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Jewish World Review May 30, 2000 /25 Iyar, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports


The perils of
medical quackery -- I ONCE DRANK Super Blue Green Algae. It was during a fact-finding mission to a "Whole Life Expo" in Seattle. I wanted to know more about fringe health fads and what drives people to put their lives in the hands of medical quacks and charlatans.

A bright-eyed grandmother, waving a Dixie Cup filled to the rim with blue-green goo, accosted me with the brazenness of a D.C. panhandler. "I take it to protect my immune system and for my severe asthma," she announced. "It's harvested at Klamath Lake in Oregon and freeze-dried. We're sending it to Guatemala to feed the children. The studies show it takes care of Attention-Deficit Disorder. And it's also good for your bones. Your oxygen supply will increase, and the energy is amazing," she gushed.

Despite any credible evidence of its health benefits, Super Blue Green Algae is a booming business worldwide. Sales of Super Blue Green Algae, distributed by Oregon-based Cell Tech, skyrocketed from $17.9 million in 1993 to $200 million in 1996. Japan reported this month that algae pill sales topped $400 million in 1999; vendors there are aggressively targeting hyperactive children.

Why is this glorified pond scum so popular? "It's magic," say the creators of Super Blue Green Algae in promotional literature, "for anyone, anytime, anywhere, any age" -- and for anything. A foot doctor outside Seattle claims it alleviates chronic pain. Enthusiasts on the Internet say it cures illnesses from morning sickness to allergies to sexual dysfunction, and prevents cancer, mood swings and hearing loss.

Well, what harm could it do? I downed the Super Blue Green Algae cocktail, and waited for the magic to begin.

Nothing happened. And for that, I should be extremely thankful. A new study published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed medical journal, reports that the algae cultivated in Oregon's Upper Klamath Lake contains potent, cancer-promoting toxins.

My digestive encounter with this New Age goop was whimsically stupid. No harm, no foul (except, perhaps, my breath). But adults who should know better are subjecting their children to far more dangerous experiments masquerading as miracle science. Last month, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker was apparently

strangled to death in the name of alternative healing while her adoptive mother, Jeane, watched from an observation room. The mother, a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, had paid four therapists in Colorado to subject Candace to a procedure called "rebirthing."

According to Quackwatch, a watchdog group that monitors health fraud, the purported goal of rebirthing "is to resolve repressed attitudes and emotions that supposedly originated with prenatal and perinatal experiences." Patients diagnosed with "attachment disorder" are wrapped in blankets that simulate the womb. One practitioner claims that "emotional and mental toxins" are cleansed from the body. When patients emerge from the cocoon of blankets, their lost bond with parents is allegedly restored.

Rolled up in a flannel blanket and covered with pillows, young Candace was surrounded by four adults who pushed against the pillows "to simulate birth contractions." This technique is not recognized in mainstream diagnostic manuals. Most of the evidence of its benefits comes from unlicensed and overzealous Internet gurus. But Candace's mom participated approvingly in the one-hour-and-10-minute "treatment" -- even after her daughter pleaded that she couldn't breathe, begged to be let out to go to the bathroom, and told the adults six times that she was going to die.

A day later, the little girl succumbed to asphyxiation. The only bonding experience that came from the treatment was the $5,000 bond Mrs. Newmaker had to post this week after being charged with criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.

From Super Blue Green Algae to rebirthing, such medical quackery will continue to thrive. In our junk science society, anecdotes substitute for solid scientific proof. Wishful thinking trumps reason. We want shortcuts and quick fixes for physical ailments. We seek bogus theories that place blame for family problems on everyone and everything except parents themselves.

The swindlers and pseudotherapists are all too willing to make a killing -- literally -- off the reckless, desperate, lazy and blind. Magic, they know, is a lot easier to sell and swallow than the bitter tonic of personal responsibility.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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05/12/00: Our mothers' hands
05/08/00: Focus on the real Waco
05/05/00: An Internet victim's sad story
05/03/00: Phony pooh-bahs of journalism
05/01/00: Zoo tragedy triggers dumb reaction
04/24/00: Ecoterrorists on the loose
04/19/00: Beware of Elian's psychobabblers
04/17/00: The truth about Erin Brockovich
04/13/00: In defense of an armed citizenry
04/10/00: Playing hardball with taxpayers
04/06/00: Read W.'s lips: More new spending
04/04/00: The liberal media-in-training
03/31/00: Sticking it to the children
03/28/00: Declaring war on HOV lanes
03/22/00: Clinton and the Echo Boomers
03/17/00: Is Bush a Liddy Dole Republican?
03/13/00: Katie and the politics of disease
03/10/00: Maria H, Granny D, and the media Z's
03/07/00: Bubba Van Winkle wakes up
03/03/00: Double standard for day traders?
02/28/00: Sluts and nuts --- and our daughters
02/24/00: Zoning out religious freedom
02/15/00: The Baby Brain Boondoggle
02/10/00: Buddhist temple untouchables
02/08/00: CDC: Caught Devouring Cash
02/04/00: Hillary's poisoned poster child
02/01/00: Corporate welfare on ice
01/28/00: The silly sound of silence
01/26/00: The Old Media meltdown
01/20/00: The pied pipers of KidCare
01/18/00: Our imperious judiciary
01/14/00: Tune out Columbine chorus
01/12/00: Dying to be an American
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12/30/99: Reading, writing, PlayStation?
12/27/99: Fight money-grubbing mallrats
12/23/99: Christmas for Cornilous Pixley
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12/16/99: Shame on corn-fed politicians
12/13/99: EPA vs. the American Dream
12/09/99: Look behind the Pokemon curtain
12/06/99: Amateur hour in Seattle
11/30/99: Stop the Ritalin racketeers
11/23/99: Welfare for a sports fatcat
11/19/99: Jeb Bush's political ploy of the week
11/16/99: Ben & Jerry serve up junk science
11/12/99: A monumental waste of our veterans' resources
11/10/99: Tax-and-spend schizophrenia
11/05/99: Spooky Guy Haunts the Capital
11/02/99: Mourning the loss of the last Liberty Tree
10/27/99: AOL goes AWOL on parents
10/22/99: The persecution of Harry Potter
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10/14/99: The trouble with kids today
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09/27/99: Personal freedom going up in smoke
09/15/99: Farewell, "Miss" America
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09/03/99: Feminization of gun debate drowns out sober analysis
08/27/99: America is abundant land of equal-opportunity insult
08/10/99: Protect the next generation from diversity do-goodism
08/04/99: Sweepstakes vs. state lottery: double standards on gambling
07/21/99: "True-life tales from the Thin Red Line" (or "Honor those who sacrificed their lives for peace")
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07/14/99: Journalists' group-think is not unity
06/30/99: July Fourth programming for the Springer generation
06/25/99: Speechless in Seattle
06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

© 2000, Creators Syndicate