Thursday, April 5, 2012

Demystifying Vaccine Ingredients - Formaldehyde

There seems to be a lot of fear and confusion surrounding many of the ingredients (PDF) that are listed as being in vaccines. Many of them have long, scary or hard to pronounce chemical names, like polyethylene glycol. Others just sound a little disturbing, like chick embryo fibroblasts. Then you have more familiar chemical names that have some manner of negative connotation associated with them, such as formaldehyde.

Generally, in discussions about such ingredients, those who are in some manner opposed to vaccines will say something about "the toxins!" What they actually mean is generally unclear. Just as unclear, at times, is what the supposed toxin is supposed to do; how is it supposed to hurt people? They may not be certain what it does or why it is bad, but they know it is bad and that's that. I thought I might turn my hand, then, toward trying to understand, from a lay perspective, what these ingredients are, how they are used and whether they really are, as claimed, "toxic". Let's start with formaldehyde.

What is Formaldehyde?

Microscopic molecule or cute Disney robot?
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a rather strong odor, made up of a carbon atom, two hydrogen atoms and an atom of oxygen, CH2O. It has very potent antibacterial and antifungal properties. Many textile industries use formaldehyde in their production processes. It is used to create resins and adhesives found in products like plywood. Carpet manufacturers use it. Crease-resistant fabrics contain formaldehyde. Facial tissues, paper towels, napkins, paints, foams, insulation all utilize formaldehyde. Perhaps its most famous use is in embalming, the preservation of dead tissues, at least for a short while.

With the ubiquitous manufacture and use of this chemical, questions about its safety naturally arise. OSHA has rather extensive guidelines on its safe use and health effects. Acute, short-term exposure to large amounts can be fatal. Long-term chronic exposure to inhaled or topical formaldehyde can result in respiratory illnesses, skin irritation and has long been a suspected carcinogen. In 2011, the U.S. government changed its designation from "reasonably likely" to cause cancer in humans, based on cancer studies in animals, to "known carcinogen". However, these health issues are primarily a risk for those who regularly work with large, industrial quantities of the substance; they are exposed to much higher levels than the rest of us.

How Are We Exposed?

I won't go into industrial exposure, as it does not apply to the majority of us, but in addition to off-gassing from products like carpet, upholstery and combustibles, formaldehyde is all around us. The NIH Report on Carcinogens, 12th Edition, profile on formaldehyde states that it is in the "air, soil, food, treated and bottled drinking water, surface water and groundwater". Our primary route of exposure is breathing it, indoors or outdoors. Much of this inhaled formaldehyde comes from car exhaust, tobacco smoke, power plants, forest fires and wood stoves. Outdoors, we are exposed to anywhere from 0 to 100 parts per billion (ppb) every day. Indoors, it can be as much as 500 to 2,000 ppb (temporary housing such as that used after hurricane Katrina measured from 3-590 ppb). To a smaller degree, we ingest it in our food and water (the average American diet contains about 10-20mg of formaldehyde from things like apples, carrots, pears, milk, etc.), as well as some exposure via cosmetics.

What many people may not know is that our own bodies produce and use formaldehyde as a part of our normal metabolism (Final Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Formaldehyde [PDF], 2010). When we are exposed to methanol (e.g., via inhalation or ingestion of foods like citric fruits and juices, vegetables or fermented beverages), our bodies break it down into formaldehyde and other byproducts. Our bodies produce formaldehyde as a result of DNA demethylation (an important process for controlling gene expression, e.g., in developing embryos) and other biological processes. It is such a regular part of human metabolism, that our normal, naturally produced blood concentrations are generally about 2-3μg of formaldehyde per gram of blood (or about 2.12-3.18μg/mL)*. And it is actually a pretty important chemical; our bodies use formaldehyde to form DNA and amino acids (Toxicological Profile for Formaldehyde [PDF], ATSDR, 1999).

Role in Metabolism

Formaldehyde plays an essential role in our metabolism. As part of the metabolic process, formaldehyde, whether from an external source or produced by our bodies, is converted into formate (PDF) by the enzyme formaldehyde dehydrogenase. The resulting formate can then be eliminated in the urine, further broken down into CO2 and exhaled, or used by our cell machinery to synthesize nucleotides and nucleobases, such as purines and thymidine.

Purines include two of the four basic building blocks of DNA: adenine and guanine. When formaldehyde is converted into formate, the body can then use it to synthesize these basic building blocks of life.

Likewise, thymidine, also called deoxythymidine, is integral to life. It is a nucleoside, which is a class of compounds that are components of nucleic acids; in other words, you need thymidine to make the nucleic acid thymine. They also perform a lot of other important functions. Nucleosides mediate hormone signaling and play a role in blood pressure and energy transfer, among other things (Jucker, 1993). Formaldehyde provides your body with the compounds necessary to synthesize thymidine. Just like with purines, if your body stopped using formaldehyde to make these basic compounds, well, all of your worries would disappear, since you'd be dead.

Even before the advent of industrial uses of formaldehyde, humans, as with every other animal on Earth, had been exposed to formaldehyde through the foods they ate, the environments in which they lived and their own metabolic processes. They developed the means to use the chemical for their own cellular function, as well as the ability to get rid of excess amounts that would otherwise be toxic.

How Much Is Too Much?

We know that formaldehyde is actually pretty darn important for life. We also know that too much of it can be a bad thing. But just how much is too much? When do we need to start worrying?

A good place to start is to figure out what is the NOAEL, or No Observable Adverse Effect Level. That is the largest dose at which there are no significant adverse effects among those exposed to the substance in question. Thankfully, the EPA has looked at that and extrapolated from animal experiments what a safe level of formaldehyde exposure should be. According to their calculations, a human could consume 0.2 mg/kg of formaldehyde every day, in addition to what their own body produces, without showing any adverse effects, such as weight loss, and that is factoring in a lot of safety buffers; the real safe exposure level is likely around 10-100 times higher than that. But, this is the EPA; they like to play it safe. Similarly, Health Canada lists a NOAEL for indoor air concentrations of formaldehyde of 615 μg/m3, though for avoiding observable respiratory effects in children, they set the safe level for 8-hour indoor exposure at about 50 μg/m3. Again, these levels include pretty big safety buffers, with the level at which adverse effects first become apparent being much, much higher. Serious effects, like death, don't occur until even higher levels.

It has also been observed (PDF) that low-level chronic irritation and damage is reversible, that damage tends to be localized to the specific point of exposure and that it does not produce any negative effects on reproductive health or in fetuses. Carcinogenic effects appear to be only related to inhalation, affecting tissues along the respiratory pathways. But even then, there is little data in the literature showing a consistent causal relationship. Any cancerous effects, then, appear to be primarily at rather high levels of exposure.

In the end, small exposures (but still higher than average daily exposure) probably will not do you much harm beyond some irritation or minor tissue damage; it's the bigger amounts you really need to worry about.

What About Vaccines?

That brings us to vaccines. Just how much formaldehyde are we talking about? Why is it even used?

The first thing to make clear is that not every vaccine contains formaldehyde. In vaccine production, it is used to kill or inactivate the antigens being used. Because of its anti-microbial properties, it cannot be used in any of the "live" vaccines (e.g., MMR, rotavirus, varicella, and some flu vaccines), or else they would be rendered useless. Only inactivated vaccines use formaldehyde during the production process. Once the bacteria or viruses are inactivated, the formaldehyde is diluted out, leaving only minute amounts.

So how much are we talking? Not too long ago, I provided a table of all approved vaccines and their thimerosal content. I got the numbers from the package inserts, where available. It seemed to work well, so I've done the same thing for formaldehyde. Here are the formaldehyde contents of the approved vaccines (I'm only showing those that are on the recommended vaccination list):

Click to enlarge

Looking at the recommended schedule of vaccines from the CDC, let's pick the vaccines from that list that a child might receive in their first 6 years of life (picking the highest amounts, just for illustration). Note, not all of these are actually required for school entry and lower formaldehyde content vaccines are available for most of these:
  • HepB - Recombivax - 3 doses (birth, 1-2 mos. and 6-18 mos.) - 7.5μg/dose
  • DTaP - Infanrix - 5 doses (2 mos., 4 mos., 6 mos., 15-18 mos. and 4-6 yrs.) - 100μg/dose
  • Hib - ActHIB - 3 doses (2 mos., 4 mos. and 12-15 mos.) - 0.5μg/dose
  • IPV - IPOL - 4 doses (2 mos., 4 mos., 6-18 mos. and 4-6 yrs.) - 100μg/dose
  • Influenza - Fluzone - 7 doses (6 mos., 12 mos. and yearly 2-6 yrs.) - 100μg/dose
  • HepA - Havrix - 2 doses (12 mos. and 6-18 mos. after first dose) - 100μg/dose
That's all of the vaccines on the recommended schedule for 0-6 years that contain formaldehyde. If a child got all of those doses all at once (which they never would), they would get a total of 1,824μg, or 1.824mg, of formaldehyde. A 3.2kg (~7lb) newborn with an average blood volume of 83.3mL/kg would naturally have, at any given time, about 575-862μg of formaldehyde circulating in their blood. By the time they are 6 years old (~46lb or 21kg), they'll naturally have 3,562-5,342μg of formaldehyde in their blood. Bear in mind that the formaldehyde from each shot will not build up in their bodies from shot to shot, as it is very rapidly (within hours) metabolized and eliminated as formate in the urine or breathed out as CO2.

So what's the most a child might get in a single office visit? That would probably be at their 6 month visit (when they are, on average, 16.5lbs or 7.5kg) with HepB, DTaP, IPV and flu, for a total of 307.5μg. That is about 160 times less than the total amount their body naturally produces every single day*. Compare that to the 428.4-1,516.4μg of formaldehyde in a single apple.

Now, some might try to claim that the formaldehyde in vaccines is different from the formaldehyde in your body, but they are wrong. Formaldehyde, whether it is in a vaccine or your body, consists of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom bound to a carbon atom. The chemical structure is the same.

In Conclusion

Formaldehyde has a lot of scary connotations and images associated with it. It's very easy to let that fear lead us astray and blow things out of proportion. But when you step back and look at things, you realize that, where formaldehyde and vaccines are concerned, there really is nothing to be afraid of. The amount that is present is so small as to be only a negligible exposure, one that the body very quickly handles by either using it for normal cell functions or getting rid of it completely. The beginnings of adverse effects aren't even seen until exposed to many times the residual amounts present in vaccines. While reductions in the amount of environmental exposure are a good thing, the tiny amounts in vaccines are not a health concern.

The bottom line is, put things in perspective and you'll find that what sounds scary really isn't.

[Edited to add, per Ren's request: 1kg = 1,000g = 1,000,000mg = 1,000,000,000μg

Here are some real-world examples of those weights (technically masses):
1kg = a 1L bottle of soda
1g = a paper clip
1mg = a very, very small snowflake
1μg = take your paper clip, cut it into a million pieces and take one of those]


*With a blood half-life of about 1.5 minutes, this means that the human body produces about 50,000μg of formaldehyde every day.
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Related posts by others:

53 comments:

  1. Todd, would you mind giving us a quick math lesson and the difference between micrograms, milligrams, grams, and kilograms? I know it's a conversion, but I believe some readers are confused and convinced by the toxin gambit precisely because metric is not an everyday thing to many of them.

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  2. This is really excellent, Todd, thank you.

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  3. Timely article. Someone just posted on my site that we should “Wake up people-all you have to do is read the ingriedient list in these vaccines and the 32 plus recommended doses to figure out something is off.”

    I bet formaldehyde is one of the things she is worried about.

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    1. I just sent this to my sister (Anti-vaccine), because she has asked me multiple times why it is in vaccines. Haha.

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  4. Too bad formaldehyde isn't the only toxin in vaccines

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  5. Tip, did you even read the article? How are the amounts of formaldehyde in vaccines even close to the level created by your own body? Show that you actually understand the issues by giving a real argument instead of a fact free drive by comment.

    And to help Todd write his future articles, please list those "toxins" and the supporting scientific literature to show that they are dangerous in the amounts used in vaccines.

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    1. This article is a disinformation piece. The formaldehyde in the body is highly controlled. It is not just floating around in your blood. There is a big difference. The formaldehyde in your body is created where it is needed by your body. Formaldehyde is not a "nutrient" that enters your body through your blood stream. This article is a real laugh. *Any* amount of formaldehyde "free floating" in your blood stream is a poison. The macrophages in your blood stream specifically target formaldehyde modified proteins.

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    2. Mr. Holmgren,

      As my links indicate, some formaldehyde can be found in the blood naturally. It does not last very long, at all, but it can be found in the blood. It does not last long because nearly every cell in the body is equipped to break down formaldehyde into metabolites that are excreted in the urine, stool or exhaled. That formaldehyde which does not get broken down can form protein and DNA crosslinks.

      Are you trying to argue that the formaldehyde in some vaccines 1) is injected into the bloodstream directly and 2) somehow overwhelms the body's ability to break it down when the body deals with significantly higher levels on a daily basis?

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    3. 1. No. Free formaldehyde anywhere in the body outside of the cells where it is produced will bind to proteins which will then be attacked by your body's immune system. That is why your macrophages have evolved specific receptor sites for formaldehyde. It is a poison when it exists outside the chambers where it is created and used by the body.
      2. The "higher levels" you speak of are as I previously explained, formaldehyde that is produced by the body in specific chemical reactions. This formaldehyde does not leave the confines of those reactions. It does not randomly stumble into cells who then use them. Formaldehyde that is not controlled by body processes is useless to the body and cannot be broken down or used by your body. This is why I say your article is a disinformation piece, you are purposely over simplifying the processes that utilize formaldehyde in the human body and attempting to equate them with introduced foreign formaldehyde, as if one has the same effect on the body as the other. Your body was not designed to utilize foreign formaldehyde, and instead has developed defences to fend itself against it.

