/or frequencies on different sides. B-complex vitamins, especially niacin, can also be injected either alone or in combination with vitamin C to see whether the outcomes are better or worse. If this treatment approach is valid, large volumes of data can be assembled rapidly at low risk leading in just a few years time to optimized standard treatment protocols.

Visible skin diseases and local vitamin injections are an interesting suggestion for putting the claims of vitamin advocates to the acid test. Let’s talk to our health care providers about pulling out their syringes and getting answers.

Vitamin C, Niacin, Eating Disorders (anorexia and bulimia), and Pregnancy

Fred Klenner and Abram Hoffer, completely independent MD investigators, have both demonstrated that extra vitamins are safe and improve birth outcomes. Hoffer reports that he has persuaded thousands of expecting mothers to take extra vitamins and that his results are statistically significant. I believe him, and yet I do not advise expecting mothers to take Hoffer and Klenner’s advice of 100-200 mg/day of niacin and 5000 to 15000 mg/day of vitamin C. It’s not the standard of care. Expecting mothers are going to have to decide for themselves that the risks and potential benefits of supplementing outweigh the known risks of following the current standard of care. The nature of this decision is changing as the risk associated with having children rises. Expectations for childhood achievement and the incidence of childhood physical and mental health disorders are both rising. Over the past 40 years the number of children designated as in need of special services during their school years has risen from less than 1 in 100 to roughly 1 in 10. Special education and pediatric health care are both booming businesses.

My column on eating disorders has received a surprising amount of attention (type vitamins and anorexia into Google and it is on the front page). Evidently the readers of my column are not afraid to establish links to this column. Their lack of fear is probably related to my lack of fear. I am not afraid to recommend extra vitamins as a treatment for eating disorders. Anorexia is a known symptom of vitamin deficiency. There is a standard of care for vitamin deficiency. When I researched the standard of care for deficiency diseases I came to the following conclusions. Specialists in vitamin deficiency diseases recommend 2000 to 4000 mg/day of vitamin C for scurvy, 100-1000 mg/day of niacin for pellagra, and 50 to 100 mg/day each of vitamins B1 and B2 for beriberi. Since these are the facts, it is hard to understand why my column is the only front page link on the search I mentioned above to directly connect eating disorders with vitamin deficiency diseases and to recommend the established standard of care for vitamin deficiency diseases as part of the treatment regimen.

Today vitamin deficiency in America largely presents itself as self starvation. Tragically, self starvation is most commonly practiced by teenage women and girls. It’s long past time to firmly connect eating disorders and vitamin deficiency diseases in the minds of all parents and health care professionals. Vitamin supplements will then be used in doses according to the standard of care established for vitamin deficiencies as a key part of the treatment for eating disorders. More importantly, vitamin supplements can be used by concerned parents and health care professionals to prevent eating disorders in the first place.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Vitamin C and Inflamed Skin (Bug Bites, Spider Bites, Mosquito Bites, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak)

Advocates claim that vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of common skin inflammations like those caused by bug bites, spider bites, mosquito bites, poison ivy, and poison oak. There is good scientific reason to believe this is true, since vitamin C is proven to be beneficial for treating burns. I believe it is true, because I used to be sensitive to poison ivy. Suffering with poison ivy was a normal part of summer before I started taking vitamin C. I still get poison ivy, but I don’t believe I get it so often or that it bothers me as much when I do get it.

If you are looking for good vitamin doses to start with, click here.

Taking >5000 mg/day of vitamin C remains unusual. One problem is that the benefits from vitamin C tend to be imperceptible. Why put up with the aggravation (swallowing lots of big pills, and the minor discomforts of the intestinal tract)if the benefits are imperceptible? Most people, myself included, would like more obvious, positive feedback. Vitamin C has been most successful as a treatment for colds, because many users report feeling obvious benefits. I’ve written in other columns that combining vitamin C and niacin to fight colds results in benefits that are significantly more perceptible. From the feedback I've gotten, others agree with me and are more motivated to take vitamin C to fight colds.

Many people are healthy and don’t suffer from colds. Many people suffering from colds take vitamin C and don’t perceive sufficient benefits to persuade them to keep taking it. Other obvious benefits would help persuade the general public of the value of vitamin C.

Almost everyone I know gets bug bites, spider bites, mosquito bites, poison ivy, or poison oak at least once per year. In his 1971 paper, Fred Klenner (type Fred Klenner into Google and it pops up) reports that large daily doses of vitamin C reduce the severity of mosquito bites. How did he know? How could this be tested? Much of Klenner’s paper focused on large injections of vitamin C into the blood stream. Toddler’s veins were too small for Klenner’s injections, so he injected them in the rear end. Thinking about Klenner's efforts inspired the following idea.

Injections can be used to localize the impact of vitamin C. When I suffer from poison ivy, poison oak, or mosquito bites, I usually experience them in multiple locations of similar severity. If vitamin C can make a big difference in healing this kind of wound, then local injections are a way to make the difference obviously perceptible. Inject just milliliters of a concentrated vitamin C solution (sodium ascorbate) just under the skin at half the mosquito bites or one end of a patch of poison ivy. If the experts claiming that vitamin C is tremendously beneficial for this type of wound are right, then the treated areas of skin will heal much more quickly than the untreated areas of skin serving as controls.

I’m going to try this idea. Another reason I’m motivated to try is because I’ve long been interested in IV vitamin C therapy. I’ve read Klenner’s paper many times with fascination. Getting 20 gm doses of vitamin C by IV from a physician has always seemed scary and fantastical to me – something I would only do if I was dying. Most of the experiences related by Dr. Klenner are amazing responses of deathly ill patients. I can hardly imagine being either a patient or a physician in such an emergency.

The idea about mosquito bites is not scary to me at all. I’ll get my physician to use a tiny needle and inject less than 1 cc of vitamin C solution at the site of just a couple of bug bites. It will be just like getting the flu vaccine or Novocain at the dentist. It won’t be any different than the multiple friends I have that inject themselves with insulin every day. Perhaps more importantly, I’ll be capturing my physician’s interest in vitamin C injections. If it works on my bites, perhaps my physician will try larger vitamin C injections for more serious insect bites, small second and third degree burns, cases of hives, and other skin disorders.

The effectiveness of vitamin C for mosquito bites, poison ivy, and poison oak can be put to the test. The importance of the test isn’t about these common skin problems. The tests are important because they may provide users and physicians with obvious evidence that vitamin C works when used locally in high concentration. If patients taking several thousand mg/day of vitamin C by mouth get further benefit from local injection of concentrated vitamin C directly at a mosquito bite, the paradigm that 1 RDA is enough will be that much more difficult to sustain.