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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thimerosal, Mercury Vaccines, and Autism

There is an interesting theory circulating that thimerosal, a common component of vaccines, is correlated with autism. The rate at which thimerosal is used in vaccines is increasing. The rate of autism is also increasing. Thimerosal contains mercury, a toxic compound.

However, from that data alone, you CANNOT draw the conclusion that thimerosal causes autism. The vaccines contain less mercury than the amount generally considered to be toxic. There are *MANY* other environmental factors that could be causing increased autism rates. Increased autism rates could be caused by:

  • parents too busy with work and unable to spend time with their children
  • parents lacking the skills to properly raise their children, relying on the State instead
  • corrupt government schools
  • increased time spent watching television
  • increased time spent with computers and video games
The fallacy is "correlation and causation are not the same thing". I consider "thimerosal causes autism" to be "not proven". Similarly, "fluoride is bad for you" is also "not proven". Before anyone objects, I also consider "fluoride is good for you" to be "not proven".

It is possible to do a proper scientific study to test this hypothesis. In order to do a proper scientific study, you would need two groups of children. One is given vaccines preserved with thimerosal and the other is given vaccines preserved using other methods. Then, measure autism rates. You probably would need 10,000-100,000 or more children to get a valid conclusion.

Of course, the drug industry has *NO INTEREST* in performing such a scientific study. If thimerosal is proven to be harmful, they would be facing a MASSIVE class action lawsuit. If thimerosal is proven to be safe, they will continue using it. But the drug companies can continue using thimerosal IF NO STUDY IS PERFORMED AT ALL! Under the current economic and political system, corporations are immune from liability when they do something wrong. The pharmaceutical industry has *NO* responsibility when it turns out that a drug or vaccine they are selling is later proven to be harmful.

The only way to settle the "thimerosal causes autism" conspiracy theory is with a proper scientific study. Until then, I consider this hypothesis to be "possible, but not proven". There are *TOO MANY* other factors that could potentially cause autism.


tmbrewer said...

From my perspective, the anti-vaccination folks who have chosen to focus so narrowly on thimerosal as the cause of harm from vaccines have done the debate a general disservice. Any number of things about vaccines could be the source of harm they so clearly cause in so many areas of health. Or, a combination of factors could be at work. The only real way to settle the question of whether or not vaccines are safe is to compare large, otherwise similar groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated children, with an eye to a wide array of potential health impacts. Of course, such a study is entirely feasible, and carries with it the priceless potential benefit of silencing, for once and for all, the pesky non-compliant parents who remain staunchly convinced that their children have been harmed by vaccines. I think a most interesting question is 'why has such a study never been done?', particulary whenit is taken into account that the idea that vaccines are the most wonderful thing in all of modern medicine is shared with near religious conviction by so many people ? Dan Olmsted, a journalist who has devoted great effort to the autism/vaccine debate, has directly confronted the CDC head with the Amish anomaly; among the Amish, who are largely unvaccinated, autism is essentially unknown. Obviously, any government agency charged with protecting the public health that had a genuine interest in alleviating the devastating suffering caused by this modern plague, would be all over these people, leaving no stone unturned in an effort to uncover which factors about their genes/lifestyle confer such a wonderful protection. Of course, such zeal is not to be expected from the CDC or the FDA, institutions whose primary focus seems to be widening the market for the drug companies.

tmbrewer said...

I apologize that I sent that comment twice. I am new here, and did not see the comment at the top saying the comment would be posted after blog owner approval. Just delete the second copy, or the first, or whatever. Sorry. tmbrewer

Anonymous said...

The rate at which thimerosal is used in vaccines is increasing.

Do you have a reference for this? Because I'm pretty sure that thimerosal has been rapidly decreasing. As in, discontinued. In the West anyhow (Denmark in 1992, US (or maybe just CA?) in 1999, for example).

There have been several real, scientific studies. None of them have found correlation, IIRC.

eagledove9 said...

I'm sending this comment again because I think I accidentally hit "preview comment" without ever hitting the "publish" button.

Two more theories:

Dr. John Martin, Ph.D., says he used to work at the FDA and he found OTHER viruses contaminating the vaccines. The viruses came from the monkeys that the vaccines were cultured in. The viruses were 'stealthed' in such a way that they caused chronic illnesses and the body could not completely eliminate them, similar to AIDS.

Also, the virus itself, the disease contained in the vaccine (measles, mumps, etc) can trigger autoimmune responses that destroy various neurons in the brain. This is similar to diabetes type I, and cataplexy, both of which are theorized to be autoimmune diseases.

I respect anecdotes. People's observations might be correct, even if they don't know how to interpret what they see. Here is what they describe about vaccines and autism (this is my paraphrasing):

My healthy, intelligent young child was learning how to walk, talk, interact, etc. and he/she did everything normally... until ONE DAY when I vaccinated him/her. The child suddenly developed a high fever, and started screaming and crying and wouldn't stop. The child became sick for several days, stopped talking, stopped making eye contact, and never recovered. Before the vaccine, the child was talking and interacting and doing just fine.

According to the anecdotes, the children are perfectly fine the day before the vaccine is administered. Then all of a sudden, immediately after the vaccine, within hours, they become sick and never recover. Afterwards they live a lifetime with the symptoms of autism.

I think anecdotes are important because they reflect real people's experiences. They don't just repeat the big-government viewpoint that doctors are required to tell everybody. This is why internet forums are good for getting at least an overview of people's medical experiences, even if you don't have enough information to really interpret what's going on. It's still hard to decide which information is good. But in some ways it's better than what doctors and government scientists tell us.

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