Sam Smith on learning to love his body and the dangerous lengths he's gone to for photo shoots

VCG/VCG via Getty Images(LONDON) --  Sam Smith recently opened up about his own body image insecurities and how he's learned to love himself.

The Grammy-award winning singer shared a shirtless photograph of himself on the beach on Tuesday and wrote in the caption about his struggles to accept his body size, and addressed what he wrote were the dangerous lengths he's gone to while preparing for photo shoots in his career.

"In the past if I have ever done a photo shoot with so much as a t-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and prodded at every picture and then normally taken the picture down," he wrote.

"Yesterday I decided to fight the f--- back," he continued. "Reclaim my body and stop trying to change this chest and these hips and these curves that my mum and dad made and love so unconditionally."

"Some may take this as narcissistic and showing off but if you knew how much courage it took to do this and the body trauma I have experienced as a kid you wouldn’t think those things," he added.

Smith also mentioned the photographer, Ryan Pfluger, and thanked him for his support.

"Thank you for helping me celebrate my body AS IT IS @ryanpfluger I have never felt safer than I did with you," he wrote. "I’ll always be at war with this bloody mirror but this shoot and this day was a step in the right f------ direction."

Many fans and celebrities commented on the post, adding messages of encouragement and appreciation for the singer.

"You LOOK GREAT SAM!!! I have an idea of that journey, and I am TOO PROUD of YOU! Xo," Kelly Rowland commented. "You look absolutely beautiful and healthy and you always have to me," Brandi Carlile added.

Smith shared his reaction to the incredible support he received.

"All your comments and support after my post today has made me so emotional," he wrote in an Instagram story. "Feeling so free for the first time in a long time."

"Posting that picture today felt so incredible and I just want to say to all my followers, (if you feel comfortable) PLEASE tag me in your own pictures of BODY LOVE & Acceptance. Let's celebrate this s--- together," he added. He later reposted the fan images to his story to share the love.

Smith has spoken publicly about body image and learning to love himself before.

In an interview for V magazine with Sarah Jessica Parker last year, he said that he was "a bit obsessive" over his size towards the start of his career.

"When I was shooting my first music videos, I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked, so I was trying to control the way the camera moved. I got a bit obsessive," he said. "I was constantly looking in the mirror, pinching my waist, weighing myself every day."

"I’ve gotten to a place where I really love my stretch marks and I just enjoy my body," he added.

 Although he's found his confidence and learned to embrace his own skin, he admitted that these problems will likely resurface throughout his life.

"My body image is always going to be an issue," he said. "I need to constantly train myself to watch the right sort of films, to not look at certain ads and think that’s how my stomach should look. It’s something that I’m fighting every day."

"I think men should talk about it more," he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How one man is trying to help fellow black men 'heal' through yoga

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Yoga instructor Changa Bell is on a mission to create a safe space for black men in his community to open up, breathe and "heal" together through yoga.

Bell said he was hoping to create a place where black men in his community could feel welcome practicing yoga.

"Ultimately, that led to me founding the Black Male Yoga Initiative, because black men in particular were being isolated by the yoga community," Bell told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"We're marketed as over-sexualized, hyper-violent, hyper-masculine," he added. "I wanted to make ... a huge welcome sign that said, 'You're welcome here and come and heal.'"

Shawn Burnett, one of the patrons of his yoga practice, told GMA that, "Anything that takes away from your masculinity is seen as negative especially among black men."

Another patron, Ibrahim Auguste, said the studio is a place where they can "express" difficult aspects of their life and find "balance."

"Trauma is deeply intertwined in our existence," Auguste said. "We get to express it here."

"Yoga brings balance," he added. "It puts everything I've ever went through into perspective."

The creation of the Black Male Yoga Initiative comes at a time when black people are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than white people, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Yet only a quarter of black people actually seek professional mental health care, according to NAMI. Instead, many rely on faith and family for emotional support.

For several years, Bell said he himself lived an unhealthy lifestyle and was a heavy smoker and drinker. After a serious heart condition left doctors recommending a pacemaker, Changa decided he needed to turn his life around and started with yoga.

Burnett told GMA that the yoga practice also creates a sense of community for the black men who join.

"It's important for us to have these conversations for one among ourselves because we start to believe the stories that are being told about us," he said. "We're loving our communities. We're loving our families. We're husbands and we just need to get out there."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How the bacteria in your gut affect your mind and body

image_jungle/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever felt “butterflies in your stomach,” or made a “gut decision”?

That might have been your “second brain” -- otherwise known as your gut -- talking. Our guts are composed of over 100 trillion bacteria and about 100 million nerve cells line the entire gastrointestinal tract. The gut and brain are often communicating with each other along what’s known as the gut-brain axis.

Both mental and physical health -- from Alzheimer’s disease to depression -- can be affected by the health of our guts. Recent scientific research has shown the numerous ways our guts work and heal.

Our gut bacteria produce many of the chemicals that affect our mood

People usually assume that most of our serotonin, often known as the happy chemical, is housed in our brain. However, approximately 95 percent of our body’s serotonin is actually found within the gut. GABA, another neurotransmitter that improves mood, is also often present in the gut. And both are released from good bacteria, meaning that the gut has a tremendous effect on our overall health.

A large part of our immune system is also housed in the gut and it's connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, which, in addition to the digestive tract, also has crucial functions in many other parts of the body. The vagus nerve acts like a highway of information between the gut and the brain, transporting inflammatory markers back and forth.

Inflammation, the body’s defense mechanism against injury or foreign invaders, is usually a healthy response. However, chronic inflammation -- lasting months or even years -- can slowly and subtly cause damage. It has been linked to countless chronic diseases and mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.

Heightened inflammation alerts the central nervous system (CNS) to induce symptoms resembling depression, such as lethargy, sleep disturbances and changes in appetite. The two-way link between inflammation and depression promotes the idea that reducing inflammation through a healthier, balanced diet and by regulating stress can be beneficial to our entire health.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by autoimmune disorders and infection, but there are also unexpected causes, such as long-term exposure to pollutants, harmful industrial chemicals, unhealthy diets and chronic stress.

Bad gut bacteria have been linked to neurologic and chronic diseases

Various studies have catalogued the association between imbalanced gut microbiota -- usually marked by bad bacteria -- and neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Gut imbalances may also contribute to other types of critical diseases, including obesity and colorectal cancer.

More research is needed to understand if these links are happenstance or if they’re actually caused by bad gut bacteria. But restoring the gut’s bacterial balance may be a crucial factor in the future for preventing and treating these types of diseases and chronic illnesses.

It's possible to cultivate a healthy gut

The good news is that there are many ways to reverse inflammatory responses that stem from an unhealthy gut. Our gut microbiota is extremely responsive to outside factors, such as diet, smoking, antibiotic use, infections and stress.

Some basics steps everyone can take to directly combat inflammation include:

• Avoiding diets that are high in saturated fats and sugars. Anti-inflammatory foods include foods with healthy fats, such as walnuts, flaxseed and oily fish like salmon or sardines; fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

• Practicing well-being. Try mindfulness or meditation or just figure out a way to reduce stress that works for you, and commit to it.

• Get physically active. Beyond the tangible benefits of improving our heart health and helping with weight control, exercise has been proven to enrich the diversity of our gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. As little as 20 minutes a day can produce anti-inflammatory benefits.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Breast cancer survivor shares cautionary tale of relying solely on thermography

Morganne Delain(NEW YORK) -- When Morganne Delain discovered a lump in her breast in 2011, her first thoughts were fear. She was nervous about undergoing tests and treatments, and afraid of what a cancer diagnosis would mean.

In those dark moments, she was in denial and hoped to solve the problem without traditional cancer screening such as mammography. Instead, she turned to a brightly colored test.

Thermography is a type of infrared imaging screening used to detect heat patterns underneath the skin, mapping them into X-ray-like images of colorful waves coursing through a body. It’s often used to track blood flow, but some practitioners say it can also identify the precursors to breast cancer without any radiation exposure.

Delain says it was that claim that attracted her. A believer in homeopathic medicine, she said she was eager to find an alternative path to mainstream treatment. She went to Total Thermal Imaging Wellness Center in La Mesa, California -- a clinic run by Dr. Greg Melvin, a chiropractor, and his partner, Linda Hayes.

Melvin and Hayes say they make it clear to their clients that thermography is not a replacement for mammography, but Delain said she didn't notice that in the fine print.

“They said they can detect disease maybe in advance, before it even happens,” Delain said.

After Delain underwent a scan, Melvin analyzed her results.

“He said, ‘Are you sure you have a lump?’” Delain recalled. “And I said, ‘yeah.’ And then he looks back at the thermal imaging, ‘I don’t see anything.’”

Delain said she was relieved.

“I don’t have cancer then,” she remembers thinking.

Her baseline report indicated she had a “mild to moderate risk of developing aggressive tissue.” Melvin recommended exercises, a cleanse and that she come back in three months for a comparative scan, his protocol for new patients.

But Delain said an uneasy feeling still lingered over her. When she returned to Total Thermal four months after her initial scan, her symptoms had grown dramatically worse.

“All of the sudden, I just said, ‘I’m such a fool. Why did I even come here?’” Delain said, adding that she refused another set of scans.

In an interview, ABC News showed Melvin Delain’s report from 2012. He said he did not remember Delain, but that her report displayed “significant findings.” When asked why he didn’t make an immediate referral with those findings, he said that they must wait three months to do a comparative scan to understand the results.

Melvin later told ABC News via email that Delain didn’t follow his recommendations, did not return for a follow-up to the initial examination in three months and pointed out a line at the bottom of the intake form: “The report will not tell me whether I have an illness, disease, or other condition.”

Unemployed and uninsured, Delain said it took her several more months to get an appointment for a mammogram, and then a biopsy, and then a diagnosis: Stage 3 breast cancer.

A diagnosis in need of a cure

Thermography is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for breast cancer screening, but only when used with what the administration considers a primary test, like mammography. A mammogram -- a low-dose X-ray image of the breast -- is considered by medical professionals to be the gold standard for screening for breast cancer.

“Patients who undergo a thermography test alone should not be reassured of the findings,” a public statement issued by the FDA in 2017 reads. “Thermography has not been shown to be effective as a standalone test for either breast cancer screening or diagnosis in detecting early stage breast cancer."

According to an article titled “Harmonizing Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations: Metrics and Accountability” published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, “The American Cancer Society states that no study has ever shown that it is an effective tool for detecting breast cancer. Both the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) do not endorse thermography for detecting clinically occult breast cancer.”

But in 2018, Hayes allowed ABC News producers to film her pitch at a business expo. Hayes told them “no one needs a mammogram,” regardless of whether they’ve had a thermal reading. A brochure she distributed at the event advertises thermography as a first and potentially life-saving step toward detecting cancer.

“Share with your friends & family that there is an alternative to mammography that ... is far more efficient at detecting cancer,” it reads.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the acting chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, is skeptical of these statements.

“I don't know anyone who I consider a credible resource or expert who would suggest that thermography in the absence of a mammogram or another breast cancer detection test is adequate to save lives,” Lichtenfeld said.

After the interview with ABC News, Total Thermal said that it changed its brochures.

“People have looked at thermography as an early detection tool. The data just doesn't support it as being effective,” Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society said. “You have to show that it works. Otherwise, you end up in situations where people believe it, they don't get the test that's been proven to be beneficial, and the results may speak for themselves.”

“I think I’m just stronger than I thought I was, because I’m standing here now,” Delain said.

Delain is now cancer free and has this advice for anyone who finds themselves in her situation: “Get a biopsy. It’s the only way.”

Doctors may not always perform a biopsy on a lump in the breast, depending on such factors as the woman’s age and other risk factors, but it is important to listen to your body when something feels wrong, and to see a doctor and consider seeing a second to get an additional opinion.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


After defying anti-vaxx mom, Ohio teen explains why he got vaccinated

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For Ethan Lindenberger, turning 18 was a celebration of freedom, but the emancipation he sought mostly was about his newfound right to get vaccinated.

The Ohio teenager said he never received vaccines for diseases like hepatitis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox, but he's planning to change that now that he's an adult.

"I had grown up just hearing that I wasn't vaccinated because it was best for me, and that it was healthy and that vaccines were bad and that they have these bad side effects," Lindenberger told ABC News' Good Morning America on Tuesday. "I saw that there were a lot of people with different opinions, and as I explored those opinions, I came to the conclusion that they were good and beneficial."

After his mother, Jill Wheeler, learned that she could opt out, she chose to not to give Lindenberger, or any of his siblings, any vaccines, which is why he went to the online forum Reddit for advice in November.

"My parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme," he wrote. "I've had countless arguments over the topic. But, because of their beliefs I've never been vaccinated for anything, God knows how I'm still alive."

As measles and mumps outbreaks grow across the U.S., more internet-savvy minors are questioning whether they can provide their own consent to get vaccines.

"I definitely have received messages and had people contact me that are in a similar situation where they want to pursue vaccinations and their parent or guardian doesn't believe it's right and that's not a good decision. And how they approach that situation," Lindenberger said. "There is a distinguishing difference between disagreeing with a parent and trying to disobey them out of spite."

Wheeler, his mom, said the decision sparked a lot of discussion within the family.

"My oldest daughter is absolutely against the vaccinations. My 14-year-old is also against it and my 16-year-old says, 'I want to do more research,'" she said. "The hardest thing for me was the shock of him choosing to immunize."

While most states do require permission from parents for any medical procedures, in at least seven states a relatively new legal concept called the mature minor doctrine allows teens to petition to make their own medical decisions.

Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said vaccinations are key.

"It's incredibly effective," Melnick said. "Ninety-seven effectiveness with two doses of the vaccine, which is what's recommended for children, and it's inexpensive."

Lindenberger said he recently received his first round of vaccinations for diseases including HPV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and influenza, but he hasn't been able to change his mom's mind.

"I am against immunizations," Wheeler, a mother of seven, told GMA. "I have seen through people that I have met, people that are close to me, who have had bad reactions to the vaccines. It scared me."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Health officials fighting the worst ever ebola outbreak: everything you need to know

Motortion/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest in history and the worst the country has ever seen.

At least 811 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the Central African nation's eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which share borders with South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda.

Among those patients, 750 have tested positive for Ebola virus disease, according to a daily bulletin from the country's health ministry on Sunday night.

There have been 510 deaths thus far, including 449 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are from probable cases of Ebola.

"No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing," the country's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said in a statement Nov. 9.

The rising number of cases in the ongoing epidemic has far exceeded that of the 2000 outbreak in Uganda, making it second only to the 2014-2016 outbreak in multiple West African nations that infected more than 28,000 people, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the global health arm of the United Nations, has deemed the risk of transmission in the current outbreak "very high" at the national and regional levels, while the risk globally remains low. Still, the organization concluded in October that the outbreak does not yet meet the criteria for an international public health emergency -- a proclamation that would have mobilized more resources and garnered global attention.

Here is what you need to know about the deadly virus.

What is Ebola?

The Ebola virus is described as a group of viruses that cause a deadly kind of hemorrhagic fever. The term "hemorrhagic fever" means it causes bleeding inside and outside the body.

The virus has a long incubation period of approximately eight to 21 days. Early symptoms include fever, muscle weakness, sore throat and headaches.

As the disease progresses, the virus can impair kidney and liver function and lead to external and internal bleeding. It's one of the most deadly viruses on Earth with a fatality rate that can reach between approximately 50 to 90 percent. There is no cure.

The WHO has received approval to administer an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 77,000 people, including children as well as health and frontline workers, have been vaccinated in the outbreak zone since Aug. 8, according to the country's health ministry.

The vaccine, which was developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck, has proved effective against the country's previous outbreak in the western province of Equateur.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is transmitted through contact with blood or secretions from an infected person, either directly or through contaminated surfaces, needles or medical equipment. A patient is not contagious until they start showing signs of the disease.

Thankfully, the virus is not airborne, which means a person cannot get the disease simply by breathing the same air as an infected patient.

Where have people been infected?

In this current outbreak, people have been infected in North Kivu and Ituri, which are among the most populous provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and share borders with Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

Those two provinces are awash with conflict and insecurity, particularly in the mineral-rich borderlands where militia activity has surged in the past year, all of which complicates the response to the outbreak. There is also misinformation and community mistrust of the medical response, partly due to the security situation, and some residents delay seeking care or avoid follow-up.

Ebola is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the 10th outbreak the country has seen since 1976, the year that scientists first identified the deadly virus in the small northern village Yambuku near the eponymous Ebola River.

This outbreak in the country's eastern region was announced Aug. 1, just days after another outbreak in the western part of the country that killed 33 people (including 17 who had confirmed cases of Ebola) was declared over.

Where did the virus come from?

The dangerous virus gets its name from the Ebola River in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was near the site of one of the first outbreaks. The virus was first reported in 1976 in two almost simultaneous outbreaks in areas that are now South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The outbreaks killed 151 and 280 people, respectively.

Certain bats living in tropical African forests are thought to be the natural hosts of the disease. The initial transmission of an outbreak usually results from a wild animal infecting a human, according to the WHO. Once the disease infects a person, it is easily transmissible between people in close contact.

An outbreak that began in the West African nation of Guinea in March 2014, and soon spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, was the largest in history, infecting 28,652 people and causing 11,325 deaths. The outbreak, which the WHO deemed a public health emergency of international concern, was declared over in June 2016.

Who is at risk?

The virus is not airborne, which means those in close contact can be infected and are most at risk. A person sitting next to an infected person, even if they are contagious, is not extremely likely to be infected.

However, health workers and caregivers of the sick are particularly at risk because they work in close contact with infected patients during the final stages of the disease, when the virus can cause internal and external bleeding.

In the current outbreak alone, 67 health workers have been infected so far and at least 22 of them have died, according to the WHO.

There are also a high number of young children infected in the current outbreak. Children, who are at greater risk than adults of dying from Ebola, account for more than one-third of all the cases, while one in 10 Ebola patients is a child under the age of 5, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.

"We are deeply concerned by the growing number of children confirmed to have contracted Ebola," Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa who returned this week from Beni, said in a Dec. 12 statement.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


CDC study shows rise in teen tobacco use

sestovic/iStock(ATLANTA) -- Youth tobacco use has risen dramatically in the last year, according to a new study released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 5 million middle and high school students reported use of some type of tobacco product in 2018 -- up from 3.6 million in 2017, according to the CDC study released Monday.

With e-cigarettes accounting for the recent rise, the agency says the increase in use by teens marks a substantial upswing over 2017, erasing past progress in reducing youth tobacco use. One-and-a-half million more teens used e-cigs in 2018 compared to 2017, while the use of other tobacco products was flat.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Contaminated water still plagues lakeside community in Michigan

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality(OSCADA, Mich.) -- On a December morning two years ago, Anthony Spaniola's wife looked out the window of their lakefront cabin in the northern Michigan town of Oscada and told him it had snowed.

But the foam whipping around his property in the wind wasn't snow.

Spaniola would later learn it was actually a chemical-laced substance that had formed on the surface of nearby Van Etten Lake. After testing the foam, state officials ultimately confirmed a connection to chemical compounds once used at a nearby Air Force base to extinguish jet-fuel fires.

Spaniola and his neighbors initially were told the foam was safe, but a month later were warned to steer clear and keep their pets and kids away from it. He sent pictures to local reporters and began reading about chemical compounds referred to as "PFAS" linked to health risks by some experts.

Spaniola has since concluded the contamination wasn't an isolated incident.

"As I'm coming to the realization that this is a massive, widespread problem, they're just coming back matter-of-factly like, 'Yeah, you're right," he said of state officials.

Oscoda, and Michigan, are not unique. Communities around the country have discovered high levels of PFAS chemicals from military bases or manufacturing sites in water tested over the last few years.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which under President Donald Trump has rolled back a significant number of federal regulations, is expected to soon release a new national plan to address PFAS.

Whereas Trump officials often speak of government overreach and burdensome regulations, several members of Congress have said that if the EPA doesn't set stricter limits on manufacturing chemicals like PFAS, they will push for legislation that will.

The issue is so contentious that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has threatened to stall acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler's nomination to become administrator if the agency doesn't do more. Communities in Schumer's home state of New York are also dealing with high levels of PFAS contamination.

"We have one more chance to get the federal government to take a look and put out regulations about PFOA and PFOS, but the signs don't look good," Schumer said at a press conference last week. "I met with the nominee, Mr. Wheeler, and I asked him to put out these regulations, and he said he's not sure he would do it."

The EPA has said previously it could change the official designation of some types of PFAS chemicals to "hazardous," triggering more requirements to clean them up. But more recently, Wheeler has said he could not commit to setting mandatory limits on the chemicals when it comes to drinking water.

How a scenic lake community became contaminated

PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, can refer to hundreds of chemicals, including the kind linked to the foam on Van Etten Lake -- PFOS and PFOA.

In addition to military firefighting foam, which is still used today, PFAS chemicals are used in a variety of household items like carpets, nonstick cookware and food packaging.

The chemicals are so common that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show almost everyone in the U.S. has a measurable amount of the chemicals in their blood.

In Oscoda, authorities tracked the contamination of Van Etten Lake to Wurtsmith Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. The base, like many other Air Force installations, used a specialized foam to put out fires.

PFOS and PFOA in that foam infiltrated drinking water wells on the base, leached into the groundwater and spread to a 8-mile plume that contaminated a nearby marsh, the Au Sable River, Van Etten Lake and Lake Huron, a source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people.

Michigan began testing the Air Force base for PFAS and related chemicals in 2010. Two years later, a state environmental agency scientist warned of contamination, but most state and local officials were unaware of the findings until 2017, according to the state auditor's office.

Property near Oscoda, including Spaniola's cabin, eventually was classified as inhabiting a "zone of concern" over the chemical plume in October 2016.

It wasn't until 2017 -- seven years after the base testing and after a group of high school students visiting Van Etten Lake reported seeing the strange foam -- that a Michigan task force was flown in and authorities expanded testing to nearby bodies of water.

Residents concerned

Residents are still being advised not to eat fish from the Au Sable River or eat deer hunted in the area because of concerns linked to PFAS contamination.

Those restrictions are tough in a town like Oscoda, where locals work as lifeguards in the summer and eat fish caught in the Au Sable River. Seasonal visitors and outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are part of the local economy.

Meanwhile, recent research shows exposure to PFAS can contribute to immune system disorders and, at higher levels, to kidney disease, thyroid problems and even some kinds of cancer.

The science around this class of chemicals isn't advanced enough to link exposure to a diagnosis of a specific health problem, but toxicologist Richard DeGrandchamp said there is enough evidence to justify residents' concerns.

"For this particular group of compounds, they insidiously attack the immune system," said DeGrandchamp, who teaches toxicology and epidemiology at the University of Colorado and co-authored the 2012 report about the problems in Michigan. "And, unfortunately, many of our children living in the U.S. right now probably have immunocompromised immune systems."

Cathy Wusterbarth, who helped form an advocacy group called Need Our Water, or NOW, said she worked as a lifeguard on the lake for years when she was younger and also worked on the water as a civilian employee for the Air Force.

Wusterbarth said she was diagnosed with breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis the same year, when she was 28 -- conditions she thinks are due to her exposure to PFAS-related chemicals.

Wusterbarth recently attended the State of the Union as a guest of Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents Oscoda and Flint, in a bid to bring attention to the contamination. Kildee recently launched a PFAS task force to help inform members of Congress about the problem.

"We want to be a catalyst for change and to help educate," Wusterbarth told ABC News.

Spaniola said he, too, blames his health problems on the contamination, even if he can't prove it definitively. He said he was diagnosed with celiac disease when he was 50 and his wife has thyroid issues that the couple attributes to exposure to the chemicals. He also said both their dogs died within a year of each other, which he called suspicious.

"When those dogs go up to Oscoda, they jump in the lake and they drink like crazy from the lake," he said. "Do I think PFAS had something to do with it? Absolutely, no doubt in my mind."

Mark Correll, the Air Force official in charge of environmental cleanups, said he understands the frustration from residents who fear they were exposed through other sources.

"They are not unjustified in being concerned, [because] we don't know what the health effects of PFOS and PFOA are," said Correll, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure.

The response

The Air Force first installed equipment to prevent contamination from spreading in 2015 and has since worked to upgrade systems that filter other kinds of contamination from the base to also handle PFOS and PFOA.

Air Force officials said they've tested private wells and public drinking water systems in the area and that no one is being exposed to PFOS or PFOA through drinking water. Only one well tested above the EPA recommendations at the time, and the Air Force has since connected that property to a public drinking water supply.

Officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said they blame the Air Force for not doing more to prevent contamination. Spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement to ABC News that officials are working aggressively to hold the Air Force accountable.

The office's aim "is to see these violation notices and the actions ordered result in a full remedy for the people of Oscoda," Dean wrote.

But the Air Force officials said they're still going through a federal dispute resolution process with the state, and the state can't accuse them of violating cleanup requirements while that process is still ongoing. They also said that since the Department of Defense is required to follow federal law in most cases, they can't follow the Michigan state law unless Congress specifically waives the federal requirement.

The EPA sets a recommended drinking water limit for PFAS chemicals, which isn't enforceable, and the agency doesn't have any rules on the books when the chemicals are detected in groundwater or surface water like the lake.

Correll said going forward that the Department of Defense wants to emphasize PFAS response needs a "whole of government response" from the national government, including addressing health effects and looking at other ways people are exposed such as through the food supply.

