It can't be the 237+ micrograms of mercury injected.....its got to be something else......
1. Autism is caused by older parents
2. Autism is caused by computer geek dads marrying computer geek moms and having hyper-computer geek kids (Silicon Valley Explanation).
3. Autism is caused by excessive TV watching.
4. Autism is caused by cell phones.
5. Thimerosal is perfectly safe. There are studies to prove it. (Comment- Oh, like the toxicology study in 1930 where 22 terminal meningitis patients were injected with thimerosal, all of them died and the study's conclusion was "No negative effects from thimerosal were noted?")
Attack on Mothers
posted by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The poisonous public attacks on Katie Wright this week -- for revealing that her autistic son Christian (grandson of NBC Chair Bob Wright), has recovered significant function after chelation treatments to remove mercury -- surprised many observers unfamiliar with the acrimonious debate over the mercury-based vaccine preservative Thimerosal. But the patronizing attacks on the mothers of autistic children who have organized to oppose this brain-killing poison is one of the most persistent tactics employed by those defending Thimerosal against the barrage of scientific evidence linking it to the epidemic of pediatric neurological disorders, including autism. Mothers of autistics are routinely dismissed as irrational, hysterical, or as a newspaper editor told me last week, "desperate to find the reason for their children's illnesses," and therefore, overwrought and disconnected. But my experience with these women is inconsistent with those patronizing assessments. Over the past two years I've met or communicated with several hundred of these women. Instead of a desperate mob of irrational hysterics, I've found the anti-Thimerosal activists for the most part to be calm, grounded and extraordinarily patient. As a group, they are highly educated. Many of them are doctors, nurses, schoolteachers, pharmacists, psychologists, Ph.D.s and other professionals. Many of them approached the link skeptically and only through dispassionate and diligent investigation became convinced that Thimerosal-laced vaccines destroyed their children's brains. As a group they have sat through hundreds of meetings and scientific conferences, and studied research papers and medical tests. They have networked with each other at meetings and on the Web. Along the way they have stoically endured the abuse routinely heaped upon them by the vaccine industry and public health authorities and casual dismissal by reporters and editors too lazy to do their jobs. Many of these women tell a story virtually identical to Katie Wright's -- I have now heard or seen this grim chronology recounted hundreds of times in conversations, e-mails and letters from mothers: At 2-1/2 years old, Christian Wright exceeded all milestones. He had 1,000 words, was toilet-trained, and enjoyed excellent social relations with his brother and others. Then his pediatrician gave him Thimerosal-laced vaccines. He cried all night, developed a fever and, over the coming months, this smart, healthy child disappeared. Christian lost the ability to speak, to interact with family members, to make eye contact or to point a finger. He engaged in stereotypical behavior -- screaming, head-banging, biting and uncontrolled
aggression, and suffers continuously the agonizing pain of gastrointestinal inflammation. After hearing that story a couple dozen times, a rational person might do some more investigation. That's when one encounters the overwhelming science -- hundreds of research studies from dozens of countries showing the undeniable connection between mercury and Thimerosal and a wide range of neurological illnesses. In response to the overwhelming science, CDC and the pharmaceutical industry ginned up four European studies designed to disguise the link between autism and Thimerosal. Their purpose was to provide plausible deniability for the consequences of their awful decision to allow brain-killing mercury to be injected into our youngest children. Those deliberately deceptive and fatally flawed studies were authored by vaccine industry consultants and paid for by Thimerosal producers and published largely in compromised journals that neglected to disclose the myriad conflicts of their authors in violation of standard peer-review ethics. As I've shown elsewhere [see www.robertfkennedyjr.com], these studies were borderline fraud, using statistical deceptions to mislead the public and regulatory community.
The CDC and IOM base their defense of Thimerosal on these flimsy studies, their own formidable reputations, and their faith that journalists won't take the time to critically read the science. Meanwhile, the bureaucrats are simultaneously using their influence, energies and clout in a desperate bid to derail and defund and suppress any scientific study that may verify the link between Thimerosal and brain disorders. These would include epidemiological studies of the Amish-home-schooled kids and other unvaccinated American cohorts. The federal agencies have refused to release the massive public health information accumulated in their Vaccine Safety Database (VSD) in order to keep independent scientists from reviewing evidence that could prove the link. They are muzzling or blackballing scientists who want to conduct such studies. Ironically, it is the same voices that once blamed autism on "bad parenting," and "uninvolved" moms that are now faulting these mothers for being too involved. Due to this campaign of obfuscation and public deception, Thimerosal-based vaccines continue to sicken millions of children around the world and potential treatments -- like the chelation that benefited Christian Wright -- are kept out of the hands of the mainstream doctors now treating autistic kids with less effective tools. Like thousands of other mothers of autistic children, Katie Wright knows what sickened her child. Her efforts to spare other children and families this catastrophe, deployed with a cool head and calm demeanor, are truly heroic. Maybe it's time we all started listening. Maybe it's time to start respecting and honoring the maternal instincts and hard study of Katie and others by aggressively funding the studies that might verify or dispute them.
Wait for the Autism Fat Lady to Sing
By Richard C. Deth Published 12/30/2004
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan bravely puts the autism-thimerosal connection at the top of her list of "Great Unfounded Health Scares of 2004". While we all might like this dark side of vaccines to be just a crackpot idea, recent studies have provided solid evidence indicating that toxic effects of the ethylmercury-containing preservative may indeed have led to recent increases in autism and ADHD.
Since 1985, the incidence of autism has risen from 1 in 10,000 to about 1 in 150, and ADHD affects about 8% of kids. This rise parallels increased ethylmercury exposure from vaccines, at least through 2001, raising the question: Could they be related? Several epidemiological studies, quickly embraced by an investigating panel from the Institutes of Medicine, did not find evidence of a link. However, internal FDA memos clearly indicate that original data supporting a link was massaged and revised until the link disappeared, at which time the data was deemed suitable for publication. Moreover, investigating disorders of relatively low frequency with epidemiological methods has severe statistical limitations. How about studies of autistic children? Are autistic kids somehow different in a way that makes them thimerosal-sensitive? The emerging answer seems to be yes.
A recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Dr. Jill James and colleagues found abnormal plasma levels of metabolites related to methylation, a biological process involving transfer of single carbon atoms between molecules. Treating these kids with a form of folic acid, along with a source of methyl groups and the active form of vitamin B12, known as methylB12, caused their metabolite levels to normalize and also improved their autism symptoms. Thus autism can be recognized as a metabolic disorder affecting the capacity for methylation.
As it turns out, thimerosal is a potent inhibitor of the same methylation pathways that are involved in autism. In April 2004, an article in Molecular Psychiatry described how thimerosal, along with other well-accepted neurodevelopmental toxins (e.g. lead, mercury and alcohol), blocked folic acid-dependent methylation in human neuronal cells. DNA and gene expression were also affected by methylation, providing a link to impaired development. Subsequent studies revealed that thimerosal inhibits methylation by blocking conversion of dietary or vitamin-derived forms of vitamin B12 to methylB12. Thus the beneficial effects of methylB12 in autism reflect its ability to bypass the toxic action of thimerosal.
Autism is highly genetic, meaning that inherited genes provide a major source of risk. Many of the genes controlling folic acid-dependent methylation exhibit variations called polymorphisms. While usually harmless, these polymorphisms can combine to increase risk, and can interact with environmental factors. Analysis of DNA from autistic children has shown a higher frequency of these polymorphisms, indicating that they are indeed a genetically distinctive sub-population that is at risk for environmental insults directed toward methylation.
ADHD is closely related to autism and over 75 studies have been published linking it to a particular receptor for the neurotransmitter dopamine, called the D4 receptor. This D4 receptor has the unique ability to carry out a methylation reaction, which is potently inhibited by thimerosal. The D4 receptor is highly developed in humans and primates, suggesting a critical role in our capacity for attention-related learning. It is no wonder that the deficits in autism (e.g. lack of language, impaired social skills) reflect a loss of some of the most uniquely human traits and abilities.
As humans we use attention to direct our thoughts for the purpose of solving problems and to advance our personal well-being and the well-being of our social structures. Technology is an important manifestation of this capability. We cannot afford to take these capabilities for granted. Exposure to neurodevelopmental toxins, whether in the form of vaccine preservatives (e.g. flu vaccine), mercury-tainted tuna fish during pregnancy or lead paint, can rob a portion of our population of their capabilities. The lesson of thimerosal and autism is a cautionary tale that must be understood. Could there be other disorders whose increase might be related to heavy metal exposure? Perhaps this is a question for technology to address.
Wait! I think I hear someone singing.
The author is Professor of Pharmacology, Northeastern University.
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A recent post delineated a very preliminary numeric analysis of why the CDC's 1999 thimerosal findings do not account for all autisms (1). Also posted recently was an abstract for a new article in Environmental Health Perspectives, wherein researchers further document the fact that even non-toxic pollutants create a strain upon organism's detox capabilities. A probably corollary is that diminished nutrient resources would also dysenhance the organism's immunity. Relatedly, the news abounds with examples of regulatory agencies helping arrange coverups for pharmcos and for other industries whose products pollute and injure. A new Nation article describes how 20 chemical companies are acting like Nazi troops invading Poland, by using well-funded teams of vicious-attack lawyers in an attempt to silence two professors whose book portrays the (well-documented) extent to which adverse effects of various chemicals have been known for many years. Pesticides on foods and pesticides used on a family's lawns are among the offenders. What do these concerns have to do with autism? With healing the autistic child?
Etiologic concerns: Since toxic and non-toxic pollutants reduce an organism's detox capabilities, the ever increasing level of environmental toxins is increasing susceptibility for adverse effects from environmental toxins and from iatrogenic procedures such as thimerosal injections. As the thimerosal data and further analysis make clear, thimerosal is not the only etiologic factor and, in a substantial subgroup of autism cases, is not a factor. Nonetheless and importantly, the non-thimerosal subgroup remains epidemically larger than the autism rate described even 15 years ago. Regulatory agency and major media policies that allow industries' ongoing emission of toxins and that encourage iatrogenic procedures are ensuring that epidemics such as but not only autism will continue and will continue to increase.
Treatment concerns: Parents invest substantial sums in evaluating and treating gastrointestinal injuries and suboptimal nutrition. For many families, additional expenditures are allocated to chelation, in some cases to antivirals. At each step, lab tests and supplements add to the costs. Here's an analogy. A car with a full tank of gas can travel 400 miles. If, however, there's a slow leak in the tank or in a fuel line, a full tank of gas may only allow 300 miles of driving, while concurrently increasing risk for a major disaster (eg, incompletely immunosuppressed EBV becoming an EBV-related cancer). Treating autistic kids is similar. Parents, researchers, and physicians are working hard to improve each child's gut health, nutritional status, and detox capabilities - even as policies of industry and regulatory agencies continue to allow high levels of iatrogenic and other environmental toxins into each of us. For many autistic and autism-spectrum children, the extent of their healing is likely to be lessened because of the child's additional and constantly increasing burden of toxic and non-toxic pollutants.
List concerns: IMO, at least some lists should continue to include discussion and news about environmental pollutants and about policies that allow those pollutants into our biosphere, into our bodies. For instance, the list of household items containing mercury was an important post. A child's healing is likely to be increased by reducing his or her levels of exposure.
Future goals: If the poisonous tide of toxins is not curtailed, the neurotypical children of parents on these lists will be making arrangements in 2025 and beyond for conferences similar to those hosted by DAN! and ARI and others. In contrast, 'tis better to fix the leaky gas tank, to increase the likelihood of an autistic child's healing, to increase the extent of the healing, and to halt policies whereby environmental pollutants are allowed to continue causing injury.
Researcher in Developmental & Behavioral Neuroanatomy
1. Beyond the thimerosal-only model
We must not be lulled into complacency by accepting that thimerosal and MMR are the only causes of the autism epidemic. Many environmental factors are combining to overwhelm detox and immunity. Recent studies demonstrate that molecules which are non-toxic (eg, perfume musk) can diminish detoxification capabilities. Other examples abound, some are global, some are specific to various locales. Examples include but are not limited to PCBs and trichloroethylene. Yesterday, a perchlorate-review board issued a decree akin to that of the IOM's thimerosal codex, stating that the EPA and other researchers have it wrong, ie and eg, perchlorate in lettuce is at sufficiently low levels that no one will develop adverse effects. In other words, 'tis easier to use public-relations "science" so as to coverup yet another damaging toxin than to admit that perchlorate is contributing (eg) to hypothyroidism and associated illnesses. The recent article "Toxic breast milk?" reflects the extent to which the highly enforced Risk Management philosophy for allowing pollutants at fictitiously "safe" levels has succeeded in damaging the biosphere and its inhabitants (1-2). The synergistic sum of the various pollutants -- measured as body burden per fetus, infant, toddler, etc -- is not only diminishing immunity and detox but is likely to be etiologically sufficient for some children to become autistic.
On another list, a parent described the very young child who had been injected with "trace" levels of thimerosal, surely not good, but certainly far less than had been mandatorily injected in the 1990s. I used the CDC's 1999 findings and Mark Blaxill's analysis thereof (3) in a preliminary sketch of what the autism numbers are really telling us. Here are those notions:
* * *
When comparing former autism rate (2-4 per 10,000) with current rate, 1 in 166, the numbers provide an unsettling hint. One in 166 is appx 60 per 10,000. To be on the safe-estimate side, 60 per is appx 15 times the rate of 4 per 10,000. Amalgam fogged memory tells me that one of the CDC's 1999 findings was that autism was appx 11 times more likely when comparing kids with no thimerosal versus kids with full load. Keeping in mind that the numbers in this post are just a sketch, we might ask why the rate of autism is 15 times higher than previously, whereas that one thimerosal finding suggests that thimerosal accounts for only 11 of the 15. Recently I wrote about background factors like perchlorate, PCBs, etc, and how they would "disappear" from a no-thimerosal, high-thimerosal comparison, because, on average, children in each group would have a body load of PCBs and perchlorate. Perhaps the increase in non-thimerosal toxins accounts for some of the difference between the CDC's thimerosal findings and the current rate of autism (11 versus 15). Now, let's work the figures back to the 10,000 level. If the 11-times factor is valid and the 15-times factor is valid, and if we stick with the 4 per 10,000 previous rate, then appx 44 per 10,000 would be the rate of thimerosal-induced autism, and 16 per 10,000 would be the rate of non-thimerosal autisms - which implies (for non-thimerosal autisms) a 300% added rate (from 4 per 10k to 16 per 10k).
Caveat: the prior paragraph is a preliminary sketch, but I think that the direction of the rationale is correct, even if the numbers become changed this way or that when analysts with skills like Mark Blaxill's (there may be other such folks?) address the background-toxins effects upon autism epidemiology in juxtaposition with the CDC's 1999 findings and the CDC's various dilutions thereof.
Whereas heal the gut, optimize nutrition, and chelate muchly helps may kids, some kids aren't healed or are healed very little by that protocol. Other environmental factors (and their combined effects) need be considered.
* * *
1. Toxic Breast Milk?
By FLORENCE WILLIAMS
2. Dozens of Words for Snow, None for Pollution
Perched atop the Arctic food chain, the people of the Far North face an impossible choice: abandon their traditional foods, or ingest the rest of the world's poisons with every bite.
Age of Autism: Mercury link to Case 2 By DAN OLMSTED
WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- One of the children "spun with great pleasure everything he could seize upon to spin." Many of the children flapped their hands; flew into unpredictable bouts of rage and aggression; spoke in inexplicable ways if they spoke at all, sometimes referring to themselves as "you" and others as "I"; showed remarkable abilities like keen memory and perfect pitch but abject inability to perform simple tasks; obsessed over objects but ignored human beings.
They appeared to inhabit a universe of one.
Kanner didn't know why the children, all born in the 1930s, acted that way but noticed the parents were college-educated and career-oriented: lawyers, psychiatrists, scientists. He wrote, "In the whole group, there are very few really warm-hearted fathers and mothers," and later speculated, "emotionally refrigerated" parents might play a role in causing the baffling disorder.
"Most of the fathers are, in a sense, bigamists," Kanner wrote. "They are wedded to their jobs at least as much as they are married to their wives. The job, in fact, has priority."
Now, Frederick W.'s father has been identified by this reporter as a scientist named Frederick L. Wellman, and new information has been unearthed that suggests Wellman's career might indeed be a clue -- though not the kind Kanner detected.
The Frederick L. Wellman Papers fill 18 boxes in the Special Collections Research Center at the North Carolina State University Libraries in Raleigh. The first item in the first folder in the first box is dated Spring 1922, when the senior Wellman was working toward his doctorate in plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. Faded with age, the report is titled "Hot Water and Mercuric Chloride Treatments of Some Brassica Seeds and Their Effect Both on the Germination of the Seeds and the Viability of the Fungus Phoma Lingam."
In layman's terms, Wellman collected cabbage seeds infected with a common fungus and dunked some of them in a solution of mercury salts and hot water. "The lots treated with mercuric (chloride) were shaken vigorously at first to get thorough contact with the solution," he wrote. His faculty adviser at the time was concerned about an epidemic of cabbage fungus that was wrecking havoc on Wisconsin farms, and he enlisted his student Wellman's help in researching solutions.
