Monday, June 20, 2005

Thimerosal and autism: two questions

The last few days have been hectic ones. Circumstances conspired again to turn me, almost against my will, into a vaccine blogger, leading me to step with both feet into the mercury-autism controversy with this post and this followup, the combination of which have brought more attention to this blog than anything I've ever written before. I honestly didn't expect to make my first big splash in the blogosphere on this topic, but c'est la vie. Fortunately, most of the responses were, surprisingly, less hostile and more supportive than I had feared they would be. However, the sheer hostility of a small minority of responses was amazing. For example, someone calling him or herself "cellis" said something that very much reminds me of the sorts of abuse anyone who points out how weak the evidence for a link between mercury and autism can expect, similar to what Kathleen Seidel wrote about in her open letter to David Kirby. Cellis said:
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.
There's more where that came from, some even just overnight. I tell you, it's almost enough to make me go back to blogging about less controversial topics, like, say, creationism (or maybe Terri Schiavo). At least creationists usually offer to pray for me, rather than angrily and gleefully wishing autism on my or other people's children just to "teach us a lesson." It half makes me hope that my joke about wanting an Instalanche doesn't come true. But, before I attempt to move on to other topics, I can't resist one last post. (Whether I succeed in moving on is another issue entirely, but I'm going to try; as I pointed out less than three weeks ago, vaccine hysteria was never intended to be a primary focus of this blog. I'm sure I'll end up coming back to the issue sooner or later, but I need a break. Also, this has delayed the writing of a series of posts I've wanted to do for almost two weeks now.)

I've been trying to think of a way to boil the whole issue down to its utter essence, as one commenter suggested. However, I'm going to do it a little differently than what the commenter had in mind. I think two questions serve that purpose quite nicely:
  1. What evidence would convince me that the Geiers and Boyd Haley and all the others who are so convinced that mercury in thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is a major cause of or contributor to autism are correct and that my skepticism is ill-founded?
  2. What evidence would convince those of you out there who are utterly certain that thimerosal in vaccines either causes or is a major contributor to autism that there is no link between mercury in vaccines and autism?
Pretty simple questions, aren't they? I bet some won't find them that easy to answer. Let's see how intellectually honest I am and mercury-autism advocates are, comparatively speaking.

For my part, I can answer my question fairly easily. There is indeed something short of having an autistic child that could make me "eat my very ignorant and uneducated words," as cellis put it. Thimerosal has been removed from vaccines in the U.S., and the last lot of thimerosal-containing vaccines expired in January 2003. If indeed mercury in vaccines causes autism, then five years from now and ten years from now the rates of new cases of autism should plummet dramatically and unambiguously. That they have not done so in Canada or Denmark, both of which removed thimerosal from their vaccines in the 1990's, suggests that it's highly unlikely that the U. S. will see a major decrease in new autism cases over the next decade. However, I'm willing to start fresh and, for the sake of argument, for the moment take on the attitude that seems to be implied by the willingness of activists to dismiss teh Danish and Canadian data so blithely: namely, that it doesn't matter unless it happens in the U.S. But how much is enough? I propose as quite a reasonable measure that, if autism rates fall by 50% or more in 2010 or even 2015, I will happily admit that I was incorrect in my assessment and rejoice that such a blow has been struck against this condition. If rates fall by less than 50% but still inarguably statistically significant, I will concede that this would be pretty good epidemiological evidence that there might be a connection, although in that case the connecton would clearly not be nearly as strong as the link claimed by some activists, like J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue, whose website states quite bluntly that "childhood neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and many other developmental delays are all misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning."

Given such rigidly dogmatic statements, question #2 takes on more importance. What evidence would convince someone like J. B. Handley to change his mind? I can't imagine what evidence would convince him, or Boyd Haley, or the Geiers. It also leaves the a followup question for those of you out there who are so sure that mercury in vaccines causes autism or is a major contributor to autism: Will you concede that you were incorrect if, in 2010 and 2015, autism rates in the U.S. remain unchanged or have increased? I don't have a lot of hope that you will, given the Canadian and Danish experience, where no decrease in autism rates have been observed several years after removal of thimerosal, but I hope I am wrong.


Well, yes and no. For obvious reasons, it's impossible ever to do the gold standard study about this issue: a double-blinded randomized control trial comparing vaccination of babies with vaccines containing thimerosal and vaccines not containing it and follow the children prospectively to see if the babies receiving vaccines with thimerosal have a higher rate of autism than those receiving thimerosal-free vaccines. So what's the next best thing? Good epidemiological evidence has a way of trumping all the theoretical concerns, cell culture experiments, and even animal data, and the removal of thimerosal from vaccines two years ago provides an epidemiological experiment that is seldom possible to do with other diseases. It's a golden opportunity to test once and for all the hypothesis that autism is caused primarily by mercury in thimerosal in vaccines. If, after a decade of no thimerosal in vaccines, austism rates do not decline, that would be very strong evidence that mercury in vaccines is not and was not the cause of autism. In such as case, it would be very difficult indeed to say that there is a link between the two.

I'll even go out on a limb a bit here (well, probably not really). My prediction is that, in 2010 and 2015, autism rates will remain roughly the same as they are now or maybe somewhat increased, thanks to the continuing improvements in recognition and diagnosis. My further prediction is that, in 2010 and 2015, in light of the unchanging incidence of autism, the mercury-autism activists will either (1) still be claiming that mercury causes autism, (epidemiological evidence be damned) or (2) have changed their claim to say that it is something else in vaccines that is causing autism.

Anybody want to bet against those predictions? Think I'm being disingenuous? Tell me why.

ADDENDUM: OK, I changed my mind and posted on this issue one more time.

120 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 6/20/2005 9:47 AM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

I wouldn't bet 'gainst that proposition regardless of the Vegas odds!

Thanks for the good work. I get disgusted by otherwise rational people spouting the anti-vax line as if god-itself told 'em it was a fact! You supply Reason I can pass along. Thanks again.


At 6/20/2005 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are places in the world where there has been or still is, chronic mercury poisoning, bordering on the acute, what is the autism etc. level in those communities?


At 6/20/2005 10:53 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Good question, Anonymous... Why don't you find out and tell us?

Here is one way to go about it:

Go to the PubMed website at -- type in the search criteria of "mercury poisoning" or "autism mercury" or whatever you think will work. Then you will notice a bunch of journal articles (plus editorials, tutorials, etc). Most will link to the abstract and some will actually let you read the full article. To get the full articles you will need to wander down to your local university library and see if they have a subscription to the journal it is in (some municipal libraries also subscribe). When you find out, please tell us -- and make sure you are clear if it is elemental mercury, methylmercury or ethylmercury.


At 6/20/2005 11:05 AM, Blogger Internal Medicine Doctor said...

wow orac:
I disappear for wo weeks and suddenly you've got this vaccine issue going? Well, I'll be damned, it seems to be working out ok.

I'll bet it goes your way. If I'm wrong, so what, I'm a resident, I'm allowed to be wrong!


At 6/20/2005 12:48 PM, Anonymous Sonja in Kansas said...

I'd take a bet on the side that autism rates will decrease, and I would give the other side 4 to 1 odds - on one condition.

That the states bans on thimerosal are not overturned by federal legislation, such as the proposed senate bill 3.


At 6/20/2005 12:50 PM, Blogger Paul said...

You missed one option - if rates haven't gone down it will be due to the high levels of mercury in amalgam fillings. Or, if they are being partially phased out as I suspect, then it will be due to mercury in fish. Or if we manage somehow to clear the fish up, it will be due to, erm, the remnants of Mercury space capsules raining down on Earth?


At 6/20/2005 1:03 PM, Anonymous Kidsdoc said...

Your strategy is sound, although I just had a new parent in my practice tell me her ex-pediatrician actually believes the reason autism rates haven't gone down since the removal of thimerosal is that the government is still putting the preservitive into vaccine and just not telling anyone. There are some people you just can't convince!


At 6/20/2005 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why 50%? That seems rather arbitrary. You seem to be proceeding from the idea that mercury exposure has to be causing a very large percentage of autism or that it causes none at all. Why does that have to be the case?

If the incidence of autism falls 49% after the appropriate lag time, you would conclude that mercury had no role in causes autism but if it fall 51%, you will conclude that it is the culprit?

How about instead you institute a test by which you will conclude that mercury exposure caused autism in some people if but only if the incidence of autism falls by a statistically significant percentage?

Even better, how about a test that by first identifies the subgroup of kids suspectable to becoming autistic from mercury exposure.

Then, if, after an appropriate lag time, the incidence of autism of that group falls by a statistically significant percentage, then you could conclude that mercury was the culprit.

BTW, did you get a chance to read Dr, Deth's research? You may alos wish to read the NIH funded research on the differences between ethyl and methyl mercury in infant, non human primates (monkeys). That study is here (pdf).

It is fairly compelling research.


Dwight Meredith


At 6/20/2005 2:10 PM, Blogger Brent McKee said...

Oh I can practically guarantee that the anti-vaccination types will continue to argue that one wy or another early childhood vaccination is the "cause" of autism. After all there are still anti-fluoridation activists and communities where they have managed to keep fluorine out the water, with the expected effects on teeth.

I do suspect that there is an environmental cause for autism, but the evidence you have in support of vaccination seems sound. Of course when you Google "Autism Rates Worldwide" you get a lot of anti-vaccination claims so finding the truth may not be as easy as one might wish.


At 6/20/2005 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really doesn't matter what Congress or any state legislature does. The medical community has already acted to remove mercury from childhood vaccines. As a Pediatrician, I am surprised that the anti-vaccine fanatics have not picked up something new to demonize by now. Obviously now it is all about the potential money from future settlements.


At 6/20/2005 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Orac, I'll have a piece of that wager, but I want to bet that no matter what happens - autism rate stays steady, goes up, goes west, God comes down and says "It wasn't the thimerosal", that Boyd Haley, Greier & Greier and the rest will go to their graves saying that thimerosal is THE cause of autism. Picture "Citizen Kane" but instead of Orson Welles whispering "Rosebud", it's Boyd Haley whispering "Mercury".

At this point, most of the thimerosal-autism proponents are way, way past scientific arguments. Those who have some scientific background have by now invested so much of their diminishing reputation into making thimerosal the cause of autism that they can't see a way out. Of course, the grand majority of the people nattering on about thimerosal and autism never had any science education past high school Health and seem to see scientific inquiry as a sort of "American Idol" competition or popularity contest. Regretably, in science, the most popular hypotheses aren't always the one's that win - only those that survive testing.

The scary thought is that by getting equally uninformed legislators involved, the autism-mercury crowd will accomplish the biological equivalent of passing a law making Pi = 3.0.

Here, in a nutshell are the basic problems with the autism-mercury argument:

[1] Although correlation is not causation, the autism-mercury connection is rapidly losing any correlation between thimerosal exposure and autism rates. They have tried valiently to trash-talk the Danish studies, but they have no explanation for why the autism numbers in Denmark (and Canada) keep going up year after year.

[2] The myriad studies the autism-mercury supporters point to are all very interesting, but what they show - even the study by the aptly-named Dr. Deth - is that thimerosal has effects on a variety of organ systems, enzymes and structural proteins. None (NONE) of these studies shows that thimerosal causes anything that can be identified as autism. They need to explain how thimerosal can cause such a selective neurological impairment as autism when its major toxic component - mercury - is nowhere near that selective.

[3] Resorting to conspiracy theories (hypotheses, actually, since they have not withstood even minimal testing) is a sure sign that the rational part of the argument is over and that the side with the conspiracy hypothesis has lost. For all those out there who cling to the hope that a conspiracy is "suppressing the truth", I have two words: Deep Throat.

In any large corporation or government agency, there is always SOMEONE who has a chip on their shoulder and would "blow the whistle" if they had the chance. In the case of "Deep Throat", the number-two man in the FBI "blew the whistle" in Nixon because - at least in part - he had been passed over for the number-one spot. The half-life of "juicy" secrets in government is measured in nanoseconds. All it takes is for one disgruntled employee or one person who would like to trade a humdrum GS-6 job for some time in the spotlight to pick up a phone and talk to a reporter and it's "slip the hounds, the game's afoot!"

Besides, if the government WAS able to maintain such a tight conspiracy, do you think they'd hesitate to arrange for a convenient accident (or major IRS audit) for those people who are trying to expose them? The fact that the conspiracy-mongers are still consuming oxygen is the biggest indictment againt their claims.



At 6/20/2005 3:21 PM, Blogger Craig Westover said...

You don’t have to wait until 2010 or 2015. And incidentally, here is the evidence that would convince me I am wrong about there being a casual link between thimerosal and autistic symptoms.

First, some facts. In 1999 the government recommended that thimerosal be removed from childhood vaccines. That order did not require immediate removal nor did it require a recall of vaccines already in the distribution cycle. Had all thimerosal use stopped in 1999, there would still be significant quantities in the distribution system in use through 2003. Given that use diminished, not stopped all at once, there are vaccines expiring this year that still contain significant amounts of thimerosal.

Second, autism is not a disease that has a specific onset at which it is diagnosed. Most cases are picked up between 18 months and 3 to 4 years of age, some as late as 5 or 6.

Third, the best source of U.S. data on autism is that collected by the state of California. They record only full-blown cases of classic autism. This is the data that when adjusted for birth year of autism diagnosis showed a steady increase in cases through out the 1990s with two steep spikes occurring approximately two yeas following additions to the vaccination schedule.

