The truth about vaccines and toxins: less aluminum than breast milk

Talking about vaccines nowadays seems to be more explosive than discussing abortion or the death penalty. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it, because abortion and the death penalty are really social and ethical issues and vaccine safety and efficacy is, well, science. Simple facts.

It is a sad story how the beauty of vaccines has been desecrated. And yes, I say beauty. If it were not for vaccines we would still have polio in this country and small pox would be a reality. One wonders if global travel would be as popular today if small pox silently lurked in bazaars, airports, and dusty roads?

How did we get to a point where we are on the precipice of epidemics. And yes, it’s plural. Where I live, Marin County in Northern California (the Greenwich mean time of woo) vaccination rates continue to plummet even while hard core scientific evidence of their safety blossoms in well-respectied peer-reviewed journals.  In my children’s school district in 2009 more than 7% of kindergarteners did not receive all of their vaccines because of “personal exemptions.” It is estimated that when 7.5% of children in a school are unvaccinated against a particular pathogen conditions are ripe for an epidemic. And of course, that is exactly what has happened here with pertussis. We have an epidemic.

The dissenters will tell you of the dangers of vaccines. They speak of toxins. Even though countless studies have now shown there is no link between autism and vaccines. No link between brain development and vaccines. In fact, there is no study published in a credible medical journal that supports a cause and effect between vaccines and abnormal neurodevelopment.

Others will claim that vaccine preventable diseases are not that bad. That natural immunity is better. At best they are misinformed and at worst they lie. Many of these diseases kill or maim. That’s why the vaccines were invented in the first place. I have seen people die from influenza (35,000 people die from the flu every year in the U.S.), pertussis, and hepatitis B. I have seen people left seriously impaired from chicken pox (brain inflammation), and fortunately have only seen photos of the devastation that is congenital rubella. There is a reason there is no vaccine against the common cold. It’s a pain in the ass, but that’s all it is.

And finally, some say all CDC run studies are biased because the CDC has a stake in promoting vaccines. They don’t. The CDC promotes health. The people at the CDC are paid by our tax dollars and are a highly critical group interested in science. They also promote hand washing, HIV testing, breast feeding, using condoms, and maintaining a healthy weight. There is no hidden agenda.

I am a doctor, but I am also a parent. A parent who sat beside incubators doing everything possible to help my children live. There is no way I would give my kids anything that I though would affect their nervous system. I have done the research and read the studies as well as the ingredients. And unlike most doctors who speak against vaccines, the only dog I have in the fight is protecting my kids. I am not selling an alternate vaccine schedule, a TV show, or a special brand of vitamins and probiotics guaranteed to keep you healthy.

So here are the vaccine ingredients, because that’s really what it all boils down to:

1) The virus or bacteria or toxin. The thing we are being vaccinated against. It is weakened or killed, so it doesn’t cause disease but rather stimulates the body to produce antibodies (our natural defense mechanisms). The virus/bacteria/toxin is natural.

2) Adjuvants. This is a substance that enhances the body’s immune response, basically makes the vaccine work better. In the United States the adjuvant used is aluminum hydroxide. The adjuvant aluminum is ONLY present in the following vaccines: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diptheria-tetanus-pertussis, haemophilus, HPV, and pneumococcus. The MMR, chicken pox, rotavirus, inactivated polio, and seasonal influenza vaccines DO NOT contain adjuvants. Aluminum hydroxide is also found in many medications as well as our diet. If a baby received every vaccine in the first 6 months of life she woud get 4 mg of aluminum. During the same time frame the same baby would get about 10 milligrams of aluminum if she were exclusively breast fed, about 40 milligrams if she was formula fed, and 120 milligrams if she ate soy-based formula. Let’s put that in perspective: one teaspoon (5 ml) of Maalox liquid, regular strength, has 200 mg aluminum hydroxide (it’s one of the active ingredients!).

3) Preservatives. These are present in trace amounts. Every medicine has a small amount of preservative. Click here for a full list of preservatives in vaccines, there are surprisingly few. Compare the ingredients in the MMR-II (a brand of vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella): amino Acid, Bovine Albumin or Serum, Chick Embryo Fibroblasts, Human Serum Albumin, Gelatin, Glutamate, Neomycin, Phosphate Buffers, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Vitamins to the ingredients in Tylecol Rapid Release GelCpas: Benzyl alcohol, butylparaben, castor oil, cellulose, corn starch, D&C Yellow #10, edetate calcium disodium, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Blue #2, FD&C Red #40, gelatin, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, methylparaben, propylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium propionate, sodium starch glycolate, titanium dioxide. Here’s the thing, every food in a package has preservatives, never mind soaps, shampoos, hair gel, Tylenol…even vitamins. There are more potentially dangerous preservatives in TylenolGelCap than a vaccine. For the record, I think Tylenol is a very safe drug (as long as you stay within the recommended dosing, otherwise the acetaminophen is quite liver toxic).

4) Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative and long the focus of certain autism activists. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury. This is not the same as methyl mercury, which is found in dental fillings and fish. Thimerosal may cause minor reactions at the injection site, like swelling or redness, but there is no medical evidence that the small amount of thimerosal in vaccines has ever posed any risk. Furthermore, thimerosal was removed from all pediatric vaccines in 2001, so as far as kids are concerned it’s a non-issue (it is present in a few adult vaccines such as diphtheria, tetanus, and some influenza vaccines.) Despite removing thimerosal, there has been no drop in autism rates in the past nine years. There are also many studies published in respected medical journals showing there is no link between thimerosal or vaccines and autism.

So the breakdown of what’s in a shot: no thimerosal for kids, fewer preservatives than a Tylenol and probably many granola bars, and less aluminum than breast milk.

If anyone tells you anything different they don’t know the science or have another agenda. There can be no other answer.

The info about thimerosal is easily found on the CDC web site and I have provided a link to a recent article in Pediatrics (although it is no longer in vaccines so should not be point of discussion). The dose of aluminum in Maalox and the ingredients in Tylenol come from their respective web sites. There is a link in the article for the preservative content of every US vaccine, and here are the references for the information on aluminum:

Baylor NW, Egan W, Richman P. Aluminum salts in vaccines— U.S. perspective. Vaccine 2002; 20: S18-S23.

Bishop NJ, Morley R, Day JP, Lucas A. Aluminum neurotoxicity in preterm infants receiving intravenous-feeding solutions. New England Journal of Medicine 1997; 336: 1557-1561.

Committee on Nutrition: Aluminum toxicity in infants and children. Pediatrics 1996; 97: 413-416.

Ganrot, PO. Metabolism and possible health effects of aluminum. Environmental Health Perspective 1986; 65: 363- 441.

Keith LS, Jones DE, Chou C. Aluminum toxicokinetics regarding infant diet and vaccinations. Vaccine 2002; 20: S13- S17.

Pennington JA. Aluminum content of food and diets. Food Additives and Contaminants, 1987; 5: 164-232.

Simmer K, Fudge A, Teubner J, James SL. Aluminum concentrations in infant formula. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 1990; 26: 9-11.

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29 Responses to The truth about vaccines and toxins: less aluminum than breast milk

  1. Karen Bayne says:

    Do you have any thoughts on how to talk with other professionals about this. The prevailing wind that blows through the world of doulas (at least here in Western MA) is anti-vaccine. I’m fairly sure that most people do vaccinate. I vaccinate. I’d like to move the discussion past the “blink, blink, blink” stage, but am unsure how to proceed.

    Sometimes childbirth educators (and I am one) weigh in on this issue, which I think is out of our scope of practice. I really believe people should be checking with medical professionals about this not doulas/childbirth educators. The research itself is available to all of us to read, but not always the context which you provide. The problem is that many people are so convinced that the pediatricians are the ones with the agenda.

    Thanks for this very helpful post. I will refer to it again and again, I’m sure.

  2. Jennifer Gunter says:

    Unfortunately many health care professionals have been seduced by the pseudo-science. All we can do it keep presenting the facts, and I think using analogies, like breast milk and Tylenol is helpful. Makes you think of Maalox differently! Please refer your clients here for info! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this. I work for a medical research lab that does quite a bit of vaccine development and I often find myself educating people about what vaccines are, how they work, and immunology in general (though I am lay). Unfortunately, so many people just plain ignore reason and science these days.

  4. melissa says:

    I’d like to see references cited for some of your figures, especially the aluminum content of vaccines vs breastmilk. As a health care professional, I am often asked both for my opinion and evidence. I would like to add the basis of your research to my arsenal of evidence-based medicine.

  5. Jennifer Gunter says:

    I have included the aluminum references at the bottom of the post. There is a link in the article to the preservatives. Thimerosal is not in pediatric vaccines anymore, so it is a non-issue.

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  8. Erin says:

    Thanks for the post! I am a wildlife biologist who specializes in rabies. I have the opportunity to work with the CDC and I can attest to the scientific integrity and professionalism of the CDC scientists. I am also a “granola” kind of mom – and many of my friends do not vaccinate. I am always dumbfounded by people who think that the CDC and the scientific community in general is out to get them. The same goes when people claim that the peer reviewed literature is flawed and back up their claims with anecdotal stories or weak science. It is frustrating!

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  11. the above info tells us about the danger of vaccination

  12. Estelle says:

    Thanks for a very informative post and blog (I also am a fan of yours on Twitter!). On this particular issue like on many in life, a lot of people develop opinions based on passion instead of facts. You cannot debate with people who are using passion around a topic instead of well-documented facts. Everybody has an opinion, few have a well thought one opinion. Thanks for yours.

  13. Jennifer Gunter says:

    No, the information does not at all support the claim that vaccines are dangerous. You are incorrect.


  14. Nichole says:

    Vaccines DO damage people, children, babies, families. Vaccines contain man-made chemicals that do not belong in the human body, neither do any of the cells from aborted babies, organs from animals nor any of the other junk they put in those things.

    I think it’s wonderful that the world is waking up and realizing that vaccines have no health benefit and are no longer subjecting their children to them.

    It’s easy to be pro vaccine when you haven’t witnessed your own child morph before your eyes from being injected with a chemical concoction. Both of my nephews suffered serious adverse reactions and I share the info with everyone because people deserve to know what they are subjecting their children and themselves to if they choose vaccines.

    Vaccines make money, lets face it, and that my dear is why there is such a big push for people to take them, not health. In fact, if you do some research on the actual “disease” it is meant to protect you from you will quickly find that it is not that serious a threat with a little rest, fluids and the occasional anti-biotic your little one will be over it very shortly. There are the rare cases of complications, HOWEVER, you or your child must first catch the thing you are so afraid of and then be in the category for the complication which makes it nearly impossible to have serious effects from catching anything. Where as you ARE DEFINITELY subjecting your child to a vaccine and playing russian roulette hoping they dont develop a serious reaction from it that can either seriously maim your child or even KILL your child.

    I’d rather save my child the definite risk and be proactive in helping their immune systems fight off any would be infections with the use of honey, colloidal silver, breast milk, apple cider vinegar, hylands homeopathics….. you get the idea.

  15. Jennifer Gunter says:

    All of your points are incorrect and there is no science to support them. The people who sell colloidal silver, homeopathics etc are ALSO out to make a buck, in fact their profit margins are usually much higher. There has never been a study showing any homeopathic remedy for any medical condition is effective.

    It is unfortunate that so much misinformation is out there. There are many studies funded by the NIH and other non-Pharma funds that show there is no evidence to support children are changed or harmed by vaccines. It is clear to me that you did not even read the article. The MMR vaccine I list about contains animal proteins, Aluminum (about 0.3 micrograms) and glutamate (natural) and vitamins. There is no hidden toxin.

  16. T says:

    Wow Nichole. “Vaccines DO damage people, children, babies, families. Vaccines contain man-made chemicals that do not belong in the human body, neither do any of the cells from aborted babies, organs from animals nor any of the other junk they put in those things.” And then a paragraph later you state that the diseases that vaccinations protect you from are better treated with rest and “the occasional antibiotic”. Do you not think antibiotics are man made?

    Do you really believe this world would be a better place with rampant diseases like polio and smallpox still out there? Quoted from the “vaccinate your baby” awareness campaign: Immunization is one of the most successful public health achievements of the 20th century. Due to systematic vaccination programs, smallpox has been eliminated worldwide, and cases of polio, measles, diphtheria and Hib are at all-time lows.

    As a health care professional, I find it unsettling that so many parents would choose to put their child’s (and community’s) health in danger because of unfounded research. Vaccines are a fantastic achievement. Thanks for the article.

  17. adell says:

    I think what is most important in the discussion around vaccination is that as parents and caregivers, we have a choice!

    When my preemie twins started reaching their due date we were told that they would be vaccinated. We sat down and spoke together about it, then with many different health care professionals, NICU counselors, other parents and pretty much anyone that cared to talk with us. My husband, being an avid researcher, searched any and all databases supplied by government organizations about vaccinations.

    In the end we hand picked what vaccines the twins would receive and opted out of newer add ons such as chickenpox. It was a lot of work and although patient and supportive, I could tell the entire medical team was at their wits end with our deliberations.

    I think parents should be encouraged to think about vaccinations, do research and talk to people about it. When the medical community brushes off parental fears too quickly it only grows those same fears.

  18. Dani E says:

    I love your posts doc. It scares me to see all of the people who think homeopathy can cure everything…if that were true, then none of us would ever be sick and we would all live forever. I am a nurse and more and more of my coworkers are taking this mentality, and frankly, it scares me. If we are caring for patients, it is our responsibility to protect them by getting vaccinated!!

    Keep up the good work :)

  19. I don’t often comment on blogs, but just wanted to say I completely enjoyed reading. Thanks

  20. Azure Skyyes says:

    Wow Nichole,
    You do realize that you place my infant at risk by your refusal to vaccinate. It’s not like you wear a badge that tells everyone else that your child could be harboring Measles because he’s not vaccinate.
    I believe that homopathics are a crock. There is no way that the “vibrations” of an herb can cure you. It amazes me that you believe such tripe, yet fail to see the value in vaccines that have been finely crafted to create immunity from deadly diseases such as polio and measles.
    Look back at our history before vaccines and at the deaths these diseases caused. Polio ravaged our children and those that survived were permanently crippled, see FDR. Talk to some people in their 80′s about the polio
    and measles outbreaks when they were kids, and if they had any friends that died, or were crippled, or blinded. I’d be willing to bet they’d tell you that your crazy not to vaccinate.

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  22. Stat Girl says:

    This is an EXCELLENT post. It is well researched and argued. Thank you. I am adding you to my blog roll. I am so impressed. Living close to you, I know the thinking of some of the menders of our community (if you can call it thinking) and how vehemently these parents oppose logic, evidence and reason.

  23. Allegra says:

    I agree that vaccination is all about CHOICE. We would not have a national vaccine compensation program if vaccines did not pose any risks. The ingredients ARE controversial. I don’t need to repeat what’s in them. Everyone knows Mercury is toxic. Thimerosol has been taken out of childhood vaccines. But it is still in the flu vaccine and pregnant women and babies are told to get the flu vaccine. Why does autism resemble mercury poisoning? (look it up). And…the funny thing is, according to the FDA aluminum IS toxic (see The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. Also see ASPEN study 2004). There have been studies on the dangers of aluminun in IVs. I gave birth to a micropreemie (I will be forever thankful to modern medicine. I am not a naturalpathic crazy person but I believe the 2 fields should be merged so we can have the BEST of both) and my daughter was on IV fluid for a while. The IV fluid contains mercury and there is a WARNING on the package insert about aluminum! ( There is aluminun in vaccines. The more vaccines you get (and the closer they are together) results in a higher exposure to aluminum. It is a FACT that aluminum and mercury are neurotoxins. FDA is willing to say they are when it is from other sources but all of a sudden they are not toxic in a vaccine? Please. And don’t you know that what is a safe level for one person may not be safe for another person? There should not be a one size fits all approach for vaccination! Not to mention other ingredients that a person can be allergic to (what’s with all the peanut allergies today? Peanut oil anyone? It IS used as an adjuvant in some vaccines… look it up).
    So here’s the deal: vaccines do have toxins in them. The vaccine schedule has been increased. Allergies have increased. Autism has increased. Other neurogogical disorders have increased. Behavior disorders have increased. Mercury and aluminum are serious toxins but actually they are not the only controversial ingredient in vaccines. The bottom line is that vaccines need to be researched MORE, especially when it comes to LONG TERM side effects. People think that just because they don’t drop dead immediately after being vaccinated that vaccines are safe. But what if some of the effects are not immediate? What if the potential side effects are serious but not necessarily deadly? It is a well knowm fact that pharmaceutical companies distribute and sell bad products. The trend is we don’t find out about it until 30 years later when nobody cares anymore. (see Research the history of all the drugs that have been recalled or reformulated because of serious side effects. Look up Swine Flue 1976. There was a vaccine for a swine flu (that flu was supposed to kill everyone and their grandma so the gov rolled out the vaccine propaganda and not only did the swine flu “pandemic” never materialize but many people got Guillain-Barré Syndrome from the vaccines). Here are some other problem vaccines where news about its dangers came out AFTER THR FACT: DTP, polio (SV40 canser virus in polio vaccine; polio vaccine causing polio), gardasil. Doctors also promoted smoking in our past too. (American Medical Association attacked Dr Gerson because he told his patients to not smoke. Look it up.) Learn from our history. Never make a parent feel bad for doing their research because if you do the research you will find these issues I am discussing. Sorry I am rambling I am writing this off the top of my head… also do not have time to get all the links. But you can research it yourself. We need more vaccine research (well done studies, conflict free, independent researchers).
    One more thing: I have come across many studies that show that before World War II, the majority of the infectious diseases the US was faced with (diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, measles, influenza, parapertussis, tuberculosis etc) were reduced before World War II and before there were vaccines and antibiotics for these diseases. The reasons for the reductions in rates are: better living conditions, clean water, improved sanitation, improved nutrition. Research this as well.
    Never make a person feel bad for not blindly following the recommendations of their doctor, or any person in authority for that matter.
    Ps I read the preemie primer. Excellent book.
    pps if you get enough vitamin D you will never need a flu shot. look that up as well.
    ppps if the pharmaceutical companies really care, they will create vaccines that are void of the controversial ingredients so that more people will get vaccinated. Or come up with a screening mechanism to determine who is more likely to become injured from vaccines.

  24. Jay Smith says:

    I am a mother of two children, ages 2 and 4 years of age. I have not vaccinated my children and part of my reason for this was feeling that I didn’t know enough to make well educated decisions, and I also felt that if I were to vaccinate I would prefer my children to be a little older then the recommended ages for most vaccinations. I recently checked out some library books about vaccinations prepared to have my children at least vaccinated for a few of what I think are the most serious diseases. What I am wondering is why your figures for amount of aluminum in many of the shots is so different from the amounts that Dr. Sears talks about in his book. The way I understood it in laymen terms is that much more is injected then probably stays in the system but that there is no hard evidence to prove how much does stay in one’s system, especially where infants are concerned-and if I remember correctly the amount that has been recommended to be safe is something like 25 mg/day but many of the vaccines give an infant something like 240 mg a day. I apologize for not having the book with me and hope you know the part of the book I am referring to and can answer my question. Thank you for your time.

  25. Jay Smith says:

    Here is what Dr. Sears says about aluminum online:
    Thank you.

  26. Dr. D says:

    The drop in mortality rates can not be fully attributed to the implementation of vaccination since the rates had already dropped prior to the vaccines being invented. This was most likely due to public health policies promoting good hygiene.

    The aluminum intake in breast milk and other dietary sources is not relevant to the critical thinker. Dietary ingestion and injection directly into the bodies soft tissue are completely different things.

    The mercury (thimerosal) in many flu vaccines and the aluminum in many other vaccines have been shown to be neurotoxic. Heavy metal toxicity does not affect everyone in the same way. The problem is that the government and the drug companies are not interested in finding out. Too much money is on the line.

    Should a certain amount of children be sacrificed in order to serve the “greater good?”

    Exactly how many children are being sacrificed? Those questions need to be answered.

  27. Brenda says:

    Dietary aluminum (i.e. from breast milk or Maalox) is completely different from INJECTED aluminum. Too much dietary aluminum can be excreted through the stools…injectable aluminum is much more difficult for the body to detox and is a known neurotoxin.
    Unfortunately, there are only 6 or 7 studies (I do not consider this “many” as you claim) disproving thimerosal’s implication in autism. These are retrospective/cohort studies. Not one is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the epitome of science, to truly evaluate causation. Where is the real science?
    Where are the studies showing aluminum hydroxide, ethyl mercury, or formaldehyde were ever safe to inject into a small child’s body? There are none. However, any PubMed search will reveal several animal models showing the toxicity of these ingredients. When combined with almost 70 shots a child will receive, these “minute” amounts add up quickly. And the artificial preservatives in food (as you mentioned), air/water pollution, BPA exposure, and many other environmental exposures create a perfect storm for a host of immune, neurological, and metabolic disorders.
    As a result, vaccines should not be inexcusably regarded as safe. The CDC needs to spend more money on researching why there is an increasing epidemic of autism (of which they claim they have no clue) instead of furnishing their posh multi-million dollar headquarters (our hard-earned tax dollars at work).

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