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    Here we explore some of the myths & legends!


    Confirmed: Aluminum in Crystal Deodorants IS Absorbed

    This is a follow-up tidbit on the subject of Alum.  See my first article here and my second article here.

    For a couple months now I've been talking about the crystal deodorants and how they still do contain aluminum even though most of them claim to be "aluminum-free."  I wrote about how crystal deodorants are made up of potassium alum, the nickname for potassium aluminum sulfate.  Once the potassium alum is wetted, as one would do using a crystal deodorant, it dissolves into ionic aluminum.  Ionic aluminum is the smallest form of aluminum possible.  My argument is that if larger molecules such as aluminum chlorohydrate pose a health risk by absorption, aluminum ions would as well.  Although I found a number of empirical studies that would suggest ionic aluminum is absorbed through the skin, I had yet to find a direct study stating that aluminum ions are absorbed through the skin.  Today I am glad to say, I found the research.

    A French study published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research explored the effects of aluminum ions on collagen.  As stated in the study's introduction, "Heavy metal ions are capable of inducing crosslinking between peptide chains of collagen.  The metal ions improve the capacity of collagen to resist denaturization as well as the attack by enzymes, bacteria, and chemical agents." [p 1339]  In other words, metal ions have been found to stabilize collagen.  This is a process that is used in the leather-making industry (known as "tanning" hides) and in some medical devices/products. 

    Chromium salts were already well-known to be a good collagen stabilizing agent at the time of the study.  The purpose of the study was to find if aluminum ions, as found in aluminum salts, had the same collagen stabilizing effects, and could be used in the same way industrially to tan hides and to create collagen-based medical materials. 

    The researchers treated collagen with aluminum ions and found that it became significantly dehydrated.  They concluded that "the substitution of water molecules by aluminum ions on intramolecular hydrophilic sites is suggested to be responsible for this evolution." In other words, the aluminum ions substituted the water molecules in the collagen, thus drying it out.  This may explain why alum has a drying effect on skin-- as it robs the collagen of its moisture, aluminum ions replacing  water molecules.

    The researchers studied the effects of aluminum ions on both extracted collagen and skin tissue.  The aluminum ions were found to affect the collagen in the skin samples.  Thus, we can ascertain that the aluminum ions were absorbed into the skin at some level.  The deodorant companies' claims that their aluminum molecules are "too large to be absorbed through the skin" are thus disproven. 

    Aluminum ions, as found in crystal deodorants, are absorbed through skin, and do have a biological reaction therein. 


    100% Pure Responds to Honeysuckle Extract Claims; Mudslinging Ensues.

    Ah, the debate rages on about Honeysuckle Extract. 100% Pure has responded to your questions on their Facebook page.  Readers have asked them about honeysuckle extract and parahydroxy benzoic acid (for the original article, click here.)  This is my response to them.  Their original comments are on a thread on their facebook page.  Out of respect, I have responded here, instead of on their facebook page. 

    They write:

    "The japanese Honeysuckle Extract is a controversial ingredient-"

    My response:

    If it's controversial, then why use it?

    They write:

    "Of course with any other company that posts any other article, there is of course going to be some sort of bias to it, espesially since there it is controversial."

    My response:

    I'm really not biased against 100% Pure. If it was my mission to bring down 100% Pure, I wouldn't be recommending some of their products in the article I wrote about mineral makeups.

    They write:

    "We do NOT put ANY sort of chemicals, parabens of ANY sort in ANY of our products."

    My response:

    This is not true. By "chemicals" I'm assuming you mean synthetic chemicals.  (Everything is a chemical.)  Grapefruit seed extract is used in numerous 100% Pure products. It is a synthetic ingredient. I don't count something that's treated with ammonium chloride and hydrochloric acid to be a natural extract. (For more on this, read this article) Technically you're correct in stating that your product doesn't contain parabens, however, that's only a technicality (see this article.)

    They write:

    "We welcome you to do your own research. The owner an CEO of the company has many revolutionary patents under her belt for the oraganic cosmetic industry."

    My response:

    I agree. Everyone should do their own research. But however many patents 100% Pure and its owners have, it doesn't negate the fact that there is Japanese Honeysuckle Extract in the product.

    They write:

    A great place to start would be chemist Dr. Barbara Olioso's website:

    My response:

    That's an interesting article, but it doesn't apply to 100% Pure. That's an article specifically about the extract that Dr. Olisio uses in her line of products. She has verified through third-party lab testing that her extract contains no parahydroxy benzoic acid. 100% Pure has not. In fact, to the contrary. I have in writing from Suzie Wang that 100% Pure's extract contains an ingredient that has the "same chemical structure as parabens." (See this article) In other words, parahydroxy benzoic acid.

    They write:

    "We here at 100% Pure are passionate and committed to making the best product out there with all organic products."

    My response:

    100% Pure does have some good products.  But for clarity's sake, they are not USDA certified organic....because Grapefruit Seed Extract, Japanese Honeysuckle Extract and other ingredients they use are not allowed in certified organic products.

    They write:

    "To everyone following a woman named "Stephanie" at Bumble and Bee- she is not the "go to" person in the world of organic cosmetics- whatever she says does not go. she is NOT the foremost expert in the world of organic skincare and cosmetics.

    My response:

    I don't know why my name is in quotes, as though it's not really my name...but, okay... I agree--everyone should do their own research. I'm just one resource.  I am an ingredient, research, and development expert, but I don't think there's one person that is the foremost expert in the field of organic skincare.

    They write:

    "She is welcome to her opinion- she is NOT, however, welcome to defame other companies. We welcome everyone to do their own research in regards to the ingredients in question."

    My response:

    I don't know what your definition of "defaming" is.  I'm simply bringing scientific studies and research to the eyes of the public about one ingredient.  I just wrote a list of companies who use the ingredient.  That is all.  If anything that I've written is untrue, please let me know. I'm happy to write a retraction if your extract doesn't contain parahydroxy benzoic acid, or if you've found a study that concludes that parahydroxy benzoic acid doesn't act estrogenically, or even if you know anything about its absorption.  Any kind of third-party information you can provide in defense of the ingredient, I will publish. 

    They write:

    "The rumors about the Japanese honeysuckle extract are based on an article by Tony Dweck on Personal Care Magazine, entitled "An update on natural preservatives". In this article it is stated that the Japanese honeysuckle extract contains parahydroxy benzoic acid, nick named a natural paraben (as a chemist we do not agree with that because it is an acid and not an ester like the parabens."

    My response:

    So, this again verifies that the honeysuckle extract you use doescontain parahydroxy benzoic acid, as you're coming to its defense. So, what do you say to this study that states:

     "It can be concluded that removal of the ester group from parabens does not abrogate its oestrogenic activity and that p-hydroxybenzoic acid can give oestrogenic responses in human breast cancer cells."

    This is a study published in a peer-reviewed journal, not just the opinion of a chemist. Yes, synthetic parabens are more estrogenic, but it has been proven that parahydroxy benzoic acid does display estrogenic activity.  And it's not because of the ester group. 

    They write:

    "i really dont understand why you are defaming every company out there- your argument has no basis."

    My response:

    My argument has a solid basis.  For the benefit of your company, I would suggest you truly read the articles, understand the issue, and respond to the claims directly.   Also, there's no defamation going on.  I simply made a list of companies that use this ingredient.  This is already publicly available information from their websites and the Cosmetics Database.  I also wasn't the first one to write about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.  The debate started on the Organic Consumers Association website, here over a year ago. 

    They write:

    "I have explained to you that we have a patent which preserves our formulas. No added ingredients. First of its kind."

    My response:

    No added ingredients? What does that even mean? We're not talking about patents, we're talking about one ingredient that you use: Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.

    They write:

    One more thing- you have to look at this not only from a consumer's standpoint but from a PROFESSIONAL'S standpoint, AKA, a CHEMIST who does the research themselves- we dont just sit here and research articles written by others. We DO the research ourselves. in a LAB. Please don't forget, we too, are also consumers. We wouldn't want to put anything harmful on our bodies. There are many CHEMISTS out there who have come to the same conclusion-

    My response:

    You're deflecting the issue. Have you studied the estrogenic effects of parahydroxy benzoic acid? Other chemists have? Let's see the research. I'll be happy to post it here. I've offered that to you before.

