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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 26, 2001, Vol. 19, Issue 05

Autism and Mercury: The San Diego Conference

By Tim O'Shea, DC
This article is excerpted from Dr. O'Shea's forthcoming revised edition of The Sanctity of Human Blood.

Inquiry into vaccine safety is exploding like never before, even in the popular press.

Research coming from dozens of mainstream medical studies can no longer be easily suppressed, as it has been in the past, especially with the prevalence of online information exchange.

Last September, some 2,000 people, mostly MDs, assembled at the Town and Country resort in San Diego to hear the latest research on autism. Following the April 2000 Congressional hearings on autism and vaccines, this epidemic can no longer be ignored. (See "Autism and Vaccine" at The figure of one autistic infant for every 150 is now widely documented. (Bernard, Megson)

Such celebrity unsheathes the usual double-edged sword: the focus of research on the causes of autism, and the hawking of allopathic or "alternative-lite" cures for autism. Both were well represented in this gathering. Nevertheless, some critically significant information emerged from this confused assembly, chiefly in the presentations by MDs Stephanie Cave, Amy Holmes, and Andrew Wakefield. Cave presented enlightening data on mercury toxicity, drawn largely from the brilliant work of Sallie Bernard. Dr. Cave explained how by age two, American children have received 237 micrograms of mercury through vaccines alone, which far exceeds current EPA "safe" levels of .1 mcg/kg. per day. That's one-tenth of a microgram, not one microgram.

Three days in particular may be singled out as spectacularly toxic for infants:

  • Day of birth: hepatitis B-12 mcg mercury
    30 x safe level

  • At 4 months: DTaP and HiB on same day - 50 mcg
    60 x safe level

  • At 6 months: Hep B, Polio - 62.5 mcg mercury
    78 x safe level

At 15 months the child receives another 50 mcg, equivalent to 41 x safe level. These figures are calculated for an infant's average weight in kilograms for each age (Nathan).

These one-day blasts of mercury are called "bolus doses" (Halsey). Although they far exceed "safe" levels, there has never been any research conducted on the toxicity of such bolus doses of mercury given to infants all these years. Inconceivable.

Historically, the toxicity of mercury has been known for more than a century. The Mad Hatter was more than a fantasy character from Alice in Wonderland. Mad Hatter's disease became well known in England in the mid-1800s, when hat-makers were subject to inhaling the vapors from the mercury-based stiffening compound they used on felt to make top hats (Bernard).

Sources of Mercury

It is interesting to learn that common household remedies that were used up into the 1960s like mercurochrome and "teething powder" were often the cause of acute mercury poisoning and disease.

In the U.S., EPA mercury toxicity studies have involved contamination from fish, air, and other environmental sources. This is inorganic mercury (methylmercury). Methylmercury has long been associated with serious neurological disorders, demyelinating diseases, gut disease, and visual damage (Merck).

The mercury in vaccines, however, is in the form of thimerosal, which is 50 times more toxic than plain old mercury (methylmercury). Reasons for this include:

  • Injected mercury is far more toxic than ingested mercury.


  • There's no blood-brain barrier in infants.


  • Mercury accumulates in brain cells and nerves.


  • Infants don't produce bile, which is necessary to excrete mercury.


  • Thimerosal is organic mercury. Once it is in nerve tissue, converted irreversibly to its inorganic form.

Source: Sallie Bernard. Autism: A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning. An exhaustive, landmark study of vaccines and mercury toxicity.

Bernard patiently explains that thimerosal is a much more toxic form of mercury than one would get from eating open-sea fish; it has to do with the difficulty of clearing thimerosal from the blood. Thimerosal is converted to ethylmercury, an organic form that has a preference for nerve cells. Without a complete blood-brain barrier, an infant's brain and spinal cord are sitting ducks. Once in the nerve cells, mercury is changed back to the inorganic form and becomes tightly bound. Mercury can then remain for years, like a time-release capsule, causing permanent degeneration and death of brain cells.

Bernard also notes that the body normally clears mercury by fixing it to bile, but before six months of age, infants don't produce bile. Result: mercury can't be excreted.

Four separate government agencies have set safe levels for methylmercury, but no safe levels have ever been set for thimerosal, because thimerosal isn't included in toxicity studies (Bernard). Theoretically, that means that the above excesses of safe levels of mercury on the single days listed above are actually 50 times higher.

Does the fact that the mercury is accompanied by a vaccine somehow place it above scrutiny? The Sallie Bernard study of vaccines and mercury toxicity was probably the main reason Congress began to see the obvious correlation.

Mercury And Vaccines

Here's a curious "coincidence." In the late 1930s, Leo Kanner identified autism as a new type of mental disorder (Bernard). So when was thimerosal introduced into vaccines? The 1930s.

A few years ago, Bernard and her associates began to notice a striking similarity between the symptoms of autism and the symptoms of mercury poisoning. The more research she did, the more it seemed that these two diseases were virtually identical.

Autism and mercury poisoning damage the: brain/nerve cells; eyes; immune system; gastrointestinal system; muscle control; and the speech center.

Although mercury toxicity has been studied for decades, and EPA safety levels have been set, during all that time a child's greatest exposure to mercury - thimerosal in vaccines - was never even included in the toxicity studies! The talk has always been about methylmercury from seafood and the environment, totally ignoring the two most toxic sources of mercury for children: vaccines and dental amalgams.

The EPA has no jurisdiction over drugs. That's the FDA's job. This is why vaccines and amalgams don't even figure into the equation when it comes to setting "safe" levels of mercury.

But the FDA does have jurisdiction over drugs and drug companies, right? And over drug company publications, like the Merck Manual, the standard cookbook for drugs and diseases found in every doctor's office in the world. Surely the FDA, as the government agency charged with safeguarding the nation's health, would want the section on mercury toxicity to warn doctors about the two biggest sources for children: thimerosal and dental amalgams, wouldn't you think?

Yet looking at the Merck Manual (1999), in the section on mercury poisoning (p. 2636), thimerosal and dental amalgams again are not even mentioned! How can this be, when mercury is widely acknowledged as the third most deadly toxin in the world (Pilgrim) and thimerosal and amalgams dwarf the trace amounts of mercury from fish and other environmental sources of mercury?

Only one thing can a blackout information over an entire area of study for years at a time in this way - big money.

Such an omission probably wouldn't have anything to do with the revolving door that exists between the FDA; the EPA; the NIH; and the sweet positions held by their members before and after those grueling years of public service; or with the 800 waivers of the conflict of interest rule that the FDA has granted in the past two years to "experts," who are paid consultants to the drug companies-consultants who are also members of the FDA advisory committees that make decisions about whether or not to approve vaccines and drugs...(USA Today, Sept. 25, 2000) No, of course not.

Soaking up the Mercury

In the San Diego conference on autism, Dr. Amy Holmes gave perhaps the only lucid presentation about treatment. She explained how chelating drugs alone, which go through the blood like Pac Man munching up mercury, don't do much good for autism. That's because most mercury clears from the blood very soon. Mercury in thimerosal is stored in the gut, liver and brain, and as previously mentioned, becomes very tightly bound to the cells. Once inside those cells, or inside the blood-brain barrier, the mercury is reconverted back to its inorganic form. Locked into these cells, the mercury can then do either immediate cell damage or become latent and cause the onset of autism, brain disorders, or digestive chaos years later.

Dr. Holmes reported success using alphalipoic acid as an agent to cross the blood-brain barrier to soak up mercury. Once the mercury is brought back into the bloodstream, standard chelators like DMSA can then take it out.

Dr. Holmes has used her protocol on about 300 autistics so far, and shows consistent increases in IQ scores.

FDA: Protector of Whom?

In the face of all this new awareness, it was astounding that in July 2000 the FDA came out with the "parallel-universe" pronouncement that "vaccines have safe levels of mercury." Especially after their 1998 position: "

... over-the-counter drug products containing thimerosal and other mercury forms are not generally recognized as safe and effective" (FDA, 1998; Bernard).

As if there were any doubt as to who's really running the show, inconceivable also is the impotence of FDA's request to the vaccine manufacturers to discontinue the use of thimerosal in vaccines (MMWR, 9 July 1999). The same month that MMWR published this, the CDC made the same milquetoast request (CDC, July 1999, Nov 1999).

It's a bit like saying: "Hey guys, since all these kids are turning into vegetables and most of our researchers know it's the mercury, would you mind not putting any more thimerosal in your vaccines, please? No hurry, though. Whenever you're ready. No need to dump all those batches of vaccine just because people are finding out it's the mercury that's destroying children's brain cells."

The members of the FDA who decide which vaccines get approved make up the advisory board. In his recent House investigation on vaccines, Rep. Dan Burton found out that financial statements of advisory board members are "incomplete." Noting that this is the only branch of government that allows incomplete financials, in September 2000, Burton called the advisory board's sweetheart arrangements with the vaccine manufacturers a "violation of the public trust." This includes 70 percent of advisory board members owning stock in vaccines, owning patents on vaccines, and accepting salaries and benefits as employees of the drug companies (McGinnis, Burton).

