January 30, 2006

So Cal Families Wanted

From Jennifer McNulty:

Hi Friends,

Wanted: Families in the Southern California area who would be interested in being featured in a brochure being designed to benefit Autism Research Institute and DAN! Defeat Autism Now!

The purpose is to raise awareness that many children are significantly improving and even recovering as a result of biomedical interventions.

Why are we doing this? My husband Dan and I have a eight year old son, Kyle, with a diagnosis of autism who has benefitted greatly from DAN! Defeat Autism Now, and we want to give back our time to this wonderful organization, and the doctors who are such brave individuals. We own a graphic design firm, and in behalf of ARI, won a grant from a paper company to print this brochure.

The photography will be done by an award-winning photographer, Marcelo Coehlo, and the families stories will be outlined in the brochure by a very talented writer, Richard Huvard. We are hoping to initiate photography the week of February 6 -10th. We are working in close collaboration and approval from Dr. Bernie Rimland and ARI, and the piece will also feature several of the doctors, and researchers who have played key roles in furthering treatment for our kids.

If you feel your child has greatly improved, or has even recovered from autism due to biomedical interventions pioneered by DAN!, and you would be willing to share your story, and have your child featured, PLEASE email me at the address below.

As, well, we are also looking to feature a few children of families with newly diagnosed children, who are just starting their journey into searching for answers for their kids. Please also contact me if you would be interested in having your child photographed, and sharing your experiences.

I know how very busy everyone is, we would try to only take a couple hours of your time. If you know of a family who may be interested, please forward this email to them.

Email: jennim@mcnultyco.com
Please leave your contact phone numbers, and let me know the best time to reach you.

Jennifer McNulty

Aspie Mood Phone

"Mood Phone" for Aspies Wins Student Award, Car and Job

Earlier this week, Motorola crowned the winner of its MOTOFWRD contest, which is devoted to finding the best new technology created by students all over the country. The winner (picking up a $10,000 scholarship, new Bluetooth-enabled car and apprenticeship with Motorola's Chief Technology Office) was John Finan, a Duke University graduate student, who came up with a "Mood Phone" that would be able to help "improve social interactions," especially for those suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. The technology would allow for a cellphone to light up in a bunch of different colors depending on what's being said. The warm red to cool blues would then let the user figure out the mood and inflection coming from whomever is speaking, depending on the words and phrases.

January 19, 2006

Discover: Mercury

So I know I am doing a lot of Mercury blogging these days, but there is just so much out there on in these days. Long article on Mercury from Discover. If you want a broad view of mercury in your world, take some time and read the whole thing.

Our Preferred Poison
A little mercury is all that humans need to do away with themselves quietly, slowly, and surely
By Karen Wright
Illustration by Don Foley
DISCOVER Vol. 26 No. 03 March 2005 Biology & Medicine

Let’s start with a straightforward fact:

Mercury is unimaginably toxic and dangerous.
A single drop on a human hand can be irreversibly fatal.
A single drop in a large lake can make all
the fish in it unsafe to eat.

Often referred to as quicksilver, mercury is the only common metal that is liquid at room temperature. Alchemists, including the young Sir Isaac Newton, believed it was the source of gold. In the modern era, it became a common ingredient of paints, diuretics, pesticides, batteries, fluorescent lightbulbs, skin creams, antifungal agents, vaccines for children, and of course, thermometers. There is probably some in your mouth right now: So-called silver dental fillings are half mercury.

Mercury is also a by-product of many industrial processes. In the United States coal-fired power plants alone pump about 50 tons of it into the air each year. That mercury rains out of the sky into oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams, where it becomes concentrated in the flesh of fish, shellfish, seals, and whales. Last year the Food and Drug Administration determined there is so much mercury in the sea that women of childbearing age should severely limit their consumption of larger ocean fish. The warning comes too late for many mothers. A nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control shows that one in 12 women of childbearing age already have unsafe blood levels of mercury and that as many as 600,000 babies in the United States could be at risk. But that begs a critical question: At risk for what?

Infants born to mothers contaminated by mercury in Japan’s Minamata Bay in 1956 had profound neurological disabilities including deafness, blindness, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy. In adults, mercury poisoning can cause numbness, stumbling, dementia, and death. “It’s no secret that mercury exposure is highly toxic,” says toxicologist Alan Stern, a contributor to a 2000 National Research Council report on mercury toxicity. But high-level exposures like those at Minamata cannot help scientists determine whether six silver fillings and a weekly tuna-salad sandwich will poison you or an unborn child. “The question is, what are the effects at low levels of exposure?” he says.

Data now suggest effects might occur at levels lower than anyone suspected. Some studies show that children who were exposed to tiny amounts of mercury in utero have slower reflexes, language deficits, and shortened attention spans. In adults, recent studies show a possible link between heart disease and mercury ingested from eating fish. Other groups claim mercury exposure is responsible for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and the escalating rate of autism.

How—and in what form—mercury inflicts damage is still unclear. Yet scientists and policymakers agree that more regulation is imperative. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to finalize its controversial first rule on reducing mercury emissions from power plants this month, and delegates from the United Nations Environment Programme met in late February to discuss an international convention limiting mercury use and emissions.

A decade ago researchers and lawmakers agreed that lead, another heavy metal, was harmful to children at levels one-sixth as high as previously recognized. But it took scientists decades to establish the scope and subtlety of lead poisoning. Mercury is now a ubiquitous contaminant. The average American may have several micrograms of it in each liter of blood, and the atmospheric burden of mercury has perhaps tripled since the industrial age. Whatever needs to be done to protect humanity from its love affair with quicksilver, it had better happen soon.

In August 1996 Karen Wetterhahn, a chemistry professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, spilled a few drops of a laboratory compound called dimethyl mercury onto one of her hands. She was wearing latex lab gloves, so she didn’t think much of it. A colleague saw her at a conference the following November. “She said she thought she was coming down with the flu,” says toxicologist Vas Aposhian of the University of Arizona. By the time Wetterhahn was diagnosed with mercury poisoning, in January, it was too late. Despite subsequent treatment that helped clear the metal from her body, she lapsed into a vegetative state in February and died the following June.

Scientists are at a loss to explain why mercury often takes months to exert its effects. “If we knew that, we’d know a lot more about how mercury poisons the brain,” says Tom Clarkson, a toxicologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The degree of mercury’s toxicity depends on the form and route of exposure. You can swallow the liquid form of elemental mercury without much fear because it doesn’t easily penetrate the lining of the stomach and intestines. On the other hand, liquid mercury vaporizes at room temperature, and when you inhale the vapor it moves right from the lungs to the bloodstream to the brain. A broken thermometer can release enough mercury vapor to poison the air in a room—one reason why some cities and several states discourage the sale of mercury fever thermometers.

Mercury also binds with other elements in salts and organic compounds of varying toxicity. Dimethyl mercury, the substance that poisoned the Dartmouth chemist, is a synthetic form of organic mercury rarely found outside a lab. A simpler organic compound called methylmercury is of greater concern because methyl- mercury is the form found in the flesh of fish.

Seafood is one of the two most common sources of mercury exposure in adults. Although concentrations of mercury in air and water are increasing, they are still too small for alarm. But bacteria process the mercury in lakes and oceans into a form that accumulates in living tissue. Plankton take in the bacteria and are in turn eaten by small fish. With each meal, the mercury concentration rises. Then larger fish eat the small fish, increasing tissue concentrations still more. Fish at the top of the food chain accumulate the most mercury. The species singled out by the recent FDA advisory—big predators such as albacore tuna, shark, and swordfish—can have 100 times more mercury in their tissues than smaller fish do.

The methylmercury in fish passes readily from the human gut to the bloodstream and on into all organs and tissues. It seems to act most powerfully on the brain because the compound is strongly attracted to fatty molecules called lipids, and the brain has the highest lipid content of any organ. Methylmercury crosses the protective blood-brain barrier by binding with an essential amino acid that has dedicated carrier proteins for shunting it into brain cells. Once inside brain cells, some of it gets converted to an inorganic form that sticks to and disables many structural proteins and enzymes essential to cell function. “It can destroy the biological function of any protein it binds to,” says Boyd Haley, a biochemist at the University of Kentucky.

Researchers learned how much mercury the body can tolerate from studies of victims of catastrophic poisoning, such as the Japanese sickened by eating fish from Minamata Bay and the Iraqis who ate grain treated with a methylmercury-based preservative in the early 1970s. But those studies do not reveal how little mercury it takes to cause harm. At the time of her diagnosis, the Dartmouth chemist had 4,000 micrograms of mercury per liter in her blood. A diet consistently high in fish can create a blood-mercury level of about 25 micrograms per liter. That’s far below a lethal dose, but it still may not be safe.

Concerns about low-level toxicity haunt discussions of another ubiquitous source of mercury exposure: silver dental fillings. Elemental mercury, which makes up half of silver fillings, releases mercury vapor, just as liquid mercury does. The vapor from dental amalgams is the primary source of the one to eight micrograms of mercury per liter of blood, that is, according to some sources, in the average American adult. That amount uncomfortably overlaps the Environmental Protection Agency’s current safe level of 5.8 micrograms per liter. But the EPA’s safety level is based on methylmercury exposure, about which more is known. No human studies have assessed prolonged exposure to low levels of mercury vapor. One study hints at subtle neural and behavioral anomalies in dentists, who collectively use 300 metric tons of mercury in amalgams each year and who often have two to five times the typical concentration of mercury in their urine.

“I think the methylmercury in fish is probably our least toxic exposure,” says Haley, who broadcasts the hazards of dental fillings.

Silver-mercury fillings have never been tested for safety. “The amalgam question will never be solved until we do a clinical trial like those we do with other medical devices,” says Aposhian.

“It’s really unclear what’s going on with dental amalgams,” says Stern, who notes that the issue is complicated by the potential for panic and lawsuits. “It’s a snake pit.”

One of the lessons of Minamata is that mercury, like lead, is harder on fetuses than on the women carrying them, or adults in general. In the Japanese event, women with no overt symptoms of poisoning gave birth to severely disabled children. “It was evident there was a major difference in susceptibility between the developing brain and the mature brain,” says Philippe Grandjean, an epidemiologist at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “When we saw serious poisonings in Minamata, that made us wonder whether mercury could be like lead.”

Studies of lead have shown that IQ decreases approximately two or three points for every doubling of prenatal and early postnatal exposure. To see if mercury has comparable effects, Grandjean, along with Pál Weihe at the University of Southern Denmark, is conducting the largest study to date of children’s cognition and behavior in a population routinely exposed to low levels of mercury. His work in the Faeroe Islands of Denmark includes 1,000 mother-child pairs and spans almost 20 years. In a typical year, Faeroe islanders consume 1,000 pilot whales, or one whale for every 50 islanders. “They belong to one of the most fish-eating populations in the world,” says Grandjean.

Whale meat is one of the most highly contaminated seafoods because whales are at the top of the food chain. Even so, the mercury content of whale meat is considerably lower than that of the hypertoxic Minamata fish. An earlier study of shark eaters in New Zealand suggested that relatively high levels of mercury in a mother’s hair during pregnancy correlated with a loss of three IQ points in her child. High levels, in that study, were identified as six parts per million and above in the hair shaft.

Grandjean gave a battery of sophisticated cognitive and developmental tests to the Faeroese children when they were 7 and 14. His results indicate that IQ drops 1.5 points for every doubling in prenatal exposure to mercury. The 2000 National Research Council report concluded that the risk documented by Grandjean “is likely to be sufficient to result in an increase in the number of children who have to struggle to keep up in school.”

“We learned there is a response at low levels,” says Grandjean. “It’s not a huge loss, but it’s certainly not negligible.”

Yet in another large, long-term epidemiological study conducted on the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, Clarkson has so far found no effect on neurological development from prenatal exposure to low levels of mercury in seafood. “We can’t exclude effects from 20 parts per million or even 12 parts per million,” he notes. But he concludes there is no graded risk that extends to the lowest exposure levels.

The 2000 research council report evaluated the Faeroe, Seychelles, and New Zealand studies and recommended that the EPA set safety standards based on Grandjean’s more sobering findings. The agency did. Then, for good measure, it added a 10-fold uncertainty factor—a safety margin to protect against scientific unknowns and individual differences in response to a toxin. The uncertainty factor lowers the threshold to a figure of 5.8 micrograms per liter of blood and 1.2 parts per million in hair.

The problem with safety factors is that they create a toxicological limbo between demonstrably harmful doses and levels that have been declared safe. Thus, when Centers for Disease Control surveys find that one in 12 American women of childbearing age—8 percent—have blood mercury levels above the safety threshold, the implications aren’t clear, either for them or for the children they bear. Epidemiologist Tom Sinks says, “It doesn’t tell us there’s a hazard.”

“The whole idea of a safety factor is to protect people,” Clarkson says. “You can’t turn it around to use as an indication of who’s at risk. If you’re just above it, you aren’t necessarily in trouble.”

That kind of hedging, along with disagreement among population studies, leaves regulators with plenty of wiggle room. The FDA, for example, uses a more relaxed safety standard for mercury based on studies from the 1970s and 1980s. Where the EPA safety level for daily exposure is 0.1 microgram per kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of body weight, the FDA’s standard is about 0.4 microgram per kilogram per day. The difference is four times as much mercury.

Concern about early exposure to mercury doesn’t end at birth. Until recently, many infants received regular injections of mercury on a state-mandated, medically sanctioned schedule. The mercury came from a compound called thimerosal that has been used as a preservative in vaccines and other medicines since the 1930s. In 1999 the FDA recommended that thimerosal no longer be used in pediatric vaccines, and manufacturers have removed it from all but the influenza vaccine. But some scientists and many more aggrieved parents are convinced that thimerosal in childhood vaccines has already caused, or at least catalyzed, the U.S. epidemic of autism.

An estimated 400,000 Americans today have autism, a once rare neurological disorder characterized by social withdrawal, difficulty communicating, and involuntary, repetitive movements. Although the exact numbers are in dispute, the rate of diagnosis seems to have climbed sharply in the last decade. In California the incidence of autism was six times higher in 2002 than in 1987.

During that period, federal health officials added four new kinds of vaccines to the childhood immunization schedule, and the amount of mercury routinely administered to infants in the first six months of life more than doubled. Throughout the 1990s, a 3-month-old baby might receive as much as 63 micrograms of mercury in a single visit to a doctor—roughly 100 times the daily EPA safety level. By the age of 6 months, properly immunized children were exposed to at least 188 micrograms of mercury in a series of at least nine injections. Although the 1999 FDA action minimized such exposure, some infant flu vaccines still contain 12.5 micrograms of mercury per dose—more than 10 times the daily EPA safety level for a 20-pound baby.

Circumstantial evidence also implicates mercury in autism. Some of the symptoms of autism and mercury poisoning are similar, and Haley has garnered evidence from hair samples that autistic children do not clear mercury from their bodies as efficiently as most kids do. They may have a genetic susceptibility that allows more mercury to accumulate in their tissues, he says. That could make them more vulnerable to mercury-laced vaccines and the continuous low-level exposure from their mothers’ dental fillings. “It is amazing to me that no one has taken the tissue of autistic children to see if there is excess mercury there,” Aposhian told a committee at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., last year. “That’s one thing that really has to be done.”

There are other sources of uncertainty. The form of mercury in thimerosal—an organic compound called ethyl mercury—is the least studied of all mercury’s incarnations. When scientists argue about its toxicity, they typically rely on data from methylmercury, which may not be an equivalent form of exposure. Experts even disagree about whether ethyl mercury can cross the blood-brain barrier. (It probably does.) “There are no good ways to measure ethyl mercury in tissue,” toxicologist Polly Sager of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the Institute of Medicine committee.

The Institute of Medicine concluded last May that no claim could be made for a causal link between mercury-laced vaccines and autism, but several independent researchers had complained that their access to federal vaccine databases, which could provide evidence of a link, had been repeatedly blocked. A few scientists, including Haley and neuropharmacologist Richard Deth of Northeastern University in Boston, continue to study possible mechanisms for the connection. Deth reported last year, for example, that in human nerve cells thimerosal blocks a chemical reaction called methylation that is critical to gene activity and that is also disabled by exposure to lead.

