Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Reviews Book

Evidence of Harm. Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: Medical Controversy

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 12 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1154

Rapid Response:

David Kirby concerning “Evidence of Harm”

How I came to be involved in “Evidence of Harm”

I was doing some research for freelance magazine articles and someone
had told me about some mothers in Los Angeles who were researching
alternative treatments for their children with autism. I was writing for
women’s magazines and thought it sounded interesting. So, I talked to some
of the women out in Los Angeles. One of them rather casually mentioned
that she thought, or some people thought, that the cause of autism might
be the mercury in vaccines, and I had never heard of such a thing. I
thought maybe she was a little, not crazy, but mistaken, and I put it in
back of my mind. Still, I thought it was interesting, and then a week
later, the Homeland Security Bill passed and I found out there was a
secret rider in there to dismiss lawsuits against Eli Lilly. And that’s
when the journalist in me said, “I think there is more to this story.”

I had never met a person with autism in my life and I had never heard
of Thimerosal. And I had certainly never heard of any connection between
any form of mercury and autism, although I did know mercury was not good
for you. But I don’t think I realized the extent to which it could do
damage in your body. So, I was 100% unfamiliar with this story right up
until November of 2002.

In school I had not know any autistic children

People who insist or say that there is no autism epidemic—that it is
just better reporting and better diagnostics—I really would like to pose
the question to them that Mark Blaxill, from Safe Minds, asks: Where are
all those people in my generation, in my school, with autism? Where are
the 1 in 166 autistic adults? We can’t find them. So, they have either
been institutionalized, or they passed away, or they somehow had a
miraculous recovery because they don’t seem to be around. And Mark calls
that the “hidden horde” and I think it’s a really good point.

On July 9th of 1999 when the Public Health Service and the American
Academy of Pediatrics issued a joint statement announcing that they had
added up mercury burden in children’s vaccines and found out they were
over the EPA limit. Up until that time, parents were certainly researching
alleged connections between vaccines themselves—particularly MMR, but also
DTP—but not necessarily mercury. With one notable exception, a man named
Albert Enayati out of New Jersey. He was the head of Cure Autism Now in
New Jersey. And he started researching this on his own—even before the
joint statement was issued. But he was not entirely convinced, and
couldn’t get a lot of information on it at the time. But then when the
joint statement was issued, he put it all together.

Rates of Autism in the U.S. and Denmark

The rate of autism in the U.S. is about 60 per 10,000 children, or 1
in 166. Now, that is for ASD, not full-blown autism. However, in other
countries in Europe where they have done extensive studies, and where
Thimerosal use has not been a common practice for the last decade or so,
the autism rates are considerably lower—particularly in Denmark because
that’s where it has been studied, probably, more than anywhere in Europe.
I believe the rates are about 7 per 10,000 children.

In the U.S. mercury exposure exceeded Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) guidelines

At the peak of exposure, if a child had received all mercury-
containing vaccines, that is, vaccine brands that contained mercury, they
would have received many, many times over the EPA limit on those
particular days of the visit to the doctor. That would be a ‘bolus’
exposure—a peak, intermittent exposure, as opposed a chronic, low-dose
exposure. So, these children would have received at birth 12.5 micrograms
of mercury and, depending upon how much they weighed, for an 8 pound child
that would be about 35 times over the EPA limit, but for a 4 pound child
it would be double that—so, it would be 70 times over the limit. At 2
months the children were brought back, that’s when they were still
relatively small and when many important systems inside the body are still
developing. And that’s when they received the most amounts of mercury, 3
shots, 62.5 micrograms of mercury. For a 10 pound kid, it’s about 137
times over the EPA limit. And then of course, at 4 months they came back,
at 6 months, and then a year. So, in that first year most kids who were
receiving mercury got about 212 micrograms.

The FDA realized bolus exposures were occurring in 1999

It would appear the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) never
looked at the issue of bolus exposures until 1999, when they were ordered
by Congress to do so. We know that company officials at Merck did the math
way back in 1991, thanks to an excellent report in the Los Angeles Times
about two weeks ago. The company never bothered to tell the government or
the public that they had done this math. When I talk about the ‘math,’ I
mean the simple conversion of percentage of volume into actual micrograms
of weight. And no one at the FDA as far as we know did that until 1999.
When they did do that, that’s when they got the statement out and urged
companies to start removing mercury from the childhood shots.

The public health insititutions did some very clever mathematical
footwork, I would say. They took the first six months of exposures—so,
that’s 4 bolus exposures—birth, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months—added them
up, computing it was 162.5 micrograms of mercury exposure over a period of
180 days. So, they simply averaged that out and came up with a figure of
0.9 micrograms of exposure per day—on average. That completely discounts
the days of exposure where the bolus dose is obviously much higher.

The analogy I use—there are a couple of them. I quote Lyn Redwood,
who is of course one of the lead, if not the lead characters in the book
and went to great lengths to try to prove this theory. You can take two
Tylenol® a day for 60 days and you will be fine. But if you took 120
Tylenol® in one day, that’s a lethal dose and you’ll probably die.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning vs. symptoms of autism

There are many, many similar symptoms that cross over and they are
quite remarkable, broken down into various different categories. Again
Safe Minds were the first people to really pioneer this work looking into
these similarities. They published a paper, authored by Sallie Bernard, et
al., called Autism: A novel form of mercury poisoning. And in it, they
literally went down and compared symptom by symptom, and found in the
literature references to behaviors and neurological problems, speech
disorders and sensory problems and the list goes on and on, that were
virtually identical between mercury poisoning and autism. But then also,
we must remember that mercury poisoning does not always manifest itself in
the same way nor does autism. So, that then left them open to attack by
their opponents who said you can’t make that comparison.

Probably most famous historical case of mercury poisoning is Mad
Hatter’s disease. And of course, people who made hats up until not too
long ago, were exposed to large amounts of mercury vapor used in the
making of the felt. Mad Hatters were prone to outbursts of emotion, at the
same time they would withdraw from social venues. They would have lack of
eye contact, they would be very irritable, huge bouts of depression. And
of course, it was exposure to mercury that made them “mad.”

Pink disease is even more interesting, probably less known in this
country. It appeared in the western world, mostly in Europe, Canada, and
Australia, in the 1930’s up until about the 1950’s. And for a long time
people suspected that it was inorganic mercury in the teething powder that
was put in the teething rings for their children. And indeed, in the end,
it did turn out that was the cause. The symptoms, the reason it was called
Pink’s disease, is the peeling of the skin, a rash that was red in color,
and that’s how the word came about. Now, autistic children generally don’t
have that symptom. So, Pink disease obviously is not the same thing as
autism. But many, many of the other symptoms overlap remarkably. And I
discuss them in the book. There is an actual adult survivor of Pink
disease who describes her symptoms from the inside out. And they are
identical. I think any parent of an autistic child reading what this woman
went through, or reading the general symptoms of Pink disease, (knows)
they equally match autism. And of course, finally, industry very
reluctantly in the 1950’s, did not want to remove the mercury but thought
they might have a problem and potential law suits on their hands, so they
did. And within years, Pink disease disappeared, and today it’s virtually
unheard of.

American and European agencies begin to assess the risks of
Thimerosal in pharmaceutical products

European agencies, I think, got a head start on the U.S. And if you
go even a little further east to the Soviet Union, Russia, they took
mercury out of vaccines apparently back in 1982. There is a paper that was
published that’s in my book, it was published saying mercury was
completely inappropriate for use of this kind and it was toxic.
Scandinavia removed mercury from vaccines in 1992. And the Europeans
started looking at this issue. Well, actually, back in 1985 also there was
a paper published by, basically, the equivalent of the head of the FDA in
the United Kingdom saying the same thing, “Thimerosal is not safe and
should not be used.” That document, one has to assume, was in the library
of the FDA, but they never bothered to look at it. Right around 1998, the
European Union started moving to propose banning Thimerosal in vaccines in
Europe. And of course in this country it started in 1999.

FDA thinks there might be a cause for concern with Thimerosal in

Dr. Patriarca, just before the joint statement was issued—so, back in
July of 1999 when he knew this was coming out and he had seen the
math—updated his colleagues and sent out a couple of e-mails to them. The
first one saying, “How did this happen? This is 9th grade algebra. Anybody
could have sat down and done these conversions—why didn’t we?” In the
second e-mail he writes that he is afraid that “the perception when this
all comes out will be that the FDA, CDC, and others were asleep at the
switch.” Which seems like that’s what they were. As far as recall is
concerned, Safe Minds attempted repeatedly, over and over again, both in
person and in letter form, to have the FDA recall these Thimerosal-
containing vaccines, as did Dan Burton, chairman of the Government Reform
Committee, several times, and the FDA simply refused.

Joint Statement recommends delaying the birth Hep B vaccine?

One of the recommendations in the Joint Statement in 1999, was to
move the birth dose of Hepatitis B back at least until 4 to 6 months. And
they did in the statement say that the schedule allowed that flexibility.

There was resistance apparently in a Hepatitis Control Report
published on the part of the CDC. They were afraid that if people didn’t
get the birth dose, they might not start the Hepatitis B series at all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, to their credit, fought very hard to
have the recommendation included to postpone the birth dose.

Was Thimerosal ever studied for safety by the FDA or anyone else?

Thimerosal safety studies not conducted by the FDA

The only safety study on record and on file at the FDA actually
predates the FDA. It concerns a 1929 trial by Eli Lilly & Company,
shortly after Thimerosal was first invented. They decided to test it on a
group of 22 patients who were dying of acute meningitis. So, they injected
the patients and followed them for about 3 days, after which time most of
the patients had died from meningitis. And in that period they noted no
adverse effects from the Thimerosal. So, that was the safety study and
that, to this day, sits in the FDA as the only proof of safety of the

Warning to Eli Lilly

Warnings were issued to Eli Lilly over the decades, beginning in the
1930’s and going right up to 1990’s from scientists, from medical
academies, and even from their own employees. And this has all been
produced through the discovery process by Andy Waters, the main attorney
in a lot of the civil cases.

A lot of parents all started on their own, I think without even
knowing that other parents were doing the same thing—just looking into
this all over the country. My book follows the story of mostly, but not
entirely, the Safe Minds parents, in particular Lyn Redwood, Sallie
Bernard, Liz Birt, Albert Enayati, Heidi Roger, and Mark Blaxill. And of
course more parents come into the story as it progresses. Safe Minds I
think gets credit for really spearheading this and really taking on the
government and the drug companies. They’re the ones, a group of parents,
with the exception of Lyn a nurse practitioner, with very little medical
experience. They wrote their paper and they got it out there and they
banged down the doors of government to get in, to get meetings, to talk to
these officials to present what they found. And they really thought that,
once they had done that, the government would take their concerns
seriously and get on the ball and try to figure this out. And that’s not
the response that they received at all—which I think is very disheartening
for them.

“It just won’t go away.”

At one point I actually toyed with the idea of making that the title
of my book, because “evidence of harm” of course occurs many, many times
as a phrase in my book. But so does the term, “It won’t go away.” Thomas
Verstraeten, who was hired by the CDC, came over from Belgium and his
first assignment was to sort through the Federal Vaccine Safety Datalink
database and look for adverse outcomes among children who were vaccinated
with mercury – to see if there was a higher rate among children who had
higher levels of exposure. At his first run of the numbers, he came up
with some extremely high and very statistically significant associations,
including autism outcomes and Thimerosal exposures. He then went back and
re-cut the numbers—literally. He stratified them.

In the first round, basically there was this large group of kids
broken down into exposure/no exposure. Then he broke them down by
different ages and by different exposure rates, and really started to
break them down. And the relative risk for autism and other disorders came
down considerably, but they did not come down all the way. Many of them
were still extremely elevated—alarmingly elevated—and many of them were
statistically significant. At this time, when he wrote the memo, the
relative risk of autism was at 2.48. Anything over 2.0 is considered
causation in a court of law, however it was not completely statistically
significant—it is a little complicated to explain the reason why—but it
was still high and it was close to statistically significant.

The CDC still won’t admit that it has a grave problem. I think they
knew they had a PR problem. At the same time, they were fully informed by
the people of the FDA what was going on in 1999 as the e-mails will
attest. I think when Thomas Verstraeten, then in November/December of
1999, first ran the numbers, that’s when the NIP, the National
Immunization Program officials, I think must have known they had a
problem. But they will not to this date admit that there was a problem

Generations 0 through 4

Generation 0 is so-called because it was sort of discovered after the
first 4 generations were discovered. Of these 5 generations, by the way,
the only generations that were ever meant to see the light of day were
generations 3 and 4, the last two. The last one being published in the
Journal Pediatrics. What is called ‘Generation 0,’ again was the first run
of the numbers. I am not a biostatistician, so, I don’t know how valuable
this data is, but it does exist, it is CDC data. And Verstraeten basically
took kids at 1 month of age who had received more than 25 micrograms, and
then kids who had received 0 micrograms at 1 month of age, and compared
them. And he found out that for the kids in the exposure group, the rates
were astounding. For autism it was 7.62, for ADHD it was even a little bit
higher, for ADD it was a little bit lower—but they were all way up there
and statistically significant. That’s when he cut the numbers again and
came out with what is now referred to as the ‘Generation 1’ numbers, when
autism fell to 2.48.

VSD Phase 1 study

The VSD Phase 1 study is also referred to as ‘2/2000.’ There was a
paper that Verstraeten wrote for his colleagues in February, 2000—so, it
was his second run of the numbers, and that document, which was produced
for it, is stamped, every single page, “Confidential. Do not distribute.”
That was never meant to see the light of day. That then became ‘Generation
1.’ Only people inside the CDC knew about it.

What then became ‘Generation 2’ was in June of 2000, at a top-secret
meeting outside of Atlanta, held at a resort called Simpsonwood, where the
CDC invited people from the FDA, other government agencies, the medical
academies, and the vaccine-producing drug companies to come review the
data that Verstraeten had analyzed. By this time, when Verstraeten
presented, he was now on ‘Generation 2,’ and the relative risk for autism
had since dropped to 1.69. The other risks had dropped, although there
were some that were still elevated, particularly speech and language
delay. And an umbrella category that they did—they took all of the
disorders, including autism, and put them into something called NDDs,
neurological developmental disorders. And they took them and grouped them
together and looked at them. They were elevated, and they were
statistically significant, and there was a dose response curve. In other
words, for every increment—for every increase—in mercury exposure, there
was a relative increase in risk for one of these outcomes. That got

Shortly thereafter Verstraeten presented more or less the same
numbers in a public meeting—at a CDC meeting in Atlanta, a vaccine
committee meeting. That was entered onto the record, however to this day
his report is not posted online. The only way I got to see it was because
Lyn Redwood was there and somehow got an early transcript.

Verstraeten did present findings where the risks were lower than in
the Phase 1 study, but they were still elevated and many of them were
still significant. At that point, I think the drug companies were aware
that there was potentially at least a PR problem out there, and that did
eventually start lobbying activities on Capitol Hill to protect the
companies from liability.

Eli Lilly is connected with legislators, political appointees, and
pending legislation

In terms of the Bush administration, and at the time of,
particularly, the Homeland Security Bill, Bush had installed Eli Lilly
vice-president for corporate strategy, Mitch Daniels, as his Director of
the Office of Management and Budget—a highly powerful position within the
White House. He also named Mitch Daniels to the National Security Council
and the National Homeland Security Advisory Counsel. The CEO and President
of Eli Lilly, Sidney Taurel, was likewise named to the president’s
Homeland Security Advisory Counsel. Only, I think, 13 positions were made
open—highly coveted spots for people in industry because, as the
government started to formulate its terrorism response after 9/11, it
needed to incorporate the private sector into its plan. And for a
pharmaceutical company to be in there was very beneficial for them. The
list goes on.

Of course George Bush Sr. sat on the Board of Directors of Eli Lilly
for many years, and other Eli Lilly company officials have been appointed
to different Homeland Security advisory panels within the bureaucracy. And
of course, Eli Lilly is a very generous donor to political
campaigns—historically, about 80% of which has gone to Republican
candidates. In the 2000 election they were one of the most generous donors
of all, and they have also donated to the campaigns of Senator Bill Frist
and also the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Washington has looked into the influence of large industries on
Congress, and also in the bureaucracy, as a matter of fact, in terms of
writing regulations. And again the pharmaceutical industry is among the
most generous of donors. Now the soft money ban has reduced that somewhat
and large contributions are not as large as they use to be. But the amount
of influence that drug companies and others seem to get in return for
their investment is well documented.

So, tell us about the different bills that have been introduced and
the Homeland Security Bill riders. How did that get in there and what do
disabled kids have to do with Homeland Security anyway?

Dan Burton ran to the House floor to ask how Eli Lilly got into the
Homeland Security Bill rider as soon as he found out that the rider had
been inserted. This is a very complicated web of intrigue, in terms of all
those different bills, and also the Homeland Security Bill. As far as the
Homeland Security Bill is concerned, that was inserted by Representative
Richard Armey, Republican of Texas. He was the House Majority Leader at
the time and about to retire. He retired at the end of the year. At first
he said that the order to do it had come from the White House. The White
House denied this, I believe. The White House said it may have come from
Senator Frist’s office. Senator Frist denied that, and later Dick Armey
retracted his statement that it had come from the White House. He insisted
he had acted alone to protect the nation and our bioterrorism response
system. It’s hard to know if Dick Armey himself would have known exactly
which passages from a many, many page bill of Senator Frist, to cut and
paste into the Homeland Security Bill. Either he knew exactly which
language, or someone in his office knew which language, or of course it
was furnished to them by sources unknown.

That provision, which was inserted into the bill and passed in
November and signed by the President, was then rescinded when Congress
came back in 2003. The new Majority Leader, Senator Bill Frist, to his
credit, honored a pledge made by the outgoing Majority Leader of the
Senate, Trent Lot, to revisit the issue— and he indeed did. And the
unsettling language was removed—I say unsettling in terms of the way it
was put into the bill—but he vowed and Eli Lilly vowed, and others vowed
to fight to get most of that language back in. Now, the language basically
gets very complicated and technical and is explained in the book. The
language of the Homeland Bill was basically to proclaim Thimerosal a
vaccine ingredient and therefore Eli Lilly would be a vaccine maker and
therefore protected under the Federal Vaccine Compensation Program. In
other words, plaintiffs could not file private cases in private court,
they would have to go into the Federal program, which happens to have a 3
year statute of limitations. So, if your child was injured more than 3
years ago, you’re not eligible—leaving most parents in a terrible “catch
22”—they couldn’t file in civil court, and yet they can’t file in the
vaccine court either.

Ever since then, Frist and others have introduced several different
versions of similar bills, and none of these passed, obviously. Most
recently Senate Bill 3, which is rather Draconian in its reach. Not only
would it prevent families from filing in state courts—it does not include
the Homeland Security Bill provision of proclaiming Thimerosal as an
ingredient, however—there is now a version in the House that does do that.
And eventually if these pass, they’re going to have to work together as
one bill.

But some of the other things that the Senate bill does that are
really quite alarming and possibly unconstitutional includes things like
prohibiting the states from passing their own individual bans against
mercury in vaccines. And, as we know, this is already happening in Iowa
and California. It is not clear if the Senate and Federal government can
tell the states what laws they can pass in terms of federal health policy.
So, that will be an interesting debate if the Senate bill were to pass. I
can assure you that parents are out there right now, from Safe Minds and
other groups... And particularly, I want to give note to Laura Bono, at
the National Autism Association, because she has really led the fight
against Frist. But there are many, many people in the fight, and they all
contribute equally.

The Mercury in Medicine Report

This report showed reasonably there might be collusion between the
drug companies and the federal health bureaucracy. It showed varying
conflicts of interest among people who sit on these panels and decide
which vaccines get approved by the FDA, and which vaccines get put on the
childhood list by the CDC. And incidentally, there is an astounding
article in the New York Times today (February 28, 2005)—well there are
two. One concerns the National Vaccine Program and Thimerosal—I urge
everybody to read it. And the other one concerns the Vioxx® scandal. And
last week an FDA panel rather controversially voted to basically give the
green light to Vioxx® and other cox-inhibitor drugs to go back on the
shelf. The vote was close. There were several votes—there were, I think,
two to three votes on each drug and The Times did the math. They did a
great job, and they looked into these people and what kind of ties they
had to Merck and other drug companies. And sure enough, all the people
voting to re-approve the drug, or approve its sale back on the market,
were the ones receiving contributions and funding from the drug companies.
Those panelists who were not receiving funding, tended to vote against
these drugs. When they finally did the math, and they looked at how many
times that the money-receiving people had voted for the drugs compared to
people who weren’t receiving money, the ratio was 10 to 1. So, if you were
receiving money and you sat on this panel, you were 10 times more likely
to vote in favor of the drug companies than if you weren’t.

It appears that when it comes to drug safety, ‘Just give me my check
and tell me what to do.’ It’s pretty blatant. That could not possibly
happen by chance. So, I’m hoping that this Times article really sparks
some further investigation—not just for what’s going on at the FDA, but
what’s going on at CDC. So, anyway, the Burton report also categorized and
catalogued these conflicts. It was a far-reaching report. I encourage
everyone to read it—it’s an excellent document, worked on very hard by
people like Beth Clay, Elizabeth Birt, and others, and of course, Chairman
Burton. It looked into the history of Thimerosal, everything that went on
at the FDA in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and of course the entire CDC study
with the vaccine data, access to the vaccine data, which is what the other
New York Times article is about today.

Getting into the VSD is like getting into nuclear secrets—the most
heavily guarded data, certainly in the public health realm, I would think,
and still fairly off limits to outside researchers, although that seems to
be changing. And what the Times is reporting on today, is that a new panel
set up by the IOM (Institute of Medicine) to review access to Federal
data, especially this vaccine data, and also the preservation of data that
has already been analyzed, datasets that have already been constructed.
And the report is a scathing rebuke of the CDC by this IOM panel, which
basically advises the CDC to seek legal counsel, because they did not
properly maintain datasets. The language they used is that they were ‘not
archived in a standard manner’—meaning they were lost or destroyed. And
now, nobody can try to replicate what Thomas Verstraeten and his
colleagues did. Nobody knows where these datasets are. The technicians
were ordered to remove them from the computers at the CDC center, put them
on to CD-ROMs and send them back to headquarters in Atlanta. So, we don’t
know where those datasets are. They were supposed to be preserved; they
were supposed to be made available to other researchers that could come in
and then replicate the work of the government scientists—as any hallmark
of good science would allow. And the fact that they were lost or destroyed
is a violation of the Federal Data Quality Act. That is a federal law, and
if someone is responsible for the loss or destruction of these datasets,
they could conceivably face criminal prosecution.

The IOM is not a government agency, it’s an independent agency. It’s
a quasi-government agency in that it is hired by the government and does
work for the government, but it is actually independent. If you go back to
2001, when the IOM issued its first report on this issue, they came down
pretty much in the middle. They said there was not enough evidence one way
or the other; that it was biologically plausible; and that experimental
treatments, like chelation therapy, should probably be looked into. So, I
would say at least in 2001, the IOM was taking a more open-minded view
than say the CDC or pediatrics’ academies. Leaving the IOM aside for a
minute, if you look at FDA, CDC, the American Academy, and certainly the
drug companies, they all have a very strong interest in proving this
theory wrong. So, for many, many different complicated reasons, it’s going
to be difficult, if not impossible, for the parents to extract any kind of
confessions out of them—or any kind of admission of wrongdoing, or guilt,
or even just simple human error.

The IOM more recently says there was no causal relationship

There was the second report issued in May of 2004, based on a hearing
held in February, 2004 which the IOM panel, the immunization panel,
listened to evidence of data presented basically from both sides of the
controversy. The data presented to refute the Thimerosal theory was almost
exclusively large population studies—epidemiology.

IOM’s epidemiological proof is based on study authors being connected
to the Statens Serum Institut

Mark Blaxill and Sallie Bernard really investigated the tangled web.
The Statens Serum Institut supposedly call themselves a non-profit, quasi-
government agency out of Denmark, responsible for developing, producing,
and selling vaccines, not only in that country, but overseas. They still
claim that they’re non-profit, although there might be evidence to suggest
otherwise. People who were on staff at that institute, or consulting with
that institute, and who worked on several of the major studies that were
done in Denmark, do have ties to drug companies and they certainly have
ties to the CDC.

And there is now evidence surfacing showing that a lot of these
overseas studies done in Denmark and the U.K., even though they didn’t
officially receive CDC funding to be conducted, it would appear the CDC
was calling a lot of the shots. I just now saw some information that Brian
Hooker out of Washington just received a few days ago—very revealing e-
mails between the head of the study in the U.K. and Robert Chen and Thomas
Verstraeten here in Atlanta, indicating that the CDC was basically
deciding whether this study should proceed or not and deciding who at the
World Health Organization (WHO) should give its funding to and worrying
that because they found out that exposures in the U.K. were lower than
they thought they were, they thought they might not have enough exposure
to show a significant number of outcomes—which also would suggest that
they knew that with higher exposure you do get outcomes. Anyway, Elizabeth
Miller the head of the U.K. wrote to Bob Chen and was so upset she wrote,
“Do I have to give my grant back to WHO?” In other words, she was asking
the CDC, “Do I have to give my money back to the World Health
Organization?” And in another e-mail Vertraeten wrote to Chen and said, “I
don’t think this is a good study; I don’t think we should do this. I think
the money should go to researchers in Sweden.” So, the CDC was obviously
having influence over the funding of these studies that, in theory, they
had nothing to do with. CDC also wrote letters in support of some of these
studies to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The science substantiating the link between Thimerosal and the autism

When I mentioned the IOM meeting, which I was at in February of 2004,
the evidence presented to refute the theory was all epidemiology, for the
most part. And most of the evidence presented to support the theory was
biological evidence, done in the clinic, in animal models, in the test
tube, and in children themselves. This was given a lot less emphasis and
importance by the IOM panel than the epidemiology—they themselves admit
that. And a lot of these studies had not yet been published when they were
presented in February. Of course now, many now have been published, but
because they weren’t published at the time, the IOM decided to discount
them even further.

The most important ones among them are the work of Jeff Bradstreet,
Jill James, and Dr. Richard Deth, who was on NBC news last night, and
others looking into this: Boyd Haley, of course, from the University of
Kentucky. Mark and David Geier have looked more into the epidemiology than
the biology of this. The bottom line of what their studies are showing is
that autistic kids retain heavy metals at a much greater rate than normal
kids; that they seem unable, in fact, to actually excrete it. Following
chelation, autistic children excrete far higher levels of mercury than
normal kids. And yet, in their baby haircuts, we’re finding that normal
kids have much higher levels of mercury in their hair than the autistic
kids. And that would then make sense, because they were excreting it
properly; the autistic kids were holding onto it.

What Jill James and Richard Deth have found are mechanisms by which
mercury exposure can interrupt very important processes in the body, and
particularly in susceptible individuals, and the effect this can have on
the production of ‘thiols,’ sulfur-based proteins, also referred to as
‘mercaptans’ or ‘mercury capturers.’

Jill James has shown that autistic children have much lower rates of
these proteins—glutathione, cysteine, things like that— in their system,
which would naturally chelate the body, that would naturally bind with the
heavy metals and help eliminate them from the system. So, working with the
theories of Richard Deth about what is interrupting this process, she and
others are trying to restore the process, particularly through the use of
Methyl B-12. Once she started giving a cocktail that included Methyl B-12
to these children, she noticed that their levels of thiols, their sulfur-
based proteins, their ‘mercury capturers,’ if you will, returned to normal
levels. And now, she is at least anecdotally seeing clinical improvement,
as are other people who have given their children or their patients this

The work of Mady Hornig, at Columbia [University], basically took
different strains of mice—one strain which was genetically predisposed to
have auto-immune disorders—and exposed them all to the same level of
vaccines, at the same schedule, roughly, that children would have
received. In the sensitive group of mice, then, she noticed autistic-like
behavior. She noticed physiological development such as increased brain
size that you see in autistic children. Of course, she has been attacked
for the study. And people said, ‘How can you tell if a mouse has autism or
not?’ And I’m not quite sure that was the point of the study. I think the
point of the study was to show that certain members of the same species,
with a genetic difference, will react differently to the same level of
mercury exposure due to a genetic variance.

But there’s never been reported a genetic epidemic. This could then
implicate an environmental factor (a trigger), probably on top of a
genetic predisposition.

One thing I neglected to mention about Pink’s disease: only 1 in 500
children exposed to the mercury developed the disease. So, that would
therefore indicate a minority of children were genetically predisposed to
develop hypersensitivity to the metal.

Scientific progress is being made

I think there is cause for tremendous optimism. Despite the obstacles
these parents have, I have seen kids get better with my own eyes and with
my own ears, and heard them get better, and speak more clearly, and be
more attentive, and have better eye contact. I have to say whether it
turns out that Thimerosal is absolutely fingered as the culprit or not,
the mere fact that some kids, when you remove heavy metals from their
body, seem to improve clinically—that in itself is wonderful and in a way,
again I am not a lawyer and have no personal interest in these lawsuits,
who cares what the cause is? If the kids are getting better, the kids are
getting better—or at least some of them. And I don’t mean to be flip about
that, but I think people need to keep their eye on the goal—which is these
children getting better, and perhaps even recovering some, if not all
their cognitive abilities. So, I think that everyone deserves to take 5
minutes off and pat themselves on the back and look at how far they’ve
come since even I started reporting this book 2 or 3 years ago.
Particularly in terms of public awareness of Thimerosal and mercury; in
terms of legislation in Congress; in terms of the investigations; and in
terms of the media coverage. Even if you were upset at what NBC was doing,
NBC did the autism community a service, because the debate has begun. Even
if you were opposed to what Bob Bazell or anybody said, this was not being
said on national television even a year ago. Some people would say, ‘No
publicity is bad publicity.’ And there is a certain amount of wisdom in

An interview with David Kirby is available in Medical Veritas
2(1):447–445 [Manuscript #00059; doi: 10.1588/medver.2005.02.00059,].

Competing interests:
Author of "Evidence of Harm"

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 May 2005
David Kirby
P.O. Box 847, Pearblossom, CA 93553