Re: I still think germs are a scam, though.

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Bave and I have this conversation a lot. I believe in toxins. He is skeptical.

I know it's way too broad as a description, but there is a lot of crap that gets loaded up in the bloodstream and tissues. I do like to flush out my system with water and a liquid diet every few months. However, I did think it rather weird when I went to the Korean baths and they had heated igloo-shaped domes lined entirely with different substances that draw out certain toxins. One was entirely gold, one jade, one loess soil, one LCD panels emitting healthful colors of light, etc. Hmph. I will admit it was pretty bitching, but... jade draws out toxins? Beet juice I will believe, but not jade.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:50 AM
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The natural method of obtaining fresh flying squirrel feces has the added benefits of extreme cardio exercise.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:52 AM
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1:Racist


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:53 AM
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Some toxins are called toxins because of scientific evidence linking a chemical to cancer. Sometimes 'toxins' is a catch-all phrase for 'bad stuff we know not what.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:53 AM
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See, for the most part I believe that our livers and organs are well-equipped to filter and dispose of toxins. But the ones that mimic hormones make me worry.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:53 AM
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The problem is that so much quackery surrounds this stuff.

Heebie is right. (Is that statement best described as tautological or redundant ?) This is really something we need to be paying the government to handle.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:59 AM
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Part of my problem with "toxins" is that what they are, exactly, is never specified. Are they heavy metals like lead? (Then how does a lemon-juice-and-chili-powder fast get rid of them?) Are they complex biological agents like BGH? (Then isn't "toxin" the wrong term, since they don't really poison in the traditional sense?) "Toxins" seems like a blanket term for everything we come in contact with or that's produced by our bodies that's deprecated for any reason. I agree BGH is scary, and I agree that it at least feels healthy to take a good schvitz, but what do these have to do with each other?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:00 AM
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OT: I have added photos of the beloved grandnephew to the Deggofnu pool. These are must-see pictures! View now!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:08 AM
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As I've said many times before, if you take up cigarette smoking, you won't have to bother worrying about the deleterious health effects of a bunch of hidden chemicals you can't name or effectively avoid.

"I regularly suck hot, radioactive particulates directly into my lungs. Radon? Puh-leeze."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:10 AM
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8: Nephew vs. puppy: which is cuter? Both are infinitely cute.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:13 AM
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As I said on another thread, cancer mortality has remained stable while other kinds of mortality (heart disease and stroke) have declined by factor of two or three over the last five or six decades. This has happened even though cancer treatment has improved. (I don't know if these stats were controlled for age, but I don't think that the whole effect can be simply the result of people living longer until they get cancer.)

This suggests that the causes of cancer are increasing and keeping ahead of progress in treatment. As I understand, it's agreed that the causes are mostly environmental (toxins in the patient's own environment, not environmental in the Green sense).

The stats I saw are about 10 years old and I've been told that there's been an improvement in more recent times. Paging someone who's on top of this stuff.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:19 AM
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7: Or the mechanism doesn't make sense. So one feels worse, sometimes, after a massage, because the lymph nodes are massaged and 'toxins' are released. Fair enough. But when you feel better, where have the toxins gone? Into the ether, or back into the lymph nodes.....


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:21 AM
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for most of my life I've lumped toxins in with holistic healers and soothing New Age music and Serbian war criminals.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:25 AM
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I assumed this was going to be another post about the evil administration.
Let me tell you, if someone prescribed those pills for me, that shit wouldn't fly.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:26 AM
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Sure, it's all hippie bullshit til someone starts dumping mercury in the bay where you do your fishing. Take that, liver! (Not that your juice fast is going to help. Herbal detox is like carrying posies to ward off the plague.)

Of course no one would do a thing like that today. Knowingly harm people in order to make a buck? Oh wait--I just checked the link in 14, and what do you know?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:31 AM
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God, the story linked in 14 is awful. Yet unsurprising. Yet still newly shocks me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:35 AM
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They used mercury for something or other in gold mining and the Sierra foothills are full of it. A reliable source told me that on some creeks adjacent to old mines, you can pan for mercury and come up with a golf ball size collection in an hour.

I'm with you on the toxins, HG. My body does not either have poisonous mysterio invisible things in it. That's because I eat organic food.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:40 AM
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In Minnesota you are warned not to eat more than one meal a week of wild-caught fish because of the mercury (mostly because of coal-burning for power.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:40 AM
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As I said on another thread, cancer mortality has remained stable while other kinds of mortality (heart disease and stroke) have declined by factor of two or three over the last five or six decades.

If mortality due to heart disease and stroke are declining, then it follows that mortality due to other causes must be increasing, unless the death rate is also declining (which is not exactly sustainable over the long term). Everyone dies of something, so the fewer things there are to die from the more people will die from each one. There have been huge improvements in cancer treatment, but people obstinately refuse to die from non-cancer causes, leaving cancer as sort of a fallback killer.

I wouldn't be surprised if there is an increase in cancer due to environmental toxins, but the data analysis would necessarily have to be fairly complex, both due to the dynamics I suggest above and due to the fact that people are smoking far less than in the past (which contributes on the other side of the equation).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:42 AM
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Huh, my rough categories for dangerous substances are carcinogens, heavy metals, molecules that your liver has to work extra hard to eliminate. I don't know how much to worry about environmental hormones and now compounds with hormone activity. It looks like the malformed frogs are not due to a new parasite but to agricultural pollution. People are getting better at figuring out what's dangerous-- ozone-eating refrigerants are gone now. Paying attention to nearby point sources of pollution makes sense, IMO; Greenspun's scorecard is my starting point for local stuff and checking vacation spots

I agree with Heebie that it's a shame that there's no trustworthy regulator.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:42 AM
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That's because I eat organic food.

Poisonous mysterious things are more likely to enter your body through the air you breathe than through the food you eat. And we mostly live in a toxic soup.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:43 AM
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Everyone dies of something

There's an herbal medicine shop near my apartment with the slogan "A cure for every disease but death."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:46 AM
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Right now the chemical industry works the opposite of the FDA. Drugs need to be proven safe (as flawed as that system is, it is something) before they can enter the market. Chemicals need to be proven efficacious (yup, this rat poison kills rats). They don't need to be proven safe.

So, if we think something is unsafe we have to go up against industry to prove it unsafe. My understanding is that only about 5 chemicals have been banned through this process since TSCA was passed in the 70s. Between 80,000 and 100,000 chemicals are manufactured in the US.

So that's toxins. As for "toxins" I'd take activated charcoal tablets if you are worried. That's what chemists do when they are accidentally exposed to toxic organic compounds. But that won't work on mercury contamination or other heavy metals, only time and your body's natural elimination processes work for that. Which is why you should avoid overexposure.

Can you tell this is my job? Anyway, sorry to bore you all.

There's a campaign working on this: www[dot]healthylegacy[dot]org


Posted by: HazelStone | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:47 AM
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Metal mining is pretty bad. I thought cyanide was the thing to watch for now; there's a huge copper mine in Arizona that dumps into Phoenix's water supply.

Another big risk is polychlorinated biphenyls, which are in the dielectric liquid that fills transformers, and so leak from carelessly dumped transformers. Once people realized this, lots of localities suddenly found money to pull old transformers out of the rivers or lakes where they had been dumped.

On the East coast, I've read that a lot of environmental mercury comes from burning Appalachian coal in plants without scrubbers. At least some of the worst plants in the Ohio valley got scrubbers maybe 5 years back, and Voinovich seems to be getting the balance converted.

Mostly I worry about localized sources of clearly nasty chemicals rather than ambient newly discovered compounds, myself.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:57 AM
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Wheat/chaff baby/bathwater

You take the good,
You take the bad,
You put them all together and then you have the facts of life,
The facts of life.

We know more than we ever have before, we also have a lot more to know because of changes we've made such as new chemical compounds.

And old, false ideas continue to hold power even when they have been debunked. Martha Stewart, for God's sake, still preaches that aluminum cookware causes Alzheimer's.

In the meantime there is actually some evidence that something in animal excrement may, in some doses at some times, help prevent allergies and possibly asthma. On the other hand that shit can kill you, too.

In the big big picture we are healthier than ever before in human history. In the little picture we definitely have areas that need improvement. In the teeny tiny parts per billion picture at the edge of science which we are all fascinated with - who knows?

In those dark, partially known areas is where superstitions lie. Oogie boogie land. The land of maybes and what-ifs and just in cases.

Some humans love those places. Some humans scream and run away from those places with existential fear.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:59 AM
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But that won't work on mercury contamination or other heavy metals, only time and your body's natural elimination processes work for that.

No, no! There are these panty liners you stick to the soles of your feet when you go to bed at night that eliminate them! It's an ancient secret of the Orient; it says so right in the teevee commercial.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:00 AM
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Hazelstone,

Can you tell this is my job? Anyway, sorry to bore you all.

Solid information is never boring. Never. I'd think the History channel's documentaries on the history of dirt and stuff like that have proven the point.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:04 AM
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What really sucks is that we're all gonna die. Probably painfully. Even if we avoid toxins.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:07 AM
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If I have anything to do with it you will.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:09 AM
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No, no! There are these panty liners you stick to the soles of your feet when you go to bed at night that eliminate them! It's an ancient secret of the Orient; it says so right in the teevee commercial.

Oh, yeah, I LOVE that commercial. It is so evocative. I also love the ad in my newspaper that shows the insides of our intestines coated with some sort of toxic sludge that must be 'purged' now and then. Forget the fact that colonoscopies show no such crud hanging around.

Or even the frigging Drano commercials that show the sludge clinging to the side of a vertical pipe. I've seen sludge. I've cleaned it from my pipes. It builds up in the horizontal areas, not the vertical ones. Unless the drain pipe is totally backed up that stuff tends to flow downward. It doesn't hang around.

On the other hand I don't like the idea of plastic supply pipes. For my house it was copper with non-lead solder. That has a proven track record. I also painted my treated lumber 'clubhouse.' It was cheap and easy to do and made it look better. Plus arsenic is a pretty well-known toxin.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:11 AM
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It's an ancient secret of the Orient;
it's not funny, if you think your joke is funny


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:12 AM
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19: Everyone dies of something

28: What really sucks is that we're all gonna die.

Most depressing thread EVAR !

Me, I've been alive for decades and haven't died even once. Simple extrapolation suggests the current trend will continue indefinitely.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:13 AM
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31: Read: That is literally what it says in the commercial. Which is funny for being clueless in about 15 different ways.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:16 AM
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Somewhat randomly, this thread reminds me of two different songs.

First, in the introduction to one of the tracks on Live in New York, Laurie Anderson talks about a book on the history of germ theory. She says that when germ theory was being developed many people were skeptical but that it caught on rapidly in the United States because, she suggests, we are a credible people -- "tiny invisible things that can kill you? I don't see why not."

They used mercury for something or other in gold mining and the Sierra foothills are full of it

Reminded me of a verse from the song Bare-legged Kate

Bare legged Kate, there is gold in the hills
But you know that the cyanide process kills.
Poisons the miners and cuts them down
In the mean little homes below the town.
.
Bare legged Kate, when the floods come down,
It's the poor on the creeks are the ones who drown:
When the great Murrumbidgee is thundering by
Through the haunted hills of Gundagai.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:18 AM
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She says that when germ theory was being developed many people were skeptical but that it caught on rapidly in the United States because of inadequate hand-washing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:24 AM
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There have been huge improvements in cancer treatment, but people obstinately refuse to die from non-cancer causes, leaving cancer as sort of a fallback killer.

Togolosh, that's what everyone says. People who don't get cancer die in their nineties ofage-related disease. I'll believe that explanation when I see it worked out in detail, but not as a butt-pull.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:27 AM
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35: Ah yes, the particularly American combination of credulousness and poor hygiene.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:27 AM
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And I might add, even with decreases in smoking, cancer mortality remains stable.

I'm still waiting someone who's on top of this stuff, as I indicated at the beginning.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:28 AM
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Is this the hygiene thread? Could it also be...the carp thread?

Yes. Yes, it could.

Tiny">http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25783483/>Tiny carp nibble your toes in fishy pedicure

via The House Next Door.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:29 AM
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Fixed link.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:30 AM
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So one feels worse, sometimes, after a massage, because the lymph nodes are massaged and 'toxins' are released.

This is especially stupid, because the shit in your lymph nodes is there instead of being everywhere else in your body and that's the way it should be.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:30 AM
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There should not be shit in your lymph nodes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:32 AM
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This has happened even though cancer treatment has improved.

But hasn't the detection of cancer also vastly improved? Formerly, more people dying of other causes may often have had undetected cancer. And also, people die much later now.

Detection sometimes creates a challenge because not every cancer detection should be operated since not every cancer becomes active in lifetime.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:34 AM
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I also painted my treated lumber 'clubhouse.' It was cheap and easy to do and made it look better. Plus arsenic is a pretty well-known toxin.

How old is the treehouse? If it is more recent than 2004, the wood preservative probably does not contain arsenic (chromated copper arsenate), but more likely ACQ (another copper compound).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:40 AM
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42: dude where else am I gonna keep my shit where my mom won't find it? Lymph nodes: the body's stash box.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:41 AM
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Early detection makes cancer stats look better, not worse, since the 5-year survival rate improves. As far as I know there were not a lot of uncounted cancer deaths; the late stages are recognizable as cancer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:43 AM
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Keep your shit in your butt like normal people, Sifu. Until your mom starts the cavity searches, you're safe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:44 AM
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"Sifu, I really resent the way you make me do these cavity searches all the time".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:45 AM
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That's because I eat organic food.

So much more nutritious than inorganic food.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:47 AM
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38 - I mentioned the smoking thing in 19. There's also a general decrease in exposure to other carcinogens due to improved awareness, not to mention those goddamn commie liberals with their OSHA and FDA and EPA and all that.

The detailed analysis is still AFAIK waiting to be done, but as long as the not-dying-from-something-else effect remains it will be hard to convince people that there's a serious problem. The obvious solution is to stop work on non-cancer medicine in order to establish a good baseline for further study.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:47 AM
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My guess is that the work has been done, but no one here has it. I'm genuinely curious about this because my information is 10 years old and hadn't been controlled for age.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:50 AM
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24: I was under the impression that cyanide kills you by inhibiting your cells' energy production. It's an acute poison, not something likely to accumulate and then kill you with cancer twenty years later. Wikipedia says mammals have an enzyme that acts as an antidote, in fact, so presumably your body can clear up exposure if given enough time.

17: Big blobs of metallic mercury aren't the really awful kind. It's the methylated mercury compounds that'll give you CNS problems.

I guess it's just a matter of which toxins you decide to believe in. I meticulously wash any fruit I eat, since I'm vaguely paranoid about pesticides slowly eating away my dopaminergic neurons. But in general the attitudes and language surrounding toxins are a little too similar to Scientology's thetans for my taste.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:54 AM
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The annual age-adjusted death rate from all causes has decreased by about 30% from 1970-2000. This is largely due to decreases of about 50% in the death rates from heart disease, stroke and accidents. The death rate from cancer (and diabetes) is unchanged over this time period.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:56 AM
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Cyanide is an acute poison that operates by blocking the body's absorption of oxygen. It is highly reversible, if you manage to survive the immediate effects.

Mercury is a chronic and cumulative poison that is never cleared from the body. So every time you're exposed it keeps adding up.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 9:58 AM
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||

Giraffe fu

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:01 AM
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The only environmental toxins that ordinary people should worry about are cigarette smoke and alcohol. Everything else will have a very modest effect on longevity.

The BPA thing is almost irrelevant for adults. It may, however, have effect on developing children, which is IMHO the only circumstance one should worry about it.

The amount of mercury in fish is insignificant unless one eats fish every single day. Even then, it has only a modest effect on health.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:01 AM
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35: Ah yes, the particularly American combination of credulousness and poor hygiene.

Yes, but the problem may happen in reverse, too.

Last night I watched a show called "The Verminator" about exterminators doing their jobs.

Most of it was fascinating and fairly realistic, but the one segment was hilarious. A scaredy-cat customer was totally freaked because she had, well, mice in her apartment. They found a fair amount of droppings. The hilarious part was when they caught the critter it was a SINGLE small mouse and she was still freaking out!

Sheesh.

Yes, I've had mice in my house and before I knew what I was doing with my first house they did get out of hand. An infestation.

BUT since then I put out a few traps in the fall and get a couple mice trying to winter over and the problem never gets bigger.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:02 AM
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||

Bear fu

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:04 AM
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I don't believe a word of 56.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:04 AM
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The BPA thing is almost irrelevant for adults. It may, however, have effect on developing children, which is IMHO the only circumstance one should worry about it.

Yeah, but it's a huge thing to avoid for those adults who happen to have kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:06 AM
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59: "F" is short for "FDA".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:07 AM
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Oh, I should add one other environmental toxin that people should worry about: food. That's far, far more likely to kill you (via diabetes and heart disease) than BPA, mercury or any of the "toxins" combined.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:07 AM
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US cancer mortality by age since 1975 Down for under-64s, up for those over 64.

base URL for more stats, including statewise aggregation for most types of cancer.

Personally, I doubt that the explanation is a more carcinogenic environment 1980-present against 1925-1950.



Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:09 AM
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Knecht,

How old is the treehouse?

Important question, of course. The clubhouse is about 17 years old or so. I did my homework at the time. Heck, I assembled it myself and when I drilled the holes they practically gushed water with the chemicals in it. I could smell it.

Yes, I washed my hands, and no, I wouldn't necessarily care as much about a deck flooring unless people were walking on it barefoot and yes, I used rubber paint which has a pretty good track record.

So maybe I was oogie boogie too. As I said the cost to me for the paint and work to apply it were rather minimal so I did the 'better safe than sorry' thing like most people do. I'm not immune to it. I try to be sensible about it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:09 AM
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Do we know f? What's it stand for, "fact-free"?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:10 AM
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One interesting possible toxin I've wondered about is the depleted uranium rounds we use in Iraq.

The radiation is not the problem but the uranium heavy metal might be a problem. Especially since the rounds tend to fragment and Iraq is know for sandstorms that may kick that stuff up, grind it down, and blow it all over the place.

At this time this is all speculation but personally I wouldn't be too happy about someone coming into my state and shooting depleted uranium all around.

Yeah, I know, MN and lead shot and lead sinkers but at least we are not firing those against hardened steel or whatever where they may temporarily vaporize. Plus we are switching to steel shot and sinkers.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:16 AM
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63: That's pretty much what I was looking for, and it does argue against my thesis.

Another complicating factor is the long latency period.

We've had a considerable reduction in a number of environmental causes over the last sixty years, but people still die from old exposure. If new toxins are causing increased mortality, you'd have to figure out how to extract it from the total, perhaps increased mortality from certain specific cancers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:21 AM
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The stats are quite straightforward. Heart disease comprises 25% of all deaths in this country. Cancer comprises another 25%. Stroke and COPD (lung disease) comprise about another 6% each. Accidents and diabetes are another 4% each. This JAMA article has the details.

Entering the totally speculative part of my analysis: Looking at probable causes, about 6% of all deaths are from lung cancer (usually caused by smoking), and another 6% are from COPD (also usually caused by smoking), for a total of 12% of all deaths. Heart disease and diabetes comprise about 30% of the total, of which maybe half are caused by poor diet, for a total of 15%. No single toxin or combination of toxins can hope to compete with these two single causes of death.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:24 AM
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I don't think alcohol qualifies an an "environmental toxin", F.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:25 AM
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@69

Yeah, that's kinda my point. Those things are far more dangerous than any environmental toxin, yet engender far less worry.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:28 AM
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No single toxin or combination of toxins can hope to compete with these two single causes of death.

Why would a single toxin have to compete with the two biggest killers in order to be significant?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:28 AM
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Though I'd say: however many people live to the age of 60, 70, or 80, the rate of cancer within that group should stay the same if conditions are constant. If more people live to a higher age and older people are more likely to get cancer, the aggregate cancer rate will increase, but the cancer rate within the older group should not.

I think that we're re-inventing the wheel here. It's fun, though, like a class exercise.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:29 AM
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71: First past the wire wins, Heebie. All your sports activities haven't taught you even the simplest principles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:30 AM
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I recommend taking some time to look at cancer maps of the US, and just how closely some of those hot spots correspond to specific industrial activity. If you live around the Great Lakes, your chances of non-Hodgkins lymphoma are significantly higher. New England has high bladder cancer rates. And anywhere there is heavy petrochemical industry, cancer rates zoom.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:30 AM
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heebie,

Why would a single toxin have to compete with the two biggest killers in order to be significant?

America loves winners, baybee! Second place is for chumps, and third place won't even make the books.

Well, either that or the patriarchy. Or evolutionary mating pressures.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:32 AM
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Did anyone see the movie "Safe"? Good movie.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:32 AM
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75: In the spirit of competition, you were pwned by Emerson.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:33 AM
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Curse you John. Pwned again!

Apo, good idea. I did some of that when selecting my place of residence. I also considered the chance of a nuclear strike. That was a long time ago.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:34 AM
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Perhaps I am overstating my case. I merely mean to suggest that the amount of worry that people devote to toxins is disproportionate to their actual danger.

For another analysis that might be more rigorous, there's this. They say that only 2-4% of all deaths are attributable to toxic agents, the vast majority of which comes from air pollution.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:35 AM
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F, a lot of the people worrying about other toxins are health-oriented people who already are do the right things vs. heart disease and tobacco. 19% of the deaths are caused by cancer other than lung cancer.

Worrying about toxins doesn't have to be worrying about new toxins. Asbestos and lead and mercury aren't new. What's new is that we're asking about toxins and cancer. Over the last decades some pollutants have decreased, some have increased, and some have remained about the same.

I'd still love to see more stats, though re-inventing the wheel is fun.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:35 AM
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Oh gareat, pwned by heebie about being pwned by John.

Thank goodness I have already reproduced. I have no chance now.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:35 AM
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F,

Perhaps I am overstating my case. I merely mean to suggest that the amount of worry that people devote to toxins is disproportionate to their actual danger.

