Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
HOW DID ABORTION RIGHTS COME TO THIS?  — Carol Hanisch charts how the right to an abortion began to erode shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision; Uber vs. the Cabbies: Ben Terrall reports on the threats posed by private car services; Remembering August 1914: Binoy Kampmark on the enduring legacy of World War I; Medical Marijuana: a Personal Odyssey: Doug Valentine goes in search of medicinal pot and a good vaporizer; Nostalgia for Socialism: Lee Ballinger surveys the longing in eastern Europe for the material guarantees of socialism. PLUS: Paul Krassner on his Six Dumbest Decisions; Kristin Kolb on the Cancer Ward; Jeffrey St. Clair on the Making of the First Un-War; Chris Floyd on the Children of Lies and Mike Whitney on why the war on ISIS is really a war on Syria.
Loaded with Mercury Casual Threats

Casual Threats

by RICHARD RHAMES

"The public awareness has been raised by the sequential wave of experiences … Including mercury exposure from additives, fish, contaminated air, bird deaths from eating mercury-contaminated seed grains, dental amalgam leakage, mercury allergy, etc … ."

Dr. Maurice Hilleman, 1991

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection led the nation in its recent study of mercury loosed by compact florescent light bulb (CFL) breakage. The DEP is very clear that the overall environmental impacts of reducing carbon emissions through more energy efficient lighting is positive and substantial. Still, since CFLs contain a potent neurotoxin, mercury, staffers in the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management wanted to offer Maine citizens good advice just in case they dropped a bulb and had an unexpected "release" in their homes.

So they studied the matter. Their February 2008 report explains, "Forty five (45) experimental trials where … CFLs were broken in a small/ moderate sized room were conducted in May through September of 2007." Various cleanup procedures were followed. Importantly, "[t]he mercury concentrations at the five foot height (adult breathing zone) and one foot height (infant/ toddler breathing zone) above the study room floor were continuously monitored."

Though the amount of mercury in a CFL is small —-5 milligrams ("enough to fit on the tip of a ball-point pen"), much of that may be in vapor form. But when a bulb is broken there is a "burst" of neurotoxin often driving mercury levels in room air well above the Maine standard of 300 nanograms per cubic meter. Spikes of 25,000 nanograms, 50,000 to perhaps over 100,000 nanograms were measured. Spikes sometimes recurred after ventilation ceased and after vacuuming.

"Consumers," the report advised, " … may consider not utilizing florescent lamps in … bedrooms or over carpeted areas frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women … ."

The DEP is to be congratulated for their ground breaking (bulb breaking) work. It’s a real contribution to better understanding the casual threats to life in our times. Exposing the next generation or their pregnant moms to mercury just isn’t a good idea. The metal’s catastrophic impact on the brain and central nervous system is well understood.

Yet other governmental entities have for years encouraged—-even mandated— the injection of mercury into pregnant women, infants and young children. It’s all allegedly in the interest of protecting mom and the kids from disease. That’s the story and they’re sticking to it.

For decades, it was common to use thimerosal (a preservative developed by Eli Lilly containing roughly 50 percent mercury) in various corporate vaccines. In 1930 Lilly field tested the compound on 22 adult meningitis patients. Since all the patients died, no long-term studies could be conducted. Anne Dachel, an autism-movement-mom notes regularly that even if Lilly’s subjects hadn’t all expired, the company’s test didn’t include children. "Even if follow-up had been possible, damage to the developing brains of very young children would have remained an unknown. Eli Lilly said it was safe and the medical community just accepted it. After the creation of the FDA, its use was simply continued."

Journalist David Kirby (Evidence of Harm) writes, " … many researchers had sent the company documents dating back to the 1930s, each raising a red flag about thimerosal."

As governments mandated more and earlier mercury-laced vaccinations, beginning in infancy, some researchers and parents began to suggest a link between infused mercury and climbing autism rates. Officials denied it. Autism rates were not increasing they said. We were simply diagnosing the syndrome better.

About a year ago, in writing a piece about autism, I called a school administrator I knew. "Is this a new phenomenon?" I asked. She confirmed that the problem was "huge" and demanding whole classrooms and wings to deal with affected students. But perhaps more interesting was her personal testimony. As an undergraduate she’d minored in psychology. There she read about autism and admitted to being intrigued by the symptoms. Going on into public education, it was years before she saw her first case. But then, the number of autistic kids just kept growing, as did the challenges in marshaling the resources for their care and education. "Crisis" was not too strong a word, she said.

In 1999, drug manufacturers were "asked" to remove mercury. No vaccines were recalled. Dachel points out that "Full levels of thimerosal were on doctors’ shelves through 2004." Flu vaccines, commonly recommended for pregnant women and young children (six months to five years old) still contain the preservative. She continues, "A child three years and older gets 25 mcg. of mercury in their vaccines.

According to the EPA, this much mercury is meant for someone weighing 550 pounds. Younger children get 12.5 mcg of mercury that can be safely processed by someone weighing 275 pounds. Doctors give this vaccine to pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy and the massive mercury assault easily passes the placental barrier and enters the developing fetus."

Through grassroots movement building, parents and researchers have gained some ground. California has banned mercury preservative in flu shots administered to pregnant women and kids under 3. And after years of struggle, media now sometimes grudgingly concede in stories slavishly boosting routine vaccination, that well, there is this "concern" out there among "some parents" that mercury isn’t good for children.

Drug companies and their servants in the political class insist there isn’t/never was a problem. But as the Los Angeles Times reported on February 8, 2005, massive mercury infusions have worried people other than mothers. Times writer Myron Levin cited a "March 1991 memo, obtained by The Times, [which] 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."

" ‘[T]he mercury load appears rather large,’ said the memo from Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman, an internationally renowned vaccinologist," in his message to the president of Merck’s vaccine division.

Hmmmm.

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine whose place is just north of the Kennebunkport town line. Since 1990, Rhames has been the chair of the Biddeford Democratic City Committee, an organization charged with "promoting the ideals of the Party." He can be reached at: rrhames@xpressamerica.net