By Joe Schwarcz

This unique exam of daily technology from the fanciful to the genuine covers issues starting from insecticides and environmental estrogens to lipsticks and garlic. Readers are alerted to the shenanigans of quacks and are provided glimpses into the attention-grabbing historical past of technology. The technological know-how of aphrodisiacs, DDT, bottled waters, supplements, barbiturates, plastic wraps, and smoked meat is investigated. concerns approximately acrylamide, preservatives, and waxed culmination are positioned into viewpoint, and the mysteries of bulletproof vests, weight-loss diets, green-haired Swedes, guffawing fuel, and "mad honey" are unraveled. Even people with little or no wisdom of technology will come away proficient and overjoyed at these funny and obtainable motives.

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Extra info for The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life

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It was a chemical that was produced on a massive scale, including at the Tower Chemical Company on the shores of Lake Apopka. When Lou Guillette followed up on his hypothesis that something in the lake was affecting alligator hormones, he discovered that in 1980 a waste pond at the Tower Company had overflowed and DDT had been discharged into the water. There wa the smoking gun! But Guillette still had to match the bullet to the weapon. Analysis of the alligators' tissues showed the presence of DDT as well as its breakdown product, DDE.

So it is with pesticides. While there are safe ways to use these chemicals, there can be no universal guarantee of safety. Remember, pesticides are designed to kill their targets, be they insects, weeds, or fungi. The best we can do is evaluate — 39 — T H E FLY I N T H E O I N T M E N T the risk-benefit ratio of each substance and make appropriate judgments. In Canada, such judgments are made by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Before a pesticide can be registered for use, the agency's toxicologists, physicians, chemists, and agronomists have to be convinced that the substance in question can effectively handle the problem it was designed to solve and that its risk profile is acceptable.

Most people had never heard of PFOA until 20/20 focused on it. Highlighting the case of an unfortunate young man born with one nostril and a deformed eye, the piece noted that his mother had worked in Teflon production while pregnant and inferred that exposure to PFOA was responsible for his defects. Birth defects are not uncommon and it is unscientific to make such a link without more evidence. The program also went on to describe how heating Teflon to temperatures above 290°C (554°F) can cause the release of fumes that are toxic to birds and can cause a reversible "polymer fume fever" in humans.

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