Though Dr. Mark Geier and David Geier have published extensively on the effects of Thimerosal, the mercury-containing compound used as a preservative in childhood vaccines that was demonstrated to increase the risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their recent work into the risks of mercury exposure continues to generate insightful and impactful results. Though we know mercury to be toxic to humans—international conferences have been held to limit its use and exposure to humans—the case for mercury’s association with ASD has been somewhat slow to take hold. The Geiers’ continued research efforts may change that.
In their paper, “Hair Toxic Metal Concentrations and Autism Spectrum Disorder Severity in Young Children,” published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the Geiers provide us with even more reason to heed their earlier assertions of a link between ASD and toxic metals like mercury, and offer up a deeper analysis of how this exposure can influence the severity of ASD.
The Geiers used the prolific research of other scientists in the field as a foundation for their “Hair Toxic Metal Concentrations and Autism Spectrum Disorder Severity in Young Children” paper. Over 40 research articles from various investigators had found that children with ASD maintain higher concentrations of toxic metals in their hair than children without ASD. These metals included arsenic, cadmium, lead, chromium, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, tin, uranium and manganese, though most research had focused on mercury concentrations. Researchers had also observed that when metal toxicity in an ASD child’s hair and nails increases, so too do their ASD symptoms, as measured using the CARS autism assessment. Of note, children with moderate to severe autism were more significantly impacted by these higher levels than children with mild autism.
With this information in hand, the Geiers sought to determine if there was a correlation between high levels of toxic metals in hair and more severe symptoms of autism by conducting a study of moderate to severe ASD subjects between the ages of 1 and 6. Using the widely-accepted and well-established CARS autism assessment and the CLIA-approved laboratory Doctor’s Data to analyze subject hair samples, the Geiers collected data about each subject’s CARS rating and toxic metal concentrations. Upon pairing hair toxicity with corresponding CARS data, a significant correlation was found to exist between higher concentrations and more severe symptoms of ASD. When graphed, increasing levels of toxicity corresponded to increasing CARS scores (higher CARS scores indicate more severe symptoms). Though a variety of toxic metals were tested, only mercury showed a strong correlation to severe symptoms of ASD. The Geiers have therefore shown that not only do children with ASD maintain higher levels of mercury, but the quantity of this mercury actually parallels the severity of their symptoms. In other words, an even stronger case has been built for mercury’s link to autism.
The study also observed relationships between ASD brain pathology and effects on brains intoxicated with mercury, and found numerous parallels. This again suggests a significant link between the presence of mercury and ASD. The many parallels identified between ASD brain pathology and the effects of mercury intoxication include neuro-inflammation, dysfunction of the mitochondria, microtubule degeneration, and decreased blood flow. In total, 17 similar behaviors were identified in both brain conditions. These parallels suggest to researchers that either mercury is a causal factor of ASD, or that it works in conjunction with other toxic elements to cause ASD. Either way, we’ve once again been shown that mercury is a contributing factor in this increasingly-prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder.