Monday, March 31, 2008

Fwd: Vaccination, Immunization, and Children

In the wisdom of modern medicine, we have created vaccines to "pre-build memory" for our immune systems -- memories of significant diseases we have never had, such as measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria, small pox, etc. Vaccines contain a weakened sterilized version of microorganisms (or proteins from those microorganisms) that is capable of producing an immune response in the body without inducing a full-blown onset of the disease itself. Although vaccines have played a significant role in helping reduce the number of deaths among children, this benefit has not come without cost.
As I mentioned in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, I have a strong emotional attachment to this issue, which makes it impossible for me to be objective. My youngest brother, Peter, was one of those "small percentage" of children who responded badly to the series of immunization shots he received back in the early 60s. I was there after the first two shots when he ran high fevers and cried all night. I was there when my mother called the pediatrician each time, only to be reassured that it was nothing to worry about. And I was there after the third shot, when my mother and I took turns holding Peter and rocking him to try and comfort him as he screamed at the top of his lungs for hours on end, ran a fever of 105, and convulsed. As it turns out, the pediatrician was wrong. My brother, along with thousands of other children (unfortunately, even a small percentage, when applied to a large number, still equals thousands of children), reacted to the shots that ultimately left him severely retarded. Although the manufacturer of the vaccine had indications that this was a possibility, they had not made it clear to the pediatricians who used it. Also, before 1990, doctors were not legally obligated to report adverse reactions to vaccines to the Centers for Disease Control; and, even with the current legal obligation, it's estimated that only 10% of doctors report the damage they see to the CDC. This sort of reaction to a vaccine and this sort of irresponsibility by a pharmaceutical company are not as anomalous as you might think.

Paralytic Polio

The polio vaccine is considered one of the great success stories of modern medicine. Maybe yes, maybe no! Jonas Salk testified before a Senate subcommittee that since 1961, except for a few importations from other countries, all cases of polio have been caused by the Oral Polio Vaccine. In fact, over a number of years, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin each accused the other's vaccine of causing polio. Unfortunately, they were both right!
First, Jonas Salk's vaccine was responsible for one of the worst pharmaceutical disasters ever. Just two weeks after the release of his "miracle" polio vaccine, a series of telephone calls about a strange outbreak of paralysis in children in California started pouring in. In each case, paralysis occurred in the arm that was inoculated with Salk's vaccine, and in each case the vaccine was made by Cutter Laboratories. Cutter's vaccine was immediately recalled, but 380,000 doses had already been administered -- mostly to healthy first- and second-graders. Within months, the Communicable Diseases Center in Atlanta found that Cutter's vaccine had caused 40,000 cases of mild polio, 200 cases of permanent paralysis, and 10 deaths. It was one of the worst pharmaceutical disasters in American history.
But the Salk vaccine was not alone in causing polio. Salk was correct when he implicated the Sabin oral vaccine in causing polio. The oral polio vaccine contains a weakened version of the poliovirus, activating an immune response in the body.  As it turns out, in rare instances, the virus in the vaccine can mutate into a form that can paralyze. When this virus regains the ability to circulate, it is called a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). As I said, it is rare -- about 200 cases in the US over the last decade. But if you're one of those cases, rare doesn't matter.
And finally, there is strong evidence that the original polio epidemic itself in the late 1940s was caused (or at least greatly exacerbated) by another vaccine. The early triple vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus has been shown beyond doubt to cause paralytic polio in some children to whom it was administered. The incidence of polio in children vaccinated with this shot was statistically greater than in unvaccinated children. This scandal broke in Britain during 1949, an epidemic year for polio; other reports soon followed from Australia.


But it's not just polio, there's also SV40, the monkey virus. The polio vaccine that was given to children in the 50s and 60s was not as sterilized as originally thought. In fact, when better test equipment was later used, it was found that there were over 140 live viruses in those early versions of the polio vaccine. This is not speculation. A 1999 study affirmed that unique strains of SV40 in commercial polio vaccines from 1955 were not readily identifiable with then current testing for SV40 infection. With what result? Well for one thing, SV40 is strongly implicated in a number of cancers, including brain cancer.
In 2002, three leading SV40 experts (Drs. Gazdar, Butel and Carbone) published their findings that SV40 should be included in the list of group 2A carcinogens. For perspective, Group 2A includes: Human papilloma virus and Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus/human herpes virus.
In their book, The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed, Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher state that between 1997 and early 2003, more than 25 published studies found SV40 in human mesotheliomas; 16 others found the virus in brain and bone cancers, lymphomas, and other cancers, and in kidneys and peripheral blood. As of 2003, SV40 had been found in human tumors in 18 developed countries. Bookchin and Schumacher claim that the rates of SV40-positive tumors seem highest in countries that used the greatest amount of contaminated Salk polio vaccine, including the UK, USA, and Italy.


In addition to the "active" part of the vaccine, the vaccine includes substances such as ethylene glycol (antifreeze), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), and aluminum…and, of course, thimerosal, the mercury based preservative.
Every couple of months, a new study or medical pronouncement is released "claiming" that thimerosal is safe -- that it doesn't cause autism. But the claims of safety are inaccurate, and the claims related to autism too limited.
Recently, for example, an Argentinean study was released that found, "the levels of thimerosal [in childhood vaccinations] don't go very high and they go down right away. By the time it's time for the next dose of vaccine, the levels are right back to where they were at the beginning." The study found that the half-life of ethyl mercury in the blood -- the time it takes for the body to get rid of half the mercury, and then another half, and so on -- was 3.7 days. That's significantly less than the half-life of methyl mercury, the kind found in fish, at 44 days. Bottom line: according to the study's authors, the study proved that the controversial mercury-containing preservative thimerosal is rapidly excreted from babies' bodies and can't build up to toxic levels.
Unfortunately, the data showed no such thing.
According to the study's methodology, the infants in the study were put into three age groups and their blood-mercury levels were tested both before and after vaccinations were given to newborns, and at their two- and six-month checkups.
Excuse me, but let's use our brains here for a moment -- assuming they haven't been damaged by exposure to mercury.
Just because blood levels of mercury drop doesn't necessarily mean that the mercury has been excreted from the body -- only that it has left the bloodstream. Those are two very different conclusions. Since the study didn't monitor urine levels of mercury, there's no way to tell if it left the body. In fact, experience tells us that mercury does not easily leave the body, that it in fact "electrically binds" with soft tissue, bones, and even brain matter. If anything, the study should potentially raise alarm bells -- indicting that ethyl mercury binds with cellular tissue and locks into the body far faster than methyl mercury. Without the urine testing, there's no way to know.
Bottom line: Mercury does not easily "metabolize" and pass out of the body. It remains for years and years locked to body tissue. If you want to get rid of it, you have to chelate it out. Make no mistake, this study has not proven thimerosal safe. It may not cause autism, but that doesn't mean that it's safe.
In fact, it's no secret that mercury is one of the most toxic metals known. Numerous studies have shown its impact on health. There is strong evidence that mercury lowers T-Cell counts. This, alone, implicates it in cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies, Candida overgrowth, and multiple sclerosis. In fact, due to other studies that showed mercuric chloride increased several types of tumors in rats and mice, and methyl mercury caused kidney tumors in male mice, the EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methyl mercury are possible human carcinogens. It has also been shown that mercury cuts the oxygen carrying capacity of blood by half. This would account for many instances of chronic fatigue.
Mercury also has an affinity for brain tissue and is implicated in brain tumors and dementia (think mad as a hatter). And, finally, mercury has an affinity for fetal tissue, which accounts for its implication in birth defects. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences found strong evidence for the toxicity of methyl mercury to children's developing brains, even at low levels of exposure. A 2005 study from the Centers for Disease Control found that as many as 637,233 American children are born each year with mercury levels of more than 5.8 µg/L (5.8 micrograms per liter), the level associated with brain damage and loss of IQ.
To be sure, some study may ultimately prove that injecting infants with the second most toxic metal known to man (just behind plutonium) is safe, but no study so far has proven that -- not by a long shot (all puns intended)..
And of course, there is the recent court ruling on Hannah Poling that found that the vaccinations she received "significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder."


