ZIGGY (the emperor parrot) & GEORGE (his companion human)

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A FEW OF MY THOUGHTS, AS POSTED ON FORUMS ELSEWHERE

ANTI-VACCINE WACKOS FAULTING HEALTH OFFICIALS BECAUSE H1N1 DID NOT REACH THE EPIDEMIC LEVELS THAT WERE FEARED

Nobody knew in advance just how lethal or how widespread H1N1 would be.  Scientists and doctors can only make educated guesses, and they erred on the side of caution:  they were (and are) deathly afraid--literally--of another worldwide pandemic like the Spanish flu.  If H1N1 had turned out to be that bad and they had not promoted the vaccine aggressively, they would have had to serve their heads up on a platter to the public. I don't fault them at all.  Let's stop this hindsight bashing. There is no way they could have known in advance how it would work out.

 

I am 63 and have been getting vaccines all my life.  I'm proud to say that I have a smallpox vaccine scar, as we all did then.  I got the Sabin and the Salk polio vaccines.  I'm old enough to remember the polio epidemics, and how terrified we were when I was little that we might get polio and have to be in an iron lung or perhaps even die as a result.  There may still be some polio survivors who have been having to use iron lungs for 6 decades.  We don't have to worry about polio here anymore, and we don't have smallpox anymore either. Thank God and medical science for that, and thank God that people like Dr. Mercola haven't been in charge of things all this time. (He does raise valid concerns sometimes, but I don't see any signs of an attempt to independently evaluate relevant data or synthesize a point of view that explains all of it. He seems to be a "the sky is falling" sort of voice, a voice that doesn't show pieces of the sky to "prove" that it is indeed falling.) I'm in favor all the anti-vaccine wackos emigrating to a desert island somewhere so that they could infect each other; it would be good riddance. I'm not saying that one should accept what a doctor suggests without question, or that there do not exist individuals for whom vaccines are contraindicated.


MANKIND & ITS CHEMISTS

 VS.

 MOTHER NATURE

Chemists are engaged in a war with Mother Nature. No matter how clever a chemical concoction they come up with, Mother Nature answers with a new resistant pest, be it bug or microbe. And this war is necessary to provide us with food, because humans breed almost like cockroaches, and "The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race"--Thomas Malthus. Chemists are not trying to poison everyone, but it is impossible to conceive of every possibility as to what a particular new chemical might do when unleashed upon the earth. Yes, manufacturers do try to make sure that the chemicals they select for use are safe. They are not imbeciles. However, some might think that it is not a question of if, but of when, the next pesticide equivalent of Vioxx or Baycol appears, or when compound x appears--that substance that ends up destroying the phytoplankton and leads to a Soylent Green future.



ECOSYSTEMS AND CIVILIZATION

I did a double-take when I read the comment that palm oil was causing species extinctions. My first thought was, how could palm oil do THAT; then I snapped about the effect of palm plantations on local ecosystems.

 

The fact is, though, that the entire history of mankind is synonymous with the destruction of earthly ecosystems. Our "civilization" exists because of agriculture and ranching, the expansion of which destroys ecosystems, little by little. We can't say, "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam" anymore, because they only roam in limited areas. The corn and wheat fields of our Midwest feed us, but at the expense of native species. The land doesn't look like it did 20,000 years ago anywhere that food--not just palm--is produced.

 

Coincidentally, virtually all of our food, except that from the sea, is genetically modified. Selective breeding IS genetic modification; what we eat is genetically different, because of human intervention, than the native species from which the food originated. This was necessary in order to feed people, in order for cities to arise, in order for civilization to arise, in order for us to be commenting here. The irony is that our modifications have created species that cannot survive properly, such as in resisting pests, and in order to solve THAT problem, we are resorting these days to a more direct form of genetic modification, one which causes much paranoia in these forums.


 THE PROBLEM WITH BEING "POLITE" ABOUT OBESITY

I am irate when someone who is obese gets charged for two seats on an airplane.  They ought to be charged for four, letting the airline keep two of the fares because of extra handling and because of the extra fuel to carry the added weight, while the rest goes into a federal fund to pay for obesity-related health care costs.☺

 

The problem with overlooking obesity is that the obese are stealing from our wallets. The money that you and I have been putting into Medicare is having to pay for their knee replacements, their diabetes treatments, their heart disease treatments, and the plethora of other ills that obesity leads to, just like smoking.

I know, they put in money also, but you see, they take more than their fair share, because the obese, just like smokers, develop way more than their fair share of diseases because of their obesity. Maybe giving them more than their fair share of diseases is nature's way of punishing them for taking more than their fair share of food: cosmic justice if you will--karma. They earned their diseases fair and square, but they inflict their pain on all of us.


Anyway, the obesity epidemic is undermining our health care system. And the cost of private insurance goes up for everyone for the same reason; we all end up paying for their gluttony. If we tax cigarettes, why don't we tax obesity?

Is it denigrating the obese to point these problems out? Is it politically incorrect to say, hey, look, you have a problem? Is it politically incorrect to say, hey, for your better good, and for the good of us all, we need for you to solve this problem? When I was little, I remember the rhyme that was sung to fat children: "fatty, fatty, two by four, can't get through the bathroom door." What I'm wondering is why should there NOT be a stigma on obesity? Why do we have to pretend that the obesity is not there?


If a child were to sing the "fatty, fatty, two by four" rhyme to a classmate these days, the child doing it would probably be suspended, and the fat child would probably receive a referral for psychological counselling. The child who sang a rhyme would be cautioned that we have to be tolerant of the fat "lifestyle."


I would suggest that we do need a little change. I agree, the fatty, fatty rhyme is going to far. You don't have to denigrate the obese, you don't have to hurt their feelings in order to try and solve the obesity problem. Pretending that it doesn't exist doesn't cut the mustard. America cannot tolerate the fat lifestyle. America cannot be strong if its people are weak, and obesity is a weakness, just like smoking. It needs to be eliminated for the good of we, the people.

 

Having said that, I understand that the causes of obesity are multitudinous, and that not all of the obese have the same amount of direct control over their condition as might you or I.  But I insist that for us to overlook it and be ever so polite about it undermines efforts to remedy the condition.  Our national interest requires that we solve the problem instead of accepting it as a given thing



          I DIDN'T MEAN TO CALL YOU FAT;


             I MEANT YOUR "CONDITION"


So, "people are not fat - they have an obesity problem or condition or disorder." Renaming the problem does not solve the disorder, or lessen its effect on the individual or its cost to that individual and to society. Quite the opposite: Replacing the name with a euphemism may well erect a semantic barrier that warps the perception of the problem.


Let's call a spade a spade. Would it not be more environmentally sensitive if we were to waste less ink in printing by using the word "fat" instead of "obesity disorder" or something like that?☺ Could not one argue that the direct approach is more effective?


My favorite example of how this can be is when you get all touchy feely and polite and don't say anything about someone's bad breath, with the result that someone loses a tooth that could have been saved had you done the intelligent thing instead of the socially acceptable thing--i.e., informed the person about the issue. The way breath is, the decay odor builds up slowly and you get used to it, but a stranger notices it instantly. When you do not perceive a problem, or have a misguided belief about its importance or lack thereof--and changing the name to a euphemism lessens its importance and certainly its emotional impact--you are less likely to take action to solve the problem.


Peer pressure is one of the main means that society uses to control its members, and to the extent that peer pressure can help modify behavior, we need more of it, not less, so we need to keep up the pressure on fat people to change instead of ignoring their obesity and pretending it isn't there. ("Oh, did I hurt your feelings? I didn't mean to say fat, you're just full bodied, just a little gravitationally challenged.") When I hear news about someone so fat that a forklift had to be summoned to get him out of his house and into an ambulance--which, amazingly enough, actually occurs--my first thought is, not to feel sorry for him, but to wonder how much tax money had to be spent to summon the forklift or for what they call "mega-lift" ambulances--special ambulances to ferry the super-obese. I guess the touchy feely crowd would run up to him to see if he needs a Twinkie. Check out the Wikipedia article on obesity; obesity has a fascinating history.


When I see a news story about extreme obesity in a child, I don't feel just sorrow: I feel extreme anger that whoever is in charge of that child would, by action and/or inaction, allow such an abomination to occur.



THE SWEET SMELL OF TOBACCO...

