12/21/2007 04:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Missing the Mercury Threat: An appeal to New Jersey's Governor

Albert Einstein once said, "only two things are infinite: the universe
and human stupidity". We got a good dose of what many would call
"human stupidity" last week in New Jersey when 5 un-elected members of
the Public Health Council (PHC) voted to mandate four new vaccines for
children. The vaccines that will be mandated in 2008 include: the
influenza vaccine, pneumococcal, meningococcal, tetanus, diphtheria
and acellular pertusis (Tdap) vaccine. Two of the vaccines, influenza
and Sanofi Pasteur's meningococcal vaccine (Menomune) contain
thimerosal (mercury).

In spite of a week's long protest from constituents that included
parents, physicians and dozens of organizations, the State Health
Commissioner gave his "seal of approval" on Friday, December 15.

Today I want to appeal to New Jersey Governor Corzine to re-evaluate
these recommendations and carefully consider the ramifications for New
Jersey's children.

Unless Governor Corzine, the state legislature, or perhaps a judge
intervenes, New Jersey will go down in history as the first state in
the nation, for that matter the world, to order parents to vaccinate
their preschoolers with a known developmental neurotoxin, which many
parents, physicians and scientific research suggest is linked to the
epidemic of developmental disorders, including autism.

The PHC recommendation came just days before another "first in the
nation" law was passed by Minnesota lawmakers who voted to ban the use
of mercury in mascara and other cosmetics. "Mercury does cause
neurological damage to people even in tiny quantities...can retard brain
development in children and fetuses who are most vulnerable to the
metal's toxic effects" stated the Minnesota officials.

That's right, you can't put mercury on your mommy's lashes in
Minnesota but New Jersey health officials just can't wait to inject it
into your young children.

After repeated warnings about mercury toxicity in fish and following
its removal from over the counter products, thermostats, industrial
switches, medical devices, animal vaccines, even a leg paint used on
horses, the five appointed members of the PHC and the NJ Department of
Health (DOH) can claim credit for what could be one of the worst and
ill-advised public health decisions forced upon the public in recent
memory; a decision that was made under a cloak of secrecy, without
sufficient debate and perhaps in violation of procedural protocols.

New Jersey parents have a right to question the DOH actions. After all
New Jersey holds the dubious honor of having the highest autism rates
in the country. According to the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 94 New Jersey
children have autism, 1 in 60 boys.

While some NJ public health officials arrogantly dismiss the link
between vaccines and autism as "scientifically unfounded," and tell
reporters concerns about thimerosal is "a moot issue," since most
vaccines are either free of the compound or contain only trace
amounts, like the preschool flu vaccine.", a growing body of published
scientific research shows this opinion cannot be factually supported.

To the contrary, approximately 90% of the influenza vaccine supply
still contains thimerosal. According to the FDA, the 25 micrograms of
mercury in one influenza vaccine is NOT a "trace amount". According to
EPA guidelines, this amount can only be considered safe if a person
weighs 550 pounds. You would think a health official would know this.

In addition, there is no convincing evidence that the flu shot is
actually effective. A study published in the British Medical Journal,
done by the Cochran Collaboration, considered the Gold Standard for
scientific research, stated the recommendations of flu shots for
infants and toddlers are not backed by scientific evidence [Jan.25,
2006]. So if research tells us the vaccine is ineffective and it contains
toxic mercury, why are officials recommending it be given to our young

Sanofi's Menactra meningococcal vaccine is thimerosal-free and
currently recommended for children between 11-12 years old. However,
the FDA and the CDC are investigating cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome
(GBS) among adolescents who received this vaccine. A larger study led
by Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare is expected to take approximately 2
years. According to the CDC, "The study period is necessary to
accumulate cases and attain sufficient statistical power."

The recommended acceptable alternative is Sanofi's Menomune, which
contains 25 micrograms of thimerosal, thus adding to the overall body
burden of one of the most toxic metals on earth.

While some officials want to continue dismissing the vaccine autism
association, the neurological risks associated with the use of the
mercury-based preservative have been well documented in the scientific
literature for decades.

This is noted in a 2004 California Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that found: "the
scientific evidence that [thimerosal] cause reproductive toxicity is
clear and voluminous...The evidence for its reproductive toxicity
includes severe mental retardation or malformations in human offspring
who were poisoned when their mothers were exposed to ethyl mercury or
thimerosal while pregnant ...

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) states that thimerosal is
"poison by ingestion, subcutaneous, intravenous and possibly other
routes," and warns that childhood exposure could result in "mental
retardation in children, loss of coordination in speech, writing,
gait, stupor, and irritability and bad temper progressing to mania."

A 1984 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found, "Thimerosal
used to irrigate the external auditory canals in a child with
tympanostomy tubes has caused severe mercury poisoning." [Rohyans J,
Walson PD, Wood GA, MacDonald WA Mercury toxicity following
Merthiolate ear irrigations. J Pediatr 1984; 104:311-313].

In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a review
on the state of science related to mercury toxicity entitled,
Technical Report: Mercury in the Environment: Implications for
Pediatricians. The Report concluded, "Mercury in all of its forms is
toxic to the fetus and children"..."Inorganic and elemental mercury
should not be present in the home or other environments of children"
"It would seem prudent for the FDA to carefully examine all uses of
mercury in pharmaceuticals, particularly pharmaceuticals that are used
by infants and pregnant women." [J Pediatr 2001; 108: 197-205].

As recently as last month a study published in the Journal of Child
determined, "a significant relation does exist between the
blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder".

New Jersey's health officials may believe giving preschoolers and
other children mercury containing influenza shots is good public
health policy but not all physicians would agree. Many physicians,
including United States Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL), a strong
supporter of our nation's immunization program, has gone on record
stating, "Any doctor who would knowingly inject a baby with a
mercury-containing vaccine. I would consider that malpractice".

If these are not reason enough to question the new mandates, just last
month one of the first autism cases presented in the U.S. Court of
Federal Claims (vaccine court), the government CONCEDED that vaccines
aggravated a pre-existing mitochondrial dysfunction causing autistic
like symptoms in one of the first cases where the case filed was a
claim was that thimeosal caused autism.

So please don't tell me the link between vaccines and autism is
"scientifically unfounded," or there is "no evidence" that vaccines
cause autism in some children. The federal government has already
conceded this point in one case.

Mercury is not the only problem with the new mandates.

The Prevar pneumococcol vaccine also has its own problems. There have
been 3,243 adverse reactions reported to the government's vaccine
surveillance system since Prevnar was first licensed in 2000. These
reports included 476 serious reactions and 79 deaths. Just a few
months ago the Prevnar vaccine was linked to a new antibiotic
resistant "superbug" bacterial infection, causing serious ear
infections in children as young as 6 months. One child suffered
permanent hearing loss.

Should health officials be forcing parents to give their children
vaccines that contain a heavy metal toxin whose packaging contains the
universal symbol for poison and warns the product could cause mental
retardation or one that has thousands of reported adverse reactions?
Where do we draw the line on who knows what is best for our own

In response to the Public Health Council's recommendations, Governor
Corzine was quoted that he does not "in any way think we should take
risks on vaccines . . . the elements of evaluation should be left to
scientists and data".

I couldn't agree more with Governor Corzine on this point. Ultimately
it is the Governor who is responsible and I am hopeful that he is
taking this matter very seriously.

No governor wants to reject the recommendations of their public health
officials, However, Governor Corzine would not be the first one to do
so in this situation.

When faced with the recommendation by California health officials to
veto a bill aimed at banning thimerosal from children's vaccines back
in 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected this advice and
signed the Mercury Free Act, which strictly limits the amount of
mercury in vaccines or products used by pregnant women and very young
children in the state of California. In a signing message,
Schwarzenegger stated, "I believe that an abundance of caution merits
the acceleration of the process already underway to remove thimerosal
from the last few vaccines that contain it".

Six other governors have signed into law similar bills overruling the
objections of public health officials.

Look, everyone knows what these new recommendations are all about.

Vaccines have become the lifeblood of the pharmaceutical industry.

In the 2004 annual report for Chiron Corporation, sales of their flu
vaccine went from $90 million in 2002 to $332.4 million in 2003. Total
vaccine sales went from $357.4 million (2002) to $678.3 million
(2003). Nice increase.

I note this particular year's report because it was in 2003 that
industry, along with health officials, aggressively forged ahead with
a masterful marketing plan. Create fear that terrible diseases are
going spread through schools like wildfires if every kid isn't
vaccinated through a very well financed lobbying and advertising
campaign. Then get a handful of health officials; to "rubber stamp"
exactly what the industry wants. What corporation wouldn't covet a
program sanctioned by the government that forces the public to use
their products? ['Dire' CDC warning hiked flu shot demand: UPI,

The profits from mandated vaccines has resulted in billions of profits
for the drug companies and if enacted, the new vaccine recommendations
will deliver billions more.

An easy and guaranteed flow of revenue for industry and physicians alike.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that certain members of the
Public Health Council were the recipients of pharmaceutical industry generosity. (Riki
Jacobs - received Pfizer money for her AIDS foundation).

For the record, I have repeatedly acknowledged the importance of
vaccinations. There is no question that vaccines have saved many lives
but they are not without risks. Over the last decade, however,
serious and legitimate questions have arisen regarding the number of
vaccines we are giving our children today and whether the ingredients
in those vaccines are as safe as we, the public, have been led to
believe. Until these safety concerns are addressed in a transparent
manner, parents, not bureaucrats, should decide what is best for their

In January of this year, in response to mercury contamination at a
children's day care center, Governor Corzine signed a bill that would
enforce strict guidelines to ensure environmental safety at child care
centers and schools. In a statement Governor Corzine said. "This puts
New Jersey at the forefront of states nationally in protecting
children from environmental contaminants while at child care
facilities and schools."

It would be the height of hypocrisy for New Jersey to now tell parents
they must inject their children with mercury-containing vaccines.

It is time for New Jersey to lead the nation again and reject the new
vaccine mandates and send a message that our children are no longer
going to be the depositories for toxic contaminants in order to
increase profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

Any parent who wants to vaccinate their child with any of the four new
recommended vaccines can do so today without government coercion. The
state has not needed to mandate these vaccines in the past and there
is no public health emergency to warrant the implementation of the
recommendations now. There is however a public health crisis in New
Jersey caused by the rapid rise of developmental disorders, like

There can be no harm in slowing down this process and carefully
reviewing the mandated recommendations along with the current state of
science, and the possible ramifications of this very aggressive
vaccination policy.

The new vaccine mandates are not defensible in light of all we know
about thimerosal and mercury toxicity. Governor Corzine has the legal
authority and the responsibility to protect New Jersey's children from
additional and unnecessary mercury exposure.

I urge Governor Corzine to put on hold these new vaccine mandates and
convene a meeting that will include ALL stakeholders and hear from
scientists and his constituents before approving these new vaccine

The ball is in your court Governor.