Autism Thimerosal Commission

By, Dr Gary Null


During an interview with Katie Couric last July, Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Secretary, Dr. Kathleen Sebelius stated to the nation, “study after study, scientist after scientist, has determined that there really is no safety risk with thimerosal” Thimerosal is the highly toxic ethylmercury found in vaccines, and particularly in flu vaccines which contain levels far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safety limits. The overarching broadness of Sebelius’ statement lumps together children as young as 6 months and pregnant women who can be injected with upwards to 100 micrograms of thimerosal directly into their blood stream, if they receive four shots for the H1N1 and seasonal flu strains. The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website for the H1N1 flu vaccine continues to perpetuate this myth: “It is important for a pregnant woman to receive both the 2009 H1N1 flu shot and the seasonal flu shot” and “Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women and their babies.”

As I glance at the foot high print outs of hundreds of research studies showing a direct relationship between the use of medical mercury and neurological impairments, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it is incomprehensible to fathom the depth of Sebelius’ and the CDC’s scientific denialism. One is left wondering whether the HHS Secretary might not have been better qualified as a Wal-Mart manager instead of the head of America’s most important health agency, and the CDC’s officials as her cashiers. However, the rationale for this kind of denialism is not a unique aberration. Rather it is one more example among many in an on-going trend spanning a couple decades that continues to dominate the official propaganda and pseudo-science of the CDC, FDA, and the HHS in order to advance their pharmaceutical-based policies.

Criticism of the nation’s vaccination program is not simply the lone voices of anti-vaccine activists and nonprofit organizations of parents with autistic children. We can turn to the conclusions of a three year investigation conducted by the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness in the House’s Committee on Government Reform, spearheaded by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana). Published in May 2003, the commission’s 80-page report, “Mercury in Medicine: Taking Unnecessary Risks,” was a clear indictment charging the CDC, FDA and HHS with scientific bias and administrative incompetence. It is a sorry state of affairs when a Congressional committee is forced to initiate a more thorough and lengthy review of the scientific literature about ethylmercury’s toxicity in vaccines and the many neurological and developmental disorders thimerosal contributes to than does our federal health agencies, who are responsible for the health of Americans. But what is more disturbing is that nothing has fundamentally changed during the past six years since the Committee’s report. The CDC and HHS continue their criminal, rogue campaigns to spread medical untruths and have done next to nothing, aside from issuing promises, to tackle the research demanded to determine vaccines’ and vaccine ingredients’ safety in young children, developing fetuses and pregnant mothers. In the meantime, more and more children are being injured by the increasing numbers of vaccinations and the burden of health costs continue to mount on the shoulders of parents with neurologically damaged children.

Below we review some of the Committee’s major findings and bring them up to date with additional commentary showing thimerosal as a causative agent in ASD and evidence of the CDC’s, FDA’s and HHS’s further medical denialism about vaccine safety.

Committee Finding 1: “Mercury is hazardous to humans. Its use in medicinal products is undesirable, unnecessary and should be minimized or eliminated entirely.”

Mercury in any active form, such as methylmercury and ethylmercury (thimerosal), is the second most toxic substance after perhaps uranium. It is over one hundred times more toxic than lead. Therefore ask yourself the question, would you submit your child or yourself to having lead injected directly into your bloodstream, permitting it to pass the blood-brain barrier to your neurological system? If you answer in the negative, then realize that the mercury in a flu shot is far more toxic than the lead you just refused.

Although more research has been conducted showing methylmercury’s severe health risks, the Committee, basing its decision on scientific evidence, concluded that thimerosal’s toxicity is the same as methylmercury. Among the more serious adverse effects are multiple organ system disorders over the course of a lifetime, neurological and behavioral defects, renal damage, cardiovascular effects even at very low dosages, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders and injury to the immune system, and adverse affects on the reproductive system. Contrary to Sebelius’government propaganda, a pregnant mother’s exposure to thimerosal due to vaccination runs the risk of mercury crossing the placenta and affecting the developing fetus. Medical evidence for methylmercury disturbing the neuro-development of an infant in utero has been conclusive for many years. Even the FDA acknowledged this fact in 1994. According to a National Institutes of Health document, “For fetuses, infants and children, the primary health effects of mercury are on neurological development. Even low levels of mercury exposure, such as result from a mother’s consumption of methylmercury in dietary sources, can adversely affect the brain and nervous system. Impact on memory, attention, language and other skills have been found in children exposed to moderate levels in the womb.” Do any of these symptoms sound related to ASD? And if eating a can of albacore tuna fish poses a potential risk, how much greater is having mercury injected via vaccines?

The Environmental Protection Agency, unlike the FDA, has conducted research into mercury’s toxicity and health risks. While the EPA sets a limit exposure of mercury at 0.1 micrograms/kg, the FDA in its favoritism towards mercury’s use in vaccines raises the stakes to 0.4 micrograms. This figure has no scientific data to support and is purely arbitrary to permit minute amount, traces, of mercury to remain in vaccines. The World Health Organization sets the limit higher; this may account for the WHO’s activities in inoculating populations in the developing world with heavily laced-mercury and left over vaccines from the drug makers. The Committee, however, found the EPA evaluation to be “scientifically validated.” Consequently, a person receiving a single flu shot, with 25 micrograms of thimerosal would need to weigh approximately 550 pounds in order for it be considered a safe quantity. Dr. David Baskin, Professor of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Committee that brain tissue absorbs mercury five times more than other body tissues. And infants and smaller children are five times more sensitive to mercury’s toxicological effects compared to adults. Dr. Baskin reported on his own studies at Baylor:

“We have the opportunity to actually grow human frontal cortex cells in cell culture. So these are cells from the front part of the brain…. We incubate these cells with thimerosal at various doses… [then] detect cell death and cell damage…. [showing a slide] These are the cells committing the suicide program and breaking themselves into tiny little pieces with a very low dose of mercury…. Don’t forget, we did this in adult brain cells. Remember that infant brain cells are much more sensitive, so there’s a real cause for concern.”

Similar studies conducted at Columbia University have confirmed the Baylor findings. So why can’t the CDC and other government agencies reproduce these clinical studies to confirm whether or not there is a clear thimerosal-autism link? Well, the CDC, and other research groups like the NIAID, simply don’t perform sound methodical science. Instead, the CDC relies upon statistical analyses and mathematical algorithms to arrive at their conclusions about vaccines’ and thimerosal’s safety. They appear to be fundamentally ignorant about sound molecular biological protocol executed in a laboratory. In addition, the kind of studies the vaccine orthodoxy hail as proof to deny a correlation between thimerosal and autism rely upon ridiculously low numbers of participants. For example, a University of Rochester study comparing children injected with mercury-vaccines versus vaccines without mercury only enrolled 40 subjects; yet, this single study remains part of the pro-vaccine community’s arsenal against vaccine skeptics. If autism at the time of the study affected 1 in 150 children, then enrolling 40 children is baseless for achieving any scientifically useful data. For this reason, another finding by the Committee states:

Committee Finding 2: “To date, studies conducted or funded by the CDC that purportedly dispute any correlation between autism and vaccine injury have been of poor design, under-powered, and fatally flawed. The CDC’s rush to support and promote such research is reflective of a philosophical conflict in looking fairly at emerging theories and clinical data related to adverse reactions from vaccinations.”

The Committee reports, “Upon thorough review of the scientific literature and internal documents from government and industry, the Committee did in fact find evidence that thimerosal posed a risk. The possible risk for harm from either low dose chronic or one time high level (bolus dose) exposure to thimerosal is not ‘theoretical,’ but very real and documented in the medical literature.”


“Of additional concern has been the CDC’s bias against theories regarding vaccine-induced autism. Rather than aggressively working to replicate clinical findings with laboratory data that showed a relationship between vaccines and autism… the CDC funded researchers who also worked for vaccine manufacturers to conduct population-based epidemiological studies to look at the possible correlation between vaccine injury and a subset of the population that might be injured. The CDC to date has relied too heavily on epidemiological findings. While epidemiological studies are important, they are not a substitute for focused, clinical research.”


Committee Finding 2: “Manufacturers of vaccines and thimerosal have never conducted adequate testing on the safety of thimerosal. The FDA has never required manufacturers to conduct adequate safety testing on thimerosal and ethylmercury compounds.”

The FDA has known for many decades about the neurotoxic effects of thimersosal. A review of internal documents from Eli Lilly, the original inventor of ethylmercury in the 1920s, reveals that only one study has ever been performed by drug makers to investigate thimerosal’s safety in humans and it was “woefully inadequate.” That study resulted in the death of 22 people, but the drug maker contributed morbidity to meningitis instead of having injected mercury into them as an antibacterial. For the moment, if we buy into Eli Lily’s claims, it still appears peculiar that this study, which failed to eradicate patients with meningitis, would result in the use of thimerosal as a vaccine preservative to prevent vaccine contamination!

In the 1940’s, thimerosal was used in teething powders for infants and resulted in fatal outbreaks of Pink’s Disease (severe mercury poisoning) before being removed in the 50’s. Since many children today receive vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal, in addition to vaccines adjuvant aluminum compounds, an important 1972 study published in the British Medical Journal noted that mercury increases aluminum’s oxidation and produces abnormal heat. In recent years, there is growing evidence of mitochondrial oxidation that may be due to this interaction between mercury and aluminum in vaccines. With a child now receiving 31 or more vaccinations during its first 18 months of life, it would seem that this barbaric practice would be more fully investigated by our health officials to try to account for the epidemic increases in neurological and behavioral disorders, adult diabetes and asthmatic conditions in American children. But our government has failed to do so instead our health officials continue to pump out junk science, such as the recent NIAID study on H1N1 vaccine safety in pregnant women, to fuel the media’s support in their national vaccination campaigns.

The Committee’s report states,

“It appears that our Federal regulatory framework (the FDA and its predecessor organizations) failed to require manufacturers to prove thimerosal was safe. They failed to require industry to conduct adequate testing to determine how thimerosal is metabolized. The FDA failed to require that industry conduct studies to determine the maximum safe exposure level of thimerosal. These basic issues should have been proven prior to the introduction of thimerosal into the marketplace, but more than 70 years after its introduction, these issues have still not been adequately addressed.” It is clear that the guiding principal for FDA policymakers has been to avoid shaking the public’s confidence in the safety of vaccines. For this reason, many FDA officials have stubbornly denied that thimerosal may cause adverse reactions…. Given the serious concerns about the safety of thimerosal, the FDA should have acted years earlier to remove this preservative from vaccines and other medications.”

Nevertheless, to this day, six years after the Commission’s report, the FDA remains criminally negligent and thimerosal remains at toxic levels for children and pregnant mothers in the influenza vaccines, including the swine flu vaccine, and is still used in much smaller amounts in the DTaP, some Hib, and Hepatitis B vaccines. Although the FDA has repeatedly agreed that mercury is unsafe for over-the-counter medications, one would think that via intramuscular injection, thimerosal would be far more dangerous. During the Committee’s proceedings, Dr. Bernard Schwetz, former Director of the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, has stated, “… the fact that we know that ethylmercury is a skin sensitizer when its put on the skin, and now we’re injecting this IM (intramuscularly) at a time when the immune system is just developing, the functionality of the immune system is just being set at this age [infancy]…. What is the effect on the functional development of the immune system when you give a chemical of that kind repeatedly IM?”

Committee Finding 3: “At the same time that the incidence of autism was growing, the number of childhood vaccines containing thimerosal was growing, increasing the amount of ethylmercury to which infants were exposed threefold.”

