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Staying Safe in a Toxic World

by Brian Dunning, Jul 22 2010

This is the headline of an article in the August 2010 issue of Parents magazine, with the word TOXIC highlighted in red. As you might expect, the accompanying photographs are of a family enjoying daily activities in their home from the safety of yellow hazmat suits. Shocking! Do we really live in a “toxic” world?

There has never been a better or safer time to be a human being. We live in climate controlled houses that protect us from wind, weather, and predators; we eat food that is safety tested and heavily regulated; we wear fire retardant clothing that wicks away moisture to regulate our body temperature; we have emergency services standing by to protect us from criminals, to rescue or resuscitate us, or to whisk us to a hospital; we drive cars that are basically rolling safety cells; and we have regulatory bodies and watchdog groups that constantly, round the clock, comb over every imaginable substance in the environment trying to figure out how to make things even safer. Today’s world is the safest it has ever been. No previous generation of humans has ever had it so good.

How, then, did we ever get this far without wearing hazmat suits?

Obviously Parents’ depiction of the hazmat suits is a little tongue-in-cheek (or so I hope, anyway) — even the dog is wearing goggles; so let’s turn to the actual article to see what they really want us to think. The article begins, keeping step with the popular formula, with a touching personal anecdote of someone whose life is shattered by toxins. “I was shocked to learn what my unborn baby and I were exposed to,” says the frightened mom.

And what was this? It turns out the levels of BPA and DEP in her blood place her in the top 10%. BPA (Bisphenol A) and DEP (Diethyl phthalate) are well-publicized endocrine disruptors: they bind to a living cell’s hormone receptors, thus taking the place of the body’s natural hormone that would normally bind there. Sounds scary!! What effect will that have on her unborn baby?

Well, none, in all probability. Simply being in the top 10% still places her far, far below dangerous levels. As far as is known, nobody has ever been found to have suffered any harmful effects from environmental levels of endocrine disruptors. The theory and the threat are certainly there: lab animal tests have proven the potential effects at high levels, and a few small studies find correlations (other studies fail to replicate these results); but so far, no victims. It’s still something to be concerned about, and this is why we regulate these compounds so closely, and such concerns are why the established safe level of BPA is currently being reduced even farther.

Endocrine disruptors are natural compounds that are found throughout the environment. They always have been, they always will be; even our natural-living forebears 100,000 years ago had to deal with endocrine disruptors. To put it in perspective, you get more from a single serving of sunflower seeds, soybeans or alfalfa sprouts than you do from a lifetime use of water bottles containing BPA.

Yet articles like this one still feel the need to trumpet calls like “Take Action for Tougher Chemical Laws”, which is the name of a sidebar in the article advising you to write your Congressperson and to join a variety of Internet activism web sites.

The article ends with a section called “Safer Swaps”, suggesting a variety of natural products instead of more common developed products. It says “Whether you make one, some, or all [of these recommended changes], your family’s health will benefit — and fast.” This is an outright lie. I challenge the editors to present even a single plausible example of a family whose health is currently proven to be impaired by any of the products in the list, and who make a dramatic, fast turnaround simply by switching to one of the alternatives offered. This is irresponsible shock-jock journalism, plain and simple.

The article concludes with:

…We wait for chemical-policy reform and for scientists to understand the full scope of these daily yet preventable (endocrine disruptor) exposures.

There are so many things wrong with this sentence that it’s hard to keep track. It starts with the weasel-word “chemical” which pretends that some compounds are evil “chemicals” while natural alternatives are not. That’s wrong. But let’s pretend that there is a “chemical policy” that needs “reform”. What does Parents magazine think the EPA and the FDA do all day? They regulate these things. These policies are constantly being revised and improved, and guidelines constantly changing as our knowledge improves daily. It is irresponsible and wrong to say that we need to write our Congresspeople to demand that somebody improve “chemical policy”. (Go ahead, post your comment charging me with claiming that everything about government is perfect.)

And, note the obligatory jab at scientists, who have yet to “understand the full scope” of endocrine disruptors. What, because they have not read this article? I would like to assure the readers of Parents that the scientists whose jobs are to study these things are much better informed than is the author of this article. It is due to the work of scientists that we know about the risks of endocrine disruptors to begin with.

Finally, the author suggests that exposure is preventable. As endocrine disruptors are found naturally throughout the environment, preventing such exposure is neither possible nor practical. They are part of our world. Manmade chemicals have certainly increased their levels measurably, and scientists and policymakers have been on the job ever since we learned about the problems. The products we use and the food we eat is tightly regulated by science-driven policy to ensure that it’s not a danger. Consumers do not need to panic and rush out to replace everything they own or put on hazmat suits.

Is the world perfect? No. Are you in grave danger from endocrine disruptors simply by living in our “toxic world”? No, and Parents’ editors should know better than to promote such baseless sensationalism. That is not serving parents.

72 Responses to “Staying Safe in a Toxic World”

  1. stargazer9915 says:

    “The only thing we have to fear is…” other people telling us what to fear.

    Unfortunately, the parents article telling us to fear ‘toxins’ is an all to common one. I thank Brian and people like him for their rational and common sense approach to these topics and am heartened by the fact that they are out there trying to dispel dangerous myths and rumors.

    My hat’s off to you, Mr. Dunning.

  2. MadScientist says:

    This sounds suspiciously like only half the story. When do we get to the part that goes “but we have *THE* solution! Give us your money and we’ll give you magical anti-toxin amulets.”

    As an ancient chemist, the common talk about “toxins” is annoying at best and often infuriating. People now have a morbid fear of metals like mercury and lead and will believe any story about how horrible they are. The “mercury in your amalgam tooth filling is killing you” story remains ever so popular.

    • itzac says:

      When I was a kid my dad accidentally broke a thermostat. He put the mercury in a plastic container and we watched it jiggle around in there for days. And I never suffered any ill rhinoceros.

      • eric says:

        heh. Elemental mercury is essentially a vitamin supplement compared when to much more harmful forms methyl mercury and the double plus deadly dimethyl mercury compounds.

      • MadScientist says:

        Yeah, those were the bad old days – they were fun at times. Did you polish a penny and then dip it into the mercury and see how it was coated (and when left the mercury amalgamated with the copper). To get rid of the mercury you simply sprinkle powdered elemental sulfur around the place and the mercury reacts to form cinnabar; you can then sweep up the mess a few hours later. Not to mention the mercurous chloride tinctures that were used as antiseptics – now those were toxic but I know of no cases in my neighborhood where kids were known to have died from it (or suffered brain damage from it – though many acted as though they didn’t have half a brain).

  3. I’m also a fan of Brian’s work. He presents the cooler, more collected version of a sentiment I think we all share when we come across crap like this; the desire to grab the editors and authors and shake them around, asking them “What the hell is wrong with you people!?”

    Living in New York City, enveloped in the school system, I got a real rude awakening when I realized how many parents eat this junk up. It seems that so many parents know more than everyone else, and that they’ve become experts on the health of children and everyone else. If only I had a dollar for every mention of detox, or organics, or healing…

    I think Brian Dunning needs to further grow his hair though. If he can manage his current hairstyle into a skeptical head-mounted awesome-cannon of epicness, perhaps we have a sporting change against the parental woo.

  4. Brian M says:

    I would change your wording from claiming they are lieing. We don’t know if they are lying or if they are simply ignorant of the evidence. Just watching your back. ;)

  5. Max says:

    Well it didn’t take long for Brian to pull out the ol’ “no victims” canard, used by industry shills to deny the hazards of toxins from asbestos to tobacco smoke.

    • Max – Also, I claim there are no victims from auto accidents, gunfire, and earthquakes. Get your facts straight!

      • Max says:

        Here’s one such denier.

        When I was a kid, my father used to try to get me to eat stuff I didn’t like by claiming, “There are millions of starving kids in India who would love that!” One day I replied, “Name three!”…
        After reading the claim that second hand smoke kills for the zillionth time, I decided to have some fun at the expense of the propagandists. I submitted the following question to their contact person:
        “On your website you claim that 63,000 people die from second hand smoke every year. Could you please name three or four or them?”

        Yup, no one has died from secondhand smoke, there are no starving kids in India, and nobody died in the Spanish American War, because you can’t name three.

  6. GoneWithTheWind says:

    There is very little evidence that asbestos CAUSES mesothelioma. In 99% of the cases the victims were smokers. Probably another example of science being trumped by lawyers. I predict as soon as the money that was put aside for asbestos victims is gone the hype will die away. So many of these “toxins” are all about the law suits and rarely if ever about science or truth.

