My complaint to the National Bioethics Commission, and that sham Commission's indifference
to real abuses by H. Peter Aleff
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Ignoring the blue-light hazard
in an even larger epidemic of blinding
The pediatric proponents of bright nursery lighting are so committed to its unconditional defense that they completely ignore the easily deducible role of fluorescent lamps in yet another epidemic of blinding that affects even greater numbers of people.
This epidemic is only now beginning to come to public attention. It used to be known in the clinical literature as "Senile Macular Degeneration" because it deteriorated the center of the retina, or macula, of predominantly very old people, at the other extreme of the human age spectrum from preemies.
But in recent years, people get this disease much earlier, so this name, initially coined for the typical dimming of nonagenarian vision, had to broaden its scope. According to the article "Losing Sight" by Henry Grunwald in the December 9, 1996, issue of The New Yorker (pages 62-67):
"(...) a great many people -- exact figures are hard to come by, but in the United States the number may be as high as fifteen million -- are afflicted with this disease. It is formally known as age-related macular degeneration, or A.M.D., because most sufferers are over fifty. It is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in the Western world. Yet it is one of the least commonly known eye problems; until recently, it was rarely written about in the popular press, or even discussed."
Almost simultaneously, the ABC News medical editor, Dr. Timothy Johnson, introduced his audience to this disease on the 20/20 show "Open your Eyes America" of December 6, 1996. (See the enclosed transcript of this show.) He called it "Macular Degeneration" and said it mostly strikes people 60 years or older:
" (...) this devastating eye disease now affects about 13 million Americans, more than all other eye diseases combined. Every week, one in three seniors is diagnosed with M.D., and scientists predict a huge wave of Americans, the baby boomer generation, will soon be facing M.D. A staggering 30 million boomers may be facing blindness. Despite these mind numbing numbers, little research is devoted to the cause of or cure for macular degeneration. (...) Scientists don't know what causes macular degeneration, but they have identified some risk factors such as smoking, a high fat diet, and the sun's ultraviolet rays."
One of Dr. Johnson's guests, a Dr. David Seftel, added that
"(...) between 55 and 64 years of age, a total of 14 per cent of all people will get macular degeneration. Above that, it goes up to 19 per cent and those are just the current statistics. So we're looking at an epidemic. We're looking at the epidemic of the 21st century."
Now, I suggest you add up the following facts and clinical comments:
Fluorescent lamps were introduced in 1938/9, that is 58 years ago. The people whose maculae degenerate now so much earlier than in former times are the first generation that grew up under fluorescent lamps in their school rooms.
The eyes of children and adolescents are much more transparent to the retina-damaging blue and violet light so predominant in the spectrum of fluorescent lamps than the age-yellowed lenses of adult eyes (see page 10 left, top, in my book).
Epidemiological studies and clinical research link life-time accumulative exposures to blue light not only to cataracts but also to Senile Macular Degeneration.
The blue and shorter wavelength light creates debris on the retina from light-destroyed photo-receptors; this debris builds up at a rate that seems to be proportional to the eye's cumulative exposure to light in short wavelengths, from ultraviolet to blue.
The buildup of this debris accelerates the normal aging of the exposed eyes. When the level of debris in the retinal pigment epithelium reaches the danger limit, the spare renewal capacity of too many photoreceptors is used up, and vision declines.28
Similar comments in the clinical literature include, for instance: "Free radicals are produced by metabolic processes that involve the absorption of light and the reduction of molecular oxygen. (...) [The retina's] capacity to absorb light and its need for oxygen enhance the probability that damage to membranous structures of the retina will occur from photochemical effects and associated free radicals. (...) These [protective] mechanisms could become less efficient with age. They can also lose efficiency if they are overwhelmed by an overly abundant or sustained production of free radicals -- for example, with excessive or prolonged exposure to hazardous light. If this happens, damage to ocular cells, such as those in the retina or lens, could occur."29
"The aging of the eye and the senile regression in visual perception cannot be studied in isolation from the lifelong cumulative effects of optical radiation" (...) The pigment epithelium is a closed system and with increasing age there is a net loss of cells from this layer with a resulting increase in size of those remaining. (...) Senile macular degeneration results from the metabolic disadvantage from the abnormal accumulation of debris between the pigment epithelium and the choroidal blood supply."30
There were no known methods for early detection of the damage when I last checked in 1990, and I doubt there are any now. Electroretinograms do not show up such early damage to the light receptors and will signal a reduced amplitude only after massive destruction of retinal tissue. Diabetics, for instance, can have most of their retina coagulated by laser surgery, but they still retain a normal ERG.31
To use a metaphor, imagine the light receptor's ability to react to light is like your ability to breathe: it remains undiminished whether you stand on dry land or in water up to your chin, but once the water reaches your mouth and your nose, your breathing becomes more difficult and then ceases. In this image, the ERG measures your breathing rate, not the water level.
Without excess exposure to blue and violet light, the normal vision decline used to become noticeable sometimes at age 60 and more typically at 70 or later32. It seems more probable than not that this decline must be expected to begin earlier after a history of abundant exposure to blue-violet light from fluorescent lamps during the childhood and adolescent years, when most of this retina-damaging radiation can still reach the retina in full force and there build up debris that uses up much of the spare photoreceptor renewal capacity.
I have no clinical literature reference to offer for that conclusion, no double-blind clinical trial of people kept all their lives under various controlled exposure conditions. Let me cite instead the non-medical motto "better safe than sorry" which suggests in this case to first protect the children's eyes, even before medical science can formally prove the postulated long-term harm from exposing them to eye-damaging light, or establish the detailed dose-response curves for their textbooks.
The long-standing and uncritically embraced practice of exposing children and adolescents to fluorescent light seems to be a demographical time bomb with a once long fuse that has now burned to the end. The sudden explosion of the macular degeneration epidemic would be easy to predict from the above circumstantial evidence33 if that explosion had not already begun.
But even now as it is unfolding -- have you heard many warnings about the potential danger from that blue-violet light to the children whose eyes absorb it now?
Contrast this modern indifference to the hazards from fluorescent light with the turn-of-the-century reaction when incandescent lamps became first available. A mere eight years after Edison strung up his first commercial lightbulbs in New York, the oculists of London petitioned parliament in 1898 to pass laws against the use of unshaded lights, and consequently research was instituted on various types of shades and reflectors34. Or else we might still be looking at bare bulbs.
Now, a century later, almost sixty years have passed since fluorescent lamps took over most of this country's public buildings, and over thirty years since laser researchers discovered and described the retinal hazard from the strong blue-violet component of their light. Yet, the ophthalmologist community as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, charged by U.S. Congress with the task of watching over the health of the nation's children, are asleep at the switch.
They deliberately close their collective eyes tightly to the abundantly documented hazards from the fluorescent successors of those early incandescent lamps, apparently afraid that admitting this hazard now would expose their failure to have noticed it earlier.
As the French playwright Racine is said to have said:
"Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel."
Emperors without cover-up
have no Clothes
This heads-in-the-sand policy towards the large epidemic of adult-blinding permits the medical community to avoid some highly embarrassing questions about its official junk science in the iatrogenic epidemic of baby-blinding, at least for the moment. But it does bring up what the humorist Calvin Trillin described as the Davis Conundrum - how to deal with information that may call into question a tenet that is central to a system of belief. He did so in an essay where he discussed the fact that Sigmund Freud had fudged the data for his central theory35:
"The Davis Conundrum takes its name from a wine-tasting test that I'm told is sometimes given at the highly regarded department of oenology at the University of California at Davis. It turns out that under blind-test circumstances the tasters, some of them professional wine connoisseurs, are often unable to tell red wine from white wine. That triggers the Davis Conundrum: does the failure to distinguish red from white undercut all the learned talk you hear about body and vintage and integrity and which side of the hill the grapes came from?"
So what are we to make of nursery doctors whose central doctrine is built on fudged data, and who do not notice the flagrant dangers they create for their patients' eyes and lives? Blindfolded by their mindset, they fail to distinguish the administration of their light treatment from its withdrawal, and they cannot tell a blatantly rigged trial from a legitimate one.
Do those failures undercut all the learned talk you hear about arterial blood gas levels and multifactorial disease and integrity and medical ethics?
President Clinton said in his speech that announced the creation of your Committee:
"Our greatness is measured not only in how we so frequently do right, but also how we act when we know we've done the wrong thing; how we confront our mistakes, make our apologies, and take action."
He ended with the promise:
"... we will no longer hide the truth from our citizens. We will act as if all that we do will see the light of day."
I ask you therefore to please make the President's promise come true and do the right thing for the American people and their most vulnerable children.
Dr. Ruth Simmons, Deputy Provost at your University, reportedly said that you are a courageous leader who does what he believes is right36. This gives me hope that you will have the courage and determination to end the abuses I describe, and I thank you in advance for your effort to help premature babies.
I look forward with interest to hearing from you.
Sincerely, H. Peter Aleff
Continue to the non-responses I received to this alert from the government agencies supposed to protect the public against such medical abuses and negligence.