Just now at the gym, as I finished working out, I was chatting with my trainer (god I sound so snotty, “my trainer!”) and another one of the trainer ladies about some toxicology stuff and I got my ass handed to me. Politely, but still. I feel it is my duty to report to you that this happens from time to time, and the specific reason why.

I dole out a lot of general toxicology info. Usually only when asked, but sometimes unbidden and ranty. Because I am generally trying to explain complex ideas to laypeople, I gloss over details. For example, that post from last week about Sudafed? Was originally four times longer, had a lot of numbers and math, and was not remotely accessible to most everyone who reads this, with the exception of maybe my dad and my friend Robin. I struggle a lot with writing accessible tox posts – how much math and stats and epidemiology can I include before people can’t hang or get bored? Which words am I using that I don’t even realize are only part of toxicologist’s vernacular? Am I distilling too much?

I think I do ok, most of the time. I try to stick with the facts as they apply to¬†most people. Specifically, about 95% of people. Two standard deviations of people. Sometimes I get into the other 5% – sensitive subpopulations – but generally, if you ask me a tox question, I will answer it in the way that is relevant to 95% of people. Otherwise, I get far down into the weeds, and unless those weeds are fantastically interesting and I just can’t stop myself, I try not to go there.

So today, this other trainer, she asks me about iodine supplements, and I go into my usual vitamin supplements are crap tirade (somehow I have never posted about this…. but I think most vitamin supplements are crap. That’s it.), and I *think* I tack on my standard “if you are a normal person eating a normal diet” but honestly I don’t know, I was in a hurry. So she listens and we chat a little and then she starts telling me why I am wrong. And I know immediately that she isn’t just a trainer. She is a person with specific medical conditions, and one who takes a competent interest in her health and medical care. She is part of the 5% several times over.

The only real point here is a disclaimer of sorts, I guess. When I am talking about tox, I’m talking about “most people.” If you have some special medical something something, it’s possible I might not be talking about you, and my flippant “it’s probably not worth worrying about” message might not apply. It might still! Probably, even. But maybe not. And the maybe not can be really important.

In my day to day job, I deal with 100%, and the 5% that are abnormal or especially sensitive or vulnerable are really where things get interesting. But interesting means complicated, and I haven’t yet mastered writing a general tox post that addresses the majority and the fringe, without scaring the crap out of the majority. Because generally… it really will be fine. And now all my babies are awake and that’s all for today.

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4 Responses to 95%

  1. April says:

    I think the “normal person eating a normal diet” thing is probably the most important thing there. Some people need supplements because their body doesn’t get enough, or maybe it doesn’t absorb properly so they need giant amounts to make them get the right amounts (I have a friend who gets three times weekly IVs of magnesium and potassium because her body just doesn’t keep it). I’ve been looking into calcium supplements for Henry, because I can’t him to eat or drink most of the normal sources of calcium (and I can’t feed him Greek yogurt for all meals without worrying he’ll stop eating that too).

  2. HereWeGoAJen says:

    It’s that 5% that makes psychology so interesting too. Man, I want to go back to school and read some textbooks now.

  3. Elsha says:

    The post I wrote today is very much “in most cases.” I left out that there are 2 other types of Down syndrome that each of those happens differently from what I described, AND that it’s possible for the extra chromosome can come from the sperm. Because MOST of the time it happens this way.

    I’m with you, is what I’m saying.

  4. K says:

    Effing iodine supplements.

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