Porphyrins and autism again

16 Aug

You may recall an fairly recent exchange I had with Dr Paul King (pictured below with the invention he utilises to type his many-fonted PDF’s – The Fabulous Fontographer 2000) wherein he wrote to various media people exhorting them to examine the final proof that mercury causes autism – the existence of certain Porphyrin’s in autistic kids – following on from the science (don’t laugh) of the Geier’s and Richard Lathe et al and my responses to clarify that there had been no such proof and that the authors of one of the two papers his proof rested on were the first to admit that.fontographer2000.gif

The autism and scientific world failed to fall adoringly at Dr King’s feet, possibly because either:

a) There is a vast conspiracy from the Illuminati lizard-people hiding ‘the truth’ or;
b) He’s wrong. Again.

The media world failed to fall breathlessly on Dr King’s ‘scoop’, possibly because either:

a) There is a second vast conspiracy from the press wing of the Illuminati lizard-people hiding ‘the truth’ or;
b) He’s wrong. Again.

In the meantime, parents carry on getting scammed by this latest ‘test’ for autism related mercury poisoning. If we want evidence of the sheer silliness of the whole damn thing we need only turn to the words of those that use it. The following post was forwarded to me from a member of the Autism Biomedical Europe Yahoo Group:

I’m confused by my son’s porphyrin levels and could do with help. Ran the French porphyrin tests in July 06, Feb 07 and July 07. Precoporphyrin was 30 a year ago = mecury toxic. This dropped to 18 in Feb as we chelated. We’re still chleating, but his last test showed the level was back up to 29.

His Copro levels (mercury and lead) have also gone nuts.
290 in July 06
330 in Feb 07
440 in July 07

We know that the chelators are working (urinary toxic metals show good pulls), so why are the porphyrin levels not dropping?

We live in a nice rural area with no major industry and no major source of toxic metals, so I doubt he’s picking up metals from the environment.

Weird huh? What possible explanation could there be for mercury and lead levels to not go down??? As far as I can tell, there are four:

a) Chelation doesn’t work
b) This child was never mercury poisoned
c) The Porphyrin test doesn’t work
d) Something else?

What do you think? What other explanations could there be?

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43 Responses to “Porphyrins and autism again”

  1. Deb August 16, 2007 at 15:42 #

    I am always intrigued by any autism article. I am still into the debate of mercury vs not mercury in the FIGHT on autism. I am one of those who doesnt believe there is a cure, ut I would love to know the “cause”. We are looking into Genetic testing!

  2. bones August 16, 2007 at 16:05 #

    The porphyrin test does work…for diagnosing porphyrias. From the NIH:

    “…a rare group of disorders passed down through families in which an important part of hemoglobin, called heme, does not develop properly. Heme is also found in myoglobin, a protein found in certain muscles”

    A standard reference range is not available for this test. Because reference values are dependent on many factors, including patient age, gender, sample population, and test method, numeric test results have different meanings in different labs.

    Porphyrins are excreted through urine or stool. Individuals with porphyria have a genetic defect that prevents this process from occuring. Consequently, a buildup of porphyrins occurs, causing abdominal pain, rashes due to light sensitivity, etc…

    If the individual is excreting porphyrins that is exactly what they are supposed to do. This myth about high levels (or any level, for that matter) of precoporphyrin being an indicator for mercury toxicity is just that..a myth.

    As for why the above individual’s test results keep fluctuating between high and low, it keeps them coming back for more. Create a panic (with a high level), chelate, create false hope (with a low score), keep chelating…just to be sure, create panic (with another high level, and continue the cycle. It’s a money maker.

  3. Leila August 16, 2007 at 16:29 #

    I think the labs are scamming the parents.

  4. Broken Link August 16, 2007 at 16:33 #

    The parents using this test should be aware that the correlation between mercury exposure and elevated urinary porphyrins rests on the results of one person, Dr. James S. Woods. The paper in question has been conveniently supplied by Paul King

    This paper looks at the difference between the porphyrin levels in the urine of dentists and others with occupational (i.e. continuous) mercury exposure. People with detectable mercury in their urine (without any provokation) of greater than 20 micrograms/liter had more porphyrins than those with less than 1 micrgram/liter of mercury in their urine.

