Chemophobia and its adherents

One of my favorite posts on Derek Lowe’s In The Pipeline blog is the classic Eight Toxic Foods, in which he eviscerates* a sloppily-thrown together BuzzFeed listicle of additives, dyes, and stabilizers found in processed food. Derek addresses a frequent theme of unaccountable clickbait propagating through social media, chemophobia: an aversion to any substance with a synthetic, complicated name. It’d be a mistake to think Derek is defending brominated vegetable oil or azodicarbonamide, which don’t really mind if you think they’re scary. All chemicals are toxic at certain thresholds, even water. The take home message is don’t be afraid of some chemical simply because you don’t know what it is: find out what it does, how much of it is in the food you eat, and whether that level is OK. Too often we delegate these responsibilities to agents that are not acting in our personal interest.

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Inaugural address

So I’m starting a blog. I’m putting myself, and my writing, out there on the internet for everyone. I’d say it was an epiphany, but it was actually an idea I’ve had bouncing around in my head for years due to my frustration with misinformation, unsupported claims, and undeserved authority springing from many health and nutrition websites. I don’t have all answers but I am confident that I have the tools and desire to learn and, probably most importantly, no particular agenda except that which is supported by evidence.

I committed to this blog idea about 6 months ago, but I didn’t want to jump into my favorite topics and half-ass it. I wanted to read, study, amass a bibliography, collect topic ideas, discuss the idea with friends, and really mentally map out what I wanted it to be. I got a library card, contacted some experts (a few of whom even got back to me!), and sought out papers and documentaries. It was a humbling experience; remember how I mentioned my frustration with misinformation, etc.? There’s also a lot of really good information available in many different subfields. I wish I had more time to devote to studying all of it.

Writing is a passion of mine, so it was almost inevitable I’d do something like this eventually. That eventuality has arrived, and it’s going to be a big challenge for me personally to make frequent updates and make it engaging. But I’m ready.

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