Robert Kennedy Jr. and Mark Hyman to Appear on Dr. Oz Show

By Keith Kloor | August 20, 2014 9:16 am

UPDATE: On the same day (August 20) that Kennedy taped a segment on the Dr. Oz show, he was interviewed on Good Day New York (a Fox affiliate), and the Leonard Lopate radio show. Lopate was very skeptical of Kennedy’s claims and challenged him with good questions.

***

I was at the Baltimore aquarium with my wife and kids a few weeks ago when Robert Kennedy Jr. called me on my cell phone to vent about the media’s deep reluctance to take his newly published book seriously. At the time, even the Huffington Post was giving him the back of the hand. This was a familiar story, one I had recently chronicled. But what struck me about Kennedy’s call was the timing: He was getting married the next day to Cheryl Hines. I told him to forget about Thimerosal for a day and focus on his wedding.

I mention this anecdote to illustrate Kennedy’s persistence. Call him a zealot, call him anti-science, call him what you will, but he is pressing on with his lonely campaign to rid all vaccines of Thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative long discontinued in U.S. pediatric vaccines but still used in a few flu vaccines. He has many friends in politics and media, but as I noted in my Washington Post magazine piece, he’s been repeatedly spurned on the thimerosal issue. He did recently get some airtime at CNN and today, he is taping a segment on the Dr. Oz show.

Joining Kennedy on the show will be Mark Hyman, a medical doctor (he operates The UltraWellness center) and best-selling author who has embraced the thimerosal issue with nearly as much gusto as Kennedy. Earlier in the year, Hyman’s health advisory role with the Clintons’s was written about in the New York Times. Hyman collaborated closely with Kennedy on his just-published Thimerosal book.

I’ll be curious to hear Dr. Oz’s interview with Kennedy and Hyman. Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn what Hyman thinks about Kennedy’s critics and the science and health authorities that have pronounced Thimerosal to be a safe vaccine ingredient, below is the recent email exchange between us.

KK: Since my Washington Post magazine profile of Robert Kennedy Jr. was published last month, he’s been heavily criticized in Time, Slate, the Daily Beast, among other outlets. I’m assuming you’ve read all the pieces. The sentiments range from bafflement to anger. All the writers argue that his crusade against Thimerosal is terribly misguided and not based on science. You worked closely with Mr. Kennedy on the book and obviously feel different. Do you think respected mainstream science journalists, such as Laura Helmuth at Slate and Jeffrey Kluger at Time, are wrong? if so, what are they–and so many others–getting wrong?

MH: What was most stunning about the articles was that none of the journalists had actually read the book, or read the scientific papers that the book was based on. It wasn’t even available when they wrote those articles. There were over 500 peer reviewed papers referenced the book.  Instead they relied on what they believed was or was not in the book. They claimed that it was anti-vaccine and anti-science.  In fact, challenging existing or new hypotheses is the very essence of science. To declare “case closed” on a scientific question, as they have done, is the antithesis of scientific discourse.

The book attempts to soberly review an imperfect literature on a very controversial subject. And asks a very simple question, which was not addressed in their reviews [Hyman's emphasis]:

Should we inject a known neurotoxin in vaccines into pregnant women and children? 

Even if there were only weak evidence of harm, the rule of reasonableness and the precautionary principle suggests that we should remove mercury from vaccines, especially in light of the effectiveness of alternatives. It has already been removed from childhood vaccines used in the United States and remains primarily in flu vaccines.

Jeffrey Kluger dismisses ethylmercury as non-toxic and the dose insignificant.  He states that,  “the quantity of ethylmercury that was once in vaccines was so small that it was actually within acceptable limits for the more toxic, methyl form—but it wasn’t even in that methyl form to begin with.”  This is wrong. The dose of Thimerosal (50 percent ethylmercury) is 25 mcg per vaccine. If the flu vaccine were given to a baby, it would have to weigh 225 pounds for the dose to be safe at the EPA threshold of 0.1 microgram/kilogram per dose.

And in fact, an Institute of Medicine review of the evidence, concludes that while there is limited research, “ethylmercury should be considered equipotent to methylmercury as a developmental neurotoxin. This conclusion is clearly public health protective.”

It is absurd to think that the FDA recently banned trans fats and banned the use of mercury in topical preparations like Mercuochrome, but allows it to be injected into pregnant women and children.

Russell Saunders in his piece in The Daily Beast “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Twisted Anti-Vaxx History” states that, “despite multiple studies showing no link between vaccines and autism, RFK Jr. continues to use his position to spread that lie.”  Clearly he never read the book. First it is pro-vaccine, not anti-vaccine. The first chapter clearly lays out the strategy to increase not limit vaccinations. Second the book does not discuss autism and Thimerosal. It is hard to take criticism seriously by someone who has not read the book, nor who understands its intent, which is simple.

It is this [Hyman's emphasis]:

Thimerosal is 50 percent mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Is it a good idea to inject into pregnant women and children when alternatives exist? Probably not!  Do we need more evidence that is it potentially harmful? Probably not!

KK: There is a small, vocal minority of the autism community that associates vaccines–specifically Thimerosal–with autism and other disorders. According to the CDC:

scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that ‘the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.’ CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

In recent years, we’ve seen outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, due in part to vaccine resisters. Are you concerned that this book will fuel vaccine fears?

MH: I am very concerned that public confidence in vaccines has been eroded and see a very important opportunity for policy makers to reassure parents and the population that clear steps have been taken to reduce a potential risk from vaccines and thereby reestablish public trust.

Most consumers and even most policy makers don’t understand that the conclusions from the IOM [Institute of Medicine], which found no correlation between Thimerosal and autism, were fundamentally flawed. First the studies looked only at autism, not at neurodevelopmental disorders in general, missing the potential to identify more subtle harm from Thimerosal.  Second, population studies, by their very nature, cannot prove cause and effect, nor disprove it. They can only generate hypotheses based on associations.  So to draw a conclusion that they are not linked, and to declare the need for further studies unnecessary is simply scientifically inaccurate.  And the few studies observational studies that the IOM report was based on that everyone quotes as vindicating Thimerosal were deeply flawed as extensively documented in the book.

Three of the IOM-accepted studies relied in whole or in part on Danish population autism statistics, which showed that autism levels increased after Thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 1992. This evidence strongly suggested that Thimerosal was not linked to autism. However, the IOM did not properly account for confounding factors in the data, such as the counting of both outpatient and inpatient cases after 1995 that expanded the number of children known to be affected, the adopted use of a broader definition of autism in 1994, and the exclusion prior to 1992 of the largest Danish clinic treating autism, which cared for 20 percent of autism cases.

KK: During one of my interviews with Mr. Kennedy, he jokingly said, “Mark doesn’t know this, but I’m gong to ruin his career.” Are you worried that your association with his anti-thimerosal campaign will harm your reputation?

MH: As a doctor my first oath is to “First Do No Harm”. In all good conscience, even in the face of a small risk, given safe and cost effective alternatives, I could not remain silent on this subject.   I have treated thousands of patients sick from the harmful effects of low levels of mercury on human biology, risks well established in the medical literature, but mostly ignored in medical practice.  There is no role for mercury in any form in medical products.  If we are right, then we can save 137 million children a year from being injected with a known neurotoxin.  If we are wrong we removed a known neurotoxin from medical use. Probably a good thing.

I have never shied away from taking on tough topics, calling out the food industry for its role in the obesity epidemic, or advancing a new medical paradigm called Functional Medicine that most dismissed until now when it is being embraced by leading medical institutions such as Cleveland Clinic.  Now twenty years after being ridiculed by my colleagues for suggesting that gut flora may play a role in chronic disease including autoimmunity and obesity, the research on our microbiome is one the fastest growing and more important areas of biomedical research.  Scientific debate is often heated and emotional, when in fact, it should be dispassionate.  This scientific question raises emotions, when it should raise curiosity and stimulate further inquiry.

KK: Critics of Mr. Kennedy correctly echo scientific bodies and medical authorities when they say the science of thimerosal is settled–that, as the World Health Organization stated in 2012, the “available evidence strongly supports the safety of the use of thimerosal” as a a vaccine preservative. The WHO further states:

Thimerosal allows millions of people worldwide to have access to life-saving vaccines and to date, no other safer and equally efficacious alternative has been identified for many vaccines.

Has the WHO gotten it wrong on thimerosal, too? How do you account for all these highly respected public health bodies coming to a conclusion very different from the one in the book put together by you and Mr. Kennedy?

MH: This statement from the WHO is curious and perhaps even frighteningly uninformed. How could it be accurate that “Thimerosal allows millions of people worldwide to have access to life-saving vaccines and to date, no other safer and equally efficacious alternative has been identified for many vaccine” when Thimerosal has already been removed from all pediatric vaccines in the United States and many other countries?

Arguments are made about the challenges of keeping vaccines cold in the developing world if there were no preservative or about the cost of changing from multi to single dose vials.  Even if all vaccines were switched to single dose vials, obviating the need for preservatives the cost is $300 million, a fraction of the potential human and economic impact of injecting neurotoxins into children.

In fact, studies show that up to 60 percent of the multi-dose vials are wasted in the developing world, making the cost per dose the same as single dose vials that don’t need preservative.  As far as efficacy, the book clearly describes the science documenting the fact that Thimerosal is a weak preservative and other more effective preservatives exist.   Even if all vaccines were switched to single dose vials, obviating the need for preservatives the cost is $300 million, a fraction of the potential human and economic impact of injecting neurotoxins into children.

  • Buddy199

    “I told him to forget about Thimerosal for a day and focus on his wedding.”

    —–

    LOL! What a visual. Kennedy reminds me of the ManBearPig episode on South Park.

  • scientist

    Kennedy and Hyman are demanding that science provide evidence that thimerosal is 100% safe. But epidemiological studies don’t work that way. What we have is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that thimerosal does not cause harm, which of course is not quite the same thing as showing 100% proof positive that it is safe.

    So, essentially, they are asking science to do something that science doesn’t do. And in the absence of the unreasonable proof they seek, they are demanding an extremist application of the precautionary principle. The question is how precautionary do we want to be? Their answer is at odds with the scientific and public health consensus.

