Thimerosal and MMR Controversy


Thimerosal and Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Citations

Collected by: Teresa Binstock

Controversies: thimerosal and MMR

1: Parker SK et al. Thimerosal-containing vaccines and autistic spectrum disorder: a critical review of published original data. Pediatrics.  2004 Sep;114(3):793-804.

2: Andrews N et al. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics.  2004 Sep;114(3):584-91. 

3:  Heron J, Golding J; ALSPAC Study Team. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a prospective cohort study in the United kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics.  2004 Sep;114(3):577-83.

4. Madsen KM et al. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism. N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 7;347(19):1477-82.

5. Geier MR, Geier DA. Thimerosal does not belong in vaccines. 8 September 2004

6. Carol Stott et al. MMR and Autism in Perspective: The Denmark Story

7. G.S. Goldman; F.E.Yazbak. An Investigation of the Association Between MMR Vaccination and Autism in Denmark.

8a. CDC quote from p22: Bernard/Safeminds presentation to IOM, Oct 21, 2004

8b. Summary of CDC 1999 findings, p96-7 in: Neurodevelopmental disorders following thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines...  Geier DA, Geier MR, in Defeat Autism Now! Conference Proceedings, Fall 2004, p95-101.

In 1999, the CDC intiated study designed to review the medical records of hundreds of thousands of children in the CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). The VSD is a massive databse that tracks the medical records of hundreds of thousands of patients belonging to seven major health maintenance organizations.

"In the initial analysis of the VSD database conducted by Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, [then] a CDC researcher, in the fall of 1999, showed statistically significantly large increased risks for neurodevelopmental disorders following additional doses of thimerosal... The following are [sic]  a brief sampling of some of effects observed:"

autism = 7.62 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.84-31.5)

autism = 11.35 (95% CI = 2.70-47.76)

specific disorders of sleep of non-organic origin = 4.98 (95% CI = 1.55-15.94)

specific disorders of sleep of non-organic origin = 4.64 (95% CI = 1.12-19.25)

phase-disruption of 24-hour sleep-wake cycle = 53.64 (95% CI = 3.23-892.10)

somnambulism or night terrors = 5.76 (95% CI = 1.38-24.05)

attention deficit without mention of hyperactivity = 6.38 (95% CI = 1.56-26.09)

attention deficit with mention of hyperactivity = 8.29 (95% CI = 2.03-33.89)

developmental speech or language disorder = 2.09 (95% CI = 1.08-4.03)

other developmental speech or language delay = 2.32 (95% CI = 1.20-4.48)

unspecified delay in development = 2.08 (95% CI = 1.03-4.19)

[the above data] among children receiving > 25 micrograms ethylmercury from thimerosal at age 1 month in comparison to children receiving 0 micrograms of ethylmercury at age 1 month;

attention deficit disorder = 2.88 (95% CI = 1.05-7.88) and

attention deficit disorder = 2.84 (95% CI = 1.03-7.85), and

coordination disorder = 18.26 (95% CI = 5.65-59.01)

among children receiving > 75 micrograms of ethylmercury from thimerosal in comparison to children receiving < 12.5 microgram from thimerosal at age 3 months; and

autism = 2.15 (95% CI = 1.04-4.43) and

among children receiving increases of 7.5-10 micrograms of thimerosal over 1 month, in comparison to children receiving less than 5 micrograms of ethylmercury from thimerosal over 1 month [9-10].

"Additionally, studies were conducted in 2000 by CDC to evaluate the dose-response effects of thimerosal on childhood neurodevelopmental disorders based upon evaluation of the VSD database [11].  It was found that there were statistically significant relationships between increasing exposures to thimerosal and the following outcomes, including:

(1) for two months of age, an unspecified developmental delay, which has its own ICD-9 code.

(2) Exposure at three months of age, Tics.

(3) Exposure at six months of age, language and speech delays, which are two separate ICD-9 codes.

(4) Exposure at one, three and six months of age, the entire category of neurodevelopmental delays, which includes all of these plus a number of other disorders (i.e., including autism)."

[9.] Email from Thomas Verstraeten to Robert Davis and Frank Destefano. Nov 29, 1999. Obtained under FOIA by SafeMinds.

[10.] Email from Thomas Verstraeten to Robert Davis and Frank Destefano.Dec 17, 1999. Obtained under FOIA by SafeMinds.

8c. The Truth behind the Vaccine Coverup.  Russell Blaylock MD. Sep 12 2004

Excerpt: "It all started when a friend of mind sent me a copy of a letter from Congressman David Weldon, M.D. to the director of the CDC, Dr Julie L. Gerberding, in which he alludes to a study by a Doctor Thomas Verstraeten, then representing the CDC, on the connection between infant exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental

injury. In this shocking letter Congressman Weldon referrers to Dr. Verstraeten's study which looked at the data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink and found a significant correlation between thimerosal exposure via vaccines and several neurodevelopmental disorders including tics, speech and language delays, and possibly to ADD.

"Congressman Weldon questions the CDC director as to why, following this meeting, Dr. Verstraeten published his results, almost four years later, in the journal Pediatrics to show just the opposite, that is, that there was no correlation to any neurodevelopmental problems related to thimerosal exposure in infants…"

8d. Original in-house CDC study is online. Verstraeten et al 2000, unpublished; obtained via FOIA


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9a. Excerpts from CDC's in-house conference: Thimerosal sequelae

9b. Blaylock R, MD. The thimerosal coverup – a thorough delineation of CDC, FDA knowledge about thimerosal circa 1999.

10a.  House Subcommittee Hearing transcripts: Truth Revealed: New Scientific Discoveries Regarding Mercury in Medicine and Autism. September 08, 2004

10b. Testimony of Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN; President; Safeminds Redwood.pdf

10c. Analysis and critique of the CDC's handling of the thimerosal exposure assessment based on Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) information. Safeminds, 2003.

10d. – an information resource about thimerosal

11. Verstraeten T, Davis RL, DeStefano F et al.  Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases. Pediatrics. 2003 Nov;112(5):1039-48. Erratum in: Pediatrics. 2004 Jan;113(1):184.

12. Geier MR, Geier DA.  Neurodevelopmental disorders after thimerosal-containing vaccines: a brief communication. Exp Biol Med 2003 228(6):660-4 PMID 12773696

"We were initially highly skeptical that differences in the concentrations of thimerosal in vaccines would have any effect on the incidence rate of neurodevelopmental disorders after childhood immunization. This study presents the first epidemiologic evidence, based upon tens of millions of doses of vaccine administered in the United States, that associates increasing thimerosal from vaccines with neurodevelopmental disorders."

13. Geier DA, Geier MR. An assessment of the impact of thimerosal on childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Pediatr Rehabil. 2003 6(2):97-102 PMID 14534046

"The [thimerosal] dose-response curves showed increases in odds ratios of neurodevelopmental disorders from both the VAERS and US Department of Education data closely linearly correlated with increasing doses of mercury from thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines and that for overall odds ratios statistical significance was achieved. Similar slopes and linear regression coefficients for autism odds ratios in VAERS and the US Department of Education data help to mutually validate each other."

14. Geier DA, Geier MR. A comparative evaluation of the effects of MMR immunization and mercury doses from thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines on the population prevalence of autism. Med Sci Monit. 2004 Mar;10(3):PI33-9. Epub 2004 Mar 01.

15. Geier MR, Geier DA. Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: analysis of the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). IOM presentation, Feb 9, 2004.



16. Geier & Geier. Parents' worries about thimerosal in vaccines are well founded!

[An excellent summary & rebuttal of pro-thimerosal articles.]

17. Baskin DS et al.  Thimerosal induces DNA breaks, caspase-3 activation, membrane damage, and cell death in cultured human neurons and fibroblasts. Toxicol Sci. 2003 Aug;74(2):361-8. Epub 2003 May 28.  PMID: 12773768

18. David Baskin, M.D. Relation of Neurotoxic Effects of Thimerosal to Autism. IOM presentation, Feb 9, 2004.  Audio only:

19. Pichichero ME et al. Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study. Lancet.  2002 30;360(9347):1737-41.  PMID 12480426

"Interpretation: Administration of vaccines containing thiomersal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants."  [But see cite 20]

20. Waly M et al. Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopmental toxins and thimerosal. Mol Psychiatry.  2004 Apr;9(4):358-70.  PMID: 14745455

"Our findings outline a novel growth factor signaling pathway that regulates MS activity and thereby modulates methylation reactions, including DNA methylation. The potent inhibition of this pathway by ethanol, lead, mercury [at nanomolar levels described by Pichichero et al), aluminum and thimerosal suggests that it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins."

21. Richard C. Deth, Ph.D. Effects of Mercury on Methionine Synthase: Implications for Disordered Methylation in Autism  Defeat Autism Now! 2003 Philadelphia

22a. Mady Hornig, M.D Etiologic factors and pathogenesis of autism: evidence from clinical studies and animal models. IOM presentation Feb 9 2004 Audio only:

22b. Mady Hornig, PhD: Testimony to House Subcommittee Sept 8 2004  Hornig.pdf

23. Westphal GA et al.  Homozygous gene deletions of the glutathione S-transferases M1 and T1 are associated with thimerosal sensitization. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2000 Aug;73(6):384-8. PMID: 11007341

24:  Muller M et al. Inhibition of the human erythrocytic glutathione-S-transferase T1 (GST T1) by thimerosal. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2001 Jul;203(5-6):479-81. PMID: 11556154

25. Westphal GA et al.  Thimerosal induces micronuclei in the cytochalasin B block micronucleus test with human lymphocytes. Arch Toxicol. 2003 Jan;77(1):50-5. Epub 2002 Nov 06.  PMID: 12491041

26. Havarinasab S et al. Dose-response study of thimerosal-induced murine systemic autoimmunity. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2004 194(2):169-79. PMID: 14736497

"The autoimmune syndrome induced by thimerosal is different from the weaker and more restricted autoimmune reaction observed after treatment with an equipotent dose of methylmercury."

27. Vojdani A, Pangborn JB et al. Infections, toxic chemicals and dietary peptides binding to lymphocyte receptors and tissue enzymes are major instigators of autoimmunity in autism. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2003 Sep-Dec;16(3):189-99. PMID: 14611720

28. Holmes AS, Blaxill MF, Haley BE.  Reduced levels of mercury in first baby haircuts of autistic children.  Int J Toxicol. 2003 Jul-Aug;22(4):277-85. PMID: 12933322

"Hair mercury levels in the autistic group were 0.47 ppm versus 3.63 ppm in controls, a significant difference. The mothers in the autistic group had significantly higher levels of mercury exposure through Rho D immunoglobulin injections and amalgam fillings than control mothers. Within the autistic group, hair mercury levels varied significantly across mildly, moderately, and severely autistic children, with mean group levels of 0.79, 0.46, and 0.21 ppm, respectively."

29. Boyd Haley, Ph.D. Reduced Levels of Mercury in First Baby Haircuts of Autistic Children. IOM presentation, Feb 9 2004.



30: Boyd Haley, Ph.D. Nucleotides and Mercury  Defeat Autism Now! 2003 Philadelphia

31. L-W. Hu et al. "Neutron Activation Analysis of Hair Samples for the Identification of Autism", Transactions of the American Nuclear Society, Vol. 89, November 16-20, 2003.

32. Bernard S, Enayati A, Redwood L, Roger H, Binstock T.  Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning. Med Hypotheses. 2001 Apr;56(4):462-71. PMID: 11339848

33. Bernard S, Enayati A, Roger H, Binstock T, Redwood L. The role of mercury in the pathogenesis of autism. Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7 Suppl 2:S42-3. PMID: 12142947

34. Excerpts from CDC's in-house conference: Thimerosal sequelae

35. Congressman, Dr. Weldon's letter to the CDC director, available at:

36a. IOM presentation of Congressman Dave Weldon, M.D.

36b. Doctors must prescribe without all the facts.  Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. [email protected] October 12, 2004