You have probably seen your nurse insert a syringe into a large vial, extract some liquid, and then leave a substantial amount of vaccine in the original container. If you've witnessed this seemingly benign procedure, you've seen how vaccine manufacturers are saving money at the expense of public health. In order to store larger amounts of vaccine at a lower cost, companies began offering "multi-dose units" while adding preservatives to prevent contaminations.
That way doctors can open and close a vaccine container, inviting germs into the once-sterile solution, while assuring the public that those contaminants are quickly killed by the preservative. Sound familiar? It's the same story of corporate America's love affair with preservatives. It saves them money, while posing an undue risk to your health. But like many toxic preservatives found in food, a vaccine preservative kills more than just bacteria and fungi; it can lead to extensive neurological damage in your children, and has even been implicated in autism.
Thimerosal is the preservative of choice for vaccine manufacturers. First introduced by Eli Lilly and Company in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company began selling it as a preservative in vaccines in the 1940s. Thimerosal contains 49.6 percent mercury by weight and is metabolized or degraded into ethylmercury and thiosalicylate. Mercury, or more precisely, ethylmercury, is the principle agent that kills contaminants. Unfortunately, mercury also kills much more than that. The Department of Defense classifies mercury as a hazardous material that could cause death if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Studies indicate that mercury tends to accumulate in the brains of primates and other animals after they are injected with vaccines. Mercury poisoning has been linked to cardiovascular disease, autism, seizures, mental retardation, hyperactivity, dyslexia and many other nervous system conditions. That's why the FDA rigorously limits exposure to mercury in foods and drugs. Some common sources of mercury include dental amalgam fillings, various vaccines and certain fish contaminated by polluted ocean waters. The toxicity of mercury has never been in question. The real question is precisely how much mercury-laced thimerosal is toxic, and what are the possible consequences for our children at low doses? Eli Lilly and Co. supposedly answered this question for us back in 1930. Concluding thimerosal to be of "a very low order of toxicity . . . for man," the company hired its own doctors to perform thimerosal experiments in Indianapolis City Hospital on meningitis patients during a severe outbreak in 1929. This 60-year-old evidence was still quoted on the company's brochures as recently as 1990. Andrew Waters, who is involved in a lawsuit against Eli Lilly, claims that most critical studies on the toxicity of thimerosal were suppressed by the company until now.
Banned around the world, but not in the United States
That might explain why thimerosal was eliminated in many countries 20 years ago. In 1977, a Russian study found that adults exposed to ethylmercury, the form of mercury in thimerosal, suffered brain damage years later. Studies on thimerosal poisoning also describe tubular necrosis and nervous system injury, including obtundation, coma and death. As a result of these findings, Russia banned thimerosal from children's vaccines in 1980. Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain and all the Scandinavian countries have also banned the preservative. Eli Lilly stuck to its "scientific" facts, but the truth began slipping between the cracks in 1999. After the number of immunizations rose to 12 to 15 per child, the public finally became privy to the possible dangers of thimerosal. One 1999 study revealed that some infants, due to a genetic or developmental factor, lack the ability to eliminate mercury. Trace amounts of mercury in these infants, when accumulated over several vaccines, could pose a severe health risk. Some vaccines, such as vaccines for hepatitis B, contained as much as 12.5 micrograms of mercury per dose. That's more than 100 times the EPA's upper limit standard when administered to infants. Hepatitis B vaccines aren't the only immunizations under suspicion. According to Burton Goldberg in Alternative Medicine, scientists are finding stronger and stronger links between thimerosal and neurological damage. One report by Dr. Vijendra Singh of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan found a higher incidence of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) antibodies in autistic children. The National Vaccine Information Center in Vienna, Virginia, has noted a strong association between the MMR vaccine and autistic features. Reporting similar findings, the Encephalitis Support Group in England claims that children who became autistic after the MMR vaccine started showing autistic symptoms as early as 30 days after vaccination. The diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccine (DPT) given at two, four and six months has triggered autistic symptoms, as well. When the FDA finally formally released this information in 1999, the news came too little too late for some parents. The damage had already been done.
Links between autism and thimerosal Autism affects 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans and has grown at an annual rate of 10 to 17 percent since the late 1980s. California found a 273 percent increase in autism between 1987 and 1998. Maryland reported a 513 percent increase in autism between 1993 and 1998 and several dozen other states reported similar findings. Some scientists say the estimated number of cases of autism has increased 15-fold –1,500 percent – since 1991, when the number of childhood vaccinations doubled. Whereas one in every 2,500 children was diagnosed with autism before 1991, one in 166 children now have the disease. This increase in reported autism cases eerily parallels the increase in the number and frequency of thimerosal-containing vaccinations administered to infants. As of today, children are given as many as 21 immunizations in the first 15 months of life. After a number of scientists and concerned activists noticed the correlation, an investigation was launched to get to the heart of the matter.
Statistical evidence links thimerosal with nervous system disorders In June 2000, federal officials and industry representatives were assembled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the disturbing evidence. According to Tom Verstraeten, an epidemiologist who had analyzed the data on the CDC's database, thimerosal appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and other neurological disorders. Verstraeten told those at the meeting that a number of earlier studies indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Verstraeten offered no possible cause for this correlation, but held that the statistical evidence linking vaccines and neurological disorders was strong. Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado, presented similar concerns to the group. However, given no causal relationship, the CDC and industry representatives were quick to discredit the evidence. Consequently, the CDC paid the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct another study on thimerosal. According to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., this study was fixed in order to "whitewash" previous findings. In its 2001 report, the IOM's Immunization Safety Review Committee did conclude that the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders was biologically plausible, though the evidence neither proved nor negated it. The Committee stated that phasing out thimerosal from vaccines was “a prudent measure in support of the public health goal to reduce mercury exposure of infants and children as much as possible.” However, these findings offered no imperative. The data presented at the 2000 meeting was withheld from publication and the link between thimerosal and autism remained "inconclusive." But what does "inconclusive" mean? Well, that depends on who you talk to. According to the FDA, these "inconclusive" findings negate the risk of a causal relationship between thimerosal and autism. Even Tom Verstraeten, one of the presenters of epidemiological evidence at the CDC meeting, seemingly changed his tune a bit. In 2000, Verstraeten vigorously campaigned against thimerosal based upon his "inconclusive" correlation, but after he was hired by GlaxoSmithKline, the doctor changed his position. The same evidence from 2000, in Verstraeten's eyes, became "neutral" in 2003. After criticism for this apparent flip-flop, Verstaeten wrote a letter to the editor of Pediatrics in 2004 backing the CDC's actions and his own research methods.
Merck continues selling vaccines with thimerosal Without an imperative to eradicate thimerosal immediately, vaccine manufacturers like Merck & Co. seemingly took their time in reducing thimerosal levels in vaccines. After a large public outcry in 1999, Merck & Co. began decreasing or eliminating the amount of thimerosal in its vaccines. In September 1999, Merck announced that its new line of vaccines were preservative-free, but still continued to distribute the remainder of thimerosal-preserved vaccines until 2001. Only after a congressional inquiry in 2002 did they stop distributing their stockpile. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., called Merck's actions "misleading." While officials at the Center for Disease Control claim evidence is lacking to support the possible risks of thimerosal, Dr. Mark Geier, a Maryland geneticist and vaccinologist, along with his son and research partner David Geier, says the CDC has chosen to ignore the science. According to Dr. Geier, more than 5,000 articles have been published that question the safety of thimerosal in vaccines. The Geiers analyzed the data and determined that the more thimerosal a child receives, the greater his or her chances are of being autistic. The CDC says the Geiers misused information from a CDC database that was not intended to help prove theories. Given no real causal mechanism linking thimerosal and autism, the game seems to have become one of slanting the data to suit the needs of government and industrial interests. Even Verstraeten has admitted that these "inconclusive" findings certainly don't rule out the possibility of finding a link in the future.
Grassroots action against vaccine manufacturers
Given the dearth of health organizations owning up to the dangers of thimerosal, many parents followed their gut instincts and took legal action against vaccine manufacturers. More than 4,200 families have filed lawsuits claiming thimerosal caused injuries to their children. These lawsuits often have two goals: First, to seek reparations for the loss of consortium (basically meaning that an autistic child creates emotional and psychological burdens on their family life), and second, to ensure that these companies exercise more concern for public health and less concern for their own bottom line. The lawsuits are slow in producing results. The first constraint on these lawsuits is the National Childhood Vaccine Act of 1986. This act stipulates that victims cannot seek redress in the courts without first filing a claim for recovery in the federal Vaccine Court. The statute of limitations for this is within three years of "the first symptom or manifestation of onset or of the significant aggravation of a [vaccine-related] injury." In the cases of many thimerosal victims, the link between autism and vaccines didn't appear until six years after the first vaccine was administered. While this statute has stopped some claims against vaccine manufacturers, including such big firms as Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, many judges are now allowing suits against Eli Lilly, the maker of thimerosal, to stand. While the Vaccine Act shields vaccine manufacturers, one judge reasons that the legislation does not protect the production of thimerosal because it is a "component." The burden of proof in court is also extremely problematic for most of these suits. Given the supposed lack of scientific data, lawyers are hard-pressed to prove the link between thimerosal and autism. In what seems like an underhanded move, the CDC sold its data to a private company, ensuring that lawyers could not access it under the Freedom of Information Act. In the past five years, Congress has also aided vaccine manufacturers, supposedly for "security" reasons. In 2002, a mysterious piggyback on the 2002 Homeland Security bill freed drug companies of liability in lawsuits regarding thimerosal. Called the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" by outraged parents and activists, the then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey told CBS News he snuck the amendment in to keep vaccine-makers from going out of business. Armey claimed it was a matter of national security. "We need their vaccines if the country is attacked with germ weapons." Ironically, foreign biological terrorism hasn't been a big problem for American citizens, but those whose lives (and the lives of their children) have been affected if not ruined by the harmful effects of thimerisol would undoubtedly say these potentially harmful vaccines are indeed a problem. Armey's piggyback bill was repealed in 2003, but that didn't stop lawmakers from continuing to protect the vaccine industry. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is no stranger to the thimerosal debate, having received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and $10,000 from Eli Lilly. Frist's position allowed him to attempt to help the industry from the inside, according to Kennedy. Kennedy reports that on five occasions, Frist tried to seal the government's vaccine-related documents and shield Eli Lilly from subpoenas. Frist also introduced a provision in the 2005 Senate Bill S-3 called the "Protecting America in the War on Terror Act," that would effectively insulate the pharmaceutical industry from liability for thimerosal poisoning. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Aventis, Weyeth and Eli Lilly, can basically get off scot-free for their actions, even as more and more evidence suggests that top company officials were aware of the possible dangers and did nothing. A secret memo leaked to the Los Angeles Times reportedly implicates one vaccine manufacturer, Merck & Co., for knowing that thimerosal could pose serious threats to infants. Allegedly, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, one of Merck's top scientists, warned the president of Merck of a possible threat as early as 1991. Dr. Hilleman told executives that six-month-old children receiving regular immunizations frequently received mercury doses 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum consumption of mercury. Given today's more prudent mercury standards, those thimerosal doses would be 400 times that of safe levels. Dr. Hilleman recommended in the memo that thimerosal be discontinued. Not only do government and industry officials seem to be trying to downplay the possible harms of thimerosal; the media is also denying the issue coverage. Just recently, ABC flip-flopped on whether it will air interviews with Robert Kennedy Jr., a leading critic of thimerosal. ABC has been accused of suppressing the interviews because of its ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The thimerosal debate continues Along with the enormous amount of controversy surrounding this issue, the five-year-old plea for "more research" may have finally produced some results. Burton Goldberg notes that a defect in the myelinization process (insulation of nerve fibers) could explain mercury's propensity to cause autism and neurological damage. This may also account for the frequent development of epilepsy in older autistic children. Scientists are also working on biological links that support the strong correlations. Researchers at Northeastern University, working with scientists from the University of Nebraska, Tufts and Johns Hopkins University, may have recently found the mechanism by which thimerosal interferes with brain activity. If these researchers are right, vaccine manufacturers could do little to keep the damaging effects of thimerosal hidden. Pharmacy professor Richard Deth and colleagues found that exposure to thimerosal potently interrupts growth factor signaling, causing adverse effects on the transfer of carbon atoms. These carbon atoms play a significant role in regulating normal DNA function and gene expression and are critical to proper neurological development. Additionally, the scientists recently obtained more insight into the mechanism by which thimerosal interferes with folate-dependent methylation. The mechanism inhibits the biosynthesis of the active form of vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin), a vitamin now being administered to autistic children.
The experts speak on mercury, vaccines and thimerosal Now all childhood vaccines have at least one mercury-free version, and I urge parents to ask for those versions if they choose to vaccinate their children. Injecting mercury into children, especially infants whose immune systems are still underdeveloped (hepatitis B shots are typically given at birth, before the immune system has developed), can be an assault to the immune system. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Autoimmune Disorders by Stephen B Edelson MD, page 65 In 1999 studies began to surface showing that multi-dose vial vaccines, such as the MMR and hepatitis B vaccines, contained enough thimerosal to expose vaccinated children to 62.5 ug of mercury per visit to the pediatrician. This is one hundred times the dose considered safe by the Federal Environmental Protection Guidelines for infants! Worse yet, some infants will receive doses even higher; because thimerosal tends to settle in the vial. If it is not shaken up before being drawn, the first dose will contain low concentrations of mercury and the last dose will contain enormously high concentrations. If your baby is the unlucky one that gets the last dose, serious brain injury can result… Health And Nutrition (see related ebook on nutrition) Secrets by Russell L Blaylock MD, page 166 Thousands of families say they can demonstrate with videotapes and photos that their children were normal prior to being vaccinated, reacted badly to the vaccines, and became autistic shortly thereafter. The number of vaccines given before age two has risen from 3 in 1940, when autism occurred in perhaps one case per 10,000 births, to 22 different vaccines given before the age of two in the year 2000.