Another Myth Bites the Dust

The great thing about science is that it eventually cuts through the hysteria & gets to the truth. We hear of claims that plastics, GMOs & chemicals generally are terrible threats. The difference between life giving medicines & deadly poisons can be dosage; some things are not dangerous in a practical sense, but fear and hysteria kill. Children died from a dishonest study linking vaccines to autism, for example. Some dummies & celebrities (overlapping categories) still believe it, but science debunked the connection. Now science tell us that we need not fear BPA plastics in water or baby bottles. BPA is - what is the word? – Safe?

Hysteria mongers like to point to risks. They had a good run using the fear of cancer. The rates had been rising, mostly because people were living longer. The longer you live, the higher your chances of getting cancer. You have to die of something. As medical science vanquished old killers such as smallpox, diphtheria or polio or as lifestyle changes reduced the incidence of cardio-vascular diseases, more and more people lived long enough to get cancer. After all, the terrible news is that the world death rate is holding steady at 100%.

But in recent decades, cancer rates and cancer mortality have been dropping. We have been reading this every year since the 1990s, but it doesn’t seem to make an impression on some fearful fools. If asked, if the world is getting more or less dangerous, most people would probably answer “more” but they would be wrong.

BTW - even traffic fatalities are dropping. They are lower now than during the Truman Administration, despite an increase of nearly 21 billion (with a B) miles driven.

So the world is getting safer in spite of GMOs, plastics, chemicals and all sorts of “hazardous energy” sources. Maybe the drop is BECAUSE of these things. Life in the past was unhealthy. People didn’t heat their house with “dirty” sources like natural gas or oil. They used wood or other “natural products” including dried dung. The smoke from these sources was horrible and horribly unhealthy. People didn’t drink water from plastic cups of bottles. No, in the good old days they drank beer or rum from earthenware cups. Think about the earthenware used every day. You are a lot better off with plastic.

Do I really need to talk about vaccination? I do because there are so many ignorant people out there. In the good old days, smallpox, diphtheria, measles, polio and lots of other things we have almost forgotten about. There is a small risk of getting a vaccination of any kind, but it sure it worth the risk. Unfortunately, the farther we get from those old days, the more people just don’t understand the risks and benefits.

Anyway, let’s thank God for advances such as plastics, GMOs, agricultural chemicals, vaccines and science in general. Those who dislike these things have the option of living like we used to 200 years ago. Good luck with that. Make sure you have made arrangements for your probable early death. I will stick with the modern world. I like to visit the “good old days” in museums and places like Colonial Williamsburg or Greenfield Village, but I would not want to live there.

A few useful references
Genetic Literacy Project
A Toxic Setback for the Anti-Plastic Campaigners
California’s Demographic Dilemma
Fire Lines
Nature versus Nurture
Science Improving Nature

Posted by Christine & John at April 19, 2011 6:01 PM
Comments
Comment #321904

I would say that BPA’s effect might be overblown. But I know better to let enthusiasm get the better of me in any direction. BPA has been shown to have effects elsewhere. Relying on one study as a definitive source, a myth busted, is inappropriate.

This is in no small part due to the fact that such studies are inherently uncertain. A body of such research is needed to claim a reliable conclusion, as is the case with research indicating that Thimerosal and the MMR vaccine are not likely culprits for the increase in Autism over the past few years.

Individual studies make for nice, neat, convenient headlines, but relying on them to make such overzealous claims is unscientific.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2011 10:46 PM
Comment #321905

Stephen

The study I am referring to is a meta-study that took into account all the other studies and found nothing among them.

I tend to believe it because the Germans did it. They are not only meticulous about these things, but also tend to be paranoid about the “precautionary principle”. If they cannot find anything, I believe there is nothing to be found.

Making assumptions that something must be dangerous because there is no evidence is unscientific.

My kids, BTW, drank from plastic bottles. I drink lots of beverages from plastic bottles. I pity the fools who fear everything will kill them. Sooner or later, something will, but it is the old idea of the coward dying a thousand deaths.

The other truth is that cancer rates are dropping as plastic use goes up. This does not indicate that plastic is helping improve the stats, but it does indicate that there certainly is no evidence on the other side.

Most of the fear mongers just seem to like to be afraid. It evidently somehow makes them happier. The nice neat headlines are on the side of these cowardly losers. The media knows it can sell fear.

BTW - Were you aware that cancer deaths had been dropping? I bet that few people know that. It goes against the fear narrative.

Posted by: C&J at April 19, 2011 10:55 PM
Comment #321908

Ah, a meta-study. Eek. That’s sort of like a poll of polls. Trouble is, they can never be scientific. You can’t do a double blind or a control, and your meta-analysis can only be as good as the quality of what went into it.

I’m not overly concerned with BPA, or a lot of things, but I don’t think its wise to jump to either conclusions. A false positive can distract from real threats to public health, and a false negative can lull people into a false sense of security.

We have to be scientific about things, first and foremost. Take your claim that cancer rates have gone down as plastic use has gone up. Well, a statistician worth their salt will tell you that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

The cause could be unrelated in either case. Or it could be something like advances in organic chemistry, a field common to both pharmaceuticals and materials science, in which case you can still see the possibility that the ill effects of certain plastics compete with the healthy effects of certain pharmaceuticals.

I’m not interested in fearmongering. What I’m interested in is the application of science to test both the claims that cast doubt, and the claims that prove the hypothesis. Only if we apply selective forces in the form of critical analysis to both sides can we derive a reliable conclusion.

Also, have you considered that it might be the lack of tolerance for carcinogens in the environment and in foods and drugs might be a factor?

I think you should consider that some on your side have the luxury of telling people there is nothing to fear in an environment in which many of the threats have been eliminated by those who felt there was something to fear out there.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2011 11:33 PM
Comment #321910

Stephen

What they found is that the studies did not show any relationships. Science is not a matter of majority opinion. You have to go with the evidence. There isn’t any that the plastic does you any harm.

Re “jumping to conclusions” - you have to have a basis to believe something. There is no reason to believe the plastic bottles are a problem. You cannot logically choose a “middle ground”. What if I told you that typing on your computer just now caused cancer. You said that it didn’t. Does a third party have to believe the truth is somewhere in the middle?

Re the people on “my side” - you mean the scientists as opposed to the lawyers and activists. Yes, I believe the science.

re cancer rates going down - did you not understand what I said. “This does not indicate that plastic is helping improve the stats” is what I wrote. But again, we have no reason to believe plastic caused a problem when we DON’T have a problem.

This is the problem for the fear mongers. There is NO problem. Cancer rates are not going up. There is no indication the plastic has caused any sort of problem at all.

Both sets of claims are not equally valid. Some people believe all sort of things. You cannot fight some conspiracy theories with facts, but science does debunk some of them.

Posted by: C&J at April 19, 2011 11:55 PM
Comment #321920

C&J-
Your attitude about this is that this meta-study constitutes definitive proof. What I’m saying is that there’s no such thing as a definitive meta study in scientific terms, because the conclusion is not reach scientifically, but statistically.

Other, more scientific studies have indicated that the plasticizer might be doing folks harm. To dismiss scientific studies on the basis of a study that is only statistically likely at best is not good scientific thinking.

It’s not about being in the middle. There is no middle ground here. You cannot base a scientific opinion on the study, nor make a definitive claim of this nature.

Sound Science Advocates like to believe that they are better at figuring this stuff out, and that everybody else’s just running around with their head cut off.

Well, in this case, I’m not saying that BPA is a threat. I’m saying we can’t conclude, scientifically, that it’s not a threat just from this study. We can only make that conclusion in a statistical fashion, and that means we’re relying on somebody else’s number crunching to come to that conclusion.

Now, in Global Warming Science, you might end up depending on multiple sources of climate data, and will have to calibrate each. But since we’re talking something like thermodynamics here, we can calibrate to something real, use real observation and other measurements of the same phenomena to adjust towards a more real approximation of the truth.

In this case, though, you might even have the researcher making adjustments for the reputation of his sources, grab bagging the bad studies with the good. Instead of being a matter of calibrating something by way of the testable knowledge of the physical sciences, we might end up relying on an altogether less accountable calibration based on the researcher’s taste in other researchers.

Regarding cancer rates going down, again correlation doesn’t mean causation, and an overall trend does not have to go in the direction that any one element is trying to force it in.

I’m curious to know what you mean by Cancer Rate here- are we talking who gets it, or who dies of it? Depending on what the answer to that question is, we can look into any number of forces in and around society that would push Cancer rates in one direction or another.

BPA could be a problem by itself, but the results would show that as a problem, it’s not enough by itself to push the rate you cite in the other direction. Just as output lowered from the sun in the 1980s, despite the fact that the climate warmed at the same time, BPA can create toxic effects without having to be so strong a carcinogen that it pushes the rates in the other direction.

There are scientific indications that the plastic is a carcinogen, and does pose some reproductive hazards. The question is, in the real world, in real bodies, does it pose the same threat?

