Deirdre Imus: How Do I Find a Green Pediatrician?
Parents Meet with NJ's Health Commissioner

Olmsted In Spectrum: Historical Epidemiology

Older_parentsClick HERE to read Dan Olmsted's "Eye on Autism" column in Spectrum Magazine.  Here's a taste.

Older parents, eldest kids: We've seen this show before.

If I were to make one criticism of the mainstream media's approach to autism-and Lord knows, there are so many problems to pick from-I'd say this: They've got no sense of history, and they don't have the sense to develop one. Worse, neither do the medical and scientific "experts" we're supposedly counting on to figure out what's causing autism and how we can treat it.


Cherry Sperlin Misra

Dan, Its so great to read your thought provoking ideas. It had always puzzled me that doctors did not seem interested in savants. Some basic principles of the brain function are surely to be found here. Im just throwing an idea out- When skin is wounded , a scar may form and in some cases the scar over grows . Similarly, could it be that when the brain neurons are wounded by mercury, they may not always die. Some could survive and attempt a repair job by sending out more axons and dendrites, but these new formations would really not be the same as the original. In fact, the neuron might sort of go crazy producing too many formations. This might be the case for savants and explain the obsessions of autistic kids and it could explain those studies which found mercury making kids smarter ! ( Though we all know that this could just as well be the fanciful scientific creation of pro Thimerasol pharma. After all, who's against making kids smarter?!)


It also doesn't seem too large a leap (but apparently it is) to assume us spectrumish dads (I confess to being one having a list of "shadow traits" and miserably failing Baron-Cohen facial expression recognition test) just had less exposure and barely dodged the bullet.

Likewise, the same treatments that help our kids are helping us (I think Barbara Fischkin had an article about this recently). Since GFCF no more dry-heaving and stomach pains every morning, no spontaneous hives, no picking my fingernails til they bleed.

I keep expecting to see a post on abmd or gfcfkids that reads something like: I think my husband is regressing. He's moody and refuses to call and talk to the plumber. He also had hives yesterday. Do you think his boss has been taking him out to lunch?

Maybe there is a secret gfcfhusbands yahoo group I don't know about.

John Stone

I don't know whether anyone has ever made this point, but surely there would be a correlation between high achievement and relatively late parenthood - in which case you would not know which factor - if not both - was affecting it. Of course, rising age of parenthood could anyway only be a marginal factor in the current situation.

While Dan's point that only two of Kanner's 11 original subjects were younger siblings is striking, there is surely another factor going on here. Won't parents who have had a bad experience with their first child and vaccination be more careful next time?


Thanks Dan for your reporting on this issue. While the age thing doesn't apply to me, I was 29 when my son with autism was born, I did notice in the waiting rooms while my son was doing speech, OT, DAN dr's, etc., that many of the other parents were extremely accomplished. I also noticed a lot of twins and triplets. I guess I don't really "buy" into the age thing or susceptibility factors. My son was injected with a lot of mercury born in 1999. It's not like he was allergic to water. It's mercury. How any of the children walked away from this mercury poisoning is beyond me. Or have they? Time will tell....

dan olmsted

Hi all, thanks for the interesting comments. Two points -- I am not totally sure if Bernie referred to the kids themselves as more susceptible the smarter they were, but he definitely felt that families with high education and IQ were overrepresented among autism cases. Also, by emphasizing the environmental trigger to this possible genetic susceptibility, i don't want to give the impression that i think the susceptibility is hogwash. it's important to figure out the many different ways kids may be vulnerable -- from having colds when they get shots, to mito disorders, to whatever -- but my focus has always been on the environmental factors and how they can be seen if we look carefully at the natural history of autism. -- dan


Great piece in Spectrum, Dan, and I could not agree with you more!

This discussion is fascinating, too. That mercury menace just keeps on showing up in the darndest places!

Thanks for your continual journey to the truth. It is much appreciated.


9 out of 11 were either oldest children or only child -- do you know if the other 2 who were NOT first borns had older brothers or sisters?


From "across the pond":-

My late father used the pesticide aldrin from the early 50s until it was taken off the market in the UK in the late 60s. In 1966/7 on a still summer's day in the garden of our new house, I remember watching him scatter clouds of aldrin dust with his bare hands onto newly cleared ground. My mother protested but he carried on; the rest of the family kept away. In 1979, after a slow decline, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease which was on his death certificate when he died in 1986. Maybe Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" is due for re-reading? The Material Safety Datasheet for aldrin was still somewhere on the internet several years ago.

I remember reading a Californian(?) study published on the internet maybe ten(?) years ago which pointed out a connection between Parkinson's Disease in grandfathers and ASDs in their grandchildren. There was a similar study a few years ago. Is this another genetic(?) pointer of susceptibility in future generations?


The continuing discussion of IQ and occupation in the comments section is fascinating: I hadn't known that Bernard Rimland had theorized an IQ/autism susceptibility link. I do think there's something to the remarks of some anonymous members of a CDC vaccine safety commission whom David Kirby quoted-- the theory that high IQ and mitochondrial "weakness" may be linked. I don't think this means the smart person's actual "brain structure", just the underlying cellular conditions that "allowed" a certain kind of brain development. The theory goes that robust mitochondria can actually impede higher brain development. It's certainly a more elegant and believable theory than Simon B.C.'s geek-gene explanation for the engineer-heavy stats among parents of effected kids.

Maybe other factors have to come into play to create the perfect storm and IQ/mitochondria can't be the only susceptibility. In the end, I agree with Dan Olmsted: all our kids are piñatas. It doesn't matter if the protective shell-- or cellular structure or mitochondria or whatever-- was made with just fragile tissue paper and Elmer's or chicken wire and roofing tiles: with enough toxic blows, every child will eventually crack or die.

Toxic bathtubs

"Ceramics are certainly chemically stable; would there be any risk of mercury exposure from ceramic tubs or cookware?"

I don't know about mercury but ceramic bathtubs, especially the older ones, leach lead. Get a lead kit from a Home Depot and see for yourself. If it turns pink you are in business!!


So now I am a little intrigued on the fly ash issue. Ceramics are certainly chemically stable; would there be any risk of mercury exposure from ceramic tubs or cookware?

Kelli Ann Davis

"This is classic mainstream malarkey (is that a Scottish term?). In the same paragraph-no, the same sentence-we go from having "no clue," to "the authors suggest," to "another theory suggests," all leading up to the idea that the autism "epidemic" is basically a social phenomenon that has played out over several generations, kind of like living together before marriage."

Don't know about *malarkey* being Scottish but I do know this *baloney* doesn't have O-S-C-A-R next to it!

Good sleuthing Dan. Can't wait to see all this information compiled in your book!

dan olmsted

I agree there could be a susceptibility factor in smarter families and perhaps even in smarter families with aptitudes concentrated in math and music. Bernie Rimland thought higher intelligence was a risk factor, and I'm not going to argue with Bernie. But the trigger to this loaded gun is environmental, I firmly believe -- which means that autism may be preferentially picking off the best and brightest for some unknown biological reason. Now there's a nightmare scenario for the future of our planet. I've said before that if Obama were an 8-year-old Somali refugee in Minnesota right now he might have an autism diagnosis rather than developing into a future President. I think we could have plenty of smart, wonky, geeky, intellectual types -- i might qualify in a couple of those areas -- and still have no autism. we WANT smart, we're FINE with geeky and intellectual diversity, but we DON'T want autism. they are different things, to state the obvious. if big brains are a susceptibility factor for autism (and maybe it's simply the size itself makes it more prone to messed-up connectivity, which is what autism seems to b about), so be it. i doubt we can change the susceptibility, so let's remove whatever is triggering that susceptibility as soon as humanly possibly. and i think we have a pretty good idea what the triggers are. it's the fly ash in ceramic engineering products; it's the mercury fulminate and other toxins in demolition engineering; it's the mercury and other gunk in vaccines and the live virus combos themselves; it was the ethyl mercury in fungicides in the 1930s (see Mercury Rising) on our home page. It was the bad stuff in the roof tar and the chemicals that mary coleman identified as an occupational risk factor. thi is plain as day but our "leaders" are blind as bats (bats, by the way, are suffering the same toxic environmental fate.) -- dan

Ben's Dad

My bet is that there may well be an occupational environmental exposure that plays a roll, but that finding parents of autistic children in engineering, IT, math and sciences is not superficial at all. Also, for every engineer working with chemicals you have many machine operators and laborers with more direct exposures, and I’m not sure we are hearing that their kids are affected in the same ways. Unscientifically speaking, I see a lot of this. I believe that the same genes that facilitate success or comfort in these fields are also the ones related to autism spectrum symptoms. I believe there is a frustrated engineer locked inside that child that stares at the water facet or the ceiling. There is that person that has one more nanosecond of patience for studying such things then the average joe. I suspect a large percentage of the people evaluating the science related to autism are centered on the undamaged side of the spectrum. Certainly we see the ND science folks showing a very emotional reaction in slamming closed areas of inquiry and going after those that keep an open mind to cumulative assault. If they survived the vaccines, why shouldn’t everyone else? Is the issue too close to home for many of the people studying it?

With a few shining exceptions, there is no grade low enough to assign to media coverage of autism. And the tragic lack of attention to the history of autism is allowing ridiculous lies to persist in every article on the subject. Rates of classic autism in adults are vastly lower than the rates of classic autism in children. We know this simply by looking at current waiting lists for housing, knowing that in 15 years those lists will be much much longer. These are adults who received very few appropriate services, and no biomedical interventions. They should be easier to identify and have higher rates, not lower.



Dr. Mary Coleman from Georgetown U. was also the first (in 1985) to report that "one subgroup of the autism syndrome may be associated with inborn errors of carbohydrate metabolism." (ie--nowadays usually called mitochondrial disorder).

Where is this pioneer now???

Mary Coleman2 and John P. Blass3
(1) 12525 Belmont Road N.W., 20008 Washington, D.C.
(2) Georgetown University School of Medicine, USA
(3) Cornell University Medical College, USA
Abstract Four patients are described who have two coexistent syndromes: the behavioral syndrome of autism and the biochemical syndrome of lactic acidosis. One of the four patients also had hyperuricemia and hyperuricosuria. These patients raise the possibility that one subgroup of the autism syndrome may be associated with inborn errors of carbohydrate metabolism.

Fed Up

COEYMANS — It's possibly the biggest environmental mystery in the Hudson Valley: Why does the smokestack at the Lafarge cement plant release more toxic mercury than any other place in the state?

A suspect getting a closer look is coal fly ash, a fine gray powder residue of distilled pollution produced by coal-fired electric power plants and used in cement-making around the nation.

If you've never heard of fly ash, there's a simple yet disturbing reason: For almost 20 years, state and federal regulators have treated the substance as if it is less hazardous than household garbage.

Now, experts suggest that an unintended consequence of a clean air push through stricter mercury rules at power plants makes ash more dangerous by concentrating heavy metals such as mercury, a potent neurotoxin that causes developmental problems in children and fetuses.


Could it be that older Moms are more toxic themselves? And that first baby has more heavy metal to scoop up during gestation?


If parental age was the key factor wouldn't second born children be automatically at higher risk since last time I checked a mother is always older when she delivers her second child (even if only 1 minute older as in the case of my boys).

So, it is really when having their first-born at a later age that might matter. While there could be lots of reasons for this certainly some would be from difficulty getting pregnant, miscarridges, etc. potentially from living on this toxic planet. And yes, genetically speaking a mother (or father) that can't detoxify all that well probably produces children that can't either.

Anne Dachel

Members of the media see nothing wrong with a decade with no answers for the explosion in autism. Despite the fact that autistic kids are everywhere, reporters continue to tell us they're not real, just better diagnosing. They can sleep nights even though they're openly giving the CDC oversight over itself. And they pretend that this whole issue is just about the science.

I keep waiting for the day they finally admit that they've been wrong on everything.

Anne Dachel
Media editor

dan olmsted

Hi Fed Up == that is amazing about ceramics and fly ash. I had no idea. It shows how this idea that there's something quirky about engineers and that's why they have kids with autism -- the geek effect -- is so superficial, and once you get beneath it you often find an environmental occupational exposure, often mercury. It's the exposure that matters, not some stereotype about the occupation or the people who choose it. i came across this in a really important but overlooked study by mary coleman in the 1970s which found that 1 in 4 parents of kids with autism had an occupational exposure to chemicals, while only 1 in 100 american workers in general had such an exposure. a lot of them were chemists, as you might expect -- but there was also a roof tarrer. I had no clue about the exposure there until Mark Blaxill pointed out that tar is similar to coal -- decayed organic matter -- and has mercury in it just like coal does. unfortunately nobody paid attention to mary coleman in the 1970s, they went off on their gene jihad and we're still paying for that road not taken. -- dan

Fed Up

re: ceramic engineer

ceramics are commonly made from fly ash, and it's no secret that fly ash contains mercury

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