The report that first triggered worries about a connection between vaccines and autism was published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 1998. It described eight children whose behavioral problems surfaced within two weeks of receiving the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. The Lancet and most of the article’s coauthors ultimately disowned the study because its lead author had not divulged that he was also being paid to conduct research for parents seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers. Nonetheless, the number of parents in the United Kingdom willing to immunize their babies with the vaccine dropped from 90 percent in 1998 to less than 80 percent in 2004.

Health officials in the United States addressed suspicions about immunization by recommending that thimerosal be removed from pediatric vaccines. Thimerosal might yet prove harmless, they reasoned, but the threat to public health posed by a drop in immunization rates was not worth risking. The same balance of risks exists regarding the issue of mercury in fish. The current Federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report recommends at least two fish meals a week. Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have proven benefits in preventing heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. “We know mercury is a hazardous substance,” says the CDC’s Sinks. “We know that less is better than more. We know that fish and shellfish are the principal source of methylmercury. But we also know that fish and shellfish are pretty nutritious food: high in protein, high in vitamins. They contain healthy fats.”

But troubling evidence suggests that methylmercury in fish might cause heart disease. A seven-year study of more than 1,800 men in Finland showed that those who ate the most fish doubled their risk of heart attack compared with those whose diets had less fish. The same men showed the same increase in risk for death from coronary and cardiovascular disease. And Grandjean’s Faeroe Islands study found that prenatal exposure to mercury caused significant increases in blood pressure among 7-year-olds.

The most troubling aspect of this controversial heart-disease data is that deleterious effects occur at mercury-exposure levels equal to or lower than for any other toxicological outcome, including the subtle neurological symptoms in the Faeroe Islands study. In Grandjean’s most recent examination of 14-year-olds, he has found a doubling of certain neurotoxic effects at five parts per million in hair samples. In the Finnish study, the men with the doubled risk of heart attack had hair samples with only two parts per million of mercury. They were eating little more than an ounce of fish a day. Stern speculates that 10 percent of American men may already eat enough fish to raise their risk of heart attack.

“There’s this interaction between mercury and fish oils that makes it very complicated because they both come from the same place,” he says.

The National Research Council report noted that low levels of mercury contamination might also harm the immune and reproductive systems. And mercury is being investigated in relation to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, attention deficit disorder, and multiple sclerosis. But many low-level developmental effects will be difficult to identify, Stern says, because the compromised organ or function still falls within the range of normal. The intelligence scores of the Faeroese children, for example, were not pathologically low; it took rigorous statistical analyses to prove they were simply lower than they would have been otherwise. Likewise heart disease, as the nation’s leading killer, has plenty of confounding variables. “You’re looking to pull a signal out of a lot of noise,” Stern says.

That signal might soon get a lot stronger. While mercury contamination is no longer a threat in most childhood vaccines, it is likely to get worse in fish. “Because of the beneficial effects of fish consumption, the long-term goal needs to be a reduction in the concentrations of [methylmercury] in fish rather than a replacement of fish in the diet by other foods,” said the council’s report.

That goal is nothing less than unrealistic.

Mercury was a naturally occurring element in Earth’s atmosphere long before coal-fired generators, medical-waste incinerators, and chlor-alkali plants put more there. Some mercury escapes into the air when volcanoes erupt and mountains erode. It stands to reason that mercury has been accumulating in the flesh of fish, shellfish, and marine mammals since humankind began eating them—which is most likely why humans have a protein called metallothione to help detoxify mercury and other heavy metals.

But human activities have caused the mercury content of the atmosphere to rise by 1.5 percent a year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the problem is global. Roughly half of the mercury deposited on U.S. soils and streams comes across the Pacific from Asia. Last year a United Nations report found that the toxin can travel thousands of miles in the atmosphere to contaminate pristine and uninhabited areas, such as the Arctic. Still, the United States has so far balked at attempts by the United Nations Environment Programme to draw up a binding protocol to reduce mercury pollution worldwide.

In the 1990s the United States made considerable progress in curbing emissions from incinerators for medical and municipal waste. Yet the number of states issuing local fishing advisories went from 27 to 48 in the last decade. Due to heightened concern, advisories for mercury are increasing faster than for any other pollutant.

The EPA is in the final stages of formalizing a rule that would limit emissions from coal-fired utilities, which produce 42 percent of the nation’s domestic mercury pollution. The agency’s standing proposal has been for a 70 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2018. But environmentalists argue that the Clean Air Act calls for a 90 percent reduction by 2008. In 1992 the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the EPA for not maintaining the act’s standards, and in 1994 the parties reached a settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, the agency is required to issue a cleanup rule this month.

Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus; the element has been found in Egyptian tombs from 1500 B.C.

Mercury rarely occurs free in nature but can be found in ores, principally cinnabar. The element, which exists in its natural form as a mix of seven stable isotopes, is most often found near volcanoes or geothermal springs. The metal is obtained by heating cinnabar in an air current and condensing the vapor.

Mercury easily forms alloys, called amalgams, with other metals like gold, silver, and tin. The element has many uses in the chemical industry, such as in the manufacture of sodium hydroxide and chlorine by the electrolysis of brine, as well as in making advertising signs, mercury switches, and other electrical apparatuses. It is also used to make sensitive measuring devices for laboratories. Other uses are in dental work, batteries, and catalysts. Because of mercury’s toxicity, many of these uses are under review.

Favored Fish
An inspector at a California cannery in 1953 spot-checks canned tuna. In the United States, canned tuna is the third most commonly purchased food item, after sugar and coffee, based on dollar sales per amount of shelf space devoted to the product. An EPA study reported the median amount of mercury, measured in parts per million, in the following varieties of canned tuna: chunk light: .08 parts per million; canned albacore tuna: .34 ppm; fresh or frozen tuna: .30 ppm. A 2004 EPA advisory mentions five types of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollack, and catfish. The advisory also warns consumers not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because they all contain high levels of mercury.

Mercury Fillings
Dental amalgams, known as silver fillings, are composed of roughly 50 percent mercury. Studies of people with mercury-containing dental fillings show a correlation between the number and size of the fillings and the amount of mercury excreted in their urine. The relationship suggests that the mercury is derived from mercury vapor released from the fillings. Some evidence shows that the level of mercury in the brain tissue of fetuses, newborns, and young children is also directly proportional to the number of surfaces of amalgam fillings the mother has.

January 18, 2006

Drug Error, Not Chelation Therapy, Killed Boy, Expert Says

I have been preparing a post on the frustration that I have over the fact that the coroners report on Tariq's death gave us no answers to the questions that chelating parents have been asking for the last several months. Was this an allergic reaction? Was the wrong chelating agent used? Then today from the CDC comes word that the wrong chemical compound was used, making Tariq's death a medical accident (or malpractice) due to a drug mix up.

I have to ask why was this information not made public a week ago. Why did the CDC have to request the coronor's report and then issue their own statement to answer the question.

Props to Dr. Brown for settling the question for us.

Drug error, not chelation therapy, killed boy, expert says
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One of the nation's foremost experts in chelation therapy said she has determined "without a doubt" that it was medical error, and not the therapy itself, that led to the death of a 5-year-old boy who was receiving it as a treatment for autism.

Dr. Mary Jean Brown, chief of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said yesterday that Abubakar Tariq Nadama died Aug. 23 in his Butler County doctor's office because he was given the wrong chelation agent.

"It's a case of look-alike/sound-alike medications," she said yesterday. "The child was given Disodium EDTA instead of Calcium Disodium EDTA. The generic names are Versinate and Endrate. They sound alike. They're clear and colorless and odorless. They were mixed up."

Both types of EDTA are synthetic amino acids that latch onto heavy metals in the bloodstream.

Dr. Brown said she obtained the child's autopsy report on behalf of the CDC after reading an article about the death in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She said it didn't take long to figure out what had happened.

Essentially, Tariq died from low blood calcium. Without enough calcium -- a metal -- in the blood, the heart stops beating. Dr. Brown said the Disodium EDTA the child was given as a chelation agent "acted as a claw that pulled too much calcium" from his blood.

