Farm Fairy Crafts Selling Products With Caffeic Acid, a Group 2B carcinogen

Farm Fairy Crafts ad hom

An ad hom attack:  When you can’t debate the science, attack the messenger. (click/enlarge)

Farm Fairy Crafts, a crunchy momma organic product manufacturer, recently launched a barrage of Twitter ad homs after I pointed out the glaring truth that Vani Hari (aka “the Food Babe”) is selling a known pesticide and “coal tar dyes” to children.

Birds of a feather do seem to flock together.  It appears that Farm Fairy Crafts believes it’s OK for a vendor to sell something dangerous, as long as…

… well, honestly, I’m not sure exactly what their reasoning is.  They refused to explain it. When pressed for an explanation, they abandoned the conversation and blocked me.  But, to illustrate how far hypocrisy goes in the $39 billion organic product market, let’s put Farm Fairy Crafts under the same virtual microscope we used to analyze Vani Hari’s Pesticide for Children product.

Here’s a Farm Fairy Crafts tweet on glyphosate, recently (poorly) linked to cancer by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).1

CAPTURE

I’m sure that since Farm Fairy Crafts uses the IARC as a source, they wouldn’t object to having the same standards applied to one of their own products.  How about this beautifully presented organic lavender cream?

Farm Fairy Crafts Organic Lavender

Farm Fairy Crafts Organic Lavender

According to the company’s own web site, here are the ingredients in “Farm Fairy Crafts Solar Infused Organically Grown Lavender”:2

Farm Fairy Cracfts Solar Infused

Far, Fairy Crafts Farms product contains two products known to contain caffeic acid, an IARC Group 2B carcinogen4

Mon Dieu!  Rosemary and Grapefruit!  Hold that thought…

I’ve found an online tool known as the “Phenol Explorer” to be an excellent starting point in investigating food content.  I Iike this tool because it provides full PubMed citations for the claims it makes.  In this case, I’m curious about an IARC Group 2B carcinogen known as caffeic acid.4

Where might we find caffeic acid, a Group 2B carcinogen?  Why, it’s in Farm Fairy Crafts’ Lavender product, in the form of Rosemary and Grapefruit:

CAPTURE

Mean concentration of caffeic acid in rosemary, an ingredient in Farm Fairy Crafts products. Please see the linked Phenol Explorer article for details.3

 

caffeic acid in grapefruit

Mean concentration of caffeic acid in grapefruit, an ingredient in Farm Fairy Crafts products.  Please see the linked Phenol Explorer article for details.3

You can find no less than seven studies linked, via PubMed, that analyze the caffeic acid content of the grapefruit and Rosemary found in Farm Fairy Craft’s “natural” cream.

Now, given that the IARC has placed both the hated (by Farm Fairy) glyphosate and beloved (by aforementioned Fairy Farm) “natural” ingredients onto a list linking them to cancer, can we expect a retraction or explanation from the good folks at Farm Fairy Crafts?  I sincerely doubt it.  As with all peddlers of pseudoscience, once they’re backed into a corner with evidence, the response is typical:

typical response from pseudoscientist

When you point out facts to a pseudoscientist, this is the predictable result. (click/enlarge)

Image Credits
All Twitter and Product screen snapshots are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

References
(1) Farm Fairy Crafts Tweet on Carcinogens
https://twitter.com/farmfairycrafts/status/645601140768378880

(2) Farm Fairy Crafts Solar Infused Organically Grown Lavender
https://www.etsy.com/listing/236443917/solar-infused-organically-grown-lavender?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share

(3) Phenol Explorer: Caffeic Acid content in foods
http://phenol-explorer.eu/contents/polyphenol/457

(4) Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–112
http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsGroupOrder.pdf

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Debunking the Synthetic Insulin Myth (Part I)

You would think someone with “MD” after her name would know better than to fall for quack medical articles.  Still, I could forgive Kelly Brogan, “Holistic Psychiatrist”, for her mistake in linking “Insulin Can Kill Diabetics; Natural Substances Heal Them”1 on her Facebook page,2 if only she had apologized for her mistake when it was pointed out to her.

Instead, Brogan plows mindlessly on, erasing critical posts, banning users who debunk her, and going on to spread more misinformation like, for example, the HIV virus not being responsible for AIDS,6 and claiming that we need viruses more than vaccines.2

FB thumbnail

Confirming a lie instead of debunking it–NOT what a doctor should be doing. See footnotes for image credit.

In a future article, I’ll debunk the myth that synthetic insulin is dangerous–and that pig-derived insulin is somehow safer.  In this article, however, I’d like to look at how people like Brogan and her source, “GreenMedInfo”, misrepresent real medical studies to scare the general public.  The study in question is called (hold on to your seats): “Glucose-lowering with exogenous insulin monotherapy in type 2 diabetes: dose association with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events, and incident cancer.”3

In this study, the researchers didn’t really look at when patients began insulin therapy and how the insulin affected the outcome.  Instead, they used a “proportional hazards model”, a statistical method in which they took a database of Type II diabetes patients from the United Kingdom, assumed synthetic insulin was a hazard, and introduced it mathematically over a designated period of time.

In other words, the researchers had no idea when the patients actually began insulin therapy and whether the insulin was a factor in the hazardous outcomes breathlessly reported by people misquoting and misrepresenting this study.  One thing that’s obviously missing is a control group–in this case, a group that did not receive the synthetic insulin.  The researchers do admit this, but everyone quoting the study ignores the fact.

So, all we really know from this study is that several years after 6,484 people with diabetes received synthetic insulin, some of them got sick, and some of those sick people eventually died.  Well, that’s exactly what you would expect in any population, especially if some of them are seriously ill.  The calculated adjusted hazard ratios in this study (e.g., 1.37 for major adverse/acute cardiovascular events, MACE) could just as easily be explained by pre-existing conditions or other factors.

In fact, a recent presentation at the 50th annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes claimed that “pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) emerged as the greatest risk factor for experiencing a major acute cardiovascular event (MACE) among patients with type 2 diabetes”.4  Wow.  Is it possible that patients with Type II diabetes are predisposed to cardiovascular disease?

Answer: Yes.  According to the American Heart Association, CVD is the cause of death in approximately 65% of all diabetes patients.5  All of a sudden, we’re running in circles: did the diabetes cause the CVD, or did the synthetic insulin?  Remember that missing control group?  What about the age of the patients?  What about when they actually began taking the insulin, as opposed the the arbitrary time selected by the researchers?  What about other health conditions?  What about…?

The researchers themselves were aware of the limitations of their study.  The last line of their abstract, missing from every quack article such as GreenMedInfo’s:

“Limitations of observational studies mean that this should be further investigated using an interventional study design”

An “interventional study” is what I hinted at earlier… it is a carefully controlled experiment involving, among other things, a control group that does not receive the drug (e.g., synthetic insulin) being tested.

There is nothing inherently wrong with an observational study, or statistical analysis.  The authors may very well have a point–maybe more studies are warranted.  I’ll leave that up to doctors.

What I want to point out is that one observational study does not–in any field, in any circumstances–prove a link between one thing and another.  And that is what’s being claimed by Dr. Brogan and everyone else citing this horrific GreenMedInfo article.

 

Image Credits
Dr. Brogan/Facebook screen snapshot used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

 

References
Please note: To prevent increasing search engine exposure to quack web sites, I use the “DoNotLink” link obfuscator service to disguise URLs.  I promise that you are not being redirected to porn 🙂

(1)  (Quack Article) Research: Insulin Can Kill Diabetics; Natural Substances Heal Them
http://www.donotlink.com/crxt

(2) Dr. Brogan (Facebook)
http://www.donotlink.com/cryq

(3) Glucose-lowering with exogenous insulin monotherapy in type 2 diabetes (abstract)
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dom.12412/abstract

(4) Pre-Existing Cardiovascular Disease Largest Risk Factor for MACE in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
http://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1236429#axzz3KxlconSQ

(5) AHA Scientific Statement: Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/100/10/1134.full

(6) Kelly Brogan denies germ theory and the value of HIV drugs
http://sciblogs.co.nz/diplomaticimmunity/2014/09/23/kelly-brogan-denies-germ-theory-and-the-value-of-hiv-drugs/

If it Quacks Like a Duck — Oscillococcinum

It’s perhaps the most amazing drug on CVS’ shelves today:  It features:

  • No side effects
  • No drug interactions
  • No active ingredients

That’s right.  No active ingredients.  Read on to see if Oscillococcinum might be right for you!

Oscillococcinum thumbnail

Oscillococcinum, a drug with no active ingredients. (See footnotes for image credit.)

Oscillococcinum was a drug originally made from the non-existent oscillococcinum bacterium (wink wink nudge nudge) and marketed as a cure for the flu.  This is curious, as the flu is viral, not bacterial, in nature.

Now made from duck parts that don’t exist — perfect for a quack cure — Oscillococcinum is homeopathic.  One of the features of many homeopathic medicines is that they are repeatedly diluted during production.  Oscillococcinum is typical:  the dilution is so extreme that there’s no original product left in the box when it goes out the door.

CVS-branded oscillococcinum

CVS-branded oscillococcinum. Get your sugar cheaper! (click to enlarge image.)

The dilution factor for CVS’ duck-based medicine is “200C”.  In homeopathy, “200C” means that:

  1. The original product is diluted with water to 1/100th the original concentration
  2. A small sample of the dilution is set aside
  3. That 1/100th sample is taken, diluted with water, and the process is repeated for a total of 200 iterations

As is the case with any homeopathic medicine diluted to such extremes, the odds of receiving any end product (in this case, duck) are so astronomical they border on impossible.

But would you actually want the duck?

A quick look at the CVS product info sheet tells us that Oscillococcinum:

“is made from tissue that might be infected with flu—ducks, which are known to carry influenza”

Wait.  What’s happening here?  Is CVS selling me an infected bird?  That’s freaky scary.  When I get the flu shot, at least I know the virus in the shot is dead.

Or, is CVS selling me pure water & sugar… a product from which all the duck has been removed?  Back to the product info sheet:

“Oscillococcinum is of 200c potency, meaning that it is diluted to one part in 10 400 (a dilution so high that even if you started with a chunk of duck the size of the sun, not one molecule would remain).”1

Wow.  Balls the size of… (!)

The imaginary active ingredient has been completely removed from this product, and CVS doesn’t even try to hide it:  they brag about it!

If you’re a CVS customer paying for this stuff, you’re paying for filler product.  Water and sugar.  Actually, it’s questionable whether or not you’re even getting any water.  The ingredients list only shows sugar.  What you’re definitely not getting is duck.  (For that reason, we’ll leave the dangers of ingesting a disease-laden bird for another article.)

Oscillococcinum gets a special mention in Jean-Marie Abgrall’s “Healing or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age”.2  The drug was invented in 1919 when a Frenchman noticed an “oscillating” condition in flu patients and a corresponding “oscillating” amount of an imaginary germ he decided to call “oscillococcus”.  The only problem was, he thought he noticed the same microbe in herpes, chicken pox, shingles, and cancer patients — and decided all the diseases were caused by the same thing.  Mon dieu!8

The Frenchman tested a vaccine he developed on his cancer patients who, of course, died.  Afraid of being infected by his patients, the doctor went in search of his oscilloccinum bacterium in the wild.  He claims to have found it in a duck.  I’m not making this [expletive deleted] up.  No one else has ever seen oscilloccinum.  It doesn’t really exist.  But this hasn’t stopped snake… erm…  duck oil salesmen from cashing in.

oscillococcinum contains no active ingredients

Oscillococcinum isn’t all it’s quacked up to be.  It contain no active ingredient(s)! (Photo by the author)

Manufactured by the French company Boiron, Oscillococcinum has been singled out for deceptive marketing in the United States.  In June 2010, Homeopathy for Health, a Washington vendor, was cited by the FDA for a slew of violations, including marketing Oscillococcinum as a treatment for H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) and “relief of flu symptoms”.3 Although the CVS literature lists one late 1980s study with marginal results touting Oscillococcinum efficacy,2 no other studies back the CVS claims.  This is not surprising.  If you only have one study to back you up, take that study, trumpet it loudly, and hope nobody notices.

When sugar pills are shown to stop the flu virus, let’s all meet in the bakery aisle of the supermarket when we get sick, and skip the trip to the doctor.

As I write this, CVS is actively removing protests regarding Oscillococcinum sales from its Facebook page.  These posts, to the best of my knowledge, truthfully inform consumers that the product contains no active ingredients, has never been shown to be of any help in combating the flu, and, in fact, could be dangerous: influenza is a serious disease and can be deadly.5, 6

CVS places homeopathic medicines next to real medicines on their shelves (with similar packaging) with no consumer warnings, making it difficult for a trusting public to know what they’re buying.  When a pharmacy dispenses real medicine and real flu vaccines along with sugar pills without any cautionary text, it’s a problem.  Skipping real treatment in favor of Oscillococcinum could do real harm.

A “drug” made from sugar and non-existent duck parts?  A company that takes pride in its public health outreach programs4 should be ashamed of itself for this quackery — no pun intended.  I hope readers will take a moment to go the CVS Facebook page7 and express their unhappiness.  As consumers, we deserve better.

Postscript (18 December 2014)  Alert readers have pointed out that CVS is not the only vendor selling this fake medicine.  Indeed, since writing this article, I’ve found it online at Amazon and Drugstore.com.  It’s reportedly been seen on the shelves of Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid–though I haven’t witnessed that myself.  I’ll be writing follow-up articles to cover this.  No matter where you find it–if you find it–please encourage sellers of oscillococcinum to remove this useless product from their shelves.

References

(1)  CVS: Influenza: Studied Homeopathic Remedies
http://health.cvs.com/GetContent.aspx?token=f75979d3-9c7c-4b16-af56-3e122a3f19e3..&chunkiid=38325#scientific

(2) Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age
Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age. pp. 40–41. ISBN 1-892941-51-1

(3) FDA Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations: Warning Letter
http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm215236.htm

(4) CVS stops selling tobacco, offers quit-smoking programs
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/03/cvs-steps-selling-tobacco-changes-name/14967821/

(5) CDC Fast Stats: Influenza
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/flu.htm

(6) Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm

(7) CVS (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/CVS

(8) Mon Dieu! (My God!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0oMQu2id6I

 

Legal Stuff

CVS Oscillococcinum product image used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Duck image by the author.  Copyright (c) 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.

Flu Vaccine: The Aluminum Lining

flu vaccineAs Modern Alternative Mama (MAMA) launches new articles as part of her shameful “Vaccine Injury Awareness Monthcampaign, I’ll continue laying out the facts that show she’s wrong and dangerous.  Today I’m debunking her recent article “No Flu Shot For Me! Fighting the Flu With Essential Oils.”1

I’m glad she published this article, because it touches on two major topics that come up in nearly every anti-vaccine argument: aluminum in vaccines and flu vaccinations for pregnant women.

