Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas

14 Oct

Chapters 5 and 6 are quite difficult to blog about. On the surface they carry a surfeit of information but somehow all that useful information gets lost in the authors determination to make the facts fit their ideas.

In Chapter 5 we’re introduced to the idea that ethylmercury in two forms was invented. Fungicide and medicinal. And thats about it. There’s little that’s contentious to blog about.

In chapter 6 however we finally start to meet Kanner and Asperger’s case study kids. This had the potential to be one of the most thrilling episodes of the book but from a literary standpoint it is badly botched and badly edited. It starts off reasonably well with condensed histories of a few of Kanner’s kids but then starts to degenerate into the realms of silliness desperately shoehorning the kids parents into two categories – ‘the fungicide cluster’ and ‘the medical cluster’. For example, Kanner’s Case 1 – Donald T – is placed by the authors into the fungicide cluster….why? Because he lived in the vicinity of Forestry work.

They have better luck with Fredrick W (Case 2) as his dad was a plant pathologist but even this is still not evidence. Correlation does not equal causation after all and the authors give no real insight into _how_ they think these kids were made autistic by ethylmercury, just offering some fairly scant evidence that one parent might have worked with mercury or that they lived fairly close to where fungicide was used.

The authors get going with gusto when they reach the medical cluster – why? Because now they can finally get their teeth into the _real_ source of their displeasure – vaccines.

The city’s residents were bombarded…

Page 180

…heightened risk of infant vaccination…

Page 181

One child had a mum who was a Paediatrician. However as they also state:

…there is an association in time – one we concede is speculative – with…the first thiomersal containing vaccine.

Page 184

Four of Kanner’s kids had dads who were psychiatrists. The authors claim this is more evidence as the standard of care for neurosyphilis was still mercury. But not, you’ll note ethylmercury. Blaxill and Olmsted have spent three chapters outlining the symptoms of mercury poisoning via neurosyphilis and hammering home the point that autism is _new_ with a _new_ set of symptoms and that various types of mercury poisoning produce differing symptoms. To go back all of a sudden and claim that now its _not_ new is more than a little duplicitous.

Four of Kanner’s kids have no connection to either fungicides or medicine via parent occupations. Blaxill and Olmsted attempt to explain these away by saying that these kids probably lived in areas where universal vaccination was in place. This is worse than speculative – its tenuous.

And speaking of tenuous:

Donald…underwent a series of treatments with Gold Salts that lasted several months…[which were]…the standard remedy for JRA [Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis] .


His arthritis cleared up…[b]ut something even more remarkable happened…the defining features of his disability lessened dramatically and permanently.

Page 197, inserts mine

What Blaxill and Olmsted fail to mention is that it would be _impossible_ to chelate mercury from the body using Gold Salts. Why? Because gold only dissolves mercury when both in their metallic state. Donald was administered Gold _Salts_ .

And lets look at these features of Donald T’s which defined his disability: nervousness, extreme anxiety and lack of sociability. The latter, yes, that’s obviously a clear autistic trait but the former two? What have they got to do with autism from a diagnostic _defining_ stance? The answer is nothing.

So here we have much ado about nothing. Donald was given a substance that could not _possibly_ have chelated him and even if it had, the most it did in terms of ‘curing’ his autism was to make him more social and even if it _did_ make him more social even the authors admit it only ‘lessened’ his unsocial nature, it didn’t remove it.

The book overall is starting to edge into familiar AoA (the website) territory now. Things that really shouldn’t be left unsaid are being so and things that are said are being squeezed dry of factual content in order to meet a pre-conceived agenda. Thats no good for a scientific approach.

9 Responses to “Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas”

  1. tony bateson October 14, 2010 at 19:29 #

    ‘Kanner’s kids’ says it all – this blog is not worth a row of beans. Bunch of paid hacks would be my belief.

    Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK

    • Kev October 14, 2010 at 19:31 #

      Well you’d be wrong Tony…again 🙂

  2. Prometheus October 14, 2010 at 21:52 #

    Ah, Tony! Our own modern Diogenes, wandering the UK with an unlit lantern (and wearing a blindfold), searching for an unvaccinated child with autism. It takes a certain talent to not see what so many have thrust before your eyes.

    The gold salts (gold sodium thiomalate) chelating the mercury! Oh, that is rich! B&O should have run that one by Boyd Haley before they published it (or maybe they did – Dr. Haley doesn’t seem as sharp as he once was). Not only is the gold present in either an ionised or organic form (which can’t amalgamate with metallic mercury), but even the mercury isn’t present as a metal.

    Of course, if they really mean that the thiomalate chelated the mercury (after “dumping” the gold), they have to explain how thiomalate would have a higher affinity for mercury than glutathione or other sulfhydryl compounds in the body (which, of course, they don’t).

    I know this can’t be much fun for you, Kev, but reading the “highlights” of AoA has been a real laugh for me. It’s like reading a detective novel (ala Sherlock Holmes) where the detective “solves” the case only to find out that his alleged culprit was locked in prison when the crime occured. B&O trying to “do science” is like watching “Inspector Clouseau” try to solve crimes. Except, of course, “Inspector Clouseau” eventually solves the crime by accident – no chance of that happening with B&O.


