The autism/Mercury scare again
Brainless. A mercury compound in vaccines (Thimerosol) was for many years said to cause autism. But when the compound was withdrawn from vaccines, the incidence of autism still kept rising. It was a classic before-and-after experiment but no evidence is enough for some attention-seekers. What the guy below wants to do is just epidemiological rubbish anyway
A researcher who has found strong evidence that autism is caused by mercury poisoning has been refused access to data that could point to emissions from coal-fired power stations.
The director of the Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative, David Austin, said the data on autism incidence by postcode could quickly answer the question of whether mercury emissions from power stations are implicated in babies and infants developing the disorder.
When Professor Austin requested the information after a review of international scientific literature confirmed "a mercury-autism relationship", the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs said it could not be released on privacy grounds.
"It's a fairly easy study to do and yet it is so important. We are keen to do it as quickly as possible in Australia because we are a big coal-burner," said Professor Austin. "If the information says there is no link, then we can go forward comfortably. If the answer is yes, there can't be much more important information than knowing the way structures in our society work like how power generators are impacting on our grandchildren."
The department rejected Professor Austin's request while the government was in caretaker mode and he has now called on the federal minister, Jenny Macklin, to override her department.
Researchers could have a full report ready within 12 months once they got the data, Professor Austin said. It would be easy to compare autism statistics from Tasmania, where there are no coal-fired power stations, with areas such as the Hunter Valley, where there are, he said.
"We are very lucky that we collect good data as a nation on this, so we have a good idea of autism rates available on the Centrelink database. The government privacy issues shouldn't be viewed as such an impassable obstacle when such a big thing is at stake," he said.
Professor Austin's research has already found elevated levels of porphyrins, a marker for mercury damage, in the urine of Australian autistic children.
A University of Texas study two years ago found a statistically significant link between the amount of mercury released from industrial sources such as coal-fired power stations and increased autism rates. The prevalence of autism in the community reduced by 1-2 per cent every 16 kilometres of distance from the pollution source, it concluded. [Yes. Because only the poor would want to live next to a power station]
"There is already major concern in the Hunter around respiratory concerns, but the US research suggests it may go beyond to neurological and developmental implications and I can't think of a more important question for research if that is so," Professor Austin said.
Calling for the information's release, a NSW Greens MP, John Kaye, said the number of children with autism in NSW government schools grew from 2267 to 5995 between 2003 and 2009, a jump of 165 per cent.
"Coal-fired power plants are responsible for approximately one-third of all mercury emissions attributable to human activity," he said.
A department spokeswoman said that under government protocols, data referring to fewer than 20 individuals would not be released to protect privacy. "Professor Austin asked for specific data by postcode. Most of this data would refer to less than 20 individuals," she said.
Only manage five hours of sleep? It's the ideal amount for women who want to live longer
This is all very well but any causal inference is mere speculation. It could be that generally healthier people need less sleep. Saying that a certain amount of sleep is "best" is rubbish. It's an individual matter
Women who think they aren't getting enough beauty sleep shouldn't worry - resting for between five and six and a half hours a night are more likely to live longer, research claims. Those who get slightly less than the healthy recommended amount of seven hours tend to outlive those who sleep much more.
The researchers hope their findings will help dismiss the commonly-held belief that people arent getting enough sleep.
While adults are advised to have at between seven and nine hours a night to stay healthy, many end up getting much less.
This latest study involving 459 elderly women in America found that those who slept for between five and six and a half hours a night had the longest survival rates.
Researchers from the San Diego School of Medicine have been monitoring the participants aged between 50 to 81 since 1995 to try and establish a link between sleep and mortality.
In their first study they worked out peoples sleeping habits using wrist activity monitors, which are able to tell whether a person is awake or asleep by how much they move and then count up the overall hours of sleep a night. Last year the researchers tried to get back in touch with all the women 14 years later to find out whether they were still alive. They established that those who had more than six and a half hours sleep a night or less than five were far less likely to be alive today.
Professor Daniel Kripke said: 'The surprise was that when sleep was measured objectively, the best survival was observed among women who slept 5 to 6.5 hours.' 'Women who slept less than five hours a night or more than 6.5 hours were less likely to be alive at the 14-year follow-up.'
Professor Kripke said the study, published in the journal Sleep, should allay some peoples fears that theyre not getting enough sleep. He added: 'This means that women who sleep as little as five to six-and-a-half hours have nothing to worry about since that amount of sleep is evidently consistent with excellent survival. 'That is actually about the average measured sleep duration for San Diego women.'
Around one third of the UK adult population regularly sleeps five hours or less a night. But many celebrities and successful figures of the past have been known to get much less. Madonna, Margaret Thatcher and Florence Nightingale are amongst those who survived on four hours sleep a night, while scientist Nikola Tesla, who helped invent x-rays, had just two hours sleep a night.
Long term studies show that those who drop down to five hours or fewer face a 70 per cent extra risk of dying from all causes.