Why Does the American Academy of Pediatrics Put Corporate Profits Ahead of Children’s Health?

The United Nations recently announced that its Fifth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee session, scheduled for January 2013, would propose a binding treaty to ban ethylmercury (commonly known as thimerosal) from all medications and vaccines worldwide. That is welcome news. But it has laid bare the battle lines between those government health departments and professional medical organizations who value the health of children and those who favor drug profiteering.

It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry and its special interest groups are moving aggressively to oppose a UN treaty ban on mercury. After all, one of Big Pharma’s prime directives is to resist any legislation, domestic or international, that threatens its sales and revenues.  But it is a big surprise, indeed, that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—once a leader in advocating the removal of mercury from all medical products and vaccines—would now suddenly hold hands with Big Pharma to oppose the UN’s proposal.

Why would the AAP join with Big Pharma to oppose the UN mercury ban?  Why would it back-pedal away from its earlier confirmation that vaccine mercury is toxic and poses serious health risks? A look at the history of the AAP’s position on mercury will show us why. In its July 2001 issue of Pediatrics, the AAP released its official position on mercury: “Mercury in all its forms is toxic to the fetus and children, and efforts should be made to reduce exposure to the extent possible to pregnant women and children as well as the general population.”[1]  Yet in the recent December 17 2012 issue of Pediatrics, former AAP president Louis Cooper writes, “Science clearly documented that we can’t find hazards from thimerosal in vaccines… The preservative plays a critical role in distribution of vaccine to the global community. It was a no-brainer what our position needed to be.”[2]

The AAP’s original warning against thimerosal arrived a year following the illegal secret meeting convened by the CDC at the Simpsonwood retreat center near the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. At that meeting, federal and international health officials, executives from the vaccine industry, and members of professional medical associations, including the AAP, were informed about the CDC’s analysis of vaccine injury reports in its Vaccine Safety Database (VSD). The study, known as the Verstraeten study after the name of its chief investigator, concluded that there was a direct link between vaccine mercury and the rise in autism. In a letter published in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Eric Coleman at the FDA wrote, “the fact is, no preclinical or clinical studies were ever conducted to specifically examine the safety of thimerosal at the doses found when used in multiple infant and childhood vaccines. Thus, there is no conclusive evidence because there were no studies.”[3]

The Verstraeten study also led to Congressional hearings. The CDC was reprimanded for negligence, careless scientific oversight, conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry and administrative incompetence regarding decisions to protect children’s health.  Eventually policies were enforced to remove thimerosal from vaccines given in the US; although this mandate was never carried out thoroughly to this day.

However, thimerosal reduction and removal only applied to vaccines distributed in the US. Vaccine makers continued to manufacture vaccines containing thimerosal to other countries, particularly in the developing world. American stockpiles of mercury containing vaccines were simply sold and exported overseas.

During a period of several years the CDC further manipulated, massaged, and distorted the original Verstraeten research to hide any data that would suggest possible causality between mercury and autistic disorders. On five separate occasions Dr. Verstraeten slanted data. For example, 25% of reported vaccine injuries were cherry picked and removed to generate statistical confusion. The CDC’s final paper was published in the AAP’s Pediatrics journal and declared vaccine thimerosal safe and does not contribute to neurological damage in infants and children. As a side note, Dr. Verstraeten had already slipped out of the CDC to work for GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division when his paper was published.

The CDC’s publication in Pediatrics completely altered how vaccines would be manufactured for American children and resurrected the thimerosal-autism debate. But more important it is among the greatest scientific perversions in the history of medical literature.  The AAP was complicit in the fraud for having failed to conduct due diligence and proper peer-review before approving it for publication. Instead the Academy sided with Big Pharma’s favorite lobbying group—the CDC.

The story of the secret Simpsonwood meeting, the CDC’s subsequent fraudulent studies, Congressional investigations and the National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s analysis of the CDD’s research is well documented. However, what is less known is the CDC’s attempts to avoid answering many NIEHS and Congress’s complaints.  In a letter to Pediatrics, Dr. Ken Stoller, a UCLA pediatrician and a former fellow of the AAP, noted how then CDC Director Dr. Julie Geberding in the final moments under pressure to give account for the CDC’s wide range of errors in its study stated, “CDC concurs that conducting ecologic analysis using VSD administrative data to address potential associations between thimerosal exposure and the risk of autism spectrum disorder is not useful.”[4]

And here is the rub. Every study the pro-vaccine community quotes to discredit a thimerosal-autism association is either an ecologic study (investigating and comparing statistics between one or more populations) or cohort study (looking at risks or illness in the history of a group or population). Both types of studies are inferior to controlled studies looking at medical conditions in vitro or in vivo. Neither do they follow sound scientific protocol in order to draw definitive conclusions.  Moreover, the most frequent criticism of ecologic and cohort research is the wide scope of deceptive data manipulation such studies lend themselves to in order to arrive at the researcher’s desired result.  For example, in CDC studies, the agency has never compared autism rates in vaccinated children with a population of children who were unvaccinated or had not received mercury laced vaccines.  The lack of such a study should have been a no-brainer for the AAP.

Therefore, if the CDC ecologic study was ruled bogus by its own head of the agency, then why should any credibility be given to other ecologic and cohort studies performed, supported by and/or funded by the CDC.  And it is only such studies that are repeatedly quoted and referred to by thimerosal-autism deniers.

Not a single study in the vaccine industry’s arsenal is biologic. The federal health agencies refuse to conduct convincing biologic studies to bring the thimerosal-autism debate to closure. The reason is simple: there is not an ounce of evidence that such studies would conclude in their favor, otherwise such research would have been performed during this decades long argument.

Nevertheless, independent biologic studies have shown repeatedly that thimerosal is linked to neurological degeneration, including autism, Asperger’s, ADD and ADHD, tics and seizures, etc.  A recent review of all thimerosal research recorded in the National Institutes of Health publication database, PubMed, by the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universidade de Brasilia in Brazil determined that the biologic data reveals 1) low doses of thimerosal against isolated human and animal brain cells found in all studies characteristic mercury neurotoxicity, 2) there has yet to be studies showing the neurotoxic effects when thimersosal is combined with aluminum, another neurotoxic chemical and common vaccine ingredient, and 3) animal studies show that thimerosal exposure leads to the accumulation of inorganic mercury in the brain.[5]

Dr. Stoller concludes that we now “have a generation of pediatricians, who face perhaps the greatest iatrogenic accident in the history of pediatrics, who actually need to be deprogrammed to understand what the true nature of all neuro-behavioral problems are that they confront without any understanding of etiology or potential interventions.”[6] And the organization mandated to assure America’s pediatricians remain ignorant about the dangers of thimerosal-containing vaccines is the AAP.

A favorite rationale voiced frequently by professional medical associations, such as the AAP and AMA, is since we don’t have conclusive proof to confirm the health risks of a particular vaccine, or chemical found in every day foods and products, or a GM frankenfood, then it is best to side with private industry rather than adopt preventative cautionary measures until such proof is determined.  Common sense unveils this distorted logic, which exonerates the drug, food and chemical industries from having to prove their product is safe before entering the market.

Although AAP has taken positive social stands to improve child welfare, it has failed to protect children from their greatest enemy — the pharmaceutical and chemical industrial complex.  To its credit the Academy has opposed budget reductions affecting the health and welfare of children in poverty; it supports funding that would increase consumption of fruits and vegetables  in school programs, and has supported the removal of school soda vending machines in its fight against obesity. But when addressing the prevention of diseases that directly affect the medical industry, the AAP’s record is dismal.  Among its official recommendations favoring corporate profit rather than promoting pediatric health are the following:

Routine HPV Vaccine.  AAP officially supports the CDC’s recommendation that all males, starting at age 11, be routinely vaccinated with Merck’s quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (Gardasil). Earlier the Academy gave its full approval for routine vaccination of all school aged girls. Since then, Drs. Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic at the University of British Columbia have published a peer-review study of their investigation into brain tissues from two New Zealand teenagers who died after Gardasil vaccinations. In both cases, DNA from the vaccine’s HPV virus was found embedded in the girl’s brain cells, which resulted in the likely cause of death. [7]

Psychiatric Drugs for Four-Year Olds.  In 2011, AAP changed their recommendations for prescribing mood-altering psychiatric and psychotropic medications to children.  The Academy reduced the age for diagnosing ADHD to 4 years from its prior threshold of 6 years.  Its recommendations are that behavioral therapy precede administering drugs, in particular Ritalin. Yet this recommendation will unlikely be followed.  Today, less than 20 percent of practicing psychiatrists perform behavioral therapy and prescribing drugs is now the ruling paradigm regardless of age. Ritalin is classified in the same category with cocaine, morphine and opium. Its adverse effects include hallucinations, mania, heart problems and death.  But the AAP seems to be fine with that for pre-schoolers. Then again, the AAP’s chairman for ADHD guidelines, Dr. Mark Wolraich, is a consultant for psychotropic drug companies including Shire Pharmaceutical, Eli Lilly, Shinogi and Next Wave Pharmaceuticals.[8]

