Eric Entemann and Robert Mann have defended so-called Quackwatch
"expert" Stephen Barrett, and avoid the serious critiques of
Barrett's science by reducing them to Barrett's losing of a few "hard
to win" defamation lawsuits.
Here's an excerpt from one critic, which puts Barrett's ideas into a
very different and much harsher context:
Multiple chemical sensitivity, sick building syndrome, food-related
hyperactivity, mercury amalgam toxicity, candidiasis hyperactivity,
Gulf War syndrome-these are all costly misbeliefs and fad diagnoses,
says Barrett. "Many Americans believe that exposure to common foods
and chemicals makes them ill," he says. "This book [Barrett's] is
about people who hold such beliefs but are wrong."
.... Patients presume they are being made allergic or toxic or even
being poisoned by the mass of modern chemicals, cosmetics, cleaning
agents, drugs, and other human-made substances. They are mistaken,
says Barrett. Their misbeliefs are especially hard to understand,
Barrett says, "at a time when our food supply is the world's safest
and our antipollution program is the best we've ever had."
Patients' symptoms are mental (psychosomatic) in origin -- "they
react to stress by developing multiple symptoms." Their symptoms are
not caused by chemicals or dietary factors, he says. In fact, Barrett
suggests that some patients are "hysterical," others are "paranoid,"
and the rest have "certain psychological factors" that "predispose"
them to "develop symptoms" and to seek out "questionable" doctors
(meaning alternative medicine practitioners) who will attach a ("not
scientifically recognized") disease label to them.
Regarding Gulf War syndrome, for example, Barrett declares: "It
provides a feeding trough for serious scientists, since funding is
abundant, and for every charlatan with a newsworthy theory." On the
matter of the dangers of mercury fillings, he states: "The false
diagnosis of mercury-amalgam toxicity is potentially very harmful and
reflects extremely poor judgment."
For the most part, of the illnesses listed above, nearly all are mere
"labels" rather than legitimate illness conditions, asserts Barrett;
they're not caused by foods or chemicals; there are no "scientific"
studies conclusively proving the association of diet, chemicals, and
illness; and we are best advised to dismiss them out of hand, he says.
In most cases and for most of the illnesses commonly associated with
chemical sensitivity, Barrett says the mass of mistaken patients
would be better off seeking "mental help" from a psychiatrist or
other "mental health practitioner." Alternative medicine physicians
and especially "clinical ecologists" (the old name for practitioners
of environmental medicine, which links exposures to toxic substances
with health conditions) should be chastised, investigated, put on
notice, and if possible, put out of business, says Barrett.
(from http://www.whale.to/a/goldberg.html "What's Eating Stephen
Barrett?" by Burton Goldberg)
There's a lot more, but that should give you an idea of Barrett's
biases and erroneous views.
- Mitchel Cohen