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Autism and Environment Today

Irva_hertz-picciottoBy Anne Dachel

Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto at UC Davis MIND Intstitute is an expert in autism.  For years, she's been notable in news stories on developments in research. 

Hertz-Picciotto was covered last month in  On Nov 5, 2015, published the piece, What Environmental Factors Cause Autism?--Experts can rattle off autism-linked genes, but other risks are very hard to pin down, by Sarah DeWeerdt.

DeWeerdt acknowledged that genes are a factor in autism and researchers have found "autism-linked genes," but "genetic studies failed to find a single obvious cause."  There are "other risks."   She listed a lack of folic acid, maternal anti-depressants, premature birth, C-sections, old moms, old dads, pesticides and having babies too close together.  DeWeerdt let us know that there are so many factors, and just because something is associated with autism doesn't mean that one can cause the other.   Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente, said that we're spent so much time looking at genetics, 'there's still a ton to be learned.'

DeWeert quoted Marc Weisskopf, associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who said, 'The problem with epidemiology and observational science is that it’s hard to ever completely know you’ve got causality.' 

It's all so confusing.  It's hard to know which environmental factors affect the child and which ones affected the mother or the father.  And then there's "the time lag" between exposure and diagnosis.  There are the pre and post natal exposures.

DeWeert throws out so many possible environment risk factors that the reader could easily figure that it's impossible to know what might be linked to autism in any particular child.  She called autism "a puzzle." 

There was no sense of urgency, no demand that they learn to PREVENT the disorder, no recognition of the large percentage of autistic children who start out as normally developing babies and who inexplicably lose learned skills and regress into autism.  DeWeert didn't mention the current autism rate even once.

So who's to blame for the lack of science on the environmental triggers in autism

It's all those parents who link vaccines to autism! 

DeWeerdt wrote that Hertz-Picciotto feels that the "thoroughly discredited" claim of a connection between vaccines and autism "has contributed to scientists' skepticism about other potential environmental factors."  She quoted Hertz-Picciotto: 'I think in the autism field that actually has been a bit of an obstacle because people equate vaccines and environment.'

 REALLY?  Is Hertz-Picciotto working alone at the MIND Institute?  How could two other MIND Institute scientists, Dr. Judy Van de Water and Dr. David Amaral, have gone on the record with serious concerns about vaccine safety and even linking vaccines to autism? 

In my book, The Big Autism Cover-Up, How and Why the Media is Lying to the American Public, I cited Dr. Van de Water, an epidemiologist at the MIND.  I quoted  Van de Water from a TIME Magazine story  about Hannah Poling in 2008.  (Hannah was the young Georgia girl whose claim of vaccine-induced autism was compensated by the DOJ after medical experts at HHS agreed vaccines were causal.)

'Some vaccines, such as those aimed at viral infections, are designed to ramp up the immune system at warp speed.  They are designed to mimic the infection So you can imagine, getting nine at one time, how sick you could be."

Van de Water said that children whose immune systems are slower to develop are more likely to become autistic when vaccinated.  She said she was worried that the current schedule contained too many shots for some children. She advised parents who are concerned to space out vaccines. 

And what about the very public statements made by Dr. Amaral, director of autism research MIND Institute? 

Remember when veteran journalist Robert MacNeil interviewed Amaral for the PBS series, Autism Now in 2011,  back when the official rate for autism was one in every 110 children? 

ROBERT MACNEIL: What is your position today on vaccines and autism?

  1. DAVID AMARAL: So I think it’s pretty clear that, in general, vaccines are not the culprit. There  has been enough epidemiological evidence showing that if you look at children that receive the standard childhood vaccines that, if anything, those children are at slightly less risk of having autism than children that aren’t immunized.

And so, you know, I think it probably is a waste of effort at this time to try and understand vaccines as a major culprit for, or a major cause of, autism. It’s not to say, however, that  there is a small subset of children who may be particularly vulnerable to vaccines.

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.

So was Amaral serious when he said  this on PBS? 

Hertz-Piciotto was also interviewed by MacNeil on PBS in 2011.    She was positive about an environmental link to autism, saying, 'I have a lot of candidate factors, actually. And they include nutritional factors, infectious agents, chemicals in our environment, including chemicals in the household products that we use every day. There are a variety of factors that could be influencing development.'  She talked about pesticides along with "nutritional deficiencies." 

This was their exchange regarding vaccines and autism:

ROBERT MACNEIL: "Do you think that part of the skewing was a reluctance of whoever funded it, defund environmental research because of the popular pre-occupation with the vaccine issue? That it scared people off?"

  1. HERTZ-PICCOTTO: "Well, I think I encountered resistance when I brought up the word environment and I was very surprised to find that colleagues in the field of autism immediately equated environment with vaccines. So that may well have played some role.

"I think there’s also a lot of excitement about technology and molecular biology has brought a lot of recent developments in terms of how we look at genes and how many genes we can do at what price with what kinds of new technological developments we have. So often the big machines get money at National Institutions of Health. And those of us who are doing a little bit more of the dirty kinds of work don’t necessarily get it as much of the research dollars."

Maybe Hertz-Picciotto figured that the public has a very short memory for news flashes and they won't remember what Amaral, cited as the head of research of the MIND, said four years ago. 

Then on April 12, 2012, both Amaral and Hertz Picciotto were included in the USA Today story, After $1 billion, experts see progress on autism's causes, by Mike Stobbe.

Finding the cause is critical because if not, according to Hertz-Picciotto, 'you're not going to be able to stop this increase.' She was described as a researcher "who is leading a closely watched study into what sparks autism disorders."

—Hertz-Picciotto's study of 1,600 children in Northern California is comparing autistic children, youngsters with other developmental disabilities, and those who have no such diagnoses. Some results have been released already, including the recent finding that suggests a link between autism and a mother's obesity. An earlier part of the study found that children born to mothers living less than two blocks from a freeway were twice as likely to have autism — presumably because of auto exhaust and air pollution, the researchers speculated.

David Amaral's photo was featured in the piece.  Stobbe reminded readers: "For years, the best-known environmental theory involved childhood vaccines, prompted by a flawed 1998 British study that has been thoroughly discredited. Dozens of later studies have found no link between vaccines and autism."  (It seems that Amaral's 2011 comment about the vaccine link on PBS had been neatly forgotten.)

Let's go back to 2006, when Dan Olmsted, then a senior editor at UPI, interviewed Hertz-Picciotto for his Age of Autism series in Problems in CDC Data.

Olmsted reported on a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of their own system of monitoring and evaluating the safety of vaccines.  Despite the fact that this setup literally gives the CDC oversight over itself, it's the way it's set up.  While officials expected that the results would show that using toxic mercury in vaccines had no harmful side effects, there were problems. 

 Hertz-Picciotto, the chairwoman of the panel evaluating the safety of the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal, was less than convincing when Olmsted interviewed her.

'I think what we're saying is that (study) wasn't the last word and that things need to be looked at again and perhaps with different methodology.'

In addition to the CDC study, Hertz-Picciotto said other research had even more problems or weaknesses.  She said that autism science had "barely begun."  As far as vaccines were concerned, back in 2006, Hertz-Picciotto said 'It's an open question whether anything about vaccines -- timing, dose, preservative -- is related to the rise in diagnoses.'  (It should be noted that studies she questioned were ones used by the Institute of Medicine in 2004 to show that there was no link between thimerosal and autism.)

Between 2006 and 2015 Hertz-Picciotto seems to have gone from calling the autism/vaccine link 'an open question,' to saying that all the science is in. 

In 2009, Hertz-Picciotto was included in a Scientific American article called, New Study: Autism Linked to Environment.    She placed the blame on chemical exposures.  She cited a study that showed that "mothers of autistic children were twice as likely to use pet flea shampoos, which contain organophosphates or pyrethroids."  She named research linking autism to  vinyl, cosmetics and things like antibacterial soaps.  She did sound very concerned about increasing numbers. 

'If we're going to stop the rise in autism in California, we need to keep these studies going and expand them to the extent possible.' 

'Autism incidence in California shows no sign yet of plateauing.'

