Do Vaccines Cause Autism? Mercury Debate Intensifies

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Thimerosal, which contains mercury, is added to multi-dose vaccines to prevent microorganism growth. Image by zeathiel

Does vaccination cause autism? This issue has been a hotly-debated topic among parents and health care providers for years, and recent information about a major autism study has put the issue back in the news. The vaccine controversy is due to an ingredient in some vaccines called thimerosal, also known as thimersal, (mercury) and its alleged link to autism.

There have been numerous studies on this subject, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states emphatically that there is no link between vaccination and autism; based in part on one well-known study, known as “The Danish Study.”

This prominent study, funded by the CDC, concluded that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism. Unfortunately, however, one of the authors of the study, Dr. Poul Thorsen, was indicted this year in Atlanta for embezzlement in relation to the the $11 million CDC autism grant for that study, and reports have now come out exposing what may be be omissions and errors in the study’s conclusions.

What is Thimerosal?

Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound that has been used since the 1930s as a preservative in vaccines, to protect against the growth of microorganisms in multi-dose vaccine supplies. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA),

“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 (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.”

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