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Health hazards, real or imagined

September 14, 2008|Rosie Mestel; Carla Rivera; Steve Hymon


Life is a road strewn with potholes, wrong turns and tree limbs sticking out at eye height. Don't I know that. But some would argue the hazards are more plentiful and to be found in unexpected places.

A PR agent tried to convince me that we are riddled with disease for one principal reason: We eat too much calcium. She turned my attention to her doctor client's book, which darkly warned -- four times by Page 18 -- that calcium is toxic: "Calcium hardens concrete. Imagine what it can harden in your body!" You cannot argue with the logic of that.

Calcium, it appears, is one of many tree branches jabbing the eye on life's sidewalk. I just read an issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter that reviewed -- pooh-poohed, I should say -- another warning, about the hazard of drinking cold water after meals. This reckless activity causes cancer, the reasoning goes, because it slows digestion, giving oil in our guts time to turn to sludge, which then reacts with acids, which leads to the accumulation of more fat, which gives us more tumors -- and may I say right now that I only wish I had paid more attention in chemistry class as a teen instead of attaching Bunsen burners to the water faucet while the teacher wasn't looking, for I'd obviously now be safer.

The mattress problem bounces on and on -- this scare got a lot of help from a certain manufacturer of mattresses with minimal levels of fire retardants that launched a campaign, People for Clean Beds, to oppose new Consumer Product Safety Commission mattress fire retardant standards.

People for Clean Beds claimed that these new standards would lead to greater levels of retardants such as boric acid in mattresses, and put 300 million people at risk to save 300 from fire. A nonprofit organization called STATS, affiliated with George Mason University, estimated that this "worst-case scenario of 300 million dead was roughly equal to the combined toll from Black Death, AIDS and the number of people worldwide who will die from cancer over the next forty years."

Another thing I know: Anxiety apparently causes the brain to shrink. And I've got enough to worry about already.

-- Rosie Mestel

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and some news from the world of health

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9/11 memorial is very personal

A commemoration at Garfield High School honoring those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks took on a personal note as participants stood in a moment of silence for Gilbert F. Granados, an alumnus who died while working on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.

The school's Army Junior ROTC unit lowered the school's flag to half-staff, and the band struck notes to the national anthem, before an assembly of 250 students, faculty members, alumni, sheriff's officials and fire officials as a sheriff's helicopter performed a flyover.

Before the ceremony, Maria and Martha Granados, Gilbert's sisters, spoke of his love of Garfield High and of how his strong family managed to steer the young man growing up on the tough streets of East Los Angeles away from the gangs and violence that snared many others.

"Gilbert, who always valued honesty, in his quiet manner, set the example," Maria Granados said. "In high school, he was known as 'Mr. Snoopy' because he always drew Snoopy on the banners for his class activities. Yet . . . quiet and shy, Gilbert was also known for his school spirit, so much so that it now is part of the criteria for a scholarship established in his name."

With the help of one of his Garfield instructors who got then-Gov. Jerry Brown to write a letter, Granados was accepted into the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and would earn the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve while obtaining a master's degree in business administration. He served for two decades in the New York area and was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

Granados was living in Hicksville, N.Y., and working for the Aon Insurance company on Sept. 1, 2001. A floor warden, he was helping to evacuate the building when United Flight 175 struck.

"I know he was still alive after the plane hit his building because he stopped to call home and to reassure his wife, Terry, and family," said Maria Granados. "He always took the time to think of others."

In 2003, the Coast Guard station at Kings Point, N.Y., was named in honor of Granados. Garfield alumni are mounting an effort to establish a permanent memorial honoring Granados at the school.

The scholarship established in Granados' name has aided more than 40 students, who receive about $500 each to help with college costs, said college counselor Deborah Head.

"I always challenge the students: When you leave Garfield, you've got to come back and give back to the community," said Martha Granados.

-- Carla Rivera

From The Homeroom: Southern California schools, from the inside out

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