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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Autism

As medical and epidemiological mysteries go, autism is surely among the most shocking and tragic. Autism has been on the rise for decades, but now it's reached unbelievable levels. In 1975, only one in 5000 children in the U.S. was affected by autism. Now it's one child in 88, making it more common than schizophrenia.

I'm old enough to remember a day when autism was so uncommon that most people had barely heard of the word or knew what it meant. When I was growing up, I never saw an autistic child nor knew of anybody who had one. Today, autism is known to every pediatrician and every school system in the U.S., and sad to say, it's no longer unusual to know someone (or be someone) whose family has been touched by it.

The sheer rate of increase in autism's prevalence rules out any kind of purely genetic explanation. The genes for autism existed before 1975. Why are they only being expressed at high rates now?

Autism is better-defined and more diagnosable now than in 1975, but even increased efficiency of diagnosis can't explain the sheer magnitude of the rise in autism.

So if genetics and diagnostic vigilance can't explain the rise, what are we left with? Environment, obviously.

In the 1990s, a theory began to take hold that autism is a rare (but obviously not rare enough) side-effect of the DTP vaccine, which protects children against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The DTP vaccine was developed in 1981 and its introduction coincides with the beginning of the upswing in autism. Mothers of autistic children were, of course, the first to notice what was happening. Predictably, the medical establishment (along with their shills in the FDA, the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, CDC, and the Health Resources and Services Administration) dismissed the vaccine theory outright and warned the nation that to avoid vaccinating children against such dreaded widespread killer diseases as tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough would be a calamity of earth-shattering, history-ending proportions.

But then along came the thiomersal controversy. Which is a "controversy" in the same sense that lung cancer due to smoking is a "controversy" and global warming is a "controversy."

Thiomersal (outside the U.S. it's spelled thimerosal) is what we used to call, back in the day, Merthiolate (an Eli Lilly trade name). It was that awful orange-colored crap that stung like hell when you put it on your skinned knee after you fell off your red three-speed Schwinn trying to turn a sharp corner at 97 mph. Incredibly, the makers of DTP vaccines added this neurotoxic mercury-containing poison to their products for the purpose of giving vaccines longer shelf life.

In 2007, the USPHS and AAP determined that thiomersal should be removed from vaccines as a "purely precautionary measure," despite a joint announcement by these same agencies (plus FDA) that there was and is no connection whatsoever between thiomersal, as used in vaccines, and autism.
The label clearly says FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Why then
do we allow its use in influenza and DTP vaccines?

With great whining and complaining, vaccine manufacturers began taking their products off the market and/or removing the mercury from their DTP formulations. Today there is one remaining DTP product containing thiomersal. Its name is Tripedia and it's made by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. Sanofi reportedly stopped making the thiomersal-laced version of the vaccine as of 2011, but it didn't pull any from shelves, so it's conceivable that there is still some inventory out there. Regardless, the current DTaP version of Tripedia "may contain trace amounts (<0.3 mcg) of mercury left after postproduction thimerosal removal." (See footnote to this table.)

If you go to and look at the complete drug description sheet on the Tripedia vaccine, you'll find, buried in the small print, this statement:
Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea.
Sanofi has (to my knowledge) never published its raw data, so there is no way to know how many children in its study populations developed autism.

It hardly matters, because eventually the truth came out. Reports showing a link between thiomersal and autism began appearing in journals like Experimental Biology and Medicine (see this study) and Developmental Neurorehabilitation (this study). In Geier and Geier's report in Exp Biol Med (June 2003) Vol. 228 No. 6, 660-664, we find a remarkable statement:
We were initially highly skeptical that differences in the concentrations of thimerosal in vaccines would have any effect on the incidence rate of neurodevelopmental disorders after childhood immunization. This study presents the first epidemiologic evidence, based upon tens of millions of doses of vaccine administered in the United States, that associates increasing thimerosal from vaccines with neurodevelopmental disorders.
It's worse than that, though. This top secret internal CDC document tells the results of CDC's own unpublished study on the link between thiomersal and neurological disorders in children. (N = 76509. A very large population of "study subjects.") Remarkably, it contains a graph of the dose-response curve for thiomersal and autism. That's right. The association between thiomersal and autism is not only real, it has a straightforward correlation to dosage.

As a government agency charged with protecting public safety, you'd think the Centers for Disease Control would've immediately blown the whistle on the vaccine-makers, or at least called for a halt to thiomersal's use pending further investigation. It did no such thing. CDC kept a lid on its internal study and instead published work showing "no consistent significant associations" between thiomersal and "neurodevelopmental outcomes." (As it happens, the lead author on CDC's published study, Thomas Verstraeten, was also the author of the covered-up internal study. After the "public" study was published, Verstraeten left CDC to work for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes DTaP vaccines Pediarix, Infanrix, and Kenrix, plus the influenza vaccine FluLaval, which is known to contain thiomersal. Details of this unseemly story can be found here. Interested readers will also want to look into details of the 2000 Simpsonwood CDC conference.)

