Sunday, September 21, 2008

NIMH refuses to waste money on stupid vaccine theory

The fact that autism cases rose rather than fell after thimerosal was phased out tells us all we need to know

Health officials have called off plans for a study examining a controversial type of treatment that some autism activists have touted as alternative medical therapy for children with the condition. The National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said in a statement on Wednesday that it has canceled a study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of a treatment called chelation.

Chelation (pronounced key-LAY-shun) is a type of therapy in which a man-made amino acid, called EDTA, is added to the blood, and it has been used to treat heavy metal poisoning. Some autism activists have advocated it on the theory -- rejected by most scientists -- that autism is triggered by exposure to mercury, a heavy metal, from childhood vaccines. Many studies and medical experts have dismissed the notion that mercury used in a vaccine preservative causes autism, but some parents of autistic children strongly believe it does.

Since 2001, with the exception of some influenza vaccines, the mercury-containing preservative has not been used in routinely recommended childhood vaccines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"NIMH has decided that resources are better directed at this time to testing other potential therapies for autism spectrum disorders, and is not pursuing the additional review required to begin the study," the institute said.


Food and Drug Administration Speaks Out in Defense of Plastic Baby Bottles

A rather pusillanimous response to a largely fraudulent study

Federal regulators this week defended their assessment that a chemical widely used in plastic baby bottles and in food packaging is safe, even as the first major study of health effects in people linked it with possible risks for heart disease and diabetes. "A margin of safety exists that is adequate to protect consumers, including infants and children, at the current levels of exposure," Laura Tarantino, a senior Food and Drug Administration scientist, told an expert panel that has been asked for a second opinion on the agency's assessment of bisphenol A or BPA, the AP reports.

However, a study released earlier this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a new concern about BPA. Because of the possible public health implications, the results "deserve scientific follow-up," the study authors said. Using a health survey of nearly 1,500 adults, they found that those exposed to higher amounts of BPA were more likely to report having heart disease and diabetes, according to the AP report.

But the study is preliminary, far from proof that the chemical caused the health problems. Two Dartmouth College analysts of medical research said it raises questions but provides no answers about whether the ubiquitous chemical is harmful.

FDA officials said they are not dismissing such findings, and conceded that further research is needed. "We recognize the need to resolve the concerning questions that have been raised," said Tarantino. But the FDA is arguing that the studies with rats and mice it relied on for its assessment are more thorough than some of the human research that has raised doubts.

The FDA has the power to limit use of BPA in food containers and medical devices but last month released its internal report concluding that BPA exposure is not enough to warrant action. Since then, another government agency released a separate report concluding that risks to people, in particular to infants and children, cannot be ruled out.

Researchers from Britain and the University of Iowa examined a U.S. government health survey of 1,455 American adults and reported whether they had any of several common diseases. A total of 79 had heart attacks, chest pain or other types of cardiovascular disease and 136 had diabetes. There were more than twice as many people with heart disease or diabetes in the highest BPA group than in the lowest BPA group. No one in the study had BPA urine amounts showing higher than recommended exposure levels, said co-author Dr. David Melzer, a University of Exeter researcher.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, said the study is flawed, has substantial limitations and proves nothing. But Dr. Ana Soto of Tufts University said the study raises enough concerns to warrant government action to limit BPA exposure, the AP reports. "We shouldn't wait until further studies are done in order to act in protecting humans," said Soto, who has called for more restrictions in the past.

Several states are considering restricting BPA use, some manufacturers have begun promoting BPA-free baby bottles, and some stores are phasing out baby products containing the chemical. The European Union has said that BPA-containing products are safe, but Canada's government has proposed banning the sale of baby bottles with BPA as a precaution.


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