The first association between autism and exposure to mercury was the publication of the landmark article Autism, A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning by Bernard, et. al in 2000. The paper was first published in its entirety (See link below) and later in the journals Medical Hypothesis and Molecular Psychiatry in 2001. The authors conducted an extensive literature review of mercury and autism and showed that exposure to mercury can give rise to the traits defining or commonly found in individuals with autism spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Mercury can cause impairments in social interaction, communication difficulties, and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, which comprise the three of the original DSM-IV autism diagnostic criteria. Additionally, mercury can induce features prominent in ASD such as sensory abnormalities, emotional/psychological changes, movement disorder, impairments in abstract or complex thinking, severe sleep disturbances, and self injurious behavior. Males are more affected than females in both conditions. Physiological abnormalities more common in ASD populations and known to be caused by mercury exposure include gastrointestinal problems, autonomic nervous system disturbance, unusual EEG activity, immune system alterations, irregularities in neurotransmitter systems, and non-specific brain lesions.

The discovery and increase in the reported prevalence of autism parallels the introduction and spread of thimerosal-containing vaccines. Autism was first described in 1943 among children born in the 1930s. Thimerosal was first added to childhood vaccines in the 1930s. Thimerosal was also an ingredient in vaginal contraceptive creams and in over-the-counter products like merthiolate and contact lenses solution during the 1950’s through the 1980’s when its use was initially questioned by the FDA. In 1989 with the introduction a new vaccine for Haemophilus influenza B, exposure levels to mercury doubled in products that were universally recommended for all infants and children, vaccines. This is the year that has been identified by researchers as the “change point” year when the incidence of autism began to skyrocket.

Since 2000, the medial literature has been flush with cumulative research supporting a causal role for mercury in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders. Such studies have documented associations between environmental exposure to mercury and autism spectrum disorders, elevated levels of mercury in tissue of children with autism, and improvement in the symptoms of autism when levels of mercury were reduced using chelating agents that help to remove mercury from the body and other interventions to reduce oxidative stress.

The articles below highlight these findings.

Thimerosol is a Developmental Neurotoxicant

Dr. Lucier is the Retired Director of the Environmental Toxicology Program, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

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A Case-Control Study of Mercury Burden in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Large autism epidemics have recently been reported in the United States and the United Kingdom. Emerging epidemiologic evidence and biologic plausibility suggest an association between autistic spectrum disorders and mercury exposure. This study compares mercury excretion after a three-day treatment with an oral chelating agent in children with autistic spectrum disorders and a matched control population.

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Mercury, Lead, and Zinc in Baby Teeth of Children with Autism Versus Control

This study determined the level of mercury, lead, and zinc in baby teeth of children with autism specrtum disorder and typically developing children. Childen with autism had significantly higher levels of mercury but similar levels of lead and similar levels of zinc.

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Related Studies that link Mercury to Autism

This review article includes a section on numerous papers linking thimerosal exposure via infant vaccines to autism. The publication also includes a critique of studies supported or conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that deny any associations between exposure to thimerosal in vaccines and the subsequent development of autism. The CDC has been criticized by Congress for inherent conflicts of interest related to its vaccine development activities and role in vaccine safety oversight.

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Autism: A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning

Autism is a syndrome characterized by impairments in social relatedness, language and communication, a need for routine and sameness, abnormal movements, and sensory dysfunction. Mercury (Hg) is a toxic metal that can exist as a pure element or in a variety of inorganic and organic forms and can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions similar to traits defining or associated with autism.Thimerosal, a preservative frequently added to childhood vaccines, has become a major source of Hg in human infants and toddlers.

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Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal

Thimerosal is a preservative that has been used in manufacturing vaccines since the 1930s. Reports have indicated that infants can receive ethylmercury (in the form of thimerosal) at or above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for methylmercury (MeHg) exposure, depending on the exact vaccinations, schedule, and size of the infant. This study compared the systemic disposition and brain distribution of total and inorganic mercury in infant monkeys following thimerosal exposure with infants exposed to MeHg.

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Treatment Options for Mercury/Metal Toxicity in Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities: Consensus Position Paper

In 2001 the Autism Research Institute convened our first mercury detoxification Think Tank in Dallas, Texas in response to the need for information on how best to treat mercury toxicity. The resulting Consensus Report published in May, 2001, has beenwidely distributed in hard copy and on the Autism Research Institute website. A second mercury detoxification Think Tank was held in Los Angeles in September 2004 to consider recent advances in detoxification technology. This report presents the findings of that Think-Tank. Although this report was created over a decade ago, much of the science remains the same.

The Autism Research Institute has been evaluating various biomedical treatments for autism since 1967. One approach has been simply to have parents rate the effectiveness of each of the biomedical treatments they have tried. Over 23,000 parents have responded to their questionnaires. Of the 77 biomedical interventions rated for efficacy by parents, mercury detoxification received a far higher rating than any drug, supplement, or special diet. Mercury detoxification was rated helpful by 73% of parents, with the gluten/casein free diet coming in second with 63%. According to the Founder of the Autism Research Institute, the late Bernard Rimland, “This is a remarkable and encouraging finding that must not be ignored!”

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Trace Amounts

Has Mercury Caused One of the Worst Health Crises in American History?

During the past 20 years, the frequency of autism occurring in children has skyrocketed from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 68, and the scientific community is no closer to determining a cause. Trace Amounts is the true story of Eric Gladen’s painful journey through mercury poisoning that he believes resulted from a thimerosal-loaded tetanus shot. His discoveries led him on a quest for the scientific truth about the role of mercury poisoning in the Autism epidemic.