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SafeMinds Response to Thimerosal and Autism Pediatrics Study

Safeminds The long awaited study that has been in the works for almost a decade regarding investigation between thimerosal and autism was published September 13, 2010 in Pediatrics. This study was funded by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and conducted by several parties with an interest in protecting vaccine use: CDC staff involved in vaccine research and promotion; Abt Associates, a contract research organization whose largest clients include vaccine manufacturers and the CDC's National Immunization Program; America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for the health insurance industry; and three HMOs which receive substantial funding from vaccine manufacturers to conduct vaccine licensing research.

Planning for this study began in 2001. Over the nine year study period, the large external panel of consultants providing input to the investigators was reduced to a small subset by study end. The original large panel recommended against the study design ultimately employed, as insufficient to answer the question of early thimerosal exposure and autism rates. The CDC and AHIP overruled the external consultants. 

The paper reported the curious finding that increased mercury exposure from thimerosal in vaccines is protective against neurodevelopmental injury and actually decreased the risk of having an autism diagnosis. The CDC's finding goes against a growing body of work in animal models of thimerosal exposure; this work provides overwhelming evidence of neurodevelopmental injury in infants from clinically relevant thimerosal exposure. Read more of SafeMinds response HERE.

SafeMinds is in the process of a detailed analysis of the paper and will be publishing an additional response in the near future.



Is this the same Abt Associates?

"Abt Associates has entered a deferred prosecution agreement in which Abt Associates has admitted to criminal wrongoing in connection with over-billing the government on various U.S. Agency for International Development contracts and has agreed to a payment of $2.9 million in fines, restitution, and civil recovery."

They seem to have a problem with arithmetic.

Of course, seems to think Abt Associates is a CIA front organization so maybe it's just all in the family.


Glad to see people here are picking up the first major flaw in this Pediatrics study - [it is just like comparing smokers with lung cancer and smokers without, finding both had the same exposure to the risk and concluding smoking is not associated with causing lung cancer].

There are many flaws. There is also direct evidence of "author bias".

The authors knew in advance that they could not detect any association between thiomersal and autistic conditions. [Because they had selected groups where both groups had the same exposure and all in both groups or practically all had that exposure].

So instead what they claimed they were supposedly looking for was an increased risk from a higher dose of mercury compared to a lower dose of mercury.

An even finer distinction.

Case control studies are pretty much the bluntest epidemiological instrument they could find to detect this even finer association, [and when the original study design was incapable of telling either way whether there was any association in the first place].

And then they used "odds ratios" to report the results instead of "relative risk". "odd ratios" can be most misleading and are not intuitive.

"relative risk" is much more in line with how people intuitively compare risk:-

- it is the ratio of the probabilities of two events;

- if p is the probability of the first event and q is the probability of the second, relative risk is p/q

The entire concept of the study is barking mad. “junk science” is too mild.

If you are interested in seeing the feeble blogosphere defense of the study take a look here:-

More information is found in the the very long report accompanying the Pediatrics study - found here in two parts:-

Part I:

Part II:

michael framson

Which is the result you want? You want a study to show thimerosal safe, we'll do that one. You want a study to show thimerosal harmful, we'll do that one. Which study do you want?

These studies and pharma drug studies are all about "stacking the deck". The deck is being stacked throughout the entire process. You get the results you want.

Ruth Brackett-Cripe

I have spent most of this week with my 28 year old son, as he totally quit eating and drinking after a routine dental procedure. The battle goes on, but he seems to be past the crisis. I showed the findings of this study to my college-level psychology students and asked them to find the flaw. They didn't "get it" until I made the anology of taking 100 kids outside during pollen season. If only 10 sneeze, it couldn't be the pollen, since all were equally exposed? Duh, then they saw the flaw. Furthermore, if one doesn't get sick, they play outside more, and have more exposure... I try to instill critical thinking in this new generation, so they don't blindly follow along what a government health agency tells them to do without considering the full effects. If anyone from the CDC wants to visit my son and spend the time to spoonfeed a 5'6" inch man that weighs 97 pounds, I'd be pleased to show them how "healthy" he is. Maybe they should spend a little more time finding a cause and treatment then covering up the truth.

Jake Crosby

Addendum: When I said "He then defends matching cases to controls" - I specifically meant on the basis of birth year and HMO enrollment as was done in $Price et al.

John Stone

'Tobacco science' is the word. I am sure there used to be studies which showed that smoking didn't cause lung cancer because some smokers didn't get lung cancer.

While Orac is more than occasionaly short of a scientific argument he is never short of personal abuse. Am I embarrassed? No, but he should be.

Jake Crosby

Sanofi...I mean "Orac," responded:
"SafeMinds swings at Price et al and misses"
Oh really?
"The study was Price et al, and it was yet another nail in the coffin of the scientifically discredited notion that mercury in vaccines causes autism, a notion whose coffin already had so many nails in it that Price et al probably had a hard time finding even a tiny area of virgin wood into which to pound even a tiny nail of a study published in an impact factor one journal, much less the spike that their study in Pediatrics represented"
And yet, even the CDC admits no rigorous study refuting the thimerosal-autism connection existed before this tobacco science, not to mention that most published, peer-reviewed studies support a connection between autism and heavy metals including mercury.
"Lame, lame, lame, particularly given that the funding and conduct of this study is pretty much transparent."
Not even, no outside researchers are given access to the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project, and the CDC defied the expert consultant panel that advised them against conducting this study as it was designed.
"First off, it is not equally likely that the results would have shown a harmful result from early thimerosal exposure, as, I hope you will soon see."
We'll see about that!
"Ms. Bernard is, in essence, criticizing a case-control study for not being a different kind of study."
That's absurd, even in a case-control study you should be able to do basic comparisons of exposed and unexposed across the two groups. Not doing so makes the manufacture of tobacco science such as Price et al. possible to begin with. His claim that you can't make a zero exposure of mercury because we all have environmental mercury exposure is all the more reason why studies such as this should strive to at least compare those exposed to those who've received no thimerosal in particular.
He then defends matching cases to controls - the core problem with this tobacco science - yet inadvertently reveals why the authors did this.
"This is such an utterly standard manner of doing case-control studies, particularly those involving children, because they minimize the variation between cases and controls that might be due to being raised in different years...having different exposures related to different years."
Did I just read "exposures?" Hmmm, I wonder what those would be...oh, right! Thimerosal!
"After all, the study variable is thimerosal, not vaccines."
Except that "same vaccines" obviously includes similar thimerosal content.
He also fails to understand Murphy's Law:
"She also constructs a rather bizarre "what if" scenario:"
Though he admits:
"This is one of those claims that sounds superficially plausible--if it weren't for all the other correlations being tested in the various multivariate models, such as...pica."
We're not talking about "all the other correlations being tested" such as pica. Were talking about the issue matching cases to controls by birth year and HMO poses.
"In fact, if you look at the technical report, you'll find that the authors checked the influence of HMO:"
We're not talking about the influence of one HMO either.
"They also controlled for study area:
Controlling the geographic area within the HMO coverage..."
Or geographic area.
"Finally, they did several statistical tests to determine if the results were driven primarily by one subgroup:"
Or just one subgroup.
"The next complaint (sample bias) can be dismissed quickly:"
This shows he has never taken an epidemiology course in his life, and if he has, he forget everything he learned. If enough cuts are made to a random sample - it eventually becomes non-generalizable to the rest of the population, which is what apparently happened to the remaining sample used in this study. Though the authors claim exposure was the same in participants and non-participants, their method of matching by birth year and HMO makes this claim worse than worthless - it's misleading.
In a hilarious bit of irony, he writes:
"In the meantime, I don't know whether to shake my head in embarrassment that Sallie Bernard was ever allowed anywhere near a study like this... or unrestrained hilarity that anyone can be so incompetent at analyzing science. Maybe a little of both."
He should speak for himself.
In a previous post, he wrote:
"Yep, predictably, that poor, clueless, deluded kid Jake Crosby dubbed it tobacco science. Of course, he doesn't bother to explain why he thinks it's "tobacco science." I bet he can't."
He wishes I can't.


Craig, I have to disagree. Orac and his minions specifically stated that the fully vaccinated seem to be protected from autism, at least in relation to the Generation Rescue survey. This finding does keep coming up and its not hard to figure out. Barbara, thank your son for putting it so succinctly: of course fully vaccinated kids have less autism. You are less likely to stop vaccinating if vaccines don't harm your child.


These "scientists" are deliberately dumbing down on this issue. I had my fourteen year old look over what's available on this study on the internet. I then asked him what he thought could explain why the outcome would be more favorable for those with more accumulated mercury. Quickly, without thought, he looked at me as though I "couldn't be serious", and said, it's like me and Nate, you stopped giving him shots when he stopped talking, that didn't happen to me, so you kept giving me shots. So who has more of this stuff in our system, me ,and I'm fine. The conversation went on and really was very interesting, however, the point to make here, is that we "can not believe" for a ny minute, that this was left to any consideration of "more being protective" unless these scientists themselves were autistic and far too literal.


This timeline from Mother Jones magazine only goes through 2004, but it's still useful:

"February, 2000: CDC researcher Thomas Verstraeten's analysis of CDC Vaccine Safety Datalink records finds a relative risk of 2.48 for autism in children who receive thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs).

June, 2000: Verstraeten discloses his analysis to vaccine advisory committee members at a meeting outside Atlanta. The relative-risk figure has dropped from 2.48 to 1.69. Later that month, the advisory committee decides against stating a preference against TCVs. "


It is also worth remembering that this paper was commissioned when Julie Gerberding was the US$11 billion budget CDC Director.

There are no excuses over this. It was Gerberding who confirmed when under pressure over the Hannah Poling case in a US national TV interview one of the mechanism by which vaccines can cause autistic conditions.

Gerberding then quit [pushed out by Obama] and walked straight into the job of Director of Merck’s Vaccine Division last December – from one job of vaccine sales person-in-chief for the drug industry to another.

Here is what she said on the Hannah Poling case:-

“… if you’re predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.“

HOUSE CALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA – Unraveling the Mystery of Autism; Talking With the CDC Director; Stories of Children with Autism; Aging with Autism – Aired March 29, 2008 – 08:30 ET


The major flaw in the Pediatrics paper is the authors compared cases of autistic children to control cases of children who had identical exposure to vaccines.

"On average, case-children and control children had similar cumulative ethyl-mercury exposures at the end of each exposure period (Table 2).”

See end of page 660-661 – “Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of Autism”

Here are some examples of what this means:-

If cases of lung cancer are compared to a control population of only smokers without lung cancer, the authors of this study would conclude smoking does not cause lung cancer.

If cases of heart disease were compared to a control population of only obese people without heart disease the authors of this study would conclude that obesity and heart disease have no association.

If cases of flu are compared to a control population of all people who were exposed to flu virus but did not contract flu the authors of this study would conclude that flu virus does not cause flu.

End result - a junk science study. [And as SafeMinds point out here they were told at the outset this was the wrong way to go about it but they went ahead.]

And this is just what the US CDC did over the same issue with the Italian Vaccine/Mercury study:-

“US Research Fraud, Tax Dollars And Italian Vaccine Mercury Study”

See more analysis here on CHS:-


Delay, confuse, obfuscate, that's the plan.

pass the popcorn

"There were virtually no subjects who were unvaccinated and few who were truly less
vaccinated; rather, the low exposed group was mostly just late relative to the higher exposed group, ie,
those vaccinating on time."

"Low exposed" really means LATER exposed?
That's as bad as vaccines not causing autism, but resulting in autism.
If we took those kinds of liberties with the English language when filling out our income tax forms, we'd be in jail.


Only the CDC--the agency able to track down e-coli contamination in organic spinach from a single leaking source of waste (not a bad job even though the paper trail was unusually helpful), able to identify the cause of a previously unknown demyelinating condition from exposure to vaporous particles of pig brain (rather impressive it seemed to me), able to identify the very green monkey in Africa that infected the human race with whatever virus results in AIDS (uh?? really??), able to publicly declare the mysterious source of the Midwest mumps outbreak as an air passenger from out of country without finding such an individual (a little too omniscient I think), able to determine that flu kills 36,000 a year from only a few thousand confirmed flu-involved deaths (how do they do that kind of math?), able to determine the rate of mortality and morbidity of the latest pandemic virus without even using laboratory confirmation (even in spite laboratory disconfirmation, but few seem to care)--only the CDC can take ten or so years to count rates of the most pressing epidemic facing our children and about that long just to produce “research” that conclusively demonstrates nothing conclusive.

Not sure all the above is not apocryphal, but those working only to control the message have long since been fired in my mind.


I want a refund of my tax dollars. I don't pay them for marketing.

Julie Obradovic


I have to respectfully disagree with you. The study does in fact say, "Increased cumulative exposures in the age ranges from birth to 7 months and birth to 20 months were both associated with decreased risk of all 3 ASD outcomes." And then further states, "We are not aware of a biological mechanism that would lead to this result."

Now, I'll give you that they aren't stating verbatim that thimerosal is beneficial. Their weak attempt at addressing the finding acknowledges that. Certainly they realize the absurdity in this and wouldn't state, "Hey, guess what? More mercury prevents Autism". But that is indeed what they found.

Further, what Orac and others may consider a small anomaly in this case happens over and over and over again in thimerosal studies. In the Denmark studies, the less they used, the rates of Autism skyrocketed. In the UK study, kids who got higher exposures had a higher IQ. In the Italian study, kids who got more had better fine motor skills.

If this were a one time incident, I could maybe, maybe look the other way. But it's not. This is par for the course. And the only conclusion to come from that is that the studies are flawed. There could be selection bias like you suggested, or it could simply be that they are not structuring the study to find the answer we're looking for. Studying everyone who smokes and finding that because a statistically significant amount of smokers didn't develop lung cancer doesn't mean smoking can't cause it. And certainly any study that found the more people smoked the less likely they were to get cancer would be questioned at a minimum...especially if it were done by Phillip Morris.

It's the same here with thimerosal. You can't publish and tout a study that simultaneously finds no link to autism and a protective effect. And that's what they found, anomaly or not.


So then the CDC and AHIP intentionally went ahead with a poorly designed study just to get the results they wanted. Nothing new, sadly. What a bunch of idiots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Stone

The fundamental point, however, is that it is equivalent to saying smoking doesn't cause lung cancer because not all smokers get lung cancer. The study is not designed to determine whether there is an association between thimerosal and autism or not.

How do you spend 9 years doing this and declare the results a triumph? Only, perhaps, if you had set out to waste everyone's time for 9 years. Then it is a huge success.


I have a proposal. Let's make it mandatory for the CDC and pharma employees (starting from the top) to get the 10,000 vaccines (and all with thimerosal)that Paul Profit so happily discusses (and Paul Profit should get them too). And then, if they all are completely protected from neurodevelopment, then I will believe that thimerosal doesn't cause autism...

Craig Willoughby

To be fair, the study does not actually outright say that Thimerosal is beneficial. It just pointed out statistically that there was the appearance of such. I happen to agree with several of the people who reviewed this and will say that this is likely an anomaly, one that is really not that statistically significant. Even Orac and his minions have not stated that it is beneficial, just that it was likely a small anomaly.

Now, I am concerned at the low sample rate for the study. It was my understanding that, since this was a retrospective study, the sample size for the control and test group would be much larger. My first impressions from reading the original release concerning this study strengthens that perception. But, here we see barely 1000 in the 2 groups. This smells eerily of selection bias to me.


Opppps I guess I was wrong!
I did get a surprise!
Not only did the CDC (bottomless pit of evil) say there is no link -- it -- it--- it is acutally good for you!


Let me guess how this study comes out, oh, oh, oh let me guess before I finish reading it ---I have only read the first paragraph - there is no link!

Am I going to be surprised? I don't think so!

Harry H.

Medical device manufacturers have been spending millions of dollars the last few yeares to get mercury out of devices. And here's the CDC telling everyone it's beneficial to inject it into the body.

The CDC, Pharma, and the MD's seem to be the only people who think mercury is safe, and even good for us. Is this a total disconnect or what?


So “...thimerosal now has a protective effect.” Just when you might have thought pharma and their minions couldn’t sink any lower, they’ve achieved a NEW all-time low. This is the kind of junk-science that gets proffered to physicians as “continuing medical education”. Hey, if a little of thimerosal is "protective", let’s keep giving it to the entire population as part of the universal vaccination agenda. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

Bill Gates was right. “If we do a really great job on new vaccines...we could lower [the population] by 10 or 15 percent”. – Bill Gates


Somewhere I read that acetominephen (sic) actually reduces the production of glutothione which suppresses the body's ability to rid itself of the mercury. This is actually where the use of Tylenol, while not causing autism was synergistic and aggravated the conditions for what might have been an otherwise healthy response to the vaccine insult. For others who did not have the Tylenol, injury was still possible due to their own genetic predisposition to lacking the ability to produce the needed quantities of glutathione.


I saw a flu shot sign in a grocery store pharmacy that was asking...

Are you allergic to Thimerosal ?

Isn't that like asking are you allergic to cyanide or carbon monoxide ???

If I ran the number correctly one gallon of flu vaccine will shoot up about 7,600 toddlers for about $230,323.00


Hear Nancy Snyderman sell HPV (Gardasil) for boys as well as girls and vaccines in general:

(Snyderman seems to think that babies get their first vaccine when they're two-months old. Odd.)


ok say we are all wrong and they don't "cause" autism, we are all idiots and just have huge personal problems and can't read or tell the difference between apples and oranges for one second lets suspend reality and say "just because your kid may or may not get autism doesn't make it safe or that your kid won't be harmed in some other way" we are playing Russian roulette with our children's lives here, and I just love the fact even if you do immunize you can still get the childhood illness that you are supposedly "protected" from...

Lisa Ball

The sad thing that there are people out there who will believe in the lies of this study -- Don't you know they are the's immoral & frightening what other men will do to another for $self-gain$

Jen in TX

You are all ignoring the elephant in the room...acetaminophen.

In 1987, the ACIP recommended prophylactic acetaminophen before DPT immunizations:

Interestingly, a recent study places the beginning of the autism epidemic at 1988-1989, one year after that recommendation was made...

All of you here know about the problems with acetaminophen and autism, yes?

Now... once you admit that acetaminophen use with vaccines is a problem, why is it so hard to imagine that acetaminophen overuse + (insert painful and/or infectious, high fever-inducing agent of your choice) might also = autism?

Personally, I'm sick of hearing about vaccines and autism.


Marketing. That's the word of the day at AoA. Started with calling Offit, MD for Marketing Director and now this long awaiting study from HHS/CDC/FDA is definitely nothing more than a sales and marketing tactic in response to shifting consumer attitudes about vaccines.

It's called objection handling 101 and they teach it at sales schools like Dale Carnegie.

This particular technique is called "the REVERSE."

It goes like this:

The parent (i.e. target sales population) says, "I'm concerned that mercury in the vaccines causes brain injury."

The marketeer (aka MD, nurse, DR, Public health official) replies with the standard "reverse" objection handling, "Actually, the mercury in vaccines protects brain development..."

It is so appalling that people think those who work for the CDC and FDA really care about them. They only care as long as they are making sales for their pharma partners and uptake of vaccines is high.

Wake up now people.


Sarah, exactly.
And I'm just a dumb mom, but wouldn't it be more useful to use unvaccinated children as the control group? What is the study telling us, that some vaccinated kids develop autism, and some don't? knew that already.
Gee, maybe if I take my son to Walgreens for some flu shots, he'll be cured!


These people are insane. Have they had too much mercury? Who on earth believes that injecting a neurotoxin is "protective" of brain damage? If it wasn't so serious, I'd be laughing. They continue to make themselves a joke, that no one with half a brain would ever trust or believe. It's these kind of studies that are truly helpful to "our side"


If there was a study exonerating cigarettes leading to lung cancer funded by the Phillip Morris company would you take it on face value?


"The paper reported the curious finding that increased mercury exposure from thimerosal in vaccines is protective against neurodevelopmental injury and actually decreased the risk of having an autism diagnosis."

This is the ridiculous argument orac used to debunk generation rescue's phone survey.

If your child is not susceptible to immediate vaccine injury - you are much more likely to continue with the schedule and finish the vaccines. Any idiot would know this doesn't mean the vaccines are 'protective' against autism.

What this finding means is that if your child is susceptible to vaccine injury - they are likely to sustain injury before the full glut of vaccines is administered, which causes many parents to stop vaccinating. Thus you have more 'incompletely vaccinated' children with autism than fully vaccinated children with autism.

This finding actually strengthens the idea that there is a subset of susceptible children. How some idiots could conclude that if these susceptible children had just received MORE vaccines - they would have been better protected from autism is absurd. Our best minds are supposedly on the job here. what a colossal waste of money.

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