Beware of Autisms
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New NIH Autism Study - Nothing is Off the Table

Kitchen sinkInvestigators seem to have thought of virtually everything they could possibly ask. Included on the list are prenatal exposures to medications and vaccinations, including the flu shot - which has not been studied for fetal effects, should only be given during pregnancy “if clearly needed,” and contains 25 mcg of ethylmercury, which for a 110 pound woman is five times over the EPA daily limit for mercury exposure. Researchers will also comb through each child’s medical records at different intervals, and look closely at vaccination history and other medications given.  “We absolutely want to collect data on vaccines,” Dr. Newschaffer said.

By David Kirby (This post is now on HuffPo - read and comment HERE.)

US Government officials are finally getting serious about studying all potential environmental factors in autism, and I for one applaud them heartily for leaving no etiological stone unturned.

Five years ago I wrote in the introduction to “Evidence of Harm” that “something in our modern world” was causing autism in a small number of susceptible kids. And though that book was mostly about vaccines and the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, I also wrote that other environmental “triggers” should be considered, including “mercury in fish, pesticides, PCB’s, flame retardants, jet fuel, live viruses in vaccines or some as-yet unidentified virus, and even rampant cell phone use.”

Now, in one of the largest, boldest studies of its kind, researchers in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Northern California will begin collecting data on many potential risk factors, both prenatally and during early childhood – including vaccines, thimerosal, and heavy metals.

This brings to seven the total number of approved or recommended new Federal studies to gather data on immunization as a possible risk factor for autism spectrum disorder (ASD)*

This latest effort, the “Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI),” comprises a network of NIH agencies and affiliated ASD research sites that will follow some 1,200 pregnant women who already have a child with autism. The goal is to identify the earliest potential causes of autism by looking at “possible environmental risk factors and their interplay with genetic susceptibility during the prenatal, neonatal and early postnatal periods,” according to a statement from the network at EARLI Study.

The ten-year project is probably the first ever to collect data on a multitude of genetic and environmental factors in autism in real time. Some preliminary results may be available within four years of enrollment.

“It is a very exciting study,” lead investigator Dr. Craig Newschaffer, a department chair at the Drexel University School of Public Health,” told me today. “You might be able to come up with some environmental factor that we did not include, but it would be difficult. The list is extremely comprehensive.”

Dr. Newschaffer added that the EARLI study is operating on the assumption that, “for a substantial proportion of autism cases, there’s going to be genetic and environmental interaction at play.”

He said that researchers chose to study women who already had an ASD child because the risk of having a second child with the disorder could be as high as 15-20%. That means that somewhere between 180 and 240 of the 1,200 children in the EARLI study are expected to develop some type of ASD. In the general population - assuming the CDC’s estimate of 1-in-150 children with ASD is correct – one would expect to find only eight cases.

One drawback with this approach is evidence suggesting that multiplex ASD children have a distinct genetic profile (they appear to be a different ASD “phenotype”) than simplex children, and they might be susceptible to different environmental risk factors as well.

“It’s definitely an issue, there is no one perfect study,” Dr. Newschaffer conceded. “But even in light of that, this type of study is especially valuable. To find the environmental factors, it makes sense to increase your statistical power as much as possible.”
Mothers who enroll in the study will be given two questionnaires during pregnancy, and a third while the child is an infant. It is a long survey. Investigators seem to have thought of virtually everything they could possibly ask.

Included on the list are prenatal exposures to medications and vaccinations, including the flu shot - which has not been studied for fetal effects, should only be given during pregnancy “if clearly needed,” and contains 25 mcg of ethylmercury, which for a 110 pound woman is five times over the EPA daily limit for mercury exposure.

Researchers will also comb through each child’s medical records at different intervals, and look closely at vaccination history and other medications given.

“We absolutely want to collect data on vaccines,” Dr. Newschaffer said. “Regardless of where you are on that debate – in the yes or the no box - having that information in the mix of larger questions about immune-mediated mechanisms in pregnancy and in early life, with the idea of analyzing it, is a sensible thing to do.”

The questionnaires will also inquire about mercury exposures through ambient air pollution, seafood consumption, dental amalgams in the mother and dental work during pregnancy, and even thimerosal exposure through contact lens solutions and other over-the-counter products.

Researchers will also take biological samples from mothers - and from newborns from birth through two years of age - including blood, saliva, breast milk, urine, umbilical cord and placental material and “meconium,” a baby's first stool, in which toxins may have accumulated over time. They will be tested for a variety of potential risk factors and biomarkers for ASD, and stored for further analysis in a national autism data-sharing program.

Umbilical cord blood will surely be of particular interest, given that the US EPA has estimated that one-in-six children born each year already have high enough mercury levels in their cord blood to potentially cause some type of neurodevelopmental disorder.
But investigators will be looking at much more than just exposure to mercury: Other metals, pesticides, PCBs, flame retardants, and many other “persistent organic pollutants” are also on the list of data to collect.

Researchers will eventually use a vast variety of data taken from pregnancy to infancy, looking for different toxins. They will look at the parents’ occupational history for exposures to metals, pesticides, or other chemicals, they will look at maternal bio markers for exposure in blood and urine, and analyze questionnaires about household chemical use. They will test household dust and ambient air for the presence of those same toxins, and look for them in meconium samples and in breast milk, to see if there has been any postnatal transfer of toxic material from mother to child.

Nothing will be left out: Data on diet, health and beauty products, cleaning products and so much more will be gathered and eventually analyzed.

The EARLI study will also examine prenatal events such as fever and illness during pregnancy. It will also take three blood samples during pregnancy, looking for things like inflammatory parameters and infection response, Dr. Newschaffer said.

Researchers will also be looking for “novel biomarkers and epigenetic changes in the mother during pregnancy,” he said. Again, that prenatal data will be gathered in real time, which is unprecedented in autism clinical research.

In some cases, it may be possible to correlate toxic body burden with pollution levels in each birth tract. For example, one CDC-funded study in the San Francisco Bay Area found that children born in the most polluted districts – and especially those exposed to heavy metals – were significantly more likely to develop an ASD diagnosis. (HERE).

“We can look at the Bay Area data at the group level, but we will also have individual exposure levels to compare them with,” Dr. Newschaffer said. “And while we don’t have soil samples included, we would like to get more money for soil and water testing.”

The EARLI study is currently being funded with a $14 million “Autism Centers of Excellence” grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Mental Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, all NIH agencies. Autism Speaks contributed an additional $2.5 million in anonymously donated funds to the project.

The Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia will coordinate the network, which includes a local research site at Drexel University School of Public Health/Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), home to Dr. Paul Offit, who has condemned anyone who suggested a vaccine-autism link, downplayed environmental factors in ASD in favor of genetic causes, and rejected the idea of an autism “epidemic.”

One can only speculate what went through Dr. Offit’s mind this morning when he read in his hometown paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer that "vaccines are among the many environmental factors that will be examined in the new study." (HERE). 

Other research sites will be located at the University of California at Davis/MIND Institute; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Kennedy Krieger Institute; and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA.

For now, the main focus of the EARLI study is to gather data, though some preliminary analysis could take place, such as examining immune responses and inflammatory issues during pregnancy.

“It’s a funding thing,” Dr. Newschaffer explained. “This is expensive. The vast majority of dollars we have right now is to establish enrollment and begin building a biological archive for the first five years.”

But more grant money is anticipated for further analyses, and independent scientists could also write proposals for ancillary grants to examine some data during the collection period, before the full data-sharing program begins. “Those scientists with appropriate expertise could propose a partnership with program researchers to work on samples that we are developing,” Dr. Newschaffer said.

“I would love to see every bit of this data analyzed,” he said when asked about examining links between vaccines and autism. “It is so unlikely that it (immunization) will not be analyzed. We are not collecting this information just to sit on it.”

(*NOTE: Approved studies include CDC’s CADDRE investigation into thimerosal exposures and autism, and the HHS/EPA National Child Study, which is looking at vaccines and autism, among many other things. And last week, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, which includes members from HHS, NIH and CDC, unanimously recommended a feasibility study on vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated children, plus three types of vaccine-autism studies on mitochondrial dysfunction, regressive ASD cases, and certain vaccine injures that might also show a correlation with ASD).

David Kirby is author of Evidence of Harm, a founding contributor to Huffington Post and a contributor to Age of Autism.  His next book, “ANIMAL FACTORY” – about the impact of industrial livestock production on our health and the environment – will be released within the year.


 

Comments

Harold

Hi Milco,

Ik houd het op z''n nederlands.
Hoe is het met je?
Ken je mij nog?
Harold Suliman oud collega uit het VU.
Met jou gaat het goed zo te zien. Ik had het laatst met Broer de Witte over jou en hij zei dat hij je had gezien op google. Zodoende mail ik je.
Goed werk dat je doet man. Je hebt het ver geschopt. Gaat alles verder goed met je vrouw en kids?
Met mij gaat alles goed. Ik ben radioloog in Amsterdam bevalt mij goed.
Ik heb 2 kids (jongen van 8 en meisje van 11). Ben al 6 jaar gescheiden. Dus als je een leuke zweedse voor mij vind sta ik er open voor.

Spreek je weer gauw of als je in de buurt bent gaan we iets drinken
Groet,

Harold

Ray Gallup


Personally, I doubt the NIH will do anything positive with any study that links vaccines to autism. They (along with the CDC) haven't done anything to date and I don't see it happening now or in the future.

The state motto of Missouri comes to mind......Show Me!!!!

Another motto is appropriate as well and can apply to the NIH, CDC, the Paul Offits of the world, etc.

It is the advertisement for Nurse Jackie on Showtime TV and alongside the picture of the Nurse Jackie character played by Edie Falco per...........

http://www.hollywoodnorthreport.com/article.php?Article=7267

jen

Garbo, good points. I remember my dad ( a drug company salesman) giving us that pink stuff (mercurachrome) on a lot of our cuts. It would be interesting to look at family members mercury levels as far back as possible... the granny that worked in the thermometer factory, the father with mega amalgams, the mother born in the 80,s who received lots of mercury laden vaccines. The thing is it(mercury toxicity) is probably transgenerational as someone said and I think we are all worried that environmental effects will need to be teased out from "genetics" somehow. A vaccinated VS unvaccinated study is really the more important, to me. Especially because there are still people around whose parents didn't believe in that "newfangled" stuff (vaccinating) and their children have listened to them and followed that same pathway.

sorsha

Am I missing something here? Is this a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study? Doesn't seem like it. The only thing a convoluted study like this will do is provide more 'proof' for the other side that this issue has been studied to death with no definitive results - because the design of this study can only show one thing: some vaccinated kids don't develop autism, some do. That's a lot of years and a lot of money to keep people quiet, placated - pretending that something is actually being studied. Why is this piece even running on AOA? We all need to get together and call for the ONLY study that will give us the answers we need and stop being so *&@!ing nice to these jerks who can develop a complicated, bullshit, pull the wool over our eyes again study, but can't 'figure out' how to do a study with a real control group.

Garbo

RE: amalgams, I had ten, including one put in the year before I got pregnant and an old one that fell apart a few years after my son was born. My mom had a bunch, and recently told me that in the old days (1940s/50s) her mother used to treat their sore throats by swabbing mercurochrome on the back of their throats! I had at least two flu shots in the years leading up to pregnancy, and maybe even one between my two kids, back when I was stupid. My husband's father is a dentist going on 50 years, and his mother was a dental technician. I think this topic is very relevant to a study, particularly if the study is focusing on families who have a child already diagnosed; it may be that the first-born bears the brunt of this toxicity, so the latter-born children have a lesser incidence of autism regardless of whether vaccines are withheld from those kids. The only way to know would be to test body burden of mercury in all family members, doing chelation challenges until it disappears and measuring what comes out. Let's try to get this thrown into the kitchen sink, if only to see how fast the ADA lobbyists come running! Isn't the FDA due to issue a formal ruling on whether mercury amalgams are toxic?

KacyB

PJ Tang - exactly. As for dental amalgams, it is not enough to ask how many a mother had during pregnancy. The more important question, for anyone who understands amalgam toxicity, is did they have any removed or worked on (chipped filling, root canal, replacement) in the years prior to getting pregnant? They may have had them all removed without doing any chelation which can actually increase the body burden of mercury. And absolutely, how many amalgams did the mother's mother have. This may be a case of amalgam toxicity becoming overwhelming over generations since it does not readily leave the body and does cross the placenta - with other environmental exposures (environment, vaccines, pesticides, etc.) pushing children over the edge.

David Taylor

Comment at Huff Post:

David--

Thank you for your excellent reporting on this issue, as always.

There is no downside to these proposed studies. Those of us with ASD children simply want the truth about what happened and how best to help our children.

We are accused of being anti-vaccine and we are not. The accusation is simply another attempt, so common today, to use fear instead reasoning.

We are accused of believing "vaccines cause autism" and we do not. Vaccines are safe for the general population, as the CDC's studies have shown. But we want to know more about the role that vaccines and other possible environmental triggers may have played in the onset of childhood neurological illnesses in a small subset of children with genetic predispositions.

We are accused of being irrational and dangerous. You can see from the above that such accusations are products of psychological projection.

To those who say the study will take too long--data will be analyzed and some conclusions suggested along the way. Also, keep in mind that this is a longitudinal study and it must be allowed to play out. Lots of doctors continue working on this issue in the lab and deserve our support.

I hope vaccines are completely exonerated. Many parents who followed the vaccination schedule, and whose saw their typical children regress into autism live with a guilt that is overpowering at times--we may have harmed our children. What a blessed day it would be if we could rule out vaccines.

Benedetta Stilwell

Please while you are are saying MMR and mercury -do not forget to add with your wish list Dtap. It is still a problem.

Going round in circles

My layperson sense of this study is that they are going to be looking at quantitative markers of environmental insults and will then try to come to some sort of a conclusion as to the results thereof. Whilst the attempt is indeed noble, it seems to elude the idea that it is not so much the quantity of toxins that is important, but rather your ability to process those same toxins that is crucial to your health. It seems unlikely that this study will do anything by way of preventing autism for future kids.

In order that we prevent autism it is essential to do two things:

1. Study the family medical history of kids that have already been hit by the ASD syndrome.

2. If possible, study vaxed vs unvaxed kids in that particular subset. Many families have opted not to vaccinate siblings. One can then make a clear determination as to what the vaccines are doing or not doing in that susceptible subset.

Finally, someone somewhere needs to understand what the problem is and how to go about asking the right questions to fix it. For that, thought is required. For now, it seems to be largely missing.

Lorene Amet

Even though this study seems to be a major undertaking, requiring very substantial funding and a very large scale screen across the population to reach sufficient statistical power with so many potential factors, I have no doubt that it is feasible given the means. In my opinion, it’s only with this type of study that we will get to the bottom of the matter. Other smaller scale studies done in the UK will add to the debate. For example, a study conducted by Barbara Maher from Lancaster University (link below) suggests that traffic pollution causes abnormal levels of - so-called "particulates" - produced in vehicle exhaust. The UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn admits there is a problem but says 24 out of 27 members of the European Union are in breach of the standards.

In a different study conducted by Professor Jonathan Grigg in London earlier this year (second link below), measuring the lung capacity of 8- and 9-year-olds, it was found that 7% of the children have lung function reduced to a level internationally regarded as hazardous.
Professor Grigg reported to the BBC: "Our findings in the East End of London are that children living here have slightly lower lung function than what we'd expect from the national average.
"Now, if that's due to air pollution, as we suspect, they're going to be at increased risk from a range of respiratory disorders such as asthma and infection, and may be at risk in adulthood."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8092182.stm

http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/news/newsarchive/newsarticles/20090218_brcenvironmentandresphealth.aspx

M.R,Jansen

My tips are:
Look at gestanon during pregnancy.
Look at yellow within 48 hours after born
but not born yellow.
Look at amalgam, chroom and mercury.
Look at flagelates.

Greetings
Dr.Milco Janssen, medical dokter children 0-4years.

Twyla

I surely do hope that this research is done well, and without an agenda.

Kathy Blanco

How can they study the syndegy of these toxins, infections and metabolic poisons? It can't be done...how about we mothers just get wise and do everything in our power to not subject our children to this stuff, including any "safe" vaccine...

And, let's not forget, autism can be caused by your birth experience from an OBGYN that still follows ACOG standards to asphyxiate children with immediate cord clamping...

So many variables, so little time...

Siobhan

There have been several "sibling studies" going on for several years now. I was involved with the one at Kennedy Krieger. At each appointment they asked me about many of the environmental exposures mentioned in EARLI study. Have they looked at information from these studies to determine which environmental factors reduced or increased the chances of a sibling developing an ASD? Seems logical to me. But my trust in research is limited. Kennedy Krieger could not diagnose my son (sibling to older sister with autism)with an ASD, yet they put him in the "at risk" category and ultimately counted him as a sibling who displayed autistic like symptoms and counted him as a positive association. My son, now almost six, I assure you, is not autistic. The only difference in the pre and post natal care of his sister (18 months apart) are vaccinations and diet. After my son's two month vaccines (8), he crashed. He lost 3 pounds, had chronic diarrehea, and bronchiolitis. At the same time, my daughter, both slowly and quickly, lost all her language, play skills, and ability to relate. I never vaccinated either one again. Kennedy Krieger knows the difference between my children's developmental "exposures".

Cathy

I'll believe this is a truly "everything and the kitchen sink" study that is well structured and unbiased when I see it...until then I consider this to be the news release that says "shut up - we're on it".

Curtis J

With a "10 year study" it looks like big pharma is (again) lining up for "long term funding" with the hope of looking in the wrong place (again) for years, .....while the money rolls in year after year.