A Matter of Trust

Still think you can trust the government or your physician with your children's blood? Despite the facts and events cited above, consider this joint statement of the U.S. Public Health Services and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

"There is a significant safety margin incorporated into all the acceptable mercury exposure limits. There are no data or evidence of any harm caused by the level of exposure that some children may have encountered in following the existing immunization schedule ... Infants and children who have received thimerosal-containing vaccines do not need to be tested for mercury exposure" (MMWR, vol. 45, 1999).

These are blatant Orwellian distortions. No harm? What about the autism epidemic and all the evidence linking it with mercury cited above? What about the single day doses of mercury cited above that are dozens of times in excess of the EPA's own safety levels? If everything is so safe, then why did they ask the vaccine pushers to kindly discontinue thimerosal from vaccines as soon as possible at the end of this same statement?

It is beyond the scope of this paper to really go into the politics of mercury. In researching mercury toxicity, a whole area of "dry rot" has been unearthed that deserves its own story. This is the shocking story of how the American Dental Association and the California Dental Association have been systematically hiding the truth about mercury toxicity in fillings for decades. Silver fillings aren't just silver. They're 50 percent mercury and extremely toxic; every dentist knows it (,

In a ludicrous blast of irony, both the ADA and the CDA have inserted into their "code of ethics" strict commandments forbidding dentists from ever revealing to patients the realities of mercury toxicity. No dentist is allowed to recommend removal of mercury amalgams for health reasons, nor may tell the patient about mercury toxicity even if the patient asks. This gag order has been in place for since the beginning of American dentistry. Exaggeration? Check their websites out:

Do you think dentists put mercury into their own families' teeth? Ask them. Anyone who is not a dentist is not constrained by the gag order, imposed on American dentists by the ADA, against telling patients what many perceptive researchers in the field of mercury toxicity already know: that no children should ever get mercury amalgam fillings.

Laughingstock of the West

At the San Diego conference, Drs. Stejskal of Sweden and Shattock of Great Britain noted that researchers across Europe are generally appalled at the massive amounts of vaccines given to American children under two years old. Although Europeans are not as obsessed with vaccines as we are, they do vaccinate. But most of Europe gives very few vaccinations to children under two years old, primarily because of the unformed gut, immune system, and blood-brain barrier. This intellectual isolation of ours regarding vaccines is a testimony to the suffocating "brain control" exerted on us by the popular press and all media. Like sheep to the slaughter, we don't know enough to be appalled by our own ignorance.

Autistic Gut

Headlining the September 2000 San Diego Conference was Andrew Wakefield, the British surgeon whose shocking new discoveries show that mercury toxicity alone is not the only factor linking vaccines with the autism epidemic. Dr. Wakefield's research centers around the MMR vaccine - measles/mumps/rubella - which does not contain thimerosal.

Expanding on his presentation at the April 2000 Burton hearings, Dr. Wakefield explained how at least three-quarters of autistics have pathologically blocked bowels, due to the huge swelling of the tissue lining the intestine. In virtually every autistic patient they examined, this nodular hyperplasia is both an immune response and an autoimmune response that Wakefield and O'Leary have clearly linked to the presence of measles virus from the MMR shot. No other virus was found in those cells. It is a new bowel pathology.

Wakefield showed graphs of the U.S. and U.K. 10 years apart that were identical in tracing the skyrocketing incidence of autism just after the MMR vaccine was introduced. He also showed how the incidence of measles had dropped over 85 percent on its own before the MMR was introduced.

One incredible study cited by Wakefield showed how 76 percent of children whose mothers were exposed to atypical measles became autistic after the MMR shot! He called this a "background susceptibility" or predisposition to autism.

Wakefield reminds us that in neither country have there ever been comparative studies on giving multiple vaccines (polyvalent) on the same day. This custom of ours, with both the DPT and the MMR, is not scientific by any stretch, and is primarily for the convenience of those administering the shots, and those being paid per vaccine. As a result, there is a good chance of geometric ill effects.

Then Wakefield cited the original MMR study (Buynak, Journal of the American Medical Association 1969, vol. 207). Not only was the safety of multiple vaccines never mentioned, there was no follow-up to the study to see if their conclusions were correct. In the usual manner of testing vaccines on the live population, MMR was simply tacked onto the mandatory schedule, and we've never looked back.

Despite studies in 1981 on Air Force personnel showing major synergistic adverse effects in the gut from the combination of measles and rubella vaccines, the mandatory schedule went unchanged (Crawford).

With no opposing studies whatsoever, the British government has decried the work of O'Leary and Wakefield, an indication that the political influence of drug companies also extends to that side of the pond (Shattock).

One Pill Makes You Larger...

The most striking feature of the San Diego autism conference was its Alice-In-Wonderland fascination with the minute details of all the body's systems affected by the disease, and the falsely optimistic, self-congratulatory tone of medicine's supposed remedies. (As if were just another unfortunate disease which has accidentally winged its way in on us from the cosmos, but don't worry - everything's under control). Nobody really put together the horror of this manmade epidemic or thought it bizarre that all this time was being wasted on treatment choices without anyone shouting: Hey, we're poisoning our kids! And we know it! And it's still going on every day. And nobody can force the vaccine manufacturers and the FDA to stop injecting toxic mercury into American infants until they've figured out a way to replace the billions the cartels will lose by leaving thimerosal out of vaccines, or by halting MMR.

Dark at the End of the Tunnel

Lest the reader get the impression that medical science has now solved the mystery of autism, and that everything is fine now, the reality is that aside from the cutting-edge research cited above, most of the other presentations at the San Diego conference were room-clearing recitations of aimless scientific non sequiturs, illuminating this or that step of the Krebs' cycle that is disrupted by the toxic onslaught of an infant's blood. Penetrating insight: Poison a child with the most toxic metal on earth and cell metabolism goes haywire. Gee, really?

Still, other presentations exemplified the "alternative-lite" take on holistic nutrition, which is going to nurse the poisoned child back to a normal dependency on drugs and potions, i.e., health. Chatty women with no credentials were somehow allowed to address this medical assembly and regale it with recommendations for healthy diets made up of chicken McNuggets and soy milk! Then there were the requisite exorcisms of gluten and casein, droning on and on about unsubstantiated "food sensitivities" that must be avoided in the "autistic diet." No marvel that several of these experts were quite obese.

Food for Thought?
Starvation Prevails

At the San Diego conference, there was a glaring absence of authentic holistic nutritional concepts, such as:

  • enzymes

  • pasteurized vs. raw milk

  • problematic white flour

  • colon detox

  • hydration

  • clean antitoxidants

  • antibiotics

  • oral EDTA for metal chelation

  • complete proteins
  • the glut of partially hydrogenated soybean oil in supermarket foods
  • problematic processed foods
  • problematic white sugar
  • synthetic vs. whole food vitamins
  • chelated minerals
  • flora
  • clean meat: no hormones or; organic whole grains; or estrogen in food and water

Although the critical importance of EFAs was peremptorily mentioned, even the basic concepts of good fats, as taught by world-class experts like Udo Erasmus and Mary Enig, were conspicuously absent. In a conference that was supposedly looking at one of the most rampant, epidemic causes of myelin disruption, such an information gap stood out.

The Genuine Article

It was very instructive that conference attendees were presented with two obvious realities. There is no specific curative diet for autism, different from the standard healthful detox diet, and even if there were, this group would be the last to know.

Mainstream medical people are Johnny-come-latelys to the holistic nutrition forum. Real experts have been pointing out the toxicity of the standard, processed American diet since the beginning of the 20th century, including medical doctors Harvey Wiley; JH Tilden; Henry Lindlahr; Edward Howell; Henry Bieler; Alexis Carrel; Otto Warburg; dental practitioners Royal Lee; Weston Price; and Stan Bynum,PhD.

Who knows these names today? Their work was built on fundamental principles of physiology and homeostasis, and backed by years of clinical study. However, without a huge PR machine behind them, their discoveries were for the most part buried with them, except for true holistic practitioners who have gone out of their way to research their natural ways.

Playing a ludicrous game of catch-up, today's medical experts, like those at the San Diego conference, see the glitter of alternative medicine and holistic nutrition, and, with no regard for the solid traditions of holistic nutrition, now marshal their considerable publishing resources to create the illusion that "we were there first."

The cleansing, healthful detox diet is the same for autism as for any other biochemical imbalance, employing three basic principles:

  • It only gives the body the nutrition it needs, with complete bioavailability
  • It contains no metabolic residues.
  • It incorporates no empty, devitalized foods of commerce.

For everything the patient eats, there is a decision: will this clog or nourish? Such a conscious diet is not a temporary chore, or disease-specific - it's a lifestyle change.

The above fundamentals were painfully lacking from the level of perception at this conference.

Treatment for Autism:
Step Right Up!

Just off the auditorium, there was the inevitable exhibit room, in which science seemed to be checked at the door, and the marketplace took over. Here was a living circus of "alternative lite:" new supplements and procedures, most created and marketed by the drug companies in their efforts to "Hoover" in the burgeoning area of commerce now becoming so popular: alternative medicine.

What do we see on the midway?

  • state-of-the-art live blood cell microscope analyses, frightening subjects by incorrectly identifying "parasites" and "microbes" in the blood, convincing them to adopt an experimental regimen of supplements;
  • fruits and vegetables in capsules, flavored by allergenic "non-foods" like high-fructose corn syrup (very nutritious - a sure cure for the autistic)!
  • flax seed oils, hawked as EFAs, oxidizing in clear plastic bottles;
  • brain machines whose electrodes, when applied to the skull, automatically normalize those nasty brain waves made irregular by the very real lack of neuronal myelin;
  • an ocean of synthetic vitamins, with some very nice labels;
  • a sea of cookies, sanctified by their lack of gluten and casein;
  • a variety of MLMs, talking more about their compensation plans than about their individual "magic bullets";
  • an array of portly diet counselors, with varying degrees and lacking credentials; and
  • several Krebs "cyclists," each with his or her own "missing component."

No big surprise here. The San Diego conference was held and attended by the profession for whose the "germ" theory of disease permeates their collective DNA. All their education, diagnostics, treatment, and 99 percent of their research is predicated on the idea that bugs cause disease and that medicine's job is to find the drug for each bug. Into this milieu the original research of Wakefield and Bernard has been thrown - a new quantum in vaccine awareness. What can be done with this knowledge? Medicine can only use the tools it has: germ theory, drug economics and spin control. Expecting medicine to understand the significance of novel scientific research like that of Bernard and Wakefield is like expecting a cat to fly.

A Glimmer of Hope

Despite these formidable obstacles, doubts are creeping into the overall public "consciousness" about the safety of vaccines. At one in 150, the fact of autism as an epidemic can no longer be covered up. The work of Wakefield, O'Leary, Megson and Bernard is getting more and more difficult to explain away. Rep. Dan Burton seems relentless in his efforts to acquaint Congress with the meretricious relationship between the FDA Advisory Committee and the vaccine manufacturers. The massive advertising campaign about the safety of vaccines in the popular media, which is certain to be stepped up in the next few months, is going to look very hollow in the light of clean, unbiased research that is not funded by parties who stand to make billions from certain pre-determined results. And the internet makes this well-referenced, scientific work accessible to the public without the usual monodimensional smokescreen from the popular press.

Ultimately, the value of the San Diego "Conference on Autism" was its signal that autism will not be allowed to slip from the public awareness, like so many other feature stories that come and go. The simple truth has been unveiled, and anyone who looks can see it clearly: our prime question should not be asking how we can cure autism once it occurs. The evidence is now overwhelming that in most cases, this new epidemic that we call autism is a preventable disease.


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  2. Cave S. Lecture, DAN 2000 Conference 15 Sept. 2000 San Diego.
  3. Shattock P. Lecture DAN 2000 Conference 15 Sept. 2000 San Diego.
  4. Crawford. MMR in Air Force personnel. Journal of Infectious Disease 1981;144:403.
  5. Bristol M., et al. State of the science in autism: report to the National Institutes of Health Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 1996;26 (2):121-157.
  6. McGinnis W. Lecture, DAN 2000 Conference, San Diego, 16 Sep 00.
  7. AAP/USPHS joint statement about the safety of thimerosal in vaccines Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1999;48:563.
  8. Bernard S., et al. Autism: a unique type of mercury poisoning - ARC Research, April 3, 2000 (
  9. Pilgrim W., et al. Proceedings of the Conference on Mercury in Eastern Canada and the Northeast States, University of Quebec 1998. (
  10. Dr. Nathan's baby growth chart. (
  11. Buynak E. Combined live measles, mumps, and rubella virus vaccines JAMA March 1969;207(12):2259.
  12. Cauchon D. FDA advisers tied to industry. USA Today, September 2000, page one.
  13. Spitzer W. Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics , McGill University.
  14. - Government Reform Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Autism, 6 Apr 2000, Chairman: Representative Dan Burton.
  15. The Merck Manual, 17th edition, Merck Research Labs, 1999.
  16. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 9 July 1999, April 2000.
  17. Howell, Edward. Enzyme Nutrition. 1985 Avery.
  18. Price W. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. 1939 Keats.
  19. Tilden JH. Toxemia Explained. 1926 Kessinger.
  20. Lee R. Conversations in Nutrition Standard Process. 1955.
  21. Wiley H. The Foods and Their Adulterations. 1930.

Tim O'Shea,DC
San Jose, California

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