By Dan Olmsted
I hope the homage to Bob Dylan somewhat softens the blow of calling Emily Willingham of Forbes Mag an idiot, and implicitly, Babe (cf Idiot Wind , 1974). What I really mean is, your ouevre is intellectually incoherent when it comes to autism causation, ma'am.
But that doesn't scan as well.
In Forbes Magazine (self-professed Capitalist Tool), Emily turned nasty on Anne Dachel when Anne commented on Emily's piece this week about the new study linking induced pregnancy and autism risk. Emily went after the proposed connection -- a reasonable thing to do, suggesting any number of things in pregnancy that might have caused the study's observation. Anne, also reasonably, posted this:
"And I wonder how many of these mothers got a mercury-containing flu vaccine during pregnancy. The majority of the flu vaccine available contains 25 mcg of mercury, a known neurotoxin. It easily crosses the placental barrier. That much mercury is recommended for someone weighing 550 lbs, according to EPA guidelines." -- Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism
To which Emily replied: "Yes, about that fast-and-loose play with the word “mercury.” There’s a prefix missing from your comments. I know you know that. Why do you persist in eliding it?"
Ah yes, sneakily omitting the fact that vaccine mercury is ethylmercury, nontoxic, fetus- and infant-friendly neurologically and immunologically irrelevant ETHYLmercury.
Emily links to a post by Steven Novella, kindly condescending to inform us that the kind of mercury in vaccines is the good kind -- the kind Paul Offit calls "a gentle bacteriostat, " and Arthur Allen calls "safe" (this after Allen had called the concern about it a "not-so-crackpot theory.")
Anyway, Novella says, "First, the EPA limit is for methymercury, not ethylmercury, which is the form found in Thimerosal. Methylmercury is known to be much more toxic than ethylmercury. In addition ethylmercury (half life about a week) is cleared from the body much more quickly than methylmercury (half life about 1.5 months). Further, infants excrete mercury more efficiently than adults. The EPA safety limits are based upon the more toxic form of mercury, with a 10 fold built in safety buffer in case some people are more susceptible to mercury toxicity than others."
For which I have just one word -- no, not idiotic. And not bullshit. Although both apply. No, the word is Burbacher. The University of Washington professor's peer-reviewed study shows ethylmercury goes into the brain, folks, and it stays in the brain a lot longer. It's not excreted, it's trapped in the brain, where it de-ethylates into inorganic mercury and settles in to do its damage.
The idea that ethyl and methyl are the yin and yang -- complete opposites -- of mercury is, well, idiotic. Both are members of the same organic mercury (danger! danger!) grouping: alkyl mercury (mega-danger!) As Mark Blaxill and I show in our book, The Age of Autism, their commercial development in the early part of the last century was accompanied by a healthy respect for the lethality of both.
"There are several lines of scientific evidence that raise concerns about the immediate toxicity of thimerosal," we write. "Mark Noble at the University of Rochester "demonstrated that levels of thimerosal that seem likely to be achieved in the brains of vaccinated infants can interfere with normal growth and development of precursor cells in the developing brain. Noble and his colleagues have shown that thimerosal is as effective as methylmercury in activating cellular response pathways that lead to degradation of cell sufrace receptors of critical importance in normal cell division and survival."
And that's just for starters. There is every reason to have a panic attack over the fact that ETHYL-mercury containing vaccines continue to be recommended for women and babies in the United States, and continue to be used in shots given to more than 80 million children around the world every year.
But Emily and company are all, thank god it's not methylmercury, right, because that kind of mercury is known to cause brain damage and developmental problems and we need to avoid it like the plague! Just by switching the prefix to ethyl, we can all be safe and cozy in the knowledge that deliberately injecting mercury into babies on purpose is not crazy.
Excuse me while I rustle up a couple of studies that have nothing to do with vaccination -- but everything to do with it, in a subtle but substantial way. Ah yes, here we go: Eating ethylmercury-treated grain led to poisonings in Ghana in 1967. Twenty people died. Of those who survived, children experienced earlier and more severe effects than adults. Speech disturbances in the children were particularly notable. The report added, "Of all the fungicides in modern use, the alkyl-mercury compounds [ethyl- and methylmercury] offer the most serious health hazards .... Serious concern has therefore been expressed about the necessary contamination of the environment with mercury, particulary from its use as fungicides in agriculture and in industry."
Government had the good sense to ban agricultural uses of mercury, both ethyl and methyl by the end of the 1960s. Gosh, I wonder why they didn't grandfather in good ol' ethyl (prefix not elided) while they banished bad ol' methyl.
OK, let me rummage here for one more paper ... it's here somewhere ... aha! (And thank you, Mark Blaxill) "Clinical Observations in Ethyl Mercury Chloride Poisoning," from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 1984.
"Forty-one patients in the Peoples Republic of China were poisoned by ethyl mercury chloride, cause by the ingestion of rice that had been treated with the chemical. A dose-response relationship was found. Five months after the onset of the intoxication, the patients were still in poor condition. They were treated with two chelating agents. ... Both agents were effective. ... Although urinary excretion is not the best estimate of body burden in alkyl mercury intoxication, during chelation therapy urinary mercury was an effective indicator for diagnosis and assessment of the degree of intoxication. Chelation therapy was useful as long as the urinary mercury level was elevated."
