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Fashionably toxic

It’s the toxins.

Toujours les toxines.

How many times have I read or heard from believers in “alternative” medicine that some disease or other is caused by “toxins”? I honestly can’t remember, but in alt-world, no matter what the disease or condition under discussion is, there’s a good chance that sooner or later it will be linked to “toxins.” It doesn’t matter if it’s cancer, autism, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, or that general malaise that comes over people who, as British comedians Mitchell and Webb put it, have more money than sense; somehow, some way, someone will invoke “toxins.”

I was reminded of this obsession among believers in unscientific medicine last Friday when I came across an article by Guy Trebay in the New York Times entitled The Age of Purification. The article appeared, appropriately enough, in the Fashion section and was festooned with photos of cupping, surely one of the silliest of the many “detoxification” modalities that alternative medicine practitioners use to claim to draw the “toxins” out of their clients through the application of, well, cups or various other containers in which the air had been heated in order to generate negative pressure when sealed to the skin and presumably thus bring them to a greater level of purification and health. Indeed, the only “detoxification” rituals sillier than cupping that I can think of off the top of my head are detoxifying footpads and “detox foot baths.”

Oh, wait. Scratch that. I forgot about ear candling, which must surely be the undisputed silliest “detox” treatment of all time—until someone thinks of an even sillier one. Or not. There are just so many silly “detox” procedures that it’s hard to select a “winner.”

Be that as it may, Trebay mixes sarcasm with exposition throughout his article in a rather amusing way that’s worth quoting:

My friend, like everyone else around, seemed to believe that mysterious, amorphous sludge had lodged in the anatomical crannies of half the local adult population. Unseen toxins were lurking, like Communists during the Red Scare.

The “toxins” required elimination, somehow, and thus at lunches, at cocktails, at dinner parties, normal conversations turned abruptly from the day’s news to progress reports on juice fasts, energy alignments, radical purging. From painful sessions with traditional healers to toxin-leaching treatments designed, it might seem, to clean out not just body but wallet, a surprising number of New Yorkers (not all of them well-to-do neurotics) are caught up in a new New Age, the Age of Purification.

How had it happened, I wondered, that so many otherwise sensible, urban people found themselves in the grip of a dreadful feeling that systems are down? “I just bought five pounds of carrots, ginger and kale and put it all in my Breville juicer and pounded that all day,” said a corporate adviser of my acquaintance, far from a credulous woo-woo type.

Of course, as we have noted so many times before, hard-nosed skepticism in one area of one’s life does not necessarily translate to other areas. Many are the people who would never ever fall prey to scams in business, for example, but happily fork over money for scams such as “detox footpads”—or fall for anti-vaccine quackery, like J.B. Handley. Whatever the case, why this fascination with “detoxification” in alternative medicine? Why do so many of its treatments, be they dietary, chelation therapy, purges, colon cleanses, or whatever, claim to eliminate “toxins”? Why is it that, if you Google “alternative medicine” and “detoxification,” you find so many references, some of which claim external toxins need to be eliminated, some of which claim that internal toxins need to be purged, and still more of which blame various “parasites” for all manner of health distress? In this post, I’ll try to explain, but first a little history—self-history that is.

“You’re poisoning yourself from within”

My first encounter with the concept of “detoxification” (at least, as it is described in alternative medicine terms) occurred perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, after I had been out of medical school several years and completed my surgery education. Basically, a acquaintance of mine had on her bookshelf on “body cleansing.” Given how much I’ve delved into “alternative” medical practices in the last several years, it’s truly amazing to realize that for the majority of my adult life I had no clue what “detoxification” was or what “colon cleanses” were. My ignorance at the time aside, I don’t remember the title, and I don’t remember the author, but I do remember that, as I leafed through the book, it became rapidly clear to me that “body cleansing” had nothing to do with taking a shower or a bath, at least not in this book. In particular, my attention was riveted to a chapter entitled “Death begins in the colon.”

It turns out that the admonition to beware of your colon trying to kill you came from a chiropractor named Dr. Bernard Jensen, DC, who is apparently known as the “father of colonics.” Personally, that would not be a name or title that I’d be particularly interested in having ascribed to me, but then I’m not a chiropractor. My avoidance of icky titles aside, this was my first ever real encounter with the nitty-gritty (much of the grit within the stool) of colon cleansing. What followed were two chapters, the first telling readers how supposedly up to 20 lbs. of fecal waste lurks in their colons, producing “toxins” that slowly poison them, the symptoms of which manifest themselves as lethargy and a sense of not feeling well, coupled with any or all of a huge number of potential conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others. What’s the solution?

Guess.

Yes, the solution, as I wrote about long ago, is colon cleansing, and this was my first encounter, up close and personal, so to speak, with the concept. What followed were long and rather lovingly limned descriptions of the vast quantities of feces, along with—dare I say it?—almost pornographic-seeming photos of what people fish out of their toilet after colon cleanses. (For examples of the sorts of photos that I encountered, click here, but only if you have a strong stomach.) In the text were passages like this:

It is no longer possible to ignore the importance of alimentary toxemia or autointoxication as a fact in the production of disease. To no other cause is it possible to attribute one-tenth as many various and widely diverse disorders. It may be said that almost every chronic disease known is directly or indirectly due to the influence of bacterial poisons absorbed from the intestine. The colon may be justly looked upon as veritable Pandora’s Box, out of which come more human misery and suffering, mental and moral, as well as physical than from any other known source.

The colon is a sewage system, but by neglect and abuse it becomes a cesspool. When it is clean and normal we are well and happy; let it stagnate, and it will distill the poisons of decay, fermentation and putrefaction into the blood, poisoning the brain and nervous system so that we become mentally depressed and irritable; it will poison the heart so that we are weak and listless; poisons the lungs so the breath is foul; poisons the digestive organs so that we are distressed and bloated; and poisons the blood so that the skin is sallow and unhealthy. In short, every organ of the body is poisoned, and we age prematurely, look and feel old, the joints are stiff and painful, neuritis, dull eyes and a sluggish brain overtake us; the pleasure of living is gone.

Even back then, having recently finished my general surgery residency, I knew this to be utter nonsense. The reason, of course, is that I was still doing abdominal surgery back then, and I had done a lot of colectomies in urgent situations, where there was no time to prep the colon using GoLytely or something similar. Never once had I seen anything resembling the sorts of horrors delineated in this book. While that didn’t rule out that some patients might be as described in the passage above, it certainly indicates that having 20 lbs of fecal waste clogging up one’s insides is not nearly as common as the colon cleansers seem to believe. Similarly, I had done a number of colonoscopies in patients with unprepped colons, and, similarly, had never seen anything like this. None of this means such a thing is not possible, but in reality if a person’s colon has 20+ lbs of impacted fecal matter that person is going to be suffering not from chronic illness or a vague sense of illness. That person is likely to be, to use a scientific term beloved among the surgeons under whom I trained as a resident, sick as snot. In other words, while it is true that the fecal matter in our colons can make us sick, it’s quite uncommon that it does make us sick. Becoming ill from our own fecal waste matter usually only happens when something bad happens to break down the protective barrier of the colon and allow wee beasties that normally reside there to translocate into the bloodstream. For example, common causes of such breakdowns in mucosal barrier function usually involve severe physiological insults resulting in too little blood getting to the colon; i.e., sepsis, shock due to massive bleeding, or acute cardiac failure. These are usually not subtle things.

I told my acquaintance that whoever had written that book was full of…well, never mind. My experience, however, had been, if you’ll excuse the term, indelibly stained. I also came quickly to realize that the concept of autointoxication seems to have a lot more to do with religious concepts than science:

“The body as hotbed of festering sin was first examined by St. Augustine,” said Caroline Weber, a professor of French literature at Barnard College and Columbia University and a writer who often explores the weird byways of shifting cultural mores. “It was adopted later by monastic orders in the form of practices like self-flagellation, the wearing of hair-shirts, ritual fasting and the mortifications of the flesh.”

What is “detoxification” but ritual purification in another guise?

Attack of the toxins

If we are to believe the “detox” cult, our bodies are a pestilent sea of toxins, arising both from internal sources (the colon being but one example) and external sources. That’s why it’s useful to divide our “toxic exposure” from an alt-med perspective into two general kinds: External and internal, the latter of which is often referred to as “autointoxication.” External toxins are easy to understand and consist of pretty much anything that is viewed as toxic that enters the body from the environment. This term thus encompasses diet, pollution, and, of course, the ever-favorite bugaboo, “toxic chemicals.” Don’t get me wrong; there is no doubt that certain chemicals can be toxic. Further, there is no doubt that some environmental exposures can make us sick. Even further still, I do not deny that there have been times when chemical companies have behaved, to put it mildly, less than admirably when it comes to chemical spills and their consequences (Love Canal, anyone?)

That’s why I want to make it absolutely clear that these sorts of demonstrated, defined adverse health events are not what’s meant most of the time when when alt-med believers discuss “toxins.”

As for “internal” toxins, there is the aforementioned belief in “autointoxication” due to massive build up of fecal matter, and then there is—well, let me allow naturopath Robert Groves explain, given how heavily naturopathy emphasizes “detoxification”:

Autointoxication is poisoning by toxic substances generated within the body. In this process the body breaks down the parts that have served their function and attempts to, but fails to fully (or in the proper amount of time) neutralize their poisons and transports them out of the body. When these substances are not properly neutralized and/or eliminated, they damage our other cells causing dysfunction and disease. This continual cycle of destroying and eliminating the old worn out materials and cells happens in a time frame from split seconds to many years depending upon the type of cells and the substances. As an example of this regenerative process, your liver regenerates itself in about 3 weeks. The old cells are now waste to breakdown and move out. The body does this in a number of ways with the help of a few friends such as antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, viruses, bacteria, etc.

Anyone who has a basic understanding of human physiology should immediately recognize how poor an understanding of bodily function the article by Groves represents. Indeed, while the above passage is superficially correct about how the body is continually renewing itself, the conclusions Groves draws from this knowledge are so wrong they’re not even wrong, particularly his answer to the question of why detoxification is necessary:

If you don’t detoxify, you’ll blow up! It sounds like I’m kidding and in some ways I am and other ways I’m not. If there is intake and metabolism, but not elimination of the substances ingested or byproducts produced, an increase in size will occur. This is a matter of physics, the old saying “if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight” routine. Without proper elimination of unnecessary substances, obesity will be a problem at the very least. Bacterial and yeast overgrowth will increase bloating and create rotting of the entire digestive system. The cells of your body will no longer have room to take in nutrients and burn them (metabolism) resulting in fatigue. Consequently, the cells will fill with waste within and also in the interstitial space or area surrounding them (toxemia). In this state they will starve, as they are unable to absorb nutrients (malnutrition), and/or be denied oxygen causing cells to suffocate (hypoxia), and finally will die (necrosis). When enough tissues die, your organs die, and when enough organs die, you die.

Again, this is utter nonsense, too. First of all, there is no reason why the amount of waste must necessarily precisely equal the amount of food ingested. After all, what happens to the part of the food that we actually use for energy? How on earth is it that Groves thinks that if we take in too many nutrients we will “run out of room” to use any more, resulting in fatigue? After all, one might well argue part of the problem with our physiology is that it is too efficient in using calories far beyond what our bodies need, happily storing them as fat. Be that as it may, the body has very finely tuned and efficient mechanisms for disposing of waste material or recycling it into other molecules that the body needs, such as proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids. The liver is incredibly adept at getting rid of various waste products, as are the colon, lung, and kidneys. Except when these organs fail, help is rarely necessary; the body can “detoxify” itself just fine, thank you very much. Groves makes an analogy to an automobile in which the owner rarely changes the oil, rarely replaces the filters, and uses bad gasoline. Of course, an automobile is not capable of self-renewal the way that the human body is, which is why, although this analogy may seem attractive, it is too off-base to have even a whiff of a hint of any validity.

In all fairness, it should be noted that the very concept of “autointoxication” was not an alternative medicine concept per se, at least not 100 years ago. True, it is an ancient concept that dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that a putrefactive principle associated with feces was somehow absorbed by the body, where it acted to produce fever and pus, and the ancient Greeks, who extended the idea beyond digestive waste in the colon to include the four humors and incorporate the concept into the humoral theory of medicine. Even so, it was also a concept promulgated by proponents of scientific medicine in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The concept was very much like what I’ve described so far, namely that putrefactive products of digestion remained in the colon, there to leech into the bloodstream and sicken patients due to autointoxication. Indeed, some surgeons, chief among them Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, advocated total colectomy for the autointoxication that was thought to be the cause of diseases ranging from lassitude to epilepsy. Given that there were no antibiotics effective against colonic flora back then, intestinal surgery was still fraught with peril due to the high rate of sepsis and death, this approach was reckless indeed, even by the standards of the time. Eventually, even Sir Arbuthnot Lane came to the same conclusion and by the 1920s had changed his mind, deciding that diet was the answer. In any case, also by the 1920s, science had shown that the various symptoms observed in patients with chronic constipation were largely due to distension of the bowel and were not due to autointoxication. As is its wont, scientific medicine moved on from a failed hypothesis.

In marked contrast, as is their wont, alternative medicine practitioners clung all the more tightly to this failed hypothesis, an embrace that continues to this day.

What are these “toxin” things, anyway?

