A recent prospective study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) chemicals commonly found in non-stick pans and food packaging reduces immune responses to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations among children aged 5 to 7 years old. But before you start worrying about protecting your children from these supposedly dangerous chemicals, it s important to note that the research, led by Dr. Phillippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health, not only involved major flaws, but also reeks of junk science. Yet the study s shortcomings aren t even the most upsetting part of this story. What peeved us more was the fact that a reputable journal such as JAMA would even publish such nonsense.
But when it came to debunking Dr. Grandjean s study, Dr. Larry Zobel and his colleagues from the medical department at 3M beat us to the punch. In a letter to JAMA, Dr. Zobel makes the observation that the Grandjean paper neglected to cite data that didn t support his hypothesis. Dr. Zobel points out that Danish research on PFC serum concentrations in children found levels of exposure consistent with Dr. Grandjean s measurements yet in that study, there was no indication that such exposures were associated with any decreased resistance to childhood infections.
Dr. Zobel also notes that Dr. Grandjean s team could provide no biological basis to explain their results and adds that even rodent immunotoxicology studies don t appear to support the inferences made in the PFC study. Thus, parents should rest assured that exposure to trace levels of PFCs won t diminish the efficacy of vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria infections that are easily contracted in the absence of immunization.
Instead of forcing us to waste our time and energy debunking such studies, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, journals should not be publishing them in the first place. Not a day goes by lately when we don t raise our concerns about reputable and mainstream journals that publish junk research, and here we just have another case in point.