[back] Thimerosal

Thimerosal: The “safe” mercury!

By Red Flags Columnist, F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP

Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA



 My primary interest is Regressive Autism, its incidence and its MMR connection.

 In the United Kingdom, the issue of MMR remains in the forefront with a David and Goliath scenario unfolding for the last seven years: On one side, the mighty Government, the Prime-Minister personally, the Health authorities, the Press –some of it very ugly- and large useless epidemiological studies and on the other side, Andrew Wakefield with his study of 12 children and a small group of faithful devoted and informed parents.

 In the United States, most researchers and the majority of parents with affected children have been more involved with the Thimerosal issue lately.

 There is enough scientific evidence to show that both the MMR vaccine and Thimerosal in other vaccines precipitate autistic regression in genetically-predisposed children, not withstanding the opinions of biased “experts,” a misleading IOM special committee report and obviously the CDC.

 At any rate, I wrote “The Mercury Memo” because I thought the story had to be told but fully intended to leave the Thimerosal issue - from there on, to its supporters.

 That is when a British Red Flag member decided to send me an email with just a URL.


 The first and second words seemed interesting enough - so I had a look. There was a blue bar with the number 817043 and Thimerosal USP. There was also a skull and cross bones and there were the two words <very toxic> all on a Merck document.

 The document was available in French, German and Spanish and also described the environmental dangers of Thimerosal.  


 As a boatman, I had known that mercury-based “boat - bottom paint” was a no-no and I never used it. But I must confess that until I read the Merck information (above), I had never heard anyone mention the “environmental dangers” of Thimerosal, the “preservative” we had put in baby vaccines since the nineteen thirties.

 I had often wondered why Thimerosal was ever added to vaccines. The CDC claims that it was, in order to prevent contamination of multiple dose vials by sloppy health care providers. If that was so, then why did we also add it to certain vaccines that came in single-dose vials? Could it simply have been the sterility on the production line that we were attempting to guarantee? That would certainly make more sense.

 Now if as Merck claimed Thimerosal was “very toxic and dangerous for the environment” should we have been “injecting” it into babies, pregnant women and fragile old people – IN ANY QUANTITY?

 The complete Thimerosal impact information is on the Merck European Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that can be reached by clicking on the last line in the “Product Info” list, on the right of the original page or directly here.

 The 6-page Merck SDS on Thimerosal USP – updated July 28, 2003 - is available in all European languages and is certainly well worth reading in its entirety.

 The following are the more salient points made by Merck for its European customers ( My comments are in bold characters ):                                      

    1. Catalog # 817043. Thimerosal USP

      Company undertaking identification: Merck Schuchardt OHG, Germany - with telephone listing. Emergency telephone #: Please contact the regional Merck representation in your Country

   2. Hazards identification:

      Very toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.

      Danger of cumulative effects.

      Very toxic to aquatic organisms

      May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.

   3. First aid measures

      There were detailed instructions on what to do immediately: After inhalation, after skin contact, after eye contact and after swallowing. The exposed persons were also instructed to also immediately call their physician.

   4. Labeling according to the European Community Directives

             Symbol T+ Very toxic             N Dangerous for the environment

      Note that the updated labeling appears more stringent that the previous one (1999).

   5. Toxicological information

     * After skin contact: Danger of skin absorption. Obviously the skin is by-passed altogether when thimerosal is injected

    * Mercury compounds have a cytotoxic and protoplasmatoxic effect.

 Cytotoxic: An agent or process that is toxic or destructive to cells. Protoplasmatoxic: Toxic to the cell protoplasm.

     * Intoxication symptoms:                         

       Acute: contact with eye causes severe lesions. Swallowing and inhalation of dusts in damages mucous membranes of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract (metallic taste, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, intestinal burns, glottal edema, aspiration pneumonia); drop in blood pressure, cardiac dysrhythmia, circulatory collapse, and renal failure.

     Chronic: inflammation of the mouth with loss of teeth and mercurial line. The principal signs manifest themselves in the CNS (impaired speech, vision, hearing, and sensitivity, loss of memory, irritability, hallucinations, delirium inter alia).

     * The following applies to organic mercury compounds in general: long-term exposure leads to disorders/damage of the nervous system.

 Note that the heading is “intoxication” symptoms. Also note the multitude of acute and chronic problems listed and particularly the fact that central nervous system manifestations can result from chronic exposure to thimerosal.


 The United States and Canada have their own “Material Safety Data Sheet”.

Thimerosal is Product Code # 22215 and the information was revised in December 2003.

The supplier is in Cleveland Ohio and a toll-free telephone number is available for emergencies. http://www.nomercury.org/science/documents/Amersham_MSDS_Thimerosal_12-03-02.pdf

 In addition to the warnings, information and recommendations available in the European Community sheet, the US/Canada version lists the following:   

 “Chronic ingestion or excessive dosage may cause numbness, tingling of hands, feet, lips, ataxia, painful joints, constriction of visual fields, impaired hearing, emotional disturbances, spastic movements, incontinence, groaning, shouting, dizziness, lacrimation, hypersalivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.”

 Comments: Parents of children with autism will recognize these symptoms at once – having lived with most of them. The rest of the readers should take a few minutes and search in Google for autism + each of these symptoms. They will certainly be astonished.

 “Reproductive effects, irritation, tumorigenic, mutation and toxicity data listed in RTECS under OV8400000.

Oral Rat LD50=75 mg/kg (1966). Toxic effects included ataxia, nausea and vomiting, metabolic acidosis and fibrosis.

Reproductive: Effects on embryo or fetus included fetal death (1975).

Fertility – abortion (1975).

Tumorigenic data: Neoplastic by RTECS criteria. Tumorigenic effects - uterine tumors.”


 A. Exposure to Thimerosal resulted in some forms of uterine cancer in the United States

B. We have been aware for 30 years that fetal death and miscarriages have resulted from exposure to the “preservative”.

If so, why did we allow the administration of RhoGAM (Rh? (D) immune globulin (Human) or similar products –containing 0.003% thimerosal in each UNIDOSE pre-filled syringe - to pregnant women at 26 weeks gestation?

 The United States “Regulatory Information” is as follows:

RCRA - Hazardous Wastes: U151.

OSHA - Air Contaminant.

SARA 302 - Extremely Hazardous Chemical.

SARA 313 - Toxic Chemical.

EPA TSCA Section 8(b) - Chemical Inventory.

Exposure Limits - ACGIH TLV-TWA: 0.1 mg(Hg)/m3 (skin).

                   OSHA PEL: 8H TWA 0.01 mg(Hg)/m3 (skin).

NIOSH: REL to Mercury, Aryl and Inorganic-air: CL 0.1 mg/m3 (Sk).


- According to RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Thimerosal hazardous wastes must be handled like mercury as waste code U151. The EPA does not consider Thimerosal safer because it is ethyl mercury.


- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) considers Thimerosal an air contaminant


- The EPA actually sets the toxic Thimerosal levels for skin contact and ambient air

- The CDC says that it was safe to add Thimerosal to pediatric vaccines and quotes “experts” who claim that the “preservative” never caused any harm because only minute doses were injected.

 How big a dose is 0.01mg of mercury /m3 in contact with skin?


      Parting questions:

     * If Thimerosal can cause such awful things to humans and the environment, why do we really need it and why do we still manufacture it?

    * If Hazmat suits and gloves are required to handle Thimerosal and thorough washing of the eyes and skin are immediately recommended after any contact with it, then why have we injected it into babies or mothers carrying babies for sixty years and added it to many eye drops and some hemorrhoidal ointments?

    * If we have known all this for years, then why didn’t we find some other preservative to add to vaccine that does not kill living organisms, cells and their protoplasm?

    * If this information was available in Europe for years, was the United Kingdom Health Minister aware of it and if so, why did he or she allow the Department of Health to recommend pediatric vaccines with thimerosal until 2004?

    * Why do the health authorities in Canada and the United States still insist that Thimerosal in vaccines has never caused any problems quoting flawed and clearly biased epidemiological studies?

    * If neither the Thimerosal nor the MMR vaccine has contributed to the meteoric increase in behavioral and developmental problems, then what did?

    * Has everyone who has served on the 2004 IOM Immunization Safety Review Committee read the Material Safety Data Sheet that has a Skull & Crossbones on the right upper corner?

      If not, WHY?

    * Why did we have to lose all these children?

       Shame on Us!

 F. Edward Yazbak, MD

TL Autism Research

Falmouth, Massachusetts, 02540