Hand me down clothes for the “mercury causes autism” mannequin

Back in early August Swinburne University of Technology published an astonishing media release.

Australian research finds autism risk

Date posted: 9 Aug 2011

A family history of pink disease is a significant risk factor for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research from Swinburne University of Technology has found.

The results of the study, conducted by Associate Professor David Austin and Ms Kerrie Shandley from the Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative (SABRI), have been published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Pink disease was a form of mercury poisoning prevalent in the first half of the 20th century. [….] When mercury was identified as the culprit and removed as an ingredient in teething powders in the 1950s, the disease was essentially wiped out. […]

“Staggeringly, we found that one in 25 grandchildren of pink disease survivors aged 6-12 had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This compares to the current Australian prevalence rate for that age group of one in 160. […] In the meantime, Austin suggests those with a suspected family history of pink disease to minimise their exposure to mercury. This is particularly important for young children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

“This can be done by observing the recommendations of Food Standards Australia regarding seafood consumption, opting for non-amalgam dental fillings and requesting preservative-free vaccines from your doctor,” he said.

“Staggeringly”! I hope you got that. By what mechanism I wondered? That was absolutely crucial. Huge toxic loads of mercury caused Pink disease (acrodynia). Thimerosal is ethylmercury rapidly removed from the body, monitored to the nth degree to ensure safe exposure. Teething powders contained 65,000 micrograms per dose of mercurous chloride which decomposed into elemental mercury and poisonous mercuric chloride on exposure to sunlight.

Thousands of children died – between 10 and 33% of cases. Yet not all exposed children suffered acrodynia – it was a minority of 0.2%. Are they thus suggesting a pre-existing inherited genetic susceptibility or susceptibility brought on by acrodynia, which was known to cause infertility? How did parents of children in the Swinburne study fare, in view of other studies linking high maternal exposure to mercury to autism in offspring? How robust was the data collation?

Kerrie Shandley and David W. Austin return to The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health to publish Ancestry of Pink Disease (Infantile Acrodynia) Identified as a Risk Factor for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Yes, that Journal of Toxicology…. The one that provides succour to Dr. Mark Geier of chemical castration and misdiagnosis fame in his “ASD Centers” across eight USA states. In 2007 the journal published A Case Series of Children with Apparent Mercury Toxic Encephalopathies Manifesting with Clinical Symptoms of Regressive Autistic Disorders by the infamous father and son team of, to say the least, dubious reputation. Geier senior is presently watching as his medical licence is suspended in consecutive US states.

We can learn quite a bit of these author’s intentions, hence the quality of research, simply by checking their track record. In 2008 Shandley and Austin published An Investigation of Porphyrinuria in Australian Children. They leap straight into citing from known offenders perpetuating the mercury-autism link – Geier and Geier, Nataf et al., Bernard et al., Mutter et al., – in the abstract claiming;

These (atypical urinary porphyrin profiles in children with an autism spectrum disorder) serve as an indirect measure of environmental toxicity generally, and mercury (Hg) toxicity specifically, with the latter being a variable proposed as a causal mechanism of ASD…. To examine whether this phenomenon occurred in a sample of Australian children with ASD, an analysis of urinary porphyrin profiles was conducted. [….] Three independent studies from three continents have now demonstrated that porphyrinuria is concomitant with ASD, and that Hg may be a likely xenobiotic to produce porphyrin profiles of this nature.

The discussion is far more circumspect about this correlation [italics mine], despite the authoritative recommendation [in my bold];

 Furthermore, this study provides further evidence suggestive of an environmental toxicant variable, consistent with Hg, contributing to the maintenance, and possibly development, of ASD.

Given the consistency of the emerging research, health authorities worldwide need to move without delay to further elucidate the specific nature of the toxic insult.

The bibliography is rather short but as well as the above includes Edward Yazbak, Mark Blaxill – editor from Age of Autism – and Sally Bernard et al.’s Autism: a novel form of poisoning from Medical Hypotheses 2001. It’s a Who’s Who of vaccines cause autism mythology whose work is featured by Generation Rescue, The Australian Vaccination Network, Age of Autism and their ilk. Shandley and Austin write erroneously, citing Yazbak, that autism [the disease – not the diagnosis frequency] is “increasing at epidemic rates” then cite Blaxill et al, arguing it;

…. cannot be accounted for by changing diagnostic criteria or improved diagnostic systems

In fact changing criteria has been proposed for years by many paediatricians including Gillian Baird and quantified recently by Brugha et al, who used current diagnostic criteria to uncover a population of autistic adults only 2% smaller than the child population. However, whilst porphyrinuria may indicate environmental exposure to heavy metals including lead and mercury other studies have shown correlation to autism and not Aspergers. Yet this heavy metal/autism mechanism, and what it exactly means is even less certain.

Porphyrins are oxidised byproducts that have “escaped” the heme biosynthetic pathway. We expect to see elevated levels in the urine of elderly, nutritionally deficient, regularly medicated and physiologically distressed individuals. The body can generally physiologically manage toxic build up. Hepatic and renal pathways of elimination serve as detoxification routes for the body. Porphyrinuria heralds a drop in efficacy of biosynthesis or environmental toxic exposure.

If the autistic sample is not recently exposed to environmental toxicity – or as the authors may argue, mercury – then we have to accept compromised biosynthesis. Whether this is due to autism, which does accompany a range of physiological challenges, or whether compromised biosynthesis indicated by porphyrinuria is contributing to autism, is unknown. It’s worth noting that enzymatic and physiological abnormality at the molecular level has been hypothesised as contributing to hypo’ and hypersensitivity in autism. The pathophysiology of autism sufferers is extensive and well documented. The angle Shandley and Austin take is the dramatic call to discover the nature of the “toxic insult” potentially causing ASD. Reading between the lines, and all academic company considered, that “toxic insult” is mercury in vaccines.

This is brought home strongly by Austin’s lone foray the same year in The International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. An epidemiological analysis of the ‘autism as mercury poisoning’ hypothesis, is a scruffy 11 point synopsis concluding that mercury does indeed cause autism. In point 9, he addresses “Mercury levels are higher in autistic than non-autistic children”. He argues that the “causal” hypothesis would suggest that mercury levels would be higher in autistic children. Of course, that’s just what we find chopping into this straw man. Nataf et al., Geier and Geier, Bradstreet and Geier et al., make up three references. The fourth is DeSoto and Hitlan who court ample controversy not least for citing Geier and Geier excessively.

He notes that either mercury causes autism or autism causes mercury. The second notion being “patently nonsensical” and unsupported by literature. Which is unusual because with the cause of autism unknown and the many times exposure to mercury has been ruled out the same could be said of the first notion. We do know that biologically, neurologically and physiologically autistic individuals face many hurdles, and as I suggest above biosynthetic dynamics can’t be ruled out or in.

I was treated once again to a fallacy I’ve had shoved at me in other areas in public health in which robust data indicate no causation between variables. A type of “better to be safe than sorry”, usually proffered by those bent on ideology. Austin here hijacks the “Precautionary Principle (‘First, do no harm’)” as point 10;

The science behind the autism as mercury poisoning hypothesis meets all epidemiological criteria across too many independent studies to be dismissed as coincidence. So, the hypothesis that mercury likely causes autism is confirmed epidemiologically.

He also rewrites history on Pink Disease in point 9, by suggesting that “despite limited evidence” mercury containing compounds were recalled. This is nonsense. Fierce resistance to accepting mercury poisoning was the norm with medical focus being on a physiological cause. It’s argued the mercury hypothesis gained stronger ground only when opponents “became old and disappeared from the scene”. Gaining credibility via attrition of opposition is not application of the precautionary principle. Austin here is exposed as deceptive, misleading readers for his own purposes.

He concludes his plunge from the windowsill of academic integrity with;

The existing literature provides grounds for suspicion that mercury plays a causal role in the development of autism. [….] …it would be negligent to continue to expose pregnant and nursing mothers and infant children to any amount of avoidable mercury. Health authorities worldwide should move without hesitation to ban and remove all mercury in all medical products at the earliest possible date.

Again with the dramatic calls. Where is this mercury really coming from? Ethylmercury or methylmercury in the diet, pre-term maternal diet, breast feeding or toxic exposure? We can infer with a good deal of accuracy he alludes to thimerosal in vaccines. It’s a shocking paper without even an acknowledgement of the impact of changing diagnostic criteria. The bibliography continues to fail with Boyd Haley, who pops up twice, Mark Blaxill again along with another showing from Sally Bernard. Indeed the “epidemiological analysis” of “existing literature” is a predetermined collation of biased and discredited publications.

Still, we can now return to the most recent paper with a clear understanding of these authors’ predetermined agenda.

To begin with they wheel out all the veteran offending authors, including their previous work to make the case there’s a relationship between mercury and autism. Well, third time lucky just doesn’t apply here. In the tradition of discerning character from the company one keeps, I think we can indeed confirm intention from citations. From the abstract they propose susceptibility and genetic predisposition to explain the small subset of Pink disease sufferers and of autism diagnoses today;

Pink disease (infantile acrodynia) was especially prevalent in the first half of the 20th century. Primarily attributed to exposure to mercury (Hg) commonly found in teething powders, the condition was developed by approximately 1 in 500 exposed children. The differential risk factor was identified as an idiosyncratic sensitivity to Hg. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have also been postulated to be produced by Hg. Analogous to the pink disease experience, Hg exposure is widespread yet only a fraction of exposed children develop an ASD, suggesting sensitivity to Hg may also be present in children with an ASD. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that individuals with a known hypersensitivity to Hg (pink disease survivors) may be more likely to have descendants with an ASD.

Fair enough. Yet as we’ll see both the genetic component and the exposure to mercury in subsequent generations is unconvincing. Besides, where might this mercury today be coming from?

Mercury contained in vaccines (as a preservative under the tradename Merthiolate, but more commonly known as thiomersal/thimerosal), dental amalgams (silver fillings), seafood, and the atmosphere is argued to be the primary set of sources of Hg exposure for infants both in utero and in their early years.

Well that’s pretty clear. Small children awaiting first or second teeth won’t be worrying about dental filings. Big Atmosphere is here to stay and dietary sources are by choice. In short the only tantrum one need throw is over vaccines. They continue firming the dual hypothesis of susceptibility and exposure to mercury;

… the Hg-autism hypothesis is, in reality, a two-part hypothesis that states that Hg exposure combined with a genetic/physiological sensitivity to Hg or a predisposition to impaired Hg excretion capacity leads to a chronic elevation of Hg in the brain and body.

The purpose of the present study was to test the Hg-autism hypothesis. If the hypothesis is indeed correct, and a sensitivity to Hg is heritable (genetic), the prevalence of ASD among the descendants of a cohort confirmed as having a hypersensitivity to Hg (pink disease survivors) should be higher than a comparable general population prevalence.

Results were reported in the media release and in Fairfax: Mercury poison linked to autism. We can also check back to the abstract for a more telling summary;

Five hundred and twenty-two participants who had previously been diagnosed with pink disease completed a survey on the health outcomes of their descendants. The prevalence rates of ASD and a variety of other clinical conditions diagnosed in childhood (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, Fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome) were compared to well-established general population prevalence rates. The results showed the prevalence rate of ASD among the grandchildren of pink disease survivors (1 in 25) to be significantly higher than the comparable general population prevalence rate (1 in 160). The results support the hypothesis that Hg sensitivity may be a heritable/genetic risk factor for ASD.

The most telling flaw is the efforts gone to in constructing the apparent genetic susceptibility to mercury leading to autism in grandchildren of acrodynia sufferers.

As identified earlier, numerous studies demonstrated a relationship between ASD and Hg. Our results suggest that this variable may have a heritable component and therefore, of course, a genetic basis. What our results do not do, however, is enable an understanding of the degree to which the susceptibility is inheritable and the mechanism by which this may occur.

Firstly if there’s a genetic component, why did the grandparents – and indeed the entire cohort of acrodynia children – not show prominent autism diagnoses. Secondly, how did the parents of the children escape autism? They lived in an era of mercury in house paint, mercury compounds in worming treatments, mercurochrome was a standard in First Aid kits – then suddenly vanished, industrial waste spilled into local rivers where kids regularly swam as standards of control were far more lax and mercury was used in the manufacturing of more products.

In short the parents with the same, “…heritable component and therefore, of course, a genetic basis”, were exposed to much more environmental mercury. Yet they emerge unscathed. Surely we should be seeing a reduction in ASD. Each subsequent generation is exposed to less mercury and the genetic component is halved. Unless there’s some incredible generational leap. Yet the authors themselves answer my initial question on mechanism – it’s unknown – and can offer no insight into the degree of genetic susceptibility.

So we must examine data collation. A survey completed by 522 infantile acrondyia sufferers. Self reporting data is perhaps the least reliable source of data in the absence of correction or follow up. In this case to correct for response bias it was crucial to chase up each and every one of the 522 respondents grandchildren to confirm that yes, they meet Australia’s criteria for autistic diagnosis. After all the authors are using the 1 in 160 frequency figure gained this way to claim “a six times higher” prevalence. The problem of perceived but undiagnosed autistic disorders may be impacting on results.

But they didn’t do this. The Age reports;

The authors said although they did not validate the autism diagnoses provided by the survivors in the surveys their study added to mounting evidence of a link between genetics, mercury sensitivity and autism spectrum disorders.

“The authors said”, eh? Right. It’s not as if they’re biased or anything – just look at their body of work. This emerging train wreck gets worse in that they likely promoted response bias. The study was advertised on the Pink Disease Support Group site. Yet the author’s write;

In order to minimize response bias, the true purpose of the study was not included on recruitment materials sent out to potential participants; instead, recruitment materials indicated that the purpose of the study was to investigate the general health outcomes of the descendants of pink disease survivors.

All up 23% of surveys were returned. What of the other 77%? Perhaps they had no descendants with health problems and thus were not motivated. Members of this support group with ill descendants are far more likely to respond, if not initially being prompted to join for the very reason the authors favour. Surely this “mounting evidence” would reach the ears of many Pink disease survivors. It’s even more likely those with autistic descendants would know of the hysteria over mercury in vaccines and thus reply, skewing results.

It is in fact arguable that some members of PDSG with autistic descendants – or who perceive they have autistic descendants, or have been told – gravitated toward membership because of the wide coverage of mercury being linked to autism. This point is just as likely as the supposed “six times higher” frequency rate. In truth we just don’t know. This is bad science that merely postulates a hand-me-down trick to breathe more life into the “mercury causes autism” corpse.

So in conclusion, we have two highly biased authors with a well documented track record of being unable to source reputable and bipartisan material on the issue of mercury and autism. They have a demonstrated propensity to argue against thimerosal in vaccines and immerse themselves in research and writing that we can only describe as being fringe or by known crackpots. David Austin in particular has previously written deceptive rubbish and aligned himself with known culprits in perpetuating known myths.

Shandley and Austin have a demonstrable predetermined agenda. Together they’ve come up with an appalling hypothesis because of this yet continue to cite these same biased sources. Their methodology is fatally flawed. Their conclusions are bordering on the absurd as they fail to justify the degree or mechanism of their observation which is based on unreliable data. To battle through this mess they cite over and again the same disreputable sources, which does not strengthen their argument. No dissenting citations are presented and challenged. They have published in a journal of dubious integrity and made public claims that remain scientifically unsubstantiated.

What.A.Mess. There’s nothing to see here – move along, move along.

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Newtown Community Chiropractic: referencing rubbish

I’m good at knowing how to read a research article, and knowing whether it’s viable or not. I’m also good at collecting a lot of research. This vaccine topic I update every single week. So what we’re looking at is new as of yesterday morning.

Nimrod Weiner. Antivaccination Presentation recorded by AMA

Nimrod Weiner, anti-vaccination lobbyist and chiropractor from Newtown Community Chiropractic went into overdrive deleting and editing his online rubbish last week.

This followed a report in The Australian expressing valid concerns that a so-called health professional would be actively spreading demonstrable untruths about the safety of vaccination. In the opening of his talk on the audio recorded by AMA members, Weiner talks of his unique skill and superior position due to his reading of research. I’ll get to that. Yet, he also talks of the presentation “being about the best possible result” for participants. He’s going to challenge long held paradigms and “help you get through that”. To “look at the science…”.

The Nimroddery that Weiner presented is indeed due to his unique reading habits. Thanks to intrepid observers* of recent developments his ancient, cobwebbed “bibliography” of long debunked hysteria is below. Unwittingly accepting the advice I often give to all antivaccination advocates and general enemies of health science –  If it’s peer review, it’s not for you – Weiner has cobbled together some beauties. Exactly how anyone who makes money from government subsidies, Medicare and insurance underwriters can knowingly go forth and spread this tripe is simply outrageous.

What I’ve done for your reading ease dear easygoing reader, is highlight in yellow all the references we may quaintly label as pure garbage. Some of these such as Every second child and How to raise a healthy child in spite of your doctor are well known crackpot bibles. Not only antivaccination but anti-medicine and/or medical practice. That magnet for all things ridiculous, and creator of it’s own law, Whale.to lists Every Second Child. In part we read;

His experience showed that after being immunized, some of the animals died suddenly within 24 hours.  These deaths had been attributed to anaphylaxis…. I suggested that vitamin C deficiency was the cause.  Like primates they required it in their diet. […]

The importance of this discovery can hardly be stressed.  In Australia and all over the world, infants were being immunised.  Those whose vitamin C status was low were at risk.  here, at last, was experimental evidence that supported my claims that stepping up immunisation campaigns among Aboriginal infants increased the death rate.

You may know of the book. Cited often as proving vaccination seeks to purposely kill, it resurfaced recently here and there in defence of Viera Scheibner following a 60 Minutes episode espousing her wisdom, Getting the point. Of course we should remember Scopie’s law when we speak of whale.to. From Rational Wiki;

In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.

Whale.to is a website run by Herefordshire pig farmer John Scudamore. It is a notorious dumping ground for all things pseudoscientific… as well as a few other things. Like the complete text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, documentations of Illuminati mind control plots, and articles about the Catholic world conspiracy. It contains every (and we do mean every) half-baked pseudoscientific theory ever concocted.

Shockingly, it was used as a source by the plaintiffs in the Autism omnibus trial, and it has seen increasing use as a “source” by anti-vaccinationists and propagators of the vaccine-autism connection.

Again Scopie’s Law is shown to be valid. Weiner indeed loses on many levels and should really have been laughed out of the room. I’ve popped a red square over the number signifying an Australian Vaccination Network publication offered as a reference. The circle around number 11 is a special award for Wilson’s Vaccination and Behavioural Disorders: a review of the controversy, just for emerging from Lismore and being in disgraceful company.

You can find this nonsense along with other “related books” that Weiner has on his exceptionally biased bibliography. All on the one page of conspiracy and hysterically themed books on the internet. I think we can guess at Weiner’s researching skills and professional objectivity just from this one observation. As for updated information?

  • Every Second Child was published in 1981
  • How to raise your child… in 1983.
  • A shot in the dark, by Barbara Loe Fisher and Harris Coulter – 1991
  • Vaccination, social violence and criminality: The Medical Assault on the American Brain, by harris Coulter – 1990
  • Vaccination: 100 years of orthodox research shows that vaccines represent a medical assault on the immune system, by Viera Scheibner – 1993

There’s also In the wake of vaccines, by Barbara Loe Fisher and cited on whale.to by Nimrod Weiner – 2004. Yet the real herp derp kicks in with the citing of Informed Choice magazine, Wellbeing magazine, International Wellbeing and of course citations from Chiropractic Leadership Alliance.

Most of this misinformation is over a decade old, with some up to thirty. The AVN now push Living Wisdom. Before that it was Informed Voice and before that Informed Choice (the latter change in August 2006). Weiner only quotes from Informed Choice – defunct seven years ago.

Just how long has Weiner been sabotaging community health one may wonder? Without even updating his woo? Yet he begins his attack on vaccination efficacy and safety by telling his audience how well read he is. He sits on two boards – so it’s his business to read huge amounts of information.

“I sit on the spinal research foundation board. What that means is, everyday I’m reading a lot of research articles”. Weiner argues that he’s been “studying vaccination for hundreds of hours”. Whilst this makes him a lazy hobbyist, it’s worse to find he’s not studying at all. It’s like a psychologist boasting of research only to be found out reading New Idea.

Wellbeing magazine is another depository for anything irrational, non toxic and “natural”. Ditto International Wellbeing. He only cites antivaccination material. One stunner is the thrice listed AVN’s 1998 offence entitled, Vaccination Roulette; Experiences, Risks and Alternatives. 

All up we have;

  • 26 yellow highlights of discredited and dangerous misinformation, including…
  • 11 direct AVN references from non proven or reviewed magazine articles aiming to provoke fear, ignorance and hysteria
  • “Wellbeing” magazine articles
  • 2 Viera Scheibner references discredited across the globe
  • 6 notably unscientific book references of conspiracy theory proportion
  • whale.to
  • Mercola
  • Super Baby: Boost your Babyʼ s Potential from Conception to Year 1, 1998
  • And more…

Certainly Weiner does list a handful of actual journal articles but these have not been selected as balance to the insulting rubbish from the AVN, or to defend vaccination. Calmly exploiting the reality that vaccine science is not perfect, and that unlike chiropractic, medical professionals do report, research and strive to overcome adverse reactions. Australian government publications are there to back up his misinformation that they try to hide vaccine reactions.

