Mmmm… Arsenic.

I received a news flash this morning from Dartmouth announcing an $8 million grant to study the effects of arsenic on children. Really, now? Can’t we just agree that it’s probably not a good combination and leave it at that? Is it really worth spending $8 million to prove that kids, on a whole, do better without arsenic in them? Or are the scientists just working their way through the periodic table: “Okay, let’s see… we’ve done lithium and cadmium and flouride – check out the strong teeth on those little guys, eh? – so, what next? Oh, arsenic? Okay, where’s the kid we’re using for our tests today?”

Don’t get me wrong: I love scientific research; heck, it partly pays my wife’s salary and makes the world a smarter place – so, sure, I’m all for it. I happen to know a couple of the people involved in the study, and they’re just ridiculously brilliant, so of course there’s a good reason for this. Besides, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency are stingy, so you’ve got to put together a pretty compelling proposal to shake money off those trees.

But c’mon: right up there with strychnine and cyanide, arsenic is the archetypical killer. There’s Arsenic and old Lace for starters, but read any old second rate who-dunnit novel, and the butler kills the lord of the manor with arsenic. Every. Fucking. Time. Always arsenic. It’s shitty stuff.

Kids, on the other hand, are the best thing ever (except, perhaps, mine when they decide to test my patience by being complete shits), and it really behooves us to take good care of them. Not just because they’re amazing little creatures in their own right and the future of our species and all that, but also because they’re going to be looking after us some day soon when we’re sick and sad old sacks of sorry.

How’s it going to work out if, as we lie there helpless in our hospice bed, they just cross their arms and say with a frown, “Hey, screw you, Dad – remember all those years when you served me up arsenic oatmeal for breakfast and peanut butter-and-arsenic sandwiches for lunch? Remember that, huh? Well, life’s a bitch, so who don’t you just give yourself that morphine suppository and think about it…”

So do we really need to spend time and money on this one? I think not. I think it’d be pretty safe to say we could save the $8 million for something better and simply write up the conclusion for the final paper right now: “Arsenic and Children? Nope.”

Now, moving right on to Selenium…