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    4. "As my links indicate, some formaldehyde can be found in the blood naturally."

      Yes... but where in the blood? In the cells. And how did it get there? Created within the cells. It is constantly controlled by your bodily processes. Just because a substance is in abundance in your body, does not mean it is good for you, or even harmless. As in the case of formaldehyde, it may only be used temporarily as a precursor to support specific reactions.

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    5. "Formaldehyde that is not controlled by body processes is useless to the body and cannot be broken down"

      The links I provide suggest that any formaldehyde that is not used by the body is broken down and exhaled or excreted as waste products. How quickly it is broken down is dependent on the individual's metabolism and the amount of formaldehyde in the system. I would welcome any citations you have that show where I am in error. You have yet to provide any links.

      "but where in the blood? In the cells. And how did it get there? Created within the cells."

      Citation? Please provide a source showing that the formaldehyde in the bloodstream is all created within the cells and is not from exogenous sources.

      "Your body was not designed to utilize foreign formaldehyde"

      Again, my links beg to differ. For example, the text "converted to formate" links to a PDF on the toxicology of formaldehyde. That document states:

      "Almost every tissue in the body has the ability to break down formaldehyde. It is usually converted to a non-toxic chemical called formate, which is excreted in the urine. Formaldehyde can also be converted to carbon dioxide and breathed out of the body. It can also be broken down so the body can use it to make larger molecules needed in your tissues, or it can attach to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or to protein in your body."

      It also notes:

      "The metabolism of formaldehyde to formate takes place in all of the tissues of the body as a consequence of endogenous formation of formaldehyde. Exogenous formaldehyde enters this pathway and is eliminated from the body as metabolites, primarily CO2."

      Also:

      "Formaldehyde is metabolized to formate by the enzyme formaldehyde dehydrogenase; this appears to take place at the initial site of contact."

      If you are suggesting that the formaldehyde in vaccines makes it to the blood without any of it being broken down at the injection site, please provide evidence.

      "Just because a substance is in abundance in your body, does not mean it is good for you, or even harmless."

      And where in my post did I make this claim? Formaldehyde is a necessary part of human metabolism. In excess, as with everything, it is dangerous, which I acknowledged in the post. However, the body is able to deal with a fairly large amount of formaldehyde before it causes any serious, permanent damage. Where we see the negative effects of formaldehyde is when exposure is significantly higher (by orders of magnitude) than what you would find in any vaccine.

      As I've invited you before, if you feel that the formaldehyde found in vaccines is dangerous and can cause serious and/or permanent injury, please provide evidence. And for any points where you believe that I'm mistaken or misstating the facts, provide the evidence to support your argument. Don't just make assertions that I'm wrong. If the evidence warrants, I will update my post accordingly.

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  6. Chris I would if vaccines were worth that much but they don't work

    Any benefit does not outweigh the risk

    Better not to fix something that isn't broken

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    1. Tip, I'm really blown away by your knowledge of vaccines. Did you get your diploma from "Google University"? Jenny McCarthy said that is where she received her degree from, and you two seem to have similar beliefs. Maybe I should look into that as well...seems to give hidden information that doesn't correspond with approved scientific research that is out there today.

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    3. Saying that vaccines "don't work" has got to be the greatest insult to those of us with eyes, ears, reason and logic and it proves that you are way off the map when it comes to being able to reasonably converse about the value of vaccines. You are mind bogglingly statistic phobic- no matter how much scientifically proven data is thrown at you, it will always slide right off.

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  7. Tip, what evidence do you have that vaccines don't work? Please tell us exactly how much more dangerous the DTaP vaccine is compared to diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Present your evidence by posting the title, journal and date of the PubMed indexed papers.

    And if you don't, we will know you are just parroting without understanding some random website.

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    1. Chris,

      Look up the decline in disease rates for America and most any European country for the last century. Disease decline in both are nearly identical despite the fact that mass immunizations did not take place in most of Europe. I think that in itself suggests declining disease rate has far more to do with other factors (namely standard of living & hygiene) than vaccines.
      But don't trust me, do the research yourself. And while you're at in, consider researching the rates of diptheria in the US over the last 8 years, and tell me why it is worth vaccinating our children for a disease that has been eradicated in this nation. Because like it or not, vaccines DO contain toxins (and i'm not just talking about formaldehyde, there's also aluminum, ammonia equivalents, anti-freeze equivalents, mercury and so on) that can cause irreversible damage to our children's health.
      So maybe stop your "parroting" and post your own evidence that vaccines are in fact the reason these diseases have been nearly eradicated (Or save your self the time and energy of searching because there is none).