On October 1, 1988, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660) created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Officially, the VICP was established to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, stabilize vaccine costs, and establish and maintain an accessible and efficient forum for individuals found to be injured by certain vaccines. In reality, it was designed to protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits so that they would not feel "legally" constrained in their ability to produce vaccines as necessary. Indeed, it was established in response to a liability crisis centering around children's vaccines -- specifically, the same DTP immunization shots which had destroyed my brother's brain some years earlier. The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims that provides compensation to people found to be injured by certain vaccines.
To date, over $1.5 billion has been paid out ( post-1988 and pre-1988). That's a surprisingly large number for injuries caused by vaccines promoted as perfectly safe -- and it doesn't begin to tell the real story. As it turns out, over 75% of all claims for permanent immune system and brain damage following immunization of the mandated vaccines are rejected for payment by the fund. That would put the true cost in the US alone at over $6 billion dollars, not to mention the far larger number of people who do not even know the fund exists and, therefore, never file at all. Total it up and you're now looking at a rather frighteningly high injury cost for "safe, mandated childhood vaccinations."
Note: On average, in the United States, children are now required to receive some 33 doses of 9 different vaccines in order to attend school.

The success of vaccines

Okay, we've dealt with the myth that vaccines are perfectly safe and looked at their downside. But there is also a myth that vaccines do not work, and that is equally untrue.
  • 12 vaccine preventable diseases and disease rates have been reduced by 99% in the U.S. These include mumps, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough/pertussis, and tetanus to name a few.
  • 50 years ago in the United States, polio paralyzed more than 16,000 children and killed nearly 2,000 annually. That doesn't happen any more
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the CDC and UNICEF, was begun in 1988. That year, an estimated 350,000 children were paralyzed with polio worldwide; in 2004, polio cases had fallen to just over 1,200 cases globally.
  • And Smallpox.
On the other hand, much of this success may not be related to vaccinations at all. Statistical evidence clearly indicates that the mortality rates of most of the diseases that vaccines have claimed victory over were already dropping precipitously even before the vaccine was introduced. In fact, in most cases, you can't even notice a statistical blip after the introduction of vaccines. To be fair, mortality rates are not the same as incidence rates and can be reflective of better medical care.

Parents opting out of immunization

There is now a fairly substantial movement of parents who wish to avoid childhood immunizations. To be sure, all states except Mississippi and West Virginia allow a religious exemption to vaccination for those people who hold a sincere religious belief opposing vaccination such that it would be an infringement on their right to exercise their religious beliefs. Some 20 states also allow exemptions for parents whose "personal beliefs" prompt them to skip vaccination for their children. In 1991, approximately 1% of children in the US went unvaccinated. By 2004, that number was up to 2.5%. At first glance, 2.5% might not seem like a big deal, but with approximately 40 million children under the age of 10, you're talking upwards of 1 million unvaccinated children.

The downside

Yes, there is a downside. One of the main reasons that parents can successfully opt their children out of vaccination programs is because those programs have been somewhat successful.
Last month in San Diego, 12 kids fell ill with the measles, a once common childhood disease now rarely seen in this country. Nine of the kids had skipped vaccination because their parents objected; the other three were too young to receive the vaccine. As Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, told the New York Times, "The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles' heel. Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don't realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine."
On the other hand, Dr. Sawyer would have a harder time using lack of immunization as an excuse for an outbreak of mumps in 2006 that infected over 400 people, considering that all but one of the infected Kansas students had received two doses of the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine.
And then, of course, a whooping cough outbreak in Children's Hospital in Boston in 2006, also had nothing to do with lack of immunizations, but rather, appears to have been caused by a surgeon who contracted the disease while on military reserve duty and brought it back to the hospital.


So where does that leave us?
In opposing ideological war rooms, we find the anti-vaccination movement that sees no benefit in any vaccination program and the medical establishment that believes, like Dr. Sawyer, that no possible vaccine should be left unused. And on the actual battlefield, we find parents like Sybil Carlson, who is quoted in the NYT article as saying, "I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good" opposed by government bureaucrats who look to mandate an ever increasing number of questionable vaccines.
What to do? What to do? What to do?
Unfortunately, the answer is not clear cut. And even what is known is far more nuanced than black and white. Even Mr. Spock's logical dictum from Star Trek "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is not black and white in this case. Why? Consider what we've discussed.
  • Yes, you can make the case that childhood vaccinations have dramatically helped to reduce infant mortality.
  • On the other hand, statistical evidence shows that they deserve far less credit for reducing this mortality than they receive.
  • And yes, as Mr. Spock would say, society has the right to protect itself from massive outbreaks of disease even if a small percentage of children are harmed.
  • But do society's representatives have the right to deliberately lie about the dangers inherent in mandated vaccinations?
  • And where does it stop? Does the government have the right to mandate that preschoolers get vaccinated for the flu every year, or for HPV, or even for HIV before a vaccine is even proven to work?
  • And what do you tell the thousands of children throughout the world (as small as the percentage might be) when their brains are destroyed, or they get cancer, or asthma? What should I have told my brother, whom I was very close to, before he passed away -- that he died for the greater good?
Look, I'm not saying vaccines should be eliminated (besides, that's not going to happen anyway) -- just that we should use a lot more discrimination than we are at the moment in their application. Eventually, it's possible that new techniques of genetic engineering, by being able to totally isolate the offending antigen, may be able to offer a safer form of vaccine. But until that day…
  • We need to be a lot more selective as to which vaccines are mandated and which are discretionary.
  • We need to remove any ingredients like Thimerosal that give rise to any question concerning their safety. Wasting time on studies "proving" that thimerosal may not cause autism is unconscionable. Let's get real here. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to man. Its effects are cumulative. It doesn't easily leave the body. Just because it may not cause autism doesn't mean it isn't slowly killing you. Thimerosal can be easily replaced in any vaccine. Not doing so undermines any credibility the medical community has regarding their concern for public safety.
  • We need to have full disclosure on the true benefits of vaccination programs -- not the inflated propaganda numbers currently touted. And we need full disclosure concerning the side effects and resultant injuries.
  • And finally, we need to update programs like the VICP that keep their figures artificially rosy by rejecting ¾ of all injury claims.
And for those of you who choose not to immunize your children, there is a cautionary that may alter the equation. As long as most of the children in your neighborhood are getting immunized, then the likelihood of your child contracting a serious childhood illness is minimal -- and in most first world countries that has been true for some time. But with the increase in globalization, the increase in travel from third world countries as economies shift, the increase in immigration from poorer to wealthier countries, that protective cocoon is disappearing. Every day, the risk of exposure to long absent childhood diseases is increasing. You now have to weigh that increasing, but unknown, risk against the very real risks inherent in many of the vaccines now available that might offer a modicum of protection. And that's your call -- not mine, nor the government's (at least for now).

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The Legacy of Marcel Vogel

The Legacy of Marcel Vogel: "The Legacy of Marcel Vogel

Abstract Introduction Background Crystal Basics
Intelligence Matrix Faceting A Quantum Converter
Measuring Subtle Energies Information Band Water Research
Water & Wine Magnetic Fields Marcel's Legacy

Marcel Joseph Vogel (1917 - 1991) was a research scientist for IBM’s San Jose facility for 27 years. He received numerous patents for his inventions during this time. Among these was the magnetic coating for the 24” hard disc drive systems still in use. His areas of expertise were phosphor technology, liquid crystal systems, luminescence, and magnetics.

In the 1970’s Marcel did pioneering work in man-plant communication experiments. This led him to the study of quartz crystals and the creation of a faceted crystal that is now known as the Vogel-cut® crystal. The Vogel-cut® crystal is an instrument that serves to store, amplify, convert, and cohere subtle energies.

Marcel’s research into the therapeutic application of quartz crystals led him to the investigation of the relationship between crystals and water. He discovered that he could structure water by spinning it around a tuned crystal, altering many of the characteristics of the water and converting it into an information storage system."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fwd: Caution ZiCAM


After you read this, click on the web page at the bottom of this
 Letter and watch the ABC15 news video.  Scary! 

This is not a rumor.  This is from Ann Hayes, who lives in Midland, and this is her story.  Please beware!
I need to warn you about a product on the market and hopefully you will pass it on to as many people as possible. I felt like I was coming down with a cold last Friday and because I'm around sick family members so much I wanted possibly head it off. I used Zicam, which is a gel nose spray which claims to keep a cold from becoming "full blown." 
Immediately I had an intense, horrible burning in my nasal/sinus passages. The skin on my face hurt to touch and I had pain and burning so that it hurt to move my head. My husband was here and kept asking if I wanted to go to the ER but the thought of getting in a car was overwhelming. My face was burning hot and my nasal passages were so swollen that I could n't breathe through my nose and I could see the swelling when I looked in the mirror. It lasted for about three hours and it was Labor Day weekend and I couldn't see a Dr. Until Tuesday. 
I have seen two ENT specialists in the last two days because I have lost, totally lost all ability to taste or smell. They both told me the same thing and suggested an immediate course of action. This is called "chemical trauma' and most times is permanent. I'm going to have a CT scan on Monday and am on a high dose of the steroid, Prednisone for two weeks. If there is even a thread of the olfactory nerve left, it will help to rejuvenate what is left. I have been on the Internet (just put in Zicam) and there are hundreds of people who have had this happen. I am so angry and devastated and saddened right now that I don't know how to get through this. I cannot handle the thought of never tasting food again or trying a new recipe or smelling a Thanksgiving turkey. 
Cook I ng has been an absolute passion of mine for as long as I can remember and at the moment I don't see the point of even putting dressing on a salad. I keep thinking that this cannot be happening to me. I suck on a lemon, bite down on a clove of garlic, smell a bottle of ammonia, nail polish remover, anything. I'm starting by telling people I love. PLEASE don't use Zicam, tell your friends.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fwd: A Message of Renewal from Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

Alberto Villoldo's Messages from the Whales and the 2012 Prophecies

Recently, Marcela and I took part in a research expedition studying the health of the oceans while swimming with the humpback whales. These 40-foot long creatures moved as gracefully as Tai-Chi masters, coming within inches of us. While swimming with a mother and her newborn, I found myself calling to the wise elders, "What can we do to help the oceans?" As if to answer me, a two-month old humpback calf swam over and looked me in the eye. The message was clear, "Dream a world that our children can thrive in."

In my new book "Courageous Dreaming: How Shamans Dream the World into Being", I point out, that when we lack spiritual and emotional courage we can become trapped in the nightmare of our past, the stories we cannot wake up from. To dream a new world into being requires great courage.

All the indigenous prophecies speak about this as a time of the 'Pachacuti", the great upheaval, when the world would be set right again. This means that many systems and solutions that once worked will cease to work again. There is only a minimal amount of patching, repair and re-invention that we can do - Instead, we must dream boldly.

