Mercury’s Costly Links to Autism

“When you look at the classic picture of mercury toxicity, you’re basically looking at autism. The two are a mirror image of each other,” says Dr. Kurt Woeller, an osteopathic physician in Temecula whose practice deals mainly with children on the autistic spectrum. Woeller says that autism now affects as many as one in 50 children in some areas, although national statistics report one in 150.

He says about 60 percent of the autistic children he sees develop normally until about 15 to 18 months, at which point they regress into autism. He believes that a series of vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, pushes them over the edge: “My suspicion is that the mother had a toxic mercury load that has filtered to the child, and the mercury-containing vaccine was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Many countries around the world—Denmark, Japan, Austria and Great Britain, to name a few—banned thimerosal some 20 years ago.

According to a 2004 report released by the Environmental Working Group, a dramatic nationwide increase in autism followed the Center for Disease Control’s 1988 additions to the nation’s infant recommended vaccination program. Rates rose from six in 10,000 children in the ’80s to nearly one in 150 today. In 2003, the Autism Society of America estimated the cost of caring for 1.5 million autistic children at $90 billion per year.

The FDA has finally acknowledged that thimerosal has the potential for neurotoxicity, even at low levels, and it has recently been reduced or eliminated in vaccines for children aged six and younger (with the exception of the flu vaccine). A 2001 FDA-published report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that evidence was “inadequate to either accept or reject a causal relationship between thimerosal exposure from childhood vaccines and the neurodevelopmental disorders of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and speech or language delay.” In 2004, the FDA and the IOM later rescinded this statement in a follow-up report, stating that thimerosal-containing vaccines were, in fact, associated with autism. On June 11, hearings began in Federal Claims court to determine if thimerosal is responsible for triggering autism. Over 4,800 families have filed claims against the US government, alleging that their children’s autism resulted from childhood vaccinations. It’s unlikely that a decision will be reached this year.

Woeller tells parents of autistic children to use caution with vaccinations. “I can’t tell someone to vaccinate or not to vaccinate,” he says. “But I would be very cautious with any child who’s on the autistic spectrum from having further vaccines. We just don’t know what vaccine could trigger what, and there’s more than mercury in these shots; they contain aluminum and other heavy metals. Of the kids I test for heavy metals, over 90 percent show an elevated heavy metal load.”

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