Equity & Diversity

Canadian Study Sees No Link Between Mercury And Autism

By Christina A. Samuels — July 25, 2006 1 min read

A researcher studying rates of pervasive developmental disorder among children in the Canadian province of Quebec says there is no link between the prevalence of the disorder—of which autism is one type—and a mercury-based preservative once used in childhood vaccines.

Dr. Eric Fombonne, the director of pediatric psychiatry at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Center, studied 27,749 children born in Quebec from 1987 to 1998. Of those children, 180 were diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder, or PDD.

The numbers work out to a prevalence of one child in 155, an estimate “highly consistent with what we’ve seen in previous studies,” Dr. Fombonne said in an interview.

The rates of PDD prevalence rose over the time period studied, and continued to rise even after the mercury-based preservative, thimerosol, was removed from childhood vaccines in Quebec in 1996, Dr. Fombonne said. Children in Quebec received a dose of mercury in their childhood vaccines comparable to the amount received by children in the United States, he said.

“For the U.S. debate, this is very informative,” he said, referring to the long-running controversy over what some people suggest is a link between mercury exposure and autism.

Dr. Fombonne also measured PDD prevalence against the rate of vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella. In the United Kingdom, a published report that linked the measles vaccine to autism caused some parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated. The MMR vaccine has never contained thimerosol.

The MMR vaccination rate dropped slightly in Quebec over the course of the study, but PPD rates continued to rise, eliminating a link between the measles vaccine and autism, Dr. Fombonne said.

The findings were published in the July issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the report, Dr. Fombonne suggests that rates of PDD may be going up as doctors become more adept at diagnosing disorders such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome, another type of pervasive developmental disorder. And, though he said that his study and many others suggest there’s no link between autism and thimerosol, he cannot categorically rule out the suggestion that there is some environmental basis to autism and similar disorders.

“I’m open to looking at a new hypothesis,” he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 26, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity What Black Men Need From Schools to Stay in the Teaching Profession
Only 2 percent of teachers are Black men. Three Black male educators share their views on what's behind the statistic.
Equity & Diversity Opinion Researchers Agree the Pandemic Will Worsen Testing Gaps. But How Much?
Without substantial investment in their learning, the life chances of children from low-income families are threatened.
Drew H. Bailey, Greg J. Duncan, Richard J. Murnane & Natalie Au Yeung
4 min read
a boy trying to stop domino effect provoked by coronavirus pandemic
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion The Chauvin Verdict Is in. Now What?
Justice has been served in the murder of George Floyd, but educators must recommit to the fight for racial equity, writes Tyrone C. Howard.

Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, on April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd.
Following the announcement of the guilty verdicts in the George Floyd murder trial this week, people gather outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis.<br/>
Morry Gash/AP
Equity & Diversity 4 Ways George Floyd's Murder Has Changed How We Talk About Race and Education
Floyd’s tragic death and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests evolved the discourse about structural racism in American schools.
9 min read
Tyshawn, 9, left, and his brother Tyler, 11, right, of Baltimore, hold signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" as they sit on a concrete barrier near a police line as demonstrators protest along a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on June 24, 2020.
Tyshawn, 9, left, and his brother Tyler, 11, right, of Baltimore, hold signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" as they sit on a concrete barrier at a demonstration near the White House in the summer of 2020.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP