Friday, June 17, 2005 flushes its credibility down the toilet

(NOTE ADDED 6/20/05: I've closed this post to comments for now, because the discussion thread is getting way too long and hard to follow. However, never let it be said that I shut down debate in the face of some criticism. Consequently, I have three followup posts here, here, and here and comments are welcome after any of them. Yes, this is also a not-so-subtle way of trying to get you at least to look at my followup articles if you still want to post a comment about this controversy.)


I had been tempted to try to let this cup pass, but I couldn't, not after Skeptico, PZ, and several others e-mailed me about this article, seemingly expecting a response. I thought about just chilling out last night, enjoying Game 4 of the NBA Finals, and letting a response wait until next week, but the more I thought about it, the harder it was to wait. Thank heaven for laptops and wireless networking.

Believe it or not, I've been a fairly regular reader for at least the three years. Despite its leftward tilt, I've generally enjoyed the writing and features. I've even linked to articles and features on occasion. Now I'm going to have to reconsider my opinion of the site. Why? has just plopped down on the web the biggest, steamingest, drippiest turd I've ever seen it publish, an article so mindnumbingly one-sided and uncritical that in my eyes it utterly destroys nearly all credibility has had as a source of reliable news and comment. Honestly, the editors of should hang their heads in shame for publishing this paranoid piece of fear-mongering and trumpeting it as "investigative reporting."

The article to which I refer is, of course, Deadly Immunity (which was a "coinvestigation" by and Rolling Stone--a magazine whose attempts at investigative journalism I haven't taken seriously in years). It's a one-sided account by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of the supposed link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism that is being promoted by antivaccine activists as an indictment of the government and pharmaceutical companies. For example, the Schaefer Autism Report e-mail list reports that ABC News has cancelled appearances by RFK Jr. on 20/20 and Good Morning America this week. The e-mail invokes the usual conspiracy-mongering, saying, "Our opinion is that they are more concerned about protecting their huge advertising revenues from the pharmaceutical industry than reporting news that could protect pregnant women, infants and children from mercury tainted vaccines." Personally, I suspect it was because ABC News probably figured out that the article was a biased and shoddily researched piece of crap, but then that's just my opinion and hope. Certainly, the newsletter does nothing to dispel my suspicion that this was nothing more than a propaganda piece:
Lujene Clark, co-founder of NoMercury and A-CHAMP (Advocates for Children's Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning), worked extensively with Mr. Kennedy and his office over the past several weeks in preparing the article for publication. The print copy will contain a sidebar from Ms. Clark, providing perspective from her experience as the mother of a thimerosal-injured child and advocate for removing mercury from vaccines.
So the preparation of the article was heavily influenced by an antivaccination activist. Gee, why am I not surprised to learn this? Why didn't just let Lujene Clark write the article? The result would have been the same. In any case, there's so much misinformation, paranoid conspiracy-theory raving, and one-sided stuff in this article that it's hard to know where to start. Fortunately, I've dealt with this topic a few times before recently. Here are just a few of the major problems with the article:

Quote mining. The article begins by making dire insinuations about a conference that was held at the CDC, known as the Simpsonwood Conference, after the conference center where it was held in 2000. It is not an auspicious start, as RFK Jr. does what mercury-autism activists do best: quote-mining. This meeting was a preliminary meeting about the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). The entire transcript (warning: big file) of the meeting is over 260 pages long (although there is a version with selected excerpts), and RFK Jr. has carefully chosen a couple of quotes that, when taken out of context, sound like a coverup. I haven't had time to read the whole transcript (and I can assure you that what I have read of it is incredibly dry and dull), but what I see is a lot of discussion about the consistency and accuracy of the early data collection, sources of potential bias in the studies, and debate about what it means. The quote about how the data have to be "handled" is described by RFK Jr. thusly:
Dr. John Clements, vaccines advisor at the World Health Organization, declared flatly that the study "should not have been done at all" and warned that the results "will be taken by others and will be used in ways beyond the control of this group. The research results have to be handled."
Here is what Dr. Clements actually said in context (warning, link to a big file):
I am really concerned that we have taken off like a boat going down one arm of the mangrove swamp at high speed, when in fact there was not enough discussion really early on about which way the boat should go at all. And I really want to risk offending everyone in the room by saying that perhaps this study should not have been done at all, because the outcome of it could have, to some extent, been predicted, and we have all reached this point now where we are left hanging, even though I hear the majority of consultants say to the Board that they are not convinced there is a causality direct link between Thimerosal and various neurological outcomes.

I know how we handle it from here is extremely problematic. The ACIP is going to depend on comments from this group in order to move forward into policy, and I have been advised that whatever I say should not move into the policy area because that is not the point of this meeting. But nonetheless, we know from many experiences in history that the pure scientist has done research because of pure science. But that pure science has resulted in splitting the atom or some other process which is completely beyond the power of the scientists who did the research to control it. And what we have here is people who have, for every best reason in the world, pursued a direction of research. But there is now the point at which the research reults have to be handled, and even if this committee decides that there is no association and that information gets out, the work that has been done and through the freedom of information that will be taken by others and will be used in ways beyond the control of this group. And I am very concerned about that as I suspect it is already too late to do anything regardless of any professional body and what they say. (p. 247)
It sure sounds a whole lot less conspiratorial in context, doesn't it? Dr. Clements was just expressing a quite reasonable fear that lawyers will use very preliminary and unconfirmed studies for their own ends, which is what they do indeed routinely do. Such a concern was not at all unreasonable and is still not unreasonable. In fact, RFK Jr.'s highly selective quoting of Dr. Clements' words is a perfect example of what Dr. Clements was clearly afraid of!

Confusing correlation and causation. The article repeats the usual canard about how autism was unknown before the 1940's, which, coincidentally was when thimerosal-containing vaccines were first used. The article even goes so far as to claim:
The disease was unknown until 1943, when it was identified and diagnosed among 11 children born in the months after thimerosal was first added to baby vaccines in 1931.
No, the reason the disease was "unknown" until 1943 was because it was not described as a specific condition by Dr. Leo Kanner until 1943, after which Dr. Hans Asperger described a similar condition that now bears his name in 1944. Before that, although Dr. Eugen Bleuler had coined the term "autism" in 1911, no specific diagnostic criteria existed for the disease. Even for decades after 1943 autism was not infrequently confused with mental retardation or schizophrenia, and over the last two decades the diagnostic criteria for autism and autism spectum disorders have been widened. In any case, if thimerosal in vaccines were the cause of autism, we would expect autism rates in Denmark and Canada to have plummeted recently, because Denmark eliminated thimerosal from its vaccines by 1995 and Canada removed them around the same time. No such decrease in autism rates has occurred in either country, even though there has been more than enough time for such a decrease to make itself apparent if there were truly a link between mercury exposure and autism. I would ask the mercury-autism activists: If this particular correlation does mean causation, if mercury in thimerosal is indeed a major cause or contributor to autism, why is it, then, that autism rates have not started to fall dramatically in Denmark and Canada by now? That there has been no such decrease is very strong epidemiological evidence that there is no link.

RFK then goes on to list a bunch of studies supposedly showing how toxic thimerosal is, berry-picked and without descriptions of the actual doses of thimerosal used. However, the most idiotic statement is here:
In 1930, the company [Eli Lilly] tested thimerosal by administering it to 22 patients with terminal meningitis, all of whom died within weeks of being injected -- a fact Lilly didn't bother to report in its study declaring thimerosal safe.
The patients had "terminal meningitis" in 1930 and died after injection with thimerosal? Imagine that. Given that penicillin had not been discovered yet, I would have been surprised if any of them lived.

Double standards in looking at "conflicts of interest." RFK Jr. goes on and on about alleged conflicts of interest by vaccine researchers who accept funding from pharmaceutical companies, going so far as to imply that the Institute of Medicine reports of 2001 and 2004 that stated that there is no link between mercury and autism were basically done at the behest of the pharmaceutical companies, never mind the comprehensive review of the literature in 2004 that also failed to find a link. It's the usual conspiracy-mongering insinuations we hear from antivaccination activists and other types of cranks. However, in marked contrast, RFK Jr. approvingly cites the research of Dr. Mark Geier and his son David, both of whom are activists for the mercury-autism crowd, never once mentioning that Dr. Geier is a professional expert witness for vaccine plantiffs, who has been involved in over 100 legal cases brought against vaccine manufacturers and the government on behalf of parents and whose testimony has been disallowed in some for not being sufficiently qualified. Dr. Geier's son David runs a company called MedCon, a medical–legal consulting firm that helps vaccine injury claimants to obtain money from both the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and through civil litigation.

Hmmm. Sounds to me as though the Geiers have a definite financial conflict of interest when it comes to vaccine studies, and they have published several studies that are widely cited by antivaccination activists as "proof" of a mercury-autism link. None of their studies has ever failed to show such a link. I wonder why RFK didn't see fit to mention that, given his great concern over conflicts of interest in vaccine research. He also didn't mention that the Geiers have used shoddy study methodology and also engaged in data collection irregularities, drawing a rebuke from the CDC and suspension of Dr. Geier's IRB approval from Kaiser-Permanente. Overall, RFK Jr. seems pretty selective in his outrage over conflicts of interest and shoddy research, doesn't he?

The "hidden hordes" fallacy. RFK Jr. cites Professor Boyd Haley, Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, who is an activist and Chair of the Advisory Committee for Toxic Teeth, an anti-amalgam group and whose fallacious reasoning with regards to mercury and autism has been pointed out by Peter Bowditch. This is the same Boyd Haley who got into trouble last year for labeling autism as "Mad Child Disease," leading to a demand for him to apologize, which he has refused to do. Haley is quoted as saying "If the epidemic is truly an artifact of poor diagnosis, then where are all the 20-year-old autistics?" I'll borrow Michelle Dawson's response to that fallacy, which she was kind enough to have posted in the comments of my blog while responding to David Kirby's recent book on vaccines and autism:
Mr Kirby deploys the "hidden hordes" to express his disbelief in the possibility that there is no autism epidemic. Were numbers of autistics steady over the years, he argues, America would be clogged with aging hopeless autistics gruesomely burdening society. Mr Kirby cannot find us (I'm one of his "hidden hordes") how and where he expects (doomed and confined to institutions), so he denies we exist.

Szatmari et al (1989) suggests that Mr Kirby should look for his hordes in university records. In a follow-up of autistics diagnosed as children before 1970, 7 of 16 had university degrees (one was an MBA).
This is in essence a variant of the argument that there is an autism "epidemic" favored by so many advocates favoring a link between autism and mercury. Like many antivaccination activists, RFK also misuses the word "epidemic" by referring to an "autism epidemic," a concept that the Autism Diva debunks rather nicely. Kevin Leitch agrees that there is no autism epidemic and points it out here and here, concluding:
Just to reiterate – there is no autism epidemic. Diagnostic criteria have widened and reporting methods have vastly improved. There may well be an increase in actual case percentage but epidemic? Hardly.

I could go on, but I'm getting tired and I've already failed utterly in my attempt to keep this brief. Besides, I've covered nearly all the fallacies, double standards, and selective data mining like that seen in the article before here, here, here, here, and here. I also point out that, due to activist pressure, the U.S. has already removed thimerosal from nearly all childhood vaccines, with the last vaccines expiring two years ago. Consequently, the main purpose of trying to "prove" this probably nonexistent "link" now is to provide trial lawyers with "evidence" to use in lawsuits. The next 5 years will tell the tale as the children who have received no thimerosal-containing vaccines reach the age at which autism is commonly diagnosed. I'll admit it if I'm wrong and autism rates plummet, but don't expect an apology from the activists when (as is much more likely, given the examples of Denmark and Canada) the rates don't.

The bottom line is that this article is indeed a humongous runny, stinking turd. and Rolling Stone have let their readers down, contributed to the hysteria over a probably nonexistent link between mercury and autism, and utterly trashed their own credibility in the process. They've handed the antivaccination activists a significant propaganda victory and an article that they will be citing for years to come, frightening parents who wonder if vaccines are safe and wrongly adding to the guilt that parents of autistic children already feel by making them wonder if they were responsible for their child's condition.

ADDENDUM #1: Argh! It's been pointed out to me that Tom Tomorrow, one of my favorite lefty cartoonists, has drunk the thimerosal-autism Kool Aid as well (the June 16 entry on his blog, if the link doesn't work correctly). Well, my opinion of him has just fallen several notches. It just goes to show, with Dan Burton,, and Tom Tomorrow all falling on the same side of the fence in this issue, that mercury-autism junk science is the fallacy that all sides of the political spectrum seem to like to fall for, although my perception persists that it is more favored on the left.

ADDENDUM #2: Bummer. It looks like ABC News will show the interviews with RFK Jr. about this story after all.

ADDENDUM #3: Autism Diva has weighed in and posted the entire A-CHAMP Action Alert that I had quoted. (This piece was more than long enough already, which was why I didn't post the whole thing myself.) Soapgun has also pointed out that Don Imus is on board the mercury-autism bandwagon big time. Ali at blendor has also castigated, beating me to it.

126 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 6/17/2005 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, frequently visit, and had even been considering buying a subscription. However, I was terribly disappointed that Salon fell for anti-vaccination pseudoscience. Interestingly enough, my younger brother was recently (approximately a year ago) diagnosed with Asperger's. He was almost 21 years old when this diagnosis came in. I guess he's another member of the "hordes". Of course, he wasn't speech delayed as a child, and has a higher-than-average IQ, which probably helped obscure the signs of autism. Sigh.


At 6/17/2005 10:08 AM, Blogger adoarns said...


I was almost thrown for a minute. I usually trust Salon. Something seemed very off while reading that article, however. And then when I did a literature search on PubMed, it also seemed weird that while other researchers were finding no causal link, there was paper after paper by the Geiers that did—and what's more, as a medical student, I had never heard of them. You would think I would have heard about something like this, right?

So thank you, Orac, for definitively easing my mind that those hair feelings of doubt were indeed my surprisingly effective intuition.


At 6/17/2005 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salon isn't the only one - British satirical magazine Private Eye is still banging the drum for the MMR-causes-autism canard, even though the evidence disproving this is now so overwhelming that you'd have to adopt a creationist blind-faith mindset to deny it.


At 6/17/2005 10:21 AM, Blogger Kev said...

Its very depressing having to read stuff like that and see my daughter devalued. I made the mistake of reading the Huffington Posts comment on the affair - depressing reading all round, especially the increasingly shrill comments of a lot of parents I'm sad to see.

But its always nice to come here and know there are people who treat autism with a bit of respect and who value fact over opinion. Thanks.


At 6/17/2005 10:24 AM, Blogger Mike the Mad Biologist said...

The day after I renew my Salon membership, they print this crap. I've left a comment here before (and you responded) about mercury: low constant exposures in the food supply (particularly fish) are the health problem, not thimerisol.


At 6/17/2005 10:28 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I thought we all had moved past the vaccine link to autism? I didn't realize that people were still talking about it as if it were a valid hypothesis. I'm stunned.


At 6/17/2005 10:30 AM, Anonymous paul said...

Great post, again, on this subject.

Kirby was on Imus this morning, which I listened to, and I think even RFK was making an appearance later in the show. Kirby has received lots of coverage from Imus, who has incredible juice with politicians and journalists. So, Kirby has predicted that we will see a congressional investigation on the matter by fall. Should help his book sales.

Every guest that I have heard on Imus that is asked about thimerosal has kissed his ass about it. This includes Chris Matthews this morning, Congressman Harold Ford a couple of weeks back, and many others.

Someone needs to take Imus to the mat on this one.


At 6/17/2005 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done, sir. The more of us that debunk this crap, the better.



At 6/17/2005 12:55 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

I seem to recall that there were case of the mercury levels in some batches of thimerisol being many times the level of what is considered safe. That would seem a health issue, even if there is no link between authism and thimerisol. However, having said that, i see a bigger health issue in not vacinating.


At 6/17/2005 1:10 PM, Blogger Abby said...

I didn't even know that thimerosol was mercury-based. Your arguments about this junk science notwithstanding, I'm still pretty glad that my contact lens solution is "thimerosol free."

Please write a shorter, tighter version of this and send it in to Salon as a letter to the editor.


At 6/17/2005 1:47 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

I read Salon years ago, but not enough to justify paying for it.

Also, since Discover magagzine came out with an incredibly stupid article call "Mercury, Our Preferred Poison" which not only insinuated that all forms of mercury were poisonous, it ALSO had a paragraph on the MMR vaccine without mentioning or clarifying that the MMR has never contained thimerosal.... I've decided not to renew that one this year (well, we only subscribed as part of a middle-school fundraser).

Well, I guess sensationalism sells.


At 6/17/2005 1:52 PM, Anonymous Sonja in Kansas said...

I became convinced there was an autism/mercury connection a little over a year ago. I have read extensively the evidence in favor, and have found very little evidence against.

I read the majority of the IOM report in 2004 and was astounded at how they simply ignore the biological studies that showed, for example, that autistic kids are not excreting mercury naturally. Another study showed that upon chelation autistic kids excreted 6 times the mercury that would be expected. Oh yeah, a lot of those kids improved when they were chelated.

The IOM study found reasons to exclude all the epidemiological studies they didn't like, and forgave giant errors in the studies they did like.

For example, the Denmark study counted only impatient autistic kids in the earlier years, then started couting outpatient autistics in later years. Voila! The autism rates rose!

It is also an UNDISPUTED fact that no one in the government added up the amount of mercury that kids were getting in their vaccines until 1999, 8 years after the HiB and HepB vaccines were added.

The days of denial are coming to an end.


At 6/17/2005 2:06 PM, Blogger Orac said...


I'm sorry, but chelation therapy for autism is quackery, pure and simple. There is no evidence that it helps. Indeed, encouraging the quacks who push chelation therapy is another reason why pushing this dubious mercury-autism connection is harmful. Parents waste money and time on dubious, expensive, and ineffective chelation.

Actually, in a way, I almost think it would be great if chelation therapy did work. Imagine a simple therapy that could reverse autism! Who wouldn't want that? However, that's just wishful thinking. Unfortunately, the disease is not that simple and chelation therapy does no good whatsoever. It's also not without risks.


At 6/17/2005 2:22 PM, Blogger ks said...

" I also point out that, due to activist pressure, the U.S. has already removed thimerosal from nearly all childhood vaccines, with the last vaccines expiring two years ago. "

I've seen this statement before, is there a source for it? To me it seems to be enough to shut down this 'controversy'. Why keep screaming about the danger of something that's been removed in spite of the lack of causative evidence?


At 6/17/2005 2:24 PM, Anonymous Sonja in Kansas said...

I am pleasantly surprised you didn't flush my comments.

I don't think it's too controversial to say it takes a lot of money to do the kind of trials the FDA likes to see before approving a treatment.

This has the effect of virtually shutting out therapies or drugs that big pharma can't profit from.

With respect to another treatment commonly used for autism, the gluten free/casein free diet, mainstream medicine has just in the last year found that it actually does help a statistically signicant group of autistics. The DAN! group has known this for 30 years.

There is at least one study in progress on chelation that might pass muster in the halls of science. We can only hope.

I am not impressed by your Quackwatch link. The quackwatch link heavily relies on the 2004 IOM report, which I have commented on. That there have been a few successful lawsuits against chelation is not surprising, giving how many practitioners use it. The use of IV DMPS is particularly dangerous. But MANY parents will tell you that it works. Very few will say it has hurt. The DAN! website displayed a poll recently showing over 70% of kids improved, only 2% got worse. Actually, 2% were reported to get worse on every type of treatment, including the vitamin treatments.


At 6/17/2005 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One question popped into my head reading all of this which I haven't seen answered - if autism is caused by mercury poisoning - why are there so many more autistic boys than girls? Are there any other alleged poisons that target one gender over the other? In "real" mercury poisoning, are men more vulnerable?


At 6/17/2005 2:40 PM, Anonymous paulb said...

Putting aside the autism "link" I am curious about one claim posited by Sonja and the anti-vax group.

Vaccinations provided to newborns and 2/3/4 year old children are supposed to lead to elevated mercury levels years later, that are supposedly "chelated" in measurable amounts?

My fairly limited understanding of the physiology related to this subject is that we are talking about very, very small amounts of mercury. The only case I think that seems to be reasonable that might connect mercury and autism is some sort of immediate neurological damage that would be done at the time of the vaccination, to the child's developing brain. But the anti-vax groups seem to have abandoned this for the more far fetched "mercury poisoning"

The only reason that I can see for this line of thought is that mercury poisoning is "curable" while permanent brain damage is not. Seems part and parcel to the sad desperation that the parents feel when looking for answers.

If someone wants to enlighten me on the physiology here, that would be great. Please mention specific, peer reviewed studies if you can.


At 6/17/2005 2:45 PM, Anonymous Skeptico said...


Re: With respect to another treatment commonly used for autism, the gluten free/casein free diet, mainstream medicine has just in the last year found that it actually does help a statistically signicant group of autistics.

Do you have a source for this claim?

Also, regarding chelation – do you have a source to any studies that show this therapy works?


At 6/17/2005 2:52 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

I hope that ABC balances out the RFP interview with some reality. Perhaps someone who does research in autism who can point out the fallacy in the "autism epidemic".

Seriously, I just cannot understand why parents who are afraid of a miniscule amount of thimerosal are NOW so keen to put chelating CHEMICALS like DMSA and EDTA into their kids, either intraveneously or the "oral chelators" that are sold on the Internet. Or even think that the stinky transdermal chelation that I call "Buttar Cream" would have any effect what so ever.

So if Quackwatch does not float your boat, here is some more reading material: and ... there's a differnece between methyl and ethyl mercury

Checking out infants:
and lots of kids at an HMO:

if you don't believe Americans, how about the UK?... ...

... or the Danes? and ...

Or do you just trust journalist, lawyers and politicians to make public health policies? Or even worse... the labs and clinics that sell "hair analysis" and chelation products?


At 6/17/2005 3:33 PM, Blogger hollywoodjaded said...

Thanks tremendously for this piece, Orac. It begs to be sent to Salon and beyond.


At 6/17/2005 3:41 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Knowing how Danish health research is carried out, I am sceptic about Sonja's claims - it is standard practice in Denmark to show how the results would have been, if there hadn't been a change of practice, so even if they changed who was included in the count, they would also show the numbers by the old counting method (or alternatively, adjust the old numbers to the new method).

Such large-scale health research is not carried out by private agencies in Denmark, but is state funded. As Denmark has a public health system, it would be very much in the interest of the state to bring down the numbers of autists, so it is unlikely the results have been adjusted to disprove a real link.

Danish large-scale research is usually considered pretty good, if nothing else, then because of the sheer amount of data available to the researchers - the Danish health system, which include private doctors, is very well monitored, and all information about diseases are shared with the Ministry of Health, which uses the data to do research and statistics.


At 6/17/2005 3:44 PM, Blogger Aggravated DocSurg said...

An absolutely superb post. Thank you for spending the time and energy to put this kind of "journalism" in its place. All too often, people are willing to throw out well-researched evidence in favor of anecdotes and "feelings." It is difficult to get folks to spend the time to learn and understand facts, but we in the medical community need to continue to repeat the mantra "Anecdotes are not data."


At 6/17/2005 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: With respect to another treatment commonly used for autism, the gluten free/casein free diet, mainstream medicine has just in the last year found that it actually does help a statistically signicant group of autistics.

A brief review of medline articles published on this issue does not support the above claim. A few studies have looked at autism and gluten, but few have shown any positive results. Only one rather small study that I could find showed any positive results and that on only one of four intended measures. There is some intriguing lab data suggesting that anti-gliadin antibodies and anti-cerebellar antibodies might both be found more frequently in autistic people than in people without autism. However, that does not prove a link between either the two antibodies or the clinical syndrome and either antibody. As far as I can tell, there is enough evidence to suggest that a larger, controlled trial would be warrented, but hardly enough to suggest changes in clinical practice (ie wheat free diets) based on the current level of evidence.


At 6/17/2005 3:51 PM, Blogger miken said...

I'm a Salon subscriber and every now and then they publish an article filled with pseudo-scientific claptrap. I'm generally aligned with their politics, but I have no patience for this kind of tripe. But you can't expect to agree with everything in a magazine, right? If you did, that would almost certainly be an indication of something wrong with you, the magazine or both. I'll keep my subscription, and I'll make my opinion known when I disagree. Not all people who subscribe to progressive politics/ideals are crystal-wearing, horoscope-reading, Scientology fodder. Some of us are quite reality-based. Centrist, even. Beware, this is an age where anyone who speaks up for the rights of the poor, criticizes income inequality or points out the flaws inherent in free-market capitalism is instanly branded a 'leftie moonbat' by the blowhards on the right. Don't whack that straw man!


At 6/17/2005 4:03 PM, Anonymous gadfly said...

Devil's advocate moment...

(sidenote, I have drank my share of koolaid before and appreciate the perspective that Orac, skeptico, and others provide me. Thanks guys.)

On the flip side of the first diagnosis of autism in 1943, is it possible that this condition wasn't really prevalent enough to generate a discreet dianosis sometime prior to 1943? That is to ask, was autism already in existence, but simply without a name, or did a new condition appear that warranted a new diagnosis. I think Orac seemed to indicate that the first case (it already existed, but had no name)is true, but I wasn't sure.


At 6/17/2005 4:15 PM, Blogger miken said...

Anyway, great takedown! And how do you like Geier's company name 'MedCon'? A little too honest, maybe?


At 6/17/2005 4:19 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

gadfly, as far as I undersatand the history of autism, it did exist before, but not a diagnosis - looking back in retroperspective, it's possible to diagnosise older cases as autism.

However, I have only read sporatically on the subject, so Orac's answer would be much more authoriative than mine


At 6/17/2005 4:32 PM, Blogger hollywoodjaded said...

In re: history of ASD, I think it was Orac, several months ago who posted about a memoir by author Paul Collins entitled: "Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism." Even with all the reading I do on this subject, I was not made aware of this book until yesterday while going through the previous blogs/comments from some months back here. In his work, Collins goes back to the 1700s and traces the history of "autism".


At 6/17/2005 4:49 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Good post. I'll add my voice to others saying you should tighten this up and ship it off to Salon and Rolling Stone.

I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, so when I read the Salon article, the descriptions of activities that resembled cover-ups caused me to be suspicious. On the other hand, the article's very neat wrapping of evidence also caused me to be suspicious. I truly don't know what to believe, but I do know that I'd like to see everyone provide more evidence.

I also think the context you add to the 'secret' meeting makes it far less diabolical -- but it would have been better for the people involved to be more open about what they were doing. I understand they were concerned about giving ammo to people who would advocate against vaccinations, but they should have realised that the information was going to come out sooner or later.

Now it's later, and hopefully they will act appropriately.


At 6/17/2005 5:05 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Chelation Useless??? My son, Lenny, just finished regular kindergarten with flying colors. Not bad considering 4 years ago he had all the classic symptoms of regressive autism including complete loss of speech, tantrums, loss of eye contact, repetative obsessive-compulsive behaviors, unusual fixations, insomnia, etc. He was recovered with chelation therapy! And there are many more mercury poisoned kids just like him who are also being recovered with chelation. Lenny was the little boy featured in the Wall Street Journal's 15 February 2005 article on chelation treatment for autism by Amy Marcus (Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting). The next thing someone will tell me that psychological and neurological evaluations were all wrong to begin with and that he really didn't have autism. Funny how this assessment goes down the toilet when you break out the home videos. Then someone will discredit me by saying I'm "anti-vaccine". Actually I'm "pro-vaccine"! My precious grandchildren are all being vaccinated with mercury-free vaccines. Then the argument will be that chelation is way too dangerous. This too isn't true as we used an FDA approved medication proven safe for use in children for chelating heavy metals like lead and mercury.
Chelation for autism is both effective and safe.


At 6/17/2005 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The UCD MIND institute has a collection of presentations given by really world class researchers mostly in autism, but also in other neurodevelopmental disorders-

Essentially, "the MIND" as they call themselves is in the pocket of parent activists because they "founded" it. The MIND seems to be constantly trying to be real scientists and also smooch up to people like Rick (rhymes with 'ick") Rollens. (hear him on the interview with Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Dr. Bryna Siegal [big names], you have to go to their archives and scroll down to find the autism program.)

That said, the researchers who come and speak have said things like "there is no cure for autism". I bet that made the MIND docs squirm a bit. ( I go to presentations.)

I'm getting to my point... if you listen to the recordings of Dr. Patricia Rodier (very, very nice woman) you can hear her describe a long term, large study on the GFCF diet being done at the University of Rochester.

She expresses concern over some autistic kids suffering from the restrictive diet (no vitamin D supplemented milk, low calcium, possibly).

The study has the parents who are already on the diet give their kids snacks provided by the researchers. The snacks might contain Gluten or Casein...

If Johnny starts screaming and bloating and mom reports it to the docs, well, they'll know if it's a coincidence or if it happens consistently when he gets the "bad snack".

The MIND has it's own GFCF study going now, I don't know if it's using the same protocol.

At any rate, for crying out loud, curing a kids bad gas and diarrhea is not curing autism is it? If so then bad gas and diarrhea are autism. Lets just call all stomach upset "autism". If the kid is sick he's not going to want to play as much or talk as much, duh.

Parents also give digestive enzymes, I have no idea if they help, but it makes money for Kirkman labs, for sure.

People can talk all they want about "brain damage" until you can show that mercury causes the specific developmental findings in autistic brains, either by fMRI, structural MRI, or post mortem tissue studies...
there's NO (steam coming out of my ears!) reason to believe that even one child has been made autistic by mercury!

How simple is that?

The mercury fanatics are screaming "autism epidemic" there has been NONE.

They are screaming "we know its the mercury" but what if it's something else, assuming that it IS environmental?

The really hysterical thing is this.

Kirby goes on Imus in the morning and claims so bravely that since the mercury has come out of vaccines in California and Illinois (?) that the rates seem to be slowing!

So funny! The recorded rates of autistic kids in those states haven't yet approached 1 in 166!! Not even close!

And yet it's the 1 in 166 number that is cited as proof of the autism epidemic!

The only state that has come close is Oregon, if I remember right, and it was something like 1 in 200 or 1 in 250. (due to a stronger inclination to diagnose autism than in other states)... this is all from the IDEA numbers from the feds (tracks disabled school kids). You have to take the approximate number of kids age 3 to 21 in the whole state and divide it by the number of autistic kids that age in the IDEA stats.

So, we have an epidemic, but we don't.

Kirby is a ninny.

He says on the "Huffington Post" "bring it on" He wants to debate the CDC or something like he's such a big science brain.


Orac Knows - you'll tell him he's a ninny won't you?




At 6/17/2005 5:41 PM, Blogger Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Why does concern about a thirmisol/autism link automatically make one anti-vaccine and anti-science? Certainly we have seen other cases of drug companies surpressing evidence that one their products is harmful. Do you have to accept every aspect of current medical practice in order to avoid being labeled a quack or the victim of a quack?

I have not reviewed the evidence enough to have an opinion on the thirmisol issue itself. I'm just wondering where the ire here comes from.


At 6/17/2005 6:04 PM, Blogger Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

that should be "thimerosal"


At 6/17/2005 6:17 PM, Blogger RPM said...

Chelation Useless??? My son, Lenny, just finished regular kindergarten with flying colors. Not bad considering 4 years ago he had all the classic symptoms of regressive autism including complete loss of speech, tantrums, loss of eye contact, repetative obsessive-compulsive behaviors, unusual fixations, insomnia, etc. He was recovered with chelation therapy! And there are many more mercury poisoned kids just like him who are also being recovered with chelation.

Sounds like anecdotal evidence to me.


At 6/17/2005 7:10 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Autism Diva has some quotes from a Herbert, Sharp and Guadiano article.

It's lengthy and Autism Diva finds it quite worthwhile reading.

In the world of mercury poisoning=autism
the highest proofs come from anectdotal reports like:

My child couldn't do anything at age 18 months but with brand X cure he could talk and read by age 48 months.

Yeah, kids who are 48 months generally can do more than kids who are 18 months. Lots can happen in 30 months.

Even better, they look at adult autisics who can write and who challenge their "cures" and the parent's say,
"They can write! They have jobs! My (35 month old) child can't write! He doesn't have a job!!!"

It's really funny. The point being that the adults don't know what it's like to be a child who can't write at 35 months or to be that child's parent. But many of those writing are parents to autistic kids. That would be because autism is genetic.

The not funny stuff comes when they call people like Amanda Baggs, who is and was fully autistic- never passing-for-normal for a minute- and very smart, a liar.
You can read her stuff on

Autism Diva


At 6/17/2005 7:33 PM, Blogger Arlene Green said...

Thank you for this. You saved me the trouble of doing it myself on TT (Salon's Forum).

Now I can just let my post that the article is not objective and a piece of crap and the writer is an agenda ridden idiot stand. I will link to your blog to explain why.

Kudos to you.


At 6/17/2005 7:36 PM, Anonymous Jim Laidler said...

Wow, such a target-rich environment for commentary! First off - Orac, great job! Your laptop keyboard must still be smoking.

Secondly, to all those people who are proclaiming the merits of chelation and the GFCF (glute-free/casein-free) diet for autism: I have two boys who were diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. In the depths of the madness that is desperation, we treated them with all the "alternative" therapies that came around, including secretin, GFCF diet, chelation and the works.

One child did not change signficantly despite all of the "therapies" - the other is now "indistinguishable from neurotypical" in a mainstream public school classroom. The "recovered" child made most of his progress AFTER we stopped the "woo-woo" therapies. Bottom line - none of it was any better than placebo. We (their parents) thought it was working, swore up and down it was working and yet, when my wife stopped the therapies without telling me, I couldn't tell the difference. Hello, placebo effect!

As for "mainstream medicine" finding that the GFCF diet "[s] a statistically signicant group of autistics..." - well, I'll believe it when I see it published. Periodically, a group or individual will announce that they are studying one of these therapies, but the "study" always seems to fade away before it comes to fruition. Those that don't, like the secretin studies, usually show that it doesn't work.

Finally, I've found the "hidden hordes" that Kirby is looking for. If you take the US Department of Education (or California DDS) data, add the number of autistic children in each year to the number of mentally retarded children in each year, and then divide by the total number of disabled children (to correct for population changes) you'll find that the number is remarkably constant. That's right, the increase in "autism" has been very precisely mirrored by a decrease in mental retardation. Don't take my word for it, go to the US Dept. of Education website and look up the numbers yourself. A few minutes with a calculator will show you that I'm right.

Again, Orac, my hat is off to you (except in the OR - gotta keep JCAHO happy)!

Jim Laidler
Portland, Oregon USA


At 6/17/2005 8:52 PM, Blogger David Goldenberg said...

You just decided to give some thought to the vaccine-autism connection. After 14 years of researching this issue, I find the current discussion regarding thimerasol to be counterproductive.

Vaccines can cause all sorts of developmental delays of the brain stem and nervous system, including, but not limited to, autism, because they contain the toxins or a form of the toxins which their manufacturers claim will "trick" the immune system into producing antibodies. These toxins--dead or alive or reformatted germs--can have the same effect on the immune system and gut, and nervous system, as the germs they are trying to immitate. THAT'S why the rubella part of the MMR shot can cause autism--rubella can cause deformities in a fetus if the expectant mother catches rubella (German Measles). Why shouldn't an injection of a form of rubella screw up the immature immune system as well?

Nice try closing the loopholes on a non-conspiracy, but the vaccine-autism issue is with us and it is not going away.


At 6/17/2005 9:02 PM, Blogger La Bona said...

What is your view on ABORTION?

While Muslims and Catholics even regard contraceptive evil, Would you like to know what do most people think of these religious taboo?

See it from the divine perspective ...


At 6/17/2005 10:30 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

When I started practicing Pediatrics 24 years ago I had a stamp to print "mental retardation" on billing statements (I was also medical director for 2 pediatric nursing homes). My partners and I were discussing the other day that we have no children carrying that diagnosis now. They are all "pervasive developmental disorder, or austism spectrum disease, or autism." I cannot tell you that there are more or less children like that now -- I do not have the hard data, and hard data is what you need to make conclusions. I'm open to theories of the cause for autism but don't think mercury poisoning is it. I think the abnormality is more fundamental, genetic, and profound than that. I sympathize with these kids' parents and understand how hungry they are to find a cause or responsible party or effective treatment. The problem with diseases we don't understand yet is that there is never a shortage of people willing to give their theories and offer possible treatments. I do know that most people do not understand scientific method or double blind studies or placebo effect. I usually don't even believe the first reputable study until it's verified by others. This will be a long and painful debate.


At 6/17/2005 10:59 PM, Anonymous Sonja in Kansas said...

I'll answer just a few questions at a time.

Mercury has been shown in vitro to kill cell when combined with testosterone than when alone. Estrogen seems to have a protective effect. Boyd Haleys' hair studies show that females with a certain level of impairment will tend to have more mercury in their systems than boys with a given level of impairment (mildly, moderately or severely autistic).

As far as a study proving the effectiveness of a gluten free/casein free diet, I think this was referred to in the bowels of a Schafer autism newsletter. I haven't been able to track it down. But I did find the DAN! survey of treatments. 49% of autistic kids improved with casein free diets (out of 5574 respondents) vs. 2% worse. 65% percent of 1146 respondents reported a child got better with the gluten free/casein free diet, vs. 3% worse. It's no surprise more people have tried the casein free only diet, getting wheat out is a bear.

I can personally attest that my daughter went from saying at most two words at a time, largely unintelligible if not on a short list, to saying 5 word sentences with much better pronunciation within a week and a half of removing milk. (By the way, my daughter is not autistic, just speech apraxic with sensory integration disorder and maybe ADHD).

AS far as the mechanism for a gluten free/ casein free diet: the kids develop bowel disorders, and these foods (or proteins therefrom) penetrate the gut, go into the body, and as far I understand, form opiate like substances that affect mood, thought and behavior. A friend of mine with a boy with PDD reports the boy craves milk - and this is apparently not unusual.


At 6/17/2005 11:24 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Lujene's article for free, not on

Did someone say this already?

Lujene Clark says her son become "asperger's" at age 8, suddenly?

By definition this is not possible.

He could crack his skull and get brain damage and start acting strange, but that's not Asperger's. He could nearly drown and damage his brain from lack of oxygen (God forbid) and start acting differently, but that's not Asperger's, either. He could get brain damage from mercury or lead at age 8, but in no way would that be called Asperger's.

Asperger's by definition begins in toddlerhood, the implication is that it's there from birth.

What is wrong with this woman? Her husband is a doctor and she's a nurse and they can't read the DSM-IV definition of AS?

Autism Diva


At 6/17/2005 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a little taken back by these posts. I guess everyone has a right to their opinion, and hopefully you will not oppress mine. At first I had my doubts as to whether there was a vaccine autism connection, but after having a son afflicted with this disorder, I have researched this to death, because I now had a personal stake in this matter.

I just started chelating my 3 year old son. His behavior has changed like night and day. Only two weeks ago he spoke only one word sentences (the few word he did know), was afraid of his baby sister, and did nothing but spin himself in circles all day. Today, his vocabulary and comprehension has gone through the roof and he plays with and hugs and kisses his sister. He has not spun in circles since 3 days after we started this process. If you are looking for evidence that this type of therapy works, I am documenting the entire process on video. I have before and after and after two weeks, there is a difference already. Or, just ask one of the parents at generation rescue who have successfully treated their children and reversed their symptoms. Or, here is a great video of some kids that were previously diagnosed with autism, but have gone through chelation and their symptoms have completely disappeared.

I have a better idea. Do a Google search on "symptoms of mercury poisoning", then do another one on the "symptoms of autism". See anything that looks familiar?

One thing that is important to note. Many of us parents are not anti vaccine as many of you suggest. We are anti-thimerosal. Have you ever read the label for this stuff? Well you can read it here.

Be sure to click on the T+ link next to the skull and crossbones. Would you want to knowingly inject this stuff into a child? Think about that when you get a flu shot this year. The majority of them are loaded with the stuff.

Essentially, you are saying that thimerosal is safe or was never proven to be harmful. Where are the studies supporting that it is safe? There were never tests done to show the long term effects. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that was injected into millions of kids. It causes EXACTLY the types of symptoms that an autistic kid has.

Some kids who got several shots in one day got doses of mercury 125 times what the EPA considers safe in one day. You would not take a whole bottle of aspirin or some other medication in a day would you?

I will leave you with a final thought. The incidences of autism in this country has gone up as the number of vaccinations a child got went up in the 90s. There is no hidden group of people out there with autism. Anybody who spends 10 minutes with an autistic child can pick one out of the crowd. When I was a child, I did not know anyone with autism, or know anyone who knew someone with the disorder. Now everyone I know knows somebody that is affeected. Autism has the EXACT same symptoms as mercury poisoning. If Mercury in vaccines did not cause this epidemic, then why is it slowly being removed from vaccines? Furthermore, where are the studies being done by the CDC to find the "REAL" causes of the autism epidemic.

My personal thoughts... You have a right to your opinion. I can attest that chelation therapy has done wonders for my 3 year old "autistic" or mercury poisoned child after only 2 and a half weeks. To say that it is "quackery" without experience with it or proof that it does not work is a disservice to these kids that are young enough to be recovered now.

Thanks for allowing me to respond..

Father of a recovering "autistic" 3 year old.


At 6/18/2005 12:16 AM, Anonymous Meso said...

Let's strip the issue to its essence... Mercury, for thousands of years, has been known to be a deadly toxin.

Since this is true, how can mercury be a substance safe for anyone to ingest?

Oh duh, it can't be safe!

All the, when "X" was first developed and "Y" was first used, and, the cause of "A" disease is not this but that, chat, is obsfucation.

This obsfucation includes any idle prattle about pro-whatever vs. pro-whichever, and quote mining and some activist alleged to have a financial interest in slamming mercury.

Mercury is to be avoided by humans - of all ages...


Mercury = bad for people

Is it really that difficult to understand????


At 6/18/2005 12:50 AM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Show us how the brains of deceased autistics - which are being collected as we speak - are like mercury poisoned brains.

You can do a search on
using "autism" and "post mortem" or "postmortem" to look at studies of autistic brains, then there are MRI's etc. on live brains, too.

Here's a bit about the brain bank organization.

You can go to to see how things are going in the collection of autistic brains.

They aren't finding symptoms of mercury poisoning, not if mercury poisoning is like what is shown on the University of Calgary video. That video says mercury might cause Alzheimer's-like neurofibrillary tangles.

Autistic brains aren't marked by neurofibrillary tangles.

Actually, there isn't a whole lot of agreement about what one *should* expect to see in an autistic brain, since it's such a diverse lot and until recently they didn't have so many (donor) brains to work with... but if you expect to see something like Alzheimer's -that is holes in the won't find that.

Other than that, Autism Diva doesn't know what a mercury poisoned brain looks like when dissected.

The findings in autistic brains show changes that from very early in embryonic development as far as Autism Diva knows, all of them do. You can't get a smaller corpus collosum or a missing chunk of brainstem from mercury exposure, or if you can Autism Diva would like to know how. Please tell us if you know.

One supposes you all could ask the brain bank folks if they are finding loads of mercury in the brains they have.

Does mercury explain the big heads on most autistic kids? Lujene Clark's son look like he has a really big head, he's cute, but his head looks bigger than his mothers in one photo, and he was 9 when the photo was taken.

Sallie Bernard's son looks like he has hypertelorism, though one can't say exactly from a photo. Hypertelorism is associated with autism, and results from actions very, very early in development like 3 to 8 weeks into the pregnancy when the eyes are moving inward from the sides of the head. Sallie Bernard believes mercury caused her son to become autisic, as far as Autism Diva knows.

As for the miracle turn around, I wish each of you parents would send the urine or hair samples from your children simultaneously (for each test) to several labs to see if they all agree. It would be nice if you would include one hospital or known clinic lab that you don't mail the samples away to yourself. That would be far more impressive than videos.

It's wonderful to see your child happy. No doubt about that.


At 6/18/2005 1:50 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Sigh... Having just had a gander over at Kevin Leich's site with his correspondence with Handley, checking out the letters at, reading the comments here...

PLUS the over a decade of my witnessing the behavior of parents at a special ed. program (not autism... but a communication disorder), a compuserve forum, Usenet and a disability listserv (where one uber-anti-vax mom told me with great sincerity that vaccines cause cerebral palsy!) ... I often come away with
this thought:

The apple does not fall far from the tree.


At 6/18/2005 2:30 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Again, people are missing the point when they try to link mercury to autism - or more specifically mercury in vaccinations. All studies show that the number of children with autism doen't drop when mercury is removed from the vaccination. It has been shown in Denmark and Canada, neither of which has allowed mercury for years.

There might be other issues with mercury in vaccinations, but it is clearly not the cause of autism. And as long as we focus on it, we won't find the real cause.

Danish health experts are now mentioning the possibility that polution can be a factor, but I would expect that that would be hard to test for.


At 6/18/2005 4:11 AM, Anonymous cellis said...

DEAD WRONG. Chelation therapy does work and I have the child coming out of a 2-year 'fog' (and the urinalysis results with the micrograms of mercury and lead excreted) to prove it.
As for the original creator of this absurd post (and all you other ignorant morons), I just hope you have a child or grandchild with autism in the very near future so that your small minds will be blown away when you finally wake up and realize how they got that way...which, since the rate has now "miraculously" risen to 1 in 150 children, I'm sure someone you care for will be affected very soon...Karma's a bitch. Can't wait to see you eat your very ignorant and uneducated words.
Gee, tobacco revisited...just a new industry with a secret, a coverup, and more money than God.
As for the medical student who "NEVER HEARD OF THIS" during med school? Geez, dude...wonder why? Can you say "pharmaceutical kickbacks for propaganda"? Pharmacy companies know damn well where their bread is buttered and they go to great lengths to make sure all you newbies are fully brainwashed by the time they need you to go out there and convince all those, um, parents to jump off that cliff.
If you all would bother to read the WHOLE book/article/etc before you start spouting statements you have NO firsthand knowledge about, no one is saying that MERCURY is the entirety of the problem, but rather the VACCINES themselves (live viruses being found in the gut of these children & wreaking havoc with their immune systems). Many still contain mercury, however, which only exacerbates the problems in these post-vaccine-immunocompromised children.


At 6/18/2005 5:47 AM, Anonymous RN said...

Weldon Tries to Whistle-Blow CDC's Alleged Puppeting of IOM on Mercury
Letter calls on CDC Director Gerberding for a time-out to let research smoke
to clear.

Dave Weldon is a Member of Congress from Florida and a physician. He
has done much public head scratching lately over alleged CDC's
self-protective antics over mercury research and autism. A copy of his
letter was released today.

Dear Dr. Gerberding: I am writing to ask that you post-pone the
February 9, 2004, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Immunization Safety Review
Committee meeting. Pressing forward with this meeting at this time, I
believe, will further undermine the credibility of the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC) on matters of vaccine safety and do damage to the reputation
of the IOM. I believe the proposed date of this meeting, which you have the
ability to change, is in the best interests of no one who is seeking the
truth about a possible association between vaccines and neurodevelopmental
disorders, including autism.
Recent actions and statements by officials within the CDC’s National
Immunization Program (NIP) office, the timing of the IOM meeting, and the
agenda for the IOM meeting raise serious questions about the purpose, value
and objectives of this meeting.
Presently, the NIP is engaged in what amounts to an investigation of
their own actions, which does not create an air of confidence.
The actions of the CDC regarding their November 3, 2003, article in
Pediatrics raise serious concerns about the objectivity of the CDC’s top
vaccine safety officials and the value of their input on this issue. They
are the very ones driving the IOM meeting and agenda.
On the day the Pediatrics study was released, a top CDC researcher and
a coauthor of the study was quick to declare in news articles that appeared
across this nation, "The final results of the study show no statistical
association between thimerosal vaccines and harmful health outcomes in
children, in particular autism and attention-deficit disorder."
Unfortunately, the study does nothing of the sort, and when called to
account eight weeks later, this CDC official was forced to recant. When
asked if the children in the study were too young to have received an autism
diagnosis, this coauthor stated that yes they were too young. He went on to
admit that the study also likely mislabeled young autistic children as
having other disabilities thus masking the number of children with autism.
There are a host of other flaws in the study that are raised in the attached
articles and letters to Pediatrics, which I urge you to personally review.
The CDC’s top vaccine officials spent four years developing this
study, and it is a seriously flawed study by their own admission. The fact
that the CDC’s top vaccine safety research officials produced such a
seriously flawed study does not build confidence in the ability of the CDC
to conduct proper vaccine safety monitoring or investigations of past
decisions. Even worse, some critics have leveled serious charges that
perhaps officials within the NIP manipulated data to "disprove" a theory
they find objectionable. A review of the NIP’s July 2000 Simpsonwood
meeting, the various iterations of the Pediatrics study, and internal
e-mails appear to give support to this claim.
In his December 17, 2003, letter to Pediatrics, Dr. Neal Halsey
outlined a number of concerns about the study. Furthermore, in extensive
discussions my staff has held with the CDC, your staff made it clear that
the CDC will not hand over - to already approved independent researchers -
the raw data used by CDC in developing the Pediatrics study. CDC is
providing only limited access to the altered data. The NIP’s failure to
provide the raw data for reviewing only raises further suspicions.
It appears to me not only as a Member of Congress but also as a
physician that some officials within the CDC’s NIP may be more interested in
a public relations campaign than getting to the truth about thimerosal. At
present, I have lost confidence in the ability of officials at the CDC to
give an honest evaluation of the matters at hand. It is not just me raising
these concerns about public confidence, but also Dr. Neal Halsey who in his
letter conveys his concerns about loss of confidence in the NIP.
Further eroding the CDC’s objectivity is the apparent bias in the
information shared with the public on the CDC’s NIP website. A review of the
information on the website regarding possible associations between
thimerosal and autism and the MMR and autism demonstrates a clear bias
towards building confidence in the safety of vaccines rather than providing
an objective presentation of the data. The CDC’s website presents a very
selective reporting of the science. The information provided to the public
generally ignores and discounts studies raising safety concerns while
focusing instead on highlighting epidemiology studies favoring their
Given these concerns, the CDC’s contributions to the IOM discussion
would be viewed as suspect and non-objective. Furthermore, the fact that
this meeting is being held at this time and according to the parameters put
forth by the NIP officials is disturbing. I have already heard concerns
expressed by those in the general public that the timing of this meeting is
being driven by a desire to short-circuit important research and draw
premature conclusions. If the purpose of this meeting is to seriously
consider and address these concerns, then this will not be accomplished.
I have reviewed the research recommendations set forth in the IOM’s
earlier reports on these issues. The federal government has invested very
few resources into examining these areas of research. Furthermore, the
research that has been conducted to date by the NIP seems to be tainted by a
desire to disprove a theory that they find objectionable.
Additionally, I am concerned that the agenda set forth in the meeting
is inadequate and incomplete. With respect to the MMR/autism concerns, the
IOM is dedicating one hour. Two witnesses are woefully inadequate to update
the committee on the research to date. The time set aside for a discussion
of epidemiology relating to thimerosal and autism is heavily biased against
those who have raised these concerns and will not allow for a fair and
balanced discussion of the literature. The time set aside for a discussion
of the biological mechanisms of thimerosal and autism is inadequate to allow
a full discussion of the issue. To consider two issues of such significance
in only seven hours does not serve the public interest. To the outside
observer it does not appear to be a serious effort to examine these critical
issues. Any conclusions drawn from this meeting, including any report
issued, will be viewed as suspect given the very limited time dedicated to
examining very incomplete information.
Again, I am very concerned that the drive to conduct this meeting at
this time and force a report by this summer may not only further undermine
confidence in the CDC, but it may also harm the IOM’s very good reputation.
I ask that you give these concerns your highest consideration and that
you postpone the meeting until after additional research has been conducted.
Given the slow pace of research and lack of federal support for this
research, conducting this meeting prior to late 2004 to early 2005 is
premature. The value of any such report at this time would be very limited.
We must give the research time to progress if the report is to give
meaningful insight into this matter.


At 6/18/2005 5:49 AM, Anonymous RN (Peds nurse) said...

I will put some of the key points here (this is mostly related to the US -
I will address other countries at the end):

1. Mercury in ethylmercury form (Thimerosal) since the 30's (Autism
started to be diagnosed a few years later)

What is Thimerosal?
Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound, or an organomercurial.
Since the 1930s, it has been used as a preservative in a number of
biological and drug products, including many vaccines, to help prevent
potentially life threatening contamination with harmful microbes. First
introduced by Eli Lilly Company, thimerosal is 49.6% mercury by weight and
is metabolized or degraded into ethylmercury and thiosalicylate.

2. No one has questioned (except us) until the end of the 90's

1997 - "In 1997, when Frank Pallone, a Democratic congressman from New
Jersey, attached a simple amendment to an FDA reauthorization bill, he
could not have predicted that it would cause such a commotion two years
later. His amendment ran just 133 words. It gave FDA two years to "compile
a list of drugs and foods that contain intentionally introduced mercury
compounds and … [to] provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the
mercury compounds in the list…." The bill later evolved into the landmark
FDA Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA) and was signed into law on November
21, 1997. Pallone’s amendment undoubtedly sprang from his long interest in
environmental causes. But he had unwittingly set into motion a chain of
events that would, two years later, bring turmoil to the immunization
policy world and fears of harm to the nation’s hepatitis B control effort."

It was 1998 before the above got any attention

Thimerosal was already being looked in in Europe as a safety issue

One of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research (CBER) tasks was to
add up the amounts of mercury in vaccines given to children (I guess it
hadn't been done before). CBER researchers soon confirmed that thimerosal
was present in over 30 licensed vaccines in the U.S. in concentrations of
0.003% to 0.01%

They then tried to decide what amount was safe and then had problems

Could only find studies relating to methylmercury and this Thimerosal is
metabolized into ethylmercury with no guidelines (no one knew if worse or

So CBER decided to treat as the same and looked to FDA, EPA & Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
(But the 3 agencies disagree as to safe amounts)

* June 98 came to attention of Dr. Neal Halsey, Director of the Johns
Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety (he was not happy with all of us in
vaccine awareness groups at this point in time & the success we were
starting to have) - Halsey found the findings worrying. He met with many
officials and argued that Pediatricians should be told of the dangers. CDC
not happy with Halsey. Much centered around hep b vax and the mercury in
it, given at birth.
Limiting Infant Exposure to Thimerosal in Vaccines and Other Sources of
Mercury Neal Halsey's editorial on ways to cut down on infant exposure to
mercury. Limiting Infant Exposure to Thimerosal in Vaccines and Other
Sources of Mercury. (JAMA 1999;282(18):1763-5). (11-10-99)

more on this story & chain of events and conflict between AAP & CDC

August 12, 1999 -
Government Transcript of the 8/12/99 Workshop on Thimerosol Vaccines
The US Dept of Health & Human Services
Public Health Service
Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
convenes the National Vaccine Advisory Committee Sponsored Workshop on
Thimerosal Vaccines

3. Thimerosal removed from many over-the-counter items
Thimerosal was originally determined to be dangerous in the 1970's, and
was recommended to be withdrawn from the
non-prescription products by the FDA's own experts in 1982. With typical
FDA sluggishness, the chemical was finally banned for use in
"over-the-counter" pharmaceuticals in 1998 yet it continues to be used in
pediatric vaccines

4. Mercury exposure from many sources -
Vaccines -
in US (more on other countries at the end) originally in DPT, DTaP, DT, Td,
TT, HepB, HIB, Meningococcal, Lederle Pneumococcal, Rabies, flu vaccine

Chart from 1999

Current chart

FDA - preservatives used in current vaccines
IN US at present
Td (several)
TT (several)
Influenza (several)
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide (Pnu-Imune 23; WL)

2-phenoxyethanol and formaldehyde
DTaP (Daptacel; AP)

Typhoid Vi Polysaccharide (Typhim Vi; AP)
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide (Pneumovax 23; M)
Benzethonium chloride (Phemerol) Anthrax (B)

DTaP (Infanrix; GSK)
Hepatitis A (Havrix; GSK)
Hepatitis A/Hepatitis B (Twinrix; GSK)
Lyme (Lymerix; GSK) [Labeled bacteriostatic agent]

*Manufacturer abbreviations:
GSK = Glaxo SmithKline; WL = Wyeth Lederle; AP = Aventis Pasteur; M =
Merck; B=Bioport.

Other sources of mercury
Immune globulins (including RhoGam)
Other medical sources
Dental amalgams
Household sources & mercury detection
Environmental mercury
Mercury in landfills

5. It is a preservative used in vaccines to keep bacteria & fungus down
(used in production for that contamination possibility & post production,
in the vials sent out, in case of lack of aseptic handling)

6. It doesn't have to be there and isn't in many single dose vials
It is in/was in many multidose vials (a needle goes in and out of the
rubber stopper on top of the vial many times in a multi dose vial, giving
possibility of contamination each time) (multi dose vials are cheaper to
use - so comes down to money)

7. New preservative replacing it in some cases is 2-PE - no safety studies
done on it either
"Thimerosal’s only competitor, 2-phenoxyethanol, is less effective than
thimerosal in suppressing potential contaminants like Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, E. coli, and Staph. aureus, according to data presented by Dr.
Stanley Plotkin at an August workshop on thimerosal safety held at the
National Institutes of Health"

8. House hearings -
June 2000 - Mercury in Medicine: Are We Taking Unnecessary Risks?
can be read here

9. Never recalled - only new production reduced or removed (there is still
trace in some, 25 mcg in others and it is still used in production of many
and somehow 'filtered' out they say)
Letter that FDA/CBER wrote to the vaccine manufacturers asking them to
consider removing thimerosal from vaccines, if they ever felt like doing so
(no requirement made, no time frame set). There were several letters. One
can be viewed at the FDA web site (excerpted from Dan Burton's Opening
On July 9, 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States
Public Health Service issued a joint statement recommending the removal of
thimerosal from vaccines.[1] On May 31, 2000, the Food and Drug
Administration notified vaccine manufacturers that their review of mercury
compounds in drugs and foods concluded that reducing or eliminating
thimerosal from vaccines is merited.[2] However, there has been no
mandatory action. These vaccines are still in use.
The FDA continues to allow the mercury-containing vaccines to remain on the
market. Today, over eight thousand children in America may be given a
toxic dose of mercury in their vaccines.[3] - October 25, 2000 letter to HHS
Secretary Donna
Shalala, Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee on
Government Reform, requested a recall of all vaccines containing

10. Some of the key people getting information out on this are
Lyn Redwood,
and those associated, Mark & David Geier, Jeff Bradstreet, Boyd Haley,
Teresa Binstock

11. Lies & coverups
Eli Lilly -
Documents Show Eli Lilly Knew Mercury In Vaccines Was Known Dangerous In 30's
"was known as early as April 1930 to be dangerous. "

FULL PDF of the Meeting
Summary of Highlights
"Postscript. A number of subsequent developments cast continuing doubt on
the independence, disinterest or veracity of the safety analysis process.
**Dr. Verstraeten accepted a job in the vaccine manufacturing division of
SmithKlineBeecham. His article summarizing the results of his work while
employed at the CDC was submitted for publication after accepting his new
**Dr. Chen refused to open the VSD information to independent scrutiny in a
public session sponsored by the IOM. As support for his refusal, he argued
that patient confidentiality would be put at risk.
An earlier version of the report, dated February 9, 2000, revealed that
Verstraeten found a relative risk for autism of 2.48 among children
exposure to >62.5 mcg of mercury. This was sharply higher than the rate
reported in the study discussed in Simpsonwood. The sample population for
the two analyses was virtually identical, but the revised analysis included
large number of children previously excluded from the analysis, either
because they were not continuously enrolled in their HMO or because they
were born with perinatal/congenital issues. The newly included population
included disproportionately large number of autistic children, with
disproportionately low thimerosal exposures. "

Simpsonwood - Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information By
The US Centre for Disease Control, Simpsonwood Retreat Center, Norcross,
Georgia, June 7th-8th 2000.
This meeting was convened by the US CDC to discuss the findings of Dr.
Verstraeten in relation to the positive statistical association between
thiomersal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders (thiomersal
is a mercury-based preservative that has been extensively used in the UK
and US, and elsewhere). The confidential version of the study reviewed at
this meeting clearly demonstrated that an exposure to more than 62.5
micrograms of mercury within the first three months of life significantly
increased a child's risk of developing autism. Specifically, the study
found a 2.48 times increased risk of autism.

"Let me remind everyone of a few critical points raised during the “behind
closed doors” Simpsonwood meeting of 2000 as it related to the effects of
“Dr. Keller, pgs. 116 & 118: "we KNOW the DEVELOPING neurologic system is
more sensitive than one that is fully developed" [end of quote, emphasis
added, CDC’s National Immunization Program (NIP) Report entitled Scientific
Review Of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information, produced based on
information from a June 7-8, 2000 meeting convened by CDC’s NIP Director,
Dr. Walter Orenstein].

Dr. Verstraeten, pg. 162: "… that tells me mercury at one month of age is
not the same as mercury at three months, at 12 months, prenatal mercury,
later mercury..." [end of quote, emphasis added, CDC’s National
Immunization Program (NIP) Report entitled Scientific Review Of Vaccine
Safety Datalink Information, produced based on information from a June 7-8,
2000 meeting convened by CDC’s NIP Director, Dr. Walter Orenstein]."

ASSESSMENT... VSD.SafeMinds.critique.pdf

CONSTANT articles saying no evidence thimerosal or mercury causes harm and
there is TONS of evidence

Senator Bill Frist has just filled the seat of Senate majority leader on
December 23, 2002. Frist authored a bill intended to protect vaccine
makers, such as Eli Lilly & Co, from lawsuits regarding thimerosal found in
vaccines and argued is linked to autism in children. While Frist denies
having any role in the provision that was slipped into the homeland
security bill passed in November 2002 protecting Eli Lilly from legal
matters for their thimerosal containing vaccines, Frist is hoping to pass
his original bill, which will have liability protection regarding vaccines.
Frist's ties to Eli Lilly & Co:

Frist's bill would protect Eli Lilly and other vaccine makers from
lawsuits, including the growing controversy of thimerosal. When writing the
bill, Frist consulted with Eli Lilly, as well as other interested parties.
In 2002, Eli Lilly and the company's employees contributed $226,250 to the
National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that Frist has led. When
Frist wrote a book on bioterrorism that was published following the
September 11, 2001 attacks, Eli Lilly bought 5,000 copies of it and
distributed the book to doctors around the U.S.

Those of us in the vaccine dangers movement immediately mobilized to stop
this insanity. Part was passed and later rescinded.

12. The world
UK - mercury still in vaccines
"In the UK, the Department of Health has refused to acknowledge that there
might be a problem with thiomersal, and no free exchange system has been
offered, or sought. Thiomersal continues in use in a number of vaccines,
not just those for children. As recently as January 2003, press reports in
The Scotsman newspaper indicated that four out of the seven influenza
vaccines in use in the UK contained thiomersal, and this was not refuted by
the Department of Health. "

146. UK Vaccines With Thiomersal
Vaccines in the UK that are believed to still contain, or until recently
contained, thiomersal are:
DTaP (Diptheria and Tetanus and acellular pertussis) made by Lederle
HIB (haemophilus influenza type B) made by Connaught Laboratories
DPT (Diptheria and tetanus and pertussis) made by Glaxo SmithKline
Energix-B (Hepatitis B) made by Glaxo SmithKline
HibTiter (Haemophilus influenza type B) made by Lederle
Fluvirin influenza virus vaccine made by Medeva Pharma
FluShield made by Wyeth-Ayerst
Menomune (Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine) made by Connaught
Rabies vaccine made by Glaxo SmithKline
Recombivax (Hep B recombinant vaccine) made by Merck & Co.
In January 2003, a detailed report in The Scotsman newspaper listed four
influenza vaccines in use in the UK (out of a total of seven) that still
used thiomersal:

Australia (called thiomersal)

"In Canada, the only thimerosal-containing vaccine included in the regular
childhood vaccination schedule is hepatitis B vaccine.
Canadian health authorities quietly replaced the old mercury containing
vaccines given to infants, with two mercury free vaccines, PENTA- 4
vaccines in one (1994) and Pentacel - 5 vaccines in one(1997). "
Canada Communicable Disease Report
Table one Vaccines without mercury
Table three - Vaccines WITH mercury

I don't know each European Country

Other parts of the world - most all vaccines contain mercury (other than
the live vaccines)
What is GACVS recommendation on the safety of thiomersal containing vaccines?
Upon review of current epidemiologic evidence and phamacokinetic profile of
thiomersal, the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety concluded that
there is currently no evidence of mercury toxicity in infants, children, or
adults exposed to thiomersal in vaccines. It also concluded that there is
no reason to change current immunization practices with
thiomersal-containing vaccines on the grounds of safety. The safety of
thiomersal containing vaccines is reviewed at regular intervals. In the
meantime, the available evidence warrants recommendation that current WHO
immunization policy with respect to thiomersal containing vaccines should
not be changed.

13. Lawsuits
Lawsuits have been filed due to the drug company’s failure to disclose to
doctors how much mercury was contained in the vaccines until Congress
ordered the FDA to find out in 1997. Defendants include drug companies
Aventis Pasteur Inc., Pasteur Merieux Connaught, Pfizer Inc., a subsidiary
of Warner-Lambert, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Abbott Laboratories,
American Home Products, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, Lederle Laboratories,
Baxter International Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., Integra Chemical Co., Sigma
Chemical Co., and Aldrich Chemical Co.

Canada & US

14. Latest news - Much has been happening lately

A. Molecular Psychiatry Research & news releases
Research in April 2004, Molecular Psychiatry, article from February 2004
New research from Northeastern University pharmacy professor Richard Deth
and colleagues from the University of Nebraska, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins
University, there is an apparent link between exposure to certain
neurodevelopmental toxins and an increased possibility of developing
neurological disorders including autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity

B. US IOM hearings - Feburary 2004

C. David & Mark Geier's Articles - February & March 2004 - see my webpages for links to
the articles
Parents' worries about thimerosal in vaccines are well founded!

Letter to the Editor regarding the Verstraeten et al. study in Pediatrics
that we have written that is now posted at:

Study Misses Link Between Thimerosal and Neurodevelopmental Disorders 23
12 March 2004
Mark R. Geier, MD, Ph.D., geneticist and vaccinologist
The Genetic Centers of America,
David A. Geier of Medcon, Inc.

D UK exposure of thimerosal issue in the newspapers end of March 2004 - see my webpages for links to
the stories

British Medical Journal Article & Responses

E. Mother Jones Article - Toxic Tipping Point - March 2004
and click on :
Interested in the complete version of Toxic Tipping Point?
You have several options:
Free online access to all articles for Mother Jones subscribers.
More about free subscriber access
Buy online access for this article only
Pay as little as 80 cents per article.
OR Subscribe to Mother Jones today
A print subscription includes free online access to all articles.
Buy the March/April 2004 Issue of Mother Jones

F. CDC Scandal Emerges-Study Attempts Cover Up of Autism-Mercury
Link-Congressman Dave Weldon, M.D., Asks CDC for Investigation

G. Many lies being published by 'authorities' in US and UK
Wall Street Journal
1. The Politics of Autism: Lawsuits and emotion vs. science and childhood
vaccines WSJ editorial Monday, December 29, 2003

Many letters written in response

H. Missouri looking at outlawing vaccines with mercury
March 2004

I. CDC says - Won’t Alert Parents, Doctors on Mercury in Flu Shots for Kids
April 2004,1,1037077.story?coll=la-

U.S. Won’t Alert Parents, Doctors on Mercury in Flu Shots for Kids
The CDC says it sees no harm in the preservative thimerosal. Advocacy
groups attack its stance.

J. Misc
Experts Warn Officials -
Massive Mercury Exposure in Vaccines/Amalgam Fillings Linked To Epidemic
Levels of Autism and Neurological Disease.
Allege Enormous Conflicts of Interest - Cover-up


At 6/18/2005 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your site seems awfully one-sided. That Danish study was not pseudo-science. Since you are such an anti-quack doctor, can you even speculate why autism rates have risen from 1 in 2500 to 1 in 166 births?
I didn't even eat fish when I was pregnant wih my son, due to fears of Mercury exposure, thanks to alerts and education dissemenated by our government. However common sense would say putting needles of developing infants conataing this stuff would have some negative effect, no?
Come up with some hard science and research yourself, please, before venting and really beingquite offensive to those of parents with autism ("Tom Tommorow must have drunk the autism mercury juice")


At 6/18/2005 6:40 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Your site seems awfully one-sided. That Danish study was not pseudo-science. Since you are such an anti-quack doctor, can you even speculate why autism rates have risen from 1 in 2500 to 1 in 166 births?

Can you be a bit more precise - which Danish study are you talking about? The one Orac mentions, is the one that shows that there is no connection between thimerosol in vaccinations and autism, as the rate of autism hasn't dropped in Denmark after thimerosol has been removed from vaccinations. Oracs has not said it was pseudo-science, rather he has used it as evidence that any claims of a thimerosol-autism connection is doubtful.

"I didn't even eat fish when I was pregnant wih my son, due to fears of Mercury exposure, thanks to alerts and education dissemenated by our government. However common sense would say putting needles of developing infants conataing this stuff would have some negative effect, no?"

There might be negative effects in using mercury in vaccinations, and I for one would prefer to use a different option if available (which it is) given the known effects of mercury. However, this has nothing to do with autism, and focusing on a non-proven (and rather doubtful) connection seems to be a bad way of finding the cause of autism.


At 6/18/2005 7:03 AM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

I just made a post about anti-vaccine movements here in New Zealand surrounding the meningitis B vaccine over at my blog, You made an excellent post, it is just unfortunate that it appears many just aren't willing to listen at all.


At 6/18/2005 8:51 AM, Anonymous jeannedb said...

THAT'S why the rubella part of the MMR shot can cause autism--rubella can cause deformities in a fetus if the expectant mother catches rubella (German Measles). Why shouldn't an injection of a form of rubella screw up the immature immune system as well?

Then I'm guessing there is a spike in cases of Autism diagnosed in 1970/71 when we were all lined up as school children and had the German Measle/Rubella vaccine administered to us in school.


At 6/18/2005 10:00 AM, Blogger kitty said...


At 6/18/2005 10:02 AM, Blogger Kev said...

Well, this thread's been well and truly 'altied'. I don't think a lot of the more 'excitable' commenters actually bothered to read the original post at all. Personally, my favourite comment so far has been:

"As for the original creator of this absurd post (and all you other ignorant morons), I just hope you have a child or grandchild with autism in the very near future so that your small minds will be blown away when you finally wake up and realize how they got that way...which, since the rate has now "miraculously" risen to 1 in 150 children, I'm sure someone you care for will be affected very soon...Karma's a bitch. Can't wait to see you eat your very ignorant and uneducated words."

Which demonstrates the education, class and reasoning power of a lot of people on that side of the debate much better than anything I could come up with.


At 6/18/2005 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an informed parent of a child with autism, I've been reading about the mercury-autism debate for some time. I've been very "on the fence" about it, not jumping to conclusions in either direction. I have only one MAJOR criticism of the points made on this site. Btw, I too tried to make my way through the long and tedious transcript of the Simpsonwood conference and came to the same conclusions about Kennedy's article: irresponsibly misleading and riddled with hyperbole. So my one major criticism is that NO ONE IS ANTIVACCINATIONS. The topic at hand is whether THIMEROSAL is poisoning children NOT VACCINES. Please don't confuse the two. No sane person wants to get rid of vaccines.


At 6/18/2005 10:33 AM, Blogger Orac said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


At 6/18/2005 10:56 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Orac, you'd want to correct that link - it takes people offsite.


At 6/18/2005 11:09 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Anon., quite a few people who go on about a thimerosal-autism connection is indeed anti-vaccination. If thimerosal is removed, they'll keep going on about the vaccinations.

In Denmark, people has choosen not to let their kids get childhood vaccinations because of the rumoured connection between those and autism, no matter the fact that is has been found that there is absolutely no corrolation between childhood vaccinations and autism.

Not only does it put their children at risk, but it risks the herd immunity (which I believe Salon had a good article about a couple of years ago - I should try to find it again).


At 6/18/2005 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be much room for debate concerning this subject. However, for the life of me, it appears that many people here are arguing that it is perfectly fine to inject mercury into children.

I work in the municipal water/waste water industry and I often use this comparison when people complain about regulatory issues.

"I have a 100 gallon tank of water that will be used for your family's drinking water. I am going to use a pair of tweezers to start dropping grains of rat poison into that tank. You tell me at what point I have put an acceptable amount in."


At 6/18/2005 11:24 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

As I stated in an earlier comment, i am all for removing thimerosal because of it's mercury levels, but that's because of the know harmful effects of mercury, and because we know that mercury accumulates in living organisms, not because of a doubtful relationship between thimerosal and autism.

I am also all for prosecuting medicial comapnies that have more than allowed amounts of mercury into vaccinations.

However, it's important to keep the issues seperated.


At 6/18/2005 11:37 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Oops. Sorry. It's known as cutting and pasting without first recutting.

My aggregate response is here, and I've deleted the old comment with the incorrect link.


At 6/18/2005 11:50 AM, Anonymous paul said...

Rat poison/drinking water comparison does not hold up, and is misleading, implying that there is/was no reason to use mercury in the first place. A better comparison might be flouride and drinking water, and not drops per 100 gallons, but perhaps drops per 100,000 gallons.

And, anyone who is interested in what might be the next phase in this discussion, check out post from a blogger in NZ on the subject of anti vax camppaigns down there. Unrelated to thimerosal and quite scary. I posted/linked to him today. Just click my name to read.


At 6/18/2005 12:44 PM, Anonymous America - The New Banana Republic said...

How about the other link detailed in the Salon article? The link between Frist receiving vast sums of money from the drug companies and then jamming through legislation giving said companies unprecedented immunity against lawsuits???

How does this protect the public interest? Protection from terrorism? What a laugh. I guess we need to be able to poison our own population to be safe from terrorism.

If companies get to pay our elected leaders so they don't have to worry about producing unsafe products then we live in a sorry nation. Government for sale was hardly the goal of our founding fathers. Once again the rethuglicans show their true allegiance - to anyone who gives them a lot of money. And damn the average citizen.

That is what makes me sick.


At 6/18/2005 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised that this thread does not discuss the research of Dr. Richard Deth of Northeastern University. See
there for his study showing one possible means by which mercury can effect the developing brain in a manner as to potentially cause autism.

Dwight Meredith


At 6/18/2005 3:52 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Dwight, I was hoping you might comment on this thread, as I have read, and learned a lot, your posts on the subject in the past.

As far as I remember, your stance is that it's not know if there is a connection or not, but you feel that it should be possible to do research the possibility of a link, without the big medical companies blocking such investigation - am I remembering right? Forgive me if I am misremembering, or being unclear - I have been busy the last 14 hours doing software test for an assigment due on tuesday.

The research you refer to would indeed be relevant to this discussion, and if correct, could lead to the removal of mercury in vaccinations, since it might accumulate together with mercury from other soruces - however, it doesn't invalid the argument that the article at Salon was filled with factual errors, and represented bad science.

I think we all want the cause of autism to be found, and work to reduce the numbers. Those of you personally affected most of all.


At 6/18/2005 4:10 PM, Anonymous Rose in SC said...

My son had an HHE (hypotonic-hyporesponsive episode) returning home from 2 month shots. It was not a good day for a coincidental brain swelling. I'll be damned if it wasn't vaccine related...we're talking minutes later. It was a rare side effect, 1 in 100,000, and never reported. Whether it was the cause of my son's autism, I'll never know.

I've never "treated" my son for his ADHD/Autism/Aspergers/PDD/Tourettes (pick a label, any label) other than Ritalin. He has an IQ of at least 130 at age 11 (from 75 at age 4).

Didn't anybody mention PINK DISEASE, or Acrodynia??? We have been here before, medically. Some children show an intense reaction to small amounts of mercury...the severest reaction being death. Look up this historical disease which left the medical books when mercury was removed (by law) from teething powders. No litigation took place, and the companies mysteriously "folded" in the 1950's. In the U.K., one in two children used teething powders, but one in 2500 died of Pink Disease. There was an innate, possibly genetic reason for this hypersensitivity to Mercury, but it has not been determined.

Dr. Deth's work out of NOrthwestern, I believe, compares the mercury/autism connection to the copper connection in Wilson's Disease...(strangely enough, dysgraphia is a symptom of it.I came across this in independent research for my son's severe dysgraphia...) In Wilson's Disease the body is unable to chelate copper, so it builds up, slowly poisoning the system and leading to an early death if not treated. Chelation is the medical therapy for Wilson's Disease.

Recently, a friends husband died of undiagnosed inherited inability to secrete iron.

To not be able to see a possibility, I think a person would have to be a little naive.


At 6/18/2005 4:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your memory of my position is largely correct. I do not believe that there have yet been well designed epidemiological studies that prove or dispove a connection. I am unimpressed with the Danish study for a whole buch of reasons most of which can be found here.

I think that the evidence is mounting that a link between mercury and some types of autism exists but that such evidence is not yet conclusive.

As a side note, it is a mistake, in my view, to think that there is only one type of autism or that there is a single cause of autism. Autism is likely to be many different things with many diferent causes.

Dr. Deth's work is important because it may help us to understand how heavy metal exposure effects brain development but I think we need epidemiological reasearch as well.

I asked about the Deth study not to criticize anyone's posts or comments but to learn. I am not interested in winning a debate, I just want my son to get better and for no one else's son to share our experience.



At 6/18/2005 5:16 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Dwight, I am sorry if I came across defensiv ely, I didn't think you were criticizing our posts, and the study your brough up is very relevant. I do have the medical knowledge to udnerstand it, but I hope Orac will have the time and patience to read it and explain it to the rest of us.

I hadn't seen the critique of the Danish study before, or if I have, I have forgotten it. However, that study is not the only Danish study on the subject, and as far as I know, they all reach the same conclusion. I will try to see what I can dig up at the University library.

I think you are right in regard to there being more than one cause for autism, and I think any lead is important to follow up on.


At 6/18/2005 5:55 PM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Oh, my - past my bedtime..

"I do have the medical knowledge to udnerstand it,"

should of course be

"I don't have the medical knowledge to understand it"

A rather big difference.


At 6/18/2005 6:06 PM, Blogger Orac said...

"kitty's" comment spam a few comments up is one great example showing that there is quite a strong antivaccination flavor to this mercury-autism thing. I was going to delete her comment, as I do wihtout remarking on it to all comment spam (I absolutely hate comment spam), but have rather decided to leave it up because the link illustrates my point. Look at the titles and descriptions of the book and tell me that they aren't primarily antivaccination screeds.


At 6/18/2005 6:09 PM, Blogger Orac said...


Hey, if you want to try to get this article in as an Instalanche, I certainly would tell you not to...if you know what I mean.;-)

However, I'd never send anything by me to Instapundit myself (the sole exception being the time I hosted Grand Rounds, which Instapundit usually links to every week). I rather suspect Glenn gets a lot of people sending him their stuff hoping for an Instalanche and probably ignores the vast majority of such self-submissions. I also don't want to be too shameless.


At 6/18/2005 6:19 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Regarding Dr. Deth's work, I'll have to look at the article. I tried to download it from the Northeastern site provided, but for some reason only the first page of the PDF was readable, and I get a message about a missing or corrupt font. I'll have to look for it at work on Monday. However, from the abstract, I don't really see anything that implies a direct link to autism; however, I'll read the whole thing next week.

Finally, I'm not saying that drug companies are beyond reproach, nor do I like Frist's actions as far as legislation unduly favorable to drug companies goes. However, that is an entirely separate issue from the actual evidence for a connection between mercury and autism.

I rather suspect the reason that the mercury-autism junk science tends to be more favored by the left than the right is because of the strong anti-pharmaceutical company and anti-corporate indictments that such a link, if true, would imply. Certainly Frist's activities feed into that anti-corporate suspicion.

Bye, all, until tomorrow, when I'll look over new comments.


At 6/18/2005 7:36 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Calling all logicians and medical folk:

This is the first (not frist) part of a post to Autism Diva that is getting tweeked as we speak... Is there any logical flaw in this?

The autism-equals-thimerosal-damage argument seems to depend on these things:

1) the existence of an autism epidemic (or vast increase) that began shortly after the rise in exposure to thimerosal in chidren and babies by way of vaccinations--the corollary is that there are few or next to no adult autistics,

2) that there is an actual mechanism by which thimerosal injections in babies and children CAN cause something to happen that
normal brains
into autistic brains
*if* the doses of mercury are the same and timed the same as those given in the vaccines in question,
AND this causal mechanism CAN NOT also cause mental retardation without autism - or other brain problems because there has been no vast increase in other brain problems, but this goes back to point #1.

3) lacking an actual known mechanism,
that there is actual evidence
of mercury-caused damage extant in autistic brains or even evidence of high amounts of thimerosal left-overs in actual brain tissue of actual autistic children.

NONE of those are in evidence. NONE of them.


Thanks. Lujene Clark et al, Autism Diva is not asking for your comments.

Autism Diva


At 6/18/2005 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Among the things that suggested a direct connection between Dr. Deth's work and the current thread, at least to me, was the statement on page 11 of the study:

"The discovery of the PI3-kinase/MAP-kinase/MS pathway, and its potent inhibition by the developmental neurotoxins, including ... thimerosal... provides a potential molecular explanation for how increased use of vaccines could promote an increase in the incidence of autism."

I look forward to your insight once you have had an opportunity to review Dr. Deth's research.

On a different angle to this thread, there has not been much discussion of the public policy issues. Let me help.

How is it that on the day he was born, my son was injected with more than thirty times the EPA limit of a known neurotoxin despite the fact that neither the FDA nor the CDC nor any other government agency nor any drug company had every performed a single clinical trial to determine whether or not such exposure was safe?

That is a scandal regardless of whether or not ex post facto research identifies a causal connection between mecury in vaccines and autism.




At 6/18/2005 7:58 PM, Blogger Alan D. Clark, M.D. said...

I would like to comment on this thread. As one physician to another, please take a few moments and review this information. This is your blog and your rights to freedom of speech and self realized ideas are important. Please indulge my “quote mining”, but in your information section about your blog you wrote: “…I hope to base my opinions and ramblings on facts, but to remain respectful of other viewpoints.”

You stated in a recent blog regarding the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. article, titled Deadly Immunity, featured in Rolling Stone Magazine and in “…the preparation of the article was heavily influenced by an antivaccination activist. Gee, why am I not surprised to learn this? Why didn't just let Lujene Clark write the article?”

I believe your goal here is to have the correct facts. After all, “a statement of fact cannot be insolent” (unless the fact is incorrect and appears to be ad hominem).

I am familiar with *the facts* since Lujene Clark is my wife. Firstly, she is not an “antivaccination activist”. She does promote safer vaccines, as do I. Putting a known neurotoxin in a vaccine could be construed by some as an unsafe practice. Others will have different opinions.

Secondly, Lujene did not write anything for RFK, Jr., Rolling Stone or As my wife pointed out to someone earlier, Mr. Kennedy is an experienced, published author with several successful books to his credit. She did not write his article nor did she have any editorial authority. To suggest otherwise, is an insult to Mr. Kennedy's integrity and frankly, just plain laughable to anyone who knows my wife. Lujene absolutely abhors writing anything more than a check (and she rarely does even that since she obtained her debit card). When circumstances require her to compose correspondence she will procrastinate as long as possible proclaiming that she has no talent as a writer and someone else would be best suited for the task. Those of us who know Lujene, know that she will go to great lengths and become quite creative to avoid having to put “pen to paper” so to speak.

She primarily assisted Mr. Kennedy by providing documents upon request. He and his staff meticulously researched the issue, carefully building a reference file to insure accurate statements were reflected in the article. It is my understanding that Mr. Kennedy and his staff, as well as Rolling Stone and each independently fact-checked the information contained in the article (as was appropriate). That’s a nice touch often missing in journalism these days. The manner in which she assisted Mr. Kennedy and his staff was no different than the numerous other authors, journalists, researchers or legislators who have requested copies of documents in our possession. By the way, Mr. Kennedy apparently spoke with many people, including, but not limited to Dr. Kathleen Stratton of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Paul Offit, of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr, Neal Halsey of Johns Hopkins, so clearly he wanted answers from both sides of the issue. Any conclusions in the article are his own.

Further, Lujene did not ask to be interviewed for the magazine nor did she expect to be.interviewed. In fact, the journalist from Rolling Stone caught us completely off guard when they called her while we were traveling to New York City to visit friends with a severely mercury damaged child – a precious little boy who had lost all speech and language at age 2 ½ after a mercury-containing flu shot. We were also in New York to lend assistance to those working on the New York bill to ban mercury in vaccines for pregnant women and children three and under.

We don’t advocate for money (we accept no funds). Nor have we filed any lawsuits. Our organization, NoMercury, is for educational purposes and does not endorse, sell or market any products or services. Due to a nerve injury, my medical practice is limited to serving as Medical Director in my local Community Clinic for the underprivileged. I do not treat autistic children. Our efforts are really a labor of love and we have tried to remain in the anonymous background unless telling our story serves to educate or inspire others.

I suspect many physicians, like you and me, might be in denial at the thought of inadvertently poisoning an entire generation of children. It’s not our fault. We were misled and we did what we thought was best for our patients.

As a physician and a physician educator for 30 years, please allow me to tell my story.

Our son was 7 1/2 years old when he reached his “toxic tipping point” with mercury after he received two doses of Thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine in November 2002 and December 2002 (approximately 30 days apart per the ACIP/CDC guidelines). Within a matter of weeks he experienced dramatic changes...he suffered severe neurodevelopmental changes, neurobehavioral symptoms, exacerbated allergies, asthma, eczema, etc.

Within 10 months, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Only when we identified mercury as the culprit and started to remove the heavy metal from his system, did he begin to recover.

Asperger's syndrome, in my opinion, is often misdiagnosed, as is autism. Evidence indicates many of these children are mercury poisoned (similar to Pink's Disease or Acrodynia...that was not a DSM-IV diagnosis either).

As a "mainstream" physician all these years, this seemed to go against all my "conventional" training and was outside the realm of my previous standard of practice. I sought additional training with heavy emphasis on environmental medicine and spent many hours speaking with researchers and clinicians familiar with mercury toxicity and its biomedical symptoms. I shared this knowledge and research with my son's health care team (pediatrician and endocrinologist) and we implemented these new modalities into his treatment protocol. As I stated previously, only then did my son begin to improve.

If it was not mercury causing his problems then what would explain his dramatic improvement when we addressed the mercury issue? I caution you against making the mistake of thinking there is “no credible scientific evidence” of how and why this is true. There is a plethora of peer-reviewed scientific studies published over the last 50 years that mercury and specifically, Thimerosal (49.6% ethyl mercury by weight) is genotoxic (damages DNA), nephrotoxic (damages kidneys), immunotoxic (damages the immune system), cytotoxic (causes cell death), cardiotoxic (damages the heart), thyrotoxic (damages the thyroid) and neurotoxic (damages the neurological system).

Many of the biological mechanisms for the damage caused by Thimerosal have been identified. Thanks to numerous studies published within the last few years, we have a better understanding of why some children are more susceptible than others. Thanks to several studies published in the last two years we can better understand why and how these new treatment protocols help many of these children achieve dramatic improvements, for example the use of methylcobalamine injections (also known as methyl B12). This is no longer a scientific debate…just check Pub Med. The studies are there much to the dismay of public health officials and vaccine manufacturers. They continue to hope that denial will make this public relations nightmare go away. The epidemiological studies that “prove” there is no link have serious flaws. Even if done properly, epidemiology will often miss such affected subgroups (for example, epidemiology missed the association between folic acid intake and neural tube defects). By the way, most of the children affected are male (4:1). This fits with the finding that testosterone potentiates mercury toxicity in the brain. It is notable that in Acrodynia, this same 4:1 ratio of male to female involvement was found.

Until October 2003, I, too, was “blissfully ignorant” of the acute toxicity of Thimerosal much like most other physicians. We were never told our son’s vaccines contained mercury, a known neurotoxin, in levels that exceeded EPA safety guidelines. It never occurred to us to ask. Because of my medical background, I thought physicians could trust the CDC, the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry. I must hope that no one else should reach this epiphany at so high a price.

Please take a few minutes and carefully review the some of full text scientific publications available at

Alan D. Clark, M.D.

“When a man who is honestly mistaken, hears the truth, he will either cease being mistaken or cease being honest." Anon


At 6/18/2005 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also very disturbed by the shabby content of the Salon article. This is easily the worst article I've ever read there.

Kudos for orac for posting a fairly thorough rebuttal.

One of the things that most bothered me was Kennedy's citing of article by a reporter claiming not to have found autism in Amish children. If Autism can be said to have a genetic component -- and many researchers believe it does -- then it is entirely possible that the Amish, being a genetically homogenous population, do not have the genes for Autism. Therefore not finding Autism would be like not finding Tay-Sachs disease in a non-Jewish population or not finding Sickle Cell disease in a non-African American population.

It also disturbed me that the article failed to mention that the consequences of selective vaccination among the Amish are a greatly increased number of babies born with congenital Rubella.


At 6/18/2005 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I would be curious to understand the claim that rates of autism remain unchanged in Canada (still looking into Denmark) since they dropped thimerosal in 1995. Autism isn't tracked in most children until they reach school age...especially milder forms where they aren't typically identified until school. So there really has only been a few years of data available to study. This is all I could find which actually hints at the rates declining since 1995. However, statistically nobody can claim improvement or lack of improvement until at least 2 or 3 more years of data become available.

To counter the claim that Denmark's autism rate hasn't improved, I would encourage this article - which shows that the main Danish study claiming autism rates hadn't changed had a significant flaw in assumptions, as well as showing that the poor study's authors were employed by the drug manufacturers.

I don't claim to know if autism and speech delay has been caused by thimerosal, but I can find information enough to cast doubt on anyone that claims definitely one side or the other.

Really, there has been poor science all around for both parties.


At 6/18/2005 8:25 PM, Anonymous paulb said...


Re: Instapundit and getting the word over to GR's handlers, I am currently some sort of "microbe" in the blog ecosystem thingy, so I'd have as much influence as my cat in getting Insty's attention. However, I seriously think that your post and the subsequent discussion generated is as important as reporting on the blogosphere gets, and I read a ton of this stuff. Lots of reasons why, and I think that Glenn offers the best forum to counter the anti-vax crowd.

My thought was to send a note to someone who could send a note to someone etc. I'll let you know if I get a response.


At 6/18/2005 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Clark,

There has been no "acrodynia" explosion.

You should not be using the term "Asperger's" anywhere at any time to describe your son if he has suffered "acrodynia".

I would appreciate it if you would make it abundantly clear on your website that what you really think is that the increase in thimerosal usage caused an increase in acryodyina, but not autism.

There has been NO vast increase in the cases of autism. The IDEA numbers and the California DDS numbers have been brutally twisted to try to prove one.

Regression is a common element in autism, kids with Asperger's are subjected to increasing amounts of stress as the get older, 3rd grade is named as a turning point by many as the time when life became hellish because of outside pressures to be normal.

Autistic kids seem to have a vastly worse pysical (cortisol) reactions to stress than normal kids. Look for the work of Blythe Corbett from the MIND institute on this.

Chelation can't cure autism and there is no evidence that it does, but anecdotes like those of yours and your wife's to say that it does, and we are supposed to believe it.

You suspect doctors hide from the truth because of fear of painful emotions.

I suspect you deny that your kid had Asperger's from birth.

But that could be entirely wrong,

he could have acryodynia.

In which case, please, I beg, stop confusing it with Asperger's.

Thank you so much.


A person who really has Asperger's syndrome


At 6/18/2005 10:43 PM, Anonymous Michelle Dawson said...

Arriving late and still bug-eyed.

Few comments. Re thimerosal in Canada (in response to the spam post), Hep B is in routine infant immunization schedules in three Canadian provinces and three territories representing less than 17% of the Canadian population. By 2001, all three provinces and one territory had switched to, or were using (as they had all along), a thimerosal-free version of Hep B.

In 1999, when all versions of Hep B contained mercury, only two provinces and one territory, representing 3% of the Canadian population, had Hep B in the routine infant vaccination schedule.

The above is the total of Canada's thimerosal-containing routine infant vaccinations since 1994. And of course we are having this gigantic autism hysteria in Canada due to the (perceived) rates going through the roof (150% increase in 6 years, declares Autism Society Canada in panic ).

Re the UK (this is interesting too), RFK writes:
"Russia banned thimerosal from children's vaccines 20 years ago, and Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain and all the Scandinavian countries have since followed suit."

The UK has also been undergoing the autism epidemic hysteria. I know less about the situation there, but the decision to scrap the UK's thimerosal-containing childhood vaccination was made in 2004, rather later than in the US. I say "vaccination" because according to many sources including the NHS there was only ever one. The CDC states:

"The only vaccine in the UK’s childhood immunization program that contains thimerosal is DTP. All other vaccines (OPV, BCG, MMR, Hib, menC) added to the program since the 1950's are and have always been thimerosal free."

That is, the UK has for some 60 years had one thimerosal-containing childhood vaccine, and this has only changed in 2004. Of course, in case anyone missed it, the UK's autism epidemic hysteria was not caused by thimerosal, but by the thimerosal-free MMR.

The thimerosal situations in Canada, the US, and the UK are... substantially different. But the epidemiolgy gives all three countries the same rate of autism, circa 60/10,000, which is the 1 in 166 (prevalence, not incidence) often quoted. Canada's recent epidemiology is not published, but was presented at a conference (Zakarian et al, 2003) in case anyone's looking, and Eric Fombonne's, world autism epi expert, is a co-author of this one.

I believe Dr Clark is arguing that the current high rate of autism is due to mercury-poisoned but non-autistic children being diagnosed as autistic (or AS or PDD-NOS). But children in Canada should be much less (or not at all) mercury poisoned compared those in the US, as should kids in the UK who never had as much mercury in their schedules. Therefore our rates of autism should be much lower--unless doctors in Canada and the UK are mistaking something else for autism, while in Canada at the same time failing to notice a precipitous drop in the number of mercury-poisoned children. Or--the effect is regardless of dose, in which case we should have had an autism explosion in 1930, or whenever thimerosal was first put into routine childhood vaccines.

As the Diva points out, a child cannot "become" autistic or AS at a late age. Brain differences in autism are evident early in life. By age two, autistic brains are bigger than non-autistic brains. Very recent (Schultz, 2005, presented at IMFAR) structural imaging done on large autistic and non-autistic populations shows that autistic brains continue to be larger throughout adolescence and into adulthood (this was previously in controversy, but this study does tip the balance). There is increased volume in both white and grey matter.

This seems inconsistent with mercury poisoning, as does consistently superior performance of autistics in a wide range of tasks involving perception, memory, speed of processing, etc. These superiorities have been thoroughly published and replicated since 1993. 1993??? Are all these autistic strengths caused by thimerosal? Or could it be that no one was much interested in strengths in autistics, and had to be whacked repeatedly over the head with strong results before learning to pay attention?

For a mostly competent comparison of mercury poisoning and autism, see

The authors clearly aren't aware of the situation in Canada, but that doesn't make them lousy scientists, that just makes them Americans.


At 6/18/2005 11:00 PM, Anonymous Michelle Dawson said...

I'm not sure why the links in my previous post didn't show up properly. I'll try them again, in order of appearance:


I was going to write about autism treatments and the myriad parent "experts" who swear by each and every one, but later and maybe elsewhere. Since Orac keeps insisting that, being autistic, I have a disease (and wouldn't it be wonderful if this disease could be eradicated), I'm feeling a bit queasy. I suppose I should see a doctor?


At 6/19/2005 1:20 AM, Blogger Peter Bowditch said...

It didn't take long for the anti-vaccine whackos to come out of the woodwork, did it?

Congratulations, Orac, you saved me the trouble of handling this stinking turd in detail myself. I've been getting emails for days about it but I've been busy with another bunch of liars, the creationists. Now all I have to do is write one paragraph on The Millenium Project and then send everyone over here.

Peter Bowditch


At 6/19/2005 1:22 AM, Blogger jb said...

Longwinded and tiring! ORAC
You seem to be so sure of everything that you pointed out about the article on Deadly Immunity. What are you the FDA, or the IOM, or the CDC, or the many other crooks and money hungry entepeneurs of this country.

Listen what are the statistics that you claim that Canada and Denmark has not had a decrease in the rate of Autism? Where are they show us the proof, back them with facts. Dont ramble on and on with all that negativity with out showing me where you get your facts. The public does not need to hear this monotoneus critizism.

What makes you think that they don't have therimsol/mercury in the vaccines? The pharmaceutical companies have it in the inserts. The labels clearly indicate that there is mercury in them... I can mail you a copy of it if you like!!!! Give my your address!!! And anyone else who wants to see them ask the pediatrician or the nurse to give you the insert. READ THE LABELS AND INSERTS FOR YOURSELVES. Dont rely on idiots who say that they are not in them.

The drug companies were suppose to take them out of "some" vaccines, not all and they have admitted that they took the mercury out, but added the thermisol in. IT IS A PRESERVATIVE, A DEADLY ONE BY ALL STANDARD MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT. It is not okay to have that much mercury in a can of TUNA FISH! Wake up people, the fishing industry and all individuals are warned about eating to much fish and seafood. This is because of the mercury.


If it is not okay to eat more than two servings of fish per week then why is it okay to put over 25 times more than that in a single vaccine to put in our babies.

I am an educated citizen!!! Most of the anti-vaccine people as you put it ORAC! are educated people who have learned to live healthier lives by being negatively affected by GM products, by being harmed by vaccines. These are people who have spent years of there own personal research!!! Trust me none of what we do is in vain. Most do it to have their children have some relief from thier ailments. NONE OF THESE PARENTS ARE GETTING RICH OFF OF DOING THIS! They just need answers. They deserve answers. They deserve respect! They deserve to be treated with compassion, kindness, and concern. They deserve to make choices just like you and me they deserve to share their story. They have experienced a tragedy! They are doing the best they can with what they got. Some don't even have their children, because they have passed on from SOMETHING! The signs and symptoms of children/ adults with the spectrum (ASD, Aspergers) are so similar to those signs one experiences after a toxic dose of mercury. WHY?

Don't sleep on this baby there is something more to it than you and I could ever imagine. If there is no truth to the link then why are they relying on old (imaginary) studies. Why won't the have the guts to do a clean study. Why? What would be so hard to put these peoples worries at rest. MOST OF THESE PARENTS DON'T BLAME THEMSELVES, FOR THERE CHILDRENS ADVERSITIES. THEY BLAME THE DOCTORS AND NURSE WHO DID NOT AND DON'T PROPERLY DISCLOSE THE TRUTH ABOUT THE VACCINES SIDE EFFECTS. They blame the pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA, and the CDC, and the IOM, for covering up lies and scam just so they can continue to be the most riches industry in America.

My comments are dedicated and on the behalf of all the parents who don't have the time to deal with your loosely posted comments about these issues. I PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE IGNORANT AS YOU SEEM TO BE! I PRAY THAT YOU ARE AND YOUR FAMILY DON'T HAVE TO LEARN THE LESSON THE HARD WAY! Most people don't believe until it affects people they love. There are 1 in 68 families being affected by autism. If the government is not purposely putting it in the air and the drinking water, or in baby formula, then where is it coming from? ( not to say that I don't believe that they would not be wicked enough to do that either) I PRAY THAT YOUR FAMILY IS NOT ONE OF THE 1 IN 68! CAUSE THEN WHO WOULD YOU BLAME?


At 6/19/2005 1:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all must be brushing your teeth with flouride! Yes yet another toxin that you are given everyday through your toothpaste and your water system. It makes you docile and unable to think for yourselves. I can not believe that adoarns, has taken the word of another human being as Bible! You just said that you intuition had you believing one thing after reading the story... and then you push your intuition (the little voice inside, that is given to you by birth, nature, God, or what every faith you may have) and you disregard it for what someone else has said. Come on get real and get a brain of your own. Look at the periodic tables again. Your liquid poisons are highlighted a special color. Figure the stuff out for your self and follow your intuition that is what it is there for.


At 6/19/2005 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac you are so flip-floppy just like our President! Do you want them to find the cure or don't you!

Do you want to see children get better or don't you?

Do you want alternative therapies to work or don't you?

I am so confused by reading your blogs that it makes me wonder why you have so many fans...

If the majority believes in the stuff you put out then we are definately all going to hell in a hand basket!

I want to clarify one more thing for all the ORAC BELIEVERS! When you drink fat-free milk. It does not mean that they took out all the fat! When you eat fat-free cottage cheese it does not mean they took all the fat. When you drink sugar-free products it does not mean they took out the sugar out, It just means that there is less of it.


Regardless no one ever, ever, ever should have to THINK that it is okay to have mercury in your body for any given reason. NEVER, WHETHER BY VACCINES OR OTHERWISE. NO it is not okay to give TOXINS OR POISONS to anyone. I don't care who it is or for any reason, shape or form.



At 6/19/2005 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the very angry and screaming, but educated "jb" just might be JB Handley the investment dude from San Francisco. He has a bunch of angels working on his side. You can read about them on

Personally, I wouldn't give my mailing address to anyone who posts in all caps and needs to use 4 exclamation points to make a point. (!!!!)

jb, I hope you have calmed down now. All that anger is not healthy.

Today, June 18th, was international autistic pride day.

As for the Canada numbers, I guess "jb" didn't read what Michelle Dawson, of CANADA, wrote.

Michelle Dawson, you are the best! (!!!)
If you are diseased, I tell you, we ALL should be so diseased.

You are too right about the American disease of forgetting about Canada. How many provinces you guys have anyway?

Like - duh - eh?

Anon. contributor


At 6/19/2005 2:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the anti-vax loonies have arrived in full force . . .

Note to tinfoil hat wearers: it's hard to take you seriously about anything when you fail to exhibit elementary writing skills.


At 6/19/2005 2:05 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

Interesting that jb is actually disputing that the Danish and Canadian studies exist - others have disputed the findings of those studies, but jb is actually disputing their existence.

"What makes you think that they don't have therimsol/mercury in the vaccines? The pharmaceutical companies have it in the inserts. The labels clearly indicate that there is mercury in them... I can mail you a copy of it if you like!!!! Give my your address!!! And anyone else who wants to see them ask the pediatrician or the nurse to give you the insert. READ THE LABELS AND INSERTS FOR YOURSELVES. Dont rely on idiots who say that they are not in them."

Here we are entering a bizarro world. Denmark and Canada does not allow neither therimsol nor mercury in vacciantions (or inserts) used in those two countries.
If a medical company used it anyway, their product would be banned.
Medical products are rigoriously tested in Denmark - by a state agency.


At 6/19/2005 2:06 AM, Blogger jb said...



At 6/19/2005 2:07 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

"How is it that on the day he was born, my son was injected with more than thirty times the EPA limit of a known neurotoxin despite the fact that neither the FDA nor the CDC nor any other government agency nor any drug company had every performed a single clinical trial to determine whether or not such exposure was safe?"

Dwight, this shows a fundamental flaw in the US process for allowing drugs on the market.
I agree that such a thing should not be allowed, and that policy should change to reflex this.


At 6/19/2005 3:32 AM, Anonymous Michell said...

If Occam's Razor still holds
(In its simplest form, Occam's Razor states that one should make no more assumptions than needed. When multiple explanations are available for a phenomenon, the simplest version is preferred. For example, a charred tree on the ground could be caused by a landing alien ship or a lightning strike. According to Occam's Razor, the lightning strike is the preferred explanation as it requires the fewest assumptions.),
then what is the simpler explanation?
1) A proven neurotoxin, previously shown to severely affect a small portion of the population (Pink's Disease), injected in small but increasing doses into infants and toddlers, caused a neurological disorder, whose first medical note and classification (as a new and unusual disease) and prevalence rate correlates to the increase of exposure to said neuro-toxin.
2) A small but increasing dose of a proven neuro-toxin injected into infants and toddlers had no affect. The cause of a neurological disorder, whose increase in prevalence, first note and classification matches the first public exposure and increase in the exposure of children to a proven neuro-toxin, is unknown.
Anyone spot any aliens?


At 6/19/2005 4:14 AM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

"Michelle of the razor" eliminates all other possible explanations for a possible increase in autism.

Michelle of the razor needs to prove there has been an increase of autism AT ALL.

No matter how many people insist that there has been a huge increase in autism that doesn't make it true.

Rational people might want to listen to someone who really understands the epidemiology of autism, that would include Eric Fombonne of Montreal...Canada, uh... Quebec, that's a province or something.

Hear Dr. Frombonne complete with Frenchy accent. He starts to speak as that page opens, at least he does for Autism Diva. You can click the right pointing triangle there in the buttons to hear him talk about autism epidemiology.

Most Americans, Autism Diva expects, will get bored with all that science talk... but what he says is quite surprising if you stick with it. It's maybe a half hour of real science talk. Not drama and innuendo like in the Kennedy piece.

Dr. Laidler has an article coming out in Pediatrics in July. Next month. Autism Diva is on tenterhooks.

Dr. Gernsbacher, Dr. Goldsmith and Ms. Dawson have a piece called, "Three Reasons not to believe in the Autism Epidemic" also in press, different journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science...or something like that.

Laidler's article will be rational science talk about autism prevalence.

So - Occams razor would tell us that we can't presume that there has been an autism epidemic if it takes a huge publicity machine to convince people that there has been one.

If it takes convoluted twists of numbers never meant to be used for epidemiology to convince people that there has been a vast increase in autism

(which false belief the stupid guys at the Simpsonwood meeting had apparently bought)

then we got us a Occam's razor problem, right?

There is no autism epidemic or vast increase.
Therefore, the vast-poisoning-by-thimerosol causing-vast-amounts-of-autism-argument goes in the waste bin.

But no one will leave it there. Because they don't want to use stuff like logic.

Autism Diva, not being a medical doctor, would think we all would find evidence of kidney damage in this poor generation of supposedly "mercury toxic" kids. Anyone worried about that? Apparently not.

Oh, break out your tin foil hats.

Folks are quoting on this comment board. Not a good sign.

Autism Diva


At 6/19/2005 4:16 AM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

oooops, thats Michell not Michelle of the razor.
Pardonez moi.


At 6/19/2005 5:33 AM, Anonymous Michell said...

Autism Diva Said: Michelle of the razor eliminates all other possible explanations for a possible increase in autism. Michelle of the razor needs to prove there has been an increase of autism AT ALL."

Michell says: "I don't need to prove that there has been an increase in autism. The CDC has done that for all of us. In 1980 the rate according to the CDC was 1 in every 10,000 children born. Today, according to the CDC, it is 1 in every 166 children born."

Autism Diva: "No matter how many people insist that there has been a huge increase in autism that doesn't make it true."

Michell: "No, the 1 in 10,000 in 1980 to the current rate of 1 in 166 does make it true."

Autism Diva: "Rational people might want to listen to someone who really understands the epidemiology of autism, that would include Eric Fombonne of Montreal...Canada, uh... Quebec, that's a province or something."

Michell: "Again, are you saying the CDC is wrong and the numbers coming in from school districts across the nation are all wrong? I think you are confusing epidemic with increase; not the same thing at all."

Autism Diva: "So - Occams razor would tell us that we can't presume that there has been an autism epidemic if it takes a huge publicity machine to convince people that there has been one. If it takes convoluted twists of numbers never meant to be used for epidemiology to convince people that there has been a vast increase in autism.(which false belief the stupid guys at the Simpsonwood meeting had apparently bought)then we got us a Occam's razor problem, right?"

Michell: "I'm still trying to understand how you can ignore the exact numbers coming in from school districts all across the nation of how many children are receiving services under the label of autism. That is where the CDC is getting its numbers. Once again, epidemic and increase are not the same thing."

Autism Diva: "There is no autism epidemic or vast increase.
Therefore, the vast-poisoning-by-thimerosol causing-vast-amounts-of-autism-argument goes in the waste bin. But no one will leave it there. Because they don't want to use stuff like logic, not being a medical doctor, would think we all would find evidence of kidney damage in this poor generation of supposedly "mercury toxic" kids. Anyone worried about that? Apparently not."

Michell: "The CDC's own data shows a steady increase in autism. Is it an epidemic? They haven't decided. You are assuming that the mathematicians and statistician at the CDC are idiots. Possible, but an extra assumption. Remember this was supposed to be about Occams razor. You have left un-addressed the issue of first discovery. No one has been able to find repeated mention in any country of a disease in children similar to autism before 1933. Not even close. Anyone who has been around a child with autism, would never confuse them with a retarded child. Their stimming behavior is quite distinctive and would have set anyone with this disease apart from others, historically speaking. You also fail to address the fact millions of children were exposed to a proven neuron-toxin. If it didn't cause autism, what did it do? It's a neuron-toxin, self explanatory. As for the kidney damage. Some autistic children have been helped by secretin and digestive enzymes. Why?"


At 6/19/2005 5:48 AM, Anonymous David Edwards said...

I'm still partly amused, and partly annoyed, that this canard about a supposed 'link' between autistic spectrum conditions and vaccines continues to tickle the erogenous zones of the ignorant and the conspiracy theorist wingnuts.

Apparently these people either have not heard of, or choose to ignore, the work of Dr Patricia Rodier at the University of Rochester, which was a landmark piece of scentific detective work establishing a link between autistic spectrum conditions and HOX genes that are active only in the early stages of embryonic development, long before vaccination becomes an issue. Unfortunately the layout of the requisite web page leaves something to be desired, but Rodier's work is covered in detail at this address:>

The original text was published in the February 2000 edition of Scientific American.

It has now been five years since this was published, and still people insist that there is a link between vaccines and autistic spectrum conditions. I'd like to see an explanation of how this can take place, given that Rodier's work establishes that the brain stem changes associated with autsitic spectrum conditions are developmental, occur in the earliest days of foetal development after conception (Rodier cites 20-24 days after conception to be the critical period during which HOXA1 is active, for example) and that recreating the same brain stem changes after birth would require any toxin to perform, in effect, selective radical surgery upon the brain stem. Somehow, I don't see this happening.

Please, Orac, do us all a favour, and promote Rodier's work far and wide. This woman may have an individual personality, but she's a damn good scientist, and more power to her elbow for both in my view.


At 6/19/2005 7:23 AM, Anonymous steph Mineart said...

RPM said...
Sounds like anecdotal evidence to me.

Actually, sounds like a case study to me. You know what that is, right?


At 6/19/2005 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link above and then I want someone to detail how this stuff is ok for children.

It is a known toxin, period. Of course reading the nonsese on this blog, I am sure someone will argue that Merck's study to say that “Inhalation, swallowing, or absorption through the skin in very small amounts can cause considerable damage to health, and may sometimes be lethal. In the event of serious evidence of severe, possibly irreversible damage to health by single, repeated, or prolonged absorption” is somehow flawed and needs more study.

On the other hand, it sounds as if many of you will admit that Thiomersal is bad for children, but there is not enough or no evidence that it causes autism.

Are you people mad?

If it is possible to avoid exposing children to a known neurotoxin, that should be the focus, and the rest of you should go back to proving cigarettes do not cause cancer.


At 6/19/2005 10:30 AM, Anonymous Kristjan Wager said...

"Actually, sounds like a case study to me. You know what that is, right?"

As we are not studying a case, but only hearing about it from someone related, it is not a case study - it's hearsay, or in other words anecdotal evidence. It might be that there has been an improvement, but unless the case is studied the cause of that improval can't be known.
I am very happy that someone is doing better, but I won't make conlusions based on hearsay.


At 6/19/2005 12:34 PM, Anonymous David Edwards said...

Dear Anonymous,


"It is a known toxin, period. Of course reading the nonsese on this blog ..."

Thiomersal is toxic. I agree. What I do NOT agree with is the alarmist statement that it "causes autism". Check the link I provided above which cites the neurobiological basis of autistic spectrum conditions. Or are you going to dismiss Dr Rodier's work as "nonsense" too?

What is being suggested by the anti-vaccination lobby with respect to Thiomersal is that it "causes autism". This is plain WRONG. Because, if you check the link above, there are very specific structural differences between the brain stem of a control individual and an individual with a confirmed autistic spectrum diagnosis. The anti-vaccination lobby seems to be suggesting that Thiomersal is somehow capable of performing what is in effect very specific and selective surgery upon a brain stem to produce an autistic individual. I'd like an explanation of how this enormous degree of neurotoxic specificity works, if you would care to give one.

My understanding is that Thiomersal, thanks to its mercury content, is broadly neurotoxic if a person is exposed to a certain dose. Therefore, if children were being exposed to a sufficient dose, one would expect to see a much broader range of neurological deficits, affecting the entire brain, not just specific damage to tightly defined brain components. What is being promulgated by is bad science tied to ideological bias. THAT is what is being opposed in this blog, and if you think that is "nonsense", then feel free to do so, but I shall equally feel free to choose which of your comments to take seriously.

This does not, incidentally, detract from my reasoning that replacement of Thiomersal with superior alternatives is welcome. But the above does indicate that I have considered the requisite research papers on the topic of austistic spectrum conditions, and having done so, conclude that has got several important facts wrong.


At 6/19/2005 1:42 PM, Anonymous Sonja in Kansas said...

I will try to respond to Oracs original essay point by point, as no one has done that yet. I didn't do this earlier as I was not confident the post would be allowed to stand.

First, the Schafer report surmising that ABC was going to pull it's story on autism due to pressure from advertisers is merely guessing the most logical reason why they would back out of a previously agreed deal. Do you honestly think all of our media is so lily white they never consider who's toes they may be stepping on?

Quote mining: OK, so you made one quote appear a little less conspiratorial. But actions speak louder than words. The CDC database is sealed, and possibly lost, despite congressional orders to allow outside examination.

The only two groups I know of who have examined the CDC database are Dr. Verstraeten's group and the Geiers. Both have conflicts of interest, Verstraeten for the pharma industry, and the Geiers for those suing the pharma industry. Let's have some independent researchers look, shall we?

But meantime, looking at the Verstraeten study's several versions we see a clear pattern that the data was massaged until the "correct" result was acheived. The oldest version we have access to shows a 150% increase in risk for autism for infants who had the most thimerosal by 3 months. Looking at the kids that got the most thimerosal by 15 months likely would have shown a much greater risk.

The Geiers found an astonishing 27 fold increase in autism rates among the kids with the most thimerosal exposure. The IOM saw nothing funny with Verstraetens statistical gymnastics, but decided that the errors in the Geier's report meant that it should be IGNORED. Let me tell you, if I was looking at a report that showed a 27 fold increase in autism risk, IF I saw flaws I would tell the Geiers to go back and fix their errors, and I would go with them to see for myself what the relative risk was. I sure wouldn't just ignore the report.

The fact that autism was reported in the early 40's simulataneously in the US and Europe is already significant. Add to that Kanner's comments that these cases were unlike anything he or anybody else had seen before. My conclustion: autism was in fact new at that time.

The Denmark and Canada stats: I can't comment on Canada, I don't know anything there. But the Denmark studies the IOM so heavily relied on were run by people with deep ties to the pharma industry, and had some real methodological flaws, which I have commented on above. The authors of one study did state that if they had used apples to apples counting that the results would not have been much different, but it's pretty easy to say that to save the industry that's giving you big money.

The original Eli Lilly "safety" studies: The fact is that the quote clearly states that these patients were already dying of meningitis. Kennedy is merely making the point that this was not a good group to test on. They had so many medical issues that thimerosal related ones would hardly be noticable, and long term follow up was not possible. This was the only group that was tested.

Conflict of interest for the Geier's: dealt with above.

Hidden Hordes: US government data: children served under IDEA, 200-2003 school year. 9 year olds with autism: 13,075. 15 year olds with autism: 5,443. These are kids in the system at the same time! How can someone seriously say that improved diagnostic measures play a part? As others have noted, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between an autistic kid and a retarded kid.

Lets also look at lesser problem related to mercury - speech disorders. Same stat source. 9 year olds: 153,951. 15 year olds: 15,667.

I guess that's it. I will add that Mady Hornig's mouse study is pretty powerful. There were 3 strains of baby mice injected with thimerosal in amounts designed to match what infants in the US got in the 90's. Two of the strains did OK, but the strain that had autoimmune problems developed behaviors consistent with autism.

Also, why are the "no connection" believers here unconcerned with the fact that no one was monitoring how much mercury was in the vaccines until 1999? Why is no one bothered by the complete lack of long term studies on vaccine safety? Six weeks is pretty much the longest kids have ever been followed. Can you really have a sense of confidence in our immunization program in the face of those two undisputed facts?


At 6/19/2005 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about approaching autism or pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) through the diathesis-stress model, i.e. in children who have a predisposition or vulnerability to autism, exposure to an environmental toxin might precipitate the condition of autism.

Or perhaps, mercury poisining IS involved and in some children, a diagnosis of PDD is actually result of an environmental toxin and not genetics. This could explain why PDDs are on the rise even in countries who have not been using thimerosal-laden vaccines.

BTW, Rodier subsequently published a review of environmental causes of CNS maldevelopment in Pediatrics, 2004 Apr;113(4 Suppl):1076-83.

Here's an excerpt:

Studies in animals have revealed that methylmercury exposure arrests mitotic cells in metaphase by disrupting the microtubules of the mitotic spindle.16,17 Thus, although the chemical has many mechanisms of neurotoxicity, it has one that is particularly injurious to the developing brain. Because most neurons form before birth, prenatal exposure to an antimitotic agent would be especially hazardous to the embryonic or fetal brain.

Environmental exposures need not be antimitotic to lead to failures of neuron production. The discovery that there are families of genes, such as the HOX genes and PAX genes, that are critical to early brain development, along with the discovery that some of these genes respond to teratogens, has opened a new avenue of research in teratology.
In the future, we are likely to find many more examples of teratogens that act by altering gene expression, and some of the mechanisms will be unexpected. A recent example comes from human and animal studies of the antiseizure medication valproic acid (VPA). It has been known for some time that human offspring who are exposed to this drug have a significantly increased risk of neural tube defects22 and an even greater risk of neurologic symptoms and developmental delays.23 Subsequently, case reports began to suggest an association between exposure to valproate and autism.24,25 A recent study found that 5 of 46 children who were enrolled in a family support group after in utero exposure met the diagnostic criteria for autism, pervasive developmental disorder, or Asperger syndrome.26


At 6/19/2005 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basically, all the CDC did was wake up to the fact that autism spectrum disorders are much, much more common than they thought before.

The old numbers that made it look sooooo rare were counting extreme cases like the girl in the book, "The Siege".

Now that same agency also counts kids who are almost normal. Just a little bit off in their behavior and have serious issues with interacting with normal kids.

But folks are so eager to push the idea of a 1 in 166 rate of "worst case scenario" autistics. Many of which have horrible behaviors that can be helped by getting at the problem, pain or sensitivity to sounds... take away the annoying sound and the screaming stops... that sort of thing.

Stress causes them to do things like bang their heads. Not mercury.

And as was so nicely pointed out, Dr. Rodier, who I personally think is a wonderful woman, and who I have met, shows that there is excellent reason to think that many cases of autism arise from genetic factors alone, like the HOXA1 gene, which might give rise to the large heads and wide spaced eyes we see frequently in autism, among other dysmorphologies.

Rodier was an author on a paper that studied dysmorphology on a bunch of autistic kids in Canada. She found indications of strabismus, too. Elsewhere you can find references to small feet and large hands. (everyone look at your feet and hands)

There are fingerprint and palm print lines (dermatoglyphs) that are found to be different in autistic kids and their parents. (maybe some activist parents and others will want to hide their hands from now on)

There are gifts, lots of them, that go along with Autism, as Michelle Dawson has pointed out, and they don't point to mercury poisoning. Dr. Mottron in Montreal is a good one to read about these gifts.

The IDEA numbers weren't gathered before 1992 so the numbers shot up from zero to hundreds in one year. After that it took time for the word to get out that schools needed to identify their autistic kids as Autistic, not retarded or whatever. So as the word spread the numbers of autistics being counted increased. And the numbers of retarded kids and SLD kids dropped. Amazing.

Dr. MA Gernsbacher, et al, will have an article in press called, "Three reasons not to believe in the autism epidemic", it explains the IDEA number debacle, among other problems, and points out a big flaw with the MIND institute's pronouncement that there is a real increase in autism not contributable to a change in the definition of autism.

Anyway... there's no proof that mercury ever causes autism symptoms, unless the embryo is exposed to some (?) amount at 18 days to 8 weeks after conception. But that's not childhood vaccinations now is it?
And that's not a baby that will be born "normal".


At 6/19/2005 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...."Anyway... there's no proof that mercury ever causes autism symptoms, unless the embryo is exposed to some (?) amount at 18 days to 8 weeks after conception. But that's not childhood vaccinations now is it?
And that's not a baby that will be born "normal"."

Mothers who are RH-, must recieve during pregnancy one or more Rhogam shots, which contain each 25mcg of mercury in the form of thimerosal which has been found to be 10 times more toxic than mercury alone.


At 6/19/2005 4:50 PM, Anonymous Michell said...

Dear David Edwards and those who read his blog comment,
Talk about a big assumption. I have gone to the Site Quoted as describing the true cause of autism. My goodness, do you really think that a hypothesis based on studying the brain stem of one women, and a quoted study on a few mice that isn't referenced, as no study is on that site, my god man did you actually read the page you quoted? How about I paste a few quotes. So next time when you say someone has said this or that maybe you'll stop and check your facts. This research is so riddles with bad assumptions it's ridiculous. Have a great read, all quoted from

... By examining the inheritance of the disorder, researchers have shown that autism runs in families, thought not in a clear-cut way. Siblings of people with autism have a 3 to 8 percent chance of being diagnosed with the same disorder. This is much greater than the 0.16 percent risk in the general population but much less than the 50 percent chance that would characterize a genetic disease caused by a single dominant mutation (in which one faulty gene inherited from one parent is sufficient to cause the disorder) or the 25 percent chance that would characterize a single recessive mutation (in which a copy of the faulty gene must be inherited from each parent). The results fit best with models in which variants of several genes contribute to the outcome........
What made the new study so exciting for me was Miller and Strömland's discovery that most of the thalidomide victims with autism had anomalies in the external part of their ears but no malformations of the arms or legs. This pattern indicated that the subjects had been injured very early in gestation -- 20 to 24 days after conception -- before many women know they are pregnant. For embryologists, nothing tells us so much about what happened to an embryo as knowing when it happened. In the case of thalidomide-induced autism, the critical period is much earlier than many investigators would have guessed. The next logical question was, "Are the cases of autism after thalidomide exposure similar to cases of unknown cause, or are they different?" Aside from their behavioral symptoms, people with autism have often been described not only as normal in appearance but as unusually attractive. They are certainly normal in stature, with normal-to-large heads. The few studies that have tested non-behavioral features of people with autism, however, have concluded that there are indeed minor physical and neurological anomalies in many cases, and they are the same ones noted in thalidomide-induced autism. For example, minor malformation of the external ears -- notably posterior rotation, in which the top of the ear is tilted backward more than 15 degrees (are you kidding me, this is irrefutable evidence of how these kids are the same as the thalidomide exposed kids!) -- are more common in children with autism than in typically developing children, children with mental retardation or siblings of children with autism. Dysfunction's of the eye movement had been associated with autism before the thalidomide study, and lack of facial expression is one of the behaviors used to diagnose the condition.......
We found that the rate of the variant allele (HOXA1) among people with autism was significantly higher (what exactly is significantly higher?) than the rate of their family members who do not have the disorder and the rate among unrelated individuals without the disorder. The difference is much greater than would be expected by chance. The bad news is that, just as the family studies had predicted, HOXA1 is only one of many genes involved in the spectrum of autism disorders (did you read this before you quoted it?). Furthermore, the allele that we have studied in detail is variably expressed--its presence does not guarantee that autism will arise (HELLO!). Preliminarily data indicate that the variant allele occurs in about 20 percent of the people who do not have autism and in about 40 percent of those who do. The allele approximately doubles the risk of the developing the condition. But in about 60 percent of people with autism, the allele is not present, meaning that other genetic factors must be contributing to the disorder.


At 6/19/2005 5:12 PM, Anonymous Michell said...

Anonymous Said: "Basically, all the CDC did was wake up to the fact that autism spectrum disorders are much, much more common than they thought before. The old numbers that made it look sooooo rare were counting extreme cases like the girl in the book, "The Siege". Now that same agency also counts kids who are almost normal. Just a little bit off in their behavior and have serious issues with interacting with normal kids."

Michell Said: "The CDC when counting the autism numbers, doesn't include any other condition than autism. This number doesn't include Aspergers or PDDNOS. In order to be diagnosed with autism you must meet very specific criteria, "several" in each catagory--repetative behaviors(typically several), communication skills(typically total lack of), as well as social dysfunction. Non of these are minor or near normal."

Anonymous said: "But folks are so eager to push the idea of a 1 in 166 rate of "worst case scenario" autistics. Many of which have horrible behaviors that can be helped by getting at the problem, pain or sensitivity to sounds... take away the annoying sound and the screaming stops... that sort of thing."

Michell said: "No one has rated the 1 in 166 in severity. We cannot assume that they are all the most severe, in which case they would never see the inside of a class room as they are too violent, nor can we assume that the 1 in 166 are the least severe, still needing 40hrs a week of intensive one on one behavior therapy for at least one year to have a 42% chance of ever entering a normal classroom with or without an aid. Either assumtion makes an ass of us all."


At 6/19/2005 7:51 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Dear Michell,
this is a link to the CDC's website.
What is the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?
"Data from several studies that used the current criteria for diagnosing autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), such as Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disabilities (PDD-NOS), found prevalence rates for ASDs between 2 and 6 per 1,000 individuals. Therefore, it can be summarized that between 1 in 500 (2/1,000) to 1 in 166 children (6/1,000) have an ASD. "

(Autism Diva added the bolding emphasis)

So they aren't certain if it's 1 in 500 or 1 in 166 or somewhere in between.

But notice, it's the whole spectrum they are counting, all of the mild cases along with the ones whose parents might subject them to 40 hours a week of training in how to act normal.

So you were wrong.

Autism Diva thinks that you got confused with the California DDS numbers. The California DDS agency has said, specifically, exactly, precisely, that their numbers aren't to be used for epidemiology purposes, but that hasn't stopped anyone from doing it.

The California DDS counts "full syndrome autism" as autism, but guess what? The agency knows that kids with PDD,nos and Asperger's need their services and so call them "autisitc" so that they can provide those services, in some cases.

But again, you can't, and Autism Diva can't, use the California DDS numbers because they aren't to be used for proving anything related to epidemiology.

However, it should be noted that Rick (rhymes with...never mind) Rollens tries to massage
the numbers into showing that each quarter a number of young children are added, blah blah.

He's telling a big fib though, because the numbers he quotes(pretending they are all toddlers and pre-schoolers) include teens and adults, up to age 60+ that are added to those category of autism being discussed in each quarterly report.

It's technical, but really, if Autism Diva can write to the California DDS and ask, so you can anyone else. It's not hard.

Finding out your been suckered by Rollens and others, that's hard. It hurts.

You way simplified the research done by Patricia Rodier. You might want to take a couple of hours, if you have a fast internet connection especially, and listen to her present her research on video which is available on the MIND institute's website. I believe the link to that page has been included in a post above for your convenience, though this is a long thread, it might take some time to find it.

For everyone:
I don't recommend chasing down links on Not unless you believe in alien mind control and the protocol of the elders of Zion conspiracy, and stuff like that. However, you can find instructions on how to make a tin foil helmet on, so you can prevent CIA or alien mind control. And you can find out on that site that vaccines can be used as a cover for implanting mind control devices. uhuh.

Autism Diva


At 6/19/2005 8:25 PM, Blogger Orac said...

As Kristjan and the anonymous poster pointed out, I'm not likely to give my name and contact information to someone who is ranting and typing in all caps. I've had enough experience on Usenet to know that such behaviors are usually the sign of someone you should stay away.


At 6/19/2005 8:29 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Tim is absolutely right about chelation and autism. Infact, if you look at a, you'll see a post where I described receiving a pitch from an altie doctor claiming that chelation therapy could help:

Aches and pains
Hardened or blocked arteries
Elevated blood cholesterol
Leg cramp pain (claudication)
Angina pain
Poor circulation
Cold extremities
Elevated blood pressure
Skin ulcers
Kidney stones
Impaired memory or concentration

It didn't mention autism, but then the pitch was for a talk by this doctor at a "public health forum" to be held at a nursing/rehab facility. I'm sure if he was going to talk at a nursery school or children's center he would have mentioned it.


At 6/19/2005 8:42 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Dr. Clark: I'll take your word for it about your wife. However, I now have to point out that, in this matter at least, your complaint should be with the A-CHAMP list, should it not? See this article for the complete text of the announcement. It sure gives the impression of a close collaboration between your wife and RFK writing this article, doesn't it? It did to me.

Let me test your intellectual honesty: If you had seen an article written by someone that strongly took the position that there is no connnection between mercury and autism and then seen an announcement like the A-CHAMP announcement by a pharmaceutical company executive that he had "worked extensively with AUTHOR X and his office over the past several weeks in preparing the article for publication," what implication would you draw?

As for RFK Jr. being an "experienced, published author," so what? It means nothing other than that he can write. Certainly the piece was competently written in a strictly stylistic sense, but that says nothing about its content, nor does it change the fact that it is an incredibly one-sided article.


At 6/19/2005 8:51 PM, Blogger Orac said...

David Edwards:

There's a link between autism and abnormalities in HOX genes?

You don't know how much you've made my day, given that I happen to have a particular familiarity and affinity for homeobox genes, a truly fascinating class of genes. I'll have to look up Dr. Rodiers original scientific articles next week.


At 6/19/2005 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ananymous,

Have you read about the difference between boys and girls. The boys seem to process mercury differently. Try reading evidence of harm and then check back in.


At 6/19/2005 9:43 PM, Anonymous Michell said...

Autism Diva Said: "Dear Michell,
this is a link to the CDC's website.
What is the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?
"Data from several studies that used the current criteria for diagnosing autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), such as Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disabilities (PDD-NOS), found prevalence rates for ASDs between 2 and 6 per 1,000 individuals. Therefore, it can be summarized that between 1 in 500 (2/1,000) to 1 in 166 children (6/1,000) have an ASD. "

Michell said: "No I didn't confuse the numbers, I am using common logic. Considering the CDC says the high number is 1 in 166, which matches California's straight autism number, as well as New Jerseys, it is not illogical to assume that 1 in 166, found in at least two states and offered as a possible number by the CDC, is a good estimate to make. But both 1 in 500 and 1 in 166 are an increase from 1 in 10,000. I also didn't confuse who was included as some of the studies the CDC uses for its estimate only include autistic children. Your assumption that the school districts here in california and the regional centers just offer up the autism diagnosis even when it's not accurate is an insult the state agencies as well as to all the parents who have to fight to get services for their children. Please do not speak of services in california you have no experience with.

Autism Diva said: "You way simplified the research done by Patricia Rodier. "

Michell said: "I did not alter in any way the quotes I posted. I copied the quotes directly from her site. As for the site. I have no idea what your speaking of."


At 6/19/2005 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Orac, I'd love to see those research papers as well. Please provide a link when you find them.

Orac said: "David Edwards:

There's a link between autism and abnormalities in HOX genes?

You don't know how much you've made my day, given that I happen to have a particular familiarity and affinity for homeobox genes, a truly fascinating class of genes. I'll have to look up Dr. Rodiers original scientific articles next week."


At 6/19/2005 11:12 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

2 things. Autism Diva lives in California, it says that on her blog. Autism Diva has an autistic child, it says that on her blog somewhere in the comments section, though that would be harder for you to find.

Guess what that means? Autism Diva got shafted by the regional center because of their stupid regional rules of excluding kids in one region and letting them in in another region.

Autism Diva knows of a case of a family that lives just a few miles over, and in a different region. That family has a boy that wasn't diagnosed as autistic until he was 12. (he's like an AS kid)

The schools told his mom that she was a bad mom (to explain his problems), The North Bay Regional docs said he was full blown autistic enough for them and let him in.

He's about as impaired as Autism Diva's child.

Show us, exactly where you get the numbers from California and New Jersey?

They don't have 1 in 166, not by a long shot. So prove it.

Autism Diva can. Take the number of kids in those states between the age of 3 and 21 and divide it by the number of kids in the IDEA numbers for that state who are labelled autistic.

Have fun.

It's something like 1 in 300 or 400 for California. The highest rate state is Oregon, Autism Diva doesn't think New Jersey is even in the ball park, but go ahead.

Here's a little cheater way to do it.

Get the last Newsweek article on autism, the one with the baby on the cover. Inside there is a map (pg 49) that shows you the general number of autistic kids in each state according to the IDEA stats. Newsweek did it for us, but the numbers are bunched - like grouped and turned into colors that each state is colored with.

And each number represents the whole spectrum number as is used by the IDEA, though each state can define autism differently.
The states with higher rates have the loosest definitions. Dr. Laidler lives in Oregon, he can explain it to you. Oregon has like 3 times as many autistics as it's neighbor, Idaho. How curious. Still Oregon doesn't have as many as 1 in 166.

Always happy to help.

There's a reason why they call me....

Autism Diva


At 6/20/2005 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will mearly quote the last section of the introduction of "Evidence of Harm":

"You know something, Doctor? the father said. "If it turns out that you are right, then I will personally come down to your office and apologize to you with every fiber of my being.

But if it turns out that you are wrong," he added, "then you are going to hell."

Enjoy your arrogant self in hell (along with all the others like you!) There WILL be a day of recononing!


At 6/20/2005 12:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All you do is critisize people as quacks and jokes. You don't give any credit to parents of autistic children for knowing and seeing differences in their children when using the gf/cf diet or chelation. You rely on huff.

"Which demonstrates the education, class and reasoning power of a lot of people on that side of the debate much better than anything I could come up with."

Who do you think you are talking to? You're so busy looking down your nose. You're loving this limelight. I agree with the poster who said they hope you have a grandchild who develops autism. Only then may you develop enough empathy for those of us who are in the thick of it day in and day out. You can call everyone names but as soon as someone turns it back on you - you cry "low class". You should be ashamed of yourself. Someday you will be.


At 6/20/2005 1:01 AM, Blogger hollywoodjaded said...

In addition to the HOXA1 paper, there have been several others, I will mention two here:

The JHU paper in the Annals of Neurology Vol 57, Issue 1, 15 Nov 2004: "Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism"

Also, the presentation from the MIND Institute at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)
"Children with Autism have Distinctly Different Immune System Reactions Compared to Typical Children: Immunologists from UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute find clear biological component to perplexing childhood neurological disorder


At 6/20/2005 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parents of autistic are entitled to empathy.

They are not entitled to their own facts.

They are not entitled to bring baseless lawsuits.

They are not entitled to threaten public health nor to spark epidemics of preventable diseases.


At 6/20/2005 2:07 AM, Anonymous Kaspit said...

Thanks, here is a trackback excerpt:

...For criticism of the claimed link between autism and mercury (thimerosal) in vaccines, you might read a skeptical medical blogger (Respectful Insolence) and an analytical and savvy liberal (Majikthise). For intellectual reinforcement to the Salon article, start with Dwight Meredith, a parent who blogs on autism. While the scientific debate continues, note that thimerosal has been phased out of vaccines in the U.S. (But thimerosal reportedly remains in overseas vaccines by the same manufacturers! [1] The vaccine industry includes Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur.) ...... While the Jewish community is making significant headway in supporting autistic children, I sense it could act more vigorously to delink commercial interests and science-based policymaking


At 6/20/2005 2:35 AM, Anonymous kaspit said...

Apologies... here is the correct link to my posting (trackback) on What causes (cont.)… autism? Makhloqet on mercury-based vaccines.


At 6/20/2005 2:37 AM, Anonymous Michell said...

Michells response to Autism Diva:

I don't understand that as a parent you could say children are getting services under the autism label incorrectly when you obviously know how difficult it is to get services in the first place. If your child isn't getting services, I would think that would prove to you that the numbers are actually higher than reported, as kids who should get services aren't getting services. As for the Rates for New Jersey and California, New Jersey is part of the CDC's ADDM Network: Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Ten states autism levels are being directly tracked year to year by the CDC. New Jersey was the first, in 1998-99 and the rate was then and still is 1 in every 166. As for California, I remembered incorrectly that it was part of the same study, which can be found here

The simple fact is other than these specific studies we're all guessing at US rates until the US consensus comes out in 2010, and then we can compare children 6-21 in the US to children known to be getting services under autism and then account for children with autism getting private or no services.

What facts we do have now is how many children are getting serviced by the IDEA for autism specifically, in each state for each school year. Those numbers have steadily risen every year. Which goes back to my original argument. There has been an increase in autism (unless you think all state hired psychologists are idiots, which is an entirely different argument) that matches the increased exposure to thimerosal and other forms of mercury.


At 6/20/2005 2:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Orac, what does academic surgeon mean?


At 6/20/2005 4:41 AM, Blogger Autism Diva said...


Brick Township is not all of New Jersey. However, the site you linked to says:

"How common are autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among children who live in New Jersey?
A CDC study found that 6.7 of every 1,000 children in Brick Township (in Ocean County) had an ASD in 1998."

That's 1 in 166 for the whole spectrum.

But, if we all now take a half hour or so and go listen to Dr. Fombonne explain it in his nice French accent, we can understand how it is that over an over different studies come to the conclusion that probably there are 1 in 166
autism spectrum people IF you count PDD,nos and Asperger's
and only then.

Dr. Fombonne compared many studies from many countries, but if you don't go listen to him you won't get his thoroughly respected point of view.

Which means, that the states that are not yet identifying 1 in 166, which is most of them, are not providing services to people who need them.

Probably what will happen is:
the official numbers of autistics being served will continue to climb until the figure reaches about 1 in 166, in all states, that is, if the various states will actually serve all those who need help.

But the 1 in 166 covering the whole spectrum also includes adults. There's no reason to think that autism cases shot through the roof in 1992.

That is a statistical anomaly of the IDEA stats gathering.

Autism Diva's point about California DDS is that two opposing things happen in California, depending on which area you are in.

The "borderline" or "milder" autistic kids get denied services or they get services under the wrong diagnosis label. Both things happen, but we don't know which happens more often.

Parents of PDD,nos and AS kids will go to a doctor and say, "I need you to say my kid has autistic disorder so he can get services". Of course, most doctors will do this. This is how psych doctors get services for their clients, all the time. They fudge the diagnosis.

Which gets back to the California DDS telling people DO NOT USE OUR NUMBERS for epidemiology.

Lots of the older ASD folks are probably carrying around schizoid p.d. or even schizophrenia diagnoses, besides, "Mentally Retarded", and the milder ones have not been diagnosed they are just odd or stiff seeming people you know, or you dont' know because they stay home alone most of the time.

Autism Diva isn't making this stuff up. Bobby Kennedy Jr's own aunt Rosemarie could have been on the autism spectrum. We don't know, but descriptions of her seem like she might have been mildly autistic. Bless her heart. Her father had her lobotomized, they say.

Autism Diva


At 6/20/2005 8:42 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I'm closing comments on this post for now, because it's getting way too long. If you want to comment on anything Orac has said about this issue, I have two updates here and here, where comments are welcome.

Yes, this is a not-so-subtle way to get you to read my followup articles if you want to post a comment.


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