Respectful Insolence

A “WTF?” moment

Now here’s a new one:

Did the EPA director just imply that there’s a link between contaminated water and autism? Is there something I’m missing here? Is this clip taking her out of context?

There is, of course, no credible scientific evidence linking autism to exposure to contaminated water.

Comments

  1. #1 Melody
    February 4, 2011

    Wow, how’s that for a bald assertion? Let me guess – naive college environmental activists are going to latch onto this as…no, not even going to think about it, because part of me is superstitious enough to feel it will come true if I think it!

  2. #2 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    As my very wise step-mother used to tell me: “Consider the source.”

    That website is dubious at best.

    Here is the actual 2.5 hour video. I don’t have time to go through it now, but I bet her words were munged or not in full context.

  3. #3 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    There is, of course, no credible scientific evidence linking autism to exposure to contaminated water.

    Really? Have you any sources for that sweeping claim other than your opinion

  4. #4 Mark
    February 4, 2011

    The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.

  5. #5 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    Your opinion seems to be at odds with that of Dr. Carolos Lucero, pediatrician and chair of the environmental committee for West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    “Dr. Carlos Lucero, a Beckley pediatrician and chairman of the environmental committee for the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said he has seen an increase in neuropathical disorders that may be caused by increased exposure to mercury.

    “The biggest concern is the water contamination,” Lucero said. “Especially in pregnant women, the fetus is going to be exposed, and it will cause some degree of brain injury.”

    Lucero said depending on the levels of mercury, children could suffer from seizures, cerebral palsy, autism, learning disabilities and other conditions.”

    http://www.dailymail.com/ap/ApTopStories/201101270809

  6. #6 prn
    February 4, 2011

    Although there may be many things still in our water that EPA needs to set standards, voluntary or penal, I would consider this continuing use of executive orders more immediately dangerous. But I am probably more allergic than most to murderous little tin dictatorships from a mispent youth.

  7. #7 Pluribus
    February 4, 2011

    I think it was taken out of context. She probably meant that autism is caused by the contaminated water used in vaccines.

  8. #8 Smarty Pantaloons
    February 4, 2011

    “The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.”

    Lol. This isn’t criminal law. Things are “safe until proven deadly”. You won’t last very long with that philosophy.

  9. #9 Smarty Pantaloons
    February 4, 2011

    “The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.”

    Lol. This isn’t criminal law. Things are “safe until proven deadly”. You won’t last very long with that philosophy.

  10. #10 Smarty Pantaloons
    February 4, 2011

    “The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.”

    Lol. This isn’t criminal law. Things are “safe until proven deadly”. You won’t last very long with that philosophy.

  11. #11 Smarty Pantaloons
    February 4, 2011

    “The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.”

    Lol. This isn’t criminal law. Things are “safe until proven deadly”. You won’t last very long with that philosophy.

  12. #12 Smarty Pantaloons
    February 4, 2011

    “The burden of proof lies elsewhere, Harold.”

    Lol. This isn’t criminal law. Things are “safe until proven deadly”. You won’t last very long with that philosophy.

  13. #13 Harbo
    February 4, 2011

    See, its the memory suffused in the water, that’s doing it.
    All the kids that became autistic had a drink containing water in the days prior.
    (also it may have been the oxygen-dihydrate)

  14. #14 embertine
    February 4, 2011

    While I think this is potentially an interesting area of research, Harold, I advise against using links from the Daily Mail as evidence for your position. There are whole websites devoted to how badly the DM sensationalises science reporting to sell papers.

  15. #15 DLC
    February 4, 2011

    A toss-away comment in a local news is now equivalent to quality science ? Since when ? Do you also believe in Nibiru, because it’s been mentioned in papers ?

  16. #16 symball
    February 4, 2011

    also it may have been the oxygen-dihydrate

    Rubbish- don’t you know that it’s the hydric acid that causes autisn- and its found in all vaccines!

  17. #17 RedGreenInBlue
    February 4, 2011

    Harold L Doherty:

    Really? Have you any sources for that sweeping claim other than your opinion

    If you’re going to call people on alleged sweeping claims about health, and especially an clinician and academic researcher, then don’t quote newspaper articles as “evidence”. Newspapers, as useful as they are, have shown themselves all too often to be capable of (a) distorting facts to spice up a story, and (b) basic science FAIL.

