Science 101 | toxic chemical vs doses | part 2

Science 101 | toxic chemical vs doses | part 2

There is no such thing as a toxic chemical, there are only toxic doses.

Let me say that again: essentially all chemicals are safe at a low enough dose, and essentially all chemicals are toxic at a high enough dose. This is a fundamental fact that people in the anti-science movement routinely ignore. Vani Hari is notorious for rejecting this fact by making claims such as, “there is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”

The reality is quite different. For example, everyone reading this currently has mercury, arsenic, cyanide, formaldehyde, aluminum, lead, and a host of other “toxic” chemicals in your body right now. Further, you would have those chemicals even if you had spent your entire life hundreds of miles from anyone else, ate only organic food that you grew yourself, never used pharmaceuticals or vaccines, etc.

These are chemicals that are normally in our environment and we acquire them through our food, water, etc. Some of these (such as formaldehyde) are even produced by our bodies. Even radioactive chemicals like uranium are often present. So clearly there are safe levels of “toxic” chemicals since all of us normally have them in our bodies.

Inversely, “safe” chemicals such as water are toxic in high enough doses. People have, in fact, overdosed on water. To be clear, they did not drown, they overdosed. Water is actually dangerous to your body at high enough levels.

The importance of this fact cannot be overstated. No chemical is inherently safe or inherently dangerous. So, the next time that someone tries to scare you about the “toxic chemicals” in your food, medicine, vaccines, detergents, etc. ask them for two pieces of information:

  1. What is the toxic dose in humans?
  2. What is the dose in the product in question?

Ignorance or toxic relationship?

Those two pieces of information are absolutely crucial to evaluating the safety of the product. You simply cannot know whether that chemical is dangerous without knowing the dose in the product and the dose at which it becomes toxic.

So, if your friend, blogger, etc. cannot answer those two questions, then they have just unequivocally demonstrated that they haven’t done their homework and don’t know what they are talking about; therefore, you shouldn’t listen to them. Indeed, a great many anti-science arguments crumble under the realization that the dose makes the poison.

For example, we have all no doubt heard people rant about the “toxins” in vaccines, but the reality is that the supposedly toxic chemicals in vaccines are present in completely safe doses and, therefore, are totally safe.

Part 2 of the  wonderful article 5 simple chemistry facts that everyone should understand before talking about science by The Logic of Science website – posted on May 27, 2015. Find the original article here.

Content and images courtesy of The Science of Logic website.

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