This guest post by Lauren Ayers is an eloquent reminder of how important it is to demand science and investigation from those who create our news feeds.
Almost every print article or electronic report about the increased rate of microencephaly could be titled, “Terrorist Zika Mosquitoes Invade the USA.”
However, there is plenty of evidence that some other factors play a role. So why do Americans hear only about a rare virus carried by mosquitoes?
Very cynical people might explain this one-note theme by pointing out that if, say, pesticides were a factor in microcephaly, this would reflect badly on their manufacturers, who would be carefully thwarting research and reporting. But even National Public Radio and DemocracyNow! repeat the same emotional story-line, despite not having any advertisers. (However: NPR and DemNow do depend on corporate underwriting and foundation funding. If you run a news program, would you want to annoy a funder?)
Even more taboo are questions about vaccinations like TDaP, since well-educated liberals assume that the pinnacle of modern public health is an armory of immunizations.
But can’t we learn from our mistakes?
“Tobacco Science” refers to the decades of lies told by cigarette manufactures, who claimed their products were totally safe. Some ads even featured doctors assuring the public that smoking was good for us. Once the truth finally emerged, cigarette ads were banned on radio or TV, and foundations fund programs to deter youth from smoking.
Evidently, foundations named after billionaire philanthropists can accept reality once the truth is impossible to hide any longer, as they did when the consensus finally shifted regarding DDT, asbestos, leaded gasoline, and tobacco. But until that critical mass is reached - i.e. while the harm from any product can be kept secret for another profitable decade or three - the mainstream media will not be informing the public.
If just one of the never-reported theories below is correct, it would mean mosquitoes aren’t the main cause of microcephaly, and many towns and cities are being sprayed by pesticides instead known to harm humans, especially children and fetuses.
If mosquitos aren't the culprits, we could save millions of tax dollars currently being sought for a Fast Track Zika vaccine, and millions more that would go to the development of genetically-modified mosquitoes which, theoretically, would be unable to carry the Zika virus.
Here are two examples of poor investigative journalism; both turned up in a mainstream article (the one and only such result
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/02/16/experts-dismiss-claims-pe… ) when searching for ‘other causes of microcephaly’.
"Brazil's Ministry of Health rejected any link between the [larvicidal] chemical and the microcephaly outbreak, noting the World Health Organization deems pyriproxifen safe for use as a pesticide."
In other words: for some bureaucrats, if something is deemed safe, that is the same as actually being safe!
The article also quoted Grayson Brown, director of the public health entomology laboratory at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, who said: "The reason that the pesticide is found in areas with microcephaly is because it's being used to control Aedes aegypti and Zika.“
Right. Just like all those other substances (DDT, asbestos, lead in gasoline, tars in tobacco) were merely correlated with serious health effects, and therefore didn't warrant further research....
Where is the Precautionary Principle when we need it? Instead of government regulators trusting corporate claims of safety, shouldn’t they be using stronger analysis?
In turn, most reporters - or rather most managing editors - have given up muckraking for the comforts of repeating government and industry press releases. Endangering unborn children or endangering governmental budgets doesn’t matter at all when an advertiser (or foundation funded by corporate profits) says an investigation might endanger profits
Back to the question of why there is a rise in microcephaly. Here are far-from-the-mainstream articles presenting three potential non-zika reasons why:
1. Teratogenic Chemicals
“In late 2014, the Ministry of Health of Brazil announced the introduction of the TDaP (Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine for all pregnant women. . . . The number of cases of microcephaly in Brazil has grown to 3,530 babies, as of mid-January 2016. Fewer than 150 such cases were seen in all of 2014*. . . . A 2013 published study evaluating reports of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) following vaccination in the U. S. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and in a European vaccine reaction reporting system found that pertussis-containing DTaP was among the vaccines most frequently associated with brain inflammation in children between birth and age five. . . . The FDA has licensed TDaP vaccines to be given once as a single dose pertussis booster shot to individuals over 10 or 11 years old. The CDC’s recommendation that doctors give every pregnant woman a TDaP vaccination during every pregnancy . . . is an off-label use of the vaccine.”
See also this article from the Journal of Pediatric Neurology:
"Atypical vanishing white matter disease with microcephaly and hepatosplenomegaly provoked after diphtheria pertussis tetanus vaccination" https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.3233/JPN-…
American media consider ‘foreign’ doctors incompetent. How do we know? Because no article has mentioned this: “Argentine and Brazilian Doctors Name Monsanto Linked Larvicide as Potential Cause of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus.”
RoundUp contains another common chemical that causes birth defects:
“Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects including microcephaly in vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling.”
Chemical Research in Toxicology, Oct 17, 2010 http://www.greenmedinfo.com/disease/microcephaly
Dirty water, poor sanitation, and bad nutrition could explain why microcephaly afflicts mostly low income mothers. Recently, Erin Elizabeth wrote “Zika: Brazil Admits It’s Not the Virus,” complete with 23 footnotes. Some points in her article that were ommitted by other coverage:
• Dr. Fatima Marinho, director of information and health analysis at Brazil’s ministry of health, told the journal Nature, “We suspect that something more than Zika virus is causing the high intensity and severity of cases.”
• In addition, the outbreak occurred in a largely poverty-stricken agricultural area of Brazil that uses large amounts of banned pesticides.
• According to a report by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), there are serious questions about whether Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly. They cite the preliminary results of a New England Journal of Medicine study, which followed nearly 12,000 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus. No cases of microcephaly were reported in their babies as of May 2016. http://www.healthnutnews.com/brazil-admits-its-not-zika/
3. Junk Science
Confusing correlation with causation is not science. This article shows how guesswork replaced research when the CDC decided that Zika caused microcephaly: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/01/health/02zika-microcephal…
And here are two more reasons why we should stop blaming the mosquitos:
A. Zika often presents without Microcephaly
A further anomaly surrounding the questionable connection betwixt the Zita virus and birth defects is the curious detail that it only appears to be affecting women in Brazil. What about places with prevalent Zika infection but no microcephaly? Whilst the virus is infecting thousands of others in neighbouring countries, including 560 pregnant women in nearby Columbia, there has not been any similar birth defects reported anywhere outside of Brazil. http://maltanow.com.mt/the-zika-deception/
B. Microcephaly often presents without Zika
An organization of Argentine and Brazilian doctors, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, released a report saying:
“Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added Pyriproxyfen to drinking water are not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on the Zika virus for this damage.”
Reporting on this, Claire Robinson of GMWatch.org adds, “Pyriproxyfen is a relatively new introduction to the Brazilian environment; the microcephaly increase is a relatively new phenomenon.”
Somewhere, there is a hungry freelancer, eager for a Pulitzer, who could write this story — but any managing editor would spike it, saying “My hands are tied.” Therefore, the fake science we’re reading and hearing will continue until the last penny of profit has been wrung from those poor mosquitoes, whose ratings are almost as high (i.e. profitable to media) as Donald Trump's.
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