This Article Puts Toxicology (and Scotch) into Perspective
One of the biggest struggles in toxicology is creating the correct parameters so you are modeling the real world as closely as possible. It’s an enormous task to model the environment with its millions of factors, so controlled studies are done using animals.
Scientists design experiments that give an animal a lot of something at once and that can tell them ‘this is the threshold where more analysis is a waste of time’ and perhaps also find an effect that may be worth studying in more detail. It’s a time-honored technique but it’s also a technique that can be exploited.
Imagine you read a headline claiming that drinking Scotch was linked to massive brain damage and sudden death. That’s an alarming finding and it’s likely you would stop drinking Scotch due to the precautionary principle, even if you had consumed Scotch safely in the past.
But you would have a much different impression if the first sentence of the article noted that it would take 10,000 shots of Scotch to get that dangerous effect. You would no longer worry about having a Scotch before dinner and would pour a few ounces and start writing Congress asking why scientists wasted all that whisky on rodents who couldn’t possibly have enjoyed it.
Drinking 10,000 shots of Scotch at once is not a real world possibility. Yet beyond the pale of reality is how a large number of toxicology results get portrayed – and the public doesn’t know it unless they read the fine print. Read the full article