Category Archive: Sensationalist Journalism

Does ibuprofen make you infertile?

Millions of Americans utilize ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Motrin and Advil) to relieve pain from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, and reduce fevers. But the question of its effect on male fertility circulated in the media early this year after a study found that men taking the maximum recommended dose of ibuprofen developed a hormonal imbalance. With evidence demonstrating that overall sperm counts are on the decline in Western countries (although reported levels are still above normal), male infertility is having its time in the spotlight, and no potential cause is off limits. So what about ibuprofen? For this study, only 14...

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Do Cellphones Cause Cancer?

Earlier this month, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released preliminary data from two long-term studies on cellphones and cancer. The studies found that after exposing rodents to the highest levels of radiofrequency radiation (the same kind emitted by cellphones), some male rats – but no females, and no mice of either sex – developed tumors in the nervous tissue around the heart. Interestingly, rats with the highest exposure also tended to live longer. So what do the results mean? Do cell phones make us live longer? Or do they cause cancer? The research looked at more than 3,000 rats and mice exposed to...

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Fertility Problems? Don’t Blame Your Yoga Mat.

A recent study from the from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was the first to find an association between a group of chemicals called organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) and the number of successful fertilizations, implantations, pregnancies, and live births among women receiving in vitro fertilization. Most of us (we’re talking 90 to 100 percent) regularly encounter PFRs because they’re used to prevent fires in tech gadgets and furniture. PFRs were developed to replace polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), an earlier type of flame retardant that manufacturers began phasing out in the early 2000s after studies indicated they may be having an...

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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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Back-to-School Shopping? Here’s How You Can Keep Your Kids Healthy And Safe.

Parents can hardly search for the best back-to-school deals without being bombarded by news reports and blog posts about “highly toxic chemicals” in school supplies. It doesn’t get much better at the store either, with many brands marketing their products as free from harmful chemicals. That means the other backpacks, markers and lunchboxes are full them, right? Wrong. We’re going to clue you in on a secret: these claims don’t mean much, because the products were safe to begin with. Consider one scare tactic by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, which makes waves every year telling concerned parents to avoid backpacks, binders, notebooks and art supplies...

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Grab Some Coffee and Perk Up to Sensationalized Science

One day it seems that coffee will kill you, while the next it's hailed as the key to a long life. So what gives? In an article published in RealClearScience, our chief science officer, Dr. Joseph Perrone, explains why poor scientific methodology accepted by groups like the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) makes it incredibly difficult for the average reader to pick good science from pseudoscience. Interestingly enough, the latest back-and-forth around coffee also comes from IARC. Four of the coffee study’s authors, including lead researcher Dr. Marc Gunter, are current IARC scientists. Just like claims that someone’s lifelong medical history can be...

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Is Coffee the Fountain Of Youth You’ve Been Looking For?

A “landmark” study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine discovered the fountain of youth tastes a lot like freshly brewed coffee. After examining the diets of more than 500,000 Europeans over roughly 16 years, researchers found that increased coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes. (Cue the flood of headlines claiming “Coffee drinking could lead to longer life.”) Not so fast, sensationalist journalism. Just like claims that someone’s lifelong medical history can be sidestepped with an extra morning brew, this evaluation should be taken with a grain of salt – or perhaps in this case, sugar. Although researchers followed hundreds of...

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Grocery Stores Still Carry Cans Containing BPA – Should You Be Worried?

Few chemicals get as bad a reputation as bisphenol A, or BPA. Just this week, headlines pushed by a new report from activist group Center for Environmental Health warned that “Canned food still contains toxin BPA.” Toxin? Hardly. Most metal cans are lined with a thin interior coating that contains BPA in order to protect them from corrosion, thereby preventing dissolved metals and deadly bacteria from contaminating your food. Speaking of bacteria, one particularly deadly bug, called Clostridium botulinum makes itself very happy living in improperly canned foods. The bacteria produces an actual neurotoxin that causes muscle failure, impaired vision, breathing problems, vomiting, paralysis, and in some cases, death. It’s without...

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Is America’s Sperm Crippled by Chemicals?

Following the lead of a New York Times article, numerous headlines have emerged blaming endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as the source of an emerging male fertility crisis. As the narrative goes, modern chemicals that improve the functionality and safety of plastics, cosmetics, and furniture are damaging sperm development, reducing our ability to procreate, and calling into question the future of the human species. Let’s take a deep breath. The jury is still out on whether sperm quality is declining at all. A BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) debate identified several major problems comparing sperm count between studies, because “data collected in different...

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The Age of Atrocious Articles

We’ve always believed hastily penned health news contributes to Americans’ prolonged misunderstanding of science. But it’s often difficult to convey to a lay audience exactly why sleeping with onions in your socks can’t cure the common cold when such messages proliferate online. But every so often, critics of modern health journalism strike pay dirt in the “I-told-you-so” department. In reporting “Bisphenol-A Linked to Endocrine Disorders in Pets, Humans,” CBS’s St. Louis affiliate not only perpetuated misconceptions that BPA, a component of can linings which prevents spoilage and contamination, is a danger to human health, but managed to do so in a near-unintelligible fashion. A quick excerpt:  “More importantly, we...

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