You’re so concerned about sticking it to the fearmongers that you’re unwittingly developing some of the same bad habits. A confirmation bias in the other direction is not a proper response. The “fearmongers” can be right. You need to seek out the truth, not the means to undermine your opponent in a debate, and cause others to take up such hasty generalizations as you have made.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2011 7:35 AM
Comment #321930

Stephen

I know there is no such thing as final proof in science. That is also something you should recall when talking about the details of global warming.

I am not dismissing scientific studies. Merely pointing out the the reliable scientific studies available indicate no problem with plastic bottles.

Some people make an unscientific presumption that there is a problem and then do the anti-scientific action of trying to prove their prejudice.

There is no scientific indication that plastic is a carcinogen in any of the uses indicated. That is what the scientific studies show. Of course, if you supply sufficient quantities of anything, it will be toxic. You know that people in dry climates sometimes die of “water poisoning”. It doesn’t mean water is a toxic substance.

Re cancer rates - I linked to the google results, so that you can choose any of the hundreds of articles and studies. The rates of cancer are dropping and have been dropping for decades. Something about our lifestyles or the products we consume is causing that. People can talk about specifics, but the dominant fact is that we can live a healthier life today than in the past.

Fearmonger can be right, as you say. But science requires some basis for their belief beyond fear of the new or prejudice against industrial processes. We should be driven by intelligence, not fear.

A myth has grown that somehow we were better off an healthier in the past with “natural” products. Mortality rates and health indicators from the past do not support that claim. We should rely on facts and serious observations, instead of nostalgia and prejudice about times that never were.

Posted by: C&J at April 20, 2011 11:22 AM
Comment #321945

When it comes to studies on health and its relation to food there have been many pages written in the past about things that were supposedly bad for our health that have been revised.

I can recall a time when studies seemed to indicate that eggs, bacon, milk, pork, Teflon and much more were deemed to cause all kinds of adverse health conditions. Today’s thinking has changed and now many of these same things are accepted as neutral or healthful.

The declining rate of new cancer diagnosis and the increasing longevity of those treated is indeed welcome news. I will leave it to others to determine the reason while I thank God that advances are being made each day.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 20, 2011 1:28 PM
Comment #321951

C&J-
The Reliable ones? Did you go out there and look for any other study, or did you just read about this one, and go with it?

You should be careful about your choice of words. None means not one.

On the subject of reduced cancer rates (or death rates, which have also dropped)It probably doesn’t relate to plastic, though.

The annual report from the American Cancer Society shows that US cancer death rates continue to decline in both men and women. Since this trend began in the early 1990’s, over 767,000 cancer deaths have been avoided. Researchers claim that the decline in cancer-caused death is associated with early detection, better treatments, and reduced smoking rates.

Funny that we Democrats and Liberals get bashed over anti-tobacco laws, and then get told that our laws are unnecessary due to results they neglect to tell us stem in part from reduced smoking rates. Oh, and our idea to make healthcare more accessible, push for preventative care… Nah, that’s socialism.

A myth has grown that somehow we were better off an healthier in the past with “natural” products. Mortality rates and health indicators from the past do not support that claim. We should rely on facts and serious observations, instead of nostalgia and prejudice about times that never were.

I agree that the label of “natural” or “organic” can end up being buzzwords rather than real descriptors of the healthiness of a given food. In fact, a lot of what we eat nowadays is a product of those times. Salting and curing meats was once a necessary evil in times where you were otherwise unlikely to get any kind of meat in your diet.

Another thing to keep in mind about old diets is that people got a lot more activity in on a daily basis than they do now. A lumberjack eating stacks of pancakes smothered in syrup and butter-

*pauses to salivate uncontrollably Homer-style*

Would do a ton of physical work throughout the rest of the day to justify all those calories.

Your average person today, eating the same diet, would end up getting forklifted out a hole busted in the front of their house. We’re just not working that much nowadays, and haven’t been since the industrial revolution lifted the burden of powering our own economy off our shoulders.

But we are also doing things to our food and with our food that we didn’t use do to do, making some foods less nutritious, and supercharging our systems with sugars and fats we used to get less of, or spend more time burning off. While the so-called “natural diets” aren’t necessarily good for us, neither is the modern diet.

This is why I emphasize not uncritical embraces of such ideas, but critical examinations of them.

If we get too partisan about things, or too keyed into a certain sensibility about how is wrong or right, we’ll be chasing our own tail intellectually about what’s right and wrong. People need to have their ideas and their suppositions checked and balanced by observations and critical thought about the real world.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2011 2:27 PM
Comment #321982

It isn’t so much what our ancestors ate that did them in but other causes. Such as poor/no medical, sanitation, safe housing ie from predators, raiders, etc. The lack of knowledge about the affects of such things as lead used around the home. With the advance of knowledge comes the responsibility to use that knowledge wisely and ethically. I can not believe that the addition of foreign dna into our food chain that would never naturally occur is harmless to us or our environment. Only time will show the true effect it will have it can NOT be withdrawn once released. So enjoy your soy drinks and soy laden foods and the ethanol from corn that will kill off lovely pollinators. That beef, lamb and all the other ruminants that will soon be eating the newly planted Monsanto alfalfa that will hybridize with all the wild species of alfalfa(clovers)and in turn kill more bees.

Posted by: Kat at April 20, 2011 8:27 PM
Comment #321983

Stephen

Re plastics and reduced cancer - let me say one more time, I never said that plastic was the CAUSE of this. In fact, I specifically said that the correlation did not mean causality. However, it is another instance of the LACK of even causality to show a problem with plastics.

In other words, we have no reason to believe that plastics are a problem. Why do they have to prove their safety when there is no reason at all to believe they are unsafe? Of why don’t you demand an affirmative proof of safety from any product you consume. I don’t think you could prove to the satisfaction of all that broccoli, tomatoes of green beans, even the organic varieties, were completely safe.

How about this, since we are not getting anywhere. I drink from plastic bottles. My kids do. If you are afraid to it, just say no. But know that it is a believe like being afraid of ghosts.

KAT

If you know what is causing the hive collapse, maybe you should tell the scientists. The interesting thing is that this is happening worldwide, not only places that have used GMOs.

Only time tells the true effect of anything. You are no doubt a follower of the unscientific “precautionary principle”.


I just think we should prefer science to superstition.

Posted by: C&J at April 20, 2011 8:52 PM
Comment #321998

C&J-
Cause and effects are not so easily abstracted outside the lab. I don’t get too concerned with BPA, but as a consumer who has little decision-making power with the big chemical problems, I know that if somebody does get it wrong on BPA, I can only hope there’s some way to hold them accountable.

I have a very wide background in science, so I’ve heard about many of the toxic effects from different plastic ingredients, and other industrial chemicals, and I’ve heard it from sources not prone to exaggeration.

We have plenty of reasons to be careful about plastics and their effects, if we’re paying attention. Reasons to panic? No. But reasons not to simply assume the best.

Corporations denied the troubles with Asbestos for years on end. People like you repeated the “sound science” on that. How’d that turn out? People like you went along with what the industrial front groups were saying, that there was nothing to claims that Tobacco was addictive and harmful to your health, and guess what? It turns out the Tobacco companies knew better the whole time. Folks knew there were problems with Fen-phen and the Cox-2 Inhibitors, but promoted it anyways, pursued its approval by the FDA.

Industry’s earned its bad reputation. It didn’t necessarily do it all at once, just today, but a history of pollution and a number of incidents today (like those surrounding Fracking and Shale Gas extracting) work to convince people that they can’t let their guard down, unless they want to be punished with more of the same poisoning and destruction of their natural resources.

Submission to governing authorities and cooperation with environmental remediation and compliance is, in my opinion, the best way to handle the blowback from this history. Failure to handle those problems, coupled with plenty of excuse making and propagandizing, in my opinion, is one of the worst ways.

Sure, it gets the politicians off your back, and convinces some people, but it’s a situation where you’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop and something really bad to sap all your credibility and tarnish your name. Exxon still bears the black mark from Prince William Sound. BP will likely be associated with that massive mess in the Gulf for generations to come.

Bankers and financiers were enjoying the trust of the American people. Now, as after the Great Depression, their name is mud. Tobacco companies were long distrusted before the revelations came out about their products from their own insider sources. Now it’s out there.

Today’s media environment lets some executives feel a false sense of security, that everything can just be explained and neatly packed away with PR and propaganda, but I’d say even if they get some people to agree, there will always be a simmering distrust right below the surface.

Folks need to realize that they’re just borrowing time, borrowing credibility, and that one day the bill will come due for that, and they will pay.

As far as BPA goes, it’s not unequivocally toxic, but complaining about people weighing the risks is useless. If the truth is not sought out, and the effects of BPA not properly understood for what they are, the plastics industry will be affected by the uncertainty about their product.

You need independent investigation, and acceptance of that result, rather than blind defense of it.

This is not about superstition, and you should be ashamed to characterize my position as such. I just think you’re too eager to seek vindication of products and corporations when they’re opposed to those you see as fearmongerers. If your politics is to be of benefit to people, they need to be built on proper information, not merely a refusal to question the word of the special interests out there.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 10:39 AM
Comment #322003

Stephen

We must constantly make choices based on degrees of uncertainty.

I am getting increasingly annoyed with your use of the term “people like you” Do you mean smarter and more successful? Because that is what it seems to imply. “We” are always making the choices that the victims suffer from. People like me have the courage to make decisions. And yes, I dislike those who cower in fear and revel in victim status. I tend to treat them with some condescension, since their carping is of little consequence.

Re asbestos - that was government mandated in most cases. Many decisions make sense at the time. Considering alternatives, maybe they were the best outcomes. The government also introduced lots of those chemicals and invasive plants that we now “enjoy”. There is not the strict division you imagine in your theory.

In any case, I am fairly convinced that “people like me” will always be making the decisions, because we can and because we will. And when the bill comes due, people like you can pay it.

The meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t get the mineral rights. And the complainers won’t even get that.

IMO - people like me get blamed for whatever happens because we make hard decisions that keep things working. The “victims” complain that results are not perfect. They make suggestions that are impractical. If we wait for then to act, nothing ever gets done.

The word may suck. But it would suck a lot more w/o “people like me.”

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 11:39 AM
Comment #322016

SD writes; “I have a very wide background in science, so I’ve heard about many of the toxic effects from different plastic ingredients, and other industrial chemicals, and I’ve heard it from sources not prone to exaggeration.”

I wonder if SD’s “very wide background in science” has exposed him to the following about plastics?

A Few Fast Facts on… Plastics in Medicine

In the past few decades, plastics have made health care simpler and less painful and made new techniques and prostheses possible. They have reduced contamination, relieved pain and cut medical costs. They have prolonged, improved and saved lives.

The United States has the lowest rate of cross-staph infection in the world as a result of its use of plastic medical disposables.

Plastics are key components of modern prosthetic devices, providing comfort, flexibility, mobility and a life-like appearance.

Artificial hips and knees use plastics to help provide smoothly working, trouble-free joints.

Not too long ago, almost no medical packaging had tamper-evident seals. Today, nearly 100 percent of all pharmaceutical packaging does. In addition, child-resistant caps help keep medicines away from little hands.

Surgical gloves made of soft pliable plastic help preserve the sterile environment of hospital operating rooms.
Plastics permeate medicine. From the smallest tubing to the open MRI machine, plastics deliver when lives are on the line.

Many of today’s most innovative medical procedures are dependent on the use of plastics.

http://www.plasticsindustry.org/AboutPlastics/content.cfm?ItemNumber=815&navItemNumber=1280

SD also wrote; “Industry’s earned its bad reputation.”

Really? Are there no exceptions for SD or is all industry bad? Remove the products from industry from your life SD and then write a report for us about how wonderful it has become.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 2:01 PM
Comment #322448

C&J,
In your article you mentioned the debunking of the connection between vaccines and autism. Kind of hits close to home for me as I was a personal witness to not one, but TWO, normal crawling, drooling, giggling bouncing babies, the pride and joy of their parents who went in for a standard PPT, and two days later have vegetable kids.

I really could give a damn what comforts you in your state of “I believe every thing that “modern science” says is safe.”

Normal, interactive, smiling, laughing kids - gone noodle.

I own a marketing company and there is an ad that gets played on Alaska radio sponsored by “Parents of kids with Infectious Diseases - because NO parent should watch their baby suffer.” The tagline is so unbelievably offensive to me it makes my blood boil - every time I hear that ad I want to punch the lady in the face.

Which would you rather have: A kid with a fever and whooping cough who is sick for a month in bed, or a vegetable forever?

Neither of my kids (age 6 and 7) are vaccinated and they have heat seeking missiles for the cold and flu. When my best friends kid got chicken pox from the playroom in the gym - we made sick kid soup in our bathtub so EVERYONE got it. I feed them moose meat and salmon and I don’t make them wash their hands half the time before dinner. I’ve even been known not to protest if they drop a rice snap or a piece of popcorn on (GASP) the floor, or the lawn, and pick it right back up and eat it.

So please, encourage all your sheeple friends to shoot up with what “modern science” says is safe, and I’ll take my moose meat, salmon, eggs from my three chickens, greens that I grow in my house, and MILLIONS of years of evolutionary defense mechanisms and we’ll see who outlives who.

Good luck with that.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at April 28, 2011 6:31 PM
Post a comment