I was not trying to get us off topic when I mentioned smokers in passing.  I was lumping them together with the obese because both sicknesses impact the public greatly, more than just financially, and both get defended with the same types of logic, or lack thereof.  Both conditions are remarkably similar in that they play host to such a variety of diseases, although the effects of obesity are generally more subtle.  We know that tobacco causes lung cancer because its smoke is carcinogenic, a pretty direct and obvious effect.  But we are just now finding out that the obese get more cancers also, not because fat causes cancer, but because obesity creates a biochemical environment in your body within which cancers are more likely to occur.

 

The question is not whether one smoker saved us money; there is such a thing as individual variability.  You have to look at all smokers as a class.

 

My mother died last year at age 83, after at least 900,000 cigarettes smoked; she was getting close to the million mark.  When I spoke at her service, I knew that there would be people who would try to use her as an inspiration for other smokers--the kind of people who would point to this or that individual, and say, oh, look at Uncle Pat, he lived to be 150 and smoked 5 packs a day and was never sick a day in his life, or something like that, therefore all this stuff about smoking being bad for you is nonsense, and it's okay to smoke.  I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by detailing the fallacy in that kind of "thinking." But I know that such flawed logic is common in our world, so, when I spoke, I urged everyone at my mother's service not to ever let anyone use her memory that way, even though she did live a long life.

 

And, Lord, did she smoke; both my parents smoked. She tried to quit, and even gave me her word that she would quit when they got up to a quarter a pack, then she backtracked, but promised to quit when they got to 50 cents a pack, and when that didn't work, for sure she would quit when they got up to a dollar a pack--and so on. Toward the end, she would leave her oxygen to smoke, that's how addicted she was.  Tobacco addicts are that way. My mother did die a long drawn-out death, from 3 separate smoking related diseases, COPD, CHF and emphysema.  I have 60 odd ashtrays that weigh a total of about 40 pounds that I'm trying to figure out what to do with; I was thinking maybe an artist could make an anti-tobacco sculpture out of them. 

When my mother became addicted at about the time WWII began, we did not know how bad tobacco was.  In fact, the government distributed tobacco free to service men until 1974.  The social irresponsibility of smoking is now obvious, and we cannot help but think that it is idiotic to smoke, but the addictiveness of tobacco takes intellect mostly out of the equation.  I'm sure that the majority of tobacco addicts know that it is idiotic to smoke, but they cannot control it; they are so overwhelmed by it that many of them don't want to quit, and, despite the addiction, in their minds they actually believe that they are smoking of their own free will.  There is no such thing as free will when it comes to such an addiction, other than the initial decision to try the drug, tobacco.

 

The impact of smoking (and obesity) on the public is devastating, individual exceptions to that impact notwithstanding.  The unquestionable fact is that, when you look at all smokers taken together as a class, they get sick more, they die younger, they cost more money, and the cigarette tax doesn't make up for it.  We don't have the knowledge or technology yet to point to you or Billy Bob or Jack or whomever and say, you, Billy Bob, can smoke all you want and not get sick or cost us anything, but you, Jack, will have to stop because you will get diseases x, y and z. The average cost to us is substantial, not just in extra medical expenses but in lost productivity, not to mention how much the direction of medical research has been distorted because of smoking related disease research.  If tobacco had never existed, the time and effort spent on researching its ills could have been spent on other diseases; maybe by now we would have cures for, say, Lou Gehrig's disease or multiple sclerosis.

 

There are always going to be exceptions to mortality and cost figures; those numbers are statistics, the purpose of which is to give us a feel for what we cannot see on an individual basis.  You don't have 2.4 (or whatever the number is these days) children in your house, for heaven's sake.  Does the fact that Jack has 0 children while John has 9 invalidate the average?  Duh....To understand their validity, you have to look at large numbers of people.  It is just as certain as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow that if you look at large numbers of smokers, a certain fraction of them will get cancer--my mother lucked out there--and a certain fraction will get CHF, etc.  We just don't know who in the group it will be--yet.  Smoking is like Russian roulette.

 

So Billy Bob dodged the smoking bullet and died in a car accident instead?  Well, whoop-ti-do.  Should we celebrate?  Or did Cousin Emma smoke a lot and live a long time and never get sick?  So what.  You have to grasp what a statistic is to realize how an individual datum gets washed out when you look at the whole picture:  all Cousin Emma did was drag down the average cost a little, to what it is.  Tobacco is deadlier and more addictive than heroin, and it ought to be more illegal.  The fact that it takes longer to kill, or the fact that it does not kill on a reliable schedule, or the fact that some of its victims escape its consequences, does not diminish its lethality.

 

We know on the molecular level what smoking does.  The gross physiological effects are well documented.   There used to be an anatomical museum in the basement of a medical school I visited, and there were slices from cadavers on display; I've seen there the inside of a smoker's lung:  it's obscene, it's a perversion of nature, the very epitome of sickness.   How ironic it is that some people slather beauty cream or special lotions on their faces to improve their looks, while simultaneously slathering cigarette tar on the inside of their lungs, where only surgeons and God can see. 

 

Electronic smokeless "cigarettes"--the ones that vaporize nicotine--seemed at first to be a reasonable alternative to tobacco. I was certain that smokeless nicotine could not be anywhere near the burden on society health-wise as tobacco. The evidence is coming out, though, that the additives may actually be making the e-cigs worse than tobacco when it comes to cancer risk. In addition, the seeming less harmful nature of them may be attracting more youngsters into the tobacco lifestyle.


Yes, nicotine is a cardiovascular stimulant, and does raise blood pressure, but, strangely enough, there is some evidence that it inhibits apoptosis, a normal cellular mechanism that your body uses to fight cancer.  However, there do exist some conditions that nicotine actually seems to help; it is an anti-inflammatory, and may retard the onset of Parkinson's disease. The correlation between tobacco use and schizophrenia is well documented, and some argue that its use by schizophrenics is an attempt at self medication. It seems to keep mild schizophrenia under control, and one can only speculate what percentage of tobacco smokers would be manifesting schizophrenia without their "medicine"--tobacco.  One might well consider tobacco to be the most widely used anti-psychotic drug on earth. So it might not be wise to outlaw tobacco, as some of us have wished to do if we had the power to do so.




 


 REGARDING ADELLE DAVIS

The premise of what Adelle Davis preached is that your health is largely dependent on what you eat. Obviously there are environmental and hereditary factors also, but what you eat IS under your control. Her idea that drinking a quart of milk a day would help her avoid cancer seems out of this world. Yet there is actually a germ of truth to it: milk contains glutathione precursors as well as lactoferrin, both of which have anti-tumor activity, lactoferrin directly and glutathione indirectly. Glutathione is essential for the proper functioning of your body's immune system. We know that, like so many in the, let's say, health promotion field, her logic and science were not always the best. A young boy died as a result of his parents having taken her advice to treat cholic with potassium chloride. And her books are riddled with nutritional misinformation despite her having been trained as a biochemist. But her premise was valid: it could be translated very simply as GIGO: if your body's input is biochemical garbage, then so is its output, and that makes sense to me. Her death from cancer was indeed ironic, just as was that of Jim Fixx, the best-selling author of "The Complete Book of Running." Fixx helped start the fitness revolution in this country, yet died of a heart attack while running. Do these ironic deaths mean that we should ignore diet and fitness? I think not.


 IS THERE SUCH A THING AS FOOD ADDICTION?

I tried to cure my addiction to air by holding my breath, but that didn't work. I tried to cure my addiction to water, but it just made me thirsty....I had always thought that people were taking a little poetic liberty in referring to food as an addiction, other than the fact that it HAS to be "addictive" in a certain sense for the species to survive. But, beyond necessity, I can see that many take the idea of it being addictive seriously, even some in the medical and scientific communities. Extreme cases, however, are considered an obsessive/compulsive disorder, not a simple addiction. Calling it an addiction is saying that obesity is a psychiatric disorder; the victims of this disorder, the obese, are now "addicts" in our PC world, so they are seen as not possessing free will or the ability to overcome the disorder;  the "evil-doers" in all of this are perceived to be the food industry's "pushers," who keep their helpless victims addicted by manipulating their psyches by using the propaganda of advertising, as well as doing things like spiking food with "addictive" HFCS, etc. Once their "victims" are "addicted," these evil-doers just rake in the dollars by selling more sodium and fat and sugar that's flavored with a hint of food.

I note a recent study involving diet cycled rats which, when deprived of sugary food, showed increased activity of the corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) gene, causing stress and anxiety, so with that and other studies, I can see the glimmerings of being able to call it an addiction, but I still cannot swallow lumping food "addiction" in the same category as drug addiction. Either way, I don't think the obese are helpless; calling it an addiction gives their obesity that much more power over them--it gives them an excuse to stay fat, an excuse not to try to lose weight. And as far as people getting into the situation to begin with: I think it's simple mindlessness. I get disgusted every time I go to the grocery store at what people buy. I don't think one in a hundred ever actually looks at the labels other than for heating instructions. Remember the peanut butter recall a year or two before the most recent one? I didn't feel sorry for those people who got sick at all, except for the children (who had no choice in who their parents are) because, to my recollection, every one of the brands that was recalled was made with partly-hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I don't think that anyone with a mind would buy a product with that in it....


DOG FOOD: MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN FAST FOOD

Regarding "Kid's Menus," the thought just occurred to me that many dog foods, especially various brands of crunchies, are, technically, more nutritious than almost anything on any human fast food menu. Milk Bones are much more nutritious than any kind of human cookies or chips. Yet, and this is just pure speculation, you would probably get thrown in jail for feeding dog food to your kids, without a word being said if you fed them fast food. [I should mention, though, that I have found information that disturbs me: FDA enforcement of pet food regulations is virtually non-existent as a matter of policy.] And I am disturbed, not just by "kid's" menus, but by everyone's, or almost everyone's, menus.


 DIETARY IMPROVEMENT:  START WITH THE "STAFF OF LIFE"


If you want to improve your diet--and stop getting sicker and more overweight--maybe you should start with your bread, the staff of life. Instead of white bread, which is slightly more nutritious than toilet paper, I would recommend trying the frozen breads available at your "health" food stores, such as those from a company called Food for Life. They are expensive, more than $4 a loaf, but I don't know of anything healthier other than making it yourself. Besides, what price is your health? There is one in particular that my parrots and I enjoy, Genesis 1:29 (yes, that's the name of the variety), which is made from all organic sprouted grains and organic seeds. Salud!


TRY THIS NEW INVENTION TO IMPROVE YOUR DIET

Another approach to the problem is that new invention called "cooking." Cooking is a lot of trouble if you do it the normal way, but since I don't like to cook every day, or necessarily even every week, what I do is cook in bulk. I have a 2 gallon stainless steel pressure cooker, which I might not use with pressure, and a 25 cubic foot deep freeze that is completely full at the moment. I have total control over what goes into my food. Freezing the food gives me the convenience of fast food and the healthiness of my own cooking. 

Once you get this system up and running, you only have to do major cooking once every two or three weeks, and then it's done. I could open the freezer now and get delicious curry, spaghetti sauce, pinto beans, or any of a number of my culinary delights. I have to admit that I do cheat sometimes by buying something out that I don't have the facilities to fix, like a few pounds of BBQ, but I "modify" whatever I get that way to make it healthier (at the very least by diluting its sodium content.) I do sometimes stray, but only after reading the label. The main disadvantage of my method is lack of variety in the main dishes, but I make up for that in the fruit and vegetable department, and I love my cooking. I have to protect my parrots as well as myself from the horrors of the typical modern diet because they will inevitably get a bite or two.




WEIGHT GAIN DUE TO ARTIFICAL SWEETENERS?

 

Check out http://www.purdue.edu/UNS/x/2008a/080211SwithersAPA.html for a synopsis of a Purdue study on the correlation between artificial sweetener usage and weight gain in rats. A separate study, but on people, and just of diet soda usage, at the UT Health Science Center had the same result; those findings were presented at an American Diabetes Association conference in 2005; the lead researcher spoke about the findings to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20050613/drink-more-diet-soda-gain-more-weight. Nobody is saying that the artificial sweeteners CAUSED the weight gain; the causes are much more complex.

There are going to be individuals who drink diet sodas or who consume other artificially sweetened foods and who don't gain weight. You cannot look at just one or another person such person and generalize that the correlation is not real; to know what is true for most (but presumably not all) people, you have to look at a large group of people and study the effect. Knowing that such an effect might occur could very well motivate some people to counteract it, say, by being more diligent calorie-wise.

The fact that we are gaining weight on a per-capita basis has many causes, and, although it's true that almost 3 in 5 Americans, including myself, use diet drinks, I would find it absurd that anyone could blame the magnitude of our national obesity epidemic on the use of artificial sweeteners. They may very well lead to weight gain, but they are not the primary cause of our national problem.

America has not sunk under the combined weight of all the National Geographic magazines, as we all speculated about in high school, and it is not likely to sink because of the increased mass of its inhabitants, but our health care system may well sink because of it. Almost 10% of our health care costs are due to obesity related problems now, but that number is speculated to rise to around 21% by 2018:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2009-11-17-future-obesity-costs_N.htm.


WORRIED ABOUT BPA? ME, TOO

Chemicals that are actually intended for pharmaceutical or additive use have to go through the most rigorous safety studies, yet no matter how extensive the studies, we continue to see recalls and products withdrawn from the market. Pemoline was on the market for 30 years before it was withdrawn. Permax was on the market for 19. Even the most clever and intelligent scientists cannot anticipate every eventuality. Merck scientists used GLP studies in getting Vioxx approved, and their scientists argued quite successfully that the drug was safe...until evidence to the contrary appeared. A similar situation occurred with Bayer and Baycol. The list goes on and on. 

I was in junior high school when thalidomide was finally recalled, and I remember the stubbornness of the drug companies. Thalidomide had not been shown to be teratogenic in laboratory animals, so there was no reason for anyone to worry about teratogenicity in humans. Nobel prize winner Sir Ernst Chain testified, "No animal experiment with a medicament, even if it is tested on several animal species, including primates, under all conceivable conditions, can give any guarantee that the medicament tested in this way will behave the same in humans: because in many respects the human is not the same as the animal."

BPA has been around since 1891. If you want a balanced view--from people, like myself, who simply want the truth, who can see all sides, without name-calling or libel--I would suggest perusing the September, 2008 issue of Scientific American, available online at 
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=just-how-harmful-are-bisphenol-a-plastics&sc=rss.

The talk about BPA is actually on topic: Yes, BPA could be one cause of obesity. The Endocrine Society, a professional, international medical organization--hardly a group of wackos--released its own statement in 2009 about BPA, "'From chemicals in pesticides, food, plastic bottles, lipstick and many other items that we use on a daily basis, the concern is real,' Robert M. Carey, MD, president of The Endocrine Society and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, said during a press conference...The statement includes evidence of the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on male and female reproduction, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, among other mechanisms." The Endocrine Society publishes the Journal of Endocrinology as well as The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. (See 
http://www.endocrinetoday.com/view.aspx?rid=40865.)

...I go along with the side of caution. Yes, there are conflicting studies. But we are talking about actual studies, not websites that post some Aunt Hilda's anecdotes about how BPA caused anencephaly in her grandchildren. Serious doubts about the safety of BPA have been raised, and doubts about the validity of the studies that were relied upon by the FDA and EFSA have been raised by serious scientists. I refer you to http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2008/0800173/abstract.html, a commentary by 30 authors from different leading public and private institutions in the US, the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and Japan. 

I feel the same conservative way as I do about global warming: we cannot say with scientific certainty, because of the other variables and natural cycles, whether mankind is responsible for 5% or it or 95% of it, but you cannot argue that we don't influence it, and, considering its dire consequences, a prudent society would stop contributing to it.

In the case of BPA, all aspects of its safety in humans have not been determined with mathematical and scientific certainty. The 2008 NIH draft on BPA does give me cause for concern: "The NTP [National Toxicology Program] concurs with the conclusion of the CERHR Expert Panel on Bisphenol A that there is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures. The NTP also has some concern for bisphenol A exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females" (
http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/chemicals/bisphenol/BPADraftBriefVF_04_14_08.pdf).

Again, we are not talking about wackos who claim that BPA causes every disease known to man, although I am confident that such wackos exist; I have resisted the impulse to Google it now. We are talking about serious scientists with serious scientific doubts. Until such questions get answered properly, I am going to err on the side of caution. And I hope that studies to answer the question properly get done by scientists who do not work for industry, directly or indirectly, and who do not have any environmental axe to grind either. It would be better if the actual tests were done in a blind manner--i.e., in a manner such that the laboratory personnel are unaware of the actual purpose of the tests. I want truth--just the facts.

I, too, love plastic and "better living through chemistry." I prefer glass for my food containers, however, or at least old-fashioned wax, if they still use that, on the inside of my cartons. The asbestos manufacturers didn't think we could do without that when people first tried to ban it, but we have survived. I'm sure that mankind is clever enough to figure out a way to get by. Don't underestimate our intelligence.


WE'VE GOT TO BE ABLE TO BLAME SOMETHING, MAYBE THERE'S A LAWSUIT WE CAN GET IN ON

I consumed aspartame for a number of years, and then Spenda for a while; I also had cancer 7 years ago. But it would be idiotic to blame the cancer on the aspartame or the Splenda. I also have amalgam fillings, one or two that are five decades old, but, again, it would be idiotic to blame the cancer on that, although just the mention of amalgam causes the, let's be gentle and say ultra-careful ones, to come crawling out of the woodwork. I was exposed to second-hand smoke throughout my entire childhood; was that what caused it? And on it goes when it comes to trying to figure out what caused something--was it this? was it that? Was it several things acting together? Who knows. 

To positively link a chemical exposure or environmental hazard to an individual instance of a disease or syndrome is almost impossible when the disease or syndrome has so many other potential causes. Only in the case of something like mesothelioma, which is linked specifically to asbestos, can the cause be stated with reasonable certainty. In a decade or so, we'll know, with scientific certainty, whether cell phones cause you know what; for now, we can only have doubts, although, I must say, that the televised interview with Cochran's surgeon several years ago was what first raised doubt in my mind.

Every single person who has drunk milk, throughout history, has eventually died, or will eventually die. In other words, consumption of milk has a 100% mortality rate. Should we try to form a class action lawsuit against the milk producers? Duh... On second thought, if I can get money out of it, sign me up! I drink a lot of milk. Maybe that's what caused the cancer.

I do avoid artificial sweeteners these days, unless you count the one or two Coke Zeros every day, so maybe I better say that I minimize such sweeteners. I have stevia, honey, and molasses to use.


THE LADY SAID I COME DOWN TOO HARD ON PEOPLE

Long ago, the internet seemed to have so much promise, because you could communicate directly and immediately with other people without any of the prejudices that people have when they speak face to face. I remember my mother telling me that job interviewers would always look at my shoes, and I thought, how could that be, that's nonsense, how could that relate to my qualifications. But people are that way: they judge you on appearance, dress, accent, and less tangible things, and, in the case of a prospective employer, possibly on your qualifications.

But with the internet, we can talk, and I make no assumptions about who it is that does any posting, with the exception of a couple of authors, and even in that case I don't know for sure: they might have assistants doing the work. I don't necessarily believe any of the profile information--name, location or anything. I don't know if whoever it was that posted last here is 15 years old or 80, or is male or female, or is in the US or Portugal or anywhere else. And it doesn't matter to me.

The only thing that matters is the validity of the ideas, and, in some cases, whether misinformation is going to be perpetuated. I know Amazon.com has all kinds of legal protection for liability about whatever statements are posted here--they are not responsible--still, nobody wants some lady, say, on chemotherapy, to throw her medicines away and die as a consequence because she believed a post she read on an Amazon forum about some kind of catalyst altered water curing all diseases known to man. That would look bad for Amazon.com publicity-wise. So I think we owe it to them and everyone to make sure that we try to follow some kind of factual guidelines. If I were in charge, I would probably have moderators who marked questionable material the way Wikipedia does.

Anyway, I find it strange that anyone could interpret critical posts or replies such as some of mine as personal attacks. How could anyone possibly construe it as a personal attack when I have no idea for sure who you are or anything else about you? I don't know you from Adam.

And regarding argument itself, rational argument is what I learned when I was growing up. There is nothing personal about it. You have a theory or an idea, then you let people give it their best shots. If there's a problem with your theory, then you modify it and let people shoot it down again. Eventually, in the case of rational people, you come up with something that works. This kind of intellectual fencing is how you aid the intellectual development of your children, so that they can think for themselves instead of being walking "tape recorders" who can only repeat back what they've heard.

Did you ever take debate when you were in high school or college? You might seem to be the deadly enemy of your classmate when you're on the podium, but when it's over, it can be seen that you're the best of friends.

I can only assume that people who think that they are being personally attacked have had some kind of life experience that makes them susceptible to that belief; they're soft-shelled, so to speak. Maybe they grew up having to be on the defensive all the time, or maybe they have some kind of current emotional situation or even a hormonal imbalance (a very real possibility) that casts an emotional tone over how they view things.

 

I think that public schooling these days leaves many of its victims, I mean students, without much analytical abilities. The kind of intellectual arguing that we do here can help overcome the problem that schools seem to teach what to think instead of how to think. They don't seem to teach any more how we know what we know, they just teach "facts."

 

When people believe something that is ridiculous, which happens to the best of us, I like to try to get them to see it for themselves through the process of reductio ad absurdum: analyzing the idea by expounding it further so that its premise can be shown to lead to an absurdity--something that does not seem to be taught in school anymore. I try prodding them to ask questions for themselves that would reveal the truth or falsity of their notion, such as what would the consequences be if the idea were true, or what kind of questions would be raised if it were true.

 

An example from this forum was the idea that an inanimate piece of matter remembers where it has been, to which I responded by pointing out that a piece of rock or a chemical crystal remembering where it has been would raise obvious, simple questions, such as, does the rock remember where it was yesterday, or just for the last hour, or for the last year, or what, and does it only remember what was within an inch or so of it, or does it remember everything within a few yards of it, or what. Nobody can answer such questions because there is no answer. Those questions lead to further unanswerable questions, such as, if it does store memories, where and how are they stored. The belief is then seen to be more and more ridiculous. The people who passed it on were not idiots, it's just that they never thought about it; they were not trained to think critically, or may have viewed their sources as gospel-like. 

As I mentioned, I have the deed to a bridge in Brooklyn that I can let you have for a very low price; if you don't possess some critical thinking skills, you might actually believe that. What happens is that people will get some general fog of a idea from elsewhere and pass it on without critical thinking. I was hoping that I was helping teach people to think more analytically. Our society will benefit, and certainly this discussion will benefit, when it is all looked at in the light of reason....

 

A little addendum: maybe I'm just weird, but I am grateful when people point out to me the flaws in my thinking or my facts, because then I can go forward with confidence. I don't get angry at whomever points out that I overlooked something obvious, I get embarrassed, and angry at myself. That's probably one reason I am not a talk room or forum addict. But, again, maybe I'm weird. I find typos and errors on my PWP regularly, and I have an email link asking people to notify me if they find errors. I'm different: I want people to find the errors so I can get rid of them.


LEAVE THE CRACKPOT SCIENCE AT HOME

I happen to be a great believer in "whatever works." But so often, those with alternative views of medicine are relegated to the category of wackos and totally ignored because of their misunderstandings about science. I don't care if a drug comes from a laboratory or out of a plant, if it is going to cure me, then I will take it. But a doctor is not going to listen to you if you suggest to him that you ought to take a certain herb, as some would do, say, for a heart condition because the herb's flower is shaped like a heart. But it you tell that doctor that the herb contains a certain chemical, and that this chemical has been shown effective in animals for that particular condition, then the doctor might actually listen to you (or at least a few might.) 

Many of the people who post in these forums (or forii, or whatever the plural of forum is) are actually trying to spread reasonable ideas, or common sense, but they are only going to be preaching to the choir when their arguments contain, shall we say, misapprehensions. For example, I consider myself open-minded, but I would never have tried acupuncture if I had first read anything about the traditional "theories" about how it works, because, despite what turns out to be actual predictive value, they are ludicrous. You are not going to tell me that my body has a "triple warmer" in it that might cause "stagnant heat" in some organ. So I know that if you want your argument to be heard, there are some things that you cannot say, and if you want to be heard by those with any scientific bent, then you must use good science.....

When I was little, I had a crick in my neck, and my physician, a real MD, fixed it by doing a chiropractic maneuver, which he told my mother and myself never to tell anyone about. So I know that chiropractic works, but the fact that it works, and the theories that some chiropractors use to rationalize and explain it, are two different things. Many of their theories are totally and completely ridiculous, such as the idea that "subluxations" are the leading cause of all disease.


COULD PHYSICAL OBJECTS RETAIN AN "IMPRINT" OF THEIR PAST HISTORY?

C. Stern apparently believes that everything in the world retains a non-physical "imprint" of whatever environment the object or molecule may have been in previously, and in the case of sucralose, that it retains some kind of "imprint" of the process by which it was synthesized. This imprint is not believed to be anything measurable by instruments, but is supposedly some kind of spiritual property, and that our bodies can react to the difference between two seemingly identical substances, if one is synthetic and the other is natural.

I have an intellectual difficulty with this imprinting business. For instance, just how long does it last, and how far out does it go? If I take a rock from my garden and put it on my kitchen table, does the rock remember only the immediate previous surrounding of dirt, or does it remember just the garden, or does it remember the yard, or perhaps the entire city of Houston--or what? If I then move the rock from my table and put it under my pillow after a day, does the rock forget the dirt or garden, and only remember the table, or what? If it stays under the pillow for a year, does it then forget about the table?

Suppose I heat a pot of water on my stove and let it boil dry, and the water molecules then go into the atmosphere and end up condensing in a cloud over a mountain, where the water begins to precipitate as rain. This rain dribbles down a mountain, into a stream, and into a river where you are fishing. What is the water imprinted with--the pipes it came through to get into my kitchen, the stainless steel pan it was boiled in, the air that surrounded it on its way to the cloud, the cloud itself, the other water around it as it rained, the mountain that it landed on, the stream that it was in, the river--or just the "imprint" of the fish you just caught? These believers in imprinting are going to try to get me to believe that this water that got mixed into the river starting from my kitchen is somehow different than a little bit of water farther down in the river that started out from a pan that had been on Mr. Gilmore's stove and ended up in a different cloud, but which rained on the same mountain.

This is just the beginning of the difficulty you are going to have believing that this imprinting is anything more than fantasy. Think about it as information content: memories are information. Where is this information content stored? How is it stored? How is it accessed? Does every atom in the universe have its own GPS unit and hard drive to store where it's been for billions of years? Technically, that information would have to consist of a snapshot of the entire universe at each moment of each atom's existence, which is an impossible amount of information. And what sort of mechanism is anyone proposing for how, say, water molecules are going to access the "memories" of where they were? What mechanism exists for such "memories" to modify the behavior of molecules that have been synthesized by man so that your body would "know" that they are synthetic and would therefore react to them differently than if they had been created by nature? Calling it spiritual does not change the complexity of the problem here; in order for the process of imprinting to exist, there would have to exist a complexity of physical matter that we do not observe.


LET'S GET RICH SELLING HOMEOPATHIC WINE AND HOMEOPATHIC GASOLINE

In the case of homeopathy...practitioners believe in their "minds" that a minuscule quantity of a substance that causes the same symptoms as the disease they are trying to treat will cure that disease. In many cases, the dilutions they use are such that not even one molecule of the supposed active ingredient is present in their preparations, but when faced with that objection, they then contend that their starting dilutions, which did contain at least a few molecules of the treating substance, were changed by their preparation because of imprinting, so that their "dilutions" then become some kind of medicine even without any molecules of the original active ingredient--in other words, alchemy.

What they conveniently overlook is that the water they use also contains a few molecules of dozens or hundreds of other substances--any public water on earth is going to contain at least a few atoms of barium, copper, lead, arsenic, uranium, etc.--which, if imprinting were an actual process, would also imprint the water.

The height of the absurdity of homeopathy was emphasized to me recently when I saw an ad from Swanson for a product by an actual German doctor(!) that was a mixture of different dilutions of the same thing, but each "dilution" was alleged to have a different curative effect, so that the mixture had all the different alleged curative effects together: "Unlike most formulas, this Arnica contains five dilutions to address both localized symptoms and global concerns. Each dilution has its own distinct level of action, and together they make one comprehensive homeopathic medicine." In homeopathy, when you mix two different dilutions of something together, you don't end up with a different dilution, you end up with something completely different. It's like mixing 80 proof vodka with 100 proof vodka and ending up with Everclear: in other words, total nonsense.

I had ignored homeopathy as more or less harmless quackery until an aunt of mine mentioned wanting to treat her terminally ill husband with homeopathy, at which point I realized that homeopathy can kill. If it ever works at all, it works by the same mechanism as faith healing--which I do believe can occur--and/or the placebo effect, not science.

As long as homeopathy exists, the Mafia will have no motive to try and skim money out of the medical profession, because there is no more perfect scam than to sell pills that you don't have to put any actual ingredients into. 

Maybe I could get rich selling gallons of water as homeopathic milk or wine. If a bartender gives you a glass of water and calls it homeopathic beer, you'll realize how ridiculous homeopathy is....

I would love to be a waiter at a convention of homeopaths, so that I could serve them, not just homeopathic wine (i.e., water), but homeopathic steaks, etc. There would be no need for knives or forks, since the food would either be water diluted from a few molecules of actual food or an inert filler mixed with a speck or two of actual food. Imagine having to eat your homeopathic steaks with a spoon. (Imagine the money the restaurant would save on dishwashing and food costs.) 


HOMEOPATHIC COFFEE ANYONE?

If you...would suggest homeopathy, you obviously don't understand the so-called "principles" of it, one of which is that the more you dilute something, the stronger it gets.

 

Try making homeopathic coffee and tell me how well that theory works. Here's how: make a pot of coffee, then take one drop of that coffee and put it into a gallon of plain water and shake it well. Now, take a drop of that mixture and put it into another gallon of plain water and shake it. The C rating you see on homeopathic labels refers to the number of times they have diluted it, like you just diluted the coffee. The majority of homeopathic "remedies" are unlikely to contain even one single atom of the purported active ingredient.

 

You just made 2X homeopathic coffee--a dilution of a dilution: drink some of the homeopathic coffee and tell me how strong it is. If you believe in homeopathy, you will believe that your diluted solution of a diluted solution is stronger than the coffee you started out with. And think: when the homeopaths do it, they don't just do one or two dilutions--they dilute it again and again until nothing is there but water. You could save a lot of money on your grocery bill if you started drinking only homeopathic beverages and prepared them yourself.

 

In the case of solid homeopathic substances, the original substance is diluted with a large amount of lactose by mixing, then they take a tiny amount of that dilution and mix it with with another large amount of lactose. They repeat this process over and over, until they obtain a powder that may or may not have a few molecules or atoms of the supposed active ingredient in it. You could make homeopathic tea that way, most easily if you start with instant tea. Take a tiny amount of instant tea, add it to a pound of lactose, then mix it well--quite a chore for a solid--then take that and dilute it again with more lactose. Then do it again, and again, and again. I would have to question the sanity of anyone who would imagine that the homeopathic tea--the diluted tea that results--would be as strong as the original, real tea, but homeopaths hallucinate that it gets stronger as it gets diluted.

 

One of the oldest exposes of it came from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., father of the famed jurist, who, in the 19th century, wrote a book about it entitled, "Homeopathy And Its Kindred Delusions." Despite expose after expose over the last two centuries by various men of learning, there are always a few people who continue to believe the nonsense, ideas that are contrary, not just to schoolroom logic, but to what we think of as common sense.

 

James Randi has offered one million dollars to anyone who can prove that homeopathy works: no one has collected for one simple reason--it doesn't work, other than by placebo. His speeches on the subject, given at Cal Tech and Princeton, are available on youtube, such as at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWE1tH93G9U. Those lectures don't appear to have been attended by any homeopathy devotees; we might surmise that they would never get into such institutions, other, perhaps, than as janitors. Randi's challenge is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMukj31qw1U.

 

How could anyone possibly believe that a medicine gets stronger the more dilute you make it? We put people in jail when they do that, like the Midwest pharmacist who diluted anti-cancer drugs a few years ago. But when they call themselves homeopaths, we let them walk free. Homeopath, fraud, charlatan--same thing. It is, for reasons unknown to me, still legal to defraud people of their money by selling them something that is worthless as long as you call it "homeopathic." I wonder if you could sell televisions that don't work and get away with it by calling them homeopathic televisions. You could sell water and call it homeopathic gasoline; the homeopaths could not complain. What more lucrative criminal enterprise could there be than homeopathy? That's why we have prisons, to protect the public from such quackery.

 

I can understand how, not knowing what it actually is, someone might think to try it. But if you continue to believe in it after the so-called "principles" of it are explained to you--and what I mentioned is just one of their lunacies--well, no amount of reason is going to convince you of the truth, just as no amount of reason would convince you to change a religious belief.

 

The believers are so fanatical about it that even watching people consume entire bottles of the homeopathic materials without having any effect whatsoever does not make the believers realize that the substances are worthless. There is no better profit margin than in homeopathic materials, since the cost of the supposed active ingredient is nil.

 

And because there are no active ingredients, I wouldn't worry about their preparations that start out with "pathological excretions and secretions," called "nosodes" by them, even though those preparations may originate from things like diseased tissue or fecal matter: they've diluted it so much that there isn't anything left. A description of that, and a fascinating history of the pseudoscience of homeopathy, can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297514/?tool=pmcentrez.


CAN YOU TELL WHERE AN ATOM CAME FROM?

Theoretically, any organic compound can be synthesized from carbon and inorganic elements. There may be only a few practical ways to do so in any instance, but, for simple compounds, there are usually a lot of different ways to synthesize them. What you end up with is identical in each case.

When people use the term "synthetic" vitamin E, for instance, they usually think of an impure mixture, one with the d- and the l- forms of alpha tocopherol, because that is how "synthetic" vitamin E has been marketed most of the time. If that is what you have, then the "synthetic" is not the same. However, you can obtain pure d-alpha tocopherol synthetically (it's just one of the vitamin E family, though): it can be isolated from the d,l mixture--and a jar of pure d-alpha tocopherol that you synthesize is indistinguishable from a jar of pure d-alpha tocopherol that could be extracted from wheat germ or soy. (Extracting the pure d-alpha from wheat germ oil is ridiculous though, because that loses the other active vitamin E compounds.) 

If the chemical is pure, there is no chemical or any other test--there is nothing on earth--that can tell the difference between the two jars. The molecules of d-alpha tocopherol do not "know" where they came from. The individual atoms on each molecule do not "know" where they came from, so it does not matter how the molecule was "made" if it was made synthetically. 

The word synthetic does not mean unnatural. Sucralose is synthetic, but it is unnatural in the sense that it does not occur in nature. Glucose is natural, but it can be synthesized. If I give you a teaspoon of synthetic glucose, it is indistinguishable from a teaspoon of the natural.

I agree: some of the things mankind has done have not worked out. Partly-hydrogenated vegetable oils are a good example: I don't allow them in my house, not because they are synthetic, but because they are, in the long run, deadly. I don't see anything wrong with having synthetic things in my house, like nylon or steel utensils. Synthetic vanilla extract is not as good flavorwise as natural vanilla extract because the flavor of the natural product is due to several different chemicals, not just vanillin, but if you extract pure vanillin from the vanilla bean, that vanillin is indistinguishable from synthetic vanillin.

....it finally dawned on me that what I think you are saying is that the product is going to be different depending on how you make it, which is not true in the case of a chemical, assuming that the chemical is pure. A pure chemical is the same no matter how you make it. Let me suggest an introductory text like Morrison & Boyd: Organic Chemistry 6th Ed.

Caffeine is a good example of an organic chemical that is the same no matter where it came from or how it is made--assuming that it is pure. That is part of the definition of "pure." If a chemical is pure, it is, by definition, indistinguishable from any other sample of that same chemical. There are no atomic differences between molecules of water found on the moon and on earth. (For simplicity, I am neglecting potential variations in isotope composition.) 


....You cannot look at a molecule of water and say that the two hydrogens came from Cairo, or that the oxygen was in a meteorite last year, unless, of course, you synthesized it yourself from those particular hydrogens and oxygens. You cannot pick out one molecule of water from a glass of water and say that that particular molecule was, say, in Tehran 10,000 years ago.  Every time you breathe in, you are breathing in ten to the 26th-odd molecules of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.:  it is statistically certain that a few of those molecules were breathed by Genghis Khan, a few were breathed by John the Baptist, a few were breathed by Lyndon Johnson, and so on. But to select a particular molecule of CO2 from the air and say that that the atoms in it or the molecule itself has a certain history--that the carbon was, say, in the leaf of a tree in Brazil 80,000 years ago, which then got eaten by a moth, which then got eaten by a frog, and so on--is impossible.

There is no equipment in the universe that has such a capability. Physicists still quibble about subatomic structures, but atomic and molecular configurations are fairly well understood, and it is difficult for me to imagine that every single atom and molecule in the universe would possess, in addition to what we already know about, some kind of a record of its physical history.


MESSAGES IN WATER AND OTHER QUACKERY

Reuven Gillmore, you mentioned water and suggested that C. Stern was alluding to Masaru Emoto's numerous publications, such as The Hidden Messages in Water or The Healing Power of Water, and that Emoto tries to convince people that water has "memory" via its hydrogen bonding. I missed the allusion because I haven't been reading much science fiction lately. The Wikipedia article on Masaru describes his belief that "if human speech or thoughts are directed at water droplets before they are frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be beautiful or ugly depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music or by attaching written words to a container of water." I'm curious as to how one could possibly run a control on such an experiment; how could one keep out negative thoughts of other people?

This book and other water quackery are discussed at the fantastic web site of retired chemistry professor Stephen Lower. He writes, "it disturbs me to see crackpot chemistry, pseudoscientific mind-mush and outright lies used to promote these products to consumers whose lack of scientific training leaves them unprotected from this exploitation," in reference to the myriad products that promote various kinds of "special" water, such as the so-called "clustered" water. He incorporates lengthy quotes and even pictures from vendor websites that are quite amusing, and make it easy to see how ridiculous their claims are; it is at http://www.chem1.com/CQ/clusqk.html#SOUND. After reading Lower's critique, anyone who owns the book might decide to recycle it (or sell the used copy on amazon.com!) Certainly, you wouldn't want to put it where anyone could see it; you wouldn't want your friends to know that you purchased it.


WACKO BELIEFS ABOUT ASPARTAME'S COMPOSITION

For putting the word "methanol" under their diagram of the molecular structure of aspartame, NutraSweet deserves all the flak that they have been getting and the tons of mistaken reports that it "contains" methyl alcohol. I could not believe my eyes when I looked at that diagram. What they meant to say was that the aspartame molecule can be looked at as being made up of three simpler chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methyl alcohol.

Aspartame does not now, nor has it ever, contained methanol per se. The -OCH3, or -OMe, as it is often abbreviated, can be derived FROM methanol. That part of the molecule is an ester, a reaction product between a carboxylic acid and an alcohol. If you start with methyl alcohol, you get a methyl ester, which is what we have here; if you started with ethyl alcohol, you would have an ethyl ester, or with propyl alcohol, a propyl ester, and so on.

Methyl esters are common in the natural world; methyl salicylate (the main constituent of oil of wintergreen) and cocaine are both examples of substances that contain methyl ester groups, just like aspartame, but neither "contain" methanol. Listerine contains methyl salicylate, the methyl ester group of which is no different than that of aspartame, but I haven't seen people running around screaming and yelling about Listerine "containing" methyl alcohol (which it obviously doesn't either.) Maybe we could cut down on the crack epidemic if we could get users to believe that it contains methanol, which, judging by the situation with aspartame, as aggravated by whatever genius set up that diagram on the NutraSweet website, would not be difficult to do.

Methyl esters can and do hydrolyze in solution, thereby reverting back to the acids and alcohols from which they were formed, but the amount of methanol molecules formed in this process from the minuscule amount of material that would be present in anyone's stomach is negligible.


 IF IT'S ARTIFICIAL, DOES IT HAVE TO BE "BAD"?

I continue to be amazed by people who automatically assume that if it is artificial, then it has to be bad. These same people are driving in automobiles and living in houses that are by definition artificial. By posting on this forum, they prove that they use artificial devices like computers, and send artificial electronic signals over a world-wide electronic network. If they get injured in a car crash, do you think they are going to say no to the ambulance or the injections, or artificial life-saving medical devices? I think not.

By posting in this forum, they prove that they are hypocrites. I have total respect for some in our world, such as the Amish, who disdain the modern. (By the way, the Amish make the best blue cheese in the world, and you can buy big containers of it at Sam's Club, and it freezes well.) But I have no respect for people whose lives would not be possible without the products of man's ingenuity, but who claim that that very ingenuity cannot be applied to something like chemical substances.

You can thank God for man's ingenuity in devising something as simple as chlorinated water, which was and is instrumental in controlling waterborne communicable diseases. As Life Magazine stated, "The filtration of drinking water plus the use of chlorine is probably the most significant public health advance of the millennium." Some of those who are complaining about the evils of chlorine would probably never have been born had diseases like cholera and typhoid not been almost eliminated in the civilized world--by chlorination.


YOU'D THINK SPLENDA HAD BEEN INVENTED BY SATAN

I note that there are some--let's be gentle and just say far out, although completely wacky would be a better description in some cases--web sites (and books) that purport to inform you about the "evils" of Splenda. The problem is that the wackos make those of us with genuine concerns look bad; we don't know with scientific certainty that what applies to a bunch of rats has any relevance at all to humans, but it is cause for concern, and our concerns need to be addressed.

The problem with getting our concerns addressed is, who is going to fund the research? The company that brought it to market has already funded numerous studies, which found no problems. The fact that the company had a vested financial interest in the outcome of the studies does not invalidate the results, but inquiring minds would certainly look at the results more closely. Because the issue is considered closed in some circles as a result of the original research, that makes it difficult to find someone willing to look at the issue and even more difficult to find a funding source.

On top of that, a potential researcher might think that, even if the funds were to be made available, if new research were to result in such a money-maker being taken off the market, that researcher might find that future funding sources would dry up, so he or she might shy off. It would be natural to worry about being blacklisted (not that such a thing exists.) It certainly stands to reason that Johnson & Johnson would not be funding any of that investigator's further research.

The extremists point to the presence of the chlorine-carbon bonds in the sucralose molecule as if they were snakes. Yes, technically, that makes it a "chlorinated hydrocarbon," which brings to mind images of genuinely toxic substances like DDT, and the scare-mongers will do just that. The facts are different: there is no similarity. Sucralose behaves like a sugar physically and chemically because its chemical behavior is dominated by the oxygen and hydroxyl moieties. It has extremely low solubility in fats, for example, unlike the chlorinated hydrocarbons that you normally think of when you hear that term. Its solubility in fat is something that anyone can measure, and obviously it has been.

To some minds, calling it a "chlorinated hydrocarbon" is going to magically make it start dissolving in fat cells, despite the overwhelming hydrophilic nature of the molecule as a whole, which shows you just how much intellectual blindness this issue creates.

With less than elementary knowledge of chemistry, these nay-sayers point to the reactivity of elemental chlorine as though what the element does in its free state is the same when it is bonded with carbon, which it isn't. That's like saying that table salt is evil because it contains sodium and chlorine, both of which are poisonous and deadly in their elemental state.

I note several sites that worry about the inventors of Splenda not being able to "guarantee us...what amount of chlorine stays in the body and what percent flushes out," which is totally ludicrous. Splenda contains three chlorine-carbon bonds, but the aliphatic carbon-chlorine bond is stable in the sense that it is unlikely to be cleaved to form a free radical; the bond could also be cleaved by substitution, but that would result in a harmless chloride ion. Two of the chlorine-carbon bonds are on attached methyl groups, which makes them particularly stable, and one is on a ring structure adjacent to a carbon bonded to a hydroxyl group, which makes it open to a wider range of possibilities, but not in a normal biochemical environment. In other words, the chlorine atoms are not going to magically separate themselves from the rest of the molecule and go floating around in your cells doing some kind of mischief. In the presence of ultraviolet light, that bond could cleave and form a free radical, which, in the absence of antioxidants, could do damage, but most people don't have lights inside their cells. The fact that the chlorines are "tightly bound" is exactly why they don't cause any reactions: they stay put. The molecule's stability is why you can bake with it.

I would wager that these nay-sayers would take all the Valium that their doctors prescribe, totally oblivious to the fact that it contains a carbon-chlorine bond--as do dozens and dozens of valuable pharmaceuticals still in use today. A partial list of these "chlorinated hydrocarbons" would include chloramphenicol, Aureomycin, Vancomycin, chloroquine, chlortetracycline, Ceclor, Lorazepam, Xanax, Zoloft, Lunesta, Claritin and Thorazine. Some of these unnatural "chlorinated hydrocarbons" are still saving lives today. One of them, chloral hydrate, may still be knocking people out today: since the late 1800's, that particular "chlorinated hydrocarbon" has been used to make Mickey Finns. The dental rinse I have in my bathroom is a "chlorinated hydrocarbon"--chlorhexidine. There are all kinds of chlorine atoms in all of our bodies as the result of natural processes, so if you want to avoid chlorine, you are going to have to leave your physical body behind.

I concur with Mary Ann White's opinion that Splenda has been being marketed deceptively with reference to how the manufacturer has generated a high-glycemic mix in order to be able to sell it so that it can be advertised as volumetrically equivalent to sugar for baking use. Let us not mention their other deceptive practice, that of implying that sucralose is somehow or another "natural" because it started out as a sugar molecule. Using that kind of convoluted logic, one could claim that every single thing man makes is natural because, if you go far enough back, it all started out as something that naturally occurred here on this earth. By settling certain lawsuits out of court, it would appear that the manufacturer acknowledges the error of their ways.

I don't bake, but I use Stevia now as my non-sugar sweetener for other uses. Stevia will probably end up being marketed the same way (if it isn't already), i.e., mixed with huge amounts of sugaroids in order to make it into a cup for cup equivalent to sugar. 


THOSE "EVIL" CHLORINE MOLECULES AGAIN....

....The hallucinations that a chlorine atom bonded to a carbon atom is automatically going to make a compound toxic, or that the chlorine atom will be mysteriously labile no matter how stable the bond, or that the chlorine atom puts it "in the same category of chemicals as Bug Poison" are quite widespread. A similar hallucination holds that, because it is synthetic, it is necessarily "bad" and, somehow, poisonous.

Someone with a mind would probably study chemistry before making pronouncements that require a knowledge of that subject. Every now and then, someone comes along and, after reading the pronouncements of someone ELSE who knows nothing about chemistry, decides to adopt that person's opinions, then copies and pastes that misinformation into a forum or blog, which perpetuates the misunderstanding. This is fairly easy to tell when you see that their references are to various alarmist websites apparently run by those who are Thorazine-deprived. Sometimes I suspect that, instead of being merely due to ignorance, the propagation of these lies is done for propaganda purposes. One of the most common issues this happens with is regarding the three chlorine atoms in the sucralose molecule.

Someone with a mind and a knowledge of chemistry would probably know that not all chlorine-containing hydrocarbons are "bug poisons," nor do all "bug poisons" contain chlorine. The very first instance of a non-chlorine containing "bug poison" that comes to my mind would be the pyrethrins, which are insecticides that occur naturally in chrysanthemum plants. Boric acid, used to kill roaches, would be another.

As far as organo-chlorine compounds, these purveyors of ignorance are obviously unaware that, in nature, on this earth, there have been discovered numerous organo-halogen compounds, organic fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine compounds. The carbon-chlorine bond is not peculiar to the chemistry laboratory; it occurs in nature.

Gribble describes it this way: "Despite the long association of organohalogen compounds with human activities, nature is the producer of nearly 5,000 halogen-containing chemicals. Once dismissed as accidents of nature or isolation artifacts, organohalogen compounds represent an important and ever growing class of natural products, in many cases exhibiting exceptional biological activity....These natural organohalogens are biosynthesized by bacteria, fungi, lichen, plants, marine organisms of all types, insects, and higher animals including humans. These compounds are also formed abiogenically, as in volcanoes, forest fires, and other geothermal events. In some instances, natural organohalogens are precisely the same chemicals that man synthesizes for industrial use, and some of the quantities of these natural chemicals far exceed the quantities emitted by man." (http://www.springer.com/chemistry/organic+chemistry/book/978-3-211-99322-4)

The assumption that organo-chlorine compounds are, somehow or another, automatically going to be "bug poisons" or even poisonous at all is nothing but a hallucination. Yes, some of these compounds do indeed have insecticidal and other physiological activity: life on our planet has been engaged in what amounts to chemical warfare since shortly after the beginning of life. But, as when describing any other overly broad general class of compounds, these compounds cannot be categorized one way or the other regarding their biological activity: it varies widely. They are not all either "bug poisons" or necessarily even poisons at all.

Have you never heard of 4-chloro-3-indoleacetic acid? It's a chlorocarbon--does it sound deadly? Well, guess what: it's an auxin, a growth regulator secreted by plants such as peas and beans. It IS sometimes thought of as a death hormone for the parent plant, since what it does is to to make the parent plant stop growing, presumably so that nutrients can be transferred into the seed instead of allowing the parent plant to continue to grow: if the seeds were not to obtain nutrients, then the species would not be propagated. It is critical that plants--and animals--be able to control growth, to turn various growth processes on or off as required. Plants cannot have flowers blooming in the dead of winter. Such growth is controlled by various hormones, called auxins in plants. Gasp--guess you'll stop eating peas now.

Guess what: pharmaceuticals like Valium, Ceclor, Vancomycin, Lorabid, chloroquine, chlorotetracycline, Mitotane and numerous others are all chlorocarbons. Gasp--guess you'll stay away from the pharmacy now, especially when you find out that nearly 90% of all pharmaceuticals require the use of chlorine-containing or other halogen-containing compounds in the course of their manufacture. One chlorocarbon, chlorpromazine, is obviously not being prescribed enough, judging by the number of posts containing such hallucinatory information in forums such as these.

By the same kind of infantile "logic," I guess you would have to say that, since cyanide contains a carbon-nitrogen bond, all compounds containing a carbon-nitrogen bond belong to the "class of poisons." "Therefore," any new compound containing a carbon-nitrogen bond would "have" to be poisonous. That class would, of course, include all amino acids. Another example one might use is strychnine. Strychnine is a member of a class of compounds called alkaloids, in this case tryptamine alkaloids. Using that same "logic," one would have to say that "all" tryptamine alkaloids are poisons, and any other compounds in that class would automatically "have to be" a poison. Guess what, though: serotonin and melatonin are both tryptamine compounds.

So, in addition to suggesting taking a course in chemistry, I would also suggest taking a course in logic. That said, I would like to see a study using radioactive Cl-38 to determine how 100% of those parts of the sucralose molecule are metabolized, to avoid the possibility that, decades from now, it turns out that some minor, unanticipated--or perhaps yet unknown--metabolite is having a sophisticated physiological effect not measurable in the studies made to date.


ON SACCHARIN

Cindee Me - There were studies that linked saccharin to bladder tumors in rats, which is what caused the original hubbub about it, but, years later, other studies have shown that the carcinogenic effect was due, not to the saccharin itself, but to the way it was administered, which the original researchers did not anticipate; it appears that any acidic sodium salt solution, i.e., not just of saccharin, but of other substances as well, if administered the way the saccharin was administered, will cause bladder tumors--but only in rats. In other words, there was a flaw in the design of the original studies. "The published findings show that the development of bladder tumors associated with high dietary levels of the sodium salts of organic acids is a phenomenon that is unique to the rat and secondary to pronounced physiologic changes in the urine that occur in this species" (Saccharin Revisited.) I don't think that one in a million researchers could have conceived that the observed tumors resulted from sodium salts of organic acids in general instead of the base compound they were studying (saccharin), but then, that's why you have to have carefully designed control experiments. This case is one of the most perfect examples of the importance of control experiments. It also points to the importance of trying to find scientific facts instead of running around yelling that the sky is falling.

Despite the fact that scientific consensus is that saccharin in humans is safe, I don't like it or have it around. There are a number of common household products that I don't allow in my house either, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), but in those cases, I have solid rationale instead of a vague feeling to back me up. Acetaminophen, a liver toxin, causes in excess of 50,000 emergency room visits just in this country each year, and necessitated 264 liver transplants last year. In a bizarre twist of logic, some of the same people who consume Tylenol as if it were candy, yell and scream about the menace they perceive in Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. In case you're wondering, why don't you call and ask your local hospital how many patients they admit to their ER each year due to Splenda or saccharin toxicity.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on 
saccharin. Their article references a fantastic quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, who said, "Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot." Saccharin has been around a long time. 


ADHD AND AUTISM BEING BLAMED ON VACCINATIONS BECAUSE THEY SEEMED TO START AT THE SAME TIME

...These "epidemics" also coincide with the introduction and wide-spread usage of television; why not blame them on television? I was looking at a graph of UFO sightings per year, and, by gosh, the correlation is equally unmistakable. Why not blame them on UFOs or aliens? Or how about atomic fallout, which began to affect us after WWII? The correlation in time is equally unmistakable. Why not blame the recent rise in diagnoses of autism on the removal of leaded gasoline from the market, and presumably also from the air? That correlation in time is remarkable--idiotic, of course, but correlations in time are not necessarily meaningful. One could find all kinds of correlations in time, and, to someone without a mind, any such correlation would constitute "proof" that a causal relationship exists.

 

I can appreciate someone having an "ah, ha" moment when the thought occurs that, seemingly, vaccination campaigns became more widespread at the same time as these "epidemics," and that there might exist a relationship. Any intelligent person might see that as a possible correlation and wonder about it. Instead of looking at the numbers and trying to see if there is any factual basis to the idea, instead of trying to figure out how such a hypothesis might be proven--as someone with a mind might do--they jump to conclusions and spread their alarmism as though what they believe were actually fact.

 

What has happened is that this idea about vaccination being causative has become fixated in many minds to the point of pathology, so that all data, no matter how contradictory, is seen as "proof" of the relationship. There are so many confounding co-factors that epidemiological studies are difficult to perform and interpret, no different than the difficulty in determining whether, or how much, effect pesticide absorption may be having on public health, or how much effect plasticizers, endocrine disruptors or other environmental factors, may be having. Imagine the difficulty of designing a study that would be able to differentiate between the effects of pesticide residue consumption and that of BPA exposure: where are you going to find a population that has NOT been exposed to either one to compare?

 

Other factors, such as reduced body levels of vitamin D as a result of less exposure to sunlight in our "civilization," are also correlated with the rise of such diseases, and the vitamin D bandwagon is now rolling strongly, given a strong push by the unbelievably strong correlation between low levels of vitamin D and conditions like autism. To assert that vaccinations are "the" cause of such diseases is absurd beyond belief: there are many causes, and I find it unlikely that vaccination plays any role other than allowing those who, in the Darwinian sense, are unfit to survive, to survive and reproduce.

 

What I find especially amusing is the supposed correlation between the incidence of Alzheimer's and vaccinations: vaccinations are one of the health improvements that have allowed more of us to LIVE long enough to get Alzheimer's, so yes, there may be a correlation.

 

One could even speculate that those whom nature would previously have eliminated from the population base via childhood mortality are, for reasons related to their greater susceptibility to such diseases, more likely to acquire Alzheimer's (or any of the other epidemic disease being blamed by some on vaccinations.)

 

When you think about the number of genetic and disease conditions that are co-morbid with, say, autism, you would have to suspect that such individuals would most likely be struck down at a much greater rate than the general population by those diseases against which we are nowadays immunized. Not only has the population age composition changed with time, that is, the percentage of those in the Alzheimer's-susceptible group has increased, the total population has increased as well, not to mention the change in diagnostic capability and awareness, nor to mention the change in the likelihood that people would allow anyone outside their families to be aware of the various dementias of their elderly.

 

There might actually be a germ--just a touch, mind you--of truth to the possibility that the supposed correlations are causal. Separate from the issue that those who otherwise would have died might be more susceptible to conditions later in life is the possibility that, not the vaccinations themselves, but the fact that youngsters don't fight so many diseases while they are growing up, might very well be a factor in the development of other diseases. This "play in the mud" hypothesis is not without its supporters, and may very well have some merit.

When you look at the co-morbidity of diseases like autism spectrum disorders with other diseases and developmental disorders, such as epilepsy, mental retardation, gastrointestinal disorders, etc., you've got to realize that autism, or at least most of what gets diagnosed as such, must involve genetic defect(s), and the results of the Autism Genome Project substantiate that suspicion. These people's DNA is messed up is what the problem is, and that's why they suffer from so many afflictions. Giving someone a vaccination isn't going to miraculously start rearranging their DNA so wildly, so you can't blame the vaccinations. A new study, discussed in the NY Times today, based on a comparative study of autism in identical and in fraternal twins, lowers the estimate of the genetic component of autism to 38% responsibility, but does not pound any nails in the coffin as to what environmental factors are responsible: see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/health/research/05autism.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23.

 

Simple minds want simple solutions and simple explanations: unfortunately that is not the case when it comes to such diseases.

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All content on this site, including pictures, is copyrighted, 2006 through 2016, by George A. Butel.  All rights are reserved; text may be quoted freely with attribution, but critical commentary must give me the opportunity to reply.

Visit our hints for cancer patients Google page, which tells you some of the things I learned during cancer treatment, including a few things that "they" forget to tell you, such as having to be a little bit "anal" about trying to prevent opportunistic infections. I never had any during my treatment, so I think my obsession paid off.


LEGAL STUFF

This site has tips and observations about dealing with parrots, and a few of my own views about human and parrot health concerns. I have a degree in biochemistry, so I am qualified to make some statements about foods, medicines and supplements, but I am neither a veterinarian nor a physician, and I do not practice human or veterinary medicine. You should certainly double-check any ideas you might get from me, or anything that you might construe as advice, by consulting with an appropriate legally licensed professional.  All content on this site 2006 through 2014 by George A. Butel.  If you see any typos or any information that you feel is inaccurate or ambiguous, please contact me by clicking here.
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