There’s rat poison in my milk? or, why everything is toxic (even Kombucha tea)

WOULD you like to eat rat poison? Probably not, but that’s OK, because you’ve eaten it already. Most milk in the United States has rat poison added to it. If you find this disturbing, you can always start reading ingredient lists and don’t buy milk that has rat poison in it. You won’t see “rat poison” as such on the label, however, because manufacturers generally call it by its other name instead.

The other name for rat poison is Vitamin D.

Believe it or not, vitamin D is often used to kill rats. (Not the only chemical used to do that, of course, but a common one.) It’s completely tasteless so rats keep eating bait laced with vitamin D without ever realizing they’re getting hit with a huge huge huge overdose. This might sound bizarre because most of us think of vitamin D as an essential nutrient. And it is. But anything — even an essential nutrient — is potentially toxic if you eat, drink or inhale too much.

I’m often frustrated by the way people talk and think about “chemicals”. I see “chemical-free” products on sale at the supermarket and I wonder what that means. I hear protesters demand that industry stop putting “synthetic chemicals” into our children’s bodies and I wonder if they know what that means or if they know what they’re talking about. Because they think that synthetic chemicals are dangerous, and many of them are. But so is the grilled meat you barbecue on the Fourth of July. Because grilled meat is carcinogenic. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect it’s probably the second most carcinogenic thing in your home right after the log fire in your fireplace, which (unless you smoke cigarettes or use asbestos) is probably the most carcinogenic thing you have around. Although people don’t realize it, fireplace smoke contains most of the same carcinogens as the fumes from a lit cigarette. But nobody wants to ban grilled meat and log fires, because grilled meat and log fires seem natural. They seem safe.

Which just goes to show how deceptive appearances can be.

Everything is toxic but some things are more toxic than others. You have to drink a lot of water to die of water poisoning, although it’s possible and people have done it. But it doesn’t take a lot of cyanide to send you on your way.

And while it’s true that all chemicals are toxic, it’s also true that some chemicals are necessary or beneficial while others are not. Sure, a massive overdose of water or vitamin D will kill you, but you need both water and vitamin D to stay alive. So water and vitamin D are beneficial at one dose and toxic at another. Cyanide on the other hand is absolutely useless to your system. You don’t need cyanide. Sure, if you just inhale a really really small amount, you’ll live to tell the tale (although I strongly suggest you don’t try this at home). There is, however, no such thing as a “beneficial dose” of cyanide. That’s because water and vitamin D have a role to play in the system of chemical reactions called “your life”. Cyanide, by contrast, does not. It has no normal role in human biochemistry, and in fact it interferes with normal human biochemistry in a very deadly way.

All of which probably makes this concept of “toxic” just seem more mysterious. How can a chemical be deadly at one dose while at another it has no effect (or in the case of useful chemicals like water a beneficial one?) Well, that part gets complicated. But if you want to keep it simple and think about this in a big-picture kind of way, you can boil it down to three reasons. (And be forewarned, I’m gonna keep it simple. So if you’re a chemist or a biologist or a doctor of gastroenterology, don’t get your knickers in a twist and be like, “That bastard! He didn’t explain X Y and Z!” Let’s just keep it simple, OK?)

1) The rate of a chemical reaction typically depends on the concentration of the reactants. The more concentrated they are, the faster it goes. Often the direction of the reaction depends on the concentration of the reactants and the products too — if the concentration of products gets very high, many reactions can start to run in reverse and make “reactants”. If a chemical that reacts with something in your cells is present at trace concentrations, the reaction could be so slow it makes no difference to the function of the cell, or the reaction might not hardly run in the “forward” direction at all.

2) Your body is trying to maintain a stable internal state — keep the temperature the same, keep salt concentration in your bloodstream the same and so on. Something that’s beneficial at a low dose could be toxic at a high dose because too much of the chemical pushes conditions too far in one direction and becomes destabilizing.

Take water for example. Your body has to maintain salt concentrations in your blood within a certain range. That’s why you have to drink water so you can replace water you lose as urine and sweat and keep your blood from getting too salty. If you drank a ton of water very quickly, however, more rapidly than your kidneys could get rid of it, salt concentrations in your blood would drop to the point where you’re in trouble. That’s why it is actually possible to die of “water poisoning”.