    The bottom line:

    It does not seem as though 100% Pure has done their own research on the topic as they advised their customers to do. All of their responses seem to just be cut and pasted from Dr. Olisio's blog or to be deflecting the issue and being defensive. They haven't found or done any studies to discredit those that I bring to the forefront. They haven't stated that their extract doesn't contain parahydroxy benzoic acid. They haven't responded to my research and seem to skirt around the issue in a defensive manner.

    I do think that 100% Pure has done a lot for the cosmetics industry; I don't deny that. They have some wonderful products and I commend Suzie Wang for her pioneering work. It pains me to be going back and forth in this debate with them. However, I cannot deny the research that I've found. As someone who has been personally affected by xenoestrogens in personal care products, I feel it is my mission to educate people about the ingredients they're putting on their skin and in their bodies. Unfortunately, "Japanese Honeysuckle Extract" is one of them.


    Honeysuckle Extract & Parabens: What the Industry Doesn't Want you to Know

    I recently received an angry phone call from the owner of a certain cosmetics company.  I had listed them in my last article about brands that use Japanese Honeysuckle extract.  They demanded I take their name out of the article, threatening that their lawyers would be giving us a "cease and desist" order if we didn't oblige.  Apparently they've received numerous angry e-mails from customers who found out their products contained parahydroxy benzoic acid, a chemical that, as I've written, looks and acts like parabens.  Yet they claim that their product is "paraben-free" and continue to stick behind their products.  So, I thought I'd respond to their claims today.

    One of our readers wrote to the company, asking if their products contain parabens.  The company wrote back to her: 

    The Japanese Honeysuckle Extract DOES NOT have parabens in it what so ever.  It has the same chemical structure as parabens.  But it does not have parabens.

    So, the company does admit, in writing, that their honeysuckle extract does contain a compound with the same chemical structure as parabens.  In other words, it contains parahydroxy benzoic acid, the compound that I've been talking about. 

    Parahydroxy benzoic acid is the compound that inspired chemists to create parabens.  In fact, the name parabens comes from parahydroxy benzoic acid.  Methylparaben means parahydroxy benzoic acid with a methyl group.  Propylparaben means parahydroxy benzoic acid with a propyl group.  So, how can the company say that their product is paraben-free if it contains the original para-ben

    The consensus in the cosmetics industry is that the term "parabens" only applies to synthetically-produced parabens.  When synthetic parabens were first created, they were the golden child of the cosmetics industry. Everyone was using them.  They're easy to formulate with, non-irritating on skin, "non-toxic," and cheap.  That was until consumers started learning of their estrogen-mimicking properties and possible link to breast cancer.  The word has spread, and now there's a huge market for paraben-free products.  So, cosmetic supply companies started coming out with paraben alternatives.  One of those companies is Campo Research: makers of Plantservative (Japanese Honeysuckle Extract). 

    When a chemical company invents a new ingredient, they decide on a standardized name for it and submit it to the INCI database.  The INCI name for Plantservative products (there are three different grades) is "Japanese Honeysuckle Extract."  Campo Research decided on the name so they'd have a highly-marketable product: a preservative that has a natural-looking name on the label.  One that could hide among other natural ingredients, making the product look so very pure.  And, technically speaking, be "paraben-free."  And while the extract is indeed "natural," (for the most part--one grade of Plantservative uses phenoxyethanol as the extraction solvent)  that doesn't mean that it's harmless. Parahydroxy benzoic acid was studied in 2005 for its estrogenic properties.  The study says: 

    It can be concluded that removal of the ester group from parabens does not abrogate its oestrogenic activity and that p-hydroxybenzoic acid can give oestrogenic responses in human breast cancer cells.

    In other words, it doesn't matter if the paraben has a methyl, propyl, or butyl group, it's the parahydroxy benzoic acid itself that acts estrogenically.  But, because you technically (by the etiquette of the cosmetics industry) can't call parahydroxy benzoic acid a "paraben," these companies get away with saying that their products are "paraben-free." 

    You know the old saying...if it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck...then it's a duck.  But, even though parahydroxy benzoic acid looks like a paraben, and acts like a paraben, is the namesake of the word paraben, the cosmetics industry won't let us call it a paraben.  So that companies can continue to sell watered-down soaps and lotions at high profit margins and call them natural and "paraben-free."  

    When I was on the phone with the owner of the other company, I told her that if her honeysuckle extract didn't contain parahydroxy benzoic acid, I'd be happy to write a new article and clear their name.  She continued to demand that I remove their name from the article.  I told her that parahydroxy benzoic acid acts estrogenically, just like parabens do.  She said "that's debateable."  I told her, okay, get me the information that proves otherwise.  I have data to back up what I'm saying.  If there's proof to the contrary, share it with me and I'll post a correction or even a complete retraction.  I'll even help promote their company (as I do in another article, recommending other products of theirs that don't contain honeysuckle extract.)  But she could only reply by telling me to remove their name from the list...or else. 

    I haven't taken their name off the list, and I will not until they remove the ingredient from their products.  But these companies are unlikely to change their formulas. Mainly because they have found a way to basically sell cosmetic waters at a premium. Their water-based products make a higher profit margin than companies like ours that don't water down our products.  When you buy a shower gel of ours, it's all soap.  When you buy a body butter--it's all butter.  If we can't make something without water, then we don't make it. They can attempt to hide the fact that their products contains an ingredient with (their words) "the same chemical structure as parabens," and try to bully me in to submission. But I will continue my research and production of our USDA Certified Organic products, especially with the immense amount of support that Bubble & Bee Organic gets from our customers who have come to trust us and depend on us for the truth.



    Mineral Makeup Dangers

    Mineral makeups are a huge trend right now, being billed as more natural and safe than traditional makeups.  Let's look at what makes something a "mineral" makeup, compare them with conventional makeups, and look in to the health risks involved with both.

    What are Mineral Makeups?

    There's no legal definition of a mineral makeup.  More than anything, it's just a marketing term.  The premise of a mineral makeup is that it uses earth-derived pigments like titanium dioxide, iron oxide, zinc oxide, and micas instead of artificial colors like aluminum lake and FD&C colors.  However, there's no law governing how mineral makeups are labeled, so many of the big companies use both synthetic and mineral compounds in their products and market them as mineral.  So, just like any product, always read the ingredients before you buy. (I'll be doing a full follow up article on synthetic dyes soon)

    Additionally, the ingredients can vary drastically from brand to brand. Let's compare two "mineral" foundations:

    Physician's Formula Mineral Wear


    Ingredients:  Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Squalane, Triethylhexanoin, Isononyl Isononanoate, Polyglyceryl 4 Isostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG 32, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Methicone, Polymethylmethacrylate, Propylene Glycol, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

    Real Purity Healthy Glow Foundation

    Ingredients: Distilled Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Kaolin Clay, Rice Bran Oil and Iron Oxides

    As you can see, the ingredients are very different.  While the first mineral makeup doesn't use any synthetic colors, it contains plenty of other "bad stuff," including parabens and PEGs.  The second formula, however, boasts a very simple ingredients list. 

    The bottom line: just because it says it's "mineral" doesn't mean it's safer.  Always read the ingredients. 

    What is the problem with mineral makeups.

    Let's say you found a mineral makeup that's free from parabens and dimethicone and all the crazy-sounding ingredients.  The formula was just corn starch, zinc oxide, iron oxide, and jojoba oil.   It sounds like a simple ingredients list.  Would there be a problem with that?

    New technologies have enabled cosmetic suppliers to create finer particles of minerals (we're talking iron oxides, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and micas) that apply more smoothly to the skin.  Many of these powders contain nanoparticles, with particle sizes of less than 100 nanometers. As these powders are applied, they become airborn, and have the potential to deeply penetrate the tissue of the lungs, causing an inflammatory response. Source Source  Micas, even at full size, can also aggravate the respiratory system, and can cause internal lung scarring, and in severe cases, pneumonia.  Source 

    Titanium dioxide is classified as a class 2B possible carcinogen.  This study found that repeated and prolonged exposure of titanium dioxide nanoparticles through inhalation cased lung cancer.  This study found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles caused oxidative stress when ingested by rats, and led to tumor foundation. Clearly, breathing in these particles is not good for our health. 

    Finding a "good" mineral makeup

    Of course I recommend using makeup sparingly, and letting your natural beauty show.  But if you "have" to use makeup, I recommend finding a liquid with simple ingredients (free of parabens, fragrance, phenoxyethanol, etc).  Here are some that I've found to be the best around:


    Lauren Brooke Cosmetique Creme Foundation

    Real Purity



    100% Pure Cream Eyeshadow


    100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara

    Real Purity




    Exposing More Truths About Alum

    The subject of aluminum in crystal deodorant stones has sparked a lot of controversy since I published my first article, and it has even started a bit of a Twitter war.  My article was picked up by Dr. Mercola [popular holistic health expert and web guru] and he sent it to his e-mail list of over 200,000 people!  As readers started tweeting the article, one crystal deodorant company got word of it and sent out a barrage of tweets saying that it was "a scare tactic."  They created a special page on their website in response to my article and told people to visit it to find out "the truth." 

    So today I'm delving deeper in to the issue to respond to what they're calling "the truth" and to give you some more information I've uncovered.  For the original article that started it all, click here.  

    After calling my article "misleading and irresponsible," they state that "there are two types of aluminums, processed or naturally occurring."  They go on to describe how the anti-perspirant compounds like aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium are synthetic and harmful: "Because processed aluminums have a very small molecular structure, the concern is that it will penetrate the skin and can be a potential problem for people who have kidney issues."  They tout the safety of their product, stating that the alums they use in their product are "natural mineral salts and are forms of naturally occurring aluminum" and that they don't pose a risk because "alum molecules are too large to penetrate the surface of the skin."

    So, let's take a look at this. 

    Here's the molecular structure of Aluminum chlorohydrate:

      Molecular Weight: 174.45

    As you can see, it's kind of a ring of chemicals with some arms branching out.  (This benzene-like ring is probably why it can act like estrogen.  For more on benzene rings and estrogen mimickers, visit this article) It has the molecular weight of 174.45 


    Okay, now let's look at alum.  When alum (full name, Potassium or Ammonium aluminum sulfate) is in its solid crystal form, the molecules create a crystalline structure.  However, when it is wetted, the molecules break out of their crystalline structure and become ions (singular atoms with a positive or negative charge).  So, when you're applying a wetted crystal to your skin, you're applying aluminum ions, the smallest possible form of aluminum, to your skin.   

    Aluminum in ionic form (as it is when dissolved in water)

    Molecular Weight: 27

    As you can see, the aluminum ion is much smaller than a molecule of Aluminum chlorohydrate.  It only has a molecular weight of 27, whereas Aluminum chlorohydrate is 174.45.  If Aluminum chlorohydrate is small enough to be absorbed, then aluminum ions definitely are.  Aluminum ions are six times smaller than Aluminum chlorohydrate.  And considering that our bodies are made up largely of water, and that alum is so easily dissolved in water, it makes no sense that it wouldn't be absorbed in to your skin cells and your body. 

    They say their product is safe and had a chemistry professor "analyze" their product.  The chemist states: "Ion transport through the skin is rather rare and I would not expect it from the small amount that would rub off on your armpit or fingers while handling it."  But while a chemist gave his opinion on it for them, the product and its absorption was not actually studied.  They say that "there is no research to suggest that alum poses a possible health risk."  But that's because there is absolutely no research about the absorption of alum, whatsoever.  Thus, there is also no research to suggest that alum doesn't pose a possible health risk.

    They talk about how alum is naturally ocurring, but just because it occurrs in nature, doesn't mean it's safe.  And it's not as if their stones are really natural, either.  They're not going in to a cave and digging crystals out of the ground.  Alum doesn't occurr in nature enough to be able to do that.  Their product is being synthesized in a factory or lab, using bauxite ore, a by-product of strip-mining, and sulfuric acid. (See my previous article for more info on the process.)

    I searched the government's database of health studies for everything that I could about alum and aluminum ions, and while there are no direct studies testing the absorption rate of alum, I found some interesting things. 

    In recent years, vaccine powders have been studied as an alternative to injectable vaccines.  They've found that these powder vaccines can be just as effective and viable as an injectable vaccine.  The powder vaccine is made up of three primary ingredients, a natural powder like mannitol, the active antibodies, and, you guessed it, alum.  (Here's one study) In this case, even in its crystalline form, alum proves to be a potent ingredient that helps other ingredients absorb into the skin and become active in the body.  

    So now let's look at aluminum ions, which is really what you're putting on your skin when you use the crystal stones and sprays.   

    Aluminum ions are toxic to plants and animals.  The crystal companies love to say that aluminum is a naturally occurring mineral from the earth, but they don't tell you that naturally-occurring aluminum in soil is problematic.  Plants don't grow in aluminum-rich soils.  Aluminum is abundant, but it plays no part in any biological function in plants or animals  Current research points to the possibility that aluminum robs cells of magnesium (source) a vital mineral, and that's why they won't grow. 

    One of the biggest problems of acid rain is that aluminum leaches (turns from a solid metal to a dissolved, ionic form) into water under acidic conditions.  In streams and bodies of water that have turned acidic, plants and animals die because of the aluminum toxicity from soil leaching. (source)

    If you're trying to avoid aluminum in your life, you've probably decided to not use aluminum pots and pans.  You know that putting acidic food in aluminum causes aluminum leaching in to the food.  When aluminum is leached in to food, it turns from a solid metal, in to ionic form.  This is the same aluminum ion you create when you wet the crystal deodorant stones. When they create alum, it's effectively the same process.  They add sulfuric acid to aluminum-rich bauxite ore.  The aluminum is leached in to ionic form, and then the resulting liquid is dried out and the remaining aluminum salt crystalizes in to the stone that you use for the deodorant.  When you wet the deodorant stone, you're effectively putting aluminum in the most bioavailable form possible on your body's largest organ: your skin.   

    A few facts about alum:

    Alum is commonly used in municipal water supply purification because it helps to remove particulate matter.  However, cities have to carefully filter and monitor levels of aluminum left behind because of its toxicity. 

    Mice who were dosed with alum showed significant losses in memory.  (Source:

    This Russian study looked at alum to asess its safety in the workplace.  It's classified as a class 3 moderately hazardous material and the study recommended that employers monitor the air quality for the dust from these ingredients and not to let it exceed a half of a milligram per cubic meter.  (Source) MSDS sheets for alum recommend that if it comes in contact to skin, to rinse skin for a minimum of twenty minutes.  Additionally, during transport it's classified as an environmentally hazardous material. 

    People have died from eating as small as 30 grams of alum.  If a shard of the crystal were to break off of your deodorant stone and a child or pet were to accidentally eat it, they would get very ill and could possibly die.  Eating 1/4th of a typical deodorant stone would be the lethal dose for a normal healthy adult. 

    It's your decision:

    In the defense of alum, it's not as "bad" as synthetic aluminums because it doesn't display xenoestrogenic activity like synthetic aluminum compounds have been found to.  And, of course, the risks involved with alum are higher when ingested than when applied to skin.  The link between the bioaccumulation of aluminum and Alzheimer's disease is still being studied and debated.  There is no direct causual connection, although there is some strong circumstantial evidence linking aluminum to the degenerative disease. 

    If it is your lifestyle choice to avoid aluminum, avoiding alum in the crystal deodorant stone would logically be part of that.  There is no proof that it wouldn't be absorbed in through the skin. The amounts being absorbed would be rather small, but we're talking about daily repeated use.  The body has a nearly impossible time getting rid of aluminum, so if it is being absorbed, it is accumulating in the tissues of your body with hardly a chance of escaping.  It is up to you to decide if you want to take that risk.    

    To show that I'm not trying to propagate scare tactics, I offer this to the skeptics: If someone can prove me otherwise with a credible study, I'll be happy to amend my claims and publish your information.