More evidence links mercury exposure and autism

While it becomes more and more evident that the relationship between mercury in vaccines and autism is valid, other sources of mercury appear to be implicated as well.

In a study performed right here in Texas (Health Place, 2006 Jun; 12 (2): 203-9 or online in its entirety at http://www.seedcoalition.org/downloads/autism_study_UTHSCSA.pdf), investigators tried to determine if there was any link between mercury released from coal-burning power plants and the number of autism diagnoses. Coal-burning power plants are the primary source of mercury released in the atmosphere, although it is not the same type of mercury used in vaccines.

Researchers from the University of Texas used data from counties across the state to establish how much mercury was being released and the number of children diagnosed with autism or enrolled in special education classes in the same community. They concluded that for every 1,000 lb of mercury released in the environment there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and 61% increase in the rate of autism. Clearly they found a smoking gun!

Meanwhile, another interesting study was performed in Denmark, a country where people eat plenty of fish. Researchers measured the amount of methyl mercury – the type of mercury found in contaminated in fish – in the umbilical cord of newborn babies. They then checked these same children at age 7 and concluded that the amount of mercury at birth was an excellent predictor of neuro-psychological problems later in life.

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jul; 113 (7): 905-8

How to choose a Defeat Autism Now! practitioner for your child and what to do while you are waiting for your first appointment

This piece is meant as a resource for families of autistic children who are faced with controversy and difficult choices when trying to find effective help. However, readers not connected with autism may also find that this article contains interesting pieces of information.

In reality autism is not really that unique or different from many other conditions. It is what happens when vulnerable infants experience an overwhelming exposure to toxins at critical stages of development. Their vulnerability is probably a result of several factors including an immature immune system, genetic predisposition, and nutritional deficiencies, some of which could be inherited. Research has shown that deficiencies of critically important vitamins or other nutrients can build up from one generation to the next, leading each successive generation to be more vulnerable to environmental insults.

Today, there are a growing number of toxin-induced disorders, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and a long list of neurological disorders. All of these are at or near epidemic levels and it is important to understand that autism is not unique in this respect and many of the same interventions can benefit all of these seemingly unrelated conditions.

Mainstream medicine is still stubbornly denying that mercury in the preservative thimerosal used in vaccines could have contributed to the autism epidemic. For a long time the official position was a flat denial that such an epidemic even existed. As the numbers continued to grow and became impossible to ignore, the position shifted to holding that the cause is unknown and nothing can be done other than therapy, while millions of dollars are – in my opinion – wasted on genetic research that so far has failed to produce any glimmer of hope.
Read More »

EDTA Chelation Drug Error

After the news about Abubakar Tariq Nadama, a five-year-old boy with autism, who tragically died after receiving an IV treatment with the chelating agent EDTA, every parent considering or doing any form of chelation for their child was filled with nagging doubts. “How did this happen, and could it happen to my child?” filled chat rooms and flooded DAN doctors’ email inboxes.

The results of the autopsy have now been analyzed, and a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Karen Kane reads in part -
Read More »

Could a hidden virus be the common link in autism, chronic fatigue syndrome and others

A virus is nothing more than a submicroscopic gene fragment covered in a fat or protein envelope. On their own viruses are completely harmless and basically inert; yet we all know they can have devastating effects when they gain access to the body.

When a virus enters the body, the immune system recognizes it because of the protein markers, called antigens, it carries. This recognition leads the body to mount an inflammatory response that accounts for symptoms such as fever, aches, and so on. In most cases this response succeeds in clearing the virus from the body.

Some viruses are known to resist this assault by the immune system and set up permanent residence inside the body. Some, like hepatitis C or HIV, cause progressive destruction of their target cells and tissues, eventually leading to death. Others, like herpes, lie dormant, basically doing nothing, until stress or some other factor weakens the body’s resistance and they then suddenly “wake up” and start causing trouble once again.

But what if there was a “new” type of virus that found a way to mutate and lose its marker proteins so that the immune system could no longer recognize it? It would be able to enter the body and cause trouble undisturbed. Not only that, it would also be very difficult to establish who has this virus and who doesn’t, given that we usually test for the presence of viruses by measuring markers of the immune response.
Read More »

New evidence on harm from chemical mixtures

Many of us remember what seemed at the time to be an isolated case of an autism epidemic in the early 1990′s in Brick Township, New Jersey. At first, contaminated drinking water was the Number One suspect because chemical wastes dumped in the town’s landfill over a period of years had contaminated the city’s drinking water with the chemicals bromoform, chloroform, and tetrachloroethylene.

However, a detailed analysis conducted by scientists from the U.S. Government concluded that the level of these chemicals in water was simply not sufficient to have damaged the nervous systems of developing infants of even fetuses.

When the Brick Township autism epidemic merged into a national epidemic many of us forgot about it or concluded that maybe it wasn’t really any different from what was going on nationwide.

However, new research is sparking a renewed interest in the Brick Township story. As it turns out, in reaching their conclusions the government scientists only analyzed the effects of each chemical on its own whereas, quite obviously, exposure was to all three of them at the same time.

Carol Reinisch, an expert in chemical-induced neurotoxocity, wondered if looking at these chemicals together might tell a different story. Her lab started to research this combination using surf clam embryos as models. The reason why research done on embryonic development of clams is considered valid for humans is that the most basic early nervous system development is the same across all species.

Her findings are truly disturbing. When tested individually or in pairs, these chemicals produce no damage, even at much higher concentrations than those found in the water at Brick Township. However, when all three are present at the same time they alter nervous system development. To read about this research go to http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2005/113-6/forum.html#trip.

To more conclusively establish whether these chemicals actually caused the autism epidemic, the study should be repeated using some type of mammal.

This type of study does make me wonder what exactly is going on throughout our country and the world. A brand new study that analyzed ten samples of umbilical cord blood in the U.S. found 287 chemicals, including 209 never before detected in cord blood. These chemicals included mercury, fire retardants, pesticides, and Teflon. Find a detailed report about this study at http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/newsrelease.php.

Knowledge is often the first step towards recovery and the new website www.scorecard.org offers some interesting data. You can go there and find the environmental contaminants that are most prevalent in your area, as well as how your county stacks up against the rest of the country. Predictably, Harris County doesn’t look too good.

Emerging field of epigenetics sheds new light on mechanisms of inheritance

When it comes to genetics the message that most people have been getting is that if something is inherited nothing can be done about it, except maybe taking a drug for life. It’s easy to suspect that the pharmaceutical industry has had a hand in spreading this notion, but in reality the idea that inheritance sets a predetermined outcome is untrue in most cases.

In addition to true genetic defects, which are relatively rare, there are so-called “polymorphisms” – a term often abbreviated to SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). These are minor genetic mutations that make certain genes less efficient at doing some of their jobs but often more efficient in other ways. SNPs do not cause disease, but they may be associated with an increased susceptibility to certain illnesses given contributing environmental factors. In reality we all have our share of SNPs. They’re probably there by design, as part of the evolutionary process.

A classic example of a SNP is the so-called “thrifty gene” that makes individuals who are descended from certain American Indian tribes highly vulnerable to diabetes and obesity
when they switch to a modern diet, although they are capable of surviving in conditions of extreme scarcity.

Researchers looking at these genetic variants and trying to correlate them with diseases such as cancer or even autism have found themselves opening a Pandora’s box with no clear end point in sight. It’s not that they didn’t find genes associated with these conditions, it’s that they found too many of them and that the correlation was often too vague to draw any clear conclusions.

According to Texas A&M biochemistry professor Wallace McKeehan, “there are just a mind-boggling number of mutations associated with cancer.” This is leading some researchers to redirect their focus towards a newly emerging field known as epigenetics. See more on research on cancer and genetics at http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/3241933.