So, in this debunking, we’ll be looking at:

  • “Toxic” aluminum in vaccines
  • Safety of flu vaccines in pregnant women
  • Use of “essential oils” (EOs) to combat viruses, and the toxicity of EOs

An important disclaimer here: I’m not a doctor.  Even though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night,9, 10 your ultimate source for medical information should always be a qualified doctor, not something you read on the internet.  I’m here to point out what real doctors and scientists are saying about the nonsense anti-vaccine proponents are spouting.  You’re a smart person.  Please do the research.  The outcomes are important.

Aluminum

Right away, the original article sways from truth and science like Justin Bieber’s car during one of his drunk driving sprees15.  Not only does MAMA lie about which vaccines include aluminum, she doesn’t understand that it’s safe.

In fact, in other articles, MAMA recommends eating foods rich in aluminum (such as spinach, tea, and potatoes).17, 20, 24  But, for the flu vaccine, not only do we get a reversal of opinion, we get an outright lie:

“We do know, however, that aluminum is added to the flu shot to increase the body’s response to the vaccine. Aluminum is a neurotoxin.”

If you disregard the specific Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, flu vaccines do not contain aluminum.2, 11, 12 You also won’t find aluminum in other vaccines commonly claimed to be “toxic” by anti-vaxxers, such as those for polio, MMR, or shingles.  Oops.

But, is aluminum a danger in the vaccines (such as hepatitis A & B) that contain it?  No.

Aluminum is added to some vaccines to help boost the response of the body’s immune system.  The most common metal in the Earth’s crust,3 aluminum is an unavoidable part of our diet.  In the USA, the average adult consumes 7-9mg of aluminum per day by eating but eliminates most of it as feces (poop).  People with kidney disease are an exception: the disease effects the body’s ability to eliminate aluminum.33

Our average adult will accumulate between 50 and 100mg of aluminum in their bodies over an entire lifetime.3  Nearly 100% of that total comes from the food they’ll eat, the water they’ll drink2, and the air they’ll breathe.  In addition to water, foods naturally containing aluminum include potatoes, spinach, and tea.4 Babies ingest aluminum regardless of whether they’re breast-fed or given milk from a bottle.2

Aluminum enters the environment via natural processes.  A healthy human body is excellent at removing aluminum, regardless of whether it comes from a vaccine or the all-natural health food you ate for dinner.  Studies in humans show it’s poorly absorbed in the first place, and for animals in general, the absorption rate is less than 1%.4   It’s ironic that Modern Alternative Mama publishes “healthy living” spinach recipes17 when spinach naturally contains five times the amount of aluminum of other foods.16

So, you can’t avoid aluminum unless you give up eating, drinking, and breathing.  But there’s no need to worry: your body can (and does) handle the aluminum safely.  There is no aluminum in the common flu shot.2, 11, 12  For other shots that contain aluminum (for example, hepatitis A & B), the amount of aluminum is insignificant compared to what we obtain from eating, drinking, and breathing.  But your body doesn’t care where the aluminum comes from: it removes it the anti-vaxxer’s favorite way — naturally.

Pregnancy

No good anti-vaccine terror campaign is complete without a cherry-picked legalese quote from a medication insert, and MAMA does not disappoint, chastising a Walgreens’ campaign to get pregnant women vaccinated:

“Walgreen’s conveniently left out the fact that the vaccine inserts themselves recommend women avoid receiving the flu shot.”

This isn’t really true.  Her two inserts say the shots should be given if clearly needed.  And medical experts agree the vaccine is clearly needed.  Pregnant women who get the flu are at a greater risk of complications — including hospitalization and death — than non-pregnant women.  The risk to unborn babies is also higher, including premature birth.7, 18  

Recent research suggests the risk to unvaccinated pregnant women may be higher because their immune systems react in an unusually strong manner when they contract the flu, and urges pregnant women to get the vaccination to prevent the inflammatory effects of the full disease.25, 26 (The flu shot is a “dead” virus and cannot give you the flu.)

The vaccine has benefits beyond helping the mother stay alive and healthy.  Antibodies generated in her body as a result of the vaccination can be passed to the unborn baby, giving it protection until it’s old enough to receive its first vaccination at age 6 months.7, 19  Millions of pregnant women have been vaccinated against the flu with no harm to either the mother or baby.7

There’s one important warning:  According to the CDC, pregnant women should not receive the live version of the vaccine (the nasal spray), but the inactivated version (the shot) is harmless.7, 18, 19 Although we’re specifically talking about pregnant women here, this warning about the live version of the vaccine also applies to certain other groups such as immunosuppressed persons.32 When in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

To contradict all this medical evidence, we get a trio of lies from the anti-vaccination article:

“but manufacturers admit that the impact on a developing human just isn’t known”

“Considering the ‘regular’ flu shots cannot verify safety for pregnant women”

“Besides the lack of safety testing for pregnant women”

Ahem. From the CDC:

“Studies of several thousand pregnant women in scientific literature have assessed the safety of using the flu vaccine during pregnancy. These studies have shown no evidence of harm to pregnant women, to the unborn child (or fetus) or to newborns of vaccinated women.”8

And if you do the research, studies back this up.8, 13, 14

It’s interesting to pause here and consider the hypocrisy of MAMA.  Later in her article, she’ll tout the amazing benefits of essential oils in combating viruses, even though their safety for use during pregnancy has never been studied.

Essential Oils

MAMA begins by misquoting a real scientific study6, which looked at the effects of essential oils (EO) on bacteria.

The problem is that the flu isn’t caused by bacteria.  It’s caused by a virus.  There’s a huge difference.  Bacteria are single-celled living organisms; viruses are small packages of DNA or RNA that cannot “live” without being injected into a living cell.

So we’re off to a bad start already, with an article using research performed on bacteria to support a conclusion about viruses.

Interestingly, it turns out that chemicals found in essential oils are being studied for anti-viral properties, and are showing promise — in test tubes.22, 23  MAMA doesn’t cite any of these studies, for obvious reasons.  No doubt, if the research results in a promising medicine that works when ingested, anti-vaxxers will dismiss it as a Big Pharma conspiracy.

Or perhaps essential oil fans are embarrassed by the track record of EOs with the FDA.  For example, in September 2014, Living Young, the manufacturer of “Thieves Blend”, an essential oil often pushed on alternative medicine web sites as a cure for nearly everything, was warned by the FDA for making unsubstantiated medical claims about their oil including, incredibly, as a cure for Ebola.22

Regardless, an article that is supposed to be focused on the flu virus keeps wandering away like a lost puppy to talk about essential oils and bacteria.  After many paragraphs on this red herring, MAMA pulls this magical conclusion out of her [expletive deleted]:

There are many essential oils known for being antiviral. Tea tree (melaleuca), basil, lemon, peppermint, and more. All these oils will enter your body, enter your cells, and fight off viruses that have already taken over your cells. It’s pretty amazing.

What would be even more amazing would be even a single reference to back up this claim!

What we do know from science about essential oils is that some of them can be toxic when ingested:

“However, the ingestion of a few milliliters of essential oils may cause severe symptoms of intoxication like vomiting, respiration failure, and unconsciousness and may lead to death, especially when infants are concerned.”28, 29

A University of Minnesota (UoM) article30 warns that while many essential oils are safe when used on the skin, some can cause serious harm — including liver and other organ damage — when ingested.  The same article warns that some EOs are not safe to apply to the skin, or should not be applied to the skin without dilution, else photo-toxicity can result.  UoM reminds the reader that peppermint oil is heavily laced with methanol-one, which has caused young children to stop breathing.

For children who actually drink an essential oil containing methanol or other toxic ingredients, the results can be tragic.31

Conclusion

The flu is dangerous.  In 2010, influenza and pneumonia (which go hand-in-hand) killed over 53,000 people in the United States.27 Except for the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, flu vaccines do not contain aluminum, but aluminum is unavoidable in our diets, and our bodies process it naturally.  Other vaccines that contain aluminum contain far lower amounts than the water we drink or the food we eat, and are safe.

The live (nasal) form of the flu vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women, but the dead (injected) form has been given to millions of pregnant women and medical studies conclude that it is safe.  Finally, although scientific research is being done on the possible benefits of chemicals extracted from essential oils, the article being debunked presents no evidence of any trials in humans — because, as of this writing, there aren’t any.  In fact, some essential oils are known to be toxic when ingested by animals.

References

Note: to avoid increasing search engine exposure for quack web sites, I use the DoNotLink URL obfuscator on their links.  I promise I’m not redirecting you to porn 🙂

(1) No Flu Shot For Me! Fighting the Flu With Essential Oils (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxtb

(2)  Aluminum in Vaccines: What you should know
http://www.chop.edu/export/download/pdfs/articles/vaccine-education-center/aluminum.pdf

(3) extract, CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 77th Edition
http://education.jlab.org/glossary/abund_ele.html

(4) Aluminum in Drinking Water (World Health Organization)
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/en/aluminium.pdf

(5)  The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9928/

(6)  Effect of Essential Oils on Pathogenic Bacteria
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3873673/

(7)  CDC: Pregnant Women Need a Flu Shot
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/pregnant/flushot_pregnant_factsheet.pdf

(8) Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_vacpregnant.htm

(9) Holiday Inn Express (Nuclear Meltdown)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm-h7YR_410

(10) Holiday Inn Express (Jeopardy)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0o0Jjtvq0Y

(11) Vaccines and Aluminum
https://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-safety/vaccine-ingredients/aluminum.html

(12)  Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf

(13)  Adverse events in pregnant women following administration of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine and live attenuated influenza vaccine in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 1990-2009
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20965490

(14)  Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine and spontaneous abortion
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23262941

(15)  Justin Bieber arrested on drunken driving, resisting arrest charges
http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/23/showbiz/justin-bieber-arrest/

(16)  Aluminum in Your Diet
http://www.livestrong.com/article/403282-aluminum-in-your-diet/

(17)   Spinach and Goat Cheese Quesadillas  (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxu5

