As widely predicted, mercury militants have not come clean after the California DDS 3-5 caseload failed to drop in 2007. The thimerosal hypothesis is officially pseudo-science, as its proponents continue to shift the falsifiability goalposts to increasingly ridiculous lengths. One of the most bewildering excuses I've seen is that the aluminum dose has increased in vaccines as thimerosal was phased out.
And it's not just David Kirby who has established goalposts he has later decided to ignore. JB Handley has said the following:
Late 2006 should be the first time that rates go down. If they don't, our hypothesis will need to be reexamined.
David Kirby does deserve some credit for imagination. He came up with to-date unheard-of excuses that play on people's justified concerns about environmental pollution and climate change. This was in addition to the usual excuses. I will now address the whole list of excuses as recalled by Vera Smith in the EOHarm mailing list on January 13, 2007.
1. California has a lot of HMOs (50% of population) who probably continued to use mercury vaccines longer than average.
This is clearly unfounded speculation. What is the evidence that HMOs used mercury longer than average? How much longer?
2. We do not know when 25 mcg infant vaccines really made it off the shelves. When the CDC says the supply was down to 2% in 2003 (I think that was the stat) it was not official. They called vaccine providers and asked what was in the fridge -- not a definitive answer.
The information Arthur Allen provided is from the minutes of a CDC meeting held on February 20-21, 2002 at the Atlanta Marriott North Central Hotel. The following is an excerpt of the minutes:
In September 2001, 225 sites were canvassed, and 447 by February 2002. The decline in thimerosal-containing vaccine went from 5.6 percent to 1.9%, from 33,500 doses out of 63,600; to 2,796 doses out of 149,147. These were delineated by D.T.a.P., D.T.P., Hib, hep B-Hib, and hep B. Hep B rose from 4.95 percent to 7.5%; the proportion that is pediatric (10 microgram) versus adolescent versus adult (5 microgram) still requires evaluation. However, the N.I.P. thinks that most of it is pediatric.
I wonder what part of "site visits" David Kirby got confused about. In fairness, he probably didn't even get a chance to read the minutes of the meeting. In the warm-up debate on Fox 6 it was clear that Arthur Allen surprised David Kirby with the information about the sharp decline in thimerosal uptake. Kirby looked like a deer in the headlights, but he had one whole day to make stuff up.
Was David Kirby suggesting that physicians lied about what they had in their fridges? Were they supposed to have made up lot numbers? This obviously borders on the preposterous. Besides, it is known that the lifecycle of vaccines is not too long.
Let's move on.
3. Calif has had horrendous forest fires over the last 5 years (much more so than the previous 20), and pregnant women are breathing the fumes. Forrest fires release a lot more mercury than even coal fired power plants.
Oh my. It is true that forest fires have increased in California, and this is attributed to global warming. The increase is not something that just started to happen in the last 5 years, however; rather, there is an increasing trend that starts in about 1987 (source). The forest-fires-cause-autism hypothesis lacks merit, and I suspect most people can see the utter nonsense of Kirby's proposition. For one, a substantial number of the autistic children currently diagnosed would be expected to live around forested areas in California. It is easy to verify that this is not the case. In fact, autistic children tend to be diagnosed more often in areas with high population density. Second, if this new hypothesis were true, a clear season-of-birth trend would have been noticed.
4. The horrific coal generated mercury pollution from China (as we have been reading) is getting worse and the mercury by-product is brought into CA (particularly So Cal) from the jet stream. These coal fired power plants have expontially increased since 2000.
Interestingly, mercury militants have blamed the US for "poisoning" children in China with thimerosal. Now David Kirby is blaming China for sending contaminants to the US.
It is true that pollution from China is deposited in the western US, and coal emissions are estimated to increase about 10% per year (source). Let's suppose this is currently a major cause of autism in California, which would need to be for Kirby's excuse to make sense. How would it explain large differences in the prevalence of autism from one regional center to the next? More importantly, how does it explain large differences in the current pace of caseload increase between regional centers? (The "epidemic" of autism is in full swing in the Central Valley Regional Center, for example, with an annual caseload growth rate of about 24%).
5. The CDC recommended flu shots for pregnant women and infants. As Kirby pointed out, that merucry exposure to an in-utero infant from a flu shot could be as devasting (paraphrasing here) as the entire US vaccine schedule of the 1990s given that an in-utero baby is a fraction the size of an infant. Allen refuted this argument that only 25% of California infants get the flu vaccine and only 13% of pregnant women get it.
It should be noted that the flu vaccine is not recommended for infants under 6 months of age. Even if we were to assume that all children get the flu vaccine, thimerosal exposure from this is much lower than pre-epidemic levels of exposure. Regarding vaccination of pregnant women, are we to assume a substantial portion of autistic children currently diagnosed were born from the small percentage of mothers vaccinated against the flu while pregnant? What is the evidence that this is the case? What is the evidence that the fetus receives a substantial portion of the mercury the mother is injected with? Would this mean that all children who became autistic this way have early-onset autism?
To recap, Kirby has provided a list of excuses aimed at obfuscating the evident failure of a bad hypothesis. None of the mechanisms he proposes can be correlated to changes in California autism caseload trends. The excuses are based on far-fetched, easily refuted speculation, stuff he made up that came out of nowhere, and in at least one case, an outright fabrication.