July 11, 2006
Altmann Proposes 'Mercury Free' restrictions for NUMC
Legislator Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck) was joined by Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern today to announce that Nassau County facilities that dispense vaccines, including NUMC, will be entirely “mercury free” in the near future.
"I am pleased to announce that I am working closely with NUMC to establish a policy to require the use of mercury-free vaccines in any county facility,” Legislator Altmann said. “Mercury is a highly toxic substance that can cause damage to the nerve and brain tissues and is especially harmful to young children who are still developing.”
Nassau County Legislator Lisanne Altmann, speaking at podium, is joined by Jim Cronin; Robert Krakow; and Suffolk Legislator Steven Stern, who all support the ban on Thimerosal.
The U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999 began to advocate the elimination of Thimerosal (mercury) from vaccines because some infants who received them were exposed to mercury at levels that exceeded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that was formally very common in vaccinations, especially pediatric vaccinations. However, over recent years medial officials have removed Thimerosal from many vaccinations, yet many still contain it, such as the common flu shot.
Thimerosal has been used in the vaccine manufacturing process since the early 1930’s, which predates the creation of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, since the 1980’s the number of vaccines given to American children has expanded while the age at which vaccinations are administered has been lowered.
Vaccines containing Thimerosal are also now largely off-limits to children under 3 and pregnant women in California. The new California law was aimed at reducing the risk of neurodevelopmental problems such as autism, which many parents believe can be traced to exposure to Thimerosal. Several large federal studies have shown no link between childhood vaccines and autism, but additional research is continuing.
In Nassau, NUMC and its clinics are under the jurisdiction of the Nassau Health Care Corporation (NHCC), which has the authority to make such a decision.
Legislator Altmann is working closely with the NHCC administration and has announced that plans to become "mercury free”are close to becoming finalized as early as next week.
"This will include the migration of the purchase of flu shots for the elderly from the County Health Departmentto the jurisdiction of the Medical Center shortly,”said Legislator Altmann.
In addition, Legislator Altmann will work with the County, as it renegotiates the terms of the successor agreement with NUMC, to memorialize that understanding in the agreement.
Last month, the Suffolk County Legislature passed Legislator Stern’s bill to ban the use of Thimerosal in its county health clinics.
"I applaud Legislator Altmann and the Nassau County Legislature for addressing this very important health issue. There have been over one thousand studies which raise legitimate questions about vaccines that contain mercury and the possible link to developmental disabilities including the autism spectrum," said Suffolk County Legislator Stern, Vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Committee. "As I had stated during our discussion in the Suffolk County Legislature as the father of two young children myself, I would always rather be safe than sorry."