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Reading Age of Autism – All I can handle, I’m no Vladimir Nabokov

13 Nov

I read Dan Olmsted’s latest post on Age of Autism and was reminded I had yet to publish a closing post on my experiences with the book. Here’s a quote from Dan:

It’s doubly disappointing to see traditionally progressive outlets – from Salon to Daily Kos to The Atlantic to National Public Radio and PBS – ignore the evidence presented in our book and so many other places, twist the facts they can’t deny, belittle those who believe otherwise including beleaguered autism parents, and glibly trumpet tired reassurances that the concern over vaccines has been “asked and answered,” that “study after study” has refuted any relation, and that continuing to point out disturbing patterns of evidence to the contrary endangers children and infants.

Quick translation for you: “Waaah, nobody liked our book or thought it was valid. What a bunch of pooh-pooh heads!”

The embarrassing truth for Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill is that their book has been still-born. Take a look at the Amazon rankings compiled by Broken Link and its hard to come to any other conclusion. But why has this happened?

First off, the book is badly written. Its not an easy read in the way that Evidence of Harm was. Of course the style is different but Age of Autism is not even a well written poor story.

Secondly, the content is – well – embarrassingly one sided. Whilst B & O claim to be not anti-vaccine, the whole book – particularly part II is rife with anti-vaccine sentiments designed not so much to lead the reader to a conclusion but to batter the reader over the head with the conclusion B & O reached before sitting down to write even.

Thirdly, the content is old hat. There is literally nothing new in the book. For those of us who have followed the the whole story, AoA has nothing _new_ to add to the overall scenario. Whereas Defeating Autism, Autism’s False Prophets and Evidence of Harm all had something _new_ to add to the story, AoA merely dully repeats truthiness from 3 or 4 years ago and couples it with a retelling of historical speculation that simply reiterates what everyone already knew – mercury isn’t so good for you.

So thats that for me reading purgatory. I’m reading something very much better now that I think Sullivan and I will be blogging at length in the new year.

Reading Age of Autism Part 6 – everything old is new again

21 Oct

If I had to take a guess I’d say Part I of Age of Autism was written primarily by Dan Olmsted and (so far) Part II is written primarily by Mark Blaxill. Why? Well, Part I is well written bullshit with a decent narrative flow and is full of new (if wrong) ideas. Part II has so far regurgitated the Amish and Somali episodes and I’m in the middle right now of a really dragging account of how Andrew Wakefield got into the game during which I have actually groaned aloud twice and had to put down a few times and watch something more intelligent on TV – something like When Stunts Go Bad for example. A decent writer Mark Blaxill is not.

Part II is also very much more heavy on the out-and-out anti-vaccination rhetoric and if I want to give a dispassionate, honest review I’d have to say that the differences between Part’s I & II are more than glaringly obvious – they’re more obvious than a fluorescent painted whore in a Kansas Church. Its a shame really as I have a penchant for well put together bullshit and Part I was exactly that. Part II is badly constructed bullshit. Imagine a shanty town constructed next to St. Paul’s Cathedral and thats what Parts I & II of Age of Autism stand together like.

So everything old is new again, its like taking a trip back in time as we see Simon Murch et al get introduced and the concept of Crohn’s Disease being marketed as vaccine caused being touted around as a viable hypothesis (I’m not up to the MMR/autism thing yet).

Now don’t get me wrong I’ve nothing against a trip down memory lane but all the hallmarks of a bad writer and worse editing are here aplenty and its really not much fun reading about how Simon Murch is the leading etc etc. I’m sure he is – in fact I _know_ he is but I can’t help but imagine the uninvested reader would find this focussing on frankly dull fact as exactly that – dull.

So basically same old same old so far. I’m moving house soon and won’t have web access for a week (eek!) but I’ll be reading and note taking don’t you worry. To be continued.

Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas

14 Oct

Chapters 5 and 6 are quite difficult to blog about. On the surface they carry a surfeit of information but somehow all that useful information gets lost in the authors determination to make the facts fit their ideas.

In Chapter 5 we’re introduced to the idea that ethylmercury in two forms was invented. Fungicide and medicinal. And thats about it. There’s little that’s contentious to blog about.

In chapter 6 however we finally start to meet Kanner and Asperger’s case study kids. This had the potential to be one of the most thrilling episodes of the book but from a literary standpoint it is badly botched and badly edited. It starts off reasonably well with condensed histories of a few of Kanner’s kids but then starts to degenerate into the realms of silliness desperately shoehorning the kids parents into two categories – ‘the fungicide cluster’ and ‘the medical cluster’. For example, Kanner’s Case 1 – Donald T – is placed by the authors into the fungicide cluster….why? Because he lived in the vicinity of Forestry work.

They have better luck with Fredrick W (Case 2) as his dad was a plant pathologist but even this is still not evidence. Correlation does not equal causation after all and the authors give no real insight into _how_ they think these kids were made autistic by ethylmercury, just offering some fairly scant evidence that one parent might have worked with mercury or that they lived fairly close to where fungicide was used.

The authors get going with gusto when they reach the medical cluster – why? Because now they can finally get their teeth into the _real_ source of their displeasure – vaccines.

The city’s residents were bombarded…

Page 180

…heightened risk of infant vaccination…

Page 181

One child had a mum who was a Paediatrician. However as they also state:

…there is an association in time – one we concede is speculative – with…the first thiomersal containing vaccine.

Page 184

Four of Kanner’s kids had dads who were psychiatrists. The authors claim this is more evidence as the standard of care for neurosyphilis was still mercury. But not, you’ll note ethylmercury. Blaxill and Olmsted have spent three chapters outlining the symptoms of mercury poisoning via neurosyphilis and hammering home the point that autism is _new_ with a _new_ set of symptoms and that various types of mercury poisoning produce differing symptoms. To go back all of a sudden and claim that now its _not_ new is more than a little duplicitous.

Four of Kanner’s kids have no connection to either fungicides or medicine via parent occupations. Blaxill and Olmsted attempt to explain these away by saying that these kids probably lived in areas where universal vaccination was in place. This is worse than speculative – its tenuous.

And speaking of tenuous:

Donald…underwent a series of treatments with Gold Salts that lasted several months…[which were]…the standard remedy for JRA [Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis] .


His arthritis cleared up…[b]ut something even more remarkable happened…the defining features of his disability lessened dramatically and permanently.

Page 197, inserts mine

What Blaxill and Olmsted fail to mention is that it would be _impossible_ to chelate mercury from the body using Gold Salts. Why? Because gold only dissolves mercury when both in their metallic state. Donald was administered Gold _Salts_ .

And lets look at these features of Donald T’s which defined his disability: nervousness, extreme anxiety and lack of sociability. The latter, yes, that’s obviously a clear autistic trait but the former two? What have they got to do with autism from a diagnostic _defining_ stance? The answer is nothing.

So here we have much ado about nothing. Donald was given a substance that could not _possibly_ have chelated him and even if it had, the most it did in terms of ‘curing’ his autism was to make him more social and even if it _did_ make him more social even the authors admit it only ‘lessened’ his unsocial nature, it didn’t remove it.

The book overall is starting to edge into familiar AoA (the website) territory now. Things that really shouldn’t be left unsaid are being so and things that are said are being squeezed dry of factual content in order to meet a pre-conceived agenda. Thats no good for a scientific approach.

Reading Age of Autism Part 4 – Stretching the truth

13 Oct

Over the last few days, I’ve tried to show how the authors of Age of Autism have retro-fitted the symptoms of mercury poisoning to try and make them await a diagnosis of autism. They have suggested things like tremors, paralysis, reddening of extremities and various other things are very similar to symptoms of autism. Or at least, they _will_ suggest these things in upcoming chapters (I’ve already noted a large passage on the thoroughly debunked Bernard paper later on in the book). They are also working hard throughout Chapters 1 – 4 to enforce the idea that things like schizophrenia, bipolar, Down syndrome and of course autism are _new_ things.

Nowhere (so far) in the book is this more apparent than Chapter 4 (entitled Pollution):

But were these men really seeing something that had been missed for centuries? Or did they happen to be in a position to observe a cluster of cases of chronic disease as it first appeared?…What if they were diseases born of the newest phase of human civilization, children of coal combustion, distributed mechanical power and the Industrial Revolution?

Page 125

However, a large block positioned itself in front of Olmsted and Blaxill in the shape of Dr John Haydon Langdon Down. The first person to classify what later came to be called Down Syndrome. However, as is clear from the work Of Dr Darold Treffert, he also found both early onset and late onset autism.

The authors don’t like this. It puts the carefully emerging hypothesis in grave danger. Why? If autism existed before the emergence of ethylmercury then their ideas are moot, the part of Chapter 5 I have read so far makes this clear. This is the very hypothesis they are working towards. So in order to protect their hypothesis, they rubbish Darold Treffert’s findings.

Down classified two groups that contain descriptions of autism. Groups he called ‘developmental’ (what might be called ‘regressive’ today) and ‘accidental’ (autistic from birth). First Blaxill and Olmsted tackle the problem (from their viewpoint) of ‘accidental’ autism.

Unfortunately, none of these accidental cases are ever fully described and so its impossible to distinguish between true autism cases or just the scattered presence of autistic behaviours.

Page 129

And then ‘developmental’ autism.

In making the case for Down as an early observer of autism, Treffert relies on his idiosyncratic willingness to set aside the timing of onset as a relevant marker for an autism diagnosis. Most of the cases he proposes as autistic wouldn’t pass that bar for other observers.

Page 129

However, in regard to ‘accidental’ autism I urge the reader to look at the following passages Treffert quoted from Dr Langdon Down:

“bright in their expression, often active in their movements, agile to a degree, fearless as to danger, persevering in mischief, petulant to have their own way. Their language is one of gesture only; living in a world of their own they are regardless of the ordinary circumstance around them, and yield only to the counter-fascination of music.”

“I know nothing more painful than the long motherly expectancy of speech; how month after month the hopes are kept at high tension, waiting for the prattle which never comes. How the self-contained and self-absorbed little one cares not to be entertained other than in his own dream-land, and by automatic movements of his fingers or rhythmical movements of his body… they have well-formed heads, finely-textured skins, well-chiseled mouths, sparkling eyes, features when in repose leading one to augur only brightness and intelligence… he runs to you when called but makes no response in words. He returns your kiss with a bite, and runs away with agile steps, rolling his head with a horizontal swaying motion…”

This is the group Blaxill and Olmsted claim are not described enough. Hardly. This is autism.

In regard to the ‘developmental’ group, Treffert quoting Langdon Down describes them thus:

In these children the early months of childhood were uneventful and “intelligence dawned in the accustomed way.” But later, around age six or so, ” a change took place in that the child’s look had lost its wonted brightness; it took less notice of those around it; many of its movements became rhythmical and automatic.” There was “cessation of increasing intelligence”, deferred speech and “lessened responsiveness to all the endearments of its friends.” Dr. Down writes “I have had many examples of children who had spoken well and with understanding, but who lost speech at the period of the second dentition, and had also suspension of mental growth.” Dr. Down provides several examples. One was a boy who “attracted no particular attention during the first six years of life” but then “during the period of second dentition” suddenly lost speech. “He heard everything that was said, but never replied to a question.” This child did gradually regain some speech but “afterwards always spoke of himself in the third person.” The other case example was that of two brothers who also “both lost speech at the period of second dentition.”

Blaxill and Olmsted dismiss this second category because of the phrase _first dentition proceeding_ stating that this means these kids were too old for an autism diagnosis. However, late regression is far from unknown in modern times. The author and ex-Guardian columnist Charlotte Moore describes her son Sam undergoing several regressions way past the modern ‘cutoff’ age of three.

I emailed Dr Treffert to see what he made of Blaxill & Olmsted’s claims. Here is his email to me quoted in full.

The authors, to the contrary, understate the remarkably perceptive and accurate observations Down made of what is unmistakably early onset and late onset autism. I discuss those highly accurate before-their-time observations by Down
in my internet posting of an article titled “Dr. J. Langdon Down and Developmental Disorders” in the articles section of the savant syndrome website at The authors omit many of Down’s terms and traits which apply so often to autism–
speaking in the third person; “fearless as to danger”; “living in a world of their own”; fascination with music; “self-contained” and “self-absorbed”; in a “dream-land”; “automatic movements of fingers or rhythmical movements of the body” and “runs to you when called but makes no response in words”. And so on and so on. Likewise Down makes clear reference to what we now call “early onset” and “late onset” forms of autistic disorder. I refer your readers to the article above where Down, while not using those present day terms, clearly lays out the existence of those two differing-onset scenarios.

Of equal interest is the fact the Down choose the term “developmental retardation” to describe this form of disorder separate from “congenital” and “accidental” types of “retardation”. Now in fact, over a century later, autistic spectrum
disorders are classified as “Developmental Disorders”. Another before-its-time credit to Dr. Down.

I read Down’s lectures in my effort to trace the beginning descriptions of savant syndrome. As I read about savant syndrome, I was surprised to find such an early description of “developmental retardation” which we now call autistic spectrum disorder by Dr. Down more than a century ago. I wrote my article above to provide some context for present day consideration of an ‘epidemic’ of autism. I wanted simply to point out that autism did not begin with Dr. Kanner’s description of it in 1943, but rather has no doubt been present in some portion well before that time. Dr. Down’s accurate description of both early onset and late onset autism, while he did not use that terminology, provided some documentation, and perspective, that autistic disorder has been around for a very long time. And that fact needs to be considered in looking at incidence and prevalence at present day levels.

The best way to answer the book’s portrayal of my observations and conclusions regarding Dr. Down and autism, is for the reader to go to my article and draw their own conclusions. I am sure they will agree that what Dr. Down described was early and late autistic disorder in unmistakable terms.

*Please note my conversation with Dr Treffert is ongoing, I’ll publish the whole conversation in a separate blog post* .

Later on, with irony so thick you could almost taste it, Blaxill and Olmsted after waving aside clear descriptions of autism say (regarding a separate matter):

There was no evidence, no proof, just an elaborate exercise in anthropological speculation that was also at odds with the facts.

Page 134

So far, that’s the best description of Age of Autism I’ve yet heard.

Reading Age of Autism Part 3 – Building the case

12 Oct

Chapter 3 of Age of Autism (Age of Acrodynia) concentrates on two things. Firstly the text discusses Pink Disease which is:

…a disease of infancy and early childhood marked by pain and swelling in, and pink coloration of, the fingers and toes and by listlessness, irritability, failure to thrive, profuse perspiration, and sometimes scarlet coloration of the cheeks and tip of the nose. It is due to absorption of mercury. Called also erythredema polyneuropathy and pink disease.


OK so thats all well and good. However the _subtext_ of this chapter is a little bit more paranoiac. Oh and when I say ‘subtext’ I’m being kind. It’s really not subtle enough to be a subtext.

Point one of the subtext – establish the idea that all forms of mercury poisoning are different from each other:

Over centuries of misuse, wide variations in formulation have generated a wide variety of symptoms, symptoms disparate enough to generate consistent controversy over whether they resulted from mercury exposure or something else. Anyone who believes he or she has isolated mercury’s specific effects and pinned one on an exact dose of a particular formulation is….showing a naive and inadequately respectful grasp of the dangers of quicksilver and its progeny.

Page 94

Here Blaxill and Olmsted begin to build the case that autism is _different than any other form of mercury poisoning_ and that those of us who believe it looks nothing like mercury poisoning are ‘naive’.

However, what Blaxill and Olmsted fail to grasp- or tell the reader – is that there are symptoms common to all forms of mercury poisoning which just do not apply to autism.

Methylmercury poisoning
– impairment of the peripheral vision;
– disturbances in sensations (“pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth);
– lack of coordination of movements;
– impairment of speech, hearing, walking; and
– muscle weakness.

Elemental mercury effects
– tremors;
– emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness);
– insomnia;
– neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching);
– headaches;
– disturbances in sensations;
– changes in nerve responses;
– performance deficits on tests of cognitive function.

Inorganic mercury
– skin rashes and dermatitis;
– mood swings;
– memory loss;
– mental disturbances; and
– muscle weakness.


None of these symptoms look anything at all like autism to me. Sorry boys, swing and a miss.

Point two of the subtext – establish the idea that all forms of mercury poisoning were unique to their times.

Pink disease was _new_ . Once again the remedy was the disease and once again the clues were there.

By attempting to establish that Pink disease was new, it will be easier later on in the text for Blaxill and Olmsted to pretend knowledge that posits _autism_ as new. Once again though, they are troubled by the fact that autism doesn’t look like mercury poisoning…or are they?

Perhaps the most affecting evidence of calomel’s tragic legacy comes from the testimony of those who suffered from Pink disease and are now adults, many of whom still suffer from severe side effects. A high profile survivor is Heather Theile of Australia. She founded the Pink Disease Support Group in 1989. She describes her life today:

n particular, I have a terrible sense of position of both my body and hands. For example, it takes me ages to line up a clothesline, the clothes and the pegs to hang out clothes. I have to have a rope hanging down from the ceiling of my car port to be able to have a guide to park the car in the correct place. I am hopeless with any locks, catches, car seat catches etc. I go to open a door, but miss the catch by inches. I drift when walking and often bump into walls and doors. I cannot cope with verbal instructions at all and have to write “everything” down. This is known as “thinking in pictures” (Temple Grandin).

Grandin is probably the most famous person in the world diagnosed with autism; Thinking in pictures is the name of her best known book.

Well Dan and Mark, Heather Theile also says:

…As you said “mercury is mercury is mercury”, and I would add, “mercury poisoning is mercury poisoning is mercury poisoning”.

Given that you’ve worked so hard to shake off that very notion in the last three chapters, would you say Heather Thiele is _really_ someone you can rely on to be objective?

The game stepped up in this last chapter. Blaxill and Olmsted are working hard to prepare the ground for their main idea – autism is both new and a new form of mercury poisoning. However so far, they’re not doing all that well.

Reading Age of Autism Part 2 – Mercury still not good for you

10 Oct

OK, so you might’ve seen by my tweets that I struggled a bit with Chapter 2. I hope the narrative picks up in upcoming chapters.

Anyway, the overall gist of Chapter 2 is that of Chapter 1 – mercury is bad for you, m’kay? To which the the retort is still – Holy Obvious Batman!

The tale of Chapter 2 is how the beginning of the Psychoanalysis movement (an easy mark, being bollocks) missed the ‘obvious’ signs – that Freud/Charcot/Breuer etc diagnosed hysteria when they should’ve diagnosed (you guessed it) mercury poisoning.

Now call me picky but isn’t this book, called The Age of Autism, supposed to be about ‘y’know, autism? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the authors are setting out a hypothesis here and doing a bit of scene setting but who really gives a shit these days if Anna O. Dora etc were really cases of mercury poisoning when what we’re supposed to be doing is linking mercury poisoning to _autism_ ?

In fact, this scene setting is doing quite a lot of harm to the Blaxill/Olmsted hypothesis. They go through some of the symptoms of the respective case studies in painstaking detail. Lets look at them in the context of _autism_ shall we?

Charcot diagnosed hysteria in a nurse called ‘Etch___’ a Nurse in Bordeaux. She was nearly raped and descended into a ‘nervous state’ and a convulsion a year later was attributed to the near rape. She returned to work (in Paris though) but suffered:

…repeated and more frequent convulsions, urinary retention, paralyses and other complications…

Page 66

Blaxill and Olmsted claim these as symptoms of mercury poisoning. They may well be. But I tell you what – they sound *nothing* like autism.

Charcort also examined another patient who showed the following symptoms:

…comatose for half an hour and in bed for two days; afterward he continued to exhibit classic symptoms of decreased sensation, twitching and vision loss…

Page 67

I mean, does that sound anything like autism to you?

Blaxill and Olmsted recount a myriad of other symptoms including limb paralysis, hallucination, a relentless cough, paresis and many many more. They’re unified in Blaxill and Olmsted’s minds by their obvious connection to mercury poisoning – maybe they are. But vastly more obvious to me, if not to them, is that they’re unified in presenting a medical picture that is about as far removed from autism as its possible to get.

Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda

10 Oct

The first chapter of Age of Autism (called The Age of Syphilis) could easily have been summed up in one short sentence: Mercury is bad m’kay? Well no shit Sherlock(s). We all know that.

Taking us an a tour (and the book _is_ reasonably well narrated and edited) through the insane asylums of various European countries, through the lack of association of mercury poisoning and indigenous races of various countries, the two authors end up in Vienna and (place tongue in cheek) in a bombshell moment of horror, reveal their idea that Mozart might’ve died of mercury poisoning. Hardly a new idea. According to Wikipedia, Mozart has been suggested to have died from over 100 different things but the most likely is acute rheumatic fever.

What makes Age of Autism different from most is that they posit that Mozart’s mercury poisoning (if he was which is in doubt) came about whilst he was trying to cure Syphilis. Indeed, you could get the idea from reading Age of Autism that just about everyone in the world from the 1600’s onwards died of mercury poisoning whilst treating syphilis.

Lurking underneath this first chapter with its autism-free mundane plodding from situation to situation is where the authors reveal one of the main themes of the book.

…the best medical minds in Europe were slow to realize…

Page 24

But the notion that medicine might have been that habit just didn’t occur to [them] – perhaps because it could only mean that doctors were causing the worst manifestation of syphilis. And that was simply inconceivable.

Page 29

Not using ‘recognized forms of treatment’…may have spared the American Indians the brain lesions symptomatic of neurosyphilis.

Page 30

Despite all the evidence and concern, the heart of the medical profession remained committed to mercury treatment, and mainstream physicians rose strongly to its defense.

Page 32

I’m sure you don’t need more examples but trust me – they’re there. Anyway, as you can see Age of Autism is not _just_ a book about mercury being bad (m’kay?) its also a book about mainstream medicine and how stupid and purposefully evil it is as well as how frickin’ great complementary medicine is. Take a look at those quotes again. “See?” B & O seem to be screaming hysterically, “See? Look – even back then they were useless, these ‘doctors’…its just like now with The Vaccines!!!”

I mean don’t get me wrong – the mercury treatments of Syphilis were frequently worse than the disease but lets compare the trace amount of mercury in paediatric vaccines these days to a passage from Age of Autism:

Patients coated in mercury often stayed wrapped in bedclothes for weeks…[t]hey sat in baths saturated with mercury or squatted on stools above a steaming cauldron of it…

Page 31

So lest we forget, these two medical procedures, one commonly known as a ‘targeted precise injection’ and one known as ‘slopping that shit on with a spoon’ are not really comparable. So far, this is one of the main (though not only) weakness of the book – its comparing apples with oranges.

My latest book

9 Oct

I’d like to thank the anonymous donor who sent me a copy of Age of Autism – the book. It arrived this morning. So for the next few days I’m going to put aside the unabashed joy of reading Under the Dome by Stephen King and take up this newer work of fantasy. I promise to blog everything I can.

A sense of civil discourse

8 Oct

Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted have been on a book tour for their new book, The Age of Autism. In a radio interview they were asked about being attacked, Mr. Blaxill responded:

“We get attack on a regular basis. I think we have become accustomed to that. I think that one things we really need to recover in this debate is a sense of civil discourse”

Mr. Blaxill made a similar call for a more civil discourse about a year ago. This was in regards to a post that was so offensive that the Age of Autism blog had to pull it down. Before it was pulled, Mr. Blaxill defended the piece. Mark Blaxill’s comment? He supported the attack as “edgy”.

The irony is fairly thick. Toadies who do hit jobs in the media?!? What was that blog piece but a hit job in a form of the media?

What is strange is the repeat of the statement that the discourse should be more civil. In that, I agree with Mr. Blaxill’s commentsl. Where we part ways is in the definition of civil discourse. I just don’t think he and his team at the Age of Autism blog have promoted a civil discourse in the last year (or ever).

