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.