    The book will not have the intended effect of prodding scientists and regulators to convert to the authors’ point of view and remove thimerosal from the remaining vaccines that contain it. The result will be to make the general public think vaccines are scary and dangerous — including ones that don’t and never did contain thimerosal like MMR — and that will lead to more parents refusing to vaccinate their kids against preventable diseases. And hence to more sickness and death from vaccine-preventable diseases.

    • CassandraofDelphi

      Kennedy and Hyman don’t demand 100% proof. What they want is that physicians use the precautionary principle in case of a known neurotoxin. Thimerosal may be acceptable at the levels used for most infants but epidemiological studies are unable to pick up the small minority with adverse reactions.

      • Verna Lang

        Citation for thimerosal being a known neurotoxin, please.

        • CassandraofDelphi

          I know some people need citations that the Earth is round. Read the book!

          • Verna Lang

            I’d rather not feed the profit from woo. I’ll wait until the book is in the library to pick it apart.

          • CassandraofDelphi

            Very telling. Like 99% posting negative comments here who never bothered to read the book, or in effect the actual science.

          • Verna Lang

            The actual credible science has been published and read. This source from the CDC lists some of the many studies that show no link between thimerosal at the dosage used in vaccines and adverse effects. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-thimerosal-color-office.pdf
            Only a small number of representative articles are listed, but it represents the consensus of the science. To be convincing, Mr. Kennedy would have had to cite an overwhelming pool of quality publications supporting his contention that thimerosal is toxic at low levels. Those same publications would have also had to somehow escape the notice of the majority of medical and health science professionals that form the consensus that thimerosal in vaccines is safe. That is why this book is being panned without even being read.

          • scientist

            The authors have convinced themselves that nobody else has looked at the science. Who do they think did the science? Who do they think published all the studies they cite? Their explanation for why the science isn’t speaking for itself and needs their (non-expert) interpretation is that all the scientists are caught up in a big conspiracy.

            Right.

            That has been debunked over and over and over again since Kennedy’s (what must have been embarrassing) Rolling Stone article back in 2005.

          • Mike Stevens

            I think you are confusing “the book” with “science”.
            Basic error.

        • Viva La Evolucion

          this is what wikipedia says. “Thiomersal is very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and in contact with skin (EC hazard symbol T+), with a danger of cumulative effects. It is also very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments (EC hazard symbol N).[15] In the body, it is metabolized or degraded to ethylmercury(C2H5Hg+) and thiosalicylate.[7]

          Cases have been reported of severe poisoning by accidental exposure or attempted suicide, with some fatalities.[16] Animal experiments suggest that thiomersal rapidly dissociates to release ethylmercury after injection; that the disposition patterns of mercury are similar to those after exposure to equivalent doses of ethylmercury chloride; and that the central nervous system and the kidneys are targets, with lack of motor coordination being a common sign. Similar signs and symptoms have been observed in accidental human poisonings. The mechanisms of toxic action are unknown.”

          • Verna Lang

            The dose makes the poison. You can kill yourself by overdosing on water. No one is arguing that toxic effects occur at high dosages. That is common for many everyday substances that we do not think of as dangerous. Here is some information from a MSDS for working with a commonly encountered substance:
            Precautions: Keep locked up.. Do not breathe dust. Wear suitable protective clothing. If you feel unwell, seek medical attention and show the label when possible. Keep away from incompatibles such as oxidizing agents, alkalis.
            Personal Protection: Safety glasses. Lab coat. Dust respirator. Be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent. Gloves.
            These precautions for sand may make sense if you are using it for sandblasting, not so much sense if you are spending the day at the beach. If we used the same level of precautionary principle that you advocate for thimerosal, you may as well advocate for closing down all sandy beaches.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            yes, the dose does make the poison, and actually small doses of many toxins, radiation, poisons, etc. can be beneficial, aka hormesis. Nevertheless, there is a very fine line in dosage amount that can change something from beneficial to toxic. If it is true that the mechanisms of toxic action are unknown for thimerosal, as mentioned on wikipedia, then there may be genetic factors that make it more toxic to some than others at the small does found in vaccines.

          • Verna Lang

            There is such a thing as weighing cost versus benefits. If one person in 10 million is adversely affected by a treatment, and the treatment prevents the deaths of a thousand people in 10 million, is it worth the cost of a thousand lives to prevent one adverse event? When one adverse effect in 2.5 to 3 million doses was detected with the oral polio vaccine, developed countries switched to the injected form, which has an even lower adverse effect ratio. Do you think that sort of decision was made by whim or by throwing darts at a dart board? It was made after looking at the data from the accumulated research and balancing cost versus benefits. Thimerosal underwent the same sort of scrutiny by a panel of experts in the field. Mr. Kennedy isn’t just beating a dead horse. He is beating an imaginary dead horse.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I just read something online about CDC covering up data showing that MMR vaccine was shown to cause high rate of adverse effects in those with African ancestry. As I mentioned previously, the mechanism of toxic action in Thimerosal is unknown, so genetics could very well play an important factor in it’s toxicity. I think it is a good idea to keep an open mind and regularly question the safety of approved medications/vaccines when presented with new data.

          • Verna Lang

            Yes, the reworked, freely available data from the CDC that went into the Brian Hooker article. The article that was just pulled from the journal. “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.” It didn’t take long for that journal to back away from the stink of that bad science.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I just read the article on Time and it looks like there is consensus that the MMR vaccinated african boys did have higher rates of autism than control. Of course that does not mean that vaccines should be banned, but I think it does warrant some additional vaccine safety studies which include genetic analysis of the participants to see if there are genetic factors that can cause higher chance of adverse reaction.

          • Verna Lang

            Some of the data was left out of the original study because they were unable to verify some of the children’s information or because some of the children may have been diagnosed with autism before they received the MMR shot. Including children who were already confirmed to have autism and then given the vaccine would of course skew the data. It is supposed to be cause and effect, not effect and then cause. Even if this one paper is excluded from consideration, it still does not warrant more vaccine safety studies, because enough time, money and resources has been wasted proving again and again and again ad nauseam that vaccines are safe. This meta analysis alone should put the nail in the coffin of the supposed vaccine and autism link:
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24814559
            You may want to examine why you cling to your ideology in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. This article in Mother Jones might help you.
            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney?

          • JH

            It’s incorrect to discuss what constitutes a “toxin” without reference to both the concentration of the substance in the body and the impacted organism.

            If the wikipedia does not give the concentrations, the article is incomplete and incorrect

      • Mike Stevens

        Sigh…….
        The precautionary principle is why thimerosal was removed from vaccines around 14 years ago.
        It would help if you (and Kennedy) kept up with developments, even if you can’t get current with the science.

  • mem_somerville

    I certainly wouldn’t support this book by paying for it, and it’s not available in my local library system. It’s also not something I would recommend for them to buy and spread toxic misinformation to my neighbors.

    But I would be happy to look at the evidence in Hyman’s claims if he would care to deliver the scientific publications that support these statements he makes here.

  • Viva La Evolucion

    Mercury in vaccines does not cause autism, but if there are safe/effective/affordable alternatives available, which apparently there are, then why not just phase-out mercury from all vaccines? It would seem that a pro-vaccine person would support the phase-out of mercury from vaccines because it would result in more people getting vaccines.

    • G031

      Yes, exactly. Let’s also phase out all forms of seafood from everyone’s diet, worldwide. ‘Cause that’s actually a form of mercury that affects the brain. Don’t worry about all those folks that’ll starve to death once we do. Also, get rid of thimerosal cause, you know, everywhere has the same facilities as the US and removing thimerosal for no reason should certainly, directly, affect the health and well being of someone who receives an ineffective vaccine in a third world country because some people can’t get over the fact that an element in a molecule does not, a molecule, make.

      • Viva La Evolucion

        it is my understanding that thimerosal has already been phased out of most vaccines in the USA, and is for the most part only being used in flu vaccines. I would assume that the thimerosal-free vaccines currently in use are effective, and I would not be surprised if the alternative preserved being used is of equal or greater toxicity than thimerosal. My point was simply that I think the percentage of people in the US who get flu shots would go up if thimerosal was phased out on flu shots, be it based on good science or not.

        • JH

          I’m no expert on vaccines, but if thimerosal is still being used, there’s a reason for it.

          Your assumption about the availability of alternatives could well be mistaken. Or it’s possible that the alternative is significantly more expensive.

          So lets suppose that people in Chicago become afraid that they will be attacked by zombies. How much should we spend to comfort people who have an irrational fear?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            If the people of Chicago become afraid that they will get a new mutated strain of zombie rabies virus in the future due to rodent infestation brought on by climate change, then all we got to do is make some thimerosal-free zombie rabies vaccine to comfort their irrational fears.

          • Jefft90

            I will refuse to take the thimerosal-free zombie rabies vaccine until multiple studies prove it 100% safe.

          • JH

            Hey – I think there’s something there: Tens of thousands of Chicagoans die from mutant rodent virus due to rodent infestation triggered by nutter granola types raising “free range organic” chickens in their back yards due to irrational fears that GMO chicken is harmful and that factory farms cause climate change; most refuse vaccine due to irrational fears that extremely small doses of Hg in vaccine will cause them to turn into industry loving republicans.

  • G031

    “Thimerosal is 50 percent mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Is it a good idea to inject into pregnant women and children”

    Water is 16/18ths oxygen. Oxygen is explosive and highly corrosive! Is it a good idea to let women or children drink it? Ever heard of the H-bomb? Well that’s 2/18ths of water! THINK OF THE CHILDREN WHILE YOU BUY MY NEW BOOK!

    • Dorit Reiss

      Don’t forget the hydrogen.

      I’ve heard that everyone who dies has high water content in their body. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

      • G031

        Must be the Thimerosal!

        I often wonder how many of these idiots eat seafood. Perhaps elevated levels of mercury in their seafood diet is what drives them to rant and rave about Thimerosal?

    • Lenny Schafer

      Specious crap comparing molecules to atoms. Would you like some plutonium in your tea? I swear it’s as safe as the mercury you are apologizing for.

      • G031

        Right, because any radioactive atom is definitely the same thing as a non-radioactive element. Whose is the specious crap? Right, entirely yours. Learn some basic f@cking physics and chemistry.

      • JH

        “Would you like some plutonium in your tea?”

        There is plutonium in your body right now.

        Every naturally occurring radioactive element, and many man-made radioactive elements, occur in the human body and all other organisms.

        Only one thing determines whether a substance is harmful or not: its concentration. There is no substance – not even plutonium, not even mercury, not even cadmium – that is harmful at any concentration.

        Here’s some useful scientific info about the typical concentration of radioactive isotopes in the human body:

        http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/faqradbods.html

        “Specious crap comparing molecules to atoms.”

        Atoms, like O, form molecules, like O2. It does not matter whether a substance is an “atom” or a “molecule”. Whether it is harmful or not depends on it’s concentration.

        • CassandraofDelphi

          Wrong! It does matter what compound the atom appears in. You can safely ingest a certain amount NaCl but you don’t want to ingest the same amount of chloride in the form of HCl.

          • G031

            Try to keep up, and perhaps actually read the comment before making yourself look like an a$$.

          • Chris Preston

            Well that is exactly the point.

            But what Kennedy and others are doing is going “Thimerosal is 50% mercury, OMG the world is coming to an end”. when there is a massive difference between the behaviour of thiomersal and mercury.

          • JH

            Try rereading my comment. It’s pretty clear you missed something.

    • CassandraofDelphi

      Idiotic comment.

      • Mike Stevens

        In your view. But highly apt nevertheless, and very revealing as to the paucity of the antivax argument.

      • G031

        Which part? The fear-mongering portion about Thimerosal being 50% mercury, or the identical argument made about good ol’ H2O? To criticize one you are also criticizing the other, though I’m not trying to sell you a book. Perhaps educating yourself on the topic is a good place to start- try a science textbook- round about grade 10 level, look for any chapters on basic chemistry.

        Wait, did I just try to sell you a book??

  • Dorit Reiss

    I’d like to see his data about the waste. Given past experience, I refuse to take it at face value.

    And the criticism is because Kennedy is publishing misleading information that can lead parents to refuse to protect their children. That’s fair ground for criticizing.

    • CassandraofDelphi

      Dorit, I feel sorry for you. The science is way over your head and you are trying to defend the indefensible. Defending vaccines is one thing but defending an unnecessary potent neurotoxin preservative for which safe alternatives exist is another.

      • Dorit Reiss

        There are a lot of assumptions in this comment which are simply incorrect.

        A. In the tiny amounts in vaccines, there is no evidence thimerosal is toxic. In fact, large scale studies in children suggest it’s not.

        B. In multi-dose vials, without thimerosal there is a danger of bacterial contamination. Unlike the tiny amounts of thimerosal, there is all the evidence in the world that bacterial contamination can harm and kill. Preventing something that can harm or kill means that the presence of thimerosal is, in fact, necessary. And protecting children and adults means preventing that contamination, not allowing it to happen because of false claims about thimerosal.

        C. Please describe the safe alternatives that exist for thimerosal that can also prevent contamination.

        • CassandraofDelphi

          Single dose vials are the safest alternative. As Mr. Kloor points out the cost of using single dose vials would amount to $300 million. It is a price worth paying for safer vaccines and healthier children. It is a moral imperative that children in developing countries have access to the same safer vaccines children in developed countries do.

          • Dorit Reiss

            Single dose vials are substantially more expensive, and it could easily mean that children in developing will have no access to live saving vaccines – leaving them at mercy of diseases.

            Children in developing countries do not deserve to be left at risk because of claims against the evidence that thimerosal is harmful. There is nothing to show that, and plenty to show it’s not true. Large scale studies in humans.

          • CassandraofDelphi

            Large scale studies do not address individual susceptibilities. Vaccines studies are always done on healthy infants and not on malnourished children, the majority of which live in developing countries, therefore the negative consequences of thimerosal are far more common in the developing world. $300 million is a small price to pay for better health and it does not leave children at risk as you try to assert.

          • Dorit Reiss

            Epidemiological studies have identified problems as rare as one per ten thousands, one per 25,000, and one per 100,000. While they might not identify problems that are super, super rare, they can identify very rare problems – leading to research identifying factors.

            The fact remains: with millions of children studied, no harm was found from the tiny amounts of thimerosal in vaccines. The studies were done mostly in developed countries, though they included cohorts – the healthy and the sick. But there is no biological basis to think there will be a difference with developing countries, and what is clear is that those children are more at risk of preventable diseases than those in developed countries.

            I’m glad you think $300 million is a small price. Do you have a source willing to provide it? And if not, what is the justification to sacrifice children harmed for lack of vaccines because of a theoretical danger that is against the evidence?

          • Verna Lang

            The oral polio vaccine has one adverse event for every 2.5 to 3 million doses. That is why we now longer use the oral form in developed countries. Adverse events from thimerosal should have shown up if they were not vanishingly small.

          • lilady R.N.

            Multi dose vials are easier and less expensive to manufacture, easier to transport rather than individual doses in single vials/preloaded syringes, and are safer to maintain their potency following cold-chain protocols:

            http://www.unicef.org/supply/files/CC_equipment_-_Future_directions_GAVI.pdf

      • lilady R.N.

        How about you start posting some links to citations to studies about Thimerosal to back up your empty statements…rather than resorting to personal insults?

        A) Thimerosal is not a “potent neurotoxin preservative”.

        B) Which “safer” alternative do you propose in lieu of Thimerosal? (Be specific now, and provide citations from reputable first tier, peer-reviewed journals).

        • CassandraofDelphi

          Read Mark Hyman’s last comments in the article. Single dose unpreserved vaccines are the safest. The cost is $300 million, well worth the price.

          I feel sorry for you too lilady. It must be an empty life that needs to be filled with trolling the internet on behalf of your pharma handlers.

          • Verna Lang

            Again, no requested citations given. Personal attacks on a commenter do not give you any credibility. You keep claiming that other posters are biased and do not understand the science compared to you. Do what scientists do. Citations, please.

          • CassandraofDelphi

            Read the book Verna, the citations for the toxicity of thimerosal are there.

          • scientist

            Just because a statement has a citation after it does not mean that the cited study actually supports the statement. This is a major problem in this book. All the citations look impressive, but the vast majority of them don’t actually support the book’s argument.

            Good academic publishers check for this sort of thing. Skyhorse is not an academic publisher.

          • lilady R.N.

            That’s the fallback position for the citation-less, fact-free posters, here.

            You’ll notice that poster has not answered my question:

            “Which “safer” alternative do you propose in lieu of Thimerosal? (Be
            specific now, and provide citations from reputable first tier,
            peer-reviewed journals).”

            The poster’s reply is “read the book”, yet that poster who read the book is unable to tell us which “safer” alternative is cited in Mr. Kennedy’s book.

            Is it Phenol?

            Is it Benzethonium chloride (Phemecol)?

            Is it 2-Phenoxyethanol?

  • Anne Dachel

    During his interview on My Fox New York http://www.myfoxny.com/clip/10492573/robert-f-kennedy-jr, Kennedy made a number of critical statements, one of which needs to
    be addressed. He said,

    “And that’s what we’ve said, show me a single scientific publication that says that thimerosal is safe and I will walk away from this issue. But I couldn’t find one and we had the best science researchers in America looking for this for three years. We couldn’t find a single publication to support CDC’s statements.”

    Show us the science. Thimerosal was invented by the drug
    company Eli Lilly in 1930. They tested it on 22 patients dying of meningitis who were all dead by the end of the study. No matter, Eli Lilly said it was safe and after the creation of the FDA, its use was just continued. Seventy-five years after it was created, as the controversy over vaccines and autism grew more heated, the CDC came up with a number of population studies showing no link between thimerosal and autism. (These studies are the weakest kind of science, easily flawed and the results manipulated.)

    Regardless, health officials don’t have a single toxicological study
    showing mercury in vaccines is safe. Not one.

    That is the simple truth.
    Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

    • lilady R.N.

      You keep posting that same Spam about “vaccine-induced-autism” and we keep replying with slews of studies that disprove that link.

      https://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/vaccinestudies.pdf

      • lielady, R.N. BS

        Just remember that anything I disagree with, even if it’s on topic, is spam, libelous, and scurrilous. Because I’m a nurse.

        • CassandraofDelphi

          Haha! The BS is head on :-)

      • Mike Stevens

        I think that is a genuine first. The Dachelbot actually replied to one of my posts!

        • lilady R.N.

          You get today Internetz Award, Mike.

          Watch for Dachel’s Media Update, when she alerts the AoA B Team to come posting.

          • Keith Kloor

            I deleted the post submitted by lieldady, RN. BS. i object to someone deliberately using a blog handle nearly identical as someone else. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up on this earlier.

            That person is free to comment here, just as long as it’s not being done in such an obnoxious manner.

          • lilady R.N.

            Thank you Mr. Kloor. That individual has been trolling other science blogs where I post comments, for weeks.

            You need to check this thread because there are other posts from that same individual, that have not been removed.

    • Mike Stevens

      Anne, you neglect to state your conflicts of interest, and that you are paid to post on these topics by Lee Silsby, a pharmaceutical which promotes the idea of treating autism and “vaccine-damage” with quack remedies.
      In other words you are a pharma shill.

      • Anne Dachel

        Age of Autism may have revenue, but I have never been paid for what I do.

        • Mike Stevens

          Lee Silsby pay Age of Autism direct sponsorship for your “Media Editorials”.
          The money may not go straight into your pocket from them, but we know exactly where it goes when we follow it….
          If the cap fits, wear it.

          • Twylaa

            The people who run Age of Autism need to earn a living and have a right to earn a living. That doesn’t mean that Anne Dachel gets any pay, and it doesn’t mean that anyone at AoA has financial motives. Nobody is getting rich off of advocating for recognition of an autism-vaccine link and other problems related to over-vaccination.

          • Mike Stevens

            Sponsorship money directly enables Age of Autism’s media editor to spam dozens of online media outlets and websites, spouting her antivaccine propaganda.

            Now, should an independent scientist publish a paper he will be accused by Age of Autism and other antivax outlets of being a Pharma shill, even when there is no financial link between him and any pharma company, even the most tangential.

            So when the media editor of AoA directly accepts money for posting her antivax propaganda, the term “shill” seems highly appropriate.

            Like I say, if the cap fits, wear it.

    • Dorit Reiss

      Scientists have dozens of studies comparing children who got vaccines with thimerosal to children who got vaccines without it. With no evidence of difference in adverse events.

      Actually, epidemiological studies are the gold standard. And when study after study after study in different countries by different teams comes up the same: no link thimerosal and autism, when the rates of autism keep rising after thimersoal is removed, it’s pretty clear there’s no connection.

      Scientists have decades of usage of thimerosal of vaccines with no evidence of problems.

      That’s a ton of evidence.

  • Chris Preston

    I find Mark Hyman’s argument “How could it be accurate that “Thimerosal allows millions of people worldwide to have access to life-saving vaccines and to date, no other safer and equally efficacious alternative has been identified for many vaccine” when Thimerosal has already been removed from all pediatric vaccines in the United States and many other countries?” ignorant.

    Thiomersal was added to vaccines as a preservative. It has never been found harmful at the concentrations used. It was removed from pediatric vaccines in most of the developed world due to: less need with single dose vaccines and risk management as the number of pediatric vaccines increased and exposure to other sources of mercury compounds in the environment increased.

    This is not a good argument for claiming thiomersal is harmful. Indeed, in the developing world where refrigeration facilities and transport logistics are less developed, preservatives in vaccines are required in order for the vaccines to retain their efficacy.

    In fact it is not a good argument at all. It doesn’t address the issue about whether preservatives in vaccines allow millions of people world wide to have access to vaccines.

    • CassandraofDelphi

      What you are ignoring is that babies used to get a only few vaccines until the late 1980s when the vaccine schedule has exploded. What the FDA recognized in the late 1990s was that the cumulative amount of mercury that a child was receiving exceeded established safety limits. That is why they called for the removal of Thimerosal from pediatric vaccines. Children in the developing world are receiving an increasing number of vaccines still preserved by thimerosal. Their mercury load is still increasing.

      • Dorit Reiss

        A. The studies in the past decades looked at the 1990s schedule. In multiple countries. And found no harm.

        B. Experts called for the removal of thimerosal as a precaution – without any basis for concern. Later studies showed that precaution was excessive caution and not really necessary.

        • CassandraofDelphi

          Dorit, I repeat I feel sorry for you.
          You are naive and being used.

          • Dorit Reiss

            I note your lack of substantive answer.

          • lilady R.N.

            Those issues about too many, too soon and the increasing number of vaccines which now protect infants and children from serious, sometimes deadly, diseases…have already been explored on this thread…and within the previous posts by Mr. Kloor.

            I suggest you actually read all those posts.

          • G031

            I feel incredibly sorry for you, what is life like being afraid of everything you encounter?

        • Twylaa

          Of course there was basis for concern, and it was well documented.

          • G031

            No, it wasn’t

      • Chris Preston

        CassandraofDelphi, thiomersal was removed because of a theoretical risk of low-weight premature babies exceeding one federal guideline on methyl mercury exposure. Because a long-term preservative is no longer necessary in most vaccines in developed countries, removing thiomersal was an easy way of reducing the theoretical risk.

        Later research has established it was probably unnecessary.

  • lilady R.N.

    From the FDA – Vaccines, Blood and Biologics Division…everything you ever wanted to know about the safety of Thimerosal and the other preservatives that are used in vaccines:

    http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228

    Which preservative that is used in other vaccines, which are not on the CDC/AAP Recommended Childhood Vaccine Schedule, is Mr. Kennedy and his co-authors recommending?

  • CassandraofDelphi

    Here is the problem anyone looking at this issue needs to understand.

    1) Thimerosal was developed in the 1920s by Eli Lilly when proper safety testings were not available. The supposed safety of Thimerosal was established based on a single human study that gave Thimerosal to sick patients with meningitis, all of whom died. The FDA later grandfathered thimerosal use and never requested proper safety or efficacy studies.

    2) companies, understandably don’t want to spend resources on developing alternatives because Thimerosal is cheap.

    3) Eli Lilly continues to have a strong behind the sciences influence on what research on Thimerosal is accepted as valid.
    Eli Lilly would face huge liability if Thimerosal was found to be unsafe.

    The public health community is myopic and believes that because vaccines save lives, everyone should accept the price of using Thimerosal. Because their experts are handpicked by pharma they continue to peddle the studies asserting Thimerosal’s safety.

    This article correctly point out that the price of the single dose vials is negligible to the potential human cost of continuing to use Thimerosal.
    There are also new technologies that would make the use of preservatives unnecessary. What the WHO should do is to force industry to accelerate the development of these technologies but Lilly and the old guard of public health officials stand in the way.

    • Dorit Reiss

      Thimerosal has been used in vaccines, as you point out, since the 1920s.

      There is no evidence that the tiny amounts in vaccines are harmful and a lot of research in humans – from all over the world, done by multiple researchers looking at vaccines containing thimerosal – that find no harm to children from it.

      You’re welcome to provide evidence that the price of single-dose vials is not an issue when large amounts of vaccine need to be produced (like for annual influenza) or for third world countries that already have financial issues affording vaccines. Just saying it doesn’t make it true.

    • lilady R.N.

      Do you always post comments on top of other posters’ comments/links that addressed the issues in your statement?

      From the FDA – Vaccines, Blood and Biologics Division…everything you ever wanted to know about the safety of Thimerosal and the other
      preservatives that are used in vaccines:

      http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBl

      Which preservative that is used in other vaccines, which are not on the CDC/AAP Recommended Childhood Vaccine Schedule, is Mr. Kennedy and his co-authors recommending?

  • CassandraofDelphi

    Great post Mr. Kloor. Thank you for not taking the easy road that other journalist in the media take on this issue!

  • lilady R.N.

    There’s a lot of circular reasoning being presented by Mr. Kennedy and his co-author.

    A) Thimerosal is not a neurotoxin, in spite of Dr. Hyman claiming he has treated thousands of patients for “mercury toxicities”

    B) Thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines, more than a decade ago.

    C) The majority of seasonal influenza vaccines are packaged in single dose vials/preloaded syringes which do not have Thimerosal

    D) The prevalence of autism and ASD diagnoses continues to rise after the removal of Thimerosal from every childhood vaccine.

    E) Other childhood disorders (speech, language, “misery” (?), ADD, ADHD) may be more prevalent, because the provision of services/therapies in the Educational setting and for medical insurance purposes is tied to those diagnoses.

    • Dorit Reiss

      And the claim that it’s financially feasible to use single dose vials in the third world could use some proof.

    • Verna Lang

      Curious. If Dr. Hyman claims to have treated thousands of patients for “mercury toxicities,” he is hardly an unbiased source with no conflict of interest. Supporters of pseudoscience and woo are quick to accuse others of being shills for “Big Pharma,” but never seem to examine their own sources for very real rather than imaginary profit motives.

      • Mike Stevens

        I’d like to see the publications from Dr Hyman about his pioneering work in treating thousands of patients with vaccine-induced mercury toxicities.

        ……What’s that?
        He doesn’t have any?

        Well, what a shame. Most caring doctors are only too keen to publicise and publish their ground-breaking work, so others can benefit.
        I guess Dr Hyman isn’t one of those altruistic individuals who cares about helping children then.

  • scientist

    For anyone that cares to look at all those citations everyone keeps talking about, there’s an unedited pre-release copy of the book circulating on the autism websites. You can find it as a Word document at the link that says “available” here http://www.autisminvestigated.com/kennedy-thimerosal-cover-up/

    As for whether the citations support what the authors are claiming, that’s just laughable. Just because something has a footnote next to it doesn’t mean the source cited actually supports the claim. Of course, you have to actually go to the links and read the primary sources to know this. What you find are researchers’ findings that are misrepresented and grossly oversimplified, quotes taken out of context, omissions, unsubstantiated extrapolations, and just plain fictions.

    The autism parts that were cut are there, too, if you want some extra amusement.

  • Sandy Perlmutter

    I heard this on the Lopate show; that is why I looked for an article here. Who the hell does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. think he is? I liked and respected his father, but here we have the descent of the next generation into self-importance and madness. Oh well, I hope nobody will buy or read this book. It is fitting that he will be interviewed by Dr. Oz, who once was a doctor and now is a shill for woo. How about an interview with Gary Null while he is at it?

  • yankeegirl1

    look at all the zealots here actually defending the use of mercury in vaccines that are given to babies and pregnant women. Mercury even in the form used in vaccines is highly toxic and you all are defending it! Show us all the scientific studies that support the use of Thimerosal.

    • scientist

      Show us all the scientific studies that support the use of Thimerosal

      .
      They’re cited in Kennedy’s book. Yep, even the authors’ own sources don’t support their argument. You read a sentence that says thimerosal is the worst thing ever with a bunch of notes after it and you go to the studies cited in the notes, supposedly supporting that statement, and you get studies finding no evidence of harm.

      Or, you could just go to this list: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Thimerosal/thimerosal_faqs.html#o

    • lilady R.N.

      “Show us all the scientific studies that support the use of Thimerosal.”

      Sure. Just scroll down to the links provided by me and other posters which show that Thimerosal has a remarkable safety record.

      And your studies to back up your statements would be?

  • Aaron Roth

    MONDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) — Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

    Washington Post 2009

  • lilady R.N.

    Mr. Kennedy’s and Dr. Hyman’s taped segment was shown yesterday on the Dr. Oz Show.

    Good grief. That segment was dreadful…incredibly poor science and a total failure to make the case for “thimerosal-induced-autism”.

    Science blogger Orac has a post up, which analyzes the existing research about Thimerosal and the pathetic attempt to legitimatize Mr. Kennedy’s book:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/09/12/has-dr-oz-become-antivaccine/

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »