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By David Kirby
Presented at Autism One 2009.
Now, that’s vaccine mercury. But what about environmental mercury? Like I said, we’re exposed through food, air, water. And air is one of the biggest sources. And there have been plenty of studies. There was this one, done out of Texas - the closer you live to coal-fired power plants, apparently, the greater the risk of autism in school districts. Coal obviously emits a lot of mercury.
This is a fascinating - and it was funded by the CDC and published in an NIH journal. Children born in the most polluted tracts of the San Francisco Bay area are 50-percent more likely to develop autism. And they said heavy metals were the most likely contributors to that, including mercury. So here you have a U.S.-government-funded study drawing a very clear possible association between environmental mercury and autism. And yet if you say, “Mercury might be associated with autism,” you’re called a kook, and a nut, but this is a U.S. government-funded study published in a U.S. government journal.
Where is all that mercury coming from? A lot of it, unfortunately, is coming from across the ocean. We all know about the industrial development in China. We all know about CO2. We all saw Al Gore up in that cherry-picker, because that’s how far up CO2 emissions were going. Well, a lot of that comes from coal. And a lot of that coal has a lot of mercury. And there are no emissions controls in China. I’m not blaming China; I’m just stating a fact. That country emits tons and tons of mercury every year, and the prevailing trade winds bring it right across the ocean. And this is a 5-day trip, studied by the U.S. government. The Shanghai plume, as you can see - just 5 days later it was off the coast of San Diego.
Now, it will come down on the ground in the form of rain. And the rainiest parts of the country have the highest deposition rates; it just makes sense. On the West Coast, of course, rains all winter long. So that mercury coming over, it mostly will be pulled down from the atmosphere in the wintertime. Then in the dry months, with the wildfires, guess what? Mercury is sent right back up into the air. And we see very high levels of autism on the West Coast.
This is what mercury deposition looked like in 2001 in this country. This is just U.S. and Canadian sources. But you can see the Northeast is pretty socked in, the big cities on the West Coast have a lot of mercury. Some of that’s from crematoria, from industrial activity, etc. And here in Chicago we are also steeped in black. So that is more than 20 micrograms of mercury per square meter of ground per year, deposition.
So if you have a sandbox in your backyard in Chicago that’s 10 meters big, you’re depositing about 100 micrograms of mercury into that sand every year. So if it’s been sitting out there for five years, there is a decent amount of mercury in that sand. Kids get into sand, they eat sand, they have cuts. I don’t quite understand quite how deposition translates into exposures, but it does. And when you live in an area of high mercury deposition, you are more likely to have mercury exposures.
Now, this is what it looks like when you add in all of the world’s sources. And a lot of that mercury is coming over not just from China, but the Far East. And you can see, much of the country is completely socked in. So we are exposed to heavy metals – food, air, water, medicine.
Myelin. I’ve been tracking myelin quite a bit. And we know that children with autism have antibodies to myelin basic protein. There’s something going on with myelin in kids with autism - even though most kids with autism seem to have their myelin sheaths intact. And there’s a little bit of controversy over how could that be, if you have antibodies to myelin. Well maybe the myelin damage occurred early on, and then repaired itself.
I learned a lot about this in the case of Bailey Banks, which you may have heard about. And Bobby Kennedy and I wrote about this for the Huffington Post, and it proceeded to get zero coverage, anywhere, in any mainstream publication.
This family, they didn’t file with the Autism Omnibus; they filed their own case separately. And they didn’t file as “autism.” They filed for something called ADEM – acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Which basically means brain damage caused by damage to the myelin.
And what happened with Bailey was he had an MMR, and it was actually about two weeks later that he had a bad reaction. So his parents took him to the hospital. Now, most people, when they take their kid to the hospital for a vaccine reaction, they get Tylenol. But Bailey got an MRI, for some reason. And when they did this MRI, they saw he had extensive myelin damage. He had ADEM.
Well, most kids with ADEM actually recover, and the myelin gets rebuilt, and they go on and they’re perfectly normal. And you can treat ADEM with IV cortisone. But he didn’t get treatment, and his ADEM eventually developed into Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, which is an autism spectrum disorder.
So the court ruled, and they cited things like a 1984 Institute of Medicine report that said it was plausible for a vaccine to induce an autoimmune response, a nonspecific activation of the T-cells directed against myelin proteins. So there’s the Institute of Medicine saying yes, vaccines at least conceivably can cause myelin damage, and through this autoimmune response.
I just said the symptoms of myelin are very interesting. A lot of parents I know whose child had a bad reaction, they took them to the hospital and - instead of an MRI - they were given Tyenol, usually. But if you read the symptoms of ADEM – headache, delirium, lethargy, seizures, stiff neck, fever, ataxia, uncoordination, optic nerve damage, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, irritability, and changes in mental status - well, that’s regression, and I know a lot of people whose kid had that reaction, sometimes immediately after the vaccine. Now maybe that kid had ADEM, but never got an MRI, so we’ll never know. We’ll never know exactly what happened to most of those kids.
So Bailey got his MRI, 16 days after vaccines, and I just want to briefly note, Tylenol blocks production of glutathione in the liver. And there’s a small study out of the University of California at San Diego that shows that kids who are given MMR and Tylenol were five times more likely to get autism. Now, we don’t know, you know, of course that needs to be replicated and studied more intensively, but if that’s the case, was it the Tylenol depleting the glutathione which maybe damaged mitochondria? I think it’s an interesting thing to ask, and to look into. Also, if Bailey Banks had been given Tylenol instead of the MRI, we would never have had this case, and we would not know anything about this.
What’s also interesting about ADEM is it causes an inflammatory response in the brain, primarily in the microglial cells. It’s also associated with abnormal cytokine levels in the brain and autoimmunity. So again, these same terms just keep coming up over and over again. That doesn’t mean that it’s connected, but in Bailey Banks’ case, he had ADEM, and ADEM causes microgliosis. And as I said, myelin damage can repair itself, but the antibodies persist. So perhaps that’s what happened to some of these kids who have the antibodies to myelin basic protein but currently show now damage to their myelin. Maybe there was, at one point, an acute episode of ADEM.
And the court ruled that his ADEM was, “severe enough to cause lasting damage,” and that it eventually “retarded his developmental progress” and led to PDD-NOS. And this could not be clearer, that, “Bailey would not have suffered this delay but for the administration of the MMR vaccine, and that this chain of causation was not too remote, but was rather a proximate sequence of cause and effect leading inexorably from vaccination to PDD.”
Continued in Part 3.