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    2. What makes you think I have not? Interesting that you came to this after several months, and will not answer the question I posted. It would help if you had evidence that your list of "toxins" were worse than the toxins created by those bacterial infections, like tetanospasmin.

      The reason that there is very little diphtheria in the USA is because we vaccinate. This is what happens when that vaccination is interrupted:
      Diphtheria in the former Soviet Union: reemergence of a pandemic disease.

      Have you ever heard of the CDC Pink Book, it has an appendix with some interesting data, Appendix G. I created these tables a few years ago, so they may need to be updated. But they do show a difference between fifty years with more vaccination (especially the school requirements, and getting federal money to provide vaccines after the 1990 measles epidemic):

      This is for pertussis:
      Year___Cases__Deaths__Year___Cases__Deaths
      2000____7867____ 12___1950__120718__1118
      2001____7580____ 17___1951___68687___951
      2002____9771____ 18___1952___45030___402
      2003___11647____ 11___1953___37129___270
      2004___25827____ 27___1954___60886___373
      2005___25616____ 39___1955___62786___467
      2006___15632____ 16___1956___31732___266
      Total_103940____140_________426968__3847

      Now for tetanus:
      Year__Cases__Deaths__Year___Cases___Deaths
      2000_____35____ 5____1950____486____336
      2001_____37____ 5____1951____506____394
      2002_____25____ 5____1952____484____360
      2003_____20____ 4____1953____506____337
      2004_____34____ NA___1954____524____332
      2005_____27____ NA___1955____462____265
      2006_____41____ NA___1956____468____246
      Total___219____19 or more___3436___2270

      What does that tell you?

      Now, you need to answer this question: The following is a table from a large census file showing the incidence of measles in the USA from 1912 until the late 1990s. Now please tell me why the rate of measles incidence dropped 90% between 1960 and 1970. Do not mention any other decade, any other country, and do not mention deaths. Go for it:
      From http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf
      Year.... Rate per 100000 of measles
      1912 . . . 310.0
      1920 . . . 480.5
      1925 . . . 194.3
      1930 . . . 340.8
      1935 . . . 584.6
      1940 . . . 220.7
      1945 . . . 110.2
      1950 . . . 210.1
      1955 . . . 337.9
      1960 . . . 245.4
      1965 . . . 135.1
      1970 . . . . 23.2
      1975 . . . . 11.3
      1980 . . . . . 5.9
      1985 . . . . . 1.2
      1990 . . . . .11.2
      1991 . . . . . .3.8
      1992 . . . . . .0.9
      1993 . . . . . .0.1
      1994 . . . . . .0.4
      1995 . . . . . .0.1
      1996 . . . . . .0.2
      1997 . . . . . . 0.1

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  8. @Chris

    My suspicion is that Tip subscribes to the belief that germs do not cause disease. At any rate, the onus is on Tip to back up the claim that vaccines don't work, as you pointed out. I won't hold my breath.

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  9. Excellent! Shared on my Facebook page

    http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=432297883462439&id=236107336440146

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  10. Harpocrates may want to go and read the Material Safety Data Sheet for Formaldehyde! You should be shitting every color of the rainbow just thinking about unnaturally introducing formaldehyde into your bloodstream by vaccination.

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    1. Large doses of H2O will kill you faster than formaldehyde.

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  11. @rplende

    Two things: first, vaccines are not injected into the bloodstream. They are injected either just under the skin (subcutaneously) or into the muscle (intramuscularly) or are taken orally. Second, MSDSes are for industrial amounts of the substances. The intent of an MSDS is to provide those people who work with large amounts of a substance the necessary information to handle it safely.

    You may also want to go back and read my post again. Note how we are exposed to formaldehyde. By your logic, you should be "shitting every color of the rainbow just thinking about" each breath you take and all the foods that you eat. Just the simple process of being alive should terrify you, if you're that scared of formaldehyde. But it doesn't, because your body is quite capable of managing the amounts in the air, your food and, yes, in vaccines.

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    1. I partly agree. Although this statement from the article:

      "That's all of the vaccines on the recommended schedule for 0-6 years that contain formaldehyde. If a child got all of those doses all at once (which they never would), they would get a total of 1,824μg, or 1.824mg, of formaldehyde. A 3.2kg (~7lb) newborn with an average blood volume of 83.3mL/kg would naturally have, at any given time, about 575-862μg of formaldehyde circulating in their blood."

      Is a misrepresentation. 575-862ug of formaldehyde does not free-float on its own in the blood. Formaldehyde in the human body is controlled at all times. Free formaldehyde will bind to proteins and macrophages have a site on their out membrane specifically for formaldehyde modified protein - this is due to the fact that formaldehyde plays such a central role on the body, but is also a danger to the body. You certainly do not want formaldehyde free floating through the body, which is why our immune system has developed specific defenses to it.

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    2. My point in my above comment is that formaldehyde may reach our blood from food - although your own source refutes the idea that it reaches our blood from breathing; but that does not change the well established fact that it is a poison when left free floating in our blood stream. Formaldehyde is well controlled within our cells, not half hazardly floating around in our bodies.

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    3. I've done some additional research and ingestion of formaldehyde does not reach our blood. Formaldehyde is metabolized into formate in the gastrointestinal tract. So in fact, neither of your assertions appear to be true according to the research. Neither formaldehyde in food, or in the air reaches your blood stream.

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  12. Perhaps I missed it - where's the source info on the amounts of formaldehyde produced by the body?

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  13. @Unknown

    There are links in the text under "how are we exposed". Of note, from the linked text about 2-3μg/g of blood:

    "The endogenous concentration in the blood of humans, monkeys, and rats is about 2 to 3 μg/g, and the concentration does not increase after inhalation of formaldehyde from exogenous sources (Heck et al. 1985, Casanova et al. 1988, Heck and Casanova et al. 2004)."

    Also pay attention to the food-based sources, as we metabolize certain foods, producing formaldehyde along the way. The links under "Role in Metabolism" also provide further information regarding how our bodies produce and use formaldehyde.

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  14. "Thankfully, the EPA has looked at that and extrapolated from animal experiments what a safe level of formaldehyde exposure should be."

    You have got to be sh!tting me! I didn't realize that the EPA was this stupid. Animals have a completely different tolerance to formaldehyde than humans, since animal peroxisomes can convert formaldehyde into formic acid, while human peroxisomes cannot. Animals are protected from formaldehyde poisoning through a mechanism that humans do not possess, so that animal poisoning from formaldehyde is actually from intolerance to formic acid. Human tolerance to formaldehyde is considerably lower than that of any other animal.

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    1. Upon further research, I have realized that the EPAs claims are perfectly valid, due to the fact that ingested formaldehyde is converted to formate in that gastrointestinal tract before reaching the blood stream. However, it is an entirely different story for formaldehyde that does reach the blood stream in other ways (ie. vaccination). The human body is not capable of converting formaldehyde into formic acid within the blood stream; but for other animals, this is exactly what happens. Therefore, conclusions based on the ingestion of formaldehyde do not apply to the injection of formaldehyde. Furthermore, there is a way that formaldehyde does reach the blood stream via ingestion: the ingestion of methanol. Methanol is absorbed into the blood stream and converted to formaldehyde. It so turns out that any animals can tolerate significantly higher levels of methanol than humans can, due to their ability to convert formaldehyde to formic acid in the blood.

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    2. "However, it is an entirely different story for formaldehyde that does reach the blood stream in other ways (ie. vaccination)."

      So are you saying that formaldehyde from some vaccines is injected into the bloodstream? If not, are you claiming that the formaldehyde in some vaccines somehow avoids the fate of formaldehyde from other sources and survives intact, then gets transported from the injection site to the bloodstream?

      "The human body is not capable of converting formaldehyde into formic acid within the blood stream; but for other animals, this is exactly what happens."

      Do you have a citation for this?

      "Furthermore, there is a way that formaldehyde does reach the blood stream via ingestion: the ingestion of methanol. Methanol is absorbed into the blood stream and converted to formaldehyde. It so turns out that any animals can tolerate significantly higher levels of methanol than humans can, due to their ability to convert formaldehyde to formic acid in the blood."

      Okay...and this has what to do with the formaldehyde in some vaccines?

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    3. "So are you saying that formaldehyde from some vaccines is injected into the bloodstream?"

      It is my understanding that the voluminous injection of a substance into the muscle would be filtered into the lymphatic system (ie draining lymph nodes) and thus into the bloodstream. The only reason it's injected into muscle is to introduce the vaccine to the proper APC's and to regulate it's absorption into the blood stream. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1118997/

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  16. Hi Todd,

    Came across your post and was wondering if you would address the other ingredients in vaccines that have parents concerned? Or, can you direct me to information regarding them? Thanks!

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  17. @morgan,

    The only other post I've done so far on vaccine ingredients is MSG: http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2012/10/demystifying-vaccine-ingredients-msg.html. I do intend to do other posts, but I need to find the time to do a good job of it (these posts require a lot of research).

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  18. Thanks, this post was very well researched. It surprises me, though, in light of all the controversy surrounding vaccines, that the CDC or some other entity doesn't provide all the data, facts and research to quiet the questions and fears. Seems like it wouldn't be that hard to do, because surely the vaccine companies and the government have all that info in order to even approve the vaccines. Right?

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  19. CDC, FDA, etc. do likely have the information, and they have some pages up addressing the issues, but the presentation is aimed more at the average person who isn't interested in all of the minutiae of research involved. (see, for example, here: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm). And, quite, frankly, because the ingredients are safe, there hasn't really been a need to present a post similar to mine for every single ingredient, at least, not until anti-vaccine activists started raising a stink about them. And that makes sense: you don't see a cry for studies like this for the ingredients in any other drugs. It's only the primary active ingredient that people are really interested in. Focusing on vaccine excipients is simply a scare tactic.

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  20. To vaccinate or not?
    http://www.vaccinationinformationnetwork.com/to-vaccinate-or-not/

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  21. Never trust any of the needle nuts in white coats. Vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention by means of junk science. It was a failure and a fraud right from the beginning and still is, over 200 years later.

    http://www.vaccinationinformationnetwork.com/do-vaccines-save-lives-what-infectious-disease-mortality-graphs-show/

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    1. Those silly mortality charts are a ruse by those who deny the advancements of medical care over the past century. Like the fact that Scarlet Fever is a strep infection that is not treated with antibiotics. Strep infections are still with us, and antibiotics still work for them.

      Here is a bright idea; prevent the disease so you don't have to work so hard to keep someone alive when they have measles pneumonia or are paralyzed from polio or tetanus or who cannot breathe due to diphtheria.

      Now, Mr./Ms. Capricorn, answer this question about USA census data from the 20th century: what caused the rate of measles incidence in the USA to plummet 90% between 1960 and 1970. Do not mention mortality rates (deaths), any other country (England and Wales are not American states), any other decade nor any other disease:

      From http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf
      Year.... Rate per 100000 of measles
      1912 . . . 310.0
      1920 . . . 480.5
      1925 . . . 194.3
      1930 . . . 340.8
      1935 . . . 584.6
      1940 . . . 220.7
      1945 . . . 110.2
      1950 . . . 210.1
      1955 . . . 337.9
      1960 . . . 245.4
      1965 . . . 135.1
      1970 . . . . 23.2
      1975 . . . . 11.3
      1980 . . . . . 5.9
      1985 . . . . . 1.2
      1990 . . . . .11.2
      1991 . . . . . .3.8
      1992 . . . . . .0.9
      1993 . . . . . .0.1
      1994 . . . . . .0.4
      1995 . . . . . .0.1
      1996 . . . . . .0.2
      1997 . . . . . . 0.1

      Delete
    2. By the term "needle nuts in white coats" do you mean, doctors, pediatricians, rheumatologists, nurses, trained health care professionals, WHO workers and humanitarian relief workers?

      Delete
  22. "Many of them have long, scary or hard to pronounce chemical names, like polyethylene glycol."

    Are you able to address the ingredient polyethylene glycol. I have found little if any information about the testing of this chemical. The only test I found that has been performed was on mice, in which in utero exposure to the chemical caused reproductive harm to mouse pups.

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    1. Polyethylene glycol (not to be confused with ethylene glycol, antifreeze), or PEG is generally thought to be more or less biochemically inert in the body, it doesn't seem to interfere with any metabolic processes. I have experience using PEG in pharmaceutical drug preparations, as a vehicle for large molecules, in animal pharmacology studies. It's used as an OTC laxative called miralax, where it "sucks" water into the gut for...well you get it.

      However, there are other ingredients in vaccines that should be of concern to us. I find the above article to be a slight white-washing of formaldehyde toxicology. As is often this case in these discussions, you must be careful to understand the differences between routes of administration or exposure. Our body has different ways of processing (immunologically, metabolically) molecules that reach us via mucosa (gut, nose, etc) than when they are injected into the body.

      Delete
    2. Brian,

      I do not think I am white-washing formaldehyde toxicology. Certainly, route of administration is important to take into account. I was, however, unable to find anything suggesting that the body handles formaldehyde significantly differently based on route of exposure (injected vs. ingested vs. inhaled). Nor was I able to find any information showing that the amount of formaldehyde that is in vaccines poses any risk. If you know of anything like that, please forward it to me so I can clarify my post, if needed.

