SafeMinds' Mark Blaxill Testimony at Autism Hearing
Posted Dec 01 2012 12:00am
Testimony of Mark Blaxill Board Member, SafeMinds Before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform US House of Representatives
November 29, 2012
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and Members of the
Committee. I am honored to be here today
on behalf of the non-profit organization, SafeMinds, grateful to Chairman Issa for
today’s invitation and humbled by the opportunity to represent the community of
In addition to my comments, I have provided a more extensive report from
SafeMinds and documents for the record.
In 1935, a John Hopkins professor
named Leo Kanner wrote the world’s first textbook on Child Psychiatry. In 527 pages and 43 chapters, Kanner described every
psychiatric condition in children know to medicine at the time. There was no condition remotely resembling
In 1938, Oliver and Mary Triplett left Mississippi with
their five year old son Donald to visit Kanner, by then considered the world’s
leading authority on children’s development. When Kanner met Donald he was fascinated.
He had never seen a child like him.
In 1943, Kanner wrote a paper inspired by Donald. “Since
1938,” he wrote, “there have come to our attention a number of children whose
condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that
each case merits-and, I hope, will eventually receive-a detailed consideration
of its fascinating peculiarities.”
The oldest child of the eleven described was born in 1931. Kanner
subsequently diagnosed hundreds of children with autism, but never found a case
born before 1930. The historical record is clear: before 1930, the rate of
autism was effectively zero.
Today, nearly 70 years after Dr. Kanner’s
paper, reported autism rates are 1 in 88 American children born in the year
2000. In some states, the rate is higher than 1 in 50.
In New Jersey,
1 in 29 boys born in 2000 were diagnosed autistic.
What’s going on? Why are so many American children sick?
Let’s be clear. Autism is a public health crisis of historic
proportions. Worse than poliomyelitis. It’s devastating a generation of
children and their families. We need to face up to the reality. Autism is a
Here’s a summary of historical autism
surveys in America. For a long time, reported U.S. autism rates were low, estimated
at about 1 in 10,000. Then around 1990 something new and terrible happened to a
generation of children. Autism rates didn’t just rise, they multiplied. This escalation
occurred in both “full syndrome autism” and the broader autism spectrum, including
Some observers have claimed this rise is not real. That
numbers are going up because of “better diagnosing.” While it is true that we
now diagnose autism with better tools, that doesn’t mean there is some “hidden
horde” of overlooked autism cases. The old surveys didn’t just miss 99% of children
with autism. Anyone who reads them will see the obvious: it’s clear the researchers
were diligent in finding cases and confident that they found the vast majority
of children. It’s horrible but true; reported rates of autism have risen simply
because there are more cases of autism.
In the midst of this crisis, the federal agencies
responsible for the health of our nation’s children have failed in their duty. CDC’s
negligence has led the way. Many believe CDC has actively covered up the
evidence surrounding autism’s environmental causes
NIH has received the lion’s share of Congressional funding,
money they have wasted on status quo research and gene studies. It’s absurd to focus
on genetic research in this crisis, there’s no such thing as a genetic epidemic.
CDC first started investigating
environmental causes in 1999 in Brick NJ. Their survey data showed that autism
rates went from zero in 1989, to 1 in 128 four years later. But they used
statistical tricks (and the fact that autism surveys miss many three and four
years olds) to publish a finding that there was no increase.
A CDC analyst also discovered in 1999 that
higher levels of infant exposure to a mercury compound in vaccines increased
autism risk more than tenfold relative to zero exposure. The analyst wrote
about this result to his supervisors: “It just won’t go away,” he said. But he
and his colleagues used more statistical tricks and published a finding that made
the risk go away.
In the financial world, the result of the pressure to
manipulate numbers to provide the answers bosses want has a name - securities
fraud. In medicine there are similar pressures: they’re called special interest
politics and peer review and what the CDC has given us is the medical
equivalent of securities fraud. All to
avoid the inconvenient reality of the autism epidemic.
In 2006, Congress gave the NIH a mission to “combat autism.”
You authorized $850 million for that mission. Frustrating to most in the autism
community, NIH spent most of that money on the great autism gene hunt while blackballing
environmental researchers and defying parent concerns. It’s been a colossal
waste of money and time. Not a single case of autism has been prevented. Not a
single child received improved treatments. American families deserve better.
In 2011, autism parents asked Congress to fix the bill. We
told you that when you spend that much money on the wrong things, you haven’t
just wasted taxpayer dollars, you’ve compounded the problem by reinforcing the
denial. Unfortunately, Senate leaders didn’t take the time they needed to fix
the problems; they simply extended the old bill for three more years and the
House went along rather than see nothing move forward.
In the face of a national emergency, government
agencies, especially CDC and NIH, have performed poorly and behaved badly. We
need accountable, new leadership on autism at the NIH and the CDC. We need an advisory
committee that believes in combating autism, not one newly stocked with appointees
who oppose the mission, who want us to surrender to autism and oppose
prevention and treatment research. We need a Combating Autism Act that truly
combats autism. We need to stop investing in the autism gene hunt and identify what
has changed in the environment that could have possibly injured so many
We need to conduct independent
research into the great unmentionables, mercury and vaccines, connections that
we’ve documented in the earliest cases. (I
have provided to the Committee copies of my book, The Age of Autism which provides this history). These are the only environmental factors
identified so far that are plausible causes for the magnitude and timing of this
Ultimately, we need to face and answer the question, why are
so many American children sick? We will only do that hard work if agency
leaders are held accountable to the American people, not powerful interests in
the medical industry. So we’re asking you, the members of the Committee for
The autism community owes a debt of gratitude to Congressman
Burton for his dedication to these issues.
We hope as he retires from Congress, that other members of this
Committee and Congress will continue his good work in seeking the truth about
Don’t make this hearing a one-time episode. Stay on the job
in the next Congress. Root out the failures, the waste, the fraud and the abuse.