Autismum

By day: mum of an autistic tot. By night: mum of an autistic tot.

Amber Teething Necklaces

This is an off topic rant and probably more Vaximom’s territory. It has nothing to do with autism, vaccines and definitely zero to do with Pwd because I would have never been so stupid as to put the strangulation and choking hazard that is an amber teething necklace around his neck.

These things are everywhere. As pretty as they are, I hate them. I hate them so much that I have lost friends over them. A few weeks ago, a friend I have known for some time (and in real life too) posted a picture of her beautiful year old daughter with one of those wretched things around her neck. I was polite. I sent a private message asking mum if she was aware of the dangers of putting anything around the neck of a child so young. No reply. As is only natural and to be expected when a picture of an adorable, smiling baby gets posted on Facebook, people will comment. The thread soon turned to “What a pretty necklace,” and my once friend extolling the virtues and supposed benefits of amber teething necklaces and where the credulous can pick one up.

I couldn’t help myself. I took a look at the website  selling these baby strangling devices.  The claims being made therein were nothing short of  ludicrous. The FAQ section, in particular, was rife with new age and pseudo scientific bullshit. Let me illustrate:

Of all the assertions in that little paragraph, the only one that is one hundred percent true is that Robert Koch won a Nobel Prize, though that was actually in 1905 and not 1886, for his work on isolating the mycobacterium  Tuberculosis bacillus,  the causative agent of TB. As far as his work on succinic acid goes, this is what I have found:

Scientists seem to have a fascination with autoexperimentation…Robert Koch was no exception. He decided to eat 1/2 kg of butter everyday and measure the concentrations of succinic acid in his urine. Not surprisingly, it made him so sick that he soon gave up the idea.

Robert Koch

This vomit inducing work formed part of his work for his doctorate  and his  findings, entitled “Ueber das Entstehen der Bernsteinsäure im menschlichen Organismus,” were published in a 1865 edition of the journal, Zeitschrift für rationelle Medizin. 

Amber does, indeed, contain succinic acid. Succinum is the Latin name for amber. However, to call it an “active ingredient” is disingenuous in the extreme. Relatively large amounts of succinic acid are safe to consume. It is an additive used to give a certain variety of sweetness and is often referred to on labels as succinate. Being a byproduct of  fermentation it is also found in wines, beers and other alcoholic beverages. In the pharmaceutical industry succinic acid is used to balance acidity. Succinic acid is also the basis of the popular Ameren which claims to alleviate some of the more troubling aspects of the menopause.

Remember, though, that here we are talking about ingesting succinic acid. The beads on amber teething necklaces are not meant to be chewed or gummed and certainly not swallowed. So, how does the succinic acid found in amber beads have its effect? Back to the FAQs:

Now, I like amber jewellery (for adults) as much as the next woman and even had some amber beads. Never noticed them breaking down or becoming more brittle with wear, which is pretty much what you would expect if the “healing oils” contained in the beads were being transferred from the amber into the skin. I have also noted that amber does not become appreciably softer when in contact with the skin so just how are these oils being released? Now, after a beer or two I think I’m one hot momma but not 185-189 degrees celsius hot – the melting point of succinic acid and definitely not the 350-370ºC required to extract oil of amber. Further, if it was being released by the skin it would be released onto the skin. Succinic acid is an irritant. Why no warnings of such? Oh wait, that would because the very suggestion that amber delivers succinic acid transdermally to relieve pain or modulate the immune system  is a LIE.

With all of this in mind, I wrote a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. Here is the gist of it:

“The suggestion that amber, when in contact with the skins, breaks down sufficiently that “healing oils” can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream in any appreciable amount is clearly a nonsense. Therefore, the claim that these amber necklaces can ” assist with alleviating pain and will provide assistance with restlessness, irritability and acidity.” is demonstrably false. Further, these items are not recommended for children under 36 months, an age by which, for the majority of children, the worst of teething is over. These products pose a significant choking, strangulation and even hanging risk to babies and toddlers made to wear them and should be banned outright.
The claims that “Recent scientific research has also proved that succinic acid has a very positive influence, it strengthens the body, improves immunity and the balance of acids,” is a lie. Indeed, some studies have shown that succinic acid actually inhibits the function of certain cells involved in immune responses.*”

I have to say, that all in all, I was pleased with the response I received and the fact that this particular website’s FAQ page seems no longer to exist. Here is part of the  Advertising Standards Authority‘s response to my complaint:

Thank you for contacting the Advertising Standards Authority.  We have viewed the claims you refer to on this website’s FAQ page and concluded that they are likely breach the advertising Code we administer and the established position the ASA has on the advertising of amber jewellery – you can read the online advice entry our sister organisation the Committee of Advertising Practice provides for marketers here.  Given this, we have passed the matter to our Compliance team, who work to ensure that advertising in breach of the advertising Codes is removed or amended.

