Danger of aflatoxin justifies FDA regulation of tobacco

Some members of Congress have reintroduced legislation to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco (Special Section: “Healthcare,” today’s edition). This long-overdue bill would empower the FDA to appoint a Tobacco Science Committee to oversee introduction of less-hazardous products. High on this list for remediation is aflatoxin, the ultimate fungal carcinogen, which contaminates tobacco products post-harvest. Aflatoxin is the most potent carcinogen known and has been shown to mutate the p53 tumor-suppressor gene, found in 60 percent of all cancers including lung, colon, breast, prostate and others. The FDA regulates aflatoxin on all other commodities due to its well-documented carcinogenic potential. Technology to remediate this problem has been available for years, and the peanut industry has already embraced this, resulting in 99.9 percent reduction in aflatoxin levels after only three years. …

Recent attempts at FDA legislation in 2004 were thwarted by then Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas) while the tobacco farmers benefited from a $10 billion buyout. In the DOJ-tobacco trial, court monitors were recommended as a forward remedy to, among other things, regulate aflatoxin levels on tobacco. …

The time has long past where this industry should escape regulation. Enactment of common-sense legislation will save a substantial portion of the 450,000 lives lost to tobacco-related diseases annually. The technology exists to substantially minimize the harm caused by aflatoxin and the heat-resistant spores that carry these toxins.

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Editor’s note: The writer holds four worldwide patents that relate to aflatoxin on tobacco.

Iraq legislation ignores concerns

From Joanne Kim

I read with interest your online stories about House and Senate actions on the Iraq war supplemental spending (“Democrats score hard-fought win on Iraq,” March 23, and other articles). Moral outrage about the killing and violence in Iraq drove ordinary citizens to the polls in November. They are outraged at the manipulating of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. They are outraged and shamed at the torture and worldwide kidnapping funded by our government. They are outraged at our government funding combat mercenaries who operate in Iraq under no rule of law. The public wants the killing and violence to end. They want this immoral and bad behavior to end. They want their men and women home this year and to have care when they return. How soon do these elected officials forget? Nowhere is there language in the bills that addresses the public’s concerns. There is no mention of how many more lives they are willing to sacrifice how many more suicides at home must occur how many more cases of spousal abuse at home must happen how many more Walter Reed fiascos must there be before they stop funding the occupation. ...

Washington, D.C.