3) Your body is able to handle a certain amount of crap — in fact, it has all kinds of built-in mechanisms to do exactly that. Like getting rid of stuff by putting it in your urine, for example (more on that later). Or like the cells in your intestines. Whenever you cook meat on the grill, for example, your meat ends up containing small amounts of carcinogens like the notorious benzo[a]pyrene (google this bad boy if you’re curious or just want to freak yourself out).

So does eating grilled meat increase your cancer risk? Well, I don’t know for sure; I don’t have the resources to go do some large-scale statistical study. Not my job, I work in R&D and I’ve got enough to do at work as it is. Maybe ask a vegetarian if you want a yes-no answer. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the cells lining your intestine actually get turned over pretty rapidly. Rapidly dividing stem cells produce new cells to take the place of others that commit suicide and get sloughed off to end up in your feces. The lifespan of a cell in your intestinal lining is pretty short, which is actually a pretty good thing. Because the cells in your intestinal lining are first in the line of fire when it comes to carcinogens like the benzo[a]pyrene in those burgers from the grill. They are the most likely to get damaged. And by turning them over pretty quick, your body helps minimize the effect of that damage.

Now does that mean there’s no need to worry about stuff like benzo[a]pyrene? Hold on a minute here, I didn’t say that. My point though is that your body is not made of porcelain and it can handle some wear and tear without coming to a screeching halt. (Note some). Although minimizing that wear and tear is a good idea, especially where carcinogens like benzo[a]pyrene and UV light are concerned. You never know.

So what happens to stuff like drugs inside your body? I get the feeling a lot of people have this idea your body is like a big sponge that soaks up “toxins” and stores them in all kinds of sneaky places like your ovaries or your toenails or something. It’s not really like that though.

If something like an amino acid or a sugar that your body can use gets into your system, your body will probably use it — break it down, use it for energy or raw materials. No surprise there. But if you’re talking about something like a drug or a chemical that has no normal use, let’s say mercury or viagra or cyanide or bisphenol A (and no, those have nothing in common that I can think of), well, your body can’t break those down and use them. It can’t figure out what to do with them. And INEVITABLY when your body can’t figure out what to do with something it goes to plan B — put this stuff in your urine. That works pretty well if a chemical dissolves well in water, like caffeine or vitamin C.

Let’s say you have some crap that doesn’t dissolve well in water though. Something like bisphenol A. That’s where your liver comes in. It has enzymes that chemically alter foreign stuff (e.g. drugs, poisons, chemicals it doesn’t know what to do with, etc.), and almost invariably alters them in a way that makes them more water-soluble. Because once a chemical IS highly water-soluble your kidneys can take it and put in your urine, and then it’s down the toilet we go.

Now this is not always A Good Thing. Your liver isn’t very smart — it’s just a chemical machine, for crying out loud — and sometimes when it alters a chemical to make it more water-soluble, it makes that chemical much more reactive (and hence more dangerous and more toxic) in the process. Benzene by itself can’t react with DNA. But your liver takes benzene and in trying to make it more water-soluble converts it into something that can react with DNA. Which is why benzene is a carcinogen — because your liver is stupid.

So this idea that your tissues are some kind of sponge soaking up mysterious “toxins” isn’t really true; it’s a myth perpetrated by people trying to sell you wheat grass juice and Kombucha tea. Your body gets rid of stuff it doesn’t recognize or understand by putting it in your urine. Some things, however, are much easier to get rid of than others. Methylmercury, for example, tends to bind to proteins that contain an amino acid called cysteine, so it hangs around for a while, which is one of the reasons why mercury is so freaking dangerous — you can only get rid of it a little at a time. Also carcinogens are especially bad news because they are typically (although not always) things that react with DNA. And sure, your body may be able to get rid of them by dumping them in your urine, but if they go and react with DNA in your cells before you can get rid of them, getting rid of them doesn’t help you very much, now does it?

So I’ve been talking about “toxicity” and “toxic chemicals” this whole time, and you may have noticed I haven’t once used the words “natural” or “synthetic”. That may seem odd because most people think synthetic=toxic and natural=good for you. But this is another myth perpetrated by the purveyors of wheat-grass juice and Kombucha tea.

