Book Reviews by Heidi Boudro

Evidence of Harm

Reviewed by Heidi Boudro


One out of 166 American children born today will be stricken with autism, a devastating regression that without preconceptions is recognizable as brain damage. Autism was rare in the 1970s; its incidence then was about one out of 10,000 births. Autism can justly be called a contemporary epidemic.

David Kirby, in Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy explores the cause of this epidemic. Is the cause the increased exposure of infants to mercury? Kirby's account of organized parents who underwrite scientific research and challenge an obstructive public health bureaucracy is dramatic enough that a movie, in the mode of Erin Brockovich, is in the works.

Mercury, the world's second most poisonous substance (after plutonium), is the basis of a preservative/bactericide called thimerosal. Thimerosal was used in over-the-counter disinfectants such as Merthiolate (a trade name for thimerosal) until it was banned by the FDA in 1998. Thimerosal was first used in vaccines in the early 1940s (simultaneous with the first recorded cases of autism). Thimerosal is still used today in the vaccine manufacturing process and is also usually added to vaccines to a level of .01% mercury. Its addition to pediatric vaccines was banned in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, in Scandinavia in the 1990s, and is in the process of being partially phased out in the United States.

Meanwhile, the CDC and other U.S. health agencies publicly state that there is "no evidence of harm" from thimerosal in vaccines. Their incentives are plain enough. The number of recommended/mandated childhood vaccines was dramatically increased until the typical child has been injected with up to 100 times the federal limits for mercury exposure. If this exposure caused brain damage in a substantial number of children, their lifetime expenses submitted to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or to vaccine manufacturers through lawsuits, would be astronomical.

Therefore, the concept of environmental cause is generally resisted. Many experts insist that autism is wholly genetic, in the sense of an uncaused, untreatable birth defect. Unfortunately, this mindset allows thimerosal to continue to be added to vaccines; prevents the genetic identification of children who should not be vaccinated; prevents the development of safer vaccines; prevents research into the cause of autism; and prevents the development and general recommendation of treatments for autism. In contrast, the only existing research on the biological cause and treatment of autism uses the mercury/toxins model and details the way autistic and non-autistic children process heavy metals and the associated genetic markers.

Evidence of Harm is an important and interesting medical detective story. As the book makes clear, the importance of uncovering the thimerosal scandal is not in the revealing of past malfeasance and stupidity, but to enable the prevention of vaccine injuries and the prevention and treatment of autism.

See Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy at Amazon.

Copyright © 2006 by Heidi Boudro