The Sceptical Chymist | Blogroll: Inviting ire and iron

Published in Chemistry

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, Tien Nguyen penned the May 2014 column.


Flawed plastics testing and the chemistry of cranberries.

A toddler eyes the camera sternly while drinking from a sippy cup underneath the headline of a Mother Jones article that reads, ‘The Scary New Evidence on BPA-free Plastics’. Sounds alarming. But it turns out that the research is actually three years old, which John Spevacek at It’s the Rheo Thing points out, “hardly qualifies as new,” and further, that “none of this evidence qualifies as evidence”.

The original research tested plastics for oestrogenic activity after subjecting them to unrealistically abusive conditions. This included exposure to UV light with unnaturally high energy and using an autoclave instead of a dishwasher. A test they had to run, suggests Spevacek wryly, “since dishwashers aren’t available in the Austin, Texas area.” Scare journalism based on misinformation is all too common, but those of us paying attention are grateful when someone with Spevacek’s expertise takes the time to succinctly uncover faulty data.

Let’s talk about a substance we don’t have to be afraid of — cranberries. High-school senior Meera Mody writes about the chemistry of this fruit on What’s UR Rxn?, a group blog (Twitter feed here) run by students at Detroit County Day School who make personal everyday connections to chemistry topics.

Mody notes that cranberries were used hundreds of years ago by Native Americans to treat infections, and modern studies have explained their antibacterial activity. Mody writes that “the phenolic ingredients in cranberries largely give them their healthy reputation” because polyphenols can bind to and remove excess iron, which reduces cellular oxidative stress. With a knack for relating chemistry in a clear and engaging way, these self-identified ‘chemjournalists’ are ones to watch.

Written by Tien Nguyen, who blogs at


[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the May 2014 article]

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