Studies on Autism

July 2, 2005

New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents vs. Research” (front page, June 25):

The thimerosal debate does not pit parents against science but against public health authorities who rely not on science but on the reputations of their agencies to exonerate thimerosal — a mercury-containing preservative once used routinely in vaccines — despite scientific proof that it causes brain disorders.

The four European studies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine principally rely upon (cited in your accompanying graphic) to defend thimerosal were written principally by vaccine industry consultants and employees without revealing the bias of their authors. They are all flawed.

Most glaringly, before banning thimerosal, Denmark registered only autistics who were hospitalized, one-fifth of the afflicted.

After the withdrawal of thimerosal, the Danish government began counting outpatient autistics. The spike in raw numbers made it appear that autism rates increased after the withdrawal of thimerosal.

Clever use of this deceptive data by the study authors allowed the Institute of Medicine to make the case that thimerosal was not linked to autism.

Furthermore, the European studies involved children exposed to a fraction of the thimerosal concentrations used in America.

The institute selectively ignored the hundreds of biological, toxicological and epidemiological studies linking thimerosal to the wide range of neurological disorders, including autism.

This flawed science is the slender reed upon which the entire defense of thimerosal rests.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. White Plains, June 27, 2005

Robert F. Kennedy Jr