Sunday, January 04, 2009

Has Thimerosal Actually Been Removed From Vaccines? If Not, Of What Value Are the Epidemiological Studies?

Are the epidemiological studies relied upon by public authorities to refute assertions that the mercury based vaccine preservative thimerosal is responsible for some or all autism cases reliable?

These studies tend to show that autism rates did not decline after removal of thimerosal from vaccines. This past year the epidemiological defense of vaccines took a hit with the Poling case and with assertions by Dr. Bernardine Healy, a former director of the American Red Cross and the US National Institutes of Health, that the necessary clinical research to refute such a connection had not been done, particularly into subsets of children who might be genetically vulnerable or prediposed to develop when autism triggered by mercury or other toxins? Dr. Healy stated in Fighting the Autism-Vaccine War, US News & World Report, April 10, 2008, that:

“vaccine experts tend to look at the population as a whole, not at individual patients. And population studies are not granular enough to detect individual metabolic, genetic, or immunological variation that might make some children under certain circumstances susceptible to neurological complications after vaccination.

She also stated, amongst other points, that:

thimerosal crosses the placenta, and pregnant women are advised to get flu shots, which often contain it.

I find that last statement very troubling. If the epidemiological studies are based on the premise that thimerosal has been removed from vaccines and in fact they have not then what is the probative value, if any, of the epidemiological studies? Particularly given the pregnancy context cited by Dr. Healy.

I am only a humble small town lawyer in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada but my concern is prompted in significant part by the information provided by a prominent and accomplished member of the US medical establishment. Other credible sources also lead me to the same concern about whether thimerosal has, or has not, been removed from vaccines as claimed in the public health authorities' refutations of vaccine-autism connections.

As of this posting the web site of the US Food and Drug Administration states: Over the past several years, because of an increasing awareness of the theoretical potential for neurotoxicity of even low levels of organomercurials and because of the increased number of thimerosal containing vaccines that had been added to the infant immunization schedule, concerns about the use of thimerosal in vaccines and other products have been raised. Indeed, because of these concerns, the Food and Drug Administration has worked with, and continues to work with, vaccine manufacturers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines.

Thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine (see Table 1). A preservative-free version of the inactivated influenza vaccine (contains trace amounts of thimerosal) is available in limited supply at this time for use in infants, children and pregnant women. Some vaccines such as Td, which is indicated for older children (≥ 7 years of age) and adults, are also now available in formulations that are free of thimerosal or contain only trace amounts. Vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose.

The above, current statements from the US FDA, raise several concerns for me:

1) Theoretical potential for neurotoxicity of even low levels of organomercurials

The use of the term "theoretical potential for neurotoxicity" tells me that potential toxcity of organomercurials has NOT been definitively ruled out by the FDA. I appreciate that the expression is used in an historical context to explain the decision to remove mercury based preservatives from vaccines but surely the FDA web site would have immediately stated after that comment that there was no longer even a theoretical potential if such were the case.

2) continues to work with, vaccine manufacturers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines.

Again, this information is taken from the web site of the US FDA as it exists today. Why are they continuing to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines if the epidemiological studies were based on the premise that thimerosal had already been removed? I appreciate that some of the studies are from other countries but have those countries all completely removed thimerosal from vaccines? If so, why were those other countries able to completely remove thimerosal when the US can not?

In the United States a study by the California Department of Health released in February 2008 found that autism rates remained steady after the removal of thimerosal from vaccines. That study conclusion was qualified though by Dr. Robert Schechter, a health officer with the California health department and lead author on the report of the study as reported in the Lexington-Herald, February 5, 2008:

As for Haley's argument that some children still might be getting some mercury from vaccines, Schechter said that could be true. But he said the general removal of thimerosal from vaccines still should have caused autism rates to fall -- if mercury were the culprit in the disease. "I would not claim that children are getting no mercury from vaccines," Schechter said. "But the average exposure for the population has been substantially decreased over the past decade. If mercury from vaccinations was a primary cause of autism, you would expect rates to be dropping substantially."

Substantial decrease is not the same as total removal of mercury from vaccines. The California epidemiological study, at least, is not based on removal of mercury from vaccines.

3) Trace amounts

The FDA site, as quoted above, states that vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose. That certainly sounds like a very small amount and the implication appears to be that the amount is too small to have any effect. But the FDA also referred to the theoretical potential for neurotoxicity of even low levels of organomercurials.

It seems dubious to claim that epidemiological studies show no autism increase after removal of mercury-thimerosal if all elements of the material have not in fact been removed when the potential for neurotoxicity is recognized even in small amounts. Partcularly since the FDA, as stated above, considers vaccines with trace amounts to be vaccines with the mercury removed:

A preservative-free version of the inactivated influenza vaccine (contains trace amounts of thimerosal) is available in limited supply at this time for use in infants, children and pregnant women.

Why leave trace amounts in the vaccines to begin with? If trace amounts of thimerosal can still have a preservative effect on bacteria in the vaccines then why can't they also have a neurotoxic effect on children receiving the vaccines? And some of the flu vaccines, the ones not considered thimerosal free, contain more than trace amounts of thimerosal.

I am not a medical authority and do not pretend to be. Nor do I claim that vaccines or thimerosal cause autism. As some one who does earn his living by some degree of critical thinking and analysis I find the statements of public health authorities about epidemiological studies refuting a vaccine-autism link open to question.

Their own statements appear to contradict their claims that the studies refuting a vaccine-autism link are based on periods when thimerosal was removed from vaccines.

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Christine said...


Great Blog. I know 15% of the population is RH negative and receive the rhogam shot at 28 weeks gestation. This shot contains thimerosal. I was told this was not what caused my child's autism by the doctor that gave us the diagnosis. I will always wonder until I am satisfied with the studies. This raises another question to me on the severity of a child's autism who has been vaccinated also. I do not think we should be saying one way or another what does not cause autism when we do not know what causes it. Until then I will continue with ABA/IBI since this has been for my child the only therapy that has given her the chance to learn.

jonathan said...

Actually those who claim thimerosal had anything to do with rising autism rates will have to explain the fact that autism tripled in prevalence in the california state regional centers by birth year between 1970 to 1991 from 4/10,000 to 12/10,000. At this time there was only one thimerosal vaccination that was given to children younger than 18 months, DPT. you can read my article on the subject thimerosal is there really a correlation. There could be no increase in uptake as some say because we did not see a corresponding decrease in whooping cough which would have had to have been of a much greater magnitude than the autism increase.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that we are not currently in a position to say what causes autism andI continue with ABA because it helps my son. And the evidence basis for ABA effectiveness has been confirmed by several credible reviewing agencies after decades of studies.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your comment. I will read your comment about whooping cough later this week when I have a free moment.

I do not claim that mercury/thimoseral cause autism but I have not ruled out such a possibility either. As my blog comment indicates the public health authorities are not very persuasive in refuting any such connection.

John Best said...

Just for the sake of an easier argument, I'll say it's a given that thimerosal causes autism.

With that, I have not been able to determine how much thimerosal was given to children in 1931 when it was first used or at what age it was given to them. I think finding that answer is important.

I believe that the age at which a blood brain barrier is formed is important and should be correlated with the age at which the child receives thimerosal.

We know that the APO-E4 protein determines that someone who has it can not excrete any mercury. So, why did Harvard recently do a study that claims the APO-E4 porotein acts as an age related genetic marker that somehow causes Alzheimer's while falsely claiming that they did not understand how the APO-E4 protein was involved, only that a high percentage of people with Alzheimer's had this version of the APO's.

I have not been able to provoke anyone to question why Harvard would presnt that knowingly false information.

Stephanie said...

Personally, I suspect that autism is a victim of the medicalization of everything, with the most subtle cases being diagnosed because of the media making suspecting people believe that something is wrong with them, thus they desire to seek diagnoses, treatment and medication.

Although not as nearly as popularized, there is also AD/HD and bipolar epidemic among children. Sometimes a child with behavior problems will receive a diagnosis of all three and then given unnecessary medication when in fact all that is needed is counseling and behavioral modification for simply being a bit different.

At one point Multiple Personality Disorder was also an "epidemic" among women. Cases of the disorder went from very rare, to only about 10 to twenty cases in the US, to over 40,000 in only a few years -- after the publication of the book Sybil.

When the media gets involved and portrays an illness everyone suddenly believes that something is wrong with them and doctors and medical industries are eager to agree. A person is now no longer allowed to simply be a bit different, a bit eccentric, a bit creative...they are now diagnosed with a disorder, usually Asperger's or PDD-NOS. And people flock to it because they can now proudly claim that they are "special" and get the attention they desire.

I wish some people without mental/neurological disorders would band together and just be proud of being normal because pretty soon everyone is going to have something wrong with them. Whatever happened to just being gifted, talented, weird, creative, independent, etc? Sadly, being an creative genius is a disorder now...

Dan F said...

The mercury is still there. Like aspartame in pop and fluoride in (some people's) water, once too many people get it, it's hard to take out without direct proof - too many people would need to assume liability, risk loses (financial, to the egos of experts) to expect institutional problem solving on this and other questionable substances that have been essentially forced on the general public (see derivatives and the myths of our financial bubbles for non-medical examples).

The absolute paucity of good evidence showing the safety of these older product for neurotoxicity should have alone been a major red flag, especially when being administered to vulnerable populations.

Whether it causes autism or not, let's stop injecting mercury and other proven-harmful substances into young children's blood streams as soon as possible.

Maybe before it gets banned for and more tightly controlled for environmental reasons (although that would be nice too)?

