EinsteinBy Dan Olmsted

Albert Einstein, master not just of the universe but of the simultaneously witty, profound and self-deprecating quote, once had this to say: "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

That doesn't make me an Einstein, but it does make me feel better about the fact I've stuck like superglue to a couple of problems that go to the heart of autism. The one I'm writing about today is one I've tackled many times before -- the fact that the earliest cases show a strong association with the commercialization of ethyl mercury.

In the wake of the new study showing that the California autism numbers are continuing to climb, those who think the ethyl  mercury vaccine preservative called thimerosal has been exonerated are having a field day. One of them -- Dr. Paul Offit -- has even written it was a mistake to phase thimerosal out of vaccines starting in 1999 because it signaled concern that mercury in childhood immunizations might really be a problem.

But -- here I go again -- the earliest cases of autism recorded in the medical literature send the same signal: The Age of Autism began with the first uses of ethyl mercury in medical and agricultural compounds, and it turned into an epidemic when the amount of mercury in "baby shots" soared starting around 1990. The fact that autism rates are still rising does not, to my mind, mean that thimerosal played no role in triggering the epidemic. In fact, it played the decisive role.

For more -- much more -- on that, see "Mercury Link to Case 2" on our home page, and Mark Blaxill's fine piece "Making Sense of the California Autism Numbers," written this week. What bugs me is how little of this evidence and analysis has penetrated the mainstream, given how powerful it is.

One explanation is the once-over-lightly approach of Big Media to covering autism; does even one news organization have a full-time beat reporter detailed to master its complexities and report them in a nuanced but accessible way? (The closest I've seen is Myron Levin at the Los Angeles Times, whose work is exemplary.) Without that level of commitment, the blah blah blah of the "experts" tends to drown out contrary arguments in a way that is detrimental to the future of our kids.

I got interested in the earliest reported cases of autism -- a 1943 paper by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins about 11 children born in the 1930s -- when I realized how little had been written about them, and how inexact the references were. The first description of any disease is a critical moment, because it is then and there that its roots can be identified. Is it just better diagnosing? Did something happen in the environment to create the "big bang" of a brand new illness? What kind of people seemed susceptible based on those first reports?

AIDS is a perfect illustration. By identifying a cluster of sexual partners in New York and Los Angeles among the very first cases, CDC epidemiologists realized they were dealing with a microbe passed from person-to-person by intimate contact. In amazingly short order, the NIH (and the French) had identified the virus; a test had been developed, and researchers were finding treatments and tracing the river to its source -- Africa in the 1950s.

AIDS really was new, and the implications for both stopping and treating it were enormous. As I've argued many times, autism really was new, too, and the implications are equally enormous. But they are continually overlooked.

The latest example -- one that reminded me of the kind of inconsistent and vague reporting that started me down this road three years ago -- is in a generally fair piece in the Baltimore Sun this week, assessing the California study and giving decent space for people like Lyn Redwood to say why it's not the end of the argument over thimerosal.

But here's the sentence that got my attention: "Thimerosal, which is almost 50 percent mercury, has been a preservative in vaccines since the 1930 (sic). The first case of autism was identified at Johns Hopkins University in the 1940s."

Well, not exactly, and here exactness is everything. This is the way I'd put it: The first recorded use of ethyl mercury (thimerosal) in vaccines was 1931, the same year the oldest child in Leo Kanner's study was born. That's a heck of a coincidence by itself. And half a dozen parents of the first 11 cases were in the medical field, suggesting they might be early adopters of vaccination. But there's more: Thimerosal's inventor also patented the use of ethyl mercury in agricultural fungicides that came on the market at the same time, and three of the 11 cases show plausible exposure through that route. In fact, the father of Case 2, Frederick L. Wellman, was a U.S. government plant pathologist whose archive shows he was working with ethyl mercury fungicide 'dusts' at the same time his child was born. There's actually a sales brochure for one in the Memorabilia file in his archive: "Ceresan and new improved Ceresan are poisonous and precautions with all packages must be observed," the brochure says.

What am I getting at? First, the timeline is a lot tighter, and the evidence a lot more indicative of something new going on, than the simple statement that vaccines were used since the 1930s, and the first autism case was identified at Hopkins in the 1940s. (Actually, the first cases started showing up in 1935, and Kanner wrote that they all differed "markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far.")

Second, the fungicide connection suggests ethyl mercury, and possibly other organic forms, can trigger autism WITHOUT having to be in vaccines -- the exposure could be coming from the workplace,  from farming, from anywhere. Yes, vaccine mercury looks like an awfully (in both senses) easy way to deliver mercury to the brain of a fetus, a neonate or an infant -- but what I'm arguing is that right from the START it appears to be coming at us from several directions at once.

