Ontario’s remaining red-and-white health cards to be cancelled soon
The province will be setting a specific date to cancel remaining red-and-white health cards.
According to Health Minister Christine Elliott, the province has not set a specific date but will set one soon.
Disclosure: Warren Kindzierski is an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta
Canadians woke up Tuesday morning to national and international media reports of a drinking water crisis uncovered by supposed intrepid reporters.
Even CBS news is reporting that “hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been unwittingly exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, according to a yearlong investigation conducted by more than
120 journalists” and “lead in Canada’s drinking water worse than Flint crisis.”
The “Flint crisis” is a lead-tainted water pipe issue in Flint, Michigan. The City of Flint switched its drinking water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014. After the switch, lead began leaching from water pipes into the drinking water. Bales of media hay were made about this crisis.
Back then the CBC exclaimed, “For 18 months, the people of Flint, Mich., were drinking water laced with a toxic stew of chemicals, including lead.”
What is the supposed drinking water crisis Canadians are facing?
Back in 2016 Health Canada reviewed health effects information on lead exposure with the intent of updating the Canadian drinking water guideline for lead.
They stated, “The strongest association observed to date is between increased BLLs [blood lead levels] in children and reductions in intelligence quotient (IQ) scores”.
They also stated, “The threshold below which lead is no longer associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects cannot be identified.”
In March of this year they lowered the lead drinking water guideline from 10 to 5 micrograms per litre.
Up until 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified children as having a blood lead “level of concern” if there was 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter (one-tenth of a liter) of blood. They now use 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood for their benchmark. The “no-threshold” assumption of Health Canada speculates that adverse neurodevelopmental effects can occur right down to almost 0 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Their claim is that preschoolers can be exposed to drinking water containing minuscule amounts of lead. This, they
speculate, is enough to impair neurodevelopment and result in permanent intellectual deficits later in life.
Neurodevelopment refers to the brain’s development of neurological pathways that influence performance of intellectual ability, reading ability, social skills, etc. Intelligence involves abilities to learn and adapt to changing environs. Intelligence is challenging to study. This is because it can be defined and measured in different ways. Many studies rely on a simplistic measure called the intelligence quotient (IQ) score.
Cognitive psychology researchers have studied intelligence for decades. Drawing upon these studies, the U.S. National Institutes of Health states that… “genetic factors underlie about 50 percent of the difference
in intelligence among individuals”. Intelligence can also be influenced by other factors – socioeconomic status, parental education, parenting skills, availability of learning resources, nutrition and childhood diseases.
Science is the method
To support lowering the drinking water guideline for lead, Health Canada placed heavy emphasis on a 2005 meta-analysis study. This meta-analysis study claimed that a “statistical correlation” exists between IQ score declines and low blood lead levels in young children.
Meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines data from multiple scientific studies. But it is so flexible that it allows you to selectively choose (cherry-pick) which studies and which data from these studies to combine to get the answer you want. It’s perfect for leaping from molehills of data to mountains of questionable causal claims. A modest review of meta-analysis reveals that it can be loaded with biases and uncertainty.
Health Canada, in their review, ignored the issue of what IQ score testing actually represents. Does it reflect a test takers’ genetic characteristic present at birth, their opportunities and challenges, neither, or both? This issue has provoked much scientific dispute over the years.
Human ability cannot be simply measured by a single IQ test score. These scores as traditionally measured are less significant and more flexible than many scientists believe. Nassim Taleb, a statistician whose work focuses on randomness, probability and uncertainty problems, states that “IQ measures an inferior form of intelligence, stripped of 2nd order effects.”
Even prominent lead researchers, Needleman and Bellinger, admit limitations of standardized IQ tests, stating in 1992 that “[a] global measure, such as an intelligence test, may not be the most valid or
sensitive measure of the quality, efficiency, or flexibility of a child’s cognition or of any effects lead may have on it.” This is because cognitive function is a result of complex, context-dependent interplay among
numerous aspects of information processing.
Also ignored in the Health Canada review was historical evidence on blood lead from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. In 2007, this committee reported that over 88 percent (about 15 million) of 1970s-era preschool children in the U.S. had blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per decilitre.
For the “no-threshold” assumption to be real, this enormous-sized child cohort moving into adulthood should have translated into massive, observable public health problems associated with permanent
intellectual deficits beyond the 1980s. However, this is simply not the case as medical literature in the U.S. is absent of any such evidence.
Finally, blood lead has never risen to a level of being singled out as an important environmental influence in cognitive psychology intelligence studies. What has been singled out is that environmental influences
tend to decline over time and these influences appear to be less important in shaping intelligence later in life.
Cognitive psychology researchers have even stated that “shared environmental influences on IQ decline [decrease] from childhood to adulthood so that these influences might not have an impact in the
Meanwhile back in Flint, Michigan, actual blood lead levels in children before and during their supposed lead-tainted water pipe crisis were reported in March 2019. Scientists compiled blood lead level data for Flint preschool children for three time periods. Two 18-month periods before the supposed crisis were compared to an 18-month period during the supposed crisis.
The scientists found that children’s blood lead levels during the supposed crisis period were actually lower than levels compared to the earlier time periods.
They even stated that… “The data does not support the concept of a global BLL [blood lead level] increase to merit the stigma nor the opprobrium [negative press] of a generation of children with permanent intellectual deficits.”
