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Vaccinations, mercury, and autism

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The god Mercury was said to be a messenger. Quicksilver, a fluid metal, shares its name with him. So what message do the media send about quicksilver?

Mercury (the element, not the god) is toxic. In humans, it affects the central nervous system. Certain forms of it are antiseptic and have been used in vaccines to prevent bacterial contamination. Ethyl mercury, also called thimerosal (in the U.S.) and thiomersal (in Europe), is the best known mercury-based vaccine preservative.

The pediatric vaccination schedule calls for a series of shots around 15-18 months. This is a time when children are starting to learn language rapidly, and are also developing socially, becoming more interactive with others. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are often first noticed at this age, as well.

Many parents of children with ASD believe the vaccinations and the disorders are correlated. They have zeroed in on thimerosal as the culprit, since mercury affects the central nervous system. This controversial view has resulted in the removal of thimerosal from all vaccinations in the U.S. (with the exception of flu vaccines). It has also, in some cases, resulted in parents refusing to vaccinate their children against childhood diseases.

Studies have shown no link between thimerosal and autism. Most recently, ethyl mercury was shown to be excreted by infants' bodies in far less time than was previously thought. The researchers in this study concluded that the amount found in vaccines simply is not around long enough to do any nervous system damage.

Other research has shown that the rate of head growth in infants who later develop ASD differs from that of neurotypical* children. The growth was measured at ages before ASD becomes apparent, which suggests ASD may be present but (more or less) asymptomatic from infancy.

If this is the case, the 18-month series of vaccines can't be the culprit in ASD. In fact, the first appearance of ASD symptoms occurring around this series of shots must be coincidental. The medical establishment and the media should therefore reassure parents that vaccines are not only safe, but important to avoid childhood diseases, which can kill or permanently injure children.

ABC television apparently feels otherwise about its obligation. Today it debuts a new legal drama, Eli Stone, whose pilot episode involves a jury that finds that mercury caused autism in a child. According to one article, the creators say "not anti-vaccine and would be upset if parents chose not to immunize their children after seeing the show."

What other effect do they possibly believe their show could have? I wonder if ABC's parent, the Walt Disney Company, which is one of the greatest influences on modern culture (as much as I hate to say it), has forgotten the impact it has on society. Airing this program is not just irresponsible; it can do real damage to children's health. It's grossly negligent.


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Milehimama said...
January 31, 2008 at 12:18 PM  

Actually, I think this is just a
"ripped from the headlines" script (like Law and Order)

Myself, I subscribe to the theory that the sheer number of vaccinations is part of the problem, and that having so many shots in such a short time overwhelms young immune systems. The shots have never been tested for safety when given together - and a well baby visit can include up to 5 sticks.

However, if you talk to your doctor you can give them more gradually, one shot at a time. That's what we're doing, giving them in order of greatest risk. (Hib before polio, for example).

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