Skeptical of the Autism-Vaccination Skeptics

By Bidstrup, Scott | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Skeptical of the Autism-Vaccination Skeptics


Bidstrup, Scott, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


As an Asperger's Syndrome patient, the proposed connection between autism (of which Asperger's is "on the spectrum"), and mercury toxicity, including the proposed thimerosal toxicity, has been of considerable personal interest for some time. I have been watching this controversy since its inception. In reading the article on autism and vaccinations in Vol. 13, No. 3, I have noticed several elements worthy of comment:

1. The assumption that the "autism epidemic" is new is not necessarily valid. It is probably being more accurately diagnosed now than in the past, particularly in subclinical and high-functioning cases that escaped attention by past clinicians. In my own case, I was seen by child psychologists as far back as the 1950s, and adult psychologists and psychiatrists since, none of whom properly diagnosed my condition, even though Asperger's was described in the literature at least 12 years before my first encounter. I was not properly diagnosed until 2001, at the age of 52. So thimerosal toxicity, if it exists, may quite well have been epidemic back then and no one happened to notice because of poor diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. This may still be the case, particularly in societies (Denmark, possibly?) where awareness of autism spectrum disorders other than classical autism is not particularly high.

2. The assumption, unspoken, that everyone is able to excrete ethylmercury equally as effortlessly as is suggested in the article. The human population is not genetically uniform, and this presumption is therefore highly dubious in the absence of any attempt to characterize it, which the article did not do.

3. It is now known that there is a subset of the human population that is genetically handicapped in the binding and excretion of toxic heavy metals as the result of at least two separate recessive genes. There have been studies suggestive (but not definitive) of a correlation between these genotypes and certain forms of autism. These genotypes are, however, rather rare. In studying autism in the general population, therefore, unless these genotypes are specifically tested for among all the test subjects, it is unlikely that their presence would appear above the statistical noise.

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