Angry Toxicologist

Do STATS lie?

To get right to the heart of the matter, Salon did an article about the risks of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics. From the land where nothing is harmful, a reply came from Trevor Butterworth (real name) who is an editor at STATS. If you don’t know what STATS is, they are a non-profit attached (in what way, I don’t know) to George Mason Univ, who I believe are industry funded, who ‘dubunk’ bad science news/media (they don’t list their funding but have an office in downtown DC in the midst of lobbyists offices). Unfortunately, they are as about as unscientific as the rest of the media. They twist analyses and selectively use data, if they use data at all. I’ll post his whole letter here for you to judge:

Thanks, Salon, for fomenting hysteria on a topic that is vastly more complex than you seem to realize. Of course, when you a rig a story by putting “scientists” on one side and “industy” on the other, it’s no wonder that the letter writers ahead of me are scandalized – it does seem like a scandal the Bisphenol-A is unregulated given the “evidence” about low-dose effects.

The problem with the thesis – which would have been obvious if you did more reporting on the toxicology – is that it is far from accepted within mainstream toxicology. Frederick Vom Saal has been fighting the battle to persuade his colleagues that something is happening here – and he has been conspicuously unsuccessful. This isn’t because of politics, or industry lobbying – although Vom Saal and the Environmental Working Group seem to be working in concert to raise public awareness about this topic- it’s because the science ain’t there.

Take Europe, a continent where the precautionary principle has been enshrined in law, and where, as a consequence, regulation of chemicals is much stricter than the United States. Earlier this year, the European Food Safety Authority a body charged with providing “objective scientific advice” to the European Parliament, delivered a report on the safety of bisphenol-A.

Here’s what they concluded about the “science” driving the Salon article:

“The Panel considered that low-dose effects of BPA in rodents have not been demonstrated in a robust and reproducible way, such that they could be used as pivotal studies for risk assessment. Moreover, the species differences in toxicokinetics, whereby BPA as parent compound is less bioavailable in humans than in rodents, raise considerable doubts about the relevance of any low-dose observations in rodents for humans. The likely high sensitivity of the mouse to oestrogens raises further doubts about the value of that particular species as a model for risk assessment of BPA in humans.”

Toxokinetics folks – it’s not a word taught in journalism schools, or bandied about the newsroom but it’s crucial to understanding why something can be toxic or not. Strangely, the European review concurred with several other comprehensive risk analyses of BPA – including one by Harvard’s Center for Risk Analysis.

Um – maybe that’s why the studies cited by Vom Saal and the Environmental Working Group were largely ignored by the National Toxicology Program’s safety review of BPA, which prompted Vom Saal to say to the LA Times that “none of them have expertise with this chemical,” which is such a dopey comment, you’ve got to wonder about his agenda and credibility (The NTP panels are made up of the top scientists in the U.S.; Vom Saal, himself, is not a toxicologist).

Still – as long as there are credulous publications like Salon, Vom Saal will get his message out, untroubled by the scientific evidence that doesn’t support what he’s saying.

Trevor Butterworth

ps – to the letter-writer who thinks BPA might be behind breast cancer: think first about other factors including more mammograms, an aging population (more cancers being caught early, plus more being found due to relative aging of population), increased alcohol consumption, later age of first birth, increased IVF treatments – all of which significantly distinguish Marin County in CA from the rest of the U.S., and probably explain its higher incidence of breast cancer.

Well Mr Butterworth, let me retort.
1) Speaking of no science, you’ve got none! You mention not one shred of evidence that BPA is safe. This is the most ridiculous rebutal letter I’ve ever seen. And from someone with an organization named STATS, you should be ashamed to even go into work. If you are a heavy Ambien user and filed this at 3AM, then MAYBE I’ll give you a pass.
2) Your one attempt at science didn’t go over so well. You say: “Toxicokinetics”. A strong argument to be sure, but perhaps a bit short. Apparently no one taught you toxicokinetics either as it’s the acute exposure studies that show TK profiles that aren’t likely relevant to humans, not the low-dose studies. Also although the absorption and processing of BPA is different in humans and rodents, studies now show that the serum levels that caused harm in rodent studies are the same as what are in some humans negating the toxicokinetics arguement/problem.
3) Um, maybe you ought to READ the National Toxicology Report. I’m not sure you two are on the same page. Go read the interm report summary (it’s not finalized yet), like the whole thing this time instead of cherry picking. Gee, that doesn’t sound like the absolute clean bill of heath you make it out to be. Also, why can’t Vom Saal argue with the results and point out that the panel has no BPA experts? You, Mr Butterworth, don’t seem to have any scientific arguements and he’s got plenty. In addition…
4) 38 experts got together recently and published a great blanced paper that included the following statement

Early life exposure to environmentally relevant BPA doses may result in persistent adverse effects in humans.

The paper is well worth a read for anyone who is interested (maybe I’ll post on this later). Since you, Mr Butterworth, like bandying about university names, this is where the authors were from:

Havard School of Public Health
University of Missouri
Auburn University
University of Cincinnati
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Maryville College
Algalita Marine Research Foundation
University of Siena, Italy
University of Florida
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
University of Cincinnati Medical School
Washington State University
Okazaki Institute For Integrative Bioscience, Japan
Brunel University, UK
National Institute of Health Sciences, Japan
CASE School of Medicine
University of Connecticut
North Carolina State University
Emory University
Tulane University
Xavier Universitiy
Universidad Miguel Hernández, Spain
CIBERESP Hospital Clinico-University of Granada, Spain
University of Illinois at Chicago
USGS, Columbia Environmental Research Center
Tufts School of Medicine
Charit┬┤e University Medical School Berlin, Germany
Carleton College
University of Texas Medical Branch
University of Massachusetts

5) The way you write makes you sound like a 5-grade bully with a huge vocabulary. You may want to either a) get someone to edit your writing (whoops, you’re the editor!) OR b) get some facts and use them correctly.

Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Oh one more thing, Mister Butterworth, Europe isn’t the paragon of health and safety regulation, no matter what liberals like to think. Trust me, I’ve read their regs (I’ll do a segment on why REACH is stupid for everyone sometime soon). For instance, the list of banned in cosmetics chemcials they came up with is full of chemicals that no one uses anymore anyway. Oooo, tough stand Europe!

Hat Tip to reader Peyton for alerting me to this.

Comments

  1. #1 Nostradumbass
    August 13, 2007

    Working for a chemical supplier in the cosmetics industry, you’d be surprised at how many small under-the-radar cosmetics companies there are and you’d be horrified at some of the requests we get. I’m not saying REACH is good or bad, but I don’t think it is stupid to ban chemicals just because ‘no one’ supposedly uses them any longer.

  2. #2 RB
    August 13, 2007

    The STATS letter seems to be a typical industry tactic. Create what looks to be a credible scientifically based organization and used it to dispute the scientific evidence to form doubt in the minds of the public and especially lawmakers. This same tactic was used to dispute the scientific evidence against cigarettes and global warming. STATS is just another FUD organization. They spread FUD –> Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

  3. #3 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    I would try and argue with you except, from the ad-hominem tone of your post, it would seem to be pointless. You appear to be a true believer in Vom Saal and his crusade. Congratulations. For your other, less certain, readers — should you have any — let me just say that STATS doesn’t accept industry-funding. We have written lots about BPA though.

    As for the 38-self-proclaimed experts, many of whom had fixed opinions on BPA to begin with, who conducted a closed meeting, and merely conducted a literature reveiw that cobbled together every study under the sun that suggested a low-dose effect, their “evidence” proved remarkably unpersuasive to the CEHRH, which conducted it’s meeting in the open, and with public comment, and under the direction of protocols which assessed the methodology of each study and its applicability to humans.

    Isn’t it odd to you that this panel – composed of experts at leading institutions around the U.S. – came to more or less the same conclusion as the scientists at the European Food Agency, namely that the evidence of low-dose effects doesn’t amount to much of anything. The one area of concern that the CEHRH signaled it had “some concern” about prenatal neurological and behavioral effects. (I should note, the letter to Salon was written before the CEHRH panel report). In other words, it ended up focusing on possible risks that – to judge from Vom Saal’s comments to the press over the years – were not the ones he claimed for the chemical.

    The problem with true belief is that when the argument doesn’t go your way, you become angry. QED. Perhaps you are a visionary who will astound us all with your research. I say go for it. More paper writing, less blogging. Prove journalists like me wrong. Anger is a waste of such a good mind like yours.

    Regards – Trevor

  4. #4 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    RB,

    I might say the same thing about the “angry toxicologist” – a phantom instrument of the Environmental Working Group? a disgruntled angry Green on the payroll of Fenton Communications? But how does this move the argument forward?

    I may only be a journalist, I may have only studied the history and philosophy of science, but I would expect those interested and engaging in a blog about science to adopt a more expansive analytic approach, one that does not assume the facts are so self-evident that they can be dispensed with and argument foreclosed in a conspiracy-minded tirade of “who are they really?”

    You can, if you like, go to my website, http://www.trevorbutterworth.com, check out what I’ve written, where I’ve been to college, what people have said about me (google for the not-so-nice things). I merely take it upon trust that I’m dealing with an actual toxicologist.

    Fo all I know, he or she may not be; how can I evaluate the quality of their thinking (beyond a post full of invective) when this site lacks the transparency of those it seeks to criticize?

    Regards

    Trevor

  5. #5 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    Btw – I forgot to note that, from what I’ve heard, there were scientists at the bpa workshop who refused to sign their names to “the great balanced paper” (how can a paper be balanced when it doesn’t include studies that challenge the underlying thesis?), or endorse its conclusions, including co-sponsors of the workshop, the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research and the American Dental Association.

    Regards,

    Trevor

  6. #6 Orac
    August 13, 2007

    The STATS letter seems to be a typical industry tactic.Create what looks to be a credible scientifically based organization and used it to dispute the scientific evidence to form doubt in the minds of the public and especially lawmakers. This same tactic was used to dispute the scientific evidence against cigarettes and global warming. STATS is just another FUD organization. They spread FUD –> Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

    Lame. Very lame. Incredibly lame.

    This is merely a mind-numbingly obvious variant of the “pharma shill” gambit. Really, if you have a substantive criticism of the letter, do let us know. As it is, your post is nothing other than the fallacy of poisoning the well.

    I don’t know who’s closer to being correct about this, as I am not sufficiently familiar with the issue and the literature. I am, however, familiar with what does and does not constitute a good argument. The “pharma shill” gambit, absent compelling evidence supporting the contention that the person being accused is, in fact, a pharma shill is not a good argument. It’s sliming. Even when the person making an argument does, in fact, have a conflict of interest, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is wrong; it just means that we need to apply more skepticism to his data and arguments. The arguments rise and fall on the quality of the data and science, not the person.

    The “shill” gambit is a commonly used one, most of the time with no good evidence. It’s one thing if there is evidence that someone is a shill, but it’s quite another thing to call someone a shill just to discredit them when there is no evidence.

    As I said before, it’s incredibly lame.

  7. #7 MarkH
    August 13, 2007

    You had me at George Mason AT. Host of the Mercatus Center and the all-around go-to institution for Washington industry lobbyists looking for academics for sale, I wouldn’t trust a George Mason academic to tell me the sun is shining.

  8. #8 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    Wow – Mark H!

    Is there a series of keywords by which all controversies can be resolved without further discussion? George Mason? Mercatus? What else?

    By the way, I’m not an academic at George Mason, but my colleague Rebecca Goldin is; she’s a Harvard and MIT-trained mathematician, who has just won the Michler Prize (a fellowship at Cornell). I guess the peer-reviewers who recently accepted her article on Orbifold cohomology of torus quotients (with A. Knutson and T. Holm) should have just tossed it out when they saw her affiliation.

    Please, if you are going to waste your time posting an attack on us, at least come up with a scientific argument.

    Regards

    Trevor

  9. #9 angrytoxicologist
    August 13, 2007

    So let’s clear up a few things here.
    First, I’m not saying that BPA causes health effects in people, I don’t think the evidence is in on that front. The research is convincing enough to need to do more (including an epi study). Also, Frankly, I think Vom Saal’s a bit of a nut too. That doesn’t make him wrong, though.
    Two, what I am saying is that Mr Butterworth’s letter contained no science and the stuff he quoted wasn’t really as strong as he made it out to be.
    Three, I’m not on any advocacy group’s payroll.
    Four, “expansive approach”? Mr Butterworth, may I introduce you to the kettle? Also, I would have a more expansive approach if there was anything in your approach to expand upon.
    Five, Mr Butterworth’s discription of the 38-member panel is hersay, close minded and thus extremely hypocritical.
    Six, I would actually like to know if anyone knows that some people refused to sign the paper. If that’s true and they had scientific reasoning, that would be a good and fair point.
    Seven, STATS isn’t part of GMU it’s just associated with it. I’ve got nothing against GMU specifically. Although Mark, I would agree that GMU has made some very dubious ‘associations’.
    Lastly, Orac, It’s not the pharma shill tactic (well the comment that was made was and I’m not sure if you’re refering to the comment or my post). I’m not saying that Mr Butterworth is wrong because he’s a shill (I have no idea whether he is or not, I would guess misguided but not a shill). I’m saying the letter was outrageous because it contained no science and misrepresents what is out there. One doesn’t need science to point out that someone else used no science. (That is unless I’m trying to prove a point about BPA, which I’m not other than to say that the question is a lot more open than Mr Butterworth makes it seem to be).

  10. #10 AJ
    August 13, 2007

    I dunno AT, I might classify STATS as a “shill” since it is pretty much one and the same as the CMPA.

    From SourceWatch.org:

    “The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) is a stealth PR operation of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). Since it shares the offices (in the pricey “K Street” lobbying district of Washington) and staff of CMPA, it should be considered as a front, rather than a subsidiary or spin-off. STATS poses as a disinterested, non-partisan guardian of scientific and statistical integrity in order to plant stories with unsuspecting, credulous (or colluding) media outlets. It has been surpisingly successful in this imposture, with many persons and organisations citing STATS (especially, its web site stats.org), for example [see weblink below for the examples], as an authoritative or useful resource.

    STATS seems to have become less active in recent months, but this may be temporary.

    Early in its history, STATS concealed its affiliation with CMPA, but now discreetly mentions it.”

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Statistical_Assessment_Service

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Center_for_Media_and_Public_Affairs

  11. #11 Orac
    August 13, 2007

    Lastly, Orac, It’s not the pharma shill tactic (well the comment that was made was and I’m not sure if you’re refering to the comment or my post). I’m not saying that Mr Butterworth is wrong because he’s a shill (I have no idea whether he is or not, I would guess misguided but not a shill).

    Straw man. I never said that you did. I quoted RB and said that he did. And he did. Do pay closer attention to what I quoted.

