The Hall of Shame
Examples of bad science causing real damage!


Think bad science is only an academic problem?  Think again!  Here are just a few examples of how bad science and misinformation can cause real harm in real life.

 

 

 

Silicone Breast Implants (and other silicone implants) Silicone gel has been used in breast implants and other implants and medical devices because it stable, inert in the body and has a good consistency which is similar to that of human tissue.  In the early 1990’s silicone breast implants began to come under fire as the possible cause of systemic disease, auto-immune issues and a variety of other health issues.   It was not long before these claims were all over the media and the lawsuits began.  

Between 1984 and the late 1990’s, Dow Corning, a major manufacturer of medical silicone was sued repeatedly, finally ending with a multibillion dollar class-action lawsuit in 1998, which drove the company into bankruptcy, effectively removed silicone devices of this type from the market and caused the loss of untold jobs and investors’ savings.

The problem:  There’s no evidence that silicone breast implants cause major medical problems, beyond the expected complications from any surgery.  Based on years of experience with silicone in the human body, all indications are that even in the rare circumstance of a major rupture, the material would not cause major health issues. 

Study info here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast_implant_controversy

Today silicone implants are actually coming BACK on the market.  And no, those who profited from the law suits have not had to return the money to the companies or individuals who’s reputations and finances were tarnished or destroyed.

 


 

 

 

 

DDT DDT is sometimes considered the first "modern" pesticide and won it’s discoverer Paul Hermann Müller the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for it’s use in the control of disease causing insects such as mosquitoes, dramatically reducing Malaria and Yellow Fever around the world.  It had been known as one of the most affective and efficient methods of pest control, due to the high sensitivity which insects have to it, making it highly toxic to all manner of disease-carrying and crop destroying pests.

DDT is also relatively low in it’s toxicity to humans.  It has even been used as an oral treatment for barbiturate poisoning.  It’s been used in soaps and applied to clothing with no apparent ill affects.  The Wold Health Organization has labeled it "moderately hazardous," a label which would fit many products under the average American’s sink.   However beginning in the 1950’s some began to observe a reduction in the bird populations in areas that heavily used DDT.   Studies which followed were conflicting, but evidence suggests DDT may have the affect of causing egg shells to weaken in birds exposed to high amounts.   Because of this DDT was banned in the US and has since become illegal in much of the world.

Despite it’s low toxicity for humans, it has been blamed for causing cancer.  Studies which attempted to prove this came up short.  Studies of workers exposed to extreme doses of DDT have shown no elevated risk of cancer and the only limited evidence that it would have any chronic affect came from some inconclusive studies on animals given extreme doses of DDT.  In the 1980’s the EPA classified DDT as a level 2B "possible carcinogen," adding it to the long list of other everyday chemicals which may increase the risk of cancer, but only mildly so (if at all).

So does this mean that DDT should be banned?   There are plenty of more hazardous chemicals which are fully legal.  DDT may have a roll in bird reproduction problems, but it’s biological half-life is relatively short and it’s benefits are vast.  A more rational response, many would argue, would be to place site restrictions on it’s use in areas with endangered birds and to monitor for runoff in the environment, assuring that it is not overused in areas which could be harmed.  

The ban on DDT has taken a powerful tool away from those who seek to fight mosquito-born disease, increase food production in developing countries and control vermin which impact the standard of living around the world.  Untold millions may have died because of the ban of this relatively benign and highly beneficial chemical which has become the poster child for hazardous materials, despite not really being one.

 


 

 

 

Vaccines And Autism – If there is one medical technology that may qualify for the title of "modern miracle" it is the modern vaccination.  With vaccines, diseases which had ravaged humanity, like Polio or Diphtheria have become rare and Smallpox has even been driven to extinction in the human population.   So what possible reason could anyone have for opposing their children being protected from such deadly and painful pathogens?

In the late 1990’s, accusations began to surface that childhood vaccinations were responsible for the rise in rates of Autism in the population.  At issue is the compound Thiomersal, an anti-fungal agent and preservative which was once used in small amounts in many vaccines, though is now mostly replaced.  Theriomersal is a compound which breaks down in the body to ethylmercury.  It was theorized that this compound, although at tiny levels could have negative affects on the nervous system.  There is little evidence, and no conclusive proof that this is the case, but since 1997 the compound has no longer been used in childhood injections.  Studies in primates showed that most of the substance is cleared from the body rapidly and studies on individual cells showed only very high amounts caused noticeable damage.

Given that the evidence that vaccines were even remotely related to Autism is, at best, shakey and that the compound Theriomersal is no longer in vaccines, one would think that few parents would object to their child being inoculated.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.   In many cases, the anecdotal evidence and claims of a conspiracy between the government and pharmaceutical companies has lead parents to believe that their children are better off the "natural" way, with no vaccinations.  In most cases, the children do not develop any diseases, because most of their peers have been vaccinated and the disease thus has no source for transmission.  

However, with the increasing refusal of parents to inoculate their children, outbreaks of diseases like whooping cough (pertussis) have begun showing up in the United States, where the disease has seldom been seen in the past forty years, due to the use of modern vaccines.  In some cases, diseases which had thought to have been under control for decades have shown up not in low income areas, but in the most affluent, where unknowledgeable parents have listened to hype over reason.

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Nuclear Energy – Nuclear energy is a topic which people have some very strong feelings on, but differing opinions on it’s value does not excuse the use of junk science and inaccurate data to justify a stand

The fact is that nuclear energy is currently one of the very few forms of energy which can produce vast amounts of power, in a relatively small area and economically, without producing carbon dioxide waste.   While wind and solar energy may be suitable for certain situations and locations, the idea that these forms of energy could be used to provide a large portion of the electricity for for power grid is just not realistic.   Hydroelectric and geothermal energy are only available in very limited locations, leaving the choice between nuclear and coal or other fossil fuels for most circumstances.

Even nuclear energy’s biggest supporters will admit that it is not a perfect form of power, primarily due to the highly radioactive spent fuel waste it produces.  However, there are ways of solving this problem, including transmutation, waste reprocessing and specialized reactors which produce a smaller volume of waste.   Safety at nuclear power plants is very good, with the light-water pressurized reactors used in most of the world proving extremely safe and reliable – unlike the flawed designs of some Soviet reactors, like Chernobyl.  The worst nuclear accident in the United States was the Three Mile Island incident which resulted in zero deaths, zero injuries and no significant or lasting environmental impact outside the reactor’s containment structures.

However, it’s still valid to hold the view that nuclear energy is not worth the risk or waste management problems, but this opinion should be based on facts and not inflated dangers or inaccurate science.  For the past thirty years or more, "environmentalists" have had a near knee-jerk reaction against all things nuclear.  Claims have been made comparing nuclear plants to nuclear weapons and western light-water reactors to Chernobyl.  Neither is accurate at all.  This is unfortunate because new reactor designs and power systems offer better safety and efficient.  If one wants their opinion to be respected and listened to, they ought to be willing to support it with accurate information and not entirely incorrect factual claims.   This is simply not the case with many anti-nuclear interests.

The damage:  A less balanced and fact-based assessment of energy needs and more smog and CO2 in the air.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Cell Phones (and other low power radio devices) Cell phones, and  more recently, Wifi Devices have long been pointed to as a possible cause of everything from infertility to cancer to other health issues.  However, there remains little evidence to support these claims and some of the largest studies have failed to find any link between these low power consumer wireless devices and any health problems.

It’s not surprising and good science indicates there is probably no risk at all. The reason why this keeps happening is that people know well that nuclear and ionizing radiation is bad for you and can cause cancer, among other things. In general, the less you get the better and therefore even small doses are to be avoided when possible. But RF radiation is different. It does not affect the chemicals of your DNA or proteins directly like nuclear radiation does. Can it cause damage? Yes, but by a different mechanism. It actually can *heat* the tissues in your body, just like a microwave oven heats food.

The problem with this heating is that it happens directly inside cells and can occur before your body can perceive uncomfortable heating effects and without your body being able to shed the heat fast enough. The result: even if your whole body does not feel significant warmth, cells can burst, tissues can be damaged and proteins can be literally cooked. BUT, there’s something important to remember: This only occurs at very high levels of RF radiation exposure. Bellow a certain threshold, the heating is insignificant and really does not have any noticeable affect.

But with nuclear radiation, it’s the total dose, regardless of the intensity. In other words, being exposed to a strong radiation field for one hour and being exposed to one that is 10% as strong for ten hours is effectively the same, because it’s cumulative. RF radiation works entirely differently, so if the level is really low there’s effectively no cumulative affect, no matter how long you are exposed. Right now, the best research indicates that strong RF fields, like those around professional broadcast transmitters and high power microwave relay stations may cause health problems for those who are directly exposed. But cell phones and Wifi? It would seem not.

It may never end. Low power radio transmitters like wifi bluetooth and cell phones are apparently on someone’s bad list and damnit, they’re going to keep studying them until they find those health risks that they just KNOW are there!

So how does cause damage?   Causes unnecessary fear in consumers, wastes money on research, causes people to buy scam products like pendants which are supposed to help with RF exposure.  

 


 

 

 

 

Fluoridation Of Water Fluoride refers to naturally occurring mineral salts made up of fluorine based salts, such as sodium fluoride.  These compounds have been shown to be highly beneficial to the development of tooth enamel and general dental health since the late 1800’s.   These compounds are only required in small amounts, of about one part per million in order to be beneficial to tooth health and many sources of drinking water already contain a sufficient amount of fluoride.

However, since the late 1940’s, municipal water suppliers have been supplementing water supplies with the trace compound, in cases where the available aquifers do not contain the desired levels.  In the United States, two thirds of public water supplies are supplemented with additional fluoride.  Numerous studies have shown a marked improvement in dental health and no known ill affects.  It has been compared to fortifying salt with trace levels of iodine.

However, since it’s inception, there has been a small but vocal opposition to the process, who claim that the fortifying of water takes away one’s individual choice in health matters and have pointed to the possibility of bone cancer and osteoporosis, although neither has been linked to water fluoridation, although they can occur from very excessive fluoride intake.  In Stanly Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove (which happens to be DrBuzz0’s favorite movie), Kubrick mocks the anti-fluoride fanatics by having one of the main characters become paranoid of a government plot to "Taint the purity of our precious bodily fluids" through the fluoridation of water.

However, the consequences of this movement have not been entirely humorous.  A great deal of money has been spent on studies on the affects of fluoride, despite the fact that the safety of fluoride is well established.  Furthermore, communities in Europe and elsewhere have actually stopped fluoridation of water, probably resulting in countless unnecessary cases of tooth decay.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Depleted Uranium – Recently becoming a poster child for illegal war operations and blamed for everything from Gulf War Syndrome to birth defects.   It has gotten much press and many have called for it to be banned or have convinced veterans that their health may be in danger because of the material.

Due to it’s hardness and density, it is used in armor piercing projectiles and other military applications

However, such claims are not supported by any real science and go against the well established knowledge in the field of toxicology.   Depleted uranium is radioactive, but only very mildly so.  The material is a byproduct of uranium refining and enrichment and is actually less radioactive than uranium minerals found in nature.  The radiation from DU does not present much of a health hazard, however the material is chemically toxic.   The toxicity of uranium is relatively low.  It is a toxic heavy metal and often compared to lead in terms of toxicity.

While it is well known that lead is a toxic substance and can cause neurological problems, especially in children, acute poisoning is extremely rare.  There is lead in such things as car batteries, fishing weights, bullets, solder and many other products.  Taking basic precautions, such as washing hands after coming in contact, and such materials are to be avoided in food preparation or drinking water vessels.

Depleted uranium and natural uranium have even been used in the glazing for ceramic items, such as Fiestaware dinnerware.   Studies have shown that the dangers of eating off such plates is extremely minimal.

However, due to these claims, money has been spent on unnecessary research and testing for depleted uranium and veterans and civilians have been scared or confused by the rhetoric.  And if the campaigns are successful, soldiers on the front line may have the weaponry and armor’s effectiveness compromised due to reduction in DU’s use.

More info:
     http://hps.org/documents/dufactsheet.pdf
     http://hps.org/publicinformation/asktheexperts.cfm

 


 


               

 

 

Global Warming Misinformation – There’s really not that much scientific disagreement on the issue of global warming, but the average person could be forgiven for thinking so.  This is because the issue has become so embroiled in politics and special interests, that there have been a lot of contradictory and confusing claims being made by both sides.

The facts are relatively straight forward.   Global warming is happening and will continue to happen, and there’s no real debate on the issue.   It’s cause is primarily human activities, although sun cycles and other factors may come into play, they are relatively small.   The affects we have seen thus far are relatively small and mild compared to what’s coming.  

Exactly what will global warming cause?  Most climatologists will admit that they do not know for certain.  The sea level will tend to rise and the climate of the world will be altered, possibly dramatically.  Some have contended that this could cause western Europe to become colder in the winters or that there could be major droughts in the American Southwest.   But the fact is that it’s just not possible to be certain other than to say that there will be climate changes and they probably won’t be good.

The idea that the climate changes will be extremely mild or even beneficial is not considered likely, and neither is the idea that they will be catastrophic, at least in the near-term. In all probability it will be somewhere in between, but disruptions to the climate certainly hold the potential for some very serious consequences.

This is a circumstance where public policy based on bad science can truly be dangerous for the world.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Food Irradiation – Irradiation has long been used as a highly effective means of sterilizing both food and medical supplies.  The process involves exposing the items to high energy radiation from either an x-ray tube or, more commonly a radioisotope, such as cobalt-60 or cesium-137.   The process can kill any bacterial or other microbial life on in the food or other material and is more effective than heat pasteurization in sterilizing materials.

The resulting foods are not at all radioactive and are endorsed as safe by numerous studies as well as the US Food and Drug Administration, The USDA, The World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.   The food is generally unchanged, other than the elimination of microbial life and although the chemistry can be affected, such as destruction of vitamin molecules, the affect is very small and considered negligible, with standard irritation practices. 

However, the benefits of food irritation include longer shelflife, better taste and nutrition than other sterilization methods and elimination of potentially harmful pathogens which can cause fatal food poisoning.   E.Coli bacteria and other food born pathogens have caused numerous illnesses and deaths and can be difficult to guard against, as even cooked food can be dangerous, if the some of the food has not been sufficiently heated.   Irritation could potentially greatly reduce this threat.

However, despite these benefits, numerous groups have opposed food irradiation and often trump up the term "radiation" to imply that the food would be radioactive or unsafe.  This has caused some food manufacturers to limit or avoid the process and bills have even been introduced to ban irradiated foods in school cafeterias or to require irradiated food to carry sensational warning labels.

 


 

 

Bad Medical Advice – The book shown to the left, Natural Cures They Don’t Want you to Know About, by Kevin Trudeau, may be the most egregious example of medical disinformation in recent times. 

Trudeau, who is not a doctor, uses the word “cures,” which implies that he can offer you something that is not a treatment, not a symptom suppressor, not even a means of causing remission but a cure: you have a disease, you take the cure and boom! It’s gone! Would that the world could be so rosey. He comes straight out and will tell you he has the cure for everything from the flu to cancer. (Yes – That’s right – if he weren’t lying I think there are some guys in Oslo with a prize for him). But he is lying. His book is packed with lies and sold on lies. Not a differing opinion. Not a different interpretation of things, but lies.

He claims that there is a grand conspiracy between drug companies and the government to suppress him and this is why he has gone to prison and been attacked (yeah right).  He will have readers believe that before the drug companies people lived forever because they knew enough to eat tree bark, before Pfizer and Glaxo Smith Klein came down and suppressed the knowledge.

But all his book contains are a few tips that may have a shred of medical merit, such as drinking plenty of water and other fluffy common sense and also some advice which can actually be harmful. Most of it ranges from useless to worse.  And no actual "cures" are included.

The dangers of these publications is those who buy them in times of desperation may believe these bogus claims and avoid doctors or conventional medicine, in favor of "natural" cures.   There is no doubt about it:  This is a matter of life and death.