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May 2009

What do real scientists think about the dangers of common chemicals?

Most people on the rational side of the environmental field clamor for more science and less emotion to be used in setting policy. Who could argue with that?

The problem is that many of the scientists don't actually believe in science—according to the results of a recent survey. A sampling of toxicologists was asked to complete an online questionnaire, and it was clear from the responses that many of them were just as susceptible to media hype as the lay public.

A toxicologist friend of mine, who also participated in the survey, was not surprised. He noted, cynically, that the results reflect the "diversity" of the membership, and was confident that many of the respondents who bought into the popular mythology on chemicals—including the absurd use of the precautionary principle, even if tons of data is available on a chemical—were probably from academia or the EPA.

Even worse are situations whereby certain chemicals are actually being regulated down to levels LOWER than they occur in nature, because that is what the regulators' computer models calculate.

He lamented the fact that in the sister field of pharmacology, science has far more respect. He has no idea why there should be such a difference between these quite similar disciplines.

As I told him, almost no decisions in real life are dictated by reason. Rather, with the exception of some very few people, emotion trumps all. Or, to put it another way, it's always limbic, never cerebral.

Check out my HND piece on this topic.

Probiotics can cure bad breath

You've probably heard about probiotics for digestive purposes, but did you know that they can prevent bad breath, and protect against certain upper respiratory infections, as well?

My current HND piece looks at the work of Prof. John Tagg of New Zealand, who discovered an interesting strain of Streptococcus salvarius he called K12. He found out that people with this bug in their mouths never have bad breath, and never get strep throats either.

We give you the full details, including where to purchase the magic microbe.

NIOSH runs a comprehensive study at how secondhand smoke affects casino dealers, and comes up with very little

My latest HND story looks at the just released NIOSH study, that examined the effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on casino dealers. The control group was casino office employees, working in a smoke-free environment.

Not surprisingly—to anyone familiar with epi studies on real people as opposed to tweaked lab efforts on rodents—there were measurable differences in various health parameters between the two cohorts, but they were not statistically significant.

The most interesting thing determined by NIOSH is that a metabolic component related to tobacco smoke (NNAL) was found in the urine of casino dealers. Some interesting work has been published that tries to quantify the level of this metabolite with the risk of getting lung cancer, but no such assertions were made in the NIOSH paper.

Of course, the lack of significant findings did not prevent shrill media accounts of the supposedly big findings in the study.

By the way, NIOSH was sitting on this data for around three years, before publishing the report. Could they have had the statisticians working all this time in an attempt to create a finding?

The plaintiff's attorneys have already trotted out a former casino employee and non-smoker who developed lung cancer (now in remission), and is quite sure that he got it from his work environment. While around 90 percent of lung cancer is attributed to smoking, the other 10 percent is idiopathic (unknown origin). Why not look at NNAL levels in those of the 10 percent who are claiming that ETS was the cause?

I don't like being around secondhand smoke either, but there is not much real science—beyond statistical modeling—on the health effects. This NIOSH study is a good start, even if it did not come up with the "correct" findings.

Star Trek review

Since better that 90% of all reviews posted on this pic are overwhelmingly positive, why not surf over here for my take?

Keeping the tradition whereby the stories in the TV series were hardly ever that great, the story in this feature edition is pretty stupid, but there is plenty of action, CGI, and a lead role going to an unknown. The cynic in me would say that's so helmer J.J. Abrams does not have to share the limelight with anyone, save Leonard Nimoy in a time warp cameo.

To coin an old Hollywood phrase, this one is so TV.

You might like the gimmick casting of Winona Ryder as Spock's human mother.

Here's my take on swine flu aka influenza A(H1N1)

Check out my HND piece from last week.

The various governmental authorities did everything mostly right except they should have worked more in the background, and should have issued harsh warnings to the media to not over-hype the situation. These warnings should have been followed up by real action, once the hype machine went into overdrive. I'm sure that federal prosecutors could have come up with something.

As it is, the biggest threat now seems to be what will happen when Swine Flu 2.0 arrives in several months.

Even your yard sale is now regulated

Just one more thing to keep our country's founders spinning in their graves at sonic velocity...

As many blogs are reporting, yard sales are now regulated by the federal government. Go ahead and download this new publication from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of course, this is related to the hated Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Near the beginning of this publication you will find the text:

This handbook will help sellers of used products identify types of potentially hazardous products that could harm children or others.  CPSC's laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products.   This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities, and individuals holding yard sales and flea markets.


As always, the agency reminds resellers that while they do not have to actually test for the presence of lead and phthalates, they are still responsible for the products they sell. No doubt, the plaintiff's attorneys are licking their chops over this, and probably already have litigants lined up.

What many people, including a whole community of anti-CPSIA types, do not seem to grasp is that a political solution to this mess will not come easy—if at all—since the Dems consider CPSIA to be one of their crowning achievements—despite all the negatives that have emerged. To make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs, right?

Yes, there actually was a president who knew how to handle an economic crisis

No, it was not FDR, Hoover, or Obama. Don't forget that FDR's own treasury secretary, Henry Morganthau, admitted that their policy was a complete failure. Here is the former fiscal conservative testifying before Congress in May, 1939:

We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot.

Too bad the Keynesian morons and the Obama crowd have disregarded this salient historical fact.

But before St. Franklin, there was Warren G. Harding, and he got us out of the Depression of 1920-21 by doing mostly nothing, other than CUTTING federal spending.

Read all about it. You might also like my take on historians, included at no additional charge.

NAM and Hugh Hewitt chime in on CPSIA

On Shop Floor, the National Association of Manufacturers blog, Carter Wood piles on CPSIA—which of course deserves plenty of piling on—quoting wimp-conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Not only was CPSIA badly written with unintentional and devastating impacts of small to large businesses that produce no improvements in the safety of children’s products, the Congress’s stubborn refusal to make the obvious fixes telegraphs the aftermath of radical health care restructuring: The Congress won’t care when you can’t get the treatment you need and used to be able to get. CPSIA is the perfect example of what happens when Congress acts quickly, and Congress is preparing to act quickly on radical health care restructuring.

The problem is that Congress will not clean up the mess that is CPSIA. How can they? The Dem leaders consider it one of their crowning achievements. That's the main reason Waxman does not want to hold hearings on it. And, that is why they continue to dispense the fiction that the agency (Consumer Product Safety Commission) can fix it, when they know that is a lie.

Imagine a real life version of "Revenge of the Nerds," which takes place in Congress and stars Henry Waxman. Now, imagine that you are not imagining. You have just figured out this pathetic little man's career.

The only way CPSIA goes down is by some company openly defying it, and pursuing a court case. Then, jury nullification will take over. What jury will deny essential products to disabled people, for example? This is EXACTLY what happened to Prohibition, and what drove the amendment to repeal.

There are many companies that are worthy for this role, who make harmless and useful products, but do so in small batches, that cannot afford the testing.

There will be no political solution to this problem. We can beat the liberals at their own game! Clearly, this is a 14th amendment case!

Carpe diem.