Testing It Up » March 2012

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Early Disease Detection

Barbie’s Bald Friend Coming Soon!

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Mattel has responded to a Facebook campaign that has gone viral, urging the company to release a doll that would cater to children who are undergoing cancer treatments, or are suffering from Alopecia.

It seems that Mattel has heeded the call and will soon be producing the doll. This one, however, will not be sporting that lovely mane that Barbie has been known for all these years.

According to Alan Hilowitz, spokesperson for Mattel, the doll will be created as a “friend” of Barbie, and will come with accessories that a child suffering from baldness due to certain health conditions are probably very familiar with: wigs, hats, and scarves, among other accessories. It will also have the option of going completely bald.

The “Bald and Beautiful Barbie” was the brainchild of Jane Bingham and Rebecca Sypin, who began a Facebook campaign in January. Sypin had shared that they believed that a bald Barbie will be therapeutic to children who have become bald. The campaign received 150,000 “Likes” in four months.

Barbie’s bald friend, however, will not be gracing store shelves. Mattel has decided not to sell them. All the dolls that will be produced will be donated to children’s hospitals, as well as the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Mattel also took to Facebook to explain why: “Through a thoughtful approach, we made the decision not to sell these dolls at retail stores, but rather get the dolls directly into the hands of children who can most benefit from the unique play experience.”

Substance Abuse

FDA Mandates Reporting of Levels of Chemicals in Cigarettes

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary guidance on Friday, requiring tobacco companies to report the levels of dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, among other products.

This was the first time that tobacco companies are being mandated to report the amounts of 20 chemicals associated with cancer, lung disease, and other health problems. Starting next April, tobacco manufacturers will be required by the FDA to display this information, in a consumer-friendly format.

Aside from cigarettes, chews and other products will also fall under these rules, which aim to tighten the regulation of the tobacco industry. Other products that will need to follow these rules include, among others, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde.

There are 93 harmful or potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco products that have been identified by regulators. The FDA, however is only focusing on 20 of these chemicals for the coming year. The FDA is accepting comments on the recently-released guidance until June 4, before the list is finalized.

In addition to the guidance involving the reporting of chemical levels, they also issued a guidance that enumerated the required scientific studies before a company will be allowed to market a modified-risk tobacco product. This includes extensive testing on health risks, user behavior and consumer understanding of marketing materials for new products.

Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the tobacco center at the FDA, said: “The law sets a high standard to make sure that tobacco products marketed to reduce risk actually reduce risk.”

Substance Abuse

“Walmart of Weed” Coming Soon to Washington D.C.

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A company nicknamed the “Walmart of Weed” is set to open its doors in Washington D.C. Friday. The first weGrow store in the East Coast will open on March 30, just a few miles away from the White House.

weGrow sells plant food and vitamins; ventilation and lighting systems; as well as how-to classes, books, and magazines on growing medical marijuana. What it does not have, interestingly enough, is pot – or the seeds to grow pot.

Dhar Mann, founder of weGrow, shared: “The more that businesses start to push the envelope by showing that this is a legitimate industry, the further we’re going to be able to go in changing people’s minds.”

While marijuana itself will be obviously absent from the weGrow store, its products and services will help those who cultivate pot grow their own marijuana plants for personal use, or for selling at marijuana dispensaries. It is an industry that continues to keep a low profile, as despite the fact that it was perfectly legal to sell hydroponic and other indoor growing equipment, these products were being used in the cultivation of a plant that is considered illegal by federal law.

Mann shared: “For the longest time, it’s been a don’t ask, don’t tell industry… Most people still want to hide behind that faade.”

To date, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of pot for medical purposes, as treatment for such conditions as anxiety, back pain, HIV/AIDS, and cancer. Fourteen states have also decriminalized marijuana to some degree, by removing or reducing penalties for its possession. Federal law, however, continues to outlaw the cultivation, sale, or use of marijuana.

Substance Abuse

Synthetic Marijuana Banned in New York State

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The state of New York has banned synthetic marijuana, in the wake of an exposé that revealed that young New Yorkers are being sent to the emergency room by these designer drugs. An order from the state Health Department was released on Thursday, March29.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the following statement: “We are banning the sale of synthetic marijuana because, no matter what you call it, it’s clear that this is an illegal drug which is putting the health of New Yorkers, especially young adults, at risk.”