The first thing you need to understand when trying to figure out what toxins are is to realize that what an alt-med practitioner means when he or she mentions toxins resemble what a physician, scientist, or toxicologist means when he or she mentions toxins only by coincidence. In science, the formal definition of a “toxin” is actually quite narrow. Basically, a toxin is a poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms. Man-made substances that are poisonous are not considered, strictly speaking, “toxins” by this definition. Rather, they are called toxicants. In marked contrast, alt-med practitioners do not distinguish between “toxin” and “toxicant,” lumping them all together as “toxins,” be they the products of autointoxication, heavy metals, pesticides, or industrial chemicals. To the alt-med practitioner, they are all “toxins,” which is why at this point I tend to make like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and proclaim that I do not discriminate based on toxins, toxicants, or heavy metals. To me, in alt-med usage, they are all equally worthless.

Nomenclature aside, however, perhaps the most important differences in how science views toxins versus how alt-med views toxins is in demonstrating an understanding of (1) identity and (2) how the dose makes the poison. When toxicologists speak of toxins or toxicants, they tend to be very specific about the identity of the toxin or toxicant; they do their best to identify the specific compound or chemical that is causing illness, regardless of its source. This is often not an easy task, because there are frequently many confounders. Rarely are we fortunate enough to have a smoking gun like Minamata disease for mercury poisoning or the syndrome associated with Thalidomide dosing. This is particularly true for chronic disease as opposed to acute poisoning. In marked contrast, alt-med aficionados are almost intentionally vague when discussing toxins. To them, it seems, toxins are either all-purpose nasty substances without specific identities or substances whose toxicity appears not to depend upon dose. In the former case, toxins might as well be miasmas. If you’ll recall, the miasma theory of disease stated that infectious diseases were caused by a “miasma”; i.e., “bad air.” This was not an unreasonable concept before the germ theory of disease, because before germ theory the agents through which infectious disease was transmitted were unknown, but it’s not so reasonable now. Alternatively, “toxins” often seem to function like evil humors in the humoral theory of disease. Either way, alt-med toxins do not correspond to anything resembling toxins or toxicants in science.

My favorite example of this comes from the anti-vaccine movement. Remember our old friend Dr. Jay Gordon, pediatrician to the children of the stars and anti-vaccine apologist? A couple of years ago, “Dr. Jay” (as he likes to call himself) asserted that formaldehyde is a horrible toxin in vaccines. Yet, formaldehyde is a normal product of metabolism and ubiquitous in the environment. As I pointed out at the time, Dr. Jay breathes far more formaldehyde sitting in L.A. traffic jams than is in the entire vaccine schedule, and human infants have many times more formaldehyde circulating in their bloodstream than would be contained in any vaccine. Believe it or not, I personally engaged in a long exchange with Dr. Jay trying to get him to understand why the “formaldehyde” gambit makes no sense from a medical or scientific standpoint. I’m still not sure whether I got through, because periodically he pulls in essence the “toxins” gambit, in which ingredients in vaccines are listed, along with all sorts of scary potential adverse effects, with no mention given as to the dose required to result in those toxic effects.

When it comes right down to it, alt-med “toxins” are as fantastical as the sympathetic magic that is the basis of homeopathy.

But how do you get rid of toxins?

Given that these magical, mystical “toxins” are ubiquitous, the methods proposed to eliminate them are legion. Still, they tend to break down into five main methods. Often two or more of these methods are combined in order to flush out those evil humors toxins:

  • Diet. Key to many “detox” regimens is diet. These can range from all juice diets such as the “Master Cleanse” diet, which consists of lemonade, maple syrup, and Cayenne peppers (I kid you not) to raw food diets such as the ones I’ve discussed (cooking food apparently loads it up with toxins) to any number of other bizarre diets.
  • Colon cleansing. Discussed in depth by yours truly three years ago and better known as regularity über alles.
  • Heavy metals. This is where “chelation” therapy comes in. In essence, the claim is that we are all overloaded with “toxic” heavy metals. The treatment is, of course, chelation therapy. Unfortunately for quacks (and fortunately for us), genuine heavy metal poisoning is increasingly uncommon. Removing lead from paint has made it less and less common for babies to be poisoned when they put paint chips in their mouth, and removing lead from gasoline has decreased the amount of lead people breathe in. Moreover, there are specific criteria for the diagnosis of poisoning due to specific metals, and chelation is only useful for some metals. It’s also important to remember that, for all the claims of anti-vaccine activists that mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in some childhood vaccines causes autism, not only is there no evidence to support this claim, but there is a lot of evidence against it. Worse, often the diagnosis of “heavy metal toxicity” made by alt-med practitioners is based on “provoked” urine levels, a methodology that has no validity.
  • Skin detoxification methods. These methods claim to purge the “toxins” by eliminating them through the skin. They include modalities such as “cupping”, pads like the infamous Kinoki footpads whose manufacturers claim they can draw toxins out through the soles of the feet, and the even more infamous “detox foot bath,” where the water turns colors regardless of whether your feet are in there or not.
  • Manipulative methods. These tend to break down into methods like massage therapy and “lymphatic drainage,” basically manual methods that claim to “improve lymph flow” and thus “detoxify” the tissues. Examples include rolfing and lymphatic drainage massage (which, while feeling good, doesn’t remove any toxins that anyone can show).

The bottom line is that in medicine, “detoxification” has a specific meaning, and alt-med “detox” believers have appropriated the term for something that has little or nothing to do with its real medical meaning. Basically, in real medicine “detoxification” means removing a real and specific toxin or toxicant (or set of toxins and/or toxicants). In the case of real heavy metal poisoning, chelation therapy is real detoxification. Similarly, using lactulose to decrease the production absorption of ammonia by the gut is an example of detoxification. In contrast, alt-med “detoxification” is far more akin to the exorcism of evil spirits, the removal of evil humors, or the driving away of miasmas.

Fashionable nonsense

It’s not clear to me what’s behind this latest wave of detox faddism, but it’s clear that the concept that we are somehow being “contaminated” or poisoned is nothing new. Perhaps my favorite pop culture example is from a movie that’s nearly 50 years old, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In this blackest of black comedies, U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper has a paranoid delusion that fluoridation of water is a Communist plot that will lead to the contamination of the “precious bodily fluids” of every American. Acting on this belief, General Ripper initiates an all out first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, and the rest of the movie involves the increasingly darkly funny efforts of the U.S. government to recall the bombers and abort the attack in order to prevent global Armageddon. The idea “contamination” and the need for “purification” goes back much farther than that, though, as Trebay notes:

The idea of toxicity is a constant in Western culture, said Noah Guynn, director of the humanities program at the University of California, Davis, and a researcher into the cultural meanings of ritual cleansing. “We’re obsessed with the idea that our environments have turned against us, that they are poisoning us and we have no choice in the matter,” Dr. Guynn added. “We’ve been contaminated by something that you cannot eradicate, you can only treat.”

Whatever the reason for the resurgence of belief in various “detox” modalities, one thing’s for sure. Unnamed, unknown, undefined “toxins” are the new evil humors and miasmas, and detoxification is the newest fashionable form of ritual purification.

Posted in: Naturopathy, Science and the Media, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (82) ↓

82 thoughts on “Fashionably toxic

  1. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    leech into the bloodstream

    I don’t think they were that crazy in ancient Egypt.

    ;-)

  2. marcalbe says:

    The comment to open equating the search for toxins with the search for communists in the Cold War was great. From now on I’m going to refer to detox regimens as “Intestinal McCarthyism.”

    Oh, and while Dr. Strangelove is a much, much better film, I’m not sure it’s a blacker comedy than “Shakes the Clown.”

  3. hat_eater says:

    What all those poor souls need, and unconsciously yearn, is faith, confession and absolution administered each Sunday!
    And while I AM joking, I also do wonder how does the detox woo distribution across the religious faith spectrum look like.

  4. zed says:

    Not being a spelling nazi but I LoL’d when I read

    they can draw toxins out through the souls of the feet

  5. Khym Chanur says:

    “souls of the feet”

    You mean “soles”.

  6. I guess this is an example of how the general human conscious is expressing itself, despite little to no real medical or scientific evidence to prove it. I am not surprised though… Mankind is generating large amount of pollutants from gasoline and diesel exhaust to other greenhouse gases. I know my carbon footprint is large, as my daily commute to work is 40 miles round trip. How many “toxins” am I producing on a daily basis. With all the pollutants that mankind is producing, no wonder the human conscious needs to purify itself of “toxins”.

    Dr Sam Girgis
    http://drsamgirgis.com

  7. David Gorski says:

    Except that, in the U.S. and much of Europe at least, pollution levels are far lower than they’ve been, even compared to 50 years ago. Ever see pictures of Pittsburgh from the first half of the 20th century? It looked as though there were a dense fog settled on the city. In 1948 there was a “killer smog” that killed 20 and sickened 6,000 people in Donora, located about 20 miles away from Pittsburgh. London suffered a similar killer smog in 1952. The ironic thing, then, is that, as pollution has fallen to a lower level than it’s been during the industrial age, thanks to tighter regulations and better technology, we seem to be more afraid of “toxins” and pollution than we’ve ever been.

    That’s not to say we don’t need to do even better; there’s still plenty of pollution to go around. However, the fear of pollution and “contamination” don’t appear to correlate very well with the actual levels of pollution and contamination.

  8. David Gorski says:

    @zed

    Actually, the fact that you even mentioned the souls/soles faux pas makes you a spelling Nazi… :-)

  9. Godwin’s Law. On SBM. Sad.

  10. The communist analogy was funny.
    but, unlike these feared “toxins,” the rosenbergs actually were communist spies.

  11. Adam_Y says:

    These can range from all juice diets such as the “Master Cleanse” diet, which consists of lemonade, maple syrup, and Cayenne peppers (I kid you not)

    They were selling the Master Cleanse diet in Whole Foods a while back with free samples. For the longest of time I thought it was some hip trendy new food for people to consume until I started reading this blog.

  12. I was in a fellowship where we had a seminar talk from a bowel cancer doc-

    at the ‘question’ time at the end, inspired by the late-nite commercials, i asked as straight-up as i could whether we each were accumulating sludge in our bowels that was causing malaise and whatever.

    this professional, who literally looks inside the bowels of our bowels regularly, answered, ‘no.’

    i was pretty sure this was the case, but i just wanted to have the experience of asking one of the leading people on the planet who would authoritatively know if my bowels were full of sludge, and having him say, ‘no.’

    it would be terrible to be a bowel doc and have insomnia, because it would probably drive you nutz to see all of those late-nite commercials about intestine sludge all the time.

  13. Steve S says:

    We have a physician who has done an integrative medicine fellowship in Arizona. She likes the woo. To counter her preachings/teachings I have been teaching evolutionary medicine with emphasis on critical thinking. I also use Steve Novella’s Medical Myths, Lies, and Half Truths in noon conferences. The residents really like the evolutionary medicine (EM) series and Steve Novella’s lectures. Consequently after of over a year, our Integrative Medicine faculty is going parttime and doesn’t want to teach or mentor residents. We need good full time faculty and have a new one joining us in July. But the residents evaluations of her lectures have been less than positive and I think that is what has led to this move. She has talked about toxins and I have countered with EM and Steve Novellas talk on toxins. So, the war against integrative medicine in teaching centers is winable with presenting facts on the subject and teaching critical thinking. Keep up the good work at SBM!

  14. Squillo says:

    Or, as the French writer once said, “plus ça change, plus c’est la same shit.”

    It strikes me that, as a cancer surgeon, you’re sort of the ultimate “detoxifier.” I’m guessing the alties don’t see it that way, though.

  15. superdave says:

    I think Dr. girgis makes a good point. While it may be true that there is less pollution today than 40 years ago, we are much more aware of the pollution we make than in years past.

  16. Very nice article, David Gorski, informative and entertaining.

    I think I’ll probably be stating the obvious, but…

    I personally find it advantageous to nurture a fear of “toxins”*. Arts, crafts and design often use a variety of substances that should be treated with caution. The first time I learned that lesson was when I spent a day working with fiber reactive dyes (from powder form) and cavalierly decided to ignore the warning on the package to use a dust mask. I spent the night sick and aching all over.

    It’s sometimes hard to control your exposure to things. There was the year I spent in a working at a cemetery marker manufacturer, granite dust always in the air. Years working in media centers with color photography chemicals, acetone, solvents, various spray fixatives, glues or paints, when maybe the spray booth ventilation isn’t really working or one of your coworkers just doesn’t mind the fumes.

    Anyway, it’s always tempting to be in to much of a hurry or not deal with the bother of proper ventilation, breathing or eye protection. Or sometimes there’s a temptation to do something that might be toxic, because you may get a really brilliant effect with it, such as melting colored acrylic craft beads into mosaics in your oven**.

    Just to maintain a reasonable level of safety, in some professions, one must be very cautious.

    On the other hand, I find I am bemused when I talk to some friends who work in other fields. One day a friend of mine referred to wheat as “toxic”. Of course wheat can effect some people poorly (celiacs) but it’s just not the same things as…say inhaling asbestos.

    It seems to me, if you think of too many things as toxic, then you just have toxin inflation and you run the risk of seriously curtailing all pleasurable activities or throwing up your hands and deciding you may as well melt those acrylic beads in the oven, because your probably going to die tomorrow from your breakfast bagel anyway.

    *Although, I guess the correct word would often be toxicants.