Let me make this very clear: The origin of a chemical has nothing, nothing at all to do with how “good” or “bad” it is. All the properties of a chemical, its color, its melting point, its boiling point, the kinds of reactions it can do, ALL its properties are dictated by its structure. Whether it’s “natural” makes absolutely no difference to what happens to it in your body. Chemicals don’t come with little tags that read “natural” or “synthetic”; they’re just a collection of atoms held together by chemical bonds, and depending on their structure, some of them when they bump into each other can react with each other. So the important questions to ask about a chemical are this:

1) What kinds of reactions can it undergo in the environment? What kinds of reactions can it undergo in your body? Do any of these reactions interfere with the way your body normally functions?

2) HOW MUCH of the chemical is required to start a harmful reaction or process in your body? A lot, or just a little? In other words, how much is a dangerous dose?

3) HOW LONG does the chemical stay in your body? Does it end up in your urine very quickly or very slowly? Where does it go in the meantime? Is your liver going to alter it in some way that makes it more reactive and hence more dangerous? (because your liver, let’s remember, can be stupid.)

As you can see, this can get complicated. So complicated we don’t usually think about it. It’s easier to just go default mode and assume natural=good and synthetic=toxic. Which would be fine if it were true. But the smoke from your fireplace and the benzo[a]pyrene in your grilled meat and the methylmercury in your fish all prove otherwise. They’re natural, just as natural as bubonic plague and HIV.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that synthetic=good and you should trust the American Chemistry Council and the chemicals industry to take care of you. There are a number of chemicals now being manufactured that IMHO should be banned or better regulated. The pesticides carbofuran and methyl bromide come to mind (google ‘em if interested). And as we all know the chemicals industry has a disastrous history. These are the guys that brought you Agent Orange and PCBs. So, yeah, if the American Chemistry Council says they know this is Good for You and Harmless For the Environment, be skeptical. But my point is this. The knee-jerk reaction we have — this thing where we go, OMG, I can’t buy this, it’s not NATURAL, that has to stop. That’s moronic.

The alternative medicine folks, the organic farming movement, the makers of vitamins, the purveyors of wheat-grass juice and sellers of Kombucha tea**, all of them are making big money off the widespread public belief that Natural=good and Chemical/drug/synthetic/GMO=bad because Nature didn’t make it. But Nature’s not your mom; she’s more like a crazy bitch. We’re here on this planet by total accident and we’d be crazy to assume that Nature is looking out for us. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve on Nature, in fact that’s how we make progress.

So when it comes to GMOs or pesticides or any of this kind of thing, you should figure out whether it’s good or bad based on questions 1-3 that I asked above. Those are the kinds of questions you should be asking. Not “is it natural”, because that won’t tell you much of anything. “Natural” is just a word advertisers use to sell you stuff. So you should evaluate things like GMO crops and chemical additives in your food based on the scientific evidence not based on knee-jerk preconceptions about what is natural and what is not. Because that doesn’t make any sense.

And while we’re on the subject, let me throw in a word or two about alternative medicine. IMHO you should never believe anything you hear from someone who works in alternative medicine until you get it confirmed from a more reliable source. IMHO, alt med practitioners are even less trustworthy than the American Chemistry Council (and that’s saying something). Because yeah, the American Chemistry Council is evil, but they’re evil and smart, you know. Whereas the alternative medicine movement is evil and stupid. Most of them are nice people but they believe in magic, although they don’t call it as such; they have lots of names for magic like Homeopathic Remedies and Accupresssure and Life Force and Qi, and they will sell you this magic at a vastly overinflated price. They love to tout everything they sell as “natural” because most of them know very little about biology or chemistry so they have no idea what happens to drugs inside the body. Alt medicine practitioners are the friendly neighborhood witch doctors of the 21st century.

——————————————————–

**No, I don’t drink Kombucha tea.

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38 thoughts on “There’s rat poison in my milk? or, why everything is toxic (even Kombucha tea)

  1. Thank you for these. While I am glad that you are able to provide for yourself with your knowledge/skills, I wish you were unemployed, so you would write more. Please don’t loose your gig on my account, but thank you for these. I enjoy them!

  2. Great article. Very well articulated! Love the Vitamin D is Rat poison metaphor. I will be using that in my future quests to conquer GMO-induced fear-mongering idiocy.

    • Science includes safety first.
      Would you like your neighbour experimenting with sarin gas, taking the risk of murdering your entire neighbourhood?
      GMOs should be kept under quarantine for decades until they are determined safe. Bacteria are safe for industrial purposes.
      Would you like me dumping chemicals of unknown biological effect into the local water supply. (50/50%: many harm, may help).?

      • “Bacteria are safe for industrial purposes.” Yeah, it’s not like bacteria can cause diseases or anything. After all, they ARE natural.

  3. So the title made me think people need to stop giving vegans blogging accounts….hell I was like here we go again until I made it past the first bit.

    My bias is based on the fact that I do research with vitamin D and the fact that I think milk is an amazing resource and I think about everyone should be drinking a glass of it a day. Its not just good for bones, its an indicator of overall cardiovascular health. So drink more rat poison everyone!

    Regardless, well written, and I might be quoting you on the witch doctor thing, as I tend to take it overboard when I think about how these practitioners are actually driving people away from life saving treatments and procedures because of their ignorance.

    • Milk, in its true form, is good for, but the crap you buy at the store is questionable. For every article claiming milk is the greatest fluid since water, there is another article telling you why you should never drink it. For every “benefit” they claim you can get from milk, you can get the same benefit from eating veggies and fruits.

      I think milk is one of the worst beverages we claim to be “healthy.” It is right up there with Vitamin Water and Gatorade

    • I wonder if maybe you misunderstood the milk bit? Sorry, you probably actually didn’t; your wording just confused me. I just think it’s a fantastic article and I hope fewer morons misinterpret it than I foresee… (Not calling you a moron. Calling a great many people morons, but wasn’t specifying anybody.)

  4. Great article. I studied Biomedical Chemical Engineering for 3 years before deciding to pursue Microbiology instead. It drives me crazy when people spew drivel about how “bad” chemicals are with absolutely no knowledge of chemistry or biology.

    Everything that is not a pure element is a chemical! Even “pure” elements could be considered as such if they are bound to themselves (O2 as oxygen gas, O3 as ozone), because the chemistry of how they are shaped and bound defines what they are and what they do.

    All molecules, natural or synthetic, are produced by a chemical reaction. That means that they are a chemical.

    I am going to use your Vitamin D and rat poison example in the future. I smoked cigarettes for almost a decade, and have switched to e cigs. The liquid in them that contains the nicotine is mostly propylene glycol, and a few times a week I end up dealing with someone, often a traditional smoker, who tries to tell me that I shouldn’t smoke e cigs because “they are filled with antifreeze”.

    Is propylene glycol a good chemical to use as an antifreeze? Sure it is! It can be mixed with water and lower the melting point substantially. Does that mean it is toxic? Not at all. It is also a common preservative in food, is used in liquid medicines to dissolve some drugs that are not soluble in water (if you get a benzo injected before surgery, it is probably dissolved in PG) , and is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA. It takes so much PG to be toxic, that the only way it would ever become deadly to me would require DRINKING 25 bottles of my nicotine liquid…which would also give me as much nicotine as 15,000 cigarettes. That is 24x as much nicotine as the most generous LD50 estimations in humans. It could be enough to kill 48 people.

    Gah. Sorry for the rant. People have been getting on my nerves with this lately.

  5. Great post! I can’t stand the deceptive misuse of the word “natural,” in product marketing. Snake venom is 100% all-natural! Even things like fiberglass insulation are now labelled as “natural.” If that’s natural – what isn’t?

  6. Interesting post! The neighborhood witch doctor metaphor is spot on.

    One thing that you should consider (but I think it was catchy to promote your headline) so people will not be mislead is to clarify that Vitamin D is essential to your health – our bodies need it to absorb calcium and phospate.

    Most people are skimming articles due to the nature of how our brains absorb information so this post might create a viral effect that ultimately vitamin D is bad which is not the case as you’ve written about here.

    • It frightens me to consider the fact that you truly believe that this article could go viral, and people would start attacking the milk section of their local markets in droves, throwing milk out onto the street to the cheers of others who read this article and concluded that vitamin D was rat poison.

      • Jason, you underestimate the lengths tabloid journalists are willing to go in order to sell issues and the unwillingness by many (most?) readers to actually think and question what they read for themselves for a second. Naturally I would not expect it to come to quite the extreme you describe, but I would not be surprised to read a highly sensationalized version of the above, deliberately so or not in the tabloids, and then having to suffer through the pains of explaining to sheeple why not everything written is true. Not even that which is written in News of The World and other “fine” publications like it. As it would be far from the first time I see exactly that happening.

  7. One day, long ago, the Great Chemist in the sky said, to His assistant, “let us make man. Let him have vegatation for food,” and The Great Chemist did so. The Great Chemist, who now became The Great Bio Chemist said, “It is very good.” Such a marvelous wonder it all is!

  8. Even as a scientist myself I’d have to say your article is quite biased- your overuse of the term “kombucha and wheat grass drinkers” and negatively weighted descriptions of societal sub-sects show you are less documenting anything profound but just spewing vague facts amongst attacks to defend what appears to be some sort of hatred( born of self-loathing or insecurities..). The natural foods movement is based on limiting additives (naturally derived or industry-created) that negatively support the balance of our eco-systems and on the whole do not benefit our bodies and only support the over processing of our food which is systematically and justifiably linked to decrease in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. And there is a bit of quackery in everything , one man believes in God, one in a system of laws, one in their intuition, they will all fall short at sometime when they mistake allegiance for connection to something more true – call it nature – call it what you will.
    apple sprayed with pesticides then covered in wax
    or …apple
    you let your body decide which chemicals you want in their but maybe first listen to your body before your head eats it up

  9. Excellent article, makes me think about poisonous mushrooms :). I wonder what’s your opinion on neurotoxic compounds that kill you pretty much instantly before either the kidneys or the liver can do something about them.

  10. Thanks for a well written and thought provoking article. It is provides much to ponder! I face this issue also as I am a retailer and foods have a listing of all the ingredients and some sound like a chemical factory and the question remains What is safe and what is not?
    Thank You!

  11. You should visit In the Pipeline for Derek Lowe’s rebuttal of the Buzzkill 8 toxic foods post. (Another real research chemist takes on a science-illiterate/fearmonger. Better late than never, but I’ve been too busy watching the Hawks to keep up with my email…)

  12. This article is idiotic and terribly done. Let’s bring up some facts.
    The vitamin D they put in milk is called D3, it’s made by doing strange things to sheep’s wool. The result is a chemical your body can’t process. It has no effect on vitamin D deficiency and will harm you in large doses.
    If you eat plenty of good fat in your diet like butter, animal fat, coconut oil etc, you will not suffer harmful effects from wood smoke from the fireplace. It is likely that these good fats will protect your body and liver from toxins present in grilled meat (fat acts as a buffer, making it easier for your liver to process and excrete them. The liver avoids damage in the process. This is why it is also good to eat a fatty meal before drinking alcohol.) (BTW bad fats is the poisons people call margarine, vegetable oils, seed oils, if not for their large amounts of omega 6, then definitely for their rancidity and the way they are processed and their low smoke points).
    There is evidence (though its been widely ignored and even banned) that cyanide compounds in apple seeds and apricot seeds are unlocked when they hit cancer cells. The WHO has a study listed that found that giving mice these chemicals will reverse cancer (yes you can look it up) but as research or even talking about it has been banned, no one will be talking about this for a lot while longer. (However, cyanide by itself or in an unnatural form is of course deadly. People who want more information can watch “a world without cancer” on you tube.)
    Your body does actually store toxins. It stores them in cancer cells (they’ve found recently that people usually have at least a few cancer cells.) It is also known that we store toxins in fat cells (to protect our bodies from them until we are away from the toxin and toxic load enough for our bodies to begin to break them down and get them out).
    You are totally wrong about natural vs. synthetic. If something is not in its natural form, it cannot be used, and is about as helpful or as dangerous as swallowing a rock. If something is synthetic, it is just the chemical and doesn’t have all the hundreds of other chemicals around it to nullify it, meter it out, make it harmless, and even beneficial. As Hippocrates said, make food your medicine, and medicine your food. In saying that, the vitamin D in cod liver oil or naturally present in milk given from an organic cow exposed to sunlight all day and the milk not being altered or fortified at all is excellent for the body. The vitamin D in cod liver oil is surrounded with natural vitamin A, as well as many other micronutrients and fats, omega 3s, iodine, and such, which all help the body in a myriad of ways to process vitamin D. Synthetic vitamin D3 added to either of these things or put into a pill form is toxic however. Yes, that means most vitamins are worse than useless, the equivalent of swallowing a rock. And all those people selling ‘natural’ vitamins because they were extracted from some exotic plant or something are useless too.
    Note. Wheat-grass juice is probably toxic too and likely has no benefits. Firstly, it is likely made from a concentrate or some unnatural process which renders any vitamins the body could absorb totally useless. Secondly, vegetables and green things tend to absorb vitamins (and heavy metals) rather than giving them up to the body. You need to eat fermented vegetables to get the most benefit from them, ie fermenting vegetables lets beneficial bacteria break down everything first, so you are just getting a lot of useful vitamins when you eat them. Note: you probably need four stomachs to process wheat grass properly (think cows). Vegetables are plants, they have many poisons to prevent animals from eating them (cooking partially destroys these, fermentation is better.) If you feel better at first from eating lots of wheat grass juice or soy, note that it is because your thyroid is freaking out trying to process all this stuff. So you will feel better for a few years and then your thyroid will give up and you will feel worse.
    Nature is great but humans have forgotten how to live, prepare food or cook. We need to do this traditionally. And yes, homeopathy and all that new age stuff you mentioned is crap, harmless at worst and merely positive thinking at best. Most of them believe that if something is extracted from a plant and put into a vitamin or a drink, it is natural and good. But like I said before, even extracts are harmful even if they haven’t been excessively altered because they are missing all the chemicals around them that help the body digest and fully utilise them.

