Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

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Preventable Death in Washington

This week, Sam, Mike, Becky and Eileen talk with Dr. Hall, the Skepdoc, about immunization and the pertussis epidemic in areas of Washington State.

Harriet A. Hall, MD, is a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon. She writes about medicine, so-called complementary and alternative medicine, science, quackery, and critical thinking. She’s an editor and one of the 5 MD founders of the Science-Based Medicine blog, and is a contributor to Skeptic magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, and the Quackwatch website.


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Yes Sam, the difference between ethylmercury and methylmecury is much like the difference between ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, and methanol, or methyl alcohol, in fact exactly the same difference, though I suppose the difference in metabolism between ethylmercury and methylmercury is not the same as the difference in metabolism between ethanol and methanol. As far as I’m aware, ethyl- and methylmercury don’t metabolize further, but methylmercury builds up while ethylmercury probably just gets excreted. The alcohols both get metabolized to their aldehydes, which means ethanol becomes acetaldehyde which goes on to be oxidized further to acetic acid (or acetate if… Read more »

[…] anti-vacc crowd is getting larger.  In this edition of the podcast Ask an Atheist, Preventable Death in Washington, it is estimated that in some school districts in Washington state, up to 25% of school children […]


It’s not quite on the level of anti-vax, but I learned recently that Bellingham doesn’t fluoridate its water. Fluoridation measures have been rejected <a href=""several times, thanks to people like this.

I’m not saying this is the reason why I got a cavity for the first time in my life while living in Bellingham, but…


They say it’s about fluorosilicic acid though, which is nothing like sodium fluoride. Too bad the actual proposition is nowhere to be found. When kept to a reasonable concentration, fluoride ions are perfectly safe. In fact, because calcium fluoride is sparingly soluble, only about a hundredth of a gram per liter, compared to well over a pound per liter for calcium chloride, fluoride ions can actually serve to remove calcium from the water stream. Whether that is to be desired is another thing though, given that the fluoride is added to help teeth, which are after all made of pentacalcium… Read more »

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