(18)  Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_vacpregnant.htm

(19)  MAYO Clinic: Pregnancy week by week
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/influenza/faq-20058522

(20)  Boost Your Produce Budget: smart shopping tips for buying local (MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxwg

(21) Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13678235

(22)  FDA Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations Warning Letter to “Thieves Oil” Manufacturer
http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2014/ucm416023.htm

(23)  Susceptibility of Drug-Resistant Clinical Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Strains to Essential Oils of Ginger, Thyme, Hyssop, and Sandalwood
http://aac.asm.org/content/51/5/1859.full

(24) Recipe Collection: Cheesy Potatoes (MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxxt

(25)  Immune response turned up high by flu during pregnancy
https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/09/immune-response-turned-up–not-down–by-flu-during-pregnancy–st.html

(26) Immune Response Turned Up, Not Down, by Flu During Pregnancy
http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2014092221530035.html

(27) Deaths and Mortality
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

(28)  Essential Oil Poisoning, Woolf, Clinical Toxicology, 1999, Vol. 37, No. 6 : pp 721-727
http://informahealthcare.com/doi/pdf/10.1081/CLT-100102450

(29) Antimicrobial Effect of Essential Oil Isolated from Eucalyptus globulus Labill
http://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/39925.pdf

(30)  Are Essential Oils Safe?
http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/are-essential-oils-safe

(31)  A Case of Methanol Poisoning in a Child
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crin/2014/652129/

(32)  Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — United States, 2014–15 Influenza Season
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6332a3.htm#Considerations_Use_Live_Attenuated

(33)  ATSDR Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine: Aluminum
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp22-c1-b.pdf

Image Credits

Pandermix flu vaccine from WikiMedia Commons, released into public domain with no restrictions.

Pregnant woman by Inferis, from WikiMedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Image owner does not necessarily share or endorse the views put forth by the author of this article.

Aluminum by Romary, from WikiMedia Commons, used under GNU Free Documentation License.  Image owner does not necessarily share or endorse the views put forth by the author of this article.

Essential Oil from WikiMedia Commons, released into public domain with no restrictions.

Nurses Against Mandatory Patient Safety

I’ve just run across a post in a Facebook group that epitomizes my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance […] nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”

Here’s the post, from a group known as Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines:
CaptureLet’s concentrate on the highlighted portion:   If you are a nurse or other health care provider in direct contact with patients, not only is it your employer’s right to know which medical diagnoses and/or vaccinations you’ve had, it is the patient’s right to know. 

You see, like bad advice, diseases can be passed along from person to person.  In the case of a medical provider who comes into contact with a lot of infectious disease, the odds of passing along the disease increases– much in the same way the odds of receiving bad advice increase for those coming into more frequent contact with the bad advice found in the Nurses Against Bad Vaccines forum.

Perhaps the nurse who wrote this gem of a post has never heard of contagious diseases such as Ebola.  If I’m a patient and my nurse has Ebola, he is carrying with him a near-certain death sentence (1) —  a highly contagious death-sentence during certain stages of the disease.  Certain death for him; very likely certain death for me.  I don’t have a right to know?  Really?

There’s a word for this idea, and that word describes the material that comes out of the back ends of male cattle after a long day of feeding.  (To prevent offending the delicate sensibilities of my readers, I don’t want to say the word “bullshit” in my blog.)

Oops.

Back to the subject…

If my medical care provider has been diagnosed with an infectious disease, I have a right to know his/her medical condition.  Going back to the Isaac Asimov quote:  the nurse may feel that he/she has a democratic right to keep this information secret.  However, not realizing the danger he/she poses to me is scientific ignorance on the nurse’s part, and it does not trump the patient’s scientific knowledge.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t trump the patient’s rights either.

But What if the Nurse Isn’t Infected Yet?
Maybe an already-infected Ebola patient is an unfair example.  In the spirit of sincerity and fairness, let’s look at pre-infection cases involving more common infectious diseases that are preventable by safe and effective vaccines which are readily available: Influenza,  Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Chickenpox (2).  (Of these, Measles is particularly deadly in children (3), and Chickenpox can cause extreme complications (and even death) in adults (4).)

What the author of this Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines post is really campaigning against is getting vaccinated and/or making their vaccination status known.  Do I as a patient have a right to know if my nurse has been vaccinated, and/or demand removal from the doctor’s office of nurses who haven’t?

Pseudoscience groups have yet to come up with a shred of evidence that any vaccine I’ve mentioned here is dangerous, while study after study has shown that vaccinations are key to preventing the spread of these diseases.  I’ve blogged on this twice with exhaustive lists of references (5) (6).

If my nurse has not been vaccinated against infectious diseases, I have a right to know.  Because of herd immunity (7) and the fact that no vaccine provides a 100% guarantee, it’s especially important that an unvaccinated health care provider doesn’t come anywhere near myself or a loved one. To be blunt, I have a right to know if my nurse is a potential Typhoid Mary (8).

Health care workers are exposed to more potential virus carriers than you or I.  That’s a fact of life in the hospital or doctor’s office.  There’s a reason that experts recommended that the first people to receive the first Ebola vaccines be healthcare providers (9) — not only were they most at risk — they were the most likely to become breeding grounds for the virus and pass it on to other people.