  3. Sullivan October 14, 2010 at 21:58 #


    this is the heart of the book to many readers. The authors carefully (or not) linked all the original (or not) autistics to exposures (or not) of ethylmercury.

    Besides the fact that there are documented autistics born before the invention of thimerosal, the authors have ignored one great hurdle. As you point out, they don’t really make a convincing argument as to *why* thimerosal causes autism, and even more so (if that is possible) why thimerosal and not the other forms of mercury.

    What Blaxill and Olmsted fail to mention is that it would be impossible to chelate mercury from the body using Gold Salts. Why? Because gold only dissolves mercury when both in their metallic state. Donald was administered Gold Salts .

    And, the mercury is not metallic either.

    Also, if this were so effective, why doesn’t DAN! recommend gold salt therapy? Where is the “Gold-salt-treated-kids” Yahoo group?

    When I consider the challenges my kid has, I am very much dismayed that two people with the gift of above average intelligence can waste that gift with such nonsense as “The Age of Autism”.

  4. daedalus2u October 14, 2010 at 22:48 #

    Sullivan, I think the answer is obvious. DAN! wants the gold in their pockets and not in their patients.

  5. Prometheus October 15, 2010 at 20:17 #


    Shhhhh! Not so loud! Some DNAnite is sure to read this and think “Here’s an idea!”

    Gold therapy is not benign – it makes open-ended Lupron therapy look safe by comparison. Unfortunately, some quacktitioner out there is sure to read this book and “give it a try” (“what’s the harm”, right?) – it’s only a matter of time.

    After reading Kev’s summary of the book so far, I went to my local bookstore (the one with comfortable chairs) and leafed through it (I bought a book – a different book – to assuage my feelings of guilt for treating their shop like a lending library).

    It seems that B&O have blamed just about every modern malady (and many ancient ones) on mercury in one fashion or another. I didn’t read it cover-to-cover, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they claimed mercury was present on the “grassy knoll” in Dallas on the afternoon of 22 November 1963.

    Like many conspiracy-theory authors, B&O have doomed their hypothesis by over-reaching. So much of what they claim can be easily refuted, with the result that anybody who doesn’t already share their folie à plusieurs will be left shaking their head in disbelief.

    With a tighter plot line and more engaging characters, B&O could convert this into a passable work of fiction on the lines of Dan Brown’s The da Vinci Code.


  6. Chris October 15, 2010 at 20:55 #

    Some of the dangers of gold poisoning is explained by the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook:

    About one-third of people on gold therapy suffer side-effects. Most are more unpleasant than serious. But definitely unpleasant: nausea, dizziness, skin rashes, a metallic taste in the mouth and also sores in the mouth, and the thinning of hair seen in Diane de Poitiers.
    But like all metallic elements gold bioaccumulates in living tissue, building up in the body. And if it reaches high enough levels – de Poitiers’ had 500 times the normal level – then it is genuinely dangerous. It can destroy bone marrow, damage kidney, liver, and even lungs. The threat to bone marrow is high enough that most doctors recommend regular blood tests for people on gold therapy.

  7. Liz Ditz October 18, 2010 at 03:02 #

    I was looking for something else in Prometheus’s back pages and came across this 2005 blog post:

    The coming gold rush

    This man, identified as Donald T., is now 72 years old and experienced a significant, if not dramatic, improvement in his autistic behaviors at age 14 (or 12 – the story contradicts itself on this point) after receiving injections of gold salts as treatment for life-threatening rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Mr. Olmsted and – since the article – a growing number of parents of autistic children, postulate that the gold injections were the cause of his improvement. Puberty is another event that happened at about the same time, but was discounted.

    Mr. Olmsted’s understanding of how gold might help autism is – as you might expect – tied in with the autism-mercury hyposthesis. In his article, Mr. Olmsted explains it thusly, in a quote from JB and Lisa Handley of “Generation Rescue”:

    “It is no surprise that gold salts improved Donald T.’s ‘autism.’ As gold miners as far back as the Roman Empire would tell you, gold and mercury have a strong binding affinity for each other, and the gold salts likely acted as a rudimentary chelator to help Donald T. detoxify. (Mercury is used in gold mining to separate small particles of gold from sand.) “

    Yes, mercury was (and still is) used to separate gold from its ore – metallic mercury. The gold dissolves (amalgamates) in the mercury. This reaction can only occur when both the gold and the mercury are in the metallic state.

    The gold used to treat Donald T’s RA was a salt – the gold was an ion and not able to amalgamate with metallic mercury. In addition, mercury in animal tissue is also either ionized or chemically bonded with organic groups (e.g. methyl, ethyl, phenyl…) and also not able to form an amalgam.

    None of this seems to have stopped the speculation that gold may be either the next “cure” for autism or, at the least, a vindication of the much-battered chelation therapy.

    Clearly, the current state of our knowledge of the chemistry of gold and mercury does not support the “chelation hypothesis”. And the prospect of gold becoming the next “cure” for autism is very ominous.

    Everything old is new again. Go read Prom’s whole post.


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - October 14, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Jenny Ford. Jenny Ford said: RT @kevleitch: Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas: Chapters 5 and 6 are quite difficult to blog abo… […]

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