It really and truly saddens me to have to do this.
The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is one of the finest children's hospitals there is. Unfortunately, as I documented yesterday, the hospital has, either knowingly or unknowingly, lent its good name to the metastasis of the quackfest known as Autism One from its primary site in Chicago to a metastatic deposit sullying one of the finest cities in our fair neighbor to the north, Toronto. The metastasis is a secondary quackfest known as Autism One Canada, and, unfortunately, the SickKids Foundation and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health have even facilitated this metastasis by apparently cosponsoring Autism One Canada. As a result of my post on this disturbing development, several of you, my loyal readers, wrote to SickKids Foundation, the Hospital for Sick Kids, School of Public Health, and the University of Toronto. So far, there has only been one answer that I'm aware of, and it comes in the form of a clearly canned response from the Grants Officer at SickKids Foundation, Pam Gilliland, which several of you forwarded to me:
Dear Mr. [suppressed],
Thank you for your email concerning the conference: Changing the Course of Autism in Canada, organized by Autism Canada Foundation in collaboration with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health University of Toronto and Autism One.
The goal of this conference is to provide a respectful forum for parents, therapists, doctors, researchers and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to share, learn and work collaboratively to expand knowledge of treatment interventions for Autism. Â There will be a cross section of speakers.
As part of SickKids Foundation's National Grants Program, support is offered for conferences, workshops or symposia which are relevant to the health of Canada's children. Â The purpose of the conference grants program is to support events which are organized by and/or for families with children with health challenges.
The review process is competitive and funding is limited, with a maximum of $5,000 per grant. Each conference grant application is assessed in terms of its relevance to the health of Canadian children up to 18 years of age, as well as for its fit with the conference grants program goals.
The Foundation sees value on information sharing between medical staff, community organizations, and families. It is important for families to have opportunities for open dialogue with health professionals in order to get an understanding of current research and practices.
The Foundation takes a neutral stance on complementary and alternative health care. Â We actually have a history of funding research on complementary and alternative health care for paediatrics. Â The use of complementary and alternative health care products and therapies are on the rise across Canada and there is little research on the safety and efficacy of many of these treatments and products for children and youth, as well as the effects of the interactions between natural health products and conventional medicine. Â For this reason, the Foundation has taken a first step to build research capacity on which to base practice and policy in these areas.
To this end SickKids Foundation funded Autism Canada in the amount of $5,000 to support their conference: Â Changing the Course of Autism in Canada.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions.
Grants Officer, National Grants
525 University Avenue, 14th Floor
Toronto, Ontario Â M5G 2L3
(P) 416.813.6166 x 2354
My response to this is below.
First off, it's very disappointing that there wasn't another explanation for the involvement of SickKids Foundation in helping to bring this quackfest to fruition. I had originally hoped that Autism One was simply renting space from the University of Toronto and pulling a Discovery Institute by trying to imply that that renting of space meant that UT was supporting its viewpoint. It wasn't. Autism One has the full support of SickKids Foundation and, apparently, the UT School of Public Health. Ms. Gilliland appears to have confirmed this.
It's sad to see what should be a science-based organization hiding behind the "respectful" label. It is not necessary to sponsor a conference, a large portion of which will clearly be devoted to promoting quackery, in order to show "respect" to the parents of autistic children. That crosses the line from respect to pandering and promotion. Moreover, not only is SickKids lending its name to this highly dubious endeavor, it's actually awarded $5,000 to Autism One to help it put this conference on! Ms. Gilliland claims the grants program is very competitive. If Autism One won one of these grants, I hate to see what the competition was? Why not dole out funds to Generation Rescue to sponsor a conference? It wouldn't be that much worse than this. As for the "diversity" of opinion on display, all I can say is that it is indeed pretty diverse except for two notable and obvious omissions: A truly science-based viewpoint and anyone who doesn't support biomedical woo. I guess we wouldn't want to be too "diverse," would we?
Let's look at the speaker list again. I already discussed in depth why the Amy Yasko, Rudi Verspoor, and the keynote speaker Martha Herbert are not exactly paragons of science and reason when it comes to treating autistic children. After all, Amy Yasko sells RNA supplements to treat autism and all sorts of other conditions; Martha Herbert has been slapped down by the courts as not qualifying to be an expert witness regarding autism; and Rudi Verspoor is a frikkin' homeopath! I also discussed the lineage of Autism One Canada from the even quackier Autism One, which has featured the spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S., Jenny McCarthy, for the last two years in a row, as well as Mark and David Geier, who "pioneered" chemical castration as a treatment for autism.
I could go on. In fact, why don't I go on, as there are a couple of other luminaries who will be speaking at Autism One Canada that I didn't mention the first time around? For instance, there's Bryan Jepson, who comes straight from Andrew Wakefield's Thoughtful House. His talk will be:
Treating Autism: Understanding Biomedical treatment options
Dr. Jepson will describe the multiple organ system involvement of the autism spectrum including the brain, the gut, the immune system and the detoxification/metabolic system. He will discuss the mechanisms for disease in each of these areas and then talk about treatment options that are being used by clinicians in order to try to correct the underlying biochemical abnormalities that are contributing to the behavioral presentations of the disorder.
Whenever you hear anything about "detoxification" and "biomedical" in the same talk, run, don't walk. You're almost certainly hearing only the finest anti-vaccine and environmental woo. If the speaker is someone like Dr. Jepson, who is currently working with the Dark Lord of the Anti-vaccine Movement himself, the man who, while on the payroll of a lawyer who sues vaccine companies, produced an incompetently done and fraudulent study that launched a thousand anti-vaccine quacks in the U.K., in the process producing a scare that the MMR causes autism so great that vaccination rates fell to the point where the measles has become pandemic again, you're certain to hear anti-vaccine quackery.
Let's see. There's also Pamela Ferro, RN, who:
is the president of the Gottschall Autism Center. She is the parent of a child with autism and is also the co-founder of Hopewell Associates, Inc., a nurse-owned and operated psychopharmacologic and biomedical practice specializing in the treatment of adults and children with developmental disabilities. Pam is the director of the Children's Autism Program at Hopewell as well as a Defeat Autism Now! practitioner, providing intensive and highly specialized biomedical treatment for children. She founded Hopewell Autism Initiative in 2000, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit agency, to provide educational, recreational and social opportunities for children with autism.
She's a DAN! practitioner? She might as well wear a pin with a rubber duck on her shirt to signify the level of science behind her treatments. Looking at the website of the Gottschall Autism Center, I see all sorts of warning signs that science-based medicine is not what it is about there. All the buzzwords of the anti-vaccine movement are there, in particular they myth of the "autism epidemic," the invocation of Bernard Rimland and "biomedical" treatment, the discredited idea that opioids from the gut due to gluten, and the listing of vaccines or mercury in vaccines as potential causes for regressive autism, along with the dismissal of a genetic cause for vaccines:
The intensive search for a genetic cause of autism has not been established as researchers have failed to identify a specific gene or complex of genes that can account for the significant increase in the incidence of autism that is now recognized to have over the past decade include issues related to triggers, contributors or potentiators : (1.) genetic predisposition with the recognition of specific polymorphisms and specific metabolic defects, (2.) prenatal insult or postnatal infection has been considered a trigger for some autistics, (3.) immune system dysregulation, including IgA and IgG deficiency, autoimmune reactions, aberrant cytokine profile T cell abnormalities, chronic inflammation and autoimmunity, etc., has been described in the scientific literature, (4.) biochemical abnormalities in regards to amino acids, pheno-sulfertransferase problems, G-alpha protein defects affecting retinoid receptors in the brain which are crucial for sensory perception, language processing, vision, etc. have been established in some autistics, (5.) neurochemical/toxic insults resulting from exposures to chemicals agents including heavy metal/mercury toxicity (thimerosal preservative in vaccines, etc.) with dysfunction of detoxification pathways, (6.) dietary triggers including formation of opiate peptides from incompletely digested casein and gluten proteins, (7.) nutritional deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, amino acid and/or essential fatty acid abnormalities, etc, (8.) occurrence of marked gastrointestinal dysfunction/pathology characterized by intestinal permeability, dysbiosis (with overgrowth of pathogenic yeast, bacteria, parasites and viruses), malabsorption problems, food allergy/sensitivities, digestive enzyme deficiencies, inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions (autistic enterocolitis, gastritis, esophagitis, duodenitis, colitis, etc) as well as ileal lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, (9.) role of vaccination additives, including the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) triple vaccine, in triggering the onset of autism (10.) the possible role of metallothionine impairment which could lead to compromised immune, gastrointestinal and detoxification function in some autistics, (11.) detoxification impairments and abnormalities with disordered methylation defects, (12.) metabolic imbalance involving impaired antioxidant defense with alterations in glutathione leading to disruption of cell function and signaling. The current thinking is that a combination of factors are possible triggers and/or contributors in the etiology of regressive autism.
No, the current thinking among the anti-vaccine movement and biomedical quacks is that many of these factors cause autism. The current thinking among scientists is that autism is caused mostly by multifactorial genetic changes.
Then there's Sonja Hintz, RN, who:
has worked with children with disabilities since the age of twelve. At 16 she began working in group homes as a counselor, which included living there part-time, teaching activities of daily living, and advocating in situations involving discrimination. Following, this Sonja worked as a public health nurse, a psychiatric nurse, and a neonatal intensive care nurse. Through the use of a therapeutic diet, homeopathy, herbs, vitamins, essential oils, and chelation in addition to many other therapies, Sonja's son has recovered from autism. For the last 10 years, she has also helped other children improve their quality of life. Currently she is working at True Health Medical Center with Dr. Anju Usman.
Chelation therapy? Homeopathy? There is no therapy that is more obviously pure quackery than homeopathy, and chelation therapy is not only ineffective but potentially dangerous, having resulted in the death of an autistic child a few years back. Neither have any role in treating autistic children--or anyone else for that matter. The sole exception chelation therapy, whose only real indication is to treat acute heavy metal toxicity--certainly not autism, heart disease, or any of the other myriad conditions for which it is sold.
I realize that this conference isn't all as bad as this, but so much of it is pure pseudoscience and quackery that it completely taints any value that anything else in the conference may have. It's like asking Laetrile pushers and advocates of the Hoxsey therapy to give a talk at a cancer conference in numbers equal to or greater than those by science-based practitioners.
Two other things really disturbed me about Gilliland's letter, one that was actually in the text of the letter and one that was apparently intentionally ignored. The first thing, which was in the letter, was the statement that SickKids "takes a neutral stance" with respect to "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM). Ms. Gilliland repeats the usual tropes about how, because so many are using CAM, there must be something there that works and is worth studying. She appears to have bought into the concept that natural products must be "alternative," when they are not at all. The study of natural products has existed for a long time in the perfectly respectable subfield of pharmacology known as pharmacognosy. Moreover, she seems proud that SickKids is funding woo. Indeed, if you look at the SickKids portfolio of funded studies in 2005-2006, it's clear that the foundation has been funding a lot of CAM, mostly herbal remedies, but also some serious, serious woo, such as therapeutic touch. Indeed, it boasts:
We know that children - particularly children who have significant health challenges and are being treated at SickKids and other hospitals - are being administered a variety of complementary therapies including acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, naturopathy, herbal medicine, use of vitamins and certain diets, homeopathy, massage, and various mind-body healing practices. In many cases, we do not know if these treatments are effective, safe, or how they interact with conventional therapies - there is not a lot of research on many of them, and this is particularly true in the paediatric population. SickKids Foundation is the only granting agency in Canada funding in the area of Complementary and Alternative Health Care with a specific focus on children. The Foundation is investing $400,000/year into research training, workshops, a national research network, and to research projects in the following areas: utilization data so that we get a picture of who is using what for what conditions; the efficacy of various complementary and alternative therapies; and policy issues in this area.
$400,000 a year to study woo? That's some serious bucks for a private foundation! And, in case you want to give SickKids a pass because most of what it funds is herbal remedies and products, there have been grants funded to study homeopathy! Any organization that thinks there is anything to homeopathy sufficiently compelling to be worthy of study of efficacy has a serious, serious problem. True, a recent announcement states that there will be no longer be a separate grant program for CAM, but that applications for grants to study CAM were still welcome within areas viewed as priorities by the Foundation. In other words, SickKids is--if you'll excuse the term--"integrating" CAM into its general funding. Certainly, if Ms. Gilliland's letter is any indication, there doesn't appear to be any desire to pull back from funding CAM.
But what bothered me even more than this is what Ms. Gilliland did not say. I know for a fact that several of you complained to her about the anti-vaccine slant of Autism One conferences. Some of you sent me copies of your e-mails. Yet, Ms. Gilliland writes not a word about vaccines, as if she were assiduously and intentionally ignoring this very important point, namely that by funding Autism One Canada, the SickKids Foundation is lending its name to one of the greatest threats to the health of children: the anti-vaccine movement. If the anti-vaccine movement gets its way, vaccination rates will fall, and children will suffer and die. I realize that the anti-vaccination movement doesn't see it that way, that its adherents think that vaccines cause autism, but the end result of their efforts will be the suffering and deaths of children nonetheless. Yet, here is a charity dedicated to helping children through scientific research and which funds a large amount of truly good research supporting a group that is part of a movement that is the most serious threat to public health in general and children's health in particular. I would like to think that Gilliland probably has no clue that this is the case, but her refusal to address the issue implies to me a level of shame, as though she knows what Autism One really stands for.
I really don't know how to respond to this right now. On the one hand, I want to convince the powers that be at SickKids that they have made an enormous and tragic mistake in helping to fund this conference. On the other hand, in doing so I don't want to hurt an organization dedicated to such a noble calling. The only thing I can think of is to keep the pressure up with e-mails, blog posts, and even phone calls and to shine the light on this situation. It's highly unlikely that SickKids will withdraw its support from Autism One Canada, given that it was already given, but hopefully, if the publicity and expressions of displeasure at this turn of events reaches a certain level, the SickKids Foundation may rethink its position regarding the funding of highly dubious conferences in the future.
And don't think that leaves the Dana Lana School of Public Health off the hook, either. It's mentioned more than SickKids, and it's just as complicit. Indeed, given the importance of vaccines to public health, it's even more of a failing that a school of public health--any school of public health--would sponsor a conference rife with anti-vaccine quackery.
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I'd venture to say that this conference is more of a disrespect to the parents of kids with autism.
Oh, no. I was so hoping some kind of mistake had been made here and that SickKids would distance itself from this crap....
I also sent them a letter, I urge everyone to do the same. Canada is a great place but it also has more than it's fair share of government sponsored pseudoscience.
Help us please.
PM Harper appointed Gary Goodyear to Minister of State (Science and Technology) by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and he was a CHIROPRACTOR.
Send your letters please...
It's a damn shame that a foundation that is usually associated with pioneering work such as the development of the Mustard surgical procedure for treating transposition of the great vessels (a cause of the other wise usually fatal blue baby syndrome) and the identification of the gene defect responsible for cystic fibrosis should be associated with such exploitative and sometimes dangerous quackery.
Perhaps their own infectious disease experts http://www.sickkids.ca/InfectiousDiseases/index.html and immunologists http://www.sickkids.ca/ImmunologyAllergy/index.html ought to be alerted as to what their organization has got involved with.
Dammit. Oh well, I guess this will make it easier for me to ignore their canvassers on the street that seem to be out all the time these days. "Do you have a minute for Sick Kids?" "Nope."
(BTW Orac, minor point; it's not The Hospital for Sick Kids. It's either the Hospital for Sick Children or SickKids.)
The name SickKids just sounds like something woo practitioners would name their organization, just like any organization with "family" in its name is an extreme right wing Christian political lobbying organization. It automatically gives them the implication that if you disagree with their nonsense, you are against families or in this case, against kids.
Dear Ms. Gilliland:
I am a former senior pediatric resident at HSC, and I have a son who is a researcher there.
I am absolutely floored by the decision of the Foundation to fund and associate yourselves with the Autism One band of quacks.
Who is on the board that I can talk to about this now?
It's not the first time that your Foundation has funded alternative medical quacks, but this is inexcusable.
Please forward this letter to your Board chairperson for an immediate response.
I think that you might want to read comments about your board's decision:
Terry Polevoy, MD, FRCP(C)
65 University Ave. East - Unit 10A
Damn, that's sad to hear.
We had a quick talk about this at the UofT Secular Alliance meeting yesterday, but we were all hoping that the quacks just rented out some rooms. We're trying to figure what we can do about this as a student group interested in promoting skepticism and science. If anyone has suggestions, please email us at: secular at utoronto dot ca
Thanks for the careful breakdown of the conference agenda, Orac. It's important that people like yourself, with the relevant clinical knowledge, help the rest of us see through what might otherwise look, on the face of it, like a respectable roster of PhD's & MD's.
My own blog entry on this is here:
The ironic/sad part is that researchers at this institution are making some major breakthroughs in the genetics of autism.
FR, then perhaps this debacle should be brought to their attention.
Certainly from what I can read about their autism researchers and the groups they collaborate with I doubt that they would be impressed by SickKids support of AutismOne.
Terry Poleboy MD, you sound really upset. Considering that your profession defends the injection of large quantities of one of the most toxic forms of mercury into the bloodsteam of infants, its pretty hard to take anything you say serious. Here's some facts for you;
0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).
2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water
20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37).
200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.
25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S.
50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990âs to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently âpreservativeâ level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.
@Robert: Thimerosal (which is a mercury compound, not mercury itself) has been removed from vaccines.
Also, talking about "mercury" is completely wrong; different types of mercury compound have very different effects. Ethyl mercury, methyl mercury, elemental mercury, etc. can't even really be compared at all. They're just too different toxicologically.
So the very fact that you rail against "mercury" proves that you haven't the faintest clue what you're actually talking about.
This study looked at methylmercury and mercuric chloride, not ethylmercury (the compound in thimerosal). So, irrelevant.
This limit is for methylmercury, not ethylmercury. So, again, not relevant.
20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37).
Looked at mercury vapor. Again, not ethylmercury, so irrelevant.
Limit is for methylmercury, not ethylmercury. Again, not relevant.
Remember, not all mercury is created equal. Ethylmercury is not methylmercury or mercury vapor or mercuric chloride. It does not behave the same. It does not have the same effects. It does not have the same toxicity profile. If your level of thinking is "it has mercury in it, therefore it must be bad, because mercury is bad", then by the same token, ordinary table salt must be bad. After all, it contains chlorine, which is bad.
But, as Bob already said, thimerosal has been removed from almost every childhood vaccine, and even the ones that still use thimerosal (flu vaccines) are available in thimerosal-free versions. So, it's a moot point. And even if it had not been removed, there is no evidence that it causes autism or any other neurodevelopmental disorders in the amounts that were used in vaccines.
Almost forgot to address this. Not a single vaccine is injected into the bloodstream of anyone, let alone infants. Vaccines are given either subcutaneously (injected under the skin) or intramuscularly (injected into the muscle tissue). Some are also available in oral forms (e.g., OPV), but those are not used as much (and OPV is no longer used in the U.S. at all).
Please click on my name for some more information about vaccines and how the anti-vax myths you've been reading are wrong.
Ethylmercury, like methylmercury is a short-chain alkyl mercury compound. They both are distributed equally to the brain. In the brain they dealkylize to Hg++ which remains permanently trapped and causes degenerative brain disease such as the smokescreen called autism. In primate studies, injected thimerosal was shown to leave behind twice as much Hg++ as equal doses of ingested methymercury. Who doesn't have the faintest clue Scott?
Bob, I"ll repeat;
50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose vials. Currently âpreservativeâ level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal, H1N1 and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.
Todd, drinking water and hazardous waste levels are for total mercury, not methyl. The only purpose of intramuscular injection is to provide rapid access to the blood. I think I'll go argue with the wall rather than you uneducated clowns!
Oh, this is sad; I've been a long time supporter of SickKids in Toronto, helping to run many fund-raising events in the past. And as an autistic adult, I'm shocked.
Is there someone I can write to?
I used to live in Waterloo, now am three hours drive away. I wonder whether I can go and protest this in person.
@Robert: Unsurprisingly, you fail to address the inconvenient (for you) fact that all standard childhood vaccines (except multidose flu) are now thimerosal-free. And fluvax is available that way. Even with flu still in the mix, children are getting less thimerosal than they have since the 80s.
So why aren't autism rates plummeting? While you're busy answering that, explain why autism existed (it's where "changeling" myths come from) before we had thimerosal in vaccines.
If the purpose is to provide rapid access to the blood, why not inject it...into the blood?
Citations, please. The citations should also note the ADME of ethylmercury vs. methylmercury, as well as the half-life in the body.
Todd, the half-life of ethylmercury in the blood is about 7 days vs. methylmercury which is 28. The half-life in the body is unknown. The problem is that it rapidilly converts to Hg++ in the kidneys and brain. The methylmercury molecule is much more stable and can exit and enter the organs multiple times. It's very misleading to say that because ethylmercury cannot be measured in the blood after 7 days that it no longer present in the body. It's still their but in the form of Hg++. Read the Charlston paper and note how he explains that Hg++ is the problem following the dealkylization of methylmercury.
citations you requested;
Charleston J, Body R, Bolender R, Mottet N, Vahter M, Burbacher T 1996. Changes in the number of astrocytes and microglia in the thalamus of the monkey Macaca fascicularis following long-term subclinical methylmercury exposure. Neurotoxicology 17:127-138
Burbacher T, Shen D, Liberato N, Grant K, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T. 2005. Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113:1015-1021
That would be you, given that you have made no attempt to address the point at all. No evidence is provided to support your claims, which don't even make a gesture in the direction of discussing relative toxicity.
The Charleston paper talks exclusively about methylmercury, not ethylmercury. The conclusions drawn from it, therefore, are irrelevant, as the ADME and toxicity profiles of the two compounds are different. Further, the study looked at chronic exposure, not acute. You cannot look at a study on methylmercury and say that those results apply with equal validity to ethylmercury.
The Burbacher study only addresses the pharmacokinetics of ethylmercury vs. methylmercury. It makes no conclusions regarding the toxicity of ethylmercury, which is the pertinent question. To quote from the study:
You have yet to show that ethylmercury is a) relevant to the discussion, since exposure levels are way below even 1980s levels, b) that it is toxic in the amounts found in vaccines and c) that any such toxicity results in the same symptoms as autism.
Of note, as others have already mentioned, autism rates have not decreased at all since the removal of thimerosal. Also, symptoms of mercury poisoning are different from the symptoms of autism.
Todd, You do know the difference between concentration and total amount right? Or that concentration in the shot vial is not the same as concentration within the body? Or that concentrations for drinking water or industrial effluent are based on the cumulative impact over time?
You do also realize that apples are not, in fact, oranges, don't you?
Oops, I meant Robert, not Todd.
I should no better than posting while sleep deprived.
I am getting the popcorn. His retort could get interesting.
Yes, I'm aware of the differences you mention. I am also aware that there has been no evidence presented showing that thimerosal is toxic in the amounts or concentrations in vaccines (individually or totally - the anti-vaxers will say any amount is toxic, the combination is toxic, etc.). Evidence has not been presented that ethylmercury exposure adds to the risk of injury from environmental sources of mercury exposure. Evidence has not been presented, either, that ethylmercury remains in the body long enough to cause any damage. Evidence also has not been presented that shows that ethylmercury causes autism.
In sum, no evidence has been presented that ethylmercury is unsafe.
Yep, which is why I pointed out that methylmercury is not ethylmercury and why studies looking at the former cannot be used to make conclusions about the latter. It's a concept anti-vaxers don't seem to get.
Heh...no worries. Ignore my answer to you before. Posting before refreshing the screen. :)
Like #5, this post makes me feel better for not giving to Sick Kids either. They have a very aggressive year-round street canvassing campaign and run the sappiest possible TV ads - adorable children looking sad while hooked up to machines with tinkly piano music in the background, and a syrupy voice-over, "You can save one of these precious children TODAY!" Even though I know it's good to donate to hospitals both these things annoy me, so I don't. Not that I have a lot of available charity dollars anyway.
Oh, and Robert? I think you missed the memo - everyone's talking about squalene, formeldahyde and aluminum these days. Mercury is so, like, 2005. Seriously, get with the program.
1. Thimerosal isn't used anymore.
2. Mercury poisoning has a very different symptom profile than autism. Also, people with autism don't typically have elevated levels of mercury.
Another Orac-inspired witch hunt. May it backfire like the others.
I don't know mercury from Freddie Mercury, but given that he's stunned the opposition into repeating itself, looks like Robert has the facts to me.
"Innocent Bystander" writes:
I don't know mercury from Freddie Mercury, but given that he's stunned the opposition into repeating itself, looks like Robert has the facts to me.
I'm guessing sock puppet. Especially given that Robert has "stunned" the opposition into making several very damaging arguments he's made no effort to refute. Instead he's choosing too show his ignorance about - well - just about everything.
Marcus: Almost certainly not a sockpuppet, actually. You can tell by the lame handle and the vaguely awkward writing style that it's our good ol' liar, Common Sue.
Innocent Bystander said: but given that he's stunned the opposition into repeating itself, looks like Robert has the facts to me.
As opposed to moving the goalposts every time you get a response like the anti-vaxers? Consistency is a good thing. The same anti-vax lies keep getting refuted over and over and over by the same points.
there have been grants funded to study homeopathy!
OH NOES!!! TEHY R STUDYING HOMEOPATHY!!!
It's called science, and if private funds are paying for it, I don't see why you're bitching about.
Prolix, beacuse it is NOT science mebe? While donors have been misled to believe that (all) their funds are going towards real science...
"there have been grants funded to study homeopathy!
OH NOES!!! TEHY R STUDYING HOMEOPATHY!!!
It's called science"
Michael Ralston writes:
Marcus: Almost certainly not a sockpuppet, actually. You can tell by the lame handle and the vaguely awkward writing style that it's our good ol' liar, Common Sue.
Wow, I'm amazed.
Watching that performance was like watching someone cheer on a really lame boxer: "Go on billy-bub! Keep hitting his fist with your face! You've got him bolt upright - now just get off the mat and hit him again!" I figured only his mommy or his sock puppet could cheer such a pathetic attempt. Oh, well. I learn something new every day.
You wouldn't be if you were familiar with this blog.
Welcome to the world of the antivax loons, Marcus. They keep repeating the same wrong arguments ad nauseum. For example blathering on about injecting mercury directly into the bloodstream even though mercury hasn't been in vaccines since the days when Michael Jackson was still black.
I am depressed. My alma mater, which I still live across the street from, has descended to such a level.
Double face palm.
Todd...the postings by Robert might make a good addition to your site to show just how out-of-touch with reality (or dishonest) the antivaxxers can be. Or would that backfire and you'd get accused of quote-mining if you did that? It would be fun to accumulate these comments somewhere though, but I'm probably a bad person. :)
I don't know Ethylmercury from Freddie Mercury, but I know that the "Mercury causes autism" theory is just about as dead as the late rock singer.
The problem with homeopathy is There's nothing to it.
I.E. nothing in it. it's freakin water! Holy Sheep Dip!
I half expect someone to come in like Ike Clanton (portrayed by Stephen Lang in Tombstone 1991) and get up in my face and yell "Law of Physics don't go 'round here! "
Sigh. I meant to say "hypothesis" in my last.
Actually, Robert neutralized his argument from the get-go by confusing concentration with dosage. He's managed to cobble together a few other numbers in his later posts but doesn't seem to demonstrate much understanding of what they mean or how trustworthy they are.
According to this new study supplements may be useful for treating some symptoms of autism:
Omega-3, vitamin E mix shows potential for autistic speech
"The results of the study are significant in that 97 per cent of the participants with apraxia and/or on the autism spectrum reported dramatic improvements while taking a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E."
John, it's an interesting idea, but there's not a lot of information there to judge the study.
Autism and apraxia are both conditions that respond to speech therapy, and they're both conditions that respond unevenly over time -- periods of slow improvement, periods of rapid improvement, and developmental plateaus, so the lack of a control group or at the least a solid multiple baseline design makes the results impossible to interpret. Even as a pilot study, it looks sloppy.
Relying on family report rather than an objective, blinded assessment is also a big no-no for measuring outcomes in a study like this. Given the complexity of symptoms in autism, it is very, very easy to see what you expect to see.
An article published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies - okay.
Subjective reporting of improvement by families of the test subjects - okay
No control group - okay.
No double blind crossover - okay.
Quote: "âControlled trials in apraxia and autism spectrum disorders are warranted,â concluded Morris and Agin."
No shit, Sherlock.
The Sick Kids Foundation needs to be reminded of this thought from the end of Kim Hanula's post at All My Faults are Stress Related
Hi Guys. Sorry, I just got home following a night of rocking and rolling. Let's try this again;
The four vaccines that still contain 50,000 ug/l Hg are multi-dose flu, meningococcal, H1N1 and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.
Ethyl and methyl groups are nothing more than the vehicle to carry mercury into the brain. The problem is that ethylmercury is less stable than methylmercury and is injected, via muscle capillaries, directly into the blood, bypassing all the protection mechanisms of the gastrointestinal system.
Thimerosal is made by reacting ethylmercurric chloride with sodium thiosaylic acid. This is done to increase its solubility in water. Ethylmercurric chloride has been banned as a fungicide due to its extreme toxicity.
Yep, thimerosal is harmless as a baby!
I looked up John's cite. His link is to "nutraingredients-usa.com", an ad vehicle for supplement makers (NTTAWWT). The abstract is here. It was published in the journal "Alternative therapies in health and medicine." The study was not controlled in any way. Claudia Morris simply recruited 187 families of children with motor speech disorders, determined that they suffered from a broader syndrome ("A common clinical phenotype of male predominance, autism, sensory issues, low muscle tone, coordination difficulties, food allergy, and GI symptoms emerged.") and gave them a supplement of fatty acids and vitamin E.
When asked how their kids were doing, 181 of 187 families "reported dramatic improvements in a number of areas including speech, imitation, coordination, eye contact, behavior, sensory issues, and development of pain sensation."
It would be nice if there were something here, with benefits for families of apraxic kids, fame for Claudia Morris, and fortune for Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute (assignee of Morris' patent application). But one uncontrolled study in a fringe journal does not a breakthrough make.
Normal saline solution, used routinely for intravenous infusions, contains 0.91% sodium chloride.
Sodium is nothing more than the vehicle to carry chlorine into the brain.
Chlorine is a deadly gas, and has been used as a chemical weapon. Its use is banned by the Geneva Protocol, along with phosgene and mustard gas.
Yep, saline is as harmless as a baby!
To borealys: The researchers concede this is a preliminary study and controlled studies are needed. However we know vitamin E and Omega 3s have a history of safe use. For a family with an autistic child this might be sufficient information to give it a try. Why wait when follow-up studies might take years.
OK... I'll say it. I think there is something seriously wrong with "Robert".
Nice playing with the numbers to try to bolster your argument. Where you fail, though, is that no one is getting a full liter of any vaccine. Common dose amount is .5 mL. Flu vaccines that contain thimerosal have 25 micrograms for a .5 mL dose. So, once a year, a person who opts for the TCV instead of the thimerosal-free version, gets 25 micrograms of thimerosal, the majority of which is eliminated from the body within about a week or so. Your dishonesty is showing.
I'm assuming you mean as a fungicide for agricultural uses, here. You are aware, aren't you, that the amounts used for such purposes vastly exceeds the amounts that are (or even were) in vaccines?
The rest of your post was already addressed.
Although inclusion of Robert's comments on my site might illustrate the dishonesty and cluelessness of the anti-vax fanatics, that's not really the purpose. But, for a web site on which such misinformation and lies are collected all together, we already have those. They're called Generation Rescue and AoA. And don't forget the NVIC.
"Ethyl and methyl groups are nothing more than the vehicle to carry mercury into the brain. The problem is that ethylmercury is less stable than methylmercury and is injected, via muscle capillaries, directly into the blood, bypassing all the protection mechanisms of the gastrointestinal system."
you have evidence of this of course. And don't you dare cite Burbacher monkeys!
Robert, even after several posts noted how flawed your arguments were, you went and repeated them! Repeating idiocy does not make it true.
Try to tell us something with real actual factual data, something I can find in my local medical school library that is indexed in PubMed and is not in "Medical Hypotheses", nor written by anyone who takes funding from lawyers (which includes the Geiers and Wakefield). Give us the documentation that the getting the DTaP has more risk than getting diphtheria, tetanus and pertussus (the latter is now up to killing two dozen American babies each year).
You could also tell us how dangerous the MMR is versus getting measles, mumps and rubella... especially since it has been around in the USA since 1971 and never contained thimerosal.
Seek immediate professional mental health care.
I mean it with the most sincerity.
"OK... I'll say it. I think there is something seriously wrong with Robert."
Yeh, there's something wrong with me alright. I'm furious over the fact that my children were exposed to levels of mercury 250 times higher than what the EPA classifies as hazarous waste based on toxicity characteristics! I'm furious that in the hospital on the day my children were born they were injected with a 25,000 ug/l solution of organic mercury to protect them against an adult lifestyle disease! I'm furious that people like yourselves defend these criminals!
Mental health care? Sorry Michael Kingsford Gray, they're not going to turn me into a robot.
Your children did not get autism because of anything that was injected into them, you ignorant dipshit.
Again, the EPA limits are for methylmercury. They do not have any guidelines for ethylmercury exposure.
Once again, you go with the dishonest math. Your kids were not injected with a full liter of vaccine, so they did not receive 25,000 ug of thimerosal. They received 25 ug, if that, depending on when they were vaccinated. And, if you're talking about the HepB vaccine, then they never received more than 1 ug of thimerosal, since most formulations either never contained thimerosal or only contained a trace (<1 ug/mL). This info can be found at http://tinyurl.com/mqyfkd for those who are interested.
Second, HepB, while predominantly a lifestyle disease, can be acquired in other ways. For example, an infant can get it from his/her mother, from other infected individuals via bites that break the skin, blood from cuts, etc. There's a valid reason for the vaccine.
So, please, get a proper education on vaccines, stop listening to stuff put out by Generation Rescue, AoA, and the various talking heads of the antivax movement. And, above all, cut out the lying and distortion.
Fair enough, but you could say that about *any* intervention that's relatively safe. You could say it about B12, or homeopathy, or the GFCF diet, or classical music CDs. How do we choose which unproven treatments to try? Do we try all of them? How do we pay for it? A bottle of vitamin E pills may not be particularly pricey, but if you take all of the supplements that are reported to maybe possibly help on the basis of a handful of lousy studies, it adds up. At what point do we say enough?
Fact is, the study you cited shows absolutely nothing. Subjective, retrospective reports by parents are a very poor measure of effectiveness. The fact that all of these parents were parents who chose, independently of any study, to give supplementation a try in the hope that it might work further confounds the situation. It's very, very easy, in cases of developmental disorders, to perceive an incremental improvement as being bigger than it is, especially when you're hoping a new treatment will work. I work with these families; I see it all the time.
borealy: there is one difference between the items on your list and Omega-3s. There has been a fair amount of research on omega-3s (especially DHA) and the developing brain. Animal studies and human studies like this one, this one, and this one seem to suggest ensuring adequate DHA levels is a good thing.
As you say the Oakland study proves nothing regarding autism and the vit. E omega-3 combination. Maybe we can agree it is a potentially promising area of research and wait for the controlled studies before concluding anything.
@58 and 60
You are a bad person. How can you possibly guarantee that Robert's children did not get autism from their vaccines. You dont know anything about their individual cases, their health, their underlying conditions...therein lies the problem. That doesnt make him need mental health care. That comment makes you need social health care! Maybe in our industrialized chemical laden world, vaccines just dont fit so well in the body anymore. Instead of spending your time fighting with old scientific studies, get started on the studies showing the cummulative effects of all the vaccines, food additives, plastisizers, fertilizers, water contaminants etc etc on the growing fetus, newborn, and children over 20 years. Until you can prove that all that together doesnt hurt children, then you should shut up and get to work since you are so knowledgable.
It is like the "canary in the coal mine". If it dies, you get out. More and more children are showing autoimmune and neurologic problems at a young age. When do we heed the message these 'canaries' are sending us and explore all possible options with no anti vax or anti anti vax agendas.
My point in 64 was to please help and not criticize.
I myself, would really like to know too...It obviously isnt caused from one vaccine or another, so why so many children these days? What help for these kids actually does work? My kids are grown, but there are several with autism in my neighborhood. I dont want these kids to go through treatments that wont help and could hurt them. The parents here look up to me as their elder, and they will listen. What do they need to know?
How can you possibly guarantee that Robert's children did not get autism from their vaccines.
How can you possibly guarantee that Robert's children did not get autism from:
- baby wipes
- evil witches
- bad karma
- the Jewish Conspiracy
- Barack Obama
and on and on, ad infinitum?
Shorter James: OMG CHEMICALS - ooga booga booga!!!!!
I am pretty sure the parents are not worried about any of the items on your list. Fairly childish and not helpful. And you wonder why they end up listening to the lying woo doctors.
thanks for nothing
They need to understand the difference between science-based medicine and quackery, for starters. Look for studies that are randomized, controlled trials, preferably double-blinded. The trials should be published in respected journals (i.e., Medical Hypotheses would be inappropriate, but The New England Journal of Medicine would be fairly reliable), and available at a local library or university medical library. If a treatment lacks such trials showing their efficacy (and safety!), then it should probably be avoided.
For example, chelation had no well-designed RCTs to support its use in the treatment of autism. Likewise Lupron, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, gluten-free/casein-free diets (though this may help behavioral issues in patients with diagnosed allergies/intolerances), etc.
They should also know that the vaccine-autism issue has been examined, yet after numerous well-controlled, properly designed studies, there still is no evidence of any causal connection. So, after all that's been done, a reasonable conclusion is that vaccines do not cause autism. Time to move on to more fruitful lines of inquiry (e.g., genetics).
Yes, my comment was childish, but it did have a point.
There is as much evidence that vaccines cause autism as the other items on my list.
"They need to understand the difference between science-based medicine and quackery, for starters"
It is my belief, Todd, that you are in error in promulgating or continuing to promulgate the delusional belief in "science" based medicine. If you are referring to inductive science, then I could understand this, but it is my belief that the expressions "evidence" based medicine or "science" based medicine are, in fact, attempts to promote the fallacious idea that medicine is some sort of deductive or mathematical science whose principles are deduced from first principles in some manner of absolute certainty and scientific precision.
In fact, much like Chinese medicine which took THOUSANDS OF YEARS to develop its principles and inductively confirm their efficacy on millions of people across many thousands of generations, the "science" based medicine of which you so proudly speak is a relative newcomer on the block and is showing the same pattern of adjustment and development (Vioxx anyone?) as would be expected in an inductively confirmed science.
Such a false dichotomy as to present "science" or "evidence" based medicine in opposition to "quackery" in fact serves to undermine the developmental inductive foundations of the very medicine you support and is therefore destructive to rational discussion, unintentionally I'm sure.
I have no patience left for willfully ignorant fucking morons such as yourself. And, yes, I do know (as does every other member of the reality based community) that Robert's kids did not get autism from vaccines.
I apologize. That was awfully rude of me. Here's the thing. Orac and others--like Todd W.--have devoted quite a lot of time and energy dispelling falsehoods about this issue. I've never met them, but they clearly seem like decent concerned human beings who would prefer that our energies and monies be put to actual scientific research that ultimately will help others.
Yet, not matter how often and no matter how thoroughly they explain reality, that they knock down the silliness about thimerisol, people like Robert--and apparently you!--continue to make asinine, uniformed or willfully ignorant comments about doctors being criminals for essentially ridding the planet of some very dangerous diseases.
You said this to Todd above:
I'm pretty sure you do not get the irony in that statement. Well, it matters not... you go on and continue to "believe" whatever stupidity and whatever absurdities you need so that you can make it through the night.
But Todd has the facts. He doesn't need to "believe". The sooner you come to understand this--unfortunately, I doubt you ever will--the sooner you will no longer hear people like me refer to you as a fucking moron. (not that you care!)
No problem, I understand exactly how frustrating it can be.
Note that I take NO position in the vaccine issue, though I have become increasingly sceptical of their overall value and strategic use;the autism proponents must, of course prove their case.
Rather it is the attempt to portray all arguments in opposition to the standard one in its favour, as "quackery" that, I believe, does harm to science and to those proponents of vaccinations convinced of its efficacy and safety.
Thank you for stating your opinion. We can perhaps learn more from those with whom we are in violent disagreement than those with whom we agree! I disparage neither opinions pro nor con as "quackery" and continue to listen with interest to BOTH sides of the issues.
OK James, fair enough... except that last part. In the case of "Chinese medicine" and vaccines causing autism there are not BOTH sides. Not too different from saying we should listen to BOTH sides of the flat earth vs spherical earth "debate."
This is another one. "...convinced of its efficacy and safety"? You say that like vaccines might not actually be doing what they have in fact been doing for decades! Preventing disease! What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't tell me you take no position on this... you liar.
Be responsible, be smart, tell them to THINK... tell them to visit this site: http://antiantivax.flurf.net/
In fact, do it yourself.
I stand by my statement about differentiating between science-based medicine (i.e., medicine that has quality, scientific evidence to support that it is safe, that it is effective, and that the effect it has is meaningful) and quackery (i.e., stuff that is promoted as being helpful but has not a shred of valid evidence to support that it does anything nor that it is safe).
For example, homeopathy is quackery, because it does absolutely nothing beyond a placebo effect, if that. Chelation in the treatment of autism is quackery. Why? Because there is no evidence to support that it works to treat any of the symptoms of autism, and it has known, rather significant risks associated with it. Now, if someone were to do some well-designed, randomized controlled trials (if they could get IRB approval) to examine chelation and autism, with appropriate statistical power, and they found that chelation does, indeed, work for autism, then I'll gladly change my stance.
Ah, an appeal to ancient orientalism and an appeal to ancient wisdom all in one! Here's the problem with those "thousands of years" of Chinese medical development: no controls to prevent biases from creeping into the results. Simply because it comes from China does not mean it is good, that it works, that it's safe. Simply because it has been used for "thousands of years" similarly does not mean that it works or that it is safe. For centuries, blood-letting to balance the humours was seen as an effective treatment for all kinds of illnesses. Yet, we now know that, in the majority of cases, it is not only ineffective, but dangerous, as well. There are people who believe that eating the penis of a tiger will make them virile. Where is the evidence for this?
If there is scientific evidence that some herb, drug or other substance is effective for X condition in a meaningful sense and that it is safe (in a relative sense), then that is science-based medicine. It can generally be relied upon.
Your citation of Vioxx, a single case out of how many thousands of others, is disingenuous. How many products make it to market and are safe and have a meaningful benefit? How many others do not make it to market, their lack of efficacy or safety being caught by...science? Furthermore, even Vioxx has its potential uses. It is a very good pain-killer, if it is used only for acute flare-ups, rather than for chronic pain.
You can trust in stories and mythology for your medicine. I'll trust in science.
Todd, thank you very much for your response. I will do some research in this area to help the parents I have met. I have been approached by some neighbors/friends for possible monetary help for some treatments for their children, but I was very wary of what exactly they might be treating.
Please dont confuse me with James P. I am an old widowed empty nester, and I dont know anything about medicine or vaccines. I just dont like it when people criticize some of the parents who are trying so hard to help their children better their lives when they dont know the medical facts of each child's case. I may not know medicine, but I know that anything from an aspirin to a vaccine could harm some individuals out there. Therefore, you should never claim that something definitely didnt cause harm to a particular child unless you know the case.
Todd W.: "Furthermore, even Vioxx has its potential uses. It is a very good pain-killer, if it is used only for acute flare-ups, rather than for chronic pain."
"The trials should be published in respected journals (i.e., Medical Hypotheses would be inappropriate, but The New England Journal of Medicine would be fairly reliable)."
Todd W. seems to be unaware Vioxx was taken off the market because of safety problems. According to the FDA Vioxx killed between 89,000 and 139,000 Americans between 1999 and 2004. Then in 2008 the New York Times reported that Merck had published ghostwritten studies in academic journals to promote Vioxx. Maybe the notion of science-based medicine isn't so clear cut. There are hundreds of perfectly reputable medical journals published in North America, Europe, and Asia. The study design is certainly important. So is the source of funding. And while there is no credible evidence linking vaccines to autism, no-one can say with certainty autism is not somehow caused by environmental factors or nutrient deficiencies. We simply don't yet know. For example there are studies linking Parkinson's disease to pesticide exposure.
I goofed. This is the correct link to the NY Times article on ghostwriting:
Nope. I'm aware it was taken off the market. I am also aware that in chronic (i.e., long-term) use, it caused cardiovascular injury and deaths. In fact, it was presented as a case study for one of my drug regulation classes. Note that I said "if it is used only for acute flare-ups". Merck most definitely screwed up with their marketing tactics and failure to disclose the risk of CV injury. That does not detract from the scientific evidence that it is a powerful pain reliever which, for a small population, is relatively safe if it is not used long-term.
In case you haven't noticed, the only thing that we have argued against was the "vaccines cause autism" bit. So, your bringing up other environmental factors, nutrient deficiencies and Parkinson's-pesticide is off topic and irrelevant.
Todd W.: "In case you haven't noticed, the only thing that we have argued against was the "vaccines cause autism" bit."
Please go back and read Orac's long quote from The Gottschall Autism Center website. It begins: "The intensive search for a genetic cause of autism has not been established..." and concludes with the sentence, "The current thinking is that a combination of factors are possible triggers and/or contributors in the etiology of regressive autism." Orac then argues in favor of genetics as the most fruitful avenue of research.
This long paragraph specifically mentions(among others)environmental factors, digestive factors, and nutritional factors as possible causes of autism. That's why it's relevant to mention the Parkinson's/pesticide connection.
You misunderstand me. Environmental factors, nutritional issues, Parkinson's/pesticide are irrelevant as far as the vaccines-autism issue goes. Yeah, there might be other environmental factors or nutritional issues. Yeah, pesticides might be linked to PD. But none of that has any relevance as to whether vaccines cause autism or not. That part of your comment was off topic. That is what I was trying to point out.
@ James (not Pannozzi!)
Apologies. Mistaken identity.
However... you say this: "Therefore, you should never claim that something definitely didnt cause harm to a particular child unless you know the case.
If you click on Todd W's name it'll take you to a great deal of information regarding vaccines and autism. If you read through the history of this site you'll discover more. The medical/scientific understanding is that there is no evidence that shows vaccines causing autism. It has been thoroughly studied!
The people who "challenge" this are either quacks or deeply uninformed about the issue. There's no crime in being uninformed. But the arrogance, the unwarranted sanctimonious arrogance, displayed by folks like Jenny McCarthy or even James Pannozzi goes way beyond blissful ignorance. It is downright dangerous.
I know this is an old post, but I was just rereading Offit's book "Autism's False Prophets" and I notice that on page 166 he says that "Marcel Kinesbourne, a professor of pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, provided the final piece of the puzzle"...Kinesbourne was the witnessed used by the Cedillo lawyers to connect the measles to her autism.
He quotes Kinesbourne as saying "The measles vaccine virus was able to access the brain, invade neurons with killing them and evoke a vigorous immune response. As a consquence the inflammation tha resulted from that response damaged critical circuits in the brain."
It seems to me that, if such a doctor works at this hospital and testifies like this, it is no wonder they support this woo.
I work with Polevoy's spawn at Sick Kids....
No one's impressed......
The Canadian newspapers have picked up the story
"Controversial autism conference got funds from Sick Kids"
Let them know what you think about this:
Better yet, tell them how much you would donate if you knew the money wasn't wasted on quacks. The kids could obviously use funds for some real/useful medicine/research.