Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Thimerosal Does Not Cause Autism 298

Posted by kdawson
from the nice-theory-though dept.
jamie found an article over at Washington Monthly discussing the recent finding that there is no link between thimerosal and autism. It seems that after the mercury-based vaccine preservative was withdrawn from use in 1999, no drop in autism rates has been observed in a large California study. Here's the Science Daily writeup on the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Thimerosal Does Not Cause Autism

Comments Filter:
  • That chemical preservative isn't used anymore because of Autism fears...

    Because of that our vaccines are significantly les stable and have shorter shelf lives!
    • by Altus (1034) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:00PM (#21958900) Homepage

      Don't forget the added "benefit" that now people are extra scared of vaccines because of all of this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mordac (1009)
      This little nugget can't be understated. Irrational fear mongering has caused a lot of problems. The bad news is even after all the research showing there is no link, we won't get it back, so we have to keep looking for other methods (that maybe more dangerous and/or costly.)
      • Regardless of the Autisim link (which was thin at best) ethylmercury hasn't had the sort of widescale toxicity tests that bioaccumulating mercury compounds (e.g methylmercury) have had.

        Until that point, I'm not big on the idea of injecting a solution containing a large amount of ethylmercury into my body. Most mercury compounds aren't really anything that anyone would want to inject.

        It's no better to be irrationally pro-ethylmercury just because it's a good preservative...The reason the uninformed freak out
        • by Dastardly (4204)
          In the US, Europe and other developed countries where fresh vaccine is widely available thimerosal removal is not that big of a deal. Where the removal of thimerosal has a huge impact is in developing countries where it might be days to weeks without refrigeration to get a vaccine where it is needed. In such a situation the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the tiny risk of issues due to the tiny amount of thimerosal.
    • It is developing countries that suffer for it. In the developed countries, you have a much shorter time to market as well as refrigeration that takes care of most of this. OTH, the developing countries tend not to have refrigeration and their transportation takes a long time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Artifakt (700173)
        The infrastructure makes a real difference in the need for good preservatives, agreed. That said, there are lots of reasons to go ahead and build that infrastructure in the third world.

        1. lots of clinics with reliable refrigeration will let those clinics preserve samples where an outbreak of something really nasty, such as Ebola Zaire, is suspected. Better roads, or even runways and committed planes, will let local governments and the UN respond to such outbreaks more quickly. A dedicated radio type link w
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @02:59PM (#21958880) Homepage Journal
    Given that the folks shrieking the loudest about the thimerosal-autism 'link' (as if a single study that's since been discredited many, many times can be called a 'link') tend to be parents of autistic children who also tend to go in for bogus new-age nonsense like 'chelation' and 'collodial silver' treatments, I don't think the whole nonsense is quite over yet. It's definitely a nice step in the right direction, but no amount of proof will really convince conspiracy theorists that their pet paranoia is without merit--they merely will claim that the 'truth' is being 'covered up' by the Big Pharmaceutical companies, and that the government is out to poison your children with the evil vaccinations that 'confuse your immune system' leaving you 'open to illness.' Most of them would benefit from a good solid course in basic logic (to overturn the fallacies they base their 'theories' on) and in basic biology and chemistry. The best we can hope for, I suppose, is that they'll select themselves out of the gene pool by applying nonsensical and hazardous treatments to themselves and their offspring.
    • by solar_blitz (1088029) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:08PM (#21959054)
      Dear God, I would like to file a bug report.
      • God's apparently like Microsoft...you can file a bug report, but you'll not get it fixed unless you decompile the binary and fix it y'self. Pity he didn't hand out a copy of the source code along with every chromosone set....unless that's what the Bible Code -really- is...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by R2.0 (532027)
      "Most of them would benefit from a good solid course in basic logic (to overturn the fallacies they base their 'theories' on)"

      I used to be a grader at Lehigh for the Informal Logic course - trust me, there are some folks you CAN'T teach logic to.

      And if there's anyone out there who took the course between about '87 & '90: I'm the one who graded your homework "0 plus" on a scale from 0 to 2 - you may have handed it in, but there was no resemblance in any of your answers to anything remotely resembling log
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      What I would like to know is just how much research have people like you done into the issue? And I mean PROPER research, not just newspaper knowledge of fragments you've gleaned over the years. Because I know a hell of a lot people, including some within the vaccine industry, who, if they posted here, could destroy every single one of your arguments.

      Most of the so called "fallcies" you claim are far from that. The people I know who are anti-vaccine generally tend to be more intelligent, better educated and
      • by Otter (3800)
        Please, educate yourself. READ studies on vaccines etc... And I mean government studies, not the PR material that the companies put out. As I said, if you do as much research as we have and come to an opposite conclusion, then fair play to you. I'm just absolutely sick of ill-informed individuals such as yourself condemning the opposite side.

        Please link to the studies you're talking about and I'll be glad to take a look at them.

      • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:42PM (#21959690) Homepage Journal
        "What I would like to know is just how much research have people like you done into the issue?" Ad hominem attack. I would note that, as conspiracy theories are an area of special interest to me, I take great pains to research not only the nutbag nonsense, but the real science behind any claims. "Because I know a hell of a lot people, including some within the vaccine industry, who, if they posted here, could destroy every single one of your arguments." Appeal to authority. If you can't make your own argument, then kindly keep your mouth shut. "Most of the so called "fallcies" you claim are far from that." Caught two already. "The people I know who are anti-vaccine generally tend to be more intelligent, better educated and questioning than the people who aren't." I'm a bit rusty on my fallacies, for I've misremembered the name of this one--but no, you cannot claim that because your particular group is somehow 'smarter' your argument is automatically correct. It's a non sequitur. "If you had a child who was suffering from autism" Appeal to emotion, another fallacy. "How many medical experts have you spoken to about vaccines?" Appeal to authority, again. Namedropping the various folks at various departments of health whom I've spoken with about this will not 'prove' anything. The argument should stand on its own, without recourse to celebrity. "How many books have you read? How many studies have you read?" Many, including those disproving the only study to have claimed the aformentioned alleged 'link'. "Anyone who is at least interested in educating themselves" ...would do far better to take a course in basic logic and biology, like I said before, rather than reading that crackpot bit of nonsense. "I realise I am wasting my time here," Then why post? " I am sick of uneducated people bashing those who are anti-vaccine when they're uninformed. " Ad hominem, again. "If you've done all the research and still feel it's bogus, then fair play to you." I have, thank you. " someone I know" Friend of a friend third-hand knowledge is not valid for consideration, thank you. "Please, educate yourself. READ studies on vaccines etc... And I mean government studies, not the PR material that the companies put out." Yes, and that's why I know the alleged link was disproved. For someone who claims not to indulge in fallacy, you've certainly a great deal of it in your post.
        • by carlcmc (322350)
          wow. I just have to say what a great response kublaikhan.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Wow...

          He puts the same level of fact (and coincidentally, about the same mix of ad hominem and frustration) as in your original post, and you tear him apart.
        • by PMuse (320639)
          Nicely done.

          "The people I know who are anti-vaccine generally tend to be more intelligent, better educated and questioning than the people who aren't."

          I'm a bit rusty on my fallacies, for I've misremembered the name of this one--but no, you cannot claim that because your particular group is somehow 'smarter' your argument is automatically correct.

          Error 1: It assumes facts not proven (viz. the allegedly high intelligence of this particular group).

          Error 2: It's another form of Appeal to Authority. The argument runs something like: (i) my group is a smart group; (ii) my group has concluded A; (iii) therefore, you should conclude A.

          HTH. ;-)

        • by Nimey (114278)
          Let me channel monkey-boy for a moment:

          PARAGRAPHS! PARAGRAPHS! PARAGRAPHS!
      • by Stormcrow309 (590240) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:27PM (#21960488) Homepage Journal

        Cite or get off the pot. Speaking of which, I would suggest this paper [ehponline.org] and this paper [informaworld.com] as a good start. There is major concern from Thimerosal toxicity in long term treatments, such as blood plasma programs, due to the introduction of more Thimerosal to the system then ethylmercury, the type of mercury that Thimerosal becomes, can be cleared. However, there seems to be more risk from dental amalgam then a single vaccination. Concern should be for long term series, such as a long term gamma globulin series, which is becoming rare.

      • by DES (13846) * <des@des.no> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @05:41PM (#21961758) Homepage

        And to be honest, your attitude is sickening. If you had a child who was suffering from autism, you'd do anything you could to try and help them.
        Indeed. If I had children who were suffering from autism, I would do anything I could to try to help them. But running around trying to find someone to pin the blame on would not help them at all; in fact, it would rob them of what they, like any other children, need most, which is their parents' time and attention and tender love and care.

        Western society (and, it seems, the US in particular) has developed into a culture of blame. In some ways, it is understandable, as it is much easier to find someone to blame and from whom to demand retribution than to face up to the harsh realities of life, but it is not very productive. People need to understand that life is hard and often unfair, that they need to take responsibility for themselves and their kin, and that sometimes things get broken that you just can't fix - you have to cope and move on.

        Autism is a very complex subject. Autism-spectrum disorders are actually much more common than one would think, and statistics seem to show they are on the rise. Part of the reason is that it was previously (and may still be) underdiagnosed due to social stigma and a poor understanding of the milder forms. Another part of it is that there seems to be a correlation between autism-spectrum disorders and other characteristics which are favorable to success and survival in an industrial society, which basically means that natural selection is currently working in favor of autism (just like natural selection works in favor of sickle-cell anemia in parts of Africa because it is linked with improved resistance to malaria). The most blatant evidence in favor of the latter interpretation is that autism-spectrum disorders seem to occur more often in children whose parents both work in IT or engineering.

        Personally, I suspect that once we come to realize and accept that far more people thank we think suffer from varying degrees of autism, it will become clear that autism is in fact hereditary and that neither Thimerosal nor any other chemicals really have anything to do with it.

        By the way, autism is far more survivable / treatable than was previously believed (or than many people still seem to think). Forget Rain Man; many autistic children who even thirty years ago would have been doomed to a life in an institution can actually be taught to function in normal life if you take the time to try to understand them (something medical professionals used to think was below their dignity). Elizabeth Moon (author of the Paksenarrion series) was told some twenty-odd years ago that her son was congenitally incapable of processing language, yet she taught him to speak, and to interact socially, and in the process developed a different idea of what autism is than what was prevalent at the time (in particular, she considers autism a developmental problem rather than a cognitive one). She has also written both fiction and non-fiction on the subject, which you may find worth your time to look up.
    • by Drasil (580067)
      I realise you were generalising, but I find your post a touch offensive. I am the parent of an autistic child and I have as much disdain for new age crystal swingers as any self respecting geek. Given that autism seems particularly prevalent in the children of technically minded people I suspect your assertion is unfounded. The rise in the incidence of autism cannot be explained by increased awareness and diagnosis alone, it's much too big for that. This would tend to suggest that there is some environmenta
      • No offence was intended; my assertion was meant to be that those who deny the efficacy of vaccines tend to be new-age crystal swingers (to steal your excellent turn of phrase) rather than parents of autistics are such.
      • by samkass (174571)
        The rise in the incidence of autism cannot be explained by increased awareness and diagnosis alone, it's much too big for that.

        Actually, there are many studies which refute this, and I think the scientific verdict is still up in the air. However, we'll know in the next decade or so-- diagnoses of the whole spectra of disorders is so widespread now that you'd definitely see a peak and drop if this were the cause.

        I think many people agree with you that there are probably environmental triggers which are more
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by domatic (1128127)
      This parent of an autistic child became a hard boiled skeptic on "miracle cures" like chelation very quickly. Some autistics DO respond favorably to a restricted diet but but by no means all. The only thing that I'm convinced works consistently is intensive structured activities. I'm honestly not sure whether or under what conditions thimerosal is harmful. Even if it isn't terribly harmful to adults, I have severe doubts about pumping large amounts of it into very small very young bodies. It is true th
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:08PM (#21959064)
    After all, other countries have eliminated or dramatically reduced mercury in vaccines with zero effect on autism rates, and the mercury fanatics never batted an eye. Nor are they troubled by the fact that the neurological effects of actual mercury poisoning don't resemble autism.

    It's a bit like homeopathy in reverse. Many of these guys have a superstitious fear of "toxins," and no matter how low the level might be, they will be convinced that it is poisoning their kids.

    Of course, the real problem is that the age at which autism symptoms develop is about the same as the age when kids normally get their shots. A reasoned explanation of the difference between correlation and causality is often beyond the grasp of parents who are desperate for an explanation, or better yet, somebody to blame.
    • by slcdb (317433)

      A reasoned explanation of the difference between correlation and causality is often beyond the grasp of parents who are desperate for an explanation, or better yet, somebody to sue.
      There, fixed it for ya. ;)
    • by Pseudonym (62607)

      Many of these guys have a superstitious fear of "toxins," and no matter how low the level might be, they will be convinced that it is poisoning their kids.

      I've already heard the claim that it's the thimerosal in your vaccinations that causes autism in your kids.

      This isn't mere superstition we're taking about. This is a full-on conspiracy theory. In fact, full-on antivaxers really seem to think that "mercury poisoning" is some kind of demon posession, even to the point of staging elaborate and deadly exo

  • This is established (Score:5, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:09PM (#21959078) Journal
    The link between thimerosal and autism has already been pretty thoroughly disproven [corante.com]. (Link to a blog rather than the paper because 1) it's a good summary and 2) I'm not sure whether the link is freely readable.) Whatever merit this hypothesis had in the past, any future work on it that "activists" manage to force clearly comes at the expense of projects that might be genuinely useful.
  • Currently, pediatricians are calling for autism screening to be standardized and performed at 18 and 24 months of age. However, there is no current standard for testing or for the age to test.

    Taking screening at 24 months (autism can take up to 19 months or so before it becomes evident), that means the test is using 6 years of data -- 6 years during which the testing times for screening autism have changed and the tests themselves have changed. This means that a lot of children who would not have been fla
    • From all the studies I've read, earlier definitive diagnoses of Autism are possible - at 18 months instead of 30, and early warning flags can be detected even in the first year.

      I have no idea why these earlier tests aren't being used (looking for rapid excessive head growth, lack of eye contact, etc) - especially since they don't require fancy equipment or major investments.

      I find the head growth particularly fascinating (here's a link to the abstract)
      http://jcn.sagepub.com/cgi/content/short/22/10/1182 [sagepub.com]

  • 'no statistical correlation' != 'doesn't cause'
    'statistical correlation' != 'causes'

    I know enough people who have observed a direct correlation between their children being injected with mercury and an observable shift in behaviour to be concerned about injecting mercury into my children. I also know enough people who have observed a correlation between chelation and improvement in the child's intelligence, even in later years, to try chelation if I ever have an autistic child.

    I know that some people, when
    • 'no statistical correlation' != 'doesn't cause'

      What? How the hell do you figure that? The recorded diagnoses of autism rose at roughly the same rate as vaccination using vaccines containing mercury as a preserving agent. Based on the subsequent hue and cry, the mercury preserving agents were removed. Thus, exposure to mercury as a preserving agent in vaccines has fallen to zero. Despite this, the number of autism diagnoses has not dropped. Therefore, there is no other conclusion but to say that the m

    • that makes him very sensitive to mercury poisoning

      Point missed in a very major way. We really need some better education standards, paticularly simple science that describes the difference between elements and compounds. What we are seeing here is the stupid alzheimer's disease vs aluminium debate dumbed down a notch and instead of misleading evidence (was contamination by a preservative in that case) we have no evidence.

  • I met an Autism specialist who works for the school districts here in NY. She had some very interesting things to say about the increased rates. She said Autism wasn't increasing, just more children are being labeled Autistic. This is because children labeled autistic get all kinds of extra aid from the government that children who are just deemed learning disabled or have psychological problems don't get. So parents with mentally disabled children are increasingly encouraged to have their child autistic. I
  • by Borealis (84417) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:09PM (#21960102) Homepage
    Curiously though I think there is a distinct lack of studies that show how the use of multiple vaccines at earlier ages affect autism. Given that a child's immune system is at best only partially developed before the age of six months, it's somewhat irritating to me that doctors regularly inject 7 vaccines at a time into children as young as 1 month of age. My own son developed infantile spasms (a degenerative seizure disorder) a week after his 3 month checkup where he was inject with the MMR, DtAP, and Varicella vaccines (MMR and DtAP each are combinations of 3 vaccines, giving him 7 total).

