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Olmsted on Autism: The China Syndrome

By Dan Olmsted, WASHINGTON, Aug. 30

In my first column for Rescue Post, I wrote about the irony that America sends mercury-laced childhood vaccines to China, and China sends lead-toxic toys to the USA -- an "instant karma" lesson that heavy metals are unsafe for children anywhere on the planet.

This week I was reminded that China is zapping us with mercury, too -- and it could be a key factor in the relentless rise in autism rates here. On Sunday, The New York Times began a series on pollution in China and how it is devastating that country even as it fuels an unprecedented "economic miracle." The fuel, literally, is coal, and mercury is a toxic byproduct when it's burned.

How much coal? Oh, brother.

"China has entered the most robust stage of its industrial revolution," the paper says. "In 2005 alone, China added 66 gigawatts of electricity to its power grid, about as much power as Britain generates in a year. Last year, it added an additional 102 gigawatts, as much as France. That increase has come almost entirely from small-and-medium size coal-fired power plants that were built quickly and inexpensively."
   
So you don't have to summon "the butterfly effect" -- the idea that small changes somewhere on Earth can trigger huge changes elsewhere -- to realize we're in trouble, too.

"China's problem has become the world's problem," the paper says. "Much of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China."

California, of course, is ground zero as we watch autism rates keep rising -- even after mercury was "removed" from childhood vaccines starting in 1999 (the situation is much more complicated than that, since more and more pregnant women and younger and younger kids are getting mercury-preserved flu shots). So if you believe as I do that autism is fundamentally an environmental illness that whacks a subgroup of susceptible kids, mercury from China -- or anyplace else -- is every bit as important as mercury from vaccines.

Recent studies have shown why. Raymond Palmer and colleagues at the University of Texas found the autism rate was higher in Texas counties with more mercury exposure from toxic industrial releases. In another study, researchers found children living in areas with the highest level of mercury pollution in the San Francisco Bay area were roughly twice as likely to have autism.

So: Much of the particulate pollution over LA comes from China's coal-spewing power plants; up the coast in San Francisco, kids are twice as likely to have autism in mercury-pollution hotspots. And China keeps pumping out more and more coal/mercury.

Aren't the implications pretty chilling? If mercury is related to autism, wouldn't you expect the autism rate in California to keep rising?

As I've studied the subject over the past couple of years, I've come across a number of never-vaccinated kids with the disorder. But often, another link to mercury immediately presents itself. The most notable instance: I reported that fewer Amish kids were vaccinated, fewer seem to have autism, and the few that I did find had in fact been vaccinated. (As critics have pointed out, this is anecdotal and scientifically unconvincing -- which is why the never-performed study of never-vaccinated kids needs to be done).

Shortly after that article appeared, a Virginia pediatrician and geneticist, Dr. Lawrence Leichtman, posted a note saying he had six fully autistic, regressive, never-vaccinated Old Order Amish kids as patients. That was certainly in contrast to what I had found up to that point, so I called him up.
Leichtman  told me that of his six unvaccinated Amish children and adolescents, three were from Pennsylvania Dutch country, two from Iowa and one from Texas. "By the way," he volunteered, "four of these six kids all have elevated mercury. The only two that don't, one of them is from Texas and one is from Iowa. But all of the people in Pennsylvania and one of the people in Iowa have elevated mercury."

Were the mercury levels significantly higher? I asked. "Oh yes," he responded.

What did he think was going on?

"The people in Pennsylvania, I've actually tracked back on them," Leichtman said. "There's definitely a plume from one of the coal-fired power plants (from western Pennsylvania) that just goes right over them. And the one in Iowa, it's a little less obvious because actually he's in the Amana Colonies, but I have seen reports of the area around Amana having elevated levels of mercury in the environment."

Leichttman said northern states "get most of the prevailing wind that comes across the Pacific. You get that trans-Pacific flow which is all Chinese mercury. We're getting a load of Chinese mercury, as far as I can tell."

