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Time to Move on From Blaming Thimerosal

Kevin Drum observes that yet another study has put to rest the theory that Thimerosal, a preservative that used to be put in some childhood vaccines, causes autism:

However, despite the equivocal (at best) scientific evidence linking thimerosal to autism, conspiracy theories abounded and the issue deeply split the autism community. Firm evidence in one direction or the other, though, had to wait until now. Thimerosal was ordered removed from most childhood vaccines in 1999, and by the early 2000s children had stopped receiving virtually all thimerosal-based vaccines. If autism rates then decreased, it would be good evidence that thimerosal really had been to blame.

But that didn't happen. Interim studies have shown no decrease in autism rates, and a study released today puts the nail in the coffin of the thimerosal story. It tracks children born in California and includes enough years of data to show pretty definitively that autism diagnoses continued to rise even after thimerosal was removed

I thought it was time to move on from this theory years ago, but Drum says that it continues to be carried forward by parents desperate to find an explanation for their child's autism.  I guess I am a bit more cynical, for I would argue that this bad science of Thimerosal has been carried forward, just like the bad science of breast implant caused immune deficiencies, by trial lawyers desperate for another easy extortion target.  And, just as medical studies did not stop lawyers from pressing forward implant lawsuits, I am sure the Thimerosal lawsuits are not going to go away either.

Posted on January 8, 2008 at 10:42 AM | Permalink


Although lawsuits may be driving the more dubious research, the clinging to the conspiracy theories can't be explained by lawsuits alone. One can never underestimate the desire of people to find an explanation and scapegoat for everything, rather than except that sometimes $--t happens. Also, the belief in conspiracy theories gives the believers a sense of superiority over the 'sheeple' who just can't see the 'truth.'

Posted by: ElamBend | Jan 8, 2008 2:26:59 PM

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