This is it, folks. The numbers I've been waiting to see. Me and many parents who have been been either wondering or doubting if there's any link whatsoever between the preservative used in childhood vaccines (thimerosal, a type of mercury) and autism.
We all know more and more kids are being diagnosed as autistic. The numbers show that. We all know the diagnostic criteria for what is considered autistic symptoms has increased over the past several decades, the last one in particular. We now have an autistic spectrum labeling kids that would not have been considered autistic in the past. We've had some solid epidemiological studies finding no link between either the vaccines or the mercury in the vaccines and autism. And many of us know in 2001 mercury was removed from all the vaccines (except some flu ones).
So what about the kids who received mercury-free vaccines? If mercury causes autism, we'd expect the number of cases to drop off. The kids who received the mercury-free vaccine are now in first and second grades - and should have already been labeled autistic by now if in fact they've had any syptoms. Did they have lower rates of autism?
No. Autism is still on the rise according to an article in today's New York Times. Researchers at California's State Public Health Department documented this rise in a report in the January issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry. A good study, not conclusive - it's limited to kids diagnosed with autism and other conditions within the California public health system. I'd be even more convinced with data from a few more regions of the country.
I know this is a sensitive issue. But honestly, it's time to drop the mercury-in-vaccines hypothesis and start examining the no-doubt other viable explanations. Yes, some of the rise must be attributed to our expanded autistic spectrum and expanded awareness of autism. And some of it must be attributed to other causes, some genetic, some environmental.
For more info on autism-related research check out the reports described on the Centers for Disease Control website.
BTW you can read the report for free over at The Archives for General Psychiatry - a kind gesture by the journal considering the importance of the material. Granted, the AGP isn't where I'd like to be reading the breaking autism news - it's not the top journal, but this is preliminary post-mercury-vaccine data. Stay tuned to hear more about this issue in the coming year. I remember reading a few months ago that the CDC would be publishing a report this winter.