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Are Plastic Products Safe? Educational Webinar Reviews The Science

Concerns about plastic safety have been growing over the years, and the media has stepped up its efforts to expose potential dangers associated with plastic compounds such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. The problem is – there is very little scientific evidence linking plastic to human harm, and no credible evidence that our current typical exposures to BPA poses any health risks at all (so say the health agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union, and Japan). But that’s not a very exciting story, is it?

Instead, what we often hear in the news is that microwaving our plastic containers or drinking from plastic water bottles could be dangerous to our health… and that BPA-free containers are better for baby. But where did the media come up with these ideas? I asked Dr. Chuck McKay, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at the University of Connecticut, to explain how safe levels of exposure (to various chemicals) are determined, and how to know if news reports are based on scientific evidence. I hope you’ll listen in to this educational Webinar.

Some of my favorite take-home messages from the Webinar include what I call “just becauses”:

1. Just because you can find a substance in your urine doesn’t mean it’s harmful. (Asparagus anyone?)

2. Just because an animal reacts to a substance, doesn’t mean that humans will. (How often have you caught a cold from your dog?)

3. Just because extreme doses of a substance can cause harm, doesn’t mean that tiny doses also cause harm. (Consider radiation exposure from riding in an airplane versus being near ground zero of a nuclear strike).

4. Just because something has a theoretical potential to harm, doesn’t mean it will. (Will you really be attacked by a shark in 2 feet of water at your local beach?)

5. Just because someone conducted a research study doesn’t mean their findings are accurate. (Do you really believe the Cosmo polls? There’s a lot of junk science out there!)

For an excellent review article of the high-quality science behind plastic safety, please check out this link. In the end, there are far more important health concerns to worry about than potential exposure to plastic compounds. And throwing out all your plastic containers may not even reduce your exposure to BPA anyway… A recent study found that people had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine when they followed a plastic-free, organic diet! Their exposure was actually traced to ground cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Who knew?

Toxins: Can You Sweat Them Out?

Can you sweat out toxins?

The guy next to me on the bike yesterday morning was working like Lance Armstrong in training: He had laid towels on the floor to absorb the impressive perspiration he was generating.

He shouted over to me: “I’m hitting it hard to cleanse out the toxins from last night. Too much Captain Morgan and buffalo wings, ya know?”

“Really,” I said.

“Actually, I’m a dermatologist, and sweat does not contain any toxins,” I said to myself so that he could not hear. (Gym decorum dictates men do not correct men in the middle of a workout — especially if prefaced by “Actually, I’m a dermatologist.”) I left him to his aerobics and wrote this post in my head while I finished mine. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Dermatology Blog*

Environmental Cancer: A Report From The President’s Panel

While most of the news sources are reporting that cancers from the environment are ‘grossly underestimated’ in response to the recently released 240-page report from the President’s Cancer Panel, I want to focus on the steps individuals can take to lessen their personal exposure to environmental carcinogens. Collectively, these small actions can drastically reduce the number and levels of environmental contaminants. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

The Detox Delusion: Our Bodies Can Detox Themselves

Yesterday, the real-life mailbox brought the Pharmboy household the Fall 2009 issue of DukeMedicine connect, a biannual publication on current news from the Duke University Health System. Produced by DUHS Marketing and Creative Services, it “strives to offer current news about health topics of interest” to its readers. This issue is not yet online but you can see the Spring 2009 issue here.

What caught my eye was a cover teaser titled “Detox Delusion” and an article on detoxification diets focusing on an interview with Beth Reardon a nutritionist with Duke Integrative Medicine. (The articles sadly don’t have bylines so I can only give credit to the editor, Kathleen Yount.)

The article focuses on the fallacy of detoxification diets, extreme and sometimes dangerous regimens of purges, enemas, supplements, herbs, with the misguided goal of clearing one’s body of “toxins.” These amorphous toxins are never named, much less denoted with an IUPAC chemical name, but prey upon the fears of our “chemical” environment. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata - PostRank (PostRank: All)*

Celebrity Shampoo Scare: Why You Don’t Want To Get Your Health Information From Gwyneth Paltrow

Somehow the medical community has missed a very important news Item.  In her website (dang, I was going to go for that domain), movie star Gwyneth Paltrow weighed in on a very frightening medical subject.


“A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a quote for a book concerning environmental toxins and their effects on our children.

“While I was reading up on the subject, I was seized with fear about what the research said. Foetuses, infants and toddlers are basically unable to metabolise toxins the way that adults are and we are constantly filling our environments with chemicals that may or may not be safe.

“The research is troubling; the incidence of diseases in children such as asthma, cancer and autism have shot up exponentially and many children we all know and love have been diagnosed with developmental issues like ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder].”

Apparently, she went on to point the finger at shampoo as a potential major problem in our society and raised a possible link between shampoo and childhood cancers.  Now, I am not sure how one can use shampoo on the head of a foetus (or a fetus, for that matter), but we have to tip our hat to celebrities for bringing such associations to the forefront.

So I did a bit of science myself to assess the voracity of her claims.  I too was seized with fear when I noted the following:

  • All of the kids in my practice who have ADHD have used shampoo.
  • All of the kids with cancer have also used shampoo.
  • I used shampoo as a kid (but not as a fetus), and I have ADHD.
  • The projection is that 100% of the people now using shampoo will die.


This really backs up my misgivings about shampoo.  I have always wondered at the claims these so-called hair-care products make so boldly.  Here are some examples of lies spread by the shampoo industry:

Clarifying shampoo – What are they claiming with this?  Is there such thing as unclear hair?  Do some people look as though they have a giant blob of hair-like substance on their head instead of many separate hairs?  Does  clarifying shampoo make each individual hair once again visible on these people?

pH Balanced – What is pH imbalance?  Is it when the pH sometimes is so acidic that it burns your hair off?  That would be terrifying if true.


Volumizing shampoo – I was not aware volumizing was a word (nor was my spell-check).  This means that the shampoo volumes things.  How can you volume something?  Does each hair get a separate volume, or does the hair suddenly get very loud.  Personally, I am afraid to open the bottles of these shampoos for fear of going deaf.


Shampoo for stressed hair – I have never thought about the emotional state of my hair.  I was not aware that it worries about things.  Perhaps it worries about being volumized or burned by non-pH balanced shampoos.  Perhaps it worries about being put on a foetus.  Does this type of shampoo contain a hair version of valium?

Vitalizing shampoo – At least vitalizing is actually a word, but would you really want vitalized hair?  My dictionary defines this as “giving life and energy to.”  Hair is dead, as we all know.  Does this “hair resurrection” cause your hair to scream every time it is brushed or cut?  Does it move about on your head independently?  What if it decides it wants to become a mullet?? Thank you, but I prefer my hair dead.


Self-adjusting shampoo – Instead of the hair having independent action, this type of shampoo seems to have an intelligence of its own.  How would it self-adjust?  Does it have a computer chip embedded in it or does it somehow have sentience?  How do we know if it will adjust in a way we want?  It could adjust to pH imbalance or de-volumization, couldn’t it?  What if this self-adjusting shampoo, which clearly has some degree of autonomy, gets ideas and causes other shampoos to break the shackles we humans put on it and forms a shampoo revolution?  An even scarier thought is if a self-adjusting shampoo comes in contact with vitalized hair!  What will happen then?  Will they fight, or will they conspire against the shampooee?

Baby shampoo – What is the life-cycle of a shampoo?  How do they find these baby shampoos and why would they steal them from their parents?  This is probably what is causing the shampoos to become self-adjusting.  I will say, shampoos do seem to multiply in our bathroom.  We probably have 16 bottles of different kinds of shampoo in our shower right now.  I just recently noticed some baby shampoo, but I thought my wife had just bought it.  I see now that we should not let the bottles touch each other if we want to have room in our shower to bathe.

So you see, while Miss Paltrow’s fears about shampoo are clearly far short of the whole story, at least they bring attention to this frightening situation.  Shampoo manufacturers are clearly in cahoots and have eyes on world domination.  The condemnation of this celebrity’s claims by “scientists” are clearly a smoke-screen to keep us from noticing the obvious plans for the destruction of humanity.

No more shampoo for me!

Gotta go now.  It’s time for my colon cleanse.

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