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Generation Rescue is a nonprofit organization established in 2005 by Lisa and J.B. Handley. The organization targets autism, Aspergers syndrome, ADHD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder and other developmental delays, citing that they are caused by a rising use of thimerosal and heavy metals, such as mercury. It is funded and managed by its organizing members, which include more than 350 families throughout the world who state that they are joined on a mission to "share the truth with parents about the cause of their child’s developmental disabilities so they can focus on treatment." The group has recently gained awareness from an aggressive media campaign that has sponsored full page ads in the New York Times and USA Today. One of the founders of the group has, however, come under fire for suggesting that autism is "purely mythical", and that it did not exist before the introduction of thimerosal and the other metals.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Generation Rescue believes that autism and other developmental issues are actually misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning and blames thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, as the primary source of the poisoning. The organization cites that a rising use of thimerosal correlates with the autism epidemic and claims that biomedical intervention can cure these various ailments. Because of Generation Rescue's public profile through national advertising and because its point of view is not shared by the mainstream medical community, their message has been controversial. While they claim that their position is supported by published research, other research has been shown to support the contrary, fueling the controversy.
The organization maintains two websites, GenerationRescue.org and PutChildrenFirst.org. The former details the organization’s points of view described above. The latter details what Generation Rescue believes is a cover-up by the Centers for Disease Control concerning the role that vaccines have played in the autism epidemic.
- 1 Childhood neurological disorders and heavy metal poisoning
- 2 History
- 3 Media campaign
- 4 Rescue Angel program
- 5 Criticisms and responses
- 6 References
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
Childhood neurological disorders and heavy metal poisoning
The group has collected scientific papers, opinion pieces, and journalistic reports to substantiate their case of the role of heavy metal poisoning in autism, all of which are presented on their website. The publications cited by Generation Rescue are poorly regarded by mainstream medicine, however. Their first cited paper, 'Autism: A Novel Form of Poisoning' was published in Medical Hypothesis in 2001. This paper underwent a comprehensive refutation in Pediatrics. It also contains references to individuals who wished to disassociate their work from Generation Rescue and references to work published in non-PubMed indexed publications such as Medical Science Monitor and JPANDS.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The group advocates the use of biomedical intervention and other autism therapies to help reverse autistic symptoms. Although some characterize the group as focused only on chelation therapy, Generation Rescue states that they promote dietary change and supplementation, toxin reduction, and many different forms of detoxification.
In May, 2005, over 150 parents, led by Lisa and J.B. Handley of Oregon, in the United States of America launched Generation Rescue as a non-profit, international support group dedicated to treating autistic spectrum and other neurological disorders, which the group contends result from poisoning by heavy metals, particularly thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs). As of January, 2006, more than 315 families have joined the organization.
Beginning in the spring of 2005 and running through January 2007, Generation Rescue began a national media campaign in the US, placing advertisements in such publications as USA Today and the New York Times at an estimated cost of more than $1 million.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The print and internet advertisements are part of a broader campaign to send the groups message about the possible connection between autism and mercury poisoning to politicians, medical professionals and parents. Generation Rescue's founders have also been featured in interviews on both NBC and Fox as well as in a cover story in Willamette Week.
Rescue Angel program
Generation Rescue has developed a mentoring program, 'Rescue Angels', for other parents. These 'Rescue Angels' are parents of autistic spectrum children who agree with the organisations methods, willing to help other parents in treating their children, sharing expertise, local knowledge and experience. The website states that "Rescue Angels are parent-Founders of Generation Rescue who are volunteering their time and knowledge to help you. They are parents of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder who have either recovered their own children and/or are currently treating their children biomedically."
As of January of 2007, more than 350 families serve as Rescue Angels for other families.[How to reference and link to summary or text] According to Generation Rescue, more than 10,000 new families have begun treating their children due to Generation Rescue's Rescue Angels.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Criticisms and responses
Lack of peer-reviewed research
Some claim that Generation Rescue bases much of their case on publications that do not go through a proper peer review process. The works cited by Generation Rescue are criticized as being poorly regarded by mainstream medicine. In particular, the first article Generation Rescue cites in the Evidence section of its website, "Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning" has been disputed. While Generation Rescue claims to support its position with scientific publications, the Institute of Medicine, a subsidiary of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report rejecting any link between mercury from vaccines and autism.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Maureen McCormick, chairperson of the committee noted, "While the committee strongly supports research that focuses on achieving a better understanding of autism, we recommend that future research be directed toward other lines of inquiry that are supported by current knowledge and evidence, and that offer more promise for finding an answer." In response, Generation Rescue claims that they cite 23 peer-reviewed publications in the Scientific Evidence section of their website. Generation Rescue also points to an email written by Marie McCormick where she writes: "The committee accepts that under certain conditions, infections and heavy metals, including thimerosal, can injure the nervous system."
Bradford Handley, a Generation Rescue founder, claims that autism symptoms can be reversed using chelation. This is in contradiction of the scientific capabilities of chelation, as evidenced by at least one study. The Encyclopedia of Children's Health states that "the chelation process can only halt further effects of the poisoning; it cannot reverse neurological damage already sustained." In response to this criticism, Generation Rescue has cited the Autism Research Institute and their parental survey regarding chelation and other biomedical therapies. Since 1967, The Autism Research Institute has collected "Parent Ratings of Behavioral Effects of Biomedical Interventions." According to their data, over 24,500 parent responses have been collected and of the first 470 parents who reported on the efficacy of chelation, 75% reported "good" results.
Disassociation of cited researchers
Generation Rescue's second New York Times advertisement had to undergo one alteration due to one scientist who asked to be removed from the ad. Also, after the ad ran, several of the scientists thanked in the ad wanted to disassociate their work from the mercury/autism connection. This group of scientists wrote: "we believe GenerationRescue’s advertisement, at first appearance an innocuous gesture of appreciation, may actually mislead the public into thinking that the mercury-autism hypothesis has stronger support in the scientific literature than it actually does." One of the scientists who signed that letter asking not to be associated with the mercury/autism hypothesis, Martha Herbert, is still frequently cited by Generation Rescue and others as a supporter. During the controversy over the advertisement, Bradford Handley responded, "We stand by the ad and the gratitude we feel for each of the people named. We understand that investigating the connection between mercury and autism does not make you very popular in the lunchroom, and we appreciate the needs of all researchers to put food on the table."[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Claims of inaccurate statistics
Generation Rescue's home page has been criticized for containing inaccuracies regarding the prevalence of autism. As of 2006, it claimed that the prevalence of autism in the 1970s was 1 in 10,000. In reality, the prevalence of autism was known to be 4-5 in 10,000 in the 1960s. Additionally, the site does not clarify that the prevalence of 1 in 166 is for ASD, not Kanner autism as is the lower prevalence number. The increase of 6000% (60 times) claimed in the GR home page should be about 1200% (12 times) if the lower prevalence number is corrected.
In February 2005 J.B. Handley stated on a TV interview that the notion of autism is mythical, since it is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning. He also claimed that autism did not exist before thimerosal was put in vaccines, and that chelation therapy can cure autism in two years or less.
- Organizing members of Generation Rescue
- Ad in NY Times, June 8, 2005: "similarities of symptoms between mercury poisoning and autism"
- Ad in NY Times, November 14, 2005: thanking researchers who published about the potential link between thimerosal and autism
- Ad in USA Today, May 24, 2005: “Autism is Preventable and Reversible”
- Ad in USA Today, April 6, 2006: unveiled the new website, PutChildrenFirst.org
- reports cited on Generation Rescue's web site
- Autism and Vaccines Theory Informational website run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning theories relating autism to vaccines
- Nelson, K., and Bauman, M. (2003). Thimerosal and Autism? Pediatrics, 111, 674-679.
- Generation Rescue features on NBC
- Generation Rescue featured on Fox
- Generation Rescue featured in the Willamette Week local newsweekly
- Bernard, S., Enayati, A., Redwood, L., Roger, H., Binstock, T. (2001). Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning. Medical Hypotheses, 56(4), 462-471.
- E-mail by Marie McCormick acknowledging a danger in heavy metals
- Encyclopedia of Children's Health entry on heavy metal poisoning
- ARI's summary data on chelation
- Issues arise concerning citations used in Generation Rescue's advertisements
- Videos and critiques
- List of autism-related topics
- List of vaccine topics
- GenerationRescue.org - Organisation's Website
- Mothering.com - 'Is the American Academy of Pediatrics losing credibility with parents and pediatricians?' Bobby Manning, Mothering (October, 2005)
- NAA.org - 'National Autism Association'
- ScienceDaily.com - 'The Age of Autism: Heavy metal', Dan Olmsted, UPI' (May 24, 2005)
- SFGate.com - 'A child's return from autism: Couple eager to share their conviction that mercury poisoning was the culprit' Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle (May 25, 2005)
Pervasive developmental disorders / Autism spectrum
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