So could thimerosal be out of most vaccines, yet mercury implicated in the rise of autism? And could it still be triggering cases? I vote yes: These days mercury -- the incredibly dangerous organic kind -- is saturating our environment, ending up in fish and rain and dirt and pregnant women and rivers and umbilical cords and Lord knows where else.
And the broader chemical connection just keeps revealing itself to anyone who's looking. I've written loads about that, too. A study in the 1970s found almost a quarter of autistic kids' parents were exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace -- while the overall U.S. rate was just 1 in 100 workers. Put another way, the odds of having an autistic child were more than 20 times greater if you worked with toxic chemicals than if you didn't. How do we just ignore something like that?

Last week I was rooting around the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda and happened on a 1982 book called Autism: Nightmare Without End (a great title that I'm sure would drive some people batty). It was written by the mother of an autistic child. Here's the part I especially noticed: "We both obtained our doctorates in organic chemistry. ... After graduation we were fortunate in finding good jobs as chemists." Later she wonders why her son is autistic and muses about the toxic chemicals they worked with.

Or take a look at Born On a Blue Day, the autobiography of the Aspergian savant Daniel Tammet. He describes how, on the day his mother went in to labor, his father rushed home from the sheet metal factory to take her to the hospital, his clothes still covered in "dust" from the workplace. That's not good old dust you can just brush off, any more than mercury fungicide "dusts" are.

The earlier the case, the easier the chemical connection is to detect, because the huge increase in thimerosal exposure in the 1990s drowned out these signals by spreading the risk across virtually the entire population (except for pockets of never-vaccinated kids -- the other issue that I can't seem to let go of, and for the same reason).

What's so dispiriting about all this is that nobody but nobody in the mainstream media or medical community is paying one whit of attention. The 6,000-word piece I wrote about Frederick W. and the link to ethyl mercury fungicide was published last year in the Baltimore City Paper. I sought out that venue because that's where autism was first identified, and Johns Hopkins and the Kennedy Krieger Institute are in the thick of the hunt for autism's cause, sopping up grants from Autism Speaks and the CDC to do epidemiology studies. So I was excited that for one week last February, "Mercury Rising" was the bold  cover headline staring out at those autism sleuths from bright yellow boxes all over town. (Subhead: "A Possible Link Between Chemical Exposure And Autism May Have Been Overlooked In The Very Earliest Cases At Johns Hopkins." Hard to miss, I'd say.)

But as far as I know that didn't prod anyone to take a fresh look at the early cases that are presumably still in the Hopkins archives. It didn't cause anyone to commission a crash study on the natural history of autism -- something that cracked the AIDS mystery wide open in a matter of months. So yes, it's frustrating to keep banging this drum -- some might call it beating a dead horse.  But at times like this I ask myself a simple question: What would Einstein do? I think he'd tell me to stay with it.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of The Age of Autism



I share the concern over toxins. However, I invite early childhood psychology to the forum. Vaccination, like circumcision, is an acutely painful experience that is an unnatural shock to the keenly sensitive newborn. In addition to being pierced by vaccine needles, at a certain age, the baby is aware that it's mother has cooperated with it's attacker. Certain individuals may respond with a dissociative break--autism could be a form of PTSD. Prevalence in males could be due to the less traumatic but equally painful circumcision practice.


Thank you! What I liked most about your article, you didn't take sides. Second you are looking for the truth and that's what parents need. So many parents are uneducated about vaccines and their is so much confusing info which do you believe? With my first child, I just took her to get her shots, no questions. My second child I knew alot more, because I was the one giving them. I pray that parents don't just stop immunizing and we find out the whole truth and soon, no matter what the answer is.

Liz Parker

Dan -

As usual, incisive and oh so true!

Every time I find another web-base "news" story touting the vaccines don't link to autism, based on the CA DD data, I post the following:

Did ANYBODY actually READ this study?

The study period was, actually, BEFORE California mandated the PARTIAL removal of mercury from vaccines administered to pregnant women and babies under 3 years old.

“In addition to analyzing the prevalence of autism by birth year, the researchers also examined the rate among children age 3 to 5 based on quarterly reports issued by the Department of Developmental Services. Prevalence increased each quarter from January 1995 (0.6 per 1,000 live births) through March 2007 (4.1 per 1,000 live births), including after 2004, when the researchers estimate that exposure to thimerosal during infancy and early childhood declined. Over the same time period, the rate of all developmental disabilities increased but at a slower rate, from 5.4 to 9.5 per 1,000 live births”

The period January 1995 - March 2007, including only children 3 - 5 years old.

Since California implemented its law in July of 2006, NONE of the children considered in this study actually are known to have received low mercury vaccines! The oldest child post-California law change was only 8 months old!!!

This study is a farce. The researchers never even validated mercury exposure for this study “researchers ESTIMATE that exposure to thimerosal during infancy and early childhood declined.” THIS is SCIENCE?! Give me a break.

California’s children (3 and under) are still likely to receive about 10 mcg of mercury through their vaccines by the time the reach one year of age, and get to share another 20 mcg with their RH- mothers. California children over age 3 still get full-mercury shots. It is very difficult to study the effects of a poison with any real results, until you have a control group that is entirely free of exposure.

Even so, if you believe simply removing the mercury will suddenly make vaccines “safe,” you must not have considered some of the many other toxins and common allergens being injected into our kids: aluminum (another neurotoxin), ammonia, dyes, formaldehyde, lactose, msg, egg, phenol, polysorbate, urea, acetate, yeast, soy, and tissue from monkeys, mice, chicken, human, and cows.

Our world is already toxic enough, why mainline poison?

Keep up your good work; God knows you are the angel at our side!


Theresa Cedillo

Excellent once again Dan! You are right on target. We're blessed to have you on our side-thank you.

Heidi Roger

Thanks Dan, we appreciate everything you do.

Nelly Huppert MD

So if one of several probable carcinogens were removed from cigarettes would that make smoking safe? That is the problem with the way this study is being interpreted. Thimerosal is toxic in and of itself but in the context of this study, it may have been an indicator of the overall toxicity load given at vaccination visits at 2, 4, and 6 months with the MMR as a topper. Why isn't there a multifactorial analysis of # of shots at 1 visit vs spread out? Thimerosal dose at one visit certainly correlated with the # of vaccinations given.

I think what the CDC, and drug companies are afraid of, if a link to vaccinations was proven, then any trials of new vaccinations would take several years. The day of vaccinate a bunch of kids, hand a log to the parents and get a titer 42 days later would be over.

The current vaccine schedule was tested in this manner. 4 shots, 7 vaccinations at 2,4, 6 months are the recommendations. This schedule is designed for convenience compliance and point of contact. Remember the government staffs and funds all those public health clinics,a more complicated schedule would decrease compliance and possibly herd immunity. Starting in 1980 vaccines were added to an existing schedule without adding visits, and several years later coincidentally the autism rate started to climb. The government has painted itself into a corner, if they look at changing the schedule and find long term sequelae from the current schedule then they have a huge liability issue.

I have 4 children, my first 2 who are a boy and a girl, were vaccinated in Deal by an old time pediatrician who believed in spreading out the vaccines, we did not have more than 2 shots per month. Both children made all developmental milestones. We moved to Lakewood for a short period of time and my 2 younger children received 4 shots at once 7 vaccinations at 2,4 and 6 months. The 3 year old is on the spectrum diagnosed last year the 2 year old did not get the MMR (forgot about the 1 yr old's shots) and has a speech delay. I started looking at the data regarding vaccines this past year and could not believe the lack of long term data.

Unfortunately, the catastrophe is not over. Most new parents are not Donald Trump, they may not know an affected person. They certainly did not host an Autism Speaks fundraiser on the Apprentice and will follow their pediatricians advice as I did. The new California data will be misinterpreted by MD's that the current schedule is safe.

For every 100 people who smoke 6 will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Almost no one with lung cancer did not smoke.

Ricci King

Thank you, Dan, for staying with it. For many of the parents in the trenches, your work is fuel that keeps us going. Somebody (you) listened to the vast numbers of parents who witnessed their child(ren) decline into autism, and connected the dots. I agree that it is frustrating that little has been done to investigate the profound clues you provided in your excellent article about Frederick W. One would have hoped that it would have sparked serious investigation by the medical community, and especially the CDC. Their refusal to respond appropriately to these clues only spotlights their investment in the current vaccine program, and their willingness to allow more children to be damaged while they try to find another way out of the the mess they have made. I have seen your work have an influence on the medical community and media, however. More doctors seem to be questioning the numbers of vaccines at such an early age, and seem willing to comply when parents request postponing immunizations. Recently KOMU News in Missouri did an excellent series on autism, presenting both "sides" of the vaccine issue with more balance than I have seen in the past. It is taking far too long, but we are going to get "there". Thank you, again, for your courageous effort on behalf of our children.


