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The mercury militia parties like it’s 2005

Way, way back in the deepest darkest depths of history, before I entered the Knowledge Room and sold my soul to big pharma to become a pharma blogger (in other words, way back in 2005), my inauguration as a skeptical blogger taking on anti-vaccine misinformation, pseudoscience, and lies occurred in a big way when I referred to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s infamous article Deadly Immunity as flushing Salon.com’s credibility down the toilet. That was when I discovered the mercury militia, that subset of the anti-vaccine movement that believes that mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in vaccines until the CDC and AAP recommended its removal in 1999, a process that was completed in 2002. Since 2002, there has been no mercury in infant vaccines other than in the flu vaccine (for which there are thimerosal-free alternatives) and trace amounts in some childhood vaccines. Even though one would expect that, if thimerosal in vaccines cause or contribute to the development of autism or autism spectrum disorders, autism incidence should start to drop significantly three to five years after the last thimerosal-containing vaccines were taken off the shelf given that most autism is diagnosed around age 3, there has been no such decrease, as multiple studies have documented. By 2007, even Generation Rescue was backing away from its claim that autism is a “misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning.” Even the cranks seemed to see the writing on the wall. Even the cranks seemed to be read to bow under the weight of the evidence and move on to other, vaguer, more difficult-to-falsify hypotheses, which they did with gusto with “too many, too soon” and blaming vague combinations of “toxins” in vaccines for autism.

Even so, there remained a contingent of the anti-vaccine movement that clung to the thimerosal hypothesis, refusing to let go of it until science pried it from their cold, dead hands. Which science tried to do repeatedly. In any event, even though the biggest anti-vaccine groups moved on to more fertile (and more profitable) pastures of biomedical woo based on exaggerating mitochondrial disorders, more generalized “detoxification,” and “antioxidants.” Even so, the thimerosal hypothesis was the zombie that wouldn’t die. (Are there any other kinds?) Seemingly killed again and again, like Jason or Freddie or Michael Myers or any other fictional slasher, who ends one movie seemingly deader than the proverbial doornail, only to return to slash again a year or two later in another movie, the thimerosal hypothesis returned again and again.

It’s back again in 2010, and the mercury militia looks like it’s ready to party like it’s 2005. They’ve even brought back the same old crew from 2005, up to and including even Deirdre Imus. That’s right. Deirdre Imus, who appeared again in that repository of all things quackery and anti-vaccine, The Huffington Post. This time around, she posted an article entitled The Age of Autism. For once, I’m not referring to the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism, but rather a book by AoA stalwarts Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill, the not-so-dynamic duo who have teamed up to pen The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic. Before I get to Imus, let’s look at what this book is supposedly about:

Leo Kanner’s original cases, linked only by this overlooked association with mercury, suggest that from the very beginning autism was an environmentally induced illness– a toxic injury rather than something inherited or inculcated. Certainly, some children were more susceptible to mercury exposure– and that may implicate genetic vulnerabilities. This is very different, however, from saying that autism is an inherited genetic disorder.

Tragically, the best and the brightest in science and medicine have missed these clues from the start, blinded first by the belief the parents were responsible and then by their ongoing pursuit of the “autism gene.” The Great Autism Gene Hunt has come up empty– but continues to drain off millions of dollars and thousands of hours that should go to more promising environmental research.

Having thoroughly failed to solve the autism puzzle, the medical industry is putting forth a new wave of epidemic deniers to claim autism isn’t really increasing after all. Simply put, this idea is nonsense; and sadly, it prolongs the epidemic and prevents the urgent response this public health crisis demands.

Ah, yes. it’s the same outline that scientifically dubious books since time immemorial have followed. There’s some sort of horrific health threat that, somehow, either no one in mainstream medicine or science has noticed or mainstream medicine is outright denying. Then, of course, there’s the coverup (big pharma, of course, and the government) that prevents anyone from finding out The Truth. These books are so predictable that I’ve thought of trying to write one myself, as a sort of attempt at a quack Poe, and then seeing if anyone can tell if it’s serious or not. Of course, if I ever were able to find the time to write a book, I don’t think I’d waste my time doing that, but it’s a fun idea. Instead, apparently, we’ll have to do with Age of Autism, which, not surprisingly, Deirdre Imus appears to love, as evidenced by her fawning interview ith the authors of said pseudoscience, Olmsted and Blaxill, which she introduces thusly:

The new book “The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic” is shaking up the autism world. Orthodox scientists and medical groups have dismissed and even ridiculed the idea that incredibly toxic ethyl mercury — still in flu shots given to infants and pregnant women — could be linked to the explosion in autism rates beginning in the 1990s, when the vaccine schedule was rapidly expanded. Just the day before the book came out this week, the CDC issued yet another flawed study that found not only was mercury safe — it actually had a protective effect against the risk of autism. This is obviously absurd, as is the fact that almost all the children in the study had received mercury-containing shots, rather than including a control group without any mercury exposure. Authors Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill — two names well-known in the autism community and editors of the blog Age of Autism (ageofautism.com), have for the first time traced the roots of autism beginning in the 1930s. What they found is electrifying and suggests the debate is about to heat up again, whether the government and medical industry like it or not.

Well, probably not, this book notwithstanding. As has been pointed out, it’s not exactly setting the book world on fire, sales-wise, and we’ve seen similar claims before for a recent anti-vaccine book by someone who is far more famous among the general public than Dan Olmsted or Mark Blaxill will ever be. That’s right; I’m talking about Andrew Wakefield and his book Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines–The Truth Behind a Tragedy, a truly execrable book that made a very brief flash around its release just before Memorial Day and had faded into oblivion long before the 4th of July. Of course, it never made the best seller lists, as far as I can tell; so its flash was minimal indeed. Similarly, I predict that The Age of Autism is likely to suffer a similar fate. By Halloween, it’s likely to be gone. Maybe by Columbus Day.

Imus’ interview with Olmsted and Blaxill is long and covers a lot of well-trod ground as far as mercury militia claims go, many of which will be familiar to long time readers of this blog. However, it starts off with a statement that is quite revealing, but not in the way that B & O think it is:

The other thing that we want people to embrace is contained in the title — this really is The Age of Autism. Autism is the single most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime — and it has become a national health emergency. The rates of autism have gone from effectively zero before the 1930s to 1 in 100 children today, and that’s happened in the lifetime of a single individual — in just seven decades.

This is, of course, the well-known claim favored not just by the mercury militia but the anti-vaccine movement in general, that there is some sort of “autism epidemic,” that something must be causing autism prevalence to be approximately 1% (which is the commonly accepted estimate these days). It never occurs to them that that “something” is very likely a huge broadening of the diagnostic criteria resulting in diagnostic substitution combined with much more intensive screening efforts. What’s often hard for people to accept is that, as a general principle, the more intensely you look for a condition, the more of it you find. There also tends to be a shift to milder cases that would have been missed or diagnosed as something else before. That’s largely what we have seen with autism and ASDs. It’s an open question whether there has been a true increase in prevalence, but what is pretty clear is that there has not been a massive increase in ASDs. Studies of adults suggest that the currently estimated prevalence of around 1% appears to have been stable for at least decades, as evidenced by the prevalence of ASDs being similar in adults as it is in children. Basically, the “autism tsunami” myth confuses diagnosis for condition.

The revealing part, however, is how Blaxill characterizes autism. It’s not just a problem, but the “most devastating childhood disorder than any of us have faced in our lifetime” and a “national health emergency.” I’m sure that parents of children with cerebral palsy, profound mental retardation, or other permanent conditions in which there is little or no hope of improvement and whose victims require every bit as much around the clock care as a child with severe autism does would beg to differ. In contrast to these children, a significant proportion of autistic children can and do make significant progress–even recover to “leave the spectrum.” But by what definition does Blaxill declare autism to be such a horrific health problem? There’s no doubt that autism is a significant burden on the health system, but the most significant burden?

Basically, the entire interview consists of one long commercial for B & O’s book. That in and of itself is not unexpected. After all, authors do interviews to promote their books. The problem is, the B & O’s self-promotion consists of a continuous string of anti-vaccine nonsense. What’s different is that B & O have taken the hoary old ghost of the thimerosal-autism claim and thrown a fresh coat of makeup and lipstick on it, much like the proverbial pig. Basically, the not-so-dynamic duo claim to have located seven of the eleven original children identified by Leo Kanner in 1943 as having autism:

So we decided to look more closely at this group of children, who were identified only by a first name and last initial. In this Internet age, we were able to identify 7 of those 11 children — and what we found was a startling link in those families: both to mercury exposure in general and specifically to the new ethyl mercury compounds that were first commercialized around 1930. There were three initial commercial uses for ethyl mercury — in agriculture as seed disinfectants and lumber treatment, and in medicine as a preservative in the new diphtheria vaccine.

They dismiss any question over whether this might be a coincidence thusly:

We think the pattern of evidence is much too strong to be dismissed as pure chance. Kanner’s initial case series was a small cluster of 11 children and the mercury link really jumps out. The problem is that Kanner noticed the parents’ professional accomplishments and focus and all the working mothers — many working in the medical industry — and suggested there were “very few really warm-hearted fathers and mothers” in the entire group. Although he later backed off of that accusation, people like Bruno Bettelheim turned parent-blaming into the prevailing theory of autism causation.

No, in eleven children, it’s virtually impossible to say anything about exposures. True, such a sample might raise suspicions of an environmental etiology for a disease or condition, but that’s all it can do. Like acupuncturists who point to small preliminary studies that suggest efficacy for acupuncture, B & O point to their small sample that may or may not be representative and whose original reports are separated from the present by 67 years. There’s been a lot of research since then, and it has failed to show a link between vaccines and autism, mercury in vaccines and autism, or mercury exposure and autism. Look at it this way. For an environmental exposure to cause what is described as an “epidemic” of autism, the causal linkage would have to be very strong, if, as is claimed by the mercury militia, it’s the driving cause of an “epidemic” that pushed the prevalence of autism from close to zero to over 1% of the population. There’s just no evidence of such a strong link; indeed, just last week there was yet another study that failed to find a link. Meanwhile, Olmsted completely misunderstands the concept of genetic predispositions with low or incomplete penetrance:

Then, when it became clear that there was a higher rate of autism in twins, parent-blaming was discredited. But scientists misunderstood the gene studies to conclude that autism was therefore a genetically-determined disorder that could not be prevented or treated. But there are plenty of identical twins who are discordant for autism — one has it, the other is typical — and there are also fraternal twins, who are no more identical than they are with other siblings, who both have autism. That suggests some sort of environmental injury in genetically vulnerable children.

Well, yes and no. It might suggest that. Or it might suggest low penetrance, which can be difficult to distinguish from environmental factors, or, as studies have suggested, it might suggest a complex, multi-gene condition. In any case, notice how Olmsted doesn’t actually say what the concordance is for identical twins and autism compared to fraternal twins. It’s actually quite high. Funny how Olmsted neglects to mention that, assuming he knows it.

When I saw that Deirdre Imus is once again leaping into the fray, playing the role of the sycophant and publicist for the anti-vaccine movement, I debated whether or not even to bother with it. After all, I did predict that by Halloween this book will be as forgotten as Wakefield’s tome. On the other hand, it is educational to point out just how little has changed in five years. Yes, B & O have put a slightly new twist on an old canard, put new wine in an old bottle, so to speak. Besides, looking at these tired old arguments makes me feel as though it were 2005 again.

If only I could shave five years off my actual age. My hair was a bit less gray, my waistline a bit less wide, my blood pressure a bit lower, and my skin a bit less wrinkled then.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

344 replies on “The mercury militia parties like it’s 2005”

Although he appears to have shut up, at least for now, on this particular issue, Upper Class Twit of the Decade RFK Jr. has paid little reputational price, it seems, for perpetrating this fraud. He still shows up on teevee touting one environmental cause or another, endorses political candidates, and generally puts a shine of glamor on whatever he touches.

Execrable. This guy is famous only for having his father’s name, and he traded on that unearned celebrity to smear public servants who were doing their best to protect the public, with visions of class action sugar plums dancing in his head. What a schtickdreck.

Then, when it became clear that there was a higher rate of autism in twins, parent-blaming was discredited.

I’m surprised they got that right. I would’ve expected them to credit Bernie Rimland, who supposedly debunked the refrigerator mother hypothesis by means of really really good arguments.

The Great Autism Gene Hunt has come up empty– but continues to drain off millions of dollars and thousands of hours that should go to more promising environmental research.

Uh… Let me fix that for them…

The Great Autism Gene Hunt Mercury Link dream has come up empty– but continues to drain off millions of dollars and thousands of hours that should go to more promising environmental research.

There. My work is done for the day.

People don’t understand the difference between Ethyl-mercury & methyl-mercury (lumping it all under the “toxic” mercury umbrella.

They also never address the issue of the why vaccine exposure is so horrible, when children eat mercury-ladden tunafish, but don’t become autistic.

And, as Orac repeated above, since the preservative isn’t used in current vaccines (with the exception of flu) I don’t understand why this argument is even relevant anymore (not that it was in the beginning anyway).

They confuse the first published reports of a condition with the appearance of a new disease. I was reading a short story by George Elliot (“Brother Jacob”) in which she very accurately describes Prader-Willi Syndrome, which was not reported in the medical literature until 1956.

In the 1970’s, when methyl mercury was used on seed grains to prevent mold, there were many cases of accidental consumption of mercury laced food, the largest being in Iraq. There should have been an explosion of autism in the mostly poor countries where poisoning occurred.

“Autism is the single most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime…”

Wouldn’t want my son any other way. I’m proud to say he has progressed to the point where he is starting his third year at university, doing a triple major of math, physics and philosophy. Just ask him if he’d like to be ‘cured’ – he regards the typpies as the ones with a handicap.

Science Mom,

Bleuler only defined autismus as a form of schizophrenia. His definition is completely different that the modern interpretation defined by Asperger in 1938 and Kanner in 1943

I was actually surprised to see that Imus got the name of the mercury compound in thimerosal correct. Not that that makes any of what she, Blaxill or Olmsted say correct.

So, B & O think that autism started in the 1930s because it was first named in the ’30s. By their logic, a new species of beetle discovered and named today would not have existed before today. Are they trying to start some new field of inquiry…quantum medicine, perhaps?

@ Nepenthe,

Bleuler only defined autismus as a form of schizophrenia. His definition is completely different that the modern interpretation defined by Asperger in 1938 and Kanner in 1943

True, however, Kanner and Asperger recognised Bleuler’s autismus description in their patients and refined the set of observed behaviours. My point being that the idea that autism spontaneously arose with the Kanner description is ludicrous.

Autism is the single most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime…

Not polio, diphtheria or whooping cough?

@JohnW

Not polio, diphtheria or whooping cough?

Well, you see, none of them have faced those diseases. The only thing they’ve faced with their kid is autism. Ergo, it’s the most devastating childhood disorder they have faced.

It’s not just a problem, but the “most devastating childhood disorder than any of us have faced in our lifetime” and a “national health emergency.”

Please excuse my crassness: What a bunch of fuckwits. They devalue these children so much.

Anything but autism!’. Why does autism have to be a “national health emergency” (BTW, does this mean autism elsewhere doesn’t matter?)?

I know my son will never be “normal” but he has potential to be successful as a human and live a very productive life. If a parent doesn’t believe this, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
/soapbox rant

Did JohnW just compare whooping cough to autism?

No Sid, I believe he was implying that whooping cough is worse. We realize you continually downplay the effects of whooping cough but sadly, you are not one of the parents of dead children in California. What a prick.

Did JohnW just compare whooping cough to autism?

Sid – well, I suppose in a sense he did in terms of which is the “most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime”, whatever that means. Presumably not in the sense of “autism is just like whooping cough” or “I prefer autism to whooping cough” or some such.

I personally don’t know what is the “most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime.” I’d heard it was starvation or possibly AIDS, but don’t really know how you create a single devastation scale. Presumably you’d need to factor in both the number of people affected and the impact of each case, though “impact” is also pretty imprecisely defined. So it sounds like it’s subject to some interpretation and difference of opinion.

No, Sid, JohnW did NOT just compare whooping cough to autism, but his point evidently went swooshing over your head…

Try reading it again, and this time use comprehension.

Todd#10: The notion that “naming” a phenomenon brings it into existence is a common conceit in certain branches of postmodern theory, particularly among the followers of Michel Foucault. John Best always used to use that argument, which was quite amusing given that someone as homophobic as he is would normally shy away from anything to do with Foucault.

A quick aside, am I the only person having trouble getting to the web site of the colleague of the friend of Orac, Dr. Novella?

It is almost unbelievable how offensive people can be on this subject or how overblown, longwinded, nonsensical they can be. Look for the elephant in the room – there aren’t any unvaccinated autistic kids! It’s arithmetic – math – not science! Stop it – go and look for an unvaccinated autistic kid. I have looked intensively in the UK since 1996 – I know hundreds of families – no they are not unvaccinated – I have written to hundreds of other families – no they are not unvaccinated. I believe Dan Olmsted to be right there aren’t any autistic Amish nor unvaccinated Homefirst patients. I came to Arlington, Virginia and told the Geiers there weren’t any in Britain – they thought my claim was flakey but they looked at VAERS found an association between exposure to Thimerosal and autism so the Bush administration stopped them looking any further! The CDC relied upon paid scientific villains to underpin their rejection of the link but Dr. No Link, Poul Thorsen has taken them for $2 millions and disappeared. I would have thought that was fairly serious but neither ours nor your mainstream media think it’s worthy of comment. What do you think is going on? I will tell you it is the world’s first ‘shelf life’ disaster, that’s whats going on.
Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.

#22

Did you contact any of the unvaccinated autistic kids named for you over on LBRB? Or any of the other blogs you troll. You quote the same tired script, then act hurt when people actually show you the unvaccinated autistics. Perhaps you should see someone about this perservation?

@22

Tony Bateson:

I’m sure that it’s been pointed out to you that there are, in fact, “autistic Amish.” Here’s a link, again:

http://imfar.confex.com/imfar/2010/webprogram/Paper7336.html

You repeatedly post your nonsense despite it having been repeatedly proven false.

What did AoA’s Kim Stagliano say when you offered her $1,000 if her youngest, unvaccinated, child with ASD was actually an unvaccinated child with ASD?

Tony Bateson,

if you believe Dan Olmsted, why don’t you believe him when he mentions a mother with 5 kids, all with regressive autism, in one of his stories?

Tony Bateson must truly believe that if you repeat a lie 1000 times it becomes true. (And that’s probably an under-estimate.)

Here’s a link to a discussion that includes a recent example of Tony Bateson’s nonsense:

http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2010/09/thimerosal-in-vaccines-did-not-cause-an-autism-epidemic/

Note that Bateson’s offer of $1,000 (at nonsense-friendly AoA) or only $100 (outside of his echo chamber) is for PROOF that a child with ASD AND the child’s mother have never come into contact with “vaccine materials”, which of course include aluminum (the third most-common element in the earth’s crust), viral or bacterial proteins, and water–and the prize will only be awarded if the claimant presents impartial third-party testimony to the truth of the claims.

Of course, I’m still interested in whether AoA’s associate editor Kim Stagliano has contacted Bateson in an attempt to claim her prize. Since her first two (vaccinated) children have ASD and her third (unvaccinated) child also has ASD, Stagliano’s family history may somehow prove that ASD cannot have a genetic component but is instead caused by toxic plumes of mercury from the dental amalgams in Chinese cremations, or something.

It’s appropriate to avoid perjoratives such as “idiot” when discussing a subject that is frequently associated with intellectual impairment, but in Bateson’s case “bufoon” may be applicable.

Chris,
So things only exist if they contact Tony? What kind of overinflated ego could make someone think that people would even want to contact him? Why does he think he anyone would care to do that?

Dad turned on Fox News morning show the other day, and to my disgust they started with a story about the Hannah Poling case. The Fox News-Twit said, “The government report was careful not to call Hannah’s condition Autism”. In much the same way they were careful not to call it smallpox, one supposes.

Hey, Orac, cerebral palsy is not as bad as you’re making it out to be, and certainly most people with CP don’t need “round the clock care”; somewhere between 60 and 75% of people with CP wind up living independently as adults, and some of us even occasionally do such stereotypically able-bodied things as hold jobs, pay taxes, and (*gasp*) have sex lives. (If the unemployment rate for handicapped people overall were not so chronically dismal, more of us I’m sure would have jobs.)

I know I’m pretty high-functioning for a person with CP, but a lot of people who meet me don’t even notice I’m handicapped at first. I do get a lot of “Did you hurt your leg?”, though. I actually think CP is comparable to autism — with a lot of early remediation and a lot of maintenance work, people who have it even fairly badly* can wind up fairly close to “normal.”

Having had arthritis since age 30 is kind of a bitch, and the whole handicapped experience isn’t exactly the most fun thing in the world, but overall, it’s not a fate worse than death. I’d much rather have CP than, say, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, or hydrocephalus…

________
* The initial prognosis on me was that I would never walk, and I not only walk, I exercise regularly and lift weights. My doctor has forbidden me to run, though — see “arthritis at age 30.” 🙁

I apologize for the typo: I’ve never called anyone a “buffoon” before, and I mistyped it as “bufoon” when I might instead have termed Tony Bateson a fool and have been done with it.

Nonetheless, I’m still interested in learning from Bateson if AoA’s Kim Stagliano will be unable to claim the Bateson Prize because the youngest of her three daughters with ASD (that’s the unvaccinated daughter) once ate a tuna sandwich—or because her mother did.

@Tony Bateson:

I believe Dan Olmsted to be right there aren’t any autistic Amish

Ahhhhhahahahaha!

The rates of autism have gone from effectively zero before the 1930s
Horace Dewey observed that pre-revolution Russia had a long tradition of putting autism into a religious context and sticking the label of “blessed fool” on kids who were indifferent to society, insensitive to pain, mute, epileptic, etc. The pattern was common enough to be a recognised niche in society.
Must have been a lot of exposure to mercury in 18th-century Russia.

“I would have thought that was fairly serious but neither ours nor your mainstream media think it’s worthy of comment.”

It certainly attracted comment.

People commented that:

it was unlikely that he ever had access to the funds personally

and

he produced papers and had kept two registered addresses after he ‘disappeared’.

In other words, he apparently only took all the money and ‘disappeared’ if you redefine ‘all’ to mean ‘none’ and ‘disappeared’ to mean ‘still working where he said he did’.

“Note that Bateson’s offer of $1,000 (at nonsense-friendly AoA) or only $100 (outside of his echo chamber) is for PROOF that a child with ASD AND the child’s mother have never come into contact with “vaccine materials”……..and the prize will only be awarded if the claimant presents impartial third-party testimony to the truth of the claims.”

Of course, in this context, a $1,000 offer is a derisable sum of money. Third party validation would be likely to cost considerably more than this, and you can bet Tony expects the parents to take the costs upon themselves first.

Having to spend several times the ‘prize money’ upfront with zero chance of actually getting it, and allowing some random person off the internet/out of the paper/at a conference intimate access to you and your childs medical history? I can see why people aren’t going to fall for it, and I suggest here and now that Tony knows this too.

“What kind of overinflated ego could make someone think that people would even want to contact him? Why does he think he anyone would care to do that?”

Because people already have, including one physician who held several such children on his books. Tony’s response was to visit him in his office (although Tony represented this as ‘insisting on visiting him in his office’, he was actually rather politely invited) and demanded to see the records of the children, a quite unethical request that could have been illegal, if not at least highly unprofessional and possible grounds for a professional misconduct charge, had he been allowed access.

He has also dismissed examples on grounds other than receipt of vaccines. He has been caught good and proper changing his demands and his story at several points.

I have asked him time and time again to validate his methods, which consist of a few letters a year, asking for hands up at conferences and bugging medical instiutions. He has refused for no valid reason. He not only wants people to do what he asks, but he wants them to do it without question.

He has yet to assert any plausible mechanism for the persistance of vaccine materials or effects across generations. He has, by his own logic, failed to make any case.

He refuses to answer reasonable questions about his own beliefs and has provided no reason why any significant numbers of people should be motivated to answer his question.

It’s possible to follow the parties and signings for the Age of Autism book on Facebook. There is a signing coming up:

Friday, September 24 · 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location Brown University Book Store
244 Thayer Street
Providence, RI

So far 9 people are attending, including Mark Blaxill.

There was also a book release party last Saturday. Andrew Wakefield was in attendance, as well as Richard Deth, Wendy Fournier and Erik Nanstiel.

@Broken Link,
It seems odd to me that they would hold a signing at a university where they are likely to be ignored due to subject matter or laughed at due to intelligence or both.

In fact their showing up at the Brown University Bookstore probably lowers the average IQ of the place quite a bit.

Oh, joy. Tony Bateson the liar has reappeared on this side of the pond internet-wise. What’s the matter, Tony? Tired of getting called out on LBRB? You forget, most of us read many blogs, recognize your ramblings and can call you out no matter where you go (except maybe AOA…I won’t go there. I can’t drink enough alcohol to handle their screeds).

@Dedj: nice work about Tony.

@ MikeMa,

I was surprised by this location. But the book signing was nevertheless arranged by TACA, so they must have a connection there. Still, it seems an opportunity for sceptics to appear.

Colleges often (should) see themselves as equal access. If they disallow one speaker because of his POV, it raises serious questions about who else is allowed.

The Time Cube guy spoke at MIT, although there was a level of irony there that probably isn’t present here.

@ruth (7)

Many thanks for pointing out the story, I found it most interesting. Brother Jacob indeed looks like a PW patient.

I just finished reading an excerpt of “Age of Autism”…what a tragic waste of time.

I can’t help seeing Blaxill and Olmsted (B&O – and just as out-of-date as the ex-railroad of that name) as terribly behind the times, even within their own uniquely retrograde sect. It’s like coming out today with a new book on computers that touts the simplicity and flexibility of MS-DOS. The world has moved on and left them floundering in the dust.

OK, so Olmsted is a washed-up has-been (or, more precisely, a “never-was”), but Mark Blaxill is an acknowledged expert in intellectual property and should be more “with the times” than this.

There is nothing more pathetic than being the last guy to figure out that the party is over and everyone else has left and gone home. It’s like being the last person in your class to figure out that Santa Claus lives among us under a secret identity (don’t want to burst the bubble for any young kids reading this ‘blog – the rest of you know what I mean).

Frankly, I wonder how this book will impact the future careers of the authors. As mentioned above, Dan Olmsted’s career is in the terminal ballistic phase, but Mark Blaxill might have a few clients who read this book and ask themselves “This is the guy I’m paying for advice?” I’m not saying this as some sort of veiled threat, but in a real sense of concern for someone who clearly isn’t getting it.

Here is the reality of mercury and autism:

[1] The amount of mercury that kids get by age 3 years in childhood vaccines – even if you include annual flu shots – since 2002 (hint: eight years ago) is less than 10% of the dose children received before the “autism epidemic” started.

[2] Environmental mercury levels are dropping and have been since at least the early 1980’s and probably since the mid-1960’s.

[3] Despite [1] and [2], autism prevalence has continued to rise in the US, UK, Canada, EU, etc. in a nearly monotonic fashion with nary a deflection.

It is still possible that a minority of autism cases are caused by mercury, but that number – at most – is going to be very, very small. It may be – and probably is – ZERO.

It is time for Messrs. Blaxill and Olmsted to go through the grieving process for their dead hypothesis. It is sad to see a promising young hypothesis cut down in its prime, but life goes on. Have a good cry and move on.

The alternative is to become yet another pathetic figure moaning about conspiracies and cover-ups and how “I coulda been a contender!”.

Requiescat in pace, “mercury-causes-autism”, we hardly knew you.

Prometheus

It’s like coming out today with a new book on computers that touts the simplicity and flexibility of MS-DOS.

Better yet, BeOS.

Calli Arcale,
You and I must be 2 of the handful of users of BeOS worldwide. I installed that thing many years ago and found it interesting but in no way compelling. Ah, well.

Actually, I’ve never used BeOS. I looked into it, and was seriously considering buying a computer that ran it, but by the time I actually had some money on hand to get one, they weren’t available anymore, and I ended up with another Mac. There were great things about the system’s design, but it just never attracted enough customers, and today it is kept alive by a handful of the faithful, who maintain it themselves (open source) now that the original creators have long since moved on.

So while I’d hate to compare BeOS in any way to the idiocy of the thimerosal-in-vaccines-causes-autism nonsense, there are some parallels in its fandom.

@55

Except that Gates was talking about how improved health leads to smaller family size because people don’t need to make huge families just so some of them survive.

@Unpronounceable dude:

If you’d listened to the full context of what Mr. Gates said, you’d know that vaccines reduce infant mortality. There’s a tendency that when infant mortality drops, people have fewer children. This leads to reduced overpopulation.

ONEness education is anti-intelligence and reduces mentality to CYCLOPIC HALFBRAIN.

Bill Gates wants reduced population so he can sell MS-DOS again.

Except for human brain, no ONEness exists!!

@Martin (50)

Good novelist are careful observers, and many Victorian novels have characters that would today have a DSM-IV label.

When a true biochemical link is discovered, the number of actual cases of a disorder can decline dramatically. With iodine supplements, we rarely see cretinism today in the west. Most people probably only know it as an insult, and not as a medical condition. Testing for PKU and following the proper diet reduces the number of kids with retardation. If ethyl mercury affected autism, we would see the results by now.

I personally don’t know what is the “most devastating childhood disorder any of us have faced in our lifetime.”

Childhood cancer has got to be up there. (Note to Sid: the incidence of childhood cancer is comparable to that of autism.)

Can I put $5 on infant diarrhea, please? HIV and malaria are worthy candidates, but good, old-fashioned runs are still the biggest killer of young children I can think of. (Oh, sorry. I forgot these arseholes don’t count poor kids.)

@45

Richard Deth has to be great name for an anti-vaxxer. Can the other 3 horsemen be far behind?

Prometheus wrote:

The amount of mercury that kids get by age 3 years in childhood vaccines – even if you include annual flu shots – since 2002 (hint: eight years ago) is less than 10% of the dose children received before the “autism epidemic” started.

Hi, Prometheus–could you tell me how much mercury was administered according to the pediatric vaccine schedule “before the ‘autism epidemic’ started” (ca. 1983?) and the maximum amount–including flu shots–that could be administered today? Thanks.

Except that Gates was talking about how improved health leads to smaller family size because people don’t need to make huge families just so some of them survive.

That’s just what the shapeshifting reptilian aliens WANT you to think!

Brian,

After about 1971 (when the MMR vaccine was introduced) to 1982 (when the Hepatitis B vaccine was introduced) children were exposed to 200 mcg of thimerosal (100 mcg mercury) from vaccines (DTP) by age three years.

From 1982 to 1992, that exposure was raised to 350 mcg of thimerosal (175 mcg mercury) by the addition of the Hep B vaccine.

After 1992 (when the Haemophilus influenza B vaccine was introduced), that exposure went up to 550 mcg of thimerosal (275 mcg mercury) by age three years.

None of these include the influenza vaccine, since formal recommendations were lacking until recently. Even today, the indications are that influenza vaccination in pre-school children is very low. If we are to add annual influenza vaccinations – which were very rare in children under three years prior to the 21st century – that would add (at most) 75 mcg of thimerosal (37.5 mcg mercury) to the above totals.

Currently there are thimerosal-free influenza vaccines and the recommendation – since 1999 – is that children receive thimerosal-free influenza vaccines. This leaves only the one DTaP vaccine that contains thimerosal (0.3 mcg per dose – 0.15 mcg mercury per dose) as a source of thimerosal (mercury) in children’s vaccines.

If you “run the numbers”, you’ll see that the total thimerosal exposure – if the Tripedia (Sanofi) DTaP vaccine is used consistently – would be 1.2 mcg of thimerosal (0.6 mcg mercury).

This is less than 10% (1.2%, in fact) of the thimerosal/mercury dose that children routinely received from the 1960’s to the early 1970’s and is a hair over 0.2% of the dose received from 1992 until 2000.

Of course, if children receive thimerosal-containing influenza vaccines annually from age 6 months to age three years, their thimerosal exposure would be 75 mcg (37.5 mcg of mercury) – 38% of the 1970 dose and 14% of the 1993 dose. However, that is not the recommended vaccine for children.

So, whether you like the “less than 10%” (actually, less than 2%) figure or the “less than half” figure, children born since 2002 (and probably a year earlier) have been receiving less thimerosal/mercury in their vaccines than they did in the decades preceding the “autism epidemic”.

Therefore, if you believe in the “autism epidemic”, you can’t (logically) believe that mercury or thimerosal are the cause. Likewise, if you believe that thimerosal or mercury cause autism, you can’t believe in the “autism epidemic”.

I hope that helps.

Prometheus

Todd – do you have something like Prometheus’s comment on your antiantivax website?

Man, this is as clearcut as it can get. Shoot, you could even do it better justice by tabulating it and whatnot.

Thanks, Prometheus.

I was having a bit of trouble understanding Blaxill’s assertion that exposure to thimerosal via influenza vaccines–in addition to the essentially thimerosal-free pediatric vaccine schedule–somehow accounts for the fact that the administrative prevalence of ASD did not drop when thimerosal use was dramatically curtailed. You’re post explains a lot, although it certainly does not explain how Blaxill could possibly believe what he says 😉

@Prometheus

“So, whether you like the “less than 10%” (actually, less than 2%) figure or the “less than half” figure, children born since 2002 (and probably a year earlier) have been receiving less thimerosal/mercury in their vaccines than they did in the decades preceding the ‘autism epidemic’.”

What about parents who’ve found thimerosal-preserved DTaP, Hep B and Hib vaccines after 2002? Are they liars?

And from what set of autism data do you use to base your conclusions on autism rates?

Jake, assuming they exist, they’d be in the minority. (I have not read of any, but am wiling to accept a few may have been able to procure expired vaccine lots and perhaps even persuade a nurse or physician to use them on their child.) If only a very small few have received thimerosal compared to the masses who were before, why is the autism rate either stable or increasing (depending on which figures you use)? Either thimerosal has no connection, or all those parents of autistic children who did not use any thimerosal-treated vaccines are, in your opinion, lying.

@Jake

They may be lying. They may be mistaken. They may be telling the truth. If a doctor used an expired vaccine, then the doctor was violating the patients’ trust and going against the good standard of practice.

If a doctor did, indeed, administer expired vaccines containing thimerosal, well, then you have a new confounding variable to consider. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the vaccine actually caused a patient’s autism (which it almost certainly did not, just to be clear), then was it the thimerosal or was it the fact that the vaccine was expired and possibly dangerous? You cannot conclude that it was the thimerosal, because we have a new variable that needs to be accounted for.

All that said, Jake, you still cannot explain why autism rates have not dropped precipitously with the drastic reduction in thimerosal exposure.

Bear in mind, Jake has written an article on autism rates.

Jake will be fully capable of alledging autism rates have gone down, whilst at the same time, standing right back whilst his supporters and associates claim autism rates are skyrocketing.

Do not expect consistancy from this man.

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