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Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Corporal Pedantic on Chemicals

So, I think I've had enough. See, there's this meme about treating people who are worried about "chemicals" as idiots because, well, everything is made out of chemicals. And so the people who point that out can feel superior in their knowledge and at the same time dismiss the concerns people have.

The above is a joke, you can tell by the "dihydrogen monoxide" (water if you don't know). That's the key here. Audit's very successful propaganda if my Facebook feed is anything to judge by. And yes, it's propaganda. And it's spread by people who don't want you to really know anything, but are trying to get you to trust them because they're smart.

Don't fall for it.

First of all, let's clear out the air here. Chemicals. People use words. Words are symbols, they represent ideas and concepts. And those meanings are individualistic and variable. Ask any writer you may know. There is the dictionary definition, and then there is the societal use. While many people think of it as slang, it's not, words work differently for different people.

When most people say "chemicals" it's a short hand statement. It means, to them and anyone who understands how words work, industrial chemicals. What they want to say is the chemicals that are being produced by our industry and, surprise, find their way into our body.

And only an idiot would think that when people are worried about "chemicals" in the bloodstream that they mean the dictionary definition of "chemical". And a political propagandist would be the one who would use that to dismiss the argument concerning non-organic chemicals (the ones that the body doesn't produce and can not process regularly) showing up in the environment and in the human blood stream.

Because here is my response to that graphic, I wanna know the person who created it, and offer them a big glass of Tetraethyllead or (CH3CH2)4Pb. See, that's a chemical. And it was a damn important one for many, many decades. You may remember it as "leaded gasoline." You might remember lead paint. As a human of a certain age, I have trace amounts of these different leads in my body. And it's toxic. Highly neurotoxic.

But it's just a chemical, isn't it? And we once thought it was very, very helpful. After all, we put lead in everything (lead pipes, lead in gas, lead in paint, lead in our jewelry, lead everywhere). In fact, in many parts of the world you can still buy leaded gas and lead paint. We still make it here in the US (you just can't sell it in the US).

Then there's Thalidomide. It's a chemical. It's a damn useful chemical. It was so useful we once prescribed it to expectant mothers to help with morning sickness. How did that work out when it reached the fetal blood supply? I mean, it's just a chemical, that wasn't supposed to be able to pass the placenta. And we still make it because it is a damn useful drug (it treats a whole host of other things).

There's methyl mercury. That's a chemical, and highly useful industrial chemical. And it's in your blood. Ah, but you know about the problem with mercury, mad hatter's disease and all. When I was a kid, we played with mercury, because it was "safe." We knew it was safe, didn't we? Well, there was Minimata disease, but that was in Japan. Now, when a mercury thermometer breaks, the hazmat team is called in. But mercury is just a chemical. And I'll bet you that you have it in your blood right now. Remember how tuna has mercury? It still does.

Just because a chemical is in your body doesn't mean that 1) it belongs there, and 2) just because you're not falling over doesn't mean it isn't killing you.

But there's a whole industry that wants to make sure you're not thinking about it. There's a hellalotta money riding on the fact that the people who really like this graphic also don't know what chemicals, or chemistry is about. And just because we don't know that something is bad for you doesn't mean it's not killing you right now. Lots of the chemicals they list do occur naturally. But here's an interesting fact. You see that line about ketone bodies? Yea, that's actually a natural occurrence. It's a byproduct of processing proteins and fats into sugars to use as energy. All those commercials about proteins being good for you, as a long term source of energy they're all true.

But do you know about ketoacidosis? This is when you have too many of them in your blood stream. And you begin to die as your blood pH levels turn off your enzymes. You can get it from too much alcohol, from diabetes (and especially from undiagnosed/uncontrolled diabetics drinking too much alcohol - oo, that's really bad, don't do that, seriously). See, the alcohol and/or proteins and fats aren't bad by themselves. But what your bodies makes from them can. Ketones are very natural, or biologic, chemicals and you have them right now. Hopefully not enough to do the pH in your blood.

Carbon dioxide is also a chemical that you can breathe and that you make. It's "natural." You make a lot of it. There's a lot of it in the environment. And it will kill you as well. And strangely enough by the same process that the ketones will, by dropping your blood pH (unless it suffocates you first). Want a lot of that?

You might remember a lot (and I mean A LOT) of congress peoples talking about how carbon dioxide is good for you, it's not poisonous. How can it be hurting us? Mostly in reference to global warming, but you get my drift. See, it's just a chemical, and because we know what it is, we know all about it. Not really. Also, CO2 will kill you quickly (like if you're in an enclosed space with too high a concentration of it) or slowly (by altering the climate of the earth until we can't adapt fast enough).

There is a whole industry (well, multiple industries) that are hellbent on you not knowing that. There are industries who really hope you don't think about how much we've altered the environment, how many of the chemicals your body doesn't make (and we don't know how it affects you, hell, we don't know how the chemicals our body makes affect us) have found their way into your blood and tissues. And if you actually think of that, they most assuredly want to make sure you think there's nothing wrong with it, because you're not falling over dead right now, are you? And they sure as hell don't want you to think it's a problem and want your government to regulate their production or use. Because they wouldn't make as much money. And you can trust companies, because if they hurt you, they wouldn't be in business for long, would they?

Ask Exxon-Mobil.

So, pay no attention to those chemicals. Scientists know them. You food is made of them. And you can trust the people in the white coats, can't you? It's all under control. You can go back to sleep.

'Cause after all they were right about lead, mercury, and all the rest. Especially all those drugs that the scientists researched heavily before putting them on the market. Like fen-phen.

Now plastics. Plastics are uber-ultra-good for us. They don't breakdown, so they're non-reactive. Yea, plastics are good. Like micro-beads. All good. You should get a job in plastics.

How about a nice glass of Agent Orange?


Merrie Haskell said...

Thank you. I saw a similar meme about someone reading the ingredients list on orange juice, and my immediate reaction was "I think it's totally reasonable to wish that your food consists of items that can be identified by words understood in the common vernacular as something food-like." Anti-intellectualism and anti-anti-intellectualism both come around to meet in the jerkface area of the spectrum.

Steve Buchheit said...

Hey Mer, it's just something that keeps getting stuck in my craw. And I've seen people who I believe are smart promoting that graphic.