One can argue which candidate would cause slightly less autism than the other one over the next four years -- Obama's Big Brother approach to vaccine mandates, or Romney's Big Business push for vaccine development -- but that hardly seems like the basis for much optimism or enthusiasm in either case. (See article below on their response to questions about vaccination.) You can't push policies that cause an autism epidemic, and then expect credit for how you plan to prevent or treat it.
Is this -- the truth about autism, the reality that so many parents and even doctors know, yet so many "experts" and regulators deny -- too down-in-the-weeds, too delicate, too darn complicated to expect the candidates to face? Are pabulum and platitudes OK? I vote no. It's the core issue for American competitiveness, for the health of our children, for the proper relationship between private enterprise and the public good, for competence and accountability. These guys need to "get it" if they want to get our votes. They can't just fall back on nostrums about public health and private enterprise in the absence of informed and sound policy.
For heaven's sake, Obama has had the entire apparatus of the federal government at his disposal for four years to find the cause of autism. Michael Strautmanis, the father of a teenage son with severe autism, is at his side, yet the feds are putting just 5 percent of the research budget toward environmental causes. Speak up, Michael! (As Katie Wright wrote on AOA after listening to him at an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting: "Finally Michael Strautmanis spoke. Mr. Strautmanis is a special counselor to the President. Strautmanis spoke movingly about his own experience with his ASD teenage son and the struggle to maintain safety in the home. It was a poignant speech from a loving father and compassionate man. However, it was a speech we had heard before. Mr. Strautmanis is not interested in autism research. We desperately need someone in the White House or the HHS who closely follows the autism research and can hold the NIH accountable for progress. We cannot continue from this place of research stagnation, with the same people in charge, doing the same things the same way, investing in the same lackluster research and failing our families.")
The irony, of course, is that in the past four years it has become more and more obvious, and scientifically convincing, that autism is an environmental illness -- that there are susceptibilities, to be sure, and those susceptibilities include genes, but that we've been pulling the trigger on a virtual AK-47 full of toxins, from elemental mercury spewing out of Texas power plants, to multiple vaccinations of kids with mito disorders, to loading up pregnant women and infants with ethyl mercury and live viruses at ages (like in utero and by 12 months) when they were never intended to get them, to pesticide-spraying that comes very close, in the case of West Nile, to shooting a gnat with a bazooka. The damage is vast, not limited to autism (ADHD, asthma, etc.), not limited to infants (Alzheimer's, Gardasil, etc.), not limited to the MMR or to thimerosal or vaccines, and not likely to stop anytime soon.
The further irony is that in the last few elections the issue has been at least on the table, but as the evidence for both the epidemic and its origins has increased, the concern evinced by the candidates has diminished. Bush Junior said he'd take thimerosal (mercury) out of vaccines, but he didn't. McCain made all kinds of noise but, back in the Senate, where he might actually have done something useful, he hasn't. Obama told Sam Wessels last week (see below) that he has "a plan," but he manifestly doesn't.
You can thank words like "discredited," "disproven," "much-debunked," "junk science" applied by self-interested parties to the honest and first-hand observations of family members and of a few brave souls like Andy Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. You can thank the lazy and credulous press. And you can thank the people who run the government, or want to, of both parties and all political persuasions.
Obama, of course, presides in an ultimate sense over the catastrophic Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, whose historic failures defy concise recitation, and the National Institutes of Health, which just poured another $100 million down a gene-centric rabbit hole. Romney's view that we should onshore our vaccine innovation and keep cooking up more moneymaking vaccine remedies to public health failures sounds like a piece in The Economist or a press release from the Chamber of Commerce.
Clearly, there's a crying need for a new way forward. The Canary Party. A third-party candidacy that puts vaccine choice, and the environmental roots of autism, into the public debate. A disruptive candidate to stand up and continue the conversation Michele Bachman began (and good for her).
It's too bad Dave Weldon's quixotic bid for the Senate didn't go anywhere. Remember, he wanted to study the Amish; he described the vaccine damage ratio as "1 in 1." He called the CDC on its continuing coverup. And he's a doctor! With Dan Burton retiring and with a key staffer for Rep. Carolyn Maloney stepping back for family reasons, we need people to step up.
And they will. But as for this election, fuggedaboudit.
Pesticides are in the news again, as a study suggested organic foods aren't any more nutritious than the regular -- one is tempted to say inorganic -- kind. As I pointed out, that's not really the point, and those of us who've taken a close look at pesticides appreciate the fact that there is 30% less bug spray and dust on organic food. These days, though, it's not just food that's a risk -- as Dallas found out when the place was thoroughly dusted by plane to try to kill off the West Nile virus via the mosquitos that carry it.
A reader forwarded us the poster above, about spraying in New York City right before the Labor Day weekend. It gives me the creeps. We've written recently about the crop-duster that sprayed pesticide over a cornfield right next to the school in LeRoy, N.Y., right about the time that an outbreak of tic disorders occurred. (Health officials blamed "conversion disorder.")
All this is said to be "safe," of course. The amount of pesticide on regular inorganic food is safe, so very safe. Why then do serious studies keep finding links between exposure to pesticides and autism, ADHD, and Parkinson's? And when was pesticide ever not safe, in the view of those who approved and applied it? Lead arsenate -- yes, a potent blend of lead and arsenic -- was said to be safe when it was in wide use until World War II. Ethyl mercury in vaccines was said to be safe, until it was banned (just not from infant vaccines!) Then DDT was safe, until it was banned. Some people still say it's safe. (We say DDT and lead arsenate triggered poliomyelitis epidemics, among other problems. And we say ethyl mercury causes autism.)
As my co-editor Mark Blaxill points out, it's not as if these toxins have changed in their basic purpose. They were designed to kill. It's not as if they went from being designed to kill, to being designed to cause temporary paralysis, to being designed to cause insects to rethink their intention to eat fruits and vegetables and feast on dirt instead. No, they still kill, they still disrupt the nervous systems of living things.
When you look at all the spraying that's gone on recently from Manhattan to Dallas to LeRoy, you have to wonder when the next cluster of "hysterical" students is going to emerge.
The school year is young. I predict it will be soon.