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Ethylmercury Shmethylmercury

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I just finished reading David Kirby’s thoughtful, well-written and compelling book, Evidence of Harm.  Anyone who hasn’t gotten their hands on this book should order the updated paperback version as soon as it is published, sometime this month.

Unless you have been on Mars for the past few years, you are aware of a huge controversy surrounding the use of thimerosal in vaccines and the possibility that it has been a cause of autism.  In his book, Kirby provides a detailed and riveting account of the controversy. 

Mercury is a known neurotoxin, often said to be the second most toxic substance on the planet.   

One of the weirdest aspects of this battle has been the fact that the “experts” have put themselves in the ridiculous position of saying pregnant women and children should not eat certain mercury-tainted fish or use mercury thermometers, but it is okay to inject mercury directly into the bodies of babies.   

All this because ethylmercury (the form of mercury found in thimerosal) and methylmercury are different.  

Of course taking this position is absurd.  In the absence of proof that ethylmercury is safe, the assumption should be that it might be unsafe.  One could go so far as to say that in all likelihood, merely because it is mercury, it probably IS unsafe and should be treated as such. 

In fact, “mercury in any form is toxic”.  So why was any mercury in any form ever allowed in vaccines? 

The FDA, as reported in the Federal Register, even declared thimerosal to be unsafe in 1982, calling for its removal in over-the-counter products.  Why didn’t they do the same for vaccines, which unlike the topical products removed are injected directly into the body?   

Meanwhile, more recently (2004), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) attempted to close the book on this issue, in spite of compelling biological evidence that thimerosal is likely involved.  Why would they use epidemiological data which in the case of their autism data did not include any comparisons to children exposed to zero mercury in vaccines?  Why did they do this when it contradicted their own earlier worrisome (and until recently secret) data that did include such comparisons?  And why did they use this suspect epidemiological data to trump solid biological evidence? 

How could they so cavalierly dismiss evidence that not only implicated thimerosal in autism, but explained how thimerosal could damage some children and not others?   

Moreover, if they were so enamored with epidemiological studies, why didn't the “experts” insist that studies comparing the vaccinated to the never vaccinated be conducted? (Instead they lumped those with allegedly zero exposure to thimerosal with those with as much as 37.5 micrograms.)

Even if the evidence against there being a relationship, however, was as strong as the IOM contended, there was still no reason to discourage research into this area, as the IOM so callously did.  After all, little is ever “proved” in science.  Evidence, more or less strong or weak, is usually simply presented which supports or contradicts a hypothesis.  Even under the best of circumstances, one might never be able to say with absolute certainty that the mercury in thimerosal causes autism.  That doesn’t mean, however, that evidence does not exist. 

Or that it doesn’t cause autism. 

But there is evidence.  And plenty of it.  

Aside from Kirby’s outstanding book outlining the evidence both for and against thimerosal being linked to vaccines, among the growing number of studies and reports confirming a possible link are the following: 

Children with autism appear to be unable to rid their bodies of the mercury that they are exposed to.  (Deth et al, Holmes et al

Some populations that have not been exposed to vaccines experience little, if any, autism. (Olmsted 1, 2)  

Thimerosal has been shown to be toxic to brain cells. (Haley

Mice injected with thimerosal develop autism-like symptoms. (Hornig

Some children who have mercury chelated (chemically bound and removed) from their bodies show a reduction in autism symptoms. (Rimland

“Children with autism excrete more mercury than controls.” (Bradstreet via Congressman Dave Weldon

Coincident with the decline in thimerosal use in vaccinations for infants and children, the incidence of autism appears to be declining as well, at least in California.  (safeMinds)   

One of the most frustrating aspects to all this is how often an "instant" study is published purporting to vindicate thimerosal. Any such "study", coming right on the heels of a study demonstrating an adverse thimerosal effect, should be met with skepticism.  In an earlier column I examined one of them and found the arguments to be seriously flawed. 

There is something mercury-contaminated fishy about all this. 

A lot is riding on the so-called experts convincing the public that the mercury in thimerosal is safe.  Little things like “confidence” in the immunization program and liability for damage caused.  

Beyond the clamor, though, about vaccines and autism lies a broader, even more ominous question.  When something this obvious is fought so hard by the “experts”, what does it say about the other vaccine-associated side effects they fight so hard to discredit, like the relationship between vaccines and SIDS, to name just one?*  What does it say about their credibility in these other crucial areas? 

Whether or not other vaccine-associated adverse effects are similarly being ignored and dismissed, with the autism issue at least, there are just too many parents convinced that vaccines played a role.  And they simply cannot be made to go away. 

More and more, the science is suggesting they may be right.  No matter what the “experts” say. 

*If you are interested in learning more about the vast array of possible vaccine side effects and why many of us remain concerned, despite “expert” protestations to the contrary, click here.

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 2-6-2005

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)