Tag Archives: Thimerosal

A Personal Account of Thimerosal Poisoning: The Story of Eric Gladen

Though science often involves observation of individual human health outcomes, scientists are limited in their ability to share the personal stories of these subjects in academic papers. The consequence of this limitation can be scientific results and conclusions that, though evidently important, seem somewhat distant to readers outside of the scientific community. The story of Eric Gladen, director of the new documentary Trace Amounts, helps contribute a more human perspective to scientific research, specifically as it pertains to the ongoing debate about vaccine safety.

Scientists like Mark and David Geier have long studied the risks certain vaccines can pose to recipients. Their research on Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative once found in an abundance of routine childhood vaccines (and still present in some influenza vaccines), brought to light the dangers of mercury exposure via vaccines. Their findings suggested a strong causal relationship between a high mercury body burden and adverse events like the acquisition of neurodevelopmental disorders. The Geiers extensively advocated for the findings of their research, and the CDC soon after removed Thimerosal from most vaccines. However, formal acknowledgement of the toxicity of Thimerosal was not forth-coming, and general attitudes about the need to more rigorously study the risks of vaccine ingredients have not changed.

The Geiers hope that their partnership with Eric Gladen will change that.

Eric Gladen is the survivor of a tetanus shot gone wrong. In 2004, Gladen received a standard tetanus shot containing significant amounts of Thimerosal. Shortly after his vaccine administration, Gladen became seriously ill and began demonstrating the typical signs of mercury poisoning. Gladen’s symptoms were life-altering, disrupting his career and plans for starting a family. After months of suffering, Gladen underwent treatment to completely extract all traces of mercury from the body and brain; shortly after, all of his symptoms disappeared.

The fact that this treatment was the solution to his symptoms left Gladen astonished, as it proved that Gladen was in fact the victim of mercury poisoning. If a single tetanus shot could contain enough mercury to cause such symptoms, why was Thimerosal an approved vaccine ingredient?  Inspired to learn more about the risks of mercury and the efficacy of vaccines containing Thimerosal, Gladen reached out to the Geiers to acquire more scientific information. Over the course of ten years, his discussions with the Geiers, other scientists, and individuals from around the country ultimately led him to make a documentary about the dangers of mercury, with specific focus on its causal relationship with autism.

Trace Amounts thus presents a startlingly emotional and alarming portrait of the dangers of Thimerosal and its connection to autism. Since the documentary’s release, Gladden has toured the country to advocate for the complete removal of Thimerosal from all vaccines in the United States and around the world, and has been joined by the Geiers at media events. To rent or purchase Trace Amounts, please visit: http://traceamounts.com/.

New Research Offers Compelling Evidence for Risks of Thimerosal Exposure

Does Thimerosal really increase a child’s risk for acquiring a neurodevelopmental disorder? The answer to this question has become even more definite with Mark and David Geier’s 2014 Journal of Biological and Pharmacological Research paper, which presents highly compelling evidence in support of their previous research, which demonstrated a causal relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The story of Thimerosal is a complex and ongoing narrative, but one of great significance. As many are already aware, Thimerosal was used as a preservative in many vaccines prior to 2001, when the CDC removed it from many (but not all) vaccines. Thimerosal’s removal was largely the result of research that explored its toxic properties and their association with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because Thimerosal contains mercury, a toxic element long-proven to be highly detrimental to cognitive function, researchers like the Geiers had explored the role Thimerosal might play in the rise of neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD, and identified a causal relationship. While the CDC insists that Thimerosal-containing vaccines are not harmful nor associated with autism, an array of research indicates otherwise.

The Geier’s latest paper on Thimerosal offers even more concrete evidence of Thimerosal’s association with neurodevelopmental disorders.

After accessing a wide collection of reports from the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System database, maintained by both the CDC and FDA, Geier et al. set out to generate statistics on the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders among children that received the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine, and the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders among children who did not receive the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine. Such analysis would help produce a more definitive answer to questions about Thimerosal’s relationship with these disorders, as any correlation would show that Thimerosal itself, not external variables, can increase the likelihood of neurodevelopment disorders.

Geier et. al used a population sample of over 5,500 children; approximately half had received the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine between January of 1997 and December of 1999, and half were children that had received the Thimerosal-reduced DTaP vaccine between January 2004 to September 2006.

What they discovered is profound.

  • Of the children who received the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine reported, there were 25 reported cases of ASD; only 3 children who received the Thimerosal-reduced DTaP vaccine developed the disorder.
  • This significant disproportion was evident in statistics generated for other neurodevelopmental impediments, too. 79% of speech disorder cases in the sample population came from children who had received the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine, while 90% of mental retardation cases were reported from those who had received the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine.
  • Additionally, 83% percent of neurodevelopmental cases of any kind were from children to whom the Thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccine was administered.

To rule out other factors, Geier et al. also tested the study population’s occurrence of conditions that were not biologically-plausible results of Hg, such as injury, pneumonia, and pain at the site of injection. No statistically significant results were produced that identified one exposure group as more vulnerable to these non-Hg related conditions than the other. Essentially, such comparison underscores Thimerosal’s specific imposition of neurological disruptions.

So how can we make sense of Geier et al.’s research in a larger context? Their statistical analysis backs what other research and numerous animal studies have already strongly suggested: exposure to Thimerosal places recipients at a high risk for developing a neurodevelopmental disorder. While Thimerosal has technically been reduced to trace amounts in some childhood vaccines, like the DTaP vaccine, it hasn’t been removed from all, and is still present at preservative levels in half of all flu vaccines. In other words, Thimerosal’s story isn’t over just yet.

Is Thimerosal Getting a Fair Trial? A Closer Look at Pro-Vaccine Research

Even though scientific research aims to uncover truths, sometimes findings aren’t always an accurate reflection of “the truth.” This could be the result of unintentional human errors, misguided methodologies, or the omission of important results. In the case of Thimerosal, an organic-mercury based compound that was used as a preservative in childhood vaccines, the truth about its health risks now seems obscured by new flawed studies.

Thimerosal gained attention in the United States after a wide array of research found a link between Thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) administered during early childhood and a higher risk for developing neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. Though Thimerosal was subsequently recommended to be removed from all vaccines by the US Public Health Service and American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999, it can still be found in some flu vaccines, which are administered to many pregnant women, infants, and children each year in the United States.

The CDC argues that Thimerosal is in no way attributed to neurodevelopmental diseases like autism, despite the fact that a study conducted by the CDC itself found a nearly 8-fold increase in autism rates when infants received Thimerosal-containing vaccines. In total, there have been over 160 different studies that have found Thimerosal to be harmful.

So we wonder: is Thimerosal getting a fair trial?

One reason to doubt the fairness of the Thimerosal debate is the fact that the six papers the CDC cites as evidence that Thimerosal is safe were all conducted, funded, or cosponsored by the CDC itself. In his 2014 paper “Methodological Issues and Evidence of Malfeasance in Research Purporting to Show Thimerosal in Vaccines is Safe,” Dr. Mark Geier assesses each of the six studies that the CDC has used as proof there is no link between autism and TCVs.

What did Geier find?

  • A paper published by Madsen et al. in 2003 argued that the rates of autism in Denmark actually increased when Thimerosal was removed from vaccines. However, the paper had a major flaw in its methodology. Researchers first calculated the number of those who had received TCVs and developed autism based on data collected solely from inpatient visits, yet then calculated the number of those with autism after TCVs were banned based on data from both inpatient and outpatient visits; this made it appear as if cases increased after TCVs were banned, when in fact the researchers simply looked at a larger pool of data.
  • The CDC’s Stehr-Green et al. study in 2003 provides inaccurate information about TCVs because it compare the correlation of TCVs and autism between three different countries (the U.S., Sweden, and Denmark), without acknowledging the presence of influential factors like varying quantities of Thimerosal and a reliance on a small sample population.
  • The Hviid et al. study, also conducted in 2003, states that populations that received TCVs were not at an increased risk of developing autism. However, the study’s sample population included children as young as 1 year of age, an age at which most are too young to start showing signs of autism. The study therefore could not accurately determine that actual number of children who received TCVs and developed autism.
  • In 2004, the Andrews et al. study found that TCVs resulted in a lower risk for developing neurodevelopmental disorders, yet the study evaluated data from children that experienced significantly different vaccination schedules and were diagnosed based on different criteria. Further, all subjects were given the same follow up times; in other words, if the subject didn’t develop a disorder within a standard amount of time, no correlation was reported. However, we know that disorders can appear at any time in an individual’s life, which means that using a standard follow up time is ineffective. This research is also based on subjects from the UK who received lower quantities of Thimerosal in TCVs than children did in the U.S.
  • The CDC’s 2003 Verstraeten et al. study stated there was no relationship between Thimerosal and cases of autism after studying data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink, yet the paper (which only published findings on the fifth of the study’s five phases) inexplicably did not include any actual data to back this claim. Interestingly, the first phase of the study (which was only published internally), found that infants who were exposed to more than 25 micrograms of Mercury were 7.6 times more likely to develop autism. The following phases of the study employed manipulative methodologies that were able to drop this figure to just 1.69.
  • 2010’s Price study found that pre-natal and infant exposure to TCVs presented no significant risk for developing autism. Yet, this conclusion was based on a matching methodology that resulted in flaw known as overmatching, as matching variables were in fact significant predictors of exposure. Further, the study also did not report that it found that prenatal exposure to Thimerosal resulted in an 8.73 increase in risk for regressive autism.

Each of the six primary studies the CDC cites as evidence that Thimerosal doesn’t increase the risk for autism have significant flaws in methodology and reporting. Therefore, it seems that if the debate about Thimerosal is to be fair, research cited to support arguments should at the very least be founded on sound approaches.