    Has Dr Lucero published on this subject? Then link to the journal articles themselves. If he hasn’t, why is that?

  18. #18 RedGreenInBlue
    February 4, 2011

    embertine,

    I thought the same thing, but to be fair, the Daily Mail quoted by Harold isn’t the Daily Mail of cancer Manichaeism infamy, but an unrelated publication in Charleston, VA, USA (about whose science reporting in particular I know nothing).

  19. #19 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    The W Va paper comment I referenced included a direct quote from Dr Lucero who was identified as chair of the environmental committee for the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Publications:

    Role of Glucose in the Regulation of Endogenous Glucose Production in the Human Newborn KALHAN, SATISH C.; OLIVEN, ANITA; KING, KATHERINE C.; LUCERO, CARLOS
    Pediatric Research. 20(1):49-52, January 1986.

    http://journals.lww.com/pedresearch/Abstract/1986/01000/Role_of_Glucose_in_the_Regulation_of_Endogenous.13.aspx

    Spectroscopic and Thermodynamic Comparisons of Escherichia coli DNA Photolyase and Vibrio cholerae Cryptochrome 1
    Kathleen Sokolowsky, Maire Newton, Carlos Lucero, Bradley Wertheim, Jaryd Freedman, Frank Cortazar, Jennifer Czochor, Johannes P. M. Schelvis and Yvonne M. Gindt
    The Journal of Physical Chemistry B
    2010 114 (20), 7121-7130

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jp102275r

  20. #20 Hey Zeus is my Homeboy
    February 4, 2011

    Harold, are you that stupid or is someone using you as a sockpuppet to make you look that stupid?

    Just because some article has some big words, it doesn’t mean that it supports some wild and scientifically unsupported notion you have. Christ, perhaps I should pony up my CV of unrelated pubs just because it’s fun too.

  21. #21 Jenbphillips
    February 4, 2011

    Shorter Harold: “It’s the mercury, stupid”

    Wait, what year is it?

  22. #22 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    Hey Zeus Homeboy I didn’t say that he published on THIS SUBJECT or that the articles I reference support THIS SUBJECT. I included them simply to indicate that Dr. Luceros, is a published author on pediatric subjects. As indicated he is also a chair of the Environmental Committee of the W VA Chapter of the AAP in addition to being an actual pediatrician. Big words? LOL, are insults all you have for science Zeus? Have a good day Zeus Homeboy.

  23. #23 Todd W.
    February 4, 2011

    Clearly, the water is toxic. That means we should only drink beer or wine.

    @Harold

    But why bother posting totally unrelated papers from the guy? So he’s published; big deal. Does that make him right about mercury in water? The evidence that you present needs to actually be related to the statements that you’re making. Otherwise, it just appears that you are making an argument from authority fallacy.

  24. #24 Jud
    February 4, 2011

    Harold L Doherty:

    Have you read the studies that relate incidence of autism to parental age, paternal as well as maternal?

    You know schizophrenia is also related to paternal age, right?

    And you know people in the U.S. are increasingly tending to have kids when they’re older, right?

    Just sayin’.

  25. #25 MI Dawn
    February 4, 2011

    Nice article, Harold. Dr Luceros may have a point, but the honest fact is that events of high mercury level exposure (Minamata Bay, another place I can’t recall – the Philippines?, occurances in the USA) have been observed in the past and there was no recorded increase in neurodevelopmental disease. Effects of mercury poisoning (a neurological syndrome) WERE observed.

    Per Wikipedia (ellipsis indicates removal of the Japanese names, no other wording):

    Minamata disease…is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms

    Not very similar to autistic disorders, is it?

    Also, please recall that the article is talking about environmental mercury exposure (elemental mercury and/or methylmercury) which remains in the body a long time and not ethylmercury which is eliminated from the body quickly.

  26. #26 highnumber
    February 4, 2011

    Oh, so now you’re *in favor* of contaminating our water? Big Pharma’s money wasn’t enough, eh? To what depths will the medical profession sink next?

  27. #27 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    Hello Jud yes I have read those studies. And I do not suggest that parental age is not a factor in some autism disorders in some individuals, along with other environmental factors or triggers. The current consensus though is that autism disorders arise from gene environment interaction and that the environmental research has been very limited in comparison to genetic based research.

    See the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee:

    “As with many complex disorders, [autism] causation is generally thought to involve some forms of genetic risk interacting with some forms of non-genetic environmental exposure.

    In addition, a number of other environmental factors are being explored through research because they are known or suspected to influence early development of the brain and nervous system. Recent studies suggest factors such as parental age, exposure to infections, toxins, and other biological agents may confer environmental risk.

    Progress in identifying environmental factors which increase autism risk has been made recently (Eskenazi et al., 2007; Palmer et al., 2006; Palmer, Blanchard,; Wood, 2009; Rauh et al., 2006; Roberts et al., 2007; Windham et al., 2006), although this area of research has received less scientific attention and far fewer research dollars than genetic risk factors”
    United States IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee)

    http://iacc.hhs.gov/strategic-plan/2010/caused_prevented.shtml

  28. #28 Adam_Y
    February 4, 2011

    As my very wise step-mother used to tell me: “Consider the source.”

    That website is dubious at best.

    Here is the actual 2.5 hour video. I don’t have time to go through it now, but I bet her words were munged or not in full context.

    Yeah I remember her stance being that contaminated water can cause health problems so I think it was cherry picking.

  29. #29 cervantes
    February 4, 2011

    I think this was intended as a hypothetical, meaning “what if such a link were to emerge?” It’s sloppy speaking but I think that’s all that was intended.

  30. #30 Mekei
    February 4, 2011

    RFK must be loving these new powers given to the EPA.

  31. #31 Agent Smith
    February 4, 2011

    Smarty Pantaloons doesn’t seem to understand the difference between criminal evidence rules of american law and the philosophical burden of proof. Not that any anti-vaxxer is truly capable of making distinctions that are non-binary.

  32. #32 Beamup
    February 4, 2011

    I’ve published papers. I assert that autism is clearly caused by the green gremlins from Mars.

    The observant will note that this is identical to the support Harold has provided for his proposition…

  33. #33 ababa
    February 4, 2011

    I would cut her some slack, she has a lot to worry about these days. Under the GOP house leadership her budget is going to be about $3 this year.

  34. #34 WLU
    February 4, 2011

    @Harold L Doherty

    The fact that someone has some respectable scientific publications in no way means they are correct when they step out of their field and away from the scientific mainstream. For instance – Peter Duesberg is by all accounts a brilliant man, highly respected for his work with cancer (yes, I know there are caveats there as well, but even his current work may be bearing fruit and it’s at least a valid minority opinion within cancer research). However, if you listen to him talk about AIDS, then you are perfectly safe to inject yourself with a large volume of HIV-contaminated blood so long as you eat your veggies and avoid needle-based drugs. Now, would you take Peter Duesberg’s advice on the relative safety of injecting yourself with a substantial bolus of HIV? I might listen to Dr Lucero’s opinions on the differences and similarities between the DNA photolyase and cryptochrome 1 of E. coli and V. cholerae – but I’m not likely to care much about what he as to say about the relationship between autism and mercury. I’d trust someone who works with mercury poisoning, or an epidemiologist who is an expert on the subject, but probably not this guy.

    Expertise is not transferrable – you can’t claim that because you have a PhD in engineering that I should automatically trust your ability to diagnose and treat cancer.

  35. #35 Dianne
    February 4, 2011

    A quick look through medline reveals that Dr. Lucero has a respectable publication count but no publications whatsoever on the subject of autism.

  36. #36 AgnosticOracle
    February 4, 2011

    Given the shortness of the quote and the context it is very possible she just misspoke. She was trying to come up with a quick example of one of the dangers of drinking unsafe water.

    The example was wrong of course. But unless someone follows up and she claims again that unsafe water causes autism it probably more likely that she misspoke, than that she believes some crank theory (especially as it isn’t a crank theory we’ve heard before).

  37. #37 Aquaria
    February 4, 2011

    Harold, that last link still isn’t a peer-reviewed paper. Some papers are mentioned, primarily in the last paragraph you conveniently cited. Find those papers (yes, each and every one of them–burden of proof is still on you), and let’s see what they say. It’s the only way to settle the issue.

    Let’s look at what you didn’t mention:

    “In addition, a number of other environmental factors are being explored through research because they are known or suspected to influence early development of the brain and nervous system. Recent studies suggest factors such as parental age, exposure to infections, toxins, and other biological agents may confer environmental risk. These findings require further investigation and testing, some of which is ongoing through the CADDRE Program, the Norwegian cohort study, the CHARGE study, the EARLI study, and the Children’s Centers for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention supported by NIEHS and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

    Toxins/infections/biological agents, huh? Well, nice to know they’re so specific. I don’t see anything isolated there, only a mention that those factors are worth looking at, which they are. So is looking at parental age. But that is still a long way from having science establishing that any of those factors, much less any of the toxins/infections/biological agents via water, have shown a direct link.

    Contaminated water isn’t mentioned, nor is “contaminated” explained. Contaminated with what? It’s not said. Just “contaminated”. And why water? Is it something that only comes from water? Find the specific paper that alleges that a waterborne agent–and ONLY a waterborne agent–contributes to autism, and then you might have a point.

    Mercury, for instance, isn’t merely toxic in water, but also in air particles and some forms of mercury can be absorbed through the skin.

    You’re new to this, huh?

  38. #38 TechSkeptic
    February 4, 2011

    Harold + others who buy this tripe.

    Can you link me to the far higher autism rates that must be happening in China and India that have little or no controls on the heavy metal poisoning of their water supplies?

    Can you point me to the high amount of autism that must have appeared in the 1800′s england and america when there we no controls on heavy metal pollution in the water supply?

    No? Don’t you find that a little strange?

  39. #39 marcia
    February 4, 2011
  40. #40 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    I found the full two and a half hour video, which I posted not long before going to bed. It was moderated. For anyone who wishes to go through it, it is in the second comment of this thread.

  41. #41 mad the swine
    February 4, 2011

    There’s a line of argument pushed by people worrying about climate change. It goes like this: cutting emissions, reducing consumption, research into renewable energy and ‘green’ technologies, are all good things in and of themselves. The fact that they may alleviate global climate change is just a bonus; even people who doubt the science behind climate change should be able to agree on making these changes.

    Of course, this argument doesn’t work, because conservatives reflexively oppose any policy goals supported by liberals. But if conservatives were rational, it would.

    Now apply this to toxins in the water. We know that fresh water supplies worldwide are contaminated with dozens of industrial and pharmaceutical toxins, from manufacturing, from leaking waste disposal sites, from factory farms, from the overuse of antibiotics and birth control pills among Westerners, and so on, and so forth. Can’t we come together and agree that toxins in our water supply are a bad thing in and of themselves, regardless of the specific kinds of harm they do? Surely vaccine activists, the EPA, and Big Pharma can come together to find ways to better manage the byproducts of the latter, instead of focusing on their differences regarding the specific harms caused.

  42. #42 TechSkeptic
    February 4, 2011

    MtS,

    Yes, I thnk that is completely rational and friendly approach. However, the issue is not whether a toxin n the food/water supply is bad or not. the issue is how much poses a danger?

    Should we work to make mercury and lead in our water supply to have a concentration of 0.000000000001%? Why? we never had that level before. The level isnt that low in the most pristine and pure waters anywhere on the planet and never was.

    The whole issue about the screaming about toxins is that it is not a binary thing. There is no chemical on the planet that in an of itself is toxic to humans in any concentration. The rational conversation you wish to have, I believe happens. It revolves around the question, “What is the safe level?” Is there evidence we need to lower it? Is there evidence it can be relaxed.

    And yeah there are of course pressure in each direction on each substance. But going for zero doesnt make sense, as we can now detect far smaller concentrations of various elements and chemicals than are biologically relevent in most cases.

  43. #43 augustine
    February 4, 2011

    Can’t we come together and agree that toxins in our water supply are a bad thing in and of themselves,

    You can’t say “toxins” to sciencebloggers. That word in and of itself will bring a reflexive attack on it’s user. You have to post a picture of the exact chemical structure to which you refer, so said sciencebloggers can create doubt on the impact of said structure upon physiology and/or ecosystem.

    Until then you’ll just receive ad hominem attacks called “takedowns”.

    To the scienceblogger, humans have no natural resistence to even a single potential pathogen. Yet, they have endless resistance to small (relatively) amounts of various synthethic chemicals.

    Even though lip service is given, in the end, there are no currently used “toxins”. Only herbal/vitamin supplements and placebos can harm physiology and the ecosystem.

    Toxicity is not an absolute term to sciencebloggers. It has to be weighed by it’s perceived benefit to society. Objectively, a substance can be toxic by itself. But when you add scienceblogger’s societal value to it, the toxicity actually changes. It’s amazing. Depending on it’s perceived benefit, a substance’s toxicity can be totally nullified by sciencebloggers.

  44. #44 gaelen
    February 4, 2011

    it sounded to me like she was speaking hypothetically, but I could be wrong.

  45. #45 Jud
    February 4, 2011

    mad the swine writes:

    Can’t we come together and agree that toxins in our water supply are a bad thing in and of themselves, regardless of the specific kinds of harm they do?

    Sure, I don’t think anyone is arguing differently. What we’re concerned with is statements such as the EPA director’s leading people on yet another pell-mell rush to believe in The One (Major) Cause of Autism. As the US Health and Human Services Department website cited by Harold Doherty says, there are multiple and complex interactions to be considered, so extreme public pressure toward One Cause – Vaccines! (as the website also alludes to, though in admirably restrained bureaucratese) or One Cause – Mercury! is not helpful.

  46. #46 lilady
    February 4, 2011

    @Chris and others posting at this site with the complete testimony of Lisa Jackson.

    I’ve followed the money here; “Eyeblast TV” that ran that wee snippet of video, is run by “Newsbuster” whose motto is “Combating Liberal Media Bias”, which in turn is a division of the “Media Research Center”, a far-to-the right organization that has the support of gun lobbies, right-to-lifers, global warming denialists, anti gay rights groups, etc.

    A quick search on the “Media Research Center” shows speakers at their big bash dinners, including Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. The “Media Research Center” is taking reservations ($ 250 a ticket) for their “Dishonors Awards Dinner” to be held on May 7, 2011 at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.

    If you key in all of these sites with “autism” attached you will see that they all feature activists and others who are still spouting all the debunked theories about autism.

    BTW, the senator who was questioning EPA Director Lisa Jackson, John Barrasso (R. Wyoming) is a physician, whose latest salvo to limit EPA regulations was just proposed on January 31st.

    “A WTF Moment”…better headline is “A WHO TF (is funding them) Moment”

  47. #47 Harold L Doherty
    February 4, 2011

    WLU I accept your observation that expertise in one area does not necessarily transfer to another area. It is one of the reasons that Dr. Paul Offit’s comments about autism, and for that matter, Orac’s should also be “discounted” when discussing autism an area not within their expertise. Having said that all of these learned gentlemen can be presumed to be educated generally in the scientific method and scientific reasoning. As a humble autism dad and small town Canadian lawyer I respect all of their professional backgrounds. In Dr. Lucero’s case his background also included serving as chair of the Environmental Committee of the W VA AAP chapter a position which presumably does involve him in environmental research connected to the autism he sees in his autistic patients.

  48. #48 mgr
    February 4, 2011

    The article citing Dr Lucero MD is scientifically accurate, and Dr Lucero is stating the public health concern properly. The issue is not address mercury in vaccines, but the prevalence of Mercury in West Virginia. There is more than a chance association of elevated mercury in the region and coal mining (since it is the buring of coal that produces the mercury released at coal fired power plants). What he is likely addressing is an environmental justice issue, in that most water supplies are likely compromised by the region’s mining history.

    Mike

  49. #49 Jarred C
    February 4, 2011

    After quickly browsing the comments, I had a few questions and comments myself:

    …a link between contaminated water and autism…

    Water contaminated with what? You can’t just claim that water is “contaminated” and that’s the source of the problem. There are literally billions of things that could contaminate the drinking water to a point of making it toxic. Also, let’s not forget about the dose response relationship.

    …depending on the levels of mercury [in the drinking water]…

    I added the “in the drinking water,” because that’s what I think Harold was trying to get at from the quote he provided, as well as from the Daily Mail article (who the heck trusts Daily Mail as credible?).

