It Is Time To Re-engage on The Autism EpidemicBy Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN)
Food Freedom News, April 28, 2012
On March 30, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their latest figures on the number of autistic kids in America. The numbers are sobering. Thirty years ago it was estimated that autism affected only 1 out of every 10,000 individuals. The latest CDC figures put the number at 1 in 88 American children (one in 54 boys); a 550 percent jump in cases since 2000. We are literally in the midst of a nationwide epidemic.
In the late 90s, my grandson was diagnosed with autism. Like other family members who have been touched by autism, I wanted to know more about this condition. During my tenure as Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform (1997-2002) and the subcommittee on Human Rights & Wellness (2003-2004), I held no fewer than 20 hearings examining the state of federal scientific research into the cause of and treatment for autism. I am proud of the work we did to raise awareness of autism and draw more attention to the need for research; and I am firmly convinced that the work we did back then laid the groundwork for the historic Combating Autism Act and for the $1 Billion in Federal research into autism that is happening today.
Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation has been thrown around in public and private about the Committee’s focus on mercury in medicines as a possible factor in the autism epidemic. I’m not a scientist, but the Committee heard from many credible scientists and experts who are convinced that mercury is a contributing factor; and the theory is no less worthy of exploration than the theories being propounded today that the pregnancy weight of the mother or the age of the father at conception influences whether a child becomes autistic. When you have no idea what is causing a disease, policymakers and scientists should never be afraid to investigate any plausible theory. In fact, researching possible environmental factors is a central component of today’s research on autism.
Regrettably, lost in the controversy over mercury are two other issues the Committee explored. First, in the 1980s, Congress created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VCIP) to shield medical professionals and vaccine manufacturers from liability if an individual suffered an injury from a vaccine. The compensation fund, which currently contains over $3 Billion, was created to protect the vaccine supply and to insure that all who were injured by a vaccine received compensation in a no-fault, compassionate and easy to use manner.
Congress intended for families to be compensated quickly and fairly; and when the evidence was close as to whether or not the medical condition in question was vaccine related or not the court should always err in favor of the injured. Our investigations found that over the years the system had broken; and what was supposed to be quick and fair became slow and contentious. There has been no Congressional oversight of VICP in the last decade, and the system has not improved; if anything it has gotten worse. It is time for Congress to revisit this issue and consider substantially reforming this program. For the public to trust vaccine policies, it is vitally important to have a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that is efficient, effective, and fair to those who may have suffered injury from vaccines.
The other issue we dealt with is how do we help the millions of individuals and families afflicted with this disease. Autism has no cure and it is not a life-threatening disease. That means that the autistic children of today will be the autistic adults and autistic seniors of tomorrow. Our nation is ill prepared to deal with the complex challenges posed by a generation of autistic individuals. There have been far too many stories in the media of police, firefighters, and teachers ill-prepared to cope with an autistic individual and tragedy has resulted. We need to change that. We need prominent and influential leaders to step forward and spark a national debate on autism.
That is why I introduced the “White House Conference on Autism Act of 2011” (H.R. 3489). It will require the President of the United States to convene, no later than December 31, 2012, a White House Conference on Autism charged with developing policy recommendations on ways to address the autism epidemic and its impact on Americans. I hope to see this bill signed into law before I retire from Congress at the end of this year. Although I am retiring from Congress, I am not retiring from the fight against autism, because I firmly believe as a nation we have a collective responsibility to do everything we can to not only stop the further spread of this disease but to help the millions of children, adults and families afflicted by it.
Rep. Burton (R-IN) has chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 1997-2002.
The Canary Party writes:
Congressman Burton will need all of our help to accomplish these goals.
Congressman Burton is no longer the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, though he remains an active member. He is requesting that Chairman Darrell Issa hold hearings on the VICP. However, given all the competing interests in Washington, we need to support Congressman Burton’s leadership by showing broad community support for these hearings.
We need every single one of you to go to both Facebook pages below and express your support for hearings and a White House Conference on Autism.
We specifically want the following:
The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee should initiate promised hearings as soon as possible on the failure of federal health agencies to appropriately respond to the autism epidemic. It has been ten years since this Committee examined the role of the federal authorities in the autism epidemic. We can think of no other instance where any comparable epidemic has gone on for so long without Congressional oversight.
You can cut and paste, you can write about your personal concerns, or you can vent (politely, please), but be sure to post!
This is step one of a month-long campaign to bring Congressional attention to these issues. Feel free to help daily if you can. And please spread the word to anyone else who can help!
And see his 2005 article, Deadly Immunity.
You might also wish to look at this earlier post: