2007-12-06

 

Spinning in my grave

As someone who likes his information unadulterated, I am often annoyed by news reporting, political rhetoric and spin in general.

Two nights ago I was listening to The Review on CBC radio, which featured a segment on plasticizers from the The Current earlier that day.

Like most "in-depth" reporting, it was not. It was primarily about presenting one side of a story and making it as sensational as possible. Of course, it helps to bring in some experts from McGill University.

There were two things about the report that really annoyed me because the information was disingenuously presented.

The first was about how not much research has been done on the biodegradation of plasticizers. Ok, then we should do more research. A group from McGill did an experiment in which they put microbes into a container with plasticizer and watched what happened. As expected, the organism broke down the plasticizer, but then, (oh, shock!) they discovered the microbes were dying from compounds the plasticizer had been broken down to.

This is no surprise. The by-products of the microbes metabolizing the plasticizer are waste. Waste is excreted by the organism because it serves no purpose and is likely toxic. Consequently as the food supply dwindles and the waste products (toxins) increase, it is no surprise to see the organisms dying.

This happens with fermentation. The yeast will stop fermenting once the alcohol content reaches about 17% because the alcohol (metabolic waste product) is toxic to the yeast and inhibits its growth.

Something similar would happen with humans. Put a bunch of people into a sealed room and study what happens to them as they consume oxygen (tentatively determined to be beneficial to humans). After a few hours, you would notice that the room is filled with carbon dioxide (what we convert the oxygen to) which is toxic to humans. Would we then conclude that while oxygen is safe, what we metabolize it to is not? Consequently, we should eliminate oxygen because the metabolized by-product is toxic?

The second gripe came from the hormone like mimicry (notably oestrogen) of plasticizers. A study done down river showed that up to a third of male fish (of a particular species) were exhibiting female characteristics, which may be caused by the use of plastics. I have a simpler answer - oral contraceptives. A lot of the oestrogen and progestin consumed by women is simply peed out. I think this is a much more likely source of oestrogen like compounds than looking at plastics. Unfortunately, it is not politically correct to question oral contraceptive use and effects - unless it shows in a positive light.

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Comments:
As you just proved in your post, one can twist information whichever way they like without abusing it. The answers you provided are logical, but when was the last time that the media used common sense and logic while providing us with everyday information?
 
carra: it is not just the media. People seem less interested in truth than in spin. When I took my freelancing course, the professor (a practicing journalist), told me that my story ideas read more like encyclopedia entries than "news" stories of interest to people. Facts are great, but it is the spin that sells. I am quite capable of spin, but ... it goes against my belief in Truth, since honesty and integrity is not about presenting just one side favourably, and ignoring or trivializing the other sides (there are usually more than just two sides to anything).
 
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