Congressman questions officials at Thimerosal hearings



A United States congressman is calling for criminal penalties for any government agency that knew about the dangers of Thimerosal in vaccines, and did nothing to protect American children.

Last month, a News 8 Investigation disclosed allegations that some government officials may have surpressed documentation about the risks. Some of those officials testified at Wednesday's congressional hearing.

News 8 research showed that the FDA began asking questions about the dangers of Thimerosal back in 1972. By 1992, the preservative had been pulled out of dog vaccines and contact lens solutions because of the risks.

However, it remained in vaccines for children until last year.

Government health officials squirmed uncomfortably in their seats Wednesday as more evidence emerged suggesting that they misled the public.

"You mean to tell me that since 1929, we've been using Thimerosal," Congressman Dan Burton (R-Indiana) said to the officials, "and the only test that you know of is from 1929, and every one of those people had mennigitis, and they all died?"

For nearly an hour, Burton repeatedly asked FDA and CDC officials what they knew and when they knew it. And when memories seemed to be a bit fuzzy, the congressman produced old memos as a refresher.

One memo, from 1999, states that the FDA had an "interim plan ... already in place for many years" to get rid of Thimerosal.

The same e-mail also addresses the FDA's fear that it will be accused by the public of being "asleep at the switch for decades, by allowing a dangerous compound to remain in childhood vaccines".

Burton has proposed bringing criminal charges if it's proven the government agencies were involved in a cover-up.

"Look, I don't think it makes any difference whether it's a private company or a government agency," Burton said. "If they know they're harming somebody and they continue to let it happen, then they should be held accountable."

Government accountability is something that parents of autistic children have been asking for for years.

Cooper Earp, 7, had lost his ability to talk by age three, and his mercury levels were off the charts. His parents said Cooper's only exposure to mercury was through his vaccines.

Today, he has all the classic signs of autism, such as repeatedly hitting himself, and fixating on such things as a spinning chair.

Cooper's mother Kristi Earp has a dream that one day Cooper will call her "mommy" in a sentence.

"I probably have that dream once a week that he's speaking to me. It would be wonderful," Earp said.

Parents like Earp would like to ask the panel of government officials why, in eighty years, they never ordered one clinical test on the effects of Thimerosal in vaccines.

Burton asked the question several times Wednesday, but never got a direct answer.

After the hearing, News 8 asked the same question of an official, walking briskly down a corridor.

"You have to call the press office," an assistant replied.

Burton has a personal stake in the growing scandal: he said his grandson became autistic a few days after receiving nine innoculations.

Thus far, within the government, Burton has been a minority voice, but he has subpoena power, and he keeps threatening to use it.

"So what you do is keep making the case, and keep trying to get the message out to a broader and broader audience so that people start saying 'Why?'," Burton said. "When enough people say 'Why?', change starts to take place."