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Last Updated: 03/18/2018


 Article of Interest - Vaccines

Study showing mercury in vaccine not harmful to infants draws mixed reactions
Corporate Responsibility News,, December 04, 2002
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Drug companies and the US medical establishment welcomed a new study that found infants who received vaccines containing mercury were unharmed but some children's health advocates discounted the report insisting mercury in infant vaccines was responsible for autism and other developmental disorders. 


The study, led by Michael Pichichero of the University of Rochester and published in the current issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, found that the mercury levels found in 40 infants after they received thimerosal-containing vaccines was within federal safety limits.


The study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.


The mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, developed by Eli Lilly & Co and manufactured generically by numerous drug companies, has been used as an ingredient in routine infant vaccines since 1935.


Mercury at high doses has been linked to neurological and nervous orders, and Eli Lilly faces hundreds of lawsuits by parents of children who received vaccines with thimerosal and who have developed autism and other developmental disorders.  


"This study hopefully addresses the meritless and non-scientific based lawsuits that are now being brought against our company. There has been no scientific causal link between thimerosal and adverse reactions in vaccines, and this study again concludes that fact," Eli Lilly spokesman Ed Sagabiel told AFX Global Ethics Monitor.


Eli Lilly has not manufactured thimerosal since 1980, he added.


In 2000 manufacturers began removing thimerosal from vaccines for infants under 6 months old at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who urged removal of the compound as a precautionary measure, despite their conclusion that there was no conclusive evidence linking thimerosal with autism. 


Thimerosal is still used in flu vaccines and other vaccines for adults and children older than 6 months old.


"Thimerosal is a mercury-containing compound, and just like we want to drink as clean water as possible, we'd like to have a vaccine that doesn't contain mercury," said pediatrician Leonard Weiner, member of the AAP committee on infectious diseases.


"What this study shows is that theoretically at least the levels of thimerosal that might have occurred were lower even than predicted and not near the cut off that was thought to be potentially a problem. The study was small but helps us conclude that the potential for thimerosal to cause neurological problems does not seem to be really there," said Weiner. 


But Safe Minds, an advocacy group that has campaigned for the removal of thimerosal from vaccines, questioned the research methods employed in the study, noting the time that elapsed between the time the vaccines were given and the blood from the infants was drawn, allowing time for the mercury to be excreted.


"In some cases they waited three weeks to draw the blood. They would have missed the peak concentrations of mercury," said Lynn Redwood, president of Safe Minds and a mother of an eight-year-old boy with autism- related disorders.


Redwood said she is convinced the dosage of mercury in the vaccines her son received as an infant are responsible for his illness, and she has filed a lawsuit against Eli Lilly.


"I'm not anti-vaccine. I just want good research that's not conflicted by somebody getting funding from drug companies," said Redwood, noting that researcher Pichichero has done previous studies for Lilly and other companies.

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