It's a useful coincidence that autism and autoimmunity start with the same three letters, in both cases because they derive from the Greek word for self, as in aut-obiography. The self of autism is trapped by developmental mayhem; the one in autoimmunity is turned against itself, mistaking its own physical home for an enemy invader.
Autoimmunity, of course, may be at the heart of autism, when the infant's immune system is goaded by the stimulation of excessive vaccination, organic mercury exposure, and other environmental triggers into launching damaging attacks. That, at least, is what we believe at Age of Autism.
So it's fascinating to watch more and more observers notice that -- autism completely aside -- we are in the midst of a tidal wave of autoimmune illnesses that young adults find themselves coping with, as if they were nursing home patients whose defenses were going haywire in the inevitable decline into senescence and death.
The common theme: something is happening here, and we need to know what it is.
AOA's Anne Dachel drew my attention this week to an article in The Atlantic titled "Living Sick And Dying Young in Rich America"
by Leah Sottile, in which she describes her youngish husband Joe's battle with something called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which Wikipedia tells us "is a chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton with variable involvement of peripheral joints and nonarticular structures. AS is a form of spondyloarthritis, a chronic, inflammatory arthritis where immune mechanisms are thought to have a key role."
Sottile realizes she and her husband are not alone: "Almost all of our friends are sick, too. When we met our friend Missy Narrance, Joe found solace in talking to her about his health. She’s 29 and has been battling lupus and fibromyalgia for the past 10 years."
And on and on. "In our close group of friends—who range from 25 to 35 years old—we know people with everything from tumors to chronic pain. Sometimes our conversations over beers on a Friday night turn to discussions of long-term care and miscommunication between doctors."
This is a valuable -- incredibly valuable -- observation. We need a widespread recognition that too many people are sick in disturbing new ways. So Sottile can be forgiven a conventional and not-so-valuable discussion of possible causes, from supposedly dangerous biofuels to the widespread but nonetheless wackadoodle hygiene hypothesis to the facts that people don't exercise and eat a lot of crap -- processed macaroni and cheese comes in for special scorn (in which case, I'm a dead man!). There's also this:
"Despite the fact that America shells out more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and a hefty 75 percent of those dollars are going toward aiding people with chronic conditions—almost half of American adults had at least one chronic condition in 2005."
You, dear AOA reader, will recognize the anomaly there -- it is probably not "despite" all this healthcare, aka toxic medical interventions, but in large measure because of them that this "emergency" of chronic illness, as Sottile properly labels it, is occurring. (Quoting the CDC on this, ground zero for the bloated vaccine schedule, is especially rich.)
I was particularly struck by Sottile's husband's illness as a form of inflammatory arthritis, and their friend's battle with lupus. One need look no further than the first cases of autism to find direct correspondences between autism and autoimmunity -- and here, I would argue, is where coincidence ends and causation converges.
Case 1 in the landmark 1943 paper that first described autism is Donald Triplett, who we located in 2005; he is now 80 years old and living in Forest, Mississippi. "Donald T.," as he was identified then, came down with a life-threatening case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a young teenager. As we recount in our book, his treatment with gold salts cleared up the JRA and made a vast improvement in his autism symptoms, particularly the characteristic anxiety and lack of sociability. (In the Atlantic article, Sottile writes that her husband had "been diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when he was in elementary school, but that went away when he got older. He figured this pain might just be a new version of that." It probably is.)
Then there's autism's Case 3. We identified him last year as William Ritchey Miller of Raleigh, N.C. An excerpt from our article focused on Miller's brother, Alden:
Alden graduated from North Carolina's Davidson College in 1962 and earned a PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina, according to an account in an American Sociological Association newsletter.
He was on the faculty at Indiana and Boston universities. At the latter, "There were rumors among the faculty about his exceptional abilities as a methodologist. His reputation and quietness made him seem austere and unapproachable," but "those of us who got to know him found Alden to be not only approachable but extremely patient."
Alden joined the Harvard Center for Criminal Justice, rising to associate director, and then a similar institute at the University of Maryland. But his health began failing and he was unable to drive. He died in Hyattsville, Md., in 1984.
He was only 44 years old. The cause of death, according to the ASA account, was lupus erythermatosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own healthy tissue.
According to his death certificate ... his brother, Ritchey, (autism's Case 3) died of multiple myeloma -- a cancer of the immune system, formed by malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow.
Problems related to the immune system, then, look like a clue from early days to the nature of autism. Something may have been triggering both. But what?
We have written at length about the "something" that triggered both the developmental disorder called autism and autoimmune disorders like lupus and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and immune cancers, and suffice it to say it is not extruded cheese product, toxic-though-addictive as that may be. We propose it was the commercialization of a truly toxic substance, an organic mercury compound first used in the 1930s as a fungicide in plant and forestry products and -- may God and the CDC not smite us for saying so -- in multidose vaccines. The first three autism cases point to the first two uses, as we detail in our book, and the autism epidemic points to the third one. Again, from our article last year:
-- In 1930, Donald Triplett's parents built the house he was born in three years later. The comfortable, unpretentious residence set in a large, leafy yard is not far from the lumber mills where the first tests of the ethylmercury wood preservative Lignasan were done at the same time. We suspect off-gassing of ethylmercury from the wood -- a known risk that eventually led to Lignasan's decline -- affected the mother and her infant.
-- In 1936, the year Case 2, Frederick Wellman, was born, his father was experimenting with the ethylmercury dust Ceresan at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center just outside Washington in suburban Maryland, according to records in his archive.
-- In 1937, when Ritchey Miller was born, his father had already been exposed to Lignasan at the University of Idaho during its wood-preservation experiments; the report of those experiments lists Lignasan as one of the substances tested and shows its effect in protecting a window frame.
Forest, Mississippi. A plant pathologist. A forestry professor who later taught at the same southern university ((North Carolina State). A new toxic exposure that links all three and triggered the rise of autism. As autism research wandered far afield, the truth was evident in the first three cases -- confirming Occam's Razor, the axiom that the simplest explanation is usually correct.
We believe that in all three cases this exposure extended to the mother and her infant. Second-hand risks from occupational exposure to mercury – especially in excessive quantities as might arise in a laboratory setting -- are well-documented in the medical literature. Other cases in the first 11 point to risks to the mother and the child from the new diphtheria toxoid vaccination; one mother was a public health pediatrician who was part of the first well-baby clinic project at Harvard and actively promoted the shots.
So the life of Ritchey Miller helps form a pattern that might otherwise have remained obscured. Yet even now, more than a decade after the similarities between mercury poisoning and autism were pointed out in a peer-reviewed journal article by Bernard et al. -- and despite the evidence we've assembled of a link in the very first cases -- health officials continue to insist ethylmercury is safe to inject in children. And they fail to recognize the significance of associated immune problems also evident from the beginning.
So, to my mind, there is common cause among people like Leah Sottile and her family and friends, bearing up under the weight of baffling and crippling chronic autoimmune disorders, and families struggling with the autism epidemic. That's because the history of both autism and autoimmunity points to specific new chemical compounds, not just vague genes and a generically polluted environment and food supply, as culprits.
Perhaps in the coming year and years we can move beyond confusion and coincide -- and work together to make the true connections explicit by demanding deeper and more honest explanations.
A final note: while Ritchey and Alden Miller succumbed to autism and lupus and immune cancer, their parents lived long and healthy lives, well into their 90s. Of course, they weren't exposed to organic mercury as infants, as their two children were, as are tens of millions of children around the world and in the United States to this very year, courtesy of, among others, the World Health Organization and the CDC, in the name of wiping out flu and other illnesses either not worth preventing, or preventable without it.
Progress sometimes means reclaiming the past rather than creating a utopian future whose actual outcome no one can truly predict -- a future whose tragic dimensions we are witnessing every day.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.