Totally frightening article in Salon today about how the CDC, drug companies, and others suppressed clear evidence linking thimerosol to autism. Thimerosal is a mercury-derived preservative that used to be widely used. A friend with a fellowship at Oxford in 1990-1991 had me ship her non-mercury-containing saline solution from the US because the mercury-free version was unavailable in England at that time.
In the past, there has been a lot of bad science, supposition, and conspiracy theories that connect this preservative with increased rates of autism. Unfortunately for those of us who were skeptical, this Salon/Rolling Stone article that relies on information obtained via the Freedom of Information Act shows that beginning in the Clinton Administration, a determined effort has kept the good science, direct correlation, and actual conspiracies secret.
We have not had our son exposed to thimerosal because the CDC currently advises that it thinks it is safe but doesn't have the clinical proof to demonstrate that it's safe. Thus, we've been prudent, and asked our pediatrician about all the vaccines and immunizations to ensure that they are mercury-free. She only administers mercury-free vaccines for infants (because that's what they're ordering) and noted that one for when Ben is older currently includes it but it will be phased out by the time Ben needs it.
This is a chilling and horrible violation of the public trust that will lead to assured billions of dollars of lawsuits against the drug companies that apparently colluded with government to suppress this information as they simultaneously moved to remove thimerosal from their vaccines. If this article checks out over time, we've got a massive smoking gun.
Myself, I've always been concerned that the food supply and environmental factors were responsible for the rise in autism, as well as improved diagnosis and an expanded set of definitions that encompass autism. No longer.
The other part of this, of course, is that the people who say that once a kid is given a vaccine that they are autistic the next day--that doesn't appear to be born out by the evidence. As a toxin, mercury accumulates, so it might be a matter of weeks or more likely months.