    My first thought was, “what kind of mercury?” If you’re assuming that the source of contamination is in the water; then you’re assuming elemental mercury. But then, elemental mercury volatilizes, or is converted into inorganic or organic mercury by bacteria. So it’s unlikely so see an even distribution of elemental mercury in drinking water; esp at a level that is toxic. If you statement were true; we’d see a higher incidence of autism near areas where there is a higher level of elemental mercury in the drinking water (do we see this? I honestly don’t know).

    On the other hand, if you’re talking about organic mercury, which is by far the most dangerous kind, drinking water wouldn’t be the problem. Since organic mercury is readily bioavailable, it would be found in the lifeforms of the water; and humans would be exposed to it via their food; such as fish. As a prime example of this, see MI Dawn’s post at #21.

    @ MI Dawn:

    Don’t forget that the Minamata Bay incident was poisoning by methylmercury; since it was the fishermen who were eating fish that were getting poisoned. Also, the “other place” you were thinking of was not the Philipines, but Iraq cir. 1970. (Unless there’s another incident in the Philipines, of which I’m not aware of).

  50. #50 moderation
    February 4, 2011

    This woman should be reprimanded or fired on two accounts:

    1) for making such an inflammatory, throw away statement that as to imply that contamminated drinking water is a cause of autism. There are so many possible verified and factual examples that she could have referenced as reasons to assure clean drinking water for children and yet she choses this.

    2) for her body language and attitude. I don’t care how annoyed you are by the questioner, you should not sit there like a petulant teenager in a high school science class … you are a representative of the gov’t and only make yourself and those you represent look bad. She could take a lesson from the general who maintained his decorum as he explained to the legislator that putting a military base on a pacific island would not tip the island over.

  51. #51 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 4, 2011

    There’s a line of argument pushed by people worrying about climate change. It goes like this: cutting emissions, reducing consumption, research into renewable energy and ‘green’ technologies, are all good things in and of themselves. The fact that they may alleviate global climate change is just a bonus; even people who doubt the science behind climate change should be able to agree on making these changes.

    Of course, this argument doesn’t work, because conservatives reflexively oppose any policy goals supported by liberals. But if conservatives were rational, it would.

    Mad The Swine – I respectfully disagree. If one discards the AGW theory, it is perfectly possible for someone to agree that these things are all good while at the same time disagreeing on the priority, role of government, and best mechanism to accomplish the goals.
    Let’s take the first, cutting emissions. It would be a generally good thing with substantial health benefits to cut emissions such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ash, and so on. There are technologies that reduce these emissions significantly, and one can conceive that there would be developments that reduce them even more.
    However, once someone had done all that and reduced the emissions to just water vapor, carbon dioxide, and traces of various other chemicals one might consider the work done – unless you re-introduce AGW. AGW, by itself, cares nothing about things that are poisonous to plants and animals, only things that trap solar radiation as heat. Thus it would be perfectly possible to produce clean (or clean enough) emissions from one perspective that entirely misses the point from another.
    Likewise renewable energy. Without the urgency added by AGW, one might reasonably conclude that good renewable energy will be developed by private industry and become cost effective (if it can) through market mechanisms. Governmental involvement, they might argue, will lead to expensive, marginally useful technologies that only compete with conventional power generation because they’re heavily subsidized. Thus while it is good to develop renewable energy and this will become necessary in a few hundred years as non-renewables become scarcer and more expensive, they might reasonably argue that there is no significant role for government there at this time.
    Note that none of this is a denial of AGW – merely an attempt to show that one need not be irrational or reflexively oppose a group’s policy goals to disagree.

  52. #52 Beamup
    February 4, 2011

    I have to agree with Mephistopheles. If one were to assume (for the sake of argument) that AGW were false, then at a minimum the cost/benefit analysis of things like energy efficiency and renewables change dramatically. And the point about what kind of emissions are of concern is a very good one.

    Denying AGW is wrongheaded. But denying that AGW has a profound effect on what constitutes rational policy is also wrongheaded.

  53. #53 TechSkeptic
    February 4, 2011

    Auggie,

    You can’t say “toxins” to sciencebloggers. That word in and of itself will bring a reflexive attack on it’s user.

