Mercury Still in Most Flu Vaccines, Despite Concern over Toxic Effects


    More than 90 percent of the 2006-2007 U.S. influenza vaccine supply contains 25 micrograms of ethylmercury from Thimerosal, a sterilizer/preservative. New laws in seven states prohibit mercury in vaccines, and 18 states are considering similar laws. The Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project again will spearhead efforts to pass legislation setting a preference for mercury-free vaccines.

    Data that warns workers of potential harm from compounds, in this case Thimerosal, warns that the compound causes immune system problems, mental retardation and neurological damage.

    For years, scientists considered ethylmercury in vaccines less toxic than methylmercury in fish, because it cleared the bloodstream more quickly. However a 2005 primate study in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) journal showed that the ethylmercury did so because it bound more readily to brain tissue.

    Another NIEHS study in 2006 showed that low levels of Thimerosal caused dendrite damage, leading to immune disorders.

    A 1991 memo to pharmaceutical giant Merck by vaccine expert Dr. Maurice Hilleman warned that U.S. children were exposed to unsafe levels of ethylmercury via routine childhood vaccinations. A 1999 report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showed that as the vaccine schedule increased, children were injected with upwards of 187.5 micrograms of ethylmercury. Concurrently, rates of neurodevelopmental disorders in children skyrocketed.

    Vaccine manufacturers phased out Thimerosal rather than recalling it, with manufacture dates through 2003 and expiration dates into fall 2005.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control often cites epidemiological studies as proof that Thimerosal has not damaged a generation of children. However, in August 2006 an expert panel presented a report to the NIEHS that identified "several serious problems" with an epidemiological study cited by a 2004 Institute of Medicine report in refuting the autism/mercury link.

    Former University of Kentucky chemistry chair Boyd Haley, Ph.D., has researched mercury extensively, and warns that Thimerosal is neurotoxic at nanomolar levels. In Dr. Haley’s 2004 report to the Institute of Medicine, "Mercury Toxicity: Genetic susceptibility and synergistic effects," he stated: "[E]pidemiological studies…which do not consider genetic susceptibility factors, autoimmunity reactions and mercury exposure during pregnancy (amalgam, thimerosal), are not able to detect a statistically significant effect, even if there is one."

    In 2006, two national bills were introduced to prohibit vaccines that contain Thimerosal. In Minnesota last year vaccine safety advocates promoted S639 and HF1505, a bill that would have set a preference for vaccines that do not contain mercury. However, the legislation was voted down in the House and tabled by the Senate. The bill will be reintroduced during the 2007 legislative session.

    Now is the time to call your state senator and representative and ask them to support the Minnesota bill to set a preference for mercury-free vaccines. If you don’t know who your legislators are, call (651) 296-2146 or go to


    List of states with Thimerosal bills

    Haley Thimerosal website & Sept. 2007 presentation

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