Life is chemicals

I was about to put this in the most recent quick hits, but it’s so quotable I just had to give it it’s own post.  It’s a great response to those that completely freak out about “chemicals” and those who don’t rationally consider the actual amount of potential toxins in their products.  Now, of course there’s lots of nasty stuff out there we need to be careful of, but damn it, we should be rational about it:

The thing is, just because we can’t pronounce something or it’s man-made doesn’t make it unsafe, and just because it’s “natural” sure as hell doesn’t make it safe. If you ever have any doubts about the myriad ways Mother Nature can kill you, take a vacation to Australia and sleep in the bush (orswim in the ocean). Above all, it’s impossible to avoid “chemicals.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen someone claim they don’t use chemicals in their home, or that they want “chemical-free food” or “chemical-free products.” I’ve even seen products advertised as “chemical-free.”…

But their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database brings me to my final and most important point. When it comes to determining whether something is toxic, the absolute, hands-down, above-all MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER is this: The dose makes the poison. If I could get the world to chant it with me, I would: the dose makes the poison the dose makes the poison the dose makes the poison. And by the way, the dose makes the poison. EWG’s Skin Deep database is next to useless because it does not take dosages into account. It ranks formaldehyde as a 10, its most harmful rating, despite the fact that our bodies and our foods contain formaldehyde. Now, formaldehyde most certainly can be harmful. It can cause cancer, and it can kill you – but only at a high enough dosage. Similarly, a single molecule of cyanide or arsenic is not going to kill a 200-lb man. But, if that 200-lb man drinks gallons and gallons water at one time, it can kill him. Oxygen can kill too, as any scuba diver will tell you.

So whenever you talk about chemicals or substances being toxic, you absolutely MUST consider the dose. Without discussing dosage, the whole conversation is pointless. Is mercury toxic? Well, how much are we talking about? Low enough amounts in fish are fine. Is aluminum toxic? Well, how much are we talking about? After all, there’s aluminum in breastmilk and baby formula.

We all know “the dose makes the poison” rationally – any cook is cautious with the salt – but taking it to heart can be another matter. So we have to police ourselves a little bit before we get carried away.

Not much for me to add.  Good stuff.


Photo of the day

This is cool…. previously unreleased US Navy photos from the Spanish-American war:


USS Raleigh in action 1898.  US Navy.  

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