Finally! A Good Use for CVS Oscillococcinum! (Valentine’s Special)

cvs oscillococcinum flu therapy by boiron

Oscillococcinum literally contains nothing but sugar, and cannot under any circumstances cure the flu, reduce body aches, headaches, fever, or chills.

After a long and grueling search, a use has finally been found for the CVS homeopathic product known as Oscillococcinum.  No, it doesn’t fight flu.  It can’t–there are no active ingredients.

But it can be used as a stand-in for sugar in icing for Valentine’s Day cookies!

You read it here first!

In this Bad Science Debunked Valentine’s Special, I’ll walk you through the steps but, more importantly, we’ll do a little Kitchen Science, using the dye from our cookie icing to illustrate the scientific illiteracy behind homeopathy and why you, if you’re a CVS shopper, should be deeply upset that a modern pharmacy has this product on their shelves.

Nothing but the Facts, Ma’am
As described in my article “If it Quacks Like a Duck: Oscillococcinum“,1 and confirmed by scientists around the world, there is literally–literally–nothing in CVS’ so-called medicine except sugar, rendering it absolutely useless for treating the flu.  This is the case for nearly all homeopathic medicines.

There are a few exceptions. For example some homeopathic concoctions contain enough alcohol for underage drinkers to get three sheets to the wind,2 while others incorporate toxic plants that can poison babies.3  In 2018, the Center for Inquiry sued CVS for fraud over its homeopathic “cures,”4 but a resolution has yet to be found, and CVS continues to mislead consumers, selling them $36.00 sugar pills potent enough to make dessert icing.

However, the potential for a mistake is all too real.  Walk into any CVS store and you’ll find Oscillococcinum displayed in the aisles as if it were a real medicine–as evidenced by the below photos from a shop in Lexington, KY.  Should the parent of a flu-infected child purchase this rubbish, thinking they were getting real medicine, we could have a youngster being treated with sugar–a potential tragedy in the making.  Over 30,000 people were hospitalized due to influenza during last year’s flu season.5  The flu can kill.  It cannot be treated or cured with sugar.

CVS medicine aisle

CVS Cold/Allergy/Children’s Health Aisle (click/enlarge)

Lots of "meds" to choose from in CVS...

Lots of “meds” to choose from in CVS… (click/enlarge)

oscillococcinum sugar pills at cvs

Sadly, oscillococcinum, mere sugar pills, hides among the real meds at CVS. (click/enlarge)

A Baker’s Quarter Dozen
So let’s make some cookies!  Oddly enough, critics of the plain sugar cookies I bought for this project claimed the they were “GMO,” apparently because they didn’t have the silly little non-GMO butterfly.  One of the dangers of GMO labelling is nobody understands what it means.  There isn’t any GMO sugar, there isn’t any GMO flour, but just to poke good-natured fun at those who won’t take the time to learn any better, I’ve dubbed my cookies “GMO sugar cookies for duration of this experiment.

If facts aren’t going to change minds, you might as well have some fun.

Anyway, here’s the video.  For the not-so-video-inclined, printed recipe and instructions appear at the end of this post.  Feel free to print the web page, clip, and save.  Oh, and while you’re at it, you might want to protest to CVS (cough cough).

 

Mixology
Next, let’s look at how we know that CVS Oscillococcinum has no active ingredient. The homeopathic claim is that they begin with a piece of (supposedly diseased) duck, then dilute, dilute, dilute, with water (hold on, this is where it gets strange), where the water “remembers” the disease, and my Aunt Fanny has a bridge in San Francisco to sell you.

Homeopaths actually believe all of that except for the part about my Aunt Fanny.  Why they don’t like her, I’ll never know.  Anyway…

In this Kitchen Chemistry experiment, we’ll do what homeopaths would call a “5C” dilution on the food dye we used on our cookie icing. The principle is simple, but will leave you rolling your eyes in wonder when you see it in action.

1ml of dye is added to 99ml water and “succinated” (shaken). 1ml of the resulting solution is extracted and added to another 99ml water. Each repetition gives us a “C” (centesimal) preparation. Homeopathic preparations such as oscillococcinum start around 200C, at which it’s mathematically impossible for even an atom any original material, which was supposedly a diseased duck, to remain. Some preparations go even higher. For our demo here, I’m preparing just a 5C solution of dye. Pull up a chair, phone the kids and wake the neighbors, and watch what happens. Does the dye get stronger or weaker?

