Autism Debate Affects East Texas Families, Leads To Legal Action

'Green our vaccines' was the cry of parents today in Washington, D.C. It's a fight against what the rallying parents say are harmful ingredients in vaccines.

Parents turned pictures of their autistic children toward the gathered media as the song 'Long Time Coming' played.

Those parents are urging the government to eliminate what they call toxins, used as preservatives, in childhood inoculations.

The march was led by Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic son, and her boyfriend Jim Carrey.

Studies estimate that 1 in 150 kids has autism, and that figure includes familes with autistic children right here in East Texas.

One mom who agrees with the 'Green Our Vaccines' movement spoke with KLTV 7 News, and she says there's no doubt that there is a link between mercury-based preservatives that used to be in vaccines, and her child's diagnosis of autism.

For two years, 19 year old Danny Matteucci has worked for Goodwill Industries on their assembly line. It's a job his mother never thought he'd have.

"Danny was supposed to never be able to talk, and through years and years of hard work, we got him to where he is now," says Debbie Matteucci.

"I remember him sitting in the bathtub and that was always our play time, and I couldn't get my baby to look at me or speak to me anymore."

A change, virtually overnight - a change Debbie says came after starting his vaccinations, specifically ones that contained Thimerosal, a mercury based perservative.

"I truly do believe while it might not be the only cause of autism, I do think it has some effect."

Dozens of parents agree with Debbie, including their lawyer, Randy Roberts, who is representing 50 clients suing vaccine manufacturers. "They're not against vaccines," he explains. "Vaccines are a good thing. What they're against is putting mercury in vaccines. Mercury is not a cure for any disease, it doesn't prevent any diseases."

But some doctors aren't so sure.

"Our vaccines are very safe. They've been extensively researched, especially when it comes to any association with autism, and there has been no association found," says Dr. Melanie Wick, a pediatrician at Trinity Mother Francis hospital.

Since 2001, vaccines have not contained Thimerosal, a comfort to Debbie, but certianly not enough. "I do think we have to look at how many, and how often we're giving them...had we been aware there was a possible link at the time, we may not have had to deal with this at all."

Since Thimerosal was taken out of the vaccines, autism rates have continued to rise, leaving medical experts to consider the case against Thimerosal settled. But Randy Roberts' cases are not settled yet. His clients' trial dates should be set this fall.

Tracy Watler /