You say ‘a-loomin-um’, I say ‘al-you-min-ee-um’, we both say ‘bunkum’

I resolved to not bother talking about Vox Day for awhile but circumstances compel me. The synergies of nonsense bind extreme nationalism, Trumpism, misogyny, creationism and antivaxxerism. It is always remarkable to see what apparently scientific studies the Alt-Right will quote as if gospel and which they will turn their selective scepticism too.

To wit: https://web.archive.org/web/20171202043719/http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/a-new-meaning-to-metalhead.html

What is all this about? It is the old and thoroughly debunked canard that vaccines cause autism. The idea is rooted in two coincidences: an increase in the numbers of people diagnosed with autism (primarily due to better clinical descriptions of autism spectrum and increased awareness among doctors and the public) and the timing of when autisim symptoms are often identified at an age close to when early childhood vaccinations occur. Campaigners against vaccinations have been looking for a more substantial way of linking the two and one generic culprit has been ‘toxins’ in vaccines – i.e. various additives used in the manufacture of vaccines. For a long time the supposed guilty party was mercury, particularly in the form of thiomersal – a preservative used in some vaccines. However, studies linking the two were famously debunked and many vaccines didn’t use thiomersal or other mercury compounds anyway.

Of later the antivaxxers have been pointing their fingers at a different metal: aluminium – which is just like the metal aluminum but more British. ‘Aluminium adjuvants’  are an additive to vaccine that use aluminium. Adjuvants are any substances added to vaccines whose role is to provoke an immune response (see here for a better explanation https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/adjuvants.html ). Tiny amounts of aluminium are added intentionally because the body’s immune system will react to the aluminium and it is that principle (which is central to the whole idea of vaccines) that has vaccination critics concerned.

Back to the study quoted. Vox Day is quoting from The Daily Mail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5133049/Aluminium-vaccines-cause-autism.html

BUT….the Mail article is little more than a cut and paste from here:

https://www.hippocraticpost.com/infection-disease/aluminium-and-autism/

Which is an article by a “Chris Exley” who mainly writes alarming articles about the terrible things aluminium might do to you. Exley  is quoting a study from Keele University which is available here:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X17308763

And that study was conducted by three people including…Professor Chris Exley. Who, conincidentally enough is on the editorial board of the journal the study is published in:

https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-trace-elements-in-medicine-and-biology/editorial-board

It is a long chain and yet oddly this is a rare case where the populist half-baked version of the study is alomost directly from the scientist involved.

Now I don’t know much about Professor Exley’s field, so I can’t really comment on the validity of the methods used. The study involved detecting aluminium in a very small number of samples of brain tissue from dead people who at some point in their lives had been disagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. There’s not much in the way of comparisons in the paper and I get the (perhaps mistaken) impression that the method is relatively new. The paper correctly concedes that “A limitation of our study is the small number of cases that were available to study and the limited availability of tissue.”

But take a critical look at the next step in the reasoning. Exley hedges what he says but Vox follows the dog whistle:

“So, the obvious question this raises is: how did so much aluminum get into the brain tissue in the first place? And the obvious answer is: from being injected with vaccines containing aluminum.” (Vox Day)

Of course a moments thought reveals that cannot be the answer. Most people do not have a diagnosed Austism Spectrum Disorder but most people are vaccinated. For Exley’s hypothesis to be correct there would need to be some additional factor, which Exley does describe in his media article:

“Perhaps there is something within the genetic make-up of specific individuals which predisposes them to accumulate and retain aluminium in their brain, as is similarly suggested for individuals with genetically passed-on Alzheimer’s disease.”

Well perhaps there is but Exley’s study doesn’t show that. More to the point, if this IS true then vaccines and aluminium adjuvants are irrelevant – we are encounter far more aluminium in our diets than we do from the tiny amounts we might get from vaccinations. Exley has zero reason to point at vaccines, indeed his speculation would imply that vaccines CANNOT be the main reason for larger amounts of aluminium in his samples because neccesarily bigger sources are more likely.

Exley appears to be trying to join two different healthscare bandwagons together: general concerns about aluminium in stuff (see his other posts) and antivaxxerism.

Is the study itself flawed? As I said, I don’t know but the connection the paper makes to vaccines has zero substance and no evidence from the study itself. That in itself should have raised red flags with reviewers.

In the past, I’d have gone to Science Blogs for some extra background on something like this but that venerable home of blogs has been wound down.

Luckily ‘Orac’ of Respectful Insolence has set up their own blog here https://respectfulinsolence.com/ and has a deep dive into Exley’s paper here:

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2017/11/29/christopher-exley-using-bad-science-to-demonize-aluminum-adjuvants-in-vaccines/

Yup, it is as dodgy as somebody dodging things in a dodgy dodge. Orac points out the dubious funding source:

“The second time, I noted that he’s one of a group of scientists funded by the Child Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI), which is a group funded by Claire and Al Dwoskin, who are as rabidly antivaccine as anyone I’ve seen, including even Mike Adams. Among that group of antivaccine “scientists” funded by CMSRI? Anthony Mawson, Christopher Shaw, Lucija Tomljenovic, and Yehuda Shoenfeld, antivaccine crank “scientists” all. And guess what? This study was funded by CMSRI, too. Fair’s fair. If antivaxers can go wild when a study is funded by a pharmaceutical company and reject it out of hand, I can point out that a study funded by an antivaccine “foundation” is deserving of more scrutiny and skepticism.”

