Children need to be taught health literacy in school so they can analyse, interpret and question pseudoscience

Parents of infants could be forgiven for panicking if they read reports about “needle-like”, “potentially dangerous” and “toxic” nanoparticles in Australian infant formula products. Sounds pretty horrifying. There were calls to pull infant formula from shelves this week after the eco-activist group Friends of the Earth issued a media release saying it had ordered independent testing of formula products and had found the nanoparticles, which it said could cause kidney and liver damage. Many major Australian media outlets ran the story.

Here’s the thing. Nanoparticles are simply microscopic particles less than 100 nanometres in size. The nanoparticles being demonised by Friends of the Earth were calcium phosphate crystals, a normal and natural component of human tissue, teeth and bones. A look at the study Friends of the Earth based its scare campaign on reveals rats were injected with the nanoparticles through their abdominal cavity at extremely high concentrations, far greater than those found in baby formula, which is obviously ingested by babies, not injected into them. There is no way conclusions could be drawn between the rat study and the nanoparticles in the infant formula on supermarket shelves, which dissolve in digestive acids anyway.

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