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News On The Autism/Vaccine Front

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I read
a few interesting articles recently about children’s health.
And I know I’m about to open up a ginormous can of worms
here, but I think these findings are important enough to bring to
your attention.

I know that autism is more prevalent today than ever, and that
there are a lot of worried parents out there. I also know that I
have two healthy girls and do not have to walk a mile in your
shoes, so I’m saying that right off the bat. But if I were a
parent with an autistic child, I know I’d be reading
everything I could get my hands on to figure out how to make my
child’s life better.

And I know that there are many people out there who choose not to
vaccinate their children, at least in part because of a concern
that vaccinations might trigger or directly cause autism in a
child. One of my best friends does not vaccinate, and we have to
agree to disagree even as I struggle to keep myself from kidnapping
her child and taking him or her to the doctor for some shots, just
because of the firsthand stories I’ve witnessed of
kindergarteners nearly dying of the mumps or adults suffering a
debilitating case of shingles because they had chicken pox as a
child. I’ve read probably more than most parents of
non-autistic children on the subject, simply out of a desire to
know, and I can understand the fear – there are a lot of
studies out there, especially in Great Britain, citing a link
between vaccinations and autism.

But on href="http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/02/02/2027250/The-Lancet-Recants-Study-Linking-Autism-To-Vaccine?from=rss"
I read that just last month
The Lancet, a major British medical journal, retracted a
study released in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and thirteen colleagues
linking autism with the MMR vaccine. This study is the pivot point
for many arguments against vaccination for fear of autism. Since
the study came out, ten colleagues have withdrawn their support,
and the journal has said it should never have been published.
Wakefield, currently practicing medicine in Austin TX, faces being
stripped of the right to practice medicine in Great Britain. Click
to read the original article.

And in 2008 a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181551.htm"
showed that removing thimerisol from
vaccines had brought about absolutely no decrease in autism numbers
at all; as a matter of fact, over the ten-year period of the
California study, autism rates increased over tenfold. Now, that
may partially be due to better diagnostics, but the authors of the
study seem to feel that it shows no link between thimerisol and
autism spectrum disorders.

Believe it or not, though, I’m not bringing all this up to
begin a hot debate about vaccinations. No, I point out these
fascinating articles because there was another one recently in the
target="_blank">New York Times
that was even more
interesting to me. I first read about the article on the href="http://healthychild.org" target="_blank">Healthy Child,
Healthy World
website last week, which is as you know one
of my favorite websites. I read their blog href="http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/chemicals_and_our_endangered_children/"
target="_blank">“Chemicals and our Endangered
, which commented on a study just released
that links autism to chemical exposure while in the womb. The New
York Times author, Nicholas Kristof, centers his piece around an
about-to-be-released article in an upcoming medical journal, and
here I’m quoting Kristof:

The article cites “historically important,
proof-of-concept studies that specifically link autism to
environmental exposures experienced prenatally.” It adds that
the “likelihood is high” that many chemicals
“have potential to cause injury to the developing brain and
to produce neurodevelopmental disorders.”

The author is not a granola-munching crank but Dr. Philip J.
Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York and chairman of the school’s department
of preventive medicine. While his article is full of cautionary
language, Dr. Landrigan told me that he is increasingly confident
that autism and other ailments are, in part, the result of the
impact of environmental chemicals on the brain as it is being

“The crux of this is brain development,” he said.
“If babies are exposed in the womb or shortly after birth to
chemicals that interfere with brain development, the consequences
last a lifetime.

I encourage you to read the href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25kristof.html?em"
in the New York Times, because
it’s really interesting stuff. Worrisome, of course, but also
hopeful – if we can pinpoint causes and get tougher on what
we do and don’t allow around our kids, then perhaps
there’s hope for slowing down these runaway numbers around
autism, as well as certain types of non-genetic cancer.

Every little bit helps, and I know we all want a better quality of
life for our kids.


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