If there is an epidemiological connection between thimerosal and autism, one would expect the California cases (aggregated by birth year of diagnosis) to begin a gradual decline this year with a steeper decline in 2007 or 2008. It is too early to draw conclusions, but thus far in end 2004 and the first part of 2005, the trend is establishing.

I read your posts, and on this issue, you need to step back from the trees of individuals with axes to grind, and look at the forest of cummulative evidence. Most of the studies -- pro and con -- on this issue can be nitpicked methodologically. However, if one looks at the body of evidence -- epidemiological, theoretical science and practical science -- it continues to grow for the side supporting a link while the opponents of a link keep coming back to the same epidemiological studies, which are apples to oranges with conditions in the United States.

By the way, epidemiological studies -- both pro and con -- have lost some significance in light of research identifying a genetic predisposition for the inability to excrete mercury. An epidemiological study by definition assumes a genetically consistent sample. That is not the case.

I have responded to the Captain’s Quarters post here and have other posts from the perspective a converted skeptic.


At 6/20/2005 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You write:
"They need to explain how thimerosal can cause such a selective neurological impairment as autism when its major toxic component - mercury - is nowhere near that selective."

Yes, it would be very helpful to know the exact biological mechanism by which mercury could cause autism. It is not clear that there are any definitive answers to that question but this study is a pretty interesting start on such an explanation.

Dwight Meredith


At 6/20/2005 4:25 PM, Anonymous _g said...

References to scientific articles (abstracts at least) presenting the data from Canada, Denmark and California would help the discussion. In a problem like this the devil is in the scientific details which have not been presented here or at What does not help the discussion is emotionalism and appeals to or against authority. The scientific issues need to addressed separately from the Conflict of Interest and political issues to achieve clarity of thought.

At this point the anti-vaccine crowd has not proven that vaccines cause autism, IMO. Likewise, the vaccine makers never did a controlled double blind study showing safety within specified statistical limits. Aren't there some solid references, using data from Canada, Denmark of California, that establish statistical limits on the number of cases of autism that might be realted to vaccines?
Can anyone post some scientific info/links?

The vaccine makers are in this mess because proper science was not done in the first place. Now the lawyers and scared moms are making a mess of the situation.



At 6/20/2005 4:55 PM, Anonymous David Edwards said...

I was amused to see my introduction of the Rodier research on autistic spectrum conditions dismissed by Anonymous as 'riddled with bad assumptions'. Dr Rodier wouldn't be keeping her job at the University of Rochester if her work was bad science: furthermore, her work has been extensively peer reviewed. According to the university's own short biography of her:

"In 2003, she won the Warkany Award for research in birth defects from the Teratology Society, and in 2004, she won the Bock Prize in Developmental Biology and Genetics from The DuPont Childrens’ Hospital."

Hardly the achievements of someone engaged in 'bad science' and promulgating work 'riddled with bad assumptions'.

I'm sorry, Anonymous, but this is FACT. Variant HOX genes and transcription errors arising from those genes are now implicated in autistic spectrum conditions. And once again, I ask you, given the structural details discovered by Rodier, I'd like you to explain how Thimerosal could replicate those structural changes in a post-natal brain stem without additionally affecting other regions of the brain.

Oh, and as for Rodier beiong a 'bad scientist', well this little list of publications of hers is readily available to be checked:

Current research and publications:

* Rodier, P.M. (2004) Environmental causes of CNS maldevelopment. Pediatrics.,113:1076-1083.
* Conciatori M, Stodgell CJ, Hyman SL, O’Bara M, Militerni R, Bravaccio C, Trillo S et al. (2004) Association between the HOXA1 A218G polymorphism and increased head circumference in patients with autism. J Biol Psychiat. 55:413-419.
* Rodier, P.M. (2004) The 2003 Warkany Lecture: Autism as a birth defect. Birth Defects Research A, 70:1-6.
* Rodier, P.M. (2002) Converging evidence for brain stem injury in autism. Devel. Psychopathol.14: 537-557.
* Hyman, S.L., Rodier, P.M., Davidson, P. (2001) Pervasive developmental disorders in young children. JAMA, 285:3141-3142.
* Ingram, J.L., Stodgell, C.J., Hyman, S.L., Figlewicz, D.A., Weitkamp, L.R., Rodier, P.M. (2000) Discovery of allelic variants of HOXA1 and HOXB1: Genetic susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders. Teratology,62, 393-405.
* Ingram, J.L., Peckham, S.M., Tisdale, B., and Rodier, P.M. (2000) Prenatal exposure of rats to valproic acid reproduces the cerebellar anomalies associated with autism. Neurotoxicol. Teratol. 22:319-324.
* Rodier, P.M. (2000) The early origins of autism. Scientific American, 282, 56-63.
* Rodier, P.M., and Hyman, S.L. (1998) Early environmental factors in autism. MRDD Res Revs, 4, 121-128.
* Rodier, P.M., Bryson, S.E., and Welch, J.P. (1997) Minor malformations and physical measures in autism: Data from Nova Scotia. Teratology, 55:319-325.
* Rodier, P.M., J.L. Ingram, B. Tisdale, S. Nelson, and J. Romano (1996) Embryological origin for autism: Developmental anomalies of the cranial nerve motor nuclei . J. Comp. Neurol. 370:247-261.

Now, given the above, whom shall I put my trust in on this issue? Dr Rodier (and the hundreds of other scientists who peer reviewed her work and agreed that it was of merit), or someone posting on a blog who cannot even summon up sufficient courage of conviction to identify him/herself, let alone answer the questions I and others have posed repeatedly? I rest my case.

Oh, and Orac, keep up the good work.


At 6/20/2005 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dwight Meredith posts a study that is supposed to show how thimerosal/mercury can cause the very specific and discrete problems that result in autism.

The study, "Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism", by S Jill James, et al, is a perfect example of exactly what I referred to.

How does one go from "increased oxidative stress" and "impaired methylation capacity" to autism? Ah, that is the part of the story that is left untold.

Unfortunately, it is the MAJORITY of the story and leaves untold the part that explains why this sort of problem - interesting though it may be - can explain autism.

I must point out that both "increased oxidative stress" and "impaired methylation capacity" affect a wide range of cells and cellular processes. That is a pretty blunt instrument to cause so specific an injury as autism. Of course, the autism-mercury proponents expect us to take it on faith that it DOES cause autism, without so much as a hint about how it might do so.

Sorry, nice try - thank you for playing! BTW - if you want to find some good science on autism, stay clear of Jeff Bradstreet - he is more interested in the politics of autism than the science.



At 6/20/2005 5:36 PM, Blogger Kev said...

Craig Westover says:

"Third, the best source of U.S. data on autism is that collected by the state of California"

California DDS says:

"Although the source of information for many reports on autism for California is the Department of Developmental Services (DDS)' "Quarterly Client Characteristics Report", the numbers reported by DDS are often misunderstood and misrepresented by others. Except for Table 2 of the Report, only persons with a Client Development Evaluation Report (CDER) on file who have "active" status in the DDS system are counted in the report tables. So, numbers reported do not represent all persons with developmental disabilities in the State of California. The numbers can not be used to report the incidence of autism, for example. Also, the quarterly report represents the number of persons with various characteristics in the DDS system as of a point in time."


Now, I'm not American so I could well have misinterpretted the data here not being familiar with what Craig Westover refers to as 'California' and what 'DDS' means. Maybe someone could confirm or deny that I'm drawing an unwarranted conclusion by reading the rest of the source.


At 6/20/2005 6:09 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...

If autism can be cured and reversed by removing heavy metals, heavy metals MUST be the cause.

Read my post about Dr. Rashid Buttar and TD-DMPS.


At 6/20/2005 6:17 PM, Anonymous _g said...

Thanks for the links, Dave Edwards, they were informative. I agree with your assertion that Rodier has done good work but you should read her conclusions again, IMO.

You try to shift the burden of proof and make a straw man when you write " I'm sorry, Anonymous, but this is FACT. Variant HOX genes and transcription errors arising from those genes are now implicated in autistic spectrum conditions."

All of them? And genetic disease doesn't rule out a major role for environmental effects.

"And once again, I ask you, given the structural details discovered by Rodier, I'd like you to explain how Thimerosal could replicate those structural changes in a post-natal brain stem without additionally affecting other regions of the brain."

Are other regions of the brain unaffected in autism? There is a broad spectrum of autistic disorders so I don't think that just one part of the brain is affected. And since when did individuals have to prove that drugs or vaccines are unsafe and demonstrate the mechanism by which those substances do damage?

Why don't you read the review article she wrote on environmental effects again? She concludes in

"Most reviews end with a call for more research, and no one can doubt that there are enormous gaps in our knowledge of the causes of CNS maldevelopment. However, what is most discouraging in this field is not the limitations of the information available but the limited use that we have made of that information in protecting children from environmental factors that cause CNS injury. If a pediatrician were to read only 1 article from this reference list, then it should be the article by Kimmel and Makris.3 It reviews the present status of regulations and guidelines. Using the screening methods now in place, virtually none of the human teratogens mentioned in this review would be detected as hazardous to the developing brain of test animals at doses already known to cause lasting impairments of the human CNS. "



At 6/20/2005 6:33 PM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

"And since when did individuals have to prove that drugs or vaccines are unsafe and demonstrate the mechanism by which those substances do damage?"

This is a remarkable statement by itself and really I don't think it needs any further comment. Why do you THINK this needs to be done? You definitely do need to prove that the mechanism of damage from X exposure is consistent with Y pathogenesis. If something causes completely different forms of damage every time than the disorder in question (which displays different pathology), then that is very strong evidence that the two things are not linked.

Again, how does the mercury used in these vaccines specifically cause the types of brain damage seen in autism? If you (or anyone else) cannot establish why the mercury used in this case can cause the *same* pathology seen in autism, I highly recommend asking yourself "why not".


At 6/20/2005 7:30 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Pat Sullivan:

Where is the research showing the effectiveness of transdermal DMPS, the Buttar Cream? I looked in for the research, and there was nothing by Rashid Buttar.

For the search terms "DMPS transdermal" I found:


Can you point to where his research has been checked, validated and repeated, please?


At 6/20/2005 8:45 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Transdermal DMPS is even more bogus as a "treatment" for autism than intravenous chelation therapy. Advocates can't even show that it is absorbed through the skin in concentrations adequate to chelate anything. At least intravenous chelation therapy can remove heavy metals; the problem with it as a treatment is that heavy metal poisoning does not appear to be the cause of autism.


At 6/20/2005 8:59 PM, Anonymous _g said...

I think I was pretty clear when I wrote: "And since when did individuals have to prove that drugs or vaccines are unsafe and demonstrate the mechanism by which those substances do damage?"

But JM O'Donnell replied:
"This is a remarkable statement by itself and really I don't think it needs any further comment. Why do you THINK this needs to be done?"

The basic problem here is that the applicant to the regulatory agency has the burden of proof to show that the product is safe. It's not my job as a usenet poster or blogger to prove that a product is unsafe. The drug companies never did standard double blind studies to prove safety, within bounds, of vaccine preservatives. It's not my job as a geochemist to figure out biochemical mechanisms when biochemists are still doing basic research on the problem.

I support "Orac" in his position that medicine be evidence-based. When a very well respected researcher concludes: "Using the screening methods now in place, virtually none of the human teratogens mentioned in this review would be detected as hazardous to the developing brain of test animals at doses already known to cause lasting impairments of the human CNS.", it causes me great concern. I cannot conclude that vaccines cause autism from this but I can conclude that the regulatory process is failing to protect health and safety. Got it?

Yes, the Salon article failed to prove its assertions. But the bigger issue of the safety of products that were not adequately tested remains. Safety is what we should all be concerned about.



At 6/20/2005 10:07 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...

HCN, if Dr. Buttar does not have anything on PubMED, I don't have an explanation for that. I don't know what is required to have something posted there.

What I do have is his testimony, given to US Congress on May 6, 2004 that clearly discusses his findings. Click here to read it.

I also have my own personal findings w/ TD-DMPS which I'll get to in a minute.

Orac, where is your research to prove your statements? Where is the study that proves conclusively that heavy metal toxicity does not appear to be the cause of autism? You say these things as if they were complete fact, but they appear to me to be just your opinions. Or do you personally have more experience than Dr. Buttar treating and curing 23 plus autistic kids?

It is well known that whatever is placed on your skin is absorbed. If you swim in a chlorinated pool, the skin will absorb a certain amount chlorine, right? You are concerned that there is no measure for how much DMPS is entering the skin. I say who cares if they have not yet done randomized, double-blind, placebo studies to determine how much DMPS is entering into the bloodstream through the skin? That costs money and why do a big expensive study on a substance that is already approved by the FDA? What they do know is that heavy metals are being removed without any other explanation as to why, other than TD-DMPS.

I personally have been using TD-DMPS -- "Buttars magic cream" directly from AMT Pharmacy -- for the last 6 months. I have done DMPS provocation testing twice during this time period and can confirm that there are elevated levels of heavy metals being removed. What is also significant is that like many autistics, I have confirmed through expensive genetic testing that I have the gene mix APO-E3,4 which is the second to least worst gene mix you can have for determining your ability to chelate heavy metals.

I'm not a scientist, nor am I a doctor. I'm a man who's been trying to get well for 18 years. Along the way, I've learned quite a few things. One of those being that peer-review generally just means status-quo. It is the "quacks" and "charlatans" working in a garage somewhere that make an observation, form a hypothesis, and follow the truth/science wherever it leads them.

