Eclipse Blinds Pets! (And Other Bad Science)

pool closed due to eclipse

The road to Science Hell is paved with good intentions.

As I anxiously await my ninth total eclipse of the sun here in Western Kentucky, I was shocked to see that the swimming pool would be closed during the event in the interest of public safety. Is our resort afraid people will lose their way in the darkness and fall in & drown, or has a viral Internet rumor been spreading that looking at an eclipse while immersed in water will cause blindness?

Egad.

Bad science abounds around eclipse time.  From people locking children indoors for “protection”, to religious leaders predicting the end of the world is nigh, something about losing the sun for a few minutes brings out the daft among us.

Knowing that I’m an eclipse buff, some well-meaning coworkers at the office passed along the following semi-viral internet meme, warning of the dire consequences of not locking your pets inside during the “Great American Eclipse” of August 21:

eclipse will not cause pet blindness

Bad eclipse science runs rampant on social media (click/enlarge)

Pets going blind because of the eclipse?  No.  Just no.

If you aren’t in the path of totality, staring at the partially eclipsed sun is going to be just as painful and counterintuitive for your cat/dog/guppy as it would be for you. Even with 99% of the sun blocked by the moon, as it will be near my home town of Lexington, KY, the sun will be far too bright to look at with the naked eye. So why, pray tell, would Whiskers and Fido suddenly feel the urge to stare intently at the sun and fry their retinas like bacon?

Answer: they won’t. The only odd behavior you might notice from a pet during this eclipse would be if you happen to own a critter that routinely feeds or beds down at sunset. Animals sometimes get tricked into thinking that the eclipse signals nightfall. Bessie the Cow might head for the trough, Trigger the Horse might head for the barn, but if you plan on putting either in the house to protect them from the eclipse, you’re wasting your time (and risking severe carpet damage).

The only animals who need to worry about protecting their eyes during this eclipse are humans. We know something special is happening, so we tend to do something unnatural and stare at the sun. Proper eye protection is de rigeur in this case during the partial phases of the eclipse.

Fido and the other pets will have no clue what’s going on, and will happily go about their business–unless some Facebook addict ruins their day by locking them in the house.

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Ena Valikov’s Monsanto Fact Checking Leaves Much To Be Desired

California veterinarian Ena Valikov is an outspoken anti-GMO crusader.  If you’ve ever clashed with her on social media before (I have), it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Valikov often commits the argument from authority logical fallacy, falsely implying she’s a medical doctor while doling out her opinions on GMOs and vaccines. A common reply to any factual challenge to Valikov’s claims is “post your medical degree or shut up”:

Typical Valikov debating technique (spelling error hers)

Typical Valikov debating technique (spelling error hers)

Veterinarians undergo rigorous training and often display excellent scientific literacy.  I hope that my attacking Valikov’s howling errors in this blog will not be taken as a slur against vets in general.  I have the highest respect for what this group of professionals does.  What sticks in my craw is a member of that profession misrepresenting her expertise, making unscientific statements under the guise of a medical doctor, and trying to shut down discussion via the argument from authority fallacy.  This is particularly dangerous when she commits a sin common to the anti-GMO unwashed: not checking their sources.

Your honor, I’d like to submit the following Valikov Facebook post into evidence:1

ena valikov gmo claim

Always check your sources. (click/enlarge)

I’m almost embarrassed for Ena.  Rule #1 for sharing anything on the internet: check the source:

valikov vet

World News Daily Report is a well known fake news/satire web site.  They tell you so themselves:2,3,4

“All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.” 1–World News Daily Report

 

For your entertainment pleasure (and in case there’s any doubt about Valikov’s research skills), recent WNDR headlines include:

  • Flock of Man-Eating Butterflies Kills Dozens in Malaysia
  • Star Wars Episode VII: Disney to Cut All “Sexually Implicit” Scenes Between Chewbacca and C3P0
  • “I fell pregnant during an alien abduction” claims Michigan woman
  • Woman Falls Pregnant After Cavity Search, Blames ‘Dirty Gloves’
  • Dead cow brought back to life by lightning bolt

Given the wonderful imagination of J.J. Abrams, I have to I was a little disappointed to realize #2 was fiction.

The danger is that someone like Valikov is misrepresenting her expertise and making ridiculous claims about GMOs–and an unsuspecting bystander might believe her.

Witnesseth a comment on Ena’s Monsanto post:

valikov reader falls for it

And there you go.  Another anti-Monsanto zombie is now wandering the streets, warning his friends about genetically modified bees.  Because a “doctor” told him so.

And, Ms. Valikov, before you get your panties in a wad, let me head you off at the pass and warn you that the following WNDR story on Monsanto is a fake:

another fake story from world news daily report

Before you start protesting Ena, it’s a fake story…

 

Edit History
(23 Nov 2015)  A kind reader pointed out that the original version of this story could be seen as an attack on the training and scientific literacy of veterinarians.  Upon re-reading it, I agree.  My intent was to comment solely on Ms. Valikov’s misrepresentation of herself as a human medical doctor and her well-known propensity to demand anyone debating her either post a medical degree or “shut up”.  I’ve reworded the relevant section and offer an apology to any vets who may have been offended.

Image Credits
Ena Valikov and World News Daily Report 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.

References
(1) Ena Valikov on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/ena.valikov?fref=ts

(3) World News Daily Report Disclaimer
http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/disclaimer/

(3) Nine Worst Fake News Sites
http://factually.gizmodo.com/the-9-worst-fake-news-sites-1681729157

(4) Guide to Fake News Sites
http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/Fake-News/tp/A-Guide-to-Fake-News-Websites.01.htm

Naturally Nicole’s Tooth Powder Debunked

naturally nicole tooth powder open sky

Naturally Nicole’s tooth powder contains a “toxic” compound–according to her!

“Naturally Nicole” is a rather belligerent snake oil saleswoman operating a “natural” online store from GodKnowsWhere, USA.  After a flood of emails from readers asking me to have a look into her product line, I couldn’t resist starting a series on her wares.  She’s not very well known, but it was this response from Nicole to one of her critics that tipped the scales:

naturally nicole tooth powder cavities

Naturally Nicole doesn’t take kindly to criticism.  (click/enlarge)

I despise censorship and ad hom attacks combined with bad science.  So, Nicole, welcome to my blog.  Let’s have a look at some of the products you’re selling!

This week it’ll be Nicole’s “all natural tooth powder”.  Before we look at the ingredients, it’s time for the ominous foreshadowing that regular readers of Bad Science Debunked have come to expect.  We’ll  pick a “toxic” ingredient Nicole hates and hope against hope we don’t find it in any of her products (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Writing on deodorants, Nicole tells us:1

“[…] some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells. Because estrogen can promote the growth of both cancer and non-cancer breast cells, some scientists have suggested that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer.  This is NOT okay with me.“–NaturallyNicole  (emphasis mine)

 

So, watch out for aluminum compounds.  Got it?  Good!

Alright then, time to peek at the ingredients in Nicole’s tooth powder:2

naturally nicole bentonite open sky tooth powder

Bentonite Clay?   Cue horror story music.   (click/enlarge)

Bentonite clay?  I’m having flashbacks to high school geology and chemistry classes, where we learned that aluminum was the most common metal in the crust of the earth and a ubiquitous component of clay/bentonite.

Suddenly, I have a bad, bad feeling about what we’re going to find in Nicole’s tooth powder.  Take a look at the molecular structure of sodium bentonite, for example: 3

Sodium bentonite. Note the aluminum. (click/enlarge)

Sodium bentonite. Note the aluminum.   Courtesy USNLM PubChem.  (click/enlarge)

 

Oh dear.  In case it doesn’t jump right out at you, I highlighted the compounded aluminum.

“Ack!  Phhht!”-Bill the Cat, Bloom County

Geologists point out there are several forms of bentonite, but aluminum is a common element in each–and even Nicole agrees:   You can read her entire chemical “thesis” here.2  If you want to save yourself from a lot of hand waving, her argument is that:

  1. aluminum compounds in products Nicole sells are stable and safe
  2. aluminum compounds in products not sold by Nicole are toxic and cancerous

Yeah, right.

In all honesty, you’re in no danger from any of these products.  If you remember your high school chemistry, aluminum is highly reactive, “loves” to bind to other elements, and is readily processed by the bodies of healthy individuals (e.g. those without kidney disease).  The chemical properties of this element are precisely why it’s so “stable” as Nicole argues in her hand-waving, and it’s just as stable in the products she’s trying to scare you away from.  The difference in Nicole’s aluminum and everyone else’s?  She’s earning money from the former.  End of story.

Next week I’ll be looking at what Nicole calls “evidence based proof” (WTF?)  that her Elderberry Flu Syrup is more effective than the flu vaccine.  Stay tuned!

 

References
(1) Do You Smell Funny?
http://naturallynicolexo.com/do-i-smell-funny-my-body-utopia-natural-deodorant-review-coupon-code/

(2) Naturally Nicole’s Remineralizing Tooth Powder
https://www.opensky.com/madewithscrub/product/naturally-nicole-s-re-mineralizing-tooth-powder

(3) U.S. National Library of Medicine PubChem Compound Summary #7294614 (Sodium Bentonite)
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/72941614

Image Credits
Naturally Nicole product screen captures 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.

USNLM PubChem Sodium Bentonite molecular structure image used in 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, and increase public health knowledge.

(VIDEO) Banned by Food Babe: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

“Thanks for calling out the troll. I’ll make sure to get him”
–Vani Hari, when asked why she’s selling products containing the dyes Yellow 5 and Blue 1

 

I, Mark Alsip, am the troll referred to in Vani Hari’s quote (above). We had an interesting encounter yesterday on Periscope.  After being encouraged to ask questions, I very politely and respectfully queried Hari on three products she’s selling. I wanted to know why certain of her wares contain nearly a dozen different chemicals she’s specifically called out as “toxic”.

If you’re already aware of Vani’s tactics, you probably won’t be surprised I was banned instantly.  However, for those in the Food Babe Army (or the media) who don’t believe that Hari censors all dissenting comment and immediately bans those who point out her gaffes, presented below are video, screen captures, links to Food Babe’s product labels (with ingredient lists), and more, to back up the claims I made on Periscope.

Food Babe, who encourages followers to “read the ingredients” and mercilessly hound companies such as Subway and Kellogg’s via social media and petitions, does not apply the same standards to herself. She says “the sky is falling” and then tries to sell you a piece of the same sky. And, as demonstrated here, she’s apparently terrified of an honest discussion of the products she offers via her web site.

 

Three Products, Three Points
I politely called out Vani on three points, listed below and illustrated in the screen captures that follow. Follow the hyperlinks for product labels and information on the items sold by Food Babe:

Three Screen Captures

image

In an article warning us to avoid aluminum-based deodorants, Vani sells Naturally Fresh deodorant, which contains aluminum. Food Babe falsely links aluminum to Alzheimer’s. (click/enlarge)

image

Vani’s Tarte Lip Stains contain Yellow #5 and Blue #1, which she claims to be toxic in numerous articles. Her product also contains 3 “endocrine disruptors” she’s warned about, saccharine (she links to cancer), and aluminum. (click/enlarge)

image

Vani disparages salad dressings containing canola oil because of “poisonous” erucic acid from rapeseed. However, she sells two salad dressings that contain erucic acid. (click/enlarge)

 

The Video
Here’s a glimpse at what happens when you ask Food Babe honest questions (running time 1:07):
Update: On September 24 Vani Hari tried to silence my criticism by filing a harassing copyright infringement claim on YouTube. She’s apparently unfamiliar with fair use law. While I remind her, you can launch the video in a new window by clicking the image below. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Temporary Video Location (if YouTube non-functional)

YouTube Video (in litigation)

Image Credits
All Periscope video and screen captures 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.

References
Food Babe Slams Kraft Over Three Dyes But Sells Same
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/food-babe-slams-kraft-over-three-dyes-but-sells-same/

Food Babe Pushing “Dangerous” Items: Naturally Fresh Deodorant
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/food-babe-pushing-dangerous-items-naturally-fresh-deodorant/

Food Babe Selling Erucic Acid (Salad Dressing Article)
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/food-babe-selling-erucic-acid-gasp/

Food Babe General Mills Meme Refutation

Vani Hari, Queen of Hypocrisy, published a meme yesterday asking why General Mills donated $1.1 million to fight mandatory GMO labeling, when they “could have fed 350,000 low income children in Minnesota instead”.1

Vani, how do you feel about your affiliate, Dr. Bronner, donating nearly twice that amount ($1.8 million) to support the labeling?2

Food Babe, who sells Dr. Bronner products in her online store, missed something

Food Babe, who sells Dr. Bronner products in her online store, somehow missed the fact he donated nearly twice General Mills’ amount to fight for unnecessary labeling. (click/enlarge)

Here’s Food Babe’s original meme.  You do the math.  If GM could have fed 350,000 low income kids for $1.1 million, how many children could she and Bronner fed with their $1.8 million?

vani hari General Mills meme

Vani Hari slams General Mills for a smaller donation than her affiliate company made in the same battle. 2     (click/enlarge)

 

Why doesn’t Food Babe criticize Dr. Bronner?  Let’s take a peek at her online store and see if we can find any clues.3

food babe dr bronner

Food Babe (Vani Hari) is smart enough not to bite the hand that feeds her. (click/enlarge)

 

Image Credits
Food Babe and Dr. Bronner screen captures used in 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.