By the time his son was born 14 years later, in 1936, Wellman had graduated to advanced plant pathology work at the U.S. Agriculture Department's main research center in Beltsville, Md., just outside Washington.
In a rÃ©sumÃ©, he wrote at length about his experience there with fungicides. On cabbage seeds, he reported, "organic mercury compounds were found to be most satisfactory disinfecting agents." For tomatoes, "proprietary organic mercury dusts also gave good results." All three of the fungicide sales brochures in his archive were for organic mercury compounds -- two of them containing ethyl mercury, which was introduced in commercial products just a few years earlier.
Ethyl mercury is also the active ingredient in a vaccine preservative called thimerosal. A maverick minority of scientists and a larger percentage of parents blame thimerosal -- which is 49.6 percent ethyl mercury by weight -- for the rising autism rate, up ten-fold in 20 years to one in 150 8-year-old U.S. children, according to a report in February by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some parents say they watched their children become physically ill and regress into autism soon after they got shots that contained the chemical -- a link public-health officials call coincidence, not cause and effect.
It might be just another coincidence that the father of autism's Case 2 was working with new ethyl mercury compounds seven decades ago when his son was born. Or it might not.
Coincidence or otherwise, similar echoes emerge from cases 1 and 3 in Kanner's original study. Case 1 grew up in a town called Forest, Miss., surrounded by logging camps, lumber mills and a national forest being planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Forest is 50 miles from the sawmills where ethyl mercury fungicides were first tested in the United States in 1929 to preserve lumber, a practice that quickly became widespread; that child was born in 1933.
Case 3 was the son of "a professor of forestry in a southern university," Kanner wrote. That university has now been identified as North Carolina State -- the same school where Frederick L. Wellman ended his career as a visiting professor. Case 3's father began research on Southern pines when he joined the N.C. State faculty in 1935.
In 1936, he assisted in the planting of pine seedlings in the university's newly acquired Hofmann Forest. His son was born in 1937. Organic mercury fungicides, including an ethyl mercury brand, were often used to prevent "damping off" or fungal contamination of pine seedlings during that era.
An advocate of the mercury-autism hypothesis says the pattern in those first three cases strengthens his concern.
"So now we have learned that Frederick Wellman handled ethyl mercury fungicides that were first introduced to the market in 1929 and that his child was Kanner's patient No. 2," says Mark Blaxill, whose daughter Michaela has autism. Blaxill is vice president of the advocacy organization SafeMinds, which argues increased mercury exposure is behind the soaring autism rate. "And we know that cases 1 and 3 grew up around the first application of ethyl mercury products. If that's not a smoking gun, I don't know what is."
Consistent with that possibility, overlooked studies from the 1970s found a history of chemical exposures in a "quite startling" percentage of parents of autistic children; researchers could not isolate any one chemical as a common factor. More recently, studies have reported a statistically significant correlation between mercury pollution and autism rates.
A spokesman for the CDC cautions against making too much of Wellman's background.
"I've learned from being at CDC it's often difficult when you're trying to establish cause and effect," Glen Nowak, chief of media relations, says when the Wellman case is described to him. "There are other things that could have mitigated the effect, could have enhanced the effect, caused the effect. So a case study of one, you always want to be very careful."
In 1999, the CDC and other public-health authorities urged vaccine manufacturers to phase out ethyl mercury from U.S. pediatric vaccines as a precaution, given the well-known toxicity of mercury in developing brains and the increasing number of required childhood immunizations that contained it. But thimerosal remains in most flu shots, which are recommended by a CDC advisory committee for all pregnant women and for children as young as 6 months. Due in large measure to reassurance from United States and United Nations health authorities, ethyl mercury also continues in wide use in pediatric vaccines in developing nations.
"Evidence is accumulating of lack of any harm resulting from exposure" to vaccines containing thimerosal as a preservative, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services posted on its Web site. The statement points to a 2004 report by the respected Institute of Medicine, which discounted a link with autism and took the unusual step of recommending research funding go to more "promising" areas.
Mercury-based fungicides were banned in the United States and many other countries as understanding of mercury's toxic effects became more sophisticated; they have not been on the market here since the 1970s. Such products were not a health threat when used properly, according to a leading manufacturer.
To be sure, there is no direct evidence of mercury exposure in any of the original cases, though Frederick W.'s mother had "kidney trouble" during her pregnancy -- sometimes a sign of mercury toxicity. Frederick W.'s father worked with many dangerous substances besides mercury -- a short list includes formaldehyde, arsenic, copper, sulfur, insecticides and pesticides.
But it is also true that none of Kanner's case studies from Johns Hopkins has been examined for such exposures, even as more researchers suspect genes alone cannot explain the rising number of diagnoses. The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, lists "Environmental Exposures" first among six areas of research on its Web site. Johns Hopkins Medicine declined to comment for this story.
Ellen K. Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Hopkins, is currently using a $204,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to test whether humans respond in different ways to mercury exposure. The goal, according to the abstract, is to understand "preventable risk factors for autism based upon the hypothesis that mercury compounds by themselves do not cause autism but may contribute to the risks ... in combination with genetic susceptibility and co-exposures to other risks, such as infections." Silbergeld declined to comment for this story.
A recent issue of the Autism Advocate, published by the Autism Society of America, the nation's oldest and largest such organization, focused on "the possible link between autism and the environment." "We already have enough evidence to make the judgments that environmental factors are critical issues for autism," wrote Dr. Martha Herbert, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. "This newer model of autism implies that we have great opportunities to do constructive things about this challenge."
Wednesday, the Institute of Medicine convenes a two-day conference titled, "Autism and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for Research."
Johns Hopkins' Medical Privacy Board denied a request for information from the medical records of the original 11 cases reported by Leo Kanner, citing both privacy and practicality. The first three cases were identified independently.
The Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center is located just outside Washington's traffic-clogged I-495 beltway. The Georgian-style main building is set back majestically from Route 1.
Off the highway, two-lane roads thread through 6,600 acres as the bustle of Washington yields to rolling countryside, big barns and grazing cattle. The log visitors' center with its massive stone fireplaces was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. Yet even some longtime Washingtonians are unaware that the world's largest agricultural research center lies in their midst.
When Frederick L. Wellman began working there in 1935, Henry Wallace was secretary of agriculture under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the New Deal was launching initiatives to spur crop production and overcome the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression. That year Congress passed a law mandating more basic agricultural research.
By then, Wellman had earned his Ph.D., wed a Wisconsin woman named Dora U'Ren, spent a year in Honduras with the United Fruit Co. and, in 1930, was hired at the U.S. Bureau of Plant Industry's headquarters in Washington. He was preceded there by a colleague from Wisconsin, John Monteith, who was one of the most active experimenters in the world with mercury fungicides. Monteith wrote numerous papers about his tests on mercury fungicides at the bureau's Arlington Turf Garden, now the site of the Pentagon. Monteith and Wellman had written a scientific paper on cabbage fungus in 1927.
During most of 1936, Wellman was hunting exotic plant diseases in Turkey, Egypt and Iran. He was, as Leo Kanner wrote, a plant pathologist who "has traveled a great deal in connection with his work."
Their child was born on May 23, 1936. Exactly six years later, in May 1942, the boy's worried parents brought him to see Kanner at Johns Hopkins Hospital, about 30 miles up Route 1 from Beltsville. Kanner called him "Case 2: Frederick W."
"The child has always been self-sufficient," Kanner quoted his mother as saying. "Usually people are an interference. He'll push people away from him. To a certain extent, he likes to stick to the same thing.
"On one of the bookshelves we had three pieces in a certain arrangement. Whenever this was changed, he always rearranged it in the old pattern.
"He had said at least two words ('Daddy' and 'Dora,' the mother's name) before he was 2 years old. From then on, between 2 and 3 years, he would say words that seemed to come as a surprise to himself. He'd say them once and never repeat them."
Kanner was an international leader in diagnosing and treating childhood mental disorders -- he wrote the book "Child Psychiatry" in 1935 and is widely credited with establishing the discipline in the United States. But he asserted in "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact" -- published in 1943 in the now-defunct psychiatric journal The Nervous Child -- that this was something completely different.
"These characteristics form a unique 'syndrome' not heretofore reported, which seems to be rare enough, yet is probably more frequent than is indicated by the paucity of observed cases," Kanner wrote.
The children just did not appear retarded. "Even though most of these children at one time or another were looked upon as feeble-minded, they are all unquestionably endowed with good cognitive potential," he wrote. "They all have strikingly intelligent physiognomies."
What made them different, he concluded, was "an extreme autistic aloneness that, whenever possible, disregards, ignores, shuts out anything that comes to the child from the outside." He called the disorder autism, from the Greek word "autos," or self, borrowing the term from a Swiss psychiatrist who used it to describe childhood schizophrenia.
In September 1942, Frederick W. was placed in a school for the developmentally disabled near Baltimore. His father transferred to the Agriculture Department's international division. In early 1943, Frederick L. and Dora Wellman left the U.S. mainland for the next two decades.
But they would return for their only child.
Elemental or metallic mercury, the slippery quicksilver that used to spill out of broken thermometers, is made up of single atoms, No. 80 on the Periodic Table of Elements. Mercury can combine with other elements to form compounds; these compounds are called organic mercury if they include a carbon atom, inorganic mercury if they do not.
All forms of mercury are toxic, but organic mercury -- which can cross the body's blood-brain barrier and the placenta -- is especially dangerous.
One kind of organic mercury, methyl, "bioaccumulates" or builds up in some large fish. Pregnant women are advised not to eat too much of certain fish for fear of causing neurological damage to their offspring.
Ethyl is a sister compound from the same alkyl subgroup of organic mercury; it has one more carbon and two more hydrogen atoms than methyl. But ethyl mercury is man-made -- it was not present in the environment, and humans were not exposed to it, until a Ukrainian immigrant named Morris S. Kharasch created the first commercial formulations just before Kanner's earliest autism cases were born.
In the 1920s, in part based on expertise he developed in chemical-warfare research for the United States during World War I, Kharasch filed 11 patents that paved the way for several ethyl mercury products by the end of that decade. His dual focus was evident in his "Who's Who" entry: He had been "awarded patents along pharmaceutical lines, and treatment of fungus diseases of small grains."
Those patents led directly to thimerosal -- trademarked as Merthiolate by Eli Lilly and first used in vaccines by 1931. They also led to three ethyl mercury fungicides, the DuPont and Bayer brands Ceresan and New Improved Ceresan, marketed in a partnership called Bayer-Semesan; and Lignasan, used to treat timber.
Wellman's North Carolina State archive, in a folder titled "Memorabilia," contains sales brochures for both kinds of Ceresan. "New Improved Ceresan usually destroys seed-borne diseases either by direct contact with the spores or by forming a vapor which penetrates every crack and cranny of the seed," the brochure reads. It also helped protect seeds "against certain soil-borne organisms."
The pamphlets also warn the compounds are "poisonous and precautions with all packages must be observed. Use a dry filter dust mask or clean dry cloth over the nose and mouth, as New Improved Ceresan is poisonous to inhale." (The third of three fungicide pamphlets in Wellman's archive was for Semesan, another organic mercury compound from Bayer-Semesan.)
Used properly, mercury fungicides were never a health hazard, according to Germany-based Bayer CropScience.
"Investigating the health and environmental aspects of our products has always been an important activity for Bayer," the division's Web site says. "Although the correct use of mercury-containing seed treatments would be safe to the environment even by today's standards, these pioneer seed-treatments were replaced, at the end of the 1970s, by a new generation of mercury-free products."
A DuPont spokeswoman, Gabriel King, says she cannot comment in detail because "going back that far, it's the institutional memory -- there's just nothing there."
DuPont and Bayer both referred questions to CropLife America, a trade group. A CropLife spokeswoman says it, too, lacks familiarity with mercury fungicides.
Wellman was aware that, with mercury fungicides, he was handling "a very strong poison."
In 1940, while at Beltsville, he wrote he had become familiar with "toxic values of chemicals (and) injurious effects of disinfectants on human beings or animals that might be involved." He wrote that mercury -- including the inorganic kind he first tested on cabbage seeds as a Wisconsin student in 1922 -- can have devastating effects: "It must be remembered that the mercury chloride is a very strong poison, and special care must be taken in using it and disposing of the poison solution."
Whether or not mercury affected Wellman's child is speculation, of course. Yet there are possible clues. Frederick W., for example, was born three weeks early by Caesarean section because his mother had "kidney trouble," Kanner wrote.
According to the CDC's toxicological profile for mercury, "The kidney is one of the major target organs of mercury-induced toxicity." Elsewhere it states: "You can be exposed to mercury vapors from the use of fungicides that contain mercury. Excess use of these products may result in higher-than-average exposures. ...
"Family members of workers who have been exposed to mercury may also be exposed to mercury if the worker's clothes are contaminated with mercury particles or liquid," it says.
Decades ago chemists were much less sophisticated about the dangers of some of the substances they worked with. "There were chemists, there were chemical assistants who would suck chemicals through pipettes in those days," says Thomas Felicetti, executive director of Beechwood Rehabilitation Services in Langhorne, Pa. Felicetti published a study in 1981 that found children with autism were far more likely to have parents whose jobs brought them in contact with chemicals.
Felicetti's study was a follow-up to one in 1974 by Dr. Mary Coleman, a leading autism expert at Georgetown University who has since retired. Her study of 78 autistic children found "an unusual amount of exposure (of parents) to chemicals in the preconception period." Twenty of the 78 children were from families with chemical exposure; in four of those families, both parents had chemical exposures. Seven out of eight of those parents were chemists.
"Of the control parents" whose children did not have autism, she wrote, "there was only one family (again both the father and the mother) who were working as chemists in a laboratory."
In a 1976 book she edited, "The Autistic Syndromes," Coleman wrote that "since the incidence of individuals exposed to chemicals in all related occupations in the United States is 1,059,000 in 91,000,000 or 1.1 percent of the population ... to find that 25 percent of any sample has had chemical exposure is quite startling.
"This is an area where more prospective research is needed," Coleman wrote. That has never been done.
According to Coleman's book, the idea of parental exposure leading to autism in a child "can not be dismissed, because of the theoretical possibility that chemical toxins could affect genetic material prior to conception."
Dozens of studies have implicated mercury in genetic damage, including chromosome breaks, point mutations, and partial and complete deletions. One study on hamsters (it is unethical to test toxic substances on humans) found mercury produced more point mutations than lead, a widely recognized threat to children's mental development.
The scientific literature is also full of evidence that fetuses and young children can suffer long-term harm, including brain damage, from mercury exposure even if their parents do not.
The case that galvanized world attention occurred in Minamata, Japan, in 1956, when wastewater from a Chisso Corp. chemical plant spilled toxic levels of methyl mercury into Minamata Bay, and pregnant women ate contaminated fish. Children born to mothers who ingested methyl mercury from contaminated fish while pregnant had profound physical and neurological problems, even though their mothers did not show any impairment.
In 1972, thousands of people in Iraq ate bread made from grain treated with methyl mercury fungicide that was intended for planting, not human consumption. Hundreds died. A follow-up study on children whose mothers ate contaminated bread after giving birth and who were exposed only through their mothers' breast milk showed problems including language delay that led one parent to describe the children as "needles blunted by the poison." Language delay is one of the hallmarks of autism as well.
Eating ethyl mercury-treated grain led to similar poisonings in Ghana in 1967. Twenty people died. Of those who survived, "toxic effects appeared earlier and were more severe in children than in adults," according to a report of the incident published in 1974 in the journal Archives of Environmental Health. "Four children developed disturbances of speech which led to stammering and scanning. ... Mental abnormality was observed in one boy who showed outbursts of anger unrelated to circumstances. A girl developed encephalitis (brain swelling) and became completely paralyzed ... (with) complete loss of speech."
The report added: "Of all the fungicides in modern use, the alkyl-mercury compounds (which include ethyl and methyl mercury) offer the most serious health hazards. This is the conclusion reached by many workers ... who have undertaken many investigations of persons at risk of occupational absorption of alkyl mercury compounds. Serious concern has therefore been expressed about the necessary contamination of the environment with mercury, particularly from its use as fungicides in agriculture and in industry."
Two recent U.S. studies have found a possible association between environmental mercury and a risk of autism in American children.
Raymond Palmer and colleagues at the University of Texas found the autism rate was higher in Texas counties with more mercury exposure from toxic industrial releases. In the other study, researchers found children living in areas with the highest level of mercury pollution in the San Francisco Bay area were roughly twice as likely to have autism.
The Environmental Protection Agency now says 6 percent of U.S. children are born to mothers with a mercury level high enough to put them at risk for health problems.
It is safe to say that Leo Kanner was not looking for environmental exposures as a cause of the strange new cases he was seeing.
By the time the Wellmans arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1942 with Frederick W., Kanner had observed a number of such children who would form the basis for his landmark description of autism as a "markedly and uniquely different" disorder.
He believed they had something else in common.
"In the whole group," he wrote in his original study, "there are very few really warmhearted fathers and mothers." In subsequent studies he became more emphatic, describing "the almost total absence of emotional warmth in child rearing."
"As a rule, the parents of our autistic children are cold, humorless perfectionists," he wrote in 1954. "(T)he emotional refrigeration which the children experience from such parents cannot but be a highly pathogenic element in the patients' early personality development, superimposed powerfully on whatever predisposition has come from inheritance."
Kanner's speculation about the parents' role was tempered by his belief that most of the children he saw had been that way since birth, and that their autism was "inborn." By the end of his long and distinguished career at Hopkins, he had completely dropped the idea of parental responsibility, and noted: "At no time have I pointed to the parents as the primary, postnatal sources of pathogenicity." Kanner was also harshly critical of the claims of Bruno Bettelheim, who blamed autism on the homicidal feelings of mothers for their child. Another autism pioneer, Bernard Rimland (who died in 2006), demolished the psychological-damage idea for good in his 1964 book "Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior."
Kanner made another key observation in that original 1943 study.
"There is one other very interesting common denominator in the backgrounds of these children," he wrote. "They all come of highly intelligent families."
The Wellmans certainly fit that mold -- Frederick L. Wellman had a Ph.D. in plant pathology, his wife was a college graduate, and he had four talented siblings: an opera singer; a newspaperman and best-selling author; a writer for adventure magazines; and a painter, writer and radio commentator. Yet only the Wellman sibling with a clear chemical connection, Frederick L. Wellman, had a child with autism.
In Thomas Felicetti's 1981 study, there was no intellect effect, he said; chemical exposure was the difference. One parent applied roof tar, which contained a number of toxic chemicals.
Rimland, the researcher who disproved the idea that "refrigerator" parents made their children autistic, pointed out in a 2002 written statement in his role as head of the Autism Research Institute that Kanner earned his M.D. in 1919 in Berlin, came to Hopkins in 1928, "and has been reported to have seen well over 20,000 children in the course of his psychiatric career. ... It is remarkable, in retrospect, that none of the children were seen in Kanner's first 12 years of practice (at Hopkins), and all 11 were born after 1930, when, as it happens, mercury-containing vaccines were first used in this country. A coincidence? Very unlikely."
Others, including the author of a new book, argue autism has been around for ages and only awareness of it has increased. In this view, increasing exposure to mercury -- or any other environmental agent -- could not be causing an autism epidemic for one simple reason: There is no autism epidemic.
"The most important piece of evidence provided by those who believe that thimerosal is related to autism is that rates for all the various autism spectrum disorders have risen dramatically over the past few decades," writes Roy Richard Grinker, a George Washington University anthropologist, in "Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism."
Grinker, who has a teenage daughter, Isabel, with autism, argues in his book that the "evidence" just doesn't hold up. "(T)he increase in the rate of autism is more likely due to the result of new and improved science -- more reliable definitions of autism and more awareness of autism among health-care professionals and educators. Maybe we are finally diagnosing and counting autism correctly."
Another expert who argues autism is not new is Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist who has worked with autistic patients for decades.
"Autistic disorder did not begin with Kanner's description of it in 1943 any more than Down's syndrome began with (Dr. Landon Down's) description of it in 1887," Treffert says in an e-mail message. In fact, he says, Down identified several children who today would be described as autistic.
But the incidence could have increased due to new factors, Treffert continues. His belief that autism has long existed "does not negate any present investigations of the etiology (cause) of autistic disorder, including the role of environmental or heavy metal factors."
Despite those assertions, there is a distinct lack of observed cases before 1930 -- less than a handful in the United States, each of which might have had autistic symptoms but differ in many ways from Kanner's original 11.
A chemical connection might also help explain why Kanner, in Baltimore, first described the disorder: He happened to be located near government researchers working with cutting-edge chemicals. Frederick L. Wellman did advanced work for the federal government in suburban Maryland, literally on the road to Baltimore, while the father of Case 8 was "a chemist and law school graduate at the government Patent Office," another Washington agency. Other cases appear to have been local, based on the way they were first noticed or on their parents' occupations -- one mother, a pediatrician, became a Maryland public-health officer. Case 4 was the son of a mining engineer, which also suggests the possibility of some environmental link. (It is unclear why Kanner, who died in 1981, arranged the first 11 cases in the order he did, which is not chronological.)
Ricci King, a Washington state autism advocate, says she has long noticed a connection between farm backgrounds and autism, especially in children who never had been vaccinated. That fits with a link to fungicides, she says.
"For some reason in the back of my brain I was filing the fact that some of these parents were farmers, or lived near farm communities," says King, who has a 14-year-old son, Robert Hedequist, with autism and moderates an international autism biomedical discussion group for parents and professionals, ABMD@yahoogroups.com.
"A light bulb went off for me at a conference in Portland (Ore.) in 2001 where I met a mother of five children, all on the spectrum, all unvaccinated," King recalls in an interview. "She was from eastern Washington, she came from a family of farmers, and her husband was a farmer as well. All five of her children had regressive autism. Meeting her changed the way I look at autism, and prompted me to explore the connection."
King says her "jaw literally dropped" when presented with the idea that mercury in fungicides could link Kanner's early cases. "It would be hard to convince me that there isn't a connection," she says.
Again, that's speculation. But mercury, like many toxins, can linger in the environment and could theoretically be a risk for decades via earth, air and water. At the Beltsville center where Frederick L. Wellman experimented with mercury fungicides in the 1930s -- and where research on their agricultural uses presumably ended decades ago -- mercury concentrations remained up to 2,000 times the U.S. average, according to a 1995 Coastal Hazardous Waste Site Review by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
After leaving Beltsville in 1943, Wellman became head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Botany at the U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, making frequent forays around the world. The bespectacled scientist published several books as well as dozens of scientific papers. He founded the Caribbean Division of the American Phytopathological Society.
His career was his calling. The first chapter in his 1974 book "Plant Diseases -- An Introduction for the Layman" begins with a stark depiction of what can happen without the contributions of plant pathologists.
"There are many plant diseases that have destroyed important food crops causing poverty, misery, hunger, and, finally, the ugliest thing in all human experience: famine," he wrote. "I have seen and smelled villages in the last stages of famine. ... To me, privileged, fed, and protected, the sight seemed an impossibility."
Wellman became the world's leading authority on a fungus called Hemileia vastatrix, the cause of coffee rust disease. Again, mercury was part of the picture. He wrote:
"Coffee seed is covered with a tough parchment-like shell and this may be washed and disinfected with strong chemicals. Solutions of formaldehyde, strong chlorides, salts of mercury and salts of copper can all be used and after half an hour of soaking, the treated seed rinsed in water."
While Wellman made a name for himself in plant pathology, Leo Kanner did the same in the field he named. Johns Hopkins became a "clearinghouse" for autism cases from as far away as South Africa. By 1958, he had files on 150 autistic children.
In 1971 Kanner wrote a follow-up paper on the first 11 children. "Twenty-eight years have elapsed since then. ... The patients were between 2 and 8 years old when first seen at the Children's Psychiatric Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"What has become of them?" he asked. "What is their present status?"
Frederick W. was one of just two children whose outcome he considered favorable, Kanner said (Case 1 from Forest, Miss., was the other). In 1962, officials at the Maryland institution where Frederick W. lived wrote:
"He is, at 26 years, a passive, likeable boy whose chief interest is music. He is able to follow the routine and, though he lives chiefly within his own world, he enjoys those group activities which are of particular interest to him. He was a member of the chorus in the Parents' Day program and was in charge of the loud speaker at the annual carnival. He went on weekend trips to town unaccompanied and made necessary purchases independently."
Two years later the Wellmans took their son out of that institution and brought him to live with them in Puerto Rico. Their son "picked up a lot of Spanish and worked out a schedule of studying language lessons on records at 4 o'clock every afternoon," they told Kanner.
Frederick L. Wellman soon retired from his Puerto Rican post, and the family moved to Raleigh, where he became a visiting professor at North Carolina State.
"We settled into a new home and (Frederick) did his part in it," the Wellmans wrote Kanner. "He has become acquainted with the neighbors and sometimes makes calls on them. We tried him out in the County Sheltered Workshop and Vocational Training Center. He took right to it, made friends with the teachers, and helped with some of the trainees. Through his relationship there, he took up bowling and he does pretty well."
Frederick L. Wellman retired from N.C. State in 1970. He, his wife and their son lived in an apartment building until the elder Wellmans died in the 1990s; Frederick W. turns 71 in May.
A man who twice answered the intercom at his current residence said it was a wrong number. A letter sent to his address received no response.
So the last word must come from Kanner's follow-up more than a quarter-century ago.
In 1969, Frederick W. began working at the National Air Pollution Administration, now part of the Environmental Protection Agency, doing tasks like running a copy machine. His boss wrote in 1970 that he "is an outstanding employee by any standard."
Mark Blaxill of SafeMinds says the new information about Frederick W. and the other early cases is a call to action.
"It's important not to make overly large claims from this evidence, but we need to take seriously the early environmental clues like this," he says. "Johns Hopkins has detailed data on the first couple of hundred Kanner patients. Perhaps there are more clues in that sample, like an undiscovered environmental cluster, that no one has considered before.
"I would hope that Hopkins might consider opening up those case files and, instead of focusing on the parents, start thinking about where these families lived and what the parents' occupational exposures might have been."
Researcher Beverly Crawford contributed to this story.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.
Autism: Why The Debate Rages
June 15, 2007
Posted by Sharyl Attkisson, Capitol Hill Correspondent for CBS News
With the first autism case now being heard in federal vaccine court in Washington D.C., it makes sense to ask: Why is anyone even still debating the possibility of a link between vaccines and autism? After all, for years, many government health officials, advisors and vaccine manufacturers have said there's no association.
Here are a number of reasons why the question remains open:
1. While government scientists, advisors and pharmaceutical companies have been responsible for infinite lifesaving and life improving medical advances, they are not infallible.
· It's the same group that originally thought it was safe to use x-ray machines in shoe stores, gave pregnant women Thalidomide for morning sickness and once allowed mercury in medicines. They assured us Vioxx and Duract were safe painkillers, prescribed Rezulin for diabetics and then denied any of them were responsible for patient deaths. If we never questioned that group, we might not have discovered that Fen- phen and the dietary supplement Ephedra are not safe weight loss products, that antidepressants in kids can lead to suicidality and Viagra can cause blindness. The list goes on.
· When it comes to vaccines, the same group failed to predict that the 1990's rotavirus (diarrhea) vaccine would have to be pulled from the market after infant deaths. They encouraged use of the oral polio vaccine (eventually discontinued after it gave too many children polio). And they allowed the use of a mercury neurotoxin preservative in childhood vaccines, only to admit later that they hadn't thought to calculate the cumulative amount kids were getting as more and more vaccines were added to the childhood immunization schedule.
· Recent history demonstrates that too often, government health officials, mainstream doctors and pharmaceutical companies aren't on the leading edge of alerting us to health risks; they're bringing up the rear. Patients feel left to fend for themselves, seeking independent research and opinions on their own. They and their dogged, relentless determination have often been the catalyst that eventually brings medical dangers to the forefront.
2. Government scientists, advisors and vaccine manufacturers often take an all-or-nothing approach to vaccinations.
· Government officials and infectious disease experts I've spoken with are fearful that if vaccine side effects are better publicized, or if a link between vaccines and autism and ADD were made, the public would overreact and lose faith in the entire vaccination program. The result, they're afraid, would be parents refusing to give their children any vaccines, leading to new, deadly epidemics of preventable diseases. That indeed would be a disaster. However, their fears have resulted in something I call an all-or-nothing approach: they tend to promote nearly all vaccines for nearly all children as equally necessary and equally safe. Yet at the same time, if asked, they agree not all vaccines are equally safe, equally beneficial, equally necessary and equally tolerated by each individual child.
· Through the Internet and other resources, parents are now able to find research on vaccines and read it for themselves. They compare the government's all-or-nothing approach to the research and become skeptical that the government is presenting the whole picture on vaccine safety generally.
3. Government officials and mainstream scientists who dispel any vaccine/autism/ADD link have ties to vaccine makers.
· There's so much overlap among pharmaceutical companies, government scientists and advisors that the information they provide at least has the appearance of a conflict of interest. Government scientists and advisors often do not mention their connections to the vaccine industry when they provide opinions on the vaccine/autism/ADD issue.
· One of the best examples of this is the landmark autism/vaccine study published in Pediatrics. Early in his study, the lead author, CDC's Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, found statistically significant associations between the amount of mercury (thimerosal) exposure kids got from their childhood vaccines, and a wide range of brain disorders. However, the published version of the study (the one the authors say is accurate) found no evidence of a link to autism. Not disclosed was that Dr. Verstraeten had left CDC midstream during the study and had gone to work for Glaxo, a vaccine manufacturer. That failure to disclose was criticized in a later publication of Pediatrics, but it got little mainstream attention. Also getting little attention was a letter from well-respected scientists, also in Pediatrics, who echoed what parents of autistic children had been saying for months: they questioned the use and exclusion of certain data from Dr. Verstraeten's study that eventually reduced the statistical ties between vaccines and neurodisorders.
· University and government researchers and advisors often do research for vaccine companies, help develop vaccines (even profit from them), and/or are paid to consult for them. Often, these researchers do not disclose their industry ties when they publicly dispel the notion of a link between autism or ADD and vaccines.
· Lastly, the CDC is inextricably tied to vaccine makers through contracts and other business and financial relationships that open the door for the possibility of conflicts.
4. Non-profits which dispel any vaccine/autism/ADD link have ties to vaccine makers.
· Non-profits that promote vaccinations have ties to vaccine makers that they often do not disclose when giving their opinions on vaccine safety. One example is "Every Child By Two." This group contacted CBS News several years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent one of our stories about the vaccine safety from airing. In forms filed for the IRS, the non-profit lists an official from vaccine maker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals as its Treasurer. It lists vaccine maker Chiron as a paid client.
· Another example of a non-profit tied to the industry is "The Vaccine Fund." Its President from 2000- 2005 was Jacques-Francois Martin, formerly CEO of vaccine maker Sanofi-Pasteur, CEO of vaccine maker Chiron, and President of the International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association. While at The Vaccine Fund, his salary was paid by a company that says it "has developed particular strength in the vaccine industry and vaccine development."
5. The dual role of the CDC undermines the appearance of fairness.
· There is a perceived, if not real, conflict of interest with the government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) heavily promoting vaccines, but also responsible for monitoring adverse events. At least two respected medical journals, the "American Journal of Public Health" and "Pediatrics" have published letters or articles recommending "greater independence in vaccine safety assessments" apart from "the highly successful program to promote immunizations." In short, the CDC's bread and butter is achieving high vaccination rates. But that role is in conflict with the agency's responsibility to fully research and disclose adverse events that could, in theory, bring down vaccination rates.
6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.
· Something rarely reported is that while there's no definitive study linking vaccines to autism or ADD, there is also no study definitively disproving a link. And there's a substantial body of peer-reviewed, published science from places like Columbia, Yale and Northeastern suggesting a link, or pointing to the need for further study.
· Many credible voices deny a link. But many other credible voices support the idea of a link. One example of the latter is George Wayne Lucier, formerly a senior official at the National Institutes of Health in Environmental Toxicology, an NIH advisor, member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Toxicity Testing and a scientific advisor for EPA who concludes "...... it is highly probably that use of thimerosal as a preservative has caused developmental disorders, including autism, in some children." A lengthy Congressional investigation also concluded that the autism epidemic is likely linked to vaccinations.
7. Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics.
· The most frightening part of the autism/ADD epidemics is that if, indeed, they're unrelated to vaccinations, that our best, brightest public health experts still have no idea what is causing it. Excluding ADD, one out of every 150 American children are now being diagnosed with autism.
Vaccinations have provided lifesaving miracles in public health. However, it's undisputed that they are also responsible for many serious adverse events including brain disorders and, rarely, deaths. Trying to maximize the potential benefits of vaccines and minimize the harm shouldn't be seen as a threat to the nation's inoculation program, it's merely a logical step forward.
One scientist who testified for the plaintiff this week in The Vaccine Court said there's a way to test children for a hidden hole in their immune make-up that makes them susceptible to bad immune reactions from vaccinations. He said that, ideally, every child should undergo such a test before their first vaccinations. But he also said the test is very expensive and so "not worth it." Many parents might disagree. If they knew such a test was available, they'd find a way to pay for it. But such information has to be disseminated to the public before a first step can even be considered.
Mainstream medicine initially said that autism was caused by mothers who weren't affectionate enough with their children. If that doesn't teach us that we should always seek further knowledge and not necessarily accept what's spoon-fed to us by certain experts..... then nothing will.
Sperm Mutation Linked To Autism
Science Daily — University of Iowa researchers have learned more about a genetic mutation that contributes to autism. The mutation occurred in sperm cells of a father, who does not have autism, but passed the condition on to two of his children. The investigators now know more about how the mutation causes problems with a specific gene and are testing for additional mutations of the same gene in other people with autism. Thomas Wassink, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry in the UI Carver College of Medicine, presented the findings May 3 at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research in Seattle.