    My response to Mad the Swine:
    Yes, I think that is completely rational and friendly approach….

    Juds response:
    Sure, I don’t think anyone is arguing differently….

    Mephistopheles response:
    Mad The Swine – I respectfully disagree….

    Now your comments:
    Until then you’ll just receive ad hominem attacks called “takedowns”.

    Didnt happen

    To the scienceblogger, humans have no natural resistence to even a single potential pathogen. Yet, they have endless resistance to small (relatively) amounts of various synthethic chemicals

    What the hell are you talking about? do you know what a pathogen is?

    there are no currently used “toxins”
    Please point me to a single person who says that. In fact most science minded folks will point out that every chemical has a toxicity level, even water.

    Only herbal/vitamin supplements and placebos can harm physiology and the ecosystem
    Who says that only those things cause harm?

    Toxicity is not an absolute term to sciencebloggers.
    Please look up the word “concentration”, I think this word must be missing from your vocabulary.

    there is only one person in this entire thread who laid out falsehood and logical fallacies in their comment. It wasn’t the science blogger nor his science minded commenters.

  54. #54 Jud
    February 4, 2011

    augustine writes:

    You can’t say “toxins” to sciencebloggers. That word in and of itself will bring a reflexive attack on it’s user.

    * * *

    Until then you’ll just receive ad hominem attacks called “takedowns”.

    Mighty amusing how every single response to mad the swine completely contradicted what augustine said. I idly wonder if he’ll have sense enough to be embarrassed?

  55. #55 Composer99
    February 4, 2011

    Jud @49:

    Considering how often augustine’s been swatted with clue-by-fours on the subject of dose-response, I doubt it.

    Assuming he understands any of the stuff people here tell him (which I do), I’d say his only reason to come out here is this.

  56. #56 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    Okay, I found the statement. It is taken completely out of context. At the 1:22:40 part of this video shows Barrasso going on about the economy and how much regulations cost. So Ms. Jackson’s reply was using her comment as an example and then goes on later to explain the clean water regulations did not cause the housing collapse. At no point did she say water contaminants cause autism.

    There was lots of discussion on perchlorate and chromium-6, mostly with causing cancer.

    In the opening statements Barrasso was going on about repealing the Clear Air Act, and Sen. Boxer shut him down explaining the hearing was on water and it was not construction for insult the regulatory agencies.

  57. #57 Lawrence
    February 4, 2011

    Who doesn’t want clean water? But, unless one is supposed to spend billions upon billions of dollars steralizing every last drop – both in the ground, in our pipes, and in the air, we need to get a better understanding of what is harmless, relatively harmless, and harmful (and in what quantities).

    This is the reason we continue to routinely test and study for various elements in our drinking water – both toxic at any level & those that require either a large dose at once or low levels over time, to actually cause provable harm.

    I will also say this, mercury poisoning – though affecting the brain, does not exhibit, remotely, the same symptoms of autism.

  58. #58 Andyo
    February 4, 2011

    The autism-anything-link people are probably hoping to win by carpet bombing at all the “causes” they can possibly fathom. When an actual explanation(s) for what causes autism is found, they’ll probably dig through their archives and find that one in a million speculations that sorta, kinda resembles the answer, and say “told you so.”

  59. #59 moderation
    February 4, 2011

    Chris @ 52: Her entire quote, in response to the question:
    “My question is: does the language of the President’s executive order allow you to basically use anything you want to in terms of saying benefits out weigh the costs?”

    is as follows:

    “I think the President’s far reaching executive order makes clear that there are some things that are hard to price. Our science may be good, but I don’t know how you price the ability to try to forestall a child who may not get autism, if they are not exposed to contaminated water.”

    The grammar is poor, but I don’s see how she is impling anything but the idea that that consumption of contaminated water can cause autism. Maybe you can help me understand how that is “out of context”.

  60. #60 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    She is just putting in an example, she did not say the water causes autism. Continue listening. I also feel she was frustrated with Barrasso ranting.

  61. #61 moderation
    February 4, 2011

    But it is a completely made up “example” and it is saying contaminated water causes autism. Again:

    “… I don’t know how you price the ability to try to forestall a child who may not get autism, if they are not exposed to contaminated water.”

