McCain and thimerosal

Instead of looking at the science, he’s decided to side with the panic-spreaders and pander to the emotions of the panic victims.

The idea that the mercury-containing thimerosal in childhood vaccinations might be responsible for the soaring rate of autism diagnoses was a scary one, and in the absence of another convincing explanation deserved at least a modicum of attention. Or so I thought, back when this space had a rather long “thimerosal” thread. But now the science is in. Thimerosal in vaccines is not a cause of autism.

By 2001, thimerosal had been removed from all childhood vaccinations. If thimerosal in vaccines had been a significant cause of autism, the effects of the removal in the form of diminished diagnoses would have been evident by now. There is no such diminution.

Thus the thimerosal-autism theory is as dead as phlogiston in respectable company. I’m not surprised that “respectable company” excludes a few ambulance-chasing lawyers looking for deep pockets and a some emotionally devastated parents looking for someone to blame.

But it’s distressing &#8212 to use no stronger term &#8212 that the presumptive Republican nominee for President, rather than looking at the evidence, has chosen to side with the panic-spreaders and pander to the emotions of the panic victims .

Of course we’ve gotten used to Republican politicians ignoring science when it conflicts with the economic interests of their paymasters or the prejudices of their mullahs. But neither is true in this case. The best one can say for McCain’s behavior is that it marks him as a fool, willing to flap his jaw about important topics based on ignorance.

Footnote I thought McCain’s proposal, the last time he ran for President, for a six-month lifetime limit on methadone maintenance &#8212 which, if acted on, would have led to thousands or tens of thousands of avoidable deaths &#8212 reflected a cynical decision to look tough on drugs at some cost in addicts’ lives. Could it instead have been sheer indifference to facts? Neither is a recommendation for a would-be President.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “McCain and thimerosal”

  1. McCain, thimerosal and autism

    The Republican candidate sticks his foot in it in a major way on a topic extensively covered here over the years (as well as at my other site). Writes Mark Kleiman: "the thimerosal-autism theory is…

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