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In the 1990s, autism in American children began spiking, from 1-2 in 10,000 in 1987 to a shocking 1 in 166 today. In this period, two series of shots containing a mercury-based preservative called Thimerosal were added to the nation's already crowded vaccination schedule. Some parents ticed their healthy children suddenly descending into silent, disturbed, and physically ill autism soon after receiving vaccinations. They discovered that children were being exposed to mercury at very young ages - even before birth-at levels far exceeding federal regulations, yet their concerns were either igred or dismissed by the FDA and the CDC. Evidence Of Harm explores both sides of this controversy, which has pitted families against the federal government, public health agencies, and some powerful doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical giants. It reveals: The Story of Thimerosal: a mercury-based additive approved by the FDA in the 1930s and never subsequently tested; The Mercury Mums and their struggle to help their afflicted children; the invitation-only meeting at which FDA, CDC, medical, and pharmaceutical company officials discussed mercury, vaccines, and autism; and the mysterious rider to the Homeland security bill, originally drafted by Senator Bill Frist, which would provide extended liability protection to drug companies. This even-handed, important book examines both the personal stories of families and the unfolding political drama in the courts and halls of Congress.
David Kirby has been a contributor to The New York Times for eight years, where he writes articles about science and health, among other subjects. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.