Thimerosal goes on trial

Slate has coverage of the impending trial against vaccine makers over the inclusion of thimerosal – a mercury containing preservative agent – in childhood vaccines.

Luckily, the writers at Slate have done their homework. They present a laundry-list of denialist tactics from the anti-vax crackpots.

We’ve got the quote-mining

In April, the government-funded Institute of Medicine held a two-day workshop to discuss ways to research possible toxic causes of autism. Leading voices among the parents who believe in the thimerosal-autism link shared their views with Science publisher Alan Leshner, who ran the meeting, as well as senior government scientists. Two of the groups, Safe Minds and the National Autism Association, later issued a news release that appeared to distort the remarks of a CDC scientist to make it appear that he shared their views.

And as if I didn’t need another reason to dislike Joe Lieberman, he’s apparently joined in with Rep Dan Burton, a notorious Congresscrank.

The meeting probably wouldn’t have taken place without the support of several members of Congress, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. Other activists have taken to harassing scientists whose results they don’t like.

We’ve got the fake experts:

Then there is the activists’ reliance on Dr. Mark Geier, a fixture as an expert witness in vaccine court, where he has testified about 100 times. Geier and his son, David, who holds an undergraduate biology degree, operate under various business names from a house in suburban Maryland. The special masters who run the vaccine court have tossed out their testimony on 10 occasions, and federal district courts have been similarly skeptical. One judge recently described Geier as “intellectually dishonest,” and a special master called him “a professional witness in areas for which he has no training, expertise, and experience.”

Geier and his son have published several journal articles claiming to show a link between autism and vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. But the papers have been contradicted by study after study, and the mainstream medical community has proclaimed their work on the subject to be bunk.

What’s amazing is that for all of the fear about “toxins” and mercury-poisoning, parents of autistic kids are perfectly willing to give their pre-pubescent children hormone treatments! Geier is a real dangerous quack.

Despite all the bad publicity, Geier has recently moved into a new arena–by becoming a doctor for autistic children. Geier claims to have treated 120 children in the past 2½ years with a powerful set of drugs he calls the “Lupron protocol.” Lupron, the trade name for lupreolide acetate, is a synthetic hormone most often used to treat prostate cancer or to carry out the chemical castration of sex offenders. It’s prescribed for children only to treat precocious puberty, a rare condition in boys.

His theory, stated in patent applications and a 2005 issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses, is that chelation fails to remove mercury from some children’s brains because the mercury binds to testosterone. Get rid of the testosterone with Lupron, the Geiers argue, and the mercury will come out with chelation.

The Geiers’ protocol, which they prescribe to some patients with whom they are in contact only by telephone, sometimes also includes Androcur, an even more potent prostate-cancer drug with side effects that include liver damage, depression, and blood-clotting disorders. Androcur is not FDA-approved and must be ordered from abroad.

This guy needs to be put in jail, if not for his stupidity but for practicing quack medicine (Nuerodiversity goes into detail) that could really harm these kids.

And finally conspiracy theories:

Heartbreaking as it is to see parents signing their children up for this treatment, it reflects the foxhole bonds among those convinced that the government and drug companies poisoned their babies with vaccines.

At the end of this litigation rainbow is a 2.5 billion dollar honey pot that these denialists are clearly trying to get their hands on. I, however, am pretty optimistic. It’s unlikely the Geiers will come off as credible witnesses. Any competent lawyer should be able to get a good Behe moment out of them, and prove this stuff has no scientific basis.


30 responses to “Thimerosal goes on trial”

  1. qetzal

    At the end of this litigation rainbow is a 2.5 billion dollar honey pot that these denialists are clearly trying to get their hands on. I, however, am pretty optimistic. It’s unlikely the Geiers will come off as credible witnesses. Any competent lawyer should be able to get a good Behe moment out of them, and prove this stuff has no scientific basis.

    Yes, but it’s sad to see so much effort wasted on these scam artists. I feel for the parents, as I’m sure almost all of them are honestly convinced that vaccines hurt their kids. I’m just disgusted by people like the Geiers who take advantage of these poor people.

  2. One thing I hoped would get memed alongside ‘breathtaking inanity’ for ID was one description of the Geiers for their thimerosal-autism: ‘Results-oriented testimony’ or something like that. It’s been a while since I read it.

  3. A scientist

    Please provide citations that demonstrate the safety of a bolus of 200+/- mcg of Hg, unknown amounts of Al and peanut oil, as well as a mixture of live and dead virus and bacteria administered to a 9lb neonate.

    I mean, you do have *science* to back up your assertions, correct?

  4. I’m curious to know why they ( the parents) believe what they believe, there seeme to be
    a huge gulf between anecdotal evidence and proof.

  5. Oh good, it’s a “thimerosal is mercury” crank.

    Excuse me while I go enjoy a nice, cool glass of hydrogen and oxygen. I sure hope it doesn’t catch fire!

  6. Even putting aside that bit of semantics legerdemain, there are a few things to keep in mind.

    1. Safety is a negative claim, and is impossible to prove in an absolute manner commonly demanded by the extra-cranky. Granted that doesn’t excuse people from performing some safety tests, but if you claim that a danger exists, someone has to prove the existence of that danger. So far, I have yet to see anyone supporting the imaginary link do any real footwork.

    2. Last time I checked, all the years of safe usage with zero evidence of thimerosal causing autism counts strongly in the favor of safety.

    3. I’ll leave it up to the medical specialists to cite the appropriate safety studies.

    4. Why throw in the stuff about aluminum and peanut oil? Diluting the message and changing our story, are we? As for aluminum, last I checked, it’s largely unreactive in the human body. We know this because of the chemical properties of aluminum, plus the years of safe usage in just about everything.

  7. I can’t even tell if he/she is asking about efficacy of vaccines period (in which case = super-crank) or about the efficacy of adjuvants (in which case = crank) or safety of adjuvants (could be crank might be curious).

    The increase in efficacy of vaccines + adjuvant is clear, they’re not including these agents for the hell of it.

    But it should be clear for people new to this topic that thimerosal!= Hg. It contains mercury as an element, but isn’t actually just mercury as our troll suggests. Besides, mercury comes in a variety of flavors, some toxic, others largely harmless depending on whether or not it’s organic, inorganic or elemental. The advantage of thimerosal as a preservative was that you could store multiple doses of vaccine in a single vial, rather than having to have individual doses which were more costly. NIH NIAID has a informative page on thimerosal.

    Further, as the article describes, the safety of thimerosal as a preservative has been redeemed by the epidemiological evidence since it’s removal from vaccines in 2002.

  8. Another scientist

    “I’m curious to know why they(the parents) believe what they believe, there seeme to be a huge gulf between anecdotal evidence and proof”. One side (the perpetrators) have epidemiological (stats) studies done by themselves to back them up. The other side, the parents, in addition to behavioral and physical symptoms, have many clinical/toxicological studies for support. You can go to pubmed and type in thimerosal/autism/neuroinflammatory (which mercury causes) disease and review hundreds of published/peer-reviewed papers on the subject. Recently, there was a published paper which identified mercury poisoning in a 2 year old girl. The concentration of mercury in her urine was 33.2 ug Hg/ gr creatinine. Hundreds of kids falsely labeled autistic have documented higher levels. There is now a test called urinary porphyrin profile analysis. Porphyrins are precursors to heme. Mercury and other toxins inhibit this process. Some of these porphyrins are inhibited only by mercury. When mercury is present they build up in the urine. This test is backed by decades of published research. It is now available in multiple labs.

  9. Oh, heck. Let’s just pile on.
    It’s correct, as BD and Mark have noted, that A.S. is throwing up a smokescreen. But even more irksome (to me, at least) than the conflation of mercury with its compounds and the goalpost-moving with peanut oil, etc., is the smirking pose of the seeker after truth:

    I mean, you do have *science* to back up your assertions, correct?

    If by *science* A.S. means science, then the answer is, simply, yes. Vaccine safety is a red-hot issue at FDA and its counterparts. Concerns about exposure to mercury (in all its forms) were taken very seriously, and investigated very thoroughly. I’d urge A.S. to think very carefully about rejecting the results of that process out of hand. If everything is dangerous, ultimately nothing is dangerous.

  10. If people want some real info on the actual data behind this claim, don’t listen to those that are cherry-picking what they want from the literature like single case studies of individuals who happened to have a high level of mercury.

    Try reading a systematic review instead. It’s like the opposite of cherry-picking.

    Also there aren’t “hundreds” of such articles. If you try all three terms you get 0 results. “thimerosal neuroinflammatory” produces 0 results. “thimerosal autism” gives you about 70 results, many – including the more recent and thorough analyses – show no link unless you include the junk from the Geiers, which has been debunked by real scientists who’s IRBs don’t include the next-door neighbor, your wife and the cat.

    There is simply no credible research to support these claims, and systematic studies and the fact that there has been no thimerosal in vaccines for about 5 years now with no change in autism rates disproves the connection.

  11. Another Scientist

    Here’s a little science for you to read MH. Nothing by the Geiers is included. BTW, did you ever hear of the flu shot. It still contains 50,000 ppb mercury.

    Iatrogenic exposure to mercury after hepatitis B vaccination in preterm infants.
    Stajich GV, Lopez GP, Harry SW, Sexson, SW. J Pediatr. 2000 May; 136(5):679-81.

    Stajich measured blood mercury levels in low birth weight and term newborns administered the Hepatitis B vaccine containing 12.5 g ethyl mercury. The investigation documented elevated post-immunization concentrations relative to pre-immunization levels in all neonates studied. Levels of blood mercury after exposure in low birth weight infants were 7.36 (? 4.99) g/L. Note: One infant was found to have developed a mercury level of 23.6 g/L, thus meeting the CDC criteria as a case of chemical poisoning from mercury defined as a blood level of 10g/L or greater.

    Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thimerosal: a descriptive study.
    Pichichero ME, Cernichiari E, Lopreiato J and Treanor J. Lancet. 2002; 360:1737-41.

    Pichichero reported a mercury blood level in a 2-month-old infant of 20.55 nmol/L five days after the infant received a 37.5 g dose of ethylmercury (the amount contained in one DTaP and one Hepatitis B vaccine). Many infants, however, beginning in the early 1990?s and for the next decade, received a 62.5 g dose of ethylmercury (adding in the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine) at the 2-month well baby visit. A vaccine expert from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety estimated that these infants may have experienced peak blood mercury levels of 48.3 nmol/L; well above the presumed EPA safety threshold of 29.0 nmol/L. As a reference point, the CDC recently defined a toxic exposure to mercury in an adult as a blood mercury level of >10g /L (50 nmol/L) — approximately the same blood level that some infants experienced at two months of age.

    Hair mercury in breast-fed infants exposed to thimerosal-preserved vaccines. Marques RC, Dorea JG, Fonseca MF, Bastos WR, Malm O. Eur J Pediatr. 2007 Jan 20; [Epub ahead of print]

    Marques investigated the impact of thimerosal on the total mercury content of hair in breast fed infants receiving thimersal containing vaccines and found exposure to vaccine-EtHg represents 80% of that expected from total breast milk-Hg in the first month but only 40% of the expected exposure integrated in the 6 months of breastfeeding. However, the Hg exposure corrected for body weight at the day of immunization was much higher from thimerosal- EtHg (5.7 to 11.3 mugHg/kg b.w.) than from breastfeeding (0.266 mugHg/kg b.w.). While mothers showed a relative decrease (-57%) in total hair-mercury during the 6 months lactation there was substantial increase in the infant’s hair-mercury (446%).

    Primate Infant Research

    Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal.
    Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Grant KS, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005 Aug;113(8):1015-21.

    Burbacher compared brain mercury levels in infant Macaca fascicularis primates exposed to injected ethylmercury (thimerosal) and equal amounts of ingested methylmercury. The ethylmercury more rapidly converted to inorganic mercury in the brains of the primates which resulted in increasing levels of inorganic mercury and the primates exposed to ethylmercury retained at least twice as much inorganic mercury in their brains compared to the primates exposed to methylmercury. The relative concentrations in monkeys with detectable levels of inorganic mercury were 16 ng/g in thimerosal-treated monkeys and 7 ng/g in the methylmercury-treated monkeys in which inorganic mercury levels were detectable. Inorganic mercury was below detectable levels in 8 out of 17 of the methylmercury-treated monkeys. Exposures to mercury during these critical periods of development disrupt the growth and migration of neurons, with the potential to cause irreversible damage to the central nervous system. Prior primate studies found inorganic mercury in the brain was associated with microgliosis and neuroinflammation, recent finding also documented in autistic brain

    Animal Research

    Comparison of organic and inorganic mercury distribution in suckling rat.
    Orct T, Blanusa M, Lazarus M, Varnai VM, Kostial K. J. Appl. Toxicol. 2006; 26: 536-539.

    Orct compared body distribution of organic mercury (thimerosal) and inorganic mercury in suckling rats imitating the vaccination schedule of infants. The levels of mercury were higher in the liver and kidney of the inorganic group and the thimerosal group demonstrated higher levels in the blood and brain tissue. Brain retention of mercury in the thimerosal group was 1.5 times higher than the inorganic mercury group, which confirms the fact that thimerosal more easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and may result in significant accumulation with repeated exposure.

    Immunosuppressive and autoimmune effects of thimerosal in mice. Havarinasab S, Haggqvist B, Bjorn E, Pollard KM Hultman P. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Apr 15;204(2):109-21
    Havarinasab studied the effect of thimerosal by treating A.SW (H-2S) mice, susceptible to induction of autoimmunity by heavy metals, with thimerosal in drinking water developed antinuclear antibodies (ANoA) whereas mice sharing background genes with the A.SW and B10.S strain, but with a different H-2 haplotype, did not develop ANoA, linking the susceptibility to H-2. They concluded that thimerosal has initial immunosuppressive effects similar to those of MeHg. However, in contrast to MeHg, thimerosal treatment leads in genetically susceptible mice to a second phase with strong immunostimulation and autoimmunity, which is T-cell dependent, H-2 linked and may at least partly be due to the inorganic mercury derived from the metabolism of ethyl mercury.

    Neurotoxic effects of postnatal thimerosal are mouse strain dependent. Hornig M, Chian D, Lipkin WI. Molecular Psychiatry. 2004 Sep;9(9):833-45.

    Hornig exposed autoimmune-prone infant mice with thimerosal-containing vaccines at the dose given to human infants adjusted for mouse weight. This investigation reported a number of observable effects including growth delay; reduced locomotion; exaggerated response to novelty; and densely packed, hyperchromic hippocampal neurons with altered glutamate receptors and transporters. Strains resistant to autoimmunity were not susceptible. These findings implicate genetic influences and provide a model for investigating thimerosal-related neurotoxicity.

    Effect of thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines, on intracellular Ca2+ concentration of rat cerebellar neurons.
    Ueha-Ishibashi T, Oyama Y, Nakao H, Umebayashi C, Nishizaki Y, Tatsuishi T, Iwase K, Murao K, Seo H. Toxicology 2004 Jan 15;195(1):77-84.

    Ueha-Ishibashi investigated the effect of thimerosal on cerebellar neurons dissociated from 2-week-old rats was compared with those of methylmercury. Both agents at 1 microM or more similarly decreased the cellular content of glutathione in a concentration-dependent manner, suggesting an increase in oxidative stress and increased intercellular concentrations of Ca2+. Thimerosal was also found to exert cytotoxic actions on cerebellar granule neurons and its potency was similar to that of methylmercury. The FDA and EPA use methymercury as their toxicity standard, so demonstration of equivalence shows the potential of thimerosal to cause the same harm as methylmercury, for which more research exists.

    Cellular Research

    Thimerosal induces TH2 responses via influencing cytokine secretion by human dendritic cells.
    Agrawal A, Kaushal P, Agrawal S, Gollapudi S, Gupta S. J Leukoc Biol. 2007 Feb;81(2):474-82.

    Agrawal documented that thimerosal exercised TH2-promoting effects through modulation of functions of human dendritic cells (DC) by inhibition of LPS induced proinflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-12p70 resulting in an increase TH2 (IL-5, IL-13 and decreased TH1 (IFN-gamma). Thimerosal exposure of DC led to depletion of intracellular glutathione (GSH) and the addition of exogenous GSH to DC abolished the TH2 promoting effect of thimerosal. (Note James has documented that children with autism have low levels of plasma glutathione)
    Thimerosal induces apoptosis in a nueroblastoma model via the cJun N-terminal kinase pathway.
    Herdman ML, Marcelo A, Huang Y, Niles RM, Dhar S, Kiningham KK. Toxicol Sci. 2006 Jul;92(1):246-53.
    Herdman notes that cJun N-terminase kinase (JNK)-signaling pathway activation has been implicated in neuronal apoptosis. Herdman investigated the role that the JNK pathway plays in neurotoxicity caused by thimerosal. SK-N-SH cells treated with thimerosal (0-10 microM) showed an increase in the phosphorylated (active) form of JNK and cJun with 5 and 10 microM thimerosal treatment at 2 and 4 h.. To assess which components are essential to apoptosis, cells were treated with a cell-permeable JNK inhibitor and the downstream effectors of apoptosis were analyzed. Results indicate that thimerosal-induced neurotoxicity occurs through the JNK-signaling pathway, independent of cJun activation, leading to apoptotic cell death.

