Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy

ISBN: 0312326440
ISBN 13: 9780312326449
By: David Kirby

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Asd Etc Autism Currently Reading Health Library Non Fiction Nonfiction Parenting To Read Vaccines

About this book

In the 1990s reported autism cases among American children began spiking, from about 1 in 10,000 in 1987 to a shocking 1 in 166 today. This trend coincided with the addition of several new shots to the nation's already crowded vaccination schedule, grouped together and given soon after birth or in the early months of infancy. Most of these shots contained a little-known preservative called thimerosal, which includes a quantity of the toxin mercury.Evidence of Harm explores the heated controversy over what many parents, physicians, public officials, and educators have called an "epidemic" of afflicted children. Following several families, David Kirby traces their struggle to understand how and why their once-healthy kids rapidly descended into silence or disturbed behavior, often accompanied by severe physical illness. Alarmed by the levels of mercury in the vaccine schedule, these families sought answers from their doctors, from science, from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines, and finally from the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration-to no avail. But as they dug deeper, the families also found powerful allies in Congress and in the small community of physicians and researchers who believe that the rise of autism and other disorders is linked to toxic levels of mercury that accumulate in the systems of some children.An important and troubling book, Evidence of Harm reveals both the public and unsung obstacles faced by desperate families who have been opposed by the combined power of the federal government, health agencies, and pharmaceutical giants. From closed meetings of the FDA, CDC, and drug companies, to the mysterious rider inserted into the 2002 Homeland Security Bill that would bar thimerosal litigation, to open hearings held by Congress, this book shows a medical establishment determined to deny "evidence of harm" that might be connected with thimerosal and mercury in vaccines. In the end, as research is beginning to demonstrate, the questions raised by these families have significant implications for all children, and for those entrusted to oversee our national health.

Reader's Thoughts


This book was interesting to me because it of its medically-related content, but if I were to rate it based on quality rather than how much I liked it, I think it would fall more in the 2 to 2.5 star range. I found it extremely biased, inflammatory, and emotional. Also, I can only imagine a few people I know who would be interested in a 500-page medical-legal-political tirade like this one. I can hardly believe it was a bestseller. I think a lot of people must have bought it and skimmed it because it's really too dense to be accessible reading. Let's just begin with the RED (danger!) cover. The title, combined with a photo of a little boy crying as he gets a shot, just makes my blood boil. From first glance the book screams "SEE?! SHOTS HURT KIDS!!!! VACCINES ARE BAD!!!!!!" And yeah, don't judge a book by its cover, yadda yadda. But the text didn't prove my first impressions wrong. Chapters have names like "Injecting Fear" and "Mercury Rising." Ugh, I cannot roll my eyes strongly enough.Every time a new player was introduced, I could tell whether it was going to be a "good guy" (Thimerosal-autism theory supporter) or a "bad guy" (denier of that theory) almost immediately. The "bad guys" were presented in a negative light, right off the bat. Also, all the unsupportive research was flawed or manipulated, while all of the supportive research was perfect. All of the scientists/bureaucrats/politicians who denied a link between Thimerosal and autism were cold, calculating, cruel meanies, whereas the parents were all angels and saints. It's just silly how manipulative this book was.I guess I should back up a little. Is there a link between the preservative Thimerosal in vaccines and the increase in autism that started in the 1990s? This book certainly makes it seem like a plausible theory, and I have to give the author this much: I thought it was all a crock when I first picked up the book, but after reading it I'm not so sure. Despite my efforts to resist the theory, I can't definitely say that I don't believe it. That said, it all seems like a moot point now that (to quote wikipedia), "In the United States, countries in the European Union and a few other affluent countries, [Thimerosal:] is no longer used as a preservative in routine childhood vaccination schedules." As we all know, autism rates in the U.S. have continued to rise, despite the removal of the icky-poo preservative.The best parts of this book weren't the hearings or the experimentation or the political power plays. Most interesting to me were the presentations of new autism treatments and the (anecdotal) successful results they've had. I've always thought of autism as an incurable and tragic disorder, and it was wonderful to read a little hope on the subject. I'd like to learn more about treatment options for autistic children.Overall, I might be reacting to this book so strongly because I'm about to give birth to a baby BOY in about six weeks. Boys are so much more likely be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that generally makes me nervous. I can't refute the idea that there is some sort of environmental trigger, and thanks to Evidence of Harm, I'm unreasonably nervous now about the tuna that I've eaten and the flu shots I've received. I know it's silly, but I can't stop worrying. And I'm also annoyed because I fell into David Kirby's trap of fear. Urg.


