Neurochemical Research

, Volume 42, Issue 10, pp 2673–2685 | Cite as

Abating Mercury Exposure in Young Children Should Include Thimerosal-Free Vaccines

  • José G. Dórea
Review Paper


Pediatric immunization is essential to prevent, control and eradicate children`s infectious diseases. Newborns and infants in less developed countries have a concentrated schedule of Thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs); pregnant mothers are also immunized with TCVs. Metabolic changes during early development are demonstrably an important risk factor for ethylmercury (EtHg) effects on neurodevelopment, while exposure to Thimerosal sensitizes susceptible individuals to life-long contact dermatitis. Concerns regarding toxicity of Hg have moved rich nations to withdraw it from medicines and, in particular, Thimerosal from pediatric vaccines; it has been more than 20 years since rich countries started using Thimerosal-free vaccines. TCVs and Thimerosal-free vaccines show dissimilar profiles of adverse effects. Thimerosal-free vaccines have shown a decrease in contact dermatitis, while TCVs showed a significant association with increased risk of tic disorders; in some circumstances, EtHg in combination with other neurotoxic substances negatively impacted neurobehavioral tests. In studies that explored vaccines and risk of tics, Thimerosal was a necessary factor. However, when the binary exposure to organic Hg forms (TCV–EtHg and fish-MeHg) was considered, effects on neurobehavioral tests were inconsistent. Conclusions: (a) The indiscriminate use of pediatric-TCVs in less developed countries carries an unjustifiable and excessive EtHg exposure with an unnecessary risk of neurotoxicity to the developing brain; (b) measurable benefits (of Thimerosal-free) and measurable risks of tic disorders have been associated with the (Thimerosal-containing) type of vaccine; (c) Thimerosal-free vaccines are clinically and toxicologically justifiable and they should be available to children in less developed countries.


Thimerosal-free vaccines Ethylmercury Infants Contact dermatitis Tic disorders 



This study was supported by a CNPq (Brazil).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversidade de BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil

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