Angry Toxicologist

Elizabeth “never met a toxic chemical I didn’t like” Whelan of ACSH fame posted on HuffPo Wed. an interesting little post that ripped the EPA for funding a study to figure out if/what environmental factors among children, over their childhood, contributed to their disease. To sum up her argument, there is no link so why are we wasting the money. Now, isn’t that putting the cart before the horse. She also says there is no toxicological evidence that children are more susceptable to toxicants. Um, ozone? breathing particulate matter? Phthalates? Cough and cold medicine to be up to the minute?

Mark over at Denialism asked me to chime in on ACSH a while ago (alas I was traveling and didn’t see it right a way). Better late than never, though. Instead of spending days ripping everything ACSH has said (no one has that much, time there’s two much source material!) let’s do the short version and you can decide if this is someone you want to trust.

Whelan has called the DDT ban one of the 20 worst unfounded health scares of the 20th century.

ACSH had a report in the early 90s saying there was no link between heart disease and a high fat and cholesterol diet.

My favorite quotes by Whelan:

“no such thing as ‘junk food,’ ”

“There is insufficient evidence of a relationship between diet and any disease.”

“Was there ever any real health problem at Love Canal? Yes, there was, in the sense that there was an enormous amount of media-induced stress placed on residents who were terrified that they and their children would become ill.”

He, he, he. You see? It’s so bad it’s funny. Let’s move on:

They also see no problem with PFOA, PCBs, endocrine disruptors that are currently changing male fish into females in our rivers, global warming, and formaldehyde (!).

Now how could an organization come up with all this? Take a look at their funding. Hmmmm…not that funding from a certian place makes you say the wrong things but getting fat at the overflowing industry trough seems to explain a lot. And they use the word terror a lot for people that are supposed to be calming you down. Could it be that they are doing their own scare-mongering? As the ex-employee Adam Lieberman who published a confessional in Mother Jones said on the rBST issue:

I was placed in the position of suggesting that the future of society was in jeopardy if consumers rejected the use of the fat substitute olestra or the milk-producing growth hormone rBST in cows

I shall conclude with two other blog statements that I quite like.

Effect Measure (Now here at ScienceBlogs):

ACSH, a notorious industry whorehouse, regularly puts out “don’t worry, be happy” stories for their corporate johns. They are the subject of an earlier post here that the real health hazard in New York City is bicyclists. Enough said.

And The Pump Handle:

We agree with the apochryphal story by Mary OBrien about a group of women considering walking across the rocks to cross a river: Elizabeth Whelan is like the risk assessor advising the women that, based on her calculations, the risk of crossing the river is very small. She gets mad when the women refuse to take her advice and walk across the rocks. When she asks the women why, they point to a bridge just upstream.

Oh and their Medical Director is a felon convicted for….you guessed it, FRAUD.

Hat tip to Amanda sending the HuffPo article.

Update: I thought I should disclose my own financial interests – none. Other interests: uh, I care about people’s health.

Comments

  1. #1 sonyala
    November 9, 2007

    “I care about people’s health”

    Me too. Luckily the world has more people like us then like Wheelan AT! Too bad we don’t get more corporate donations for it though.

  2. #2 Anna
    November 9, 2007

    No argument with your assessment of ACSH, except they did get this one right: there *is NO* link between a high *saturated* fat and cholesterol diet and heart disease. That theory is tumbling down, far too late, too.

    Back to my three eggs, over easy, cooked in copuious amounts of butter.

  3. #3 Nic
    November 10, 2007

    I thought cholesterol was excused but I wasn’t aware that saturated fats were as well?

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    November 18, 2007

    Anna, what’s your source for trusting that ACSH says what you quote? Did you find it at ACSH or did someone else say that? Why do you consider your source a reliable source?

    I’m always in favor of citing claims and looking up beliefs, and ACSH is notorious so I wondered why you believed them.

    You can look this stuff up.

    For example, searching only 2007 articles, Scholar:

    ——excerpt——–

    “.. We examined the risk of dying from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and other heart disease (OHD)…

    Among Men The effects of saturated fat were as expected with higher consumption associated with higher mortality from disease in all the racial groups….

    Unlike among men, among women … there was no association between increasing percentage of dietary calories from saturated fat and mortality from AMI. The association with OHD mortality remained.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1847707

    ——— End exerpt ——–

    An acute MI (heart attack) isn’t the heart problem women die of mostly — and all “Other Heart Disease” is associated with saturated fat — so there’s your risk.

    I’m not quoting you cholesterol studies, you can look this up, or ask your doctor.

    Do ask a doctor, not a lobbyist.
    ACSH isn’t in business for your health.

    What was the date on what you read?

  5. #5 Phil Boncer
    November 19, 2007

    It’s not that Anna is taking the word of the ACSH for anything. I know her, and she’s been looking into the whole issue of dietary needs and requirements as they relate to heart health, diabetes, and other common (in the West) ailments. She has found, from a variety of sources, that the links between cholesterol and saturated fats with obesity and related ailments is not clear, and that simple carbohydrates are much more damaging.

    So she was not saying anything in defense of tha ACSH and how they do their business; she was just saying that on that issue they may have gotten it right.

    While you can’t trust a biased source to be truthful, you also can’t count on everything they say to be wrong either, and just believe the opposite of whatever they say. Even the most biased source could on some issues have their bias happen to coincide with the truth.

    You have to take any claim they have and research it elsewhere. On the issue of a “link between a high *saturated* fat and cholesterol diet and heart disease”, Anna has done this and reached her own conclusion.

    PhilB

  6. #6 ozzy
    November 19, 2007

    “there *is NO* link between a high *saturated* fat and cholesterol diet and heart disease. That theory is tumbling down, far too late, too.”

    I would be interested in hearing about Anna’s research into the idea that simple carbs cause heart disease. Please elaborate (references, etc).

  7. #7 Anna
    November 27, 2007

    For those who must see the published studies on diet and how it pertains to chronic non-infectious disease incidence, check out Regina Wilshire’s blog, Weight of the Evidence, where she dissects a lot of the current research on disease, carbs and fat, and weight issues (she’s far better at picking apart and writing about these papers than I am). She has a great post up now about carb intake and incidence of diabetes in China, which I find interesting, because Asia is oft touted as the low fat/high carb epitome of dietary correctness. http://weightoftheevidence.blogspot.com/

    AT, I apologize if it’s uncool to suggest another blog here on your blog. But there seems to be an interest in this issue of carbs as agent of disease and I know many of your readers might only be satisfied with published papers (though as we know, anyone can cherry pick the papers to bolster their point :-).

  8. #8 Anna
    November 28, 2007

    http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/media/2007-2008/mp3/qq-2007-11-17_01.mp3

    Audio file with interview of Gary Taubes on his new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.

  9. #9 Anna
    December 2, 2007

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPYaVcXo1I

    Great short YouTube clip of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick (author of The Great Cholesterol Con book) presenting data at a meeting demonstrating the lack of evidense that saturated fat and high cholesterol levels cause heart disease.

    There’s a lot more to it than presented here in the clip, but it’s a good *start* for those who have never considered that the prevailing theories could be wrong and dangerous.

  10. #10 hmm...
    December 9, 2007

    Re:

    For those who must see the published studies…

    You do realize that among the scientifically literate, that proportion approaches 100%

  11. #11 Anna
    December 11, 2007

    hmm, yes, I knew you’d say that. Just like my husband :-), another one of those scientifically literate creatures. But I think it’s also a fair assumption that scientifically literate people who are curious about a viewpoint contrary to the prevailing opinion, can do a bit of searching for themselves with relative ease, in fact probably wth more ease than I (it took several years of reading and learning more about this to come to my conclusions). There isn’t enough space here to list all the evidence that supports my contention that saturated fat doesn’t cause cardiovasular disease, but it doesn’t take much time to get started finding out more, it mostly takes a skeptical mind seeking better answers and looking from more than a one sided, simplistic angle.

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    December 11, 2007

    ACSH is featured in today’s Seed Daily Digress, though you don’t realize you’re going there til you click on the link.

  13. #13 Hank Roberts
    December 11, 2007

    ACSH is a featured item in today’s Seed Daily Digress, though you don’t realize you’re going there til you click on the link (via Freakonomics)

  14. #14 kozmetik
    December 22, 2007

    I thought cholesterol was excused but I wasn’t aware that saturated fats were as well?

  15. #15 feromon
    December 31, 2007

    On the issue of a “link between a high *saturated* fat and cholesterol diet and heart disease”,

  16. #16 geciktirici
    January 5, 2008

    I would be interested in hearing about Anna’s research into the idea that simple carbs cause heart disease. Please elaborate

  17. #17 Grace
    January 31, 2008

    Think you are giving acsh a hard time. Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the GREEN revolution also sits on this board. It’s not a fight agaisnt us versus them. It’s a goal of reaching the same ideals, just a different way. I for one am a fan of DDT – and hope that one day it comes back. I am also for bio and hormones. It can’t all be that bad and I’m sure we’ve been eating it for quite some time without even knowing. Also, mercury in tuna, the latest New York Times scare story. Well, that is bogus. Eat as much tuna as you want – there are plenty of other things in life that will probably kill you first. One last thing – eat farm-raised tuna, if there are such a thing. leave the wild ones be. Is there labelling for that? Seen what the japanese do to the dolhpins and whales. Horrible!

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