by Jagannath Chatterjee
April was Autism Awareness Month and yet autism is virtually unknown outside of the circle of families that harbour those unfortunate children who have been afflicted with this strange disorder. Strange, because these children are rarely affected from birth; they proceed normally and then suddenly change in front of their hapless parents’ eyes to become a shadow of their former selves. Then begins a struggle the magnitude of which can be appreciated only by those touched by the disorder; be they victims, their parents or caregivers. The doctors generally shrug their shoulders and refer these children to various therapists who ignore the extensive physical damage lurking in them.
Autism, dubbed a neuro-behavioral development disorder, is a painful condition involving the body, mind and emotions. It is an epidemic today. From roughly 1 in 10,000 when first discovered by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943, who remarked that it was a novel disorder not previously known, it has steadily climbed to 1 in 88—1 in 54 among boys. Doctors in the USA following the condition put the unofficial figure, based on more recent data, at 1 in 25. In South Korea, a recent Autism Speaks study pegged the figure at 1 in 38. Going by the official figure in India, it is admitted that there are upwards of 13,500,000 children who are autistic in India.
This epidemic that is raging across countries, across continents, crossing all barriers religious, ethnic, and social, is a “silent epidemic” signifying the deafening silence that has greeted its spread. As we shall see, autism is not only a silent epidemic; it is also a conspiracy of silence.
Autism is a complex disorder, the likes of which has been seen earlier on three occasions. A similar disorder appeared in children when they were treated with Calomel, a mercury-containing compound used to de-worm children until 1954. It was seen in Japan during the Minamata Bay Poisoning episode in 1956, which was caused by a chemical factory’s mercury spill into the Bay, and in Iraq in 1971 when villagers fed on a consignment of mercury-treated wheat that was meant for sowing and not for consumption.
Mercury, the second most dangerous neurotoxin known to humanity, is a part of our toxic environment. Its ubiquitous presence in hospital settings, its emission from coal based power plants, its use as an amalgam in dental fillings, its presence in mercury vapour lamps, and its use as a preservative in various vaccines have always been a source of concern. While the other uses carry environmental risks and therefore are protested by environmental groups, the mercury used in vaccines is overlooked.
Per official spokesmen, mercury injected into children and not released into the atmosphere poses no problem. Moreover, as the mercury used in vaccines is ethyl mercury, and not methyl mercury as experts point out, it is perceived to be less toxic. This is despite an American Academy of Pediatrics study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, Vol 108 in July 2001, stating very clearly that “Mercury in all of its forms is toxic to the fetus and children, and efforts must be made to reduce exposure to the extent possible to the pregnant women and children as well as the general population”.
The intense toxicity of ethyl mercury has been borne out by many significant scientific studies conducted by independent scientists. The 1985 Magos et al study clearly points to the fact that this form of mercury caused extensive damage to organs it pervades, particularly the kidneys and brain. A 2005 study by Burbacher et al revealed the ethyl mercury converted to inorganic mercury more readily than methyl mercury and is thus effectively trapped in the brain causing steady damage. The Bernard et al study of 2001 titled “Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning” cited more than 200 similarities between mercury poisoning and autism.
Apart from these, experiments on monkeys have shown that vaccinations can induce autism-like symptoms. What is more important is that 83 cases of vaccine induced autism-like symptoms have been admitted by the Vaccine Courts in the USA and these cases have been awarded compensation. Despite tough laws virtually denying parents of vaccine damaged children their right to file court cases demanding compensation, more than 5000 such cases are pending before the courts.
There have, however, been studies that have sought to exonerate vaccines. Of particular interest are two groups of studies conducted by the CDC of the USA, considered to be the final authority on the subject of vaccines.
The first one was by Dr Thomas Verstraeten of the CDC, who found a very strong association between mercury-containing vaccines and autism after analysing available data through computerised hospital databases. He sought “help” from other scientists and effectively watered down the study but “the association would not go away”. So in 2000 an invitation-only conference was arranged by the CDC in Simpsonwood, USA, where a decision was taken by medical scientists, industry representatives and doctors to further dilute the study and destroy the link between vaccines and autism before its publication in the Journal Pediatrics in 2003.
There were then the “Danish Studies” which were conducted under the aegis of Dr Poul Thorsen, and which “effectively proved” that vaccines do not cause autism. These studies were extensively quoted by the authorities to quell the growing furor against vaccines worldwide. The euphoria did not last however, as the US police went after Dr Poul Thorsen when it was found that he had not conducted a portion of the studies, but had produced false documents to siphon off a major chunk of CDC funds meant to finance the studies. Dr Thorsen has since been indicted on 13 counts of fraud and nine counts of money laundering that could put him behind bars for life.
If the above is not a conspiracy then what is? Angry parents have described their children as “poisoned for profit”. In fact a US Government investigation categorically stated that those who ought to have monitored the entire situation have been “asleep at the switch”. It is still more shameful that in this entire sordid episode it is the public who have educated themselves to become investigative scientists. Those qualified experts who ought to have blown the whistle on the entire murky episode have preferred to stay mum and instead have chosen to attack those heretics who dared point out the truth.