While federal health agencies and the professional medical organizations that are servants of the vaccine industrial complex, such as the American Pediatric Association, repeatedly tell us there is no etiological relationship between ASD and vaccine mercury, there is a growing body of prestigious scientists, researchers, physicians and politicians who feel otherwise. Last month, a Harvard survey reported in the journal Pediatrics shows ASD has increased to 1 in 91, an approximate 33% increase from the previous figure of 1 in 150 several years back. Consequently, the thimerasol-autism debate is far from over and should be now be pursued with greater urgency. Moreover, the past history of CDC negligence and its reliance upon poorly designed and flawed science indicates there is no reason why any rationale citizen should any statistical declaration or medical claim from our health officials.


Committee Finding 4: “A growing number of scientists and researchers believe that a relationship between the increase in neurodevelopmental disorders of autism… and the increased use of thimerosal in vaccines is plausible and deserves more scrutiny. In 2001, the Institute of Medicine determined that such a relationship is biologically plausible, but that not enough evidence exists to support or reject this hypothesis.”

In fact, the CDC in June 2000 discovered “a statistically significant positive correlation between the cumulative exposure” of thimerosal and ASD-like symptoms. The CDC’s analysis of approximately 110,000 records of children with adverse reactions to vaccines, flying in the face of federal health officials’ previous claims about vaccine safety, led to a secretive meeting between top government health officials and vaccine industry representatives at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center near Atlanta. Eventually, the transcripts of that meeting were obtained by Robert Kennedy Jr through a Freedom of Information Act. During the meeting, the chief scientist of the CDC study, Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, stated, “This analysis suggests that in our study population, the risks of tics, ADD, language and speech delays, and developmental delays in general may be increased by exposures to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines during the first six months of life.” The Congressional review of the Simpsonwood conversations concluded that “It appear that many who participated in the thimerosal debates allowed their standards to be dictated by their desire to disprove an unpleasant theory.” And, indeed, this is what occurred after the meeting.

The clandestine Simpsonwood gathering decided to withhold its findings from the public and, instead, proceed with a new investigation to doctor the same data by employing confounders (subjective, unscientific criteria used to bias a study in one’s hopeful results). Consequently the subsequent study released several years later denied any relationship between vaccination and ASD. At the end of 2009, this remains the position of the CDC, FDA and HHS while a large body of independent research, with no conflict of interests with government or the vaccine makers, continues to mount against our policy makers reliance upon tabloid science. Today, our tax dollars are being spent by our health agencies to sidestep the entire question of vaccine safety and efficacy, and try to project the cause for autism on genetic factors. This was even the case in 2003 when the Committee raised concern over the NIH’s $27 billion budget, investing only $56 million into autism research, and the majority of that towards genetic causes. Compare that with the $2.2 billion spent on HIV/AIDS research that affects only a small number compared to the hundreds of thousands of children across the nation with ASD.

In 1975, the FDA undertook a five year review, ending in 1980, of mercury’s dangers in over-the-counter drugs and topical medicines. The advisory panel’s report to the FDA concluded that after reviewing 18 products containing mercury, it found that “mercury compounds as a class are of dubious value for anti-microbial use.” Furthermore, one study showed thimerosal was ineffective in killing staphylococcus bacteria, perhaps the most common microbial contaminant, on chicken heart tissue. The study concluded that “thimerosal was 35-times more toxic to the heart tissue it was meant to protect than the bacteria it was meant to kill.” Why is thimerosal still used in vaccines still? Solely as an anti-bacterial preservative because of multiple syringe insertions into the vaccine vial. Rather than manufacturing single dose vials, which would not require mercury, vaccine makers for some reason find it more cost effective to manufacture multi-dose vials and simply add mercury as a preservative.


Committee Finding 5: “The FDA and CDC failed in their duty to be vigilant as new vaccines containing thimerosal were approved and added to the immunization schedule.”

The Commission report states, “There was tremendous reluctance on the part of some officeals that a mistake had been made in allowing ethylmercury to be used in vaccines.” The FDA damns itself in a 1999 email by a former FDA official, Dr. Peter Patriarca, then Director of the FDA’s Division of Viral Products, who “opines that hastening the removal of thimerosal from vaccines would “raise questions about FDA being ‘asleep at the switch’ for decades by allowing a potentially hazardous compound to remain in many childhood vaccines, and not forcing manufacturers to exclude it from new products…. (We must keep in mind that the dose of ethylmercury was not generated by ‘rocket science’. Conversion of the percentage thimerosal to actual micrograms of mercury involves ninth grade algebra. What took the FDA so long to do the calculations? Why didn’t the CDC and the advisory bodies do these calculations when they rapidly expanded the childhood immunization schedule).”

Committee Finding 6: “The CDC’s failure to state a preference for thimerosal-free vaccines in 2000 and again 2001 was an abdication of their responsibility.”

After reviewing the CDC’s habitual negligence in removing mercury from vaccines, even after one vaccine manufacturer requested to do so and was subsequently denied their request by the CDC, led the Committee’s report to state, “The CDC’s decision not to endorse thimerosal-free vaccines in 2001 is particularly troubling…. Just as disappointing, and even more difficult to understand, is the fact that the CDC, on two separate occasions, refused to publicly state a preference for thimerosal-free vaccines.”

Testimony by health officials before the Committee included a litany of excuses based on financial reasons for not concerning itself with the health of American children. The statements by Dr. Roger Bernier from the CDC before the Committee clearly presents the kind of denial and preventative health that plagues the federal health agencies right now in their quest to vaccinate the population with an unproven, and potentially unsafe H1N1 vaccine:

“It [removing thimerosal from vaccines] could entail financial losses of inventory if current vaccine inventory is wasted. It could harm one or more manufacturers and may then decrease the number of suppliers”

“The evidence justifying this kind of abrupt policy change [immediate removal of mercury from all vaccines] does not appear to exist, and it could entail financial losses for all existing stocks of vaccines that contain thimerosal.”

The Committee’s interpretation of the CDC’s vaccine policy includes, “The financial health of the industry should never have been a factor in this decision [thimerosal removal]. The financial health of vaccine manufacturers certainly should never have been more important to the Federal health officieals than the health and well being of the nation’s children. The CDC has a responsibility to protect the health of the American public. If there were any doubts about the neurological effects of ethylmercury in vaccines on children—and there were substantial doubts—the prevailing consideration should have been how best to protect children from potential harm. However, it appears that protecting the industry’s profits took precedent over protecting children from mercury damage.”

Committee Finding 7: “Thimerosal should be removed from these vaccines. No amount of mercury is appropriate in any childhood vaccine.”

Although thimerosal has been removed from most vaccines, save the influenza vaccine, studies show that in the presence of aluminum compounds, used as an adjuvant in other vaccines, mercury’s toxicity increases dramatically. Vaccines that contain aluminum compounds include the DTaP, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, pneumococcal, anthrax, and the HPV vaccine. The CDC continues to be criminally negligent in investigating this relationship and has yet to conduct or fund any studies to make a sound-scientific determination of what independent research has shown to be factual.

The New York Times, again in its continuing support of the CDC’s war on health and its tabloid science, printed findings of a study claiming that autistic children have less mercury in their bodies than non-autistic children and, thereby, the Times draws the erroneous conclusion that thimerosal does not contribute to autism. Unpacking this nonsense, the main issue is not how much mercury is in the body—whether it be 0.1 mcg/km regarded as the threshold of toxicity by the EPA or the 25 mcg found in a single influenza vaccine. The only important question worth funding studies for is to determine whether thimerosal is related to the epidemic rise in autism, period. As the researchers at the University of California at Davis made clear in the study reported in the New York Times, it was not the study’s intention to determine thimerosal-autism causality. But you would not get that impression after reading the article’s author, Roni Caryn Rabin’s spin in her report, which seems to suggest she has learned a lot from Fox News.

A comparison of the FDA, CDC and HHS claims on vaccine safety, with respect to thimerosal and adjuvants used in other vaccines, with the health departments of the Department of Defense (DoD) leaves one with the feeling that our national health service is a madhouse, a leper colony of welfare scientists and indecisive medical bureaucrats torn between their allegiance to the pharmaceutical firms and the health of the nation.



Commission Recommendations

When the report was published, the Commission recommended that “studies be conducted that pool the results of independent research that has been done thus far, and a comprehensive approach should be developed to rid humans, animals and the environment from this dangerous toxin.”


Recommended to Congress “enact legislation that prohibits federal funds from being used to provide products or pharmaceuticals that contain mercury, methylmercury or ethylmercury unless no reasonable alternative is available.”


During a recent conversation with a retired Colonel and former Command Surgeon of the US Army Special Operations Command in Africa, Dr. Frank Anders MD explained why the military health policies and recognition of scientific facts are more accurate and humane than that of our federal health officials. According to Col. Anders, the “power and money these pharmaceutical companies wield [on the FDA and CDC] is awesome.” When he was asked whether or not there is any uniformity or agreement between the Department of Defense’s health divisions and the federal health agencies, including President Obama’s appointments, he stated there was nothing that could affect preventative and therapeutic health policy. There are far more financial incentives, including funds from Congress on the behest of pharmaceutical lobbyists, for FDA and CDC personnel to forge relationships with the drug and vaccine makers. On the other hand, since military health officials are solely employees of the DoD, there is less bias and more scientific concern for medical facts and sound science.

But here is the real kicker, the health divisions for the Department of Defense have very different conclusions on

The article’s author, Roni Caryn Rabin, would do well to learn some scientific objectivity and begin to look at the vast amount of literature that continues to grow showing thimerosal’s relationship to ASD.



Autism Society of America (ASA), the world’s largest autism organization and heavily funded by private industry and CDC support, continues to rely greatly on archaic treatments not too dissimilar to BF Skinner’s behavioral work with pigeons. ASA and the National Alliance for Autism, another advocacy organization supporting research to discredit vaccine-autism links, have been accused of conflict of interests and biased studies. In early 2009, Alison Singer, the senior executive of ASA and an advocate of the fanatical vaccine multi-millionaire and former advisor to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice, Dr. Paul Offit—who believes in a fantasy vaccine heaven where children can survive 10,000 vaccinations unscathed—resigned in protest over her organization’s wishes to reconsider a vaccination-autism connection. Each organization’s platform fundamentally ignores a possible vaccine-caused autism and instead favors a genetic cause that has yet to be conclusively discovered. Yet while the search for a mysterious autism gene persists, more and more children are being neurologically and developmentally damaged. Furthermore, even if such a gene truly exists and is found, it would be many years before medicine could do anything practical with it.


Our government rarely seems to get anything right these days, but there are those rare occasions when a spark of wisdom actually appears somewhere in Washington. The Committee report’s final statement is as relevant today as it was in mid 2003. Perhaps even more so as we witness the CDC’s public relations campaign threatening citizens with false statistical, distorted science—the term ‘science’ barely applies to the kind of rubbish federal officials rely upon—and unproven fears about the H1N1 flu strain in order to shepherd us towards the vaccine lines for a toxic dose ethylmercury flowing into our brains.

“Thimserosal used as a preservative in vaccines is likely related to the autism epidemic. This epidemic in all probability may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding the lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal and the sharp rise of infant exposure to his known neurotoxin. Our public health agencies’ failure to act is indicative of institutional malfeasance for self-protection and misplaced protectionism of the pharmaceutical industry.”