His advice, in this era of pertussis epidemics and rising measles cases resulting in death and disability? Slide 82 from Weiner’s presentation, suggests;

Delay starting the vaccinations for as long as you can. A minimum of 12 months is favourable while a minimum of two or more years may be more beneficial… Ask for mercury free vaccines (they will still contain other toxic chemicals: formaldehyde, aluminium, antibiotics)

Nimrod Weiners bibliography for Vaccinations: An Informed Choice

*Thanks to @DrRachie for finding the references.

Child Health Safety: The Wakettes arise

I mentioned the blog Child Health Safety last post, alluding to Wakettism of the first order.

I recently commented under the post Wakefield and MMR – Brian Deer fails to answer. Apparently my observations deserved an entire blog post, headed Autism Figures – Existing Studies Show Shocking Real Increase Since 1988. This was copied and pasted back as a reply ignoring the content of my comment. The thrust was to debunk my claim of no real autism epidemic. I’d used Brugha et al. “Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults in the Community in England.” Archives of General Psychiatry  –  doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.38. This paper uses today’s diagnostic criteria and shows adults have autism at a rate of 9.8/1000 in adults.

Today’s rate is difficult to ascertain, but can be 10/1600 to 10/1000 in children. The latter is the more common – 1%, although this is probably high given other estimates. Brugha concludes no epidemic exists, but that diagnostic criteria has changed, suggesting he alludes to the 10/1000 figure. Many who point to large scale increases also support the reality of changing diagnostic criteria. Brugha’s paper is discussed here on Ars Technica, Autism Epidemic? More likely we’re just better at diagnosis which also uses the 10/1000 – or 1% figure today. Other publications discuss the findings: “Most adults with autism go undiagnosed” AlphaGalileo. “University of Leicester researchers present further evidence from first ever general population survey of autism in adulthood.” Disabled World

Our Wakette at Child Health Safety is claiming a 1200% increase in autism frequency in eight years. He chose an Israeli study – as is plain if you read his post above, with 0.84 cases per 1000 – Advancing Paternal Age and Autism by Reichenberg et al. Then he uses Baird’s well known figure of 11.6/1000 to get his 1200% increase. Just one lone paper no doubt chosen to sustain this 1200% increase claim. The three variables impacting on frequency are criteria, age of cohort and geographical location. Age and location impact on our friends mythical 1200%.

So, over to this new post I went. Now, you may wonder what the relevance of a comment stream is. However, I found this typical of antivaccination lobbyists particularly those who seek to maintain the autism myth. I’ve always wondered what made the crackpots behind this site tick. They have “secrets” on Wakefield. Brian Deer and the BMJ are the real fraudsters. “Governments” have been exposed. Typical conspiracy central meanderings.

Rather than address the clear challenges we find a challenging tone and combative presentation. Combined with false dichotomies by association, censoring of comments by deletion then eventual banning. I actually began by apologising below for sending them off in a huff. One comment (under a piece defending Wakefield) that nailed them left them pleading inability to understand. Anyway, I commented;

I’m sorry but you’re markedly in error.

You quote Reichenberg et al’s Israeli study from the Archives of General Psychiatry to “set a benchmark”, which you then compare to Baird’s UK figures. Yes both use DSM IV. But the genetic and environmental differences in two races/nations present challenges to your theory. No offence but you can’t just make up relationships between unrelated data sets without correcting for other variables. You need to show statistically why the individual sets relate to your argument. This is a common flaw. Genetics, environment, parental education and rearing techniques… etc.

Still, let’s go with it. 8.4:10,000 or 0.84 per 1000. Then Baird’s UK figures of 116.1:10,000 or 11.6 per 1000. From this you argue a 1200% increase insinuating vaccination. Yet Baird had written.

“Whether the increase is due to better ascertainment, broadening diagnostic criteria, or increased incidence is unclear.”

Thus, you make conclusions from Baird’s work that even he did not. I shall argue you selected the lone Israeli paper for it’s dramatic impact. Now onto research that seeks to determine if any increase at all has occurred. We can stay in the UK eliminating the genetic and environmental confounding variables of Israel data. Let’s examine adults using the same diagnostic criteria.

Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults in the Community in England – Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(5):459-465. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.38

We find 9.8 per 1000 (95% confidence interval, 3.0-16.5). The author’s write:

“The prevalence of ASD in this population is similar to that found in children. The lack of an association with age is consistent with there having been no increase in prevalence and with its causes being temporally constant.”

It’s documented by Baird that younger children – indeed younger subjects often have a higher score in diagnosis. Using this reality we expect to see significant decreases in adults. But we have Baird’s 11.6 and Brugha’s 9.8 per 1000. Given the approximation of these figures using today’s diagnostic criteria and the huge age difference one may assume autism is falling as we’d expect to see a much lower rate in adults. More so, in 2003 Baird himself writes in Diagnosis of autism – BMJ;

“… several factors account for the increase–for example, changing conceptualisation to a spectrum rather than a core categorical condition; changes in diagnostic methods; …”

That’s probably enough. Although consider:

1 in 150 (1988-1995; Bertrand et al., 2001)
1 in 175 (1990-1991; Baird et al., 2000)
1 in 85 (1990-1991; Baird et al., 2006)
1 in 150 (1992; ADDMN, 2007)
1 in 160 (1992-1995; Chakrabarti & Fombonne, 2001)
1 in 150 (1994; ADDMN, 2007)
1 in 58 (1993-1997; not published)
1 in 170 (1996-1998; Chakrabarti & Fombonne, 2005)

– which is markedly inconsistent with the myth of an epidemic. it is consistent with methodology. Selecting data to suit your argument will not change reality.

