June 19, 2005

Toxic Metals and Corporate Profits

In September 2003, I wrote a post called Nature vs Nurture, Perhaps It Is the Environment which covered the enormous cost to our society and to the individuals affected by the addition of lead to gasoline. Adding lead to gasoline resulted in large numbers of cases of lead poisoning in the United States. The problem is particularly dangerous for children:

Children particularly are susceptible to lead poisoning because it can accumulate in their nervous system as their bodies grow and develop. Although death by lead poisoning is uncommon, dangerous levels of lead in children may cause serious health problems, including lowered intelligence and poor school performance. According to the most recent CDC estimates, more than 400,000 children ages 1 to 5 years living in the United States have levels of lead in their bodies high enough to cause concern. [Ed: article published in 2003]

And as my post reported, the amount of lead poisoning could have been a significant contributor to the increasing crime wave our country experienced because children suffering from lead poisoning have very poor impulse control:

CURWOOD: This violence and crime that is so much a part of life in this neighborhood may well be connected to their childhood lead exposure, says Dr. Dietrich. Two years ago, he published a study about delinquency and reported that the teens in his group with the highest lead exposures were much more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than teens with the lowest exposures to lead as children. Dr. Dietrich says he doesn’t know exactly how lead exposure can lead to delinquent behavior, but he does know that lead seems to compromise the abilities to focus and control impulses, and that is an important clue.

DIETRICH: For example, we know that children who have attentional deficits, poor impulse control, deficits in an area we call executive functions, that is a lack of ability to plan ahead, to anticipate consequences. We know that children who have these behavior deficits are at higher risk for engaging in anti-social behavior, and, ultimately, behaviors we associate with a high risk of arrests and adjudication for delinquency.

The dangers from lead were known for centuries, nevertheless, the manufacturers of gasoline used it as an additive over other less toxic substances because they were able to make a profit from using lead. When lead was used in our gasoline, it is estimated that over 68 million children were exposed to toxic levels of lead. Banning the use of lead in gasoline has resulted in significant reductions of measureable lead in the bloodstreams of Americans, yet its toxic legacy is still capable of affecting over a hundred thousand children every year. Therefore it is still a major inhibitor in creating a society where everyone has a chance to compete on a level playing ground.

So let's look at the latest story about the toxic poisoning of our children. Mercury is another extremely dangerous heavy metal, yet, for a number of years, infants and children have been exposed to mercury whenever they were vaccinated with vaccines preserved in thimerosal. Although the government has been actively trying to prevent studies that link thimerosal to the increased incidences of autism, the connection is too strong to deny any more.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, published an exposé in both RollingStone and Salon this week that showed how the goverment has been colluding with the vaccination manufacturers to hide the evidence that thimerosal is responsible for the current explosion of cases of autism as well as other childhood disorders such as speech delays, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity.

According to a study by a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten that was "embargoed" at the Simpsonwood conference held in 2000, the "estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2500 children to one in 166 children." As Kennedy reports, the result of the conference was a decision to protect the bottom line of the vaccine industry.

In fact, the government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children's health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.

Meanwhile, Senator Bill Frist has been actively trying to protect Eli Lilly from any potential lawsuits concerning the use of thimerasol in vaccines, and for his troubles, was given a $10,000 contribution and the purchase of 5,000 copies of his book by Eli Lilly the day after he put his "Eli Lilly Protection Act" in the Homeland Security Act in 2002.

Internal documents reveal that Eli Lilly, which first developed thimerosal, knew from the start that its product could cause damage -- and even death -- in both animals and humans. In 1930, the company tested thimerosal by administering it to 22 patients with terminal meningitis, all of whom died within weeks of being injected -- a fact Lilly didn't bother to report in its study declaring thimerosal safe. In 1935, researchers at another vaccine manufacturer, Pittman-Moore, warned Lilly that its claims about thimerosal's safety "did not check with ours." Half the dogs Pittman injected with thimerosal-based vaccines became sick, leading researchers there to declare the preservative "unsatisfactory as a serum intended for use on dogs."

What is the cost to society for the extra 500,000 children who are now diagnosed as having autism and the additional 40,000 cases that are diagnosed each year?

cost-of-autism.jpgAccording to the Autism Society, the cost to society in 2000 was $90 Billion with an estimated cost of $200-$400 Billion by 2010. (The higher number is assuming there is a 10%-17% growth in the number of cases diagnosed during that decade.)

According to this article, the cost to a family with an autistic child can amount to $50,000 or more a year.

Beyond the monetary cost, to understand the emotional cost for families with autistic children, one only need to refer to the excellent Wampum where the three authors, Mary Beth Williams and her spouse, Eric, and their coblogger, Dwight Meredith, all talk about what it is like to live with autistic children.

How good is the evidence that mercury poisoning is the cause of increased cases of autisms? Well, as Kennedy explains, even though studies by the government have been shut down, other studies are being done and these studies confirm the studies the government has suppressed.

As the federal government worked to prevent scientists from studying vaccines, others have stepped in to study the link to autism. In April, reporter Dan Olmsted of UPI undertook one of the more interesting studies himself. Searching for children who had not been exposed to mercury in vaccines -- the kind of population that scientists typically use as a "control" in experiments -- Olmsted scoured the Amish of Lancaster County, Penn., who refuse to immunize their infants. Given the national rate of autism, Olmsted calculated that there should be 130 autistics among the Amish. He found only four. One had been exposed to high levels of mercury from a power plant. The other three -- including one child adopted from outside the Amish community -- had received their vaccines.

We have enough evidence that thimerasol is dangerous to children that it needs to be banned immediately. And we have the duty to make our government and the vaccine makers take responsibility for the damage they have done by allowing this toxic poison to be used on our children.

One last point. For both lead and mercury, the link to their dangerous toxicity for children is undisputed. So why are the manufacturers of lead additives for gasoline and the makers of vaccines using thimerasol allowed to continue to sell these poisonous products to the rest of the world? When is it okay to poison other people's children after we banned the use of these additives in our products to stop the poisoning our own childern? Indeed, what retribution is adequate for dealing with the corporate poisoners that continue to sell something that is so dangerous to the rest of the world? And what should be the appropriate punishment for the people like Senator Frist who protects corporate poisoners and then has the audacity to call himself pro-life?

Update: Read Dwight Meredith's reaction to Kennedy's article.

Posted by Mary at June 19, 2005 03:45 PM | Environment | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

I'm glad you posted on this, though I have to ask ... did we really need something else to be angry about this week? Really?

Posted by: natasha at June 20, 2005 02:32 AM

With respect to the autism/mercury connection:

Not only is it not even close to being proven, the actual evidence for is tenuous at best.

Kennedy's article is a complete travesty of journalism -- go here for details, but one fact stands out:

Canada and Denmark banned mercury in vaccines back in 1995 and the number of autism diagnoses there has continued to rise.
By itself this ought to have been enough to drive a stake through the heart of the story, but of course the chelation practitioners and the folks lining up to sue the drug companies are too much invested to pull out now. And we all know how EvilEvilEvil the pharmaceutical industry is, so whatever shit we can throw at them is all for the best,..

... at least until one gets caught crying "wolf" and the "junk science" claims of conservatives turn out to be on the mark for once, making it that much harder to fight back the next time the corporations try to screw us over.

Never mind the small matter of making it more expensive to protect vaccine stocks from fungal/bacterial contamination, which admittedly is less of an issue in the US than in the 3rd world (and who cares about them anyway?)

Mind you, as the parent of an autistic 5-year-old, I would more than anything love to be wrong about this, but as I learned long ago, you have to play the hand you're dealt; it's part of the price of living in the 'reality-based' community.

Posted by: wrog at June 20, 2005 03:24 PM


Your information is erroneous. Although somewhat confusing on Health Canada's web page, thimerosal was not "banned" in Canada in 1995. Some provinces voluntarily stopped buying vaccinations with thimerosal, but, old shelf stock was still used. Further this does not pertain to HepB, Flu vaccinations and RhoGam (an injection given to R- mothers).

For instance, the last year for "procurement" of thimerosal laden vaccinations in B.C. was in 2001.

Presently, as of 2005, RhoGam and Flu vaccinations are still allowed. Expecting mothers are still urged (some out of necessity) to have these injected for the "safety of the baby" and upon birth, it is suggested infants recieve another dose.

sources -



Posted by: shannon at June 20, 2005 05:45 PM