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Category Archives: Environment

The Current Coronavirus Disease May Be a Once-in-a-Century Evidence Fiasco

doors-anymore-its-time-to-tell-you-about-the-year-2020Prof. John Ioannidis of the Stanford University School of Medicine, is professor of medicine and epidemiology and population health. On March 17 in STAT he posed some very intriguing points about the virus that seems to have crippled the world. Here’s an extract:

The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco. At a time when everyone needs better information, from disease modelers and governments to people quarantined or just social distancing, we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.

Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates — either on its own or because of these measures — short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable. How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?

Vaccines or affordable treatments take many months (or even years) to develop and test properly. Given such timelines, the consequences of long-term lockdowns are entirely unknown.

The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population.

This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes. As most health systems have limited testing capacity, selection bias may even worsen in the near future.

The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.

Adding extra sources of uncertainty, reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%. That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done.

A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.

In the most pessimistic scenario, which I do not espouse, if the new coronavirus infects 60% of the global population and 1% of the infected people die, that will translate into more than 40 million deaths globally, matching the 1918 influenza pandemic.

If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.

Prof Ioannidis also published this paper on March 19 – Coronavirus disease 2019: the harms of exaggerated information and non‐evidence‐based measures

Coronavirus Update 2/28/2020

corimg_0854“Our major vulnerability is not Iran. It’s the United States,” Canadian epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman, at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. The U.S. has experienced problems with its testing kits, meaning very few people have been tested for the virus there, in comparison with other countries. Read more of this post

China Coronavirus: Update on 1/29/2020

bottlemage-m-20_15802940354691. The latest clinical report on 2019-nCoV: 99 patients from Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital published in the medical journal Lancet shows a mortality rate of 11%. “That was much higher than expected,” Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, public health scientist at Harvard. “I’ll be honest – as an epidemiologist, I’m really deeply worried about this new coronavirus outbreak.” Read more of this post

Gene Editing Tech Threatens Nature

hand-holding-globe-900x300We’ve all grown up with the existential threat of nuclear annihilation and more recently the ominous impact of climate change. Now we might be facing a new doomsday scenario: alarmingly unregulated gene-editing technology with the potential to radically and permanently alter the natural world.

“We’re looking at the replacement of nature,” warns Jeffrey Smith, one of the world’s leading environmental activists. “Instead of passing on to future generations what we inherited, the products of billions of year of evolution, we’ll pass on to future generations the products of laboratory experiments that are prone to side effects. And there’s no technology to clean up a gene pool once it is contaminated. That’s a formula for catastrophe.” Read more of this post

Stealing Public Water Sources

sbnf_nestle-signs_fb-600x600The Swiss company Nestlé has been reaping in billions by bottling public water it pays nothing or almost nothing for. It’s dominated the industry by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws. Read more of this post

We Can’t Trust Cell Phone Manufacturers on Radiation

mobile-phone-cell-smart-towers-dangerousA new study by the Chicago Tribune reveals popular smart phones, including the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8 emit more radiation than US regulators have deemed safe. While US regulators set maximums for the amount of radiation the devices can emit, tests found phones exceeding those limits. Read more of this post

The Truth About The Chernobly Nuclear Plant Disaster

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Remember images of the miracle of nature supposedly flourishing around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine, many years after the devastating release of radiation? And how supposedly few people died or got sick. Well, not surprisingly, it turns out to be a fabrication. Read more of this post

Hawaii Took The Lead In Calling For A Ban on Chlorpyrifos & Now It’s National

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A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration endangered public health by keeping the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos on the market despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure can harm babies’ brains. Read more of this post

Why Pesticides Could Be Even More Toxic – Adjuvants

how-roundup-worksWriting in Frontiers in Public Health, Dr Robin Mesnage from King’s College London, suggests new regulations are needed to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide ingredients that are not currently subject to safety assessments. With Dr Michael Antoniou, they published the first comprehensive review of gaps in risk assessments for “adjuvants” –  ingredients added to pesticide formulations to enhance the function or application of the active ingredient. Read more of this post

Another State Wises Up to The Smart Meter Con

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Kentucky’s two largest electric utilities have been denied permission to install smart meters in homes across the state. The Public Service Commission found the utilities failed to show that the costs of smart meter implementation were worth it. The utilities had proposed installing about 1.3 million smart meters over a three-year period at a cost of nearly $350 million. Read more of this post