Readers answer the November issue 2021


“States vs. Health,” by the editors [Science Agenda]explains how politicians in several states are trying to prevent the life-saving work that public health officials are doing to protect the population by demanding masking and physical distancing.

I agree with the presentation of the article and the position taken by the editors on the importance of letting science and good medical practice lead the way in dealing with the devastating effects of the covid pandemic in the United States and around the world. When state legislators pass laws that take control of public health and safety measures away from local authorities, as the article reveals, the entire population risks becoming infected and spreading the virus that causes covid.

In the paragraph, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, is eloquent in describing how the health strategies applied by public health agencies have proven effective for hundreds of years and how what some state legislators do is “equivalent to removing doctors’ ability to print prescriptions. “

I congratulate Scientific American for publishing this article and inviting readers to reflect on and support science and public health strategies that have protected lives from many viruses, including the current one, and to avoid political intrusion into this vital and life-threatening issue.



“Vapor Storms”, by Jennifer A. Francis, describes how increased humidity in a warmer atmosphere fuels intense hurricanes and flooding rain. Reading the article reminded me of an experience I had camping on the eastern edge of Lake Superior, probably 35 years ago.

That October, I was sitting on the beach late in the afternoon. The sky was cloudless several hundred meters from the shore, with a breeze blowing in from the lake. The sky above the beach was overcast and tended to drizzle.

This pattern remained constant for an hour or so I saw; the clouds formed over the short distance. Seeing the weather change over such a small area gave me some appreciation for how difficult climate modeling must be.



“IPCC, your job is partly done,” by Naomi Oreskes [Observatory]argues that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has fully established the “physical science base” for climate change and should now focus entirely on analyzing its effects and potential ways to halt them.

I wonder if Oreskes has heard of Professor Andrew Weavers at the University of Victoria recently that it is now impossible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Weaver, fresh Ph.D. is in applied mathematics, has many achievements, including more than 200 published scientific papers and a period as leader of the Provincial Green Party here in British Columbia. But the most relevant thing for his comment is that he was the lead author of several of the IPCC’s previous evaluation reports. I was therefore somewhat surprised that he was publicly reprimanded by those who were offended by his claim.

I happened to hear Weaver being interviewed on CBC, and he made it clear that his intention was not to advocate abandoning the goal of limiting warming as much as possible. It was rather to realize that we have passed a point where, if we were to fix the levels of greenhouse gases today, we would still see the global average temperature rise by more than 1.5 degrees C.

My observation is that so far the public has been somewhat lulled by scientific statements. That is, science is cautious; science does not exaggerate even when it may be necessary from a social perspective. All the forecasts of climate change I have seen seem to be underestimating the seriousness of this accelerating crisis. It may be more in the interest of the larger ones to speak clearly.

This is in line with Oreske’s proposal that the IPCC’s working group on the physical basis of climate change should be merged and that the organization’s focus should be on its working groups that deal with effects and mitigation. I would like to add that the urgency must be emphasized by all possible means.

RICHARD “DICK” FAHLMAN Tla’amin Nation, British Columbia


In “Painkillers” [The Science of Health]Claudia Wallis discusses the disadvantages of high doses of analgesics, including kidney damage from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). I think it is missing, however, that she does not develop the link between over-the-counter painkillers and kidney problems other than a brief mention of potential negative use of NSAIDs during pregnancy.

Long before the current opioid crisis, the scientific community and literature were aware of the dangers of NSAIDs and paracetamol (Tylenol). NSAIDs have been clearly linked to kidney damage, and there is evidence that high doses of paracetamol can damage them as well. 1994 New England Journal of Medicine published a study entitled “Risk of renal failure associated with the use of paracetamol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” This 27-year-old magazine estimated that up to about 10 percent of the incidence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or kidney failure, may be the result of long-term acetaminophen use and that such use of the drug may account for up to $ 700 million (in 1994 dollars). ) in annual ESRD-related medical expenses.

I applaud Wallis for highlighting the overall risk of acetaminophen towards the end of her article: She quotes the pain researcher and professor of medicine Erin Krebs who notes that the drug “is very safe up to a certain threshold, and over that limit it is very dangerous “Wallis then adds that the same researchers” say it is “crazy” that the drug is found in more than 600 products, “which” makes it too easy to go overboard. “

I believe that all products containing paracetamol or NSAIDs should require warning labels about potential kidney damage.



“Overcoming the long shadow of gene therapy”, by Tanya Lewis [Innovations In: Gene Therapy], did not give Mark Batshaw’s current affiliation. He is now a developmental pediatrician at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC


“The Power of Agroecology”, by Raj Patel, should have described the small Malawian town of Ekwendeni, not “Ekwendi.”

“Painkillers,” by Claudia Wallis [The Science of Health]incorrectly describes acetaminophen poisoning as the most common reason why people need a liver transplant in the United States. It is the most common cause of acute liver failure, a condition that leads to about 6 percent of all liver transplants in the country.

“IPCC, your job is partly done,” by Naomi Oreskes [Observatory]should have listed the organization’s full name as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, not the “International Panel on Climate Change.”

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One thought on “Readers answer the November issue 2021

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