The Autism, Vaccine and Mercury Controversy

The Vaccine and Mercury Controversy

The heavy metal mercury is well-recognized as a neurotoxin, and has been for centuries. Early hatmakers contracted what was known as "mad hatter's disease," the result of poisoning from the mercury used in hatmaking, hence the saying, "mad as a hatter." Physiologically, mercury's effects on the brain arise from its ability to bond firmly with structures in the nervous system, explains Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt. Research shows that it is taken up in the peripheral nervous system by all nerve endings (in the tongue, lungs, intestines, and connective tissue, for example) and then transported quickly via nerves to the spinal cord and brainstem.

"Once mercury has traveled up the axon, the nerve cell is impaired in its ability to detoxify itself and in its ability to nurture itself," says Dr. Klinghardt.

The use of thimerosal (ethylmercury thiosalicylate, which metabolizes in the body into ethyl mercury) as a preservative in vaccines dates from the 1930s. Until recently, vaccines have been a major source of mercury for children within their first two years of life, partly due to the increased numbers of vaccines children receive. Thimerosal is still employed as a preservative in flu vaccines, but trace amounts are permitted in all vaccines. A 2005 study showed that thimer­osal "induces neuronal cell apoptosis." Apoptosis means "pro­grammed cell death." In other words, thimerosal produces changes within cells in the nervous system (which includes the brain) that program the cells to die.

Autistic Children & Compromised Liver Detoxification System

Children who are susceptible to autism may have a compromised liver detoxification system, so their bodies are not able to get rid of the mercury as those without this defect may be able to do. This offers further explanation as to why some children are severely affected by vaccination and others are not.

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There is also a metal metabolism defect, often present in autism, which makes mercury especially toxic for autistic children. Even with a normal system, an infant can't handle mercury. Bile is needed for the process of eliminating mercury from the body, but an infant's liver does not produce bile. The hepatitis B vaccine with its load of mercury, for example, was given to children before they had bile. Again, the effects of "trace amounts" in today's vaccines are unknown.

When you compare the manifestations of mercury poisoning and autism, the correspondence is startling. Albert Enayati, a chemist and former president of the New Jersey chapter of the Cure Autism Now Foundation (CAN), states,

"As a trained sci­entist, my reading of the mercury literature indicates that every trait that defines autism can be induced by organic mercury."

Mercury Exposure in the Womb

In addition to the mercury they get in vaccines, infants may be exposed to mercury before they are even born. Their mothers may be carrying a toxic load accumulated from mercury dental fillings (so-called silver fillings are actually comprised of more than 50 per­cent mercury), inoculations, and/or fish in the diet. The Environ­mental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 1.16 million women of child-bearing age in the United States eat enough mercury-contaminated fish to risk damage to the developing brains of any chil­dren they bear.

Mercury is able to cross the placental barrier, so the fetus absorbs the mercury from fish in the mother's diet (that form of mercury is methyl mercury). The baby continues to absorb the methyl mercury after birth via the mother's breast milk. Note that total toxic load has not been considered in allowing vaccine manufacturers to continue the inclusion of thimerosal in "trace amounts."

A 2011 study investigated breast-fed infants being exposed to both fish-derived methyl mercury in maternal diets and to ethyl mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCV), which in the study were DTaP and Hepatitis B. The researchers' objective was "to evaluate a new analytical method for ethyl and methyl mercury in hair samples of breastfed infants who had received the recommended schedule of TCV." The results showed eighteen of the twenty samples of infants' hair containing variable amounts of methyl mercury, and fifteen of the twenty samples containing "precise and reliable concentrations" of ethyl mercury.

It's Not Just the Fish, Wanda

The Autism, Vaccine and Mercury ControversyThe CDC stated in a report on its first study of mercury in human blood that even children of women who do not eat much fish may be at risk for the learning and intelligence disabilities associated with mercury poisoning. The data reveal that the mercury problem is much larger than government agencies suspected. The report states that as many as 380,000 infants every year may be born to women exposed to mercury and be at risk for neurological disorders. Developing fetuses, and their nervous systems in particular, are especially vulnerable to the effects of mercury.

According to the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the amount of mercury infants get from immunizations has exceeded safety levels on both an individual and cumula­tive vaccine basis. On May 31, 2000, the FDA informed vac­cine manufacturers that reducing or eliminating thimerosal from vaccines was merited. Congressman Daniel Burton (R-Indiana) has a previously healthy grandson who developed autism after being inoculated with nine different vaccines in one day. Pushing for changes in the current vaccine policy, he stated,

"One would think that the FDA would have moved aggressively to remove vac­cines that contained mercury from the market immediately. They did not. . . . The FDA continues to allow the mercury-containing vaccines to remain on the market." He also asked the pointed question: "How is it that mercury is not safe for food additives and OTC [over-the-counter] drug products, but it is safe in our vaccines and dental amalgams?"

If you are not convinced that thimerosal is a problem, consider the words on the label of a commercial contact lens solution: "thimerosal­free formula." Shouldn't our babies be as protected as our eyes?

While the government is less than rigorous in eliminating the use of thimerosal, the evidence linking thimerosal to autism is mount­ing. Researcher Boyd Haley, PhD, chemistry professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky, states, "Thimerosal is extremely toxic. The preliminary data is convincing and does indicate that vaccines are the most likely suspect for causing autism."133

Summary Comparison of Traits of Autism and Mercury Poisoning

The following traits are all associated with both autism and mercury poisoning, as documented by researcher Sallie Bernard and colleagues. Except where noted, HgP stands for mercury poison­ing and ASD for autistic spectrum disorder.

Psychiatric Disturbances

  • Social deficits, shyness, social withdrawal

  • Repetitive, perseverative, stereotypic behaviors; obsessive-compulsive tendencies

  • Depression/depressive traits, mood swings, flat affect; impaired face recognition

  • Anxiety; schizoid tendencies; irrational fears

  • Irritability, aggression, temper tantrums

  • Lacks eye contact; impaired visual fixation (HgP)/problems in joint attention (ASD)

Speech and Language Deficits

  • Loss of speech, delayed language, failure to develop speech

  • Dysarthria; articulation problems

  • Speech comprehension deficits

  • Verbalizing and word retrieval problems (HgP); echolalia, word use and pragmatic errors (ASD)

Sensory Abnormalities

  • Abnormal sensation in mouth and extremities

  • Sound sensitivity; mild to profound hearing loss

  • Abnormal touch sensations; touch aversion

  • Oversensitivity to light; blurred vision Motor Disorders

  • Flapping, myoclonal jerks, choreiform movements, circling, rocking, toe walking, unusual postures

  • Deficits in eye-hand coordination; limb apraxia; intention tremors (HgP)/problems with intentional movement or imi­tation (ASD)

  • Abnormal gait and posture, clumsiness and incoordination; difficulties sitting, lying, crawling, and walking; problem on one side of body

Cognitive Impairments

  • Poor concentration, attention, response inhibition (HgP)/ shifting attention (ASD)

  • Uneven performance on IQ subtests; verbal IQ higher than performance IQ

  • Poor short-term, verbal, and auditory memory

  • Borderline intelligence, mental retardation—some cases reversible

  • Poor visual and perceptual motor skills; impairment in sim­ple reaction time (HgP)/lower performance on timed tests (ASD)

  • Deficits in understanding abstract ideas and symbolism; degeneration of higher mental powers (HgP)/sequencing, planning, and organizing (ASD); difficulty carrying out complex commands

Unusual Behaviors

  • Self-injurious behavior (e.g., head-banging)

  • ADHD traits

  • Agitation, unprovoked crying, grimacing, staring spells

  • Sleep difficulties

Physical Disturbances

  • Hyper- or hypotonia; abnormal reflexes; decreased muscle strength, especially upper body; incontinence; problems chewing, swallowing

  • Rashes, dermatitis, eczema, itching

  • Diarrhea, abdominal pain/discomfort, constipation, "colitis"

  • Anorexia; nausea (HgP)/vomiting (ASD); poor appetite (HgP)/restricted diet (ASD)

  • Lesions of ileum and colon; increased gut permeability

Source: Reprinted by permission of Sallie Bernard, from S. Bernard, A. Enayati, L. Redwood, H. Roger, and T. Binstock, "Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning," ARC Research, July 2000; available from ARC Research, 14 Commerce Drive, Cranford, NJ 07901.

It's Not Just in Kansas Anymore...

While it seems likely that the use of thimerosal as a preservative in vaccines will be phased out entirely in the United States, this is unfor­tunately not the case in developing countries. As a result of practical constraints and the high cost, it is not feasible there, according to the World Health Organization. So vaccines will continue as a major source of mercury toxicity and potential neurological damage for children around the world.

Before turning to the natural medicine treatments that address vaccines, mercury toxicity, and other aspects of autism, I would like to note that the information presented in this chapter is only a small portion of the available data on the dangers of vaccines and mercury and their implication in the development of autism.

©2012 by Stephanie Marohn. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
Dist. by Red Wheel Weiser.

This article was adapted with permission from the book:

The Natural Medicine Guide to Autism
by Stephanie Marohn.

The Natural Medicine Guide to Autism by Stephanie Marohn.Parents are scrambling to find effective treatment methods for their autistic children. The Natural Medicine Guide to Autism offers answers by exploring a range of effective treatment options and the possibility of a positive outcome via natural medicine therapies. A chapter is also devoted to the deeper question of what makes a child susceptible to autism.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.

About the Author

Stephanie Marohn, author of the book: The Natural Medicine Guide to AutismStephanie Marohn is a medical journalist and non-fiction writer and the author of the Healthy Mind series for Hampton Roads. In 1997, a miniature horse named Pegasus started her on the path to creating the Animal Messenger Sanctuary, a safe haven for farm animals in Sonoma County, CA.  Visit her website at (Photo: Dorothy Walters)

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