MAKING SENSE OF THE CALIFORNIA AUTISM NUMBERS
By Mark Blaxill
It's tricky business to report on scientific events in which you've played a direct role, but there's a new study coming out on Monday about trends in autism rates in California and their connection with falling thimerosal exposure. It's important and timely for me to comment on the findings. But first I need to go back to the beginning of this discussion, since it's one that I started.
On July 16 2001, I gave a brief presentation to a meeting of the Immunization Safety Review Committee of the Institute of Medicine at the Meeting on "Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes" held in Cambridge MA. I won't repeat the entire story, but if you're interested, David Kirby provides an engaging account of this session in his book Evidence of Harm (pages 175-181) and you can find the audio files of the meeting at the following link HERE.
During a fifteen minute time slot I made a number of comments and answered one interesting question. Looking back from today, six and half years later, here's a quick synopsis of what I said.
"It's a fact that US infants were exposed…to sharply higher amounts of mercury via thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) starting around 1990. And that the timing of the increases in autism rates that are measurable at all and the increases in infant mercury exposures via those vaccines are associated. I make no claim about causality; I…simply observe the association."
I went through a quick overview of some of the autism time trend data (I later published an epidemiology review on this subject entitled "What's Going On? The Question of Time Trends in Autism" in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health Reports). I also sketched out some rough analysis on the broad contours of mercury exposure via TCVs in US children based on the CDC vaccine coverage statistics. Next, I brought these two analyses—autism rates and mercury exposures--together.
"I will confess that this is kitchen table research. Not well funded and the data sets are certainly vulnerable along a number of dimensions [Note: I never attempted to publish this work, although CDC consultant Paul Stehr-Green later published it for me, in order to attack it]. But I've taken the California data set, which is the one continuous data set over time; it's a case count data set. I've converted it into birth cohort prevalence [by birth year] by using the census information on births in California. And I've also taken a weighted average mercury exposure based on the coverage rates and the average rate of mercury that would be in those vaccines (with a number of adjustments). If one overlays those two trends…one observes in fact that there is an association in time. I would be the first to confess to you that this is not a perfect and squeaky clean data set. This is simply the data I could find."
At the end of the presentation Chairperson Marie McCormick allowed only one question. It came from one of the panel members and it was an important one.
Panelist's question: "If you believe that there is a direct connection between the incidence of autism and these vaccines…should we in the next three years begin to witness a rapid decline in the number of cases of autism?"
My answer: "We have a running experiment going on right know, so we'll know, or we will have a better idea actually [emphasis added] in a number of years."
Natural experiments, like the running one in California, are not the same as laboratory experiments. There are a lot of things you can't control and confounding exposures you can't predict. But nonetheless, the running experiment in California, one I first pointed out back in 2001, has been a very important one. And the evidence that emerges from the natural laboratory demands notice and respect, just like every other bit of reliable evidence.
The results from the experiment? The autism numbers in California have been going up. Straight up. Without any visible deceleration, let alone decline, for the entire period since then.
So what are we to make of all this? And, since it was I who first raised this natural experiment, what do I make of all this?
First of all, I'd emphasize one feature of the autism-thimerosal hypothesis that is often overlooked. As a causal hypothesis for the increasing autism rates, it is a highly parsimonious hypothesis. By that I mean the causal theory was specific, testable and extremely simple to evaluate. (The Oxford English Dictionary defines the "law of parsimony" as "the logical principle that no more causes of forces should be assumed than are necessary to account for the facts.") From the point of view of children's health, it would have been wonderfully good news if the most parsimonious form of the hypothesis had been proven correct. The single causative agent would have been removed, autism rates would have plummeted, future families and children would have been spared the heartbreak so many of us have suffered, and the childhood immunization program (not to mention global manufacturing and its associated emissions) could continue forward secure in the knowledge that a tragic mistake had been discovered and corrected with limited future repercussions, excepting a crucial but simple question of justice for the injured children and their families.
As it turns out, the problem is more complicated than that.
Tomorrow, a study by Robert Schechter and Judy Grether will be published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. They report what I have known for several years now: that the rates of autism in California (properly adjusted for birth year and age at time of data collection) have gone steadily upward. For the most part, they conduct the analysis in the right way and use simple and accurate displays. Their analysis is robust; I've done the same calculations they do and get the same result. They've even adopted my display technique in their first two figures (without crediting me, unlike Dan Hollenbeck's excellent work at FIGHTING AUTISM, which described this approach as "the gold standard"). They do cite my IOM presentation and make one valid criticism of my "kitchen table" analysis. Appropriately, they make no effort to dismiss these increases as an artifact of better diagnosing. The evidence is what it is.
Sadly, alongside the study by Schecter and Grether the journal's editors have published a triumphalist editorial by Eric Fombonne, the chief epidemic denier. I've made my views on Fombonne's work very clear, and his editorial makes every unscientific, propagandistic leap that one would expect from someone who cares so little about autistic children and so much about defending his past errors. Read Schecter and Grether's paper, but throw Fombonne's in the trash.
As someone who has actively pursued, and yes promoted, the autism-thimerosal hypothesis, where do I think this leaves us? The subject is too complex to take up in a single blog post, but here are some of the most important implications:
• The rising rates of autism have truly become a national emergency. The rates reported by Schecter and Grether are NOT for all autism spectrum disorders, but what California parent Rick Rollens has consistently described as "full syndrome autism." For children born in the late 1990s, even these rates had risen to more than 1 in 250 children. If that's not a public health crisis, I don't know what is.
• The continued increases in autism rates provide strong evidence against the idea that early thimerosal exposure, and only thimerosal exposure, is causing the increased population rates of autism. It doesn't say thimerosal is safe, it simply says that explaining the tenfold increase in autism rates won't be easy. And for anyone who thinks clearly and compassionately about the children and families, that's not a good thing.
• Put another way, the epidemiological analysis doesn't prove that thimerosal exposure cannot cause individual cases of autism. It simply provides evidence that it's unlikely thimerosal can be the sole cause in all cases.
• The evidence regarding the connection with autism and mercury exposure more generally hasn't changed. The plausible theories regarding the biology of excretion and toxicity of mercury compounds and their different effects on the developing immune system, gastrointestinal system and brain haven't been affected a single bit.
• The evidence that many of us have seen connecting thimerosal exposure and increased population risk of numerous neuro-developmental disorders doesn't go away. The conduct of the CDC investigation into the adverse effects of thimerosal doesn't look one bit better in retrospect.
• Most importantly, and this is a point that escapes Fombonne's Lilliputian mind entirely, the evidence from the California natural experiment doesn't exonerate the broader childhood immunization program. Quite the opposite, it brings the overall escalation in the vaccine program even more strongly under suspicion. While thimerosal was removed from hepatitis B, Hib and DPT/DTaP vaccines (but not from influenza vaccines), the vaccines themselves didn't go away. Indeed the total count of vaccine doses has gone from 15 to 45 by the first grade and this increased exposure is strongly associated with the increases in autism rates.
• The importance of intensive investigation into the environmental causes involved in autism becomes even more important. We need better evidence, deeper understanding and effective treatment ideas now more than ever.
• And the questions of the natural history of autism that my AOA colleague Dan Olmsted has so vigorously pursued becomes more important than ever. Thimerosal may not do all the explanatory work some of us hoped it might do, and autism won't be as simple to eliminate as acrodynia, but the close association in place and time with ethyl mercury's commercial introduction and the beginning of The Age of Autism give it a special role as a model molecule in the biology of autism.
It's also worth pointing out that none of us really anticipated the strength of the confounding factors that we'd see as thimerosal was phased out of some childhood vaccines. We didn't know that the CDC would turn around and reverse the ban on infant thimerosal exposure but would instead continue to expose infants to dangerous amounts of mercury in flu shots required for both pregnant women and infants. We didn't know that manufacturers would simply substitute the mercury with another toxic metal, aluminum, in even greater amounts. We didn't consider the rising environmental mercury burden from coal burning in China. None of this nullifies the results of the natural experiment in California; it simply exposes the different motivations of the different sides of the debate. One side wants to protect their programs, the other wants to figure out why so many children are sick.
It's important to develop compelling theories and even more important to test them. When you have conflicting evidence, you need to deal with all the contradictions and complexities involved and do your best to make sense of all the conflicts; you can't simply toss out the evidence you don't like. When evidence doesn't fit your theory, your theory has to adapt to fit the evidence, not the other way around. To the extent that we may have emotional and/or reputational stakes in certain theories, that may make dealing with conflicting evidence hard for some. But intellectually speaking, it's all pretty easy. Evidence trumps theory. It's as simple as that.
So although for years I hoped that the numbers in California would turn down, that hasn't happened. And therefore, the only intellectual commitments I can make right now with any confidence include some of the following beliefs. Autism rates have exploded in short period of time. Something new and terrible has happened to a generation of children and environmental causes provide the only reasonable explanations. Mercury exposure is bad for children's brains and there's a lot of evidence (with more to come) that both vaccines and mercury exposure are part of the autistic mix. And anyone who thinks the causation problem is simple is sadly misguided, even more so when they use negative evidence as an occasion to celebrate.
As someone with a restless appetite for a theory to guide the life, treatment and prognosis of my daughter, that's an uncomfortable place to be. Quite honestly, I've lost a lot of sleep in the last several years trying to make sense of all this conflicting data. In some of my darker moments, I have found support in this quotation from my favorite philosopher, Karl Popper. Popper is best known for his ideas on the importance of beating up scientific theories with falsifying evidence. But he's less well known for the respect with which he treats those who offer bold conjectures on scientific problems. Here's one of his bits of advice for the ambitious theorizer.
"He who gives up his theory too easily in the face of apparent refutations will never discover the possibilities inherent in his theory. There is room in science for debate: for attack and therefore also for defense...But do not give up your theories too easily--not, at any rate before you have critically examined your criticism."
So I, for one, haven't given up on the mercury-autism theory. Far from it. It's just that we all have a lot more work to do to discover the possibilities inherent in the theory
Mark Blaxill is Editor At Large for Age of Autism and is a director of SafeMinds. This post represents his personal views and is not intended as the official position of SafeMinds. A formal SafeMinds response to the Archives of General Psychiatry study is forthcoming.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | January 24, 2013 at 04:50 AM
The problem with your idea is that many, many parents watch their children suffer serious vaccine reactions and immediately emerge forever changed. What you are asking these parents to believe that the truck they witnessed run over their children was only a proximate coincident to their crush injuries that appeared mysteriously. Don't have faith in a system in which the drug companies and the government agencies that are filled with individuals who financially profit from vaccine sales to ethically influence the production, dissemination and application if such research.
Posted by: dayoub | January 29, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Could there be a link between United States autism rates and atmospheric mercury from the asain brown cloud and weather patterns??
Answers to these question may shed light on a potential cause:
Is there a relationship between mercury,thyroid hormone,fetlal brain developement and estrogen protection during the 1st trimester of pregnancy?
Does the United Stated have the higherst increase in autism rates worldwide relative to other nations not in the path of the asian brown cloud??
After the asian brown cloud leaves the coast of china where do the trade winds blow the pollutants???
Is there eveidence of increased mercury contamination in the United States linked to pollutants found in the asian brown cloud in relationship to China's increase in manufacturing over the past 20 years?
Do these asain nations use scrubbers on industrial emmissions or have standards to controll them???
Is autism caused in the brain developement in the 1st trimester of pregnancy and not affected later as thought with vaccines whereas the damage has already been done??
Statistically can better diagnosis even begin to account for the spike in autism rates in the United States???
Posted by: Father of autisic Child | January 29, 2011 at 06:55 PM
I still believe that thimerosal exposure and autism are related. I believe also that there are other causes such as lead, arsenic exposure and many chemicals that are used to manufacture things that we conveniently use in our daily lives,like cellphones, pc's, cars, carpets, tiles etc.
One thing is certain though, the autism has skyrocketed to epidemic proportions after CDC introduced a very aggressive vaccination program, packaging multiple vaccines into one dose, pediatricians giving 5 different shots in one day to little babies. This is a fact that no one can deny.
UNTIL/UNLESS WE GO BACK TO THE DAYS PRIOR TO THE START OF THIS AGGRESSIVE VACCINATION PROGRAM, WE WON'T KNOW FOR SURE.
Posted by: Arsham Antreasyan | February 02, 2008 at 05:54 PM
Mark - Thank you for your ongoing research! Yes, thimerosal, the MMR vaccine, viruses, and allergies. . . playing a role in autism, all variations compiling our children's outcome of high verses low functioning on the autism spectrum. Dr. Aristo Vojdani gave a profound powerpoint presentation on autoimmune disorders - focusing on environmental factors and autism including mercury connections - his website is www.immunoscienceslab.com to inquire about his latest research!
Posted by: Michelle | January 29, 2008 at 10:49 PM
So when is the patent done with thimerosal and truly out of vaccines?
Thats when we should revisit this argument.
Posted by: Lisa | January 11, 2008 at 12:11 AM
So when is the patent done with thimerosal and truly out of vaccines?
Thats when we should revisit this argument.
Posted by: Lisa | January 11, 2008 at 12:11 AM
Mark, I agree with Laura K about the data being from years when thimerosal was still in many vaccines (produced before the government asked Big Pharma to take it out, and before Big Pharma developed substitutes... vaccines sit on shelves for quite some time). Also, doesn't it seem as if different disorders on the autism spectrum could have different combinations of causes? For example, the measles in the MMR could be more of a problem for boys with X-linked immunodeficiencies, whereas the mercury could be gender-neutral in its effects. I'd be interested to see if the California data showed a shift toward a greater percentage of boys developing autism.
Posted by: Theresa | January 10, 2008 at 11:35 PM
The California data continues to implicate the vaccination schedule. Thimiserol, although toxic in and of itself, in the context of this data is an indicator of overall toxicity exposure. Some people could be affected at low doses but as the dose and number of vaccinations increased especially at 2,4 and 6 months, the probability of an adverse outcome increased. The focus needs to be redirected to the schedule, not a single component such as aluminum, or further studies will be just as futile as finding the single carcinogen in cigarette smoke.
The toxic schedule is still being recommended to my friends. Unfortunately, most new parents are not Donald Trump, they have not hosted a fundraiser for Autism Speaks on the Apprentice. They have not met Katie Wright, so the catastrophe will continue.
I have found The Vaccine Book by Dr Robert Sears an excellent resource to get my friends to think and not just rely on their pediatrician. They are delaying Hep B, splitting the MMR etc. Unfortunately, for those of us writing here we did not have such a friend.
Posted by: Nelly Huppert MD | January 10, 2008 at 03:38 AM
Responding to Autism Mom's question regarding vaccines causing autism.
Autism is acquired by a genetic predisposition *coupled* by the vaccine assault on a susceptible individual. Think of smoking and why only some get lung cancer and how some can even die of second hand smoke.
So yes, its genetics (which carry the parents DNA AND any vaccines the parents have received which is why some unvaccinated kids have autism as well)
the vaccines which have:
1. neurotoxins (heavy metals, animal remains etc) and
2. viruses and bacteria and
3. possibly other cross-contamination we don't know about since nobody is checking (such as the SV-40 virus that contaminated the polio vaccine and caused AIDS). Ever wonder how the EBV virus antibodies ends up in folks who have high rubella titers? Could the MMR be contaminated? We don't know, nobody has looked. Maybe we should examine the MMR vaccine and see what we find.
Meanwhile, mainstream medicine cannot explain or treat auto-immune disorders because that is what autism is, an auto-immune disorder coupled with mercury/ aluminium poisoning. Heavy metals are pouring out of our kids and the folks whose auto-immune disorder is not severe are recovering from chelation alone or from anti-viral treatment alone or a combination of the two. The rest of the population is trying to quieten the auto-immune response by ridding the body of viruses with anti-viral treatments.
Homeopathy on the other hand has been around for over 200 years and homeopaths have known about "Vaccinosis" from the time the first cowpox vaccine was invented by Jenner and lo and behold did observe that some people did get side effects from it. You don't need to spend millions and millions of dollars to chase that elusive autism gene that explains 1% of the problem, sometimes all it takes is mere observation.
Here is an excerpt from David Little, a classical homeopath. Please read this link and go down to "The Symptoms of Vaccinosis."
"It has been noticed by homœopaths that vaccinations may lead to changes of personality, sleep patterns, eating patterns, bowel patterns and other alterations of natural cycles. Each vaccine has acute symptoms, latent symptoms and chronic symptoms. The acute symptoms are those that are mostly recorded by the orthodox school. They do not look for or wish to acknowledge the fact that immunization may produce latent states that create chronic organic pathology over the long term. When such states appear they view the pathology as a new independent disease, and do not see the connection between the distant cause (vaccination) and the recent events (new diseases). Each vaccine has the potential to produce an insidious syndrome of symptoms somewhat similar to the diseases from which they are made."
Finally if you really do want to cure your child of autism you may want to do homeopathy or traditional Chinese medicine. These are the only two systems of medicine that are capable of treating auto-immune disorders. A lot of people do these in addition to the DAN treatment and are seeing good results. I hope this helps.
Posted by: Gayatri | January 09, 2008 at 01:48 PM
The L.A. Times article on this topic yesterday cited the recent CDC study of 8-year-olds which found an incidence of 6.6 kids with autism per 1,000 children. (As I recall, these children were 8 years old in 2002, so that means they were born in 1994.) This compares with the recent California statistics showing an incidence of 3 per 1,000 in children age 3 to 5 years in 2004 (born 1999-2001), and 4.1 per 1,000 in children age 3 to 5 years in 2007 (born 2002-2004).
So the incidence of autism found in 2004 was less than half that found in the earlier study, and the incidence of autism found in 2007 was less than two thirds of that found in the earlier study.
I can think of two possible reasons for that:
- Did the incidence of autism actually decrease in kids born since 1994? Or,
- Are there still a lot of cases in the 3 to 5 year old age groups which had not yet been diagnosed? Whereas in 8 year olds who have been in school for several years most cases of autism have been disagnosed.
If the latter, this shows that the rate of early diagnosis has a big impact on the percentages shown in the younger children. Could the seeming increase between 2004 and 2007 be related to more awareness and emphasis on early diagnosis?
Amazing that Dr. Eric Fombonne thinks these numbers are conclusive proof of thimerosal not being a factor. He is the one who insists that there is not really an increase in autism, and that the apparent increase from an incidence of 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 150 "merely reflects the adoption of a much broader concept of autism, a recognition of autism among normally intelligent subjects and an improved identification of persons with autism".
Vaccines are not the only source of mercury, which has been increasing in our environment. Mercury is not the only potentially harmful substance in vaccines, and we continue to give more and more vaccines to infants. The many factors involved in autism make it difficult to know how to read statistics.
To "Another Autism Mom":
Thanks so much for writing. But, I have not heard any parents saying that vaccines should be the ONLY focus of autism research. The problem we have is that vaccines seem to be an UNTOUCHABLE subject. Research on genes and the brain should not stop. But we also need research on vaccine safety, which appears to be sorely lacking. And we need research on the whole body -- the immune system, toxicology and detoxification, gastroenterology, biochemistry -- and how disruption of these systems can impact the brain.
Many parents witnessed their children's adverse reaction to vaccines, followed by regression into autism. Some parents have witnessed their children's improvement or even recovery through biomedical treatments such as chelation to remove mercury, nutritional supplements, and dietary intervention. Those parents and others feel that they know what caused their children's autism and also what treatments helped them. Further research could help clarify the reasons why these children became autistic, the reasons why they were helped by these treatments, and which autistic children can be helped by which treatments. Unfortunately this whole realm of experience and the developing science in this area is being ignored by many who should be paying attention.
