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NY, NJ govs (one Dem, one GOP) clamp down on Ebola quaratine for returning health care workers, slam ever-changing CDC guidelines. That's because politicians are accountable to the people, unlike arrogant CDC. -0- Here's an idea -- if you've been...

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177 posts categorized "Mark Blaxill"

Minneapolis Book Symposium on Public Health Policies to Feature Robert Kennedy, Jr


Flyer symposiumRobert F. Kennedy Jr. to Discuss Vaccine Mercury
Controversy at Minnesota Book Symposium Nov. 1

Eight authors to speak on corruption & censorship in health science

BLOOMINGTON, MN – Scientists, attorneys and journalists will gather in Minnesota to discuss medical injuries which may have been caused by over zealous public health policies and procedures  at the Health Choice/Skyhorse Publishing Book Symposium Saturday, November 1. The event runs from 10 am to 6 pm at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, 2100 Killebrew Drive in Bloomington.  

Register before 10/20 and you receive all 8 books for just $99.00.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the attorney, radio host, Riverkeeper and author, will read from his book Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak – The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury – a Known Neurotoxin – from Vaccines. Kennedy has appeared on various TV and radio programs explaining how government is suppressing evidence showing how the ethylmercury-based vaccine preservative damages and kills cells at extremely low doses.

Other book presentations on the intersection of science and politics include:

•    Science for Sale: How the U.S. Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits by Dr. David Lewis, a former EPA microbiologist now with the National Whistleblowers Center;

•    Plague: One Scientist’s Intrepid Search for the Truth about Retroviruses, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, and Other Diseases by Kent Heckenlively, J.D. & Dr. Judy Mikovits;

•    Vaccines 2.0: The Careful Parent's Guide to Making Safe Vaccination Choices for Your Family by Mark Blaxill & Dan Olmsted, a former UPI investigative reporter;

Continue reading "Minneapolis Book Symposium on Public Health Policies to Feature Robert Kennedy, Jr" »

Best of AofA: There’s a Funny Thing About Evidence: More Support for Autism-Mercury Link

Science_jpg_w300h345 Robert F. Kennedy's book is shipping - debut date is August 4. Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak. Have you ordered a copy?  Be sure to leave a review after you read the book. It's quite helpful to an author - and the audience he wishes to reach.  Thank you. The post below ran in 2010.

"...thimerosal at the same concentrations received in human infants had clearly measurable effects on opioid receptor development in the infant rats. They also found that these effects were stronger at higher doses. The effect was found to be persistent, lasting well beyond the initial period of administration. According to the authors, “very likely, it is permanent.”"


By Mark Blaxill

Despite the relentless drumbeat of propaganda from the CDC, public health authorities and the thuggish on-line goons of the medical industry, there’s a funny thing going on. The evidence of a connection between mercury exposure and autism keeps growing.

Last month, two scientists at the University of Northern Iowa, Catherine DeSoto and Robert Hitlan, published a fascinating review paper (see HERE for an interview with DeSoto; also see HERE and HERE for earlier reviews of DeSoto’s successful debunking of an error-filled paper on autism and mercury). They asked a simple question: what does the published evidence linking autism and mercury really say? To answer that question, they did a simple Pub Med search. They searched for the terms “(Autism AND Mercury) OR (Autism AND Heavy Metals)”. They found 163 articles (a number that has since risen to 174) and reviewed them. According to the authors, “Of these 163 articles, 58 were research articles with empirical data relevant to the question of a link between autism and one or more toxic heavy metals. Fifteen were offered as evidence against a link between exposure to these metals and autism. In contrast, a sum of 43 papers were supporting a link between autism and exposure to those metals.” In short, 74% of the published studies supported the theory.

Evidence is a funny thing.

Continue reading "Best of AofA: There’s a Funny Thing About Evidence: More Support for Autism-Mercury Link" »

Coy Barefoot Interviews Mark Blaxill on Autism's Continued Rise

Coy logoGUEST: Mark Blaxill, co-founder of the Age of Autism news site and co-author with Dan Olmsted of the book by the same name.

TOPIC:  Mark reacts to the breaking news that autism rates in America continue to rise.

 

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE:  Thursday, March 27, 2014.|

Click HERE to listen to the interview.

Pesticides and The Age of Polio

Polio triumph Update 4/7/14 The vaccine injury denial community is working overtime this week in an effort to hijack AutismAction Month and protect indudstry at the expense of people with autism. Polio is most often used as the tool of fear.  Here is the Polio series from Dan and Mark to offer clarity to those who seek it.

Doctors May Have Missed Pesticide Clue in California’s “Polio-like” Cluster

Child in “Polio-like Cluster” Linked to California’s Winemaking Industry

“Polio-like” Cluster in California Has Eerie Echoes

Below is Dan and Mark's 7 part series on polio which ran in 2011.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

1. The Wrong Narrative.

Polio is the iconic epidemic, its conquest one of medicine’s heroic dramas. The narrative is by now familiar: Random, inexplicable outbreaks paralyzed and killed thousands of infants and children and struck raw terror into 20th century parents, triggering a worldwide race to identify the virus and develop a vaccine. Success ushered in the triumphant era of mass vaccination. Now polio’s last hideouts amid the poorest of the poor in Asia and Africa are under relentless siege by, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Eradication is just a matter of time, and many more illnesses will soon meet the same fate.

Continue reading "Pesticides and The Age of Polio " »

President Obama: Fire The Deniers! CDC Reports 1 in 68 Autism Rate

FireTheDeniers
Contact the White House to ask President Obama to fire the autism epidemic deniers from CDC and NIH. The leadership in charge of public health has failed a generation of children.  Read an open letter to President Obama demanding accountability for this tragic increase in autism that is radically altering the American family -  unabated.  A nation can not sit idly by and watch 2.4% of its young males moved from regular education into special education without serious future impact. Thank you to Mark Blaxill for the following graphics.

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Continue reading "President Obama: Fire The Deniers! CDC Reports 1 in 68 Autism Rate" »

Mark Blaxill 2009: Lies, Damned Lies and CDC Autism Statistics

Light bulb fire

Managing Editor's Note: So... this was my note in 2010  as we awaited the new CDC prevalence numbers.  Usually I have to update a "Best Of" to reflect the current date.  Not this one.  NOTHING has changed....     Here is the old intro new intro save it for the next go round intro:

We anticipate new autism prevalence numbers from CDC any moment. As April Fool's day and the cerulean silly season of awareness and celebration approaches, we thought we'd run this post Mark Blaxill: Lies, Damned Lies and CDC Autism Statistics again. This is the third airing of this post as the numbers continue to climb with no sense of the urgency and action this epidemic demands.

Dark_alley By Mark Blaxill first published in 2009.

It’s official now, real autism rates have exploded to 1 in 100 American children. We’re facing a national public health emergency of historic proportions. Bigger than swine flu. Bigger than polio. Bigger than almost anything one can imagine except AIDS. No matter how hard some may try, it’s impossible to escape the inexorable upward march of the numbers.  Even Tom Insel, head of autism research at NIH and not exactly the autism world’s greatest forward thinker, has conceded the obvious: “There is no question that there has got to be an environmental component here.”

Following last week’s release of the latest CDC autism surveillance report, no amount of methodological obfuscation (“autism prevalence has clearly gone up but there are no real incidence studies”), epidemiological nihilism (“we simply can’t know without large scale, well-controlled, prospective studies”) or social deconstructionist nonsense (“autism is an intolerant invention of modern society”) should escape scorn . Anyone with brain, a conscience and an ounce of integrity must acknowledge that we face a crisis. Meanwhile, those who would accuse the autism parent community of “denialism”, unscientific reasoning and irresponsible irrationality need to explain how their own theories, so dependent on the evidence-free suggestion that rates are rising because of “better diagnosing”, deserve to be considered respectable scientific speech. There is no more unscientific position in public health today than the fiction that rising autism rates come from better diagnosing. Let’s be clear, the only evidence for better diagnosing is wishful thinking. Our public health institutions deserve no credit for a job done better; quite the contrary, they deserve an investigation into their negligence.

Nowhere is the institutional pattern of negligence, deception and propaganda surrounding autism more apparent than in the work of the Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network. The design of the ADDM, a project of the CDC and its parent agency the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), reveals in sharp relief how determined CDC is to evade its autism responsibilities. And while there is no evidence of fraud in the preparation of the ADDM data, that’s about the only good thing you can say about the work. To be blunt, every ADDM publication so far has betrayed a fundamental dishonesty, reporting analysis that has been twisted for bureaucratic purposes to mask and suppress the magnitude of the autism problem. It’s a disturbing display of the triumph of public relations over professionalism, propaganda masquerading as science.

In their latest exercise in spin management, the CDC released a new ADDM publication last week: at noon on the Friday before Christmas. The timing of this release-- a transparent attempt to bury the surveillance news as deeply as possible-- was an indication of the seriousness with which the CDC treats the autism problem. In case anyone missed it, the leadership of the DHHS in the Obama administration has clearly selected influenza as their priority health policy concern; but their autism policy position has been less clear and this release of the ADDM findings marked the first major autism position statement of the new administration.

Continue reading "Mark Blaxill 2009: Lies, Damned Lies and CDC Autism Statistics " »

Awaiting Autism Prevalence Numbers: What Did the CDC Know and When Did They Know It?

CdcpoliticsManaging Editor's Note:  New CDC autism prevalence numbers due out later today. Mark Blaxill wrote this in 2009. How many children have been diagnosed in 5 years?

By Mark Blaxill

With the recent announcement of the "largest ever" study to investigate the causes of autism, run through Kaiser Permanente (the HMO that lost vaccine safety data implicating thimerosal in harming children) and led by Lisa Croen (the epidemiologist who first attempted to deny the autism epidemic with faulty data), sometimes you just want to shake your head and wonder, what on earth is going on down in Atlanta?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was once a proud and prestigious agency, staffed by the most elite corps of disease fighters on the planet, manning the front lines of the most threatening health problems facing mankind. Today, riven by dissension and ridiculed by many, the CDC has made a mockery of itself in failing to get to the roots of the most critical public health challenges of the day, including, but not limited to, autism. The consequences of its failures are profound. Morale has deteriorated and Congress has been investigating the agency for months.

Reflecting their loss of trust in the CDC's objectivity, autism advocacy groups have actively lobbied to reduce (and even zero out) CDC funding in the Combating Autism Act. The CDC has dual responsibility for monitoring vaccine safety and promoting the vaccine schedule; at the same time it's also responsible for surveillance on diseases like autism. In light of widespread concern over the link between autism and vaccines in the autism parent community, when the CDC announces that it's launching a new effort to find the cause of autism, it's hard not to think of OJ Simpson offering a reward for finding his wife's killer.

It was not always so. Indeed, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, it was the CDC that took the lead—often against the intransigence and conservatism of NIH researchers—in tracking down the causes of the AIDS epidemic and taking steps to reduce its toll on society. For many years, CDC was held up to the world as a model government agency. Yet in autism, we have truly seen the downward spiral of the agency reaching its nadir: defensive, secretive and non-responsive to a health crisis in full flower. There are undoubtedly larger forces affecting the agency and its leadership. But if (as I believe to be the case) there are turning points in the lives of large institutions, critical crossroads at which difficult choices are made, then the CDC's handling of the autism epidemic is certainly one such turning point. Poor choices at crucial moments can lead, not only to negative consequence on a specific issue, like autism, it can cause the institution to lose its way. In a way, autism has been both a strategic and a moral problem for the CDC. For it's in the autism epidemic, I would suggest, that the CDC has truly sold its soul.

All of which leads me to ask the question, when did the CDC make this choice? What was the point in the history of autism when CDC leaders had the chance to honor its long history and raise the alarm over the autism crisis? Some would point to the infamous Simpsonwood meeting in the summer of 2000, where evidence of thimerosal's neurotoxicity, already tampered with in ways unknown to the meeting participants, was swept aside. I have certainly been in the forefront of the critics of the CDC work on vaccine safety issues, but I believe the CDC was already well past the turning point by Simpsonwood. I would suggest we need to look a bit earlier to find the CDC's crossroads in autism. For that, we need to look couple of years before the summer of 2000 and a bit further north.

The CDC lost its way on autism in Brick Township, NJ.

Continue reading "Awaiting Autism Prevalence Numbers: What Did the CDC Know and When Did They Know It?" »

Doctors May Have Missed Pesticide Clue in California’s “Polio-like” Cluster

Raspberries-a_1_1Read Dan and Mark's posts earlier this week: 

Child in “Polio-like Cluster” Linked to California’s Winemaking Industry and

“Polio-like” Cluster in California Has Eerie Echoes

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

One of the California children with “polio-like” symptoms ate raspberries right before she got sick, her mother said Wednesday -- but that didn't seem to set off any alarm bells about pesticide residue from the medical experts investigating the baffling outbreak.

“She was wheezing, then she had lunch with raspberries and then we went to [the] pediatrician's office where they said she sounded like asthma,” Jessica Tomei said in an email, describing the symptoms her daughter, Sofia Jarvis, experienced in November 2012.

“On the way home she threw up. The next day we were in the hospital.  5 days later her arm was paralyzed.  I kept mentioning the raspberries but botulism was ruled out.” 

Doctors and public health officials have focused on microbes in their hunt for the cause of the cluster, which so far comprises five children in the San Francisco Bay area and a reported 20 more throughout the state. The five cases occurred between August 2012 and July 2013. Officials said a rare enterovirus – a stomach bug – was detected in two of the cases.

But given Jessica Tomei’s account, pesticide residue seems to us like a prime suspect. “Fruit is notoriously difficult to grow organically and without pesticides,” Jeff Moyer, farm director at the Rodale Institute, an organic research institution, is quoted as saying on the institute’s Web site. According to the institute, “Because most fruits have soft skins, the pesticides that are used to kill those bugs (and the molds and fungi that also love fruit) get into the flesh and into your mouth, and no amount of peeling or washing can remove them.”

We reported Wednesday morning that Sofia’s parents, Jessica Tomei and Jeff Jarvis, are professional winemakers, but her mother was dubious of a chemical connection via that route. On Wednesday, she mentioned the raspberries as a likelier source of pesticide.

“She had raspberries the morning of her illness -- they ruled out botulism.  If what you are saying is true, perhaps the raspberries played a part.  I believe more chemicals are used in that type of agriculture vs. vineyard.  Interesting thoughts.”

In our 2011 series, The Age of Polio – How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic, we proposed that beginning in the late 1800s, the poliovirus – for millennia a harmless enterovirus – was rendered dangerous by its interaction with the new agricultural pesticide lead arsenate. Our theory: the pesticide caused damage that allowed the virus to penetrate the nervous system and reach the spinal cord, where it caused the paralysis called poliomyelitis.

Continue reading "Doctors May Have Missed Pesticide Clue in California’s “Polio-like” Cluster" »

Coy Barefoot Interviews Mark Blaxill on Industry Capture, Autism's Rise

Coy logo
GUEST:
Mark Blaxill, co-founder of the Age of Autism news site and co-author with Dan Olmsted of the book by the same name.

TOPIC:  Mark discusses the latest we know about the autism epidemic and reviews the year 2013 in autism.

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE:  Wednesday, January 8, 2014.

Click here to listen.

Ben Swann On America's Government Run Vaccine Court and Autism

Canary final logo

Note:  Ben Swann interviewed our own Mark Blaxill.  Please comment at the YouTube video as well as here.  Thanks.




The claims that autism is caused by vaccines have been completely disproven, right? We have all heard that claim, maybe most famously by actress and model Jenny McCarthy.

But is the claim untrue? What if I told you that while HHS says there is no link between autism and vaccinations, the federal government has quietly awarded families of autistic children damages as a result of vaccine injuries?

The first step toward truth is to be informed.

The story we are talking about today is something that just doesn’t get attention from the mainstream media, and on the rare occasion when it does, the story is predictable. Scandal surrounding a doctor who claims autism and vaccines are linked. The bizarre parents who believe that their child has autism because of a vaccine, a claim clearly not based in science.

But is there more to this story than what the media has told you?

The real story behind vaccines begins in 1986...

Read more: http://benswann.com/truth-in-media-vaccine-court-and-autism/#ixzz2mSbkSlAo
Follow us: @BenSwann_ on Twitter

Weekly Wrap: Mark Blaxill on the Canary Party and Congress, Michael Specter on "Silly" Footnotes

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

My friend, AOA colleague and co-author Mark Blaxill was on the Linderman Unleashed radio show on the Natural News Network this week. He and Curt Linderman Sr. talked about the Canary Party, of which Mark is chairman, the congressional hearing last year and another coming next month, as well as recent controversies within our own autism advocacy community.

