June 14, 2007
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.---A national autism debate has hit close to home.
Today the federal government is hearing the first of nearly five thousand cases claiming there's a link between mercury found in vaccines and autism.
News 12 talked to a North Augusta woman who has no doubt about that.
From her North Augusta home, Maurine Meleck can listen daily to the landmark autism case being argued in a Washington, D.C. courtroom.
The Arizona-based Cedillo family is the first of nearly five thousand families to have their case heard in a federal courtroom. They allege their daughter Michelle's severe autism was caused by the mercury preservative thimerosal found in an MMR vaccine she got has a baby.
Meleck's nine-year-old grandson Joshua has a milder form of autism, but she too believes his autism was caused by a vaccine containing thimerosal that Joshua received as a baby.
"There's been no question in my mind for years," she said.
Meleck first began researching the connection back in 1999 when Joshua was diagnosed with autism as a two-year-old. That's when she says she found what she believes to be the problem.
"There's one thing they have in common, all of these children," she said. "The increase has just gone up, up, up, and it began with the increase of childhood vaccines."
While there is no scientific proof to date linking thimerosal and autism, Meleck and thousands of activists across the country believe they know the culprit.
"Mercury. Thimerisol has never been proven to be safe. It's the second most toxic element on this earth and we're injecting it into babies," Meleck said.
Meleck has spent close to half a million dollars on Joshua's care and vows she will keep fighting for him and children in future generations to come.
"These children deserve a chance. Families deserve a chance in court to prove their side," she said.
That first lawsuit now being heard in Washington could take several weeks to decide.