In the wake of the publication by the respected physician’s journal BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) of proof of outright fraud in a research study published in UK medical journal, The Lancet in 1998 ( a study which formed the only supposedly scientific evidence linking childhood vaccine regimens with autism and which the Lancet finally was forced to retract last year) as well as the publication of a new journalistic investigation into the anti-vaccine movement, the media is playing a little catch-up after working overtime to help promote false fears of such a link.
In fairness, not all elements of the mass media fell prey to the anti-vaccine hysteria — but a number of media critics are suggesting that without the complicity of ratings-hungry media thriving on breathless conspiracy theories, that unnecessary childhood illnesses and deaths could have been avoided.
The Washington Post gives us this: Seth Mnookin’s ‘The Panic Virus,’ on the debate over vaccine use
From the LA Times, we get an overview of the situation from Sun Sentinel columnist, Nicole Brochu: Autism-vaccine link debunked — too little, too late
And from Bloomberg News, we get another review of the Mnookin book: Dodgy Doctors, Hucksters Prey on Parents Devastated by Autism: Book Review
When it was revealed that the British gastroenterologist who headed the fraudulent study, Andrew Wakefield, had surreptitiously received the equivalent of $674,000 from personal injury lawyers hoping to use his research to pursue suits against vaccine makers, 10 of the 13 researches who had signed the initial published study requested their names be removed.
Sadly, ratings and subscription hungry media continued to be a willing (if perhaps not entirely witting) partner in the vaccine paranoia and helped sustain Wakefield’s quasi-heroic status among a large number of parents of autistic children in the US and Europe — a paranoia which led to a significant drop in childhood immunization with the inevitable result of an increase in unnecessary serious childhood diseases and a number of deaths of unvaccinated children who would have otherwise never become ill.
But what of increases in reported cases of autism in recent decades? If not from vaccines, where does the increase come from?
Increased diagnoses typically follow increased awareness of a given disorder. Autism is a relatively new diagnoses, and one that many physicians were only vaguely aware of before the mid-1980’s. So that is one factor. Happily, that would suggest that the rise in actual cases may not be as large.
But epidemiologists have also suggested there are likely links to environmental factors, as well. It’s been no secret that the planet’s fish stocks have become increasingly polluted with heavy metals and other contaminants, many of them linked to both birth defects resulting from prenatal diet contamination as well as post-natal developmental disabilities from childhood consumption of foods and other sources of heavy metal contamination.
But there are a wide range of potential pathogenic contaminations and increasing evidence that the problems arising from them are on the rise: Toxics found in pregnant U.S. women in UCSF study