Thursday, August 5, 2021

#2477: Vasken Aposhian

Hurair Vasken Aposhian is a toxicologist and emeritus professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Arizona, and although he has legitimate credentials, Aposhian is a somewhat infamous promoter of pseudoscience and a wide range of crazy ideas about mercury. As some sources laconically puts it, his “views about mercury in vaccines and in dental amalgams go against the consensus of the medical community and are controversial”.


Aposhian has advocated for the false idea that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism, and testified for instance before the Institute of Medicine in 2004 before they issued a review concluding that the evidence favors rejecting a vaccine–autism link. (According to apparent sycophants on his Wikipedia article – it is unclear why he has one – Aposhian’s position on thiomersal is in line with the WHO, which “are adamant in their view that thimerosal (aka thiomersal) is a serious threat to human health and are pushing for a worldwide ban”: that is a blatant lie, easily checked by actually looking at WHO’s position statement: “WHO supports continued use of thiomersal as an inactivating agent and preservative for vaccines”). He is most famous, however, for his participation as an “expert” on the side of wrong and spectacular pseudoscience in the Autism Omnibus trials in 2007, where he claimed that the autism of Michelle, the plaintiffs’ daughter, was caused by “mercury efflux disorder.” Aposhian was apparently pushing the novel idea that the thiomersal in one vaccine damaged Michelle’s immune system to the point that the MMR vaccine (which never contained thiomersal) penetrated the GI tract and attacked the brain; indeed, the theory is so novel that he testified, on the stand, that he had elaborated it “about three or four weeks ago” based on journal articles from other scientists (i.e. he just made up a story out of nothing right before he was supposed to testify in court). He was slaughtered on cross examination and forced to admit that there was no record of any child becoming autistic as a result of mercury exposures.


Aposhian is also a long-standing promoter of the false idea that mercury in dental amalgam fillings are unsafe, claiming for instance that “these fillings continuously emit mercury vapor, which will go to the brain and is converted to mercuric mercury” where it “will damage nerve and it will damage brain tissues.” The claims are ostensibly backed up by his own “research” based on subjects given the widely discredited “provoked testing” chelating agent 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid.


Aposhian is, unsurprisingly, also affiliated with quack organizations like the American Board of ChelationTherapy (ABCMT) (well, at least he was a decade or so ago), a small conspiracy theory group chaired by Rashid Buttar that offers bogus “board-certification” for grifters and quacks willing to attend a weekend course, score 65% on an examination in which 60% of the questions are True/False, and administering 1000 unsupervised disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (Na2EDTA) infusions. You should stay well away from anyone who bothered to get that board certification. Other advisors to the group were Robert Rowen and Robban Sica.


Diagnosis: Yes, there are quacks and pseudoscientists with real credentials, and there is certainly a career to be made by going over to the dark side. The fact that it’s the same names that show up every time quacks need “legitimate” experts (like in court cases, where their local naturopath or conspiracy theorist with a webpage won’t do) is notable. Aposhian is old, strange and looney. Don’t listen to him on anything whatsoever.


Hat-tip: rationalwiki


  1. Big money to be made on the dark side? Right! We all know who's making the real big cash right now and it's not this guy!!

  2. According to his Wikipedia page, he died in 2019.

  3. He should really pay more attention to his wiki page. Perhaps he can update it.