The Search for Autism's Environmental Triggers

"Until recently, about 90 percent of autism research has focused on genetics, and only perhaps 10 percent on environmental factors, said Dr. Gary Goldstein, chairman of the scientific board of Autism Speaks, a national research and advocacy group. In the coming years, he expects the ratio to be 1 to 1. Dr. Martha Herbert, a Harvard neuroscientist and Massachusetts General Hospital neurologist, said a few years ago, autism researchers would be marginalized if they talked about environmental factors. But now, "any major article or proposal concerning the causes of autism is coming to be considered incomplete if it doesn't talk about a potential role of environmental factors."....The dispute over thimerosal long tainted the whole idea of environmental triggers for autism, discouraging scientists from entering the field, some researchers and parents say. Career- wise, "It has not been safe for scientists to work on this problem" of possible environmental factors in autism, said Mark Blaxill of Cambridge, cofounder of Safe Minds, a parent group. But the rates of autism have reached epidemic proportions, he contends, and clearly, genes cannot account for such rapid change." - Carey Goldberg, Boston Globe, August 13, 2007

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

It is encouraging that autism researchers at the University of California - Davis, as well as researchers in academia and government are focusing research initiatives on the complex relationship between genetic and environmental trigger co-factors in the development of autism. Understanding all potential causes of the growing chronic disease and disability epidemic among children, which includes millions of children suffering from regressive autism and other developmental delays, deserves to be made a high priority in biomedical research.

Although it is becoming clearer that bolus and cumulative mercury exposures via mercury preservatives in vaccines are not the sole cause for increases in cases of autism during the past quarter century, the hypothesis that mercury preservatives in vaccines have harmed the brains and immune systems of many children should not be dismissed. Mercury is a neuro-toxin and does not belong in any form in any product consumed by humans, much less directly injected into humans. Biological mechanism research on animals has already confirmed that thimerosal can be toxic and research should continue into the potential synergistic effect of repeatedly injecting even trace amounts of thimerosal along with other components, such as aluminum, into infants and children via vaccines.

Science is a dynamic search for truth and evolves with each new discovery over time. The search for the truth about all causes for vaccine injury and death cannot be left in the hands of epidemiologists. That search also properly belongs in the hands of basic science researchers examining the biological effects on brain and immune function of atypically manipulating the immature human immune system by injecting multiple vaccines during the first years of life, when the brain and immune system are developing at their most rapid rate outside the womb. The UC-Davis study certainly cannot fail to include evaluation of the biological effects of the most frequent atypical environmental exposure most children of the 21st century are subjected to in early life: repeated injection of lab altered live viruses and killed bacteria via vaccines that also contain quite a few potentially toxic ingredients.

Parents will be closely watching the way the UC- Davis study is conducted and will eagerly await the results of this important investigation into the potential environmental and genetic co-factors involved in the development of autism. Any new information which will help shine a light on ways to prevent and develop healing therapies for autism is a step in the right direction.


Brenda said...

Hi Barbara- I just recently stumbled across your blog- I'm familiar w/ your other website and have not vaccinated my 2 kids. This post was very interesting- i have always been confused as to why there has been no comprehensive research conducted among NON vaccinated children and the vaccinated to compare incidence of autism. I'm sure there are some- but i've yet to hear of any one with an autistic child who did NOT vaccinate. I'm very curious why no one has researched this?

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciate your comments and your information. I wish I had had this information 19 yrs ago when my first child was born. When my daughter recieved her first set of shots her entire leg was all blotchy not just red around the injection site, she also had a very high fever and upset stomach and she cried for days. I spoke with my ped 3 days later and she assured us this was normal. We missed her second set of shots and took her in at about 7 mo to get her next set of shots, at this time she could crawl, after the next set of shots her leg was paralized for three whole days. Once again our Dr. told us this was totally normal. I was young and naive and continued my daughters shots. I wasn't as gulable with my next 4 children. None of them have recieved any of the recommended immunizations. I have a 14 yr old daughter who went to the Dr.s for the first time in 13 yrs to have sports participation exam, and she is in perfect health. My other children are about the same, only seeing the Dr. for a case of strepp and the occasional ear infection.
My oldest daughter on the other hand has suffered from numereous ailments. Three years ago she was diagnoused with severe bipolar disorder in which she actually was hospitalized in a mental health facility for 11 mo, akathisia and last year type 2 diabetes, none of which runs in either of our families. I believe there needs to be more research completed on the neurological effects that immunizations may have on the brains of these little ones. I truely believe that my daughter would have been better off "NOT" recieving her shots. I wish I had not just mindlessly listened to my Dr. and acctually searched it out for myself in the first place. I'm glad we live in a country were we can have web sites such as yours in order to make informed decisions for ourselves and our children. Thank you.

Juniper Daunen said...

I just wanted to say thanks for your blog. I'm the mother of an autistic child who was vaccinated. My two younger children I DID NOT vaccinate. The evidence in support of the link between mercury poisoning and autism is quickly becoming overwhelming. Just think of what pharmaceutical companies stand to lose if they admit any fault at all or any link? They could be faced with billion dollar lawsuits from adults harmed by vaccines given to them as children. What do parents speaking out against vaccines have to gain? Nothing - except the desire to help other people's children. Who is more likely to have reason to lie or exaggerate? Doctors and pharm. companies have often been wrong in the past, but vaccines seem to be "immune" from criticism, if you'll forgive the pun.

Thanks again for your blog. I will be emailing a link to it to my friends and family.

Marlene said...

I would also like to know if there are any NON vaccinated children that show signs of autism. I have never heard anyone say their child has autism and was NEVER vaccinated.

Anonymous said...

I will like to express my thoughts on you add aimed at young gilrs..Tell someone! well tell young girls not to have sex! That is telling someone. Teach them morales and to wait. You only get this kind of cancer form having sex to young, to soon and to many times..Tell someone to be one less who dose not hop in bed to soon.

alaughman said...

I always love to read anything that confirms my reasoning for not vaccinating my 2 girls. Thanks for such a great blog.

sismandeer said...

Barbara, keep up the good work. I wonder if you could use your influence to get a study on autism done correctly. I think a big hole exists in the way that the scientific community has performed research (such as it
is) concerning autism and possible causes. For example, in the
retrospective cohort study involving Danish children, researchers compared autism rates in non-vaccinated children to autism rates in vaccinated children; pro-vaccine groups have argued that the finding
of no statistically significant difference between the rates of autism in the two groups means that autism is not caused by the MMR vaccine.

This is not the appropriate conclusion to draw. From what I remember of my days in Stats 100 at Harvard, the way to study a group like this is to compare the populations of autistic children and non-autistic children, and then to see if the proportion of vaccinated children in the autistic population is more than two (or more) standard deviations
away from the proportion of vaccinated children in the non-autistic population. In other words, because the autism community only suggests
that the MMR vaccine may be *one factor* contributing to autism, the
only way to test this hypothesis is to compare the proportions of
vaccinated children in each population (autistic population and
non-autistic population). The researchers should also compare the
proportions of children whose births were induced, the proportions of children whose mothers consumed high levels of mercury-laden fish ...
you see where I'm going with this--find the proportions of the
existence of every factor in both populations (autistic and non), and
compare them.

It is very surprising to me that this methodology (which our Stats
professor taught us was the only way to evaluate situations like this) has not been used. I would run the numbers myself if I had them. Maybe you can get your hands on them; a list of the potential causal factors that you might want to check can be found on
Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona's site

Anonymous said...

I believe in vaccinations. I'm vaccinated myself and am healthy. My 28 month old son is fully vaccinated and DOES NOT HAVE AUTISM. He can count up to 10, knows all his colors, and talks in full sentences. In daycare he is with the other 3 year olds. He's very advanced, intelligent and aware of his surroundings.
Immunizations has NOTHING to do with the vaccinations.
I strongly believe its in the genetics that the child ARE born with autism which becomes obvious as the child grows. It doesn't just "pop" up, it becomes more and more prevalent as time passes and he/she begins to lag behind developmentally in speech, thinking, walking, behavior etc. My own cousin HAS autism. He was born with it, and it was easily noticed that he didn't look at people's eyes, didn't interact with anyone and cried if anyone touched him or held him even as a newborn. He simply wanted to be left alone and did not talk until he was four. He was FINALLY diagnosed being autistic very late at 6 years old.
Thankfully more and more children are being diagnosed earlier, at 12 months which gives children more chance to be given therapy and intervention to catch up with other children and be as normal as possible to live fully.

Anonymous said...

You will be the first to go to the doctors when your child develops Measles, mumps or rubella. Pertussis is on the rise, as well as non-vaccinated children. Now these children are out of school for at least 3 weeks after the last child is diagnosed and treated. There is no doubt that some children are not able to recieve vaccines because of reactions to them, but not every child will have a reaction. Plastic is also a toxin. Have you ever eaten a microwave dinner? Have you ever re-heated leftovers in a plastic container. Do you eat meat. Pumped full of hormones. Clothes bought at the store are full of chemicals. Have you put new clothes on your child before washing them? I am not an expert on autism by any means but I am an educated individual- and work in the medical field. I am a physician who has vaccinated all of my six children and all of my friends and family members have vaccinated all of thier children and not one case of autism. The cause of diabetes has long been debated and now there is research that relates this to a virus that some children are suseptible to. Those born with cognitive disabilites were put in an institution as soon as an abnormality was noticed and were forgotten about. We now have the tools to diagnose these conditions and are more toleable of them. There has been an increase in the ability to diagnose bi-polar, depression, anxiety, autism, add/adhd, and other cognitive disablilites. Don't jump to conclusions. No matter what your decision is, make it an educated one.

LouAnn said...

It is interesting to hear people state with such passion their opinions about vaccinations and because their children weren't prone to holding onto the toxins in the vaccinations and didn't become autistic - then they assume it isn't the vaccinations. However, you will be unlikely to find an Amish child who has autism. check out

We have seen and worked with a lot of families who are dealing with children who are autistic/aspergers/add/adhd/pdd - etc. All a part of the autistic spectrum - according to a lot of educators today. Because of the injury or change in these children - from medication/vaccinastions or even from the horrible food that is being processed - I say all the nutrition is processed out - ha! What if we could reverse some of that? I say that can happen. We've helped a lot of families by detoxing out the metals that are in them as well as nourishing them with optimal nourishment. There is a new book on the market that talks about doing just that. I know that the author is a wife of a famous actor - but can't remember the name right now.
Anyway - nutrition is the key for our bodies to heal - let's give the best and see what happens - We have a friend named Tami who has two children with special needs - one with autism. She went to Sweden to test his urine and had hours and hours per week of therapy - however, changing his nutrition changed that whole family - however, when he missed this nutrition - his symptoms come back - but his original doctor who diagnosed autism - took away that diagnosis - amazing. This child was not able to carry on conversations and only had about 50 words, wouldn't brush his teeth, watched the toilet flush over and over - etc - there is too much to tell all that was going on - but today if you entered this home - you would not be able to tell the difference between this child and his other brothers who do not have autism - amazing. There is a link somewhere -
I have been in the education realm for 30 years now and when I started teaching - it wasn't even something that we even knew about. We are always able to help others - not sure how to connect - but just wanted to agree with some on this blog!

Anonymous said...

My 4 year old son has just been diagnosed with austistic spectrum disorder, although he is yet to be clinically assessed, but he has NOT been vaccinated at all. I have read alot of information about mercury levels and autism amd as i have some mercury fillings in my teeth i'm wondering if that has harmed him during my pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I wish they would look at autism in relation to an autoimmune disorder. I really feel that not so much the ingredients of the vaccines but the amount and timing of them causes a change in the immune system which causes the body and attack and breakdown some of the connective tissue in the brain (the key areas that help maintain behavior) Mercury does break down this tissue as well and high levels of metals do effect brain function - alzheimer's patients have a break down of this tissue plus high levels of aluminum in their brains. As studies have shown, autistic persons harbor heavy metals in their bodies, unable to filter and release them normally. This could have a genetic tendency but exposer to these metals early on may be a trigger.

Autism did exist before this vaccine debate BUT the real debate here is does it make children's health worse instead of better. I fully believe that to bombard their systems so young with so much is a grave error. The rise in not only autism but allergies and chronic/autimmune disorders is something that should be looked at as a whole and not treated as completely independent of each other. My DD who was completely vaccinated has Celiacs disease and think, although she may have had a genetic disposition to this disorder was triggered early by vaccinations. I also believe her behavior issues are from vaccinations. My second DD was vaccinated until the assault of shots she got at age one which sent her into a medical tailspin. She had not even had a runny nose until that day. It took us a year to recover, she has had no vaccines since and won't, and seems to have recovered almost fully from her reaction. My 6 mo old has not and will not be vaccinated until he is one and then only in single cases of the most severe illnesses to avoid. But the last time I was at the doctor she said something that made NO sense about the MMR combo vaccine. She said "Why would you want to expose them to illness 3 different times?" and I though to myself - so it makes sense to expose them to ALL at one time? I seriously think the drug companies push these combo vaccines because the get more bang for the buck out of it.

For those that have not vaccinated and still get a diagnosis for autism I would suggest they get their children tested genetically and for heavy metals. Another point to consider is the exposure and health of the grandparent of the child when they were pregnant with the parent. Tests have shown that your health is directly linked to the health of your grandparent during pregnancy of your parent. Interesting stuff.

In life all we can do is the best we can and hope for the best. Bless all of you!

Anonymous said...

I also am in support of immunizations. I feel that the risks of getting these diseases outweigh the SMALL risks associated with immunizations. Just recently here in our hometown, there was an outbreak of the mumps (among NON-VACCINATED individuals). There were serious complications in some of these individuals and some of the children will be suffering for the rest of their lives from these complications (brain damage etc). I am so thankful that my family and I had all been vaccinated against mumps, as non of use contracted the disease. Not to mention the fact that not a single vaccinated individual contracted the disease.

I think people are jumping to conclusions about this debate. People are always looking for someone else to blame for autism, add/adhd etc...rather than their own genetics, or other factors. Not to mention the fact that our vaccinations in Canada no longer contain mercury...soooo...where could the issue be? Heavy metals in our foods, in the air, in our water etc isn't just the immunizations, it is much bigger than that.

I have been vaccinated my entire life, I rarely ever get sick, let alone I don't even remember the last time I had a cold. I am perfectly healthy and will continue to get immunizations if needed. I would rather be protected than not.

I do agree though, that there needs to be LOTS more research...and NON-BIASED at that.

Anonymous said...

"Immunizations has NOTHING to do with the vaccinations" (From above post from anon) What in the world does this mean?????

"I have read alot of information about mercury levels and autism amd as i have some mercury fillings in my teeth i'm wondering if that has harmed him during my pregnancy." --- Yes this affects it.

One thing to remember when you are saying that your son/child has been vaccinated and does not have autism etc, is that not EVERY child can rid the body of mercury. Your child apparently can so he/she is not affected. Also it's not just specifically the MMR vaccine it's a build up of the toxic metal in the child's system that causes autism. If you look up mercury poisoning symptoms they are EXACTLY the same as Autism. Coincidence?? I don't think so.
Also studies on the toxicity of mercury to mammalian neurons in culture demonstrate that low nanomolar levels can have lethal effects. Experiments using this system have also demonstrated, in agreement with published literature, that many antibiotics, other heavy metals and chemicals increase the toxicity of mercury and thimerosal (ethyl mercury). Additionally, in this same system the female hormone estrogen decreases thimerosal's toxic effects. In contrast, the male hormone testosterone greatly increases the toxicity. This may explain the 4 to 1 ratio of boys to girls that become autistic and the observation that boys represent the vast majority of the severe cases of autism.