Rich Tucker

Small actions sometimes have long-term consequences.

In 1981 a fire broke out in the state office building in Binghamton, N.Y. It spread smoke containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) throughout the 18-story building, which was closed as the state attempted to clean it. A month after the blaze, a frustrated Gov. Hugh Carey wanted his people to get back to work. He claimed PCBs weren?t dangerous, and even offered ?to walk into Binghamton or any part of that building and swallow an entire glass of PCBs.?

 On second thought, the governor decided to skip the PCB cocktail. The cleanup ended up costing $47 million and the building remained closed until 1994.

 Childhood vaccinations are another seemingly small action that may -- may -- have long-term consequences.

 The federal government recommends that, during their first two years of life, all children be vaccinated against 11 diseases. This involves as many as 20 shots. The government insists this is safe and necessary to protect children. Many parents disagree.

 They point to the alarming rise in autism. Today one child in 166 is autistic, up from one in 10,000 in 1989. This rise seems to track with the introduction of a series of new vaccines around 1990. Many of those vaccines contained thimerosal -- a preservative that?s half mercury.

 In 2004 the government?s Institute of Medicine wrote a report that supposedly proved there wasn?t any connection between thimerosal and autism. According to the Food and Drug Administration?s Web site, ?The committee concluded that this body of evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, and that hypotheses generated to date concerning a biological mechanism for such causality are theoretical only.? In other words, there?s no proof that thimerosal leads to autism -- it?s only a theory.

 But if the government wants to insist that thimerosal is safe, it apparently doesn?t have the courage of its convictions. ?The FDA is encouraging the reduction or removal of thimerosal from all existing vaccines,? its Web site says. ?Much progress has been made to date. The FDA has been actively working with manufacturers, particularly those that manufacture childhood vaccines, to reach the goal of eliminating thimerosal from vaccines.?

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for