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Biotech Science

Thimerosal Does Not Cause Autism 298

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 It seems that after the mercury-based vaccine preservative was withdrawn from use in 1999, no drop in autism rates has been observed in a large California study.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.
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Thimerosal Does Not Cause Autism

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  • by clonan ( 64380 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @03:48PM (#21958656)
    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 Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:28PM (#21959442) Journal
    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 questioning than the people who aren't. They're more educated, and actually take time to read books, official studies etc... They're NOT just going along because of some "new-age nonsense". 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.

    How many medical experts have you spoken to about vaccines? How many books have you read? How many studies have you read? This is the problem. The people who bash the anti-vax crowd have done very little research of their own and base their entire arguments on what little they know, and the commonly accepted knowledge. It has nothing to do with paranoia. It has nothing to do with merely anecdotal evidence.

    Anyone who is at least interested in educating themselves should look up Doctor Sherri Tenpenny. (May be Sherry, can't remember right now.) She set out in the direction you have stated, to show it's all conspiracy theories etc... She wound up swinging the other direction entirely. She backs up everything she says with information on what FDA and CDC documents and reports she got the information from. (Another good book on the subject is "Just A Little Prick" by Hilary Butler.)

    I realise I am wasting my time here, but I am sick of uneducated people bashing those who are anti-vaccine when they're uninformed. If you've done all the research and still feel it's bogus, then fair play to you. But I guarantee you haven't. You have taken a basic scientific knowledge, and think you know more than those who have spent years researching the issue.

    For the record, someone I know contacted the FDA and CDC and asked them directly if they can guarantee that thimerosal is removed entirely from the vaccines. The agencies that are supposed to be overseeing this process of removing thimerosal are not doing their own tests, rather relying on the manufacturers own data and samples. Not independent randomized sampling. Of course folk will also dismiss this, despite the fact that, say, this was Microsoft source code being checked for something, let's say NSA backdoors, and Microsoft were essentially doing it themselves, there'd be uproar.

    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.

    And I'll leave you with this. [] not that you'll probably read it. To sum up, a group tested four different vaccines that claim to be mercury free, and found mercury in all of them in varying quantities. So the claims of "mercury free" are as bogus as those "new-age" activities you condemn. The link also includes links to the FDA indicating how much mercury is supposed to be in those shots. (Be sure to click the image to see the actual lab results of the vaccine tests.)
  • Re:But, but, but, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wilson_c ( 322811 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:33PM (#21959554)
    No, the scientists and physicians who claimed a link have been in a very small minority. Nice attempt to discredit the climate science by implication, though.

    The anti-thimerisol movement has been driven largely by parents of autistic children looking for an explanation (I'm not unsympathetic, but that shouldn't affect the scientific method) and the anti-vaccination lobby, which is a mix of paranoiacs and people who can't see that a small number of vaccine-caused deaths is preferable to a larger number of disease-caused deaths.

    There are actually legitimate health concerns related to the use of mercury as a preservative, but since they are not as dramatic or emotionally charged as the subject of autism, they seldom enter the discussion.

    Furthermore, even in the case where scientific consensus MAY be wrong, it's most sensible for those not directly involved in research challenging the consensus to proceed as if it is correct, unless doing so were demonstrably damaging. For instance, it is pretty sensible to respond to climate change by increasing energy efficiency wherever possible. Worst case scenario is improved productivity, competitiveness, and profit. If, on the other hand, increased efficiency came at the cost of infecting every person with leprosy, then global warming denialists might have more of a point.
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @05:24PM (#21960418) Homepage
    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) []

  • by DES ( 13846 ) * <> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:41PM (#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 DES ( 13846 ) * <> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:26AM (#21965320) Homepage

    Do not conflate the MMR theory with that of thimerosal as a cause of autism. The two are totally different [...]
    Actually, there is absolutely no way to separate them. They are being promoted by the exact same people (Wakefield went from attacking MMR in the UK to attacking Thimerosal in the US without batting an eyelid - of course, he's facing severe charges of scientific fraud if he ever shows his face in the UK again), and one of the arguments is that Thimerosal is used in the production of MMR and other multi-vaccines to help combine the individual component vaccines into one. Of course, once Thimerosal was conclusively ruled out, some of them fell back to arguing that it was the shock to the immune system from the triple vaccine, or from the combined schedule of vaccines administered to infants (up to seven different vaccines with the first few months, if my count is correct), while others just dug themselves in and insisted that Thimerosal is still there, but it's being covered up.

    As for the reason why adults aren't increasingly diagnosed with autism the way children are, there is a very simple explanation for that: they've had sufficient time to learn how to function fairly well, and they're no longer under the watchful eyes of increasingly better-educated teachers and school nurses, and they're used to being the way they are. That doesn't necessarily mean they're all right; they may for instance be suffering from (and diagnosed with) depression resulting from the strain of never quite being in synch with the world and of the ever-so-slight sense of isolation or alienation that comes from not consistently getting social clues.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito