Second Hand Smoke, Land Bridges and Genetic Testing

• Unfortunately, some biomedical “experts” have hidden agendas and attempt to debunk advances generally accepted by mainstream scientists. Often these efforts represent opinions rather than being based on actual research. Reports denying man’s contribution to climate change or those claiming that second hand smoke (SHS) is not harmful to our health, are often based on positions held by single issue think tanks or corporate interests, such as the Petroleum Institute or tobacco companies. There are websites claiming that concerns about SHS are unfounded, in spite of comprehensive reports by scientists and reputable government agencies that SHS is indeed a serious health problem.

SHS contains over 4,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to be carcinogens or poisons that affect living things. Examples include: nitrosamines (toxic carcinogens), benzene (cancer-causing), formaldehyde (cancer-causing), and poisons such as arsenic, cadmium, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, nicotine, polonium-210, beryllium, and the list goes on. There is solid evidence that SHS exposure in susceptible children increases risk of respiratory tract infections, middle ear disease, reduction in lung function, and increases the frequency and severity of symptoms in asthmatic youngsters. It’s also well established that even short-term exposures to SHS can cause adverse effects on the respiratory system of adults. (Flouris and Koutedakis, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, Vol. 17, no. 2, March, 2011; Oberg, et al, 2011, The Lancet, vol. 377, Jan. 2011; Jaakkola and Jaakkola, 1997, Eur. Respiratory Journal, Vol. 10; National Cancer Institute; National Toxicology Program; EPA; International Agency for Research on Cancer; and so on)

• During the last ice age, sea level dropped because so much water was frozen into glaciers. The drop was so great that a land bridge was exposed between Siberia and Alaska. Anthropologists theorized that this bridge was the route traveled by bands of an ancient people that migrated southward from Asia and came to settle North America some 11 – 14,000 years ago. Before they arrived, “there was no one home in America.” Skeletal remains of such travelers were not found until this past year, when scientists unearthed a human skeleton at a burial site in central Alaska that dates back approximately 11,500 years.

The skeleton is of a child about three years old who was cremated in a pit within an underground base camp. Artifacts found at the site, and the site itself, exhibited features common to both Siberian and North American “Paleoindians.” These discoveries provide evidence that the ancestors of the earliest people to settle North America were of Siberian origin. When the glaciers melted and sea level rose, of course, the bridge was flooded out of existence. (Potter et al, 2011, Science, vol. 331)

Note: Although liberties are taken with the following story, the procedures and outcome are well within the capabilities of modern genetic testing.

A young married woman named Jane came from a family where three of her five brothers were mentally deficient and behaved in unpredictable ways. Genetic testing showed that the three brothers carried a gene (called the MD gene) that was responsible for their lack of normal mental abilities. Jane and her husband wanted to have a child, but if it turned out to be a male, it was possible he might carry the dreaded MD gene and be mentally disabled. Jane and her husband undertook “pregestational diagnosis,” which involves using his sperm to fertilize a number of her eggs, then allowing them to grow into 16 or 32-cell embryos. At this point one cell of each embryo was tested for the MD gene. When an embryo lacking the MD gene was found, it was transplanted back into Jane’s uterus (primed for implantation). The result: a healthy baby boy that grew into an intelligent and normal adult. (Science, 2011, vol. 441, Feb. 25)