    Anecdotally, of the 6 children in my son's special education kindergarten class, 3 of the children developed seizure disorders within a week of similar vaccinations, one of which was administered at one week of age. Most countries wait until at least 6 months of age before beginning the injections of MMR and DtAP vaccines.

    Personally I think that thimerisol is a red herring distracting folks from considering any contributing factors of age and volume of vaccines administered. I think we'd do well to compare current vaccinations correlation to autism versus a program that staggers vaccinations with individual vaccines starting at 6 months of age to see how much that contributes to the rate of autism.
    • Given that a child's immune system is at best only partially developed before the age of six months, it's somewhat irritating to me that doctors regularly inject 7 vaccines at a time into children as young as 1 month of age.

      Um, there's your answer. Your 5 year old does not need as much protection as your 5 month old, because the 5 year old is more capable of fighting infection. The only reason we don't give newborns a full round of shots as soon as they come out of mom is that they have to reach a certain age to respond well to most shots (not so to hep B.)

      Most countries wait until at least 6 months of age before beginning the injections of MMR and DtAP vaccines.

      First off, its DTaP, not DtAP (which becomes important below.)

      Second your statement is quite untrue. If you look at the WHO's vaccine information, you can see the va

  • Honestly, will you put your son or daughter on the altar of science to prove a theory? Could you live with yourself if you were wrong?

    I'm a recent parent who insisted on a thiemerasol-free vaccine for my child. Note that I'm not against vaccines -- I just asked for the one without the mercury. They're available and didn't cost anything extra.

    Why? Because if there was even a 1/1000th of a percent of a chance that it could cause irreparable harm I wasn't going to take the risk. I don't put much stock in
    • by roca (43122)
      > Why? Because if there was even a 1/1000th of a percent of a chance that it could cause irreparable
      > harm I wasn't going to take the risk.

      So then, your child will never cross a road?

      (I'm a parent, but this is ridiculous)
      • by georgewad (154339)
        More like: don't cross in the middle of the block, go to the crosswalk.

        I'm also a parent and see nothing wrong with eliminating a risk when there's no developmental benefit to exposing the child to that risk. (e.g. take the Phthalates out of toys). Expose the child to risks that will help him develop (e.g. don't use stupid hand sanitizers every 10 seconds, let them take the risk of getting a cold and develop a healthy immune system).

        -G
    • by Shados (741919)
      You know, once upon a time, people went against the whole saturated fat stuff like it was a plague (and it is bad, but...). One thing that became very popular, was margarine, which at the time was basically pure trans fat. It was the groups that wanted healthier lifestyles that pushed trans fats originaly, as a replacement for saturated fats... And look how that turned out (now margarine doesn't have that issue, but back then it definately did).

      Now, the thing is, when something isn't 100% sure, nothing you
    • by slcdb (317433)
      Your risk assessment is a good one in my view. And this is precisely why the Institute of Medicine recommended removing thimerosal from childhood vaccinations despite no convincing evidence supporting a link with autism.

      There are alternative cost-effective preservatives/methods that don't involve using thimerosal. Basically it boils down to this: Why take the risk, no matter how small, if you can eliminate it altogether at relatively no/low cost?

      The best part is that you can arrive that conclusion using jus
    • by blueg3 (192743)
      Your "to prove a theory" doesn't really make sense here. If you were talking about reintroducing thimerosol, then you're talking about trusting in existing results. "Proving a theory" would be more akin to allowing your child to be involved in testing. I would do the former -- accept a thimerosol-containing vaccine on the current toxicology studies; I wouldn't do the latter.

      These matters aren't quite as simple as you make them out to be. Thimerosol is an antiseptic, antifungal agent. What's the likelihood t
    • But I had NO issues with the vaccine having thiemerasol. WHy? Because there has been NOTHING credible about it in 10 years. In fact, 2 of the 3 scientist who wrote the ONLY real paper on it, now refute it. Were either of my children injected with it? I have no idea. There are FAR more important issues to worry about rather than something as ridiculous as that.

      BTW, children can die by water, even in a bath. ANd that is fact, not just "alter" of science. I know. I have pulled them from the bottom of a lake.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

Working...