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A Government Cover-up of a Mercury/Autism Scandal Has Now Been Exposed

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World Mercury Project noteWith the ongoing mainstream media blackout on questions regarding vaccine safety, we want to remind our followers of the publication–and subsequent retraction–of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s 2005 article “Deadly Immunity” in Salon. The history of repression of crucial vaccine safety data runs deep. The article laid out the scientific link between thimerosal and childhood neurological disorders and published explosive excerpts from the transcripts from the CDC’s secretive June 2000 Simpsonwood conference which brought together government public health officials, vaccine manufacturers and professional medical associations. The article was groundbreaking at the time and received lots of media attention for uncovering the cozy relationship between government and industry at the expense of children’s health. Even though a dozen years have passed, the article’s facts have stood the test of time. An important read for people new to the movement and long-time advocates alike.

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In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Georgia. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session — only private invitations to fifty-two attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly “embargoed.” There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.

 “I was actually stunned by what I saw,” Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism.”

The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children. According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency’s massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines — thimerosal — appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children. “I was actually stunned by what I saw,” Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants — in one case, within hours of birth — the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

Even for scientists and doctors accustomed to confronting issues of life and death, the findings were frightening. “You can play with this all you want,” Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results “are statistically significant.” Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado whose grandson had been born early on the morning of the meeting’s first day, was even more alarmed. “My gut feeling?” he said. “Forgive this personal comment — I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on.”

But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry’s bottom line. “We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits,” said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. “This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country.” Dr. Bob Chen, head of vaccine safety for the CDC, expressed relief that “given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let’s say, less responsible hands.” Dr. John Clements, vaccines advisor at the World Health Organization, declared that “perhaps this study should not have been done at all.” He added that “the research results have to be handled,” warning that the study “will be taken by others and will be used in other ways beyond the control of this group.”

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…instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data.

In fact, the government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children’s health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to “rule out” the chemical’s link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten’s findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been “lost” and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.

Vaccine manufacturers had already begun to phase thimerosal out of injections given to American infants — but they continued to sell off their mercury-based supplies of vaccines until last year. The CDC and FDA gave them a hand, buying up the tainted vaccines for export to developing countries and allowing drug companies to continue using the preservative in some American vaccines — including several pediatric flu shots as well as tetanus boosters routinely given to eleven-year-olds.

The drug companies are also getting help from powerful lawmakers in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, has been working to immunize vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that have been filed by the parents of injured children. On five separate occasions, Frist has tried to seal all of the government’s vaccine-related documents — including the Simpsonwood transcripts — and shield Eli Lilly, the developer of thimerosal, from subpoenas. In 2002, the day after Frist quietly slipped a rider known as the “Eli Lilly Protection Act” into a homeland security bill, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism. The measure was repealed by Congress in 2003 — but earlier this year, Frist slipped another provision into an anti-terrorism bill that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders. “The lawsuits are of such magnitude that they could put vaccine producers out of business and limit our capacity to deal with a biological attack by terrorists,” says Dean Rosen, health policy adviser to Frist.

Even many conservatives are shocked by the government’s effort to cover up the dangers of thimerosal. Rep. Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana, oversaw a three-year investigation of thimerosal after his grandson was diagnosed with autism. “Thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is directly related to the autism epidemic,” his House Government Reform Committee concluded in its final report. “This epidemic in all probability may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding a lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal, a known neurotoxin.” The FDA and other public-health agencies failed to act, the committee added, out of “institutional malfeasance for self protection” and “misplaced protectionism of the pharmaceutical industry.”

The story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public is a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed. I was drawn into the controversy only reluctantly. As an attorney and environmentalist who has spent years working on issues of mercury toxicity, I frequently met mothers of autistic children who were absolutely convinced that their kids had been injured by vaccines. Privately, I was skeptical.

I doubted that autism could be blamed on a single source, and I certainly understood the government’s need to reassure parents that vaccinations are safe; the eradication of deadly childhood diseases depends on it. I tended to agree with skeptics like Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, who criticized his colleagues on the House Government Reform Committee for leaping to conclusions about autism and vaccinations. “Why should we scare people about immunization,” Waxman pointed out at one hearing, “until we know the facts?”

It was only after reading the Simpsonwood transcripts, studying the leading scientific research and talking with many of the nation’s pre-eminent authorities on mercury that I became convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real. Five of my own children are members of the Thimerosal Generation — those born between 1989 and 2003 — who received heavy doses of mercury from vaccines. “The elementary grades are overwhelmed with children who have symptoms of neurological or immune-system damage,” Patti White, a school nurse, told the House Government Reform Committee in 1999. “Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier; however, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children.”

“Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier; however, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children.”

More than 500,000 kids currently suffer from autism, and pediatricians diagnose more than 40,000 new cases every year. The disease was unknown until 1943, when it was identified and diagnosed among eleven children born in the months after thimerosal was first added to baby vaccines in 1931.

Some skeptics dispute that the rise in autism is caused by thimerosal-tainted vaccinations. They argue that the increase is a result of better diagnosis — a theory that seems questionable at best, given that most of the new cases of autism are clustered within a single generation of children. “If the epidemic is truly an artifact of poor diagnosis,” scoffs Dr. Boyd Haley, one of the world’s authorities on mercury toxicity, “then where are all the twenty-year-old autistics?” Other researchers point out that Americans are exposed to a greater cumulative “load” of mercury than ever before, from contaminated fish to dental fillings, and suggest that thimerosal in vaccines may be only part of a much larger problem. It’s a concern that certainly deserves far more attention than it has received — but it overlooks the fact that the mercury concentrations in vaccines dwarf other sources of exposure to our children.

What is most striking is the lengths to which many of the leading detectives have gone to ignore — and cover up — the evidence against thimerosal. From the very beginning, the scientific case against the mercury additive has been overwhelming. The preservative, which is used to stem fungi and bacterial growth in vaccines, contains ethylmercury, a potent neurotoxin. Truckloads of studies have shown that mercury tends to accumulate in the brains of primates and other animals after they are injected with vaccines — and that the developing brains of infants are particularly susceptible. In 1977, a Russian study found that adults exposed to much lower concentrations of ethylmercury than those given to American children still suffered brain damage years later. Russia banned thimerosal from children’s vaccines twenty years ago, and Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain and all the Scandinavian countries have since followed suit.

“You couldn’t even construct a study that shows thimerosal is safe,” says Haley, who heads the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky. “It’s just too darn toxic. If you inject thimerosal into an animal, its brain will sicken. If you apply it to living tissue, the cells die. If you put it in a petri dish, the culture dies. Knowing these things, it would be shocking if one could inject it into an infant without causing damage.”

Internal documents reveal that Eli Lilly, which first developed thimerosal, knew from the start that its product could cause damage — and even death — in both animals and humans. In 1930, the company tested thimerosal by administering it to twenty-two patients with terminal meningitis, all of whom died within weeks of being injected — a fact Lilly didn’t bother to report in its study declaring thimerosal safe. In 1935, researchers at another vaccine manufacturer, Pittman-Moore, warned Lilly that its claims about thimerosal’s safety “did not check with ours.” Half the dogs Pittman injected with thimerosal-based vaccines became sick, leading researchers there to declare the preservative “unsatisfactory as a serum intended for use on dogs.”

In the decades that followed, the evidence against thimerosal continued to mount. During the Second World War, when the Department of Defense used the preservative in vaccines on soldiers, it required Lilly to label it “poison.” In 1967, a study in Applied Microbiology found that thimerosal killed mice when added to injected vaccines. Four years later, Lilly’s own studies discerned that thimerosal was “toxic to tissue cells” in concentrations as low as one part per million — 100 times weaker than the concentration in a typical vaccine. Even so, the company continued to promote thimerosal as “nontoxic” and also incorporated it into topical disinfectants. In 1977, ten babies at a Toronto hospital died when an antiseptic preserved with thimerosal was dabbed onto their umbilical cords.

Internal documents reveal that Eli Lilly, which first developed thimerosal, knew from the start that its product could cause damage — and even death — in both animals and humans.

In 1982, the FDA proposed a ban on over-the-counter products that contained thimerosal, and in 1991 the agency considered banning it from animal vaccines. But tragically, that same year, the CDC recommended that infants be injected with a series of mercury-laced vaccines. Newborns would be vaccinated for hepatitis B within twenty-four hours of birth, and two-month-old infants would be immunized for haemophilus influenzae B and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis.

The drug industry knew the additional vaccines posed a danger. The same year that the CDC approved the new vaccines, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, one of the fathers of Merck’s vaccine programs, warned the company that six-month-olds who were administered the shots would suffer dangerous exposure to mercury. He recommended that thimerosal be discontinued, “especially when used on infants and children,” noting that the industry knew of nontoxic alternatives. “The best way to go,” he added, “is to switch to dispensing the actual vaccines without adding preservatives.”

For Merck and other drug companies, however, the obstacle was money. Thimerosal enables the pharmaceutical industry to package vaccines in vials that contain multiple doses, which require additional protection because they are more easily contaminated by multiple needle entries. The larger vials cost half as much to produce as smaller, single-dose vials, making it cheaper for international agencies to distribute them to impoverished regions at risk of epidemics. Faced with this “cost consideration,” Merck ignored Hilleman’s warnings, and government officials continued to push more and more thimerosal-based vaccines for children. Before 1989, American preschoolers received eleven vaccinations — for polio, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and measles-mumps-rubella. A decade later, thanks to federal recommendations, children were receiving a total of twenty-two immunizations by the time they reached first grade.

As the number of vaccines increased, the rate of autism among children exploded. During the 1990s, 40 million children were injected with thimerosal-based vaccines, receiving unprecedented levels of mercury during a period critical for brain development. Despite the well-documented dangers of thimerosal, it appears that no one bothered to add up the cumulative dose of mercury that children would receive from the mandated vaccines. “What took the FDA so long to do the calculations?” Peter Patriarca, director of viral products for the agency, asked in an e-mail to the CDC in 1999. “Why didn’t CDC and the advisory bodies do these calculations when they rapidly expanded the childhood immunization schedule?”

But by that time, the damage was done. At two months, when the infant brain is still at a critical stage of development, infants routinely received three inoculations that contained a total of 62.5 micrograms of ethylmercury — a level 99 times greater than the EPA’s limit for daily exposure to methylmercury, a related neurotoxin. Although the vaccine industry insists that ethylmercury poses little danger because it breaks down rapidly and is removed by the body, several studies — including one published in April by the National Institutes of Health — suggest that ethylmercury is actually more toxic to developing brains and stays in the brain longer than methylmercury.

Officials responsible for childhood immunizations insist that the additional vaccines were necessary to protect infants from disease and that thimerosal is still essential in developing nations, which, they often claim, cannot afford the single-dose vials that don’t require a preservative. Dr. Paul Offit, one of CDC’s top vaccine advisers, told me, “I think if we really have an influenza pandemic — and certainly we will in the next twenty years, because we always do — there’s no way on God’s earth that we immunize 280 million people with single-dose vials. There has to be multidose vials.”

But while public-health officials may have been well-intentioned, many of those on the CDC advisory committee who backed the additional vaccines had close ties to the industry. Dr. Sam Katz, the committee’s chair, was a paid consultant for most of the major vaccine makers and was part of a team that developed the measles vaccine and brought it to licensure in 1963. Dr. Neal Halsey, another committee member, worked as a researcher for the vaccine companies and received honoraria from Abbott Labs for his research on the hepatitis B vaccine.

Indeed, in the tight circle of scientists who work on vaccines, such conflicts of interest are common. Rep. Burton says that the CDC “routinely allows scientists with blatant conflicts of interest to serve on intellectual advisory committees that make recommendations on new vaccines,” even though they have “interests in the products and companies for which they are supposed to be providing unbiased oversight.” The House Government Reform Committee discovered that four of the eight CDC advisers who approved guidelines for a rotavirus vaccine “had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that were developing different versions of the vaccine.”

Offit, who shares a patent on one of the vaccines, acknowledged to me that he “would make money” if his vote eventually leads to a marketable product. But he dismissed my suggestion that a scientist’s direct financial stake in CDC approval might bias his judgment. “It provides no conflict for me,” he insists. “I have simply been informed by the process, not corrupted by it. When I sat around that table, my sole intent was trying to make recommendations that best benefited the children in this country. It’s offensive to say that physicians and public-health people are in the pocket of industry and thus are making decisions that they know are unsafe for children. It’s just not the way it works.”

Other vaccine scientists and regulators gave me similar assurances. Like Offit, they view themselves as enlightened guardians of children’s health, proud of their “partnerships” with pharmaceutical companies, immune to the seductions of personal profit, besieged by irrational activists whose anti-vaccine campaigns are endangering children’s health. They are often resentful of questioning. “Science,” says Offit, “is best left to scientists.”

Still, some government officials were alarmed by the apparent conflicts of interest. In his e-mail to CDC administrators in 1999, Paul Patriarca of the FDA blasted federal regulators for failing to adequately scrutinize the danger posed by the added baby vaccines. “I’m not sure there will be an easy way out of the potential perception that the FDA, CDC and immunization-policy bodies may have been asleep at the switch re: thimerosal until now,” Patriarca wrote. The close ties between regulatory officials and the pharmaceutical industry, he added, “will also raise questions about various advisory bodies regarding aggressive recommendations for use” of thimerosal in child vaccines.

If federal regulators and government scientists failed to grasp the potential risks of thimerosal over the years, no one could claim ignorance after the secret meeting at Simpsonwood. But rather than conduct more studies to test the link to autism and other forms of brain damage, the CDC placed politics over science. The agency turned its database on childhood vaccines — which had been developed largely at taxpayer expense — over to a private agency, America’s Health Insurance Plans, ensuring that it could not be used for additional research. It also instructed the Institute of Medicine, an advisory organization that is part of the National Academy of Sciences, to produce a study debunking the link between thimerosal and brain disorders. The CDC “wants us to declare, well, that these things are pretty safe,” Dr. Marie McCormick, who chaired the IOM’s Immunization Safety Review Committee, told her fellow researchers when they first met in January 2001. “We are not ever going to come down that [autism] is a true side effect” of thimerosal exposure. According to transcripts of the meeting, the committee’s chief staffer, Kathleen Stratton, predicted that the IOM would conclude that the evidence was “inadequate to accept or reject a causal relation” between thimerosal and autism. That, she added, was the result “Walt wants” — a reference to Dr. Walter Orenstein, director of the National Immunization Program for the CDC.

For those who had devoted their lives to promoting vaccination, the revelations about thimerosal threatened to undermine everything they had worked for. “We’ve got a dragon by the tail here,” said Dr. Michael Kaback, another committee member. “The more negative that [our] presentation is, the less likely people are to use vaccination, immunization — and we know what the results of that will be. We are kind of caught in a trap. How we work our way out of the trap, I think is the charge.”

Even in public, federal officials made it clear that their primary goal in studying thimerosal was to dispel doubts about vaccines. “Four current studies are taking place to rule out the proposed link between autism and thimerosal,” Dr. Gordon Douglas, then-director of strategic planning for vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health, assured a Princeton University gathering in May 2001. “In order to undo the harmful effects of research claiming to link the [measles] vaccine to an elevated risk of autism, we need to conduct and publicize additional studies to assure parents of safety.” Douglas formerly served as president of vaccinations for Merck, where he ignored warnings about thimerosal’s risks.

In May of last year (2004), the Institute of Medicine issued its final report. Its conclusion: There is no proven link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. Rather than reviewing the large body of literature describing the toxicity of thimerosal, the report relied on four disastrously flawed epidemiological studies examining European countries, where children received much smaller doses of thimerosal than American kids. It also cited a new version of the Verstraeten study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that had been reworked to reduce the link between thimerosal and autism. The new study included children too young to have been diagnosed with autism and overlooked others who showed signs of the disease. The IOM declared the case closed and — in a startling position for a scientific body — recommended that no further research be conducted.

