SafeMinds to Hold International Premiere of Important New Documentary on Mercury Toxicity and Genetic Susceptibility
For the First Time Ever, Survivors of Pink Disease (Acrodynia) Tell Their Stories on Film; Many Children and Grandchildren Show Same Sensitivity to Mercury
EDINBURGH - SafeMinds is honored to invite all Open Day attendees to the international premiere of a gripping new documentary, Repeating History, which investigates the history and consequences of one of the largest cases of mass mercury poisoning ever, in mid-20th Century Australia.
The film follows six survivors of a now-rare disease called acrodynia, but better known as “Pink Disease” in Australia and other countries, because many victims, all of them infants, developed painful red rashes on their hands and feet. For years, many people suspected that inorganic mercury used in teething powders and given to babies might be the cause. But drug industry and public health officials dismissed the speculation, noting that most children who took the teething powders showed no ill effects at all. Even so, tens of thousands of children in Australia, Europe and North America fell victim to the disease.
Repeating History explores the ill-advised and dangerous use of mercury in teething powders and the often painful journey of discovery its victims endured, before connecting the dots from powders to mercury to Pink Disease. Interviews with survivors, now mostly in their 60s and 70s, are riveting, heartbreaking cautionary tales for all people working in environmental and public health. “This important new work helps uncover the reality of mercury poisoning,” said Eric Uram, Executive Director of SafeMinds. “It shows us, in stark and startling detail, just how insidious mercury truly is, much more than previously thought, and how devastating the symptoms of exposure can be. And, it clearly demonstrates how similar, if not identical, many of the symptoms are between ASD and Pink Disease. If mercury caused acrodynia, it is reasonable to suspect that it contributes to ASD as well.”
The documentary was produced by an Australian film team from Swinburne University, where psychology professor Dr. David Austin, who is featured in the film, conducted intensive, groundbreaking research on acrodynia survivors. He also studied the children and grandchildren of the survivors, and found extraordinarily high rates of neurodevelopmental disorders among them, especially autism spectrum disorder (AS) and ADHD. In fact, one in just 25 grandchildren of acrodynia survivors has been diagnosed with ASD, well above the country’s national average of one in 166. This shocking discovery, recently published in a peer-reviewed journal, led Dr. Austin to continue exploring the plausibility of mercury’s role in causing autism.
“While the film is not a professional production, the team that put together the footage did an excellent job of creating an audiovisual record of the survivors who lived through this mass mercury poisoning,” continued Uram. “Once again, by listening to the people who were directly and negatively impacted by mercury exposure, it drives home the point that we need to stop purposefully exposing people to mercury. We need to stop repeating history.”
TALKING POINTS: WHY THIS FILM IS IMPORTANT NOW
Increasing evidence mercury affects multiple generations - Current research indicates that genetic sensitivity to mercury may increase across generations, as DNA mutations caused by mercury exposures in grandparents and parents, through the process of “epigenetics,” leave subsequent generations even more vulnerable to the symptoms of mercury toxicity.
Problems in children born to parents showing no effects – Repeating History clearly shows that the risk for poisoning from mercury-containing medicines given during early development is greater in today’s children than among their parents. Research presented at ICMGP in Edinburgh shows the potential for epigenetic damage. Intergenerational impacts have been identified as researchers increase their ability to delve deeper into the human genetic code. We will likely see evidence of subtler impacts and the need to further address mercury, just like we saw with lead. We need pre-emptive action now, rather than waiting for irrefutable proof.
All types of mercury exposures may be involved – Advanced research is showing that children are being impacted by mercury damage even before conception, and via prenatal and postnatal exposures. We are now learning much more, not only about the effects of subtle, chronic, long-term exposures, but also the bolus, one-time (or multi-dose) short-term exposures that can over-expose someone to levels of mercury and cause lifelong damage.
More research is needed – In addition to moving proactively to eliminate all sources of mercury that accumulate in individuals, and identifying alternatives to facilitate such elimination, we still have far to go in terms of researching and understanding mercury’s role in epigenetics, and the increased risk of neurodevelopmental damage in certain, susceptible individuals.
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