With the vaccines available in the U.S. today, parents can avoid vaccines preserved with thimerosal (50% mercury) for their newborns and infants. This is not the case with aluminum, which has been linked to impaired neurological development in children.
Aluminum has not replaced thimerosal as a vaccine preservative; it has always been used in vaccines.
Its purpose is to generate an immune response, thus providing a person the ability to produce adequate levels of antibodies to the vaccine being administered. Unlike thimerosal, if aluminum is removed, the vaccine will not work.
In the recent past, most kids got exposed to both thimerosal and aluminum simultaneously with the hepatitis B, Hib, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and pneumococcal vaccines. Combining mercury with aluminum increases the likelihood that the mercury will damage human tissue.
While aluminum is in the food we eat at much higher levels, it is not absorbed well through the gastrointestinal tract. When this protective gastrointestinal mechanism is bypassed, aluminum toxicity can cause serious problems.
There are currently eight childhood vaccines that contain aluminum ranging from 125 to 850 micrograms (mcg). These vaccines are administered 17 times in the first 18 months of life, an almost six-fold increase compared to the vaccine schedule of the 1980s.
According to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, based on IV feeding solutions, a child should not exceed a maximum daily dose of 5 mcg of aluminum per kilogram of weight per day. That means if a child weighs 11 pounds, the child should not exceed 25 mcg in a day. This level was determined to be the maximum safety limit based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Aluminum Neurotoxicity in Preterm Infants Receiving Intravenous Feeding Solutions."
The hepatitis B vaccine, administered at birth, contains 250 mcg.
In a 1996 policy statement, "Aluminum Toxicity in Infants and Children," the American Academy of Pediatrics states, "Aluminum can cause neurological harm. People with kidney disease who build up bloodstream levels of aluminum greater than 100 mcg per liter are at risk of toxicity. The toxic threshold of aluminum in the bloodstream may be lower than 100 mcg per liter."
So let's say an infant receives 1,250 micrograms at 2 months of age (three vaccines). Assuming a child's body contains a half liter of blood, this would put the blood level 25 times higher than the above mentioned levels.
Now people will argue whether an intramuscular injection (such as vaccines) would introduce aluminum into the bloodstream at the same level as an IV feeding solution. Unfortunately, the purpose of direct intramuscular injection is to provide rapid access to the bloodstream. This provides direct access to all target organs such as the brain.
The real eye-opener is a recently published paper where the authors investigated Gulf War syndrome based on the fact that soldiers were getting sick without deployment to the Persian Gulf region. They eventually focused on aluminum used in the anthrax vaccine. Injecting mice with aluminum at levels equal to what the soldiers received induced motor neuron death. The dose, per body weight, given to children easily exceeds what the soldiers received.
One must question whether exposing newborns to aluminum is worth the risk to protect them against a sexually transmitted disease (hepatitis B). If aluminum can cause injury to an adult, combat-ready soldier, what is it doing to newborns?
Michael Wagnitz of Madison is a chemist.