Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cauliflower Rice

By Jessica Meyers Altman • Originally published on Gardenfreshfoodie.com
Cauliflower is a great food that’s packed with nutrition. It’s a member of the cruciferous family, a food group that should be consumed daily. This dish is very light and makes the perfect side, salad, or sweet potato topper.
You can add in additional beans, like chickpeas, to boost the protein, fiber, potassium, and magnesium in this dish. It’s perfect cold or warm. One caveat — the peas, broccoli, and greens dull if you don’t eat them right away. Be sure to very lightly cook the greens, and blanch the broccoli, to maximize nutrition, and add the peas in just thawed at the end (no cooking!). Plus, this dish comes together quickly.

How to make this plant-based recipe:

Revolutionary Recipe: Spring Cauliflower Rice


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Let people make their own risk assessments

We should all take valuable lessons from the way Sweden has handled the COVID-19 crisis

By Brian Giesbrecht
Senior Fellow
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that we have to learn to live with COVID-19. Notwithstanding hope of a vaccine, there is no guarantee. The virus awaits as we step out our door. And it could get worse.

In Canada, the virus has been suppressed by a lockdown and strict social distancing, leaving residents at the very beginning of achieving the needed herd immunity (where the virus dies off because so many people have recovered from the disease and are immune from catching it again).

While places like New York, Milan and Stockholm are closer to achieving it, Canadians can’t huddle in fear indefinitely – relying on increasingly bankrupt governments sending cheques.

As restrictions are lifted, the fact is more people will get sick, some will die.

At the beginning we only knew the virus came from Wuhan, China, and was deadly. Then we watched a horror show play out in Italy and then Spain, and became thoroughly frightened. Our public health and political leaders added to our fear, reinforcing a message that we must shelter at home and obey drastic lockdown measures.

We now know that COVID-19 is extremely deadly for elderly people with health problems. Data shows that 82 per cent of the deaths have been in long-term care homes. And, those who are obese or have compromised immune systems are also at great risk.

The ‘best’ news is that COVID-19 largely spares children and the young. For many young, the virus is no more deadly than the usual respiratory viruses that regularly make their way through the population.

We also know that the vast majority of healthy people, and those under the age of 60, who do become infected will recover. Some will become very sick, but most will have mild or no symptoms.

Some experts recommend a harm reduction model. People would assess their own risk level and make their decisions accordingly. Younger, healthier people might decide to take more risks than older people with health problems.

We don’t have to rely on the government telling us what to do. We could, and should, make our own decisions. Too often, we face arbitrary and unfair government rules, enforced by overzealous officials.

Sweden chose individual risk assessment from the start. Instead of panicking and imposing draconian lockdowns, they chose another route. A minimum of government regulations were passed. No to gatherings of large groups, but personal risk assessment was left to the individual.

Sweden adopted a watch-and-see approach. If it appeared that their health-care system was about to be swamped, they planned to impose more rules. But Sweden’s health-care system wasn’t swamped.

Unfortunately, like Canada, Sweden made poor decisions with nursing homes. But they’re far closer to achieving herd immunity than their lockdown neighbors like Norway and Denmark.

And they didn’t have to shut down their economies or close their primary schools to get there.

WHO initially advised Sweden to impose a lockdown or face a collapse of their health-care system. It now recognizes Sweden as a model to follow.

Canada should now do what Sweden did from the beginning – end arbitrary government restrictions and allow people to do their own risk assessments.

Our leaders should stop scaring Canadians while recklessly distributing borrowed money.

Their message should be: “Yes, take precautions, but go out and live your life.”

Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Top 10 Toxins in Your Home, Room by Room

If you're looking to rid your home of toxins, these top offenders in each room of your home are a good place to start.
Written by Lacy Boggs Renner   

  1. Laundry Room: Dryer Sheets
    Dryer sheets were my entree into the land of toxin-free living when I learned that the substance used to soften clothes is often derived from animal fats. (YUCK!) But the fragrances used in dryer sheets can be even worse, containing chemicals like benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol and terpines—all toxic, and some carcinogenic. Switch to DIY dryer balls instead and use essential oils for that fresh laundry smell. 
  2. Bathroom: Bleach-based Cleaners and Wipes
    Because of years of branding, bleach can seem like the only choice when it comes to disinfecting germy surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen, but the health risks of the toxic chemicals in bleach can outweigh the benefits. Chemicals in bleach are highly corrosive to the skin and lungs, and the chemical chlorine in bleach is used in the chemical weapon mustard gas. If bleach is mixed with ammonia (which is found in urine, by the way) it creates a deadly gas. And when mixed with wastewater, it's known to form numerous carcinogenic compounds. Switch to white vinegar, baking soda, or even boiling water for your disinfecting needs.
  3. Kitchen: Oven Cleaner
    Oven cleaners sold in the store are chock full of toxins, including lye (also known as ‘caustic soda’), ethers, ethylene glycol, methylene chloride and petroleum distillates. They even release butane (a neurotoxin) when you spray them.Switch to a simple paste made from baking soda and water, and then line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil to make future clean ups easier.
  4. Living Room: Carpets
    Carpets are the No. 2 cause of air pollution in the home—right after cigarette smoke—because they're treated with all kinds of toxic chemicals, from flame retardants to stain repellents.  Bare wood or tile floors are best, but swapping traditional carpets for natural-fiber carpets can make a big difference.
  5. Dining Room: Scented Candles
    Believe it or not, those romantic candlelit dinners could be hazardous to your health. Lots of commercial candles contain tiny metal wires in the wicks that can release lead into the air. In addition, most of the fragrances contain plasticizers and other solvents that shouldn't be inhaled. Even plain beeswax and soy candles release hydrocarbons into the air when burned, which can cause respiratory problems. Experts suggest limiting candle burning to special occasions. 
  6. Kids' Room: Art Supplies
    Coloring and drawing seem like such harmless kid activities, but it depends on the tools. Dry erase markers top the list for toxicity because they usually contain the solvent xylene, a neurotoxin. Colored pencils can contain lead (look for lead-free varieties) and even water-based markers can contain alcohols that can be toxic.
  7. Nursery: Baby Wipes
    One of the most ubiquitous baby tools, conventional baby wipes, can be toxic. Many contain bronopol, an antimicrobial compound that's toxic to the skin, immune system and lungs. Many also contain pthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. Look for natural brands that don't contain these harsh chemicals—or just use soap and water.
  8. Bedrooms: Furniture
    Most of us start out with inexpensive particle-board furniture when we are setting up house, but particle board or pressed wood usually contains formaldehyde or isocyanate glues, which give off toxic fumes—sometimes for years. Upholstered furniture made with polyurithane foam can also contain brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, which also offgas toxic vapors. Your best choice? Solid wood furniture, even if it's second hand.
  9. Porch or Deck: Pressure-Treated Wood
    Pressure treated wood has preservatives forced into it under high pressure that help repel insects and prevent rot.  But the chemicals used, like alkaline copper quat and copper azole, can be very toxic. When building a new porch or deck, look for wood that's been treated with the less-toxic borate preservatives.
  10. Yard: Fertilizers and Pesticides
    It's a status symbol in suburbia to have a lush, green, golf-course-like lawn, but all those chemical pesticides, weed killers and fertilizers can be very harmful—especially to pets and kids, who, let's face it, are the ones most likely to be rolling around in the grass in the first place. Switch to organic lawn treatments, but be aware that even organic treatments can sometimes be harmful to pets and kids in high doses. Read labels carefully. 
Photo Credit: bill barber via Compfight cc

Monday, June 8, 2020

Gene therapy appraisals may limit new drugs in Canada

Nigel Rawson
Mackenzie Moir

Canada's separate environmental protection oversight unnecessarily delays development and approval

By Nigel Rawson
and Mackenzie Moir
The Fraser Institute
The federal government plans to move ahead with major revisions in regulations governing the tribunal that sets ceiling prices for new prescription drugs in Canada.

Revisions include:

·                    replacing countries with relatively higher drug prices with lower price countries in the international price-comparison analysis';
·                    enforcing hard thresholds for cost per quality-adjusted life year;
·                    imposing a reduction in a drug’s price if its annual sales exceed a defined level;
·                    requiring pharmaceutical companies to divulge information on confidential rebates negotiated with payers in Canada.
Concerns raised in the latest consultation on the revision indicate that clinical research will decrease in Canada and manufacturers will delay bringing innovative new medicines to Canada or not bring them here at all.

Furthermore, early evidence suggests that adjustments in research activities are already being made. New clinical trials registered with Health Canada from Nov. 1, 2019, to March 15, 2020, fell by more than 52 per cent compared with the same period in previous years, whereas new trials in the United States decreased by only 21 per cent.

The changes to the pricing controls are not the only deterrent to clinical research in Canada, especially for novel genetic therapies that could be game changers in the lives of patients with cancer and other diseases. Cancer cellular immunotherapy trials increased from seven in 1995 to 1,579 in 2015, and the percentage of trials using genetically modified cells increased between 2006 and 2015 to a similar degree.

Most genetic therapies are delivered to their target cell by a viral vector. Due to the potential ecological risk that cell and gene therapies may pose, an application for a clinical trial or for marketing authorization for these medicines requires an environmental risk assessment in most countries.

These appraisals are the international standard for these therapies and are done not only in Canada but also in the U.S., the European Union and Japan.

However, in each of these jurisdictions, except Canada, the evaluation is performed as part of a single review (the U.S. and the EU) or jointly between ministries with regulatory overlap (Ministry of Labour, Health and Welfare and Ministry of Environment in Japan).

Canada, on the other hand, uses a system that results in separate and independent regulatory oversight that falls under environmental protection laws for clinical research and marketing authorization.

In Canada, this regulatory arrangement originally added a potential delay of up to 120 days for clinical trial applications for new biological substances that fell under these regulations. This has recently been changed with an informal commitment to shortening this review to 30 days.

While the government may be receptive suggestions on how to address this issue, a long-term solution remains potentially years away. In the meantime, there’s concern that this regulatory overlap and the completion of separate applications could cause delays, review redundancies, and uncertainty. It’s possible that these impacts could have a pernicious impact on innovation within this space.

With many new medicines of this type on the horizon for testing in Canada, it’s time for the federal government to take positive action to harmonize environmental assessment requirements with other jurisdictions. It must reduce the additional regulatory burden imposed on Canadian academic investigators and drug developers, allowing them to be more competitive internationally.

At a time when the world is seeking answers to a pandemic, requiring severe price reductions and the extra burden of a separate and independent environmental assessment that disincentivizes the bringing important, life-changing new medicines to Canada will make even less sense when we eventually transition back into a more stable post-COVID-19 world.

Dr. Nigel Rawson is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, and Mackenzie Moir is a Fraser Institute analyst.