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Friday, September 09, 2005

Remove mercury from kids' flu shots

By Rita Savard
Andover Townsman

Andover legislators are carrying a message to Beacon Hill this year: flu shots are hurting children.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has labeled mercury as one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. Since the 1930s, thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, has been used in some vaccines and other products to prevent bacterial contamination. Local lawmakers are now advocating support for two bills in December, one in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate, that would ban mercury from flu shots and other vaccines, as mercury is believed by some experts to cause autism.

If the measure is approved at the Statehouse in December, Massachusetts will join six other states, including Iowa, California, Missouri, Delaware, New York and Illinois, in adopting laws to rid vaccines of mercury.

"Documentation has been published by experts in the medical field linking mercury poisoning to autism," said state Rep. Barbara L'Italien. "I feel strongly that (mercury) can be a contributing factor to autism. This bill is important. It will help protect the people, the children and elderly, who are least physically able to (excrete) mercury from their bodies."

L'Italien's son, Rudy, lives with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism.

The US Centers for Disease Control deny claims that mercury-containing vaccines have a direct link to autism. The CDC states on its Web site, www.cdc.gov, that studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), involving hundreds of thousands of children in a number of countries, "have failed to find any association between exposure to thimerosal in vaccines and autism."

But Dr. David Ayoub, a radiologist, and founder of the Prairie Collaborative for Immunization Safety, charges the CDC with "lying" to the public. Ayoub has helped lobby to ban mercury in vaccines in several states, including Illinois, which became the sixth state to enact such a law on Aug. 22. He believes skyrocketing rates of nationwide autism in the 1990s are connected to childhood vaccines containing thimerosal.

"The science behind mercury-produced autism is profound," said Ayoub. "There's a tremendous disconnect in what people are saying from government agencies, like the FDA, CDC and IOM, and the truth. I had a very difficult time trying to grasp all of this information in the beginning, to think that every governing body I've trusted throughout my entire career was telling me an utter lie. And there's no other way to put it."

The biggest worry right now, said Ayoub, should be for pregnant women considering flu shots this fall, or flu shots for children between six and 23 months old. Currently, US health officials urge flu shots for babies six to 23 months, saying health studies show that it is safe.

Ayoub says mercury is easily absorbed in fetus tissue, and that one adult flu shot, based on EPA standards, is 100 times over the limit for children's safety.

In 1999, as a precaution, federal agencies called for phasing out mercury from all childhood vaccines. Today, the CDC reports that "with the exception of some (flu vaccines), none of the vaccines used in the US to protect preschool children against 12 infectious diseases contain thimerosal as a preservative."

But the CDC also reports that the "majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the US currently contain thimerosal."

Flu vaccines can be made virtually mercury-free, but it costs more to do this and so there are fewer such vaccines. But Ayoub says mercury-free alternatives are available, and people need to ask for them. He suggests patients ask their health care providers to let them read labels to check for thimerosal.

Sen. Susan Tucker (D-Andover), who co-sponsored a bill to remove mercury from the waste stream, said that it only makes sense to create legislation that removes the toxin from vaccines, especially for the health and well-being of children. State Rep. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) also wants to add Massachusettts to the list of states outlawing mercury in vaccines.

"As someone (who) has a young child who recently has been getting (her) shots, I'm very concerned about mercury in vaccines," Finegold said. "We do need to make sure that people are safe and that there are not going to be serious repercussions from having mercury in vaccines. I'm hopeful that we can do something to make our children safer."

Copyright© 2005 Andover Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by Becca

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