Greens vs. Science - Toxic Troglodytes Edition
This week, the Washington Toxics Coalition sent out a link on Twitter, highlighting a "New blog post! Study: One in Two Children Have Chronic Health Issues." The Toxics Coalition has too frequently set aside science in favor of scare tactics to achieve its goals (for instance read the exchange from our blog here: Greens vs. Science - BPA Edition).
Ironically, the Toxics Coalition often attacks its opponents over the use of similar tactics, recently touting a debate where it argued for a ban on bisphenol A (BPA) as "Science vs troglodytes." Calling its opponents troglodytes demonstrates the Toxics Coalition's commitment to science.
The blog the Toxics Coalition links to regarding the study on children's chronic health issues shows how clearly divorced the organization is from science.
The blog post notes the study found that half of American children have some form of "chronic" disease in their youth. The blog goes on to note, "Children are not 'little adults' – their developing brains and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals such as those released by the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic lifecycle."
There is, however, a problem with this assessment: the study never discusses PVC or any other compounds. By discussing the study, and then mentioning PVC, the blog hopes readers will be mislead into connecting the two even though the science does not.
Additionally, the study itself casts a wide net in its definition of "chronic disease." The press release for the study notes:
Some of the conditions included asthma, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, heart problems, allergic conditions, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, sinus infections, ear infections and more. Obesity was defined as a body-mass index in the 95th percentile or higher for the child's gender and age.
Some of these are legitimate chronic diseases, others are subjective. I'm not sure I'd call an ear infection "chronic." Nor is there any indication that PVC or any other chemical causes diabetes.
Finally, while grasping at the study for evidence that children are unhealthy due to PVC or whatever other targeted toxic of the day, the conclusion of the scientists is exactly the opposite. In the press release the authors say:
What surprised the authors, however, was that the chronic conditions weren't always lasting. Overall, only 7.4 percent of the children who had a chronic condition at the start of the study still had that same condition at the end of the research period. "We've always thought of chronic conditions as quite permanent, so these findings give a lot of hope for kids with chronic conditions and obesity," said Van Cleave.
The authors were actually surprised the children's maladies were so transient. This directly contradicts the insinuations we are poisoning our children with toxics. The study finds kids have illnesses, but recover quickly.
As far as the cause of the diseases, the authors also contradict the Washington Toxic Coalition's insinuations:
"It's likely that a lot of these conditions resolved because families made lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods, reducing screen time and becoming more physically active."
This is certainly sound advice. For the Washington Toxics Coalition to claim this study helps their cause, as opposed to the cause of the Florida Orange Growers or Little Leagues, is to ignore the science altogether. It is clear why the Toxics Coalition likes to label its opponents "troglodytes." When the science isn't on your side, what other tactics are available?