Feds investigating church selling bleach as a cure for autism

❝ Federal prosecutors continue to scrutinize a bizarre church and its exiled founder who claims he was sent here from another galaxy to sell a “miracle cure” for autism.

The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has been accused of preying on thousands of families with autistic children by selling the corrosive antidote known as “Master Mineral Solution,” which is nothing more than household bleach…

“They might as well be selling Clorox,” Ben Mizer of the U.S. Department of Justice told ABC News in an investigation into the church. Mizer said so far one person has been prosecuted for selling the so-called cure…

❝ Humble, who…now says he is a billion-year-old god from another galaxy, writes on one of his websites that he “discovered” the antidote “whilst prospecting for minerals deep in the jungles of South America” and used it on a companion who fell ill with malaria.

Now the bottles are sold on several fringe websites, including one U.S. based company that charges $12.95 for a 4 ounce bottle, and up to $96 for a package of 12 bottles. The store’s site says all sales are donated to the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing…

❝ Experts in the autism community say there’s no merit to their claims and that Humble and other church members are peddling “poison.”

This is a poison. This is high-strength industrial bleach,” Dr. Paul Wang, the senior vice president of Autism Speaks…“It really scares me that people would give this to their kids, because it is a poison…”

A sucker born every minute is a long-standing American religious proverb.

A mother’s tale about her son, autism — and Siri

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F. Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them. After a while I heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri: “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus: “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri: “See you later!”

That Siri. She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything. Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one. Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

This is a love letter to a machine. It’s not quite the love Joaquin Phoenix felt in “Her,” last year’s Spike Jonze film about a lonely man’s romantic relationship with his intelligent operating system (played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson). But it’s close. In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.

Read on! Long, informative, interesting.

I’ve always talked to machines. The conversation moved from cars to electronics to computers. Record-keeping has become data-mining. The river of experience has reached a rapidly broadening delta.

Gus: “Goodnight, Siri. Will you sleep well tonight?”

Siri: “I don’t need much sleep, but it’s nice of you to ask.”

Exposure to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy can lead to autism

Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies.

The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring…“While we still must investigate whether certain sub-groups are more vulnerable to exposures to these compounds than others, the message is very clear: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible…”

Twenty-one chemical compounds were identified in the organophosphate class, including chlorpyrifos, acephate and diazinon. The second most commonly applied class of pesticides was pyrethroids, one quarter of which was esfenvalerate, followed by lambda-cyhalothrin permethrin, cypermethrin and tau-fluvalinate. Eighty percent of the carbamates were methomyl and carbaryl…

The researchers found that during the study period approximately one-third of CHARGE Study participants lived in close proximity – within 1.25 to 1.75 kilometers – of commercial pesticide application sites. Some associations were greater among mothers living closer to application sites and lower as residential proximity to the application sites decreased, the researchers found.

Organophosphates applied over the course of pregnancy were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, particularly for chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids were moderately associated with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates applied during pregnancy were associated with developmental delay.

Exposures to insecticides for those living near agricultural areas may be problematic, especially during gestation, because the developing fetal brain may be more vulnerable than it is in adults. Because these pesticides are neurotoxic, in utero exposures during early development may distort the complex processes of structural development and neuronal signaling, producing alterations to the excitation and inhibition mechanisms that govern mood, learning, social interactions and behavior.

You ain’t much safer in the heart of suburban America, either. Comparable recent studies of urban communities draw similar conclusions from industrial and transport pollution.

Poisonally, I’d suggest a return to xeriscaping nationwide. I don’t care how much rainfall you may experience, lay off the chemicals sold to dress your home up with a green, green lawn. You may be harming your next generation almost as much as the crabgrass you’re trying to eliminate.

Oh, yeah. Please lay off the spooky crap about vaccination. You’re just increasing the range of lifetime handicaps you may be inflicting upon your kiddies.

Great minds and all. Mike was noting this in “Suggestions for Posts” as I was putting it on the schedule. 🙂

The number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children continues to grow

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Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children—such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia—according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.

“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.

The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:

Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills
Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior
Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays

Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write…

“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development—now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”

The report was published over the weekend. It is available at Lancet Neurology.

Mail me a penny postcard when governments in industrial nations producing, utilizing, distributing, selling these chemicals decide to respond to Philippe Grandjean’s recommendation. When they make testing mandatory. When they put an end to human contact with these chemicals and their residues.

I’m used to waiting. Excuses. Lies.

Anti-Vaccine body count

anti-vaccine body count

The United States Anti-Vaccination Movement is composed of a variety of individuals ranging from former doctors who should know better, to semi-celebrities who have no medical training, to anti-government conspiracy theorists who distrust anything that the government says. They all hold onto the mistaken belief that autism is caused by receiving childhood vaccines.

Most anti-vaccination believers claim that the compound Thimerosal led to an increase in autism cases. The Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is their usual target. However, Thimerosal was never used as a preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. No vaccine licensed since 1999 has contained Thimerosal as a preservative, except a few multi-dose container vaccines such as some (but not all) HIB and Influenza vaccines. Autism has not declined since 1999, thereby disproving this connection. However, this has not stopped anti-vaccination believers from claiming that it was the MMR vaccine itself that caused autism or that it was vaccines in general that caused autism. All of these ideas have been disproven in multiple scientific and legal examinations of the evidence. The primary scientific reason for the increase in autism diagnoses is due to more disorders being included in the Autism Spectrum and doctors getting better at diagnosing the characteristics of autism…

The Anti-Vaccination Movement has a body count attached to its name. This website publishes the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened in the United States since this 2007 increase in speaking out against vaccines.

“Is the United States Anti-Vaccination Movement directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, the United States Anti-Vaccination Movement may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”

Fools!

Fossil fuel particulates, air pollutants linked to autism

Women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health. It is the first large national study to examine links between autism and air pollution across the U.S…

Exposure to diesel particulates, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride and other pollutants are known to affect brain function and to affect the developing baby. Two previous studies found associations between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and autism in children, but those studies looked at data in just three locations in the U.S.

The researchers examined data from Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving 116,430 nurses that began in 1989. Among that group, the authors studied 325 women who had a child with autism and 22,000 women who had a child without the disorder. They looked at associations between autism and levels of pollutants at the time and place of birth. They used air pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate women’s exposure to pollutants while pregnant. They also adjusted for the influence of factors such as income, education, and smoking during pregnancy.

The results showed that women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of diesel particulates or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest levels.

Other types of air pollution—lead, manganese, methylene chloride, and combined metal exposure—were associated with higher autism risk as well. Women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of these pollutants were about 50% more likely to have a child with autism than those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest concentrations.

Most pollutants were associated with autism more strongly in boys than girls. However, since there were few girls with autism in the study, the authors said this finding should be examined further.

This doesn’t suggest the association means air pollution causes autism directly. There is a contributory link. Research samples from both mothers and babies will be analyzed over time to see exactly which chemicals are involved.

Though air pollution has diminished since the Clean Air Act there is an enormous task remaining to get to truly healthful air chemistry. Know-nothings, Tea Party-types and other butt-kissers of the Oil Patch Boys will try their darndest to impede or roll back measures taken. Even though they offer the potential for a longer healthier life for their own kids and grandkids.

Clues to risk of autism measurable by creases in placenta


Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, research scientist at Yale School of Medicine, initiated study

A new study raises the possibility that analyzing the placenta after birth may provide clues to a child’s risk for developing autism. The study, which analyzed placentas from 217 births, found that in families at high genetic risk for having an autistic child, placentas were significantly more likely to have abnormal folds and creases.

“It’s quite stark,” said Dr. Cheryl K. Walker, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mind Institute at the University of California, Davis, and a co-author of the study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. “Placentas from babies at risk for autism, clearly there’s something quite different about them.”

Researchers will not know until at least next year how many of the children, who are between 2 and 5, whose placentas were studied will be found to have autism. Experts said, however, that if researchers find that children with autism had more placental folds, called trophoblast inclusions, visible after birth, the condition could become an early indicator or biomarker for babies at high risk for the disorder…

The research potentially marks a new frontier, not only for autism, but also for the significance of the placenta, long considered an after-birth afterthought. Now, only 10 percent to 15 percent of placentas are analyzed, usually after pregnancy complications or a newborn’s death…

Dr. Jonathan L. Hecht, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, said the study was intriguing and “probably true if it finds an association between these trophoblast inclusions and autism.” But he said that inclusions were the placenta’s way of responding to many kinds of stress, so they might turn out not to be specific enough to predict autism.

Dr. Harvey Kliman calls inclusions a “check-engine light, a marker of: something’s wrong, but I don’t know what it is.”

If you keep on driving your car after the warning lights come on – well, the expense, the possible failure of your automobile is your own fault. One would hope you pay at least as much attention to warning signs about your children.

When autism may be an advantage


Thorkil Sonne and his son Lars at home in Ringsted, Denmark

When Thorkil Sonne and his wife, Annette, learned that their 3-year-old son, Lars, had autism, they did what any parent who has faith in reason and research would do: They started reading. At first they were relieved that so much was written on the topic. “Then came sadness,” Annette says. Lars would have difficulty navigating the social world, they learned, and might never be completely independent. The bleak accounts of autistic adults who had to rely on their parents made them fear the future.

What they read, however, didn’t square with the Lars they came home to every day. He was a happy, curious boy, and as he grew, he amazed them with his quirky and astonishing abilities…To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees…

Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.

For nearly a decade, the company has been modest in size — it employs 35 high-functioning autistic workers who are hired out as consultants, as they are called, to 19 companies in Denmark — but it has grand ambitions….At the World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin in September, he was named one of 26 winners of a global social entrepreneurship award. Specialisterne has inspired start-ups and has five of its own, around the world. In the next few months, Sonne plans to move with his family to the United States, where the number of autistic adults — roughly 50,000 turn 18 every year — as well as a large technology sector suggests a good market for expansion…

For previously unemployable people — one recent study found that more than half of Americans with an autism diagnosis do not attend college or find jobs within two years of graduating from high school — Sonne’s idea holds out the possibility of self-sufficiency.

A long, fascinating article. The concept isn’t original – except to the demographic defined by Sonne’s experience with his son. One of my close kin was born profoundly deaf and when she and her family won the battle of mainstreaming and getting an education, the question of employment remained. The avenue she discovered – during the era of loud, irritating IBM keyboards – was data entry. Eventually, her experience with the content she read and turned into digital data led to a career managing and administering contracts based on that data.

Still, this can be a wider search and a daunting task. The emotional and social baggage associated with autism can be greater than a traditional “handicap”. The tale of Thorkil Sonne and Lars is inspirational and an education in and of itself.

More stringent definition of autism may exclude many

Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services…

The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.

The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses — which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.

The psychiatrists’ association is wrestling with one of the most agonizing questions in mental health — where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal — and its decisions are sure to be wrenching for some families. At a time when school budgets for special education are stretched, the new diagnosis could herald more pitched battles. Tens of thousands of people receive state-backed services to help offset the disorders’ disabling effects, which include sometimes severe learning and social problems, and the diagnosis is in many ways central to their lives. Close networks of parents have bonded over common experiences with children; and the children, too, may grow to find a sense of their own identity in their struggle with the disorder…

The new analysis, presented Thursday at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association, opens a debate about just how many people the proposed diagnosis would affect…

That the qualitative expansion in diagnoses of autism mostly reflects doctors and parents and a culture growing in parallel that found itself able to get federal and public support for difficult behavioral problems – by defining those problems as autism – ain’t new. That quantifying levels of impairment and reviewing the premises of diagnosis is finally happening is the only surprise.

Doesn’t make the needs of parents and offspring any less or diminish society’s responsibility. It’s just that that, too, has become a political question in 21st Century America.

Rejecting vaccines is as dangerous as it is dumb!

Given the success of vaccines in preventing a long list of diseases, why is opposition to vaccination gaining hold? Decision-making expert Valerie Reyna contends that it’s because anti-vaccination messages tell a compelling story compared to official sources, and they meet people’s need to understand rare adverse outcomes.

“In the era of Web 2.0, the contagion of ideas, transmitted rapidly through social media, is as concerning as the contagion of diseases because of their power to reduce vaccination rates, leaving populations vulnerable to preventable death and disability,” said Reyna…

This spring, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the United States is experiencing the highest number of measles cases in more than a decade. According to the alert, measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 due to a high vaccination rate. This could change should vaccination rates decline…

Since most people don’t understand how vaccines work, the Internet, which facilitates users across the globe to sharing personal experiences and ideas about health care, fills the vacuum.

According to Reyna, anti-vaccination messages are expected when people don’t understand how vaccination works and when adverse events that are difficult to explain appear to be connected. Autism, for example, is diagnosed in children during the same time period that children receive a battery of vaccinations. Despite research to the contrary, anti-vaccination messages have claimed vaccines are to blame. Official sites, on the other hand, tend not to provide a convincing narrative story line that helps people connect the dots.

Under these circumstances, how do people approach the decision to vaccinate? In Reyna’s model, the decision to get a flu shot, for example, could be a seen as a decision between feeling OK (by not getting the vaccine) or taking a chance on not feeling OK (due to a vaccine side effect). Without better information, most people would choose not to get a vaccine.

In a culture as anarchistic as ours here in the United States, the misreading can be deliberate. There is a pundit I know who considers rejecting flu vaccination a point of libertarian ethics – and he stores/replenishes his supply of anti-virals at a cost of hundreds of dollars every flu season as appropriate “protection”. I guess if you can afford such lengths to satisfy rejecting one of medical history’s best solutions to recurrent illness – rock on!.

Rejecting a solution, a methodology – on the basis of the statistically-tiny number of long-term reversals or, worse, products demeaned by sleazy profiteers on occasion [as are all products], is illogical. I don’t mean to sound too much like Mr. Spock; but, the Age of Reason took our species past this sort of rationale a century-and-a-half ago.

I know my choice of words may offend good people; but, I grew up before most childhood vaccines were commonplace. My neighborhood in that New England factory town extended to 3 or 4 elementary schools, public and Catholic. When we finished winter and schoolkids gathered together again for the new season of sandlot baseball, one of the first things we sorted out was who died over the winter. Who had scarlet fever, who had diphtheria, who had whooping cough or mumps, who had measles, who died from the flu – la grippe. The only exception was the summer special, polio.

I know what it feels like to count up who was missing from a smallish community on just one side of a small city. Who died before we had access to vaccines. Those numbers were a hell of a lot more than the fears and trembling of people who don’t really look at statistics. Or have my memories.