Meanwhile, some of the earlier research showing no connection between thiomersal and autism has (not surprisingly) been called into question. By the same token, anti-thiomersal research by the Geiers (who as professional "expert witnesses" have a huge financial stake in this matter) has also been called into question. But the Geiers (and CDC) are not the only ones to have found a link between thiomersal and autism. See this 2009 study as well as this article on CDC's data manipulation efforts. Also read this 2011 article and draw your own conclusions about the objectivity of scientific researchers in this area.

I should add that by CDC's own admission, vaccines of all kinds are, to this day, allowed to contain (and many do contain) egg proteins, aluminum salts, thiomersal (present in many flu vaccines, interestingly), formaldehyde, and MSG. If you were wondering why people get headaches 5% to 40% of the time (depending on the vaccine) after being vaccinated for something, now you know.

Thiomersal (aka thimerosal)
Is this the end of the story? Not really. The rise in autism has been so sharp, for so long, that thiomersal alone probably can't explain the statistics. But we know that infants, because their brains are fast-growing and because their blood-brain-barrier is poorly developed, are far more sensitive to neurotoxins (like lead and mercury) than older children. The notion that any amount of mercury should be allowed in children's vaccines is outrageous.

Speaking for myself, I would never knowingly give a child of mine a vaccine containing mercury, even if there were no links to autism. (The fact that there are still doctors out there arguing in favor of putting mercury in vaccines is astonishing. See also "Thimerosal to Return to Vaccines?", published 15 Feb 2013.)

We should be asking: Are diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis such serious health hazards that we need to be giving 6-week-old babies DTaP shots? (Six weeks is the accepted starting point for giving the first of several DTaP shots. Some doctors recommend infants get four doses in their first year. According to CDC: "The fourth dose may be administered as early as age 12 months, provided at least 6 months have elapsed since the third dose.")  

What can you do if you suspect your child suffered an adverse effect (autism or something else) following vaccination? You can file a claim with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This program exists for the specific purpose of providing compensation to children who've suffered serious adverse effects from any childhood vaccine. The compensation covers medical and related expenses, lost future income, and up to $250,000 for pain and suffering. The average payout is $850,000, and don't worry, Republicans, it's fully funded by vaccination customers themselves, who pay an extra 75 cents per vaccine for this protection. Not that any amount of "compensation" will give a brain-damaged child, or the child's parents, their lives back.

So now we know. Autism might never be totally preventable. And thiomersal probably can't account for 100% of the 50-fold increase in autism over the past 40 years. (Some of it can be accounted for by psychiatric medications. See tomorrow's post.) But a good start in preventing autism is to protect your child from heavy metals, especially mercury (and especially before the age of four). And: do your own research on subjects like this. The medical industry has shown that it can't be trusted.

Further Reading

Autism and Vaccines around the World: Vaccine Schedules, Autism Rates, and Under 5 Mortality, Generation Rescue, Inc. (2009)

Aluminum in Vaccines: What You Should Know, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2012). Note: Amazingly, this report says it's perfectly okay to have 4 mg of aluminum injected into your infant in the first six months of life.

Thimerosal Content in Some US Licensed Vaccines (Updated 2 May 2012).

Note: If you found this blog useful, please publicize it via your favorite social (or other) medium. Permission is given in advance for you to quote any part of this post at length. Thank you!


  1. I'm not able to go through all of your sources here due to time constraints, but let me point to a couple flaws with the use of the CDC memo...

    While N=75K or so, the number of actual cases of Autism is just 67. My statistics are a bit rusty, but that's a lot less convincing. Furthermore, they say, right on page seven, that the increase in Autism incidences is not statistically significant. If that's the 'top-secret' assertion you're relying on, things are looking pretty shaky.

    But most importantly, there's no mention of the procedure; this could be a non-blind trial, and as parents like to know what vaccines their children get, it's almost certainly not double-blind, and with n=66 diagnoses, it doesn't take much for these things to affect results.

    You then go on to cite sources such as the Geiers, who even you acknowledge are biased here, and "Gaia Health," an alternative medicine conspiracy site that alleges, among other things, that homeopathy is a reasonable treatment for arsenic poisoning. See:

    I can't check all of your sources, because I don't have the proper journal subscriptions, but with the ones I've seen so divorced from being convincing, and scientific consensus leaning the other way, with no rational explanation for the alleged causation given, I'm inclined to say it's crap. I can only recommend that, for the sake of the public health, you take your piece down. I know how easy it is to get sucked into this stuff, but you should take a step back, and reevaluate whether the sources you're relying on are all that trustworthy.

    1. So let me get this straight. After not reading the sources (by your own admission), and without citing your own credentials, and maybe without any experience as a parent (I'm guessing; correct me if I'm wrong), you suddenly feel you're knowledgeable enough to tell me this post should be taken down? Just because you're "inclined" to say "it's crap"? Why don't you go do some research, go talk to some autism families, have a child of your own (go through the whole vaccination thing yourself), and maybe get a couple degrees in the biological sciences (as I have), then come back and tell me your opinion, and then I'll tell you my opinion of your opinion.

    2. Sounds like an excellent idea, Mr. Thomas. I'd do it myself, but this fine group of MD's and PhD's have already done most of the leg work for us:

      I get that this is an often emotionally charged topic for folks, and can especially sympathize with parents of autistic children. They (you?) want something to explain why this bad thing has happened to their children; that's an understandably human reaction, but it's not automatically a rational one.

      Unfortunately, this leads certain folks to prey on these powerful emotions and push an irrational, unsupported, and unscientific agenda. I won't pretend to understand why these folks do this (some are clearly charlatans, but most, I'm sure, are simply trying to do what they believe is right, regardless of how wrong they are). Personally, I'd ignore them if their propaganda wasn't doing real -- even lethal -- harm to those who are too young, or too sick, to be vaccinated themselves.

      That, IMO, is unconscionable.

    3. Kas, I've read several of your sources. That is to say, I spot-checked them, or at least the ones not behind journal walls. I didn't check all of your sources because of the limits on my time, and journal access, but of the ones I did check, I found them universally to be unconvincing, for reasons I've listed above.

      You are correct in asserting my lack of experience as a parent, and my lack of degrees in the biological sciences, but I have extensive experience talking to people with autism and their families. As I respect your degrees in the biological sciences, while my last paragraph may have seemed to be presumptuous, I was simply wondering if you could address the methodological and statistical issues I inquired about regarding the CDC study as grounds for claiming that their claims of "no consistent significant associations between thiomersal and neurodevelopmental outcomes" was bunk.

      Considering that this was a single study with a trend on autism that is acknowledged as being statistically insignificant, I was curious as to why this study is notable, when say, , which argues essentially the same thing that I have, and was written by people who, unlike myself, have degrees in the biological sciences, is not. I write this not as an accusation of bias or stupidity, but because I expect that, as a credentialed and highly literate person in the field, you would surely be able to explain how I might have misinterpreted those of your sources which I have looked into.

  2. Anonymous5:42 AM

    Doesn't the graph suggest that the increase in autism is do to some change in 1995-99, not 1980s?

  3. Maybe you'd prefer this graph:

  4. Here's another theory with little scientific evidence to support it that is nevertheless plausible. The good thing about trying the treatment suggested here is that it has zero negative impact on health, and may prevent or cure many other problems if tried.

    1. I agree with your carefully chosen wording here and your comment, all the way around.

  5. I was totally buying into this until the writer pointed out that he's a democrat when he insulted Republicans by implying that the only thing they are worried about is how the lawsuits will be funded. Now I'm not really sure I can believe what he's written.

    1. Personally, I like to believe or not believe what someone has written based on the references cited and the bulk of the factual evidence, rather than who the author voted for.

    2. Yeah, I used to think that way too. I'm older and wiser now.

  6. My understanding is that they haven't used Thiomersal in vaccinnes for a long time. Also we diagnose autism at much lower levels than in previous generations. People who may have been labeled as "quirky" in the 1950s are now diagnosed with mild autism. We also diagnose depression at a much higher rate than ever before.

    1. I think diagnostic efficiency can account for some of the rise. Also, the criteria for inclusion in Autism Spectrum Disorders have been widened, allowing more people to be brought into the diagnosis. This inflates the numbers too. I agree with this article in Nature -- -- that says heightened awareness and diagnostic vigilance can account for some of the rise but not all.

  7. Anonymous11:49 AM

    I think another explanation for part of the problem is nutrition: poor maternal nutrition and conditions such as the gene MTHFR which results in reduced ability to absorb folate.

    When inoculated, the infant is attempting to create new cells to identify and fight the diseases inoculated against. This requires adequate folate because, of course, folate is essential for DNA synthesis. I'm not sure exactly what would happen in an individual with low folate but I suspect that this causes problems for the immune system in dealing with the infection process.

    Perhaps you've got a better idea what might be going wrong?

  8. Autism is very complicated and multifactorial...... People shout it's caused by vaccines, mercury, gut bacteria, environmental toxins, genetics, MTHFR SNP's etc..... might be all of the above in susceptible individuals


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