Vaccines, Mercury, and Autism — Is There a Link?

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In recent years, there has been an explosion of neurological disorders among children, the most serious of which is the crippling syndrome knows as autism.

The dramatic increase in the incidence of autism has accompanied the more than tripling of the childhood vaccination schedule, and many parents have described how their perfectly normal, alert, intelligent, healthy infants suddenly regressed into an autistic state after receiving vaccination shots.

Pediatricians and health officials have long ridiculed the claims of parents of thousands of autistic children, that vaccines appear to have played a role in their children’s regression. But these claims have been corroborated by the recent admission of medical experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who conceded, in a case before a secretive special court, that childhood vaccinations contributed to causing Hannah Poling, a child from Athens, Georgia to, in effect, become autistic (contract a brain disorder "with features of autism spectrum disorder").

What has been largely overlooked in this debate is the well known and extreme toxicity of mercury, a preservative used in most childhood vaccines and flu shots, known for hundreds of years to be toxic to nerve cells, and especially harmful to the minds of developing children.

The routine flu vaccination now being recommended for almost all Americans, including kids as young as six months and pregnant women, contains about 25 micrograms of mercury, perhaps the most toxic non-radioactive compound on earth. Thimerosal, a preservative, is about half mercury, and was largely though not completely removed from children’s vaccines several years ago because of fears about its toxicity.

Federal health authorities routinely tell reporters, falsely, that mercury was eliminated from childhood vaccines manufactured after 2001, yet autism continued to increase. This misinformation has been widely reported and repeatedly cited by the medical industry as evidence that mercury is not linked to the ever-rising rate of autism.

However, some mercury is still present in the vaccines — except for the MMR shot (measles, mumps, rubella) — at reduced levels that no one can precisely quantify. Moreover, since the earlier vaccines were never recalled, they probably remained in use for years after 2001.

Defenders of vaccines also repeatedly claim that scientific studies have failed to establish a link between vaccines and autism. But dozens of studies showing a link and going back decades can be found on such websites as generationrescue.org, nationalautismassociation.org, and in David Kirby’s extensively documented, best-selling book, Evidence of Harm. Two new studies show that Japanese children developed autism in direct proportion to the numbers vaccinated; and vaccinated baby monkeys developed autism-like neurological abnormalities.

It is baffling that mercury is still allowed to be injected into the bodies of youngsters and women carrying fetuses. The federal Environmental Protection Agency and most state governments warn against eating many types of fish contaminated with tiny traces of this deadly metal, especially pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Indeed, mercury has been known for hundreds of years to be deadly — a compound that severely damages the brains of humans. The famous Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland was made insane by breathing vapors of mercury used in making hats, a common occurrence in the 19th century.

In the 1st century A.D., Roman prisoners received death sentences by being forced to work in cinnabar mines, thus exposing them to fatal levels of mercury. In Minamata Bay, Japan, over ten thousand people in the fishing village were poisoned (and some two thousand killed, plus numerous dogs and cats) by fish and shellfish contaminated with mercury waste dumped into the bay in the 1950′s and ’60′s. In Iraq in 1971—72, up to 1,000 people were killed and as many as 60,000 gravely poisoned by imported U.S. grain treated with a mercury-based pesticide banned for use in America.

Yet today, we inject mercury into millions of infants and pregnant women while medical officials deny there is a risk of causing such neurological disorders as autism, and ADD/ADHD.

Interestingly, the current autism epidemic coincides with the dramatic increase of childhood vaccination shots, from ten in the 1980′s to some 36 today, perhaps overburdening the immune systems of some children. In the 1970′s, the autism rate among kids was one in 10,000. Today, it averages one in 150, and one in 94 for boys.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FDA, and many pediatricians and scientists who defend vaccines are not disinterested parties, because, for decades, they have been responsible for permitting, promoting and administering the vaccines containing thimerosal. The prestigious Institute of Medicine, a leading defender of vaccines, has even opposed conducting research into their dangers, concluding that efforts to find a link between vaccines and autism “must be balanced against the broader benefit of the current vaccine program for all children.”

Of course, if a link were conclusively established, the medical community fears it would find itself accused of being responsible (and perhaps financially liable) for poisoning and crippling the minds of tens of thousands of children.

Now, the medical community’s unrelenting defense of vaccines seems to be crumbling. Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health and later the American Red Cross, writes of the Hannah Poling case, "… the decision was a vindication for families who have been battling with the vaccine community, arguing that some poorly understood reaction to components of vaccines or their mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, could cause brain injury."

Even CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, who has led the campaign to defend vaccines, reassure the public, and belittle parents’ concerns, recently admitted during a CNN interview that vaccines can trigger autism in a certain vulnerable subset of children.

Vaccines have done much good in preventing many dread diseases, and most children suffer no apparent ill effects from them. But we cannot ignore the possibility that vaccines, particularly the mercury component, may be a factor in the current epidemic among children of neurological disorders, perhaps exacerbated by a genetic or other underlying disposition in some youngsters.

So what is to be done? To begin, federal health officials should conduct the long-called-for comprehensive studies comparing vaccinated children with unvaccinated ones, such as in the Amish community, where the incidence of autism is said to be almost non-existent.

At the very least, why not remove mercury and other toxic substances like aluminum, anti-freeze, and formaldehyde as preservatives from vaccinations; space out the schedule of shots, instead of giving so many at once; and delay giving some of the riskiest of them until infants are somewhat older?

These would be good first steps in maintaining public confidence in vaccines, and so much less trouble than providing lifetime care for children with autism.

Lewis Regenstein [send him mail] is an Atlanta environmental writer and author of America the Poisoned: How Deadly Chemicals Are Poisoning our Environment, our Wildlife — and Ourselves.

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