Merck may have known the overuse of mercury in their vaccines posed a dangerous health threat to children

A Los Angeles Times article today reports that Merck, a leading manufacturer of prescription drugs, knew the overuse of mercury in their vaccines posed a dangerous health threat to children.

As cited by the article, a 1991 memo issued by Merck said that 6-month-old children who received their shots on schedule would get a mercury dose up to 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

The memo, issued eight years before the FDA acknowledged the overuse of mercury in vaccines, goes on to discuss safety concerns and at one time states that the large use of mercury in their vaccines presents a "perception of hazard."

A number of parent and advocacy groups have been fighting for the removal of mercury in vaccines. Lujene Clark, president of NoMercury.org, has led the fight to ban mercury in vaccines in numerous states. California and Iowa passed bans in 2004.

Just last month, senate bill "S.3" was introduced to prevent such bans. If passed, not only would the bill remove states' rights, it would further protect pharmaceutical companies like Merck from vaccine-related litigation. "Because drug companies like Merck are so easily protected by certain friends on the Hill, they have no incentive to reveal such findings or right the wrong that's been done," says parent Wendy Fournier. "It is astounding that memos like this remain hidden and corporations that are supposed to be the benchmark of safety, end up covering up the dangers."

S.3, introduced by Senator Bill Frist, is the fifth piece of legislation the Senator has tried to pass on behalf of vaccine-makers. Parents believe that the bill, and any vaccine-oriented legislation introduced by Frist, will impede efforts to uncover even more important documents that could ultimately explain what happened to millions of American children. According to opensecrets.org, a public service watchdog, Senator Frist has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies since 1997.

A full disclosure of Merck's findings in 1991 may have prevented millions of children from dangerous exposure to mercury, a known neurotoxin. Numerous studies, including a first-phase study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have linked the mercury-based preservative to neurodevelopmental disorders including autism. According to the CDC, autism now affects 1 in 166 children. Some reports cite that the rise in autism and ADHD correlates with the dangerous rise in use of mercury that Merck knew of almost 15 years ago.

As of 2005, mercury remains in a handful of vaccines including flu shots recommended for infants and pregnant women.

To learn more, visit www.nationalautism.org

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