thimerosal controversy

thimerosal controversy2016-12-11T14:09:43+00:00

thimerosal controversy


Definition A series of claims by non-scientists that vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal (thiomersal INN)* contribute to or cause autism and other brain development disorders.

Basis The controversy is linked to certain events, including

• Methylmercury poisonings in the 1950s and 1960s (Minamata Bay, Japan due to industrial waste) and the 1970s (Iraq, fungicide contamination of wheat seed intended for planting, not direct consumption),

• The 1999 recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC to remove thimerosal from vaccines as quickly as possible as a purely precautionary measure,

• Increase in diagnosis of autism (which has been attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria, referral patterns, availability of services, age at diagnosis, and public awareness, and not an actual increase in autism), and

• A speculative article, Autism: a Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning, written in a non-peer-reviewed journal (Med Hypotheses 2001; 56 (4): 462–71).

Bodies that reject a link between autism and thimerosal

• American Medical Association

• American Academy of Pediatrics

• American College of Medical Toxicology

• Canadian Paediatric Society

• CDC–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• EMA–European Medicines Agency

• FDA–Food and Drug Administration

• NAS–National Academy of Sciences (USA)

• WHO–World Health Organization

*An organomercury compound used as a preservative in vaccines, including the flu vaccine since the 1930s to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination. 

Synonym Vaccine-autism connection 

N Engl J Med 2003; 349:1731-7oa

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