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Autism File Magazine: What We Can Learn From Silent Spring

Autism FileThank you to our friends at The Autism File Magazine for allowing us to excerpt this article by  Jonathan Rose. 

Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of pesticides— and her spirited defense in the face of a ruthless assault from the chemical industry bears a startling resemblance to that waged by vaccine safety advocates…

Samuel Johnson, the crusty English literary critic, once defined a “classic” as any book that readers are still reading 50 years after its publication. We are now approaching the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and it is still in print, still selling, still frequently quoted, still assigned in college courses. Like any other classic, it has been studied intensively by PhDs. For instance, Priscilla Coit Murphy’s What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring details the campaign waged by the chemical industry and agribusiness to discredit Carson and squelch her book. I recently assigned Murphy’s study to my students, one of whom found it very relevant to a present-day controversy: the attacks on Carson (he said) reminded him of the attacks on “that English doctor” who pointed out the possible dangers of the MMR vaccine.

I had already noticed the similarities. But there is one all important difference between the two situations: the assault on Rachel Carson failed, whereas the attacks on Dr. Andrew Wakefield have largely succeeded (so far). Those of us who believe that ad-verse vaccine reactions may be a contributing cause of the autism epidemic, and who are struggling to be heard in the national media, should study this chapter of his-tory. Today everyone is aware of the dangers of pesticides, but it has taken 50 years of education, starting with Silent Spring, to raise that level of awareness.


In 1962, pesticides enjoyed the same level of public confidence that vaccines enjoy today. The scientific consensus held that chemical pesticides were safe, effective tools in the fight to eradicate disease and feed a hungry world. As Carson ruefully acknowledged, “certain outstanding entomologists are among the leading advocates of chemical control.” A National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council committee issued a report on pest control methods, just before Silent Spring, which played down the potential dangers. How did Carson overturn that conventional wisdom?

For starters, she recognized some glaring conflicts of interest. Vaccine safety advocates today have highlighted the incestuous relationships among the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies, and academic research scientists. Federal regulators move to high-paying jobs in the drug companies they regulated, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes vaccines that corporations produce. Scientists depend on both government and industry for research money, which is likely to dry up if they report adverse effects. No one is inclined to blow whistles, and everyone profits (except, perhaps, the general public).

Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson identified the same kind of corruption among pesticide scientists: “Inquiry into the background of some of these men reveals that their entire research program is supported by the chemical industry. Their professional prestige, sometimes their very jobs depend on the perpetuation of chemical methods. Can we expect them to bite the hand that literally feeds them?”

Read the full article and subscribe to The Autism File HERE.


Maureen McDonnell, RN

Great article! One thing is clear: Whether it's Rachel Carson (who died an early death due to the stress of having to wage a single-handed war against the chemical industry) or Andy Wakefield's professional persecution for attempting to wake the public up to the inherent dangers in over vaccinating our kids, those of us who know the truth, must stand behind these heroes. We can write, we can blog, we can bring the unpopular topics up in conversations, call our representatives on crucial issues, keep the conversation going with our pediatricians etc etc. Additionally, finding common ground with others who possess slightly different agendas (but who basically hold the same ideals) is critical. At this point, the divisions in the autism community are preventing a political voice and power that only comes from unification.


wasn't she instrumental in promoting the organization of an EPA? ..I'm sure her good outweighs the we want to discuss how many are sick and dying in the wake of Bill Gates taking oral polio vaccine into third world countries, causing a recombinant killer virus..that would be another story ..however..based it fact!


Even as late as the early 1990's, ddt was an unlabeled contaminant in many pesticide preparations. I hate to say this, during this very tense political time, but it was said the "right" came out to blast Rachel early on, using stories such as this without presenting any studies and with no basis in fact. The EPA announced early that DDt was a carcinogen, and the journals carried scientific studies proving DDT as a neurotoxin.
floater tabs have been available , stopping standing water, the above mentioned current... Rachel Carson played no part in the "killing" of anyone.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

thankyou Good Grief, That is very good information. I live in India. Ive had malaria; my kids had malaria; my husband caught dengue last year. Dumping tons of pesticides is really not the answer. As one example: There is an area of Punjab where every household has a person with cancer. Often the younger members) This has been attributed to the overuse of pesticides on crops.The pesticides are now in the ground water.
Avoiding standing water is one of the simplest and best methods for keeping mosquito populations in check, but I have never yet seen this method applied in a systematic and well- enforced manner (not in Delhi). So I think people have only themselves to blame. I once read about a method in which mosquitoes could be attracted to containers of water to lay their eggs and every few days an electric current passed through the water to kill the larvae. that sounded like a terrific idea, but no more was heard about it. I also wonder, has anyone thought about what a world without mosquitoes would be like? They are probably quite important in the food chain.

Jonathan Rose

As the author, I'd like to respond to Amy. If you read the article from start to finish, you'll find that it does address the question of whether DDT should be used in poor countries to fight malaria. It shows that Rachel Carson herself rejected the idea of a total ban on chemical pesticides, but she did protest against their reckless overuse, and that's my position as well. As I say, small amounts of DDT carefully applied may be useful in fighting disease in the Third World, but dumping huge quantities of pesticides on crops saves no lives and poisons the environment. As with vaccines, it's not a simple all-or-nothing issue.

Good grief!

To Amy,

Blaming Rachel Carson for children dying of malaria due to the outlawing of DDT in the US is a crazy statement totally devoid of facts and biological understanding. Thank you Steven Milloy--one of the idiot proponents of this ridiculous notion where you perhaps got your "information.".

DDT continued to be used in the third world long after it was outlawed for use in the US (indeed it was long manufactured in the US but shipped to countries where no laws re: its use existed). Its manufacture and widespread use continues today! In many areas where its use has continued, mosquitos have evolved resistance to it--as any intelligent biologist could have predicted--and did.

Rapidly reproducing insects, like mosquitos and flies, can quickly (within several generations (e.g. years) evolve forms that are resistant to a pesticide that is used repeatedly. (This is of concern not only in the area where resistance develops. See DDT resistant mosquitos already exist throughout the world, including in parts of Africa.

In contrast, more slowly reproducing animals, including most predatory invertebrates, and nearly all mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds can not adapt to tolerate chemical poisons in any comparably short time period.

Additionally, chemicals, like DDT, that are fat soluble, rather than water soluble, are bioaccumulative, which means that animals at the top of a food chain (such as predators and people) end up with body loads of these chemicals that are thousands (or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands) times higher than organisms that are low on the food chain.

Since DDT kills a broad spectrum of invertebrates, NOT just mosquitos, AND is harmful to many vertebrates due to bioaccumulation and its persistence (it does not break down and remains in the environment for decades), its repeated use has the potential for myriad ecological effects. It reduces populations of pollinating insects (required for pollination of over 70% of human food crops) and is leads to decreases in populations of invertebrate, fish, and avian mosquito predators and thus can ultimately cause INCREASED populations of mosquitos (and flies) and thus increased malaria (as well as fly-vectored disease) transmission.

The consequences of chronic accumulation of DDT in the bodies of most animals, including people, has not been fully investigated though plenty of evidence of liver damage, and reproductive and neurological harm exists.

Meanwhile, bed nets have proven to be quite effective in protecting people from malaria-carrying mosquitoes in some areas--and so far at least, mosquitos have not evolved to chew through nets or otherwise overcome that more practical, non-chemical method of malaria prevention. Getting rid of standing pools of water in the vicinity of villages (e.g. old tires) has also proven to be effective in reducing mosquito populations and thus malaria transmission. These strategies may not work in all areas, but DDT is unquestionably not a longterm panacea either.

Get real.


Gee, how many African kids did Rachel Carson kill? Oh, right, too many to count. And for nothing. Too bad the article didn't mention that.

Ivor Hughes

Ms Rachel,
a name very dear to generations of people, she was fearless and a great champion of truth and took no heed of the poisonous stinging swarm as she hacked at the human wasps nest, and she has won and continues to win many battles in defence of planet Earth.

No doubt you are all probably on to it .. but vaccines are shown to cause auto immune disease .. to quote ..


Systemic autoimmunity appears to be the inevitable consequence of over-stimulating the host's immune ‘system’ by repeated immunization with antigen, to the levels that surpass system's self-organized criticality.

God bless everyone.


She had the credentials of the scientist and the mind of a literary artist, without the combination her audience would have been narrow, "kind of where we sit today on this vaccine issue". I don't remember her words, but I do remember my mother giving me the book, and her saying, "to me it read like science fiction, could there really be cancer rates one day of this enormity", for me, no surprise, it's today's reality. And while she exposed the issue, she didn't solve it, we are using more and more pesticides, there is little to no safety testing (short of ld50's) and we are doing more damage than ever to every species on this planet. Do we really think people care, I continue to watch my neighbors contract with lawn care companies, I read about the huge amount of glyphosphate being used on sugar beets, corn etc, because Monsanto GM'd the seeds. The pesticide issue is worse than ever!

Anne McElroy Dachel

Excellent article and a valuable lesson for us all. I also like to compare the controversy over vaccines and autism to smoking and lung cancer. Industry-funded studies showed no links there either.

In the vaccine-autism controversy we have the science that disproves any link and which is recognized to be tied to the vaccine industry. The FDA allows pharma to do their own safety studies. The web of ties between the vaccine makers and federal health officials makes one wonder which party actually has oversight over the other?

Take heart. One thing is for sure. A generation of dependent disabled children is on the brink of adulthood. The experts who've long claimed that autism is nothing new--doctors just didn't recognize it before--are going to be soundly disproved. We're going to be left with a MASSIVE NEED TO CARE FOR ADULTS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LONG LIVES. We've never had to deal with anything like it before. We can't even imagine the cost of this disaster. Sadly, it'll only be when the economics of autism threatens our future that we'll honestly address the cause.

Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

Carter's Daddy

Another added to the "to read" list. It's those conflicts of interest that stick in my mind. The same kind of conflicts exist in the world of water flouridation, one of mankind's greatest failures. I can't get my head around it. Anywhere else that kind of standard is enforced. Not here. It allows for the sloppiest trials to see daylight and be displayed to the public in a gilded frame and called science.

Not an MD

I am still in the process of reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and I agree 100% with the striking similarity of her battle to bring awareness of the dangers of pesticides to wildlife, and the battle we face in bringing awareness of the dangers of the vaccine schedule to our babies and children. With every page of Carson's breathtaking book, I am reminded of this similarity. In fact, this occurred to me long before this article was written, as it would any parent of a vaccine injured child or children. Ms. Carson's Silent Spring is the most brutally damning book condemning an industry that I have ever read. You feel Rachel jabbing and twisting her knife through the heart of the pesticide manufacturing industry on every single page. I think that you probably have one, or perhaps two, of the following reactions by page seven: 1.) You cry out for your mother whether she is alive or deceased, and/or 2.) you discover that God did indeed create the Earth and everything in it to co-exist in perfect, synchronized, co-dependent harmony.

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