Friday, September 30, 2011

Pompano Beach Under Boil Water Order Today - But How Safe is Any Miami Area Tap Water? New Report On Cancer Chemical in Miami's Water

Over in Pompano Beach, a six-inch line burst and everyone living there is under a "boil water order" for the next couple of days -- it's not safe to drink the water in Pompano Beach until a few water samples test clean, and right now they're not. Eww.

Is Hexavalent Chromium in Miami's Tap Water?
However, the bigger news story is how safe is Miami's water overall? Or anywhere here in South Florida? Because reports have been released that the tap water in 31 of the 35 cities tested by the Environmental Working Group contain hexavalent chromium.

In case that doesn't sound scary enough for you, then watch Erin Brockovich one more time -- that's the stuff that was in the groundwater and killing everyone.

Miami Tap Water May Be Unsafe
According to the Miami New Times, this cancer-causing chemical (carcinogen) IS in Miami's tap water. The new study found Miami had 0.04 ppb of chromium-6, which is less than the minimum set in California as a safe amount to have in your drinking water. Some may think this is okay, some may not.

If you are concerned about this, then consider buying filters and cleaning your water before you drink it or bathe in it (because your skin will absorb chemicals as you bathe or shower, of course).

There are a number of companies that sell water filters for residential use that take out carcinogens, we won't promote one company over another here. Another possible purchase? A water testing kit. So you can verify for yourself how safe your water is to drink.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 21, 2010 6:51 PM

Today's Recall of Breast Cancer Drug Avastin: Scandalous FDA Drug Recall That Many Deem "Death Panel" Decision

The Sun-Sentinel is one of a huge number of news media sources covering today's announced recall by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Avastin, a drug designed for breast cancer treatment. (Read the FDA Announcement here.)

The FDA's reason? "Drug not shown to be safe and effective in breast cancer patients."

Already, there is a growing outcry across the country:
Here's the key, Miami: for some folk, this drug helps. It's one thing for the FDA to monitor and regulate bad drugs or defective products -- but what about those cancer patients who find that Avastin helps them?

Is this the beginning of the death panels?
And, why isn't the FDA spending more time cleaning up the greed that we have overwhelming evidence of (see our posts here), reining in Big Pharma?

Finally, no. You can't sue the FDA. As much as there are many personal injury attorneys out there that would love to help women already fighting breast cancer in their fight to keep Avastin, under the doctrine of "sovereign immunity," you cannot sue the FDA for their actions. No matter how much you would like to do so.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 16, 2010 10:39 AM

Miami Dentists and Mercury Fillings: FDA Revisits Whether Traditional Amalgam Dental Fillings Are Safe

Mercury is a metal that is toxic for humans. Mercury has been part of those metal fillings that dentists put into your teeth when you have cavities -- and they've been doing this for the past 150 years. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally began revisiting its March 2009 assertion that mercury dental fillings were safe.

This isn't something that the FDA does very often, so why are they bothering with dental amalgams? Because lots of people think they aren't safe -- as in, they can seriously injure and kill people.

Other Countries Ban or Severely Limit Mercury Fillings for Dental Cavities
Mercury fillings are banned in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. In Canada, France, Germany, and Italy, mercury fillings are legally limited. In each of these countries, mercury amalgams are not to be used for dental patients who are kids; women who are either pregnant or breast feeding; anyone suffering from kidney problems; and people with a sensitivity to mercury.

What's the big deal?
Apparently, the FDA decided to have a meeting on this issue because of the Petition for Reconsideration it received from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT). The petition challenged the FDA's research and its assumptions regarding mercury usage, and included analysis that mercury vapor from dental fillings is transfered from the fillings in a person's mouth into every organ of their body -- and this absorption by the brain could result in Alzheimer's disease or worse. From Matthew Young DDS, IAOMT President:

"The cumulative dose and health effects of mercury from all sources will eventually force a ban on all optional use of this toxic metal. Mercury based fillings are the greatest contributor to mercury exposure in humans according to this recent risk assessment and the World Health Organization's Mercury Policy Report."

What Should You Do?
If you or your loved ones have had cavities filled, then odds are high that you have mercury in your mouth. Many dentists will tell you this is not a problem, and that it's just not scientific to think otherwise. Still, it's your life and your teeth, so you be the judge.

