By Anne Dachel
On May 30, 2013, there was a piece on SCOPE, the Stanford University Medical School site, with the title, Director of Stanford Autism Center responds to your questions on research and treatment.
The story highlighted the the sixth annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update to be held on June 1, 2013.
"During the day-long symposium, parents and caregivers will have an opportunity to discuss new autism research and interventions with physicians, as well as learn about the center's clinical services and ongoing autism studies at the School of Medicine."
The photo with the story showed a line of adults marching and clapping and wearing placards that spelled out the word AUTISM on puzzle pieces.
The story continued...
"In anticipation of the event, we asked Carl Feinstein, MD, director of the center, to respond to your questions about issues related to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and to highlight how research is transforming therapies for the condition. Below he addresses a range of topics, including early diagnosis and intervention in infants and the role of environmental factors and genetics in contributing to autism."
Actually, I had seen a story on May 8, 2013, Ask Stanford Med: Director of Stanford Autism Center taking questions on research and treatment, and I respectfully posted three questions for Dr. Feinstein:
"Why has there never been an official study comparing the autism rates in fully-vaccinated and never-vaccinated children?"
"Why has there never been a study looking at the children who were normal, happy, and thriving until they suddenly lost learned skills and regressed into autism?"
"Finally, why has there never been a study on the cumulative effect of the ever-expanding vaccination schedule?"
I added this:
"These are critical questions and more and more parents want answers. Autism has no official cause or cure. The numbers are horrific. Most frightening of all is the fact that there's nothing a mainstream doctor can a new mother with a baby that was born healthy and is developing normally so that her child doesn't also end up on the autism spectrum by age two.
"Thank you for your time.
"Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism"
Dr. Feinstein didn't chose any of my questions, which of course was his prerogative, but he did answer someone else's query on vaccines:
"Just how founded are claims of vaccine preservatives, like thimerosal, leading to autism?"
This was his response:
"There is a concerted and shared effort that has been picking up momentum in the past two decades among both parents of autistic children and clinical researchers to look for environmental toxins that might cause ASDs. It is obviously of the highest priority to identify these environmental toxins. Doing so could identify a primary prevention strategy for ASDs. Furthermore, if researchers can identify the biological mechanisms by which these environmental chemicals cause brain abnormalities associated with ASDs, then closer examination might elucidate neurobiological "targets" for treatment interventions.
"Childhood vaccines were one of the first chemicals of suspicion in the search for environmental causes of ASDs. Particularly since a compound with mercury, a known neurotoxin, was widely (but no longer!) used as an adjuvant in some vaccine preparations. Use of neurotoxin spurred much hypothesizing, and ultimately a significant amount of research, seeking a causal tie to ASDs. However, despite a great deal of elaborate and expensive scientific studies using many types of research strategies, it has been impossible for researchers to demonstrate that this is the case, even though it has been studied in many large population samples.
"At present, it appears very unlikely that vaccines of any type are a meaningful causal factor in the vast majority of cases of ASDs. However, many parents haven't abandoned this belief and have become alienated from, or suspicious of, medical research. As a result, many have decided not to have their children vaccinated and advocate for others to do the same. Unfortunately, large scale refusals by parents to vaccinate their children is presenting a secondary health risk and putting other children at risk of serious illness from infectious diseases."
It was a little disingenuous to claim that mercury IS NO LONGER used in vaccines. Feinstein basically fell back on the "studies show no link--go get your kids vaccinated" mantra.
What is really interesting to me is the fact that Feinstein knows that toxins are the major players in autism. This was the first question that he answered:
"How meaningful are environmental factors, such as nutrition and exposure to toxins during pregnancy, in terms of autism risk?"
"During pregnancy, proper nutrition and taking reasonable measures to avoid exposure to known environmental toxins are basic steps an expectant mother, and family, can take to promote a baby's health and minimize risks of medical problems for the newborn. This principle certainly applies to giving birth to a baby with a healthy brain and nervous system, and pregnant women should consume proper nutrients to support brain development. There are a number of known toxins, including lead, alcohol, mercury, tobacco, various insecticides, petrochemical products and some medicines that are harmful to fetal development. An important area of concern is our current environment and findings showing that food and water sources, and other common materials, can contain man-made chemicals.
"A great deal of scientific attention is now being focused on the potential consequences of some of these chemicals on the bodily organs, including the brain, as well as possible mutagenic or harmful effects on the reproductive organs and human genes. There is a very real basis for concern that environmental toxins play a direct causative role or increase the risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, including ASDs. There is now much research underway to discover what types of chemicals present in the environment might be causatively implicated in ASDs."
Feinstein didn't tell us that all the autism is just better diagnosing of a genetic disorder that's always been around. He knows that environmental toxins are major players in neurological disorders like autism. He even knows about the mutagenic effects they have. He specifically cited MERCURY as a factor. Yet for some reason, he's not willing to talk about the horrendous level of untested mercury allowed in the majority of the flu vaccine that is recommended for pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy. He didn't mention anything about the other issues in the vaccine-autism debate like aluminum, human fetal cells, and the live viruses in the MMR vaccine.
"At present, it appears very unlikely that vaccines of any type are a meaningful causal factor in the vast majority of cases of ASDs."
That statement seemed to settle the issue, or did it?
"At present..." Does that mean that in the future vaccines may be shown to cause autism?
"It appears very unlikely...are a meaningful factor..." That's not the same thing as "there is absolutely no connection between vaccines and autism."
"In the vast majority of cases." So vaccines may be a casual factor in SOME cases?
Feinstein sounded a lot like Dr. David Amaral from the MIND Institute at UC-Davis and Dr. Martha Herbert from Harvard.
On April 20, 2011 on PBS: Dr. Herbert was interviewed by veteran journalist, Robert MacNeil. He asked her about the link between vaccines and autism:
MacNeil: "Could there be a subset of children with a genetic predisposition to have a toxic reaction to vaccines that, for the rest of the children, have no adverse affect?"
Herbert: "I think it's possible that you could have a genetic subgroup. You also might have an immune subgroup. There are a variety of subgroups. But the problem with the population studies is, they aren't necessarily designed to have the statistical power to find subgroups like that if the subgroups are small."
Robert MacNeil also interviewed Dr. Amaral for PBS in April, 2011.
MacNeil asked, "What is your position today on vaccines and autism?"
In response to this, Amaral gave the broad disclaimer, "I think it's pretty clear that, in general, vaccines are not the culprit."
And the reason was the standard, studies show no link.
Then he added this blockbuster, "It's not to say, however, that there is a small subset of children who may be particularly vulnerable to vaccines."
He went on to say, "And in their case, having the vaccines, or particular vaccines, particularly in certain kinds of situations - if the child was ill, if the child had a precondition. Like a mitochondrial defect. Vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it is incredibly important, still, to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities, in a small subset of children, might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations."
MacNeil asked if more studies of these possibly susceptible kids should be done.
Amaral answered, "Yeah. So I think, personally, it's a reasonable thing to do. Because I think that autism is ultimately going to have many, many causes. There are going be many, many subsets of children that are going to have different etiologies. Some of which are going be more environmental, some of which are going be more genetic. And I frankly don't think that there's going to be a large group of children that - their autism is caused by their standard immunizations. But you know, it could be a small subset."
These three experts are frightening the public.
There's not supposed to be any connection between vaccines and autism. NONE. Yet these people are leaving themselves lots of loopholes. Parents aren't blind to their sidestepping of the issue. Comments like, "In general, vaccines are not the culprit," "It's possible that you could have a genetic subgroup," and "In the vast majority of cases of ASDs," are alarming admissions that experts are not a hundred percent sure.
Medical people who use doublespeak like this sound like politicians who don't want to be held accountable by speaking on the record. The truth is, anyone really involved in this realizes that autism is an epidemic with environmental triggers. And the one common thing being talked about by more and more parents and independent researchers is that it's the vaccines. Feinstein named "lead, alcohol, mercury, tobacco, various insecticides, petrochemical products and some medicines that are harmful to fetal development," and still exonerated vaccines. The real message seems to be that while experts know it's toxins, it just can't be the toxins in vaccines. It just can't.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.