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Sander Greenland, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, was cited in a Bloomberg opinion piece about the risks and benefits of antibacterial products, GMO foods and nonstick coatings.
So much news, so little time! Science sometimes makes headlines and even more often gives us a different way of thinking about the stories of the week. I’d like to delve into a few timely topics in a sort of lightning round:
Germ Phobia Vs. Chemical Phobia
Advertising campaigns and a few well-meaning journalists for years persuaded Americans that our homes, offices and bodies are teeming with bacteria and therefore, to be safe, we should use lots of antibacterial chemicals. Now we have growing evidence that triclosan — one of the main antibacterials chemicals incorporated into soaps, cosmetics, cookware, yoga mats and other sporting equipment, mouthwash, and toothpaste — is unsafe as well. In animal experiments it is implicated in gut inflammation, colon cancer and hormone disruption.
There’s only one rational way out of this bind: to think about safety not as a black or white issue, but to consider risk-benefit ratios. After a conversation on this with epidemiologist Sander Greenland of UCLA, I started noticing that news coverage rarely considers risk this way. It’s all focused on whether this or that substance is “safe.”