"Our view is that we have a responsibility but at the same time this is a much bigger problem," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved


Engaged trainers share their Valentine's Day couples workout

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The couple that works out together, stays together.

Just ask Bree Branker and CJ Koegel, two fitness trainers and models whose love stays strong through the tough workouts they put in together.

Branker and Koegel met while rock climbing at an event for Wilhemina fitness models. The pair are now engaged and planning their wedding, where you can bet fitness will be involved.

Branker and Koegel created a workout for ABC News' Good Morning America specifically designed for couples to do together. It can be done at home or in a gym.

The couple demonstrated eight partner moves that can be done together in a circuit for a full-body workout or each on their own.

Repeat each move with the opposite partner before you go on to the next.

1. Plank pull

Equipment: Hand towel

Get into plank position, with your shoulders over your wrists and your core tight. Each partner uses their right hand to hold the towel as they stay in plank position.

Pull the towel towards yourself, creating resistance.

2. Leg push

Partner one lays down, and partner two stands with their feet above partner's one shoulders so that partner one can hold onto their ankles.

Partner one lifts their legs up and partner two pushes them back down. The goal is for partner one to not let their feet touch the ground.

3. Plank jump over

Partner one gets in a high plank position and lowers down into a pushup. While partner one is in lower push up position, partner two jumps over twice.

Then partner one pushes up into a high plank position. Repeat.

4. Plank and sit up

Partner one lays on their back, with their feet planted on the ground. Partner two gets in a high plank position, with their hands placed over their partner's feet.

Partner one comes up into a sit up. Personalize the move by adding a kiss at the top.

5. Towel row and curl

Equipment: Hand towel

Partner one stands holding a hand towel while partner two is on their knees, with their hands gripping the towel underhand.

Partner two pulls to row the towel downwards, activating their core and glutes. Partner one offers resistance, doing a bicep curl with the towel.

6. Wall squat and tricep dips

Partner one goes into a wall squat, with their legs bent at 90 degrees and their back against a wall. Partner two puts their hands on partner one's knees, fingers facing forward and does tricep dips.

7. Piggyback squat

Partner one braces their legs while partner two gets on their back, like a piggyback. Partner one performs squats, using the partner as a weight for added difficulty.

8. Shoulder taps

Partner one gets in high plank position while partner two stands behind partner one and holds their feet in the air.

While partner two is in a squat position holding their feet, partner one lifts one arm at a time to tap their shoulder. Focus on stabilizing the core and not rotating the hips.

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Insulin pill might one day make treating diabetes a little less painful 

PeopleImages/iStockBY: DR. ERICA ORSINI

(BOSTON) -- Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a way for diabetics to administer insulin orally, potentially doing away with the need for painful daily needle pokes in the near future.

The new delivery method comes in the form of a blueberry-sized pill. Once it’s swallowed, it is able to align itself on the tissue of the gastrointestinal tract and deploy a tiny needle, known as a “millipost,” which delivers the insulin, according to a report published in Science.

For many diabetics, insulin is a lifesaving medication that helps to regulate their blood sugar. Administering insulin has typically involved several needle pokes over the course of a day as diabetics monitor their blood sugar. These can often be painful and inconvenient, which is why the MIT scientists have developed the new device.

“The oral route is preferred by both patients and health care providers,” Giovanni Traverso, a senior author of the paper and assistant professor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told ABC News.

Although the pill technology has only been tested in rats and pigs, trial results showed that the animals did not suffer any complications or side effects, such as blockages in the administration of the drug or unwanted perforations in the gastric tissue. That said, the device is still in its early stages of development and more testing is needed.

“We anticipate the first human trials will happen within the next three to five years, but then the device will need to go into clinical trials as well,” first author Alex Abramson, a graduate student at MIT, told ABC News.

While the MIT device may be among the first to deliver insulin orally, there have been other innovations in insulin delivery that have also been injection-free, including the inhalable insulin Afrezza and insulin pumps, which attach to the skin and deliver insulin through a flexible plastic tube. According to the American Diabetes Association, these pumps "deliver insulin more accurately than injections."

For a long time, it had been difficult to develop an oral route for insulin, since the hormone is broken down in the digestive process. The MIT device might change that, and much more.

“We hope that anything that is currently delivered via an injection could be given using this pill,” said Bob Langer, a senior author and professor at MIT.

Dr. Erica Orsini is an internal medicine resident and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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