Friday, October 27, 2006


Silent Spring

So I've been reading The Hundred Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health, by Randall Fitzgerald. It's a polemic; there are no footnotes or endnotes and while the prose is not really alarmist, it is fairly repetitive and dumbed down. The central theme is that synthetic chemicals found in food and especially in drugs are responsible, not by themselves but in concert with other natural and synthetic chemicals that we consume, for epidemics of once-rare diseases like autism, type 2 diabetes and various cancers.

The author, an investigative reporter, claims to be a libertarian who is concerned to bring us these observations because synthetic chemicals are so ubiquitous that there's no such thing as choosing to avoid them. That's a good beginning to a persuasive argument, but he unfortunately follows it up with unscientific anecdotes and assertions of statistical correlations between some chemical in a food or drug item and some disorder in humans consuming it. The only apparantly solid scientific conclusions presented in the book (still without direct references) are the scary "body burden" of 700-some synthetic chemicals in the average citizen of western countries, and eyebrow-raising increases in the rates of things like birth defects, autism, childhood allergies and diseases like asthma, and nervous disorders in the past few decades. If nothing else, I feel vindicated in my policy of avoiding all drugs unless absolutely necessary. Just don't tell me this shit is in beer!

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