November 09, 2006
Blatantly False Comment of the Day
I mentioned yesterday that report on environmental toxins: and asked whether the release of a scare mongering report in The Lancet was anything to do with the negotiations over REACH. According to the Guardian:
The Lancet review is deliberately timed. The European Council of Ministers will next month consider new legislation, known as Reach, which could toughen controls over industrial chemicals. For the most part, the chemicals under consideration are those known to be cancer-causing, damaging to the immune system or hormone-disrupting. (Those that could possibly damage children's brains are not even up for discussion at this point.)
So not just a connection, that's the whole point of it. So I still think we should ask if TEBAF Margot had any role in funding the study.
Dr Philippe Grandjean, from the University of Southern Denmark, is surprised that anybody raises an eyebrow at the idea that you or I could be thicker because of petrol fumes. "The main discussion about lead is not whether there has been a drop in IQ," he says. "I think that is widely accepted. I have met a couple of industry consultants who wanted to doubt it, but I don't think any serious researcher or scientist does."
Really? You might want to go and talk to those researchers who investigate IQs then:
The Flynn effect is the year-on-year rise of IQ test scores, an effect seen in most parts of the world, although at greatly varying rates. It was named by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve after the New Zealand based political scientist James R. Flynn, who did much to document it and promote awareness of its implications (Flynn, 1984, 1987). The average rate of rise seems to be around three IQ points per decade. Attempted explanations have included improved nutrition, a trend towards smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity, and heterosis (Mingroni, 2004).
How can there be a constant and consistent (and unexplained) rise in IQ scores when we're all getting ever thicker from environmental pollution?
Lying toads they are.
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If we are to believe the government British children are getting brighter every year, shown by the ever better exam results. I hope our government opts out of any research on the effects of lead on IQ. There has obviously been no negative effect in the UK.
Posted by: Pete | Nov 9, 2006 7:51:41 PM
"How can there be a constant and consistent (and unexplained) rise in IQ scores when we're all getting ever thicker from environmental pollution?"
And there was me thinking it was well-known that fewer people are exposed to lead from fumes or pipes these days, precisely because scientists began drawing attention to the impacts over twenty years ago and governments acted. Now, you tell me: if lead reduces IQs, what effect would that have had? And what does the example tell us about the need for research into the effects of industrial chemicals?
And as to why you're getting thicker, I really don't know.
"Lying toads they are."
Please, o expert toxicologist, tell me which part of "lead poisoning reduces IQ" is a lie, and I shall alert the medical journals.
Posted by: Jim | Nov 9, 2006 8:36:32 PM
"For the most part, the chemicals under consideration are those known to be cancer-causing, damaging to the immune system or hormone-disrupting"
From the EC "Reach in Brief" document : "All substances are covered by this regulation unless they are explicitly exempted from its scope."
The point of the legislation in the first place is that it testing of the large majority of chemicals for which no-one knows toxicity etc
Posted by: Alex | Nov 9, 2006 9:56:01 PM
Jim has a point. About the time when lead fumes were at their peak, the country was ruled by socialists. Good thing we cleaned up the environment so sensible, if much maligned, capitalism could take over again.
Posted by: Josh | Nov 9, 2006 11:03:35 PM
Jim:"Now, you tell me: if lead reduces IQs, what effect would that have had?"
Well, according to the actual scientists - "Attempted explanations have included improved nutrition, a trend towards smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity, and heterosis (Mingroni, 2004)."
So lack of lead in the environment hadn't occurred to them..?
Better 'alert the medical journals'! You may have a scientific breakthrough on your hands, Jim! Off you go & mention it, I'm sure they will be greatful for your input.....
Posted by: JuliaM | Nov 10, 2006 6:52:38 AM
"Well, according to the actual scientists "
No, that's according to Wikipedia. There's a difference. Actual scientists say this kind of thing (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3639 ):
"Even exposure to "safe" amounts of lead damages children's intelligence, reveals a new study. In fact, lead's effect on intelligence is proportionately greater at low blood levels, meaning most of the damage is caused before the maximum level is reached.
"Our study shows there is no discernible threshold for the adverse effects of lead exposure," says Bruce Lanphear, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control both say blood levels above 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood put children at risk of cognitive damage.
But the new research shows that children with levels at that limit also suffer significant intelligence loss. Children with blood lead levels of 10 micrograms/deciliter had IQs that were 7.4 points lower than children with levels of 1 micrograms/deciliter. When the levels rose from 10 to 30 micrograms/deciliter, intelligence dropped by only another 2.4 IQ points."
And there's any number of other studies to back this up. To deny the link between lead and lower IQ would be like denying the link between carbon emissions and global warming. And obviously that would be completely insane.
Posted by: Jim | Nov 10, 2006 8:04:36 AM
Tim, still waiting to hear from you on how lead doesn't affect IQ.
Tim adds: Sorry, travelling presently: I've never said anything so incredibly stupid as to deny that lead exposure can (and does) cause brain problems, up to and including lowering IQ. I work in the metals business, remember? We're careful about what we get close to.
No, my statement was that the researchers state that no one contradicts the idea that there has been a general fall in IQs in recent decades. Which is something of a surprise to IQ researchers as they are all trying to explain a rise in IQs in recent decades.
Posted by: Jim | Nov 10, 2006 10:08:55 AM
"the researchers state that no one contradicts the idea that there has been a general fall in IQs in recent decades"
I see where you're getting that but I don't think he explicitly says that. When he says
"The main discussion about lead is not whether there has been a drop in IQ ... I think that is widely accepted. I have met a couple of industry consultants who wanted to doubt it, but I don't think any serious researcher or scientist does."
I think he's talking about the effect of lead - which does cause a drop in IQ, although some industry consultants deny this - rather than overall trends in IQ taking into account other facts, which his research doesn't seem to actually talk about.
But if you want confirmation of what he thinks, why not just ask him? Before calling him a "Lying toad", I mean. Just to make it easier for you, his email address (at the Harvard School of Public Health) is firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank me later!
Posted by: Jim | Nov 10, 2006 10:37:33 AM
Jim:"No, that's according to Wikipedia. "
Ah, well then - I expect Wikipedia will be grateful for your input. :)
Posted by: JuliaM | Nov 10, 2006 12:01:49 PM
Obviously tricky things, these settled scientific consensuses. I wonder if any one can think of any other example that's been in the news lately?
Posted by: William Norton | Nov 10, 2006 1:45:27 PM