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This article by Lynn Miller was prepared for the September 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Have You Been Had?
If you care about your health, you probably would avoid
eating irradiated hamburger meat, alfalfa sprouts, eggs, or raspberries.
And you might carefully use echinacea, kava, St. John’s Wart, and
herbal tea. If so, Melvin A. Benarde has some food for thought —
a book entitled "You’ve Been Had: How the Media and Environmentalists
turned America into a Nation of Hypochondriacs" (Rutgers University
Press). Benarde will read from his book on Wednesday, September 18,
at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in MarketFair.
Benarde, married to Princeton artist Anita Benarde, is former director
of the Environmental Issues Center at Temple University and acting
chairman of the Department of Community and Preventative Medicine
at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia. He has written 11 books
and was featured on the ABC-TV series, "Environment and Health"
for two years. He taught epidemiology and public health at Rutgers.
"The public," writes Benarde in his book, "has been led
to believe that a group of synthetic chemicals has been loosed upon
them by an uncaring military-industrial complex and that this chemical
fouling of the environment is responsible for what is perceived as
our generally poor state of health."
But, Benarde writes, "today’s leading causes of illness and death
have been shown to be heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidents, suicide,
homicide, AIDS, and cirrhosis. It appears equally evident that these
are manifestations of how we live, what we do, and where we live and
work. At some point individuals and society must realize that the
threats and risks to our health are primarily of their own creation."
As for all those "health" foods that people consume, Benarde
alleges that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act may actually
be hazardous to our health. "Herbal products and supplements generally
are not required to be proven safe before marketing," he writes.
"With this piece of legislation, the gates opened and the marketplace
was flooded with products. Buyers are grabbing supplements that are
unregulated, untested, unstandardized, and have unknown effects."
Tests on supplements reveal that some contain no active ingredients;
others have led to arsenic, mercury, and lead poisoning. "Between
January, 1993, and October, 1998, the FDA received 2,621 reports of
serious side effects with herbal supplements, along with 101 deaths,"
writes Benarde. But "little media publicity has been given to
the fact." On the health beat, it seems, bad news is no news.
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