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Russell Blaylock, M.D.
...immunization can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. A further 16 million deaths a year could be prevented if effective vaccines were deployed against all potentially vaccine-preventable diseases.*
Russell Blaylock is a trained neurosurgeon who considers himself an expert on nutrition and toxins in food, cookware, teeth, and vaccines. Contrary to the vast bulk of the scientific evidence, Blaylock maintains that vaccines such as the H1N1 vaccine are dangerous or ineffective; that dental amalgams and fluoridated water are harmful to our health; and that aluminum cookware, aspartame, and MSG are toxic substances causing brain damage.1, 2, 3 Ironically, Blaylock perpetuates the myth that science-based medicine is not interested in prevention, despite the fact that immunization, which he opposes, prevents more disease and saves more lives than just about any other medical activity.
Blaylock has retired from neurosurgery and has taken up a career opposing science-based medicine and promoting pseudoscience-based medicine and supplements that he sells under the label Brain Repair Formula. He suggests that his supplements can treat and prevent such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. He asserts that his formula "will maximize your brain’s ability to heal and reduce inflammation." The rest of the scientific community seems oblivious to these claims, which are not based on large-scale clinical trials. Blaylock also sells hope to cancer patients by encouraging them to believe he has found the secret to prevention and cure.5
Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Blaylock maintains that vaccines cause Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement), Parkinson's, and autism.4 He puts forth these notions in books and for the politically conservative website Newsmax in a section called The Blaylock Wellness Report.* Despite the fact that the scientific evidence does not support his belief, Blaylock claims that giving children about two dozen vaccinations before they start school is dangerous. The experts at the Center for Disease Control disagree with Blaylock. According to the CDC:
The available scientific data show that simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system....
No evidence suggests that the recommended childhood vaccines can "overload" the immune system. In contrast, from the moment babies are born, they are exposed to numerous bacteria and viruses on a daily basis. Eating food introduces new bacteria into the body; numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose; and an infant places his or her hands or other objects in his or her mouth hundreds of times every hour, exposing the immune system to still more antigens. An upper respiratory viral infection exposes a child to 4 to 10 antigens, and a case of "strep throat" to 25 to 50.
Blaylock has claimed that the vaccine may be more dangerous than the swine flu because the vaccine contains squalene. On the one hand, no flu vaccine in the U.S. contains squalene, which is an adjuvant that allows the vaccine to be equally effective while using less of the antigen (thus, more vaccine can be made from less material). On the other hand, what if it did? There's no evidence squalene, a substance naturally produced in the body, is harmful. "Squalene is a natural and vital part of the synthesis of cholesterol, steroid hormones, and vitamin D in the human body."*
Dr. Harriet Hall writes:
Flu vaccines containing MF59, a squalene-based adjuvant, have been used in Europe for 10 years, with 22,000,000 doses given; and no serious adverse events have occurred, only mild local reactions. The vaccine does not raise the incidence or titers of anti-squalene antibodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it safe.*
Blaylock claims that squalene "in vaccines has been strongly linked to the Gulf War Syndrome," despite the fact that there was no squalene in vaccines given to Gulf War soldiers.
Blaylock also believes there is a conspiracy by Big Pharma, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. government to trick people into getting vaccinated:
It is obvious that the vaccine manufacturers stand to make billions of dollars in profits from this WHO/government-promoted pandemic.
Joseph Mercola makes a similar argument, but as Joseph Albietz notes: it's obvious that pharmaceutical firms, doctors, and hospitals would make many more billions if there were a pandemic than if they prevent one. (Mercola is a nonscience-based or nonsense-based medical advisor with a loud Internet presence.)
Besides his anti-vaccination rants, Dr. Blaylock has been active in promoting the unsupported notion that aspartame is a neurotoxin.
An extensive review of the research on aspartame was published in 2007 and concluded:
The data from the extensive investigations into the possibility of neurotoxic effects of aspartame, in general, do not support the hypothesis that aspartame in the human diet will affect nervous system function, learning or behavior. Epidemiological studies on aspartame include several case-control studies and one well-conducted prospective epidemiological study with a large cohort, in which the consumption of aspartame was measured. The studies provide no evidence to support an association between aspartame and cancer in any tissue. The weight of existing evidence is that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a nonnutritive sweetener.
Blaylock's claim about the dangers from mercury in dental amalgam is not supported by the preponderance of the scientific evidence.