Dan Olmsted owns/runs the Age of Autism blog. Mark Blaxill is an “editor” blogger there and frequent commenter. They are

Shall we go down the list of the people who have been personally attacked by that blog? Peter Bearman, Tom Insel, Story Landis, Richard Grinker (and his wife), Ari Ne’eman…the list goes on.

These are not “edgy” blog posts. These have included false claims of pharmaceutical ties levied against a blogger combined with an effort by Age of Autism readers to make the blogger lose his day job.

A more civil discourse would be welcomed. Even an edgy discourse would be welcomed. I encourage Mr. Blaxill and Mr. Olmsted to put substance behind the words. Stop the hot pieces. Stop the attacks.

The Age of Autism before thimerosal

28 Sep

Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill have written a book, The Age of Autism. It expands on Mr. Olmsted’s UPI series of the same name and uses the same logic: build a narrative that links mercury to illnesses and claim this as proof that mercury is the cause.

One can download the first 46 pages of the book for free on iTunes, buy the book, wait for it to come to your library or used book story (don’t count on the used bookstore route. Last report I got was only about 600 books sold in the opening time for this book). Or, one could just not read it ever.

If you want just an idea of what the book is about you can read a short excerpt on the publisher’s website. It starts with this simple statement:

We believe that autism was newly discovered in the 1930s for the simple reason that it was new.

Why was it new? If I understand the logic, the idea is that a new mercury compound was invented and tested around that time: thimerosal. From a recent interview, here are Dan Olmsted’s words:

What we did really was try to trace the rise of autism and that led us to look at the first eleven families who had children diagnosed in the 1930’s .. in the famous paper. We were able to identify seven of those first eleven kids, who were only known by their first name and last initial. When we did, we found what we thought was significant exposure of the family to mercury, in particular a new kind of mercury that came on the market .. that was used in fungicides for agriculture and in vaccines. So, we think as that happened, the first cases appeared. Then it seemed reasonable to believe that when the vaccine schedule that included much more mercury exploded in the 1990’s and so did autism .. there’s probably a connection that has been missed here.

First eleven kids? First studied or first with autism? They seem to be asserting that these are, indeed, the first autistics ever.

Thimerosal was invented in 1927
. What strikes me odd about the position of Mr. Blaxill and Mr. Olmsted is that ten years before the invention of thimerosal, someone was born who would later be diagnosed with autism and receive support from the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) under the label “autism”. I know this because the data are publicly available. The CDDS data have been used for years to promote the idea of a vaccine-induced autism epidemic. Of course Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill are aware of these datasets as their colleague David Kirby made use of them many times over the years in his promotion of autism as vaccine injury, starting with his book “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy.”

Here is a list of the birth year and the number of people for each birth year who were getting services from the CDDS (note that these data were from the 1990’s. Some or all of these autistics may have passed on):

Birth-year number of CDDS consumers under the autism label
1930 1
1929 2
1928 3
1924 1
1923 1
1922 3
1917 1

There were not a lot of autsitics born before 1930 and still alive receiving services in the 1990’s, this is true. But, the oldest person in that group was 78 at the time. That’s one year older than Donald T. is this year, for those following that story. .Be that as it may, there are a number of CDDS consumers who were born before thimerosal was invented. It would be unwise to assume that these are all the people born before 1930 who were diagnosed autistic. They are but an example.

From what I’ve read, Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill spent about five years looking for the origins of autism (the time since Mr. Olmsted’s original UPI series of articles). They traveled internationally and, from their description at least, appear to have left no stone unturned in their search.

I wonder, did they ever challenge their assumption that autism was new? Did they seek out autistics who predated thimerosal and/or those who weren’t research subjects of Dr. Kanner? Or did they merely rework and expand on Mr. Olmsted’s previous work on Kanner’s subjects?

In their statement attempting to distance themselves from anti-vaccine groups, Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill state:

We don’t want crops to wither, or houses to rot, or children to die of vaccine- preventable illnesses. We simply want to stop an autism epidemic whose origin we believe can be discerned from a careful examination of its environmental history.

“Careful” examination. I wonder.