Decades of hard tea drinking led to tooth loss and other bone problems for a 47-year-old Michigan woman, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. After treating the patient for severe pain in her back, arms, legs and hips, her doctor Sudhaker Rao discovered that consuming "astronomical amounts" of highly concentrated tea for nearly 20 years had caused her fluoride levels to spike to more than four times the normal amount. As a result, her bones had become so brittle that her teeth had to be extracted. "Her bone density was very high, seven times denser than normal," says Rao, "it was like steel." In the US, brewed tea contains hight amounts of fluoride, which Rao believes was causing her bone problems. "There have been about three to four cases reported in the US associated with ingesting tea, especially large amounts of it," he notes. The patient had been downing a pitcher of tea—containing roughly 20 milligrams of fluoride—a day. "Most of us can excrete fluoride extremely well, but if you drink too much, it can be a problem," he says. The patient has been prescribed a tea-free diet, and has since recovered. Experts say her case serves as proof that extreme consumption of almost any substance can be harmful. New York City doctor Joseph Lane, chief of the metabolic bone disease service at Weill Cornell Medical College, says he once had a patient who "overdosed" on fish oil. "Then she had a minor injury and bled a lot, almost like hemophilia,” he explains, “it turns out the patient had too much vitamin E in the blood.”
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Today is National Kick Butts Day, and in honor of this year's theme—"America's Most Wanted Tobacco Villains"—kids and teens nationwide will be taking a stand against tobacco companies. The youth-oriented "national day of activism" is sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, with at least 1,200 registered events organized by parents, teachers, and kids around the US. This year's message is "Hey Big Tobacco stop targeting us!" says Devin Madden, project manager for a healthier Manhattan, who helped organize a 100-person flash mob in East Harlem. Her event combines activism with education, she tells us: Kids will not only get the "chance to speak out and say we’ve had enough," but will learn about the dangers of smoking at a panel discussion with elected officials and public health advocates. At another event in Georgia, high school students are watching anti-smoking TV commercials in order to discuss the ways tobacco companies use misinformation to sell their products.
Kick Butts Day is founded on the notion that kids are more likely to listen to their peers than to adults. "When an adult says that tobacco can cause cancer and lead to premature death, it’s ultimately not as effective as when a child’s peers present these messages in an age-appropriate way," Ritney Castine, the associate director of youth advocacy for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tells The Fix. According to kickbuttsday.org, smoking kills around 400,000 people a year, but tobacco companies continue to design colorful, flashy new products intended to appeal to young people. A whopping 18.1% of high school students currently smoke, with 90% of smokers starting by the age of 18. Kick Butts Day urges young people, their families and elected officials to be aware of these manipulative marketing tactics, in order to help kids stay tobacco-free. "Preventing kids from smoking is critical to winning the fight against tobacco," says Castine. "Kick Butts Day is a chance for youth to stand up and tell Big Tobacco that they aren’t going to succumb to the billions spent to market tobacco products each year."
Actor Aaron Eckhart chatted on Chelsea Lately this week about how his social life has changed dramatically since he quit drinking and smoking almost a decade ago. “"I've been sober for eight or nine years...It changed my life. Seriously,” Eckhart told host Chelsea Handler. He jokingly added, "but I lost all my friends and never go out anymore.” Jokes aside, the 45-year-old actor has been open in the past about the difficulties of being sober while working in a notoriously boozy business. “It's interesting to see how much Hollywood and that kind of Hollywood thing revolves around drinking, and I don't just mean Hollywood, it's socializing,” he told The Guardian in 2007. “Friends that I thought were friends, I don’t associate with them. Not because I dislike them, I just have no reason to be with them.” Eckart credited his Mormon upbringing with helping "guilt" him into getting clean, as well as his tendency to be an aggressive and angry drunk. “Drinking was a way to cover up some insecurities and I figured I didn’t need it any more,” he said. He ended up quitting both drinking and smoking with the help of hypnosis. In Thank You For Smoking, he once played a cigarette executive who is ultimately kidnapped and tortured with nicotine patches, but in real life, nicotine is no longer his foe. “Right now, if you asked me which one would I rather do [alcohol or cigarettes], I wouldn't want to do either," he said. "I smoked when I got up and I smoked when I went to bed. Now I have a cup of coffee in the mornings and I feel better, cleaner, and I think I'm a friendlier person.”
Kevin Clash resigned from his job at Sesame Street in November after playing the voice of Elmo for 28 years, but his legal woes have not been swept away. Clash, 52, is now being accused of a crystal meth-fueled sexual affair with 24-year-old Sheldon Stephens, who would have been 16 at the time. Stephens was one of three men who came forward last November and accused Clash of having a sexual relationship with them when they were minors. But after an out-of-court settlement deal was made, Stephens admitted that their relationship began as adults and was consensual. However, Stephens has since recanted that admission and is suing Clash for exposing him to drugs and having sex with him when he was underage. The lawsuit claims that Clash frequently hired a chauffeur to bring Stephens from his home in Harrisburg, PA to NYC, where the pair had a “pattern of sexual activity … over a period of years,” according to the plaintiff. The suit also claims that Clash "smoked crystal meth while engaging in sexual activity with Sheldon.” The actor has admitted to using work computers to engage in inappropriate e-mail exchanges with Stephens, but has denied all charges of sexual activity against him. "This lawsuit is meritless and barred by the statute of limitations," said Michael Berger, Clash's lawyer, in a statement. "Sheldon Stephens, the plaintiff, has already admitted in writing that he had 'an adult consensual relationship' with Mr. Clash. Mr. Clash continues to deny any wrongdoing, and we intend to defend this case forcefully."
Ever wanted to know your blood-alcohol content (BAC) without the added hassle of getting pulled over by cops? A new portable Breathometer plugs into the audio jack of an iPhone or Android and connects to an app to measure your BAC. The device, which costs 20$ to pre-order, stows in your pocket or on a keyring, and may be more stylish than carrying a hefty BAC measuring device into a bar or club. "The focus for us is to reduce as many drunk driving accidents as there are and ultimately potentially even save lives," says Breathometer CEO Charles Michael Yim. The app also includes a feature that allows you to call a cab directly, or to locate nearby friends who could give you a lift. It may sound like the solution to drunk driving, which kills an estimated 11,000 people each year. But the new device may not be 100% fool-proof, as consumer-grade breathalyzers tend to be much less accurate than the ones used by cops. A video by a law enforcement breath tester company finds that personal breathalyzers can interpret a 0.07 BAC level as being anywhere from 0.00 to 0.24 BAC, since they tend to rely on smaller, cheaper semiconductor oxide sensors that more accurately detect the presence of alcohol than the amount. But the Breathometer device seems to have broad appeal: they have already raised $67,910 of their $25,000 goal with 25 days left in their drive. Between one of these and the DUI-catcher app, smartphones could be the ticket to reducing drunk driving accidents.