Autism Rising: Heavy Metals, Genetics, And a Little Hope

by Dr. David Minkoff July 04, 2019 7 min read

Autism Rising: Heavy Metals, Genetics, And a Little Hope

Autism diagnoses continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to the CDC the rate has gone from 1 in 160 children in the year 2000 to 1 in 59 in 2018 [1]. 

That is an increase of 267% in less than 20 years!

While there are no definitive answers, pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together. As the picture becomes clearer, we can look at a number of factors to make sense of the disturbing statistics…

...and take decisive preventative actions. 


What’s in a Word: How Language Can Increase Autism

First of all, it’s important to be clear about what we’re talking about. 

Autism has become something of a catch-all term in the last decade for a broad range of developmental and cognitive impairments and behavioral disorders. 

Some symptoms are mild: not making eye contact and being socially withdrawn, for example.

Other symptoms are debilitating: obsessively pulling out hair, violent behavior, extreme cognitive impairment, banging the head repeatedly, and inability to speak. 

This a huge range of symptoms!

Because the definition of autism has expanded over the last few decades, it makes sense that diagnoses have also increased. People previously categorized as “mentally retarded” or as having “Aspergers”, for example, are now labeled “autistic”. 

As diagnostic procedures become more refined, doctors diagnose “autism” more frequently than before. This also increases the reported number of autism. 

The more autism is in the media, the more people begin to see it around them. They begin to label behaviors that may have been merely “odd” or “different” as “autistic.” 

This also creates a perception of an increase in autism. 

So these are some of the cultural forces at play when we look at the rising rates of autism. 

But is that really the whole story? 

Could definitions and perceptions really account for a 267% increase in 20 years? 

According to the latest research, there is much more at play than just words. 


Many Symptoms, Many Possible Causes

Autism is a range of symptoms –– a spectrum of behaviors. With such a broad range of expression, it makes sense that there are many possible underlying causes. 

Not everyone put under the “autism umbrella” has the same underlying cause. 

Some people will have a purely genetic cause. Some brains are just wired differently. There is not a lot we can do for these people other than embrace the unique gifts, perspectives, and lessons they bring to the world.. 

However, there is a subset of the autistic population who doctors may be able to help, and that is what we want to focus on here. 


Genes, Toxins, and Developing Children

The latest research shows some cases of autism may be created from a complex interaction between genetics and the environment. 

Scientists are investigating a whole range of toxic substances that may contribute to autism –– including pesticides, glyphosate, endocrine disruptors, and more. A young child is extremely sensitive and toxins can have a powerful impact on their developing brains.

There are hundreds of research papers investigating these potential causes. The most compelling evidence, however, points to heavy metals.


Heavy Metals and Autism

Autistic kids frequently have elevated levels of heavy metals in their bodies. 

One study at Arizona State University looked at a group of 55 autistic children and compared them to a group of healthy “normal” children of the same age.

 Across the board, the autistic children had more heavy metals [2]:

  • 41% more lead
  • 77% more thallium
  • 115% more tin
  • 44% more tungsten

All of these metals impair brain development and function. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

The same researchers found autism severity is strongly correlated with mercury levels [3]. 

Of course correlation does not equal causation, but it does point in that direction. 

So is there evidence that mercury exposure directly increases autism rates? 


Connecting the Dots: Mercury Exposure and Autism

A groundbreaking 2009 study in Texas looked at of autism near sources of mercury pollution –– places like powerplants and industrial manufacturing plants. 

They also found that the highest rates of autism occurred closest to the sources of mercury pollution. And for every 1000 pounds of pollution, the autism rate went up between 2.6% and 3.7%. [4]

If a powerplant for example, was pumping out 10,000 pounds of pollution, that means an increase in autism of at least26%. With 100,000 pounds of pollution you get 260 - 370% increase. And so on… 

And every 10 miles further away from the source, the rates went down and down and down. It’s more correlation, but it fills in the picture a little bit more. 


The Evidence continues to Mount

A large Korean study looked at 458 mother-child pairs. They found a clear link between early childhood (or in utero) exposure to mercury and developing autism by age 5 [5]. 

Even the most comprehensive scientific review to date looked at the results of 91 different studies on the connection between mercury and autism. 74% of all the studies found evidence of a connection between mercury and autism. [6]

Clearly something is going on. 

But why should something like mercury cause autism? What makes mercury exposure in some children develop autism but not others?


The Detox Link

There is considerable evidence that many autistic people cannot detox efficiently. 

This may explain why they have elevated levels of heavy metals. Their body just can’t get rid of them fast enough so they accumulate and cause problems. 

There are many steps in the detox process. There are barriers like the gut lining and blood-brain barrier, dozens of enzymes, and even special transport proteins to get them out of the body.

That means there are many places for things to go wrong. Places where a genetic defect and heavy metal exposure can create a neurological train wreck –– one we label as “autism.”

Interestingly, of the 206 “autism susceptibility genes” researchers identified, many of them are active in detox pathways and protective barriers like the skin, intestinal lining, blood-brain barrier, lungs, and metal-binding proteins [3]. 

For some autistic people, the combination of heavy metal exposure and genetic problems with detoxification may create a perfect storm. 


A Daring Hypothesis

So let’s review what we’ve covered so far. We see a dramatic increase in autism. One not explained away by perceptions and medical definitions. 

We saw that for some reason, many austistic individuals have abnormally high levels of heavy metals. 

We looked at an abundance of evidence pointing towards mercury as ONE environmental factor. 

We also saw that many of the genes associated with autism are involved with detoxification or in creating protective barriers that would normally keep heavy metals out of the body. 

This leads to a daring hypothesis…

Detoxifying heavy metals may help some symptoms of autism, especially if caught early when the brain is still developing.*


A Disclaimer

Before we move on, let’s be clear: this is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. This is not medical advice. It is a hypothesis. 

Again, it’s important to understand that autism is a multifaceted condition, and there is no single cause for all cases of autism. Heavy metals are only one risk factor.

That said, let’s look at a case study of one individual who chose to detoxify her child heavy metals and see what happened. 


Jerry’s Story

Carla’s son Jerry was a healthy 1 year old boy, hitting all the expected milestones for his age. He was just beginning to walk and talk and explore. 

But then things began to change... 

He developed strange rashes the doctor couldn’t explain. He started speaking and exploring less and less. Somehow he just seemed like he was in a fog by himself... like he wasn’t really “there”.

After countless trips to an endless stream of doctors and specialists who either didn’t help or blamed her parenting, she eventually found a doctor who would actually listen. 

Who believed her. 

He ran a series of tests and found little Jerry had very high levels of heavy metals. Quite strange for such a young child. 

After going over Jerry’s history, they realized that the symptoms had begun shortly after he received a series of routine vaccinations after his first birthday. 

Some –– but not all –– vaccines contain high levels of heavy metals. Many include a compound called “thermosial” which is 50% mercury by weight. Even with 4 rounds of vaccines, that is a lot of mercury to put into a small child. 

Chelation is the standard treatment to detox heavy metals, but it also carries risks and can be very hard on the body (you can learn more the risks of chelation here).

This doctor understood the gravity of the situation and opted for a gentler option. It was just a few sprays in Jerry’s mouth every day and plenty of water. 

To Carla’s relief, Jerry came out of his fog and started talking again after a few weeks. 

Lab tests showed his heavy metal levels went down to a normal range. 

Within 6 months he showed improvements to his motor skills, communication, and ability to concentrate. 

Carla and Jerry were fortunate because they had a doctor willing to dig for the true source of the problem –– which in this case appeared to be heavy metal exposure –– not just give his symptoms a label. 


Learn more about Metal-Free here

The “Metal-Free” Difference

So what was this “gentler option” that made the difference for Jerry? 

A small brown bottle called “Metal Free”

It’s an oral spray with nano-sized peptides that is simple, easy to use, non-toxic and effective support for heavy metal detoxification, that you can use in your own home. 

It was created by a doctor after his wife had her own terrifying scare with heavy metal poisoning. He dove deep into the science to understand what was happening to his wife and teamed up with a brilliant biochemist to create the product he wish he had before she got sick. 

The result was a product that is now used in some of the most forward-thinking functional medicine practices in the world. 

The truth is we live in an increasingly toxic world, and heavy metals are only becoming more and more prevalent. If you believe you or your child may have high levels of heavy metals, we recommend you consult a medical professional and get tested. 

Heavy metals have subtle and debilitating effects on your health. Don’t wait around. The problem will not “go away.” 

Get tested. Detoxify. And enjoy your journey into optimal health. 

For more information on “Metal-Free” click this link

For more information about heavy metals, see our blog section here

*DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult a medical professional if you think you or your child has heavy metal toxicity.



Dr. David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995. In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, the BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness. In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 42-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer. Today, Dr. Minkoff is an alternative healthcare expert, guest lecturer, writer, tv and radio show guest. He also authors two weekly newsletters, the BodyHealth Fitness Newsletter and the Optimum Health Report.

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