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New study shows no connection between thimerosal in vaccines and autism

By January 26, 2009

Last week, the news was all about a study that suggested a rise in autism diagnoses is the result of environmental factors (possibly vaccines).

This week, the news is all about a study that seems to show very clearly and positively that mercury-based thimerosal in vaccines has absolutely nothing to do with autism. According to an AP story:

A new study from Italy adds to a mountain of evidence that a mercury-based preservative once used in many vaccines doesn't hurt children, offering more reassurance to parents.

In the early 1990s, thousands of healthy Italian babies in a study of whooping cough vaccines got two different amounts of the preservative thimerosal (pronounced thih-MEHR'-uh-sawl) from all their routine shots.

Ten years later, 1,403 of those children took a battery of brain function tests. Researchers found small differences in only two of 24 measurements and those "might be attributable to chance," they wrote in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, which was released Monday.

Only one case of autism was found, and that was in the group that got the lower level of thimerosal.

Ta da! Now we know that thimerosal in vaccines has nothing to do with autism, and we can all stop arguing about this particular issue.


Guess not.. sigh...

January 26, 2009 at 11:48 am
(1) AnneS says:

Of course not – not until we see the study. But it sounds like a waste of a study – comparing some mercury to more mercury. Why didn’t they compare to a control group that had no mercury? Or better yet, an unvaccinated control group?

January 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm
(2) Sandy says:

1403 regardless, were given vaccines (62.5 micrograms or 137.5 micrograms of ethyl mercury from all their shots during their first year of life) and given 11 tests 10 years later. Of those 11 tests, with girls. “The girls with higher exposure scored worse on a finger-tapping test with their dominant hands, and on a vocabulary test in which they were asked to name common objects.”

This study is quite interesting.

January 27, 2009 at 3:50 am
(3) silk says:

wonder if those kids had 50 shots by five years of age.

January 27, 2009 at 6:25 am
(4) Sandy says:

I wonder what kids do have 50 shots by age 5? Last I knew Generation Rescue claimed it was 36, which include optional vaccines that make up that 36.

January 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm
(5) passionlessDrone says:

Hello friends –

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a study about autism, but rather just effects of thimerosal in general.

Either that, or we might want to find out whats so special about the Italian’s gene set / enviroment, as their levels of autism would appear to be approximately one tenth that of what we encounter in America. [one caes of autism in 1400 participants]

Maybe they just aren’t very aware of autism; after all, if more awareness can cause us to see increases that aren’t there, can’t a lack of awareness cause you not to see increases that are there? Otherwise, the what we really need to do is figure out what the Italians are doing so special that keeps their rates of autism so low.

- pD

January 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm
(6) Sandy says:

According to a few sites, Italy has 116,114 to the population of 58,057,477 where as the USA has 587,310 to the population of 293,655,405, and any who want to can do that math. One must also consider how they diagnose there compare to the USA or other countries and I suppose on could argue what Italy uses as age appropriate peer tests. Who knows, maybe their expectations of development is waaaaay lower than the USA. It used 11 tests of memory, attention, motor skills and other brain functions. The study was of the effects of Thimerosal, and the use of it should not matter to gender, geographic location or otherwise. This study did factor in education or poverty as chance factors to their results. It’s actually the 4th study to look for subtle signs of mercury toxicity and found the same results.

January 27, 2009 at 10:21 pm
(7) AutismNewsBeat says:

The study looked for a dose response to thimerosal, and found none.

Dose makes the poison.

January 29, 2009 at 5:23 pm
(8) Bob says:

Sandy, if your numbers are right, then by my math it’s 1:500 in Italy and 1:500 in the USA. That’s the rate for the overall population, right? Not the rate in those under age 10?

January 29, 2009 at 5:49 pm
(9) Bob says:

Dear AutismNewsBeat,

You said, “The study looked for a dose response to thimerosal, and found none. Dose makes the poison.” You seem to be conflating stochastic vs. stoichiometric processes.

Your glib statement is (as usual) illogical. Do you know what the threshold toxic dose for ethyl mercury is? It sounds like you do. If so, please tell us, because we’d love to know, dude.

For your statement to be true, the toxic dose would have to be between 62.5mcg and 137.5 mcg of of C2H5Hg+. If neurotoxicity occurs above 137.5 mcg, then you would NOT EXPECT differences in observed performance between groups receiving 62.5 mcg or 137.5 mcg or anything in between (or, for that matter, even down to 0.0 mcg).

Moreover, even if toxicity occurs below 62.5 mcg, you would not necessarily expect stratification between those receiving 62.5 vs. 137.5. Neurotoxic effects are almost certainly stochastic. (I’m sure you understand that, you’re just playing dumb).

…Then again, maybe you have some special chart depicting the dose-neurotoxicity curve for C2H5Hg+. If you have that chart, we’d love to see it, dude.

February 12, 2009 at 7:59 am
(10) mary says:

Sorry to point out the **glaring** problem here Lisa Jo, but a rate of one autistic child in 1403 seriously calls the representative nature of the sample into question. A RANDOM sampling should have left them with about 5-6 autistic children, and that’s based on a very conservative 1/250 figure. It appear that their sample was not properly randomized.


June 26, 2009 at 4:23 am
(11) Ed says:

I am constantly amazed that with all of the proof that there is no connection between vaccines and autism being statistical, there has never been a measure of the control group. You know, the ones who have never been vaccinated. I am even more amazed at being told that such a study would be unethical, would be too hard, is unnecessary. I am not amazed at being told that any such proposal would not pass the committees that authorize the funding.

The elephant in the room is that back when there were no vaccines Kanner had to travel great distances to find enough cases to talk about. (So much for the claim that the autism cases always existed and we just did not recognize them) Now one has only to look in the local neighborhood to find autism under any definition.

July 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm
(12) Darn says:

According to a peer reviewed paper “Mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired oxidative-reduction activity, degeneration, and death in human neuronal and fetal cells induced by low-level exposure to thimerosal and other metal compounds”
Published in: Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, Volume 91, Issue 4 June 2009 , pages 735 – 749
Thimerosal and ethyl mercury compounds damages fetal neural cells.

I would recommend further study before you jump on this bandwagon

November 2, 2009 at 10:44 pm
(13) Josh says:

Check this study. It shows that Thimerosal has a higher toxicity level than any other metal preservatives.


November 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm
(14) Jeff says:

Thanks Lisa Jo, But I think this debate will go on forever… there will always be naysayers. I for one am not convinced that there is a link between Autism and thimersoal, but ultimately it does not matter, my son has Autism and I have to deal with that. The why? question is interesting but doesn’t help me or him cope with daily life.

November 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm
(15) J.A. says:

As a mother of 1 Aspie and 1 PDDNOS, and wife of another Aspie I did a lot of thinking about cause and treatment because it is not an easy life. When you visit PubMed and look for oxytocin and ASD you find the latest research which finds a genetic and an environmental explanation (methylation of DNA parts). The abundance of chemical exposure on fetus and children (Pb, Hg, Cd, BisphenolA, phtalates) and stress make it a problem to find 1 culprit.

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