Wednesday, July 20, 2005

If you think it's just about mercury when it comes to vaccines, you're wrong

Today in Washington, there will be a march, called (with unintentional irony) the Power of Truth march. Its organizers claim that it will be to "protest the use of mercury in vaccines" (never mind that the mercury was taken out of nearly all vaccines in the U.S. by early 2003 and in Denmark and Canada in the 1990's) and about raising awareness of the claimed link between mercury in childhood vaccines and autism. (In actuality, I suspect the real purpose of this march is to try to get legislation passed to allow lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies by parents of "mercury-damaged" children, but that's just my suspicion.) One thing the mercury-autism crowd goes out of its way to claim is that it's not "anti-vaccine." Speakers at this rally, such as David Kirby and Boyd Haley go out of their way to claim that they are not "anti-vaccination." Perhaps they even believe it. However, their rhetoric on the issue of mercury as a suspected cause of autism belies that claim, as does their association with others whose rhetoric is even more heated, calling autism a "silent Holocaust" and those who consider the evidence being touted as "proof" of a link between mercury in vaccines in autism "autism holocaust deniers." Even at best, their overheated hype of very weak to nonexistent evidence for mercury in childhood vaccines as an etiological agent resulting in autism encourages the real anti-vaccination crowd, making the anti-thimerosal activists in some cases "useful idiots" to the true cause of eliminating vaccines. At their worst, they encourage quackery and the peddling of bogus "cures" for autism like chelation therapy to desperate parents.

These thoughts came to mind when I came across this discussion on the James Randi Educational Foundation forums, where I discovered just how pervasive antivaccination attitudes are on some discussion boards. I had known this from my past involvement in debunking quackery on Usenet on newsgroups such as misc.health.alternative and on altie websites like Whale.to and CureZone, but I hadn't encountered it on this sort of forum before. For instance, on the parenting forum Mothering.com, there was this disturbing challenge about vaccines posted by someone using the 'nym Jen123 who was identified as a "Senior Member" (registration required if you want to see the actual forum):
Mercury seems to be getting tons of coverage. When that deal is settled and we win, we need to go after another ingredient. We'll dismantle the vaccine industry ingredient by stupid ingredient if we have to.

Who is with me?

Although this was written in a semi-facetious tone, subsequent discussion demonstrated that this woman was serious. To her, it's not just about mercury. It's about vaccines. Here is a sampling of the depressing replies:

Actually I believe that the chickenpox vax does have fetal tissues in it.**

Eh, every time we win on one though, they'll just throw another creepy ingredient in.

Yeah, what about aluminum? Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic. It boggles my mind that some people are ONLY worried about mercury when even without mercury they still contain carcinogenics and nuero/blood toxins (oh and antibiotics in some.) Yummy.

In another 50 years or so, they'll make the connecting b/w vaxxes and alzheimers, soon teenagers will be getting it with all the aluminium they are being injected with. I really believe our life span is going to be decreasing- everyone will have some sort of cancer, and will be dieing at a younger age. But no one agrees with me irl

This is the sort of the sort of antivaccination rhetoric that the mercury-thimerosal group doesn't want you to see. They claim they are not "anti-vaccination," and probably most of them believe that they aren't. However, right beneath the surface of all their attacks on mercury, just out of sight to the casual observer, full-blown antivaccination paranoia and conspiracy theories lurk, and certainly their "anti-mercury" advocacy provides aid and comfort to those who have more global problems with vaccination. Worse, the mercury-autism activists are willing to use their own autistic children as pawns, parading a 5-year-old "recovered" autistic as a speaker or putting T-shirts on children saying things like "poisoned by immunizations" or "Warning: Contains mercury," the while implying that parents of autistic children who don't buy into the mercury-thimerosal line are "big pharma shills" or even "child abusers."

These days, vaccination is a victim of its own success. In this country, diseases that once killed or crippled thousands are now vanishingly rare. Since these diseases are now so uncommon, thanks to vaccination, people have forgotten how horrible they were and now only see the very uncommon complications of vaccination and complications for which the evidence is dubious at best. Unfortunately, we know what can happen when vaccination rates fall; diseases once thought conquered can return. Remember that as you watch or read news accounts of this "Power of Truth" rally.

The problem is, this issue has become more about ideology and a need to find a scapegoat than about science. Scientifically, the question of whether mercury causes autism or not is very close to being settled once and for all in the negative. Indeed, if there is no dramatic decrease in the number of new cases of autism and ASDs over the next five years or so (as there has not been in Canada or Denmark), given that thimerosal has been removed from nearly all childhood vaccines, that would pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that mercury causes autism--scientifically speaking. Unfortunately, I'd bet money that it won't put the issue to rest among activists. I've come out and said that, should there be a dramatic decrease in the number of new autism cases over the next five years, I would eat crow and admit that I was wrong. I wonder if David Kirby (who has recently misread fresh California statistics as showing a decrease in autism rates when the figures show nothing of the sort) or J. B. Handley (who states bluntly that "autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning") will make the converse promise. If autism rates don't fall dramatically in the next five years, will they admit that they were wrong and that autism isn't caused by mercury, at least not in the vast majority of children and then work on getting money and research dollars directed to more valid and promising areas?

Don't count on it.


**There are no fetal tissues in vaccines. The viruses used to make certain vaccines are cultured and maintained in human cell lines that were derived from a fetus. One of these cell lines has been around since the early 1960's. Big difference.

29 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 7/20/2005 8:03 AM, Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

Sounds like the yahoos are coming out in force over there now. We're being inundated with similar rhetoric over here in New Zealand. Vapid claims that the MeNZB vaccine is spreading influenza B is the latest one and all sorts of crankery. It's ending up becoming a full time occupation trying to disprove this crankery as well.

In some respects, it almost seems like the momentum of anti-science movements is building in some respects. I wonder if these fellows are grouping up anywhere to try and coordinate their quackery.

 

At 7/20/2005 9:49 AM, Blogger Saint Nate said...

On the plus side, the scientists and doctors are quick with a rebuttal:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/20/politics/20vaccine.html

 

At 7/20/2005 3:38 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

When th organizers of this gig put the word out "let's march on Washington!!!"

Autism Diva said it would be the "100 mom march", then there was word from the organizers that they expected 700 which is not that a huge group, not like the "million man march" that was attended by some thousands, but 700 is still somewhat impressive.

Word so far is that there were far fewer than 700. Autism Diva wouldn't be suprised if the 700 was created from whole cloth, to make people think they were really important.

It will be interesting if it turns out there were 50 parents and 20 kids. That would be Autism Diva's guess. But then she's thinks that it's hard to get conspiracists to get on airplanes that are controlled indirectly by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!

Never mind that their children could be snatched from them by members of the IOM and VACCINATED AGAINST THEIR WILLS!!!

There's a t-shirt slogan from this group that MSNBC had a photo of, it says, "Hg" with a line through it. and "No vaccines for me, thanks anyway"

OK, well, what's the takeaway message? All vaccines have mercury and they are dangerous. Don't tell Autism Diva that this crowd of flaming berzerkos aren't truly antivax at the core of their stone cold hearts. They discuss among themselves how they won't allow their kids to ever have any vaccines ever again, thimerosal or no.

AD

 

At 7/20/2005 5:17 PM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

So far,

it looks like calling the "power of truth" rally the "100 mom march" was

WAY too optimistic.

(trying really hard not to do a "muwahahahaha!")

:-]

Looks like 30 parents a few kids and 20 reporters (near the White House) The reporters all thinking "Why are we here?".

So far no photos of CIA agents in bushes, but then they probably are just watching them from spy satellites.

AD

 

At 7/20/2005 6:10 PM, Anonymous Michelle Dawson said...

Re http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/20/politics/20vaccine.html

It's hardly a "plus" that scientists and doctors "rebut" the mercury=autism hysteria by anti-scientifically and unethically selling a "war against autism". They are then saying "our unscientific sensationalist hysteria is better than their unscientific sensationalist hysteria".

So long as autistics are targeted for eradication as horribly diseased inhuman entities destroying ourselves and our families and the economy (etc, etc), autism-based hysterias (whether they do or don't involve vaccines, mercury-laced or otherwise) will continue.

Am I against funding autism research? No. I work within a funded autism research group.

I'm against non-autism scientists telling the world that people like me should have war declared against our existence. And doing so with authority. At least Dr Hotez didn't say "holocaust". But he has set an example, encouraging others to make autism ever more horrible to serve whatever agenda, and to make themselves look that much more heroic and important.

Anyone who is impressed with this needs to examine their critical thinking abilities, and their assumptions about autism science, and about autistic people.

 

At 7/21/2005 4:17 PM, Anonymous kevin v said...

don't know if you saw my 6/23 post on this at the time. I still think you're missing the large-scale point.

http://nosenada.org/cblog/index.php?/categories/7-medical-politics

 

At 7/21/2005 7:54 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

In that link you wrote: "Claims about lack of data and misuse of data and dishonest massaging of data and quackery this and lying that are distractions from the larger debate about the balance of public vs. individual health. Nobody can claim that what is in the best interests of public health (maximum vaccination) is in the best interest of every individual. "...

