Autism, mercury, and vaccines

I don't spend much time in the blogosphere's autism community (didn't really know there was one 'til now) but may be I should. I found this post, Salon.com flushes its credibility down the toilet, from June about a mercury-in-vaccines-causes-autism article written be Robert Kennedy Jr. Someone emailed said article to me back when it first hit the news. I didn't do much more than skim it then because it wasn't really saying anything that I hadn't heard (and rejected) before.

Orac of Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. "Orac Knows") does a fine job of addressing many of the problems I have with the mercury/vaccines-cause-autism crowd. There are also some follow up posts linked to at the beginning of the above post. Here's an excerpt:
Confusing correlation and causation. The article repeats the usual canard about how autism was unknown before the 1940's, which, coincidentally was when thimerosal-containing vaccines were first used. The article even goes so far as to claim:
The disease was unknown until 1943, when it was identified and diagnosed among 11 children born in the months after thimerosal was first added to baby vaccines in 1931.
No, the reason the disease was "unknown" until 1943 was because it was not described as a specific condition by Dr. Leo Kanner until 1943, after which Dr. Hans Asperger described a similar condition that now bears his name in 1944. Before that, although Dr. Eugen Bleuler had coined the term "autism" in 1911, no specific diagnostic criteria existed for the disease. Even for decades after 1943 autism was not infrequently confused with mental retardation or schizophrenia, and over the last two decades the diagnostic criteria for autism and autism spectum disorders have been widened. In any case, if thimerosal in vaccines were the cause of autism, we would expect autism rates in Denmark and Canada to have plummeted recently, because Denmark eliminated thimerosal from its vaccines by 1995 and Canada removed them around the same time. No such decrease in autism rates has occurred in either country, even though there has been more than enough time for such a decrease to make itself apparent if there were truly a link between mercury exposure and autism. I would ask the mercury-autism activists: If this particular correlation does mean causation, if mercury in thimerosal is indeed a major cause or contributor to autism, why is it, then, that autism rates have not started to fall dramatically in Denmark and Canada by now? That there has been no such decrease is very strong epidemiological evidence that there is no link.

RFK then goes on to list a bunch of studies supposedly showing how toxic thimerosal is, berry-picked and without descriptions of the actual doses of thimerosal used. However, the most idiotic statement is here:
In 1930, the company [Eli Lilly] tested thimerosal by administering it to 22 patients with terminal meningitis, all of whom died within weeks of being injected -- a fact Lilly didn't bother to report in its study declaring thimerosal safe.
The patients had "terminal meningitis" in 1930 and died after injection with thimerosal? Imagine that. Given that penicillin had not been discovered yet, I would have been surprised if any of them lived.

I found this link through I Speak of Dreams which I found through Joanne Jacobs.

Comments

Popular Posts

The Racist Nature of Cotton Balls

Theology quiz

Raï: Algerian blues and protest music