Bogus Study: The Relationship Between the Level of Copper, Lead, Mercury and Autism Disorders: A Meta-Analysis




The myth of copper, lead, and mercury being related to autism has been long since debunked. It comes from the anti vaccination movement.  A meta analysis, an examination of data from a number of independent studies on the same subject in order to determine a result, was performed by Jafari Mohammadabadi, Sayehmiri and Rafiei. They are from the Shiraz University School of Medicine in Iran. 

About the Publication

This meta analysis was published in the Dove Press Journal of Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics. Dove Press retracted 14 papers by Marty Hinz, a Minnesota doctor who was under FDA's radar for promoting a supplement made by a company he used to own. HE was fined over $7000.  These 14 papers were about the use of the supplements to treat conditions ranging from Crohn's disease to Parkinsons disease.  These 14 papers were among the 20 that were show for concern. The other six articles were flagged in April 2020 and remain under review, according to Quackwatch.com. 

The Meta Analysis

In this meta analysis, the researchers searched Scopus, PubMed and Science Direct databases. There are more reputable databases to search such as Wiley, and gale. PubMed and Science Direct do not contain some of the most important medical research.  18 articles which were conducted in different countries from 1982-2019 were collected. The studies were checked for being quality studies. This does not say much due to the publication's reputation. Meta analysis's are reputable when done appropriately. 

In these 18 studies, 1797 patients aged 2 to 16 were examined. Concentration of the samples of blood, hair and nails for both control and test groups were evaluated.  They used software to determine the outcome of their study instead of reading through each one. 

They found that There as no significant relationship between copper concentration and autism. 

They found there was a significant relationship between mercury and autism. 

This myth was due to the ingredient in vaccines called thimerisal. It has been phased out in vaccines since 2004 due to the public panic. In 2009, Irva Hertz-Picciotoo, a epidemiologist, and her colleagues  of UCLA Davis compared blood levels of mercury in 249 autistic children, 60 children with developmental delays and  143 typical children. The blood levels were taken after a child had received a diagnosis. The autistic children had a lower level of mercury due to not eating a lot of fish. This was due to them being picky eaters, according to the researcher. Typical children's levels were .24 micrograms and autistic children's level was .26 micrograms. 

They found there was a significant relationship between Lead and autism. 
This is due to the overlap in signs. According to the CDC, many studies have been done to explore the relationship between autism and lead exposure. Because the symptoms of lead poisoning and signs of autism can be similar, that's where the confusion lies. Science does not support that lead poisoning causes autism. This line of thinking can be dangerous and leads to unnecessary chelation therapy that can be fatal. 

These are all correlations. A basic rule in scientific studies are that correlation does not equal causation. 
None of the articles reviewed came from a mainstream and reputable publication. This meta analysis was not executed effectively. 


Sources: 

https://retractionwatch.com/2020/12/21/publisher-retracts-14-papers-by-doctor-who-ran-afoul-of-u-s-fda-for-marketing-supplements/#more-121092

https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/84521/cdc_84521_DS1.pdf

https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20091019/mercury-levels-same-in-autistic-other-children

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