No question - people suck at risk assessment. Friggin' people! What are ya gonna do?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:37 AM
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41: Indeed, my point.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:38 AM
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heebie's original point stands, though, paraphrasing: it's ridiculous for individuals to need to do homework to figure out whether the grocery store's baby bottles pose developmental risk. Markets seem to have responded, but how much do you really trust a sticker the manufacturer puts on?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:39 AM
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72

The JAMA article has some fascinating graphs on exactly that. Cancer deaths among people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have been steadily declining over the last 40 years. Those among people in their 70s are flat, and those among people over 80 have been slowly increasing. What does that mean?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:39 AM
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79: Everything listed adds up to 50% or less. I didn't read it, but probably they were scrupulous about not speculating about causes. AFAIK the toxin theory of cancer is neither proven nor disproven, and wouldn't show up on that chart.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:41 AM
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treatment causes remission and delays death, I think-- not sure if that's dominant or even can be disaggregated, but it's the simplest consistent explanation.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:42 AM
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The numbers in 63 show rates increasing after 65.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:44 AM
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72: I'm not sure that holds up, JE, because of what togolosh said earlier. One could have an increase in cancer rate in those who die in their 90s without that being attributable to a change in toxins overall, but just a change in that person's exposure (e.g., they didn't die of the heart attack when they were in their 60s, and so had more years of exposure.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:45 AM
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At one point they were talking about increased 5 year survival being more the result of early detection than successful treatment, with enormous variations between types of cancer (one form of leukemia is usually treated successfully now, whereas it was a death penalty 30 years ago.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:46 AM
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86: True.

I tend to believe that cancer is sometimes caused by toxins, but it is also an unavoidable consequence of the way our bodies work, i.e. if you live long enough, you are guaranteed to develop cancer, even in the absence of specific agents. I think of it as the breakdown of the careful compromise between cells in multi-celled organisms.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:46 AM
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i.e. if you live long enough, you are guaranteed to develop cancer, even in the absence of specific agents. I think of it as the breakdown of the careful compromise between cells in multi-celled organisms.

Some fascinating work has been done with lobsters, which never age and could possibly live forever. The fascinating part is that so far the possible fountain of youth chemicals seem to mean cancer - that is not dieing means uncontrolled growth meaning cancer. Except in lobsters. How do they do it?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:50 AM
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The worst is how many "easy wins" we could get, but do not. Lead-paint exposure for young children should be a no-brainer, 30 years after it was outlawed. But instead, we're still getting generation after generation of poor kids in old housing stock, and the mental effects are serious and permanent.

Just teaching people to wipe down the walls would be huge, never mind paying for remediation.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:51 AM
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89: All people who live to 90 have the same years of exposure. so people who died at 90 50 years ago should have the same cancer rates as people who die at 90 this year. The early heart-disease deaths aren't in the statistics pool at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:55 AM
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My Grandparent's house in Minneapolis near a major road shows significant levels of lead in the soil. Probably from lead additives in gas. Grass keeps that away from people.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:55 AM
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Except in lobsters. How do they do it?

By hiding their deliciousness in a hard cloak of hideousness. Every time someone calls them "sea insects" or similar, a lobster smiles.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 10:57 AM
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People who eat lobsters should be willing to eat cicadas and grasshoppers and termites and grubs. They taste good!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:00 AM
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Except in lobsters. How do they do it?

When we were at the beach, Keegan won on his first try at one of those claw games that was over a lobster tank (photographic evidence of the $3 lobster). I learned that you can keep a lobster alive in a paper bag in your refrigerator, with no water, for up to two days. They seem pretty hardy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:01 AM
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If cicadas tasted like lobster, I think the word would have gotten out. Cicada bisque, anyone?


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:07 AM
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Gotta cook em right.

Grubs taste like shrimp, a friend told me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:08 AM
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Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:15 AM
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Cicadas, grasshoppers, termites, and most grubs are vegetarians, and cleaner than pigs, chickens, and shrimp, which all eat downright nasty things.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:17 AM
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The link between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer is pretty convincing.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:26 AM
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All people who live to 90 have the same years of exposure.

Exposure to what? If you lived 50 years ago, you didn't get the same exposure to the sun as someone now. You didn't get HRT. The amount of hormones in birth control pills was different. You may have breathed in more lead before unleaded gas. Ad infinitum.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:38 AM
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Though I'd say: however many people live to the age of 60, 70, or 80, the rate of cancer within that group should stay the same if conditions are constant. If more people live to a higher age and older people are more likely to get cancer, the aggregate cancer rate will increase, but the cancer rate within the older group should not.

The composition of the cohorts will change. If some condition kills of you of heart disease at 50 and of cancer at 70, and medicine figures out how to stop you from dying of heart disease, we'd see an increase in cancer rates among 70 year olds.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:39 AM
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Saying "I don't believe in toxins" is silly. The world is full of things that are obviously toxic. Lead. Asbestos. PCBs. Mercury. Arsenic. Furthermore, we know that the FDA, EPA, and especially USDA have terrible track records at keeping these things out of our life, and that industry has a record of suppressing information about additional toxins.

Obviously, you should avoid anyone who talks vaguely about toxins, but doesn't specify what the poison is, why it is believed to be dangerous, or what the safe levels are. Even once you rule out quacks like that, there is plenty to be worried about.

Some things we have done which I think most people should do: Test our house for lead, take lead abatement measures as necessary. Buy interior paint that is low in volatile organic compounds (VOH). Test for radon and take appropriate abatement measures. I also don't like to microwave any kind of plastic because I'm worried about phthalates. If I ate fish, I would stop.

Industries that produce dangerous chemicals or have bad safety records run deliberate campaigns to paint anyone who worries about chemical toxicity as a new age loon. They use the playbook developed by the cigarette companies for suppressing information about tar and nicotine. Don't fall for it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:46 AM
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106: How about 'there may be toxins but eating squirrel shit won't actually protect me from them'? Or 'the lymph nodes are meant to capture and filter out toxins'? Or 'cayenne pepper is not a known antiplumbic'?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:49 AM
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Cala: I'm actually catching up on the thread. I needed to vent first. Obviously, I agree with all of those things. (I think. I had to look up antiplumbic.)

But look even on this thread someone has shown up with the "Lead paint is only a problem for children" meme, which is one of the most pernicious industry lines floating around out there. Most people have children at some point in their lives, and everyone was a child once. Saying it is only a problem for children is like saying it is only a problem for people who eat food.

