Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

iPods cause autism?

I thought this was a joke when a reader e-mailed me about it. I mean, it’s just so over-the-top that I had a hard time believing that it was real.

It was (found via MacDailyNews):

The huge rise of autism in Britain is linked to old iPod batteries, mobile phones and other products of the electronic age, a leading scientist claimed this weekend.

Autistic children have been shown to have problems getting rid of toxic metals – and those metals are increasingly polluting the environment, says Dr Richard Lathe.

“Think of iPod batteries, computers, television sets and mobile phones – thousands of them tossed aside without any thought to their proper disposal, ” says the molecular biologist, who specialises in research into autism and other brain disorders.

“If they are buried in landfill, the mercury in the batteries leaks out when it rains, and if they are burned it goes straight up into the atmosphere.”

But it’s not just electronic products whose toxic metals are getting into our bodies via the air we breathe and plants and seafood we consume, he says.

“Every ship that sinks, every rusting car, every unsealed mine and every tin can in our refuse dumps contributes to a rise in the levels of metal in seawater.

“It’s absolutely clear there is a rise in autism pointing to an environmental factor, with mercury and other toxic metals playing a crucial role.”

First, I’m amused to see Richard Lathe characterized as a “leading” scientist, given his credulity towards mercury-autism quackery. He’s also spouting the same old discredited claims that chelation therapy can cause

Indeed, this story is amusing on multiple levels. Besides sounding funny, it is great evidence that even the most die-hard advocates of a link between mercury in vaccines and autism are starting to face reality and realize that the weight of scientific evidence is continuing to lean more and more heavily towards refuting the hypothesis that the mercury in the thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is an etiological factor that causes or predisposes towards autism. Indeed, it’s particularly amusing coming on the heals of last week, which was a particularly bad week for the mercury militia, a week in which not only did a very large Canadian study fail to find even a hint of a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism but that luminaries of the mercury-autism claim, Dr. Mark Geier, when attempting to function as an “expert witness” in the case of a woman suing a manufacturer because she believed that the thimerosal in RhoGAM had caused her child’s autism, received a thorough spanking by a court for his shoddy science and “results-oriented” testimony. Finally, to top it all off, last week the Governor of the State of Hawaii vetoed a bill that would have banned the use of thimerosal-containing vaccines in the state, stating in her veto message:

This bill is objectionable because it restricts the use of FDA-approved vaccines for no scientifically sound reason.”

Talk about adding insult to injury.

In any case, given that even the most die-hard advocates for mercury as a cause of autism are starting to see the writing on the wall, at least as far as vaccines go. The science isn’t going to support that link, and it’s starting to sink in. Consequently, they’re looking for other bogeymen to blame, by widening their focus to other “toxic metals” and environment. They’re shifting the target and making it more vague and diffuse. The advantage to this approach is that, like the vaguely defined “toxins” that alties blame for a variety of diseases, this new “heavy metals in the environment” claim will be more difficult to study and thus to confirm or disprove.

The disadvantage is that it will also make litigation more difficult. After all, it’s harder to prove that environmental “toxins” caused one’s child’s autism, given the problems inherent in measuring exposures and individual toxins, than it is to make a connection between a vaccine schedule and autism. However, it will leave the door open for future generations of chelationists to separate future generations of parents of autistic children from their cash, all for the false promise that such “detoxification” will somehow cure their children’s autism.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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