I Was Wrong

by holli on January 27, 2016

Tonight my eyes burn from exhaustion. It’s one of my longest days of the week where I’ve had to be “on” all day – you know, presentable to adults at a meeting at 7:45am, then chauffeuring my Girl Scout, then rushing home to cook a dinner from scratch and put them to bed almost on time.

But, as I was washing the dishes, I couldn’t keep my mind to myself any longer. Thankfully, my husband was able to hear me out and help me vent about what has been nagging at me for too long. So, I’ll sit up to write it all out, because I can’t stand it any longer. My tired eyes will wait, and hopefully I’ll feel less burdened about not speaking up.

I have three friends selling supplements through a network business model, kind of but not like Amway. The burning concern I have is with the products that claim to cure almost everything.

I know it is easy to get excited and want to help others when you think you’ve found some answers. That is how I fell into confirmation bias. In psychology, confirmation bias refers to a tendency to seek out or interpret information in a way that aligns with your pre-existing views of the world. This means that you’ll find support for your perspective and expectations, even where there may not actually be any. This is where all of those attention grabbing info graphics come into play on social media. They keep reinforcing misinformation or just the parts that support one view or another that aren’t providing grounding in any way.

So, let me tell you how I fell into this trap…

A couple of years ago, I went looking for sources of Mercury in our home and neighborhood. My son had alarming test results with 5x the limit for kids his age showing up in his blood. It was scary.

I was also told to look through the house for any mysterious metal ball joints or pieces from old appliances. There were none to be found, but I also shared this personal roller coaster with close friends who share information, and helped me consider the industrial pollution.

I paid closer attention to any information about Mercury in our modern lives. I saw CF light bulbs mentioned many times by “natural news” sources and articles.

My studious self set to work to scour for research to really understand where all of this Mercury could be coming from to get into my son’s body.

And, guess what happened next? I found a reputable scientific article reporting on a study about CF bulbs and Mercury content. I read the article, and then wrote about it explaining that CF bulbs emit 30% of their Mercury. That’s what I read. And then, I had a stranger correct me on a friend’s Facebook comment. He simply said something like, “that is not what is written.”

I was hurt by this comment, because I spent hours looking for answers and I was sure that is what the article said. So, I re-read it, and didn’t see it. Then, I read it aloud, slowly. I was wrong, and in my emotionally charged quest had missed the most important detail, “when broken” – the bulbs sitting alone didn’t emit Mercury. When they were broken they did.

Now, I realize that may not seem like a big deal, because bulbs break eventually. And, Mercury never disappears. So, eventually, the bulbs break and emit Mercury into the environment. BUT, the point is that I read words that reinforced the previous assumptions I had already formed. I wanted something I could remove from my home to make my son healthier. In reality, it wasn’t the light bulbs.

So, the post was edited, and I thanked the guy for correcting me. I had learned a very valuable lesson. The truth is often hidden because we want clear answers. When it comes to health, there are not very many clear channels to find those answers. We’re bombarded with false advertising and just plain old misinformation.

What I later learned is that my son’s Mercury was alarmingly high because he and I have a gene mutation that inhibits the body’s natural ability to filter heavy metals out. In a normal person living in our shoes, the body would eliminate it over time. What we did was take very specific supplemental pills to bind the mercury so they could be eliminated out of the body naturally. This was done under a doctors care and only for specific amount of time. Follow up blood test showed that our son’s body was able to get rid of it!

I’ve learned the long, hard way that our health is complicated, and looking for answers is hard when you want an easy answer.

My personal opinion is that vitamin and supplement companies are guilty of preying on this confirmation bias trap, and dragging others down with them. If I can fall into it, it’s easy to see how others can too.



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