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Toxins lead to healthier lives? ^ | Saturday, January 3, 2003 | John Pike

Posted on 01/03/2004 6:43:01 AM PST by JohnHuang2

By John Pike
© 2004 Insight/News World Communications Inc.

Hormesis, the scientific theory that humans actually need small amounts of poison in their diets, could be the most important environmental event of the 21st century if proved valid. Billions of dollars could be saved in environmental cleanup costs, say researchers, while at the same time improving the health of all organisms, including humans.

But at first examination, hormesis appears kooky. The knee-jerk reaction is to reject this phenomenon as pseudoscience or propaganda by polluters, and a few uninformed observers have done just that.

But hormesis is a possible, if not highly probable, iconoclastic notion, first postulated either in the 16th century or the 1880s but gaining flattering attention within the last decade.

According to the theory, a little arsenic, dioxin or radiation peppered on the spaghetti sauce may be just what we require to live long and healthy lives. And since humans need more toxins in our environment than allowed under current government regulations, so the theory goes, future efforts to clean up the environment could be greatly reduced.

The idea is that poisons such as arsenic are, of course, poisonous – that is, if one ingests too much they will produce sickness or death. But arsenic and other toxins in very low doses, below an amount deemed harmful, repeatedly have been shown to benefit the functions of organs, the optimal growth of the organism or longevity.

According to scientists who favor this theory, when the human body, or cell, becomes stressed or damaged by a small amount of poison, it not only repairs the damage but overcompensates and becomes stronger than it was. The phenomenon is similar to exercise; by jogging or lifting weights, one may stretch and exhaust the muscle tissue, which causes soreness. But later the muscle not only repairs itself but overcompensates and improves to the point where one can lift more weight or run longer and faster.

Chon Shoaf, a scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, at Research Triangle Park, N.C., says recent work on hormesis "is revolutionary and we want people to be aware of it. It has the potential to generate substantial savings."

The persons most responsible for conceptualizing and exalting this pioneering research since the 1990s, and who may flip EPA policy upside down to the benefit of taxpayers and every organism down to the last menacing insect, is Edward Calabrese, 56, a toxicology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and his longtime assistant Linda Baldwin. He has been described as "one of the leading toxicologists in the country." Speaking to Insight in his messy office, whose floor for the last three years has featured what appears to be the largest malfunctioning air conditioner ever seen on planet Earth, Calabrese explains his breakthrough research. These are ideas, ironically, that were generated not by an elite Massachusetts university with posh paraphernalia on the banks of the Charles River, but rather from the "70 to 80 hours weekly" this scientist toils at his lunch-pail university that the elitists sometimes refer to as "Zoo Mass."

"I believe there is not a single chemical that does not" exhibit patterns of hormesis, Calabrese says. It is a general response that is shown with mercury, lead, components of cigarette smoke, cadmium, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and "everything that is regulated by the EPA."

One example is the first time Calabrese witnessed hormesis as an undergraduate student at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts in 1966. He had been assigned to retard the growth of peppermint plants with high doses of a growth-retardant chemical. Not only did the plants not die, they grew taller than normal – a result, Calabrese says, that comes from mistakenly treating the plants with what proved to be too little growth-retardant.

The policy implication for this work, if proved valid, is stratospheric. It means the EPA could permit higher concentrations of so-called toxins in the environment, actually encouraging healthier lives and simultaneously saving money by not cleaning "toxic" sites. After all, the EPA now assumes the optimal level for a vast majority of carcinogens is zero parts per billion – in other words, none at all.

What makes the work of Calabrese and Baldwin especially credible as these things go is that their research is not uniquely their own, but an analysis of thousands of toxicology studies done by others the world over.

"We evaluated about 21,000 cases, using 2 percent on which the data were most complete," Calabrese says. "Of those 2 percent, 40 percent showed hormesis." Most toxicology studies are not helpful in analyzing for hormesis because the doses of toxins used are too high since researchers are studying a poison's threshold of lethality and not its potential beneficial properties. According to Calabrese, "The model showing hormesis has a huge amount of data, more than any other competing model. This is so overwhelmingly convincing I do not think anyone rational could deny that hormesis exists."

That said, another reason scientists are taking the work of Calabrese so seriously is the environmental cleanup and expense implications of work he has done in the past. At one point his studies drew the wrath of the chemical industry, the same circle now delighting in his conclusions on hormesis.

This Massachusetts scientist was in fact the primary proponent of the "single-exposure carcinogen theory," which says that humans sometimes can contract cancer with just one exposure to a carcinogen, a theory with the potential to add millions to the cost of chemical manufacturing.

It also was virtually his testimony alone in the 1990s that forced the government to spend millions of additional dollars cleaning a toxic site in Colorado to a much higher standard than previously expected, and contrary to the testimony of others and at least one irate newspaper.

"I am nonideological," Calabrese says. "But my work on hormesis is a little like President [Richard] Nixon going to China."

Calabrese is the first to say more research needs to be done "before we start handing out radiation pills," though some researchers seem more cautious. Nonetheless, this reporter was unable to find any toxicologist who substantially disagreed with Calabrese's work on hormesis, including officials at the Sierra Club, a prominent environmental advocacy group.

At the same time, "There are trade-offs in hormesis that we cannot forget about," warns Michael Davis, an EPA scientist also in North Carolina. "I do not believe all organisms share the same mechanical basis of hormesis. I see it as a variety of things." Thus, each poison must be evaluated separately because each particular toxin may affect different parts of an organism differently.

For example, a toxin at low doses may help a person grow taller, but also damage his liver. Another difficulty is the possibility that a particular poison at a certain dose may help one individual, yet hurt another.

"But I am not ruling out that hormesis could have significant EPA policy implications," says Davis.

According to Calabrese, hormesis also has an ugly side for some drugs prescribed by physicians. It means some pharmaceuticals that might cure a sickness at high doses could hurt at low doses. "The effects flip," he says. "So I want my doctor to know about hormesis, though unfortunately most are unaware of it."

One who apparently did not know about hormesis, or at least whose office refused to respond to repeated messages about it, was recently resigned EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who would not comment even on the work of her own people on this matter.

"The EPA does not want the American people to become cognizant of good environmental news, or potential savings in environmental cleanup, because in part they view the agency as a jobs program," says a scientist who often engages the EPA. "If the American people realize the environment is getting cleaner and healthier, they might seek to cut the funding of the EPA because much of its purpose has been accomplished. They seem to be afraid of losing their jobs."

Although properties of hormesis have been documented for many years, Calabrese says there are several reasons why it took the scientific community so long to examine hormesis and his research about it seriously. The EPA controls a large part of the funding, and therefore how the research is conducted, he says. Since the government is interested in saving lives, the research it funds in this area is almost always to study a toxin's lethal effect, as opposed to its beneficial side, so the research is not generated.

In addition, the beneficial effects of a poison tend to be less dramatic than its deadly results, he says, so it is less noticeable. It may benefit a plant in small amounts by only 30 percent, but in larger doses its pernicious effect may be a factor of 10 times. Scientists also often will see a benefit of only 1 percent of the time in a study because most of the research involves much higher doses, and "they blow it off," according to Calabrese.

"They think it is a freak thing. They have to learn to think out[side] of the box," he says.

But thanks in part to Calabrese and Baldwin, that box now has been broken wide open and good news is spilling all over the ground. It is a toxic spill with which we all can learn to live.

TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: environment; epa; health; hormesis; johnpike; michaeldobbs; poison; pufflist; toxins
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To: Dr.Deth
"I tend to agree with your assessment. Most of the younger people I meet get ghastly allergic to anything and everything under the sun. A consequence of too much protection from things in the world when kids are young, I postulate."

go HERE and read a short article about "homegrown vaccines."

61 posted on 01/03/2004 1:01:02 PM PST by redhead (Les Français sont des singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage.)
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To: Mears
"Just read your post about your sister-in-law. What a way to live! She will drive herself and her kids crazy if she doesn't lighten up. Too much use of anti bacterials are proving to be harmful."

I thought I read somewhere that they are beginning to realize that all these germicides being overused so constantly is becoming a problem, and people are being sensitized to the chemicals used to kill the bacteria.

62 posted on 01/03/2004 1:05:33 PM PST by redhead (Les Français sont des singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage.)
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To: dalereed
...including DDT which I love the smell of and i've smoked since I was 11.

*chuckle* I read this as you smoked DDT since age 11. I was impressed. ;-)

63 posted on 01/03/2004 1:08:57 PM PST by Rightwing Conspiratr1
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To: redhead
I thought I read somewhere that they are beginning to realize that all these germicides being overused so constantly is becoming a problem, and people are being sensitized to the chemicals used to kill the bacteria.

I worked with a young fellow who was always sick, and was rather obsessed with germs and what not. Turns out he was constantly on prescription drugs like penecillin. He was diagnosed with a full-body yeast infection.

My son was constantly sick as a baby, and the doctor kept prescribing amoxycillin for anything and everything he said he had. I pressured my wife to switch doctors and not take the kid in every time he sniffled. After going through a bout of something without medical assistance the kid never got sick as frequently again.

64 posted on 01/03/2004 1:17:24 PM PST by Rightwing Conspiratr1
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To: Burn24
What am I allergic to? Heat?

You and I are in the same boat, except I heat with wood in a big wood furnace in the basement with an oil furnace for back-up. I, too, sneeze at times. I used to have a humidifier but ran out of room for it.

That seemed to help. I also keep the filters in both furnace changed often. They get really filthy. Especially the wood furnace one.

I think it's because we are inside a closed house and the dry heat the furnaces put out plays hell with our sinuses. It's horrible, I know. I am just now getting over a terrible sinus infection.

And if anyone has ever had one of those, they know the pain and misery they cause.

I never had sinus problems until we moved into this house and started heating with oil and wood. Before we moved to Maine, we had central heating. EVERYWHERE. oh well.

65 posted on 01/03/2004 1:22:27 PM PST by SheLion (Curiosity killed the cat BUT satisfaction brought her back!!!)
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To: JohnHuang2
When my sister was 5 she used to try to eat gravel.
66 posted on 01/03/2004 1:35:20 PM PST by Old Professer
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To: KarlInOhio
That would make a great logo for an Ice-Vodka (Tete Rouge)
67 posted on 01/03/2004 1:37:57 PM PST by Old Professer
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To: dalereed
How do you smoke DDT? Hickory or Mesquite?
68 posted on 01/03/2004 1:39:10 PM PST by Old Professer
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To: SheLion
Thanks for your reply. I also have a humidifier, and an air cleaner, but the only thing that helps is being outdoors (not too practical in January) or standing in the shower. I guess it's just the lack of moisture in the air, even with the humidifier.

I've even snorted water for some relief!
69 posted on 01/03/2004 1:46:58 PM PST by Burn24
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To: Burn24
Oh! I forgot about those! I, too, have several HEPA air cleaners in all the rooms downstairs and one upstairs. Still doesn't do any good. This wood heat is very dirty. I have to dust everyday, so can you imagine the air I am breathing?

Then, in the summer, with the windows open, I am breathing in the clouds of pesticide that the farmers put on the fields. I have three fields around my house. Wonder how I am still alive. hehe!

70 posted on 01/03/2004 1:53:54 PM PST by SheLion (Curiosity killed the cat BUT satisfaction brought her back!!!)
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To: JohnHuang2
Here's one for you guys....I didn't start smoking till I was 25, I had my first baby at 18, and my husband was a non-smoker also. I went thru broncial asthma (?) with this child till he was old enough to decide he was going to smoke himself, he was turned down on enlistment because of the lung problems. Now he is 30 and enlisting this week for the army, asthma went away when he took up smoking and now he can enlist...rofl. Its all BS and nothing more than a money grab, people have gotten so paranoid and stupid its ridiculous.
The seat belt law drives me insane, I went to jail for 24 hrs. instead of paying the fine which the judge reducted it from 108.00 to 15.00, I still wouldn't pay. If everyone did that instead of just mailing a check in and tied up the court system, that little law wouldn't last long either.
No one is willing to fight anymore, they keep chinking away at our freedoms on a day to day basis, all in the name of safety and concern. WAKE UP AMERICA before its to late.
71 posted on 01/03/2004 2:09:12 PM PST by BriarBey
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To: Burn24
What am I allergic to? Heat? need more moisture in the air. Summers are more humid and keep your nose from drying and cracking inside, go buy a humidifier or when its really hurting, put a pan of water on the stove, bring it to a boil, throw a towel over your head with the pan and breath the steam. It will make it feel better. I'm sure your nose looks like the cracked desert on the
72 posted on 01/03/2004 2:13:35 PM PST by BriarBey
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To: Old Professer
When my sister was 5 she used to try to eat gravel.

Let me she has teeth and gum problems and poops mortar mix......roflmao.
73 posted on 01/03/2004 2:17:28 PM PST by BriarBey
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To: JohnHuang2
Look at it from a Darwinian perspective: we're adapted to a dirty environment. Cave people, hunter-gatherers, early farmers were considerably dirtier than we are. There have only been a few cultures that even bathed regularly (Greece, Rome, Japan, some American Indians), or had anything apporoaching modern public hygeine.

It's only been the last 150 or so years that there has even been a germ theory of disease - before then, cleanliness was an aesthetic (or in some cases ritualistic) mattter.

Also, if things like eating dirt were *really* bad, they'd have been selected out a long time ago.

I'm surprised no-ones quoted Nietzsche:

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

74 posted on 01/03/2004 2:55:49 PM PST by Virginia-American
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To: SheLion; Burn24
Dry heat will do it everytime.

I was always miserable with the forced air heat we had in Delaware, I always kept a window open and pans of water on top of the floor vents for some moisture. And that was natural gas.

Now we have the opposite problem. We have an oil fired furnace but it fuels a baseboard hot water heating system. There is too much moisture in the house so we wound up with mold and all of us were sick for more than a month before we found and eradicated the major source of the mold. We are also firing up the wood stove a little more often in order to dry things out.

My husband and I spent the 3 days after Christmas smelling like clorox and lysol but by Monday we all felt better than we had since before Thanksgiving. And yesterday he spent the day pulling up the old vinyl tiles from the bathroom floor. We've got an electric space heater going in there right now trying to get the sub floor fully dried so that we can put in ceramic tile.

I'm clean - but I'm not a fanatic such as an earlier post described an SIL. One of my daughter's favorite past times is creating mud puddles and making mud pies!!!! She is rarely sick, and even when she does get sick, she's over it within a day or two.
75 posted on 01/03/2004 5:09:36 PM PST by Gabz (smoke gnatzies - small minds buzzing in your business -swat'em)
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To: Gabz
"a baseboard hot water heating system."

I'm glad you solved your mold problem.

You know, it might be worth it for me to move to a place that had hot water heating - it beats having your nose hurt five months a year. Any other drawbacks (besides the mold)?
76 posted on 01/03/2004 5:19:46 PM PST by Burn24
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To: Burn24
There really are no drawbacks to it, at all. It keeps moisture in the air and is very effecient. The heat is not what caused the mold, although it didn't help in getting rid of it. I'm sorry if I gave that impression

Where we live there is a very high humidity factor and we've had a horrendous amount of rain since September, nothing is drying and the ground is thoroughly saturated.

There was a tremendous amount of mold build up on the outside of the house and my husband went through 4 gallons of bleach getting rid of it. It actually looks like he put a new coat of paint on it. So between the exterior mold, the high humidity, all the rain, the dampness under the vinyl tile in the bathroom and the hot water heating system - we had a major problem.

Actually there is one drawback to this type of heating system - you most likely would have to buy a much older house or have one custom built. Our house was built in 1945 but the heating system was installed later - it's an old farmhouse that used to beheated with a woodstove. I think the baseboard hot water systems became popular in the early 60s.
77 posted on 01/03/2004 5:38:05 PM PST by Gabz (smoke gnatzies - small minds buzzing in your business -swat'em)
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To: Gabz
OK. Thanks for the tips.
78 posted on 01/03/2004 5:42:18 PM PST by Burn24
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To: Burn24
Always happy to help out a fellow FReeper. I would never have survived the ordeal of moving if it wasn't for my FReeper "family" aso I try to return the favor whenever possible!!!!
79 posted on 01/03/2004 6:20:37 PM PST by Gabz (smoke gnatzies - small minds buzzing in your business -swat'em)
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To: JohnHuang2
From Woody Allen's classic film Sleeper:

"Has he asked for anything special?"
"For breakfast, he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger's milk."

"Ahh, yes, yes, back then people thought of such things as charmed substances that contained life-preserving properties."

"You mean there was no deep fat, no steak, or hot fudge?"

"Oh, no, those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true."



Later, Miles/Woody watches Diane Keaton's character light up a cigarette for medicinal purposes and moans:

"How could we have been so wrong? Everybody knew fat and caffeine were toxic substances!"

"Miles, everybody knows that the only things that have kept mankind alive are coffee, cigarettes, and red meat!"
80 posted on 01/03/2004 6:27:27 PM PST by InvisibleChurch (Want ad: What is the best stamp collecting site?)
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