Respectful Insolence

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.

Comments

  1. #1 clone3g
    July 19, 2006

    I’m fairly certain that even the first generation of iPods relied upon Lithium-Ion technology and never anything that contained mercury. Hearing-aid batteries contained, or used to contain, mercury but they wouldn’t power an iPod for very long.

    NiMH and NiCd batteries may have been used in early mobile phones but now they also use Li-ion. So where’s the mercury if you don’t have any Queen songs on your playlist?

    Are heavy metals from electronics a source of pollution in landfills? Absolutely but a cause for autism? Where’s Lathe’s evidence? Certainly not in his published work and not in the clinical data coming out of his (chelation) treatment center.

  2. #2 Ali
    July 19, 2006

    “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.”

    Really? It looks pretty murky to me.

  3. #3 dogscratcher
    July 19, 2006

    clone3g:
    “So where’s the mercury if you don’t have any Queen songs on your playlist?”

    Well done: very topical, not too obscure, but definitely takes some extra thought. Touche.

  4. #4 Dave S.
    July 19, 2006

    “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.”

    Is this what they mean by a “paradigm shift”?

  5. #5 _Arthur
    July 19, 2006

    How about “It is somewhat clear that the current rise in autism (if any) points to genetic and environmental factors, with mercury or heavy metals or aluminium or lithium playing an unknown, but crucial –according to us reformed antivaxs — role. Oh, and vaccines are still bad for your kid, we don’t know how or why either.”

  6. #6 Mark
    July 19, 2006

    Did you guys catch that last bit about what kinds of metals are considered toxic?

    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.

    They seem to be implying that all metals are toxic. Sinking ships, rusting cars, and tin cans all seem to implicate iron, aluminum, etc. God forbid they stumble upon this:
    http://mistupid.com/geology/earthcrust.htm

  7. #7 Alain
    July 20, 2006

    Is this what they mean by a “paradigm shift”?

    going from thimerosal to a bunch of metals is hardly what i’d call a paradigm shift.

    Alain

  8. #8 Alexander Whiteside
    July 20, 2006

    In this case it’s more like alchemy. Lithium ion batteries producing mercury? Someone call the Count de Saint Germain!

  9. #9 Andrew Dodds
    July 20, 2006

    Mark – Didn’t you know that hydrogen can be metallic under some conditions? And that Hydrogen is present in ALL toxic acids. Therefore you must all undertake my new deHydrogeniser(tm)* process, which stops you dying from every known disease.

    *Side effects may include but not limited to Headache, Armache, Legache, dehydration, loss of essential proteins, loss of essential fats, loss of essential carbohydrates, devitalism and crumbling into dust.

  10. #10 clone3g
    July 20, 2006

    Hey wait a minute, potassium is a metal, so is calcium, sodium, magnesium, silicon……oh crap, I’m full of metals! No wonder I’m accused of having an ulterior electromotive. I’m through living this life of insulation — I’m off to take a job as a conductor — resistance is rutile of quartz.

  11. #11 Dave S.
    July 20, 2006

    clone3g –

    Silicon is actually a metalloid and not a metal. The difference is not clear-cut, but in general metals are conductors, and metalloids like silicon are semi-conductors. Non-metals are of course, non-conductors. Other metalloids are B, Ge, As, Sb, Te, Po and At. Anything to the left of those (in the Periodic Table) is a metal, and anything to the right a non-metal.

  12. #12 clone3g
    July 20, 2006

    Right you are Dave, my bad. So I’m off to take a job as a semi-conductor….or maybe photolithography ;-)

  13. #13 Bronze Dog
    July 20, 2006

    In this case it’s more like alchemy. Lithium ion batteries producing mercury? Someone call the Count de Saint Germain!

    I had been considering making some sort of Full Metal Alchemist joke, but that’ll do.

  14. #14 _Arthur
    July 20, 2006

    The Wikipedia article on Lithium-ion batteries helpfully notes that Uranium tri-oxide is seldom used as cathode in commercial Li-ion batteries. That should set their mercury fears to rest.

  15. #15 anonimouse
    July 21, 2006

    The Wikipedia article on Lithium-ion batteries helpfully notes that Uranium tri-oxide is seldom used as cathode in commercial Li-ion batteries. That should set their mercury fears to rest.

    LOL! Ah, so naive.

    Because now it won’t be the mercury, it’ll be the lithium-ion!

  16. #16 _Arthur
    July 21, 2006

    Now iPod owners will complain that Lithium ions leeching from their iPods to their blood is altering their mood, making them happy and sane ! Can’t be the music.

  17. #17 Lucas McCarty
    July 21, 2006

    I’ve cut all iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium from my diet. I’ll get back to you if I start feeling less Autistic.

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