Kirby writes good nonfiction: the book flows like a novel, and maintains the reader's interest. The subject matter is important--mercury in vaccines, and the possibility that it could have a role to play in the epidemic of autism and autism spectrum disorders. (Also touched upon is the notion that the MMR can cause autism--as put forth by Dr. Wakefield in Britain.) Whether or not the mercury has caused autism, what is fascinating about this book is the government's approach to the issue--or its non-approach. A good read.


A well thought out and researched work. A good read that puts you into the shoes of some of the parents of Autistic children. The secret to this book is in the title. Since there is no "Evidence of Harm", it must be good for you and your children . . . Oh how wrong! Science should be looking for "Evidence of Good" and they have been stuck at proving a negative.

Tara Hendricks

My immediate family is not affected by autism, but this country is, and that affects all of us. All possibilities of causation should be investigated even if we still believe that vaccines are best for the greater good. Because if it were your child affected, you'd want to know. If you read this book, you simply cannot ignore the possibility that it holds elements of truth. As a mother, the most compelling evidence being, the bright, intelligent, everyday moms who just "knew something was not right." I have a deep mother's intution myself and I would not dare disrespect that feeling in other moms by ignoring their concerns. I suppose if you believe that our government could not ever possibly be a part of any wrongdoing, you should not read this book. To me, autism is too big a mystery that hurts too many families for us to push aside mother's voices, as they are the ones on the frontline.


It gets a bit redundant but it's packed with some great information and you have to wonder when someone will listen to these mothers and look at our legislation.


Wow! Depressing. Enlightening. I hope to find a book that tells the other side of the story...afraid I won't...I would have preferred to omit the "story" and the hype and just included the facts.


Fascinating book that explores the controversy between vaccines and autism.


This reads like an extra-long NYTimes Magazine piece, but is remarkably fast-paced for 400+ pages of legislative & scientific 'drama.' Very biased in its position on the vaccine-autism debate, but did give me some food for thought. Contextualized the time line of the court cases, media hoopla, legislation, and publicity surrounding the thimerosal (mercury) in vaccines debate.

Jen Johnson

Couldn't put it down. Filled with knowledge that not enough people know, and NEED to know! Whether you have a child on the autism spectrum is irrelevant. This is still an important, informative book.


wow. Yet another reason why we wouldn't be so popular worldwide... let's just ship our crap mercury and aluminum vaccines off to China and third-world countries... great idea, Clinton!

Meaghan Enright

Really compelling, thorough and surprisingly easy to understand - discusses the evidence linking the use of mercury based preservatives in childhood vaccines to the increased diagnosis of autism in young children. This book definitely makes you think - though the theory is a bit controversial (some discard it as farfetched), the symptoms of mercury poisoning and autism are disturbingly similar, and certainly the levels of mercury present in these vaccinations is cause for concern. (FYI, you can now request vaccines free of thimerosal, the mercury based preservative)

Brenda Ward

Don't torture yourself, this is some truly terrible journalism.


I had tickets to a baseball game; took the book and read it in the stands. I couldn't put it down, read all night and finished in the morning.Basically the pharmaceutical companies put mercury in the vaccines as a preservative(since publication of this book, they have been phased out of children's vaccines), claim there is no mercury (a technical point based on the definition of "trace")...and play a chess game of strategy with our health at stake. Mercury is a toxic substance and bio-accumulates in some people; that's just a fact. And for a long time during the 80's & 90's the government ramped up the vaccination program for infant's and injected the "trace amounts of mercury" into newborns (which, based on their bodysize, exceeded the government's own standards for mercury exposure). The pharmaceutical companies refused to use a mercury free preservative because there was "no evidence of harm" (toxicology studies withstanding). The mercury preservative is still used in flu shots. It's amazing that they just don't make a new vaccine preservative that contain's no mercury; but that would cost $$, and the pharmaceutical companies don't want to hurt their bottom line, so they hire lobyists to go to D.C. (for millions) and put in place laws that protect them from being sued (and save even more millions - dollar well spent!). It's sad that no one will be held accountable for this &@%#-up.Some people will find the chemistry terms too technical, but just skim over those parts and the overlying story will carry you away. I highly recommend it to everyone.


Great book. Long and somewhat technical but very interesting. I loved it. Centers around the CDC and the controversey over mercury in child vaccines.


I can't put this book down! I can relate to the stories in it. These people have stories just like mine. It is an inspiring journey to get our children back.

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