    **I long to melt colored acrylic beads in my oven. Someone please tell me I can do it without any health concerns.

  17. trrll says:

    It is true that unless you are gaining or losing weight, the mass of the food taken in must essentially equal the mass of the waste produced, although you have to count such things as exhaled water vapor. I suppose that if you want to be really picky, you could point out that even though the total atomic mass excreted should equal intake, there will be slightly less mass of energy tied up in the molecular bonds, but this is pretty negligible due to the magnitude of the c^2 factor relating energy to mass.

  18. Th1Th2 says:

    First, formaldehyde is essential in human metabolism and is required for the synthesis of DNA and amino acids (the building blocks of protein).

    Interesting. So what is the recommended daily allowance Dr Gorski?

  19. Toxins must actually be good for you. They’re both natural and organic. :)

  20. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2,

    Formaldehyde is produced in the human body. We require it for metabolism but we do not require it in our diet. RDA is not applicable.

  21. David Gorski
    “Actually, the fact that you even mentioned the souls/soles faux pas makes you a spelling Nazi… :-)”

    I can understand why you might not agree, but I was glad that zed pointed out the soul/sole kerfuffle.

    I gave me a pleasant moment of imagining what kind of souls our feet might have. What kinds of gods would feet invent given the chance?

    Just selfish, I guess.

  22. Th1Th2 says:

    Well, what if someone is formaldehyde-deficient? How will doctors correct the deficiency?

  23. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2, “what if someone is formaldehyde-deficient? How will doctors correct the deficiency”

    There is no such deficiency. The body produces what it needs.

  24. Ed Whitney says:

    No miasmas? What’s the matter; don’t you know that these are the cause of cholera? The stench in the slums where cholera occurs is intolerable. Fortunately, there is an easy remedy for this problem. Just construct efficient sewers and flush all that miasmatic waste into the Thames!

  25. Watcher says:

    Th1Th2,

    Does the body auto-infect itself with formaldehyde if it’s made in the body? Are we all unwitting carriers of this formaldehyde-based disease?

    Also, do you think the body shouldn’t produce formaldehyde?

  26. Th1Th2 says:

    There is no such deficiency. The body produces what it needs.

    Where is your evidence that newborns are not formaldehyde-deficient?

  27. Harriet Hall says:

    @Th1Th2,
    “Where is your evidence that newborns are not formaldehyde-deficient?”

    Wrong question.
    There is no evidence that newborns are formaldehyde-deficient.

  28. Th1Th2
    “Where is your evidence that newborns are not formaldehyde-deficient?”

    Oh dear lord, please read this as “who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?”

    Although, they shouldn’t call them trolls, they should be called willow o’wisps, those little fairy lights that lead unsuspecting internet travelers to spend untold hours pointlessly meandering through the woods only to die of exhaustion in the swamp.

    Where is Chris with her handy ‘Th1Th2 is so clueless he/she thinks that children should be prevented from walking on the sidewalk’ link? I don’t have the link handy.

  29. Th1Th2 says:

    watcher,

    Does the body auto-infect itself with formaldehyde if it’s made in the body?

    Well, do you auto-infect yourself when you have a poo-ing problem?

    Are we all unwitting carriers of this formaldehyde-based disease?

    Humans produce waste products in feces, does that mean they are diseased?

    Also, do you think the body shouldn’t produce formaldehyde?

    I think waste products shouldn’t be injected back to the system. It’s unethical to say the least.

  30. Th1Th2 says:

    There is no evidence that newborns are formaldehyde-deficient.

    Isn’t that a classic argumentum ad ignorantiam?

  31. Harriet Hall says:

    @ Th1Th2

    “do you auto-infect yourself when you have a poo-ing problem?”
    NO.
    “Humans produce waste products in feces, does that mean they are diseased?” NO.
    Why are you even asking those questions?

    “I think waste products shouldn’t be injected back to the system.”

    Formaldehyde is not a waste product: it is produced and used in normal metabolic processes.

    Bit of trivia: in the early days of penicillin, when it was scarce, it was recycled from the urine of patients who had received it. One example where it did make sense to inject a waste product back into the system. :-)

  32. Harriet Hall says:

    “There is no evidence that newborns are formaldehyde-deficient.
    Isn’t that a classic argumentum ad ignorantiam?”

    No, it’s a statement that there is no evidence to support that hypothesis.

  33. S.C. former shruggie says:

    When I was living with Bachelor of Education students, the colon woo was very popular with the Phys. Ed. teachers and the gym regulars. It’s not just ridiculous, but gross to boot. Says the guy who signed up for dissecting lampreys and the smell of death and formaldehyde before breakfast every morning.

    I hate to think those high school teachers might’ve passed on the colonic stuff they learned at Google U to their students.

    It really seems to gratify paranoia (secret poisons all around us) Luddism (modern life is poisonous) and fashion (everybody else is doing it) all in one. Maybe a little O style live-your-best-life narcissism too. It’s a triple athlete of motivated reasoning. I’m afraid this one’ll be with us for many years yet.

  34. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Toxin phobia is closely related to nutrition obsession (as both the cure and cause of all disease). Both make the intuitive and simplistic assumption that sickness is a direct result of physical input, and some toxin-obsessed quacks think that the major toxins are our evil modern food, not just pollutants.

    I think our brains are evolved to look for causes of disease in our consumed substances. That is not the only cause of disease, but it is the one which a caveman is able to control through either evolved attractions and aversions, or just by learning the hard way within a lifetime. There is no reason for us to evolve an intuition which searches for complex biochemical flaws which an individual cannot fix.

    In addition to appealing to that consumption-based instinct about disease, woo about toxins also appeals to our macroscopic view of the world. I think that is the cause of the purity myth. We aren’t built to think about micrograms and insignificant presence, we are built for dealing with things that are either there or not there (or at least we are built for acting that way). If an insignificant level of something like mercury is present, and we are experiencing no ill effects to raise our suspicions, we falsely tend to think that we are in a pure state rather than a complicated acceptable state.

    Is there an appropriate word to describe a false universal application of a theory? I keep having to throw in extra words so as not to sound like I am denying the fact that toxins do cause some problems, just not all problems.

  35. Calli Arcale says:

    If I recall correctly, the correct term for a person who does not produce formaldehyde is “dead” since it means metabolism isn’t working. So RDA really is meaningless. There would presumably be a maximum safe daily limit by various routes of administration, however, as there is a limit to how much the body can clear. (It’s probably quite high, as the body clears it very rapidly; in general, it is only chronic exposure which is harmful, and why you have to be careful about certain wood stains — they may outgas formaldehyde for years, and if it’s in your bedroom or office or similar, that’s going to be a problem.)

    trll:

    It is true that unless you are gaining or losing weight, the mass of the food taken in must essentially equal the mass of the waste produced, although you have to count such things as exhaled water vapor.

    And also urine, sweat, saliva, and other bodily fluids. And dandruff and hair shedding. All of these shed material that was at some point eaten. And don’t forget also that when you exhale, you don’t just lose water vapor — you’re also dumping carbon dioxide (and a few other things, but that’s the main point of the exercise). The oxygen atoms come from your respiration, mainly, but the carbon atoms come from your food originally.

  36. S.C. former shruggie says:

    here is no evidence that newborns are formaldehyde-deficient.
    Isn’t that a classic argumentum ad ignorantiam

    No, argument from ignorance goes: “There is no evidence X isn’t true, therefore X is true.” Harriet Hall said almost the opposite. There is no evidence newborns are formaldehyde deficient. Therefore, they probably aren’t.

    That’s called the null hypothesis.

  37. Th1Th2 says:

    Formaldehyde is not a waste product: it is produced and used in normal metabolic processes.

    Do you have evidence that formaldehyde is not a waste product of metabolism?

  38. Th1Th2 says:

    No, argument from ignorance goes: “There is no evidence X isn’t true, therefore X is true.” Harriet Hall said almost the opposite. There is no evidence newborns are formaldehyde deficient. Therefore, they probably aren’t. That’s called the null hypothesis.

    Yes, it is. That fallacy is pretty obvious.

  39. dedicated lurker says:

    Thingy, look up “inborn error of metabolism.” That’s what a formaldehyde deficient infant would look like.

  40. Th1Th2 says:

    Thingy, look up “inborn error of metabolism.” That’s what a formaldehyde deficient infant would look like.

    Is that a SWAG?

  41. hat_eater says:

    michelleinmichigan, the will-o-wisp analogy is spot on! Cheers!

  42. ebohlman says:

    Calli et.al.: It’s also important to remember that the vast majority of the mass of the food we eat is actually water (which, not so coincidentally, also accounts for the majority of the mass of stool. Both eating and pooping would be extraordinarily difficult and unpleasant exercises otherwise).

  43. Scott says:

    Do you have evidence that formaldehyde is not a waste product of metabolism?

    Given that the Thing has decided that isolated antigens in the absence of a bacterium, virus, or replication still constitute an “infection,” I’m quite sure that it can similarly come up with a definition by which formaldehyde is a “waste product.” Still begs the question of why anybody would care…

  44. Harriet Hall says:

    @Th1Th2,
    “Do you have evidence that formaldehyde is not a waste product of metabolism?”

    Do you have any evidence that it is?
    Do you have any evidence that the tiny amount of formaldehyde in vaccines has ever caused any harm to humans?
    What exactly are you trying to say?

  45. S.C. former shruggie says:

    Okay, obviously we need to have that long conversation about knowledge being provisional and possibly overturned by new evidence. In which event, what we thought we knew was wrong, and we were ignorant.

    The key is evidence. Present evidence that disproves the null hypothesis. Don’t just natter about the null being assumed out of ignorance of contrary evidence. We know that. It’s semantically true. It does not lend any credence to any alternative hypotheses.

  46. overshoot says:

    I long to melt colored acrylic beads in my oven. Someone please tell me I can do it without any health concerns.

    Is your oven an outdoor kiln? Preferably solar?

    Alternately, a good vent through the combustion chamber of a gas kiln might be even better.

  47. trrll says:

    There is no evidence newborns are formaldehyde deficient. Therefore, they probably aren’t.

    Lack of evidence does not permit a statement of probability. However, a much stronger statement can be made, because the production of formaldehyde in the course of normal metabolism is well understood, and there is abundant evidence that the fundamental biochemistry of infants does not differ radically from that of adults.

  48. Harriet Hall says:

    “There is no evidence newborns are formaldehyde deficient. Therefore, they probably aren’t.”

    Trrll is right. You can’t conclude that they probably aren’t. I would rather say there is no evidence newborns are formaldehyde deficient and there is no reason to think that they are. It’s a bit like the legal principle that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It doesn’t mean that you are probably innocent in reality.

  49. Anarres says:

    Very interesting, thanks Dr. Gorski :)

  50. Donna B. says:

    I was very disappointed to learn that I didn’t have 20 lbs of feces to lose when I did the golytely (quite the misnomer there!) routine before my first age-induced colonoscopy.

    Sure, it was unpleasant and painful after a while, but damn… losing 20 lbs in 6 hours or less? Who could resist?

    Alas, I lost maybe 1/2 lb. And regained it with the first meal afterwards.

    Also, I cannot help but remember my mother saying “there’s something wrong with that woman” referring to an aunt who insisted on giving my cousins weekly enemas.

    That was years and years ago. Okay… 40+ years ago. This colon = toxic routine is not new, is it?

  51. pmoran says:

    People do seem to feel better for doing things that they think are good for them, whether that is so or not. Even the daily megavitamin can suffice. The euphoria that some express after completing more arduous “detox” regimes helps explain why people get hooked on this stuff.

    The pity of it is that their energies would be far better directed at truly healthy activities, such as exercise, or learning how to prepare an appetizing salad.

    It needs to be said that “Detox” can do nothing but harm to cancer patients in the long run.

  52. daedalus2u says:

    As has been pointed out, the body has a great many very effective pathways for ridding itself of toxins, those that human ancestors have been exposed to over evolutionary time (formaldehyde) but also those that humans have not been exposed to over evolutionary time (essentially every synthetic chemical).

    What has not been pointed out is how physiology regulates the pathways responsible for ridding itself of toxins. In essentially all cases where that physiology is regulated, the regulation consists of turning on the pathways until the level of what ever toxin is being keyed off of drops below a threshold and then turning off the pathways until the level of a toxin exceeds a threshold which then turns them back on.

    The toxin removal pathways are not specific to individual toxins, they are broad spectrum toxin removal pathways. Physiology doesn’t need to key off of each toxin, it can use a smaller number of receptors with a broad range of activities. This is how and why small doses of toxins can confer resistance. The compensatory pathways respond to the toxin, neutralizing it plus a little more. That “little more” can deal with other toxins that are not specifically being responded to. This is what happens in hormesis. A little dose of a toxin stimulates compensation to the toxin and that compensation also deals with other bad stuff that is going on.

    There is considerable thought that the benefits of eating a lot of vegetation is actually due to the phytotoxins that plants put in themselves to restrict predation by insects. That may be why supplemental nutrients don’t produce the same health effects as vegetables with the same nutrients, the supplemental nutrients don’t have the phytotoxins that the fresh food has which your body uses to trigger the compensatory pathways.

  53. LMA says:

    I just saw on Consumerist the other day that in a rare “win” for intelligence, the FTC is making the “foot toxin pads” company pay back people who bought their product.

    “Just remember, Mandrake, to beware of the female of the species; I don’t avoid them, I just with hold from them my precious bodily fluids!” — it wasn’t until I saw Strangelove for about the third time that I caught that bit! Of course, the strangest thing of all is that Peter Sellers was a big time woo fanatic, and yet he starred in Strangelove. Phenomenal movie.

  54. hippiehunter says:

    Didn’t ‘Thing’get banned for being a troll ? or was that wishful thinking? please consider it a request.

  55. overshoot
    Is your oven an outdoor kiln? Preferably solar?
    Alternately, a good vent through the combustion chamber of a gas kiln might be even better.

    No, mostly I paint and glue stuff together, so no kiln. My oven is in the kitchen, with not a great vent.

    How about an outdoor propane grill?

  56. Th1Th2 says:

    Do you have any evidence that it is?

    Formaldehyde is produced endogenously as a detoxification product during cellular metabolism. What does that tell you?

    Do you have any evidence that the tiny amount of formaldehyde in vaccines has ever caused any harm to humans?

    Hence my question as to what is the RDA since you’re promoting early formaldehyde exposure in newborns.

    What exactly are you trying to say?

    I’m just trying to get your opinion about the benefits of formaldehyde exposure in newborns and why newborns should be exposed early in life.

  57. Lytrigian says:

    Ya know, many moons ago when I started reading this blog, Th1Th2 was an annoying troll in a great many otherwise useful discussions. He and/or she was gone for awhile, and things were relatively pleasant. But now it’s back. Why does anyone keep taking his and/or her trollbait? It’s not intended to be useful or informative.

  58. Harriet Hall says:

    @Th1Th2,
    “Formaldehyde is produced endogenously as a detoxification product during cellular metabolism.”

    As a detoxification product? What does that even mean? What is your source for that information? A small amount of formaldehyde is produced by the body for essential purposes; it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated. That makes any question about RDA nonsensical. There can be no recommended daily allowance of something that is not recommended to be part of the diet at all.

    “I’m just trying to get your opinion about the benefits of formaldehyde exposure in newborns and why newborns should be exposed early in life.”

    I don’t know of any benefits. No one is saying newborns “should be exposed” to formaldehyde. I am not “promoting formaldehyde exposure.” I am promoting the prevention of disease. The only vaccine given to newborns is for hepatitis B, and some brands contain trace amounts of formaldehyde used as an antimicrobial, toxin inactivator, and stabilizer. It contributes to the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, and there is no reason to think the trace amounts of formaldehyde in the vaccine are harmful, especially since we know that at any age, the body can rapidly metabolize and eliminate it.

    You did not answer one of my questions, so I’ll ask it again: Do you have any evidence that the tiny amount of formaldehyde in vaccines has ever caused any harm to humans?

  59. Harriet Hall says:

    @Lytrigian,
    “Why does anyone keep taking his and/or her trollbait?”

    I’m doing it as an intellectual exercise and an experiment to see if it is capable of answering direct questions and carrying on a discussion that is rational on some level. So far it has been very hard to pin down and has not been able to clearly state what it means in terms that are meaningful to others. I’m wondering if a step by step response might help it to think more clearly. I’m not optimistic.

  60. BillyJoe says:

    “Why does anyone keep taking his and/or her trollbait? It’s not intended to be useful or informative.”

    I imagine there are many, like myself, who did not know some of those answers and for whom these responses have been very useful.

    :)

  61. Watcher says:

    I think Th1Th2 is neglecting the fact that even newborns are exposed to a formaldehyde product before their first vaccination because their biochemistry requires it. The rest of his stuff is just him JAQing off.

    As was stated before, it’s a known that CH2O is a fairly common intermediary in normal biochemistry and is broken down quickly into formic acid. It’s even fairly prevalent in our environment and was one of the first organic molecules discovered in space.

  62. Scott says:

    I’m just waiting for the idiot to start complaining about the dihydrogen monoxide in vaccines. Makes just as much sense.

    (Seriously, go back through all its posts and replace “formaldehyde” with “dihydrogen monoxide”. Works perfectly.)

  63. daedalus2u says:

    The reason that formaldehyde is used is because it binds to proteins and cross links them, and makes them “tired”. In some cases the toxicity of a particular protein is greatly reduced by exposure to formaldehyde.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17289219

    Here is an example where formaldehyde treatment destroyed the toxicity of a toxin and increased its immunogenic effectiveness. Formaldehyde treatment makes the vaccine safer and more effective at a lower dose.

    Formaldehyde that is attached to a protein isn’t really formaldehyde any more, it has become part of the protein-formaldehyde complex. Maybe they leave a little residual formaldehyde in as a preservative, but if they use a different preservative they don’t have to.

  64. Calli Arcale says:

    Donna B:

    That was years and years ago. Okay… 40+ years ago. This colon = toxic routine is not new, is it?

    No, it’s not new at all. It’s been around since antiquity, really. One of my favorite examples comes from Moliere’s play “La Malade imaginaire”, about a hypochondriac with a very expensive habit of seeking drugs from the quacks of his day. One of the protagonist’s physicians is a Monsieur Purgon, a fairly obvious pun, and the hilarious translation by P. G. Wodehouse has a great deal of fun with enema-based dog latin. (Alas, I have not been able to find this translation online; it may still be under copyright. But I saw it performed at the Guthrie in Minneapolis, and it remains my first impression of the work.)

    Purging (by either end of the digestive system) is a very old practice. My hunch is that healers started promoting it largely because it was so easy to manipulate the digestive tract. It was their hammer, and of course, when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  65. Chris says:

    micheleinmichigan:

    Where is Chris with her handy ‘Th1Th2 is so clueless he/she thinks that children should be prevented from walking on the sidewalk’ link? I don’t have the link handy.

    Sorry, very busy and presently at the library with an unfamiliar keyboard. Th1Th2 seems to be showing her absolute cluelessness, so there is really no need for the reference to her being divorced from reality. Now I must dash off.

  66. Th1Th2 says:

    As a detoxification product? What does that even mean? What is your source for that information?

    Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous pollutant. Do you know what a pollutant is?

    A small amount of formaldehyde is produced by the body for essential purposes; it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.

    As product of the detoxification process.

    That makes any question about RDA nonsensical. There can be no recommended daily allowance of something that is not recommended to be part of the diet at all.

    Well, you’re recommending newborns to receive vaccines, essentially, you are also recommending them to receive formaldehyde. However, the only thing that bothers you is, the baseline formaldehyde level of the newborn, in which you admitted you don’t have any evidence. Isn’t that called a shot in the dark?

    I don’t know of any benefits.

    Yet you claimed formaldehyde is essential.

    No one is saying newborns “should be exposed” to formaldehyde. I am not “promoting formaldehyde exposure.” I am promoting the prevention of disease.

    Concomitant with formaldehyde exposure. Is it hard to choose between two of the lesser evils?

    [...]and there is no reason to think[...]

    Is that a hunch or science?

  67. Th1Th2 says:

    I think Th1Th2 is neglecting the fact that even newborns are exposed to a formaldehyde product pollutant before their first vaccination because their biochemistry requires it [for detoxification]

    I hear you.

  68. Th1Th2 says:

    I’m just waiting for the idiot to start complaining about the dihydrogen monoxide in vaccines. Makes just as much sense.

    And what is dihydrogen monoxide?. Is formaldehyde also a hoax?

  69. Watcher says:

    LOL! No you don’t. You obviously don’t understand and are just making it up as you go. Hence this whole “detox” shenanigan you’re pulling.

  70. Harriet Hall says:

    Me:As a detoxification product? What does that even mean? What is your source for that information?
    TH: Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous pollutant. Do you know what a pollutant is?
    Me: I know what a pollutant is and I know what ubiquitous means. Please answer my questions: What do you mean by saying formaldehyde is a detoxification product? What is your source for that information?
    ——–
    Me: A small amount of formaldehyde is produced by the body for essential purposes; it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.
    Th:As product of the detoxification process.
    Me: are you saying the metabolism of formaldehyde is a detoxification process? Do you think everything that the body metabolizes and excretes is a toxin? Anyway, what bearing would that have on the question of vaccine safety? I really don’t understand what you are trying to say. Please explain in simple words that I can understand.
    ——————————–
    Me:That makes any question about RDA nonsensical. There can be no recommended daily allowance of something that is not recommended to be part of the diet at all.
    Th: Well, you’re recommending newborns to receive vaccines, essentially, you are also recommending them to receive formaldehyde.
    Me: I am not recommending formaldehyde per se; but I am saying that if it is included in some of the vaccines I recommend, I don’t know of any harm or any reason to think there should be harm to the infant. Do you have evidence of any harm? Anyway, RDA is a term used for nutrients consumed in the diet, and formaldehyde is not a dietary nutrient, so RDA doesn’t apply to formaldehyde.
    —————
    TH:However, the only thing that bothers you is, the baseline formaldehyde level of the newborn, in which you admitted you don’t have any evidence. Isn’t that called a shot in the dark?
    Me: I didn’t say anything about the baseline formaldehyde level of the newborn, much less being bothered by it.
    —————————–
    Me: I don’t know of any benefits.
    TH: Yet you claimed formaldehyde is essential.
    Me: I meant I don’t know of any benefits to exogenous formaldehyde; endogenous formaldehyde is essential and therefore beneficial.
    —————————-
    Me: No one is saying newborns “should be exposed” to formaldehyde. I am not “promoting formaldehyde exposure.” I am promoting the prevention of disease.
    Th:Concomitant with formaldehyde exposure.
    Me: Concomitant with formaldehyde exposure only if there is a trace amount of formaldehyde in the vaccine.
    —————
    TH: Is it hard to choose between two of the lesser evils?
    Me: I don’t understand the question. What two evils are you referring to? I have no evidence that the formaldehyde in vaccines is an evil, so there is no question of choosing between two evils. Rather, there is a question of choosing between the evil of disease and the benefit of prevention.
    ———————–
    Me: [...]and there is no reason to think[...]
    TH:Is that a hunch or science?
    Me: It is a tentative conclusion based on the current state of knowledge.
    —————
    Me: Can you see how confused your thinking appears to me? Can you clarify why you think the trace amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is harmful? Do you have any evidence to support your opinion, or is it just a hunch?
    ——————————————
    I’m going to say that again: Can you clarify why you think the trace amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is harmful? Do you have any evidence to support your opinion, or is it just a hunch?

    Please answer as clearly as you can before we waste any more time talking at cross purposes.

  71. Chris says:

    Dr. Hall, that particular person has her own language, one that has been dubbed “Thinglish.” This is where she gets to define the words to meanings previously unknown in this reality.

    She has created her own reality, and it is best if she was ignored.

  72. kulkarniravi says:

    Th1Th2,

    They are just pulling your leg. Dihydrogen monoxide is made up name for water.

  73. kulkarniravi says:

    Th1Th2,

    I don’t anything about formaldehyde content of vaccines, but you have got to admit that diseases like smallpox and polio could not have been eradicated but for the vaccines. They have saved literally billions of people from certain disease. If anything, these diseases would be considered larger evils. Perhaps there are now vaccines which are formaldehyde free?

  74. BillyJoe says:

    kulkarniravi: “They are just pulling your leg. Dihydrogen monoxide is made up name for water.”

    Th1Th2,

    He’s pulling your leg. In Australia alone, 290 people die every year of dihydrogen monoxide. It should be banned:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f79g2cYzflU

  75. Watcher says:

    Ohhhh I’ll answer for Th1Th2!

    but you have got to admit that diseases like smallpox and polio could not have been eradicated but for the vaccines.

    Pfft you obviously don’t know Immunology. If you knew it like I knew it then you’d see what I mean. We could get rid of the disease if only people would stop catching it a spreading it around. Oh, and grass is bad, m’kay?

    /Th1Th2 off

  76. lilady says:

    Am I the only one to confess to opening the link with the pictures of the poop, following colonic cleansing? Ugh, they were disgusting especially the ones with the turds positioned on the edge of the rim of the toilet bowl. I think the donor/photographer of the turds is an arrested development head case. Most infants get over their poop fixation at 2 years of age.

    Dr. Gorski, your article reminded me of my Auntie, who was heavily into Gayelord Hauser and the “natural” laxative Swiss Kriss. She always had the giant economy size box on hand and dispensed it in large tablespoons…whenever we needed “a good cleansing” for the sniffles, insect bites, etc. It looked like dried herbs and tasted like hay with a distinct licorice flavoring. Needless to say, we quickly learned to hide any symptoms, insect bites to avoid the “good cleansing”. Swiss Kriss is still being sold on the internet…now in pill form.

    @ LMA: Dr. Strangelove is one of my all-time favorites, worthy of occasional re-viewing. I think it was during my third viewing that I caught the name of the officious Colonel…portrayed by Keenan Wynn…Bat Guano.

  77. Harriet Hall says:

    Th1Th2 hasn’t answered my questions yet after more than 24 hours. Is it possible my persistence has scared him away? I asked “Can you clarify why you think the trace amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is harmful?” I guess we can assume the answer is no, he can’t.

  78. Imadgeine says:

    Hallelujah!
    Getting back to the popularity of the detox myth it is a handy little marketing word – it doesn’t mean anything and you can slap it on the packaging of any product without putting yourself in breach of the law. Detox foundation makeup is one of my favourites. Any other gems?
    My pet theory is that the guilty feelings that are purged by colonics often come from consuming far too much wine and sucrose and not enough normal food. Bound to feel both yukky and a tad guilty too maybe after all that “sinful” consumption. Eating junk food in list of modern 10 commandments. There is an awful lot of alcohol and sucrose ingested these days. The euphoria is also probably linked to starvation – a well known effect. Nature’s way of getting you out of the cave to do some hunting and gathering maybe?

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