Mercury levels 'similar in kids with, without autism'

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Washington, Oct 20 (ANI): Typically developing kids and children with autism have similar levels of mercury in their blood streams, a new study has found.

Mercury is a heavy metal found in other studies to adversely affect the developing nervous system.

The study is the most rigorous examination to date of blood-mercury levels in children with autism.

However, researchers at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute have warned that the study is not an examination of whether mercury plays a role in causing the disorder.

"We looked at blood-mercury levels in children who had autism and children who did not have autism," said lead study author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an internationally known MIND Institute researcher and professor of environmental and occupational health.

"The bottom line is that blood-mercury levels in both populations were essentially the same. However, this analysis did not address a causal role, because we measured mercury after the diagnosis was made," Hertz-Picciotto added.

The study participants included children between 24 and 60 months who were diagnosed with autism, as well as children with other developmental disorders and typically developing controls.

The study looked at a wide variety of sources of mercury in the participants' environments, including fish consumption, personal-care products (such as nasal sprays or earwax removal products, which may contain mercury) and the types of vaccinations they received.

The study also examined whether children who have dental fillings made of the silver-colored mercury-based amalgam and who grind their teeth or chew gum had higher blood-mercury levels. In fact, those children who both chew gum and have amalgams did have higher blood-mercury levels.

But the consumption of fish - such as tuna and other ocean fish and freshwater fish - was far and away the biggest and most significant predictor of blood-mercury levels.

Data on most possible sources of mercury - fish consumption and dental amalgams-were collected by interviews with the study subjects' parents. Information on vaccines was obtained from the child's vaccination and medical records. A few children had recently had a vaccine containing mercury, and their blood-mercury levels were not elevated.Of the 452 participants included in the research, 249 were diagnosed with autism, 143 were developing typically and 60 had other developmental delays, such as Down syndrome.

At the outset, the children with autism appeared to have significantly lower blood-mercury levels than the typically developing children. But children with autism tend to be picky eaters and, in this study, ate less fish.

When adjusted for their lower levels of fish consumption, their blood-mercury concentrations were roughly the same as those of children with typical development and very similar to those found in a nationally representative sample of 1- to 5-year-old children.

The study appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. (ANI)

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