There was an interesting juxtaposition on the Fox news website the other day.
On one side was an article about the BMJ's report claiming that "Study Linking Vaccine to Autism was 'Elaborate Fraud' Journal Says" HERE while right next to it was an article which read, "Study Finds Link Between Autism and Air Pollution." HERE
Sometimes when you're an attorney and presenting a case you engage in an exercise in which you assume that the other side's assertions are true. What then? Let me be clear about my own opinions. I've read Dr. Wakefield's articles, his book, listened to him lecture, and have even sat across the table from him to have a conversation. I believe Wakefield is innocent of any wrongdoing and that he has identified an important piece of the autism puzzle, namely, that something has gone so wrong in the immune system of many children with autism that a weakened measles virus from a vaccine can persist for years in their gastrointestinal systems.
But just for the sake of argument let's say I didn't believe that.
Instead I'll go to that second, supposedly non-controversial article, "Study Finds Link Between Autism, Air Pollution." From the first paragraph of the article it states, "Researchers have found that children who live near freeways at birth (within 1,000 feet) have twice the risk of autism, suggesting that environmental factors may play a role in the disorder's growing incidence." The study was undertaken by researchers from the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
Further on we're told that "The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at 304 children with autism and 259 normally developing children," and that, "A 2006 study also found autistic children were 50 percent more likely to have been born around contaminated air."
So if I'm a typical, fairly well-informed person I'm a little confused. I've heard enough on the news to know that vaccines contain a number of chemicals I'm not too thrilled for my child to get, like thimerosal, (still in many flu formulations, and used in the "manufacture" of the vaccine, but then supposedly removed), aluminum, formaldehyde, and that the viruses in the vaccines need to be first grown in some medium like chicken eggs, or pig, mouse, or monkey parts, or aborted human fetal tissue, and who knows what pathogens might be lurking in that toxic stew. But we're told that those worrisome ingredients are in amounts too small for us to be concerned about. And besides, we're also told that autism is most likely genetic in origin.
But these two air pollution studies throw one for a loop. It's been said that the most exciting expression in scientific research isn't "Eureka!", but instead, "Now that's an unusual result!" The air pollution studies strike one as unusual, especially since we've been told autism is genetic in origin.
Think of how dramatically living near a freeway increases a child's risk factors for autism. If somebody told you getting married in June would double your chances of a happy marriage you'd seriously consider a June wedding. If somebody told you using a certain product would double your chances of dying in the next year, you'd probably think twice before using that product.
But giving a child the toxic stew of chemicals in a hepatitis B shot as they enter the world supposedly does nothing to their risk of acquiring autism. Much safer than crossing the street, or even living near a freeway, right?
Oh, forgive me, I'm wrong. According to a study from the Stony Brook University University Medical Center in New York, HERE, it does. "Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD compared to later or unvaccinated boys." Maybe that hepatitis B shot is a little more dangerous than living near a freeway.
The study from the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles sounds credible to the average person. We know pollution can affect a person's health. My wife and I were living in an urban area when our daughter was born. We may have doubled her risk right there. Then, she did receive a hepatitis B shot, not just during her first month of life, but on her first day. That almost tripled her risk. I'm already at a nearly six-fold increased risk of autism for my daughter and I haven't yet gotten to the rest of the vaccination schedule.
So even before one gets to Wakefield and the MMR shot, autism seems to even the casually inquisitive person to be some sort of environmentally caused illness, not a genetic one. Do all of these environmental insults set the body up for the MMR shot and its trio of live viruses to tip some children over into autism? It's a reasonable question.
The average person may recall the recent warning that cough medicines should not be given to children younger than the age of two years old because of the possibility of adverse reactions. Something about the immune system of a toddler appears to be uniquely vulnerable to environmental insults. It makes one wonder if the twenty-nine vaccinations children are supposed to get before the age of two on the current schedule is such a good idea. Can toxins retained in the body somehow upset the immune system so that it doesn't clear a virus as it should?
And so we're left with the question of whether a weakened measles virus from a vaccine can persist in the gastro-intestinal system of children with autism and if so, what this might tell us about the disease? It's said that when Galileo faced his persecutors during the Inquisition he muttered the words, eppur si muove, which means "And yet it moves." By it he meant that whatever he was forced to say upon fear of death, that didn't affect whether the Earth moved around the sun.
The truth endures, no matter how men may wish to deny it.
The British Medical Council has stripped Dr. Wakefield of his license to practice medicine and the British Medical Journal has now called his work fraudulent. Maybe next they'll call him ugly. The questions still remain. The millions of children with autism and their parents looking for answers still remain.
Eppur si muove. And yet it moves.
Kent Heckenlively is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism