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Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy Hardcover – March 24, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1ST edition (March 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312326440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312326449
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Avoiding hyperbole while writing about a possible medical catastrophe is no easy task, but David Kirby has created a fine balance of investigative and personal detail in Evidence of Harm. Combining stories from the parents of autistic children with reports, speeches and studies from researchers, pediatricians and government officials, he creates a picture that is as terrifying as anything dreamed up by Hitchcock.

The topic at hand is determining whether high levels of organic mercury present in an inexpensive preservative used in vaccinations can cause either autism or autism-like symptoms. Kirby's in a delicate position, searching for the truth between frantic parents (he focuses on the founders of political action group Safe Mind) and the self-protective pharmaceutical industry (the author thanks the nameless person who placed a pro-Eli Lilly litigation rider into the Homeland Security Act of 2002). He's also honest enough of a reporter to admit to the temptation of deciding mercury is the culprit behind a range of disorders, even in light of some inconclusive test results. The ultimate truth isn't clear, and Kirby is direct about each of the reasons his sources have for their biased opinions.

While some of the straight research reports will likely to go over the head of anyone not well versed in the terminology, the book is never dull--there is a continual urgency in the material that resists pedantry. However undecided the experts, readers will likely land firmly in one angry camp or the other. Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The first serious journalistic account of a highly controversial topic, Kirby's book addresses the front-page question: has a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal, commonly used in children's vaccines, caused a national epidemic of juvenile autism? Following the development of the debate through the eyes of a handful of impassioned parents who formed the political action group, Safe Minds, Kirby, an experienced writer for the New York Times, crafts an engrossing David and Goliath story from this controversy, one in which the giant is an amalgamation of big government bureaucrats and corporate pharmaceutical lobbyists. Whether the association between thimerosal and autism is real remains to be seen, as Kirby points out. The evidence, presented here in excruciating detail but clouded by the parents' editorializing, is inconclusive but suggestive. Readers inclined to believe the parents' case will be convinced that there has been a big conspiracy; readers inclined to be skeptical will likely view the parents as self-serving proselytizers who spin each piece of evidence to suit their forgone conclusions. Walking the middle line, Kirby acknowledges that "each side accuses the other of being irrational, overzealous, blind to evidence they find inconvenient, and subject to professional, financial, or emotional conflicts of interest that cloud their judgment." And though Kirby clearly sympathizes with the parents' tragic experience of autism in their families and their inherent desire for justice, and though he occasionally demonstrates a lack of understanding about the politics of scientific publication and the wording of scientific articles, his book remains one of the most thoroughly researched accounts of the thimerosal controversy thus far. This is the book for medical professionals and concerned parents to read. It's accessible in its handling of medical topics and compelling in its recounting of the parents' fight to advance their agenda in the face of both political and scientific roadblocks.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

This book was a very informative read.
G. Powell
As the parent of a very high-functioning autistic child, I used to discount any relationship between vaccines and autism.
Elizabeth Jennings
Thank you David Kirby and the courageous parents who held the torch and exposed the Toxic Truth!
Leslie H. Weed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Jennings on June 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As the parent of a very high-functioning autistic child, I used to discount any relationship between vaccines and autism. This all changed as I gradually realized how dismal and pharmaceutical-dependent the conventional approach to autism really is. I put aside all preconceptions and reexamined the issue. Each day I found another study implicating mercury in vaccines, including very recent work by researchers such as Jill James, Mady Hornig and Thomas Burbacher. I also found very serious flaws in the studies used to reassure parents that there is nothing wrong with injecting mercury into an infant. I found disturbing similarities between the rhetoric used to defend mercury in medicine today and the rhetoric used 70 years ago to defend lead in paint. While I do not claim that the case has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have seen enough to act on the assumption that it is valid. My child's response to the conservative measures we have used in the past few months have only solidified my persuasion.

Kirby's book is an extremely thorough compilation of all the studies, political ramifications, and personal stories that make up the mercury-autism controversy. His research paralleled my own explorations and added some behind-the-scenes information as well. He also made every effort to present both sides of the issue but was hampered in this by the refusal of the CDC, AAP, pharmaceutical companies and others to grant interviews. He is in no way, shape, or form anti-vaccine.
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56 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Todd S. Page on June 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book over a 2 day period this weekend, and reviewed all the reviews here at Amazon before posting my review. The reviews fall into 2 catagories: parents of autistic children appreciative for Kirby's efforts in exposing the thimerosal controversy, and those, who for various reasons, are opposed to the suggestion that this mercury-based derivitive could have caused or contributed to the autism epidemic. For those who left Kirby with a single star, were you criticizing the book itself or the message conveyed therein? Beause, it is clear that the message in this book is extremely disturbing, and a damning indictment for those in charge of assuring the safety of our children.

While it is true that Kirby paints a very sympathetic picture of those affected by autism, it is also clear from my reading of the book that those in a position to respond to many of the allegations raised were not interested in participating in an open evaluation of this issue. And then, why should they, when the CDC, IOM and FDA have already discounted the evidence that would suggest a link between mercury and autism.

Contrary to what some of this book's detractors would have you believe, Kirby does not suggest that any of the opponents of mercury are opposed to vaccines in general. The book makes it clear that the critics just want their vaccines to be safe, which means removing what can only be considered a neurotoxin from the vaccines. It should be remembered that mercury does not contribute to the efficacy of any vaccine, but only helps the manufacturer extend the shelf life of its product.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Sean on April 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am the father of a 5 year old autistic boy, who actually right now would not be diagnosed as autistic. I saying this to convey that there is hope if you know where to look. We were lucky enough to get on the right track pretty quickly after my son was diagnosed. My wife, along with many mothers of autistic kids, is amazing in her search for answers to unravel this mystery. I am extremely confident to say that she knows more about metabolic issues than 99% of doctors. We have known from almost the beginning that thimerasol had some role in triggering my son's autism (maybe it wasn't the only environmental trigger, but it was a major one nevertheless). Now David Kirby has exposed what we have known all along. This book is a MUST read for ALL parents of young children, not just ones that have been affected by this horrific illness. If you take anything from this book, then take this. DO NOT PUT YOUR BLIND TRUST IN THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND EDUCATE YOURSELF. The medical establishment can and is wrong on many issues (and is DEAD WRONG on this one) and is slow to accept something that goes against what they've been taught.

I actually don't understand how people who don't have a vested interest in this issue cannot at least accept that it is credible that thimerasol could be the environmental trigger that is causing autism in our kids (not in all cases, but in many of the 1 in 166). After all, mercury is a known neuro-toxin and thimerasol is nearly 50% organic ethylmercury (which is even more toxic that methylmercury because of its ability to bind itself at the cellular level). How can anyone think that putting a known neuro-toxin in amounts up to 100 times the levels deemed safe for full grown adults into infants with immature immune systems can be safe?
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