You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘mercury’ tag.

I have noticed that a lot of visitors to my blog have come from searches that make it apparent they are looking for information on whether the swine flu vaccines contain thimerosal/mercury, so I thought I would collate the information from the package inserts for each of the available shots here for easy reference.

Novartis, Influenza A (2009) Monovalent Vaccine -Licensed for persons 4 years of age and older

  • 0.5 ml prefilled single dose syringe contains less than or equal to 1 microgram mercury per dose (residual mercury from manufacturing process)
  • 5 ml multidose vial contains 25 micrograms of mercury per 0.5 ml dose (as preservative)

Sanofi Pasteur, Influenza A (2009) Monovalent Vaccine – Licensed for persons 6 months of age and older

  • Prefilled syringe, 0.25 mL, for 6 through 35 months of age – contains no mercury (no mercury used in manufacturing process) – distinguished by a pink syringe plunger rod
  • Prefilled syringe, 0.5 mL,  for 36 months of age and older – contains no mercury (no mercury used in manufacturing process)
  • Single-dose vial, 0.5 mL, for 36 months of age and older – contains no mercury (no mercury used in the manufacturing process)
  • Multi-dose vial, 5 mL, for 6 months of age and older, 25 micrograms of  mercury per 0.5 ml shot (as preservative).

CSL Limited, Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine – licensed for persons 18 years of age and older

  • 0.5 mL single-dose, pre-filled syringe – no mercury (no mercury used in manufacturing process)
  • 5 mL multi-dose vial  each 0.5 mL dose contains 24.5 micrograms of mercury

MedImmune LLC,  Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine Live, Intranasal
– (Live, Attenuated Intranasal Vaccine – LAIV) Licensed for persons from 2 years to 49 years

  • Prefilled single-dose intranasal sprayer containing 0.2 mL suspension (0.1 ml per nostril) – no mercury
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I’ve been noticing that there’s a recent new(ish) complaint against people that are concerned about safety of vaccines.  I’ve seen it in some blog posts, and seen it almost constantly in the online comment sections following various news articles and blog articles about vaccines.

The complaint is that people who question vaccines have been changing the nature of their argument over time.  According to this complaint it started with people being concerned about mercury and thimerosal in vaccines.  Over time, as thimerosal was removed (or reduced, as some critics would say) from vaccines, and as a corresponding decrease in autism was not apparent, the “anti-vaccine” people changed their argument. Now they claim that aluminum, formaldehyde and polysorbate 80, etc. are the basis for concern about vaccines.

Apparently some people find this to be some fatal flaw, and from this it apparently follows that any criticism of vaccines is trumped automatically.  But I don’t see that this point has (or should have) any weight.

First of all, points in scientific discussion and debates change over time.  Not only do they change, they ought to change in response to advances in knowledge and to changes in thinking.  Anyone who stays wedded to the first idea they had is either truly perfect, or is a little too invested in being correct.

Consider the medical quest to treat ulcers.  Physicians and researchers considered excess stomach acid production to be the cause of ulcers for decades.  They even tried crazy things like freezing the lining of the stomach to try and reduce acid production until gastric linings started sloughed off and causing lots of bleeding.  I’m glad no one got in their way and said that they couldn’t change their theory halfway through, or was upset because they modified their position in light of further experience.

Furthermore, at least with regards to asthma, allergies and autism, it is reasonable to have a heightened and continuing sense of concern about vaccines, since they are direct attempts to alter the immune system.  Lots of children with autism seem to have immunological problems, and asthma and allergies are both dysfunctions of the immune system.  I’m not remotely suggesting there is evidence of anything causal because of this, but I do think it means it is well worth thinking about and looking at vaccines carefully, since we’re manipulating the immune system in ways that are not well understood, and we’ve got a lot of children appearing with immune problems.

Secondly, the increases in neurological problems, asthma/allergies, ADD and ADHD, bipolar disorder and autistic spectrum disorders in children ARE happening concomitantly with the increases in the number of vaccines that children get.  This is obviously another concern NOT causative on its face, but why does that then make it somehow crazy to want to examine vaccines more closely, as well as their constituent parts?

And finally, if the concerns about vaccines, and their components are so ridiculous and ill-founded, then why aren’t the easy rebuttals just trotted out instead of crying not fair, they changed the game?  For myself, I’d prefer that to all these pointless charges of fallacious argument, and I’m sure there are lots of others who are listening for that as well.

David Kirby, the famous journalist who had leaked the details of the Hannah Poling case in the media in the US, spoke in the United Kingdom last night, at Regent Hall, Oxford Street, London.

I turned up a bit early: 6:10 for a 6:30 pm start, thinking that I wanted to make sure that I got a seat, expecting the room would be quite full, but I was wrong.

The talk began slightly late at about 6:45 pm, and by that time there were about fifty people there, at most.  I was amazed that in a country where there are higher rates of autism than in most of the US that so few people bothered to turn up to hear what this man had to say.

Kirby gave an excellent talk.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had seen his work ridiculed on the some of the pro-vaccinationist websites, although I had never read his book or his work at The Huffington Post.  I suppose to be completely fair, I should point out that they don’t call themselves pro-vaccinationists, they tend to call themselves skeptics, or “science-based” or “evidence-based”, implying of course that people who are skeptical about vaccines and who look at evidence don’t exist, or that it is some sort of oxymoron.  It reminds me a bit of being at university where a scholar would refer to her theory as the ‘rich, complex model’ and the theory of someone who disagreed with her as the ‘impoverished, superficial model’.

When Kirby began his talk, he made it clear that he’s not anti-vaccine, nor is he a crusader and that above all, he is a journalist who leaves the science to the scientists.  He pointed out that when he goes home at night, he forgets all about autism; he has no stake in this game and no children.  Along with this topic, he is also working on a project concerning factory-farming of animals, and is writing a book, and none of it has anything to do with autism.

He further pointed out that he doesn’t care whether it is the vaccines that are causing autism or not.  He says that he began researching this area to figure out what was happening that was causing these huge rises in autism cases, and whether it is vaccines or something else doesn’t matter to him, because he is simply working to try and uncover the cause, hoping once discovered the autism epidemic will be able to be stopped.

Kirby began by considering facts and studies that supported the idea that vaccines and autism were not related, and then he turned to those that did suggest a relationship.  He discussed the major studies that are generally considered to be evidence that vaccines are safe, and pointed out all the areas in which these epidemiological studies had methodological problems that directly called the results of the study into question – in many cases by the authors of the studies themselves.  I had already read all the studies he discussed, so I didn’t hear a lot that I didn’t already know, but it was very interesting to have all the information from these studies presented back-to-back so that one could see that as a body of evidence it wasn’t terribly convincing.

But the most amazing part of this talk was that there was no one from the press there.

Well, there was one woman, who said she was a journalist, and that she tried to get someone to commission her to attend the event and write about it, but no one was willing, so she came out of her own interest.  She  pointed out that a notification about the talk had been disseminated among the usual channels in the journalistic community, and that she was certain that the lack of press had nothing to do with people not being aware of the talk.

Meanwhile Hannah Poling is big news in the states and people are now realising that many more children seem to have the markers of mitochondrial dysfunction than the US government originally claimed.   In spite of initial comments by the government health offices that Hannah had an extremely rare inherited condition (in fact Kirby said that the test case intended to replace the Hannah Poling case turned out to have all the same markers and condition as Hannah did, although I haven’t yet confirmed this myself) that the settlement did not mean that the government believed that vaccines cause autism.

But in the midst of this big news that lots of parents are following very closely online, things in the press here are strangely, almost bizarrely silent on this matter.  David Kirby even mentioned that he had a BBC interview scheduled which was canceled, and The Daily Mail commissioned him to write a piece on this subject, which he did, which they then decided not to print.

The Daily Mail did however choose to publish this poorly researched article by Barney Calman about biomedical interventions for autism.  Calman is a journalist who seems to have unfortunately joined forces with Michael Fitzpatrick, a GP who repeatedly and zealously denies that vaccines do any harm or that they have any link to autism.  Fitzpatrick has a son with autism (a teenager who is institutionalised), which he takes special care to mention whenever he speaks or writes, as if this somehow makes his claims weightier.  In fact, Fitzpatrick was at the Kirby talk yesterday, and after Kirby presented his material and then asked for questions, Fitzpatrick hurried not to make any substantive rebuttal of anything Kirby presented, but instead to ask how it could be the case that vaccines contributed to autism when there weren’t any GPs, paediatricians or pediatric gastroenterologists who believed it.

So it would seem that the press in the UK is only willing to publish pieces that are pro-vaccine, and against biomedical treatment for autism.  It doesn’t seem to matter if those articles are even remotely factually correct, or if the primary proponents make sophomoric claims from authority that something must be true because a bunch of doctors think it’s true.

Surely if work like that is worthy of any journalistic effort, then Hannah Poling deserves her own newspaper – and yet she gets nothing in this country.  For myself, I find the silence of the press completely deafening, and I am happy to see people around the country taking notice.

Somehow lately, at every turn I find myself seeing references to medical and dental studies that claim to not only exonerate mercury as a toxic substance, but even go so far as to make it seem as though the stuff might even be someone’s guardian angel (see http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/114/3/584).

There are some scientifically uncontroversial facts about mercury (but if you accept them, you’re considered a mercury fanatic): 1) it’s extremely toxic stuff, whether in its elemental, organic or inorganic forms, 2) amalgam releases mercury vapor into the mouth, typically from its occlusal surfaces whilst eating or brushing teeth, and also in response to heat and galvanic current from the presence of dissimilar metals in other dental restorations, 3) mercury is lipophilic and concentrates in tissues in the body, especially fatty tissues such as the brain, the kidneys, endocrine glands and liver, and 4) mercury crosses the placenta and lodges in fetal tissue (some studies show in higher proportion than in maternal tissue, which seems to make it more toxic to fetuses and children).

The real point of controversy is whether the amount of mercury released by amalgams, or whether the amount of mercury contained in flu vaccines is enough to do any damage (even when combined with the enormous air pollution of mercury coming to the US from China now, as well as the exposures to aluminum and lead, which are myriad, and act to potentiate the effects of mercury).

And there are lots of good studies that give us reason to question whether mercury even in its common uses is truly safe. Have a look at Thomas Burbacher’s 2005 study using infant macaques, where he finds a lot of inorganic mercury deposits in brain tissues that have half-lives from 227-540 days as well as increases in microglia and brain inflammation that resemble that of autistic persons and Alzheimer’s patients. And all this fun from a little bit of mercury in vaccines. (see http://www.ehponline.org/members/2005/7712/7712.html)

No one has been able to show conclusively that this chronic mercury exposure is safe. Sure, perhaps over time frames of 5-7 years, maybe we only see loss of three IQ points (which is still not negligible) – but what happens when someone’s seven amalgams leak mercury into their brain for 20 years? Or 50 years? Here’s the totally honest answer that no one else wants to tell you: we don’t know (but we’re concerned). As Hume pointed out long ago, there is no way that one can SEE causality – and it seems that as time marches on, potential causal relationships seem increasingly more outrageous, until we eventually find ourselves in a position where people who find mercury at all suspect are the objects of ridicule by all under the state-sanctioned Scientism that teaches us that everything that is printed in a peer-reviewed medical journal is true.

My question is: knowing what we do about mercury toxicity, in matters of public health, why would we expose people to it at all unless we were using it carefully under stringent cost-benefit analysis to further truly vital objectives, or because it was unavoidable? I can’t imagine what the answer to this is.

Of course, in the meanwhile, I wouldn’t take out my couple of amalgams, not because I am not an alarmist, but mostly because I’m waiting for the new extra-strength, super-safe plutonium fillings to come into use here in the UK.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the last month or so concerning this latest study by Michael Pichichero et al. from the University of Rochester which was purportedly published in the February issue of the medical journal Pediatrics a month ahead of schedule in order to combat what was thought to be unscientific autism-is-caused-by-vaccines rhetoric in a fictional television courtroom drama called Eli Stone.

And the media didn’t disappoint, there were lots of reports that latched right onto the “findings” of the study. Here are some examples from The Washington Post, Science Daily and Reuters.

