Equity & Diversity

Canadian Study Sees No Link Between Mercury And Autism

By Christina A. Samuels — July 25, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
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.
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

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 Citing Anti-Gay Discrimination, a Teacher of the Year Leaves the Classroom
Kentucky's 2022 Teacher of the Year Willie Carver Jr. said he had been unable to find support from his school administration.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader
3 min read
Montgomery County teacher and Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Willie Carver, in downtown Mt. Sterling, Ky., on May 11, 2022.
Montgomery County teacher and Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Willie Carver, in downtown Mt. Sterling, Ky., on May 11, 2022.
Arden Barnes for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Maine's Religious Schools Face Hurdle to State Tuition
The Supreme Court recently allowed religious schools to participate in a state tuition program.
4 min read
Bangor Christian Schools sophomore Olivia Carson, 15, of Glenburn, Maine, left, stands with her mother Amy while getting dropped off on the first day of school on August 28, 2018 in Bangor, Maine. The Carsons were one of three Maine families that challenged the prohibition on using public money to pay tuition at religious schools. The Supreme Court ruled that Maine can't exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition aid for private education in towns that don't have public schools. (Gabor Degre/The Bangor Daily News via AP, File)
Equity & Diversity Proposed Title IX Overhaul: Key Questions on What's Next
The U.S. Department of Education's proposed rules covering sex discrimination in education enter the public comment process.
6 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at a White House event in April.
Susan Walsh/AP
Equity & Diversity LGBTQ Students Would Get Explicit Protection Under Title IX Proposals
But the U.S. Department of Education did not include transgender participation in sports in the latest version of revised Title IX regulations.
6 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a 2021 rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School in Millville, Utah.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP