Home > Safety-General, Vaccine Misconceptions > Vaccine Misconception of the day – Aluminum in vaccines

Vaccine Misconception of the day – Aluminum in vaccines


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One of the common arguments the anti-vaccine advocates use is the “toxins in vaccines” argument. They say that because some substance in vaccines is known to be toxic, such as aluminum, then its mere presence makes vaccines dangerous. What they fail to mention in almost every case however is how much of said substance is in vaccines, and at what levels is this substance toxic.

Water can be toxic to a human in high enough quantities; it’s called drowning. Oxygen can be poisonous; it’s called oxygen poisoning. The list of examples goes on and on but the take home point is this: any substance can be toxic in the right dose; and most substances will not be toxic at low enough levels. As they say the dose makes the poison. The same applies to aluminum.

So, how much aluminum is there in vaccines anyway, and is that level dangerous for babies? To answer that, the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has set up a short, concise, informative PDF that is available to all, for free, titled “Aluminum in Vaccines: What you should know“. And unlike those in the anti-vaccine camp, the Vaccine Education Center provides all their sources in the PDF itself, for anyone who wants to verify the accuracy of their report.

What they report should satisfy everyone’s curiosity.

During the first 6 months of life, infants could receive about 4 milligrams of aluminum from vaccines. That’s not very much: a milligram is one-thousandth of a gram and a gram is the weight of one-fifth of a teaspoon of water. During the same period, babies will also receive about 10 milligrams of aluminum in breast milk, about 40 milligrams in infant formula, or about 120 milligrams in soy-based formula.

So to put this in perspective: a baby will get 2.5 times the amount of aluminum from breast milk, 10 times the aluminum from infant formula, and 30 times the aluminum from soy-based formula. I know of no babies that are raised without either breast milk or formula, including the babies of each person in the anti-vaccine camp, and any baby who wasn’t vaccinated due to parent’s fear of aluminum toxicity in vaccines.

It appears to me that the anti-vaccine crowd should switch its focus from “greening” vaccines to “greening” baby formula. I hear Big Formula makes a lot of money too out of its product….!

  1. November 1, 2010 at 8:50 PM | #1

    Or Big Boob. That would be fun. (Like they need another reason to attack formula.)

  2. November 2, 2010 at 8:47 AM | #2

    Very salient point. The deer in the headlights look you get from anti-vaccine pro-disease nutters when you refute this canard is almost priceless.

  3. Mindano Iha
    November 2, 2010 at 11:06 AM | #3

    There are two relevant comments to the article. One is that in general there are no lower safety limits for injected toxins.
    The other point is that one learns at medical, nursing and pharmacy college that substances behave very differently when ingested or injected. This is an important and relevant fact.
    It is therefore futile to compare amounts of aluminium in baby formula with amounts injected in vaccines.
    When injected, aluminium affects immune response. That is the reason it is present in vaccines. However, it may affect immune response drastically so that in some cases this results in autoimmune illnesses.

    • Skepdude
      November 2, 2010 at 12:09 PM | #4

      Well of course there are no lower safety limits for injected toxins; toxins is a very general label after all. Where is the evidence for toxicity of the aluminum in vaccines, in the amounts that infants are exposed to? Without it on what basis do you refer to it as a “toxin” in the lower concentrations on vaccines, but not a toxin on the much higher concentrations on milk/formula? Simply because one is going through the stomach and the other through a needle? Let us not forget vaccines are injected in muscle tissue, not in the blood veins directly, so on what basis do you differentiate?

      What exactly is the rate of retention of aluminum from injections as compared to the rate of retention from food/air/skin contact sources? That would probably make the comparison more useful, but you seem to very quickly dismiss these other ways of being exposed to aluminum. What is your basis for doing that?

      How does aluminum injected via vaccines, behave differently from aluminum from food/air/skin contact? And why should we assume that differently automatically means “for the worse” in this scenario. Is there any evidence that aluminum injected via a needle in muscle tissue is worse for the human body? If so, please point to it.

      I cannot address you last point about the autoimmune illnesses until you link to your source; it doesn’t sound very far fetched that there may be rare side effects, but until you point to your evidence I cannot accept your statement at face value.

      • Tomas
        November 4, 2010 at 4:26 AM | #5

        The main point with the difference between ingestion and is that

        • with ingestion, the whatever content is exposed to natural points of contacts, eg. mucosa which environment is prepared to deal with it (that is to a much larger extent that with injection)
        • accordingly with injection, the natural defenses are bypassed

        The effects of injection and sheer contact also differ greatly.

        Anyone advocating the widespread use of vaccines should be presenting very very strong evidence that injection is at least not worse that ingestion.

        • Skepdude
          November 4, 2010 at 10:38 AM | #6

          Nonsense, the safety of each vaccine is studied to great extent both prior and after it has been cleared for public use.

          It is intellectually dishonest that you demand study after study, for each and every single thing you can dream off. Your imagination is limitless. What will you demand evidence for next, that injection in the morning is “at least not worse” than injection in the evening? Or maybe you’ll demand we compare the various days of the week? Or the various months? Seasons? Odd years vs. Even years?

          Where does it end Tomas?

          • Surita
            July 21, 2011 at 4:01 AM | #7

            Wowee, why so intensely defensive, I wonder…
            If you are so confident about your argument, then fine, make it and stick to it. But endless debating about this topic is as futile as it is to debate about religion – there will always be those who are fiercely for it and those who are fiercely against it…

          • Vaccian Centrian
            March 29, 2013 at 6:06 PM | #8

            Would you mind posting any studies on injected doses of aluminum on long term brain development? I was told by our pediatrician that they no longer use aluminum for babies below 3 years old. Sounds to me like they didn’t need aluminum in the first place? Aluminum is associated with significant debilitating mental problems including Alzheimer’s although for now it is only a correlation and not proven as a cause. By the way, here’s how it really works, your best bet is with the professionals 90% of the time, but just like 10% of the time McDonalds forgets to put the fries in your bag, researchers 10% of the time screw up a study by missing a key variable. These studies are very difficult and they are under pressure to show results in a very short time with limited funding. Mistakes can and always eventually do happen. It’s not crazy to question it. You’re still better off getting the vaccines, just probably want to space them out over a much longer period of time so there’s no chance of overwhelming the body with potential toxins all in one fragile year.

  4. Crocodile
    February 15, 2011 at 4:40 AM | #9

    Michel Lotito would have been proud.

  5. Elizabeth
    March 28, 2011 at 3:02 AM | #10

    Coming in late…but would like to throw forward a study published in Neuromolecular Medicine in 2007 9(1) 83-100 (Wong, Tabata, Shaw were the researchers, from UBC and Louisianna State U) Aluminum inplicated in neuron death. The researchers were not setting out to demonize aluminum either. Can’t list particulars here..have a 10 month old to look after right now.

  6. Mary Ferguson
    September 18, 2012 at 9:23 AM | #11

    There is a difference between digesting aluminum through the mouth and receiving aluminum from the arm (intro-muscular). I refer to “Current Medicinal Chemistry” article: “Experimental research clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans., in particular: a risk for autoimmunity, long-term rain inflammation and associated neurological complications etc…..), Study in “Pediatrics” – “Aluminum is now being implicated as interfering with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system and in other tissues.” According to a new study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry – (2011) “Children up to 6 months of age receive 14.7 to 29 times more aluminum from vaccines that the U.S. FDA safety limits allow.

    • Mary Ferguson
      September 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM | #12

      Mary Ferguson :
      There is a difference between digesting aluminum through the mouth and receiving aluminum from the arm (intro-muscular). I refer to “Current Medicinal Chemistry” article: “Experimental research clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans., in particular: a risk for autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation and associated neurological complications etc…..), Study in “Pediatrics” – “Aluminum is now being implicated as interfering with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system and in other tissues.” According to a new study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry – (2011) “Children up to 6 months of age receive 14.7 to 29 times more aluminum from vaccines that the U.S. FDA safety limits allow.

      Corrected spelling error – meant BRAIN inflammation.

  7. Leli
    November 30, 2012 at 9:36 AM | #13

    from the NCBI :
    The success of vaccination programs in reducing and eliminating infectious diseases has contributed to an ever-increasing number of vaccines given at earlier ages (newborns and infants). Exposure to low levels of environmental toxic substances (including metals) at an early age raises plausible concerns over increasingly lower neuro-cognitive rates. Current immunization schedules with vaccines containing aluminum (as adjuvant) are given to infants, but thimerosal (as preservative) is found mostly in vaccines used in non-industrialized countries. Exclusively, breastfed infants (in Brazil) receiving a full recommended schedule of immunizations showed an exceedingly high exposure of Al (225 to 1750 μg per dose) when compared with estimated levels absorbed from breast milk (2.0 μg). This study does not dispute the safety of vaccines but reinforces the need to study long-term effects of early exposure to neuro-toxic substances on the developing brain. Pragmatic vaccine safety needs to embrace conventional toxicology, addressing especial characteristics of unborn fetuses, neonates and infants exposed to low levels of aluminum, and ethylmercury traditionally considered innocuous to the central nervous system.

  8. Michael Polidori
    March 5, 2013 at 11:58 AM | #14

    There is no comparing ingested aluminum to injected aluminum. Absorption through the gut is estimated in various studies to be, at most, 0.2%. Injection is 100% absorption.
    What happens after aluminum becomes systemic? Brain, bones & liver are the places where it gets stuck and the kidneys get rid of the rest. I haven’t found studies defining how much each organ retains, but if you have renal problems then more will circulate available for absorption before blood levels are reduced.

    Mary Ferguson made an interesting post – “Current Medicinal Chemistry” article: “Experimental research clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans., in particular: a risk for autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation and associated neurological complications etc…..)”

    How can aluminum adjuvant be associated with or cause autoimmunity & brain inflammation? Autoimmune syndromes like MIBE and ADEM can also cause brain or other CNS inflammation. The action of aluminum hydroxide is to intensify & prolong our immune reaction to vaccine antigen. This allows vaccine makers to use less of the relatively expensive antigen in favor of the relatively cheap aluminum compound.

    Adjuvants reduce drug companies’ costs, increasing profits. But vaccine antigens are sometimes created in live tissue which is crushed, electrified or chemically dissolved to release the antigen. The resulting soup is then “purified” (it’s NEVER pure) to what is deemed an acceptable level of contaminants. Those contaminants include immune reactive endotoxins, non-self-antigen-containing cellular debris, DNA fragments, mitochondrial debris & DNA & more. Sometimes the debris is from human fetal cells, human mitochondrial debris, non-self-human antigens (such as what our immune sytems detect in a tissue transplant, requiring immune suppressant drugs to stop “rejection”… destruction of the foreign tissue.

    What happens when an infant or adult immune system encounters adjuvanted human fetal tissue debris? Fetal tissue DNA & the non-self-antigen will have a measuable similarities/differences to various other human DNA. Could the adjuvanted non-self-human-debris be a source of autoimmune syndromes? Could other immune reactive debris be a source for allergic reactions (all “allergies” are our immune systems erroneously reacting to normally innoccuous substances).

    These autoimmune reactions would occur in healthy or immune compromised individuals and may explain the explosion of autoimmune diseases we see in children and adults over the last 24 years during which our mandatroy vaccine schedule in the USA tripled.

    I can see possible connections, but I don’t have any training in immunology to guage how far off or on the mark I may be.

    If you object to my ideas please provide supporting documentation. While I’m a layperson I am intelligent and know how to read a study and can follow arguments to logical conclusions. With the information I have I can see a possible outcome of vaccinations causing autoimmune diseases and possibly acquired mitochondrial disorders… such a notion will be furiously fought by the drug industry regardless if it’s true or not, and that is the most unfortunate part of this story.

    I hope I have presented some ideas that are both original and worthy of debate… let’s get to the truth, whatever it is, and help our kids. And if it costs the drug companies their amassed fortunes, so what… let’s stop hurting our kids, make vaccines truly safe and screen kids properly with criteria designed to assist the parents and attending medical personnal to effectively evaluate kids for vaccination risks… as some of Merck’s recommendations in the 12 page warning pamphlet that is their MMR package insert.

  9. Vaccian Centrian
    March 29, 2013 at 6:08 PM | #15

    Woops, I just realized how old this thread was. Well if anyone’s still around to follow up, I’m still curious about study links

    • January 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM | #16

      Very interesting points you are bringing up. I’m currently looking at a possible link to my brothers Leigh Syndrome and his vaccinations when he was an infant. He was born normal in 1984, started to walk around 11 months and then it was like a typhoon hit him. He wouldn’t walk only could crawl and deteriorated to the point where he is now severely handicapped in a wheelchair. The “specialist” had no answers. Took some years but after countless test, MRI’s, spinal taps, etc…, he was diagnosed with Leigh Dystonia.

      I’m trying to get my mother to look into this but she doesn’t think vaccines could do this and believes it’s a genetic disorder that her genes and my father’s genes caused because that’s what the medical establishment says. Not one doctor ever looked at the possible cause being a vaccine.

      I actually found a couple cases on the VAER website of Leigh’s being caused by vaccines. It shocked me and confirmed my suspicion.

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