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It's everywhere..

Quote:Sea salt around the world has been contaminated by plastic pollution, adding to experts’ fears that microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in the environment and finding their way into the food chain via the salt in our diets. Following this week’s revelations in the Guardian about levels of plastic contamination in tap water, new studies have shown that tiny particles have been found in sea salt in the UK, France and Spain, as well as China and now the US.

Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste. Up to 12.7m tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute into the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations.

“Not only are plastics pervasive in our society in terms of daily use, but they are pervasive in the environment,” said Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the latest research into plastic contamination in salt. Plastics are “ubiquitous, in the air, water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use – plastics are just everywhere”.
Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show | Environment | The Guardian

Quote:Marine creatures that consume microplastics can be harmed by them and not just by physical obstruction. Plastics often contain a wide range of chemicals to change their properties or colour and many of these are toxic or hormone disruptors. Plastics can attract other pollutants too, including dioxins, metals and some pesticides. Microplastics have also been shown to attract microbial pathogens. The conditions in animal guts are also known to enhance the release of pollutants from plastics. “Further,” as the review puts is, “there is evidence that particles may even cross the gut wall and be translocated to other body tissues, with unknown consequences”.
We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health? | Environment | The Guardian
Quote:The drinks industry is misleading the public by downplaying and misrepresenting the link between alcohol and cancer – especially breast cancer – in a bid to protect its profits, new research claims. Alcohol firms and “responsible drinking” bodies they fund are denying that drink causes cancer and distorting the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, in information they provide to consumers, according to the British-led team of international experts behind the findings.
Drinks industry downplaying alcohol-cancer link – report | Society | The Guardian
Information asymmetries are the consequences of ever increasing complexity and produce situations that free market outcomes favor those with better information to profit from the ignorance of others deploying a host of tactics aimed at exploiting the information advantage. Confusion is one such tactic:

Quote:It has become impossible to stand in a supermarket aisle without facing a barrage of bombast and confusing claims of “natural”, “fresh”, “organic”, “super” this and “unprocessed” that. Not to mention the ever-expanding variety of “free-from” formulations. Indeed, last year Sainsbury’s almost doubled the number of products in its own Freefrom range and, according to Euromonitor, the global “free-from” category increased by 6.8% in 2016 to $32bn (£24.5bn) in retail value.

Now, the increase in “free-from” food labelling isn’t just marketing gone mad; it seems to reflect an increase in the prevalence of food allergies in western countries. A recent study by the US nonprofit Fair Health found an almost 400% increase in life-threatening allergic reactions to food between 2007 and 2016, based on an analysis of private insurance claims. In the UK, hospital admissions for children with food allergies increased by 700% between 1990 and 2007.

But while food allergies are undoubtedly on the rise, this doesn’t entirely explain the recent surge in popularity of foods claiming to be free from glucose, lactose et al. According to research by the Grocer, “a shopper’s decision to dodge dairy, gluten and other potential allergens often has nothing to do with medical need”. Rather, large numbers of people are buying this stuff because they think it will improve their health. Further, while there has been a documented increase in certain food allergies (particularly peanuts), there is little evidence that more people are becoming gluten-intolerant.

Nevertheless, “gluten-free” has become one of the most popular trends. In 2016, global sales of gluten-free food increased by 12.6% to $3.5bn, compared with overall packaged foods’ growth of just over 4% – suggesting companies are cheerfully cashing in on consumer ignorance of what gluten actually is. Indeed, the gluten-free trend has got so out of hand, you can even buy gluten-free water. Should it be worth pointing out, let’s remember: all water is already, and always has been, gluten-free.
Think you’re too smart to be taken in by silly food labels? Think again | Opinion | The Guardian
And if you think better informed people are more resistant to the confusion, think again:

Quote:At this point, it’s possible you may be smugly thinking that you’re far too smart to be taken in by silly food labels. Sorry, but research implies otherwise. study from the University of North Carolina and Duke University suggests that people with higher levels of education and income are more likely to be swayed by low-content food claims. And this has serious consequences: food labels exert considerable influence. To begin with, they can make us eat more of the wrong things. There is plenty of evidence that when a food is perceived as healthy, people are more likely to eat more of it.
Think you’re too smart to be taken in by silly food labels? Think again | Opinion | The Guardian
Speaking about exploiting information asymmetries for private gain, the highest profile case is probably big tobacco, but pharma with its opioids comes a close second.. Here only a few extracts from a lengthy read from Bloomberg:

Quote:Moore, who’s 65, served as Mississippi’s attorney general from 1988 to 2004. In 1994, using an untested and widely derided legal strategy, he became the first state AG to sue tobacco companies for lying about nicotine addiction and hold them accountable for sick smokers’ health-care costs. A Democrat, he marshaled AGs from around the country along with private plaintiffs’ lawyers who stood to reap massive fees. He went on to negotiate the largest corporate legal settlement in U.S. history: a 50-state, $246 billion agreement that funds smoking cessation and prevention programs to this day. 

But as he’s watched the tobacco victory pay off in declining smoking rates, he’s also seen easy access to powerful pain medication spark a new deadly crisis. He’s convinced this is the moment to work the same mechanisms on the drug companies that forced the tobacco industry to heel—and he’s committed himself to making that happen. 

Aided by the lawyers in the room (and others, including high-profile and high-profiting alumni of the tobacco wars, such as Joe Rice and Steve Berman), 10 states and dozens of cities and counties have sued companies including Purdue Pharma, Endo, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals—beginning in 2014 but mostly in the past few months. (Forty state AGs have launched preliminary investigations as a way to gauge the viability of litigation.)

The suits allege that the companies triggered the opioid epidemic by minimizing the addiction and overdose risk of painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Duragesic. Opioids don’t just cause problems when they’re misused, the suits argue: They do so when used as directed, too. The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy $78.5 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of which was paid by taxpayers through increased public costs for health care, criminal justice, and treatment. The industry, the suits contend, should bear the financial burden of this wreckage.

Moore and his allies hope to corral at least 25 states to exert enough pressure, collect enough evidence, and drive potential damages so high that it will be cheaper for opioid manufacturers to back down. They’re confident that the epic scale of the crisis ravaging the country has gotten too big to dodge. What was once considered a problem only among the Appalachian poor now touches every demographic. The most recent data, from 2015, show the opioid death toll exceeded 33,000 that year.

As recently as a quarter-century ago, few doctors prescribed the opium-derived drugs (and synthetic versions of them) for chronic pain related to backaches, headaches, or arthritis. This class of medications was distributed primarily to postoperative patients and those dying of cancer. That wasn’t much of a market, though. In the late 1980s a handful of researchers and pain doctors began to argue that pain was vastly undertreated, and one company more than any other—Purdue—grabbed the opportunity. Almost single-handedly, it turned what had been a niche product into one of the most prescribed classes of drugs.

Outspoken experts such as Dr. Russell Portenoy, a New York-based pain specialist, argued in journal articles and Purdue-paid talks to doctors that opioids weren’t inherently addictive and could safely be prescribed over extended periods. In 1995 the American Pain Society, a Purdue-funded group over which Portenoy later presided, urged physicians to monitor pain as a “fifth vital sign,” along with blood pressure, body temperature, pulse, and respiration. In 1996, Purdue unveiled OxyContin, which paired oxycodone, an opium derivative, with Continus, a time-release formula. Approving the pill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted Purdue’s contention that because the drug entered the bloodstream gradually, it wouldn’t cause the surging highs and subsequent lows that kindle addiction.

Purdue put its full energy into selling OxyContin, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in 2003. The company doubled the number of detailers devoted to the drug, from 318 in 1996 to 767 in 2002. Total annual cash bonuses tied to sales soared from $1 million to $40 million. Purdue directed its reps to call on primary care physicians, despite their scant training in the treatment of serious pain. In videos and publications, it relied on a dubious statistic—that only 1 percent of patients treated with narcotics would become addicted—even though the figure came not from a peer-reviewed scientific study, but from a one-paragraph 1980 letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The company gave away OxyContin-branded fishing hats, plush toys, and golf balls. Detailers handed out big-band music CDs titled Swing in the Right Direction with OxyContin, and 34,000 coupons for a free one-time prescription. Purdue also embraced a questionable condition called “pseudoaddiction,” which holds that behaviors normally associated with addiction—requesting drugs by name, displaying a demanding or manipulative manner, or seeking out more than one doctor to obtain opioids—might be signals that a patient needs more pain medication, not less.

The concept was promoted in a 2007 publication called Responsible Opioid Prescribing, distributed by the Federation of State Medical Boards and co-sponsored by Purdue. It had been coined almost two decades earlier by a pain doctor named J. David Haddox. He became a Purdue employee in 1999 and remains vice president for health policy. Purdue declined to make him available for comment, but company spokesman Robert Josephson contends that the FDA takes the concept seriously. OxyContin’s FDA-approved label says “preoccupation … with achieving adequate pain relief can be appropriate behavior in a patient with poor pain control.”

The tactics worked. OxyContin sales rose from $45 million in 1996 to more than $1.5 billion in 2002. But the drug’s huge success as a treatment for long-term chronic pain—and much of the marketing that drove it—had no basis in meaningful science, according to Andrew Kolodny, a physician and co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. There was no controlled, double-blind research—and there’s none still—that supports the notion that opioids are effective for treating chronic pain over a period of many months, let alone years. “For the vast majority of patients, the known, serious, and too-often-fatal risks far outweigh the unproven and transient benefits,” the CDC said in 2016.
The Lawyer Who Beat Big Tobacco Takes On the Opioid Industry - Bloomberg
80% of heroin addicts started with opioid prescription drugs. Who are the real drug pushers.. ?

Quote:A joint investigation from the Washington Post and CBS' "60 Minutes" concluded that members of Congress alongside the pharmaceutical industry may have helped fuel the opioid crisis. Drug distributors — of which the three biggest are Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, and McKesson — are in charge of shipping drugsaround the US to pharmacies and hospitals. In recent years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has cracked down on distributors when they're sending too many opioids to a particular location. In response, the distributors pay a fine and keep on doing business. But in 2016, Congress passed a law that made it harder for the DEA to carry out those fines, the investigation found. "The drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores, have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before," former chief of the DEA's Office of Diversion Control and whistleblower Joseph Rannazzisi told the Post.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was passed in 2016 to improve enforcement around prescription drug abuse and diversion. In actuality, the law raised the standard that the DEA needed to prove in order to crack down on a drug company's pain pill distribution, making it more difficult for them to enforce fines against the companiesThe chief architect of the law, the investigation found,  was Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, a Republican whom Trump nominated to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position commonly referred to as the nation's "drug czar." Marino introduced the bill in 2014, after which it went through years of back and forth, delays, and opposition from the DEA. A version of the bill became law in 2016. By that point, neither the DEA nor the Justice Department objected to the bill, though the DEA had fought against it for years. 
The Post called it "the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market." Lobbying groups, including the groups representing drugmakers, retail pharmacies, and drug distributors, spent more than $106 million in support of the bill, the Post found. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents drugmakers, disputes the Posts's findings, calling the report that it spent $40 million lobbying the bill "unequivocally false." 
60 Minutes investigation: Congress and drug companies crippled DEA - Business Insider
And this isn't even the result of unregulated capitalism..

Quote:Denise Coates, the billionaire founder and boss of gambling firm Bet365, paid herself £217m last year as her company made a £525m profit from a record £47bn of bets. The 50-year-old, who started Bet365 in a Portakabin in a Stoke car park 17 years ago, is now the best-paid boss in Britain, dwarfing previous titleholder ad man Sir Martin Sorrell on £48m. Coates’s £199,305,000 pay this year is more than 1,300 times that of the prime minister and more than double the wage bill of Stoke City, the Premier League club owned by Bet365. On top of the £199m, Coates collected £18m in dividend payments. 

Tracey Crouch, a minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has warned that as many as 600,000 Britons are “problem gambling”. The Gambling Commission, the industry regulator, has said 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction. Mike Dixon, the chief executive of the charity Addaction, said: “It cannot be right that the CEO of a betting company is paid 22 times more than the whole industry ‘donates’ to treatment.
Bet365 chief Denise Coates paid herself £217m last year | Business | The Guardian

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