January 2003 (vol. 19, #2)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 2001 Physicians for Civil Defense


Baker's Law, possibly the most important insight of the man who became the leading force in American and world neurology in the mid-twentieth century, wasn't even mentioned in the obituary summarizing his achievements in the journal that he founded (Neurology 1988;38:456). But residents who made rounds with him at the University of Minnesota remember it well: ``The entire neurologic issue is whether the patient has a neurologic disease or not. All else is mere commentary.''

Thus, A.B. Baker would explode if an unsuspecting resident began to recount a patient's psychiatric history.

``A psychiatric history is a waste of time, [Dr. Baker] said. No neurologist should ever take one. Everybody has psychiatric problems. The whole world is crazy, and so are all of its inhabitants. The question is whether a patient has a neurologic problem that can account for his or her behavior,'' writes Harold Klawans in Newton's Madness: Further Tales of Clinical Neurology (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

Dr. Klawans applies his clinical skills to a posthumous diagnosis of Isaac Newton, who during two periods of his life had signs and symptoms recounted in his correspondence: severe insomnia; extreme sensitivity in personal relations; loss of appetite; delusions of persecution; memory difficulties; some overall decrease in mental acuity; and, most tellingly, a tremor evident at times in his normally firm and precise handwriting. Most of Newton's twentieth century biographers tried to attribute his ``psychological maladjustment'' to the death of his mother, religious fervor, or some other such factor. Newton himself hinted at the most likely cause: ``sleeping too often by my fire,'' thus being exposed to significant doses of mercury vapor and other heavy metals used in his chemical experiments. In 1979, an excessive amount of mercury was found in an analysis of locks of Newton's hair.

Symptoms of chronic mercury poisoning were described in 1893 by the English neurologist William Gowers: irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, overwhelming shyness, discouragement, and apathy. By the late nineteenth century, the syndrome was common medical knowledge. Workers in the felt-hat industry used mercury as a stiffening agent and often developed mental aberrations like those memorialized by Lewis Carroll in the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland.

Today, there is great concern about mercury - from certain sources. Pregnant women are advised to limit consumption of tuna and other mercury-containing fish. Fluorescent light bulbs cannot be placed in some landfills. Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) advocates ``going green'' by phasing out mercury sphygmomanometers and thermometers.

For medical uses, there is a definite double standard. While HCWH deplores the mercury that dental offices dispose of in the sewer system, it seems rather less concerned about the ``silver fillings'' (which are 50% mercury) placed in patients' mouths (though it does provide a link that raises concerns).

A person's saliva, if he has one or two amalgam fillings, contains more mercury than the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry is permitted to flush down the drain, stated Professor Boyd Haley, Ph.D., in a lecture to the third international conference on vaccination sponsored by the National Vaccine Information Center in November, 2002. A corpse with amalgam fillings could not be buried in a Kentucky landfill.

Concentrations of mercury 10 to 100 times lower than the 10-7 Molar levels that occur in the brains of patients with amalgam dental restorations can cause neurons in culture to form the neurofibrillary tangles characteristic of Alzheimer's disease, reports Dr. Haley.

Thimerosal, a preservative used in many vaccines, releases ethylmercury, which Dr. Haley states is even more toxic than inorganic mercury, causing damage to human neurons in nanomolar concentrations.

Dramatic increases have occurred in the incidence of autism (CDP 11/00) and other disorders with behavioral manifestations, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Autism was previously considered to be a form of childhood schizophrenia, and some still consider it a psychiatric disorder. Variants of the ``refrigerator mom'' hypothesis are still encountered. Recently, a physician suggested that autism might be triggered by child-rearing practices that ``put children under pressure to have unwelcome beliefs and opinions imputed to them'' (Harshman EJ, Medical Sentinel 2002;7:126-127.)

One mother of an autistic child found herself being alternately accused of being ``neurotically indifferent'' or even abusive, or else overattentive, overprotective, and unable to set limits. Her observations that her son got worse every time the doctors insisted on vaccinating him were generally disregarded (Converse J, When Your Doctor Is Wrong: Hepatitis B Vaccine & Autism, Xlibris. com, 2002).

At least Alzheimer's disease is not considered psychiatric, but ``counseling'' and psychotherapeutic drugs are prescribed for many patients with debilitating syndromes that include fatigue, depression, and ``brain fog.'' Physicians who consider a toxic or allergic origin are viewed with suspicion.

The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), and the World Health Organization declare dental amalgams to be safe. Reports of chronically ill, depressed patients restored to health and vitality after removal of amalgams, and chelation (not with EDTA) to reduce the mercury burden, are ``anecdotal.'' The ADA through state dental boards threatens the licenses of dentists who tell patients that amalgam could be neurotoxic. A California court, however, now requires dentists to post a warning about potential ``birth defects or other reproductive harm'' from mercury. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the PHS declare that there is ``no evidence of harm'' resulting from thimerosal in childhood vaccines - even though they did agree that this preservative should be removed ``as soon as possible.'' The Homeland Security Act (DDP Newsletter 11/02) immunized manufacturers from liability, just in case.

