Thursday, August 14, 2008


The emissions of heavy metals and other toxins from coal-burning power plants in Southwestern Indiana have increased exponentially since Mitch Daniels took office as governor. Things are not getting better, they are getting worse, and people are dying as a result.

I'm reposting this because it is so important. Please help me to bring attention to this issue.
God bless you.

Original post:

Today is August 14, 2008. The air today is unhealthy for sensitive individuals to breathe due to high levels of particulate matter. The forecast indicates we will have another PPM alert tomorrow, too. Unlike forecasting the weather, predicting the air quality here is no challenge. If it’s hot enough, don’t go outside if you are “sensitive.” This includes children, the elderly, and anyone who has asthma, allergies, or cardiopulmonary problems.

A major component of our particulate matter is sulfur-dioxide. It has been my belief for the last few years, that the high level of SO2 plays a major part in the incidence of learning disabilities, ADHD, and Autism in the children of the tri-state. In April 2007 I attended my second DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) conference, which was held in Washington D.C. One of the questions I asked was if anyone is doing research to determine if SO2 is a contributing factor in the increase of autism and other developmental disabilities. Dr. John Pangborn, who is a brilliant man and has contributed SO much in the way of research, especially regarding the role of mercury in autism, responded to my question by stating, "Sulfur-dioxide is a noxious, toxic, poison. You can see it in the air, you can smell it, and you can taste it... If you believe sulfur-dioxide is contributing to your child's problems, my suggestion to you is MOVE!"

I was so taken aback by Dr. Pangborn's response that I spent most of that night writing a letter to him. That letter is the bulk of today's post.

Having had time to reflect on this situation, I must now thank Dr. Pangborn for his candor. The message we must internalize is this:

There is no cavalry coming to save us. We, the citizens of Indiana, have to do this ourselves.

DATE: APRIL 23, 2007

Dear Dr. Pangborn:

My heart sank when you advised me to move. Then I got angry. Then I felt sick to my stomach and the tears came.

I know sulfur-dioxide is part of why there are so many sick children (and adults) in Indiana. My daughter is not the only one. Your statement, “…I suggest you move,” cut me to my soul. It’s the very same thing I have been fighting the urge to do since realizing, three years ago, that if I didn’t, I would be continuing to put my daughter’s health in peril – as well as my own – and that of my grand-daughter/adopted daughter.

My husband spent 24 years in the United States’ Air Force and now works managing the prototype Doppler Radar – which he has worked to build – from the ground-up, in a cornfield in rural Gibson County, Indiana. In November 2005, our community of Evansville lost 23 of our neighbors when a tornado hit at 2:00 a.m. We are still recovering and counting our blessings that thanks to the Doppler Radar, many thousands were able to prepare because we were informed and could take action against the threat. If not for the data provided by the radar, many more lives may well have been lost.

Before our move to Indiana my husband and our family lived here in Washington, D.C. Steve was the “Senior Non-Commissioned Officer In-Charge” of the “Ground Radar Maintenance Shop” at Andrews Air Force Base, and traveled worldwide to maintain the Air Force Radar Systems. I stayed at home, raising our daughter and working 3 days-a- week doing neuropsychological evaluations of children with ADHD, LD, ASD, and PDD.

In 2000, I was preparing to enter the doctoral program in Social/Health Psychology at George Washington University, where I had been offered full funding and a teaching assistantship. My studies and assistantship duties were set to begin in September 2000. In May 2000, I learned that the five month-old daughter of my 18 year-old bipolar/ADHD and (I now know) severely gluten/casein allergic son had been exposed to multiple toxins in utero through her 20 year-old mother’s drug and alcohol abuse. My grand-daughter was in an environment of ongoing and worsening neglect, which I could not ignore. She was floppy, exhibited tremors, screamed suddenly and for no reason, and had very poor eye-contact. Her mother was involved in an abusive relationship and her drug use was ongoing. (My son was also using drugs heavily and had been out of the picture since before the birth.)

When information came to light about the baby’s current situation, I could not sit by. I went to the Prince George’s County Courthouse (sans attorney), filed an ex-parte (had no idea what it was) and somehow was able to obtain emergency custody of my granddaughter. One week later the ex-parte was extended for one year. At that point it dawned on me that I needed a clone because there was no way I would be able to raise this baby and do full-time doctoral psychology load and teach and raise my five year-old.

With my husband’s retirement zooming at us in two years’ time and no job lined up for him, he agreed to embark on this commitment with me (after an initial, “You DID WHAT???!!!!”). I think I forgot to mention that he was TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) to Germany and Italy for 30 days when I got the emergency custody order. Anyway, I promised Steve that if he would do this with me, I would go wherever he needed to go, and do whatever I had to do, but I could not turn my back on Leah. The Ph.D. could wait. She couldn’t. It wasn’t even hard to walk into the psych department at George Washington University and tell Dr. Paul Poppen that I was not going to be working with him after-all. It would have been much more difficult if I had not had Rachel by the hand and Leah in my arms, but I knew without a doubt, that I was doing the right thing and I have never regretted it.

We got permanent custody of Leah in August 2001 after her mother deserted her and moved to Utah with the abusive boyfriend. We haven’t heard from her since and formally adopted Leah in May 2005.

On September 11, 2001 I took Rachel to school at Francis T. Evans Elementary, just outside the the gate and then dropped Leah off at the babysitter’s at 9:00 a.m. I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when I got back in my car and turned on NPR. When I pulled into the gas station on Andrews’, I heard about the second plane. As I was leaving the base, thinking, “This is NOT good…We’re next…” I saw the military guards with M-16s running toward the gate, beginning to close off the base – as I was driving through – leaving my children and getting onto the beltway to drive to Silver Springs, where I worked. Within minutes, I could see smoke downtown, and my brain just kept playing, over and over, “This is not good…This Is NOT Good…This is NOT GOOD…”

I am thankful to God and all the guardian angels in the cosmos that NPR did not announce, “The Pentagon has been hit” until I had pulled to the curb in front of my office – 45 minutes from Andrews Air Force Base. I don’t know how long I sat – holding my breath – with my hands covering my mouth – trying to keep the first giant sob from coming out. I think it must have been at least 30 minutes before I finally was able to turn off the car and stumble to the door. I don’t remember walking – only falling to my knees as soon as I got inside. Then the shaking started – and the real tears – as it hit me that I didn’t know if Steve was on Base that Tuesday – or if he was at the Pentagon. – My Girls – Leah is on base --- Rachel is at school just outside the gate – and BUSH’s Plane – THE TARGET – is on its way back to Andrews’…

It was four hours before I knew if my husband was alive, and it was 7:30 that night before I could get home because the beltway was gridlocked and people were panicking and running over each other. We were told, “If you’re safe, stay put!”

When I finally got back to the base, it took nearly 3 hours to drive and get through security – every car had to be searched. There were dogs to detect explosives and after that, I drove through what seemed like an endless gauntlet of soldiers lining both sides of the single-lane path, each with his or her M-16 at the shoulder.

Sadly, we got used to the searches and guns every time we took our daughter to school or brought her home – or left the base and returned for other reasons.

Shortly after 9/11, Rachel developed tic behaviors. She was always spacey and “zoned out” but things got a lot worse. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD, after ruling out seizures and Central Auditory Processing Disorder at Johns’ Hopkins – I don’t mess around – I insisted Rachel be seen by John Freeman at Johns’ Hopkins Neurology and by Dana Boatman at JHU Cognitive Neurology for Central Auditory Processing testing. Then I took her to Walter Reed where she was evaluated by Stacey Williams, Chief of Behavioral Psychology. Rachel saw Dr. Lowry Shropshire, Head of Developmental Pediatrics at Bethesda – and after he put her on Dexedrine we saw a little improvement in attention – but worsening of tics and emotionality --- and so it goes.

Meanwhile, Leah continues to grow and with daily interventions (e.g., music, reading, pictures, touch, smell, etc…) her Developmental Quotients went from 100 (receptive) and 80 (expressive) at 11 months to 132 (expressive) and 134 (receptive) at 17 months – what can be done with neuronal plasticity!!! Behavior and fears were still issues, but she was (and is) doing great!
In October of 2002, we were preparing for our move to Indiana. I was still working in Silver Springs 3 days/week and was on my way to work on October 3rd – the first day of the Sniper Shootings. For the next 3 weeks I, along with everyone else in this area, lived in a CONSTANT state of Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Hyper-arousal as we waited to see who was going to be killed next and where it would happen.

My family and I finally left for Indiana on October 25, 2002 – the day after “John Allen Muhammed” and “Lee Boyd Malvo” were arrested. Since moving to Indiana we have had a lot of adjustments, but life has definitely been quieter – in some respects. I have built a practice through networking and word of mouth. I am now attending my second Defeat Autism Now! conference, with plans to further educate and collaborate with physicians and families in our region so we can help our children heal. I live in Evansville and the closest Defeat Autism Now! practitioner that I know of is four hours away.

The incidence of Autism, ADHD, and PDD in our area is staggering – just as it is in Texas, or California, or New Jersey. My child is not the only one. Rachel has definitely gotten worse with each successive assault on her immune system – Trauma, Viral Infections, and Toxic Overload are hurting MY CHILD – and thousands of other children in the mid-west. (Note: At last night’s wonderful dinner and tribute to Bernie Rimland, whom I was fortunate enough to hear speak in Long Beach, the Mid-West Contingent consisted of ONE TABLE. My friend and I – traveling together – were the only two people from Indiana – and neither of us is an M. D.)

There have been MANY times in the last three years when I have told myself – and my husband, “We HAVE TO MOVE away from Indiana! This place is a toxic pit! It’s a cancer cell and the kids here are being poisoned! We are ALL being poisoned!”

My question to you is WHERE SHOULD WE GO?

I spent the first 12 years of my life in Orange, California, where the playground of my elementary school was located on a hill directly adjacent to the 55 freeway – before gasoline was unleaded and before catalytic converters. This was the source of a significant body burden of lead which no doubt contributed to my son’s extreme ADHD and bipolar diagnosis.

In 1972, my parents moved us to Mississippi, where they bought a big white house with pillars, azaleas, a veranda, and a one-acre pecan orchard. The “Big-House” was built in 1875 and my mother absolutely LOVED it. After it was nearly destroyed by fire several years later, my well-meaning but very uninformed sisters and brothers-in-law tried to save my mother some money by doing much of the repairs and renovations themselves. The paint-sanding went on for months, intermittently. None of them wore masks. My mother, who was still living in the house, got sicker and sicker and nobody knew why. She finally got over the “blow-out diarrhea” and constant “stomach virus that just won’t go away,” but she almost never felt well enough to get out of bed for more than a couple of hours at a time.

My mother was a classical pianist. At age 64 she obtained her Master’s Degree in Piano Performance. She was hoping to get her doctorate and conduct. Six months after she got her masters’ degree, she fell and broke her hand when she put it out to catch herself. After several months of rehabilitation therapy, she was finally able to move her fingers well enough to start playing again. That’s when she discovered she could no longer sight-read – something she had been doing since she was five years-old. I will never forget the pain in her voice when I stopped by to see her one afternoon and found her sitting at the piano, fingers on the keyboard, just sitting there – staring at the music. I asked what was wrong and she looked at me and said, “I can’t make my hands do what my eyes see.” (This was the first observable manifestation of the lead that flooded her body once again when she broke her hand, releasing it from bone marrow where it had been stored since shortly after the initial exposure.)

Less than a year later my mother’s thyroid disease was progressing so rapidly she was told she had to drink radio-active iodine. (Lead destroys the thyroid.) The next year, her heart stopped during a cardiac catheterization and she was taken by ambulance to University of Alabama at Birmingham where she underwent emergency open-heart surgery. After they cracked and spread her ribs, the neurological deterioration was very rapid. She could no longer speak and look at me simultaneously because what she saw interfered with her ability to formulate expressive language. When she spoke, it didn’t make sense.

The worst thing was, she was still able to realize that she wasn’t making sense. The last complete sentence my mother ever said to me was excruciatingly difficult for her to get out – and for me to hear. I can still see her face – eyes squeezed shut tightly, forehead and brows furrowed and wrinkled, and her teeth clenched so hard I thought they would break… “I wish…I could…finish…one…thought.”

There was no doubt in my mind that my mother was disintegrating because of lead poisoning. NOBODY would listen. They said her cognitive decline was due to the effects of oxygen deprivation during her surgery, and would get better with time. It wasn't, and it didn't.

“The Big House” is still standing and another family lives there now. Many houses in the Mississippi Gulf Coast town where my husband and I bought after our daughter was born did not survive hurricane Katrina. To our knowledge, no one we knew personally was killed in the storm or as a result of the aftermath. I have not been able to bring myself to visit the Gulf Coast yet. It still feels too raw…like my history has been erased.

My mother died three years ago, at the age of seventy-one. She got her Masters’ Degree at 64. She broke her hand at 65. She had her ribs cracked and spread for 2 open-heart surgeries at 66 and 67. The last word she ever spoke to me was “Dignity” – which she was finally able to say after several minutes of struggling to get it out. I knew what she was asking but I couldn’t help her. She was pleading with me to help her die. That was seven months before she finally stopped suffering.

I begged for someone to please listen to me. No one ever did.

My mother had arranged years prior to donate her body to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in hopes that from the study of her system, others would benefit. I asked the doctors, when the final arrangements were made, if they would PLEASE test her lead levels and let me know the results. Even that request was denied. We are still waiting for her ashes to be returned to us.

My question about sulfur-dioxide is based on clinical observation and objective data. Over the last four years I have evaluated more than 60 children in Indiana. Between 1999 and 2002 I assisted Dr. Susan Van Ost in evaluating hundreds of children here in the D.C. area. The children are different.

The incidence of visual processing disorders is MUCH higher in Indiana. I believe the Sulfur-dioxide in the air is at least partly to blame and I believe it is also interfering with the sulfation pathway and contributing to the presentation of autism in OUR children. We can’t just move. We have to figure out how to fix it. If we ignore it and run away, who is going to help all the other children? And even if I COULD “just move” – Where do you suggest I GO?


Marcella Piper-Terry, M.S.

Final note: There is no real "safe place." In order to survive, we must assess the situation, do what we can to improve our ability to survive, and work together to begin addressing the things we cannot immediately control. Our children with autism and other biologically based “developmental disabilities” are the canaries in the coalmines. If we don’t learn from them, we will all pay the price.

P.S.: Dear Mom:
Today, August 14, 2008 is the five-year anniversary of your death. I miss you terribly but I feel you with me. I love you always.

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