Talk:Thiomersal controversy

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Good article Thiomersal controversy has been listed as one of the Natural sciences good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
September 24, 2010 Good article nominee Listed
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'Questioning Thimerosal's Safety' -- Controversial Material Needed[edit]

The article is about an enormous controversy, and not a single shred of "controversial" material is adequately described.

Clearly there is a need for a Questioning Thimerosal's safety section, where damning and "controversial" research can be appropriately cited and described.

Seipjere (talk) 13:29, 4 May 2013 (UTC)

WP:SODOIT. TippyGoomba (talk) 17:54, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
Go for it. I suspect you may have problems finding RS that live up to WP:MEDRS, but bring what you find to this talk page, with suggested format/wording for inclusion, and there may be something that can be used. -- Brangifer (talk) 19:38, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
Hogwash. We have an entire section as to why some might have considered thiomersal unsafe, cited to high quality secondary reviews. Any suggestions for inclusion would be appreciated, but only if they meet the high quality standards already set in the article. Attempts to give undue weight to fringe positions will not be successful. Yobol (talk) 19:53, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
Agreed, so let's see what (s)he finds. -- Brangifer (talk) 23:57, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
I, aka he, ask(s) you to bare with him (me). (I'm very busy and I don't expect to have enough time for this until the winter.)
But, since I'm here, I should remind Yobol and company that there's hardly any actual science discussed in that nutrient deprived horse manure section (s)he (Yobol) referrenced; (It's heavily biased and almost entirely predicated upon unsettled, early stage, speculative, and / or false presumptions;) E.g. here...
Sorry for the long delay, and I appreciate the patience;

respectfully, Seipjere (talk) 13:09, 7 July 2013 (UTC)

With respect to animal studies, the Rationale for concern section in its present version, cites only the DeStefano refutal article without giving a slightest bit of explanation of its conclusions, or citing the animal studies that predate or follow it (BTW, the links generated by Wikipedia have the article hidden behind paywalls; an URL to publically available copy would be useful).
Actually, as is, the DeStefano article citation would more properly belong in the Scientific evaluation section instead of Rationale for concern, but I'd rather vote for leaving it in place, while putting it in proper context:
There is a host of animal studies that find neutotoxicity effects in animals and these are the main vehicle of raising concerns that have any amount of scientific weight behind them.
Some of those are cited in the DeStefano refutal article. Some have occured later, like the this 2007-09 animal study the publication of which predates the cited DeStefano article by only a month so it could not be taken into account there. Its translation into English is already publicized on, a site with strong anti-vaccination bias. It would be interesting to have the quality of the translation from Spanish being independently assessed, BTW.
Citing the conclusions of that animal study in English: The administration of thimerosal in doses equivalent to vaccines content was associated with low corporal weight, low encephalon weight and smaller stature in postnatal hamsters. Neurotoxic effects were also produced at encephalic level, at hippocampus (regions CA1, CA3, DG), cerebral cortex and cerebellum (Purkinje cells and granuloses cells) with decrease in neuronal density, neuronal necrosis, axonal dismyelinization and gliosis. In addition, risk increase in developing any of these alterations was high in the animal group receiving thimerosal.
This can easily lead anyone to assume that there are valid scientific reasons for concern with Thiomersal when administered to humans.
The WP:MEDRS#Avoid_over-emphasizing_single_studies.2C_particularly_in_vitro_or_animal_studies does a good job of explaining that animal studies don't necessarily translate to clinical effects in humans and a similar paragraph should accompany the DeStefano citation in the current article.
IMHO the Rationale for concern section should cite the most significant animal studies that Thiomersal human neurotoxicity proponents are likely to refer to, followed by a proper citation/rephrasing of the WP:MEDRS#Avoid_over-emphasizing_single_studies.2C_particularly_in_vitro_or_animal_studies section, and finally the current citation of the DeStefano refutal article coming last. Otherwise, the DeStefano refutal article citation lacks necesary context and leaves a general impression of one-sidedness and bias of the Wikipedia article and doesn't do a good job of informing people seeking an objective view addressing both sides of the argument.
--Aleksander.adamowski (talk) 12:25, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

Social phenomenom, sociology?[edit]

This stuff is an interesting sopcial phenomenom. (It isn't any other sort of science). It is an interset between antivaccinationists - who seize on anything vaguely plausible, with the intention of convincing people vaccination is bad, not with any intention of investigating anything, and produce material having an occasional similarity to scientific writing - and people worried by or seeking someone at fault to claim redress from for their autistic child. The consequences of the latter are not intended, and of the former are intended, and are damaging to society. Midgley (talk) 18:48, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

neutral reflection on state of research[edit]

There are smaller scientific studies supporting the use of chelation agents to treat autism (e.g. No matter the political implications, the article's view is single-sided, in that it only mentions the failure(s) of the larger study from the US about the efficiency of DMSA, but not the results from other comparable studies outside of the US. Please correct this. 11:52, 7 October 2013 (UTC)C0NPAQ (talk)

The study you've linked to is a primary research study, and therefore not a recommended resource for clinical information on Wikipedia (see WP:MEDRS for our guidelines on sourcing medical information). Wikipedia, wherever possible, relies on high-quality secondary sources (review articles and the like) to characterize and summarize the state of research. We have found that reporting the conclusions of individual primary research studies and small trials tends to make Wikipedia articles vulnerable to cherry-picking one-off reports of favorable (or unfavorable) outcomes and pet theories.
Speaking specifically to that paper, it's terrifyingly bad. I am shocked that it received (if it received) institutional review board approval. No controls, for a study covering a very diverse population (wide range of ages, wide range of severities, three different diagnoses). No statistical accounting for multiple comparisons. Significance claimed for changes in miniscule subpopulations in their metal assay. No attempt was made to report on or account for the effects of any concurrent behavioral or other non-drug interventions. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 13:00, 7 October 2013 (UTC)
Ok, let me get a bit deeper into this issue, because what concerns me is only really visible in the greater picture. All the wikipedia articles I have read associated with chelation therapy either explicitly or indirectly claim that a link between an increased heavy metal burden or an increased heavy metal sensitivity in people with ASD is either discredited, entirely unproven or outright wrong. Great effort seems to have been made to only provide hints towards the negative aspects of the practice. Now, ironically, the secondary sources available only focus on general vaccine safety (or are otherwise without proof) and have been sponsored governmentally. But they are all hidden behind pay walls. Those sources are entirely insufficient, if you look at the nature of the subject (is there a link between heavy metal sensitivity and ASD?) and the reviewed topic (are the vaccines safe in the general population?). The primary sources that exists about this subject are on the other hand extremely sparse and experimental. That circumstance was even misquoted in some other article, from a secondary source, to outright assert that 'the heavy metal theory' has been disproven. So the cherry picking that has been occurring in wikipedia was done by ignoring that: 1. there is an extreme sparsity of research, 2. using pay-walled sources and only remotely related subjects to make claims about a vastly unresearched and only loosely implied issue, 3. ignoring that the research we have (however sparse) points in the entirely opposite direction.
I have read the paper and it is pretty normal for a small pilot study in some non-western country. It doesn't claim to be overly thorough, all it did was to investigate heavy metal levels in people with ASD and if it could help to lower them (no wonder). I mean, it were 44 people and you are shocked about the lack of control groups? There are very similar studies with negative results, but overall they tend to gravitate towards a positive finding. Needless to say, there are zero large studies which discredit the whole issue. That should be properly reflected, not only in this article which does in fact mostly deal with vaccine safety. 01:30, 8 October 2013 (UTC)~~ — Preceding unsigned comment added by C0NPAQ (talkcontribs)
OH, never mind! I just read about the Wikipedia FRINGE policy, which basically states that if there is a controversy about a topic, you must always misrepresent and hide uncertainties and doubt such that the article exclusively favors the mainstream opinion. That explains a lot. Specifically, why all relevant portions about a heavy metal autism link in each and every paper have been left out entirely. Therefore sentences in quoted papers such as "The conclusion is that there are no reliable data indicating that administration of vaccines containing thimerosal is a primary cause of autism. However, one cannot rule out the possibility that the individual gene profile and/or gene–environment interactions may play a role in modulating the response to acquired risk by modifying the individual susceptibility." become "Although the concern for a thiomersal-autism link was originally derived from indirect evidence based on the known potent neurotoxic effects of methylmercury, recent studies show these feared effects were likely overestimated." on Wikipedia. That policy explains any inconsistencies on wikipedia I have ever read. — Preceding unsigned comment added by C0NPAQ (talkcontribs) 02:13, 8 October 2013 (UTC)
Not WP:FRINGE in this case, but WP:MEDRS, which is striker in some sense. TippyGoomba (talk) 04:46, 8 October 2013 (UTC)
That policy is almost as outrageous imo. I understand you need rules to keep people from going rampage here, but not at the price of suppressing relevant information. People loosely infer here from huge secondary pay-walled sources all they want, as long as there is some kind of reference involved, entirely ignoring the context that information came from. They cite arbitrary people's opinions, such as the famous 'critics' to support the mainstream one. They only present one side of the coin and leave out the other one. They only quote one part of the sentence (e.g. "The research reviewed here does not support the use of chelation as a treatment for ASD") and leave out the other one (e.g. "However, given the significant methodological limitations of these studies [which were 5 miniature pilot studies], the research ..."). Is this a contest in fabricating binary truths, or what? If you are talking about unresearched and novel ideas, you have to either outright state that you cannot have an informed opinion about this, refuse to talk about it due to the nature of wikipedia or whatever, or just give all the pieces of information available. What you do is to create your own fringe theory, in trying to counteract the other one(s) that deviate from the mainstream assumption. Considering every aspect I mentioned on this page, this is borderline censorship. I don't respect any of your rules if they interfere with holding impartial views, generally or individually, it doesn't matter.
I am deeply offended, but it is not only Wikipedias fault. I have been trying to read about heavy metals and autism for almost a month now. I have an autism diagnosis and also wanted to know about amalgam fillings. So far, all I have found is extremely inconclusive. Basically what you will find everywhere online either comes from the Dr. Cutler nutjob church or entirely refuses any link to be possible. Now ironically, although mostly nonsensical, the Dr. Cutler nutjobs are methodically /more correct/ than most sources and scientists about the subject. Why? Because Mr. Cutler never made any specific claims, he is being very unspecific. He just proposes a theory and methods which are likely to be true and work just fine (if they apply), but even more so likely to be entirely insignificant to the vast majority of people. Then Joe Average, the scientific illiterate, comes along and does all sorts of pseudo-scientific nonsense. A whole marketing industry builds around Joe, making even more ridiculous claims. But is Joe Average an authority? No. Is the marketing industry an authority? No. And what information comes from the mainstream opinion and their authorities (i.e. certain scientists and professionals, government)? Denial, ignorance and misrepresentation. Doubt is left out, personal opinions are cited as if it were evidence and any hints of correlation or wider possibilities are concealed. Even worse, most often the basis of the whole anti-chelation argument is that the people who practice it are basically nutjobs. But the truth (most likely) is, we have no real clue about it all. That should be the mainstream opinion. Instead it is A vs B and the most striking feature about B is to make the greatest effort to deny, ignore and misrepresent. That doesn't look very credible to me and probably it didn't look credible to the people migrating to the nutjob category either. What do I have to do to get an informed opinion about this? Basically, what I did resort to is to entirely ignore the articles and read all the primary sources myself, if they aren't pay-walled (So far, I would have needed probably over 1000 USD to read those). How economic is all that effort? By sheer personal economics, considering the risks, am I not better off going with the nutjobs and just doing some trial and error on chelators myself? Yes I am. That is probably the sad end-result to most of this whole fringe theory vs anti-fringe fringe theory behavior. When opinions are /made to be/ binary, you will always be wrong. And that your policies support those nonsense trends it is just deeply offensive to me. Almost always, wikipedia is the place to go to get the most impartial information. But I guess you should put a big warning sticker on your logo, that all information about vastly unresearched but controversial subjects may be heavily biased by policy. I for one did not know (always attributed it to bad quality of the article) and will be more cautious from now on. 11:04, 8 October 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by C0NPAQ (talkcontribs)

