News bites, September 2017

This article was originally published in September 2017

Artificial sweeteners

A new study has determined there is no solid evidence that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, help people manage their weight. Researchers from the University of Manitoba reviewed 37 studies involving 400,000 people for an average of 10 years and found artificial sweeteners actually are linked to long-term weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Their data indicate artificial sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting. (Science Daily/Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Sugar linked to depression

Men who consume a lot of added sugar run an increased risk of depression, according to a new study from University College London (UCL). Researchers found that men with the highest sugar intake — more than 67 grams a day — had a 23 percent increased chance of depression after five years than those who consumed the lowest levels of sugar — less than 39.5 grams. The researchers investigated whether men might be eating more sugary foods because they were depressed but found that was not the case. (The Guardian)

Fracking and human health

A study published by Scientific Research concludes that gas and oil fracking is associated with early infant mortality. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found “a significant increase” in mortality, from 34 deaths to 60, in Pennsylvania counties where fracking occurs. Fracking produces a watery byproduct that can contaminate surface water and researchers found the increased risk of infant mortality was associated with exposure to groundwater. (Scientific Research)

Whidbey water quality?

Toxic-Free Future, Zero Waste Washington, WashPIRG, Earth Ministry and The Arc are asking Governor Inslee to take specific steps to clean up drinking water contamination on Whidbey Island and Issaquah. The drinking water is contaminated with fluorinated chemicals, used to repel oil and water from clothing, carpeting, furniture, nonstick cookware, and food packaging with grease-repellent coatings. The nonprofit coalition is asking Inslee to address the entire class of chemicals, rather than just a few, and to begin phasing in safer alternatives already on the market. (Toxic-Free Future)

Coal goes solar!

In a sign of the times, the Kentucky Coal Museum is switching to solar power. Solar panels on the coal museum’s roof are expected to save approximately $8,000 per year. (

Phthalates in mac ‘n cheese?

Hormone disruptors called phthalates (FAY-lates) are showing up in a favorite kids’ meal: macaroni and cheese mixes with powdered cheese. These chemicals were banned from children’s teething rings and rubber toys 10 years ago but reportedly are present in high concentrations in 10 varieties of mac and cheese tested, including organic brands. The chemicals migrate into food from the packaging and equipment used in manufacturing. (The Seattle Times)

Chemical collusion with regulators

More than 100,000 pages revealing dark secrets of the chemical industry will be available publicly through a project called the Poison Papers. They were obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forest Service, Air Force, and pulp and paper companies. They show, for instance, that EPA’s registration of 2,4-D and other pesticides was based on fraudulent data. Overall, the Poison Papers lay out what’s called “a 40-year history of deceit and collusion involving the chemical industry and the regulatory agencies that were supposed to be protecting human health and the environment.” (

Lead in baby food

A surprising 20 percent of baby food samples have detectable levels of lead. Researchers for Environmental Defense analyzed 11 years of federal data, tested 2,164 baby food samples, and found the most commonly contaminated are grape juice (89 percent), sweet potatoes (86 percent), and teething biscuits (47 percent). No level of lead is safe to consume. FDA’s data does not name brands, so we don’t know what brands were tested. (Mother Jones)

“Natural” cheese lawsuit

Cheesemaker Sargento Foods is facing a proposed federal class-action suit for marketing its cheeses as “natural” when they come from cows fed genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa or grain, and given GE hormones. The lawsuit argues Sargento has deceived consumers into paying more for its cheese without the benefits of what they thought they were buying. (

Organic chickens live longer

USDA research shows that chicken mortality is lower at organic farms than conventional farms where birds largely are confined indoors. A 2013 USDA study of farms in 19 states with at least 3,000 hens showed the average mortality rate was 7 percent at organic operations and 10 percent at conventional farms. Organic advocates argue that all animals are healthier when they can be outdoors and that indoor confinement encourages pecking and the spread of disease. (Washington Post)

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