Mercury in baby vaccines is linked to autism
Mon 13 Jan 2003
MERCURY, one of the most dangerous substances known to
man, is being used in a series of infant vaccines - in
spite of a warning from NHS advisers that its use as a
cheap preservative "may be toxic" to babies aged under
Thimerosal, a compound 50 per cent composed of ethyl
mercury, which is banned in the United States amid
fears of its links to autism, is being used in the
DTwP vaccines given to infants aged eight weeks.
A report from NHS scientists has indicated that
thimerosal is not only dangerous to infants, but also
to the unborn child if contained in products used by
The UK Medicines Information (UKMI) service, run under
the NHS banner to provide advice to doctors, has
compiled a report naming the 13 UK vaccines which
contain thimerosal - referred to as "thiomersal" by
The list includes four out of the seven flu vaccines
issued this year by the government, a pneumonia
vaccine and four of the 11 child vaccines. The main
source is the triple DTwP jab, for whole-cell
diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
There is no mercury in vaccines for MMR, polio,
meningitis C or the DTaP injection, which also
protects against diphtheria and tetanus. But UK
infants are always given the DTwP vaccine, which does
"The very low thiomersal concentrations present in the
pharmacological and biological products are relatively
non-toxic in adults," the UKMI report says. "But it
may be toxic in utero [in the foetus] and during the
first six months of life."
It is the first time any UK health official has
admitted to the danger posed by mercury in vaccines.
Pressure groups described the UKMI advice as a
"bombshell" which should "make Britain wake up to what
the Americans have known for years" and force
ministers to take mercury out of all medicine.
Action Against Autism, a pressure group, said this
tallied with the boom in autism since vaccination ages
were lowered in 1990.
"If the Department of Health is aware that thimerosal
is unsafe for childhood vaccines, than we may be
looking a criminal medical negligence on a massive
scale," said Bill Welsh, the group's chairman.
The Department of Health last night confirmed to The
Scotsman that the UK vaccination schedule will have
exposed infants to thimerosal, and therefore mercury,
three times by the age of 17 weeks.
"The level of thiomersal present is 50 micrograms per
injection," a spokesman said. "UK childhood exposure
to thiomersal is via DTP-containing vaccine only and,
as such, up to four months of age-cumulative exposure
to thiomersal is 150 micrograms from three
Although it did not refute that this substance is
toxic, it said the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines
"has advised that there is no evidence of harm caused
by doses of thiomersal in vaccines, except for
It is hypersensitive reactions to thiomersal, however,
which are now being linked to autism by research. The
UKMI advice says as many as 18 per cent of children -
almost one in five - can experience side-effects.
It added that a memo warning about the toxic risk in
thiomersal was provided by the Wessex Drug and
Medicines Information Centre in Southampton University
Hospitals Trust, dated October 2002.
The Department of Health said it was "independent
advice from independent doctors" and that it is not
necessarily endorsed by ministers.
Thimerosal has been used in vaccines since 1939. The
first case of autism was diagnosed four years after -
a condition never before recorded in medical science.
The US Institute of Medicine has warned that
thiomersal has a "biologically plausible" link to
autism, an admission which has fuelled £30 billion
class action in the US against Eli Lilly, the main
The Scottish Parliament has the power to ban mercury
in vaccines. In spite of pressure from the SNP and the
Tories, ministers have decided to stay within the UK