Homeland Security Act

August 6th, 2003

[Also submitted as an OP-ED Piece]

To the Editor,

The Homeland Security Act’s provision protecting the manufacturers of a wide array of vaccines, not just those implicated in biological warfare. Any threat to industry must automatically be assumed a threat to national security in these times. The implications raised by Susan Warner’s article printed on 12/9/02 about the government’s role in “approving” vaccines and manipulating litigation around the use of mercury in vaccines are crucial for the American public to analyze. Similarly, the research article in the recent Lancet journal about thiomersal requires similar scrutiny as it alters the very nature of medical research in our society.

The use of mercury in vaccines solves an industry problem in mass production and cost analysis. It does not represent a necessary ingredient in the vaccine per se to make it medically effective. Mercury is a known poison which is seen, as per the study published by Dr. Pichichero et al., in The Lancet, to accumulate in blood and be evacuated primarily in stool via the gastrointestinal tract. There is an unproven assumption in this manner of studying toxicological issues that poisons which are “rapidly” excreted from the body do no harm along the way. It assumes the poison and any by-products of its chemical breakdown are not thereafter circulated, stored or otherwise able to do some damage to the host. In effect, this type of toxicological study is not so much a medical study but a product safety inquiry. Medicine is rapidly becoming an arm of the pharmaceutical industry on an intellectual level while tax dollars fund this type of research in the hope that independent scientists will show us that medicine continues to embrace the Hippocratic oath claiming it will do us NO HARM.

The determination of how much poison one can “safely” inject, feed or expose a “subject” is a question totally out of line with the tenets of medicine unless we are discussing issues in chemotherapy or other medical procedure requiring the destruction of tissue. The obvious answer is not to expose people to toxic chemicals if one wishes to DO NO HARM.

Another false assumption is the ludicrous idea that the government can mandate “federal limits” on how much poison is safe to have in one’s blood, urine, fat cells, etc. Biochemistry cannot be legislated. Further, legislation is incorrectly based upon studies which presume all humans have equal abilities to remove toxins from their bodies. It has been proven that such abilities vary with age, gender, size, health status, environment and some genetic factors.

Infants with digestive tract problems (diagnosed or undiagnosed) should not be presumed to be able to excrete mercury efficiently. The question also fails to address the fact that mercury will continue to enter children’s bodies from exposures to pollution and adulterated foods throughout their lifetimes. We do not know if damage is a result of cumulative exposure or synergy with other absorbed contaminants. There may be a statute of limitations on the filing of liability suits for harm by vaccines but nature may not be aware of this factor. Apparently nature is resistant to legislation as well.

In any event, there can be no satisfactory proof of harm done with research on infants and young children because you cannot measure a loss of potential. These children have not yet developed the skills we need to examine in order to prove loss of abilities as a result of poisoning. We will never know if their IQs, social skills, motor dexterity or other developmental attainments could have been higher in the absence of such exposures. “Normal” is a spectrum with a wide range of abilities. A 10 or 15 point difference in achievement between children can still cause both to be rated in the normal range of function and satisfy researchers that subjects are “normal” A difference in potential should not be ruled out as making a significant difference for the individual or society as a whole. Society is presently inundated with the need to address learning problems in huge numbers while test scores reflect general underachievement in our schools. Are our children different in learning capacity and styles due to early exposures to heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and the myriad other toxins that come our way pre-natally and on an hourly basis after birth?

If lead exposure leads to underachievement, what does mercury do?
There do not appear to be any financial incentives for either proving harm or for inventing alternatives in vaccine preservatives. Consumers are responsible for funding the claims successfully prosecuted by the injured. The POST article points out that, “Congress created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1986 to address growing concerns about vaccine safety. Claims…funded by a 75-cent surcharge on every child vaccination.” The ceilings suggested for damages may save the fund money but permits the risk to the population to continue while ensuring injured parties lack the funds to pay for long term care needed by those with permanent damage of a substantial nature. There is certainly no diminution of profit to the injurer who might reasonably be expected to fund the lives of the persons who are “acceptable risks” to the vaccine industry.

Technology must not be confused with science any longer. The ability to do something does not mean the product or process is compatible with human health and safety. Facts are in short supply and safety testing is actually conducted after marketing…on the American public at our expense. Capitalism is based upon the theory that if one builds a better mousetrap, the financial rewards will follow. That cannot happen when all mousetraps are built the same and unhappy consumers are consigned to the category of dispensable citizens. The concept of “acceptable risk” belongs on the battlefield, not in a doctor’s office.

Barbara Rubin
P.O. Box 224
Locust Valley, N.Y. 11560

I was a special educator who became disabled from pesticide exposures. I am now a free lance writer on environmental issues.

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