The World of Autism and the False Dichotomy; It’s Not Just Black or White

1. “Autism is either environmental or it’s genetic.”

2. “You’re either pro-autistic (the qualifier being you’re a neurodiversity advocate) or you’re anti-autistic.”

3. “Vaccines either cause all autism or they do not cause autism at all.”

4. “You’re either anti-vaccine or you’re pro-vaccine.”

These are examples of false dichotomies to look for when you’re viewing discussions about autism. Let’s examine all four of them.

Firstly, what is a false dichotomy? A false dichotomy fallacy involves using two different options as if they were the only possible ones. This type of reasoning can be seen as “Either B or A” when in fact both could be false or there are more alternatives. When people use this reasoning they can also say “Claim B is true therefore claim A is false” or “Claim A is false therefore claim B is true.” It is faulty binary reasoning that can be used to obscure and avoid other possible answers that involve different factors, contexts, and conditions. It is also known as the “black-or-white” fallacy, bifurcation fallacy, and false dilemma.

Proposition number 1 states that there are two options for autism causation: genetic or environmental. This is misleading because research shows that autism involves genetics and the environment rather than just one of the two.1 An open discussion should not present itself in such a way that people cannot openly consider other factors or combinations of these factors.

Proposition number 2 states that you are either pro-autistic if you’re a neurodiversity advocate or you are anti-autistic if you are not. This only gives two options when there are actually more. To start with, we have to ask what it means to be “pro-autistic.” This can have several meanings and we will approach this statement (as an example) as if it is being specifically given by someone who is using vagueness and not clearly/thoroughly defining the meaning of the word in the given context of their statement. Does being “pro-autistic” mean that you want acceptance of autism? Does being pro-autistic mean you want people to respect those with autism? Does being pro-autistic mean that you want the healthcare of autistic people to be covered and there be adequate options for maintainence, care, and access to special education? What if you agree with most of those but you disagree with one? Are you suddenly “anti-autistic” for doing so? I have written about my position on this issue and I have replied to a neurodiversity advocate as well.2 I am not a neurodiversity advocate for several reasons, one being that I do not want to associate with a group that has largely denied the fact a statistically significant portion of autism cases are caused by environmental and genetic interactions rather than just something that is a psychologically inborn difference. Autism in its entirety is not  “positive” and we have to understand the experiences from different viewpoints rather than assuming that autism is automatically a gift. This is not to say that it isn’t a gift for some or that there aren’t positive things about autism for some people. Moreover, we should not overlook the suffering or the scientific evidence that exists so that we can instead favor a distorted view shaped by opinions and partial information. I am not “anti-autistic” because I am not a neurodiversity advocate in the same exact way that others define themselves as neurodiversity advocates. Someone framing the argument in such a black and white way is going about it through their own arbitrary interpretation rather than reasoning that considers all possible facets. I would be considered “pro-autistic” by the standard of caring about autistic people, wanting those with autism to be listened to/studied properly and advocating for autistic people to have proper access to healthcare and education. In addition to this, I also want the cases of autism caused by harmful environmental exposures to be prevented and I want those who suffer from co-morbidities to have proper treatment (including treatment for ongoing brain inflammation). There are more factors involved and ways of approaching this issue.

Proposition number 3 states that vaccines either cause all autism or they don’t cause autism at all. This does not consider all factors or possible answers. Vaccines cause autism in susceptible individuals but they don’t cause every single case of autism because autism has more than one cause.3 The fact that not all cases of autism are caused by vaccines does not mean that they don’t cause autism in a specific subgroup. One has to understand the science and circumstances which give rise to autistic behavior and how many biological factors underly autism etiology.

Proposition number 4 is one of the most commonly seen uses of the bifurcation fallacy. “You are either anti-vaccine or you are pro-vaccine.” I first encountered this reasoning when debating someone over potential vaccine risks and the research that was needed and had not been done yet. They claimed that me merely questioning vaccine safety was pushing me into the “anti-vaxx” category (celeber cavilla fallacy). They were approaching this from the position of someone who pushes the view that vaccines are completely safe and effective and hold no risks, and anyone who questions or denies this proposition must be an anti-vaxx, anti-science moron who wants infectious disease to return. The pigeonholing did not serve to help their argument. Rather, it showed that they could not look beyond “black or white” thinking or question what they’ve been told by perceived authorities. My actual position was that the at-risk subgroups needed to be studied further to mitigate the risk and there was enough science to warrant further research as well as caution. I did not claim that vaccines were never useful or harmed every single person; I was pointing out certain science and observational accounts that put into question the efficacy, safety, and “one size fits all” viewpoint of vaccine usage. We have to move beyond the two-sided “anti” and “pro” nonsense to actually analyze and interpret the arguments  being given.

The use of pigeonholing, false dilemmas, oversimplification, and making assumptions about your opponent’s position is not lending you intellectual credibility. Let’s move beyond “group think” and listen to one another so we can have objective, open and fruitful dialogue.


References 

1. http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

The Environmental and Genetics Causes of Autism
2.https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/a-reply-to-the-user-and-neurodiversity-advocate-autistinquisitor/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/major-flaws-within-the-neurodiversity-movement/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

https://pragmaticskepticism.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/an-open-letter-to-the-neurodiversity-movement/?frame-nonce=6e52a561ce

3. http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

The Environmental and Genetics Causes of Autism

In Defense of Dr. Neides

Recently we have seen health professionals and other people villifying the doctor who wrote this controversial (and now removed) article:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lVMRp4wMZ-QJ:www.cleveland.com/lyndhurst-south-euclid/index.ssf/2017/01/make_2017_the_year_to_avoid_to.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

While I am not going to address every claim by this doctor, I am going to defend him for bringing attention to this important issue—vaccine safety.

The backlash is to be expected from people who have not critically evaluated all of the existing scientific literature. They continue to believe what they are told by the WHO, FDA, and CDC regardless of what science exists that contradicts studies and statements put forth by these (and many other) organizations. Many are saying what this doctor has published is “dangerous” because it can lead people to (God forbid) question vaccine safety. Scientists, doctors, and laymen have rightfully questioned  vaccine safety because there are valid concerns. Clinical observation has time and time again shown the connection but the scientific data itself has proven the mechanisms behind vaccine-induced injury and the evidence is there for those willing to research laboriously.

Now, back to this article I am referencing. There is a plethora of ignorant comments in the comment section but I have chosen to write a reply to the comment made by Kevin Folta. I won’t go into his background as I am sure many of you already know who he is, but if you wish to look further you can make a quick Google search.
Here are snapshots of his comment:

 

 

Here is my reply:

I won’t reply to every part of your comment, Kevin, but I will point out the specific parts that are erroneous. First, let’s start with your comment that “It is well known that ethyl mercury has limited toxicokinetic properties and is eliminated from the body and poses little risk.” This assumption is false and based on pseudoscience that is pushed by the vaccine industry and many other health organizations. Ethylmercury is a mitochondrial toxin and especially injurious for those who have mild mitochondrial defects and are susceptible to its exposure. Thimerosal might be the pathogenesis of autism in this subset of children. (Sharpe et al., 2013; Sharpe et al., 2012). Disorders of the mitochondria are also not rare in the autism community and individuals can acquire mitochondrial dysfunction through environmental toxins lacking a familial link. (Frye et al., 2013). 

 

Small amounts of thimerosal even induce changes in gene expression in the cerebellum. In the conclusion of Minami et al. (2010): “The present study helps to support the possible biological plausibility for how low-dose exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines may be associated with autism.” It has also been long confirmed in animal studies that ethylmercury in doses from the vaccine schedule (or lower) causes damage neurologically. (Rodriques et al., 2010; Olczak et al., 2009; Qvarnstro et al., 2003; Burbacher et al., 2005; Magos et al., 1985). 

Furthermore, glutathione is the most powerful anti-oxidant in the body and has been shown to be depleted in children with autism (Rose et al., 2012). Thimerosal is shown to cause glutathione depletion, which may demonstrate exacerbation of neurotoxicity (James et al., 2005).


There is a 2014 study (Rooney, J., 2014) that documented the half-life of inorganic mercury in the human brain, which can last “several years to several decades.” It was thought before that vaccines containing ethylmercury (which is in flu vaccines as a preservative) couldn’t be compared to inorganic mercury. Inorganic Mercury is extremely neurotoxic and we now know that thimerosal containing vaccines do uptake in the brain as inorganic mercury where it can accumulate and remain for the individual’s life (Burbacher et al., 2005). The inorganic mercury concentration in the brains of ethylmercury exposed monkeys in the Burbacher study is up to 4.6 times higher than in the blood at 2 days after the last injection. The ratio increased as sacrifices were performed at a longer duration from the last dose. Furthermore, the thimerosal exposed monkeys had higher levels of mercury in the kidneys when compared to the methyl mercury monkeys. Something that vaccine advocates are quick to point out is that the ethyl mercury clears the blood at a higher rate, which is true, but both mercury compounds uptake in tissues about the same (~4-7ng/g and ~10ng/g respectively). But the total inorganic mercury concentration is much higher in the brains of thimerosal exposed monkeys. Thimerosal is still (despite evidence that warrants caution) being used in flu vaccines which are recommended to children and pregnant women. I will provide further references at the end of this comment.

When it comes to the topic of vaccine safety, there are many logical errors people use and I am going to point out a few of them (albeit there are many others). One of the first ones is an appeal to scientific democracy which involves “the contention that if the majority of scientists believe something to be true, regardless of epistemological merit, then it must be assumed as true” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Then we have an appeal to scientists fallacy which is “an argument that is misrepresented to be the premise held true on the part of the prevailing group of scientists; or concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to a more successful career in science” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Another commonly used argument and pseudo-skeptic tactic involves the use of a consensus appeal to authority. “Insofar as scientists speak in one voice and dissent is not really allowed, then appeal to scientific consensus is the same as an appeal to authority” (The Ethical Skeptic, n.d.). Consensus that is shaped by scientific obfuscation, conflicts of interest, and shoddy scientific studies that use poor methodology is consensus that is in error. If the “consensus” on such a topic is not in line with scientific facts or the proper usage of the scientific method, it ceases to be a consensus based on actual reliable science and thus poses major issues.

The precautionary principle is of utmost importance especially when dealing with a sub-population that is at an increased risk of an adverse reaction from specific exposures. Also, I agree with the statement “First, do no harm.” But you are making this statement from a position of ignorance on the topic of thimerosal. It turns out it is you that needs a lesson in biochemistry and an understanding of how to critically evaluate the literature (including many important studies of which you have never put an eye on, considered, or weighed the evidence for).

Further reading recommendations:

Rose et al. (2014). Increased susceptibility to ethylmercury-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in a subset of autism lymphoblastoid cell lines. Journal of Toxicology. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2015/573701/

“These findings suggest that the epidemiological link between environmental mercury exposure and an increased risk of developing autism may be mediated through mitochondrial dysfunction and support the notion that a subset of individuals with autism may be vulnerable to environmental influences with detrimental effects on development through mitochondrial dysfunction.”

 

Sharpe et al. (2013). B-lymphocytes from a population of children with autism spectrum disorder and their unaffected siblings exhibit hypersensitivity to thimerosal. J Toxicol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23843785

 

“Cells hypersensitive to thimerosal also had higher levels of oxidative stress markers, protein carbonyls, and oxidant generation. This suggests certain individuals with a mild mitochondrial defect may be highly susceptible to mitochondrial specific toxins like the vaccine preservative thimerosal.”

 

Dorea JG. (2013). Low-dose Mercury Exposure in Early Life: Relevance of Thimerosal to Fetuses, Newborns and Infants. Curr Med Chem.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23992327

“Major databases were searched for human and experimental studies that addressed issues related to early life exposure to TCV. It can be concluded that: a) mercury load in fetuses, neonates, and infants resulting from TCVs remains in blood of neonates and infants at sufficient concentration and for enough time to penetrate the brain and to exert a neurologic impact and a probable influence on neurodevelopment of susceptible infants; b) etHg metabolism related to neurodevelopmental delays has been demonstrated experimentally and observed in population studies; c) unlike chronic Hg exposure during pregnancy, neurodevelopmental effects caused by acute (repeated/cumulative) early life exposure to TCV-etHg remain unrecognized; and d) the uncertainty surrounding low-dose toxicity of etHg is challenging but recent evidence indicates that avoiding cumulative insults by alkyl-mercury forms (which include Thimerosal) is warranted.”

 

Duszczyk-Budhathoki et al. (2012). Administration of thimerosal to infant rats increased overflow of glutamate and aspartate in the prefrontal cortex: protective role of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. Neurochem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22015977

“Since excessive accumulation of extracellular glutamate is linked with excitotoxicity, our data imply that neonatal exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines might induce excitotoxic brain injuries, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders.”

 

Sulkowski et al. (2012). Maternal thimerosal exposure results in aberrant cerebellar stress, thyroid hormone metabolism, and motor behavior in rat pups; sex- and strain-dependent effects. Cerebellum. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22015705

Our data thus demonstrate a negative neurodevelopmental impact of perinatal TM exposure which appears to be both strain – and sex-dependent

 

Sharpe et al. (2012). Thimerosal-Derived Ethylmercury is a mitochondrial toxin in human astrocytes:  possible role of fenton chemistry in the oxidation and breakage of mtDNA. J Toxicol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395253/

“These mitochondria appear to have undergone a permeability transition, an observation supported by the five-fold increase in Caspase-3 activity observed after Thimerosal treatment.”

 

Dorea, JG. (2011). Integrating experimental (in vitro and in vivo) neurotoxicity studies of low-dose thimerosal relevant to vaccines. Neurochem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21350943

“Thimerosal at concentrations relevant for infants’ exposure (in vaccines) is toxic to cultured human-brain cells and to laboratory animals.”

Hooker et al. (2014). Methodological issues and evidence of malfeasance in research purporting to show thimerosal in vaccines is safe. BioMed Research International. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/247218/

There are over 165 studies that have focused on Thimerosal, an organic-mercury (Hg) based compound, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, and found it to be harmful. Of these, 16 were conducted to specifically examine the effects of Thimerosal on human infants or children with reported outcomes of death; acrodynia; poisoning; allergic reaction; malformations; auto-immune reaction; Well’s syndrome; developmental delay; and neurodevelopmental disorders, including tics, speech delay, language delay, attention deficit disorder, and autism. In contrast, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that Thimerosal is safe and there is “no relationship between [T]himerosal[-]containing vaccines and autism rates in children.” This is puzzling because, in a study conducted directly by CDC epidemiologists, a 7.6-fold increased risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy was found. The CDC’s current stance that Thimerosal is safe and that there is no relationship between Thimerosal and autism is based on six specific published epidemiological studies coauthored and sponsored by the CDC. The purpose of this review is to examine these six publications and analyze possible reasons why their published outcomes are so different from the results of investigations by multiple independent research groups over the past 75+ years.

Adams et al. (2013). Toxicological status of children with autism vs. neurotypical children and the association with autism severity. Biol Trace Elem Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23192845

Overall, children with autism have higher average levels of several toxic metals, and levels of several toxic metals are strongly associated with variations in the severity of autism for all three of the autism severity scales investigated.

Rooney, J. (2013). The retention time of inorganic mercury in the brain – A systematic review of the evidence. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X13005644

Evidence from such studies point to a half-life of inorganic mercury in human brains of several years to several decades. This finding carries important implications for pharmcokinetic modelling of mercury and potentially for the regulatory toxicology of mercury.

Chen et al. (2013). Effect of thimerosal on the neurodevelopment of premature rats. World J Pediatr. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24235069

The negative adverse consequences on neurodevelopment observed in the present study are consistent with previous studies; this study raised serious concerns about adverse neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism in humans following the ongoing worldwide routine administration of thimerosalcontaining vaccines to infants.

Olczak et al. (2011). Persistent behavioral impairments and alterations of brain dopamine system after early postnatal administration of thimerosal in rats. Behav Brain Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21549155

These data document that early postnatal THIM administration causes lasting neurobehavioral impairments and neurochemical alterations in the brain, dependent on dose and sex. If similar changes occur in THIM/mercurial-exposed children, they could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders

Olczak et al. (2010). Lasting neuropathological changes in rat brain after intermittent neonatal administration of thimerosal. Folia Neuropathol. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21225508

These finding document neurotoxic effects of thimerosal, at doses equivalent to those used in infant vaccines or higher, in developing rat brain, suggesting likely involvement of this mercurial in neurodevelopmental disorders

DeSoto, C. (2007). Blood Levels of Mercury Are Related to Diagnosis of Autism: A Reanalysis of an Important Data Set. J Child Neurol. Retrieved from http://jcn.sagepub.com/content/22/11/1308.abstract

We have reanalyzed the data set originally reported by Ip et al. in 2004 and have found that the original p value was in error and that a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, the hair sample analysis results offer some support for the idea that persons with autism may be less efficient and more variable at eliminating mercury from the blood

James et al. (2005). Thimerosal neurotoxicity is associated with glutathione depletion: protection with glutathione precursors. Neurotoxicology. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15527868

Although Thimerosal has been recently removed from most children’s vaccines, it is still present in flu vaccines given to pregnant women, the elderly, and to children in developing countries. The potential protective effect of GSH or NAC against mercury toxicity warrants further research as possible adjunct therapy to individuals still receiving Thimerosal-containing vaccinations

Waly et al. (2004). Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopmental toxins and thimerosal. Mol Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14745455

The potent inhibition of this pathway by ethanol, lead, mercury, aluminum and thimerosal suggests that it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins 

Citations of peer-reviewed studies from the book “The Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism,” written by James Lyons-Weiler (AKA the Twitter troll slayer).

https://envgencauses.com

Fake Science: When is Medical “Science” Not Science?

Excellently written! This definitely pertains to the differences between ethical and social skepticism and how scientific manipulation has been used to hinder the knowledge development process.

lifebiomedguru

WE HAVE BEEN WARNED by our government and by specific social media outlets that much of the “news” we read online falls into a category of “Fake News”.  This warning has been identified as a very real threat to the freedom of expression and a move toward censorship.  I have witnessed first-hand how facts have been obliterated by government officials at press conferences, in testimony fake-newsto Congress, and in conference calls to the scientific community.

Throughout my scientific career, I have championed objectivity, first-hand, with hands-on data, data analysis plans, study designs, reporting, writing papers, publishing, participating on NIH grant review panels, conducting peer review on studies submitted to dozens of different journals.  I served as founding Editor-in-Chief on a journal that was my brain child, and led a dozen or so of the Editorial Board in a threat of mass resignation against the publisher if they weakened the peer-review system…

View original post 3,085 more words

A Reply to the User and Neurodiversity advocate”autistinquisitor”

“First off, Autism Speaks is an anti-autistic hate group. Don’t use them for a source. In fact, if you paid any attention AT ALL to neurodiversity proponents, they DO advocate pathologizing and treating the co-morbid conditions. That doesn’t mean we want to change the way we think. Autism is part of who we are. We shouldn’t “treat” autism, but we should treat Autistics for the same things we treat non-autistic people, such as diseases like epilepsy. “

The “Autism Speaks” link I used was merely for the economic statistics, which still stand on their own regardless of who reports them. I am not claiming to agree with everything this organization does nor was that my point. Now, moving on to your other claims—I am specifically addressing those within the neurodiversity who do trivialize and downplay the co-morbidities. I did not claim that every single person within this movement was wrong or that all of their viewpoints were incorrect; I outlined the signature arguments and assumptions that were flawed. I myself have debated those who deny that their is an association between autism and co-occurring morbidities, which is another reason I have pointed this out. In fact, I said “To be clear, I am not claiming that autistic people shouldn’t be accepted or looked at equally; they should be loved, appreciated, and dealt with through compassion, empathy, and guidance. The problem arises when there is ignorance of the negative effects of the autism epidemic and what a statistically significant portion of autistic people go through. I am also not claiming that every idea the neurodiversity movement has put forth is wrong; I am only showing the part of it that is demonstrably false and entirely ignorant of reality. Mainly, looking away from these valid findings and data on autism is both asinine and counterproductive.” To reiterate my point once more, autism is biological. Specific subgroups within autism have the behavioral abnormalities they do due to underlying disease and occurrences such as brain inflammation, oxidative stress, immune abnormalities, and mitochondrial dysfunction. These are medically treatable in specific cases and they are related to the behavioral phenotype. You say you don’t want to change the way “we” think, but you need to realize you do not speak for every single person with autism. I myself am on the spectrum and I do not imply this either; I talk in specifics because I am addressing a specific subset. When you say “we” you are speaking of yourself and the others within the ND movement, but this does not include all of us; I find this is important to note when discussing differences in ideas and perceptions.

“Autism is also not an epidemic. We have always existed. And most of the evidence claiming environmental causes is questionable at best.”

The contention that “autism is not an epidemic” is false. The statistics and science say otherwise:

Nevison, C. (2014). a comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors. Environ Health, 13(73). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177682/

“The quantitative comparison of IDEA snapshot and constant-age tracking trend slopes suggests that ~75-80% of the tracked increase in autism since 1988 is due to an actual increase in the disorder rather than to changing diagnostic criteria.”

Dave, D., Fernandez, J. (2014). Rising autism prevalence: Real or displacing other mental disorders?  Evidence from demand for auxiliary healthcare workers in California. Economic Inquiry. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecin.12137/abstract;jsessionid=EDA31CC40A2BC6358D480853F07EC7BC.f01t01

These estimates suggest that at least part of the increase in autism diagnoses, about 50–65%, reflects an increase in the true prevalence of the disorder. (JEL L11, J2, J3)

DeSoto et al. (2013). Professional opinion on the question of changes in autism incidence. Open Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=30182

Results suggest that among professional psychologists with a terminal degree (n=88), the majority believe that diagnostic changes can not fully account for the observed increase; 72% reported wither the true rate may have, or definitely has, increased

Hertz-Picciotto et al. (2009).UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute study shows California’s autism increase not due to better counting, diagnosis. UCDavis Health System. Retrieved from http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20090218_autism_environment/

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.

I am also not claiming that autistic people have not always been around; they have, but the prevalence and rates were not as high. We now know that a specific percentage of the observed increase is due to actual increases in autism and not just diagnostic changes.

Your statement that the evidence of environmental causes is “questionable at best” is also an assumption and an opinion, albeit not a scientific one. There are known environmental contributions to autism and there are potential causes which are continuing to be studied. Here are some (a small number out of the many existing) scientific citations:

Sandin et al. (2014). The familial risk of autism. JAMA. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24794370

We estimated how much of the probability of developing ASD can be related to genetic (additive and dominant) and environmental (shared and nonshared) factors…  Heritability of ASD and autistic disorder were estimated to be approximately 50%. These findings may inform the counseling of families with affected children.

Shelton et al. (2014). Neurodevelopmental disorders and prenatal residential proximity to agricultural pesticides: The CHARGE study. Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/

Children of mothers who live near agricultural areas, or who are otherwise exposed to organophosphate, pyrethroid, or carbamate pesticides during gestation may be at increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Further research on gene-by-environment interactions may reveal vulnerable sub-populations.

Braun et al. (2014). Gestational exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and reciprocal social, repetitive, and stereotypic behaviors in 4- and 5-year-old children: the HOME study. National Institute of Environmental health Sciences (NIH). Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2014/3/ehp.1307261.pdf

This work builds upon the theory that ASDs are a spectrum of disorders with prenatal origins, where both genetic and environmental factors contribute to atypical neurodevelopment, resulting in more autistic behaviors, and, at the extreme end, clinical diagnosis. EDCs deserve consideration as candidate risk factors for ASDs because of their potential to alter hormonal axis functions that play an important role in neurodevelopment. Building on this, we employed a statistically rigorous design to screen 52 different candidate EDCs and identify those worth additional study

Rzhetsky et al. (2014). Environmental and state-level regulatory factors affect the incidence of autism and intellectual disability. PLOSone. Retrieved from http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003518

Disease clusters are defined as geographically compact areas where a particular disease, such as a cancer, shows a significantly increased rate. It is presently unclear how common such clusters are for neurodevelopmental maladies, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). In this study, examining data for one third of the whole US population, the authors show that (1) ASD and ID display strong clustering across US counties; (2) counties with high ASD rates also appear to have high ID rates, and (3) the spatial variation of both phenotypes appears to be driven by environmental, and, to a lesser extent, economic incentives at the state level.

Commentary:  Study shows autism clusters are caused by environmental factors, urbanization, increased economic status, and impacts males the most.  Some environmental factors noted are: pesticides, lead, sex hormone analogs, medication, plasticizers, among others.

Rossignol et al. (2014). Environmental toxicants and autism spectrum disorders a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v4/n2/full/tp20144a.html#bib13

This was a great review of all the current literature regarding neurodevelopmental disorders.
1.  The dose of environmental toxicants are highly variable regarding negative adverse events, especially in children with ASD because they have polymorphisms in genes that detoxify..
2.  ASD is presenting as a systemic abnormality creating immune dysregulation/inflammation, impaired detoxification, redox regulation/oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction.  Caused by toxicant exposures with genetic interplay.

The findings of this review suggest that the etiology of ASD may involve, at least in a subset of children, complex interactions between genetic factors and certain environmental toxicants that may act synergistically or in parallel during critical periods of neurodevelopment, in a manner that increases the likelihood of developing ASD. Because of the limitations of many of the reviewed studies, additional high-quality epidemiological studies concerning environmental toxicants and ASD are warranted to confirm and clarify many of these findings.

Gayle, D. (2014). Number of chemicals linked to problems such as autism DOUBLES in just seven years. MailOnline. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2560068/Young-risk-silent-epidemic-brain-disorders-Study-finds-growing-number-chemicals-linked-problems-like-autism.html

The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a ‘silent epidemic’ of brain disorders.

Yasuda, H., & Tsutsui, T. (2013). Assessment of infantile mineral imbalances in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Int J environ Res Public Health, 10(11). doi:  10.3390/ijerph10116027

These findings suggest that infantile zinc- and magnesium-deficiency and/or toxic metal burdens may be critical and induce epigenetic alterations in the genes and genetic regulation mechanisms of neurodevelopment in the autistic children, and demonstrate that a time factor “infantile window” is also critical for neurodevelopment and probably for therapy. Thus, early metallomics analysis may lead to early screening/estimation and treatment/prevention for the autistic neurodevelopment disorders.

Essa et al. (2013). Excitotoxicity in the pathogenesis of autism. Neurotox Res. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23065398

It is a multifactorial disorder resulting from interactions between genetic, environmental and immunological factors. Excitotoxicity and oxidative stress are potential mechanisms, which are likely to serve as a converging point to these risk factors. Substantial evidence suggests that excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and impaired mitochondrial function are the leading cause of neuronal dysfunction in autistic patients. Glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter produced in the CNS, and overactivity of glutamate and its receptors leads to excitotoxicity. The over excitatory action of glutamate, and the glutamatergic receptors NMDA and AMPA, leads to activation of enzymes that damage cellular structure, membrane permeability and electrochemical gradients. The role of excitotoxicity and the mechanism behind its action in autistic subjects is delineated in this review.

Naviaux et al. (2013). Antipurinergic therapy corrects the autism-life features in the poly(IC) mouse model. PLOSone. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057380

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Mitochondria act to connect genes and environment by regulating gene-encoded metabolic networks according to changes in the chemistry of the cell and its environment. Mitochondrial ATP and other metabolites are mitokines—signaling molecules made in mitochondria—that undergo regulated release from cells to communicate cellular health and danger to neighboring cells via purinergic signaling

This is only a modicum of the existing literature but I included the citations as examples of the evidence surrounding autism and the environment. It is multi-factorial and all of the biological underpinnings must be considered. If someone is open to looking at more of the science and research initiatives that there currently are, I am willing to have an open discussion.

Next, moving on to your other claims:

“Also, your “raw data” site is an anti-vaccine conspiracy site, containing anti-vaccine pages, so that’s utter bullshit as well.”

Here we see more suppositions. You assume that the website is “anti-vaccine” or conspiratorial which are terms commonly framed as pejoratives. Making these claims does not improve your argument and it actually shows your inability to look beyond pigeonholes. It is also part of the celeber cavilla fallacy. The author of the “autismrawdata” website is currently receiving her PhD in Health Science and the website uses peer-reviewed science and logical rebuttals. This would not constitute “bullshit” but it is apparent you’ve either not read the science and content because of your preconceived notions or you deny it altogether (and I assume it would be both).

“Also, fuck “functioning labels”. Functioning labels are a false dichotomy, they are arbitrary, and dehumanizing. They don’t accurately depict an Autistic’s skills; more just how well they can pass for neurotypical. It may surprise you to know that a LOT of non-speaking people, despite challenges and possible co-morbidities, do NOT want to change who they are. Some of these people have self-injured before as well. (Note the double standard: when a neurotypical self-injures, we help them without changing who they are. Let’s do the same for us? This is coming from an occasional self-injurer.) Look up Amy Sequenzia, her blog can be found here: http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com and know there are many like her. In fact, most Autistics I met, speaking or not, while they wish they could rid themselves of certain impairments, do not want to change who they are.”

Functioning labels are not “arbitrary”in the sense they define specific characteristics that are part of known and studied cognitive phenotypes in ASD. You are assuming that it is dehumanizing and using an appeal to emotion. I study these cognitive phenotypes (as do other researchers) and all of these researchers do not use these classifications to deny the individuality and brilliance of autistic people. They are studied for the particular purpose of scientific and psychological inquiry. There are many skills/abilities certain autistic people hold and they are truly awe-inspiring; the fact that they may not fit in with “neurotypical” skills does not diminish their significance nonetheless. I do not agree with those (if there are any) who claim that there are no autistic people that hold amazing skills, abilities, and perceptions. I also do not agree with those who mistreat those with disabilities or dehumanize them. This is important to note when explaining my views so another straw man can’t be created.

Regarding what you are saying about the non-speaking autistic people who have co-morbidities and do not want to change who they are, I am not claiming that they should be changed. I have said in my blog posts before “I will add that yes, there are important and valid points brought up from people in this movement. I agree that we should accept those that are already permanently autistic as well as acknowledge the brilliance and unique abilities of many of those with autism, but I also believe we should prevent the cases of autism that are induced by deleterious triggers in the environment.” I will add for further clarification, “Those who are non-speaking (but have the ability to communicate in other ways) that do not want to change should not be changed against their will as this would be a direct violation of consent and personal liberty.” I specifically addressed that the neurodiversity movement does not speak for the autistic people that are outside of the movement (either through disagreement or complete lack of comprehension/communication ability) and have behavioral aberrations due to underlying disease pathology. Again, this is a statistically significant subset that I discuss and I am not claiming that it is exactly the same in every single case. Autism is behaviorally and psychologically defined but we know there is a high prevalence of miscellaneous medical co-morbid conditions and they are not mere coincidence (Banaschewski et al., 2011; Geier et al., 2012; Ozsivadjian et al., 2014).  Treatment progress has been hindered because of antiquated misconceptions about autism etiology and the dismissal of evidence that the disorder is linked to brain inflammation. Evidence shows that many children with autism have brain pathology signifying ongoing neuroinflammation. (Enstrom et al., 2005; Pardo et al., 2005; Vargas et al., 2005; Zimmerman et al., 2005; Chez et al., 2007; Morgan et al., 2010, 2012; Tetreault et al., 2012). I won’t go over all of the complex medical science on immunoexcitotoxicity but I will provide links to the science that shows immune activation can cause autistic behaviors. It is also known that infections during pregnancy can increase the risk of the offspring having schizophrenia or autism. This association is continuing to be studied and confirmed in research.
Also, thank you for the blog link; I like to read opinions from both sides and better understand those within the movement, whether “high-functioning” or non-speaking. 

“Lastly, to hell with the talk of how much we “cost”. That is basically implying that we are burdens. Also, you know who else used that rhetoric? The Nazis. Back in the day they put up posters that explained how much disabled people cost and used that as an excuse for Aktion T4. When people talk about how much we cost, they reduce us to nothing more than financial burdens. So you’re basically saying we don’t deserve to exist/our lives aren’t worth living just because we’re an inconvenience. And that is utterly disgusting.”


Here you are attacking a straw man, using false equivalence, avoiding the issue, and using an appeal to emotion. The cost to to the economy is a fact and it is not implying that we are “burdens.” It is looking at the reality of financial costs for autistic people and their families and how this affects the economy along with overall life. 

“In 2011, Autism Speaks awarded Dr. Leigh’s a research grant to develop clear and reliable methods to update autism’s economic costs to society on an annual basis. Such information is crucial when advocating for support services that reduce overall costs to society while improving daily function and quality of life.

In his work, Dr. Leigh included analysis of both direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs include special education, adult care programs, physician and therapist visits, hospitalizations, medications and paid caregivers.

Indirect costs include lost productivity – particularly in terms of wages and benefits – for both those who have autism and their family caregivers.

Information for the analysis came from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and published research estimates of per-person costs.

“Public, research and government policy attention to autism ought to be at least as great as it is for other major health conditions such as diabetes,” concludes Dr. Leigh.”

The data and information is being used to assess the reality of costs and also improve the lives of those with autism, not to “reduce us to nothing more than financial burdens.”

As for your statement about nazis and Aktion T4, I am not advocating for euthanasia nor is any of this related to the arguments I put forth about autism. I am not “basically saying that we don’t deserve to exist/our lives aren’t worth living just because we’re an inconvenience.” The logical fallacy your using is a straw man.

Your nescience seemingly undermines your ability to understand how brain inflammation affects cognitive function and how this translates into specific autistic phenotypes. Although I am interested in open dialogue about autism, science, and the implications of our current state of knowledge, I highly doubt (with you) that this will blossom into a productive, open, and interesting philosophical debate.

An Allegory of Empathy

One of the ultimate educators is empathy, but many people only have a fraction of it for others, depending on their ties to the certain individual or their ability to look further into another perspective. 

Imagine a house, filled with an infinite amount of rooms. In each room there is a different person and a background—a background that contains both different factors and occurrences. Each person within each room is confined to their own viewpoint, and they only see within the scope which pertains to themselves. 

Let’s imagine one of these rooms contains a person going through psychosis, hearing voices, seeing the strangest of the strange, as they weep to their own delusional aberrations—this is all they have ever known, seen, felt, or heard. They know nothing of happiness, nothing of the effulgence of the morning sun, nothing of anything but mental anguish, every waking moment. 

Now the room next to them, which they have no clue exists—contains something much different. The person in the room has only ever known feelings of great felicity, and no facet of any other emotion. They see only beauty, the divine, and the positive. They do not know the great pains that plague other humans, because they do not know that humans of other experience even exist. 

There is a great dichotomy between these two rooms and those who inhabit it—the dichotomy of happiness and suffering. Neither of these people know anything that goes beyond their own point of view; other existences to them are both foreign and unknowable. 

Now, let’s imagine that each of the other infinite numbers of rooms are also symbols of every aspect and possibility of human emotion and experience—dismay, disgust, fear, vexation, sickness, rage, ecstasy, pleasure, and more. They only feel but a specific set of these at all times and they will never know any others. Their perspective stops past the room in which they reside. 

Moreover, imagine that above all of these rooms there is a god-like being, one that sees every room and every infinite possibility within the house of theoretical experience. This entity is able to feel every emotion of each individual in each room and experience the stimuli from each individual environment. They are omnipresent, all knowing, and at the apogee, the ultimate bearer of empathy. Also picture that this being is able to feel and see the entire process of neurotransmission within the brain, along with understanding cognitive interpretations of the environment—two important aspects of human emotion and behavior. This level of empathy would even be molecular. 

This, however, is not humanly possible. There is only a specific range of what we are able to experience and feel within the confinement of our own personal experiences and abilities; but, there is a way, an ultimate philosophy, which seeks to understand as many perspectives as possible and use this knowledge to better understand ourselves, others, the past, present, and the future. Working towards this is to see every single gradation of all gradations, and to use this information to its fullest potential.

Humans are naturally prone to bias and many people refuse to look past their own sets of beliefs and conclusions. Other people simply do not have the intelligence to imagine another set of experiences happening to them—since it goes beyond what they know personally. There are also people (for example, social skeptics) who pretend that they understand other people’s experiences; they use feigned superiority and understanding to mock or deny what someone else goes through. It is pseudo-intellect being used merely as a tool to dismiss, misinterpret, and deny the pain that other people experience, especially when these observations and experiences get in the way of social skeptics’ preconceived notions. What they are taking part in is the antithesis of emotional and cognitive empathy. This is not what ethical and empathetic skeptics wish to do—it is the opposite of what our being and objectives are made of. We must strive to understand other outlooks, and  use our knowledge to abate suffering—which is ultimately the most profound goal. 

The term “Anti-vaxx” and the Celeber Cavilla Fallacy

The Celeber Cavilla Fallacy is defined as this: 

“A fad condemnation phrase of assumed immediate definition and gravitas. Also known as the ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ fallacy.
/philosophy : fallacy : fad phrases and weapon words : latin (‘celebrated jeer’ or ‘famous quip’)/ : a form of Truzzi Fallacy. A wink wink nudge nudge categorization or condemnation. A counter-claim which is specious in its assertion and usually ad hominem in its implication. However the counter-claim issuer employs it because they are under the false impression that since the accusation phrase is in such popular use, therefore the claim comes incumbent with immediate credibility in the offing, along with an assumed definition, evidence and acceptance.” (Courtesy of The Ethical Skeptic). 

I started off with this definition so that you will understand the meaning of this fallacy and how it applies to the term “anti-vaxx.” Firstly, when someone pigeonholes you as this they are assuming they understand the depth of your position. Secondly, not everyone within the movement of questioning vaccine safety labels themselves as this or holds the view that vaccines have never prevented disease or are useful. We first have to define the meaning of “anti-vaxx”, which is notably variable and the definition changes depending on the subject’s  interpretation (arbitrary). One may define it as simply questioning the efficacy and safety of vaccines, while another may claim that it is someone who thinks vaccines should be banned altogether. There are people who label themselves as “anti-vaxx” proudly and those of us who question vaccines without holding ourselves to that title. I understand the detriment that title poses and the assumptions it will lead outsiders to, but I also understand that many psuedo-skeptics will label me as this regardless of their understanding of my stance or whether we have had a significant amount of dialogue or time to exchange views. Being on the “pro-vaxx” side does not automatically make one correct and being on the “anti-vaxx” side doesn’t either. We must push games of semantics aside and look at the underlying science and philosophy surrounding this paramount issue. 

An Open Letter to the Neurodiversity Movement 

I am going to ask several important questions, all directed to advocates of the neurodiversity movement. Keep in mind, I am someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) so I am asking these questions from the perspective of someone who understands what it’s like to live with this disorder. I am also going to expound upon what I have previously written on this topic; you can view my previous post on the neurodiversity movement here.

When it comes to ASD, the neurodiversity movement premises some of their viewpoints on false information. This includes the notion that autism is only genetic and “inborn.” This has been proven wrong by scientific research that  shows that autism is a neuroimmune disease that involves epigenetic changes/modifications.1 This involves a specific portion of statistically significant subgroups that have been studied and are continuing to be studied. I must also point out that every individual with ASD does not display the same exact symptomatology. There are various environmental and genetic causes of autism, and one cannot accurately say that only one factor causes all cases.2

These different autism subgroups and their causes need to be understood properly so that from there we can discuss treatment options as well as acceptance of those who have no way of changing their condition. I will add that yes, there are important and valid points brought up from people in this movement. I agree that we should accept those that are already permanently autistic as well as acknowledge the brilliance and unique abilities of many of those with autism, but I also believe that we should prevent the cases of autism that are induced by deleterious triggers in the environment. In other words, we should not allow the innocent child’s brain and body to be damaged  by factors outside of their control (what in reality is forced upon them by corrupt outside entities, entities involved in a genetocide).

Neurodiversity advocates want us to accept these neurological differences regardless of the cause, but what if they somehow (hypothetically) did admit that there were subgroups that had autism induced by the environment? Would a lack of autism mean that these children are any less special? Should we allow the environment to induce these changes, or should we prevent them given we have the knowledge to do so? How would they view this if they changed the entire foundation of their “genetically determined” stance? Say that there is a child who is normally developing and then regresses (regressive autism) how does his autism improve them, from a neurodiversity perspective? Does it improve them at all or does it actually lower their quality of life? Would these advocates prefer the before or after? We have to draw a line between autism that is only genetic (albeit a very small percentage) and the large percentage of autism that involves epigenetic changes, environmental factors, genetic predispositions and co-morbidities. The neurodiversity arguments would make sense for the “only genetic” subgroup, but it can’t apply to the other subgroups that have environmentally-induced disease. The etiology for each is not exactly the same.

Now, the proponents of this movement can believe as they want to, but overall they are downplaying the reality of autism and its consequences—this is what I take the most issue with. The people that buy into this truly believe that there is no autism epidemic and that the numbers only look the way they do due to diagnostic changes, which is another argument that has also been refuted.3 As they mislead the public, they are taking away from the needs of suffering parents and children. In addition to this, they make the mistake of assuming they speak for all of those with autism. They do not speak for me or for the others who are physically sick and need help.

We also must ask, what about the lower-functioning/severely autistic people who have no way of communicating? They cannot give their opinion because they lack certain comprehension skills and/or are non-verbal. ND proponents cannot speak for these autistics either.

What I also find to be most perturbing is that this movement is conditioning the public into normalizing and even trivializing the autism epidemic. If people accept the epidemic and assume that autism is only a “normal variation in human behavior” people become passive and sit idly by while innocent lives are damaged through causes that are completely preventable. The repercussions (economic and societal) of the autism epidemic will be far more deleterious than the general public can even imagine.

All in all, the assumptions made by these advocates are leading to false conclusions, and these false conclusions are being used to both deny and ignore the treatment needs of those with autism. We need funding to go towards biomedical research for autism therapies (especially for the painful co-morbidities). Biomedical interventions can have profound effects when specific biomarkers are identified and treated accordingly. This can improve the lives of those suffering, and this is of utmost importance. The longer that the public and health authorities wait as they drown in their presuppositions, the more time is wasted and the longer people suffer. We need to be pragmatic, conduct proper research, and use the scientific knowledge we do have in clinical practice so that as many lives can be improved as possible.

References:

1. http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3799534/

2.http://autismrawdata.net/blog/autism-is-epigenetic-environmental-trigger-genetic

3.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177682/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecin.12137/abstract;jsessionid=EDA31CC40A2BC6358D480853F07EC7BC.f01t01

http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=30182

http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20090218_autism_environment/

http://autismrawdata.net/1/post/2014/01/how-does-one-diagnose-autism.html

Side note:

When I discuss prevention I am referencing neurodevelopmental disorders that are indeed preventable by avoiding certain exposures, and not disorders which are only genetic/untreatable. You can learn more about this subject from a publication in Environmental Health Perspectives. Here is a summary:

“Children in America today are at an unacceptably high risk of developing neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the brain and nervous system including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, and other learning and behavioral disabilities. These are complex disorders with multiple causes—genetic, social, and environmental. The contribution of toxic chemicals to these disorders can be prevented.”

Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks. The TENDR Consensus Statement

Definitions: 

Geneticide – genocide by means of genetic exploitation or introduction of environmental influences which produce a sustained dysgenic effect on target populations. The exploitation of the specific genetics of a lineage of people to craft impacts seeking to ultimately and eventually eliminate them from a population. Employment of food, mandatory medicines, product and environmental toxins, social policy, laws, pesticides, and allele manipulation as a means to effect in specific genetic lineages – developmental problems, protein malnutrition, cognitive impairment, encephalopathy, birth defects, attention and comprehension difficulties, growth inhibition, mental disorders, drug and alcohol susceptibility, auto-immune disorders, endocrine collapse, disease, low rates of reproductivity, premature death – and otherwise disrupt the general health and welfare of a target population.

Retrieved from:

Glossary


Recommended articles: 
https://www.google.com/amp/s/aydansrecovery.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/how-dangerous-is-it-to-find-an-autism-cure/amp/?client=safari

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/01/autism_neurodiversity_does_facilitated_communication_work_and_who_speaks.html

“Detoxing” from Fake Skepticism: Should We Really Be Worried About Environmental Exposures? 

We see many social skeptics speaking about “detoxification” and how it is a scam. We are told that the term “detox” is merely used to swindle credulous people into buying supplements and making lifestyle changes which have no proof of effectiveness. We are told something along the lines of “Detox is just “anti-scientific” nonsense that has no scientific evidence; the scientists and doctors who talk about detoxification are just charlatan cranks. We have our liver and kidneys to detox us AND the dose makes the poison. The industry regulates chemicals and they are all safe in the amounts they are present in.” If you read from common social skeptic websites and so-called “Sci-Communicators” this will sound very familiar to you, as it is regularly pushed by those who hold this viewpoint. 

Is what they’re saying entirely accurate? Does this give us all of the information we need in order to ensure the health of ourselves and our families? Is there any scientific evidence showing environmental exposures are a threat to public health and especially to the more vulnerable population of children? Is there any evidence that detoxification is a problem for some people and that it can result in certain diseases? Are there nutritional supplements that can help or ways in which we can eliminate potentially harmful xenobiotics (not including xenobiotics such as prescription drugs) from the body? Does the dose make the poison, or are there other factors involved? I will answer all of these questions and include some of the available evidence. The evidence is continuing to grow but there are many unanswered questions and problems we still face when it comes to this topic. 

First we will start with the so called dictum of “the dose makes the poison.” When I’ve had debates about (specific) environmental exposures and their effects on people (especially children) I have had responses like “Well, water is toxic in high amounts! Salt is toxic in high amounts! Most substances are actually poisonous if you are exposed to high enough amounts! It is the dose which decides the harmful effect on an organism and the small amounts children are exposed to can do no harm. Stop fear mongering and spreading chemophobia! Look at the LD50!”



These arguments’ premises and conclusions are false for several reasons. (1) They are attempting to compare incomparable substances which are not chemically the same (2) chemicals vary and these chemicals are not shown to have the same properties in toxicological studies (3) various factors influence the effects of a chemical on an organism (weight, age, nutritional status, lifestyle, genetics) (4) research shows that certain chemicals (e.g. endocrine-disrupting/reproductive toxicants, heavy metals, al adjuvant, and peroxisome proliferators) can harm or induce epigentic effects on certain markers (at low-levels) which are and may be related to specific diseases and symptoms. (5) There are differences between the negative effects of acute toxicity (from large amounts in a single exposure or multiple exposures in a short period of time) and the effects of chronic low-level exposures to chemicals over long periods of time (chronic exposure is still a concern nonetheless). (6) Synergistic toxicity (exposures from multiple chemicals in combinations) should be considered to fully understand risk (7) LD50 is a measure of acute toxicity and does not reflect the effects that chronic low-level exposure has on an organism (or the epigenetic effects) and (8) the sequence also makes the poison.

Epigentic data is now being studied and considered for incorporation into risk-assessment (here it is being looked at with heavy metals) and toxicoepigenetics is an emerging field that was not always considered, accepted, or understood by people, doctors, and scientists. Science has accumulated evidence over hundreds of years past the existence of Paracelsus, yet we still see pseudo-skeptics continuing to use this innaccurate one-liner even when specific chemicals clearly defy this dictum. It is not that Paracelsus isn’t the founder of toxicology or that the dose doesn’t make the poison with most chemicals, it is the fact that there are multiple factors involved in determining the deleterious effects of certain chemicals and they all have to be considered thoroughly for risk-assessment. Children especially have susceptibility to environmental exposures and this has been admitted by most health organizations and the government (look at project TENDR from the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.) This has to be considered in health policy since there are needed regulations and we don’t know the entirety of the effects on children, especially with the combination of multiple chemicals encountered in the environment. 

Now, we have to ask, is there anything that can be done about this? The answer is yes, and discovering how environmental exposures alter genes could lead to new treatments for chronic illnesses. Minimizing certain exposures is of utmost importance but very difficult when living in a world where they are unbiquitous, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about where these exposures come from or how to avoid some of them.1 Regardless of if social skeptics ignore the potential of harm or the lack of complete safety studies, you have the right to minimize your own exposures or the exposures your children have even if merely for precautionary reasons. A lot of people in the public sphere are moving beyond and rejecting the As Science As Law fallacy that social skeptics frequently use. 

It is unfortunate that we have pseudo-skeptics pushing misinformation and purporting that discussions about “detoxification” are somehow pseudo-scientific. I do agree that there are detox scams and products out there that are ineffective or not proven to be effective yet. However, not every product is a scam and overall research is continuing to provide us with a better basis of understanding how our bodies detoxify and what is involved in these processes. Here is a short summary. “Detox” has to do with the biological mechanisms involved in removing toxic substances from the body. Involved in this are the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. This also involves biochemical processes where our bodies turn non-water soluble toxins into water soluble compounds which are then removed through our sweat, urine, and feces. 

Your mineral, vitamin, and amino acid levels can affect these very abilities. Deficiencies in these can reduce your ability to detoxify or worsen the response you have to toxins. 

For example, from an article on the health effects of nutritional status and lead exposures in women and children:

“Lead exposure occurs most frequently among disadvantaged populations and is associated with cognitive deficits in children at levels previously thought not to produce harm (16,17). Many lead-exposed populations are also at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Evidence exists for interactions between lead and micronutrients at the level of intestinal absorption, brain neurochemistry, and cognitive function. Iron and lead share a common intestinal transporter, the divalent metal transporter 1 (18), and it is thought that iron deficiency contributes to increased lead absorption (19–21).”

This scientific article discusses arsenic induced toxicity and nutrition in early life: 

“There is wide variation in susceptibility to arsenic-induced toxicity, and there is reason to believe that nutrition is an important susceptibility factor. A number of studies have shown associations between the prevalence or severity of arsenic-related health effects and indicators of food and nutritional status (25–31), suggesting that people with poor nutrition are particularly susceptible. Although these studies mainly concern health effects in adult life, it seems likely that nutrition also may modify the effects of arsenic induced early in life.”

And as I have already mentioned, there are also genetic susceptibilities and other factors which affect how people respond to toxins and/or drugs. Thankfully, there has been accumulating research on this looking at susceptibilities, interactions, and the effects of different exposures.2

There are ways in which people can optimize their detoxification function through better nutrition and even sweating, although certain chemicals are difficult to eliminate.3 People should be tested for their nutritional status to better assess how they can change their diet and supplement based on their own unique needs. In the future, genetic screening for patients will probably become more utilized in clinical practice  for assessing susceptibility factors that influence drug response and responses to environmental toxins. 

Here is an excerpt from another review article that discusses these very factors in relation to autistic children:

“During detoxification, P-450s perform two important functions. First, they make toxins more water soluble and second, convert the toxin into less toxic and, hence, less reactive molecules towards body DNA, proteins and so on. Interestingly, sometimes this phase converts a less toxic molecule into a more toxic molecule. After undergoing phase I detoxification, many toxins are then subject to phase II detoxification.
One of the most important enzymes of phase II is glutathione-S-transferases. These enzymes conjugate a reduced glutathione (GSH) molecule with the toxin. Like phase I detoxification, this step also serves to make the toxin water soluble and less toxic to the body. Besides GSH, the body uses several other molecules to bind to the toxin and increase its solubility including sulphates, amino acids and glucuronic acid. However, if we are exposed to excessive amounts of toxins, they could rapidly deplete our GSH reserves resulting in very little GSH available to scavenge free radicals and detoxify toxins. Finally, phase III of detoxification involves the elimination of toxins from cells. In this step, the products of phase I and II reactions are transported out of cells and into the bloodstream for elimination.”

I hope with this information that some pseudo-skeptics will actually research detoxification mechanisms and be open minded to the science involving this (but I won’t hold my breath). More research is always needed, especially in the field of toxicoepigenetics and toxicogenetics, but scientists are continuing to further our knowledge on gene/environment interactions as well as the risks that certain exposures pose to human health.

SIDE NOTE

YES, EVERYTHING IS A CHEMICAL. YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT THAT, SOCIAL SKEPTICS. However, a specific set of chemicals, in low doses and in combination with other chemicals, do carry a risk with certain people. And on the “unknown” scientific side (where we don’t have all of the information to fully form a conclusion), it is also important to recognize when we don’t have long term, well designed studies that properly collect “mega-data” that look at all body systems (including any possible changes to the microbiome) and how certain chemicals interact with them. We also have to distinguish the difference between “essential” and “non-essential” chemicals since specific xenobiotics are NOT the same as chemicals which are required for human sustenance. When discussing doses we have to recognize that with essential chemicals there is a required balance (too little of the essential chemical can pose a risk and too much of the chemical can pose a risk as well) but with non-essential xenobiotics the circumstances are not always the same and they shouldn’t automatically be compared to chemicals that are needed by the human body. 

The precautionary principle and plurality (especially in cases of risk observations being made) are of utmost importance. Always remember that questions are allowed. Ethical scientists and skeptics want to hear about your observations and your questions. We will not dismiss everything you say as being mere anecdote. That is a practice of social skepticism and something we will not be a part of.


References:

1.http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/09/global-effort-aims-reduce-children-s-exposure-toxic-chemicals
http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/health-tips-pdf

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jwh.2016.5746

2. http://www.keytoxins.com/hgbiblio-files/iaomt/iaomt_db/GrandjeanIndividualSusceptibilty.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3433288?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
https://www.kentlaw.iit.edu/institutes-centers/institute-for-science-law-and-technology/islat-research-projects/islat-research-project-archive/genetic-susceptibility-to-environmental-contamination
http://www.1796kotok.com/pdfs/haley.pdf
http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp168/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12872524/
http://m.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Health-Care-for-Underserved-Women/Exposure-to-Toxic-Environmental-Agents?IsMobileSet=true
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214967/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726844/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20704464/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1637782/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3815576/
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00053/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773803/

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2015/318595/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234807/

3. Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnme/2015/760689/
https://www.liverdoctor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/clinical_detoxification.pdf
Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26026145/
Using Nutrition for Intervention and Prevention against Environmental Chemical Toxicity and Associated Diseases
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852675/
Biomonitoring and Elimination of Perfluorinated Compounds and Polychlorinated Biphenyls through Perspiration: Blood, Urine, and Sweat Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776372/

Clinical Detoxification: Elimination of Persistent Toxicants from the Human Body
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/si/376984/
Elimination of persistent toxicants from the human body 
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen_Genuis/publication/43183056_Elimination_of_persistent_toxicants_from_the_human_body/links/55611dda08ae8c0cab31edc4.pdf?origin=publication_detail
Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/
Chelation: Harnessing and Enhancing Heavy Metal Detoxification—A Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654245/#!po=0.337838

Using Nutrition for Intervention and Prevention against Environmental Chemical Toxicity and Associated Diseases

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852675/

Dietary Strategies for the Treatment of Cadmium and Lead Toxicity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303853/

Definitions:

As Science As Law Fallacy: The implication or assumption that something is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ under the scientific method, when in fact this is an incorrect philosophy of hypothesis reduction.


Additional reading reccomendations:

http://autismrawdata.net/blog/the-dose-makes-the-poison-argument

http://www.toxipedia.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=21236080

The Inverse Problem and False Claims to ‘Settled Science’

Excellent work! I am never dissapointed by what The Ethical Skeptic brings to the table of philosophy and epistemology. Where can we grant TES the internet “winner’s award” for the most current revolutionary writings within the realm of philosophy that there is?

The Ethical Skeptic

Science achieves its strongest theoretical basis when both the forward problem and the inverse problem agree, as to the outcomes attributed to a set of input variables inside a proposed solution. To simply craft models, parameters, constraints, arrival distributions, relationships – all of which impart risk to the model – and then presume that our current understanding of such will then guarantee a valid field result or outcome – is unfinished science at best, and pseudoscience or oligarch arrogance at worst.

Claims to consensus are invalid and claims to fished science are inaccurate, in a circumstance where the forward problem and the inverse problem of science – do not meet in agreement first. This is the circumstance we observe inside many of today’s most popular and vociferously contested scientific controversies. The public or outcome stakeholder observes one thing, and those observations stand in direct conflict with the forward model theoretical…

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