AmericaBlog passes on details of a report on the levels of pesticides found in children:

The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from area groceries contained biological markers of organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II.

When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found.

We know that high levels of organophosphates are dangerous to humans (farmers commonly use them on livestock, and those that do suffer from higher than average rates of neurological illness). Lower levels aren’t linked to anything specific at the moment, but that’s possibly an artifact of current medical knowledge; observing the effects of small doses of anything is hard, both because the effects take time to accrue, and it’s difficult to separate out one factor among many others when you’re looking at someone’s entire life for an extended period.


In the UK the ER is called A&E (Accident & Emergency). It serves as Urgent Care as well as ER, which is why I found myself there yesterday having smacked my hand something fierce earlier in the day. The nurse practitioner looked at it, ordered an x-ray, then when that came back clear (no breaks, just a bruise) told me to stop being such a girly-man and just take an aspirin. She may not have used any of those words, but the meaning was clear.

Yes, I am falling apart.

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Insult on Injury

I went for a checkup on my dodgy knee today. The good news is that the MRI showed nothing. The bad news is that my knee still hurts. So after a little discussion I’m signed up for four months of physio to see if that can fix things.

That’s the injury. The insult is that the only aerobic exercise left to me is swimming, which I strongly dislike. But if there’s one thing I dislike more than swimming, it’s swimming front crawl; I am, as those of you who know me will be unsurprised to hear, a breast-stroking man. So can you guess which stroke is not actually helping my knee, and which one I should do instead? That’s right.

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Organ Donation

One of the UK government’s latest ideas (though it’s been kicking around for a long time) is ‘presumed consent’ for organ donation. This means that, unless the family of a dead person specifically object, doctors can harvest such organs as they see fit.

The argument in favour is simple; hundreds of people die every year who could be saved by donations from people who, quite obviously, don’t need them any more. The argument against is more abstract, but also more fundamental; my body belongs to me, not the government, and that’s true before I’m born and when I’m dead just as much as when I’m alive.

My natural reaction is to be against this idea. I’m a registered donor and my family knows it, so I have no problem with donation in general, but I really dislike the idea that the government can help itself to what it wants. In fact this struck me as an extreme, if not literal, form of communism; from each according to his ability, whether he wants to or not.

Another reason to be against it is that the fix is very simple. If you’re not a registered donor for at least a year before you’re diagnosed with a condition requiring a transplant, you don’t get one. Any time you register for something from the government, be it a birth certificate, passport or driving license, you have to make a choice about donation. No default is filled in, so you have to pick one for yourself.

Such a quick fix gives me time to tell you about the Donner Card, which reads “I would like someone to help themselves to my kebab after my death”

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European Health Care

The EU is floating a plan to allow EU citizens to get health care in any member country if they are facing undue delays in their own country. Some Labour MPs are concerned that this would lead to an internal market that could kill the NHS.

My guess is that they can see a system where the NHS transforms into a giant, centralized HMO, paying for and managing services provided by private companies. Initially these would be based overseas, but it’s not much of a step to see the companies setting up in the UK initially to serve foreign ‘customers’, but in due course changing opinions to the point where they could take UK patients.

Terrifying, isn’t it? To be honest the only real fear here seems to be the fear of change. There are clear frictional costs involved in getting treatment overseas, so establishing these businesses will be a marginal activity. And if the NHS is better than the alternatives (which, presumably, it must be in the Labour politician’s eyes) then the only way it can lose is through government intervention that overwhelms that advantage. And Labour would never do that, right?