Reading Age of Autism Part 3 – Building the case

12 Oct

Chapter 3 of Age of Autism (Age of Acrodynia) concentrates on two things. Firstly the text discusses Pink Disease which is:

…a disease of infancy and early childhood marked by pain and swelling in, and pink coloration of, the fingers and toes and by listlessness, irritability, failure to thrive, profuse perspiration, and sometimes scarlet coloration of the cheeks and tip of the nose. It is due to absorption of mercury. Called also erythredema polyneuropathy and pink disease.


OK so thats all well and good. However the _subtext_ of this chapter is a little bit more paranoiac. Oh and when I say ‘subtext’ I’m being kind. It’s really not subtle enough to be a subtext.

Point one of the subtext – establish the idea that all forms of mercury poisoning are different from each other:

Over centuries of misuse, wide variations in formulation have generated a wide variety of symptoms, symptoms disparate enough to generate consistent controversy over whether they resulted from mercury exposure or something else. Anyone who believes he or she has isolated mercury’s specific effects and pinned one on an exact dose of a particular formulation is….showing a naive and inadequately respectful grasp of the dangers of quicksilver and its progeny.

Page 94

Here Blaxill and Olmsted begin to build the case that autism is _different than any other form of mercury poisoning_ and that those of us who believe it looks nothing like mercury poisoning are ‘naive’.

However, what Blaxill and Olmsted fail to grasp- or tell the reader – is that there are symptoms common to all forms of mercury poisoning which just do not apply to autism.

Methylmercury poisoning
– impairment of the peripheral vision;
– disturbances in sensations (“pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth);
– lack of coordination of movements;
– impairment of speech, hearing, walking; and
– muscle weakness.

Elemental mercury effects
– tremors;
– emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness);
– insomnia;
– neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching);
– headaches;
– disturbances in sensations;
– changes in nerve responses;
– performance deficits on tests of cognitive function.

Inorganic mercury
– skin rashes and dermatitis;
– mood swings;
– memory loss;
– mental disturbances; and
– muscle weakness.


None of these symptoms look anything at all like autism to me. Sorry boys, swing and a miss.

Point two of the subtext – establish the idea that all forms of mercury poisoning were unique to their times.

Pink disease was _new_ . Once again the remedy was the disease and once again the clues were there.

By attempting to establish that Pink disease was new, it will be easier later on in the text for Blaxill and Olmsted to pretend knowledge that posits _autism_ as new. Once again though, they are troubled by the fact that autism doesn’t look like mercury poisoning…or are they?

Perhaps the most affecting evidence of calomel’s tragic legacy comes from the testimony of those who suffered from Pink disease and are now adults, many of whom still suffer from severe side effects. A high profile survivor is Heather Theile of Australia. She founded the Pink Disease Support Group in 1989. She describes her life today:

n particular, I have a terrible sense of position of both my body and hands. For example, it takes me ages to line up a clothesline, the clothes and the pegs to hang out clothes. I have to have a rope hanging down from the ceiling of my car port to be able to have a guide to park the car in the correct place. I am hopeless with any locks, catches, car seat catches etc. I go to open a door, but miss the catch by inches. I drift when walking and often bump into walls and doors. I cannot cope with verbal instructions at all and have to write “everything” down. This is known as “thinking in pictures” (Temple Grandin).

Grandin is probably the most famous person in the world diagnosed with autism; Thinking in pictures is the name of her best known book.

Well Dan and Mark, Heather Theile also says:

…As you said “mercury is mercury is mercury”, and I would add, “mercury poisoning is mercury poisoning is mercury poisoning”.

Given that you’ve worked so hard to shake off that very notion in the last three chapters, would you say Heather Thiele is _really_ someone you can rely on to be objective?

The game stepped up in this last chapter. Blaxill and Olmsted are working hard to prepare the ground for their main idea – autism is both new and a new form of mercury poisoning. However so far, they’re not doing all that well.

9 Responses to “Reading Age of Autism Part 3 – Building the case”

  1. ANB October 12, 2010 at 19:54 #

    Kev, you are really taking one for the team.

  2. Ruth October 12, 2010 at 21:14 #

    And autopsy of someone with mercury poisoning shows a distinctive pattern of nerve damage. Which is very different from the various differences seen in autism.

  3. Sullivan October 12, 2010 at 21:27 #

    It is very interesting that Heather Theile references Temple Grandin like that. I had to try to find the full quote. I didn’t find it on her site, but this one

    I had to skip around the book and one subject I wanted to see was how they handled the “Amish Anomaly”. Not surprisingly, they messed up that story. I await your review of that section (assuming you have the stamina to continue that long).

  4. Kev October 12, 2010 at 21:47 #

    Yeah the ref B&O provide in the book is incorrect. I had to go on to Web Archive to find it.

  5. Broken Link October 13, 2010 at 18:32 #

    Pink disease is often used by the MM as an example of “different children reacted differently to calomel. Not all of them developed Pink disease, and this is why not every child vaccinated with thiomersal containing vaccines becomes autistic”.

    I used to think that this had some logic, but then I read testimony in the Omnibus hearing which stated that, of course, we don’t know that all children treated with teething powder were given the same dosage. So, it’s probable that the ones who developed Pink disease were actually given much higher dosages than those who didn’t. Thus, there’s no reason to believe that the normal dose-response relationship doesn’t hold for mercury poisoning.

  6. Kev October 13, 2010 at 18:39 #

    BL – I agree. Dose makes the poison.

    • Sullivan October 13, 2010 at 18:49 #

      Broken Link,

      I remember the Omnibus testimony as well. I had been hearing about Pink disease for so long (as well as a number of other Evidence of Harm talking points). It was funny how simple the explanation was.

  7. Prometheus October 14, 2010 at 21:26 #

    One unifying feature of mercury poisoning – no matter the form – is peripheral polyneuropathy. It is what causes the burning pain (and pinkness) of “Pink Disease” and the incoordination of other mercury poisonings.

    The idea that “Pink Disease” was fundamentally different than “typical” mercury poisoning is a fallacy – it is simply low-dose sub-acute mercury poisoning in which the predominant symptom is polyneuropathy.

    “Pink Disease” was also not “new” in the 1940’s, since calomel was used as a medication before the turn of the century – the nineteenth century! Nor has it completely disappeared (or morphed into autism); I refer you to a 2003 case report in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association:

    Of course, to people who are not educated or experienced in science or medicine, there is much that seems new and unusual in science and medicine. That’s why scientists have to go to school instead of just looking it up on Google.



  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Reading Age of Autism Part 3 – Building the case « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - October 12, 2010

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