Two new papers published this week in the peer-reviewed neuroscience journal Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis point to vaccines and heavy metal toxins including mercury as causes of the alarming rise in autism. The Centers for Disease Control now estimate autism to affect one in 110 children, up 40% from just a few years ago.
"The rapid increase in autism cannot be explained solely by changes in diagnostic practices and awareness," said Sallie Bernard, president of SafeMinds. "We must look at what babies and pregnant women are being exposed to that has created this epidemic and take immediate steps to protect our children from these hazardous substances."
In the first study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Thoughtful House in Austin, Texas compared two sets of macaque infant monkeys. One set of monkeys was unvaccinated while the second set received vaccines identical to the 1990s pediatric vaccine schedule, most of which contained mercury. Infant macaques were used due to their similarity to human infants. Macaques share 93.5% of the DNA found in the human genome.
The contrasting results were remarkable. The vaccinated monkeys showed increased brain growth, which the authors theorize may arise from the inability to prune neurons. Larger head size is a hallmark of human infants who later develop autism. The vaccinated primates also showed a different rate of maturation of the amygdala section of the brain than the non-vaccinated monkeys. Amygdala dysfunction has been long implicated in autism. The amygdala region is responsible for emotions, memory and learning. Individuals with autism often struggle in these areas.
In the second paper, two scientists from the University of Northern Iowa made a critical appraisal of research that has been used to disprove a link between autism and heavy metals, and mercury in particular. They found statistical errors in several studies so that a re-analysis of the data demonstrated a greater presence of metals in autistic children than controls. The authors calculated that 43 out of 58 scientific reports suggest some link between heavy metals and autism may be present, while 13 reports suggest no link. They concluded that while questions remain, "the weight of evidence favor[s] a connection."
SafeMinds is calling for the United States government to pass legislation banning mercury in vaccines as has been done already by many states, based upon these two new significant articles and the growing scientific literature casting doubt on the safety of the infant vaccine schedule and of exposures to heavy metals including mercury. Most influenza vaccines contain mercury. SafeMinds also asks Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 so that harmful chemical substances like mercury in medical products will be discontinued when proof of safety is absent.
"While we wait for the government to act, the public can take steps to limit their exposures to toxicants which can alter fetal and infant development leading to developmental disabilities like autism," said Ms. Bernard. "The public can refuse vaccines made with mercury, can make choices for their child's vaccine schedule, and can create homes that are largely mercury-free."