Blood Mercury Concentrations in CHARGE Study Children with and without Autism

19 Oct

New paper, just out from the U.C. Davis MIND Institute: Blood Mercury Concentrations in CHARGE Study Children with and without Autism.

The Authors are

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Peter G. Green, Lora Delwiche, Robin Hansen, Cheryl Walker, and Isaac N. Pessah.

Abstract:
Background: Some studies have reported higher blood Hg levels in persons with autism, relative to unaffected controls. Objectives: To compare blood total Hg concentrations in children with autism or autism spectrum disorder (AU/ASD) and typically developing (TD) controls in population-based samples; to determine the role of fish consumption in differences observed.

Methods: The Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study enrolled children aged 2-5 years. After diagnostic evaluation, we analyzed three groups: AU/ASD; non-AU/ASD with developmental delay, DD; and population-based TD controls. Mothers were interviewed about household, medical and dietary exposures. Blood Hg was measured by ICP-MS. Multiple linear regression analysis was conducted (n=452) to predict blood Hg from case status controlling for Hg sources.

Results: Fish consumption strongly predicted total Hg concentration. AU/ASD children ate less fish. After adjustment for fish and other Hg sources, blood Hg levels in AU/ASD children were similar to those of TD children (p=0.75); this was also true among non-fish eaters (p=0.73). The direct effect of AU/ASD diagnosis on blood Hg not through the indirect pathway of altered fish consumption was a 12% reduction. DD children had lower blood Hg concentrations in all analyses. Dental amalgams in children with gum-chewing or teeth-grinding habits predicted higher levels.

Conclusions: After accounting for dietary and other differences in Hg exposures, total Hg in blood was neither elevated nor reduced in CHARGE Study preschoolers with AU/ASD as compared with unaffected controls, and resembled those of nationally representative samples.

I don’t have the time to read and summarize the paper yet. But it looks like another nail in the (already nailed down) coffin lid of the mercury hypothesis.

15 Responses to “Blood Mercury Concentrations in CHARGE Study Children with and without Autism”

  1. Joseph at 22:27 #

    This study is bigger than Ip et al., since n=452. As you may recall, DeSoto argued that the blood mercury level difference in the Ip et al. dataset was “almost” statistically significant. The statistical significance threshold is just a convention, after all.

    I guess it’s possible that statistically the Ip et al. data should not have been interpreted the way it was by DeSoto.

    Alternatively, the diet of autistic children in Asia is different to the diet of autistic children in the US, particularly in relation to fish consumption. This would not be surprising.

    Either way, this study is not only bigger, but it does control for diet.

    • Sullivan at 04:08 #

      “Either way, this study is not only bigger, but it does control for diet.”

      Another point is that the present study represents a more homogeneous age group. Blood mercury levels varied with age in the Ip dataset. Not surprising, but a limitation in my mind.

  2. Dedj at 23:08 #

    It will be interesting to see how this will be discounted, given that Irva H-P was lauded quite extensively by the mercury=autism crowd for her work looking at the change in prevalance for children with autism (which only looked at change in reciept of certain services, not that that stopped Harold et al extrapolating thier conclusions).

    • Sullivan at 04:07 #

      It will be interesting to see how this will be discounted, given that Irva H-P was lauded quite extensively by the mercury=autism crowd for her work looking at the change in prevalance for children with autism (which only looked at change in reciept of certain services, not that that stopped Harold et al extrapolating thier conclusions).

      Their previous paper is repeatedly misrepresented. It started with the press releases and the news stories.

  3. Joseph at 23:38 #

    Hertz-Picciotto & Delwiche (2009) was a terrible paper, and it was promoted in a way that can only be described as dishonest: what was said in the media did not match the conclusions of the paper.

    It’s tempting to try to associate that paper with this paper, and that is probably a natural reaction. However, outside of cases where there’s a reasonable suspicion of fraud, I believe the merits of every paper should be considered separately.

  4. bensmyson at 02:38 #

    I’d think it’s near impossible to go back after a couple of years to find the tire tracks from the bus that ran a kid with autism over. This isn’t news. It’s a postcard from a holiday and they pretty much as admit it too.

  5. Vindaloo at 12:05 #

    “I’d think it’s near impossible to go back after a couple of years to find the tire tracks from the bus that ran a kid with autism over.”

    Yet desperate, out-of-control parents line up to dose kids with the latest in snake oil wares from unregulated bathtub chemists.

  6. bensmyson at 13:56 #

    Vindaloo, some people see positive results in natural remedies. And you’re right, many of these parents are desperately trying to recover their children and if something seems to work, good. Some parents unaffected by autism might jab a needle in their 9 year old girl in hopes of preventing a sexually transmitted virus, others might be too busy with work or with a chemical addiction to even care. Don’t forget, not only does autism steal away many of the skills necessary to live independently as an adult, it also kills those who suffer from it. Parents want to change that, it’s a natural response or a responsible parent to protect and nurture their children. As a parent of a child diagnosed with autism I have chosen not to chelate, instead we work to build his immune system. Had he have presented with high levels of mercury we may have gone the chelation route.

  7. Ringside Seat at 14:03 #

    Politically interesting, in that it comes from the MIND Institute, which was set up by anti-vax fundraisers entirely for the purpose of proving that vaccines cause autism. How that plays out in the institution today, I can’t say. Maybe the state has done something to correct the slant.

    However, I don’t think it’s an enormously interesting study. Whether the authors are anti-vaxxers who thought they would show a correlation and failed, I don’t know. Maybe someone else knows who these people are, and what rattled their cage to do such a study.

    But this result, in the negative, doesn’t really get anyone anywhere, in my view.

  8. bensmyson at 14:27 #

    Do me a favor ring, show me a link that supports your claim that MIND was set up by the “anti-vax” fundraiser. Or are you just stating an opinion based on something other than fact? I’m serious, Id like to know how a state agency, the University of California, would conspire to fog the vaccine issue by catering to an unpopular group of anti-vaxers in return for what? Money?

    • Sullivan at 16:02 #

      bensmyson:

      Do me a favor ring, show me a link that supports your claim that MIND was set up by the “anti-vax” fundraiser

      the MIND Institute was “founded” by a group of parents. The most vocal and the most influential was Rick Rollens. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that his ties to the state legislature were key in getting the initial funding for MIND. Mr. Rollens is highly critical of vaccines, and has often used misinformation in his critiques.

  9. bensmyson at 16:26 #

    I got it, thanks!

    Rollens suspects his son Russell’s autism was vaccine injury induced: “He had a physical reaction to those vaccines, including a high-pitched scream and days of high pitched crying and listlessness.” After Russell’s diagnosis in 1996, Rollens’ life changed completely: his 23-year tenure with the Senate came to an end and he began to devote his working hours to the investigation of vaccine injuries and autism. In 2000, Russell’s picture graced the cover of Time magazine. Russell and his parents were also featured in a Newsweek cover story on autism that year.

    According to Rollens, Russell began life as a healthy, robust child, meeting all age appropriate milestones. But at seven months, after a series of vaccinations, Russell slowly began to slip into the world of autism. Within hours, he began a nonstop ten-day period of high-pitched screaming, fevers and listlessness. Within days after his first MMR vaccination, Russell began losing most of his remaining skills, and developed severe sleep disruptions, chronic gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune problems, and suffered excruciating pain.

    Months of medical investigation of Russell’s condition followed his initial diagnosis, including brain scans, hundreds of tests and immunological and neurological work-ups. The upshot, from Rollens’ perspective: Russell’s brain dysfunction had very likely occurred as a result of some form of encephalitis, resulting in brain swelling and bilateral hypometabolism in the temporal lobes.

    Prompted by his son’s condition, Rollens testified before the California Legislature, “The system is a sham. When it comes to examining the question of the link between autism and vaccines, this same conflict ridden group continues to produce junk science […] studies produced not to seek the truth, but to contain damage control over the growing concern that vaccines may in fact be causing autism. Even our own Department of Health Services, Immunization Branch is guilty of this deception.” M.I.N.D. Institute

    Rollens is a co-founder of the M.I.N.D. Institute, founded in 1998. The center is a collaboration—between the parents of children with autism spectrum disorders and UC Davis researchers—who have united in a quest to find the causes of autism and treatment for neurodevelopmental disorders.

    In explaining the need for alternatives to mainstream autism research, Rollens points to the fact that vaccines contain numerous potent and neurotoxic agents, ranging from live, attenuated viruses cultured in animal tissues, genetically engineered bacterial agents, to preservatives and adjuvants made from neurotoxic chemicals such as aluminum, formaldehyde, and ethylmercury.

    Rollens says just pouring money into traditional autism research would not get them very far, “If we were going to wait for mainstream medicine to get around to finding a cure for our kids, we would all be old and gray and our kids would outlive us in their condition.” Rollens also says the mass vaccine system is “riddled with conflicts of interest, and driven by profits” and medical arrogance, rather than research that will ever find what has caused the epidemic of autism diagnoses.

  10. passionlessDrone at 17:35 #

    Hi Bennysmom –

    “If we were going to wait for mainstream medicine to get around to finding a cure for our kids, we would all be old and gray and our kids would outlive us in their condition.”

    He’s got that right.

    – pD

    • Sullivan at 18:14 #

      Hi Bennysmom –

      “If we were going to wait for mainstream medicine to get around to finding a cure for our kids, we would all be old and gray and our kids would outlive us in their condition.”

      He’s got that right.

      I’ll be old and gray…then dead… before DAN, ARI and the rest find a cure at the rate they are going. Just basing this on the track record of the last 40 years.

      There will be more children harmed and the results swept under the rug, though. That I can count on. Just basing it on the track record and current parent reports from biomed groups.

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