Health Care

Lawmakers hear impassioned testimony on vaccine bill

Jean Andersson-Swayze of Middlebury testifying in favor of Senate Bill 199. VTD/Alan Panebaker
Dr. Jean Andersson-Swayze of Middlebury testifying in favor of Senate Bill 199. VTD/Alan Panebaker

The House Committee on Health Care got a dose of conflicting testimony Wednesday night on the merits of taking away a philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want to have their children immunized.

The Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the exemption earlier this month. Now S.199 is in the House. If the measure is enacted, parents would have to get their children vaccinated to enroll them in school, absent an exemption on religious or medical grounds.

Dozens of parents and medical professionals offered brief, impassioned testimony. Under pragmatic questions lies a deeper philosophical debate over parental rights, public health and traditional medicine.

Proponents of the bill emphasize the risks to public health of unimmunized children. The Vermont Department of Health and other groups such as the Vermont Public Health Association support the bill introduced by Sen. Kevin Mullin. Rep. George Till, a medical doctor who sits on the House Committee on Health Care, introduced similar legislation.

“Immunization is the single most important thing that has helped prevent serious disease in this country,” said Ken Borie, a family doctor from Randolph.

Many young parents have little perspective on the dangers of diseases like measles and polio that killed thousands, Borie said.

Those who want to keep the exemption say the number of unimmunized children in Vermont is not as high as some would like people to think, and there is a trend toward over-vaccination.

Julia McDaniel, a chiropractor who opposes the bill, said the proposal goes too far.

“The question I want the committee to consider is when is it appropriate for the state to take away an individual’s rights,” McDaniel said.

She and others emphasize that the state is in the 90th percentile for vaccination rates for vaccines other than chicken pox.

“Do we want to take away an individual’s rights over chicken pox?” she said.

McDaniel said taking away the philosophical exemption would mean many children would not be allowed to enroll in school.

“If a child is even missing so much as one booster shot, they are counted as unvaccinated, which is very misleading, so they could have all their other shots, be missing their booster shot and they’re lumped in with unvaccinated,” she said.

There is not enough scientific proof of vaccine safety, McDaniel said, to justify taking away a parent’s right not to vaccinate his or her child.

Sorsha Anderson, a member of the Rumney Memorial School Board, said the bill could create real financial impacts for the school if the 41 children whose parents declined at least one vaccine based on a philosophical exemption couldn’t be enrolled.

Numerous parents blamed vaccines for neurologic problems and autism. Many others who testified emphasized that they research the vaccines and carefully decide which are potentially more dangerous and which put their children at risk of spreading diseases.

Dr. Sandy Reider of Lyndonville said the state has a high rate of vaccination overall.

“Most of the unvaccinated kids are missing chicken pox or hepatitis B, neither of which is a threat to public health,” he said.

Pediatricians and a couple of medical students testified in favor of the bill.

Jean Andersson-Swayze, a family doctor in Middlebury, compared the philosophical exemption to vaccines to a philosophical exemption to driving through a red light.

“Pretty soon, someone’s going to be injured, whether it’s me or someone innocent,” she said.

Andersson-Swayze said when she was working in Haiti, she saw a child die from tetanus, which is preventable by a vaccine.

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than having a patient die from a preventable disease,” she said.

Some supporters of the exemption claim the established medical community refuses to acknowledge alternative studies that show the potential harms vaccines can cause.

Conversely, some medical doctors claim opposition to vaccines is based largely on junk science that is not peer reviewed. One high-profile British study connecting autism to a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine has been withdrawn.

Robert Nesbit, a surgeon at Fletcher Allen Health Care, said he was skeptical of the “fake science” asserting that vaccines are unsafe. He said much of the testimony the committee heard was based on studies found on the Internet that are not evidence-based.

Nesbit said the weight of peer-reviewed science falls on the side of ensuring children are vaccinated.

“This is a question of greater good and following evidence-based medicine,” Nesbit said.

Rep. Mike Fisher, the chair of the committee, said the committee has a week to discuss the bill, but he did not know when a vote would be taken.

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  • If we are considering taking away the philosophical exemption based upon public health, why are we leaving in a “religious” (another word for philosophical) exemption? Why can one threaten my health and safety because they call their philosophy “religion”?

    • Michelle Parsons

      If your vaccines work, explain how the un-vaccinated are threatening YOUR health and safety?…You are vaccinated…Remember?

  • Victor Pavlovic

    This article just proves how little most doctors know about the dangers of vaccines, they always point to the science proving vaccines are safe, and these studies are all funded by the vaccine manufacturers, what do they think that they will say. Also they talk about the paper in England that was done raising questions on the safety of the MMr vaccine and call it junk science, when in fact they never mention where it was published, and who was behind the retraction, and that the paper was wrongfully retracted, this in itself tells me that they don’t really read the science, rather they just repeat misinformation, and this is what the press and most of the MD,s in this country do REPEAT, and not think for themselves.If vaccines were safe the would be no need for a vaccine court aka NVICP which has paid out billions to vaccine devastated children. On 2-22-2011 the supreme court said that vaccines were unavoidably unsafe, 1 in 5 children are now suffering from some sort of neurological disability in this country, if vaccines were effective then why are we the sickest nation and yet the most vaccinated, these are the questions that the people advocating for exemptions need to answer before they want to push their will on us, because who is it that will take care of our children if they experience this vaccine tragedy, this is what parents are afraid of, and doctors lacking education in the safety of vaccines because all they want to do is inject!

  • Sarita Khan

    I wonder if our representatives would be willing to take a look at what is being exposed in Europe regarding vaccines and safety. They are going in the opposite direction and reducing vaccinations due to severe side effects which they are now admitting. Take a look at this report taken from a medical journal.

  • ““The question I want the committee to consider is when is it appropriate for the state to take away an individual’s rights,” McDaniel said.

    She and others emphasize that the state is in the 90th percentile for vaccine rates for vaccines other than chicken pox.”

    The answer to this wise question is NEVER. Our constitutional god-given rights to control our own bodies are INALIENABLE. That means this is where the line is drawn between “common good” and individual rights.

    To top it off, Vermont childhood vaccination rates for the Vt mandatory vaccines are NOT low, they’re all above 90% except chicken pox at 88%, these rates are HIGHER than the majority of other US States. Vt’s general population’s vaccination rates (including adults) for all the “recommended” vaccines (a much longer list) is much lower, but that’s an entirely SEPARATE ISSUE.

    Less than 5% of VT school-age children have missed one or more vaccination shots due to philosophical exemptions. This entire question is a NON-ISSUE, and the pharma-lobbyists are using BS fear tactics to trick well-meaning Vermonters into GIVING UP OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

    This is utter Orwellian insanity. Wake up people.

  • The VT Dept. of Health has presented three different sets of wonky stats at this point.

    First they said that VT had low vaccination rates on the National Immunization Survey. The children with low rates in the survey are from 19 to 35 months old, in other words, under 3 years of age. So we aren’t talking about school, we are talking about daycare. Next, the survey measures compliance with RECOMMENDED vaccines, not required vaccines. So yup, some kids in VT don’t get the recommended vaccines. Removing the philosophical exemption won’t make parents give children vaccines that are not required. Education and encouragement might up those numbers. Removing the philosophical exemption WILL HAVE ZERO EFFECT.

    Next the Dept. of Health presented an ominous map covered with red dots representing schools with 10% or more of the children unimmunized. Another whoops. Turned out these were the children with temporary, one-year waivers while they CATCH UP on their vaccinations. What this map represents is hundreds of children whose parents wanted them vaccinated and the Dept of Health and VT doctors have failed to deliver the vaccines to the children. Nothing to do with the philosophical exemption.

    Finally, the VT Dept. of Health presented a map that actually showed the rate of philosophical exemptions which is, according to the map, over 6% in a significant number of schools. But…there is a problem here, too. Comparing percentages when the numbers vary widely distorts the picture. If you compare the percentage at a school with 100 incoming kindergartners with a school with 3 incoming kindergartners, the percentages will not represent comparable realities, will they?

    This is how one school in VT ended up with a 33% philosophical exemption rate. Incoming kindergarten has 3 children. All three children are completely up to date on their vaccines…except that one child did not get the chickenpox vaccine.

    I don’t think the public statements from the VT Dept. of Health are reliable, based on their track record so far. Since the numbers are all available at their web-site, anyone who wants to review this for themselves can do so.

  • Curtis Sinclair

    Measles rates are rising in Europe as vaccination rates decline.

    People should be educated about the subject so they will get their children vaccinated voluntarily. Here is a WHO site that explains the myths:

  • Alex Barnham

    All of my vaccinated friends are getting fibromyalgia, cancers of every kind, diabetes, etc. The medical community is disregarding Gerson therapies and similar therapies. Read Colin Campbell’s material. Become your child’s doctor while you are still free to do so. LEARN ABOUT THE FACTS. DIGG

  • Danny Weiss

    So much has been written by health professionals about the dangers of vaccines. Vaccines contain poisonous heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum in amounts that far exceed food safety standards. I believe that there is a lot of misinformation originating from the medical establishment, which doesn’t even acknowledge a link between an acute reaction of paralysis and death directly following a vaccination. Rather than this lay person writing about why vaccine use should not be mandated, I will let doctors, medical journalists, researchers, and naturopathic physicians explain it themselves through an article, “Why Vaccinations Harm Children: Health Experts Sound Off”, which can be found here:
    The State should NOT be mandating injecting poisons into any person, including children.

  • Alex Barnham

    The FDA is now allowing the pharmaceutical companies to conduct their own evaluations of their products and accepting them carte blanche. If the medical community is also accepting the pharmaceutical companies reports, we’re all over our heads in the deepest and darkest excrement known to mankind. The final nail in our coffins will be to run scared into the public prairie and believe it is for our own good.

  • Steve Smith

    Autism is common. Shots are common. If shots have nothing to do with autism, there should be about 150 kids in Vermont with autism that was first noted in the week after a shot. I find it very understandable that people have a hard time letting go of this belief, no matter how many studies hunt for the relationship unsuccessfully.

    There are people in school who can’t be directly protected by vaccines – those who are allergic, those who get the shot and don’t respond, the unborn babies of pregnant staff. They have a right to expect safe schools. Nobody asks the permission of those who can’t be vaccinated to be put at risk by those who won’t.

    The proof of vaccines is not limited to pharma funded studies. I’ve seen chicken pox become rare. I haven’t sent a Hib infected kid to the hospital for years. I have no experience at all with tetanus, diphtheria, and acute polio. I just hope we can learn from the European experience without repeating it.

  • A public hearing was held Wednesday night in a room packed full of Vermont’s parenting generation. see for more.

    More testimony will be heard next week. It is unclear if they will even vote on this unnecessary bill. see for more.

    To sign the petition or learn more, visit the VT Coalition’s website:

  • A science-based review of the views of those who support this bad legislation as reflected by Walter Clapp,the director of the Vermont Chapter of the March of Dimes, can be found at:

    Other papers addressing other vaccine, vaccination and health freedom issues can be found on my web site:

    Hopefully, after reading the Vermont-specific review, all thinking Vermonters will understand the reality that this legislation is but another attempt to take away their rights to choose what medical treatment, if any, is appropriate for themselves and their minor children or wards.

  • Phoebe Jackson

    I’m sorry, but how are medical students qualified to testify on this subject? They are still students and they are often so busy that they don’t have time to do their own research. Pharmaceutical companies donate millions of dollars to medical schools, is this not a conflict of interest?

    The statement that the “fake science” isn’t peer reviewed blows my mind. I’m curious how hard these people have actually looked to prove such a statement.

    If you are a parent do your own research. Provide your pediatrician with scientific proof that they can’t deny. Viera Scheibner, PhD has published research linking early vaccines to Cotdeath. Chris Shaw, PhD has done research linking aluminum hydroxide to Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Alzheimer’s. These are simply two examples. These are your children, do your research, don’t just trust your pediatrician or family doctor. HMO’s provide bonuses to practices that have a certain percentage of their client base fully vaccinated. Paul Offit, MD, a huge proponent of vaccines has a Rotavirus vaccine patent himself that is worth millions (to him). And I’m sorry, but if your child is vaccinated, isn’t it your belief they are protected? If you are vaccinated isn’t it your belief that you are protected? Why do we need to worry about the greater good here? If, you are worried about the health of your child being affected by an illness an unvaccinated child is carrying, you should probably question your belief in vaccinations all together.

    Over the years, heroic medicine comes and goes. Blood letting?! The science disproving the efficacy of vaccinations is out there. It has been. The statistics thrown in parents faces (and doctors for that matter) does not take a large enough span of time into consideration when showing disease decrease as related to introduction of the vaccination. When you look at a larger time it is always seen that as sanitations improved diseases were already on the decline.

    Educate yourselves, then your pediatrician. As far as the philosophical exemption, as you are seeing it can be taken away at any time as it is a privilege offered by the state. As the first post pointed out, philosophical is the same thing as religious. Religious expeditions are a much safer route and you do not need to share with anyone what your religion is. If you want to know more about this, Dr. Mayor Eisenstein has a large amount of information on it.

    Do your research, don’t defer your or your child’s health to anyone else. And to you doctors out there, also do yours. Find out if your practice gets a bonus from HMO’s. Read everything you can get your hands on. Find out how much money was donated to your teaching hospital, medical school or even undergraduate university from pharmaceutical companies. Look at the advisory boards and find out who is funding them and who works on them.


  • Marna Ehrech

    I was at the hearing, and was impressed with all the folks who turned out to testify.

    I elucidated a few facts when it was my turn:
    The Amish communities have ZERO autism. Just doesn’t exist. The AMish do not vaccinate.
    I’d love to hear the medical industry’s explanation for that.

    You can tell me I can’t say no to vaccines (while still maintaining the religious exemption), yet if a vaccine maims or injures my child, I have no recourse because the pharmaceutical companies are immune to prosecution … ! How does that work?

    Bottom line, the system works here in Vermont. Those who want to vaccinate are free to do so. But you can’t take away my right to protect my child from substances that have caused harm to so many.

  • Curtis Sinclair

    Most Amish do get vaccinations.

    On the other hand nothing is 100 percent safe. People should be able to choose whether to be vaccinated after being educated on the subject. Some have proposed that parents who choose not to vaccinate should be obligated to pay higher insurance rates than those parents who do immunize. The recent measles outbreaks in Minnesota and Utah show what can happoen if people do not vaccinate.

  • Winnie Harrison

    The fact is parents are wising up to vaccine risks and to the declining health as a whole of the children in our society. That awareness is what is behind this drive to strip us of our rights to accept or decline medical procedures. It is NOT true that vaccines are responsible for the decline in disease, either. The decline was due to better sanitation and nutrition and came about BEFORE mass vaccination.

    If vaccines protect the way they are supposed to, then it shouldn’t matter if others are unvaccinated. How selfish to demand that my child be used as a backup plan in case of vaccine failure and that they take the risk of vaccine side effects, including death, for any reason.

    Why should children get vaccinated with over four dozen vaccines before school entry because a child in Haiti died from tetanus? What a poor example to argue for vaccine mandates, and what a great one to argue for philosophical exemptions.

    Tetanus is not a communicable disease. Plus, with a philosophical exemption parents can decline some vaccines but get others, such as for tetanus. That means a higher rate of vaccination than if those parents used a religious exemption where all vaccines have to be refused.

    It is nonsense anyway to assume that unvaccinated children are teeming with every disease known to mankind 24/7, especially considering most outbreaks are in vaccinated children.

  • Curtis Sinclair

    The MMR vaccine is 95% effective at preventing measles. It does not give everyone immunity. In the United States, measles caused 450 reported deaths and 4,000 cases of encephalitis annually before measles vaccine became available in the mid-1960s. (Orenstein WA, Papania MJ, Wharton ME. Measles elimination in the United States. J Infect Dis 2004;189(Suppl1):S1–3.)

    The DTaP vaccine is 59-89% effective in preventing pertussis. Between 1940-1945, before widespread vaccination, as many as 147,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States each year, with approximately 8,000 deaths caused by the disease. A study found that, in eight countries where immunization coverage was reduced, incidence rates of pertussis surged to 10 to 100 times the rates in countries where vaccination rates were sustained. (Gangarosa EJ, et al. Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story. Lancet 1998;351:356-61.)

    A bottom-up educational model where people get the facts from primary care physicians and nurses about the benefits and risks of vaccination would be effective.

  • Jay Davis

    Well, don’t look to the MD for eduation or guidance. They still circumcise boys on demand and even solicit the procedure.
    Not one medical society in the world except the US does this.
    As for vaccinations, as a layman, I would suspect if 90 percent of kids are vaccinated, that would protect those that aren’t. And, please don’t suggest some vaccinated kids are still at risk. This is the red herring and fear mongering the medical profession is famous for.
    Obesity also is undesirable, but hardly as risky to health as drinking and smoking. Where is the medical professions stand here?

  • fran allen

    Vaccines, like everything else, come with risks and rewards. A parent may consider the risk inherent in a vaccine for a child contracting a disease like Rubella is probably outweighed by its rewards whereas contracting the flu may not. It’s all about making the decision based on the risk & reward. Who better to make these kinds of decisions, an informed parent or a politician who can be influenced by big pharma and their campaign money? The idea that unvaccinated people are somehow putting vaccinated people at risk is pretty crazy if the vaccines work as advertized.

    Educate before you vaccinate. Let parents, not bureaucrats, make decisions for the health of their children

  • Curtis Sinclair

    There are members of our society that are too young, too weak, or otherwise unable to receive vaccines for medical reasons. They rely on “herd immunity” to keep them well.
    In the case of pertussis, full immunization isn’t typically achieved until a child has received all three doses of DTaP vaccine series which begins at 2 months of age, continues at 4 months and then concludes with the final dose at 6 months.

    There was a serious pertussis outbreak in CA in 2010. All of the deaths occurred in infants under the age of 3 months. Nine were younger than 8 weeks old, which means they were too young to have been vaccinated.

  • This legislation has nothing to do with Vermont Public Health. It is part of a national effort by the “vaccine authorities” to eliminate any non-medical exemptions for any populations.

    The proponents of the Bills keep talking about real diseases, like Polio, and Diphtheria. The vaccination rates for those diseases are at all-time record highs.

    Bill proponents don’t mention the fact that the primary usage for the Philosophical Exemption is Chicken Pox. The addition of Chicken Pox in 2008 doubled the Philosophical Exemption rate. The “vaccine authorities” are very concerned that parents are not fully embracing every single vaccine they recommend with the same compliance they do for the important diseases. They are doubly concerned because there are over 100 new vaccines in development. If people get the idea that maybe they don’t need every vaccine, and make that determination for themselves, what is going to happen to vaccination rates when they add another vaccine for a benign condition, like warts, and parents say no?

    Is this a case of “institutional inertia”? When you measure something, vaccination percentages, and tie incentives to it, i.e. recognition at the annual CDC Immunization Managers meeting, isn’t there at least the potential for creating a conflict of interest? What is more likely to be an award at the banquet? “Most Respectful of Parental Authority in Health Care Decisions”? Or “Highest Percentage of Population under Unavoidable Mandates”?

    Adding Chicken Pox to the schedule didn’t just double the Philosophical Exemption rate, it also doubles the febrile seizure rate in the children receiving it at an MMR visit.

    The “standard of care”, for the first presentation of a febrile seizure in children under 18 months is a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, in order to rule out bacterial meningitis. Any Health Care Provider who does not perform a spinal tap on children with this indication is outside of “standard of care”, the protections inherent in doing the normal procedures, and subject to scrutiny in the event of a poor patient outcome.

    A parent can cut his child’s seizure risk in half through simple product selection by using separate MMR & Chicken Pox shots over the MMRV “Pro-Quad”. He can then cut the seizure risk again by delaying the Chicken Pox shot to a visit where it is not combined with the MMR, or by skipping the Chicken Pox shot altogether and allowing his child to naturally contract the infection, as was common until the ’90’s. Natural infection confers lifelong immunity with a serious complication rate of less than 1/100,000, compared to vaccine dependant immunity and up to 80/100,000 risk (1/1250) of a febrile seizure using various combinations of MMR & Chicken Pox vaccines.