What I have learned in my work with the wisdom keepers of the Americas is that you can not dream a small part of your world only. You have to dream the entire Universe newly - All of it. Dreaming requires a willingness to envision an entirely new world, and then become that which we envision.

When we live in ordinary times we can leave for tomorrow what we don't want to deal with today. In extraordinary times such as these, we are challenged to find and respond to our calling. Communing with the whales reminded me of the story of Jonah, who refused to answer his call to go where God wanted him. As a result he was swallowed by a whale and spit out on the shores of Nineveh; had he heeded this call, he could have gone gracefully.
photo ©John Weiskopf 2003   photo ©John Weiskopf 2003


The Four Winds Society
P.O. Box 680675 Park City, UT 84068
phone: 435-647-5988 or 888-437-4077 fax: 435-647-5905
Photos by: Christine Paul, John Weiskopf

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Environment: Water: Should you drink water from bottle or tap?

“There are limitations to providing a large quantity of water,” says Myung Kim, Tampa’s water quality assurance officer. “(The pipeline) has been there ... in some cases 100 years.”

Environment: Water: Should you drink water from bottle or tap?: "Should you drink water from bottle or tap?

By Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer
Published Friday, March 14, 2008 8:21 PM

Why shell out extra bucks for bottled water when you could get tap water for free? Is bottled water cleaner?

In the Tampa Bay area, it turns out, it is.

Chemical tests arranged by the St. Petersburg Times were conducted on seven brands of bottled water and on the tap water from three cities, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Zephyrhills. The results were consistent: The municipal waters contained higher levels of harmful contaminants and metals than their bottled counterparts.

Beyond the science, things get murky. If you buy Zephyrhills Spring Water, for example, because you think it's cleaner, more natural and more pure, be aware: Harmful bacteria, other pathogens and chemicals can be found in spring water, too.

In the multibillion-dollar bottled water industry, things are not as clear as the purified water you buy.

• • •

The Times hired Xenco Laboratories, a national firm with offices in Tampa and Miami, to analyze 10 water samples.

Xenco examined bottled samples of Zephyrhills, Deer Park and Publix spring waters as well as Nestle Pure Life, Dasani, Aquafina and Voss. For tap water, Xenco analyzed samples from public water fountains at the city halls in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Zephyrhills.

The test found:

• Bottled water samples contained lower levels of helpful elements such as calcium and magnesium than were found in the tap waters.

• The three tap waters all showed traces of potentially cancer-causing chemicals, including chloroform and bromodichloromethane, that went undetected in the bottled waters.

• The three tap waters contained traces of toxic metals, including lead, nickel and copper.

"It seems like the story is bottled water is lower in some of these contaminants," James Jawitz, an assistant professor of environmental hydrology at the University of Florida, said after reviewing the test results. "Your area doesn't compete well with bottled water."

That's because bottling companies purify the water and pour it directly into a bottle.

Cities purify the water, but have to keep it clean as it leaves treatment plants and snakes through miles of pipes to your faucet. The pipes contain harmful bacteria and other contaminants that must be destroyed.

"There are limitations to providing a large quantity of water," said Myung Kim, water quality assurance officer for Tampa. "You have the issue of the pipes and you have the issue of pipeline that has been there for 60 years, 80 years and in some cases 100 years."

To destroy bacteria and other contaminants, cities add chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, into the water.

The Times' chemical test found that in the three tap waters, the chlorine and ammonia combined with other matter in the water to form harmful contaminants, including the carcinogen chloroform.

It's unclear the potential harm caused by chloramine and other increasingly common disinfection methods, including ozonation and ultraviolet light, but they are effective at killing bacteria such as E. coli.

"Having folks exposed to E. coli is of greater concern ... than the risks that have been identified to date" from disinfection, said Jeff Greenwell of the state Department Environmental Protection.

Experts analyzing the Times' test results emphasized that the level of contaminants in the water samples did not indicate any of the water was unhealthy.

"It's all about consumer choice," said Adam C. Bloom, of the National Science Foundation's Beverage Quality Program. "There's different occasions where tap water makes sense and different occasions where bottled water makes sense."

• • •

In the bottled water aisle at the grocery store, the choices are dizzying. Distilled water. Drinking water. Spring water. Deer Park. Zephyrhills. The store brand.

Many consumers are enamored with the idea of "natural spring water.'' It sounds healthy. But all water, bottled or tap, comes from the ground. It all gets processed, even natural spring water.

If it didn't and you drank from a glass dipped in the spring, it could kill you.

"You wouldn't want to do that," said Jim McClellan, a spokesman for Nestle Waters North America, the nation's largest bottled water operation. "There are bacteria that can live in the water as it comes out of the ground."

Water can come from a spring, from surface water such as the Hillsborough River, or drawn by well from the ground.

No matter where it's drawn from, to make water fit to drink it goes to a plant. It's treated — some with blasts of ultraviolet light; some with ozone; some with old science lab techniques such as reverse osmosis (passing through fine membranes to extract contaminants); and some with the powerful bacteria-killing chemical chloramine.

Zapped, processed and mixed from various sources, the water is neutered of many of its original properties.

When it gets to you, the chemical tests show, the bottled water is cleaner than Tampa Bay area tap. Just don't expect it to stay clean forever.

Bottled water has expiration dates (they can be hard to read) and can be affected by extreme heat because microbes and chemicals are in bottled water, even if undetected in testing.

"It's not sterile," Patricia Anderson, director of St. Petersburg water resources, said of bottled water. "It's starting to change and degrade over time."

Not only does the water change, chemicals that make up the plastic bottle can leech into the water.

• • •

In the Times chemical tests, almost every sample scored within drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But the bigger question is, how safe are those standards?

The goal of the EPA is to have the levels of many chemicals, compounds and bacteria at zero.

"Acceptable" levels of contaminants are higher than zero. Some say that's due to prodding by municipalities, which have a vocal Washington lobby through the American Water Works Association.

Pat Kline, an engineer with the association, said the EPA standards have nothing to do with lobbying efforts. The standards are based on studies of what is deemed to be safe, because it is impossible to get contaminant levels in tap water to zero.

"You can get it down to fairly undetectable, but there's no way you can say, 'nothing,' " Kline said. "The goal is nothing detectable. At what point do you find an increased risk of cancer? I can't tell you. I'm not a doctor."

Researchers sometimes determine that the EPA standards are insufficient. In 2001, the National Academies of Sciences found that the EPA's standard for arsenic in drinking water posed a cancer risk. In 2006, the academies said that the EPA's standard for fluoride did not adequately protect the public.

"We all tend to trust government to protect us," said Jim Stevenson, chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force. "We trust that when we turn the faucet on that the water is safe. That may not be the case.''

The Times' test examined the water samples for traces of bacteria, metals, fuels, nitrogen and phthalates, a toxic element in plastics — all chemicals that pose a health threat to consumers.

Most of the results fell within ranges experts would expect.

For one test, however, all of the samples, bottled and tap, showed high levels above EPA standards for diethylhexyl phthalates, an element of PVC and other plastics that at high levels has been associated with birth defects, reproductive problems and increased risks of asthma and cancer.

Experts questioned whether the results may have been due to contamination of samples, though Xenco stood by its results. Tampa said it is reviewing its water to ensure there are no problems with phthalates, which usually are concerns related to water bottles more than tap water.

U.S. consumers use some 50-billion plastic bottles a year for beverages, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which urges tap water over bottled.

"The bottom line is that bottled water doesn't add up," said Jennifer Powers, a spokeswoman for the council. "It costs the consumer a lot of money out of pocket and costs the environment even more."

The bottled water industry doesn't want to be seen as competing with tap water. The bottlers say they're competing with soft drinks, Slurpees, coffee, even chocolate milk.

Then again, nobody has ever suggested that for good health we drink eight glasses a day of chocolate milk.

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332.

Bizarre: Cross a mere reflection? Or cause for genuflection?

Bizarre: Cross a mere reflection? Or cause for genuflection?: "Mere reflection? Or cause for genuflection?

By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer
Published Friday, March 14, 2008 4:04 PM

APOLLO BEACH — The questions start shortly after sunrise, when the sun's rays strike a concrete dome at the Tampa Electric Co. plant.

Is it a cross? A star? A man wearing a robe?

Why does it seem to follow passers-by, as if watching them?

These and other questions have percolated in the minds of those who have experienced the TECO Sun Cross.

Fred Jacobsen, the chief archivist and videographer of the phenomenon, says the light in the morning might look like "a robed figure standing with outstretched arms."

The power company isn't conceding anything occult or spiritual in the concrete dome it completed at the southeast Hillsborough County plant in fall 2007. It's used as a place to remove ammonia from the ash of incinerated coal.

It's tempting to reduce all of the buzz about the cross to Jacobsen, 60, who moved to Apollo Beach four years ago from California. It was Jacobsen, after all, who coined the term "TECO Sun Cross" and posted a video of the dome from various angles on YouTube, with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah playing in the background. Jacobsen made a second video when he discovered a more full-bodied cross in the morning, one that includes the base.

And it's Jacobsen supplying four out of 10 comments on YouTube, countering skeptics with all of the things the star-shaped blob might represent.

But nearly 9,000 hits on his first video suggest Jacobsen is not alone.

As he thought about it and did more Internet searches, the possibilities exploded. Four directions. Four seasons. Four sacred obligations of the Zia Indians, whose four-pointed cross adorns the flag of New Mexico.

The Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms associates the four-pointed star with "a serious and solemn warning," the Babylonian sun god Shamash and the official emblem of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Jacobsen even found a link to his Norwegian heritage in the Grand Cross of St. Olaf, a steely, four-pointed medallion bestowed on knights.

"All of these things are bound together within the circle of life," he tells YouTube visitors.

Those who want to see the star, or the cross, should remember that power plants are considered critical to national security. Guards wear flak jackets and carry assault rifles "should there be an incident," TECO spokesman Rick Morera said.

A word to the wise: These guards employ a liberal definition of the word "incident." Stopping your car might qualify as one.

"They'll swarm all over you if you stop," Jacobsen said.

Comments about the light formation from YouTube visitors range from surly to accepting.

"Ask yourself if it is true or not, and [if] Jesus does show Himself, will you believe?" a visitor called desirprovocateur wrote. "Or still be skeptical as you are now?"

None of several tourists strolling recently along the elevated walkways at TECO's Manatee Viewing Center next to the plant had heard of the Sun Cross. A few joked about other religious sightings, such as the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, but none wanted to be quoted.

But Elizabeth Bird, who chairs the anthropology department at the University of South Florida, said it's not unusual for religious adherents — especially Christians — to find symbols in unlikely places.

"Incongruity makes them more powerful," Bird said, "It's like this god is drawing special attention to himself by saying, 'Look, I am here, even in a power plant or a bank or wherever."

But what makes sunlight bounce off the dome that way?

USF physics professor Randy Criss called the phenomenon most likely "a standard property of reflections."

The same formulas that have been around for 300 years should be enough to explain the TECO Sun Cross, Criss said.

"I don't see anything terribly miraculous in there," he said.

Jacobsen says he's not trying to spread religion.

"Some people say, 'That's not Jesus,' " Jacobsen said. "I say, 'I never said it was.'

"But it is there."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (813) 661-2431.

Finding the Sun Cross

To see the TECO Sun Cross, take Big Bend Road west from U.S. 41 in Apollo Beach and start looking to the right. If the sun is out, the cross will be, too.

[Last modified Monday, March 17, 2008 10:29 AM]