Autism, BPA, and librarians, oh my!
August 8, 2008, 10:32 am
Filed under: Current Events, Library | Tags: , , , , ,

I am going to be a librarian.

Many people have asked me, upon hearing my plans, “What? Why would you do that? We don’t need librarians any more. We have Google!”

I then promptly pull out my eyebrows and fling them at the offender.

Yes, we live in the information age. Any damn fool can get onto the internet, and a wealth of information is available at their fingertips. Who needs librarians to open the door for you? You can walk in yourself now!

There is an inherent problem with this. Just like you can’t believe everything you see on TV, you can’t believe everything you read online. If you’re a brand-new inductee to the Internet, you might not realize that. If you have an agenda or a prejudice about a given topic, you might put on blinders. There is a lot of trash on the Internets (LIKE THIS BLOG, FOR INSTANCE! See? Solid proof).

When information can spread like wildfire across the Internet, misinformation is common. You can tell people to only use .org, .edu, or .gov for trustworthy resources, but often, they only hear what they want to hear. Many people never hear the message about .org, .edu, and .gov. I wish I could walk around with a sign on my forehead that says, “.ORG, .EDU, .GOV, OR DIE!” But then everyone would know that I’m a nutjob.

Case in point: Autism and vaccines. Countless studies have been performed over the years that show that there is no discernible link between childhood vaccinations and autism. Autism appears at the same time that vaccinations are given. So does potty training. Do cotton underpants cause autism? Doubtful. Correlation does not equal causation. Or, just because two things are related does not mean that one causes the other.

For instance, violent crime increases in the summer. So do ice cream sales. Does ice cream cause crime? No. Heat inspires people to eat ice cream, and it also can flare tempers that can result in violent crime.

Do vaccines cause autism? No. They simply happen to occur at the same time. Even when thimerosal, the preservative that was blamed was removed from all vaccines, the rate of autism diagnosis continued to rise. In fact, the rate of autism is the same for children who are vaccinated and children who are not. Where is the evidence that vaccines cause autism?

However, websites abound that claim this. There have been hearings in Congress about this. There are organizations and groups that are still spreading this information, and they look real. They are lying to you. If this misinformation were to catch hold, no children would be vaccinated. Suddenly, we would have measles, mumps, chicken pox, rubella, meningitis, HPV and hepatitis running rampant. How is that a good thing? Of course autism is an awful diagnosis. But children dying of preventable diseases in droves is worse.

Case in point: BPA! What is BPA? Bisphenol-A. It is a polymer found in plastics stamped ‘7’. It is extremely common. It has been found that rats who are given high doses of BPA are at an elevated risk of developing cancer. The amount that they consume is generally around 10x the amount that humans are exposed to.

So, our illustrious Congress make a fuss about it, and every plastic and polymer maker (including the polymer maker that Bear for whom Bear does polymer research) is scrambling to pull BPA out of its products, and find a replacement.

Why? Because an extremely large quantity of something caused potential harm to rats? The dose is the poison. Water is large quantities can kill you. Remember the woman who died after drinking a lot of water to win a Wii for her kids? Too much food can kill you- look at all the obese people who are slowly dying of diabetes, heart disease, and related problems. Should we ban food and water? Bear needs to take insulin every day in order to live. Should he give himself a whole bottle of insulin, just in case? No, he would definitely die then. He needs a very precise amount.

The amount of BPA that leeches from baby bottles in dishwashers is a miniscule fraction of the amount given to the rats. Millions, perhaps billions, of children (INCLUDING ALL OF US GROWNUPS WHO ARE HERE AND HEALTHY) were fed using BPA bottles. Where is the evidence that the small amount we may consume is harmful?

This hysteria is unnecessary. So is the hysteria over vaccines and autism. Scientific research has shown over and over that these things are not a problem. The risk of danger from banning vaccines is far greater than the risk of danger from banning BPA, but they are still evidence of a greater problem: misinformation on the Internet. This hysteria wouldn’t reach this point if we didn’t have the Internet. We shouldn’t ban the Internet: what would I do at work? However, librarians are trained information seekers. The purpose, the raison d’etre, of librarianship is to enable the user to access information that is reliable and authoritative. The Internet does not do that. Google does not do that. It simply opens the door.

So, don’t tell me that librarians aren’t necessary. Somebody has to help you figure out why it’s ok to vaccinate your kids and let them touch BPA plastic. We’re good for your blood pressure!

So, here: if you don’t believe me, check out these RELIABLE, AUTHORITATIVE sources:

Unfortunately, I found a .org website that sits on the fence about vaccines and autism. I will not link to it, because I refuse to spread the misinformation. Officially, they do not come out and say that autism and vaccines are linked, but if you touch them with a feather, they will fall off the fence on that side. They also provide no evidence, no links, and no authority. Always trust a site that links to its sources, or provides appropriate citations. Never trust a site that merely presents its point of view with no evidence to back it up.

There are more where that came from, but both of those cover all the necessary info.


1 Comment so far
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the internet is a wonderful playground where smart people get smarter and stupid people revel in their own filth.

Comment by Math Major

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