Bad Week For Thiomersal/Autism Hypothesis

15 Jul

It’s really not been such a good week or so to believe the thiomersal/autism hypothesis.

Firstly, there was the latest Canadian study that concluded:

The prevalence of pervasive developmental disorder in Montreal was high, increasing in recent birth cohorts as found in most countries. Factors accounting for the increase include a broadening of diagnostic concepts and criteria, increased awareness and, therefore, better identification of children with pervasive developmental disorders in communities and epidemiologic surveys, and improved access to services. The findings ruled out an association between pervasive developmental disorder
and either high levels of ethylmercury exposure comparable with those experienced in the United States in the 1990s or 1- or 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations.

Next up was the legal and scientific smackdown which examined the scientific credentials of both the body of evidence amassed thus far in support of the thiomersal/autism connection _and_ two of its leading expert – Boyd Haley and Mark Geier:

The court…finds that Dr. Haley’s report does not state an expert opinion that thimerosal causes autism, rather just that he has a theory about how such a thing could happen. At best, he expressed “strong belief” that the cause of “neurodevelopmental disorders in infants” is exposure to an organic-mercury compound such as thimerosal……the disconnected literature he presents does not add up to the opinion and conclusion that Dr. Geier is offering. Accordingly, the Court finds that Dr. Geier’s literature review, in this instance, does not meet the Daubert standard of being both derived by the scientific method and relevant to the “task at hand…..the Court notes that Dr. Geier is not a pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist. In fact, testimony was presented to the Court that Dr. Geier was not even successful in sitting for his Medical Board examination in the specific field of pediatric genetics….the Court finds that Dr. Geier was not specifically qualified to perform a differential diagnosis of a pediatric neurological disorder, and, that he did not properly perform the differential diagnosis

Thirdly, despite a long drawn out letter writing campaign featuring other named expert witness Richard Deth, Hawaii decided to veto a bill banning thimerosal containing vaccines because:

This bill is objectionable because it restricts the use of FDA-approved vaccines for no scientifically sound reason…….This bill ignores the body of current scientific evidence on thimerosal-containing vaccines.

Bad enough, but just to really kick the thiomersal/autism hypothesis in the teeth, CDDS released their quarterly autism figures. Joseph looked at the figures and sure enough – they’re still rising. Let’s recall that David Kirby has said that:

If the total number of 3-5 year olds in the California DDS system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis. He [Kirby] also conceded that total cases among 3-5 year olds, not changes in the rate of increase is the right measure

Guess what? We’re two quarters away from 2007. The total number of 3 – 5 year olds in the CDDS has _not_ declined.

3 – 5 cohort caseload over the last 16 quarters as compiled by Dad of Cameron.

12 Responses to “Bad Week For Thiomersal/Autism Hypothesis”

  1. Dad Of Cameron July 15, 2006 at 16:53 #

    Hi Kev,

    The graph represents the 3-5 y/o cohort caseload for the last 16 quarters (4 years), which is in the data represented online at CDDS. It is not 16 months.

    I think it’s interesting to note that while this is not a trendline (it is the data from point to point), it looks flat enough to be a trendline in this representation.

    Incidentally, I think slowing growth is on the way pretty soon, as California begins to approach a hypothetical maximum cohort caseload (based on assumptions of static criteria, true prevalence of 1/150-167 for ASD’s, and current population trends in the state).

    And boy was it ever a rough week for the Thimerosal-autism hypothesis believers – lots of science that wasn’t favorable to the hypothesis at all, and politics that seems to have chosen science and evidence over belief.

  2. Kev July 15, 2006 at 17:03 #

    Yeah, not sure why I typed ‘months’ – brain fart ;o)

  3. Joseph July 15, 2006 at 17:16 #

    Also Kev, the Generation Rescue blog mysteriously disappeared some time recently, and was blog-squatted by a web spammer. I think we can declare July 2006 the month the thimerosal hypothesis of autism died.

    DoC wrote:

    Incidentally, I think slowing growth is on the way pretty soon, as California begins to approach a hypothetical maximum cohort caseload (based on assumptions of static criteria, true prevalence of 1/150-167 for ASD’s, and current population trends in the state).

    I actually think caseload growth is dropping very slowly if at all. It’s hard to tell when we’ll see a leveling off of the population. Also, the 1/150 prevalence is for ASD. The CDDS is not supposed to classify Asperger’s and PDD-NOS in their “autism” category I believe; however, there are probably some shifts on how the boundaries are understood as time goes by.

  4. David N. Andrews BA-status, PgCertSpEd (pending) July 15, 2006 at 19:06 #

    Joseph: “Also Kev, the Generation Rescue blog mysteriously disappeared some time recently, and was blog-squatted by a web spammer.”

    What? :/

    Joseph: “I think we can declare July 2006 the month the thimerosal hypothesis of autism died.”

    Oh fuck, I *do* hope so!!!!

  5. Ms Clark July 15, 2006 at 19:53 #

    The (Baird?) paper out of England this week showed about 1% of the 9 and 10 year olds an area in 2001 were in either the “atypical autism” or “autism” category, with only 7 in a possible “Asperger’s” categoy… because, at least in the DSM-iv there isn’t a solid definition of “Asperger’s, they moved the Asperger’s kids into the “autism” category.

    That’s the kind of thing they are doing with the kids applying for services with the DDS, I think. even though the kids aren’t all “classic” autism, they are enrolling them as such so they get services. Rick Rollens’ “full syndrome autism” notwithstanding. As Joseph pointed out the IQ of about 65% of the CDDS autistics is normal or higher.

