"Rant On" My Take on Autism Awareness Day
Autism’s Magic Eight Ball

Weekly Wrap: Psychiatry, Still Blind To the Toxic Truth

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

It was 35 years ago that Vietnamese tanks rolled into Cambodia's capital and put an end to the four-year reign of genocidal terror that wiped out a quarter of the population through starvation, torture and execution. A tidal wave of desperate refugees rolled across the border to encampments in Thailand; eventually, thousands joined a thriving community of Cambodians who had settled in Long Beach, California.

There, in the 1980s, doctors began noticing an unusual phenomenon -- some of the resettled Cambodians, mostly older women, were having problems with their vision that could not be linked to any physical cause. "Unknown etiology" would be the formal way to describe it.

But medicine abhors a mystery, and speculation as to the cause soon arose -- these survivors of war and terror could not see because they would not see, doctors concluded. They were so traumatized by what they had witnessed and suffered that their vision was impaired. They were experiencing hysterical blindness.


"Blinding Horrors : Cambodian Women's Vision Loss Linked to Sights of Slaughter," was the LA Times headline in 1989.

"Eang Long cried for many days after the Khmer Rouge soldier beat her brother and his three children to death," the story begins. "'My eyesight started to get terrible after I saw the tragedy'," Long said. "Because I was crying so hard and long, my eyes were red and started to swell up. Then I started to have problems with my eyesight."

In the face of such horror, any human reaction seems possible. Researchers identified 30 Cambodian refugee women 40 to 69 years old with a similar pattern and gave them a battery of tests, including brain waves. (Some men were also affected, but focusing on women makes "hysteria" a simpler argument.)

"In each case, the test revealed normal visual acuity, often at the 20/20 or 20/40 level. These same women, however, when looking at an eye chart could barely see the top line of 20/200--the point of legal blindness. Other women had no light perception and could not detect light or dark shadows. ...

"Most of the women's functional blindness surfaced during the Pol Pot years. Personal interviews brought out repeated stories of forced labor, the murder of family and friends--often in their presence--beating and torture, starvation, a treacherous escape to Thailand and separation from family.... The findings indicated that the longer a woman was bound to Khmer Rouge servitude or life in a refugee camp, the more her vision was impaired."

In other words, the longer the time in which a woman spent in such conditions -- and some were in the Thai refugee camps for up to six years after four years of the Khmer Rouge horror -- the worse and more prolonged their vision problems.


I don't remember exactly when I heard about this phenomenon, but it was around the time that Mark Blaxill and I were working on our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic. In doing research into the history of mercury in medicine, we more or less stumbled on a striking new idea: many of Sigmund Freud's early patients -- critical to the creation of psychoanalytic theory --were in fact mercury poisoned rather than emotionally traumatized.

We wrote about that in Chapter Two of our book, describing the remarkable association between those early patients and background exposure to mercury. In some cases that exposure came when young women were tending to fathers who had contracted syphilis before marriage; this was the heyday of mercury as a cure-all, and some of those men received hundreds of mercury inunctions, or rubs, as so-called treatments. Our theory was that "the caregiver effect" exposed the daughters to the toxin and accounted for their symptoms.

Many of those "hysteria" sufferers had visual disorders, often the constricted visual field that is a prime symptom of mercury poisoning. Others suffered from "face blindness," an inability to recognize close acquaintances.

We concluded there was really no such thing as hysteria, at least in the sense Freud was using it. These were previously healthy individuals whose well-being, both physical and mental, was damaged not by trauma but by a toxin. The implications for psychiatry of this massive misdiagnosis seem kind of significant. (We found connections to mercury in the first families with children diagnosed with autism in 1930s; the implications for autism of this massive misdiagnosis also seem kind of significant.)

So coming across a more or less contemporary case series of women whose sight was impaired, and who were diagnosed with "hysterical blindness," was fascinating. Certainly the trauma they experienced was undeniable, and unspeakable. But did it really explain the vision problems? Were there other scenarios that needed to be ruled out before this exotic, almost poetic, etiology was accepted as fact?


My first hypothesis, given our Freud research, was mercury poisoning. Cambodians have a fish-centric diet, and I wondered if that might explain it. Mercury in fish has been a growing concern, and Cambodians fishing off piers in the polluted Port of Long Beach seemed a possibility. There's also a ubiquitous condiment called fish paste in Camdodian cuisine, and this highly concentrated product seemed like a possible suspect for bolus doses of organic mercury.

Or perhaps just the cheap and plentiful supply of canned tuna, replacing access to a wide variety of wild-caught fish in Cambodia, could explain it. 

As I said, this was just a hypothesis, or perhaps even a lesser variation called a hypothesis-generating idea. Those of us who've found ourselves trying to figure out medical mysteries in the absence of honest effort by mainstream science come up with our own set of tests for how likely any given idea might be ("visceral logic" is how I think of my own approach -- do enough dots connect to outline a preliminary theory?). I've seen the scientific method called "guess and test," and whatever fancy procedures get wrapped around it, that seems like a good description. Mainstream medicine sometimes seems to have an anaphylactic allergy to it, though.

Of course, I'm not in a position to test for mercury in fish paste in Long Beach in 1985, and even so, what would it prove to a world wedded to psychiatric explanations of just about any human condition short of a severed limb?


I did have a chance to do hypothesis-testing of a sort when I ended up in Long Beach a while back for an autism conference. I stayed a couple of extra days, and on my first free morning took a cab to the part of Long Beach called Cambodia Town, a thriving hub of food, culture, and shopping. I stopped at a community center, where some Christian missionaries were helping residents improve their English (and perhaps ultimately their religion?). No one there remembered anything about the blindness that afflicted a generation by now once or twice removed.

So I walked down the street to the local library, a classic journalistic backstop, and described my subject to the librarian. She steered me to some books and community publications. Yes, there was plenty of subsistence fishing off polluted piers.

She also introduced me to a friendly, early middle-age Cambodian-American man who was working as a security guard there. As I wrote in a cellphone note to Mark:

"Interesting day. No one remembers that cluster but I did talk to a man who survived the genocide. He and many others developed what is known as chicken blindness in which they became totally blind but only at night. Malnutrition is the cause, apparently lack of vitamin a. He said he got better by eating liver for a month. Malnutrition/starvation seems like a plausible factor in the 'hysterical' cases as well."

That security guard -- "the man who survived the genocide" -- gave me an unforgettable image. Imprisoned as a teenager, he told me, he had watched a guard casually toss a chicken bone on the ground, and he and a dog both dove for it. He was beaten for that by the guard, and the dog got the bone.

In terms of hysteria, we might well ask, what caused the guard's "chicken blindness" -- the trauma of giving up a chicken bone to a dog and being beaten, or malnutrition, with the chicken bone signifying just how hard getting even a morsel to eat could be?

So yes, the Cambodian refugees who relocated to Long Beach had suffered -- and seen -- literally the tortures of the damned. And they were no doubt horribly malnourished over many years. Could diet rather than trauma have created vision problems, including difficulty with light and shadows? Does the fact that the first Cambodian I encountered -- the security guard -- talked about widespread blindness as a result of malnutrition suggest that such a cause needed to be considered before settling on "hysteria." According to my visceral logic, the answer is yes.


I found myself thinking about the Cambodian cluster this week as I read all the coverage for Autism Awareness Month. As you know, psychiatrists first blamed the disorder on bad parents, and now pinpoint bad genes. We who think the environment is the driving cause -- that this is a manmade, medically induced epidemic -- are called cranks and quacks and etcetera and etcetera and etcetera.

I see the same phenomenon in coverage of the mental health of soldiers and vets -- 1 in 5 with mental problems, twice the national average; 22 suicides a day; another shooting at Fort Hood by a soldier on Ambien and who knows what else (my doctor doesn't prescribe Ambien to anyone because she says it blocks REM sleep and eventually makes you crazy). The idea that all the medicines poured into them over years and years could be a factor is still not on the radar.

And back in California, a new cluster of polio-like illnesses is attributed to viruses, never to the increasingly toxic environment and food supply. In New York State, cases of debilitating tics were blamed on the "hysterical" girls themselves. It's time to do better by all of them, and this month is as good a place to start as any. 


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.


Birgit Calhoun

Cia Parker! Thank you for writing this! I am curious, How old your grandmother was when she died, and did she really never have symptoms of mercury poisoning? And how about you?

cia parker

You're right about how dangerous mercury is: I think it's the same as with vaccines, everyone thinks I got mercury fillings, and I'm fine, I got shots with mercury in them, and I'm fine. That proves not only that I'm deluded about how fine I am but am presumptuous enough to think that if I'm fine, everyone else must be exactly the same as I and be fine too! And then not really notice how the amounts have increased: they parrot the dose makes the poison as a way to say it's not poisonous. My grandmother got a degree in dentistry in 1919 and practiced as a dentist for decades. When I was a child, she gave me little globules of mercury to play with in my hand, globules the size of a big marble, shiny and metallic looking, it was fun, if you poked it with your finger it broke up into two identical, smaller globules. Break them up and they instantly shape themselves into smaller globes. God knows how much mercury I absorbed in that pastime. Why didn't she know, or my parents know, that mercury is the most dangerous non-radioactive poison in the universe, and is easily absorbed through the skin? Just because she used it every day and had gotten inured to it, she apparently thought it was harmless. People just aren't thinking at all. Brain-damaged, I guess, from all their own mercury exposure.


