Many in the Neurodiversity and Biomed communities are aware of this paper. It forms one of the lynchpins of the Biomed communities belief system – that autism and mercury poisoning are the same.
I’ve long been confused by this belief. Its plainly wrong and I’m amazed so many seemingly intelligent people believe it. I’ve posted about it numerous times both on here and in the comments of others blogs and the answers from its proponents when I question it veer from outright hostility to laughter at my supposed naivety in not being able to see ‘it’.
Its quite obvious to me that the symptoms of mercury poisoning tally very loosely with some comorbidities of autism but that as these things _are_ comorbidities, they cannot be used to diagnose autism and that therefore the two things cannot possibly by the same thing.
After you’ve read around a bit you’ll probably conclude as I did: The idea that the two tally is ridiculous. However, Kathleen made me aware of a commentary piece in Pediatrics that backs up my position. I didn’t even know it existed until now so ‘thanks’ to Kathleen for posting its details.
Here’s a few quotes from the commentary – the full piece is available from the link I provided.
In mercury poisoning, the characteristic motor findings are ataxia and dysarthria. These signs, along with tremor, muscle pains, and weakness, are noted on relatively high-dose exposure, acute or chronic. In 3 Romanian children accidentally exposed to ethyl mercury in a fungicide, these same symptoms were prominent. The outcome of fetal methyl mercury poisoning in severe form also included spasticity. In contrast, in autism, the only common motor manifestations are repetitive behaviors (stereotypies) such as flapping, circling, or rocking. Persons with Asperger syndrome may be clumsy, and hypotonia has been noted in some infants with autism; the frequency of clumsiness and hypotonia in autism spectrum disorders is not established. *No other motor findings are common in autism*, and indeed *the presence of ataxia or dysarthria in a child whose behavior has autistic features should lead to careful medical evaluation for an alternative or additional diagnosis*.
Other signs that may appear in children with chronic mercury toxicity, such as hypertension skin eruption and thrombocytopenia are seldom seen in autism.
When severe mercury poisoning occurs in prenatal life or early infancy, head size tends to be small and microcephaly is common. Prenatal exposure to other neurotoxinsâ€”lead, alcohol, and polychlorinated biphenyls, for exampleâ€”also predispose to decreased head size. In contrast, in autism increasing evidence indicates that head size and, as measured by volumetric magnetic resonance imaging, brain size tends to be larger than population norms.
At sufficient dose mercury is indeed a neurotoxin, but *the typical clinical signs of mercurism are not similar to the typical clinical signs of autism*.
Mercury poisoning and autism both affect the central nervous system but the specific sites of involvement in brain and the brain cell types affected are different in the two disorders as evidenced clinically and by neuropathology.
Nonspecific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irrational fears may occur both in mercury poisoning and in children with autism, but overall the clinical picture of mercurismâ€”from any known form, dose, duration, or age of exposureâ€”does not mimic that of autism.