In essence, within the UK, amber teething jewellery is allowed to be advertised as available to purchase. No claims can be made about pain relieving or immunomodulating properties (not that they exist).

Moreover, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed that the products are not medical devices and would not be medicinal products because the transdermal effects of any remaining oils in the beads would not have a meaningful pharmacological effect.

Sadly, amber teething  jewellery is still being sold in the UK. Many of those hawking it claim that knotted necklaces pose little choking risk as only one bead at a time can break off. The fact that seems to be overlooked is that a child can choke on just one bead. Some claim their necklaces to be exceptionally strong – this poses a strangulation/hanging risk to a child whose necklace catches on an object. Some have magnetic clasps to overcome this making the necklaces easy to pull of and so, put into the mouth. These items are not safe for any child. They are certainly unsafe for those under the age of 36 months.

Marketers of these products should market the products on an availability-only basis unless they hold convincing evidence based on humans (Rule 12.1).

If you see anyone marketing these items otherwise, feel free to use any or all of my complaint to report them.

*Succinic acid inhibition of the function of cells of the immune system.

Just a sample!

*Rotstein O.D., Nasmith P.E., Grinstein S. The bacteroides by-product succinic acid inhibits neutrophil respiratory burst by reducing intracellular pH. Infect Immun. 1987;55:864–870.

 The reduction in intracellular pH was sufficient to account for both the irreversible and reversible impairment of the neutrophil respiratory burst. Thus, short-chain fatty acids appear to exert their inhibition, at least in part, by reducing intracellular pH. These data also demonstrate the potential for interactions between Bacteroides species and their microenvironment to increase the virulence of an infection.

Rotstein O.D., Vittorini T., Kao J., McBurney I., Nasmith P., Grinstein S.A. A soluble Bacteroides by-product impairs phagocytic killing of Escherichia coli by neutrophils. Infect. Immun. 1989;57:745–753.

Succinic and acetic acids were measured in high concentrations, while lactic, formic, and fumaric acids were present in lower concentrations. Reconstituted media mimicked the inhibitory effect of B. fragilis filtrate on neutrophil killing capacity. In further support of the hypothesis that short-chain fatty acids were responsible for the inhibition, the filtrates of other Bacteroides strains were found to be inhibitory only after bacterial growth had entered the stationary phase, a period during which fatty acid production is maximized.

Rotstein O.D., Pruett T.L., Fiegel V.D., Nelson R.D., Simmons R.L. Succinic acid, a metabolic by-product of Bacteroides species, inhibits polymorphonuclear leukocyte function. Infect Immun. 1985;48:402–408.

Succinic acid, a major fatty acid by-product of Bacteroides metabolism, was tested for its effect on neutrophil function to determine whether it might play a role in enhancing the virulence of Bacteroides-containing infections…succinic acid at concentrations commonly found in clinical abscesses profoundly inhibits in vitro neutrophil function. It virtually obliterates phagocytic killing of Escherichia coli…

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55 comments on “Amber Teething Necklaces

  1. C
    29 October, 2012

    I <3 Autismum!

    • Autismum
      29 October, 2012

      Love you too xx

  2. Susan
    29 October, 2012

    Well done Autismum!

    • Autismum
      29 October, 2012

      Diolch xx

  3. Darwy
    29 October, 2012

    So, have they thought about how they’re administering the ‘dose’ of succinic acid from those stupid beads? What about other ‘things’ that you find in amber? What about impurities?

    What kind of amber is it, really?

    Is it ‘natural’ baltic amber? Modified baltic amber? Reconstructed (pressed) baltic amber? Bonded baltic amber?

    If it’s bonded (read: glued) – what is the risk of breakage again? Amber can be pretty damn sharp.

    The stupidity… it burns.

    • Autismum
      29 October, 2012

      It burns and chokes babies.

  4. Clara Obscura
    29 October, 2012

    Brilliant. Everyone I know seems to have these.
    I considered getting an anklet in case the placebo effect kicked in, then realised it probably wouldn’t work if I was a total skeptic and I’d just end up with a bead in my ear canal whilst trying to unchoke my son.

    • Autismum
      29 October, 2012

      I know the Pwd used to get his toes stuck in onesies so I’m not convinced using them around the ankle is safe and I would imagine they could be very uncomfortable too.

  5. Allison H
    30 October, 2012

    Once again, you have nailed the woo on the head. Well done!

    • Autismum
      30 October, 2012

      Thank you. That means a lot xx

  6. Pingback: Autismum at Skeptoid « Autismum

  7. Katy Johanna Benson
    16 November, 2012

    Great post, great outcome and you get a gold star for making the effort to complain too!

    • Autismum
      16 November, 2012

      Thanks honey xx

  8. Tom Steinberg
    25 December, 2012

    Autismum – Thanks! I just encountered a new grandson wearing one of these. I was dismayed because I thought the mom knew better. I was in circumstances where I was obliged to be silent. Trying to figure how to politely broach the topic now.
    I learned about you through the Respectful Insolence blog where I occasionally comment as THS.

    • Autismum
      26 December, 2012

      Thanks for popping over here – good to see you xx

  9. kirsten
    26 December, 2012

    well if amber necklaces for babies get you all fired up, then the fact that I am using succinic acid supplements for my autistic son are probably gonna send you into orbit. But its true, I am. And its helping a lot. It is terrible tasting stuff, but since my son has bad sensory issues, i cannot give him capsules. But a tiny amount, like 20 mg of succinic acid three times a day, makes my sons frequent anger and fairly frequent meltdowns almost non-existent. The improvement in his behavior is very noticeable, to a point that without it, we have difficulty bringing him places. Right now, our regime is succinic acid, namenda, inositol hexonicotinate (no-flush niacin), lutemax (we are on the fence about that one yet), dimethylglycine (dmg) and biotin (for yeast). We are also seeing some language gains. I got the idea for succinic acid from noticing several metabolic issues result in the deficiency of succinic acid. And yes, we did go to the neurologist first. They were fascinated. And they also said they would support the namenda if we tried their med first. It was guanfacine….a med that we dropped after a month. I like having a calm child, but dont want to erase his personality as guanfacine did. He was like a little zombie. So went to succinic acid and now i can deal with my son again!

    • Autismum
      26 December, 2012

      What horrifies me as much the fact you have fallen for such quackery is the language you use to describe your son – you call him a zombie. No wonder you’re happy to use him as a guinea pig in your quest for the quiet life. “I like having a calm child” you say. What about what he likes because, by the sounds of it, he doesn’t like having snake oil poured down his gullet. But it’s all “me, me, me” with you biomeddlers.
      And yes, teething beads get me fired up as does anything that can potentially kill a baby just because their parents are utterly credulous. I hope you fully understand where I’m coming from now.

      • Bewildered
        5 November, 2013

        On your front page you call your son a monster… Fair???

      • Autismum
        6 November, 2013

        Yes, it is a term of affection and not meant to be taken literally. I also call him the Pwdin. He is neither a fictional creature or a baked or steamed dessert.

  10. Bby
    4 February, 2013

    I use them wrapped around my baby’s ankles with a knee length socks over them. I check her ankles everyday to make sure they are not tight on her and that there are no red marks or any rash etc. she is also not bothered by them so it means she is comfortable wearing them.

    My baby was always a crappy sleeper and never slept thru the night but was worse with teething pain. So I tried them and now 2 weeks later sleeps 8 to 9 hrs straight with two 1 hr naps. She eats, poops well and is active and happy baby. So it didn’t change her except it made her less fussy and better sleeper.

    • Autismum
      5 February, 2013

      all that fuss for nothing. I don’t know how old your baby is but I know from personal experience a lot can change in two weeks – like a tooth that’s painful finally breaking through, maybe?

      • Bby
        6 February, 2013

        She is 7month & 2 wks old now. She cut her two bottom teeth 3 weeks ago. She was extremely fussy & in physical teething pain for weeks before cutting her teeth and also after. Like gnawing on everything, drooling, hysterical crying every hour all through the night…..only Tylenol calmed her down. I didn’t want to drug every night so tried amber necklaces out of sheer desperation thinking it won’t hurt either.

        The transition to a happy, calm and good sleeping baby happened within days and complete transformation 2 weeks later! I don’t know whether its really the necklaces but lets just say I’m not taking them off to find out either…..

      • Bby
        6 February, 2013

        I guess my main point here is how to where them safely on your baby. Since your post stresses the strangulation hazards. I’m extremely wary of putting it around her neck. No way! She is a very active, curious and a wiggly sleeper so I am very aware of how dangerous it would be to wear around the neck. Wrapping it around the ankles and covered with knee length socks provides a safe alternate way to wear them…not to mention the double wrap actually gives more coverage (skin to amber).

  11. Amber
    25 February, 2013

    Autistum you obviously haven’t done enough research on Baltic Amber! It has been scientifically prover by tests carried in Russia – amber acid is powerful healer! Couple links for you to read: cardio vascular & heart tissues protection http://www.anikton.ru/articles_194_6.html ; amber acid for treatment of pneumonia for newborn http://www.anikton.ru/articles_194_8.html ; amber acid treatment of children viral infections, amber acid treatment of children viral infections, amber acid against diabetes, cardio vascular & heart tissues protection, amber acid treatment of oncological cases all of these based on clinical trials not using mice but HUMAN! It’s only few tests mentioned out of loads more!

    • Mark Hanna
      16 April, 2013

      Even if one were to assume that putting succinic acid on the skin were an appropriate and useful treatment for teething symptoms, putting an amber necklace around an infant’s neck is simply not going to be able to deliver a useful dose.

      There are a lot of holes in the idea that amber teething necklaces can work; the plausibility of the idea that putting succinic acid on an infant’s skin can relieve their teething symptoms is only one such hole. You still have to get the succinic acid out of the amber and into the baby at a useful dose without “using up” the necklace within a very short period.

      I’ve written my own post on amber teething necklaces, inspired by Autismum’s writings on the topic. Perhaps you’d like to have a look at that as well and provide some criticism on my points. Here’s a link – http://honestuniverse.com/2013/02/13/amber-teething-necklaces/

  12. opn247Patti
    6 June, 2013

    What would you recommend for an autistic child to use to chew on while in the teething process?

    • Autismum
      6 June, 2013

      We used (still do) P and Q chews. Now he’s older, we use chewellery too. We had T shaped chews but the pwd just used them to whistle through

  13. Tricia
    14 June, 2013

    The reason your friend didn’t respond to your necklace comments “concerns” is because she thinks you’re an asshole and your friend has been looking for a reason to dump you for a very long time. She told me that she was tired of you putting your big fat nose in everyone else’s business. She also mentioned that your kid does not seem autistic and she thinks you’re making it up to get attention and so that you can blog on this website, because you can’t find a writing job elsewhere. Just FYI! Good luck in your pursuit of finding new friends.

    • Autismum
      14 June, 2013

      Yeah, yeah Tricia. *pats Tricia on the head*

    • Liz Ditz
      14 June, 2013

      Oh, do you have a friend shortage, Autismum? Can I apply for the position? We’d have to hang out virtually until I come to Wales.

      • Autismum
        14 June, 2013

        Of course and you can actually meet the Pwd which the friend I blocked and Tricia doesn’t know never did

    • Darwy
      14 June, 2013

      OMG like, my friend totally said that you’re just a bitter old hag you know? She said that you’re not happy unless you’re acting like a total, raving bitch to other people on the internet, and that you’re a total attention whore!

      Just FYI!

  14. Baby Amber Teething
    24 September, 2013

    I think scientists will never proove the impact of amber for pain, but the main thing while buying amber teething necklaces is to choose a reliable producers in order to ensure safety for babies.

    • Autismum
      24 September, 2013

      “I think scientists will never proove the impact of amber for pain” because there is none.

  15. Bewildered
    5 November, 2013

    I never comment on these things but there’s always a first! I am appalled at how nasty and judgemental you are…Not about amber necklaces but to people who have commented. I guess you have reasons in your life to be so negative and angry but I’m not sure you should be blogging until you yourself get some help. Nastiness like yours is sad and pitiful. I guess people need to get their frustrations and bitterness out somehow but I struggle to see how you think it is ok to speak to people the way you do. Unfortunately I came on here looking for help and am leaving very disappointed. Good luck with whatever it is this blog is helping you with.

    • Autismum
      6 November, 2013

      Yes! How observant you are – I am totally judgemental of people credulous enough to wrap a strangulation device around a baby’s neck. As for being bitter, not so much when I get gloriously hilarious comments like yours to give me a giggle. Bless!

    • Sheogorath
      19 June, 2014

      @ Bewildered: I never comment on these things but there’s always a first! I am appalled at how nasty and judgemental you are…Not about amber necklaces but to the author of this blog. I guess you have reasons in your life to be so negative and angry, but I’m not sure you should be commenting until you yourself get some help. Nastiness like yours is sad and pitiful. I guess people need to get their frustrations and bitterness out somehow, but I struggle to see how you think it is OK to speak to people the way you do. Unfortunately, I came on here looking for positivity and am leaving very disappointed. Good luck with whatever it is this nasty comment is helping you with.

  16. Sophie
    18 January, 2014

    Clearly you have never experienced the power of amber, although I don’t have an abundance of scientific spiel on why it works, one thing I do have is a happy, not strangled, baby! There are over 5000 people on the particular facebook group I belong to alone, that have used and experienced the benefits of using amber! I don’t have science, but I have statistics! As for the safety risks lets just knock all those out in one little fact. The amber I have purchased for my son, from [no shilling for those who sell woo on my site, thank you dear but nice try - Autismum], is specially designed to break at the (plastic) fastner under any intense pressure and this also ensures that NO BEADS FALL OFF! This seller also advises for extra precaution that the jewellery should be worn around the ankle under a sock or babygrow at nighttime. Surely any other time you would be supervising your child? Then there’s the size of the beads, should a bead fall off, which it wouldn’t, I have no worries that my child would swallow and pass it with no problem, these beads are smaller than peas and I’ve seen my child pass a whole grape before now! So now we’ve got that straight I ask you one thing. Before you criticise these products I suggest you actually buy one! Fair enough you don’t have to put it on your child but at least then you can carry out a fair trial. Rather than slagging off a product you’ve never even used! And remember this, real people dont care about the science, we care about soothing our babies and keeping them safe and happy, and amber has allowed many of us to do so!

    • Autismum
      18 January, 2014

      “The power of amber”. I think I pulled a rugby player back in the day when wearing amber earrings. Is that what you mean.

      • Sophie
        18 January, 2014

        No response to the actual facts then? Like im going to listen to a woman who defines herself and her son by his medical condition! He’s a person with a personality not just an “autistic”. You know you can voice your opinion without being rude and offensive! I was simply providing the positives on amber so people can make an informed choice! Get back to me if you can think of a relevant response!

      • Autismum
        18 January, 2014

        There’s a whole post full of facts above. Seems you wouldn’t know one if you were choking on it like a baby on a bead. I really am rude aren’t I?

      • Fredblogs67
        6 February, 2014

        Well There’s your next company to report to the ASA for teething claims.. An amber company with 5000 followers On Facebook… Shouldn’t be too hard to find.
        Seems Everyone has been brainwashed and the owners don’t seem to care about regulations, as long as their pockets are lined.

      • Autismum
        7 February, 2014

        It’s done :)

    • Sheogorath
      19 June, 2014

      Sophie said: Like I’m going to listen to a woman who defines herself and her son by his medical condition!
      Autismum in no way defines her son by his condition, unless you believe that you should be called a person with femaleness rather than a woman so as not to be defined by your condition. Identity first language is far less insulting to most Autistic people than ‘person first’ language is. Take it from an adult Autistic.
      BTW, Autism is not a ‘medical condition’, it’s a social one.

  17. Fredbloggs67
    7 February, 2014

    How did you find it? I’m assuming there isn’t more than 1!!

    • Autismum
      7 February, 2014

      It’s a page about “natural birth” and I searched for amber beads and found the company. One was also mentioned in a further comment that was redacted

      • Fredblogs67
        7 February, 2014

        What’s the birthing page out of interest?

      • Autismum
        7 February, 2014

        Not linking but it has been written about here and extensively at skeptical OB

      • Fredblogs67
        7 February, 2014

        Ahh the amber company I was referring too and also the other poster about the 5000 followers is a uk company

      • Autismum
        7 February, 2014

        Ooh ok. I’ll see if i can find that one too

  18. Annie
    8 March, 2014

    I love this article! Those necklaces terrify me.

  19. rebekah
    8 April, 2014

    I always find myself in debates about these silly pieces of jewelry – although it’s pretty clear it’s a load of hogwash I wish a scientific study could be done and end or at least reduce the debate. I searched up the MHRA site trying to find their actual evidence for stating the beads weren’t useful, but there doesn’t seem to be an actual study or even a well-reasoned statement, just the one you posted. If you ever see it, please post it for sure! :)

  20. Brad
    23 May, 2014

    Wow… how negative do you wanna be. I dont agree with you, which is fine. Everyone is entitled their opinions. Out of interest could you link some instances of negative impacts of these necklaces? any strangulation or “burning” or poisoning or whatever it is you claim. I would be interested in seeing more information, not just negative opinion based ranting.

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