The United States faces an enormous burden of serious neurological disability both in aging baby boomers and in our youngest generation. Whatever our diagnosis of authorities who demand protection of the environment against mercury sealed in instruments, while ``recommending'' injection of thimerosal into babies and obstructing efforts to determine (and ameliorate) the risk of medical uses of mercury, the policy is madness.


Some Concentrations of Mercury

Fish with the highest mercury levels:

mean (ppm) range (ppm)
(white snapper)
1.45 0.65-3.73
swordfish 1.00 0.10-3.22
king mackerel 0.73 0.30-1.67
shark 0.96 0.05-4.54

Fish and shellfish with much lower mercury levels:

mean (ppm) range (ppm)
tuna (fresh or frozen) 0.32 ND-1.30
tuna (canned) 0.17 ND-0.75
lobster 0.31 0.05-1.31
scallop 0.05 ND-0.22
catfish 0.07 ND-0.31
salmon ND ND-0.18
shrimp ND ND
(See vm.cfsan.fda/gov/~frf/sea-mehg.html.)

Recommended limits on methylmercury exposure:

EPA 0.1 g/kg body wt/day
ATDSR 0.3 g/kg body wt/day
FDA 0.4 g/kg body wt/day
WHO 3.3 g/kg body wt/day

Dose of Hg in one dose of vaccine

12.5 g/dose in hepatitis b vaccine
25 g/dose in influenza vaccine; certain brands of DTaP, DTwcP, Td, or TT (tetanus toxoid), Hemophilus influenza, rabies, or pneumococcal vaccines.
Parents should check the package insert, even if thimerosal was reportedly removed, because products with this preservative are still sold, unbeknownst to many physicians.


Though the cumulative dose of mercury in vaccines received in six months by an infant who receives all recommended vaccines in the schedule may not exceed the dose considered toxic by most government agencies, infants of average weight received 38 times the EPA-permitted daily dose in a hepatitis b shot. Additionally, the cumulative dose does not include the burden that the infant already received from its mother. According to Russell Blaylock, M.D., there is evidence that the placenta concentrates mercury on the fetal side. Dental amalgam, he states, contributes 7 times as much to the mercury load as does fish consumption.

One flu shot has the same amount of mercury as about 4 oz of tuna, though injection delivers more mercury to the brain: The main mechanism for removing mercury is through the bile, and mercury absorbed by the gut goes directly to the liver. To get the dose of mercury equivalent to what an 8-lb infant gets in a hepatitis b shot, an adult would have to eat 2-3 pounds of canned tuna fish at one sitting. Infants, however, get a bigger dose to the brain than an adult would, even from 30 shots, because their biliary system is not fully functional.


What Is a Toxic Dose?

Dr. Haley declines to state a toxic level of mercury because patients differ in their ability to detoxify and excrete the mercury. Also, many factors synergistically increase the toxicity of a given level. These include:

1. Antibiotics. Both ampicillin and tetracycline have been shown to enhance the neuron-killing effect of thimerosal, perhaps by enhancing its delivery to specific sites.

2. Aluminum and formaldehyde (also found in vaccines).

3. Other heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Zn). Lead plus mercury has an effect 50 times that predicted from simply adding the individual effects. Smokers have a high level of cadmium. Zinc is an essential element, normally present in the body, and is also found in dental amalgam.

4. Periodontal disease. Anaerobic mouth bacteria react with amalgam-generated Hg+2 to produce organo-mercury compounds. Could this help explain why periodontal disease is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and late-onset insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus?

5. EDTA. Chelation with EDTA, which is very common in American foods, actually potentiates the effect of Hg+2 on the polymerization of tubulin in neurons (Duhr EF et al. Toxicol & Applied Pharmacol 1993;122:273-280.)

The elderly are more susceptible than young adults because of decreased levels of protective glutathione and melatonin.

Genetic susceptibility is critical. Carriers of brain protein APO-E2 are relatively protected, and carriers of APO-E4 are at enhanced risk of Alzheimer's disease, possibly because the former has two additional thiol groups capable of binding and removing mercury.

The FDA and other regulatory agencies routinely dismiss basic research showing the unique toxicity of mercury at very low concentrations, notes Dr. Haley. Moreover, there is a paucity of NIH funds to study potential neurotoxicity at the doses used in medicine and dentistry. Organizations such as the ADA can then cite the lack of ``valid'' studies proving harm.

The ADA notes that amalgam has been used for 150 years and thus has a record of safety. However, Dr. Haley points out that in the early 1900s, the average life expectancy was about 50 years, much younger than the average age of onset of Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, since amalgams only became available to most working class Americans in the 1950s, baby boomers are the ``great ongoing amalgam experiment.''

Using data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) maintained by the CDC and from the 2001 U.S. Department of Education report, a strong correlation was found between dosage of thimerosal from childhood vaccines and the incidence of autism, speech disorders, and cardiac arrest, but not with common vaccine reactions such as fever, pain, and vomiting, or with other common childhood disabilities (Geier MR, Geier DA, Medical Sentinel, in press).

Additional information:

Tapes by Boyd Haley (Mercury and Brain Dysfunction) and Mark and David Geier (VAERS Vaccine Reaction Report Analysis), 2002 NVIC conference:

Letter from Boyd Haley to Hon. Dan Burton: