Dispatches from the War Zone in Environmental Health.


Reporting on Crime and Progress

The weapons of mass destruction have been found, at least in medicine, and only we—the people, the consumers, the patients—can stop their proliferation by rouge corporations and their buddies in government. We have known about them for a long time actually, but their origins have been attributed to different sources over time. In antiquity, malevolent deities were thought responsible for the plagues that wiped out city-states and later caused economic disaster for the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, God was believed to be angry with sinful humanity and therefore visited epidemics on them, as he was believed to have done in the biblical stories about the Egypt at the time of Moses. In the mid-19th century, the poor of the vast slums associated with Europe’s great cities were blamed for spreading mysterious diseases whose bacterial and viral causes were not yet understood by science.

Today, we know that the weapons of mass destruction are human-made chemicals, causing our current plague of chronic and degenerative diseases, and they are found in those substances intended to kill bugs, slugs, dandelions as well as in most of the drugs manufactured to fight cancer, impotence, heart disease, arthritis and other illnesses. These chemicals are the basis of an amoral economic system that sells toxic chemicals in all their forms with the promise of perfect lawns, perfect agricultural produce, perfectly hygienic kitchens, perfect white laundry, and perfect magic-bullet drugs. In fact, they harm us and are guaranteed to harm coming generations as well. Marketing techniques ensure that the whole truth is as carefully disguised as possible. That truth being, that our chemically saturated food, air, water, and soil are the sources of all our diseases—either directly, or by compromising our immune responses, or by giving pathogens the evolutionary advantage.

These toxic chemicals create phantom needs and dependencies by which their manufacturers enforce profits. This has to do with power and is a political process. The famous Swiss psychotherapist, Marie-Louise von Franz used to say that the challenge posed by evil boiled down to understanding within oneself and others the nature of “PP and FF” which stands for “power, pride, fame and fortune”. There is no essential difference between the claims of a lawn care product, a toxic pharmaceutical drug, and the invasion of Iraq, except the field of action: they share the aim of seeking to profit at somebody else’s expense and covering up the deadly truth of long-term environmental and social destruction or deadly side-effects; advertising and present-day war propaganda are the same devil in two different disguises. One promises to free you from lawn pests (at best with temporary success and at the risk of cancer to your family and neighbor), the second promises symptom control (at the price of worse sickness or death), and the third touts political liberation—but all of it boils down to: just hand over your money or oil.

How This Book Came To Be

I am actually an anthropologist by training, not a journalist. I studied human evolution and had fun researching stone tools, the evolution of agriculture, and taking part in the amusing and arcane academic scuffles over whether the Neanderthals went extinct or evolved into us, Homo sapiens, and whether either or both are related or not to the oldest humans, Homo erectus. My main area of interest was the evolution of disease about which science knows surprisingly much. Most people don’t know that every disease known to humanity has a history with a beginning and sometimes even an end—that is to say: the history of disease is the history of human behavior in a given environment.

Pandora’s Box contains what our interactions with each other and our environment inadvertently promoted. Pathogens that were harmless for millions of years mutated and became harmful through close proximity with animals we domesticated, or as a function of our choice to live in more and more crowded villages and eventually cities. Chronic illnesses, such as arthritis, are known from Neanderthal skeletons and became a sign of deficiency when the wide variety of foods from hunting and gathering practiced for several million years was replaced by reliance on a comparatively monotonous diet of a few so-called staple foods. Indeed, with the increasing reliance on agriculture the archaeological record shows the simultaneous proliferation of diseases: with planting and domestication begin the diagnoses listed in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.

Illness is the price of civilization. The variety of experience higher civilizations made possible resulted also in an unexpected variety of physical problems. Comparisons with modern hunter-gatherer societies have conclusively proven this observation to be true. They don’t develop heart disease or cancer until they start eating and living like “civilized” people do. Their average daily intake of vitamin C would shock the historically and anthropologically naive scientists who determine the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients: a !Kung hunter-gatherer gets about 60,000 mg of vitamin C in his daily diet, which is about the same amount a chimpanzee gets also. Our absurd RDAs suggest a maximum of 1,000 mg, and most doctors will actually tell you that 200 mg is all you need. Maybe to avoid something awful like scurvy, but certainly not if we want to be as healthy as those few remaining hunter-gatherer tribes and those equally threatened chimpanzees.

So, yes, polio has a beginning (Old Kingdom Egypt), as does tetanus, the flu, small pox, and the ability of the body to respond in a way we call cancer (all associated with the rise of the Neolithic). These illnesses all arose out of the environment, where they were dormant and harmless, in interaction with and as a response to human behavior. Today, science knows that even the mutations in our genes, that can give rise to disease, require enabling human-made conditions. As ecologist Sandra Steingraber puts it, “A cancer cell is made, not born.”

When I became seriously ill in the early 1990s with what turned out to be a chronic illness called Myasthenia gravis and was told that the cause is unknown and no cure exists, the doctors were talking to an anthropologist who knew that every disease has a history and therefore had a cause that’s knowable. That implies, in principle, the possibility of a cure. I did not accept this standard verdict, found the cause of my illness to be a combination of years of exposure to DDT, while living in India, and a mouth full of mercury amalgam fillings; their removal and a subsequent detoxification protocol restored my health.

This experience of disease and medical ignorance (medicine in general and the education of doctors sorely lack the historical perspective) and coming face to face with the criminal refusal by the majority of the dental community to take responsibility for their toxic treatments, led me to write an article for The Medical Post about me journey back to health. I was mad as hell and wanted everybody to know about this. It has been a matter of profound satisfaction to me that, as a result of my articles on my own experience, I have helped a great many myasthenics get out of their zombie states, identify the causes of their illness (usually mercury “silver” amalgams were chief amongst them), and get back to life.

Soon I found myself listening to the stories of people with many other illnesses, all of which were supposedly of unknown causes, and I also began to hear stories about the suppression of treatments that work, such as chelation for cardiovascular disease and diabetic neuropathy, or cancer treatments without chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. I often wondered if I was caught in a nightmare and hoped to awake as soon as possible. All of this is a nightmare all right, but we are living in it wide awake.

Within less than a year I had entered a world I had not known existed: the dark side of medicine where ego and greed and power rule, and where ignorance is supported by ideology. I began to attend medical conferences, interview doctors and politicians and government regulators. My articles began to appear in health magazines, and rarely in mainstream publications, but I forged friendships with many excellent journalists in the mainstream whose help has always been invaluable—sometimes for information, but usually to get a story out that I could not get out by myself. I found to my surprise that I had left fossils and stone tools for a global war to achieve public health.

The life of a free-lance medical science writer is blessed by a lot of freedom to roam, search, and dig up the dirt. My editor at Toronto’s Vitality Magazine, Julia Woodford, gives me maximum freedom to explore, because she shares my infinite curiosity for what’s happening in this medical crime scene, and for the tremendous progress that is happening as well. Often my articles get published elsewhere later, in the US and Australia mainly, and even in the in-flight magazines of airlines (which is just great—the inside of an air plane is just about the worst chemically-saturated environment imaginable, and those people need this information most!).

I am asked so many times for copies of my articles by health activists, patient groups and (very gratifyingly) doctors who want to hand them out to their members or patients, that I decided to gather together topical articles likely to remain topical for a long time and make them into a book with updating information appended, as needed. They all deal with the theme of our environment and health.

But besides informing readers on environmental issues, this book is also a tool. Here is a mass of information and ammunition for patients and activists—who often are both. You may photostat and distribute anything that is useful to you in this book without my express permission, as long as you give appropriate credits. In fact, I hope many readers will take to the warpath with this book.

Reporting on Crime and Progress

The job of the journalist is to ask: “Is this really true?”

Unlike the Official Opposition in a government which questions, in line with its own party’s principles, whatever the party in power is doing, a journalist is supposed to question the whole scene, including the opposition parties and their motives, and whoever is involved with the whole lot of them. The job of journalism is to question power, the status quo, and to doubt the reality of all appearances, in politics and all other human endeavors as well. Journalists work to minimize the powers of deception. There are great examples of what that looks like in the work of people like Linda McQuaig, CBC Radio’s Michael Enright, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ed Finn and colleagues, Michelle Landsberg, some fabulous people at CBC and the Toronto Daily Star, and blockbuster truth-sayers like Michael Moore of “Fahrenheit 9/11” fame, and Joel Bakan and the team that helped him make the documentary “The Corporation” (to name just a few of my heroes that come to mind; this is not intended to be a representative list which would be far too long).

But just as there are a few great doctors and a great many on automatic pilot, journalism has a lot of sheep and not so many lions. The jury isn’t out, and perhaps never will be, on what’s worse in any walk of life: active evil or tepid mediocrity.

For example, the research of Professor Joel Lexchin at York University in Toronto has shown that when it comes to reporting on pharmaceuticals, the media (even frequently the classiest among them) tend to take the press release from a drug company with all its propaganda, outright lies, and blatant sale’s pitch, and publish it as fact. No nasty questions asked! (See section 5.)

Admittedly, the members of the media face the same problem as the individual: one often simply cannot believe that things could possibly be as corrupt as they really are. The learning curve involved in the recognition of evil is the steepest of all learning curves one encounters in life. Section 6 deals with this issue.

I remember an incident in 1999 when representatives of Citizens for Choice in Health Care and I were asked for a meeting with the health editors of the Toronto Daily Star. We had been providing them with information on serious problems in the medical licensing authority of Ontario that was, if true and if not exposed but allowed to continue unchecked, going to adversely affect the public interest in a big way. So, the editors asked to meet with us and discuss the possibility of publishing a series of articles designed to report on the failure of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to act in accordance with its mandate. Ontario, having more doctors than the rest of Canada combined, basically sets the tone for the medical status quo in the country, so if there is something rotten at the CPSO, it is rather important.

The information we had available included many aspects of the CPSO’s work and the contents of our files pretty much sizzled. Suddenly, one of the editors freaked right out. He burst out, “Are you telling me that I am supposed to believe the CPSO is not protecting my health and acting in the public interest? I can’t accept that!” We were unable to answer this outburst, because he stormed out of the room. As a professional journalist he was supposed to become alert and interested at the mere possibility of wrongdoing. He was supposed to doubt that the CPSO, and all other institutions for that matter, are actually functioning the way they say they do. When he was gone, one of the fortunately more hard-boiled editors in the room said, “Don’t worry about what just happened, let’s get on with the info.”

The Star decided to run with it. What we provided them with was just one major strand of the story (when something is rotten, there is always more than one witness available), including access to whistleblowers from within the CPSO, that resulted in the series “Medical Secrets”. Over a period of two years, a whole lot of doctors from hell were exposed, who had caused tremendous damage, but were protected by the CPSO, often for many years and following many formal and well-documented complaints. The Star’s articles resulted in these doctors losing their licenses and many legal actions being initiated by patients. At one point, the then Minister of Health for Ontario, Tony Clement, even phoned one of the principal reporters, Robert Cribb, to thank him for this effort and encouraged him to continue the expose, as such reporting was essential support for government reform. Clement then went on to do some much-needed clean-ups at the CPSO. Not nearly enough, but it was a great start.

Another off-shoot of this effort was the production of the Glasnost Report in 2001 by a group of medical organizations and patient groups. In Section 5 you can read all about that, and if you want to follow the leads provided there, you can read the Star series in the Internet. The Ontario story has its counterpart in the corruption in Health Canada’s drug regulatory activity characterized by a near-total disregard for the existing legislation. The details of the public’s demand to have these laws obeyed are described as well in Section 5 and 8.

