If you follow business news you may have heard that DuPont and Dow, two chemical giants, are in the process of combining. “Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. announced a merger that would fuse two stalwarts of American industry into a giant worth more than $120 billion and would reshape the chemical and agricultural industries,” the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
After they combine, they’re expected to turn around and break into three components, one of which will focus on agricultural chemicals. It’s that aspect I want to zero in on for a minute, because this new company really becomes the successor of the DuPont that helped trigger the age of autism.
So often when we talk about autism as an environmentally induced epidemic, mainstream critics immediately narrow that down to being “anti-vaccine”; then they say that any vaccine link – including to the mercury preservative thimerosal – has been discredited. That settled, they go on to assert, or at least assume, that autism must be genetic, an ancient part of human diversity, and worthy only of acceptance and accommodation rather than prevention and treatment, as well.
In their book out next week, “In a Different Key – The Story of Autism,” John Donvan and Caren Zucker argue that autism has always been around and probably isn’t even increasing.
“The ‘epidemic’ story,” they write, has helped crystalize the notion that ‘something must have happened’ in the near past to cause autism in the first place. Most famously, some activists blamed modern vaccines – a now discredited theory.”
Well, the fact is that something did happened in the near past to take the autism rate from effectively zero before 1930 to the epidemic proportions we undeniably see today. And, in fact, it does involve vaccines, but in a way that is subordinate to the overall argument. What happened was that a highly toxic form of mercury – ethyl mercury – was commercialized around 1930, the year before the first case of autism in the medical literature was reported.
This took three forms – three vectors or vehicles that first put humans and especially children at risk of exposure to this toxin. Those vectors were fungicides (specifically, seed disinfectants), a lumber preservative, and an antimicrobial for multi-dose vaccine vials.
Let’s hit pause on vaccines and talk about the seed disinfectant, Ceresan. Here’s what Mark Blaxill and I wrote in our book, The Age of Autism, about the development of that compound by organic chemist Morris Kharasch:
“ The first of his patents to be assigned to DuPont was filed in 1923; there would be eighteen more assigned to the Delaware company over the course of his career. The pattern of these patents in the 1920s accomplishted a number of important goals. …
“Kharasch’s efforts bore commercial fruit when DuPont filed a trademark application for an ethyl mercury fungicide called Ceresan on May 13, 1929.” It went on the market soon after. (Kharasch also, and I emphasize also, developed thimerosal, the vaccine preservative, for Eli Lilly. I emphasize "also" because the fact that autism can be traced to another of Kharasch's ethyl mercury compounds is an indirect, out-of-the-blue correlation and thus even more powerful "proof" -- to the extent there is such a thing -- that ethyl mercury in any of its uses, including but not limited to vaccines, is a villain in the story of autism.)
We’ve written about ethyl mercury fungicides before in the context of the first case series report on autism, 11 children all born in the 1930s and starting, significantly, in 1931. Fredereick L. Wellman, the father of Case 2, was with the U.S. Agriculture Department and, according to his archive, experimenting with organic mercury dust when his son was born in 1936. That this "dust" was Ceresan there is no doubting; it was the only such product on the market, and Wellman had a brochure for Ceresan in his files. (See photo, and the short video on our home page, How Mercury Triggered the Age of Autism.)
In our book, The Age of Autism, Mark and I offered strong evidence of exposure to all three of these new forms of ethyl mercury in the backgrounds of the first 11 cases. And we’ve called Frederick Wellman’s exposure to ethyl mercury dust at the time his son was born a “smoking gun” directly linking ethyl mercury to the roots and rise of the age of autism. (Typically, both Donvan and Zucker's book, and the equally misguided NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman, dismiss our theory without considering the evidence -- in particular the power of Case 2 in implicating mercury. Donvan and Zucker act like I'm a goof but manage to call me "Don Olmsted." Details matter, folks.)
And why does this -- DuPont's role in the rise of autism -- matter now? Well, it reframes the issue in a way that threatens the mainstream view not just of a vaccine link to autism but of the nature of autism itself: Autism is a product of the “near past” – Frederick Wellman’s son is still alive and living in North Carolina, for heaven’s sake!
Rather than staking our argument on vaccination per se, to which we have no philosophical objection, we see the issue in an altogether different way, a way that anyone who learned to outline in eighth grade English can understand.
Title: Autism is an environmentally triggered illness in vulnerable children
Part I: The first cases occurred in the 1930s as a result of exposure to new ethyl mercury compounds:
A: Seed disinfectants
B: Lumber preservatives
C: Multi-dose vaccine vials
And so on. The next section would include the fact that ethyl mercury was removed from the first two categories by the 1970s after mass poisonings showed it was unsafe – but still remains in flu shots given to infants and pregnant women in the United States and to all children in developing countries. That would lead to
Part III: Conclusion
- Mercury’s role in triggering the age of autism should be reopened, investigated, and recognized.
- Meanwhile, mercury should be removed from vaccines immediately based on the precautionary principle.
- Compensation for those injured should be provided.
- Lessons should be learned and shared about the hazards of other toxins to human development, including individual ingredients and the cumulative effects of the current vaccination schedule.
Let me say it again – coming to terms with the environmental nature of autism is not, at the highest level, about vaccines. It’s about the vectors by which a terrible new toxin reached human beings who should never have been exposed, and one of those vectors happens to be vaccines. The truth is not our fault: It's about autism as injury, not gift.
Which brings us back to the DuPont-Dow merger, put at roughly $100 billion in combined assets. How about a portion of that as reparation for developmental injury, for other chronic conditions like asthma, for ruined lives, for damaged families and weakened competitiveness as a nation -- and a world?
Not bloody likely, of course. A few years ago I called DuPont to tell them about my research. (I also handed it to Tom Insel and George W. Bush's science adviser. I wanted to make sure they knew, because if they did know, I thought they might do something. That was a long time ago, in many ways.) The DuPont people were all like, why are you asking us about something we don’t make anymore? They referred me to their toxic pesticides trade association, the wonderfully named CropLife (which in this circumstance might more aptly be called CropDamage), which never did get back to me.
Thus does human suffering roll on while DuPont disappears -- but not before it sets aside money for retention bonuses to make sure its executives don’t bail after the merger/breakup. Sic transit gloria mundi.
How about a few billion -- yes, billion -- for the several million -- yes, million -- victims -- yes, victims -- of environmentally induced autism who have followed. And how about we stop talking about "anti-vaccine" nonsense, take a deep breath, and face the truth? In the long run it will be cheaper than another eight decades of denial of the age of autism.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism