Respectful Insolence

It’s late, and I’m working on tomorrow’s installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo; so I don’t have the time to give this particularly dumb guest editorial Think twice before you vaccinate your child in the Winona Daily News, which is packed full of antivaccinationist lies and pseudoscience, a proper dose of the not-so-Respectful Insolence that it deserves. Suffice it to say that, while denying that they are antivaccination (as all antivaccinationists do), writers Jim and Laurie Jenkinson then go on to prove exactly the opposite by spewing an amazing collection of idiocy, including citing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Boyd Haley, as well as invoking the purely antivaccinationist “toxins” distortion and praising Jenny McCarthy. They even go on to praise DAN! doctors and say the most over-the-top thing I’ve ever heard about vaccines:

Little did we know that our son received lethal doses of neurotoxins (thimerosal, aluminum and formaldehyde to name just a few) in his immunizations.

The stupid, it goes supernova.

It’s getting depressing. There’s so much of this stuff out there. I don’t want the main topic of this blog to be refuting antivaccinationists, but lately there seems to be such a sustained uptick of activity on that front that I feel as though it’s taken over and pushed out other topics. In any case, some letters to the editor telling him or her just how full of misinformation and pseudoscience this editorial is would be one small act that anyone can do.

Comments

  1. #2 Chemgeek
    May 2, 2008

    I would strongly suggest that readers of this blog send the editor of that newspaper a HEALTHY dose of Respectful Insolence. Submit some comments to the opinion (100% opinion, 0% science) piece as well.

    I live near Winona, and I can feel the stupid burning like a supernova.

  2. #3 Niobe
    May 2, 2008

    Lethal doses? So he’s dead, right?

  3. #4 Helblindi
    May 2, 2008

    C’mon, the link between lethal neurotoxins and vaccines has been established beyond any doubt. Whereas this:

    Of the 59 U.S. patients (who contracted measles – HB)
    * 13 were less than 12 months old
    Too young to be vaccinated routinely
    * 7 were 12-15 months old
    Not yet vaccinated
    * 21 were 16 months to 19 years old
    14 (67%) claimed vaccination exemptions due to religious or personal beliefs
    7 (all under 5 years of age) were unvaccinated due to delay or missed opportunities
    * 18 were more than 20 years old
    14 had unknown or undocumented vaccination status
    2 (who acquired measles in Europe) claimed personal belief or religious exemptions
    1 had evidence of immunity through birth before 1957
    1 had documentation of receiving two doses of MMR vaccine
    http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/2008/a080501Fact.htm

    is an absolute and unfortunate coincidence.
    O tempora…

  4. #5 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 2, 2008

    I just got off a long IM conversation with a good friend of mine who’s wife was questioning whether to vaccinate her kid becuase of …. Jenny McCarthy. Luckily my friend made sure his daughter got the shots but there is one she didn’t because they were out of the vaccination because it had been recalled which of course fueled the paranoia by his wife. These are the quotes from her.

    “Jenny’s not a crackpot, she’s a concerned mother who has done her research.”

    “Vaccinations are not one size fits all.”

    “they recall vaccinations all the time”

    “The doctors make money off the vaccinations that’s why they want to give so many”

    SO you see, the bull shit does work. I don’t know her as well as him but he’s a smart guy, who works … wait for it… at a hospital. Hopefully he has the tools to help turn her around. He’s in total agreement with evidence based medicine but I fear his wife has been watching too many talk shows.

  5. #6 rmp
    May 2, 2008

    Thanks Orac! Since I live in Winona I especially appreciate your taking note of this.

  6. #7 Petri
    May 2, 2008

    I especially loved this from the article as well.

    “ignoring the dangers of mercury — the second most toxic substance known (its toxicity is exceeded only by the radioactive element plutonium, a single molecule of which will cause cancer in any human being exposed)”

    I don’t even know where to begin deconstructing that statement. Mercury is the second most toxic substance known? How are we defining toxicity? Why are we comparing it to radioactivity? Is it the 2nd most toxic heavy metal? Because arsenic and thallium are high up the list. If we are just talking about substances what about botulinum or venoms? And seriously, the statement about plutonium shows a utter lack of understanding about both radioactivity and cancer.

    Trumped up apocryphal statements like these are truly just lies justified by some attempt to quantify a difficult concept in the vernacular. It makes it difficult to argue the truth since you can’t make a statement like this about how safe vaccines are.

    “Vaccines are the 2nd safest substance in the world. Only water, a substance that without which you would die can be found safer.”

    Who would believe that statement. But turn it around, make it scary, and the fear combined with ignorance will lend it veracity.

  7. #8 Brendan S
    May 2, 2008

    Aluminum is a Neurotoxin? Too bad we wrap all our food in it routinely…

  8. #9 hurly
    May 2, 2008

    I agree,but as I was reading the responses I happened to notice the banner across the top advertising “numi” tea and its’ herbal benefits such as antioxidants and detoxifying powers. All because it’s organic don’t cha know. Even on Science blogs money trumps.
    Hurly

  9. #10 hurly
    May 2, 2008

    I agree,but as I was reading the responses I happened to notice the banner across the top advertising “numi”herbal tea and its’ benefits such as antioxidant and detoxifying powers. All because it’s organic don’t cha know. The latest is African herbal teas with ancient magical/mystical powers. Even on Science blogs money trumps.
    Hurly

  10. #11 vlad
    May 2, 2008

    “radioactive element plutonium” Is there a different kind of plutonium that i don’t know about. Mercury is only toxic as fas as heavy metals go due to the easy of which elemental mercury can be absorbed through the skin. That’s like the basic zoology question: Which spider has the most toxic venom (not sure if it’s world wide or just the US)? Daddy long legs though it can’t penetrate human skin so is almost completely harmless.

  11. #12 hurly
    May 2, 2008

    I agree,but as I was reading the responses I happened to notice the banner across the top advertising “numi” herbal tea and its’ benefits such as antioxidant and detoxifying powers. All because it’s organic don’t cha know. The latest is African herbal teas with ancient magical/mystical powers. Even on Science blogs money trumps.
    Hurly

  12. #13 vlad
    May 2, 2008

    Crap! sorry. Need to retract that last statement, I fell for an urban myth.

  13. #14 Phoenix Woman
    May 2, 2008

    Anyone wanna bet she’s never heard of ethyl mercury, much less that it operates differently from methyl mercury? Unfortunately, most of her readers are in the same boat.

    Again, what we need is a site to which we can all link that is pretty much one concentrated dose of anti-woo, with everything one needs to debunk the Top Ten Anti-Vax Woo Bits. If that page is created, and we all link to it and refer to it so that it’s one of the first cites somebody sees when Googling “mercury autism” or mercury vaccines” or “mercury truth” or other suchness. Right now, Google searches using those terms — terms which the average person is likely to use — will turn up mostly woo.

  14. #15 The Christian Cynic
    May 2, 2008

    Lethal doses? So he’s dead, right?

    If this observation weren’t so sobering (because the statement in question by these idiots was unfortunately intended to be serious), it would be hilarious. Too bad I’m not laughing.

  15. #16 DLC
    May 2, 2008

    “. . . Lethal doses of neurotoxins . . .”
    Uh huh. right. so where do I send the flowers ?

    A reminder for people: (say it with me) The dose makes the poison!
    You consume more mercury than what used to be in a single vaccination injection every time you eat a can of tuna.
    A lot more. But, funny thing . . . your body excretes it.
    So, it does not build up to a toxic level.

    For Phoenix Woman: I agree. a site with a clear and easy to follow debunking of vaccination-fear-woo would be helpful

  16. #17 HCN
    May 2, 2008

    Brendan S. said “Aluminum is a Neurotoxin? Too bad we wrap all our food in it routinely…”

    Some folks also consider it a “heavy metal”!

  17. #18 David D.G.
    May 2, 2008

    “Lethal doses”? PLURAL? How many times was the boy killed? And how the heck did they keep bringing him back to life with “lethal doses” of something still in his system?

    Sheesh! Whoever is responsible for that article being printed needs to be sentenced to junior-high-school science classes for a couple of years. And the antivaxxers themselves seriously need some industrial-strength deprogramming, not to mention some kind of legal backlash for all this destructive swill they keep touting as “truth.” With all the damage this is doing to herd immunity, this isn’t the equivalent of crying “Fire” in a crowded theatre; it’s the equivalent of issuing matches to children in the audience!

    ~David D.G.

  18. #19 rmp
    May 2, 2008

    I see that several have posted on the Winona web site and I thank you. Not that it matters but she (the mom) has just commented about how ignorant you all are. I suppose I should have expected that. It was terribly naive of me to think that she might post that you’ve opened her eyes.

    Anyway, as a ‘Winonaite’, thanks to you who commented.

  19. #20 Man Called True
    May 2, 2008

    The really sad part is that not too long ago the Mall of America hosted the Fraser Center Walk For Autism, which I proudly took part in. One step forward, one step back for Minnesota.

    At that walk, incidentally, I was handed a truly wootiful publication, and had a bit of an argument with a pair of antivaxers over its contents. Encouragingly, they seemed to understand when I pointed out the holes in the thimerosal argument. Keep supplying the ammunition, Orac, it’s beginning to penetrate!

  20. #21 Militant Agnostic
    May 3, 2008

    HCN regarding aluminum- “Some folks also consider it a “heavy metal”!”

    I can top that – The infamous “Dr” Mercola has referred to fluoride as a “toxic heavy metal”. (For those of you unfamilar with chemistry – flourine is the lightest of the halogens which are the most non-metallic elements.)

  21. #22 Master Mahan
    May 3, 2008

    I love that the metal level in the vaccine are described as “lethal”. How blatantly false can you get? I think everyone knows what an actual lethal injection does.

  22. #23 spudbeach
    May 4, 2008

    My, what wonderful scare-mongering — fact free!!

    “its toxicity is exceeded only by the radioactive element plutonium, a single molecule of which will cause cancer in any human being exposed”

    Too bad this person has never heard of atmospheric atomic bomb blasts. Ever since Nagasaki, almost all atomic and hydrogen bombs have used plutonium to start the blast. The majority of the plutonium is not transformed in the explosion, and some of it is vaporized or spread as fallout. Some of that vaporized plutonium got into the atmosphere, into our food, our water, and yes, into us. I guarantee that some of it is in all of us. (If we can find element 122 in samples of thorium at a concentration of about 1 part in 10^-12, we can find plutonium in our bodies! See http://arxivblog.com/?p=385 for the very cool physics.)

    It kind of goes with the “lethal doses” nonsense: if it’s as bad as they claim, why aren’t we all dead?

  23. #24 Karl Withakay
    May 5, 2008

    “Little did we know that our son received lethal doses of neurotoxins (thimerosal, aluminum and formaldehyde to name just a few) in his immunizations.”

    Well the problems he had must have been due to an expired vaccine as Thimerisol hasn’t been used in MMT vaccines for children since 2001.

  24. #25 HCN
    May 5, 2008

    Karl Withakay said “Well the problems he had must have been due to an expired vaccine as Thimerisol hasn’t been used in MMT vaccines for children since 2001.”

    I think you meant “MMR” (the t is next to the r on keyboard). Actually the MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine and has never contained thimerosal.

    There is a possibility of mishandling the vaccine. It comes as a powder that needs to be reconstituted and used within eight hours. Read page 19 of http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/meas.pdf

  25. #26 Karl Withakay
    May 5, 2008

    Yes, what I should have said anyway is that Thimersol hasn’t been used in nearly any childhood vaccines since 2001, other than Flu vaccines, unless I am mistaken.

  26. #27 HCN
    May 5, 2008

    You are not mistaken. Though even the Flu vaccine is available with thimerosal.

