Effect Measure

RFK, Jr. for EPA? Thumbs down

Lots of speculation about Obama’s appointments and perhaps the most science oriented one is Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wired has a list of the rumored possibles, via Bloomberg:

Leading candidates for the position, reports Bloomberg News, include former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection head Kathleen McGinty; California Air Resources Board leader Mary Nichols; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection leader Ian Bowles; Kansas governor Kathleen Sibelius; New Jersey environmental commissioner Lisa Jackson; and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Brandon Keim, Wired)

I join my fellow SciBlings Orac, PalMD, Blake and Coturnix (and Wired’s Keim) in a big thumbs down on RFK, Jr. He may be the favorite of some in the environmental movement but he is not a favorite of scientists for a simple reason: his uninformed championing of the vaccination/autism case speaks poorly for his commitment to relying on scientific evidence. Scientists, like progressive Democrats, prefer to live in a reality-based world. Aas Wired’s Keim aptly put it:

Only Kennedy strikes me as weak. His environmental track record is excellent, but he’s clung to the vaccines-causing-autism hypothesis long after large-scale epidemiological studies have discredited it as anything but a statistically insignificant cause. America doesn’t need more political officials who skew science to fit personal beliefs. And perhaps more importantly, heading the EPA, with its thousands of employees and $7.2 billion budget, will be a far more difficult managerial task than negotiating environmental lawsuits.

The list of possible EPA candidates is pretty good, except for RFK, Jr. The Obama campaign needs to hear the reality-based community, not the ideologically based community.

Comments

  1. #1 MissFiFi
    November 6, 2008

    Plus he supports wind power, just not off Nantucket. Cannot say I agree with that

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 6, 2008

    MissFiFI – There is a great deal of research to be done on windpower, and I think that we can develop some very safe (for birds and bats) alternatives to the giant turbines. Wind is safer than coal and much less dangerous than nuclear power’s waste disposal problem.

    But, back to Kennedy. I expressed my concern at the transition team’s site Change.gov.

    I think this is a good way to get the word to the incoming administration that Kennedy’s antipathy towards science can be expressed.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    November 6, 2008

    Maybe we can get some of those sixty-some-odd Nobel laureates to speak up again.

    I join my fellow SciBlings Orac, PalMD, and Coturnix (and Wired’s Keim) in a big thumbs down on RFK, Jr.

    And was my pithy remark worth nothing? Grumble, grumble, sigh.

  4. #4 abc
    November 6, 2008

    Well, on the bright side it isn’t nearly the epic fail of, say, Bush’s appointment of a country music singer to the National Arts Council.

  5. #5 nancy
    November 7, 2008

    In science we must recognize that there forces at work that distort results. Speaking truth about these special interests does not a conspiracy theorist make. History speaks volumes about this topic.

    I completely disagree with your comments and think he would be outstanding in this role. I for one, hope he is appointed.

  6. #6 David in NY
    November 7, 2008

    In science we must recognize that there forces at work that distort results. Speaking truth about these special interests does not a conspiracy theorist make.

    Implicit in these sentences is that the “truth” is that “forces” (which are apparently “special interests”) are “distort[ing] results.” This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple, unless someone has shown that “results” have been “distorted,” and not merely taken this on an ad hominem or faith-based basis. No such showing has been made; there is nothing here but conspiracy theory.

  7. #7 Alyosha
    November 7, 2008

    Interesting. And, having an un-vaccinated autistic daughter myself, I tend to agree that the connection between vaccinations and autism is tenuous. My belief is that while not necessarily being a cause, vaccination may be an exacerbating factor.

    That said, let’s not put science upon such a pedestal as to believe it is incapable of error. Scientists once believed the earth was the center of the universe, and that the Sun revolved around it. They ultimately corrected themselves. And yes, they corrected themselves with empirical data.

    And don’t get me started on “ether.”

    Perhaps a more important point to be made, is that dumping a perfectly qualified candidate for EPA Chief, over one single (pet) issue, seems rather short-sighted and petulant to me. Sorry.

    I’d like you to name one single EPA candidate with whom you agree about everything.

    Alyosha

  8. #8 Clare
    November 7, 2008

    >dumping a perfectly qualified candidate for EPA Chief, over >one single (pet) issue, seems rather short-sighted and >petulant to me.

    That’s not the point. The point is if he is prepared to ignore the science on one, big issue, what else is he prepared to ignore if it doesn’t suit his opinions?

  9. #9 Ken
    November 7, 2008

    **That said, let’s not put science upon such a pedestal as to believe it is incapable of error.**

    Actually, human beings are capable of error. Science is the process by which we discover testable truths about the world. Errors are made, and errors are corrected, by scientists. No amount of faith or belief could have corrected the notion that the sun revolved around this planet.

    Critics of science (who are usually champions of faith and intuition) often claim that we should not put science on a pedestal. Science is never on a pedestal, because scientists are involved in the peer-review process. Results are testable. When Scientist D publishes a study claiming that A and B actually cause C, there will always be other scientists attempting to prove Scientist D wrong.

    On the other hand, faith, belief, and intuition seem to be unassailable. It is impolitic, not to mention implausible, to question that of another. Now THAT is a pedestal.

  10. #10 revere
    November 7, 2008

    Alyosha: With me it isn’t just a single issue. I think he would be ineffective in other ways. But to have an EPA chief that has publicly taken a position that runs counter to scientific evidence seems particularly bad at this moment in history and at this moment in the history of the EPA. It is a signal that says we don’t care if the EPA chief is not mindful of evidence (even I will grant you the scientists may be fallible) as long as he ignores scientific evidence on a matter where we agree with him. Wrong message, wrong time. At other times, an eccentric opinion not bearing on the mission of the agency might be tolerable but not at this particular time in history.

    I have and had an open mind on the mercury issue, BTW. I am an epidemiologist and know the vagaries of my science. But I consulted two of the world’s experts, one on mercury and one on autism, neither of whom have taken a position on this and both of whom are extremely liberal in their outlook and both confirmed for me that the evidence (not just the epi evidence) does not support an association, even remotely. That might turn out to be wrong but it is based on what we actually know. This is not just an academic disagreement or even one where the disagreement is only about mercury. It has had some serious effects on public health and the trade-offs have been serious. We shouldn’t have mercury in any vaccines children get. I feel strongly about that, but on general principles, not because there is any evidence it causes autism.

  11. #11 RH in Detroit
    November 7, 2008

    Why not remove Thimerosal and other preservatives entirely? What is the objection to doing so? What is the risk in doing so? If I grant you that no link has been established between vaccinations and autism, is the risk involved in removing these preservatives a larger risk than the risk posed by injecting large quantities of mercury into infants which may have injurious, and even deleterious, effects on their development? Of what use is the mercury to said vaccinations? Why, when mercury is a known health risk generally, would anyone object to removing it?

    My sense is that many here are likely objecting to RFK Jr., despite the fact that he holds a wholly defensible position (which is to support the reduction of the use of Thimerosal and other unnecessary vaccine preservatives), based on his willingness to call into question those epidemiological studies (which contend that giving massive doses of mercury to infants is an intelligent idea) funded by industry.

    Personally attacking someone for failing to see things through your (pharma-industry funded) rose-colored glasses says a lot more about you and your scientific integrity than it does Mr. Kennedy.

    “Despite official insistence that the evidence linking injected thimerosal to autism is inconclusive, the data suggest otherwise. In 1999 the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, or IOM, must have thought there was something seriously wrong when it supported removal of thimerosal from vaccines, stating that it was “a prudent measure in support of the public goal to reduce mercury exposure of infants and children as much as possible.” The IOM further urged that “full consideration be given to removing thimerosal from any biological product to which infants, children and pregnant women are exposed.”

    A recently published study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons by Mark Geier, M.D., Ph.D., and president of the Genetic Centers of America and his son, David Geier, president of Medcon Inc. and a consultant on vaccine cases, was titled “Thimerosal in Childhood Vaccines, Neurodevelopment Disorders and Heart Disease in the United States.” It presents strong epidemiological evidence for a link between neurodevelopmental disorders and mercury exposure from thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines.

    Specifically, the authors evaluated the doses of mercury that children received as part of their immunization schedule, then compared these doses with federal safety guidelines. Furthermore, to compare the effects of thimerosal in vaccine recipients, the incident rates of neurodevelopmental disorders and heart disease reported to the government’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System were analyzed. The results were dramatic. The report revealed that “U.S. infants are exposed to mercury levels from their childhood-immunization schedule that far exceed the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and FDA [Food and Drug Administration]-established maximum permissible levels for the daily oral ingestion of methyl mercury.”

    The authors concluded that “in light of voluminous literature supporting the biologic mechanisms for mercury-induced adverse reactions, the presence of amounts of mercury in thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines exceeding federal safety guidelines for the oral ingestion of mercury and previous epidemiological studies showing adverse reactions to such vaccines, a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines and neurodevelopment disorders and heart disease appears to be confirmed.”

    It is no secret among government and health officials that mercury is toxic and causes serious adverse reactions. In July 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service issued a joint statement calling for the removal of thimerosal from vaccines. Five years after the joint statement, however, it still is difficult for parents and physicians to be sure that the pharmaceutical companies have indeed removed the toxic substance from their vaccines.

    According to Mark Geier, “The 2003 Physicians’ Desk Reference, or PDR, still shows childhood vaccines containing thimerosal, including diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis. DTaP, manufactured by Aventis Pasteur, contains 25?g [25 micrograms] of mercury, Hemophilus influenzae b (Hib) vaccine manufactured by Wyeth contains 25?g of mercury and pediatric Hepatitis B vaccine, manufactured by Merck, contains 12.5?g of mercury.”"

  12. #12 SteveJ
    November 7, 2008

    I respect Kennedy’s desire to get at the truth in spite of the pressure from the business world. Taking on that challenge makes him an excellent candidate for the position, and that tenacity stands consistent with his career record. Bowing to pressure from Bush will be Stephen Johnson’s legacy, and it’s shameful.
    I agree that Kennedy might be ‘alarmist’ if he continues to advance his belief without the scientific correlation, but there is no fault in being ‘alarmed’ by the upward trend of autism. Kennedy knows enough about politics that there is some value in overshooting the goal with the intent on settling with your opponents in a middle ground. I for one respect the successes in his career and the strength of his character. Whitman and Johnson were great disappointments for their lack of charisma in the face of the Bush administration.

  13. #13 David
    November 7, 2008

    The vaccine-autism debate is a sideshow that distracts from a far more important fundamental question: are vaccines safe and effective?

    Any pharmaceutical intervention has side effects. The rational basis for accepting the side effects is that they are outweighed by the benefits. Unfortunately, this is where the science supporting vaccinations is generally lacking.

    The immune system is complex and still far from fully understood. We don’t understand the full extent of the changes a single vaccine makes to the immune system, let alone multiple vaccines. Scientific evidence that vaccine A_1 reduces the chance of developing illness B_1 and causes no apparent short-term harm is insufficient to conclude that repeated, lifelong administration of vaccines A_1 to A_n does not increase the likelihood of developing chronic illness apparently unrelated to the vaccinations which subsequently poses a greater risk than the combined risks prevented by the vaccinations.

    To be certain that vaccines do more good than harm, we need large-scale, long term studies of illness and death from all causes in vaccinated versus unvaccinated subjects that demonstrate that vaccinated subjects are generally healthier and enjoy a greater life expectancy.

    To the best of my knowledge, no such studies exist.

  14. #14 revere
    November 7, 2008

    RH: I would like to see thimerosol gone. It is used in multi use packaging as a preservative. There is no doubt that mercury is a potentially harmful agent and in my view has no place in children’s medicament. That’s not the same thing as saying it causes autism, however. And that contention is what is at stake here. The clear weight of the evidence is against this proposition and ignoring it because you choose to believe otherwise is also what is at stake in the RFK issue. It may turn out to be correct (I doubt it, but will allow it is possible) but believing it without adequate support when the consequences are serious is what I object to. By all means let’s have thimerosol-free vaccines for children. As I said, I think that is a good idea on general public health principles. But not because the evidence shows it causes autism. Because the evidence doesn’t show that, at least not yet. Meanwhile children do die and become disabled from infectious diseases.

    There is no shortage of able, competent and experienced candidates for EPA without him.

  15. #15 revere
    November 7, 2008

    David: Is this a statement about any vaccine? Do you believe there is no evidence that any vaccine works? Because if so, you are living in a parallel universe. Just look at infectious disease data from the turn of the 20h century for the evidence that vaccines work. They are not the only reason for reduction of these diseases but they are the reason for some of it and the main reason for particular diseases (like polio and tetanus).

  16. #16 David
    November 7, 2008

    The OP’s framing of the debate in terms of uninformed versus informed by the scientific evidence is naive, as it ignores the economic and political pressures that distort scientific evidence.

    There is a well-documented file drawer effect in modern medicine. Pharmaceutical companies tend to publish the studies that support their products, and chose not to publish the ones that do not.

    Frequently, studies are ghostwritten by PR professionals, with conclusions already conceived before any research was performed. Medical researchers are then paid to put their name on this so-called research.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/dec/07/health.businessofresearch

    Even when medical researchers actually write the research attributed to them, there are frequent conflicts of interests. Researchers who own stock options and would benefit significantly from new drugs cannot be expected to analyze risk-benefit ratios objectively.

    Taking these biases into account, we cannot assume that everything we find in medical journals is science.

  17. #17 RH in Detroit
    November 7, 2008

    Revere: I agree, generally, with your reply, and am not saying that I am willing to willfully disregard a lack of clear, definitive evidence linking mercury to autism. I guess, similar to you, I see no harm in advocating for vaccines to be free of mercury altogether, for any and all known and unknown adverse health effects.

    The point is that we know it is harmful generally, and while there may be no clear direct link to autism per se (and, perhaps, yet), that doesn’t obviate the argument for removing it based on those general harmful effects (autism link or not).

    I note that thimerosal use is reduced, while autism rates seem to have increased, and there are serious questions raised by such divergent trends for those who advocate that autism is directly caused by the inclusion of mercury in vaccinations. BUT, the over-arching point is that the possible (not proven, but possible) risks of leaving it in vaccinations are certainly greater than those involved in removing it altogether.

    With respect to Mr. Kennedy, I agree there are a number of qualified scientists and career civil-service folks who would be outstanding candidates for the job. However, given the prevalence of industry’s voice in the policy-making sphere over the past decades, having someone with Mr. Kennedy’s frankness, and willingness to push back on industry-contentions (when their known and clearly evident self-interest is involved) is something I happen to value. Agree or disagree with points he’s made, or his qualifications for said position generally, but those attacking him personally I believe are off-base.

  18. #18 revere
    November 7, 2008

    David: I’m quite familiar with how industry affects research. I am Editor in Chief of a scientific journal myself. But this doesn’t mean that everything in the literature is false, a nihilist position that is tantamount to saying, “I don’t care what the facts are” even if it says you don’t recognize them as facts. In this case I have independently assessed the evidence with at least two people whose expertise and integrity are beyond reproach, not just reading it myself.

    RH: I don’t think he will be an effective spokesperson precisely because his judgment and credibility are in question over this.

  19. #19 Ticktock
    November 7, 2008

    DH said… “According to Mark Geier”

    You do know that the Geiers’ research has long been debunked? The father and son were shown to be funded by antivaccine groups. They aren’t even allowed to testify in court because of their poor scientific standards.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/feb/24/badscience.uknews

  20. #20 Chris H.
    November 7, 2008

    RH said “Why not remove Thimerosal and other preservatives entirely? What is the objection to doing so? What is the risk in doing so?”

    The thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccines over five years ago in the USA, and earlier in many other countries. The MMR vaccine never had a preservative in the first place (it comes as a powder, that needs to be kept cold, and is mixed with sterile water less than eight hours before use).

    The reason for the use in multi-dose vials was to keep out bacteria. The history, reasons, and amounts are here:
    http://www.fda.gov/cber/vaccine/thimerosal.htm

    I would also suggest you read the book that was recently part of the Scienceblog BookClub. It gives lots of history, and some interesting information on the Geiers. It should be at your local library.

  21. #21 zappini
    November 7, 2008

    Regarding the link between mercury and autism, hasn’t RFJ Jr been vindicated? I attended a presentation a few months ago. The “official” federal position has been invalidated. I was shocked. I hadn’t gotten the memo. (Looks like “RH in Detroit” above has the citations.)

    My understanding of the pickle is this: If we (the USA) remove mercury as a preservative from the vaccines, then the third world wouldn’t accept our vaccines in their fights against disease. Plus, those preservatives are needed in the vaccines, because they don’t have the infrastructure (refrigeration) that we do.

    Regardless, good job gratuitously trashing RJK Jr. Get your licks in while you can. Humanity is best served when pundits personify trivial issues like public health and safety. The facts are irrelevant.

  22. #22 bob
    November 7, 2008

    zappini, what on earth are you talking about? Did you read the comment above yours? RFK Jr and the other anti-vaccinationists have been completely discredited! Thimerosal was removed from the childhood vaccine schedule about eight years ago, and autism occurrence rates did not plummet (as the anti-vaccinationists predicted it would). My guess is you attended a “presentation” given by a pseudoscientist to whom facts are irrelevant and conspiracies are awesome. You know, like RFK Jr.

  23. #23 Garbosmed
    November 7, 2008

    Actually, it was RECOMMENDED that thimerosal be removed nine years ago. But it was never actually done. The product on the shelves was not recalled, and was continually used until its expiration date, some as late as 2005. Many vaccines still use thimerosal in the manufacturing process and then chelate it out; trace amounts remain behind, but FDA and CDC do not monitor vaccine lots for levels of thimerosal so there is no way to know how much remains in the current schedule. In addition, CDC has continually expanded the recommendation for flu vaccine to include pregnant women and infants as young as 6 months, despite evidence that it is ineffective in children under 5. The majority of flu shots still contain 25mg mercury, so if you add in a prenatal dose, one at 6 months, and annually thereafter you get a significant accumulation in children whose systems may not be able to detox such as those with mitochondrial dysfunction. In addition, many of the newer vaccines have high levels of aluminum adjuvant, which has been shown to kill motor neuron cells (Shaw et al) and has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome (anthrax vaccine and Gardasil both have extremely high levels, something like 225 mg per dose). FDA and CDC are not monitoring cumulative aluminum dosages for the whole schedule, nor are they monitoring the side effects of combining aluminum adjuvenated vaccines with mercury-containing ones. The material safety data sheet for aluminum indicates that it is NOT to be combined with mercury. All this aluminum adjuvant appears to produce a hyper-immune response in some children, but it is a T2 response rather than a T1 response, potentially leading to the increase in asthma and severe anaphylactic type food allergies that have increased significantly.

  24. #24 HCN
    November 7, 2008

    Garosmed said “Actually, it was RECOMMENDED that thimerosal be removed nine years ago. But it was never actually done. The product on the shelves was not recalled, and was continually used until its expiration date, some as late as 2005.”

    Do you guys just make it up as you go along? There was a survey and found there was none left within a year or so. When Burbacher was looking for vaccines with thimerosal for his primate study he could not find any! He had to make up some other analog.

    Come on, be a bit more grounded in reality! There isn’t even any real science showing that vaccines have any relationship with autism.

    Hey, you guys who came over from DailyKos or where ever to troll the anti-RFK posts… please answer my questions with real scientific data. Not random websites, books, news articles or papers in journals with a policy of “you pay us we will print it” (Medical Hypothesis)… Give me the title, journal and date of a paper I can find in my local medical school library that:

    1) Shows that the MMR (which has never had either thimerosal or aluminum) is worse than measles, mumps and rubella (when measles hit the USA between 1987 and 1991, it killed at a rate of more than one in a thousand, and it used to be associated with causing mental retardation at a rate of 1 in 5000, http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/160/3/302 ).

    2) Shows that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis (pertussis still kills about a dozen American babies each year).

  25. #25 Garbosmed
    November 8, 2008

    The questions you posit are specious at best and distract from the issue at hand. It does no good to study one vaccine at a time when there are 36 being given, often concommitantly. Lobbying for safer vaccines is not the same thing as arguing against having them at all, nor is it to suggest that vaccine risks are better or worse than the diseases they are meant to prevent. But the continued refusal to openly and vigorously examine the possibility that vaccines, alone or in combination, may cause serious lifelong side effects in a small percentage of the population is what is causing parents to turn away from the CDC’s mandated schedule. Once the public’s trust has been lost — which may already have happened, by the way — it is twice as hard to regain it.

    Since you ask, I would suggest in addition to Shaw et al (Aluminum adjuvant linked to gulf war illness induces motor neuron death in mice.
    Neuromolecular Med. 2007;9(1):83-100.
    Petrik MS, Wong MC, Tabata RC, Garry RF, Shaw CA),
    you check out the minutes of the HHS conference on aluminum that took place in 2000, I believe in Puerto Rico? Or the Bulletin of the WHO, article DOI: 10.2471/BLT.08.054692, “Vaccination Doubles Asthma Incidence” — the pneumococcal vaccine does not reduce the incidence of pneumonia and doubled the incidence of asthma. Or the recent CDC study that found rising rates of food allergies in children in the U.S. Or, as CDC found, an increased risk of seizures with Quadvax. Somewhere there’s a recent one about the Energix vax having a higher risk of MS, but I can’t find it right now.

    Wyeth’s response to a cluster of SIDS deaths in Tennessee that were related to the same lot of DTP vaccine was to put forth an internal memo ensuring that in the future, vaccine lots would be scattered widely so as to hide such adverse events. This does not inspire confidence in their ability to self-regulate or operate in the interest of the public health.

    The amounts of aluminum in neonatal/premature infants IVs is strictly limited because their underdeveloped kidneys cannot process it, but at the same time these neonates are being injected with aluminum-containing Hep B vaccine. Some vaccines are contraindicated for those with egg or neomycin allergies, but infants are not tested for such allergies before they are given the vaccines. It’s a schizophrenic and dangerous policy.

    Notice I haven’t once mentioned Autism?

  26. #26 HCN
    November 8, 2008

    Garbosmed attempted to answer with “Since you ask, I would suggest in addition to Shaw et al (Aluminum adjuvant linked to gulf war illness induces motor neuron death in mice.”

    The MMR contains neither thimerosal nor aluminum. So that does not answer the question when it pertains to MMR versus the diseases it protects against.

    Try again.

  27. #27 revere
    November 8, 2008

    Garbosmed: I don’t know why you think vaccines are not examined for safety. Safety and efficacy are the two main criteria for vaccine approval. Both are tested via RCTs. If you concern is multiple vaccines, how would you suggest we test this? Just two vaccines gives four combinations (and those at a single dose each), 3 vaccines eight, 4 vaccines 16, etc. Suggestions welcome.

  28. #28 Marissa
    November 8, 2008

    RH, the apparent increases in autism rates are due to better diagnosis and awareness rather than true increases as shown by recent research.

    Marissa

  29. #29 revere
    November 8, 2008

    Marissa; Some of it is better reporting. But the autism expert I consulted (one of the tops in the world) says she is quite confident there also has been a marked increase in the last several decades. Why? No one knows at this point.

  30. #30 Chris H.
    November 8, 2008

    Also there has been changes in the diagnostic criteria:
    http://unstrange.com/dsm1.html

    By the way, that is also a good book (check the main page of that site). The author is a father of a young lady with autism, and he is an anthropologist who looks into the perceptions and attitudes about autism in several countries. It is definitely on a different plane than the last Scienceblog Book Club selection (I need to go back and read that book club’s first selection, but right now I am reading Robert Park’s latest book, and I have Phil Plait’s most recent book waiting for me at the library).

    Another really good book on historical perspectives of autism by a father of a son with autism is “Not Even Wrong” by Paul Collins.

  31. #31 Garbosmed
    November 8, 2008

    Nobody’s arguing that MMR isn’t a valuable shot — it is. You seem really hung up on MMR. I would agree that the 1983 vaccine schedule shots are by and large safe, efficacious and a wonderful boon for mankind. What I’m saying is that the schedule as a whole has been rapidly expanded and has not been adequately tested together. FDA tests single shots, and once approved monitors lots only for efficacy but does not continue to monitor levels of excipients — they do not measure levels of thimerosal or aluminum post-approval before lots are released for use.

    You are right that such combination testing of so many different viral and excipient components presents a conundrum. But what you are tacitly admitting, when you suggest that such testing is well nigh impossible, is that this generation of children is in effect undergoing one giant experiment, with epidemiologists rather than clinicians monitoring the results.

    That MMR at the 12 month visit does not stand alone; it may be accompanied by any or all of the following: Hep B, DTap, Hib, PCV, IPV, VAR, HepA, and possibly Influenza as well as any other “catch up” doses of other vaccines. Though MMR does not have thimerosal or aluminum, many of these other vaccines do. In fact, some of the newer iterations such as Pediarix and TriHIBit, contain both aluminum AND thimerosal (albeit in “trace” amounts), and the majority of flu shot contains a full 25mg of mercury.

    The manufacturer’s material safety data sheet for thimerosal explicitly states under item 10, stability and reactivity, “substances to be avoided: aluminum and reducing agents” (http://www.gihonlab.com/pdf/MSDS_Thim.pdf)

    A study in Neurotoxicology Jan 2005, James, associated thimerosal with glutathione depletion. Glutathione is needed to aid in excretion of metals like mercury and aluminum. Tylenol, which parents often are advised to give to infants in anticipation of a vaccine visit, also can cause glutathione depletion.

    A recent study (Liu et al, Neuroscience Letters 2008 Sept. 3, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18786610?) concluded: “Our present studies suggest that aluminum increases the permeability of the BBB [blood brain barrier] by changing its ultrastructure and the expression of occludin and F-actin.”

    Another study (Lambrecht et al) found that a key factor in the adjuvant activity of aluminum is the activation of a population of inflamatory dendritic cells through the induction of uric acid production (ww.jem.org/cgi/content/abstract/205/4/869). While uric acid was seen to protect cultured neurons from calcium overload and mitochondrial dysfunction (http://tinyurl.com/5dj9q9), sudden increases in its levels was shown to have the exact opposite effect in mice brains, where it led to cerebral oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. (http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110004863679/en/)

    You may remember the phrase mitochondrial dysfunction from HHS’s recent settlement in the Hannah Poling case, wherein vaccines were found to have contributed to her autism.

    So if thimerosal and aluminum are acting in tandem to deplete mitochondrial reserves and reduce glutathione while at the same time increasing the permeability of the blood brain barrier, you can see how susceptible children might develop an inability to excrete metals and toxins while at the same time suffering an infusion of those substances into the brain tissue. That doesn’t even touch on viral components.

    As for MMR, HHS recently settled a liability case wherein a 1 year old, Madyson Williams, died after MMR vaccination. I’m sure if you asked, her parents would have preferred measles. VAERS/VCIP was set up for such unfortunate events; an acknowledgement that vaccines will sometimes cause harm even as they help millions.

    But what’s going on with conditions like autism, asthma, and the CDC’s finding of 1 in 26 children having food allergies is something else entirely — possibly preventable lifelong conditions resulting from damaged immune systems.

  32. #32 pft
    November 8, 2008

    “vaccines-causing-autism hypothesis long after large-scale epidemiological studies have discredited it as anything but a statistically insignificant cause”

    When you say large scale studies, may I ask was there a large group of children not getting ANY of these essential vaccines whom were the control group in the same region of the world where autism cases are most often detected?. In other words, was it a broad based study comparing never-vaccinated children vs vaccinated children, numbers being in the tens of thousands in both groups? I suspect not as there likely were ethical concerns preventing this.

    Let’s assume that none of the authors of these studies, whether or not they are vaccine patent holders, or employees of vaccination companies, or members of the CDC/FDA/IOM(which receives much of their funding from federal agencies) are unethical in any capacity. They still don’t prove Autism isn’t caused by vaccines if they do not have a sufficiently large control group of those whom were never vaccinated as children.

    Mercury is a poison and exposure is known to result in neurological harm. It is so toxic that it was banned from over-the-counter products in 1982 and from animal vaccines in 1991. Since infants have been exposed to it through vaccination, autism has been detected, and the increase in autism has increased with increasing vaccination. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

    Closing the debate on autism vs vaccines is bad science by bad scientists, the same as closing the debate on AGW is bad science. Yet we are told to trust the scientists at FDA, CDC and IOM despite the conflict of interest they have in not proving a causal relationship between Thimerosal, Vaccines and autism. RFK Jr. seems to get it. Good science does not shut down debate.

    Interesting letter here to a scientists holding a vaccine patent who has debunked the association between vaccines and autism by an informed layman whom has obviously researched it having a child with autism.

    http://www.unlockingautism.org/atf/cf/{64d87213-a160-4224-8ed7-702ed372e4b1}/VISIT%20AGE%20OF%20AUTISM%20FOR%20MANY%20THOUGHT%20PROVOKING%20ARTICLES.PDF

  33. #33 Marissa
    November 9, 2008

    Revere, I agree about the reporting but I also work with two experts in autism and neither see a real increase based on the studies to date.

  34. #34 Anthony Henry Smith
    November 12, 2008

    Keep RFK out of EPA

    The job at the EPA calls for someone with a keen sense of both ethics and science. Kennedy is not that person.

    The following letter was written in support of Robert H. Boyle (founder of Riverkeeper and author of “The Hudson River, A natural and unnatural history”) and others who resigned from Riverkeeper rather than support R. F. Kennedy, Jr.’s compromise of the principle that ethics must never be separate from science.

    This letter was first published in the Putnam County News and Recorder, Cold Spring, New York, on August 30, 2000 and they have carried it on their website ever since for which they have my thanks. (AHS, 2008)

    Letters:

    Supports Former Riverkeeper Board Members’ Action
    Editor,

    The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers, Inc. supports Robert H. Boyle, former president of the Riverkeeper, Inc. and former Riverkeeper, Inc. board members John Fry, treasurer, Nancy Abraham, Kathryn Belous Boyle, Pat Crow, Theresa Hanczor, Robert Hodes, Ann Tonetti and Alexander Zagoreas in the action they have taken in resigning from Riverkeeper in opposition to the hiring of a convicted environmental felon to serve in the position of staff scientist on the staff of Riverkeeper.

    In issuing this statement of support, The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers wishes to emphasize that ethics cannot be separated from science and that the environmental movement will prosper best in an atmosphere of demonstrated personal responsibility and earned mutual respect.

    We encourage individuals as well as environmental organizations to join us in similar expressions of support for the principled stand taken by Boyle and fellow board members in their defense of the ethical integrity of the environmental movement here in the Hudson River Valley.

    Boyle and 8 of the 22 Riverkeeper board members resigned from Riverkeeper, Inc. in protest of the hiring of William Wegner. For eight years Wegner operated a ring of smugglers who stole bird eggs directly from the nests of protected cockatoo species in Australia. Wegner and his ring then smuggled the eggs by air to the United States. Birds that hatched and survived were then sold for as much as $12,500.00 each. A federal judge accepted Wegner’s plea of guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and sentenced him to five years in prison. The judge also found that Wegner had attempted to obstruct justice by committing perjury at the trial of a co-defendant Wegner paid a $10,000.00 fine.

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has stated that everyone deserves a second chance and notes that he himself had been given a second chance in that he had once been convicted of a drug offense.

    We note, however, that Kennedy’s offense was essentially a victimless crime while Wegner’s offense was a crime against the environment, the people of Australia, the people of the United States and against the birds. In order to avoid detection during the flight, smugglers flushed newly hatched chicks down the plane’s toilet

    Although Wegner has been convicted and served his sentence, nothing he or anyone else can do will correct the damage he has done or make his victims whole again.

    Wegner’s prison sentence seems to have done little to improve his ethical sense. The resume Wegner submitted to Riverkeeper accounts for his period of incarceration without referring to the fact of the incarceration itself Wegner describes work he performed and omits the significant information that he performed this work while he was serving time as a prison inmate.

    Kennedy overstepped his position as attorney for Riverkeeper when, in November of 1999, he hired Wegner. Boyle terminated Wegner after learning of the hiring and upon review of Wegner’s resume, court records and media accounts. The matter came to a climax at a board meeting on June 20th when Kennedy insisted that Wegner be rehired over Boyle’s objection.

    While we hope Riverkeeper continues to work to produce changed human beings who think and act differently in regard to the Hudson River and all that pertains to it, we also recognize the primary mission of Riverkeeper is not the rehabilitation of Wegner or of those like him.

    Sincerely,

    Anthony Henry Smith
    Fishkill

    (for The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers)
    (Fishkill Ridge Community Heritage, a separate organization, has also supported this letter from their beginning.)

  35. #35 JJackson
    December 16, 2008

    Lisa Jackson (no relation) got it. What do we know about her?

  36. #36 revere
    December 16, 2008

    JJ: She gets good reviews from mainstream environmentalists and mixed to not so good reviews from activists within the EPA and federal gov’t who think she rolled over too easily on some major issues in NJ. So the environmental movement is split on her. The pro-Jackson camp thinks she was handed an impossible situation in NJ, and she went along with some questionable policies of the (liberal) Governor (Corzine) to trim the budget at the expense of environmental protection. I don’t have an informed opinion.