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Why The Ongoing Thimerosal (Mercury) Travesty Needs To End

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The lessons learned from the ongoing saga of thimerosal are significant to all who care about vaccine safety, want justice for the injured, and to prevent future harm. The government has said they corrected the thimerosal issue and want us to believe the case is closed. But has the public been fooled with swapping one heavy metal toxicity for another? While thimerosal is still in some flu shots and is especially harmful to pregnant women, infants and children, there are increasing amounts of aluminum exposures from vaccines as more shots are added to the schedule. Like early reports about mercury, now children’s toxic profiles show alarming amounts of aluminum. And the problems don’t end with heavy metals. There are other vaccine contaminants that can cause harm, like retroviruses, formaldehyde, and aborted human fetal tissue. In short, we are in desperate need of an agency that can protect our citizens, especially children, from vaccine injuries. How can the controversy and handling of thimerosal-containing vaccines instruct us as we move forward for real reform?

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Thimerosal is the infamous mercury-containing preservative in use, to this day, in some vaccines and also in dozens of other pharmaceutical products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1-3 Public health agencies, government regulators and medical trade groups have repeatedly declared thimerosal to be safe,4,5 but the published peer-reviewed science argues that nothing could be further from the truth. For anyone who bothers to investigate thimerosal’s appalling record, there is a vast, still accumulating and compelling body of research that contradicts the public health establishment’s deceptive safety claims.

Thimerosal is almost 50 percent ethylmercury by weight. Ethylmercury is an organic mercury compound with toxicity mechanisms similar to methylmercury6 (the hazardous type of mercury in seafood). The danger posed by both types of mercury was evident in earlier eras when fungicides containing either ethyl- or methylmercury poisoned farmers, sometimes on a large scale, from the 1950s through the 1970s.7,8 Of the two compounds, the ethylmercury in vaccines is far more toxic to and persistent in the brain, where it has a propensity to accumulate as inorganic mercury,9,10 with an estimated half-life of as long as twenty-seven years.11

HISTORY OF THIMEROSAL

Before the invention of modern antibiotics and antiseptics, physicians experimented with mercury-containing compounds to try to stave off microbial pathogens. Thimerosal was born of those efforts. Dr. Morris Kharasch, a university chemist and Eli Lilly fellow, developed thimerosal and filed for a patent in June, 1929, describing thimerosal as an “alkyl mercuric sulfur compound” with antibacterial properties. Eli Lilly and Company registered thimerosal under the trade name Merthiolate later that year.

Eli Lilly researchers reported in 1931 that animals seemed to tolerate high doses of thimerosal. However, many of those animals died of evident mercury poisoning just days after the study ended. Also noteworthy is the fact that in early animal toxicity studies and many later research efforts, researchers did not assess socialization behaviors or perform cognition tests. In other words, they did not consider the possibility of mercury-induced brain damage.

During this same time period, the Eli Lilly researchers reported on the first injections of thimerosal into humans. The unlucky recipients of large doses of Merthiolate were twenty-two patients hospitalized during a 1929 epidemic of meningococcal meningitis in Indianapolis. The thimerosal had no apparent therapeutic benefit, and all twenty-two patients died—seven of them within one day of thimerosal administration. The researchers nevertheless described the experiment as a success, and a published paper stated that “these large doses did not produce any anaphylactoid or shock symptoms” (neither of which is associated with toxic mercury exposure). However, the clinician who treated the meningitis patients apparently was not convinced of thimerosal’s efficacy, stating, “Beneficial effects of the drug were not definitely proven.” Moreover, any short-term neurological or other deleterious effects of the thimerosal would likely have been masked by or attributed to the patients’ meningitis infections.

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For decades, Eli Lilly promoted its confident version of the Indianapolis results as evidence of thimerosal’s safety, paving the way for thimerosal’s inclusion in various antiseptic products, including nasal sprays, eyewashes, vaginal spermicides and diaper rash treatments. This escalation of thimerosal use in consumer products occurred despite numerous studies from the 1930s showing that thimerosal was not, in fact, “highly germicidal” and actually was more effective at destroying human cells than killing pathogens. Thimerosal never measured up to its supposed raison d’être of safely preventing microbial contamination, and studies continued to chalk up clear and unequivocal evidence that thimerosal was deadly to human cells.

THIMEROSAL IN VACCINES

Nonetheless, starting in the 1930s, pharmaceutical companies began to use thimerosal in multidose vials of vaccine to extend shelf life and lessen the risk of bacterial and fungal contamination that arises when several doses are drawn from the same vial. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines allow health providers to administer extra doses from multidose vials up until the printed expiration date “if the vial has been stored correctly and the vaccine is not visibly contaminated.”12 (The CDC does not say what to do about contamination that may not be “visible.”)

Through the 1970s and 1980s, children in the U.S. generally received eight injections of three types of vaccines—oral polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine—in their first eighteen months. The DTP vaccine contained fifty micrograms of thimerosal per shot, translating into one hundred micrograms of mercury exposure by eighteen months. In 1986, after more and more people began suing vaccine manufacturers for serious vaccine injuries primarily related to the DTP vaccine, Congress took the unprecedented step of granting vaccine manufacturers full immunity from lawsuits. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 established a compensation program “as an alternative remedy to judicial action for specified vaccine-related injuries.”13 By making it impossible for vaccine-injured plaintiffs to sue pharmaceutical companies, the result—whether intended or unintended—was to eliminate any financial incentive to make vaccine safety a priority.

By making it impossible for vaccine-injured plaintiffs to sue pharmaceutical companies, the result—whether intended or unintended—was to eliminate any financial incentive to make vaccine safety a priority.

Beginning in 1989, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) began steadily increasing the types and total number of vaccines required for school attendance, including thimerosal-containing vaccines. By 1999, the expanded vaccine schedule called for children to receive nineteen vaccine injections by age two, eleven of which contained thimerosal. Children born in the 1990s could be injected, therefore, with up to 237.5 micrograms of mercury by their second birthday, and as much as 62.5 micrograms at a single doctor’s visit.

In my book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,14 I quote school nurse Patti White, who noticed, early on, the vaccine-induced mercury overload in young children. In 1999, White testified before Congress about the thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine administered to newborns:

The elementary grades are overwhelmed with children who have symptoms of neurological and/or immune system damage: epilepsy, seizure disorders, various kinds of palsies, autism, mental retardation, learning disabilities, juvenile-onset diabetes, asthma, vision/hearing loss, and a multitude of new conduct/behavior disorders. We [school nurses] have come to believe the hepatitis B vaccine is an assault on a newborn’s developing neurological and immune system. Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier. However, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children.

School nurses were not the only ones to call attention to the mounting evidence that thimerosal-containing vaccines were having neurotoxic effects. In response to pressure from Congress and the public, the FDA conducted a review in the late 1990s that found that the amount of mercury in the childhood vaccine schedule surpassed some federal safety guidelines. Accordingly, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a lukewarm statement in 1999 about thimerosal’s potential risks. The statement’s authors called for the phase-out of thimerosal-containing vaccines “as expeditiously as possible,“ while still avowing that “the large risks of not vaccinating children far outweigh the unknown and probably much smaller risk, if any, of cumulative exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines over the first 6 months of life.”15

THE SIMPSONWOOD CABAL

A year later (June 7-8, 2000), the CDC convened a secret scientific review panel of over fifty experts who began backpedaling from the AAP-USPHS pronouncement.16 The group that met at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center near Atlanta included high-ranking CDC and FDA representatives, state and international public health officials, vaccine company representatives and others. At the outset, the meeting’s chair, immunologist Richard Johnston, expressed regret that the group had not met to consider the data sooner, “in advance of…the public health decisions [to phase out thimerosal] that were made last summer.” Further betraying his preconceptions, Johnston stated that there was “no evidence of a problem, only a theoretical concern that young infants’ developing brains were being exposed to an organomercurial.”

The group then heard a presentation by Thomas Verstraeten, a research fellow at CDC who subsequently went on to a decade-long career at GlaxoSmithKline. Verstraeten had been working up a study using data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink (established by the CDC in 1990 to study rare and serious vaccine adverse events), scrutinizing data from roughly one hundred and ten thousand children born between 1992 and 1997 and enrolled at U.S. health maintenance organizations. The study sought to assess the relationship between thimerosal exposure (at one, two, three and six months of age) and neurological damage. After the initial findings showed a possible causal link, Verstraeten reworked the study design and analyses several times prior to Simpsonwood.

Despite these apparent attempts to make the association “go away,” Verstraeten was obligated to present the troublesome finding of linear and statistically significant dose-related relationships between thimerosal exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders to the group assembled at Simpsonwood.

Although differing viewpoints emerged, many of the Simpsonwood attendees were less than persuaded by Verstraeten’s results. Some, such as John Clements of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Program on Immunization, focused more on the public relations implications. Clements stated:

I hear the majority of the consultants say…that they are not convinced there is a causality direct link between Thimerosal and various neurological outcomes. …The research results have to be handled, and even if this committee decides that there is no association…through freedom of information that will be taken by others and will be used in other ways beyond the control of this group. […] My mandate…is to make sure…that 100,000,000 are immunized with DTP, Hepatitis B and if possible Hib, this year, next year and for many years to come, and that will have to be with Thimerosal-containing vaccines unless a miracle occurs and an alternative is found quickly and is tried and found to be safe. […] How will it be presented to a public and a media that is hungry for selecting the information they want to use for whatever means they have in store for them? …I wonder how on earth you are going to handle it from here.

Despite the clear association between thimerosal exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders demonstrated by the Verstraeten study, many of the industry and public health scientists present tried to minimize the implications by voting them away. When polled at the end of the day’s discussion, most of them voted to rate the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders as “weak.” In his summary comments as meeting rapporteur, Paul Stehr-Green described Verstraeten’s results as being only weakly indicative of a safety signal—defined as “information on a new or known adverse event that may be caused by a medicine.”17 While acknowledging that the signal “deserved further investigation and…raised some perhaps disquieting possibilities,” Stehr-Green concluded that “there was not anything close to sufficient evidence to support a finding of a causal relationship.”

Pediatrician William Weil observed that “the number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before.”

Attendee William Weil (a pediatrician representing the AAP) noted that even accepting Stehr-Green’s assertion that Verstraeten hadn’t proven a link to neurodevelopmental disorders, it was alarming that he hadn’t disproven it, and there was insufficient evidence, he pointed out, to reject a possible causal relationship. He stated that “the possibility that the associations could be causal has major significance for public and professional acceptance of thimerosal-containing vaccines.” Weil also observed that “the number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before.” Another of his observations was that thimerosal in vaccines represented “repeated acute exposures” and that “the earlier you work with the central nervous system, the more likely you are to run into a sensitive period for one of these [neurodevelopmental] effects.” Finally, Weil pointed out the limitations of epidemiological studies, calling for further indepth animal and developmental neurotoxicity studies and stating: “Some of the really gutsy questions from a person who is very concerned about neurodevelopment cannot be answered out of this.” At the same time, Weil cautioned others not to overly minimize or “play with” the VSD data. Weil was the only reviewer present to rate the association between thimerosal and the neurodevelopmental outcomes as strong, giving it a four on a scale of one to six (where one was weakest).

…CDC moved aggressively to hastily gin up five poorly designed epidemiological studies to disprove the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The groupthink on display at Simpsonwood primarily illustrates that most public health and medical experts were itching to exonerate thimerosal, regardless of the science, and continue with business as usual. Following the Simpsonwood meeting, CDC moved aggressively to hastily gin up five poorly designed epidemiological studies18-22 to disprove the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders. Written by industry scientists, the published studies focused solely on one injury (autism), and four out of the five were done on foreign populations with minimal exposure to thimerosal. Three of the five studies were published in a compromised journal, Pediatrics, which receives a significant portion of its revenue from vaccine-makers. In 2002, the AAP dutifully “retired” its 1999 joint statement on thimerosal.23 In January 2013, the AAP went even further in several articles in Pediatrics, going on record in favor of exempting thimerosal from an international treaty on the elimination of avoidable mercury exposures.24

The notion that “trace amounts” of a substance as highly toxic as mercury might be benign is exceedingly misleading.

