Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Hello Skeptifans. Vancouver is enjoying a break from the cold, and things are back to the rainy norm. I hope the rest of you are staying warm. Here are the Fails and Wins this week.

Canadians need way to report Wi-Fi concerns, says committee report
David sent in this Fail from the Vancouver Sun. A committee of MPs has recommended that the government set up some sort of system for tracking and investigating wi-fi health concerns. The article mentions Health Canada’s stance on the issue, but it a way that suggests they are ignoring “some scientists”. It doesn’t mention the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows there are no harmful effects caused by wi-fi, nor is there a plausible mechanism for effects to occur. If a large number of people are concerned about wi-fi in the classroom, or cell towers in our cities, then perhaps that is a good reason for the government to do more to address these concerns. But the solution is not to buy in to every unfounded fear that people bring up, but instead to educate people on the science.

U.S. dollar bills contaminated, study finds
Scott found this Fail in the Globe and Mail. The article is about a study that shows that american currency has traces of BPA on it, that likely comes from rubbing against receipts. BPA was recently banned from baby bottles in Canada, and it has been in the news a lot. Does this mean we are dying from handling currency? No. The risks of BPA are still being studied, and there is no good data that it is harmful at all in small quantities. The animal studies that suggest there MIGHT be a risk are related to things like fertility. Nobody is dropping dead from handling receipts or plastic. The baby bottle ban was precautionary. Very high exposure to BPA can certainly cause issues, but trace amounts on your bills are nothing to worry about.

Can herbal remedies ward off colds?
Lorne sent in this story. Sometimes I read a headline like this, and just hope to find that the article says “not really”. I’m always disappointed. This article at leasts mentions some science, but it doesn’t give a clear message about whether you should waste your money on herbal remedies or not. On the plus side, the article recommends getting vaccinated for flu. On the downside, it suggests that there are more herbal remedies out there and we are just waiting for science to catch up and do the studies to prove it. Lorne called it “wishy-washy skepticism”. I’d say that’s bang on.

Edmonton students wowed by wonders of universe, university
Here’s a win for a change, also sent in by Lorne. U of A is bringing a taste of university to elementary school classes. While the focus is not just science, that is part of it. I got a little jealous when I read about the demonstration that involved recreating the conditions on a comet. Sounds cool!

That’s the Fails and Wins this week! If you spot one, send it to me at links [at] skepticnorth [dot] com.

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  • Melany Hamill

    Melany proudly uses the titles of both geek and nerd. As a science-enthusiast and fan of debate, Melany likes to get her facts straight. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then her career path has meandered to its current spot as a project manager at a video game studio. Melany lives near beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is not seeking treatment for her caffeine addiction.