Mercury and autism…nothing to see here folks.

Good article on the subject linked above Hat tip to Developing Intelligence

Wellman collected cabbage seeds infected with a common fungus and dunked some of them in a solution of mercury salts and hot water. “The lots treated with mercuric [chloride] were shaken vigorously at first to get thorough contact with the solution,” he wrote. His faculty adviser at the time was concerned about an epidemic of cabbage fungus that was wrecking havoc on Wisconsin farms, and he enlisted his student Wellman’s help in researching solutions.

By the time his son was born 14 years later, in 1936, Wellman had graduated to advanced plant pathology work at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s main research center in Beltsville, in Prince George’s County, just outside Washington.

In a résumé, he wrote at length about his experience there with fungicides. On cabbage seeds, he reported, “organic mercury compounds were found to be most satisfactory disinfecting agents.” For tomatoes, “proprietary organic mercury dusts also gave good results.” All three of the fungicide sales brochures in his archive were for organic mercury compounds–two of them containing ethyl mercury, which was introduced in commercial products just a few years earlier.

Ethyl mercury is also the active ingredient in a vaccine preservative called thimerosal. A maverick minority of scientists and a larger percentage of parents blame thimerosal–which is 49.6 percent ethyl mercury by weight–for the rising autism rate, up tenfold in 20 years to one in 150 8-year-old U.S. children, according to a report this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some parents say they watched their children become physically ill and regress into autism soon after they got shots that contained the chemical–a link public-health officials call coincidence, not cause and effect.


All forms of mercury are toxic, but organic mercury–which can cross the body’s blood-brain barrier and the placenta–is especially dangerous.

One kind of organic mercury, methyl, “bioaccumulates” or builds up in some large fish. Pregnant women are advised not to eat too much of certain fish for fear of causing neurological damage to their offspring.

Ethyl is a sister compound from the same alkyl subgroup of organic mercury; it has one more carbon and two more hydrogen atoms than methyl. But ethyl mercury is man-made–it was not present in the environment, and humans were not exposed to it, until a Ukrainian immigrant named Morris S. Kharasch created the first commercial formulations just before Kanner’s earliest autism cases were born.

“A light bulb went off for me at a conference in Portland [Ore.] in 2001 where I met a mother of five children, all on the spectrum, all unvaccinated,” King recalls in an interview. “She was from eastern Washington, she came from a family of farmers, and her husband was a farmer as well. All five of her children had regressive autism. Meeting her changed the way I look at autism, and prompted me to explore the connection.”

King says her “jaw literally dropped” when presented with the idea that mercury in fungicides could link Kanner’s early cases. “It would be hard to convince me that there isn’t a connection,” she says.


5 Responses to “Mercury and autism…nothing to see here folks.”

  1. Logipundit Says:

    I pointed out to Johnny the other day this little fact:

    “The Department of Health points to a 2004 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which discounted a link with autism and took the unusual step of recommending research funding go to more “promising” areas.”

    When I first read the summary of this report, with the conclusion that basically said, “Hey we’re pretty sure there’s no connection but we don’t really want to look into it EVER AGAIN,” I was a little disturbed. I got this sort of chill down my spine, and the conspiracy theorist in me started thinking…allright, follow the money.

    Johnny, any idea if there’s still a huge financial incentive to keep themerisol in the flu vaccine and the MMR shot?

  2. JohnnyB Says:

    I don’t know about MMR, but I have an idea about the flu shot. Remember how everyone freaked out about shortages of flu vaccine a couple of years ago? Thimerosal keeps the vaccines from spoiling, it really does a stand-up job. Without thimerosal the flu vaccine would have to be made with more of a drop-ship style turnover. Because people get a flu shot every year, and more than just newborns get it, it must be harder for companies to predict how many batches of vaccine to make that year. Since many recipients of the flu shot are not developing infants they can hack the minute proportions of ethyl mercury found in these vaccinations. The amount of thimerosal in any one vaccination were well below estimates of ethyl mercury thought to cause toxicity (which were based on known quantities of methyl mercury poisoning). If you went by mid-90s standard you needed all the vaccinations to reach/surpass known safe levels. Thing is, most good parents were doing the right thing and getting all the vaccinations. I don’t know all the different vaccinations off the top of my head and the quantity of thimerosal in each dose. I don’t know the rationale behind using thimerosal in MMR.

    I think most serious scientists (I won’t say consensus) say that there is not one component (toxin, genetic) that causes autism in all cases. If it is genetics, it is a mix of genes that predisposes one to becoming autistic.

  3. Rip Says:

    Here’s an article I recall reading a few years back on the subject:

    Also, the change to lowering the age for receiving flu shots to 6 month-olds was recent (I think 2004). My infant did not receive the flu shot (even though our pediatrician acted like I was a complete moron for going against her wishes).

  4. Logipundit Says:

    Yeah, this is what I meant about “following the dollar.”

    The pharmaceutical industry is going to have to do what other industries have done over the last 30 years and master the art of Just-in-Time manufacturing.

  5. Logipundit Says:

    there’s that word again, by the way…arrogance.

    “Institutional arrogance”

    No doubt.

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