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Weekly Wrap: Pollution Causes Schizophrenia, and Other Not-So-Cranky Ideas

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

I was interested in the recent study that linked autism and schizophrenia with pollution. From Fox News: 

Exposure to environmental pollution may cause brain changes that make people more vulnerable to developing autism or schizophrenia, according to a new study published in Environmental Heath Perspectives. ... Now, researchers from the University of Rochester have uncovered the biological mechanism that may explain how pollution can put people at a higher risk for both autism and schizophrenia. . . . . After four hours of pollution exposure during two four-day periods, mice exposed to pollution experienced marked changes in behavior compared to mice living in an environment with filtered air. . . "That kind of air pollution produces inflammation, it is going to produce inflammation peripherally and in the brain as well. And when you produce inflammation in the brain, you can kill cells there," Cory-Slechta said.

While the pollution in question in this study is the type generated by traffic, it's worth pointing out that the first to link general pollution to the rise of schizophrenia was  apparently ... us! In our 2010 book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and Man-made Epidemic, we looked at the staggering increase in schizophrenia, particularly in England, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. A lot of the high and mighty in England thought it was just ... better diagnosis. (Sound familiar?)

Mark Blaxill and I were thoroughly persuaded, however, by the painstaking research of E. Fuller Torrey, whose book The Invisible Plague charted the rise of mental illness. (And he's no crackpot -- he was the featured interviewee on 60 Minutes' recent report on mental illness and mass violence.)  Torrey was more focused on the fact that schizophrenia did increase, rather than why; he was busy  fighting off the mental-health version of the skeptics we all face who like to say, Epidemic? What Epidemic? He was kind enough to let us review and cite his voluminous research, and let me tell you, it is completely convincing. Strange as it seems, mental illness of the kind we deal with these days really did go from a standing start to an epidemic.

In our chapter called Pollution, we focused on schizophrenia, "The Industrial Revolution offers what is perhaps the first case study in how polluting the environment may have created conditions that give rise to new disease." We noted: "Starting around 1750, more and more peopole simply went mad in England and Wales. Statistics in E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., and Judy Miller's book The Invisible Plague, on 'Insane Persons in Psychiatric Hospitals, Workhouses and Under Care' tell the story. In 1807 the total was 5,500; by 1870 it was 54,713 -- a staggering tenfold increase over the 1807 figure. Yet historical references to insanity are few and far between before the middle of the 1700s. The meager references to madness that do exist before this time don't usuallly reference any kind of early adult onset, a characteristic that often accompanied this emerging form of mental illness."

What was happening? Most likely, some of the elements in coal -- especially lead, but also mercury and arsenic --could trigger brain disease in susceptible individuals (or just about anybody breathing that toxic stuff day after day without even the benefit of smokestacks dispersing it). Certainly, the idea that lead is implicated in schizophrenia is not new. Opler and colleagues proposed in 2004 in Environmental Health Perspectives that prenatal lead exposure might be a risk factor for later-onset schizophrenia, and that the continued use of leaded gasoline outside the developed world is a concern.

But linking the historic rise of schizophrenia to general pollution -- that appears to be our idea, one that we developed with data, charts, and logical argument four years ago. I bring this up now not to crow (although establishing priority in the publication of ideas is important for all kinds of reasons), but to suggest that those of us who link environmental exposures to modern illnesses are not so crackpot after all. We are just a little ahead of the game.

I can't tell you the care and caution we put into crafting that chapter, because -- compared to the other theories we advanced in the book -- we felt this was the most speculative, and the riskiest. We even said so: "Up until now, we've focusd on the direct connection between the medical adinistration of mercury and specific diseases. In this chapter we'll take a more speculative approach, looking at the modern emergence of a wide range of chronic disorders, while also placing a special emphasis on schizophrenia.

"And while schizophrenia is our leading model, there are other conditions, newly discovered in the wake of Europe's Industrial Revolution, that we also believe are part and parcel of the effects of pollution. ... Beyond schizophrenia, disease scenarios we consider include conditions ranging from juvenile arthritis and attention deficit disorder to genetic mutations like Down and fragile X syndrome. We offer this longer list of scenarios as part of a broader theory about the relationship between man's industrial activities and the rise of a whole new class of diseases. In the context of the rise of autism, these scenarios are important to consider as we investigate the role of man-made chemicals and toxins in our environment."

My point here is that the discoveries of our book and blog seem to be gaining, rather than losing, credibility:

-- It looks like we may be right about pollution in the rise of schizophrenia as a modern illness.

-- Our arguments about the rise of the worst form of syphilis -- that it was caused by the new kind of mercury used to treat it -- and the rise of hysteria -- that it was caused by young women treating syphilitic fathers with mercury -- have not been seriously challenged (or challenged at all). And those are some pretty nifty ideas.

-- Ditto with the amazing background of mercury exposure in the first 11 families of autistic children described in the first medical paper on autism, in 1943.

-- And a lot more where that came from!

All of it -- all of it -- leads us inexorably to the idea that the Age of Autism is man-made, and that toxins like mercury, including the mercury in vaccines, triggered it. And that the blindness and belligerence of the mainstream medical, scientific, manufacturing, and journalistic establishment perpetuate it by denying the epidemic and its environmental triggers.


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.




leah jackson

My dad is over 90 and a D-Day survivor. I was afraid he wouldn't survive a flu shot so I went with him to his internist who got all huffy after proposing one, with mercury no less, and said, "I gave this same shot to my pregnant wife." Jeez. No comment. My father reveres him so I kept it cool and managed to get him out of there in one piece. I feel like a saint for being so nice and polite.


Age of Autism, the book will surpass The Jungle in its influence and importance some day. Best history book on autism and mercury in medicine. And the best book to awaken people to the sad truth that the human race has been poisoning itself for quite a long time.


Your thinking is right on military vaccines.
I meet a woman last week working in the Dollar Store - she said that her miltary husband died of pneumonia -- he just did not have the immune system to fight it off. He left three rather young kids for this woman to raise alone.

Last night at my class reunion - I ran into an old friend who says her youngest son is home from the marines. She said he seems immature for a man that has been in the marines. She says he seems to have no concept of spending money. I thought of mild bipolar - they actually have a name for it -- cyclothymic. The only way it usually gets dignosed is if some one complains of depression.

Ahhh, depression and sucide rates in the military - I need not go there.

autism mom

I think mitochondrial toxicity leading to brain dysfunction (Schizophrenia and autism) can be caused by toxic exposure from pollution or too many vaccines.

More studies are needed on toxic effects to the mitochondria. Where are the CDC studies on the effects of multiple vaccines on a child's mitochondria? Where are the follow up studies on documented cases of severe vaccine adverse reaction resulting in a disablilty to find out what exactly went wrong?


Interesting news article about the recent CDC exposure to anthrax.

While I do feel sorry for those who in the line of work, through no fault of their own are now facing possible infection with a anthrax, I do find it more than a little telling that despite probable exposure, newspapers have stated that of the 86 or more people exposed, so far only 19 people wanted to receive the anthrax vaccine; and 27 have refused. Some haven't been seen yet or are "considering" it.
So, at least so far, 27 of the people who help manufacture vaccines would rather be knowingly exposed to the actual illness than risk taking the vaccine with its side effects. Only 19 actually wanted it.

Very telling. And perhaps worth a column here on A of A?
Apparently having the right to refuse a vaccine is ok as long as you work for the CDC. I'm fine with them refusing it. But it is intriguing that so many should do so, having one assumes, more idea of the risks and benefits of that vaccine than most.

My youngest son was born with birth defects after my husbands enforced anthrax vaccinations ( no right of refusal for our brave military troops at that time) which does color my thinking on the subject matter a little.

John Stone

For for Bob and Bob

I had very puzzling attempts to address ecologists such as George Monbiot and the editors of 'The Ecologist' about thimerosal. After all if a lot went past its use-by date it became a 'hazchem' problem but not apparently if it was injected into babies.

for Bob

Vaccines could basically be inner pollution.


Genomic Breakthroughs / Autism Speaks & Google Harness ‘Cloud’

The "Autism gene" theory again / 10,000 genomes


What this means:

10,000 lucky Autistic children, (many spining or head banging) will be selected to report to the nearest "Autism Speaks Research Center" and have their ....cheek swabbed... for DNA.

That is it, no further "Autism Speaks funds" spent directly in their regard.

They then go home and wait for a breakthrough / please no calls for 10 years...


saw this today.. http://www.kurzweilai.net/single-dose-of-sleeping-sickness-drug-reverses-autism-like-symptoms-in-mice

interesting ..it seems to block the mitochondrial effect..would be much more interesting if science would address the acquired mito disease by toxic injections and weed killers ..which may well be a huge step in prevention..


I had the same interaction with my 90+ year old Dad's doctor several years ago when the marketing campaign to sell adult vaccines ramped up in ernest. "How long has it been since you've had your tetanus booster?" the internist said. I asked him if he really thinks my father is in danger of contracting tetanus (it's not like he's even going outside much) and his eyes widened as he said it's the pertussis that he needs, showing alarm about the possibility, like it's a dire emergency, after a long life of living without such an intervention, that now in his old age when his travels and contact with others is minimal, that he needs to immediately roll up his arm. I disapprovingly said, "I don't think so", and he dropped it. He never brought it up again. I stand guard through each visit.



It is how deep in the rabbit hole you go.
How come your child was born sickly in the first place -- is that really normal?

And there is a whole lot of babies that don't make it - which makes me wonder how they use to have 12 to 14 kids here in the mountians and most of the time they all lived. Enough to fill up America.

Vicki Hill

While I would agree with you about the epidemics, keep in mind another potential reason. With advances in medicine (premature births, antibiotics), we now keep alive many people who would have died in infancy or early childhood in a previous age.

This is certainly true for my son, who was very sickly in infancy and toddlerhood. But today he is a healthy 26...with ASD and other disorders. So it may be, in part, that a subset of our children are more prone to disease, pollution, toxins, etc.


Did I tell you all that a month ago - at the Veteran's doctor - checkup -- the nurse told my 90 year old, Parkinson shuffling feet Father that it was time for his tetanus shot.

I told her there was not much chance that he will get tetanus sitting in the house these days. Unless it was also the DTP shot -- and it was the pertussin shot she was really giving.

She said it was.

She said that they (our soldiers) were bringing back pertussin from Iraq, plus they were coming up from South American and bringing it with them. And that if my Dad did not get the pertussin shot - at his age if he got it he would surely die.

That fear threat burns me up. I told her he would die for sure if given the DPT shot, right there in her office.

Her eyes got really big and she said nothing else.


Victor is right!
When I was in the sixth grade the weekly reader had an article on Love Canal -- environmental protection was going on full strength ever since -- think about the 60s. Since then there is such things as environmental science and a new federal agency called the EPA. It has been in the school books, and everyone has been exposed to this information.

Try telling the general population about vaccines and if they do hear me out --- which is seldom -- Not much more thinking on the matter do they give.


"After four hours of pollution exposure during two four-day periods, mice exposed to pollution experienced marked changes in behavior compared to mice living in an environment with filtered air. . . "That kind of air pollution produces inflammation, it is going to produce inflammation peripherally and in the brain as well. And when you produce inflammation in the brain, you can kill cells there," Cory-Slechta said.Of course you can kill cells with likely any kind of pollution, they act surprised. All they are doing here is trying to take away the blame from vaccines, the main cause, and cause doubt where there is none. What do they think happens in (CO) poisoning? Why couldn't they have done this with vaccines as well? They easily could have, I bet the results would be more pronounced/instantaneous, but no they'd rather put the blame on industry (especially big oil) so they could continue pushing toxic vaccines.

 Bob Moffitt

I wish that majority of the US Supreme Court had used the word "polluted" instead of "unavoidably unsafe".

What a great word to describe vaccines today.

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