Friday, February 12, 2010

Protecting Yourself Against Swine Flu in 15 Seconds

Hand sanitizers have become a $200-million-a-year industry in the U.S., and the industry continues to grow. While the fear of contracting swine flu has been a significant engine behind the growth of the industry, most people don’t realize that according to the Center for Disease Control, there is no hand sanitizer proven to kill the swine flu virus.

Until now that is.

Professor Elka Touitou, a world renowned expert in the field of drug delivery, on the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has created an antiviral hand sanitizer, which, according to an FDA certified laboratory in the U.S., is highly effective against the H1N1 virus. The innovative product, known as EtoClean (TM), deactivates the swine flu virus in just 15 seconds.

Additionally, EtoClean has also been found to inactivate other viruses that are not effected by regular alcohol-based sanitizers such as hepatitis and norovirus (a common cause of gastroenteritis).

For more information on EtoClean and the company that produces it, click here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pathologist warns herbal remedies can be lethal

A forensic pathologist has sounded a worldwide alert about the dangers of herbal medicines, saying "these substances may cause serious illnesses."
What Professor Roger Byard of the University of Adelaide writes in the Journal of Forensic Sciences is in reference to the false assumptions many people have about herbal medicines.
“There’s a false perception that herbal remedies are safer than manufactured medicines, when in fact many contain potentially lethal concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead,” Professor Byard says.
“These substances may cause serious illnesses, exacerbate pre-existing health problems or result in death, particularly if taken in excess or injected rather than ingested.”
Professor Byard declares there can also be fatal consequences when some herbal medicines interact with prescription drugs. “As access to such products is largely unrestricted and many people do not tell their doctor they are taking herbal medicines for fear of ridicule, their contribution to death may not be fully appreciated during a standard autopsy.”
After examining 251 Asian herbal products that were found in stores in the United States, analysts found a significant level of harmful ingredients that included arsenic in 36 of them, mercury in 35 and lead in 24 of the products.
“Herbal medicines are frequently mixed with standard drugs, presumably to make them more effective. This can also have devastating results,” Professor Byard adds.
Not only can herbal medicines have a deleterious effect on individuals, the interaction of herbal medicines and traditional therapies can have very serious consequences, as Professor Byard explains. He tells his readers how St. Johns Wort can reduce the effects of warfarin and can also cause intermenstrual bleeding in those women who take oral contraceptive medications. Other herbal remedies such as gingko and garlic can increase the risk of bleeding. Borage Oil and Evening Primrose Oil can lower the threshold at which epileptic seizures can occur.
Around 30 percent of people in the United States use herbal medicines as do a high number of people in Canada and the United Kingdom. This is why Professor Byard underlines the significance of a worldwide warning on the use of herbal medicines.
Despite warnings such as these, articles, books and websites continue to proliferate and are devoted to recommending herbal medicines. The emphasis is on the curative value of these remedies, while few mention the problems taking them.
What's interesting is that not only are people able to buy herbal products, often without knowing the potential risks of some of them, plenty of places on the web give instruction on how to make Chinese herbal remedies, some of which, as noted in Byard's research, can cause harm.
The website gives information on how to make herbal medicines with an organized presentation, but without any apparent warnings for readers to review. Instead the warnings are directed towards the user making sure that he or she uses the right remedy for the right medical condition.
There are risks involved when taking herbs for medical purposes, doctors warn. This new research underlines what many doctors have noted for years: when in doubt check with your doctor.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Unrolled, Unbridled and Unabashed

Exhibition Review | 'Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of the Condom'
Unrolled, Unbridled and Unabashed

In the 18th century Casanova referred to them as “English frock coats” and made prodigious use of the “little preventive bag invented by the English to save the fair sex from anxiety.” In 1709 the English literary journal The Tatler alluded to their supposed invention by an eponymous doctor of “eminent Quality”; the success of his “Engine” eventually “made it an Immodesty to name his Name.”

But there was never a Dr. Condom as far as we can tell, and no one really knows who first created condoms (or named them), since bladders, animal membranes, sheaths and salve-coated cloths have been used for similar purposes since the beginning of recorded history.

Spend some time at the fascinating new exhibition at the Museum of Sex, “Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of the Condom,” and their origins hardly matter: their history is what is extraordinary. These commonplace objects — widely used and rarely spoken of, often seen but infrequently displayed — are icons of far more than the phallus.

The museum’s curator, Sarah Forbes, has gathered condom boxes and vending machines, horrific photos of disease and collections of birth-control devices, American military videos and a dress made out of dyed condoms, television commercials and artworks, creating a modest exhibition that elevates the status of the condom. And, not incidentally, the show explicitly encourages its use — particularly, as one major section reminds us, to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS.

It is no wonder that the company that makes Trojan condoms became a sponsor of the exhibition, though the extent of its presence here is limited, including a display of contemporary equipment used in making condoms (metallic phallic molds that are dipped into liquid latex, for example) and a video of laboratory tests showing their resiliency. (Condoms are attached to valves and inflated, becoming enormous balloons well before they finally burst.)

The evolution of the condom is too briefly told, but it includes Charles Goodyear’s discovery of a treatment for rubber that retained its flexibility; a photograph of a well-preserved reusable rubber sheath from mid-20th-century London is here. In Germany, we learn, condoms are colloquially referred to as Fromms because that was the name of the Jewish manufacturer who, before the Nazis came to power, sold 50 million condoms a year. (His condoms were also, interestingly, packaged with slips of paper that could be discreetly handed to a pharmacist, ordering another supply.) But Julius Fromm had to flee to London and lost the factory.

It is partly because condoms graphically suggest the sex act that they have so often been known through their covers: a collection of boxes and containers here range from antique exoticism (picturing desert camels) to whimsical contemporaneity (portraits of candidates from the last presidential election). A New York pharmacy case has wooden doors that would have decorously concealed the contents until the customer was prepared to survey the various Sheik condoms for sale. Condoms have also accumulated nicknames that are covers of sorts, hiding their identity while provocatively suggesting it. (A wall displays a roster of aliases, including, most mildly, “copper hat,” “love sock,” “frogskin,” “night cap.”)

Condoms have encouraged sophomoric humor (a historical etching of Casanova shows him blowing into a condom and inflating it for the amused delectation of his lady admirers) and avant-gardish flirtatiousness (as in Randy Polumbo’s artworks on display, which include a ribbed dirigible and a solar-powered flying machine that inflates and deflates attached condoms).

And they have a dark side, which casts its shadow over such play. There are early photographs here of victims of syphilis, including a chilling image of a pox-covered baby nursing at a pox-covered breast.

Like the diseases they prevent, condoms have also proliferated with the march of armies. As the show points out, 18,000 American soldiers a day were on sick leave with venereal diseases during World War I, inspiring the United States government to begin a campaign about the transmission of disease and the distribution of military “pro-kits” to allow cleansing and protection.

The show’s grim accounting of sexually transmitted disease is tempered by an upbeat 2006 news account of a Florida retirement community in which condom use is being encouraged for its residents because of the spread of sexual diseases. The cure and the prevention have become so routine, they scarcely intrude on the pleasures.

But the last half of the exhibition is more preoccupied with controversy: the condom becomes a political instrument in long-running cultural and religious debates. A 1915 edition of Margaret Sanger’s once-controversial book, “What Every Girl Should Know,” is here. (Her birth-control advocacy led to the creation of Planned Parenthood.) So is a 1989 poster of deliberate crudity attacking the pope and the Roman Catholic Church for opposing the use of condoms for birth control and disease prevention.

The onset of H.I.V. and AIDS in the 1980s created another crisis in which advertisements and educational materials invoked death and disease, just as the warnings about sexual diseases did in earlier centuries. One series of commercials shown here, from MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, depicts passionate sex, ending with the man pulling a gun on his lover: unprotected sex is murder.

But while the earlier response to similar dangers was chastisement (avoid prostitutes; keep a “healthy mind and clean body,” warns a 1941 United States Army film), here the condom offers another possibility: a series of Keith Haring drawings promote both sexual activity and protection, offering satisfaction along with immunity.

This message is literally a promotion of the condom; the condom even becomes a cause. This is one impulse behind the purple couture cocktail dress displayed here, designed by Adriana Bertini: it is constructed from 1,200 hand-dyed condoms. In such a form the condom is not private but public, not hidden but extravagantly and profusely evident. It is associated with pleasure, not prevention, but is meant to provide both. Such is the new image of the condom.

Yet this is just a variation on a theme. The history of condoms is a chronicle of appetite and fear, of desire and darkness. The aspect of condoms that offends some orthodox religious beliefs, after all, is that it treats the possibility of pregnancy as something as unwanted as a disease, something to be prevented for the sake of sexual gratification: the condom is an indulgence, an avoidance.

If the condom appears to be a sign of promiscuous satisfaction, though, it is also, in its essence, a compromise: at the moment of greatest potential pleasure, it interferes. It requires that the rush of desire be interrupted, its course modified, its sensation diminished. At the moment of being consumed by the present, a concern with the future intrudes. The condom is a declaration of sacrifice in the midst of indulgence. It is evidence of civilization and its discontents.

“Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of the Condom” is on view at the Museum of Sex, 233 Fifth Avenue, at 27th Street; (212) 689-6337,