The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences may have science in its name, but they remain since the earliest part of the last decade a group funded by taxpayers that exists to scare taxpayers about science. 

Their in-house publication Environmental Health Perspectives has a new claim, and this one does not even involve questionnaires or cell studies hoping to "link" some chemical to some effect; it just picked a bunch of papers the authors liked and did a review of them to manufacture 'weight of evidence' about a term activists coined and NIEHS epidemiologists promote every chance they can - "forever chemicals."

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are common chemicals and therefore a good target for trial lawyers looking to sue. If you hate poor people you are probably okay with them being banned - money does not mean much if you shop at Whole Foods. The NIEHS calls them "forever chemicals" because they break down slowly and routinely shriek that if they accumulate at high levels they can be harmful to the liver.

What they leave out is that in current use they will never accumulate in meaningful levels unless you live to be 2,000 years old. With today's technology we can literally detect anything in anything so if you are in the business of using epidemiology to try and get a fat 'expert witness' contract from a lawyer you ignore "dose" and conflate hazard and risk by suggesting that the presence of any chemical is equal to it being pathological.

That is not true. Peasants who couldn't even read a book 500 years ago knew better yet government epidemiologists routinely try to 'suggest' it. Yet despite any scientific evidence they claim the catch-all for statistical correlation, a "possible link to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease" which has become common due to rampant obesity. Yet because it is only statistical correlation it is linked to everything that anyone obese may also do. If you have it and fill out a survey and note you eat a lot of microwave popcorn, NIEHS epidemiologists will check that off as getting fatty liver disease from the bag. The Guardian in the UK will rush that claim to print and demand more regulations on microwave popcorn bags. Like they did pizza boxes when this exact same claim was made a few years ago, also due to NAFLD caused by obesity.

Safety agencies already have safe levels an order of magnitude below No Effect Levels - so small it is equal to worrying about skin cancer due to sun exposure if you spent 18 seconds of your entire life outside - but NIEHS epidemiologists seeking to position themselves as judge and jury over scientists claim they find things science cannot and it is up to the science community to find biological reasons why their statistics are true. It is arrogant and kind of insufferable but they are government employees and only beholden to the White House so the public are forced to endure them. They know it is not science so they claim it might have effects because cells are small so even small amounts of any chemical can cause a runaway train of effects. It is literally homeopathy, which was debunked hundreds of years ago. It's not science. Biology does not work that way or we'd have been extinct before we started.

The National Institutes of Health, their sort-of parent, is tasked with trying to keep these folks on something of a science path and they know it has become a problem but they concede they can't do much about it. I have tried to get a giant red EXPLORATORY watermark placed on government-funded supernatural claims like this and real NIH scientists laugh - the NIEHS head is government-appointed and in this case even has a friendly Congress, which means leadership will do whatever the Biden administration wants.(1) The current director, Richard Woychik, was an acolyte of Linda Birnbaum, one of the most disastrous directors in the history of the group.(2) She is openly and proudly a member of Ramazzini Institute, which is so wacky and conspiracy driven even Italians distance themselves from it. While still in office she was endorsing the organic industry, in violation of too many ethics rules to count.

Corporate media need to sell the controversy, and they are overwhelmingly biased toward opposing science (except climate change, of course, and vaccines since 2021 when Republicans became anti-vax) so this will get attention from the usual suspects, but it is a meta-analysis and review, and the weighting was done by activist statisticians looking for a new way to promote fear and doubt.

So caveat emptor.


(1) EPA's flip-flopping on crop protection shows us that their War On Science is stronger than ever.

(2) Birnbaum is an activist epidemiologist brought in to do Progressive Good Works for environmental groups at the same time Chris Wild was appointed head of IARC, and with the same mandate, so we all knew what we were getting but Woychik is a real scientist, so he could have righted the ship but instead doubled down on the woo. It happens, of course. Linus Pauling endorsed all kinds of crazy things about vitamin C and Lynn Margulis was a 9/11 truther despite their serious credentials. Woychik is not in that league but was brought in to give the group a veneer of scientific legitimacy.