Donald Trump, Autism, and Climate Change: Warming Up to an Idea

Written By: Louise Ross

My father, who poured concrete for a living to build structures (his enterprise was named Eureka) subcontracting for awhile with Donald Trump’s father, had a favorite personal story about Donald Trump. During that time, in the mid 1950’s, my twin sister and I were newborns, and our dad used to help our mother feed and bathe us each evening (our eating habits were not “in sync”). One evening, however, dad called my mother and told her, “I’m going to be late, I have to drive his kid home.” When I became an adult dad still talked about that trip, especially Donnie’s rude behavior (but he also said the father was nice).
Today, with little Donnie the President of the United States, I imagine telling the grown-up Trump about his encounter with my father as a prelude to talking about the relationship between autism, pollutants, and global warming. We both loved our generous, demure dads. Why not kill two birds with one stone and talk about how pollution contributes to both autism and global warming, and, at the same time, relishing our mutual fond memories? What is the relationship between global warming and autism? For one, both seem to be caused by fossil fuel byproducts, especially mercury.

During my career as a psychologist in public schools, prevalence (defined by Webster as “the number of cases of a disease that are present in a particular population at a given time”) of autism has risen steadily and dramatically, from 1/5000 in the 1980’s to 1/500 in the 1990’s, to today’s figure of 1/46 births. It is impossible to attribute the increases to better awareness or broader diagnostic criteria. An informal epidemiological study that I did in one Massachusetts school district in 1995 (I looked at children coming into pre-school and kindergarten and compared them to the junior high and high school) had three new classrooms just with very young children with diagnoses of autism, whereas the upper grades had none. Wouldn’t the older students be noticed if only awareness mattered? The only explanation, or plausible hypothesis is that environmental factors contribute to the rise of autism. The problem is epigenetic – environmental pollutants change gene expression.

In fact, mercury has been implicated so many times, autism is sometimes referred to as a “mercury poisoning disorder” by some scientists. Solid scientific research supports this idea, if not the jargon. A 2008 study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio demonstrated increasing numbers of autism in children the closer they lived to fossil fuel burning plants. These data were presented in the U.S. Senate. A google search online pulls up many more facts: for every 1,000 pounds of mercury released by Texas power plants in 1998, there was a corresponding 3.7 percent increase in autism rates in Texas school districts in 2002. For all the evidence linking mercury to autism, Autism seems like a warning signal: they are here to warn us: not only will the human species become damaged, but they are here to save the earth as well. As we all know, the heat-trapping elements from burning fossil fuels cause global warming.
When people are personally affected by autism, as is Trump’s youngest son, Barron, and Trump’s family, the experience has the potential to open the heart and the mind. Why does Mr. Trump, who has said that autism is on the rise, continue to push back against the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Act? Mercury is in not only vaccines, but the air and water. Trump has said, “when you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really, it’s such an incredible, it’s really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase.”

There is a bit more to the story about what contributes to an explanation of the phenomenon of autism, and its increasing prevalence. MIT professor Stephanie Seneff has a newer claim that both mercury and the herbicide Glyphosate (Roundup) have a synergistic effect. One potentiates the other. So, with the addition of herbicides in foods, the effect of mercury deepens. The EPA fought to keep these toxins, even with evidence of brain dysregulation, and epidemiological data.

The power of the mind can deny, accept, repudiate, or change. Let’s get our minds current on this subject: to have strength, intelligence, and health, both for our bodies and minds and as a country, we need to eliminate toxins. I will never know exactly what transpired in the car as my dad drove young Donald Trump home. But now, Mr. Trump is the father of a boy who is on the autistic spectrum, and the keys to prevention, for all children and for Earth’s survival from flooding, lies to a great measure, with him.