Mercury and Autism

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Over at Spiked, Michael Fitzpatrick weighs in on the increasingly popular theory that mercury in vaccines causes autism in children. In a review of David Kirby's new book, Evidence of Harm, Fitzpatrick–who is both a doctor and the parent of an autistic child–writes:

The so-called 'epidemic of autism', which some parents blame on vaccines, is better explained by the increased recognition of the condition among both parents and professionals and by the expansion of diagnostic categories. Though campaigners claim that the symptoms of mercury toxicity are similar to those of autism, on closer inspection, they are quite distinct. Mercury poisoning typically causes an unsteady gait and slurred speech, visual disturbances and numbness in fingers and toes. None of these features is characteristic of autism.

Whole thing here.

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  1. With thimerosal out of the vaccines (I think the last doses were used in 2002), we should be getting some pretty good evidence one way or the other in the next couple of years.

  2. Some years back I would often ride the bus at the same time a young man I think was autistic did.
    Many of his antics appealed to me, and have, thus, stuck in my mind.
    For example, he would hum loudly up and down the musical scale looking for the resonance of the bus.
    I now often do the same in a public restroom while urinating, if I’m the only one in there. It’s a lot easier to find the resonance of a public restroom, what with all the tiling.
    But speaking of numbness of fingers, I don’t think he had that, as he would occasionally jump seats to sit next to me entreating me to “feel your bare skin.”
    By the time both of us were writhing in the aisle, the bus driver stopped the bus and kicked us off.
    (I embellished the last part.)

  3. I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me…

  4. ‘Over at Spiked, Michael Fitzpatrick weighs in on the increasingly popular theory that mercury in vaccines causes autism in children.”

    This is just a brand new manifestation of the “vaccination is evil” meme that’s been floating around since the late 18th century. When will we ever learn?

    As for autisim, I have some experience with mentally handicapped children and I’ve met more than a few autistic kids. Trust me, “an unsteady gait and slurred speech, visual disturbances and numbness in fingers and toes” does not descibe their condition.

  5. The anti-mercury crowd has been complaining for years. They also have a beef about dental fillings, don’t they? It’s not exactly the best kept secret in the west.

    Kevin

  6. I could be wrong, but wouldn’t the existence of children exposed to mercury that DON’T have autism discredit the whole theory?

    This has been a focus topic on a local Atlanta radio news station this week. From the first report it all sounded nothing more coincidental.

  7. plus the question of why so many male children develop autism as compared to females.

    but that has never stopped david icke et al.

  8. This is just a brand new manifestation of the “vaccination is evil” meme that’s been floating around since the late 18th century. When will we ever learn?

    Actually, I think it’s a reflection of vaccination’s successes that has allowed the current paranoia to spread. I know it can be a bad word around here, but the “public health” victories of the 20th century have made most people complacent about the risks of being unvaccinated. Poor science education doesn’t help either.

    I could be wrong, but wouldn’t the existence of children exposed to mercury that DON’T have autism discredit the whole theory?

    You’re wrong. The lack of a *statistical connection* between mercury exposure and autism is what discredits the theory.

  9. Whether or not mercury causes autism could be argued. But the fact that mercury is a poison cannot be. If a substitute is available, better to side with caution.

  10. “Whether or not mercury causes autism could be argued. But the fact that mercury is a poison cannot be.”

    The fact that alcohol is a poison cannot be argued.

    The fact that caffeine is a poison cannot be argued.

    The fact that salt is a poison cannot be argued.

    The fact that sugar is a poison cannot be argued.

    The first truism of toxicology is: “The dose is the poison.” (That is, EVERYTHING is a poison, at some dosage.)

    …And unfortunately, that dosage is not necessarily the same for all people. (That is, it’s possible that some children are extraordinarily sensitive to mercury.)

    http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/trautmann.html

    Tech Central Station had an interesting opinion piece, and an even more interesting opinion piece in response, regarding mercury in childhood vaccines:

    http://www.techcentralstation.com/122904D.html

    http://www.techcentralstation.com/123004E.html

    My take on the whole issue: I’m fat, but I’m not a lady, and I’ll wait to sing until later in the program.

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

    P.S. I do want to extend my sympathies for the problems of parents of children with autism…regardless of the cause(s).

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