Kevin Trudeau is still a liar

One of the most popular (i.e. the most clicked on/referred by google/etc) post I ever did was also one of my first. It was Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures: Part 1 and it easily has the most comments. My old blog at Blogger is still getting hits & comments all the time. Here’s the latest (in italics below with my responses in bold):

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well I am outraged. I personally went through a battery of tests in my 20’s and went through 5 heart specialists, was misdiagnosed, missed two months of work, and finally diagnosed with mild MVP!

I’m very sorry to hear that.

So yes, it is possible for the “medical” specialists to be idiots and completely miss something as simple as MVP.

I’m always fascinated that those that cannot meet the expectations of some are automatically idiots, regardless of the issue at hand.

And as for the injection of cellular material, I dont know much about that but what the heck do you think is in vaccinations????? Chicken embryos, monkey livers ect….Doesnt the medical community claim this is a perfectly safe procedure to inject our children with?

Are you suggesting that vaccinations are “chicken embryos” and “monkey livers?” Vaccinations are comprised of vaccines, which are killed or otherwise inert forms of microorganisms like bacteria or viruses. They “teach” the immune system what the actual virus looks like so that it might be recognized and more easily defeated during phagocytosis and other immune responses to foreign invaders. There are no chicken embryos and monkey livers involed except perhaps in the cultivation or collection of the microorganisms.

How much longer can they continue to deny that they are causing our children to have autism and other diseases with these “recommended” vaccinations.

Why should they do anything *but* deny it? Why would medical professionals admit to an assertion based on hysteria, ignorance, poor education, and out-right confabulation and fear-mongering? There isn’t a single bit of scientific evidence which suggests that vaccines have anything to do with “autism and other diseases.”

You should do a little more research before you bash alternative treatments.

And you should obtain an education before you take a stand based on ignorance. It makes you look foolish. And, for that reason, it is perhaps wise that you chose to be anonymous in leaving your comment. But please: cite a source of information that should have been included in my “research.” If you reply to that at all, I’m sure it will be the standard woo retort, “why should I do your research for you,” given whenever said research doesn’t really exist except in the imagination.

Why not try acupuncture-you will find yourself in better shape for having had a treatment.

I might as well try eating deep-fried bannana peels and smoking cattail leaves. There’s precisely the same amount of evidence that they have any redeeming value in putting one in “better shape” as acupuncture.

I for one, after reading Kevin’s books, am happy to say, my family is drug free, healthier, and better for having been given Kevin’s powerful and true information.

Kevin Trudeau is a con artist. He’s a quack. A hack. He’s an asshole out to rip good, hardworking Americans off -stealing there money by making them fear medicine and doctors. I hope you don’t have to find it out the hard way.

Good luck to you and good health to you and your family.

To all else that read this comment, this is a good example of why science education and critical thinking skills should not be neglected in America to the extent that they are. I’m not a fan of “big pharma” and other corporations that are willing to profit on the misery and needs of hard-working people. Kevin T. has made himself out to be a “champion” of the underdog and the people, but he’s really out for #1. Himself. The guy *is* the establishment he pretends to warn others about. He exploits the fact that science education and critical thinking skills are not at a premium and that he can scam his marks into “buying” a book that doesn’t actually reveal any information about “natural cures.”

There is no substitue for scientific medicine. There is no “alternative” to it. Its either scientific or it isn’t.

Kevin Trudeau: Pseudo-Advocate for the Consumer

Kevin Trudeau has been a topic of concern since my very first post here at Hot Cup of Joe. I’ve received lots of e-mail and comments and Trudeau continues to be one of the most consistent search hits from places like Google. All this in spite of the fact that my blog is mostly an archaeology and anthropology blog, though I try to concern myself with skepticism from time-to-time.

