Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

FDA “Reverses” Its Position on Amalgam Fillings?

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on June 20, 2009



Although, if you follow the alt-med news, you may have seen an article from six months ago or so trumpeting “FDA Reluctantly Admits Mercury Fillings Have Neurotoxic Effects on Children“. Wow! So, the FDA has finally admitted that the mercury in amalgam fillings is having devastating results on our children’s health. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true.

This headline grabbed my attention, in part because I had done a Skeptoid episode debunking the silly “smoking teeth” video on YouTube, made by some anti-amalgam people. In it, they dipped an extracted tooth in water and then filmed the water vapor rising off of the tooth using a fluorescent screen; only they said it was mercury vapor, and that it represented the constant flow of mercury into your body from amalgam fillings. (Mercury vapor is far heavier than air, it wouldn’t rise, it would sink.) It was a textbook case of alarmism.

The American Dental Association has always maintained that amalgam fillings are safe. They do release mercury, but it’s at the same rate as a gold or silver watch or ring releases gold into your body. It’s orders of magnitude below safe levels, and so amalgam’s many benefits have always far outweighed any risks.

The FDA actually changed its position in 2006, saying that more study is needed, but did not go so far as to say that amalgam shouldn’t be used or that people should consider having existing amalgam fillings removed. Removal of an amalgam filling would alone release far more mercury than keeping it for a lifetime would.

So I was pretty intrigued by this article. It seems to suggest that there had been some recent ruling or change, however, no mention of any such event was made in the article. The best I could determine was that this article was referencing the 2006 change. My guess is that it was a slow news day, so this “Natural News” web site trawled and found this old item which could be easily manipulated. According to the article:

The warning was one of the conditions that the FDA agreed to in settling a lawsuit filed by several consumer health groups.

Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, because the article gives no references or sources.


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Physician team’s crusade shows cracks

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 21, 2009


Dr. Mark Geier has, he says, solved the riddle of autism. He says he has identified its cause and, in the powerful drug Lupron, found an effective treatment — what he calls a “major discovery.”

But behind Geier’s bold assertion is a troubling paper trail that undercuts his portrayal of himself as a pioneer tilting against a medical establishment that refuses to embrace his novel ideas.

Time and again, reputable scientists have dismissed autism research by Geier and his son, David, as seriously flawed. Judges who have heard Mark Geier testify about vaccines’ harmful effects have repeatedly called him unqualified, with one describing his statements as “intellectually dishonest.”

“Dr. Geier may be clever,” another wrote, “but he is not credible.”A physician and genetic counselor by training, Geier, 61, presents himself as the scientist who has unraveled autism’s mystery, a claim that has won him a devoted following. He and his son tie the neurodevelopmental disorder to a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal, which has been removed from childhood vaccines except for some flu shots.

The Geiers have won support from the parents of autistic children who share their suspicion of the medical community, even though mainline scientists criticize their views. Parents who have used the Lupron treatment also praise the Geiers, and Mark Geier said scores of severely autistic children are improving steadily.

But the Geiers have been widely criticized for both their methods and their treatment. In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that a Geier study finding a link between vaccines and autism was marred by “numerous conceptual and scientific flaws, omissions of fact, inaccuracies, and misstatements.”

The following year, the Institute of Medicine concluded in a report that the purported connection between mercury in vaccines and autism did not exist. The government-sanctioned committee of scientists reserved harsh words for the Geiers’ work, saying their research was “uninterpretable” and marred by “serious methodological problems.”


Yet More Evidence Against a Link Between Thimerosal and Autism

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on January 27, 2009

A new study published yesterday (Monday) in the journal Pediatrics provides more evidence against any link between thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines) and autism or other neurological disorders. This study adds to the large and growing body of scientific evidence for the safety of vaccines, and contradicting the claims of the anti-vaccine movement that vaccines cause autism.

The study is a bit fortuitous in that it was not originally designed to probe this question. Rather, this was a safety and efficacy study of the acellular pertussis vaccine conducted in Italy between 1992 and 1993. But it created a cohort of children who were carefully screened and monitored, and randomized to different exposures to thimerosal. This allowed the researchers to go back 10 years later to survey and examine the children for neurological disorders.


What is the Problem of the Anti-vaccination Lunatics?

Posted in Uncategorized by Skepdude on January 20, 2009

Brent council (among many other councils in England) had to start an awareness campaign to motivate parents to start vaccinating their children again! Thanks to some idiots who *still* promote the idea that vaccines cause autism (despite the mountains of evidence collected in recent years), measles have been on the rise again and people are now facing the consequences.

The anti-vaccination crowd is constantly moving the goalposts in order to cling to their favorite idea that somehow vaccines cause autism and other neurological disorders. In the beginning it was the mercury in vaccines (in the form of the preservative thimerosal). Then, when it became evident that this was not the case (partly because of the scientific studies showing not even a correlation, secondly because thimerosal had been removed from most vaccines yet autism still continued to rise), they switched to aluminium; the too many toxins in vaccines; and the overwhelming number of vaccines that overloads the “underdeveloped” immune system of infants. Of course they always fail to provide evidence for aluminium and metal-poisoning from vaccines; they never mention which toxins and why would they affect the immune system in such minute quantities; and they just conveniently bypass the studies showing the huge capacity of the “underdeveloped” immune system to tolerate and fight millions of pathogens of all kinds.


Astrology in retrograde

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on October 3, 2008

I was called by MSNBC reporter Helen Popkin yesterday because she was doing an article on astrology. And she stumped me with a simple question: “Have you heard,” she asked “about the idea that electronics tend to fail when Mercury is in retrograde?”

Uh. What?

I hadn’t heard of this little piece of nonsense, but according to Ms. Popkin, sure enough, some astrologers say that technology tends to fail more when Mercury is in retrograde — that is, when its apparent motion in the sky switches from an eastward direction to westward. Since, astrologically, Mercury controls communication and technology, when it’s in retrograde things get screwed up. That’s why Hubble is malfunctioning, and why the LHC is having woes.

Yeeeeeeah. Oooooookay.


Peruvian Hamsters and Autism: Cui Bono?

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on August 19, 2008

Some people are very invested in the idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. They have looked and looked, but have been unable to find enough credible evidence to convince the scientific community. Thimerosal was removed from US vaccines several years ago, and you might have thought that would end the debate. It didn’t. The spotlight has shifted to other countries that still use thimerosal-preserved vaccines, such as Peru.