    Uncoupling of ATP-mediated calcium signaling and dysregulation interleukin-6 secretion in dendritic cells by nanamolar thimerosal.
    Goth SR, Chu RA, Gregg JP, Cherednichenko G, Pessah IN. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jul;114(7):1083-91.

    Goth investigated adenosine triphosphate (ATP) mediated Ca2+ responses in dendritic cells (responsible for initiating primary immune responses) exposed briefly to nanamolar concentrations (100nM, 5 min) of thimerosal and found that dendritic cells were exquisitely sensitive to thimerosal resulting in uncoupling of the positive and negative regulation of Ca2 + signals.

    Thimerosal induces neuronal cell death by causing cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor release from mitochondria.
    Yel L, Brown LE, Su K, Gollapudi S, Gupta S. Int J Mol Med. 2005 Dec;16(6):971-7.

    Yel demonstrated that thimerosal, at nanamolar concentrations, induced neuronal cell death through the mitochondrial pathway. The thimerosal induced apoptosis was associated with depolarization of mitochondrial membranes, generation of reactive oxygen species and release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor, suggesting that thimerosal cause apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells by altering the mitochondrial microenvironment.

    In vitro uptake of glutamate in GLAST and GLT-1 transfected mutant CHO-K1 cells is inhibited by the ethylmercury-containing preservative thimerosal.
    Mutkus L, Aschner JL, Syversen T, Shanker G, Sonnewald U, Aschner M. Bio Trace Elem Res. 2005 Summer;105(1-3):71-86

    Mutkus determined that thimerosal caused significant and selective changes in both glutamate transporter mRNA and protein expression in the CHO-K1 cell line. This study suggests that thimerosal accumulation in the central nervous system might contribute to dysregulation of glutamate homeostasis. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter and is necessary for proper brain functioning. Note: Yip (2007) documented decreased levels of glutamate in autistic cerebral brain tissue and Hornig ( 2004) noted altered glutamate receptors in thimerosal exposed mice.

    Thimerosal induces DNA breaks, caspase-3 activation, membrane damage, and cell death in cultured human neurons and fibroblasts.
    Baskin DS, Ngo H, Didenko VV. Toxicological Sciences. 2003 Aug;74(2):361-8.

    Baskin documented that thimerosal disrupts cell membranes, damages DNA and alters cell shape at concentrations only 4 times those expected from vaccines. Greater effects were seen as the length of time of exposure grew, suggesting that under real conditions the concentration needed for the observed alterations would be much lower. It has been documented in subsequent research that exposure of cells to nanomolar levels of thimerosal after 24 hours results in cell alterations.

  12. Again the question is so what? The links you have are all just cherry-picks of the literature, dumped from an anti-vax site.

    Thimerosal has been removed from the vaccines that were allegedly causing autism. There have been no decreases in rates or prevalence of autism, if anything, they’re higher than ever. There is, if anything, an anti-correlation between the presence of thimerosal and autism rates.

    Find something else to blame. This is not it, you’re wasting your time.

  13. Another Scientist

    I’m not blaming thimerosal for causing autism. I’m blaming mercury for causing the things mentioned in the papers listed above. Autism has no known cause and never will. It’s just a smokescreen for mercury poisoning.

  14. I see that my use of “A.S.” was ambiguous, since we have two commenters with those initials. But they both seem to be blowing smoke, so it may not make any difference.
    Just as a quality check, I went to PubMed and read the abstract for Burbacher et al,. cited above. Its conclusions seem to vary from Another Scientist’s paraphrasal, notably

    The results indicate that MeHg is not a suitable reference for risk assessment from exposure to thimerosal-derived Hg. Knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental toxicity of thimerosal is needed to afford a meaningful assessment of the developmental effects of thimerosal-containing vaccines.

    I’d be willing to bet that Another Scientist has massaged the other papers similarly. Not that it’s surprising; selective citing, quote-mining and tendentious paraphrasing are just too easy, and the resulting conclusions too appealing, for the temptation to be resisted.
    Let’s face the depressing truth: survey articles such as the one in Pediatrics will sway the scientific community, but they will have as much effect on hard-core mercury zealots as a BB on a tank.

