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Mutat Res. 2000 Jan 17;447(1):3-13.

Paracelsus to parascience: the environmental cancer distraction.

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  • 1Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences Center, University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. bnames@mendel.berkeley.edu

Abstract

Entering a new millennium seems a good time to challenge some old ideas, which in our view are implausible, have little supportive evidence, and might best be left behind. In this essay, we summarize a decade of work, raising four issues that involve toxicology, nutrition, public health, and government regulatory policy. (a) Paracelsus or parascience: the dose (trace) makes the poison. Half of all chemicals, whether natural or synthetic, are positive in high-dose rodent cancer tests. These results are unlikely to be relevant at the low doses of human exposure. (b) Even Rachel Carson was made of chemicals: natural vs. synthetic chemicals. Human exposure to naturally occurring rodent carcinogens is ubiquitous, and dwarfs the general public's exposure to synthetic rodent carcinogens. (c) Errors of omission: micronutrient inadequacy is genotoxic. The major causes of cancer (other than smoking) do not involve exogenous carcinogenic chemicals: dietary imbalances, hormonal factors, infection and inflammation, and genetic factors. Insufficiency of many micronutrients, which appears to mimic radiation, is a preventable source of DNA damage. (d) Damage by distraction: regulating low hypothetical risks. Putting huge amounts of money into minuscule hypothetical risks damages public health by diverting resources and distracting the public from major risks.

PMID:
10686303
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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