safety: no link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders
should feel confident and safe when having their children immunized.
No evidence exists that proves a link between thimerosal-containing
vaccines and neurodevelopemental disorders, such as autism, attention
deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or speech and language delay.
The Institute of Medicine recently reported these findings, consistent
with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, was used for
many years in vaccines to prevent contamination. Taking in
a high dose of mercury is toxic to the human nervous system.
But because of the increasing number of vaccines routinely
recommended for infants, concern was raised in 1999 by the
Food and Drug Administration that the total amount of mercury
contained in the vaccinations could be exceeding the recommended
mercury levels for infants.
Although there's no data to suggest thimerosal caused any harm,
the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health
Service have requested manufacturers remove thimerosal from
vaccines. As a result, most, if not all, childhood vaccines
are now thimerosal-free.
The Institute of Medicine's recommendations emphasized the
importance and continued safety of childhood vaccination. Parents
should definitely be reassured that all routine childhood immunizations
are in their children's best interests, as they clearly have
been shown to prevent potentially life-threatening diseases.
November 2001 Update
From Infant Walkers
American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending a ban on mobile
baby walkers after recent studies have shown serious injury associated
with their use.
Baby walkers are made for infants who are sitting up, but not
yet walking on their own. Most of them are designed with a
rigid base set on wheels. The infant sits in a cloth seat that
supports his weight, yet allows his feet to be in contact with
the floor. This design lets the child move around quickly and
independently, without adult help.
Unfortunately, problems have developed. Infant walkers were
responsible for 34 deaths from 1973 to 1998. Moreover, 8,800
children under 15 months of age were treated in emergency rooms
in the United States in 1999 for injuries associated with walkers.
About one quarter of these injuries resulted in fractures and
head injuries. Injury rates related to infant walkers are higher
than those associated with any other type of baby equipment.
Many dangers can arise while your baby is strapped into an
infant walker. Walkers can tip over, tumble down the stairs,
gain speed quickly, knock over baby gates, and make hazardous
or poisonous items easier to reach. Studies have shown that
injuries occur even with close adult supervision.
Some parents think the walkers will help their child learn
to walk sooner, but this has not been proven true. In fact,
some studies suggest babies who use walkers actually learn
to crawl and walk later than those without walker experience.
If you do choose to use an infant walker, despite this recent
recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, never
leave your child unattended, even for a moment. Be sure
to block off stairs in your home with gates. Remember, though,
infants in walkers can travel at high enough speeds to knock
gates over, so gates do not guarantee your baby's safety.
To be safe, avoid mobile infant walkers altogether. Stationary
activity centers (such as exercise saucers or bouncer seats)
which do not roll on wheels provide a safer environment in
which your baby can develop and thrive.
November 2001 Update