A Scientist On Relative Effects Of Different Toxic Exposures

A really interesting look at important issues and exposing some pseudoscience and overly fearful environmentalism.  Here is the description of the videos from the YouTube information bar:

Chemical toxins are a real health risk. So is radiation. But should we be extrapolating the effects of certain toxins at high doses down to a low-level exposure? Is this a linear non-threshold relationship between exposure and health effects?

When we evaluate the arguments of non-scientists, websites, media figures, and pseudoscience publications, a pattern emerges of extrapolation that is not justified from the evidence. Mercury in flu vaccines are present at a small fraction of the dose that is known to cause deterministic health effects. Squalene is found at higher doses in the human liver than in vaccines. And fluoride is only dangerous when it’s at 5-10 times higher levels than are found in drinking water in the western world.

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Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • The Vicar

    Sounds very reassuring, until you remember that the concentrations delivered by the manufacturer/supplier/whatever are not what end up showing up in daily use.

    Sometimes that’s not such a big deal — a little evaporation isn’t going to put the fluoride in your water up to toxic levels because you don’t let your water stagnate long enough for that before you drink it.

    But that isn’t always the case. Imidacloprid is a pesticide sold by Bayer. In the recommended dosage, lightly powdered across the crops, it’s safe for humans and benign insects such as bees, and Bayer swore up and down that it was benign, because they had tested it at that level of concentration. But one good rain and the stuff concentrates where the water collects, and it has been shown that (for example) it can quite easily kill bees who come to pollinate the crops. In fact, it has been implicated in the whole mysterious die-off of bee colonies, the ones which have scary implications for food supply and economics.

    Similar stories happen with drug interactions: a drug is declared “safe” in testing, because the drug company which created it tested at a dosage which will be used as the minimum in prescription and didn’t include a significant number of subjects with high blood pressure, or pregnancy, or whatever. The FDA accepts this because here in the US we buy into the idea that drug companies have our best interests at heart so we shouldn’t get in their way with a lot of pesky regulation. (Unless, of course, they are producing something which competes with a profitable patent held by someone well-connected. Go look up Stevia in Wikipedia for a good laugh — can’t let a cheap natural sweetener compete with Monsanto’s patented and expensive aspartame, after all. Better cook up an illegally anonymous complaint to block it from commercial use for decades until the patents are about to expire!) Then two years after the “safe” drug gets to market a bunch of patients die or are made dangerously ill, there’s a huge scandal, and the drug gets pulled. How many times has that happened in the last couple of decades? I can think of at least 3 high-profile cases, and I’m not even trying hard.

    So, yeah, a chemist may find that toxicity levels in things being sold are safe, but chemists don’t always consider how things will be used once they leave the packaging. SKepticism should not end just because the subject wears a lab coat and makes a good wage.

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