"The blood calcium level was below 5 . That's an emergency event," she said.
Officials from the state police, the district attorney's office and the coroner's office will meet soon to decide whether to hold an inquest into the child's death and whether it should remain listed as accidental.

Dr. Brown said the same mix-up happened in two other recent cases: a 2-year-old girl in Texas who died in May during chelation for lead poisoning and a woman from Oregon who died three years ago while receiving chelation for clogged arteries.
Dr. Brown said that in each case, the blood calcium level was below 5 milligrams. Normal is between 7 and 9.

The correct chelation agent -- Calcium Disodium EDTA -- would not have pulled the calcium from the bloodstream, she said.

The Butler County coroner's office confirmed last week that Tariq had died as a result of his chelation treatment, but the findings that were released didn't indicate whether the treatment had been improperly administered.

Dr. Brown said chelation was once a common and necessary therapy that was used on children and adults alike for lead poisoning. Chelation means administering an agent into the bloodstream that causes heavy metals in the body to cling to it and then be excreted in urine.

Though its only approved use, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is for lead poisoning, Dr. Brown said she is aware that it is used by some people for other medical problems, ranging from clogged arteries to autism.

She said there have been no reputable medical trials demonstrating the effectiveness of chelation as a therapy for anything but lead poisoning. But if it were administered accurately, the procedure would be harmless.

She said it is well known within the medical community that Disodium EDTA should never be used as a chelation agent. She quoted from a 1985 CDC statement: "Only Calcium Disodium EDTA should be used. Disodium EDTA should never be used .. because it may induce fatal hypocalcemia, low calcium and tetany."

"There is no doubt that this was an unintended use of Disodium EDTA. No medical professional would ever have intended to give the child Disodium EDTA," Dr. Brown said.

Tariq was brought to the United States from England last spring by his mother, Marwa, for the chelation therapy. He was in the Portersville, Butler County, office of Dr. Roy Eugene Kerry when he went into cardiac arrest.

In recent months, chelation treatments of a wide variety ranging from IV to oral to topical have been gaining popularity for autistic children due to anecdotal information from parents indicating a reduction in symptoms. The underlying belief is that autism is caused by a sensitivity to heavy metals in the bloodstream.

Howard Carpenter, executive director of the Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders said the determination by Dr. Brown clears up the mystery surrounding Tariq's death but not the uncertainty over chelation itself.

"Since this child died, there have been parents who are pro-chelation who have been very angry that there's talk against it. On the other side, they say the death was a natural consequence of a dangerous activity. Maybe what happened to is explained, but we still don't have a conclusion about whether chelation is an effective treatment for autism," he said.

Tariq's father is a medical doctor who practices in England.

Dr. Kerry could not be reached for comment. A board-certified physician and surgeon, he advertises himself as an ear, nose and throat doctor who also specializes in allergies and environmental medicine.

Update: Wade has a good post on this.

January 14, 2006

Thimerosal Safety: Point - Counterpoint

The Illinois AAP thinks that thimerosal in vaccines is safe:

Thimerosal and Vaccine Safety: What Providers Should Know

Dr. David Ayoub does not:

RESPONSE TO: Thimerosal and Vaccine Safety: What Providers Should Know By Ed Pont, MD FAAP, President Elect and Chair, ICAAP Committee on Government Affairs, and Julie Morita, MD, Medical Director, Immunization Program, Chicago Department of Public Health

1)”A law recently passed in Illinois may inadvertently support parents’ fears that vaccines are unsafe”

If this were true then why wasn’t there widespread panic when in 1999 mercury was suddenly removed from three childhood vaccines- Neonatal Hepatitis B, HiB and DTaP? Why not add all the mercury back into vaccines? This will “boost parents’ confidence” in the vaccine program! What an absurd statement. Reports from one
Springfield hospital indicate, as predicted, influenza vaccine acceptance rates increased this year once they secured only thimerosal-free shots. Safer vaccines will restore much of the lost confidence in the vaccine industry.

2) Since the 1930s, thimerosal has been widely used as a preservative in biological and drug products, including vaccines, to help prevent bacterial contamination.

The observation of thimerosal’s historic widespread use does not alone prove safety. There have been no safety studies conducted. I have read all of the published safety studies (Smithburn 1930, Powell and Jameson 193) from the 1930’s, and they showed that: 1) thimerosal-exposed animals died of mercury poisoning and 2) all humans who received intravenous thimerosal died. I fail to see how these studies assure safety.

Thimerosal is such an ineffective preservative that Chiron lost over half of the US flu vaccine supply because it became contaminated with bacteria in spite of the preservation by thimerosal. The ineffectiveness of thimerosal as an anti-microbial agent has been reported by numerous researchers as far back as the 1940’s. Through the use of single-dose vials, the FDA does not require vaccines to contain any preservatives. I would suggest that this statement is designed to distract from the fact that NO SAFETY STUDIES EXIST.

3) “No guidelines exist for ethylmercury [thimerosal]”.

This fact alone should be sufficient reason for the AAP to support the elimination of mercury. Drs. Pont and Morita chose to leap to the conclusion that the amount of mercury in current vaccines is safe yet admits to inadequate safety guidelines. What ever happened to “first do no harm”? Common sense would dictate that if no guidelines have been established for its use, it should not be used.

4) “Thimerosal has been the subject of several studies. There has been no scientific evidence of harm caused by the small amounts of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor effects like swelling and redness at the injection site.”

It has been said that a lie told over and over again will eventually be believed as fact. First, thimerosal, at the levels found in today’s thimerosal-containing vaccines, has been documented to cause severe adverse reactions, including, but not limited to, anaphylactic shock and death in “sensitive” individuals. Apparently Drs. Pont and Morita overlooked these major reactions. This is even acknowledged by thimerosal manufacturers. Secondly, the volume of research published in peer-review journals that confirms thimerosal is a neurotoxin and is associated with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders is extensive and their unwillingness to acknowledge this data will not make it go away. (see appendix)

5) “The committee [2004 Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review Committee] also concluded that there is no scientific evidence of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism and that potential biological mechanisms for vaccine-induced autism that have been generated to date are only theoretical.”

First, The IOM report has been widely criticized by the scientific as well as the legislative community. (see attached speech, Congressman Weldon, Dr Ed Yazbak). The IOM conclusions are only as good as the science that supports them. And in a word, the science was garbage (extensive discussion available upon request). The cited research was uniformly funded by pharmaceutical companies. The IOM executive committee is comprised of a small number of individuals who are tied to the drug industry, including Gail Cassell, the VP of Eli Lily, the very organization that is being charged with $100’s of billions in liability, and two former employees of the CDC, the very organization being charged with oversight failure with regards to vaccine safety and mercury content. Finally, the AAP would unlikely acknowledge that documents obtained through FOIA showed that the IOM committee had decided NOT to find a link between vaccines and autism before reviewing a single paper on the subject. The IOM process was conflicted, biased and wrong.

6)” ICAAP fought for language in the law that authorizes the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to exempt a vaccine from the Act in case of an actual or potential bio-terrorist incident or public health emergency such as an epidemic or vaccine shortage.”

In fact, the bill’s sponsors introduced the exemption when they crafted the language from several other states’ legislation. The AAP should not take credit for this. Furthermore, considering 1 of 6 Americans suffer from learning disabilities and 1 in 80 males from autism; it is hard to imagine a more successful bioterrorism agent than mercury.

7) “However, some preparations of the inactivated influenza vaccine, now routinely recommended for healthy infants aged six to 23 months and other high-risk children, contain thimerosal as a preservative. Thimerosal-free preparations are of the inactivated influenza vaccine are available in limited supplies”

The majority of children will get a flu vaccine that contains 12.5 micrograms of mercury. Based upon EPA limits, these infants will receive 11-16 times what is considered safe. There is a LIMITED amount of just about everything tangible on earth, but there were 6 million doses of pediatric flu vaccines available for the current season, easily enough for all children in Illinois of this age group, which is the first state to activate the mercury-free flu vaccine legislation. Yet, the AAP chose not to advice clinicians to order these available vaccines for this season or next season, but rather chose to support an exemption.

