Saturday, July 18, 2015

If you’re going to pick your poison, at least choose the right one

Posted on June 30, 2015 @ the American Council on Science and Health Web Site

The winner in this month’s “I need a chemistry lesson, and fast” award goes to Anthony Dunton of Acworth, Georgia. Hands down.

Dunton was arrested last week for trying to poison a co-worker by putting the weed killer Roundup (glyphosate) into his water.

Let’s just give him mixed grades on this one. Dunton denied trying to kill the man, but, rather, just “mess with him.” In this regard, Dunton actually did a splendid, albeit clearly unintentionally job. “Mess with” is probably not going to be a marvelous defense once this gets to court, and scientifically it makes even less sense.

Why? If you want to pick a poison to put into someone’s water it would be really hard to do a worse job. For this, we can give credit to Dunton’s apparent lack of scientific acumen, which he must have gotten from militant environmental groups, such as EWG and NRDC.

So, how poisonous is glyphosate? If you are a chemist or a toxicologist you already know but if you are an anti-science activist you will be surprised. Acute toxicity of a chemical is measured using a parameter called LD50—the dose at which 50 percent of the animals or humans will die. The higher the number, the less toxic the chemical is. The following table will probably surprise you, and perhaps even relieve you, since, unless you’re a weed.

Basically, there is no way to get enough glyphosate into a glass of water to kill you. LD50 numbers are expressed in mg/kg body weight of the animal/day. So, for a chemical that
has an LD50 of 1000 mg/kg/day in humans (70 kg), the daily dose required to kill half of the people would be 70 grams (2.5 ounces, one teaspoon).

So, how good was Mr. Dunton’s choice of poisons? Just about as bad as humanly possible. Which should be evident from the table below:  Yes, what you are seeing is real. The two “chemicals from hell” are designed  to kill bugs and weeds. And they are safer than just about all the products  you consume every day.

 Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 4.11.21 PM
Yes, what you are seeing is real. The two “chemicals from hell” are designed to kill bugs and weeds. And they are safer than just about all the products you consume every day.

What have worked better instead was an organic pesticide. Like rotenone—one of the insecticides that are “permitted” for use in “organic farming.” If you are buying organic food, there is a good chance rotenone was used to kill the bugs that would have otherwise eaten the crops. Yet, rotenone is 20-40 times more toxic than glyphosate.

So is Anvil—another no-no in the world of pseudoscience. It is so safe that a toxic dose cannot even be reliably established. (Exception: Anvil is toxic to cats. Be extra careful that they don’t consume it).

So why did he choose so poorly? Judging by the marketing efforts of their political science majors, environmental groups are just as misguided. If you want to poison someone, glyphosate is a terrible choice because it would have taken about 350 grams (three quarters of a pound) to (maybe) do the job. That wouldn’t even fit into the water bottle.

If anyone can make even the slightest bit of sense out of this, please speak up. And, you should also send Mr. Dunton a note. After all, if you’re in the mood to poison someone, you might as well do it properly. It would have taken about 350 grams (three quarters of a pound) to (maybe) do the job. Wouldn’t even fit into the water bottle he tried to poison.

Mr. Dunton is not the only one who needs a chemistry lesson. Our dear friends over at NRDC and EWG ought to sign up as well. Worse still, they portray themselves as scientists. And, we wonder if Dunton got his “information” from these guys, because that would be the ultimate irony.

According to EWG: “Glyphosate is spreading like a cancer across the U.S.”  And the NRDC thinks that banning glyphosate is going to “save the whales.”  Nope. Not kidding.

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