“By acting now we can put parents’ minds at ease by preventing the spread of synthetic marijuana in our communities and our schools. We need to stop this problem before it starts and get this drug off the shelves of every store in our state to protect our children’s health and safety,” he added.

Synthetic marijuana is already banned in three dozen other states, but is still widely available at corner stores and gas stations in New York.

The substance has been associated with severe medical and psychiatric reactions, as well as kidney failure, paranoia, hallucination, high blood pressure, and heart rate.


Jim Burns, special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York, said: “This is an important step in the right direction, because currently these dangerous substances are only temporarily banned at the federal level… To have this banned at the state level enables both state and federal authorities to take action now to make sure these substances are removed and aren’t sold to the public.”

Substance Abuse

Meth-Resistant Decongestant May Soon Be Out in the Market

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A decongestant developed by Highland Pharmaceutical will not be very useful to those who use these medicines to cook meth.

A test was conducted by some Highland executives and chemists, as well as Franklin County sheriff’s sergeant Jason Grellner and other drug officers, in November. It was determined that after following the procedure for cooking meth using the decongestant Releva, they were only able to produce black liquid – instead of clear crystals.

The test was conducted at an outdoor firefighter training center in Washington, Missouri. Highland Pharmaceutical president Jim Bausch shared: “I was scared to death going in because that’s not the kind of experiment I can do inside a laboratory.”

The finding was significant, as Highland Pharmaceutical is seeking exemption from the 2005 federal Combat Methamphetamine Act, allowing them to sell Releva as an ordinary over-the-counter medication. The results of the test were taken into account when the legislative committee in Jefferson City considered a bill that would call for prescriptions for decongestants containing pseudoephedrine.

Emilie Dolan, spokeswoman for Highland Pharmaceutical, shared: “From a marketing perspective, we’re waiting to see whether we can sell the product from store shelves because that would obviously give us an edge over the other products. But it could be ready for the market by midsummer.”

Bausch shared further that Releva uses lipids, or fats, in order to prevent pseudoephedrine from being extracted. Its consistency, he said, can be comparable to chocolate. Grellner, on the other hand, described it as candle wax. It could not be ground up, is not soluble, and cannot be smoked.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Bobby Brown Charged with DUI

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Bobby Brown has been charged with three misdemeanor charges, including driving under the influence (DUI), after being arrested in suburban Los Angeles on Monday.

The ex-husband of the late Whitney Houston was charged with two DUI-related counts, as well as driving with a suspended license, according to Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the city attorney. The R&B singer had a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent, a level that is already considered as drunken driving.

Tiffany Feder, attorney for Mr. Brown, declined to comment on the case as she had not yet received police reports and other pertinent documents. Initially, however, she issued a statement that denied allegations that her client was driving unsafely when he was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) on Monday afternoon.

The singer was initially flagged because he was seen talking on his cellphone without a hands-free unit. The officer who apprehended him also suspected that he was impaired. The CHP said that Brown had failed a field sobriety test; he was released from jail without posting bail.

Feder said the following in a statement issued prior to the charges, which were given on March 28: “Mr. Brown is taking this matter seriously, and an investigation is under way… The legal process shall run its course.” Her client may face up to six months in jail, if he is convicted on the DUI counts. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 16.

Substance Abuse

Relationships and Teen Substance Abuse Prevention

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There is growing concern about teen drug abuse across America – concerns that are certainly valid. And while it is but appropriate for communities to come together and initiate programs that aim to prevent substance abuse, it is that which is very basic that counts a lot when it comes to teen drug abuse prevention: personal relationships.

A study published in the Journal of Business Research shared that teens are less prone to give in to negative peer influence, particularly those involving the use of tobacco and alcohol, if they have a strong and nurturing relationship with their parents, and if their parents provide them with a strong sense of self.

And how does a parent provide their child with a strong sense of self? The Washington Times’ Rebecca Hagelin suggests “setting clear expectations, providing opportunities for the child to earn increasing independence, and projecting warmth, affirmation, love and forgiveness.”

Another relationship that influences teens is that which they have with their peers. An article in Child Development, by researchers from the University of Virginia, indicated that teens are “more likely to drink, smoke, or use drugs if their friends do.” This negative influence from peers becomes even stronger when the teen is missing a warm relationship with his or her parents.

Hagelin ends with the following advice to parents: “Work hard at building and maintaining a strong, warm relationship with your teen. But pay particular attention to your teen’s friends – substance-using friends are a GPS pointing your teen in the wrong direction.”

Health & Wellness

Chocolate Linked to Lower Body Weight

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A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California – San Diego linked eating chocolate with weight loss, although its results do not necessarily mean that adding a candy bar to your diet is a surefire way of losing weight.

Researchers said that it was possible that the health benefits that could be derived from chocolate – such as lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, and decreased body weight – may be due to the presence of antioxidants in it.

Dr. Beatrice Golomb of UC San Diego, lead researcher for the study, said: “People have just assumed that because it comes with calories and it’s typically eaten as a sweet, therefore it would inherently have been, one way, bad.”

The study involved an analysis of data from a survey of 1,000 healthy adults. The study participants, aged from 20 to 85 years old, were asked about their typical eating habits, including how often they consumed chocolate.

The study participants ate chocolate two times a week, and had a body mass index (BMI) of 28, on average. Results of the analysis showed that people who ate chocolate more frequently tend to consume more calories overall. However, they also tend to have lower body weight, despite taking other factors such as age, gender, and amount of exercise into account.

Dr. Golomb shared that there was a five- to seven-pound difference between people who ate five servings of chocolate per week, compared to those who did not eat any chocolate.

Health & Wellness

Study Touts Hidden Benefits of Popcorn

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There may be a few benefits to be derived from having popcorn night at home, according to a new study – provided, of course, that one does not make it with a whole lot of butter, oil, and salt.

Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania conducted an analysis on the content in several types of popcorn. The results of their analysis indicated that the crunchy hull of this preferred movie snack is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that prevent damage to cells and may have disease-fighting properties.

Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry and lead author of the study, shared that the hull, and not the “white fluffy part” of the popcorn, has the most nutrients. The reason for this, he said, is that popcorn does not have a lot of water, and because it is a hundred percent whole grain. Other foods with polyphenols, such as fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, contain a lot more water.

Vinson shared further: “We know whole grains are good for us in fighting a number of chronic diseases, but we don’t know why yet. People thought it was just the fiber that made popcorn a healthful choice, but in my opinion, it’s the combination of fiber and polyphenols.”

He adds, though, that fruits and vegetables also contain polyphenols, as well as vitamins and minerals that are not found in popcorn: “I don’t want people to think they can just eat popcorn to get all the polyphenols they need. I don’t want them to think of popcorn as an alternative to fruits and vegetables.”

Substance Abuse

Missouri Teens Have Access to Synthetic Marijuana Despite Ban

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Despite the fact that the state of Missouri has placed a ban on synthetic marijuana products, teens apparently still have access to them, as they continue to be sold at certain independently-owned gas stations and convenience stores.

Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicated that nearly one in nine high school seniors have gotten high on the herb-based product, which mimics the effect of pot.

Synthetic marijuana is made from a mix of dead plants, flowers, and chemicals. These may be smoked in a pipe, mixed with marijuana, or snorted. While users experience the same effects as that which can be derived from using pot, they are also more likely to experience other symptoms as well, including rapid heartbeat.

Authorities in Kansas City’s Northland area were able to seize large amounts of suspected synthetic drugs. These products carry such brand names as Mr. Happy and Purple Diesel, and are sold as “plant food,” potpourri, and bath salts.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd shared: “We are targeting merchants who sell synthetic drugs for one simple reason: Synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous. Their effect on the human body is very unpredictable… A few years ago, it was legal to sell these designer drugs. That is no longer true.”

Zahnd shared further that three young people were hospitalized due to kidney failure, while a dozen were sickened in Casper, Wyoming, early this month. All the cases, he said, could be traced back to a batch of a certain designer drug.

Packets of synthetic marijuana are normally being sold for $20. The merchants are able to acquire these from dealers for $4, while dealers can manufacture them for less than $1.