References
(1) Food Babe Meme
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodbabe/posts/1051534388214605:0

(2) Dr. Bronner’s Donation
http://votersedge.org/washington/ballot-measures/2013/november/i-522/funding?jurisdictions=28%2C26%2C28-upper-wa&city=Redmond&state=WA&utm_source=VE-WA-GMO%20Labeling&utm_campaign=VE-WA-I522&utm_medium=email#.VgFqe865WOg

(3) Food Babe Online Store
http://foodbabe.com/shop/for-your-beauty/

In Support of Food Hunk

http://www.gmofreeusa.org/take-action/boycott-scotts-gmo-grass-campaign/Master debunker/satirist The Food Hunk is running a fun contest this week.  It seems that the pseudoscientists over at GMO Free USA have gone all hypocritical, sending out a cease and desist warning over his legal use of their logo in his debunking efforts.  The contest is a simple parody design game.

Apparently, the GMO Free USA organization isn’t familiar with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law, which makes their logo fair game in the way it’s being used by bloggers such as Food Hunk and myself.   I’d be happy to explain the law to them, or have my attorneys do it for me.  But before I point out the hypocrisy behind GMO Free’s protest, here’s my contest entry:

gmo fact free USAIf you’re not familiar with GMO Free USA, suffice to say they’re a major supporter of the organic food industry, which raked in a record 39 billion dollars in revenue last year.1  My logo parody, GMO Fact Free USA, is inspired by the organization’s use of fear tactics and lack of science to drive consumers away from safe, affordable food–and toward products pushed by woomeisters (and GMO Free USA supporters) such as Food Babe2,3 and Dr. Joseph Mercola.4,5

The fear mongers I’m criticizing here don’t rely on facts in pushing their agendas, and/or they blatantly cherry pick and misrepresent facts to distort the truth.  Thus, “GMO Fact Free USA” is born.

It’s ironic how often GMO Fact Free USA and their allies do exactly what’s got their panties in such a wad: using logos of those they’re criticizing in their writing.  The fact is, this is entirely legal.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll leave you with around “six thousand” examples of hypocrisy from the Fact Free woo pushers among us.  You can click any image to enlarge.

gmo free usa hypocrisy

Methinks the pseudoscientists doth protest too much.  Count the copyrighted logos in this GMO Free USA ad campaign.6   (click/enlarge)

gmo usa scott boycott

Scotts didn’t protest GMO Free USA’s use of their logo, for good reason: it’s perfectly legal in this context. 7  (click/enlarge)

 

food babe logo use

Food Babe, who supports organizations such as GMO Free USA, isn’t shy about legally using other corporate logos.8   (click/enlarge)

 

food babe starbucks logo

More (GMO Free USA supporter) Food Babe corporate logo use. 9    (click/enlarge)

 

mercola aspartame

GMO Free USA fan Joseph Mercola isn’t shy about using a corporate logo when it suits his interests.10 (click/enlarge)

mercola soft drinks

More  from GMO Free USA supporter Mercola.10 (click/enlarge)

 

Revision History
22 Sep 2015: Added missing hyperlink to Scott’s boycott call

 

Image Credits
GMO Free USA logo/parody is used in 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.

Food Babe and Mercola.com screen snapshots are used in 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.

 

References
(1) Organic Trade Association
https://www.ota.com/resources/market-analysis

(2) The Shocking Difference Between Organic and non-GMO Labels (Food Babe)
http://foodbabe.com/2015/02/26/difference-between-organic-non-gmo-labels/

(3) Food Babe/GMO Free USA (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodbabe/posts/677407585643763

(4) Mercola/GMO Free USA (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/GMOFreeUSA/posts/576109129096221

(5) Mercola/GMO Free USA (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/GMOFreeUSA/posts/453971277984167

(6) GMO Free USA Boycott Call: Kellogg’s
http://www.gmofreeusa.org/take-action/boycott-kelloggs-campaign/boycotts-kelloggs-consumers/

(7) GMO Free USA Boycott Call: Scott’s
http://www.gmofreeusa.org/take-action/boycott-scotts-gmo-grass-campaign/

(8) Food Babe: Cereal
http://foodbabe.com/cereal/

(9) Food Babe: Starbucks
http://foodbabe.com/2014/09/02/drink-starbucks-wake-up-and-smell-the-chemicals/

(10) Mercola: Aspartame
http://aspartame.mercola.com/

Dr. Mark Hyman’s Cellulose Hypocrisy

Catching pseudoscientific doctors in the act of demonizing ingredients while simultaneously selling the same to their blissfully unaware followers is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

This week we’re back with Dr. Mark Hyman, MD., and another offering from his world class online “Wellness Shop”.  First, of course, we must have the setup: here’s Dr. Hyman weighing in on the common food/supplement additive cellulose:1

Mark Hyman doesn't like cellulose

Mark Hyman doesn’t like cellulose. He doesn’t even understand what it is. (click/enlarge)

Calling cellulose “sawdust” is a scare tactic (and one that’s going to really bite the doctor hard a few paragraphs from now).  Cellulose is simply an organic compound that makes up most of the cell walls of plants (including trees).

Hyman isn’t a big fan of cellulose, listing it as one of the additives to avoid in his article “Health Foods That are Dangerous For Your Health.” 2  (It probably isn’t coincidental that he’s closely affiliated with Vani Hari, who also claims cellulose is dangerous, but let’s stick to Hyman for now.)

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s time to point our browser outward and experience the Mark Hyman Shopping Experience.(Patent Pending)  Let’s have a look at the Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra product being sold on his web site:3

Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra

Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra as seen in the Mark Hyman Wellness Shop.

The list of ingredients on Hyman’s shopping page ends with something that might seem a bit cryptic if you haven’t studied biology:

plant fiber = cellulose

“Hypoallergenic plant fiber”?  Why would Hyman’s web site list the additive this way.  Why, that’s another name for cellulose!

Hypoallergenic plant fiber?”  Excuse me, but that sounds like cellulose!

Not wanting to falsely accuse Hyman, I contacted the manufacturer (Pure Encapsulations) and received this reply:

“Dear Mr. Alsip,

Yes, the hypo-allergenic plant fiber is cellulose derived from pine.  I have attached an information sheet here with this spelled out (also available on our website).”–email from Pure Encapsulations Product Support, 21 Aug 2015 (emphasis mine)

The email went on to explain that the company wasn’t trying to hide anything.  And they certainly weren’t.  Their own web site clearly explains that the “plant fiber” is indeed cellulose.5  The detailed PDF they were kind enough to send explicitly states this.  Hyman clearly edited the word out for his shopping page.  Why?  I can only guess it’s because he has demonized cellulose in his Facebook and blog posts.  If you’re making money from a product, you don’t want people to to think it’s dangerous, right?

pure encapsulations cellulose hyman

Unedited (original) product data from Pure Encapsulations web site (click/enlarge)

I need to stop here and point out how helpful the folks at Pure Encapsulations have been in answering my questions about their products.  They seem as perplexed as I am as to why anyone would have a problem with cellulose.  I hope that Mark Hyman’s hypocrisy and creative editing of ingredients won’t reflect negatively on this company which, to the best of my knowledge, has a sterling safety record and is well regarded by its many clients.

The claimed health benefits of this product have not been evaluated by the FDA, but there’s certainly nothing dangerous about it.  If you want to buy supplements such as this, have at it… just don’t buy from DrHyman.com.

 

References
(1) Hyman demonizes cellulose on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/drmarkhyman/posts/645782292119190

(2) Health Foods That Are Dangerous For Your Health (Hyman)
http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/07/04/health-foods-that-are-dangerous-for-your-health/

(3) Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra on Mark Hyman’s Online Store
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/Enzymes/861/Digestive-Enzymes-Ultra-180-ct

(4) Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra Ingredients List
http://www.pureencapsulations.com/products/digestive-enzymes-ultra.html

Image Credits
Mark Hyman, Facebook, and Pure Encapsulations screen snapshots are used in 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.