State House Representative and member of the Science & Technology committee, Paulette Braddock, has been busy on Facebook over the past few months spreading dangerous conspiracy theories and pseudoscience about the safety of vaccines, antibiotics, antidepressant medication and advocating for the use of various compounds as cures for everything from cancer to arthritis without any evidence.
The first whiff I got of this was when she posted a picture about an aberrant Italian court ruling that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism in children. There is no evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism in children. The entire court ruling was based on a single study that has now been proven to have used forged data. The author of the study has been found guilty of professional misconduct and the paper has been retracted.
This kind of pseudoscience has led to a recent uptick in measles cases as well as other diseases such as whooping cough, which has seen a much more dramatic rise in cases in recent years as people have increasingly stopped vaccinating their children. This is having a very real and very sad effect that more children are contracting these cases, and there have been increased incidences of death and major illness from these diseases. Vaccines are not only important for protecting the vaccinated, it’s also important for protecting those who are unable to receive vaccines, such as those with compromised immune systems. Vaccines prevent sickness in almost all cases, and in cases where the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, it reduces symptoms and contagion of those who are infected. This is the idea behind herd immunity, which substantially reduces the ability of a disease to spread within a population group since the number of viable hosts is dramatically reduced and the contagion of those affected is nearly eliminated.
Rep. Braddock went on to post this image about the “health benefits of oil pulling” and noted how effective it was at helping her overcome some sort of sickness she had. While there is some evidence that this can modestly reduce bacterial counts and protect against gingivitis and oral plaque, its efficacy for reducing oral bacterial count is dramatically lower than the alcohol solution found in most oral rinses, which kill 99.999% of bacteria, and its efficacy for protecting against gingivitis is lower than the active ingredients found in products like Listerine (which ironically includes natural oils like eucalyptol which have been proven in clinical trials to actually have these effects). There is no evidence that this practice has any effect on the immune system and helps treat any diseases.
She then went on to post this picture advocating the use of honey and cinnamon as a cure for just about everything you can think of (“most diseases”, as the caption reads). From the text accompanying that image, it claims honey and cinnamon as not just preventative but curative for all types of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, bladder infections, common cold, indigestion, influenza, pimples, skin infections and various other things. Again, this stretches a small piece of truth into something way larger and much more dangerous than what there really is evidence for. There is limited evidence that honey can serve to hinder the multiplication of cancerous bladder cells, but nothing about it being able to reverse or cure cancer. It’s also worth noting that “cancer” is a general term for very diverse afflictions with the sole commonality of uncontrollable cell growth, and generally treatment is specialized for particular forms of cancer. There don’t exist cure-alls for cancer, because cancer is not a single illness.
Most of the other things listed in the text, though, have absolutely no evidence. The evidence for its arthritis treating ability is supposedly based off a study at Copenhagen University, however that study doesn’t actually exist and was just made up to push this nonsense. I could find no clinical evidence for any of the other claims made.
It is extremely concerning that somebody who is actively involved in making science policy in Georgia is espousing these dangerous beliefs. Not only is this information dangerous in that it dissuades people from taking real medicine with proven efficacy, leading to more serious illness or even death, it shows that we have a member of our science committee that doesn’t have even a basic understanding of the scientific method, clinical evidence and the burden of scientific proof.
When Paul Broun says that evolution is a lie from the pit of hell, it doesn’t actually hurt anyone, no matter how stupid it is. But when a child dies of whooping cough or measles because their parents were told the vaccine is dangerous or ineffective, or an elderly person or person with a compromised immune system contracts a disease from someone who is contagious because they were not vaccinated, it’s a very real and very serious issue.