But you provide no data to back up your claims on the last sentence. It has been shown over and over again that when vaccinations go down the diseases come back.

Right now due to a "study" bought and paid for by a lawyer there is a large increase in mumps in the UK (especially in the age which is most vulnerable to ill effects, university students, http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/mumps_united_kingdom_2005.htm ).

Also in the US pertussis has been making a big comeback. In my humble opinion it is directly due to the efforts of Barbara Loe Fisher, Blaylock, the Geiers and the folks at Safeminds... see http://photoninthedarkness.blogspot.com/ for an analysis of the "research" they do. I feel they are directly responsible for the death of an infant in Arizona:
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=14776493&BRD=1817&PAG=461&dept_id=222071&rfi=6
and:
http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=43425
and:
http://www.cdc.gov/nip/diseases/pertussis/faqs.htm#5

(I am particularly sensitive about the pertussis vaccine since my teenage son had seizures as a newborn. He could not be vaccinated against it and had to depend on herd immunity -- at about the same time when there was a pertussis epidemic in our county, and coincidently when there was a major national measles outbreak that resulted in 120 deaths, three in our state).

If you wish to use actual reseach one of the better places to start is www.medlineplus.gov and the National Library of Medicine index of publications (it even indexes journals dedicated the HOMEOPATHY!):
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?DB=pubmed

 

At 7/21/2005 8:55 PM, Anonymous Cole Joplin, a Dad said...

I'm going to be careful, and not be insolent, and stick to the undisputed facts only. That's all I'll need to make my point.

Last January, according to the CDC, the removal of thimerisol from vaccines manufacturers has not happened at the level they had hoped. The smaller manufacturers did, but the big guys like Eli Lilly and Merck have not fully removed thimerisol. A majority of vaccines still contain thimerisol. All tetanus vaccines still have thimerisol. These manufacturers do not dispute this fact. Already, your initial statement is not correct. Orac does not know this? Hmmm.

The studies that are so widely heralded as proving their is no mercury-autism link are based in European countries. Everyone acknowledges that these countries had only a small fraction of the vaccine schedules of the US. It is also true that these same countries have passed laws banning thimerisol in vaccines. Again, no one disputes this.

Last year, the UK, which has a similar vaccine schedule to the US, banned thimerisol on the grounds that there is a mercury-autism link. That was their claim, their mia culpa, as their autism rate is now 1 in 89. This is also not in dispute.

Two years ago, mainland China had no reported autism cases anywhere in their country. They began a schedule of Merck vaccines, with thimerisol, at that time. This year, they have now topped one million reported cases of autism. This fact is not in dispute.

The US rate of autism is 1 in 166. The CDC expects the rate to increase to as much as 1 in 100 this year. These are CDC predictions.

Ironically, California, which started receiving a large share of non-mercury vaccines two years ago, has announced their first decrease in autism rates in over 15 years. Last year, the "Governator" signed a bill banning thimerisol vaccines for children and pregnant women. Legislators were citing Columbia University's study that showed a definite mercury-autism link. The law, and the existense of the Columbia study's mercury-link results, are fact and are not disputed.

If my math serves me well, even a fraction of 1% of the US population is a lot larger than 700 people. Marching attendance in DC is not proportional with the general US population. This was clearly an attempt to be smug, not scientific.

Are you prepared to say that the medical college at Columbia University is anti-science? The doctors on the same side as the parents have just as many degrees and letters as you have. Shall we compare them to be sure? By all means, let's. Are you really claiming that ALL doctors are in lock step?

Better yet, are you prepared to debate David Kirby? He has announced very publicly, on TV and print, to debate "anyone, anywhere, anytime" on this issue. If you are absolutely sure about the truth of autism, then you should have no problem picking up the gauntlet. It has clearly been thrown at your feet. It's interesting that the CDC, and even vocal Dr. Offit have refused to debate Mr. Kirby. Isn't that odd? Again, these are facts that neither side disputes.

I could go on about the issues in these blogs that are in dispute. But I really don't need to. The undisputed facts alone place large holes in your assertions. But the best part is yet to come.

What I love about real medical science, is that it has no respect for its historical predecessors. Even the Salem witch hunt has been traced to wheat. Medical mysteries are solved, exposing the then-medical community as missing the simple truth, right under their very noses. I love that about real science!

Let's take a recent example, shall we? How easy it is to forget the decades of tobacco-funded medical studies that proved definitively over-and-over, that there was no link between lung cancer and cigarettes. Surely you're not prepared to blog on about these studies being real science, are you? Surely you're not saying those lawsuits were a baseless excuse to sue the tobacco companies and nothing more?

