A family history of pink disease is a significant risk factor for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research from Swinburne University of Technology has found.
Pink disease was a form of mercury poisoning prevalent in the first half of the 20th century. Affecting 1 in 500 young children with a hyper-sensitivity to mercury, it caused a range of severe symptoms including loss of speech, loss of interest in usual activities, hypersensitivity to light, pain and, in up to 20 per cent of cases, death. When mercury was identified as the culprit and removed as an ingredient in teething powders in the 1950s, the disease was essentially wiped out.
For the current study the Swinburne researchers surveyed over 500 Australian survivors of Pink Disease, asking them about the health of their descendents. This allowed them to collect detailed data about the survivors, as well as their 1100 children and 1360 grandchildren.