Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size

New Intensity to Debate Over Autism Cause

Parents and Researchers Grapple With Claims That Autism Is Linked to Thimerosal in Vaccines
WebMD Health News

July 12, 2005 -- Sallie Bernard and Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, have something in common. Each is the mother of a child with autism.

Both of these mothers care deeply about their children. They care deeply about other children, too -- especially those with autism. But they could not differ more on what they think needs to be done for them.

Bernard is the executive director of Safe Minds. Her organization is working hard to warn parents that mercury -- especially thimerosal, a form of mercury once used in U.S. childhood vaccines -- is the likely cause of an epidemic of autism.

Gernsbacher, president elect of the American Psychological Society and professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, warns us not to believe in an autism epidemic. "False epidemics elicit false causes," she wrote in the April issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Renewed Controversy

Last year, it looked as though the book might finally close on the vaccine/autism debate.

A blue-ribbon panel convened by the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed the evidence. It did not create many waves when it rejected the idea that the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine might cause autism. That theory was retracted by nearly all of the researchers who originally proposed it. The IOM committee then flatly rejected the idea that vaccines containing thimerosal could cause autism.

Bernard wasn't convinced. Neither was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kennedy's recent article for Rolling Stone and Slate -- followed by a scathing Wall Street Journal editorial -- set off a flurry of public interest.

Kennedy indicts thimerosal as a likely cause of autism. And he accuses the CDC, the FDA, the IOM, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics of helping drug companies hide or misrepresent the evidence.

What is this evidence? WebMD takes a look.

Is There Really an Autism Epidemic?

Fact: Autism rates have been going up. Recent years have seen a higher percentage of kids getting diagnosed with autism. The trend seems to have begun in the 1980s and to have picked up speed in the 1990s.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Mother and daughter indoors playing
man on bicycle
girl at window
Mother hugging teenage son
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Home Care Tips

WebMD Special Sections