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Josh Bloom • 2 years ago

Since when does evidence count for anything?

Bob • 2 years ago

It always counts when you need it to support your position, then you must believe in the science. In this case a tiny causal effect to small to be detected leaves the door wide open. Can't too small to be detected be said about almost everything?

Steelhead • 2 years ago

Standard acceptable risk in a cancer risk assessment is typically 1 excess case in 100,000 or 1,000,000. Show my where we have been able to reliably detect that and make the unambiguous connection. Isn’t too small to be reliably detected/verified inherent in the assessment?

DrD • 1 year ago

I would go farther in describing the limitations of epidemiological studies like this one. In this study, the 95% confidence interval for the risk factor is 0.99 to 1.17. Our simple-minded journalists must have and report only one number, so epidemiologists just give them the number in the middle of the risk factor CI, 1.08 here. The media never explain what a 95% CI means (if they even understand it themselves) and that the choice is arbitrary. They don't explain that the number in the middle of the CI is no more special than any other number in the CI and that the choice of 95% still means that there is a 1 in 20 chance that the conclusion is completely wrong and the true risk factor isn't even in the 95% CI. When the decision was made to take Vioxx off the market, I was on the faculty of the medical school that did the study that decision was based on and the group that did the study considered it a textbook case. They concluded and the media reported that Vioxx doubled the chance of an adverse cardiac event in patients using it daily. But, that risk factor of 2 was in the middle of a 95% CI of 1-3. In other words, just like the talcum powder researchers, they had not ruled out a risk factor of 1. A risk factor of 1 means no risk at all, so neither the Vioxx study nor the talcum powder study ruled out the conclusion that the studied substance is quite harmless.
My rule of thumb now is that before human exposure to a substance (not just a drug) should be treated as a cause of any human disease at least two things should be established: The risk factor CI from a really good epidemiological study should not only include at least 2, but the lower limit should be substantially greater than 1. More importantly, other studies, possibly in animal models or even cell cultures, must have established a plausible mechanism by which the accused substance actually causes the disease. All of this was established for smoking tobacco, for example.

Steelhead • 1 year ago

I agree with your last sentence, though I would add that any evidence from animal models or cell culture should also have a proven relevance to humans. There are a number of toxic effects of chemicals in animal models that don't occur in humans. For example, when the effect is dependent on metabolism in a pathway that doesn't occur in humans. The reverse can also be true. One of the best examples is theobromine (from chocolate) toxicity in dogs. Humans clear it much more rapidly than dogs and thus it takes much more to poison a human than a dog.

Jazzduck • 1 year ago

Looks like we found the conservative!

Johnny V • 2 years ago

Hope this is just a swinging pendulum that will swing back to sanity. Now what am I supposed to powder my tush with?

Josh Bloom • 2 years ago

That's false hope. Did you read how the trial lawyers are salivating over the prospect of suing companies (?) over COVID deaths? It just keeps getting worse

frisbeeredcat • 2 years ago

This is what's holding up any additional Stimulus payments now. McConnell wants to grant companies immunity from prosecution for COVID-19 deaths, even if they are caused by negligence. The Dems say no as they believe this threat of litigation is what is keeping people safer as companies must try to protect employees and the public from the virus. Great country, huh?

Tort Reform Richard • 2 years ago

If "the lawyers always win," wouldn't you expect Johnson & Johnson to win? They have virtually unlimited resources and can hire armies of the best lawyers to defend them...

Josh Bloom • 2 years ago

Juries hate big companies. There are parts of the south where class action suits are brought, regardless if the damage took place there. 60 Minutes actually uncovered jury payoffs in the Wyeth Phen-Fen trial 20 yrs ago.
That cost me dearly.

Eric Bjerregaard • 2 years ago

Mississippi used to be a biggie. May still be. I saw a report that included a juror saying "somebody has to pay" Nope. sometimes no one should pay.

Johnny V • 2 years ago

The real issue is with the people in the jury box.

Ralph Seligmann • 2 years ago


Erik • 2 years ago

I wouldn't say it is the people, it is the system that has them deciding things where they are left in a sea of facts they don't understand and don't have a the training to weigh. Jurors try very hard to get to the right answer. But when confused, asked to pick which proposition is more likely than not (the law does not use scientific standards of proof, even about science) they may well choose to give money to the injured person sitting before them rather than rule for a faceless corporation. It is rarely about hate.

But our Constitution permits a plaintiff to request a jury trial in any case involving money damages. While this is a serious constraint on the power of government in criminal cases, reasons for this are much less powerful in the cases of money damages.