    I stand by what I said. RB used the “industry shill” gambit, of which the “pharma shill” gambit is but a subtype. It was lame, lame, lame.

  12. #12 angrytoxicologist
    August 13, 2007

    Orac, looks like we’re in agreement as I wrote in the last post “well the comment that was made was [it was an industry shill comment] and I’m not sure if you’re refering to the comment or my post”. Didn’t mean to get on your case but I couldn’t figure out who you were talking to. Don’t you hate it when you think you’re argueing but your really not?

  13. #13 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    AJ, What makes you assume Source Watch is accurate? Seriously?

    The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) is a stealth PR operation of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA).

    – No, it’s a separate 501c3. And its research director is Rebecca Goldin, a mathematician at GMU[/b]

    Since it shares the offices (in the pricey “K Street” lobbying district of Washington) and staff of CMPA, it should be considered as a front, rather than a subsidiary or spin-off.

    – it shares the offices of the not-so pricey Humane Society of America building on L Street – although none of the regular contributors live in Washington DC.[/b]

    STATS poses as a disinterested, non-partisan guardian of scientific and statistical integrity in order to plant stories with unsuspecting, credulous (or colluding) media outlets. It has been surpisingly successful in this imposture, with many persons and organisations citing STATS (especially, its web site stats.org), for example [1] and [2], as an authoritative or useful resource.

    – Since I took over as editor, we’ve covered a lot of ground, going to bat for whomever we argued had the better evidence. Look at what we’ve written about boot camps, and addiction and recovery. We’ve been cited by the New York Times, who demanded to know the sources of our funding, which are — I repeat — not from industry.

    STATS seems to have become less active in recent months, but this may be temporary.

    – What does it tell you about Sourcewatch that it’s entry is dated 2003 – and it has failed to note that we post almost every weekday, or that we are now affiliated with George Mason University?

    Early in its history, STATS concealed its affiliation with CMPA, but now discreetly mentions it.

    – Huh? There has never been any attempt to hide the affiliation – and why not? President Bill Clinton praised CMPA’s work, and CMPA has received foundation support from such organizations as the Rockefeller Brothers and the NRDC. Being non-partisan, means accepting money from left and center and right.

    Have you, AJ, actually looked at our site? You don’t have to agree with everything we write, but wouldn’t it be better to go to primary sources first rather than secondary?

    Regards

    Trevor

  14. #14 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    Ms/Mr Angry Toxicologist

    There are at least six participants in the BPA workshop who didn’t sign the document, but it’s difficult getting hold of full details, as the meeting wasn’t public (in the way the CEHRH report was. However, I’m trying…

    The authors gratefully acknowledge expertise and input
    from additional panel members: Jane C. Atkinson, Antonia M. Calafat,
    Frederick Eichmiller, Albert Kingman, Ruthann Rudel, and Kristina A. Thayer. This review was prepared in conjunction with the Bisphenol A Conference, Chapel Hill, NC, November 28-29, 2006.
    Support was provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and
    the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH, DHHS,the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology at NC State University, and from Commonweal.

    Now – give me a break!

    It was a letter to Salon; it was titled “credulous and a bit one-sided aren’t we?” It was three to six times longer than any of the other 29 letters in response to the article. It quoted from the FSA report, so to say it contained no science is mystifying. There’s only so much one can achieve in a letter before it becomes an article in its own right. The point of the letter was to show the one-sided nature of the Salon piece – and I think it demonstrated that. I’m sorry that left you itching for more; most readers are satisfied with much less.

    Moreover, why does it not bother you that Salon published this piece a couple of days in advance of the CEHRH hearing rather than waiting to see what the other experts thought? If I was conspiratorially-minded, I’d wonder about the connection between ex Salon editor David Talbot, now a VP for Fenton Communications, the Environmental Working Group, and Vom Saal… hmmh.

    But seriously, why aren’t you angry about the way the media has covered the low-dose theory as if it has been proven, but never the studies that dispute the theory? Vom Saal has charged that the CEHRH panel docs are flawed – and received massive media attention – and yet the contention that he is just glomming widely different studies with different, dosages and endpoints together goes unremarked in the press (but not among, at least some toxicologists)? He dismissed the Harvard Risk eval of BPA as “industry-funded” – and so, no-one ever takes what it found seriously… doesn’t that annoy you, just a little bit?

  15. #15 Angrytoxicologist
    August 13, 2007

    Trevor,
    It would be good to know why those people did not sign the document, for scientific or logistical (it’s really hard for gov’t employees to sign onto those things- I was supprised to see a few NIHers on there).

    As to your comment about the length of the letter – strong words require a lot of backing up. The main point you give “Toxicokinetics”, as I have noted, is irrelevant.

    A sloppy job by Salon doesn’t justify your sloppy job. Additionally, why didn’t you mention that fact [the bad/questionable timing] in your letter. It would have been much more persuasive. I don’t go in much for conspriacy theories (as I noted, I don’t think you’re a shill and I doubt the Salon journo is either).

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “low-dose theory” but even the NTP panel you quote notes that there is concern due to the low dose studies.

    I have noted I think that Vom Saal is a bit of a nut, but I am not greatly bothered by the media reports. For instance, take this LAT piece from last week. It tells both sides and I think gives a pretty accurate description of what everybody thinks.

    One could ask you how come it doesn’t bother you that the panel you mention has no BPA experts on it or the fact that they threw out any injection studies even though the tox comparisons can be made serum level to serum level (this move is a bit insane unless you’re looking at metabolite toxicity), or the fact that the report was drafted by a company with chemical industry ties that didn’t disclose them.

    And frankly, without even going into the data, if I see two conflicting reports coming out, one with no BPA experts and the other with BPA experts with no financial stake, I’m likely to trust the one from the experts.

  16. #16 Trevor Butterworth
    August 13, 2007

    My burden as a letter writer to a publication is not the same as the author’s. The conclusion of the FSA study was sufficient to cast doubt on the balance of the Salon piece. I didn’t need to do more. It might have been nice if I had, but there you go, life and letter writing to the media ain’t perfect.

    I am bothered by the media reports. If you really wanted to change maternal-fetal health outcomes for the better, we would be focusing on pre-conception vitamins, fetal alcohol exposure, and the relative scarcity of level 3 NICU care (Orac, care to comment), and not scaring people witless about the hypothetical risk from trace exposures to chemicals.

    The NTP panel only notes “some concern” relative to BPA and fetal neurological impact, namely a call for further study. It’s not as if the research driving this judgment had itself come to a clear judgment on the risk. Hardly the kind of klaxon Vom Saal et al have been calling for years.

    And what does it mean to be a BPA “expert?” Either you can prove, by virtue of the design, methodology, and statistics that you’ve found something, a correlation, a putative mode of action, or not. Was this Sanskrit to the CEHRH’s Greek? I don’t think so. When we interviewed CEHRH panel members on Shanna Swan’s phthalate study, they seemed to have a sure grasp of the science and the statistics (I should note that STATS – which had no demonstrable expertise in phthalates – was the first to call out Swan on her problematic statistics, a critique which was later reiterated by the CEHRH).

    If you look at Vom Saal’s previous literature reviews of the topic, all manner of studies have been cited to support his position (and he’s gotten in trouble for mischaracterization – see

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1332690

    However, Vom Saal got to have his say to the CEHRH. He got to argue his point and submit his studies. And the CEHRH appear to have shrugged. Now why might they have junked the subcutaneous injection studies (as the FSA did). Might it be because dosing a rodent with a single large dose 100 to 10,000 times the average daily exposure to BPA and then bypassing the intestinal wall and liver isn’t a realistic way of assessing human toxicity when we know that BPA is rapidly excreted in urine? And even after this physiological assault, the statistical significance of the results (in the DES study) were not that much to write home about.

    You tell me why the CEHRH and the FSA scientists were wrong to dismiss this, and insist that non-oral dosing with BPA doesn’t generate results relevant to humans. That’s a fundamental sticking point with the gang of 38. Again, you’d never know that if you relied on the mainstream media.

    As for the LAT piece, Marla Cone has substantially toned down her own Vom Saal-driven reporting in the last couple of weeks. But she originally led the reporting on the supposed conflict of interest with the contractor in the CEHRH report. I think this was a canard. But either way, the contractor was fired, and because the panel meeting is open, Vom Saal and the Environmental Working Group had their say.

    What financial stake does the CEHRH have? Only two of the members were from the chemical industry, and obviously, they were not representing bisphenol a. And why do you assume that Vom Saal et al don’t have a financial stake in this argument. This isn’t a bunch of scientists working for nothing vs a panel of scientists lacking “expertise” and getting paid to pooh-pooh the former’s work. There is a lot of money at stake – not to mention amour propre.

    But why not trust the FSA scientists, who are also independent?

    http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20070201EFSA.html

    They *raised* the TDI for BPA. So, when you add it up you have the CEHRH, the FSA, Harvard’s Center for Risk Evaluation report (commissioned by industry)

    http://www.hcra.harvard.edu/rip/risk_in_persp_August2004.pdf

    An update to this by the Gradient Corporation (also commissioned by industry)

    http://www.gradientcorp.com/coinfo/pdf/RiskBull1.pdf

    All, more or less, disputing the arguments raised by the gang of 38 – and you’re going to go with the “experts” without even going to the data?

    Regards

    Trevor

  17. #17 Jim Lemire
    August 15, 2007

    after reading this post and all the comments, I have to say I am having trouble taking Mr. Butterworth’s comments to heart. To imply a tone from his writing, and in agreement with the comment of him being a “bully”, it seems to me that he is being very defensive and belligerent. I’m not saying this proves he’s wrong, but his style leaves me cold – especially the original letter to Salon. And for good or for bad, style does matter when trying to make a point. He seems, to me anyways, to be trying real hard to force a convincing argument instead of actually making a convincing argument. IF that makes any sense.

  18. #18 angrytoxicologist
    August 15, 2007

    I’m only going to respond to a few things here because frankly we could go on forever and I haven’t got much time.

    1) your ideas about the TK is still messed up. When the levels in the serum of animals are the same as the serum of people (which they are in some of the low dose studies) and you are concerned with the parent chemical not the metabolite, oral vs IV dose makes no difference. This is toxicology 101 here. (rodent versus human excretion does make a difference but it doesn’t impact the oral vs IV issue. You’re mixing your arguments)

    2) Scared witless? Who is scared witless? Who wants to make people scared witless? Nobody. This is a total straw man arguement and one I can’t stand. Terrorism = scared (but even then, not witless); Bisphenol A = concerned at most. If you personally know people that are scared witless, please let me know.

    3) Why can’t we do something about bisphenol A AND other health problems? This is a false choice arguement.

    4) I forgot to mention this earlier: The Japanese got bisphenol A out of cans and are using an alternative that is roughly the same price.

    So not even thinking about any other aspect of this issue let me throw this out for the readers. It’s not like we’re talking about items that are essential to our life, security, or, heck, even our enjoyment. It’s hard to see the logic of not moving to an alternative even in the face of considerable uncertainty. Even at “some concern” for in utero exposures, I’d say the alternative is a good idea. We should have to wait until we KNOW we’ve injured people in order to do things. In other words, if there is concern, with a lot of uncertianty to be sure, for an adverse health effect and the alternative is readily available and almost as cheap, why in the heck would you not just go do it already?

    Update: Mr Butterworth’s last comment wasn’t posted right away as it was automatically wisked away to my electronic junk drawer (too many links is a good sign of junk). I restore them as soon as I find them.

  19. #19 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 15, 2007

    After reading the somewhat vigourus discusson here, I meandered over to http://www.stats.org, following Mr. Butterworth’s suggestion to AJ to “go to primary sources”.

    At a cursory glance, the site links to many sources that I consider quite credible, including several at scienceblogs.com.

    However, the bottom of the main page links to a list of ‘Skeptics’, which includes csicop.org, quackwatch.org, and skeptic.com. But tucked away within the list are –

    The Junk Science Home Page
    and
    Mike Fumento

    I have to ask you Mr. Butterworth, do you really consider Steven Milloy, the Cigarette Industry and CATO Institute funded ‘Junkman’ as credible?

  20. #20 MarkH
    August 16, 2007

    Ding ding ding.

  21. #21 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 16, 2007

    Trevor Butterworth:

    We’ve been cited by the New York Times, who demanded to know the sources of our funding, which are — I repeat — not from industry.

    Mr. Butterworth, the days when ‘vetting’ by the NYTimes was enough to satisfy everyone about someone’s motivations or impartiality are long long gone. Why not offer the rest of us the same courtsey that you did the Times and share with us your sources of funding? Even if I take your “not from industry” assertion at face value, I would like to know how much of your money comes from the likes of CATO and its ilk …

  22. #22 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 17, 2007

    Since Trevor Butterworth has chosen to withdraw from this debate, here’s one answer to my question above that a cursory online search produced. Note that I have no idea as to the accuracy of this information.

    The source is http://www.mediatransparency.org at this link. The most recent entries in the list of funders to STATS are as follows –
    (I have trimmed one column in the hope that the table formatting does not get completely mangled.)

    Grants to Statistical Assessment Service
    Date —— Amount ——– Funder
    12-31-2005 100,000 Sarah Scaife Foundation
    12-31-2004 100,000 Sarah Scaife Foundation
    01-01-2004 25,000 Castle Rock Foundation
    12-31-2003 100,000 The Carthage Foundation

    So it would appears that Mr. Butterworth’s mouth is firmly attached to that mother lode of conservative teats – the Mellon Sciafe family foundations – milk from which when processed through his unique biochemistry generates the piss that he tries to pass off as the nectar of Non-Partisan Objectivity to the rest of us.

    I await his refutations stating that this data is wrong, or that it is outdated and his present funding has less poisonous origins, or reiterate that non-partisan means taking money from everyone (and backing this up by sharing his funding sources with us), or telling us how things have changed since he took over and STATS is now solely funded by NSF grants, or … something. I mean I would like to see one blade of actual grass breaking through from a tear in the Astroturf field that seems to be his organization.

    I’m not holding my breath however.

    PS: I’m not sure if this already posted. It so, sorry for the double.

    PPS: AngryTox, what is the link limit in your spam filter for immediate posting?

  23. #23 Trevor Butterworth
    August 20, 2007

    I wandered away from this discussion and have just chanced back in on it. There are so many points to make, I don’t know where to start.

    First off, to the people who are upset by the tone of the discussion. Well, I’m sorry; I think it merely robust: the debating tradition in Ireland, inaugurated by Edmund Burke, is not for the genteel.

    Now to the links on STATS home page: I am appalled at the idea that whatever CATO/Milloy/Fumento have to say must automatically be dismissed because of their funding or their ideology. I may not have the expertise in toxicology that AJ has; but philosophy is something I know about, and the principle of “audi alteram partem” is, as Stuart Hampshire has so cogently argued, the procedural foundation of justice.

    Are those who protest the fact that STATS, a non-partisan organization, has links to CATO/Milloy/Fumento, willing to argue that nothing written by either organization or man falls within the factual domain of reasonable deliberation? That is to say, are there rational grounds for saying that nothing that such sources might write should be read because nothing that they have written has ever been accurate or plausible?

    What would count as sufficient grounds for this kind of inference? I think those who have protested this point have an obligation should think about the logical assumptions behind what they write, before calling for censorship.

    CATO, for example, has been at the forefront of deep analytic criticism of the domestic war on pain doctors, when liberals and the left have been awol on this topic. Look at what Radley Balko has written [http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3727], and tell me why something like this shouldn’t be linked to?

    Regards

    Trevor

  24. #24 Michael Fumento
    August 20, 2007

    Oh, and incidentally, Fumento hasn’t received a corporate grant, in any way shape or form, since 1999. (Let me do the math for you; that’s eight years.) Rather a fly in your political science ointment I should say.

  25. #25 Trevor Butterworth
    August 20, 2007

    Now to funding.

    Like Sourcewatch, Mediatransparency.org needs to be taken with a large dose of salt. It appears to have an extreme left-wing agenda by which it reports only information that enables awkward data to be painted as coming from a vast right-wing/corporate conspiracy. The result is sloppy and stupid. For example, I am listed as editor of NewsWatch, which CMPA “publishes” and it rips on the “liberal press.”

    First, NewsWatch stopped publication in 2000; second, it was bought out by BigEye.com and I was retained as editor in the same year; third, in this incarnation it went bust again after several months. BigEye owned the name though, and they continued to “publish” NewsWatch, even though it was no more than a page with several links. Neither I, nor CMPA, nor STATS has had anything to do with them since the fall of 2000. (They owed me a not-insubstantial amount of money at the time of the second end).

    As to “ripping on the liberal press.” This merely proves that people at Mediatransparency.org didn’t read the CMPA “Newswatch.” If you go to

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/newswatch.org

    You will be able to see what we wrote prior to Dec 2000. Yes, we ripped the “liberal’ press for not covering Ralph Nader, for taking Renata Adler’s smear of Judge John Sirica seriously – and for many other issues. You can read the tributes here

    http://web.archive.org/web/20000815054555/http://www.newswatch.org/

    Now, mediatransparency follows up its claim about NewsWatch with an apparent hit by Michael Massing on the Center. What it doesn’t mention is that CMPA awarded Massing the Mongerson Prize for media criticism in 2005 for his series in the NYRB questioning “the media’s acceptance of the Bush administration’s claims that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq. ‘Thoroughly reported and clearly written, the stories put journalistic failings in context and serve as a cautionary tale for newsrooms,’ the judges said in naming Massing the winner.” (FYI The prize is now run by the Medill School of Journalism).

    Perhaps this counts as ripping the “liberal” media? Either way, it calls attention to the intellectual laziness of assuming that one can dismiss certain arguments by virtue of citing mediatransparency as proof of those arguments impeachability.

    The other point is that being non-partisan means offending and praising both sides – and taking their money, as long as they know it isn’t going to influence what we write about. The problem with this is that it isn’t the most compelling fundraising strategy. Many foundations want specific outcomes; they just aren’t interested in disinterested criticism.

    Still, given STATS affiliation with George Mason University, and my particular role (which is as a contractor and not as a staff member), I am not at liberty to discuss funding in the detail that some of the posters want. The best I can offer is that you — yes, *you* — call STATS’ president and GMU faculty member, Robert S. Lichter at 202-223-3193 and ask him to do so.

    Regards

    Trevor

  26. #26 Trevor Butterworth
    August 20, 2007

    The Japanese can (or canard)?

    AJ wrote:
    “4) I forgot to mention this earlier: The Japanese got bisphenol A out of cans and are using an alternative that is roughly the same price.”

    Um… not true (did you rely on Vom Saal?) See, instead,

    Food Additives and Contaminants, January 2007; 24(1): 103-112
    Bisphenol A (BPA) and its source in foods in Japanese markets

    I also asked an industry specialist if this was the case, and that BPA was no longer in use in Japanese cans. He said none of his colleagues *in Japan* supported this idea.

    Much more to come!

    Trevor

  27. #27 Trevor Butterworth
    August 20, 2007

    FYI – a much longer post on funding and mediatransparency.org has got caught in AJ’s spam filter…

    T

  28. #28 Trevor Butterworth
    August 20, 2007

    “2) Scared witless? Who is scared witless? Who wants to make people scared witless? Nobody. This is a total straw man arguement and one I can’t stand. Terrorism = scared (but even then, not witless); Bisphenol A = concerned at most. If you personally know people that are scared witless, please let me know.”

    If you haven’t been following the media coverage, and the activist campaigns to have BPA (and phthalates) banned over the past several years, you probably aren’t aware of the degree of hysteria that surrounds this topic. Scared and witless (think about the etymology of the latter) are apt words. Do a search on “BPA” and “poison.” Or consider Toronto Globe and Mail reporter Martin Mittelstaedt’s comment that BPA is “one of the biggest public-health and scientific controversies in the world.” Analyzing the media coverage is my job, and it’s not an enviable one.

    “3) Why can’t we do something about bisphenol A AND other health problems? This is a false choice arguement.”

    Only if you assume that the precautionary principle must be followed, otherwise, it would seem more rationale (and a better use of resources) to focus on real rather than hypothetical risks. Moreover, as someone who works in public health, you, AJ, should know what happens to people when they are bombarded with all manner of risks with no sense about how they should be ranked as to whether they are likely, or even numerically quantifiable.

    And it’s not “we” that have to do anything, it’s industry – and the problem with admitting any level of risk, even the most outlandishly unlikely, is that it opens the door to legal action.

    T

  29. #29 angrytoxicologist
    August 20, 2007

    Ugh. Michael Fumento commented on my blog. I feel so dirty.

  30. #30 Hank Roberts
    August 21, 2007

    Would someone competent in toxicology please respond to what was posted early in the responses? Please?

    “… Working for a chemical supplier in the cosmetics industry, you’d be surprised at how many small under-the-radar cosmetics companies there are and you’d be horrified at some of the requests we get. … I don’t think it is stupid to ban chemicals just because ‘no one’ supposedly uses them any longer.”

    A chemical supplier _in_the_cosmetics_industry_????

    What happens to all that shit when the European regulation closes the door to selling it over there?

  31. #31 Stagyar zil Doggo
    August 30, 2007

    Let me apologize to everyone for responding so late to Mr. Butterworth. If he fails to reply to this comment, I hope readers will consider the possiblitity that its because he’s stopped checking this thread, rather than becasue he has no answer. But that said, I feel that his dissembling on both of the two questions that I brought up needs to be pointed out, so here’s my response.

    Are those who protest the fact that STATS, a non-partisan organization, has links to CATO/Milloy/Fumento, willing to argue that nothing written by either organization or man falls within the factual domain of reasonable deliberation? That is to say, are there rational grounds for saying that nothing that such sources might write should be read because nothing that they have written has ever been accurate or plausible?

    It is conceivable that Milloy may once have told a truth, and even (if you’re being generous) that he didn’t charge someone for it. But that’s very different standard from being a reliable source for science/public policy related issues, which is what I asked you. That you link to him seems to indicate that you consider say, at least half of what he says to be accurate.

    As a quick google search on Milloy’s name easily shows, he was a paid lobbist of the cigarette industry who, while taking money from them passed himself off as an “independent” scientist and pushed claims minimizing the harmful health effects of smoking. You claim to be a statistician, so perhaps you could calculate the number of lung cancer deaths solely attributable to these actions. Most people would feel the stench of those deaths just on knowing this about Milloy, but as I said earlier, you seem to have a somewhat different biochemistry. Tim Lambert at deltoid, among others, enumerates and deconstructs some of his numerous misstatements and lies on public policy issues over the last few years. But I’m sure you already knew that.

    What would count as sufficient grounds for this kind of inference? I think those who have protested this point have an obligation should think about the logical assumptions behind what they write, before calling for censorship.

    Censorship!! Come, Mr. Butterworth, you are clearly reaching here. Saying that someone is a discredited shill and thus unworthy of being taken seriously is vastly different from impeding their speech. Or are you truly claiming to not understand the difference?

    The other point is that being non-partisan means offending and praising both sides – and taking their money, as long as they know it isn’t going to influence what we write about.

    Aah! well, the sources that I asked you about are quite well established to be in the habit of spreading a whole lot of money solely to people who push a particular political viewpoint. People like Milloy, who have been demonstrated to be lying often enough to make one confident that given a choice between truthtelling and serving their masters, they are more likely to choose the latter.

    Still, given STATS affiliation with George Mason University, and my particular role (which is as a contractor and not as a staff member), I am not at liberty to discuss funding in the detail that some of the posters want. The best I can offer is that you — yes, *you* — call STATS’ president and GMU faculty member, Robert S. Lichter at 202-223-3193 and ask him to do so.

    Muhahaha! Really Mr. Butterworth! Why would I want to call anybody to be fobbed off with any old BS that is easily deniable later? Let us remember that it is you who keeps repeating the claim that you represent STATS, a non-partisan organization(TM) practically every third sentence. Shouldn’t it be upto you to substantiate this? And in the forum where you make the claim?

    You’ve responded instead with a long rambling comment along the lines that both sourcewatch and mediawatch are a bunch of dope smoking hippies who couldn’t get their own names right, let alone the details of your specific organization. You also refute a lot of the claims made on their websites. But you know what, you didn’t refute the specific claims regarding funding grants to you from the Sciafe Foundations that I list above. So I guess I don’t really need to call anyone, do I? You’ve already answered my question.

    regards,

  32. #32 muhabbet
    March 24, 2009

    Thx

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.