How the science was “settled” throughout history

By: Greg Staley

Written on: 2021-08-04

We are told that the Covid vaccines are safe despite the tens of thousands of reports of adverse events and deaths. If you refuse to subject yourself to this experimental vaccine in which the long-term health consequences are unknown, (under interim approval) you will be labelled a heartless, moronic anti-vaxxer by the pro-lockdown social media mobs. The “science is settled” has always been a statement that has made me uneasy. A look throughout history will tell you exactly why this type of rhetoric isn’t only dangerous – it’s irresponsible and unscientific.

The science is settled – Tobacco

The tobacco industry was confronted with compelling peer-reviewed scientific evidence of the harms of smoking beginning in the 1950s but the industry’s use of “sophisticated public relations approaches to undermine and distort the emerging science” was very effective in delaying the link between tobacco use and lung cancer from becoming public knowledge. One of these public relations approaches was to have physicians advertise their favourite brand of cigarette.

The tobacco industry went on a full onslaught of muddying up the science by putting out industry-funded studies that would “cast doubt on the smoking–cancer connection.” The industry also collected statements from scientists who had expressed skepticism about the research that indicted the tobacco industry to be put to use in condemning the science that was coming out against big tobacco.

The tobacco industry understood that in light of the mountains of evidence that were coming out that showed a link between tobacco use and lung cancer and other health issues they would need to cast doubt on these findings to sustain the massive amount of wealth they had created for themselves. So they began the work of eroding, confusing and condemning the very science that was threatening their industry. The industry found that by creating scientific uncertainty that it “permitted the companies to attribute the very risks imposed by their product to individuals rather than to the companies themselves.” Now the labilities for smoking rested with the individual who now “agreed” to assume all risks that “might” be associated with the product.

It wasn’t until 1994 that the Canadian government implemented the tobacco warnings that we now see placed on cigarette packaging. To put this in perspective, the harms of smoking were known back in the ’50s but the warning system that would tell the public of these health concerns wouldn’t be put into place until decades later.

The science is settled – Asbestos

It was once a commonly used construction material due to its flame-resistant properties. It found use in the manufacturing of brake shoes for cars, adhesives, garden supplies and even crayons. The first cases of asbestos-related illnesses were recorded in 1924 in the British Medical Journal. By the mid-1950s scientist had determined that there was a strong link between asbestos and lung cancer. However, it would take until 1989 for the U.S environmental agency to ban the use of asbestos in new materials. In other words, it was acknowledged in 1924 that asbestos was linked to fibrosis but a “strong link” to cancer wouldn’t be made for another 25 plus years. It would take another 30 plus years before the U.S EPA would acknowledge the harms of asbestos. In the meantime, it was used frequently in manufacturing. If we had trusted that the science was “settled” we would’ve never discovered the link to cancer and other illnesses related to the use of asbestos.

Asbestos – the magic mineral

The science is settled – DDT

“No flies on me – thanks to DDT.” This was a popular slogan that promoted the insecticide. Back when DDT was commonly used in the United States as an insecticide, trucks used to drive through neighbourhoods dousing the kids in clouds of DDT. Parents would even encourage their children to go out and play in the clouds of the insecticide! One government advertisement from the U.S from 1947 even shows one man eating some food that had just been sprayed with DDT to show that it was so safe you could even eat it!

The use of DDT was outlawed in the United States in 1972 – although some countries like India still use it to combat malaria. The insecticides effects on human health at low environmental doses are unknown. What is known is that in cases of high dose exposure to the insecticide can lead to vomiting, tremors, shakiness and seizures. According to the CDC, studies in laboratory animal studies have shown effects on the liver and reproduction. DDT is also considered a possible human carcinogen. Just think, our government promoted the spraying of an insecticide that has shown to affect the liver and reproduction of animals and that may also possibly be a human carcinogen! Good thing the science wasn’t settled!

The science is settled – lead arsenic pesticide use

Lead arsenate wasn’t introduced in the United States until the 1890s wheN it was used to fight off a foreign intruder – the gypsy moth. Author Forrest Maready is an author whose research tracked the outbreaks of what we know today as polio in lockstep alongside the use of lead arsenate on crops and foliage to stop the invasion of the gypsy moth.

Forrest Maready describes the biggest takeaway from his book The moth and iron lung in an interview below:

“There are several enteroviruses that are innocuous self-limiting infections that have been with humanity for thousands of years and for some reason in the late 1800s all of these enteroviruses gained the ability to paralyze. Poliovirus just happens to be one of them. Poliovirus is the one they focused on but people need to understand any time you hear aunt Martha had polio when she was 4 years old – if this was in the 1950s they didn’t know what paralyzed her. It could’ve been one of several different enteroviruses and so to summarize, all enteroviruses that are capable of paralysis in certain situations began doing this in the late 1800s alongside the introduction of a specific pesticide called lead arsenic. And this pesticide was introduced in northeastern United States to combat an invasive species of moth called the gypsy moth. You can in fact trace the spread of the initial epidemic forms of polio and when I say polio I’m talking about paralysis from any of these enteroviruses because that’s actually what it used to refer to – you can trace the spread of epidemic polio along the lines of that gypsy moth. As they tried to combat the spread of the gypsy moth you can follow the spread of epidemic polio in lockstep.”

In addition to Mr. Maready’s findings, there are “many published studies that have documented the adverse effects of lead in children and the adult population.” In children, issues of lower intelligence, delayed or impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased hearing acuity, speech and language handicaps, growth retardation, poor attention span and anti-social diligent behaviours were documented. In adults, decreased sperm count was seen in men and spontaneous abortions were seen in women who had been associated with high lead exposure. Acute exposure to lead has been linked to brain damage, kidney damage, gastrointestinal issues and chronic exposure (Like continuous spraying in residential areas and on crops) may cause adverse effects on the blood, central nervous system (Polio link), blood pressure and the kidneys.

What’s worse is that the link was out in the open for those willing to acknowledge it. By the 1920s U.S fruit growers were caking lead arsenate onto their crops in such high amounts that they were starting to poison their customers. In 1919, the Boston Health department destroyed arsenic-contaminated apples because people were making their customers ill. The following year they had to do it all over again. California health officials were alarmed because they discovered that arsenic residues tended to stick to fruit and this meant that the poison was hard to remove.

The science is settled – mercury teething powders

It was a story that terrified mothers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Their baby’s hands and feet had become icy, swollen and red. The flesh was splitting off similar to a tomato whose skin had been peeled back from the fruit. The child had lost weight, was crying non-stop and was clawing at themselves from the intense itching – tearing the raw skin open. Later on, this condition would come to be known as acrodynia or “painful tips” – named after the sufferers aching hands and feet.

By 1921 this condition became known as Pink’s Disease. As has been typical throughout humanities scientific past, scientists struggled to pin the cause of the disease. Everything from arsenic, ergot, allergies and viruses were blamed. By the 1950s the problem was known and the vast majority of cases pointed to one common ingredient that was being ingested by the sick children – calomel.

Calomel was an ingredient that was popular in the teething powders of the day. Calomel is a mercury chloride mineral. Parents hoping to ease the teething pain of their beloved child would rub one of the many available calomel containing teething powders of the day into their babies’ sore gums. Dr. Moffett’s Teethina Powder was very popular at the time and boasted that it Strengthens the Child and relieved bowel troubles for any age. The mercury used in teething powders wasn’t banned until 1948.

Mercury was even used in teething powder until 1948, when it was banned for making children sick.

The science is settled – Thalidomide

Thalidomide came into the Canadian market in late 1959, first as samples before being officially authorized in 1961. The drug, which was prescribed to help pregnant women with nausea would later be linked to severe birth defects. The American pharmaceutical company Richardson-Merrell was the first to distribute the drug in Canada under the name Kevadon. Due to the lax laws that Canada had at the time, the company was able to hand out thalidomide samples to physicians without any authorization or verification from the Canadian authorities. As free samples were being handed out in Canada the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused to approve thalidomide because of the lack of sufficient research.

The irony is that it was the work of Canadian doctor, Dr. Frances Kelsey who was working as a pharmacist for the FDA that prevented the drug from being marketed in the US. Dr. Kelsey had been made aware that there were risks of peripheral neuropathy associated with the drug and had asked pharma company Richardson-Merrell to demonstrate to the FDA that the drug was safe for pregnant women – evidence the company never provided. Fortunately, only samples were distributed in the US but this was unfortunately not the case in Canada due to poor decision-making by the government of Canada.

The government of Canada failed to protect the Canadian people. Despite the government of Canada’s obligation to ensure public safety when authorizing new drugs, the Government of Canada at that time authorized the marketing of thalidomide based on the same information that the American authorities had not found sufficient. The information that had been provided by Richardson-Merrell was from a German firm that had invented the drug. No independent researchers had ever studied the use of Thalidomide.

On April 1st, 1961 the use of the drug Kevadon was authorized by the Canadian government when given as a prescription. On December 2nd, 1961, the drug was taken off of the German and British markets after several doctors had brought up concerns as it appeared more and more plausible that the drug when taken by pregnant women was responsible for severe birth defects. The Canadian government was made aware but didn’t act to take the drug off the market until March 2nd, 1962. Estimates of the number of birth defects caused by the drug in Canada range from 100-400.

History doesn’t repeat but it echoes. I believe that rushing through this vaccine and calling it “safe” while coercing the masses to take it when the vast majority aren’t at risk from Covid-19 smacks of authoritarianism disguised as health. If history is a teacher – Canadians have been tremendously terrible students. Lots of things were “safe and effective” until they weren’t.

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Published by Greg Staley

Greg Staley is a husband, and a father to 3 beautiful girls. He is a concerned citizen who is closely watching his government's actions through critical thinking, and assessment of all qualified and relevant data. He believes in going to the Primary sources of data at all times if possible.