MMR falling, mercury rising...10th August 2006
So many numbers are thrown at us that we can no longer spot those that are significant.
Those of you who follow our blog will have seen this moment coming. It was hinted at in our last issue of Healthcare Today when we picked up on our cover story that one in ten children suffering mental health problems seemed like an awfully big number - yet in the media the story came and went in little more than 24 hours with hardly a comment passed.
Hot on the heals of this observation came the latest report on autism - over 1% of children are now affected - we received the following email from a reader in Wisconsin, USA:
I read the article on autism and the shocking news that over 1% of children are affected. I can't imagine why no one seems alarmed. This is an epidemic rate of a devastating disorder, yet the headline is only: PREVALENCE OF AUTISM INCREASES.
If one percent of children were going blind, would we merely note the rate and not give any possible explanation for the increase? How bad do the numbers have to get before we demand answers?
Is she right? Have we got so used to simply quoting and absorbing statistics that we have lost the ability to be shocked by them? Is this really a shocking state of affairs?
It would seem that one eminent US doctor who has been practising in the UK thinks so. The Observer recently carried the following story:
'In seven years as an NHS neuropsychologist, [Janice] Newcomen has been so disgusted and upset by what she has seen that she is packing her bags and walking away. She says she can no longer bear to watch children and their families let down again and again. As a specialist who is supposed to provide help she says that she feels 'handcuffed', forced to accept hidden waiting lists, discrimination and constant cost cutting. She says she is officially prevented from making recommendations that could safeguard children's futures.'
Our blog prompted further submissions:
I can't imagine a more critical issue than the explosion in numbers of children with autism and learning disabilities. We have one in 175 children with autism here in the U.S. Many experts believe the rate is much higher. Often high functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome are not counted with autism numbers.
During the polio epidemic of the 1950's, one in 3,000 (approx.) were affected. Everyone from the president to local officials addressed this crisis. Autism affects far more, yet our federal health officials merely tell us that all these disabled children have always been here and that the numbers are the result of "better diagnosing" and "greater awareness." We've seen a 6,000 percent increase in autism. Does anyone seriously believe doctors are 6,000 percent better at noticing it?
...and a possible cause?
The factor most likely to be involved is the increased number of mercury-containing vaccines in the childhood schedule, starting in the late 1980's that directly coincided with the explosion in autism. Add into that the three live viruses of the MMR, and we have a situation where the onslaught of vaccines can cause autism, bowel disorders, immune system disorders, and others. If you're someone over 30, think back to your childhood. How many autistic kids did you know? Most of us older than thirty can't think of one, and many of us had never even heard of autism as children. Today, no one has to go far to find an autistic child.
Bruce Willis fans will remember the movie Mercury Rising where our tough but vulnerable hero has to protect an autistic child who has somehow managed to break an impenetrable CIA code resulting in lots of egg on faces and a CIA agent whose personal embarrassment brings out his murderous streak.
Although I'm quite pleased with the clever pun, there is a serious point here; we are overwhelmed with statistics that they wash over us in much the same way that the death rate in an African famine numbs us into a state where we no longer have the ability to care. If these figures are true and equally apply to the UK then over 2 million children suffer diagnosable mental health problems and about 120,000 children are autistic. I wonder - does this surprise or even shock anyone?
For those to whom these figures stand out there is an added problem. Because no one else seems shocked or involved, those who are can be left scratching around in the dark looking for their own reasons. As repeated studies show that the MMR jab is unlikely to be the cause of autism, the popular vote is now pointing to mercury. And after mercury it will be something else - and something else again until someone with a serious ability with statistics can tell us what's significant and subsequently is incentivised - and funded - to research the cause properly.
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Title: MMR falling, mercury rising...
Author: Chris May
Article Id: 639
Date Added: 10th Aug 2006