Homeland Security = Payoff to pharmaceutical campaign contributors
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Subject: Safe Minds & Mercury Policy Project Statement on Homeland
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project, 802-223-9000
Lyn Redwood, Safe Minds, 404-932-1786
Sallie Bernard, Safe Minds, 970-429-1460
LAWMAKERS AND ACTIVISTS CALL THIMEROSAL LIABILITY SHIELD RIDER IN
HOMELAND SECURITY BILL UNFAIR AND IRRESPONSIBLE -
AND PRESS FOR ITS DEFEAT
Drug Maker Tells Congressional Staff That They Won't Produce Smallpox
Vaccine Without Amendment Granting Immunity From Mercury Vaccine
Washington,DC - A thimerosal liability shield rider tacked on to the
Homeland Security Bill at the last minute and passed by the US House
last week is being opposed by lawmakers, activists and parents of
children with autism as unfair and irresponsible.
The rider would effectively end lawsuits for damages caused to children
after multiple mercury exposures from thimerosal in infant vaccines. An
amendment introduced into the US Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman
and Tom Daschle (D-SD) to remove this and other riders unrelated to
bioterrorism is scheduled to be voted on this Monday, November 18th.
"The Mercury Policy Project and Safe Minds hope the entire Senate will
support this amendment and not let a small number of corporations
exploit a national threat to America to further their own private
agendas," said Michael Bender, Director of the Mercury Policy Project.
"While no one now wants to take credit for it, this rider smacks of
payback, smells of blackmail, has no relation to homeland security and
should be defeated."
According to news reports and congressional staff, representatives of
least one drug manufacturer have told the White House and several US
senate staff that they won't produce the smallpox vaccines requested by
the Administration to protect Americans against bioterrorism if the
liability shielding amendment for thimerosal is defeated. Yet neither
the smallpox nor anthrax vaccines - our primary defenses against
possible biological warfare - contain thimerosal. Rather, thimerosal is
a mercury-based preservative that has been used in infant vaccines and
is increasingly in the spotlight.
"We are heartened that Senators Lieberman and Daschle are offering an
amendment to remove extraneous additions like the thimerosal liability
shield from the Homeland Security Act," stated Sallie Bernard,
Director of Safe Minds. "This addition is an example of all that is
wrong with a system of using last minute riders to subvert the
More than $14 million was recently contributed to congressional
candidates prior to the elections by the pharmaceutical industry. The
most generous donor was Eli Lilly, who contributed $1.6 million and
apparently has the most to lose--having developed and generously
profited from the sales of thimerosal for over 40 years.
"Instead of providing immunity, Congress should be passing legislation
investigating why the Food & Drug Administration and American public
were misled by Eli Lilly into believing that their product was
safe--when company documents paint a completely different picture,"
Lyn Redwood, RN, President of Safe Minds and parent of a child with
numerous disabilities associated with mercury toxicity after receiving
125 times the Environmental Protection Agency's allowable exposure to
"More and more parents believe that autism affecting their children is
related to a mercury preservative used in numerous vaccines," said
Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), chairman of the Government Reform
Committee, which has held several thimerosal and autism-related
hearings. "These provisions in the bill will cut off their recourse to
the courts, and that's just wrong."
Internal documents reviewed as a result of discovery in current
litigation filed against the pharmaceutical giant reveal that Eli Lilly
was aware of concerns resulting from thimerosal exposure since the
1940's and was advised by its Medical Science Department in 1967 that
the claim "Non-toxic" be removed from its thimerosal labels. Lilly's
materials safety data sheet acknowledges that exposure in children may
cause mild to severe mental retardation and that mercury poisoning may
On Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary Tommy
Thompson, Director of Health and Human Services, and White House Budget
Director Mitchell E. Daniels requesting information on the Bush
administration's involvement in the amendment. Daniels was previously
employed by Eli Lilly as a top executive. According to a news report,
Waxman said "It now seems apparent the administration's priority has
been legislation that protects manufacturers but not injured people."
The thimerosal lawsuits began appearing in 2000 after the federal
government asked manufacturers of childhood vaccines to stop using
mercury-based preservatives. The Homeland Security bill rider would
the lawsuits out of state courts, preventing large judgments, and
instead refer complaints to a 14-year-old federal program limiting
compensation to $250,000 for those who suffer the side effects of
vaccines. Further, the rider would uphold the current statute of
limitations, thereby continuing to bar the majority of affected
from seeking compensation--and without any other legal recourse.
According to recent Centers for Disease Control investigations, Autism
Spectrum Disorders affect approximately 1 in 150 American children
today. A recent report estimates the lifetime costs of caring for
children with autism at around $2 million each.
For more information, see:
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