The world we live in could be contributing to the increase in autism
Updated: Jul 27, 2022
An opinion piece by MBOS team member Mike Allen
I am 71 years old and when I think back to my youth in the 1950’s and 60’s I have no recollection of knowing anyone who behaved in a manner I now understand as autism. Today, it is unusual for any of us not to know at least one family living with it.
There has, without doubt, been a huge global increase in the incidence of autism over the last three decades or so. While there was an uptick in numbers when changes to the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) consolidated several diagnoses into the single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the actual increase was way beyond any impact these diagnostic changes could have had. The graph shows the 2018 numbers for boys which clearly indicates a 277-fold increase since 1970.
Since the 80’s, following the pioneering work by Lovaas, therapies for autism have primarily focused on psychological interventions based on the principles of applied behavior analysis. Notwithstanding that, extensive research dating back to the 1960’s has clearly established the existence of morphological and physiological abnormalities in the autism brain and in view such extensive pathological findings, it is abundantly clear that autism is a biological disorder. What has led to it becoming so commonplace? No one knows for sure at this time but if we look at potential causal factors, there is only one common to every individual diagnosed with autism. That is, beginning in-utero, exposure to the effects of the pollution which is affecting every living thing on our planet and has impacted every facet of our environment from the atmosphere to the oceans.
While the circumstances leading to autism are yet to be agreed, it seems to me that they are very likely linked to our environment – both internal i.e., what we put in our bodies and external i.e., the state of our biosphere. For thousands of years our environment was maintained in a relatively stable state by the natural world in which we live, change was slow, our bodies were able to adapt, and we thrived physiologically.
That all began to change with the start of the industrial revolution in the mid 18th century when we, in our ignorance, began polluting the environment by dumping the waste generated without consideration for the consequences. The level of pollution became slowly worse as nations around the world industrialized and accelerated dramatically with reconstruction following the end of WWII. The end of the war also brought increasing levels of ionizing radiation into our environment with the birth of the atomic age and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Since then, there have been numerous accidents at nuclear facilities around the world including Kyshtym (1957), Chernobyl (1986) in the Soviet Union and Fukushima (2011) in Japan, each of which has resulted in the release of large amounts of radioactive materials into our environment. The cumulative result of these and other nuclear accidents, and the early atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons is that our whole planet is now contaminated with a higher level of ionizing radiation than, as far as we know, ever before. While the effects of exposure to high levels of radiation which causes skin burns, radiation sickness, cancer and death are well known, we really do not fully understand the impact of long-term exposure to low-level radiation, which typically does not have any obvious outward signs. It has, however, been recognized since the 1920’s that ionizing radiation from radioactive decay damages cells and may cause genetic mutations that can be transmitted from generation to generation. By way of explanation, ionizing radiation, which also occurs with X-rays and gamma rays, is the flow of energy in the form of atomic and subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that is capable of changing the nature of an atom. In this way ionizing radiation effectively disrupts molecular bonds which, in living organisms, can cause extensive damage to cells and their genetic make-up. When the atoms in living cells become ionized one of three things will occur, the cell may retain the ability to repair itself, it could mutate incorrectly, or die. Not all cells respond in the same way, the developing fetus has been shown to be particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, with potentially significant health consequences including growth retardation, malformed growth, impaired brain function, and cancer even at radiation doses below those that have any effect on the mother.
Along with a multitude of other pollutants, our environment has become contaminated with a low level of highly toxic organic compounds known as dioxins. Dioxins are a group of chemically related compounds known as persistent environmental pollutants (POPs). They are a byproduct of the manufacture and burning of anything that contains chlorine and take many years to breakdown. Chlorine is one of the most commonly used industrial chemicals and is a key ingredient in the manufacture of plastics including
polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethanes, epoxies and others i.e., the constituents of just about everything we use or touch on a day to day basis. Because they are so persistent, the presence of dioxins has slowly built up to the point where we have all been exposed to at least a background level. Research has shown that exposure to dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. To get a better understanding of how devastating exposure to dioxins can be, look up Agent Orange in Vietnam 1961-71, or the health problems that have ravaged first responders and those involved in rescue and recovery following 9/11 or, more recently, the problems now being reported by veterans that seem to be linked to the “burn pits” used for the open-air burning of all forms of waste in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. military. A term typically used in the literature to describe the impact of the background level of dioxin is “not expected to affect human health,” which can be translated as “we don’t know, and by the way, we are not really looking.” It is almost impossible to find a building that does not have a wide variety of plastics in it, either as part of the original construction or in the furnishings and equipment, usually both. Indeed, one of the major problems confronting first responders called to modern building fires is managing their personal exposure to the toxic fumes given off and the use of closed-circuit breathing apparatus is now mandatory.
Thus, in just 250 years, pollution in its many forms has reached a point where we are now effectively living in a toxic soup and have, perhaps, created physiological challenges that, in many cases, our bodies may be unable to compensate for. How quickly this has occurred is truly alarming. To put it into perspective, if we pretend that the time elapsed since our ancestors first walked the earth 2.8 million years ago is an hour, we have created this situation in the last 0.32 seconds, about as long as it takes to blink.
Further, we do not know how long-term exposure to other potential challenges such as genetically-modified and processed foods, food additives and preservatives, agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, the indirect consumption of antibiotics and steroids used to enhance growth and control disease in modern factory farming, and the many chemicals commonly used in modern house and garden products, are affecting our physiological status and thus, overall health. Many of the food choices available today are so nutritionally bad it is possible for a person to be obese and malnourished at the same time. Any of these factors could expose a pregnant mother, a developing fetus and, ultimately the new-born infant, to risks that have not yet been identified or quantified or have just been dismissed as irrelevant by “faceless experts” representing special interests like big pharma and big ag.
It has also become very clear that the aggressive infant vaccination programs intended to reduce the incidence of disease may be having unintended consequences. It is a situation fraught with anger and frustration for parents who simply want to protect their children. A quick review of the information available to them makes it clear that parents have to base their decisions on incomplete and, in some cases, misleading information put out by people and organizations whose role in life is, or should be, to provide reliable guidance and honest unbiased risk assessments.
When I grew up in the UK vaccine programs were in their infancy. I acquired all of the childhood illnesses. In fact, my mother, a nurse, actually put me among kids with an illness I hadn’t yet had to hurry things along. Luckily, I survived with a lifetime of immunity. Back then, there were deaths associated with all of the childhood illnesses. For example, in the 1950’s the average annual death rate in the United States for measles and polio was 500 and 3,000 respectively with similar rates in other countries. Death rates for pertussis (whooping cough), mumps and rubella were much lower. Studies conducted in 1960s and ‘70s in Europe and the United States reported prevalence estimates for autism in the range of 2 to 4 cases per 10,000 children. In the U.S., the average live birth rate in the 60’s and 70’s was 4 million annually. Based on 2-4 cases per 10,000 the annual incidence of autism can be calculated as 800-1,600. Autism was considered a rare condition.
Using 2018 statistics, the most current available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is now estimated that autism occurs in an average of 1 in 59 (1.7%) of 8-year old children, with boys outnumbering girls four to one. All races and ethnicities are impacted. 2018 CDC statistics also indicate there were 3.8 million live births. This means we are now seeing some 64,600 new cases of autism per year in the U.S. alone. Even after allowing for improved diagnosis, the changes to DSM-5 and perhaps even that some people are identifying with the so-called “neurodiverse” community without proper diagnosis, this is a staggering rate of increase which unfortunately aligns well with the rise in post-war levels of pollution and the introduction and expansion of the infant vaccination programs.
For vaccines, the argument seems to revolve around the use of additives known as adjuvants which are included to stimulate the individual’s immune response. There are a wide range of adjuvants used, including aborted human fetal tissue, aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, gelatin, monosodium glutamate (MSG), Polysorbate 80 and Squalene. Data concerning the safety and long-term effects of any of these adjuvants is at best scant.
One of the most widely used adjuvants is aluminum in the form of aluminum phosphate and aluminum hydroxide salts. Unlike the range of minerals required by the body for normal health such as iron and calcium, aluminum has no known use in the human body. In fact, research has demonstrated that aluminum is a neurotoxin that, even at very low levels, can trigger a neuro-inflammatory reaction. Low levels of aluminum occur throughout our environment, we typically absorb it via food and the use of certain cosmetic products such as anti-perspirant deodorants. The safe weekly intake level set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is 1 mg aluminum/kg body weight, this can easily be reached simply by eating a normal diet. Let’s note that this limit is based on ingestion, I’ve yet to see data studying the impact when received by injection, and of course we are talking about infants receiving the first rounds of these when the average bodyweight is only 3-5kg.
It seems that the vast majority of infants do not immediately suffer any obvious adverse reaction from receiving the series of injections. This is only comforting as long as your child is not a reactor because, as we all know, autism is a life-time condition, there is no currently available treatment or series of treatments that significantly changes outcomes in those moderately to severely affected, and for which there is no known cure.
The real impact of using adjuvants, like just about everything else discussed in this piece, would seem to be influenced by the level of the dose and the individual sensitivities of those who receive the dose. When aluminum is the adjuvant, the vaccine contains a known neurotoxin which, when given as a single dose to an adult may be insufficient to have any discernable adverse effect on that individual. When given as a
series of shots, however, perhaps in excess of 25 over the course of two years to an infant whose body mass is a mere fraction of that of an adult, it is not unreasonable to think the outcome could be entirely different in many cases. An infant’s metabolism is working overtime to support growth on a daily basis and their brain development is extremely dynamic, driven by the growth spurt commencing in the third trimester of pregnancy, it will double in volume in the first year of life and reach about 80% of its adult size by the age of two.
Perhaps the problem is not vaccines per se but the choice of adjuvants. It seems like a positive step would be to review their use and either generate data proving they are safe in accordance with current scientific standards, or develop new adjuvants, if indeed they are really necessary for vaccines to be effective in the target population. We are talking about the health and welfare of our children, these concerns should not just be swept under the carpet or ignored. I strongly believe that anything we can do to improve human health should be encouraged but only if the benefits can be clearly demonstrated to outweigh the risks.
The reality is that we simply do not have enough data to make an informed judgment as to how any of the factors discussed above are affecting us or may be implicated in respect to autism. What we do know is every single person on the planet is living in the toxic soup that has been created and it seems incredibly stupid to ignore the possibility that any or all of its constituents could have the potential to disrupt normal growth patterns and function in any cell or organ, most particularly in an exquisitely sensitive organ like the human brain. Just how the mother, fetus, or new-born infant is affected by any of these factors would seem to depend on the individual’s sensitivities to the pollutants and other stressors to which they are exposed. It seems to me that, while research has yet to identify the actual cause(s) of autism, one thing we can do to slow down the incidence, and perhaps reduce its severity in many cases, may be linked to the effort we put into promoting our personal health on a day to day basis.
The results we achieved with our pilot studies clearly show that, regardless of cause, by addressing the underlying biological factors of autism, when delivered in the home by the mother, NEMO Therapy produced meaningful, indeed life-changing, and apparently permanent results in our subjects. We will appreciate your expression of support to help us gather the funding we need to conduct the phase II studies we must have in order to get the regulatory approval that will allow us to make our therapy available to all who need it.
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