Early exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines and children's cognitive development. A 9-year prospective birth cohort study in Poland

Eur J Pediatr. 2015 Mar;174(3):383-91. doi: 10.1007/s00431-014-2412-5. Epub 2014 Sep 5.


The controversial topic of the early exposure to mercury is regarding ethylmercury, which is present in the thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs). The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between the early exposure to TCVs and cognitive development in children during the first 9 years of life. The cohort included 318 children vaccinated in an early period (neonatal and up to 6 months) against hepatitis B and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) using formulation with or without thimerosal. The children's development was assessed using the Fagan test (6th month of life), the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID)-II (12th-36th month), the Raven test (5th, 8th year), and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-R) (6th, 7th, 9th year). Results were determined by multivariable linear and logistic regression, adjusted to potential confounders. Children exposed and not exposed to TCVs in the neonatal period had similar outcomes of cognitive-developmental tests; only the results of BSID-II at the 36th month and WISC-R at the 9th year were significantly higher for those exposed to TCVs. Developmental test results in children exposed to TCVs up to the 6th month of life also did not depend on thimerosal dose.

Conclusion: TCV administration in early infancy did not affect children's cognitive development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Poland
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thimerosal / adverse effects*
  • Vaccines / chemistry*


  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Vaccines
  • Thimerosal