(Extensions of Remarks - April 26, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E576]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                            HON. BILL POSEY

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                         Friday, April 26, 2013

  Mr. POSEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw the attention of the 
Congress and the American people to the Autism epidemic that is 
tragically ravaging too many of America's children.
  April is Autism Awareness Month, and I am pleased to join with 
parents, siblings, grandparents, special education school teachers, 
medical care providers, and interventionists to draw attention to the 
rapidly expanding autism community.
  When I was young, autism was virtually unheard of. In the 1980s 
rarely did you meet someone who knew someone with autism. Yet, in the 
1990s there was an explosion of autism. Indeed, in the course of just 
my lifetime, Autism Spectrum Disorder has grown from a very rare 
condition to--according to the Centers for Disease Control--a 
developmental disorder affecting 1-in-50 school aged children. And, 
tragically, the rate for school aged boys is a disturbing 1-in-31.
  On December 19, 2006, the effort to address this epidemic took a 
major step forward as President Bush signed into law the bipartisan 
Combating Autism Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues and 
the Autism community to reauthorize this program next year. Though the 
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee each year produces a 
strategic plan to address Autism, the billion-dollar allocation of 
resources to autism has not been evenly invested among genetic, 
epigenetic, and environmental factors. I must concur with the experts 
who have been willing to speak out, that the epidemic increase in the 
rates of autism are not a 'genetic' epidemic. Indeed, you don't have 
genetic epidemics. While there is likely a genetic component to many 
who have been diagnosed with Autism, we must seriously consider that 
there are likely several key factors in autism.
  Also, so some who have suggested that the increase in Autism is due 
to better diagnosis, you don't go from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 80 in three 
decades due to better diagnosis alone. And, if that were the case, 
where are the tens of thousands of autistic adults in their 40s, 50s 
and 60s. While better diagnosis may be a factor, common sense says 
there is a real increase and something is causing it.
  While some may be borne with Autism, there are many parents who 
testify to the fact and present cases where their children were 
progressing normally but something triggered a regression where they 
lost speech, abilities, and regressed from developmental milestones 
that they had earlier met. Was that regression due to external factors 
such as medical injury, exposure to environmental toxins such as lead 
or mercury, or was it adverse reactions to medications that lead to 
high fevers, brain inflammation or seizures? We must get answers to 
these questions.
  I was pleased to participate in a November 2012 House Oversight and 
Government Reform hearing on the Federal Response to Autism. That was 
one of the most attended hearings I have participated in since coming 
to Washington in 2009. Indeed at this hearing it was standing room 
only, and overflow rooms had to be used to accommodate the public. This 
was a much anticipated hearing from many parents of children suffering 
from Autism who want clear and unbiased answers to questions 
surrounding the epidemic.
  I, like many in Congress, were frustrated with the lackluster 
response from the federal witnesses, particularly the CDC witness that 
was evasive and took more than five months to respond to the 
Committee's questions. The responses that finally arrived this month 
were incomplete, often evasive, and showed a complete lack of urgency 
on the part of the CDC. I was also disappointed that the federal 
government witnesses did not have the courtesy to remain at the hearing 
to listen to the testimony of the public panel representing non-profit 
organizations and academic institutions focused on Autism and 
Asperger's Syndrome.
  Parents, grandparents, educators, health professionals, and highly 
functional adults on the autism spectrum are frustrated at the federal 
response to this epidemic. There is much more that we could and should 
be doing.
  Some believe that toxins like thimerosal, which is 50% ethylmercury, 
have played a role in the rise in autism and neurodevelopmental 
disabilities. In 2000 there was near universal agreement that mercury 
should be removed as a preservative for vaccines. Yet, today, nearly 
half of all annual flu vaccines, which are recommended for children and 
pregnant women, still contain mercury as a preservative--not simply 
trace amounts of mercury. It's 2013! Why are we still injecting 
ethylmercury into babies and pregnant women?
  I have been deeply disappointed in the failure of the CDC and the 
Department of Justice to see that Dr. Poul Thorsen is extradited to the 
United States to stand trial for orchestrating an elaborate scheme 
stealing more than $1 million from the CDC-Denmark grant. That money 
was supposed to be used to investigate the causes of autism and 
developmental disabilities. Instead it was diverted to personal use by 
Dr. Thorsen. Thorsen was a key author on 22 of the CDC's key studies 
related to autism and developmental disabilities.
  Before coming to Congress in 2009, I heard from some in the autism 
community who have advocated for a retrospective study to examine 
whether there are different health outcomes when comparing vaccinated 
children and unvaccinated children, including autism and chronic 
conditions. I have continued to hear these requests over the past four 
years. At the hearing I asked CDC if they had conducted such a study 
and they said they've done dozens of studies related to autism but 
never have looked at a comparison of vaccinated versus unvaccinated. In 
fact, a recent study they published compared fully vaccinated children 
to those who were not fully vaccinated, but for some reason it did not 
include data on completely unvaccinated children. Seems like common 
sense to do a study comparing vaccinated children vs unvaccinated and 
this week I was pleased to be joined by my colleague Rep. Carolyn 
Maloney (D-NY) in introducing H.R. 1757, The Vaccine Safety Study Act. 
This would direct the National Institutes of Health to conduct a 
retrospective study of health outcomes, including autism, of vaccinated 
versus unvaccinated children. That should bring an answer to this 
decades long question.
  Whether the number is 1-in-88 twelve-year-olds, or 1-in-50 school-
aged children, or 1-in-33 young boys, we can all agree that the number 
is devastatingly high. We must overturn every stone to get to the 
bottom of this epidemic. We cannot afford to see this epidemic grow. We 
must examine every possible risk factor to protect the world's greatest 
resource: our children. And, we must invest to develop the best 
interventions to help those who are autistic.