Vetiver oil, also known as khus oil, is a lesser-known plant oil that offers a heavy, earthy fragrance, which is reminiscent of patchouli but with a touch of lemon. It is believed to be very grounding, calming and stabilizing, and provides a range of essential oil uses and benefits. Learn more about this herbal oil.
What Is Vetiver Oil?
Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver, is a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family, which is native to India.1 Western and Northern India know this plant as khus.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), derived from a Tamil word that means "hatcheted up," can grow up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). It has tall stems and long, thin and rigid leaves. Its flowers are brownish-purple. Vetiver hails from India but is widely cultivated in the world's tropical regions.
Vetiver essential oil is derived through the steam distillation of the plant's roots. It has a strong initial aroma and is described as woody, smokey, earthy, herbaceous and spicy.2 While not widely known, it dates back centuries and, in the 12th century, even became a taxable item in India.3
Perhaps the most valued quality of vetiver oil is that it is deeply grounding,4 and often used for promoting sleep. It is said to also be equally helpful for restlessness.
Uses of Vetiver Oil
Almost the whole vetiver plant is used for various applications. The roots have been particularly used since ancient times.
Vetiver essential oil is extensively utilized in perfumery, including the creation of perfumes for the body, room fresheners and coolers, as well as soaps, cosmetics, and oils. It is also a flavoring agent in beverages, sorbets and other foodstuffs.5
Its aromatic effect on the mind is grounding, calming and balancing, while its other notable actions are antiseptic, antispasmodic, immune-stimulating, warming and sedative to the nervous system, and stimulating to the circulatory system, to name a few.6
Vetiver oil's calming and soothing properties are said to dispel anger, hysteria and irritability, and reduce neurotic behavior.7 This in turn reduces stress and tension.
These revitalizing qualities make it helpful with physical and mental exhaustion, and for addressing issues ranging from general aches and pains to insomnia and anxious feelings.
Composition of Vetiver Oil
According to a paper by U.C. Lavania from India,8 the chemical composition of vetiver oil is extremely complex.
It mainly comprises sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene derivatives, of which vetiverols, their carbonyl compounds and esters, serve as the main constituents. Their relative abundance normally dictates the quality of the oil.
Three carbonyl compounds are deemed the primary odor-influencing components of this essential oil, which is used extensively to blend oriental-type perfumes and floral compounds, along with other cosmetic and aromatherapy applications.
Vetiver oil is also a main ingredient in 36 percent of all Western-quality perfumes and 20 percent of all men's fragrances, says Lavania. The author adds that the main fibrous smooth roots are important for oil quality.
A separate study, published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research,9 looked at the chemical composition of selected vetiver essential oils. It found about 110 constituents, mainly sesquiterpenes.
The characteristic constituents were beta-vetispirene (1.6 to 4.5 percent), khusimol (3.4 to 13.7 percent), vetiselinenol (1.3 to 7.8 percent) and alpha-vetivone (2.5 to 6.3 percent).
Benefits of Vetiver Oil
According to Organic Facts,10 vetiver essential oil provides the following health benefits:
✓ Helps enhance libido and awaken sexual desire
✓ Helps provide relief to insomnia patients
✓ Helps speed up eradication of scars and other skin marks
✓ Has antiseptic properties
✓ Helps provide relief from all types of inflammation
✓ Helps improve and maintain good nerve health
✓ Assists in rejuvenating the body and helps boost immunity
✓ Helps heal wounds by promoting growth of new tissues
This plant oil is also believed to benefit those who are suffering from the following conditions:11
✓ Joint stiffness
✓ Menstrual cramps
✓ Mental fatigue
✓ Sore feet
One specific area that vetiver oil can potentially address is ADHD, in large part because it is a calming essential oil.12,13 A 2001 study conducted by Dr. Terry Friedman found that the oil's aroma improved the performance of children with ADD and ADHD by 100 percent.
The results emerged as much stronger than lavender's performance increase of 53 percent and cedarwood's 83 percent.
To harness these benefits, vetiver oil can be administered in different ways. It can be applied topically (recommended diluted with a carrier oil), directly inhaled, diffused or used as a supplement. The oil blends well with the essential oils of benzoin, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender and ylang-ylang.
How to Make Vetiver Oil
The roots of the plant undergo steam distillation in order to produce the oil. Vetiver essential oil is painstaking and labor-intensive to manufacture, which drives its price up.14
To reduce cost, it is often diluted with less expensive and therefore less effective oils, or even synthetic fragrance oils. This is why I advise you to make sure you are buying the oil from a reputable source and getting only the real deal. Easy Aromatherapy Recipes provides several essential oil recipes for specific health concerns. Here are three you can try:
• Injury blend — Blend four drops vetiver, three drops lavender and two drops bergamot in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into affected area.
• TMJ blend — Blend four drops helichrysum, three drops white fir and two drops vetiver in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into jaw muscles morning and night.
• Arthritis blend — Blend four drops frankincense, three drops marjoram and two drops each rosemary and vetiver in 1 oz. carrier oil. Massage into affected area.
Here is an eHow blend15 you can also try:
You will need:
- 4 drops Vetiver essential oil
- 4 drops Clary Sage essential oil
- 4 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
- 5 drops Lavender essential oil
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Combine oils well and store in an airtight container.
You may use this as an all-purpose massage oil, which can be massaged at your temples to calm an anxious mind. I recommend using it in a neck or shoulder massage to ease tension. This recipe also works in a standard massage for creating a more uplifting experience. Use it externally only and consult your doctor if you are pregnant or have any health condition.
How Does Vetiver Oil Work?
Since essential oils are extremely potent, I advise vetiver oil to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. You can start with one drop to 1 to 3 teaspoons of carrier oil. With caution, increase the essential oil as needed.
Vetiver oil works in vapor therapy16 — it can address nervous complaints, dispel anger and irritability, and relieve insomnia this way. It can also be blended in a massage oil or diluted in the bath. Through this mode of administration, it can assist with mental and physical exhaustion, nervous complaints, rheumatism and arthritic pain and skin healing.
This essential oil also works in a cream or lotion, moisturizing and nourishing skin. It especially benefits dry, irritated and dehydrated skin, and helps reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. On the other hand, it is generally NOT recommended to be taken internally.
Is Vetiver Oil Safe?
This essential oil is deemed non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-toxic, and therefore generally safe. But it should not be used by pregnant women, and you should use extreme caution and consult a doctor before using it on children. Prior to widespread use, always test for skin sensitivity by doing a patch test.
Always dilute vetiver oil using a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Given their quality and composition, most brands should not be ingested.
Side Effects of Vetiver Oil
WebMD17 says that that the possible side effects of vetiver oil are not known. However, it adds that it is unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to take vetiver, as it might cause a miscarriage.
By Dr. Mercola
Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraception among U.S. women. They're taken by 16 percent of this population, while just over 7 percent use long-acting reversible forms of contraception, such as a hormonal intrauterine device or implant.
What these pills, devices and implants have in common is that they're forms of hormonal birth control — that is, they contain or release synthetic forms of hormones, such as estrogen and progestin (a form of progesterone), which work to prevent pregnancy in various ways.
The problem is that these sex hormones also affect mood and other biological processes and artificially manipulating them can lead to many unintended consequences in your body, some of them uncomfortable and some quite serious, including altering your mental health.
Birth Control Pills Linked to Depression
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark analyzed data from more than 1 million women over a period of 14 years. None of the women, who were between 15 and 34 years of age, had been diagnosed with depression at the start of the study.1
However, the analysis showed that women who used hormonal birth control had a 40 percent increased risk of developing depression after six months compared to women who did not. The risk was greatest among adolescents.
The use of hormonal birth control was also associated with subsequent use of antidepressant drugs. Certain types of hormonal contraception had varying risks. Specifically, the use of:
- Progestin-only pills led to a 1.3-fold higher rate of antidepressant use
- Combined birth control pills led to a 1.2 higher rate
- Transdermal patch led to a 2-fold increased risk
- Vaginal ring led to a 1.5-fold increased risk
Anecdotal Reports Suggest Hormonal Contraceptives Lead to Mood Changes
Lead study supervisor, Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, told CNN:2
"We have known for decades that women's sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have an influence on many women's mood.
Therefore, it is not very surprising that also external artificial hormones acting in the same way and on the same centers as the natural hormones might also influence women's mood or even be responsible for depression development."
Despite this knowledge, many health care professionals are reluctant to suggest that the risks of hormonal birth control may be too steep for some women, especially those with a history of depression.
While scientific validation has yielded some conflicting results, one report in the Oxford Medical Case Reports journal detailed two cases of women with a history of depression who developed depressive symptoms after treatment with hormonal contraceptives (the combined oral contraceptive pill, progestin-only pill and combined contraceptive vaginal ring).3
Case Reports Detail Onset of Depressive Symptoms After Use of Hormonal Contraceptives
In one case, a 31-year-old woman experienced gradual improvement of her depressive symptoms after she stopped using the vaginal ring. However, "a sudden and acute worsening occurred" shortly after she started using a combined birth control pill.
About a month later, she again experienced a worsening of symptoms "almost simultaneously with the initiation of treatment with combined contraceptive vaginal ring." The researchers noted:4
"HC [Hormonal contraception] was again interrupted, with a subsequent clear improvement in depressive symptoms. The patient remained stable without depression for the following [six] months."
In the second case, a 33-year-old woman developed depressive symptoms shortly after starting a progestin-only birth control pill. Her symptoms disappeared completely within one week of stopping the pill. The researchers concluded:5
"Caution should be used when starting up treatment with HC in women diagnosed with depression, since it might in some cases lead to worsening of the depressive symptoms.
Likewise, attention should be paid to the pre-existing use of HC in women who develop depression, as discontinuation of HC might in some cases be sufficient to treat the depression."
Hormonal Contraceptives Are Linked to Glaucoma and Other Health Risks
Women who used oral contraceptives for longer than three years were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with glaucoma, a leading cause of vision loss and blindness, according to one study.6
The results were so striking that the researchers recommended women taking the pill for three or more years be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist.
It might seem unusual that contraceptives could affect your vision, but it's important to understand that there are body-wide repercussions of artificially manipulating your hormones.
Most birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings and implants contain a combination of the derivatives of the hormones estrogen and progestin. They work by mimicking these hormones in your body to fool your reproductive system into producing the following effects:
- Preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs
- Thickening your cervical mucus to help block sperm from fertilizing an egg
- Thinning the lining of your uterus, which makes it difficult for an egg to implant, should it become fertilized
However, your reproductive system does not exist in a bubble. It is connected to all of your other bodily systems, and therefore hormonal contraception is capable of altering much more than your reproductive status.
According to one report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of women who have used the pill and nearly half of women using other hormonal contraception methods stopped their use due to "dissatisfaction," which was most often caused by side effects.7 Potential health risks include:
✓ Cancer: Women who take birth control pills increase their risk of cervical and breast cancers, and possibly liver cancer as well.
✓ Thinner bones: Women who take birth control pills have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than women who have never used oral contraceptives.
✓ Heart disease:Long-term use of birth control pills may increase plaque artery buildups in your body that may raise your risk of heart disease.
✓ Fatal blood clots: Birth control pills increase your risk of blood clots and subsequent stroke.
✓ Impaired muscle gains: Oral contraceptive use may impair muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.
✓ Long-term sexual dysfunction: The pill may interfere with a protein that keeps testosterone unavailable, leading to long-term sexual dysfunction including decreased desire and arousal.
✓ Weight gain and mood changes
✓ Yeast overgrowth and infection
The Pill May Be a Libido Killer
About 15 percent of women taking oral contraceptives report a decrease in libido, likely because they lower levels of sex hormones, including testosterone.8 One study also found seven times the amount of the libido-killing sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) was present in women who took oral contraceptives compared to women who never used the pill.
Even though SHBG levels declined in women who had stopped taking the pill, they still remained three to four times higher than they were in women with no history of using oral contraceptives, which suggests oral contraceptives may kill a woman's libido for the long-term. Researchers concluded:9
"Long-term sexual, metabolic, and mental health consequences might result as a consequence of chronic SHBG elevation [in women who take, or have taken, oral contraceptives]."
Synthetic Hormones in Drinking Water May Be Increasing Cancer Rates in Men
It's not only women who are at risk from synthetic hormones contained in hormonal contraceptives. An analysis of data from 100 countries found oral contraceptive use is associated with prostate cancer, which may be due to exposure to synthetic estrogens excreted by women that end up in the drinking water supply.10
While it's been argued that only a small amount of additional estrogen is excreted by a woman using this form of contraception, this "small amount" is compounded by millions of women, many of whom use the pill for long periods of time. Also, synthetic estrogen and progestin does not biodegrade rapidly and is far harder to remove through conventional water purification systems, resulting in greater accumulation in the environment.
While this study did not prove cause and effect — that is, it did not prove that environmental estrogen from women's oral contraceptive use causes prostate cancer in men — it did find a significant association between the two that deserves further investigation, especially in light of estrogen's well-established role in a wide range of cancers and the prevalence of hormonal contraceptive use.
Non-Hormonal Methods of Contraception
Women and men looking for reversible non-hormonal options of contraception may be surprised to learn that there are many options. Conventional health care providers typically steer patients toward the popular hormonal options, but they are far from the only ones.
Barrier methods, which work by preventing the man's sperm from reaching the woman's egg, include the diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge and male and female condoms. None of these are foolproof, which is why many couples use them in combination with fertility awareness-based methods.
Fertility awareness involves knowing when a woman's fertile period occurs each month, and then avoiding sexual intercourse during (and just prior to) this time (or using a barrier method if you do).
When used consistently and correctly, fertility awareness is highly effective at preventing pregnancy; fewer than 1 to 5 women out of 100 will become pregnant using fertility awareness in this manner.11 In order to track fertility, a number of methods can be used by women, including tracking basal body temperature, mucus production, saliva indicators and cervical position.
Many women use a combination of methods, and there are also commercially available ovulation monitors that can be used in conjunction with the other methods. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. women of reproductive age have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lifetime, with 88 percent choosing hormonal options.12
However, you may be relieved to learn that you don't have to subject yourself to the risks of hormonal contraception, or learn to live with the side effects, in order to take control of your reproductive health. An experienced holistic health care provider can help you choose the best non-hormonal contraception options for you.
Birth Control Pills May Be Less Effective Than IUD
How Women May Be Contributing to Men's Rising Cancer Rates
By Dr. Mercola
Phthalates are widely used chemicals that make plastics more flexible. Products such as your shower curtain, food packaging, vinyl gloves and vinyl flooring contain phthalates. These chemicals are also in your household cleaners, cosmetics and personal care products.
Although phthalates help plastics to be more durable and flexible, they are not strongly bound to the product, so with heat and use, they leach out and dissipate into your environment.
Have you noticed how your flexible plastics can get harder and more brittle over time? That's because the plasticizer, or phthalates, is continuously released, changing the chemical composition of the product.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that your risk of exposure comes from eating and drinking foods exposed to plastics and breathing phthalate in dust particles.
In fact, phthalates are so common that researchers have found metabolites of phthalates in the general population and consider exposure to people living in the U.S. widespread.1
At the urging of the U.S. Product Safety Commission, American manufacturers have not put phthalates in children's pacifiers, soft rattles and teething toys since 1999.2
Phthalates are "reasonably considered to be a human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), but continue to be used in many products you use every day.3
You May Ingest Phthalates With Your Meals
In an effort to evaluate your risk of exposure to phthalates from food, researchers evaluated the dietary habits and urinary metabolites of 9,000 participants age 6 and older.4 This news video highlights the results of the study. The researchers were specifically looking at fast food or take out foods.
They used the CDC definition for fast foods as those from restaurants without waiter services and pizza restaurants, including take-out.
They discovered that the majority of people who were more likely to eat fast foods were non-Hispanic black males under age 40.5 This population also ate more calories and more fat each day from fast food restaurants.6
Those who ate at fast food restaurants had a greater excretion of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) than those who did not consume fast foods. The authors pointed to PVC tubing, vinyl gloves and food packaging as potential sources of phthalates found in foods.
Although DEHP has been removed from some products related to health concerns, it is being replaced with another source of phthalates, DiNP.7
The study evaluated exposure and not the potential negative health effects. They found a dose-related relationship between the amount of fast food participants were eating and the amount of phthalates to which they were exposed.
When the researchers evaluated the type of phthalates absorbed with the type of food ingested they found those who ate more grains and foods in the "other" category, such as condiments, potatoes and vegetables from fast food restaurants, had a greater amount of DEHP in their system.
Those who had more DiNP metabolites were eating a greater amount of meat and grains.9
Phthalates Are Industrial Strength Hormone Disruptors
The dangers associated with phthalates are related to their effect on your hormonal system. They are remarkably powerful hormone disruptors, and recent research confirms they're capable of causing males in all species to develop feminine characteristics.10
Although this study evaluated damage to the reproductive health of wildlife, the results are relevant to humans, as we share similar sex hormone receptors.
The chemicals disrupted the endocrine systems causing testicular cancer, low sperm counts, genital malformations and infertility in a number of species, including deer, whales, otters and bears, to name a few. This infertility and feminization may indicate a similar pattern taking place in humans.
In a study published by the American Chemical Society (ACS), researchers found that pregnant women who were exposed to phthalates found in food packaging, personal care items and other everyday products, experienced an increased risk of miscarriage between 5 and 13 weeks of pregnancy.11
Further studies demonstrate exposure to phthalates during pregnancy may increase the risk of adversely affecting the masculinization of male genitals in your baby.12 The results were presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society.
Researchers suggest the results may be a reason to look closely at clinical testing in early pregnancy for levels of chemicals to help guide interventions to protect your baby. Jennifer Adibi, Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh School of Public Health was quoted in the press release saying:13
"Phthalates are pervasive. Reducing exposure to phthalates and other hormone-disrupting chemicals is something that needs to be addressed at a societal level through consumer advocacy and regulation, and education of health care providers."
Phthalates Have Other Negative Health Effects
A research team from Columbia University found pregnant women with high levels of phthalates delivered babies who had a higher risk of developing asthma between the ages of 5 and 11.14
Since every woman in the U.S. is exposed to phthalates, researchers were forced to compare women with the highest levels of phthalates to those with the lowest, as they did not find anyone with a zero level.
Every woman in the study had metabolites of both types of phthalates being tested. Despite that, children of women with the highest levels had between a 72 and 78 percent greater chance of developing asthma.15
During pregnancy an increased exposure to phthalates may alter the production of thyroid hormones in your unborn child,16 which are crucial for the proper development of your baby during your first trimester.
Other complications found in women with high levels of DEHP during pregnancy included twice the likelihood a male child would develop a hydrocele, a buildup of fluid in the scrotum that increases the size of the scrotum and causes discomfort.17
Phthalates Linked to Low Vitamin D Levels
Phthalates also have negative health effects on adults. One of the first studies to link low vitamin D levels to an increased intake of phthalates was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.18 Researchers are calling this study very important as vitamin D is essential for brain, bone and heart heath.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to a number of different health conditions, including depression,19,20 mental decline in older adults21 and chronic migraine headaches,22 to name just a few. This study followed over 4,600 participants between 2005 and 2010 in a national health survey. The researchers had data from urine and blood samples, which they compared against exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) and vitamin D levels.
Lead author Lauren Johns, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, believes the results of this study have widespread implications, as EDCs in the U.S. are pervasive. The authors are not sure how the chemicals affect vitamin D deficiency, but believe they may alter vitamin D levels in the same way they change thyroid and reproductive hormones.
Widespread use of phthalate chemicals makes it difficult to reduce your exposure. Recent studies have demonstrated that while exposure to DEHP and di-n-butylphthalate (DnBP) are declining with reduced use in children's toys and other plastic materials, exposure to replacement phthalates is increasing.23 Chemicals replacing DEHP and DnBP are associated with very similar health effects.
US Food and Drug Administration Called to Reconsider Approval of Phthalates in Food Products
In early 2016, several public health and consumer groups strongly urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw their approval of ortho-phthalates used in food handling and packaging.24 The petition filed with the government lists these chemicals as food additives, as the FDA considers any chemicals that may be reasonably expected to be found in your food an additive.
Food producers use these chemicals in paperboard, cellophane and plastics that come in contact with the food. Earth Justice was one of the organizations behind the citizen petition to the FDA. Following a plea to their followers, the FDA received nearly 200,000 letters urging them to withdraw the chemicals, citing concern for their health and the health of their children.25
Despite the overwhelming demonstration of toxic effects phthalates have on adults, children and developing babies, the use of these EDCs in plastics and products that come in contact with food is perfectly legal. The FDA was accepting letters of concern from the public until September 19, 2016.26
If the FDA decides to withdraw approval for these 30 different ortho-phthalates from products used in food packaging and handling, manufacturers will be forced to redesign their products and machinery. This effects more than the fast food industry as phthalates can be found in dairy products and cheeses you purchase from the grocery store, as well as meats and olive oil.27,28
What You Can Do to Avoid Toxic Chemicals
To limit your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA), keep the following guidelines in mind when shopping for food, personal care and household products.
✓ Avoid fast-food restaurant fare and processed goods. Eating a diet focused on locally grown, ideally organic, whole foods cooked from scratch will significantly limit your exposure to not only phthalates and BPA but also a wide array of other chemicals, including synthetic food additives and pesticides.
✓ Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Besides phthalates, avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm.
✓ Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans; be aware that even "BPA-free" plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad for you as BPA.
✓ Switch to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.
EWG's Skin Deep database29 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
✓ Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap as it too contains phthalates that can migrate into your food (especially if you microwave food wrapped in plastic).
✓ Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one or glass doors.
✓ Use glass baby bottles and drinking bottles.
✓ Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives.
✓ Filter your tap water for both drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants.
Under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for DEHP of 0.006 mg/dL, or 6 ppb.30
Note that the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates DEHP levels only for public water supplies, not for well water.
✓ Look for fragrance-free products. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals, including phthalates.
Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which contain a mishmash of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.
✓ If you have PVC pipes, you may have DEHP leaching into your water supply. If you have PVC pipe from before 1977, you will definitely want to upgrade to a newer material.
This "early-era" PVC pipe can leach a carcinogenic compound called vinyl chloride monomer into your water. Alternatives to PVC for water piping include ductile iron, high-density polyethylene, concrete, copper, and PEX.31
✓ Consider replacing vinyl flooring with a "greener" material. Also avoid soft, flexible plastic flooring, such as those padded play-mat floors for kids (often used in day cares and kindergartens), as there's a good chance it is made from phthalate-containing PVC.
✓ Read the labels and avoid anything containing phthalates. Besides DEHP, also look for DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), BzBP (benzyl butyl phthlate) and DMP (dimethyl phthalate).
Also be wary of anything listing a "fragrance," which often includes phthalates.
✓ Make sure your baby's toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on — even books, which are often plasticized. It's advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.
Phthalates and BPA Linked to IQ Reductions in Children, but FDA Reasserts the Chemical’s Safety
Floors That Can Make You and Your Children Sick
By Dr. Mercola
Heroin belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. All drugs in this class are chemically related, including street drugs and those prescribed by physicians. They affect chemical receptors in your nervous system to produce pleasurable sensations and reduce pain.1
Legal prescriptions include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and many others.2 According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, of the 21.5 million Americans with a substance abuse disorder in 2014, 1.9 million were addicted to prescription pain relievers and 585,000 were addicted to heroin.3
America's addiction to pain medication begins in the physician's office. Drug companies have shrewdly misled doctors and patients, purposely downplaying the abuse potential of these drugs.4 As a result of this, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death, with opioid addiction driving the epidemic.5
In 1971 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of naloxone to reverse heroin drug overdoses.6 Today it is carried by first responders and used in hospitals and clinics. However, where the drug was once very affordable, prices have skyrocketed right along with the prevalence of opioid addiction.
Profits Over People
Originally, naloxone was designed for injection only. With the rapid rise of opioid overdoses and use of the medication in the field, drug companies looked for another method of administration.
In 2012, The National Institute on Drug Abuse and Opiant Pharmaceuticals joined together to develop an intranasal administration device, which was approved by the FDA in 2015.7
As recently as the early 2000s, the cost of naloxone hovered around $1 per dose. Today the drug costs close to $40 per dose and the price keeps rising.8 Apparently, Big Pharma is taking full advantage of the race to get the medication in the hands of all first responders and even into most households.
In an effort to justify a new price on an old drug, companies are blaming rising costs of manufacturing the medication, new packaging and new methods of administration.9 However, generic versions of the drug continue to cost pennies in other countries while the price growth in the U.S. is on a steep curve.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), with U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (R-Maryland), opened an inquiry in 2015 into Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, the most commonly used version of naloxone by emergency personnel and in private homes. Sanders was quoted in Politico, saying:10
"Opioid abuse is an epidemic across our country, yet drug companies continue to rip off the American people by charging the highest prices in the world because they have no shame. The greed of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans."
Drug companies have had their hand in both creating the problem through falsely promising physicians their version of opioids were non-addictive, and now raising the price of the overdose reversal drug so high it may be considered extortion, essentially placing greed and profits above the needs of people.
Growth of the Opioid Epidemic and Rising Cost of Reversal Medication Is Influencing Political Platforms
Expressing her distaste at the drug industry's apparent lack of concern for people's lives, Eliza Wheeler, who leads a drug overdose prevention and education project in Northern California, noted:11
"You have increased demand and a few people who control the pricing, so they can charge whatever they want."
States in the U.S. experience varying degrees of opioid addiction problems. Physicians in Alabama prescribe three times the number of narcotic painkillers than physicians in Hawaii.13 Both presidential candidates have jumped on the opioid epidemic as part of their political platforms.
Donald Trump has demonstrated his lack of understanding of how people are becoming addicted, advocating building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to eliminate the traffic of heroin into the U.S. without addressing increasing prescriptions of narcotics.14
Despite the fact that the drug is no longer under patent, a virtual monopoly of four or five companies controls the rise in price. They justify the price hikes saying it's related to the cost of the delivery system and not the drug itself.
Clinton, in turn, has laid out a five-point plan based on prevention, treatment and emergency care that on the surface sounds reasoned and actionable, including training physicians to recognize substance abuse and reduce prescription rates of controlled substances.19
Part of that plan is to put naloxone in the hands of every first responder to reduce the number of lethal overdoses. The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by U.S. pharmacies in 1991 reached 76 million.20
This number almost tripled by 2011, reaching 211 million prescriptions. While treatment for overdoses is essential for first responders, addressing the growing number of narcotic prescriptions is necessary to address the rising epidemic of opioid addictions.
Overdose Victims — A 'Boon' to the Organ Donation Industry?
Depending upon the drug an addict has taken, first responders may need more than one dose of naloxone to reverse the effect and save the individual. Almost 30,000 deaths were attributed to prescription or street opioids in 2014.21
Contingent on what street dealers cut their drugs with, one or even two doses of naloxone may not be enough to save a life.22
As a result of a growing epidemic of addiction and overdoses and rising costs of rescue medication, more drug addicts are experiencing lethal consequences from the drugs they're taking.
In years past, drug addicts were not considered viable transplant donors as they may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis C.23 In 2013, federal law changed to allow HIV positive organs to be transplanted to an HIV positive patient.24
In a sad and twisted turn of events, between January and October 2016, 69 people in the New England states who died from an overdose donated their organs, saving the lives of 202 other people.
Alexandra K. Glazier, chief executive of the New England Organ Bank, was quoted in The New York Times, saying:25 "It's an unexpected silver lining to what is otherwise a pretty horrendous situation."
According to the New England Organ Bank, responsible for donations and distribution to transplant patients in the New England states, donations from overdose deaths accounted for 27 percent of donations, up from 4 percent in 2010.26
This steep increase in drug overdose organ donations highlights both the incredible need for greater efforts in prevention and treatment of drug addiction and the growing need for more individuals to become organ donors.
The need for donors continues to grow; 85 people receive an organ donation each day and another 22 die before a suitable match can be found.27 Although drug overdose victims were considered high risk donors in the past, improved screening protocols have significantly reduced the risk of transplanting an infected organ.
Number of Companies Supplying Reversal Agents Climbing but Prices Are Not Stabilizing
The rising price of naloxone is straining the budgets of first responders as explained in this video. According to the CDC, enough prescription pain medication was dispensed in 2010 so every adult in America could be medicated around the clock for one month.28 Those numbers have increased, as have the number of doses of naloxone dispensed from pharmacies.
As the price of naloxone rises, so do the reported sales and profits of the companies providing the drug. Amphastar, the primary provider of injectable naloxone to emergency personnel, reported net revenue in the last quarter of 2015 of $77 million.29 This was a 38 percent increase from the 2014 fourth quarter. According to an Amphastar press release:30
"Other finished pharmaceutical product revenues were $36.6 million for the quarter, an increase of 69 percent compared to $21.7 million for the third quarter of 2014, which was primarily due to an increase in sales of naloxone to $10.5 million from $3.7 million, as a result of increased unit volumes at higher average prices."
This life-saving medication is bolstering the profits of more than one company. Adapt, Hospira and Amphastar pharmaceutical companies had been the main providers of naloxone.31 Kaleo Pharmaceuticals introduced an auto-injector costing $700 to $800 per dose. Biotech company Mylan now sells an injectable form after approval in 2014, and INSYS Therapeutics, suffering from a media backlash concerning their sales of Fentanyl, has now been fast-tracked by the FDA for a naloxone product.
When talking about the recent FDA approved nasal-spray of naloxone, Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said this was done to improve the competition between pharmaceutical companies.32 Although the hope may have been to reduce prices when four to five companies are producing the medication, it hasn't happened.
Big Pharma wants insurance companies to pay their bloated fees. In an interview with Fusion, Kaleo spokesperson Mark Herzog mentioned that "3 out of 4 Americans" have insurance that covers their naloxone product and the median out of pocket expense was $20.33
Naloxone Is a Bandage and Not the Cure
The epidemic of people addicted to opioid painkillers, heroin and cocaine will not be stopped by using rescue drugs to prevent deaths. However, Big Pharma is also not interested in shrinking the supply of narcotic addictive pain medication or, it seems, in reducing the price of medication needed by emergency personnel to save lives.
Pharmaceutical companies understand that it's impossible to place a price on saving a life, and they are taking full financial advantage at the cost of their customers. Budgets for first responders are not limitless, so in order to pay for the naloxone, other line items must be cut. At some point this may affect the emergency care you receive in your community.
Stemming the tide of an epidemic starts by reducing potential at the source. When the World Health Organization (WHO) set up their epidemic response guidelines for disease, they consulted Dr. David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.34 He wisely recommends shutting down a steady supply of victims, treating those already infected and monitoring the situation for changes.
The same holds true for the opioid epidemic. Before a significant change is evident in the effect on public health, the number of new addicts must be slowed. Surveillance programs to identify addicts, treatment programs for those already addicted and rescue medication for those who overdose, are steps taken to address a current problem, not a growing one.
As 1.9 million people are addicted to prescription opioids, more than three times the number addicted to street opioids,35 slowing the number of new addicts begins with reducing the number of narcotic medications prescribed for medical conditions that do not warrant such drastic measures. Pain control is a sensitive and complex topic for those who experience chronic pain, but using highly addictive medications only started to be the answer in the late 1990s.
The bottom line is that repeated use of naloxone just makes good business sense to pharmaceutical companies, and the price hikes may not stop until the provision of rescue drugs is taken out of the hands of the very companies who supply the drugs that create the problem.
Prescription Painkillers Tagged as Gateway Drug to Heroin
Heroin Use Surging Among Women and Middle-Class Americans Who Fell into the Prescription Painkiller Trap
By Dr. Mercola
Atrazine, which was approved for use in 1958, is the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. More than 73 million pounds of it are applied to golf courses, lawns and food crops each year.1 As just one example of its prevalence, as much as 80 percent of all the herbicides used in Vermont are atrazine-based.
Meanwhile, Europe banned atrazine in 2005 due to suspected health concerns and environmental damage, including the high risk of water contamination.
Indeed, research clearly shows that atrazine has a potent "gender-bending" impact on marine life, including fish, alligators, turtles and frogs, and many scientists suspect it may be equally harmful for humans.
Most recently, testing reveals a shocking 85 percent of male smallmouth bass in 19 American wildlife refuges, including the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge located near the U.S. and Canada border, are carrying eggs.
Gender-Bending Chemicals Are Turning Male Fish Into Females
In other words, a vast majority of the male fish are turning into females, and the primary culprits are estrogenic compounds such as those found in birth control pills, bisphenol A (BPA, a chemical used in plastic) and the herbicide atrazine.
Smallmouth bass are known to be very sensitive to pollutants, hence researchers use them as an "indicator species" when evaluating the ecological impact of environmental pollutants. In the case of water pollution with endocrine disrupting chemicals, the situation appears severe.
The lowest incidence of feminization or intersex in the wildlife refuges tested was 60 percent. The highest was 100.2
While some fish species are hermaphrodites, meaning they can change sex in order to protect the continuation of the species, non-hermaphroditic fish that turn into females do not contribute to species survival. On the contrary, it contributes to sterility.
By lowering immune function, this type of endocrine disruption also contributes to infections, diseases and die-offs. According to National Geographic:3
"Over the past decade, feminized male fish have been discovered in 37 species in lakes and rivers throughout North America, Europe and other parts of the world.
Experts say the new discovery in protected wildlife refuges is worrisome because it suggests that pollution may be even more pervasive than previously thought.
'There are no truly untouched areas. I think the take away here is that everything we do, everything we use or put on the land, ends up in the water at some point,' says Luke Iwanowicz, a U.S. Geological Survey fish researcher … who led the wildlife refuge study."
Intersex prevalence among largemouth bass at these 19 sites were about 27 percent, and in previous testing done at eight U.S. river basins, including the Mississippi, Rio Grande and Columbia Rivers, about 33 percent of male smallmouth bass had changed gender.
Atrazine Is a Common Pollutant in Drinking Water
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that in wildlife refuges, there are no identifiable sources of the contamination, which means the pollutants are spreading into the environment far more readily and/or in ways currently unknown.
This in turn raises serious questions about the extent of human exposure, and the potential effects of such exposure. As noted in the featured article:4
"Exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals in drinking water, food and household products have been linked to health problems in people too, including reduced fertility, developmental delays in children and some cancers."
In fact, as far as pesticides go, atrazine is the one most commonly found pesticide in U.S. drinking water. In 2012, Syngenta AG and its U.S. subsidiary were ordered to pay $105 million to filter the chemical out of Midwestern community water treatment operations providing drinking water to 52 million Americans.5,6
The legal proceedings revealed that as many as 1 in 6 Americans were drinking atrazine-contaminated water. The $105 million settlement was really just a drop in the bucket when compared to the actual cost of filtering this chemical.
In 2010, the plaintiffs' attorney, Stephen Tillery, said the 16 cities included in the original lawsuit had already spent about $350 million to filter it out. Since 2012, at least 1,085 other compensation claims over atrazine contamination have been filed against Syngenta, suggesting the problem is incredibly widespread.7
Atrazine Linked to Harm in Humans
The legal limit for atrazine in drinking water, set by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is 3 parts per billion (ppb). This is the equivalent of three drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Syngenta and other atrazine proponents insist that atrazine is safe for the simple fact that it's been used for over 50 years, but mounting research suggests otherwise. For example:
- Research has linked atrazine exposure in utero to impaired sexual development in young boys, causing genital deformations, including microphallus (micropenis)
- The evidence also suggests atrazine exposure may contribute to a number of different cancers, specifically ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia and thyroid cancer8,9,10
- Elevated concentrations of atrazine in drinking water have been associated with abdominal birth defects, including gastroschisis (in which the baby's intestines stick outside of the baby's body) and others
- Animal research also suggests long-term exposure to atrazine may induce insulin resistance and weight gain by lowering energy metabolism11
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals like atrazine are also implicated in lowered fertility and infertility12
EPA's New Risk Assessment Acknowledges Serious Hazards
On June 6, 2016, the EPA released a new risk assessment for atrazine.13 Its current view of the chemical suggests the agency might lower allowable levels and issue tighter regulatory limits on the chemical. There's even the possibility of an eventual ban.
The risk assessment concluded the chemical may cause reproductive harm to mammals, fish and birds, with the level of concern surpassed nearly 200-fold using real-world scenarios for mammals. (An EPA "level of concern" describes the threshold above which a chemical may be expected to cause harm.)
For fish and birds, atrazine exceeded the level of concern by 62- and 22-fold, respectively. A number of organizations, including the Organic Consumers Association14 (OCA) and Beyond Pesticides,15 created petitions urging Americans to push for a complete ban on atrazine. As noted by Beyond Pesticides:
"In July, California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that atrazine, its chemical cousins propazine and simazine, and its breakdown triazine compounds would be added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity for purposes of the state's Proposition 65.
The evidence is clear. Atrazine harms wildlife, persists in soils and moves easily through waterways."
Big Ag Fights to Keep Atrazine
The EPA's public comment period ended on October 5. Time will tell whether the agency will take appropriate measures to protect environmental and human health from this pernicious endocrine disruptor. Not surprisingly, the pesticide and agriculture industries are up in arms over the EPA's new assessment.
ChemChina, which has bid to acquire Syngenta, said the EPA's report "contains numerous data and methodological errors and needs to be corrected."16
The Iowa Corn Growers Association has also spoken out against the report, saying it would "effectively ban the product from most uses" if finalized as currently written. As noted by Journal Sentinel:17
"Farm groups, including the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Pork Association, Midwest Food Processors, the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Wisconsin Soybean Association, have asked farmers to contact the EPA and urge the agency to reconsider its position …
'For more than 50 years, atrazine has been a safe and effective crop protection tool to control the spread of resistant weeds and improve crop yields. … EPA's action would drive up the cost of production to Wisconsin corn growers and would reduce our yields,' said Casey Kelleher, president of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association."
Harmful Toxin or Conservation Aid?
A ban on atrazine would be the BEST scenario for farmers and consumers alike, yet some farm groups have gone so far as to say the EPA's plan to limit atrazine's use would actually HARM the environment! According to Tom Liebe, president and CEO of Cooperative Network, an alliance of co-ops in Wisconsin and Minnesota:18
"Atrazine plays an important role in conservation tillage,19,20 a farming practice that reduces soil erosion and runoff. An atrazine ban would require more soil tillage to control profit-robbing weeds and will be a net-negative for the environment."
Conservation tillage refers to the practice of applying atrazine to suppress or kill leftover vegetation in the field before the new planting season. The use of the chemical allows farmers to till the soil less, which reduces soil erosion and related problems. As explained by Penn State's introduction to weed management for conservation tillage systems:21
"An important benefit of tillage is weed control. In conservation tillage agriculture, the grower relies on the same weed management practices as in more conventional tillage systems but eliminates most or all of the tillage operations. Therefore, in limited tillage systems, there is greater dependence on cultural and chemical control options …
Chemical weed control remains an important pest management tactic in reduced-tillage agriculture. Regardless of how effective cultural control strategies are, herbicides provide a way to manage weeds successfully with little or no tillage … Chemical approaches are based on timing of herbicide application and include burndown, soil residual, and postemergence treatments."
True Regenerative Farming Is Non-Toxic
The idea that a toxin like atrazine would somehow be necessary for environmental conservation is ludicrous of course, and this is a perfect example of spinning a negative into a positive by appealing to people's growing concern about the harm being done by conventional agriculture.
Some conventional farmers also worry that increased restrictions on atrazine might result in lower yields and loss of income at a time when crop prices are already at a record low. While financial concerns are valid, at some point the greater good really must come into the equation, and when it comes to atrazine, that time is now.
There are other, far safer ways to reduce soil erosion and chemical runoff than using atrazine. Besides chemical application, strategies that facilitate no-till farming include:22
- Crop rotation
- Pasture cropping
- Use of livestock on the land
Non-Toxic No-Till Can Work Just as Well
This lecture by Gabe Brown, who is an international leader in soil health and sustainable farming techniques, describes processes that help build healthy soils and the importance of no-till. By 2012, Brown's family farm, which consists of 5,400 acres in North Dakota, had reduced its herbicide use by 75 percent.
His intention is to eliminate it entirely by introducing other weed control techniques. Importantly, from a financial perspective, by cutting input costs, Brown has decreased his production costs, which has resulted in higher profits.
How this was accomplished is described in the Brown's Ranch no-till case study published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service in October 2012.23 I've also interviewed Brown on his techniques, which you can read about in my previous article, "How to Regenerate Soil Using Cover Crops and Regenerative Land Management."
The take-home message is that you do not need toxins to farm profitably. Atrazine, which like DDT and PCBs is chlorine-based, can persist in soil for 22 years!24 Considering the clear danger it poses to marine life, and the impact it might have on human health over time, it's unconscionable to suggest atrazine is a farming necessity or a critical conservation aid. It is a toxic pollutant that threatens the entire food chain.
How to Protect Yourself From Atrazine and Other Pesticides
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 75 percent of the U.S. population has detectable levels of pesticides in their urine, and unless you're a farmer, your diet is one of the most likely routes of exposure, along with your drinking water.25
Eating organic is one of the best ways to lower your overall pesticide burden. The largest study26 of its kind found that people who "often or always" ate organic food had 65 percent lower levels of pesticide residues compared to those who ate the least amount of organic produce. Organic produce also had, on average, 180 times lower pesticide content than conventional produce.27
If you need to prioritize, refer to the Dirty Dozen list and buy organic as much as possible when you're choosing foods that are listed as the most-contaminated. If you shop at farmers markets, which I strongly recommend, you can also ask the farmer directly about pesticide usage.
It's possible to find produce that is not certified organic that may still have a lower pesticide burden than typical conventional produce depending on the farmer. So if you can't find organic produce, look for a local farmer who has eliminated pesticide use (or uses a minimal amount of such chemicals).
Filtering Your Tap Water Is Important to Reduce Atrazine Exposure
As mentioned, atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S. water supplies, so I recommend filtering your tap water — both for drinking and bathing. To remove atrazine, make sure the filter is certified to remove it. Fortunately, since it is a relatively large organic molecule it is easily filtered by a quality carbon filter. As noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):28
"Consumers should make sure that the filter they choose is certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compounds) reduction and therefore capable of significantly reducing many health-related contaminants, including atrazine and other pesticides."
Finally, if you know you have been exposed to pesticides, eat fermented foods like kimchi. The lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi may actually help your body break down pesticides. In addition, there is some evidence that the antioxidant lycopene, found in watermelon, tomatoes, red bell peppers and more, may protect against some of atrazine's toxic effects.29
The Real World Challenge of Surviving in a World Swimming in Pesticides
Syngenta Terrorized Scientist for 15 Years to Quell Concerns About Atrazine