  27. #28 Disappointed
    May 22, 2008

    I’m so sorry that I have to tell you this. But you have to remember that there are real people behind the scenes of these articles. There are two parents writing an article about how their son was, indeed, affected by mercury toxicity. This family has made great sacrifices to heal their child. Their has been an great deal of research done by these parents to take care of him. Once again, I’m sorry if you are offended by this. Lets try to maintain a more respectful society.

  28. #29 Orac
    May 22, 2008

    No, the parents think that their son was affected by mercury toxicity. There’s a difference.

    In any case, if their son is under 6 years old, he almost certainly did not receive thimerosal-containing vaccines, with the possible exception of the flu vaccine, which relatively few children receive. Moreover, they made multiple assertions in their article that were confident, strident, and downright wrong, particularly the silliness about “toxins” in vaccines. Clearly they do not understand the simple principle in pharmacology that the dose makes the poison, and they make ridiculous claims like the one highlighted. It made me want to ask: “If your son received ‘lethal doses’ of neurotoxins” from vaccines, then why is he still alive? They may have done a lot of “research,” but clearly they did research using dubious, biased, and amazingly erroneous sources–like RFK, Jr.’s infamous article.

    I’m sorry, but respect has to be earned. Parents who have to go through the day-to-day struggles of raising an autistic child (or any special needs child) earn my respect and sympathy for that. When they try to try to wave that sympathy in front of them like a talisman to ward off criticism of their pseudoscientific nonsense they may lose my respect.

  29. #30 seth
    May 23, 2008

    I think it is important that we all try to maintain a level of respect for others opinions. It is unfair, polarizing, seems very biased, and hurts people when others make personal attacks on people who share a different viewpoint from your own. A scientific blog should be an open and welcoming forum for debate–free from worries about being called an idiot, stupid or ridiculous. I believe the author of the article showed a much greater display of tact and citation of evidence than many of the bloggers here. Having said that, I used to live in Winona as well, so this controversial issue peaked my interest and I did a bit of research…

    The FDA and much of the research it cites say that the link is biologically plausible. They believe it to be unlikely, but their official position, based on a message from their president on their website says that there is not enough evidence to prove anything one way or the other.

    It also becomes evident that thimerosal does still exist, be it in trace amounts, in some of the vaccines routinely given to children–and, as bloggers have posted here, the effects of ethyl mercury are unknown, so who knows what exposure to trace amounts would do?

    I think it is also important to question where our information is coming from. Certainly not all organizations are not looking out for the public interest. I personally don’t always put a lot of faith in the FDA or pharmaceutical companies (that may spend more on marketing than on research). After all, science is not always objective, it has been used to justify prejudices against women, minorities, and others.

    But check for yourselves! There are peer-reviewed articles on this, and I suggest you read the Post-Publication Peer Reviews. A good starting point is http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/112/5/1039
    at the bottom of the page is the reviews, where the author of the study responds to questions/critiques of their article.

    It is clear that this issue is controversial and gets people fiery, and that’s okay! So long as we can treat each other with the same respect that we would like to receive ourselves. Personal attacks and belittling comments are not scientific. If you disagree, point to evidence why, something that we all can review and discuss.

    Thank you

  30. #31 seth
    May 23, 2008

    Sorry about the extra posts, this is my first experience with this message board…and with blogging in general. Sorry.

  31. #32 Orac
    May 23, 2008

    Verstraeten’s study is five years old. It’s practically ancient history. There have been multiple other even better studies since then that all show the same thing: thimerosal-containing vaccines are not associated with autism or ASD. As for “respect,” respect is earned. When someone spouts stupidity as thermonuclear in its intensity and parrots long-debuned antivaccination canards, as the parents who wrote the article I mocked did, they are not likely to be persuaded with “respect.” In this case a call for “respect” is used more as a means of shutting down criticism. See:

    http://rockstarramblings.blogspot.com/2007/01/doggerel-54-i-demand-respect.html

    http://rockstarramblings.blogspot.com/2006/05/doggerel-7-you-just-have-to-respect-my.html

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