iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
David Kirby

GET UPDATES FROM David Kirby
 

New Study: Mercury, Other Toxins May Cause Autism

Posted: 10/30/08 01:20 PM ET

A new study was just published on the damaging effects of methylmercury on unborn children. It warns that mercury pollution and other environmental toxins may have caused neurological harm -- including ADHD and autism -- in up to 1-in-10 kids in the world, according to the website Science Daily.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environment and Health, says that the methyl form of organic mercury (found in fish) can harm fetuses at levels that, until now, have been considered to be completely safe.

The finding "suggests that we should take a precautionary approach to this and similar compounds to protect unborn children from irreversible brain damage," Science Daily writes.

"The researchers say that neurodevelopmental disorders of possible environmental origin affect between 5% and 10% of babies born worldwide, leading to dyslexia, mental retardation, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, and autism," according to the website.

"Researchers believe that the medical world has underestimated the risk of brain damage associated with exposure to this compound (methylmercury) as well as numerous others," it adds.

The researchers also found that even very small amounts of methylmercury can cause damage to the developing brain, and to a much greater degree than it would in adult brains.

One study author, Philippe Grandjean, of the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, and the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, explained how methylmercury is moved rapidly around to many parts of the body, including the brain. After mercury reaches the brain, "Serious problems will ensue if important developmental processes are blocked, as there will be only one chance for the brain to develop," the website said.

For almost four years, I have been reporting on the possible connection between mercury (in the environment, and in vaccines) and autism -- often despite deep opposition and even ridicule from some quarters.

My research has focused largely on ethylmercury -- the other organic form of the metal, which is used in the vaccine preservative thimerosal. There is some evidence to link it to many neurodevelopmental disorders.

Meanwhile, at least three peer-reviewed studies (including one funded by the CDC and published in an NIH journal) have shown an association between inorganic mercury (i.e., from coal) and an increased risk for autism. And recent Federal data show that the percentage of Americans with detectable levels of inorganic mercury in their blood increased eightfold between 2000 and 2004.

And now, we see a published study on a possible association between autism and methylmercury.

My point is, if one type of mercury can produce autism and ADHD, then why couldn't all three: ethyl, methyl and inorganic? (And now watch the Pharma People blame the Fish People who will blame the Coal People).

A University of Washington study compared injected ethylmercury with ingested methylmercury in infant primates. Researchers found that the vaccine form of organic mercury (ethyl), quickly began converting into inorganic mercury once it crossed the blood-brain barrier, whereas the fish form (methyl) tended to wash in and out of the brain before it could convert to inorganic mercury.

In fact, the vaccine-exposed monkeys had two-to-four times more inorganic mercury deposited in their brains as did the "fish-exposed" monkeys.

Why is this important? Because inorganic mercury, once it gets inside the brain, tends to stay trapped there for decades. Moreover, the same University of Washington team previously showed that inorganic mercury is deposited in certain brain cells, called glial cells. It activates these cells, sometimes after a delayed period of up to six months.

Meanwhile, autopsy studies on autistic brains done at Harvard and Johns Hopkins clearly showed neuro-inflammation associated with activation of glial cells (an avenue for further research).

Many children were exposed to thimerosal prenatally (in the form of Rho-D immune globulin and/or the flu shot), and also at birth, two months, four months, six months, a year, and so on -- during a critical and vulnerable period of the brain's development (which does continue after birth).

If small amounts of methylmercury from fish can cause permanent brain damage in unborn children, and if ethylmercury from vaccines has two-to-four times more potential for causing brain damage in primates, then isn't time to get rid of thimerosal (in flu shots, in adult vaccines, and in the millions of childhood doses shipped overseas each year?)

"Until there is enough evidence to rule out effects of certain chemicals on the developing nervous system," Grandjean and the other study authors concluded, "a cautious approach would involve strict regulation of suspected developmental neurotoxicants and prudent counseling of expectant mothers regarding exposures to untested substances."

Is thimerosal a "suspected neurotoxicant?"

Here is what one manufacturer has to say:

This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Another company says that chronic or acute exposure can cause, "constriction of visual fields, impaired hearing, emotional disturbances, spastic movements, incontinence, groaning, shouting, dizziness," and other problems sometimes found in autism.


Is mercury-containing flu shot an "untested substance?" Here's what the label for Fluvirin says:

Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Influenza Virus Vaccine (FLUVIRIN®). It is also not known whether Influenza Virus Vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity. Influenza Virus Vaccine should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.

No wonder parents are confused about vaccines today. On one hand, people at Harvard and elsewhere are calling for "strict regulation" of suspected neurotoxins, while mercury-containing flu shots are being urged upon pregnant women and infant children at the mall (and now the voting booth).

If mercury, in any of its forms, causes autism, then we should be keeping it as far away from women and children as humanly possible, in my opinion.