The deception journalism is charged with exposing has many forms (Sections 5 and 6). Thus I may find myself interviewing a medical scientist who has become fully aware of one aspect of a deception and is appropriately outraged by it—such as a drug company hiding critical, potentially harmful research evidence under the subterfuge of “proprietary information”, but that doctor may be unaware of the fact that the research into that specific medical problem was itself a deceptive exercise and totally unnecessary, because a cheaper, safer, possibly non-drug and far more effective treatment for that condition already exists. The current scandal involving the antidepressants, the SSRIs comes to mind. (SSRIs are so-called Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors like Prozac.) See Section 6. It all depends on the doctor’s training, how aware he or she is of a generally unconscious allegiance to a specific medical ideology, and what journals he or she regularly reads. Deception feeds on and counts on the presence of ignorance, and ignorance by definition simply means not knowing. Of course, the journalist is equally likely to be ignorant, as we all are.

A whole book on examples of this type of situation could be written—showing how the deception may include the drug sales representative who pushes a drug she might sincerely believe in, while being deceived herself by the manufacturer’s marketing departments; the scientist who write the supporting literature is likely duped as well by raw data supplied in a deceptive, incomplete, or doctored manner by the manufacturer; and the patients in the trial from which the raw data came are also duped or have had their information distorted. The combinations and interconnections of these patterns are so varied and intricate, that the journalist can only hope to expose just one lie at a time.

So—this isn’t easy. North on the journalist’s moral and professional compass is where the question “Is this really true?” is found. That’s all we have to go by and it works very well if we aren’t afraid to follow where this compass leads us.

This web of deception sticks to everything that has to do with environment and health, the topic of this book. Drugs and their power to harm in the long run, while controlling symptoms in the short term, have now become an environmental problem as well, because they pollute the water, and not being bio-degradable, enter the bodies of people and animals for whom they were not prescribed, thereby doing a great deal of irreversible harm. I have explored this in more detail in my book Hippocrates in the Land of Oz (Kos 2004).

Cancer is the quintessential environmental disease. Only a cancer-promoting environment can cause its appearance. Even the genetically anchored forms of cancer and all chronic diseases, from asthma to multiple sclerosis, need a toxic chemical, heavy metals or a nutrient-deficient diet to trigger them. Just as all life can only exist within a very narrow range of temperature, humidity, and delicately tuned combination of gases, so health can only be maintained within a narrow range of essentials. Section 3 is devoted to cancer.

Even Down’s Syndrome and many other genetically anchored diseases, require as prerequisites mothers deprived of important cellular nutrients (from what passes as food these days) to disrupt fetal development. It’s really very simple: something never comes from nothing. Or, in the words of Hippocrates, the father of scientific medicine who lived in ancient Greece two thousand five hundred years ago, “Each disease has a natural cause, and nothing happens without a natural cause.” (Science of Medicine, Hippocratic Writings). Sections 1, 2 and 3 will introduce you to some of what science knows about food, environmental toxins and disease.

However, the most serious and continuous exposure to environmental toxins comes from that cocktail of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, heavy metals, radioactive waste, and antibiotics in our food, water, air, soil and from the subsequent food-processing, transportation and serving methods that further poison us and kill the nutrients our health and survival depend upon. Almost all of these substances are put into our bodies without our knowledge or consent and virtually none have been tested for safety; if they had—they wouldn’t be in our environment. The same now also applies to childhood vaccines, which is why my article on autism (Section 4) is included in this collection.

Section 7 is devoted to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity whose victims throughout the industrialized world are fighting to have MCS recognized so that both treatment and legal compensation are possible. I am involved in this effort in Canada.

The good fortune is that medical science largely understands the nature of the damage from these chemicals, solvents and heavy metals, and the pathways have been determined by which they kill, or cause disease, or initiate birth defects. There is even a branch of medicine that started in the 1940s—when the chemical era itself began—which has systematically developed treatments and often cures, namely Environmental Medicine. Harvard Medical School has an entire department devoted to it, as do all major European universities. In the US, the UK, Germany and Japan hospitals exist that exclusively deal with environmental illness. Among the various medical journals reporting on the research of environmental medicine, the leading English-language ones are the Archives of Environmental Health and Environmental Health Perspectives in the US, and the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine in the UK.

The reason the articles in this book are like dispatches from a war-zone is because doctors who treat people damaged by this human-made toxic environment are taking on more than just a patient. The diagnosis, successful treatment and demonstrable recovery of each patient—repeated in thousands of cases—amount to a condemnation of the very basis of the world’s economy. All good medicine is, in principle, a practical moral force counteracting the abuse of humanity. Good medicine is at war with this chemical abuse.

However, when medicine becomes a business, as it now basically has become, it is in grave danger of becoming also an abuser. Medicine has become part of the sickness industry and often unconsciously, but also knowingly, has become part of that sinister aspect of the world’s wealth-creating systems which create and maintain dependence. Nobody is more vulnerable to the almost always false advertising in medicine and the many useless and often harmful therapies than a seriously ill person. As the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, puts it in her new book, The Truth About The Drug Companies, “If prescription drugs are so good, why do they need to be pushed so hard? The answer is that good drugs don’t have to be promoted very much. A genuinely important drug…sells itself.”

While the marketing machine dupes patients into making billion dollar profits for the drug companies, the really curative therapies are consistently hidden from them by that same marketing machine that seeks to protect its largely useless products by ensuring the indoctrination of doctors and patients with pompous (self-serving) definitions of “scientific” medicine, as opposed to “unproven” or “alternative” therapies (whose medicines are un-patentable and hence unprofitable). The trouble for them is that truth does not support obscene profits, only lies do. A patient cured is a patient lost to business; as one overhead graphically showed in the March 2004 Canadian Forum on Pharmaceutical Marketing: “As a marketer, which is better for business? Steady continuous use of your drug, OR occasional use of your drug?” (Emphasis in the original.)

But there is hope. The fact is that nothing in Nature is uniform and totally predictable. The pessimist thinks he knows it’s all rotten and always will be, but the pessimist is no more omniscient than the optimist. Corrupt organizations have whistleblowers, the promotion of obscene profits always backfires eventually, public outrage and political pressure exerted by organized activists is hugely successful, and everybody eventually trips over the most carefully constructed lies. Sadly, the human cost is horrendous, but helpful information is accumulating at such a fast pace, that more and more people may avail themselves of it before it is too late for them.

The Old Boys’ Club of Standard Medicine is also wising up rapidly. I don’t predict a perfect world of medicine for the near future, but Spring is in the air: I am impressed by the awakening of professional pride that won’t put up with the sleaze anymore. In March 2004, the Canadian Medical Association hammered Health Canada and rebuked it for outright corruption. The CMA says Health Canada is complicit in “too often keeping quiet about buried evidence that questions drug safety and effectiveness.”

The international committee of medical journal editors first laid down the law in September 2001 on conflicts of interest issues for the authors of research articles. Since close to 90% of all researchers are funded in some way by industry, this didn’t work out too well and the sleaze continued. So they decided to go to the source of the mess and address the pharmaceutical industry itself, which has corrupted all research to a greater or lesser degree, so that basically there isn’t a therapy or a drug on the market that isn’t at least in part based on or tainted by fraud. The medical editors issued a statement published in all those major journals in their September 2004 issues. This informs the industry that they must register all their clinical trials from day one. What this means is, that they can no longer report only the data with industry-favoring results (or just their favorable-looking segments) and conveniently hide data revealing bad outcomes. This way, it is hoped with some justification, both the researcher and the sponsor will have to clean up their act. Obviously, this will benefit patients and the true toxicity of drugs and their lack of effectiveness may be revealed in time. It is hoped that this will then also give a chance for really useful research to be done and published.

Following the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2001 Hudson Decision, which asserted the right of municipalities to determine whether or not to use pesticides within their boundaries, Canada also got new federal pesticide legislation. Both events provide reasons for optimism, especially since so many municipalities are fighting now to get by-laws passed that will stop the cosmetic use of pesticides and herbicides, and the whole of Quebec has already done so. All this activity to make our environment life-supporting again was assisted in a most timely manner in May 2004 by the report from the Ontario College of Family Physicians on the cosmetic use of pesticides and their causal role in childhood leukemia, asthma, cancer and neurological diseases.

As for the fight against disease-promoting foods, Italy has just passed a law that requires all educational institutions, from kindergarten to universities, to serve only 100% organic foods. Italy obviously has understood that investing in the future of the human brain begins with food capable of nourishing developing brains. This is just one of many examples of positive action. The stories in Section 7 deal with events that show that people are taking charge of their health and understand the political nature of medicine today.

I believe there is such a thing as progress and that we may experience it daily, if we wish, that we may cause it as well as participate in it, and that we can access its sources if we want to. Yes, that requires knowledge and the willingness to pursue information and go where it leads—to find out for yourself. I hope these articles provide a nice chunk of useful information to get you started.

We can choose not to be the fodder for other people’s political ambitions, financial profit, or scientific ideology. We need not believe what we are told, even when we are told it in good faith, because we may be confident that even well-meaning people could be duped. We can choose to doubt. One of my favorite sayings is found in the 5th century BC Taoist text, The Chuang Tzu: “The sage steers by Chaos and Doubt.”

I write in the hope of causing liberating disillusionment in at least some of my readers, and in order to offer them some tools to explore further and strike out on their own. Trust in authority, or herd mentality, in medicine always ends in injury and death. Hippocrates said, “A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession and learn how to treat his illnesses by his own judgment.” The rest is up to you.


Sources of some of the ideas touched upon above which are worthy of your exploration:

M. Angell, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It, Random House, 2004

J. Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Viking, 2004

M.N. Cohen, Health and the Rise of Civilization, Yale University, 1989

R. Firshein, The Nutraceutical Revolution, Penguin Bantam, 1998

J. Krop, Healing the Planet One Patient At A Time: A Primer in Environmental Medicine. 2nd ed., Kos Publishing Inc., 2003

M. Lappe, The Tao of Immunology, Plenum, 1997

M. Lappe, Evolutionary Medicine: Rethinking the Origins of Disease, Sierra Club Books, 1994

R. Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity, W.W. Norton, 1997

P. Radetsky, Allergic to the Twentieth Century: The Explosion in Environmental Allergies—From Sick Buildings to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Little Brown * Co, 1997

S. Steingraber, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks At Cancer, 2nd ed. Vintage Books, 1998

S. Rampton & J. Stauber, Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future, Tarcher Putnam, 2001

M. Walker, Elements of Danger: Protect Yourself Against the Hazards of Modern Dentistry, Hampton Roads, 2001

Dispatches From the War Zone of Environmental Health


Peter Rothbard M. D. | Hilary A. Balmer R. N.
Rohini Periz | Julia Woodford

“Helke Ferrie’s investigative research into ethical issues in Canadian medicine has been a source of great interest to me and many of my colleagues for several years. As medicine has unfortunately become contaminated with agendas other than patient care, her work has been most helpful to those of us who wish to reform medicine and keep it patient-centered. I highly recommend this book to doctors and the general public alike.”

OMA Chair, Chronic Pain Section

“Helke Ferrie’s extensive work is meticulously researched and always supported with comprehensive bibliographies. Her journalism articulates honesty, unflagging courage and an unshakable belief that truth and enlightenment will ultimately prevail.”

Executive Director, RAINET

“It has been a great help to us, who work towards a pesticide-free environment, and to victims of MCS, to have in Helke Ferrie a journalist who helps make the public aware of the urgency for pesticide reform and need for environmental medicine.”

Vice President, The Allergy and Environmental
Health Association of Quebec (AEHAQ)
Director of Communications,
The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CAP), Quebec

“Helke Ferrie’s fearless and hard-hitting accounts of mainstream medical malfeasance are invaluable contributions to Vitality Magazineand to the many readers who rely on her columns every month. Without her writing we would be missing an important element in the movement to wrest control of our health from the allopathic gatekeepers.”

Vitality Magazine

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