Is there really a causal relationship between mercury exposure and autism? Some evidence to the contrary!

written by Arnold P. Wendroff, PhD
CHE Partner

In response to the publication of an article and video, Dr. Wendroff submitted these comments to the publishers:

Dear Age of Autism Editors,

I was prompted to write to you by the article in today’s Age of Autism.

If in fact there was a valid correlation between mercury exposure as a cause of autism, one would expect that the Caribbean and Latino populations who are exposed to elemental mercury via its magico-religious use would experience a considerable excess of autism, which they apparently do not.

Attached are two papers (links below) describing a case of acrodynia, apparently from exposure to mercury vapor from a magico-religious mercury spill by a prior occupant of the Puerto Rican family’s apartment. Not described, but discussed in my accompanying comments were the two siblings and the mother who were also exposed, and chronically poisoned.

These exposures are relatively commonplace, as predicted by the papers by Zayas & Ozuah (1996) and Ozuah et al 2003, yet no excess cases of autism have been reported in these Caribbean and Latino populations.

If you are aware of any such correlation I would be most grateful to be informed.

Links to papers

Acrodynia and hypertension in a young girl secondary to elemental mercury toxicity acquired in the home.

Elemental mercury poisoning presenting as hypertension in a young child.


2 thoughts on “Is there really a causal relationship between mercury exposure and autism? Some evidence to the contrary!

  1. Dear Dr. Wendroff,
    There are multiple complex variables that interact within each individual that determine how manifestations of mercury injury may present. These depend on the chemical form of mercury involved, (organic, inorganic, elemental, ethyl, methyl, dimethyl, etc) the route of exposure (ingested, inhaled, injected, topical) exposure amounts (high dose leading to death and low dose leading to very subtle neurological impairments) duration of the exposure (one time or repeated over the course of weeks, months or years. A mercury dose given acutely may produce toxic effects whereas the same dose distributed over a period of time may give no evidence of toxicity) and most importantly, individual sensitivity, which is a function of the age of the individual (prenatal or early postnatal verses an adult) and genetic susceptibility.
    In reviewing the two links included in your comment, both of the cases involved young children whose brains had already undergone significant development and the type of mercury exposures were different, as was the route, dose, and individual sensitivity. It is well documented in the mercury literature that a there is a constellation of mercury manifestations. Saying that because one does not see autism in cases of exposure to elemental mercury from religious practices would be comparable to saying that, because in all the cases of Minamata disease no instance of acrodynia could be found, then acrodynia could not be caused by mercury poisoning. Since there are no case reports or systematic studies in the literature of the effects of intermittent bolus doses of injected ethylmercury on “susceptible” infants and toddlers, it would be reasonable to expect that symptoms arising from this form of mercury poisoning would present as a novel disease. In fact, given the high neurotoxicity of organic mercury, its known psychological effects, and the age at which it has been given in vaccines, it would almost be a given that the “novel disease” would present as a neurodevelopmental disorder like autism. For more information please read
    Lyn Redwood RN, MSN

  2. In addition to the lack of correlation between mercury and autism that you describe above, there are at least two other datasets that show there is no connection:

    First, people who live on islands, and therefore eat a lot of seafood, have a much higher level of mercury than those who do not. Yet these people do not have a higher level of autism. Faro Islanders have been studied in detail and show the high mercury / low autism numbers very clearly. This was entered into evidence in the Omnibus proceedings of the “Vaccine Court” and the special masters commented on it in their decisions.

    Second, is the Minamata disaster in Japan. Here, huge amounts of mercury were released into the environment and large number of people got sick with horrible mercury based problems. But not autism. If mercury really caused autism, then Minamata would have generated huge numbers of autism cases (it certainly generated huge numbers of mercury linked blindness and mercury linked birth defects (not autism). In addition to Minamata, there have been other large mercury discharges, which have caused serious health issues, but not autism.

    The evidence that Mercury does not cause autism is overwhelming at this point. It seems overkill to point out the large studies which show that unvaccinated kids have (very slightly) higher autism rates than vaccinated kids. Or the studies that show when mercury was removed from vaccines in different countries at different times, none of those countries saw a reduction in autism cases in later years, as would be expected if mercury caused autism (even very rarely).

    Joshua Levy

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