Is too much information dangerous? Science News reports that some critics are concerned that getting health information from genetic testing can be harmful. The publication goes on to report a study done at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. It turns out that folks who receive genetic health data are not especially upset.
As consumers have been able to learn more about their genetic makeup in recent years through personal genomic testing, one big criticism has been that without someone to interpret it, the health information could be harmful to the receivers.
Not so, according to a University of Michigan study that shows that less than 2 percent of customers regret receiving such information, and only about 1 percent say they are harmed by the results.
“These data suggest that many of the concerns and criticisms about putting this information into the hands of consumers may presume an exaggerated likelihood of harm,” said J. Scott Roberts, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health.
People who get genetic testing are interested in health risks, physical traits and their ancestry. The vast majority, 94%, said they would do it again. What do you learn from genetic testing?
What is genetic testing? The National Institute of Health explains.
Genetic testing is a type of medical test that identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. More than 1,000 genetic tests are currently in use, and more are being developed.
Here are three methods of genetic testing.
Molecular gene tests single genes or short lengths of DNA to identify variations or mutations that lead to a genetic disorder.
Chromosomal genetic tests analyze whole chromosomes or long lengths of DNA to see if there are large genetic changes, such as an extra copy of a chromosome, that cause a genetic condition.
Biochemical genetic tests study the amount or activity level of proteins; abnormalities in either can indicate changes to the DNA that result in a genetic disorder.
Very commonly the recipient of genetic testing information will want to speak with a genetic counselor to help sort out just what the information means. A specific result may confirm a diagnosis. It could tell you that you are the carrier of a genetic trait which does not bother you but could be passed on to your children. Or a test may tell you that you are at greater risk of getting a certain disease but that whether that happens is not certain. To the extent that you can change your diet or lifestyle in order to avoid a certain disease, genetic testing can be very valuable. To the extent that you know that your children are likely to have birth defects you may choose not to have kids or to adopt. And there are times when you will learn nothing useful from genetic testing.
The Christmas carol Twelve Days of Christmas details all the gifts your true love will send you from a partridge in a pear tree on the first day to 12 drummers drumming on the twelfth day. We would like to remind all consumers that there are at least a dozen ways to get cheated out of a Merry Christmas as well. Courtesy of CBS Detroit and the Better Business Bureau of Michigan here are some thoughts about how to avoid being cheated over the holidays. The high points are theirs and the details are ours.
Beware of E Cards
Many people like to send their Christmas Cards via the internet. It certainly saves on postage and having to fill out addresses and repeatedly write the same set of greetings time and again. But beware of malware in E cards as malicious individuals may use an attractive E card to download nasty viruses into your computer.
Liar, Liar Pants on Fire Phone Calls
The holiday season is a favorite time for fraudulent organizations and individuals to call soliciting money or claiming to be a government agency that right now needs your personal info. Being the victim of identity theft is not the way the enjoy Christmas. And before you give to an organization, check them out to make sure that your money is really going to help someone out and not padding the bank account of a scammer.
Fake Rolex Watches and More
The Romans knew about this. They said, let the buyer beware. If you are looking for a gift for that special someone and find a luxury item at an unbelievably low price you are going to be scammed. There are lots and lots of counterfeit products out there and your special someone will not be impressed when they find out that you sent them a cheap knockoff of a Rolex!
How You Pay Is Important
Gift cards are a great way to let your friends and family get what they want and are especially good for that hard to shop for person in the family. But be careful when someone, especially on the internet or on the phone demands that you use a gift card, wire transfer money or other unexpected means of payment. These may be a set up for fraud. Stick with your own credit cards, checks or debit cards.
In the internet age people don’t just make fake Rolexes. They create fake website to sell them from. Beware of websites that offer high end items that are way too cheap.
Fake Charities, Fake Travel Arrangement and Fake Deliveries
These are all ways to cheat you out of a Merry Christmas. Check out charities before giving. Go through a reputable travel service or air carrier. Don’t pay for delivery of things that you did not order and your Christmas will be merry.
Playing on Your Sympathies
An old scam that never goes away is for an older person to receive a phone call saying that their grandchild has been hurt in a distant city and that one of their friends is calling on their behalf. The people who do this can spend all day making calls and only need to hit pay dirt a couple of times. All you need to do is use common sense. A similar scam is trying to get you to buy a pet online from a nice picture. You need to see the animal first and best buy from a reputable pet store or risk getting a disease and soon to perish pet.
The Internet Is Not All Safe
Everyone has hand held devices these days that require WIFI locations. Beware sending personal info when out and about because scammers can hack you from these sites and deny you a Merry Christmas and more.
Do you need help with grant funding? Are you a new student looking for a government sponsored scholarship or are you a graduate student looking for funding for a research project? Where to you look? How do you proceed? There is the long route to getting grant funding and the short route. The short route is to deal with folks who do this for a living. Check out the Financial Approval Network and jump start your search for grant funding. The rest of this article is about the long route.
Researching Government Grant Funding
There is perhaps more information than you will ever need about government grant funding at www.Grants.gov. Depending on what kind of grant you need you can search by categories, sponsoring agencies or listings of who is eligible. Here is a quick breakdown of what you will find in the various search categories on the grants dot gov site.
The number in parenthesis represents the number of available grants in the category.
- Agriculture (44)
- Arts (see “Cultural Affairs” in CFDA) (3)
- Business and Commerce (14)
- Community Development (32)
- Consumer Protection (9)
- Disaster Prevention and Relief (14)
- Education (476)
- Employment, Labor and Training (35)
- Energy (47)
- Environment (177)
- Food and Nutrition (130)
- Health (1075)
- Housing (7)
- Humanities (see “Cultural Affairs” in CFDA) (24)
- Income Security and Social Services (213)
- Information and Statistics (9)
- Law, Justice and Legal Services (68)
- Natural Resources (130)
- Other (see text field entitled “Explanation of Other Category of Funding Activity” for clarification) (111)
- Recovery Act (5)
- Regional Development (19)
- Science and Technology and other Research and Development (454)
- Transportation (14)
If you do not find what you want in the categories section look under agencies:
- Agency for International Development (77)
- Corporation for National and Community Service (2)
- Department of Agriculture (46)
- Department of Commerce (27)
- Department of Defense (73)
- Department of Education (27)
- Department of Energy (41)
- Department of Energy – Office of Science (7)
- Department of Health and Human Services (1039)
- Department of Homeland Security (19)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (3)
- Department of Justice (72)
- Department of Labor (12)
- Department of State (49)
- Department of the Interior (180)
- Department of Transportation (12)
- Department of Veterans Affairs (3)
- Environmental Protection Agency (18)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (36)
- National Archives and Records Administration (7)
- National Council on Disability (1)
- National Endowment for the Arts (1)
- National Endowment for the Humanities (11)
- National Science Foundation (237)
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2)
Once you find what you want how to you get a grant? This is the matter of who is eligible for a grant. At this point take a look at the eligibility tab.
- City or township governments (884)
- County governments (890)
- For profit organizations other than small businesses (833)
- Independent school districts (796)
- Individuals (40)
- Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized) (911)
- Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments) (851)
- Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education (990)
- Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education (908)
- Others (see text field entitled “Additional Information on Eligibility” for clarification) (1347)
- Private institutions of higher education (997)
- Public and State controlled institutions of higher education (1015)
- Public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities (796)
- Small businesses (879)
- Special district governments (833)
- State governments (977)
- Unrestricted (i.e., open to any type of entity above), subject to any clarification in text field entitled “Additional Information on Eligibility” (380)
It’s all here for government grants but you may need to do a lot of research to get where you want. And then there are private foundation grants which can be very helpful but you will need to know where to look, how to apply and what your chances are. Like we said in the beginning there is also a short route to grant funding. Check out Financial Approval Network today.
Prepaid debit cards are a way to pay for things with a card and not carry cash. Up until now these cards have not afforded you the same protections as credit cards in case of loss, theft or fraud. That is about the change. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is about to issue new prepaid card rules.
Prepaid accounts are one of the newer ways to store and spend your money. These include prepaid cards that you buy in stores or digital wallet accounts that you get online. With most prepaid accounts, you can spend the money you’ve loaded in advance for daily expenses or withdraw cash from an ATM. You can also have your income directly deposited into most types of prepaid accounts.
If you do not have a bank account this can be an effective way to guard the money from your paycheck until you need to spend it. There are various types of prepaid cards and sometimes the differences are not clear.
Not all prepaid accounts are the same. Each account has its own set of features, functions, and fees. To decide which prepaid account is right for you, it’s important to learn about your choices and compare the fees that will apply depending on how you use the account. Right now, it can be hard to compare accounts because each card displays fee information differently.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is about the come to the rescue.
With our new rule you will get clear, upfront information about these fees so you can know before you owe and shop for the best deal. These comprehensive consumer protections included in the new rule take effect on Oct. 1, 2017.
The intent of the new regulations is to make prepaid accounts safer. Under the new rules prepaid card holders will typically be protected if their card is lost or stolen or if they were incorrectly charged. Also online monitoring of fees will commonly be available.
Choosing the Right Prepaid Card
Not all prepaid cards are the same. Picking the right one for you depends on if you will have benefits like Social Security or your paycheck deposited into the account, if you will use the card for point of sale purchases or also at an ATM or for paying bills. And will you use routinely use the card or will it be used daily? Here are the types of cards to consider.
Open Loop Prepaid Card: These are network cards like VISA and can be used wherever that card is accepted.
Closed Loop Prepaid Card: These are restricted use cards such as for public transit or specific retailors.
Reloadable Prepaid Card: These are also called general purpose reloadable cards and you can “recharge” by adding money.
Payroll Card: This is a card that you would get from your employer for payment for work and covered expenses.
Government Benefit Card: These cards are issued by government agencies for benefits such as unemployment insurance.
College ID Card: These closed loop cards are offered by some colleges and universities and can be used at authorized locations.
With all of these prepaid cards the new regulations will make them safer and easier to track costs.
We all should be aware of and try to avoid identity theft. But what happens if someone has already gotten your personal info, charged on your credit cards or even made a large purchase like a car? There were two good articles in the Chicago Tribune about identity stolen, $159K in unpaid loans and credit damage.
On Feb. 5, Jeff’s identity was stolen – though he didn’t realize it until May 18, when a collection agency taped a bright yellow notice to his front door that read “URGENT FINAL NOTICE.”
In reality, Jeff didn’t fully understand what the May 18 notice meant – he assumed it was a scam – until the next day when he coincidentally heard from his mortgage broker that, “You and [your wife] have been approved for your mortgage, but I have a couple questions because you have some marks on your credit report.” Said Jeff: “I had no idea what he was talking about.”
This marked the start of Jeff’s month-long saga to reclaim his identity and clear his credit.
It is interesting to note that when someone steals your credit info they may not run up a lot of charges right away. On the other hand if you don’t pay attention to your credit card statements you will miss out on what may be the first clue. But if credit cards were not the issue then what happened to the man in the report could happen to you. How to deal with identity theft is first of all to get a credit report. You will see what has been purchased in your name and can start to deal with the mess involved. The next thing that the man in the news did was contact the police and that should be your next step too followed by a call to your attorney.
Report Fraudulent Transactions
If someone has stolen your identity and purchase things on loan or with a credit card in your name you need to contact each of the lenders and report the actions as fraud. They note in the Tribune article that your credit report contains phone numbers for the banks or other agencies involved. At that point these people need to stop sending collection notices and in fact cannot harass you at all.
Contact Credit Reporting Agencies
The next step was to contact one of the big three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Federal law states that you need only report to one of these in order for all to know.
Freezing Your Credit and Getting Reports
If things have gotten really bad you may choose to freeze your credit. This means that no one can access your credit until you lift the freeze. Following this action you can pay Equifax or one of the other agencies for monthly credit monitoring. For more information on reporting identity theft visit the Federal Trade Commission web site, IdentityTheft.gov. This site also helps walk you through how to deal with identity theft.
Unfreezing Your Credit
When the dust settles you probably want to unfreeze your credit. The Chicago Tribune comes to the rescue again. You get a unique PIN number when you freeze your credit. Save this or remember this but don’t put it where it might be stolen. When you want to unfreeze your credit you need a raft of personal info, credit history and the PIN number so it is unlikely that whoever stole your info in the first place will be able to get back into your credit. Obviously you need to change card numbers, passwords, etc. in your new credit life.
Do antibacterial soaps really work to prevent illness and the spread of infections? Are there any long term problems associated with use of these products? These two issues arose in 2013 and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule requiring makers of over the counter antibacterial soaps to demonstrate safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Under the proposal, if companies do not demonstrate such safety and effectiveness, these products would need to be reformulated or relabeled to remain on the market.
[This] action is part of a larger, ongoing review of antibacterial active ingredients by the FDA to ensure these ingredients are proven to be safe and effective. This proposed rule does not affect hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.
Beside there being a question about whether or not these products do what they claim which to help fight disease and the spread of infection there are now questions about the side effects of their use.
Smithsonian.com wrote in 2014 about five reasons why you should probably stop using antibacterial soap. Here are their five reasons.
- Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water
- Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- The soaps could act as endocrine disruptors
- The soaps might lead to other health problems such as immune system disruption and allergies
- Antibacterial soaps are bad for the environment such inhibiting algae photosynthesis
Did They Pass the Test?
Three years have passed since the FDA rule. Their September 2016 ruling says with the exception of three chemical ingredients that have been given a one year extension for more testing that antibacterial ingredient must be removed from over the counter consumer soaps. Soap makers are already phasing out these products. They did not meet the required standards for safety and effectiveness.
This final rule applies to consumer antiseptic wash products containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. These products are intended for use with water, and are rinsed off after use. This rule does not affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.
“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
The three ingredients that have been given a 1 year reprieve are benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol (PCMX) as there testing has apparently shown some hope that they do what they are said to do and are not harmful. You probably don’t need to throw out that half bar of soap in your shower but you may want to be sure that you are not buying antibacterial soaps until we hear more from the FDA.
General Mills has issued a product recall for several types of flour due to contamination with the E. coli bacteria. This happens after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linked illnesses to eating uncooked dough and batter made with raw flour. Here is the flour recall information.
All products included in this recall are listed below.
Illnesses have NOT come from properly baked or cooked flour.
Do not eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. Flour is made from wheat that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present. Flour is typically not treated to kill bacteria during the normal milling process.
Actions you should take
Do not eat or taste dough or batter made with raw flour.
Properly cook or bake food made with flour. Bacteria (such as E. coli) that might be found in the raw flour will be eliminated.
Check your pantry and throw away any products that match the recalled products listed below. If possible, save the product name, UPC (bar code) and Better if Used By Date to help our Consumer Relations team assist you with a replacement coupon. If you no longer have the flour package or have any doubts, throw away the flour.
If you have any questions about this recall or need a replacement coupon for any product included in this recall, complete this form or call our Consumer Relations team at 1-800-230-8103.
Go to the link to see the various flour products involved in this product recall. Remember that E. coli bacterial illness has come from ingesting raw flour or batter, not from baked good. Baking kills the bacteria.
E. coli Illnesses
The Mayo Clinic web site provides useful information about E. coli illnesses.
Among the many strains of E. coli, only a few trigger diarrhea. One group of E. coli – which includes O157:H7 – produces a powerful toxin that damages the lining of the small intestine, which can cause bloody diarrhea. You develop an E. coli infection when you ingest this strain of bacteria.
Unlike many other disease-causing bacteria, E. coli can cause an infection even if you ingest only small amounts. Because of this, you can be sickened by E. coli from eating a slightly undercooked hamburger or from swallowing a mouthful of contaminated pool water.
Potential sources of exposure include contaminated food or water and person-to-person contact.
The more common sources of E. coli food infection are poorly cooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and uncleaned fresh produce. Contaminated water (not chlorinated or otherwise purified) is another reason for E. coli illness.
It turns out that flour is a rare source of E. coli infection, probably because flour is rarely contaminated and because baking kills the bacteria and breaks down any toxins.
Who Should Worry the Most
Except for the rare O157:H7 strain, E. coli causes mild and short term diarrhea in most people. Those who are more likely to become more ill with infections are the elderly, those with weakened immune systems (cancer therapy or AIDS), users of acid blocking agents such as esomeprazole (Nexium) and people who habitually consume raw hamburger, unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses made from raw milk. If your symptoms include anything except very mild diarrhea you should promptly contact your physician.
Feeling tired? Want to lose weight? How about using food supplements to make you feel better and slim down? There are certainly lots of products available online and without prescription at health food stores and even your local pharmacy. But how safe are food supplements? Prescription drugs need to pass very strict testing to demonstrate that they do not cause harm and that they do what the manufacturer says they do. Food supplements do not need to pass the same test. Consumer Reports just published a list of 15 supplement ingredients to always avoid.
With the help of an expert panel of independent doctors and dietary-supplement researchers, Consumer Reports identified 15 supplement ingredients that are potentially harmful. The risks include organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest. The severity of these threats often depends on such factors as pre-existing medical conditions as well as the quantity of the ingredient taken and the length of time a person has been exposed to the substance.
Many of the ingredients on this list also have the potential to interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin and generic).
The first rule of medicine is to first do no harm and that is what the law has demanded for a century for U.S. prescription drugs. It took another 70 years or so for the law to demand that prescribed medications do what they are meant to do. Unfortunately food supplements are, well, considered to be food and do not fall within the governance of the food and drug administration. The only time that FDA rules apply to food supplements is when the manufacturer makes claims about medical benefits. But the makers and sellers of food supplements get around this by publishing testimonials from people who state that they felt better, lost weight or achieved other benefits from the supplement. No proof is offered. The end result is that there are food supplements being offered that can result in illness and even death. Here is the list from Consumer Reports.
- Caffeine Powder
- Greater Celandine
- Green Tea Extract Powder
- Pennyroyal Oil
- Red Yeast Rice
- Usnic Acid
We wrote about green coffee extract on our Consumer Help Dept website a couple of years ago. We noted that you might, according to the purported evidence, lose weight briefly if you used the extract, ate less and worked out but that the weight would not stay off unless you continued exercise and watching your diet. Shortly thereafter the same site published an article noting that the original research was bogus! In general our view of dietary supplements is that they work only if you diet and work out and that there is no lasting weight loss for free. The concern with green tea extract powder according to Consumer Reports is that you can get dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced iron absorption, worsened glaucoma, higher blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage and even death from this product!
In fact of the 15 products listed 9 could possible cause death. That is how safe food supplements can be. Read the article and check any food supplements that you have purchased.