Statin Drugs for Children. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has investigated AAP’s financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. At the time AAP officially recommended prescribing statin drugs to lower cholesterol for children, it had received over $1.4 million in contributions from major statin makers, including Merck, Abbott and Bristol Myers Squibb.[9]  The Academy also had lowered the minimum age for children to take statins from 10 years to 8 years. Among the statins being prescribed, the FDA expanded warning list of adverse effects to include liver injury, memory loss, increased diabetes risk, and muscle damage.[10]

Genetically Modified Food.  During the autumn 2012 battle in California to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods, AAP fell on the side of Monsanto, DuPont and other agro-chemical corporations. In the Academy’s official report on its position regarding GM produce, it agrees with the seed industry that GM and organic products are nutritionally equivalent.  “Current evidence,’ the report reads, ‘does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared to conventionally grown foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet.”[11]  Neither has the Academy come out publicly to favor the urgent need for safety trials to be conducted on GM foods before entering the food supply.

Milk and Dairy.  In its GMO statement, the AAP claims there are no significant health benefits from organic milk and downplayed the risks posed from growth hormone and estrogen given to dairy cattle. The reports states, “Ingestion of milk from estrogen-treated cows appears to be safe for children.”[12] Apparently the AAP had a moment of unconsciousness during the time studies flooded journals showing that genetically modified bovine growth factor (rBGH) increased IGF-1, which contribute to prostate, breast, colorectum, gastrointestinal and lung cancers.[13]

Pesticides.  The AAP is ambiguous regarding the dangers and health risks of pesticides, although all independent research shows chemical pesticides contribute to serious diseases that are appearing increasing among American children. The Academy’s policy report on GMOs states, “Although chronic pesticide exposure and measurable pesticide metabolites seem undesirable and potentially unhealthy, no studies to date have experimentally examined the causal relationship between exposure to pesticides directly from conventionally grown foods and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

Water Fluoridation. AAP continues to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ and the Environmental Protection Agency’s commitment to water fluoridation. In 2005, EPA employee unions called for a moratorium on fluoridation programs after a cover-up at Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine leaked and revealed elevated risk of fatal bone cancer in young boys consuming fluoride.  However, the US remains one of the few developed countries that continue the barbaric practice of water fluoridation. Throughout most of Europe, 97% of nation populations drink fluoride-free water. The Swedish government health authorities officially state that there is no credible safety data available to support fluoride; Japan’s official policy is that water fluoridation “may cause health problems.” As early as 1977, Germany’s association of water experts rejected fluoridation” because “the so-called optimal fluoride concentration of 1 mg per liter is close to the dose at which long-term damage to the human body is to be expected.”

* * *

We believe there should be an independent Congressional investigation overseen by experts in immunology and public health science to review all existing studies that have been used as a basis for determining the safety and efficacy of schedules for all vaccines. We propose a long-term human study comparing one group of vaccinated people following existing protocols and another group given no vaccines, followed on a three month basis for five years, to determine which group is provided with a statistically significant benefit. However, no one affiliated with the study should have any direct or indirect financial ties to any vaccine industry or pharmaceutical interest nor should anyone be selected who has shown previous bias on the topic.

Richard Gale is the Executive Producer of the Progressive Radio Network and a former Senior Research Analyst in the genomic industry. Dr. Gary Null is the host of the nation’s longest running public radio program on nutrition and natural health and a multi-award-winning director of progressive documentary films, including Vaccine Nation and Autism: Made in the USA.


[1]  Levin, Myron “Battle Lines Drawn Over Mercury in Shots” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2006)

[2]  Tavernise, S  “Vaccine Rule is Said to Hurt Health Efforts”  New York Times, December 17, 2012

[3]  Stoller, K  http://adventuresinautism.blogspot.com/2008/06/ken-stollers-letter-to-pediatrics-on.html

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Dorea JG. “Integrating Experimental (In Vitro and In Vivo) Neurotoxicity Studies of Low-dose Thimerosal Relevant to Vaccines” Neurochem Res. 2011 Feb 25.

[6] Stoller, K  op cit.

[7]  Tomljenovic L, Shaw C. “Death after Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: Causal or Coincidental?” Pharmaceutical Regulatory  Affairs, doi.org/10.4172/2167-7689.S12-001

[8]  Citizens Commission on Human Rights “American Academy of Pediatrics Promotes Big Pharma Agenda Drugging 4-year-olds” October 17, 2011  http://www.cchrint.org

[9]  Ibid

[10]  “FDA Expands Advice on Statin Risks”  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm293330.htm

[11]  Forman J, Silverstein J, “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/15/peds.2012-2579

[12]  Petersen A, “Report Supports Organic Produce but Not Milk” Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2012

[13]  Food and Water Watch, “rBGH: What the Research Shows” http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/what-research-shows/