I'm glad that at least my comments are cutting through the clutter on what is obviously a highly controversial subject. I am sure that as someone who claims to be intellectually honest, you are continuing to keep an open mind on your position as new data is presented.

- Pat Sullivan


At 6/20/2005 10:09 PM, Anonymous a said...

HOX/autism link - interesting.

Does the data imply autistic drosophila? And for that matter, can an animal model developed? Would it be possible test this in some sort of mouse model?


At 6/20/2005 10:30 PM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

"It's not my job as a usenet poster or blogger to prove that a product is unsafe. "

But if you're going to argue that it is, then find someone elses work and present it. That is what I was asking, not that you should go and do the research yourself :D

Again, you come out with:

"I cannot conclude that vaccines cause autism from this but I can conclude that the regulatory process is failing to protect health and safety. Got it?"

But not in regards to this case and autism, which is what matters when we are discussing this. Again, prove that mercury based preservatives cause autism by presenting research that the damage caused is exactly the same for mercury poisoning, as in the neurological damage in autistic children.


At 6/20/2005 10:42 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Do not try to equate congressional testimony with real research (especially to some very gullible politicians). Nor should you try to claim Buttar Cream works because "it worked for ME"... and then demand that Orac provide evidence that you would accept.

It is quite an incredible claim that Buttar Cream can cure autism. To quote Carl Sagan "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"... so it will require more proof than testimonies from Buttar or parents (I saw one claim that it worked for a four year child after starting the cream application when the child was 15 months old! It is almost as credible as believing the child was diagnosed at 15 months old... most kids are at least two years old). So until Buttar puts his "magic" cream under closer scrutiny... it will remain an unsubstrantiated cure that is preying on the wishes of desparate parents.

My guess is the reason Rashid Buttar has not submitted any of his research, case studies and methods to be checked to see if it really works may be to not cut into any sales.


At 6/20/2005 11:05 PM, Blogger Orac said...


It's very easy. To be listed in PubMed, you have to have published scientific articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It's just that simple. Apparently Dr. Buttar couldn't be bothered to submit his work to real scientific journals. It's hard to be taken seriously as a researcher or scientist if you aren't published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Certainly, I don't take him seriously.

And testifying in front of Congress means little, as Congress is notorious for its inability to properly evaluate scientific issues.


At 6/21/2005 12:24 AM, Anonymous _g said...

To JM O'Donnell, "Orac" and others: I think the science/analysis on both sides of the Thimerosal and autism controversy is lacking. I think that the regulatory process has failed. I don't have access to a med library but it's becoming clear to me that we don't know how safe or unsafe the thimerosal is because proper research was never done.

I live with ADHD and perhaps some autistic spectrum symptoms. My concern is not for pro or con in an argument between two sides. I have utterly no respect for snake oil salesmen or PI attorneys who manipulate fear. And I despise those who use the struggles and suffering of others for a political point. That is what I see happening here and it stinks.

The only solution to this kind of problem is sound science and objective government regulation based on it. Unfortunately, the objective regulator is a very endangered species and the objective independent scientist is not far behind on the list.

As for the poor fool who is using skin cream to try to cure autism: Try sunscreen. It won't cure your autism but it will help prevent skin cancer.



At 6/21/2005 1:02 AM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

Of course, but there is still a range of literature available that describes the effects of mercury poisoning and an increasing amount that describes what effects have been observed on austic individuals brains.

The observations are utterly unalike, with mercury poisoning producing different kinds of pathology than that seen in austic individuals:

For example details some of this.

Again, all I want to see is a single study demonstrating that mercury damage produces the same pathology as seen in autism. Until this evidence appears there can be no reasonable way to assert mercury based vaccines are the cause of autism.


At 6/21/2005 3:15 AM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...

It is easy and usually wrong to imagine the motivations of others as you are doing here. You don't know why Buttar has not attempted to have his work peer reviewed.

I know from a doc whom I know personally, who HAS had peer reviewed articles published, it is not nearly as easy to do as you indicate. It was VERY hard for him, a practicing clinician to find time and to fund the effort. He only got it done because he got a ton of help from a researcher at the EPA.

It is well known that DMPS does indeed chelate heavy metals. It is well known that transdermal creams readily carry substances into the bloodstream. It is verifiable that pre and post TD DMPS tests show very elevated levels of metals being excreted both through urine and feces. These are not leaps of faith!

Parents have spent considerable sums of money to take out advertisements in USA Today to say that they have their children back because of TD DMPS. These people have nothing to gain financially! From the "anecdotal" data that they have from pure observation of their children they are willing to spend their money to publically say that there is a cure for autism and be called crazies by you! Their likely motivation? Could it be to help others?

To me there is more than enough data to support at least the suspicion that heavy metals from multiple sources, is at least a contributory factor in autism as well as other neurological diseases for which NO CAUSE has yet been found by medical science.

Should not suspicion alone be sufficient to stop using these known toxins in our bodies? Who does it benefit financially to continue to use these toxins?

Given the fact that normal toxic studies for Thimerersol or for Mercury Amalgams have NEVER been done by the vaccine makers or the ADA, how can one be so certain that the most non-radioactive metal known is somehow absolutely safe in our bodies at ANY LEVEL? Why are they so readily proclaimed to be safe? Why? Follow the money!

If they are ever shown to be as dangerous as many reputable scientists believe them to be, the lawsuits will make the tobacco lawsuits look like childs play.

How many decades did "the experts" assure us that smoking was safe?


At 6/21/2005 8:02 AM, Anonymous David Edwards said...

First of all, I am prepared to admit, hand on heart, that I skimped with respect to Rodier's caution over the possibility of environmental contributions to autistic spectrum conditions. However, her research concnetrates upon substances that are likely to trigger the HOX gene transcription errors cited in the paper I referred to. One of her research papers covers valproic acid, which is used as a treatment for epilepsy, and which is listed in the various phamacological lexicons as being a substance that should NOT be administered to women who are pregnant or considering conceiving, because it is a known teratogen in utero. Likewise, Thalidomide fell under her remit, not only because it led to her detective work in the first place, but because it was of compelling interest to her from the standpoint of developmental embryology.

However, the fact remains that the evidence increasingly points to HOX gene errors and HOX gene error transcriptions in the early days of foetal development after conception as being the underlying molecular biological basis of autistic spectrum conditions. And Rodier is not alone in pursuing this line of research. Indeed, she will be presenting lectures on the subject at a conference in Wales on austistic spectrum conditions later this year, along with other esteemed individuals such as Dr Simon Baron-Cohen and Professor Uta Frith. I say again, if her work was in some way 'wrong', she wouldn't be dwelling in such company.

Incidentally, those brain stem changes seen by Rodier (including the complete absence of a structure called the Superior Olive) explain why ABR (Auditory Brainstem Repsonse) testing is a useful diagnostic tool in the diagnosis of autistic spectrum conditions. The Superior Olive is a relay station for auditory signals, and ABR prolongation has been recognised as a feature of autistic spectrum conditions for a number of years prior to Rodier's paper. The simple fact, however, is that there is now a proven link between thosed brain stem structural changes and HOX gene errors (including transcription errors). Environmental factors may trigger transcription errors (and Rodier cites that valproic acid is capable of doing just that), but those environmental factors have to occur while those genes are active, i.e., in the early days after conception. The race is now on to find other potential teratogens capable of triggering said transcription errors. However, this does NOT alter the fact that HOX genes provide a repeatably demonstrable mechanism for the development of autistic spectrum conditions. If I had the money to set up the requisite labs, chances are I could repeatedly demonstrate this myself.

Once again, given the existence of a genetic basis that is subject to all manner of rigorous scientific tests to establish its validity (and if there was any reason to refute that validity, Rodier would have abandoned that line of research for something more fruitful), the burden of proof lies upon those who wish to claim that Thimerosal causes the very specific structural changes I have repeatedly cited without causing other brain trauma at the same time. I see nothing in the literature that points to Thimerosal possessing this remarkable neurotoxic specificity - only affecting specific cells in the brain stem and no others.

I say again, HOX genes are now the focus of research in the field of autistic spectrum conditions, and are such because a link (indeed, a compelling one) has been established. And to dismiss the transgenic mouse studies in this area (in which the removal of HOXA1 produces exactly the same pattern of brain stem changes - note, EXACTLY the same pattern) is simply untenable.

Incidentally, I asked Scientific American some time ago if MRI scanners now possessed the level of resolution required to home in on these structural changes without invasive surgery. At the time, they told me that this was not the case, but the scanner manufacturers are increasing the resolution of their machines all the time. Once an MRI scanner with the requisite resolution is an engineering reality, I'm willing to bet that they'll show up the same brain stem structural anomalies in living autistic patients.


At 6/21/2005 8:51 AM, Blogger Orac said...


Alties frequently make the claim that it is "too difficult" or that they are "too busy" taking care of patients to submit their work to peer-reviewed biomedical scientific literature. Such an excuse is a cop-out. It won't wash. If you want your research to be taken seriously, you have to get it published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Period.

As for the "follow the money" argument, please, give me a break. Vaccines are one of the lower profit items pharmaceutical companies make, and lawsuits make them even less profitable. I could make the same argument as a reason why mercury-autism advocates are so intent on "proving" a link; trial lawyers want "evidence" to use to sue pharmaceutical companies and the government. In any case, I've never said that thimerosal was good or completely; what I've said is that people like you have never made a convincing case that mercury, whether from thimerosal or other environmental sources, causes autism. And you haven't. The evidence that is out there now does not support such a link, and the new evidence that has been coming out does not change that.


At 6/21/2005 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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."

Rare side effect, 1 in 100,000

I am guessing that is only counting the REPORTED side effects. How many more, like yours, go unreported? If all vaccine reactions were reported, it could change that "rare" status.

An FYI, you can report this reaction yourself. Request a copy of your child's medical records, by law, those records must include the vaccine given, date, lot #, exp dt. You will need this info to report your child's reaction to

[b]Vaccine reactions are not rare, just rarely reported.[/b]


At 6/21/2005 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One way or another, you will be getting more data. From the RFK article, near the end:

"Another soon-to-be published study shows that autism rates are in decline following the recent elimination of thimerosal from most vaccines."

Either the study shows up and there can be more reasoned debate, or the study never appears and the RFK article gets that much closer to a complete dismissal.


At 6/21/2005 2:39 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


I appreciate your comments.

Agreed that having peer reviewed scientific articles is very valuable. It is also my understanding that getting a peer reviewed article that goes against the mainstream belief is often VERY difficult to get placed even when that article is very well done and well supported.

I am personally aware of an editor who got fired for allowing an article in a journal that passed peer review because it challenged the mainstream of current thought/belief.

It is actually an old trick of scientists protecting the mainstream. They argue that the data cannot be any good because it has never been published in a peer reviewed article, all the while preventing anyone from actually getting their articles published in peer reviewed journals.

I am not saying that this has happened in this case but I am aware that this happens. The mainstream CONTROLS most of the good journals.

Look at the thought police at universities who preach tolerance but shout down any dissenting opinion on a wide range of topics that they don't like!

As to your argument that vaccines are low profit, it has nothing to do with their profits. It has everything to do with litigation! True, the legal vultures on the anti-thimerasol side are circling and waiting to pounce and WILL do so! But the reason is that there is a growing body of evidence building up JUST like it built up around the tobbaco controversy.

Vultures only circle where they sense something dying and the thimerasol/mercury mfg's have created what will be a feast for these vultures to feed upon for many decades to come. It is inevitable!

Vultures actually serve a useful purpose in the wild as well as in our society. I don't like them much either and support efforts to reign them in. But there are times where the damage is so egregious and the carcus so smelly that it is great that these vultures are there to punish the ones who simply ignored reason and used substances that in most cases they KNEW were highly suspect and dangerous!

So it is with the use of mercury in any form! Those organizations SHOULD be punished and will be eventually!

Finally, there are many brighter people than I who have made great cases against the use of mercury in any form. To those who don't want to believe it, no amount of evidence or data will convince them, ever! I know many who smoke and still deny that it is bad for them! NO amount of data or argument will get them to stop!


At 6/21/2005 3:00 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

As for the money trail... the folks who sold you the genetic testing as well as those who sold you Buttar Cream must not be in it for the money. They just want to make you "better".

PT Barnum was right.


At 6/21/2005 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Sullivan,

You said, "I am personally aware of an editor who got fired for allowing an article in a journal that passed peer review because it challenged the mainstream of current thought/belief."

Could you please let us know the name of the editor or the journal or possibly the article in question?


At 6/21/2005 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out there somewhere on the internet is a .pdf file of Buttar's vague references to his "research" written by him. It consists of, "I put this stuff on a bunch of kids and they got better."

There's a link to Buttar's little essay thing in a couple of places on the British medical Journal Rapid Response board, but I don't feel like chasing it down.

In Buttar's own words, he doesn't know how much of the stuff is going in to the kid or how long it stays there.

What he says he uses are possibly horrifically faulty urine test results, HE CLAIMS.

But when she showed up at the AUTISM ONE convention a month or so ago in Chicago he gave a long whiney presentation about how unappreciated he is. He used emotional threats to tell parents not to bring their kids to him when their other attempts at chelation failed...

He showed NO graphs or anything vaguely like data.

The man has "carnival snake oil seller" tatooed on his forhead... or everything but that.

You need to check his background and ignore his, "but my baby was sick and I was crying and it was so sad and then I cured him with Buttar Cream and now hes' a genius" routine.