In fact, Leichtman believes the damage to children is coming from environmental mercury, not the mercury in vaccines. He said he can detect elevated mercury levels in about half his 500 autism patients. "Environmental mercury is horrible," he said, "and I think that's where it's coming from. To me, people with autism are the canaries in the coal mine. A lot of them are reflecting the damage from all of that."

In my column, I pointed out that the Pittsburgh Post had just reported Pennsylvania has four of the nation's 10 "dirtiest power plants." So there's plenty of coal from American power plants putting out mercury as well, and if the industry has its way, there will be many, many more over the next few decades.

My own research also pointed a finger at mercury in the environment. In my UPI Age of Autism column "Mercury Link to Case 2," I found a plausible connection between mercury fungicides and the first three autism cases reported at Johns Hopkins in the 1930s. From the start, in other words, mercury has been implicated in autism via more than one vector, and nothing about that has changed in the decades since.

More and more people are starting to make this broader case.

In "Throwing Children Into Oncoming Traffic: The Truth About Autism," Dr. Kenneth Stoller and Anne McElroy Daschel (two relentless and gutsy enviro/bio advocates), write that "mercury is the deadliest non-radioactive element on Earth, and thousands of tons are spewed into the environment every year. With each coal-fire power plant that comes on line we are one step closer to exterminating human life on this planet. However, mercury is politically protected because of its connection with the fossil-fuel industry, dentistry (amalgam dental filings), and vaccines."

And they make another important point -- that toxic damage to humans is the internal equivalent to what's happening in the external environment: "It's not just about autism, it's about a level of mercury pollution that could threaten human life on this planet. We may have less time to solve this problem than we have to stop global warming, although the two overlap to a great extent."

In his terrific new book "Changing the Course of Autism," Dr. Bryan Jepson writes: "How long will it take for us to pay attention to mercury and its effects on developing brains in low-level chronic exposures? Mercury is known to be more neurotoxic than lead, and its presence in the environment is on the rise. I'm afraid that we are inadvertently using our children as our 'canary in the coal mine.'"

There's that "coal mine" metaphor again. That may not be a metaphor at all.

Dan Olmsted wrote The Age of Autism column for United Press International and is now an independent journalist based in Washington, focusing on autism and related issues. He can be reached at Olmsted.dan@gmail.com.

Comments

JB Handley

D'Oc:

Congratulations, you are the Rescue Post's most prolific commenter!

I have made it very clear what I think: the move from 10 vaccines in the mid-1980s to 36 vaccines today is the primary driver in the increase in the number of children with autism.

Within the vaccines - mercury, aluminum, and live viruses seem like the 3 biggest problems.

I don't believe the singular removal of Thimerosal, which has yet to happen, will change the number of autism cases by itself, although NOT giving mercury is certainly an improvement and the right thing to do.

JB

Do'C

Back to the topic of Mr. Olmsted's article...

If you wouldn't mind JB (Mr. Handley?), take a look at a graph of the 3-5 year-old California autism caseload cohort for the past 5 years.

Such a graph would include children born at the starting point of the "removal" in 1999 Mr. Olmsted mentioned.
What do you see? Does the trend look linear to you?

Given the data that's been presented, do you really believe there is combined flu shot uptake and airborne mercury data that would exactly and inversely match (in dose and effect, if any) the reduction the use of thimerosal in childhood vaccines in order to produce a trendline with an R-squared value of .9954 for this time period?

What do you think of this "Flu shot and Chinese Mercury" hypothesis?

Do'C

Yep JB, I've read it.

You wrote:

>>"Using data from California, the state perceived to maintain the best data on autism, this report demonstrates clearly that the rise in autism is not due to improved diagnosis and expanded diagnostic criteria, but is rather a REAL rise for which some external factor must be playing a role.

