David Kirby – Thimerosal does not cause autism

29 Oct

In something of a jaw-on-chest admission, David has finally admitted that thimerosal does not cause autism:

David Kirby, a journalist and author of “Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy,” said he believed that thimerosal, which still exists in trace amounts in some childhood vaccines, was no longer the “smoking gun.” Several national studies have found no connection, and a California study found that, even after thimerosal was removed from vaccines, diagnoses of autism continued to rise.

I would go on to say then that the claim that mercury in vaccines ever caused a never-established autism ‘epidemic’ needs to be retracted also. I would further like to see David (who has appeared on TV, Radio and in the press speaking as if thimerosal was definitely the cause) question his previous belief that this was ever a medical controversy.

We need to be clear on this issue. In the US, the idea that mercury in vaccines cause autism is the reason so many parents are not vaccinating their children. David was the chief media spokesperson in this belief and whilst it is gratifying to hear him publicly admit thimerosal does not cause autism – it needs to be proclaimed widely and David needs be much more public than this.

However, its not all good.

But, he said, the links between vaccines and conditions like autism are still strong and more research is needed.

Conditions like autism or autism?

David seems to have moved from targetting thimerosal to simply targeting vaccines in general. Contrary to his statement that there are strong links between autism and vaccines, the fact is that there are none. No decent science supports this hypotheses and (with apologies to David) he has a now self-admittedly bad track record when talking about ‘strong links’ between vaccines and autism. David’s ‘strong link‘ between thiomersal and autism was CDDS data and we all know how that one turned out. I’d ask David to please consider very carefully his ideas about ‘strong links’ of today turning around to bite him in the future. Does international public health really need another three/four year gambol through the wilderness based on a non scientific ‘strong link’ which in reality is simply an opinion?

We all know the recent makeover the vaccine hypotheses has been getting. Generation Rescue now no longer claim that autism is simply mercury poisoning for which the cure is two years chelation resulting in a child 100% neurotypical, no different from their peers. SafeMinds – an organisation dedicated to Mercury in their very name – attack MMR, a vaccine that has never contained mercury. Jenny McCarthy is now on board and gives credence to the idea that an average parent (such as myself) knows more about the sciences of medicine, epidemiology, toxicology etc etc than specialists who have spent years in their field. Whilst at the same time Ms McCarthy simply cannot keep her story straight about incidents from her book or even when her son was recovered or not.

The inconsistencies mount and mount and whilst I am glad that David has admitted the non-role of thimerosal in autism causation this is simply the tip of the iceberg. Are Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, NAA, TreatingAutism, A-CHAMP queuing up to admit the same? Are these same organisation prepared to go back onto the same TV/Radio stations they first proudly proclaimed they knew the cause and had the cure and admit they were wrong? Or will it all continue to be held behind the Emerald City of the new ‘Green Our vaccines where we are urged to never, ever look behind the curtain in case we see the simple, obvious truth about the grand machinations?

14 Responses to “David Kirby – Thimerosal does not cause autism”

  1. Regan October 29, 2008 at 11:57 #

    I think that saying that he exonerated thimerosal might be optimistic, since I just listened to the online presentation the story is drawn from and he still states a belief in implication of thimerosal, but also expanding to other factors both internal and external to vaccines…still including mercury, but expanded to vaccination schedule, air, food, water and medicine. I think what was clearly said is that thimerosal is not the “only” cause of autism.

    You can listen to what he had to say first hand.

    His presentation starts in about 10 minutes in.

    Since many of you are more acquainted with the details around these questions, I would be interested in your critique.

  2. Neuroskeptic October 29, 2008 at 12:43 #

    What Kirby needs to ask himself is, if thimerosal is now declared innocent, why did so many people ever think it was guilty? Where did he (and others) go so wrong? And how does he know that in 10 years he won’t be forced into declaring all vaccines innocent?

    Even the Republican party is doing a bit of soul searching at the moment. Kirby et. al. should follow suit.

  3. alyric October 29, 2008 at 14:50 #

    So, David’s moving on to greener pastures now? I wonder if he knows something about the Omnibus. That’s probably crash time.

  4. passionlessDrone October 29, 2008 at 14:53 #

    Hi Kev –

    Kirby is not an asset towards forwarding understanding, not doubt. Unfortunately, there is a chance he has been accurate in some regard; we actually do have evidence that children with autism will react differently to vaccination (or any sickness) than their undiagosed peers. Whether this is sufficient to ’cause’ autism (or some autism) is still unknown, but none the less, it would seem we have clinical evidence that at an immunological level, there are differences in how some children with autism will react to any vaccine, thimerosal containing or not.

    Check out this study from Yale that was recently published in Pediatrics:

    Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor and Autism Spectrum


    This is a pretty neat study. Researchers found that children with autism were more likely to harbor polymorphisms that resulted in an increase in MIF, one function of which is the expression of toll like receptors. These toll like receptors are absolutely critical towards how any vaccine works; it is the aluminum based adjuvants in a vaccine that stimulate these toll like receptors to generate the memory; and it just so happens that kids with autism are more likely to have these structures overexpressed. When researchers measured circulating levels of this substance, they found that it correlated positively with increased autism symptoms in three out of four areas, with the fourth area trending in the same direction, but not reaching statistical significance. At an immunological level, children with these polymorphisms are more likely to generate a different response to a stimulated trigger than children without this polymorphism; and having this polymorphism increases your risk of having autism.

    All of our existing studies on thimerosal in autism and vaccines would be completely blind to this association; none of them attempted to study a cohort that did not receive substances triggering their toll like receptors. Thus, the danger of assuming that testing a particular component of a vaccine is equivalent to testing the vaccine.

    Strangely enough, increases in MIF have also been found in auto immune disorders with unexplainable increases the past few decades, like type 1 diabetes, asthma, and juvenile arthritis. How strange is that?

    Of course, in the above study, researchers didn’t actually stimulate any toll like receptors; they just identified an increase in a substance known to overexpress their function and a correlation to autism severity. They also posited a potential role for immune mediated neural inflammation as a cause of autism.

    We have other evidence, however, that the toll like receptors of react differentially in terms of generated a cytokine response for subsets of children with autism.


    This looks to be a meeting presentation abstract, it isn’t clear when (if?) these results will be published.

    Anyways, this isn’t proof of causation; but we now seem to have a biological mechanism of action to explain what some parents claim to have observed; a very different reaction to vaccines than usual.

    I thought the group here might find this interesting.


    – pD

  5. Lisa October 29, 2008 at 15:13 #

    I think David is likely to move on simply because his career is not all about autism, and he has no personal vested interest autism (that is, no child or close relative on the spectrum). The same is true, BTW, of Dan Olmsted. Both became intrigued by autism as a topic of research, journalism and advocacy… but I’m guessing neither wants to spend their lives on it.

    As to why the thimerosal connection seemed to make sense? I can only imagine that it was one of those “common sense smashes up against science” situations.

    Autism does have something in common with mercury poisoning. Mercury is in thimerosal. Thimerosal was injected at almost the same time as many kids presented symptoms of autism. Kirby really did find apparent transparency issues at the NIH. So, logically, thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. And, if you follow Kirby’s research, it’s reasonable to think “medical authorities knew this, and withheld the information.”

    It’s logical. It makes common sense. It just doesn’t happen to be provable using the scientific method. Meanwhile, however, we continue to hear what I assume are true stories of children who react to vaccines with physical illness, followed immediately by developmental regression…

    Lisa (About.com Guide to Autism – http://www.autism.about.com)

  6. Another Voice October 29, 2008 at 15:32 #

    Mr. Kirby does not have the training or the credentials to implicate or exonerate anything having to do with vaccines. He has always primarily sought to keep his name in print, remaining an item of conversation in order to stay on the speaking circuit. He has done a wonderful job of merchandising himself, now looking for a new angle on autism to stay afloat.

  7. A Proud Father October 29, 2008 at 16:33 #

    This is it. The world is coming to an end, pigs are flying, my world doesn’t make sense any more (/sarcasm). But you’re right, it’s just moving the target a little bit to the left.

  8. Epi Wonk October 29, 2008 at 17:47 #

    I just watched David Kirby’s actual presentation. (Thank you to Regan for providing the link.) He spoke for almost an hour and I found it an agonizing experience. He’s actually a good speaker, which is probably why he’s able to WOO the gullible. But he’s an absolute master of pseudoscience. And of cherry-picking the few findings that agree with his argument and ignoring all else. I could go on and on.

    But more to the point: I’m sorry to the report that he really doesn’t concede that “thimerosal does not cause autism.” He starts out his talk by saying that thimerosal is no longer the ONLY “smoking gun,” then proceeds to spend 20 minutes or so talking about the “accumulating scientific evidence” that ethylmercury in vaccines causes permanent brain damage (including autism).

    The weirdest part of all: Kirby ended his talk with slides of several things that CDC has admitted and what the future research plans of CDC are regarding vaccines and neurological damage. He spoke with such confidence, almost as if he were an authorized CDC spokesman. Bizarre. I think the CDC would be surprised, to say the least.

  9. Regan October 29, 2008 at 18:56 #

    Epi Wonk,
    Thanks for your comment; I appreciate your summary and review.

    So the leopard has not really changed its spots.

  10. Regan October 29, 2008 at 19:08 #

    Another Voice,


  11. Ringside Seat October 29, 2008 at 19:16 #

    Don’t forget he used to work for CDC, so his masters at the drug companies probably told him what to say… [not]

  12. kristina October 29, 2008 at 19:47 #

    I didn’t think he was really changing his spots — he’s been very slippery before—-but I think it would be well to keep “reminding” people about the smoking gun statement.

  13. Schwartz October 31, 2008 at 02:30 #

    Imagine, David Kirby an investigative reporter is accused of exaggeratation. And look, reports of his “admission” of “non-role” of Thimerosal abound. But on closer examination, this article (and others) is just as much of a sensationalized overexaggeration.

    Two peas in a pod.


  1. Autism Blog - » Blog Archive » David Kirby clarifies? - October 31, 2008

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