"Thimerosal/autism link improbable"

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Registered: 03-25-2003
"Thimerosal/autism link improbable"
Sat, 04-12-2003 - 11:28pm
April 7, 2003



"Thimerosal and Autism?" appeared as a commentary article in the

March issue of "Pediatrics." It is written by two

neuropathologists, Karin B. Nelson, MD, of the National

Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Margaret L.

Bauman, MD, of Harvard Medical School.

After reviewing the scientific literature, the authors conclude

a link between thimerosal exposure and the development of autism

is improbable. The article, which clearly demonstrates that the

characteristics of mercury toxicity and autism are so dissimilar

that it would be difficult to confuse them, will be useful to

physicians in allaying parents' concerns about thimerosal

content in vaccines.

Following are the article's two concluding paragraphs:


Mercury poisoning and autism both affect the central nervous

system but the specific sites of involvement in brain and the

brain cell types affected are different in the two disorders as

evidenced clinically and by neuropathology. Mercury also injures

the peripheral nervous system and other organs that are not

affected in autism. Nonspecific symptoms such as anxiety,

depression, and irrational fears may occur both in mercury

poisoning and in children with autism, but overall the clinical

picture of mercurism--from any known form, dose, duration, or

age of exposure--does not mimic that of autism. No case history

has been encountered in which the differential diagnosis of

these 2 disorders was a problem. Most important, no evidence yet

brought forward indicates that children exposed to vaccines

containing mercurials, or mercurials via any other route of

exposure, have more autism than children with less or no such


Continuing vigilance is necessary regarding the safety of

vaccines, as is open-minded evaluation of new evidence. However,

such evidence must be of sufficient scientific rigor to provide

a responsible basis for decisions that influence the safety of

children. When information is incomplete, as it is at present

for thimerosal-autism questions, a balancing must be made of

risks posed by vaccine constituents and the benefits of disease

prevention achieved by keeping immunizations widely available.

On the basis of current evidence, we consider it improbable that

thimerosal and autism are linked.


Most articles in "Pediatrics" are available only to subscribers.

We commend the editor of "Pediatrics" for making this important

article available to the broad health care community on the

Internet. To access a camera-ready (PDF) copy of the complete

article from the "Pediatrics" website, go to:


Physicians will be interested in referring parents to Jane

Brody's synopsis of the "Pediatrics" article, "Vaccines and

Autism, Beyond the Fear Factor." To access it from the "New York

Times" website, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/health

Scroll down the right-hand column, and click on "More Personal

Health Columns."

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Registered: 03-25-2003
Sun, 04-13-2003 - 1:05am
The Jane Brody piece has joined the ranks of pay-to-view. However it has been put on http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/Commentary/News/2003/2003-0325-NYT-autism.htm