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Ancestry of Pink Disease (Infantile Acrodynia) Identified as Risk factor for Autism

Posted Aug 01 2011 12:00am


By Teresa Conrick

Yet another study has come out to add to the growing list of research showing that autism can be connected with exposure to mercury.  This study took the idea of heritability and paired it with a known exposure to mercury, Pink Disease.   Also known as Infantile Acrodynia,  Pink Disease was a mysterious ailment that affected 1: 500 children.  Its origin was teething powders and also worm medicines that contained mercury, given to babies and children, but it took YEARS for that truth to be accepted. Here is a description and opinion from,  A REVIEW OF INFANTILE ACRODYNIA ('PINK DISEASE'), NOVEMBER 30, 1949, of the painful and sometimes deadly symptoms seen: NIH Acrodynia

CARDIOVASCULAR: Tachycardia, hypertension; occasionally epistaxis, melaena, gangrene.

EMOTIONAL.: Depression, apathy, fretfulness, perversion of appetite, loss of interest, insomnia.

NERVOUS SYSTEM.:Myasthenia, hypotonia, photophobia; sweating, incontinence; head-banging, rocking and salaaming; paraesthesia, possibly 'thalamic' pain; disturbed temperature regulation; occasionally tremor, convulsions.

SKIN AND MUSCOAE:. Erythema, swelling of hands and feet; ulceration of mouth, loosening of teeth; dystrophy of nails and hair.

METABOLIC:. Hyperglycaemia, glycosuria; loss of weight: increased basal metabolic rate; enlargement of liver.

ENDOCRINE: Cessation of growth; diuresis.

DIGESTIVE: Vomiting, diarrhoea; occasional prolapse of rectum; occasional intestinal spasm, rarely progressing to intussusception.

BLOOD. Neutrophil leucocytosis.

And like Autism, Pink Disease was a "mystery", with many different opinions on causation yet the clues seem so clear now:

"The concept of diet deficiency, for example, has been abandoned, attractive as it seemed at one time, partly because the disease, whether in symptoms or pathology, resembles no known deficiency disease in man, and partly because it is found very frequently in conditions which seem to preclude malnutrition. The limits of age within which authentic cases have been reported are from the third week (Wyllie and Stern, 1931) to the fourth year;.....above this age there are probably a few cases......very rare cases reported in adults...indeed it is unlikely that a disease which appears not to have its origins in prenatal life or birth itself should be confined to the first four years....a lively baby becomes increasingly apathetic, loses interest in its surroundings, ceases to play, sleeps little, cries a lot. Older children cease to stand or walk or talk, and do not resume their progress in activity until the illness is past. No smile can be provoked, and the child resents being lifted or handled unless to be nursed very quietly."

And like Autism, when hard science pokes its way in, that reality may provoke feelings of denial:

"Recently, it has been suggested that poisoning or idiosyncrasy to mercury may be the fundamental cause. (Warkany and Hubbard, 1948; Bivings and Lewis, 1948; Bivings,
1949.) The idea is not new, since it was apparently considered a possibility by Zahorsky in 1922. The resemblance to classical mercurial poisoning is slight; many infants are still given mercury by doctors,nurses and mothers, either as 'grey powder ' or' teething powder,' yet acrodynia is an uncommon disease. In cross-examination, mothers of some
recent personal cases have denied any such treatment, and there seems no reason to doubt their word....Bivings and Lewis (1948) found 100 y of mercury per litre in the urine of a girl of 6 months with acrodynia,and none two weeks later, after she had been treated with BAL (British anti-Lewisite). The disappearance of the mercury coincided with clinical improvement, but the duration of her illness is not stated;....Much work will be necessary before the significance of these results can be estimated. They have called attention to the extraordinary prevalence of the use of mercury in infancy and surveys will be required both of the use of teething powders and of the normal incidence of mercury in the urine."

And like Autism, not all children were affected by mercury, which brings us to the current study by Kerrie Shandley & David W. Austin:  Ancestry of Pink Disease (Infantile Acrodynia) identified as a risk factor for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health

"Pink disease (infantile acrodynia) was especially prevalent in the first half of the 20th century. Primarily attributed to exposure to mercury (Hg) commonly found in teething powders, the condition was developed by approximately 1 in 500 exposed children. The differential risk factor was identified as an idiosyncratic sensitivity to Hg. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have also been postulated to be produced by Hg. Analogous to the pink disease experience, Hg exposure is widespread yet only a fraction of exposed children develop an ASD, suggesting sensitivity to Hg may also be present in children with an ASD. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that individuals with a known hypersensitivity to Hg (pink disease survivors) may be more likely to have descendants with an ASD. Five hundred and twenty-two participants who had previously been diagnosed with pink disease completed a survey on the health outcomes of their descendants. The prevalence rates of ASD and a variety of other clinical conditions diagnosed in childhood (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, Fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome) were compared to well-established general population prevalence rates. The results showed the prevalence rate of ASD among the grandchildren of pink disease survivors (1 in 22) to be significantly higher than the comparable general population prevalence rate (1 in 160). The results support the hypothesis that Hg sensitivity may be a heritable/genetic risk factor for ASD."

So it appears that the descendants of Pink Disease survivors have higher rates of ASD than the general population - a significant 7 times higher than the general population. 

A simple yet brilliant study to demonstrate a susceptibility in families.  We here at Age of Autism, have been sounding the alarm on mercury and especially thimerosal, due to the fact that there is so much evidence to its connection to autism.  As Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill have said  -- "facts cluster around a good hypothesis," -- and this is one that has not gone away due to that reason.  In their book, The Age Of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic, Dan and Mark tell the story of mercury's insidious effect on generations of unsuspecting victims, including Pink Disease and its connection to mercury, and similarities to autismFrom an interview they did when their book was released last yearOlmsted Blaxill Mercury Medicine and a Man Made Epidemic

The later timing and the different kinds of mercury exposure probably had something to do with the difference in the profile. That said, there were some known cases - some of the symptoms of acrodynia or pink disease were similar in some ways to autism symptoms so there were similar biological effects in the youngest of children. But I think the difference in the timing, the difference in the particular type of mercury was the difference. Calomel would be affecting the body of these children whereas ethylmercury will get into the brain and that's probably the difference between teething powders and ethylmercury......The doctor who realized that pink disease, this terrible illness that children got that came from teething powders, the doctor who realized that that came from mercury poisoning said that it seemed to vary greatly. Some kids would get the same amount and have no effect and others would die from it.

We saw cases where these organic mercury compounds were used as seed disinfectants and in the factory some workers got exposed and became permanently disabled. Other workers who had the same amount of mercury didn't have any effects and so that's an idea that has never really been medically established, but we think the evidence for it is very strong."

Here, now is that piece of evidence, strong and convincing that some families,  including different generations, as well as the type and mode of mercury exposure, can have profound effects . I know this personally as both my father and grandfather were victims of medicinal mercury.  The physical, mental and emotional  illnesses that mercury is capable of detonating are devastating and often hidden.  Take for example that many have used ointments and salves that contained forms of mercury, for skin disorders or as a medicine.  Unknown to them, the "cure" they were using often became the "disease" as the mercury worsened or cascaded into other symptoms that often seemed unrelated

"There was a high degree of apparently allergic hypersensitivity to an ordinary innocuous substance. One of the editors observed a case of psoriasis in which 3 per cent white ammoniated mercury applied once to hands and elbows led to severe, long-lasting and almost fatal erythroderma with cardiac, renal and other visceral complications. Fortunately, these cases are extremely rare. Ordinarily, the yellow oxide of mercury ointments and the low concentrations of white ammoniated mercury can be put even into babies' eyes without the slightest harmful effects. Millions use these preparations with impunity but suddenly some person shows the most devastating, explosive reaction."

The Use of Ammoniated Mercury Ointment

"A 50-year-old man was admitted to The New York Hospital on Feb. 21, 1956, complaining of swollen legs. For 7 months the patient had used ammoniated mercury ointment (2%) for psoriasis involving his scalp, elbows, hands, forearms, and knees. Six weeks prior to admission the patient noticed painless swelling of both ankles."

One big difference between Pink Disease and Autism -- medicinal mercury exposure is STILL happening in this generation, especially in vaccines manufactured or preserved with Thimerosal.  Mercury in teething powders became a thing of the past....something to keep in mind
1956 mercury exposure warning

SEPT. 15, 1956              CORRESPONDENCE                


Calomel in Teething Powders

SIR,-Mercury has been omitted from most, if not all, proprietary teething powders with a view to preventing pink

disease, but all loopholes do not seem to have been stopped. I have recently seen two cases of pink disease and found

that they had had teething powders made up by local chemists. On inquiring, in confidence, of these chemists

I learned that the teething powders they were in the habit of supplying contained calomel, and in one case the chemist

volunteered that in future it would be omitted now that he knew of its danger. These two cases may be of interest to

practitioners who may meet pink disease from time to time through chemists not being aware of this danger.-I am, etc.,



Teresa Conrick is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism

Posted by Age of Autism at August 10, 2011 at 5:45 AM in Teresa Conrick Permalink

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