Autism is complex. Complex enough to contain a wide spectrum of possible symptoms or issues. This is the reason that it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our understanding of it is still fairly new, but we are beginning to develop a clearer picture about its root causes and how our environment and society affects it. Researchers have been looking into whether certain heavy metals or pollutants are also having an effect on ASD.

Mercury is considered as one of these pollutants and is being looked at its’ possible link with Autism. In a study conducted by Janet K Kern, David A. Geier, Lisa K. Sykes, Boyd E. Haley, and Mark R. Geier, published in the September 2016 Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, the study compiled many other researchers’ work on the link between mercury and Autism. Relevant data was also collected from over 90 other studies between 1999 and 2016. They looked at the different impacts that mercury had on brain health, including autoimmune activation, oxidative stress, and neuroinflammation; all activities in the brain that contribute to the development of Autism.

The study found that “74% of studies support a link between mercury exposure and a diagnosis of ASD.” This number is important, because “the compilation of the evidence indicates that children with ASD are more susceptible to mercury than typically developing children, and that is reflected in significantly different levels of mercury, or biomarkers indicative of mercury, in the brain, blood, urine, baby teeth, hair, and nails.” This study adds an extra overall perspective to the “vaccines and ASD” controversy.

Autism Speaks, a national advocacy, policy, and research group centered on Autism, states that more research is needed to clearly examine the possibility of a relationship between vaccine use and the prevalence of ASD. Their website mentions that thimerosal, an ingredient used in vaccines, is a synthetic form of organic mercury. This early exposure through thimerosal in vaccines, advocates say, may be the reason for such prevalence in ASD rates. Although vaccine manufacturers started to eliminate or reduce thimerosal in vaccines in 1999 (except certain flu vaccines), many of these vaccines contain aluminum, which may be equally as harmful as mercury.
Reducing the potential developmental impact on children through mercury exposure is an important step toward recovery. Alternate versions of vaccines are mercury free, though caution is necessary because of the possibility of other potentially developmentally damaging ingredients in them. Understanding where mercury is used in household items can reduce the potential risks. Items such as thermometers (non-digital) are potential hazards. A detailed list can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website here: https://www.epa.gov/mercury/mercury-consumer-products.

Mercury is linked to Autism, through a comprehensive analysis of over 90 studies. The argument of how much mercury is damaging is still ongoing, but awareness of the potential risk is the most important point. In making decisions regarding exposure to mercury and other toxic metals, your knowledge, and that of your medical practitioner, can be valuable.