Mercury, vaccines, and autism: one controversy, three histories.

Published

Journal Article

The controversy regarding the once widely used mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in childhood vaccines has raised many historical questions that have not been adequately explored. Why was this preservative incorporated in the first place? Was there any real evidence that it caused harm? And how did thimerosal become linked in the public mind to the "autism epidemic"? I examine the origins of the thimerosal controversy and their legacy for the debate that has followed. More specifically, I explore the parallel histories of three factors that converged to create the crisis: vaccine preservatives, mercury poisoning, and autism. An understanding of this history provides important lessons for physicians and policymakers seeking to preserve the public's trust in the nation's vaccine system.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Baker, JP

Published Date

  • February 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 98 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 244 - 253

PubMed ID

  • 18172138

Pubmed Central ID

  • 18172138

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1541-0048

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0090-0036

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.2105/ajph.2007.113159

Language

  • eng