Science, fiction and factions


Kev has just blogged about a piece of research that examines the effects of Rhesus immune globulin (RhIg) on mothers of autistic children. RhIg is routinely given to pregnant women who are Rhesus negative to stop their immune systems from attacking their unborn babies. Because RhIg used to contain thimerosal, anti vaccine pressure groups who blame thimerosal for causing autism, have tried to implicate RhIg as well. A recent attempt to link an RhIg called Rhogam and Autism collapsed when the judge decided that the expert witnesses in the case were not up to the required standard. Kev blogged this as did Autism Diva, Orac, and Prometheus while Kathleen provided a HTML version of the decision on

According to a press release issued by the University of Missouri-Columbia

The results showed that in children with autism, Rh negative status was no higher in their mothers than in the general population, that exposure to RhIg (preserved with thimerosal) before birth was no higher and that pregnancies were not more likely to be Rh incompatible.

The press release quotes researcher, Judith Miles as saying,

We hope this report of no association between autism, Rh negativity and thimerosal exposure during pregnancy will offset some of the decreased compliance with immunization recommendations which is known to increase morbidity and mortality from childhood infectious diseases.


This has produced a predictable response from Safe Minds spokesman, Mark Blaxhill, which Kev has demolished. But others are even more intemperate. Take Michael Wagnitz, for example. Writing online for the American Chronicle, in the space of 500 words he manages to imply that:

  • The researchers have been bought off by Johnson and Johnson to fabricate results that will aid them in vaccine damage litigation. Specifically he accuses them of suppressing data.
    • Originally, it was stated that the study contained 47 mothers with more than one child with autism. The published study lists only 16 such cases. Where did the other 31 cases go? Did they just disappear because they did not support her conclusion? Is this proper scientific ethics? This “data adjusting” is becoming quite common by mainstream autism researchers
  • They are deliberately sacrificing the interests of autistic children to promote their careers.
    • As a major player in the autism is a psychiatric condition caused by some unknown gene, the author knows that billions of dollars in research money is out there to be had. What will become of these “mercury apologists” if these kids ever receive proper treatment for what is causing their illness? Their multi-million dollars of funding will dry up. Their arrogant, controlling power trips will be over. They will become irrelevant.
  • A previous paper was “solicited” by Pediatrics and contained serious factual errors 
    • One paper cited, Nelson and Bauman 2003, was a paper solicited by Pediatrics to say that thimerosal does not cause autism. This paper was received and published on the same day. Did this paper even go through the peer review process? This paper is infamous for stating that ethyl mercury does not enter the brain.

Wagnitz is either ignorant or a liar. Here is a quote from the original paper.

 The passage of methyl mercury across the blood-brain barrier is facilitated by an active transport mechanism, whereas the passage of ethyl mercury into the brain does not have such a transport system and is further hindered by its larger molecular size and faster decomposition.32 At equivalent doses, higher levels of mercury have been found in the blood and less in brain following administration of ethyl mercury than methyl mercury.33 These findings support the observation that the risk of toxicity from ethyl mercury is overestimated by comparison with the risk of intoxication from methyl mercury.34 Ethyl mercury exposure has been reported to be more likely than methyl mercury to produce lesions of the spinal cord, skeletal muscle, and myocardium.8

In other words, Nelson and Bauman were arguing that exposure to ethyl mercury delivers less mercury to the brain than methyl mercury, not no mercury. Now, according to his byline on the American Chronicle, Michael Wagnitz has over 20 years experience evaluating materials for toxic metals. He currently works as a chemist in the toxicology section of a public health lab evaluating biological samples for lead and mercury. So I assume he knows how to read a journal article. Perhaps he was distracted by thoughts of his own vaccine damage case on behalf of his autistic child. This is a potential conflict of interest that he fails to mention in any of his articles about mercury and autism.


Now, it is a curious fact that, while the mercury malicia automatically cast doubt on the credibility of any scientist whose work contradicts their case on the grounds that all scientists have sold their souls to big pharma and big government, if on the other hand a scientist can be persuaded to support their case, his or her scientific credentials are trumpeted to the heavens as incontrovertible proof of their reliability, impartiality and all round good guy credibility. Thuswise is Michael Wagnitz elevated to stardom by Ginger Taylor who gushes over the fact that Michael Wagnitz is an actual chemist who understands mercury.


Science operates via peer review. Someone or somebody’s research team suggests a hypothesis. Someone else comes up with an idea to test it. Somebody does the test and presents their work for publication. Fellow professional do the peer review. They look at the work and decide if it is worth publishing. It is. LUCKY YOU!

Peer review does not operate via bullying, lying, smear tactics or any other strawman or ad hominen attacks. This is in stark contrast to most of the outpourings of the litiginous mercury malicia. They are distorting science with their unreal and unscientific demand for certainty. They demand answers. Mostly all we have at present are questions.


12 thoughts on “Science, fiction and factions

  1. Thanks, Mike. I wonder if there will ever come a time when Blaxill will move on and they’ll shut down SAFE (hermetically sealed) MINDS and go back to whatever they did before. Golf? Shopping? I think Blaxill and Wagnitz are going down in the history books as a couple of looloos.

  2. For some reason Wagnitz got it in his head that high mercury concentrations will some how overload or ‘blow out’ the detector in his mercury analyzer. Doesn’t reflect a very deep absorption of the concepts of atomic spectroscopy.

    Not surpising that he might miss or misinterpret a few details in a journal article. I’m going with ignorant.

  3. Hi
    With the amount of new knowledge about Hg in different speciation in mammals, I do not understand why the discussions are still focused only in ethylmercury vs methyl mercury, as if the problem is so easy.
    These are not- species alone.
    You have HgCl2, MeHgCl, EtHgCl, Thimerosal and ALL of them are different. Methylmercury is MeHg+ and requires a counterion.The importance of the counterion has not been analyzed , except by some polish researchers in the ´80s.
    From thimerosal, Hg+2 is generated, beyond EtHg+ ; faster than in the case of MeHg+. There is a very recent manuscript very clear about how all the species are different in the reaction with albumin.
    Toxicology is extremely complicated.

  4. Fascinating?
    Perhaps for you the idea that there could be transport/excretion problems of essential/toxic elements in autism is naive.
    Your privilege
    but the problem is not even in the begining to be explored properly in autism IMHO.

  5. Ms Clark – you are too generous. Go down in the history books? Blaxhill and Wagnitz? Not even as looloos. Maybe a footnote for scaling the heights of mediocrity.

    notmercury – I agree that Wagnitz is probably ignorant. It is quite sad that he makes such a public display of it.

    Maria – the reason that any possible problems with mercury transport/excretion are not being properly explored is because paople like Blaxhill have turned the discussion into a legal-political circus. Most scientists have, not surprisingly, turned away. If it does turn out that some autistic children have a problem, it will be down to the antics of Safe Minds, Generation Rescue etc. that mainstream science took so long to come to their assistance.

  6. So, in other words, we are spinning our wheels and financial resources disproving the general issues being brought up, but these studies disproving the general issues MAY just be missing more specific issues. That these studies (like this Rhogam study) are not the be all end all slam dunk proves anything except the general assumption that thimeresol is not THE cause nor a major cause of autism.

  7. Livsparents,

    there is no scientifically credible evidence for the idea that thimerosal is responsible autism. When the omnibus autism proceedings finally take place this will become abundantly clear. But it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some autistic chidren have an atypical response to environmental sources of mercury.

    Similarly, some children with autism seem to have an atypical response to certain food additives and colourings. Hence the half joking reference amongst some parents to giving their children the blue smartiesprior to their IEP assessments. But nobody has ever suggested blue smarties as a cause of autism any more than they would suggest that the cause of autism in a child with sound sensitivities is the noise of the vacuum cleaner.

    It would be great if researchers could investigate autism without the results always being touted as a step towards a cure or a reason to sue somebody.

  8. Further to my previous comment, it would also be great if a researcher could publish safe in the knowledge that powerful pressure groups would not try and sabotage his or her career because the results did not support their own mistaken beliefs about autism.

  9. Pingback: Know nothing who? « Action For Autism

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