Discover magazine on mercury

Via “Pat Sullivan’s blog”: I came across an “article on mercury”: by Discover magazine. It briefly mentions the autism issue as well as fish, waste from power plants, and dental fillings. I’ve “mused elsewhere”: that testing for mercury in autistic patients would help the debate, and suspected that testing would be a lot easier said than done. Well, it’s even worse than that:

Chronic low-level exposure to mercury is difficult to quantify because analyses of blood, urine, and hair will reflect only recent acute exposure, not past exposure. If acute mercury poisoning is diagnosed, administering compounds that bind to mercury and draw it out of the tissue—a process called chelation therapy—can remove elemental or inorganic mercury. However, chelation cannot remove methylmercury.

Mercury has a strong affinity for the brain, especially the fetal brain. Methylmercury has been shown to alter the construction of structural components of the brain called microtubules and influence the development of neurons. [from page 3]

So, there are two issues here. First, it’s possible that mercury does its damage and then gets out, or that mercury just hides out in the cells and destroys proteins while evading any type of testing we can do. Second, the article notes that chelation therapy does not remove methylmercury (and presumably ethylmercury, the type found in the vaccine preservative thimerosal). Now, it is possible for methylmercury to be metabolized into inorganic Hg^2+^ which is how it does its damage, and which may open it up for chelation therapy if it is accessible to the chelation agent.

At any rate, it’s still pretty unclear why chelation therapy seems to be successful for some children, but not for others. The polarity of the thimerosal and chelation debates does not seem to cover the ground necessary to understand what’s really going on.

I am clear on one thing, though. I want to limit mercury exposure from all sources.


2 Responses

  1. […] The Geier brothers have released a paper discussing the link between vaccine preservative thimerosal (a compound containing methylmercury) and autism. I have been invited to comment on the matter, and have chosen to accept the invitation in a very narrow capacity. That very narrow capacity is specifically on the statistics of the paper and how it relates to the conclusions of the paper. I’m simply not interested in rehashing old arguments (also here and here). Those discussions take place regularly in other more appropriate forums. […]

  2. […] Repeat readers of this blog know that I am agnostic on the thimerosal-autism connection hypothesis. I even have my doubts about the safety of the MMR vaccine. The complexity of the mind is such that we simply don’t understand how these things work, and even running tests for mercury in the blood isn’t easy. And the vigor with which people on both sides of this controversy argue seems to leave little room for real understanding. […]

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