Unfortunately, our institutions and industries seem to care more about rivers and ponds these days than young children's brains (unless it's to sell them the aspartame drinks, fluoride and methyl medications, or anything else we don't need).

I'm not arguing that vaccinations or modern-day child psychiatry are 100% wrong, or evil - but the practices that go unquestioned due to prior fraud and current duplicity can never be successfully built upon in a positive manner until they are fully vetted and honestly retested in the bright light of day.

And even then, science may not provide the miracles we've been raised to expect.

Heck - the Chinese had 'scientists' looking out for their milk supply too - it wasn't the scientific method that lead to the dumping of industrial plastic into baby formula.

It sure wasn't university research or well-funded research labs that led to it being removed.

Anonymous said...

I have two children with ASD. I have been around/exposed like many of you to children on the spectrum of various ages . It is interesting that I am seeing "milder cases" of Autism over the past few years in the early intervention classes at my school district. I believe thimerazol is decreased, but not gone in our vaccines. Do you know that the 3rd world countries we send vaccines to still have the "old" amount of thimerazol in them? Realize that the pharm companies aren't "donating" them to these countries, the government is buying them to send there.

I am an OB/GYN nurse that recieved a "needed" rubella titer before I became pregnant. Mind you I later found out that not only did I get the Rubella in the shot but also the Measels and Mumps again too. I was told it was safe to get pregnant after 1 month from receiving the shot. This titer form(as most titers) have thimerazol in them. I also got flu vaccines when pregnant and my children received them at 6 months. Thinking back makes me sick!

The government controls us all no matter what we think. They "fool" us and lie to us; and they say we live in a "free" country. We're all their science project.

There is some law (maybe someone else can speak to it better than I) that you can label a product "organic" as long as it is 95% organic in the US.
I always though I was purchasing 100% organic when the label stated it.

I recently learned about this "loop" the FDA allows manufacturers when studing "natural sweetners". A Stevia extract called Reb A is actually a natural sweetner that was only available as a supplement in the US until recently.
Pepsi and Cargill petitioned the FDA to be able to use the natural sweetner in products. (Interestingly about 5 years ago Lipton approached the FDA and was denied it's use).
Depending on the purity of the extract, it can sometimes have a strange aftertaste. The purest form (and most expensive) actually taste identical to sugar.
Pepsi with Cargill developed a "natural sweetner" that is 95% natural. They alter the other 5% to make their less expensive extract tastier and call it Purvia. The ingredient that is marked as 0 calories and all natural is called Purvia on the Sobe label.
If you aren't seeing my point yet it's kind of like a study (ie- the vaccine/mercury ones are a perfect example) you can make a study's results appear anyway you want to. All you have to do is tweek and bend the rules a bit to get what you want.
The government hides alot from us.
RFK, Jr had an outstanding article called Deadly Immunity appear in Rolling Stone magazine in 2007. He pretty much pulled the plug on the NIH and thimerazol, yet no media would pick up the story. Actually, NBC was suppose to have him when it first hit the stands, but cancled the morning of stating "they were no longer interested in the piece".
Read about it yourself.

Also, did you all know that tylenole (which our pediatricians have been trained to recommend us to use in babies over motrin) for aches, pains, and fever actually competes with vaccine toxin excreation (specifically thimerazol) in the system? That's right, Tylenole and Thimerazol are both excreated by the liver. There is a study that proves using tylenole after a preservative laiden vaccine extends the lenght of time it takes your body to excrete specifically thimerazol. WHo the hell knows what other perservatives are hanging around longer in the kids with the high fevers after the vaccines because they were given Tylenole.

Also, what about aluminum phosphate?? See link below... this is not studdied enough either and is replacing thimerazol as the preservative of choice lately.

Even a vaccine with a trace amount of preservative can be toxic if combined with round-the-clock tylenole for a fever; hampering propper excretion.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thimerosal is still in the flu shot and rhogam shot. So no, thimerosol is not really gone, since all school age children in the US are required to get annual flu shots. It's not accurate to say autism rates are going up despite removing thimerosal, because it's still out there! Not to mention the pregnant moms who got the flu shot- like me. My one son has ASD-the one who got my prenatal flu shot- and my other does not. My son is almost 5, I've been at biomed for 2.5 years and I'm still working to reverse the effects of all those damn shots! If I could take them all back- I would!!

Autism is an autoimmune response brought about from the overstimulation of the adjuvants contained in the vaccines- end of story. The idea behind the adjuvants is to prolong immune response and in some kids this does not turn off. There is no reason why so many kids should be this sick and it's sad to see the medical community hiding their heads in the sand while the epidemic continues to worsen. We are losing a whole generation of kids who don't deserve this.

You can google the Bailey Banks and Hannah Poling cases to get the specifics, where doctors and scientists talk about immune response to vaccines in more depth.

Thanks and God bless!!