In a verdict that will serve as another likely nail in the coffin for an autism theory, a federal vaccines court threw out three cases last week that dispel a belief that thimerosal — mercury-containing preservative — causes autism.
I have previously covered this controversy: Some people believe vaccines with this preservative can cause autism, a complex neuro-developmental disorder. Yet piles of scientific research disprove this theory.
Earlier rulings on this matter have been sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and that’s where these three cases are likely to end up. But not even case dismissals help us to better determine the real origins of autism, which affects 1 in 110 children. Autism today remains a tangle of environmental and genetic leads, but nothing conclusive.
Those who are most affronted by this verdict are, obviously, the more than 5,300 parents who had filed claims with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and were awaiting compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. “The average citizen has no hope,” J.B. Handley, a founder of Generation Rescue (of which former Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy is the unofficial celebrity spokeswoman), told the Los Angeles Times.
Criticism towards the hearings has generally cited the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services was a defendant in the case and both funded and produced evidence that the vaccines are harmless. However, several large studies outside of the U.S. also have concluded that there’s no causal relationship between thimerosal and autism. A related claim against the MMR vaccine has been disproved by the British General Medical Council, after the British medical journal that published — and later retracted — the study ruled that its lead author had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”
This is not to say all children should rush off to vaccinate themselves in mercury filled preservatives. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that can adversely impact cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Hopefully, these latest developments are a step toward founded, scientific knowledge of the causes behind autism.