8) “Vaccine opponents have inappropriately referenced the 1999 AAP statement when arguing that thimerosal-containing vaccines are unsafe and should be banned... Providing children with influenza and other vaccines is safe and consistent with the 1999 joint AAP/PHS recommendation.”

What is crystal clear, the Illinois AAP has chosen to ignore the main point of the 1999 warning.

The “9 July 1999” joint statement said: (with bolding added for emphasis)
“Nevertheless, because any potential risk is of concern, the Public Health Service (PHS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and vaccine manufacturers agree that thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible. Similar conclusions were reached this year in a meeting attended by European regulatory agencies, European vaccine manufacturers, and FDA, which examined the use of thimerosal-containing vaccines produced or sold in European countries.

PHS and AAP are working collaboratively to assure that the replacement of thimerosal-containing vaccines takes place as expeditiously as possible while at the same time ensuring that our high vaccination coverage levels and their associated low disease levels throughout our entire childhood population are maintained.”

The AAP has an adequate flu vaccine supply for infants for 2005-06 and yet has not advised any pediatrician to order thimerosal-free vaccine preferentially. The supply next flu season will almost certainly be expand. The concern about “potential risk” was very clearly stated. The AAP and IDPH may choose to spin this announcement in defense of their own actions, but their actions speak volumes….they have chosen to inject more mercury into childhood vaccines and shots for pregnant women in spite of the will of the governor, legislators, parents, advocates and a growing number of physicians.

David Ayoub, MD
9th Jan 2006

January 13, 2006

While We Are On The Subject Of Flu Shots

It is nice to see that this Doc is taking seriously the possibility that her condition is a flu shot side effect. I have a friend that three years ago contracted Gulliam Barre (an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the nervious system) and was paralized from head to toe. It took her more than a year to become mobile again. Only this year did it occur to me to ask her if she had gotten the flu shot before the onset. She had, 5 weeks before, and was told by her doctors that it was likely the cause. (I was the first to tell her about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund)

We know not everyone can be vaccinated, just like we know not everyone can take antibiotics or even eat peanuts. So my question is this. Why are we not figuring out a way to screen for those who may have life threatening or crippling illnesses as a result of vaccinating? Seems to me we should be able to evaluate the individual's immune system to look for warning signs as to when a horrible autoimmune disorder is a greater threat to someone than the flu.

I am sure it all comes down to money.

Officials may document possibility of rare flu-shot reaction
Friday, January 13, 2006
rparker@kalamazoogazette.com 388-2734

A 10-year-old Plainwell girl is fighting her way back from a coma while an anxious community prays for her recovery.

No one knows what caused Claudia Klein to develop a rare bleeding disorder about a month after she received a routine influenza vaccine Nov. 9.

Despite the uncertainty about the cause of her illness, Kalamazoo county's health officer is considering including Claudia's case in the national tracking of adverse reactions to vaccines.

"I think that's a public-health responsibility," said Dr. Richard Tooker, medical officer of Allegan and Kalamazoo counties' health departments.

Claudia fell ill Dec. 8. with symptoms that mirrored those of leukemia, her father, Dan, said. "We were thrilled to hear it was ITP" -- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura -- a rare condition thought to be a misguided immune response that depletes the body's blood platelets. That illness, they were told, usually subsides with no lasting ill effects. ITP is extremely rare, and it is rarer still for the disease to reach the level of severity experienced by Claudia.

She failed to respond to aggressive treatment. Instead, her condition worsened, and on Dec. 16 she developed bleeding in her brain. Claudia underwent surgery and has been in the pediatric intensive-care unit at Bronson Methodist Hospital ever since. She is currently listed in good condition and is beginning to breathe without reliance on a ventilator.

The rare link between ITP and vaccines makes it important to consider documenting what happened to Claudia, Tooker said.

Because of the one-month interval between the vaccination and the onset of the ITP, Tooker said, he was not surprised "the pediatrician never even considered the connection until we brought it to his attention."

Tooker said he will discuss the case with colleagues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and perhaps the vaccine manufacturer.

"If there have been other reports filed with a similar time frame, we will file one," Tooker said. "We may file one anyway just to be prudent."

"Insomuch as we know that pediatric ITP can be affiliated with viral infections, and the notion is, there's interplay between components of the viral infection and the immune system, it follows it is within the realm of possibility that a vaccine may have played a role in her condition."

"This in no way suggests the influenza vaccine is dangerous to anybody. If there were dozens or hundreds of reports of this happening, we would certainly revise our opinion of that, and that's exactly why we do surveillance as we do."

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a voluntary tracking of reactions reported by physicians and does not suggest a cause-and-effect relationship, he said. An Internet search of the system's Web site showed that in 2004, there were nine cases of ITP following vaccinations (only one associated with influenza vaccine), and nine more in 2005, through Nov. 30. No cases were reported in Michigan.

Only by carefully documenting adverse reactions to a medication can scientists determine whether there are risks to certain populations.

"If there is a risk, we want to identify that as soon as possible and eliminate the risk," Tooker said.

"On the other hand, and more likely, if this is a coincidence, we want to dispel any inappropriate fear around a very safe vaccine.

"I think it's important in the early stages of this story being told and retold through word of mouth ... to make sure people are putting this in perspective and getting accurate information," he said.

Word of Claudia's condition has spread throughout her school and community.
"This has brought thousands of people together who have no connection other than Claudia," Dan said.

Tim Grinwis, Claudia's fifth-grade teacher at Gilkey Elementary School, has visited almost daily to read aloud to her and bring her news from school, since she is not up to classmate visits yet, and her mother e-mails news of Claudia's recovery.

In Plainwell, a sign on a local restaurant implores: "Pray for Claudia ."
On Christmas Eve a group of friends from Plainwell gathered on the hospital's heliport in a candlelight vigil, singing carols outside Claudia's room.

"People walking or driving by noticed the candles, and many joined them who didn't even know Claudia or the Kleins but felt so moved they joined right in," Grinwis said. In the end, more than 100 people were assembled.

"It's mind-boggling -- mind-boggling and absolutely humbling," Dan said. "You find out in a hurry the capacity of people, and what community means. And the Bronson Pediatric Intensive Care Unit staff has been compassionate and amazing. They've been our family for a month up there.

"A very rare thing happened to my beautiful daughter. In no way does the family feel the flu shot was the definitive cause here, and it would be irresponsible to say so," given that the vaccinations help so many people.

The important message, Tooker said, is that, statistically, the overwhelming majority of ITP cases in children are triggered by actual viral illnesses.
"They flat out don't know" what prompted Claudia's illness, Dan Klein said. But he is adamant that what happened to his daughter should not prevent anyone from getting a flu shot.

"The reality is, my daughter ... won all the wrong lottos on this one," he said.

January 12, 2006

Did You Get The Flu Shot While Pregnant?

UPDATE: This is a popular with people asking the question, "Can I get the flu shot while pregnant". If you are one of those, after reading this post check here.

An interesting question arose out of the discussion of the California Autism numbers, specifically what the CDC recommendation this year that pregnant women get the flu shot will do to the autism rates. I noted that apparently only 13% of moms are paying heed to this recommendation.

I received an email from a woman who has started asking other mom's if they got the flu vaccine while they were pregnant, and if so, is the child they were carrying at the time healthy into their third or fourth year.

She found 20 women that had gotten the flu shot, and only one has a healthy child. All of the others have severe health problems including allergies, asthma and respiratory infections that required multiple hospitalizations or ER visits, ADD, full blown Autism, blindness, vision problems that required a patch over one eye to be worn, peanut allergies and cerebral palsy.

There no way that this can be a representative sample, but it makes me want to see a real study. If you know of one, pass it on.

So in the interest of curiosity, are there any mom's out there who got the flu shot while pregnant and have a child that is still healthy by age 3 or 4? If so email me, this mom wants to talk to you.

California Autism Numbers 4th Quarter 2005

NOTE: All the discrepancies that I was worried about have been checked out and this is the best version of the data available.

California has released their autism numbers and the increase in cases continues to drop.

The excel spread sheet that I am tracking this on is posted here if you would like to download it, check my work, make your own graphs, whatever.

There is much conjecture as to which way the trends will continue. Speculation from proponents of the mercury theory has been that the 2006-2007 will be when rates will drop more dramatically as three and four year olds, who have the highest rate of diagnosis, will have been born in 2003, when most high dose mercury vaccines had cleared the shelves. We will keep posting the numbers to see if things go this way.

The new talk is about what the CDC decree that all pregnant women and children over 6 months of age should get flu shots (most of which are full dose mercury shots) will do to the numbers if the mercury theory is indeed correct. I read that expectant mothers are shying away from getting the shot (I think the article said only 13% of moms are opting for it, but don't quote me on that) but those little ones are so vulnerable, will that 13% be effected at higher rates? We will have to wait another three or four years to find out.

Someone emailed me this question, and I thought I would post my answer here as a reminder of the context in which these should be viewed:

Ginger, To what do you attribute the percentage change (negative) in the year 2000?

I don't know what to attribute that to for sure.

California made an adjustment in diagnostic inclusion criteria at some point, resulting in fewer children receiving services, and I can't remember if it was in 2000 or not. If so that would certainly explain the dip.

But bottom line, these numbers really should only be used for looking at wide trends. If things are generally moving up or moving down. They are not broken down into new diagnosis v. adults, by birth year, by people moving into and out of the state, etc, and those are the things that we would need to have information on in order to really interpret well the impact that mercury in vaccines has on autism. These numbers are just one big blob of people who are getting autism services by the state, so looking at a big dip in one quarter will probably only tell us something about the way the numbers were collected, rather than what the true picture of autism cases are.

If you look at the huge drop in 4th quarter '98 for example and then the huge jump in 1st quarter '99, it makes me think that the computers were down in December of 1998 and people's paperwork was not processed, and they caught up in January or something. These two quarters show dramatic change, but if you averaged these two out and looked at them in context they would actually follow the trend. The same with 1999 and 2000 on the yearly graph at the bottom. The spike in 1999, the plateau in 2000, taken together they follow the trend.

I am hoping that the government will actually publish a study that looks at the number of new diagnosis charted by birth year, but I am not going to get my hopes up.

At this point we do have enough information to see that there was a trend up in the 90's and there is now a trend down. There is certianly enough information to postulate that the drop in vaccine hg correlates with the drop in the increase in autism cases, and that the two may be related. It is now the government's job to do their due dillagence and take a more detailed look at the information they already have, and see if this theory holds up when you look at the number of new diagnosis by birth year. Then if it still holds up, they need to get their asses in gear and to a Verstraeten type study, except with out the fraud this time.


From the Schafer Report:

California Reports: New Autism Cases at 4 Year Low

From California autism advocate Rick Rollens.

According to information released today by the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the number of new cases of professionally diagnosed full syndrome autism (NOT including any other autism spectrum disorder) entering California's developmental services system in 2005 was the smallest number of new cases since the year 2001.

The DDS year end report for 2005 documents that during 2005, California added 2,848 new cases of autism to it's system. Not since 2001 (2725 new cases) has California added less new cases of full syndrome autism to it's system. Every year since the all time record year of 2002 there has been a slow, steady decline in the number of new cases of autism entering California's 37-year old developmental services system.

Between 1979-80 and the end of 2002, California's developmental services system experienced unprecedented record increases in the number of new cases of autism every year over the previous year. The 1990s saw an explosion of new cases of professionally diagnosed full syndrome every single year culminating in the record year 2002 with 3,132 new cases.

Prior to the start of the modern day autism epidemic, autism accounted for less then 3% of all the new intakes coming into California's system which also includes mental retardation, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. Today, autism accounts for 60% of all new intakes, and is the number one disability entering California's developmental services system. 18 years ago there were 2,773 persons with autism in the system, today there are 29,424.

Children under the age of 3 years old with full syndrome autism are NOT included in the DDS reports, but instead are enrolled in the Early Start Program.

Nearly two-thirds (2 out of 3 ) persons in the system with autism are between the ages of 3 and 13 years old, with nearly 8 out of 10 under the age of 17 years old.

(Rollens comments: For those who continue to believe in the fantasy that we have NOT experienced an epidemic of autism, might I ask one simple question: If the incidence of autism hasn't increased dramatically over the past 20 plus years, then where are all the adults with full syndrome autism? Surely if there is no real increase then we should see roughly the same number of adults with autism as we do children. I am sure it is about as easy today, as it has been in the past, to somehow misplace or not recognize thousands of adults with full syndrome autism...about as easy as missing a train wreck. Sorry but no Ph.D. or MD required to recognize either one.)

So Sorry for the Blog Neglect

I have been off living life for the last month or so and there is so much that I have not shared with you. The 4th quarter California numbers are in, as is the coroners report on the chelation death in PA and there is scads to say about Bill Frist and his liability protection love for Pharma. Not to mention the wonderful success of Chandler's B12 shots.

I am back at my post and will be catching you kids up on all this over the next week or so.

Hope the new year is treating you right!

January 8, 2006

"Time to Jesus"

Tonight is one of those hallmark evenings.

Every night I put Chandler to bed and pray for him. I usually ask him to hold my hand, and he does, but other than laying still and looking at me while I am praying for him, he has not given me any other hint that he gets what I am doing.

But tonight I tucked him in and before I had gotten to the prayer, he looked at me and said, “Time to Jeshush”. Hoping that he said what I thought he did, I asked him, “Time to pray?” His reply was to say the prayer I usually say for me.

“Dear Jeshush, Thank you for Chandler. Diggadiggadiggadigga. The End.”

He filled in the middle part where I usually change it up with babble, but other than that he had it down.

Then I got lots more “Time for bed, night night” type talk than usual.

I live for moments like this with him.

January 6, 2006

The Age of Autism: CDC Probes Vaccines

The Age of Autism: CDC probes vaccines
UPI Senior Editor

The CDC is continuing to investigate whether a mercury preservative in childhood immunizations has caused cases of autism -- despite the fact a report it paid for said such research should end.

The agency wants to determine whether exposure to the vaccine preservative, called thimerosal, can be linked to autism spectrum disorders, Glen Nowak, director of media relations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Age of Autism on Friday.

The study includes 300 children with ASDs, 200 of whom have full-syndrome autism, as well as a comparison group of children who do not have the disorders.

In 2004 a CDC-funded report by the independent Institute of Medicine concluded there was no evidence of a vaccine-autism link and efforts should go instead to "promising" autism research.

"Further research to find the cause of autism should be directed toward other lines of inquiry," the immunization review panel said. "It's really terrifying, the scientific illiteracy that supports these suspicions," said Dr. Marie McCormick, chairwoman of the IOM panel, in a New York Times article in June.

And the head of the CDC's immunization program said the same year that only "junk scientists and charlatans" take such a link seriously.

Nevertheless, spokesman Nowak said the CDC -- which sets the childhood immunization schedule that states adopt -- has not eliminated thimerosal as a suspect.

"We do agree the preponderance of evidence to date suggests there is no association between thimerosal and autism," said Nowak when asked why the CDC was continuing to pursue the issue. But he said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding is committed to exploring all possibilities until the cause or causes of the disorder are identified.

"Dr. Gerberding has made it clear the CDC has not ruled out anything as possible causes of autism, including thimerosal," Nowak said. "Science is a dynamic process. We have continued to fund studies to look at the role, if any, of thimerosal."

The study was designed in 2003 and data collection -- which includes evaluation of each child and their immunization history -- began last year, Nowak said. A letter dated Nov. 8 and an accompanying brochure were provided by a parent who received them.

"In this study, the CDC wants to find out if children who received vaccines and medicines with Thimerosal as infants are more likely to later have developmental problems such as Asperger's Syndrome or autism," says the letter, sent on behalf of the CDC by a research firm and Kaiser Permanente, one of three HMOs involved.

"Your participation in this study may help doctors learn about the possible risks of vaccines and medicines that contained thimerosal."

The mother who received the letter expressed dismay because most medical experts and federal health authorities have reassured parents thimerosal does not cause autism and is not responsible for the large increase in diagnoses beginning in the 1990s.

In 1999 the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics urged manufacturers to phase out thimerosal from childhood immunizations as soon as possible, based on the concern that the total amount of mercury received by a child could exceed some government guidelines.

But, citing five subsequent epidemiological studies, the CDC and other health authorities now say there is no evidence of an association.

The CDC continues to recommend flu shots -- most of which contain thimerosal -- for pregnant women and for children 6 to 23 months of age. The agency has declined to express a preference for the thimerosal-free version, citing concern that it might cause some parents to forego immunizing their children against flu if they cannot obtain it.

In addition, tens of millions of children around the world are being injected with thimerosal-containing vaccines, based heavily on the assurances of U.S. health authorities that it is safe and does not cause autism.

Results of the study should be available in September 2007, Nowak said.

January 5, 2006

CDC Updates Kids' Vaccine Schedule to Include New Shots

How much is to much? And for whom?

It seems like Paul Offits vision of 100,000 vaccines for every child might be a reality someday.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
By Miranda Hitti

The CDC has updated its vaccine recommendations for kids and teens.
The changes include new vaccines. “Thanks to new vaccines, we can now protect children and adolescents from more diseases than at any time in our history,” says the CDC’s Anne Schuchat, MD, in a news release.

“In almost every case, vaccines are the best and most effective way to prevent the harm that is caused by these infectious diseases,” she says. Schuchat directs the CDC’s National Immunization Program.

Here’s what you need to know about the new recommendations for children and teens.

Vaccination Delays Put Many Children at Risk

Whooping Cough Booster for Preteens

A new booster vaccine for whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, and diphtheria should be given to the following groups:

--All 11- and 12-year-olds who completed earlier vaccinations and haven’t gotten a tetanus-diphtheria booster shot.

--All 13- to 18-year-olds who completed childhood vaccinations but didn’t get the booster shot when they were 11 or 12.

The new vaccine replaces a previous booster shot that didn’t cover whooping cough. Whooping cough is highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract. It’s most dangerous in babies, but it’s been on the rise in adults.

Children and teens aged 7-18 who missed childhood vaccines can take the whooping cough/tetanus/diphtheria shot to catch up or for regularly scheduled boosters. The CDC recommends waiting five years after the last tetanus/diphtheria dose before using the whooping cough/tetanus/diphtheria vaccine as a booster dose.

The CDC first announced its recommendation about the new booster vaccine in July.

Meningitis Vaccine for Adolescents

A meningitis vaccine called Menactra, which was approved by the FDA a year ago, is also recommended for:

--All 11- and 12-year-olds

--Adolescents entering high school who haven’t already gotten the vaccine

--All college freshmen living in dorms (who have the additional option of getting a different meningitis vaccine)

--Other adolescents who choose to get the vaccine to reduce their risk

The CDC first announced its Menactra recommendationsin May.

In October 2005, the FDA, the CDC, and Menactra’s maker, Sanofi Pasteur, warned that five U.S. teens developed a serious neurological conditioncalled Guillain-Barré syndrome after being vaccinated with Menactra.

At the time, a Sanofi Pasteur news release stated that there was no proof that Menactra was responsible for those teens developing Guillain-Barré syndrome.

New Children's Vaccine Targets 4 Diseases

Influenza Vaccine for More Kids

Influenza vaccination is now recommended for children who are at least 6 months old and have certain health problems; specifically, those conditions that can compromise children's respiratory systems or raise the risk of choking.

Hepatitis A Vaccine for 1-Year-Olds

The CDC recommends that all babies get vaccinated against hepatitis A between 12 and 23 months.

The vaccine is given in two doses. Those doses should be given at least six months apart, the CDC says.

Hepatitis B Vaccine for Almost All Babies

The CDC is emphasizing the importance of vaccinating infants against hepatitis B.
The vaccine can only be delayed “in rare circumstances,” the CDC states.
Delays are only permitted if a doctor orders the vaccine to be withheld and the baby’s medical record includes a lab report showing that the mother has tested negative for hepatitis B.

Learn More About Hepatitis
By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 6, 2006; vol 54: pp Q1-Q4. News release, CDC.

FDA to Look at Deaths From ADD Meds

FDA to Examine New Ways to Study ADD Drugs
Jan 4, 7:35 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - Reports of sudden deaths, strokes, heart attacks and hypertension in both children and adults taking drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are spurring new government study into the medications' safety.

Sales of drugs to treat ADHD have increased sharply in recent years, with use growing at a faster rate among adults than children, according to a recent study by Medco Health Solutions, a prescription benefit manager. Spending on ADHD drugs soared from $759 million in 2000 to $3.1 billion in 2004, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information and consulting firm.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had received reports of what it called "serious adverse events" - including deaths - in association with the therapeutic use of the drugs. The agency considers the reports "rare though serious," FDA spokeswoman Susan Bro said Wednesday.

The FDA's Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, yanked the ADHD drug Adderall XR from the market for six months last year in response to reports of 20 sudden deaths and 12 strokes in adults and children using the drug. A number of the cases involved children with structural heart defects.

The panel eventually concluded there was inadequate evidence of increased harm from Adderall XR compared with other available therapies - a conclusion the FDA also reached based on data on hand.

Now the U.S. regulatory agency is asking its Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory committee to examine ways of studying further the potential cardiovascular risks of the drugs. The few studies that have looked at longer-term use of ADHD drugs provide little information on those risks, the FDA said.

"It almost sounds like cox-2 inhibitor redux," said committee chairman Dr. Peter Gross, referring to cox-2 painkillers like Vioxx and Bextra pulled from the market because of evidence they can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The committee is to meet Feb. 9 and 10 in Gaithersburg, Md.

"The issue of drug treatment of attention deficit disorder in children has been a controversial one without this issue of cardiovascular risk too. It adds another concern to what will certainly be an interesting conversation," said Arthur Levin, the FDA committee's consumer representative.

A posting to the FDA Web site did not identify any of the drugs by name. However, the most commonly used ADHD drugs include Adderall XR, made by Shire Pharmaceuticals, and Ritalin, made by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. Various other companies make generic versions of Ritalin as well.

Shire spokesman Matthew Cabrey said the company hadn't been told of the meeting but added it may send representatives. Novartis did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The committee's Feb. 10 meeting will include updates on FDA actions on cox-2 drugs as well as a recently begun patient, doctor and pharmacist registry program for the anti-acne drug Accutane and its generic competitors.

Separately, the committee also will discuss the FDA's Drug Safety Oversight Board, an internal, government employee-only panel created nearly a year ago.

The board is supposed to monitor FDA-approved medicines once they're on the market and update physicians and patients with emerging information on risks and benefits.

Gross said he had concerns about the board's impartiality and independence, as well as its relationship to his committee and the very similar work it does.

January 4, 2006

Evidence Of Harm to Make News in 2006

From David Kirby:


Bestselling Book About Mercury, Vaccines and Autism in Paperback this February; Author Named “Person of the Year” by Nation’s Leading Autism Magazine;

Movie Rights Optioned by Hollywood’s Participant Productions

NEW YORK – The New York Times bestseller “Evidence of Harm – Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic, A Medical Controversy,” continues to make news in 2006, and was just named the 5th best selling science book for 2005 by Amazon.com.

“Evidence of Harm” will be issued in PAPERBACK this February, with a new postscript that updates readers on every aspect of the growing controversy over the past year -- including new science and new political developments. It also includes recent media coverage, and an update on the lives of the parent activists profiled in the book.

Meanwhile, author David Kirby has just been named “PERSON OF THE YEAR” by Spectrum, the nation’s largest and most influential autism magazine. Kirby, who will appear on the cover of the February issue, will be honored by the magazine at a reception in Long Island, NY, this spring.

Finally, “Evidence of Harm” has been optioned by a rising MOVIE COMPANY: Los Angeles-based Participant Productions. Formed to produce films on important current topics, Participant has released titles that earned strong buzz in 2005. Its movies have been nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards, including Best Drama for “Good Night and Good Luck,” Best Dramatic Actress (Charlize Theron) for “North Country,” and Best Director (George Clooney) for “Syriana.”

Two respected producers have signed onto the Evidence of Harm project: Nick Wechsler, who recently produced “North Country,” and Ross Bell, producer of “Fight Club.”

“Evidence of Harm” is the story of parents with autistic children who suspected that their illness sprang from unsafe levels of mercury in their vaccines. These parents take on Big Business, Big Science and Big Government in order to learn the truth. Ultimately, they uncover compelling evidence that Thimerosal could very well have played a role in the disease. Despite industry and government resistance, the parents, joined by medical, scientific, legal, and political allies, are getting closer to establishing their claim.

DAVID KIRBY has been a contributor to The New York Times for seven years, where he covers science and health, among other subjects, and has been a writer for over fifteen years. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

PRAISE for Evidence of Harm:

“Kirby follows the tug of war between government health agencies and the parents and their supporters. Kirby does an admirable job of clarifying most of the scientific background (but) doesn't offer his own verdict on the debate -- although he makes the unassailable point that American health agencies lagged in calculating the amount of mercury being injected into babies.” – The New York Times & The International Herald Tribune

“Kirby's portrayal manages to make his protagonists seem far from crazy. They have been derided as dangerous anti-vaccination zealots, but Kirby sets their focus on the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal against ‘modern science's near-religious faith in all things genetic.’ The battle rages on, and while Evidence of Harm offers no prospect of a truce, it does provide crystal clarity on an often misunderstood side of the argument.” – The Washington Post

“Evidence of Harm is a gripping investigation. Much like the 9/11 commission's report, it is an alarming page-turner. Keep your eye on California, where autism cases are closely tracked. If autism-related diagnoses decline over the next year or two following the introduction of thimerosal-free vaccines, the finding will further fuel this simmering controversy.” – Newsday

“One controversy looks likely to fester. Big Pharma would love to put it to rest, but the publication of a well-researched book is likely to push it to the fore. It isn’t a stretch to say Big Pharma’s fortunes are tethered in part to the Amazon.com sales rank of Evidence of Harm. If a link is found, the potential liability makes asbestos litigation look like belonging to a small claims court. Whichever side the reader ends up believing, Evidence of Harm makes one thing clear: this is an issue that will not go away.” – Financial Times

“Kirby delivers a well-written story that weaves in startling facts and takes you on a roller-coaster ride into the homes of families devastated by autism. It tells tales of government bureaucracy and political cronyism that, if true, are appalling. It took me several weeks to read Evidence of Harm. Maybe it was the detail-filled narrative from the parents' point of view that made me put the book down every so often and walk away. I shared their pain, their anger, their feeling of helplessness.” – Bloomberg News

“Avoiding hyperbole while writing about a possible medical catastrophe is no easy task, but David Kirby has created a fine balance of investigative and personal detail in Evidence of Harm. He creates a picture that is as terrifying as anything dreamed up by Hitchcock. Kirby's in a delicate position, searching for the truth between frantic parents (he focuses on the founders of political action group Safe Mind) and the self-protective pharmaceutical industry (the author thanks the nameless person who placed a pro-Eli Lilly litigation rider into the Homeland Security Act of 2002). The book is never dull--there is a continual urgency in the material that resists pedantry. However undecided the experts, readers will likely land firmly in one angry camp or the other. – Amazon.com

“Perhaps, as evidence accumulates, the thimerosal theory may be validated. Perhaps not. Inquiry into the etiology and treatment of autism continues, though the seeming finality of the IOM report may stifle important research into environmental causes. Kirby’s book, as biased as it is, prompts us to dig deeper into this vital issue. One can only hope that medical and lay readers alike will react to the book responsibly, with both skepticism and an open mind.” – The Lancet

“An engrossing David and Goliath story in which the giant is an amalgamation of big government bureaucrats and pharmaceutical lobbyists. Walking the middle line, Kirby’s book remains one of the most thoroughly researched accounts of the thimerosal controversy thus far. It's accessible in its handling of medical topics and compelling in its recounting of the parents' fight to advance their agenda in the face of both political and scientific roadblocks..” – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) ***

“A riveting new book that examines this controversial but biologically plausible link, Evidence of Harm lines up the known evidence while telling the stories of a handful of determined parents forced to become their own detectives. You'll get eye-opening glimpses into the trenches where once normally developing kids slip into the shuttered world of autism and where their parents refuse to be bounced off the walls of seemingly impenetrable bureaucracies. Highly recommended.” – Knight Ridder Newspapers

Elizabeth Coxe, – 646) 307-5563 – elizabeth.coxe@stmartins.com
David Kirby – 718-230-4250 – dkirby@nyc.rr.com

A Moment of Silence for Liz Birt

From the National Autism Association:

We invite the online community to come together tonight, January 4th at 9pm eastern to light a candle in Liz's honor and collectively observe a moment of silence, prayer and reflection.

Please click here to download a song chosen for Liz by Sam, an 11 -year-old boy with autism.


The Age of Autism: Red Flag on Gold Salts

The Age of Autism: Red flag on gold salts
UPI Senior Editor

A number of readers have raised concerns that gold salts -- which may have improved the mental functioning of the first child diagnosed with autism -- are untested and unproven as a treatment and can be dangerous.

"I think you should be careful about showing too much enthusiasm about gold salts," wrote Dr. Marvin J. Schissel. "My recollection is that they were used for arthritis about half a century ago, but not since."

"Don't rush to the gold salts thing," wrote James Blanco, who forwarded several cautionary studies, including a 1993 French report, "Neurological complications caused by gold salts."

"Gold therapy is responsible for many neurological complications," the study said. And in a September 2005 article in the journal Autoimmunity, researchers from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University College Cork, Ireland, noted:

"Gold salts have long been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the basis for their therapeutic immune-modulating properties has never been satisfactorily explained. Furthermore, treatments are often marred by the development of adverse immune reactions such as hypersensitivity and even exacerbation of autoimmunity."

The issue of gold salts and autism arose after our report in August that the first child diagnosed with the disorder appeared to improve markedly after being treated with gold salts for an attack of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 12. Donald T., as he is known in medical literature, still lives in the small Mississippi town where he grew up and first came to scientific attention in 1938.

The arthritis cleared up, and so did the "extreme nervousness" and excitability that had afflicted him, his brother told us. Donald also became "more social." He went on to college, where he was invited to join a fraternity; worked as a bank teller; and now, at age 72 and in retirement, pursues his love of golf and travels the world.

One autism researcher -- who believes most autism cases were triggered by mercury, and in particular a mercury preservative that was used in childhood immunizations beginning in the early 1930s -- tested gold salts in his laboratory following our report. He said last month that the substance can "reverse the binding" of mercury to a chemical compound.

But that scientist, University of Kentucky Chemistry Professor Boyd Haley, cautioned that no one should try gold salts to treat autism before proper studies are done.

"Please note that I am not recommending using gold salts to treat autistics, but it would certainly be worth a project if carefully monitored by a physician in a good clinic," Haley said.

An article in 2002 in the International Journal of Neuroscience, co-authored by four researchers at the Meridian Institute, made a similar case for testing gold salts as a "nervine" -- a treatment to relieve mental conditions -- and also noted the risk of side effects.

"The therapeutic and adverse effects of gold in living organisms are varied and paradoxical," the authors wrote. The primary side effects are dermatological and gastrointestinal, "yet gold-containing drugs have numerous rarer side effects, and can cause or exacerbate the same disorders for which they are effective in therapy."

For example, they noted "gold-containing drugs have been used in place of steroids in therapy for asthma ... but in other cases have been responsible for respiratory disorders and even death."

As for effects on the brain and nervous system, "Three forms of gold-induced neurological side effects have been recognized: (1) painful neuropathy, sometimes accompanied by insomnia and anxiety, (2) peripheral motor neuropathy, and (3) encephalopathy with symptoms including depression, delirium, and exogenous psychoses."

The upshot? More scientific and clinical studies. "This research has the potential for re-establishing gold as a significant therapeutic agent in a much wider range of disorders than those for which it is currently used. And it could help in sorting out valid from invalid claims of benefits from supplementation."

The authors said even the side effects might point to gold as a useful tool in treating neurological conditions if properly administered: "Adverse effects of drugs can be an indicator of related therapeutic effects at lower dosages."

Clearly, given the serious risks, figuring this out is a job best left to the experts.


E-mail: dolmsted@upi.com