Most reputable scientists agree that homeopathy is pseudoscience and that it doesn’t work. But let us for a moment consider what the consequences would be if homeopathy did work. One major concern would have to be its’ potential as an environmental and health hazard.
For those who are not familiar with the concept, homeopathy typically involves taking an ‘active’ component, for example arsenic oxide, snake venom or pus, and diluting it by a factor of one hundred and succussing it. (Succussion is the process by which the solution is shaken in a particular way to ‘activate’ the solution). After succession one hundredth of the solution is then removed, diluted by a factor of one hundred and succussed again. This process is repeated many times until the final ‘potentiated’ solution is produced. For example, the commonly used 30C solution undergoes a sequence of thirty serial dilutions.
So why would homeopathy be a potential hazard if it actually worked? Well let us consider the dilution process more closely. At each step, ninety nine percent of the solution is discarded. One assumes this must be into the environment thereby resulting in an increasing contamination of the worlds’ water supply with various ‘potentiated’ water molecules that may be inadvertently treating us for headaches, nausea, fever, constipation, period pain and many other maladies. Now I don’t know about you but I’m not too happy with the idea of being unintentionally medicated when I have a glass of water. Particularly when, as a reasonably healthy male, I have no need to be treated for maladies such as headaches, period paid or morning sickness. And heaven forbid that I consume water molecules with the memory of anti-constipation molecules if I ever come down with a case of diarrhoea!
But surely, you might think, the whole world’s water supply could not be that contaminated with these ‘potentiated’ water molecules? On the contrary, if homeopathic theories were true, such wide spread contamination would be impossible to avoid. Just consider the amount of water involved in making a single 100 mL solution of a 30 C solution. For each step a 100 mL solution is prepared but only one mL is needed for the next step. Therefore over the 29 dilution steps to prepare the final 100 mL of solution, 2871 mL of water (29 x 99 mL) will be discarded. That is almost 3 litres of waste water containing ‘activated’ water.
The New Zealand Council of Homeopaths represents over 150 homeopaths in New Zealand. If one were to assume each member produced an average of five new solutions a week that would amount to over 110 tonnes of ‘contaminated’ water entering New Zealand waterways each year. And this isn’t even taking into account the homeopathic solutions sold through most pharmacies.
As homeopathy is not bound by the established laws of chemistry, the more dilute a solution is the more powerful it becomes. So unless homeopaths are storing their discarded intermediate solutions in vast storage facilities somewhere, their extra ‘potentiated’ water molecules are passing into the environment and being rapidly distributed throughout our waterways and river systems. If they seriously believe their potions work as they describe, should they not be taking some responsibility for this ‘contamination’?