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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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