    • We’ve adapted to dealing with trace chemicals from woodsmoke etc, but not the high concentrations of evolutionarily never-before-encountered chemicals we find in industrial society.

      Was with you until you talked about wheatgrass. Concentrate? It is fresh juice squeezed from the leaf. No four stomachs are needed because the pulp is thrown out. It is full of vitamins and minerals, much better than a vitamin pill.

      Grass juice is, however, a bit too harsh, and often causes detox symptoms like rashes if consumed in quantity. Better to juice kale or something gentler. Better to juice a wide variety of vegetables to get broad-spectrum nutrition, while avoiding the danger of excessive phytochemicals found in some particular plants (oxalic acid, for example).

      You may feel high if you drink a lot of it. Some speculate that the high levels of chlorophyll promote hemoglobin and thereby improve blood oxigenation. Whatever the science may be, the experience is common and can be reproduced by skeptics if they leave their minds open just a tiny weeny little bit.

  13. I support genetic science research, but modifying food crops and mammals and mass-marketing them first without conducting any safety assays under quarantine is extremely reckless, irresponsible science. When radiation was first discovered, radium water was being sold as a health tonic by irresponsible chemists. We were all assured of the safety of nuclear energy and went ahead and built many plants with terrible dangers and insufficient safety precautions. Look at what we have done to the Pacific with Fukushima (cough stuxnet cough)…. Nuclear energy could be much cleaner if we completed the isotope cycle or use thorium, but instead we have plants leaking all over the USA and hundreds of nuclear timebombs all over the world (spent fuel pools), just waiting for a power shortage.

    As for the chemicals: Yes, what you say is true. However, we have adapted to natural chemicals over millions of years. Either our metabolism has learned to deal with them, or our intuitive senses connected to smell and taste tell us to stay away from them. Most poisonous plants give off odours that repel livestock. Animals are adapted to avoiding dangerous phytochemicals.

    Modern synthetics, on the other hand, are completely new. Some of them may be safely metabolised, others not. Unfortunately, there are so many thousands of chemicals in our environment, and so little safety research done on those chemicals, that it is impossible to keep up. And the majority of synthetic chemicals in a household or industrial environment do have harmful effects and are found in much higher concentrations than equivalent chemicals found in nature.

    And the concentration is the factor. Animals would not eat plants with high levels of toxins in them, but almost any human is willing to sleep in a room with a treated synthetic carpet, lead paint, chemical cleaners, etc, ingesting chemicals in very high concentrations, without sufficient full-spectrum vitamin intake of a variety of wild heirloom fruit, vegetables, and prey. (Good nutrition being essential for metabolic detoxification).

    The only pre-industrial records of cancer come from Egypt, among those who wore lead mascara. Lead is a perfectly natural chemical, but not normally encountered in nature in our evolution. This should tell us something about the true causes of cancer.

  14. “So complicated we don’t usually think about it. It’s easier to just go default mode and assume natural=good and synthetic=toxic. Which would be fine if it were true. But the smoke from your fireplace and the benzo[a]pyrene in your grilled meat and the methylmercury in your fish all prove otherwise. They’re natural, just as natural as bubonic plague and HIV.”

    This article is so full of straw men arguments – as are all the articles inevitably like this. It’s not natural=good / synthetic=toxic — it’s natural=probably better than the synthetic alternative. And there’s nothing natural about breathing smoke from your fireplace or eating the mercury in fish that got their from burning fossil fuels or the way HIV was able to spread due to the advent of air travel.

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