Why not assume a few causes (such as mercury and the MMR shot) and start a research group seeking treatments for those two items ???
They worst they could do is find treatments for the wrong thing...

or Why not simply do the same as countries that have Autism rates of 1 in 10,000???
Not too difficult to figure out what that is...

PJ Tang

I'm glad that they are looking broadly at things like Thimerosal-preserved saline solutions and amalgams. Maybe they can dust off the studies before that show dental workers, chemists and pharmacists have the highest suicide rates - hmm, I wonder why?

They should ask how many amalgams the mother's mother had too. Mercury and other heavy metals are building up in polar bears and whales and they don't get vaccines. Exposure is everywhere and transgenerational. It's impossible to find a "control group" for a toxicity study; our kids and many adults with chronic illness are just the canaries in the coal mine.

NeverAgain

This study seems to be very thorough...But, as a mom with a vaccine-damaged child with "Autism," there is NOTHING that would motivate me to allow myself or my follow-on kids to be vaccinated...Odds of "autism" again...Much less likely. Maybe a portion of this study should include retro information on the existing children awaiting decisions from VICAP and their mothers.

I need independent research

chop?NIH? Nice to see some study but I am not holding my breath for truth from these folks. sorry wish I could be excited.

Garbo

Of course, millions more kids will be damaged by the time this study is through, pharma will try to derail even a hint of objective findings, and we will still be crazy parents, right up until the results (if the study is fairly and honestly conducted) are made public. Here's hoping that as part of this long-term study, they test mito function, virals and glutathione levels on these kids before and after vaccination.

Diane

While I don't dismiss the importance of this study by any means, I would think (HOPE) that parents of children with ASDs already have a clue as to what happened to their kids and will avoid all possible neurotoxins in their next pregnancies, births and early lives of their next children. If they do, the results will be skewed. And that, in this case, is a good thing.

jen

I'm not exactly thinking this is good news. Like someone mentioned, mothers,now, unfortunately, have probably been pummeled with vaccines (if they were born in or since the 80's). No WONDER they will be more likely to have children with autism or ASD. The very fact (as mentioned in the article) that they are looking at "multiplex ASD" children will make them able to somehow focus too much on the "genetics"(when these poor mothers were subjected to big time mercury, aluminum etc. from all their past vaccines. The vacc VS un-vacc study is what needs to be done and NOW>

Craig Willoughby

Of course, we all know that the Oraccolytes will all call this junk science and a waste of resources, too.

Sargent L. Goodchild, Jr.

Sounds like a great study. If it is an earnest study than we all have a great deal to celebrate. This could be the change that is so desperately needed. We will learn much more than just the causation of autism. Of course, there is interplay between the chemicals that we come into contact with and the developmental sequence we go through as children. Too many toxins can derail the typical path and can compound the problems the child experiences. Not being exposed to environmental triggers is a major step in prevention. Yet, for those already impacted we need to see where their development was altered and do whatever possible to create healthy skills where there are gaps.

Bob Moffitt

Unfortunately, this study sounds eerily similar to Russia's annual "five year plans" to study their failing economic policies. How did that work out for them?

In my opinion, we no longer have time (5 years?)to waste...we have to conduct a scientific, independent study of "vaccinated vs. unvaccinated" populations, to ascertain, once and for all, if BOTH populations have suffered the same inexplicable increase in chronic autoimmune disorders.

By the way...was the CDC report that 1 in 6 American children suffer childhood development problems...a TEN year study...because they haven't updated that study for years. Why is that? Shouldn't parents know what the chances are for their child to attain normal childhood development? Is it 1 in 10...or....1 in 3?

David Taylor

David--Will this be cross-posted on Huffington Post, and I would love your permission to quote liberally from it for a post on DailyKos.

Birgit Calhoun

This is wonderful news. I hope the study will show positive proof that mercury is not to be fooled with. My son who is now 43 years old has been exposed to multiple vaccinations on one day. He received 30 amalgams before he was 3 years old and that by a pediatric dentist. My son did not talk until he was three and one half years of age. He was never diagnosed with autism. Maybe it was just mercury poisoning.

We had all his amalgams removed a number of years ago, which helped him tremendously with his mood swings and social connectedness.

John Stone

Surely 25 micrograms of mercury not ethyl mercury?

Craig Willoughby

This study should have been done years ago. Sadly, I'm afraid it will be too little; too late. Trigger-happy doctors have been injecting TCV's and other vaccines and drugs into mothers now for how long? And they are only just now looking at potential risks to the unborn fetus? You mean to tell me that they had no clue what the injections would do to the developing child?

And they wonder why we question these so called "Vaccine Safety Studies."

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