Earlier this year, UI researchers and collaborators were part of an international team that identified, among other findings, deletions in a gene called neurexin 1, which caused the two cases of autism in one family. The UI researchers and collaborators were Wassink; Val Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pediatrics and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator; Kacie Meyer, a graduate student in Wassink's laboratory; and former UI investigator Joseph Piven, M.D., now professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and director of the UNC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, "Genes with the most compelling evidence of causing autism appear to be components of a specific kind of neuronal connection, or synapse, called the glutamate synapse. The gene neurexin 1 was the fourth of these genes to be identified, and it is a scientifically interesting mutation because it wasn't found in either of the parents, who do not have autism," Wassink said.
Instead, the mutation is a germline mosaic -- meaning the deletion occurred only in the father's sperm cells when he himself was in gestation. As result, the father did not have autism, but his two children, both daughters, inherited from him a chromosome that was missing a small piece of DNA that contained neurexin 1. The daughters now have autism. Because of this missing DNA, certain proteins cannot form that normally contribute to glutamate synapses and, by extension, normal development.
"Now, using this information, we can look in a very detailed way at this gene in other families and begin to understand what happens when this protein that is normally active in the brain is missing," Wassink said. Knowing more about how the deletions function could eventually lead to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools. About Autism: Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and it is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 166 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls.
Environmental Factors in Autism Initiative
The role of environmental factors in the development of autism is a crucial area of study. Although we know that genetics is an important factor, genetics alone may not account for all cases of autism. The increase in the reported number of autism cases has generated extreme concern over the potential involvement of toxins as well as infectious agents in our environment. For example, prenatal exposure to the chemicals thalidomide and valproic acid has been linked to a greater risk of a child being born with autism. This initiative targets research that seeks to understand and identify the potential role environmental factors play in triggering autism.
Through its many granting programs, CAN has and continues to stimulate research into environmental interactions in autism. View the full list of environment-related grants that have been funded by Cure Autism Now. In addition to its normal grant calls, through a specific call for proposals, the Environmental Factors in Autism initiative awarded four grants that focus on mercury. Until recently the chemical thimerosal, a mercury derivative, was a commonly used preservative in childhood vaccines and other medical and health products. View a letter written by our CEO, Peter Bell and Board Chair, Sallie Bernard, which addresses autism and mercury in vaccines. The grants funded through the Environmental Initiative request for proposals focus on the neurotoxicity of mercury and its possible implication in autism:
A comparative study evaluating the dose-responsiveness effects of methylmercury and thimerosal on select nervous, immune and enzyme parameters
-- Deborah Keil, Ph.D., Medical University of South Carolina
Study suggests link between pesticides, autism
By Marla Cone, Times Staff Writer
7:48 PM PDT, July 29, 2007
Women who live near California farm fields sprayed with organochlorine pesticides may be more likely to give birth to children with autism, according to a study by state health officials to be published today.
The rate of autism among the children of 29 women who lived near the fields was extremely high, suggesting that exposure to the insecticides in the womb might have played a role. The study is the first to report a link between pesticides and the neurological disorder, which affects one in every 150 children.
But the state scientists cautioned that their finding is highly preliminary because of the small number of women and children involved and lack of evidence from other studies.
"We want to emphasize that this is exploratory research," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health. "We have found very preliminary data that there may be an association. We are in no way concluding that there is a causal relationship between pesticide exposure of pregnant women and autism."
The two pesticides implicated are older generation compounds developed in the 1950s and used to kill mites, primarily on cotton as well as some vegetables and other crops. Their volumes have declined substantially in recent years.
Examining three years of birth records and pesticide data, scientists from the public health department determined that the Central Valley women lived within 547 yards of fields sprayed with organochlorine pesticides during their first trimester of pregnancy. Eight of them, or , 28%, had children with autism. Their rate of autism was six times greater than for mothers who did not live near the fields, the study said.
Susan Kegley, senior scientist of Pesticide Action Network North America, a San Francisco-based advocacy group, said the report added to an existing body of evidence that endosulfan and dicofol, already banned in some countries, are harmful.
"This is one of the first papers that links use of pesticide to incidence of a disease, and autism in particular," she said. "The findings are very strong. This is a six-fold risk factor in comparison to someone who is not exposed. There aren't too many studies that come out like that."
Even though small numbers of children were involved, "it is still one of those things that make you sit up and pay attention," she said.
The findings suggest that 7% of autism cases in the Central Valley during the years studied â€” 1996 through 1998 â€” might have been connected to exposure to the insecticides drifting off fields into residential areas. Births during those years were analyzed because children born later might not yet be diagnosed with autism.
Children with autism spectrum disorders have impaired social and communication skills. The causes are unknown, but because diagnoses have been increasing, scientists have been exploring various environmental factors, including children's vaccines and chemical pollutants.
"The good news is we've used a new research technology to generate hypotheses and possible associations, so we are making progress in the battle to get more information" about the cause of autism, Horton said.
The goal of the study was to "systematically explore the general hypothesis that residential proximity to agricultural pesticide applications during pregnancy could be associated with autism spectrum disorders in offspring," the authors wrote in their study, published online today in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The scientists collected records of nearly 300,000 children born in the 19 counties of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys. Of them, 465 had autism. The scientists then compared the addresses during pregnancy to state records that detailed the location of fields sprayed with several hundred pesticides.
For most pesticides, no unusual numbers of autism cases were found but the exception was a class of compounds called organochlorines. Most, including DDT, were banned in the United States several decades ago because they were building up in the environment. Only dicofol and endosulfan remain.
The autism rate was highest for children of those mothers who lived the closest to the fields and it declined as the distance from the fields increased.
There is no other human or animal evidence that the two chemicals can cause autism. But both are neurotoxins â€” they affect nerves and the brain â€” and cause reproductive effects and alter hormones in animal tests. In addition, dicofol is a possible human carcinogen.
The scientists concluded that "the possibility of a connection between gestational exposure to organochlorine pesticides and autism spectral disorders requires further study."
A July report by the Department of Pesticide Regulation said endosulfan can spread far from fields via the air and expose the public, based on air monitoring in Fresno, Monterey and Tulare counties. The state Department of Pesticide Regulation is likely to designate endosulfan as a toxic air contaminant soon, and dicofol could follow. That designation triggers a review by the agency to see whether steps should be taken to minimize the chemicals drifting off fields into nearby communities.
Glenn Brank, spokesman for the pesticide agency, said officials there are "very interested" in the new autism data but say that "more work" on the potential link is needed before it can carry much weight in assessments of the chemicals' risks.
The two insecticides are now used much less often than in the years that the possible connection to autism was found. As a result, there is less likelihood that pregnant women are exposed today. Nearly 774,000 pounds were applied in 1996, compared with 277,000 pounds in 2005, down nearly 64%, according to state records.
"In the past couple years, the bottom has dropped out of these two," Brank said.
Insects have built up resistance and cotton farmers have switched to new compounds.
The two chemicals are not found in household or yard pesticides. Traces are found in food, but the study looked only at possible exposure from the air. They are used most extensively in Fresno, Kings, Imperial and Tulare counties. Dicofol is mostly used on cotton, oranges, beans and walnuts. Endosulfan is used primarily in tomato processing and on lettuce, alfalfa and cotton crops.
Expert links autism to mothers drinking
KATE FOSTER (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MODERATE drinking during pregnancy could be the hidden cause of thousands of serious childhood disorders including autism, Scotland's leading authority on alcohol and health warned last night. Dr Maggie Watts, vice chairman on alcohol for the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, fears that even low levels of drinking could be related to a range of behavioural problems in young children, the cause of which has previously been a mystery. Watts, who is also a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, warned that up to one in 100 Scots children - as many as 9,000 - could be suffering from Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) with symptoms including behavioural and memory difficulties.
But she said many could be misdiagnosed as suffering from autism and other neurodevelopmental problems because doctors do not ask mothers about their pregnancy drinking habits when making their diagnosis. In recent weeks, there have been a series of contradictory guidelines and reports on the 'safe' limit for alcohol during pregnancy. Abstention throughout pregnancy is now the Scottish Government's official advice but experts south of the Border say moderate consumption is acceptable after the first three months.
Watts is now firmly of the view that pregnant women should not drink. She said: "This condition is vastly under-recognised. It is certainly possible that children with this condition may have been diagnosed as having something else. We need to review some of these children with other labels to see whether they fit the criteria for FASD. "Because they are not being recognised, some of the strategies and medication being used might not be appropriate, which is why we would say it's important to recognise them. "The advice I would give to women is not to drink during pregnancy. We don't know at what point the damage is caused." Experts believe alcohol crosses the placenta and the foetus in the womb is not able to process the toxins effectively. While the mother's body clears the alcohol within 12 hours, the foetus is exposed for up to 72 hours because it does not have a properly developed liver.
In the most serious cases of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Syndrome, babies are born with growth problems and mental retardation. But even where babies suffering FASD appear physically normal, they can go on to develop behavioural problems, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, slow emotional development and short-term memory loss in childhood. Researchers now believe up to one in 100 children could be affected.
Watts is planning a Scotland-wide trial to identify children with the
disorder which will mean pregnant women being asked searching questions about their drinking habits. She hopes this will enable health workers to help expectant mothers stop drinking and give doctors a clearer picture of the extent of FASD. Research by Watt within Ayrshire and Arran found up to two children a year in the area are diagnosed with the most severe form of FASD. However official records for the number of the children with the condition across Scotland show just three or four diagnosed every year. Watt believes the real figure of new cases every year across Scotland could be around 20 but they are not being identified. A survey she conducted of Scottish paediatricians showed most were not confident about making a diagnosis, uncertain that they were adequately
trained and competent to do so.
Official advice from Scotland's Chief Medical Officer states that it is safest if no alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. However, controversial draft guidance from the health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, states that after the first three months of pregnancy, women can consume up to 1.5 units per day. Last week a review of existing research, conducted by Oxford University, found "no convincing evidence" that binge-drinking could harm the foetus. Yet a recent study on low-level drinking by scientists at Bristol University found that women having as little as one drink per week hadchildren with mental health problems.
Susan Fleischer, founder of the National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, said: "It is our experience that children are diagnosed with things like autism or attention deficit disorder before they get a diagnosis of foetal alcohol syndrome. A lot of children are misdiagnosed." One mother who drank during her pregnancy, Tracey Hayter, gave birth to a son with foetal alcohol syndrome and has struggled for years to get help for him. Chris, now 22, was born weighing less than 5lbs and suffered from fits. He went on to become hyperactive with short-term memory loss. His mental age is around half his real age and he cannot hold down a job. His mother binge drank two to three bottles of wine at the weekends during her pregnancy to cope with depression.
Hayter, from Tonbridge in Kent, said: "I wasn't aware of the full effect my drinking would have on the baby. I was not given any advice at all." A Scottish Government spokesman said it was reviewing how it collected information about drug and alcohol use in pregnancy.
Pyrethrin Chemicals In Pet Shampoo May Increase Autism Risk
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Chemicals found in pet shampoos may be linked to a raised risk of autism, a study of how environmental factors influence the developmental disorder has suggested. Mothers who used pesticide-based shampoos to wash their pets while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with an autistic spectrum disorder as those who did not, according to early results from a US research team. The findings, from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study, which is funded by the US National Institutes of Health, raise the possibility that chemicals called pyrethrins found in pet shampoos and flea sprays are linked to a raised risk of autism. Scientists behind the research emphasise that the findings remain preliminary. Mothers of autistic children may be more likely to remember their use of chemicals than are mothers whose children develop normally. The study asked 333 mothers of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) and 198 mothers of typically developing children to fill in questionnaires about their exposure to environmental chemicals, from three months before they became pregnant to their babies' first birthdays. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, of the University of California-Davis will present preliminary findings today at the International Meeting for Autism Research in London.
"Mothers of ASD children were twice as likely to report using pet shampoos for fleas or ticks during the exposure period as compared with control mothers," she said. "The strongest association was during the second trimester, but risk was elevated for use in other time windows as well. "It is possible that mothers of typically developing children tended to forget about their use of pesticides around the home, which could have biased the results. Nonetheless, the higher self-reported use of pet shampoos by mothers of children with ASDs raises concern about the safety of these products." It is accepted widely that autism is heavily influenced by genetics. Environmental factors may add to the risk.
CA Study Cites Chemicals in the Home as Possible Autism Trigger
Written by Joel Bittle
Published on January 16th, 20092 CommentsPosted in Health While autism rates have been climbing at a frightening rate, its root causes have remained elusive. Researchers at the University of California, Davis M.I.N.D. institute have concluded that the focus of autism research should shift away from genetics, accounting
practices, or vaccines and toward the increase of toxic chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment, especially in the home. Since 1990, autism rates in California have increased 600 to 700 percent. The study, published in Epidemiology, suggests that environmental toxins like metals, pesticides, and infectious agents could play a large part in the increase.
The dramatic increase in autism rates in California has been attributed to, at various times, increases in families bringing autistic children into California, changes in how autistic children are diagnosed or counted, and the use of lead in vaccines. To address the first issue, the study only looked at California natives. The second issue, accounting practices, played a small part in the increase, but no more than 20% of the overall increase. To address the third issue, the researchers looked into the use of thimerosal, a mercury compound, in vaccines. But since thimerosal was removed from most vaccines by 1999 and the autism rate grew at the same rate, the compound was dismissed as a possible trigger. (Note: Despite the study's stance on vaccines, there continues to be much debate over their affects on autism rates. If chemical and environmental factors are more closely studied, those metals found in vaccines should be studied as well.)
With these factors ruled out, said M.I.N.D. researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, genetics and environment become the most likely, "and genetics don't change in such a short period of time." Hertz- Picciotto is currently involved in two large studies investigating the possible environmental causes of autism, including one that is looking into flame retardants and pesticides. A new study reported by Scientific American found a link between the increase of phthalates, a compound used in vinyl and cosmetics, and autism rates.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the M.I.N.D study began soon after a 2005 Center for Disease Control and Prevention study that showed that most American children and adults carried within their bodies dozens of potentially toxic pesticides and chemical compounds used in consumer products. While the study showed that levels of certain known harmful chemicals like lead have decreased after greater awareness and regulation, the levels of chemicals whose effects are unknown have
greatly increased. For 148 chemicals listed in the report, the CDC admitted they do not know the potential health effects.
Fetuses and newborns are at most risk to harmful chemicals because of the enormous cell growth. The CDC study showed that one in every 18 women of childbearing age in the United States had mercury in their bodies that exceeded the EPA's safe levels. In their early years, children are at higher risk due to the chemicals in flame retardants, their habit of putting everything in their mouths, and crawling on the floor - and their bodies are less able to metabolize them.
One of the key elements of green building is increased indoor air quality, including the limiting of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, in the home. These studies highlight the need for better indoor air quality measures and greater education among homeowners and product manufacturers. Additionally, the fact that hundreds of
chemicals without known health effects are in widespread use should spur the CDC and EPA to push for their testing or removal from products until they are proven safe.
Autism Caused by Breast Milk?!
Tuesday July 28, 2009
Could breastfeeding cause autism?!
A new article on the University of California San Francisco's website cites neuroscientist Michael Merzenich on the subject. He's conducted research on rats, feeding the babies levels of PCBs and PBDEs (environmental toxins) at about the same level (adjusting for the size of the subject animals) as is found in human breast milk. The outcome, he says, were "brains that were more degraded in their organization developmentally in these rats than we have ever seen before."
How does this relate to breast feeding and humans? Here's a snippet from his interview:
... it's not just the fact that PCBs and PBDEs accumulate in the environment. There is a second probable contributor to the problem and that's the increased rate of nursing and increased rate of duration of nursing in American populations. ...We have gone from a nursing rate of about 25 percent roughly a quarter of babies being nursed by their mothers to about 75 percent. The average duration that mothers nurse their infants now is about twice as great as it was 30 years ago. This is a positive and good and healthy thing. The problem is that these chemicals are concentrated in breast milk at a level of about six fold as they are in regular body tissues. Because they are concentrated in fat, in a sense the mother is concentrating these poisons and delivering them in relatively high dose levels to infants.
Merzenich makes it very clear that the study looked at RATS, not people. And he stated, over and over again, that breast feeding in general is a good idea. Still, most readers will walk away with the understanding that toxins in breast milk could be a trigger for autism in some infants.
What do you think about this new finding? Would it have an impact on your decision to breast feed your child?
Autism Increase May Be Blamed On Increased Traffic Fumes
By George Gombossy | Last updated Nov 12, 2011, 10:54 am
The puzzle over why autism and other children mental impacts are increasing is being pieced together with signs pointing to traffic fumes as the culprit. Congested cities are fast becoming test tubes for scientists studying the impact of traffic fumes on the brain.
“As roadways choke on traffic, researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory,” reports Robert Lee Hotz in the Wall Street Journal.
“New public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability. “There are more and more scientists trying to find whether and why exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain,” says medical epidemiologist Jiu-Chiuan Chen at the University of Southern California who is analyzing the effects of traffic pollution on the brain health of 7,500 women in 22 states. “The human data are very new.”
“So far, the evidence is largely circumstantial but worrisome, researchers say. And no one is certain yet of the consequences for brain biology or behavior. “There is real cause for concern,” says neurochemist Annette Kirshner at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. “But we ought to proceed with caution.”