  15. Yes, AS is not an honest broker here. Many of the papers, like the one from Europe was on vaccines that contain thimerosal in Europe from 2004 (and was just a study of mercury excretion – no link to ASD), but we’ve had non-thimerosal versions of those vaccines since about 1999-2001 – but the implication is they’re still in use. The others are toxicity studies of very high dosages in animal models, various studies of excretion not controlling for mercury intake etc.

    The other suggestion is that the current flu shot contains 25 micrograms or 50k ppb of mercury. But the one approved for use in kids under 4 has 0.3 ug. Notice how we went from 200 micrograms of mercury to 50,000 parts per billion? Let’s see what the CDC says about current mercury exposures

    Most importantly, since 1999, newly formulated thimerosal preservative-free childhood vaccines (Hepatitis B, Hib, and DTaP) have been licensed. With the newly formulated childhood vaccines, the maximum total exposure during the first six months of life will now be less than three micrograms of mercury. Based on guidelines established by the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), no child will receive excessive mercury from childhood vaccines regardless of whether or not their flu shot contains thimerosal as a preservative.

    The anti-vaxxers forget that the flu shot approved for infants under four has 0.3 micrograms of thimerosal. 0.3, not 25, not 50, not 200. And keep in mind a can of tuna will have about 30-40 micrograms of organic mercury.

    The level of mercury exposure from vaccines is simply not the cause. Prospective and retrospective studies, systematic reviews, etc., show no link.

    It’s sad that people have become so emotionally invested in this as an explanation. The real causes are out there and meanwhile people are chelating their kids, giving them Lupron (which luckily does nothing in a pre-pubescent kid), essentially doing unsupervised human experimentation on their kids, all based on this premise that has no basis in science. It’s a little shocking how willing people are to subject their children to all sorts of unproven and sometimes downright dangerous or silly experiments based on wacky theories of the etiology of this disease.

  16. This is all very interesting, but….

    Kathleen Seidel is doing her level best to expose the menace of the Geiers based on the shoddy hypothesis that autism is a species of mercury poisoning.

    This is not my country, but how is it that anyone can perform what amounts to chemical castration on very small children – some only three years old? Don’t you have child protection services? Are there places where it is possible to lodge a protest?

    Much appreciated if the folks here could provide a list and other folks could toss off the odd email. Seriously, it looks to me that the Geiers must be stopped somehow or other.

  17. Another Scientist

    “The anti-vaxxers forget that the flu shot approved for infants under four has 0.3 micrograms of thimerosal. 0.3, not 25, not 50, not 200. And keep in mind a can of tuna will have about 30-40 micrograms of organic mercury”.

    The multi-dose flu vaccine vial, which represents 90% of last years flu vaccine supply, contains 50,000 parts per billion (ppb) mercury. The EPA classifies hazardous waste as 200 ppb. Duh! Newborns don’t eat a can of mercury in one sitting. Adults do. Tuna is ingested. The GI track is the first line of de-tox. Half the mercury is defecated. Methylmercury in tuna is bound to protein in the fish tissue. This is not a fair comparsion to injecting mercury into the blood steam of newborns.

  18. Ummm. What about the fact that there is more than one vaccine is so confusing? There is one with 0.3ug of thimerosal for use in kids under 4, and then the one all the adults are getting. Everyone I know with kids in the last few years has gotten the 0.3, so I know it’s available, it’s being used. It represented that other 10% of the doses and was used primarily for pediatric use since 2004 when it was added to the schedule. Even if kids were getting dosed from the multi-use vials it represents a dose of about what, 1/10-1/20th of what they were getting when each vaccine had an equivalent about of mercury. Where’s the dose-response? Where’s the reduction in cases of autism? Where’s the big reduction in the kids getting the thimerosal free versions? Oh wait there is none.

    You are also making conversion errors and apples to oranges comparisons. 200ppb for hazardous waste has nothing to do with the volumes being injected into humans. You’re comparing apples to oranges. I’m also not sure I believe this 50,000ppb claim. I’ve found the multi-dose version has 25ug per dose, which is about the exposure from a can of tuna. Does a can of tuna meet the definition of hazardous waste now? That would be surprising.

    Also you don’t understand how injections work do you? Vaccines are not injected into the blood stream. They are injected into muscle.

    Finally, this is just so frustrating to get involved with arguing with a troll. There is no evidence that thimerosal is linked to autism. I guess the Institute of Medicine is lying, and the CDC, and the FDA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics – all liars. All of this started with a paper from Wakefield that no one trusts any more, his financial interests were not disclosed and a majority of the coauthors have rejected the claims. Any real scientific body that has studied this has concluded the same thing. There is no link, there is no link, there is no link. But the crank persists. I guess everybody is a liar but the Geiers, the cranks with the IRB composed of whoever is living in the next bedroom? Or Wakefield who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (undisclosed) by the people suing the vaccine companies? These people have been consistently proven to be deceptive. The Slate article has excellent coverage of the cherry-picking, the debunked research, the conflicts of interest, and the downright loopy “cures” that the anti-vax cranks have come up with.

    What’s really frightening, is that after all the evidence that the anti-vax cranks are experimenting on children, in an uncontrolled fashion, with hormonal treatments and chelation therapies, with fake IRB’s and cherry-picked data, and with obvious financial conflicts that it’s the scientists who are being condemned as the evil party. It’s the people who are carefully studying kids, who have real IRBs, who are watched carefully by bioethicists, who conduct systematic reviews, and believe in evidence-based medicine, they’re the real enemy. It’s never the morons giving kids Lupron and EDTA without any proof these are efficacious other than testimonials. It’s those evil scientists. Give me a break.

  19. Another Scientist

    “I’m also not sure I believe this 50,000ppb claim. I’ve found the multi-dose version has 25ug per dose, which is about the exposure from a can of tuna. Does a can of tuna meet the definition of hazardous waste now? That would be surprising”. You need to take an environmental chemistry class MH. A vaccine dose is 0.5 ml. That means 1.0 ml contains 50ug. Follow me. If one ml contains 50 ug one liter contains 50,000 ug. 50,000 ug/l is the same as 50,000 ppb. Or you can do something the FDA has not done and simply analyze the multi-dose vaccine vial. Since 20,000 doses of flu vaccine are going to be thrown out, this should not be hard to do. Hazardous waste is determined using the Toxicity Characteristic Leachate Procedure (TCLP). To test tuna 100 grams would be added to a 2 liter solution. The mercury would not leach out of the tuna since it is very tightly bound. Since vaccines contain no solids, they would be analyzed with no dilution and all the mercury would remain in solution. This solution is adjusted to a pH of 2 and then analyzed for Hg. How do I know this? I’ve done both procedures. Are you going to call me names again?

  20. Ahh, I get it now. That’s fair, I was just being to lazy to do that math.

    But I will still call you a crank. You won’t accept any evidence that contradicts the thimerosal hypothesis.

    How do you explain that the AAP, CDC, FDA, IOM, etc., are all in cohoots? How is it that everybody is wrong about the etiology of autism except for the people who latch on to a handful of studies about mercury, none of them showing a causal link?

  21. JoAnn

    Can you point me to any research that indicates mercury is not a neurotoxin? What testing was done with Thimersol to prove its safety prior its use in vaccines?
    Thimersol, as I understand is still being used, it is supposedly filtered out prior to packaging of the vaccines. If you want an adult population to study about the safety of vaccines just look at the third of the US military from Gulf War 1 that have Gulf War Syndrome. My sister(in the health care field) was told by Department of Navy doctors that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by vaccines given to military personnel.

  22. Can you point me to any research that indicates mercury is not a neurotoxin?

    Mercury is certainly a neurotoxin, in the right amounts, but not in the amounts used in vaccinations. And even if it was, mercury poison and autism have very different symptoms.

    My sister(in the health care field) was told by Department of Navy doctors that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by vaccines given to military personnel.

    That’s nice, but it’s really irrelevant unless you can provide scientific evidence that backs this up. I could as easily claim that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by reading too much Shakespeare.

  23. JoAnn

    What testing was done with Thimersol to prove its safety prior its use in vaccines?

  24. Dadoftwinboys

    Michael Wagnitz does an excellent job of exposing the author of this Slate article. See

    Who’s Arthur Allen?

  25. Wow a pointless personal attack on the author (not challenging the validity of any of his claims of course – which are independently verifiable), and a demand that I prove safety after showing multiple studies showing that there is no link. No, you guys aren’t cranks. That’s impossible.

  26. Another Scientist

    Wow MH! This goofy blog entry has stayed in Google’s most relavent for 4 days now. Thanks for the geat exposure!

  27. Annie

    What’s the real concern – refuting the Geiers or addressing autism’s root causes? Vaccine manufacturers would prefer Geier as the focus instead of examining potential problems with vaccines. Here’s what I know: not all people process vaccines – or anything for that matter – the same. So, focusing on studies of generic groups of kids instead of focusing on vulnerable sub-groups is likely to produce a blurry picture. One hypothesis that is getting a lot of attention is that kids with neuro damage do not clear metals as well as non-injured kids. The metal could be mercury — but it could also be aluminum which is still placed in many vaccines to trigger an immune response since the body has no real reason to recognize and accept aluminum. Also, putting aluminum and mercury together produces a synergistic result – i.e., their effect combined is more that the additive effect of each alone. We can spend a lot of time attacking Geier – he certainly offers critics much to work with — but “his” idea of inadequate metal clearance being at least part of the problem driving the autism epidemic is actually shared by many legitimate, totally non-controversial scientists – worldwide. Check out the World Health Organization. Others focus not on metal clearance per se but on the impact of messing with a child’s immune system at such a young age and small weight. There is certainly much to figure out — and my autistic son would really prefer all you bright minds out there to put Geier aside and focus on the real crisis that is derailing wayyyyyy too many kids and families in the guise of “public health” and “sound science.” Once upon a time, tobacco was good for our health, too – wasn’t it? And the only way that one was put to rest was by the sad accumulation of too many tragic lung cancer and heart disease patients and the public pushing the scientific community to move beyond the product manufacturers saying “trust us – we’ve got the brightest scientists on this and they say it is safe.” Yeah, right. So, can we please focus on the underlying mechanism of autism? Because whether you think Geier is Nobel prize worthy or just a kook – I could care less which – there really and truly is a problem. And, there is some very good science that is pointing in directions that make the vaccine industry want to hire those Phillip Morris attorneys who did such a good job for such a long time.

  28. That’s pretty absurd Annie.

    There are reasons that this stuff has to be actively opposed. For one, vaccines are probably the most successful public health intervention besides handwashing for preventing disease. The use of vaccines has led to the control and eradication of illnesses that would kill, weaken, deafen, or blind, a large number of people, usually children each year. Attacking a public health measure on such specious evidence is absurd, and the comparison to tobacco is just ludicrous.

    Further, the anti-vaxxers aren’t doing children any favors. The evidence that mercury causes autism is nonexistent, and pushing for more research in that direction is pointless. Certainly the Geiers are the exact opposite of what you want in any health advocacy because they are crackpots and frauds that encourage people to perform medical experiments on their children with chelation and hormone therapies without a scientific basis, without proper monitoring, or controls or study.

    So basically you have people attacking a known, beneficial public health intervention, based on no good scientific evidence, to promote these unproven quack experimentations on children. If it weren’t their own parents doing this it would be a Nuremberg violation, which is a sad commentary on how parents can treat their children like chattel.

    You’re telling me that’s not a good reason to be pissed?

  29. My son recieved vacines with thimerosal less than 5 years ago. My MD at the time told me they were thimerosal free, she later said she was sorry she was mislead by the drug companies.( like everyone.) They were and probably still are in Dr’s offices and clinics until supplies run out. IT WAS NOT TAKEN OFF THE MARKET. THEY VOLUNTEERED TO STOP USING THIMEROSAL IN SOME OF THEIR VACCINES THAT THEY WOULD PRODUCE IN THE FUTURE! What they did have with thimerosal was sent out on the market. Who do you think is behind the studies claiming there is no connection. DRUG COMPANIES are the ones with the money. It would not be good for our government if a link was found. Do you truly think they would be honest about it. PLEASE!!!!!! Why do you think most educated parents believe there is a link? Because there is!!!!!!!!Parents affected by this are being financially drained!!! Do you think they could afford an expensive study? Explain why children that are on the spectrum have MERCURY TOXICITY? Also explain why MD’s will not test for mercury toxicity in our children? Who are they looking out for? Why is there ZERO % of AUTISM in the AMISH that have not recieved vaccines?

  30. Excessive use of all-caps? Check. Extreme number of exclamation points? Check. Conspiracy theory? Check. Repeating outdated, discredited lies? Check.

    Do we have a trifecta?

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