  6. Joseph July 15, 2006 at 21:27 #

    because, at least in the DSM-iv there isn’t a solid definition of “Asperger’s, they moved the Asperger’s kids into the “autism” category.

    Mayes (2001) argues that a true diagnosis of Asperger’s is unlikely or impossible. Either way, the boundaries between the sub-categories seem to be soft.

  7. clone3g July 16, 2006 at 01:15 #

    Joseph: “I think we can declare July 2006 the month the thimerosal hypothesis of autism died.”

    It’s been dead for a long time but a few people haven’t noticed the corpse is propped up in a beach chair with a drink in his hand

  8. Ms Clark July 16, 2006 at 06:07 #

    Mr. Praline: ‘E’s not pinin’!
    ‘E’s passed on!
    This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be!
    ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker!
    ‘E’s a stiff!
    Bereft of life,
    ‘e rests in peace!
    If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies!
    ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory!
    ‘E’s off the twig!
    ‘E’s kicked the bucket,
    ‘e’s shuffled off this mortal coil,
    run down the curtain and
    joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!!


  9. Gabesmom July 17, 2006 at 03:55 #

    The whole classification process is definitely evolving. Where my son was diagnosed, they no longer use the pdd-nos designation. I know it has been controversial among many for a while. I’m not sure what happens to the kids who are considered borderline, but I know of kids in other areas with pdd-nos diagnoses that seem to have more trouble than my son, so there is obviously a great deal of subjectivity, and our current labeling system seems to be far more confusing than simply putting all of the kids into a single category. After all, we don’t generally assign distinct labels to NT kids despite the enormous variation.

  10. blasphemy July 17, 2006 at 16:38 #

    Reasons for sharp increase in autism

    Your Letters July 17 2006

    It will come as no surprise to parents throughout Scotland that there has been a “sharp increase in autism” (July 14). The diagnosis of this devastating childhood developmental condition has increased to such an extent since 1990 that many, many families are now affected. It is very worrying that it has taken well over 10 years for the authorities at last to recognise that an autism epidemic has been sweeping the UK.
    Psychiatrists and psychologists and those within the traditional autism support and services organisations must bear some responsibility for this sad state of affairs, as it is they who have continually denied that what we have been witnessing with our own eyes was actually happening. An estimated 12-fold increase in autism was apparently a mirage!
    By sustaining this irrational stance these interest groups have hampered clinical examination, and likely condemned seriously ill children to years of unnecessary pain and distress. The psychobabble “experts” must now be informed that we have not been experiencing the world’s first genetic epidemic!
    Importantly, there is much to learn from this latest Lancet paper. What it tells us is that (1) autism is not solely genetic in origin, (2) environmental factors play a far greater role than was previously understood, and as a result, (3) autism may be a treatable condition for some.
    Supported by parents, Autism Treatment Trust opened an autism consultation and treatment centre in Edinburgh in April this year and to date we have comprehensively tested more than 60 autistic children. It is early days, but the results so far are very revealing.
    For example, heavy-metal toxicity is a common feature, with significantly high levels of lead, aluminium, tin and antimony present in autistic kids, in comparison to typical children. Inflammation, particularly of the bowel, is often identified. Immune dysfunction is a recurring theme.
    If these problems were addressed how would it affect the child’s autistic behaviours? Watch this space!
    If the medical establishment continues to abandon these children, without addressing their underlying problems, this will rightly be interpreted, by every decent person with an ounce of compassion, as scandalous.
    Bill Welsh, Chairman, Autism Treatment Trust, 26b Great King Street, Edinburgh.

  11. Ian July 18, 2006 at 21:30 #

    I’ve read the full paper from Baird et al in the latest issue of the Lancet (volume 368, pp210-215) and it makes for depressing reading. Depressing because the methodology looks good, so I feel the numbers are very believable and what numbers! These numbers are far greater than any I’ve seen previously reported. My major concern is not necessarily why these numbers are so high, but how these figures can get best transmitted to government in an actionable way.

    I’d be very surpirsed if any school district in the US or LEA in the UK was figuring on greater than 1% of all school age children having an ASD of some kind. Looking at the numbers in detail, it’s clear they have consistently applied ICD-10 and they haven’t used this as an exercise in trying to bump up the numbers.

    I hope that the ANA (US) and NAS (UK) can use this study to extract much greater funding from their respective governments for education and service provision. On the ground at the momment it feels very much, well at least to me, that the pie is way too small to be divided up amongst all those in need. My school district’s way of dealing with this is to remove the Autism label from any child who doesn’t meet strict DSM-1V crietria for childhood autism, and give them a label like LD (learning disability), in order to justify removing practically all services, and insisting they go into mainstream classes of 30 with no aide. This is their attempt at making the money go to the most in need, but it ultimately dooms a large section of the ASD population (Baird’s figure is something like >60% of the ASD children) to an education that is not optimal.

    I think we need a petition to demand an increase in education and service provision. We also need to figure out how to make government’s sit up and take notice of these very high numbers and act. At the last UK election special education provision became a hot topic for about a week (and only because someone actually took Tony Blair to task face-to-face) but has now disappeared off the radar.


  12. Kev July 19, 2006 at 07:32 #

    I agree Ian – these figures must act as a wake up call to local and national government. I’ve already been in communication with my MP about them – he’s a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism – but we need more than that.

    Suggestions welcomed from all quarters.

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