One of the benefits of living around Washington, as I do, is that you hear the darnedest things – not because someone said them on C-SPAN or at a press conference, but because a neighbor chit-chatted in the produce section at Whole Foods with a senator's aide who said a little too much, or someone's wife let slip at a cocktail party something she didn't realize was that big a deal to someone who realized it was … and so on.

That's how I came across the following tidbit of hearsay – and make no mistake, that's what it is. But there is hearsay and then there is hearsay. None of it is admissible in court, but some of it simply feels more reliable, given the source and the circumstances. I think this falls in the latter category … but that is up to you, Dear Reader.

I first heard this a few months ago and put it aside. The recent Poling decision – in which a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conceded the first test case of the idea that mercury in vaccines can cause autism – reminded me of it. I decided it was time to say something.

So this week I had lunch with my "source" – not some bigwig sitting down with Tim Russert, but the mother of an affected child who lives nearby, and me, blogger and troublemaker extraordinaire. She is a well-respected member of the community who believes that vaccines were central to her son's regression. And I – well, everybody knows where I'm coming from and can judge accordingly.

I wanted to hear her story again and make sure I got it right and see what holes I could poke in it, playing devil's advocate. So here, over a four-cheese pizza and a salad (me) and a mozzarella-and-tomato sub and fries (she), is the tale she told:

A friend of hers is a Mormon who attends a local church that is also attended by Mike Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services.

This friend of hers also has an affected child, and she is interested in but not totally convinced about the vaccine-autism link. For one thing, both her friend and her friend's husband have the engineering/math bent and they suspect that played a role.

So, this friend of hers runs into Secretary Leavitt in the parking lot of their church after services and she says to him: What do you think is causing all the autism, or What's going on with autism – that kind of thing, according to my friend, who freely says she's not sure of the exact formulation of the question. But she is crystal clear about how her friend says Secretary Leavitt responded:

"We know it's the mercury."

Well, alrighty then!, as Jenny McCarthy's boyfriend used to say. The man in charge of the whole enchilada says "we know" that mercury – and I can only assume that is primarily vaccine mercury, or thimerosal – is behind the autism epidemic?

The natural response from most people who read this is going to be:

Objection! Hearsay! Inadmissable.

Yes, but this is not a court of law. This is a blog that's trying to get to the heart of the autism epidemic as quickly as possible, and so the question is not what is admissible in court, the question is what degree of significance and plausibility to assign to this report.

My friend told me that her friend reported this conversation to her about two years ago, and that it had happened within the previous week; she sought out my friend to relate this conversation so quickly because she was, A., so surprised by it, and B., knew it accorded with my friend's view. Here was the secretary of HHS saying the same thing!

Incredible! Get this! Two moms chatting outside a pre-school in Northern Virginia about the darnedest thing. Around here, it happens.

It really does.

The woman who actually had the conversation is out of the country and inaccessible (how CONVENIENT, the naysayers will say), and neither of us is sure she would necessarily repeat it to me anyway.

Admittedly, my friend is very big on the idea that vaccines triggered her son's autism. As my friend says, "Her child hadn't regressed like mine. Believe me, you experience regression and you're a zealot." It could be argued that might predispose her to mishear or misremember what was said. Maybe what Secretary Leavitt actually said – if he said any such thing at all – is "Well, everybody thinks it's the mercury."

So, there are plenty of caveats here, but on the whole I would assign this report a reasonable degree of likelihood. Even so, I did not write about it – frankly, I didn't think all that much about it because it could never, ever be conclusively confirmed – until the Poling case. Because didn't HHS, at least in that case and perhaps not in so many words and with so much subsequent spin and smoke that it's all jumbled up … but didn't they say, in effect, "We know it's the mercury"? And given that, isn't it at least a little bit interesting that someone I respect and trust had already reported a conversation to me in which the Top Banana of the department said exactly that?

One thing that appears to me in a new light is the extreme solicitousness that a really top HHS official – William Raub, the science adviser to Leavitt – has shown to parents who believe in the environmental-biomedical model. Anyone who heard his introduction at the IOM workshop on the environment and autism in Washington last April knows he does not consider these folks wackos – not at all. Now, he might be just playing Mr. Nice Guy, but there's always been something about his approach that has stood out, at least for me.

So, if what I'm reporting is true, it's mostly good news in the sense that at the very top there may be an understanding that has already had an effect – Raub's approach, the Poling case – with perhaps more to come.

But there is another issue here. As best I can tell, there are three people in America who can out-and-out recall a food or drug on a moment's notice without anybody else's say so – no advisory committee, no IOM report, no kowtowing to nobody. That would be the president of the United States, the head of the FDA (remember when David Kessler impounded a whole warehouse of "fresh" orange juice because it wasn't fresh?) – and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

There's the flu shot, loaded with mercury and given to pregnant women and infants. There are still other vaccines manufactured and/or preserved with mercury. And then there are those 100 million kids a year in the rest of the world who are getting  shot full of thimerosal because our government says it's safe.

I'm going to leave it right there.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.



What I see here is a bunch of people who have no understanding of the scientific method. How very sad.

Jim RL

Um, if the head of HHS had access to all kinds of secret and expensive research would he really blow the whole thing by blabbing to a random church member? That doesn't make an ounce of sense. Can you imagine the level of secrecy necessary to hide the "smoking gun" research linking mercury and autism? Can you imagine the cost? Do you really think Leavitt would speak so carelessly about it? I think he'd say "We really don't know." and walk away. Think this thing through people.

Terri Lewis


Thank you for your comments on dental mercury.

Dental mercury, like all other sources of mercury, is indeed a contributing cause (and sometimes, THE cause) of both autism and Alzheimer's.

I lost my mother to Alzheimer's: she went to an old-fashioned dentist, who "took very good care" of her teeth--filling and refilling them with mercury-containing amalgam over and over. In later years (before I knew any better to tell her) she would get her annual mercury-saturated flu shot. Every year.

I have often thought we need to join forces with those who are working primarily on dental mercury issues--we all have a common goal of eliminating the direct use of this poison in the human body. I'm looking for a few ways to get that started. . .maybe just providing online links from one group to another can get the ball rolling a bit. Some sites that I'm aware of: (information, but not an active site) (news, as recent as 3/28/08, and lists of mercury-free dentists) (news, and plenty of it)

Thank you for bringing this topic to the discussion--we need to work on dental safety as well as vaccine safety.

Terri Lewis


re dental mercury, I know of someone researching that for a University course thesis. She got talking to the chief dental officer of the EU on the phone, and he said they know it is the main cause of Alzheimer's but they can't say that because of the payout cost. That was 10 years ago, and you can still go into a dentists, eg my local one, and find a booklet saying mercury amalgam is perfectly safe.


What we need to do is to get these 4900 autism claims before a civil court so that the whole world can see the documented evidence of the vaccine/autism link.
The VICP is moving at turtle speed.
If the Polings case had been heard in civil court the ballgame would be over.
How many other autism cases with overwhelming evidence will the DOJ put into their secret archives?


Those DC mommies need to go to Whole Foods and church with a pocket sized voice recorder!
I had a similar instance dropping off a sleeping bag at my son's North Atlanta Christian camp.
I was walking down a dark path with the volunteer camp nurse to the Laser Tag field. Making small talk I asked her where she practiced nursing.
She said that she went back to school and got her PhD, she was actually an epidemiologist working directly for Julie Gerberding now.
I was so glad I was on a dark path... so she couldn't see my jaw drop to the ground. The hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I decided to stick around the main cabin after dropping off the sleeping bag. This was a golden opportunity!
It wasn't long before we engaged in conversation as I busied myself in the camp kitchen. I really wanted to see if "the insiders" were privy to Mercury toxicity in vaccines. I wanted to know what a key CDC person thought about toxins in the vaccines they so vehemently defended.
10 minutes into our casual conversation she confessed to avoiding the flu shot over Mercury concerns, but still thought the immune suppressed should have them.
At which point I could hold my peace no longer.
"Why ever would you give an immune suppressed child a toxin that harms T-cells (UC Davis study)."
"Thimerosal in vaccines caused my son's Autism! He was slammed with 277X over the EPA's allowable amount as an INFANT!" "He plunged into Autism after being otherwise normal". At that point she quieted, I looked down and realized she was pregnant. At least *her* baby was spared from Mercury exposure in the womb.
They know.
She suddenly found a reason to slip out.
Oddly, I never saw her show up at camp again.
They all know.


Well, if HHS does indeed know and has known for years that it's the mercury, then it makes perfect sense that in the Poling case they carefully chose their words in making the concession: that vaccines induced "autism-like symptoms." If autism's classic definition is "born with it and incurable" then "symptoms of autism" may be code speak for mercury poisoning or other hyper-vaccination poisoning.

When it comes to politics and agendas, guess it all depends on what the definition of "autism" is.


I wish we could delve into the hearts and minds of whistleblowers -- figure out the psychological processes that compel them to come forward publicly. Perhaps given a mental roadmap, more people would be willing to speak out and finally, after decades, put a stop to this needless babies' holocaust. But how to package redemption via cessation and human salvage? All we need is an eye-catching logo and an easy-to-pour carton.

greg powell

Very interesting info. Makes me think that the other side is preparing for the endgame. They seem to be moving in the direction of admitting that, after all, thimerosal and other forms of mercury exposure has contributed with the increase in autism. What happens after this admission? We have to pressure congress to allow ALL affected families to sue in vaccine court or to directly sue manufacturers. We have to get congress to get rid of any and all statutes of limiations. Those responsible are going to have to pay for what they've done. Bottom line.

Dan Olmsted

Thanks for that very interesting information. You are in as good a position as anyone to know what these folks are thinking, so your "confirmation" is very important. Best, Dan

Kelli Ann Davis

"One thing that appears to me in a new light is the extreme solicitousness that a really top HHS official – William Raub, the science adviser to Leavitt – has shown to parents who believe in the environmental-biomedical model. Anyone who heard his introduction at the IOM workshop on the environment and autism in Washington last April knows he does not consider these folks wackos – not at all. Now, he might be just playing Mr. Nice Guy, but there's always been something about his approach that has stood out, at least for me."

Dan, totally agree on your assessment of Dr. Raub.

I’ve been “working” with him for almost three years and although I’m not at liberty to share details, I can tell you he has been extremely “open” to our issue.

For instance, at his request, the IOM hosted the Environmental Workshop last year.

And within the past several days, he has helped to secure a slot for an additional community member to be on the panel to present information to the NVAC Safety Working Group (which is working on a Vaccine Safety White Paper and the CDC Vaccine Safety Research agenda) which will meet next Friday in DC.

Sidenote: I sent him your story (the part that referenced him) this morning.

Susan Owczarzak

I think mercury, in any and all forms of exposure which a child experiences, is definitely playing a key role in this epidemic. For instance, a good friend of mine has a 3 year old son with an ASD dx. My friend did NOT receive any vaccines herself while pregnant, had no dental work done, ate NO seafood, etc. Being well-aware of the possible role of vaccines, she also did NOT vaccinate this 3 year old son at all - zilch, zero, nada, not-a-one vaccine did he receive. Recently they began IV chelation, and this little boy is spewing out Mercury and Lead both, "off-the-pages" levels on his Urine Toxic Metals testing following the IVs. In his case, this Mercury is most likely from the air we breathe. I can't even begin to imagine how affected he might be had he had mercury INJECTED directly into his body via vaccinations, like so many of our children experienced! The only other notable finding from the various biomed testing that they've run on him is that he also has elevated herpes titers.


The very first time I heard of thimerosal in vaccines in connection with my children's delays, I had one of those medley flashbacks like Bruce Willis' character did in "The Sixth Sense". One after another, I remembered every little moment and every little thing that contributed to the body burden I no doubt already had by the time I got that flu shot in the eighth month of pregnancy. All told, it was a lot, so I've long thought it was the mercury as well. I know the MMR contributes, too, but I tend to agree that it may not have been as devastating for many children without mercury paving the way.

Hmmm, it seems Leavitt may have known in time for my kids' last, fateful flu shot. I'm just wondering who to tell my kids to thank-- in the event that we manage to recover them-- for this whole awful ordeal when they grow up.

Terri Lewis

Virtually everybody now knows.

Some know about mercury, some know about over-vaccination, some know that some of us should never be vaccinated, some know a kid has had a vaccine reaction, and then won't treat that kid anymore.

Hmmm. . .

The way I see it, people who know and who work toward change to the best of their knowledge and to the best of their ability (no mercury, no vaccines for some of us, and free, informed choice for ALL)--people who work toward change are doing the right thing. They are often, truly, heroes. I'm looking for more people like this to work with, and finding lots of them here.

Anyone (and I do mean anyone) who is currently in possession of the truth about this, and in a position to bring about change, but who does nothing at all--the way I see it, those people have blood on their hands.

And the greater their position of power, and the greater their knowledge, the greater the crime.

Looks like we all need to have a little talk with Mike Leavitt; find out what kind of a human being he is.

Bet we can find out pretty fast, like we did with Julie Gerberding.

Terri Lewis


Has anyone seen CNN's "Commentary: A view from the CDC on Autism?" Again, I'm seeing their tone change a bit; it seems a softer side is coming around. "Agency defends flexible vaccine schedules" SINCE WHEN???!!!

Sandy Gottstein

Thanks, Dan, as always.

Your blog begs the question, implied by Holly, why have there not been recalls? One shocking explanation, revealed in what I believe was an NBC Dateline show a number of years ago (I thought I had written about it, but now can't find it) was that, in the case of a number of deaths and catastophic reactions, reaching 100 with some "hot" lots, that the number of lots required to result in a recall was at the vaccine manufacturers discretion and was proprietary information!

Craig Willoughby

It may very well be that they don't know how to handle the situation. I'm a very cynical individual, and I'm pretty sure that its all about the money, but deep in my cold, black heart (:P), I like to think that the higher-ups just don't know what to do, that this problem has spiraled out of their control. I will say this, there will be much less fallout and damage if they go ahead and 'fess up now as opposed to the whole shebang getting exposed through other means. I'd be willing to forgive the 1st scenario, but there will be a lot of hell to pay with the 2nd.


It is abslolutely heartbreaking that children continue to suffer life-changing injuries because people at the top cannot figure out a way to admit to mistakes. As Kent said, we desperately need some heroes from within the agencies and medical organizations to speak out and say, "Let the chips fall where they may, we must do something to remedy this situation."

I believe that mercury can cause autism. I also believe that vaccines without mercury can cause autism, and that the more vaccines we give at a younger age, the higher the number of children who are adversely affected.

The whole point of a vaccine is to provoke a response from the immune system. Injecting substances and multiple viruses directly into the bloodstream is an unnatural way to introduce these foreign substances into the body. Normally we are exposed to toxins and germs through the lungs, digestive system, and skin. The body has processes in place to respond. Our immune system is like a little army with an early warning system, training, specialized soldiers, and a memory. We also have systems in place to break down and detoxify natural exposures such as in the food we eat. Is it any wonder that when we repeatedly inject foreign substances directly into the blood we can cause unanticipated effects on the developing immune system? And it is the over-reacting immune system that causes the high fevers, seizures, autoimmunity to myelin basic proteien, brain inflammation, inflammatory bowel disorders, and allergies.

Those who disagree with us seem to expect simple explanations. But it is not ONLY the mercury in vaccines -- there is also an increasing amount of mercury in the environment, and vaccines without mercury can also cause harm -- either because of other toxins such as aluminum, or because of multiple viruses, or because anything injected into the blood can over-provoke the immune system in some children. None of this lets vaccine mercury off the hook, even if it is not the only culprit. For obvious reasons which have been thoroughly described elsewhere, it is crazy to inject mercury into babies and children. Mercury in minute quantities has been found to be toxic and to disrupt the immune system, impair speech, kill cells, damage mitochondria, disrupt biochemistry, impair enzymes, and more.

Some of the vaccine defenders (such as one of the doctors on Larry King Live) say that if a fever causes autism we are better off with vaccines because kids can get fevers from vaccine-preventable illnesses. But look at reality: before we vaccinated against diseases such as measles, mumps, and chicken pox the autism rate was so much lower than today. Most children came down with these illnesses, but there were NOT commmon reports of children regressing into autism afterwards, not like the common reports today of children regressing into autism after receiving vaccines. I don't believe that a fever by itself causes autism. I believe that the fever after vaccines is sometimes a symptom of the immune system's overreaction and disarray.

Rather than epidemiology, we need research by toxicologists and immunologists on vaccine reactions so that we can understand these events better, and thus understand better how to prevent them, how to treat them, and who may be most vulnerable. This need is so obvious.

The fact that vaccines can prevent illness does not prove that vaccines do no harm. We have to weigh the risks and benefits, and we cannot weigh the risks if the harm is simply ignored and denied.

Many people who choose careers at agencies such as HHS and CDC did so out of genuine concern for public health. One can only hope that this concern will soon overcome the vested interests which favor inertia and denial. It appears that the public, media, and some politicians are becoming more aware of these problems. I hope and believe that the denial cannot last much longer.

Dan Olmsted

I don't think the comment "we know it's mercury," and your points about the MMR, are mutually exclusive. First of all I'm not sure we can definitively say that autism is rising at the same rate WITHOUT mercury, because for one thing the flu shot has messed up the natural experiment. Either mercury is out of all childhood vaccines, or it's not -- and it's not. (WHY not?!) I do think that vaccine mercury while sufficient may not be necessary -- witness a brand new study that continues to strengthen the link between proximity to coal-fired (mercury-polluting) sources and risk of autism. This is statistically significant, it has been replicated, it points directly at mercury, and it's scary as hell given the increasing reliance on coal in the USA and especially -- one new dirty coal power plant a day, and the wind blows East. And we're saturating ourselves in other toxic gunk. I think it's body burden/immune damage from whatever source/s meets toxins and live viruses -- from vaccines, from regular old infections, from whatever. So I certainly don't object to your raising these points. I just think mercury is clearly implicated -- my Frederick W. piece (google olmsted, autism and Baltimore City Paper) -- convinces me of that.

Diane Farr

I only said I was wondering? Actually, I'm all over the place with this issue and no I didn't get stupid from a flu vaccine; never had one! I even have a new conspiracy theory; we all get one. They never took the mercury out of the vaccines at all or the made the aluminum more toxic to make sure nothing changed. Why? Why would they? They have been able to lie about everything else; they could surely get by with this. They are at an all-time-low. I'm sure the vaccine manufacturers would go along with this scheme. I can here, 'em now, "we'll show them, as they are laughing all the way to the bank to cash in their stocks of big pharma". Here, I go wondering again. Has anyone actually done an independent test on a current (non-mercury) vaccine. We are just trusting what a label says. Our doctor conveniently lost all of our vaccine records; so we'll never have any idea whether my son got it or not. He sure acted like it; until we got the mercury, virus', and candida out!


Right, Bill. Mercury goes either to the brain or to the heart. If it goes to the heart, it causes enlargement which can lead to deadly heart attacks.


Diane Farr, it is not popular on this site because it is not true. Mercury has not been completely removed from vaccines. This is the reason there has has been no drop. There won't be a drop until 5-6 years after all of it has been removed from all vaccines. After initially saying all of it had been removed, one of the doctors on LKL later said only 90% of it had been removed.

The problem with the MMR is that so much damage is done by mercury in vaccines before the MMR shot, that when given, the MMR shot does even more damage.


"We know it's the mercury."

The mercury is definitely the trigger but I would not be in a hurry to exonerate the combination vaccines (especially the MMR) and the overloaded vaccine schedule as well. I think the mecury goes in to set the stage for the subsequent viral assault. Its both. Beleaguered by the massive assault to the immune system, the child just crumbles.

The other mistake people make is assume that just because the kids are fine until 3 or 4 or 5 years all is well. Not so unfortunately. The body has tipping points. If you have been on autism lists as long as some of us have, you find people coming in after the 4 to 6 year boosters. My son's aide's son suddenly developed a gluten allergy after his 10 to 12 year shots. Teenagers and young adults are dropping like flies to strange disorders/ diseases after the college shots. Young adults are having heart attacks without any history in the family. Of course it looks different later on and so you just have "unexplained" health problems.

It seems that the wisest course might be an endeavor to build immunity naturally to disease as it has been proven - time and again - that there ARE some people who cannot tolerate any vaccine, ever. Period.

Its also the medical community's job to figure out who is susceptible and why. I get this weird feeling that they know how to measure this but don't want to tell because:

1. it will prove liability
2. the assembly line vaccine administration will collapse
3. its too much work
4. profits will plummet

It seems clear that there is a very "herd" mentality at play here. Having said that, I wonder WHICH of the three you have indicated will do something about the mercury at least. Let's see - mercury poisoning versus no mercury poisoning. Gee, now that's a hard one!!

Diane Farr

I wonder these days, if a credible study was done on mercury and autism that we would find that mercury is not causing autism. I'm sure this is not a popular statement on this website. Why would the responsible parties allow the mercury to be removed from most vaccines, if they knew it was causing autism? Should we have seen at least a slight drop in autism by now, if this is the true culprit. Why is it a shot like the MMR seems to be the one that tipped our kids into autism and it doesn't contain mercury? We need to study the immune system and candida. I don't see anything new with mitochrondial dysfunction; we see the causes and stress is one. Why doesn't the medical community see a vaccine as being a stress on the body; isn't that what it's suppose to do anyway?

Carrie Elsass

While I have no doubt that the head of HHS knows the truth, casually spouting it seems a little odd...


Thank you Mr. Olmsted. What is an "engineering/math bent" ?

I heard that S. Wright made a similar statement - "We believe it's the mercury." I also heard that the AAP has no intention of working with Dan! doctors.


During my days at Campbell Soup, I sat through a number of "recall" meetings. In attendence were the company lawyers, PR folks, Quality, and manufacturing. Nothing I'm sure like the Ford/Firestone or Merck/Vioxx meetings-nobody has died from a can of soup. But we all sized up the penetration, the cost of injury, negative word of mouth, damage of pulling our product off the shelf and the consumer trying the competition and liking it better, etc.

The implications of recalling a $0.79 can of soup is nothing in comparison to this vaccine catastrophy but I have to say, Campbell looked out for their consumers. For example: if clam chowder was mislabeled cream of mushroom the product was recalled to avoid potential allergic reaction and death. If a rubber hose accidently made it into a carrot slicer and got sliced into the soup - the product was recalled to avoid choking and death.

In order to be proactive, everyday we combed consumer reports for hazzards such as these. If only the FDA, HHS, CDC were as concerned for their consumers as a soup company, they would have had someone combing through the VAERS reports everyday. But then again, I remember in the death of the Idaho babies, the CDC representative said they only start to investigate after 3/4?? deaths. When you have a cash cow, who cares what's happening to your consumers.


Dan, this sounds valid to me. I've been thinking lately that the big cheese must know. They might even be implementing change as we speak, without us knowing, so that certain NEW products are available when the poop hits the fan at the press conference where someone announces, "A major player in this situation is the vaccines." If something like that was admitted, but no backup systems were put in place, can you imagine the craziness that would ensue?

My other thought, and at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist (as if I didn't already!), is that changes are being made, but no admissions will come until we've been three years clear of toxic vaccines and schedules. This would, with the three year statute of limitations, limit the number of persons able to sue the government.

Hey, it could happen.


Speaking of that damn flu shot - I just met a mom who is heart broken, because her newly diagnosed son regressed directly after that damn flu shot. High fever, massive diarrhea, hospitalized. Never the same - but "it couldn't be the shot"......just a coincidence they told her. This has GOT TO STOP!

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