THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 2nd July 2011

Today, mobile phones are safe to use. At least, that is the tone of the coverage of the latest scientific work on the subject.  But this comes only a month after mobile phones were unsafe after a different study.

There seems to be one key difference between the second report, published by the UK Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) based on work undertaken by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Standing Committee on Epidemiology, and the first from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organisation (WHO). That difference is the application of common sense.

At the end of May, the IARC issued a press release saying that a working group of 31 scientists had concluded that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ based on classifying the evidence of an association as ‘limited’. Though there has been criticism of some of the work they considered because it involved asking people with brain cancer about their mobile phone use when those people were aware that there has been much talk about a possible link, the media tended to up the ‘possible based on limited evidence’ to ‘may cause cancer’ with some headlines even saying ‘Mobile phone raises brain cancer risk’.

On the other hand, the ICR concluded that ‘Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumours in adults’. This is being widely reported as showing that it is ‘unlikely’ that phone use could cause cancer.

The interesting thing is that both reports draw on the same recent study as well as many others. So, how does the IARC reach one conclusion from the Interphone Study and the ICR reach a different one?

The answer is that the ICR has applied what I call the Jerry Maguire Test. In that 1996 film the Cuba Gooding Jr. character famously demands that Tom Cruise ‘Show me the money’. In addition to looking at all the studies and considering their strengths and weaknesses, the ICR said ‘Show me the tumours’. That is to say they have looked at the massive increase in mobile phone usage and said that there should, by now, have been an increase in brain tumours but that hasn’t happened.

Ilex aquifolium, holly

I apply the Jerry Maguire Test whenever someone writes about how dangerous poisonous plants are. It is tempting, because it fits into people’s expectations, to bang on about how terrible plants are and how it is important to remove them from the garden and avoid any contact with them. I have one book where the American author says that Ilex aquifolium, holly, should not be brought into the house at Christmas because of the danger it poses. My response to this is to scream ‘Show me the bodies’.

The idea that poisonous plants pose a huge threat to mankind is undermined by the tiny numbers of people who die as a result of accidental plant poisoning. Another American book draws attention to the over 60,000 a year incidents of possible plant poisoning dealt with by Poison Control Centres but fails to explain that fewer than one hundred of those produce serious illness and less than five deaths result.

Those people who, after becoming concerned by reading about the terrible things plants can do, clear their gardens of every possible threat would be much better advised to throw out all their cosmetics and cleaning products because those items are responsible for many more deaths.

There’s another area where the Jerry Maguire Test is relevant; cannabis use. The UNODC 2011 World Drugs Report says that between 125 and 203 million people used cannabis at least once in the 12 months covered by the study. That figure has been at around that level for a good few years now and cannabis use first became widespread in the 1960s. So it is reasonable to say ‘Show me the psychotics’. If cannabis is a cause of mental illness then, by now, there should have been an explosion of psychosis.

Most of the studies of cannabis and psychosis take people with mental illness and look for cannabis use. If they find it they claim a causal link. But, if you take cannabis use and look for psychosis you cannot establish a direct link.  


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.