Also in 2009, Environmental Health News covered Hertz-Piciotto in Autism increase not caused only by shifts in diagnoses; environmental factors likely, new California study says.

 Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche of the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences analyzed 17 years of state data that tracks developmental disabilities, and used birth records and Census Bureau data to calculate the rate of autism and age of diagnosis.

The results: Migration to the state had no effect. And changes in how and when doctors diagnose the disorder and when state officials report it can explain less than half of the increase.

Combined, Hertz-Picciotto said those factors “don’t get us close” to the 600% to 700% increase in diagnosed cases.

 That means the rest is unexplained and likely caused by something that pregnant women or infants are exposed to, or a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

 “There’s genetics and there’s environment. And genetics don’t change in such short periods of time,” Hertz-Picciotto, a researcher at UC Davis’ M.I.N.D. Institute, a leading autism research facility, said in an interview Thursday.

In 2011, Hertz-Picciotto was on Dr. Oz in a show entitled, What Causes Autism.  There she cited a study that show that pregnant women who lived a fourth of a mile away from a freeway were twice as likely to have a child with autism.

In 2013 at UC Berkley Hertz-Picciotto lectured on the cause of autism.  The list of possible candidates was long and nothing was for sure.  She talked about how to investigate environmental links to autism with large scale studies of children.  One of the candidates was mercury exposure and autism--mercury exposure from fish and amalgams.   She reported that after checking blood levels, mercury was shown not to be a factor.   Despite this, she said that studying mercury levels in the blood couldn't determine if it was causal. 

Hertz-Picciotto went on to say that air pollution and lack of supplements could be factors.  She ended with a discussion of prenatal development.  Once again, nothing was conclusive.

Then in 2014, Hertz-Picciotto was covered by CBS Sacramento in UC Davis Finds Link Between Autism, Mental-Health Drugs During Pregnancy.   Readers were told, "New research by the UC Davis MIND Institute links pregnant moms who take anxiety and depression medications called selective serotonin reputake inhibitors to children with a higher risk of autism and developmental delays. Hertz-Picciotto headed up the study which focused more on the connection between the drugs and autism in boys. That’s because boys are four times more likely to have it than girls."

She urged parents not to panic, however.   

"But it’s not time for parents to panic, she said, since much of current autism research points to a number of risk factors leading to a child’s diagnosis.

'We’ve published other findings for example, related to nutritional factors, exposures to air pollution,' she said."

Hertz-Picciotto needs to look at the coverage from the Sacramento Bee, also on Apr 16.   In a piece called, Number of Sacramento County autistic students doubles over six years, the Bee announced:

About 3,100 Sacramento County public school students are autistic, a number that has risen seven-fold since 2000, according to new figures from the California Department of Education.

The figure represent a jump of about 300, or 10 percent, from 2013 to 2014. More than one of every 80 students in Sacramento County public schools is classified as autistic.

The number of autistic children also rose in El Dorado, Placer and Yolo County.

Statewide, the number of autistic students rose by 6,100, or 8 percent, to almost 79,000. The number of autistic students statewide has risen by between 5,000 and 7,000 most years for more than a decade. In 2001, there were about 14,000 autistic students in the state.

 If anyone wants a sobering look at autism in California, listen to the State Senate Select Committee on Autism press conference held in 2009

There were "14,000 students with autism a decade ago.”   Today, “46,000 students and growing."  (And according to the Sacramento Bee, that number is now almost 79,000.)

It's amazing that no one in the state government considers this a health care and economic emergency despite seeing this explosion in disabled kids.  It's even more stunning that top researchers at the MIND in California can vacillate on the vaccine issue.  If, as Hertz-Picciotto seems to believe, the numbers are real, we can't just sit around for decades guessing at the cause while trying to bury the mounting evidence on the link to vaccines.  Maybe Hertz-Piciotto and others can get funding if THEY PROMISE NOT TO CONSIDER VACCINES AS A FACTOR, but it won't make the link go away.

Seven years ago we learned that medical experts at HHS conceded the claim of vaccine-induced autism in the case of Hannah Poling.  That was the same year that the former head of NIH, Dr. Bernadine Healy, announced on CBS News that we haven't answered the autism-vaccine question because population studies can't disprove causation and we've never looked at the children who got sick and regressed into autism. 

Four years ago we learned that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had compensated 83 cases of vaccine injury that included autism.  (That list has grown since then with more cases added.)

Back when Dan Olmsted interviewed Hertz-Picciotto in 2006 the U.S. autism rate was one in every 166 children.  Today it's one in every 68.  (Or one in every 45, accounting to a recent update that everyone seems determined to ignore.)  While health officials still try to claim that the numbers don't represent a real increase, Hertz-Picciotto disagrees.  She knows that this is a crisis of unprecedented proportion.  She knows it's linked to the environment.  It just can't be vaccines.

Anne Dachel Book CoverAnne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of  The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.



Ronald Kostoff


Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has an excellent publication and citation record; she is certainly a competent and well-regarded researcher, according to these metrics. She has studied the effects of arsenic, lead, mercury, pesticides, PAH, PCBs, air pollution, particulate matter, parental age, maternal stress, genetic factors, food additives, and many others, on different diseases.

But, Wakefield was well-regarded as a researcher until he questioned the safety of [REDACTED], David Lewis was well-regarded as a researcher until he questioned the safety of biosludge, William Marcus was well-regarded as a researcher until he questioned the safety of fluorides, many of the authors of the Bioinitiative Report were well-regarded as researchers until they questioned the safety of EMF, etc. Career-wise, Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has everything to lose and nothing to gain by drawing a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, if such a link exists.

But, why single her out? There are over 90,000 pediatricians in the USA. They are on the front lines with the vaccines; do you believe they are unaware of the linkages? Do you believe the CDC management are unaware of the linkage, especially in light of Thompson's allegations? Do you believe the other Federal agency researchers and bureaucrats responsible for developing vaccine science and regulation are unaware of the linkages? Yet, essentially none of these 100,000+ in the USA alone (to say nothing of their counterparts in other countries) are willing to come (partially) forward as Thompson has.

Five decades ago, a colleague of mine described an experience he had while doing aerodynamics research for one of the many research contracting companies. In those days, many researchers were making minimal salaries, but did research because they viewed it as a 'calling'. He asked his boss for a raise, and his boss, who was Jewish, asked him the question: "Do you want to do research, or do you want to eat lox and bagels?"

Today, given the profusion of 'research empires' in academia and elsewhere, and the need for continuous infusion of large amounts of money, the question has morphed into: "Do you want to solve the problem, or do you want to eat lox and bagels?" 'Lox and bagels' in the biomedical world comes from research on the 'politically correct' toxins: heavy metals, smoking, excess alcohol, air pollution, etc. They are important, but they are only part of the problem/solution. 'Solving the problem' may additionally require venturing on the third-rails of biomedical research: EMF, vaccines, biosludge, fluorides, etc. Metaphorically, Wakefield, Lewis, Marcus, the Bioinitiative Report authors, etc, won't be eating 'lox and bagels', but they will have contributed more to 'solving the problem' than the 'lox and bagel' connoisseurs ever will.


Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto at UC Davis MIND Intstitute is an expert in autism.


What exactly is it, that qualifies her as an autism expert?

go Rand

It is always interesting that the “environmental causes” of Autism must be something floating around in the air, or something the toddler contacts walking on the grass...

Injecting 8 or 9 vaccines at the same time, with who knows what... is not considered to be an environmental factor.

The first and only thing most of these “Autism gene researchers” want is an endless supply of easy money. From there, they want a resort convention center to present their worthless progress reports and seek additional funding for another year.


Still, I think it's important to be clear and accurate. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto did not say that an autism-vaccine link has been "thoroughly discredited by the scientific community". Those are the reporter's words, and we know how slanted reporting can be on these issues. Certainly Dr. Hertz-Picciotto is not campaigning on behalf of an autism-vaccine link, but neither has she said that has been ruled out, as far as I can see. Her research is not focussed on an autism-vaccine link, but if it were her career would probably end or at least a lot of her research funding would dry up. The research she is doing may have benefits in developing an understanding of toxins and the immune system in relation to autism. Most likely the quote attributed to Dr. Hertz-Picciotto was accurate, so Dr. Hertz-Picciotto may not feel she has to request a correction as it would only be a correction of a conceivable implication.

Anne's article is good - makes a lot of good points. But I do feel that needed some clarification. The blackout on independent autism-vaccine research is deplorable.

Anne McElroy Dachel

I received this information from F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP:

Irva Hertz-Picciotto PhD, MPH is remarkably well trained.

Her UC Davis Mind Institute Bio states that she is an environmental epidemiologist with over 300 scientific publications addressing environmental exposures.

PubMed lists 259 of those publications, the earliest dated May 1987 (PMD3573228).

One hundred and fifty (150) publications were published since April 2005 and Dr. Hertz-Picciotto was the lead author in ten (10) of them.

In the following four of those ten publications, Autism was mentioned in the title:

PMID 21205326 /January 2011

PMID 20056569/January 2010

PMID 19234401/January 2009

PMID 16835068 /July 2006]


Sue M

Know what is really upsetting about the MIND Institute? Families for Early Autism Treatment in Sacramento, CA, funded MIND to find the causations and cures of autism, and MIND has spent YEARS muddying the waters instead. Grrrr.


She said she was worried that the current schedule contained too many shots for some children. She advised parents who are concerned to space out vaccines.


Really ?? So worried, that she's advising parents to just keep on injecting their children with poisons.

Just … you know, space them out, so the damage isn't so profoundly disabling.


Just this year; some very clever, some one; put on facebook - the autism puzzle -- plus a missing puzzle piece just about to be put into the puzzle that was labeled "vaccines".

And Hertz-Picciotto can kiss my two, eye witnessing --eyes and other places.

John Stone

Hi Twyla

To quote the article:

"Progress has also been hampered by history unique to autism research: the theory, thoroughly discredited by the scientific community, that childhood vaccines cause autism. Bitterness over the way this falsehood has shaped the public view of autism has contributed to scientists’ skepticism about other potential environmental factors, says Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of environmental and public health sciences at the University of California–Davis MIND Institute. “I think in the autism field that actually has been a bit of an obstacle because people equate vaccines and environment.”"

So certainly DeWeerdt ascribes these views to Hertz-Picciotto, implies that thet thet have been expressed to her in similar words, while the words that are quoted say much less. It is possible that DeWeerdt has made it up, but a competent journalist would know that they had over-stepped the mark and it would be up to Hertz-Picciotto to make this clear if it was not what she thought or said at all (it seems like the kind of article you check back with interviewees before publishing). The statement which is quoted is in itself rather problematic and perhaps equivocal.


And then DeWeerdt asked Hertz-Picciotto what she made of William Thompson's statements that he and others at the CDC manipulated data to hide a link between MMR and autism
and H-P responded...what?


To clarify, these are the author's words: "the theory, thoroughly discredited by the scientific community, that childhood vaccines cause autism"

Dr. Hertz-Picciotto says, "“I think in the autism field that actually has been a bit of an obstacle because people equate vaccines and environment.”

This is true. There is a clamp-down on research into anything related to a vaccines-autism link, which makes people fearful of researching environmental factors.

Interesting that the immune system is mentioned several times during the article.

"One of the best known and most widely accepted [environmental risk factor] is maternal infection during pregnancy." If infections in mothers increases the chance of having a baby who is autistic, why would anyone think vaccines during pregnancy are a good idea? Perhaps artificially stimulating the immune system during pregnancy also increases the risk.

"Some teams documented altered levels of immune molecules in pregnant women whose children would later be diagnosed with autism, as well as abnormal patterns of immune markers in the children themselves. Numerous animal model studies have also shown that pregnant rats or mice exposed to pathogens or molecules that mimic infection give birth to pups that show brain and behavioral abnormalities reminiscent of those seen in autism.
'It’s a coherent message from the epidemiological, human studies and the animal studies or the cellular studies,' Lee says. 'It’s not just one study here or there.'

"The finer details are still being sorted out. Some studies implicate viral infections, whereas others point to bacterial infections, for instance. And there are different answers as to when a developing fetus is most vulnerable to these effects. But the consensus is that the effect is real."

And on the last page:
"Many scientists suspect inflammation or other immune-related pathways are involved."
"literature, for example, regarding inflammation"
"this chemical soup—which also includes the body’s own hormones, signaling molecules made by the immune system, vitamins, and other dietary factors"

Clearly, the immune system is involved in autism. But only the immune system's reaction to air pollution, not the effects of our expanded vaccine program?

Interesting that the whole point of the article is how hard it is to determine causation with epidemiology and how many factors are involved, including how individuals react to toxins -- yet we are supposedly so sure that vaccines are not a factor, based purely on epidemiology (flawed/rigged epidemiology at that).

In order to even discuss these issues at, the author has to begin with an assurance that vaccines have been ruled out. But that is not Dr. Hertz-Picciottos's statement. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto only says that there is a resistance to researching environmental factors because of the resistance to researching vaccines in relation to autism.

After all, discoveries regarding sensitivity to toxins such as mercury, and the immune system's role in autism, could indeed implicate vaccines.

Anna Quandt

Thank you Anne for this update on environmental research. I remember having such high hopes when the MIND Institute was set up. I'd like to see a break down of their funding sources. Are there any environmental scientists working on this problem who do not rely on all "the usual" funding sources?


That's the real question, isn't it? How long can this go on? Thank you Anne. Any word from Minister Tony in LA?


Thanks Anne for keeping track of the corruption in all official aspects of autism research. I remember when the Mind Institute was a hopeful beginning and now it is just another government controlled sham. Slate magazine has proven its untrustworthiness in so many other articles. It is supposedly one of those hipster type magazines that succeed in distracting generation X and Y from looking too closely at the autism disaster with politically correct group think. I'm glad you bravely wade in those dirty waters and filter it in so that I can drink it in.

Still.... the other day I was trying to figure out the inscrutable economic system (saw The Big Short which reminded me of another fraud and cover up by greedy people) and I went to a website for Black Rock, which is an investment company that has a magazine type website. In the health section there was an article on chicken pox. The author hardly touted the dangers of the vaccine but wasn't pushing it either. Maybe I was reading between the lines but it did seem as if the author was writing for an audience that wasn't as fooled as the general public. Basically the article listed the vaccine as one option among many. Could there be a new undercurrent of awareness that would make this author tread lightly on the vaccine subject? (By the way...totally agree with John Stone and other commenters.)


I have been digging into the history of schizophrenia. It is eerily similar to that of autism. There is no evidence that schizophrenia existed in any form, at least on any significant scale, prior to the mid-1800s. When hospitals wards suddenly started filling up with schizophrenics in the late 1800s, doctors and researchers tried to claim that it had always been with us -- that we were just getting better at diagnosing it. I went back through the archives of the NY Times, which made its debut in 1851. I could find no mention of schizophrenia at all until the 1920s. That's how long it took for the most serious of psychiatric illnesses to make the newspaper of record, even though 1 in every 100 normally developing adolescents and young adults apparently had been suddenly hearing voices and believing in paranoid delusions, since the beginning of time.

The research has taken a very similar course to that of autism -- blaming bad parenting, bad families, bad genes, too much of this, too little of that, round and round and round and round, for more than 100 years.

Meanwhile, the most obvious suspects, like for example, mercury fillings, which were adopted universally by dentists as the filling of choice about 10 years before schizophrenia was first officially identified in the medical literature, have never been studied. There is never been a single study comparing health outcomes in general, or mental health outcomes in particular, of what I am calling the amalgamated vs. the unamalgamated. The studies of dental amalgams are very similar to the studies of vaccines: Researchers compare people with a bunch of fillings to people with even more fillings and say, "See, there is no difference in the rate of illness. Therefore, dental amalgams don't cause illness." Or, they compare the amount of mercury in the blood and urine of the sick amalgamated vs. the well amalgamated and say, "See, there is no difference; therefore, dental amalgams don't cause illness." There is no discussion of susceptible subgroups, and no recognition -- at least within mainstream medicine or dentistry -- of the fact that mercury could seep into tissue or alter the gut flora in ways that could cause chronic illness, even though a remarkable study published in 1993 showed that dental amalgams installed in primates immediately rendered their gut bacteria resistant to five different antibiotics.

The only actual amalgamated vs. unamalgamated studies were done in children, and ended by age 15, which is the absolute earliest that boys would begin to show signs of schizophrenia. (Girls typically don't exhibit the first signs until much later.) But those studies were not even designed to look for the first signs of schizophrenia, so it is no wonder the researchers didn't find any. (They did find signs of slightly lower I.Q. and the first markers of kidney disease in the amalgamated group, but then they casually dismissed those findings as insignificant.) One study done in Lisbon, Portugual tried to follow the subjects until age 17, but the researchers lost track of 25 percent of their N of 500 along the way, so their data is useless.

When you look at the pathetic history of schizophrenia research, you realize just what's at stake in the current autism debate. It seems as if there is a window of opportunity once an environmentally induced epidemic takes hold, in which the source can be identified, after which point the research disintegrates into a hopeless guessing game.

Posted by: lisa |

George stevens

Great article so obvious why they changed their tune. Sorry to change the subject but anyone know why the "african sleeping sickness drug" from last year supposedly reversing autism symptoms in mice has been so quiet on their findings? I thought it was supposed to be finished this summer?

Bob Moffit

"Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto at UC Davis MIND Intstitute is an expert in autism. For years, she's been notable in news stories on developments in research."

I would not define Ms. Hertz-Picciotto as an "expert in autism". I would define Ms. Hertz-Picciotto as an "expert in muddying the waters" of anyone seeking to identify an "environmental causation" for the inexplicable .. dramatic increase in autism diagnoses.

Consider .. SHE disagrees with "those health officials still trying to claim that the numbers don't represent a real increase" .. because .. SHE knows that this is a crisis of unprecedented proportion .. SHE knows it's linked to the environment .. yet .. SHE knows it just can't be vaccines.

Which makes Ms Hertz-Picciotto an expert in "sophistry" .. not "autism" .. and .. will continue to profit from her expertise as a "sophist" .. until the SCIENTIFIC TRUTH ABOUT AUTISM'S LINK WITH VACCINES CAN NO LONGER BE DENIED.


Thank you for writing this article! Could you put it into the form of a letter and send it to all the researchers listed asking them to clarify their views. You could post their replies. you talk about them having no sense of urgency even given the increasing numbers and not talking about regression. They need to address this. They have been put in the position of "autism expert" and it is their responsibity to be concerned about our children and do anything they can to help them.

tony bateson

People like Hertz-Picciotto are part of a dying breed who are afraid of the truth so they shy away from looking at it by whatever means are open to them. The idea that our amazing scientific capabilities have been unable to untangle autism is just implausible. Any research that suggests it might come dangerously close causes people to dive for cover. But US researchers may have 'put their foot in it'. Searching for factors that might be relevant to Mad Hatters Disease (to all intents and purposes autism) it is disclosed that certain isotopes of mercury conflagrate with phosphorous to cause damage to tissue. Since the brain contains phosphorous, indeed it is essential to life, is this the way ethyl mercury can kill neurons? I wouldn't bet against it.
Tony Bateson, Oxford UK.

Ed Yazbak

Thank you Anne for this magnificent report

John Stone

Thanks Anne

People like Hertz-Picciotto must know that it isn't good enough to hide behind the studies of DeStefano, Verstraeten, Madsen, Thorsen, Taylor, Andrews, Miller, Fombonne etc. - which are in their own way evidence of the magnitude of the problem. Not only did they sweep it under the rug, they were caught sweeping it under the rug. The way the papers were conducted was evidence of the problem they deny. The question is how long can this go on - scientists no doubt face professional retribution if they speak up, but they will never be forgiven by history for not doing so. The damage to children, the damage to families, the ever spiralling cost to society: those that know bear the burden of reponsibility for their silence.

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