Category Archive: Public Policy

Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

Yesterday, a California court decided that coffee served in the state must come with a cancer warning. As it turns out, the venti-sized scare doesn’t have much grounds in science. A law called Proposition 65 is responsible for requiring the cancer warnings. Prop 65 requires any business with 10 or more employees that sells products in California to warn their customers about the presence of close to 900 chemicals “known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.” For coffee, that chemical is acrylamide. Brewed coffee contains anywhere from 3 to 13 parts per billion of acrylamide, a...

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Major Papers Start to Agree: California’s Environmental Law Is A Disaster

This week, a Bloomberg news story opened with this curious note: “If you happen to buy a cup of coffee in California and it comes with a cancer warning, don’t panic -- it’s just the law.” That law, Proposition 65, has been the bane of California businesses for over 30 years. It requires warnings on products and places which may expose consumers to chemicals “known to the state of California” to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. Trouble is, California apparently “knows” more than the EPA, FDA, NIH, and the litany of toxicologists who study harmful substances for a living. The state labels items as...

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Child Fire Safety Goes Up In Flames with Government Ban

This morning, the Consumer Product Safety Commission decided on a party-line vote to ban organohalogen flame retardants from children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics. Surely it would make sense to ban them if every organohalogen flame retardant (try saying that five times fast) were more dangerous than the fires they prevent. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not the case. But first, what are “organohalogen flame retardants” anyway? Their name is pretty revealing - they’re a class of organic compounds that contain a halogen molecule (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine) attached to a carbon atom, and they prevent the spread of fires. Materials...

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How Do Solar Eclipse Glasses Work? Chemistry. 

In just a few hours, Americans will witness the first total solar eclipse to touch coast-to-coast in almost 100 years. If reactions to past galactic news are any indication, for a brief few days, interest in science and technology will spike. After all, how often does the average person find themselves wondering how NASA calculates the path of an eclipse years in advance, or what makes solar eclipse sunglasses so darn special? (Spoiler: many lenses reduce the intensity of visible light and UV rays using black polymer, a flexible resin infused with carbon particles. Score 1 for chemistry.) But it shouldn’t take a once-in-a-century event...

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Beat Unnecessary Warnings with…More Warnings?

Last week, a Los Angeles Times article posed the question: “Adding Roundup to Prop. 65 list is a victory, but will Californians heed the warning?” Adding Roundup, the popular weed killer powered by glyphosate, may have been a win for internet activists, but it was by no means a win for science. Government studies evaluating the entire body of well-performed research into glyphosate’s safety have unanimously concluded that the substance is not harmful to human health, and especially not at the levels which people are actually exposed to. After “an exhaustive process,” the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found glyphosate was unlikely to...

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PETA Wants the U.S to Stop Funding Animal Research. Should We?

The animal activist group, PETA, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging our country to stop funding medically important animal research. PETA attempted to pin one of the biggest issues in modern research – the fact that many experiments can’t be replicated – solely on the fact that we look to animals to guide scientific knowledge. HHS threw some major shade in its response to the group, casually name-dropping fifteen “critical discoveries” in human medicine that all originated from animal research. Certainly, not every species serves as an appropriate model for medical research. For example, the gender of many reptiles,...

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Court Rules: Scientific Evidence is No Good in Europe

Yesterday, the European Union’s highest court ruled in favor of allowing lawsuits that allege vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even if zero scientific evidence suggests a link between the two. Understandably, the scientific community is outraged, calling the decision “illogical and confusing to the public." By the court’s reasoning, if a previously healthy individual with no family history of a disease were to exhibit symptoms of a disease in a timely manner after receiving a vaccine, it’s proof enough that the vaccine was its cause. Similarly, there is no scientific evidence to show that reading as a child causes blindness, or...

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Europe’s At It Again

Last week, a committee with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), disregarded decades of human health data when it concluded that inhaled titanium dioxide should be classified as a carcinogen. We’ve blogged about titanium dioxide in the past. The mineral is one of the most refractive substances known to man, and scatters visible light even better than diamond. This makes titanium dioxide appear bright white, even when only small amounts are present. Consequently, people use titanium dioxide to lend bright whiteness and UV protection to everything from iPhones to paints and sunscreens. It’s one of only two physical (also called “natural”) broad-spectrum UV blockers approved...

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Science Politicization is a Hot Topic

Earlier this month, our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Joseph Perrone, was asked to offer his thoughts on the politicization of science. The topic stands to influence far more than any election, as Dr. Perrone noted in an earlier opinion piece published in The Washington Examiner. If any one side of the aisle claims a stranglehold on “science,” its authority as an impartial determinant is thrown by the wayside. You can read excerpts from Dr. Perrone’s interview below, or on the Fox News website. “The left can eschew industry-funded research supporting the safety of consumer products because it fits their narrative that ‘Big...

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Keep Marching for Science

This weekend, science advocates in over 500 cities celebrated Earth Day by taking to the streets to March for Science. Emerging from the comfort of our laboratories might be a good thing. Despite the fact that Pew Research surveys show Americans invest a high degree of trust in scientists – far more than the news, elected officials, or even community leaders – 83 percent of Americans cannot name a single living scientist. (A few recognizable names for your personal reference: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, James Watson, Richard Dawkins.) Americans appreciate “science” in the abstract, yet common chemistries and technologies have whipped many parents and hasty health reporters into a fear-filled...

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