I don't have to prove you wrong on the mercury-autism link. Your future colleagues will do this nicely. And your legacy on this subject will be ironically recorded as, well, "quakery." But don't feel bad, you'll join those illustrious experts of old who kept Copernicus' findings secret until his death. You must be proud.

 

At 7/21/2005 9:24 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

You say: "Better yet, are you prepared to debate David Kirby? He has announced very publicly, on TV and print, to debate "anyone, anywhere, anytime" on this issue. "

He has been challenged, and has yet to respond from:
http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/4/autism-vaccine-controversy-update ... is this quote "For all his cries of “bring it on!” David Kirby has not responded to my letter of concern about the vicious tenor of his associates’ campaign to convince the public at large not only that mercury toxicity causes autism, but that anyone who differs is somehow the enemy — including parents and autistic people themselves. Perhaps responding to that letter might make it necessary for Mr. Kirby to stray just a little too far from his talking points for comfort?"

I would love to see Kirby, Kennedy and the Safeminds group up against Orac, Skeptico, Prometheus, Black Triangle, Brian Deer and a whole bunch of others. It would be very fun.

As far as China's autism numbers... Where do they post the numbers? What are they using as a diagnostic criteria? How do you know if the numbers are correct? I am personally suspicious of several numbers from various sources... not only from an educational department in California which has limited funds, but also from a heavily centralized government that has a need to keep up certain appearances. There is a great quote in the book _The Twelve Little Cakes_ by Domimika Dery, a book that describes living in Czechoslovakia under the Soviets. As a child she was hospitalized with dysentary... but is was not officially diptheria because the after her father asked about it not existing anymore is this quote:
"Not under the Socialist Health Care System," the doctor explained. "We cured it years ago. It's one of the diseases our five-year plans have officially wiped out."

ALSO... China has had some terrible experiences with counterfeit medications, including vaccines:
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2005/07/05/2003262288

There is also a reason for a preservative in vaccines in areas like rural China and other "3rd world" economies. Those of us in "1st tier" economies can afford the storage and distribution systems that keep the vaccines safe. See in:
http://www.who.int/biologicals/publications/trs/areas/vaccines/thiome...
.. this quote:

"Should a national health authority or a manufacturer decide to eliminate, reduce, remove or replace thiomersal in vaccines, then the strategy chosen may affect not only the subsequent ability of microbial contaminants to grow in vaccine preparations, but also vaccine quality, safety and efficacy. The question therefore arises as to what evidence is needed to ensure that a vaccine where the thiomersal content has been altered will be as safe and efficacious as the already licensed product."

and further down:

"Making changes to the thiomersal content of vaccines already licensed with this preservative is a complex issue that requires careful consideration. It should be borne in mind that any change in the formulation may have an important impact on the quality, safety and efficacy of vaccines. Experience shows that eliminating or reducing thiomersal from an existing product can have some unexpected effects on vaccine quality, safety and efficacy. Effects on vaccine stability might also be expected."

 

At 7/21/2005 11:26 PM, Anonymous Sotek said...

I love this.

"Those European countries never had much mercury, so removing what they did have shouldn't have much effect on their autism rates".

Well ... okay.

But then why did they have ANY autism?

Why does Russia have autism?

Why do you not even consider that China might not have recognized autism as existing until recently?
Why do you accept educational data as anything other than informative of how much money is being spent?

Why don't you consider the problem with the UK and Canada blaming the (thimerosal-less) MMR vaccine, and the US blaming Thimerosal? Isn't that implying AT LEAST ONE of them is wrong?

Why are you so sure that you're right and everyone else is wrong, eh, Cole?


And why don't you even try to address Michelle Dawson's concerns? Or are you afraid that you might slip up in doing so, and reveal your secret bigotry?

 

At 7/22/2005 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anne, a mom said...

Cole Joplin, a dad, said:

"Better yet, are you prepared to debate David Kirby? He has announced very publicly, on TV and print, to debate 'anyone, anywhere, anytime' on this issue."

Not exactly. He has offered to debate certain people, none of whom work in the area of autism.

Anyone, anywhere, anytime? Okay, tag team, RFK Jr. and David Kirby vs. Michelle Dawson and the Autism Diva, behind the gym after school at 3:30.

 

At 7/22/2005 4:26 AM, Blogger Autism Diva said...

Anne,

Only if the Diva can wear her black patent Birkenstocks and tea length, purple silk-taffetta gown (it's new).

Actually, in her other life, as someone with a normalish sounding name... she was asked by David Kirby if she would debate him on stage, at her university. Which is pretty funny, because there's no way the university would give him a minute of their time, much less a venue.

Autism Diva told him, "thanks, but no thanks."

It was really pretty hysterical. As Autism Diva said to a friend, "Really, Kirby's a nobody, and (the Diva is) even a bigger nobody!"

But the tag team bare-knuckled, data match, that might be fun.
(acutally it could be done with the bulletin board posts)
They can have Haley if we can have Mottron or maybe Fombonne. It wouldn't be fair to ask them to bring along the Geiers or Blaxill, but Hornig or Deth would be ok.

Autism Diva is ready with her reams of studies, maybe we could do a live call-in to China, someone should answer the phone there.

Then Russia.

Michelle can talk to France.

AD

 

At 7/22/2005 7:52 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I've commented on Kirby's ridiculous "bring it on" challenge before and why it's probably not a particulary great idea to indulge him.

Basically, it's a rigged set-up. He wants to debate an "expert" on Imus's show, a very friendly venue to him and very hostile to anyone who would argue with him, given Imus' bias. I advise anyone who might consider taking Kirby up on his challenge to insist on a change to a venue less friendly to Kirby and hostile to science. Basically, Kirby's hoping to lure an overconfident scientist to try to debate him and make a fool of himself. It's the same game creationists play, as I pointed out in the link above.

As for whether my legacy will be equated with "quackery" (assuming anyone outside my family even remembers or cares about my "legacy," such as it is), well, I'll take my chances on that. I've already said I'll eat crow if that happens. Will David Kirby, RFK, Jr., Boyd Haley, et al do the same if autism rates don't fall? I highly doubt it.

 

At 7/22/2005 1:17 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

I do think a very interesting televised meeting would be between the Washington Times reporter Dan Olmsted and someone from the Clinic for Special Children ( http://www.clinicforspecialchildren.org/ ).

Dan Olmsted has written articles claiming that the Amish do not have autism because they do not vaccinated... BUT I sincerely doubted that he even walked in the door of the Clinic for Special Children where there are real medical researchers working with the Amish and their unique genetics.

 

At 7/22/2005 8:55 PM, Anonymous Cole, a dad said...

Hello again. Speaking for only myself, I have no problems with open debate. My responding to everyone within 24 hours seems reasonable, yes? David Kirby is responsible for himself and how he debates. If he is running, I'll concede the point, because he should absolutely do what he says. But here are my direct responses.

It's easy to fence about reporting numbers, regardless of the study or the government. Let's start with China. Let's say you don't believe their numbers, let's say they are bogus. Pick an age. Where are all the 6 year old autistic Chinese children? Autistic teens? Where's the curve?

I work with someone who is a Chinese national on a work visa. According to him, autism is a completely new epidemic in China. Their media is reporting one million new cases, all under age 3. In particular, the rate is highest for Chinese girls, adopted into the US. They are vaccinated again, full, schedule, regardless of past schedule, before entry in the US.

Bad vaccines are a serious problem. If that's the cause of autism, great, get going on a fix! Let's run with that theory. Is it possible that 1 in 166 vaccines in the US are
counterfeit? That's hard to believe.

Now for Russia. I don't know the issue, but I know the spin. The issue is not vaccines, the issue is mercury. I'm not saying vaccines are the cause of autism. I'm merely suggesting that mercury exposure victims have symptoms identical to autism. This is a simple, logical explanation for autism in a non-vaccine environment. Given the industrial boom in China, and the certain mercury emmissions, this is a likely contributing factor.

Environment is exactly the point. It's about mercury exposure, and the amount. If you have too much exposure to mercury, bad things happen. I don't care how good your DNA is. Russia isn't eactly a pristine environment.

Let's take Denmark, home of one of the no-link studies. Denamark had autistic kids, and had thimerisol in the schedule. I was merely pointing out that they had an autism population, even with smaller schedules than the US. This Danish rate was enough for them to "play it safe", and ban thimerisol. Their autism rates have subsequently fallen. I'm merely suggestng a common cause to consider, so I think my point is valid, Sotek.

Let's take the Canadians. I believe they were just plain wrong. They knew "something" was wrong, but without any answers from the medical community, they "played it safe". I think they errored in not considering the other vaccines in the schedule, which did contain thimerisol. The point is, our vaccines got banned, and their rates fell. The excess mercury was reduced. That's exactly how I reconcile the US/Canada problem: misidentification.

Now for the Amish facts. He found 2 children with autism. Both were vaccinated, both reportly with a thimerisol lot. One, ironically, was adopted from China. Is this information deserving of such a written attack? I'm dissappointed that you're not interested in taking these things as clues, guideposts to the truth. Isn't that what medicine is supposed to be about?

One more point for Sotek. I never said I was right and everyone else was wrong. I make mistakes, I'm human. If I slip up, I'll come clean and admit it. There is no fear at all in my debate.

But I'm perfectly justified in taking a blanket statement, like thimerisol is completely out of the vaccine pool, and refuting it. I was not challenged by you on the fact that the CDC announced thimerisol is still in US vaccine production. I am merely correct on this particular point, and Orac was completely wrong on this particular point. Will you concede this point?

Bigotry? That was a bit rough. Perhaps my comment to Orac about his legacy was over-the-top as well. My apologies, Orac. I was trying to express that medical hubris is a historical fact. I think that is the ailment of the members of this blog. Just my opinion. Let me explain why.

We should be interested in what we do know, not making blanket statements about what we don't know. The fact is, we don't know, for sure, the cause of autism. You must concede that.

The possibility that autism is mercury poisoning is a reasonable guess, based on the known symptoms. It is reasonable to study whether the most toxic element on this planet, is a factor, given sufficient exposure. There is nothing hysterical in any of those statements.

As a parent of an autistic child, I had hoped that the medical community would try to solve the mystery, and help these children. This is the greatest aspiration of a doctor - to heal. This asperation is not evident in your discussions. It's about defending vaccines, no matter what, like a holy religion. That is hysterical.

I challange you to get back to your science. Symptom, cause, cure. You cannot be successful in this debate if you refuse to accept all the facts, all the truths, wherever they take you. Cherry-picking the evidence does not lead to the truth.

Any study inserting a nine month exposure requirement on a vaccine given in one minute, is not real science. No one is going to say that taking nine months of sleeping pills in one day is the same as 2 each night for nine months. Yet this is the kind of rock on which your side's arguments gladly lie.

I could expect that from a simpleton. But I don't expect it from a medical professional. This profession is acting like it is hiding something. Closed-door meetings and press conferences are by their very nature, not transparent.

All I want - for now - is to follow suit. Let's "play it safe", and let the truth reveal itself. If the rest of the world needs thimerisol, fine. Let's start by getting it out of the US, until we are sure. That is not hysterical, it's common sense.

 

At 7/22/2005 11:33 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

You make lots of statements... do you have any evidence to back up your statements?

 

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

I should also say:
"Did you even understand the statement about Olmsted and the Clinic for Special Children"... Over the cable modem I can hear the whoosh over your head!

It is like you have no comprehension that the Amish not only vaccinate but actually volunteer to participate in science/medical studies that relate to their unique and limited gene pool. I am betting that Dan Olmsted never even darkened the door of that very special clinic.

 

At 7/23/2005 10:18 AM, Anonymous Sotek said...

Impressive that you "know" rates fell ...


... why don't you tell the Lovaas ABA advocates they've got nothing to worry about and are lying when they claim Canada's suffering from this "epidemic"?



Oh, and your claim about China is simply silly. I did some investigation, and found papers dated to 1989, from Chinese universities, studying Chinese autistics.

Unknown? Hardly.



And it's nice you can CLAIM autism rates dropped in Denmark... can you, perhaps, explain why the Danes don't agree with you?



Oh, and can you actually prove the rate's increased here? Cite something other than educational data, or cite educational data showing a prevalence higher than 1 in 166; either one would do it, but I don't think you can.

I don't think you can even cite educational data as high as 1 in 166, for that matter.




And again, why are you not addressing what Michelle Dawson said?
Do you, or do you not agree with those groups such as DAN and CAN that declare those with autism to be better off dead?
I just want you to answer the question.

You've dodged it once, which makes me suspicious that you really are bigoted against autistic individuals. Care to provide a reasoned response now, or shall I continue calling you on it?





And Orac was mistaken by saying what was mandated to happen, as opposed to what happened. So what?
Does this support your claim that mercury causes autism? Of course not, and you know it.
After all, if Mercury caused autism, you'd have to explain the strengths thereof, wouldn't you? Or don't you think they exist?

 

At 7/23/2005 12:06 PM, Blogger Orac said...

People, I'm taking the weekend off from blogging, but I did check my e-mail this morning and saw the new comments (note that my few responses have been brief and I haven't posted anything new). Please try to keep things civil. Although I don't buy into the thimersal-autism link (or the conspiracy theories that come from that link), I try not to accuse anyone of "bigotry" without very hard evidence, and similarly I try to avoid calling people "simpletons" (which is what you were doing indirectly, cole).

I'll start posting again and rejoin the discussion next week.

 

At 7/25/2005 1:22 PM, Anonymous Cole, a dad said...

More civility would be nice. It is the lack of civility that has caused this reaction from parents of autistic children in the first place! When a parent takes a child in for immunizations, and within 24 hours, they loose all eye contact, lose all speech, and these things never come back, that is simply reality.

This is what happened to my son, and that is a fact, not merely a "claim." All the studies and blogging in the world will not change this fact. Simply sending me away with a "hysterical" label is 100% ineffective.

I'll tell you why I trust the educational numbers - money. School districts get federal funding based on head count. When you're in an IEP, discussing your son's education, you listen to teachers and administrators speak. When they say they used to have one special ed class for all types, and now they have multiple autism-only classes to choose from for placement - that is reality, not a claim.

As for Michelle Dawson's concerns, I definitely do NOT think these kids are better off dead! I think they are better off with lots of love and effective treatment. My whole life is committed to this endeavor! Can you ask more?

My son has high mercury levels. He is being chealated. The test results show it, it's not an illusion, the mercury is real. Since he doesn't eat meat, let alone fish, and has never had amalgum fillings, I have only one obvious smoking gun of mercury exposure (besides the air). It would be irresponisble of me as a parent to ignore mercury poisoning, regardless of if he's "autistic" or not.

I believe in medical treatment that is effective. ABA is not the whole answer, but can help. You cannot ignore the physical effects of mercury. You can't ignore when someone is alergic to wheat and peanuts. A balanced diet, with vitamins and minerals has done more for my son's behavior than shooting him up with lots of ritalin ever could. We tried ritalin, and it was ineffective, and made him moody, and unhappy.

So when I see stuff like 60 Minutes, and whoever, going on TV, and have nothing more to say than I'm hysterical, and all I want is money for a boat, and that vaccines are perfect, I have nowhere to go but angry. So, I'm just supposed to "do nothing and live with it, and leave you alone?" No at chance. I have every right to feel insulted.

Look folks, I've addressed everything you've thrown at me. No one has addressed the 9 month exposure requirement of your Denmark study. In fact, the only way you've dealt with my concerns is to simply question everyone else's credibility but your own. We're going to have to disagree on the studies and the claims. Trust only the CDC - fine. Autism is growing at an alrming rate. Period. No matter how hard you try to change the subject, you are defending injecting toxic mercury into infants and pregnant women.

Remember Ackham's Razor people: the simplest answer is usually the most likely. I have a known mercury source, in a 24 hour isolation period, with mercury-poisoning symptoms, and lab tests confirming heavy exposure of mercury in my son's system.

Hinting that this is the world's first genetic epidemic, when a simple toxic exposure is present, flies in the face of Ackham's Razor. It defies common sense, a wild fancify stretch to say the least. Because of that, all your blogging hasn't convinced me to your side one single inch. You still have nothing to offer than being cynical.

So let me issue this challenge: what counter-theory can you offer for what happened to my son, that can stand up to Ackham's Razor? If all you have to offer is that I'm delusional, than you ARE simply incompetent. As long as our numbers keep growing, and you have nothing to offer, and show no effort to solve this mystery, the crescendo will only get louder. I can promise you that.

 

At 7/26/2005 2:20 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

It is Occam's Razor:
http://skepdic.com/occam.html

 

At 7/26/2005 3:05 PM, Anonymous mark said...

cole, a dad:

I am also the parent of an autistic child. He does not have "high mercury". He is not allergic to wheat or peanuts. He does not have "leaky gut". His symptomps did not appear overnight, nor did they appear in conjunction with any of his vaccinations.

If mercury causes all of your son's symptoms, then what caused mine?

Isn't it possible that autism is more like cancer, in that: It's not one disease, it doesn't have one cause, and it's not going to have one cure?

Also, one of the most important scientific principles we have is, if the data don't support your hypothesis, try a new hypothesis. If the science does not support a link between thimerosal and autism, then concede that you are wrong and move on to something else. You will make better progress to a cure or prevention than if you persist in a blind alley.

 

At 7/26/2005 4:50 PM, Anonymous Cole, a dad said...

As my son gets chealted, he gets better. That is not a blind alley. It's tangible and measurable. These results are not unique to my son. This is why I can't throw mercury out as a potential cause in his case.

However, given what you've written, I can't say there isn't a difference between mercury-induced autism, and some form of non-mercury autism. It's entirely plausible that this is more than one disease. Perhaps my son is technically misdiagnosed. Autism-spectrum kids are all very different. I'm not going to claim absolutes here.

The point still remains in his case - high mercury, known source, known exposure period. That is also not a blind alley. In his case and others, mercury can explain the differences: varying locations in the brain and varying amounts.

What I object to is that this blog claims that mercury is absolutely not involved. I'm challenging that claim. There is conflicting data on an autism-mercury link, just as sure as there was conflicting data on the cigarette-lung cancer link. I have no respect for a study that hides a nine month exposure requirement in the footnotes.

In the face of conflicting data, and highly suspect no-link data, I'm just saying we should stop gambling with children's lives until we know for sure. I'm not saying stop the vaccines. I'm saying stop the thimerisol. At least then we could see if we're dealing with more than one disease. One step closer to the truth is a lot better than going nowhere.

If only half the kids are mercury-induced, well, that's a 50% reduction in autism. That is better than nothing. What I want to know is: what number of is high enough to provoke some action? 1 in 50? 1 in 25? 1 in 10? Give us a number where it's finally worth it to really determine which studies are right. Could both sides are right half the time? This blog claims no, stop trying. I say it's possible, let's find out.

 

At 8/05/2005 10:43 PM, Anonymous mike said...

Cole, You articulate my position well! You have obviously studied this issue more than most. As Cole said, chealation works for many kids. They do not excrete the mercury from the body. The facts are for you do see. How can you defend injecting a very toxic substance into a newborn. Mark, No blind alley here, just trying to do the best for my son. I am wanting to know: how do you know your son has no mercury or leaky gut? My son didn't immediatly spiral downhill after his MMR shot, but I have spoken face to face with local parents with the same result. If you received one blood test, urine test and hair test for mercury it likely came back showing little or nothing. The chelation proves it works because of the testing and re-testing. After some time in which the chelation has had a chance to work the lab work shows higher levels of mercury being excreated from the body. Mark, you should try to look down this "alley" again. I am the father of an autistic son. I believe you are on track in not beleiving the "one size fits all approach". I would go to DANwebcast.com and watch the multiple one hour movies that explains much of this. You do have to try different things, it's better than doing nothing or listening to the pediatricians
that diagnose only, but only prescribe ABA. Just stay away from the "autism diva" nut jobs. Only a warped individual like that would criticize parents for networking and an author for getting the facts out on a very complex issue. David Kirby will be on Meet the press this Sunday.

 

At 8/13/2005 2:10 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Mike said: "As Cole said, chealation works for many kids."

Where is this documented?

Also, what does chelation do for the MMR vaccine? It does not have thimerosal.

 

At 9/30/2005 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there any recovered adults of autism who can speak about their experiences? I'm just curious, because it seems the only ones carrying on are the docs and the parents. Where is the voice and the consent of the child in all of this? Maybe this whole autism thing will lead to a lawsuit defending children's right not to be subjected to experimental treatments. I read a really fascinating story (I couldn't tell you where now...) but it was an interview with a recovered child of autism whose mother subjected him to ABA (Long-term therapy involving 40 hours a week of behavioral training). The boy, who was able to speak after ABA, said that autism felt like someone else had control over his body.
First of all, for all the chelation wackos out there, how do you explain this anti-chelation recovery? Wait...I'm sure you'll find a way to rationalize it.
Second, I have to say FINALLY! A child speaks about autism, and it's not the CRAZY parents and docs duking it out. How refreshing! I hope more children of autism are blessed with the chance to speak.

 

At 10/02/2005 6:26 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Depends on what you mean by "recovered." There are lots of adult autistics or people with Aspergers. Some of them even blog.

 

At 10/20/2005 11:01 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

Orac,

I had never seen your site before and found your post interesting and thought provoking (I really don't have much of an opinion on this whole issue, not having researched it). I came here sort of randomly through a Skeptic's Circle link.

However, in one sentence you blew the credibility of the rest of the article.

Indeed, if there is no dramatic decrease in the number of new cases of autism and ASDs over the next five years or so (as there has not been in Canada or Denmark), given that thimerosal has been removed from nearly all childhood vaccines, that would pretty much ...

According to the FDA website:

Thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine (see Table 1). A preservative-free version of the inactivated influenza vaccine (contains trace amounts of thimerosal) is available in limited supply at this time for use in infants, children and pregnant women. Some vaccines such as Td, which is indicated for older children (> 7 years of age) and adults, are also now available in formulations that are free of thimerosal or contain only trace amounts. Vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose.

Where you say "removed" the FDA says "removed or reduced to trace amounts." Where you say "childhood" the FDA says "under six years old." I think you need to be a bit more specific, the broad brush approach may make for a good argument, but it hurts the credibility of the argument when it is examined in detail.

Also, note that the Flu vaccine which is widely distributed, does contain Thimerosol.

Causal or not, you can't say it has been removed from vaccines in the US. Reduced, yes.

FWIW.

 

At 11/06/2005 10:42 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

More detail is here:
http://www.fda.gov/cber/vaccine/thimerosal.htm

It includes a table showing the microscopic amounts of thimerosal in available vaccines. Plus the table shows that there are flu vaccines with thimerosal.

 

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