Why Do More Environmentalists And Organic Food Shoppers Believe Vaccines Cause Autism?
    By Hank Campbell | January 31st 2011 06:39 PM | 24 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    I enjoyed a drink one time with a fellow who was, even for science blogging, left of left.    I won't name names because it doesn't matter, he is a talented writer and a good guy but I always feel like he loves politics more than science and his persistent belief that Republicans/conservatives/right wing neo-cons/Nazis/(insert your favorite term here) are anti-science and progressives are not seemed rather odd.   But I have written about the Democratic War On Science many times.

    When I mentioned to him that plenty of left-wing people are anti-science, both in politics and in the populace, he almost shot his beer through his nose.  He demanded an example and I pointed out that the anti-GMO community who believe only certain processed food is 'organic' was composed of primarily leftwing people and environmental activists have plenty of anti-science positions, ethanol and CFL bulbs being expensive boondoggle favorites of theirs.

    Greg Miller at Science interviews journalist Seth Mnookin about his new book, The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear which covers the scare over vaccines and autism, and my leftwing blogging friend won't like what Mnookin has to say about progressives and science.  

    Miller gets right to the heart of it, asking why progressive parents cling to anti-science beliefs about vaccines the same way conservatives do about human embryonic stem-cell research, and the obvious answer is that people tend to feel validated when science agrees with them and dismiss science when it doesn't.  

    Mnookin says, overall, it comes down to two essential aspects; the first is entitlement.   Well-heeled progressives are okay risking someone's else children as long as theirs still get the herd immunity.  And the other is that they feel like they care more - yes, some progressives rationalize that if there is an unknown putting their kids at risk, they want to avoid it.   How positively conservative.

    A funny quote:
    I talked to a public health official and asked him what's the best way to anticipate where there might be higher than normal rates of vaccine noncompliance, and he said take a map and put a pin wherever there's a Whole Foods. I sort of laughed, and he said, "No, really, I'm not joking." It's those communities with the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating people.
    Are they completely wrong for having some skepticism?  Well, no, every time a drug company loses an expensive lawsuit they seem to roll out some new vaccine they claim is absolutely essential.  The HPV and Shingles vaccines, for example, are pretty darn narrow in both benefit and target market to be foisted off on everyone, but if you note that, you are anti-science, according to pharmaceutical marketing departments and their apologists.  

    Obviously there are segments of religious people on one side, and hyper-enviromentalists on the other, who are never going to accept science.  If they want to believe an organically-processed food is 'better' for them or that the world was created 6,000 years ago, there isn't much to be done.  But at least journalists are finally calling out both sides, an area where science blogging has been lacking. 

    I can never buy a Corvette because I don't have a mustache and now apparently I can't buy a Prius because I accept science.    Though anyone who believed acid rain from batteries was better than global warming didn't know much science to begin with.

    "Why the 'Prius Driving, Composting' Set Fears Vaccines" by Greg Miller at Science
    Hat tip to RealClearScience, which is basically the Drudge Report for really smart people.


    Hi Hank, Here's some science that I share routinely with the granola eaters. Maybe you can get your non-scientist, ex-junkie expert to address these scientific facts;

    0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA maximum limit for drinking water.

    20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37).

    200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.

    25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S.

    50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990’s to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently “preservative” level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.

    Hi Hank, Here's some science that I share routinely with the granola eaters. Maybe you can get your non-scientist, ex-junkie expert to address these scientific facts;

    I don't get what problem people have with Granola bars ! IMO they taste much better than the other nonsense i've seen.
    Is it impossible for people to disagree with Global warming theory and like Granola at the same time ?

    Granola specifically is high in calories and fat, it is basically junk food for people who don't know any better, but I get your point.   

    It was at some point early in the last decade that I heard the term 'granola conservative' as applied to conservatives who care about the environment and eating healthy but don't believe that's a government issue.   And I agree.   If I had my druthers, nothing that touches my family's lips would be things that I do not grow, kill, clean and cook myself - but my wife likes Trader Joe's.  So we compromise.

    A hundred years ago conservatives were the ones who cared about the environment whereas progressives were interested in technology and bigger cities and a Utopian ideal brought on by engineering, both social and physical.  Because America is politically polar yet ideologically on a triangle (Republicans or Democrats in voting, although people fall somewhere in the body of a triangle with conservative, liberal and progressive as the hard points) we all have to pick our spots on each issue.   So if pollution is clearly causing climate change - and that can be very bad - but politicians and activists say you have to believe it is CO2 or you are anti-science, it forces the voters to make a ridiculous choice.  
    The problem with all of these numbers are that they have no amount specified, they're just concentrations.

    Without that, how would you know whether a dose of 50,000 ppb isn't equivalent to .00001ppb once injected into a infant?
    Never is a long time.
    Let's see. At 2 months a kid gets 3 shots (Hep. B, DTaP, HIB). Assuming the shots are properly formulated (big if) we get 62.5 micrograms (ug) mercury. A 2 month old has a half-liter of blood in it's body. 62.5 ug Hg divided by 0.5 liter = 125 ug Hg per liter (ppb). Hope this helps.

    Gerhard Adam
    Currently, all pediatric vaccines in the routine infant immunization schedule are manufactured without thimerosal as a preservative. As of January 14, 2003, the final lots of vaccines containing thimerosal as a preservative expired.

    If you want to see a table of these contents look here:
    Therefore 0 mcg Hg / .5 liters is still zero.

    Perhaps you might provide a source for your numbers? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Does it matter what either side thinks of science? If it works, it should be enough - shouldn't it? 
    Anonymous, How long does it stay that high? The thing I find interesting is that in the areas that are know to have been exposed to high concentrations of Hg, no link to Autism were found.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    The problem is that it's not that high.  I don't know where these numbers came from (or if it's specific to the 1990's that are being referenced).  In any case, the numbers provided are supposed to indicate the "magic" value of 62 mcg  which is kind of a "trigger" point for alleging autism links.
    Mundus vult decipi
    A lot of people are rehashing old statistics instead of looking at data.   Obviously these things were examined but baby bodies expel thimerosal mercury much faster than originally thought in the 1990s also.   
    I agree about the anti-vax crowd. Big Pharma deserves some blame for that one...

    Advocating Ethanol and CFL bulbs are simply not in the same class as evolution deniers. Young earth creationists are not in the same class as people who recognize that organic permaculture farmed produce contains more nutrients and is less damaging than big agro mono culture stuff.

    And acid rain may just indeed turn out to be a smaller issue than global warming, ya know, if the caps melt in a century, that 20 foot sea level change. Acid rain didn't change the maps so readily.

    Anti-science is anti-science.   Taking a very small subset of religious people and painting 90% of America with it is not valid - your earth creationists are evolution deniers whereas the vast majority of religious people are not, they simply reserve that original spark as divine, which is a philosophical issue and nothing any but the most militant atheist scientists bother trying to discuss.

    The word 'organic' as used is anti-science.   If it's carbon-based, it's organic.  End of story. Claiming a farming process results in better nutrition is also in defiance of facts, as is the notion that organic farming is 'less damaging' while millions of people starve.

    Acid rain is more of a short term concern than global warming, because no rational estimate has ever said there could be a 20 foot sea level change.  Yes, Al Gore said it, but that was the beginning of the end of his credibility - even his staunchest supporters in science had to clarify that he meant two feet.    I certainly hope you do not break a CFL bulb in your house.  If you do, call a HazMat team quickly.

    People who maintain irrational beliefs despite evidence about vaccines, CFL bulbs,ethanol, and "organic" food are absolutely more harmful than people telling kids there is no evolution.  Evolution happens whether people deny it or not.  So do deaths from starvation, mercury poisoning, and horrid childhood diseases.
    "I agree about the anti-vax crowd. Big Pharma deserves some blame for that one..."

    Absolutely idiotic.

    "Young earth creationists are not in the same class as people who recognize that organic permaculture farmed produce contains more nutrients and is less damaging than big agro mono culture stuff"

    You're right. People who throw around misinformation and pseudoscience denouncing valuable GM advances, and then hide behind the tried-and-true circumstantial ad hominem of "OMGZ BIS BIZNESS!!111" are in a position to do far more damage.

    I am a liberal/progressive and I am not anti science. I am a parent of a two year old and old enough that ifmy boy ended up developing autism it would be a problem that eventually would become insurmountable. You may want to consider that your position is one of priveledge being on the "inside" of science looking at those of us on the "outside" as arrogant anti science hippies. Nothing could be further from the truth. When faced with the prospect of giving your child 28 vaccines in just a few years the task of research is considerable. This research is not done as part of our workaday lives as we are on the "outside". There was talk in themainstream media of a link to autism. Of course we are going to pay attention to that. Being on the outside it is not readily apparent that the scare was not from legitimate science. We don't have the necessary backgrounds to personally review the studies, we have to rely on books written on topic. The authors seem to be credentialed so how would we know who or what to believe? In the end after reading and plowing and talking to peds, one of which we fired for her uncompassionate reaction to or querries, we went the full round on a greatly reduced schedule. In addition to autism though one element that has not been discussed here is toxic shock from the accelerated schedule put forth by pharma. When we lay have to roll up our sleeves and roll the dice on someone elses life arrogance and entitlement play near insignificant roles.

    Using caution in the face of uncertainty is a tenet of conservatism and, when it comes to kids, I applaud it.   It's clearly not you who are a concern, it's parents who see that the links between autism and vaccines have never been validated and the case studies from the one researcher making the claim were massaged to create a link but still persist in believing their child will get autism that is a concern.

    If 95% of my community stops littering so I decide I do not have to because herd cleanliness will improve the environment, that is annoying but relatively harmless.   But some vaccinations are against truly life-threatening stuff and counting on the fact that other parents are doing it seems rather risky.  

    The downside to increased government involvement is they can now mix the two - if you want public school and government determines 100 vaccines are essential, you're stuck.
    Yeah we ran up against the herd thing my wife used that argument but to me thats like saying we'll be OK "cause the boat's only got small holes". By fall we have to get caught up for school but even with the attenuated schedule we'll come in ontime. The issue that overshadows this when making these decisions is the dramatic increase in autism. It may, as has been argued, be attributed to increased sensitivity in diagnoses but I think its a little premature to say for sure. In making these decisions there is inevitably a lot of fear associated with it. Ultimately it comes down to: Autism or encephylitis? Paralysis or? Having grown up around medicine it was easier for me to put down a foot and innocculate. Medford OR is starting to feel what it was like in this country in the early 20th C. Here in the northwest we are hearing about measels in schools. Cruel as this may sound though these decisions can decide quite effectively whether genetic material will be included in the gene pool moving forward. Maybe whole foods is an evolutionary back-eddy. Heh?

    Or would that be natural selection back-eddy?

    Why Do More Environmentalists And Organic Food Shoppers Believe Vaccines Cause Autism?
    I'd like to think it's because we're more alert to bogus stories, that just 'feel' wrong, but I believe it's probably because of a high publicity Legal Case, just over 2 years ago

    This situation may be helped by the release of 'Fear of the Invisible' by Janine Roberts,.... the truth about the Aids story unveils, and the multi-million dollar industry dependent

     on the falsified Science Reports forces people to re-appraise Science, Health, and 'Remedies'

    'Feeling' wrong is subjective.   No one with skepticism or mental alacrity accepts that so-called organic food is nutritionally superior despite every study showing otherwise, or that GMO is bad - it seems to come down on political beliefs bleeding into science acceptance more than any mental superiority.
    I prefer the notion that 'Feeling' wrong, is intuitive. We intuitives find ways of viewing things that logical-minded Scientists abhor.....and I DID open by saying I'd like to think it's because we're more alert..........I just didn't go the whole hog and put a wink up to alert you......
    I don't see the logic in it coming down to political beliefs, though maybe in the US the political divide is marked more clearly as to left and right ....or, for that matter, any hint of mental superiority, though again, I sense this may be a 'Winner's perspective' American viewpoint...?

    Each to his own, eh?

    As to Science acceptance....keeping working on it [wink] lol

    I always thought there was a connection between nourishing, lively food, nourishing lively people,  and life-force, but then mental alacrity seems to mean different things to different people

    I don't think US people are any more left, right than the UK but your party divides are the same.   Or is some third party going to be Prime Minister next time around?   Like Brits, US people fall somewhere in a triangle having conservative, liberal and progressive at its points but, like Brits, we end up having to choose one of two majority parties or throw our vote away.
    Difference seems that you more tightly associate environmentalists and organic food shoppers with political sides of the divide
    Me, I think the whole notion of 'Party Politics' IS a major part of the problem, and I'd like to see a move towards 'Issue Politics' - where honesty, integrity, ethics, and conscience have more sway over how people see things, since, if you're buying into the party system you get a+b or c+d in one party and w+x and y+z in the other....
    If you happen to think a+w or y+d is the way forward, people tend to dismiss you as kooky - just because you don't buy the whole parcel

    It's the same with food....some is nourishing, some isn't
    Problems arise when legislators try to take away your right to choose, regardless of which party you believe in or support, if any....

    " We intuitives find ways of viewing things that logical-minded Scientists abhor "

    . . . which is a nice way of saying you make shit up as it pleases you.

    ....and the evidence for this is.... ....nonexistent, ..... hence it is you who are making **it up - hope it pleased you, as it sure made me laugh :)

    It's always amazing how many pseudo-insults are issued under the guise of 'Anonymous'