Really interesting - vitamin A deficiency (and D) if involved have long histories of being treated/prevented with cod-liver oil. The Weston Price organization still recommends it as part of a healthy nutritional program. Historically, it was even provided in government funded orphanages for many health reasons - rickets among them, and tetany (stiffness of gait/hand & thumb movement changes & seizures - calcium / phosphorus issues). Check this oldie out:

I can even remember being young and watching the Little Rascals and scenes of them stopping their shenanigans to get their required dose of codliver oil. I assumed it was to calm their little knickers, being a fish oil and all. Google codliver oil and orphanage - there seem to be quite a few pleasant memories of orphanages and not just dark depressed-sounding ones. Maybe those w/good memories were in places that gave cod-liver oil, and those w/bad memories were in places that did not provide it (private institutions?) Of course I'm sure psychiatry would have their own explanation of such possible environmental effects.

When, historically, did codliver oil fall off the radar of daily use? What problems could that have led to? What if it occurred around the same time as the advent of vaccines & mercury?

Maybe one could flip Dan's thoughts around, just for the sake of furthering the conversation: Vietnamese immigrants get vaccinated upon entry to the U.S., after having lost access to fish paste during survival & escape and have continued vitamin A deficiency upon merging into a western diet in the U.S.
The ones w/eye problems were the most deficient. Those who recovered were the ones fishing off the piers in California.

So, aside from Somali children in Minnesota, are there higher rates of autism in all children of families from war torn areas that come to the U.S.?

Eileen Nicole Simon

Psychiatrists are also blind to the grieving of families who have autistic children. They put far too much energy into looking for “autism traits” and a “broader autism phenotype” (BAP).

Compare this attitude with that toward polio. Whether strictly caused by viruses, or viruses and toxic exposures, polio leads to a neurological disorder. Would anyone think of labeling family members with “polio traits” or devise a “broader polio phenotype”???

Autism with developmental language disorder is a neurological disorder. Evidence published in the medical literature decades ago on brain damage from asphyxia and/or toxic exposures (or in combination) should finally be recognized as relevant to predisposition for autism. This should be common knowledge by now. Lookup the October 1969 issue of the Scientific American. I will keep trying to point this out.

How the brain is affected turned out to be very interesting to me, but my background is computer science, parallel processing, signal gating, etc. The “experts” continue to sit there with blank autistic-like expressions. They clearly are not the brightest bulbs lighting the way.


Last week; we shelled out 300 dollars to yet another psychiatrist - recommended very highly.
He turned out to be a neuro - pshchiatrist.

He floored me when he actally went over what suppelments should and should not be taken, discussed diet and actally wants to help reduce antidepressants through exercise.

It was only one visit but is there a prawyer that somewhere in the United States there is one that is not all a frying Freud?

Birgit Calhoun

What is so disconcerting is the fact that mercury is such a well-known poison. It was known well enough that when mercury amalgam was first started to become popular as a tooth filling material, a bitter fight ensued among those dentists who wanted to use it and those who were opposed to it. The dentists who were for mercury amalgam founded the American Dental Association (ADA) and eventually convinced all dentists that its use was the best way to fill teeth rather than using the much more expensive gold. That brought the "First Amalgam War" as it was called to an end. The "Second Amalgam War" was the one that the German chemist Alfred Stock fought in the 1920s. It is absolutely shameful how current science is ignoring the deleterious nature of mercury poisoning. Whenever I just hint at mercury poisoning needing to be investigated as a cause for the increasing incidences of school shootings, shootings at military bases and malls, people give me a blank stare. Adam Lanza's behavior is a case in point. With no other answer to the question why these acts are committed, there should at least be an attempt made to check into environmental causes of increasing depression and all the other symptoms that lead me to think "mercury poisoning". Recently, I came across a web-page that talked about Lincoln's gait. It described how President Lincoln walked in a strange manner. An explanation was given that Lincoln was known to take "blue pills" (the color came from elemental mercury) as a medicine. But he was also known to wear a certain type a cylinder hat called a stove pipe. Those hats were made with mercury-laden felt. I could go on and on about known effects of mercury starting with the Roman Emperor Caligula who most likely was mercury poisoned because of the fact that he owned a light-house with a reflecting mirror made of liquid mercury. Workers at Spain's mercury mine at Almaden were usually criminals who lasted about two years before they succumbed to the effects of mercury. Working there was considered a death sentence. So here we are today, and what does science do with all that knowledge?


RE: "in California, a new cluster of polio-like illnesses"

Is it possible that this could be connected to polio vaccines? The vaccine industry has a horrible track record:

Polio Vaccine Program Caused 47,500 Cases of Paralysis and Death [India 2011]

“In 2011 there were an extra 47,500 new cases of NPAFP [non-polio acute flaccid paralysis]. Clinically indistinguishable from polio paralysis but twice as deadly, the incidence of NPAFP was directly proportional to doses of oral polio received."

“In 1976, Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the killed-virus vaccine used in the 1950s, testified that the live-virus vaccine (used almost exclusively in the U.S. from the early 1960s to 2000) was the ‘principal if not sole cause’ of all reported polio cases in the U.S. since 1961"

Read Full Article HERE: http://nsnbc.me/2013/05/08/bill-gates-polio-vaccine-program-caused-47500-cases-of-paralysis-death/

Jeannette Bishop

Toxicology and nutrition: psychiatry should incorporate these into their programs, I think.

Maybe there was some foundation to allegations of chemical warfare in the Cambodian region (or possibly some chemicals introduced by one regime or other for some other purpose). Depression was mentioned in the study. Maybe there were other symptoms common in the cluster not considered?



"This study of 60 autistic children and their families suggests that inserting a G-alpha protein defect, namely the pertussis toxin in the D.P.T. vaccine, (3) into genetically at-risk children causes autism. This toxin separates the G-alpha protein from retinoid receptors. Those most at risk report a family history of at least one parent with a pre-existing G-alpha protein defect, exhibited in disorders such as night blindness, pseudohypoparathyroidism or adenoma of the thyroid or pituitary gland (4)
This hypothesis asserts that treating these children with natural cis forms of Vitamin A may have the effect of reconnecting the hippocampal retinoid receptor pathways that are critical for vision, sensory perception, language processing and attention (5)."


Thanks Dan, very interesting.


Have there ever been studies on vitamin A deficiency and autism? How about studies on vitamin A deficiency and vaccine reaction?

We know there is a link between vitamin A deficiency and measles complications.

We know that night blindness is one of the first symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

We know that severe diarrhea is also seen with vitamin A deficiency.

We know that there is increased risk of autism in children of mothers with celiac--who likely have vitamin deficiencies from intestinal malabsorption.

We know that a significant subset of autistic children have celiac, Crohn's Disease, IBS, and other forms of intestinal malabsorption, all of which seem to be autoimmune.

We know that vitamin D deficiency results in glutathione depletion, resulting in inability to excrete heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum.

We know that both mercury and aluminum exposure can result in neurological damage.

We know that a significant percentage of the entire population is D-deficient.

Hg + Al - A - D = autoimmune/neurological damage aka autism

False scientists make me laugh

No dog in the fight (no children)
Reaction Formation

These are the only explanations for those like Psychiatrists, Peds, in positions to know what is happening. Seriously.

 Bob Moffitt

It has been common for intelligence agencies all over the world .. to first create a "plausible denial" .. that would allow them to conceal the true nature and reason for a "covert operation" .. should that operation go horribly awry .. having "unintended consequences" .. that would cause great harm and embarrassment to the foreign policies of their country if publicly exposed.

Sometimes .. "plausible denial" requires the highest officials in the country .. by design .. have absolutely no prior knowledge of the "covert operation".

Unfortunately, the use of "plausible denial" is not limited to intelligence agencies .. as it would be quite understandable for industries .. whose products "unintentially cause enormous harm to the environment" .. to use the very same tactic .. for the very same reasons.

Such as .. an industry calling in a friendly pyschiatrist .. to examine people who suddenly .. inexplicably .. exhibit symtoms of severe health disorders .. and .. have that friendly psychiatrist quickly rule out any environmental toxin .. offering instead .. the "plausible denial" .. diagnosing the perplexing .. harmful .. symptoms suffered by the people .. as evidence of "hysteria" on their part.

"We who think the environment is the driving cause -- that this is a manmade, medically induced epidemic -- are called cranks and quacks and etcetera and etcetera and etcetera."

"Plausible denials" work well with "demonizing/discrediting" those who believe the truth lies elsewhere ..

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