Interviewer: How in the world did you become interested in autism?
Dr. Boyd Haley: I was drug into it by some patients who were parents of autistic children who had heard a lot about mercury toxicity, and I had made a proposal to a group of physicians that were studying gulf war syndrome.
They were studying it based on the fact that the French didn’t get gulf war [syndrome] because they did not get vaccinated with the American or European vaccinations.
The American soldiers and British soldiers that got gulf war syndrome were those who got vaccinated, not necessarily those who landed in Saudi Arabia or in Iraq.
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In a proposal, they were asking me to do some diagnostic testing for them, which I am very good at doing with regard to mercury toxicity. I mentioned to them that they should look at the thimerosal in the vaccines because that’s very toxic. If the gulf war syndrome was indeed caused by the [dangers of] vaccination, then thimerosal would be the most likely agent to cause this.
I knew that because as a young soldier in 1964 I got a lot of vaccinations. I was going to a lot of unpleasant places, so they gave me 9-10 shots in one day and I got very sick. I am very allergic and I have very violent reactions to thimerosal [allergy] when I am exposed to it. Evidently, these guys went in front of our vaccine board, and some other people, and mentioned that Dr. Haley of Kentucky said we ought to look at the mercury in the vaccines because they couldn’t remember the name thimerosal. They were soundly ridiculed for thinking that there would be mercury in any vaccine.
Then at the break they got the PDR and the Merck Index and read what thimerosal was and how toxic it was. I was then asked to write a letter to the FDA and the English (British) equivalent to explain to them why I thought thimerosal might be cause for gulf war syndrome, which turns out to be Lou Gehrig’s disease for the people who understand it. In many cases they have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
So, I wrote those letters–that would be back in 1997-98–and I never heard back from either one of the people I sent the letter to. But in the conversations that got around with people discussing this, someone in the autism association–some parent of an autistic child–heard this and asked me to go to Louisville. So it was Dave and Betsy Gibbs who were associated with the Cure Autism Now group and asked me to come to Louisville and present my information on thimerosal, so I did. Then they paid to have me fly to San Diego and give a talk at a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) conference. They had me hooked then-I couldn’t get away from them.
Interviewer: Why should we stop working with thimerosal?
Dr. Boyd Haley: Well, we should. We are talking now about recommendations from the IOM (Institute of Medicine) that we should not do any more research on thimerosal, not consider it causal [in causing thimerosal autism], and spend our money on other promising avenues. They never told us what these other more promising avenues were.
The situation is that the scientists, that’s a totally non-scientific approach that the IOM suggests. Scientists will have to have hypothesis-based research. So you say, here’s our hypothesis. When I first talked in front of the Institute of Medicine back in, I think it was a 2000 meeting, I told them: I don’t know if vaccines cause autism. But if vaccines do cause autism, then it’s going to be the thimerosal [flu shots, for example] in the vaccines that would be the most likely candidate. That’s my hypothesis. They asked me, did my data prove that thimerosal caused autism at that time, and I said no, it’s a hypothesis and we need to study it. They kind of agreed with it. They said that it was a plausible hypothesis that needed studying.
So we start doing this studying and then all the research started coming out saying that yes, thimerosal is extremely neurotoxic. We showed that these kids can’t excrete mercury. That means they are recreating it. That means that it’s mostly likely something that is bothering them. Dr. Dee showed that it inhibited the production of methyl-b12, which autistic children can’t do. Dr. Jill James showed that the glutathione levels were slow in these kids. Glutathione is what is used to remove mercury, indicating that this may be an explanation why we found they couldn’t excrete it. And then you had Dr. Maddie Horning show that mice injected with thimerosal, some of them, if they were an autoimmune susceptible mouse, would develop autistic type behaviors. So we had all this data that came up behind us which said yes, thimerosal looks like it’s causal.
Then you go to the 2004 IOM meeting and they dismiss all of this research–this strong scientific evidence that you know thimerosal is involved. They say, don’t look at that anymore and don’t fund it anymore. They killed us at NIH (National Institutes of Health). NIH will not fund anyone looking at thimerosal as being causal of autism.
I think sometimes you have to say that anybody that would specifically expose a child to toxins–that would enter their lives, render them incapable of going to school, and having a full life–I would consider that person a criminal. Anybody that would understand that this was very likely to happen, and not push hard to find a way to treat these children to get them a part of their life back, at the very least, I would consider them criminal. Therefore, I have a very, very low opinion of the committee, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that made this decision.