I believe the quote is as follows:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
~Upton Sinclair

One of my favorites and it is appropriate, certainly. It is amazing the studies and evidence that do not make it into the mainstream media. I cringe when I read yet another publication remark that autism presents itself as a lack of communication skills and problems with social interaction, as if our kids were just very shy and introverted. Oh, and let's not forget "quirky."

Another favorite quote of mine is the following:

"To cling to a purely genetic explanation for autism is a desperate attempt to maintain the illusion that one lives in a comfortable and rational world where new chemicals and technologies always mean progress; experts are always objective and thorough; corporations are honest; and authorities can be trusted. That human actions, rather than genes, might be responsible for compromising the health of a significant proportion of a whole generation is so painful as to be, for many, unthinkable."
--Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D., Pediatric Neurologist,
Massachusetts General Hospital

Teresa Conrick

Hi Dan,

I am so glad you got interested in Autism, ethyl mercury, and those first cases. This information is just incredibly important and you present it so very well. Keep banging that drum (or dead horse) as we are right behind you.
Thanks always.

Anne Dachel

I truly enjoyed reading this piece by Dan Olmsted. For a number of years now I've sat stupefied watching how the press reports on autism.

Stories about autism affecting an epidemic number of kids are often found in the sections on health and beauty. Autism is never a crisis, no matter how bad the numbers get. Injecting mercury into children can't possibly be harming them....because the agency that runs the vaccine program says so.

Autism never really sounds like such a bad thing in the media either. It's usually described as a disorder resulting in a "lack of communication skills and problems with social interaction."

Reporters so willingly accept the opinion of officials who continue to tell us that they still don't know if autism is really affecting more children, despite spreading boatloads of money on studies for the past ten years. I often see the website of the CDC on the bottom of articles and I have to ask myself how much investigation has this reporter done concerning the autism controversy.

What will it take to really get the attention of the press, and through them, the American people, regarding the autism disaster? It will probably be when 18 year olds with autism are lined up at every Social Security office across America right along side all the post WWII work force applying for retirement.

By then it won't be just a health care crisis, it'll be an economic emergency.

Tim Kasemodel

A favorite quote from Einstein:

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

This is so applicable to the CDC it is scary. These people are not only self protective to the point they will sacrifice an entire generation, they use their limited experiences as justification not to look at the obvious.

Two other points. One, my wife and I have checked into our huge family trees. From our maternal and fraternal grandparents on both sides, nearly 350 individuals, exactly one case of autism. I did however work with industrial solvents in my 20's, having children at 32.

Two, I met a paid lobbyist for a disability advocy group here in Minnesota who is convinced that the reason they are "not identifying enough kids with autism" (I kid you not - he said not enough) is because the state pulled back on the funding for early diagnosis - he was lobbying for more funding for his Org. He absolutely refused to believe the data I showed him regarding the dramatically reduced (25% drop in 2004)rate of kids age 0-2 diagnosed in MN with speech delay (often first diagnosis before autism diagnosis) as evidence they are simply not there.

That reminds me of another quote - something like "It is hard to understand something when your salary depends on you not understanding it"

Tim Kasemodel


Do not worry Dan, Mike Adams of NewsTarget has got it. Wrote a geat piece about it as well. Read here.


I believe we will begin to hear this message more and more from the paraprofessionals that educate and service our children. Personally I don't believe the numbers have actually gone up. The CDC when they came out with the new numbers of 1 in 150 only censused a few states (seven I believe) and these states are where the heaviest concentrations of autism were to begin with California (those numbers I think are high because of the illegal immigrants coming in) Texas (another immigrant influx state), New Jersey (what I refer to as the armpit of America because of all the dumping of garbage that was so prevalent) and the other states I don't recall. I never understood (and still don't) how the individual numbers can rise (1 in 166 to 1 in 150) but the collective number (1.5 million) has not changed in the past five years. It's the ploy of the CDC to take the spotlight off of thimerasol. IF they can convince people that autism is still "rising" after the removal of thimerasol then thimerasol (and their less than ethical and legal practices) will be exonerated.

The CDC is filled with a bunch of manipulating morons beginning with the head. That's the nicest way I can say it as I am a Christian and refuse to sink to the depths that these agencies have.

Sonja Lopez


You are educating the public about the truth of this epidemic. Einstein also said "The aim of education must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem."

We are so very proud of you Dan for your your work and your persistence in getting to the truth...Einstein would be pleased!

"We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility" Einstein, 1940.


ronna hochbein

In my experience in the front lines of therapy....the numbers are decreasing...I dont have ONE autistic child on my caseload right now....five years ago it was 90 percent of my caseload....because no one ever cooks books or statistics right...and everything you read in the paper is correct....and i have some oceanfront property in arizona I'd like to sell....

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