The report may have satisfied the CDC, but it convinced no one. Rep. David Weldon, a Republican physician from Florida who serves on the House Government Reform Committee, attacked the Institute of Medicine, saying it relied on a handful of studies that were “fatally flawed” by “poor design” and failed to represent “all the available scientific and medical research.” CDC officials are not interested in an honest search for the truth, Weldon told me, because “an association between vaccines and autism would force them to admit that their policies irreparably damaged thousands of children. Who would want to make that conclusion about themselves?”

Under pressure from Congress and parents, the Institute of Medicine convened another panel to address continuing concerns about the Vaccine Safety Datalink Data Sharing program. In February, the new panel, composed of different scientists, criticized the way the VSD had been used in the Verstraeten study, and urged the CDC to make its vaccine database available to the public.

So far, though, only two scientists have managed to gain access. Dr. Mark Geier, president of the Genetics Center of America, and his son, David, spent a year battling to obtain the medical records from the CDC. Since August 2002, when members of Congress pressured the agency to turn over the data, the Geiers have completed six studies that demonstrate a powerful correlation between thimerosal and neurological damage in children. One study, which compares the cumulative dose of mercury received by children born between 1981 and 1985 with those born between 1990 and 1996, found a “very significant relationship” between autism and vaccines. Another study of educational performance found that kids who received higher doses of thimerosal in vaccines were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with autism and more than three times as likely to suffer from speech disorders and mental retardation. Another soon-to-be published study shows that autism rates are in decline following the recent elimination of thimerosal from most vaccines.

As the federal government worked to prevent scientists from studying vaccines, others have stepped in to study the link to autism. In April, reporter Dan Olmsted of UPI undertook one of the more interesting studies himself. Searching for children who had not been exposed to mercury in vaccines — the kind of population that scientists typically use as a “control” in experiments — Olmsted scoured the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who refuse to immunize their infants. Given the national rate of autism, Olmsted calculated that there should be 130 autistics among the Amish. He found only four. One had been exposed to high levels of mercury from a power plant. The other three — including one child adopted from outside the Amish community — had received their vaccines.

At the state level, many officials have also conducted in-depth reviews of thimerosal. While the Institute of Medicine was busy whitewashing the risks, the Iowa legislature was carefully combing through all of the available scientific and biological data. “After three years of review, I became convinced there was sufficient credible research to show a link between mercury and the increased incidences in autism,” says state Sen. Ken Veenstra, a Republican who oversaw the investigation. “The fact that Iowa’s 700 percent increase in autism began in the 1990s, right after more and more vaccines were added to the children’s vaccine schedules, is solid evidence alone.” Last year, Iowa became the first state to ban mercury in vaccines, followed by California. Similar bans are now under consideration in thirty-two other states.

But instead of following suit, the FDA continues to allow manufacturers to include thimerosal in scores of over-the-counter medications as well as steroids and injected collagen. Even more alarming, the government continues to ship vaccines preserved with thimerosal to developing countries — some of which are now experiencing a sudden explosion in autism rates. In China, where the disease was virtually unknown prior to the introduction of thimerosal by U.S. drug manufacturers in 1999, news reports indicate that there are now more than 1.8 million autistics. Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, autistic disorders also appear to be soaring in India, Argentina, Nicaragua and other developing countries that are now using thimerosal-laced vaccines. The World Health Organization continues to insist thimerosal is safe, but it promises to keep the possibility that it is linked to neurological disorders “under review.”

I devoted time to study this issue because I believe that this is a moral crisis that must be addressed. If, as the evidence suggests, our public-health authorities knowingly allowed the pharmaceutical industry to poison an entire generation of American children, their actions arguably constitute one of the biggest scandals in the annals of American medicine. “The CDC is guilty of incompetence and gross negligence,” says Mark Blaxill, vice president of Safe Minds, a nonprofit organization concerned about the role of mercury in medicines. “The damage caused by vaccine exposure is massive. It’s bigger than asbestos, bigger than tobacco, bigger than anything you’ve ever seen.”

It’s hard to calculate the damage to our country — and to the international efforts to eradicate epidemic diseases — if Third World nations come to believe that America’s most heralded foreign-aid initiative is poisoning their children. It’s not difficult to predict how this scenario will be interpreted by America’s enemies abroad. The scientists and researchers — many of them sincere, even idealistic — who are participating in efforts to hide the science on thimerosal claim that they are trying to advance the lofty goal of protecting children in developing nations from disease pandemics. They are badly misguided. Their failure to come clean on thimerosal will come back horribly to haunt our country and the world’s poorest populations.

If, as the evidence suggests, our public-health authorities knowingly allowed the pharmaceutical industry to poison an entire generation of American children, their actions arguably constitute one of the biggest scandals in the annals of American medicine.

###

After several revisions to the article and nearly 6 years after the original publication date, Salon.com retracted the article from its website archives without consideration or opportunity for rebuttal. For the reasons behind why Salon.com pulled the article, click here

Deadly Immunity” was simultaneously published in Rolling Stone Magazine (www.RollingStone.com) on July 14, 2005 and can be read on their website with a Rolling Stone Magazine subscription.

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Johnson & Johnson Found To Have Knowingly Allowed Asbestos In Their Baby Powder

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Johnson and Johnson have recently lost lawsuits for negligence in knowingly allowing carcinogenic substances in their talc-based hygiene products.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we starting to turn the page on an era where human health and safety are not the prime considerations in the manufacturing of consumer products?

We are starting to awaken to the fact that it seems to be the rule, and not the exception, that large Western corporations put profits above human health considerations. The only time they seem to give any regard to human health concerns is when their forecasts of potential lawsuits down the road would likely exceed the cost measures needed to ensure the safety of their product.

Johnson & Johnson is just one of a long line of corporate perpetrators who believed that covering up and lying about known health concerns would make better business sense than taking the time and resources to actually address those health concerns within their products.

Contaminated Baby Powder: The Height Of Indignity

One would think, regardless of an understanding that the bottom line is a priority for most private companies, that the health and safety of a nursing mother and her newborn child would be sacrosanct for any industry. The reality is that this is simply not the case, even though J&J could have mitigated this problem from the start.

Companies that mine talc are required to take extra steps to ensure the absence of asbestos in their talc. Instead, J&J allegedly went to great lengths to fake it.

Not only did the company know about the asbestos contamination, evidence suggests, but J&J also failed to warn its customers about the link between Baby Powder and cancer or replace its talc with a safer alternative. As a result, J&J guaranteed its customers’ exposure to asbestos.

And regardless of their size or numbers, asbestos fibers are lethal at any capacity. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed repeatedly, there is no safe level of exposure. (source)

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The Testimony of Scientist James Webber

Baby Powder’s contamination with asbestos (a mineral that naturally occurs near talc) has long been the subject of lawsuits. But only in recent years has evidence begun to unravel J&J’s defense – that the company had no idea – and threatened its success in lawsuits to come.

In March, a California jury awarded $29 million to Terry Leavitt, a woman who said that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-powder-based products caused her terminal mesothelioma. Environmental scientist James Webber testified in her high-profile California trial and made these observations:

During several hours on the stand, Webber explained how he ran tests that showed “clear” evidence of asbestos contamination in the mines from which J&J sourced talc.

“The testing I have seen [shows] that it was present at least as early as 1971 and up through the late 1990s,” said Webber, who ran an asbestos laboratory in New York state.

Despite denying it publicly, J&J had observed this contamination in internal memos. Its notes dismissed the amount of asbestos in its talc as “but a trace,” Webber alleged. But that was just an optimistic interpretation of superficial testing, he said: the tests used methods too weak to detect microscopic asbestos fibers. Webber insisted the actual tests results revealed there could be millions of asbestos fibers per gram of talc.

And J&J’s inaccurate reports were allegedly only the tip of the iceberg. In some instances, Webber said, photos attached to J&J’s reports revealed that “they had been seeing it and not reporting it.”  (source)

And It’s Getting Worse

The $29 million verdict, in California Superior Court in Oakland, was the latest defeat for the healthcare conglomerate facing more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits nationwide. And things may be getting even worse for J&J, according to ZeroHedge:

Johnson & Johnson shares are down over 5% after Bloomberg reports that, according to people with knowledge of the matter, the U.S. Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder…

Now, a grand jury in Washington is examining documents related to what company officials knew about any carcinogens in their products, the people said.

The Takeaway

It seems as though corporations have long been willing to take the calculated risk of short-cuts and denials instead of ensuring that their products are safe for public use. My suspicion is that a part of our collective awakening process will be issuing in a new business paradigm in which human health and safety become paramount.

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Awareness

Prescription Infant Formulas Found To Be Contaminated With Aluminum

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple brands of prescription infant formula were found to contain high levels of aluminum.

  • Reflect On:

    Should we be questioning the quality of products that come from pharmaceutical production? Do we veer away from natural methods of raising children more than we should? At what cost?

You may not think aluminum is a big deal, but it is. For anybody who has looked into aluminum toxicology, it’s quite clear and apparent that it has no place inside of any living biological organism. Putting it simply, it wreaks havoc on our biology. High amounts of aluminum have been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, with experts in the field believing that aluminum brain accumulation may be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s also been discovered within the brains of MS patients, and some of the highest aluminum content ever recorded in brain tissue has also been discovered in people with autism. Aluminum is associated with several diseases. But an adult body can do a great job of flushing out aluminum.

Despite the fact that aluminum has no place within earth’s biota, it’s still present in many of our medications, our food, and even in the water that we drink due to contamination since the industrial revolution. Aluminum inside the body is a new phenomenon and still understudied. Again, there is a threshold, and aluminum that is injected via vaccines doesn’t exit the body–there is strong evidence that it remains inside the body and ends up in distant organs and eventually inside of the brain. If you want to access more studies on that topic, you can read this article I published that provides them and goes into more detail. You can also watch this interview with Christopher Exley, where he also points to that fact.

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has shown that multiple popular infant prescriptions are contaminated with aluminum. You may be asking how much aluminum, but the authors make it a point to stress that there are no safe amounts of aluminum levels that can be inside of a human body, let alone a newborn baby. That being said, the amounts found are listed within the abstract of the study:

Historical and recent data demonstrate that off-the-shelf infant formulas are heavily contaminated with aluminium. The origin of this contamination remains to be elucidated though may be imported via ingredients, packaging and processing. Specialised infant formulas exist to address health issues, such as low birth weight, allergy or intolerance and medical conditions, such as renal insufficiency. The aluminium content of these prescription infant formulas is measured here for the first time. We obtained 24 prescription infant formulas through a paediatric clinic and measured their total aluminium content by transversely heated graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry following microwave assisted acid/peroxide digestion. The aluminium content of ready-to-drink formulas ranged from 49.9 (33.7) to 1956.3 (111.0) μg/L. The most heavily contaminated products were those designed as nutritional supplements for infants struggling to gain weight. The aluminium content of powdered formulas ranged from 0.27 (0.04) to 3.27 (0.19) μg/g. The most heavily contaminated products tended to be those addressing allergies and intolerance. Prescription infant formulas are contaminated with aluminium.

Another very important point made right off the bat by the authors:

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Human exposure to aluminium is a serious health concern. Aluminium exposure in infants is understandably a burgeoning issue. While infant exposure to aluminium continues to be documented, its consequences, immediate and in the future, have received only scant attention and research is required to understand the biological availability of aluminium through formula feeding. For example, how much aluminium is absorbed across the neonate gut and its subsequent fate, including excretion.

There is already too much aluminium in infant formulas and herein we have measured its content in a large number of prescription formulas, products which are fed to vulnerable infants in their first months of life. Many of these products are heavily contaminated with aluminium.

As for the specific infant formulas, you can refer to the study. The researchers obtained 24 prescription infant formulas via the Paediatric Clinic of Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, United Kingdom. The ready-to-drink and powdered products were new, ready-to-be used and unopened samples. These formulas are for babies with some sort of growth restriction, like for preterm infants or infants who have poor weight gain. There were also powdered formulas for allergies and intolerances and powdered formulas with additional amino acids.

The authors contacted each manufacturer and expressed that they denied knowing that there was any aluminum in their products, which means it’s still a mystery as to their source. The authors hypothesize on a number of ways that aluminum could be entering into the formulas.

In their conclusion, the authors emphasize that:

Where possible, breast milk feeding should be prioritised, as the aluminium content of breast milk is invariably an order of magnitude lower than in formula feeds. Where infant formulas are the only source of nutrition for many infants in their first weeks and months of life, aluminium ingested in formula feeds will be the major contributor to their body burden of aluminium. The last thing that vulnerable infants fed specialised formulas for their specific nutritional/medicinal need is additional aluminium in their diet.

Detoxing

There is a lot of information out there on how a person can detox from aluminum and other heavy metals. There are multiple studies, and based on what I’ve looked into, water with high amounts of Silica are effective in draining aluminum out of your body and brain. Herbs like cilantro and substances like chlorella and spirulina are also great for removing some metals. The information is out there, so be sure to do your research.

The Takeaway

It’s concerning to think about what these corporations are doing. Again, aluminum should hold no place in our society, it should’ve remained well below our surface as part of the Earth’s crust for a reason. It wasn’t until humans began digging it out and using it for a number of things, irresponsibly I might add, that we started to see the health implications which still go largely ignored by the medical community.

In fact, heavy metal accumulation and detoxification of aluminum haven’t been addressed at all, which is odd given the fact that heavy metal accumulation is linked to a variety of diseases.

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Awareness

9 Studies You Should Be Aware of Before Trying The Ketogenic Diet

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The Ketogenic diet is a popular fad diet that promotes quick weight loss and symptom management for bodies that are dealing with poor lymph, kidney and digestion health.

  • Reflect On:

    Based on the studies that are emerging, is our desire for quick weight loss more important than living a long and healthy life? Are we learning about these diets primarily through those with strong ties to upholding these diets?

The ketogenic diet has popped up as a popular approach to weight loss in the last few years. Is it successful at that? Sure, it is. I’ve experimented with the diet myself years ago when I was looking to lose some belly fat. I was entering into ketosis in a different way than most, as I was not eating any animal products, but it does in fact work.

But like any animal product based diet, what are the consequences of eating so much food that does not truly jive with our human bodies? Not only that, is fast weight loss more important than keeping our morality rate down?

In the last few years, we’ve reported a lot on the Keto diet and the various ways it can be done. We have explored the studies, the results and in some ways, we supported it. But lately, I have been thinking about how supporting this could actually be encouraging people to jump into these diets, including the paleo diet, when in reality these diets increase mortality rates and are not healthy for the human body.

It became a thought in the back of my mind, I have always strived to put the best information out that I can through this platform to promote good health. And so we must look at that, even if that means upsetting some people who currently are on paleo or keto and are seeing some good weight loss or symptom management. The truth is, like the many people I’ve seen crash on these diets after a few years, I want people to know the truth of what’s going on out there. And how we can get beyond diets that symptom manage, and instead get onto diets that truly heal.

Anytime we have fad diets, which paleo and keto are, we see products and bias pop up all over the place to support the continuation of these trends. It becomes less about health and more about upholding an identity or a business.

So as I recently looked into what experts are saying about these diets, I came upon two important videos I think everyone should check out. Both have been embedded below. Remember, it’s not that I care what you choose in your own life, or that I feel there is a right or wrong, it’s that I believe we should be informed and I wish to use this platform to promote as best a message as I can.

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The Videos

Thanks to Plant-Based News for creating such a good channel and resource of information on YouTube.

In this video, several plant-based health experts talk through 9 nutrition studies that would be of interest to low carb keto diet proponents. To read the 9 studies, click here.

Next up, Dr. Kim Williams (past President of the American College of Cardiology) shares his insights about the ketogenic.

Related Articles

Diabetic Shares Why He Quit ‘The Ketogenic Diet’

Doctor Explains Why She Never Recommends The ‘Ketogenic Diet’

The Biggest Misconception About The ‘Ketogenic Diet’…You Don’t Actually Have To Follow It

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