Epigenetics looks at the interaction between genes and the environment. As it turns out, environmental factors – including diet or chemicals in food, water or air – interact with genes by affecting a process called methylation, whereby “switches” on genes can be turned on or off by adding or taking away tiny compounds known as “methyl groups.”

It now appears that the interaction between genes and the environment has a much stronger impact in determining health events than genetic factors alone.

Much of our knowledge of epigenetics originated from research on identical twins who are born with exactly the same genes, but as time goes by develop growing differences and may end up becoming susceptible to different diseases later in life. To read more about epigenetic studies in twins go to http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05gene.html (registration required).

The difference between the old notion that genes predetermined health and the new understanding of genes interacting with the environment is that when it comes to environmental factors there is a great deal we can control. For example, diet becomes a factor that can impact expression of certain genes eventually leading to – or preventing – genetically associated illnesses (as in the example of the Indians above).

Likewise, detoxification programs can compensate for a genetic susceptibility to accumulate toxins. The reason why, for example, so many children with autism improve with detoxification may be that they are genetically more vulnerable than others to toxins and that genetic switches are turned back “on” once the toxins are released.

Whatís most shocking to me about epigenetic research is the finding that detrimental effects of environmental toxins can be inherited for multiple generations. For example, researchers exposed a group of pregnant rats to a pesticide known to cause reduced fertility in males. Predictably, their male offspring suffered low fertility rates. However, their female offspring were fine and care was taken to ensure that they experienced no further exposure to pesticides.

Later on, these female rats whose mothers had been exposed to pesticides were mated to male rats with no history of pesticide exposure. Surprisingly, their male offspring experienced low fertility and this scenario was repeated one more time in third-generation offspring. The fourth generation of male rats finally reverted back to normal fertility, proving that the genes themselves had not been altered (Science, Vol 308, June 3, 2005, pgs 1466-1469).

An analogy to help us understand this study might be a theoretical case of a woman developing breast cancer because her great-grandmother was exposed to a cancer-causing chemical when pregnant.

Although this study was performed on rats, it probably applies to humans as well. It also correlates with studies showing that women whose mothers had been smokers have children with an increased rate of asthma even if they never smoked themselves. For more information, visit http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2005/jun/science/pt_toxins.html.

The implications of this type of research could be momentous considering the ever-growing number of potentially toxic chemicals to which we are exposed. The next study Iíd like to see (but that will probably never happen) is one that looks at whether detoxification, vitamin supplementation, or diet change can help erase these environmental insults, thus halting the inheritance mechanism.

Vitamin D for chronic inflammation, MS and (possibly) autism

The more we learn, the more it becomes evident that chronic inflammation is a universal troublemaker that plays a part in almost every ongoing health condition.

Acute inflammation is one of the most beneficial, and often life-saving, defense mechanisms of the body. Acute inflammation is what gives us a fever when our bodies are fighting a virus, a sore throat in response to strep bacteria, or a swollen ankle after a hard fall. In every case like these, inflammation helps promote recovery.

However, chronic inflammation is a superfluous and harmful process. It’s a healthy process that forgot when to stop and no longer serves a useful purpose. What causes it?

According to recent British research, air pollution – something most of us breathe on a daily basis – can cause it. See news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4277113.stm. Exposure to toxins like mercury or lead can also be a cause, as can too much copper, iron, or even calcium in the blood. Studies have shown that a progressive shift in the human diet from consuming mostly omega-3 fats to mostly omega-6 can also set the stage for chronic inflammation (see “The Omega-3 Connection” by Andrew Stoll, MD). Finally, a simple lack of vitamin D can be the culprit.
Read More »

Environmental chemicals and detoxification

When we read or hear about mercury as the cause of autism or any other illness we should remember that this is only one piece of the puzzle. Being able to single out just one cause would be wonderful, but reality is rarely so simple. Evidence continues to mount that there is an epidemic of autism even without mercury in vaccines, and recent data from the State of California shows that the incidence of autism continues to climb even after mercury was banned from vaccines. (Note: someone recently asked me why autism is so prevalent in California, but the reality is that California just has a better system to track it. Here in Texas and in other states we have no idea how prevalent it is).

Environmental chemicals are another big piece of the puzzle, and it doesn’t even matter if you’re dealing with autism, other neurological disorders, cancer, or even high blood pressure: toxic chemicals play a part in all of these. They disrupt the nervous and immune systems. They have been linked with Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue, MS and the list goes on.

Chemicals are also harder to identify and test for than mercury and can sometimes cause damage at minuscule concentrations such as parts per billion. Where you’ve been or what you have been exposed to doesn’t even matter, they’re under your kitchen sink and everywhere!
Read More »

Autism report on Houston’s NBC-TV station

The mother of one of my patients suggested to Channel 2, the NBC affiliate here in Houston, that they should include me in their multi-part report on autism that ran this month. When they interviewed me, they were very interested in the DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) approach to treating the condition and the positive results we have seen with many of the children under my care. The report, which ran on the late afternoon newscasts on consecutive days, also included interviews with several of my patient families as well as other healthcare professionals. The series also included useful information about working with insurance companies for better coverage of various therapies. Thanks to Krista Marino, Health Beat reporter, Emily Akin, consumer advocate, and their Channel 2 News team for focusing attention on this important topic.

If you are interested in this subject but missed the series, just ask to see the tape next time you’re in the office.

A Christmas Miracle

There is no better way to end a year than with a Christmas miracle. There is also nothing that can give you more hope and confidence for the year to come.

Whether you are working on your own health challenges or those of your child, and whether you are seeing me, another health professional, or are doing it by yourself, remember that miracles do happen. Sometimes they may look like miracles but they are no miracles at all, just the result of hard work and dedication to the task.

With permission (and names changed to protect the family’s privacy), I would like to relate a portion of a touching e-mail I received during the holidays from the mother of one of my patients, a child with autism. The e-mail’s subject line was “Christmas Miracle.”

In this case, the parents have been steadfast in their determination over the last year to help their son, even though for the first several months of treatment he was no better and at times was worse. This often happens, as natural treatments for autism and other chronic conditions frequently do not progress in a linear fashion.

The email reads “A friend of mine from high school popped in to see my brother while he’s in town for the holidays. In the past, my son Jimmy would look at my husband and ask (semi-rudely, I might add) ‘who’s that?’ or ‘why is he here?’ This time Jimmy looked at my friend and said ‘Hi, I’m Jimmy and I’m seven, who are you?’ When introductions were made, Jimmy smiled real big and said ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’ (which are indeed missing). Later he spontaneously burst into the song, which he has heard me singing to him lately. This is new, too. He just doesn’t burst into song when we are sitting around the table. His sister does, but never Jimmy! My husband mentioned this to me.he noticed it, too. My friend doesn’t realize he witnessed a miracle, but we do. I have received my Christmas miracle. He’s getting better. It’s really real and true….”

Question: Could you please give me an update on the use of vitamin A and other antiviral agents in the treatment of autism?

Answer: There is a great deal of evidence linking several classes of viruses with autism. Research conducted in England by Andrew Wakefield, MD identified a chronic form of the measles virus growing in the lymphatic tissue of the small intestine of autistic children. Since none of these children had measles, it is clear that this virus originated from vaccines. If the virus is found in the small intestine it is likely that it also resides in other parts of the body, conceivably including the brain.

Vaccines employ weakened forms of viruses to trigger an immune response that renders the individual immune to a disease. It is believed that this does not happen as planned in at least some children who later develop autism because of an immature immune system. Instead the virus in the vaccine is able to replicate and grow in the body, eventually causing trouble.

Other viruses related to herpes have also been found to be prevalent in some children with autism and ADHD. These viruses include Epstein Barr virus (EBV), human herpes virus 6 (HHV6), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Exposure to these viruses is very common among children, and random blood tests often yield positive results. The unusual finding in children with autism is the very high antibody counts that are often found and that indicate an active disease process.
Read More »

Question: You often recommend the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Could you please comment on the list of allowed and forbidden supplements for this diet I have seen on the Internet?

Answer: As I have frequently said, the SCD is a useful diet that should be considered for children and adults who have digestive and other health issues. Like any diet, it is not perfect and should be customized based on each individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is described in a book written by Elaine Gottschall entitled “Breaking the Vicious Cycle.” Ms. Gottschall did not invent the diet – she just wrote about it and made it easier to follow by developing many excellent recipes.

Ms. Gottschall was always very clear in stating that she is not an expert on dietary supplements, and that only doctors and nutritionists are qualified to make decisions or give advice in this area.

However, in recent years various SCD websites have made thousands more people aware of this diet and able to benefit from it. Many of these people simply didn’t have a doctor or nutritionist who would work with them and asked Ms. Gottschall for advice on supplements. I believe her intention when she put together her supplement recommendations was simply to give people who are working alone some basic guidance.
Read More »

Notes from the October DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) conference

I have now been to DAN conferences for four years in a row and the latest one I attended was earlier this month in Portland, Oregon. Looking back on these past four years a great deal has changed in the way that I work and in DAN, and most of the change has been for the better. A once-mysterious condition is beginning to reveal itself more and more, and treatment outcomes are better than ever, with a growing number of children now “losing” their diagnosis. The treatment itself is made of simple steps, like diet change, vitamins, and detoxification: quite a triumph for natural holistic approaches to health!

Although there were a number of topics I wanted to cover in this month’s newsletter, I decided to write an account of the latest DAN conference instead while the information is still fresh in my mind. If you are looking for an unbiased summary of topics that were presented at the conference, this isn’t going to be it. Instead I am going to offer my own biased and sometimes rambling comments on topics or events that caught my attention.

If you have no connection with an autistic child, you may be thinking that this newsletter won’t concern you. I would encourage you, however, to keep reading. Children with autism do not come from Mars. They do not have some strange and yet-to-be-discovered genetic defect. They are healthy at birth. Autism is what happens when environmental toxins, like mercury, overwhelm infants’ bodies and brains. Others are able to withstand this early onslaught, but with a gradual long-term buildup of toxins something else can go wrong later in life and they end up with a different condition like, for example, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Read More »

The importance of protein for autistic (and other) children

A study published last month in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (33 (4): 449-454, August 2003) focused on protein status in children with autism. Researchers measured plasma amino acid levels of 36 children and found that all had multiple deficiencies.

This should come as no surprise and is the result of very poor diet, coupled with poor digestion and intestinal health. What is more troubling in this study is that 10 of the 36 children were on a casein-free/gluten-free (cfgf) diet, and those ten were found to have the most severe deficiencies.

This cannot be taken as an indictment of the cfgf diet and the dramatic improvement we often see in children on this diet tells us that we must be doing something right. On the other
hand this is a clear signal that, for instance, replacing milk with high-sugar fake foods like potato milk can be a recipe for disaster.
Read More »

It’s Official: Autism is an Epidemic

A large population study just published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, January 1, 2003; 289: 49-55) confirms that autism is occurring at an
unprecedented rate. In fact, if all forms of autism are considered, more than one child in 150 is autistic. To put it in perspective, in the 1980′s this condition was estimated to affect less than one child in 10,000. This confirms that autism cannot be simply a genetic condition since there cannot be epidemics of genetic diseases.

Could You or Your Child Be Gluten-Sensitive?

Gluten is a protein found in commonly eaten grains, including wheat, rye, barley and oats (however, the gluten in oats is different and can be tolerated by some gluten-sensitive individuals).

Gluten sensitivity has been found to cause celiac disease, a severe developmental disorder. The association between gluten and celiac disease was discovered by pure coincidence during World War II when some children with the disorder “miraculously” recovered when deprived of wheat, only to relapse when wheat was reintroduced in their diet.
Read More »

New Research and Media Attention Focus on Autism

A large new population study published in the November 7 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine was designed to look for a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study looked at all the children born in Denmark between 1991 and 1998, a total of 537,303 children, of whom 82% received the vaccine.

Of particular interest is the fact that 738 of these children were diagnosed with autism or other disorders in the autistic spectrum. This equates to one child in 728, a rate that, according to the authors of the study, represents a greater than five-fold increase over rates reported in the 1980′s, but is only about half the rate currently estimated in the U.S. How can we explain this disparity? One suggestion may come from comments released by Dawn Richardson of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE). According to Ms.
Richardson, the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal had been removed from Danish vaccines before this study was initiated.

If this is true, it is possible that thimerosal may account for about half the cases of autism in the U.S. On the other hand, the high rate of autism in Denmark clearly suggests that other environmental factors, aside from thimerosal, must also be contributing to this epidemic. The researchers concluded that no relationship could be established between the MMR vaccine and autism, either in terms of the total number of children with the diagnosis or timing of the diagnosis. However, no information is provided about other vaccines administered to Danish children. In many European countries the immunization schedule is partly voluntary and lighter overall than here. It should be kept in mind that in this country the MMR is given at more or less the same time as the third hepatitis B vaccine, the fourth DTaP, the fourth HiB, the third IPV, the varicella and the fourth PCV, in addition to the first yearly flu shot! Could this huge pileup explain the association of the MMR with autism?

The other day I noticed that, at least on one national news program, this study was portrayed as definitive proof that there is no link between autism and vaccines. This is a complete misrepresentation of the study, which only looked at the relationship between one vaccine, the MMR, and autism and did not address the possibility that other vaccines – or the
cumulative effect of all vaccines – could cause autism either in Denmark or elsewhere. The study reference is N Engl J Med, 2002;347(19):1477-1482 and it can be found at www.nejm.org. For more in-depth comments on this study also see www.safeminds.org and vaccineinfo.net.

In addition to this study, both The New York Times and the Houston Chronicle featured articles on autism earlier this month. These articles reflect a heightened public interest in the topic of autism and an acknowledgment of the current epidemic and its possible causes. Until just recently, suggestions of an epidemic were met mostly with dismissal and the official position that there is no epidemic at all, just better identification of the condition as a result of improved diagnostic skills. Mothering Magazine also dedicated a large portion of its November/December issue to autism and its possible causes. This included an excellent article on mercury toxicity, an interview with Dr. Stephanie Cave and excerpts from the congressional testimony by Dr. Bradstreet. I strongly recommend you obtain a copy of this magazine and/or visit the website www.altcorp.com/testfoundation.htm to learn more about the toxic effects of mercury from vaccines and dental amalgams.

The New York Times Magazine article was published on November 10 and was entitled “The Not-So-Crackpot Theory of Autism.” It tells the story of a prominent researcher and staunch supporter of the immunization program, Dr. Neal Halsey, an MD who recently reversed his position when he realized how much mercury children were getting through vaccinations. Dr. Halsey is quoted as saying: “In most vaccine containers, thimerosal is listed as a mercury derivative, a hundredth of a percent. And what I believed, and what everybody else believed, was that it was truly a trace, a biologically insignificant amount. My honest belief is that if the labels had had the mercury content in micrograms, this would have been uncovered years ago. But the fact is, no one did the calculation.” Aside from the fact that groups like the Autism Research Institute did do the calculation and tried unsuccessfully to draw attention to it for years, my question is: shouldn’t these scientists know how to count?

Read More »

Major campaign focuses on children’s health catastrophe

The Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, founded by a group of physicians and scientists from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York City), recently began running full-page ads in The New York Times addressing the current crisis in children’s mental and physical health and its possible underlying causes. Ad themes and related information, including lengthy scientific papers on which the ads are based, can be found on the authors’ website at http://www.childenvironment.org.