Wow, I feel like I'm back at the so-called crackpot quackfest called Autism One in Chicago, quacking around with Bradstreet, James, Haley et al. Just one more note from the paper -- among the recorded symptoms were impaired memory, speech disturbance, convulsions, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and diarrhea, impaired visual acuity, constipation. Five months later, the list had grown even longer and included fear, weight loss, headache, insomnia.
Oh, and, "Available data indicate that ethyl mercury compounds have toxicological properties similar to those of methyl mercury compounds. We have the same experience." Once more for emphasis from these authors: "Ethyl mercury compounds have toxicological properties similar to those of methyl mercury compounds. There is evidence that both methyl and ethyl mercury can persist in the body for a long time. In our patients, 5 months after the onset of intoxication, the urinary Hg levels were still elevated.
"High urinary Hg levels were also seen in another group of ethyl mercury intoxicated patients six years after exposure to ethyl mercury chloride."
Sorry to go all science-y on us there, but the point is quite simple. Emily doesn't know ethyl-. Anne does.
The study on induced labor and autism risk was just one of the studies that got attention last week -- another being the link between cancer and autism. Of course, The Times and others took the view that the same gene caused both, conveniently locating the concern in the genetic argument now fashionable (parent-blaming having been retired in the 1960s -- the same decade ethyl and methyl were booted from fungicides but not ethyl from vaccines).
Of course, from our crackpot point of view, a toxic exposure could mutate genes and cause all sorts of mayhem. Mark Blaxill and I wrote about that this week as we told the story of William Ritchey Miller, autism's Case 3. He died in 2011, we reported, of a rare immune system cancer, multiple myeloma. His brother had died earlier, at the age of 43, from lupus, an autoimmune disease. And Case 1, as we found out years ago, not only had autism but juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which attacked as he hit adolescence. Gold salts treatment cleared up the JRA, his brother told us, and greatly ameliorated his autistic behaviors. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen," he said.
All these random studies, whether on genes or labor, or cancer, or aging parents, or fat moms, or Prozac during infancy. or living near a freeway, or sonograms, are tossed out with no real understanding of the bigger picture. In many cases, they offer data, but those data are clues, not causes. To get to causation, you have to include historical epidemiology, and that epidemiology highlights two key inflection points:
-- The first case reports, in 1943, by Leo Kanner. We've linked those to the first uses of ethyl (yes, ethyl, no eliding here) mercury as a seed disinfectant, a lumber preservative and -- hold your breath, batten down the hatches, and back away if you don't want to be hit by exploding paradigms -- in multidose vaccinations.
Something happened in the 1930s, and all these new, One-a-Day Brand Multiple Autism Causation Theories need to account for it. I don't think that first autism cluster points to induced labor, as interesting an observation as that may be in isolation.
-- The worldwide explosion of autism beginning in 1988. Of course, that's the year they moved the mercury (OK, ETHYL-mercury) containing DPT shot forward in Britain and introduced the MMR as well. In the U.S., it was the Vaccine Court-era introduction of whatever vaccine the pharma companies had in the pipeline, including the mercury (OK, ethylmercury) containing HepB and Hib.
As David Kirby reported in 2010 on HuffPost:
"A recent US EPA study has found a distinct "changepoint" year - or spike - in autism in California and elsewhere and concludes that it would be "prudent to assume that at least some portion of this increase is real and results from environmental factors."
"In the Danish, California, and worldwide data sets, we found that an increase in autism disorder cumulative incidence began about (the birth cohort years) 1988-1989," wrote the authors Michael E. Mc Donald and John F. Paul, of the EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory.
"Although the debate about the nature of increasing autism continues," they added, "the potential for this increase to be real and involve exogenous (external) environmental stressors exists."
So, these one-a-day-brand multiple studies need to consider that as well. There go freeways and induced labor and etc. and etc. and etc.
Mercury fits, though. The mercury in shots certainly tracks with the epidemic in the U.S., although not as clearly around the world. Perhaps mercury emissions from China ought to be examined (thanks again, Mark Blaxill), along with a real effort to coordinate the data from all types of mercury exposure -- inorganic (Chinese coal-fired powerplant explosion), elemental (dental), methyl (fish after inorganic mercury from power plants is methylated), and -- God help us -- ethyl from its last remaining redoubt, vaccines given to pregnant women and children.
This ain't-a-gonna-happen, though, while mainstream smokestacks like Forbes emit polluted nonsense that plays straight into their pharma-funded hands. This is a problem not just with reporting on autism, but with so many other issues we're faced with today.
So let's go big and give the last word to Edward Snowden, the man without a country -- certainly not this one. The New York Times, reduced to bit player in the NSA saga by its lousy track record on reporting national security stories these past few years, finally got an interview with Snowden.
"Q: Why did you seek out Laura and Glenn (Greenwald, of Britain's Guardian), rather than journalists from major American news outlets (N.Y.T., W.P., W.S.J. etc.)? In particular, why Laura, a documentary filmmaker?
"Edward Snowden: After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period."
Dan Olmsted is Editor of AgeOfAutism.com