Chemophobia

Americans love to sue people.

Each year, we file about 5,800 lawsuits per 100,000 people. To put that figure into context, America's lawsuit rate is higher than Canada (by 4 times), Australia (3.8x), Japan (3.3x), France (2.4x), and the UK (1.6x). We're a lawsuit-happy nation.

What do we sue over? Well, anything really. A former judge sued a dry cleaner for $54 million over a missing pair of pants. Although he lost the lawsuit, the financial hardship and stress of being sued caused the dry cleaners to close the store. Simply put,...

Two weeks ago, we reported on a bizarre decision by the online news arm of the journal Science: The outlet had reprinted an article from a politically slanted environmentalist website that hyped concern over a particular chemical. The article fell quite short of the high standards we associate with the journal.

Now, Live Science has done something similar, but it's far worse. Normally a reliable source of information (and an outlet with which ACSH has a reprinting agreement), Live Science published an article that is a dream for anti-pesticide and anti-chemical fearmongers.

The...

Everything is about racism these days. From politics to sports, somebody, somewhere, wants you to feel bad because something might be racist.

This uniquely American tendency to assign racism where none exists has struck again in yet another bizarre way: Celebrity chef David Chang says that Americans are racist toward Chinese food.

Before we (dumpster) dive into this peculiar accusation, let's first pause to ask whether it might even remotely be true. Consider McDonald's and Starbucks. Nothing is more American than cheap fast food and fancy, overpriced coffee. There are just over 14,000 McDonald's restaurants and just under...

It's often helpful for journalists who do not have specialized knowledge of complex scientific topics to write about them anyway, because if they can understand them and figure out how to communicate them, they can perform a tremendous public service. However, if journalists don't take the time to understand complex topics and get the very basics wrong, they do the public a massive disservice and end up looking like buffoons.

Which brings us to veteran New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who studied law and fancies himself an expert in chemistry and toxicology. Chemists and toxicologists disagree.

His latest diatribe -- which was easily and thoroughly debunked by my...

NYT's Nicholas Kristof sure knows how to live harder, not smarter. He's been avoiding chemicals and living clean — as he puts it — for several years. And yet, the results from an at-home detox kit that tested his urine for chemical exposure came back less than stellar. 

I am a prophet.

Last year, I wrote an article titled, "Panera Bread Takes A Page From 'Food Babe's' Playbook." The Food Babe is the unscientific guru who says that we shouldn't eat food that contains ingredients that we can't pronounce.

The bogus "clean food" movement has seized upon that idea, and soon after joining the bandwagon, Panera Bread launched an advertising campaign mocking chemistry.

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Mothers have always been put upon culturally when it comes to how kids turn out. The physical costs of gestation are literally borne by mothers while fathers are basically done at conception, so moms have all of that on their shoulders. (1) And then there are the psychological aspects.

Given the importance of women in creating the next generation, everyone felt they had a say in telling expectant moms what to do. We once advised pregnant mothers not only to abstain from participating in sports but even abstain from watching sports. The excitement would be too much for the baby, women were told. Doctors also told women not to put their arms over their heads or the umbilical cord might get wrapped around the baby's neck. In the 1800's women bought...

Sometimes my job is just too easy. This is one of those times.

Even though I continuously call out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for its use of underhanded chemical fear tactics, I am nothing if not polite. Ask my mother. (Uh, never mind. Bad idea.) 

So I need to thank the group for putting its fundraising letter on a batting tee for me. EWG just made my life a little easier by publishing what is essentially the "Cliff Notes" of phony chemical scares. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the letter will probably work, since groups like EWG and NRDC are masters of keeping the loot rolling in by making sure that people are perpetually scared. Nice gig.

Let's take a look at what EWG is putting out there in an attempt to scare people into donating to them,...

Vani Hari, the infamous "Food Babe" who says that we shouldn't eat anything that we can't pronounce, has a new emulator: Panera Bread.

It pains me to write this article because I love Panera Bread. They know me by my name at the restaurant at which I typically eat. However, their management and marketing team have decided that mocking science is the best way to sell food, and this loyal customer is going to fight back.

A few years ago, Panera launched a "clean food" campaign. That sounds innocent, but the implication is clear: Our food is clean, and their food is dirty. Scaring people about the safety of our food supply is a dishonest tactic...

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) uses an authoritative sounding name to peddle scientific half-truths and outright fabrications. Along with Greenpeace and PETA, it is beloved by activists but detested by scientists.

Several years ago, George Mason University surveyed 937 members of the Society of Toxicology, an association of professional toxicologists. Nearly 4 out of 5 (79%) of those responding said that EWG -- as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) -- overstate the health risks of chemicals.

Despite this vote of no confidence in EWG by the scientific...