The authors and sponsors of the ads, all listed on the website, belong to conventional medical and research communities and have the highest credentials. Every statement contained in the ads is supported by extensive scientific data, although this information is generally not reported in the media and most of us are not aware of it.
Read More »

Autism, in the eyes of a father and researcher

Dr. Bernard Rimland is the founder of the Autism Research Institute. In an article he wrote for the Autism Research Review International [2001;15(3):3], he gives an account of his 45-year endeavor to find a cure for autism ñ an endeavor that began when his son was diagnosed in 1956. Although he held a PhD in experimental psychology, Dr. Rimland had never heard of autism at the time of his son’s diagnosis. His son’s pediatrician, with 35 years experience in practice at the time, had never heard of it either. As incredible as it may sound today, Dr. Rimland reminds us that autism was once a rare occurrence.

Dr. Rimland first turned to mainstream medicine, but did not receive much help. At the time, it was believed that autism was caused by mothers who could not express their love for their children. Today, medicine has fortunately discarded that opinion but still denies that there is any biological basis in autism, embracing instead an unlikely genetic theory. Since by definition there cannot be an epidemic of a genetic illness, medicine holds that there is no epidemic here, only increased awareness leading to more frequent diagnosis. Although autism was said to affect only one in several thousand children just a few decades ago, recent estimates place it at one in 150 children.

Dr. Rimland first became interested in studying diet modification and nutritional supplementation for children with autism after hearing of the work that nutritionally oriented “orthomolecular” psychiatrists were doing with other developmental disorders, including childhood schizophrenia (see Brain Allergies, by William Philpott, MD, ISBN 0-658-00398-4 and Mental and Elemental Nutrients by Carl Pfeiffer, Ph.D, MD, ISBN 0-87983-114-6). After extensive research, Dr. Rimland and his associates found that supplemental amounts of Vitamin B6 and magnesium were helpful to many autistic children. As of this year, 18 studies conducted in six countries show the effectiveness and safety of this nutrient combination and yet medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have not endorsed it.

Additional research has shown that dietary avoidance of dairy products and gluten (a protein found in wheat and some other grains) is also beneficial for many autistic children.

Although there are numerous studies today confirming the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach, it continues to lack official endorsement as well.

Vaccines have consistently been implicated as a possible cause of the autism epidemic. Even though this is a very controversial topic and research has never found a definite link between vaccines and autism, there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence suggesting that there is a connection. Dr. Rimland points out that, in the past ten years, the number of vaccines required for a child in the United States before the age of two has risen from eight to 22 and that a majority of parents can trace the onset of their child’s symptoms to a specific vaccination. As Dr. Rimland also notes, many vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative. This leads to the direct injection of mercury, “one of the most poisonous substances on earth” in his words, into infants’ bodies.

For more information, visit http://www.autismresearchinstitute.com.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) sees link between vaccines and autism

The IOM is an agency whose stated purpose is to provide scientific information about medicine to the government and to professionals. It previously had staunchly held the position that vaccines are completely safe. However, in an October 2001 report, the IOM stated that mercury found in vaccines may be linked to the escalating incidence of autism. It also recommends that physicians avoid administering vaccines that contain the mercury-laden preservative thimerosal. Although pharmaceutical companies have stopped using thimerosal in newly produced vaccines, significant stocks of older vaccines that contain the preservative are still available and continue to be in use.

The IOM report is based on a July 16 meeting whose full transcript is available at http://www.iom.edu. In the course of this meeting, Neil Halsey, MD of Johns Hopkins University affirmed that scientists had previously failed to recognize the toxic doses of mercury contained in vaccines because packages label thimerosal content as 0.01%. Apparently, these highly educated scientists had looked at 0.01% as a trivial amount and, until recently, had not thought to convert this percentage figure to its equivalent in micrograms and multiply it by the number of vaccines children receive. When they finally did so, they finally saw that infants were being routinely injected with amounts of mercury considered toxic for adults.

I wonder why this admission comes after manufacturers have been given ample time to substitute thimerosal in vaccine production, and why are the thimerosal-containing vaccines still legal? I also wonder to what extent mercury is the cause behind attention and behavior problems that have reached epidemic proportions in our children. If your child is scheduled for a vaccination, you can now demand that the pediatrician use only vaccines that are free of thimerosal.