2003 Danish Study on Mercury Fabricated by Fugitive?

     A widely publicized study released in 2003 claimed that mercury in vaccines played no role in causing autism because the rate of autism in Danish children increased after mercury was removed from Danish produced vaccines in 1992. A study released several weeks ago, however, shows the exact opposite, that the rate of autism in Danish children decreased after mercury was removed. And if the increasing rate of autism claimed in the earlier study showed that mercury had no role in causing autism, then logic would also require that the rate of autism going down, as shown in the current study, indicates that mercury in vaccines may very well have a great deal to do with causing autism. There is also a huge discrepancy between the total number of children with an autism diagnosis in Denmark during the study period between the two papers that baffles explanation.

      Both papers were drafted in part by researchers at University of Aarhus in Denmark with support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Both papers claim to have drawn their data from a national registry of health information that includes all children born in Denmark, and another registry that records all psychiatric disorders among Danish children. Both studies looked at the time period from 1995 to 2000. Yet the two studies looking at supposedly the exact same data during the exact same time period have two completely different conclusions about the growth of autism in Denmark.

     The 2003 study, Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data, was performed under the direction of Dr. Poul Thorsen, Ph. D., who was hired by the CDC to do a series of epidemiological studies in Denmark, several of which focused on the role of vaccines in autism. All the vaccine studies performed by Thorsen concluded there was no causal connection with autism. Thorsen’s studies absolving vaccines of any role in autism have had a decisive impact on American vaccine policy, autism research priorities, and the dismissal of almost all of the autism cases in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  In 2011 Thorsen was indicted for a raft of crimes by the US Attorney, including embezzling CDC funds intended for Danish studies.  Thorsen is currently a fugitive.

      The exact number of cases of autism in Danish children is difficult to discern in the 2003 Thorsen study. The actual numbers are not provided, as one would expect in a study performed by competent professionals, but a crude graph shows a rise in autism from 1995 through 1999. But even the 2003 Thorsen study graph showed a decline in 2000.  Numbers before 1995 are not reliable because only children diagnosed and hospitalized for autism are included in the national registries, which Thorsen identifies as less than 10% of all cases of autism in Danish children. Regardless, the authors concluded,  “The discontinuation of thimerosal-containing vaccines in Denmark in 1992 was followed by an increase in the incidence of autism. Our ecological data do not support a correlation between thimerosal-containing vaccines and the incidence of autism.”

     The 2013 Danish study, Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Full- and Half-Siblings and Trends Over Time: A Population-Based Cohort Study, analyzes the rate of autism in siblings and half siblings of people with autism. And the rate of autism and direction over time is radically different then in the Thorsen 2003 study.  This study shows a steady decline in the number of Danish children with autism every year from 1995 through 2000.

  Year              Rate












     Obviously the autism rate was decreasing in the 1995-2000 period when Thorsen and colleagues claimed it was increasing. In 2003, when there was a great deal of urgency to show that mercury in vaccines had nothing to do with autism, the numbers went up. But in 2013, when the topic has nothing to do with vaccines, and Poul Thorsen was not involved, the numbers went down.

     Even at the time of publication of the original Thorsen study significant methodological problems led several prestigious journals to reject the study, which prompted efforts by Jose Cordero, MD, then of the CDC, and later a board member of the Autism Society of America, to intervene with journals to overlook the study’s deficiencies and publish it.  Shortly after publication, Mark Blaxill, then with SAFEMINDS, wrote an in-depth analysis of the many other problems with the study that rendered its conclusion suspect.

     In the 2003 Thorsen paper, the claim is made that there were only 956 children diagnosed with autism in Denmark between 1971 and 2000. Yet the 2013 study claims that from 1980 through 1999 there were 12,698 cases of autism spectrum disorders, with 2321 of those cases being full-syndrome autism. How a more than 1300% discrepancy could arise from researchers looking at the same data from the same database is difficult to imagine.

                        Thorsen 2003                       2013

Cases of ASD

In Denmark               956                             12,698


     Trying to analyze the huge differences between the two studies is impossible without much more data on each study. Dr. Brian Hooker has submitted several Freedom of Information requests to the CDC to obtain the datasets and CDC correspondence on the 2003 Thorsen study, some requests were submitted more than eight years ago, but the CDC has yet to respond.  Without this information it is impossible to verify the 2003 study. Replicating the study is also impossible, and a scientific study that cannot be replicated has no scientific value. 

     If the data in the 2013 study is correct, it is possible that the 2003 Thorsen study was simply fabricated to arrive at a timely and political expedient conclusion. Given the lack of raw data in the original study, the refusal of the CDC to release the data, the gross discrepancies with the later data which does not concern an explosively sensitive topic, the management of the 2003 study by a fugitive alleged felon, and the lack of any studies to corroborate the 2003 study’s findings, falsification of the entire study could be a possibility.

     The CDC certainly won’t come clean on this issue. Perhaps a rigorous cross examination under oath might frighten some CDC functionaries or others to tell the truth, but since there is no possibility of individuals involved in the vaccine industry ever facing a court ordered subpoena due to the protection provided by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act, the only option may be questioning under oath by Congress. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be conducting a hearing on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program this November. Representative Darrell Issa, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee could certainly ask current federal employees who were involved in these studies what they know and where the data could be found.  Diana Schendel, Ph. D., a CDC employee, was one of the authors of the 2013 study, and an advisor acknowledged in the 2003. Schendel also collaborated with Thorsen on several other studies. Schendel’s testimony under oath could potentially shine a good deal of light on how the two studies she participated in reached diametrically opposite conclusions about autism in Denmark.

      An even more enlightening witness would be Dr. Poul Thorsen. Somehow this wily epidemiologist has successfully eluded the combined resources of the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and all the other international law enforcement apparatus of the American government for two years. 

     Perhaps enquiries from members of Congress to the CDC about whether they still stand by their former claims that autism increased after mercury was removed from vaccines in Denmark, and enquiries to the Department of Justice about why they can’t seem to find Poul Thorsen might focus these agency’s attention. Please click on the link below to go to the website of the Autism Action Network where you can send a message to your members of Congress asking them to put Diana Schendel, Jose Cordero and other CDC employees under oath to explain these studies, and to ask the Department of Justice why they can’t find Poul Thorsen. 

Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data, Kreesten M. Madsen, MD; Marlene B. Lauritsen, MD; Carsten B. Pedersen, Msc; Poul Thorsen, MD, PhD; Anne-Marie Plesner, MD, PhD; Peter H. Andersen, MD; and Preben B. Mortensen, MD, Pediatrics 2003; 112:3 604-606,

Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Full- and Half-Siblings and Trends Over Time: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Grønborg TKSchendel DEParner ETJAMA Pediatr. 2013 Aug 19, 2013

Danish Thimerosal-Autism Study in Pediatrics: Misleading and Uninformative on Autism-Mercury Link, Mark Blaxill, Director, Safe Minds September 2, 2003