      Delete
    3. I'm not a biochemist or toxicologist so can't immediately point you to specific pharmacokinetic data (although now my interest is piqued), but it wouldn't surprise me that most of the toxicology data used inhalation, oral or dermal routes of administration as that's our primary route of exposure, environmentally.

      However, because a compound appears somewhere in our complex biochemistry doesn't necessarily mean it's okay systemically. You did a nice review and I'd bet exposure to vaccine formaldehyde means nothing in the long run, but there remain some unknowns, and I think it's a responsible practice to state that when discussing these things.

      Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, exposure initiates an immune response and can engender sensitization to future exposure. To draw the conclusion that multiple doses i.m. in an infant is akin to eating an apple is not overwhelmingly justified (the conclusion reached by the reporter citing your review, I know, not your fault). I'm not sure extrapolating the bioavailability of environmental formaldehyde to injected is completely an apples to apples comparison, but maybe.

      I'm always leery when, in science, we say: "we can now wash our hands of this and move on." Some things are worth keeping an eye on.

      Thanks for the review, I'd love for you to do the same for aluminium.

      Delete
    4. Brian,

      Yes, most of the toxicology info was looking at oral, inhaled and dermal exposure. But there was a good amount of PK/PD info on what happens once it's past those barriers, which I think would be applicable to injected exposure. I did try to keep that in mind as I wrote the post and tried to keep my treatment somewhat nuanced (e.g., noting that it is a carcinogen, but also trying to emphasize how dose plays an important role).

      I do intend to look at aluminum at some point. It's just a daunting task. Lots of reading and research required. I've done a similar post on MSG, since some people have raised questions about that.

      Delete
  23. @Ryan and Jordan Ranocchini

    I haven't looked too much into polyethylene glycol (PEG) too in depth, yet. What I can say is that it is an emulsifier, or stabilizer, used in a wide range of medical products, food, etc. In foods, it keeps all the various ingredients from separating out. In medicines, it stabilizes the formulation, keeping it from breaking down and becoming ineffective. As far as I've been able to find, PEG is not in the final form of any vaccine, except perhaps in trace amounts. In fact, the only reference I've been able to find after some brief searching is that it is used in the production of one brand of inactivated flu vaccine, in which it is used to inactivate the virus. Given that it's not commonly found, I don't think you have much to worry about.

    What study were you looking at? Was it "Biodistribution and toxicity of pegylated single wall carbon nanotubes in pregnant mice." (PMID 23742083)? The authors note that only at larger doses were there occasional teratogenic effects. Also note that what we find in mice may give us an idea of something to look at in humans, but there is rarely a guarantee that the mouse findings will hold up in humans. So, again, probably nothing to worry about.

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  24. this article is great, thanks for the research

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  25. I am so happy I found your site. Talk about a breath of fresh air considering the constant anti vax posts on facebook circulating every day. As a new mom who struggled with the decision to vaccinate my daughter I thank you for providing informative, scientific, researched information on the subject. I feel better equipped for the non-avoidant anti-vaxxing conversations that I have every. single. time. I meet up with moms my age. Thank you thank you thank you!

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  26. Sarah,

    Thanks for your comment, and glad you like the site.

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  27. New Zealand has a lower flu rate and vaccination rate than the US. Why is this?

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  28. @Janet Jones

    What data are you looking at? What are you comparing? Some factors that may contribute to a difference are seasonal variation (we're on the tail end of peak flu activity in the U.S. right now, while N.Z. still has some time to go before flu season starts). Differences in community activity could contribute, as could the matching of the vaccines. The vaccines in use in the U.S. during a given season are likely to be quite different from those used in N.Z. There may also be differences in reporting in the two countries, as well as how many people seek out medical attention for their illness.

    I would like to know what your sources are, though, so I can compare the rates of both illnesses and vaccination for myself.

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  29. @JanetJones

    It may all boil down to population density, vaccine matching, surveillance system being used to look for cases, etc. Too many variables to discuss in one comment on an otherwise very informative blog.

    I encourage you to play at-home epidemiologist and make a table. Put two headers on the table, one for the US and one for New Zealand. Then compare the populations of the two countries, the population densities (persons per square kilometer should do), the weather patterns (which is colder in the winter?), the surveillance systems used for finding and counting cases, the access and uptake of vaccines, the heterogeneity of their populations, and any other confounders or effect modifiers of what you're observing.

    Report your results to us when you can.

    ReplyDelete

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