Check the facts. This guy could end up being sued bigtime by all the people who bought his line.

Pat Sullivan, don't help him take advantage of parents of autistic kids. Don't repeat his lies for him.


At 6/21/2005 5:29 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


I figured that my honest statement that I knew someone who had been fired at a peer reviewed journal would be questioned. Today, I guess that everyones honesty is questioned given the high stakes in these kinds of arguments.

The editor who was fired is named Paul Sternberg. The article in question, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," was written by CSC Director Dr. Stephen Meyer, and appears in the biology journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The Proceedings is a peer-reviewed biology journal published at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Also to Anonymous. I heard that Dr. Buttar did not do a great job at the Autism One conference and came off as very defensive. That is a shame and I was disappointed to hear that. I have listened to his 53 minute presentation available on our website at and he sounds quite sane to me. Most doctors have a huge ego however, and his is probably no different.

To me he is relatively irrelevant. What is relevant is that many parents are testifying that with their own eyes they have seen their kids get well. While anecdotal, it is nevertheless relevant in my view.

It is worthy of intense research and scrutiny. But mercury is still politically incorrect, or rather a political hot potato because of the great potential for litigation that exists for some VERY IMPORTANT organizations!
They will resist valid research into this simply because they don't WANT to know the results! A 50% chance that they will get sued for Trillions is simply an unacceptable risk!

Purely from logic, I decided to use TD DMPS for my longstanding issues with measured high levels of heavy metals, as well as corresponding symptomology of heavy metal poisoning. I had tried many treatments before, both natural and Rx based, that did not work or were not tolerable including IV DMPS.

Logic dictated that DMPS, a proven powerful heavy metal chelator, delivered as a Trans Dermal Cream every other day made sense to me. Since I have the APOe 3,4 gene I knew that I did not excrete metals very well.

After 6 months of use I continue to excrete high levels of metals when using TD DMPS but not without it. Logic says to me I am doing my body good to get rid of metals that are not supposed to be there and which I don't excrete well on my own.

I have steadily felt better though I expect to use TD DMPS for another 6-12 months as I am 51 years old and I am certain
I have a high body burden of metals. Continued testing however, should tell me when is a good endpoint.

No one "SOLD" me on using this. It was purely a logical next step for me to try to get well from bothersome symptoms for which all medical doctors whom I saw had no clue or success over the previous 30 years doing anything about!

Many, breakthrough treatments have taken the same path as Buttar's. In every case the maverick was persecuted and maligned! Seems to be to be a good sign that he is onto something!


At 6/21/2005 5:34 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...

In response to HCN's comments above.

Everyone basically is in it "for the money!" Everyone has to eat and thus earn a living unless one is lucky enough to inherit wealth and not have to earn a living at all.

I would imagine that you suffer from this same curse of having to eat! Earning money off selling products or your time is not evil! I don't expect many people work "because they care" though it is nice when the two align!

Earning money off selling products that contain high levels of KNOWN TOXINS is evil in my view and also poor business, especially when the companies know that they are doing it. Then to defend this practice multiplies the evil but is perfectly understandable given the desire to avoid being sued or eaten by the circling vultures! Who wants that?

But I have no illusions that people who "sold me" a genetic test and TD DMPS are doing it solely because "they care". That would be laughable. I am glad that I have the choice to buy these products however as they have helped me enormously to understand my physiology and to attempt to do something about it!

Trite but true, "it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." That is all I am trying to do.


At 6/21/2005 6:30 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I knew it! I knew it had to be Sternberg!

But, really, though. It's not Paul Sternberg. It's Richard von Sternberg.

This is guy who tried to get an "intelligent design" creationism paper into a scientific journal against the policies of the journal! See:


No, Sternberg abused his position as editor of a journal to get an unscientific review article published. He's not a good example.


At 6/21/2005 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


you said, "I figured that my honest statement that I knew someone who had been fired at a peer reviewed journal would be questioned."

Well, it appeas that the "honest" statement was questioned for good reason. Your claim "I am personally aware of an editor who got fired for allowing an article in a journal that passed peer review because it challenged the mainstream of current thought/belief." is factually incorrect.

Sternberg was not fired as editor of the journal. He was no longer the editor when the controversy about the paper arose. He shephearded the paper through the journal shortly before his term as editor ended. Nor was he fired by the Smithsonian as was falsely reported on various blogs. For a response to the allegations by his "supervisor" at the Smithsonian, see:


At 6/21/2005 9:55 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Thanks, anonymous. I remembered that post, but I couldn't find it for some reason!


At 6/21/2005 10:32 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Mr. Sullivan has made up his mind and even written a book about it.

I have a relative who has also bought the "toxicity", "heavy-metal" and other notions of questionable diagnoses hook, line and sinker. This relative did all sorts of stuff... she spent money on "compounded medications", restricted her diet, listened to a naturapath tell her to cut out all foods except for a certain list (most of which my picky eater relative refused to eat). She spent lots of money she really did not have (especially since she tended to also impulsively buy things).

Then finally something happened and she actually felt well. It was after she had a psychotic episode and was admitted to the county's psych ward. With professional counseling and medication she actually started to feel well, including energy. She was good when she was discharged 6 weeks later.

Unfortunately she decided that the naturapath knew more than the psychiatrist -- and decided to quit the real meds and go for the homeopathic remedies and special medications from a compounding pharmacy prescibed by the ND. She went back to her feelings of fatigue, with occasional manic episodes (she was officially diagnosed as bi-polar at the county hospital). Now she is back in the desperate spiral trying to get back on track.

This is just one reason why I intensely dislike the snake-oil salesmen like Buttar, homeopaths, a certain naturapath and others...

PLUS the complete inadequacy of mental health resources in this county... and in society in general.

My apologies if this just angers Mr. Sullivan. But if he sincerely wishes for us to understand and accept his point of view, then he will have to brush up on his basic science (including how it is done, and evaluated). I have found that one of the better ways to learn about the science is to read the history of the subject (I'm an engineer with an interest in history). A few good ones are Asimov's _Understanding Physics_, Gina Kolata's _Flu, the Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic_, John Barry's _The Great Influenza_, and Brian Burrell's _Postcards from the Brain Museum_.


At 6/22/2005 1:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the mother of a child diagnosed with autism at the age of two, I can tell you that my child did not have autism. He did in fact have mercury overload that almost destroyed his life. If you have not walked in the shoes of this misdiagnosis of autism, you cannot begin to understand the complexity of it. I am happy to see the conversations for the next group facing this mess. Mbains, is it anti-vax or anti-mercury? I totally support vaccinating children. However, from my experience, which I pray no other parent will ever have to live through...Vaccinate your children with mercury free vaccines. Would you like to be injected with 127 times above the EPA's safe allowable amount of mercury? I have the documentations to prove my son was harmed. As soon as Bush is replaced, I am sure the lawsuits will go through the courts. Then the public will know all the facts. Robert Kennedy, Jr. is doing a wonderful job at slowly disclosing the facts. The public haven't seen anything yet. The reason to pass along is to educate yourselves on the facts. Vaccinate your children safely. Request all vaccines, even the flu vax(yes, they make mercury free flu vax just more expensive for them to make.) in mercury free form. From past experiences we should all know by now that the most irrational voice proves to be the soundest in the end.


At 6/22/2005 1:24 AM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


I rewrite my response as the one I worked on for a long time was eaten by this awful software you use! Knowing a little about software, I find to be horrible. I prefer typepad but it has it's flaws as well but that is another topic isn't it?

I find it telling that you quickly judge Sternberg as unscientific and post only one sided url's by those who hate him. Have you talked with Sternberg? Do you know his side of the story? Likely not.

While I have not talked with him either, I did talk with a former Microsoft Exec who does know him well and I assure you the story is much more complicated than your one sided url's. We should not be so ready to brand people in anyway it seems to me unless we truly know the facts.

Historically, so many breakthroughs have come through heretics who dared to go against the accepted mainstream thinking. It seems to me that one of the signs that something SHOULD be considered is the vehemence with which their ideas are opposed by the "accepted consensus opinion of the mainstream."

I think Sternberg is a very good example of the fact that peer reviewed journals are indeed the keepers of mainstream's status quo and this is a good example of the fear that editors should rightly have if they publish something out of the mainstream. Their careers are in danger! Sternberg certainly has learned that lesson!

While I am sure you will denounce on it's face because it does not agree with your one sided url's, at least others here should consider the opinion piece first published in the WSJ and reproduced here:

I am sure you have heard the story of Dr. Barry Marshall who discovered that the bacteria h. pylori, causes ulcers and not stress - the mainstream belief. Know how hard it was for him to get his radical research published in peer review journals? It took many, many years and many antics on his part to ever even be considered even though he was right! His is quite a story of what it takes to go against "accepted" science!

Skepticism is a healthy thing. But skepticism mixed with scorn, contempt and ridicule is certainly not scientific!


At 6/22/2005 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CDC reported that Autism had reached epidemic proportions. Why hasn't Down's or other genetic disorders not shown the same epidemic increase? There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. SO, now, these groups want to claim better diagnosis. Hmm...I must ask the question so many others have asked. Where are all the 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 plus year old autistics at? Why was there NEVER a documented case of regressive autism until the 1990's? Why is regressive autism so different from the first cases reported by Kanner? Kanner's autism is rare in these children today. Why is mercury dangerous in fish, but not in vaccines? Why are the youngest children diagnosed as autistic recovering with chelation therapy? I understand this is hard for many to understand. Until you live it and see it with your own eyes it can't be phantomed. Even while treating my son with chelation, I had doubts. I thought that this would be another dead end. I thank God daily for going against our pediatricians advice. I thank God for chelation. The older children are the ones I feel for. There is too much damage. The mercury remained for too long to recover fully. It is very sad. God bless and keep an open ear.


At 6/22/2005 1:41 AM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


I think my honesty is intact though you are free to challenge it as you wish. That is what makes this a great country!

As I mention above, there are two sides to every story. I happen to have talked with a person who does know the other side of the story though you don't have to believe that either and you probably won't. Does not matter to me.

Regardless, the fact is Sternberg's scientific career in his chosen field is over because he published that peer reviewed article.

He says that he followed exactly the same procedures with this piece as all the other pieces he previously had published during his tenure as editor. The claim that he went outside policy only came after the people he reported to had their heads handed to them by the thought police who were incensed that the ID people finally got a "peer reviewed" article published.

Someone HAD to pay for this incredible attack on accepted scientific thought! Sternberg paid and continues to pay bigtime for his breech of the unspoken intolerance of anything outside the mainstream of thought!


At 6/22/2005 2:14 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Rat Sullivan wrote: "I am sure you have heard the story of Dr. Barry Marshall who discovered that the bacteria h. pylori, causes ulcers and not stress - the mainstream belief. Know how hard it was for him to get his radical research published in peer review journals? It took many, many years and many antics on his part to ever even be considered even though he was right! His is quite a story of what it takes to go against "accepted" science!"

When you cite something, please be sure to back it up. With a simple google search I found this:
... with this quote:
"Marshall, however, was certain he was on the right track. The results of his work with Warren were published in the respected British medical journal Lancet and research by other scientists supported the association between H. pylori and inflammation of the stomach lining."

Here is the abstract of the Lancet article:

A search on Marshall BJ shows that he has been listed as an author of 95 items indexed in PubMed.

The BIG difference between him and Rashid was that he did the work, documented the methods, measured everything... and it was replicated. So now when you do a search in PubMed on "bacteria h. pylori ulcers" you get over 1770 papers (try it).

So back to Buttar... Which scientific meeting has he introduced his method with? Has he documented the case studies? Does he publish in something other than his webpages?

Pat Sullivan wrote: "Skepticism is a healthy thing. But skepticism mixed with scorn, contempt and ridicule is certainly not scientific!"

I am not trying to ridicule or scorn you. I would like you to step back, look at the sources and see what science really is. It is a way to to understand the world around us, it is more of a method than anything else. You get an idea, then you check it out... keeping track of what you did, how you did and what the results were. If you get a result that is extraordinary, be prepared to back it up... write it up, tell the world -- and see if they get the same results. It is pretty clear that Marshall's results were replicated -- and the naysayers DID come around.

Breakthroughs really do not come from heretics. They come from those who do the work. Also, they also come from those who do not start with an answer and try to get the results to fit the answer. If the results do not work out to fit the guess, they find out why! Sometimes those results turn out to be something better (like a better treatment for ulcers, or Post-it notes or Silly-Putty, check out the book _Mistakes that Worked_ by Charlotte Jones). It is one reason that the history of science and technology is so fascinating (another good book, Oliver Sacks' _Uncle Tungston_, his autobiography with lots of fun chemistry stuff thrown in).

I understand you want "to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness"... but it doesn't help if you are standing in the closet. Walk out of the closet, relish in the sunshine and learn how nature works... the interactions are fascinating.


At 6/22/2005 2:18 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

I would like to apologize for my very unfortunate typo of the very first letter. It was not intentional.

(I am also not very good at using this software).


At 6/22/2005 2:39 AM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


You say, "Mr. Sullivan has made up his mind and even written a book about it."

Had you read my book, (which I would be happy to send to you free if you actually did want to read what I really think) you would know that I actually don't have my mind made up (and thus closed) about many of the things you go onto list here.

I am a proponent of Rx meds and I strongly encourage people to take psychiatric meds to help them with their symptoms while they look for the underlying causes of their conditions.

