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Mercury and Autism: The Debate, Part 1

The author of a book on the possible link between thimerosal, a mercury preservative in vaccines and autism was in Springfield recently. The book features the stories of several Missouri families with autistic children. In this, the first of a four part series examining both sides of the issue, KSMU's Missy Shelton speaks with author David Kirby about his book "Evidence of Harm."

Shelton: Talk to me about what you discovered as you researched this book and sort of how your views were shaped by the stories you heard.

Kirby: First, I knew nothing about autism. I kind of thought autistic children sat quietly in a corner by themselves and were easy to take care of. Once I spent time with families with autistic children, I learned differently. It's a terrible disorder. The children suffer tremendously. It's really hard on the families and really expensive and very stressful. I've seen kids escape from the house, hurt themselves. And I learned that our public health agencies are a lot more secretive than I had thought and I would like them to be. I worked with AIDS research for many years in New York so I had a lot of contact with people at the CDC and the NIH and I always respected them and found them to be very dedicated to what they were doing and had the utmost regard for them. Working on this issue, obviously dealing with different departments of those agencies, I found that they haven't been very forthcoming with their information. They treat it quite secretively and they act like the American people don't have the right to receive this information. As a journalist, that to me is wrong. My job is to bridge that gap. Whether the government likes it or not, I think the American people have a right to this information.

Shelton: Some people will hear your comments about the difficulties you had dealing with the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health and in your book, you talk about efforts by some members of Congress to slip in provisions to give immunity to vaccine manufacturers