I apologise for having such fun with your bag of errors. It was an appalling reply and a ridiculous blog post however. The above post is very plain in showing that you’re inventing a phenomena not supported by research nor even by Baird himself. Autism rates have not changed. Diagnosis has. A decrease is most likely.

Thank you.

And;

Your comment in blue above:

We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.

… is meaningless. I stressed this in another comment but you couldn’t answer. Let me be quite plain. Compensation for encephalopathy or general brain disease is due to vaccination. It may be accompanied by…. autism. It may also be accompanied by blue eyes, blonde hair or bad breath. None of these are due to vaccination. This comment is one of many that stress compensation for vaccine induced autism has never occurred. Even Poling had a predetermining mitochondrial disorder.

As I stressed elsewhere. Only reading something like; “This child was compensated due to autism developing directly as a result of vaccination”, will sustain the allusion above. As I said elsewhere, defeating your ability to reply – Even the recent Pace Law school student foray into 21 VCIP cases and over 60 biased phone call interviews offered “it strongly suggests” a link. (Quoting Danielle Orsino media rep).

That paper is “Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A review of compensated cases of vaccine induced brain injury”. But as Orsino says, there’s a “suggestion”. Period.

You contention is demonstrably flawed on many levels.

Thank you.

Apparently no point to answer exists;

Paul @ 2011/08/20 at 2:01 am

I’m sorry but you’re markedly in error.

Really? In an earlier comment elsewhere you drew our attention to the letter in the peer reviewed Journal of the Israeli Medical Association which draws attention to the figures from the Paternal Age paper. Thanks for that. We did not know and have added a reference to this article so it now can draw on authority of a peer reviewed journal.

You seem not to be able to agree with any medical experts. That’s fine. We are letting you let off steam here.

And;

Paul @ 2011/08/20 at 3:02 am

“Your comment in blue above:

We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.

… is meaningless.”

Oh dear. You just cannot trust governments can you? The US Health Resources Services Administration give a quote to a journalist of a national TV news broadcast network confirming the US government has compensated cases of children who developed autistic conditions from vaccines and paid out lots and lots of dollars to them and it turns out to be meaningless.

LOL. Back to the drawing board for everyone.

I replied;

I think you have seen the flaw. That comment is all over the place here. Yep – meaningless.

“Autistic conditions” are not vaccine induced autism. You’re at least changing language – the first step in accepting facts. Sadly, there’s no LOL. I’m glad you think it’s funny. One in 1 million children suffer encephalitis from vaccine reactions. They are compensated as is just. Many have autism. The comment is debunking the very untruth you seek to make.

“…. may be accompanied by an array of symptoms”.

Until you can produce “compensated because of their autism”, you have no case. The facts and government positions are against you. Global research is against you. From ethyl mercury to vaccines to numbers of vaccines no link can be shown.

Accept it.

Thanks again.

Then horror upon horror, they clicked on my URL and delivered;

LOL, Rant on Paul.

We are content to rely on a peer reviewed journal. Thanks for drawing our attention to it – so we could add the link to the article.

You might as well let everyone know you are a friend of Peter Bowditch and the “skeptics” crowd who are happy to victimise and attack people personally on the web, spread misinformation lose legal actions and then claim they have not. Similarly Terry Polevoy – Terry Polevoy vs Ilena Rosenthal.

Birds of a feather flock together. What a lot of flockers.

Those nasty skeptics all linked up like a hive… I tried again;

I thought this was about debating and/or defending the premise of your post?

I think given the tone and lack of substance of your replies, it’s clear I’ve upset your apple cart here. Again I ask that you refute my sources. Eg; Baird 11.6/1000 in 2006 followed by Brugha 10/1000 in 2007 shows a 13.7% decrease in just one year. Why can’t you address this simple reality? The above reply is most unbecomming.

Yes I know of Peter and enjoy the skeptic community. So, you clicked a link to my site. Welcome. I’m ignorant as to the case you refer to or Polevoy. I do know Peter posts everything on his site so is unlikely to spread misinformation. Either way I could be head of GSK yet I still have a valid argument you avoid. No laughing matter. Autism is decreasing if we involve your figure from Baird.

Also, go back to my original comment. You have much work to do. Don’t feel embarrassed – science is all about being proven wrong. No need to turn aggressively defensive. I’m not judgmental.

I await your reply with eagerness.

All the best now.

Next, missing the point of Brugha’s comparison to contemporary childhood figures;

Paul @ August 21, 2011 at 2:04 am

Again I ask that you refute my sources. Eg; Baird 11.6/1000 in 2006 followed by Brugha 10/1000 in 2007 shows a 13.7% decrease in just one year.

Shame you have not read either paper or maybe you have and you know you are talking rubbish. Comparing chalk and cheese just like your mates Bowditch and Polevoy to lie about the facts. Baird was dealing with children. Brugha was dealing with adults. So you are saying the same children Baird covered became adults in one year and 13.7% of them simultaneously were cured.

LOL. Nice one.

Pretty good refutation we think. But then that is just the style of Bowditch, Polevoy and friends.

The old, “tar ’em with the same brush trick”, eh? I continued self flagellating;

I may have been generous with my stats. It’s a 13.79% decrease. My bad… apologies.

Pretty much a 14% decrease in autism in the same nation in one year. Geographic location is a plus. Age is a plus. Criteria is a plus. The 3 variables effecting frequency of autism. You still need to address your “theory” using Israeli data to compare to a different location & age group.

All the best.

Things deteriorated along those lines. More allusion to “Bowditch and Polevoy” and whatever case of which I had no knowledge. Sadly, my dear comment protagonist first began censoring comments that refuted his ongoing claims, then banned me altogether. Perhaps referring to “the awesome Ben Goldacre” was pushing my luck. Back in 2007 he’d written an excellent article. Clearly whomever it is holding the reins at Child Health Safety has a thing about Polevoy and dear Peter Bowditch. He/she/they did have one point. I mentioned Brugha as “citing” the 10/1000 figure of todays frequency vs his adult findings of 9.8/1000. I was in error. Brugha studiously avoids picking any of the many autism frequencies out there today.

Yet Brugha’s 9.8/1000 in adults advanced as showing no change to todays child frequencies of 10/1000 (the widely used 1%) leads me conclude it’s safe to argue with the 10/1000 figure. That’s rather clear in the post deleted but found here. Also Brugha et al. wrote;

The prevalence of ASD in this population is similar to that found in children. The lack of an association with age is consistent with there having been no increase in prevalence and with its causes being temporally constant.

From Alpha Galileo we have;

Dr Brugha said the new scientific article confirms the already published report from the survey (2009) that 9.8 per thousand adults in England meet official diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. There was no evidence of an ‘autism epidemic’ of marked increase in people with the condition.

He said: “Overall our findings suggest that prevalence is neither rising nor falling significantly over time. This favours the interpretation that methods of ascertainment (case finding) have changed in more recent surveys of children compared to the earliest surveys in which the rates reported were considerably lower”.

I could have chosen the 10/1600 figure, rendering Brugha’s finding more compelling. It’s fascinating to consider that adults today may present at 9.8/1000 vs children at as little as 10/1600. Knowing that increases in cohort age correlate to a reduction in frequency diagnoses, and adults have learned many skills that also lower overall score, we’re left to consider an actual drop in autism over the last generation. How wonderful if that were true and perhaps due to the protection from measles induced encephalitis due to MMR vaccination.

In conclusion, this poor author has unwittingly proven my point. Had he shown the courtesy of reading my sources he’d have noted studies devoted to examining the very question, don’t support an epidemic. Had he even read Baird’s papers he’d have seen Baird herself doesn’t claim an absolute increase but stresses causes are unclear and changing diagnostic criteria are a variable. I guess what got up my nose is fishing for an obscure study, comparing it to Baird’s work and using this to conclude there’s a 1200% increase in autism due to vaccination.

Not only is this not repeated anywhere no attempt was made to eliminate confounding variables. No understanding of using unrelated data sets or attempt to justify correlation between them exists. Just a very low figure plucked out and used “as a benchmark”.

Moving away from Baird and Brugha we find a range of diagnostic papers that fail to support the contention of a steady increase. I’ll give the last word to Ben Goldacre from 2007, writing About that surge in autism, in The Autism Crisis;

Autism advocates are free to seek that recent surge in autism–that catastrophic epidemic–in anecdotes, in education numbers or the CDDS, in sensationalist headlines and so on. This is all in keeping with the rotten standards of science and ethics they’ve imposed on autistics, and with their own steadfast resistance against verifiable information. But on the off-chance anyone’s interested in the published, peer-reviewed data, I thought I’d go fetch some. If anyone finds any factual errors in the information I’ve presented, I’d greatly appreciate knowing. Accurate information is always good for autistics.

Indeed.

The Wakettes

As many readers will know there’s been a hysterical spike in attempts to exhume the corpse of the vaccine/autism myth this year. Certainly this has reached fever pitch since Wakefield was expunged from the registrar of humane beings.

Like watching a religion evolve his adherents have been gripped in ecstasy, rejecting evidence for fantasy. I mean, just check out the font size at Dr. Wakefield’s work must continue. You can imagine them living on a small island that time forgot – much like out of a King Kong movie. Dressed only in loin cloths, bodies glistening in the fire light given off by burning effigies of Paul Offit, carrying Wakefield on a sedan chair made of discarded MMR syringes and the bones of dead Pharma executives held together with saliva soaked vaccine package inserts.

You may laugh but it appears this is indeed what has happened. The audio below was captured by intrepid journalists on an off the map Pacific island covered in deep jungle, behind the walls of an ancient stone fortress just as Wakefield was carried past his adoring crowd.

We had the Groundbreaking vaccine-autism investigation, promising to shatter the earth only to fizzle to muffled laughter back in May this year. Despite promises of putting Big Pharma to the rack it emerged that a bunch of Pace Law school students produced “Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A review of compensated cases of vaccine induced brain injury”.

Media spokesperson Danielle Orsino must have felt a goose when all she could muster was that this “strongly suggests” a link. In fact it suggested naught but the reality these unfortunate cultists will continue to manipulate, abuse and obfuscate data whilst lying to the public and exploiting those with autism and their families. Meryl Dorey took the results – debunked 10 days earlier – by the horns turning the meaningless review of 21 VICP cases into “the vaccine court… has paid compensation to hundreds, possibly thousands of families [for autism]” as she lied on air to David and Tanya on 102.9 KOFM last May.

Tanya on KOFM was carelessly querying Dorey about parents who have a child vaccinated, then “… suddenly have an autistic child on their hands….. Fact or fiction?”. “Oh Tanya, I wish I could say it’s fiction but it’s fact”, Dorey lied. Later Tanya argued with David (who to his credit says parents who don’t vaccinate children are selfish), saying to listeners “aren’t you scared with statistics mentioned by Meryl… thousands of cases of autism, ADD, ADHD…”.