And it just gets worse from there. No controls, some tiny sample jiggery-pokery with the numbers and so on. Best read directly.

 

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28 comments

  1. delagar

    What is it with these extremists and their anti-vax nonsense? It’s not just on the Right, either — though God knows it is on the Right. We’ve got a whole colony of Evangelical Home-Schooling Quiverful Christians here in Arkansas who are Anti-Vax. One of them was quoting InfoWars at me today.

    But right along with them we’ve got a passel of organic vegan home-schooling juice-purifying GMO-protesting Leftists who *also* preach against vaccinations.

    It’s almost as if believing one form of poppycock predisposes you to believe all *other* forms of poppycock.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. inconstantreader

    I can’t stop laughing at Beale’s mighty anti-vax pronouncement: “There is no amount of sophistry and appeal to metastudies and pseudoscience and herd immunity that will ever move me in the slightest.” IOW, these guys who complain that SJWs ignore any science they don’t like are … ignoring (several million shit-tonnes of) science they don’t like.
    But the best part was when a loon (or a Poe?) showed up in the comments to argue that the germ theory of disease is a lie, proving it with simple algebra. And then these men of reason tried to convince the guy that their loony stuff was right but his was wrong; every time someone tried to argue that the immune system is much more complicated than that, he’d accuse them of shilling for … Big Medicine, or something? And if measles is contagious, then how come exposure doesn’t result in disease every time?
    So someone asked the obvious question: Why do we get sick, often in clusters? Apparently it is a response to trauma created by God to protect us. As he rather incoherently explained it, since not moving is sometimes the best way to survive, polio is an extreme protective …. You know, the more I think about it, the more I believe he was a Poe. All this elevated logical reasoning is stressing my ladybrain.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. peer sylvester

    Not that there is a need for an additional point, but I will deliver one anyway: Most aluminium ends up in a body by ant-transpirants (deosticks etc). If aluminium would cause autism, the antti-transpirant-users would be the hardest group hit. Which is most people, I guess?

    Liked by 1 person

    • camestrosfelapton

      Exley is also big into anti-perspirants causing breast cancer. It’s weird how the aluminium is very delivery specific in each of the causes he talks about. As you point out, the antipersiprants aren’t blamed for the autism nor the vaccines for breast cancer as if the aluminium somehow knows the difference.

      Liked by 2 people

      • JJ

        I suspect that where the anti-perspirant / breast cancer linkage is coming from is that women who make an appointment for a mammogram are told not to use any on the day after taking their shower, because the aluminium chlorhydrate in deodorants interferes with the x-rays.

        “I’m sure I heard somewhere that there’s a connection between anti-perspirants and breast cancer…”‘ 🙄

        Liked by 3 people

    • katster

      I was thinking aluminum cans as well. Probably less so than antiperspirants, yet a prominent thing in our lives. Either way, both those would probably add more aluminum than any vaccine (or even all of them) could.

      Liked by 2 people

      • IanP

        About half of all pots and pans are also aluminium, either wholly or in part. There’s also been muttering about aluminium tea pots and links to neural plaque formation.

        In general though a tough oxide layer forms over any exposed aluminium, you really need something quite acidic to get any transfer and you’ll get more in a single aspirin. This thread is sound more and more like a Daily Express/Mail health scare article by the minute. Next up: reading sci-fi is a cancer risk…

        Like

  4. kiptw

    Aluminum bad? Good heavens! What ever do they wear upon their heads, then?

    ps: “too” > “to” at end of first para. Destroy after reading.

    Like

    • Contrarius

      Now you expect us to believe that tin foil hats are not actually made of tin??

      Just how gullible do you think we are?? We can read plain English, for heaven’s sake!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • kiptw

        Ha! HA! (insert long stream of written-out laughter here) The accents are clearly British, and Hollywood only has two or three genuine British accents in town at any given time. It may be from the Ealing Studios elite, which is quite difference, and much more affordable.

        I won’t play your game of presenting new arguments and new information. Any tough guy who’s worth his weight in nutty nuggets knows that you win arguments by saying the same things over again in ever-longer words and louder tones. Don’t make me start using my caps lock, chum!

        Like

      • KasaObake

        I heard it got called that because a farmer was overheard saying “christ ah’d no’ feed that slop to me dogs – bu’ ah bet tha’ poor bloody shepherd would” (I couldn’t think of a way to better represent not so much the lack of a ‘t’ sound but the strange space around which a ‘t’ might form in Northern (specifically my) accent – it’s almost a ‘d’ in most cases but not quite) (lot of animosity between shepherds and farmers back in the day… No, you’re right, I have no idea what I’m talking about)

        On a related (to this thread) note: one of my pet peeves in Thailand is the amount of westerners who write laughter as “555” because in Thai, 5 is pronounced “ha”. I Speak English, a tiny amount of Japanese and even less Korean but to me that reads either fivefivefive, gogogo or ooo. People who speak a language with a ‘j’ sound that isn’t secretly a ‘h’ writing “jajaja” bugs me for very similar reasons.

        Like