That being said, I received a recent comment on Part 1 of my Natural Cures review that I wanted to put on the front page. Kevin Trudeau is a self-labeled “consumer advocate” and, as the anonymous commenter below points out, this is naught but a deception to make money. I’ve edited Anonymous’ post for spelling and grammar, but the rest is his/her original words, which you can find in the comments linked above. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing this with us, and read the rest below the fold:

Listen to all of you who swear by Kevin and his stories are lame there are so many people he has ripped off and continue to rip off I aught to know I worked for his company selling his books. I believed in him until I went into customer service and actually saw how the people that believed in him were treated by the company that does his distribution and shipping


I thought that if I got into the customer service part of the company I could actually help people and that is totally wrong his newsletter cost people a bunch of money all at once and the thing is that half of them never knew it until they had an over draft charge. Their way of dealing with the customers is to have us reps tell them that they will be receiving their refunds in approximately 60 days and you don’t know how many time I had to calm customers down because they were ripped off and there was nothing I could do to help them.

He is the biggest scam artist ever. he prays on old people and poor people that are looking for some cure that his infomercials claim are in the book Yes, if you have a computer and the resources there is some good things in there, but most of it is garbage because I have looked it up on line myself because I refused to order his book which seeing as I worked there I could’ve gotten it for free. I didn’t want it because it is useless.

Don’t get scammed by the new book on weight loss. Please take my advice and don’t bother especially if you have the CD because they are the same with just a hair of different info in them.

I am also going to find the web page for all the complaints against him and post an apology to all the customers I promised I would help because I was never allowed to call them back by company policy -I would’ve had to do it on my own time even though the supervisor tells us to tell them we will call back with info when received she never gets back to rep to do cb even when reminded she is not a bad person either just doing her job

Thank you, Anonymous, for coming forward with your story. Doubtless, there are many die-hard Trudeau followers (he really does have a cult following) that will label you a “heretic” and discount your story as that of a disgruntled employee, but you’ve characterized what I’ve been saying about Trudeau all along: he’s a con man praying on the weak, needy and desperate. He’s not a consumer “advocate” at all, but rather a leach, sucking money from them where he can with his fangs of deception. Trudeau successfully deceives the public into thinking that he’s their advocate and that he’s protecting them against the “establishment.”

The reality is that Trudeau is exactly the problem he claims to be an advocate against: corporate theft of consumer capital with regard to health concerns.

Other Posts on Trudeau, the con-artist:
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 2
Yet Another Kevin Trudeau Con
The Pseudoscience of an “Infomercial” Conman

Yet Another Kevin Trudeau Con

Kevin Trudeau is in the news for shenanigans other than the ‘alternative medicine’ scams he’s associated with. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran an article on October 27, 2006 that exposes his involvement in organizing the International Pool Tour, which included a $3 million World 8-Ball Open in Reno, NV. Unfortunately, for the players, not all is on the up-and-up:

Six weeks after the IPT Open in Reno, Trudeau has yet to pay the winners. He has apologized for the delay, saying he fully understood and acknowledged the players’ frustration and concern.

“Critics quickly alerted players and industry reps about Trudeau’s controversial past,” Panozzo recalled. (Trudeau had spent 24 months in federal prison for credit card fraud and larceny.–MRI)

Of course, Trudeau responded with the same easy rhetoric that he offers critics of his pseudoscience claims in infomercials and books:

“When you create something new, like the IPT, the first reaction isn’t ‘Great!’ It’s ‘Witch! Charlatan!’ That’s what happens,” Trudeau said.

He pointed out that the opening quote in his best-selling book, “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About,” is by Albert Einstein who said, “Great spirits always get violent opposition from mediocre minds.” His book, which has so far sold more than three million copies, espouses cures and remedies that don’t require drugs and surgery. A pioneer of infomercial, Trudeau is now worth more than $2 billion.

$2 billion!? If you flip open the front cover of his Natural Cures book, you see the announcement that he makes no money from his work, but donates it all to furthering the cause of alternative medicine and ‘natural’ cures. $2 Billion?! I wonder what funds he’s given to whom for the good of alternative medicine?

Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 2

Previous entries about Trudeau:
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1
The Pseudoscience of an “Infomercial” Conman

In Part 1 of my review of Trudeau’s Natural Cures (linked above), I spent a bit of time examining his claim that he “should be dead” and that his mitral valve prolapse was cured by a “dermatron.” I also commented on his claims that cellular injection therapy are legitimate. The post continues to draw quite a few hits and there are several comments made by some significance-junkies and Trudeau followers that are offended that someone would dare choose science over quackery.