Because a health care worker’s first priority is the care of the patient, and vaccines do not place the health care worker at risk, patients have a right to know if their health care provider is an unvaccinated breeding ground for a highly infectious disease.

Legal Precedent/Expectations
But is there a legal precedent for this?  Are there any other professions where both the employer and the consumer have a legal expectation to know the health status of the employee?

Well, yes.  As a matter of fact, there is.

Have you ever flown on a commercial airliner?  The health requirements for airline pilots are quite strict (10).  When an anti-vaccine nurse steps onto her flight from Dallas to Miami, she knows for a fact that the pilot in the cockpit is certifiably free of nearly two dozen serious medical conditions (11).   Why?  Because the health and safety of others are directly affected by the pilot.

If the pilot has a problem in flight, it very quickly becomes a problem for every passenger on the plane.

Sounds a lot like vaccinations, doesn’t it?  Any anti-vaccine nurses out there willing to fly on a Delta Airlines flight piloted by a woman suffering from angina pectoris, epilepsy, or substance abuse?   I didn’t think so.

So, no, a person whose work directly involves the safety of others does not have a right to expectation of privacy concerning health matters that would adversely and directly affect others, and/or engage in health behavior that would adversely and directly affect others.  Nurses, get your vaccinations.

Epilogue
In an upcoming article, I’ll be taking down some specific, dangerously false information being put out by anti-vaccine groups, including the hilarious claim that your best defense against the Shingles infection is repeated exposure to/infection by Chickenpox.  Until then, I’ll leave you with a photo of myself getting the 45th flu shot of my life, and encourage you to talk to your doctor and get one for yourself and your children as well.

I’m not dead yet!

shot

(1) Medline Plus, Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001339.htm

(2) Vaccines.gov
http://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/index.html

(3) Vaccines to Prevent Measles
http://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/measles/index.html

(4) CDC – Chickenpox Complications
http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/complications.html

(5)  The state With the Highest Vaccination Rate Has the Highest Infant Mortality Rate
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/copy2/

(6)  Uneducated Chiropractor and Nurse Endanger Life of Three Month Old Child
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/uneducated-chiropractor-and-nurse-endanger-life-of-three-month-old-child/

(7)  Herd Immunity
http://www.vaccines.gov/basics/protection/

(8)  Typhoid Mary
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid_Mary

(9)  A looming problem: How to ration Ebola vaccines and medicines
http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-ebola-drug-rationing-20140918-story.html#page=1

(10)  FAA:  Pilot Medical Certification Questions and Answers
https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/faq/

(11)  FAA:  Disqualifying Conditions for Pilot Certification
https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/faq/response6/

“The state With the Highest Vaccination Rate Has the Highest Infant Mortality Rate”

It’s rare to run across facts from an anti-vaccine proponent, so it shocked me when I found out this one was true:

maryjo-blurAccording to a 2010 CDC report on infant mortality, Mississippi led the USA with 9.62 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (1). Gleefully, anti-vaxxers point out multiple references showing Mississippi also leads the nation in vaccinating children, with rates at or better than 99.9% overall. For example see references (2) and (3).

As a scientist, I’m forced to concede facts, and here we have one:  the state with the best vaccination record is also losing children at the highest rate.

So what’s the problem here? Are vaccinations failing to protect the children of Mississippi as the anti-vaccination forum post claimed? Or, worse yet, are vaccinations somehow harming the children?

Well, as is often the case, just because someone is throwing a fact out at you, it doesn’t mean they’re being honest. I’ve always found this to be true of the anti-vaccination crowd, so I did a bit of research. My suspicions were confirmed, and what’s really happening in Mississippi is obvious.

Comparing Apples to Oranges
The problem is that Mississippi children are dying at birth, before they ever have a shot at vaccination (no pun intended). Or, they’re dying from causes that couldn’t be helped by a vaccine. For example, how do you vaccinate a child in the womb against a parent who smokes (smoking causes pre-mature birth, which leads to higher infant mortality)?

According to a 2013 Mississippi Infant Mortality Report (4), pre-term birth complications are the leading causes of infant death. Birth defects account for 19.1% of deaths, low birth weight/prematurity 15.2%, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 10.6%… accidents, maternal complications, respiratory distress, and infections present at birth are all in the top 10 – none possibly preventable (or caused by) vaccines.

Let’s say this again because it’s the point anti-vaxxers intentionally choose to ignore: Mississippi infants are dying before they ever live long enough to get vaccinated.

Another major contributor to infant mortality in Mississippi is socioeconomic conditions. According to the same report (4), poor and un-insured women, teens, and African-American women are more likely to lose babies due to pre-term births.  For example, there are 14.1 pre-term births for white Mississippian women vs. 20.6 for blacks per 1,000 live births.  As pointed out two paragraphs earlier, pre-term birth complications are the leading cause of infant death in this state.

