Category Archives: Science

Alternative Medicine and the Post-Hoc Rationalization.

If you follow me on the Skeptoid blog you’ll find that I take a dim view of complementary and alternative medicine. My opinion is based primarily on a rational evaluation of the research. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as a whole, is chock full of poor studies, index studies and weak correlational studies. There is a minority of well done positive research that subsequently fails to show any benefits and goes unreplicated. Alternative medicine as a whole has all the failings of an old west medicine show plagued by scam artists and ideologues. Scammers and ideologues use the freedom that discarding the scientific method offers to reinforce an emotional response. This summer, BioMed Central, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, published an overview of alternative medicine treatments and the benefit in getting injured or sick people back to work, undertaken by researchers at Columbia University. This study, titled “Complementary and alternative medicine use and absenteeism among individuals with chronic disease,” was a retrospective correlational review of data collected from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey data. Continue reading →

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Cryotherapy: What Works and What Doesn’t

A recent email from a fan asks, “What is your take on the benefits or consequences of cryotherapy?” That’s a very broad question since the word cryotherapy is a non-descript term, like “oxygen therapy.” Cryotherapy is a type of proven medical treatment, but it’s limited to a very narrow set of applications and there are uses of that term that have a much shakier foundation. The term describes a myriad of questionable practices; some are built upon plausible mechanisms that lack a clear scientific foundation, and some are out-and-out chicanery. As such, the word derives its practical meaning from the methods and the purpose of the treatment. So let’s take a look at some of the common uses of the term and try to tease out the science vs the sham. Continue reading →

International Vaccine Terrorists

The United States suffers from a well funded celebrity supported anti-vaccine terror campaign. This campaign commonly using internet based media to disseminate fear. Most objections to vaccines are pseudo-scientific fabrications, deceptions or magnification of known problems. Anti-vaccine proponents use internet media to disseminate cherry picked evidence, statistical manipulation, and occasionally outright deception. The overriding theme is fear. Purposeful fear for the express purpose of minimizing or dismissing evidence that does not conform to their world view. Fear mongering that is inaccurate, false, or infers hyper-inflated concerns about vaccines. It is a methodological attack to blunt the message that vaccines have clear benefit and few dangers. The most effective methods are emotional narratives and massaged statistics.

I would call anti-vaccine writings and publications a terror campaign. A terror operation that is expressly designed to provoke a fear response. Anyone that attempts to point out the facts is immediately dismissed as a big pharma shill, corporate apologist or government disinformation agent. In the general media there has been a small amount of push back against this disinformation. Still I see regression of vaccination rates in the United States and elsewhere. The US states Kansas and Alaska lead for overall poor vaccination rates but the numbers are stable. California and Washington are states that have lost the most ground (percentage wise).  Other countries have experienced decline in vaccination rates as well. Countries that suffered outbreaks like Australia and Great Britain. I thought Canada seemed to be exempt until I came across data showing a measles outbreak in Canada.

There has been a significant decline in Canadian vaccination rates. Especially in British Columbia. Recently 200 cases of measles in British Columbia. The combination of declining vaccination rates and disease outbreaks demonstrate the negative impact of Anti-Vaccine propaganda in Canada. Fear(even fabricated untrue fear) is a powerful motivator.

It Should be noted that below are some images that people may find slightly disturbing proceed at your own discretion.

The prolific writings of well known anti-vaccine crank Joel Lord has been instrumental in British Columbia. He is the leader of a disinformation campaign based in Vancouver Canada. The group that he leads calls themselves the “Vaccine Resistance Network” or VRM. Joel Lord runs the VRM website from his home.

The VRM mission statement.

“a grass roots, non-profit organization striving to empower communities around the world with the means of self sufficiency, while determined to expose vaccine fraud & pharmaceutical industry malfeasance.”

VRM does “research” at least what they call research-VRM Study

Real research has to be scientific in structure to actually answer any question. Calling something research does not make it so. VRM is looking for known autism cases to determine if vaccines cause autism. Case studies are research starters not a method to determine answers. Plus this question has been answered. Answered by very rigorous scientific methods. Vaccines don’t cause autism period, the end. Despite constant medical monitoring, well structured research, and 20 years of evaluation, there is no credible evidence of autism being cause by vaccines.

Well structured analyses show that unvaccinated children have exactly the same incidence of autism that vaccinated children do. For ideologues facts are irrelevant or lies. So VRM goes forward with “research” in an attempt to confirm what they already know to be true. That is not science that is self confirmation. Plus case studies can provide compelling narratives. Narratives that can be twisted confirm an  overall narrative of government/big pharma conspiracy. Case studies is not science and it is not research. It is a fishing expedition. A fishing expedition for the express purpose of producing compelling propaganda narratives.

Lets take a look at the damage that anti-vaccination has done.

In 2005, 81.4 per cent of kindergarten-age children in B.C. had received the five-in-one vaccine. Which provides protection against whooping cough, tetanus, polio, diphtheria, and haemophilus influenzae.

By 2012, that rate had dropped to 75.5 per cent – meaning about one in four children hadn’t been vaccinated. Concerns about vaccine safety in the 1980s prompted officials to set up Impact, the Immunization Monitoring Program Active. Which looks at every single reported case of vaccine adverse reactions in 12 hospitals across Canada. Plus possible adverse reactions including admissions to neurology wards. They monitor 1500 cases of reported illness from vaccines in B.C. a year. Yet there is no evidence of any problems.

These stats are often attacked as proof as the complicity of medical professionals in a conspiracy. A conspiracy that is in itself an impossibly complex fallacy.

The connection between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly debunked by a range of studies, scientific groups and world health organizations. Including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the World Health Organization, the Mayo Clinic and the American Centre for Disease Control.

Beyond the consensus, there is new research showing that autism is detectable before children even start to get vaccines. To logically maintain the Anti-Vaccine mindset there are only two valid options.

1. That there is a world wide conspiracy including; all branches of public health, teachers, governments(some who actively hate each other), and Physicians. That medical doctors of all walks, and thousands of peer reviewed journals are ignoring or actively hiding the truth. That all these millions of people are ok with giving kids brain damage.

Or…..

2. That a small well funded dedicated group of Anti-Vaccine enthusiasts lack the medical knowledge to understand the nuances of vaccines, public health, and neurological disorders That they dismiss any evidence that doesn’t conform to their world view becasue the have an emotional attachment to a child suffering from autism. That human nature makes it difficult to understand that bad things can happen with no active culprit, and that we can be powerless to stop some medical issues. Additionally that the belief has become a cottage industry for some that results in significant personal power and money.

There is no credible evidence that there is a conspiracy. The best evidence of a conspiracy was a fabricated study done by a doctor that wanted to sell a competing MMR vaccine. The researcher who published the original paper in a prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, had an undeclared financial conflict of interest, a British medical board found. The study was recalled, while the author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was barred from practicing medicine.

It is human nature to believe what we see, hear and often self confirm. Anti-vax proponents seem unable or unwilling to understand what the medical data means. They continue to promote this agenda despite proof that autism precedes vaccines. When evidence derails their worldview the parameters change to continue to fit a square peg in a round hole. Actions consistent with ideology, and confirmation bias, not facts.

The outbreak in Canada is just another example of how a fantasy based belief system is placing us all at risk. A vocal minority should not dictate our public health. They should not be able to set back huge gains made in pediatric infectious disease over the last 50 years.

Do we really need to see kids dying of polio, diphtheria, and whooping cough? Do we need to see deformed infants due to rubella again, or deafness due to mumps? Do we want the fear mongering to overcome good public health. Success narratives lack emotion “My kid grew up happy and healthy with vaccines”. The absence of disease is not scary and emotion provoking. Difficult to fight ideological fear attacks with simple facts. It is difficult to blunt emotional narratives with”Here is the Data”.