The VICP associated court has paid no-one compensation for autism due to vaccination. Hannah Poling herself has an underlying mitochondrial enzyme deficit. Hannah does not have autism. Hannah has encephalitis. Hannah’s parents believe vaccination triggered the encephalitis. Her mitochondrial disorder is documented as causing encephalitis between first and second years of life. Vaccination is not documented as causing autism. The Polings are very lucky the court erred in allowing compensation. One case, and a shocking anomaly it is.

The tragic thing about how easily Tanya was scammed by Dorey is that the “latest figures from the USA” Dorey alluded to came from the above paper. Crucially there’s not one statement to the effect “this child was compensated due to developing autism as a result of vaccination”. Children with autistic like symptoms are compensated quite rightly for demonstrable vaccine injuries. Children with autism who develop encephalitis as a result of vaccination are compensated. These poor children are exploited ruthlessly via the false insinuation there’s causality between the vaccination and autism. Yet I stress again there’s nothing suggesting compensation “because of their autism”.

Like something out of a Wakefield cultists version of Mission Impossible this paper would self-debunk in 10 seconds. Filled with self-serving nonsense such as “acknowledged autism or autism-like symptoms through vaccine induced encephalopathy and seizure disorder”, “settled cases suggesting autism”, “language that strongly suggests autistic features”, “published decisions that used terms related to autism”, “payment of vaccine injured children with autism”, even providing a case table headed, “Language suggesting autism or autistic-like symptoms”. But no, nothing definitive. It was a sham from day one.

Consider this oft’ repeated quote on that dumping ground of all things grossly offensive Child Health Safety. You may have recently read Dorey’s links to this blog claiming that the real fraud was by Brian Deer and the BMJ. Under conspiracy speak headings like “Secret British vaccine files on MMR forced open by legal action” then “read here what will be discovered and more”, we get… nothing. Granted it goes back to January 19, 2011 before the epic failure of May 10th. But we’re told breathlessly this quote is from an email to CBS written by the Health Resources Services Administration of the US.

We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.

I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. As I’ve commented over yon scribe, encephalopathy may be accompanied by blue eyes, blonde hair and bad breath but nor are these linked to vaccination. The statement is clarifying the very lie the author has attempted. Compensation for vaccine induced encephalitis for a child who also has autism, is not compensation for vaccine induced autism. Encephalitis can effect measles sufferers at a rate of at least one in 5,000. MMR vaccination presents a rate of less than one in 1 million. Given the size of the USA, UK and European populations we are going to see large numbers of children with encephalitis following vaccination.

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis hits one in 8,000 children under two with measles. MMR vaccination yields zero cases. Measles causes death in one in 2,500 – 5,000 depending on age. MMR vaccination results in death in zero cases. 15% of SSPE children will die. SSPE can strike at a later age after measles resolves, and is often fatal. Still however, we have people feverishly working to allow these horrific realities to increase. Misinformation and lies are created and fed to people by deluded and insistent miscreants who cannot admit their error. Wakefield’s continued defence is testimony to the misled. But the perpetrators are something altogether more malignant.

So prevalent are people who keep doing this in the face of overwhelming evidence, and so unconscionable are their tactics we really need a new term to describe them. They represent the nadir of intellectual and humane evolution of our species at present, and thus deserve to be recognised. I propose Wakette. 

As in “… well known Wakette, Meryl Dorey wrote a piece on Wakefield’s Kangaroo Court“. Or “… and in other news, over at Child Health Safety we read yet another typical Wakette piece that invents associations of hilarious proportions”. Or Erwin Alber…. er, no. Come to think of it I don’t want to Alber anything unless absolutely necessary. [group involuntary shudder]

For the record, Skeptard is lurking in the urban dictionary. Definition;

Any one who is blindly skeptical to the evidence around them, regardless of research done on any given topic, in addition to any one who refuses to do the research necessary, before jumping to conclusions.

So for Wakette we can propose;

Any person who continues to maintain that vaccines cause autism, despite being aware of the Wakefield fraud and the abundance of dissenting evidence, in addition to any person who sets out to misrepresent research to claim this link can be revived anew.

So let’s take Wakette for a test flight. Say in 15 years or so:

“Hey remember that Nimrod Weiner guy?”.

“Sort of, who was he again?”

“The wakette who didn’t even know where Wakefield’s fraudulent paper was published”.

“Oh, yeah… I remember him. What about him?”

“Saw him chirobusking* in the subway at Central Train Station”.

“Huh, figures. He had a carny gig at the travelling circus next to the fortune teller for a while”.

“Yeah, heard that too. Most of those wakette’s are history now”.

(High fives and laughter)

[* – “chirobusking” is the term given in future to chirpractors who busk alongside magicians, mimes, acrobats and musicians for small change. They have little fold up tables and have swapped white coats for coloured robes]

See! It works quite well. Plus serves as a handy mnemonic device. As the science of Wakettism improves we’ll be able to distinguish between Alpha Wakette’s like… er, Wakefield, or Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill (from Age of Autism), or dominant and submissive wakette’s. Dorey’s a rather dominant wakette on her Facebook page and the submissive wakette’s members just go along, knowing they’ll be banned if they happen to speak the truth or produce any evidence.

Then there’s loner wakettes who wish to be Alpha Wakettes. Here’s where our friend at Child Health Safety comes in. Master of deceit, obfuscation and pure invention with a talent for plumb conspiracy language you probably know the site.

Having a look at this will be the subject of my next post.