Is it smart to give mercury to a child on purpose?

This vaccine calculator reveals how much ethylmercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, and other toxics are received by following the CDC’s recommended schedule.

Myth: The mercury received in a flu vaccine is no greater than in a can of tuna.

Truth: That analogy is not even close.

Let's set the analogy straight.

Compare a 200-pound male adult consuming tuna with an infant boy who receives a single pediatric dose of flu vaccine at age 6 months.

The infant receives 12.5 μg of ethylmercury – this is about half the 30 μg of methylmercury in an average can of tuna.

A 6 month old infant boy in the 50th percentile weighs about 18 lbs.

The man would need to eat 6 cans of tuna to consume a weight-equivalent dose of mercury.

6 cans of tuna together contain 180 μg of methylmercury.

But wait, a healthy adult stomach manages to take and excrete ~ 90% of mercury ingested through food. That allows ~ 10% into the bloodstream.

Compare that to 100% availability of ethylmercury injected directly into the bloodstream of the infant.

To make up for this difference the man needs to consume 60 cans of tuna for a total 1800 μg (1.8 mg) of methylmercury.

But there's more.

Infants do not produce significant levels of bile, and bilary transport is a major metabolic path for removing mercury from the body.

Our 200 lb male eating 60 cans of tuna in a single day must also have impaired ability to excrete mercury.

Lastly, Burbacher et al demonstrated that ethylmercury releases ~25% more mercury into the brain than methylmercury and it gets there ~3x faster.

In an attempt to make up for this difference, the man fasts for several days before eating, then tries to wolf down 240 cans of tuna as quickly as possible (7200 μg of methylmercury).

That's a closer analogy.

A teen or adult who gets a mercury-containing flu vaccine must weigh at least 550 pounds to remain under the EPA limit for a single-day mercury exposure.

Myth: The mercury in a flu vaccine is not as bad as mercury in the air we breath.

Truth: Do the math.

As cited in this study, ~80% of inhaled methylmercury vapor is retained in the body. However, approximately 7–14% is exhaled within a week after exposure. Optimistically the amount retained is 65%.

In California during 2002 the mean level of mercury in air was 1.7 nanograms (ng) per cubic meter (m3). The adjusted absorption rate becomes

mercury absorption rate

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) provides reference for breathing rates in adults and children:

18.0 m3 air / day adults
17.3 m3 air /day 6 yo child
14.7 m3 air / day 5 yo child (extrapolated)
12.0 m3 air / day 1-4 yo child

For a 6 yo child, the cumulative exposure to methylmercury in air can be modeled as

cumulative exposure to methylmercury

Each pediatric dose of flu shot contains 12.5 µg ethylmercury, but children who get these shots are recommended to get two of them spaced one month apart — in reality getting the same 25 µg ethylmercury as an adult. A 6 year old child following the CDC's recommendations will have received 12 shots x 12.5 µg ethylmercury = 150 µg ethylmercury.

As above, ethylmercury releases 25% more mercury into the brain than methylmercury, so

1.25 x 150 µg ethylmercury => 188 µg methylmercury

is a better comparison.

Now, comparing the amount of mercury breathed in 6 years to the amount of mercury received from 12 pediatric flu shots

comparative mercury exposure

In other words, the effective doses of mercury are within 3%.

However, because the ethylmercury is delivered in a greater concentration with each shot, and because ethylmercury is transported to the brain significantly faster than methylmercury, the ethylmercury has more severe effect.

In reality, the child is burdened with both forms of mercury — from breathing and fromg getting shots.

In just 6 years the child becomes exposed to over 340 µg of mercury — and that does not include additional sources of exposure.

You can understand why it is important to eliminate the obvious sources of mercury — like vaccines.

There are no levels at which exposure to mercury has been proven safe.

Interested in modeling a different airborne toxicant in California?

Start here, modify the first equation to use a different toxicant, and carry the value into the second equation.