Media Clips

Dr. Mielke editorial response

Contra Costa Times
Editorial response published 08/11/2007

“Autism Science Not Junk”

As a physician who specializes in treating autism and the mother of an autistic child,  I would like to express my opposition to the viewpoint in Dr. Parikh’s editorial, “Junk Science vs. real thing in autism trial.” Dr. Parikh implies that the research showing a link between autism and vaccines is wrong, and that the vaccine preservative Thimerisol (which is about 50% mercury) is safe. It is no surprise that pediatricians as a group have been slow to acknowledge the evidence that vaccines may play a role in the causation of autism in some children. After all, it is pediatricians who administer those vaccines. Many vaccines still contain Thimerisol, although it is less now than in the peak mercury years – the decade of the 90’s.

No one questions that pregnant and nursing women should avoid mercury pollution, mercury-containing seafood, and should not have dental work involving amalgam silver-colored fillings which are also about 50% mercury. But some doctors still say that injecting a pregnant woman or a newborn baby with a mercury-containing vaccine is OK. Many toxins are implicated in the causation of autism, not just mercury, but mercury is certainly one of the worst. Veterinarians realized how toxic Thimerisol is and removed it from animal vaccines years ago.

There are significant differences in how people react to the same toxin. A good example is cigarette smoking. Some people who smoke get lung cancer, but others will get emphysema or heart disease. Not everyone who is exposed to mercury and other toxins will become autistic. Genetic predisposition, timing of exposure, amount of exposure, and type of exposure all interact to produce a unique symptom complex. Toxins have also been implicated in the causation of ADD, sensory integration problems, and language and learning disorders, among other things. One in six children now has some sort of neurologic problem. If that is not an epidemic, I don’t know what is.

Most of the studies claiming that vaccines are not related to autism were done by researchers with financial ties to vaccine manufacturers – a clear conflict of interest. Most of those studies are epidemiologic studies done on large populations that could easily miss an issue that affects around 1 in 150 kids. Epidemiologic studies are retrospective, and are the easiest type of research to manipulate statistics to get the outcome you want. The designs of those studies were extremely flawed, as the group SafeMinds has clearly shown. The science showing direct harm on a cellular level from Thimerisol is biological, prospective science, and has been done by many fine, upstanding clinicians and scientists who have risked their careers to publish unpopular findings.

The link between toxic exposure and autism is clear, not only from the science that shows it, but because the treatments that address that exposure and its many consequences improve the level of functioning of autistic children.

Unfortunately, families of autistic children are victimized twice -first from the poisonings that damaged their child in the first place, and then second from the doctors that misinform their patients that there is no science behind treatments that work. There are huge financial and political forces against this truth because the liability and the stakes are so high. What gets lost are the needs of the affected families who struggle with heartbreak everyday under incredibly difficult circumstances, with very little help from the government and insurance industry, and often even their doctors.

Lynne R. Mielke, M.D

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