The newest cause for the LeRoy neurological issues

I’ve published a few posts over the past month about a group of teenagers and one adult who are experiencing some neurological symptoms in LeRoy, NY, a small town outside of Rochester, NY.  Those symptoms seem to mimic Tourette Syndrome (TS), a neuropsychiatric disorder that is characterized by multiple physical or motor tics plus at least one vocal tic.  It is probably inherited, although a gene for it has not been identified.  Since most of the teenagers who exhibit the symptoms attend LeRoy High School, the New York State Department of Health has carefully examined the school for any environmental issues, and have found none.  Erin Brokovich, of the eponymous movie, has gotten involved and has postulated that a train wreck over 40 years ago spilled toxic chemicals, such as arsenic and trichloroethylene, which may be the cause. Continue reading “The newest cause for the LeRoy neurological issues”

20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered–Updated

This post is an update of my previous discussion about breaching this lake.

After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists are about to break through 4km of Antarctic ice to reach 20 million year old Lake Vostok.  Who knows what they’ll find there, but I just hope they don’t contaminate this valuable and pristine ecosystem (if anything is alive down there).  And they don’t bring back something right out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel.

From a scientific standpoint, this could be fascinating.  The water will tell us a lot about the earth’s climate 20 million years ago.  It might have life forms that are either living fossils (that is, organisms once thought extinct, but have been found).  Or it might be boring and give us nothing but water.  In science, a negative result is still a result. Continue reading “20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered–Updated”

20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered

After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists are about to break through 4km of Antarctic ice to reach 20 million year old Lake Vostok.  Who knows what they’ll find there, but I just hope they don’t contaminate this valuable and pristine ecosystem (if anything is alive down there).  And they don’t bring back something right out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel. Continue reading “20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered”

Erin Brockovich to probe New York ‘mass hysteria’ case

Erin Brockovich to probe New York ‘mass hysteria’ case – latimes.com.

Erin Brockovich is really getting involved with the cluster of alleged neurological issues in teenagers in the Leroy, NY area.  The article describes the symptoms as “Tourette’s-like”, but I’m troubled by the lack of a definitive description (let alone diagnosis).  Brockovich, as discussed previously, is still focused on the 1970’s train derailment which spilled arsenic and tricholorethylene.  The speculation about what is causing these issues run from mass hysteria, even outright feigned behavior, to something environmental, such as vaccines or chemicals.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on.  I am almost certain that during the next few days or weeks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will get involved, interviewing and testing the students, and trying to determine if there is some correlation and possible causal factor.  We probably should wait until the real scientists get involved and provide some real analysis with evidence.

Activist Erin Brockovich looking into teens’ mystery ailment

Activist Erin Brockovich looking into teens’ mystery ailment – USATODAY.com

I keep running into this story in various locations on the internet. During the past few months, 15 teenagers, mostly students at LeRoy (NY) High School just outside of Rochester, NY, reported neurological symptoms that resemble Tourette’s Syndrome.

Erin Brockovich, namesake of the Julia Robert’s movie, is investigating whether a train wreck in 1970 that spilled 35,000 gallons of cyanide and trichloroeythylene (TCE) near the high school caused or partially caused the symptoms.  Then we have anti-vaccination blogs that blames it on the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, of course, without one tiny little bit of evidence.

The school district has reported that there are no known environmental issues in the air and water.  Given very strict privacy laws, we don’t know if there’s some other medical link (like HPV vaccine).  Of course, if HPV vaccine or some other pharmaceutical were involved, it would be very curious that only a small, rural, upstate New York town would be involved.

TCE is a well known contaminant of groundwater all over the world.  There is some evidence that TCE may be involved with Parkinson’s Disease, though the effects usually take many years.

Right now, there is no evidence that points in any direction.  If you hear that it’s vaccines, you may as well blame alien abduction, because there’s no evidence for that either.  Everything is just speculation.

MRSA in pork products: does the “antibiotic-free” label make a difference? : Aetiology

MRSA in pork products: does the “antibiotic-free” label make a difference? : Aetiology.

It’s interesting how science seems to be slowly debunking the healthiness (whatever that might mean) of natural, organic, hormone-free, or, in this case, antibiotic free foods.

Actually, the author does not make any comment on the possible “healthiness” of antibiotic-free pork, only that you probably cannot assume that you your pork is “cleaner” than other pork products.

BBC News – La Nina ‘linked’ to flu pandemics

BBC News – La Nina ‘linked’ to flu pandemics.

An interesting article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences correlates the La Niña conditions in the equatorial area of the Pacific with flu pandemics.  The authors propose that the La Niña conditions (which upwell colder water to the surface, changes migration patterns of migratory birds.  Since birds are one host for the influenza virus, these changed migration patterns may change how the birds interact with other species moving new influenza subtypes into different parts of the world.

We are, however, a long way from predicting a pandemic based upon a La Niña event.  Right now, the authors can only correlate pandemics and the Pacific circulation patterns in just four cases:  the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, The Hong Kong Flu of 1958, and the Swine Flu of 2009.  It’s hard to make a case for causality based on these four data points, but the authors do lay out a compelling argument.

Whenever I critique a correlation vs. causation argument, I first determine if the causality is even possible.   I often make the argument that MMR vaccinations cause broken arms in 12-16 year old girls, because a small, but significant proportion of kids being vaccinated get broken arms (or car wrecks, gastroenteritis, an itchy nose, and angry comments to their parents).  However, there is no physiological, biological, or scientific reason why a broken arm might result from a vaccination.

In this article, the authors do make a scientifically plausible case that avian migration patterns do change in La Niña events, so they are on the path to providing outstanding evidence to support this hypothesis.