Mark says fighting amongst ourselves is misguided, and makes the useful distinction between standing up for oneself against untrue allegations (which he does) and infighting (which he doesn't, we don't, and nobody should). Catch the interview here -- it's the second half hour. Peace, friends.

--
Michael Specter doesn't think much of people like us -- people who believe that evidence and  experience point clearly to excessive vaccination, and vaccine-type mercury, as the cause of the autism epidemic (which, we also believe, is all too real). Specter wrote his book Denialism in 2009 to make that case, lumping us in with all other manner of supposed unscientific quackery.

Specter was at it again in a talk this month in Canada, preceded by a Q and A in the local paper. "Rejecting science a perilous path, writer argues". The piece begins:

"From an unfounded correlation between vaccines and autism to a spreading fear about genetically modified “Frankenfood,” Michael Specter is a staff writer for The New Yorker who has been documenting what he believes is a dangerous denial of scientific evidence in the world today." (I may be a dangerous know-nothing scientifically speaking, but there's no denying that sentence is not so good English speaking.)

A short flavor of the thing:

Q: What is the danger of having people deny the evidence of science?

A: People who don’t get vaccinated are getting sick. We have measles, whooping cough. These things had disappeared. For a particular parent not to vaccinate their kid is bad, but it also affects my kid, because if you go to school with my kid and you’re not vaccinated you could be infectious.

Q: How much damage is done by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Oz who preach their own take on science?

A: A lot of people who are seemingly intelligent or, in the case of Jenny McCarthy, popular for a reason I couldn’t explain, are looked up to. I don’t think we should live in a society where what a Kardashian says is how we decide to deliver medicine.
--

You get the idea. Evidence is everything. Kim Kardashian causes measles. Which reminded me, when I wrote about his book back in 2009, pointing out some evidentiary issues -- i.e., mangled facts, copying Paul Offit's words as his own -- I noted it lacked footnotes but that his website, michael specter.com, promised the goods: "Footnotes coming soon".


Denialism


His website still says that nigh unto four years later, which, let's face it, is not too cool for someone who keeps pounding us for alleged failure to respect the importance of evidence. So I sent him an email this week:

Continue reading "Weekly Wrap: Mark Blaxill on the Canary Party and Congress, Michael Specter on "Silly" Footnotes" »

Best of: Autism From a Flu Shot... in 1937?

Mercury-vaccine We first ran this post in November of 2010.  Fall is time for the flu shot push from coast to coast.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
 
Seventy-three years ago, Elizabeth Peabody Trevett, a pediatrician and pioneer in promoting mass vaccination for infants, gave birth to a boy named John who became the seventh child ever diagnosed with autism. She presumably vaccinated her baby, and perhaps herself while pregnant, with the same shots she administered to her own patients. One of those shots, the newly developed diphtheria toxoid, was the first to contain the ethyl mercury preservative, thimerosal.
 
Today, pediatricians and public health officials scoff at concerns that thimerosal, still used today in most flu shots recommended for all pregnant women and infants older than 6 months, could cause autism. But after researching our new book, "The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic," we are much less sanguine about such an outcome.
 
Our conclusion: The facts of Case 7 fit with a common familial background exposure in the first cases to newly commercialized ethyl mercury compounds in agriculture and vaccines. They suggest children, then as now, are at risk from the dangerous and indefensible practice of injecting them with mercury for the stated purpose of protecting their health.
--
 
Elizabeth Peabody Trevett graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and won a fellowship to Harvard where she was one of seven pediatricians who pioneered the well-baby visit – at which vaccines are routinely administered. Her son John was born in November 1937. She subsequently divorced her husband, psychiatrist Laurence Trevett, and resumed using her maiden name, Peabody.
 
A few years later, back in Maryland, she was quoted about the importance of vaccination in an Annapolis newspaper article: “Too many parents, said Dr. Peabody, have the proper shots given and then relax, forgetting that booster shots are needed and that immunization does wear off. Speaking specifically of some of the most prevalent ailments, she stated that a child cannot be vaccinated against smallpox too often and it should be done for the first time when a baby is between three months and one year of age. In the case of diphtheria, booster shots are extremely important.”
 
Diphtheria was the first mass vaccine to contain thimerosal, starting in the 1930s just as the first autism cases were identified. It would have been widely available at a teaching hospital like Harvard at the time John was born.

Following her passion for public health, Elizabeth Peabody later set up a well-baby clinic in Iraq, again emphasizing the importance of vaccinating thousands of babies, and then joined the Public Health Service in Atlanta as a regional administrator for children’s health programs.
 
 As flu season kicks into high gear this year in the United States, infants, pregnant women and nursing mothers are among the millions of Americans whom public health officials are urging with unprecedented fervor to get a flu shot. Because most flu shots contain mercury, and because the CDC has declined to express a preference for giving these groups a mercury-free version, this means millions of the most vulnerable among us are getting a significant dose of the dangerous neurotoxin – some at grocery stores and airports and retailers, some without even having to get out of their car. Tracking short-term, localized and mild adverse reactions would seem difficult, and following up on any associations with the onset of chronic or delayed outcomes like autism all but impossible.

Continue reading "Best of: Autism From a Flu Shot... in 1937?" »

Mark Blaxill on The Canary Party and Victims of Medical Injury & Environmental Toxins



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5ziLxI1jyA

His Name Was Ritchey: Autism's Case 3 Offers Clues to the Rise and Future of Autism

SolvedBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Our search ends here, not far from where it began.

No, says Brook Blanton, listed as the "informant" on the death certificate, she can't give us any information. Politely professional, she can't even say what seems obvious -- that as an employee of Wake County Family Services, she served as guardian ad litem for the deceased, representing the interests of a disabled adult.

So we are left with not much more than "decedent's name: William Ritchey Miller." 

We do know his parents called him Ritchey. And that Leo Kanner called him "Richard M."

And we know that by whatever name, he was Case 3 in Kanner's landmark 1943 report, "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact."

But beyond Kanner's writing we know only what William Ritchey Miller didn't do. Under marital status on the death certificate: Never Married. Under usual occupation: Never worked. Under decedent's education: 0.

The death certificate, which we'd picked up the day before at Wake County Vital Records, gives his date of birth -- November 17, 1937. The certificate says he died on July 8, 2011, cites "multiple myeloma" as the cause, and reports he had been sick for a year. He was 73 years old.

Ritchey Death Cert



Given the bureaucracy into which disabled children with no one to advocate for them can fall, it is frustrating but fitting that this is where the trail goes cold -- in a public agency where no one is allowed to even acknowledge his existence, surrounded by a virtual megalopolis of hospitals (Wake Med), rehab centers, nursing homes and assisted living, perhaps the nation's true growth industry. Raleigh has the fastest-growing proportion of 65 and older adults in the United States.

And autism, as the fastest growing developmental disorder in children, will eventually comprise a significant portion of such adults, many with no one to depend on at the end but a state-appointed guardian, and the kindness of strangers.

Pieced together from multiple sources culled over the past decade, here are the contours, if not the depth, of a life that deserves to be recognized, both for its own intrinsic value and for what it may tell us about the origins of the Age of Autism, and the future of the thousands now "aging out" into a life for which no one has prepared.

--

"Since 1938," wrote Leo Kanner in that first report of autism, "there have come to our attention a number of children whose behavior differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits -- and, I hope, will eventually receive -- a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities."

Kanner referred to those 11 children only by a first name and last initial, some accurate, some pseudonyms, some, like Richard M., amalgams. "Richard" arrived at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where Kanner practiced on February 5, 1941, age 3 years 3 months. His lack of ordinary responsiveness led his parents to believe he was deaf. He wasn't.

An intern made these notes: "The child seems quite intelligent, playing with the toys in his bed and being adequately curious about toys used in the examination. He seems quite self-sufficient in his play. ... He does not pay attention to conversation going on around him, and although he does make noises, he pays no attention to conversations going on around him."

Ritchey thus fit the emerging pattern Kanner was seeing for the first time -- children of at least ordinary intelligence and no visible physical abnormality who nevertheless were oblivious to the outside world, pursuing strange fixations, rigid routines and nonsense speech patterns, if they spoke at all. Most especially, they failed to form the ordinary bonds of infancy -- the "affective contact" -- that was universal to human development.

Baffled, Kanner wrote up his findings on the 11 children in 1943. By then, he had seen Richard M. twice more, with no improvement evident. "He did not communicate his wishes but went into a rage until his mother guessed and procured what he wanted. He had no contact with people, whom he definitely regarded as an interference when they talked to him or otherwise tried to gain his attention.

"The mother felt she was no longer capable of handling him, and he was placed in a foster home near Annapolis with a woman who had shown a remarkable talent for dealing with difficult children. Recently, this woman clearly heard him say his first intelligible words. They were, ‘Good night.’”

Continue reading "His Name Was Ritchey: Autism's Case 3 Offers Clues to the Rise and Future of Autism" »

Protocol 007: FDA Document Supports Claim of Mumps Vaccine Fraud

Mumps

Note: Previous posts in the Protocol 007 series include:

Protocol 007: Merck Denies Fraud, But Feds Seek New Mumps Vaccine as Cases Spread

Protocol 007: Feds Urge Judge Not to Dismiss Mumps Vaccine Suit
Mumps


“Protocol 007”: Merck Scientists Accuse Company of Mumps Vaccine Fraud that Endangers Public Health

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
 
Scrawled on a single sheet of paper, an FDA inspection form appears to back whistleblower allegations that pharmaceutical giant Merck committed fraud to convince the government its mumps vaccine still works.
 
The bigger question appears to be: Why didn’t the FDA do anything about it?
 
The document below, obtained by Age of Autism under a Freedom of Information Act request, is dated August 6, 2001. The FDA inspector who showed up that day at Merck’s vaccine laboratory in West Point, Pennsylvania, noted “raw data is being changed with no justifications.”

FOIA Mumps

 
“Spreadsheets used to determine questionable results and retesting clinical samples for [redacted] has not been validated,” the inspector adds.
 
Faking data to hide the real lab results is at the heart of the claim by two former Merck scientists, who filed suit under the federal whistleblower statute. Virologists Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski say they witnessed the fraud firsthand when they worked at the Merck vaccine laboratory in West Point between 1999 and 2002, and were pressured to participate.
 
Ironically, the fact the FDA investigated after Krahling triggered the inspection is being cited by the drugmaker in its effort to dismiss the suit.
 
“They [the whistleblowers] are asking the court to muscle the FDA out of the way and decide on the science,” Merck attorney Eric Sitarchuk told a federal judge last week, according to a report by Law360. “It's precisely that problem that's why [a whistleblower] case can't be based on the alleged falsity of a label” describing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
 
The suit was unsealed in federal district court in Philadelphia last summer, soon after the Justice Department, which had been studying the allegations for more than a year, declined to intervene on the whistleblowers’ side.  As we reported then, the alleged fraud was a multi-year effort to hide the fact that the mumps vaccine is no longer anywhere near as effective as Merck claims and may have led to scattered mumps outbreaks around the country.
 
The fraud was dubbed Protocol 007 and widely known and approved within the company’s vaccine division, according to Krahling and Wlochowski.
 
In federal court last week, a lawyer for the whistleblowers argued that Merck’s deception meant the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars on a vaccine that didn’t work as promised. The mumps vaccine is a component of Merck’s MMR-II – mumps, measles and rubella – shot. It is the only mumps vaccine currently available in the United States.

Continue reading "Protocol 007: FDA Document Supports Claim of Mumps Vaccine Fraud " »

Protocol 007: Feds Urge Judge Not to Dismiss Mumps Vaccine Suit

Mumps

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
 
In a blow to Merck’s hopes for a quick legal victory, the U.S. Justice Department is urging a federal judge not to dismiss a whistleblower lawsuit over the company’s mumps vaccine just because the department has not – yet – sided with the whistleblowers.
 
“The United States remains a real party in interest in this suit under the False Claims Act, with a strong interest in the outcome, even though it has not intervened in the case,” according to the statement, filed May 20 in federal court in Philadelphia and co-signed by an acting assistant attorney general. It pointedly noted the government is “allowed to intervene later.”
 
The whistleblower suit was unsealed in federal district court in Philadelphia a year ago, soon after the Justice Department, which had been studying the allegations for more than a year, declined to intervene.  As we reported then, the alleged fraud was a multi-year effort to hide the fact that the mumps vaccine is no longer anywhere near as effective as Merck claims.
 
At stake: Hundreds of millions of dollars in government payments to Merck, and potentially billions in penalties from the company if the whistleblowers prevail in court. Merck could even lose its license to manufacture the vaccine.
 
The fraud was dubbed Protocol 007 and widely known and approved within the company’s vaccine division, according to the two former Merck scientists who filed the suit under the federal whistleblower statute. Virologists Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski claim they witnessed the fraud firsthand when they worked at the Merck vaccine laboratory in West Point, Pennsylvania, between 1999 and 2002, and were pressured to participate.
 
They describe a supervisor frantically changing test results that showed the mumps vaccine wasn’t working; destroying garbage-bags full of evidence to keep the fraud from being exposed; and lying to FDA regulators who came to the lab after being alerted by the whistleblowers. 
 
A top Merck vaccine official told Krahling the matter was a “business decision,” the suit says, and he was twice told the company would make sure he went to jail if he told federal regulators the truth.
 
Merck says the suit is without merit, and filed a motion to dismiss the case, in part because the Justice Department has not intervened. It even used that fact in its public statements about the case.
 
“Merck--which stressed that none of these allegations relate to the safety of its product--said the lawsuit is ‘completely without merit’, and that it plans to ‘vigorously defend itself,’” the Wall Street Journal reported last June. “The Whitehouse Station, N.J., drug maker also noted that the U.S. Department of Justice has thus far declined to participate in the case after its own two-year probe.”

Continue reading "Protocol 007: Feds Urge Judge Not to Dismiss Mumps Vaccine Suit" »

New Video: How Mercury Triggered The Age of Autism

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill. Motion design by Natalie Palumbo. With Special Thanks to Teresa Conrick. View YouTube Link How Mercury Triggered The Age of Autism here.  We will be discussing this video and more this morning at 8:30 at Autism One in the Louvre Room.

Protocol 007: Merck Denies Fraud, But Feds Seek New Mumps Vaccine as Cases Spread


Mumps


By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Scattered mumps outbreaks – possibly underreported by the CDC – are reinforcing longstanding concern that Merck’s mumps vaccine is failing far more often than it should.
 
The outbreaks come as Merck defends itself in federal court against a whistleblower lawsuit filed last year claiming it faked data to mask the low efficacy of the mumps component of its MMRII vaccine. Within the company, according to the suit, the effort was known as Protocol 007.
 
In a filing earlier this year, Merck denied wrongdoing and said it stands by its claim that the vaccine is 96 percent effective. It asked the judge to dismiss the claim and pointedly noted that U.S. Justice Department officials have so far not joined on the whistleblower's behalf -- a move that often spells the difference in court.
 
But the government seems anxious despite Merck’s reassurances – just as the whistleblower suit was unsealed, Age of Autism has learned, health officials awarded almost $2 million to a research team at the University of Georgia. The goal: Find a much better mumps vaccine, in a hurry. “The fact that outbreaks had occurred in populations with over 95% coverage of two-dose [mumps] vaccine strongly suggests that the current vaccine is not effective,” according to project information filed by Biao He, a researcher at the University of Georgia who received the $1.8 million grant.

According to a recent filing by the whistleblowers: "The government has not joined in Merck's current motion [to dismiss the case] and has made no decision on the current Complaint. Instead, it has taken a 'wait and see' approach requesting that it be served with all pleadings, motions and court orders in this case, and that its consent be obtained before the case is settled, dismissed or discontinued.

"While the Department of Justice has chosen to sit on the sidelines of this case for now, both the FDA and its sister agency, the National Institute of Health, have since the complaint was filed begun to take steps to address the failure of Merck's mumps vaccine. The FDA has initiated its own study to determine the vaccine's efficacy, acknowledging that the recent mumps outbreak 'indicat[es] lower vaccine efficacy than previously estimated.' The NIH has gone even further. It is funding the University of Georgia to develop a new mumps vaccine because the recent outbreaks 'strongly suggest that the current vaccine is not effective.'"

Merck continues to state that its mumps vaccine is highly effective, as shown in this ad filed with the court by the whistleblowers; it claims 96 percent efficacy for the mumps portion of the MMRII -- in other words, 96 out of 100 people who get the shot are protected from the mumps virus: 


Mumps ad

Continue reading "Protocol 007: Merck Denies Fraud, But Feds Seek New Mumps Vaccine as Cases Spread" »

AOA EXCLUSIVE -- Her Name Was Vivian: Clues From the Age of Autism’s First-Born Child

Vivian ancestry

By Teresa Conrick, Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
 
We found her.
 
Eight years after setting out to identify the 11 children in the first medical report of autism, we have found “Virginia S.”, the eldest child in that landmark paper -- and thus the first-born child of the Age of Autism.

Her real name: Vivian Ann Murdock. Born in 1931, Vivian was placed in a Maryland institution at age 6 and died in a state-run home in 1987, age 56. She was the daughter of a prominent Baltimore psychiatrist, Harry M. Murdock, and his wife, Margaret.

Rosewood2
The Rosewood State Training School, Owings Mills, MD Stuart Dahne Photography

The key to finding her real name was the recent online publication of the 1940 U.S. Census – allowing one of us (Teresa) to test her hunch about the institution to which"Virginia" had been committed as a child: The Rosewood School in Owings Mills. The hunch was correct; the Census listed an "Inmate" there named Vivian Murdock, age 8 in 1940, who we conclusively identified as "Virginia S."

In Dan and Mark's The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, published in 2010, we described the seven children we'd identified to that point, and wrote of “Virginia”: “We continue to search for this eldest child of the Age of Autism and whatever clues her identity may hold.”
 
Now, having spoken with family members, and pored over countless records and archives, we believe her identity does offer important clues, ones remarkably consistent with the other cases in that first report -- exposure to new mercury compounds in their families. 
 
Vivian was directly in the path of at least three mercury vectors:

-- the first use of mercury-preserved vaccines in Baltimore -- a drive to vaccinate every infant with those shots began the month she was born;

-- her parents' avocation of orchid growing and breeding, which required intensive application of chemicals including mercury;

-- and her father’s psychiatric career, which brought him – and probably his family through second-hand exposure – in contact with mercury treatments for a common form of insanity.

Mercury is no longer used in agriculture or mental health treatment. But each year, 100 million children worldwide get vaccines containing thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative first used in those shots in Baltimore. In the United States, flu shots, most of which contain mercury, are recommended for pregnant women and for infants beginning at 6 months of age.

Our research on Vivian and the other first cases of autism suggests that is a very bad idea. 

Vivian’s identity also offers insight into how the damaging idea of “refrigerator parents” – supposedly cold and neglectful mothers and fathers responsible for causing their children's disorder -- got its start. We will explain these clues and conclusions in detail, but first the basics about the discovery of Vivian Murdock.

--

Seventy years ago this month, in April 1943, a psychiatry journal called The Nervous Child published an article titled “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.” Written by Leo Kanner, a Johns Hopkins child psychiatrist who is widely considered the founder of the field, it begins:
 
“SINCE 1938, there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits -- and, I hope, will eventually receive -- a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities.” Elsewhere, he called it "a behavior pattern not known to me or anyone else theretofore."
 
The three of us have always found those words remarkable, coming as they did from an acknowledged authority who eight years earlier had catalogued every known childhood mental disability in his landmark 500-page book  “Child Psychiatry.” Those pages contained not a whisper of autism, or anything that in retrospect looks similar.
 
Our own research convinced us the autism rate before 1930 was effectively zero (it is now 1 in 50). A handful of cases over several centuries might conceivably qualify, but there was nothing approaching the cluster of children whose worried parents brought them to see Leo Kanner in the years between 1938 and 1943.
 
Curious whether the family backgrounds of those first 11 cases might point to common environmental exposures, we began trying to identify them in 2005. The eight boys and three girls were described in the paper only by a first name and last initial. But because Kanner gave birth years for each child, we knew that “Virginia S.” was the oldest; her birthday was listed as September 13, 1931. Even as the number of autistic children seen by Kanner rose in later years, none appears to have been born earlier. (In a 1955 update, Kanner revisited his first 42 cases. The oldest autistic person at that point was 24 -- born in 1931 and presumably Virginia S.)

 We began our hunt with Kanner’s original 1943 "Autistic Disturbances" report and a follow-up paper he wrote in 1971. (In the latter paper, he slipped once and referred to “Virginia S.” by what we now know is her real first name, Vivian.) In “Autistic Disturbances,” he quoted a psychologist noting that Virginia “could respond to sounds, the calling of her name, and the command, ‘Look!’

 “She pays no attention to what is said to her,” the psychologist said, “but quickly comprehends whatever is expected. Her performance reflects discrimination, care, and precision. … She is quiet, solemn, composed. Not once have I seen her smile. She retires within herself, segregating herself from others. She seems to be in a world of her own …”

Continue reading "AOA EXCLUSIVE -- Her Name Was Vivian: Clues From the Age of Autism’s First-Born Child" »

Latest Vaccine/Autism “Safety” Study Based on Flawed Data

Canary squareLatest Vaccine/Autism “Safety” Study Based on Flawed Data

The Canary Party calls on reporters to take a second look at the CDC’s biased science.

(Cambridge, MA) “The CDC continued its propaganda campaign on behalf of its bloated vaccine schedule last week,” said Mark Blaxill, Chairman of the Canary Party.  “Despite significant scientific evidence showing connections between vaccines and autism, and deep problems with CDC’s vaccine safety science, few reporters dug deeper into the quality of this new study (DeStefano et al. 2013).”  As recently noted in a peer-reviewed publication, Drs Catherine DeSoto and Robert Hitlan[1] documented major methodological flaws in the 2010 CDC study (Price et al.) said to disprove any link between a mercury preservative in vaccines and autism.   This second paper regarding antigens, by CDC staffer Frank DeStefano and colleagues, uses the exact same flawed data set, again to deny the link between vaccines and autism.

“How deeply flawed was DeStefano’s analysis?” continues Blaxill, “Simply put, the study design could not have been more biased. The number, type and timing of vaccines that US children receive are a function of birth year: recommendations for DTP, Rotavirus and Varicella all changed during the years of the study, depending on the year the child was born.  But the CDC data set used a data sample that matched cases and controls by birth year and then only analyzed the differences within their patched groupings (called “strata” in statistics). Matching on birth year meant nearly all variation associated with how many vaccines were recommended was removed from the study as a starting point.  If they had said ‘we are controlling for the vaccine schedule the child followed’ in an analysis of how safe the vaccine schedule was, this would have seemed absurd. But that is exactly what they did.”

 “The model they were trying to test in their first study was whether exposure to Thimerosal via vaccination was associated with any increased risk of autism.  To do this, they needed to compare persons with different levels of exposure.  They could not do so because they matched on birth-year, which itself defines exposure level.  This ensures that cases were only compared to controls with the same exposure,” said lead author Dr. Catherine DeSoto.  “Children who received high and low exposure were not compared with their methods. It is like testing if smoking causes lung cancer but only comparing persons with and without cancer who smoked exactly the same amount -- and then statistically testing if they smoked different amounts.  The design flaw is called overmatching, and it makes the results of both studies invalid.”

Continue reading "Latest Vaccine/Autism “Safety” Study Based on Flawed Data" »

The Vaccine Myth: An Issue of Trust Featuring Mark Blaxill

Radio micThis interview aired on The Vaccine Myth on March 31st, 2013 with host Shawn Seigel.

The guest is Mark Blaxill, editor-at-large of the Age of Autism.

The issue of trust will be the recently-announced studies finding no correlation between the full schedule of vaccines and the continuing foreboding rise in the incidence of autism - brought to us by the good folks at the CDC and the IOM, the same sweet people who created the myth of the success of the polio vaccine and insulted us by covering up the CDC's own study in 1999, that found a direct correlation between the mercury in vaccines and the already-rising rate of speech and learning disorders and autism.


Mark Blaxill Discusses Skyrocketing Autism Rates on Imus

Mark blaxill photoMark described his personal involvement with autism and his work with SafeMinds on Thursday morning before the hearing. Mark was brilliant.  He spoke from his heart and he came across as a dedicated, selfless father trying to expose the truth about what’s happening to our children.  It begs the question: What did they know, when did they know it, and what did they do to cover it up? Why is Autism So Prevalent Among Today’s Children?

 

Mark: “Everywhere you turn there’s an affected child or an affected family.  And you wonder, when are the numbers going to get high enough that people will open their eyes and say there’s a crisis here.  We haven’t seen that happen yet.” 

“Unfortunately, NIH, CDC—the agencies of the Health and Human Services Department---have really dropped the ball.  They’ve failed in their duty to get to the root of what’s going on and they’ve been wasting money, they’ve been wasting time. In the eyes of many, they’ve actually been getting in the way.  They’ve been covering up the issue, they’ve been manipulating data and that’s one of the issues I want to talk about today.” 

In answer to Don’s question about what NIH/CDC believes, Mark said, “I think they would like us all to believe that nothing is wrong.  Autism has always been with us.  It’s a natural state of the human condition.  It’s not an issue of injury to children.  It’s just a case of the medical system doing a better job diagnosing.  It’s a status quo argument that wants to turn its back on the epidemic.  That’s what they’re arguing but the reality is, Rome is burning.  We have a crisis.  One in 29 boys in New Jersey are autistic.  That’s crazy.  That’s nuts.  That hasn’t been the way the world has been and we need to do something about it.”

Don asked where all the autistic adults are, if it’s just better diagnosing. 

Mark: “People have looked for them.  We just can’t find them.  They don’t exist.  I’ve call that the ‘Theory of the Hidden Horde.’  If autism is genetic, if it’s always been with us, there must be hundreds of thousands of autistic people in the United States are just walking around undiagnosed, undiscovered, and you just can’t find them.” 

Mark went on to describe how his daughter was born healthy and was developing normally until she was a year old.  Between her first and second birthdays, “she slowly drifted away from us.”

Continue reading "Mark Blaxill Discusses Skyrocketing Autism Rates on Imus" »

SafeMinds' Mark Blaxill Testimony at Autism Hearing

Testimony of Mark Blaxill Board Member, SafeMinds Before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform US House of Representatives

November 29, 2012

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.  I am honored to be here today on behalf of the non-profit organization, SafeMinds, grateful to Chairman Issa for today’s invitation and humbled by the opportunity to represent the community of autism families.

Slide1

In addition to my comments, I have provided a more extensive report from SafeMinds and documents for the record.

Slide2

In 1935, a John Hopkins professor named Leo Kanner wrote the world’s first textbook on Child Psychiatry. In 527 pages and 43 chapters, Kanner described every psychiatric condition in children know to medicine at the time.  There was no condition remotely resembling autism.

In 1938, Oliver and Mary Triplett left Mississippi with their five year old son Donald to visit Kanner, by then considered the world’s leading authority on children’s development. When Kanner met Donald he was fascinated. He had never seen a child like him. 

In 1943, Kanner wrote a paper inspired by Donald. “Since 1938,” he wrote, “there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits-and, I hope, will eventually receive-a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities.”

The oldest child of the eleven described was born in 1931. Kanner subsequently diagnosed hundreds of children with autism, but never found a case born before 1930. The historical record is clear: before 1930, the rate of autism was effectively zero.

Continue reading "SafeMinds' Mark Blaxill Testimony at Autism Hearing" »

Landmark Autism Hearing: "The Troops Have Landed on Normandy Beach"

Blaxill Burton HEaringBy  Dan Olmsted

Thursday's hearing before the House oversight committee (view the autism hearing here) will surely be remembered as a landmark. By the end of the day, the government spokesmen from the NIH and the CDC seemed to be the ones people were looking at funny, while those who raised concerns about autism and vaccines seemed positively mainstream.

It didn't help that the CDC's Coleen Boyle testified under oath that fraudster Poul Thorsen  had only been involved in a couple of studies with the CDC. Shortly thereafter, a congressman introduced into evidence a list of more than 20 he had worked on. I feel like calling the CDC and asking: "Has Ms. Boyle retained counsel in anticipation of a possible perjury charge?"

The questions were tough and bipartisan -- from Republicans like longtime thimerosal foe Dan Burton (above, with Mark Blaxill) to Chairman Darrell Issa, who said no topic would be out of bounds as the committee continues to probe. Democrat Carolyn Maloney, who has tried to get a vax-unvax study through the House for years, gave 'em the what-for once again. And while I have seen Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings on TV, I wasn't prepared for the common-sense and deeply troubled approach he brought to the proceedings. The look on his expressive face was priceless. His comment, "There's something wrong with this picture," may go down in history with gems like Jim Carey's "The problem is the problem."

Cummings pointed out the animated, frustrated faces of the audience, many of whom I know quite well. Their collective eye-rolling served as a great backdrop for the in-credible defense of the federal response to autism and vaccine safety worries. And while CDC-types consider individuals as little more than walking anecdoctal evidence, to elected officials they are the voters who put them there and can kick 'em out.

As a general proposition, it is fair to say that the people responsible for running the country do not like hearing that we have double any other nation's vaccine schedule, with a miserable infant mortality rate and an autism epidemic to show for it.

The interagency autism coordination committee (IACC) began to look like the villain it is in this disaster. One congressman even asked for questions that the panel could use if it decided to bring in the IACC for questioning.

It was just one day, but it had the feel of a new one. Our own Mark Blaxill did a fabulous job of presenting the key elements in the argument that autism is environmental, and that mercury and vaccines are so far the most plausible suspects. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey asked him to submit evidence of scientists who have been blackballed or shoved aside for tackling uncomfortable subjects.

It's been said that the only way to win this battle was to storm the halls of Congress. We saw a version of that Thursday: "The troops have landed on Normandy Beach," Brooke Potthast e-mailed me afterward, and it seems like the perfect metaphor. "It may take more time, but today was significant and historic."

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

SafeMinds' Mark Blaxill Autism Hearing Testimony Before Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Mark blaxillTestimony of Mark Blaxill
Board Member, SafeMinds
Before theCommittee on Oversight and Government Reform  US House of Representatives

November 29, 2012

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.  I am honored to be here today on behalf of the non-profit organization, SafeMinds, grateful to Chairman Issa for today’s invitation and humbled by the opportunity to represent the community of autism families.

(Slide 1)  In addition to my comments, I have provided a more extensive report from SafeMinds and documents for the record.

(Slide 2) In 1935, a John Hopkins professor named Leo Kanner wrote the world’s first textbook on Child Psychiatry. In 527 pages and 43 chapters, Kanner described every psychiatric condition in children know to medicine at the time.  There was no condition remotely resembling autism.

In 1938, Oliver and Mary Triplett left Mississippi with their five year old son Donald to visit Kanner, by then considered the world’s leading authority on children’s development. When Kanner met Donald he was fascinated. He had never seen a child like him. 

In 1943, Kanner wrote a paper inspired by Donald. “Since 1938,” he wrote, “there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits-and, I hope, will eventually receive-a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities.”

The oldest child of the eleven described was born in 1931. Kanner subsequently diagnosed hundreds of children with autism, but never found a case born before 1930. The historical record is clear: before 1930, the rate of autism was effectively zero.

(Slide 3) Today, nearly 70 years after Dr. Kanner’s paper, reported autism rates are 1 in 88 American children born in the year 2000. In some states, the rate is higher than 1 in 50.

Continue reading "SafeMinds' Mark Blaxill Autism Hearing Testimony Before Committee on Oversight and Government Reform" »

Tics and Toxins: Mystery Illness Strikes Third Pitcher at Same New York State High School

Three strikes
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

A third softball pitcher at Corinth High School in Upstate New York was stricken last week with the same strange illness -- including seizures and tics --  that felled two other pitchers at the school.

Like the first two,  Corinth 9th grader Abby Matuszak collapsed unconscious. And like Corinth them, she's being told by medical experts that it's all in her head. That's the same diagnosis officials gave earlier this year to about 20 girls, many of them athletes, at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in the western part of the state.

But the new case in Corinth strengthens the possibility that something environmental or infectious -- or a combination of both -- may be at work. While two softball pitchers (out of four) at the same school might be dismissed as a coincidence, albeit an unlikely one, three is an alarm bell. And several local sources told us the total number of students affected over the past two school years in Corinth is now six, including a sixth-grader active in cheerleading.

Abby's mother, Shannon Matuszak, says that after  her daughter was taken by ambulance to a hospital last week, doctors dismissed her symptoms as psychological. She is now at home, missing classes she enjoys, games with her varsity field hockey team, Spirit Week activities and Homecoming -- all much-anticipated events for a ninth grader. She is currently suffering "only"  three to four seizures a day, according to her mother, a psychiatric nurse.

“I told them, don’t you think it’s odd that six girls in the same school in a tiny small town are all going through the same thing and they walk through these doors and you tell them the exact same thing?" Shannon said. "Do you think that maybe they correlate with each other -- that three were  pitchers? Maybe it’s nothing, but to me it’s a Big Maybe.”

The family found a doctor in Westchester County who has started Abby on antibiotics with a presumptive diagnosis of Lyme disease. They're hopeful her symptoms will continue clearing up and she'll be back in school soon.

Corinth Central School District Superintendent Daniel R. Starr did not respond to a request for comment. 

Abby’s saga began last Wednesday, just two days after we reported on the cases of Alycia Nicholson and  Lori Brownell, who began suffering similar symptoms  last year when they were the junior varsity and varsity pitchers. Abby is the pitcher for the ninth-grade team playing on the same fields, and her mother said no one in her family was aware of our article.

Like Lori and Alycia, Abby experienced some symptoms in the weeks before the severe attack. Her legs cramped and her joints hurt. Her mother told her to eat bananas to replenish potassium depleted by exertion. Last Tuesday, Abby got a nasal flu vaccine.

On Wednesday, “What happened was she was in lunch, and she started having her peripheral vision going,” her mother said. “And she had a headache, and her hearing was off.” Her friends wanted her to go to the nurse, but, typically, she insisted on attending her next class, in math.

“Her friends in the class said she was staring off and very spacey, and then all of a sudden her desk was shaking from where she was writing, and then she just toppled over, she fell right out of her seat.” 

During a 45-minute wait for an ambulance, she had eight more seizures, and continued to have them at the hospital in Glens Falls and after being transferred to Albany Medical Center. They ranged from 10 seconds to three minutes in length. “It took them a long time to rouse her when she got to the hospital. It took half an hour to wake her up.  It wasn’t until probably an hour later that she was able to even speak.”

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Mystery Illness Strikes Third Pitcher at Same New York State High School" »

Tics and Toxins: The Beast, the Wrestler, and the Trouble With Conversion Disorder

CorinthBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

CORINTH, New York -- Lori Brownell’s teammates nicknamed her the Beast. She threw herself into every play last year on the girls’ softball team at Corinth High School, north of Albany. A star pitcher and all-around player, she dove for the ball and slid into base with bruising abandon – and has the jammed fingers, scrapes, and concussions to prove it.

Alycia Nicholson is no shrinking violet, either. She is an undefeated wrestler on the boys’ junior varsity wrestling team, and, like Lori, an ace softball pitcher. This past spring, after she moved up to the varsity, she hurled a two-hitter with eight strikeouts for one victory, and slammed a solo home run in another.

It is odd, then, that these two hardy teens were the only two students felled at the high school last year by a mystery illness that included fainting spells, tics, severe fatigue, joint pain, breathing problems, seizures, rashes, and other serious signs and symptoms.

And it’s even odder that both were subjected to claims in recent months that it was all, in effect, in their heads – that they suffered not from any physical illness but from a Freudian diagnosis of “conversion disorder,” in which some past trauma or emotional upheaval got converted unconsciously into physical symptoms. When this happens to more than one person in the same setting, it is called mass hysteria, or, to use the modern and less judgmental-sounding term, a mass psychogenic event.

Historically, hysteria has been associated with anxious, attention-seeking people, usually women. Across the state, a similar cluster of symptoms among a group of high-schoolers was dubbed, “cheerleader hysteria.”  As a New York Times column by Caitlin Flanagan put it: “Most parents of adolescent girls will never have to contend with episodes of hysteria of the kind experienced by the cheerleaders. But anyone with a teenage daughter can attest that this is a time of emotional extremes and high drama, of girls who are one moment affectionate youngsters and the next screaming banshees.” (See our article, The Crazy History of Conversion Disorder)

The girls, and their families, don’t buy it. As Alycia, an attractive, self-contained young woman, said simply when we visited her home outside Corinth earlier this year: “Why would anyone do that to herself?”

It’s a great question, and one with no good answer. The likeliest explanation in both cases remains real illness, triggered by something in the environment, or by an infection, or by some unusual combination. But unwarranted medical and media skepticism, based on 19th-century psychiatric speculation, continues to stand in the way of understanding what really happened. While Alycia, now a junior, has returned to school and sports and has only minor residual problems, Lori – an outgoing, appealing and mature senior, eager to do volunteer work for the disabled -- cannot attend class or tolerate noisy or crowded situations, and continues to have disabling verbal and physical tics. A recent video captured her on a rare trip out, to Walmart, with a friend pushing her wheelchair.

 

Both girls were afflicted in 2011, Alycia near the end of the school year that May, when she collapsed, passed out, and went into convulsions on the pitcher’s mound at a junior varsity home game. Lori, the star varsity pitcher that year, passed out that August at a school dance, then again in October, with recurrent dizziness at school in between, followed by multiple symptoms that worsened dramatically.

Lori, used to being knocked down but not out, tried to carry on as usual, but a friend described the difficulties: “When she started to come back to school, she passed out almost every day. It killed me to see everyone just staring at her as the nurse came running down the hallway.”

The cases gained national attention early this year after a similar but larger cluster of about 18 girls developed tic disorders at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School near Rochester, 250 miles west of Corinth. In LeRoy, the state health department endorsed the diagnosis of conversion disorder, and school officials said there was no environmental or infectious cause for the illness. For that reason, health experts have declined even to investigate the Corinth cases, saying that by definition they could have nothing in common with LeRoy.

Although we have drawn no conclusions, there are several plausible physical suspects in Corinth – from infections to pesticides on playing fields – that should have been investigated more intensively and ruled out more persuasively before exotic mental diagnoses were even considered. Since the start of the school year two new tic cases have been reported in LeRoy, along with a third case that suddenly worsened. This, and rumblings of more cases in both locations and clusters in other states, suggest such factors could be a continuing threat. For that reason if no other, a close look at the Corinth cases makes sense.

--

When we visited, we found two strong, unified families facing their daughters’ mysterious illness with caring and determination. But when a reporter for The New York Times, Susan Dominus, visited the Nicholsons -- Randy Nicholson is an independent construction contractor and his wife, Heidi, is a stay-at-home mom to four kids -- it did not take her long to decide on a diagnosis. As she wrote on her Times blog:

“I drove to Corinth first and interviewed one of the two young women [Alycia] who were showing symptoms there. I’m not a neurologist or a psychiatrist, but it seemed likely to me after talking to her that anxiety was an issue, and that her symptoms seemed to get worse in situations when there was a lot of attention and concern focused on her and the other girl. I did not think that she was faking it, but that there was something psychological at play. It was not what I had expected, to be honest.”

The idea that a newspaper reporter would offer such a diagnosis after a brief visit, and make it public, upset Alycia and outraged her parents. So did the family’s subsequent visit to California to appear on The Doctors, a TV show. Randy Nicholson said the family participated on the understanding that the doctors would evaluate Alycia for PANDAS, a neurological condition that has been suggested as a cause of many of the LeRoy cases, but “when we arrived, the testing was changed to the most basic and general tests which would undoubtedly turn up nothing.”

The doctors then told her, on national TV,  “You’ll be fine in no time.” Translation: Tut, tut little girl. Just calm down and you’ll get better. It’s all in your head.  Says Randy: “That’s not it. There’s a lot more going on.”

“It’s like being in a horror movie,” Heidi Nicholson said of the repeated failure to find anything amiss with their daughter. “At Albany Medical Center, they told us they didn’t see anything wrong, so there was no further need to investigate it. It made us so angry because we couldn’t get anywhere, and she was sick all the time.”

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: The Beast, the Wrestler, and the Trouble With Conversion Disorder" »

Tics and Toxins: New Evidence Raises Pesticide Concerns in New York State Outbreak

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

 

One Thursday last September, a crop-dusting plane swooped down over a cornfield in Western New York and dipped below the tree line, spraying an insecticide engineered to paralyze the nervous system of agricultural pests called earworms. After several passes, the plane climbed, banked sharply, and flew away.

The event, captured on this video by a local resident, is noteworthy for when and where it happened: on a school day, on a field adjoining LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in Western New York, where an outbreak of tic disorders among 18 students, mostly girls, would soon gain national attention. By then two girls had developed symptoms, according to the state Health Department – one in May 2011, the other earlier in September – but the bulk of the cases would follow, including two more the next week.

“This cornfield is adjacent to the school property and uphill from the school,” the neighbor who took the video wrote in an e-mail. “The fields in our area are dusted at least twice a year.”

The “dust” that settled that day is called Tundra. Its active ingredient, bifenthrin, has been linked at high doses in animal studies to some of the same symptoms experienced by the LeRoy students. U.S. regulators regard it as much safer than earlier generations of pesticides such as DDT, but it was banned in Europe until just last week due to environmental concerns.

Most of the LeRoy girls were diagnosed by a local neurology clinic with a psychiatric illness called conversion disorder, a finding the state Health Department endorsed despite the protests of parents who said their daughters were not emotionally disturbed. Several investigations, including one made public last month, found no evidence of environmental contamination.

In May 2011, a ban on all pesticide use on school grounds went into effect in New York State. But the investigators did not appear to consider the possibility of pesticide drift or runoff from neighboring property in the intensively farmed region, or test for currently used pesticides like bifenthrin – only ones banned decades ago. There is no evidence that the crop-dusting on September 22, or any other date, was part of any investigation. (Our inquiries to the school district and the environmental consulting firm have not yet been answered.)

The video, shot by Leroy Township resident Don Dessert from his nearby home, was sent in March to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. We obtained it last week through a Freedom of Information Law request, along with supporting documents. In an e-mail accompanying the video, Dessert wrote that it showed “a crop duster spraying the cornfield on the other side of the tree stand from my house.”

Dessert attached a fact sheet on agricultural practices for corn to illustrate “what part of the chemistry set is put on corn crops. Makes me want to find some organic corn …” He included a photo diagram showing his location in relation to the field and the school (click to enlarge photo):

Leroy 106A

Just below the cornfield in this photo looking south is a retention basin and the girls’ softball field. In some aerial photographs, including the one on the school’s Web site, the basin is full of water.  The period between April and September of last year was the rainiest ever in Rochester and Buffalo, the two big cities to the east and west of Leroy.

As we wrote in February, “School officials who say environmental factors can’t be responsible for the outbreak of tics at the Junior/Senior High School might want to check last year’s record rainfalls – and the flood-prone ground right under their feet.

“Parts of the school grounds -- including athletic fields -- are right on top of a federally designated FEMA Flood Hazard Area. … The zone cuts right across the girls’ softball diamond.” (In this photo, north is toward the top of the frame, and the field that was sprayed September 22 is visible at the bottom.)

Leroy feb red

Officials told us then that the school’s pesticide log was examined as part of the initial investigation but, because no pesticides were applied on school grounds during the preceding year, pesticides were ruled out as a factor. (Pesticide use was banned on all public school grounds in the state as of May 18, 2011.)

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s internal notes obtained through the FOIA request show it ruled out the crop-dusting as a cause of the outbreak.

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When Science and Health Policy Trumps Inconvenient Evidence

NowBelow are Mark Blaxill's public comments to the IACC.

My name is Mark Blaxill. I am the co-author of the book, The Age of Autism and recently helped to launch a movement called The Canary Party, which was created to stand up for the victims of medical injury, environmental toxins and industrial foods. Unfortunately, we need to stand up for these victims, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine,” because so many of them cannot speak for themselves. I am also the father of a 16 year old daughter diagnosed with autism. Thanks to biomedical interventions and therapy, Michaela is more verbal, social and flexible than most affected children, but sadly, she will not live independently. She most certainly does not have a capacity for self-advocacy, so (like most affected individuals) her parents must speak for her.

Unfortunately, the climate for parent advocates, never favorable in autism, has grown progressively more hostile. We have gone from being bad parents whose contempt for their infant children caused them to withdraw into autism, to raving lunatics who are a danger to the public health and whose opinions must be suppressed.

Why? Because the autism parent community refuses to stand down in offering inconvenient evidence to the makers of science and health policy. This evidence is simple. Before 1930, the rate of autism was effectively zero. Before 1990, autism in the United States was exceedingly rare, as low as 1 in 10,000. Three months ago, we learned that 1 in 88 children born in the year 2000 were autistic, 1 in 54 boys. The conclusion is inescapable: autism is manmade.

The health policy implications of this evidence are obvious. The only rational policy for autism would

  • Declare a public health emergency as our country did with poliomyelitis (a much smaller epidemic) and AIDS.
  • Urgently gather good numbers on the nature and extent of the epidemic
  • Objectively and without financial conflict, consider the short list of candidates for such an unusual and massive scourge
  • Collaborate closely with affected families to develop answers: prevention, treatments and resources throughout the lifespan.

Sadly, the policy response of the health agencies of our government has been precisely the opposite.

  • The NIH has funded research to concoct arguments that the crisis is an artifact of better diagnosing. Instead of mobilizing for the epidemic, science policy has promoted denial.
  • The CDC has organized surveillance to measure autism rates that are at least a decade old and trend evidence that starts just a few short years after the epidemic started. Instead of urgently gaining insight, health policy has promoted ignorance and delay.
  • The agencies of HHS act in unison to promote vaccination, a candidate exposure of great concern to parents, while agency leaders rotate out of their government positions to take lucrative jobs at pharmaceutical companies. Instead of objectivity, the investigation of cause has become fraught with conflicts
  • The IACC, newly reconstituted after the explosive 1 in 88 report, appears to have been recruited to rubber stamp this policy of epidemic denial. Instead of collaboration with parent leaders, public servants have turned their backs on us.

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“Protocol 007”: Merck Scientists Accuse Company of Mumps Vaccine Fraud that Endangers Public Health

Merck-buildingBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

At its core, the 55-page whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia makes one stunning allegation – that pharmaceutical giant Merck traded children’s health to protect monopoly profits, and engaged in a systematic, elaborate, and ongoing fraud to do so.

If the charges – which Merck denies – are true, a 12-month-old child getting a recommended shot containing the mumps vaccine at their pediatrician’s office this morning would not be adequately protected from the disease, and could face serious health complications down the road as a result.

The alleged fraud: a multi-year effort to hide the fact that the mumps vaccine is no longer anywhere near as effective as Merck claims. The project was widely known and approved within the company’s vaccine division and even had a name, Protocol 007, according to the two former Merck scientists who filed the suit more than two years ago under the federal whistleblower statute. Virologists Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski claim they witnessed the fraud firsthand when they worked at the Merck vaccine laboratory in West Point, Pennsylvania, between 1999 and 2002, and were pressured to participate.

They describe a supervisor manually changing test results that showed the vaccine wasn’t working; hurriedly destroying garbage-bags full of evidence to keep the fraud from being exposed; and lying to FDA regulators who came to the lab after being alerted by the whistleblowers. A top Merck vaccine official told Krahling the matter was a “business decision,” the suit says, and he was twice told the company would make sure he went to jail if he told federal regulators the truth.

The alleged fraud occurred because, in order to maintain its license for the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine, known as the MMRII, Merck needed to show that the mumps vaccine was still as potent as when originally approved in 1967 as a single vaccine, able to induce immunity in 95 percent of those vaccinated. That number, according to vaccine authorities, is crucial because it leads to “herd immunity,” protective against outbreaks even among unvaccinated people. The problem with the mumps vaccine lay in the fact that by the late 1990s, after decades of producing it with the original strain of mumps virus, the vaccine’s effectiveness had steadily declined, the suit says.

Merck is the only company licensed in the United States to produce the individual mumps vaccine, as well as the MMRII and a newer shot called the MMRV or ProQuad, which also contains the chickenpox vaccine. That gives Merck an effective monopoly on the product line, which by our estimate has brought the company as much as $10 billion in business since 2000. The complaint conservatively estimates MMRII purchases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at $750 million.

If tests showed the mumps vaccine is ineffective -- or far less so than promised -- the door would be opened to any number of adverse events for Merck, from federal regulators pulling the licenses for all of its mumps-vaccine-containing products, to intensified competition from other manufacturers if they became aware of the problem.

What’s more, weak efficacy could be triggering real-time, real-world health problems here and abroad, where a version of the MMRII is also used. Mumps outbreaks unexpectedly occurred in the United States in 2006 and in 2009-10, reflecting the three-year cycle in which younger children become exposed. A total of 6,500 cases were reported in a highly vaccinated population in the Midwest in 2006, according to the suit, and another 5,000 cases in 2009; in the years leading up to the first outbreak, the annual average had been 265 cases.

If that pattern holds true, another outbreak might be due as early as this summer.

Additionally, poor vaccine efficacy has the effect of pushing some cases of mumps to a later age, when mumps is a more dangerous disease that can induce sterility in males. One intriguing implication is that no vaccine at all might have been better than the one Merck currently produces.

The suit claims that as a result of the fraud, the U.S. government has been cheated out of millions of dollars paid by the CDC to buy the vaccine for its immunization program. It says the agency, and other government bodies, were wrongly deprived of the knowledge they needed to make proper use of taxpayer money and sound medical decisions. (The CDC predicted several years ago that mumps would be eradicated in the United States by 2010, an outcome predicated on the idea that the vaccine worked.)

The suit describes Merck’s allegedly no-holds-barred effort to protect its market position. “Merck set out to conduct testing of its mumps vaccine that would support its original efficacy finding. In performing this testing, Merck’s objective was to report efficacy of 95 percent or higher regardless of the vaccine’s true efficacy. The only way Merck could accomplish this was through manipulating its testing procedures and falsifying the test results. … Krahling and Wlochowski participated on the Merck team that conducted this testing and witnessed firsthand the fraud in which Merck engaged to reach its desired results. Merck internally referred to the testing as Protocol 007.”

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Tics and Toxins: The Crazy History of Conversion Disorder

Freud signBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

If you want to know what’s wrong with the diagnoses of “conversion disorder” and “mass psychogenic illness” recently given to high school girls with tic disorders in New York State, the place to start is not the rural villages of LeRoy and Corinth but the cosmopolitan metropolis of Vienna, Austria.

More than a century ago, Sigmund Freud treated a 17-year-old he called “Dora.” She had a cough, migraines, trouble talking, a weak left leg, depression, and other symptoms. After she passed out, her worried parents took her to Dr. Freud, a neurologist with a home office who was working on some interesting new ideas about unexplained illnesses. He was already treating Dora’s father.

Freud diagnosed Dora with “hysteria” – it was all in her head. She had unknowingly converted psychological stress into mental and physical symptoms, he believed. Based on his write-up of the case -- "Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria ('Dora')" -- she became one of the best known of a dozen early cases that shaped the history of psychiatry.

Seventeen-year-old Thera Sanchez, and a dozen other girls who developed tics last year at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School, are in a sense Dora’s twenty-first century peers – teenagers suffering from a baffling disorder. In addition to the Tourette’s-like symptoms, Thera and the other girls repeatedly passed out, had trouble walking, and suffered from migraines, joint pain, rashes, breathing problems, and hair and weight loss.

The Buffalo neurology clinic that examined most of the girls and the state health department say they have “conversion disorder,” an updated but essentially identical diagnosis to Dora’s hysteria. Like Freud, the doctors didn’t find anything physically wrong with the girls in LeRoy, so they declared it must be psychological.

“We have conclusively ruled out any form of infection or communicable disease, and there’s no evidence of any environmental factor,” said Dr. Gregory Young of the New York Department of Health following a three-month investigation.

But in both Austria and New York, we believe, the doctors have misdiagnosed what is much more likely to be real physical illness that has nothing to do with stress or trauma. In Freud’s cases, the trigger was actually mercury poisoning from medicines that were in widespread use back then, a new idea we propose in detail in our book “The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic.” In New York, infections like strep or Lyme Disease, and/or environmental factors like toxic fungi or spills from gas wells on the school grounds, are the likeliest triggers for the illnesses.

What’s really sickening, though, is the use of this antiquated and unproven diagnosis in place of rigorous investigation and appropriate treatment.

Even though much of Freudian theory is now regarded as quaint, wrong-headed or downright destructive – blaming parents for serious biological illnesses like schizophrenia, for instance –  hysteria and its successors have gotten the medical version of a hundred-year hall pass, reflecting the power of the psychiatric establishment to create its own version of reality.

To explain why – why Freud was wrong about hysteria and why today’s medical industry is making the same mistake and doing the same disservice to patients -- we need to take a trip back to a time and place not entirely unlike our own.

--

Vienna at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th was in the grip of cultural and political turbulence that created its own catchphrase, “fin de siecle,” or end of the century, usually followed by malaise or some other term denoting angst, uncertainty, upheaval. Amid the glitter of the ancien regime, the gears of the far-flung, polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire were gnashing loudly. A young man named Adolph Hitler had come to the capital from the hustings, nurturing deep resentments toward the wealthy and artistic, many of them (like Freud) Jewish.

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Best of AofA: CDC What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

Cdcpolitics

Managing Editor's Note: Background in light of recent CDC announcement of 1 in 88 autism rate. Below is the 2 part post.

By Mark Blaxill

With the recent announcement of the "largest ever" study to investigate the causes of autism, run through Kaiser Permanente (the HMO that lost vaccine safety data implicating thimerosal in harming children) and led by Lisa Croen (the epidemiologist who first attempted to deny the autism epidemic with faulty data), sometimes you just want to shake your head and wonder, what on earth is going on down in Atlanta?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was once a proud and prestigious agency, staffed by the most elite corps of disease fighters on the planet, manning the front lines of the most threatening health problems facing mankind. Today, riven by dissension and ridiculed by many, the CDC has made a mockery of itself in failing to get to the roots of the most critical public health challenges of the day, including, but not limited to, autism. The consequences of its failures are profound. Morale has deteriorated and Congress has been investigating the agency for months.

Reflecting their loss of trust in the CDC's objectivity, autism advocacy groups have actively lobbied to reduce (and even zero out) CDC funding in the Combating Autism Act. The CDC has dual responsibility for monitoring vaccine safety and promoting the vaccine schedule; at the same time it's also responsible for surveillance on diseases like autism. In light of widespread concern over the link between autism and vaccines in the autism parent community, when the CDC announces that it's launching a new effort to find the cause of autism, it's hard not to think of OJ Simpson offering a reward for finding his wife's killer.

It was not always so. Indeed, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, it was the CDC that took the lead—often against the intransigence and conservatism of NIH researchers—in tracking down the causes of the AIDS epidemic and taking steps to reduce its toll on society. For many years, CDC was held up to the world as a model government agency. Yet in autism, we have truly seen the downward spiral of the agency reaching its nadir: defensive, secretive and non-responsive to a health crisis in full flower. There are undoubtedly larger forces affecting the agency and its leadership. But if (as I believe to be the case) there are turning points in the lives of large institutions, critical crossroads at which difficult choices are made, then the CDC's handling of the autism epidemic is certainly one such turning point. Poor choices at crucial moments can lead, not only to negative consequence on a specific issue, like autism, it can cause the institution to lose its way. In a way, autism has been both a strategic and a moral problem for the CDC. For it's in the autism epidemic, I would suggest, that the CDC has truly sold its soul.

All of which leads me to ask the question, when did the CDC make this choice? What was the point in the history of autism when CDC leaders had the chance to honor its long history and raise the alarm over the autism crisis? Some would point to the infamous Simpsonwood meeting in the summer of 2000, where evidence of thimerosal's neurotoxicity, already tampered with in ways unknown to the meeting participants, was swept aside. I have certainly been in the forefront of the critics of the CDC work on vaccine safety issues, but I believe the CDC was already well past the turning point by Simpsonwood. I would suggest we need to look a bit earlier to find the CDC's crossroads in autism. For that, we need to look couple of years before the summer of 2000 and a bit further north.

The CDC lost its way on autism in Brick Township, NJ.

Three years ago, I attended a presentation outside of Boston given by Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, the CDC's lead autism epidemiologist. In the course of a lengthy party-line talk about autism ("we simply don't know if autism rates are going up or if it’s just better diagnosis"), she said something that surprised me. "About ten years ago, we began to hear concerns from around the country that people were seeing more cases of autism", she said. I raised my hand from the audience and suggested that maybe ten years was enough time to move beyond the stage of ignorance on something this important. She snapped at me, a revealing moment in itself, and plowed through the rest of her 200 page presentation without pausing for a breath (or another question). But her comment got me thinking. Certainly, the CDC, the agency on the front line of all emerging public health problems from HIV to SARS to e. coli in a bad crop of California spinach, would have had at least some idea that there was an autism problem far before any of the rest of us did. And that leads me to my question for the day.

What did the CDC know about the autism epidemic and when did they know it?

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Best of Age of Autism: Mark Blaxill on Lies, Damned Lies and CDC Autism Statistics

Light bulb fire

Managing Editor's Note: We anticipate new autism prevalence numbers from CDC any moment. As April Fool's day and the cerulean silly season of awareness and celebration approaches, we thought we'd run this post Mark Blaxill: Lies, Damned Lies and CDC Autism Statistics again. This is the third airing of this post as the numbers continue to climb with no sense of the urgency and action this epidemic demands.

Dark_alley By Mark Blaxill

It’s official now, real autism rates have exploded to 1 in 100 American children. We’re facing a national public health emergency of historic proportions. Bigger than swine flu. Bigger than polio. Bigger than almost anything one can imagine except AIDS. No matter how hard some may try, it’s impossible to escape the inexorable upward march of the numbers.  Even Tom Insel, head of autism research at NIH and not exactly the autism world’s greatest forward thinker, has conceded the obvious: “There is no question that there has got to be an environmental component here.”

Following last week’s release of the latest CDC autism surveillance report, no amount of methodological obfuscation (“autism prevalence has clearly gone up but there are no real incidence studies”), epidemiological nihilism (“we simply can’t know without large scale, well-controlled, prospective studies”) or social deconstructionist nonsense (“autism is an intolerant invention of modern society”) should escape scorn . Anyone with brain, a conscience and an ounce of integrity must acknowledge that we face a crisis. Meanwhile, those who would accuse the autism parent community of “denialism”, unscientific reasoning and irresponsible irrationality need to explain how their own theories, so dependent on the evidence-free suggestion that rates are rising because of “better diagnosing”, deserve to be considered respectable scientific speech. There is no more unscientific position in public health today than the fiction that rising autism rates come from better diagnosing. Let’s be clear, the only evidence for better diagnosing is wishful thinking. Our public health institutions deserve no credit for a job done better; quite the contrary, they deserve an investigation into their negligence.

Nowhere is the institutional pattern of negligence, deception and propaganda surrounding autism more apparent than in the work of the Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network. The design of the ADDM, a project of the CDC and its parent agency the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), reveals in sharp relief how determined CDC is to evade its autism responsibilities. And while there is no evidence of fraud in the preparation of the ADDM data, that’s about the only good thing you can say about the work. To be blunt, every ADDM publication so far has betrayed a fundamental dishonesty, reporting analysis that has been twisted for bureaucratic purposes to mask and suppress the magnitude of the autism problem. It’s a disturbing display of the triumph of public relations over professionalism, propaganda masquerading as science.

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Tics and Toxins: Evidence Points to Environment, Infection in LeRoy Outbreak

LeroyBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

As the white-hot glare of attention begins to pull away from the outbreak of tics among students at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School in Western New York, most medical and media sources appear to have settled on “conversion disorder” as their default diagnosis.

Newsweek acknowledged the families’ belief that something physical must be wrong, but the author insisted on “a very inconvenient truth: the cluster in Le Roy is, by all reasonable judgment, a mass hallucination. Aided by media of all sorts, what the girls are suffering from is perhaps the ultimate disease of our era.”

The New York Times, without bothering to name LeRoy, published an article titled “Hysteria and the Teenage Girl”: “Female adolescence is — universally — an emotionally and psychologically intense period. It is during this time that girls become aware of the emergence of womanhood, with both the great joy and promise that come with it, and also the threat of danger.” As evidence, the writer noted that a LeRoy cheerleader – not a linebacker – was one of the first stricken.

 “Well, that’s the kind of nutty story that only happens once, or so I briefly thought,” wrote Caitlin Flanagan, “until more focused Googling quickly led me to an almost identical episode, this one in 2002, in a high school in rural North Carolina. Once again, a cheerleader was first to manifest the strange symptoms, and once again other girls, some of them cheerleaders, were struck with the same condition.”

Though the writer is a woman, the supposed susceptibility of peppy, excitable female cheerleaders versus stolid, masculine football players is Freudian paternalism dressed up for a new century – a misogynist’s dream. (It was our skepticism of conversion disorder that drew us to this story, having addressed it in a chapter titled “The Age of Hysteria” in our book; we will have more to say about its shaky foundations in upcoming articles.)

Responding to community pressure, the LeRoy school district has grudgingly commissioned a new round of environmental tests while asserting “the school is safe,” a balancing act that left many in the community dissatisfied. (The school board this week approved the new tests, expected to cost as much as $75,000. Some parents and environmental groups are pushing for broader tests than are so far planned. ) Local TV stations have stopped airing videos that show the girls’ tics, concerned that might spawn more “psychogenic” cases. The neurologist in Buffalo who originally diagnosed conversion disorder has become more emphatic about the diagnosis, even as four more cases arose in the past week in and around LeRoy. He hints darkly that some of the girls have had such awful experiences that, if only we knew, we would understand – pinning responsibility on the families as well as the victims’ own psyches.

The National Institutes of Health offered to evaluate the students (about 15 total at the school, possibly including one boy) for PANDAS – an autoimmune neurological reaction to strep infection. But it is downplaying the idea in advance. The lead NIH researcher who coined the term told a local news site that simultaneous outbreaks among adolescent girls would be unprecedented and unlikely.

That appears to leave only the girls, their parents and a small corps of advocates – Erin Brokovich’s group, environmental and school safety activists, a doctor who found evidence of strep infection in most of the girls – to push for continued attention to physical causes.

Based on our own reporting and analysis, they are correct to do so. Real illness remains the likeliest explanation with the suggestion that these dramatic symptoms are provoked by stress a convenient excuse for avoiding a rigorous investigation of environmental risk factors . Here are six possible risks that need to be raised, followed by a key question that needs to be answered:

Mycotoxins on playing fields?

In any inquiry into a novel medical condition, identifying significant changes in the environment is a priority. In LeRoy, as we’ve reported, several new factors converged in May 2011, when the first girl was affected there, according to a report from the New York State health department.

That month, a statewide ban against pesticides – insecticides, herbicides, fungicides -- took effect for every school in the state. The ban coincided with the rainiest spring ever in Buffalo and the second rainiest in Rochester – LeRoy is located between them -- followed by more downpours in late summer. One of the warmest winters on record has followed.

The school district confirmed last week that it “has not applied pesticides to any of the high school athletic fields since September 2010.”

That month, a product called Turf Herbicide was “used to spray broadleaf weeds on varsity football and soccer field.” In summer 2009, Roundup Weed killer was used in mulch beds, but not in 2010. (The law banning pesticides was passed in April 2010 and may have affected spraying that summer.)

This probably explains the orange substance that cropped up on playing fields at the school last year – so thick that it coated students’ shoes and clothes, so widespread some thought it was pesticide sprayed from an airplane. Officials said it was a harmless grass fungus called rust. Ironically, these fungal outbeaks may point to a counterintuitive new development: the complete and sudden absence of pesticides on school grounds.

Based on that and a history of flooding and water problems at the school, which is partly sited on a FEMA flood hazard area and wetlands, we speculated that harmful metabolites of a fungus – otherwise known as a mycotoxin -- might also have gained a foothold. One possibility:  ergot alkaloids, toxic products of fungi that can grow on rye and other grasses. We told the story of a man in the village of Bath, about 70 miles from LeRoy, who developed similar symptoms last September. He lives next to a field that was planted last summer in ryegrass and not harvested, adjacent to a swamp and a levee. He draws his water from a well in the back yard.

Since then, local news outlets have spoken to experts debunking the possibility of mycotoxins, but no specific tests have been done. (For Leroy a Fungal Theory and Expert Doesn't Buy Ergot Theory.)

In December, the school district tested several places inside the school for mold spores and found none, although they did not do “destructive” tests – cutting open walls and the like – to look for hidden sources. Many experts say that it is the only way to completely rule out mold. They also did one test of the air outside the building – location not given – as a “control” to see if inside readings were higher.

One negative test was for a fungus called a. fumigatus, which can produce ergot alkaloids. A June 2005 study in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found, according to its title, “Abundant Respirable Ergot Alkaloids From the Common Airborne Fungus Aspergillus Fumigatus.”

“Ergot alkaloids are mycotoxins that interact with several monoamine receptors, negatively affecting cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive, and immune systems of exposed humans and animals,” the report said. The alkaloids develop in especially high quantities on maize (corn) and latex paint, according to the study. In a comparison chart, ergot alkaloid production was far higher in latex paint than in any other medium.

That is intriguing because one substance the LeRoy school sprays annually on its grounds is white latex paint, to create the lines that mark playing fields. In the buildings and grounds report, the district said it has used Super Stripe Athletic Paint and Field Marking Paint, two latex brands, every year including 2011.

That might offer an alternative explanation for the Cheerleader Syndrome others have noted. Simply put, cheerleaders spend their time on the sidelines. (And they wear fewer clothes than running backs.) At LeRoy, four of the first 12 girls affected were cheerleaders and two were soccer players, according to the state health department report. In the 2002 North Carolina cluster cited in the Times article, five of the 10 students were current or former cheerleaders.

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Tics and Toxins: Pesticide Ban, Rainfall Could Point to Poisonous Fungus as Factor in Student Outbreaks

Salem witch

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

LEROY, N.Y., February 6  -- Last year, during the wettest spring ever recorded across large swaths of New York state, a little-noticed law took effect: As of May 18, pesticide use was banned from the grounds of every school in the state. That same month, a girl at the junior/senior high school here, and another at a high school near Albany, developed a mysterious tic disorder. The total number of cases in LeRoy has now risen to 15.

This convergence adds a new possibility to the list of suspects already being scrutinized in this picturesque Western New York village of 4,400, suspects that range from a 1970 train derailment that spewed toxic chemicals, to an autoimmune disorder called PANDAS, to leaks from gas wells on school grounds that may or may not have employed “fracking." The new possibility: Poisoning from a fungus that grows on a grass commonly planted on school grounds.

The fungus is called ergot, and it can grow when ryegrass – used on most athletic playing fields – sprouts a floweret that gets infected. That most often happens during wet spring months and on low-lying or marshy areas. (This photo was taken on school grounds last week.)

Leroy Feb Standing water Leroy HS 3

Two other tic cases have been reported in girls who attend Corinth High School, north of Albany. Both are members of the school softball team; the first girl collapsed unconscious in May during the first inning of a softball game and began twitching and convulsing, according to the Albany Times-Union; in LeRoy, at least 6 of the first 12 cases were among athletically active girls – four cheerleaders and two members of the soccer team.

And as we have reported, a 35-year-old man in the village of Bath, about 70 miles from LeRoy, was stricken with the same symptoms in September. He lives close to a field that was planted last spring in rye and not harvested; there is a swamp and a levee nearby; and his water comes from a well in his yard. (This is a photo of the swamp.)

Leroy Feb Swamp Tree

In Corinth, the first girl was affected in May; according to a report from the New York State Department of Health released Friday, the first case in LeRoy was also in May, followed by three more cases in weeks that began in September, two cases in October, one case in November, and one case in December. The state report dismissed environmental or infectious factors and embraced the official diagnosis of “conversion disorder,” in which stress or trauma are subconsciously converted into physical symptoms (several cases at once is called “a mass psychogenic event”).

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Pesticide Ban, Rainfall Could Point to Poisonous Fungus as Factor in Student Outbreaks" »

Tics and Toxins: Similar Case in County Near LeRoy May Point to Environment

Salem witchBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

BATH, N.Y., February 3 – “I’ve always been a fighter,” Bryan Tremblay says, and that’s not just a metaphor. Now 35 but still a slight 112 pounds at 5 foot 1, he was a bully magnet as a child and learned early to defend himself. That was an advantage when he wrestled for his high school team.

But now Tremblay, who lives in the Steuben County village of Bath in the Finger Lakes region, is battling a demon he can’t control. Since September, he’s suffered from a major tic disorder. It goes on, unpredictably, for hours a day. Even on three heavy-duty medicines, he has seizure-like episodes that leave him sitting dazed for half an hour.

 

The disorder keeps him at home. It makes it hard to study for his online degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh – and well-nigh impossible to look for work after being laid off early last year from his job at a furniture factory. It creates inevitable fears for his health, his wife, his future.

“It’s so frustrating,” he says. “I just want an answer to what I’ve got.”

Whatever Bryan Tremblay’s got is remarkably similar to the tic-like illnesses that have afflicted 15 students at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School about 70 miles away. Many of the LeRoy students, all but one a girl, came down with the disorder about the same time Tremblay did (he didn’t hear about that until much later). Most were diagnosed with “conversion disorder,” and since so many cases were involved, medical experts have declared it a “mass psychogenic event,” in which stress or trauma is supposedly converted unconsciously into physical symptoms and spreads among affinity groups. School and state health officials say they’ve ruled out environmental or infectious causes and insisted again on Wednesday that the school the girls attend “is safe.”

No one is suggesting conversion disorder in Tremblay’s illness. No one he knows has anything like it. Extensive neurological workups have turned up nothing. He’s due for another follow-up in a couple of weeks at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Tremblay doesn’t drink or use prescription or recreational drugs, nor has he been to LeRoy.

He is no publicity seeker. His sister mentioned his situation in a comment on a story we wrote about LeRoy. She gave us his contact information when we asked, and we reached out to Tremblay.

In an e-mail, he responded: “The symptoms seemed to appear almost out of thin air. It started with uncontrollable body spasms and convulsions in my mid to upper body area. These convulsions lasted from approximately 15 minutes to a 30 minute span.

“Soon the spasms started moving to my head and neck area and the movement was similar to a strong neck-whip similar to that of whiplash, sharp and strong and completely random. I did seem to notice that the amount of stress was a factor in the strength of the tics. The problem is the stress level increases once it starts and the tics become stronger and increase as well.

“I noticed that after five months the tics have become vocal, more yelling and humming with points of time where I repeat noises over and over. I find myself spacing out for large amounts of time and daydreaming with difficulty recovering.

“I have also started hand and arm movements.”

In almost every way, Tremblay’s life circumstances could not be more different from the LeRoy cases. But one common factor was evident during a visit – water. Water everywhere. Tremblay lives in a low-lying area. His house backs up to a levee less than a football field’s length behind his house.

Levee

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Similar Case in County Near LeRoy May Point to Environment" »

Tics and Toxins: Leroy Put Student Playing Fields on FEMA Flood Hazard Land

LeroyBy Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

LEROY, N.Y., February 2 – School officials who say environmental factors can’t be responsible for the outbreak of tics at the Junior/Senior High School might want to check last year’s record rainfalls – and the flood-prone ground right under their feet.

The tics broke out after an unusual pattern of heavy rain, followed by a mild winter that has kept the ground from freezing and left lots of standing water at Leroy Junior/Senior High School.

That should be no surprise. Part of the school grounds -- including athletic fields -- are right on top of a federally designated FEMA Flood Hazard Area. While a county official told us that the school itself sits on a slope just above the hazard area, the zone cuts right across the girls’ softball diamond, as well as the football/track field and another, larger baseball field.

Leroy feb red


The land in the flood hazard area generally correlates with other mapping that shows less optimal and more flood prone Canandaigua soil covering the site.

In fact, we’ve been told by local residents that some fields, including the girls’ softball field just built in 2009, had to be dug up and rebuilt within the last year because the ground was so wet. The building itself has not escaped water and structural woes – the gym could not be used when the school was first opened a few years back because the floor buckled and sank, and the opening of school was delayed one year for a week by flooding, according to a former student.

School officials won’t comment, but Superintendent Kim M. Cox issued a new statement Wednesday, mostly blasting national press attention and the involvement of famed advocate Erin Brockovich, who has cited a train derailment of hazardous material a few miles from town in 1970 as a likely cause. Cox said new tests have shown drinking water inside the school – which comes from neighboring Monroe County – is safe.

Citing state and federal experts, she said: “All of these agencies and professionals from these agencies have assured us that our school is safe. There is no evidence of an environmental or infectious cause. Environmental causes would not discriminate. We would see a wide range of people affected.”

But no one seems to be looking up at the sky or down at the ground. LeRoy, like other New York state and Northeastern U.S. locations, has seen an epic amount of rain during the past 12 months. We put this chart together to show 2011 rainfall versus normal amounts in Buffalo and Rochester. LeRoy is located between them.

Leroy Feb Record Buffalo and Rochester precipitation levels

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Leroy Put Student Playing Fields on FEMA Flood Hazard Land" »

Tics and Toxins: Just Before Mystery Illnesses Hit Leroy NY, School Built New Playing Fields

By Dan Olmsted

LEROY, N.Y., January 30 -- New playing fields, including one for girls' softball, were completed the year before the outbreak of tics and other ailments began afflicting girls at Leroy Junior/Senior High School.

Aerial photographs compiled by the Genesee County assessments office clearly show the construction in progress in 2009, here:

Leroy 2009 AgeofAutism

The 2010 photo shows the completed fields, here:

  Leroy 2010

The smaller field to the immediate left of the school is the girls' softball field, according to a former student at the school. All but one of the students affected so far are girls. There are unconfirmed reports that one boy was also stricken.

School officials said earlier this month that two reports they commissioned of indoor air quality and mold had ruled out any environmental cause. New York Health Department officials concurred and a spokesman told me last week, "The school is safe." Most of the girls were diagnosed at a Buffalo neurological clinic with "conversion disorder," in which psychological stress or trauma is supposedly converted into physical symptoms that clusters of people can display at the same time.

But parents and the girls themselves have rejected that diagnosis, and other theories have been advanced; school officials now say they are ordering another round of tests. I reported last week that the first testing did not include any outside areas of the school grounds, except for reviewing school pesticide logs. Because those logs were in order, environmental factors outside the school building were ruled out. State health officials also say no infectious agent was involved.

But in any investigation of a new illness, the question of what's new in the environment -- from medicines a person is taking, to places they have been, to changes in where and how they live -- needs to be ruled out first.

Building ballfields within the past two years certainly qualifies as new. That could hypothetically create new risks, either from stirring up toxins such as pesticides on the site, or importing materials such as fill or sod that was previously contaminated. New attention has been given to a railroad derailment several miles away in 1970 that spilled both cyanide and TCE, a highly toxic manufacturing agent. Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has suggested that the school site was contaminated by runoff from that incident, or that dirt from that area was used to construct the school in the early 2000s.

Continue reading "Tics and Toxins: Just Before Mystery Illnesses Hit Leroy NY, School Built New Playing Fields" »

Tics and Toxins: LeRoy Officials Gave Little Attention to Schoolyard Before Ruling Out Environment

Girl-looking-out-window

By Dan Olmsted

Health experts say they’ve eliminated every possible environmental and infectious cause for the “tics” afflicting 12 girls at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School in New York state. They’ve scoured the building for mold and carbon monoxide (nothing, they say), considered illnesses that might cause the symptom (none), even checked on vaccinations (not all girls had the same shot).

However thorough that workup may have been, it seems to have stopped at the schoolhouse Exit sign. Except for checking a log of pesticide spraying, there is no evidence they considered toxins in the schoolyard or on playing fields. Yet the symptoms occurred during mild weather when students would have been outside, and the school grounds are surrounded by intensively farmed land from which chemicals could conceivably have seeped or drifted.

The school is required to keep annual pesticide logs that were reviewed by a consulting firm looking into environmental factors, and therefore pesticides were ruled out. As best I can determine, that’s as far as it went.

That may not be far enough, given that parents and some of the students involved don’t accept the psychogenic diagnosis they have been given, and that a number of Web commentators familiar with the school have raised concerns about the grounds and how the relatively new building is sited.

Public health officials remain adamant that the case is closed.

"The LeRoy school is safe,” Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, replied Friday after I raised the issue in a telephone call. “The environment or an infection is not the cause of the students’ tics. There are many causes of tics-like symptoms. Stress can often worsen tic-like symptoms.

“All of the affected students have been evaluated and some have shown signs of improvement. Vaccines (Gardasil) have been ruled out."

While the department has been careful for privacy reasons to avoid naming the illness, a doctor treating the girls has now gone public, with their permission, by calling it “conversion disorder.” Known less gingerly as mass hysteria, the diagnosis is rooted in 19th century Freudian psychology: Stress or trauma is subconsciously transformed into physical symptoms that can occur in several people at the same time. 

In part because the LeRoy diagnosis took months to emerge, and in part because many people – including parents and affected children – find conversion disorder a suspect explanation, multiple theories continue to arise. Those include concerns about the school building and grounds, expressed in online comments:

-- An environmental study “would be the first logical step, knowing that the school was built in a swamp and that a number of classrooms were underwater the first year as well as the gym you would think it would be the first thing the school would address- even if only to disprove it.”

-- “Girls started feeling sick in September, sounds like pesticide spraying At the end of summer before the fall to protect late crops.” (The girls’ symptoms began as early as September 10, according to published accounts.)

 -- “Have the doctors considered that the condition may be related to the school's having been built on swampy land? Water in the building continues to be a problem. A second story that should be pursued by the press and others is why this new school was built and why it was built on this particular piece of land.”

A quick look look at Google Earth (click the plus sign to see the school and grounds in detail) Leroy  shows the setting. The high school’s Web site  has an aerial photo that appears to show a large pool of standing water close to the school, with a rivulet coming even closer; it appears to be dry in the Google photo.

Farming, despite its idyllic image in American lore, is a highly chemical-intensive practice, and Western New York is no exception. For that and other reasons, it can be dangerous. In October, a few miles west of LeRoy in Genesee County, two people became ill when a pesticide being applied to a potato field wafted in their direction.  The substance was a toxic fumigant being injected into the soil in preparation for planting this year’s crop. Officials said humidity might have helped spread it.

Obviously, that incident had nothing to do with the LeRoy illnesses, but it does give a sense of time and place missing in accounts of the area, as well as suggesting weather is an unpredictable vector. 

But in such a scenario, why would only girls be affected? That's unclear, but there are a number of possibilities that environmental triggers could help explain. For instance, in some cases of mass illness in high schools, the victims were male football players and the problems were traced to toxins where they played. Being male was not a susceptibility factor, but it pointed to the exposure nonetheless. (In another case, marching band members suffered the same problem for the same reason.)

It is possible that more has been done to consider toxins outside the school building, but if so nothing has been done to communicate it to the national media.

In fact, opportunities continue to be missed. The two consultant reports and the school district’s official statement make no mention of looking for anything amiss outside the building itself ,except to note the water supply comes from neighboring Monroe County's public system. "No history of building water damage or site contamination was found," it states.

Neither the district nor the consulting firm it hired would talk to me Friday when I told them I was seeking information on whether risks outside the school building had been investigated.

--

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism and co-author, with Mark Blaxill, of “The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic,” published by Thomas Dunne Books.

An Elaborate Fraud, Part 10: In Which the BMJ Suppresses the Truth About a Child’s Treatment and Recovery From Autism

Blanket Lancet

One of the 12 children on a doctor visit not long after the BMJ articles were published in January.

By Dan Olmsted

The British Medical Journal began its attack on Dr. Andrew Wakefield last January by telling the story of Child 11, one of the case histories Wakefield allegedly altered to manufacture "the appearance of a link" between the MMR shot and autism.

Contrary to Wakefield's claims, Child 11’s autism symptoms began before he got the shot, author Brian Deer wrote. The father, he said, was outraged by Wakefield’s "fraud.” Even the child’s autism diagnosis was questionable, Deer wrote, because it was solely based on parental “recall.” 

As we’ve shown in earlier articles, the BMJ was dead wrong on both counts – the shot did come before the symptoms, and the autistic regression that followed was all too real. Both facts were described and documented multiple times by outside doctors before the family got anywhere near Wakefield or the Royal Free Hospital in London, where he worked. They do not provide any basis to allege fraud or question Wakefield’s version of the child’s medical history.

There are three more critical facts about Child 11 – facts that contradict this “fraud” scenario -- that the BMJ suppressed:

The father did believe the MMR shot caused his son’s regression.

The child was treated accordingly.

And, according to the father, the child recovered.

“Our dedicated effort to save our son's life has been fruitful,” the father wrote Wakefield on January 7, 1997, when he first sought to have him evaluated at the Royal Free. “As a small child unable to communicate, he has now entered a normal kindergarten class with assistance of a tutor. He is quite intelligent and continues to progress, but is still fighting the [bowel] disease which we believe is viral, from the vaccine.”

Yes, from the vaccine. After the father saw how he had been portrayed in the BMJ, he said: "Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration."

And how, exactly, did the child recover from what the father believed was a vaccine injury? The letter reports: “In March of 1994, we met with Dr. [name omitted] and his immunological panel of tests indicated an underlying immunodeficiency as you can see by his report. His suspicions of the MMR vaccine in my son's case are mentioned in his letter. He was immediately put on 400 mg/kg of IVIG every four weeks at [clinic name omitted], and he responded quite well to the treatment.”

IVIG is intravenous immunoglobulin, administered to boost antibody levels in immune deficient patients and, at high doses, to regulate autoimmune conditions.

The father took his son to another leading immunologist, who reported that his measles virus titer was above measurable limits. Workups by a third doctor revealed his son “was suffering from indeterminant inflammatory bowel disease.”

This was the apparent new syndrome the Royal Free doctors were treating and that Wakefield was investigating – indeterminate or non-specific inflammatory bowel disease and autistic regression, in most instances associated in time by parents or  doctors with the MMR shot. The father learned of the work at the Royal Free from his American doctors and was the first to fly his child across the Atlantic because he believed his son was showing the same pattern. The first case series, on 12 such children including Child 11, was published in The Lancet in 1998.

But this clear sequence – vaccination, illness, regression, chronic bowel inflammation, treatment, recovery – is nowhere to be found in the BMJ account of Child 11, even though Deer met with the father twice, in California and London, and also communicated with him via e-mail.

Absent, too, is the fact that Child 11 is now in college in California after graduating from high school with a 3.75 academic average.

The treatment the father cited, and the rationale for it, has been described in detail by the U.S. doctor who administered it. “A number of immunological abnormalities have been observed in patients with autism,” according to the text of comments he subsequently made at a meeting of an autism group. He said all the children he treated, which included child 11, had regressed after the MMR shot.

“Natural killer cells … that appear to play an important role in defense against virus infected cells and tumor cells are decreased both in numbers and functions in patients with autism. This deficiency may play a role in increased susceptibility to various infections that may in turn play a role in the pathogenesis of autism.”

He goes on to describe the use of IVIG in this context, at the 400 mg/kg dose the father cited. “IVIG has been used in a number of primiary immunodeficiency syndromes, and autoimmune and immunoinflammatory disorders including demyelinating polyneuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome."

In his autistic patients, "The results of IVIG treatment show that a noticeable improvement, although to a variable degree, was observed in reciprocal social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repertoire of activity and interest in all children. One of these patients has been 'completely cured' and is attending regular school."

Deer had every opportunity to gather and report these crucial facts yet chose not to. Why? This more complete narrative would have contradicted his claims of fraud in the BMJ. You simply can’t have a child being treated for a presumed vaccine injury, and according to the father, recovering, if you’re trying to make the case that the shot came after the onset of regressive autism, that the sequence was manipulated by Wakefield, and that the father is outraged about the deception.

Instead, Deer spun a story using only fragments of the truth and, exploiting a typographical error in a discharge document, claimed that Wakefield faked the data on autistic regression and bowel disease.

Amazingly, multiplied by 12, such sleight-of-hand lies behind the entirety of the BMJ’s fraud claim. Speaking at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee cited “multiple discrepancies” by Wakefield in the description of "inflammatory bowel problems, regressive autism, and the parental claim that MMR was the underlying cause. What these articles [in the BMJ] also say [is] that when those three things didn't come up trumps on the twelve children included, and the subsequent series of children, Andrew Wakefield altered the data to make those three things emerge."

Actually, in its treatment of Case 11, it was the BMJ that “altered the data to make those three things” disappear.

Continue reading "An Elaborate Fraud, Part 10: In Which the BMJ Suppresses the Truth About a Child’s Treatment and Recovery From Autism" »

An Elaborate Fraud, Part 9: in Which the BMJ's Fraud Claim Collapses -- and No One Hears It Fall

Blanket Lancet

One of the 12 children on a doctor visit not long after the BMJ articles were published in January.

Read parts 1 - 8 of An Elaborate Fraud in Age of Autism Exclusives.

By Dan Olmsted

In 37 years in the news business, I’ve never seen anything like it.

The stunning collapse of the British Medical Journal's allegation of fraud against Dr. Andrew Wakefield, less than a year after it was made with so much fanfare, raises an inevitable question: when is the mainstream media going to realize they've been had, and what are they going to do about it?

When will they notice that not only were the allegations recycled from a two-year-old account produced by the Murdoch media empire's disavowed methods, but that the whole tangled mess has landed right on the doorstep of the BMJ in Trafalgar Square?

NOW would be a good time to notice -- now that the central premise of the paper has been shown by the BMJ itself to be a "matter of interpretation" -- not an elaborate fraud perpetrated by Wakefield in plain sight of his 12 well-respected co-authors at one of the top medical clinics in the world. And now that "multiple discrepancies" claimed as the remaining evidence are turning out to be the journal’s, not Wakefield’s.

"A syndrome necessarily requires at least some consistency," author Brian Deer wrote in January in  "How the Case Against the MMR Was Fixed," attacking the Wakefield paper's claim that a consecutive series of children arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in the late 1990s with signs of regressive autism and bowel disease, and that some of the parents blamed the MMR. "But, as the records were laid out, Wakefield's crumbled."

What's crumbling now is the credibility of the British Medical Journal.

--

Like Gaul, the allegation of fraud is divided into three parts. According to BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee, speaking at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the fraud was constituted of Wakefield’s statements about "inflammatory bowel problems, regressive autism, and the parental claim that MMR was the underlying cause. What these articles [by Brian Deer] also say [is] that when those three things didn't come up trumps on the twelve children included, and the subsequent series of children, Andrew Wakefield altered the data to make those three things emerge."

Altered the data on those three things? That seems clear enough. A sidebar titled "How the linked was fixed" – fixed as in faked as in fraudulent --  makes the same claims:

"--Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnoses at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism.

-- Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were 'previously normal,' five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns.

-- In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results -- noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations -- were changed after a medical school research review to 'non-specific' colitis."

And who made these fraudulent changes? "It had to be Wakefield," Godlee wrote. He was the one who "altered the data to make those three things happen."

But hold on. Godlee is now taking that back without saying so. In fact, she says she never said it. The reason she's slithering away from those clear assertions is that this month, an independent microbiologist named David Lewis presented the BMJ with the actual gut pathology "grading sheets" created by another member of the research team, Dr. Amar Dhillon. Godlee rustled up experts to claim that the pathology did not appear to be as problematic as the paper claimed, but also quoted an outside expert saying there was no evidence of fraud!

Continue reading "An Elaborate Fraud, Part 9: in Which the BMJ's Fraud Claim Collapses -- and No One Hears It Fall" »

The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic

Polio triumph (Managing Editor's Note: Below is the 7 part series in full for you to share, FB, Tweet. Thank you.)

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

1. The Wrong Narrative.

Polio is the iconic epidemic, its conquest one of medicine’s heroic dramas. The narrative is by now familiar: Random, inexplicable outbreaks paralyzed and killed thousands of infants and children and struck raw terror into 20th century parents, triggering a worldwide race to identify the virus and develop a vaccine. Success ushered in the triumphant era of mass vaccination. Now polio’s last hideouts amid the poorest of the poor in Asia and Africa are under relentless siege by, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Eradication is just a matter of time, and many more illnesses will soon meet the same fate.

But based on our research over the past two years, we believe this narrative is wrong – and wrong for reasons that go beyond mere historical interest. The misunderstanding of polio has warped the public health response to modern illnesses in ways that actually make them harder to prevent, control, and treat.

The reality, we believe, is that the virus itself was just half the epidemic equation -- necessary but not sufficient to create The Age of Polio. Outbreaks were not caused solely by poliovirus – the microbe was an ancient and heretofore harmless intestinal bug -- but by its interaction with a new toxin, most often innovative pesticides used to treat fruits and vegetables.

This alternative narrative makes better sense of the natural history of polio, and it resolves a number of anomalies that remain to this day. It suggests why poliomyelitis outbreaks emerged, evolved, and exploded the way they did; it probably solves, for the first time, the enduring riddle of why Franklin D. Roosevelt was afflicted 90 years ago this summer on Campobello Island; and it may mean today’s billion-dollar-a-year eradication effort is misguided, if not downright quixotic.

These are large claims. Let us explain.

--

Polio was a strange illness, never fully understood even by those who devoted their lives to studying and subduing it. It was a summer plague, coming on in late spring and all but vanishing in the fall. Many thought contagion had something to do with water, and Americans kept their children away from swimming pools in droves.

There is a profound distinction between poliovirus – an enterovirus, one that enters through the mouth and takes up residence in the GI tract and bloodstream – and poliomyelitis, the paralytic form of the illness. In the vast majority of cases, the virus causes either a minor illness or an inapparent infection.

But in 1 or 2 in 100 cases, the virus somehow gets past multiple defenses and into the nervous system, where it finds its way to the anterior horn cells at the top front of the spinal column. There, it preferentially attacks the gray-colored motor neurons (polio means gray in Greek) and causes inflammation of the protective myelin sheath (myelitis). This interferes with nerve signals to the muscles and can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the limbs and the respiratory system. A small number of people who contract poliomyelitis -- on the order of 1 percent -- die.

The first recorded U.S. outbreak was in 1841 in West Feliciana, Louisiana (10 cases, no deaths). There was a half-century gap until the next cluster, in 1893 in Boston (26 cases, no deaths). Then, in 1894, came what is widely regarded as the first major epidemic, in Rutland and Proctor, Vermont (132 cases, 18 deaths). Thirty more outbreaks – from such seemingly disparate locations as Oceana County, Michigan, and California’s Napa Valley -- were reported in the United States through 1909. The worst by far was New York in 1907, with 2,500 cases and a five percent mortality rate, a harbinger of the 1916 epidemic in the Northeast that killed 2,000 in New York City alone.[i]

What is most remarkable about this list is that so few outbreaks of paralytic polio were recorded anywhere in the world before the latter 19th century. Poliomyelitis is considered an ancient scourge, but the evidence supporting that belief is quite threadbare. An oft-cited Egyptian drawing depicts a priest with a withered leg that could have stemmed from paralytic polio, but for most of recorded history there were few observations of the sudden-onset fever and paralysis in infants that characterizes the disease. The earliest well-documented case of infantile paralysis in an individual is widely considered to be Sir Walter Scott, afflicted as an infant in 1773.[ii]

There is little question that the poliovirus was endemic in humans for millennia; there may even have been isolated cases of poliomyelitis for much of that period. Yet the poliovirus did not trigger widespread outbreaks of poliomyelitis. Setting aside for now the 1841 Louisiana outbreak, reported retrospectively, something seems to have happened around 1890 to launch The Age of Polio in the United States. And something else must have changed around the end of World War II to create the large modern epidemics seared into the minds of older Americans, thousands of whom are poliomyelitis survivors and almost all of whom know someone who was afflicted.

While we have not written about polio, we have seen this pattern before. In our book, The Age of Autism – Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, we argued that something happened in the 1930s to launch The Age of Autism.[iii] We proposed it was the commercialization of ethyl mercury compounds for use in pesticides – seed disinfectants and lumber preservatives – and in vaccinations; we offered evidence of those inventions in the family backgrounds of the first autism cases identified in the medical literature, in 1943. Similarly, we proposed that the sharp rise in autism cases beginning around 1990 tracks with the federal government recommending several more mercury-containing shots.

Our attention was drawn to polio during our autism research when a virologist mentioned, in passing, that poliomyelitis could be triggered in some instances by injections. Called “provocation poliomyelitis,”[iv] this can happen when a needle stick punctures a nerve in the peripheral nervous system. An active poliovirus infection – typically, in a child exposed to the virus for the first time and not yet immune -- can gain access to the nervous system through a process called “retrograde axonal transport,” traveling back to the spinal column and triggering the dreaded paralytic form, poliomyelitis.

Such cases of provocation paralysis, we learned, occurred in Eastern Europe when antibiotics were excessively administered by injection; this practice led to multiple cases of poliomyelitis.[v] Bulbar polio – of the throat and respiratory system – was recognized as more common after tonsillectomies, again because nerve endings had been exposed.[vi] Outbreaks, then, can unquestionably occur as a result of an environmental injury, in these instances either excessive injection or surgery that led to peripheral nerve damage, in the presence of poliovirus infection.

We began to look at the poliomyelitis literature and found that another and much more comprehensive environmental theory of the disease had been put forward almost immediately after the early outbreaks, although it never gained mainstream attention. This theory proposed that what is called “polio” is not caused by a virus at all, but by poisoning from pesticides. In this theory, lead arsenate triggered the early clusters, and DDT kicked off the large outbreaks after World War II. (The pesticide theory has been championed in recent years by Jim West[vii] and by Janine Roberts[viii].)

That really got our attention. In our research for The Age of Autism, we investigated a paralytic illness we believe resulted from an unrecognized interaction between a toxin and a microbe. Called general paralysis of the insane, or GPI, it was a gruesome and universally fatal outcome in a percentage of people infected years earlier with the syphilis bacteria. We proposed that a manmade mercury compound -- ironically used to “treat” syphilis -- allowed syphilis to gain entrance to the brain. When penicillin was developed in the 1940s and actually killed syphilis infections, GPI disappeared because one of the two requirements for the illness – the microbe – was destroyed.

We suggested that a number of other illnesses may follow a similar pattern in which microbes and metals interact, including, in some instances, autism. So the idea that an environmental insult – whether a needle stick or surgery or a toxic metals exposure – could be at work in outbreaks of poliomyelitis intrigued us.

But we did not find the claim that polio was simply poisoning by pesticides alone to be persuasive. The strong versions of both the virus theory and the pesticide theory – that it was entirely one or the other – are too simple to explain the pattern of evidence. The strong viral theory can’t explain the sudden emergence of poliomyelitis; the strong pesticide theory can’t explain the sudden protective effect of poliovirus vaccinations. Rather, we propose that poliomyelitis outbreaks are man-made events that result from the synergy of microbe and toxin.

Continue reading "The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic" »

The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Created a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 7, “Where was God?” Lessons learned and lost.

Polio triumphRead Part 6, Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2 and Part 1.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

What, then, is the natural history of polio telling us? Beyond the lessons for containing polio outbreaks themselves, we suggest that a single-minded focus on germs – and an unwillingness to explore novel and potentially uncomfortable ideas from outside medical orthodoxy – is an inadequate strategy when it comes to modern diseases.

It’s hard to overstate the impact the polio experience has had on our modern medical culture, starting with the doctors who watched helplessly as its victims fell. J.R. Paul, in his definitive A History of Poliomyelitis, wrote how “the flowering of scientific medicine brought a new point of view, an era of sudden and incredible hope that something might be done after all.”

For a generation of medical professionals born in the heart of this period, the heroic conquest of poliomyelitis was among the most influential narratives that shaped their beliefs about medicine. These beliefs go far beyond science, as Paul suggests. “As the crusade heightened, the world looked on expectantly. … Much as our grandparents had contributed during the nineteenth century to missionary societies, our dimes and dollars went to another ‘religious’ cause, signalized by efforts to stamp out this pestilence and to alleviate the suffering and tragedy it inflicted.”

Paul leaves no doubt as to the hero of this new religious crusade. “[I]n due time, the disease was abruptly scotched by means of vaccination. It was to all intents and purposes finished. The crusade has been described as one of the greatest technical and humanistic triumphs of the age. It was one of those rare achievements which the world greeted as an example of what could be done when science and technology were directed to good use for mankind.”[i]

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But the victory over the epidemics of poliomyelitis means our understanding of polio is essentially frozen in amber, circa 1955. Few diseases have been so completely conquered, at least at home, while being so incompletely understood, and that is not a good outcome. In leaving so many important topics on the table – why outbreaks occurred, why the pattern of contagion was so atypical for an infectious disease – scientists allowed some weak ideas to become conventional wisdom and some important ones to be missed.

The prevailing current explanation for the rise of poliomyelitis outbreaks is the “hygiene hypothesis,” which posits that such simple steps as clean underwear, better sanitation and good housekeeping, along with less exposure to germs like polio in early infancy, meant the effects of disease became much worse when children were finally exposed. This is not a satisfactory explanation, and it never has been – the epicenter of the 1916 epidemic was placed in possibly the filthiest place in The Bronx, an Italian immigrant community evocatively called Pigtown. And hygiene certainly doesn’t work very well to explain polio’s persistence among the world’s poorest, where sanitation is bad and public health infrastructure is close to nonexistent.  (“One injection stops smallpox, The Times noted in its article of Gates’ polio drive, “but in countries with open sewers, children need 10 polio (vaccine) drops up to 10 times.”)

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 6, After: The Persistence of Polio

Polio triumphRead Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2 and Part 1.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

To summarize our theory: Polio is a virus, contagious like other viruses, and generally a harmless enterovirus. When it is introduced into the human body, it has the capacity to enter the nervous system when nerves are damaged. Damage can occur many ways: mechanically through needle puncture or surgery, or, we propose, biochemically via pesticidal or other toxic exposure. Once the virus enters the nervous system, it becomes dangerous in a way nature never allowed before. It spreads through the nervous system via "retrograde axonal transport." The resulting damage can lead to paralysis or death.  

Two regions of the world continue to experience polio outbreaks, despite hopes the virus would be eradicated by 2000. This persistence has surprised and confused the experts.

“The eradication campaign has been stalled from about 2002 to 2007 … Why is it so difficult to complete the global eradication of wild poliovirus?” asked Neal Nathanson of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in a 2008 medical review, “The Pathogenesis of Poliomyelitis: What We Don’t Know.”[i] (What we don’t know turns out to be a lot – the paper runs to 50 pages.)

“Currently, there are two epicenters that have resisted virus elimination, one in South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India) and one in West Africa (centered in Nigeria). What explains the persistence of wild polioviruses in these two foci?”

Nathanson cites three possibilities: those are warm climates, so poliovirus doesn’t go dormant in the winter as it theoretically did in other countries; the prevalence of other enteroviruses means that the live-virus polio vaccine is not as effective because the other viruses interfere with it; and poor public health infrastructure couple with fears about vaccination made the achievement of “herd immunity” harder than expected.

If one considers the toxin idea, however, another explanation jumps out, especially in South Asia. Erase national borders for a moment. While outbreaks are small and have waxed and waned over the past decade, the primary sites have been directly south of the Himalayan range in a smiley-face arc that runs west from Nepal and Bangladesh, through the Northern India districts of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, into Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Polio map
(Photo: The Ganga-Meghna-Bramhaputra River Basins: An arsenic hotbed below the Himalayas)

This also happens to be the area with the worst mass poisoning from arsenic in human history. This is not ancient history – it didn’t even begin until the 1980s. It is a story of the single-minded war against microbes gone badly wrong. What happened is beautifully outlined in an American Scientist article, “No one checked: Natural Arsenic in Wells.”[ii]

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 5, Before

Polio triumph By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Our research on the natural history of autism convinced us that while there may have been a few scattered cases throughout history, the disorder first occurred in appreciable numbers – as clusters and ultimately as an epidemic -- only after 1930. Observations at that time about the rarity and novelty of the disorder are far more persuasive than retrospective efforts to claim significant numbers of cases before then.

The same holds true for poliovirus. Nowhere is that clearer than in the 1917 book “Poliomyelitis In All Its Aspects,”[i] by John Ruhrah and Erwin E. Mayer. “It seems to be a disease of comparatively recent origin,” they wrote. “In the history of most diseases there is a gradual shading off into the older writers until the disease is lost in confusion of inaccurate descriptions. Not so with polio.”

They continued: “The disease is so striking in its symptomatology, so devastating in its results, and produces such a deep impression on the popular mind that it does not seem possible that any very considerable epidemics could have happened in the countries in which there were physicians making records of what occurred.”

The same point is driven home by John R. Paul in his standard 1971 text on the disease, A History of Poliomyelitis [ii]. “There was no idea in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that poliomyelitis was contagious,” wrote Paul, a professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at Yale who conducted important polio research himself. A half a dozen cases within a half-mile of each other might have escaped notice, but “had there been larger outbreaks in the early or mid-19th century it seems highly unlikely that they would have gone unnoticed.”

But just as arsenic and lead caused instances of paralysis before the invention of lead arsenate, there was also an emerging medical literature of poliomyelitis before recurring outbreaks began in 1893. Beginning just before 1800, there’s a history of doctors who took a reasonable cut at identifying the disease. These include, in 1789, Michael Underwood, who used the term “debility of the lower extremities”[iii]; and in 1840, Jacob Heine, who is sometimes credited as the first to diagnose poliomyelitis.

Several doctors later used the word “paralysis” in describing a similar condition in infants: West in 1843; Rillet in 1851; Duchesne in 1864. By 1860, Heine had pinpointed the spinal cord as the source of the paralysis, and in 1872, the great French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot called it “tephromyelitis anterior acuta parenchymatose.” This was a pretty modern description, but his precise nomenclature didn’t quite catch hold. In 1874, German doctor Adolph Kussmaul coined the term “poliomyelitis anterior acuta,” later shortened to poliomyelitis.

Going further back, plausible descriptions grow sparse but include the crippled Egyptian priest in a stele dated from 1580-1350 B.C. In 460 B.C., Hippocrates wrote about clubfoot, which may have included some cases of infantile paralysis. And in 200, Galen also discussed clubfoot.

But those were vanishingly rare, and when Underwood described “debility of the lower extremities” in 1789, he clearly thought he was reporting a new phenomenon, just as Ruhrah and Paul asserted with the benefit of much greater epidemiological sophistication. “This disorder either is not noticed by any medical writer within the compass of my reading, or is not so described as to ascertain the disease here intended,” Underwood wrote. “It is not a common disorder anywhere, I believe.”

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Polio chart for part 5

Outbreaks of more than one case, then, were a distinctly 19th-century phenomenon, and until the 1890s worldwide episodes can be counted on two hands[iv]:

-- In 1835, John Badham’s description of 4 cases in Worksop, England.

-- In 1830-36, Charles Bell’s discussion of multiple cases in St. Helena.

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Created a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 4, Post-War Epidemics and the Triumph of Vaccination

Polio triumph Read Part 3, Making Sense of Campobello; Part 2, A Gypsy Moth Flaps its Wings and Part 1, The Wrong Narrative.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Life magazine for August 15, 1949, reflected the booming exuberance of the times. The cover, “How to Dress for Hollywood,” featured a buxom starlet in suitably sultry attire. There were ads for DeSotos and Nashes and Chevys to mobilize families and their growing broods of children; cigarettes like Pall Mall, whose “greater length of traditionally fine, mellow tobaccos serves as a longer, natural filter to screen and cool the smoke on the way to your throat”; toothpastes to brush away smoker’s breath and shine stained teeth, and articles on everything from a new sailboat called the Sunfish to a town in Louisiana that cut its taxes in half by installing slot machines.[i] Life 49

But twin specters of death and destruction hung over this bright baby-boomer world – the anxiety over atomic annihilation if the Cold War turned hot, and every parents’ most proximate fear for their children, polio.

There were two articles on polio in this August issue. One was titled “Summer season brings epidemics of this uncontrollable disease” and noted that “throughout the nation last week the threat of polio was growing. Starting with some spotty outbreaks during May and June the disease had reached near-epidemic proportions during the sultry drought-ridden month of July. By Aug. 1, 8,300 cases had been reported, a 43% increase over last year. Polio seemed more uncontrollable than ever.”

The peak was still ahead – 1952 would bring 58,000 cases -- but the path to prevention had already accelerated faster than any of the cars on display in Life’s pages in 1949. The year before, John Enders’ research group in Boston had cultivated the poliovirus in human tissue, a Nobel-winning breakthrough that cleared a path for Jonas Salk’s vaccine, which followed in 1955. Successful field trials among several hundred thousand children known as Polio Pioneers were announced on April 12, 1955 – the tenth anniversary of FDR’s death. Church bells rang out across the nation.

The jubilation was justified in terms of the vaccine’s effect on the poliovirus – by 1961, only 161 cases of poliomyeltis were confirmed in the United States, just 29 more than the first epidemic year of 1894. But with the outbreaks ending, basic research withered. As Life noted, “how polio is spread, how the virus enters the body, they do not know.”

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--Polio chart for part 4
In 1949, the same year as the Life article, Drs. Morton S. Biskind and Irving Bieber published “DDT Poisoning – A New Symptom With Neuropsychiatric Manifestations” in the American Journal of Psychotherapy. “By far the most disturbing of all the manifestations are the subjective reactions and the extreme muscular weakness,” they reported.[ii]

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 3, Making Sense of Campobello

Polio triumph Read Part 2, A Gypsy Moth Flaps its Wings and Part 1, The Wrong Narrative.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Despite its name, the town of Cherryfield in Washington County, Maine, calls itself the Blueberry Capital of the World, and there is no disputing the claim. More than 90 percent of the world’s commercial blueberries are grown in Washington County, and Cherryfield is a major processing and shipping center. Machias, the county seat, hosts the annual Blueberry Festival every August. The festival puts on a musical, this year titled “Blueberry Fields Forever,” and a pie-eating contest – blueberry, of course.

The area has a couple of other claims to fame. Washington County hugs the Atlantic Coast where the United States meets Canada, the easternmost point in the United States; the city of Eastport is the first to see the sunrise. The region is known as Down East.

Polio Downeast

[A Map of Washington County Maine, also known as Sunrise County, with Cherryfield and Campobello circled. Click photo to enlarge.]


Two miles offshore is the island of Campobello, part of New Brunswick, Canada, where Franklin D. Polio Campobello House Roosevelt and his family spent summers. It was on his “beloved island” in August, 1921 – ninety years ago – that Roosevelt was afflicted with a paralytic illness diagnosed as poliomyelitis.

But this remote and lightly populated area already had a significant history with polio – one of the first clusters in the United States occurred in Cherryfield a quarter-century earlier, in 1896 (we cited it in our list of pre-1910 outbreaks with links to fruits and vegetables). Seven children were affected, and one died. In all the discussion and theorizing about Roosevelt’s illness over the intervening decades, this convergence has been overlooked.

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Polio FDR Boat Roosevelt arrived at Campobello on Sunday afternoon, August 7, on the yacht of a friend who sailed him up from New York City. The previous week, Roosevelt had visited a Boy Scout camporee on Bear Mountain, N.Y., not far from the family’s Hudson River home in Hyde Park.[i]

At the dock, his family was waiting. His children played on the yacht through the adults’ cocktail hour, then were taken home while Franklin and Eleanor stayed for an elegant dinner on the fantailed aft deck, served by uniformed stewards.

Three days later, on Wednesday, August 10, Roosevelt went to bed early in the cranberry-red cottage on Campobello Island, unusually tired and suspecting “a slight case of lumbago” (lower back pain). He had chills during the night, and in the morning one of his legs was weak; the paralysis had begun. By the next night, both legs were paralyzed.

Because of the defining role it played in his life and, inevitably, world history, the days leading up to the attack have been dissected in detail by Roosevelt’s multiple biographers. Most historians believe he contracted the poliovirus on his visit to the Boy Scouts, which would have multiplied the chances of exposure to a youth with an active infection. Alternatively, he could have come down with the virus sometime between the Bear Mountain trip and his departure for Campobello.

After his arrival at Campobello, much has been made of a fall overboard while sailing in the Bay of Fundy; of his typically energetic activities on the day he first felt ill, which included putting out a small forest fire on a nearby island and going for a dip with his children in a freshwater pond near his house. The “paralyzingly cold” water of the Bay of Fundy became an ominous metaphor for what was about to happen, but was never a serious biological argument.

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-made Epidemic -- Part 2, A Gypsy Moth Flaps Its Wings

Polio triumph Read Part 1, The Wrong Narrative Here.

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Etienne Leopold Trouvelot arrived in the United States from France in the late 1850s and settled into his brand new house at 27 Myrtle Street in Medford, a suburb of Boston. A self-taught scientist and later an astronomer affiliated with Harvard, his interest alighted first on insects, and he turned the land adjoining his home into a virtual boarding house for bugs.

“To contain his hordes of larvae he constructed a stupendous barricade to encircle his grounds – a wooden fence eight feet high that encompassed his full five acres of shrubs and small trees,” writes author Robert J. Spear. “Netting was stretched from the perimeter of the fences across the trees and was supported in the middle on posts, making it possible for Trouvelot to walk upright through his specialized insectary.”[i]

A decade later, he acquired a handful of gypsy moths, probably on a trip back to France – there were none in the United States. What happened next can be deduced from the title of Spear’s book, The Great Gypsy Moth War. Inevitably, insects escaped, not least because birds continually pecked their way into what they viewed as a very large diner.

The gypsy moths did not make their presence known outside the “stupendous barricade” for about a decade, but when they did, the results were apocalyptic. Lacking natural predators, they denuded trees – especially fruit trees – in what seemed like a single collective gulp. Then they crawled onward and upward. “Citizens could only stare in disbelief as the dirt streets became carpeted with millions of larvae across Myrtle Street,” writes Spear, “turning its surface black with the bodies of fast-moving caterpillars.”

Horrified residents combed gypsy moth larvae out of their hair, shoveled them off the steps, stomped them underfoot and burned huge clusters in noxious kerosene fires. But humans were simply outmatched. The Hellstrom Chronicles, the 1970s movie that suggested insects would inherit the earth, was coming alive in suburban Boston.

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The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic -- Part 1, The Wrong Narrative

Polio triumph

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Polio is the iconic epidemic, its conquest one of medicine’s heroic dramas. The narrative is by now familiar: Random, inexplicable outbreaks paralyzed and killed thousands of infants and children and struck raw terror into 20th century parents, triggering a worldwide race to identify the virus and develop a vaccine. Success ushered in the triumphant era of mass vaccination. Now polio’s last hideouts amid the poorest of the poor in Asia and Africa are under relentless siege by, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Eradication is just a matter of time, and many more illnesses will soon meet the same fate.

But based on our research over the past two years, we believe this narrative is wrong – and wrong for reasons that go beyond mere historical interest. The misunderstanding of polio has warped the public health response to modern illnesses in ways that actually make them harder to prevent, control, and treat.

The reality, we believe, is that the virus itself was just half the epidemic equation -- necessary but not sufficient to create The Age of Polio. Outbreaks were not caused solely by poliovirus – the microbe was an ancient and heretofore harmless intestinal bug -- but by its interaction with a new toxin, most often innovative pesticides used to treat fruits and vegetables.

This alternative narrative makes better sense of the natural history of polio, and it resolves a number of anomalies that remain to this day. It suggests why poliomyelitis outbreaks emerged, evolved, and exploded the way they did; it probably solves, for the first time, the enduring riddle of why Franklin D. Roosevelt was afflicted 90 years ago this summer on Campobello Island; and it may mean today’s billion-dollar-a-year eradication effort is misguided, if not downright quixotic.

These are large claims. Let us explain.

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Polio was a strange illness, never fully understood even by those who devoted their lives to studying and subduing it. It was a summer plague, coming on in late spring and all but vanishing in the fall. Many thought contagion had something to do with water, and Americans kept their children away from swimming pools in droves.

There is a profound distinction between poliovirus – an enterovirus, one that enters through the mouth and takes up residence in the GI tract and bloodstream – and poliomyelitis, the paralytic form of the illness. In the vast majority of cases, the virus causes either a minor illness or an inapparent infection.

But in 1 or 2 in 100 cases, the virus somehow gets past multiple defenses and into the nervous system, where it finds its way to the anterior horn cells at the top front of the spinal column. There, it preferentially attacks the gray-colored motor neurons (polio means gray in Greek) and causes inflammation of the protective myelin sheath (myelitis). This interferes with nerve signals to the muscles and can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the limbs and the respiratory system. A small number of people who contract poliomyelitis -- on the order of 1 percent -- die.

The first recorded U.S. outbreak was in 1841 in West Feliciana, Louisiana (10 cases, no deaths). There was a half-century gap until the next cluster, in 1893 in Boston (26 cases, no deaths). Then, in 1894, came what is widely regarded as the first major epidemic, in Rutland and Proctor, Vermont (132 cases, 18 deaths). Thirty more outbreaks – from such seemingly disparate locations as Oceana County, Michigan, and California’s Napa Valley -- were reported in the United States through 1909. The worst by far was New York in 1907, with 2,500 cases and a five percent mortality rate, a harbinger of the 1916 epidemic in the Northeast that killed 2,000 in New York City alone.[i]

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Mark Blaxill on Fox & Friends RE: Gardasil Mandates

Mark Blaxill appeared on Fox & Friends yesterday. Please read his series, "License to Kill" about Merck, the Federal Government and how Gardasil was brought to market HERE. You may recall that the former head of the CDC (Dr. Julie Gerberding) became head of Merck's Vaccine Division upon leaving her government job.