Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plastic that's not so fantastic for male shoppers

Shocking shopping news this morning with the Daily Telegraph reporting that the levels of a toxic compound used in plastics - Bisphenol A (BPA) - on some till receipts are enough to suppress male hormones in the body and possibly cause impotence. Gulp. It's enough to make your credit card wilt. (And gives a whole new meaning to the phrase hard cash.)

It sound ridiculous - at least one MHFer asked if it was April Fools Day - but BPA is a real live health issue. In the US, environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the US Food and Drug Administration over its failure to regulate BPA. Canada has banned it. France has banned its use in baby-feeding bottles and, with The Independent and Breast Cancer UK leading the campaign, many experts are calling for something similar here.

The issue has been around a while. BPA causes brain damage in monkeys - there's a shopping-related gag in there if you want to look for it - and there are wider concerns over plastic bottles.

Whether there's enough in a till receipt to make a difference as Berlin-based urologist Frank Sommer apparently said is another question but if, as I have, you've just finished your annual accounts and have been handling a whole year's worth of till receipts, it's enough to make you start buying the Telegraph - well, not quite. But it would certainly be a good thing if this silly season story finally gets the BPA issue the serious treatment it needs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Desperately seeking doctors

We've 'enabled comments', in the technical jargon, on the MHF and malehealth websites. This means, as you'll all know from more technically advanced websites, that you can say what you think about the articles online. We look forward to hearing from you.

On malehealth, we've already had hundreds of comments but most of them we cannot publish. This is not because malehealth readers are foul-mouthed perverts or link-happy spammers but because most of them are questions from people looking for help with something health-related that they're worried about.

Unfortunately we cannot answer these questions at present. I wish we could. If we could find a suitable sponsor, we'd do it tomorrow. Let us know if you or your employer or a rich friend would be interested in sponsoring an Ask The Doctor section on malehealth. It will probably cost less than you think - our docs don't charge Harley Street rates.

In the meantime, if you have a health question, you need to ask your GP or contact NHS Direct. There's more in our what to do when you're ill section.

Friday, June 4, 2010

World Health Organisation catches a cold

It is hard not to comment on reports from the British Medical Journal, the Bureau of Investigative Reporting and the Council of Europe of a lack of transparency and conflict of interest at the World Health Organisation.

We don't know if the emergency committee that decided to declare a swine-flu pandemic had commercial links with the drug companies that stood to profit from their decision because the names of that committee are secret.

What we do know is that there was a conflict of interest around earlier guidance given around the need to stockpile drugs and an apparent change in the definition of a 'pandemic'.

A previous conflict of interest and a present lack of transparency are bound to lead to questions around the WHO's independence. At the very least they need to tell us who is on the secret committee. Their credibility is at stake.