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.
In a classic political move, the committee called on scientists Alan Guttmacher from the NIH and Colleen Boyle from the CDC to testify, but in fact the committee just wanted to bully the scientists. Committee members lectured the scientists, throwing out bad science claims, often disguised as questions, thick and fast. Alas, Guttmacher and Boyle weren’t prepared for this kind of rapid-fire assault by pseudoscience.
Burton himself was the worst offender, offering anecdotes and bad science with an air of authority. He stated bluntly:
“I’m convinced that the mercury in vaccinations is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism.”
No, it isn’t. Dozens of studies, involving hundreds of thousands of children, have found the same thing: there is no link whatsoever between thimerosal and autism, or between vaccines and autism. And Burton went off the deep end with this:
“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.”
Bang bang, two false claims in 10 seconds. First he claims that mercury from vaccines “accumulates in the brain”, a statement with no scientific support at all. Then he claims that chelation therapy is the solution – a radical, potentially very harmful treatment that no sensible parent would ever force on their child. Unfortunately, some quack doctors have experimented with chelation therapy on autistic children, despite that fact that it can cause deadly liver and kidney damage, and one of them caused the death of a 5-year-old boy in 2005.