Health effects from chemical exposures – not just a modern phenomenon

May 29, 2011

When we think about exposures to chemicals causing adverse effects on human health, there is a tendency to view this as a product of modern industrial societies. To some extent this is true – there are certainly potentially hazardous chemicals we are exposed to as a result of our lifestyles, such as volatile chemicals in paints and solvents, the gasoline used to fuel our vehicles, and products of the combustion of tobacco. Most of the instances where we can clearly associate an adverse health effect with a particular chemical exposure are from workers in factories and chemical plants.

However, a new paper by Sebastian Wärmländer and colleagues examines a much older case of exposure to harmful chemicals – specifically aboriginal populations in California starting around 10,000 years ago exposed to polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

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As if we didn’t have enough reasons why dietary supplements need better regulation

May 17, 2011

There’s a controversy in Massachusetts right now regarding some brownies called “Lazy Cakes” that are being sold in various markets. These brownies are laced with melatonin, and are apparently marketed as a relaxation and calming aid. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in humans and other animals, and is considered to be a dietary supplement rather than a pharmaceutical. As a result it is not subject to the same level of regulation as a pharmaceutical drug. As a result of this poor regulation, children have been hospitalized.

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An unusual case of metal toxicity

May 15, 2011

A few days ago there was a story in the local news about a man who strangled his wife. Both the prosecution and defence in the case jointly submitted that the man should not be held criminally responsible for his actions because he was affected by metal poisoning. The metal poisoning theory was proposed by a psychiatrist and supported by lab tests showing high levels of metals, including lead, cadmium and manganese, in the man’s blood. Could the metal poisoning have caused the murder?

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Why we don’t believe science

May 9, 2011

There’s an interesting article by Chris Mooney called “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science” that is worth reading. In a nutshell, it talks about how, due to the way humans think, we tend to reject arguments that aren’t consistent with our current beliefs, and sometimes even become more entrenched in our position when faced with contradictory data. It is very hard to change an ingrained belief, no matter how convincing the arguments and data.