Continuing Use of Mercury in Vaccines Questioned Consumer Groups Call On Drug Makers, Congress and the White House to Stop Thimerosal Use- Especially in Infants and Pregnant Women Washington, DC - January 8, 2003 - Parents and advocates are meeting today on Capitol Hill to ask the Nation's leaders and pharmaceutical companies to stop using the mercury preservative thimerosal in all vaccines, to inform Americans about vaccines with mercury, and to recall existing thimerosal stocks from health care facilities. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and has been linked to brain disorders including autism, Alzheimer's and other chronic neurological dysfunction. "Why are vaccine makers still using thimerosal and unnecessarily exposing infants, pregnant women and unsuspecting Americans-including members of Congress-to mercury?," asked Michael Bender, Director, Mercury Policy Project. "Vaccines are supposed to help prevent health problems and not create them. Continued use of mercury in medical products for any human use, where avoidable, is simply irresponsible and not worth the risk." US health and governmental officials seem to agree. In 1982, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert panel recommended that mercury be eliminated from over-the-counter health products. In 1999, the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged manufacturers to remove thimerosal from childhood vaccines. In 2001, the Institute of Medicine recommended that children and pregnant women avoid thimerosal whenever possible. While today, most, but not all, infant vaccines are mercury-free. The preservative is still added to formulations for influenza (flu vaccines), diphtheria-tetanus, tetanus, hepatitis B, pneumococcal and rabies. This year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended for the first time that healthy children receive influenza vaccine. No influenza vaccines are available that are completely mercury-free, although two brands only contain trace amounts. "During the past decade children were given many more vaccines containing mercury, and the rate of autism skyrocketed. Mercury can cause the same symptoms and abnormalities we see in autism. Like lead exposures, there is no "safe" level for mercury," said Sallie Bernard, Director, SAFE MINDS. "The removal of thimerosal from OTC products and most childhood vaccines shows this preservative is an absolutely unnecessary ingredient. We urge that US policies be changed and that vaccines manufacturers completely and unequivocally refrain from using this deadly toxin without delay." The US health science panel that extensively reviewed thimerosal was unable to "either accept or reject a causal relationship" between autism and thimerosal, and stated that additional studies were needed. According to the Institute of Medicine's 2001 Immunization Safety Review Committee, "While the available scientific data do not establish that these neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by thimerosal, at the same time, they do not establish that these neurodevelopmental disorders are not caused by thimerosal. The hypothesis that exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines could be associated with neuordevelopmental disorders was biologically plausible." "Vaccine manufacturers have now been given protection from financial liability for mercury-related vaccine injuries in the Homeland Security Act so they don't have to worry about the harm it's caused to the brains of children and adults," said Barbara Loe Fisher, Co-founder & President, National Vaccine Information Center. "They may be off the hook financially but they are not off the hook morally. They should do the right thing and make all vaccines mercury-free.