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Banning Vaccine Preservative Would Hurt Kids in Poor Nations: Experts
Date:12/17/2012

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A United Nations proposal to ban the vaccine preservative thimerosal -- which contains a form of mercury -- should not go through, says a leading group of U.S. pediatricians.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joins the World Health Organization (WHO) in urging the U.N. to drop the proposal from an international treaty seeking to cut down on mercury exposures in a variety of ways. Both the WHO and AAP say a thimerosal ban could keep children in poor nations from getting needed vaccines.

The AAP, which announced its stance to members in June, reiterates its position and provides three commentaries on the issue in the January print edition of Pediatrics, published online Dec. 17.

Thimerosal contains a form of mercury called ethyl mercury. For years it was used in certain vaccines, but U.S. health officials decided in 1999 that thimerosal should be removed from most vaccines given to young children. (The exception is some flu vaccines.)

That was done as a precautionary measure until researchers could learn more about how the ethyl mercury in thimerosal might affect children's development. Ethyl mercury is different from methyl mercury -- the form found in the environment that can harm young children's developing brains.

"Back then, there were no guidelines on ethyl mercury exposure," said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"So the thinking at the time was, let's exercise the precautionary principle," Offit said.

Numerous international studies since have uncovered no evidence of harm -- including no link between thimerosal and autism, which had been a concern. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is "no convincing evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines."

Given that, banning thimerosal globally could
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