The world of junk science and junk policy
All of this evidence falsifies the Health Canada “no-threshold” assumption. What is unfortunate is that governments today are swarming with policymakers who would never a let a fake crisis go to waste.
Hence the lowered lead drinking water guideline.
More unfortunate is the fact that city water utilities – meaning you the taxpayer – will be left to foot the bill for any increased lead monitoring and other actions dictated by government under the guise of “the science told us to”.
While lead levels in drinking water may exceed overly protective guidelines, there is no real evidence that anyone is being permanently harmed from drinking water with traces of lead.
To base scientific judgments and policy decisions on statistical correlations with an IQ test that may or may not be a valid measure of intelligence is highly questionable. Worse still, is doing this using statistical correlations from meta-analysis of cherry-picked studies and data.
The story told here is all too common today in how government scientists and policymakers develop and implement new guidelines for water, and too credulous media report it uncritically.
They intentionally omit key facts and evidence in their science reviews. They purposely baffle us with dubious claims to create a false impression of the severity of an environmental or public health issue.
Then they invoke “precautionary-based” arguments (i.e., no known dose-response threshold) to propose policies and guidelines whose benefits are essentially unprovable.
Send it to the journalistic horde, mix in a bit of investigative reporting, and presto… a fake crisis is made!
The Australian National Security Ministry has proposed the use of facial recognition technology to access pornography as a measure to prevent minors from accessing the adult content.
The Department of Home Affairs submitted the page-long proposal which gave details surrounding a proposed “Face Verification Service”.
Though the technology is still a work in progress, it intends to scan a pornography viewer’s face and match it with official government ID photos.
“This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver (licence) to circumvent age verification controls,” reads the proposal. The document also stated that the tech is “not fully operational” currently.
Australia isn’t the first country to take on the issue of overly accessible pornography. The United Kingdom, for example, recently ditched efforts to enforce age verification on porn sites after issues arose with legislating of foreign websites as well as privacy concerns.
The discussion around pornography has become more of a mainstream issue, as sixteen U.S. states have declared the content a “public health hazard.” This comes after years of research and growing mounds of evidence point out that pornography causes higher levels of depression and loneliness, reduced gray matter in the motivation part of the brain, and heighten the odds of viewers having misogynist views.
Australia already has a similar framework in place for “identity matching,” which does not include facial recognition. The technology has been used by various government agencies for over 10 years, and by private groups since 2014.
The proposed “Face Verification Service”, though, would only be implemented by private companies if the Identity-matching Services Bill passes, which is currently before Parliament.
“The use of driver (licence) images through the Face Verification Service is also subject to the agreement of the states and territories,” the ministry added in its submission.
Health Canada says that the toxic heavy metals found in baby products from U.S. manufacturers “do not pose a safety concern,” despite a major investigation showing that nearly all infant foods tested contained traces of lead.
According to CTV News, it was shown that 95 percent of the 168 baby products tested contained lead, 73 percent contained arsenic, 75 percent contained cadmium and 32 percent contained mercury. One quarter of the foods tested contained all four of these heavy metals.
In an emailed statement to CTV News, Health Canada confirmed that similar rates of heavy metals are likely to be in baby foods sold in Canada, as Canada sells many of the same products.
“The available monitoring data indicate that levels of cadmium, lead, total mercury and perchlorate in foods sold in Canada, including those consumed by infants, do not pose a safety concern,” Health Canada wrote.
“Health Canada’s view, like that of other international authorities, is that concentrations of certain metals, such as arsenic and lead, in foods should be as low as possible.
“The department is working to ensure this,” the department continues. “If Health Canada identifies a potential health concern, the Government of Canada will take immediate and appropriate action to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, including infants and young children.”
Health Canada has put particular emphasis on testing and monitoring baby products containing rice, as the initial report from Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that “popular baby foods are not only high in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, but also are nearly always contaminated with all four toxic metals.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rice has the highest risk for arsenic due to the process of growing it in water which contributes to the absorption of the toxic chemical.
In the report, Healthy Babies pushed for more regulation and testing on all baby food products containing rice.
“Because inorganic arsenic in rice is a top source of neurodevelopmental risk for children, FDA should act immediately to establish a health-based limit for this chemical in infant rice cereal and other rice-based foods,” they write.
A ten-month-old baby in the United Kingdom has surprised doctors by waking up with a grin on his face from a seemingly irreversible five-day coma. The baby boy was discovered to have heart failure at just fourteen weeks old, according to Fox 2.
After this discovery, the parents set up a GoFundMe page describing the trauma they went through: “We watched our baby breathless, gasping for air while his heart stopped and paramedics worked to save his life. At that moment I did not think Michael would make it through.”
Despite suffering a cardiac arrest, an affliction in which only 7 percent of people survive, the baby made it through. Nevertheless, for his safety, the doctors thought it was necessary to put the baby in a medically induced coma.
Doctors were certain that the baby was not going to regain consciousness, and yet, five days later, the baby was wide awake with an equally large smile.
To thank the hospital, the parents of the baby have established another GoFundMe page to benefit the hospital in which the baby was treated.
“This picture was taken moments after Michael awoke from his coma. The first thing he did was smile at his daddy He truly is our miracle,” wrote the mother on the GoFundMe, which you can donate to here.