Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pure Water Fetishists

(It's probably a bit risky having a blog post with the words 'water' and 'fetishists' in the title, but site stats will be huge, eclipsed only by the disappointment of the surfers.)

What is it with Complementary & Alternative Medicine communities and their crazed fixation on only ever coming into to contact with absolutely, scrupulously and perfectly pure water? And why does no-one ever point out that the minute they pour it into a glass, kettle or pot of dried lentils, all the effort to purify it has gone out the window?

The company I'd like to introduce you to is PureH20. Alas, the interweb has ensured that '2' rarely gets to be subscript.

The website has a myriad of bullshit, fear-mongering, pseudoscience and amazing state-the-bleedin-obvious facts like
Water is absolutely vital for health
I would honestly like to know if there is anyone to whom that comes as a revelation. And I mean anyone in the whole world.
Did you know that
most of us have lost our proper thirst reflex by the end of our childhood?

or that
Bottled and tap waters contain many impurities like heavy metals and inorganic minerals that are likely to have an adverse effect on your health
So no shortage of bullshit to keep you entertained. Their purification system is definately a first in chemical synthesis though:
Water filtered using our patented system removes all the chemicals and impurities, both organics and inorganics, to provide you with one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms
(my bold)

Oh. I assumed they were selling water rather than HO2, who'd have thunk? As if all the sillyness wasn't enough we get:
The fifth function [of water] - that of an electronegative enhancer (something which increases the negativity of red blood cells thereby maintaining the optimum distance between each cell and could therefore reduce the risk of clotting) - was first documented by renowned chemist Thomas Riddick over 100 years ago. Subsequent studies confirm that when water was consumed in its purest form, i.e. Pure H2O, it has remarkable and unique health benefits.

Needless to say there's no pointer to the studies (and I reckon no point in discussing further).

We all know there are dangers with drinking too much water - Nutritional Therapist Barbara Nash settled out of court with the family of Dawn Page who had suffered brain damage following Nash's "Amazing Hydration Diet". (Of course the media ran this story, seemingly blissfully unaware of how their own repeated pumping of uncritical fawning towards similar 'miracle cures' had in some part lead to the situation arising). Nash was an Alumnus of the College of Natural Nutrition - avid TiD readers will remember Nash's teacher, Barbara Wren happily telling people that a urine press placed on the neck will combat thyoid cancer. She also had plenty to say about her own fetish for pure water.

So how can a company like PureH20 (or is it HO2?) manage to write such drivel without a challenge? Well, some rebuff came today in the form of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling from a magazine advert.

Here are a few of the claims which were 'questioned':
Clinically proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure...Help prevent cancer by acting as an antioxidant...reduce stress levels...Reduce your body pollutants and can help reduce urinary infections ... Help prevent, ulcers, IBS and constipation

Now of course, not *all* water does this, that would be silly, only PureH2O's special water does this. (Although it's not the first time the ASA slapped down a company for claiming water could lower cholesterol)

So, let me just reiterate what they saying: Water - good against cancer, cholesterol, blood pressure, stress, and others. I'll put it to you there isn't a person with any of these problems who *isn't* taking water. And if they aren't, their disease profile is irrelevant, as they'll die of thirst.

What about if I want to drink mineral water - have you any advice or fear for me?
Water can be bad for you ... Every time you drink mineral water, a high level of minerals, such as calcium, are deposited in your body. Every time you drink a glass of tap water, you're digesting contaminants such as salts, minerals, metals, pesticides, microbes, hormones and parasites ... Your body becomes toxically overloaded ... Over time, this build up can contribute to chronic kidney disease, heart failure or skeletal fluorosis...a toxic cocktail

Toxic cocktail, eh? Mineral water? They're really spreading the stupid on thick.

The Pure H2O Co. said the claims were supported by a thesis on Pure H2O for the British Institute of Homeopathy and Westbrook University, USA, carried out as a PhD by Dr Purkait from the University of Surrey. I suppose if anyone knows about pure uncontaminated water, a homeopath would. Sensibly, the ASA noted:
[the claims were] from a manufacturer of a water purification system whose promotional literature also appeared in the thesis, and considered it was therefore not sufficiently impartial
Cheap hucksterism and nothing more.

As usual the ASA has done a sterling job of smacking down the quacks. As always, my irk is that they have no power and little influence but to continue playing whack-a-mole (whack-a-quack?) with the snakeoil sellers. Not quite selling snow to eskimos, but water to idiots.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Artrosilium / Intramed / Windsor duff products laugh at the ASA once more.


It was almost an inevitability.

Unproven medicine seller Intramed Ltd (sometimes registered in Switzerland, sometimes in Guernsey sometimes Colchester, UK) has, yet again, been pulled up by the Advertising Standards Authority for making silly claims about its untested, proof-free, 'natural' arthritis reliever and indeed reverser.

Artrosilium-associated quackery has been one of the biggest draws to this site from Google, so there is no shortage of people looking for it - I've blogged it a few times before.

Of course, if you're selling evidence-free quack medicines, there is no need to limit it to one ailment - the most recent piece of marketing nonsense to come from Intramed insisted that Artrosilium was also taken for:
Pains, inflammations, skin problems, burns, sunburns, sinus, nasal congestion, prostate, rashes, canker sores, restore your nails' youthful appearance and to stop hair loss.


Once again (and for the 5th time in 12 months) Intramed were slapped by the ASA. Intramed said they wouldn't do it again, honest guv.

Seeing as I'm in the mood for writing complaining letters, (and given the ASA can't actually *do* anything about Intramed) I've decided to complain to the Guernsey Authorities and see what happens - possibly not much, but there's something in my head saying that this is not 'right' - a company should not be allowed to continually flout the advertising guidelines regarding a 'medicinal' product, with the sole purpose of giving lots of arthrites false hope and making lots of money at their expense.

I'll keep you posted, but I'll wager ten shiny new pence that this won't be the last time the ASA and Intramed will discuss their adverts in 2009.

UPDATE: They lasted 2 days before yet another ASA ruling against them. Now someone owes me 10p.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Is there a proper media lawyer in the house? Your country needs YOU

Writing on the hoof here, basic story - Jeni Barnett broadcast an unremittingly awful live phone-in show on LBC in which every piece of nonsensical and oft-refuted anti-MMR drivel got an airing.

Ben Goldacre at Bad Science posted the clip, claiming it to be:
"the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves"

LBC lawyers have contacted him and are threatening legal action - in the same old way that Complementary and Alternative Quacks do whenever someone demonstrates their batshit insanity. They have form.

If anyone can help as a media lawyer, please offer your services via Bad Science Blog.

Lots of other people are helping promote this story:
Dr Crippen
Frank @ SciencePunk
Political Scientist
The Lay Scientist (where you can still get a copy of the program)
Jason Brown (texture like sun)

Did I mention that the newspapers are running a story about measles cases rising 38% in 2008?

There is the probability of an increased bodycount because of media stupidity like this.

EDIT: You can listen to the whole show on Wikileaks - be warned, this will raise your blood pressure and make you as angry as hell when you think of the kids getting measles (with all its associated risks) for no good reason. Gahh.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I wish to register a complaint....

...about the new Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, or Ofquack, as it is becoming known, first coined by The Quackometer many moons ago.


From the fat fingers of Dr* T
Thinking is Dangerous Cottage
Skeptic's Lane
New Reason
3rd February 2009

Dear Mr Ben Bradshaw MP,

I am writing to you to communicate my concern over the newly-formed Complementary and Natural Healthcare council (CNHC), which you recently oversaw the opening of, in your role as Health Minister.

The CNHC gives its key purpose as the following:
CNHC key purpose is to protect the public by means of regulating practitioners on a voluntary register for complementary and natural healthcare practitioners.

I would very much like you to explain how the CNHC can provide any protection when it has no input or interest as to the efficacy or otherwise of these treatments. Given the wealth of information available in the form of research on these treatments, it is fair to say that the majority of them have no effect more than a placebo or similar administered sham treatment. However, some of these treatments have active ingredients which can enhance or detract from real medicine being taken by the patient. How can the CNHC provide protection without knowledge of efficacy?

On a slightly grander scale, the legitimising of these treatments tacitly disregards the wealth of scientific information available which demonstrably shows their inefficacy in the main. It also gives a governmental rubber stamp to purveyors of anti-scientific hand-waving, which I believe is disempowering to people trying to elucidate real effective treatments from invented theatre. It is comparable to ensuring a CORGI-registered tradesmen is of good character, but having no evidence as to his ability to fix a gas boiler.

The CNHC claims to be a regulatory body, stating on its FAQ:
The CNHC is a regulatory body, whose main function is public protection by setting standards for safe practice.

Why then is it acting as a lobbying group to further and promote the businesses associated with these treatments?

I note from the Minutes of a meeting of the Federal Regulatory Board of the CNHC held on Thursday 20 November 2008 at 10.30 at the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, that Jenny Gordon suggested the possible use of patients with ‘good news’ regarding complementary therapies on in a PR role.

I find this suggestion appalling. It is a huckster PR trick that some pharmaceutical companies have in the past used, which I find despicable. Trying to infiltrate forums where people are writing their genuine experiences with the posts of those with a financial interest at the behest of a Government-funded organisation is a notion I find disturbing. I would be interested in your view on this matter - regulatory groups should not be promoting business interests, are we to see the Financial Services Authority lobbying on behalf of beleagured Royal Bank of Scotland?

The CNHC claims its mission is to provide a:
uniquely positive, safe and effective experience

"Uniquely" suggests that other (i.e experimentally proven and useful) treatments are not positive, safe or effective. Incredibly, the CNHC is on a mission to provide 'effective' experiences without even commenting on the efficacy! Surely you agree with me that this is an embarrassing situation to be in?

I understand there may be a need to distinguish between unscrupulous and well-meaning practitioners in the alternative therapy field - if people want to pay for these evidence-free therapies they should be able to do so, but I as a taxpayer do not want to pay for a Council which will promote complementary and alternative treatments as being positive, safe and effective, without requiring any evidence that they are positive, safe, or effective!

I look forward to hearing your response.

Many thanks,

Dr* T


Hat tips to Allo v Psycho and MOJO on the BadScience forum for some of the, er, wording of the above :)