New-ish paper[edit]

I was searching PubMed for mercury and autism and I stumbled across this interesting paper from 2011 [1] which contends there might be a link between the two. I am posting it here so I can get some feedback on it and why it is not mentioned in this article. Jinkinson talk to me 20:55, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

The problem I see there is that it suffers from the "beautiful theory...killed by an ugly fact" problem. The author strings together a lot of references to support an elegant chain of arguments—but the epidemiological data doesn't show a reduction in autism incidence following the removal of thiomersal from (most or all) childhood vaccines. To be fair, he does bite the bullet and admit this in the middle of the introduction:
It seems logical to make the assumption that vaccination is a cause of autism due to the simular temporal period in which the first signs of autism occur and modern vaccination schedules are administered. However, numerous epidemiological studies reviewed by Schultz (2010) are not able to support such an association and those that do have some severe limitations. Another more recent study was not able to support a clear association between increased risk of autism and Hg-containing vaccinations (Price et al. 2010). Despite the lack of a clear association based on epidemiological studies...
He's giving us the "cellular perspective" in his paper because a clinical or epidemiological perspective just doesn't support his conclusions. I would be very reluctant for us to include a paper in this article (which, after all, deals with thiomersal) that could be briefly summarized as There's a decade of good epidemiological studies which failed to detect any link between thiomersal and autism. Now I'm going to talk about why thiomersal might cause autism. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:13, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

I'm back, this time with a really new paper, published earlier this month by Jose G. Dorea (whose Wikipedia article I just created). The paper, which is a secondary source, concluded that "mercury load in fetuses, neonates, and infants resulting from TCVs remains in blood of neonates and infants at sufficient concentration and for enough time to penetrate the brain and to exert a neurologic impact and a probable influence on neurodevelopment of susceptible infants." Again, I am not anti-vaccine and I realize that all the epidemiological studies say thimerosal doesn't cause autism, I'm just curious as to whether it should be added to this article (it almost certainly shouldn't). Here is the paper: [2] Note: it is hidden behind a $60+ paywall. Jinkinson talk to me 01:46, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Seems a bit odd that Dorea - a nutritionist - is publishing in this area. I'll take a look at the article later. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 05:08, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Use of primary sources[edit]

I recently removed some primary sources from the article, a couple of which were epidemiological studies with low N (<2000); I wanted to ask for feedback on this. The article already has plenty of primary studies with N in the tens of thousands or higher, so I don't see the benefit of including ones which are inherently much less reliable. In the worst case, I think the space they take could be construed as giving them too much WP:WEIGHT relative to the large primary studies. (Also, IMO addition of less-reliable sources tends to dilute the conclusions rather than strengthen it. We should be minimizing primary sources per MEDRS in any case.) My removals were contested here though not reverted, so I'm opening a talk section. I was also informed that there are other small-N studies in the article which I missed - I found two, but I will hold off edits pending discussion.

List of sources and Ns (the first two are the ones I already removed)

--Sunrise (talk) 01:36, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I think the whole "Population studies" section is problematic: this article is attempting to be a review article itself! It's also mostly a hard-to-read "shopping list" of primary study findings, which for a GA is rather surprising. Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 06:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
True - I just identified the most apparent problems. I think a case could be made for the use of at least some of the remaining studies, but I won't argue it either way. Since it's been a couple of days and the editor who objected hasn't made further comments, I've removed the other two studies I mentioned above. I know I could wait longer before going ahead, but I'm trying to focus my Wikipedia time on other articles right now. Feel free to do what you like with my edits. :-) Sunrise (talk) 20:12, 20 December 2013 (UTC)