While the mercury-fish tale got the media play the mercury-autism hook swam
away! A new study shows that autism is probably linked after all to the use
of mercury in childhood vaccines.
We've written about this relationship before and take some solace that this
new study should clarify this haunting malady than afflicts our children.
An article in the March 10, 2006 issue of the Journal of American
Physicians and Surgeons (JPandS.org) shows that since mercury was removed
from childhood vaccines, the alarming increase in reported rates of autism
and other neurological disorders (NDs) in children not only stopped, but
actually dropped sharply - by as much as 35 percent.
Using the government's own databases, independent researchers analyzed
reports of childhood NDs, including autism, before and after removal of
Authors David A. Geier, B.A. and Mark R. Geier, M.D., Ph.D. analyze data
from the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the
California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) in "Early Downward
Trends in Neurodevelopmental Disorders Following Removal of
Between 1989 and 2003, there was an explosion of autism. The incidence of
autism (and other related disorders) went from about one in 2,500 children
to one in every 166. Currently there are more than a half million children
in the United States that have autism.
The numbers from California show that reported autism rates hit a high in
May 2003. If that trend had continued, the reports would have skyrocketed
by the beginning of 2006. But in fact, the Geiers report that the number
actually went down - with a real decrease of 22 percent.
This analysis directly contradicts 2004 recommendations of the Institute of
Medicine (IOM) which examined vaccine safety data from the National
Immunization Program (NIP) of the CDC.
The IOM, not willing to either rule out or corroborate a relationship
between mercury and autism, soft-pedaled its findings and decided no more
studies were needed.
Geier and Geier write: "The IOM stated that the evidence favored rejection
of a causal relationship between thimerosal (mercury-based) and autism,
that such a relationship was not biologically plausible, and that no
further studies should be conducted to evaluate it."
As more and more vaccines were added to the mandatory schedule of vaccines
for children since 1989, the dose of the mercury-based preservative
thimerosal rose, so that the cumulative dose injected into babies exceeded
the toxic threshold set by many government agencies. Mercury is known to
damage nerve cells in very low concentrations.
The concern about vaccines may actually be understated as it is
acknowledged that the voluntary reporting of such disorders has resulted in
vast under reporting of new cases.
The Iowa state legislature banned thimerosal from all vaccines administered
there after it documented a 700-fold increase in that state alone.
California followed suit, and 32 states are considering doing so. Up until
about 1989 pre-school children got only three vaccines (Polio, DPT, MMR).
By 1999 the CDC recommended a total of 22 vaccines be given before children
reach the first grade, including Hepatitis B, which is given to newborns
within the first 24 hours of birth.
Many of these vaccines contained mercury. In the 1990s approximately 40
million children were injected with mercury-containing vaccines. The
cumulative amount of mercury being given to children in this number of
vaccines would be an amount 187 times the EPA daily exposure limit.
In 1999, on the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP)and U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), thimerosal was removed from
most childhood vaccines as a "precautionary" measure - i.e., without
admitting to any causal link between thimerosal and autism.
Despite its removal from many childhood vaccines, thimerosal is still
routinely added to some formulations of flu (influenza) vaccine
administered to U.S. infants, as well as to several other vaccines (e.g.,
tetanus-diphtheria and monovalent tetanus) administered to older children
Comments Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of The American Association
of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), "Concerns about mercury and sushi have
gotten a lot more play in the press than mercury and autism. I think adults
can eat fish without worry, unless maybe it's pilot whale from waters
heavily contaminated by effluent from chemical plants."
Dr. Orient further notes, "Though epidemiological findings are always
problematic to interpret, we have the equivalent of a
'challenge/dechallenge' experiment. Autism rates, as measured by two
independent government databases, went up as mercury dose increased, and
are going down as mercury dose decreases."
Unfortunately, we may be imprudently undertaking a "rechallenge" phase by
mandating thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine for children. As a
consequence, assessing the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines remains
a matter of significant importance.
A reader wrote to tell us that Adventis, the French manufacturer who
produces vaccines containing thimerosal for use in the United States, does
not put mercury into the vaccines for French usage. It seems that French
law forbids its use.
Until there is solid scientific evidence to the contrary, parents would be
wise to avoid all mercury containing vaccines. When we make decisions
regarding the future health of our children and grandchildren - and the
well being of our families - why take any risk?
The Geier article posted at www.JPandS.org includes links to the VAERS and
Editor's Note:: Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., scribed this week's commentary
and thanks Kathryn Serkes of Washington, D.C. for contributing her background research.