The Growing Crisis of Mercury in Childrens' Vaccines
by Lyn Redwood, RN,
Over 60 years ago the FDA
approved a little known product, thimerosal, to be used as a preservative.
Today many people question whether this
product is responsible for the current epidemic of children diagnosed with
learning disabilities and autism.
Current thinking suggests
that exposure to mercury comes primarily from environmental and dietary
sources, dental amalgams and rare catastrophic events. Recently, however,
another common and pervasive source of mercury exposure has been
identified--thimerosal. Thimerosal was first approved as an additive by
FDA in the 1930s. It has been utilized as a preservative to prevent
bacterial contamination in a number of blood and biological products,
including vaccines, immune globulins, and over-the-counter eye and nose
drops. The danger that thimerosal presents is that it contains 49.5% ethyl
mercury by weight. Mercury is a potent human toxin that has long been the
source of many serious health problems. Mercury is especially toxic to the
rapidly developing fetal and infant brain. While acceptable levels for
exposure are published by Federal Agencies, mercury is a poison at any
Chemically, thimerosal is
a water soluble, cream colored crystalline powder. In the human body
thimerosal is metabolized to ethylmercury and thiosalicylate. The
literature on thimerosal metabolism and excretion is old, and
toxicological information is limited. Therefore, it has been assumed that
the toxicity of ethylmercury is equivalent to that of methylmercury until
further information is available. In the past there have been case reports
of toxicity and death following inadvertent massive exposures.
The 1997 FDA
Modernization Act required the FDA to compile a list of drugs and foods
that contain intentionally introduced mercury compounds, and to provide a
quantitative and qualitative analysis of the mercury compounds on the
list. Although FDA's mission is to ensure purity, safety, potency and
efficacy of individual products, such analysis had never been a required
part of the permitting process. In its review, which took two years to
complete, the FDA discovered that infants who receive thimerosal–containing
vaccines at several visits may be exposed to mercury in amounts higher
than recommended by Federal guidelines for total lifetime mercury
Infant vaccines that
routinely contained thimerosal were DPT, Hep.B and HiB. Following the CDC
recommended vaccine schedule, infants were exposed to up to 187.5 mcg of
ethyl mercury, depending on the vaccine manufacturer. Total exposure
through 18 months could be as high as 237.5 mcg. The dose
thought to be allowable by EPA is 0.1 mcg per kilogram per day. If an
average 5 kg infant received all thimerosal-containing vaccines at his 2
month visit, the exposure that day would be 62.5 mcg ethyl mercury, an
exposure that is 125 times above the EPA's guideline.
In its analysis, the FDA
multiplied EPA's daily exposure levels of 0.1 mcg per kilogram by 180
days, even though the exposures had occurred on only 4 days during this
time period. It is perplexing that the FDA chose to average an infant's
total exposure to mercury over the first six months of life, as though
children were being exposed on a daily basis, and reported that amounts
were only slightly above one of the Federal guidelines. According to
toxicologists, because of the inherent pharmokinetics of mercury and its
long half-life in the body, it is not possible to legitimately calculate
the effect of a large injected bolus dose as though it were a small amount
administered over a longer period of time. This method of analysis
fraudulently minimizes the levels of exposure. If one were to look at the
mercury in thimerosal from a daily dose perspective, not one vaccine
containing thimerosal would be able to meet EPA's guidelines for safe
exposure. That's like claiming that taking 4 Tylenol a day at 6-hour
intervals for a month is an 'equivalent dose' to taking 120
Tylenol in one day.
At the same time the FDA
findings were released, The American Academy of Pediatrics published An
Interim Report to Physicians on Thimerosal in Vaccines. In this document,
the AAP and Public Health Service agreed that the use of thimerosal-containing
vaccines should be reduced or eliminated, stating that any potential risk
was of concern. While the document discussed much of the uncertainty
regarding the potential effect of mercury exposure in vaccines, it clearly
stated that there was no evidence of harm having occurred from this
exposure. The Academy also recommended, 'Infants and children who
have received thimerosal-containing vaccines do not need to have blood,
urine, or hair tested for mercury, since the concentrations would be quite
low and would not require treatment.' If no testing for mercury was
recommended, then how could one know, for a fact, that there is 'no
evidence of harm'?(1)
It is interesting to note
that thimerosal was introduced only a few short years before Dr. Leo
Kanner described a new mental disorder which differed 'markedly and
uniquely from anything reported' before. In its early history autism
was diagnosed more frequently in affluent families, but became more evenly
distributed socioeconomically by the 1970s. This apparent widening in
demographics paralleled the increasing availability of vaccines to all
children through federally sponsored programs. It has been during this
same time period--the 1980s, and especially the 1990s--that we have
witnessed a tremendous increase in the occurrence of the spectrum of
In the late 1980s and
early 1990s the vaccine schedule was amended to include both Hepatitis B
and HiB vaccines. Each vaccine is administered to infants 3 times during
the first six-months of life. Their addition to the vaccine schedule
potentially tripled an infant's exposure to mercury if they received all
thimerosal-containing vaccines. An additional concern is that these
vaccine exposures are occurring on top of prenatal exposures from
thimerosal-containing immune globulin preparations administered to RH-
mothers during pregnancy, and in addition to dietary, dental and
Recent information from
large epidemiological studies conducted in mercury-exposed populations
suggests that intermittent large exposures may pose a higher risk than
small daily exposures. In one study, lower scores on memory, attention,
language and motor function tests were found years later in children who
had been exposed prenatally to intermittent bolus doses of methyl mercury
from dietary exposure at levels that had been previously thought to be
In a recent
investigation, mercury levels were obtained before and after exposure to
12.5 mcg of ethyl mercury in hepatitis B vaccine in 15 preterm and 5 term
infants.(3) There were no differences between the preterm and term infants
with respect to mean pre-vaccination levels, although post immunization
mercury levels were significantly increased in both groups of infants.
Post vaccination levels in preterm infants were 3 times higher than those
of term infants, a difference that was statistically significant. Of
interest, one preterm infant developed a post vaccinal mercury level of
23.6 mcg/L, which falls within the range known to result in
At the June 21, 2000
Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices meeting held in Atlanta,
Georgia, Dr. Thomas Verstraeten of the National Immunization Program
presented a review of vaccine safety datalink information on thimerosal-containing
vaccines. Over 400,000 children participate in the vaccine safety datalink
program. From this database, 100,000 eligible children's charts were
reviewed to determine exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines and
specific neurodevelopmental outcomes. Key findings were statistically
significant associations between cumulative exposure to thimerosal-containing
A recent report in the
Weekly Epidemiology Record, January 2000, reviewed the use of thimerosal
as a vaccine preservative. The report stated that 'this safety
assessment cannot currently exclude the possibility of subtle
neurodevelopmental abnormalities in infants from a cumulative exposure to
thimerosal in vaccines.'(5)
There are many unknowns
with respect to thimerosal. These include: a paucity of data on the
metabolism, excretion and toxicity of ethyl mercury, the levels of risk to
the fetus from maternal exposures and to the infant from exposure
occurring during critical windows of neurological development, and the
effect of large intermittent bolus exposures to ethyl mercury verses daily
low dose oral exposures to methyl mercury. Current investigations are
underway from both governmental and private agencies in an effort to
address these concerns.
Many questions concerning
mercury exposure from thimerosal in vaccines remain unanswered, and there
is little consensus as to how best to proceed to diagnose, or effectively
treat elevated mercury levels in children. The effectiveness of chelating
agents in crossing the blood brain barrier has become a topic of scrutiny,
as well as the ability to treat a long-standing exposure which occurred
during a critical time in development.
At a recent Defeat Autism
Now (DAN) Conference a number of physicians who specialize in the
treatment of children with autism and developmental disorders reported
many children with elevated mercury levels had remarkable improvement in
behavior, speech and cognition when treated with a program to reduce
oxidative stress and metal body burden.
What to do
Despite this information,
the FDA has only 'encouraged' vaccine manufacturers to reduce or
eliminate thimerosal. Dr. Neal Halsey at the Institute for Vaccine Safety,
Johns Hopkins, summed up this issue best in a recent article on thimerosal
published in the Hepatitis Control Report, Summer 1999 issue. 'We can
say there is no evidence of harm (from thimerosal), but the truth is no
one has looked.'(6) Until more research is available, it would be
prudent to use thimerosal-free vaccines. [Or avoid vaccines
Currently, there are
still 30 thimerosal-containing vaccine products on the market. The general
public, as well as physicians and health professionals, need to be aware
that thimerosal-free vaccines exist. Parents research the safest car seats
and toys for their children, but do not realize that they also need to
research vaccines as well. Thimerosal has been eliminated from latex
paints, merthiolate and many other over-the-counter products because of
serious toxic effects in infants from these products. Although FDA has
only focused on thimerosal in infant vaccines at this time, all vaccines
that contain this product should be scrutinized.
information on mercury and autism: www.safeminds.org or http://tlredwood.home.mindspring.com
To a review paper on
Autism and Mercury: www.canfoundation.org/newcansite/sciwatch/invest.html
For vaccine products and
thimerosal content: www.immunize.org/news.d/thimtabl.htm
information on vaccines go to www.909shot.com
1. American Academy of
Pediatrics. Thimerosal in vaccines-An interim report to clinicians.
Available at http://www.aap.org/new/thimpublic.html.
2. Grandjean P, Weihe P,
White, RF, Debes F. Cognitive performance of children prenatally exposed
to 'safe' levels of methylmercury. Environ Res. 1998; 77:
3. Stajich, G, Loez, G,
Harry W, Sexson W. Iatrogenic exposure to mercury after hepatitis B
vaccination in preterm infants. J. of Peds. 2000; 136 (5); 679-681.
4. Grandjean P. Weihe P,
Nielse, J. Methylmercury: Significance of interuterine and postnatal
exposures. Clin. Chem. 1994: 40 (7) 1395-1400.
5. Thimerosal as a
vaccine preservative. Wkly Epi Rec. 2000; Jan 14; 75 (2): 12-16.
6. Uproar over a
little-known preservative, thimerosal, jostles U.S. hepatitis B
vaccination policy. Hep. Control Rep. Summer, 1999. Vol. 4, No.2.
Symptoms of Mercury Exposure and Autism
Mercury toxicity is
cumulative, resulting in delayed neurotoxicity which can manifest months
after exposure. Many children with autism experience normal development
and then regress.
Susceptibility to mercury
also appears to have a genetic component--boys are more affected than
girls by a ratio of approximately 4 to 1. Autism and ADD/ ADHD also
occurs more frequently in boys than girls.
Although the major
toxicity of mercury compounds is expressed in the central nervous system,
the immune and gastrointestinal systems are also commonly affected. The
same abnormalities in these systems have been found in children with
Other shared symptoms of
mercury exposure and autism include:
Speech and hearing deficits, including difficulty speaking and
Sensory disturbances, including numbness in the mouth, hands and
feet, sensitivity to loud noises, aversion to touch and over or under
response to pain.
Cognitive impairment and difficulty dealing with abstract ideas and
complex commands, social withdrawal, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive
Disruption of serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and acetylcholine
Damage to Purkinje cells and granule layer of the cerebellum in the
brain, as well as the amygdala and hippocampus, while other areas are
Pervasive and widespread dysfunction of enzymes, transport
mechanisms and structural proteins.
Damage to the immune system triggering autoimmune processes,
including shifts in the Th2 lymphocytes.
Increased susceptibility to certain virus strains, which may be
related to a decrease in NK cell function.
Gastrointestinal disturbances and inhibit digestive enzymes and
peptides. Many children with autism develop gastrointestinal problems and
have difficulty digesting dairy and wheat products.
Support for Mercury Detoxification
(2,3-Dimercaptosuccinic Acid) is a sulfhydryl-containing substance with a
long history of use as an orally administered agent for toxic heavy metal
poisoning. Extensive clinical research since the 1950s demonstrates that
DMSA accelerates elimination of mercury from the brain and effectively
removes mercury from the blood, liver and kidneys. DMSA has also been
approved for use in the U.S. for the treatment of lead intoxication in
While DMSA is the
nutritional agent of choice for systemic mercury detoxification, EDTA
(Ethylene-Dia-mine-Tetra-acetic Acid) is well-documented for its ability
to safely remove many heavy metal toxins, including mercury.(5) EDTA, the
active ingredient in VRP's Oral ChelatoRx, is known to remove mercury from
cell surfaces and the blood, but not from within cells, whereas DMSA is
very effective in removing intracellular mercury and lead, especially from
the brain. Evidence suggests that EDTA is less effective at removing
mercury when used alone, but use in combination with DMSA may speed up the
process of removal.
Since use of DMSA and
EDTA may result in the depletion of certain elements, it is highly
recommended that when using either or both of these formulas one also
supplement with a potent vitamin and mineral formula, such as VRP's
Advanced Essential Minerals or Essential Minerals. Minerals should be
taken with meals and not with the chelating agents formula(s).
Klaassen CD. Heavy
Metals and Heavy-Metal Antagonists; Chapter 69; pp. 1615-1637; in Goodman
and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics (6th Ed.); 1980.
Aposhian HV. DMSA and
DMPS – Water Soluble Antidotes for Heavy Metal Poisoning.
Ann. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol.; 23: 193-215; 1983.
Pangborn JB. Mechanisms
of Detoxification and Procedures for Detoxification.
Doctor's Data, Inc., and Bionostics, Inc., Chicago, IL., (708)
Ziff MF, Ziff S and Hanson M.
Dental Mercury Detox. BioProbe,
Gordon, GF. EDTA safe in treating patients with mercury toxicity.
Townsend Letter, Feb/Mar 1997.
Mercury Poisoning Vaccine Lawsuit Filed in US
A Texas law firm has
filed the first known civil case involving the use of thimerosal-containing
vaccines. The case, Counter, et al v. Abbott Laboratories, et al, (Cause
No. GN 100866, 200th District Court – Travis County, Texas) was filed by
Waters & Kraus, LLP, a Dallas, Texas-based law firm. The suit alleges
that the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, used recently in more than
30 childhood vaccines, has caused mercury poisoning in many children
The symptoms of mercury
poisoning are, in many cases, identical to the symptoms of autism,
although the suit does not allege that all persons suffering from the
symptoms of autism do so as a result of mercury poisoning. However, many
children suffering from mercury poisoning have been previously diagnosed
with autism due to the similarity of symptoms.
Children have been
exposed to cumulative levels of mercury from the vaccines that exceed
threshold safety levels that have been established by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency.
In many instances,
children carry unmistakable evidence of mercury poisoning and the symptoms
of mercury poisoning were first manifested after receiving vaccines
tainted by thimerosal. In many cases, children exhibited normal
neurological and other developmental patterns until such time as the
cumulative dose of mercury caused irreparable damage to both the
neurological and the general developmental process.
Waters & Kraus
anticipates that a significant number of individual cases against the
vaccine industry will be filed in the near future.
information in this article is not intended to provide personal medical
advice, which should be obtained from a medical professional, and has not
been approved by the U.S. FDA.
Copyright 2001 by Vitamin
Research Products, Inc. (VRP) The use of information found in Vitamin
Research News for commercial purposes is prohibited without written
permission from VRP.