Podcast: Deadly chemicals everywhere? Stem cell tourism kills; Natural pet food is a scam

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Credit: i09
A pair of high-profile studies alleges that the health impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals has doubled in five years. Should you be worried? Independent clinics around the world are offering untested stem-cell therapies for everything from wrinkles to neurological disorders. These treatments don’t treat anything—but they can cause strokes and cancer. Don’t buy “natural” pet food, experts say. It does your dogs and cats no good, and it takes a devastating toll on the environment.

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

Beginning in the early 1990s, research investigating the health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) began to proliferate. These studies posited that substances such as BPA—used in a wide variety of consumer products—were mimicking or blocking the function of the human body’s hormones, contributing to reproductive health issues, neurological diseases and even cancer.

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While it’s prudent to monitor the potential risks linked to low-level chemical exposures, two decades of research (including studies conducted by the Food and Drug Administration) indicates that EDCs are unlikely to harm human health in the quantities we’re exposed to. Yet the initial concern over EDCs unleashed a “research juggernaut,” says epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, that continues to produce questionable science and attract widespread media attention.

As decades of intense political opposition begins to wane, stem cell therapies for deadly diseases are starting to surface. HIV, sickle cell, Parkinson’s and COVID-19 are among the conditions researchers may be able to successfully cure or treat with stem cells, but these groundbreaking therapies have to be developed over many years so their safety and efficacy can be evaluated in properly designed clinical trials.

But not everyone adheres to such rigorous protocols. Clinics both in the US and around the world are now offering unapproved stem cell treatments for all sorts of conditions, though most commonly debilitating neurological disorders.  Desperate patients who engage in “stem cell tourism” visit these clinics to improve their quality of life, but they generally leave with lighter wallets and sometimes deadly complications like stroke or cancer.

If you buy natural pet food for your dog or cat, you should stop, says Breakthrough Institute food and agriculture analyst Caroline Grunewald. Although pet food companies market their natural products as healthier alternatives to the kibble consumers have fed their animals for decades, the reality is that $40-per-bag, non-GMO, organic pet food offers little in the way of improved nutrition and takes a devastating toll on the environment.

Related article:  Viewpoint: How the Environmental Working Group and 'Big Organic' manipulate pesticide data to scare people

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Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s managing editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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