Unfortunately you are incorrect if you think this report correctly addressed expanded diagnostic criteria - it did not, and that is its fatal flaw. Both cohorts, one from 1983-1985 and another from 1993-1995 were evaluated based on DSM-IV criteria. The DSM-IV criteria was not even published until 1994 and with looser criteria, would likely lead to increased diagnosis. Of course the majority of the 1983-1985 cohort are likely to meet the looser 1994 criteria. To conclude that loosening diagnostic criteria does not contribute to increased diagnosis simply because the same percentage of the older cohort as the younger cohort met new looser criteria is fallacious at best. That report also provide two other key pieces of information that suggest broadening of criteria did play a role. Intellectual impairment appears to have been cut in half between the two cohorts, and the 1993-1995 cohort appears less symptomatic (see tables 9 and 10).

Let me know if you need you a better explanation, I can send you a paper.

http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00334.x

But regarding data from California in general:

http://www.dds.ca.gov/autism/pdf/AutismReport2003.pdf

"The information presented in this report is purely descriptive in nature and standing alone, should not be used to draw scientifically valid conclusions about the incidence or prevalence of ASD in California. The numbers of persons with ASD described in this report reflect point-in-time counts and do not constitute formal epidemiological measures of incidence or prevalence."

I've also read Mr. Blaxill's 2004 opinion in PHR - a very interesting and compelling read, yet apparently flawed in its use of the CDDS data.

John Best

How come nobody questioned whether or not autism was epidemic until after Verstraeten told us that thimerosal had caused it in 1999?

JB Handley

Do'C:

Have you read this?

Report to the Legislature on the Principle Findings from The Epidemiology of Autism in California: A Comprehensive Pilot Study
MIND Institute, UC Davis, Oct 2002.
Robert Byrd

Using data from California, the state perceived to maintain the best data on autism, this report demonstrates clearly that the rise in autism is not due to improved diagnosis and expanded diagnostic criteria, but is rather a REAL rise for which some external factor must be playing a role. Excerpt:

"There is no evidence that a loosening in the diagnostic criteria has contributed to increased number of autism clients...we conclude that some, if not all, of the observed increase represents a true increase in cases of autism in California...a purely genetic basis for autism does not fully explain the increasing autism prevalence. Other theories that attempt to better explain the observed increase in autism cases include environmental exposures to substances such as mercury; viral exposures; autoimmune disorders; and childhood vaccinations."

http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/study.pdf

Do'C

Hi Kelli Ann,

You wrote:

>>"As I've mentioned in my previous post, no one is required to supply personal answers to your questions."

I'm not asking for a "personal" answer to anything. Back to Mr. Olmsted's original post...I'll settle for some epidemiological evidence from California that shows an "autism epidemic" or a real increase in prevalence, from anyone.

>>"Furthermore,the "absence of an answer" to you directly has absolutely NO BEARING whatsoever on the scientific merits of the question at hand – even if you may think otherwise."

Which is exactly why I wrote:

"That being said, simply because direct evidence wasn't provided, and a straw man argument was presented, does not mean that there is not an "autism epidemic". There might be. All that's needed to make a conclusion that there is, would be some good evidence that it is true."

It should be clear that I don't think otherwise.

>>"In this case, Mark is on record regarding this issue. If you were really interested in what he thinks, all you would need to do is take the initiative to find the material for yourself. I've already given you a site to find it."

I'm not asking what he thinks, I'm asking for the evidence that anyone's conclusions of "autism epidemic" might be based on. Is any of that evidence epidemiology from California that scientifically demonstrates and "autism epidemic" or a real increase in autism prevalence? That's what I want to know. I want to see the science itself, not power point presentations from a conference from anyone in particular.

>>"If you continue to choose to base your "conclusions" on the fact that someone didn't specifically provide YOU with all the information that is ALREADY on record, well then…..that’s your choice."

Did you miss the part where I wrote:

"In small part, yes, but only in small part."

By the way, that only refers to my current conclusion that the evidence for an "autism epidemic" does not exist, it does not refer to whether or not there is any "autism epidemic".

Followed by:

"That being said, simply because direct evidence wasn't provided, and a straw man argument was presented, does not mean that there is not an "autism epidemic". There might be. All that's needed to make a conclusion that there is, would be some good evidence that it is true."

>>"Personally, it doesn't seem very logical to me."

