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Jay Gordon, MD Headshot

Autism and Toxins

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Dr. Harvey Karp has just written an excellent blog beginning to discuss the role environmental toxins play in causing autism. I agree that the huge rise in autism is real, and not just related to better diagnosis or reclassification of mental illness. Autism is most likely caused by a genetic predisposition and an environmental "trigger."

Studies showing that vaccines and their many constituents do not contribute to this problem are flawed, filled with specious reasoning and, for the most part funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Even articles in reputable medical journals are often written by doctors with an economic interest in continuing the vaccination program's status quo. This does not invalidate all of these studies but it certainly makes them suspect and a poor foundation for an argument excluding vaccines from the list of environmental influences on the increase in autism in America and elsewhere.

The facile dismissal of those of us calling for safer vaccinations and scrutiny of the current vaccine schedule is not scientifically based and polarizes the discussion. Perhaps most importantly, this dismissal is insulting to the thousands of parents and families who aver that their children have been harmed by vaccines. There are extremists choosing to ignore the facts in all vaccine/autism camps. I am not one of them.

Asking that cars be manufactured with more attention to safety and that driving is best when done safely does not make one "anti-car" or anti-driving. Asking for safer vaccinations and more judicious use of those we have does not make me or anyone else "anti-vaccine."

The studies Dr. Karp cites show pretty much the opposite of what he's claiming they do. The opposite. The Danish Study's data are misused by all and interpreted to suit one's needs. The Japanese study also shows a connection between the MMR split into three components and autism. Mainstream medical journals rarely will publish editorial comment impugning the quality or integrity of vaccines because they are dependent upon the good graces of the pharmaceutical industry for their publishing dollars. Seeking out reputable commentators is difficult because the extremists on both sides of this debate exaggerate their claims and speak louder and more unpleasantly as if this helps to make their points.

In April of 2009, the "Journal of the American Medical Association" spoke to the conflict of interest and possible corruption as the journals, the AMA, the AAP and other medical associations rely on money from the manufacturers of vaccines and other drugs.

I have been in practice thirty years and watched thousands of children get shots, not get shots, develop autism or remain developmentally "neurotypical." I have no proof that vaccines cause autism and would be very excited to have my large group of extremely healthy mostly unvaccinated children studied someday. It would be disingenuous to imply that non-vaccination might not lead to an increased incidence in vaccine-preventable illness. It would be equally disingenuous to state that this possibility poses a great threat to America's children. The risks of vaccinating the way we do now exceeds the benefits of this vaccine program. "Scientists" who suggest that experienced doctors ignore their eyes and ears are wrong. Detractors who say that we should ignore parents who are certain that vaccines caused their children's autism are wrong and often quite mean-spirited.

Dr. Karp, if you are going to talk and blog about kitchen cleaners, furniture polish, pesticides and other toxins, how can you possibly ignore the 30-40 injections of potentially risky material we give children in their first 24 months of life? There is absolutely no proof that these shots are as safe the makers say they are and certainly no proof that new combinations of vaccines and hastily created shots are safe enough for our children.

Certain childhood illnesses are far less common than before we had vaccines to decrease their numbers. When numbers drop so low for certain illnesses, we have to cast a strong critical eye on the possible side effects of a vaccine. This loving, reasonable principle can initially be applied by an individual parent to an individual child and family. We certainly have to add public health into this complicated calculus of risk versus reward. It remains very possible that changing the way we manufacture vaccines and being more selective in our use of them may have huge public health benefits. It would be unscientific and immoral to ignore these more difficult possibilities in favor of the easier answers in Dr. Karp's post. We can save more children if just think harder.

Giving children the chicken pox vaccine may lead to huge shingles problems in adults.

Autism is triggered by many environmental, infectious and other causes. Vaccines are one of these triggers. Believe the parents!

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Related: Dr. Harvey Karp Cracking the Autism Riddle: "Vaccine Theory" Fades as a New Idea Emerges

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