Autism is very real for me as it is, I think I can assume, for most of you reading this, whether you are autistic or you’re the parent, teacher, friend, grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, doctor, or otherwise know someone who has autism. Indeed, being my son’s parent has required me to think about some very real things as honestly as I can, from acknowledging that it’s best for his school programs to become more and more directed to vocational training and daily life skills—from saying that he “aggressed” a teacher—- to planning for the future by preparing a special needs trust. When you get down to it, that’s the basics of life with Charlie, a careful focus on getting through the days—with lots of stops to sit with him and enjoy the moment—-and an eye constantly on the future, on the part of Charlie’s life that I will not be here for. I’ve therefore found it rather odd that a TV show, the set-to-air-tomorrow comedic legal drama Eli Stone—-has been getting so much attention, with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calling for its cancellation due to the storyline of the pilot, in which lawyer Stone successfully wins a $5.2 verdict for a mother who believes that her son became autistic due to “mercuritol” in a flu vaccine.
It is, according to the AAP itself, precisely because of the “Eli Stone controversy” that the AAP is lifting the embargo early on a new study in Pediatrics showing that the ethyl mercury previously used in vaccines as a preservative, is excreted much faster than other forms of mercury in the environment. The researchers are from the University of Rochester:
â€śThimerosal has been used for decades, but the surge in vaccinations caused fear that possible accumulations of ethyl mercury, the kind in thimerosal, might exceed safe levels â€“ at least, when based on the stringent risk guidelines applied to its better-understood chemical cousin, methyl mercury, which is associated with eating fish,â€ť said Michael Pichichero, M.D., professor of Microbiology/Immunology, Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Rochester and the studyâ€™s main author.
But scientists are learning that the two mercury species actually behave quite differently……….
In the Rochester study, 216 infants from R. Gutierrez Childrenâ€™s Hospital (in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where thimerosal is still routinely used in vaccines) were divided into three age groups to have their blood-mercury levels tested both before and after shots were administered at either their newborn, 2- or 6-month checkup. Researchers learned that, in all three age groups, the half-life of ethyl mercury in the blood â€“ or, the time it takes for the body to dispose of half the mercury, and then another half, and so on â€“ was measured to be 3.7 days. Thatâ€™s a far cry from the blood half-life of methyl mercury, which is 44 days.
â€śUntil recently, that longer half-life was assumed to be the rule for both types of mercury. Now itâ€™s obvious that ethyl mercuryâ€™s short half-life prevents toxic build-up from occurring. Itâ€™s just gone too fast,â€ť Pichichero said.
To illustrate, researchers cite that infants in the 6-month-old group â€“ who, in their lifetimes, had encountered more total ethyl mercury that any other group studied â€“ still had the same pre-vaccination blood-mercury levels before their checkups as most 2-month-olds had before theirs. This suggests that, before each round of shots, the mercury has plenty of time to be cleared.
Infants’ bodies are able to expel thimerasol mercury much faster than thought and thus there is “…..little chance for a progressive building up of the toxic metal.” Following the study from the California Department of Health that was released earlier this month about how autism rates increased even after thimerasol was removed from vaccines, the University of Rochester study continues to provide evidence against a vaccine-autism link.
Will those who believe that vaccines or something in vaccines caused their child to become autistic see this newest study as proof that the vaccine-autism hypothesis is a hypothesis and even a myth?
Probably—if not definitely not. When it comes to theories about what causes autism, one thing you can count on is that many will continue to put more faith in fictions and hypotheses than in facts and scientific evidence, and that’s a truth that may be stranger than what any TV lawyer argues for in court.