Worse honest physicians and scientists cannot give the type of definitive answers that anti-vaccine proponents offer. An Ideologue will always give the same answer”Yes Vaccines are toxic and harm children”. A good medical professional will give you an honest answer. Even the best medical treatment has a very tiny risk. Vaccines are one of the best medical treatments we offer, and the small risks are rare and well known. The problems are no great mystery. The diseases they protect children from are monstrously dangerous.

The answers are simple for me and my children. Vaccines do have some small risks. Sending my kid to school is risk, driving in car is a risk, letting him jump on the bed is a risk. These are risks most kids can live with. Would I let my child talk to random strangers, play with a gun, ride his bike on highway, have a pet rattlesnake? No I would not because the risks are too high/too deadly.

Vaccination risks are snall risks that kids can live with. The disease they protect your children from are not something they can live with.

United States Pediatric Disease Annual Mortality Prior to Vaccines.

Polio: 20,000 cases paralytic polio

Polio

Mumps: 450 deaths from mumps 1 in 20,000 cases became deaf permanently.

Mumps

Hib: 600 deaths from Haemophylus influenzae b, thousands with loss of limbs and brain damage.

Hib Meningitis

Pertussis(Whooping Cough):9000 deaths plus 200,000 sickened

Pertussis victim

Rubella: 2100 neonatal deaths and 11,000 miscarriages. Of the survivors 20,000 were born deaf, blind, microcephalic(profoundly developmentally delayed) or all.

RUBELLA

Diphtheria: 15,000 deaths a year.

Diphtheria

Tetanus: 1100 deaths per year. 

Smallpox: Estimated 300 million in the 20th century. In 1967 15 million dead.

Smallpox

My point is not to terrorize you. It is to show you that anti-vax proponents own the compelling narratives, because of vaccines are effective. If the children at your kids school suffered from outbreaks like they did 70 years ago the anti-vax movement would be limited to a crank category. It is my desperate hope that we do not need to have children die in large numbers before parents can come to their senses?

Anti-vax proponents try to twist the numbers from the pre-vacccine era but the facts are the facts. Just talk to your, mother, father, grandma, grandpa, or someone who lived prior to World War II. Ask them what happened to brothers sisters and friends. Ask the about Polio outbreaks, whooping cough deaths, or quarantines due to measles. It will be an eye opening experience.

Prior to public health child mortality rate was 17%, after vaccines 0.7%.  The numbers I quoted are US specific. Most of the developed world shares similar numbers. Wherever there are vaccines available kids live. Anywhere vaccines are unavailable or limited kids die. Imagine the number of people who wouldn’t be alive today without vaccines. Prior to vaccines and antibiotics world population was about 1 billion. Just about the time vaccines became into world wide use the population went from 2 billion to about 7 billion. Life expectancy went from 48 to 74. This was not an accident. Vaccines are simply the most effective infectious disease treatment ever. In 25 years antibiotics may be worthless, but vaccines will still be just as effective.

Think about it, and do not let fear mongers put your child at risk.

Parents in the western world, for the most part, don’t ever have to live with the agony of watching their child die from a preventable disease. In some third world countries it is a far fetched dream to have their children vaccinated.

This isn’t the “age of Autism”(about 1.13% of children suffer with autism spectrum disorder). It is the age of life. A childhood free of terrible and deadly infectious disease.

Canada needs to get on the ball, and we all need to minimize this deadly nonsense.

As a additional opinion I feel that anti-vax proponents blame parents of autistic children. Telling them that a big bad drug company made their child autistic. Indirectly telling them that they failed to do the proper research. That they are at fault for allowing this to happen to their kids. As I said before criminal terrorism.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/nis/tables/12/tab02_antigen_iap_2012.pdf

http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/autismwakefield.html

http://www.pbs.org/fmc/timeline/dmortality.htm

http://vaccineresistancemovement.org/

http://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-vaccination-rates-drop-amid-misinformation-campaign-1.1744379

Meningitis Outbreak at Princeton University

I am a staunch proponent of vaccines and vaccinations, normally. When I learned of the meningitis outbreak at Princeton University I reacted positively to the report that they were offering vaccinations for an outbreak of meningitis. My graduate work involved the epidemiology and treatment of meningitis. Given my(admittedly dated)knowledge of meningitis the news details gave me cause for concern. So I took a long hard look at what is known about this outbreak and what are the plans. I begrudgingly have to say that I wouldn’t recommend this particular vaccination plan for the meningitis outbreak. In my opinion Princeton is trying to mollify students and possibly parents, not practicing good medicine. This plan may have a disastrous outcome for both the future of the vaccine, and the students of Princeton university.

I am not advocating in any way that approved vaccines are a problem, or useless. Vaccines are always a small risk and a large benefit. In my opinion, this plan fails to be effective with this vaccine because of incomplete data and the epidemiological specifics of this disease. The plan has the flavor of a feel good move, not a proper public health initiative. Realistically it will be offered to provide anxious students with a anxiety reducer. It will not be an effective epidemic treatment as outlined and it may actually have a negative effect on the situation. To explain I will have to do a short layman’s meningitis primer and a review of this situation’s specifics.

Meningitis is actually a description of disease not truly a single “Disease agent”. Meningitis is caused by many organisms. For this discussion I will use the term Meningitis to mean an infection of the meninges by the organism found in the Princeton University cases Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus).

Meningitis is dangerous, it has a 10% mortality rate, and even among survivors there can be permanent disabilities. Brain damage, loss of limbs, kidney damage, major organ failure to name a few. Antibiotics can treat the infection but it is often not effective in preventing the complications. The organism infects a protected section of your body, and by the time you begin experiencing symptoms the disease is advanced. It progresses rapidly and can be fatal in as little as 24-72 hours from onset of first symptoms. The organism has an endotoxin that can be released on mass when antibiotics are introduced causing a cascading inflammatory reaction. The disease and what makes it lethal is actually far more complicated than I have the time to review here. It affects healthy and infirmed alike, yet the lethal illness is usually in the young and healthy. Meningococcus is spread through the exchange of saliva and other respiratory secretions during activities like coughing, sneezing, kissing, and in small children chewing on toys. It infects the host cell by sticking to it using Trimeric Autotransporter Adhesins (TAA). Though it initially produces general symptoms like fatigue, it can rapidly progress from fever, headache and neck stiffness to coma and death. There are different “Strains”, A, B, C, W135, X, and Y. All can be spread easily, yet A seems to be the most contagious. In the Princeton cases the B strain is involved. That is unusual in the U.S. B strain is commonly a European strain, A is in the middle east(so called meningitis belt). A, C strain predominates in US, with a disproportionate number of Y strain involved in college dormitory outbreaks.

There are currently three vaccines available in the U.S. to prevent meningococcal disease for people aged 2 or older. All three vaccines are effective against the same serogroups: A, C, Y, and W-135. Two different meningococcal conjugate vaccines (MCV4) are licensed for use in the U.S. The first conjugate vaccine was licensed in 2005, the second in 2010. Conjugate vaccines are the preferred vaccine for people 2 through 55 years of age. A meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) has been available since the 1970s and is the only meningococcal vaccine licensed for people older than 55. MPSV4 may be used in people 2–55 years old if the MCV4 vaccines are not available or contraindicated. Information about who should receive the meningococcal vaccine is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What is Glaringly missing from current vaccines in the U.S. is serotype B vaccine.

The school has decided to allow students to receive injections of a Novartis vaccine, which has been approved in the European Union and Australia but not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is specifically for Serotype B Meningitis. Novartis and FDA officials “have not yet come to an agreement on a pathway to licensure” for Bexsero, said Liz Power, a spokeswoman for the Swiss-based drugmaker. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received permission last week from the FDA to import the vaccine because of the New Jersey outbreak. Princeton will have the first of two doses of the vaccine ready in early December, with the second available in February; Two doses are needed for the greatest protection, the school said in a statement: “Students who already received a meningococcal vaccine are not currently protected against serogroup B, the bacteria causing the outbreak at Princeton.” The university said it will pay the costs of the vaccines for students who want to receive it.

Meningitis is a scary and contagious disease, so how could a vaccine be bad? Anti-Vax supporters have a dis-proven laundry list of why vaccines are terrible. Yet like a bad marksman they miss the target in this scenario. The Vaccine is not the problem, it is the administration.

In my opinion, the Novartis vaccine should be required for all students not currently immunized unless it is contraindicated due to a pre-existing condition. Failing that, voluntary immunization may not halt the disease and could have unintended negative consequences.

My opinion is based upon the limits of the vaccine, the complicated nature of the disease, and the unknown risks of the vaccine.

There is a reason that the vaccine for this strain has been difficult to design. Developing vaccines against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (MenB) has been a challenging aim for decades and was hindered by the close relationships between serogroup B capsule and the human antigen the neural-cell adhesion molecules (NCAM)2. The huge efforts made by the pharmaceutical industry in this field have led to a pioneer approach/concept called the reverse vaccinology that opened the way to develop not only a vaccine against MenB but also against many other diseases, that are otherwise difficult to be developed using conventional approaches. More than 15 years of intense research has led finally to the licensure of the Bexsero, the first vaccine against MenB. It should be undelined here the licensure of meningococcal vaccine is based on serum bactericidal assays and on the correlate of protection4,5 and no clinical efficacy studies have been required for the licensure of meningococcal vaccines. The Bexsero vaccine may offer a potential unique strategy against meningococcal disease (not only due to MenB) as the antigens targeted by the vaccine are conserved among meningococcal isolates regardless their serogroups.

Layperson summary: It is a novel approach that has a great deal of evidence supporting efficacy but it has not been thoroughly field tested. It was used with success to control a French outbreak last summer. It is not an experimental treatment but widespread use has not occurred even in Europe. You cannot experimentally infect people to test vaccines. All new vaccines are licensed and distributed based on laboratory testing. Additionally it is a two dose vaccine, meaning that it may be weeks to months for full immunization.

It is not just the “newness” or the schedule of the vaccine that is of concern. The nature of meningitis itself, overcomes the vaccine. Meningitis is spread through close human contact. In 9-20% of the human population, at anytime, meningitis can benignly colonize your Nares (Nasal Passages). Vaccines do not get rid of the colonization, it just prevents the internal infection. In meningitis there is no benefit of herd immunity. Meaning that in other communicable diseases like measles the un-immunized are protected when enough of the “herd” is immunized. The disease is stopped because it lacks the necessary carriers to keep spreading the infection. This is not the case with meningitis. Even the immunized can be carriers, infecting the unprotected.

In summary, immunizing a small voluntary population in this case has several major medical flaws.

The Vaccines primary efficacy in a large populations is untested.
The revolutionary nature of the vaccine makes the complications and risk/benefit profile a little more unpredictable than standard vaccines.
There is no Herd Immunity, so partially immunized groups will not make a major impact on halting an epidemic.
The complicated nature of sharing information about the vaccine’s limits may give newly immunized and un-immunized alike a false sense of security. This may result in a drop in traditional exposure precautions. More likely explaining the complicated issues to people will make them avoid the vaccine.
Bottom line: If Princeton is going to obtain FDA permission to import, buy, and administer this vaccine they better make sure everyone gets it, or it may fail spectacularly. Harming people and damaging the perceived public usefulness of the vaccine. You cannot undertake halfway measures with this disease and make it work. You must be “in for a penny in for a pound.”

For epidemic control this is shades of a placebo, to prevent a panic without substance. I am not recommending that your son/daughter at Princeton avoid the vaccine if it is available. What I am saying is that Princeton needs to go “all in” or kids will still get sick. Plus if your son/daughter is not immunized they may feel falsely secure about transmission. Worse current carriers may lose caution and continue to spread the disease. They hopefully will continue current practice of antibiotic prophylaxis in exposed adults. If they don’t it will be an even bigger failure.

Public health is not individual choice and privilege. Public health is using good science, and medicine to protect the public. Public health is what is good for the public not for the individual. A hard pill to swallow, but it only works if you really do what needs to be done. If you act like the “Wizard of Oz” all show and no substance you are really left with nothing worthwhile. This disease has the power to “pull back the curtain” and expose you as a charlatan.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/lab-manual/chpt02-epi.html
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-19/princetons-meningitis-crisis-cuts-through-the-usual-vaccine-red-tape
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/meningococcal/epidemiological/en/
http://www.who.int/wer/2008/wer8304.pdf
http://www.meningitis.org/menb-vaccine
http://www.thelancet.com/comments/meningococcus-b
Disclaimer: This post is my personal opinion, it does not reflect the opinion of: my practice, my partners, hospital affiliations, Brian Dunning or my academic affiliations. It is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace personal medical evaluation and discussion with your healthcare provider.

Killer Commercial Airlines

Chemtrails are all over the internet, and purported to be part of a government conspiracy to poison or control populations. This is complete psuedoscience and fear mongering debunked in skeptoid episode 27. Major news outlets are reporting today that science has produced a link with jet aircraft and heart attacks. No it is not a chemtrail story, it is another example of thrill science publishing and reporting.

 “Exposure to Aircraft noise may increase the risk of hospitalizations for heart problems“. When I first read the story, I immediately assumed reporter error and twisted exaggeration. Not at all. It is the BMJ that is at fault here.

I am dismayed by the conclusions of the actual study. I have to give the media a partial pass because analyzing the complicated double speak is difficult. The conclusions of this study are on such shaky ground that my initial impression is that this is one of the well known BMJ “Joke” studies that it publishes annually in the Christmas holiday edition. As far as I can tell the paper seems serious and not a spoof.

The title of the paper is”Aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease near Heathrow airport in London: small area study“. It proposes that having controlled for the confounding factors as best they can, the authors see a statistically significant link between exposure to aircraft noise; coronary artery disease, stroke and mortality.

My Opinion, I am stunned that this pile of tripe got published. It is a very nice statistical exercise but what it really says about anything is unclear. There is so much wrong methodologically that I hope the conclusions from this data cannot be serious. It may have been done on purpose. Either to expose poor science reporting, study poor science reporting, or to try to drum up public support financially for their research. That can explain the author’s fail. It completely escapes me why the BMJ would publish it as a serious paper.

Here are a few of the major methodological error highlights making the stated conclusion impossible to determine.

  1. They retroactively took chart data from hospital admissions and compared it to airline noise plots based on time of day and location. The data controlled for air pollution, and some patient demographics. It did not remove exclude or analyze any other noise sources for the patients.  Meaning that the authors in metropolitan London assumed that all other noise sources were irrelevant compared to airline noise.
  2. They included no data on the following confounding cardiovascular risk factors: Body mass index, serum lipid profile, family history, exercise tolerance or frequency, employment, interior personal environment(IE:smoke filled lounge), driving or not, traffic or not, amount of sleep, psychiatric stressors, caffeine intake, alcohol or illicit drug use(there is more for brevity I will stop). What they did they control for? “adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, and a smoking proxy (lung cancer mortality) using a Poisson regression model”
  3. They used a statistical expansion model increase actual data points to more than they collected. It is a statistically valid technique but not for this type of study.
  4. They even noted that their population was heavily laden with biases, loading a group of distinct ethnic groups into one group “south Asian”
  5. For the premier fail of the study “We were able to adjust at small area level for ethnicity, deprivation, and a smoking proxy (and additionally for particulate air pollution and road traffic noise for a subset of 2.6 million people), but we did not have access to individual level information on confounders such as smoking; therefore results at the area level may not be applicable to individuals (ecological fallacy). ” Meaning they did not know if they were smokers or not. They averaged it out based on population grouping. I would term that a major confounding factor. How can you possible consider cardiovascular mortality factors without knowing if the patient is an active smoker? Answer: YOU CAN’T!

Just a stunning pile of research fail. This study is so loose that I am not even sure you can depend on any of the statistical findings. It is absolutely false to say that they can correlate airline noise with heart disease. It would be like publishing a paper about car accidents and drinking water. Primarily concluding in that paper that drinking a glass water in the 72 hours before a car accident causes it.

Utter and complete rubbish, shame on the BMJ. The study is slick and well done I can only fault the reporting to a point. If science reporters just called anyone with medical expertise and asked for a medical opinion on this study it wouldn’t be the lead medical story for the day. That is also probably why media outlets don’t do that.

Anthropogenic Global Warming and CFC’s.

A new paper by Professor Qing-Bin Lu PhD is purporting to demonstrate that chlorofluorocarbons, not carbon dioxide, are behind global warming. Since CFC production has tapered off, he therefore predicts that we’ll see global cooling for the next 50 years or so.

CFC’s or Chlorofluorocarbons were widely used as refrigerants until it was phased out for the ozone friendly R-410A due to the Montreal protocol. CFC’s do in fact have high global warming potential as do all halogenated molecules. As much as 10,000 times the global warming potential of CO2. So this theory has plausibility. I think it is reasonable to turn the colloquial “Skeptical Eye” of Skeptoid toward this claim and the science involved.The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – “Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules” would be dramatic and ground breaking. Like most extraordinary claims I require extraordinary evidence. Lets review the paper, the claims, it’s author, and the publisher.

The CFC paper (PDF) originated from University of Waterloo Ontario Canada. I am no chemist nor physicist, still on quick evaluation the math appears appropriate. In addition there does appear to be a correlation between CFC’s and global temperature. I quickly find glaring flaws even to a lay person. There does not appear to be any consideration for ocean based warming. The temperature figures are for land based temperatures only. Secondly he makes claims that the global temperatures have been cooling for the last decade. This is not supported by the temperature measurements from multiple lines of evidence. This makes me suspicious that there are more subtle but significant errors in the paper that I lack the expertise to find.

I also have concerns about the author, related to his expertise. He is a physicist not a climatologist. This is a red flag in science for pseudoscience. He is working outside his field. It is unlikely that a physicist can suddenly trump a generation of climatologists research. The Galileo gambit is another red flag for pseudoscience. People from outside a complex field of science suddenly coming up with a simplistic answer to complicated problem is likely bogus.

The publisher International Journal of Modern Physics B is not a peer reviewed climatology journal. Frankly another red flag. Getting your trauma surgery study published in Nature and not in The Journal of trauma and acute care surgery usually means that it has no real basis for surgical publication. Journals are like all publications, sensation sells, and publishing a controversial paper with good physics in it makes a lot of sense. That does not mean that there is any basis for guiding climate science.

For me the final “nail in the coffin” is that the author published a similar paper in 2010 with the same theory and it was roundly criticized then. “Cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced reactions of halogenated molecules adsorbed on ice surfaces: Implications for atmospheric ozone depletion and global climate change. Qing-Bin Lu.” In Physics Review.

So from a non-climatologist perspective. We have a physicist publishing a paper in a physics journal about climate change. Who ignores ocean temperatures, indicates that the planet is cooling when it is not, and bucks what 97% of experts in that field say.

In my opinion implausible and unlikely to pan out. That does not mean I think that CFC’s have no effect on climate. It is part of a global picture of climate change. AGW is multi-factoral. The science and the experts indicate that CO2 is still king. All other factors deforestation, CFC’s, methane, albedo changes, water vapor et al… All play a role but CO2 is still the major player.

It is a pleasant fantasy to think that the problem is already fixed and going away on its own. Unfortunately it is fantasy not science.

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