Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chemophobia Daily - NY Times (Again)

(This piece, by veteran Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, ran yesterday. It has been the focus of backlash and ire, from chemists on Twitter and other fora (#chemicalschangeus, #BigChem). Below, I've done some choice editing: to increase the alarmist hype, I've cut unnecessary interstitial words, focusing solely on inflammatory verbs and scary scientific terminology. Remember, this is only a 790-word column!)



"Chemicals Affect Us increasing alarm very common hormone-mimicking chemicals grotesque effects widely used herbicide female hormone feminizes male animals male frogs female organs male fish produce eggs contaminated chemicals male alligators tiny penises

growing evidence linking class chemicals problems humans breast cancer infertility low sperm counts genital deformities early menstruation diabetes and obesity congenital defect hypospadias misplacement urethra suspects endocrine disruptors wreak havoc endocrine system

Endocrine disruptors everywhere thermal receipts canned foods, cosmetics plastics food packaging Test blood urine human breast milk cord blood newborn babies

failure tackle Big Chem regulate endocrine disruptors
scolded Food Drug Administration failure ban bisphenol-A common endocrine disruptor
government vigilant threats grocery stores mountains Afghanistan
Researchers warn endocrine disruptors trigger hormonal changes DES synthetic estrogen cause vaginal cancer breast cancer decades later daughters now banned.
Scientists tiniest variations hormone levels influence fetal development female twin masculinized exposed hormones. Studies aggressive sensation-seeking eating disorders
worry endocrine disruptors hormones swamping fetuses analysis Endocrine Reviews
Fundamental changes chemical testing safety determination protect human health analysis declares chief environmental scientist toxicologist
nation’s safety system endocrine disruptors broken
endocrine disruptors data conclude chemicals not safe human populations developmental biologist
Worrying research long-term effects chemicals higher levels common endocrine disruptor, PFOA overweight PFOA unavoidable everything solutions.
Big Chem sensationalist science blocked strict regulation adopted tighter controls endocrine disruptors
Uncertainties scientists endocrine disruptors overwhelmingly protect families
microwave plastic pesticides refuse receipts"
~Fin~
*RECAP: That's 229 words there (29% of the article), including negatively-connoted words like "grotesque," "broken," and "aggressive," and even a bonus allusion to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Seven mentions of "chemical" (all negative), and a record 12 mentions of "disruptor."
And we wonder why there's so much extant public fear of chemicals?

9 comments:

  1. It does not help thinking that in Europe, and maybe at most here in Italy, we could make the same exercise with similar conclusions. Even communicators from the chemical and technological sides are often too much concerned with defensive arguments and do not choose a demystifying and positive approach.

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  2. I try to imagine this post set to the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire."

    "Alligators tiny penises" is probably the best part of my new song.

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    1. Funny, I thought of R.E.M.'s "End of the World as We Know It (I Feel Fine)"

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    2. "nation’s safety system endocrine disruptors broken" is an highly dramatic and conceptual warning. Sounds like an howl by a Manga superhero. Disruptors are broken, let's hit them with our unblinking subflashes!

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    3. hey, they disrupted my full name, too!

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  3. If my 7th grade memory of that song is correct, the WDStF part starts with "menstruation diabetes and obesity congenital."

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  4. The songs should include the line "denial through delusion"... I love how we should only believe chem scientists if they tell us "don't worrrryyyyy", but chem scientists who actually do the research are discounted. Scare tactics??? We SHOULD BE SCARED! Wake up people. How many man boobs do you have to see to realize that hormone levels are changing? As far as all the denial experts... save your breath. People are getting wise to the junk science tactic of for every 100 studies, trying to provide 99 industry "studies" showing everything is okay so that nobody will notice the one honest scientific piece that sounds the legitimate alarm. Then of course industry "scientists" claim the 99 studies represent "overwhelming support" for their FALSE conclusions. Remember, every industry has their paid whores. It's like all the financial analysts who claim to be such experts when they are the ones who caused a greedy mess. And, remember, when it comes to scientists... every graduating class has a "bottom 10"... who else will hire them but the corporations who just want mouthpieces to tell you "don't worrrryyyy, keep eating our chemicals and everything will be just fine"?

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    Replies
    1. @Anon - What could we tell you that would make you confident we were honest and forthright? Most chemists I know work very hard to advance knowledge and help people to live better lives. If something we've made is found to have deleterious effects, we're as upset by it as you. But that doesn't justify rampant chemophobia in a major news outlet.

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  5. I remember that song having the line "dysfunctional as written by design" (with the "i" warbled appropriately).

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