 

Food for thought:  Because homeopaths falsely believe that water has a memory and that repeatedly diluting a substance makes the water memory stronger, consider what happened to the H2O downstream of the cookies and aspartame in this experiment when I went to the bathroom after the second video.  The toilet water went to a water treatment plant where my waste was repeatedly diluted.

Consider further, dear homeopaths, that the water on this planet has been constantly recycled for over 4.5 billion years.  Imagine all the waste it has diluted.  You really gonna drink that stuff?

Cookie Recipe
For those of you rich enough to spend approximately $36.00USD for enough icing to cover three or four sugar cookies, here’s the full recipe. This is just the cost of the oscillococcinum alone!

 

CVS/Boiron Oscillococcinum flu therapy--actually just sugar pills

The Oscillococcinum used in this “experiment.” Click to enlarge.

Warning: Oscillococcinum cannot cure the flu, mitigate its symptoms, or help with any other disease.  Its only use is as described here: as a stand-in for sugar.  If you’re upset about this, please contact CVS to complain: 1-800-SHOP-CVS (1-800-746-7287).

  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • 1.5 tbsp flour
  • 3 tablespoons crushed CVS oscillococcinum pills**
  • 1/4 cup margarine 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 drop food coloring

1. Heat milk and flour over low heat, until very thick. Let cool and set aside.
2. Cream together sugar and butter
3. Add cooled milk and flour mixture, mix thoroughly until whip cream consistency
4. Add vanilla, and mix thoroughly
5. Spread over cookies and enjoy

**Totally safe to use.  There are no medicines in CVS Oscillococcinum. It is pure sugar.

References
(1) If it Quacks Like a Duck: Oscillococcinum
https://badsciencedebunked.com/2014/10/22/if-it-quacks-like-a-duck-oscillococcinum/
Retrieved 19 Feb 2018

(2) Surprise Ingredient in CVS Medicine
https://www.nbclosangeles.com/investigations/I-Team-Store-Alcohol-Purchase-Drug-Regulations-337551261.html
Retrieved 19 Feb 2018

(3) FDA: Toxic Belladonna In Homeopathic Teething Product (via Forbes)
https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/01/28/fda-toxic-belladonna-in-homeopathic-teething-products/#54bea4c140dd
Retrieved 21 Feb 2018

(4) Center for Inquiry Sues CVS
https://centerforinquiry.org/press_releases/cfi-sues-cvs/
Retrieved 12 Feb 2019

(5) CDC: The 2017-2018 Flu Season
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm
Retrieved 12 Feb 2019

Image/Music Credits
CVS Oscillococcinum product image by the author.  Copyright © 2018 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.

Duck image by the author. Copyright © 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip. All rights reserved.

The “Dancing With the Stars/Oscillococcinum” mashup image is a product of the author’s imagination.  The Dancing With the Stars Judges are used used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

The excerpts of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it on” are also used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Amazon’s Alexa appears used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

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Josh Axe: Fly On A Windshield

josh axe heavy metals cover

Sitting at a stoplight yesterday, I noticed a fly on my windshield.  It stubbornly held on while I accelerated to 10MPH.  It was still there at 20, 30, then 40MPH.  At 45MPH I admit a cruel streak brought on thoughts of flipping on the windshield washer, but the scientist in me fought off the urge, and so, curious, I accelerated hard and, finally, at 55MPH, the creature succumbed to the inevitable.

Chiropractor Josh Axe is a lot like that insect  Give him a bad idea and he’ll cling to it like a fly to a windshield in a tempest.  Hang on at all costs.  Never, ever, let go, despite the obvious outcome.  No matter how much the right thing to do would be to let go (of your incorrect opinion).

Back in December, 2015, I wrote that Axe was pushing Bentonite clay as a detox agent, even though the product was loaded with the same “toxic” heavy metals Josh claimed would kill you.1  Undeterred, on November 19, 2018, Axe used Facebook to recycle another Bentonite detox post.  Like a fly on a windshield, Josh clings to irony in a hurricane of hilarious gaffes.2  Let’s have some fun.

For reference, below is an analysis of one of the Bentonite clay products Axe was hawking back in 2015.1  I don’t have a breakdown of the bath product he’s pushing in his 2018 Bentonite resurrection, but it’s reasonable to assume the clays are chemically similar:

Chemical analysis of a Josh Axe Bentonite product from 2015

Chemical analysis of a Josh Axe Bentonite product from 2015 .1
Note the lead, cadmium, and mercury.
(click/enlarge)

According to Axe, Bentonite clay is used to remove toxic heavy metals from the body, by either consuming or applying the mud topically.  Quoth the raven, er, chiropractor:

“Heavy metal toxins” usually refer to substances like mercury, cadmium, lead and benzene.”4 — Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses

Isn’t it ironic then, that Axe’s own chemical analysis revels that Bentonite contains mercury, cadmium, and lead, the very elements he’s trying to remove?1 (See the chart above)

Now, this is the part in our story where Axe defenders leap in to invent a magical chemical matrix that works synergistically to scoop up the toxic heavy metals and channel them safely away.  “Even though they’re present,” (I hear you, David Avocado Wolfe!) “they aren’t toxic.  Their ionic charges are reversed causing them to blah blah blah…”

Go ahead Axe fans.  Make something up, I’ll wait. Then I’ll shoot you down in Axe’s own words.  Time is on my side.

 

Ready now?  You see, in his article, Axe confesses that Bentonite clay does not trap toxins.  He acknowledges that lead is present in the clay, and warns that it’s a danger, but only to pregnant women, except when you’re pregnant.  SAY WHAT?  OK, walk through this with me… it’s all from the same article:

“Bentonite clay benefits your body by helping to expel many of these toxins–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3

 

“Some bentonite clay products contains trace amounts of lead and other heavy metals and may not be appropriate for consumption by children and pregnant women.”–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3

 

“Some people use bentonite clay as relief for nausea and vomiting by pregnant women–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3

So Bentonite clay expels toxins, except that it retains them when you’re pregnant (why only then?), so pregnant women shouldn’t use it, except that pregnant women should use it for nausea relief.  And what about the mercury and lead?

Oh God, just shoot me now. Josh Axe calls himself a doctor and he cranks out medical advice like this?

Dear reader, I humbly submit to you that (1) if you wish to eat mud it’s going to taste, well, muddy, but the trace amounts of metals found therein are not going to be of any health concern and, more importantly, (2) you can find far, far better sources of health information than chiropractors who falsely call themselves doctors and make their living selling you bone broth and mud for a living.

Live long and prosper.

References
(1) Axe-idental Poisoning (Bad Science Debunked)
https://badsciencedebunked.com/2015/12/08/axe-idental-poisoning-josh-axe-debunked/
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

(2) Ten Detox Bath Recipes
Warning: Not a reputable/scientific article
https://draxe.com/detox-bath-recipes/
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

(3) Ten Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses
Warning: Not a reputable/scientific article
https://draxe.com/10-bentonite-clay-benefits-uses/
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

Image Credits
Josh Axe, Redmond Clay, website screen snapshots are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Forrest Gump meme used under parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Link to Rolling Stones/YouTube clip is done using tools provided by YouTube/Google, Inc.  Author does this in good faith, believing tools to link and embed are provided for this this purpose, and that videos available on YouTube are displayed legally, with the consent of the copyright owner. Author assumes, and makes no copyright claims to the linked/embedded video.

It’s Sep 22, First Day of Spring! Let’s Balance an Egg!

It’s the myth that refuses to die: on or about March 21, the vernal equinox, then–and only then–can an egg be balanced on its end.  This nonsense has been debunked so many times you’d think it would have disappeared into the annals of history.  You’d have thought wrong.  Here’s a YouTube video from spring, 2018:

The most obvious way to debunk this is to just balance an egg on any other day of the year.  Seeking to do it in the most snarky way possible though, I thought to wait until the other first day of spring–September 22. This is the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere in 2018.

But that raised yet another problem. It turns out that there are those out there who believe in autumnal equinox magic as well:

Sigh. Undeterred, I decided to start balancing eggs in the days leading up to the equinox, and carry on right on through. (Yes, I agree, I need a social life 🙂 )

Anyway, Here’s a balanced egg, three days before the equinox. I decided to follow the old television crime series hostage trope, including a current newspaper in my photos as proof of the date:

Egg balanced on end, 19 Sep 2018

An egg balanced on end, 19 Sep 2018,  three days before the first day of spring (in the Southern Hemisphere). Newspaper in background verifies the date. (click/enlarge to see paper date)

And here we are again, two days before the equinox. Hey! I thought this was only possible on one (or was it two) special days of the year?

Two days before the first day of spring (in the Southern Hemisphere). An “impossibly” balanced egg. (click/enlarge to read newspaper date.)

And here we go, the first day of spring (south of the equator), and yeah, an egg can be balanced on end… just like any other day of the year.

egg balanced on end

An egg balanced on end on the first day of spring (in the Southern Hemisphere). You can balance an egg on end on ANY day of the year. (click/enlarge)

Now, a true skeptic would point out that I could have saved up a stack of newspapers and snapped all these photos on September 22. So, I’ll make a promise: tomorrow, September 23, I’ll update this article with yet another balanced egg.

Actually, I’ll make a second promise: after September 23, 2018, we will still be debunking this silly myth that you can only balance eggs on the first day of spring 😦

Update: 23 Sep 2018
As promised, here’s yet another balanced egg with backing newspaper, to prove I didn’t stockpile newsprint and shoot all of the previous shots on the autumnal equinox.

egg balanced on September 23

Just to assure the die-hard skeptic I didn’t stockpile newspapers and put all my eggs in one (photo) basket on the equinox, here’s a balanced egg the day after the equinox. (click/enlarge)

How to (Mostly) Block Donald Trump’s Emergency Text


On October 3, at around 2:00PM Eastern Time (and for up to 30 minutes after), every cell phone in the United States is set to light up with a test “presidential alert” message.1  This intrusion, and the inability to opt out or block it, has upset enough people to kick off a #GoDark920 movement, encouraging Americans to turn off their phones for the entire day.  As I’ll explain shortly, the media is incorrectly calling this message a “text”–but let’s not get into the weeds yet.

If you’re considering turning off your phone, there is an alternative.  Not perfect, but still, I would argue, better than giving up the use of your precious iPhone or Samsung for a day.

You will need WiFi for this to work, but the steps are simple, as shown on my iPhone, below.

  • Put your phone in airplane mode
  • Turn on WiFi
wifi settings for iphone

Setting up an iPhone for WiFi-only text and voice (click/enlarge

Yeah, that’s it.  The steps will be similar on an Android device such as Samsung.  Admittedly, you’re going to lose cellular phone service during this time, but you need not be out of touch with your loved ones, especially in the Apple world.  As long as I’m in range of WiFi, I can both text and call (FaceTime!) other Apple aficionados who are friends and family.

Not into the iPhone?  Not to worry.  There are myriad free texting and calling apps, such as WhatsApp, that are solely internet-based.  No cell phone service required.  In theory, at least, having your phone in Airplane Mode should have cellular service disabled and block the incoming “presidential message.”  If not, we’ve learned something interesting about airplane mode on cell phones.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a popular Internet-based application that allows text and voice without a cellular connection. Myriad such applications exist. (click/enlarge)

Note that the concept of “airplane mode” has been evolving, so I cannot guarantee success on October 3.  It used to be that even WiFi wasn’t allowed on flights, but this has changed; the FAA is toying with the idea of allowing cellular calls in the air, so there may well be phones out there that can receive but not transmit.  I’m going to find out on October 3.

messenger to block trump emergency message

Even the much-hated Facebook Messenger app can be used to communicate (over WiFi) until the presidential message passes.

As mentioned in the introduction, the October 3 message is often incorrectly being called a “text” by the press (I intentionally stuck with that name in the title of my article to avoid confusion.)  The alerts sent at the behest of the president use a technology framework known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).  Although WEAs may share some of the infrastructure we’re familiar with (e.g. cell towers, frequencies, our phones), they won’t arrive as standard voice, text, or SMS messages.  Simply put, they blanket all phones known to be in a geographical area with a specially formatted on-screen message accompanied by an audio signal and vibration.

So, to ease your mind, If the blocking hypothesis I describe here does indeed work, you need not fear having a text or voice mail from Donald Trump (OK, FEMA) waiting for you when you take your phone out of airplane mode on the evening of the 3rd.

This makes sense if you think about it.  My wife and I were once fortunate enough to be vacationing in Miami when a major winter storm hit our home state of Kentucky, triggering statewide wireless winter storm alerts.  Not only did we not receive those alerts while in Florida (it would make no sense, both the cellular service and emergency services know how to geo-track users and deliver warnings to the right places), we had no voice mails or texts waiting in our inboxes a week later when we flew back to chilly Kentucky.  In other words, the warning messages aren’t held for you to pick up at a later date.

But, Now That You Can, Should You?
Emergency alert systems exist for a reason–a good reason.  I always leave those for which I can opt-in enabled on my phone.  I would recommend that everyone do so.  A lot of dedicated scientists from myriad fields have worked very hard to put together a system to keep us safe.

So why am I writing about trying to bypass a test, and what the hell does this have to do with debunking bad science (the purpose of my blog?)

This is, in effect, my way of extending a large digital middle finger to Ajit Pai and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for their egregious act of bad science and public policy in rolling back net neutrality, the legal framework that forced Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in this country to treat all internet traffic equally. The Internet is now pay-for-play, meaning ISPs can charge (and receive) large fees to give priority to certain traffic (read: that from large corporations), leaving “unimportant” data (schools, libraries, scientific research, anything coming from your home and mine) to sit in the backwaters of a swamp that was supposed to be cleared.

And, to be honest, looking at what Trump and the FCC have done to botch the internet, I cannot help but have a knot in my stomach when I think of them holding the ability to “brick” every cell phone in the United States, at their whim, in one fell swoop. (WEA messages “brick,” or render your phones useless for communication, during their duration).

So, yes, accepting emergency broadcasts is a good thing.  A superfluous message from a vainglorious, demonstrably scientifically illiterate administration over an arguably redundant notification system, backed in part by an FCC that sold a free and fair internet to the highest bidder?

Yeah, I’m disabling my phone in protest.

Authors Notes
Updated 19 Sep 2018 to include descriptions of, and elaborate upon, the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) framework, how the data sent is not actually a text message, and propose the hypothesis that whatever’s sent between 2:00pm and 2:30pm won’t somehow show up in an inbox or stored as a “missed text.”

References
(1) Presidential Alert Test Postponed (NBC News)
https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/mobile/fema-s-presidential-alert-test-postponed-some-americans-want-disconnect-n910406
Retrieved 18 Sep 2018

Image Credits
iPhone screen snapshots by the author.

Trump on phone parody by the author, used in strict accordance with provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Hurricane Florence Blows Mind of Conservative Talk Show Host

Hurricane Florence image

Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast of the USA.  Image by the author, produced via RadarScope software.

Longtime readers of this blog know the practice here is to avoid politics and religion unless members of those institutions cross the line by bringing science into the fray. At that point the gloves come off.  Listening to a few hours of conservative radio talk show coverage of Hurricane Florence yesterday on the Sirius XM Radio “Patriot” channel, climate science was discussed with all the accuracy of two auto mechanics preparing for delicate brain surgery on a newborn infant.  I feel compelled to respond.

The Wilkow Majority
Let’s look at a quote from Andrew Wilkow of the Wilkow Majority, “explaining” why climate change doesn’t exist:1

“[…] weather patterns are cyclical. […] our earth rotation is not perfectly circular, […] we come and go from different distances in relationship to the to the sun. […] tides, everything is affected by that.” 1

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Wilkow confused rotation with orbit, but I’ll cut him some slack.  Rotation occurs in place (think of a spinning top that doesn’t travel), which doesn’t alter our distance from the sun.  He’s clearly talking about our orbit, so that’s what we’ll concentrate on.  Out of kindness, I can say that this is by far the least of his mistakes.

The Earth does indeed orbit the sun in an elliptical, not circular, orbit.  Unfortunately, that’s the only thing Wilkow got right.  The implication that our distance from the sun affects our weather, our climate, and, risibly, our tides, is so wrong a that fifth grader could debunk it.  Not having a fifth grader on hand, I’ll do it myself, and start with the low hanging fruit: tides.

The Moon is responsible for our tides.2  As it orbits the planet, its gravitational tug on our home–and its oceans–causes a bulge that results in tides. Remember being taught this in grade school? Apparently Andrew Wilkow doesn’t.

andrew wilkow climate change

Andrew Wilkow. See Image Credits for photo copyright/use information

But the most scientifically inaccurate claim in Wilkow’s polemic is that the distance of our planet from the sun has anything to do with weather and climate.  In fact, the separation of Earth and our host star has nothing at all to do with  climate, weather, or even our seasons.

For starters, the seasons are caused by the Earth being tilted 23½ degrees on its axis with respect to the plane in which it orbits the Sun.  During the Northern Hemisphere winter, it’s colder because that part of the planet is tilted away from the Sun, receiving less direct sunlight.  A fun science fact is that during this time of year, the Earth is actually closer to the Sun than in the northern summer. Yes, we’re closer to the Sun in January than in June.  Distance doesn’t matter.  Conversely, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere in January because that part of the planet is tilted more directly toward the Sun, receiving more direct sunlight.

