This is National Public Health Week, when we think on all the progress that has been made for the Greater Good in regards to safety and well-being. The Surgeon General is pushing a "return on investment" campaign, to raise awareness of the health care cost savings that come with healthy choices. Along those lines, I'd like to see the major players in this scenario improve upon a couple of the greatest health discoveries of modern times: I am challenging all American pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers to remove synthetic petroleum colors and flavors from all children's antibiotics, ADHD medications, allergy medications, cold remedies, pain relievers, vitamins, and toothpastes.
"FD&C" (food, drug, and cosmetic) colors add no medicinal or nutritional value to children's medications, vitamins, and toothpaste. They are added for aesthetic purposes only, or to lure young consumers to their brightly-colored bottles of vitamins emblazoned with cartoon characters. But the real problem with non-nutritive additives such as synthetic colors and flavors is that they are made from petroleum, and are linked with a long list of health and behavioral problems in children.
Synthetic food colorings such as Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3 have been linked to cancer, behavioral disorders, hives, eczema, asthma, mood swings, bed-wetting, aggression, sleep disturbances, migraines, nausea, vomiting, lowered zinc levels, ADHD, hyperactivity, learning problems, and reproductive problems. Red 3, found in drugs and candy, was partially banned by the FDA at one time for being a known carcinogen, but is now approved again for use in food and drugs. Incidentally, it's also listed as an insecticide.
Some children's toothpastes also contain D&C dyes such as Red 28 and Red 33 that are NOT approved for use in food, but are still absorbed through children's tongue and gums DAILY.
See my list of Scientific Research on the effects of synthetic food dyes, for studies dating from recent years all the way back to the 1970s. In that list you'll find a comprehensive report about studies performed on each FDA-certified synthetic food color, published by the Center For Science In The Public Interest.
Imagine your child has a painful ear infection or pneumonia, or they need surgery, and the only antibiotics and pain relief available contain red or yellow dyes. Pink liquid antibiotics, red allergy tablets, and purple cough medicines are the standard offerings in the U.S. Even "off-white" capsules contain yellow dyes, which are contaminated with carcinogens. Synthetic flavorings are also petroleum-based and cause similar reactions to dyes, but are sometimes not even listed in the ingredients.
Unfortunately, families with sick kids cannot simply reach for an alternative brand of antibiotics, like they can with macaroni and cheese or candies. Nor can they whip up their own recipe at home. Pharmacies are limited in their ability to find dye-free medications such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, Tylenol, Zyrtec, Benadryl, and ADHD medications. Families whose children are severely reactive to synthetic colors must pay up to ten times as much to have their antibiotic prescriptions filled without dyes at a compounding pharmacy. Or they have to opt for traditional medications out of desperation, and watch their child suffer with horrific and painful side effects for up to two weeks.
For some kids, like Rylie, two weeks seems like a short time to suffer from the effects of dyed medications. Read her mother's heart-wrenching story of how they solved the mystery of her ongoing neurological and health problems, by ditching the dyed medications. I've collected personal stories from families at DieFoodDye.com for over a year and a half, ever since our own daughter's dye intolerance shook up our family.
Some children's medications are needed daily, like allergy tablets. But most children's medications are needed sporadically, as with fever or infections. However, the ADHD medications, gummy vitamins and toothpastes that our children are exposed to daily are no better for them than the petroleum-tainted antibiotics and cold medicines. In fact, synthetically-dyed and flavored vitamins are hardly better for children than candy in some respects. Children's vitamins and toothpastes contain sugars, synthetic petroleum-based dyes, synthetic petroleum-based flavorings, and synthetic preservatives.
And WHY do ADHD medications contain FD&C dyes that, according to the FDA, exacerbate the symptoms?
We may not let our children indulge in candy daily, but vitamins and brushing teeth are a different matter. The FDA has no idea what this type of daily exposure to dyes will do to a child over a lifetime. And the few dye-free alternative vitamins on the market are so expensive that most American families cannot afford them.
Give us the choice, pharmaceutical companies. We can make our own dye-free electrolyte drinks and comfort foods when our little ones are sick. But we can't make our own dye-free life-saving antibiotics and allergy medications. And certainly not ADHD medications!
And there's no excuse to be made about substituting with more expensive natural dyes when it comes to antibiotics, as with food manufacturers...you need only to leave the antibiotics and ADHD medications an unadulterated white (no blue dye for brightness, or yellow dye for creaminess, please). Even for vitamins, clear liquids and white tablets or powders that can be mixed into a favorite beverage are more cost effective than synthetically dyed versions. And of course, white toothpaste works just as well as blue with sparkles.
I envision a day when the cure is better than the disease. A day when parents don't have to choose between cheap yet agonizing convenience, or budget-busting peace of mind.
I am asking everyone who reads this to fight with me, to get petroleum dyes and flavorings out of our children's medicine. Please SIGN my petition and SHARE IT with every parent, grandparent, teacher, nanny, pediatrician, surgeon, and allergist that you know. Post it on Facebook and tweet the link with the hashtag #DitchTheDyes. After we collect enough signatures, I will send this petition to American pharmaceutical companies and vitamin manufacturers.