The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, November 30, 2003  

In These All-Too-Shocking Times

A big thank you (or as the kids like to say, “a shout out”) to Elayne Riggs of Pen-Elayne on the Web for drawing attention to a recent article in In These Times, “Autism in a Needle?,” by Annette Fuentes.

Below are just a few relevant, and enraging, pull quotes from the Fuentes article.

But please, if you read nothing else today or tomorrow or the next day, read the linked article in full, distribute it to your friends and family, send it to every federal lawmaker who purports to represent you and your children and your grandchildren, now and to come, and then call each of those lawmakers to make sure s/he received it and read it completely, and then politely ask for his/her reaction and proposed response to this most outrageous of outrages.

Fuentes writes:

[T]himerosal . . . is composed of nearly 50 percent mercury, which is a known neurotoxin especially harmful to fetuses, infants and children. What’s more, it has been linked to a range of symptoms collectively known as Autism Spectrum Disorders. […]

Thimerosal was widely used since the ’40s in over-the-counter medicines until that use was banned in 1998. It’s still found in some vaccines for adults and infants. Its medical, political, economic and international implications represent a chilling chapter in the history of public health, in which regulatory agencies were negligent, if not guilty, in covering up health hazards, by failing to act quickly to protect millions of children. […]

Before 1980, autism was diagnosed in 1 in 10,000 children; in 2002, the National Institutes of Health raised that figure to 1 in 250 children. The Autism Society of America now estimates that autism disorders are growing by 10 percent or more annually. […]

In a sad twist, scientists increasingly believe that the mercury-laced vaccines meant to protect children from illness are at the root of this spike. In 1985, four of the shots recommended for infants in their first 18 months contained thimerosal. By 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added three Hepatitis B shots (each containing 12.5 micrograms of thimerosal) and four Hib shots (each with 25 micrograms of mercury). As a result, the number of vaccines containing thimerosal jumped to 11, and the amount of mercury exposure mushroomed to 237.5 micrograms, an amount that exceeded all federal limits.

Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the CDC, the nation’s chief regulatory agencies for pharmaceutical products and the watchdogs of public health, added up the micrograms. The regulatory spotlight was finally fixed on thimerosal in 1997 when Congress passed the FDA Modernization Act. Part of the act required the FDA to investigate all drugs that contained mercury and determine their effects on humans. Within a year, the FDA had called for the removal of all thimerosal-containing products from over-the-counter products. Thimerosal remained in more than 50 vaccines, however, until the Public Health Service (which includes the FDA, the CDC and the National Institutes of Health) and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in July 1999 “urging” vaccine makers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal because of “theoretical potential for neurotoxicity.” […]

The CDC launched its own study of thimerosal safety in vaccines in fall 1999. . . . . The first report in February 2000 found a statistically significant risk for neurological developmental disorders at age 3 months as the amount of thimerosal that babies received increased. And . . . a risk of autism 2.48 times greater for infants getting higher amounts of thimerosal in vaccines, compared to infants who received thimerosal-free vaccines. […]

If the CDC and FDA seemed to acknowledge the risks of thimerosal four years ago and the need to get mercury out of medical products, today the official stance is to circle the wagons against mounting public and scientific criticism about its handling of the thimerosal issue.

The stakes are high for the pharmaceutical industry. Eli Lilly, inventor of thimerosal, was granted protection from lawsuits by parents of autistic children under a short-lived provision slipped into the Homeland Security Act in November 2002. […]

The Third World is the next frontier in the thimerosal debate. Eli Lilly has licensing agreements with drug companies in 40 countries that make thimerosal and market it under the trade name Merthiolate.

For U.S. pharmaceuticals . . . the global market for vaccines containing thimerosal is a goldmine.

Unbelievable, isn’t it (or is it?), that once such vast damage apparently has been done here at home that companies like Eli Lilly are hell-bent on wreaking similar, yet still profitable, havoc overseas? And that their allies in Congress and the Bush administration are all too eager to help them do so?

You know, I really don’t hate my country. I don’t. I love this country. Sometimes I just hate the people who are running it.

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