Saturday, January 28, 2006


There has been a minor blog swarm recently, involving an article in Discover on the risks posed by mercury. Ginger, Pat Sullivan, and Random John have all posted about this article, and I decided to join in.

The article breaks no new ground, but it gives a pretty fair overview of some aspects of the debate. Of course, with such an incomplete debate, one cannot expect a very complete review. Along those lines, the article managed to spark an incisive commentary by Random John, who, responding to a sidebar to the article that noted the difficulty in testing for mercury toxicity, wrote:
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 Hg2+ 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.

John poses the kind of questions that need to be addressed regarding what might actually happen to mercury in our kids. He also hits the nail on the head when he talks about the “polarity of the thimerosal and chelation debates.” Too many people on all sides of the debate(s) seem to wear blinders that prevent them from acknowledging how little we all know.

My opinion remains that we do our children a disservice if we focus solely on the question of mercury exposure as a causative factor in autism. Conversely, we do our children a disservice if we fail to explore the probability that mercury exposure plays a major -- perhaps the single most significant -- role. Until we start taking a broader look at all of the genetic and environmental factors involved, we won’t begin to understand why some protocols work for some kids and do not for others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which protocol is working for your child?

1/28/06, 6:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very good piece. I've accepted that during my natural lifetime everything will be impllcated as causing autism and everything will be shown to mediate it. I agree with you, it's a real disservice to people with autism and their families how little real science it takes to support certainty.

That said, the obvious targets should be examined well and, as with Mercury, real effort should be made against known toxins.

1/28/06, 7:11 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Thanks, Doug. We see too much stereotyping of the “biomedical community” as a bunch of nut cases who think mercury is the only problem, and we all want only to chelate, chelate, chelate, without looking to other positive interventions. (Which is not to say that chelation cannot be an important part of what we do in appropriate cases.) This is too complex a problem to have just one cause and just one solution. Which brings me to …


Yours is a fair question, but it is one that I decline to answer with any specificity. First, we use a combination of protocols that are chosen based on our son’s specific symptoms and test results. What’s right for him is not necessarily right for any other autistic child, and I don’t want to be in the position of advocating a specific protocol. Furthermore, we add and subtract elements of the overall protocol pretty often based on the changes. Some things work for us; other things do not work for us.

That being said, the one thing I will mention is what I think is the foundation for any good biomedical approach: the gluten-free/casein-free diet. The GFCF diet, in and of itself, will not heal our son, but it keeps things from getting worse so that we can have a better picture of what is going on with him. There are few, if any, drawbacks. And once one gets the hang of it, it’s very manageable.

Let me give you a recent example. We chose to treat a rash our boy had by the tried-and-true method of colloidal oatmeal baths. Well despite what some folks seem to think, it seems that oatmeal is just chock-full of gluten. Our son had a few days of riding an uncontrollable gluten high.

Of course, we use a lot of things beyond the GFCF diet. Like I said, some of it works; some of it just isn’t effective. We do our research, we exercise common sense, and we err on the side of caution.

1/28/06, 7:37 PM  
Blogger kristina said...

If we don't unrelentingly explore every possible cause and treatment option for our children, we won't be able really to say, "we did try everything." My seconds to the gluten-free casein-free diet, which has given Charlie 6 1/2 plus years of good health and bettered his chances for being ready to learn and grow.

Little things may help only a little, but it can make a mammoth difference.

1/29/06, 12:57 AM  
Blogger Eileen said...

I can say that I know in my heart that something, thimerisal or whatever, in the shots that my perfectly healthy 4 month old baby received did damage to him. He broke out in hives 2 days after receiving 4 shots at his well care visit. I feel that the medical field is doing (has done) my child a disservice. I know there is a correlation, but what can I do about it? I would be willining to do any genetic test involved...just tell me where to go. I want answers!

1/29/06, 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As quoted from the Random John website (and here):

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

- Well, yes, doesn't this seem so obvious? Yet, apparently it isn't to the medical profession as pregnant women and babies 6 months+ are having thimerosal containing flu vacc's shoved into their arms on a daily basis... My question is, is Random John accepting new patients :) .

-Sue M

1/29/06, 11:49 AM  
Blogger Alana said...

As always, I appreciate your post. It amazes me that there is a history of articles warning preganant women against Mercury exposure, describing symptoms of what sounds exactly like autism, as well as instances of panic and quarantine due to accidental mercury release, in addition to the symptoms of "Mad Hatter Disease" which syptoms frightenly resemble symptoms of autism and yet everyone is so reluctant to linking the two. Mercury is an undisputable neurotoxin, yet at the same time no one wants to prove that, due to the obvious repercussions. I appreciate your willingness to express your opinions reasonably and remain calm despite all of the intense backlash that comes as a result.

1/29/06, 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 cents? Overcharged again

1/30/06, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

That’ll teach me to use trite and easily mocked old expressions in my titles. :-)

1/30/06, 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sue -

Seeing as how I am not licensed to practice medicine, I am not taking any patients. I'm just a humble medical number-cruncher.


1/31/06, 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I know that you're not a doctor. I was joking. My point was that you seem to have more common sense than a doctor (in that you want to limit mercury exposure from all sources).

-Sue M.

1/31/06, 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it matter that the discover article is quite old as far as "news" goes?

I guess not.

2/1/06, 3:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 2005? Doesn't seem THAT old to me, but ok... Get me some references that show that the material is "outdated" and we can all address it.

-Sue M.

2/1/06, 12:49 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Gee, “outdated.” If you’re referring to the information in the Discover piece, I seem to recall writing that the “article breaks no new ground, but it gives a pretty fair overview of some aspects of the debate.” If you’re referring to the age of the article itself, the fact that several bloggers are talking about it now attests to the fact that the issues raised are still with us. And it’s the issues we’re discussing here, not "news."

2/1/06, 1:28 PM  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I have no idea if genetics or mercury or a combination of the two affected my SmallBoy...but gee, wouldn't it be nice to know? And if it is one or the other, then why weren't my other two children who share same father and received the same set of vaccines affected by ASD?

In my mind, yes, there has to be a reason, but until all possible causes have been tested and proved or disproved, then I'll run with "to each his own" on belief of causes/solutions. If the mercury contingent wants to rip on the genetic contingent wants to rip on the rest-of-the-environment contingent, then, well, that's up to them. Until one thing has been shown that explains why only the youngest of my three is on the spectrum, then I will continue to keep an open mind.

My ONLY concern right now is making sure that my son has everything that I can give him to assure that he succeeds as much as he possibly can in his life. If studies finally come back and say, "Yes, it was Mercury," or "Absolutely, it is genetics," or "Gee, if you lived in this area..." or "All of the above", then I'll accept that answer unless it makes absolutely no sense to me. But, like I said, I'll leave mine to me and yours to you.

Wade, thanks for continually making sure that everyone is represented on all sides and for creating such an open forum for discussion.


2/1/06, 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the compliment. I, too, find that otherwise intelligent doctors often lack common sense. For example, my pediatrician who was sensitive to mercury issues (and even fetched the package insert for a drug when I asked for it) was all too quick on the trigger to prescribe the same antibiotics for a recurrent ear infection.

Heh. Maybe I should go to med school. I have to pick a lot of this stuff up anyway in day-to-day work.


2/1/06, 3:29 PM  

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