A Comparison of Urinary Mercury between Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Control Children

16 Feb

Researchers are still looking at the question of whether autism is caused by mercury intoxication. One of the measures used in the past is to check the mercury content in the urine of autistic and non autistic children. Claims have been made that autistic children are “poor excretors” of mercury. This is defined as “more mercury in the urine than other children” or “less mercury in the urine of other children”.

A group of researchers from the UK and US have tested a group of autistic children, special needs non autistic children, siblings and regular school children. What did they find? No difference.

Background

Urinary mercury concentrations are used in research exploring mercury exposure. Some theorists have proposed that autism is caused by mercury toxicity. We set out to test whether mercury concentrations in the urine of children with autism were significantly increased or decreased compared to controls or siblings.

Methods

Blinded cohort analyses were carried out on the urine of 56 children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to their siblings (n = 42) and a control sample of children without ASD in mainstream (n = 121) and special schools (n = 34).
Results

There were no statistically significant differences in creatinine levels, in uncorrected urinary mercury levels or in levels of mercury corrected for creatinine, whether or not the analysis is controlled for age, gender and amalgam fillings.

Conclusions

This study lends no support for the hypothesis of differences in urinary mercury excretion in children with autism compared to other groups. Some of the results, however, do suggest further research in the area may be warranted to replicate this in a larger group and with clear measurement of potential confounding factors.

There were outliers of high mercury content in the special needs children (both autistic and non autistic). Expect those promoting the autism/mercury connection to focus on those children and to build connections between the funding agencies and pharmaceutical companies.

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18 Responses to “A Comparison of Urinary Mercury between Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Control Children”

  1. Harold L Doherty February 16, 2012 at 09:43 #

    ” Expect those promoting the autism/mercury connection to focus on those children and to build connections between the funding agencies and pharmaceutical companies.”

    No study so small or qualified in its conclusions that it can not be used as a pretext to launch yet another attack on those who have questions about vaccine safety?

  2. Chris February 16, 2012 at 17:19 #

    There is nothing wrong with having questions about vaccine safety, if it is done with actual data. John Salamone questioned the OPV, and now the USA uses the IPV. But, he had real evidence, not just speculations.

    • Sullivan February 17, 2012 at 01:18 #

      There is nothing wrong with having questions about vaccine safety, if it is done with actual data. John Salamone questioned the OPV, and now the USA uses the IPV. But, he had real evidence, not just speculations.

      Chris,

      I agree. I’ll point out I find it funny how people want to paint those who believe in and accept the existing science as having no questions about vaccine safety.

  3. lilady February 16, 2012 at 17:44 #

    And, there is nothing wrong with the monitoring of vaccine safety, post licensing.

    The CDC and the FDA acted quickly to remove Rotashield vaccine, once instances of bowel intussusception above baseline following administration of the vaccine, were reported. Thirteen months from time of licensing to time of removal from the marketplace, is proof that the FDA and the CDC vaccine safety monitoring systems really do work.

    No study so small (Wakefield et alia) or (un)qualified in its conclusions that it can not be used as a pretext to launch yet another attack on the public health system.

  4. Jen February 18, 2012 at 07:08 #

    But the mercury couldn’t just be somewhere else in the child’s body, like the brain, could it? What a lame study. You bet your ass further research is warranted…

  5. Chris February 18, 2012 at 07:11 #

    But where does the mercury come from now? Fish?

  6. lilady February 18, 2012 at 08:07 #

    “But where does the mercury come from now? Fish?”

    IIRC, some notorious anti-vax website bloggers claim that their unvaccinated autistic child was “injured” by vaccines given to the mother in early childhood (trans-placental injury from residual vaccine ingredients)

    These are the types of theories typically seen on these notorious anti-vax websites.

  7. Harold L Doherty February 19, 2012 at 14:53 #

    1. There is still mercury in some vaccines, including the H1N1 vaccine that was distributed two years ago.

    2. Some thimerosal (mercury) containing vaccines are given to pregnant women.

    3. Dr. Bernadine Healy pointed out that mercury crosses the placental barrier.

    4. Calling people names like “anti-vaxxer” will not persuade anyone that your views should be given any weight.

  8. MikeMa February 19, 2012 at 16:59 #

    Harold,

    The mercury in the flu vaccine is ethyl mercury, not methyl mercury. That larger ethyl molecule is readily flushed from the system in about a week while the smaller methyl mercury stays much longer. Mercury free versions are available for the squeamish and unscientific.

    Metallic mercury and methyl mercury were reported transferring across the placenta but I do not believe that included ethyl mercury, the type found in a few flu vaccines. Either way, the ethyl version is flushed quickly.

    Calling someone an anti-vaxxer is a description which carries with it an inability to look at evidence in an unbiased way. In that sense, it may add no weight to the pro-vax view but certainly tends to color the anti-vax view in an unflattering way.

  9. lilady February 19, 2012 at 17:31 #

    Mr. Doherty: You misinterpreted what I stated in my post. Let me re-phrase the post for you. Some in the anti-vax movement believe that vaccines containing thimerosol that were given to women during their early childhood, could cause the thimerosol to remain in their body. Years after those childhood vaccines, when the woman is pregnant (according to the anti-vax “theory”), the thimerosol somehow stayed in the woman’s bloodstream and through transplacental passage), caused the infant’s autism.

    I believe you know which Managing Editor of which notorious anti-vax website, developed this “theory”, to explain why her third unvaccinated child has been diagnosed with autism.

    And, Mr. Doherty…saying that there are not notorious anti-vax websites will not persuade anyone that your views should be given any weight.

  10. Chris February 19, 2012 at 18:40 #

    Mr. Doherty, which vaccine on the present pediatric schedule is only available with thimerosal? At least in the USA four of eight influenza vaccines are thimerosal free.

    Dr. Healy was not a biochemist.

  11. Donna Williams February 19, 2012 at 22:05 #

    vitamin D deficiency means poor metabolising of glutathione. Glutathione is essential to the processes of detoxing from toxins including heavy metals and salicylate (natural plant toxins). 50% of UK population and 30% of Australians are D deficient. D metabolism disorders can also be inherited. Children born to D deficient mothers will be D deficient with brain, liver, spleen, circulatory system all effected even though child may not show overt signs of Rickets once breast few and getting its own sunlight. Yet the structures would already by then be laid down. Fixating on mercury alone in those struggling to detox in general is merely shooting the messenger. Look at the message.

  12. MikeMa February 19, 2012 at 22:41 #

    Donna,
    The message is get more vitamin D?

    “Children born to D deficient mothers will be D deficient”
    Citation required. Simple genetics says this is not a guaranteed result.

    “brain, liver, spleen, circulatory system all effected (sic)”
    Again, citation needed. You seem to have extrapolated an entire generation of diseased, metal affected children where no evidence exists to support such a conclusion.

  13. Science Mom February 19, 2012 at 22:46 #

    MikeMa, it’s the zombie Kirby mercury hypothesis of autism. Apparently adherents like to keep looking for that square peg to pound into a round hole.

  14. MikeMa February 19, 2012 at 23:18 #

    Science Mom,
    So it would seem. The almost sciencey sounding stuff reels in the under educated and gullible.

  15. Roger Kulp February 20, 2012 at 22:14 #

    I had placed a comment on Ms.Williams’ blog,that may not have made it because it was a bit lengthy,but metabolism is only one way people with autism can be profoundly deficient in vitamin D,or have other serious deficiencies.A more common cause,is malabsorption,due to GI disease.I suspect this is the case with me.I have had rickets most of my life,until I began fairly high doses of vitamin D.My bones are about one quarter to one third smaller than that of a normal adult male.Yes the mothers are often deficient too,but I wonder how many of these mothers also have histories of GI disease,like my mother did,starting as a very young child.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Autism Blog – A Comparison of Urinary Mercury between Children … | My Autism Site | All About Autism - February 16, 2012

    […] Here is the original post: Autism Blog – A Comparison of Urinary Mercury between Children … […]

  2. Another bit of quackery bites the dust (hopefully) | autismjungle - February 17, 2012

    […] tip to Sullivan over at Left Brain Right Brain for mentioning this study. The idea that autism could be caused by […]

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