Mark Blaxill promotes bad science

8 Sep

[wags finger]…and don’t you ever forget it 😉

Basically, the story is that The Blax wrote a blog post in which he said:

Despite the relentless drumbeat of propaganda from the CDC, public health authorities and the thuggish on-line goons of the medical industry, there’s a funny thing going on. The evidence of a connection between mercury exposure and autism keeps growing.

It does? Really? Such as what science exactly?

Well The Blax has the answer to that in that he quotes from a study which according to The Blax:

They found that thimerosal at the same concentrations received in human infants had clearly measurable effects on opioid receptor development in the infant rats.

Huh. Well imagine my surprise when I read two blog posts, one from Emily in which she says:

Their starting dose is at least 3.2 times the relevant exposure of Hg. But they’re not finished. They don’t use that dose once. They use it four times, injecting the newborn rats on days 7, 9, 11, and 15 of life, each time with 3.2 times the actual relevant exposure of Hg, for a total of 48 mcg of Hg/kg in a little over a week. Indeed, even if 12 mcg were the relevant exposure, they’re dosing their animals with it four times within a week, give or take, giving us ~13 fold the relevant exposure.

and another from Orac in which _he_ says:

…the minimum dose received was 48 ?g Hg/kg, and the maximum dose received was a whopping 12,000 ?g Hg/kg, or 12 mg Hg/kg!

So when The Blax states that this paper is a like for like comparison between infant vaccines and their dosage, I think its clear to see that this is incorrect. What these researchers have in fact done, is massively overdose their test subjects.

And thats not the only problem with this paper that The Blax is so in love with. Geier, Haley, Bernard…recognise these names? Of course you do! They’re the names that this paper relies on to support its underlying ‘science’.

I think the only real question that needs answering here is – how in heck did this paper get past peer review??

12 Responses to “Mark Blaxill promotes bad science”

  1. Emily September 8, 2010 at 18:18 #

    An excellent question. As I noted, this journal engages in the not-uncommon practice (for example, I believe Nature does it) of requesting that authors provide a few suggested reviewers for the paper. I can only speculate as to whom these authors might have suggested, but a look at the reference list brings a few (sometimes duplicate) author names to mind. If the journal uncritically turned to these reviewers, then…the result would have been a foregone conclusion: recommend publish.

  2. Kent September 8, 2010 at 20:27 #

    Isn’t this “news” (i.e. Mark Blaxill promotes bad science) about 6 years old?

    • Kev September 8, 2010 at 22:35 #

      Hi Kent,

      No, no it isn’t. Hope that helps.

  3. brian September 8, 2010 at 20:53 #

    Humans and rats follow different neurodevelopmental schedules: humans undergo a brain growth spurt before birth; the equivalent brain growth spurt in rats occurs after birth and up until three weeks of postnatal development. The doses administered on what the investigators represented as a schedule similar to the pediatric vaccine schedule actually corresponded, in terms of the timing of brain development, to giving those doses of thimerosal prenatally to humans. The study design is fundamentally flawed.

    In addition, of course, spacing doses at two-day intervals ensures that a compound with a half-life of seven days will build up, so that the exposure is much higher than could have been achieved with more widely-separated doses, as in humans.

    Sheesh.

  4. passionlessDrone September 8, 2010 at 21:02 #

    Hi Emily –

    As I noted, this journal engages in the not-uncommon practice (for example, I believe Nature does it) of requesting that authors provide a few suggested reviewers for the paper.

    Wow! I guess I can see what might prompt people to do this, but sheesh that seems like an awful idea.

    – pD

  5. Catherina September 8, 2010 at 21:17 #

    pD and Emily,

    it is totally normal practise to suggest some reviewers and often also ask not to take some individuals. And of course you will take someone who understands most of your field (and maybe someone who has already seen the data in poster form at a meeting and you have had a chance to answer their nasty questions then). That in itself is not awful at all. The alternative is that the editors browse the citation list and pick “expert peers” from that – the papers from this special issue would all have landed with Wakefield and the Geiers and friends.

  6. Neuroskeptic September 8, 2010 at 23:20 #

    Catherina is right: it is very common to be able to pick your reviewers. Many even allow you to list people you actively don’t want.

    Re: the rat paper. The higher doses they used were completely ridiculous. The lowest dose is not entirely absurd – it is as Emily says about 3x higher than a kid would get, but that’s not too bad. Also, rats and mice generally need higher doses of drugs than humans because they metabolize stuff faster. I don’t know if that applies to mercury as it’s not exactly a drug.

    However a) most of the bad effects weren’t significant at this dose, only at higher doses, yet the higher doses are completely unrealistic and b) these are rats, which go from conception to adolescence in a couple of months. Giving a rat a toxin on 4 days is like giving a human a toxin for several months, relative to their lifespan. And as brian says, the early postnatal period for rats is equivalent to the prenatal period for humans which only makes it less comparable.

    To tell the truth my gut feeling is that this is one of those small, weird studies giving chance results that will never be replicated anyway… but even if it is real, it’s not relevant to vaccinated kids.

  7. Prometheus September 9, 2010 at 00:09 #

    My! Blaxill’s ‘blog post is a veritable cornucopia of stupid!

    My favorite, however, was when he cited the laughable DeSoto and Hitlan and their latest foray into bad scientific analysis. In their article, they correctly stated the reason for using a one-tailed analysis when critiquing the Soden et al (2007) paper but persisted in their incorrect use of the one-tailed analysis of Ip et al (2004).

    It’s as though they hadn’t a clue about how to use statistical analyses.

    Prometheus

  8. ANB September 9, 2010 at 03:09 #

    Blaxill’s cornucopia runneth over. Two years ago, he told a room full of credulous grown ups that prior to 1930, there was no autism. Here’s the video.

    Blaxill’s lecture starts around the 3:30 mark, with the words “I did a calculation.”

    • Sullivan September 9, 2010 at 07:23 #

      ANB,

      well, as the lady said, he aint seen nothin yet.

  9. Emily September 14, 2010 at 23:30 #

    Many respectable journals engage in this practice. I edit research papers from all over the world and have seen the author instructions for just about any journal you can think of (Small Ruminant Research, anyone?), and it’s a very common practice. And as someone noted above, you can even, on occasion, respectfully (one hopes) request that specific reviewers *not* be selected for whatever relevant reasons you cite.

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