The Fear of Living Dangerously

How do I say this without pissing off some people?

Let’s go with “The fear of death does not keep one from dying. It just keeps one from living.”

Recently, the IARC declared that processed meat causes cancer.

Hey, the International Agency on Research in Cancer is part of the World Health Organisation. It can be taken seriously, right?

Maybe not.

Then there is the anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists who believe that vaccination causes autism.

Or at least is not good for your children.

Ignoring the millions of deaths and disability prevented by vaccination.

Chemophobia is a prime example of the truism – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

For example, formaldehyde.

You may know it as the chemical used for embalming. Which is correct. So when you find in in your baby’s shampoo, you might be a little concerned.

Then you find out that it can cause cancer.

And now you are really worried.

And that’s when you get a group of concerned parents to lobby the shampoo manufacturer to change the formula for the baby shampoo you have been using on junior.

But, that would be… stupid an overreaction based on too “little knowledge”.

The concern about formaldehyde… reveals a bit of chemophobia, which Dartmouth chemistry professor Gordon Gribble defines as “an irrational fear of chemicals based on ignorance of the facts.”

… the only studies that link formaldehyde to cancer are related to humans inhaling it, and inhaling large amounts of it. Funeral industry professionals with more than 34 years of experience or who had performed more than 500 embalmings…

Formaldehyde occurs naturally in common fruits and vegetables (even organic ones)…

Our own bodies create formaldehyde as a normal byproduct during amino acid synthesis and overall metabolism, including breaking down antibiotics and other medications. It’s also in drinking water and the air we breathe… with 60 percent of that coming from plants and trees, yet it’s still perfectly fine to walk through the woods.

If it helps, it’s a little like the difference between “poisonous” and “venomous”. If a venomous snake bit you and injected its venom into your bloodstream, you will suffer and perhaps die. If the amount of venom (the “dose”) was high enough.

However, and here is the interesting thing, if you DRINK the venom, it would not have the same effect.

Don’t believe me? Potassium Chloride is one of the drugs used for lethal injections (Google: “Potassium Chloride Lethal Injection”). I was taking that at one time.

No my doctor was not trying to kill me. (Google: “Potassium Chloride Pharmacology”, or Potassium Chloride Medical Use”).

If injected into your bloodstream (like for people sentenced to death by lethal injection), Potassium Chloride in a large enough dose can kill. But taken orally as a pill, it is used to treat low potassium in the blood (side effect of some medication, or illness).

Now, if I were an idiot a chemophobe, I would stop taking the potassium chloride, find another doctor, and make a police report about my doctor trying to kill me.

But I’m not.

So this is for the anti-vaccination, anti-flouridation, carcinogens are everywhere, beware Big Pharma, and the Pharma-medical conspiracy theorists. And any others I may have missed.

I just have 4 things to say to them.

One, no one lives forever. But it’s nice to see you trying so hard. It speaks to your desperation. Maybe instead of trying to live longer, you might want to try to live BETTER?

Two, the fear of death does not prevent one from dying, it simply prevents one from living. Or the purpose of life is not to delay death permanently. Or, if you spend all your life avoiding death, have you lived? (Yes, I know. These “platitudes” are also hyperbole.)

Three, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I guess you want to be know as Mr or Ms Dangerous.

Four, <<Insert latest carcinogen>> causes cancer the way the road causes tyres to wear out. Which is to say, that cancer in later life usually means that your body is simply wearing out. Which beings me back to (1) No one lives forever.

Which is not to say that I wish the chemophobes will all get cancer, and the children of the anti-vacc all get the diseases their parents didn’t vaccinate them against.

Or get autism anyway (just to prove that it is not vaccinations that causes autism).

To paraphrase South Park, there are important questions to be answered – what is the cause of autism, can we prevent it, how can we live better lives, be better people, make the world a better place, leave a better world for our children than the one we inherited, how to raise our children to be worthy and contributing citizens of the world, how to prepare our children for the world (or the world for our children), how to teach our children to lead the world we leave them, how to think clearly, and simply how to live life gratefully, joyously, responsibly.

And the simple answers, conspiracy theorists, chemophobes who offer short, simple, WRONG answers are tossing red herrings and misleading people and screwing up the search for the answers to important questions.

But here’s the bottom line: Believe what you want to believe. If you want to believe shampoo with formaldehyde will cause cancer, go ahead. If this means you will be spending a lot of money buying artisanal, hand-crafted, organically-sourced, all-natural shampoo, knock yourself out.

For your peace of mind, Johnson & Johnson is removing quaternium-15 (which breaks down into formaldehyde) from their baby shampoo.

So why did Johnson & Johnson remove quaternium-15 if it’s safe? The consumers asked it to. The company’s job is not to combat misconceptions in the public; it’s to sell products.

Which is also why companies strive to be BPA-free. Despite the fact that BPA is also another “victim” of irrational chemophobia. People want BPA-free plastic bottles, and are willing to pay for it? Someone will make it and sell it to them. At a premium.

Which is not to say, trust the manufacturers and the government unquestioningly. Ask questions, but question the answers too.

But most importantly, live.



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