The mercury scare took off in 1985 with the publication of It's All in Your Head by Hal Huggins (d. 2014), a Colorado dentist who was convinced that just about everything that ails anybody is due to the mercury in amalgam fillings. Huggins was known to his followers as the Elder Statesman of Holistic Dentistry. (Those calling their craft holistic, biological, or natural dentistry are a hodgepodge of dentists opposed to mercury amalgam, root canal treatments, fluoridation of water, and sometimes allying themselves with beliefs in chi and meridians [imaginary pathways of subtle energy] and promoting belief in something they call the Meridian Tooth Chart).
The television program "60 Minutes" gave the anti-amalgam movement a big boost with a segment in 1990 entitled "Poison in Your Mouth." The program was called Toxic Television by Dr. Stephen Barrett:
More than half a century ago, Orson Welles panicked his radio audience by reporting that Martians had invaded New Jersey. On December 23, 1990, CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" achieved a similar effect by announcing that toxins have invaded the American mouth. There was, however, a big difference. Welles' broadcast was intended to be entertaining. The "60 Minutes" broadcast, narrated by veteran reporter Morley Safer, was intended to alarm—to persuade its audience that the mercury in dental fillings is a poison. It was the most irresponsible report on a health topic ever broadcast on network television.
....the minuscule amount of mercury the body absorbs from amalgams is far below the level that exerts any adverse health effect. One study found that people with symptoms they related to amalgam fillings did not have significant mercury levels. The study compared ten symptomatic patients and eight patients with no reported health complaints. The symptom group had neither a higher estimated daily uptake of inhaled mercury vapor, nor a higher mercury concentration in blood and urine than in the control group. The amounts of mercury detected by the tests were trivial. Some studies have shown that the problems patients attribute to amalgam restorations are psychosomatic in nature and have been exacerbated greatly by information from the media or from a dentist.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says "there is scant evidence that the health of a vast majority of people with amalgam is compromised." The American Dental Association (ADA) claims that "there currently appears to be no justification for discontinuing the use of dental amalgam." Of course, the amalgam opponents think the ADA is part of a conspiracy to hide the real dangers of the alloy. The ADA position is not based on economics, but on science. According to my dentist, dentists in California are advised not to comply with a patient's request to have all his or her "mercury" fillings removed. Removing "mercury" fillings and using plastics to refill them would be a good way to make money, since there are many people who are convinced, as Blaylock is, that fillings are causing many health problems. Dentists are advised not to do the work because there is not sufficient scientific evidence to back up the fear that fillings are poisoning people. Furthermore, "patients might be exposing themselves to more mercury when a filling is removed. Some studies have shown a temporary spike of mercury levels in urine when amalgam fillings are removed. This increase lasts only a few days."*
The arguments of many opponents to mercury-based amalgams and preservatives in vaccines seem to commit the fallacy of composition: the notion that if part of a whole is toxic, then the whole must be toxic. Congresswoman Diane Waters, for example, sponsored H. R. 4163, the Mercury in Dental Filling Disclosure and Prohibition Act. She and some of her colleagues in Congress wanted to ban the amalgam used in many dental fillings because mercury, a known poison, is one of its components. (Amalgam is an alloy of silver, copper, tin, molybdenum, mercury, and perhaps a little zinc. Small traces of these elements may be floating freely in amalgam, but not enough to worry about.) Before the ban would take effect she wanted all amalgam to come with this warning label: "Dental amalgam contains approximately 50 percent mercury, a highly toxic element. Such products should not be administered to children less than 18 years of age, pregnant women or lactating women. Such products should not be administered to any consumer without a warning that the product contains mercury, which is a highly toxic element, and therefore poses health risks." Watson might as well have supported legislation that would ban both table salt (since it consists chlorine, a poisonous gas) and water (since it is consists of hydrogen, a highly flammable gas, and oxygen, known to be essential to combustion). Where is the science to back up Watson's concerns? Totally lacking, according to Leon Jaroff who took Watson to task in Time.
Blaylock's belief that thimerosal [a preservative using ethylmercury] in vaccines causes autism, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's is also misguided and without support of the preponderance of the evidence.
Blaylock makes too many claims to refute them all in this short article, but one more should be noted. He claims that "vaccines, such as those for diphtheria and whooping cough [pertussis], show high failure rates." Other experts disagree:
The DTaP vaccine is 95% effective in preventing all three diseases that it immunizes against--diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. It is 59-89% effective in preventing pertussis, while the protection rates for diphtheria and tetanus are higher. Pertussis occasionally occurs in children who have received the pertussis immunization, but it is less severe and has fewer complications.
Furthermore, many youngsters are getting whooping cough (even dying from it) because parents are not immunizing their children. In Japan, when the vaccination rate for pertussis dropped 70% from 1974 to 1976, there was a corresponding increase in pertussis. In 1974 there were 393 cases of pertussis and no deaths. In 1976, there were more than 13,000 cases and 41 deaths.*
Blaylock is not without his supporters. Media celebrity and anti-vaxxer Bill Maher, for example, says he finds Blaylock "extremely credible." This may be because Blaylock confirms Maher's biases regarding nutrition and health (most of us are unhealthy because of our poor dietary habits), as well as his belief that vaccines are useless or harmful. Another supporter of both Blaylock and Mercola is Karen De Coster, CPA, who thinks she's "resisting tyranny one word at a time."
Blaylock also has his opponents. Joe Schwarcz of the Montreal Gazette considers Blaylock to be a man whose mind is filled with conspiracy theories.
He [Blaylock] opines that the social drug problem in the United States was created by the nefarious former Soviet Union "to weaken the resistance of Western society to Soviet invasion, undermine religion and make the youth unable to resist collectivism." And, oh yes, the Soviets were also responsible for an epidemic of hepatitis, AIDS, venereal diseases and highly resistant tuberculosis.
According to Blaylock, current attempts at health-care reform in the U.S. are being masterminded by the self-chosen "elite" (read President Barack Obama, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and other such organizations) who want to establish a New World Order in which people judged to be a burden on the state, such as the infirm elderly and the disabled, are to be removed from society by positive or negative euthanasia. In Blaylock's esteemed opinion, "this is really not that far away from the German National Socialist Party's thinking." In other words, Obama's health-care reforms have Nazi overtones, with plans to reduce the population of elderly, who are bankrupting the social security system.
"Knowing they cannot easily pass a euthanasia law or just have them rounded up and exterminated, they (the proponents of socialized medicine) use the medical-care system to speed them along to their deaths." Totalitarianism is coming and, "as the economy worsens, which they can engineer with their Federal Reserve friends, people will be more accepting of such things as euthanasia on the elderly and terminally ill, the insane, the feeble-minded and the chronically ill." Vaccines are also one of Blaylock's many targets. He insinuates that the H1N1 virus may be the product of some pharmaceutical research project gone awry, or that it may even be a man-made virus purposely released by someone with the "Illuminati Depopulation Agenda." Blaylock appears regularly on right-wing radio programs such as the Alex Jones Show, where the popular topics are climate-change fraud and the supposed erosion of civil liberties under Obama.
This exemplary physician has also released a document about what people should do if they are vaccinated by force, a ridiculous notion.
To counter the dangerous effect of the vaccine, Blaylock suggests immediately placing a cold pack on the site of injection, taking cold showers, and ingesting a host of dietary supplements, ranging from fish oils and vitamins to astaxanthin and zinc.
More difficult is finding an effective counter to the authoritative-sounding alternative medical advice of this doctor gone Jeremiah. He may think we're doomed if we don't follow his advice, but the evidence seems to point in the other direction. We're doomed if we listen to his cynical views of science-based medicine and promotion of pseudoscience-based medicine. A better source of unbiased, accurate information on such things as vaccines is the website Science-Based Medicine.
See also Antivaxxer Plague, Andrew Wakefield, the anti-vaccination movement, detoxification therapies, flu vaccine, Barbara Loe Fisher, Jay Gordon, Joseph Mercola, natural cancer cures, supplements, and Defending Falsehoods.
Wallace, Amy. (2009). An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All, Wired. To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ‘em and stab ‘em.” Recently, Carrey and his consort, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”
Journalists sink in The Atlantic article on vaccines blog by revere (the article in question is "Does the Vaccine Matter?" by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer, November 2009)
Aspartame Safety and Internet Urban Legends by Dr. Steven Novella
The Mercury Amalgam Scam: How Anti-Amalgamists Swindle People Stephen Barrett, M.D.
"Holistic Dentistry": A Brief Overview Stephen Barrett, M.D. William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.
Experts dispel detox myths: "One group gave up processed food, soft drinks, alcohol, salt, sugar, caffeine, wheat, red meat and dairy, and the others followed their normal diet. After seven days, toxicologists found no difference in their liver and kidney functions or vitamin levels."
An Open Letter to Bill Maher on Vaccinations by Michael Shermer Shermer lectures Maher on germ theory
Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having by Bill Maher Maher responds that he read Microbe Hunters when he was eight
Some Muddled Thinking from Bill Maher by Stephen Novella Novella deconstructs Maher's "rambling defensive diatribe in which he simultaneously protests the criticism pointed his way while repeating and amplifying the pseudoscientific nonsense that garnered criticism in the first place....the criticism will continue – not to shut him up, but to do damage control. Maher is contributing to the public misunderstanding of science in perhaps the most important area – medicine."