If you have dental amalgams in your mouth, you can consider having them removed. Read more about that process here. If you need a filling, then consider the options: gold, composite resins, or porcelain fillings are all available to you.

And, if you are having symptoms of illness -- nauseous, fever, headaches, a general feeling or malaise, dizzyness, earaches, etc. then remember, it may be a dental issue. Trust your instincts and get help from a health professional, and if a dentist has been at fault remember -- the law is there for you: dentists can be held liable for malpractice just like doctors can.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 14, 2010 10:26 AM

Miami Car Accidents - Please Don't Become One of the Crash Statistics This Holiday Season

Just reading the news today, December 9, 2010, and you'll learn about several local car crashes where Miamians died - all in the past 24-hour period:

Think about this: you're riding your bike. You're walking along the road, crossing a street. You're driving home alone on a weeknight. You and your buddies are enjoying a fun time, going along in two cars, and you park on the side of the road - to check the map, to argue about where to eat dinner, maybe to count your cash to see if you can all afford to go to the movies or fill up the tank.

Then, out of nowhere, you're in a car crash. A fatal car crash. You're not here to read this post today.
It is foolish to assume that you or a loved one are not vulnerable to a motor vehicle accident at any time, but particularly this time of year. During the holiday season, Miami deals not just with the day to day stresses of life, but the added emotions of this time of year. Excitement. Stress. Depression. Fun. Frustration. Happy. Sad.

And all these emotions impact everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car, or truck, or minivan. So be careful out there, Miami. Wear your seat belt, don't speed, don't drive drunk, and watch out for the other guy - even more than usual.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 9, 2010 1:24 PM

What Miami Needs to Know About the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act

Focusing upon the dangers of drugs that the Miami Beach community trust and use regularly (at least that we trusted in the past), it's easy to forget that the FDA is the FOOD and Drug Administration and that food safety laws are also in place.

Because food sold in the marketplace can be just as dangerous as any defective drug product. Example? The egg recalls a couple of months back.

Federal Food Safety Modernization Act Passes Senate
So, it's good to know that the federal government has decided to pay attention to food safety, and right now there are bills going through both the House and Senate that focus upon insuring that the food we buy to eat is indeed safe for all of us. The Senate, in fact, just passed its Food Safety Enhancement Act, and you can follow its progress here (S.510). It's the first major food safety legislation passed in Congress since 1938.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed by both Democrats and Republicans - not an everyday event these days - and President Obama has already voiced his approval of the proposed new law. The Miami Herald has just issued its editorial, approving of the Act's passage.

What will the new federal food law do? First, it will up the number of FDA inspections of food facilities that serve the U.S.A. - even if they are outside the nation's borders - and it includes a list of 50,000 facilities that would be reviewed between now and 2015. (There's been lots of criticism for the lack of FDA inspections of food plants in the past, something that really hit the spotlight with this fall's egg recalls.)

Second, it will empower the FDA to force recalls of food that is found to be contaminated in some way. Right now, shockingly, usually the FDA doesn't have the clout to force food from store shelves, and has to depend upon the food suppliers to voluntarily recall their own products. The new law will expand the FDA's ability to force an early and broad recall of dangerous food items - or even food that is suspicious, and might prove to be dangerous to eat or drink.

Food in Miami
Here in Miami, we're like the rest of the country: we go into the grocery store and just assume that what we choose to buy is good quality, safe stuff for us. Okay, maybe it's high calorie. Maybe it's junk food. Not the most nutritious stuff for any of us, but still not something that's going to hurt us when we eat it. As we've learned in the news recently, that's not always the case.

However, our community relies upon food safety for more than just our own kitchens or fast food runs or dining out for lunch or dinner. Miami is a big tourist mecca, and we're proud of our beautiful ocean front location as well as our festive, fun atmosphere. Our visitors come here to enjoy themselves, and we serve them food and beverages that they trust will be safe for them -- they trust Miami just like we trust our grocery store.

So, here's to making food safer here and around the country. And, as always we advise: trust your gut (no pun intended). If you buy a food or drink that you question, don't use it. Check the FDA site, call the store where you bought it. And, if you or a loved one is injured by a tainted food item, don't delay in getting medical attention -- and if necessary, legal help.

Because while there are laws being passed now as preventative measures, there are already lots of laws on the books to bring justice for those who are harmed or killed by defective food and drink items. Use them.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 7, 2010 10:18 AM

Mylanta Recall by Johnson & Johnson - A Company With 12+ Product Recalls in Recent History. Wow.

Well, Miami, this is great news -- right after the Thanksgiving feast and just before the New Year's Eve blowouts, Mylanta's been recalled. That's right: over 12 million bottles of Mylanta, that popular over the counter heartburn medication, were pulled from shelves yesterday, along with 85,000 bottles of AlternaGel antacid, in a voluntary recall by Johnson & Johnson.

What's the problem? Seems Mylanta and AlternaGel have small amounts of alcohol in them, but that's not reported on the product label.

This would be a serious recall for any drug manufacturer, but consider this: in recent history, Johnson & Johnson has issued over 12 recalls that have involved over 60 products. This totals to 200,000,000+ bottles of Johnson & Johnson products that have been put out for sale in the marketplace and then recalled by the manufacturer. And, this was for very popular stuff, too: Tylenol, Motrin, Rolaids ....

Miami, remember: recalls are one thing - actually being safe from this stuff is another. Check your shelves at home in case your bottle of Tylenol or your box of Rolaids - or now, your bottle of Mylanta - is part of the recalled product list. Because recalls don't pull all these products: importantly, they don't cover those that have already been SOLD.

Once again, another fact to add to the warning that we've been giving the Miami community and elsewhere for a couple of months now: we cannot blindly trust prescription drugs or over the counter medicines in this country.

By Bryant Esquenazi on December 2, 2010 11:58 AM

Hey, Miami: Vote Now on New Graphic Photos Placed by FDA as Warnings on Cigarette Packaging: Warning - These are Disturbing to Some

The Food & Drug Administration is asking those of us here in Miami Beach, as well as the rest of the country, to take the time and give them feedback on the new proposed rule regarding what health warnings appear on cigarette packages.

From Friday, November 12, 2010 to Tuesday, January 11, 2011, we can all submit our thoughts to the FDA on what they are proposing be placed on cigarette packaging: and warning, these photos are shocking.

New Federal Law Requires More Graphic Warning Images Be Put on Cigarette Packages (and in Cigarette Ads)
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) is already law -- and it requires that cigarette packaging as well as advertising have bigger and easier to see graphic health warnings.

And by "graphic health warning," we mean scary icky images that are put in a prominent spot on the cigarette package, like the FDA example shown here.

Proposed FDA Rule Will Require the Chosen Images To Accompany Various Warnings
To put the new law into action, the FDA has issued its proposed rule, Required Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements. This rule will change the current warnings to nine (9) new warning statements that must be given next to selected color graphics that intentionally provide images of the negative health consequences of smoking. All this has to be done and the new packages on store shelves by June 22, 2011.

Proposed Graphic Health Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements
To see all the various selections, check out the FDA website where all these images and their warnings are shown. The image above is one of several proposed to go with the warning "Smoking Can Kill You." And yes, that's a corpse shown in the graphic image. An alternative? A dead man laying in a coffin.

Want to tell the FDA what you think? Here's How.
Go to and insert docket number FDA-2010-N-0568 into the "search" box and follow the instructions there, or go the old school way and send a fax to 301-827-6870. If you're really non-techno, then mail a letter to: Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Don't forget to include the Docket ID No. FDA-2010-N-0568 in whatever form of message you choose.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 30, 2010 1:18 PM

The Mazda SeatBelt Case: Will the U.S. Supreme Court Remove Federal Protection From Car Makers in Wrongful Death Cases?

The U.S. Supreme Court has a very important decision to make regarding your ability to sue manufacturers for injuries sustained by their products, specifically personal injury wrongful death in car crashes. It's a biggie.

The Justices just heard the lawyers' oral arguments in the wrongful death case of Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc. (08-1314) and their decision is expected to come down sometime during Spring 2011. (Read the briefs and listen to the oral argument here, at the High Court's official website). Across the country, plaintiffs' lawyers and insurance defense firms are monitoring this case with great anticipation.

Why Williamson is a big deal to all of us: our right to sue for damages is at issue
Back in 2002, Thanh Williamson, 32, was riding in the center of the rear passenger seat of a Mazda 1993 MPV minivan when there was a crash. Mrs. Williamson was twisted and bent by the lap seat belt she was wearing, sustaining serious internal injuries. Mrs. Williamson died as a result, and her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mazda, as the maker of the minvan.

In the wrongful death case, Mazda has stood by its legal defense that at the time of the car wreck, Mazda met the safety regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2002, only a lap belt was required for that rear passenger seat according to 2000 federal law. It was only in 2007 that the regulations changed to require shoulder strap seat belts here.
Mazda has relied upon the old federal law to protect itself against financial responsibilty for the death of Mrs. Williamson, a monetary award which it would undoubtedly otherwise have to pay under state wrongful death law.

What the Supreme Court will tell us is if Mazda, and other manufacturers, can hide behind federal law when they are sued for wrongful death liability under state law (i.e., will federal preemption apply). If a majority of the Justices agree, then the Williamson case may mean that you or someone you know will be able to seek justice from car manufacturers (and arguably other manufacturers as well) for personal injury and wrongful death even if the cars (or other products) involved in the accidents technically met federal safety law requirements in effect at the time.

Will the Supreme Court rule in favor of plainfiffs hurt or killed by unsafe products? Will it side with the big corporations with savvy defense lawyers who argue legal tecnicalities? Williamson is a case that impacts all of us: we'll see what happens.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 27, 2010 11:00 AM

ER Visits by Babies Dropped by 50% After Infant Cold Medicine Recalls - Read the New CDC Study Just Published in Pediatrics

A new CDC report was published online by Pediatrics magazine yesterday, revealling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that after drug manufacturers recalled all those infant cold medicine products from the marketplace, emergency rooms (ERs) across the country saw the number of visits by babies and infants up to 2 years old DROP BY HALF. (Read the full CDC report in Pediatrics here as a pdf download.)

Remember the Infant Cold Medicine Recalls?
Around three years ago (2007), after more and more chatter about the dangers of infant cold and cough over the counter medicines, there was a huge voluntary recall by the drug companies taking all the OTC medications for kids from newborn to 4 years old off the shelf.

Seems the Food & Drug Administration was becoming more and more suspicious that these children cold and cough medicines were harmful to the growing respiratory systems of tiny ones -- and issued its opinion that infants, babies, or toddlers shouldn't be given OTC cold and cough medicine. The FDA didn't recall, though: the companies voluntarily did this pulling of product - the FDA opinion came out MONTHS AFTER the companies recalled their products themselves.

Another Example of Our Message: Do Not Blindly Trust Over the Counter Medicines
These new CDC findings are important and worthy of our concern and consideration -- but the bigger message remains: Miami, drugs and medicines are simply products made and sold by big companies for a profit. You cannot blindly trust that they are safe. It's a fact proven time and again.

If you or a loved one has taken a prescription drug or over the counter medicine and you have a gut call that something's not right -- don't dismiss it. Get to a doctor or an ER and make sure that everything's okay, or get help if it's not.

And, once again, Miami -- there are laws out there that apply to bad drugs and greedy drug companies. Use them.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 23, 2010 12:45 PM

Florida Four Loko Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Fun in the Sun Gone Bad as College Kid Dies

Florida is supposed to be a fun place: here in Miami we take pride in being a favorite vacation destination for young and old alike.

The Unnecessary and Tragic Death of Jason Keiran After Partying With Four Loko (under $3/can)
Which makes the death of 20 year-old college student Jason Keiran all the more tragic: apparently after drinking a lot of an alcoholic product called Four Loko and marketed as a festive beverage to the young and young at heart (read that "partiers"), Mr. Keiran was playing around, put a .22-caliber pistol to his head, and fired. (It's reported that Four Loko had a street nickname of "blackout in a can.")

So sad. So unnecessary.
Jason Keiran died on a day of partying in Tallahassee almost two months ago now. At first, as it should be, the focus of family and friends was on this horrific incident and their loss. Their grief. Saying goodbye.

But justice is patient, and this week, the news focus is moving toward the maker of Four Loko, and how the heck this product contributed to the death of this young man. Where did the system fail Jason and his loved ones?

Jason Keiran bought lots of Four Loko at a Tallahassee store. Witnesses report that Jason was drinking Four Loko all day on the day of his death. Apparently, Jason liked Four Loko: witnesses will testify that he told them that even though it was an alcoholic drink, he "felt fine" because of its caffeine component.

Which is the problem.
Experts have come forward now to explain that when you put big amounts of caffeine together with alcohol, the caffeine blocks the human body's ability to recognize being drunk - the person doesn't realize how soused they are - and the natural inclination to avoid risky behavior is impaired. Hence, the playing around with the pistol that day.

Four Loko itself is supposed to have 12% alcohol content as well as three (3) times the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. It's fruit-flavored and sold for under $3. Quite a cheap high - perfect for a college kid vacationing on a budget.

Jason Keiran Wrongful Death Suit Has Been Filed
On November 12, 2010, Jason's father and mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Orange County, Florida, suing Phusion Projects Inc. under Florida's Wrongful Death law (for details on that statute, see our previous post).

And only after they grieved, and then moved forward with this litigation, did the Kieran family see the federal government react to the dangers they understand all too well from alcohol-caffeine drinks like Four Loco. Just yesterday, on November 17, 2010, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to Phusion Projects, Inc. and three other companies who make similar kinds of beverages (see the warning letter here).

FDA Warning Letter Sent Re: Four Loco and Similar Drinks
The warning letters applies to the following companies and the following products:
  • Core High Gravity HG by Charge Beverages Corp.
  • Core High Gravity HG Orange by Charge Beverages Corp.
  • Lemon Lime Core Spiked by Charge Beverages Corp.
  • Moonshot made by New Century Brewing Co., LLC
  • Four Loko made by Phusion Projects, LLC (doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.)
  • Joose made by United Brands Company Inc.
  • Max made by United Brands Company Inc.

It's reported that the FDA warning letters may well close the currently popular alcoholic energy drink industry nationwide.

To be fair, the FDA wasn't hiding behind the log here: they were investigating Four Loco and its bretheren for over a year (remember our post on FDA online notices of potential dangers?). Now, the FDA efforts will hopefully ban these dangerous drinks (which are, of course, really tasty liquid drugs).

It's too late for Jason, though, and perhaps others like him across the country who were harmed by these types of festive alcoholic beverages. However, it's not too late to seek justice and vindication from the 27 or so manufacturers who put these dangers out into the marketplace -- and from what we've seen lately, hitting corporate pocketbooks is the only thing that some companies seem to understand. No one stopped making Four Loco or similar drinks after Jason died two months ago, did they?

Once again, Miami remember -- just because a product is on the shelf doesn't mean it's safe. And, if you've been harmed there are laws in place to fight against these types of injuries. Use them.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 18, 2010 11:33 AM

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month - Miami, Do You Know the Signs of Lung Cancer?

According to the Center for Disease Control, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States. More than 200,000 die each year in the U.S. from lung cancer, and smoking is known to be the cause of almost all these deaths (80-90%).

Meanwhile, here in Miami we're a fun vacation town -- and there's lots of people here who enjoy their smoking habit. You may be one of them.

So, Miami - do you know the signs of lung cancer?
Lung cancer can hit smokers and non-smokers alike. Did you know that you can be a victim of lung cancer from secondhand smoke? Here are some things to watch out for (and here's a scary fact - for some, there are no early warning symptoms at all):
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing that doesn't go away.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Chest pain.
  • Repeated respiratory infections (e.g., bronchitis or pneumonia).

It's one thing to voluntarily smoke and put yourself at risk. Stop it! However, if you are employed here in Florida or otherwise forced to be near secondhand smoke, then the law may be very different for you.

Smokers Are Welcome in Miami
In Miami, for example, current law requires all restaurants, including those with bars attached to them, to be 100% smokefree. However, if the establishment is a freestanding bar, earning 10% or less of its income from food (in other words, around 90% from alcoholic beverages, etc.) then there are NO smoking restrictions. Here in Miami, you are also free to smoke in hotel rooms and motels, too.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
If you or someone you care about is exhibiting any of these symptoms listed above, get to a doctor and have things checked out. You can't be too careful when it comes to something as dangerous as lung cancer.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 16, 2010 11:25 AM

Thursday, September 29, 2011

GlaxoSmithKline Lawyer Lauren Stevens Charged With Federal Crimes: Miami, Can We Blindly Trust the Drugs We Take?

The blind trust in prescription drugs (and OTC medicines) that we here in Miami Beach as well as elsewhere across the country have may be very much misplaced, and the more lawsuits that are filed, the more obvious the scullduggery appears to be.

Last week, we were pondering the number of cases filed by former drug company employees, whistleblowing about the bad stuff they were seeing happening regarding both prescription drugs as well as over the counter medicines. Part of that involved GlaxoSmithKline admitting guilt to a crime and paying over $750,000,000 in settlement of both criminal and civil claims against it.

Miami and the Nation - We Are All So Dependent Upon the Integrity of Doctors and Drug Companies
Drugs that we take, and give our loved ones, we're thinking that doctors know best and that these medicines will help them get better, and have less pain as they recover. We're all so dependent upon the kindness (and integrity) of strangers here, aren't we?

Well, now there's a new battlefield in the war against dishonest drug companies as the federal government has brought a criminal action against Lauren Stevens, 60, in-house attorney for Glaxo Smith Kline. (Read the complete news release by the Justice Department here.) According to the New York Times, filing criminal charges against Ms. Stevens is part of the federal government's "long-promised crackdown" on pharmaceutical company executives.

Glaxo Smith Kline's lawyer has been charged by the Department of Justice with:
  • one (1) count of obstructing an official proceeding
  • one (1) count of concealing and falsifying documents to influence a federal agency and
  • four (4) counts of making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The first two charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The four charges of making false statements each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKilne wasn't named in the indictment and so far, hasn't been charged with a crime by the feds.

Do you use drugs made by GlaxoSmithKline? Odds are high that you do.
Curious about whether or not you or a loved one takes a drug or medicine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline? Easy enough to check, just go down the list of drugs and vaccines they have listed on their web site. On there, you will see such well-known drug products as:
  • Advair
  • Amoxil
  • Avandia
  • Boniva
  • Dexedrine
  • Flonase
  • Lamictal
  • Paxil
  • Valtrex
  • Wellbrutin
  • Zantac
Miami - Be Safe and Be Careful
As always, please remember that if you have a gut instinct that something isn't right with a pill or capsule or syrup - call your doctor. (Don't just automatically stop taking the medication until you speak with a health care professional, however, because cold turkey might have its own damaging repercussions.)

If harm has occurred take care of it first - safety and security are number one. After that, consider calling a lawyer. It's becoming glaringly obvious that lawsuits and money damages are what these drug companies respect, not the basic concepts of doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 11, 2010 1:01 PM

Space Heaters Kill People - Yes, Even Here in Sunny Miami

Already it's begun: today's Miami Herald is reporting thatfive kids died in an overnight fire caused by a space heater. Seems that their mother, we have to assume with the best of intentions in caring for her family, set up a space heater to combat the cold snap that hit their home over in Citra. Sometime during the night, a fire started and while the mother survived, her five children ranging in age from 15 to 6 all perished in the blaze.

It Does Get Cold Enough for Space Heaters in South Florida
Most of the country watches TV shows like CSI:Miami and assumes that we're all here in sunny, balmy bliss every month of the year. That's why the snowbirds and vacationers flock to our Miami beaches, right? Well, it's a nice promotional spin but it's not true.

It can get really chilly here in South Florida, and for lots of folks that means running to WalMart or HomeDepot and grabbing a space heater or two for the house. (We've even been known to have runs on stores during cold snaps, these heaters can be so popular.)

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue reports that they generally have a significant increase in fire calls when a cold front hits our area -- and that most of these calls are asking fire trucks to rush to homes (including apartment buildings, condos, etc.) where a fire has started. And, every year there are tragic news stories where people die in these fires -- just like today's sad story out of Citra.

Safety Tips Regarding Space Heaters Here in Miami Beach and South Florida
Using portable heaters in your home is not a bad idea in and of itself: but only if Florida space heater buyers are aware of how dangerous space heaters can be. The Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Safety Tips (for more, check out their informative site) suggest the following regarding space heaters:
  1. Choose electric space heaters and use only those that are UL approved. Look for models that include safety features such as an automatic shut-off when tipped over.
  2. Avoid the use of extension cords with space heaters, but if you must use one, make sure it is the proper size and length. Never run cords under rugs or carpets.
  3. Keep your heater at least three feet away from furniture, curtains and other flammable items.
  4. Install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries regularly.
  5. Never use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices indoors, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide.
  6. Make sure all equipment is clean and dust free.
  7. Keep a close eye on children and pets whenever a space heater is being used.
  8. Always turn off heaters when leaving home.
Defective Products - Space Heaters Recall
Space heaters are just like any other product. They can be defective from the moment you bring them home. What's a defective product? Some products are manufactured with a flaw so that all units sold are defective. Other products are generally fine but there is the occasional unit that has a defect.

Since space heaters can be dangerous, it's important to check online to insure that the particular model you're using hasn't been subject to recall. Don't assume that because it's a reputable name (like Holmes, who had a big space heater recall recently) that your heater is safe. Make sure. This is especially true if you're using a portable heater that someone gave you, that you bought at a yard sale, or that you got for a bargain on eBay.

Be careful out there, Miami.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 9, 2010 11:25 AM

Maybe Dangerous Drugs - the FDA's AERS Online Database: Miami, Are You Aware of This List?

Here in Miami, I'm betting this list is news to many - not to mention folk living elsewhere in the country. However, there it is online and ready for viewing on the FDA's website: the Adverse Events Registry Service (AERS ), where drugs that might be dangerous are listed. That's right -- they're not recalled, they're not pulled from the stores, but they ARE listed here for possible bad juju as reported by someone who had a very bad experience with the prescription drug or over the counter medicine.

The AERS - Adverse Events Registry Service - Reports of Bad Drug Experiences Every Three Months
Online, the federal government is giving you notice of possible bad drugs or OTC medicine by listing reports coming in over a three-month period. Here's the list of medications from April to June 2010 (the latest one available when this post was published):
  • Clindamycin injection (Cleocin)
  • Dronedarone hydrochloride (Multaq)
  • Etonogestrel implant (Implanon)
  • Everolimus (Afinitor)
  • Febuxostat (Uloric)
  • Ferumoxytol injection (Feraheme)
  • GnRH Agonists (Androgen Deprivation Therapy)
  • Lanthanum carbonate (Fosrenol)
  • Omeprazole products
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Saquinavir mesylate (Invirase)
  • Tapentadol hydrochloride (Nucynta)
  • Tetracycline products
  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
These things sound pretty serious: hallucinations (Nucynta), convulsions (Implanon), "Serious cardiac disorders," (Feraheme) - whatever that means. Wow.

FDA Warns About Its Warning
Of course, above this listing there's lots of verbiage explaining things like "[t]he appearance of a drug on this list does not mean that FDA has concluded that the drug has the listed risk." Not to worry, right?

Because, the list just "...means that FDA has identified a potential safety issue, but does not mean that FDA has identified a causal relationship between the drug and the listed risk." Testing, testing, testing for that causal link - gotcha.

And, of course: "... [the] FDA wants to emphasize that the listing of a drug and a potential safety issue on this Web site does not mean that FDA is suggesting prescribers should not prescribe the drug or that patients taking the drug should stop taking the medication. Patients who have questions about their use of the identified drug should contact their health care provider. FDA will complete its evaluation of each potential signal/new safety information and issue additional public communications as appropriate."

Obviously, the FDA has lawyers, too.

Meanwhile, once again please remember that a drug is simply a product entering into the marketplace from a for-profit manufacturer. It can be defective, just like a child's car seat or a car's tire. There are laws in place to protect you and your loved ones from defective drugs -- but most importantly, if you or someone in your family has a concern that an over the counter medication or a prescribed drug is not doing as it should, then get to a doctor and get things checked out.

Be careful out there. It's not smart to be paranoid, but it's equally foolish to be too trusting of a drug these days.

By Bryant Esquenazi on November 4, 2010 2:30 PM