THE FALLACY OF TRACE AMOUNTS

Even when vaccines do not contain thimerosal as a preservative, manufacturers use it in some single-dose and multidose vaccines to impede bacterial growth during the manufacturing process.5 The CDC states that “when thimerosal is used this way, it is removed later in the process” and only “trace amounts” remain (no more than one microgram per dose).25

The notion that “trace amounts” of a substance as highly toxic as mercury might be benign is exceedingly misleading. In a seminal 2014 publication in the prestigious journal Lancet Neurology, toxicology experts Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan observed that the developing human brain is uniquely vulnerable to mercury and other neurotoxins, often “at much lower exposure levels than had previously been thought to be safe.”26

Discussing methylmercury, the Lancet authors also noted that developmental neurotoxicity occurs at far lower exposure levels than “the concentrations that affect adult brain function.” Other investigators have argued that there may be no meaningful safety threshold for methylmercury.27 Given the body of research indicating that ethylmercury is more toxic than methylmercury and that both have comparable mechanisms of toxicity, it stands to reason that warnings about the risks of lower exposure levels would also apply to ethylmercury.

A 2012 Italian study showed that ethylmercury-containing thimerosal diminished the viability of human cells in the lab at a concentration one-fiftieth that of methylmercury.28Although thimerosal’s apologists like to state that ethylmercury disappears from the bloodstream more quickly than methylmercury, this is no evidence that it has cleared the body. Ethylmercury migrates more rapidly to and then lingers in the organs.29

A study that analyzed hair samples from babies’ first haircuts found that children with autism who had received thimerosal-preserved vaccines excreted lower levels of mercury into their hair as infants compared with normal, same-aged children also receiving these vaccines, suggesting that the mercury had lodged in the autistic children’s brains and was hindering neurological development.30

OPEN SEASON ON PREGNANT WOMEN

Thimerosal passes more easily from a mother’s bloodstream through the placenta than does methylmercury.31 Fetal cord blood mercury levels are typically about double the mother’s mercury blood levels.32 This is cause for concern for developing babies in light of the CDC’s 2004 recommendation that all pregnant women in any trimester get flu shots. By 2012–2013, uptake of flu shots during pregnancy had steadily increased to approximately 50 percent.33 Manufacturers still preserve millions of flu shots with massive bolus doses of thimerosal (about thirty-six million flu shots containing twenty-five micrograms of mercury in the 2017-2018 flu season),34 meaning that children born since 2004 have been increasingly likely to be exposed to thimerosal in utero.

A 2017 CDC study reviewing data from the 2010–11 and 2011–2012 flu seasons linked spontaneous abortions to flu vaccines, finding that women vaccinated with the inactivated influenza vaccine had 3.7-fold greater odds of spontaneous abortion within twenty-three days than women not receiving the vaccine.35 For women who received the H1N1 vaccine in both seasons covered in the study, the odds of spontaneous abortion in the month after receiving a flu vaccine were 7.7 times greater. The vast majority of flu vaccines available during the seasons studied were multidose formulations containing twenty-five micrograms of mercury.

THIMEROSAL WORLDWIDE

While the thimerosal debate has carried on in the United States, children around the world have never stopped receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines. The mindset revealed by Simpsonwood attendee John Clements of the WHO—who described a “mandate” to vaccinate one hundred million children “this year, next year and for many years to come” with thimerosal-containing vaccines—has not changed. In fact, the medical community continues to argue that the benefits of keeping thimerosal in vaccines outweigh the risks and that thimerosal is “critical” for low-resource countries that rely on multidose vials as the most affordable option.36 One of the AAP’s former presidents has asserted that, for the good of the global community, the Academy’s pro-thimerosal position is a “no-brainer.”37 The WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety states that “no additional studies of the safety of [thimerosal] in vaccines are warranted.”38

The global health authorities making cavalier and single-minded pronouncements on “life-saving vaccines” should consider the bigger health picture. For example, exposure to toxic metals such as mercury can contribute to malnutrition and, conversely, malnutrition may also increase susceptibility to mercury toxicity.39,40 Mercury is also a potent immunosuppressant, which has implications in low-resource settings where children already face numerous other health challenges and environmental pollutants.41

THE TIME IS NOW

The medical establishment’s defense of thimerosal’s safety has proven highly successful in tamping down deeper investigation into thimerosal and the vaccine industry. Perhaps because major pharmaceutical companies (the makers of vaccines) are among the biggest advertisers in the U.S., the mainstream press has accepted these government orthodoxies and ignored the ample evidence showing that thimerosal is toxic. In fact, the thimerosal saga illustrates the aggressive, knee-jerk rejection by the press, the medical community and allied financial interests of any scientific information suggesting that established medical practices are harming public health. Nevertheless, continuing to wait for more research is not a reasonable public policy option. Thimerosal is dangerous to human health and should immediately be removed from all vaccines (as well as other pharmaceutical and cosmetic products), both in the U.S. and globally.

 

REFERENCES
1. Geier DA, Sykes LK, Geier MR. A review of thimerosal (Merthiolate) and its ethylmercury breakdown product: specific historical considerations regarding safety and effectiveness. J Toxicol Environ Health B 2007;10:575-596.
2. Food and Drug Administration. “Mercury in drug and biologic products.” https://worldmercuryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MercuryinDrugsandBiologicsFDAupdated_2009.pdf.
3. World Mercury Project. “Mercury in medicine.” https://worldmercuryproject.org/mercury-facts/mercury-in-medicine/.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Thimerosal in vaccines.” https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/index.html.
5. Food and Drug Administration. “Thimerosal and vaccines.” Last updated Jan. 5, 2018. https://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228.
6. Risher JF, Tucker P. Alkyl mercury-induced toxicity: multiple mechanisms of action. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 2017;240:105-149.
7. Al-Tikriti K, Al-Mufti AW. An outbreak of organomercury poisoning among Iraqi farmers. Bull World Health Organ 1976;53(Suppl):15-21.
8. Hilmy MI, Rahim SA, Abbas AH. Normal and lethal mercury levels in human beings. Toxicol 1976;6:155-159.
9. Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Grant KS, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T. Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methymercury or vaccines containing thimerosal. Environ Health Perspect 2005;113(8):1015-1021.
10. Dórea JG. Integrating experimental (in vitro and in vivo) neurotoxicity studies of low-dose thimerosal relevant to vaccines. Neurochem Res 2011;36(6):927-938.
11. Rooney JP. The retention time of inorganic mercury in the brain—a systematic review of the evidence. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2014;274(3):425-435.
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2011;60(2).
13. National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. https://www.congress.gov/bill/99th-congress/house-bill/5546.
14. Kennedy, RF Jr. Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing; 2015.
15. Joint statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). Pediatrics 1999;104(3).
16. Scientific review of Vaccine Safety Datalink information. Simpsonwood Retreat Center, Norcross, GA; June 7-8, 2000. Available at: https://worldmercuryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Simpsonwood-Documents.pdf.
17. European Medicines Agency. “Signal management.” http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/regulation/general/general_content_000587.jsp&mid=WC0b01ac0580727d1b.
18. Verstraeten T, Davis RL, DeStefano F et al. Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases. Pediatrics 2003;112:1039-1048.
19. Stehr-Green P, Tull P, Stellfeld M, Mortenson PB, Simpson D. Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: lack of consistent evidence for an association. Am J Prev Med2003;25:101-106.
20. Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M. Association between thimerosal-containing vaccine and autism. JAMA 2003;290:1763-1766.
21. Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB et al. Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics2003;112:604-606.
22. Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics 2004;114:584-591.
23. Orenstein WA, Paulson JA, Brady MT, Cooper LZ, Seib K. Global vaccination recommendations and thimerosal. Pediatrics 2013;131(1).
24. Cooper LZ, Katz SL. Ban on thimerosal in draft treaty on mercury: why the AAP’s position in 2012 is so important. Pediatrics 2013;131(1).
25. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding thimerosal, mercury, and vaccine safety.” Last reviewed Feb. 2013. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-thimerosal-color-office.pdf.
26. Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol 2014;13: 330-338.
27. Rice DC. The U.S. EPA reference dose for methylmercury: sources of uncertainty. Environ Res 2004;95:406-413.
28. Guzzi G, Pigatto PD, Spadari F, La Porta CA. Effect of thimerosal, methylmercury, and mercuric chloride in Jurkat T Cell Line. Interdiscip Toxicol 2012;5(3):159-161.
29. Harry GJ, Harris MW, Burka LT. Mercury concentrations in brain and kidney following ethylmercury, methylmercury, and Thimerosal administration to neonatal mice. Toxicol Lett 2004;154(3):183-189.
30. Holmes AS, Blaxill MF, Haley BE. Reduced levels of mercury in first baby haircuts of autistic children. Int J Toxicol 2003;22(4):277-285.
31. Leonard A, Jacquet P, Lauwerys RR. Mutagenicity and teratogenicity of mercury compounds. Mutat Res 1983;114(1):1-18.
32. Stern AH, Smith AE. An assessment of the cord blood: maternal blood methylmercury ratio: implications for risk assessment. Environ Health Perspect 2003;111(12):1465-1470.
33. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women—United States, 2012-13 influenza season. MMWR 2013;62(38):787-792.
34. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal influenza vaccine supply for the U.S. 2017-2018 influenza season. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaxsupply.htm.
35. Donahue JG, Kieke BA, King JP, et al. Association of spontaneous abortion with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine containing H1N1pdm09 in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Vaccine2017;35(40):5314-5322.
36. Sifferlin A. Experts argue to keep thimerosal in some vaccines. TIME, Dec. 27, 2012.
37. Tavernise S. Vaccine rule is said to hurt health efforts. The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2012.
38. World Health Organization. “Thiomersal in vaccines.” http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/committee/topics/thiomersal/Jun_2012/en/.
39. Anetor GO. Waste dumps in local communities in developing countries and hidden danger to health. Perspect Public Health 2016;136(4):245-251.
40. Chakrabarti SK, Bai C. Effects of protein-deficient nutrition during rat pregnancy and development on developmental hindlimb crossing due to methylmercury intoxication. Arch Toxicol 2000;74(4-5):196-202.
41. Tsai MS, Chen MH, Lin CC, et al. Children’s environmental health based on birth cohort studies of Asia. Sci Total Environ 2017;609:396-409.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2018.

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Johnson & Johnson Found To Have Knowingly Allowed Asbestos In Their Baby Powder

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Johnson and Johnson have recently lost lawsuits for negligence in knowingly allowing carcinogenic substances in their talc-based hygiene products.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we starting to turn the page on an era where human health and safety are not the prime considerations in the manufacturing of consumer products?

We are starting to awaken to the fact that it seems to be the rule, and not the exception, that large Western corporations put profits above human health considerations. The only time they seem to give any regard to human health concerns is when their forecasts of potential lawsuits down the road would likely exceed the cost measures needed to ensure the safety of their product.

Johnson & Johnson is just one of a long line of corporate perpetrators who believed that covering up and lying about known health concerns would make better business sense than taking the time and resources to actually address those health concerns within their products.

Contaminated Baby Powder: The Height Of Indignity

One would think, regardless of an understanding that the bottom line is a priority for most private companies, that the health and safety of a nursing mother and her newborn child would be sacrosanct for any industry. The reality is that this is simply not the case, even though J&J could have mitigated this problem from the start.

Companies that mine talc are required to take extra steps to ensure the absence of asbestos in their talc. Instead, J&J allegedly went to great lengths to fake it.

Not only did the company know about the asbestos contamination, evidence suggests, but J&J also failed to warn its customers about the link between Baby Powder and cancer or replace its talc with a safer alternative. As a result, J&J guaranteed its customers’ exposure to asbestos.

And regardless of their size or numbers, asbestos fibers are lethal at any capacity. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed repeatedly, there is no safe level of exposure. (source)

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The Testimony of Scientist James Webber

Baby Powder’s contamination with asbestos (a mineral that naturally occurs near talc) has long been the subject of lawsuits. But only in recent years has evidence begun to unravel J&J’s defense – that the company had no idea – and threatened its success in lawsuits to come.

In March, a California jury awarded $29 million to Terry Leavitt, a woman who said that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-powder-based products caused her terminal mesothelioma. Environmental scientist James Webber testified in her high-profile California trial and made these observations:

During several hours on the stand, Webber explained how he ran tests that showed “clear” evidence of asbestos contamination in the mines from which J&J sourced talc.

“The testing I have seen [shows] that it was present at least as early as 1971 and up through the late 1990s,” said Webber, who ran an asbestos laboratory in New York state.

Despite denying it publicly, J&J had observed this contamination in internal memos. Its notes dismissed the amount of asbestos in its talc as “but a trace,” Webber alleged. But that was just an optimistic interpretation of superficial testing, he said: the tests used methods too weak to detect microscopic asbestos fibers. Webber insisted the actual tests results revealed there could be millions of asbestos fibers per gram of talc.

