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Mercury in childhood vaccines: what did the government know?

Mercury in childhood vaccines: what did the government know?
(first in a two-part series)



Streaming Video



Part I - 5.21
Streaming Video



Part II - 5.22
Streaming Video

WFAA (Channel 8 Dallas) Report: U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) calls for criminal penalties for government agencies that knew about Thimerosal hazards. CLICK HERE (Requires Real Player)




Dallas/Fort Worth, Channel 8 News


For a pdf copy of Phase I of the CDC's Thimerosal Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Study see cdcthimerosal.pdf

It's a question that has divided doctors, parents and government scientists for more than a decade: Do childhood vaccines or additives cause neurological damage?

Next month, a congressional committee will hear testimony on the subject. A California university has a huge government grant to research it.

And the possible link has been the focus of a three-month News 8 Investigation.

At the center of the investigation: a preservative put into many vaccines. It's called Thimerosal, and it's made from mercury, the second most toxic metal known to man. Uranium is the most toxic.

For years, Thimerosal has been extremely controversial because there were alternatives to preventing vaccine contamination. And, questions remain about how pharmaceutical companies conduct vaccine research and how the government regulates those companies.

Centuries ago, the shimmering properties of mercury captivated the philosopher Aristotle, who called it "quicksilver" - and the name stuck.

Perhaps the best visual example of what low-levels of mercury can do to the brain is seen in a videotaped experiment by scientists at the University of Calgary.

"Over the next thirty minutes, the neurite membrane underwent rapid degeneration, leaving behind the denuded neurofibrils seen here," the narration on the tape said. "In contrast, other heavy metals added to this concentration - such as aluminum, lead, cadmium and manganese - did not produce this effect."

Starting in the early nineties, government regulators dramatically increased the amount of Thimerosal exposure to babies by adding two new vaccines to the roster of mandatory immunizations children must have before enrolling in school.

The combination of the Hepatitis B vaccine and the HiB vaccine more than doubled the amount of mercury children like Jac Counter received before the age of two.

Jack's parents say today, at age five, he has been diagnosed as having "mercury-induced autism".

"If you take a ten-pound baby in, and it gets four shots on that one day, which is a common practice - that's equivalent to giving a 100-pound person forty shots in one day," said mercury expert Dr. Boyd Haley.

Haley has testified before Congress and the Pentagon as one of the nation's leading experts on Thimerosal and mercury poisoning. The research he's done at the University of Kentucky leads him to believe that some children are genetically predisposed to storing mercury in their brains.

It's the cummulative effect of the mercury which Haley and other scientists say leads to neurological disorders, including autism.

However, members of the government's vaccine committees, like Dr. Jane Siegel, insist the proof isn't there.

Under pressure from the American Academy of Pediatrics, these government committees ordered pharmaceutical companies to stop putting Thimerosal in vaccines by March 2001.

"The topic was researched, it was reviewed, (with) no data to prove a causitive role," Siegel said. "Nevertheless, a call for Thimerosal removal was made. Within two months of the publication of that statement, the Hepatitis B vaccine for infants was free of Thimerosal. Within 18 months, there was on the market all Thimerosal-free vaccine.

"I think this is an incredible achievement."

But did the government really move fast enough to protect America's children? After all, Thimerosal had been used in vaccines since the 1930s.

Documents obtained in a lawsuit show that the government began asking questions about the compound's saftey in 1972. Eli Lilly, which holds the patent on Thimerosal, assured the FDA in a report that "a series of 22 human subjects" were injected with a one-percent solution "without ill effect".

Attorney Andy Waters said what the pharmaceutical giant concealed from the government is that the tests were conducted in 1929 by a young researcher named K.C. Smithburn - on patients dying of mennigitis.

"It's apparent that Lilly didn't want to do the study themselves because it's apparent that there were enormous ethical problems with injecting people - even people dying of meningitis - with mercury," Waters said. "What Smithburn did was wrong, because he agreed to do the study for Lilly, and not only did he agree to do it, but he agreed to give them results that he knew were flawed.

"They knew, and he knew, (the results) were going to be published as the truth."

The FDA questioned Thimerosal's safety again in 1982 - this time, noting that it was "not safe for 'over-the-counter' topical use because of its potential for cell damage". Despite that evidence, however, the government regulatory committees did nothing to question its use in childhood vaccines.

Meanwhile, measures were taken to remove the compound from pet innoculations. More internal company documents and memos show that Eli Lilly began revising its claims about Thimerosal starting in the 1960s, changing package inserts from stating "non-toxic" to "non-irritating to body to issue".

Then, in November 1973, the company's legal division suggested adding the statement: "Do not use when aluminum may come in contact with treated skin". Aluminum is a compound added to many vaccines as a catalyst. But even with this warning, the government committees did nothing.

Haley said any good biochemist knows that Thimerosal and aluminum react dangerously when combined together.

He showed News 8 the results of his experiments on human brain neurons.

"If we add this level of aluminum that we see very little toxicity with to this level of Thimerosal, we get this bottom line ... indicating that we have dramatically enhanced the toxicity, where within 24 hours essentially all of the neurons are dead," Haley said.

Officials at Eli Lilly declined to interview with News 8. However, they did send an e-mail, which said in part that the company's "primary concern is for patient safety". The e-mail also stated that "Lilly discontinued its sale or use of (Thimerosal) about ten years ago".

However, that did not stop other pharmaceutical companies from taking over the production of the vaccine preservative.

In December 1999, shortly before Eli Lilly quit producing thimerosal, the company changed its packaging insert again. This time, Lilly warned that Thimerosal was "toxic". Additionally, it stated that effects of exposure may include "fetal changes, decreased offspring survival, and lung tissue changes".

However, the government's vaccine committee continues to insist that Thimerosal has never been dangerous to American children.

So, the 1999 Eli Lilly package insert was shown to Dr. Jane Siegel for her reaction:

"I cannot comment on this unless I have clarification," Siegel said. "You will have to interview the public. I don't know - I just know that if you show me this piece of paper I cannot make a comment on this - I find it uninterpretable."

Haley said the government should have taken action.

"There should have been an immediate recall of the vaccine," Haley said. "We would do that with an automobile if it had a bad brake system. If we just suspected it had a bad brake system, they would do that. The government has no problems - they'd do it immediately."

The congressional hearing on the use of Thimerosal in vaccines begins in June. While production of the preservative was stopped a year ago, as Dr. Haley pointed out, existing doses were not recalled.

Now, it needs to be re-stated that the easiest solution for parents who are concerned about upcoming immunizations is to simply ask your doctor in advance for Thimerosal-free vaccines.

Also Online
Part 1 of Valeri's report
NOTE: Chelation (pronounced "kee-lay-shun") is a controversial process that detoxifies the body of heavy metals, such as mercury. Many parents of autistic children strongly advocate the procedure. However, many physicians and the FDA question its effectiveness. The following weblinks provide more information and a diversity of opinions on chelation.
List of links about Mercury and Chelation therapy
Views against Chelation Therapy
Treatment options
(Autism Network Resources)
Chelation Therapy - Online Forum
Video: Valeri Williams reports


Vaccines that contained Thimerosal
DTaP: Tripedia (Pasteur Merieux Connaught), Acel-Immune (Wyeth-Ayerst), Certiva (North American Vaccine)

Td: All Products

DTaP-Hib: TriHIBit (Aventis Pasteur)

Hib: HibTITER multidose (Wyeth-Ayerst), ProHIBit (Aventis Pasteur)

Hib/HepB: COMVAX (Merck)

HepB: EngerixB (Glaxo-Smith Kline), RecombivaxHB (Merck)


Tips for Parents
Q: How can I be sure my child is receiving a thimerosal free vaccine?
A: Ask your pediatrician. If you are concerned your child's vaccine may contain thimerosal, call your doctor’s office ahead of your child’s scheduled visit and request Thimerosal-free inoculations. One sure sign of a thimerosal free vaccine is a single dose vial as opposed to a multi-dose vial.

Q: Do vaccines still contain thimerosal?
A: Beginning in March 2001, thimerosal was no longer added as a preservative to childhood vaccines though none were recalled. Some are still in circulation. You can also ask to see the vial and package insert to check for yourself.

Q: What if my child exhibits some signs or symptoms of autism?
A: Consult your doctor. Many symptoms of autism are also symptoms of other childhood disorders like ADD and ADHD. If your child does exhibit some autistic behavior, it does not mean an automatic diagnosis.

Q: What if my child received vaccines which contained thimerosal?
A: If you are concerned that your child has been adversely affected by thimerosal, they can be tested for the levels of heavy metals in their body. One method is a urine/creatinine test. Ask your physician for referrals and additional information.

Q: Should I still have my child vaccinated?
A: Absolutely. Childhood immunizations have greatly reduced and/or eradicated many deadly childhood diseases. If you feel unsure about immunizing your child, sit down and discuss it with your pediatrician. Ask questions. Be informed.

For a pdf copy of Phase I of the CDC's Thimerosal Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Study see cdcthimerosal.pdf

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