If you knew that cyanide was found in common mass market products, at any dose, would you consume them? Probably not, correct? Well then, how do you feel about a chemical 4 times more toxic than cyanide? Would you consume that intentionally, or avoid it?
Enter the strange case of sodium selenate, a byproduct of copper metal refining, and which is actually proudly listed as a "nutrient" on the labels of many mass market products, presumably as a key selling-point!
Forgive us for the redundancy here, but it is 4 times more lethal than sodium cyanide. It only takes .4 milligrams (that's 250 micrograms, or 250 millionths of a gram!) to kill 50% of the rats who are made to ingest it. A human, weighing 275 times more than a rat, has a 50% chance of dying if consuming 108 milligrams of the stuff!
How much (or little) is this human-lethal dose of 108 milligrams? That is, how do we visualize or draw real-world comparisons with a quantity this small?
An average size grain of sand weighs approximately 10 milligrams.1 In the picture above are circumscribed 11 grains of sand on the top portion of this person's finger, which while barely visible, weigh approximately 110 milligrams counted together. Is it really possible that a dose of sodium selenate that small could kill a grown man or woman?
You can do the calculations yourself by using the table below. Click on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and take a look at the LD50 listed. Then convert the information into a form applicable to humans.
|Substance||MSDS||Lethal Dose 50% (LD50), Rat||Lethal Dose 50% (LD50), Human/150 lb (68.04 kg)|
|Sodium Cyanide||link||6.44 mg/kilogram||438.18 milligrams|
|Sodium Selenate||link||1.6mg/kilogram||108.86 milligrams|
|Sodium Selenite||link||7mg/kilogram||476.28 milligrams|
What products use sodium selenate or selenite? Here is a short list:
1) Pet foods, including "organic" brands such as Newman's Own.
2) Selenium supplements, such as Twin Lab's "Sodium Selenite," Vitamin Research Products' "Selenium."
3) Veterinary vitamins
4) Nutrition Shakes, e.g. Kids Essentials, Nestle's Nutrament
5) Infant Formula, Sam's Club "Simply Right," Enfamil's "Premium Infant Formula Powder."
6) Multi-vitamins such as Centrum (Pfizer) and One-A-Day (Bayer) brand vitamins, which sell millions of bottles a month.
For more information on this topic read our exposé: Is Your Multivitamin Toxic?
1The Physics Factbook, by Glenn Elert Mass of a Grain of Sand