The Weirdo John Stone from Age of Autism agrees that thimerosal is not toxic

You know what I love about John Stone, the resident weirdo at Age of Autism? I love that he thinks he knows science then posts something that he thinks agrees with him when it clearly doesn’t. For example, here is a comment of his in which he thinks that the idea that methylmercury is just as bad as ethylmercury:

“The person who doesn’t do science is Mr Kluger. Here we are from 2013:

J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Aug;33(8):700-11. doi: 10.1002/jat.2855. Epub 2013 Feb 11.
Toxicity of ethylmercury (and Thimerosal): a comparison with methylmercury.
Dórea JG1, Farina M, Rocha JB.
Author information

Ethylmercury (etHg) is derived from the metabolism of thimerosal (o-carboxyphenyl-thio-ethyl-sodium salt), which is the most widely used form of organic mercury. Because of its application as a vaccine preservative, almost every human and animal (domestic and farmed) that has been immunized with thimerosal-containing vaccines has been exposed to etHg. Although methylmercury (meHg) is considered a hazardous substance that is to be avoided even at small levels when consumed in foods such as seafood and rice (in Asia), the World Health Organization considers small doses of thimerosal safe regardless of multiple/repetitive exposures to vaccines that are predominantly taken during pregnancy or infancy. We have reviewed in vitro and in vivo studies that compare the toxicological parameters among etHg and other forms of mercury (predominantly meHg) to assess their relative toxicities and potential to cause cumulative insults. In vitro studies comparing etHg with meHg demonstrate equivalent measured outcomes for cardiovascular, neural and immune cells. However, under in vivo conditions, evidence indicates a distinct toxicokinetic profile between meHg and etHg, favoring a shorter blood half-life, attendant compartment distribution and the elimination of etHg compared with meHg. EtHg’s toxicity profile is different from that of meHg, leading to different exposure and toxicity risks. Therefore, in real-life scenarios, a simultaneous exposure to both etHg and meHg might result in enhanced neurotoxic effects in developing mammals. However, our knowledge on this subject is still incomplete, and studies are required to address the predictability of the additive or synergic toxicological effects of etHg and meHg (or other neurotoxicants).

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.”

All bolding is mine, by the way.

I’ve told you before that in vitro (in a lab) is different than in vivo (in an actual organism), and this supports it. But, in the weirdo’s crazy little world, this one study is the Holy Grail of comparing ethyl mercury to methyl mercury. Why? I have no clue. This study confirms that biological systems are more complex than cells in a petri dish, and that we react differently to the ethyl mercury that thimerosal metabolizes into. In essence, we don’t get hurt or become autistic, like anti-vaccine activists and weirdos might want us to believe.

So thank you, John Stone of Age of Autism, for confirming this for us.


What does autism look like?

If you asked me what a child with Down syndrome looks like, I would probably tell you that the child has slanted eyes, a small chin, flat and wide face, a short neck, and extra space between the first and second toe. (I got this from Wikipedia, by the way.) These physical characteristics come from the extra chromosome found in people with Down syndrome. The same can be said for people with other disorders and conditions that affect both body and mind. But what does autism look like?

Well, if you ask Lyn Redwood, vice-president of SafeMinds (and anti-vaccine group that pushes the thimerosal-autism pseudoconnection), a child with autism looks like a child with mercury poisoning. Why? Because her child looked just like a child with mercury poisoning, and her child (according to her) is autistic because of vaccines:

“When he was born, my son weighed close to 9 lbs. He was a happy baby who ate and slept well, smiled, cooed, walked, and talked all by one year. But shortly after his first birthday, my son began to regress physically and developmentally, losing speech, eye contact, and social interactions. He no longer slept through the night and suddenly refused to eat foods that he had previously enjoyed, gagging and spitting them out… I am a nurse. My husband is a doctor. We would have never made a correlation between our son’s illnesses and vaccines. But in July 1999 I read that a preservative, thimerosal, utilized in some infant vaccines actually contained 49.6% ethylmercury… I quickly pulled out the thick file containing my son’s medical records. My worst fears were confirmed. All of my son’s early vaccines had contained thimerosal.”

She follows up with a picture of her child and a picture of a child with mercury poisoning. Go look at the post (or the picture) yourself if you want to see it. It’s not for scientific or educational purposes, so I refuse to violate the child’s privacy by posting his pictures openly online. She continues the post with a gross misunderstanding of pharmacokinetics, immunology, and toxicology. Frankly, if I were part of the graduating class that put forth this nurse, I’d be embarrassed.

All of her son’s vaccines had thimerosal? MMR and other live-virus vaccines don’t have thimerosal. Did the child not receive those? But I digress…

What really grinds my gears is that she is trying to convince her readers that her child has mercury poisoning because he looks like a mercury-poisoned child. To me, her child looks sleepy (and annoyed) more than suffering from mercury poisoning. Go and Google “sleepy face” and tell me if those are all mercury poisoned people. Is that what autism looks like? Not at all. Autistic children look all sorts of ways, and you’d be hard-pressed to identify an autistic child out of a line-up on physical traits alone.

Lyn finishes with this bit:

“When you talk with your representatives, please encourage them to pass legislation mandating the removal of mercury from all medical products and to put an end to this madness once and for all. And, finally, we need you to be savvy consumers and to just say no to any medical products, including vaccines, which contain mercury. I’ll be writing more about what you need to know about mercury in prescription drugs in the coming weeks, so check back soon. The pharmaceutical industry must heed our call. The government must start paying attention and start protecting our children. This should be a no-brainer. How could anyone possibly justify injecting mercury into a pregnant woman or small children? It’s time for the government to do its job. We need to stop putting poison in our children.”

Oh, good, I’ll have more to blog about.

Grasping at straws much?

If you really pay attention to what I’ve written in the past, you may have come across two papers in which I’ve been either an author or acknowledge. (Go ahead and kill yourself trying to figure out my real name, weirdo.) Each paper took more than a year to finalize. The one where I’m an author was a labour of love. There were drafts, re-drafts, edits, conference calls, and more drafts. CDC asked us to put together our findings for a poster presentation months before the paper was published. So we did. But our analyses changed a bit from the poster to the final paper. The principal investigator clarified what those changes were, and those changes were based on new data, on suggestions from the journal’s editors, and on edits from the group as we discussed it more.

What I’m getting at is that scientific papers change from conception to publishing. There are even times when the conclusions change completely as well. Anyone with a good scientific base knows this.

This was pretty much the case in a paper from back in the late 90’s looking at the association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Initial analyses of the data showed an association, an increased risk of autism in children who got some vaccines. But subsequent analysis — in which the data were clarified by actual scrutiny of medical records — showed that the association fizzled. In fact, the initial “increased” relative risk between those who were vaccinated and those who were not had huge confidence intervals, something you see in studies without much statistical power to them.

Anti-vaccine activists have been barking up this tree for a while. They keep saying that the early drafts of the paper prove that CDC knew that thimerosal caused autism. Who are they? Are they epidemiologists? No, they are not. They are “the kid” and his newest mentor, a PhD in chemistry or some such. The PhD has his panties in a bunch over the early drafts. Because the paper followed the normal process of things, there must be a conspiracy.

Except that there isn’t a conspiracy. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Read Dr. Emily Willingham’s epic deconstruction of this manufactroversy. It is such an epic takedown that the PhD and the people funding his grasping at straws issued a most libelous “press release“. So what did Dr. Willingham reply to all that libelous filth? The most epic reply ever, with the best bottom line:

“Bottom line from me, EJW: Pinning hopes to a 15-year-old preliminary abstract from a partially completed study and ignoring the ensuing 15 years of mounting evidence supporting and extending that study’s ultimate finding of no relationship between autism and thimerosal in vaccines is sufficiently revealing of just how little the mercury-in-vaccines-causes-autism folks have going for them, evidence-wise. Behaving as though an already known preliminary finding from the 1990s is some kind of smoking gun and buying news release dissemination to kick up a bunch of dust about it in the wake of all of the evidence to the contrary simply reeks of desperation. That’s my final comment on the issue.”