    • MadScientist says:

      I remember a publication from ~1940 from what was then the US Bureau of Mines (or at least I think that was the name); even then it was well known and documented that work environments with fine particles, especially coal mines and asbestos mines, were incredibly bad for the workers’ health. Asbestos fiber causes damage in a number of ways; even if you crossed mesothelioma off the list, there is absolutely no doubt that asbestos is a very hazardous (but not toxic) substance. The mineral also comes in a variety of forms, some more hazardous than others.

  7. Allison says:

    GoneWithTheWind: That’s just not true.

    It’s not an all or nothing game. Do many people (and the unfortunate article in Parents) ridiculously overstate the risks? Without a doubt. Are there commonly used household chemicals that aren’t so good for us, that we would probably be better off avoiding? I think that’s also true. You shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    As for Parents magazine, sadly, their purpose isn’t to serve parents, its purpose is selling more magazines.

  8. Majority of One says:

    Very good article.

    I overheard a conversation between a couple of ladies yesterday who were talking about the dangers of drinking out of plastic bottles. One said she doesn’t drink anything out of plastic anymore, only aluminum cans…to which the other replied that aluminum caused Alzheimer’s. I was quite amused. They were truly in a dilemna as to what to do. I would comment on them both being blonde, but I’m blonde too, so…anyway…the public really is truly confused about all the “information” that is being pushed our way and people are getting very weary. If I had thought about it, I would’ve leaned over and told them that all their worry was probably making them sicker in the long run than either plastic or aluminum.

    • Max says:

      Aluminum cans are lined with plastic inside.
      Hasn’t anyone heard of glass bottles?

    • MadScientist says:

      The “aluminum causes Alzheimers” is simply not true. The experiments were flawed and all authors have retracted their work. Just so no one gets strange ideas, this is a case of scientists going about their work and making some mistakes; as far as I know there was no fraud. Unfortunately the story won’t die.

  9. Max says:

    “even our natural-living forebears 100,000 years ago had to deal with endocrine disruptors.”

    And at least 2,000 years ago, they used the wild carrot for birth control, long before they knew about its estrogenic properties. But they didn’t have BPA, that’s for sure.

    “What does Parents magazine think the EPA and the FDA do all day?”

    Uhh, raise concerns about BPA?

    “Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA However, on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the NIH and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.”

    • tmac57 says:

      To put that in perspective the EPA elsewhere
      ( )on their site said this about BPA:
      “Regulatory authorities around the world reviewing these low-dose studies have generally concluded that they are insufficient for use in risk assessment because of a variety of flaws in some of the study designs, scientific uncertainty concerning the relevance to health of the reported effects, and the inability of other researchers to reproduce the effects in standardized studies. However, since the low-dose studies do raise questions and concerns, some authorities have taken action to protect sensitive populations, particularly infants and young children.”
      It seems that the EPA is acting with an abundance of caution (rightfully so), but the relative risks are probably low.

  10. Chris Howard says:

    Does anyone else see a correlation between the word “natural” and the idea of “If God wanted us to… He’d have…”?

    More to the point, what does “natural” mean? Isn’t anything that is physically possible, natural? None of these, and let’s be honest, marketing terms, have ever made any sense to me. Hell, I even had an advertising account with Whole Foods, back in the early 90’s. It didn’t make sense then, either.

    I guess the knee-jerk response is “natural equals good, chemical equals bad!” Does that mean that rattle snake venom should be ingested, daily? Dr. Weil’s Patented Daimond Back Tonic, cures what ails ya’! Now with 110% all natural snake venom.

    Buyer beware!

    • Max says:

      Natural means something that was around for so long that we’ve adapted to it. In some cases, it’s a good argument that something is reasonably safe. For example, Brian said,
      “Endocrine disruptors are natural compounds that are found throughout the environment. They always have been, they always will be; even our natural-living forebears 100,000 years ago had to deal with endocrine disruptors. To put it in perspective, you get more from a single serving of sunflower seeds, soybeans or alfalfa sprouts than you do from a lifetime use of water bottles containing BPA.”

      Except that BPA wasn’t found in the environment 100,000 years ago. It was invented closer to 100 years ago by a Russian chemist.

      • Noadi says:

        Really? Would you like to go out and eat some 100% natural deadly nightshade? Didn’t think so. Natural doesn’t mean safe and there are plenty of man-made chemicals which are perfectly safe.

      • Max says:

        So just because many endocrine disruptors are natural, doesn’t mean they’re safe, right?

  11. billgeorge says:

    “…but so far no victims.”
    Oh contraire! Just more fodder for a society already suffering from litigation fatigue: if deep pockets can be tapped, count on ambitious lawyers ready to conjure up victims with bogus correlations.

  12. Maybe we should go back to living in caves and fending off sabertooth tigers. Now those were dangerous times.

  13. Tom says:

    This reminds me of a great New Yorker cartoon. Two cavemen sitting in front of the fire. The one says, “I just don’t understand, we have no air pollution, we drink pure water, and all our food is free range. But, none of us live past 30.”

  14. GoneWithTheWind says:

    To madscientist: You are absolutely correct that asbestos is not good for you to inhale. Neither is hay, dust, glass fibers from insulation, coal dust, and the list is endless. My point was that the government with very little science bankrupted an industry putting thousands out of work and created a multi-billion dollar fund to pay for certain types of damage. Lo and behold a handful of unscrupulous lawyers find people who “may have” beend damaged by asbestos. And this scam will go one until all those billions are in the pockets of a handful of lawyers.

    To allison: Unfortunately even the government is not immune from unscientific mass hysteria. The list of things we (the government) have been wrong about is very very long? In fact I am not sugesting that asbestos is “harmless” I am merely saying that the science to PROVE it causes mesothelioma is inclusive but the “remedy” has caused massive harm. For example the WTC “probably” would not have collapsed if they could have used asbestos spray on the structure which was commonly used in the past to protect high rise buildings from fire damage. Should we sacrifice the known “good” for the benefit of a handful of scurrilous lawyers? We see the same thing happening with almost every new drug. For example, Vioxx. The lawyers made millions. The drug companies lost millions that could have been used researching new drugs to save lives. And the bottom line is vioxx is a effective drug that when used as prescribed is safe. So what was Merck’s great sin??? They didn’t tell us that if you ABUSED the drug it could kill you. Well, duh!

    There is a battle for power and money. The lawyers in cahoots with unscrupulous pseudo-scientific authors of “hit books” are extracted billions from our economy over things which often turn out to be quite benign. A similar thing happens in the area of supplements and so-called health foods. A person selling you a particular supplement or herb claiming it would cure your cancer would go to jail for being a quack and endangering your health. However an author can write any wild-ass thing they want and the health food store can sell you the magic pill as long as they don’t make any claims about it. What’s the difference? People die from these frauds. This isn’t just about the billions of dollars “stolen” from little old ladies and naive fools. People die because the truth is suppressed!

    • tmac57 says:

      “However an author can write any wild-ass thing they want and the health food store can sell you the magic pill as long as they don’t make any claims about it.” Maybe they should be sued by some “unscrupulous” lawyer.

    • MadScientist says:

      I’ll agree that the reaction swung wildly to the extreme. Asbestos is still used in many products but no one mentions it and that seems to be OK (undoubtedly more proof that what you don’t know can’t hurt you). The mercury hysteria is not anywhere near as bad as the asbestos scare yet, but asbestos can be a problem and I don’t object to it being unavailable for general use by consumers. For most purposes there are replacements which are far more benign, so I’m not terribly upset about the demise of most of the asbestos mining industry either.

  15. The Midwesterner says:

    Please stop with the lawyer-bashing. I have worked in a court system for more than 20 years. (I’m not a lawyer or related to any lawyers.) I have yet to see a planitiff dragged into a lawsuit against her or his will. Our court system is where citizens get to air grievances. Some of those grievances are stupid, petty, and without merit. That’s why plaintiff lose so often. You don’t read about that in the news because there’s nothing particularly newsworthy about it, while someone being awarded a ton of money is. Given the number of suits that are brought in this country each year, victories for plaintiffs, especially very large ones, are few and far between. Why is it that on a website where facts are supposed to rule it’s okay to make blanket attacks against one group (who I understand aren’t particularly popular) and blame them for society’s ills when it’s the members of our society who hire them to file lawsuits? Blame people who read silly articles such as the one in Parents magazine and then imagine that there’s a boogyman around every corner and think they should be compensated for it.

  16. GoneWithTheWind says:

    The 1st amendment gives you the right to say and write almost anything. It doesn’t have to be true or even make any sense. As long as you don’t defame someone or libel them there is no recourse. If some nut tells you that 1000 mg of vitamin C every day will keep you from getting the common cold there is nothing to stop them. If the health food store sells you 1000 mg vitamin C pills there is no law or regulatory agency to stop them.

    You do have to be careful when you talk about products that a company or individuals may choose to defend in court if you make false statements. Oprah Winfrey discovered this in 1996 when she had a nut case “expert” on her show and she and the nutcase said negative things about beef.

    • Max says:

      “If some nut tells you that 1000 mg of vitamin C every day will keep you from getting the common cold there is nothing to stop them.”

      It’s illegal to sell dietary supplements claiming that they cure or prevent disease. Only vague functional claims are allowed, as long as there’s an FDA disclaimer.
      I think Red Bull violates the law when it makes a number of functional claims (stimulates the metabolism, increases endurance, improves the emotional status) without an FDA disclaimer.

  17. Max says:

    Here’s the scoop on BPA.

    The FDA developed its safety standard for BPA from a single, high dose study conducted on adult rats in the late 1970s. The agency currently relies on data from two studies, funded by the American Plastics Council, to uphold this standard…

    Despite the National Toxicology Program’s conclusions on low dose effects, the EPA announced in 2002 that it would not include low dose considerations in the testing and screening protocols for endocrine disruptors. In its announcement, the EPA declared that because of scientific uncertainty, it would be “premature to require routine testing of substances for low dose effects in the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.” In effect, the EPA took the position that in the face of uncertainty the lack of absolute evidence of harm meant no evidence of harm; rather than taking a preventative or precautious position, the EPA called for more research…

    For decades, industry trade associations and their lawyers staved off the regulation of unsafe products like tobacco, lead and asbestos by arguing that scientific uncertainty precluded government action. Similarly, the plastics and chemical industries seek to deny, delay, and dismiss the low dose research on BPA. First, industry studies failed to replicate low dose effects. When more and more studies found effects on hormone sensitive tissues and systems at doses below the safety standard, the industry argued that the reported physiological changes were irrelevant to human health…

    The public should not have to wait for years for unequivocal epidemiological evidence to determine the risks of this chemical. Today there is a growing scientific consensus among independent BPA experts that this chemical poses a significant public health risk at levels millions of times below the current safety standard.

    • Jason M says:

      The views of one public health PhD student that there is “growing scientific consensus” would seem to be a poor substitute for actual consensus among scientists. I for one would rather wait until we have the science in place before taking action.

      • Max says:

        Is there a consensus that BPA is safe for babies?
        If there’s no consensus, then do you just assume it’s safe?

        I’d expect a PhD student who is writing a dissertation on a topic to know if there’s a scientific consensus on that topic.

      • Jason M says:

        I don’t think there’s consensus either way, that’s why further studies are being done. The review by the National Toxicology Program that the FDA cites states there is “some concern” for the effect of Bisphenol A on babies, out of the five levels of negligible concern, minimal concern, some concern, concern, and serious concern. In the meantime the FDA is “supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market”, among other things.

        But they also say that: “the FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk of BPA exposure.” I trust the FDA wouldn’t make such statements if the current scientific consensus justified more than “some concern”. What other information would you have them act on?

      • Max says:

        Right, I cited that report above. I’m glad that the FDA is “supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market.” I’m sure this wasn’t the industry’s idea.
        Maybe they’re only doing this now because people demanded “chemical policy reform” that Brian derided.

  18. Allison says:

    Gone with the Wind: In the interest of full disclosure – I am a government scientist. I don’t work for the FDA or the EPA, I do neuroscience research.

    If you really want me to, I will post an essay to my blog detailing all the evidence, positive and negative, explaining how mesothelioma is related to asbestos. Will there be negative studies? There are *always* negative studies – that’s the nature of statistics. But when the evidence is taken as a whole, it’s pretty clear that asbestos really does cause mesothelioma.

    As for Vioxx…. There was evidence that Merck withheld data to underestimate the increased risk of heart attacks to people on vioxx treatment. They also overstated the cardioprotective effects of the active control drug to explain the additional cardiac morbidity experienced by Vioxx subjects. Finally, Merck’s OWN APPROVe study, using Vioxx to prevent colorectal polyps, was terminated BY MERCK when the relative risk of having a heart attack was double in Vioxx treated patients. NONE of the subjects in these studies were “abusing” Vioxx, they were taking the drugs as perscribed by Merck’s own study protocols.

    “People die because the truth is suppressed!”

    And what truth might that be?

  19. Eric says:

    There is an easy solution. There are alternatives. We worry so much about BPA, when it’s obvious we don’t need it since the alternatives popped up very quickly. Stop using BPA, and the non-science morons will be happy and we can let the FDA and similar agencies spend their money researching more important issues.

    By the way – large doses of “natural” soy can act like a pseudo-estrogen at a much higher level than BPA. Perhaps we should get the USDA to ban soybeans too.

  20. GoneWithTheWind says:

    To Allison: Every person who works with asbestos will have asbestos in their lungs. If you die from mesothelioma they will find asbestos in your lungs and conclude the asbestos caused it. If you die of old age you will still have asbestos in your lungs but it won’t be counted in the statistical data. Hmmmmm! Personally I think mesothelioma is caused by carrots. 100% of people who got it ate carrots!!!

    If you are a scientist then you know in any study there is a truckload of data that does not get printed. Mostly this is because there is a truckload of it and you would simply overwhelm the system. AFTER something happens, every email, every memo, every offhand comment every orifice is searched by the lawyers and whatever they find is distorted and distended for one purpose and one purpose only; increasing the amount the company will pay them to go away.

    More people die from aspirin then any other drug. All drugs have their side effects and all drugs are dangerous. Vioxx is not particularly dangerous but it was new and easy to demonize and thus to extract huge sums of money from the makers. In FACT VIOXX was being abused and the abusers where the ones who had the problems (How could you not know that Ms government scientist, we weren’t just talking about the ones in the study don’tch know). More importantly the majority of people taking Vioxx had life threatening problems and naturally had a higher death rate. Is it so suprising that a patient with heart disease dies of heart disease???

    The truth: Supplements and phony drugs are a scam. If you get scammed into leaving your doctors care to take natural cures in Mexico you will die from your illness.
    Many life saving effective drugs take 7 years to become available because of the onerous FDA procedures, even though they would ONLY be used by people with a few months or years to live.
    The high cost and long testing times PREVENT any efforts on many illnesses and many drugs that could have saved lives.
    The new health care will REQUIRE that life saving care for older citizens be denied. The day will come (soon) when you or your parents will be denied care to save their lives because of the cost while illegal aliens will get free health care.

    If those aren’t enough examples I can post an essay on the subject!!

    • Kenneth Polit says:

      Dude, stop watching Fox news. Everything you said in your last paragraph is patently false. This is just politics trumping reality.

  21. Chris Howard says:

    I think people die regardless of wether the truth is suppressed, or not. It’s true that people die because they were misinformed, lied to, or misunderstood product claims, or proper use.

    Having said that, I have friends and family that know the facts, and choose to ignore, or not believe them not becasuet hey are ignorant, mistaken, or lied to by another, but rather because they are lying to themselves.

    One thing that advertising has taught me is that you don’t appeal to a persons logic and reason, you create and maintain a lifestyle. “organic” “all-natural” “toxins” are all buzz words, with little or no meaning, from the greater context of the lifestyle they are meant to cater to.

    People feel better eating “fair-trade” foods and “free-range” eggs, and animals, not because those things are better for them. The “organic” bread not only makes them full, and is yummy, but it gives them a sense of purpose and control, because the Whole Foods/Organic movement bills itself as better for the environment, and for individual health, while also maintianing community, and social justice.
    (John Mackey’s a nice guy, I used to talk to him at the first Whole Foods in Austin, and he truly believes in everything he sells) This allows people to feel like they accomplish something grand and society changing, meaningful and good, just by shopping.

    It ignores the obviouse, which is all of those goals require actual hard work, failure, setbacks, struggle, blood, sweat and tears, which the average consumer at a Whole Foods Market isn’t willing, or able to do. The psychological rewards system of simpling purchasing something that makes one feel like they are also doing good in the world, by simply consuming, is a powerful, self-induced narcotic. My friends and family don’t want to believe that, by in large, they’ve been duped. So, in all likelihood, they’ll cling to their beliefs that the weekly outing to Whole Foods will not only put food on the table but make them a better, more mindful, caring person, for doing so.

    The marketing was clear, when I advertised for them. The ‘Natural’ lifestyle is better than other choices. Don’t believe other sources that claim otherwise. It is anti-thought dressed in the mantle of social awareness and health, a sort of pseudo-religion, mixing “spirituality” and bad science, with middle, and upper middle-class tastes, and desires. People believe that they can truly, have their gluten free, all organic cake, and eat it, too.
    No hard work required. Not canvasing neighborhoods, staying up all hours of the night working on position papers, studying the issues, speaking, educating others, getting inovlved… why do that when my free range beef, organic merlot, russian banana potatoes, and ring ding, tibetan goat cheese tart can achieve the same results?

    It’s delusional consumerism, and it’s brought us to sloppy thought, knee jerk reactions and ideas. Why? Because most of us can’t be troubled to actuallly do something meaningful, but our middle-class guilt, and outrage demand justice, so we do what we know, and we buy crap, becasue it makes us feel good.

    • tmac57 says:

      Chris, that was quite a rant.I find myself torn,because I really think that I understand (and sympathize)with where you are coming from,but this kind of discourse is just as off putting as the more ridiculous rant from GWTW above.
      If you really want to make some kind of difference in the world, you need to have a message that people can relate to. Telling people that already care about what happens in the world that they are a bunch of fey ineffectual idiots,is the wrong message. When you have people on your side, the last thing that you want to do is alienate them. lead by example, tell people what they can do. If there are problems with the solutions that they have chosen, then say why, and what a better option would be. To rail against the masses and insult them will only polarize them, and give aid and comfort to people like you know who. IMO only (if that needs to be said).

      • Chris Howard says:

        Sorry if my frustration is so apparent. I have tried explaining, in a rational, sympathetic and compassionate way, but most of the time I’m met with disbelief, not because there is a better counter argument, but rather it usually quickly degenerates into “…well, I just believe it.” or “We’ll just agree to disagree…” I should know better, as a psychology student and ex-ad exec., people by-in-large, make decisions based on emotions, rather than logic and reason. Once their minds are made up, that’s usually it.

        People don’t want to hear that they have to do real, hard, dirty work, with no guarantee of success, that is the truth, that is the other option, and it’s not popular.
        It’s not that they’re ineffectual idiots, but they are, mostly, ineffectual, and when given the other choice they make a myriad excuses as to why they can’t be bothered to do something, other than buy things from Whole Foods, etc.

        The overwhelming majority of the American public, aren’t even registered to vote, and those that are, don’t vote. Can we really expect that they’ll actual affect real change doing what they have been doing, which is mainly nothing, as far as politics goes?

        More to come but I have to eat enchilladas! ;-)

        Nothing wrong with voting with your wallet, just make sure you’re not wasting your time and money, which could be going to more efficient means of change, other than simply shopping.

    • Max says:

      What’s wrong with voting with your wallet?

  22. Allison says:

    GWTW: I give up. You are right, I am wrong. Science sucks, the FDA sucks, lawyers always win, and health care reform kills old people. What was I thinking.

  23. GoneWithTheWind says:

    To Allison: Another strawman arguement. But in fact you are wrong. I am citing science and I implore others to use the scientific method to evaluate their “theories” and to look intorspectively at their biases. Science isn’t perfect and isn’t always right but it is the only correct way to discover the truth.

    As for the FDA, again you are wrong. I like the FDA and think we need the FDA. However our litigest society infects everything and the FDA like most large bureaucracies has bowed to it and puts more and more roadblocks in the way. I favor streamlining the drug approval process and using intelligence and common sense.

    As for Lawyers: I think we need to kill all the lawyers.

    The health care reform we recently implemented will indeed result in earlier deaths of old people. You will see it AND you will be told it is necessary. EVERY country which has implemented socialized health care implements cost cutting practices that result in early deaths for older people with illnesses. My favortie example comes from England where they stopped giving dialysis to anyone over 55. Now, I am way over 55 and I don’t think 55 is too old to save their lives but appearently England did!! After all free health care is very, very, expensive.

    • Beelzebud says:

      How is a mandate for private insurance “socialism”?

      • Patrick says:

        I saw a Harvard professor speak last year on the economics of health care (she recomended we copy Switzerland, not England or Canada). She pointed to some key statistics like, how cancer survivor rates were much better in the U.S. than in England and how you were twice as likely to get dialysis treatment in the U.S. than in England. My particular favorite statistic was how babies born before a certain number of weeks do not count as births and the doctors are not legally allowed to save their lives or provide them treatment. In the United States the doctors are required by law to try and save the child’s life (even if it does in fact stand a statistically low likelihood of living).

      • Patrick says:

        btw, she recommended a free market driven private care system in which individuals purchased their own health insurance (which was free from government mandates on minimum coverage) with either a) a mandate everyone have health insurance or b) a special health insurance insurance where health insurance companies insure each other against the risk they take when they insure people who end up being unhealthy.

        PS, you can’t consider the U.S. system to be anywhere close to a private health care system. First, the U.S. government pays for half of all medical expenses. Second, your boss buys your insurance for you and chooses among products that are highly regulated by the government (here in Nevada I have to buy a policy that pays for drug treatment – I don’t use drugs – and chiropractic care! That isn’t free market.

      • Max says:

        “b) a special health insurance insurance where health insurance companies insure each other against the risk they take when they insure people who end up being unhealthy”

        Sounds like credit default swaps.

      • Patrick says:

        No, nothing like that. Not that there is anything wrong with credit default swaps – just another thing demonized by ignorant politicians looking to dupe the masses.

  24. GoneWithTheWind says:

    If the ONLY issue was a mandate to have private insurance I don’t think it would be socialism. It would still be unconstitutional but not “necessarily” socialist. It is the health bill that is socialist and to pick of one piece of the health bill to try to hide behind is dishonest. I hold out two “hopes” for the health care bill: 1)That a new congress in 2011 will overturn it or if that doesn’t happen a new congress and new president in 2012 will. 2)That the Supreme Court will declare major portions of it to be unconstitutional. My fear is we will destroy our health care system (the best health care system in the world) and it will never recover.

    • Beelzebud says:

      Now you’re just parroting talking points…

    • Patrick says:

      The Supreme Court will probably overturn the health insurance mandate. The administration has backed away from claims that it can do that under the commerce clause and has started defending the law (after it was passed) by pointing to the government’s power to tax (ironically, breaking Obama’s pledge not to tax people with incomes under $200,000).

      Yes, those are talking points, they’re also the facts. Would you like some legal scholar citations to go with that? I’ve got a University of Chicago law professor teed up for you. :P

  25. Patrick says:

    My favorite story is one of how the Federal government temporarily kicked people out of their homes in some little Colorado town (I believe it was Colorado) to rip out the soil to save them from lead poisoning (lead was present in high concentrations in the soil in and around town). In the town’s recent history no one had been sick from lead poisoning but that didn’t stop the government from wasting millions of dollars.

    The town protested that the money might be better spent fixing the road into town – a road that was responsible for killing at least one person a year during winter. I can’t remember if I saw this on Penn and Teller’s Bullshit or not. Maybe it was on 20/20 with Stossel…can’t recall.

    • Max says:

      I’m not familiar with this story, but your post raised some red flags.
      1. “wasting millions of dollars” – It’s only a waste if it was certain that the high concentration of lead could not make anyone sick or harm the environment, and did not point to other problems.
      2. “The town protested” – The majority of the town protested? Or a vocal minority as usual?
      3. “the money might be better spent” – A federal agency like the EPA is responsible for dealing with pollution, not fixing local roads. And frankly, if a town is going to protest getting federal money, then the money might be better spent on a different town.

  26. Patrick says:

    1) Money is always wasted if there is a better use for it. In this case, no one in recent town history (probably in the entire town history) had been sick from lead poising, even if the concentration of lead was over the EPA’s recommended limit.
    2) Not sure, can’t remember. It seemed from the presentation (which could be wrong) that it was a good portion of the town (people were being removed from their homes so the government could strip the soil, remember).
    3) Sorry, but this is just stupid budgeting. Giving a fixed amount to any government agency (and the use it or lose it budgeting philosophy) encourages government agencies to do as much as possible, even if it is a complete waste of money. If the government granted the EPA and other agencies these powers to save lives, then the money should be used to maximize life saving practices, not to boost the budgets and expenditures of individual agencies. If the greatest threat to the town was traffic accidents then the dollars should have been adjusted to meet that need.

    I’m not sure you’re understanding the concept of opportunity costs yet.

  27. Maria says:

    Until you are living with multiple chemical sensitivity, from overuse of these toxic chemicals than you won’t fear them, one day you might though, and I pray that day never comes. I live toxin free and chemical free now.

  28. Madame Butterfly says:

    Sounds delicious! I just came back from mexico last year and find myself addicted to these incredible enchilada recipes now!! Must go back next year sometime, I suppose, and this time head off the beaten road a little. Looking to reading more!