Posted by: Twyla | January 09, 2008 at 12:51 PM
Hi Mark, having an autistic child myself, I simpathyze with your quest for the truth. However, I do not like the persistence on the vaccine causation theory in a way that borderlines the fanatic. It is important to consider this theory, but not at the expense of not looking elsewhere. We must be open-minded for the possibility of vaccines playing absolutely zero role in making our children autistic.
In my opinion, autism happens sometimes before or during the embryo development. It's either a mutation that happens during the embryo/fetal development, or it's already in the genes passed on by the parents. In any case, we need to find out what caused that mutation - an environmental factor or just some random, unlucky combination of cells?
Anyway, that is just my humble opinion, and I'm waiting for all the good scientists out there trying to find the real causes of autism, with NO BIAS, to do their job, which is not easy. I think it's ridiculous when people say "they know the truth" about autism when there is not enough evidence for their theories, at least not evidence provided by reliable studies.
Posted by: Another Autism Mom | January 09, 2008 at 12:05 PM
Could the autism timeline have some relation to the proliferation of home computers in California homes? It took me a long time to realize how sick computers were making me. I'm sure they are having an effect on other people as well, and I wonder if they could be affecting brain activity or functions in the women's stomache area. Being around pc's wipe me out. I am sick to my stomache for days at a time after too much pc exposure. And my brain does not want to function as it normally does. I lose all my energy and can hardly lift one foot after another. I get away from computers and I have perfect health again. I'm obviously more susceptible to the affects of computers than others, but if they affect me so profoundly they must be affecting other people to some degree. Didn't autism rates take off in 1995, about the same time everybody started getting home computers? Just a thought.
Posted by: Joe Ryan | January 08, 2008 at 08:47 PM
This just confirms the results of other countries that have dramatically reduced thimerosol exposure with zero effect on autism rates. Of course, it is a statistical impossibility to prove that no child anywhere ever got autism from mercury, any more than one can prove that no child ever got autism from orange juice. But a fundamental principle in toxicology is that as the dose of a toxic chemical is reduced, the incidence and severity of toxic effects should go down--even if the effect of the toxin is acting only indirectly or in conjunction with other factors. Even if some people are still taking the flu vaccine, many are not, so the total number of kids receiving thimerosol is greatly reduced, and if there is any kind of genuine effect large enough to matter, we should be able to see a decrease in autism.
Posted by: trrll | January 08, 2008 at 03:23 PM
When present at the CDC for a Thimerosal "safety" lecture I noticed they were quick to point out flaws and conflicts in the Geier's Thimerosal/Vaccine study.
At one point provoking the entire gallery to laughter calling the study (from their own sorry data at VAERS)"awful". The gallery is full of Pharma reps by the way.
That sums up my feelings exactly, every time I hear California numbers morphed to indemnify Thimerosal. "Awful"
Awful, that my child's health and well being is overlooked once again.
Look, if the study authors gave a "rat's ass" (excuse my crass language) about our kids they would take it a step further.(They *don't* care about our kid's. Hence, my fury.)
But if they actually did want answers, once and for all.
Each child would be screened for heavy metals.
They would analyze Thimerosal like tabacco or tuna and determine if a pregnant woman would benefit from it.
With Thimerosal not entirely removed in a diverse state that people move in and out of, collecting data is meaningless.
Test the kids that are vaccinated. Compare unvaccinated populations.
Submit a T-free shot to a 3rd party independent lab to spot check that it is even out of vaccines.
So much is still left undiscussed. Like how did my kid get all that Mercury anyway? Why is he better with it out?
One brief look at the material data safety sheet and this mother of four would have never sanctioned using Thimerosal knowingly on my babies.
The study is spin,pure and simple.
Aptly timed for VCIP verdicts due out any month now.
This study is about keeping the psych industry alive.
It's about an Autism mystery we still need psychoanalysts to cope with. We need them to help us diagnosis with new and improved designer disorders. Disorders that will be managed by designer psych meds. Then when our kids are 18, non-verbal and a mess we will need them to help us not lose our minds! *We* will need the designer drugs. The autism numbers will be so high they will be like morticians. Always in business.
We sell more cereal boxes if a puzzle is on the carton.
Tell me how one child is better off when we rubberstamp neuro-toxins in infant vaccines? Somebody...please! It defies all logic.
Much like shock treatments and asylums.
Which is where these children are headed if we do not stop the environmental poisoning of our young.
Incidentally, I found it strange that the CDC reported at the ACIP meeting that they expected VICP hearings would carry on to 2010 due to appeals.
I found that statement odd. How could they know the outcome?
Just as IOM predetermined an outcome before the science was even presented perhaps.
This isn't about science or even data anymore.
It's about covering up the worse vaccine experiment in history.
Posted by: Karen Beauvais | January 08, 2008 at 12:57 PM
I agree.. we need to find out the thimerosal content of the new "low thimersoal" vaccines. A couple of weeks ago Dr. Tenpenny mentioned on another thread that we could order a sample and have it tested. I would like to work at fundraising the money to do this, just over $300. For those who are interested in the fundraising effort, email me at jtreal @ shaw.ca and lets see what we can do.
Posted by: Teraza Real | January 08, 2008 at 11:46 AM
In reading the CA study, I noted that they only looked at birth cohorts through 2003. In the MN Hearing for a Preference for Mercury Free Vaccines, Kris Ehrsmann from the MN Dept of Health indicated that the Vaccines for Children Program (provides vaccines to children from homes that cannot afford them) admitted that the vaccines were not preservative free until 2003.
In the US News and World Report article, Andy Shih admits that the analysis done cannot pull out those 1-2% of kids that could be affected by mercury.
Given that, I feel the CA analysis needs to be done again in another 2 to 3 years so that we truly have birth cohorts without full Thimerosal exposure. What is to say that these kiddos in the DDS did not receive full Thimerosal? That they are the ones affected by it? 1-2% would be 1 in 50 to 1 in 100.
I understand that there are many other factors that could influence this, including the high numbers of vaccines; I just do not think that this analysis has been done at the right time, and could be more revealing if it included later birth cohorts.
Just my .02
Posted by: Laura K. | January 08, 2008 at 08:31 AM
Does mercury in the vaccines cause autism? Yes without a doubt. The vaccines have other toxins like aluminum, etc as well as various bacteria and live viruses such as tetanus, pertussis, rubella, measles, mumps, etc.
With 4 new vaccines added to the vaccine schedule in NJ, the drug companies want to muddy the waters when it comes to the link between autism and vaccines. They just add more vaccines and no studies are done.
Just experiments on the children of America. The price we pay are broken children/adults and their families. It is a shameful tragedy.
Posted by: Raymond Gallup | January 07, 2008 at 10:05 PM
Mark,I appreciate all your hard work fighting for our mercury damaged children.
In light of the unhelpful attitude of government agencies toward the autism epidemic,I have to ask you:
Why do you trust that mercury has truly been removed from vaccines?
I think it odd that recently over 1 million vaccines were recalled and we have no way of knowing why? Perhaps those recalled vaccines were loaded with mercury from a valve that had been sticking for the last twenty years and had contaminated hundreds of millions of vaccines !!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: Richard | January 07, 2008 at 08:58 PM
Thanks Mark for sharing all of this. Looking for the answers is often mind-bending and emotionally exhausting. I also will not be closing the book on mercury... Thank you, Dan and everyone at The Age for keeping up the fight, the stamina, for my Meg and all of our kids.
Posted by: Teresa Conrick | January 07, 2008 at 07:11 PM
First and foremost, thank you for putting me on the Mercury trail.
Once investigated I was shocked at how much my little guy got in his infant vaccines. It was in his HIB, DTaP and Hep B series, full strength.
Hundreds of times over the EPA allowable amount.
I am also convinced I carried a maternal load of Hg from amalgams. Lead exposure only increased my small child's Mercury toxicity and potential damage.
While I can't control some environmental toxins I find it grossly unfair that I was not informed Mercury was in my child's vaccines.
Especially since I submitted to what I thought was a socially responsible vaccine schedule. In doing so, I allowed the government to experiment on my child's development, with no recourse or forewarning.
I can barely stomach the rhetoric every time California releases Autism numbers.
The issue at hand is that the same year Simpsonwood uncovered the overuse and potential damage involved in adding Thimerosal, the CDC also found 1-6 women of childbearing age are already metal toxic BEFORE birth.
Like Europe, we must start cleaning up the vaccine program by taking *all* reasonable precautions, not cooking California numbers and justifying toxic exposure.
Thank God for your kitchen table evaluations, because we cannot trust the CDC Vaccine advisory committee to act on their own findings.
We are setting children up to crash before any other environmental factors come into play.
Thimerosal is mutagenic, it harms T-cells and causes cognitive failure on it's own Material Safety Data Sheet. What's not to ban here?
Why is there even a need for a numbers game?
Unless we are futilely trying to save someone's a$$.
Data can be skewed (just ask Enron shareholders) but it is pretty difficult to hide a generation *intentionally* poisoned kids.
Quoting Simpsonwood "You can push and I can pull" but we can hide the devastating effects of Thimerosal in vaccines.
I say this is intentional because the CDC has the VEARS data but refuses the tax paying public access, they continually present woefully flawed studies and ACIP will not state a preference for Thimerosal free shots.
In fact, I was in a meeting where they announced from the podium that Thimerosal in one British study may even be beneficial. Whaaaa?????
So much for my fantasy that the government rigorously tests and evaluates vaccines for safety. (They would NEVER allow ...Oh MY GOD, they did!)
If you can't state a preference for Thimerosal free, than at the very least, give young mothers the same luxury pregnant tobacco and alcohol users get.
Warn her it might harm her fetus or her baby.
Even in states with a Thimerosal ban, the local health dept is free to over-ride it only muddying the data.
No account will of maternal exposure is factored in California numbers.
If Mercury takes 30 years to clear, what will the vaccinated children of the nineties face? Will their children's tipping point be at birth?
It's time to stop the semantics, if the CDC can issue a press release warning the public of Mercury dangers in antiques, surely it knows the folly of adding it in subcutaneous infant vaccines.
For me this is not a numbers game anymore. No amount of "cooking" can clean up this mess.
Here is the math: plain and simple, add mercury to a developing child and it potentially equals damage.
We were one of the lucky ones, we got the Mercury out and our child is recovering. Some families aren't so lucky, some will have millions of dollars in lifetime care.
This is a deeply moral issue.
Like Darfur genocide it must be stopped...yesterday.
Families all over the globe are suffering. It is time for the CDC, IOM and NIH to take all reasonable precautions where children and pregnant women are concerned.
It nice to have my son back Mark. I hope one day, he can thank you in person, for pointing his Mommy in the right direction.
Posted by: Karen Beauvais | January 07, 2008 at 01:20 PM
Something odd about Fombonne's position.
I believe he has argued that the rise in autism rates is the result of better diagnosis, etc. How can he argue that a rise in autism rates exonerates thimerosal, if there hasn't been a rise?
Posted by: Deborah | January 07, 2008 at 12:37 PM
Here is something interesting from the phone survey of 11,817 households in California and Oregon, recently performed by Generation Rescue:
- Vaccinated boys age 4 thru 17 were 61% more likely to have autism than unvaccinated boys age 4 thru 17, but
- Vaccinated boys age 11 thru 17 were 112% more likely to have autism than unvaccinated boys age 11 thru 17.
This would seem to indicate that for children born more recently, vaccines are still a factor but are not, on average, as big a factor in autism as for children who received the full doses of thimerosal common until sometime after 2000, when supposedly thimerosal began to be removed from vaccines. (Note that both these percentages would be even higher if one atypical county was left out.)
During the past year, articles in both the L.A. Times and the N.Y. Times documented the increasing amount of mercury in our environment from China’s coal burning power plants. Both of these articles (which focused on the environment, not autism) stated that in the past few years a huge number of coal burning power plants have been built in China, without the kinds of emission control equipment required in the U.S., and that these plants are emitting mercury which wafts over the Pacific Ocean at high altitudes to rain down upon the U.S. Mercury has been found in our soil. Perhaps the increasing amount of mercury in our environment helps mask the effect of decreasing mercury in our vaccines.
In the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Mothering Magazine, there is an article by Dr. Robert Sears called, “Is Aluminum the New Thimerosal?” He looked for studies on the safe level of aluminum in vaccines and could not find any. He did find studies on the safe level of aluminum in intravenous feeding, which recommended no more than 4 to 5 mcg of aluminum per kilogram of body weight per day be received intravenously. He says that this comes to about 30 mcg for a 12 pound two-month-old baby. Compare this with the 170 to 850 mcg of aluminum contained in many vaccines. Dr. Sears states that in the typical shots received at a two month “well baby” visit, depending on the brands used, a baby would receive between 295 mcg and 1225 mcg of aluminum.
Dr. Sears goes on to say, “As a medical doctor, my first instinct was to worry that these aluminum levels far exceed what may be safe for babies. My second instinct was to assume that the issue had been properly researched, and that studies had been done on healthy infants to determine their ability to rapidly excrete aluminum. My third instinct was to search for these studies. So far, I have found none.”
If the police arrested three bank robbers, but more bank robberies continued to occur, would anyone conclude that the robbers had been exonerated and should be released? No, because there are many other bank robbers among us. Maybe one is named “Thimerosal” but others are named “Aluminum”, “MMR/Varicela”, “Mercury from Other Sources”, and numerous other chemicals whose names I don’t even remember.
Likewise, there appear to be many factors at work in autism. There may be many reasons why an excessive number of vaccines can upset an infant’s developing immune system, especially in families with a history of allergies or auto-immune disorders. There are also many ways that toxins from environmental chemicals or vaccines can disrupt a body’s complex chemical processes.
Thimerosal has definitely not been absolved, especially when it admittedly is still used in flu shots recommended for infants and pregnant women, and in shots received in other countries, and the CDC and FDA cannot even assure us that thimerosal has in fact been removed from the vaccines that supposedly only contain a “trace”.
Thank you so so much for your very interesting articles and all that you do on behalf of the autism community.
Posted by: Twyla | January 07, 2008 at 12:31 PM
PS Of course it cannot entirely explain the explosion, since rubella vaccine considerably predates that explosion.
Posted by: Sandy Gottstein | January 07, 2008 at 12:17 PM
Thanks, Mark, for another superb analysis.
A theory that I have come up with involves the rubella vaccine and I wrote about it in the Scandals column, "Is Rubella Vaccination Playing A Role In The Rise In Autism?" at http://www.vaccinationnews.com/Scandals/2003/Dec_2/Scandal67.htm. I am eager for any feedback on this notion that anyone cares to share. All the best, Sandy
Posted by: Sandy Gottstein | January 07, 2008 at 12:11 PM
Above is a link to something I wrote earlier this year, "The Thimerosal Shield"
"As the Boston Globe article illustrates, Big Pharma and the CDC are looking for a tidy way to take vaccines off the table in discussing environmental triggers for autism.
They know that Thimerosal is only one of the possible ways that the vaccine schedule could be the primary trigger behind the autism epidemic, but the spin seems to be, “It’s not Thimerosal so we should no longer consider vaccines” despite the fact that neither point is true.
The article ends with a comment from Gary Goldstein of Autism Speaks, discussing Reye’s Syndrome: “Goldstein, who is also president of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, recalled wistfully the success of epidemiologists who cracked Reye's Syndrome, a rare brain-swelling disease that killed young children in the wake of benign infections such as chicken pox. Researchers figured out that Reye's was triggered among genetically vulnerable children by that staple of the sickroom: aspirin.”
Goldstein then goes on to point out: "The proof of the pudding was, take away the aspirin and it's gone," he said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we found something like that?"
Mr. Goldstein, I believe we have found something like that, something that when you take it away the rates of the disorders go down. It’s called our vaccine schedule run amok, and it’s staring all of us right in the face."
Posted by: JB Handley | January 07, 2008 at 11:39 AM
Mercury was an easy scapegoat for the pharmaceutical industry. Once the public believed that mercury was the only problem the "cure" would be to swap mercury for another preservative. The illusion of safety would prevail and PHrMA could continue with a very successful revenue stream. I hope what this research affirms is that vaccines, no matter what their composition, are not safe. Studies should be focused on the principal of vaccination not easily exchanged ingredients. A good starting point might be; do vaccines turn on the immune system in such way that it attacks itself and is difficult to turn off?
Sargent L. Goodchild, Jr.
Active Healing, Inc.
Posted by: Sargent L. Goodchild, Jr. | January 07, 2008 at 11:17 AM
How much research has been done looking at mercury exposure from mothers' during pregnancy and also breastfeeding? Either from dental amalgams or vaccines through our childhood and lives, I feel like the fact that we are passing that on to our fetuses and infants is being largely overlooked - not to mention the fact of flu shots in pregnancy and specifically the last trimester. Vaccines (those with and without Thimerosal) are a problem even if they are just the final nail in the coffin so to speak. Please don't ever give up trying to protect our children.
Posted by: Jessica | January 07, 2008 at 09:59 AM
Thank you Mark for your brave, insightful, and realistic summary of the state of the autism (and other disorders) epidemic.
While I am positive that thimerosal played a huge role in sending a decade of kids over the toxic tipping point, I agree that you have come to the right conclusion: It's not just thimerosal, and it's not even just mercury. And, while aluminum may be the tipping point in some cases,(and I am sure it is, especially with certain conditions) I beleive total body burden of toxins, and the sheer amount of vaccines given to developing immune systems is the gas that is tending the fire.
In 2005- after an especially enlightening presentation by a brilliant researcher I finally met personally that year, I became hyper-aware of the reality of the crisis you have summized so well.
Curiously, years ago, friends used to tell me I was so-o-o-o old fashioned, because I canned, preserved, dried foods, stored them in glass, still used cast iron for cooking, and spent weekends in my huge organic garden. Over the years, and perhaps from the necessity of single parenting, I slowly bent to the pressure of the fast lane, substituting tupperware and teflon and buying food in cans.
When my 2nd child came along and was diagnosed with autism, I began to phase out toxins in our own personal environment again, slowly- going back to my old fashioned ways; thanks to articles and studies sent by another brilliant researcher- Teresa Binstock.
In 2006, I got a different kind of lab test done on myself and my son. Two weeks later, I stared down at the results of those lab reports- mouth agape. Results showed we both had sky high levels of phthalates, benzene, styrene, paraben, and more. It was a terrible wake up call- frightening to say the least.
I highly reccommend everyone get a tox screen to check those "OTHER" toxins. I think I can guarantee you will toss the tupperware, get rid of the teflon, stop buying air fresheners, change your shampoo, quit wrapping food in plastic, and start looking at saunas. While DMSA can remove mercury, it does nothing for phthaltes and benzene.
Readers: for more information on lab testing, see articles and presentations by Mark Schauss. I also would pay close(r) attention to the information Teresa Binstock consistently and generously provides to list-serves. I regard both of these individuals very highly. Last, a good read is the report- "In Harm's Way" by Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Thank you Mark, for another outstanding summization of the issues.
Posted by: Tami | January 07, 2008 at 03:49 AM
Thank you for clarifying your current position. I certainly appreciate the candor.
Posted by: Schwartz | January 07, 2008 at 12:57 AM
Are you sure that thimerosal has in fact been removed from vaccines (other than flu shots, exports, etc.)? If so, how do you know that?
Posted by: Twyla | January 06, 2008 at 10:10 PM