    In other words, Woods MAY have established a correlation between porphyins and mercury poisoning for humans with DETECTABLE mercury in their urine. But autistic children don’t have detectable mercury in their urine without a provoked test! That’s the reason why DAN! doctors suggest the porphyrin test – to detect otherwise undetectable mercury.

    So, the whole urinary porphyrin test rests of very shaky grounds. The fact that parents are reporting these discrepancies in their child’s testing only indicates that it is likely completely bogus. By analogy, let’s consider a study that looked at people with and without recently broken legs. A blood test of these two groups indicates that the ones with broken legs have higher levels of catecholamines. (Catecholamines are a known marker for stress). The authors claim that having catecholamines in the blood is a marker for broken legs. This is similar to what Dr. Woods claims, and you can see how this is a pretty weak link. Lots of other things could cause increased catecholamines. Just like lots of other things are known to increase porphyrins in the urine. Now, to make matters worse, someone comes along and begins to claim that when they detect increased catecholamines, this indicates that a child has a hidden, undetectable, broken leg! And suggests that the parents begin treatment for a broken leg, even though all standard medical testing fails to find the broken leg.

    These parents are wasting their money and endangering their children.

  5. Broken Link August 16, 2007 at 16:35 #

    The link to the Woods papers seems to have gone awol in the message above.

    http://mercury-freedrugs.org/docs/AlteredporphyrinmetabolismasabiomarkerofMercuryExposureToxicity1.pdf

    sorry Kev.

  6. Broken Link August 16, 2007 at 16:38 #

    Also, love that fontographer 2000!

  7. Joseph August 16, 2007 at 17:01 #

    e) The lab is run by the Illuminati.

  8. Bartholomew Cubbins August 16, 2007 at 17:41 #

    As far as I can tell, there are four:

    a) Chelation doesn’t work
    b) This child was never mercury poisoned
    c) The Porphyrin test doesn’t work
    d) Something else?

    d) $$ $$
    e) All the Above

  9. Kev August 16, 2007 at 18:03 #

    1) Vaccine conspiracy theory
    2) ???
    3) profit!

  10. bullet August 16, 2007 at 19:17 #

    The lizard people are merely a front. They are actually working for the giant gerbils from the nether regions of Filey :P.

  11. Prometheus August 16, 2007 at 20:58 #

    Dr. Woods has pretty reliably shown that, in the presence of mercury poisoning, there is a repeatable pattern of elevated urinary porphyrins.

    What he hasn’t shown is that this pattern cannot be produced by other disorders, including genetic abnormalities affecting the involved enzymes.

    Unfortunately, this is a detail that is lost on the good Dr. King. And a number of others.

    The “porphyrin test” is a potential method to screen for mercury poisoning – but a urinary mercury test is better and more specific (and much, much cheaper!).

    Oh, and mercury hasn’t been shown to cause autism. All the evidence seems to be pointing the other way, in fact.

    Prometheus

  12. MJ August 16, 2007 at 21:06 #

    e) Continued exposure to the substances in questions and/or the failure of the body’s system to remove the substance in question.

  13. Kev August 16, 2007 at 21:20 #

    Oooh, come on MJ, stay in the bounds of fact, not fiction eh?

  14. MJ August 16, 2007 at 22:24 #

    You did ask for other explanations, you didn’t say “likely” possible explanations.

  15. Joseph August 16, 2007 at 23:27 #

    The mom did say “We know that the chelators are working (urinary toxic metals show good pulls)” so the “poor excretor” hypothesis doesn’t apply in this case. Continued exposure doesn’t apply either given the “good pulls”, unless it was something out of the ordinary.

  16. Matt August 17, 2007 at 00:56 #

    Kev,

    why keep to the bounds of fact?

    Maybe, the kid’s body is a natural alchemist? Perhaps he is changing iron into mercury inside his body.

    Even if you take the porphyin test as valid, it would show the effect of metals on the kidneys. It would show the removal of metals by chelation…from the kidneys. It would not give you any idea if you have removed mercury from the brain. Unless autism is caused by mercury in the kidneys, it doesn’t really advance your knowledge much.

    One of Woods’ papers (as I recall) notes that about 15% of the people don’t show the link with porphyrins and mercury. Wouldn’t that be a nice thing to tell parents?

    Gotta go an put the human mask over my lizard face now…

    Matt

  17. notmercury August 17, 2007 at 01:26 #

    Woods also points out the pitfalls of normalizing to creatinine.

  18. MJ August 17, 2007 at 21:46 #

    Joseph said:

    ‘The mom did say “We know that the chelators are working (urinary toxic metals show good pulls)” so the “poor excretor” hypothesis doesn’t apply in this case.’

    That doesn’t follow – if the parents feel the need to use chelation then almost by definition they are implying that they thing the child can’t handle his toxic metals (ie poor excretor).

  19. Joseph August 17, 2007 at 22:08 #

    That doesn’t follow – if the parents feel the need to use chelation then almost by definition they are implying that they thing the child can’t handle his toxic metals (ie poor excretor).

    That’s not necessarily the case. When someone has true heavy metal poisoning, chelation is indicated regardless of whether they are poor or great excretors. (I’m disregarding the fact that the existence of poor excretors has never been demonstrated).

    Also, if they are poor excretors, it’s not clear why (by all accounts) chelation causes them to excreate heavy metals just as much as it would with any other person.

    The point was that if they are dumping metals, during chelation, at a rate much higher than one would normally excrete metals, then it doesn’t matter if they are poor excretors. It doesn’t explain why porphyrins aren’t going down, unless there’s some constant and significant intake of heavy metals by some special means.

  20. Do'C August 17, 2007 at 22:21 #

    That doesn’t follow – if the parents feel the need to use chelation then almost by definition they are implying that they thing the child can’t handle his toxic metals (ie poor excretor).

    What thinking? By definition, such parents are stating belief. There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors. In fact a study by Bradstreet et al. may have shown that autistic children are superior excretors:

    “Controls and cases were both challenged with a three-day oral treatment of DMSA (10 mg/kg per dose given three times daily).”

    “Our null hypothesis was that the populations under study should have similar distributions of excreted heavy metals, and we accepted a double-sided P-value of

    “The urinary mercury concentrations were significantly higher in cases than in controls (RI=3.76; P

    “This study shows a strong association between increased urinary mercury concentrations following three days of treatment with DMSA and the presence of an autistic spectrum disorder.”

    Remember, according to the Generation Rescue,

    “A non-excretor of mercury is someone who, even after the administration of a chelating agent (which is how a mercury toxicity test has typically been performed), is unable to excrete any mercury.”

    Source: Generation Rescue, “25 Myths of Autism”, downloaded February 2007 from generationrescue.org.

    Based on the Bradstreet et al. study, it looks like autistic children may be superior excretors, and that was after only three days!

  21. Joseph August 17, 2007 at 23:11 #

    Were those concentrations relative to creatinine by chance? How did they manage to justify administering DMSA to controls? No IRB I suppose.

  22. Do'C August 18, 2007 at 00:11 #

    “Were those concentrations relative to creatinine by chance?”

    They were.

    How did they manage to justify administering DMSA to controls? No IRB I suppose.

    Good question. The study was apparently approved by Arizona State University’s IRB for retrospective examination, so my guess would be that whether or not proper informed consent was obtained for controls might raise questions in certain circles.

    Of course it is known that ASU’s IRB subsequently REJECTED another chelation study that eventually went through the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.

  23. MJ August 19, 2007 at 01:48 #

    “What thinking? By definition, such parents are stating belief. There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors. In fact a study by Bradstreet et al. may have shown that autistic children are superior excretors:”

    OK, not to start another long discussion here, but a few points. The implication that parent’s who use chelation aren’t thinking and acting on faith is ever so slightly wrong. There is evidence out there, you choose to think it is not accurate or valid. And just because you don’t think it accurate doesn’t mean the other person is acting irrationally. Difference of opinion doesn’t lead to “What thinking”.

    Second, my understanding of poor excretors is more along the lines of how Wilson’s disease works:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson's_disease

    Or to paraphrase, the body’s mechanism to remove the toxin from the body is broken. Therefore the substance builds up. A chelating agent can still pull out the substance when used properly.

    Which means, assuming the above it true, that when the substance is removed via a chelating agent you would see a larger amount being removed after giving the chelating agent. And I think that is what was shown in Bradstreet et al. Mainly, you give an agent and see a higher level afterwards.

    I do understand however that you are saying that this proves that the mercury in autism individuals is bound less tightly and therefore easier to remove via chelation. I would just wonder, if that is the case, how the mercury would have been grabbed by the tissue in the first place if the binding was so weak. Which implies that there would be less of the substance to remove, therefore I would think that you should see the same level or less in autism individuals.

    However, since I have not read the study you are quoting, I am not sure what their theory was. I will have to be sure to add it to my reading list.

    I haven’t heard the item you are quoting from generation rescue but I have to wonder if they differentiate between a poor-excretor and a non-excretor. However generation rescue seems to be a little more of an extreme view, I would wonder what the position would be of groups and individuals more to the center of the debate.

    However, in light of all of the statements about lack of research and the claims not having been proven, I find statements like this :

    “How did they manage to justify administering DMSA to controls? No IRB I suppose.”

    to be funny. On one hand you quote the lack of studies on the subject while on the other commenting that performing the studies is unethical. So if you want the studies but don’t like them being performed, isn’t that the same as saying that you have an inherent assumption that chelation won’t work – even though there are no studies that prove it doesn’t? And if so, how is that different from assuming it will work without the studies?

  24. Do'C August 19, 2007 at 02:44 #

    “The implication that parent’s who use chelation aren’t thinking and acting on faith is ever so slightly wrong. There is evidence out there, you choose to think it is not accurate or valid. And just because you don’t think it accurate doesn’t mean the other person is acting irrationally. Difference of opinion doesn’t lead to “What thinking”.

    MJ,

    My statement about the existence of “poor mercury excretors”

    >> “There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors.”

    Is not an opinion. It is a fact. There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors. I acknowledge that it could be incorrect. All you need to do to show that I am incorrect is provide some evidence that autistic children ARE poor mercury excretors.

    In the absence of any evidence, those who chelate based on the notion that their autistic child is a “poor mercury excretor” ARE acting on faith.

    “Or to paraphrase, the body’s mechanism to remove the toxin from the body is broken. Therefore the substance builds up. A chelating agent can still pull out the substance when used properly.”

    Yet there is also absolutely no scientific evidence based on sound methodology that has demonstrated any “build-up” of mercury in autistic children.

    “I do understand however that you are saying that this proves that the mercury in autism individuals is bound less tightly and therefore easier to remove via chelation.”

    Incorrect. I’m saying no such thing.

  25. MJ August 19, 2007 at 15:09 #

    “Is not an opinion. It is a fact. There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors. I acknowledge that it could be incorrect. All you need to do to show that I am incorrect is provide some evidence that autistic children ARE poor mercury excretors.”

    This is the statement of an opinion, not a fact. If you look at the way that you are constructing your argument either you are the judge of all evidence in the world or the judgment is your opinion. If it is the first one, then no discussion is possible because you will already be sure that you are right and will not consider other points of view (if you do consider other information and will potentially change your mind then it wasn’t a fact either). If it is the second then it is your opinion, not a fact.

    There should be three different ways of looking at information. Either A – Proven B – Disproven C – Not enough information. And proven does not equal “facts”. If you want me to accept that this is in case B, show me the evidence that disproves this theory. For right now I think the rational response is C – not enough information. And to be clear here, this is my opinion, I make no assertions that this is a fact or any kind.

    “Yet there is also absolutely no scientific evidence based on sound methodology that has demonstrated any “build-up” of mercury in autistic children.”

    Again, an opinion. I do not know of any good evidence yet either – but I have not decided that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it isn’t possible.

    However, if you start from the assumption that the mercury is there (I know, a big if) then chelation is a rational response. Especially since there are other disease processes that are similar that do use chelation this way.

    Which comes back full circle to my original statement, if you believe that your child can’t excrete mercury, chelation isn’t a “What thinking” reaction, it is actually a rational one based on accepted processes. So if you disagree with the first statement (the mercury is retained) means you disagree on the initial point, not that the other side is acting irrationally.

    Or maybe I am wrong here, so let me ask you, if you start from the poor-excretor assumption, do you still think that chelation is a radical treatment?

    ““I do understand however that you are saying that this proves that the mercury in autism individuals is bound less tightly and therefore easier to remove via chelation.”

    Incorrect. I’m saying no such thing.”

    Then I don’t know on what basis you staring that autistic individuals are super-excretors.

  26. Joseph August 19, 2007 at 15:29 #

    The fact that there exist “studies” out there that muddy the waters about some things is a significant issue in medicine I think. That’s the case with the Holmes et al. baby hair cut study, for example. You can say “it’s not peer reviewed” and point out all the very significant problems with the study, as Prometheus has done a good job of; but the study is there, and is scientific sounding. You can’t expect all parents to follow the debate in its entirety and understand all about proper methodology and so forth. In that sense, you can’t claim parents are being entirely irrational about believing in the “poor excretor” hypothesis. I think MJ might be right about that. The quacks have pretty effective ways to muddy the waters.

  27. Do'C August 19, 2007 at 17:05 #

    If it is the second then it is your opinion, not a fact.

    There is no evidence that autistic children are poor mercury excretors. That is a fact. Feel free to refute this fact with evidence. Is there a hypothesis? Yes, and plenty of it, but a hypothesis is not evidence. If you look to the likely origin of the “poor mercury excretor” hypothesis (Holmes et al. first baby haircuts study), upon careful reading you will see that its conclusion is pure unsupported hypothesis.

    If reduced overall mercury elimination is related to hair elimination, then autistic infants will retain significantly higher levels of mercury in tissue, including the brain, than normal infants. In light of the biological plausibility of mercury’s role in neurodevelopmental disorders, our study provides further insight into one possible mechanism by which early mercury exposures could increase the risk of autism.

    One big “if” and a “look” at a “hypothetical” “might”.

    By the way, I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever that supports that “if”. The data in no way supports such conclusion.

    I acknowledge that it is possible that good scientific evidence that demonstrates that autistic children are poor mercury excretors may be presented in the future. This will not change that fact that today, this evidence does not exist. This is not to say that “poor mercury excretors” among autistic children do not exist, it’s absolutely possible. I’m saying that there is no evidence that they do.

    “Or maybe I am wrong here, so let me ask you, if you start from the poor-excretor assumption, do you still think that chelation is a radical treatment?”

    And therein lies the difference between you and me. I have not started from the “assumption” that “poor mercury excretors” do not exist. They may or they may not. The burden of proof that autistic children are poor mercury excretors lies with those who make the claim that they are. Starting from the “poor excretor assumption” is something that can work in a few scenarios that I see:

    A. IRB-approved research to test the hypothesis.
    B. A non-scientific act of belief, ahead of any science, that evidence may turn up in the future.
    C. A non-scientific act of belief regardless of any science.
    D. An act of thinking based on misunderstood science.

    Joseph,

    I agree with your assessment. I also agree with this sentiment expressed by Ballastexistenz:

    “It is a myth that you have to be stupid or gullible in order to be misled.”

    In that sense, there may be many parents who are simply out of their fields of expertise or understanding, and in that specific scenario MJ, I would agree with you that “What thinking?” would not apply.

  28. Joseph August 19, 2007 at 20:40 #

    I wonder what Amy Holmes thinks of her study after all these years. She hasn’t come out and said anything about her prior views, or about her “early results” on chelation as an autism treatment. But I wouldn’t be surprised if her views have shifted in much the same way Jim Laidler’s did.

    There was also an unusually odd bias or error in her early evaluation of her own son’s progress. It occurs to me it’s not impossible that some of that bias played a part in Holmes et al. It’s hard to explain the skewed results of that study, particularly as far as the control group is concerned.

  29. MJ August 20, 2007 at 03:10 #

    “And therein lies the difference between you and me. I have not started from the “assumption” that “poor mercury excretors” do not exist. They may or they may not. The burden of proof that autistic children are poor mercury excretors lies with those who make the claim that they are. Starting from the “poor excretor assumption” is something that can work in a few scenarios that I see:”

    I think you are missing the point of what I am attempting to say here. I am not trying to argue that the underlying theory that autistic individuals are poor excretors of mercury is valid. I don’t think there is enough information available to make that kind of statement. And no amount of study bashing is going to convince me that just because one study was wrong that immediately invalidates the entire theory.

    What I am saying is that if you already believe that, then the step to use chelation to attempt to remove the mercury is a valid one. And that would be a rational process to pursue. Not a “What thinking” sort of reaction or a “parents who are simply our of their field” sort of reaction.

    “You can’t expect all parents to follow the debate in its entirety and understand all about proper methodology and so forth. In that sense, you can’t claim parents are being entirely irrational about believing in the “poor excretor” hypothesis. I think MJ might be right about that. The quacks have pretty effective ways to muddy the waters.”

    You are completely missing the point as well. I am not saying that the so-called quacks are out there promoting their own agenda which is confusing the poor parent’s who can’t possibly understand the science.

    This debate is not a black and white one with your so-called quacks on one side and the believers of scientific certainty on the other. Your quacks are people who by and large are trying to do what they think is the right thing. They believe that what they are pursuing is the right course. This does not imply that every one of them is honest or ethical. Or even that they are correct in their beliefs.

    And on the other you have your scientific certainty and with it the method to ascertain which one the many conflicting views is the “correct” one. What was that method again, oh yes, a popularity contest. If you get enough of your peers to agree with you then you are right. We all know that the wisdom of crowds is never wrong and that the scientific method can never lead to invalid conclusions.

    And when you come up with a new idea or a break-through in your field, your peers will always completely embrace the idea, even if it flies in the face of everything they think they know – because they will have the proper method to decide that this new view can be blessed as correct.

    So let me see, autism is caused by cold uncaring mothers and the earth is flat, right?

  30. Do'C August 20, 2007 at 03:27 #

    What I am saying is that if you already believe that, then the step to use chelation to attempt to remove the mercury is a valid one.

    It doesn’t get much clearer than this sentence you wrote – action based on “belief”.

  31. Ms. Clark August 20, 2007 at 04:43 #

    Holmes explained at at DAN! conference right at the end of their gathering the baby hair data, that they had found that the autistic kids were low in mercury compared to the normal controls (to put it mildly, she didn’t say that their “normals” had extremely high levels of mercury in their hair…). She expressed puzzlement, so she called up Boyd Haley who said to her, “of course! it’s cuz them thar kids cain’t execrete no murcry” and she said, “of course! Why Boyd you’re brilliant!”

    It wowed the DAN! crowd, apparently.

  32. Joseph August 20, 2007 at 13:35 #

    This debate is not a black and white one with your so-called quacks on one side and the believers of scientific certainty on the other. Your quacks are people who by and large are trying to do what they think is the right thing. They believe that what they are pursuing is the right course. This does not imply that every one of them is honest or ethical. Or even that they are correct in their beliefs.

    There *is* evidence of quackery. Just look at Kathleen’s work or the trial transcripts. Of course, there are those who are parents and probably just followers. That might be the case of Mark Blaxill and Jim Adams, for example. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why they don’t denounce the quacks among them and instead keep associating with them. Most parents on that side of the debate defend scientific misconduct. It boggles the mind, frankly.

  33. Ms. Clark August 20, 2007 at 20:09 #

    SAFE MINDS seemed to be trying to distance themselves from the Geiers, if I recall they moved some of the stuff about him off their website or buried it.

    If Blaxill, Redwood and Bernard know that Geier is dangerous, why don’t they put out a statement saying so? Probably because they are too cowardly, that’s my guess. They’ll swagger into the IOM and CDC and demand this or that, but won’t stand up to the quacks. None of the quacks have outed a fellow quack, either. Like Neubrainer wouldn’t naysay Geier’s testosterone sheets, and Geier wouldn’t comment negatively about the quack B12 shots.

  34. Prometheus August 20, 2007 at 20:59 #

    Re: the myth of the “poor excretor”

    This myth appears to have originated with the Holmes et al paper – it has no basis in fact and is contrary to what is known about how mercury gets into hair.

    Mercury is bound by growing hair fibers because hair has a great deal of cystine – a sulfur-containing amino acid – which binds mercury quite firmly. The mercury is not excreted – it simply diffuses out of the blood supplying the follicle and gets bound to the hair.

    Numerous animal studies have shown – over and over and over… – that the amount of mercury in the hair is proportional to the amount of mercury in the blood. To assert the contrary – which the Holmes et al paper does – would require some data showing differently. Holmes et al (and Kern et al) do not provide any data supporting their assertions that [a] mercury is excreted into the hair and that [b] autistic children are poor excretors.

    What Holmes et al have done is create a myth – a contrived story to explain what, to them, is inexplicable. Like most myths, it has no basis in fact. It is simply a “Just So” story, made up to explain away some “inconvenient truths”.

    A simpler and better explanation of the findings is that there was less mercury in the blood of the autistic subjects than in that of the normal controls. This could be due to either lower exposure or poor absorption. The one possibility that can be definitively excluded is that of “poor excretion”, since hair does not excrete mercury and so there is no function to be “poor”. Strange that you never hear anyone espousing the “poor absorber” hypothesis.

    Of course, another explanation is that the specimens were poorly handled and indifferently analyzed. This could also explain the findings, including the findings that the “normal controls” had hair mercury levels nearly ten times that found in the larger NHANES study done at about the same time.

    Prometheus

  35. MJ August 20, 2007 at 22:18 #

    Am I writing in a foreign language or is what I am writing not making any sense?

    I posted another comment trying to make clear I was not asserting that the theory was correct only that “the other side” was not a group of irrational uneducated people who willing to be believe every theory under the sun.

    What I got back was another round of DAN bashing ..

    “It wowed the DAN! crowd, apparently. ”

    Quackery…

    “There is evidence of quackery”

    Scientist bashing ..

    “Probably because they are too cowardly”

    with a good helping of you don’t understand the facts …

    ‘This myth appears to have originated with the Holmes et al paper – it has no basis in fact and is contrary to what is known about how mercury gets into hair.”

    I am starting to understand why this always leads to a heated debate. The appearance, from my prospective at least, is that most of the people who have commented are so firmly convinced that they have the utter truth that there is no room to even consider an alternative viewpoint. So this discussion isn’t going to go anywhere and I think I will call this the end.

  36. Do'C August 21, 2007 at 03:56 #

    “I posted another comment trying to make clear I was not asserting that the theory was correct only that “the other side” was not a group of irrational uneducated people who willing to be believe every theory under the sun.”

    And then you turned right back around and said that if they “believe” the ‘poor mercury excretor’, they are acting rationally.

    “What I am saying is that if you already believe that, then the step to use chelation to attempt to remove the mercury is a valid one.”

    It looks like you’re essentially arguing that “belief” alone is the basis of rationality.

    By the way, where is that dramatic Mr. Straw Man saying, that “the other side” is a group of irrational uneducated people willing to believe every theory under the sun?

  37. Matt August 21, 2007 at 05:35 #

    MJ–

    it is somewhat disingenuous to state late in the game that

    I posted another comment trying to make clear I was not asserting that the theory was correct only that “the other side” was not a group of irrational uneducated people who willing to be believe every theory under the sun.

    Your first posts were in the voice of one defending the ideas of the “poor excretor”

    The appearance, from my prospective at least, is that most of the people who have commented are so firmly convinced that they have the utter truth that there is no room to even consider an alternative viewpoint.

    If you had brought some new ideas, data or studies to the table, this could be a valid argument. Take into consideration that you are dealing with people who have taken the time to thoroughly analyze the available studies. As to the Holmes study: it was flawed. Also, it isn’t “Scientist Bashing” since Amy Holmes isn’t and wasn’t a scientitst (but that is a very minor point).

    That said, the Holmes study makes a the “poor excreter” statement:

    By contrast, autistic infants who experienced comparable
    exposure to mercury were completely incapable of excreting
    mercury through hair at the levels that might have been predicted
    based on the excretion patterns of the control infants.

    Paragraphs later, they say:

    Although hair is a minor pathway for mercury excretion and is far
    less important than feces and urine, the low levels of mercury in
    the hair of autistic infants support a hypothesis that these infants
    were retaining mercury in tissue at a higher rate than control
    infants. The lack of mercury in the hair of autistics may be due to
    a decrease in blood mercury levels feeding the hair follicles. This
    decrease is likely caused by the retention of the mercury inside
    the cells where it most likely causes its major biological damage.

    So, they basically said, “autistics can’t excrete” and “there is much less mercury in the blood to be excreted by hair” based on the same data. So, is it that the hair can’t “excrete” or is it that the blood levels were low. If the blood levels are low, what does that really tell you? Could it be that the mercury was removed amazingly fast by the real excretory systems in the body?

    If they said, “autistics can’t get mercury into their hair since it isn’t in the blood” , it would have been less confusing–especially to parents who are making decisions to try experimental treatments based on this study.

    And, yes, people did jump to the conclusion that this study somehow demonstrates “poor excretion”

    From the ARI concesus paper on mercury:
    Since hair is a measure of excretion, it appears that the difference is due to a very limited ability of the children with autism to excrete mercury.

    The study was flawed. It has not been reproduced. Fombonne showed a poster at IMFAR this year where blood, hair and toenail samples from autistics and NT’s showed the same level of mercury.

    Matt

  38. Matt August 21, 2007 at 07:27 #

    Ms. Clark–

    A google search shows 28 pages with “Geier” on the Safeminds website.

    If they moved or removed stuff, they could do a whole lot better.

    Well, Safeminds could do a whole lot better in general.

    Matt

  39. Ms. Clark August 21, 2007 at 08:32 #

    Thank you, Matt. I can’t remember what it was that made me think that SAFE MINDS was stepping away from Geier slightly. I guess I could compared old cached web pages with their current pages.

  40. bones August 21, 2007 at 12:11 #

    Ms. Clark-
    I thought that as well, and I think you may be right. I don’t believe they’ve changed their position re Hg//autism, however, I think they realize that Geier isn’t going to get it done for them.

  41. notmercury August 21, 2007 at 13:39 #

    MJ said: “Second, my understanding of poor excretors is more along the lines of how Wilson’s disease works”

    The differences between Wilson’s disease and the ‘Poor Excretor’ hypothesis are too many to list. It’s not even close to being a useful model for mercury retention or accumulation.

    There are many disorders involving incomplete metabolism, conversion, excretion, etc. of various toxic substances. Most share the common denominator of measurable levels in blood or tissue. What is it about mercury in autistic children that renders it undetectable by conventional means and, if it is that tightly sequestered, how harmful can it be?

  42. Matt August 21, 2007 at 14:09 #

    Thank you, Matt. I can’t remember what it was that made me think that SAFE MINDS was stepping away from Geier slightly. I guess I could compared old cached web pages with their current pages

    I have learned to trust your memory!

    I just wanted to point out that Safeminds has only taken the first steps.

    Matt

  43. Joseph August 21, 2007 at 17:56 #

    MJ is basically attempting to argue that there’s equivalence in the validity of opinions of the DAN! crowd and the anti-DAN! crowd.

    That’s like saying there’s equivalence between Intelligent Design and Evolution, and certainly there are people who make that argument.

    It comes down to scientific method vs. “special ways of knowing”.

    Not all opinions have equal validity. Not all evidence has equal validity either. I think it helps to observe the behavior of each side of the debate. I don’t believe it’s necessarily only about where all the quacks are and where the conspiracists are.

    There’s something compelling about this side, where you have Kev, Autism Diva, D’oC, NotMercury, Prometheus and others. These are people who understand both sides of the argument are are not afraid to follow the debate wherever it leads. They are not afraid to present arguments from the other side on their blogs, analyze them and take on them on their merits. This group includes people who have a demonstrated ability to change their minds based on the weight of the evidence. We’re not talking about zealots who are stuck on an opinion no matter what.

    The DAN! crowd, on the other hand, will only present contrary opinions if it can be presented in a way that can be discredited or as a straw-man. That’s the case of one of the Danish studies, for example. The DAN! crowd has found some things the researchers might not have considered, but from that they have created inuendo to the effect that the Danish researchers have conspired to cover up data or something.

    For the most part, the DAN! crowd is stuck on one side of the debate, and either ignores the rebuttals that exist against their opinions, and the criticism against their actions, or prefer to ignore them. Certainly, they rarely respond to rebuttals and are unable to engage their opponents in written debate, claiming to be unwilling to do it.

    Any reasonable person who follows the debate closely can see there’s no equivalence.

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