He says researchers, above all, need to “do good science” when researching nanosilver. But is he really a proponent of “good science”? Or is he all-too willing to sacrifice good science at the altar of compromise?
Hi, Steve Barwick here, for www.TheSilverEdge.com...
In this news article a scientist named Dr. Robert MacCuspie, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, appears on the surface to be taking a rational approach to research into the supposed “toxicity” of antimicrobial nanosilver in relation to its use in consumer products.
According to the article, Dr. MacCuspie is admonishing his fellow nanosilver researchers to “do good science.”
But what’s most interesting to me is that Dr. MacCuspie specifically admits the fact that some research to date has been “hypothesis testing,” which he describes as studies in which “massive amounts” of nanosilver are used in laboratory environments to “explore the worst-case scenario.”
I propose, however, that this type of testing should be called “researcher bias demonstrations” rather than “hypothesis testing.”
Why? Because to date we’ve seen far too many examples in which the researchers – usually environmentalists by profession -- all too often start out with the preconceived bias that nanosilver is so toxic to humans, animals and the environment it needs to be eliminated from commercial products altogether.
These researchers then set the parameters of their laboratory experiments to such artificially high levels that their preconceived bias of nanosilver “toxicity” cannot help but be “proven.”
The Infamous Fathead Minnow Study
For example, in my article Silver Is Toxic to Fathead Minnows I discuss the study conducted by environmental researchers at Purdue University, in which they claim to have demonstrated conclusively that silver nanoparticles are “toxic” fish.
This research was clearly done to “prove” the oft-stated environmentalist contention that if silver nanoparticles are allowed to make their way into the environment, an ecological catastrophe of immense proportions will ensue.
Indeed, the Purdue researchers, in my opinion, were so determined to prove their preconceived biases against nanosilver they appear to have abandoned all sense of scientific propriety in the course of conducting their study.
Not only did these researchers continue to add silver nanoparticles to an artificial laboratory habitat full of poor little fathead minnows (a common test fish) until reaching excessively high levels that would virtually never be seen in real-world conditions…
…but they also sonicated the solution so that the nanosilver stayed suspended in the water where the poor little minnows would be exposed to it every second of the day, 24 hours a day.
In real-world conditions, nanosilver tends to fall to the bottom of watery environments such as rivers, lakes and streams, where it becomes bound to sulfur and other minerals, losing its “nano” characteristics in the process, and essentially becoming inert.
This is why, for example, the lakes and streams around Colorado’s silver-mining districts are literally teaming with fish and other wildlife – from tiny microscopic critters to tiny minnows to trophy trout -- in spite of the high trace mineral silver content of these bodies of water.
And it’s why the oceans of the world are also literally teaming with fish, wildlife and microflora, in spite of the fact there’s millions of tons of trace mineral silver content in them.
But the Purdue researchers didn’t attempt to duplicate real-world conditions. Not at all. Indeed, they appear to have purposely created artificial conditions that could only “prove” their preconceived bias of nanosilver toxicity.
Naturally, the bias of the researchers against nanosilver were borne out in the study results. And thus were borne screaming news headlines “Nanosilver Found to Be Toxic to Fish” that were flashed around the world via the internet after the study results were released.
And of course, anti-silver environmentalist groups then touted the study as proof positive that all commercial products containing nanosilver need to be immediately pulled from the market in order to “save the environment.”
Is Milk Toxic to Fathead Minnows?
But as I point out in my article, the researchers could have conducted the same experiment using common minerals like iron, or copper or even calcium or salt. Indeed, they could have used rather innocuous substances like sugar, milk, grape juice or virtually ANY substance. And guess what? They’d have gotten the same results as long as they allowed their bias to control the study parameters.
For example, had they added milk to the laboratory minnow habitat until the little minnows croaked from fat deposits in their gills, would you have seen screaming headlines saying “Milk Found to Be Toxic to Fish”?
And would you have had environmentalist groups touting the milk study as “proof” that all commercial products containing milk need to be pulled from the market immediately in case the substance ever “makes its way into the environment”?
Naturally, such a ruse wouldn’t have worked because people are intimately familiar with milk, and would see through the deception immediately. They would know the “research” was nothing more than sensationalistic junk science designed to justify a researcher’s particular bias against milk.
Taking Advantage of Public Ignorance
But unfortunately, the public is largely ignorant of antimicrobial nanosilver. And therefore many people are easily misled on the subject by highly biased anti-silver activists.
Indeed, nanosilver is all-too-often described in breathless, emotion-laden terms by the environmentalist researchers as a “brand new untested substance” with “unknown qualities” that’s being “engineered using nanotechnology” (oh, my!) and is “thought to be highly toxic” even while it’s being “indiscriminately introduced into hundreds of commercial products.”
But what most people don’t realize is that nanosilver has been used commercially for over 120 years in swimming pools, aquariums, and public drinking water systems.
It’s even been used for decades on cruise ships and ocean liners to disinfect drinking water.
And it’s used for decades as a disinfectant in many areas of the world where clean public drinking water is unavailable.
Heck, it’s even been used on the Space Shuttle.
What’s more, recent research demonstrates that nature makes its own nanosilver on a regular basis, and is indeed earth’s most prolific producer of silver nanoparticles.
So in reality, we’ve been exposed to nanosilver in varying degrees throughout the millennia! Yet to date all of this exposure to nanosilver has not resulted in a single environmental or public health crisis, or even the slightest of problems, for that matter. (See study, 120 Years of Nanosilver History: Implications for Policy Makers.)
But that doesn’t seem to stop obviously biased researchers from conducting studies purposely designed from the outset to “prove” the supposed toxicity of nanosilver.
And when these biased studies are combined with overblown rhetoric from the anti-silver environmentalist crowd, and plastered all over the internet by a compliant news media more intent on delivering sensationalistic headlines rather than real news, the nanosilver detractors are able to frighten the public into believing nanosilver is the modern-day equivalent of nuclear radiation or asbestos.
The reality, of course, is quite the opposite. For over 120 years nanosilver has had one of the best toxicological profiles of all substances used in commercial products. As Keith Moeller of American Biotech Labs has pointed out, nanosilver is so innocuous compared to common consumer products like laundry bleach, even huge spills don’t have to be reported:
“A chlorine-type cleaning product (found for open purchase on store shelves right now) has a toxic spill rating of about three gallons, meaning that a spill of three gallons or more must be reported to the EPA and handled by HAZMAT authorities.
In comparison, American Biotech Labs’ 32 ppm nano-silver product has a toxic spill rating of 12,500,000 gallons. An oil tanker will hold about a million gallons, which means that 12.5 oil tankers full of the ASAP nano silver disinfectant would have to spill their entire loads of the product together to be deemed a toxic event to the environment.”
Agenda-Driven (Junk) Science
In short, researchers who start out with a particular bias tend to tilt their study parameters to support that bias. It’s called agenda-driven (junk) science, and it’s rampant.
As I’ve pointed out time and time again, there’s not a single substance on the face of the earth that you can’t demonstrate to be “toxic” at some excessive level of contact or intake.
As Paracelsus, a physician living over 400 years ago who is often referred to as the "Grandfather of Pharmacology,” wisely observed, “The dose is the poison.”
In other words, a little bit of a certain substance might be very beneficial to consumers, but too much can be potentially deadly. This is true of sugar, salt, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs…hey…even water is toxic at a certain level of intake (it’s called “drowning”).
But we don’t regulate them all into oblivion. Some of them we trust the public to self-regulate. And others with more egregious toxic characteristics – such as pharmaceutical drugs -- we regulate by conducting (hopefully) unbiased research that helps establish reasonable parameters of use or contact, and then enforcing those parameters for the public good.
Science once understood this. But the agenda-driven anti-silver crowd has cast this wisdom aside in favor of the mantra that silver toxicity at any level in unacceptable, no matter how unlikely it would ever be encountered in real-world conditions. And the very real antimicrobial benefits to consumers from exposure to reasonable levels of nanosilver be damned!
Most people simply don’t realize the unethical and unscientific lengths some researchers will go to in order to justify their own internal bias – including conducting studies that use artificially high levels of an otherwise innocuous substance (like nanosilver) and then claiming this as proof the substance needs to be banned from commercial use altogether.
Following the Script
If researchers were intent on finding out how much nanosilver is “too much,” so that the public could be protected from excessive levels, they’d get no argument from me.
But the reality is, in too many cases the researchers are intent on following a scripted agenda to a pre-conceived conclusion. And of course that pre-conceived conclusion is banning the use of nanosilver in commercial products.
If you’ve been watching, you’ve seen this kind of bias time and time again. Real science is often thrown out the window in favor of agenda-driven junk science.
For example, the recent study demonstrating no harm to trout from nanosilver exposure was discarded by the environmentalists in favor of the highly biased “study” conducted in an artificial laboratory environment demonstrating significant harm to fathead minnows from nanosilver exposure.
The bottom line is that the anti-silver environmentalist camp frequently cherry-picks only those studies that match their anti-silver bias, and casts aside any study that doesn’t.
You might also remember, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency scientist who was recently fired from his job (well, “asked to resign”) after being caught on video tape urging his fellow environmentalists to help “crucify” the oil companies.
That same biased mentality dominates too much of the environmentalist research into nanosilver today. Almost all of it is of the hysterical, agenda-driven, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it variety.
For example, check out the delirious research described in this article which supposedly demonstrates nanosilver is “killing the planet” by triggering “climate change.” You’ll see what I mean. The charges against nanosilver by the anti-silver environmentalists are often bordering on the insane.
Stuck in the Middle With You…
As I pointed out earlier, Dr. MacCuspie casually refers to this kind of junk science research as “hypothesis testing” and says it’s designed to determine “worst case scenarios.”
I propose, if he truly wants to “do good science” as he admonishes other researchers, he needs to start with the admission that much of the “hypothesis testing” to date has been hysterical, agenda-driven nonsense, and should be discarded altogether.
In the news article, Dr. MacCuspie goes on to state that “hypothesis testing” of nanosilver needs to be balanced with “testing that’s aimed at simulating real-world conditions.”
I couldn’t agree more with doing testing that simulates real-world conditions. And I applaud Dr. MacCuspie for this contention.
But why in the world should bona-fide, unbiased real-world studies on nanosilver be “balanced” against the overblown “hypothesis testing” that so readily gives way to biased conclusions and sensationalistic headlines designed to deceive and frighten the general public?
Dr. MacCuspie, however, states that “…we’re really trying to do our best to meet in the middle.”
Really? Meet in the middle? I think that’s a pseudo-scientific copout of immense proportions at best, and a grave public disservice, at worst. You don’t compromise real-world science with junk science by saying “Let’s meet somewhere in the middle.”
Instead, you should toss the junk science “hypothesis testing” studies into the East River, conduct the real-world studies, and come to some honest, unbiased conclusions that truly balance consumer safety against the benefits of using antimicrobial silver in consumer products.
Benefit and Protect the Public
In that light, I have to give Dr. MacCuspie kudos for stating that understanding the potential risk of a product consists of “basically balancing the toxicity of a substance against the level of exposure.”
Absolutely! That’s crucial to understanding how much nanosilver should be used in a given commercial product so that the desired antimicrobial benefits are achieved without later risk to the consumer or the environment.
The article about Dr. MacCuspie concludes by saying, “If policymakers within federal agencies see 20 papers saying nanosilver is toxic, and 20 papers saying it’s not, they’re left with a muddle.”
Indeed. But if these policy makers would grow a set of cajones and do their jobs by throwing out the nanosilver studies that were nothing more than sensationalistic junk science disguised as “hypothesis testing”…
…and only consider the studies based on real-world conditions that were conducted without bias against nanosilver…then the environmental regulators could make sane policy that would both benefit and protect the public.
It’s my contention that allowing the use of nanosilver in consumer products at levels that demonstrate antimicrobial benefit without harm to the public health or the environment should be the only real goal of current and future research.
The widespread public use of nanosilver for the past 120 years has not caused any significant environmental or public health concerns. So research that’s clearly been designed to demonstrate a need to ban the use of nanosilver in consumer products should simply be filed in the “Journal of Ludicrous Conclusions” and ignored.
Yours for the safe, sane and responsible use of colloidal silver,
Steve Barwick, author
The Ultimate Colloidal Silver Manual
The Ultimate Colloidal Silver Manual
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