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Autism's Theoretical Causes: Mercury and Vaccines--An Editorial

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Autism related image Photo: Getty Images

In addition to genetics and metabolism, mercury exposure and vaccines have been implicated as a possible cause of autism. My previous article covered studies about genetic and metabolism causes and this article continues with research regarding vaccines.

Old style DPT vaccines used to contain thimerosal, a 49 percent mercury compound. Some DTaP vaccines still contain small amounts of mercury, according to the CDC Pink Book. Other vaccines, such as Hepatitis B and flu shots contain the full amount of thimerosal.

Some researchers believe that the increasing number of vaccines given at one time to a developing infant are a cause of autism, particularly as the blood/brain barrier is not yet complete.

A study in the Annals of Epidemiology found that newborn boys who had received Hepatitis B vaccine were three times more likely to be diagnosed with an ASD compared with boys who hadn’t had the jab.

"Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys." (2)

Autism symptoms and mercury poisoning symptoms are virtually identical. The Journal of Immunotoxicology wrote:

"Autistic brains show neurotransmitter irregularities that are virtually identical to those arising from mercury exposure. Due to the extensive parallels between autism and mercury poisoning, the likelihood of a causal relationship is great."

These neurotransmitter irregularities may be the reason why some autistic children have sensory processing disorders. (1)

MMR Vaccine

MMR vaccine is considered a possible cause of autism. In 1998 a gastroenterologist called Andrew Wakefield and his team of clinicians identified 12 children, eight of whom suffered regressive autism and gastrointestinal disease. After publishing this case paper, concluding that it did NOT prove an association with MMR, Dr. Wakefield studied a further 161 children, 91 of whom had bowel disease and a further 70 who did not.

He found measles virus in the guts of 75 of the children with bowel disease and only in five of the healthy children. He called this condition "measles enterocolitis".

Add a Comment87 Comments

(reply to Anonymous)

The quote is from source one and is written in the journal of neuroimmunology.

September 9, 2011 - 1:02am
(reply to Joanna Karpasea-Jones)

As a science writer, one would think that Joanna could learn to cite properly, using one or another of the accepted citation formats. "Source one" isn't from "the journal of neuroimmunology" it's from the Journal of Immunotoxicology:

Ratajczak HV (2011) Theoretical aspects of autism: causes--a review. J Immunotoxicol. 2011 Jan-Mar;8(1):68-79.

Now, did Ratajczak actually claim that "Autism symptoms and mercury poisoning symptoms are virtually identical"? Why yes, she did....

"Not only is every major symptom of autism documented in cases of mercury poisoning but also biological abnormalities in autism are very similar to the side effects of mercury poisoning itself (Bernard et al., 2001)". Note the source. Bernard et al.

Bernand's claim that autism's symptoms are identical to mercury toxicity was refuted in a Pediatrics paper in 2003, Nelson KB, Bauman ML. (2003) Thimerosal and autism? Pediatrics. 2003 Mar;111(3):674-9. A more full analysis of Bernard's flaws was given in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings, by Dr. Patricia Rodier in her testimony. Dr. Rodier has a unique position in the United States, and likely the world: she is an expert on both mercury poisoning and autism.

At the following blog post, Sullivan transcribes Dr. Rodier's testimony.

"Dr. Rodier then discusses the comparisons made between mercury poisoning and autism, based on her experience with both. If you want the short version: there is no comparison."

So Ratajczak, to cite Bernard et al., ignored everything critical of the paper.

Ratajczak's paper has also been widely criticized for numerous flaws. I wonder if Joanna is aware of the criticisms of Ratajczak? (a starter http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2011/02/sloppy-science-a-perfect-example-of-how-the-anti-vaccine-crowd-will-listen-to-anything/ and http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/04/the_resident_anti-vaccine_reporter_at_cb.php

September 10, 2011 - 5:42pm
EmpowHER Guest

Big pharma are losing. :)

September 8, 2011 - 3:39pm
(reply to Anonymous)

This debate is symptomatic of the general conflict between the rational and irrational. Interestingly, scientists and medical people are just as likely to be as irrational as fortune tellers and snake oil salesmen. Most people have their belief systems and cling to their notions at all costs. Praise be to those with an open mind who can look at evidence and admit they are wrong.

The "scientist" who lies about results for personal gain is a disgrace and guilty of an uncontionable crime. Climate change deniers funded by oil companies, researchers who claim tobacco is good for your health (paid for by guess who), economists who claim that cutting taxes on the rich will increase revenue to the government, and pharmaceutical companies who do not allow unfavorable research studies to be published all do a great disservice to the world.

The media tries to be "fair" by showing both sides of a story even when scientific experts are 99-to-1 on the issue. The "truth" of scientific claims is not something that citizens should get to vote on. Leave the science to the scientists, not to people with fuzzy thinking skills.

September 10, 2011 - 2:30am

The sources have September on them because that's when I accessed them and that's what I was told to put.

Andrew Wakefield's original case paper was exactly that, a case paper, not a study. It was a case paper of 12 children that presented with autism and gastrointestinal disease, 8 of which after MMR. All Andrew Wakefield said was that the situation should be investigated and he concluded that it DIDN'T prove an association with MMR. He later did do follow up studies (as have others), but the initial case paper was never a study.

And actually his findings of enterocolitis in autistic children has been repeated by others, here for instance:


And here's one about the possible causative role of vaccinations in autistic children with an underlying mitochondrial cytopathy:


And this one:

HgCl2 stimulates VEGF and IL-6 release from human mast cells. This phenomenon could disrupt the blood-brain-barrier and permit brain inflammation. As a result, the findings of the present study provide a biological mechanism for how low levels of mercury may contribute to ASD pathogenesis.

That was from March 2010.

The severity of autism associated with toxic metal body burden:

Brain specific auto-antibodies in austistic children:


Positive association between childhood vaccination uptake and autism prevelance in the US:


That was in January 2011, so it's not true to say that the case paper was years ago and everything has been proven safe since then. Scientists are still studying the issue repeatedly.

September 8, 2011 - 3:24pm
EmpowHER Guest

This article is so wrong on so many levels. One major problem is that the author seems to have neglected the mountain of work that has been done in the last 5-10 years.

The references make it look like the research she is citing is recent. The JPANDS/Bradstreet article, for example, is from 2004, not 2011. So much has happened since then.

The MMR/Wakefield theory is over. Andrew Wakefield's work was shown to be fraudulent. No one has ever replicated his work, and people have tried. Hard.

"Autism symptoms and mercury poisoning symptoms are virtually identical. The Journal of Immunotoxicology wrote:"

No. they aren't. The idea that autism and mercury poisoning have the same symptoms was put together by a group of non-medical professionals. People who really understand both autism and mercury poisoning have made it very clear that the symptoms are not the same. Not even close.

Seriously, this would have been a poor article 5 years ago. Now it's just downright embarrassing. Much more--it is irresponsible.

Please, Michele Blacksberg R.N.. Do some research before you allow such a poor article as this to go live.

September 8, 2011 - 2:45pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Vaccines contain many neurotoxic substances which cause or contribute to autism, mercury being just one of them. Dr Wakefield was attacked, vilified and eventually deregistered because he was truthfuly reporting what he found and what parents had told him. Vaccination is the sacred cow of drug-based medicine mainly because the widepread harm vaccines cause keep the wheels of the sickness industry turning and profits rolling in. I used to believe in vaccination too, until I came across evidence which opened my eyes to reality, namely the fact that vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention by means of junk science.

May 8, 2012 - 4:59am
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