In Phil Plait’s excellent book, Bad Astronomy,5 Mr. Plait points out that very simple math shows that our non-circular orbit counts for at most a 7°F (4°C) difference, summer or winter. That’s right: statistically, the elliptical shape of our orbit contributes nothing to weather or climate change.  Every year, we swing through a cycle where distance contributes no more than 7°F (4°C), plus or minus, and, a reminder to Mr. Wilkow… we’re  talking weather, not climate.

earth orbit illustration

The Earth’s orbit is indeed elliptical, but it has nothing to do with climate. NASA/NOAA image. (click/enlarge)

This is a perfect segue into Andrew Wilkow’s cringe-worthy statement, “weather patterns are cyclical.”  As all who paid attention in science class know, weather isn’t climate.3   Weather concerns itself with immediate, short-term conditions; climate is the measure and average of weather over long periods of time.  For an example of someone who doesn’t understand the difference between weather and climate, look no further than a senator who brings a snowball (a weather event) to the floor of the senate to “prove” climate change doesn’t exist.4  Ach du lieber gott in himmel.

Full disclosure:  there are some possible considerations due to a phenomenon called precession (the Earth’s wobble on its axis), our orbit of the Sun, and the fact that the tilt of our axis will cause seasons in the hemispheres to eventually reverse.  But this happens on scales of tens of thousands of years.  You could start making climate change arguments for Sarasota and Sydney if you stuck around for 20,000 years, but that’s outside Wilkow’s bailiwick and lifespan.

Wilkow’s broadcast eventually segues from demonstrable scientific illiteracy to hurricane and other emergency preparedness and, wait for it: shilling for emergency food supplies. Yes, the conservative broadcaster just so happens to run an online emergency food store, and there’s nothing like a good natural disaster to drum up business.6

wilkow uses natural disaster to sell overpriced goods

Why stop at using bad science to refute a natural disaster when you can make a little money at the same time? Fear sells, and Wilkow is a master of the art. (click/enlarge)

It has become all too typical in today’ environment to deny science and back up rhetoric with nonsense such as Wilkow’s (e.g., the oceans aren’t really warming, providing more fuel to make hurricanes more devastating.)  Unfortunately, listeners calling into his show readily agreed with him, despite the annoying reality that the facts don’t.  For example, as we’ve circled the sun time again, century after century, our planet has been warming by 1.3° to 1.6° Fahrenheit, on average, but with the rate nearly doubling since 1975.7,8

Here’s what the climate has been doing as we elliptically orbit the sun these last few hundred years:

global temperatures chart

History of global surface temperatures since 1880, courtesy NOAA.8 (click/enlarge)

There you have it graphically:  climate change is a long-term affair.  After listening to conservative talk radio for several hours on Wednesday, I hope that the love affair with scientific illiteracy, as demonstrated by Andrew Wilkow and those calling into his show, doesn’t also prove to be a long term affair.

The planet just can’t afford it.

Authors note (16 Sep 2018):  this article originally reversed units of temperature regarding the earth-sun distance effect.  The correct values are 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit).  Thanks to astute readers for pointing out the error.

References
(1) The Wilkow Majority (Sirius XM Radio, Patriot Channel)
Excerpt beginning at 6:24 mark, climate change denial
Live Broadcast, 12 Sep 2018, also available via Sirius XM replay

(2) NOAA SciJLinks: What Causes Tides
https://scijinks.gov/tides/
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018

(3) NASA: What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate?
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/noaa-n/climate/climate_weather.html
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018

(4) Senator James Inhofe (Republican) Brings Snowball to Floor (YouTube)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E0a_60PMR8
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018

(5) Bad Astronomy, by Phil Plait
https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Astronomy-Misconceptions-Revealed-Astrology/dp/0471409766/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536935776&sr=8-1&keywords=bad+astronomy+-+philip+plait
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018
Disclaimer:  I am not an Amazon affiliate marketer.  I receive no proceeds from the sales of Amazon products and have no association with the author of the linked book.

(6) Prepare With Wilkow (PreparedWith.com)
https://preparewith.com/wilkow
Warning: Not a reputable/scientifically accurate site
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018

(7) NOAA:  Climate Change: Global Temperature
Authors: Rebecca Lindsey and LuAnn Dahlman
https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature
Retrieved 12 Sep 2018

(8) American Meteorological Society, State of the Climate Report
https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/state-of-the-climate/
Retrieved 12

 

Image Credits
Hurricane Florence cover image ©2018 Mark Alsip, all rights reserved.
Produced with the RadarScope app.

Andrew Wilkow image may be subject to copyright.  Used here in strict accordance with provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Earth/Sun orbit image courtesy NASA/NOAA. Used with kind permission and under provisions that image is in public domain because it was produced by a government agency.

NOAA climate change courtesy NASA/NOOA.  Used with kind permission and under provisions that image is in public domain because it was produced by a government agency.

Josh Axe’s Heavy Metal Toothpaste

josh axe heavy metals alternate toothpaste

Josh Axe brings heavy metal to the stage in an unexpected way with his homemade toothpaste recipe. Unfortunately, he himself calls the mix toxic.

Josh Axe, a chiropractor who fancies himself a doctor and makes a living selling unproven natural remedies for all that ails you, has a particular distaste for heavy metal.  No, not the likes of Metalilica, Iron Maiden, or Black Sabbath.  We’re talking heavy metal in the context of lead, mercury, and, of particular importance to today’s column, aluminum.

Just like the old school conservatives who associate satanic meanings with heavy metal music, Josh Axe seems to see the devil in aluminum, the most common metal in the crust of the planet.  He calls it a toxic poison,1 links it to Alzheimer’s,2 and even demonizes common aluminum foil, tying it to dementia.3

It’s rather shocking then that “Doctor” Axe has published an article in which he recommends an aluminum-based homemade toothpaste:4

“As an alternative to baking soda, you can use white kaolin clay.”–Josh Axe4

You see, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubChem database, you can’t have kaolin without aluminum.  Don’t believe me?  Well, here:5

“Kaolin is the most common mineral of a group of hydrated aluminum silicates, approximately H2Al2Si2O8-H2O.”5 —-PubChem  (emphasis mine)

Here’s a pretty picture of kaolin.  I’ve highlighted the aluminum in yellow:

kaolin josh axe toothpaste

Kaolin, courtesy PubChem. Note the aluminum. When you brush your teeth with Josh Axe’s homemade remedy, this is what you put in your mouth.

 

When will the public catch on and stop buying from this man? I don’t know the answer. But you, dear reader, can help. Spread these stories. Check Axe’s product labels against his own words. I’ve provided the necessary links in the reference section below. Somewhere out there, I imagine a truly ill man or woman considering throwing out their meds and following one of Axe’s nonsensical, hypocritical wellness plans. They’ll be buying the same chemicals he claims will harm them.

Let’s not let that happen.

References
(1) Dangers of Heavy Metals and How to do a Heavy Metal Detox
Warning: Not a scholarly article. Contains false and/or misleading information.
https://draxe.com/heavy-metal-detox/
Retrieved 03 Apr 2018

(2) Five Gross Grilling Mistakes Damaging Your Health
Warning: Not a scholarly article. Contains false and/or misleading information.
https://draxe.com/grilling-mistakes/
Retrieved 03 Apr 2018

(3) Alzheimers Natural Treatment
Warning: Not a scholarly article. Contains false and/or misleading information.
https://draxe.com/alzheimers-natural-treatment/
Retrieved 03 Apr 2018

(4) Six Ways to Naturally Whiten your Teeth (Josh Axe)
Warning: Not a scholarly article. Contains false and/or misleading information.
https://draxe.com/6-ways-to-naturally-whiten-your-teeth/
Retrieved 03 Apr 2018

(5) Pubchem Kaolin Clay (CID 56841936)
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/56841936
Retrieved 03 Apr 2018

Image Credits
Intro image is a parody mashup using a base image of unknown copyright status; I believe ©2018 Wallup. Used here along with a cutout of Josh Axe under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Kaolin structure courtesy PubChem.

Thrive Market’s Little (“Carcinogenic”) Black Rain Cloud

thrive market carcinogens

I’ve been a Winnie the Pooh fan for as long as I can remember.  This isn’t always easy for a fifty-five year old man to admit, but there are a lot of important life lessons that come from this innocent, wise little yellow bear.  I remember the episode and quote that hooked me:

“I’m a little black rain cloud, of course”– W. Pooh, Esq.

 

In the cartoon, Pooh, covered in mud and hanging from a helium balloon, floats happily into the upper branches of a tree, where a honey-laden bee’s nest awaits.  Disguised as a little black rain cloud, Pooh naively sings a happy tune, certain that no one will be the wiser as he prepares to make off with a tasty treasure.  Of course, when Pooh arrives at the nest, the bees see through the plan, and disaster follows.

Pooh’s naiveté is shared by Thrive Market and their Lifestyle & Beauty editor, Dana Poblete, who, in “The 9 Worst Chemicals Hiding In Your Makeup”1 writes that the compound carbon black is a possible carcinogen that “may increase risk of lung disease and cardiovascular disease.”  Like poor Pooh, Poblete’s article disguises a little secret that she and Thrive would rather the bees customers don’t catch onto until Thrive has made away with the honey customers’ hard earned cash.

Yes, unfortunately for Poblete and Thrive Market, there’s a little black rain cloud hanging over their online store.  It’s known as Dead Sea Mineral Soap (Lavender):2

dead sea on thrive market contains carbon black

One With Nature’s Dead Sea Mineral Soap, sold by Thrive Market, contains an additive the vendor links to cancer, lung & heart disease. (click/enlarge)

Remember the carbon black that Dana Poblete and Thrive Market link to cancer?  Unfortunately, just like Pooh’s arrival at the bee’s nest, Thrive’s balloon is burst when we read the ingredients of the above Dead Sea Mineral Soap and compare to Poblete’s list of carcinogenic compounds:1,2

Sodium Palmate (Saponified Palm Oil), Sodium Palm Kernelate (Saponified Palm Kernel Oil), Water (Aqua), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Sodium Chloride (Salt), Glycerin (Vegetable Glycerin), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender Petals), Maris Sal (Dead Sea Salt), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Argania Spinosa (Argan Oil), Carbon Black CI 77266 (Plant Based Pigment), Ultramarine Blue (Mineral Pigment), Citric Acid, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

Yes, carbon black.  In a fear-mongering article written by Poblete and published by Thrive, we’re warned to avoid skin contact with carbon black because:

“[It’s a] Possible carcinogen, may increase risk of lung disease and cardiovascular disease” 1

and

“Your body absorbs 60 percent of what you put on your epidermis” 1

Lather up compadres!

There is, of course, nothing dangerous about the goods sold by Thrive.  The problem is that the vendor and its authors, in conjunction with astroturf “research” groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), engage in a feedback loop that uses EWG-produced materials to fear-monger consumers into buying Thrive products, with a portion of the proceeds going back to fund the astroturf research and organic food industry.4

As an added bonus (?) customers at organic markets such as Thrive pay higher prices for organic products that are have no demonstrable health benefits compared to their conventional counterparts.  Two for the price of three!

Thrive market is loaded with products that contain the very same ingredients that their lifestyle articles claim can kill you.  Type their name into the search box at BadScienceDebunked.com and do a little light reading.

So please: if you’re into the hippy lifestyle, buy a bar of One With Nature Dead Sea Soap in complete confidence. It’s totally safe.  Shower outside in fresh rainwater, aux naturale, with one or more friends and a unicorn.  Carbon black isn’t going to hurt you (though the unicorn might, if the horn gets misplaced during the shower).

Just don’t buy from Thrive Market.

 

References
(1) The 9 Worst Chemicals Hiding In Your Makeup
Warning: Not a scholarly link.  Contains false/misleading information
https://thrivemarket.com/blog/noxious-chemicals-in-makeup
Retrieved 02 Apr 2018

(2) One With Nature Dead Sea Mineral Soap, Lavender
https://thrivemarket.com/p/one-with-nature-dead-sea-mineral-soap-lavender
Retrieved 02 Apr 2018

(3) Thrive’s Plethora of Poisonous Powders (Bad Science Debunked)
https://badsciencedebunked.com/2016/08/25/thrives-plethora-of-poisonous-powders/
Retrieved 02 Apr 2018

(4) The Thrive/EWG Connection (Bad Science Debunked)
https://badsciencedebunked.com/2016/08/23/the-thrive-marketenvironmental-working-group-connection/
Retrieved 02 Apr 2018

Image Credits
Thrive Market screen snapshots, One With Nature product images are used in strict accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Winnie the Pooh cartoon © Walt Disney Corporation. Author assumes/makes no copyright claims by linking to YouTube video. Linked under fair use/parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Winnie the Pooh/Thrive Market mashup intro graphic by the author.  Produced and used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.