Yeah, keep pinning your hopes on that. I’m sure you’ll uncover “the troof” soon enough.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this?

The kid posted the following on his twitter account:


Click to enlarge

It’s a link to a joke by comedian Daniel Tosh about a man pointing a gun to a fish he had caught. In it, Daniel Tosh jokes that it “must be in retaliation from the mercury poisoning he got last month.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into the kid’s reasoning for posting this. I’ll keep that “reading” to myself right now, but I’d like to hear your comments. When you keep in mind that the kid labels himself as “toxic” because of vaccines, one could only wonder why he finds it funny/interesting to share this post with the world.

On the other hand, I find it interesting that someone who supposedly finds it to be “bigotry” that someone would disagree with him would label himself, an autistic, as “toxic”. People with autism are not toxic (i.e. “poisonous”). Toxic means that they’re capable of causing toxicity to others, not necessarily that they’ve been intoxicated themselves. It’s a bad label to put on people who may depend on others for care because it makes it seem like that dependence is somehow a scourge forced on others. It’s not.

People with any disability deserve to be cared for and helped because of the very fact that they’re human, not because it’s in our “good nature” to help them. And helping them is an honor, a blessing if you will.

Who is in bed with Big Pharma?

One of the first things that anti-vaccine and anti-science people will tell me when I present them with a fact is that I’m in bed/league/association with “Big Pharma.” They have no evidence of this. I’ve told them that I don’t hold any financial stake in any pharmaceutical or healthcare company. But they don’t let facts get in the way. You know how it is.

I was stunned, but not surprised, to find out that a notorious anti-vaccine physician and his son were in league with Big Pharma. Okay, “in league” is a big phrase. They are only slightly separated from Big Pharma. As we know, in the world of the “vaccines cause autism” crowd, close associations mean direct implications.

What am I talking about? There exists a doctor and his son. The doctor and his son think that mercury causes autism because mercury binds with testosterone. It binds with testosterone under lab conditions, which would never be replicated in the human body. Anyway, the doctor and his son are convinced that chemically castrating children with autism (boys, for the most part) will reverse their autism. Block and get rid of testosterone, and the bound mercury will go away, get it?

So the Maryland Board of Physicians got a hold of this unapproved, unproven, probably even dangerous way of “treating” autism and told the father and son to stop it. Well, it went further than that. The board took away the father’s medical license and charged the son with impersonating a physician. Their whole empire is crumbling, hard.

The anti-vaccine forces are all angry and worked-up over the board of physicians protecting the public telling them to stop and charging them with several offenses. The anti-vaccine forces also think that anyone slightly associated with Big Pharma is not to be trusted and is possibly eating babies at Thanksgiving (I’m not joking). Well, guess what…

The father and son have an association with a third person, a person named Trigg. (Yes, the no-names rule will have to be bent a little bit.) Check this out:

“Young” is a whole other story for some other day

Who is this Trigg fellow? He’s likely this executive medical director at a pharmaceutical company. Of course, I could be mistaken. If I am, I’ll correct this. (And any reader is invited to offer evidence of any mistake I’ve made.) But this Dr. Trigg has the same exact name and approximate location of the Dr. Trigg who is suing his partners, the father and son.

Again, I could be wrong. These could be two doctors who share the same name and approximate location.

However, if I’m not wrong, and he is both a partner of the father and son and an executive at a pharmaceutical company, then the question begs to be asked…

Who is in bed with Big Pharma?

But I’m not the conspiracy theory type. I’ll just wait and see what happens.

Connecting the dots between cause and effect

When I was a child, my teachers used to give us connect-the-dot drawings. I used to happily connect the dots and take the resulting drawing home to my parents. My mom or dad would then post the drawing somewhere for everyone in the home to see. I was really proud of my work, even if it wasn’t real work. All I had to do was go from #1 to #2 and so on until the picture revealed itself to me.

It was something like this:

Not hard to do at all

I’ve often wondered how the mind of someone who believes in outlandish conspiracy theories works. Do they just put the dots together but in a different way?

For example, let’s take this post at the notorious anti-vaccine blog of the (non-existent) epidemic of autism. It starts like this:

“My daughter, Megan, regressed in her physical, mental and social health after vaccinations. Her life forever changed, I am committed to finding out both cause then cure to improve her quality of life, along with so many like her. As a result, I spend a good amount of time reading research and scientific papers to help clarify any connections. Those connections would include immune issues, autoimmunity, mercury and vaccines.”

I highlighted in bold the main gist of that opening statement. This mother, looking for someone or something to blame for her daughter’s atypical neurology, has taken it upon herself to do research. Here’s an article blog post about the author of that post. Here is her Facebook profile. I keep looking and looking and looking some more, and I can’t find anything to tell me about her scientific background.

By the way, she proposes that her daughter developed autism after (and thus because of?) the MMR vaccine:

“Her regression into autism at 18 months developed after her MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.”

I mean, if she’s going to do scientific research and dive into scientific studies, then she must have a scientific background that allows her to explain what the studies and papers say to a lay audience, right? If anyone finds out what her background is, please feel free to mention it in the comments. But let’s go back to her blog post on that notorious anti-vaccine blog of the (non-existent) epidemic of autism.

In that post, she mentions that her daughter has an auto-immune disease. So, connecting the dots and using a scientific dissertation and subsequent published paper, she concludes that the mercury in the MMR vaccine caused an auto-immune disorder in her daughter, wich may have led to her daughter’s autism. Never mind that the MMR vaccine never had thimerosal to begin with.

Nevertheless, let’s look at the paper titled “Regulatory Roles for NKT Cell Ligands in Environmentally Induced Autoimmunity“. First, some terminology. “NKT” stands for “natural killer T-cell”. A “ligand” is a molecule that sends a signal, traps another molecule or element, or just plain does something. From an immunology point of view, ligands can make immune responses more vigorous, or even less, depending on the ligand.

The long and short of it is that these researchers gave mice an auto-immune condition by exposing them to inorganic mercury. (Mercury in thimerosal is organic, bound to carbon molecules and, thus, behaving differently.) On top of that, the mice were bred in such a way that exposure to inorganic mercury and even some bacteria would cause their immune systems to go haywire.

I’ve told you before that mice are not people.

How did these mice get an induced auto-immunity, exactly? Like so:

“Mercury-induced autoimmunity was induced according to a standard protocol by three s.c. injections of 30 μg of HgCl2 in 100 μl of sterile PBS at days 0, 2, and 4.”

They got 90 micrograms of inorganic mercury over the course of four days. How much organic mercury in an MMR vaccine? None. How much inorganic mercury in a can of tuna? None. How much organic mercury in a can of tuna? About 70 micrograms.

See what I’m getting at? Organic, inorganic? It’s like saying that salt — aka “Sodium Chloride” — is the same as chlorine gas. It’s not. It’s all in the chemistry. And that’s an important thing to note when you’re talking about these papers to a lay audience of anti-vaccinationists.

The paper continues to note that, yes, and as per their protocol, the mice developed an auto-immune disease. The researchers then went on to look at how the ligands behaved under these circumstances. But that’s not what matters to the blog post author. She hangs on the whole “mercury causes auto-immunity” and “my daughter has an auto-immune condition” and “she also has autism” to basically state that “mercury causes autism”. If this trope sounds familiar to you, it should. It should sound familiar because it’s the trope that a certain British doctor tried to use in hid fraudulent study to link the MMR vaccine to autism. Except that he was smart enough not to say that the MMR vaccine had mercury, which it never did.

She goes on to rant about the ligands, stating that they have been added to vaccines in order to increase the potency of vaccines. In short, it’s all evil. The ligands, the mercury, the non-existent mercury in MMR. Everything. It all causes auto-immune diseases, and, in their mind (the author and the people commenting on her blog post), autism is an auto-immune disorder.

To all this, she concludes:

“It appears that mercury, “abundance as a pollutant, and presence in dental amalgams, cosmetics, preservatives, fumigants, and vaccine preparations ” can cause immune and autoimmune disease via Toll Like Receptors (TLR) activation and then additionally, Man-made, Toll Like Receptors could also have their own influence on immune issues, and very possibly autoimmunity.”

It appears to me that this person, if presented with the brontosaurus connect-the-dot picture above, would come up with this:

If you see a dinosaur, you’re being fooled by the Man

I’m not surprised that this person displays little knowledge of understanding the paper she herself used as evidence. It happens a lot with anti-vaccine and anti-science people. They say that there is a conspiracy, that researchers are being paid by “Big Pharma”, and then they use that same research to try to prop-up their theories.

Someone in the comments section of that blog quoted this paper as clearly showing that vaccines caused all sorts of horrors. Here’s the “Results” section:

“Only in 1 analysis for tics was there some evidence of a higher risk with increasing doses (Cox’s HR: 1.50 per dose at 4 months; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02-2.20). Statistically significant negative associations with increasing doses at 4 months were found for general developmental disorders (HR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.81-0.93), unspecified developmental delay (HR: 0.80; 95% CI: 0.69-0.92), and attention-deficit disorder (HR: 0.79; 95% CI: 0.64-0.98). For the other disorders, there was no evidence of an association with thimerosal exposure.”

The commenter in question did not understand what “statistically significant negative associations” meant. It means that higher doses showed reduced risk. He or she thought that it meant “negative”outcomes, as in “bad”.

That’s the problem. You have non-scientists trying to make heads or tails out of scientific papers and studies, and they’re misinforming the public in the process.

Merry Christmas, by the way.

Tuna sandwich, anyone?

I just ate a delicious tuna salad sandwich while sitting here at my office. It was delicious. Did I tell you how delicious it was? Part of me felt that I had done a good thing for my body by eating that tuna salad sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger with cheese and bacon. The other part of me remembered what’s in tuna. So here are some thoughts.

According to this Consumer Reports report, there’s a lot of mercury in tuna:

Fortunately, it’s easy to choose lowermercury fish that are also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. That’s especially important for women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children, because fetuses and youngsters seem to face the most risk from methylmercury’s neurotoxic effects. 

Results from our tuna tests, conducted at an outside lab, underscore the longheld concern for those people. We found:

  • Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million. The Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to pull products containing 1 ppm or more from the market. (It never has, according to an FDA spokesman.) The EPA compiles fish advisories when state and local governments have found high contaminant levels in certain locally caught fish. 
  • Samples of white tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 ppm of mercury and averaged 0.427 ppm. By eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples, a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that the EPA considers safe. 
  • Samples of light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 ppm and averaged 0.071 ppm. At that average, a woman of childbearing age eating 2.5 ounces would get less than the EPA’s limit, but for about half the tested samples, eating 5 ounces would exceed the limit.

That’s a lot of mercury, especially if you eat a lot of tuna. And you should be concerned about this mercury because it’s methylmercury. It does this funny thing called “bioaccumulation”. You don’t need to be a a rocket scientist to know that mercury accumulating in your body is not a good thing. Just ask this guy:
Did he have mercury poisoning?
The thing is, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps harping on mercury in vaccines causing autism. In their minds, the symptoms of mercury poisoning mimic the symptoms of autism. Ergo, autism must be mercury poisoning, right?
First of all, the compound used in childhood vaccines and since phased-out is thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing compound. I’ve told you about the chemistry of these things, so there’s no need to beat that horse to death. The main gist of this blog post is to point out the following:
In fact, I’d venture to guess that it is much more biologically plausible — because of bioaccumulation of mercury — that tuna would cause autism IF AND ONLY IF autism was caused by mercury. The evidence for that has been put to rest.
Why, oh, why, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps going on and on and on about mercury in vaccines (when it’s been phased out) and don’t viciously attack tuna is beyond me.