    What is unscientific about a parent drastically reducing their child’s risk of injury if they can do so by merely rescheduling or opting out of a vaccine for Chicken Pox? Chicken Pox was considered a routine childhood illness, not even a reportable disease, until a $75 per dose vaccine was developed for it. No other industrialized nation recommends universal Chicken Pox vaccination.

    The excess seizures caused by the addition Chicken Pox can be viewed on Vaccine Safety Data link documentation, slides 23 through 30, at the location below.
    Other Vermont information here

    Where is the empirical data that this hysterical pursuit of ever-higher vaccination rates is warranted? Is the objective health outcomes or vaccination for the sake of vaccination?

    The United Health Foundation rates states by total health outcomes annually. Vermont was just rated the healthiest state, but it is 22 in vaccination rank. If you look at the top 15 states for infant mortality, 8 of the 15 offer Philosophical Exemptions to vaccination. The #3 best state for infant mortality, Utah, is the 47th lowest vaccinated state, third from the bottom. 8 of the top 15 states for infant mortality rate 30 or lower in vaccination rates. Only 2 of the top 15 infant mortality states are in the top 15 highest vaccinated states.
    6 of the top 15 most vaccinated states rank in the bottom 7 states for infant mortality, including the 50th rated Mississippi.

    Only 4 of the Top 15 most vaccinated states are also in the top 15 best infectious disease rates.

    10 of the Top 15 most vaccinated states rank in the bottom 30 for infectious disease rank.

    High vaccination rates do not guarantee health, or the prevention of infection, and lower vaccination rates
    do not automatically mean sickness.

    • Steve Smith

      I appreciate the cogent discussion without a reliance on junk science. A couple of facts should be challenged here. I am very skeptical that the complication rate of natural chicken pox is less than 1/100,000. The number I see quoted is a *mortality* rate of 1/100,000 for those acquiring it under the age of 4, 1/60,000 mortality for all ages, with a hospitalization rate of 1 – 2/1000. There is also the issue of shingles. This painful re-awakening of naturally acquired chicken pox occurs in one person in five over a lifetime. For roughly 1/50 of them (4/1000 of those who got natural chicken pox), the pain is severe and chronic.

  • John Zwagg

    1. Hepatitis B Vaccination of Male Neonates and Autism

    Annals of Epidemiology , Vol. 19, No. 9 ABSTRACTS (ACE), September 2009: 651-680, p. 659

    CM Gallagher, MS Goodman, Graduate Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY

    PURPOSE: Universal newborn immunization with hepatitis B vaccine was recommended in 1991; however, safety findings are mixed. The Vaccine Safety Datalink Workgroup reported no association between hepatitis B vaccination at birth and febrile episodes or neurological adverse events. Other studies found positive associations between hepatitis B vaccination and ear infection, pharyngitis, and chronic arthritis; as well as receipt of early intervention/special education services (EIS); in probability samples of U.S. children. Children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) comprise a growing caseload for EIS. We evaluated the association between hepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and parental report of ASD.

    METHODS: This cross-sectional study used U.S. probability samples obtained from National Health Interview Survey 1997-2002 datasets. Logistic regression modeling was used to estimate the effect of neonatal hepatitis B vaccination on ASD risk among boys age 3-17 years with shot records, adjusted for race, maternal education, and two-parent household.

    RESULTS: Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD (nZ31 of 7,486; OR Z 2.94; p Z 0.03; 95% CI Z 1.10, 7.90) compared to later- or unvaccinated boys. Non-Hispanic white boys were 61% less likely to have ASD (ORZ0.39; pZ0.04; 95% CIZ0.16, 0.94) relative to non-white boys.

    CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys.

    2. Porphyrinuria in childhood autistic disorder: Implications for environmental toxicity

    Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 2006

    Robert Natafa, Corinne Skorupkab, Lorene Ametb, Alain Lama, Anthea Springbettc and Richard Lathed, aLaboratoire Philippe Auguste, Paris, France, Association ARIANE, Clichy, France, Department of Statistics, Roslin Institute, Roslin, UK, Pieta Research,

    This new study from France utilizes a new and sophisticated measurement for environmental toxicity by assessing porphyrin levels in autistic children. It provides clear and unequivocal evidence that children with autism spectrum disorders are more toxic than their neurotypical peers.

    Excerpt: “Coproporphyrin levels were elevated in children with autistic disorder relative to control groups…the elevation was significant. These data implicate environmental toxicity in childhood autistic disorder.”

    Abstract: To address a possible environmental contribution to autism, we carried out a retrospective study on urinary porphyrin levels, a biomarker of environmental toxicity, in 269 children with neurodevelopmental and related disorders referred to a Paris clinic (2002–2004), including 106 with autistic disorder. Urinary porphyrin levels determined by high-performance liquid chromatography were compared between diagnostic groups including internal and external control groups. Coproporphyrin levels were elevated in children with autistic disorder relative to control groups. Elevation was maintained on normalization for age or to a control heme pathway metabolite (uroporphyrin) in the same samples. The elevation was significant (P 2-fold, (3) and produced a delayed and persistent rise (≥2-fold) in baseline Ca2+. THI (100nM, 5min) recruited more ATP responders, shortened the ATP-mediated Ca2+ transient (≥1.4-fold) and produced a delayed rise (≥3-fold) in the Ca2+ baseline, mimicking Ry. THI and Ry, in combination, produced additive effects leading to uncoupling of IP3R and RyR1 signals. THI altered ATP-mediated IL-6 secretion, initially enhancing the rate of but suppressing overall cytokine secretion in DCs. DCs are exquisitely sensitive to THI, with one mechanism involving the uncoupling of positive and negative regulation of Ca2+signals contributed by RyR1.

    5. Gender-selective toxicity of thimerosal.

    Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2009 Mar;61(2):133-6. Epub 2008 Sep 3.

    Branch DR, Departments of Medicine and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    A recent report shows a correlation of the historical use of thimerosal in therapeutic immunizations with the subsequent development of autism; however, this association remains controversial. Autism occurs approximately four times more frequently in males compared to females; thus, studies of thimerosal toxicity should take into consideration gender-selective effects. The present study was originally undertaken to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of thimersosal in male and female CD1 mice. However, during the limited MTD studies, it became apparent that thimerosal has a differential MTD that depends on whether the mouse is male or female. At doses of 38.4-76.8mg/kg using 10% DMSO as diluent, seven of seven male mice compared to zero of seven female mice tested succumbed to thimerosal. Although the thimerosal levels used were very high, as we were originally only trying to determine MTD, it was completely unexpected to observe a difference of the MTD between male and female mice. Thus, our studies, although not directly addressing the controversy surrounding thimerosal and autism, and still preliminary due to small numbers of mice examined, provide, nevertheless, the first report of gender-selective toxicity of thimerosal and indicate that any future studies of thimerosal toxicity should take into consideration gender-specific differences.

    6. Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal

    Environmental Health Perspectives, Aug 2005.

    Thomas Burbacher, PhD [University of Washington].

    This study demonstrates clearly and unequivocally that ethyl mercury, the kind of mercury found in vaccines, not only ends up in the brain, but leaves double the amount of inorganic mercury as methyl mercury, the kind of mercury found in fish. This work is groundbreaking because little is known about ethyl mercury, and many health authorities have asserted that the mercury found in vaccines is the “safe kind.” This study also delivers a strong rebuke of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation in 2004 to no longer pursue the mercury-autism connection.

    Excerpt: “A recently published IOM review (IOM 2004) appears to have abandoned the earlier recommendation [of studying mercury and autism] as well as back away from the American Academy of Pediatrics goal [of removing mercury from vaccines]. This approach is difficult to understand, given our current limited knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental neurotoxicity of thimerosal, a compound that has been (and will continue to be) injected in millions of newborns and infants.”

    7. Increases in the number of reactive glia in the visual cortex of Macaca fascicularis following subclinical long-term methyl mercury exposure.

    Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 1994

    Charleston JS, Bolender RP, Mottet NK, Body RL, Vahter ME, Burbacher TM., Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of Washington

    The number of neurons, astrocytes, reactive glia, oligodendrocytes, endothelia, and pericytes in the cortex of the calcarine sulcus of adult female Macaca fascicularis following long-term subclinical exposure to methyl mercury (MeHg) and mercuric chloride (inorganic mercury; IHg) has been estimated by use of the optical volume fractionator stereology technique. Four groups of monkeys were exposed to MeHg (50 micrograms Hg/kg body wt/day) by mouth for 6, 12, 18, and 12 months followed by 6 months without exposure (clearance group). A fifth group of monkeys was administered IHg (as HgCl2; 200 micrograms Hg/kg body wt/day) by constant rate intravenous infusion via an indwelling catheter for 3 months. Reactive glia showed a significant increase in number for every treatment group, increasing 72% in the 6-month, 152% in the 12-month, and 120% in the 18-month MeHg exposed groups, and the number of reactive glia in the clearance group remained elevated (89%). The IHg exposed group showed a 165% increase in the number of reactive glia. The IHg exposed group and the clearance group had low levels of MeHg present within the tissue; however, the level of IHg was elevated in both groups. These results suggest that the IHg may be responsible for the increase in reactive glia. All other cell types, including the neurons, showed no significant change in number at the prescribed exposure level and durations. The identities of the reactive glial cells and the implications for the long-term function and survivability of the neurons due to changes in the glial population following subclinical long-term exposure to mercury are discussed.

    8. Neuroglial Activation and Neuroinflammation in the Brain of Patients with Autism

    Annals of Neurology, Feb 2005.

    Diana L. Vargas, MD [Johns Hopkins University].

    This study, performed independently and using a different methodology than Dr. Herbert (see above) reached the same conclusion: the brains of autistic children are suffering from inflammation.

    Excerpt: “Because this neuroinflammatory process appears to be associated with an ongoing and chronic mechanism of CNS dysfunction, potential therapeutic interventions should focus on the control of its detrimental effects and thereby eventually modify the clinical course of autism.”

    9. Autism: A Brain Disorder, or A Disorder That Affects the Brain?

    Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 2005

    Martha R. Herbert M.D., Ph.D., Harvard University

    Autism is defined behaviorally, as a syndrome of abnormalities involving language, social reciprocity and hyperfocus or reduced behavioral flexibility. It is clearly heterogeneous, and it can be accompanied by unusual talents as well as by impairments, but its underlying biological and genetic basis in unknown. Autism has been modeled as a brain-based, strongly genetic disorder, but emerging findings and hypotheses support a broader model of the condition as a genetically influenced and systemic. These include imaging, neuropathology and psychological evidence of pervasive (and not just specific) brain and phenotypic features; postnatal evolution and chronic persistence of brain, behavior and tissue changes (e.g. inflammation) and physical illness symptomatology (e.g. gastrointestinal, immune, recurrent infection); overlap with other disorders; and reports of rate increases and improvement or recovery that support a role for modulation of the condition by environmental factors (e.g. exacerbation or triggering by toxins, infectious agents, or others stressors, or improvement by treatment). Modeling autism more broadly encompasses previous work, but also encourages the expansion of research and treatment to include intermediary domains of molecular and cellular mechanisms, as well as chronic tissue, metabolic and somatic changes previously addressed only to a limited degree. The heterogeneous biologies underlying autism may conceivably converge onto the autism profile via multiple mechanisms on the one hand and processing and connectivity abnormalities on the other may illuminate relevant final common pathways and contribute to focusing on the search for treatment targets in this biologically and etiologically heterogeneous behavioral syndrome.

    10. Activation of Methionine Synthase by Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 and Dopamine: a Target for Neurodevelopmental Toxins and Thimerosal

    Molecular Psychiatry, July 2004.

    Richard C. Deth, PhD [Northeastern University].

    This study demonstrates how Thimerosal inhibits methylation, a central driver of cellular communication and development. Excerpt:

    “The potent inhibition of this pathway [methylation] by ethanol, lead, mercury, aluminum, and thimerosal suggests it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins.”