Wednesday, December 06, 2006

THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE

A friend emailed me this evening to ask what I thought about Joe Barton’s floor colloquy in support of the Combating Autism Act. For those who missed it, Rep. Barton, reportedly having stripped the bill of any real mandate for environmental research, paid the necessary lip service to the vaccine issue:
Examining the published studies, the non-partisan Institute of Medicine has concluded that the weight of the available evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between vaccines and autism. However, I recognize that there is much that we do not know about the biological pathways and origins of this disorder, and that further investigation into all possible causes of autism is needed.

Mr. Barton then went on at great length about his pet project of removing oversight for the NIH. My take on it all is this. Like its Senate counterpart by Sen. Enzi, Barton’s colloquy was carefully crafted to give cover to those who were willing to support any bill. While some may argue that he said vaccines can be examined, the bill says virtually nothing about any environmental causes. And placed in the context of Barton’s strong language favoring NIH independence, what he’s really saying is the NIH can study the vaccine connection if they want to . . . and we all know just how much they want to.

Apparently Mr. Barton and the House leadership learned one lesson from the Senate. As you may recall, Sen. Dodd was allowed to make a mild counterpoint to the Sen. Enzi’s colloquy, which some hoped would keep the vaccine/thimerosal issue alive politically. The House wanted none of that. My understanding from some web reports is that Rep. Dan Burton was not allowed to speak in favor of the bill. That’s right; I said a supporter of the bill was not allowed to speak even though there was time left for further comment.

But the statement he prepared to give has been posted here. After praising the bill as a step forward, Rep. Burton had this to say:
Even so, while a needed step forward, this is not a perfect bill, because I believe we are missing a crucial opportunity to use this bill to help unravel the mystery of autism. Specifically, while the bill before us does include language on the need to research the environmental factors which may contribute to autism, it does not include a specific mandate that environmental research topics must include vaccines, other biologics, and their preservatives. Now I am not against vaccinations, but I do believe, as do many of my colleagues that there is a strong link between the mercury contained in a product called thimerosal commonly used as a vaccine preservative and children developing neurological disorders such as autism. In fact, my own grandson became autistic after receiving 9 shots in one day, 7 of which contained thimerosal.

Because of what happened to my grandson I took it upon myself to learn about autism and what I discovered during my research was deeply disturbing. During my tenure as Chairman of Government Reform Committee (1997-2002), and as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights & Wellness (2003-2005), a number of very credible national and international scientists testified at a series of hearings that the mercury in vaccines is a contributing factor to developing neurological disorders, including, but not limited to, modest declines in intelligence quotient (IQ), autism, and Alzheimer's Disease. And the body of evidence to support that conclusion gets larger every day.

Yet we continue to hear repeatedly in Congressional hearings, in media communications, and through government and scientific reports that “there is no evidence that proves a connection between vaccines and autism.” This conclusion is not too surprising when you consider that our health agencies seem to routinely dismiss out of hand any scientific study that does conclude thimerosal is a danger.

Experience tells us that, as with any other epidemic, while there may be underlying genetic susceptibilities, there usually is some type of environmental trigger as well, such as a virus, fungus, heavy metals, pollutants, or whatever. There has never, to the best of my knowledge, been a purely genetic epidemic. So, genetics alone cannot explain how we went from 1 in 10,000 children with autism spectrum disorders twenty years ago to 1 in 166 today. Considering that mercury is a base element and the most toxic substance known to science outside of radioactive materials, it is biologically plausible that mercury is an environmental trigger of autism.

Recent studies indicate that more than half of pediatricians said that in the previous year they had encountered at least one family that refused all vaccines, while 85 percent said they’d had a parent turn down at least one shot. Whether it's because of fear that mercury used as a preservative in childhood vaccines causes autism, or that the dangers of immunizations far outweigh their benefits, or that there is a conspiracy by drug companies, doctors and vaccine makers to conceal the harm, the facts are clear, more and more American families are fighting immunization.

It is imperative that we do all we can to restore the public's trust in vaccinations. And the only way we are going to resolve the conflict of opinion over thimerosal is through more research. Unfortunately, if the Department of Health and Human Services never funds or conducts the right studies, and given their current track record on the subject that is very likely what will happen, this question will forever remain unanswered. That will be a national tragedy because often once an environmental cause is discovered, immediate steps can be taken to prevent new cases and abate the epidemic. In addition, knowledge of the environmental cause or triggers often leads directly to more effective treatments.

For example, this bill promotes the use of evidence-based interventions for those at higher risk for autism. However, so long as we ignore the potential danger of mercury many biomedical interventions, such as restricted diet, applied kinesiology and/or chelation therapy ⎯ which many families have found to be the best treatments for their children with autism ⎯ will be excluded from the list of evidence-based treatments.

I stand here today not just as a concerned grandfather of an autistic child but as the voice for the hundreds of parents and families who continue to contact my office looking for help for their children. They are our constituents, we represent them in the People's House, and I hope we are all listening to them. The debate about mercury in vaccines must be addressed, investigated and resolved. Parents have a right to know what happened to their children regardless of where the truth lies. And we have a responsibility to those children and families already suffering. In the meantime, we should err on the side of caution and remove thimerosal, even trace amounts, from all vaccinations.

Like some of our friends in various organizations that maintained their support of the CAA, Rep. Burton feels this flawed bill is better than none. I respectfully disagree with the distinguished gentleman, but I agree with his major point: this country’s vaccine policy ⎯ and perhaps the nation’s health-care policy as a whole ⎯ will not be deemed trustworthy unless all plausible hypotheses are examined.

What are our leaders so afraid of? Why are they so afraid of examining the issue? And why are they so afraid to let one of their own have his say in “the People’s House?”

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The House wanted none of that. My understanding from some web reports is that Rep. Dan Burton was not allowed to speak in favor of the bill. That’s right; I said a supporter of the bill was not allowed to speak even though there was time left for further comment

Can you comment on where you got this information? Just curious...

12/8/06, 5:03 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Just curious,

The early web word that Burton was being shut out may have been a slightly (and only slightly) exaggerated version of what some members of Rep. Burton's staff have privately told people who have called. That is, Rep. Burton was informed that the bill would be taken up in the afternoon or evening hours rather than the morning hours when it was actually brought to the floor.

12/8/06, 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fear is not the issue of failure to examine the issue of vaccines causing autism--money is the reason. The lobby for big pharma is overwhelming compared to any common sense evaluation of vaccine safety. Burton wants to "do all we can to restore the public's trust in vaccinations." Why should the public trust vaccines?--they are harmful in that they contain toxins and are manufactured under haphazard conditions mostly in foreign countries and rubber-stamped by the FDA as safe. Mercury is the red herring that is sidetracking everyone from the real culprit, which is that you can't fool mother nature. The complexities of the immune system go way beyond simply sticking a needle full of a dead virus and the toxic soup containing it into a human blood system and hoping nothing goes wrong.

Great reporting by Wade, and the accurate assumptions of the duplicity of the NIH, who allow their overseer physicians to be paid by the same drug companies they are checking the research on. The sooner we the people recognize that vaccines, and all drugs for that matter, are made for money, and not the public health, the sooner we can get control of the harm being caused.

12/9/06, 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Old Man Kazlo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/10/06, 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, nicely said!

Erik
http://www.autismmedia.org/

12/11/06, 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly. Now they can all say, "Yes, we did what you, joe Autism Public, have been asking for. Who cares if it was in a kinda-sorta-half-assed way. We did SOMETHING." GRRRRRRrrr

12/21/06, 9:21 AM  

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