I’ll continue the series with a bit more brevity.

In chapter 2 of his book, “what’s wrong with health care in America?,” Trudeau continues with logical fallacy after logical fallacy and with his refusal to cite any sources of verifiable information. He states that the medical establishment is “absolutely, 100%, failed in curing and prevention of illness, sickness, and disease.” Not a single source for his information. Not a single statistic cited. Nada.

Obviously this is completely and utterly false. One need only think of diseases such as polio and small pox and realize that it is medical science that eradicated these from most of the world. A casual look at a biology book or text on sociology that examines global trends and it becomes clear that where western medicine is prevalent in the world, infant mortality declines and longevity increases. Such data is so easy to come by, I’ll not even bother to link or cite it. Of course, the significance-junkies and conspiracy-nutters that see Trudeau as a hero turn blind eye to any facts that don’t already fit their conclusions.

Trudeau continues his chain of logical fallacies by stating in this chapter that more people get “X” than ever before. For “X,” simply insert whatever disease or condition you prefer: MS, cancer, diabetes, lupus, asthma, acne, dandruff, etc.

This is actually true. More people today *are* afflicted with these diseases than, say, 100 years ago. Of course, the population in the United States has more than tripled since 1900! So it shouldn’t even be surprising that more people are also being treated medically than “ever before.”

The gist of Trudeau’s 2nd chapter is that medical science has failed “absolutely, 100%.” Yet he fails the reader by at least this same measure since he utterly refuses to show how he arrived at that conclusion, an insult to the intelligence of the reader as it seems that such a failure assumes them incapable of understanding the reasoning. Or, more likely, because the data exist only in Trudeau’s head, invented and concocted for the sole purpose of appealing to popularity in making himself appear as though he’s a voice for the people, fighting against the “establishment” bent on keeping us all sick and in need of medicine.

I’ll not pretend that there are no problems with the the health care industry. There are. Trudeau may even be right about some of them. However, one cannot solve real problems by lumping the entirety of medical science in with those that engage in price-gouging, monopolistic control of specific drugs, pressuring physicians to back specific drugs, convincing the public they need unnecessary drugs for vague symptoms advertised on television, etc, etc

Trudeau’s exploits the natural frustrations that people have with health care to make a dollar. He’s a criminal.

Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1

As many who are critics and fans alike are aware, Kevin Trudeau, scam artist extraordinaire and mongrel of multi-level marketing, has a new book out, which is titled, More Natural Cures Revealed: Previously Censored Brand Name Products That Cure Disease. This one is a follow-up to his previous work of pulp fiction, Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

I wrote a critical review of Trudeau’s infomercial in which he provided some very bogus information (known by critical thinkers as "lies"), which you can find at this link.

I thought it prudent to review his first book, Natural Cures, especially since in his latest work of admitted fiction, Trudeau instructs his readers to read it if they haven’t already. I spent the better part of two or three afternoons in my local Barnes & Noble, sucking down coffee (of course) and making notes from their copy of Trudeau’s nonsense. I refused to actually pay for it.

The following is my brief review on Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

Trudeau structures his book in 15 chapters and three appendices:

  1. I should be dead now
  2. What’s wrong with health care in America?
  3. It’s all about money
  4. Who are "they"?
  5. Why are we sick?
  6. How to never get sick again
  7. Why people are fat
  8. How to lose weight effortlessly and keep it off forever
  9. How to read food labels
  10. Not convinced?
  11. Frequently asked questions
  12. Still not convinced?
  13. "Natural" cures for specific diseases
  14. Naturlcures.com
  15. The Solution

Appendix A. Free Bonus Materials: Newsletter articles
Appendix B. No-Hunger Bread: a true FDA horror story
Appendix C. How to find a health care practitioner

 

As is the case with all con-artists that wish to avoid legal problems due to their bogus "self-help" books, Trudeau begins with a disclaimer:

Before you read this book you had better check with your medical doctor, your friends, your politicians, your priest, your rabbi, your psychic, and anyone you feel is smarter than you, and see if you can get permission to read what I have to say.

Trudeau sets his tone of the book right from the beginning. He seeks to appeal to the natural human tendency to root for the underdog, but I hope, as I construct this criticism of his work, that it will be revealed that Trudeau is anything but an underdog. He is a con-artist. A fraud. Indeed, his "books" are frauds perpetrated on the real underdogs: the consumers that Trudeau pretends to be and advocate for. Trudeau is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, which seeks to fleece the pocketbooks of people with a genuine need to find solutions in healthcare.

And so the tone of the book is begun, the affronted underdog, oppressed by "the establishment" who is restricting his rights to free speech. He then goes on to impart that everything in the book is his "opinion" and anything done by the reader without medical supervision is done at their own risk. The book, he maintains, is for "educational purposes only" and only a medical doctor can prescribe medications, punctuated by Trudeau’s commentary of "how sad!"

The "educational purpose" of Natural Cures would seem to be on how a con-artist is able to appeal to hopes and fears of his mark in order to get them to spend $30 on a book and potentially hundreds more on junk newsletters and a subscription website.

Kevin Trudeau Should be Dead.

Or at least that’s what the title of his first chapter would indicate. In it, Trudeau begins with a personal anecdote of being diagnosed with a heart problem: mitral valve prolapse (MVP). This heart condition, which Trudeau calls a "severe" condition, took days to get diagnosed by "three of the top heart specialists in America" who used "the most advanced medical diagnostic devices" was discovered by a single new age nutbar (Dr. Yiwen Tang of Century Center in Reno, NV) with a magical meridian energy device (the "Dermatron ") was able to find his MVP in just a few seconds! Moreover, it was a "natural, inexpensive, quick and painless" treatment that cured him. A "treatment" so secret and "forbidden" in America, that it is illegal!. But Trudeau claims that just two months after his "treatment," further diagnosis by doctors (real ones, apparently) revealed no heart problem.

Folks, this is how the book begins, and it continues in exactly the same bullshit fashion throughout. Let me explain:

Mitral valve prolapse is a common heart condition which affects up to 25% of the population. Those that have MVP typically have a minor problem with their mitral valve that allows small amounts of blood to leak back in the heart when the valve doesn’t properly close. Even the most novice of nurses trained to listen for it can hear the tell-tale "clicking" that accompanies the normal heartbeat and certainly any medical doctor could diagnose the condition in only a few seconds with a simple stethoscope (simple but definitely the only "advanced diagnostic device" needed!). You see, mitral valve prolapse is also known by its more common name: heart murmur; a late-systolic murmur to be exact.

]

CORRECTION: I’ll leave the incorrect information in the paragraph above intact. Wondering if I was right about the ease with which MVP is detectable (I based my assumption on a conversation I recall with a nurse I once worked with a few years ago), I asked a pediatrician to fact check for me. That pediatrician is Clark Bartram over at Unintelligent Design, and I owe him a big thank you for setting me straight. I should have asked him sooner!

As it turns out, MVP is bit more complicated than most heart murmurs: “There are a number of cardiac issues that can lead to a murmur and not all murmurs are pathologic. Also the click is not always present, nor is a murmur. It is often an incidental finding with no significance (Clark Bartram).” He also noted that, while even skilled nurses and doctors might not be able to diagnose MVP with a stethoscope, as I so wrongly stated, the condition is easily detected by echocardiogram, which still makes Trudeau’s anecdote of taking weeks to be discovered through the most advanced diagnostic equipment a bit of balderdash.

Also provided was a new source of information, eMedicine, which notes: “In the US: MVP can be identified by echocardiography in 3-4% of the general population, and it is identified in 7% of autopsies.” The MV Prolapse site I linked to above gave a figure of 5-20%.

Trudeau says that physicians told him that the condition was "incurable," which is true if what is expected in the definition of "cure" is something that can be ingested or consumed to change the body’s physiology. But in cases that are serious, the mitral valve can be operated on, replacing the valve itself, thus "curing" the individual. The valve itself is faulty and a hereditary condition. Yet Trudeau claims to have a magical cure that he refuses to share with the world.

This magical cure is as much bullshit as the diagnosis he alleges to have received from the new age nutbar. Trudeau claims that the "Dermatron Machine" was able to diagnose his MVP. The only truth Trudeau offers in this chapter appears to be that the "Dermatron " is illegal and so is the treatment he claims: cellular injection therapy. There are good reasons.

The Dermatron

A good source of information on this quack device can be found at QuackWatch.com (Barrett 2005). From Dr. Barrett’s article there:

Proponents, claim these devices measure disturbances in the body’s flow of "electro-magnetic energy" along "acupuncture meridians." [1] Actually, these devices are little more than fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient’s skin when touched by a probe. The device emits a tiny direct electric current that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient’s other hand or a foot. This completes a low-voltage circuit and the device registers the flow of current.

The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numerical readout on a scale of 0  to 100. According to Voll’s theory: readings from 45 to 55 are normal ("balanced"); readings above 55 indicate inflammation of the organ "associated" with the "meridian" being tested; and readings below 45 suggest "organ stagnation and degeneration." The size of the number actually depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient’s skin.

Such devices aren’t complicated or magical. Nor do they do what their proponents claim. Not a single valid study has been conducted that demonstrates that they work. And it would be a simple experiment for the proponents to validate. Simply set up a double-blind experiment using both ill and non-ill subjects of whichever disease or ailment the proponents of the device are most comfortable with and record the results. Either it will detect and cure or it won’t.

Trudeau’s fans will doubtlessly note that he doesn’t indicate in chapter one that the device "cures" but others do elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the con-artist Trudeau is willing to support these claims if it furthers his own agenda –which, clearly, is to pad his wallet.

Devices similar to the Dermatron are used and claimed by other alternative medicine nutbars such as Hulda Clark, author of The Cure for All Cancers, and the idea was born of Reinhold Voll, a 1950s acupuncturist. The circuitry of modern devices of this sort are simple square-wave oscillators with a one or two resisters and capacitors and a potentiometer to give an oscillation, all running on a small battery of, perhaps, 9-volts. Clark’s claim is that such a device is able to cure cancer and provides instruction in her book to build such a device for minimal cost.

One wonders why there are no documented cases of cured cancer. That is, unless you buy into Trudeau’s crap. Trudeau uses a logical fallacy (among many, many others) called poisoning the well by setting up the reader to believe that the reason such claims aren’t validated is because "Big Pharm," the government, and medical doctors are suppressing it. And he expects you to believe it.

Never mind that going public with verifiable evidence for cures that can cheaply and quickly solve problems like cancer and MVP would make instant heroes and celebrities out of the doctor, government official, or pharmaceutical engineer that can validate them. Never mind that there are peer-review and oversight entities that would prevent such things. Never mind that even if most of the thousands of people who work in these fields were actually dishonest, that there would be almost zero chance that all of them are. Surely one of the "honest" government, pharmaceutical, or medical personnel is able to go public with evidence that a simple, $15 square-wave oscillator can dowse or divine what ails you and even cure you of cancer!

Cellular Injection Therapy

Yes. It’s illegal. And for good reason since the concept involves injecting cellular material from other species of animals into people.

Again, Dr. Stephen Barrett (2003) offers some well-researched information, useful to the lay-person who may be deceived by con-artists and fraudsters who care about your money and not your health as they claim. I’ll include Barrett’s citations.

  • A 1957 survey of 179 West German hospitals revealed 80 cases of serious immunological reactions, 30 of them fatal, in cellular treatment recipients (Gelband et al 1990).
  • In 1975, the AMA’s consumer magazine Today’s Health described how two men died from gas gangrene following injections of fetal sheep cells at the New Life Clinic near Fort Meyers, Florida, operated by Robert A. Peterson, Jr., D.O. The article noted that: (a) Peterson falsified the cause of death on the death certificate in an attempt to conceal what had happened, and (b) in Germany alone, 35 deaths had been traced to practitioners who had tried to use Niehans’s technique; and (c) Peterson subsequently had his license revoked and was indicted for mail fraud and tax evasion (Lindemann & Cubbison 1975)
  • In 1981, allergic reactions to calf thymus tissue derived from 5-day-old animals were reported in a study of patients with histiocytosis X (Osband et al 1981).
  • During the 1980s, cases were reported of polyradiculitis, leukoencephalitis, Guillian-Barré syndrome, immune complex vasculitis, encephalopathy, and a blistering skin disease resembling bullous pemphigoid (de Ritter et al 1987; Goebel et al 1986; Bohl et al 1989).
  • In 1987, the British journal Lancet reported on the death of a popular female athlete who had received several hundred injections of various cell preparations. She had developed a painful nerve condition, had been given dipyrone (a dangerous drug), and had gone into fatal shock (Lancet 1987).

In closing of this portion of my review, I’ll add that there are good reasons why the Dermatron and "cellular injection therapy" are both illegal. They’re harmful. They’re sole purpose is to deceive those that are desperate for health care and take their money, regardless of the risks to their health or the shams they’re based on.

Throughout his book Trudeau condemns modern Western medicine and uses another logical fallacy, which is the appeal to the ancients or tradition. Trudeau maintains that alternative treatments, cures, and lifestyles are healthier and more advantageous and gives whole lists of "problems" with modern medicine, health and hygiene (many if not most items are simply wrong, out of context, or out-right lies). No one can deny that there are improvements that can be made in modern healthcare, and let us hope this will always be the case… who would want to live in a society where healthcare and medicine are rigid and unchanging where progress is absent? But it cannot be overlooked that modern Western medicine works. The average lifespan of cultures where Western medicine has not been introduced is far, far less than that of Western societies. Anthropological and archaeological evidence is very clear. Earlier humans had lifespans of about 40-45. In some African nations where Western medicine has yet to be consistently introduced, the average lifespan is about 35 even today.

I’ll continue this with additional parts, reviewing other chapters of Trudeau’s book of pseudoscience, lies and deception if this one gets a lot of hits and comments (good or bad).

 

References:

Barrett, Stephen (2003). Cellular Therapy. QuackWatch.com

Barrett, Stephen (2005). Quack "Electrodiagnostic" Devices. QuackWatch.com

Bohl J et al (1989). Complications following cell therapy. Zeitschrift fur Rechtsmedizin 103:1-20.

Gelband H et al (1990). Cellular treatment. In Unconventional cancer treatments. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, pp 97-98.

Goebel HH et al. (1986). Fresh cell therapy followed by fatal coma. Journal of Neurology 233:242-247.

Lancet (1987). Cell therapy suspended. Lancet, Aug 29, p. 503.

Lindeman B, Cubbison C: (1975). Cellular therapy: A shabby clinic offered rejuvenation but delivered death. Today’s Health 53:36-41.

Osband ME et al. (1981). Histiocytosis-X. Demonstration of abnormal immunity, T-cell histamine H2-receptor deficiency, and successful treatment with thymic extract. New England Journal of Medicine. 304:146-153.

de Ridder M et al. (1987). Two cases of death following cell therapy. Deutsche Medizinische Wochenshrift 112:1006-1009.

 

 

 

 

Health Facts and Fears: pseudoscience from a pseudo-skeptic?

Most skeptics have no real agenda beyond truth. Sure, they’re often passionate about their doubts of UFOs, Uri Geller, Kevin Trudeau, Don Lemmon (hello Orac!), cold fusion and the like, but the bottom line is always the truth. A true skeptic won’t say “there’s no such thing as alien spacecraft” or “cold fusion is impossible.” Instead, they’ll say, “there’s no evidence that aliens are visiting,” and “cold fusion hasn’t been demonstrably feasible.”

But there is a class of skeptic, a pseudo-skeptic if you will, that crops up here and there. Bjørn Lomborg and Steven J. Milloyare two that come to mind as those that seem willing to play around with statistics until they get the effect they want. In other words, they seem to have desired results and look largely at the data that are supportive. I’ve read much of what both Lomborg and Milloy have to say in their books and agree with some things and not with other things. They raise good questions here and there, but I’m consistently left with a bad taste -a flavor of an underlying agenda that suits their politics. Are they really skeptical, or are they just wearing skeptics’ clothes to get in the door?

I have Google News set for one or two topics that are sent to me when they become news and, in my inbox tonight was a link to an article by another apparent pseudo-skeptic: Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., founder and president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Whelan is a contributor in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer and, in the article she wrote, she raised some very sensible questions regarding a couple of legitimate issues. But, again, is she donning a mask to get her foot in the skeptical door to further another agenda? She’s the apparent editor of the ACSH page titled Health Facts and Fears and the writer of an article called Environmentalists’ Quest to Ban Life-Saving Flame-Retardants.

As is typical with conservative pseudo-skeptics, she includes much gloom and doom about how the environmentalists are out to destroy us all with their tree-hugging ways. I certainly don’t agree with every environmentalist position, but in this case I think Whelan is overreaching a bit. In this article, she makes use of several logical fallacies, perhaps most chiefly the non sequitur. Whelen says:

What is now coming into clear focus is a band of anti-chemical advocates who have no concern that their agenda is contributing to the human death toll around the world.

She goes on to say:

The most obvious historical example of this life-threatening advocacy is the banning of DDT — a chemical that curtailed the spread of malaria by killing the vectors of that disease, mosquitoes.  Following the environmentalist-inspired banning of DDT in 1972, the death rate from malaria soared in countries around the world.  People died because a life-saving chemical was removed.

Except DDT isn’t banned in nations where malaria is still problematic. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) gives a specific exemption for the use of DDT in public health programmes. It is, however, banned in the United States, where malaria isn’t an issue. Her argument is: because environmentalists were against DDT that they’re for malaria. It’s the same debunked argument she used in the past and is now recycling (pun intended) for a new non sequitur. The article above suggests that the same environmentalists are now responsible for the continued deaths of 4,000 Americans by fire in their homes because they seek a ban on flame-retardant chemicals:

Incredibly, as a result of pressure from environmentalists in recent years, most flame-retardant chemicals have been banned both in the United States and Europe, and those remaining are very much under assault.  Why?  Because activists — and their surrogates at the Environmental Protection Agency — argue that the chemicals can be found in blood and breast milk samples and may cause cancer in laboratory rodents.

It isn’t the activists that are saying this, it’s the U.S. government. But, more importantly, Whelen is clearly misleading her readers. Indeed, I say she is out-right lying:

As the EPA regulates against flame-retardants, Americans die and suffer.  Banning the very few flame-retardants now left on the market will have the dire consequence of increasing the risk of fire injuries and death here and around the world.

Either she is stupid or she is lying. Could someone who so proudly adorns her own name with so many obscure trailing letters of accomplishment really be stupid? Perhaps. But the fact is that there exist no bans on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are affecting the safety of Americans. There are two types that have been shown to be more likely to cause health effects, which are pentaBDE and octaBDE (Zhou et al 2002). They’ve been banned in only six states and only penta- and octa-BDEs were affected. Deca-BDEs were not. And the only company that makes them has voluntarily discontinued them. According to the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation press release on 11/3/03:

…citing years of research, advances in technology and a favorable environmental assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of what the company calls the “new generation” of flame retardants, today announced that it will voluntarily cease production of two widely-used flame retardant chemicals, penta- and octa- polybrominated diphenyl ether, by the end of 2004. Great Lakes will replace Penta-PBDE with a new product called Firemaster® 550.

But that doesn’t stop Whelen from closing her pseudoscientific article with this:

Until consumers, scientists, and policy makers make a commitment to confront these activists with facts — and hold them responsible for the consequences of banning life-saving technology — pseudoscience and the precautionary principle will continue to prevail in regulatory policy, and all of us will suffer.

Should we be at all worried about PBDEs? The results aren’t conclusive, but whether you accept rat studies or not, the fact remains that PBDEs are showing up in humans. This is a synthetic organic chemical that has as yet unknown effects. Whether you subscribe to the “precautionary principle” or not, it has to give one reason to pause just knowing that it is showing up in breast milk and it is being fed to infants. Questioning the applicability of rat studies is good science; dismissing their results simply because people aren’t rats is foolish. Moreover, there is growing evidence that these PBDEs are showing up in wildlife in significant quantity.

The presence of PBBs and PBDEs in sperm whales, the high levels of particularly PBDEs in seals and dolphins, and the on-going industrial production of these compounds suggest that an environmental problem may be on its way (de Boer et al 1998)

But then, why listen to activists like the Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research? More research clearly needs to be done, but the doom and gloom of pseudo-skeptics is out to prevent the critical eye from looking too close. Being environmentally friendly and exercising proactive behavior is costly in the short-run for industries like chemical manufacturers. The pseudo-skeptics tried the same tactics with chlorofluorocarbons when it was discovered what their effects were on ozone production in the stratosphere. Luckily, science won the day; restrictions were placed on chlorofluorocarbon manufacture and use; and the ozone levels over Antarctica have improved.

Maybe I’ve missed the mark with regard to Whelan (maybe with Lomborg and Milloy, too). Maybe there are legislations that planned that threaten Deca-BDEs and other flame retardants. Maybe there are EPA regulations that prevent manufacturers from using existing PBDEs that have not yet been banned. Maybe every state in the union is planning bans. But I didn’t notice any such legislations, regulations or plans in the brief literature review I did. Nor does Whelan include a single source of information that a true skeptic could follow up with.

As a skeptic, I have to question both her motives and her logic.

References

de Boer, J; Wester, P.J.; Klamer, H.J.C.; Lewis, W.; and Boon, J.P. (1998). Do flame retardants threaten ocean life? Nature 394, 28 – 29

Whelan, Elizabeth M. (2006) Public health’s credibility crisis. Skeptical Inquirer, 30(3), 14-15.

Zhou, T.; Taylor, M.M.; DeVito, M.J.; et al (2002). Developmental exposure to brominated diphenyl ethers results in thyroid hormone disruption. Toxicol Sci 66:105-116.

Chiro-Quackery? Is Chiropractic Care Science or Pseudoscience?

ChiroQuackery? Is Chiropractic Care Science or Pseudoscience?

There’s a great discussion going on at Anne’s Anti-Quackery & Science Blog between a pediatrician and a chiropractic “professional” that calls himself a “doctor.”

Clark Bartram of the blog, Unintelligent Design, posed the question, “how organs systems continue to function after transection of the spinal cord due to trauma” in response to Anne’s entry that questions the chiropractic industry with some well-known problems like the “fantasy” of subluxation and the occasional stroke that can result from simply cracking a neck. The “doctor of chiropractic,” Steven L. Vanden Hoek, responds to Bartram’s questions and criticisms with a list of studies and texts. This was about a month ago and Bartram hasn’t responded yet, but, as busy as he seems in the blogsphere, I can see how he may have forgot it.

Still, I’m eager to see what his response(s) may be. I’m not a medical professional and at the mercy of those with educations in the field when it comes to understanding the chiropractic industry and whether it’s just flim-flam or if there’s something to it. My gut tells me it’s poppycock, since there seems to be so much snake oil and salesmanship associated with it. Vanden Hoek’s own website looks like an advertisement more than a place to get information. Moreover, I’d trust a spinal manipulation to a medical professional that actually had to spend a significant chunk of his life educating himself (or herself) in the field of medicine. But I can’t say that I’d have as much confidence in someone that went to a trade school and came out in a few short years with a diploma that said “doctor.”

Maybe there’s a time and place to have a spinal manipulation, but chiropractors seem to be hobbyists compared to physicians; businessmen compared to actual doctors.

Skeptical links to chiropractic “medicine.”

Chiropractic’s Elusive “Subluxation”
Chiropractic’s Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes
Steer Clear of “Chiropractic Nutrition”
Chirobase – Your Skeptical Guide to Chiropractic History, Theories, and Practices
Operated by Stephen Barrett, MD, and Samuel Homola, DC
Improper Claims on Chiropractic College Web Sites
Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry
Do Chiropractors Treat Anything? Chiropractors claim they allow the body to heal itself. Medical professionals say that’s nonsense.
Subluxations not backed up by proof. Chiropractors still can’t prove that the misalignment” they claim to treat even exists.

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