Emerging evidence supports the theory that some autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may result from a combination of genetic/biochemical susceptibility, specifically a reduced ability to excrete mercury (Hg), and exposure to Hg at critical developmental periods. Elemental/inorganic Hg is released into the air/water where it becomes methylated and accumulates in animal tissues. The US population is primarily exposed to methyl-Hg by fish consumption. In addition, many pharmaceuticals have been, and some continue to be, a ubiquitous source of danger because they contain mercurials. Mercurials may be found in drugs for the eye, ear, nose, throat, and skin; in bleaching creams; as preservatives in cosmetics, tooth pastes, lens solutions, vaccines, allergy test and immunotherapy solutions; in antiseptics, disinfectants, and contraceptives; in fungicides and herbicides; in dental fillings and thermometers; and many other products. Hg has been found to cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioural dysfunctions similar to traits defining/associated with ASDs, and that these similarities extend to neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters, and biochemistry. Furthermore, a review of molecular mechanisms indicates that Hg exposure can induce death, disorganization and/or damage to selected neurons in the brain similar to that seen in recent ASD brain pathology studies, and this alteration may likely produce the symptoms by which ASDs are diagnosed. Finally, a review of treatments suggests that ASD patients who undergo protocols to reduce Hg and/or its effects show significant clinical improvements in some cases. In conclusion, the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence favours acceptance that Hg exposure is capable of causing some ASDs.
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