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Sunday, July 31, 2005

The CDC, Autism and Elastic Statistics

By Red Flags Columnist, F. Edward Yazbak, MD

A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1963, Dr. Yazbak has devoted his time over the past seven years to the research of regressive autism, its epidemic increase and its autoimmune causes.

For years, those of us who believed that autism and autistic spectral disorders (ASDs) were increasing in the United States were told that they were not — that if indeed there were more children diagnosed with autism, it was because of more liberal criteria, better diagnosis and a variety of other causes.

Then suddenly, in January 2004, an Autism A.L.A.R.M. was issued. (1)

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in every 166 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism. Though not clearly stated, ASDs (diagnostic code 299.80) were included with Type I Autism (diagnostic code 299.00).

For more than a year, I have been waiting for some backpedaling by the CDC. The statistic 1 in 166 cannot possibly be comfortable for the agency that is supposed to be keeping Americans healthy. An increase in autism or “diagnosed cases of autism” from 1 to 2 in 10,000 to 1 in 166 some 30 years later should have been downright frightening.

The prevalence of “autism” was estimated by the National Institutes of Health as 1 in 500 in 1996. (2) This prevalence was accepted by all in 2000.

The CDC has remained firm and convinced that:

1. The increase in the number of “diagnosed” cases of autism is mostly the result of changing criteria and better diagnosis — as if the criteria changed between 2000 and 2002, and again between 2002 and 2004, or we suddenly acquired a miraculous ability to “pick up” new cases.

2. The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) and other vaccinations and thimerosal have nothing whatsoever to do with the exploding number of newly “diagnosed” cases of autism/ASD, most of which are of the regressive variety.

When it suits their purpose, certain “experts” imply that if the number of new cases of autism and ASD did not diminish precipitously after the removal of thimerosal from vaccines, then the preservative did not cause autism. Parents counter appropriately that all mercury was not removed from pediatric vaccines in 1999 and that the flu vaccine has been added to the vaccination schedule.

The CDC finds itself in a real Catch-22 this year as the thimerosal-free generation of children begins approaching the age at which autism is usually diagnosed.

If the number of “diagnosed” cases of autism continues to increase beyond 1 in 166, people would certainly be blaming the growing number of vaccinations and the continued use of MMR. This might in turn slow down the adoption rate of new vaccines.

If the number of “newly diagnosed” cases decreases, the vocal group of “mercury parents” would certainly feel vindicated. Their worst fear — that using mercury as a vaccine preservative for 70 years was reckless — would be confirmed.

This latter, and now distinct, possibility is the main reason I was convinced that the CDC needed to backpedal from the solid and unequivocal 1-in-166 position in a hurry.

I was right.

Although the 1-in-166 prevalence was as solid as Mt. McKinley for all of 2004, it had to be quietly doctored. To the rescue came the A-team at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) under the direction of Jose Cordero,MD, MPH, the group primarily responsible for autism research and information at the CDC.

I discussed Cordero’s activities relative to MMR, thimerosal and autism last month in my column, “The CDC finances, writes and helps publish Danish research: Another useless CDC-supported autism study.” Two of the epidemiologists at the “Developmental Disabilities” branch, as the center is referred to, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsop and Diana Schendel, were directly involved with the “Danish autism studies.” (3)

The author of the principal statement on the web page of the “Autism Information Center” (NCBDDD) delineated the CDC and Cordero’s positions by stating, “Data from several studies that used the current criteria for diagnosing autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), such as Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disabilities (PDD-NOS), found prevalence rates for ASDs between 2 and 6 per 1,000 individuals. Therefore, it can be summarized that between 1 in 500 (2/1,000) to 1 in 166 children (6/1,000) have an ASD.” (4)

To re-enforce the point, the author — just this one time — stated that the children actually had autism, and were not just “diagnosed with autism.”

The above statement is obviously quite different from what the CDC proclaimed in January 2004 in its autism alert that 1 in 166 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with autism.

I predict that this first attempt at damage control will be followed before long by another, which says actually the prevalence of autism and ASD has always been closer to 1 in 500 than 1 in 166 — stretching the present prevalence to a range that will come in handy in 2007.

If there is indeed a decrease in the number of “diagnosed” cases, as expected with the use of thimerosal-free vaccines, the new prevalence rate is likely to actually decrease to 1 in 500.

The CDC will then be able to “show convincingly” that thimerosal never caused autism, because the removal of the mercury preservative did not alter the prevalence of the disease in any way: The prevalence rate was 1 in 500 in 1996, 1 in 500 in 2004 and, still, 1 in 500 in 2007.

The author of the web page later stated casually, “Down syndrome occurs in 1 out of 800 births and is slightly less common than the ASDs.”

Interestingly, the World Health Organization states that the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide. (5) There is no reason to believe that the incidence of Down syndrome is highest in the United States, where we carefully check expectant mothers and spend more money on “health” than anywhere else. I personally believe that I have seen fewer and fewer children with Down syndrome in the past 20 years and certainly an increasing and much larger number of children with autism and spectral disorders.

It is clear from the web statement that the author had already excluded the 1-in-166 autism prevalence. If indeed 4 million children are born in the United States every year as stated, then possibly 5,000 of them will have Down syndrome (1:800) and 24,000 would be likely to develop autism and ASD if the statistic 1 in 166 is correct.

“Slightly less common” hardly applies to an almost 400 percent difference between those two figures.

It is gratifying to know that the CDC and the author agreed with me that U.S. Department of Education data (OSEP) are usable and reliable (6) and that not all children with ASD attending American schools are actually included in the “autism” classification: “In 2003, approximately 141,022 children were served under the “autism” classification for special education services. Not all children with an ASD receive special education services under the classification of “autism,” so the education data underestimate the actual prevalence of the ASDs.”

This suggests that the autism/ASD prevalence is even higher than 1 in 166.

The statement on the NCBDDD web page was carefully written. The author referred to “diagnosed cases” when reporting on autism, which was the tenth most commonly classified disability in the U.S. in 1994, the sixth in 2003.

The first five, and the most common, disability classifications were specific learning disabilities (2,866,908 children served), speech or language impairments (1,129,260 children), mental retardation (582,663 children), emotional disturbance (484,479 children) and other health impairments, which often includes children diagnosed with ADHD (452,442). It is interesting that the diagnoses in all these other categories were considered firm, solid and unequivocal.

The author concluded: “It is important that we treat common DDs, and especially the ASDs, as conditions of urgent public health concern, do all we can to identify children’s learning needs, and begin intervention as early as possible to enable all children to reach their full potential.”

This official statement from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention sadly misses the fact that prevention is the best way to control an urgent public health concern. Identifying needs is a start, beginning intervention as early as possible should be the goal, but preventing the disease altogether is by far the best possible way to enable all children to reach their full potential.

The CDC must re-examine the complete vaccine-autism issue — this time with an open mind. If indeed the parents are right and the correct measures are taken, then the autism prevalence will really decrease without elastic statistics, and early identification and intervention will not even be needed.

With all the available evidence, it is hard to believe the CDC does not know that yet.


1. link
2. http://www.bioprobe.com/ReadNews.asp?article=27
3. http://www.redflagsdaily.com/yazbak/files/2005_jun26.pdf
4. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/aic/about/default.htm
5. http://www.who.int/genomics/public/geneticdiseases/en/index1.html
6. http://www.redflagsdaily.com/yazbak/2005_jul22.html

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

Activist moms warn of mercury danger in vaccines

By Amanda Lingerfelt, Rocky Mount Telegram

Two North Carolina mothers will visit the N.C. General Assembly Tuesday in support of a bill that will ban the use of thimerosal in vaccinations.

Amy Carson, founder of Asheville-based Moms Against Mercury, said thimerosal needs to be banned because it is dangerous to children. Her 9-year-old son, Kit, is autistic, and Carson said she believes his autism was caused by mercury poisoning.

"My son was born normal and fine. With each set of vaccines, he got worse," she said. "I didn't notice a lot of things until after his one-year shots. I can look at the videotapes now and see the subtle changes now that I couldn't see then."

Thimerosal is half mercury by weight and is metabolized in the body as ethyl mercury. Thimerosal can be found in numerous vaccines, including the flu vaccine.

Most children are able to break down mercury and release it out of their bodies, but Carson said her son is not capable of doing so. Since he was diagnosed with autism, Kit has been through different kinds of autism therapy, but nothing has worked, she said. When Kit began mercury detoxification through a transdermal patch, the improvement began, she said.

"We've seen incredible improvements since he started mercury detoxification," she said. "By age four, he wasn't talking much. Now, he talks all the time."

Carson is one of many anti-mercury activists across the country. Last week, supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Power of Truth Rally to push for mercury-free vaccinations. U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-3rd District, spoke at the rally. Jones is a sponsor of a U.S. House bill that, if passed, would ban the use of thimerosal in vaccinations in the United States.

Jones said he became an advocate for thimerosal removal when he was approached by three women from Goldsboro who had autistic children.

"They came to see me because a few months before the visit, there was language inserted in a omnibus budget bill at the last minute that would prohibit parents from filing suit against Eli Lilly (the manufacturer of Thimerosal)," he said. "I was very upset when I heard that, and told them I would do everything I could."

Jones said it seems like a similar bill banning thimerosal is introduced each year and does not get passed. However, recent media exposure — including a "Rolling Stone" magazine article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. titled "Deadly Immunity" — has raised the public's awareness, and Jones hopes that the bill will pass this year, he said.

Carson, who lives in Asheville, and Angela Medlin of Cary will travel to Raleigh on Tuesday to speak in favor of the bill in front of the health committee. The bill is co-sponsored by N.C. Rep. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe, and N.C. Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Six states — California, Iowa, Missouri, Delaware, Illinois and New York — have already passed similar legislation.

"We're hoping to make North Carolina number seven," Carson said.

Carson said 20 years ago, one in 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. Since the late 1990s when the government required children to receive as many as 22 immunizations before they reach first grade, that number has risen to one autistic child out of 166, she said.

Thimerosal-free vaccinations are available, but many companies continue using the ingredient because it's a preservative and allows vaccines to be packaged in multidose vials, resulting in less production costs, wrote Kennedy in his article.

"The mercury is not an important part in the vaccine. It enables them to mass produce it. That's what it all comes down to — money," Carson said.

Carson said because of the research and her own personal experience, she believes there is a direct link between thimerosal and autism. Jones said he sees a correlation, too. However, officials at public health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., say they have conducted research that does not support that theory.

"The vast majority of science indicates that there is no relationship between thimerosal in vaccines and autism," said Von Roebuck, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But advocates including Carson and Kennedy say the research is conducted by biased researchers who have conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical companies.

Despite the controversy, Carson said the most important thing is to raise awareness so that parents will stop inoculating their children with a potentially harmful toxin.

"We're not anti-vaccine parents; we're anti-mercury-in-vaccine parents," Carson said. "Ask for all vaccine inserts and read them for yourself. ... I encourage every parent to do so."

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Cy

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Debate on autism and vaccines puts parents on edge

By JULIE DEARDORFF of The Chicago Tribune
Published Friday, July 29, 2005

I held my son and cried when he received his first vaccinations. But my tears weren’t over his pain. Instead, I was thinking, "What if vaccines really do cause autism?"

Most parents fall into two camps when it comes to the complex issue of childhood immunizations. One group has no idea a controversy is raging over the mercury-based preservative thimerosal still found in some vaccines. They dutifully give their babies 21 jabs in the first 18 months of life. Others have heard just enough to be terrified. We’re parents who know disease prevention must be a collective effort. We never want to see a child with polio or diphtheria.

Yet we also wonder whether thimerosal, containing about 50 percent ethyl mercury, is linked to autism, an unproven theory. We wonder why mercury, a neurotoxin, is still in vaccines even though government agencies asked that it be removed several years ago.

But most of all, we wonder: How do I best protect my child?

Mercury exposure from childhood vaccinations more than doubled between 1988 and 1992 as more vaccines were introduced. But no one bothered to calculate cumulative exposure. When a government researcher finally did in 1999, he found it exceeded the federal limits.

During the same time period, there was a corresponding spike in reported cases of autism spectrum disorders, said "Evidence of Harm" author David Kirby, who cites a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Despite no conclusive evidence that thimerosal was harmful, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service in 1999 called for its removal.

Today, as a preventive measure, most - but not all - vaccines are thimerosal-free. Regardless, the government says our children will be safe. In what was to be the final word on the contentious issue, the prestigious Institute of Medicine issued a report last May that found no connection between vaccines and autism.

But the finding only further enraged parents of autistic children. Moms Against Mercury and nearly a dozen other advocacy groups held a rally last week for anti-thimerosal legislation in Washington, D.C. As of July 1, six states had banned it, including Missouri. More than 30 other states have pending legislation.

But what can parents do in the meantime?

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Cy

Friday, July 29, 2005

Autism - Cut The Crap

by Evelyn Pringle


In their public statements, officials within the FDA and CDC, are always claiming that researchers and scientists who conduct studies, not funded by drug companies or the government, are making unfounded claims about a link between thimerosal-laced vaccines and autism, and other neurological disorders, which they claim could lead to reduced vaccine coverage, resulting in preventable outbreaks of disease affecting the entire planet.

I say cut the crap.

Think about it. Why would so many highly respected scientists, researchers and physicians go to such great lengths to concoct bogus studies and issue false reports, in essence putting their professional reputations on the line, if their was no connection?
I want these officials to do two things. First I want them to give me one good reason why these professionals would make this up, and two, I want them to give me one logical alternative theory for the current epidemic of disorders.

Lets look at a few of these experts.

Dr Jeffrey Bradstreet, is a practicing physician who treats children with autism and other brain-damage disorders. While in the Air Force, he was trained in toxicology and environmental health. His duties as an Officer included the responsibility for military personnel who had exposure to a wide variety of toxins, including mercury.

Dr Bradstreet has evaluated well over 2000 children with neurological disorders. He also directs a school for children with neurodevelopmental disorders where his responsibilities include supervising occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and applied behavioral analysts.

Dr Bradstreet is a Harvard Certified Medical Education Instructor in autism and has written three peer reviewed papers regarding the relationship between thimerosal, developmental disorders and biological markers for Mercury-Susceptibility.

In addition, he has conducted research regarding these disorders and has worked with some of the most highly respected professionals in the country, including Dr Jane El-Dahr of the Tulane University Medical Center; Dr V.K. Singh of the Utah State University Biotechnology Center; the University of Michigan Department of Pharmacology; Dr Vas Aposhian of the University of Arizona; Dr Anne Connolly of the Washington University Hospital; Dr Walter Spitzer of McGill University; the Department of Pediatrics at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Dr Jim Adams of the University of Arizona; and Dr Jill James, a former FDA researcher, now with the University of Arkansas, Department of Pediatrics.

Apparently the FDA, CDC, and vaccine makers expect us to believe that this long line of highly respected professionals from Universities all over the country somehow got together and conspired to conduct fraudulent research for decades and then authored 1000s of false reports and other publications.

I do not buy it. What would be the payoff?

Dr Mark Geier is a medical doctor who holds a PhD in genetics and is board-certified in medical genetics and forensic medicine. He was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health for 10 years and was previously a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He has studied vaccines for more than 30 years and has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers on vaccine safety, efficacy, contamination and policy.

He was instrumental in convincing officials to switch from the whole-cell Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTP) vaccine to the safer version (DTaP). In fact, he wrote the article, “The True Story of Pertussis Vaccination:
A Sordid Legacy?” which in 2002, won the first annual Stanley W. Jackson award for the best paper published in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences during the period of 2000 to 2002.

Dr Geier has made several presentations to the Institute of Medicine on the adverse effects of vaccines including one on thimerosal in 2004. He and his son, David Geier, are the only independent researchers who have ever been permitted to study the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) database of the CDC.

Dr Geier has testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform Investigating Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic to critique the Hviid study, conducted in Denmark on autism and thimerosal exposure and he has also addressed the FDA Advisory Committee regarding vaccine safety.

Finally, Dr Geier has testified as an expert witness in about 100 cases before the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the US Court of Federal Claims.

In one such case, on November 25, 2003, the Special Master French issued an opinion in which he praised Geier’s credentials and vast experience and said in

Dr Geier “ranks high among those who have studied vaccine issues through the medical literature on vaccines, databases, studies, articles and information on vaccine safety and efficacy in vaccine policy.” ...
“The tenor of his testimony in this case addressed the importance of statistical databases in providing statistical reliability and validity in interpreting the epidemiology and issues relating to autism and various vaccines. . . . Dr Geier has recently proposed a data-sharing process that would improve the reliability of present statistical data that would include the present VAERS statistical database. It would be helpful in interpreting the epidemiology and issues relating to the autism controversy.”

Give me one good reason why this world renowned scientist would put his professional career on the line by lying under oath, not only in court 100 times, but also before a congressional committee?

The drug makers and government officials have waged an all out attack on this particular expert in attempt to discount his opinions because Dr Geier speaks in term most people understand. He has reported on the staggering statistical numbers showing the rise in brain-damaged kids who were vaccinated with thimerosal compared to the children who received very little mercury, or mercury-free vaccines, and were not injured. When he speaks, people “get it,” and the powers that be know it.

Then there is expert, Dr George Lucier, who in the year 2000, retired from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences where he was Director of the Environmental Toxicology Program and Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program. In that capacity, he was responsible for coordinating toxicological research and testing across federal agencies as well as conducting risk assessments for exposure to toxic substances including mercury. He has authored well over 200 scientific publications involving toxicology, pharmacology and risk assessment, including ten articles on mercury.

In 1998, Dr Lucier was appointed the Chair of the Organizing Committee for the White House Workshop on Scientific Issues Relevant to Assessment of Health Effects from Exposure to Methylmercury. He has presented his opinions on numerous occasions in various forums and for 28 years, he was the co-editor in chief of the prestigious scientific journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.

Why would this guy lie under oath?

Another renowned scientist expressing the same view on thimerosal, is Dr Boyd Haley, who is currently a Professor and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry with a joint appointment in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky.

He teaches a class on mercury toxicology and has published more than 110 articles in the peer-reviewed literature including the toxic effects of elemental mercury. Since 1989, his laboratory has been conducting research on the relationship between mercury and neurological diseases, and has performed experiments with thimerosal. In 2001, Dr Haley made a presentation on “In Vitro Studies of Thimerosal Toxicity,” to the IOM.

So why would this guy spend 25 year of his life conducting bogus studies, rendering fraudulent results and authoring a 100 dishonest articles?

An expert I consulted during my initial investigation of this issue was Dr David Ayoub, MD, who when asked how certain he was of the link between autism and thimerosal, told me, “I can state that the certainty of the science supporting mercury as a major cause of autism is probably more overpowering than the science behind any other disease process that I studied dating back to medical school.”

Dr Ayoub is the Director of the Prairie Collaborative for Immunization, an organization that is self-funded, which aids organizations, journalists, and legislators obtain accurate information to assist their work. He is also the author of the report, “Pregnancy and the Myth of Influenza Vaccination-Is it safe, is it effective, is it necessary? What the CDC documents reveal.”

When asked why so many scientist were now conducting research Dr Ayoud said, “I think a disease that effects more individuals than AIDS or cancer, in previously normal infants and children, has created a sense of urgency amongst researchers.”

Flu shots with a toxic dose of mercury are still being given to pregnant women and Rh negative shots with thimerosal are still being given to pregnant women.
Even though recent studies have shown that lower IQ levels linked to mercury exposure in the womb costs the US $8.7 billion a year in lost earnings potential, according to a study released in February 2005, by researchers at the Mount Sinai Center for Children's Health and the Environment, who combined a number of previous studies to determine hundreds of thousands of babies are born every year with lower IQ associated with mercury exposure.

Lead researcher and pediatician, Leonard Trasande, said annually, between 316,588 and 637,233 infants are born with umbilical cord blood mecury levels linked to IQ loss and about 4% of babies are born with mercury levels between 7.13 and 15 micrograms per liter which at that level, causes an IQ loss of 1.6 points.

The drug makers have been marching their own experts into court so lets look at the credentials of some of their experts to see how they match up with those listed above.

In the case of Vera Easter verses Aventis Pasteur, although Harvard-educated and the author of some 80 peer-reviewed articles, according to his deposition, Dr Philip Wang’s specialty was epidemiology related to antidepressants. Prior to being retained as an expert for the vaccine makers, Dr Wang had not done any evaluations associated with vaccines, had no specific training whatsoever regarding mercury, and had written no articles on the effects of heavy metal exposure.

Dr Wang has never investigated any illness claimed to be associated with heavy metal exposure and has never been asked to do a formal epidemiologic evaluation of the hypothesis that the thimerosal could cause neurological disorders or autism.

He claimed that he did know that the VAERS database existed prior to being retained as an expert, but had never conducted any analysis on the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

Dr Wang’s knowledge of vaccines and thimerosal was limited to what he learned in 30 to 35 hours of meetings with defense attorneys and reading the relevant medical literature, most of which was provided by the defense attorneys.

Finally, Dr Wang only offered an opinion on the link between thimerosal and autism and not on the issues relevant to the case relating to other neurological disorders.

For some reason, I don’t think Dr Wang would fare too well if called upon to take the stand to disprove the opinions of the many established experts on the plaintiff’s team with their combined decades of research experience in this area of expertise.

Another drug maker expert in the case was Dr Chris P Johnson, who in her deposition agreed that, prior to the case, her experience with mercury poisoning cases was zero. She has had no experience related to mercury or its neurotoxic effects and conceded that she was not an expert on mercury or the effects of mercury exposure on the human body.

I hardly think Dr Johnson is a match for the experts above. In fact I think it would be grossly unfair to even throw this gal in the ring with the other heavyweights. I guess it just goes to show how much humiliation some people are willing to endure to make a buck.

Partnerships Between Industry and Regulatory Officials

In reaching decisions, officials within regulatory bodies seem more concerned about the impact of their decision on global vaccination policies than making an unbiased appraisal of the scientific evidence. In reviewing statements by these agencies, people need to consider the inherent conflicts of interest between the CDC, charged with investigating medical issues; the FDA, charged with regulating vaccines; the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which examines policy issues; and the vaccine manufacturers.

After an on-going investigation of several years, the Mercury in Medicine Report was published on May 21,
2003 by the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness of the Committee on Government Reform, and included testimony from numerous experts. The report rendered a number of specific findings.

Most significant was its statement that, “The CDC in general and the National Immunization Program are particularly conflicted in their duty to monitor the safety of vaccines, while also charged with the responsibility of purchasing vaccines for resale as well as promoting increased immunization rates.”

The report went on to say that the CDC due to its “biases against theories regarding vaccine-induced autism,” had chosen to fund researchers “who also worked for vaccine manufacturers to conduct population-based immunologic studies. . .” But most importantly, it identified Thimerosal as the culprit in plain language and in no uncertain terms:

“Thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is directly related to the autism epidemic. This epidemic in all probability may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding a lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal and the sharper eyes of infant exposure to this known neurotoxin. The public health agencies’ failure to act is indicative of institutional malfeasance for self protection and misplaced protectionism of the pharmaceutical industry.”

The CDC’s decision to promote the publication of research supportive of the vaccine industry to refute this report by a congressional committee, demonstrates just how far it will go to support its partners in crime.

Blatant evidence of this partnership can be found in a CDC plan to promote flu vaccine sales which detailed a
“7 step recipe for generating interest in, and demand for, flu (or any other) vaccination.” The document discusses the “best recipe” that would foster interest and demand, including use of terms like “very severe,”
“more severe,” and “deadly” to “motivate behavior” and increase sales. For any doubters, this evidence should confirm that the interests of the CDC and the industry are one and the same.

In addition, numerous articles published in medical journals between 2001 to 2004, were quoted as key studies relied upon by the Institute of Medicine, which as it turns out, were written by authors and researchers with direct conflicts of interest and real biases in favor of claiming that thimerosal did not cause injuries or autism. Many of the conflicts were not revealed by the authors at the time the articles were written in direct violation of policy rules pertaining to medical journals.

For instance, one article relied upon by the IOM, although not a population study, was Pichichero et al. Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing
Thimerosal: a descriptive study, published in Lancet in 2002.

Pichichero did not declare any conflicts, despite the Lancet’s strict policy requiring that conflicts be disclosed. However, in a subsequent New York Times article, Pichichero admitted that he had done work for Lilly and other drug companies. But a fact that must have slipped his mind was that in an earlier article in American Family Physician, Pichichero had

The author has received research grants and/or honoraria from the following pharmaceutical companies:
Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Bristol Myers Squibb Company; Eli Lilly & Company; Merck and Co.; Pasteur Merieux Connaught; Pfizer Labs; Roach Laboratories; Roussel-Uclaf; Schering Corporation; SmithKlineBeecham Pharmaceuticals; Upjohn Company; Wyeth-Lederle.

In defending thimerosal, officials will often refer to the World Health Organization as a body that has found it safe. Well in a June, 2001 WHO report, the agency itself refers to vaccine manufacturers as a full and equal “partner.” When the WHO was worried that regulations had affected drug maker’s costs, it stressed the need to get them to stay in the market, and even proposed a “communication strategy that would take account of public concern about adverse effects of vaccines.”

So, in a subsequent WHO meeting on April 15-16, 2002, a decision was made to “lobby Ministry of Health and senior regulators” on the thimerosal issue and to “develop a strong advocacy campaign to support the ongoing use of thiomersal.“ It can readily be seen that the WHO has similar reasons to those of the CDC to support the industry’s position.

As thimerosal containing vaccines continue to be shipped to countries all over the world, its becoming more and more apparent that these cozy “partnerships”
wield a considerable amount of power when it comes to making decisions related to vaccine safety.

Who Knew What And When

The well-documented sordid history of thimerosal, including the continuing misrepresentations by its inventor, Eli Lilly, confirms that the product should never have been used in childhood vaccines, and should have definitely been removed prior to the doubling of the content that resulted from the addition of the HIB and Hepatitis B vaccines in the late 1980’s to mid-90’s.

Mercury in vaccines was tested and shown to be lethal many times over the past 40 years. In May of 1967, an article was published in Applied Microbiology, titled “Enhanced Toxicity for Mice of Pertussis Vaccine When Preserved with Merthiolate.” The abstract states:
Pertussis vaccines preserved with 0.01% merthiolate
(thimerosal) are more toxic for mice than unpreserved vaccines prepared from the same parent concentrate containing the same number of organisms.

In this study, twenty mice were injected with a vaccine with no thimerosal and none died. 30 others were injected with the same vaccines, plus thimerosal, and 5 died. The article stated that “it would not be surprising if injection of this vaccine influenced the susceptibility of the mouse towards a mercurial preservative.“ The authors also noted that “other laboratories” had observed toxicity of final lots of preserved vaccine when the vaccines themselves were “atoxic or only slightly toxic.”

In 1972, Lilly received an article that confirmed that thimerosal had caused 6 deaths when too much of it had been used, which said: “The symptoms and clinical course of the 6 patients suggests subacute mercury poisoning.”

In 1975, autopsies on squirrel monkeys treated with thimerosal-containing nose spray, determined that mercury accumulated in the brain “which may represent a potential hazard in the chronic use of thimerosal as a preservative in products intended for human use.”

By the late 1970’s, vaccine companies realized the need to remove thimerosal because of its poisonous effects. In an October 12, 1979 memo, Merck scientists discussed the “potential problem” of having mercury in its flu and meningococcal vaccines, as well as the Hepatitis B vaccine that was under development and
asked: “Should a program of replacement be initiated now to guard against any spontaneous rally to avoid its (thimerosal) use in injectables?”

This memo proves that the industry knew about the dangers long before the mercury-loaded Hib and Hep B vaccines were added to the schedule in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

In 1986, an article titled, “Organic Mercury Compounds and Their Toxicity,” noted that thimerosal had caused problems and stated that it was “now accepted that multidose injection preparations are undesirable, and preservatives should not present in unidose preparations.“

In the early 1990’s, the level of thimerosal in vaccines increased drastically, and in many cases doubled. The drug companies knew that adding 3 or four HIB vaccines and as many as 3 Hep B shots would substantially increase the level of mercury injected into infants at a critical period of brain development.