Oh and look, the spurious comparisons are here, too. Mecrury in fish is less dangerous than a poor diet and no exercise. Was I advocating a bad diet and no exercise? Is avoiding fish incompatible with exercise? All these arguments are taken from the cigarette company playbook, and they are crap.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:58 AM
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Oh, I made up 'antiplumbic.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 11:59 AM
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104: I was responding to the argument, which I think Cala made, that 90 year olds die more of cancer because they have more years of exposure to carcinogens, so it doesn't prove there are more carcinogens in the environment. I was pointing out that 90 year olds of today have as many years of exposure to carcinogens in general as 90 year olds of 1950, so maybe there are more carcinogens in the environment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:04 PM
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Actually, I need to step away from this thread, as F is trolling at people just like me.

F may be arguing that we should worry about obesity now, but I bet if the topic were outlawing transfats, he'd be pointing out that transfats are a less of a risk factor than smoking.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:06 PM
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105: that's a pretty hypothetical, and I would say rare condition.

If heart attacks preferentially kill people who are more likely to die of cancer, thta's a good argument, but that seems far less likely than the idea that environmental toxins have increased.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:06 PM
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everyone was a child once

Nuh-uh. Some of us burst forth from our fathers' heads, fully grown and fully armed.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:07 PM
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S/B I was pointing out that 90 year olds of today have as many years of exposure to carcinogens in general their environment as 90 year olds of 1950 had to their environment, so if they have more cancer, maybe there are more carcinogens in the environment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:10 PM
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112: I'm not sure that's true. Heart disease is so common, and some treatment advances so great, that I think it could have a meaningful impact on the numbers. I don't know if there's good data either way, but it seems very plausible to me.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:10 PM
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Reinventing the wheel is fun. These facts are on the table:

1. People who don't die of heart disease or hypertension die of something else, such as cancer.

2. Some carcinogens have decreased since 1950, whereas other actual and possible carcinogens have increased.

3. Death from cancer can occur many years after exposure to a carcinogen.

4. Cancer rates are down for younger people and up for people past 65.

5. Cancer treatment has improved.

6. Cancer is especially common in certain places, as compared to other places.

7. Early diagnosis can increase 5-year survival rates without reducing cancer mortality.

8. The cause of many deaths is unknown.

9. Many of the causes of cancer are unknown.

10. Whether or not various different substances are carcinogenic is unknown, though there are valid suspicions about many, and some of the doubts and controversies are cooked up by industry PR.

11. Hippies are annoying and we hate to agree with them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:16 PM
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112

"If heart attacks preferentially kill people who are more likely to die of cancer, thta's a good argument, but that seems far less likely than the idea that environmental toxins have increased."

Doesn't smoking cause heart attacks and cancer?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:18 PM
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What is the evidence that people who survive heart attacks because of successful treatment are people who are more likely to have cancer than people who do not suffer heart attacks. That seems highly speculative. Cancer and heartattacks are not, as far as I know, similar in cause.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:18 PM
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19% of deaths are cancer deaths from causes other than smoking, as per above.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:22 PM
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105: that's a pretty hypothetical, and I would say rare condition.
If heart attacks preferentially kill people who are more likely to die of cancer, thta's a good argument, but that seems far less likely than the idea that environmental toxins have increased.

Well, I think smoking gives you both heart disease and cancer.

But any way you look at it, the 90-year-old population of today includes a bunch of people who would have died of heart disease at age 70 were they born in 1890 instead of 1920.

And of course the chemical industries are very interested in downplaying the effects of whatever stuff they do, but that doesn't mean it's not worth trying to figure out what's actually going on.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:23 PM
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FWIW, I don't see that the effect on mortality of changes in detecting and treating heart disease and many cancers can be disaggregated, and no-one was keeping track of fish cancers or malformed frogs in the 50s, so to me this is unfalsifiable speculation.

The point about industry is interesting-- I strongly agree wrt refineries and related chemical plants, mines, and a handful of other clearly pernicious industries that lobby for weak regulation. But I think it's a mistake to claim that all industries behave this way; refrigerant use changed in response to clear environmental concerns, for instance, and transmission line carriers faced BS legal attacks from a hysterical PIRG that was either mistaken or self-serving.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:25 PM
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Cancer and heartattacks are not, as far as I know, similar in cause.

Right. Jane, Ph.D. lives until 80 when she dies of cancer due to broad-spectrum environmental causes. Joe Sixpack dies of heart failure due to drinking too much beer at 50 or cancer from the solvent fumes he had to breathe at work every day at 70. Reduce heart disease mortality, and you increase the rate of cancer deaths.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:38 PM
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People who eat lobsters should be willing to eat cicadas and grasshoppers and termites and grubs. They taste good!

The only problem I have with this statement is that it does not address texture. I fear that grubs are runny with no crunch. Ewww.

I've been watching that travel channel show where the guy eats weird food around the world. I believe him when he says most of the lower forms of life taste a lot like what they eat. Still, I'd rather eat an apple instead of an apple-fed grub. Screw the protein.

And I know for a fact that worms contain dirt. Clean that our and we'll talk. And some carp eat poop. I'd have to really ignore that fact before imbibing. Granted carps eating fish poop in lakes are a lot different than carps eating people poop in sewers.

Grain-fed rats in India are different from sewer fed rats in the US too.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:43 PM
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My friend said that grubs have a nice, shrimplike texture. And few animals have nastier eating habits than shrimp, pigs, and chickens.

122: I'm not saying that there are no instances, and tobacco has already been bracketed out. It may be possible that early heart attack victims are, in general, more likely to get cancer than others, but you'd want some kind of evidence or argument.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 12:59 PM
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few animals have nastier eating habits than shrimp, pigs, and chickens

Pretty much just humans, flies, and dung beetles.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:04 PM
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At my URL: Unappetizing food sources.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:09 PM
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124: grubs

True story. The other day I was doing yard work and dug up a grub. A nice complete grub. I know my lawn. I'd been watching the weird food thing on the Travel Channel. I thought about popping the little bugger in my mouth but, nah, I didn't do it.

I have tasted lily bulbs and I have tasted fresh black walnuts but I'm not yet over the grub threshold. I think maybe it is because their insides look like pus. I dunno.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:10 PM
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The only problem I have with this statement is that it does not address texture. I fear that grubs are runny with no crunch. Ewww.

Aren't you the guy who wants us to enhance our egg-eating experience by eating the shells?


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:10 PM
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Right, let me try to untroll a bit. We know that lead is toxic. Removing sources of exposure from lead is an unambiguous good thing. We know that large quantities of certain chemicals are toxic. Preventing people from being exposed to them is unambiguously good. We know that mercury is toxic. Controlling fish intake is a perfectly reasonable way to deal with that.

We don't know that BPA is toxic, especially in the tiny quantities to which most people are exposed to it (in fact, the evidence seems to indicate that it is not toxic to adults in those quantities, though again the results with children are more ambiguous). Even the mere process of worrying about this is likely to decrease your life span more thanks to stress than the exposure itself.

The scientific evidence strongly suggests that BGH is not toxic to humans.

And some corrections: No one has said that lead is only a problem for children. Because it's not true. Also, trans fats are no worse for obesity than regular fats, though they are worse when it comes to heart disease. And I specifically said that food (trans fats included) is a much greater source of mortality than most environmental factors.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:12 PM
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You cook em, Tripp.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:16 PM
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F, base on what I've said (116), I think that there's room in there for there to be unknown or unproven toxic causes of cancer within the 19% of cancer deaths that are not tobacco-related.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:18 PM
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peter,

Aren't you the guy who wants us to enhance our egg-eating experience by eating the shells?

Yes. As I said later, texture is important. Crunchy and even a little gritty (say like Milk Bonz) are OK but for me runny or the gelatinous feel of egg white or Pepto-Bismal running down the throat make me want to gag.

John,

Do you fillet the grubs? Maybe not, since no bones. Hmm. Do you skin them? Hmmm. Deep fried with a little garlic butter might be nice. Of course everything is good deep fried with a little garlic butter.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:23 PM
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131

There certainly are. But I think we'll find that few of them are likely to be single causes.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:23 PM
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Cook like shrimp.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:30 PM
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No one has said that lead is only a problem for children. Because it's not true.

My understanding is that while lead is in fact a problem for adults, *lead paint* isn't so much, given that a) adults are larger than children, b) adults are better about things like washing their hands before they eat than children, and c) adults' central nervous systems are fully developed.

Obviously, this assumes that you're not doing something like power-washing or dry-sanding lead paint. There's a reason the guys who re-painted our house were wearing bunny suits and heavy-duty ventilators.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:31 PM
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It courld be that there's some sort of overall toxin load thing.

The arguments I've seen are based on the local hot spots apo mentioned and new forms of cancer. Cancer is a catch-all term.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:32 PM
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135: d) Adults are far less likely than small children to pick up paint chips and eat them.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:37 PM
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137: But if you put a little bit of guac on them, who knows?


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:41 PM
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I only eat non-leaded paint chips. Mmmmm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:45 PM
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In England they are called lead paint crisps. In England chips means mercury.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:50 PM
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Yeah, but they *boil* them. Yuck.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:55 PM
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Fun fact: according to the Prop 65 warning sign at my local Italian deli, all the balsamic vinegar they sell contains lead.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 1:59 PM
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142: Could the vinegar be made somewhere in Italy that still gets water through Roman era lead pipes and aqueducts?


Posted by: Karl Matthews | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 2:05 PM
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I've had maggots (roasted) and they're not too bad - a bit on the nutty side. Also termites are pretty good fried in butter.

I'll try nearly anything once when it comes to food, but I admit that hagfish slime is gonna be a hard sell for me. It's not just that it's slime, but also the carrion-eating self-knotting severed penis looking fish factor.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 2:09 PM
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John Emerson:
"The amount of mercury in fish is insignificant unless one eats fish every single day. Even then, it has only a modest effect on health."

Depends on the fish (the closer to the top of the food chain, the more the heavy metals bioaccumulate), depends on the body of water (more acidic lakes create more methylmercury, the biologically available form) and a lot of other factors.

Check your public health department or a relaible nonprofit before you east fish very often, especially if you are a kid or if you plan to bear children.


Posted by: Hazel Stone | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 2:21 PM
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142: Could the vinegar be made somewhere in Italy that still gets water through Roman era lead pipes and aqueducts?

It could, but beware of imitations. Some phony-baloney knock-offs from China add the lead in as the last step.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 2:37 PM
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Hazel,

Check your public health department or a relaible nonprofit before you east fish very often, especially if you are a kid or if you plan to bear children.

I checked my nonprofit but since they relabeled they now want money so "boo" to that. Really though I wanted to ask if you are part of the so-called "Rolling Stones?" They are a good family.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 2:41 PM
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140 is very funny. 146 is also funny.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 5:34 PM
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Hazel, I didn't say that. I may have cited that.

In Minnesota Public Health recommends no more than one wild fish meal a week for adults; for fish larger than 3 or 4 pounds, only one fish meal a month. It's really terribly sad because someone around here could eat fresh fish almost every day at a very nominal cost.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 5:48 PM
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132: for me runny or the gelatinous feel of egg white or Pepto-Bismal running down the throat make me want to gag.

Hear, hear. Also, anything toward the slime end: no. Just no. Gag reflex.

No creamed spinach, no bivalves in general (slime - you can't be serious),* no tapioca. Cottage cheese I am very dubious about: suspicion of sliminess. Ditto for poached eggs.

* Admittedly this perception comes from seeing people at outdoor markets slurping down an oyster from the half-shell.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:17 PM
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No tapioca?!

The best part of eating a sunny-side-up egg is the still-runny, fat-feeling yolk. Call it "slimy" if you will, but lady, that's good slime.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:22 PM
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I believe once-upon-a-time commenter ac had similar feelings about slime, though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:22 PM
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I can't stand swallowing even a little bit of toothpaste. It makes me gag, almost retch.

Hence the absence of teeth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:25 PM
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150 makes me sad for parsimon. Creamed spinach, oysters, and poached eggs are great pleasures.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:35 PM
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152: Just to be clear, the comparison appropriate to the sort of slime that engenders a gag reflex is to snot.

Mangled grammar and all! (Halp! I can't figure out how to fix it!)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:35 PM
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I love tapioca. I love egg yolk coating some other nice hot food onto which my fried egg has been lovingly placed.

I also, it transpires, love okra: for a long time I thought I was interested only in okra made in an Indian style, which, as it happens, renders it slime-free. But it turns out that all that time that I thought it was mostly a novelty item for me, I was developing a real, true-blue attachment to okra itself. It seems that okra, as long as it is not undercooked or otherwise ill-treated, is really fucking delicious. Last night I had incredibly teeny okra with tomatoes and onions at a Turkish restaurant, and it was superb.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:37 PM
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I don't have any special love for cottage cheese, though. Snark loves it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:38 PM
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When I was a little child, I exchanged dessert for more okra. It was my first favorite food, and I was in charge of growing it in the backyard.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:39 PM
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I have been told that okra cooked whole does not slime up.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:40 PM
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Hooray for okra! I still can't get over these itsy bitsy okra pods. So good.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:40 PM
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AWB wasa very sick cub.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:40 PM
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Okra is great in quesadillas.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:41 PM
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Yes, what you want to avoid, if you are in the market for avoiding okra slime, is letting a cut, un-seared surface touch anything wet. It works fine to cut your okra with a dry knife on a dry cutting board, saute it dry, and then introduce sauce, or to stew or pickle whole okra, but a raw, cut okra surface plus liquid equals mucilage city.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:43 PM
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Also, okra pickles are not slimy and extremely delicious.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:44 PM
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Okra is great in quesadillas.

Mmm, I bet! This makes me realize that okra is in much the same flavor space as nopales (which also have a mucilaginous streak).


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:44 PM
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166

Does "wet" here refer to water content, or liquidiness? Is oil wet for these purposes?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:46 PM
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167

No. Frying the okra (for a long time) decreases slime. That's why Indian okra curry isn't slimy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:51 PM
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168

I think I was slime-averse as a child and particularly as an adolescent, but not much anymore. Pretty much all foods and sensations—ok, not snot—mentioned in the last few comments give me no problems at all.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:53 PM
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169

Snot gets a bad rap.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:56 PM
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Yes, sorry, I was referring to water content.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 6:59 PM
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168: Truth: the slime-aversion may well be due to a (so classic, but there it is) childhood experience during which my parents insisted I remain seated at the dinner table until I had finished all of my creamed spinach, goddamnit. Gagging by the end, so that sucked.

Maybe I can get over it. I can eat fried eggs on toast, for example! Yay? Progress? I admit I've had problems with okra. As long as these things are countered with some crunch, some toothiness, 'sokay.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:03 PM
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Hagfish slime is fibrous and much tougher than generic slime.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:06 PM
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173

Interesting:

PITTSBURGH - The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.
The warning from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is contrary to numerous studies that don't find a link between cancer and cell phone use, and a public lack of worry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now -- especially when it comes to children.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:21 PM
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173: As the article mentions, "A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university's center for environmental oncology." She just came out with a book about the war on cancer, which got a less-than-stellar review in the NYRoB. I'll try to dig up a link to it later; suffice it to say that I personally take what Davis has to say about environmental carcinogens with a grain of salt.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:29 PM
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175

Yes, sorry,

Not as sorry as you will be, lady.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:34 PM
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176

Will I be slime sorry?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:45 PM
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177

That is an economical and judicious way of describing it, yes.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 7:47 PM
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178

fasting


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 07-23-08 8:47 PM
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As long as these things are countered with some crunch, some toothiness, 'sokay.

Me too, and AFAIK I had no classic childhood slime experience, so it may be innate or I may have suppressed the awful memory. I did have the ubiquitous mid-60's experience with the dreaded school lunch slimy boiled spinach. I simply avoided that dreadful limp green smelly lump-o-slime. I also avoided spinach for many years, despite what Popeye proclaimed, which was actually started as a marketing campaign for Spinach. Who knew?

In my opinion liquid fat on something with substance does not constitute slime. Egg yolk on toast is not slime. Slime is the raw egg white without the toast. Slime is some kind of water-based gelatinous mucilage, to steal the term mentioned above.

And snot ain't so bad, unless it is someone else's. My wife did daycare for a couple years and one of the kids had slimy ropes of snot constantly running down his face. I'd rather change a million diapers instead of wiping up that mess. Eww. I taught him how to sniffle and swallow.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-24-08 9:38 AM
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I'm coming late to the conversation, and to some extent echoing what has been said before. But the issue raised earlier about the possibility that declining heart disease mortality might make it harder to see the effects of improved cancer care is a real one. There are a lot of things that cause both heart disease and cancer -- not just smoking, but obesity, drinking, not drinking, etc.

There's a statistical/econometric result that it is impossible to identify the change in cancer risks given changes in heart disease risks without knowledge of the correlation between them. But this paper (published in Econometrica, a very good journal, but this is the pre-publication version) finds that it looks as if there has been real progress against cancer.

Of course, none of this is to say that there hasn't been an increase in environmental causes of cancer -- at most, it suggests that this increase has been dominated by better medical treatment for cancer.


Posted by: Anonecon | Link to this comment | 07-24-08 2:12 PM
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Posted by: fopaxVaph | Link to this comment | 10-21-08 5:49 PM
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