A conference on mercury, the endocrine system and autism was conceived several years ago by SafeMinds after reading a review paper by Shirlee Tan, Jesse Meiller and Kathryn Mahaffey of the EPA, “The endocrine effects of mercury in humans and wildlife” (Crit Rev Toxicol. 2009;39(3):228-69). SafeMinds reached out to Drs. Pessah and Zoeller to move the concept forward. Dr. Cranmer, the chair of the conference, graciously adopted the theme. SafeMinds directors Lyn Redwood and Sallie Bernard attended the sessions, and SafeMinds was a co-sponsor of the event.
Findings presented at the conference on neurotoxicology provided evidence that the endocrine system is dysregulated in people on the autism spectrum and common toxins like mercury might be behind this condition. Invited scientists offered supporting data that these alterations might be reversible or prevented through a variety of interventions.
Findings of low levels of sulphate and sulphur-containing compounds like glutathione in autism may be a marker for a more fundamental alteration in selenium status leading to deficiencies in selenoenzymes, according to Nicholas Ralston of the University of North Dakota and a conference presenter. Low circulating sulphate has been a consistent finding validated in autism studies. Selenoenzymes are essential to thyroid hormone homeostasis, repair from oxidative damage in the brain and endocrine tissues, cell signalling, immune function and basic metabolic processes. Selenium is a target of mercury, which tightly binds the selenium molecule, making it unavailable for biological use and disrupting selenium biochemistry. Conversely, selenium can bind mercury, rendering it inert. Dietary selenium, especially from low-mercury deep ocean fish, can counteract the negative effects of mercury exposure. more