Congressional autism hearing goes down the toilet

Holy cow! Congress holds a hearing into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism and it turns into a bullshit session about a vaccine-autism link.

Congress holds an anti-vaccination hearing – Forbes.

I was in my car yesterday listening to C-SPAN … when to my stunned surprise I heard Congressman Dan Burton launch into a diatribe on how mercury in vaccines causes autism. No, this was not a replay of a recording from a decade ago. The hearing was held just a few days ago by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Congressman Burton used this hearing to rehash a series of some of the most thoroughly discredited anti-vaccine positions of the past decade. Burton is a firm believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism, and he arrogantly holds the position that he knows the truth better than the thousands of scientists who have spent much of the past decade doing real science that proves him wrong.

The point of the hearing was supposed to be this:

Today, we will get a clearer picture on what is being done, what questions still need to be answered and what needs exist for those children, adults and families who live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

But Burton said this:

“I’m convinced that the mercury in vaccinations is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism.”


“It wasn’t so bad when a child gets one or two or three vaccines… Mercury accumulates in the brain until it has to be chelated.”

Burton believes that he knows better than scientists – that vaccines cause autism. The good news is that Burton is leaving Congress. The bad news is this appeared to be a misinformation festival that derailed a meaningful discussion. In an attempt to make progress, how is it helpful to focus on and cling to completely debunked claims! You can see the video here. At about 22 minutes, Kucinich begins and sounds like a complete boob regarding thimerosal, a preservative formerly used in children’s vaccines. It’s just “his theory”, but he spouts ideas about mercury poisoning. Mercury has not been implicated in the cause of autism. These committee members aren’t getting their information from scientists but from special interests advocating nonsense. It is very discouraging. There may be more fallout from this.

For actual scientific information about the non-link between mercury, vaccines and autism, see the following:

Science-Based Medicine » Mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): A failed hypothesis.

NeuroLogica Blog » Mercury Still Not Correlated with Autism.

Mercury in Vaccines.

Addition: Orac has a blog post on this hearing: The mummer’s farce that was the Congressional autism hearing last week. It ends on a good note. Since Burton is gone, maybe bluster about this topic (antivaxxination) will finally be silenced.

  9 comments for “Congressional autism hearing goes down the toilet

  1. December 3, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    This is what happens when scientists don’t go into politics. I mean, i don’t blame them, but then we get a bunch of uneducated people in power. It would be interesting if there was a requirement for a certain percentage of each branch to hold a degree in science.

  2. December 3, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    As a psychologist who has worked with individuals with autism for over 20 years, I have observed that the rise in the number of individuals with autism is due to semantics as opposed to any real environmental cause. When I began my career, the definition of what constituted autism was so restrictive, that often many children were either classified as having a cognitive disability or an emotional/behavioral disturbance. As time has gone by the criteria for autism has expanded, subsequently leading to an increased number of students identified. At the same time we have seen a decrease in the number of students identified with either cognitive or emotional/behavioral disorders. In research we recently conducted in my practice, we found that the raw number of students identified with autism, cognitive disabilities or emotional disorders is unchanged in the last 20 years. What has changed is the percentage of each within the group. There is no grand conspiracy at work, just changing definitions, changing times and changing acceptance.

  3. D.
    December 4, 2012 at 2:51 AM

    I have both Autism and mild mercury poisoning, due to having had to work around broken light bulbs lately. Neither is pleasant. Both are disruptive to my happiness. Being an adult, though, little concern is paid to it.

  4. Donna
    December 4, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    There are some people who are born without the necessary enzymes necessary to break down and eliminate toxic chemicals from their bodies, resulting in this toxic crap recirculating and causing all kinds of physical and neurological damage which is permanent. That’s why some people don’t react from these metals and chemicals at all, and others become brain damaged.

  5. December 4, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    @Donna. Seriously? Citations please.

    And another great article idoubtit. Burton and Jenny McCarthy must be in a relationship, because he hit the anti-vaxxer trifecta: autism, mercury and chelation.

  6. Autismum
    December 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM

    “Toxic crap” is that a medical term?

  7. December 5, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Thanks for this, idoubtit. I’m compiling a list of responses (both science-based and anti-vax, anti-science), and have added this post.

  8. bob
    December 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    1) Mercury is not “broken down”

    2) This is what happens when scientists lie on behalf of those who give them funding. This whole controversy originated, in large part, from Andrew Wakefield, a scientist who published papers in which he lied about proving vaccine autism relationship. The CDC and AAP, knowing that the vaccines themselves weren’t likely to cause autism, seized on the possibility of mercury being the agent. They, reasonably in my view, campaigned for the removal of mercury from childhood vaccines. Not because it was proved harmful, but because it was not proved safe. Retrospectively, we can see that was an overreaction because we do not see a reduction in autism rates tied to that removal. And, of course, because we know that the scientist, whose “study” started it all, was lying.

    (I’m a bit biased as I am a parent who had to make vaccination decisions for my child immediately after Wakefield’s paper was published and before further studies could be completed.)

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