The “toxin gambit” on steroids

After having been saddened (and distracted, at least from a blog standpoint) by the death of Steve Jobs for the last few days, I think it’s time to get back to the normal sorts of stuff I blog about. Not that discussing medical issues related to celebrities in the news isn’t one of the normal sorts of things I blog about here, but I usually don’t do it for three or four days in a row. On the other hand, sometimes I do blog about vaccines several days in a row. Usually, these sorts of runs of vaccine blogging come about when a particularly idiotic confluence of anti-vaccine idiocy hits the news or the blogosphere from multiple sources.

Here’s just one such source. Whether it starts a run of vaccine blogging or not, I don’t know. It probably depends upon what the not-so-merry band of anti-vaccine propagandists over at Age of Autism write over the next couple of days. In the meantime, while I’m waiting for the inevitable barrage of misinformation and pseudoscience about breast cancer that is inevitable during October (which, for those not aware, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month), there is some real anti-vaccine idiocy to deal with that I just came across. Sadly, I didn’t come across it when it was first published a month and a half ago, but it’s such a classic example of anti-vaccine misinformation that it was inevitable that, sooner or later, I would find it. It’s at the Vaccine Resistance Movement (how’s that for truth in advertising?), and it’s entitled VRM: The Problem With Vaccines Part 4 – Primary Aspects of Vaccine Toxicity Affecting The Body.

Perhaps you remember a little anti-vaccine canard that I like to call the “toxin gambit“? Used by anti-vaccine apologists and propagandists as varied as J.B Handley, Dr. Jay Gordon, Mark Blaxill, Cynthia Janak, and many others. This article from the VRM is basically the “toxins gambit” on steroids. Don’t believe me? Get a load of this:

Vaccines, by their composite nature, inherently damage & disrupt the body’s delicate neurological network; hindering the complex functioning of the brain in maintaining all systems of operation (circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary). In practical terms, a synergy factor inevitably occurs when multiple ingredients such as heavy metals, live viruses/or strands of DNA-RNA “heat treated virus”, antibiotics, formaldehyde, detergent, diploid cells (aborted fetal tissue), mycoplasma, phenol dye & excipient buffers are combined together in a vial mixture.

Obviously, I’ve dealt with the issue of formaldehyde, which is a natural byproduct of metabolism and which is present even in babies in amounts that make the tiny amount present at trace levels in vaccines seem tiny in comparison. Ditto detergents such as polysorbate-80. and I’ve definitely put the hurt on idiots who spread the lie that there is “aborted fetal tissue” in vaccines. Of course, my favorite example of pure blatant misinformation about vaccines, because it’s just so silly, is the claim that there’s dangerous DNA or RNA in them. This particular takes claims about all of these alleged “toxins” that aren’t but sound really, really scary if you don’t know anything about science or chemistry. I am amazed that the VRM managed to restrain itself from making the claim that there is “antifreeze” in vaccines, but whoever the brain trust is behind this group sure did cover all the other crank bases. Heavy metals? Yup. “Heat treated virus”? Never mind that that’s the antigen without which certain vaccines wouldn’t work. It’s what provokes the immune response that results in the protective effect of vaccines.

As I said, this represents the “toxins” gambit on steroids. Conveniently, the VRM claims that there is “synergistic” toxicity from all the ingredients in vaccines. What is this claim based on? Certainly no science, and certainly no evidence that is presented in this article. From a strictly pharmacological standpoint, it’s actually rather difficult to demonstrate synergy between two different drugs. To detect synergy due to three different drugs, it’s even harder. To detect synergy from numerous “toxins” is virtually impossible without some extremely sophisticated and tedious analyses, none of which Joel Lord, the author of this piece, has done. None of that stops him from rambling on deeper into the rabbit hole of anti-vaccine nonsense:

Once these toxins are injected into deep muscle tissue or subcutaneously (either route which literally bypasses one’s natural barriers altogether), a cascading degeneration known as Ischemia, a singing of the neural pathways from toxic overload which prevents vital oxygen from reaching the brain, literally inhibiting normal development, often occurs; resulting in a series of what are termed “microvascular strokes”, ‘as large white blood cells rush to attack the foreign particles injected into our bloodstream…surround tiny capillaries where the foreign particles land, clog and collapse the capillaries.’ The viscosity of this build up of “sludge” clogs/singes the vast network of arterial veins & capillaries leading to the brain while accumulating in the organs (ie. heart, liver, kidney), joints, meninges – 3 layers of protective tissue called the dura, arachnoid, & pia mater that surround the neuraxis (axial unpaired part of the central nervous system), intestines (gut area), along the neural pathways interlacing the entire body (resulting from “stagnant” blood). Anaphylaxis, a system-wide allergic & functional breakdown, described as ‘a severe, whole-body allergic reaction to a chemical that has become an allergen’, and Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain & meninges (Meningoencephalitis) manifesting as ‘diffuse and/or focal neuropsychological dysfunction’, inevitably follow.

Ah, yes. I recognized this particularly loony anti-vaccine lie. Do you? Does the name “Andrew Moulden” mean anything to you? It has been a while since I’ve written about him; so if you’ve only been reading this blog less than about three years, there’s no way you’d have heard of him, at least not here. Basically, he claims that somehow vaccines cause “microvascular strokes” and these “microvascular strokes” lead to autism. He made a name for himself in antivaccine circles with this “theory” pushed in videos with charming names like “Vaccine Holocaust” and whose ideas, such as they are, have resulted in quackery that has sucked in parents we know.

The rest of the article comes up with a bunch of ideas about how vaccines allegedly harm the body, either through the run-of-the-mill boring claims that vaccines somehow invoke autoimmune diseases (a contention for which there is no evidence) or through wilder “theories” that boil down to nothing more than “making it up as you go along.” Along the way, they cite anti-vacicne luminaries such as Russell Blaylock (who is, in fact, an all-purpose crank and supporter of quackery), Gary Tunsky, and even David “Black Helicopter” Ayoub. VRM takes aluminum, excipients, antibiotics, heavy metals, and, yes, the infamous polysorbate-80 and spins tales of “synergistic toxicity” using and abusing cherry picked studies in a manner that would make even AoA bloggers blush. Regular readers of this blog will have a lot of fun, a veritable field day, deconstructing the mountain of anti-vaccine misinformation contained in just this one article by VRM. There’s just so much there that it would be difficult to deconstruct even if I were to produce a longer-than-typical-Orac magnum opus. I suppose I could break this subject up into multiple parts and take on a few claims at a time over the course of several days, but, really, I’ve already addressed pretty much every claim in this VRM post before (some multiple times), and I’d have to be in the mood. Instead, I’ll just cherry pick the claims that amuse me the most or have the most educational value.

Well, maybe except one, which is why I wanted to close by citing it and then providing a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence to it. Here is what VRM thinks is so horrible in vaccines:

Potassium Chloride: Used as part of a phosphate buffered saline in the shot. ‘The majority of the potassium chloride produced is used for making fertilizer, since the growth of many plants is limited by their potassium intake. As a chemical feedstock it is used for the manufacture of potassium hydroxide and potassium metal; and as a flux for the gas welding of aluminium. Hyperkalemia. May induce Cardiac arrest (especially in renal impairment or if administered too rapidly). May cause pain and thrombophlebitis if administered in high concentration into small veins in patients with cardiac disease, renal impairment, or acidosis: monitoring of acid-base balance, potassium levels, and ECG is recommended. Potassium chloride is also used as the third of a three-drug combination in lethal injection. Additionally, KCl (AN aqueous solution form of Potassium Chloride) is used, albeit rarely, in fetal intracardiac injections in second- and third-trimester induced abortions.’

Potassium chloride (i.e., KCl) is a form of salt. Potassium ion (K+). I do love how VRM has to mention that KCl is used largely for making fertilizer, to make it scarier. But it’s not just used to make any fertilizer. Oh, no. KCl is used to make chemical fertilizer. It can also cause cardiac arrest! And it’s used for lethal injections, too, as if there were enough KCl in vaccine buffers to cause cardiac arrest! And, above all, don’t forget that it’s used for abortions, too!

I chuckled heartily as I read the paragraph above. Rarely is such concentrated ignorance found in such a small passage.

So let’s see. So we have a vaccine ingredient that is used to execute murderers and do abortions. Is that the worst? Is that the vilest activity that DRM can ascribe to vaccine ingredients? Of course not! But how can lethal injection be topped? I think you know where this is going. There’s only one smear that goes beyond that, that tops them all. You knew it was coming, too, I bet. VRM’s talkin’ Nazis, baby:

Phenol: Highly toxic disinfectant dye, attributed to liver, kidney, heart & respiratory damage. ‘Phenol is so deadly that is was used by the Nazis as a means of extermination during the World War II. Phenol injections were given to thousands of people in concentration camps – especially at Auschwitz-Birkenau – to kill those who were mentally ill, had incurable tuberculosis and were permanently incapable of work.’

It is actually true that Nazis did use phenol as a means of extermination at concentration camps and death camps. However, VRM neglects to mention that what the Nazis used was a big syringe full of concentrated aqueous phenol. Basically, the Nazi physician or guard would draw up a syringe of the stuff and inject it directly into the prisoner’s heart. It was a horrible way to die, and thousands were killed this way during the Holocaust, including children. Moreover, the reason that Nazi doctors moved to use intracardiac injection was because intravenous injection was too slow to kill. Victims would linger for minutes, or even more than an hour. Directing the phenol directly into the heart was much faster.

Once again, what the clueless clods at VRM fail to acknowledge is that it’s the dose that makes the poison. The amount of phenol in vaccines is minuscule, in essence trace amounts. The amount of phenol used by Nazi physicians to kill involved gram quantities. By juxtaposing the trace amounts of phenol found in some vaccines with the use of phenol by the Nazis to execute prisoners, DRM is playing the Nazi card. It’s poisoning the well, pure and simple, painting phenol as a tool of evil as a prelude to implying that, because there is a little bit of phenol in some vaccines, vaccines are not just toxic but evil, once more putting the lie to denials by anti-vaccine propagandists that they are anti-vaccine. Of course phenol has a lot of other uses, and in fact it’s present in a lot of foods and drinks in measurable amounts. It’s often responsible for the taste of a number of foods and drinks. For example, there are phenol and phenolic compounds in wine, as well as foods such as tomatoes, chocolate, red grapes, milk, cheese, apples, and bananas (which also–gasp!–contain a lot of KCl).

Obviously, we must never eat these foods or drink red wine because they contain phenol, which the Nazis used to kill people. Thus these foods and red wine must be highly toxic and evil. At least, that’s where VRM’s argument takes you if carried through to its logical conclusion.

Rarely have I seen a more blatant invocation of the toxins gambit as this excretion of pure flaming stupid. I try to think of a more blatant example, an I have a hard time remembering one. I really should come up with some prizes to award “deserving” crank blogs such as this when they outdo themselves in promoting anti-science and pseudoscience.