Perhaps you'd like to be specific in pointing out the flawed logic on my part. I'm open to having my logic examined critically.

pudn'tain

"Annually, more than 14,000 pounds of mercury are released into the state’s air. The majority of discharges can be attributed to power plants (especially coal-powered and geothermal facilities), petroleum refineries and cement production facilities. Mercury is released into the airshed of every county in California. Five counties - Lassen, Sonoma, Kern, Los Angeles, and San Diego - experienced mercury air releases in excess of 1,000 pounds according to the data analyzed for our report."
http://www.cleanwateraction.org/ca/CAnews.htm
Now correlate those counties with the percentage of ASD clients, over time, say 25 years. Or do it just for today if you like. http://www.dds.ca.gov/FactsStats/quarterly.cfm There's no correlation between counties with high mercury pollution and high autism numbers. There is a high correlation between the wealthier DDS Regional Centers that are closer to the Lovaas clinic at UCLA and autism dx, but the autistic kids are all normal IQ and most are actually PDD,nos. In other RC's the clients tend to have only core autism and have a lower IQ. You're Dan Olmsted, investigator. If I can get these numbers so can you. And Autism Diva has already done most of the work. Google: "Malibu Compton Compare and Contrast", "California's unequal distribution of autistics", "Lovaas and the epidemic epicenter" for starters. You can get the IDEA statistics online, too.

Kelli Ann Davis

Do'C you wrote:

In small part, yes, but only in small part. When a scientific question is posed (like whether or not evidence for an "autism epidemic" or a real increase in autism prevalence exists), THE ABSENCE OF AN ANSWER with actual scientific evidence, as well as the introduction of a "better diagnosis" straw man and an ad hominem/straw man of "epidemic denier" makes it fairly straightforward to reach the conclusion I did.

As I've mentioned in my previous post, no one is required to supply personal answers to your questions.

Furthermore,the "absence of an answer" to you directly has absolutely NO BEARING whatsoever on the scientific merits of the question at hand – even if you may think otherwise.

In this case, Mark is on record regarding this issue. If you were really interested in what he thinks, all you would need to do is take the initiative to find the material for yourself. I've already given you a site to find it.

If you continue to choose to base your "conclusions" on the fact that someone didn't specifically provide YOU with all the information that is ALREADY on record, well then…..that’s your choice.

Personally, it doesn't seem very logical to me.

Kelli Ann Davis

Do'C

Hi Kelli Ann,

You wrote:

>>"Is that what you base your conclusions on? Whether a person answers your question?"

In small part, yes, but only in small part. When a scientific question is posed (like whether or not evidence for an "autism epidemic" or a real increase in autism prevalence exists), the absence of an answer with actual scientific evidence, as well as the introduction of a "better diagnosis" straw man and an ad hominem/straw man of "epidemic denier" makes it fairly straightforward to reach the conclusion I did. If epidemiological evidence from California that would support an "autism epidemic" actually existed, it should have been far simpler for Mr. Blaxill to simply present it. That being said, simply because direct evidence wasn't provided, and a straw man argument was presented, does not mean that there is not an "autism epidemic". There might be. All that's needed to make a conclusion that there is, would be some good evidence that it is true.

>>"The fact is: Mark’s already answered the question – many times – just not directly to you."

Then it should be a very straightforward task for Mr. Blaxill to cut and paste the appropriate supporting epidemiology from California to support an assertion of an "autism epidemic". If the work is already done, it's cut and paste, right? Sounds like a great future article for rescue post. Maybe he'll tackle it.

Kelli Ann Davis

Do’C said:
I pointed out the lack of scientific evidence to support such a claim. You did not provide any evidence to support the claim, SO I CAN ONLY CONCLUDE that the notion of an "autism epidemic" (or an increase in real prevalence) remains scientifically unsupported.

Is that what you base your conclusions on? Whether a person answers your question?

The fact is: Mark’s already answered the question – many times – just not directly to you.

If you want, you can probably access his latest PowerPoint presentation that he delivered this past spring at Autism One –I think it’s up on their website. I believe it will provide you with some of the answers to your questions.

Meanwhile, here’s what the CDC says about the numbers from their own STUDY.

I believe Dr. Gerberding’s last remark is most crucial. Whether it’s 1 in 500 or it’s 1 in 150 – the fact of the matter is – it’s too many:


CDC Releases New Data on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) from Multiple Communities in the United States; Majority of Children with ASDs in the Areas Studied had Developmental Concerns Before Age Three
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported findings today from the first and largest summary of prevalence data from multiple U.S. communities participating in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) surveillance project. The results showed an average of 6.7 children out of 1,000 had an ASD in the six communities assessed in 2000, and an average of 6.6 children out of 1,000 having an ASD in the 14 communities included in the 2002 study. All children in the studies were eight years old because previous research has shown that most children with an ASD have been identified by this age for services.
For decades, the best estimate for the prevalence of autism was four to five per 10,000 children. More recent studies from multiple countries using current diagnostic criteria conducted with different methods have indicated that there is a range of ASD prevalence between 1 in 500 children and 1 in 166 children. The CDC studies provide information on the occurrence of ASDs in fourteen communities in the United States.
"Our estimates are becoming better and more consistent, though we can't yet tell if there is a true increase in ASDs or if the changes are the result of our better studies," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "WE DO KNOW, HOWEVER, THAT THESE DISORDERS ARE AFFECTING TOO MANY CHILDREN."

Kelli Ann Davis

Do'C

Mark Blaxill wrote:

>>>>"There is no science that shows that "autism rates" (as in actual prevalence) are rising, and there is certainly no scientific data from California (or anywhere else) that supports an "epidemic""

>>"is simply pernicious nonsense. In fact, every bit of quantitative evidence supports the idea that autism is a national emergency; not a single shred of credible evidence supports the idea that the problem is "better diagnosing."

>>"I suggest it's time we stop considering epidemic denial (ED) to be respectable speech. The burden of proof for epidemic denial should rest on those who would offer the various ED sub-hypotheses and the degree of scrutiny applied to those sub-hypotheses, in light of the social costs and moral consequences of denial, needs to be extraordinarily high. Sadly, despite frequent repetition, none of these arguments passes even a casual test."

Mr. Blaxill,

I did not deny the existence of an "epidemic". I make no claim here about it's existence or non-existence. I acknowledge that an "autism epidemic" (or even a real increase in prevalence) is a possibility. I pointed out the lack of scientific evidence to support such a claim. You did not provide any evidence to support the claim, so I can only conclude that the notion of an "autism epidemic" (or an increase in real prevalence) remains scientifically unsupported. No one made the claim that increased autism caseload in California is "better diagnosing"?

Since I don't deny the possibility of an epidemic, I'll leave your second paragraph to those who might have a more extremist view.

Mark Blaxill

There are some valid points of the debate about the environmental evidence in autism. But the notion that

"There is no science that shows that "autism rates" (as in actual prevalence) are rising, and there is certainly no scientific data from California (or anywhere else) that supports an "epidemic""

is simply pernicious nonsense. In fact, every bit of quantitative evidence supports the idea that autism is a national emergency; not a single shred of credible evidence supports the idea that the problem is "better diagnosing."

I suggest it's time we stop considering epidemic denial (ED) to be respectable speech. The burden of proof for epidemic denial should rest on those who would offer the various ED sub-hypotheses and the degree of scrutiny applied to those sub-hypotheses, in light of the social costs and moral consequences of denial, needs to be extraordinarily high. Sadly, despite frequent repetition, none of these arguments passes even a casual test.

Do'C

>>"To D'Oc: An "R-squared value of .9954" is way beyond my non-scientific expertise. All I can say is that thimerosal use has actually been increasing in by far the most vulnerable group -- pregnant women -- and that at least some studies suggest that greater pollution directly correlates with a greater risk of autism."

What evidence do you have that thimerosal use actually increased in pregnant women for the period immediately following the "removal" of thimerosal from childhood vaccinations? (required to make your hypothesis work)

The majority of childhood vaccines were thimerosal-free or contain only trace amounts by 2002 (more on that below). Here's flu shot uptake estimates for pregnant women for the three years that follow:

2002 - 12.4±3.9 %
2003 - 12.8±4.4 %
2004 - 12.9±5.0 %

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/pdf/vaccinetrend.pdf

Note: there is an increase in the estimate for 2005, but children born in 2005 and later are not old enough to be reflected in the 3-5 year-old California autism caseload cohort yet. Additionally, estimates for 2006 were back down to 12.9 percent.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/pdf/targetpopchart.pdf

As for correlation with pollution, I'll defer to pudn'tain's original question that is specific to California:

"What about the regional differences in California that show that mercury pollution falling on counties is not at all correlated with the number of ASD people in the DDS?"


>>"If the CDC had recalled all thimerosal-containing vaccines in 1999, we'd have a genuine "natural experiment." But we don't. "

Here's something we do know Mr. Olmstead.

“…N.I.P. estimated the amount of thimerosal in provider vaccine inventories in a survey conducted September 20, 2001 to February 20, 2002. The targets were a convenience sample of providers getting site visits from public health officials across the country. Inventory counts were done of all refrigerators for D.T.a.P., Hib, and hep B pediatric vaccines. The thimerosal classification was based on the lot number information, which was verified by the manufacturers. In September 2001, 225 sites were canvassed, and 447 by February 2002…During the visits, the providers were surveyed about thimerosal-containing vaccines in their inventories. Of the 447 interviews, 83.5 percent reported no thimerosal-containing vaccines in stock at any time since October 2001.”

Source: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICE, Records of the Meeting Held on February 20-21, 2002, Atlanta Marriott North Central Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia.

To sum things up, the majority of thimerosal-containing pediatric vaccines appear to be out in very early 2002, flu shot uptake for pregnant women stays relatively flat for the next three years (and remains at about 13%), and there is wild variation in caseload and caseload growth among CDDS regional centers that would have similar levels of exposure to airborne mercury from China. What does this suggest about your hypothesis?


>>"Nor will the government study autism rates in never-vaccinated kids; the survey by Generation Rescue found ominous correlations between vaccines and NDs including autism, but it's been widely ignored. "

I don't think it's been widely ignored. It's methodologically flawed, and therefore isn't truly useful.

Thank you for taking my questions.

Heraldblog

Mr. Olmsted, if "an "R-squared value of .9954" is way beyond your non-scientific expertise, then you might want to avoid coming to such extraordinary and unbendable conclusions about autism. Simply put, the removal of thimerosal from scheduled childhood vaccines would have been reflected in a drop in Calif. case loads if your hypothesis was correct. But case loads kept going up. If you plot the case loads for 3-5 years olds over time, you'll see the line is nearly straight. You're proposing that the extra case loads caused by Chinese power plants equals the number of cases that are reduced by the removal of thimerosal. That is highly improbable, to put it generously.

Stagmom

My brother in law is CEO of a company that has been hired by the Government of China to extract methane gas (natural gas) from the coal beds in a difficult, techical process called, "Coal Bed Methane Extraction." China is trying to move away from coal, with the goal of not being quite so filty, dark, throat choking and sooty for the Olympics. Methane extraction often leads to a very big KABOOOOM! of an explosion. Perhaps downt the road China will not be as dependent on their coal for energy. In the meantime.....

John Best

Doc,
I'd just like to point out that the largest increase in autism happened in conjunction with the HepB shot being given on the day of birth, before infants have developed a Blood Brain Barrier. If you wanted to continue to cause autism to make yourself look innocent, a good way to do it would be to deliver the mercury to the infant's brain before it is born via the mother. Enter the flu shot. This has the added benefit of poisoning the infants so early that they never appear normal and you have a chance to fool the 99% of the population who do not educate themselves daily about autism. Unfortunately for the drug companies, the 1% of us who do learn more about autism every single day will try to educate the rest of the world about the truth.

Dan Olmsted

To HeraldBlog -- I wrote a number of stories about the Amish. After one of the early ones, Dr. Leichtman posted a note on the Mercola Web site saying he was treating several never-vaccinated Amish with autism. That's when I called him up to find out more, and he told me about them -- and about his belief that mercury was still the culprit in most of those cases, but via coal-fired pollution rather than vaccines.

To Bob Moffitt -- Good questions why these patients went to Dr. Leichtman, and I don't know the answer other than that he is a well-known pediatric geneticist. Re treatments, I wrote this in The Age of Autism column about him:
Leichtman, like a number of other doctors, is trying to flush mercury out of autistic children through a process called chelation (key-LAY-shun).
Chelation as a treatment for autism is unproven and controversial (what about autism is not unproven and controversial?), and it carries a risk of serious side effects. Chelation has been used for 40 years in cases of heavy metal toxicity, including lead poisoning.
But does it help children with autism?
"The people in Pennsylvania wouldn't take chelation," Leichtman said, and noted the Amish aversion to medical procedures and drugs. "One in Iowa did. He certainly did better."

To D'Oc: An "R-squared value of .9954" is way beyond my non-scientific expertise. All I can say is that thimerosal use has actually been increasing in by far the most vulnerable group -- pregnant women -- and that at least some studies suggest that greater pollution directly correlates with a greater risk of autism. If the CDC had recalled all thimerosal-containing vaccines in 1999, we'd have a genuine "natural experiment." But we don't. Nor will the government study autism rates in never-vaccinated kids; the survey by Generation Rescue found ominous correlations between vaccines and NDs including autism, but it's been widely ignored.

To pudn'tain:

I'm not aware of the studies you mention, but if you can give me the citations I'll read them and perhaps write about them in a future column. I'm open to whatever the data shows.

Do'C

>>"California, of course, is ground zero as we watch autism rates keep rising -- even after mercury was "removed" from childhood vaccines starting in 1999 (the situation is much more complicated than that, since more and more pregnant women and younger and younger kids are getting mercury-preserved flu shots)."

It's too bad that there isn't much in the way of actual descriptive epidemiology from California to support this far-fetched "Flu Shots and Chinese Coal" hypothesis. What we do have from California is caseload data. It is not epidiemiology (as carefully explained by they CDDS). There is no science that shows that "autism rates" (as in actual prevalence) are rising, and there is certainly no scientific data from California (or anywhere else) that supports an "epidemic".

If you wouldn't mind Mr. Olmsted, take a look at a graph of the 3-5 year-old autism caseload cohort for the past 5 years.

Such a graph would include children born at the starting point of the "removal" in 1999 you mentioned.
What do you see? Does the trend look linear to you?

Do you really believe there is combined flu shot uptake and airborne mercury data that would exactly and inversely match (in dose and effect, if any) the reduction the use of thimerosal in childhood vaccines in order to produce a trendline with an R-squared value of .9954 for this time period?

Ana

It seems like there are always very few heroes in the world at any given time, not on issues on a scale for which there really is no precedent. People around us can barely tolerate hearing about the toxins in household cleaners, much less in the environment and in vaccines. They bury their heads in the sand and you spend your heart and soul staring into the pit of horrors in order to chronicle it for those of us who no longer have the choice but to find the truth or lose our children. Thank you Mr. Olmstead.
We now suspect that, for our kids, vaccines were the crucial tipping point of a toxic overload which was already around us and in us and didn't need the big leg up. We learned many years later that our pediatrician's office was under the plume of a coal-fired power plant. Our twins must have gotten extra lung-fulls of mercury as they screamed from being injected with it.
The whole story of susceptibility unfolded only in retrospect because we'd had none of the information that we now do about the dangers of mercury and vaccine toxins, but the signs were there all along. For instance, we'd lived very close to this coal-fired plant a few years before having the twins. It was only for a short time, but I'd spent the entire period sick with a mystery illness: severely weak legs, ringing headaches, respiratory troubles which never quite went away, numb hands and mouth, clumsiness and tachychardia. All mainstream testing for these things drew blanks. Then we moved twenty-five miles away and I immediately recovered. When I got a mercury-laced flu shot for the first time about a year later, the mystery illness returned for about six months. Again my legs were so weak that I couldn't climb stairs without dragging myself up the railing. This was especially interesting because I studied dance from the age of five to twenty-three. Also, smells and sounds drove me mad during this time, though these effects eventually wore off.
In the end we suspect that the heavy metal sensitivity comes from my side of the family. The fact that I'm allergic to nickel could have been a hint had the warnings reached us before allowing our twins to get flu shots and other vaccinations from potentially "hot" batches. Again, only in retrospect was it clear from the twins' behavior that vaccines were the trigger. They were like little boxers going down harder after each round and getting up more punch drunk every time until our son eventually regressed. They fought so hard to stay lucid and it kills us that we didn't understand what was happening at the time.
Our children are currently recovering from supposedly "genetic" conditions. We tell people that these conditions were mainly- if not completely- "iatro-genetic". But the sarcasm may already be dated. It's horrifying to think that the air is only getting worse and that, one day, vaccines may no longer be "needed" to push too many children over the brink. And what happens when the children born during the period of highest thimerosal exposure- even if they managed to escape developing more obvious cognitive injuries themselves- begin to have children? What's already in and around them may be enough without the "help" of organized medicine. I can't even say I'd like to see the "karma" would go back from wence it came, in other words, only to those who profited from the misery. I wouldn't wish that on my enemy's dog.

Heraldblog

Dan, you quoted Leichtman in your May, 2005 Age of Autism piece:

...That mother said a minority of younger Amish have begun getting their children vaccinated, though a local doctor who has treated thousands of Amish said the rate is still less than 1 percent.

...I called that doctor, Lawrence Leichtman, at his office in Virginia Beach, Va. A pediatrician and geneticist who has been widely published in medical journals, he told me he was treating six unvaccinated Amish children and adolescents -- three from Pennsylvania, including one from Lancaster County; two from Ohio, and one from Texas.

But according to this story, Leichtman only called you after reading The Age of Autism. How do you explain that?

Bob Moffitt

Just curious, how does a pediatrician practicing in Virginia, find himself treating "six fully autistic, regressive, never-vaccinated Old Order Amish kids"......"three from Pennsylvania Dutch country, two from Iowa and one from Texas"?

Is Dr. Leichttman a member of the Amish...or....did his Pennsylvania, Iowa and Texas "unvaccinated Amish" patients seek him out for other reasons? Such as, chelation? Diet?

Just curious, do the Amish patients of Dr. Leichttman suffer the same "gut issues" as other "regressive" autistics? Colitis? Gasteronitis? Persistent, highly inflamed digestive tracts?

pudn'tain

What about the regional differences in California that show that mercury pollution falling on counties is not at all correlated with the number of ASD people in the DDS?

There is a correlation between proximity to the UCLA Lovaas Insititute and the percentage of autistics in the DDS. The IDEA data for schools in California show no correlation between mercury pollution and atuism diagnoses.

Pat Tibbs

I wonder what the autism rate is in Los Angeles since it is ground zero for air pollution from China. There must be numbers available.

I've always contended that we should eliminate mercury from our environment whether or not autism is hereditary. I mean why take a chance when we know it's "neuro-toxic."

Deborah

The coal issue makes perfect sense. I grew up in a coal area of northern Pennsylvania. My parents had a coal furnace for heating. I was exposed to coal from the age of 3 until I was about 19. My husband's family also used coal as a heating source and he too is a life long resident of Pennsylvania (central).
Add to this the fact that both my husband and I were in the military and received a whole host of vaccinations while in boot camp.
Add also the condition of our environment and honestly it amazes me that my son's entire generation isn't on the autism spectrum.
This still doesn't absolve the drug cartels and the government's practices of putting toxins in vaccinations but coupled with the previous information and it explains a lot.

Deborah A Delp
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/autism_and_vaccinations

Stagmom

Dan, how many of us poured Thimerosal into our eyes via contact lense solutions? I started at age 14. Now my bottles all say, "Thimerosal Free!" as most manufacturers have removed it completely.

Thanks for your amazing work.

KIM

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