Why am I harping on about social and economic conditions in a discussion of infant mortality rates in Mississippi?  Well, we know they’re a contributor to higher infant mortality. Guess which is the poorest state in the USA? Yes, it’s Mississippi (5).   How do you vaccinate a child against a mother’s lack of access to proper pre-natal care?

The socioeconomic study is reinforced by a CDC study (6) that shows infant mortality rates nationwide for black women are more than twice those for white women. Why would this matter for infant mortality in Mississippi? According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Mississippi has the highest percentage of African-Americans in the United States (7).

Last but not least, exposure to cigarette smoke is known to have an effect on low birthweight, which in turn increases the risk of infant mortality (4). A 2013 Gallup poll places Mississippi third in the nation when it comes to addiction to cigarette smoking, behind only Kentucky and West Virginia (8). No wonder so many children are dying. How do you vaccinate a child against a parent who smokes?

So now we know why so many children are dying in Mississippi, and anti-vaccine nutters are comparing apples to oranges when quoting infant mortality and vaccination rates for the state.

But let’s not stop there – let’s compare vaccinated Mississippi children against unvaccinated children in other states.

Comparing Apples to Apples
Before poorly informed anti-vaccination campaigners started making their rounds, measles was a disease that was considered beaten. Now, thanks to unvaccinated children, it’s on the comeback, and people are dying (12).

In the news recently, the three states with the highest number of measles outbreaks were Ohio [138], California [60], and New York City [26] (9). How do OH, CA, and NY compare to well-vaccinated Mississippi when it comes to MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccinations?   If you’re anti-vaccine lady whose quote opened this article, you’re not going to like the answer:  Ohio, California, and New York lag Mississippi by 3 to 7 percent in vaccination levels (9).  And that lady needs to sit down now and hold on to her seat:

How many measles cases have been reported in highly vaccinated Mississippi?  In the last decade, there has been one confirmed case of measles in the Magnolia State.

To drive the point home, most of the 288 measles cases reported in the USA this year have been in unvaccinated persons or those with unknown vaccination status (9).  So Mississippi is clearly doing a great job, once the child lives long enough to get vaccinated.

If the anti-vaccine lady is still seated, she should stay there, because it gets worse.

Measles isn’t the only example for which we have hard evidence.  In 2012, the largest Chickenpox outbreak in the USA hit Vigo County in Indiana (11). 84 cases were reported in a county that usually sees less than 10 per year. Chickenpox can cause serious problems for older children and adults and is extremely contagious.

In 2012, the state of Indiana reported 469 cases of Chickenpox. Mississippi reported only 11 (13). Not surprisingly, Indiana ranks very poorly compared to Mississippi – approximately 7% less of the Indiana population is vaccinated against Chickenpox (3).  Again, when you look at the facts, Mississippi’s vaccination programs are working, while states with poor vaccination records are suffering the consequences.

Conclusion
When reading anti-vaccination posts in online forums and on Facebook, it’s best to keep an old saying in mind:

 “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”

The quote has been attributed to various sources including Mark Twain, but regardless of who said it, the truth behind the Mississippi vaccination/infant mortality myth is nothing more than a phenomenon with a fancy name of false or illusory correlation: you simply take two numbers that have nothing to do with each other, and convince your audience that there’s a relationship between them.

I’ll close by a fun example of false correlation that everyone can understand, courtesy of the Spurious Correlation Generator at http://www.tylervigen.com: Did you know that taking anti-diabetic drugs is directly linked to your chances of drowning in a fishing boat accident?

Hey, anti-vaccine believers, the numbers don’t lie!

correlation

References
(1)  CDC Infant Deaths Per 1,000 Live Births, By State: 2010
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/INFANT_MORTALITY_RATES_STATE_2010.pdf

(2)  Advisory Board Company Daily Briefing – States With the Best – and Worst – Vaccine Coverage (August 2013)
http://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2013/08/08/the-states-with-the-best-and-worst-vaccine-coverage

(3)  CDC MMWR Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten –USA, 2012-13 School Year
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6230a3.htm?s_cid=mm6230a3_e#Tab1

 (4)  Mississippi Department of Health and Vital Statistics
http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/5629.pdf

(5) State & County Quick Facts, United States Census Bureau
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/download_data.html

(6)  Recent Declines in Infant Mortality in the United States, NCHS Data Brief, April 2013 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db120.pdf

(7)  Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals By Race, U.S. Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0056/twps0056.html

(8)  Gallup Well-Being: In U.S., Smoking Rate Loest in Utah, Highest in Kentucky http://www.gallup.com/poll/167771/smoking-rate-lowest-utah-highest-kentucky.aspx

(9)  CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6322a4.htm

(10)  Mississippi Morbidity Report, Vol 24, No. 12. Dec 2008
http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/3095.pdf

(11)  Largest Chickenpox Outbreak in the U.S. Hits Vigo County in Indiana  (Huffington Post 11/27/2012)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/chickenpox-outbreak-largest-vigo-county-indiana_n_2199231.html

(12)  World Health Organization “Measles”
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/

(13)  CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Summary of Notifiable Diseases – United States 2012
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6153a1.htm?s_cid=mm6153a1_w