And J&J’s inaccurate reports were allegedly only the tip of the iceberg. In some instances, Webber said, photos attached to J&J’s reports revealed that “they had been seeing it and not reporting it.”  (source)

And It’s Getting Worse

The $29 million verdict, in California Superior Court in Oakland, was the latest defeat for the healthcare conglomerate facing more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits nationwide. And things may be getting even worse for J&J, according to ZeroHedge:

Johnson & Johnson shares are down over 5% after Bloomberg reports that, according to people with knowledge of the matter, the U.S. Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder…

Now, a grand jury in Washington is examining documents related to what company officials knew about any carcinogens in their products, the people said.

The Takeaway

It seems as though corporations have long been willing to take the calculated risk of short-cuts and denials instead of ensuring that their products are safe for public use. My suspicion is that a part of our collective awakening process will be issuing in a new business paradigm in which human health and safety become paramount.

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Awareness

Prescription Infant Formulas Found To Be Contaminated With Aluminum

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple brands of prescription infant formula were found to contain high levels of aluminum.

  • Reflect On:

    Should we be questioning the quality of products that come from pharmaceutical production? Do we veer away from natural methods of raising children more than we should? At what cost?

You may not think aluminum is a big deal, but it is. For anybody who has looked into aluminum toxicology, it’s quite clear and apparent that it has no place inside of any living biological organism. Putting it simply, it wreaks havoc on our biology. High amounts of aluminum have been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, with experts in the field believing that aluminum brain accumulation may be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s also been discovered within the brains of MS patients, and some of the highest aluminum content ever recorded in brain tissue has also been discovered in people with autism. Aluminum is associated with several diseases. But an adult body can do a great job of flushing out aluminum.

Despite the fact that aluminum has no place within earth’s biota, it’s still present in many of our medications, our food, and even in the water that we drink due to contamination since the industrial revolution. Aluminum inside the body is a new phenomenon and still understudied. Again, there is a threshold, and aluminum that is injected via vaccines doesn’t exit the body–there is strong evidence that it remains inside the body and ends up in distant organs and eventually inside of the brain. If you want to access more studies on that topic, you can read this article I published that provides them and goes into more detail. You can also watch this interview with Christopher Exley, where he also points to that fact.

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has shown that multiple popular infant prescriptions are contaminated with aluminum. You may be asking how much aluminum, but the authors make it a point to stress that there are no safe amounts of aluminum levels that can be inside of a human body, let alone a newborn baby. That being said, the amounts found are listed within the abstract of the study:

Historical and recent data demonstrate that off-the-shelf infant formulas are heavily contaminated with aluminium. The origin of this contamination remains to be elucidated though may be imported via ingredients, packaging and processing. Specialised infant formulas exist to address health issues, such as low birth weight, allergy or intolerance and medical conditions, such as renal insufficiency. The aluminium content of these prescription infant formulas is measured here for the first time. We obtained 24 prescription infant formulas through a paediatric clinic and measured their total aluminium content by transversely heated graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry following microwave assisted acid/peroxide digestion. The aluminium content of ready-to-drink formulas ranged from 49.9 (33.7) to 1956.3 (111.0) μg/L. The most heavily contaminated products were those designed as nutritional supplements for infants struggling to gain weight. The aluminium content of powdered formulas ranged from 0.27 (0.04) to 3.27 (0.19) μg/g. The most heavily contaminated products tended to be those addressing allergies and intolerance. Prescription infant formulas are contaminated with aluminium.

Another very important point made right off the bat by the authors:

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Human exposure to aluminium is a serious health concern. Aluminium exposure in infants is understandably a burgeoning issue. While infant exposure to aluminium continues to be documented, its consequences, immediate and in the future, have received only scant attention and research is required to understand the biological availability of aluminium through formula feeding. For example, how much aluminium is absorbed across the neonate gut and its subsequent fate, including excretion.

There is already too much aluminium in infant formulas and herein we have measured its content in a large number of prescription formulas, products which are fed to vulnerable infants in their first months of life. Many of these products are heavily contaminated with aluminium.

As for the specific infant formulas, you can refer to the study. The researchers obtained 24 prescription infant formulas via the Paediatric Clinic of Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, United Kingdom. The ready-to-drink and powdered products were new, ready-to-be used and unopened samples. These formulas are for babies with some sort of growth restriction, like for preterm infants or infants who have poor weight gain. There were also powdered formulas for allergies and intolerances and powdered formulas with additional amino acids.

The authors contacted each manufacturer and expressed that they denied knowing that there was any aluminum in their products, which means it’s still a mystery as to their source. The authors hypothesize on a number of ways that aluminum could be entering into the formulas.

In their conclusion, the authors emphasize that:

Where possible, breast milk feeding should be prioritised, as the aluminium content of breast milk is invariably an order of magnitude lower than in formula feeds. Where infant formulas are the only source of nutrition for many infants in their first weeks and months of life, aluminium ingested in formula feeds will be the major contributor to their body burden of aluminium. The last thing that vulnerable infants fed specialised formulas for their specific nutritional/medicinal need is additional aluminium in their diet.

Detoxing

There is a lot of information out there on how a person can detox from aluminum and other heavy metals. There are multiple studies, and based on what I’ve looked into, water with high amounts of Silica are effective in draining aluminum out of your body and brain. Herbs like cilantro and substances like chlorella and spirulina are also great for removing some metals. The information is out there, so be sure to do your research.

The Takeaway

It’s concerning to think about what these corporations are doing. Again, aluminum should hold no place in our society, it should’ve remained well below our surface as part of the Earth’s crust for a reason. It wasn’t until humans began digging it out and using it for a number of things, irresponsibly I might add, that we started to see the health implications which still go largely ignored by the medical community.

In fact, heavy metal accumulation and detoxification of aluminum haven’t been addressed at all, which is odd given the fact that heavy metal accumulation is linked to a variety of diseases.

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Awareness

9 Studies You Should Be Aware of Before Trying The Ketogenic Diet

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The Ketogenic diet is a popular fad diet that promotes quick weight loss and symptom management for bodies that are dealing with poor lymph, kidney and digestion health.

  • Reflect On:

    Based on the studies that are emerging, is our desire for quick weight loss more important than living a long and healthy life? Are we learning about these diets primarily through those with strong ties to upholding these diets?

The ketogenic diet has popped up as a popular approach to weight loss in the last few years. Is it successful at that? Sure, it is. I’ve experimented with the diet myself years ago when I was looking to lose some belly fat. I was entering into ketosis in a different way than most, as I was not eating any animal products, but it does in fact work.

But like any animal product based diet, what are the consequences of eating so much food that does not truly jive with our human bodies? Not only that, is fast weight loss more important than keeping our morality rate down?

In the last few years, we’ve reported a lot on the Keto diet and the various ways it can be done. We have explored the studies, the results and in some ways, we supported it. But lately, I have been thinking about how supporting this could actually be encouraging people to jump into these diets, including the paleo diet, when in reality these diets increase mortality rates and are not healthy for the human body.

It became a thought in the back of my mind, I have always strived to put the best information out that I can through this platform to promote good health. And so we must look at that, even if that means upsetting some people who currently are on paleo or keto and are seeing some good weight loss or symptom management. The truth is, like the many people I’ve seen crash on these diets after a few years, I want people to know the truth of what’s going on out there. And how we can get beyond diets that symptom manage, and instead get onto diets that truly heal.

Anytime we have fad diets, which paleo and keto are, we see products and bias pop up all over the place to support the continuation of these trends. It becomes less about health and more about upholding an identity or a business.

So as I recently looked into what experts are saying about these diets, I came upon two important videos I think everyone should check out. Both have been embedded below. Remember, it’s not that I care what you choose in your own life, or that I feel there is a right or wrong, it’s that I believe we should be informed and I wish to use this platform to promote as best a message as I can.

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The Videos

Thanks to Plant-Based News for creating such a good channel and resource of information on YouTube.

In this video, several plant-based health experts talk through 9 nutrition studies that would be of interest to low carb keto diet proponents. To read the 9 studies, click here.

Next up, Dr. Kim Williams (past President of the American College of Cardiology) shares his insights about the ketogenic.

Related Articles

Diabetic Shares Why He Quit ‘The Ketogenic Diet’

Doctor Explains Why She Never Recommends The ‘Ketogenic Diet’

The Biggest Misconception About The ‘Ketogenic Diet’…You Don’t Actually Have To Follow It

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