By Julie Obradovic
In light of the recent Vaccine Court ruling I thought I would again highlight for readers precisely what has and has not been studied with regard to Thimerosal.
The fact is, it is impossible, absolutely, positively impossible to exonerate vaccines and/or Thimerosal in Autism based on the current science. Honest, ethical, and responsible people have no choice but to concede that in good faith.
Remember, only 1 ingredient (thimerosal) and 1 injection (the MMR) have been studied for their relationship to Autism. No study exists on the combination of vaccines given to children in a real world setting, with or without additional environmental insults such as antibiotics, or with regard to genetic susceptibilities.
No study has looked at the possible effect of the synergistic toxicity of aluminum and thimerosal, which are never supposed to be used in combination (according to the Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for thimerosal ) and are indeed combined in many shots (according to the Vaccine Excipient Summary from the CDC).
And no controlled study, not one, exists on the effect of low dose ethyl mercury toxicity in humans (a statement made by study author Anders Hviid himself below on p.1765).
Furthermore, the studies are overwhelmingly population based which is widely accepted as incapable of ruling out causation. The authors repeatedly fail to identify or seek out vulnerable populations.
And last but not least, there are the tremendous conflicts of interest presented by the authors, more often than not witnesses for the government in vaccine injury cases, vaccine patent holders, and/or employees of pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines.
But perhaps most significant, the conclusion that we cannot determine whether or not vaccines or Thimerosal cause autism by the current available science is supported by the authors of the science themselves.
Having carefully read all of the studies countless times, I found that the authors were always doing 3 specific things. One, they came to a different conclusion than or an exaggerated conclusion of what the evidence actually showed. Two, they then used one another as evidence to why their interpretation of the evidence was probably right. Three, they were quick to dismiss any negative associations as chance, and embraced any positive associations as significant. There was always an excuse suggested when the result was not in the favor of vaccines being safe. Likewise, no excuse was made when the result indicated something absolutely preposterous, like more mercury injected into a child is beneficial to their health.
I'm not sure how those who claim there is a mountain of evidence against the connection can look themselves in the mirror. The only logical conclusion is that they actually haven't read these studies and thought clearly while doing so. If they had, they would know they can't come to that conclusion, let alone publish it or use it to determine a court ruling. They would know the studies have profound limitations and often irrational conclusions. Rather than parrot the authors, they would challenge them to defend themselves. That isn't happening.
So I'll remind readers again what this controversy is really all about:
Is the quality, quantity, relevance and bias of the science on vaccines and autism adequate as it stands right now to come to the conclusion that there is no connection? That and only that is the real story on which every article, book and editorial should be based.
Some say, "Yes". They insist.
But I and the authors of that science say, "No". See for yourself. (All studies are presented in the order in which they can be found HERE.)
1. Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases; (Verstraeten, 2003); Pediatrics Vol.112
From p. 1039: "No consistent significant associations were found between TCVs and neurodevelopmental outcomes. (Meaning significant negative associations WERE found, specifically for tics and speech delay.) Conflicting results were found at different HMOs for certain outcomes. For resolving the conflicting findings, studies with uniform neurodevelopmental assessments of children with a range of cumulative thimerosal exposures are needed."
2. Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecologcial Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data (Madsen, 2003); Pediatrics Vol. 112
From p. 605, Conclusion. "Our data cannot, of course, exclude the possibility that thimerosal at doses larger than used in Denmark may lead to neurodevelopmental damage."
Nor can it exclude the possibility that it's not necessarily the cumulative dose of thimerosal that is the problem, but rather the timing of it. Perhaps 400 mcg of thimerosal for a 5 year old is inconsequential (doubtful), but 25mcg at birth is not. Or 25mcg at birth for a 5 pound baby is more dangerous than for an 8 pound baby (which study 10 suggests). Or even worse, that baby or baby's mother has been on antibiotics or other medications. It's the cummulative amount, the timing of exposure, other confounding factors, AND the genetic susceptibilities that need to be studied TOGETHER to look for evidence of harm, not as individual entitities.
3. Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California's Developmental Services System (Schecter, 2008); Arch Gen Psychiatry, Vol. 65.
From p.23, "Continuing evaluation of the trends in the prevalence of autism for children born in recent years is warranted to confirm our findings."
And, "...a small proportion of young children during the study period would have had additional thimerosal exposure in utero through maternal immunization during pregnancy with vaccines or Rh (D) immune globulin [which were not evaluated]."
4. Neuropsychological Performance 10 Years After Immunization In Infancy With Thimerosal Containing Vaccine (Tozzi, 2009). Pediatrics Vol. 123.
From p.475: Conclusions. "...the few associations found between thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological development might be attributable to chance. The associations found, although statistically significant, were based on small differences in mean test scores, and their clinical relevance remains to be determined."
Those associations were impaired fine motor skills and memory in girls. Exactly when is this clinical relevance going to be determined? Children with Autism have impaired fine motor skills and memory. And why is it when a statistically significant negative association with thimerosal and development is found it "might be attributable to chance", but when a significant positive association is found (like thimerosal makes you healthier in study 8), that is accepted as is?
5. Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines (Stehr-Green, 2003); American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Vol. 25
From p.106: Discussion. "...we were unable to investigate other aspects of this alleged association (e.g., the specific timing of exposure and/or the onset of autism, the existence/nature of a lag time between exposure and disease onset, or the role of genetic predisposition or other co-factors) or the potential influence of confounding factors."
Which is kind of the point, no?
6. Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders (Heron, 2004); Pediatrics, Vol. 114
Conclusion paragraph, p. 577 "...it was common for the adjusted results to suggest a beneficial effect of thimerosal exposure."
A neurotoxin, injected into children in larger amounts, is beneficial for them in 8 of 9 assessed health outcomes? Really? No red flags here, Pediatrics?
And just out of curiosity, what is that 1 health outcome that it wasn't beneficial for? Ah yes, poor social behavior of 4 year olds.
7. Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years (Thompson, 2007); The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 357.
From Results p. 1281 "...we detected only a few significant associations with exposure to mercury from thimerosal. The detections were small and almost equally divided between positive and negative effects."
Again with the positive effect of injecting more mercury into kids! And don't you just love the language? Well, you know, it was only a few small problems, no big deal. Oh, what were they? Well, those pesky tics and speech delay again, replicating study 1's findings. But hey, get this? The more mercury kids got, the better memory, attention and fine motor skills they had, so I guess it all evens out! Who knew?!
Oh, and did I mention this study didn't look at Autism as a health outcome? And that they only looked at thimerosal exposure only up to 7 months of age, even though the children being studied were 7 to 10 years old?
8. Association Between Thimerosal Containing Vaccine and Autism (Hviid, 2003); JAMA, Vol. 290
From p. 1765: Comment. "Ethyl mercury, however, is thought to have a shorter half-life in the human body than methylmercury, and [but] no controlled studies of low-dose ethylmercury toxicty in humans have been conducted."
Let's repeat that. NO CONTROLLED STUDIES OF LOW-DOSE ETHYLMERCURY TOXICITY IN HUMANS HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED. THEY DON'T EXIST.
Further..."Pichichero and colleagues measured the concentration of mercury in the blood, urine, and stool of infants who received thimerosal-containing vaccines and concluded that vaccination did not raise the blood levels above safe limits [for methyl mercury]...although their study was not designed as a formal pharmacokinetic study of ethyl mercury."
In other words: We have no idea what ethyl mercury poisoning via injection at low doses looks like, if blood levels are an accurate measurement for its toxicity, and this study tells us nothing.
9. Mercury Concentrations and Metabolism in Infants Receiving Vaccines Containing Thimerosal (Pichichero, 2002); The Lancet, Vol. 360.
From the last page of study (no number provided): "...we conclude that the thimerosal in routine vaccines poses very little risk to full-term infants, but that thimerosal-containing vaccines should not be administered at birth to very low birth weight premature infants."
Really? Never heard that advertised before. Care to explain and educate the medical community on that one? I don't think they know that. And define "very little risk" please. That is not the same as no risk. What exactly is the risk?
And then, "...additional studies of the pharmacology of thimerosal in infants are underway."
They are? By whom? This was published in 2004.
And finally, "...concentrations of mercury in stool were high, and combined with the finding that stool mercury concentrations in infants who were not exposed to thimerosal were significantly lower is consistent with the hypothesis that the gastrointestinal tract represents a possible mode of elimination of thimerosal mercury in infants."
Which fits with the hypothesis that our children's gastro tracts are toxic with mercury, which houses 70% of the immune system, which would then possibly not be at its best to handle many more vaccines, particularly live ones.
10. Thimerosal and Autism? (Nelson, 2003); Pediatrics, Vol.111.
From p.674 "...indeed the presence of ataxia or dysarthria in a child whose behavior has autistic features should lead to careful medical evaluation for an alternative or additional diagnosis [of mercury toxicity]."
Ataxia is a neurological symptom consisting of lack of coordination and muscle movement which may manifest in different levels of severity. Dysarthria is a speech disorder resulting from neurological injury characterised by poor articulation, muscle movement, tongue control, and ability to speak properly, if at all. Any speech system can be affected, and swallowing problems can be present.
So just to be clear, these authors tell us that if we have children who have been exposed to mercury and present with specific coordination and/or speech issues we should seek an alternative or additional diagnosis or mercury toxicity. Their words.
And from p.675 "...relatively little is known about the impact of ethyl mercury on the nervous system, especially with repeated low-dose exposure."
Yet, we know it does not manifest as the symptoms found in Autism? Impossible.
11. Lack of Association between Rh Status, Rh Immune Globulin in Pregnancy and Autism (Miles, 2007); American Journal of Medical Genetics, Vol. 143
This phone survey (yes it's a phone survey) introduces something I had never heard before.
There is something called "Complex Autism" and something called "Essential Autism". According to the authors on p.1399..."Individuals who are dysmorphic or have microcephaly are designated as having Complex Autism, based on the premise that morphologic evidence of an insult to embryological development places them in a different etiological category than children with no such evidence. Approximately 20% of children evaluated...have Complex Autism..."
On page 1404 from the Discussion of the survey results the authors then report, "Mothers of children with microcephaly [aka, Complex Autism] and Asperger's Syndrome had the highest Rh- and Thimerosal exposure."
It's worth repeating: Mothers of children with evidence of an embryonic insult to their brains had the highest thimerosal exposure while pregnant.
Their explanation? p.1405 "...we feel comfortable that these two subgroups with the highest proportions of Rh mothers and RhIg treatment merely reflect small sample sizes resulting from subdividing the study population."
Only to be followed one paragraph later by, "This study adds to the evidence that there is no causal association between thimerosal and childhood autism."
HUH? You just found that a group of moms who got the most thimerosal while pregnant were most likely to have babies with evidence of in utero injury to their brains or Asperger's syndrome, and you publish that this is unrelated because you "feel comfortable" it's simply not accurate?
And then in the same breath "feel comfortable" enough to state this study is so accurate it "adds to evidence that there is no causal relationship between thimerosal and childhood autism"?
Had the authors of all of these studies simply reported what they found rather than twist and turn and manipulate the actual results with their interpretations to match their beliefs rather than their evidence, this is what they would have told us.
Study 1: Thimerosal is bad. It appears to cause tics and speech delay. More study is needed.
Study 2: Thimerosal is good. It appears to prevent Autism. Either our study was flawed or we should be giving more thimerosal to children, not less, which is counter-intuitive. A better study is needed.
Study 3: Thimerosal might be fine, but It's too soon to tell if our result is accurate and we left out an important sub group of children with additional exposure. More study is needed.
Study 4: Thimerosal is bad. It appears to cause poor fine motor skills and memory in girls. More study is needed.
Study 5: Thimerosal seems to be fine, but we have no idea if the timing of exposure, genetics or other confounding factors have anything to do with it causing Autism because our study didn't assess that. More study is needed.
Study 6: Thimerosal is good and bad. Like study 2, we found that increased thimerosal exposure was beneficial to children, which is counter-intuitive. Either children should be receiving more thimerosal for their improved health or our study was flawed. This is supported by the fact we found thimerosal exposure to be associated with poor social skills in 4 year olds. More study is needed.
Study 7: Thimerosal is good and bad. It appears to cause tics and speech delay, replicating study 1's findings. However, it also found like studies 2 and 6 that higher thimerosal was beneficial for specific health outcomes. Both can't be right. More study is needed, especially since we didn't assess Autism as a heath outcome.
Study 8: We don't know anything about low-dose ethyl mercury exposure (and thereby Thimerosal) in humans because IT'S NEVER BEEN STUDIED and can not responsibly come to any conclusion about what it does or does not do in regard to Autism. More study is needed.
Study 9: We still don't know anything about low-dose ethyl mercury exposure in babies because it's never been studied, but it sure looks like low birth weight babies really shouldn't be exposed to it, which is what we recommend. More study is needed.
Study 10: If your child has gross motor skill impairments (ataxia) and/or speech problems (dysarthria) and Autism, you should seek an additional or alternative diagnosis of mercury poisoning. Additionally, since low dose ethyl mercury exposure has never been studied in humans, we have no idea if its manifesting as Autism. More study needed.
Study 11: Thimerosal is bad for pregnant women. Mothers who received the most amount of Thimerosal while pregnant were more likely to have babies with evidence of brain injury in utero or Asperger's Syndrome. Given the small sample size, the responsible conclusion is that more study is urgently needed and women should not be exposed to this neurotoxin while pregnant.
Finally, if thimerosal truly had nothing to do with Autism or any other neurodevelopmental disorder, all of these studies would have come to the same conclusion: that it had no effect either positively or negatively on any outcomes, anywhere, at any time. All health outcomes would have been NEUTRAL, not better or worse.
Instead, they tell us it is both good and bad, neurologically protective and degenerative, beneficial and dangerous, and something that we truly know nothing about when it comes to low-dose exposures.
If that's not an indication for further study needed, I don't know what is.
Good science? Conclusive science that confirms it is safe and that we shouldn't bother with any more study, considering to this very day we are still injecting pregnant women and children with thimerosal containing flu vaccines in amounts up to 25mcg per shot?
To borrow from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., "It isn't even high quality fraud."
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.