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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 1, 2016, Vol. 34, Issue 03

Lab Rats (Roaming the Streets)

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

The title of this article is an accurate description of American consumers (regardless of age) in the modern era. We are all part of a massive, uncontrolled experiment, consuming drugs, food substances, water additives and air pollutants with consequences that are largely unknown.

The good news: Our bodies are blessed with an innate ability to heal themselves. The bad news: This innate ability can be overwhelmed by the myriad toxins that unfortunately enter our bodies each day.

By now, you should be aware of the study published last December showing "use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [antidepressants] during the second and/or third trimester was significantly associated with an increased risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."1 This quest to identify contributing factors for the growing number of autistic children is beginning to fall right where most of us expected: drugs taken by the mother during pregnancy.

(It should be noted that depression "is currently ranked fourth among the 10 leading causes of the global burden of disease. ... it is predicted that by the year 2020, it will have jumped to second place."2)

OTC drugs once thought safe have been shown to be just as harmful, but only after decades of use by an unsuspecting public. The classic example is paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen. It was initially dispensed in 1887, with the first study published in 1893. It was sold in the U.S. in 1950, going OTC in 1959. More than 24 billion doses were sold in the U.S. in 2008.3

Yet by 2011 researchers noted, "[T]he epidemiologic association between acetaminophen use and asthma prevalence and severity in children and adults is well established. A variety of observations suggest that acetaminophen use has contributed to the recent increase in asthma prevalence in children."4

A study published three years later found that "children whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were at higher risk for receiving a hospital diagnosis of HKD [hyperkinetic disorders], use of ADHD medications, or having ADHD-like behaviors at age 7 years. Stronger associations were observed with use in more than 1 trimester during pregnancy." The study authors ultimately concluded, "Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for HKDs and ADHD-like behaviors in children."5

But avoiding drugs does keep you from being a lab rat. In 2013, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed water samples, looking at contaminants that are not currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. They found "11 perfluorinated compounds, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant." Some of these contaminants have been linked to several cancers and other health problems. But the potential impact on the nation's health is largely unclear, as there is not enough known at this time.6

One of the more recent efforts expanding experimentation on the American "lab rat" is currently supported by Congress. H.R.1599 (laughingly titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015) is an overt attempt to keep the public unaware of the impact of genetically modified food. According to the bill, "[T]he FDA evaluates a scientific and regulatory assessment provided by the developer of a food produced from, containing, or consisting of a plant that is a genetically engineered organism (GMO)." [Italics added] The bill forces consumers to rely solely on information provided by the food companies and preempts any state or local government attempts to require any additional information.7

Without sounding too fatalistic, it is important for you and your patients to keep the above in perspective. Most of your patients can and should avoid drugs whenever possible; but it is practically impossible to eliminate all of the toxins from our food, water and air.

Our current reality makes chiropractic care, nutrition and exercise all that much more important. There will surely be many more research "discoveries" supporting our nondrug, nonsurgical approach to wellness. Take the time to stay informed and communicate these truths with your patients. Every new headline is a new opportunity to teach chiropractic.


  1. Boukhris T, Sheehy O, Mottron L, Bérard A. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and the risk of autism spectrum disorder in children. JAMA Pediatr; published online Dec. 14, 2015.
  2. Mental Health - A Call for Action by World Health Ministers. World Health Organization (WHO), 2001.
  3. Dal Pan GJ. Acetaminophen: Background and Overview. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. June 29, 2009.
  4. McBride JT. The association of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence and severity. Pediatrics, 2011 Dec;128(6):1181-5.
  5. Liew Z, Ritz B, Rebordosa C, Lee PC, Olsen J. Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. JAMA Pediatr, 2014;168(4):313-320.
  6. Bienkowski B. "Unregulated Contaminants Common in Drinking Water." Environmental Health News, Dec. 5, 2013.
  7. H.R.1599 - Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. Introduced in the 114th Congress (2015-2016) on March 25, 2015 by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)

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