To get a quick fix on how insanely inconsistent the public health authorities and the media are on the question of mercury exposure in infants, just check out Saturday’s New York Times. There on Page A9 is Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center on Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, saying the centers were now “fully recommending” that children as young as six months old get a flu shot every year. In the past, the agency had only “encouraged” shots for children.
And there, on Page A14, is a lead editorial titled “Mercury and Power Plants "Mercury and Power Plants" demanding the administration “issue a tough rule to control mercury, knowing that it is essential to protect Americans and that the power companies can certainly afford to do what is needed.”
The Times is particularly concerned about mercury’s effect on children. “Mercury is a toxin that has been found in increasingly high concentrations in fish and poses human health risks, including neurological disorders in children. The nation’s coal-fired power plants produce 48 tons of it a year, a little more than 40 percent of the total mercury emitted in the United States.”
Of course, another source of mercury exposure in neurologically vulnerable children is in THE FREAKING FLU SHOT! I don’t know what the latest estimate is, but by all accounts more than half of all flu shots contain ethyl mercury – the poison that goes by the polite name of thimerosal.
It’s been 10 years this month that the Public Health Service urged manufacturers to phase out thimerosal-containing vaccines, but, unaccountably, there was no such effort to get it out of flu shots, even as the CDC expanded the groups it suggested receive the shot to pregnant woman and to children 6 months and older. This has led to the canard that autism rates keep going up even after thimerosal was removed. In fact, the timing was moved to a much more vulnerable point – in utero – as well as at six months.
I’ve mentioned before that a pediatrician who treats both children with autism and typical children told me that she calls the new wave of autistic children who are referred to her “flu shot kids” – their mothers got a mercury-containing flu shot in pregnancy, and the child got it at six months. I’m sure that it wouldn’t be hard to test that in some government database – it wouldn’t be hard, but it would be impossible, because the government won’t do it.
The fact that these contradictory stories were in The Times just adds to the insanity of it all – The Times is the paper that has led the charge to discredit the autism-mercury-vaccine link. Just this month, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller had this to say to Time magazine: “I don't think fairness means that you give equal time to every point of view no matter how marginal. You weigh the sides, you do some truth-testing, you apply judgment to them. We don't treat creationism as science. Likewise in the autism-vaccine debate, our reporting shows pretty clearly which side the science is on.”
It’s as if Walter Cronkite had gone to Vietnam and come back to report that all the officers in charge of the war told him that we were winning, so we must be winning. Instead, he looked at the facts for himself and decided that the truth was not what he was being told by the experts.
We already miss you, Walter.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.