What you need to know to fight anti-science activists

A lot of the focus of this blog has been on the anti-vaccine forces out there. That was kind of the original intent since “The Poxes” is kind of a dystopian story of what happens when we just stop vaccinating, cold turkey. (That reminds me that I need to get back to writing that story.) But there are other dangerous lines of thought out there, and I’d like to give you a list of things you need to know to fight them.

We all know that you need a primer on immunology and chemistry to fight the anti-vaccine types. Maybe you can throw in a little toxicology. Knowing these things will help you understand why thimerosal, a chemical that contains mercury, doesn’t behave like mercury alone. It’s not as toxic, and it is delivered in such a small amount that your body deals with it well. A little biology will help you know that you produce more formaldehyde just sitting there reading this and eating fruit than you will ever get through all the recommended vaccines. Again, toxicology will help you understand that your body deals well with those tiny amounts of formaldehyde, and you have nothing to worry about. Continue reading

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Ask a chemist, for all I care

If you ever took an anatomy class in high school or college — or if you ever went to medical school — you will no doubt remember the effects of formaldehyde on body tissues. The long and short of it is that formaldehyde is used to dry out tissues in order to preserve them. The formaldehyde moves into the tissue and the water moves out. So why would you ever want it inside you?

I’ve told you before about how it’s all in the chemistry, and, still, there are some of you out there who read that (I have a way of tracking your IP addresses now) and then wrote on your blogs or tweeted that either I didn’t know what I was talking about, or that Big Pharma was paying me to convince people to “poison” themselves with the formaldehyde in a vaccine.

Poison themselves?

Let’s do another chemistry class. But, first, let’s see what the Food and Drug Administration has to say about formaldehyde in vaccines:

“The body continuously processes formaldehyde, both from what it makes on its own and from what it has been exposed to in the environment. The amount of formaldehyde in a person’s body depends on their weight; babies have lower amounts than adults. Studies have shown that for a newborn of average weight of 6 -8 pounds, the amount of formaldehyde in their body is 50-70 times higher than the upper amount that they could receive from a single dose of a vaccine or from vaccines administered over time (1,2,3).”

And here’s what the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has to say:

“First, formaldehyde is essential in human metabolism and is required for the synthesis of DNA and amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Therefore, all humans have detectable quantities of natural formaldehyde in their circulation (about 2.5 ug of formaldehyde per ml of blood). Assuming an average weight of a 2-month-old of 5 kg and an average blood volume of 85 ml per kg, the total quantity of formaldehyde found in an infant’s circulation would be about 1.1 mg, a value at least five-fold greater than that to which an infant would be exposed in vaccines.”

But I bet you’ll say that they’re paid by Big Pharma too.

So is the field of chemistry paid by Big Pharma? Because any chemist — or student of chemistry — will tell you that we get rid of formaldehyde through a series of chemical reactions in our body, and that those chemical reactions readily eliminate formaldehyde at the levels found in vaccines, or even higher. I mean, there are 28 grams of alcohol in two beers, and the same chemical “factory” in your body gets rid of that in a jiffy. (If you do get “buzzed” from two beers, it won’t last long.)

Then again, based on the stupidity you communicate to the public about formaldehyde and vaccines, you probably will say that big pharma pays for chemistry books, too.

Tuna sandwich, anyone?

I just ate a delicious tuna salad sandwich while sitting here at my office. It was delicious. Did I tell you how delicious it was? Part of me felt that I had done a good thing for my body by eating that tuna salad sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger with cheese and bacon. The other part of me remembered what’s in tuna. So here are some thoughts.

According to this Consumer Reports report, there’s a lot of mercury in tuna:

Fortunately, it’s easy to choose lowermercury fish that are also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. That’s especially important for women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children, because fetuses and youngsters seem to face the most risk from methylmercury’s neurotoxic effects. 

Results from our tuna tests, conducted at an outside lab, underscore the longheld concern for those people. We found:

  • Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million. The Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to pull products containing 1 ppm or more from the market. (It never has, according to an FDA spokesman.) The EPA compiles fish advisories when state and local governments have found high contaminant levels in certain locally caught fish. 
  • Samples of white tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 ppm of mercury and averaged 0.427 ppm. By eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples, a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that the EPA considers safe. 
  • Samples of light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 ppm and averaged 0.071 ppm. At that average, a woman of childbearing age eating 2.5 ounces would get less than the EPA’s limit, but for about half the tested samples, eating 5 ounces would exceed the limit.

That’s a lot of mercury, especially if you eat a lot of tuna. And you should be concerned about this mercury because it’s methylmercury. It does this funny thing called “bioaccumulation”. You don’t need to be a a rocket scientist to know that mercury accumulating in your body is not a good thing. Just ask this guy:
Did he have mercury poisoning?
The thing is, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps harping on mercury in vaccines causing autism. In their minds, the symptoms of mercury poisoning mimic the symptoms of autism. Ergo, autism must be mercury poisoning, right?
No.
First of all, the compound used in childhood vaccines and since phased-out is thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing compound. I’ve told you about the chemistry of these things, so there’s no need to beat that horse to death. The main gist of this blog post is to point out the following:
MILLIONS OF US CONSUME TUNA, JUST LIKE WE GOT VACCINATED, AND WE’RE OKAY.
In fact, I’d venture to guess that it is much more biologically plausible — because of bioaccumulation of mercury — that tuna would cause autism IF AND ONLY IF autism was caused by mercury. The evidence for that has been put to rest.
Why, oh, why, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps going on and on and on about mercury in vaccines (when it’s been phased out) and don’t viciously attack tuna is beyond me.

Sucrose: Dangerous Poison or Plain Table Sugar?

The answer is clearly “plain table sugar”. I’ll explain why in a little bit. But let me first show you an anti-vaccine rant about sucrose (emphases mine):

“Here is the promised Sucrose information. It can also be found in the notes section.
Sucrose:Material Safety Data Sheet:http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927285 

The first thing I want to point out is that the MSDS is for the safe handling of large quantities of the chemical. It would be seen in a binder on the floor of a manufacturing plant, storage facility and anywhere it may come in contact with humans working with it. As we can see, this MSDS was updated on 6/09/2012 at 12:00pm. This is important information to note. One must always be sure the MSDS you find is up to date. 

I am NOT going to break down each section of the MSDS. However, I am going to point out Section 3 and 4. As we can see it has a listing of acute and chronic health effects and the first aid required for acute exposure.

The acute affects make it dangerous for skin and eyes to come in contact with it, as well as an indication that ingestion would be unwise. Treating acute exposure is covered in Section 4 of the MSDS. The chronic affects would be difficult to pin down to exclusive exposure to this chemical. We do see it has carcinogenic effects label of A4.

Here are 2 websites that break down the classes of carcinogenicity:

http://sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro/iupacglossary/annex3.html

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/occup-travail/whmis-simdut/carcinogenesis-carcinogenese-eng.php

It is important to note that “Not classifiable as a human carcinogen” often means the government has not conducted definitive studies to rule one way or the other. Although we are seeing many independent university studies regarding this specific chemical.

All one has to do is Google “dangers of sucrose” and you will be bombarded with many health sites, such as livestrong.com, telling of the danger this artificial sweetener poses. I want to present studies though. There have been none in recent years to determine whether long term exposure to sucrose would cause permanent damage to the human body. At least none that I could find.

(Please, if you have links to the study summary in PubMed, post them!)

Here is what I did find:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9519848 – This relates to a study done with rats and dogs, but it was a short study. Because I am not a chemist nor a biologist, I’m not sure how this translates to humans consumption. This is an older study and I could find nothing newer.

One more, and it is from 1998. It shows no long term affects:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9519849I am not going to report things that don’t exist. However, the MSDS shows definite hazards to being exposed to the chemical in the event of a spill. Again, if you have links to the specific studies I keep seeing mentioned, post them or message them so I can update the notes section and my own records.

Carrie 

**Later today I will address the next 3 ingredients and post it to notes and the wall. Thank you.”

Of course she’s not a chemist or biologist. If she was, she would know what sucrose is.

There are these chemicals called sugars. They consist of carbons attached to hydrogen and oxygen. If they have six carbons, they are “hexoses”. “Hex” is the prefix for “six”. If they have five carbons, they are “pentoses”, with “pent” being the prefix for five. Human beings take in these hexoses and pentoses and break them down via chemical reactions. These chemical reactions produce energy. Our cells then use that energy to grow and multiply, repair themselves, and just, you know, live.

You are warm right now because you are actively breaking down these sugars and the reactions produce heat.

You’ve probably heard of “glucose”. It’s the sugar in your blood right now. It’s a hexose, and it packs quite a punch when it comes to energy. The energy is stored in the bonds between the carbons. Break those bonds, and you release a ton of energy.

You’ve probably also heard of “fructose”. It is the sugar in plants. We have glucose, and plants have fructose. We consume fructose when we eat fruits and vegetables. Some have more fructose than others. “High fructose corn syrup” is a corn product (corn has fructose) that has been refined to contain the most fructose possible. It’s super sweet because it has a lot of sugar in it. Fructose, a pentose hexose, is a sugar.

Still with me?

Here is a picture of glucose:

Note the six carbons are labeled 1-6.

Now, here is a picture of fructose:

They’re not labeled, but there are five six carbons there.

Now, let’s talk sucrose.

The reason why that anti-vaccine person is demonizing sucrose is because it is contained in some vaccines. If it is in a vaccine, then either the devil defecated it or aliens produced it. That is to say that anti-vaccine people think that everything inside a vaccine vial is absolute evil and/or not of this world.

But here is why the government has never tested sucrose for toxicity. Check out the picture of sucrose:

Look familiar?

That’s right, dear reader! Sucrose is glucose put together with fructose. It’s also known as table sugar. It’s the white powder that you use to sweeten your coffee or your muffins. Pineapples and apricots produce sucrose as the main sugar. When you eat sucrose, an enzyme in your gut breaks it apart into glucose and fructose. Then these are absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized.

When you are injected with sucrose, or you are given it by IV as part of a medical therapy, a similar enzyme breaks it apart in your circulation. Then your metabolism takes over.

“But wait, she said it could be a carcinogen?” Tumors (large groups of cancer cells) also need energy. They’re cells! So a well-fed person who eats plenty of refined sugar and has cancer is only feeding those cells. It’s not a cancer-cause as much as it is a cancer-collaborator.

So don’t fear sucrose. It’s not evil. It’s delicious.

Then again, fear it a little bit if you’re overweight or a diabetic… Or both.

PS: Would you like the government to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to study table sugar?

It’s all in the chemistry

When I was a kid, one of my father’s friends bought a bottle of alcohol from a man on the street. He brought it over to my dad’s work to share. Dad took one whiff of it and threw it away. His friend was mad, but my dad knew exactly what he was doing. Dad had grown with solvents and chemicals, so he knew methanol when he smelled it.

A trained chemist could have also made the distinction. They can also recognize methanol when they see it. You see, although ethanol and methanol are made up of the same atoms of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen, the arrangement of the atoms is what’s key. How atoms are arranged in a chemical maters a whole lot, and it is something you need to keep in mind when you are being bombarded by misinformation about vaccine preservatives.

In our “cocktail o’ death” example, ethanol, the actual alcohol that makes you all sorts of easy to get along with, looks like this:

In this image, C is for Carbon, H is for Hydrogen, and O is for Oxygen. On the other hand, methanol looks like this:

Oh, look! It’s made up of the same stuff. Of course, if you look closely, you’ll see that methanol has one carbon while ethanol has two carbons. (Those links between the atoms represent electrons linking the atoms through energy bonds. The ones that look like cones are drawn that way to represent the 3D position of the atoms, with the solid cone telling us that the hydrogen atom is toward us while the hydrogen atom with the segmented cone is behind, or away, from us.) These chemicals are collectively called “alcohols”, and you can recognize them because they all have a carbon that is attached to an OH. The length of the carbon chain tells you the name of the alcohol. One carbon and it’s “methanol”. Two carbons and it’s “ethanol”. Three carbons, and it’s “propanol”. A form of propanol, where the OH is attached to the middle of three carbons, is isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol.

Here’s a fun at-home science project. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and distilled water. Note that the alcohol kind of mixes in with the water. Now add salt to the solution and notice what happens. The alcohol layer separates out pretty well from the now salty water. Go on and try it, or watch this video:

This gets me to my next point. Table salt is sodium chloride, and it looks like this:

See how it’s made up of one atom of sodium (Na) and one atom of chloride (Cl)? Together, they make up table salt. You’ve added table salt to water, haven’t you? When you make a nice soup or something salty? Does it blow up? It does not. However, this is what happens when you add sodium alone to water:

That’s right, it explodes! How about chloride? Chlorine gas has been used to kill people as a chemical weapon. So how can these two very serious and deadly things come together to be just plain table salt? Well, it’s all in the chemistry.

This is how table salt is made in the laboratory:

On our planet, the salt deposits and salt in the oceans was made millions of years ago, when this planet was a ball of melted stuff.

Okay, so what about the preservatives in vaccines? What does this little chemistry lesson have to do with those?

Well, I gave you this short lesson in chemistry to stress the fact that chemicals are all about the chemistry. First, you have to understand how the chemical reacts with us. Do we absorb and retain it, or do we excrete it? In the case of thimerosal, we do absorb it, but we don’t retain it. We get rid of it quite easily. Think of it as an analogous reaction as ethanol and methanol; both are alcohols, one is deadly at a low concentration (methanol), while the other is also deadly, but you have a ton of fun getting there. (So to speak.)

Thimerosal is an organic mercury, meaning that it’s mercury that’s attached to a carbon compound. This is what allows it to be processed and discarded by the body. Inorganic mercury, the mercury you see in thermometers, is not attached to those carbon compounds, so it’s hard for the body to get rid of it. Inorganic mercury is usually attached to a “salt”, and it can really do a number on your kidneys.

What about formaldehyde? That’s also a vaccine preservative. Remember what I wrote about “one is deadly at a low concentration”? Well, this is not true of formaldehyde. You need a hefty dose of it to mess you up. Vaccines don’t have that much in them, and you process it and get rid of it pretty quickly. Does it look familiar?

Wow! One hydrogen away from being methanol. In fact, your body turns methanol into formaldehyde on the way to making water-soluble formic acid formate that can be excreted from your body and is a building block for other things. But the body doesn’t get formaldehyde from drinking it only. We get it from our own cellular processes. We make more formaldehyde in our own cellular processes than we get from a vaccine.

The long and short of this all is that you really need to be well-versed in chemistry before you go believing the lies and misinformation of those who say that vaccines are “witches’ brews” and whatnots. Notice that they won’t tell you how much of the “toxin” is in the vaccine, and they’ll quote studies done on mice whereby the mice were given those “toxins” in what would be the “truckload” for us. You really do need to get yourself educated, or these anti-vaxers will trick you into a dangerous decision.

EDITS: Edited to correct the reaction of formaldehyde to formate, not formic acid.