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The first association between autism and exposure to mercury was the publication of the landmark article Autism, A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning by Bernard, et. al in 2000. The paper was first published in its entirety (See link below) and later in the journals Medical Hypothesis and Molecular Psychiatry in 2001. The authors conducted an extensive literature review of mercury and autism and showed that exposure to mercury can give rise to the traits defining or commonly found in individuals with autism spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Mercury can cause impairments in social interaction, communication difficulties, and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, which comprise the three of the original DSM-IV autism diagnostic criteria. Additionally, mercury can induce features prominent in ASD such as sensory abnormalities, emotional/psychological changes, movement disorder, impairments in abstract or complex thinking, severe sleep disturbances, and self injurious behavior. Males are more affected than females in both conditions. Physiological abnormalities more common in ASD populations and known to be caused by mercury exposure include gastrointestinal problems, autonomic nervous system disturbance, unusual EEG activity, immune system alterations, irregularities in neurotransmitter systems, and non-specific brain lesions.

The discovery and increase in the reported prevalence of autism parallels the introduction and spread of thimerosal-containing vaccines. Autism was first described in 1943 among children born in the 1930s. Thimerosal was first added to childhood vaccines in the 1930s. Thimerosal was also an ingredient in vaginal contraceptive creams and in over-the-counter products like merthiolate and contact lenses solution during the 1950s through the 1980s when its use was initially questioned by the FDA. In 1989 with the introduction a new vaccine for Haemophilus influenza B, exposure levels to mercury doubled in products that were universally recommended for all infants and children, vaccines. This is the year that has been identified by researchers as the “change point” year when the incidence of autism began to skyrocket.

Since 2000, the medial literature has been flush with cumulative research supporting a causal role for mercury in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders. Such studies have documented associations between environmental exposure to mercury and autism spectrum disorders, elevated levels of mercury in tissue of children with autism, and improvement in the symptoms of autism when levels of mercury were reduced using chelating agents that help to remove mercury from the body and other interventions to reduce oxidative stress.

There has been an observed increase in autism in recent decades. The symptoms of the disorder parallel those of cumulative mercury exposure. This document includes the abstracts for over 80 studies that provide mounting evidence linking exposure to mercury, at critical moments in development, to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. These include cellular, animal and human studies.

Browse through and read the individual study abstracts below and/or download a PDF of all the study abstracts.

Also see:

Mercury (all sources) Research

Mercury-Thimerosal-Autism Research (PDF 21.9MB)

Thimerosal Research

Two options:

Download pdf of all studies (11.7mb) or browse the following 80+ abstracts (first page of study only).

Abdel-Rahman 2013 – Studies on H1N1 vaccine-induced monoamines alternations and oxidative stress on brain of adult mice

Adams 2007 – Mercury, Lead, and Zinc in Baby Teeth of Children with Autism Versus Controls

Aschner 2002 – The neuropathogenesis of mercury toxicity

Baskin 2003 – Thimerosal Induces DNA Breaks, Caspase-3 Activation, Membrane Damage, and Cell Death in Cultured Human Neurons and Fibroblasts

Bernard 2001 – Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning

Bernard 2002 – The role of mercury in the pathogenesis of autism

Blanusa 2012 – Mercury Disposition in Suckling Rats: Comparative Assessment Following Parenteral Exposure to Thimerosal and Mercuric Chloride

Blaucok Busch 2012 – Efficacy of DMSA Therapy in a Sample of Arab Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Bradstreet 2003 – A Case-Control Study of Mercury Burden in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Burbacher 2005 – Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal

Chen 2013 – Effect of Thimerosal on the Neurodevelopment of Premature Rats

Chrysochoon 2003 – An 11-month-old boy with psychomotor regression and auto-aggressive behavior

DeSoto 2007 – Blood Levels of Mercury Are Related to Diagnosis of Autism: A Reanalysis of an Important Data Set

Deth 2007 – How environmental and genetic facts combine to cause autism: A redox/methylation hypothesis

Duszczyk-Budhathoki 2012 – Administration of Thimerosal to Infant Rats Increases Overflow of Glutamate and Aspartate in the Prefrontal Cortex: Protective Role of Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate

El-baz – Hair mercury measurement in Egyptian autistic children

Gallagher 2010 – Hepatitis B Vaccination of Male Neonates and Autism Diagnoses, NHIS 1997-2002

Garrecht 2011 – The plausibility of role for mercury in the etiology of autism: a cellular perspective

Geier 2004 – A comparative evaluation of the effects of MMR immunization and mercury doses from thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines on the population prevalence of autism

Geier 2004 – Neurodevelopmental Disorders Following Thimerosal-Containing Childhood Immunizations: A Follow-Up Analysis

Geier 2006 – A meta-analysis epidemiological assessment of neurodevelopment disorders following vaccines administered from 1994-2000 in the United States

Geier 2006 – Early Downward Trends in Neurodevelopment Disorders Following Removal of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines

Geier 2007 – A Case Series of Children with Apparent Mercury Toxic Encephalopathies Manifesting with Clinical Symptoms of Regressive Autistic Disorders

Geier 2007 – A Prospective Study of Mercury Toxicity Biomarkers in Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Geier 2007 – A prospective study of thimerosal-containing Rho(D)-immune globulin administration as a risk factor for autistic disorders

Geier 2007 – An Evaluation of the Effects of Thimerosal

Geier 2008 – A Prospective Study of Transsulfuration Biomarkers win Autistic Disorders

Geier 2008 – Biomarkers of environmental toxicity and susceptibility in autism

Geier 2009 – Mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired oxidative-reduction activity, degeneration, and death in human neuronal and fetal cells induced by low-level exposure in thimerosal and other metal compounds

Geier 2010 – Blood mercury levels in autism spectrum disorder: Is there a threshold level?

Geier 2012 – Hair Toxic Metal Concentrations and Autism Spectrum Disorder Severity in Young Children

Geier 2013 – A two-phase study evaluating the relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccine administration and the risk for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States

Geier 2014 – A Case-Control Study Evaluating the Relationship Between Thimerosal-Containing Haemophilus influenza Type b Vaccine Administration and the Risk for a Pervasive Developmental Disorder Diagnosis in the United States

Geier 2014 – A Dose-Response Relationship between Organic Mercury Exposure from Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Neurodevelopment Disorders

Geier 2014 – The risk of neurodevelopment disorders following a Thimerosal-preserved DTaP formulation in comparison to its Thimerosal-reduced formulation in the vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS)

Geier 2015 – Thimerosal: Clinical, epidemiologic and biochemical studies

Geier 2017 – Increased Risk for an Atypical Autism Diagnosis Following Thimerosal-containing Vaccine Exposure in the United States: A Prospective Longitudinal Case-Control Study in the Vaccine Study Datalink

Gronborg 2013 – Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Full- and Half-Siblings and Trends Over Time, A Population-Based Cohort Study

Herbert 2005 – Large Brains in Autism: The Challenge of Pervasive Abnormality

Hewitson 2010 – Delayed Acquisition of Neonatal Reflexes in Newborn Primates Receiving a Thimerosal-Containing Hepatitis B Vaccine: Influence of Gestational Age and Birth Weight

Hewitson 2010 – Influence of pediatric vaccines on amygdala growth and opioid ligand binding in rhesus macaque infants: A pilot study

Holmes 2003 – Reduced Levels of Mercury in First Baby Haircuts of Autistic Children

Hooker 2014 – Methodological Issues and Evidence of Malfeasance in Research Purporting to Show Thimerosal in Vaccines Is Safe

Hornig 2004 – Neurotoxic effects of postnatal thimerosal are mouse strain dependent

Humphrey 2005 – Mitochondrial Mediated Thimerosal-Induced Apoptosis in a Human Neuroblastoma Cell Line (SK-N-SH)

Ida-Eto 2011 – Embryonic exposure to thimerosal, an organomercury compound, causes abnormal early development of serotonergic neurons

Ida-Eto 2013 – Prenatal exposure to organomercury, thimerosal, persistently impairs the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems in the rat brain: Implications for association with developmental disorders

James 2004 – Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism

James 2004 – Thimerosal Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with Glutathione Precursors

Juul-Dam 2001 – Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Factors in Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, and the General Population

Kern 2010 – Toxicity biomarkers among US children compared to a similar cohort in France: a blinded study measuring urinary porphyrins

Kern 2012 – Evidence of parallels between mercury intoxication and the brain pathology in autism

Khaled – Altered urinary porphyrins and mercury exposure in biomarkers for autism severity in Egyptian children with autism spectrum disorders

Koh 2014 – Abnormalities in the zinc-metalloprotease-BDNF axis may contribute to megalencephaly and cortical hyperconnectivity in young autism spectrum disorder patients

Li 2014 – Transcriptomic Analyses of Neurotoxic Effects in Mouse Brain After Intermittent Neonatal Administration of Thimerosal

Lohren – Toxicity of organic and inorganic mercury species in differentiated human neurons and human astrocytes

Loison 2014 – Suppression by Thimerosal of Ex-Vivo CD4 T Cell Response to Influenza Vaccine and Induction of Apoptosis in Primary Memory T Cells

Loison 2014 – Thimerosal compromises human dendritic cell maturation, IL-12 production, chemokine release, and T-helper polarization

Makani 2002 – Biochemical and molecular basis of thimerosal-induced apoptosis in T cells: a major role of mitochondrial pathway

Maya 2006 – El timerosal y las enfermedades del neurodesarrollo infantil

Minami 2009 – Induction of metallothionein in mouse cerebellum and cerebrum with low-dose thimerosal injection

Mohamed 2015 – Assessment of Hair Aluminum, Lead, and Mercury in a Sample of Autistic Egyptian Children: Environmental Risk Factors of Heavy Metals in Autism

Mostafa 2007 – Antineuronal antibodies in autistic children: relation to blood mercury

Mostafa 2016 – The levels of blood mercury and inflammatory-related neuropeptides in the serum are correlated in children with autism spectrum disorder

Nataf 2006 – Porphyrinuria in childhood autistic disorder: Implications for environmental toxicity

Olczak 2011 – Persistent behavioral impairments and alternations of brain dopamine system after early postnatal administration of thimerosal in rats

Parner 2008 – Autism Prevalence Trends Over Time in Denmark

Rodrigues 2015 – Toxicological effects of thimerosal and ethyl mercury: Inhibition of the thioredoxin system and NADP-dependent dehydrogenases of the pentose phosphate pathway

Rose 2015 – Increased Susceptibility to Ethylmercury-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction in a Subset of Autism Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines

Shandley 2011 – Ancestry of Pink Disease (Infantile Acrodynia) Identified as a Risk Factor for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sharpe 2012 – Thimerosal-Derived Ethylmercury is a Mitochondrial Toxin in Human Astrocytes: Possible Role of Fenton Chemistry in the Oxidation and Breakage of mtDNA

Sharpe 2013 – B-Lymphocytes from a Population of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Unaffected Siblings Exhibit Hypersensitivity to Thimerosal

Sulkowski 2011 – Maternal Thimerosal Exposure Results in Aberrant Cerebellar Oxidative Stress, Thyroid Hormone Metabolism, and Motor Behavior in Rat Pups; Sex- and Strain-Dependent Effects

Verstraeten 1999 – Increased risk of developmental neurological impairment after high exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccine in first month of life

Waly 2004 – Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopment toxins and thimerosal

Waly 2016 – Alternatively Spliced Methionine Synthase in SH-SY5Y Neuroblastoma Cells: Cobalamin and GSH Dependence and Inhibitory Effects of Neurotoxic Metals and Thimerosal

Wu 2008 – Thiol-Modulated Mechanisms of the Cytotoxicity of Thimerosal and Inhibition of DNA Topoisomerase IIα

Yassa 2014 – A form of lead and mercury toxicity

Yel 2005 – Thimerosal induces neuronal cell apoptosis by causing cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor release from mitochondria

Young 2008 – Thimerosal exposure in infants and neurodevelopment disorders: An assessment of computerized medical records in the Vaccine Safety Datalink