    As I read it: I don’t know how you put a price on preventing a child from getting autism due to exposure to contaminated water.

    That clearly implies that autism can be caused by contaminated water. Why if she does not believe that would she use that as an example? You are only going to use an example to support your argument if you believe it. It would be completely different if she were being sarcastic, but she is not. And whether she is annoyed by Barrasso or not has no bearing on her statement, again, unless she was being sarcastic … which she was not.

  62. #62 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    Who cares? There is no science behind it, and it was a throw away comment in reaction to the Barrasso petty irrational rant. He wants to revoke the Clean Air Act and strip away any regulatory powers. He even said that the regulations were causing unemployment and the housing crisis. Gah!

  63. #63 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    In retrospect, she could have been referencing the earlier statements on percholates which may cause cancer, and perhaps birth disorders. But still, Barrasso was ranting, and it was a continuation of a previous rant that got shut down by Boxer.

  64. #64 Chris
    February 4, 2011

    Quick question, moderation: Do you think the EPA should ignore perchlorate in drinking water?

    Should this country strip the EPA of any regulatory power to save jobs and money as Barrasso seems to suggest? He does not seem to care about environmental concerns if it hurts industry:

    he bill’s supporters say the Environmental Protection Agency has used legislation such as the 1970 Clean Air Act for a power grab and is exercising authority it doesn’t have. But the heart of the issue, apparently, is not that the EPA has overstepped its mandate, but that limiting greenhouse gasses hurts businesses. The bill wants to overturn limits on seven controlled emissions, including nitrous oxide, sulfur hexaflouride and hydroflourocarbons and wants to prevent global warming from being considered a legitimate reason to limit emissions.

  65. #65 moderation
    February 5, 2011

    @Chris 58,59,60: What do Barrasso’s political beliefs have to do with a representative of the EPA stating that contaminated water can cause autism? The two have nothing to do with each other. Barrasso and the EPA rep (Lisa Jackson) can BOTH be wrong. Ms. Jackson is undermining your political point of view with her rank, unsupported specualation. You seem to be justifying Ms. Jackson’s comment only because you oppose Barrasso’s political beliefs. My beliefs about the EPA (I happen to believe in a robust and active EPA) has nothing to do with the fact that THIS EPA rep is spinning fairy tales. She was NOT referencing “perchlorates and cancer”, she said “AUTISM” and “CONTAMINATED WATER” … quite clearly. Listen to the clip again if you missed it.

  66. #66 Chris
    February 5, 2011

    It was a direct response to his browbeating. That is what I mean by you ignoring the context.

  67. #67 Dedj
    February 5, 2011

    It does seem strange that she’d be implying that contaminated water may cause autism, when her entire point appears to be that you can’t QALY-fy it.

    “I don’t know how you put a price on preventing a child from getting autism due to exposure to contaminated water.”

    Which is odd, as that’s something that you can put a price on, in terms of the reduced rate of excess health and social care cost over expected lifeterm. It’s something thats done all the time when it comes to assessing the efficacy of preventative treatments.

    She even goes on to talk about how the Executive Order mentioned in the line of question is about exactly that.

    She appears to be speaking in pure hypotheticals, which would match both the preamble to the question and the general context of the debate. The lack of apparent earlier reference to autism leads me to conclude that she does not believe contaminated water causes autism.

    A further reference to her beliefs is needed, otherwise Chris’s interpretation stands as the only logically and contextually valid one.

  68. #68 Chris
    February 5, 2011

    In summary: ask a stupid question (like Barrasso’s entire performance), get a stupid answer.

  69. #69 SocraticGadfly
    February 5, 2011

    @Harold Doherty: Why don’t you and Andrew Wakefield have a big glass of mercury together, then hire Wakefield’s shyster lawyers and sue each other?

  70. #70 Oldfart
    February 6, 2011

    Why don’t one of you email her and ask her what she meant? Or, if you can find a real reporter, ask them to ask her for a clarification.

  71. #71 Oldfart
    February 6, 2011

    I listened to her comments at that point in the video. It is clearly an example she is using to make her point. I have no idea how others ever got the idea that she MEANS that kids get autism from contaminated drinking water. I’m a layman and I take it to be just an example, if a tortured one.

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