We now know that by 1991, Merck absolutely knew that the increase was harmful. A 1991 internal memo, recently revealed by the LA Times, concluded that exposure in infants within the first six month of life could be 87 times the level determined safe. The memo‘s damning revelations said:

For babies: the 25 ug of mercury in a single 0.5 ml dose and extrapolated to a 6 pound baby would be 25 times the adjusted Swedish daily allowance of 1.0 micrograms for a baby of that size. The total mercury burden in a baby is unknown, but it has been stated that the blood level of a newborn may exceed that of the mother. If eight doses of thimerosal-containing vaccine was given in the first six months of life (3 DTP, 2 HIB, and 3 Hepatitis B) the 200 micrograms of mercury given, say to an average size of 12 pounds, would be about 87 times the Swedish daily allowance of
2.3 micrograms for a baby of that size.

In the memo even acknowledged that “the best way to go is to switch to dispensing the actual vaccines without adding preservatives.” However, it went on to say that while this was the best solution, there was “a cost consideration the head of Health Services has to consider. Several large ampoules or bottles are more expensive than a smaller number of larger packages.”

So in essence, this Merck memo proves that by 1991, vaccine makers knew that they were injecting poison into infants and decided that profits were more important than the country’s most precious asset, an entire generation of children.

The vaccine makers are fighting hard against the removal of thimerosal for two reasons. The first is the usual suspect, greed. But the second reason is now higher on their list. The industry knows that if thimerosal were to be completely removed from all vaccines tomorrow, the public would not be able to ignore the corresponding decline, not only in cases of autism, but in the epidemic of all the strange disorders that have engulfed the public school system in all 50 states over the past 15 years. The decline is already happening in California, one of the first states to ban thimerosal.

In attempt to confuse the issue, officials have tried to avoid any discussion of the evidence establishing an association between mercury and a host of other neurological disorders.

In addition to autism, the epidemic includes attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and speech or language delay and each has its own spectrum of symptoms. For example, autism is characterized by impairments of social interaction, communication, and behavior. ADD/ADHD is typified by persistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity. Speech and language delay are characterized by sensory and auditory processing disorders impacting on communication. See Immunization Safety Review, Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Neurodevelopmental Disorder, IOM 2001.

Officials should quit using scare tactics to infer a threat to the vaccine program as a whole. The issue is not the vaccines, its the preservative that has to go.
And its not just contained in childhood vaccines.
Thimerosal is in other products given to unsuspecting victims.

The flu vaccine is probably the most commonly used product that still contains the preservative, but there are other shots that have it as well. For instance, I just found out that a shot given to stop contractions in pregnant women who go into labor too early contains thimerosal.

I traveled to Wisconsin to be sure that I would be in the hospital at the time of delivery to protect my first grandson from any nurse with a needle looking to stick him with a Hep B vaccine. A few days ago, my daughter began to have early contractions. The doctor told her not to worry, to just come in for a check up.
She came home with the great news that a shot stopped the contractions, only to find out a few hours later that the miracle shot may have contained thimerosal.

That was three days ago and I am still in shock!

While adverse effects of vaccines to a small number of susceptible individuals might seem justified in the interest of the greater good to mankind, the brain-injuring effects arising as a result of the government forcing parents to inject a known poison into their precious children should not be tolerated.

Evelyn Pringle epringle05@yahoo.com The author is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Toxic Waste

New research reveals that children--and even newborns--have dangerous chemicals in their blood. What parents can do to protect their kids.

By Martha Brant

Doctors once thought that the placenta would shield a fetus from harmful chemicals and pollutants. But new research shows that may not be the case. A study published this month by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy group based in Washington DC, found traces of 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 infants. They included mercury, pesticides and the chemicals used in stain-resistant coating and fire-retardant foam. The findings prompted concerns since children’s smaller brains, developing organs and more porous brains put them more at risk from such toxins than adults. "A child's brain is very vulnerable and developing very rapidly in utero and during the first two years of life," says Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.

While former threats like smallpox and polio are now under control, conditions like autism and asthma are on the rise. Autism rates are up tenfold, asthma cases have doubled and incidences of childhood cancers like leukemia and brain cancer are also high. No one has pinpointed the cause of the increases yet. But reports like this one may leave many parents feeling like they need a PhD in chemistry just to keep their children healthy in an unhealthy, even toxic, world. The EWG study detected perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), for example, in all 10 of the newborns' blood at a range of 3.37 to 10.7 parts per billion. It's not clear whether chemicals at this ratio can cause cancer or birth defects or precisely what, if any, levels would be safe in such a young population, but these levels are certainly not naturally occurring. The samples also contained up to 14,200 parts per trillion of polybrominate dephenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been linked to brain and thyroid development problems.

The sample of cord blood in the EWG study is too small to be conclusive. (There are not many studies of cord blood because it is hard to get and expensive to test.) But the findings got some support from a comprehensive study of chemicals in Americans' bodies done by the Centers for Disease Control. The report, which came out last week, involved tests of some 2,400 people aged six or older for 62 of the same chemicals, as well as 86 not included in the EWG report. Though levels of lead in children had decreased from previous studies, the report also found some doses of some chemicals in children, including DDE (an industrial pesticide) and phthalates, which are found in nail polish and some plastic toys.

Dr. Lynnette Mazur, who is on the American Academy of Pediatrics environmental health committee, acknowledges that all these studies can be very confusing to parents. "There are a lot of huge names and all these numbers next to them, but there is no clinical correlation with these numbers." In other words, kids aren't showing up at her office in Houston with obvious effects from pesticide poisoning. But she notes that it takes science awhile to figure out what's going on. "And by then it's usually too late," she says.

That was the case in the coastal town of Minimata in Japan, where residents in the 1940s and 1950s unwittingly ate seafood that had been contaminated with mercury compounds dumped into the bay by a local chemical company. In the early 1950s, residents began suffering brain damage and neurological effects. But it was not until 1959 that researchers realized the victims were suffering the effects of mercury poisoning, and the connection was made to the contaminated seafood and the company that had dumped the waste.

The mercury found in the infants' blood in the EWG report was not nearly as concentrated as the levels found in Minimata residents. But doctors have long been worrisome about its effects. Pregnant women--and toddlers--are now routinely advised to avoid fish with potentially high mercury content like swordfish, shark and tilefish. These large fish eat little fish that eat the algae that may be contaminated by pollution. Dr. William Weil, who serves on the American Academy of Pediatrician’s Committee on Environmental Health, says he would also put tuna steaks on the list of fish to avoid. Some fish, he says, also accumulate PCBs--industrial pollutants also found in the EWG study--in their fat, but, “the inexpensive canned tuna kids eat is probably safe."

Weil and Mazur aren't alarmists. But they both support the ban-first, study-it-later "precautionary principle," adopted in some countries in Europe when there are any questions about the safety of a chemical. In the United States, it's the opposite scenario: science has to first prove something is harmful before it is banned. The European Parliament, for example, recently banned phthalates. But the Toy Industry Association in the United States scoffed at that move since it says that the risk of phthalates is still being studied. Weil isn't worried about pregnant women using nail polish, but he's concerned about pesticides--especially those used to treat lawns and parks where kids play. "Live with a few dandelions," he says. He also recommends frequent hand washing. The average two-year-old puts his hands in his mouth nine times an hour, according to Environmental Protection Agency data.

The good news, and there is some, is that both PCB and lead levels are going down in all age groups. In fact, another study released last week by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics found that lead levels in children 1 to 5 years old had declined 89 percent since the mid 1970s, when the government took lead out of gasoline after it was found to lower IQs (though lead paint remains a worry). PCBs were also banned in the 1970s, but they linger in the environment for decades. As PCBs are waning, however, PBDEs and PFCs are taking their place and again showed up in the cord blood samples. The first is the chemical in fire retardants; they're often used in furniture foam, for example. So Houlihan recommends that parents should immediately fix any rips that expose the foam. The second is used in stain-resistant clothing and plastic food containers. To avoid the chemicals, Houlihan suggests parents buy clothes that get dirty and avoid heating food in plastic containers in the microwave. "All this information can seem overwhelming, but there are some simple things that parents can do," she says.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mercury in kids’ vaccines

Moms of autistic kids lead the battle against it

by Liz DeCarlo
Chicago Parent

Mary Kay Betz and her 5-year-old son, Riley, have traveled to Springfield to lobby for bills affecting autistic children. Riley Betz spends several hours a day working with his therapist, Rachel Perowski, allowing him to make great strides in the past two years.

Mary Kay Betz had never heard of thimerosal when her son Riley was born prematurely five years ago. So she thought she was doing the right thing by agreeing that he receive early immunizations.

Now she knows too much about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in the vaccines her son received, and believes it may be a significant factor in Riley’s autism. She is so convinced that she is taking on big government to make sure no more children suffer the same fate.

She is not alone. Parents around Illinois and across the country are joining in. One Springfield mom even helped create a bill that, if signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will ban mercury from all vaccines in Illinois. There is not yet a federal law regarding thimerosal. (Although manufacturers agreed to phase out the mercury in routine children’s vaccines starting in 2001, some adult vaccines and influenza vaccines, including those given to kids, still contain thimerosal.)

Even though these parents believe mercury in vaccines is a prime cause of their child’s autism and other parents claim mercury is responsible for the rise in other neurological disorders such as attention deficit disorder, many doctors and scientists say they’re wrong. As evidence, they point to several major studies that have concluded over and over there is no connection between thimerosal and autism or any other neurological disorder.

New book fuels debate

The safety of vaccines is a longstanding controversy. But the debate about mercury in vaccines has grown as the number of vaccines required for children has increased. Before they reach age 2, children now need to be immunized for 11 diseases, in addition to an annual recommended influenza shot. This adds up to a total of more than 20 shots, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In Illinois, immunization is not a choice if your child attends public school. You must present proof of a child’s immunizations to enroll. A family can opt out of the requirements only for a medical condition or for religious beliefs.

“You have to provide a written statement, detailing your beliefs or specific tenets,” says Tammy Leonard, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. “It cannot be philosophical. It cannot just be that we don’t like mercury.” The request to opt out of immunizations is then reviewed by the local school district, which has to approve the request.

Some parents say logic dictates that this large number of shots put into tiny bodies is the cause of escalating autism cases. However, public health officials say there is no scientific evidence proving the link between vaccines containing mercury preservatives and autism.

The confusion, officials say, is compounded by the timing. Some shots are given at the same time symptoms of autism in a child usually appear. And parents, desperate to find a reason for autism, link the two events.

Health officials claim no study has found a scientific link, but parents say the correct studies have yet to be done. And while no link has yet been proven, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The debate made headlines with the April publication of the book Evidence of Harm by David Kirby (see review in, Bookshelf).

The book explores thimerosal in vaccines and whether it may be contributing to the epidemic levels of autism in America today. It started when Kirby learned about an attachment to the 2002 Homeland Security Bill, which would have exempted drug companies from liability in lawsuits regarding thimerosal.

Kirby thought the attachment odd, given the claims that thimerosal was not linked to autism. So, he began researching and met parents such as Liz Birt of Evanston, who are battling the federal government, public health agencies and drug companies to remove thimerosal from vaccines. Birt’s story and her fight with Congress are detailed in this moving book about parents of autistic children around the country who are determined to prove thimerosal caused their child’s illness.

The coverage of this book has often fallen to one extreme or the other, with some media outlets characterizing the families and their fight as desperate and misplaced while others have claimed this is a cover-up by the government.

In a June 20 article in Rolling Stone magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes on the government’s claim that thimerosal is safe. Like Kirby, Kennedy writes that the government has known for years of the link between neurological disorders and thimerosal, yet has put more effort into covering up this information than studying the dangers. He discounts the studies done as faulty and inconclusive, claiming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid to “whitewash the risks of thimerosal.”

Despite Kirby’s and Kennedy’s claims, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC say no scientific study has ever found a connection between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, says Dr. Julia McMillan, a member of the academy’s Committee on Infectious Diseases and a pediatrics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In fact, the groups say, parents have far more to fear from the diseases the vaccines prevent than from the mercury in the shots.

“Children are hospitalized with influenza [one of the few remaining vaccines with thimerosal] at a greater rate than even senior [citizens] and they do die from it,” McMillan says.

“So, for me and the AAP, we believe the benefits are there, with vaccines.”

McMillan adds that thimerosal contains ethylmercury, a substance not proven to be severely toxic, not the deadly and better-known methylmercury.

Tracing the roots of autism

Betz’s son Riley was born with medical problems. Still, he would look into his mother’s eyes and interact with his older brother. When Riley stopped responding to her at 16 months, Betz thought he’d gone deaf. After extensive therapy, Riley was diagnosed with autism at 28 months.

Since then, Betz’s life has revolved around fighting to help her son. She has spent an equal amount of time trying to figure out why her seemingly normal child would suddenly develop autism. That search led her to thimerosal, a preservative containing almost 50 percent mercury, which was used in most pediatric vaccines for many years.

But in 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that, as a precaution, infants’ exposure to mercury should be reduced as much as possible. As a result, the federal Public Health Service (which includes the CDC and Food and Drug Administration), the academy and vaccine manufacturers agreed thimerosal levels should be reduced or eliminated.

“Many studies show there is no risk from thimerosal. But just for the sake of ending this debate, it should be removed from the vaccines,” McMillan says.

However, thimerosal is still present in most vaccines the United States sends to Third World countries.

But Betz had never heard of the controversy surrounding thimerosal until three years ago. She had mentioned to a friend that she was taking Riley for some routine immunizations and her friend advised Betz to make sure the shots were mercury free.

Betz was confused. “I asked her, ‘Why would they put mercury in vaccines?’ ”

Betz started researching mercury and thimerosal. The more she learned, the more she believed there was a connection between Riley’s childhood immunizations and his autism.

Parents such as Betz are convinced that today’s epidemic of autism took root in the 1990s as a direct result of the government’s increase in childhood immunizations. With the additional shots, children were exposed to such high quantities of mercury, these parents believe, that today one in 166 children is diagnosed as autistic. That’s up from one in 2,500 children in 1991, according to the CDC.

Spreading the word

While Betz admits she can’t be sure mercury had a role in Riley’s autism, she says she “knows something happened to Riley after each shot.”

Many parents are further convinced by a 2004 study in which Columbia University scientists studied the effect of thimerosal on mice.

Some mice exposed to thimerosal developed severe brain disturbances and an enlarged region of the brain called the hippocampus—which has been noted in some autistic children.

These studies persuaded parents such as Betz to step up their efforts to convince others that thimerosal has harmed many children.

“I just couldn’t see this happening to any more kids, so I started telling my friends and family to be careful with vaccinations,” Betz says. “But they thought I was a goof. The people who weren’t affected by it didn’t get it.”

Undaunted, Betz joined autism organizations lobbying for accountability from the government and vaccine manufacturers. She’s part of a grass roots organization called Unlocking Autism and, as part of this group, recently took Riley to Springfield for Autism Lobbying Day.

Government cover-up?

While Betz is a relatively recent recruit to the autism wars, Liz Birt has been fighting for years. This Evanston mother of three, one of whom was diagnosed with severe autism in 1996, has spent the past six years fighting drug companies, politicians and doctors who refuse to acknowledge any connection between thimerosal and autism. Her battle has consumed her life, cost her her marriage and taken her to the top ranks of government officials and politicians responsible for children’s vaccines.

Even so, the fight is far from over.

“This is a huge government cover-up. You’re not only fighting government and bureaucrats, but also drug companies who have a lot at stake,” says Birt, one of the founders of SafeMinds (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders, www.safeminds.org). “And no one’s doing anything. We have a whole wave of kids who will age out of the schools and there’s no place for them to go. There’s no respite care, no long-term facilities. It’s a nightmare.”

Birt admits she initially didn’t know much about the science involved when a friend discussed a possible connection between mercury and autism. But she began using her skills as a lawyer to get CDC files through the Freedom of Information Act. She found documents citing a higher risk of autism in children exposed to high amounts of thimerosal in vaccines.

“In 1999, the CDC had a young guy look at thimerosal and he found 2½ times the risk [of autism] for kids who had multiple vaccines. But instead of stopping thimerosal, they kept going,” Birt says.

Since then, Birt has devoted much of her life to trying to convince Washington, D.C. politicians and officials that thimerosal is dangerous.

She says that until now, most politicians and doctors dismissed parents such as her as overwrought people looking to blame someone for their family’s troubles.

What makes Birt and Betz think people may finally listen to them? The answer: Evidence of Harm.

“We’re making a difference with this book. And with the science being published [about thimerosal’s effects], it helps people to listen,” Birt says.

Doctors: No mercury-autism link

Despite hopes that Evidence of Harm may spark change in the attitude toward thimerosal, it has yet to move the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Nothing has changed regarding our policy on vaccinations. When we recommend vaccinations, we recommend them with all the consideration of effectiveness, side effects and appropriate time to give them,” says McMillan. “Into that consideration, there is no known risk of thimerosal as it was contained in previous vaccines.

“It’s important to think about the motives of the families who have autistic children,” McMillan continues. “This is a terrible, terrible thing to deal with and understandably you want to find an answer. But as a pediatric infectious disease expert, I’ve looked at all the articles regarding thimerosal risk and there appears to be none.”

McMillan says despite the academy’s belief that thimerosal does not harm kids, academy members did ask for vaccines without thimerosal.

While they don’t think thimerosal is harmful, they do believe all mercury exposure should be reduced whenever possible. McMillan also says if mercury in vaccines caused the rise in autism, the rate should have dropped after thimerosal was phased out of vaccines beginning in 2001. It has not, she says.

But Birt says there’s a good reason for that: “There are thimerosal-containing vaccines that are still on the market, some with shelf lives extending into 2005. So it’s way too early to see any drop in the rate of autism because the average age of diagnosis is age 4. They put the spin on it that all the thimerosal-containing vaccines are gone and that’s just not true,” she says.

McMillan disputes that. She says any thimerosal-containing vaccines would have expired by now and should no longer be used.

Birt thinks McMillian and others don’t want to acknowledge the link between thimerosal and autism because they have too much to lose.

“This is perhaps such a horrible mistake that maybe the people who did it can’t come to terms with it,” Birt says. “Everyone needs to wake up and realize what happened. If we had one in 166 kids with leukemia, it’d be on the news every night.”

Making the case in Springfield

Laura Cellini of Springfield is another mom working to change attitudes toward thimerosal and autism—one politician at a time. Major changes in Illinois laws regarding thimerosal are in the works, thanks in part to her.

Cellini was already familiar with politics—she lived in Springfield and studied political science in college. But she’d never been an activist until one of her two sons was diagnosed with autism.

“When we were affected, I became an activist. I met with legislative leaders in 2000 to propose a pilot project to enhance diagnostics for autism and better training for those working with autistic children, which has happened,” Cellini says. “They listened and they were very kind.”

This year Cellini helped with a bill, HB 511, which, if signed by the governor, would reduce the amount of mercury in all vaccines for children and adults beginning Jan. 1 and would ban mercury from all vaccinations, including influenza, by 2008.

The bill passed the Illinois House and Senate May 29 and, at press time, was awaiting the governor’s signature. Spokesman Gerardo Cardenas says the governor plans to sign it.

“We had support from all the legislators,” Cellini says. “They were determined to get a bill passed this year and we ended up with one of the best bills in the country.”

State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) is a sponsor of the bill and a father of three children, all of whom have been vaccinated. “Whether you’re a skeptic or not [about the autism link], what possible good comes from injecting kids with a mercury-based preservative? It just doesn’t make much sense.”

Unkept promises

But Elaine Frick of Chicago, the mother of a son with autism, thinks the pediatrics academy and government officials already know what is right. “In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] and the [American Academy of Pediatrics] suggested removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines. The Environmental Protection Agency has listed safe levels of mercury in vaccines and [the current amount] is only safe for people who weigh 500 pounds,” Frick says. “It’s time to get this done already because it’s been six years. Bush gave a written promise to Unlocking Autism to remove thimerosal and now he’s not doing it.”

Frustrated by the government’s inaction, Frick and other parents have been calling the White House, senators and representatives. Frick knows she’s only one voice, but with other Illinois parents, she thinks there’s hope for change.

“I think it’s like, every person
is a little piece in a movement,” Frick says. “And it’s the force of everyone working together that will make a difference.”

Liz DeCarlo is freelance writer who lives in Darien, IL with her husband and three children

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Immunization Rate Exceeds Federal Goals

Nearly 81% of American babies get all their recommended vaccinations before age 3, a record high, health officials said Tuesday.

Immunization rates have risen steadily. As a result, some of the diseases that once raged across the country, such as measles, rubella and polio, no longer occur naturally in the USA, says pediatrician Stephen Cochi, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Immunization Program.

Cochi says that for the first time, the immunization rate for toddlers exceeds the goal of 80% set by Healthy People 2010, a federal program designed to improve health nationwide through several strategies, such as boosting vaccination rates.

Cochi warns that as long as vaccine-preventable diseases circulate in the world, a decline in immunization could leave American children vulnerable to infection.

"Without sustaining and maintaining the high coverage levels, these diseases can come back," he says.

Among concerns are eliminating vaccine shortages, reducing racial and ethnic disparities and "addressing unfounded fears about vaccine safety, which in recent years seem to be running rampant," he says. He was referring to persistent questions raised by parents groups about the possibility that thimerosal, a preservative no longer used in vaccines given to babies, might have caused an increase in cases of autism, a developmental disorder. Public health experts have said repeatedly that such a link has not been proved.

Cochi says there is no evidence the controversy is causing an overall decline in vaccine rates, but it is raising concern among parents, and "that concerns us."

Though vaccine rates for children are improving, the news in adult immunization is not as bright, says David Neumann, director of the National Partnership for Immunization.

"Influenza, pneumonia, hepatitis B and hepatitis A impose a huge toll on adults each year in the U.S., yet all these diseases are vaccine-preventable," Neumann says. Adult immunization rates lag well behind the Healthy People 2010 goals, he says.

The goal is for 90% of adults age 65 and older to get annual flu shots and one dose of pneumonia vaccine, he says, but not quite 70% of people in that age group are vaccinated against flu each year, and only 56% have had the pneumonia vaccine.

"We don't do a very good job of letting the public know which vaccines are recommended for adults," or of encouraging people to get them, he says.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Age of Autism: Generation Zero


Here is part of an interview with Mark Blaxill, research chair of the group SafeMinds, which advocates removal of mercury from medical products.

Blaxill, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., is a business consultant who began doing his own research on autism after his daughter, Michaela, 9, was diagnosed with the disorder.

Blaxill said SafeMinds' analysis of government data shows children who were exposed to a mercury-based preservative in vaccines had a much higher rate of autism than those with zero exposure. Subsequently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta put the study through several more generations of data inclusions, exclusions and analysis; the final study did not find an increased risk for autism.

The CDC found that the early data and analysis cannot be used to draw conclusions, and the agency stands by its study -- a view endorsed last year by the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Still, the issue is increasingly controversial -- environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently called the CDC's studies "cigarette science," referring to flawed and self-serving reports from cigarette manufacturers on the health risks of tobacco.

Most medical experts and government health officials say repeated studies rule out thimerosal, the ethyl mercury preservative, as a culprit in the rise of autism diagnoses in the 1990s. Thimerosal was phased out of childhood vaccines in the United States in 1999, though it is used widely around the world.

Blaxill called the material that SafeMinds received from the CDC "Generation Zero."

In the interview, he referred to the CDC analyst who led the study, Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, and to e-mails Verstraeten wrote to other CDC researchers.


SafeMinds did a whole series of Freedom of Information requests on the CDC's work on thimerosal, and we got a pile of printouts in the raw spreadsheet form -- the output that comes off the statistical program when you're working numbers.

What was interesting is that if you really dug into the numbers, the ones that showed up as statistically significant all happened to be -- if you deciphered the code -- the high-exposure population group (to thimerosal-containing vaccinations).

When you do that, and also begin tracing the e-mail traffic around the time these documents and spreadsheets were being sent around the CDC, it demonstrated something that I found pretty stunning. The first time Thomas Verstraeten sat down to look at thimerosal exposure -- unencumbered by study protocols and exclusions and a whole set of convenient "screens" that you could put on the data -- he found very, very profound effects from mercury exposure. And it was not just autism, but a whole range of developmental disorders.

It led him to obviously be quite concerned, from the e-mails he was sending around. From that day, he was the guy who was most concerned in all the CDC group, and I think you could probably trace that to his original exploration.

In November of 1999, right around Thanksgiving, he did a long list of possible outcomes and also had a fairly broad set of exposure dimensions that he used. There was one really useful category of exposure, which went all the way from zero thimerosal to relatively high exposure.

At the very highest level of exposure, almost every one of the neurodevelopmental disorders -- autism, ADD, ADHD, speech delay, sleep disorders, tics, stammering -- had elevated relative risks on the order of 4 to 8 times, and the vast majority of those risks were statistically significant.

So you had a population that was obviously damaged along a wide range of outcomes at the highest level (of mercury exposure).

That was a strong signal in November of 1999. Then he went back in December and pruned the database down a little bit and looked at a shorter list of variables. He must have made some changes in the database, and this time he emerged with the highest exposure category for autism showing an 11 times increased risk -- and no increased risk for the control group.

That was pretty stunning. An 11-fold relative risk for the highest thimerosal exposure is roughly equivalent to the tenfold rate of increase in autism in the 1990s.

He was obviously disturbed. He didn't want to overreact. I would have the same kind of reaction he had, which was not wanting to get out on a limb but being concerned.

As the parent of an autistic child looking inside the "sausage factory," what I see is a little analyst sitting at a computer, and lo and behold, he runs the numbers unencumbered by any quote-unquote improvement, and he finds something that is stark and concerning and strong.

And then by the time the final publication comes out four years later, they have reduced that signal to almost statistical insignificance.

And then you read the conversations they're having along the way -- you read the e-mails, the transcripts of meetings -- and this is not a group that is saying, "Oh my goodness, we're really worried about autism, we're really worried about the neurodevelopmental effects. We need to understand precisely what's going on here."

No, what you see is a group that is deeply concerned, deeply biased that this must not be true. They're looking for the flaws in the signal. You never find someone questioning an adjustment that reduces a statistical finding. All of the outcomes of the various iterations move in one direction. They almost never increase and get a stronger signal.

And frankly, that just doesn't pass the sniff test as an analyst. Almost always, when you get a signal that has some strength and is biologically plausible, that strength of signal doesn't vanish. It usually tells you something.

Watching the sausage factory, my feeling was, oh my lord, these people don't care what's going on with the kids. All they care about is covering their (backsides). I hate to say it, but it's quite discouraging to watch.

In upcoming columns we will look further at the CDC's internal data and dialog about vaccines and autism.

E-mail: dolmsted@upi.com
Copyright 2005 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

Mercury, Amalgam, Thimerosal and Risk: From T. Ray Deal, Author of "Unlimited Energy," a Predictive Sci-Fi Fantasy About Post Peak Oil

Author T. Ray Deal has a profound interest in the effects of Mercury after nearly dying from Mercury Toxicity from silver fillings. He is, as is 3 pc of the population, allergic to mercury. Plus he had mercury toxicity after being given mixed metals in his mouth in the form of metal caps. [Galvanism].

(PRWEB) July 25, 2005 -- There is so much debate and unreason about Mercury that author T. Ray Deal feels that another perspective may help. If you want to become a master of hindsight about what is going on today then mentally try and travel forward in time and work out what people will be saying in 50 years time about today's controversies.

Peanut allergy and Mercury allergy are much the same, in that a small percent of people are allergic to the substances. In perspective, up to 6 million citizens of the USA are allergic to Mercury in some way or other. The majority of citizens still don't know that their silver fillings are 50 pc Mercury and that they leak Mercury steadily according to a large German study,BBC and WHO.

Mercury is one of the most toxic elements on the planet and many would say that it sits next to Plutonium on the scale of toxicity. What is not generally known is that when Mercury exists as Thimerosal it is 30 to 50 times more toxic than ordinary Mercury. According to a study by Boyd Haley it is still used in the production of Vaccines and Mercury remains in a conjugated form in the end product.

Mercury, like other 'Heavy Metals' is an 'accumulative poison', that quickly leaves the bloodstream and migrates to our organs where is wreaks havoc with our hormonal and immune systems. It gets everywhere it shouldn't. In human terms it would be equivalent to an amoral psychopath with nihilistic fantasies. No-one is immune to this monster.

We all get a body burden of Mercury from different sources, Amalgam...WHO, fish...Hightower, Power Stations and Crematoria plus all the other products around us that use it. Some people lacking in special enzymes, because humans were not designed for living in a toxic environment, cannot remove this substance and suffer considerably. Others remove more when they are young, but generally suffer to some extent when older.

Knowing this, and the extremely well documented risks and the Clear and Present Danger presented by Mercury in any of its forms would a civilisation in 50 years time use Mercury at all if it hadn't used it before. Why do eye-drop manufacturers warn us to check for allergy to Thimerosal, but vaccine manufactures do not.

Would a civilisation of our time, having not used Mercury, start putting enough in each of its citizen's mouths to contaminate several lakes. Would any civilised mind advocate mass injecting our children with peanut oil without pre-testing them for allergies?. So why do it with Thimerosal laced Vaccines.

How can any mind advocate the continued use of Mercury for our children's teeth or fillings without pre-testing them? Given the horrors of CJD being indestructible would any future society recycle old mercury to make more fillings?

Once we start asking this type of question then we realise that, sometimes, good old 'common sense' must be the order of the day. If we want a good future for ourselves and our children, we are all, singularly and collectively, going to have to put some effort into future risk management before it is too late.

The Melisa® Medica Foundation tests for heavy metal allergy or can recommended a partner in your country that does.

Should you want to research the effects of mercury this link will give you all the facts and back-up papers... http://www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/indexa.html

T. Ray Deal has worked as a Medical Scientist in 25 Countries for some of the leading Clinical Analysis Corporations. His website is http://www.tridi.com/pages/1/index.htm.

Contact phone number is for book orders. The author re-cycles much of his earnings towards making the world a better place for us all to live in.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Dorothy

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Age of Autism: Zero exposure


Part 1 of 2. Perhaps we should have checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before setting off to look into the prevalence of autism among the Amish.

Nothing about the Amish -- who seem to have low rates of both vaccinations and autism -- relates to anyone in the rest of the country, the CDC director told us last week.

Federal health officials called a news briefing July 19 to reassure the public about vaccine safety -- and to remind parents the controversial mercury-based preservative that some say caused their children's autism is no longer used in vaccines. Besides, they said, all scientific evidence weighs heavily against any connection between the preservative, called thimerosal, and what many suspect is an epidemic rise in the autism rate in the past decade.

At the briefing, we asked Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC's director, this question: "Have you looked at autism in a never-vaccinated population in the United States, and if not, why not?"

Here is her answer:

In this country, we have very high levels of vaccination as you probably know, and I think this year we have record immunization levels among all of our children, so to (select an unvaccinated group) that on a population basis would be representative to look at incidence in that population compared to the other population would be something that could be done.

But as we're learning, just trying to look at autism in a community the size of Atlanta, it's very, very difficult to get an effective numerator and denominator to get a reliable diagnosis.

I think those kind of studies could be done and should be done. You'd have to adjust for the strong genetic component that also distinguishes, for example, people in Amish communities who may elect not to be immunized (and) also have genetic connectivity that would make them different from populations that are in other sectors of the United States. So drawing some conclusions from them would be very difficult.

I think with reference to the timing of all of this, good science does take time, and it's part of one of the messages I feel like I've learned from the feedback that we've gotten from parents groups this summer (in) struggling with developing a more robust and a faster research agenda, is let's speed this up. Let's look for the early studies that could give us at least some hypotheses to test and evaluate and get information flowing through the research pipeline as quickly as we can.

So we are committed to doing that, and as I mentioned, in terms of just measuring the frequency of autism in the population some pretty big steps have been taken. We're careful not to jump ahead of our data, but we think we will be able to provide more accurate information in the next year or so than we've been able to do up to this point. And I know that is our responsibility.

We've also benefited from some increased investments in these areas that have allowed us to do this, and so we thank Congress and we thank the administration for supporting those investments, not just at CDC but also at NIH and FDA.

Although the briefing was open only to members of the media, listeners who cribbed the secret password code could dial in from the around the country. There was a lot of cribbing.

Afterwards, I received several comments, all to the same effect, about Gerberding's answer. Here are three, the first from an analysis of the briefing at craigwestover.blogspot.com:

If the government's contention is correct (that thimerosal doesn't cause autism), the rate of autism among the Amish, who do not vaccinate their children, should be roughly the same 1 in 166 found in the general population. That is not the case. ...

Dr. Gerberding took the question with obvious reluctance. ... She noted that vaccination is at a high level and it's hard to find such a population that doesn't vaccinate and difficult to do an accurate -- emphasis on accurate -- study. The problem is that genetics of a group -- "like the "Amish" -- might influence the study, making a conclusion difficult. Good science takes time.

Via e-mail:

I just thought you'd like to know that after you finished your question regarding studying unvaccinated children there was a really long pause -- 11 seconds, to be exact. And then there was something about fractions -- denominators and numerators. I thought for a moment Dr. Gerberding was going to throw in the word "terminator" -- just for a second. Gosh, I haven't heard anything that mind-numbing since I worked at a law firm.

I read the ridiculous response to your question from Dr. Gerberding -- apparently, the genetics of Danes, Japanese and Brits are fine for vaccine studies -- but those Amish genes are nothing like anyone living in the United States. Why would anyone look at them? Can you really keep a straight face while these bureaucrats transparently dodge perfectly reasonable questions?

Maybe they study these "other" populations because these countries didn't full scale-vaccine-assault their toddlers so the damage looking at one vaccine doesn't show up.


Whatever the merits of studying the Amish -- or of Gerberding's response -- there is another place the CDC could look to find children who were never exposed to thimerosal: its own database. One person who did look says he found something disturbing -- he called it "Generation Zero," which we'll describe in part 2.

E-mail: dolmsted@upi.com

Copyright 2005 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

David Kirby to debate Dr. Fineberg

David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm, is scheduled to debate Dr. Harvey Fineberg of the IOM, live on NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert on Sunday, August 7.

Check the local listings for airtimes in your area.


Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dr. Haley aims at mercury

Dr. Boyd Haley spoke at the Power of Truth Rally that was held in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Haley is a chemist at the University of Kentucky and has been extensively studying mercury and it's toxic effects. He and other scientists believe thimerosal, a preservative found in vaccines, is a cause of autism.

See the article about Dr. Haley, The Rally and more in the Kentucky Lexington Herald-Leader: UK chemist tilts at autism's origins.

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Helen

Friday, July 22, 2005

New Intensity to Debate Over Autism Cause

By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
WebMD Medical News

Parents and Researchers Grapple With Claims That Autism Is Linked to Thimerosal in Vaccines

July 12, 2005 -- Sallie Bernard and Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, have something in common. Each is the mother of a child with autism.

Both of these mothers care deeply about their children. They care deeply about other children, too -- especially those with autism. But they could not differ more on what they think needs to be done for them.

Bernard is the executive director of Safe Minds. Her organization is working hard to warn parents that mercury -- especially thimerosal, a form of mercury once used in U.S. childhood vaccines -- is the likely cause of an epidemic of autism.

Gernsbacher, president elect of the American Psychological Society and professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, warns us not to believe in an autism epidemic. "False epidemics elicit false causes," she wrote in the April issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Renewed Controversy

Last year, it looked as though the book might finally close on the vaccine/autism debate.

A blue-ribbon panel convened by the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed the evidence. It did not create many waves when it rejected the idea that the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine might cause autism. That theory was retracted by nearly all of the researchers who originally proposed it. The IOM committee then flatly rejected the idea that vaccines containing thimerosal could cause autism.

Bernard wasn't convinced. Neither was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kennedy's recent article for Rolling Stone and Slate -- followed by a scathing Wall Street Journal editorial -- set off a flurry of public interest.

Kennedy indicts thimerosal as a likely cause of autism. And he accuses the CDC, the FDA, the IOM, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics of helping drug companies hide or misrepresent the evidence.

What is this evidence? WebMD takes a look.

Is There Really an Autism Epidemic?

Fact: Autism rates have been going up. Recent years have seen a higher percentage of kids getting diagnosed with autism. The trend seems to have begun in the 1980s and to have picked up speed in the 1990s.

Eric Fombonne, MD, FRCPsych, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London, has studied autism in the U.K.

"From our data, we can say that we have a prevalence that is 62 cases per 10,000 children," he told WebMD in a 2001 interview. "In the mid-1960s, we showed rates of 4 cases per 10,000."

Isn't this the sign of an epidemic? Not necessarily.

"You cannot compare studies now to studies from 30 years ago," Fombonne said. "It would be comparing oranges not with apples, but with sheep."

Children with autism vary widely. It was not until 1940 that this constellation of problems with social interaction, communication, and focused interest came to be called autism. And it was not until 1980 that the diagnosis of autism was formalized.

In 1994, the diagnosis changed again. Kids diagnosed with autism from 1980 through 1993 had to meet six mandatory criteria. The new 1994 definition offered 16 optional criteria, only eight of which had to be met. Gernsbacher says the 1994 diagnosis made it much easier for a child to be labeled autistic.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, passed in 1991, assures appropriate public education for children with autism. Soon after, schools began reporting high numbers of students with autism. Those numbers keep going up. But that doesn't mean there's an autism epidemic, Gernsbacher says, any more than increased sales of petite clothing means women are getting smaller.

"My hunch is that if we looked at the production and purchase of petite-sized clothing we'd see a greatly increasing trend in the number of petite-sized garments produced and purchased over the past two decades," she says. "Should we therefore conclude that U.S. women are getting increasingly more petite? Probably not. There was probably always a contingent of petite-sized women, and their needs are being increasingly better met."

Gernsbacher points to data from Fombonne and others suggesting that there are 5.8 to 6.7 autism cases among every 1,000 U.S. children. If that's so, we haven't found them all yet. Even Oregon, which led the nation with 4.3 autism cases per 1,000 children in 2002-2003, still has a way to go. Other states lag much farther behind.

Oft-Cited Study Questioned

A 2002 pilot study by the MIND Institute of the University of California, Davis, looked at the issue of whether autism rates are really getting higher -- or whether we're just getting better at finding kids with autism.

Study leader Robert Byrd, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, Davis, says the study data suggest that any "loosening" of diagnostic criteria had no effect on autism rates in California. This study, despite shortcomings Byrd readily admits, is widely cited as proof that the autism epidemic is real.

The MIND study compared autistic kids born in 1982-1985 to kids born in 1993-1995. Using the current criteria for diagnosis, Byrd's team found that the more recently diagnosed kids were nearly as severely autistic as those in the earlier group.

"In both groups, they on average aren't just barely meeting the threshold to be called autism -- they are almost double the threshold," Byrd tells WebMD.

MIND Institute executive director Robert Hendren, DO, also defends the study findings.

"This study is just one data point that exists, not the final word on the subject," Hendren says. "But based on this study, we say the increase in autism incidence is not a matter of changing diagnostic practices."

Gernsbacher says the findings are based on backward reasoning. Her main point: The study uses the current, looser definition of autism to look at children diagnosed under a more strict definition. Then it mistakenly concludes that since those kids meet the looser definition, the new definition made no difference.

A 2005 study by Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD, and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology shows "a drastic increase in the prevalence of the autism classification." The study concludes that it's important to find out how much of this is due to a change in diagnosis and how much is due to "real changes in risk."

Collision: Autism Rise, Vaccine Concern

Fact: Nobody knows what causes autism. Nobody is even sure whether autism in all its different forms has one cause or many. Since autism runs in families, nearly everyone agrees there's a genetic link. Might that link be something that makes some people especially sensitive to something in the environment?

One of the heartbreaking peculiarities of autism is that a child will seem to be developing normally. Then, suddenly, at age 2 to 4, everything seems to go wrong.

That's just when kids are getting their vaccinations. To many parents, a vaccine/autism link seems obvious. Until very recently, many parents believed the problem was with the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. Although many people still cling to this idea, most have come to reject it.

But until recently, many other vaccines contained a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Vaccines used to get contaminated with germs. Those germs killed kids. So drug companies used thimerosal to save lives. It worked.

Oddly -- for a substance given to nearly every child in the U.S. -- nobody really knew much about thimerosal.

Even now, says toxicologist Thomas Burbacher, PhD, very little is known. Burbacher is associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and director of the infant primate research lab at the National Primate Research Center, University of Washington.

"It is incredible so many millions of kids have been vaccinated with this compound with so little data on it," Burbacher tells WebMD. "But line it up with everything else. A lot of information is missing on a lot of compounds in daily use. And a lot of people thought the amount the kids were getting was so small, it was not a priority."

The Thimerosal Debate and the EPA

Thimerosal is 49% ethyl mercury. A closely related form of mercury, methyl mercury, is a known toxin. Since nothing was known about thimerosal, safety measures were based on what was known about methyl mercury. Everybody thought that thimerosal would be safe if the doses given to kids were below the toxic dose for methyl mercury.

But three things happened. One was that kids started getting more and more vaccines containing thimerosal. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got new information and lowered what it considered to be a toxic dose of methyl mercury.

"In the 1990s, those two lines merged," Burbacher says. "Someone at the FDA noted that when you add all the vaccines up they totaled more than the new EPA standard for methyl mercury. So then the other thing that occurred, during that same time period, was an increase in rates of autism diagnosis."

By 1999, thimerosal was in 30 U.S. vaccines -- some, like the DTaP, Hib, and hepatitis B vaccines, given to infants. In July 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service recommended removing thimerosal from vaccines. By March 2001, all vaccines recommended for U.S. children were available in thimerosal-free versions. However, the preservative is still used in multiuse vials of flu vaccines and in childhood vaccines for use in developing nations.

Kids vaccinated between 1989 and 2003 are what Kennedy calls the Thimerosal Generation.

As it turns out, thimerosal is not as much like methyl mercury as previously thought. That's both good and bad, Burbacher notes. In recent monkey studies, Burbacher has found that the body eliminates thimerosal much more quickly than it eliminates methyl mercury. Thimerosal leaves two or three times less mercury in the body than methyl mercury.

But Burbacher also found that thimerosal deposits something called inorganic mercury in the brain -- twice as much as from the same dose of methyl mercury. Inorganic mercury isn't supposed to do anything. But there's troubling evidence that it might -- evidence Burbacher and others are only now beginning to investigate.

People who think thimerosal is safe usually point to the rapid-clearance finding. Those who think it unsafe, Burbacher says, point to the increased deposits of inorganic mercury in the brain.
The IOM as Jury

It's common, in matters of scientific dispute, to turn to the National Academy of Sciences for an answer. And when the question is medical, the dispute goes to the IOM, which then convenes a panel of nationally recognized experts to decide the matter.

For thimerosal, the IOM convened these juries not once, but twice.

In 2001, the first IOM committee concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to say whether thimerosal was safe or unsafe.

In 2004, the most recent committee rejected the idea that vaccines containing thimerosal cause autism.

Kennedy writes that the committee findings were preordained in "secret" meetings with drug companies playing the tune. He says the committee ignored "truckloads of studies" that show thimerosal accumulates in the brains of lab animals, and he says the studies of autism trends on which the IOM relied are "disastrously flawed."

"When we first heard the IOM committee was meeting, we said the meeting was premature," Safe Minds' Bernard tells WebMD. "We told them to wait, that more research is coming out. They ignored us. They went ahead and had their meeting and missed a lot of evidence."

WebMD asked committee chairwoman Marie C. McCormick, MD, ScD, to comment. McCormick is professor of maternal and child health at Harvard School of Public Health.

"We had to make two kinds of assessments," McCormick tells WebMD. "One was, did we see any evidence thimerosal was associated with autism. We had five epidemiologic studies. None were perfect. But all pointed in the same direction of no association."

Those five studies included five observational studies, using different methods, looking for an association between autism and vaccination in Sweden, Denmark, the U.S., and the U.K. None was found. Autism rates continued to rise even after thimerosal was removed from vaccines.

Each of the studies had flaws. But they weren't nearly as flawed as Kennedy suggests, says IOM spokeswoman Christine Stencel.

"The IOM committee certainly knew of these issues and found the studies were relevant, that they were well designed, and that their data are valid," Stencel says.

But what of the "truckloads" of studies to which Kennedy points?

"We looked at basic science and asked if there was any indication of how thimerosal could cause autism," McCormick says. "We looked at over 200 scientific articles, and the evidence linking thimerosal to autism is purely theoretical at best."

This does not satisfy Bernard. She doesn't think the evidence proves thimerosal causes autism. But she does think the evidence points in that direction. If researchers don't follow up, she fears, valuable time will be lost.

"If you assume that there is a connection between mercury exposure and an outcome of autism, then by studying what mercury does, you will come a lot closer to learning how to treat these kids," Bernard says. "And if you find a role for mercury, we can do a lot more in terms of prevention. You can't just have effective treatment -- in today's science -- without understanding the root cause."
Final Answer Coming Soon

Nearly everyone soon expects the controversy to end. One reason is that the CDC is planning a massive, definitive study.

The other reason is that very soon, all the kids who got thimerosal in vaccines will have reached the ages when autism should appear -- or not. If there's no big drop in autism rates, thimerosal won't be much of an issue.

Still at issue, however, is the very real threat of mercury poisoning from the environment -- a threat the world has only begun to deal with.
Advice for Parents

Meanwhile, Bernard advises parents to be informed.

"I think for pregnant women or those with babies, I would have them ask their doctor for flu vaccine that does not have thimerosal in it," she says. "And I would ask them to support efforts by the government to look into what these various environmental toxins, including mercury and mercury from medical products, are doing to our children. And they should try to avoid exposures."

McCormick advises parents to look at the bottom line.

"To parents, I say the risk of the wild-type diseases that are being prevented by vaccines is very, very real," she says. "You are trading the risk of these real diseases against a risk we cannot substantiate for these vaccines, which we don't have to do any more, because vaccines are now thimerosal free. If the choice must be between a thimerosal vaccine and no vaccine, take the thimerosal vaccine. But the flu vaccine is available in single dose vials without mercury. You do have a choice now."

Listen to this article Listen to this article | Posted by Becca

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