I actually am much more hard on homeopaths and nuturapaths than I am with mainstream medicine.

I think both allopathic medicine and alternative medicine is basically screwed up when it comes to treating people with chronic conditions! That is why we have 125 million people with chronic conditions! Some answers actually lay in both medical camps making it difficult for people to get well.

Doctors of all persuasions for the most part don't have a clue what to do with these people unless they can mask the symptoms with a drug or cut something out of their bodies!

My sole contention is that if there is an effect, there HAS to be a cause! Doctors should be looking for that cause!

Unfortunately, the way most medicine is practiced AND paid for by the insurance companies, doctors are not allowed to take the time to look for causes! They only have time to look in their approved cookbooks and do that. If they do anything else they eventually are branded as kooks and quacks and are threatened with having there licenses pulled! Plus they get to be ridiculed on bulletin boards like this one! Gee, that is a great motivation to actually try to listen to someone and uncover the real cause of their illness!

Personally I believe that many chronic conditions are simply caused by the body either missing some nutrient in the quantity that it needs to perform, AND/OR it has the inability to detoxify itself of something that is preventing it from performing as designed. Heavy metals, would be a perfect example of the latter. I also do say that genetics play a significant role in the above.

As to my need "to brush up on my basic science", I don't ever claim to be a scientist! I am merely a patient who has had to learn how to get well from as many sources available to me that made sense.

Oh, that there would be more scientist's that would be allowed to search for the causes wherever the search and data would lead! Even if that search led down politically incorrect paths! This too is not allowed in most cases!!

I agree that there are many goofy things out there in the medical world and I have run into most of them I think! I have also learned that goofy and dangerous doctors are just as likely to have an MD after their name as they are to have a ND, NMD, DC, DO, PhD or whatever after their names.

The need to help chronix is so BIG that it is bound to attract many crazies looking for a fast buck! So I agree with you in virtually everything you say except that you have not read my mind or intentions very well. Let me send you my book! At the very least it may give you more goodies to ridicule me with! Such fun...


At 6/22/2005 3:25 AM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...


We are posting at the same time so it is hard to keep up with you! Thanks for the clarification regarding that Rat Sullivan! :-)

You are correct that Barry Marshall has now been published many times. But I think you missed my point!

My point simply was that it took him about a decade to get published the first time - long after he first starting talking about his discovery!

He had to to give himself ulcers by drinking an h pylori laced drink on the podium at a GI docs convention in order to get these close minded docs to listen to his data! They eventually did! Years later!

How do I know this? The doc he works for now at Vanderbilt was on a Board with me and told us this and many other stories regarding the things that Barry had to do to get his research even considered for review! That is the point!

Many docs, perhaps Buttar is one of them, simply will not jump through these kind of hoops! Does that make their "science" or observations invalid?

There are many medical breakthroughs that will never make it over the hurdles placed there by those who protect mainstream thought! There are many medical breakthroughs sitting in labs that will never see light of day for lack of the millions of dollars required to get them past the FDA.

I know of one medical device that is truly likely a breakthrough that will never be funded because the doc behind it is a business idiot and can't get the funding. Does that make his "science" any less scientific? No!

I am not saying that a lot of these hurdles are not proper. But many of them are there simply to protect the ones who have the most to lose.

Regarding Buttar, he started just a few years ago using TD DMPS. Other doctors are now using it to try to replicate his work and his claims. Is it not a little early to brand him a kook, charlatan or quack? Given the benefit of the doubt and the dire need of the autistics, should we not be trying desperately to help him either prove or disprove his statements? The autistics deserve better than ridicule of one trying to help them!

Why is he immediately thought to be lying? Is it because the vaccine industry and ADA does not like the idea that THEY MAY HAVE CAUSED THE EPIDEMIC?? That they may get sued?

What has he got to gain? I guarantee you that the money he can make off TD DMPS, if he even gets a royalty is actually NOT going to make him wealthy!

It is not scientific I guess but I always look at two opposing parties and analyze what each has to gain or to lose. Answering that question often yields insight into who is telling the truth and who is lying! I guarantee you that Buttar has little to gain!

And BTW, thanks for the lecture on what science really is. It really helped me...


At 6/22/2005 3:32 AM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

"He had to to give himself ulcers by drinking an h pylori laced drink on the podium at a GI docs convention in order to get these close minded docs to listen to his data!"

Actually this was done as part of the scientific process of proving what you are claiming is true. Kochs postulates are the litmus test for this sort of pathology.

Also, it was largely gastroenterologists who didn't believe him. Many of in microbiology thought that he could well be right and today it's accepted for a matter of course that bacteria can do almost anything ;)


At 6/22/2005 4:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat: Anti-vaccine nutter and biblical creationist in one package? Wow.


At 6/22/2005 4:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buttar whines about being a misunderstood genius. He writes about all the poor fellows who just tried to bring healing to mankind but were mocked and rejected.

Rashid Buttar's best shot at presenting his "research".

If someone knows of another document that Buttar has on his TD DMPS stuff, I'd like to see it.

"In a study due to be released by the winter of 2004, conclusive data was accumulated regarding the efficacy of a specifically formulated transdermally applied combination of DMPS conjugated with a number of peptides, called TD-DMPS?...Full results of the study with detailed explanation of the story of how this process began will be made available soon."

Buttar spins stories and acts like a huckster. He is not listed as being board certified on that website that lists whether or not doctors have board certificications... can't remember it's name now.

He claims to be a board certified "toxicologist". It turns out that he is one of this quacky bunch that use chelation to cure everything and just about all of them sell vitamins from their quacky websites along with their chelation sales pitches. They are in no way "toxicologists" in the real sense, but they claim that title.
It's typical of the dodgy, slimy stuff that Buttar is associated with.

Recently 2 Florida doctors got slammed for selling growth hormone as a cure for everything. Buttar sells growth hormone cream to cure aging. Use it an you will never die, basically... that's his pitch, grow younger!

He also is associated with some creepy business of injecting women with vitamins and herbs or something to get rid of cellulite and he uses a magic machine the does something ( He sells water purifiers, too.

He was investigated by his state's medical department for doing suspicious stuff, but they didn't find anything to convict him on.

He claims to cure cancer with all his vitamins and chelation. He's a busy guy.
Cancer (see: http://www.cajuncowboy.comDr.Buttar.htm)
old age,
gee what next?

Pat Sullivan, if you are using mail order labs, I suggest you do something to verify their accuracy, they are not known to be consistent and they make money if they can get you to keep sending in more samples.


At 6/22/2005 4:44 AM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

You would be surprised how often different varieties of crank come together. Take one such ID crank who also part times for HIV denial like Phillip Johnson.

Cranks of a feather flock together I guess.


At 6/22/2005 8:10 AM, Blogger Orac said...

No, Pat. Sternberg went over the line. In fact, he was treated quite fairly, as far as I can tell, even though he subverted his journal's peer review process.


At 6/22/2005 8:13 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Oh, and that Wall Street Journal piece was utterly incorrect in its characterization, as the Panda's Thumb piece shows:


At 6/22/2005 8:16 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Jim: I'm not at all surprised that cranks tend to be cranks in multiple areas. I've seen it myself constantly. I think the main reason is the commonality of conspiracy theories to crank ideas. If you're predisposed to believe one conspiracy theory; you're probably predisposed to believe others.


At 6/22/2005 8:30 AM, Anonymous TonyL said...


you say, "As I mention above, there are two sides to every story." but the simple fact is that contrary to your claims, Sternberg was never fired! There's no way to spin the fact that your claim he was fired is 100% not true!

As for your new claim about Barry Marshall, It did not take 10 years for him to get his results published. He first published papers on H. Pylori in 1982 and 1983, years before the link between H. Pylori and Ulcers was widely accepted. Marshall's research was accepted because he gathered evidence and published, repeatedly. I have seen no evidence that he was prevented from publishing. There were people skeptical of his claims, but they did not prevent him from publishing! For a rather well documented and detailed historical overlook of the saga, admitedly from a skeptical objective, see:


At 6/22/2005 8:44 AM, Anonymous TonyL said...

Ooops, small typo, that was 1983 and 1984.


At 6/22/2005 1:16 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

TonyL said...
"Ooops, small typo, that was 1983 and 1984."

Well, at least it wasn't has bad as my typo!

I'm done with this also. I did a check on and the RFK, jr stuff is hardly a blip.

Sorry, Mr. Sullivan... your book is not in my local libray. It does not carry many self-published books. Also, I am in the midst of reading about the history of Buffalo Soldiers of the American West (interest piqued after visiting the Ft. Huachuca Museum, ).

Bye, have a nice summer.


At 6/22/2005 2:30 PM, Anonymous Pat Sullivan said...

et al:

I am satisfied that I supplied fodder for your discussions for a few days. I knew when I posted last night and finally went to bed that I would likely post one more time and say goodbye. So it is!

I won't respond to all the many comments made here so that you can relish the idea that you ran me off with your incredibly insightful slams on the actions, minds, intentions and motivations of other people whom you do not know but love to hate.

Worst is the method of responding by name calling that is entirely childish but often a good technique in trying to win an argument; if your 8.

I refer to Anonymous' brilliant comments: "Pat: Anti-vaccine nutter and biblical creationist in one package? Wow." Worse, I am a Rebublican too! That should explain everything!

I am not anti-vaccine however! Typical ploy to those who ARE anti-thimerasol/mercury! Good try!

Labeling an open mind towards the challenging concepts of ID as fundamental creationist is also a textbook slam that is totally inaccurate but often effective! Great try!

Nutty? Probably very accurate!

Another amazing thing about these discussions is the tendency to ignore 10 points that someone makes and latch onto 1 thing, do your best at refuting that one thing and then claim victory on all 10 points. Also an effective method of debate. You guys are good! You have a gift! No, you really do!

Enjoy talking to yourselves. "Preaching to the choir" would be a religious statement so I won't use that line.

You all can have the last word. I have enjoyed these exchanges while they lasted! I actually really have!

Wishing you all wellness!



At 6/22/2005 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat - affecting a haughty and superior attitude adds little to your vapid and provably incorrect opinions.

But I suppose it does get you out of having to respond to the actual content of the criticism you received. Which, I'm guessing, was the point of the exercise.


At 6/22/2005 7:34 PM, Blogger Orac said...

"Labeling an open mind towards the challenging concepts of ID as fundamental creationist is also a textbook slam that is totally inaccurate but often effective! Great try!"

Sorry, Pat, but "intelligent design" is creationism, no matter how much its advocates try to claim otherwise. Indeed, the only reason ID exists is because the evidence for evolution is so strong that creationists had to try to find another way, a "wedge" go get their religious beliefs represented as science.

But, goodbye, anyway. I had a feeling you wouldn't hang around here for long. The skepticism and critical thinking that I try to foster just don't seem to be a good fit for you.


At 6/22/2005 8:50 PM, Blogger Craig Westover said...

The California DDS system cannot be used to extrapolate the number of statewide autism cases -- the incidence of autism. It is, however, a consistent, reliable source of data for tracking trends within a specific population against specific diagnostic criteria.

That is why there was no evidence of an autism trend -- or why one could not be established -- looking at the raw number of children diagnosed. They were diagnosed at different ages. As the caveat notes at a snapshot in time.

However, once the data is captured it provides a consistent data set. When one plots diagnosed cases of autism by birth year, which eliminates random diagnosis intervals, a trend appears. Statistics will tell you what the probability is that such a trend could occur by chance.

Bottom line, one cannot statistically extrapolate the DDS to all of California or beyond the defined diagnostic criteria used for autism. One can use the data to identify statistically significant trending.


At 6/22/2005 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can people leave their baggage at the door while discussing this serious health issue for the individuals we most need to protect. It's depressing how every issue is fought blindly from partisan positions.

Orac is clearly even more irresponsible than RFK, Jr in dismissing lightly the idea of injecting mercury in infants. Citing one or two studies that have been questioned, and lack of evidence is no justification. The only responsible view to take here is, thank God they stopped it now, and let's have more studies before concluding anything.

While I would agree RFK, Jr seems to be engaging in sensationalistic journalism, that is more forgivable. Sometimes one has to light a fire under people, specially those who blindly trust their government.


At 6/22/2005 11:33 PM, Blogger Orac said...

You're using a straw man argument there, anonymous. Please tell me where I "dismissed lightly" the idea of injecting mercury into infants. And I didn't just cite "one or two studies that have been questioned," either.

No, what I "dismissed" (and quite properly so) was the mercury-autism hysteria being pushed so irresponsibly by RFK Jr. on the basis of weak to nonexistent data supporting it and already existing good epidemiological data against such a link. I can't even come close to touching that level of irresponsibility.

As I've said in another comment elsewhere. It may be that it will turn out that it was a bad idea to use mercury-containing thimerosal as a preservative for vaccines, but it almost certainly won't be because mercury causes autism. Based on current data, the only compelling reason to remove thimerosal right is for public health policy reasons, not science, mainly because the hysteria over it is frightening parents unduly about vaccination.

And let us not forget the reason thimerosal was used as a preservative in the first place. Children used to occasionally die from contaminated vaccines.


At 6/23/2005 12:17 AM, Anonymous Pioneer Press Reader said...

Craig Westover likes to think he is pretty smart about thimerosal. He has the talent of being able to write in a way that makes him sound like he knows what he's talking about when he doesn't.

Two points:

It is so ridiculously untrue that thimerosal-containing infant vaccines are just this year expiring. The last of them were produced in 2001 and expired in January 2003.

On the California data - and this is really Autism Diva's territory, so I'll be brief - even on the Evidence of Harm yahoo group they admit that there has been no consistent trend toward a decrease in autism, which is not to say that this data is even useful for this purpose. Also, here's a site by an organization that believes in the autism/mercury thing, and even the numbers they show (I don't know how reliable they are) are uniform increases in every reported state:

(I know the Diva has made this point before, but looking at this table again, I just have to note that if vaccines caused autism, one would expect state-by-state rates to be a leeeeetle more uniform than they are.)


At 6/23/2005 1:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. You are completely dismissive of the link between mercury and autism. Seemed reasonable to conclude you dismiss the dangers of injecting infants with it. I stand corrected.

I must say the other side has cast enough doubt on the studies you say prove there is no link. The two I would have found most interesting - the ones after the vaccines were stopped - were also shown by Kirby to be faulty.

Now, I have no idea if there is really a link between thimerosal and autism, but still believe it is irresponsible to be so dismissive of a link without further study.

As for RFK, Jr. I'm starting to wonder if he's hurt this cause with his sensationalism here. I just wish his attackers would not confuse the issue with his methods.


At 6/23/2005 7:29 AM, Blogger Orac said...

The "other side" has cast doubt on those studies? Really? How? Which studies have they successfully cast doubt on? Do tell.

In actuality, it is the studies purporting to show a link that have been seriously flawed.


At 6/23/2005 12:59 PM, Blogger Bill said...


January 29, 2001 THE FOLLOWING OFFER is made to U.S.-licensed medical doctors who routinely administer childhood vaccinations and to pharmaceutical company CEOs worldwide: Jock Doubleday, president of the California nonprofit corporation Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc., hereby offers $20,000.00 (U.S.) to the first medical doctor or pharmaceutical company CEO who publicly drinks a mixture of standard vaccine additive ingredients in the same amount as a six-year-old child is recommended to receive under the year-2000 guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mixture will not contain viruses or bacteria dead or alive, but will contain standard vaccine additive ingredients in their usual forms and proportions. The mixture will include, but will not be limited to: thimerosal (a mercury derivative), ethylene glycol (antifreeze), phenol (a disinfectant dye), benzethonium chloride (a disinfectant), formaldehyde (a preservative and disinfectant), and aluminum.

The mixture will be prepared by Jock Doubleday, three medical professionals that he names, and three medical professionals that the participant names. The mixture will be body weight calibrated.

Because the participant is either a professional caregiver who routinely administers childhood vaccinations, or a pharmaceutical company CEO whose business is, in part, the sale of childhood vaccines, it is understood by all parties that the participant considers all vaccine additive ingredients to be safe and that the participant considers any mixture containing these ingredients to be safe.

[b]Contact Jock Doubleday at

New Development: A pediatric chiropractor in Hamburg, Germany has recently added his $200,000.00 "S-Series 600" Mercedes (Brabus E V12), including shipping costs to the U.S., to Mr. Doubleday's original $20,000.00 Reward. This Mercedes has been named "The Fastest Four-Door Sedan in the World" by the editors of The Guinness Book of Records.
Tami Giles, Auburn, WA


At 6/23/2005 3:12 PM, Anonymous HCN said...



At 6/23/2005 4:25 PM, Blogger Craig Westover said...

"Craig Westover likes to think he is pretty smart about thimerosal. He has the talent of being able to write in a way that makes him sound like he knows what he's talking about when he doesn't."

I like that description -- I mean I reeeeally like that. that's the opposite of "He's really smart and knows what he's talking about, but just can't express himself," right?


At 6/26/2005 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm...I must ask the question so many others have asked. Where are all the 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 plus year old autistics at?

::30-year-old autistic waves hand::

We're here, we're here!

There is clear evidence that autism has been massively underdiagnosed at *all* points on the spectrum until very recently.

That encompasses the higher-functioning people like me, who were considered "emotionally-disturbed" "eccentric" "shy" "difficult" "language-disordered" "schizophrenic" "just very bright and unusual" "just very spoilt and badly-behaved" or whatever other label we happened to run into.

My cousin's son was just diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. He's 4. He behaves exactly the same way I did at the same age. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 20, and then only by chance. If I look at my family history, I can find clearly-autistic-spectrum relatives in earlier generations who were *never* diagnosed.

This also applies to the more severely-disabled people, who were often labelled as "mentally retarded" simply because nobody bothered to look closely enough, and because for years the diagnostic assumption was that if someone seemed to have global delays, they couldn't be autistic.

When the big mental institutions started being closed down in the UK, Lorna Wing (a major autism expert who is also the parent of an autistic daughter) did a study looking at how many of these much older "mentally handicapped" patients met the criteria for autism. She found that huge numbers of them did, even though the term "autism" had never been applied to them.

Why was there NEVER a documented case of regressive autism until the 1990's?

Have you actually read the literature? Regression has been documented as a phenomenon that affects a significant proportion of autistic children pretty much since autism started being studied.

Without getting off my chair, I can reach to my shelves and pick up Marian DeMyer's "Parents and Children in Autism", which recorded that 45% of children in their sample had some kind of developmental regression. That book? Published in 1979.

Josh Greenfeld's description of his son's regression in "A Child Called Noah"? 1970.

Leo Kanner's original paper on autism, where he quoted a parent describing how her son regressed and stopped imitating words? 1943.

The changeling myths, descriptions of children who appeared normal then suddenly stopped speaking and interacting? Now thought by many experts to describe autistic children? The Middle Ages.


At 6/26/2005 11:28 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Also to the list of books is Paul Collins' _Not Even Wrong_. Not only does he describe his own autistic son, but since he a researcher on old books.. he goes into descriptions of autistics that go back several hundred years.


At 6/27/2005 8:43 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I'll really have to include this as an addendum to today's post. Thanks.


At 6/27/2005 1:27 PM, Anonymous Gary R said...

The amazing thing about these mercury autism link people is that they scour the world looking for links to thimerisol, while ignoring the fact that the Bush Administration is allowing more vast quantities of mercury and lead to be pumped into the air by industrial polluters.


At 6/29/2005 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


At 6/29/2005 11:32 AM, Blogger Orac said...


Do not post copyrighted articles whole to my comments section. You are free to repost, but only if you post no more than a link to the article you wanted to refer to. You can (if you wish) post brief excerpts that could be covered under the fair use doctrine, but huge chunks of text or the whole article will be deleted again. I will not allow my blog to be used to circumvent copyright.

I'm in the very slow process of going through my blog and systematically deleting all blatant copyright abuses such as yours. I'm only doing it to protect myself.


At 6/29/2005 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waving back to the 30 year old with autism. Furthermore, a big {{{pressure hug}}} for you! If there genuinely are so many adults with autism, why are we so worried? I refer to all the adults that step forward announcing they have autism. They are astonishingly high functioning. So, why are we worried? These adults appear to have outgrown the majority of their problems.
Here is my conundrum with the entire regressive case reports. I do not care for books. They are opinions. Just like scores of "cure autism" books. Would you agree?
Might you entertain me with a link that "medically" documents a normal healthy developing child that becomes autistic? Not a personal published chronicle. It must be a clear occurrence of regressive autism. No birth defects, traumatic births, accidents, etc., involved. There are many mental disabilities with regression that doctors coin autism with. We see this fairly often with Down‘s and CF. I am looking for a well-explained case of a child that met all developmental milestones with ease. No oddness must have been present before the diagnosis. I have been unable to locate this information in medical literature, journals, etc. The cases reported are related to other medical problems, issues or what have you. I would like to observe former cases that are as unambiguous as the present cases. Entertainingly enough, in 2000 the media covered "new" cases of autism where children were fine one minute and autistic the next. Does anyone recall this? If there were scores of cases of regressive autism, I would imagine these numbers would not have escaped the doctors or the CDCs attention. They recognized PKU comparatively quickly, and the rates of these cases were miniscule in comparison. There is a sudden upsurge of female cases of autism. These case reports are of adult women. Amusingly, I have seen a trend of mothers who children have been diagnosed autistic seeking a diagnosis for themselves. You cannot visit an autism message board anymore where a mom herself isn’t claiming she too is autistic. WOW, where did all these sudden cases of females come from? There are more adult females diagnosed with autism then males. Yet, when you look at the children, boys are diagnosed 4 to 1. How is this possible?
As for the mercury/vaccine argument, mercury has been a part of healthcare dating before the 1940s. Our environment is riddled with mercury. Our power plants, medical devices, fluorescent light bulbs, thermometers, fillings, food, etc. Vaccines are an added load. There is no doubt in my mind that genetic predisposition plays a roll. Many diseases etc. have a genetic predisposition with environmental triggers. Cancer, scores of autoimmune disorders, PKU, to name a few. It is not a far jump to say that mercury could be a trigger of autism. I will later give a link I located about the Danish study. Many peers have rejected the peer-reviewed study. The study had determined flaws.


At 6/29/2005 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely understand what you are saying Orac. Are links safe?


At 6/29/2005 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ORAC SAID...Transdermal DMPS is even more bogus as a "treatment" for autism than intravenous chelation therapy. Advocates can't even show that it is absorbed through the skin in concentrations adequate to chelate anything. At least intravenous chelation therapy can remove heavy metals; the problem with it as a treatment is that heavy metal poisoning does not appear to be the cause of autism.

6/20/2005 8:45 PM

Orac, How do you explain the lab results from hundreds of families that our president sealed from public view? Our results are from the Childrens Hospital of the Kings Daughters. This is a reputable hospital. The attorneys explained the importance of reputable labs to our case. Many families have and are doing this. These labs cannot be disputed. Not to mention that our insurance will cover the lab work when we use these hospitals verses other labs. The evidence is damagaing beyond imagination. Maybe, there are different cases of autism. In our case, the evidence speaks for itself. Orac, would you please provide evidence of your statements concerning TD DMPS? Thank you!


At 6/29/2005 12:38 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Why doesn't Dr. Buttar show evidence that his TD-DMPs does do what he says it does? If your evidence "speaks for itself," why isn't it published in peer-reviewed journals? And, no, I won't accept the excuse that Dr. Buttar is too busy treating patients to publish or that he can't get a fair hearing in peer-reviewed journals.

As for links, yes they are fine to include in comments. I just don't want entire copyrighted articles posted in the comments section, for what I hope are obvious reasons.


At 6/29/2005 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A brand new paper on this topic, pointing out that the 'epidemic' of autism is a reporting issue, not a change in incidence, is to be found in the following paper. The authors are psychologists, so they don't have much to gain or lose by displeasing any establishments. As they point out, the 1990 California data showed no identification of children with autism - 0. That's because this dataset only includes children counted for the purpose of funding services, and funds weren't available in 1990. If you're concerned about the increasing number of children with autism, you should really be concerned about the increasing number with traumatic brain injury, a group that grew 4 times as quickly in the same dataset.

Current Directions in Psychological Science
Volume 14 Issue 2 Page 55 - April 2005

Three Reasons Not to Believe in an Autism Epidemic
Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Michelle Dawson, and H. Hill Goldsmith


At 6/29/2005 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A brand new paper on this topic, pointing out that the 'epidemic' of autism is a reporting issue, not a change in incidence, is to be found in the following paper. The authors are psychologists, so they don't have much to gain or lose by displeasing any drug establishments. As they point out, the 1990 California data showed no identification of children with autism - 0. That's because this dataset only includes children counted for the purpose of funding services, and funds weren't available in 1990. If you're concerned about the increasing number of children with autism, you should really be concerned about the increasing number with traumatic brain injury, a group that grew 4 times as quickly over the same period.

Current Directions in Psychological Science
Volume 14 Issue 2 Page 55 - April 2005

Three Reasons Not to Believe in an Autism Epidemic
Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Michelle Dawson, and H. Hill Goldsmith


At 6/30/2005 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never met Dr. Buttar. I can't answer your questions concerning what he is doing besides treating everyone he can get his hands on. Personally, I chose to stay in the mainstream. I did not place my son in the hands of DAN docs or any other doctor that were strictly in the autism stream. I do think there are snake oil docs and I would never subject my son to that. However, I did see enough evidence and garbage rolling down hill to take a chance with a radical treatment for autism. Our case was clear to the hospital. I think if more parents went to the mainstream verses these other docs, maybe, just maybe, people would start to listen. Simply because it worked for my son and scores of others, doesn't mean that ALL cases of autism are alike. There are many cases of TBI that are diagnosed with autism. I think it is critcal to address the mercury issue for future children that have the link to the problem. Orac, it wasn't until after the fact that, but I learned DMPS is not even FDA approved! I have a few links I will post later on new developments. In the meantime, this post at a message board is full of new information and studies just released.


At 7/03/2005 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refer to all the adults that step forward announcing they have autism. They are astonishingly high functioning.

As I pointed out, Lorna Wing's studies also show there are also innumerable adults who are much more severely disabled, who would meet the criteria for autism if anyone had bothered to apply them instead of labelling them "mentally handicapped".

For the record, incidentally, I did not "step forward announcing that I have autism" all by myself; I was formally diagnosed by an expert in the field.

I do not care for books. They are opinions. Just like scores of "cure autism" books. Would you agree?

In some cases, yes. In some cases, no. Papers like Kanner's were first published in peer-reviewed journals. DeMyer's work is the result of a highly-regarded and large-scale study.

However, you could always check out papers such as Victor Lotter's "Epidemiology of Autistic Conditions in Young Children" from 1966 (Social Psychiatry), where he describes cases of "severe and ... rapid" setback after early milestones (motor and speech) were all met on time. These include one child who he casually describes as "normal until 2 1/2."

A third of the children he studied had some kind of regression, and he states as a known fact that "Large proportions of cases with an onset of this kind have been reported. Creak (1962) found about one-quarter, and Wolff and Chess (1964) found one-half."

If there were scores of cases of regressive autism, I would imagine these numbers would not have escaped the doctors

Except that, as I have pointed out, the doctors have been repeatedly describing regression in a large percentage of autistic children. It has not "escaped" them at all.

The cases reported are related to other medical problems, issues or what have you.

That doesn't apply to any of the cases I have cited.

I have been unable to locate this information in medical literature, journals, etc.

This puzzles me, as I was able to locate the references I've cited in a matter of minutes. They are fairly well-known in the medical literature.

There is a sudden upsurge of female cases of autism. These case reports are of adult women.

Which is hardly surprising, given that various experts (such as Christopher Gillberg) have suggested that milder autistic spectrum conditions may be persistently under-diagnosed among women.


At 7/05/2005 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Responding to an old post. Someone said that there was not enough time between Canada banning Thimerosal and when children enter school to declare that our rates have not gone down. Hmm lets do the math.

1995 - Thimerosal banned in Canadian vaxs

2005 - the current year

age 5 - When most Candian chiledren start kindergarten and about when Autism is caught if not earlier.

2005-1995= 10yrs free of thimerosal.

10-5= 5 years we have had children not vaccinated with Thimerosal in our school system. 5 years of data and no change in the levels of Autism. Hmm makes one think.

I also wonder if perhaps the rates have...ahem...*skyrocketed* due to misdiagnoses in earlier decades and an increased awarness of Autism and ASD? Hmm?


At 7/05/2005 8:14 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Well said!


At 7/23/2005 3:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Orac...but you already lose this arguement. The University of California just released it's data on the incidence of autism and have seen a DECREASE for the first time in over a decade as of the first half of 2005. Also, Canada has released it's information as of 2005 that their autism cases have leveled off. Further, someone stated that perhaps it was better diagnosing that led to the increase? This has to be someone who does not have experience with autism and autistic children. For one, the University of California confirmed a couple of years ago that the rise in autism is real and not due to diagnosis changes. I will provide links to all. Further, it is true that there are people, adults, who have characteristics of asperger's syndrome such as in the computer fields and college professors, etc. However, these are people who's parents were never alarmed at their development. They were considered to be intelligent but perhaps a bit quirky kids who showed no developmental problems that made their parents concerned. Today, parents are concerned. Clear cut cases of autism, that is severe forms, are not mistakeable. Cases of asperger's syndrome today are kids who have profound problems. They have speech and language problems, they speak too fast, have articulation problems, have real coordination problems such as not being able to tie their own shoes at age 10 or cut food as easy as a pancake. They trip, fall, walk into things and can't button a shirt. They cover their ears when things are noisy, cannot carry on a back and forth conversation and have repetitive behaviors such as spinning, tapping or banging their heads. They cannot follow simple directions, misunderstand almost everything said to them as they take things so very literally. They have sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems, sensory issues that keep them from complaining when hurt or sick. These are not small issues and not things explained by diagnostic criteria changes. Most kids with asperger's are not identified by awareness on the parts of the parents. Most never heard of the disorder until the kids are diagnosed and they had gone to doctor after doctor trying to find out what is wrong. This does not measure up to the adults with characteristics of autism who were 'missed'. Further, even the CDC and IOM backed studies have some of the same results as thimerosal studies. The newest study shows that autistic children have an increase in brain size that may explain the autism development. This study backs a thimerosal study where a researcher injected thimerosal vaccines into mice and noted a change in behavior similar to autism and increased brain size that was done a few years ago.Here are the links to the decreases seen in autism:


At 7/23/2005 10:31 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I'm taking the weekend off; so no long responses. However, I will point out that the contention that autism rates in California are falling is based on a flawed analysis of the data. See:


At 7/23/2005 2:21 PM, Anonymous mouseker said...

I would like to say first that I'm impressed with your willingness to be open minded. I would secondly like to say that many of us aren't antivaccination but are anti mercury. I also have to add that vaccinations are not the sole source of mercury and that I do not believe all autistic children have mercury poisoning. It is a varied, wide and long spectrum with room for more than one cause. However I do believe that a significant number of regressive autistic children have high levels of mercury. Another point that you mentioned is that yes many of us completely discount the epidemiological studies comming from over seas. Can you really question our reasoning when one of the doctors at the simpsonwood meeting about the Verstraten Study (epidemiological) said "I don't know why we bothered to do this study we can make it say whatever we want it to." Statistics are so easy to lie with and when you have doctors doing the studies that have financial involvements with the subject of the study how can we possibly trust the studies results?

What it would take for me to accept that mercury is not an environmental trigger of autism is a clinical trial that shows mercury doesn't destroy every organic substance it comes into contact with. And a hard numbers report (before it gets whitewashed and interpreted) by a panel of open minded not financially compromised doctors into why the autism rates among the Quakers in the United States is almost non existant. Oh and by the way of the 3 Quaker children (instead of the 300 there should be according to the CDC's current rate of 1 in 166) so far discovered to have Autism two got their vaccinations and one was accidentally exposed to a high level of mercury. Those that claim mercury in the vaccinations couldn't be the cause keep saying there is not control group no group that never got vaccinations to compare with. Not true, talk to the Quakers.


At 7/23/2005 2:31 PM, Anonymous mouseker said...

To the annonymous pediatrician who thinks this issue hasn't gone away because of lawsuits let me explain. I am not suing anyone I just want my son to be healthy and to help him as much as possible. It is incredably hard to get help and coverage for accepted therapies let alone the not yet accepted ones. The reason this hasn't gone away is because until the medical establishment accepts that mercury is a part of the cause of autism our kids won't be given the biomedical therapies that will help. And before I get pounded on for advocating chelation therapies talk to the local hospical or clinic and ask what kind of therapy they use for another heavy metal poisoning LEAD. Oh yes it is CHELATION!


At 7/24/2005 12:59 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

What are the major causes of lead poisoning? Usually it is caused by kids eating pealing paint in houses older than 30+ years old, drinking water through older pipes (the pipes themselves, but mostly the solder which has lots of lead), electrical wiring (the solder again, and some have lead in casing for pliability), playing or chewing on the lead that tops older wine bottles or playing in lead contaminated dirt (sometimes in industrial areas and near freeways, this is THE reason lead was removed from gasoline), eating birds killed with lead shot, chewing on fishing weights, gnawing on older skin diving weights ....and one of my old engineering flexible curves has a section that is lead (keep away from kids!)... BUT another way is by being near someone who works with leaded glass. This is one reason that anyone dealing with lead came and the solder needs to be very careful around young children. Even if the "leaded" glass is with copper tape came and soldered... the solder is usually half tin and HALF lead. Precautions should be used when sanding the came and the cooled solder.

(I have remodeled an older home, SCUBA dived, done some fishing, have drunk some nice wine and did some leaded glass work... so I know where the lead is!)

Anyway, these are at levels far and above what would be in a vaccine. They are identifiable and can be avoided.

Kind of like dealing with the mercury that came out of old thermometers. The stuff we used to play with as kids in the 1960's(it "cleaned" copper pennies!). That was also the time where we burned the end of wine corks to paint our faces with the black carbon. Just a little elemental play.

When you are told your child had some kind of "heavy" metal poisoning be sure to make sure what it is and where it can be found. I have heard of someone being panicked because one of the outfits that tests hair (a cardinal sign of quackery) identified "bismuth" as being high in her child's hair. Bismuth is the active ingredient in Pepto Bismol... she should have been told to keep the pink stuff locked away:

Still the studies made in the UK:
or Denmark:
or the USA (a review):
or the USA again (review of HMO records):
... and for fun, another multi-national review:


At 7/24/2005 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not aware that there is any lead in vaccinations that was not my point. My point is that using chelation for high mercury levels is called "Quackery" when it is routinely used in medicine for high lead levels. Both of which are heavy metals. Chelation removes all metals from a persons body. So if a child is found to have high mercury levels why demonize parents who use the same therapy doctors do for high levels of lead?


At 7/24/2005 4:12 PM, Anonymous mouseker said...

Sorry I meant to post it under mouseker not anonymous.


At 7/24/2005 8:33 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

How are the kids found to have high mercury? Through the pediatricians office or the "laboratories" that check for hair and conveniently provide for the chelation?

What has often occured is that much of the "heavy metal" testing is often bogus. Just like the one about the mom who was given a report on the hair analysis of her toddler with "bismuth".

There have been very very few cases reports of true mercury poisoning in the literature (you can check for them by using the search terms "mercury chelation" in Here is one:
and this very relevent article (with pictures!):


At 7/25/2005 9:22 AM, Anonymous mouseker said...

Many of us go through a Doctor that knows how to test for mercury. It is hard to test for as it only stays in the blood for up to nine weeks and then is only found in the tissues where it is nearly impossible to test for. A regular MD knows nothing about how to do a challenge dose of chelation to bring it back out into the blood stream and THEN test for it. The labs that do the testing have no reason to believe that anyone ordering a hair test or urine or stool or blood test will buy a chelator from them. Quite the contrary by the time the test is done a chelator should have already been bought for the challenge dose.


At 7/25/2005 9:34 AM, Anonymous mouseker said...

Since we are talking about the question of mercury poisoning being a trigger for Autism I would like to tell you about Carson Smith. There is a bill here in Utah named after him to help parents of All Special Needs kids transfer their public funding from public to private schools that specialize in that disability, to help pay for tuition. When Carson was two he bit and broke a thermometer. Like any mom would she rushed him to the ER. The end result was that he was first diagnosed with PDD a mild form of Autism then later with full blown Autism. For me this was the last convincing piece of evidence that at least some (probably most of the regressive Autism cases) were mercury poisoning. Beause you see I know Cheryl and Carson. My son went to the same school.


At 7/26/2005 2:38 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

It is all in the dose. Botulism toxin is very deadly, ... but it is quite popular as a way to reduce wrinkles ( ) and migraines ( ). Water is a very safe molecule, but you can become severely ill or die if you consume too much (water intoxication, see: and: ).

Chelation for breathing in the vaporized mercury in an old broken thermometer is valid ( )... not for the very teeny tiny microgram amount of ethylmercury that USED to be in a vaccine ( ).

See also:


At 7/26/2005 12:16 PM, Anonymous mouseker said...

What you are calling a teeny tiny amount being injected into a six-seven pound infant is the amount the EPA recomeneded only be given to a 250 pound adult. And yes it is Ethylmercury which is actually MORE toxic but that doesn't even matter because part of the bodies process of getting rid of it is to turn it into methyl mercury. And yes they stopped adding Thimerosal as a preservative to vaccines for distribution in the states but they didn't recall the ones that were already out there and some of them have expiration dates as late as 2005. Plus it is still used during the processing so there is still some in there but the amount has been drastically reduced.


At 7/26/2005 12:18 PM, Anonymous mouseker said...

Carson didn't breathe it, he swallowed it.


At 9/14/2005 7:13 PM, Blogger garhane said...

Back in the 1960s it was Japanese fishermen and their families, but the local experts said oh no it was nothing and and they knew best; then it was mercury in various creams women put on their faces, but the experts said oh no, could not possibly injure them; then it was mercury laden slimicides used in pulp mills but the experts said oh no that did not harm the fish or those who ate them, then it was mercury in lakes near mining companies but the experts said oh no that would not harm the Native people. Now it seems the doctors are still ready to dose the kids with a vaccination product that is half mercury by weight (can that possibly be correct?).

And you, Orac, you are upset that some guy has written a piece suggesting we are in the hands of predatory opportunists.

Passing 71, years of age I am beginning to form some firm conclusions. I thiink there is a real need for a list of names, a tribunal , and a lot, a real lot, of gallows.

Step right up.


At 9/28/2005 12:48 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Garry said: "Now it seems the doctors are still ready to dose the kids with a vaccination product that is half mercury by weight (can that possibly be correct?)."

No it is not. Even when thimerosal was in pediatric vaccines the percentage of the percentage was no where near that.

For more information try:


At 10/01/2005 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They need to explain how Thimerosal can cause such a selective neurological impairment as autism when its major toxic component - mercury - is nowhere near that selective.

Look up Pink disease on the net. You will find an illness with a very specific set of symptoms. It was an illness that plagued children in developing countries from 1890 to 1940. It started when a mercury laced teething powder became popular and went away when they band the stuff. This disease affected 1 in 500 children who's parents used it on them. (mercury is such a great neurotoxin that it destroyed the nerves in the gums - bang - no more teething pain) Of course 20% of the children who got pinks disease died.

The form of mercury poisoning in pinks disease had some very different symptoms than the mercury poisoning symptoms that say Newton displayed after doing experiments with heated mercury, which was very different from the man who received an accidental overdose of Thimerosal in the hospital. His symptoms manifested themselves as Loss of speech, hand flapping, toe walking and repetitive behaviors. (Can you say Autism?)


Yes, Cronk have graduate degree in Physics (for all you who believe that anyone who disagrees with you has not had a science class past 9th grade biology)


At 10/11/2005 8:14 PM, Anonymous John Best said...