You can begin to understand why the hubbub erupted after you look at the misleading abstract:

“The blood half-life of intramuscular ethyl mercury from thimerosal in vaccines in infants is substantially shorter that that of oral methyl mercury in adults.”

This sounds like great news, telling us that the mercury preservative in vaccines (still currently in most of the recommended children’s flu shots) is cleared from the blood of children much more quickly than the mercury found in seafood eaten by adults is cleared from their blood. “Maybe thimerosal IS safe,” you might think, if you didn’t actually bother to read the study, “and those people who were worried about injecting mercury into the bloodstream were alarmists.”

Of course, there are some relevant bits of information that were omitted from the abstract, such as where all the mercury cleared from the vaccinated children’s blood WENT. Pichichero doesn’t actually know, as his stated aim was to evaluate the similarity of methyl (fish) and ethyl (vaxes) mercury in order to determine whether current EPA guidelines that suggest maximum exposure to methyl mercury found in fish is suitable for application to ethyl mercury in some vaccinations. He analyzed urine, blood and feces, and so therefore can only report those findings; some inorganic mercury was excreted via a one-time fecal sample from the study subjects, which seems to indicate that at least some of mercury contained in the shots was excreted in this manner, but he doesn’t know how much of the mercury that was injected was excreted via feces. There was no significant excretion of mercury via urine.

Fortunately, Thomas Burbacher, et al. can make a good guess as to where some of the mercury from the injected infants went: their brains. Burbacher’s study reached a very similar result as Pichichero’s in that the half-life of ethyl mercury in the blood was significantly shorter than that of the methyl mercury. The difference is that Burbacher also examined the amount of mercury in the brains of infant macaques that had received either ethyl or methyl mercury, and found that blood mercury levels were not good indicators of brain mercury levels. Furthermore, while Burbacher’s results are similar to those of Pichichero’s in that there does not seem to be any accumulation of mercury in the blood after thimerosal exposure, there are concerns about the accumulation of mercury in the brain.

Burbacher found that absolute inorganic mercury concentrations in the brain were approximately twice as high in the thimerosal-exposed macaques than those exposed to methyl mercury in the diet. Inorganic mercury has a very long half-life in the brain, between 227 to 540 days, depending on which region of the brain in which the mercury is deposited.

When I read the Pichichero study, I couldn’t help but wonder why he so strenuously avoided any reference to the work Burbacher et al. had done; he had, in fact, cited that same study when he noted that “…ethyl mercury readily transports to all tissues but that it has a shorter half-life.” But then when interviewed by reporters concerning his recent study, as in the Reuters article linked above, he made claims such as “Now it’s obvious that ethyl mercury’s short half-life prevents toxic build-up from occurring. It’s just gone too fast.” Burbacher didn’t find it was gone too fast. He found it was going to the brain, and there was nothing in the Pichichero study that demonstrated that he knows where the mercury went when it left the blood. He knows it did not appear in the random urine sample, and that some of it appeared in a random fecal sample, but as far as he knows, a whole bunch of it might be sitting in some tissue in the body. So it is difficult to see his statement as anything more than pure conjecture, and unrelated to anything he knows to be true, in the usual scientific understanding of the word true, and certainly unrelated to anything he demonstrated in his study.

Burbacher and Pichichero did agree that the EPA guidelines for maximum exposure to methyl mercury should not be applicable to ethyl mercury, because both substances seem to be handled differently by the body. But they seem to be parting company on what this means. Burbacher recalls that inorganic mercury in the brain is associated with an increase in microglia and notes that a study has shown an increase in brain inflammatory processes including a large proliferation of microglia in the brains of autistic patients. Whereas Pichichero seems to be holding out hope when in the conclusion of the recent study he states: “Our results suggest that a new risk assessment regarding exposure to thimerosal…should be conducted in light of the demonstrated short half-life of ethyl mercury following vaccination.”

As always, I would gently suggest that you are as informed as possible before you inject substances into your children or yourself. And I further advocate the exercise of caution and extreme critical analysis when a person whose interests might be contrary to yours advocates that you do something based on purported research findings, particularly when the findings are actually outside the purview of the study. (It is interesting to have a look at the “Research Focus” heading here).

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