Vaccine findings confirm fears.  Some parents long suspected mercury levels were too high.
            By Marisa Lagos
            Staff Writer
            Published: Thursday, February 10, 2005 10:05 AM PST

Parents of children with autism said this week's revelation that at
least one pharmaceutical company knew of the high levels of mercury
in vaccinations years before disclosing it further supports their
suspicions that the poison causes neurodevelopmental disorders.

Many parents have long been suspicious of the effects of vaccines
containing thimerosal, a compound used to guard against contamination
and which is almost 50 percent ethyl mercury. Until recently, the
neurotoxin was used in many pediatric vaccines; public health
officials first acknowledged the high levels of mercury in those
shots in 1999.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times uncovered a 1991 memo from a Merck
& Co. vaccinologist -- written to the president of the company's
vaccine division -- warning that infants who get their shots on time
could receive up to 87 times the recommended daily amount of mercury
from fish.

Parents such as Kim Garrison of San Francisco and Jennifer Hoffiz of
Danville link that heightened amount of mercury to the problems their
children have had, although many doctors say no reputable studies
reinforce their claim.

Hoffiz has two children, now 8 and 5. Her daughter, Sabrina, is
learning-impaired and her son, Steven, has severe autism. She
believes both suffer from mercury poisoning.

"My kids are a perfect example of the least amount of damage mercury
can cause to the greatest," said Hoffiz, who runs the Sensory Center
in Pleasanton, a program meant to help patients dealing with autism,
other neurological disorders and brain injuries through "brain

Garrison's 12-year-old son, Tod, was diagnosed when he was three. She
says no one in their family was autistic, and he was developing
normally until he received a combination MMR shot -- for measles,
mumps and rubella -- when he was a little over 1 year old.

"I think there is very strongly compelling evidence that my son was
poisoned," Garrison said. "If somebody can argue the other way, I
would be more than happy to believe them. ... I get angry sometimes
that I did what the doctors told me, because I didn't want him to get
ill, but I think I could have poisoned my son."

That thinking is common in parents whose children are autistic,
according to Bryna Siegel, the director of the Pervasive
Developmental Disorders Clinic at UC San Francisco. Siegel, who has
acted as an expert witness for pharmaceutical companies being sued by
parents, sees no correlation between the vaccinations and autism,
pointing toward numerous studies that have found just that.

"You have to balance emotion and science," said Siegel, adding that
studies before the vaccines showed autistic children developing
normally, then losing skills -- such as language -- at the onset,
much like Tod did. "I really worry about people going without
vaccines for their kids -- people forget how deadly the diseases are
you're preventing."

Email: mlagos(at) <mailto:mlagos(at)>