My 9 year old is proof that mercury causes autism. Chelation is making him well and that is all the proof I need. All you pseudo-intellectual jerks will eat your words after you meet some cured kids. And, let's see any of you buffoons explain away China's increase in autism since we started selling them thimerosal laced vaccines in 1999.


At 10/12/2005 2:09 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Not really.

If you present us with real evidence, some that has been properly published and reviewed... then you might have something.

Where is the information on China published? And how did they count their disabled population 20 years ago, and how does it compare with the present day?


At 10/18/2005 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It was not too long ago that a doctor told his fellow physician that it was in fact the doctors themselves were contributing greatly to the birth fever that was killing so many women and that simply washing their hands could save countless lives. The only indication he had was that he and his colleges who wash their hands before delivering babies had a lower mortality rate than the norm.

He was laughed at and was rightfully told that this was not "evidence". Most doctors went on cheerfully killing women by the thousands until the existence of micro-organisms was proven because this at last was proof.

Doctors have not changed…

No amount of empirical evidence will ever change their collective minds. And since you cannot ethically do a double blind placebo controlled study on mercury safety because it is too toxic and since they conveniently sold the vaccine injury databases to an off-shore private company to make it immune to the freedom of information act and since JAMA has stated that it will not publish any study that links vaccines to autism no matter how it is done. They are perfectly safe in their ivory towers of self imposed AI (Arrogance and Ignorance).

Besides it should be perfectly evident to you John that Thimerosal is a very educational drug. Like in China, no Thimerosal and everyone it too stupid to diagnose autism. Start injecting it into the children and bang suddenly parents and doctors can diagnose autism left right and center.



At 10/18/2005 6:31 PM, Blogger Orac said...

h, actually, you have it wrong. The way Semmelweiss demonstrated that washing hands prevented puerperal fever was through what was in essence one of the earliest large clinical trials whose results were striking and incontrovertible. Part of his problem, however, is that he didn't publish his results soon enough and wasn't that great at arguing his point. In contrast, no such clear convincing evidence that mercury causes autism coming from a clinical trial or epidemiological evidence exists, and, in fact, each new study shows even less of a likelihood of an effect, not more.

Nice try though. You aren't the first and certainly won't be the last to appropriate Semmelweis incorrectly using what I like to call the Galileo Gambit. You can even sound convincing to people who don't know much about the topic.

Oh, and by the way, you wouldn't happen to have a citation from JAMA or somewhere else to back up your claim that JAMA will not publish any study that links vaccines to autism no matter how it is done," would you?

And, no, or CureZone (or similar sites) don't count if they don't reference a verifiable citation.

As for the vaccine injury database, it's been explained here and elsewhere why, as a database including self-reported incidents, it is all but useless as a source of valid epidemiological information examining the question of autism causation, but somehow I doubt you'll listen to me if I explain it again.


At 10/21/2005 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really…

"Semmelweiss reasoned that dirty hands were the cause of pueperal fever. He
noted that wards staffed by medical students had about a 10 percent mortality rate
due to fever, while those staffed by midwives had... 3 percent... He also knew that
medical students went straight from autopsy chambers to laboring mothers. They [the
med students] never washed their hands, but wiped them, instead, on aprons already
coated with body fluids.
"Semmelweiss ran several experiments requiring students to wash their hands
with soap and water and rinse them in chlorinated lime solution before entering the
wards. With each study, the death rate dropped to less than 1.5 percent, only to
return to the previous high levels when the [hand washing] procedures were
"Semmelweiss's work should have proven to be a boon to motherhood and life.
Not so. His colleagues greeted his paper with jeers and scathing attacks on his
character. They simply refused to believe that their own hands were the vehicle for
disease. Instead, they attributed it to a spontaneous phenomenon arising from the
'combustible' nature of the parturient woman. Semmelweiss's academic rank was
lowered, his hospital priveleges restricted. Despondent, he was committed to an
insane asylum, where he died of blood poisoning, a disease not unlike the puerperal
fever he had almost conquered."

The biological and toxicological studies done today that show a causal link between neurological disorders and Thimerosal are far more scientifically and statistically rigorous than the "experiments" that Dr. Semmelweiss conducted. My point, you twit, is that his work also would not rise to the standard that you require as proof for vaccine damage studies to be considered valid.

Please take special note of how they responded to his PAPER.

"His colleagues greeted his paper with jeers and scathing attacks on his character."

Sound just like what you pro-vaccine zealots do to any doctor / scientist / professor / or parent that says anything bad about vaccines.

"Instead, they attributed it to a spontaneous phenomenon arising from the 'combustible' nature of the parturient woman"

That theory was just as ignorant as the "refrigerator mom" or "its just genetic" or the pathetically stupid "What epidemic?"

Hence my very valid conclusion "Doctors have not changed" comment…

"In fact, each new study shows even less of a likelihood of an effect, not more."

Wow, you must live in a dream world…

All the new studies are showing that the type of mercury in vaccines is likely to be more toxic rather than less toxic than environmental mercury. Most new research indicates a genetic predisposition and an "environmental insult" leads to regressive autism.

Nice try though. You aren't the first and certainly won't be the last to incorrectly report the facts using what I like to call the Galileo Gambit. You can even sound convincing to people who don't know much about the topic.

So, "the vaccine injury database it is all but useless as a source of valid epidemiological information examining the question of autism causation" However, epidemiological studies, done mostly in places where there is no autism epidemic, by vaccine manufactures is fine" Of course we will just ignore that fact that the large American study that people like yourself quote as proof that there is no link was done on those same useless databases. (or are they only useless when the results are not to your liking).

I would explain to you what junk science was used in the epidemiological studies that the vaccine manufactures used to prove the vaccines safe..

but somehow I doubt you'll listen to me if I explain it...



At 10/21/2005 8:30 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Cronk wrote:
"The biological and toxicological studies done today that show a causal link between neurological disorders and Thimerosal are far more scientifically and statistically rigorous than the "experiments" that Dr. Semmelweiss conducted. My point, you twit, is that his work also would not rise to the standard that you require as proof for vaccine damage studies to be considered valid. "

And exactly what studies are those? Because what we've seen so far have not been convincing... starting with this:

Plus, Photoninthedarkness has torn apart many of the standard "proofs":


At 10/22/2005 10:59 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Thanks, HCN. You saved me the trouble.

The real story about Semmelweis is more complicated than Cronk presents. For example, there were enough physicians who found his work compelling that he very well might have overcome the skepticism if he had put more effort into it and less into antagonizing his critics later in life. This does not excuse the reaction of the medical establishment at the time, but Semmelweis was well known not to like presenting publicly and was reluctant to publish.

Of interest, In 1857, for instance (7 years after the initial controversy over his first presentations), he actually turned down an offer to become chairman of obstetrics in Zurich. I doubt he would have been offered that if the medical establishment was quite as unrelentingly hostile to him as you describe. Yes, they were hostile to him in Vienna, but the hostility was nowhere near universal. Younger physicians tended to believe him.

Also, one has to remember that the germ theory of disease had not yet been developed; making a mechanism to explain Semmelweis' results difficult to imagine at the time. Also, his results were not universally rejectd. Even Wikipedia shows this to be so:

The breakthrough for Semmelweis occurred in 1847 with the death of his friend Jakob Kolletschka from an infection contracted after his finger was accidentally punctured with a knife during a postmortem examination. Kolletschka's own autopsy showed a pathological situation similar to that of the women who were dying from puerperal fever. Semmelweis immediately proposed a connection between cadaveric contamination and puerperal fever and made a detailed study of the mortality statistics of both obstetrical clinics. He concluded that he and the students carried the infecting particles on their hands from the autopsy room to the patients they examined in the First Obstetrical Clinic. The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed at the time. Thus, Semmelweiss concluded that some unknown "cadaveric material" caused childbed fever. He instituted a policy of using a solution of chlorinated lime for washing hands between autopsy work and the examination of patients and the mortality rate dropped from its then-current level of 12.24% to 2.38%, comparable to the Second Clinic's

Despite this dramatic result, Semmelweis refused to communicate his method officially to the learned circles of Vienna, nor was he eager to explain it on paper. Ferdinand von Hebra finally wrote two articles in his behalf but although foreign physicians and the leading members of the Viennese school were impressed by Semmelweis' apparent discovery the papers failed to generate widespread support. His observations went against the current scientific opinion of the time, which blamed diseases (among other quite odd causes) on an imbalance of the basic "humours" in the body. It was also argued that even if his findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman, as Semmelweis advised, would be too much work. Nor were doctors eager to admit that they had caused so many deaths; indeed, they tended to claim that their profession was one divinely blessed and thus their hands could not be dirty.

During 1848 Semmelweis widened the scope of his washing protocol to include all instruments coming in contact with patients in labor and he statistically documented success in virtually eliminating puerperal fever from the hospital ward, leading Skoda to attempt to create an official commission to investigate the results. The commission proposal was ultimately rejected by the Ministry of Education due to a political conflict in the university and government bureaucracies. Semmelweis was an active liberal, but a conservative movement gained power in 1848 and in 1849 he was fired from his position. Skoda delivered an address on the subject in the Imperial and Royal Academy of Sciences in October of 1849, but Semmelweis had neglected to correct his friends' papers to make known their mistakes in describing his work. Semmelweis was finally persuaded to present his findings personally in 1850 with some success. However, Semmelweis abruptly left Vienna later that year to return to Pest, apparently due to financial difficulties, without notifying even his closest friends. This hasty decision ruined his chances to overcome the Viennese sceptics.

In Hungary, Semmelweis took charge of the maternity ward of Pest's St. Rochus Hospital from 1851 to 1857. His hand- and equipment-washing protocols reduced the mortality rate from puerperal fever to 0.85% there, and his ideas were soon accepted throughout Hungary. He married, had five children, and built a large private practice. He became chair of theoretical and practical midwifery at the University of Pest in July 1855. Semmelweis turned down an offer in 1857 to chair obstetrics in Zurich. Vienna remained quite hostile to him, however.

In 1861 Semmelweis finally published his discovery in a book, Die Ätiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers. A number of unfavorable foreign reviews of the book prompted Semmelweis to lash out against his critics in series of open letters written in 1861-1862, which did little to advance his ideas. At a conference of German physicians and natural scientists, most of the speakers rejected his doctrine. One of them was Rudolf Virchow.

There were politics involved. There were also some errors:

In October, 1849, Professor Josef Skoda delivered an address upon the same subject in the Imperial and Royal Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, Semmelweis had neglected to correct the papers of these friends of his, and thus failed to make known their mistakes, so that the inference might be drawn that only infection from septic virus caused puerperal fever. It was not until 15 May, 1850, that Semmelweis could bring himself to give a lecture upon his discovery before the Society of Physicians; this address was followed by a second on 18 June, 1850. The medical press noticed these lectures only in a very unsatisfactory manner. In 1861 he published his work: "Die Aetiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers" (Vienna), in which he bitterly attacked his supposed and real opponents. It was not until after his death that Semmelweis found full recognition as the predecessor of Lister and the pioneer in antiseptic treatment.

And his results were not universially rejected, either. Indeed, some physicians were quite impressed:

In spite of the dramatic practical results of his washings, Semmelweis refused to communicate his method officially to the learned circles of Vienna, nor was he eager to explain it on paper. Hence, Ferdinand von Hebra finally wrote two articles in his behalf, explaining the aetiology of puerperal fever and strongly recommending use of chlorinated lime as a preventive. Although foreign physicians and the leading members of the Viennese school were impressed by Semmelweis’ apparent discovery, the papers failed to generate widespread support.

Yes, Semmelweis' ideas were initially resisted by the majority, but eventually they were accepted. However, to use Semmelweis (or Galileo) as an example in support of some pseudoscience or other is an insult to Semmelweis.

Finally, I notice that Cronk has also not bothered to try to back up his claim that "JAMA has stated that it will not publish any study that links vaccines to autism no matter how it is done."

I'm still waiting.


At 10/22/2005 1:25 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

And why would Cronk limit it to "JAMA"... it is not the only medical journal. Why not include Lancet, NEJM, and a host of other specialty journals (like "Vaccine" or "Infectious Disease")?

Also, there may come a time soon that you might have to close some of these older posts to comments.


At 10/22/2005 2:37 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I've actually been considering doing that, given that few people are even going to see these comments anymore, given that this post is four months old. The only way I know there have been new comments is via e-mail notification.

However, if I were to do that, people like Cronk would then accuse me of ducking debate, wouldn't they?


At 10/22/2005 2:55 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Perhaps, but you might try giving a set timeline. Something like a month from original posting. That way you can discourage those who search for blogs that can be commented on. I've seen some just do a search, and then try a final comment hoping that someone clicking on from another site will see their comment last. (yeah, I just click from the left side menu because this is something I'm interested in, and I'm curious about those who post late, sometimes content free comments).

Then direct further commentary to some other forum or blog... Though blogs do not seem to work that well for continual discussion. Something like "supportvaccination", Usenet or JREF (there are others like Michael Sherman's Skeptic forum, but JREF seems to get more traffic).

Just a thought. Good luck.


At 10/22/2005 5:43 PM, Blogger Orac said...

I'll definitely take your idea under consideration. After all, it's hard enough to keep up with the comments on new posts, never mind the occasional comment popping up on posts that, in blog terms, are ancient history.


At 10/26/2005 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought I'd add this piece of information so that you can be not only respectfully insolent but well-informed as well .

Thimerosal seems to still exist in our vaccine supply .


At 10/26/2005 9:14 PM, Blogger Orac said...

In trace amounts. Your point?


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