Punitive damages are a serious problem. Those are above and beyond compensating an injured person for the injury he or she sustained (the normal tort law). That is about punishing someone in a civil trial as if they had committed some kind of criminal offense. I say "as if they had" because no criminal statute was passed, no criminal trial protections apply, and the plaintiff gets a windfall. The Supreme Court could have fixed that back in 1996 but did not.

Guest • 2 years ago
frisbeeredcat • 2 years ago

Or. . . How about black defendant + white jury = guilty as charged, evidence planted.

MacQ • 2 years ago

Juries see deep pockets.

Still_Independent • 2 years ago

so as a male, i'm supposed to be worried about a completely unproven link to ovarian cancer on the random occasions i put baby power in workboots? yes, thank you trial lawyers.

great, what am i going to wear when spraying RoundUp all over my property?

Eric Bjerregaard • 2 years ago

A kilt is best.

John Wegner • 1 year ago

Unless something drastic has changed, you can buy (cheap!) 50 pound sacks of talc powder from industrial suppliers. We used it for many products as a thickener. There are grades available that are certified to be asbestos-free or so darn close to "free" that it's inconsequential -- especially in boots.

RamBam • 2 years ago

The problem with our tort system, particularly as it applies to medical malpractice but applicable here, is that these sharks can buy testimony. Plaintiff wh*res are paid to testifiy to anything, and they are immune from prosecution, even if they lie on the stand, which they do. Fix that, and we are a long way toward fixing our system.

Eric Bjerregaard • 2 years ago

Technically, the lawyers should be punished for suborning perjury.

MacQ • 2 years ago

I don't think they even have to pay. THey just need to select juries who think "corporations" are evil.

Kurt the Deplorable • 2 years ago

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the substitute corn starch? And isn't corn starch an organic material that promote bacterial growth especially when wet? This is better?

AgSciGuy • 2 years ago

No sure about bacterial growth, but image the insanity if GMO corn is used to make the corn starch. Or, if glyphosate was used during corn production.

D Scott Williams • 1 year ago

Eeeek! Run from the corn starch!

Jon • 1 year ago

Dunno about bacterial growth, but I've been using cornstarch for decades - it's easier to find, cheaper, and carries no scent (was important in the field.) The use of /something/ was important because, well, have you ever had salt chafing anywhere, er, "senitive?" I washed as often as possible, and the cornstarch never promoted a smell, so perhaps it didn't promote bacterial growth (since that's the primary reason for sweat odour.)

As far as "fixing the system" - how about disasllowing attorneys from charging more than doctors? My doctor doesnt' charge the equivalent of $800/hour, neither do any of my specialists. What makes attorney so damn special?

Andre Lange • 7 months ago

Super greed.

scorpiusgroup • 2 years ago

It is a (small) beginning to even bring up this issue. As to why the "scientific community" doesn't stand up for truth and reality--that's easy. They too are a bunch of cowards and whores. No one seems to remember back in the early 1960s, when St. Rachel Carson was spreading her absolute BS about DDT, the ONLY voice against her was the president of American Cyanamid.

Not a peep from the legions of pampered, useless academics in your "scientific community." Ditto for BPA. And that goes double for the craven and pointless American Chemistry Council. I was on a panel years ago, assembled by ACC, dealing with journalists and others on BPA.

One of the points I raised was that BPA is probably the most studied chemical on earth, and more than 6,000 studies have been done on it. How many more, I mused, would be necessary? Or even better, why replace it with something that has not been studied at all? Not surprisingly, that struck a chord.

However, not ten minutes after this webinar was over, I got a phone call from ACC, reaming me a new one for being "too harsh." It was a good long time before they ever asked me to join another panel. Then I realized the game: They "fought" to fight again, but never to win. In fact, only days after that fiasco, a movement was put together to form an alternative to ACC.

There was plenty of interest, including from ExxonMobil (major producers of BPA), but just as this effort was gaining traction, it fell apart. Surely by coincidence, one of the leaders of the group had just gotten a big job with another lobbying organization. Ironically, ExxonMobil was pretty silent publicly about BPA.

And here's the best part: Ever heard of Joe Schwarcz, Director of the McGill Office for Science and Society? He's the supposed go-to guy to give the straight scoop on all things "Science." In a separate encounter, he and I had a somewhat public online discussion about BPA, and I mentioned the 6,000 articles, suggesting that the chemical was safe. His reply? "We still haven't proven that it's safe. That will take further research." Spoken like a true feckless academic.

With friends like that...

Joyless • 2 years ago

Well SCIENCE is of course much more valuable than 'Scientists', but all good science comes from good scientists.

Mike Haas • 2 years ago

And a lot of bad testimony comes from "scientists" willing to say anything for a buck.

Joyless • 2 years ago

Yes, that is what I meant.

chasidot • 2 years ago

The part I've never grasped is: Why ovarian cancer? While my knowledge of women's anatomy is a work in progress, I find it hard to believe that talc is the problem if the cancers are not also cervical & uterine. Okay, true, those get flushed-out once per month, but women still get cancer there (from whatever causes) and the ovaries are, like, so far upstream. Yes, the swimmers swim up the Fallopian Tubes, but since when do talc particles wiggle their tails?

MacQ • 2 years ago

A good practical question. I've wondered the same myself....by what mechanism do these particles migrate and reach ovaries.
Can't fathom.

chasidot • 2 years ago

The Fallopian Tubes are awfully long. I've never heard of Ovarian Herpes, or Ovarian Gonorrhea, or Ovarian yeast infections. No tail, no tail wind, so to speak.

MacQ • 2 years ago


Notasheep • 2 years ago

There is a tickling in my brain that talc particles were found in ovaries during an autopsy. I find it highly improbable myself.

flyfisher111 • 2 years ago

Possibly from the surgical gloves?

Notasheep • 2 years ago

My thought too! But it was the only possible example I could think of....

Andre Lange • 7 months ago

Hahahaha I was thinking this same idea. Not too long ago, like a year, I wanted to buy some talcum powder. I wanted some kind that was scented with a cologne smell, like I used to use at a gym. It was provided, a little dispenser on the wall. I was surprised to find only Corn Starch. I wondered when this big change happened. I did not recall ever hearing it on any "news." I found I could get it on the Internet, from Italy. By that time I had read about the asbestos. I went without it.

Joyless • 2 years ago

It's to the point now where most love their ears tickled more than truth, no matter what danger we are failing to address that exists immediately in front of us. It's laziness basically maybe even 'death wish'.

Lisa H • 2 years ago

I thought the concern wasn't talc so much as the fact that they are often mined very close to asbestos. Then the issue is that a lot of talc is not tested enough to ensure no amounts of asbestos is mixed in with the talc. I'd be more concerned with inhaling talc than putting it on my parts. Mostly because talc is mined from china, that this is an issue, isn't it. Because there is not enough oversight. Either way, I haven't been convinced one way or the other from everything I have read.

Tort Reform Richard • 2 years ago

Lisa, you nailed it. The exact claim made by the lawyers in the big 2018 Missouri trial (Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson) is that talc and asbestos are minerals which appear coextensively in mines. The analogy for mined talc is a cut of raw beef: just as even on the leanest cuts, the white fat is marbled within the muscle fibers of the steak, so talc is usually interlaced with asbestos.

You're also correct on the testing and the Chinese mines. The plaintiffs in the Missouri case proved that J&J paid universities for the studies that showed no talc appeared in their products, even sometimes routing funds through their lawyers' firms in order to disguise the source of the funding and prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest. Allegedly, these scientists then designed insufficiently sensitive tests that would not be able to detect asbestos fibers (think of trying to measure a needle with a bathroom scale rather than with a jeweler's scale: only one method of testing will detect the presence of the needle). And there is certainly clear economic incentive not only to own largely unregulated mines in China rather than in the U.S., but also to do whatever it takes to preserve the value of the mines they purchased.

You might be interested in reading more about the Missouri case, including about the internal J&J documents that the plaintiffs discovered. Those documents apparently showed that J&J's own scientists discovered asbestos in talc, were concerned about its links to cancer, warned J&J decision-makers about the risks, and J&J allegedly decided it was less expensive to pay billions in lawsuits than to lose tens of billions in lost profits and damage to brand reputation by removing their iconic powder from the shelves.

Lisa H • 2 years ago

I believe there was a documentary on CBC Gem that talked about this. I remember all the points you were making. To blindly believe scientists can't be paid off, or that money doesn't talk is also an absence of reason. I love evidence like the next person, but so many things can be manipulated that just picking curated facts isn't going to be enough. I really wish science was absent of monetary gain, then we could have science I could trust 100%.

chasidot • 2 years ago

"... I'd be more concerned with inhaling talc than putting it on my parts ..."

The baby's nostrils are inches from their gentle bits, and parents shake the stuff on with abandon.

Q/ Why have we been spared an epidemic of childhood mesothelioma?

DrD • 1 year ago

But where's the evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer? The only cancer known for certain to be caused by asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs.

Guest • 2 years ago
Plain as Day • 1 year ago

I notice that there is a tendency for all the doctors associated with some form of alternative cure or medicine to have very odd names.

Stephen Maxam • 10 months ago

Just like how weird our names are to them, like Hopkins and Mayo. Not enough consonants, like zees and cee-zees, so their tongues get lost in their mouths.